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From Inside the Puzzle: Raising a Child with Autism Blog

Fall Break Escape
January 15, 2016 2:15 PM by Devon Alley

A. only got two days off for Fall Break this year, but I made an executive decision to allow her to "play hooky" for the remainder of the week so that the entire family could take a trip to Fort Walton Beach, Florida in the middle of October. (And by "play hooky," I mean keep A. out of school while letting all her teachers know where she was and how long she was going to be out of class. Because I'm a sucker and play by the rules like that.)

It just so happened that my in-laws were planning on meeting up with my husband's aunt and uncle at the beach that same week, so we rented a condo in the same complex and made a proper Alley shindig out of the entire affair.

It was a much-needed escape. Between the stress of school, the stress of work, and the worry we currently have for my mom and our family, we really just needed to completely turn off our brains for a while and allow ourselves to be soothed by the sand and the surf. The weather was perfect, and the girls enjoyed playing at the beach, swimming in the pool, and just lounging around having a lazy time together. For A. in particular, this meant bonding time with her aunt, scary movie nights, playing UNO with the whole family, swimming at night, eating lots of junk food, hitting up the local arcades, and feeding seagulls out of her hand, among many other fun-filled adventures.

What it also meant, however, was for some special bonding time between sisters. Much like what had occurred at Dragon*Con, being in close quarters had once again helped foster a level of closeness between the girls. A. helped K. feed seagulls, shared her favorite cartoons, and held her hand as they walked around the local Gulfarium to look at fish and dauphins together. 

Nothing could have prepared me for the last night, however. K. is generally very good at sleeping through the night, but for whatever reason, on the last night of our vacation, she woke up and would not go back to sleep. Since we had to depart so early the next morning, K. and I went to go hang out with A. in her bedroom so that the rest of the condo could sleep. We watched cartoons on the iPad, and every so often, K. would climb down and go over to her sister to say "hi." Every single interaction was amazing and thoughtful - K. brought A. her shoes, and A. thanked her for being such a great helper because she'd been looking for those, and patted her head; K. started to grab her notebooks, and A. gently said, "no, no. You can't have that right now. Maybe when you're older. But I can give you this," and then gave her a fist bump. Then she was *extremely* patient even though K. started squalling in the middle of A.'s Skype conversation with her boyfriend. A. was just SUCH an awesome big sister on that last night, and I could not have been more proud of her.

It was definitely a much-needed week that left us all feeling very relaxed, greatly recharged, and closer than ever. 

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Adventures at DragonCon
December 8, 2015 3:45 PM by Devon Alley
On Labor Day weekend, we took the whole family to Atlanta, Georgia, to completely immerse ourselves in geek culture at an event called Dragon Con. For those of you who don't know, Dragon Con is a large, multi-genre convention geared at fans of science fiction, fantasy, comic books, and pop culture.

This year, a little over 70,000 people attended this convention. That's almost half the entire population of the city we currently live in.

Of our family of four, I was the only one who had previously attended Dragon Con, and it had been almost a decade since I donned my geek stripes and pushed through its sweaty crowds of costumed fans. It was a little overwhelming at first. I don't even have the same sorts of sensory issues that A. has to deal with, and I felt absolutely suffocated by the noise and chaos.

Fortunately, we quickly adapted to our surroundings. A. got her bearings and was able to navigate the sprawling, confusing crowds very well. We were greatly helped by the fact that we had a hotel on site at the convention, which allowed us to quickly retreat to the room any time we needed a break, a snack, or just some quiet time away from so many people. One of the big benefits of staying at a convention hotel is something called Dragon Con TV. This is a closed network channel that plays on the hotel television throughout the duration of the convention, giving us coverage of events, live shows, and comedic spoofs on the culture itself. A. greatly enjoyed chilling out in the hotel room, watching Dragon Con TV.

What A. loved most, however, was wandering around the lobbies of the hotels in her Portal 2 Chell costume, talking with other cosplayers, watching people in costume, getting compliments on her getup, and taking in the culture that surrounded her. I would turn around, and there she would be in an impromptu dance party with several other people in the corner of the lobby, and I'd turn around again, and she'd be belting the lyrics to Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog with another attendee in an extemporaneous duet. I have never seen A. more in her element than I did that weekend. She had a blast.

