Last Monday was a wild morning. I’m sure that all families have these types mornings like this, but having Koan around always make it a bit more interesting. On a typical day, Jeri is an early riser and is usually out the door before 6:15 AM. I get up around 6:00 AM and our awesome respite worker, Adrienne, arrives at 6:30 AM. On most mornings, I’m heading out to get breakfast about the time Adrienne arrives. On a normal day, Koan hears Adrienne come in (Jeri unlocks the front door before she leaves) and will let her know if he wants to get up by shrieking with excitement. Koan’s room is our former office/study located right by the front door. We moved him from his upstairs bedroom a couple of years ago. Carrying him up and down the stairs is a major chore. The current room is far from ideal, but it’s the only feasible space on the main level of our home. It has two French doors. Sometimes Koan will even be out of bed waiting for Adrienne and will rattle the doors when he hears her arrive.
I can’t imagine what life would be like without morning respite. It’s just one of the many amazing services the Arc provides my family. Adrienne is with us a couple of hours each day — from 6:30 AM to 8:30 AM. The Arc pays for the first hour of respite and we pay her for the last hour which is more like child care. This is really cool on many levels. It gives us affordable and safe in-home childcare. Without the Arc coordinating with us on this, it would be so much harder — perhaps even impossible. This arrangement gives Jeri and I the room to have Koan’s care not interrupt or impact our professional lives. Without this type of service, it would be hard for both of us to work.
On this particular day, Jeri got off to a little later start. This had a cascading effect so that I also had to wait (got to sleep longer…) for her to finish up in our master bath. By the time I was dressed and ready for breakfast, it was about 6:45 AM. Jeri had left just after Adrienne had arrived. Koan was changed, dressed, and his bedding changed. Most nights, unfortunately, Koan’s briefs (diapers) don’t contain all of his output so many mornings he needs a new sheet and blanket. Again, Adrienne is really awesome — she takes care of all of that! On this morning, Koan was already scooting from his room to our great room — which opens into the kitchen. As with nearly all mornings, he gave me a big smile and a giggle as he saw me. I’m not a morning person, but saying “good morning” to Koan is almost always a bright spot. As I’ve said before, he’s so genuinely excited and happy most of the time, it’s a contagious feeling and a great way to start each day.
I went about making my breakfast — a bowl of cereal — doing my best not to make any “clanking” sounds that would be upsetting to Koan. Adrienne was working to get Koan’s meal ready, too. He had a cup of infant cereal mixed with three containers Yoplait yogurt. Koan is such a creature of habit. He will scoot out of his room every morning, but as much as he loves breakfast, he will almost never travel to the kitchen. As soon as he can see his feeding chair in the kitchen, he stops. He knows that we’ll pick him up and carry or walk him the rest of the way to the chair. I think if we really worked on this, we could modify this behavior, but he’s really stubborn and it’s just not that pressing of an issue yet.
Koan and I finished our breakfast about that same time and I began to get ready to leave for work. As I was heading out the door, I realized that my keys (both for my car and school) were not in my coat pocket as I expected. They weren’t on the counter where I usually leave them. After about ten minutes of frantic searching, I broke down and called Jeri. It was about 7:00 AM. She didn’t have kids coming in yet, but they would start arriving and need supervision within 20 minutes. Luckily she answered her cell — not a sure thing that time of day — and I asked if she had seen my keys. After initially saying, “No”, she checked her own pockets and discovered that she had inexplicably taken my keys as well as her own. She was apologetic. I was frustrated. I knew there was no way for her to come back or even somehow meet halfway. If I wanted my keys, I would need to travel the fifteen minutes to and from (about 30 minutes round trip) Franklin Middle School. I live within a mile of my workplace, so my commute is less than five minutes. This realization added to my frustration. I was already behind where I wanted to be in my morning and adding 30 minutes to that was making me less and less happy.
