I should have known that I was about to witness something that would surprise me, even though I should know better than to be surprised at pretty much anything that Kaitlyn does anymore. But there I was, walking away shaking my head, after what Amber showed me what Kaitlyn was doing the other night.
As long as she has had a successful day (good in school, respectful at home, etc.), Kaitlyn usually gets some time after her bath to play on the computer. Most days, she will be checking out games on the PBS site or the Disney Princess site, and will sometimes be planning our next cruise using the Disney Cruise site. The other night, however, she was not on any of those sites. No, she went a completely different route, and both Amber and I were shocked and proud.
Amber snuck out of our computer room to retrieve me from watching MLB Network to take a look at what Kaitlyn was doing. She wanted me to be really quiet so that Kaitlyn did not stop what she was doing and move on to something else. Easy enough, especially because I can move like a ninja if I have to.
When I snuck into the computer room, there was Kaitlyn, sitting on the computer, watching a video about the Civil War. When I asked her why she was watching something about the Civil War, she flatly stated that it was “because I want to learn about it.” Ok then. After that, I went back to watching TV, but I decided to try to listen to see if I could hear what Kaitlyn would be doing for the rest of her time on the computer (she tends to narrate what she is doing). Once the Civil War video was finished, she searched for one about the Revolutionary War, and she finished by watching one about the Statue of Liberty. The child has an endless thirst for knowledge.
Like everything else she takes an interest in, Amber and I fully expect that she will quickly become an fully immersed in learning about those subjects. It is just a matter of time before she starts quizzing us on different facts she has learned. I can’t wait.
Kaitlyn does not get too overly excited when it comes time to do any type of cleaning when it comes to the pool. To her, pool maintenance is something that Amber and I are responsible for, and her main job is to swim in the pool once we have it to where it meets her standards.
There is, however, one part of pool maintenance that Kaitlyn really enjoys, and that is the addition of chlorine to the water. Of course, her excitement comes less from the fact that it means she is that much closer to being able to swim than it does for another reason altogether. She loves nothing more than when each of our 4 chlorine containers are empty, because it means one thing.
It means that “Icee Day” is coming soon.
I guess it all started a few months ago, when I thought it would be nice if Kaitlyn came with me to the Ace Hardware up the road from our house when I went to get our chlorine refilled. She didn’t know it at the time, but I had also decided that I would surprise her with an Icee from the gas station as a reward for her helping me out; she helps by carrying two jugs to the car to be loaded, and then carries the empty jugs to the door at Ace so they can be filled.
Apparently, I started a new routine on that first day. I have now filled up with chlorine probably 5-6 times since that first day, and each time, Kaitlyn is excited to come with me because she knows it means she will be getting an Icee. This past Sunday, she was so excited to be going that she attempted to grab all four empty jugs to take to the car; she ended up having to settle for carrying two.
Our routine has expanded from just dropping off the jugs at the door and hanging out in the pool supply section to dropping off the jugs and looking for particular itmes. Sometimes, Kaitlyn even lets me determine what we are shopping for. I guess it has gotten to the point now where the employees at Ace recognize us and our routine, because they are extra friendly and always happy to see us (they are probably just happy to see Kaitlyn).
We just had another “Icee Day” yesterday, and since it is summer, there is probably another one on the schedule really soon.
I was sitting in our family room with Amber over the weekend, watching it rain for the 13th or 14th consecutive day, and we were enjoying the peace and quiet in the house. It wasn’t the kind of quiet that makes us worry, however. We knew exactly where Kaitlyn was and what she was doing.
What she was doing was continuing to work on the puzzle she had started Thursday, a 750-piece panoramic of assorted Disney films. She was working on it in her puzzle “spot,” the entry by our front door. She most certainly got the patience it takes to put together a puzzle that size from Amber.
The puzzle, as mentioned above, is a panoramic compilation of several Disney classics, including Cinderella, 101 Dalmatians, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, and Bambi, along with a few others. It is not one that I would consider “easy” by any stretch of the imagination, but Kaitlyn enjoys the challenge.
In typical Kaitlyn fashion, there is a particular way to complete this puzzle. You might think that she would take a traditional approach to putting together a puzzle of any size, and that would mean starting with building the outside, and then working on it from there. You would be wrong. The only logical way to complete this puzzle, at least to Kaitlyn, is to work on each individual movie as she finds the pieces; she works on one movie at a time, and if it happens to work out that part of the border is completed, that is just pure coincidence. She even has the movies laid out in the particular order she plans on completing them, and it is not necessarily the order they appear on the box.
Back to Saturday. Kaitlyn was working on her puzzle, and Amber happened to get up and walk by, so Kaitlyn took the opportunity to share her progress. She showed off what she had done so far, and asked (and I might be paraphrasing a little bit here), “Do you like my determination in working on this puzzle?” The only answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes!”