Unexpectedly, the experience also brought her much closer to her little sister. Without her own space to retreat to or walls to hide behind, A. was forced to interact with her sister throughout the day. As the weekend went on, she became much more interested in K., and would reach out and initiate interactions with her. It was a major stepping stone in helping improve their relationship - a much welcome side effect to an already awesome weekend.

Needless to say, we already have plans to go back next year.

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Stage IV
November 4, 2015 12:25 PM by Devon Alley
I would like to apologize to my readers for my lack of entries and posts over the past couple of months. As a writer, I don't really believe there's ever a *good* reason to *not* be writing, but if there was one, I feel like I would probably have it right now.

My mother - and A.'s grandmother, whom she has affectionately called "Grasshopper" ever since she was a small child - has been diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.

The family is still reeling from the news, and I'm not entirely sure just how much A. truly grasps and understands. I've been reluctant to clarify the details, partially because I'm still trying to wrap my head around it all myself, and partially because I'm nervous as to how A. is going to react. She's so fiercely empathic, and she can be incredibly dramatic at times. Let us remember, this *is* the girl that was absolutely convinced and likewise despondent that the world was going to end in December 2012. While she has grown and matured a great deal in the past three years, I can't help but worry as to how she'll be able to deal with the possibility of grief and loss. We've been fortunate enough to have completely avoided these topics so far - we haven't even lost a pet yet - but they are topics we will have to deal with eventually; possibly much sooner than we would like.

The good news is, all things considered, my mother is doing incredibly well. She's going through chemo, and she's also on a trial drug that has had great results in testing so far. She's weak, and often feels sick and tired, but her attitude is great, she's relatively healthy, and the doctors seem optimistic that she may have several more years to spend with us. 

This, of course, is one of the major reasons why I'm reluctant to bring the seriousness of her condition to A.'s attention. Why burden A. with unnecessary worry and stress when it's very likely that "Grasshopper" will live to see her graduate high school? Possibly even college? Possibly even attend her wedding?

My husband, Thomas - always the pragmatist, and always the rational one - points out the obvious. Are we not robbing A. of making mature, rational decisions on how to process the illness, and on how to spend her time when she's around her grandmother? If we don't clearly explain the situation, how will A. feel if things *don't* turn out for the best? If A. doesn't know the details, how will she know to make the most out of every single minute she can spend with her grandmother *right now*?

There are definitely more conversations that need to be had. There are more therapy appointments to attend. There are more family visits to make, more road trips to travel, and more holidays to celebrate. And there are many stories I want to share with you about A.'s adventures over the past few months - to DragonCon, to the beach, at Halloween. And I hope you will be patient with me, as it may take just a little longer than usual to get those stories out.

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Relaxation Class
October 5, 2015 2:27 PM by Devon Alley
There is an amazing local autism group in our area, called Artistic Spectrum, that focuses on providing creative and recreational opportunities for children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. A. has participated in many of the activities provided by this organization in the past couple of years - from painting pumpkins, to watching A Christmas Carol, to participating in summer art workshops - and we continue to find really rewarding activities through this organization. Our most recent adventure involved taking a basic relaxation class through the organization at a local yoga studio.

The class was, essentially, a basic yoga class. It was an activity A. was not very keen on participating in, but I managed to convince her. She actually did very well. The class focused on the importance of breathing and the wisdom of listening to one's body to make sure you are getting whatever you need.

A. was especially adept at folding up into Child's Pose whenever she felt like a stretch was simply too much for her. She also followed along with the poses of the class with minimal complaining - she seemed to really enjoy curving and curling her back into the Cat and Cow positions, while she struggled more with the poses that required her head to be down, and for her to stretch to the floor, such as Downward Facing Dog - and it did seem to truly relax her and help her regulate the stress in her body.

Even though she felt like she didn't do a very good job with the yoga class, I was very impressed with how much she was able to do, and the process really did help her. I also managed to convince her that she should come with me to at least one yoga class a month, so hopefully I can help her make this an ongoing healthy h

abit.

I'm definitely looking forward to more of the amazing work that Artistic Spectrum puts together for the autistic individuals in our community.

