Sunday, March 31, 2013

Death could not hold Him

One day the grave could conceal Him no longer;
One day the stone rolled away from the door.
Then He arose over death He had conquered;
Now He's ascended, my Lord evermore.
Death could not hold Him; the grave could not keep Him
From rising again.
 Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;
Buried, He carried my sins far away.
Rising, He justified freely forever;
One day He's coming -- O glorious day!

He is risen!  Happy Easter everyone!

"Glorious Day" - J. Wilbur Chapman, John Mark Hall, Michael Bleecker

Saturday, March 30, 2013

"I can only hope"

Yesterday I read this Mary Karr poem on Mama:Monk and it spoke to me so much, I thought I'd share it here on this Holy Saturday.

Christ’s Passion

Sure we’re trained to his suffering, sure
the nine-inch nails, and so forth.
And the cross raised up invoked

the body’s weight so each wound tore,
and from his abdomen a length of gut
dangled down, longing towards earth.

He was a god, after all.
An eternal light swarmed in his rib cage
no less strong than the weaving nebulae that haul

this dirt-speck planet through its course.
Surely his flesh mattered less somehow, less
than yours to you. He hung against steel rods

with his whole being, and though the pain
was very pure, he only cried out once.
All that was writ down. But what if his flesh

felt more than ours, knew each breath
was a gift, and thus saw
beyond each instant into all others.

So a morsel of bread conjured up
the undulating field of wheat from whence it came,
and the farmer’s back muscles

growing specific under this shirt
and the sad, resigned pace of the mule
whose opinion no one sought.

Think of all we don’t see
in an instant. Cage that in one skull.
If Christ saw in each

pair of terrified eyes he met
every creature’s gauzy soul
then he must have looked down from that bare hill

and watched the tapestry teem
till that poor carcass he borrowed
wept tears of real blood before they

unhooked it and oiled it and bound it
round with linen and hid it under a stone,
to rise again or not, I can only hope.

-Mary Karr Viper Rum, Penguin, 1994

Friday, March 29, 2013

At the cross

At the cross I bow my knee,
Where Your blood was shed for me:
There's no greater love than this.

Reuben Morgan, Darlene Zschech 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

cold f-x ... ewww

Jonathan is home from school for the third consecutive day with a cold.  He missed church Sunday, too.  His nose is so green and crusty that ... well, let's just say at the moment he has a face only a mother, and possibly Shrek, could love.

It reminds me of that heart-warming poem we used to say at school,

When you're dancing with your honey
And your nose is kinda runny
Some people think it's funny
but it'snot!

After four days at home, this is about as profound as you're going to get from me today.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday morsel: "turning points"

Lately many of my favourite blogs have been posting a weekly quote.  Just in the last few days I've read quotes from Shakespeare at Tim's blog, from Jane Austen at Classical Quest, and from George Eliot at Scribblepreach.  So, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that, I thought I would join this tradition and post a quote every Monday from something I've been reading.  (And unless I can come up with a better "m" word, I'll call it "Monday morsel."  Suggestions welcome!!  Hmm ... message ... missive ... malpractice ... meringue...)

Perhaps it's the Downton Abbey craze that has made me want to look more into the relationship between servants and masters in literature.  Whatever the reason, I recently took Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day off my bookshelf to re-read it.  This is one of my favourite novels.  Yes, it was made into an excellent movie with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.  But the book is more than excellent -- I think it's perfect.  Ishiguro slowly and deliberately reveals the inner life of Stevens the butler so that we see beneath his image of himself as a small but dignified participant in important world affairs.  It's almost painfully ironic to watch Stevens looking back in bewilderment at the events of his life:

"But what is the sense in forever speculating what might have happened had such and such a moment turned out differently?  One could presumably drive oneself to distraction in this way.  In any case, while it is all very well to talk of 'turning points,' one can surely only recognize such moments in retrospect.  Naturally, when one looks back to such instances today, they may indeed take the appearance of being crucial, precious moments in one's life; but of course, at the time, this was not the impression one had.  Rather, it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years in which to sort out the vagaries of one's relationship with Miss Kenton; an infinite number of further opportunities in which to remedy the effect of this or that misunderstanding.  There was surely nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small incidents would render whole dreams forever irredeemable."

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words."

I'm staying home from church today because Jonathan has a bad cold and can't go.  Our church is having six baptisms today, so I'm kind of sorry to miss that.  But I've already heard, or rather seen, a great sermon this morning.  

