Monday, November 28, 2011

Sean's Angels? No, Just Mom

7:32 pm Sunday and Sean is already in bed.

Yes, he’s cold.  Yes, he has a fever.  Yes to sniffling, sneezing, coughing, and an achy head.

And yes, this is not normal.

Sean almost never gets sick.  Unfortunately, this illness still seems to be on the path to getting worse before he gets better.

It’s difficult when your child is ill.

But it’s more so when your child is autistic and can’t quite grasp the words to describe the symptoms they are experiencing.

For example, Sean’s been dealing with an earache for weeks now.  Could it be a clogged ear?  Could it be a result of his braces being tightened and his jaw swelling (thus causing the ear pain)?  Could it be that he stuck something in there and damaged it?

I say it so often but you all know it’s true…

I don’t know.

And to ask Sean – even though he’s academically at grade level and an extremely vocal kid – is almost futile.

“Sean, does your ear feel clogged?”

“It just feels weird.”

“Does it hurt on the inside or the outside?”

“It just feels weird.  You look in it and tell me what’s wrong.”

It’s frustrating and heart wrenching all at the same time.


Sean had an OK night but his fever has hit an all-time high of 102.7 degrees.  He’s shivering, coughing, his chest hurts, he’s not eating… and yet when I ask him how he’s doing, he answers…


As if Sean would answer anything else!

I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but it’s almost as if you have a toddler or a baby again.

Remember those days when your tiny one would be screaming and crying for hours?  They would be fussy and you would have no idea what was bothering them.

And remember how you would say, “If only they could tell us”…?

It was frustrating back then and it’s frustrating today.

The only difference now is that you are less quick to run to the doctor’s office with every sniffle or sneeze.

No, today you have to be the great detective and figure out if the 7:30 pm bedtime is due to teenage fatigue or an illness.

Is he crabby because he’s being normal like the rest of us and having a bad day or is he not feeling well?

And his voice volume… Sean’s volume has always been loud.  Could it be possible that it’s even louder today due to some ear thing going on?

Let’s not even go down the allergy versus illness path…

Recently at home we’ve been talking about the 70’s television show Charlie’s Angels.  I’m beginning to feel like one of those female detectives - without the benefit of Farrah Fawcett’s hair and body - while trying to figure out what exactly is wrong with my son.

But there is one clue that overrides all of the “greats” that Sean can dish out.

Autistic or not, he’s still a growing teenage boy. 

If he’s not on his computer then he’s in the pantry – and I’m yelling at him for both.

Thus, when he walked away from breakfast after only a few spoonfuls of Cheerios and then from lunch with only a half dozen Wheat Thins, I knew a visit to the doctor was imminent.

We’re not famous television detectives with gorgeous hair, model-thin bodies, and driving around in fabulous cars.

We’re better.

We’re moms and dads and caregivers.

We know our kids better than anyone else.  What we lack in book knowledge, we more than make up in intuition.

It is our instinct to know our children. 

Some may say that I have a special connection with Sean.

I don’t doubt that’s true because I am an extension of him.  I have to feel what he feels.  I have to anticipate his every move and reaction.

And when he says he’s “great”, I have to know when he’s not.

So to my son… my little boy…. I hope you get better soon.



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks....

OK, so you know that pity-party I was having the other day about my kid suddenly not needing me anymore?

Yea… that lasted…oh, I’d say until about 3:30 that day.

That was when I went on-line and saw his grades.


My kid needs me…badly!

Or maybe it’s just like the “new” math and we have a new grading system.

“F” now stands for “Forget about it.  It’s not important.”

“D” means, “Don’t worry.  I have you covered.”

Now mind you, these aren’t his final grades.  No, that would result in a much different blog post!

These are his grades for his daily, in-class assignments.

Yes, you read that right… in-class.

And all of this is not entirely his fault…or mine…or his teachers’.

Sean attended a school for special needs children for five years.  The staff to student ratio was sometimes less than 2 to 1.  Thus, he had incredible attention paid to his every move.

However, he never got into the mindset of having to independently hand in his work at the end of class when he transitioned to being a “typical” student.

You would think that the teacher stating that everyone should leave their papers on her desk as they leave would remind him to do so.

