More Real-World Style Tips From A Real-World Fan Of Occasionally Wearing Pants

Outside the Box

When the flyer came home in his backpack, I groaned. The Valentine's Day class party was going to have a "theme." A 1950s sock hop, with music and dancing. Dressing up in poodle skirts and "greaser" costumes was encouraged. Please remember that all treats must be store bought, not homemade.

Sometimes integration in the general education classroom sucks. No way would the room parents in special education plan something like that, with so many of the kids easily unnerved by changes in routine and costumes and noise and cupcakes frosted with Red 40 dye. But there was no party for the special ed class -- parties fall exclusively in the domain of the homeroom. The giant overcrowded homeroom, like the one I toured just over a year ago with other parents from the preschool program.

We observed it with wide, terrified eyes -- one mom grabbed my arm and squeezed it while shooting me a WTF look, because we were both thinking the same thing, because our kids won't be ready for this environment in a million billion years. The kindergartners moved around the room in quiet, controlled movements, focused on independent activities, tuning out their dozens of classmates all scattered in different centers, while the teacher quietly went over a reading activity with a small group in the corner. They were writing words in lowercase letters. I swallowed hard and pressed my fingers into my palm -- hard -- and fought back some tears and an overwhelming, crushing sense of Noah's delays.

The principal tried to assure us that the classroom didn't start out like this, that there's a huge difference between September and January, and that there's a huge difference between this January and next January, for our kids. I don't think any of us believed her. One year? No. A million billion. If that. 

I almost didn't send him in on Valentine's Day. I almost kept him home, just because. Why put him through that? He stayed home on Halloween and seemed downright happy to miss the party and the costumes, and it's not like he has any real grasp on Valentine's Day or why we made him write his name on 30-plus cheap-o Star Wars-themed Valentine cards the night before. When I mentioned the party to him, he seemed immediately on-edge and unsure, his THINGS ARE DIFFERENT alarm going off in his head. 

But then I suggested that Jason and I could come to the party, too. And he jumped up and down and clapped and threw his arms around me in a hug because YES YES YES, come to the party. Well then! I may be a bitter, paranoid pessimist sometimes but I'm also not an idiot: One day my very existance will horrify and embarrass my children, so I should accept my invites while I can still get them. 

We arrived, Noah was thrilled. He pulled us around the classroom to show off his favorite things -- mostly the shoebox full of insects that he almost knocked over while excitedly explaining the lifecycle of the mealworm to us -- and then introduced us to his teacher, who we have met many times before but who indulged Noah and shook our hands. "It's so nice to meet you," he said with a laugh. 

Some kids dressed up, some kids danced. Most of the kids put on the sunglasses they'd been given as a party favor. Noah picked his up and eyed them suspiciously. "I don't think I'd like to wear mine," he said. He put them down, then offered them to his tablemate who'd already managed to break his own pair. 

Absolutely nothing unusual happened, the whole time we were there. Except for the fact that absolutely nothing unusual happened. Noah was calm, Noah was happy. He knew and understood the classroom routine; he was good-natured and flexible when the routine was changed. He was not the loudest or quietest or the craziest or the weirdest or the shyest or the bossiest or any other -est. 

He has self-control. He has focus. He has friends.


This time last year, Noah was already really into Legos. But only if they looked like they looked on the box. He would argue with us endlessly if he disagreed with the directions, pointing over and over at the finished product on the box, adamant that we were telling him the wrong thing and trying to trick him into building something different

If we bought him general free-play sets of assorted blocks, he would study the pictures on the package and meticulously reproduce them, and then refuse to build anything else. 

This weekend he designed and built an alien ship, complete with working side doors and a cash register from the Krusty Krab for a control panel. Later he built the alien's house. It doesn't have a door because the alien is made of goo and can just ooze in through the window. 


I don't remember when, exactly, he stopped worrying so much about the box. It happened when I wasn't paying attention, I suppose. Sometime between this January and last. A million, billion years ago, apparently. 


Redneck Mommy

Freaking A. That is awesome. It's a wonder what a difference a million billion years can make in one boy and his parent's world.

Kelly Meeker

Wait, I'm not a mom, so maybe I'm missing something, but why must treats be storebought and not homemade? This seems the antithesis of what I would want.

Emily B

I just loved this. Tears of pride and joy for a little boy I've never met but continually root for are streaming down my face. He is amazing, and so are you.


This entry made me really happy.

C @ Kid Things

I love and get this. My 5 year old son is autistic, and just the progress I've seen in him since he's started school this past August is remarkable. I am in awe of him. I'm so excited to see how he is a year from now.


Your kids are so blessed in the parents department. Clearly, other parents love and advocate for their children as much as you do, but there's just something about the way you write that sets yours apart.


Yea Noah!