It's based on the text from Philippians 2:4: 
"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

To watch this wonderful sermon in action, click the link below (photo doesn't link):

Follow-up:  after some googling, found out these little heroes' names:  
#1 Cory Steadman and his supportive teammate, #2 Ricco ("Rocket") VanArragon.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"a great responsibility"

As Lent winds along I'm still pondering the "looking for the good" theme which I posted about here a few weeks ago.  Last month I wrote about going to the Tenors' concert.  They have a new album, "Lead With Your Heart," so of course it behooved us to buy it.  ("Behooved" isn't a word I get to use every day, so I have to take any opportunity I can.)

Last week the CD arrived from Amazon, and it's wonderful!  Jonathan still doesn't quite trust it, though.  He's so familiar with their "Perfect Gift" CD that (even though it's Christmas-themed) he still prefers that one; I ask him, "Which Tenors do you want, Jonathan?" and he replies, "Hallelujah Tenors."  But I'm sure he'll come around with a few more listens...

I like reading CD liner notes to find out more about the songs a singer or group chooses to record.  One of the most beautiful songs on the album is "Anchor Me" (watch a live performance here) with this chorus:

When sadness crashes like an ocean,
When fear is deeper than the sea,
When I am swallowed by the darkness,
Will you come and anchor me?

It could be a prayer to God asking Him for His strength and presence, or just a cry to another person for support; either way it's powerful and inspirational.  I was particularly struck by the group's liner notes about this song:

"Every day, whether in person or online, we connect with our [fans].  We often hear stories that range from hardship and tribulation, to joy and transformation.  It's incredible to learn how people turn to our music to help them through difficult situations, as a catalyst to pursue their dreams, or as an inspiration for a new chapter in their lives.  With this comes not only a great sense of pride but also a great responsibility to choose repertoire that comes from the heart, strengthens and inspires."

I think this is a wonderful example not only of looking for the good, but of being an instrument to help others seek and find it.  The fact that they feel a sense of responsibility to choose songs that inspire and strengthen their listeners is impressive.  It also reminded me of this Bible verse from Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers and sisters, 
whatever is true, whatever is noble, 
whatever is right, whatever is pure, 
whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--
think about such things.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

"Full of Beans" - repost from (gulp) SIX years ago!

I was looking back at some of my oldest posts from when I started this blog in 2007, and this one, "Full of Beans", was one of my favourites, so I thought I'd re-post it today.  (I miss how Jonathan used to say "beeta-bee" for peanut butter, and how Allison used to say "fuffawah" for butterfly!  Where exactly did those six years go, anyway?)

"Full of Beans" (March 23, 2007)

A going concern.
A high-maintenance guy.
A handful.
That's our Jonathan!

Read the rest here .......

Friday, March 15, 2013

Marvellous March Break

March Break is winding down.  We've had a really good week; here are some of the highlights.  And just for fun I thought I'd provide links for the various things I mention here.

- Jonathan has been at Extend-a-Family day camp all week.  He's been having a great time:  two trips to the swimming pool and lots of games, Bingo, puzzles, crafts, music, and other activities with his friends.  We were fortunate enough to receive a grant from Autism Ontario to cover his camp fees, which is a real blessing.

- No March Break would be complete without a trip to Tim's.  Allison and I went on Monday.  March Break always coincides with RRRoll Up the Rim to Win season; Allison got a prize (free coffee or latte) on her first try!  I'm zero for one.

- March Break also involves lots of reading.  We've gone to the library to take out books and to Indigo so Allison could use her Valentine's money (thanks Grandma & Grandpa!).  And I also received 2 books I'd ordered from Amazon:  A Good and Perfect Gift by Amy Julia Becker and No Easy Choice by Ellen Painter Dollar.  These are both bloggers I follow who write on disability issues, so I can't wait to delve into their books.

- My friend Franceen and I went to see a delightful play, "Enchanted April," which is based on the book by Elizabeth Von Arnim, about four disenchanted Englishwomen who rent a villa in Italy and find themselves and their relationships changed by the experience.  It's also been made into an excellent movie

- Allison and Richard and I had lunch at Milestones yesterday; then the two of them went to free skating at the K-Rock Centre.

- March means it's time for the World Figure Skating Championships -- held this year in London, ON.  Our man Patrick Chan is currently in the lead after the men's short program, having posted a world-record-breaking short-program score!  Can't wait for tonight's final!