Or seeing all the other students go up front with paper in hand and then returning without, would jar his thought process.

But it doesn’t.  Sean, at that point in class, is probably thinking about the ten or twenty things he has to do for his next class, the next day, or even New Year’s Eve.

In other words, Sean’s mind has left the building…or at least the room.

Now we have to change Sean’s way of thinking.

I would rather tackle climbing Mt. Everest or solving the global economic crisis, as they would be far easier to achieve.

If I can’t convince Sean to wear long pants in the winter without me constantly nagging him, then how is he going to learn to hand in his assignments without me being there?


Can I say it?  Please??

I don’t know!!!

The “team” that consists of school staff and Rich and myself are going to try to get Sean into a new routine of checking his grades on-line in order to see what he is missing.  In “official” speak, we are going to try to be proactive instead of reactive.

It is a journey....

Will it work?  You all know the answer to that…

It’s frustrating for us because oftentimes those missing assignments are right in his binder, losing points for every day that they continue to reside there.

We know he’s done the work – and probably fairly well.  Sean gets frustrated when we ask him about the missing assingments.  He claims he doesn’t even know what we’re talking about.

For a kid who can describe minute details of things that happened years ago or had the ability to recite 15 to 20 minute monologues verbatim after hearing them when he was barely older than a toddler, Sean can’t remember a worksheet that he did last Thursday.

We’ll figure it out.  We always do.  And then there will be a new issue.  That is the one guarantee in the special needs world.

Keeps life interesting, doesn’t it?

And now speaking of Life… pardon the awkward segue way but I must…

Here in America we will be celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday.  It’s a time for people to come together and give thanks for each other and be grateful for all that is wonderful in their lives.

I will be sharing the day with my family and thinking of all those who have made my life so amazing – especially this past year.

My friend who pushed me to begin this blog told me to ignore the numbers that show how many people check in to see my post.

However, the numbers are, for me, somewhat staggering.

I’m just a mom from the Midwest who writes little more than a diary and puts it up on the Internet.

That “diary” has made it’s way onto screens in over 700 cities in 53 countries.

I can’t even express how mind-boggling that is.

However, I can tell you that when I was having a meltdown, you were there.  And when I write a post and hopefully somehow connect with someone out there, I am happier than I’ve ever imagined I could be.

So this Thursday, along with being grateful for countless other blessings in my life, I will be grateful for how my life has changed.

I will be grateful for the friend who shoved me into this world and made me promise no regrets.

I will be thankful for my family who in some small way still need me.

I will be grateful for the family and friends who have given me grief when I wrote too much, bugged me when I wrote too little, and who sometimes hid from me when they knew I’d ask them if they read my latest post.

And I will thankful for all of you.  You have reached out to me.  You have listened to me.  You have shared your world with me.

A post on facebook the other day said something to the effect that “regular” moms get to share coffee face to face with their friends while “special needs” parents share only user names in on-line support groups.

We have done more than that. 

We have shared our laughter, our fears, our successes and failures.  We have shared our tears… both good and bad.

We have shared more than just a cup of coffee.  We trust each other enough to have shared our lives.

And that, my friends, could not be more special to me.

To the one, the many and each and every one of you out there… with all my heart… Thank you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Waiting For The Wave

I really need to stop being surprised by what Sean does…

Yes, when I picked him up for a short orthodontist appointment this morning he did bring along everything as if was going home from school for the rest of the day.

And yes, even though it’s 30 degrees outside he’s opting to go about wearing only a t-shirt and then complaining that he’s cold.

But I was really floored by an email I received earlier today from his counselor at school.

Now I know what you all are thinking…

It’s where I go every time the phone rings or I see an email from school….

“What did Sean do now?”

But today was a good thing. 

This year Sean’s counselor has had him attending a group session on Fridays during lunch.  Certainly, that is nothing new.  He’s been in group and individual sessions during school time for as long he’s been autistic.

I’m not sure why Sean did not take to the group session like he’s done in the past.  Could it be that he was missing out on all the action in the cafeteria at lunch?  Could it be that they weren’t playing strategy games like they’ve done before?

Or could it be that he simply wants to appear “normal” for once?

We have always, always made Sean’s autism out to be a positive thing.  And he’s proud of his diagnosis.  Sean embraces his differences…his uniqueness.   It’s his confidence in himself that has gotten him so far in life. 