And I'm crying again, you jerk. It's amazing how quickly things change when you're not exactly paying attention.

Christine H.

This post made me very happy for Noah and for you. You really should consider writing a book about all of this (if you haven't already). You're a wonderful writer and letting others know that you can get to where you are now, but with a lot of work, patience, and diligence as a parent is so very important.


This is just so awesome. Noah is just plain awesome.


Just so. frickin'. awesome.

Sue C

Store bought treats have known ingredients and are made under known conditions. Homemade treats are none of those things. Therefore, they are viewed with great suspicion by the uber safety conscientious.

On another note, GO NOAH!!!!

Mom In Two Cultures

Great post! It's amazing how surreptitiously they change. I'm glad to hear he's doing so well. We are still working on all the sensory integration stuff, but maybe one day we will get to the point where nothing unusual happens.


@Kelly Meeker - store-bought treats will have full ingredient lists so teachers can confirm there are no allergens in them.


Go Noah and his mama and papa and brothers too.


I am so happy for Noah and for you. Truly and absolutely fantabulous news.


I so needed to see this today. Not only am I THRILLED for Noah and you guys, but my own son will be evaluated on Friday by the school system for his own delays, and I guess because we're so focused in the process right now (damned MoCo bureaucracy) I'm having a hard time seeing that he'll get there. It may take him longer than everyone else, but he'll get there. I am so happy for you guys. /back to lurkdom

Caz Stone

Fantastic Noah, working it all out. Very impressed with your writing, and your parenting.


So great! What wonderful progress!


Damn, woman, you made me cry. In a good way, of course.

Amanda Pack

Yay Noah!!


Aww, you're such a good mom. *wipes away tear*


I have a 7 yr old boy who was cut from the EXACT same cloth as your Noah, and I've had these exact experiences... Where I'm anticipating disaster and yet nothing happens.

"Normal" throws me for a loop every time.


Awww, That is wonderful!! Yah Noah!! Great job buddy!!

Laura in PA

Crying as I read this at work, even though I've never met you, or Noah. Kids are so amazing, aren't they? And your pride in him is so evident and lovely here.


That is so special! its stuff like this that pushes me towards the side of the fence that says having a child would be amazing.


I am an SLP working in early intervention and this post brought me almost to tears. I have worked with many children with similar difficulties and it is so heartwarming to see them develop the ability to adapt. Congratulations to you and especially to Noah. You both have worked very hard to get here.


Yay!!! That makes me think Noah might like this book we got one of our sons for Christmas. It says 7 and up, but I'm sure that's just for the reading, which I doubt Noah will need to do!


Heather (Laptops to Lullabies)

Such a sweet post. As someone who has read every entry in your archives at least once (who needs an eReader when you have internet on your phone?), I'm so SO very happy for Noah.


This made me cry. And just about burst with pride for Noah, whom I've never met and have zero claim to pride over.

Wally Hartshorn

Posts like this are precisely why I love your blog. Please never stop!


I'm so glad the day worked out so nicely for Noah.

But I have to ask ... greaser costumes, and poodle skirts ... for second graders?

Plano Mom

freakin awesome.


That is just so great, I can't believe how far he has come! You have an awesome kiddo!


Awww. This is so great. Love.


Crying happy tears for a little boy I've never met, but I've watched grow up through your blog. It is wonderful to see another step forward. YAY NOAH!


Makes me hopeful. Thank you. And grateful, i complained about 21 kids in the K classroom- I can not fathom 30!!!


Gave me chills & made me cry. So happy for your little man

Her Inner Voices

Yay, Noah! And yay, you! It's the best feeling, isn't it?


I know it is such an awesome feeling to see him growing and maturing and making his way. I know we always felt a "million. billion years" from here and now we're starting to see the changes and growth too. Those amazing little guys, they always keep us guessing, don't they?
Loved every word.


My eldest son ,who's ten now, started to (finally) eat vegetables between December and now, previously he just couldn't cope with the feeling of vegs and fruits in his mouth. so a bare 8 weeks can make a difference let alone a year..But what about the train to NY???


Hope :)


Oh, man! Isn't that a relief! It's so hard when your child is overwhelmed by situations the other kids handle easily, and so difficult to envision a time when it will be different.

But that time seems to have arrived on little cat feet.

Yay, Noah!


Happy tears for Noah, and for you all. Yay for progress. :)


I think this is your best post ever. Waterworks turned on immediately after reading the last sentence. As a longtime reader, I'm just swelling with pride for Noah!

"I don't think I'd like to wear mine." What an incredibly self-assured little gentleman!


