Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Stranger Danger

Kate is gregarious to a fault! This girl would talk to the wall if it would talk back. At 18 months a full assessment was done on Kate and we were told that she would probably never walk or talk and that we should consider an institution setting, for the sake of the family of course. Parents out there – let this be a lesson to you – NEVER LET ANYONE LIMIT YOUR CHILD! For those of you that have the pleasure of knowing Kate, you know that your “ears bleed” after spending time with her she talks so much. In fact when she is not talking – she is talking. You can hear her saying “I’m not talking. I’m being quite. Shhh, not talking”.

My parents live out of town and we were spending the weekend. After a good night sleep by us, this is what my Mom had to say “I didn’t sleep a wink last night. Did you know Kate talks in her sleep all night?” Yes we did, but I guess we were used to it by now.

A very dear friend of mine, Barbara Blasco, wrote a book about her daughter. The Kathryn Blasco Story – It’s a Girl But Will She Live? In there this is what she had to say about Kate and her willingness to be everyone’s friend. We were on a train heading into Chicago to go start the process of guardianship of Kate. “We got off the train and walked up the stairs to the street level. Immediately, Katie turned to the girl walking beside her and asked, “What’s your name?” The girl said, “Lisa.” Cheryl reprimanded Katie and said, “I told you not to talk to strangers.” Katie answered, “She’s not a stranger. I know her. Her name is Lisa.” Her comment cracked us up.”

On the upside of her talking to anyone or anything - all the time, is she makes a great person to ask for donations.  We were at Walmart one Saturday collecting money for the Knights of Columbus and you can be sure no one got past Kate going in or coming out!
We were ever so grateful to the car industry when they installed window locks on vehicles. There was a time when we would go through a list of reminders to Kate when pulling up to a stop and pedestrians were on the sidewalk. I remember a it was raining and we were stopped by a train, before the automatic window locks.  Kate rolls down her window and asks the man standing on the sidewalk if he wants a ride.  “My Mom will give you a ride" she says. I am frantically trying to reach over her to yell “not really” and roll up her window - finally the train moves on.

Another time we saw a girl on the corner of a back street to Walmart on a very hot day.  She was standing at the corner like waiting for a bus- at not a bus stop. After the trip to Walmart she was still standing there.  A very large women, dressed in black on a hot day. This was a time I allowed Kate to roll down her window and offer a ride. Sure enough she was waiting for a bus – at not a bus stop - to take her to the train station.  Well, I do know where the train station is, so we did give her a ride.  Of course she and Kate exchanged phone numbers.  

We were in the store the other day and the lady behind us struck up a conversation with Kate.  She told us she used to work for NSSRA and was looking for a job. I proceeded to tell her of the different programs Kate is involved in and she even knew several of the staff members we mentioned.  Hopefully we helped her - Maybe it's not such a bad thing to talk to strangers... after all, her name was Karen, so now we know her!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Oh The Lessons We Learn

Maybe a better name for my blog would have been  "Lessons From Kate."  She has taught our family - and many others so many lessons over the years.  Just this last weekend I learned another one, about forgiveness.

Kate attends a wonderful program called Our Place.  Their mission  is to support teens and adults with developmental disabilities so that they can live meaningful, productive, socially connected lives in their home community.  You will notice in their mission statement, this population is referred to as adults and teens first.  In other words they are people who have a disability.  First and foremost, they are people.  Even if Kate can't really read or write, drive a car, pick out the seasonally appropriate clothing, she is a person; a person -like you and me - who has emotions.  

I wasn't there Saturday night, but staff pulled me aside when I picked her up and told me that Dick had been really mean to Kate, and then Jane joined in and they were so mean to Kate that she was crying... really hard.  Staff handled the situation and by the time we got there Dick and Jane were like Hi Kate's Mom to me, and Kate came bounding down the stairs full of stories about Karaoke night and singing High School Musical songs.  Dick was asking when he and Kate could go see a movie.  

I didn't bring it up to her that night because to be honest, my heart was broken for her... for many reasons. One-I wasn't there to protect her. I'm the Mom, that is my job!  For two- I had to wrap my head around the fact that the kids who are teased all their lives for being different - tease and make fun of people too.  Really? Of anyone, I would think they knew what that felt like and wouldn't put that pain on anyone else.  But then you have remember, first and foremost, they are people.

In less than two hours, Kate's heart had evidently been broken, mended and the situation was forgiven and forgotten.  How many of us can say that?  How many of us aren't speaking to a family member for a word said that hurt our feelings?  How many of us have hurt someone and not asked to be forgiven? Kate, and others like her, experience life in a lot of the same ways we do, but their perspectives are different.  I  often wish mine was more like hers.

I did ask her this morning if she wanted to talk about what happened last night that made her cry.  Her response to me - No, we apologized.  What's for breakfast?  Just like that - it was over for her.  For me, I will think it about it for a long time I'm sure - and worry about her, but that is my job.  Her job is to share the joy - and she is doing it very well. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Show Me The Money

Everyone likes to work for the all mighty dollar. Kate works for it - literally - a buck!  A buck or a ten mean pretty much the same to her.  She has several chores at home that she is required to do.  One of them is to bring the garbage cans back from the road up to the garage.  For that she earns a buck.  As there are two cans, garbage and recycling, there have been times I have helped, so she wanted to share the buck with me...bless her heart.