Sean doesn’t want to be cured because he feels… and we feel… that there is nothing wrong with him.

Sean is perfect just like he is.

Of course it would be nice if he would use utensils when eating spaghetti or say something other than “Great”…

But he’s my kid and I think he’s amazing.

So I should not be surprised then that he went to his counselor this morning and somehow explained to him the reasons why he no longer wanted to participate in the group session.

And they agreed.

Wow, imagine that.

Sean fought his own battle and won.

He had been coming to us off and on for weeks saying that he didn’t understand why he had to be in it.

We always figured that it was in his best interest to participate.  After all, it was a social skills group. 

What texting-at-the-dinner-table teenager doesn’t need one?

But Sean wanted no part of it.

I could beat myself up and say that I failed as his mother to listen to him but I refuse to go there…or at least not this time.

I thought we were all doing something that was good for him.

Now that he’s growing up, I guess he’s deciding more and more what he wants.

Those words are really hard to digest.

He’s growing up.


While I will still maintain that wearing a jacket in 30-degree weather is better than not, I will trust Sean with this one issue.

The new arrangements will be a one-on-one session where they can talk about different things.  I’m sure Sean will be thrilled.

I can only be left wondering what lies ahead.

One day it’s a futon in his room instead of a train table and the next day a grown-up discussion regarding a social skills group.

What will tomorrow bring?

I don’t know.

How often have I said those words?

I don’t know.

But I do know this… my special needs child is beginning to not need me so much.

It feels like that first time your kindergartner forgets to wave good-bye to you as they walk into the school.

It’s thrilling.  It’s heartbreaking.  It’s knowing that they are growing up and that there is nothing you can do about it. 

That’s what I feel today… there’s nothing I can do except stand there and wait for him to wave.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shall We Dance?

A bit of housekeeping…

I’d like to thank each and every one of you who reached out to me after my Mega Mommy Meltdown last week.  The emails, the phone calls, the comments and messages… even people who didn’t know how to get in touch with me but who figured out through a friend of a friend….

Thank you for all the kind words and support.  It was quite the feel-good moment for me and you know how rare those are.

Just writing about it makes me want to say thanks all over again…

So THANKS!!!!…. Again.

Now onto the blog…

I’m not sure where to even start today’s entry.  Let’s throw some things up against the wall like you’re supposed to do with spaghetti and see what sticks, shall we?

It was 30 degrees the other day and I had to tell Sean to wear pants.

A coat, or sweatshirt, only does so much when it’s wrapped around one’s neck.

Did I really just tell Sean the other day that there is to be no laptops in the bathroom while sitting on the toilet?

Oh, and he went to his first junior high dance at the park district without me.

Yea…. Oh crap is right.

I know… what was I thinking?

Was I freaking out?  In my best 80’s Valley Girl speak… totally!

You all know I’ve been sick this past week.  It’s flu, it’s fatigue, and it’s sniffling and sneezing until you pee.

I’ve been miserable.

Like all super moms, I’ve tried to keep functioning but I finally waved the white flag and took to my bed this weekend – or as much as you can when you have dirty gym clothes that need to be washed and your children have only one word in their vocabulary (hint… starts with an ‘M’, ends with an ‘M’ and is O so not the name on my driver’s license… but then again, neither is my true weight!).

It was bad enough that I had to send Rich to go on a rock climbing trip with Sean for the Boy Scouts that I had been looking forward to for months.

The last thing I wanted to do was be hunched over in pain and wake Rich to tell him that I couldn’t go.

It killed me…. And the pain did, too!

Even at that early hour, I knew I was never going to be able to work my evening shift at the park district.

Once a month the park district holds a dance for the local junior high kids.  It’s three hours where the parents can dump their kids and they can enjoy some freedom (the parents that is…not the kids). 

We have a bunch of staff assigned to the dances to make sure Elk Grove’s finest pre-teens and new-teens play nice and don’t do whatever that dance move is that makes most adults long for the days where you had to keep either an invisible balloon or Bible in between you and your partner.

Considering I have two of these wunderkinds, I always make sure I sign up to work those nights.  Am I spying on them?  You could say a part of me is.

