He Belongs

Martin asked, “Why is this school year going so much faster than last year?”

I answered, “It can seem like time goes faster when you’re having fun. Do you think you’re having more fun at school this year?”

He said, “This year is way better than last year. The kids are so much nicer, because everyone knows me better now.”

I don’t consider myself a superstitious person. Yet I hesitate to post good news on Finding My Kid. I ask myself, What if tomorrow things go bad again? If I say today that Martin is doing well, do my readers assume that will always be true? Isn’t it easier to admit when we’re going through a tough time, and thus to set a lower bar that subsequently I can exceed? Am I going to jinx his whole recovery?

Martin has a handful of friends now—friends he made himself instead of in social-skills group or otherwise organized by me. Despite April’s unsuccessful play date, I think the friend situation continues to improve. What follows is a series of texts from last week with Martin’s school behaviorist, Debbie. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may recall that I affectionately refer to the behaviorist as Debbie Downer, because she never seems to hesitate in giving bad news, which makes these texts all the more precious:

He’s totally part of the class now. Today was another [happy] tear-filled day. I just watched him interacting with his peers and them calling his name across the room to share in a private joke or ask each other questions.

I wish this year wouldn’t end for him.

We have so many kids that we can choose from now to request to be in his class next year.

You know, you probably could invite the whole class to his birthday party if it’s not too late. If you’re concerned about a lot of rejections you wouldn’t even have to tell him that you invited everyone. You would just be happy with whoever showed up.

You guys should be very proud of your little boy.

When I pick Martin up after school now, we cross the parking lot to the sound of “’Bye, Martin! ’Bye!” The other kids are talking to him.

Last week Adrian and I attended Martin’s IEP meeting, where this progress was confirmed. The speech teacher recommended switching from a mix of one-on-one and small-group instruction to small-group only, on the grounds that Martin progresses better when he has other kids to talk to, instead of being just with a grown-up. The resource teacher said the same thing she said at our last check-in: that Martin does not need resource room. The classroom teacher echoed what Debbie had said. We all decided that Martin no longer requires a one-on-one aide. Next year, he will share the aide with another student. The idea is to pair Martin with a special-education student who needs more academic support and less social support. Martin, who apparently no longer needs much academic support, won’t have someone looking over his shoulder in the classroom but will retain the benefit of the aide in the wild west that is gym class, lunch, and playground.

Friday before last, Martin was invited to a classmate’s birthday party. (The mom had invited every boy in the class, but still, Martin was invited!) The party was at an indoor track-and-field center, and chaos reigned. (The mom had also invited every boy in the twin brother’s class, plus friends from outside school.) Martin was hardly leading the pack; sports aren’t his forte. Still, he did fine and did not freak out or melt down—even when a boy who bullied him last year but has since switched schools showed up unexpectedly. Martin kept his distance from that boy and just did his thing. At one point, I saw Martin and the birthday boy from his class walking with their arms around each other’s shoulders.

Sorry about all the italics. How can I help it?

I left Martin’s IEP meeting feeling like a million bucks. Last school year was so difficult, and I constantly questioned whether we had made a bad decision when we pulled Martin from his self-contained special-education school and placed him in our local public elementary. Here was a team of professionals agreeing that Martin, finally, is bridging the gap and becoming more like a regular kid.

The same day as the IEP meeting, I attended an allergy-awareness presentation at the school. On the way out I ran into a church acquaintance, a mom I barely know but whose kids attend both school and Kids’ Klub with Martin. She looked confused and asked me what I was doing there. I said I’d also been at the allergy-awareness presentation. She still looked confused, so I asked, “Did you know Martin goes to school here?” She replied, “No. I had no idea,” and then added, “Martin goes to this school?”

As a special-needs parent, I have a tendency to perceive slights against Martin. I could have interpreted this mom’s question as geographic, i.e., surprise because she didn’t realize we live near each other; our district has several elementary schools. But of course I didn’t interpret her question as geographic. I assumed that what she’s seen of Martin at church has convinced her that he doesn’t belong in mainstream school with her kids.

I said, “Yes, Martin goes to this school. Did you think he isn’t good enough? Why would you suggest that to me? I have news—your kids are hardly brilliant.”

Just kidding.

I said, “Yes, Martin is in Mrs. B—’s class.”

And I thought, “That’s just where he belongs.”