I called into the basement to wake up my oldest son, Tiber who is 16 and has a car. He does not usually get up until about 7:45 AM. So, I get to spread my unhappiness to him as I let him know that he needed to wake up and drive me to work. After much grumbling, we headed out. As the door closed, I hear Koan erupt — this is not routine behavior and he is sure he’s missing out on something and being left behind — not cool!
Once I arrived at work, I put out the normal Monday morning fires. I decided that I did want my car for the day, so I asked one of my techs, Chris, to drive me to Franklin to get my keys. Chris graciously agreed to help and we headed over to Franklin. When we arrived there, I texted Jeri and she met me at the door. I could tell that her morning was also off to a great start as she asked if we had room to take a few of her 6th graders with us back to Prairie. Chris and I were nearly back — on Kirkwood Boulevard, just seconds away from the office — when my cell rang.
It was Tiber. He was speaking fast and I couldn’t understand him. I finally got the keyword from him — “Convaid”. Koan’s Convaid is his wheelchair that we use to move him to, around, and from school. It’s essential. He must have it to function. I also realized that Jeri and I had taken Koan to the mall last weekend to shop. We had put the Convaid in Jeri’s van and it was still there — back at Franklin. So, I had Chris drop me at my house. It was about 8:30 AM and Koan’s bus would be arriving in seconds. I told Adrienne to wait for the bus and let them know that I’ll be dropping Koan off at school myself. I grabbed Koan — who was already in his coat — snagged his backpack and the two “anti-tippers” we need to put on Koan’s Convaid for school. We remove these when we travel as one of us always has a hand on the Convaid and they make it hard to collapse the Convaid. But, at school, they need them as he is sometimes left on his own and he might tip over. Koan is like Tigger — he likes to bounce! And, even with the tippers, he can really move the Convaid. This is an issue we will have to deal with in the not too distant future.
As I put Koan in my car, he was ebullient. To quote my friend Buddy Berry, he was both surprised and delighted — he has realized that he gets to do something special, better than an ordinary day. He was dancing all over the place, making it a real challenge to load him and secure him into the backseat of my Civic. After I retrieved and cleaned my glasses (he had knocked them from my face), I threw the rest of the gear in the car and head out. But, I soon realized that I’m nearly out of gas. Like everyone, Koan has his own idiosyncrasies. One of these is that he has an active, personal dislike for the Kum and Go convenience store near our neighborhood. This has been true for years and has been the topic of many discussions. No one knows why he hates that place. We’ve all learned to avoid it when he’s in the car if possible. However, there’s no choice now. As happy as he was to leave in the car with me, he gives me several shrieks of outrage when he sees me pull into the left turn lane to enter Kum and Go.
After I fill up the tank and sing a few verses of Wheels on Bus (I’m sure the other morning commuters could hear me…), we hit the road for Franklin, yet again. The rest of the trip there is uneventful. Koan is, again, thrilled to be on the road. I retrieved the Convaid from the van and squeeze it into the trunk of the Civic — a tight fit. As we head back on Kirkwood Boulevard, there’s a point where we can turn to head back into our neighborhood. I happened to glance back at Koan as we passed this corner. As we went by, his face lit up and he screeched with joy. He realized we were not going back home, but somewhere else. As we went through the roundabout at the south edge of the Prairie campus, he started rocking back and forth, shaking the car — we are going to school — his favorite place!
By the time I get parked in the handicapped accessible spot in the Prairie Ridge lot, there’s a full-on dance party in the backseat. I extricate the Convaid from the trunk, expand it, affix the tippers, and hang his backpack on the handle. I then began the non-trivial task of getting a “dancing Koan” out of the back seat of an economy sedan. We rolled in the door a little before 9:00 AM — just about the time elementary classes begin. As I came into his classroom, he was enthusiastically greeted by the paraprofessionals in the room and the other kids. His teacher, Stacy (who is also awesome!) says, “Did he get the stomach bug that everyone else in the class got this weekend?” So, I guess we might we have that to look forward to later this week. As you might expect, when Koan gets sick no one in our house is happy. But, that’s a story for another day…