Totally full on sobbing over here. What an epic day! Reading through the comments, though, Kelly Meeker asks a great question, and your answer seems to work on the face of it...but even living in California (the Mecca of all food allergies becoming Dietary Fads and not life threatening issues; do not even get me started on my head asplodey rage about that whole nonsense), it is so difficult to find affordable store bought allergen free snacks to bring to school. I understand that schools don't want to take on the legalistic responsibility of The Smith Kid going into anaphylactic shock because Mrs Brown's cookies were made with a portion of almond flour, but, STILL. Allergen free is hard enough. Artificial dye free is nigh on impossible, again, even here. It is so sad that we are forced into this place where we "trust" food packaging standards more than we do our childrens' classmates parents. Amy, I'm almost certain that you have also read The Unhealthy Truth. That is where I am coming from on this.


This time last year I was banging my head against the metaphorical brick wall because my just-turned-six-year-old did not--would not--could not--grasp phonics. At all. Lower case letters? Fugeddaboudit.

Two days ago we went to the half price bookstore, where he perused the shelves carefully and chose three books: Two on the ancient Egyptians, which he's been fascinated with for two years, and a book on owls. All at the third-grade or higher reading level. I came home and watched him sit down and read through the books and practice hieroglyphics and tell me all about what a marshman did in ancient Egypt.

I don't know when he started. It happened when I wasn't looking, I guess.

ccr in MA

So incredibly awesome. SO happy for you all.


I'm a Speech Therapist for kids 0-5, and I LOVE to send parents to read your blog. I take parents to visit Kindergarten every year in March, and I see those wide eyed looks of terror, and reassure them that their child does NOT have to act like this in September, NONE of these kids act like this is September. Thank You for your honesty and YAY NOAH!!!!!!


Such a beautiful story, lovingly written. Thank you for sharing it.


I'm sitting here with my eyes all teared up trying to type this. Go Noah! I'm so glad I found your blog. I hope my son can progress as well as Noah someday! :)


Woo-hoo Noah!!!


I am so proud of that kid, man. Awesome.


Sniff. Sob. Oh, I so fear that this will be me when I tour the kindergarten for my delayed 2 year old. So good to hear that there is hope in a million billion years!


Thank you for posting this. My son starts kindergarten next year and my anxiety about it is at an all time high right now, for many of the same reasons. It is so awesome to see how Noah is progressing!


Just to say I second the sentiment about the book. I love to send friends who are going through issues around developmental delays here - but not everyone is up for reading lots of bitty blog entries and trawling through the barfing stuff (which I LOVED!) or the cloth nappying. I would love to see your journey with Noah brought together in one place. Although maybe you are waiting for what feels like a proper end...? (although I'm sure there will never be a 'there - done and dusted' moment. There never is with parenting!) Anyway I just posted that in case you need encouragement.


This made me smile so hard this morning that I was still smiling when the coworker from hell happened by. Must have seemed loonier than usual so he DID NOT stop at my desk. THANK YOU!

Also, seriously. This is just...heartening. What's the saying about the kids being more resilient than we give them credit for? They also adapt and learn and grow and throw monkey wrenches in shit that wind up making us happier than they can imagine.

Becca Lynn

Oh, Amy. I love "Noah is normal" posts. I've never thought "normal" could be so beautiful. <3



Thank you so much for sharing this part of your family with the occasionally asshole internet. I mean it. While I do not have children (yet? ever? maybe?), my friend is a special ed teacher, and I know you're reaching people like her on her darker days and people like you on the days you had a million billion years ago.


I love these posts. You go, Noah.
And yeah, homemade treats. I used to require them in my classroom parties, on the theory that a. less crap in them, and b. cooking is educational. Hmmph.
And I am laughing at the idea of "let's dress up in 60 year old fashions!" for kindergarteners.


I LOVE reading posts like this. Makes me feel all fuzzy inside. :0) You go, Noah. Rock on.


This made me simultaneously tear up and feel very, very happy. Yay, Noah!

Also, why does a Valentine's Day party need a theme other than, you know, VALENTINE'S DAY? Surely I am missing something here...


My son's pre-school is having a Jog-A-Thon this Friday. Jog-A-Thon = serious sensory overload freakout.

I've already worked it out with my son's teacher that he and I will work the finish line stamping kid's hands. Even that may be too much for him with the noise and excited kids running up to us. He'll likely hide behind me with his arms wrapped around my waist. Meanwhile, my 21 month old will be attempting to run with the older kids and likely be trampled. It's comforting to hear about Noah's progress. It makes me feel hopeful that one day these things will be no big deal, just a regular day in a kid's life.


Oh, my goodness.

To think of all the worlds that must've tilted on their axis and started spinning in new directions in order to make those two small stories possible...

Wow. Yeah. Gonna go with "wow."


Good Crimony woman. I am a million billion years from having children, or a husband... or a boyfriend for that matter (apparently) but these posts! They make me so happy! So proud of your son! And you! And I just couldn't be happier for your progress... the collective your, that is! Yay Noah!!

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