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A.'s Sweet 16-bit Party
September 4, 2015 12:54 PM by Devon Alley

I have a history of going all out for A.'s birthdays, and considering that she was going to be turning 16 this year, I wanted to make sure it was extra special. A. said that she wanted to have a video game themed party, featuring some of her favorite games (Mario, Pokemon, Pacman, etc.) So, I got the idea to call it a "16-bit" party (since she w

After visiting Party City and other various department stores, I quickly realized that I would have to make most of the decorations myself. I ran around town gathering supplies to create some pretty extensive decor. I purchased square shipping boxes, and then I covered a few in brick contact paper, and others in yellow card-stock with white question marks pasted in the center. I cut out a large Pacman and ghosts from cardboard and hung them from the ceiling.as turning 16 - get it?) and I consulted my party inspiration (also known as Pinterest) and got to work.

I created a Bob-omb from a Styrofoam ball that I spray-painted black, pasting construction paper for eyes and feet, and then covering a bottle top with tin foil and using a piece of twine for the fuse. I created piranha plants with green plastic cups, green pipe cleaner, shredded green and brown paper, and construction paper.

I put together snacks and gave them clever names (Runts candy became Pacman power-ups; I wrapped chocolate bars so that they looked like original NES controllers.) I also taped King Boo faces on white balloons and stuck them throughout the house.

We invited the entire family, and A. also invited a couple of her girlfriends to party and to spend the night. They played games, including punching a question-box piñata, and some multi-player Smash Brothers. There was cake and presents, and A. seemed extremely happy - laughing and having an amazing time. Overall, I think the party was a huge hit.

I'm not sure how I will outdo myself next year! 

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First Week Back
August 17, 2015 9:52 AM by Devon Alley
Last week, I shared my concerns about A. returning to school. She was highly anxious, and there were several challenges she was going to have to overcome in order to be successful.

Now that she's completed the first week, I am happy to report that she has managed her anxiety and is doing well in the classroom so far. She still has complaints, of course. While she, fortunately, doesn't share any classes with the girl who stopped being her friend last year, she still sees her in the hallways from time to time, and it's still a very painful reminder. But she's managed that piece much more smoothly than she feared, so that's great.

In her last class of the day, which focuses on life skills and social development, she is the only girl, and she finds several of the boys highly annoying. She's also expressed some frustration with her theatre teacher for saying that she doesn't "believe" in multiple choice tests, and she has her regular frustrations with peers being loud. However, considering how stressed out she was at the beginning of the year, and how much of that has subsided after the first week, I will call it a win.

I feel like we owe this in large part due to the new members of her team this year. She has a new caseworker, and there seems to be a new person over special education in the school overall. Thomas and I had sent an email to them a few weeks ago, and they responded immediately. Her caseworker touches base and works directly with A. every single day. Not only did they rearrange her schedule to accommodate a time for decompression at the end of each day, but they also have worked with A. to ensure that she knows where she can go to for support each period in case she becomes overwhelmed and needs to step out. Her new caseworker is also working on a possible peer tutor for A., which I think would be a big win for her. I'm imagining that this peer tutor would not focus on academics as much as conversation and socializing -how to talk about things she's not interested in, etc. We'll see how that goes.

Overall, I couldn't be happier with the way things have been progressing so far, even if A. still doesn't really like school and complains about it all the time. At least she's not completely miserable and depressed, which was my big concern at the start of the year. At this point in the game, I'll take whatever positives I can get!

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Conventions and Cosplay
August 7, 2015 10:56 AM by Devon Alley

Last year, A. attended the Knoxville Comic and Anime Con, of which I wrote an entry about in this blog. Because she enjoyed that experience so much, I decided to make sure she continued to attend even more conventions this year.

We took her to the Marble City Comic-Con, as well as the Fanboy Expo.

A. thoroughly enjoyed both, even though she did not have the same benefit of having friends to pal around with this year.

For Marble City, she brought her notebook and went around collecting the autographs of everyone who was dressed up as characters she found interesting.

This is similar to what she did the year before, and it was awesome to see all of the attendees going along with her and playing up their roles.

For the Fanboy Expo, however, she wanted to dress up and do her own cosplay. After some consideration, she decided to dress up as Chell from Portal 2, and she did a pretty amazing job.

It was fascinating because, at the Fanboy Expo, A. was suddenly the one getting all the attention. Everyone stopped her in the aisles and asked to get their picture with her. She received so many compliments on her costume.

While I walked around awkwardly with my arms full of baby, weaving in and out of the crowds without a clue on how to engage people, A. navigated the social landscape with little trouble.