Exit Door. Not Always Available

This is a photo of Martin’s right foot, taken this morning:

IMG_0486

See that red spot, on the top of his foot toward his ankle? Martin has had this mark, which I assume originated as an insect bite or other irritation, for months.

If you can, revisit the post I wrote in July 2015 titled, “Want to Know What Terrifies Biomed Parents?” That post includes two photos of Martin’s left foot, the first showing an apparent bull’s-eye rash and the second showing the faded rash.

Yesterday it occurred to me that the spot on Martin’s foot now might be a reemergence of the bull’s eye. I returned to the July 2015 post, only to find that I was mistaken: The bull’s eye appeared on his left foot, and the mark he has now is mirror image on his right foot.

But I would not have been surprised to find the two spots in the same place. Martin carries so much on his skin, or just below. His legs last week looked like this:

IMG_0507

They were already significantly improved from the week before, when he left blood spots on his pajamas and in his bed. (Based on a comment received from the Recovering Kids Regarding Caroline site, I tried CBD balm on his skin, and it seems to be working! His skin looks better every day, which is important with shorts season upon us.)

Martin’s arms today look like this:

IMG_0508

They too are significantly improved from last week, when the school nurse called me to say Martin was scratching his arms so much that she was hesitating to return him to class.

Much of what needs to leave Martin—toxins, parasites, even viruses—exits through his skin.

And yet, much also stays behind.

The back of Martin’s left hand has a bruise, right in the middle. He’s had this bruise

since the day he was born, when he was placed in the NICU and unnecessarily administered an antibiotic drip. That mark is where they stuck the IV line that I believe contributed significantly to Martin’s gut dysbiosis (and hence his autism), and he’s carried it ten years down, despite laser therapy and massage to fade the bruise.

If one day we are done with autism and ADD and ADHD and anxiety and social-pragmatic language delay, that bruise will probably still remain, to remind us what happened to our child.

Dropping Him off, Into the Unknown

Tough few days here, in the process of Finding My Kid.

In his life, Martin has had three “drop-off” play dates. The first was more than a year ago, when I left him with one of my friends who has a typically developing son Martin’s age. Though my friend generously spared me the details of the 90-minute play date, I could tell at pick-up that Martin had played alone (and fussily) and ignored her son, who ended up resenting Martin and teasing him at school. The second drop-off play date was a couple months ago, when I left Martin at his friend Jonathan’s house. Jonathan, who has some special needs, is the oldest of four boys (I mentioned them last year), and two of his younger brothers had friends over also. I’m not sure how many kids were in the house. Maybe eight or nine. A bunch of adults were there, too, watching the Winter Olympics. Martin disappeared immediately upstairs with Jonathan. I had no trouble leaving; Jonathan’s mom knows Martin well, and with her houseful of boys, I think she could handle just about anything short of a nuclear explosion. Whatever Martin did while there, he was happy when I returned, and Jonathan was happy, and all was well.

Last Friday was the third drop-off play date. Martin was invited to go after school to the home of Manuel, his school chum who, despite some challenges, is more or less typically developing. Manuel’s grandmother and mother both urged me to let Martin stay alone. I did so, albeit with reservations that they might not understand the extent of Martin’s challenges. I left and texted my friend Stacey:

I just let Martin go to a drop-off play date and now I’m too nervous to do anything.

I don’t want to get back and find out that he freaked or had a meltdown or something, ugh.

I’m seriously hovering a few blocks away in my car in case I get a text.

As it turned out, my reservations were well-founded. Although the grandmother (who supervised) was kind and generous with her words, Manuel began complaining as soon as I returned to retrieve Martin. Manuel said Martin hadn’t listened. Martin had hit him with the sword. Martin was running into the street. Martin didn’t want to play his games. And so on. And so forth. I could see for myself that Martin was hyperactive and agitated. I thanked Manuel and his grandmother for the play date and hustled Martin to the car. How did he think the play date went? I asked. So-so, he responded. Some good and some bad.

From Manuel’s perspective, I have to believe, the play date was more bad than good. We didn’t see Manuel again until Monday at school pick-up, when he rejected Martin’s overtures to play, for which his grandmother was apologetic. Tuesday, Martin appeared sad when I picked him up from school. (At that time, Manuel was trying to play handball with the rowdier boys, an activity in which Martin shows no interest.) Martin refused to disclose anything that might be making him sad. More than an hour later, when I was dropping him at church for Kids’ Klub, he said, “Why didn’t anyone want to play with me at recess?” I asked a few questions and learned that Manuel, Lucas, and the two classmates who usually talk Minecraft with him all said no when Martin asked them to play.

