Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Destination... Prom! Chapter 3 Practice, Round 1, the Dinner Date

P words are very important in our home.  Words like:

Plan (or Planning)

and of course, my favorite P word... Parker :-)  Then there is Parker's new favorite P word Prom :-)

Our life is a checklist of plans, preparing us for each day.  Prom is a very special checklist that helps to prepare Parker each step of the way.  There will be things I can prepare him for and things I cannot. I've accepted that some things are out of my control but those that are in my control, I'm gripping tightly and running with to help Parker (and Rylee!) have a perfect prom.

This includes a lot of preparing, planning, and practice. 

Life has an interesting way of having things fall into place, this was no exception. Someone up above is lending a hand and I'm so thankful for that.  On my checklist of things to prepare Parker for, eating dinner (likely food that he won't really care for - or may smell funny to him) with a large group of people and having multiple pictures taken is on that list. With impeccable timing, I was chosen to receive one of the YWCA Women of Achievement Awards, not only is this an incredibly huge honor but it comes with a dinner and photographer - providing us with the perfect opportunity for a Prom Practice! 

Parker has never attended anything where I have been recognized so this was a double win-win for me... if it would go well.  If it didn't, it could lead to increased prom anxiety and an all-around disaster for a significant event. When I first asked him if he wanted to go he, of course, told me no. So I asked him if he'd go with Rylee to which, of course, he said, "YES!"

I ran the idea by Rylee who was completely on board and then sprang into action!  Tickets were purchased, the information went on Parker's calendar "Awards Dinner" as I would not only need to prepare him for the prom practice but also for the idea that people would be talking about me and I would need to leave the table and talk to a lot of people.  You know, because I love a good challenge ;-)

As the date came closer, our list for the evening started to grow. Allison and I were out of town for the National Fragile X Foundation's Advocacy Day in Washington DC the week prior so the majority of the list making was in the couple of short days we had together. Our hand-written list was simple, yet specific:
  • After school Parker will: 
    • Have a snack
    • Take a shower
    • Put on new deodorant 
    • Put on dress clothes
      • Black pants
      • Dan's shirt
      • Blue tie
      • Clean socks
      • Clean underwear
      • Clean turtle shirt
    • Brush teeth
    • Be ready by 5!
  • Rylee will arrive at 5:10 and we will: 
    • Take pictures with Rylee
    • Take tickets for the awards dinner
    • Hold out our arm to help her walk
    • Open her car door
    • Close her car door (after she says it's ok)
  • Rylee and Parker will drive to Big Rack's where they will: 
    • Get out of the car
    • Go inside
    • Go downstairs (or take the elevator)
    • Give the ladies the tickets
    • Tell them "Roos Table"
    • Find the table
  • At the awards dinner Parker will: 
    • Sit with Rylee, Mom, Dan, Allison, Grandma, Grandpa, Great Grandma and Emily
    • Try the food they serve
    • Use good table manners
    • Talk nicely
  • There will be: 
    • Lots of people talking nicely
    • Food we may not like but will try
    • A lady taking pictures
    • People who want their picture taken with Parker
    • People who want to talk to Mom
    • People who will want to talk to Parker
  • Mom will need to: 
    • Stand up when they say her name
    • Get her picture taken with different people
    • Talk to a lot of people
  • After the awards dinner Parker will: 
    • Ride back to his house with Rylee
    • Tell Rylee Thank You
    • Tell Rylee Goodbye so she can go home
And, of course, the "reminder" list!
  • Use good manners
    • Say please, thank you, and excuse me
    • Hold doors open for girls
    • Keep napkin in lap when we eat
  • Be polite
  • Use words
  • Stay standing up / stay on feet
  • Walk slowly
  • Clap for people who get awards
  • People we will see: 
    • Grandma, Grandpa, Great Grandma
    • Dan
    • Emily
    • Mrs. Yocum
  • Smile
  • Have fun

With lists reviewed multiple times over a few days, I picked Parker up on Tuesday after school and we started to prepare. One final review of the list then line by line checking off completed tasks leading up to Rylee's arrival. 