But the bigger part is due to Sean.  He rarely goes anywhere unsupervised.  And when I say, “supervised” I mean by either Rich or myself. 

With few exceptions, if Sean is attending something, then so is one of us.

For the last couple of years we’ve been able to drop him off at gymnastics practice and then go back home.  However, it’s a Special Olympics team and they have more than enough staff and peer partners, as well as knowledge and experience, to deal with anything that comes up.  In fact, it’s not only the first place we’ve ever been able to drop him off at, but almost strictly the only place we would feel comfortable enough to.

Every now and then, we will leave him at a Boy Scout meeting without one of us staying around in the next room.  I might have to run to the grocery store or head home to do something.  Even though one of the leaders has a special needs son, Sean is my kid and my responsibility.  I don’t think it’s fair to drop and go and let someone else have to deal with the myriad of issues that could come up.

But back to the dance…  If I wasn’t working then surely Sean and Carissa were not going to be allowed to go.  That’s the rule.  No negotiations.

When I told Sean that, he must have channeled every Supreme Court Justice as well as the state champion debate team because he came at me with so many arguments for him going that my NyQuil soaked brain hurt even more.

“Mom, I’m mature.”

“Mom, I’m almost in high school.”

“Mom, I’ll stay away from those girls.”  

He had been made fun of by a pack of girls at the last dance.

“Mom, I promise I won’t ask any girls to dance.”

The poor kid is 0 for 12 in asking.  I’ve told Carissa to always accept an invitation to dance because it takes the boy so much courage to ask.

And the reason I always work these nights…

“Mom, I promise I won’t get bullied.”

Isn’t that one of our greatest fears?  Special needs child or not, we parents live in fear of our kid being victimized.  We watch for signs.  We ask.  And yes, we spy.

Sean is using logic on me and coming up with some really sound reasons. 

And it’s working. 

Damn that growing up!

My irrational mommy-fear is the only thing I can come up with to not let him go.

Thus, I cave…but only if Carissa goes with.

Before she walked out the door I gave her instructions to not ditch Sean and to look out for him.

Considering he’s the older one, it felt a bit backwards saying that to her but I trust you all understand.

And off they went…

I tried to relax but couldn’t.  My eyes were glued to the clock.

When Rich left to pick them up, unlike the day of Sean’s high school placement test, the threat of bodily harm if he did not bring my two little ones home safe and sound was spoken loud and clear… and often.

Upon arriving back at home, Sean burst through the door and found me sitting on the couch in the barroom (what we call our family room).

“The dance was great.”

Great…I should have known, right?

What else would he say?

But then again, how else would you describe a night where you got to be just like everyone else…

And ditch your mom…

Yes, Sean.  I’m sure it was….


Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I am frustrated.

I am tired.

And I am angry.

I have hit the trifecta for having a bad day and I still have a PTO meeting to attend tonight.

I’m also still sick.

But the worst of all that I am?

I am lonely.

Yep, not a great day.

Frustration is when traffic sucks and you’re driving halfway into the city for a therapy appointment.  You’ve made this trek every other week for the last six and half years.  You know the traffic backs up.  You know the construction zones.  And when it rains like it’s doing today, you know that people forget how to drive. 

Frustration is when you have an 11 year-old sister complaining about having to go to therapy every week.  She actually proclaimed that Sean has ruined her life.  Yes, I know.  Yes, you have to go.  And yes, there are times when I wish that autism didn’t exist.

Frustration is when you have a 5 year-old crying in her car seat because she wants to go home and play after a long, hard day at kindergarten.  Guess what Sweetie… I want to go home and play, too.

The song American Pie is playing on the radio.  The older kids want it turned up.  The 5 year-old wants it turned down.


Sean wants to talk about the tradition of tossing your graduation caps into the air.



Oh can’t this traffic move any faster?

I don’t know what his obsession is with it.  I don’t know what his fascination is.  Does he want to do it?  Does he think it’s silly?  Does he think it’s the ultimate in-your-face send off?

But, really… again?

And it’s not like I can tell him that he’ll poke someone’s eye out a la A Christmas Story and be done with it. 

No… Sean has researched it.  He has Googled and Wikipedia’d it.

