Ryan's first day of day camp sponsored by the Baylor Autism Resource Center was today! We have been looking forward to this... and that's the understatement of the century. It's also one of those days I'm thrilled to be married to Eric. Not many men would hurry to get out of bed and through the shower by 6:15 so that you can run at 6:30. Someone had to be here when the kids got up, and Eric didn't have to be at school until 7:50 or so. Sorry ladies, he's taken.
Anyway, we managed to make it out of the house a wee bit later than I'd planned. The boys had a cereal bar and milk, and I managed to grab some coffee as I stuffed extra diapers, straw cups with water, a box of off-brand teddy grahams, and my shopping list in my giant pink backpack. I let Mae sleep until the last second, and after diapering, slipping a comfy knit dress over her head, and grabbing another pigtail holder and some sandals she was pretty much ready to go. Oh crud... medicine... that nasty white liquid down Mae and Ryan, and then it's time to start the kiddie caravan to the, well, to the caravan.
We made it to campus right as it was time to get started. I'd thought it was funny that there were no forms... and there they were. So after Ryan was contentedly with his new friend (we'll call her K), I boxed Richie in on the steps and filled out the paperwork. As I started to fill out the forms, I could hear meltdowns all around me. I could hear a grandmother behind me, asking questions about her form. I could hear mothers waiting to leave until they couldn't see their precious ones anymore. I heard one boy ask one of the counselors "How old are you?" and the counselor answered "22". Then the camper giggled, saying "I'm 14!" and scampered off with his group.
These settings, just like the Autism Walk, make me choke up every time. The students who work with the campers are great, but that's not it. It's being in close proximity with so many others who get it. So many others who know that just because their child looks normal (whatever normal is), and their age may suggest being able to walk in a line without getting lost, they must be watched and at times held onto. They know the sick feeling that flares straight from the heart as the words "where's ____?!?" fly from them feverishly as they look about. They also know how hard it is to trust that it'll be ok. It's comfortable. Finally. Comfortable. No judgement. No one looking at you like a circus freak. And the students? Totally thrilled to see Ryan. Totally. No worries, just when to be back.
Usually that wouldn't cut it for me... if someone says "oh, he'll be fine" I'm learning to take that as a red flag... especially if it interrupts my explanation of who he is, his limitations, and things he needs to be safe. But these people are trained, they remember Ryan and know his name before he gets his nametag. No one calls him "Eric", his real first name. He's Ryan. Instantly, three of the grad students were around him, gushing about how awesomely cute he is in his glasses... three beautiful college girls gushing over him, and he's all about finding an elevator. That's my boy!
So Richie, Mae and I went to the big swing hanging from one of the old trees on campus, and we just sat swinging, watching people for a few minutes. After a bit, Richie decided it was time to go see the bears. Way, way cool... they were out playing and eating! One even walked over and pretty much touched Richie's face through the glass. I'm sure she was thinking "snack" but Richie was utterly impressed. After a trip to the grocery store (complete with awesome red race-car cart, I must add), we came back, changed diapers in the back of the van, and headed back to get Ryan. He was laying on the ground in a tunnel-like thing between the buildings, yelling to test the sound. When he saw me, he smiled and ran to me, gushing about how much fun it was and how cool K is and oh my gosh mom tomorrow we're gonna...
Nope. Just kidding. He saw me, but wasn't terribly impressed with my presence. He didn't scream at the sight of us, so that's good, right? K's description of his day was that he did wonderfully, had a great time, and that they need to wear something we don't care about tomorrow because they're going to tye-dye. Oh, and a couple of dollars to spend would be good, because they're taking a trip to the SUB, mostly for the older kids to learn how to order things. The little kids can buy something if they want. Cool. After mumbling something resembling thank you and K's name, we were off.
Once in the van and on our way home, I asked about his day. "Did you have fun?" Silence. "Do you like camp?" More silence. "What did you do today?" Nothing. But for once, that's fine. I'd love to hear his description of the day, but I likely won't. But I know he had a great time... I trust the BARC students, and I know the look on his face... and I know the sound of NO screaming when the littles and I walked up.
So very proud of you, little Ryan! No fight to go with K, no fight to leave. I meant to pack lunches, but instead grabbed a snack for the kids at the last minute, and no fight over not having his beloved pb&j. We were home in time to relax and catch "Finding Nemo" again before Daddy got home.
Richie, who I am also incredibly proud of, put himself to bed for a nap, complete with Snoopy. Mae is sitting next to me on the couch, flipping through a Thomas book.
My kids rock. I may not get everything right... I may be messing up and dropping the ball more often than not, but God is blessing our family more than we dreamed. Just having these three sweet, precious ones in my life means we're blessed beyond measure. But not that long ago we wrung our hands over the price of therapy and the distance. Now we not only have therapy, but we won an ipad in a raffle, have therapy we can afford, a cool camp experience, and even when it looks like there's no way we can afford to do the things we need to do, it happens. The money, the equipment, the time, the patience... it all comes. It comes in opportunities, it comes in the generosity of others. But it comes. Just when I've thought I "made it happen" by something like whittling the grocery bill, cutting corners here and there... God gives. And when it's all said and done, we have what we need. If we don't have something, we likely didn't need it or it wasn't right in the first place. All I can say is THANK YOU LORD!
Now if I can remember the grotty clothes and money for tomorrow...
Stay tuned for tomorrow's camp update. We're there all week! And tomorrow, Daddy gets to go.