This was her turf, and she understood the rules much better than I did.

A. said that her experience at the Fanboy Expo was the best convention ever. We'll see if that holds out after our experience at Dragon-Con next month.

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A Visitation from California, Part 2
July 28, 2015 12:15 PM by Devon Alley

(This is part 2 of a 2-part series.)

Last week, I discussed the main events that occurred with M. and his mother visiting us from California. However, there were so many other small moments that I felt were, ultimately, so much more important to M. and A. 

M. not only brought A. a rose, but he also brought a unique, hard-to-find plush that depicted her favorite Pokémon character. As we drove them around on their adventures, they shared ear buds and watched videos and cartoons on their phones and his iPad. Courage the Cowardly Dog seemed to be a common theme. They Skyped other Internet friends together. When we were home, they would play Mario Kart, Smash Bros, and Doctor Luigi for hours. Their interests could not have been more in sync.

Even though they shared a lot of similarities, they also had a lot of differences. M. is a bit of a collector - he brought an entire suitcase full of plush toys to play with while he was visiting, and that is apparently just a small percentage of what he owns. A., on the other hand, tends to get rid of things as she loses interest in them. A. also doesn't care much for keeping things in "collector" shape. For example, one of the most thoughtful gifts M. got for A. was a personalized Coca-Cola bottle with her name on it shipped directly to the house, and he was baffled when her first action was to open the bottle and drink the cola. 

They were both very affectionate with each other for the entire visit, but they were also very vocal about when they needed space for a few minutes to regroup. They were mindful of each other's needs. It was sweet to watch the two of them navigate the complicated social landscape of romantic interaction, and it was also amazing just how well they were able to do so.

It definitely isn't your typical high school romance, but I could not have imagined a better match, and I could not have wished for a better first boyfriend for my eldest daughter. I'm so very grateful they found each other, and that they had the opportunity to spend such a wonderful week together.

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A Visitation from California
July 20, 2015 3:03 PM by Devon Alley

(This is part 1 of a 2 part series.)

These past few blog entries have focused on A.'s online relationship with a boy in California who is also on the spectrum. This past week, M. and his mother flew all the way to Tennessee to visit us. It was the first time A. and M. met each other in real life, and I had a bit of apprehension about the visit - What if it went badly? What if they were both overwhelmed? Needless to say, my worries were unfounded, and they both had an amazing time.

We met them at a local restaurant on Tuesday. As soon as we arrived, A. and M. ran to meet each other with enthusiastic hugs. It was incredibly adorable. The two of them sat down at their own table, began quoting from their favorite Internet videos, and when they needed to release some energy, they both paced around the back of the restaurant, almost as if in time with the other. A. carried her video game plush character with her everywhere, and M. did the same. They both spoke to each other in very blunt, to-the-point language, and they shared similar rehearsed-sounding laughs. It really seemed as if the two were made for each other.

On Wednesday, we carted the kids off to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge/Sevierville, where they explored indoor water parks and other amusements while we moms found other ways to amuse ourselves. On Thursday, we had a rather failed attempt at visiting Dollywood, even though M. was so very sweet and patient with A. and her paralyzing fear of insects.

On Friday, we went back to the mountains so the kids could explore further indoor amusements, and then we visited my in-laws out in the country. M. managed to convince A. that it wasn't so terrible to be outside, and at one point I looked out and they were way down the hill and in the middle of a cow pasture. I never would have dreamed in a million years that A. could be convinced to go that far away from the indoors.

Saturday, the kids had a quiet day indoors, and we ended the evening at a friend's house shooting off fireworks. On Sunday, they said goodbye, and M. and his mother flew back to California.

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An Online Romance, Part Three
July 13, 2015 4:37 PM by Devon Alley
One of the biggest pieces of news that has occurred in our household in the last year has been A.'s budding long-distance relationship with M., a friend she met on the Internet who lives in California. She has yet to meet this young man, but we are looking forward to a visit from him within the next few weeks.

I'm fascinated about the fact that A. has developed a romance over such a long distance with a friend who is also on the spectrum, but I felt awkward talking about the situation as an observer, and as a parent. I thought that, instead, I would interview A. about the situation, and let her explain in her own words. What follows is part three of this interview.

Q: So, would you consider this a serious relationship? 

A: I want to make sure it's as genuine as possible. You know - generosity?

