So my hubby suggested we all go out to dinner and that we invite my parents to meet us.
We agreed on the Olive Garden, half way between our house and my parent's house, and off we went.
I was nervous. I mean, we DON'T take the boys to restaurants all together. Nick only eats peanut butter (really) and Matthew isn't much better (Matt doesn't even eat fast food except the occasional chicken nugget at McDonald's -- so this is a challenge).
Add to that it is 6pm at night when we decide this, and that Gabe is accustomed to eating at exactly 6pm (he is obsessed with food in the literal sense), so he would have to wait, most likely in a crowded restaurant, stay calm while I entertained Matthew to keep him in his seat.
I looked up the menu online and it said that the Olive Garden serves Pizza. Sold. Nick and Matt could at least order that -- whether or not they ate it is an entirely different story.
So, we were off to the Olive Garden.
And the challenges started in the over-crowded waiting room during our 20+ minute wait.
I had prepped all three with the iPhone app from Model Me Kids that shows the boy going to dinner and 'waiting calmly' for his food while driving there in the van (my hubby drove, I turned around backwards and played the app for them; didn't want you to think I was doing both). They boys all nodded in agreement and when asked how they were supposed to wait, they echoed the short clip by saying "Calmly."
While waiting for our table, we were given one of those buzzers -- that doesn't actually buzz -- but lights up when your table is ready. We were two feet from the reception desk, but nonetheless, we got the buzzer.
And Nick and Gabe could NOT take turns holding it.
They were insistent on keeping it (*cough* Gabe), and my mom and dad were doing an awesome job (as usual) making it into a game of sorts so that there weren't any meltdowns.
But Gabe was feeling inflexible on the matter.
At Nick's suggestion, I turned the buzzer over in Gabe's hand so the part that lights up would be visible, which didn't go well -- It was met with grunting and Gabe dropping to the ground in protest.
Meanwhile, I have solved the Matt wandering around problem by giving him my iPhone set to a list of YouTube videos on the new Misty Island Rescue Thomas the Tank Engine movie (yes, we have preordered the BluRay version and expect it in the mail on Tuesday). Matt is happy and busy.
So, I suggest that Gabe join Matt on the floor watching the videos. And he does.
Then he is getting antsy, and ready to eat. It is late now -- probably 7:00pm and Gabe never does well when he is hungry.
Finally we make it to our table, and finally our order is taken. Finally.
And aside from my husband hitting the server's tray and spilling red wine all over her white shirt, we didn't have many problems. Nick and Matt didn't eat -- Nick saying there weren't enough pepperonis on the pizza, and Matt refusing to let the iPhone go in favor of the Thomas Videos. We went with it: After all, the goal wasn't to get them good nutrition, the goal was to get out of the house and avoid boredom.
We finished dinner, much to Gabriel's chagrin, as he would've preferred to EAT EAT EAT EAT EAT EAT EAT EAT EAT EAT all night long. But his awful and mean mommy wouldn't let him. Now, to be fair here, we did discus in the van previous to getting to dinner that the plan would be to "Order one meal and eat it." Not order more food once his meal was gone just because we were at a restaurant and he felt he 'could'. That created a meltdown at a breakfast restaurant a little less than a year ago when he finished his breakfast before everyone else, and I refused to order him a second one (no way we could wait until he was served and ate again). Point being: I know to prepare him for this.
After dinner we were playing a game - I put three things in a small pocket inside my purse, then give clues as to what they were while they guess. The first round went spectacularly: Costco Card, lipstick and Diet Pepsi bottle lid. They guessed them all (my mom played too).
Round two, came down to stamps. I had given an-all-too-obvious clue which led Nick to shoot his hand straight in the air and Gabe to blurt out "STAMPS!"
I looked at Gabe and said, "You're Right!"
Then pointed at Nick, "Yes, Nick, go ahead." I say, and he says, "It was my turn!"
"Say your answer now." I say, and he yells, "Stamps!"
"You're right!" I say.
But Gabe wasn't having it.
