Friday, March 6, 2009

The Early Days, Winning Elaina..."envelopes"

Let's see, I think I left off on Monday morning. We were all at the breakfast table and enjoying breakfast when Geri handed me the lunch money envelope. Now I had been writing Elaina's name and stuffing the lunch money into the envelope for several weeks now. But today a new idea popped in. I have always been a doodler so I thought I might as well make a drawing of the goings' on on the front of the envelope. I left the table and retrieved my colored pencils. I don't remember the first attempt, but I think it was the dollies on the fan, however, that was one that did not survive the trip to school unscathed.

So as I finished my breakfast, I drew. Please keep in mind when reviewing the art work, I only had 10 to 15 minutes to do this. When I finished, I handed the envelope to Elaina and explained what I had drawn and that I would make her a special envelope every day. I got the "look". Can you believe it. I sit down and do a story tell on her envelope and she gives me the "look". Such is life.

Every day thereafter, I sketch a rendition of something that happened the day before, something we did together or a reminder of somewhere we have been. Every day she would take the envelope and head out...but the "looks" began to go away. I even got a laugh now and then and guess what else...Geri liked it. Even made fun comments to send Elaina on her way. It seemed to be working as Elaina started to come around. I didn't realize the full benefits for almost five months.

It was time to head back to school for parent/teacher conferences. I was really looking forward to it as my progress with Tony should really please his teacher. I was not disappointed. The same young lady who told me he could do far more if pushed was just delighted with our progress. My head was somewhat enlarged by her praises. But the best was yet to come.

Upon entering Elaina's room, I was greeted by a large pin up board with envelopes all over it. My envelopes. Seems that her teacher liked the art work and would have Elaina tell the class what each envelope represented. Seemed Elaina really liked that. She was the only kid in the school with a dad who drew pictures on her envelope. She was proud of it. With every day and every envelope, she began to fall in love with her new dad. As her teacher explained all this, I felt really satisfied (actually my head got big). This time my plan was working and as a bonus, Geri loved it too.

Over the next year and half, I kept drawing envelopes, Elaina continued to open up to me. The father/daughter relationship blossomed. Her teacher saved every one that was not too wrinkled, spilled on, or ripped and put them in frames for us. They hang in Elaina's room yet today. They are one of her prized possessions. Right up there with the dollies that do nothing. Along the way, Elaina was able to "dump" her flyswatter friend and her "go everywhere" Dollie. She had a new friend. Dad.

Now I still hassle Elaina. I still push her out of her comfort zone. I refuse to settle for black and white. I make her go into the dreaded "grey" zone. She, in turn, has matured into a fine young lady. She now sings in the choir (bless David's heart, as well as the gals who help her) and has become quite outgoing. I still get the "look" every now and then...but the "stomp on your face" expression is gone. Game over with a winning home run, at last.

I could not write this without having some very sad memories. You see, I have three daughters by a previous marriage. When they were growing up I had "places to go and people to meet". There was no time for "envelopes". In fact, there was no time for anything other that my career and my pleasure. If I had learned earlier what I learned later in life, I probably would not be in a second marriage. I would probably not have such sad memories and a wet pillow so many nights. I probably would have a much better relationship with three of the most beautiful girls in the world whom I love dearly. So, Tammy, Amy and Debbie, if you read this, I'm sorry. I never had the time for "envelopes" for you. I could say I did the best I could, but that would not be true. So just know I'm sorry and I love all three of you.

One more thought. The current worldview of handicapped children. In today's age, we have places that will let you "customize" your children. Tests to determine if your child is "normal". Doctors and politicians that lobby to abort any child that is not. The thought process is that we can eliminate " Downs" via early testing and then abortion in the next five years. How sad. If I tried to write all the wonderful things Elaina has brought to my (ours as well as others) life, I couldn't even begin to tell them all. She helped shape me into the man I have become. Winning Elaina over was a long process, but I learned that she was a special child from God and what she needed was to be loved, made to feel special, be admired, be pushed, be praised. What normal kid doesn't? The next time you see a family with a handicapped child, don't feel sad for them. Maybe you can get introduced to a gift most folks never get to open. I'm so very thankful to God that He gave me a second chance, and envelopes.

That's it for now. Next time I will be back on lessons from Tony with "Nightmare at Disney", Geri's test.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Early Days, Winning Elaina, dollies, cars and dead flies.

Before I begin there is another character trait (Geri says flaw) in me that you should be aware of. I like to stir things up. My dad always told me that if anything sits on the stove for too long, it gets a crust on top and the good smell of what's cookin' can't make it through. So stir it up. Make it smell good or make it stink, but stir it up.

My favorite song at the time was Saturday Morning Confusion. I like noise and chaos. Geri likes peace and quiet. I like to run all over and chase the kids and turn the house upside down. Geri likes peace and quiet. I love lots of loud noise. Geri, peace and quiet. Her favorite meal in a Chinese restaurant is Happy Family. We were made for each other. So in my male cranium, I figured the way to win Elaina would be to tease her into having fun with me. What could be better than having a good time with Dad?

So I formed a plan. I didn't share it with Geri either. No need to as I was sure it would work.

On the first day of the plan, I took the dollies that do nothing and hid them on top of the ceiling fan blades, opposite sides so the fan would not sag. Later that evening, at the perfect time during the movie, I turned the fan on. It moved fairly slow at first due to the added weight but soon picked up enough speed to propel the dollies out into the room. Down to the floor they tumbled.

The dog went nuts trying to get one. Elaina was in shock. Then the "look". Shouting things, friend waving, she rushed over and picked up one and then the other and stomped off to her room. Geri was not amused and I could not stop laughing. Geri reminded me that there may be a special punishment for someone who terrorizes little girls.

So I tried to go and make up with Elaina, but she would have nothing to do with me. So maybe the dollies and the fan were not such a good idea.

In a day or two, I moved on the the cars. Now, remember, she has 220 plus cars. They are lined up in a different way every day. So I just took a few. Placed them around the house in places where they sort of fit. You know, the fire engine by the fireplace, the repair tuck by the broken fan, the ambulance by the medicine cabinet and so on. How could I have known that she had names for each one and counted them every day? And that she would miss them so soon? A hissy fit over a few cars. Geri had to help her find every one. She was still not impressed with my idea. I was determined that it would work and kept at it for the remainder of the week. On Saturday, we were having dinner and the conversation turned to maybe finding a way for the two of us to make peace. Like maybe I would leave her, the cars and her dollies alone. Geri thought this was an excellent idea. Didn't register with me. To prove my point, just before we were finished, a pesky fly was making the rounds at the table. Yes I did it. I grabbed her "friend" and killed the fly.

Oh my cotton, I have never seen a child go into convulsions before. She was up, grabbing the "friend" while hollering for mom to help wash it off and I got a double "look". I would never have dreamed a double "look" was possible. It was very traumatic. Geri was very unhappy. As she helped Elaina wash off dead fly, I heard her telling Elaina we would go to Meijers right after dinner to buy her a new "four pack" of friends. I, of course, loved every minute. After Elaina had left for her bedroom with her clean friend, Geri informed me of the evening plans and that I had better behave and find another way to win Elaina over.

Bottom of the ninth again. No home run. No win. I spent the remainder of the weekend trying just to get back to where I started. No good ideas were forming as to how to start over so I made up my mind to let it lay until Monday and then I would think on it again. Well Monday came and we......oh that's my next post. A long game plan but in the end a home run. I'll tell you how I did it in "The Envelopes". Until then, remember, if your wife ain't happy, there ain't nobody happy.