Friday, July 31, 2009


Earlier this year, I was contacted by ASTAR (Caleb’s autism clinic) to see if we might be interested in having Caleb participate in PEERS: Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills. The group was to be made up of 12 soon-to-be middle school boys, each with either an Asperger’s Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism diagnosis. The 12-week program was designed to teach essential social skills to pre-teens whose disabilities prevent them from naturally assimilating with their peers.

It sounded like a great opportunity and yet we had to decline the invitation due to unemployment and our inability to afford the cost of the weekly sessions. The PEERS miracle was only one of countless blessings we received during our six months of unemployment. A few weeks after first speaking with the director, we got word that ASTAR wanted to offer Caleb a scholarship for the program, enabling him to attend free of charge.

The meetings were held each Tuesday evening. Because of work conflicts for me, PEERS became a weekly father/son outing. Jon patiently attended the parents’ group while Caleb worked with the other boys. It wasn’t exactly up Jon’s alley—he described many of the parents to be “a little special themselves”—but he was willing to make the sacrifice for Caleb. When Jon started working again in May, he would drive to Bellevue to work, home to get Caleb and then to Seattle and back—about four hours of driving in all.

Each week had new skills to focus on and homework assignments to go with each lesson. The homework usually entailed having a phone conversation with one of the other boys or maybe communicating through email. It was pretty humorous for us to witness the interactions of these quirky young boys. I was always entertained by Jon’s stories of the group members and wished that I could attend to witness it for myself.

Caleb loved it. He was extremely motivated to earn points for attending and completing his “homework.” The fact that pizza was served each week was an added bonus.

This last Tuesday was the PEERS graduation and family potluck. I didn’t have to work and would finally get my opportunity to put some names with faces. I met a boy who rapidly swiped his fingers down his nose as he spoke at me in an unusually loud voice. There was the six-foot-tall boy who demanded to know why the cougher across the room had attended if he was sick. One scrawny boy crept into the room acting like a bunny. And then there was my own son who acted out his own one-man baseball game. I delighted in and even got a bit choked up by all the weirdness.

The program directors gave the boys a light-hearted quiz of what they’d learned and then presented each boy with a certificate. The boys were then allowed to choose a prize from a table full of brand new toys and games. It’s not surprising that Caleb went straight for the basketball. As if he didn’t have enough of them at home already. Oh well, he was happy.

The group then walked to a small downtown park to enjoy some food and playtime. It was an enjoyable summer evening with my only regret being that I didn’t get any pictures. Caleb was sad to see it all come to an end.

Jon later said that the whole PEERS experience reminded him of an old Blind Melon video. He recalled the video from the early nineties but I’d never seen it and couldn’t understand the analogy. So I searched online.

I watched it. I cried—just a teensy bit. Is that really how my little boy feels? Probably.

No wonder he enjoyed PEERS so much. I’m so thankful that he got 12 weeks of frolicking in the field with some of his fellow bumblebees.

And he got to eat pizza, too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Make Way for the King

He was king for a day as he celebrated his 11th birthday yesterday, but it was last Friday when Caleb first donned his crown.

The kids spent a whole week at Grandma's house and Caleb participated in a drama camp. He got the lead role of the king in a play called "Who Stole the Tarts", which was performed at the end of the week.

Caleb did a fabulous job portraying the king who stole the tarts but blamed it on the knave of hearts. He learned a lot of lines in just a couple of days.

He had lots of fun and we loved watching him perform.

The birthday celebration started early with Donuts for breakfast. It took two maple bars to hold that many candles and several matches to get them all lit. While the rest of the house was quietly sleeping, Jon and I sang to our big boy and watched him make his first wish.

Later we met Caleb's favorite friends for some birthday bowling. They've reached the age where simply smiling for a picture is no longer cool. Instead, I got these studly poses out of them.

The girls had fun, too. It's great that a birthday for one means a party for all!

It's only fitting that the birthday king should earn a strike on his big day. Here's his celebratory pose.

After bowling, we enjoyed Caleb's requested BYU birthday cake. Look at all those candles!

He tried to burp the candles out (such a gross eleven-year-old boy thing to do) but it didn't work too well, not to mention he was quickly reprimanded for such behavior. So, he resorted to the traditional blowing method.

Caleb requested BJ's for dinner. He ordered pizza, cream soda and got a birthday pizookie for dessert.

Thankfully he chose to simply blow this candle out.

We ended the day with presents. He was spoiled rotten, as a king should be, with so many fun gifts from friends and family. It was so fun to have my whole family here to help us celebrate Caleb's special day.

A birthday fit for a king.

Happy Birthday, Caleb!