I have to come up with something and it has to be good.  But why bother… he’s not going to accept anything I say.

Can this truck go any slower?

I grab my cell phone.  I need to talk to an adult.  I need a laugh, a smile… hell, I’ll even take an argument at this point.  But I need someone.


I dial.  It rings.



No, Ashley, I can’t have the radio play Adele’s Rolling In The Deep right at this very moment.  Radios don’t work that way.

Sean yells at Ashley for not understanding that.

I yell at Sean for yelling at Ashley.

Come on traffic...move!

I pick up the phone again.

I dial.  It rings.


Is anybody out there?  Anybody?

Geez, I just want to talk to someone born in the last century.  Anyone.

We finally get to therapy where I sink into the chairs that are so comfortable that I use my coat as a blanket and give myself a few minutes to close my eyes.

I hear Sean in the other room beginning his monologue about the new videogame Call of Duty.

“Sean, shush!” I scold from my makeshift bed.

Therapy goes surprisingly well for Sean.  Carissa endures and Ashley whines.

I guess that’s success in my book.

I think my night is getting better when I declare that Wendy’s is for dinner due to it being a dine-n-share night for the junior high.

Crying erupts from the back seat.  Ashley claims that Wendy’s burns her tongue.

I once again pick up the phone…reaching out in the darkness.

Once again I dial.

Once again I get voicemail.

Seriously, do I not exist?

I’m beginning to wonder.

I come home without the Wendy’s and flip open my laptop hoping that there’s an email or two from one of the voicemails I had left.


I should have known.

I don’t exist.

I pull up a video from youtube.  It’s Under Pressure from David Bowie and Queen’s Freddie Mercury.  It’s the last song I heard before I got out of the car tonight.  I gravitate towards the line… “Watching my good friends screaming let me out.”

Does anyone know that I’m screaming?


I’m OK with being alone.  I’m alone once the kids go to school.  I’m alone in my head with my thoughts and in my heart with my feelings.  I even go to movies and concerts alone.

This whole blog concept was born on the premise of being alone.

I sometimes even prefer being alone.

But I don’t like being lonely.

Today out of the frustration, the anger, the tiredness, and the being sick… it is the loneliness that feels the worst.

The traffic will always clear.  The sore throat and sneezing will eventually subside.  A good night’s sleep will be had soon.  The kids will get along for one magical moment.  And most of everything else will slip away like the stars overhead at night.

But in the morning will those voicemails be returned?  Will my inbox be full?

Autism, traffic, and bickering siblings will all exist in the morning.

And so will I. 

But will anyone know it?

We’re all busy.  We all ignore our cell phones and scan our emails.  We all think that we need nothing more than money in the bank, a tank full of gas, and a roof over our heads.

But in the end, we all need someone at some time in our lives.

Today was just my day. 

Maybe I have more of those than the typical person with typical kids and a typical life.

If that’s the case, then spend a day in my house and see how many times you need a shoulder or an email or a phone call to get you through the rough spots.

Then and only then, will you understand and know how much others are appreciated…

And how lonely, lonely can be.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

Or… to quote the band Chicago… Does anybody really care?

I don’t.

I am sick today…and not the normal kind of sick.

I knew I had lost the battle that I had been fighting with daily doses of Vitamin C all week when another security guard came into work last night and said, “Geez, you look like hell.”

And I took it as a compliment.

No, this is definitely not the achy stomach, stuffy nose kind of sick.  I don’t think any amount of pills or medicinal liquids is going to cure what ails me.

This is more like a hangover combined with playing in a NFL football game sans pads.

Unfortunately, this “hangover” comes without the fun of a prior night of partying or my best friend sitting next to me in the jail cell proclaiming, “Wow… that was a heck of a time.”

No, this is just blah.

Now in a perfect world, I would be sent immediately to bed to rest and recover in a timely fashion.

However, the last time I was able to spend any extended periods of time in a bed during daylight hours was 13, 11, and 5 years ago respectively.  But that also included my legs being up in stirrups and a number of strangers doing unspeakable acts in unspeakable places and then being told to “push.”

So you’ll have to forgive me my dear readers when I desperately begged in my head this morning for Sean to simply be quiet.

I could not take another moment of sound, another moment of having to concentrate on what he was trying to say.