Coffee, books, skating, dining out, theatre ... what could be better than that?  Happy March Break, everybody!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book review: "Far From the Tree"

Although I usually do a series of short book reviews on my blog at the end of the year, the book I've just finished seems to require a separate entry of its own.  It's Andrew Solomon's Far From the Tree:  Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity.  I first read about this book on Ellen Painter Dollar's blog and then watched a TV interview with the author on The Agenda with Steve Paikin (see the full hour-long interview here:  it's really interesting).  I should say right off the bat, though, that this isn't really a scholarly review or anything like that; it's just an explanation of what the book's about and how I felt about it.
 Far From the Tree essentially looks at how parents raise and relate to children who are very different from them.  The author distinguishes between vertical identities (like race or ethnicity), which are handed down through the generations, and horizontal identities, in which a child is very different from his or her parents because of some medical or psychological condition, skill, or circumstance.  Solomon, who is gay, devotes much of the first chapter, "Son," to his own upbringing and relationship with his parents -- especially his mother, who worked diligently with him to overcome his dyslexia and tried in vain to do the same with his homosexuality.  He then investigates ten different horizontal identities, which he labels with the following chapter titles:  Deaf, Dwarfs, Downs Syndrome, Autism, Schizophrenia, Disability, Prodigies, Rape, Crime, and Transgender.  Each chapter gives numerous case studies of children and families dealing with that particular issue, as well as extensive background information about (depending on the issue being discussed) causes, treatments, social stigmas, subcultures, controversies, etc. The level of research and detail is incredible:  the book weighs in at 900+ pages, 200 of which are endnotes.

I found this book very eye-opening in many ways.  Some of the issues it addresses, such as dwarfism, were totally unfamiliar to me:  I knew nothing about the different types of dwarfism nor about controversial treatments such as limb-lengthening (in which children or teens in their growing stage have their arm and leg bones repeatedly broken and stretched).  In other cases, such as schizophrenia and transgender, I had some indirect familiarity with the subject but no clue about its complexity.  And some of the subjects I really didn't want to know about:  the chapter on crime contains a long interview with the parents of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine High School killers.  Many times as I read, I found myself unable to keep from turning the pages, yet almost afraid to read more about the subject in question.

I also found myself having to step back and choose to open my mind at times.  I've always been against abortion, yet when I read about the thousands of women who were raped and became pregnant during the Rwandan genocide, it's difficult to hold rigidly to a position that every pregnancy must be sustained no matter what the circumstances.  Solomon seems to have found himself in a similar state of mind when conducting the extensive research for this book, because he frequently addresses the need to hold different, even competing viewpoints in tension.  Is a particular condition an illness or an identity, or both?  Is there such a thing as a "person with autism," implying that removing the autism would reveal the "real" person underneath?  Will the technological advances in treatment of deafness (such as cochlear implants) lead to the extinction of a rich culture?  Does acceptance of a child with a particular condition mean we shouldn't try to cure that condition?  One of the messages of this book seems to be that in many situations there is no either-or.  One quotation in particular stood out to me, from the father of a deaf child:

"When you have a disabled child, you say either, 'I've got this new asset in my life who is going to make me happy and proud,' or 'I'm enslaved by my child who is going to be full of needs until I get so old and exhausted that I fall over dead.'  The truth about this situation always involves both.  Buddhism is about nothing else than these dualities.  But did that make it easy?  No.  I had to relearn my Buddhist practice from the point of view of playing for real.  I lost my hobby." (p. 96)

This quotation spoke to me because I've felt both of those sides:  the joy of my kids' lives and accomplishments, and the fear and dread about what the future will hold for them and for us as parents.  The intentional practice of Buddhism (faith moving from "hobby" to real-life experience) helped this father reconcile the two sides. It strikes me that as Christians we often prefer to judge and choose right vs. wrong in a situation than try to live in the uncomfortable tension of holding on to conflicting perspectives.  Perhaps only when you're actually in the experience are you able to live in that tension:  whether you embrace it willingly or are eventually forced to accept it reluctantly, the alternative is probably bitterness and resentment.

The chapter on Autism was the one I most dreaded reading and found hardest to read.  Because both our kids are on the autism spectrum, it struck close to home to read about the most extreme cases:  children with no speech, no comprehension, no apparent ability to give or receive love.  I also found this chapter tough because it ends with a long discussion of how autism involves a high prevalence of filicide:  parents killing, or attempting to kill, their autistic children.  Solomon is clearly critical of the assumption that most parents who kill their autistic children do it for the altruistic motive of ending the child's suffering; he lists many examples in which it was obviously the parents' own suffering, frustration, and hopelessness that led to these acts.  This is one instance in which he thinks it is important to emphasize identity over illness, because focusing only on the latter may lead to the devaluing and ultimately the termination of autistic lives.  He is also critical of the relatively light sentences given to these parents; yet he still acknowledges the overwhelming stresses that parents of autistic children can experience. His conclusion is logical:  if society is really as sympathetic to these parents as it seems to be after they kill their children, then society should ensure that there are more options and resources available, so that the child's death is not seen as the only solution to a hopeless situation.