This would be my opportunity to see what would need to be added to the list, removed from the list and any area I would need to tweak.  And to build everyone's confidence in Parker. Really, no pressure. 

Rylee arrived and Parker grabbed his iPad and found Subway Surfer's. I made a mental note to either A) allow time for this the day of prom or B) keep the iPad out of sight.  Once he was ready, we started pre-event pictures.  Pictures are, without a doubt, one of the most difficult tasks for Parker.  It requires open eyes, eye contact and attention on Parker. This was just going to be the first set of pictures for the night, just us at home.  He would still need to make it through pictures with the photographer in front of people at the event. First things first... check out these pictures!

Oh Mom!

There is a smile... with closed eyes.

Haha! Oh MOM!
It can be challenging to smile AND open our eyes at the same time :-) 

But... he CAN do it!

Look at them!  Smiles and open eyes! Woo Hoo!

With pictures successful completed, I handed him the tickets, did a couple quick reminders and sent them on their way - reminding them I would see them there!  And then, of course, went out to take pictures (and remind him NOT to close her door until she said ok!)

Opening the door (*Things we can do with our eyes closed - lol)

Not watching Rylee get into the car ;-) BUT holding the door open (so win!)

Waiting for the Ok to close the car door (whew!)

Headed to his side to leave *With an incredibly proud mom fighting tears taking pictures ;-)

So far, so very, very good!  They were on their way!  Rylee text me when they arrived and I let her know that I would be late but to go on in as planned - and they did!  There was a slight bit of hesitancy before walking into the crowded room but that quickly ended and he and Rylee made their entrance. *This was huge!  This practice was not with he peers (outside of Rylee) but with adults he mostly would not know - that is an intimidating thing to walk into!

I was the last to arrive (that's another blog!), as I walked in the program had started and at our table Parker and Rylee were sitting nicely listening.  I had trouble at times through the evening remembering the purpose of the dinner had anything to do with me I was so focused on mental notes (like *do not cover eyes) to help prom be successful.

Shortly after I joined the table, we were released to fix our plates at the buffet. This would be interesting as I often carry Parker's plate for him.  Without skipping a beat, Parker not only picked up his own plate to get in line behind Rylee (peer modeling is AMAZING!) but easily added what he wanted to his plate.  I beamed as he followed Rylee back to the table leaving me behind to finish fixing my plate.

Dinner was fun, Parker was FULL of conversation!  Mostly about sports (pre-season baseball!) but also engaging in conversation with everyone at the table. A lot of smiling and laughing and yes, even eating!

Sorry, Rylee :-) Forgive me for posting a picture of you about to take a bite of food!

We learned during dinner that Parker, apparently, really likes cheesecake!  Each time he took a bite he'd say "Mmmmmm, this is GOOD CAKE!"  Who knew?!?

So far, we were breezing through the night!  So - being me - I did what would be, for Parker, one of the more challenging parts of the evening. I told him that he and Rylee needed to go get their pictures taken. As if this is something we always do, he and Rylee quickly stood up and walked over to the red carpet with the backdrop and posed for pictures as I watched from a distance.  LOOK at this!!!

 It didn't end there - Parker also posed for pictures with our family and friends ...

Back Row: Dan, Parker, Rylee, Grandpa John, Allison
Front Row: Me, Great-Grandma, Grandma Colleen and Emily

My amazing children :-)

After pictures, we went back to the table for the program.  Parker sat very nicely as Miss Illinois gave her talk.  He sat pretty nicely while the first award recipient received her award. Prior to each award, a 3-5 minute bio of each person was read, then the recipient went to the front to receive their award and have pictures taken before sitting back down. The 2nd award was for me - at which time, as my bio was read, I learned that Parker could make himself burp... repeatedly. Fairly quiet burps followed by "excuse me" each time.  If I, or anyone at the table "Shushed" him, he would say, "Why you shushing me?"  haha - like he didn't know!  But, sat nicely while I walked away and then came back.

