Milestones

Tomorrow afternoon will mark a big fat milestone in our lives. Two more of our five kids will be crossing that stage at their high school graduation. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this. So why am I so overwhelmed with the feels of it all?

Randa is 20. She’s our “special needs” kid and while eligible to stay at the school for one more year before she ages out of their Alternate Curriculum program, she is bored. She wants to graduate NOW. They told us going in that there was going to come a time when she is going to advance past what they are able to teach her. That time has come. Many would argue that she could mainstream into the general education population. That is just not a possibility with her issues. So we’re going to do more Mommy-Randa stuff starting next Fall. We’re going to visit museums and family members around the Metroplex and take some classes at the fabric store and learn to sew and join a water aerobics class. Randa is excited to start the next chapter after Sam Houston High.

Ismail is 18. He, like his older brother before him, seems to be struggling with the excitement of graduating versus the sadness and anxiety of leaving behind all he knows. I am guessing that boys are like this. (I wouldn’t know, having never been a boy.) He is suffering today as he paces around and asks questions to which he already knows the answers. He’s spent a lot of time on the front porch. Being outside calms his nerves. He is still not certain what he’s going to do. He wants to become an electrician and be a man and not have to answer to his parents and buy a car and get a job, and all of the swirling plans that all boys his age have.

But Ismail is still so tender-hearted in so many ways. And his family is all he’s ever known. No matter where we lived on the globe spanning three countries and several states, we’ve always had each other. The idea of moving away to another part of the state to go to school without his safety net is so intriguing and exciting and altogether scary. So he’s put off making firm plans as of yet. He wants to take a little time off and work. And that’s okay. Ismail has always been one who needs to chew on his idea before he spits out his final answer.

And tomorrow as I stand on that stage, holding Randa’s hand to help her to battle back the anxiety as she walks across toward the end of her high school tunnel, I’ll be watching Ismail, one place ahead of her in the alphabet, reaching his. I’m so proud to be their mother.

I Did It Again!

Everyone has been guilty of it. At least, I hope I’m not alone in this. But I have this tendency to put important things in a “really safe place” and then when it comes time that I really need them, said “really safe place” has completely left my mind. Last time it was a social security card. Only took 5 days, but I found it. The application for health coverage took a little longer to find. Well, a lot longer. Like…6  months longer. But in my defense, someone rearranged all the paperwork in my stacked filing system. For crying out loud, would you people just STOP touching my desk!? But this one is a doozy.

I placed the tassels for Randa and Ismail’s graduation caps in a drawer so that no one would lose them. And I don’t remember which drawer. I’ve searched them all. And poof. They’re gone. And while I have until Sunday to find them, I really don’t. Because Randa has an awards ceremony for the seniors in the Special Education department and she is supposed to wear her cap and gown tomorrow. *sigh*

One of these days I’m going to find a “very special place” that is just a blatant out in the open place with a lock on it to keep nosy people and meddling hands away. Of course, you know what that means, right? I’ll just lose the damn key.

6 Days Left

Starry Night Prom 2015 SWAG BAGS

These are STARRY NIGHT PROM goodie bags from our 2015 prom. These customized backpacks were donated to us by the Elks Lodge #2114 in Arlington, Texas. We stuffed them full of swag for each of our attendees; AISD High School students with significant disabilities. The swag included a customized Starry Night Prom 20-ounce cup, pens, pencils, keychains, compact mirrors, coupons and gift certificates from many local businesses, toys, stickers, magnets, and other cool items. Each backpack also contained a STARRY NIGHT PROM commemorative t-shirt with all of our big sponsors printed on the back.

So all of that stuff inside the goodie bags? FREE for our students who attend. You know what else is free? The meal for each of them (and for one attending chaperone guest per student,) the prom portrait photography, the prom fun photo booth style photography, the boutonnieres and corsages, the beautiful custom made invitations, the dessert fountain, the DJ and big dance floor where they can dance and have a wonderful time. All of this is paid for by the donations of kind and generous people who want to see these kids have a magical Starry Night Prom.

And even though a lot of the swag, backpacks, venue, services including cooking and catering are donated as in-kind donations, we still need money to pay for the photography, DJ, printing of invitations, shirts, cups, decorations, additional swag, and a large portion of the food items that are purchased each year.

Our ongoing FACEBOOK fundraiser event is still active for 5 more days! Facebook has waived all of their usual fees for registered  501 (C) (3) nonprofit organizations with Facebook pages during the #GivingTuesday fundraiser drive. This means that 100% of all donations made via the Starry Night Prom Facebook page will be donated to our noble cause.

Won’t you please consider donating to Starry Night Prom and give these kids their magical night this Spring 2017? All donations are 100% appreciated. Thank you for your support.

 

 

Starry Night Prom Fundraiser in Progress

Randa and Hamo Prom 2014

So, what’s it been? About 12 minutes since I wrote about Starry Night Prom? I can’t help it. These kids are so stinkin’ precious and seeing them celebrating their prom in a safe and accepting environment is just a truly moving experience.