 

Q: So, M. is also on the spectrum. Do you feel like you understand each other really well?

A: Mmm hmm. If you have the same interests, chances are you might have a great friendship, or possibly more than that.

 

Q: What is your biggest worry?

A: You know that people have thoughts about suicide and all? When people get depressed, I always worry that chances are that people would want to commit suicide. He tells me that he would never do something like that. But I still worry when he has the bad days. I hate to see him upset.

 

Q: Do you talk to him about your feelings?

A: Yeah. We give each other comfort and hugs - tons of hugs; all of the hugs.

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An Online Romance, Part Two
July 7, 2015 2:42 PM by Devon Alley
One of the biggest pieces of news that has occurred in our household in the last year has been A.'s budding long-distance relationship with M., a friend she met on the Internet who lives in California. She has yet to meet this young man, but we are looking forward to a visit from him within the next few weeks.

I'm fascinated about the fact that A. has developed a romance over such a long distance with a friend who is also on the spectrum, but I felt awkward talking about the situation as an observer and as a parent. I thought that, instead, I would interview A. about the situation, and let her explain in her own words. What follows is part two of this interview.

Q: What's the worst thing about having a boyfriend on the Internet? 

A: Why would anybody say that? I mean, there are usually bad days, but eventually they'll get over it. If you're always there for them, chances are they're going to be there for you, no matter what happens. And yes, we do have bad days, but in the end everything works out. Because you know why? We cheer ourselves up. It's important to do that when you're in a relationship.

 

Q: What do you mean by "cheer up?" 

A: I show him funny videos; I draw him some love art of me and him.

 

Q: Which is better -- making friends on the Internet, or making them in real life? 

A: It depends, really. People argue on whether you should meet them in real life or just on the Internet. I think that's a bunch of bull crap. I think you can meet a person wherever you want whether that's in real life or on the Internet. I hope to meet him someday.

 

Q: Do you think it's easier for you to have a romantic relationship over the Internet? 

A: Well, I don't know. It's hard to be in a relationship you know, that is if you want to keep it healthy. Because I've heard some not so peasant endings to a relationship, and I want to make sure that never happens to us.

 

Q: What will you do to keep that from happening? 

A: Simple. Be there for him every single day. Whether he be down or whatever mood he's in, I'm always going to stick by him, no matter what happens.

 

Q: Do you feel like he's there for you too? 

A: Of course. We love each other very much.

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An Online Romance
June 30, 2015 10:12 AM by Devon Alley
One of the biggest pieces of news that has occurred in our household in the last year has been A.'s budding long-distance relationship with M., a friend she met on the Internet who lives in California. She has yet to meet this young man, but we are looking forward to a visit from him within the next few weeks.

I'm fascinated about the fact that A. has developed a romance over such a long distance with a friend who is also on the spectrum, but I felt awkward talking about the situation as an observer and as a parent. I thought that, instead, I would interview A. about the situation, and let her explain in her own words. What follows is part one of this interview.

Q: Describe M. What's he like?

A: Funny. Imaginative. He's an amazing voice actor. We have the same interests, and we like to make each other laugh.

 

Q: What are his interests?

A: Mario, Pokemon, Castle Crashers, Shovel Knight...lots of video games. And music. And TV Shows.

 

Q: Where did you meet him?

A: Deviant Art. He was browsing through a lot of stuff when he found some Castle Crashers fan art that I had done, which was a picture of the Conehead Groom, which he liked very much.

 

Q: He lives pretty far away, right?

A: Yes.

 

Q: How do you go on dates?

A: It's simple. We use voice chat. We like to pretend that we go to movies. We look up stuff on YouTube, and we usually like to make hilarious commentary. We usually like to just quote our favorite scenes from it.

 

Q: What's the best thing about having a boyfriend on the Internet?

A: You get to see what they're doing and all. You can check on them and see how they're doing, plus you get to hear their hilarious stuff and kind words. Of course, the Internet can be dangerous, but we were both careful.

 

Q: How were you careful?

A: We didn't talk about too much inappropriate stuff - like something too personal, because we know how it feels. We handle the stuff maturely. You have to be careful what you're saying, because if you say something that might make them uncomfortable, it's not going to be a pleasant ending.

(This is part 1 of a 3-part series.)