Mind you, if Kate ever needs anything, we buy it for her or she will use the money she gets as gifts, or gift cards.  I have never seen her spend her buck.  Maybe that is because it stays in the kitchen. When we give her the buck, it comes from the change jar in the pantry.  It took me about a month to realize Kate was putting the buck back in the change jar after we gave it to her.  We apparently are recycling the same dollar over and over.  

When we went out to dinner recently, we left Kate home with my Mom.  I told Kate if she was good I would give her a buck!  Just to be silly I told Mom if she was good she could have a buck also. She smiled and went and looked in the change jar to see if there were two bucks in there!

That became a standing joke in the house, if you are good Grandma you can have a buck!  Even Kate would reminder her of that if we were going somewhere and Mom was staying home. Well, Mom has just moved into an assisted living facility.  She has lived in the same neighborhood for 65 years except when she visited us for the winter months.  This is quite the transition for her, leaving the house Dad built and all her neighbors she has known forever.  

Kate was sitting at the table with me the other night while I was signing a card to send her and Kate asked what it was for. I explained I wanted to cheer Grandma up at her new house.  Kate went and got a dollar out of the change jar for the card…. bless her heart.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rocket Girl - For Real!

When I asked Sarah aka Rocket Girl to give me some info on her Solar Car for this blog, this is what she had to say about that!

Solarcar was something that started off as a fascination- you mean a solar powered car? that I can drive?? cool! And turned into more of what some might call a "hobby" other's may call and "obsession".  Some days it's all I talk or think about, and that goes for nights as well- I either dream about it, or dont sleep at all worrying about it. 

Whatever you classify it as, it's probably one of the coolest thing's I've been apart of. I'm currently on my third year on the team and am more excited about it as ever. We get to build a race car, that is powered solely by the sun, with our own hands. And what's even cooler, is we get to then race our student built car against other teams from across America and Canada. And we manage to do both of these things quite well- I might add. By no means are we the most advanced, or highest funded team out there, but we hang in there with the big engineering schools across the nation and last year we even placed second. Oh I can still taste first place, it was such a close race. 

This year we are building what is anticipated to be a better, more powerful, more efficient car than our last one (*knock on wood* *please don't jinx us now, we've worked so hard for this*) and we hope to do notably well(win) in this summer's two races which will have  more and tougher competitors than our previous race. This summer we will be racing on a Formula One Track in Austin Tx, for a three day race where we race for 8 hours straight each day for a total of 24 hours. We will get a day off to travel and then begin our next race which is a cross country race that will span 7 states in 8 days, once again racing for about 8 hours a day. This race is exhausting but exciting.

I am so grateful to be able to have such an awesome opportunity while in college (it's making grad school a bit more bearable), and I'm even more grateful to be leading a team that has already accomplished so much. To be "part of the team" and support our efforts click here, and you can follow us on Face Book

You Go Rocket Girl - Love Sam -aka Kate, Jan or Ginger (shown here with the Red Bird at the Bloomington, IL leg of the race two years ago)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Name Game

Kate has always loved TV.  When she was very little she  would cruise the house in the walker.  Remember those things that little ones would sit in that had wheels and they could Fred Flintstone themselves around?  I’m not sure you can buy them, I guess now days that is considered dangerous and they are on stationary disks.

Anyway, Kate would fly through our house in that thing, bouncing off the walls and nicking the wood work.  Her favorite show when she was almost two was Wheel of Fortune.  I remember her age because if Sarah (17 months younger) was on the floor near the TV, Kate would stand on her to get closer to the screen.  We actually took pictures – there is no way I would specifically remember the incident.  Sarah says she does ... right.  But if Kate was in the walker and the music for Wheel started, she would fly through the house to get to the TV to watch Wheel of Fortune.  Some things never change.  To this day, we have to choose our colors before the show start and then we play all the way through the final round.  It doesn’t matter if I call out the answer before Art does... if his color wins – so does he.

She also took to calling us by names of characters in the shows.  All of the sudden she stopped answering me when I would call her Kate.  She would only answer to Jan. She started calling me Carol, Art was Mike or Michael and I had to call her Jan.  Of course Sarah was Marcia and Patty was Cindy.  Brother was Greg if I remember right.  When she called Grandma Alice, she got that cute smile on her face and twinkle in her eye.  But to make matters worse, she would change channels on us.  She would be calling Sarah/Dodie,  Patty/Macie and she was Ginger, characters from the As Told By Ginger show.  Or, Donnie (our dogs new name) Kate/Eliza, Patty/Darwin, Sarah/Debbie , me/Marianne and Art was Nigel from Wild Thornberrys. Some days I had to wait for her to call me by the shows character name so I would know who she was that day just to have a conversation with her!

I think our favorites were from a show called Rocket Power.  She was Sam, Patty was Twister, Brother was Otto, I was Violet and Art was Mundo.  Sarah was Reggie, the Rocket Girl and it sticks to this day.  Two years ago Sarah helped build a solar car and competed in a race that went through 8 states in 8 days.  When we caught up to the leg of the race in Bloomington, IL, we had a banner made that read Go Rocket Girl Go!  (I will fill you in on the solar car in my next blog).

To this day she often calls us by our character names.  She rides a public transportation bus that provides  her door to door service.  Art went out to get her off the bus and a couple of the other riders yell out, Hi Michael!