Friday was another pretty bad day at work - two budget meetings and some personnel issues made for a long trying day. On the way back from the office from one of the meetings I passed the Italian-American Club where they were setting up carnival rides. By the end of the day, I had forgotten about it. However, Saturday morning after baking four batches of Christmas sugar cookies, I mentioned it to Scott and we decided to pack up and try it out.
We arrived about 1:00 to see the sign that indicated they opened at 3:00. Oops. So we ran some errands and went back him. My folks called so we invited them to join us. And off we went again.
I'm not sure how to write about a carnival. There were rides and games. The arm bands for unlimited rides were $20 each. The food smelled bad. The carnival workers were incredibly nice (though they apparently do not have a dental plan benefit). And it was one of the greatest afternoon/evenings we've had as a family.
Saturday evening, I wrote to some friends and said we were a normal family - just having fun at a carnival. Scott and I each admitted to the other later that we expected to be there 20 minutes tops. The expected noise (which was bad by/on some rides), the expected crowd (which wasn't bad), the expected lines (which were pretty much non existent) and simply the experiences we've had in the past attempting to do family outings really made both of us a little leery - but willing to try.
I'm not sure who had the most fun. It might have been Charlie who loved being spinned, jerked and whipped around on any and every ride he could get on (especially the Superman ride he went on four times!). It might have been Cal who enjoyed the perfect mix of independence on some rides and the security of having daddy with him on others. It may have been Grandma and Grandpa who enjoyed watching their boys laughing, giggling and experiencing something new. But it was probably a pair of very proud and amazed parents. I really don't know how to put it into words the joy of such a relatively normal event. So I guess I'll give up trying.
Today in thinking about it (I feel like I'm reliving a successful sporting event or something!) I've realized that we didn't suddenly become a "normal" family - but we found a way to make modifications. Cal's report card provides that he is on grade level - with modifications. I think those are two words that I'm going to start working harder to embrace and celebrate: with modifications.
For the carnival, there were small modifications - like Charlie's wrist band that the lady attached to his shoe when I explained that he wouldn't leave it on his wrist; or bypassing certain game activities so Cal didn't freak wanting a balloon. The greatest modification was Charlie's stroller. Several weeks ago, we took the boys to a fall festival. I didn't' blog about it but suffice it to say it wasn't the easiest of days. Cal did awesome - he had his face painted (in spite of sensory issues - woo hoo!), he did a group craft, he played on the obstacle course and in the bounce house and took a hay ride. We would have stayed longer but while Cal was doing most of those activities, either Scott or I had a death grip on Charlie. Our church where the festival was sits on a busy road and Charlie still runs. So Charlie was on our shoulders, hanging from our shoulders, wrapping around our feet or some other difficult behaviour the entire time. I left feeling so discouraged and frankly jealous of parents who could stand back and watch their children or socialize with other parents.
After the festival, my mom made a passing comment about it being too bad that Charlie had outgrown his stroller and that the wagon is too big for the car. It reminded me of a long-ago forum post about a friend gifting another family of a special boy with a special stroller. How could I have forgotten? A Google search and a few links led me to Charlie's new wheels - a McClaren Major Elite stroller - designed for special needs kids. It is an umbrella stroller with a five-point harness for up to 140 pounds. The price tag (more than $350) gave us pause but not for long. We ordered it even before my parents generously contributed more than half the cost.
Has anyone ever cried about a stroller before? Because thinking of this one has brought tears to my eyes more than once. And without a doubt it was a major reason why yesterday was so successful. Charlie had a safe place to be. He was secure without Scott or I having to manhandle him. After the first 20 minutes where both Scott and I were waiting for the bad to come, we were ALL able to relax. It is rare to be out in public and not be hyper-sensitive anticipating Charlie's behaviour. His vocal stimming on the rides was met only with smiles. His excited yells between rides - no problem. It was simply a great time.
With modifications. We've been living it for four years now in various ways. It's nice to put a slogan to it. We're a normal family - with modifications. Hee.