Just submitted “Love in the Time of Corona” to The Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction Contest. I originally wrote this as a memoir for my independent study at university and decided to convert it into a short story (not that my life isn’t awesome, but I wanted to use a little creative license). Each section is separated with a little poem; here is the first:
A wife, a widow, & a divorcee walk into a bar, or, more likely, a restaurant, because the wife isn’t looking, the widow isn’t interested, & the divorcee isn’t impressed.
As a mother of a child with autism, I have realized how broad the spectrum is. I was in elementary school the first time I heard of autism. I was reading The Baby-Sitter’s Club series (back in the eighties), where one of the girls babysat an autistic girl—a piano prodigy. Though some autistic children have special abilities, keeping in mind that not all do (nor should they have to, as if they need to justify their autism) is vital to not only accept them but appreciate them.
Ultimately, autistic children are just children who want to be loved, have fun, and may know more than they can communicate.
As a homeschooling mom, I’ve learned that part of teaching is not to make my daughter learn how I learned or teach how I was taught but to learn how she learns and then teach accordingly. I’ve learned that autistic children often express themselves differently, even from other autistic children. My daughter may not always tell me she loves me (at least without prompting), but I have recognized that when she asks for a hug, that, to me, is her way of telling me she loves me. I’ve learned to be more precise when asking questions. For example, when we were studying Galileo, and I asked her what Jupiter had four of, instead of moons, she said, “Consonants.” (She might have outsmarted me there!) I’ve learned that I need to understand that she sometimes has reasons for doing what she does. For example, as soon as we entered the accessible stall in a library bathroom, she tried to elope by crawling under the door; it took some strength to keep her with me. At the time, I just thought she was being disobedient. It wasn’t until weeks later, when we visited another public bathroom, that I figured out the hand dryer terrified her due to her sensory issues.
When you have a child with autism, you learn to be more intuitive and know when to extend that extra grace. We learn from them as much as they learn from us.
Learning about autism (and the terminology surrounding it) is ongoing. Some children don’t want to be labeled autistic, while others see their autism as making them unique, but one thing is for certain: We don’t need to fix autistic children because they are not broken.
I created these BINGO cards to teach my daughter coordinates (in the context of columns and rows rather than x and y axes). Unlike Geography BINGO, where we use coins to combine money math with state “geometry,” for Coordinates BINGO, we use Bananagrams. Whenever I call a “coordinate” (C#, R#), she places a Bananagram tile facedown. Once she gets a BINGO, we flip all the tiles over, which she uses to create as many words as possible. (I usually let her get BINGO at the 11th or 12th tile). Canva is an excellent homeschooling graphic design program for those who prefer (and need) to create their child’s curriculum. My daughter loves emojis, so she enjoyed helping me create these cards.
I refer to Bananagrams as “Freestyle Scrabble.” The object of most games is to win, but this one is to learn. I love Bananagrams because we’re not spending time calculating scores (not that that wouldn’t be a totally righteous mathy thing to do) but learning words—not just how to spell them but their meanings, definitions, and, if needed, what they look like. We flip an old gameboard (we have a Life gameboard that split), draw seven tiles apiece, and play Bananagrams just like Scrabble, with my tablet on standby if we need to look up a word. If we need to look something up, we go to Dictionary.com (yeah, it’s the Wikipedia of dictionaries, but I like the fun format) and use the speaker to listen to the word. The other evening, I spelled “harp,” so I not only googled an image of one but found a YouTube video to watch and listen to one being played.
Though we only do 16 words, it’s pretty involved. Bananagrams has been a great way to teach prefixes and suffixes and how just adding an e to the end of a word changes its meaning. I also just added a sign language component.
Years ago, when I still lived at home, my dad and I played Scrabble on a CD-ROM. We didn’t like keeping score or looking things up in a paper dictionary (we just wanted to play!). He hardly ever won, took forever (I once read a whole novel during his turns), was totally obsessed over landing on the triple word score squares, and always accused me of “piggybacking” off his words (i.e., scoring more off his words than he did). I’d get annoyed that he never cared what a word meant (so long it was a word) and forced him to listen to me read the definition. Mom used to play with us, but she didn’t have the patience to sit through his turns. I mean, it wasn’t chess!
Winning (for me) was harder when my mom played because she never played defensively (which was also annoying). But, I enjoyed these times with my parents immensely, and that is what I will have with my daughters. How ironic it is that what I used to play on a screen, I am playing the old school way 20 years later.
I created Sarah Lea Stories in October 2013, and 1200+ posts later, I’ve decided not to publish any more long-form posts on it. Since homeschooling (where I create A LOT of the curriculum to accommodate my daughter’s special needs), having a baby, and deciding to return to university this fall, I no longer have the time to write lengthy posts for free. That time is better spent on writing short stories for paying publications. I now consider my Instagram account (where posts can be much shorter) my new blog. I like that Instagram is free and beautifully formatted, and I can spend far less time creating content for it. Blogging all this time has helped with that—not just with “canned” posts but with writing practice.
I’m also tired of being in front of a screen. Now that I have an editing career that requires me to always be in front of a screen, I need more time away from the glow of the computer monitor.
However, I’ll still be posting my groups of “Post-It poems” on Mondays, my Fiction Friday pieces (which I will eventually format into a novel in verse), and my “Positively Marvelous” things on Saturday.