The author talks a great deal about how parents are changed -- or at least can be -- by the experience of parenting in difficult circumstances.  The issue of finding meaning in suffering is one that parents in the book seem to return to again and again.  Solomon says,

"Those men and women who believe that parenting a disabled child has given them knowledge or hope they wouldn't otherwise have had find worth in their lives, and those parents who don't see such possibilities often can't.  Those who believe their suffering has been valuable love more readily than those who see no meaning in their pain.  Suffering does not necessarily imply love, but love implies suffering, and what changes with these children and their extraordinary situations is the shape of suffering -- and in consequence, the shape of love, forced into a more difficult form."  (p. 42)

I appreciated this comment because it highlights what the parents of "difficult" children share with those who don't have such challenges, but it also acknowledges that there are very real differences.  So while I understand those who say "Every child has special needs" -- because after all, every person is unique and needs to love and be loved in a way that fits that uniqueness -- I also want to respond by saying, "But not every 10-year-old child wears diapers to bed or needs one-on-one assistance at school to help him remember what day it is and to ensure he's safe if he has a seizure; not every 14-year-old has public temper tantrums."  Again, it's not either-or, but both-and:  as a parent of children on the autism spectrum, I want to say yes, my kids are like all kids; and no, they have specific, exceptional challenges that can't be brushed away by nice words or accommodated with the same resources that suit everybody else.

The following quote also resonated with me because I see life with my kids as a process of adjusting to what is, not to what should be:

"Empathy and compassion work best in concert with the belief that you are still capable of shaping a meaningful life for yourself and your family.  The technical term for this is internal locus of control, wherein one determines one's own trajectory, rather than external locus of control, wherein one feels entirely subject to outside circumstances and events.  To achieve an internal locus of control, people actively seek to match their lifestyles with their priorities .... Paradoxically, however, parents of disabled children often achieve a feeling of control by making a firm and positive affirmation of their lack of control.  The most important thing, often, is a belief in something bigger than one's own experience.  The most common source of coherence is religion, but it has many other mechanisms.  You can believe in God, in the human capacity for good, in justice, or simply in love."  (p. 371)

For me, faith in God is a huge part of this process.  I can honestly say, my belief that (1) God has a purpose and plan for each of us, and (2) caring for my kids is a calling from Him, is the reason I can face whatever lies ahead.  I have sometimes gone to bed crying, but I've never once woken up with the desire to hide under the covers and avoid what the day will bring.  That's God, period.

Solomon's final chapter, "Father," focuses on how the writing of Far From the Tree helped him reach a more accepting and forgiving place in relation to his own parents.  It also explains how he and his partner, John, became parents together.  They have a son who was carried by a surrogate; this woman is also the mother of another child whom John fathered as a sperm donor but to whom he has no parental rights; Solomon also fathered a child for another female friend and does have a parental relationship with the child, although the child lives with the mother.  This complicated arrangement seems positive for all of those involved as they work through parenting decisions with a respectful sense of boundaries and roles.  Solomon's journey of becoming a parent and writing this book ultimately leads him to a place of greater empathy and openness:  "Insofar as I have written a self-help book, it is a how-to manual for receptivity:  a description of how to tolerate what cannot be cured, and an argument that cures are not always appropriate even when they are feasible." (p. 702)