Thanks to the Internet, this blog is read in several countries around the world.  It’s hard to believe that fact because I’m just a mom living in a small town writing about my life with my kid.  However, I say this because I have to explain a phenomenon that occurs in only about one-third of the countries worldwide.

Yes, I’m talking about observing Daylight Savings Time.

Every fall the majority of my country “turns back” our clocks one hour.  It has something to do with energy savings and was adopted around the time of one of the world wars of the last century.

We also “Spring forward” every spring and move our clocks forward one hour.

Yes, it’s all very complicated.  One day you get screwed by an hour.  Months later, you get your wish of having 25 hours in a single day.

While it was all done for environmental reasons, it does nothing for our body clocks.  In the fall, we get an extra hour of sleep yet still gripe and moan about being “off.”

In other words, it’s a government issued license to complain for a week while you “adjust.”

In the spring it’s even better.  You not only get to complain for the week, but on Day 1 of the new time, you also have a built in excuse for being late.  “Oh, I forgot to turn my clock.  Sorry.”

I understand it.  My next-door neighbours understand it.  The majority of America understands it.

Sean does not.

I can tell him to Google it.  I can tell him that it’s a law.  I can tell him that it’s a huge conspiracy to make us read the manuals of everything that is programmable in our lives.

I can tell him and yet, he will not understand.


If he was 3 years old, I’d tell him that Elmo wants him to learn how to tell time and this is how we do it.

Sean is 13 and should be able to grasp a concept – no, an accepted twice-yearly part of our lives – without much difficultly. 

But today he is being obstinate.  He simply refuses to accept anything we tell him or anything that he has read.

The roads in his head are blocked, impassable to logic, fact, even humor.

And today is not a day that I want to try and pave a new way into his brain.

I can’t do it.  I simply can’t.

So the clocks will change and Sean will not. 

Tomorrow will be a new day of 24…not 25 hours… and hopefully, the fog will lift, the roads will open and I can try again.

But for today, I will give in and let him be. 

As for me, I’ll admit that the armor that protects my super-mom-ness has a crack in it.

Yes, World, today I am sick.

Tomorrow, and paving that new road, will simply just have to wait.  I am going to bed now and the only pushing I will do will be on the buttons of the television remote.

Good night.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Cold War

I awoke the other morning to find Sean sitting on the heating vent.

Mind you, that’s nothing particularly new or unusual in the Lehning household.  When the children were younger I used to put their clothes on the heating vent every morning to warm up before I dressed them.  It was always nice to put on a comfy, cozy, warm shirt.

But today was different.

As many of you know, I live outside of Chicago, Illinois.  And, you also know that it’s November which means winter is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere.

Then why, given those facts, is my 13 year-old son wearing shorts and a t-shirt and complaining that he’s cold?

Ya think?

It doesn’t matter the temperature.  Sean will wear shorts and a t-shirt every day.  It is only upon my insistence that he will put on anything else.

Years ago we bought an indoor thermometer for the house.  It has a little boy on the display that is clothed according to the current temperature.  His outfits range from full winter gear with scarf and mittens to a swimsuit for warmer weather.

Sean pays no attention and dresses as he desires.

And then complains that he’s cold.

I’m not sure where this aversion to wearing clothing started for Sean.  Of course, as a toddler, he disliked tags in his clothes.   Then again, I’m 43 years old and I still cut the tags out of my own clothing.

Is it the scratchiness?  Is it the extra texture of an appliqué?  Is it simply the feel of the fabric on his skin?

I’ve tried my best to figure it out but to no avail.  The boy simply loves to wear less.

He used to walk in the door and strip to his skivvies right there in the front entryway.  I could barely get “Oh, Sean!” out of my mouth before his semi-naked bottom would be heading down the hallway to his room.

As his little sisters grew up and subsequent shock and awareness came into play, I was eventually able to move Sean from the entryway to the hallway and finally, to his room.

Bitter cold winters and even the furnace going out has done little to deter his intent on being underdressed for the weather.

His reasoning? 

“Mom…it’s 72 in the house.”

Seriously??  Using logic at this tender young age?  Don’t you dare….

I’m the mom.  If I’m cold then he’s cold.  Enough said.