We are currently in the middle of a Facebook fundraising drive. What’s awesome about this one is that Facebook has waived all of the usual fees they collect during their #GivingTuesday campaign. This means that 100% of all donations contributed through the Facebook fundraiser through 15 December 2016 will go directly to Starry Night Prom. And since Starry Night Prom is completely run on the generosity of others, this is HUGE.

As some of you are not already aware, I’ll explain a little about Starry Night Prom. We are a registered 501-C3 nonprofit organization serving Arlington ISD high school students with significant disabilities. We host an annual prom for these kids and a chaperone and all of it is paid for 100% with donations. So their invitations, corsages and boutonnieres, photographs, food, deejay, and goodie bags complete with commemorative t-shirt (sponsors printed on back) are all FREE. A lot of these kids would have to miss out on their high school prom. There’s usually not a lot of accommodations for those who have feeding tubes, oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, or need for assistance in the bathroom, etc. Starry Night Prom takes all of that kind of stuff and makes it the norm. The social playing field is leveled and everyone is “at home” in their gorgeous ball gowns and tuxedos. Spring 2017 will be our tenth year hosting Starry Night Prom.

Won’t you consider making your #GivingTuesday contribution to Starry Night Prom? Please follow this link for our Facebook Fundraising Campaign———–> CLICK HERE

And if you don’t have a Facebook account or would prefer to donate through a different site, you could follow this link for our YouCaring.com account* by clicking –> HERE. (*Donations to the YouCaring site will have transaction fees added by YouCaring, but will remain open through May 2017.)

Thank you so much for your sponsorship. We also accept In-Kind donations, so please drop me a line in the comments section and I can provide information on how to sponsor us in this way. And for those of you who are in Texas and Louisiana, you can link your Kroger Plus shopping card to Starry Night Prom under their Community Rewards program, so that Kroger will donate to Starry Night Prom with every swipe!

(ALL donations, big and small, money and in-kind, are GREATLY appreciated and tax-deductible.)

It’s NOT a Tantrum

Walking through a supermarket, the severely Autistic person wears gun-range headphones to help block excess noise to protect her highly sensitive hearing from the overwhelming barrage of clanking, banging, muzak, baby cries, squeaky buggy wheels and blips and bloops from cash registers. A woman getting over a cold coughs into her elbow, and the Autistic person’s face grows dark. Her mother notices the scowl and the wincing on her non-verbal daughter’s face. She puts the Cheerios back on the shelf and grabs her daughter’s hands and softly speaks into her face, “Poor lady. She’s sick. Sick people cannot help coughing, honey. It’s okay.”

The mom gently guides her daughter from the cereal aisle and the cussing begins followed by screaming and crying. “Ears hurt! STUPID WOMAN!” People begin to stare. Some people whisper and make angry faces. The screaming continues while the mom gives deep pressure hugs and wipes away tears, speaking gently about good choices and soft voices.

An angry woman walks by with her nearly full buggy with the squeaky wheel and stops to SHUSH! the girl. The mother spins around on her heel and tells the woman she is out of line. “You should shut her up! It’s incredibly rude to the other shoppers for her to be throwing a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket! What is she? Retarded?”

“First, she’s got Autism and she is in distress, NOT that we owe you an explanation. A tantrum is a fit thrown in order to get what one wants. This is an Autistic Meltdown which is brought on by environmental situations. What makes them continue is rude judgmental people like you! Secondly, this is Kroger. If you want quiet, go to the fucking library!” The mother turns her back on the sputtering woman, who has now become just another bit of background noise. The girl continues to cry and loudly repeat the same line from her favorite movie, as though stuck on a loop.

The store manager walks up and smiles. He knows the woman and the daughter, as they are regular shoppers here. He asks if everything is all right. The woman nods that it is. The girl notices the manager’s very large mustache and points at his face. “It’s big whiskers!” she says, wiping away her tears. The man laughs and agrees that they are. The girl smiles and says, “Bye. Come on, Mommy. It’s Cheerios.” The mom grabs the hand of her 20-year old girl and mouths a quick thank you over her shoulder to the manager. She returns to the cereal aisle and adds the Cheerios to the buggy while the girl happily pushes beside her.

 

Bad-Assery in the Metro

“Thanks for going shopping with me, Randa.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Got your seat belt on?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Should we take the highway home or the slow way?”

“It’s drive faster.”

“Okay. Highway it is. Should we listen to the radio?”

“Yes.”

**Turn on radio and Nickelback is playing.**

“Mommy, this sucks.”

**Change to a rock station playing Aerosmith** “Better?”

“Yes, ma’am. Mommy drive faster.”

I’m Here in the Volunteer Recovery Room

Hi. It’s me. You know that crazy mother of five who uses her blog as a way to work through her issues because Groupon has yet to come out with a free therapy coupon. Yeah. I didn’t fall off the planet. I’ve just been recovering from all of the exhaustion that running around like a chicken entails.

Starry Night Prom came off without a hitch. I am still waiting for the photos from the photographers so that I can share with all of you how beautiful and amazing our event was. A fantastic time was had by students and chaperones and sponsors. Again, thank you to all who donated, sponsored, and helped spread the word of our Starry Night Prom. I promise that I will be getting the donations/fundraising events going far earlier for 2017.