One reviewer I read commented that reading this book would make you "count your blessings."  The unspoken implication seemed to be "that is, if you don't have any of these ten things going on in your family."  But I can honestly say that the book did have that effect on me. There is no doubt that we have a lot of challenges with our kids.  Jonathan probably will not live independently, so we will need to think long-term about his care; his narrow range of interests and his tendency to be inflexible make it hard to have any real social life as a family; and his repetitiveness and fixations can be very wearing on the nerves.  But on the whole we have a great deal to be thankful for.  Jonathan is very affectionate and engaging and has a gift for making people happy.  His liking for the same few activities means he's easily pleased by simple things like a puzzle or a DVD he hasn't watched in a while.  He is growing more communicative all the time (full sentences like "Can I have some orange juice please" are now common), and he continues to surprise us with what he knows:  I was reading him "Jesus Visits Mary and Martha" in the Children's Bible last night and asked, "Where's Jesus?"  I expected him to point to the little picture of Jesus with his beard and blue robe, but instead he looked at the text and then pointed tentatively to the word "Jesus."  It is much easier to reason with him and explain changes in plans than it used to be, which means there is a lot less screaming (by him and me!). 
And Allison, for whom social skills have always been a struggle, is developing a friendship with another girl; they've had play dates and gone to movies together, and the friend has come twice to Allison's youth group.  Allison also has supportive teachers who can't say enough good things about her.  In fact, school is a high point in our lives in general:  both kids are getting great support and services from their schools -- services we don't have to beg for, but that are just there for us because the need has already been anticipated and met.  So this book did make me count my blessings -- not in a flippant "There's always someone worse off" way, but just in terms of looking at the reality and being able to recognize and celebrate the good things that are there.

I could go on and on, but I did set myself a goal of making sure that my review was shorter than Solomon's book.  I would recommend that anyone set themselves the challenge of reading this book.  Yes, it's huge and daunting, but I think it can help us better understand other people, even those whose experience seems totally foreign to us.  And if we're parents, I think it helps us love our own kids better.  Solomon comments on how, regardless of the challenges they face, most parents would consider it unthinkable to want different children from those they have:  “If some glorious angel descended into my living room and offered to exchange my children for other, better children — brighter, kinder, funnier, more loving, more disciplined, more accomplished — I would clutch the ones I have and, like most parents, pray away the atrocious specter.” (p. 698)

Writing this book seems to have made Solomon a more loving and accepting person.  I think reading it can make us more loving and accepting people too.

 I linked this book review up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's 
blog, which has a "Twitterature" linkup on the 15th of each month.  
Check out this very fun and interesting blog sometime!  

Friday, March 08, 2013

The key to a good music program: great staff!

It feels like many of my recent posts have been tributes to people, and after today's phone call from Allison's music teacher, this one will be no exception!

When Allison was choosing her Grade 9 courses, she wanted to take Music, so she signed up for Advanced Music since she'd been playing the clarinet for two years.  But when the course started a month ago, it quickly became apparent that she would have been better off in Beginner Music.  Her teacher reported that she seemed overwhelmed with the theory part and was very nervous about playing in front of others  -- particularly since she'd returned her rental clarinet in June and hadn't played at all since then.  But she couldn't switch into the Beginner class because it conflicted with Phys-Ed., a required course; and her teacher recognized that changing into a totally different class two weeks into the term was probably not a good idea.  So he said, "If she wants to stay in this class, we'll adjust.  I'll work with whatever she can give me.  I'm not worried about the academic part -- the most important thing is her comfort level."  She decided to stay. He offered her the use of a school clarinet which she could take home daily to practice, since the performance aspect seemed to be especially stressful for her.

Yesterday was her first performance test, and she practiced faithfully beforehand.  Today her teacher called and left a message to tell us she'd done a great job:  "She really stepped up to the plate, and she sounded great, too.  I already told her that, but you can pass it on to her as well."  It's wonderful for Allison to have teachers who see her as an individual, who can draw her best work out of her, and who celebrate her successes.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Sorry, Robert Frost: "Good NEIGHBOURS make good neighbours"

I love our school day morning routine:
- 6:45 (or earlier if Jonathan so decrees):  Get up.  Get Jonathan's breakfast since he's usually hungry right away.
- 7:00:  Wake Allison.  Have my own breakfast while she's having hers and Jonathan's watching a DVD.
- 7:50:  Allison's bus comes.  Then I usually have time to shower, get dressed, give Jonathan a bath and get him dressed, and finish making his lunch.
- 8:45: Walk Jonathan to school for the 9:05 bell.

The problem with a routine is that it only works if nothing happens to interrupt it.  Yesterday, for some reason, Allison missed her bus.  She was ready and watching out the front window, but she must have been distracted; she didn't see the bus right away, and by the time we clued in, it was driving away. Aaagghh!

Our next-door neighbour Bill was just leaving for work; when he saw Allison and me looking out the front door in consternation, he called out, "Karen's home if you need to drive Allison."  I could've taken Jonathan with me, but it's so much quicker and easier not to have to.  So I pulled my coat and snow pants over my pajamas, ran next door, and asked Karen if she could come over for a few minutes to stay with Jonathan while I drove Allison to school.  She grabbed her keys and coffee cup and came right over without a moment's hesitation.