Nowadays, Sean is growing into quite the young man.  He’s got the hair and the teen-age funk to prove it.

I was hoping that with age, wisdom would come…or, at the very least, common sense. 

However, none of those have been bestowed upon the Lehning legacy.

Sean is his own man with his own very unique style.  And for him, less is more.  He’d live in a nudist colony if he could. 

However, with its climate, I can hardly imagine Chicago as being a mecca for nudists.

But then again, Sean isn’t naked.  He’s simply wearing a t-shirt and shorts….

Outside of Chicago…

In November…

Complaining that he’s cold….

And sitting on a heating vent.

Now who can find anything unusual with that?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Great Exploration

Sean is 13 years old and in the 8th grade; which means taking the high school placement test if you live in my area.

I don’t recall having to take one of those back before computers were born.  You learned what you were supposed to learn in 8th grade and then went to high school.  If you were an exceptional student then you were put in honors classes.  Everybody else was just, dare I say, normal and placed accordingly.

Today it’s normal, high normal, low normal, honors, accelerated, remedial, and the dreaded… Advanced Placement.

And it’s not just for math and reading.  It can now be for social studies and a host of other subjects.

Do you really think the world would stop revolving if Honors World History failed to exist?


Thus, to ensure my little one’s butt is seated in the proper classroom for his intellectual capabilities, the high school placement test had to be invented.

And then shoved down my son’s throat from the first day of 8th grade.

“This will determine your placement in high school which will then determine college….”

Not too much pressure, huh?

Since September they have been preparing the students for this monumental, life-path-determining, 4-hour exam.

You can only imagine Sean’s level of patience with this one.

Even my own began to wear thin a couple of weeks ago and I banned Sean from speaking about it unless there was earth-shattering news to report akin to the #2 pencil being banned and now all students must report with a blue Bic pen.

Finally, after eight weeks of prepping, dozens of conversations, a secret wish to home-school, double-checking to make sure his accommodations were all in place, and a bag full of #2 pencils (as well as his #4 Therapro’s) in hand, Sean was dropped at Room 139 and wished good luck.

I was a wreck.

Sean wanted to use the scantron sheet to put his answers on like everyone else even though he was allowed to write in the test booklet.

Had he ever used a scantron sheet before?  He said he did….

But still I worried.  With his writing so hard (and the gouges on my dinner table to prove it), what if he made a mistake?  He never erases at school because he tears the paper.  What if he had to erase that little dark oval?  And let’s talk about that little oval….  Sean couldn’t stay in the lines if I threatened him with no computer for a month.  How is the computer going to read his answers?

Crap.  Crap.  Double crap.

I watched the clock all morning.  One hour in.  Halfway.  Three hours down.  How’s he doing?  Is he walking around and taking his sensory breaks?  Is the moderator being understanding?  Is he skipping questions and jumping around like he does on his homework?

11:30 am came and Rich left to go wait for Sean to finish.  The high school was hosting not only 800 incoming students for the test, but also a playoff football game and a swim meet.  The place was jammed. 

I thought he’d wait in the lobby for him but instead, Rich waited just outside the front doors of the school.

Sean didn’t need the extra time that was specified in his IEP and was excused from the room around 11:50 am.  He was so proud to finish ten minutes early.

Sean went to the front but did not find Rich.  No worries for Sean… it’s called the Explorer test for a reason so off he went… to explore…alone.  He went up and down hallways, even mounting the stairs to the second floor.

If I had known, I would have freaked.

In the meantime, Sean was having a dandy of a time enjoying his freedom.

Eventually, Sean found a staff member (or probably more accurately, the staff member found Sean), and they called the house looking for Rich.

One inside, one outside…they were like those proverbial ships that pass in the night.

With the aid of a cell phone and the unspoken threat of bodily harm if he did not bring my boy home soon, Rich finally was able to meet up with Sean.

I anxiously awaited their arrival.  I wondered what his mood was like.  Was he scared at any point?  Did he get frustrated?  Was he angry by being confined so long?  Did he think he did OK?  Would he be mentally and physically exhausted from his ordeal?

Questions, questions, questions.  So much agonized over and now the wait is almost over.

The door opens and the words fly from my mouth.

“So… how was it?”


Ugh.  Typical Sean.  I should have known.