"NO, I AM RIGHT!" He bellows.
"You can both be right." I say trying to diffuse the situation for both of them; I didn't want the two of them arguing in the restaurant and Nick is not likely to give up being right so easily.
Gabe grabbed his large plastic glass of water and squeezed it until the lid popped off. Then threw it under the table.
I just let it happen.
Then he stood up, and screamed a loud, excruciatingly loud sound that permeated the entire room of diners and left me feeling exposed.
Jeff stood up quickly and said, "I'll take him to the van."
I grabbed Gabe by the arm, and led him around me and handed him off to my husband. Gabe was glaring this dirty mean look he has when he is just PISSED and I glanced up at Jeff and said, "He's not in trouble; let me get things picked up here and I'll be right there."
Jeff nodded and off they went.
I stayed and picked up the rest of the table; books, restaurant BINGO, trains, iPhones and of course, kids while chatting with my mom and Nick and finishing our 'What's in the purse game."
I wasn't phased by Gabe's ordeal, not anything like I have been before, but instead I was sad. I think Gabe is regressing. I know that I am the first person to say "It isn't regression!", but this is a different kind of regression: This is regression over years.
And that moment in the Olive Garden before I got the boys organized enough to leave, and before I said the Thank Yous and Goodbyes to my parents, I started to take stock of the regressions I have really come to understand over the last two weeks Gabe has been home from summer school.
He is noticeably weaker. Just two years ago, it was noticeable that Gabriel was very strong for his age. Strong sense of balance, able to do 5 pull ups, strong at gymnastics, moving furniture, and more. Not now. Now he hates to even lift light things. He can't pick up and move the kitchen chairs as he used to be able to (and now Nick can easily). He can't do even a single pull up. Maybe it is weight gain? Or medicine?
He hates physical exercise. It used to be that he was active. Never hyper, but active. Now, all he wants to do is lay down. Says he hates exercise, and complains when we go for a walk, or go outside to ride bikes (he rides for a while, then lays in the grass). I would never say that Gabriel is lazy, he is very willing to be helpful, but he has lost any physical endurance he may have had.
He has lost play skills. I think this may be an attention issue, and I also think there is a huge part of this that is influenced by his Bipolar Disorder, but some of it may be just be a loss of play skills. I am telling you, as the day is long, Gabe cannot entertain himself. AT. ALL. Add to that, he doesn't seem to recreate any scenarios. Nick just comes up with something and goes for it. Gabe used to have endless ideas to express, and they have gone away. No longer do I have 'control of play' battles with them - Gabe has no ideas.
He has lost motor planning. An example would be when we were cleaning the floors this week -- an activity that all of my kids literally LOVE (proprioception mixed with getting to squirt the chemicals on the floor makes for an irresistible sensory activity) -- but Gabe couldn't figure out how to do the cleaning. He didn't remember the process -- left to right, top to bottom -- that is required to actually get the floor clean. I was so frustrated with him because at first I thought he was making up that he didn't know how. But, turns out, he forgot. (This could be to blame for him hating exercise, being weaker, and having no attention span, but who knows...).
He has lost language. Or maybe it is just noticeable that he isn't progressing, yet keeps getting older and the expectation is that he should. But, I swear, he is leaving off whole sounds in his words (like any word that ends in 'r' he will leave off the r sound: "Butta" instead of "Butter"), is not articulating as well as he has previously, and is still completely leaving out words of sentences. I have talked to him about 'baby talk' and how we are all big kids at our house and we should intentionally say words correctly (some of this, I think, is that it is hard for him to express himself, so he tries to take a short cut). But, he is definitely going back to private Speech Therapy this year.
I am not sure exactly what to do here or how to make this better. But, like all families with kids that have complicated diagnosis, complex neurological conditions, and challenging behaviors (I have officially dubbed our kids "3C Kids"), it means more doctor's visits, therapy sessions and of course, Googling.
But, until then, I have learned my lesson, the same lesson I learn every year, yet don't seem to actually grasp: Don't take my "3C Kid" to a restaurant.