We have awesome next-door neighbours.  I've talked about them before in this blog.  One Saturday during a spring thaw a few years ago, Richard had to go to work and our sump hole was about to overflow because of a malfunctioning pump.  Bill came over to our house at 7:00 a.m. to check it, then promptly went over to Canadian Tire to buy a new pump and had it installed and working by 9:00 a.m.  He and Karen go on trips and bring back hats, placemats, and shells for our kids.  (Once they brought us a piece of Newfoundland cod that had been caught the previous day and that they'd brought on the airplane with them.)  They make baked beans and bring over a bowl for us.  I look out and Bill is cleaning out our eavestroughs ("I was doing ours, so I thought I might as well do yours").  They take Jonathan for an hour so Richard and I can go to a school open house; we come back and they're entertaining him with their guitar and mandolin and fiddle.  And I know we aren't the only people they do this for:  they have tons of friends, which is no surprise considering how hospitable and friendly they are.  The annual neighbourhood barbecue that they host probably has a lot to do with it, too.

Actually, all our neighbours are great.  We don't exactly socialize with them a lot, but if we were in crisis there are probably ten houses on our street I wouldn't hesitate to run to for help.  When we were checking out this house back in 2000 before we bought it, the realtor pointed out how many of the homes on the street had additions on the back:  "That's a sign that people would rather build on than move."  No wonder.

Going it alone sounds fine in theory or when everything works perfectly -- but what about when it doesn't?  One of my favourite quotes is from the movie About a Boy, in which a lonely young boy with a depressed single mom realizes he has to broaden his support base:

"Suddenly I realized - two people isn't enough. You need backup. 
If you're only two people, and someone drops off the edge, then you're on your own. 
Two isn't a large enough number. You need three at least."

It's great to have backup.  Thanks, Bill and Karen, for being such great neighbours.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Three things

This week Jonathan got his report card.  His report card is quite different from that of other children in Grade 5:  most of theirs don't include items like learning to distinguish left from right; stating what weekday is today, tomorrow, and yesterday; or writing the first three letters of his name.  (Note to self:  next time you have a son, name him something short like Ed!)

As a special needs student, Jonathan has an IEP (Individual Education Plan) that sets goals designed specifically for him, and he has an Educational Assistant, Mr. O'Connor (a.k.a. "Mr. O"), to help him achieve these goals at his own pace.  Jonathan's school day includes a wide variety of interesting activities that cover the social, language, self-help, and gross/fine motor domains, including the following:

- He goes around the school to visit different people like the secretary and caretakers so he can practice sentences like "Hi, how are you?" wait for the person's reply, and then say, "See you soon, take care!"
- He asks his classmates what they had for supper the night before and tells them what he had.
- He logs onto his computer and, with the help of a program with picture symbols,  creates his daily journal:  in it he records the day, date, and year; the weather for the day (apparently he has trouble figuring out "wind" -- don't we all?); his previous night's supper and Mr. O's; and the activities for that particular day such as music or gym.
- He participates with his class in "Roots of Empathy," in which Baby Kate is brought into the class by her mom so the students can observe, talk about, and play with her.
- He works on identifying and counting coins and then, on Fridays, goes with Mr. O to the corner store to buy a treat with his money -- practicing safe sidewalk skills as he goes.
- He works diligently, and sometimes frustratedly, on zipping his coat zipper and pulling his snow-pants right side out. 
- He works on large-motor physio activities like wall pushups, stepping on/off and in/out of wooden boxes, and basketball dribbling; as well as fine-motor skills like squeezing a ball, fastening and loosening nuts and bolts, and removing lids. 
- He practices his letter sounds, states a word that begins with every letter, and reads simple books.

It's been said that for our lives to be meaningful we need three things: someone to love, something to look forward to, and something to do.  Jonathan has all those things in his life.  He loves his family and everyone he meets, and school is really his second home.  He wakes in the morning cheerfully anticipating his breakfast, his school day, his supper, his DVD's -- even his bedtime!  He has supportive people and resources to guide him in doing meaningful activities that fit his abilities and gently push him to new ones.  His report card is just one piece of evidence that his life has meaning, purpose, and joy.

p.s. March 5/13:  You may also be interested in reading Kristina Robb-Dover's post about her own daughter which I recently read on the blog "Thin Places" by Amy Julia Becker.  I could identify with a lot of what the writer said  there so I thought I'd include this link.