I will post the photos as soon as I receive them.

The Beauty in Asking for Help

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We got off to a late start again this year. Several of us had medical issues that affected our family lives that sort of forced us to put Starry Night Prom fundraising on the back burner. But it’s become known to us as “the little Prom that could” and it can.

I started promoting our fundraising website and blogging about past Starry Night Proms that we’ve participated in. I updated the donation letter and the giving levels list and then
added a few photos from Starry Night Prom 2015 to the fundraising site. But I needed my
son to finish recovering from his surgery and get back to school so that I could sleep longer than 3 hours at a stretch and be able to focus my energy on donations and not trying not to drive my car off the road because of the twitch in my eye.

So Saturday afternoon I sat down at my computer and began to send out emails to anyone I could think of that might have an interest in getting this thing off the ground. And on a whim, I contacted a local businessman whose service my husband and I have used on several occasions since moving to Arlington. I explained that I recognized that his company is a fixture in this community and that I see his vans all over the city almost every day while I’m out running my errands. I told him how Starry Night Prom got started
nine years ago and how every expense is paid for by the generosity of others. I asked for help.

Sponsorship to an event such as Starry Night Prom looks different for every donor. Some may donate gently used prom gowns or suits. Our photographer, DJ, and dinner are all sponsored. Sometimes logo-bearing “swag” is donated that we can include in the goodie bags that each student gets to take home; things like pens, hats, cups, refrigerator magnets, lanyards, keychains, stress-squeezers, calendars, etc. Some businesses choose to donate coupons or gift cards. We’ve had restaurants donate a meal for two, a hotel donated one free double-occupancy night, and a university donated a gift basket full of logo-bearing sports gear and free tickets to events…all of these items were raffled off and the monies collected went into the Starry Night Prom fund. And of course, they can choose to make a monetary donation.

Monday morning, Mr Ernie Clevenger, owner of Ernie’s Plumbing, read my email and then clicked on the link to the online fundraiser website. He told me that he enjoyed the bright smiles on the faces of the participants that were featured on the site. He also noticed that we only had three weeks left to meet our goal and we weren’t even halfway there.

Ernie’s Plumbing made it happen and donated the remaining funds to reach our target! His only comment on the website? God is good.

And that is the beauty in asking for help. Because Ernie is right. God IS good. And when you ask for help, He will provide.

****Further donations of goodie bag items for 300+ prom participants are still being accepted for receipt before April 28, 2016.  All donations are appreciated and tax deductible. Please contact me via email at: StarryNightProm@outlook.com  I will gladly provide you with any further information within 24 of receipt of your email. Thank you.

 

 

More Starry Night Prom 2015 Photos

In my previous blog post about the Starry Night Prom 2016 , I published before I could locate my cd with photos from last year’s prom that weren’t just snapped with my very lousy camera phone. So I thought I would post a few photos of some of our awesome participants at the Starry Night Prom 2015 so that you could see the FUN on their faces.

Enjoy.  And to all of our supporters from last year and years past, THANK YOU!

Anyone who would like to support our efforts to host Starry Night Prom 2016, please
CLICK HERE ——————-> FUNDRAISER LINK!

Anyone who wishes to donate items for the “goodie bags,” or corsages/boutonnieres, decorations, gift cards, or anything else, please contact us via email at:
StarryNightProm@outlook.com. Or visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/starrynightprom  and post there.  Thanks again for your support!

**Photographer credit: Amber Inman Photography. All photos used with permission of Starry Night Prom.

 

 

 

Sixteen Candles….

Sixteen years ago today, my beautiful daughter, Randa, was born.  She was my first girl, my smallest baby (oh, yes! a teeny, tiny 8 lbs, 13 ozs), my only vaginal birth.  It was amazing.  My husband was there, just like with all of the others. But also, my Aunt Virginia was there. She really helped a lot. And she didn’t pass out at the sight of blood like my Uncle Tracy said she would.

Miss Randa was so different from her older brother. She got stuck in the birth canal and they had to use forceps to pull her out. The doctor managed to catch part of her eye and a nerve in her neck and she was born with a brachial palsy and looking like she’d gone a round with Tyson. She didn’t want to be held much and I thought it was because of having such a rough birth. But she was one of those “hold me while you nurse me and then let me be” kind of kids. We exercised her arm several times a day and in a month, the nerves reattached themselves (Thank God) and she could use her arm all by herself. She started walking at 8 months, weaned herself at 9 months and ran by 10 months.

The years have flown by and I look at this young woman standing in front of me who still loves “Shaun the Sheep” and making weasels from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” out of play dough. Having autistic tendencies has not stopped Randa from becoming bilingual, from teaching herself to make  pizza dough from scratch, from bossing her brothers and sister around. Nothing holds my girl back.

And I cannot be more grateful for this beautiful, intelligent, happy, funny, and awesome girl in my life. Randa was a gift to us from God. And I praise Him daily for blessing us with her. Happy birthday, Randa.