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Maturity and Optimism
May 11, 2015 10:07 AM by Devon Alley
This past week was a rough one. I was working long hours each day, and A. was having a crisis at her school. One of her good friends, E., stopped having anything to do with her. I'm still not sure what happened. As much as I can gather, other students have started a rumor that A. is, in fact, NOT autistic, and it seems like E. might believe these rumors, and is upset and stressed about the idea that A. may have lied to her. Whatever the reason, A. has lost a friend, and she feels pretty devastated about it.

When she called me sobbing on Friday, I decided to allow her to leave school early. My amazing mother-in-law picked her up, brought her home, and hung out with her for a while. She told A. to try to focus on happy things in-between the feelings of sadness.

I was able to leave work a little early, so A. and I went shopping, and then we went out for ice cream. As she talked to me about the situation at school, I was really impressed by her maturity. She said she was very sad about losing the friendship, but that she had to accept it. She didn't seem to be angry at all - just hurt and confused. 

As we sat and ate our ice cream, A. opened up a little. She told me that she was really lucky to have me as a mother. I thought she was going to say this was because I'd let her leave school early and was getting her ice cream before dinner, but she didn't even mention it. She told me I'd taught her how to be mature and optimistic. It was humbling to be on the receiving end of such gratitude, and I responded in kind - that I was grateful that she was my daughter because she was so compassionate, thoughtful, creative, and fun to be around. We finished our ice cream and went home, both feeling much better.

It was a very sweet and touching end to a rather emotionally exhausting week.

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Her Podcast Debut
May 4, 2015 9:33 AM by Devon Alley

Recently, A. was a guest for my friend Elle’s podcast: Into It. True to the overall theme, this episode focused on one of A.’s very favorite subjects: Pokemon.

I’ve mentioned Elle on this podcast before. A. is her goddaughter, and she’s been a close friend of the family for decades. I think that was part of what made A.’s presence on this podcast episode so successful - the level of comfort that already exists between the two, paired with Elle’s ability to mine A.’s conversation for the focus points and important themes. Elle was a gracious host, restating main ideas and asking good questions, allowing A. to be expressive without totally derailing the episode. 

 

And it worked. A.’s autism is never mentioned, and while I can hear the echolalia in her vocal cadence, it is blended with the enthusiasm and passion of a young person in love with the topic she’s discussing. She can also be very witty, making jokes and adding humorous turns of phrases that are designed to entertain. When she talks about the Pokémon Tyrantrum, for example, she says, “It’s a frickin’ T. Rex. What more could a person love in life?”

 

And even though A. is the youngest guest that’s ever been featured on Into It, she still carries herself with more maturity than I would have expected for her years, and I can believe when listening to her speak on this episode that she truly is about to learn to drive a car, go to prom, and start applying for college.

 

Not to mention, after listening to this episode, I think I finally have a true understanding of this complicated universe of Pokémon – which, of course, is really the whole point of this podcast.

Check out the Into It podcast and A.'s amazing interview.

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Just Like Me
April 27, 2015 12:37 PM by Devon Alley
You know how they always say that, when your children grow up into teenagers, they will be just like you? I must confess, when it comes to A., this is absolutely true.

I'm blessed in a way, because I happened to be a very well-behaved teenager. I minded my mom, my grandparents, and my teachers, and I worked hard to be a good student. However, I also hated the bureaucracy of the school system, the idea of authority in general, and anything that everyone else loved that seemed "mainstream" to me. I dressed in black, I hid under my headphones, and I spent my time writing pen-pals who lived all over the world, creating stories and poems out of the intricate universe in my head.

Likewise, my daughter is a well-behaved teenager. She works hard every day to listen to the teachers and do well in her classes. She complains, however, about rules she finds ridiculous, or peers who seem annoying, and if something is "mainstream," she wants no part of it. She doesn't dress in black, but she's constantly plugged into ear buds, and she spends her time chatting on the Internet with friends who live all over the world, drawing stories and digital artwork out of the intricate universe she's created.

Recently, I found a letter I'd written to one of my old pen pals. In that letter, I was complaining about how much I hated school - how annoying it was to have to spend my time learning useless things when I would rather be listening to music and writing letters to my friends. I also complained that "I haven't had a good ten hours of sleep in DAYS!" I laughed as I glanced at the clock, noted that it was almost one in the afternoon, and the teenager was still bundled underneath covers. That apple does not fall very far from this tree.

And I would not have it any other way.

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