I don’t know how long it will take Kaitlyn to finish her puzzle, but I know that she will get it done, and it will be done on her terms. I know that when she puts her mind to something, even when it is something that a “regular” 7-year-old may not even attempt (like a panoramic puzzle that has 750 pieces), she will get it done.
I don’t often notice many of the magnets we have on the refrigerator in our kitchen, especially the ones on the side of it. Collectively, they serve as a placeholder for pictures, calendars, and camp and school agendas.
Then, the other day, I actually took the time to notice two identical magnets that we have on the side of the fridge. I had no clue of when or where we got them, only that they were there (Amber later cleared up the mystery for me). The design on the magnets is that of the puzzle piece Autism Awareness ribbon (shown at right). On the ribbon, there is a message, and it states, “Think Autism, Think Cure.” It’s the message that really got me to crafting this entry today.
To start, let me be clear and unequivocally state that it is my belief, and Amber’s belief as well, that autism (and thus, Asperger’s) is not something that can be “cured.” Cures are for colds, the flu, and other diseases, and autism is not a disease of any sort. We also do not subscribe to the conspiracy theory that autism is caused by mercury in vaccines. Lastly, even if there were a “cure” for Kaitlyn’s autism, we would not explore it for her. Call us unfit or neglectful parents if you want, but to assert that anybody with autism would be better off “cured” is disingenuous at best. We love and accept Kaitlyn for all that she is, and pursuing some “cure” would tell her and us that we have a problem with her having Asperger’s, and we most certainly do not.
I do, however, think that the organization who sent us the magnets (it turns out that at some point I had expressed interest in attending an autism conference and as a result, was sent the magnets. Had I known that the focus of said conference, which I did not attend, was to try to raise money to find a “cure,” I would have never even expressed interest in the first place) is on to something. (That sentence is not nearly as contradictory as it appears!) Maybe there is a “cure” for autism after all, but some people have just been taking the wrong approach. Maybe those most in need of curing are those who remain blissfully unaware of what it is like to be someone with autism, or to be someone who cares for someone with autism. Maybe the “cure” for autism is blogs like this, or like my friend Ashley’s, or like many of the others out there.
Think about it for a second. There is no better way to “cure” the neurotypical folks out there than to raise awareness. Give people insight to the ups and downs of being someone or living with someone who has autism. Give people a chance to see things from the perspective of those they quickly want to cast-off or call “Rain Man.” Maybe the cure comes in the form of a parent of one of Kaitlyn’s classmates reading this and expressing to their child that, while Kaitlyn may sometimes be socially awkward, she is a sweet girl, and all she needs is some patience and understanding. From that patience and understanding comes acceptance, and the foundation for a cure is laid.
Who knows, I could be way out of my mind in even publishing these thoughts today (some will claim that I lost my mind a long time ago), and I am fairly certain that the approach I suggested is not new or unique to me one bit. But, that does not mean that I am not on to something today.
Kaitlyn called a family meeting last night, shortly after I got home. She gave Amber and I a few minutes of notice, and by the time we made it to her room, she had laid out a blanket for us to sit on for this meeting.
It quickly became apparent to us that this was no ordinary family meeting. Oh, no, this was something even bigger than that. It was a planning session. For our cruise. Which is over 300 days away.
While Amber and I took our seats on the blanket, Kaitlyn assumed her role as Lead Planner for our trip, and was already picking out the color marker she was going to use during the meeting on her white board. In case we were not aware of it when she called us into her room, this was serious business.
Kaitlyn laid out the rules for the meeting, and they were quite simple. She would write down suggestions on things we should do on our next cruise, and then we would “vote” on them. If and when Amber and I had a suggestion of our own, we were to raise our hands and wait to be called on, and the process would then repeat itself.
The first order of business was determining where we would eat lunch once we boarded, and the motion passed unanimously. From there, Amber and I did our best to make our “suggestions” be in line with the exact order in which we did things this past year so as not to get scolded by the Lead Planner.
We only made it through Embarkation Day during our planning session last night, but it is safe to say that we at least know what we will be doing, and in what order we will be doing it, for that entire day. At least if Kaitlyn gets her way, that is. The only activity that was not up for a vote was the safety drill, and that is because it is mandatory.
Of course, this recap would not be complete if I did not include what lead up to the meeting in the first place. At some point yesterday, Kaitlyn decided to write-up the first part of our itinerary, and that was when would leave our house. She had us leaving on a Friday (the last day of school) at 4:00am. Her goal was to leave early enough on Friday so that we had time to look around at Ron John Surf Shop; I had to quickly convince her that we are not leaving at 4:00am on any day (although she did point out when Amber mentioned that it was dark at that time of the day that we could turn on the headlights), and that it was probably not a good idea for her to miss the last day of school. We left it at we will discuss the possibility of missing the last day of school next year, but that discussion was for another time.
We have over 300 days until our next cruise, and I have a feeling that Kaitlyn will want to have several more family meetings during that time.