The next award went to a very special teacher of Parker's. Both his name and mine were mentioned in her bio as it was read, I stood behind Parker who's anxiety was growing and burping was continuing - applying deep pressure to his shoulders and back. After Mrs. Yocum received her award, a special request for something she had written was read taking me completely off guard as it was a special recognition to Parker and I followed by the presentation of a very special small scroll saw bench that Parker helped make with puzzle pieces "representing not only Fragile X and Autism but also representing how each one of us is different and when we work together, beautiful things are created." 

Complete with Parker's signature on the top!

Through tears, I let go of Parker unsure how he would handle me walking away - again without it being on our list - and walked to the front to accept this incredible gift that left me speechless, proud and very deeply touched. Parker did great while I walked away but when I returned, it was apparent he was not going to make it through the remainder of the presentations.

My go to people to help Parker step away (Grandpa John and Dan) offered to take a walk with Parker. He refused. I asked if he wanted to take a walk with Rylee. He, in traditional Parker fashion, dropped to the floor set on not going anywhere.  Mrs. Yocum, Dan, Grandpa and I all talked quietly to Parker as the program continued on.  As I backed Dan and my dad away (too many people can be too much) Mrs. Watts (Parker's principal) walked over offering to lend a hand. With Mrs. Yocum, Mrs. Watts and myself on the floor with Parker, I asked Rylee and Mrs. Watts to walk over towards the wall and wait.  Knowing Parker needed to see what it was we were asking. I then leaned down and asked...
 "Do you want to go to prom?"
"Yes." he replied (this was key to me, I needed to know if he was in a stage of hyperarousal where he would not be able to make decisions at that time or just feeling overwhelmed).
His reply let me know he still had control, so I said:
"Ok, then you need to show Mrs. Watts that you can stand up and quietly walk over to her and Rylee. You can take a walk or it's ok if you are ready to go home, Rylee will take you"
It took a couple of attempts and a couple of reminders of why this was important and that I knew he could do it and he stood up and quietly (and very nicely) walked over to them with Mrs. Yocum and they (Mrs. Watts, Rylee and Parker) left to take a walk.
Mrs. Watts later returned and Rylee text that they were good and headed back to the house.

Without a doubt, this WAS a very successful night. It proved to everyone that Parker can handle the pre-event pictures, following Rylee's lead for what to do after they arrived, do great with a large crowded dinner, carry on a conversation, try foods that may be new and pose for pictures.  THAT was my goal and he blew it out of the water with how well he did!  Everyone, especially Rylee and I, is incredibly proud of Parker.

Was it perfect?  No, we had a hiccup BUT in all fairness, no one at prom will be presenting his mom with an award or (hopefully!) talking about me. There will not be presentations that talk about him. That is not part of prom. That is part of an awards dinner. Therefore, that hiccup will not be an issue come prom.

When I tucked Parker into bed, I went over all of the things he did perfectly with and told him how incredibly proud I was of him. I told him how proud Dan was. How proud Grandma & Grandpa were. How proud Jeni, Aunt Betty Gail and Uncle Randy were of him. How proud Mrs. Watts and Mrs. Yocum were of him.  And most importantly I showed him that I had been texting Rylee and she was so incredibly proud of him and super excited about prom.

I have a couple of edits to make to his "remember" and "preparation" lists which is what I hoped to gain from this practice for prom. Tiny additions.

All true. We are all proud. We are all excited.  We are all ready for the next steps - getting fitted for the tux and practicing for Grand March.  We take the next steps with even more confidence and excitement in how well Parker will do and how unforgettable wonderful his first prom will be. 

Destination ... Prom continues :-) 


  1. For every kid, it takes a village. I love (LOVE!) how Mrs. Watts, Mrs. Yocum, and Rylee were able to swoop in and help. For what it is worth, I didn't hear any burps or realize any of the other stuff was going on. He did great!

    1. Thank you so much! I hope the video recording didn't pick it up ;-) We were right by where Mark was set up recording! lol :-)
      I am so proud, thank you so much for your kind words - I love our teachers, friends and community - they are our village for sure!