Often, mothers are the front person that the community sees as the caregiver for our special needs children. The therapy, doctor appointments, school IEP's and Baby Sign Language classes consume our days. The village of supportive family and friends that prop us up and deliver vital, medicinal supplies such as vats of Diet Coke are not always visible, but lest you think I do this alone...
When Jeila was just two years old, she of course had the usual speech delays due to Down syndrome and single-sided deafness. Jeila's Hope teachers recommended a wonderful communication series to help teach us how to help Jeila build her speech and language skills. The series was taught over a 12-week period. My sister took the class with me and we had such a great time with the other families and teachers. One of the sessions had Mary Beth and I so excited because it was Craft Night! We were going to make homemade books using pictures of our kids to enhance their speech and language. I had taken about 10 pictures of Jeila in different hats, which were to be the theme of my book. Jeila's Book of Hats! Super excited!
We loaded up the car with all our supplies and excitedly drove to our class. Everything was perfect until the van ran out of gas just a couple of streets away from our destination. Missing the class or arriving late was out of the question, as we would not be denied our creative, crafting event. As I realized we were gas free and coasting, I had the presence of mind to quickly pull into an empty parking lot of a business that was closed. I was so happy that I was able to get off the main street that I hardly noticed my van was parked just a little bit odd. Odd as in perpendicular to the parking space lines kind of odd. I couldn't re-park. I was out of gas. We contemplated pushing it but since it was an Astro Van, the visual movie playing in our head of a giant hernia told us we needed to get a grip.
Since it was after hours, I wasn't worried about the car obstructing anything and if it got towed, well sometimes those things just happen in life. We were so close to where we needed to be and we couldn't be late because, well, it was Craft Night! We decided to leave the van and go for it! Only thing in our way was a 5-foot cement wall we would need to get over to get to the field that would be the only thing between us and glue stick bliss. Not a problem. Mary Beth, the practical one said, "What about the car?" and I said, "Don't worry about that. I will call Richard. He'll fix everything." So we jumped out of the car, grabbed the supplies and headed towards our class. We took the wall, went through the field, laughing hysterically while simultaneously praying we wouldn't get murdered the whole way there. Good times.
I then called Richard and it went something like this, "I ran out of gas on the way to class and we can't be late because it's CRAFT NIGHT! Can you put the kids in the car, and go get some gas and bring it to my van?" To which he replied laughing, "Where is your van?" and then I told him the truth, "I am not exactly sure. We didn't want to be late so I am not sure what business parking lot it is in but it's on San Marcos Blvd., on the right side of the street. You can't miss it because it's parked a little askew."
Most men might get mad, roll their eyes or maybe just hang up, but not Richard. He was used to special requests. He has a wife and 8 daughters. That's a lot of estrogen, man. He laughed, got the kids in the car, got the gas container from the garage, went to the gas station, filled up the container, drove to my van, put the gas in the car, loaded the kids in my van, drove to a gas station filled her up, went back and re-parked the van within the lines, unloaded the kids into his van and drove home for the usual bath time, teeth brushing and bedtime rituals. Mary Beth and I had an awesome class full of many laughing women getting their craft fix on and Jeila's Book of Hats turned out great. After class, we went to the van which was now properly parked between the recommended white lines, with a full tank of gas.
People wonder how we manage a large family with special needs kids. Well, that's how we do it. I have a Richard. Don't try this without one.