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  • Kirk

The next chapter of our story starts now

I almost always had mixed emotions about the end of the school year and the start of summer vacation. The thought of being able to watch Bozo’s Circus in its entirety every morning, walking to the corner grocery store at least once or twice a week to buy baseball cards and/or candy – and when I was older, taking bike rides whenever I could as a break from helping my disabled father while my mother was at work – was enticing.

But I also was looking ahead to late August and returning to the classroom. Let’s just say it didn’t always elicit the same joy as buying a pack of Topps and pulling a Robin Yount card that was free of gum stains.

I’m sure my concerns were no different than those that other kids had, but they were a big deal. Did the teacher that I heard was difficult really have horns and blood-drenched fangs and take great pleasure in tormenting his/her students? (Well, maybe there were one or two along the way, but thankfully most of my teachers were great). Would I do well at my new subjects? (I still have an aversion to Algebra after nearly 35 years, but I did all right). Would I click with my new classmates? (Some of them were meatheads, but who isn’t from time to time?).

Change, or the thought of it, was scary to me. Even now, it still can at times induce a desire to grab 10 blankets, pull them over my head and count the seconds until tomorrow arrives. But sometimes change is necessary and welcome, and oftentimes it can be a very good thing. Both Cindy and I believe the change we’re making to both this blog, and hopefully eventually to our website as well, will be beneficial both to Nolan and to us in the long run.

This is our final regular weekly post. We’re leaving the door open to occasionally writing blog posts – it could be every other week, it could be once a month, or it could a few days a year – as situations arise that we want to address in longer form. We’ll still have the Our Chaos Facebook page, and that’s where we’ll be posting our thoughts – be they in shorter form – photographs, and videos of the adventure that is life with a teenager who has Autism and is nonverbal.

(Cindy and I also are exploring other potential avenues via social media on which to share our lives. But if you’re expecting Tik Tok videos of us singing “I Got You Babe” dressed as Sonny and Cher while Nolan pounds his digital piano, you’ll be disappointed).

Daily life and the fatigue that comes with it consistently hampers the ability for Cindy and me to have deep, meaningful conversations. When we finally got to have one Memorial Day weekend en route to a flea market in Minnesota, we started talking about what the future holds for Nolan. He just completed his sophomore year of high school, which went pretty well overall. He’s had his share of rough days and weeks, but he’s finally in a school setting where he’s been surrounded by teachers and paraprofessionals the past two years who have brought out the best in him.

Nolan will attend school in some form until he’s 21, which Cindy and I realize is as close as the mouse for my laptop is to my right hand. He’s now an upperclassman (I just felt a Batman-like “BIFF!” to my solar plexus). He’s six months from turning 17 (“KAPOW!”), and 18 months from becoming a full-fledged adult ("OOOOFF!”). The special education teacher who works with families on transitioning special needs students from a school setting to the real world at the high school Nolan attends has encouraged us to start thinking about the future. I'm sure it will be discussed in greater detail at Nolan's next IEP this winter.

Son, we want to say one word to you – just one word: Crafts. There’s a great future in crafts.

Cindy has written about her desire to establish a side hustle of creating and selling crafts, and having Nolan, and me, very much involved in the process. She had a booth at two craft shows this past spring. She’s registered for three shows this summer at one of the parks in the city where we live, and she’s going to be at two more this fall. I’m amazed by how many pieces she’s churned out over the past few months, and also by how well each one has turned out as she balances a 9-to-5 job five days a week and tag-teaming Nolan-wrangling with me on weekends.

Still, she could use more help. That’s where father and son come in.

I’ve already learned more about crafting this year than I ever thought I would – for example, baking soda and citric acid are common ingredients in both bath bombs and shower steamers – and perhaps by year’s end mixing the ingredients for lip balm will come as easy to me as naming all of Billy Joel’s studio albums in less than 20 seconds.

Nolan’s role will vary with each project, but Cindy and I would like to see him assist with, among other things, packaging, mixing and combining ingredients, and watering the plants that we’ll place in the heads of troll dolls and sell at markets. We’d also like Nolan to extend the time he stays at markets, and to assist with giving customers the product they’re purchasing and their change.

We plan to document the creative process, and Nolan’s involvement in it, for you on our Facebook page, right alongside successful field trips, terrific music therapy sessions, and whatever other triumphs Nolan will experience this summer. And if we capture the not-so-great moments – moments where, say, Nolan and I are involved in a crafting experience that goes horribly wrong, leaves the kitchen in shambles and causes Cindy to send father and son to their respective bedrooms without dinner – we hope you take pity on us.

We realize this will be a process and there will be difficult days. All we can do is be patient and keep the end goal in mind. Opportunities for disabled adults are very limited, and right or wrong, I have a feeling they’ll be extremely scarce five years from now. Our goal is to give our son the skills he needs to be an integral part of a business we hope one day will expand to also selling products on our website, and also to guide him in his post high school life instead of depending on someone else. I don’t know if we’ll succeed, but we’re sure as hell going to try.

Cindy and I have enjoyed sharing the ups and downs of our lives via our blog over the past 2½ years. You’ll still have a window into what’s going on at Casa Bey this summer, and beyond. The way in which we present it is just going to be a little different going forward.

As for what our lives will look like come September and the start of a new school year, we can’t say. But we’re eager to find out, and to share it with you.

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