Manuel liked playing with Martin before Friday afternoon. Thereafter, not so much.

If I want to appease myself, I have plenty reasons why the Friday play date went poorly. For example:

>    Manuel’s grandmother had invited Martin specifically to play video games. Martin was so much looking forward to the video games; Manuel has a gaming system that Martin thinks he might want for his birthday, and video games are one arena in which Martin feels comfortable with—equal to?—other kids. As it turns out, the family is half-packed to move, and some cable required for the video gaming system had gone missing. No video gaming occurred.

>    Martin expected to play with just Manuel. When he arrived, Manuel suggested that they follow his usual practice of meeting two other friends as they got off the school bus. Martin knows the other two boys and agreed readily to include them, and in the end they stayed only 15 minutes. Still, their presence created another change in plans.

>    Martin’s palate expander was falling out again. The darned thing was hanging, detached, on one side. Martin kept trying to reattach that side, and he could barely speak. The entire device finally detached during the play date.

>    Manuel is moving next month. Martin is full of anxiety about this. Anxiety, in Martin, can manifest as anything from confusion to silliness to defiance.

In the end, my excuses don’t matter much. The Friday event went poorly because Martin couldn’t manage to play well with others. We still have work to do on social skills.

Or do my excuses matter? How much mischief did the anxiety cause? Last night I met with Martin’s psychologist. I mentioned the play date debacle, and why I thought Martin might have had more trouble than usual. The psychologist said, “That explains these pictures he’s been creating.” She showed my two sheets. On the first, Martin had drawn a car driving away, with Manuel inside and Martin outside yelling, “Manuel!!!!!!!” On the second sheet, Martin had drawn the outline of Florida (where Manuel is moving), a car packed and ready to depart, and Martin and Manuel saying goodbye to each other.

I wish something could be easy for my kid. Anything at all.

Hurray for the Detox

Three months ago, I wrote a post titled, “Take Heart. There Is Also More Than I Can Manage,” in which I described (1) believing that Martin needed a better detox protocol, and (2) feeling certain that we could not manage a protocol I found on the Recovering Kids/Regarding Caroline blog. I concluded by compiling an abbreviated—and still “aspirational”—plan for Martin:

  1. A foot bath during iPad time at least four days per week.
  2. Dry brushing Saturday (or Sunday), Wednesday, and Friday.
  3. Herx water before breakfast and after school.

I’m here to report that the abbreviated detox plan has been so successful for Martin that we now exceed the aspirations. He gets the foot bath four days per week. With limited exceptions, we are dry brushing every day, and Martin drinks herx water before breakfast, after school, and again before bed. Depending on how the day is going, I might even slip in a fourth herx water.

As to the dry brushing, the nightly routine arose through his own initiative. The first time we undertook the brushing, I expected him to get bored or frustrated. Instead, he stood patiently and asked to help me count the brush strokes: “one, two, three, four, five, six, one, two, three, four, five six.” I took a break the next two nights, not wanting to “overdo” the new routine. On the third day, Martin remarked, “Remember the brushing thing? We should do that again.” So we dry-brushed that evening, and Martin said, “We should do this every night.” Since then, he becomes agitated if I’m home and we miss a night.

As to the foot baths (which he tolerates) and the herx water (which he despises), the proof has been in the pudding. I wanted a new detox routine because of Martin’s constant silliness, which was impeding his social progress. When Martin is detox-y, he cannot control his laughing and his calling out, even when he knows the behavior is inappropriate. (This happens also when he’s yeasty, which I could tell was not the primary issue in January.) The silliness decreased almost as soon as we started daily dry brushing and, as of today I would estimate that the decrease is about 90%. Martin’s increased self-control has even led to a couple social breakthroughs. He’s made a few friends at school. The school behaviorist, whom I like to call Debbie Downer because she shares so much negative news, sent me these texts yesterday:

Hi. All good reports. Minimal silliness this week. More peers going to Martin and interacting with him.

Data are looking good, and consistent. Will be picking new targets but need to think about them, as he’s doing well. Pace of unpacking and packing [his backpack] up.

Remember when I told you that you know when a kid makes it when everybody else starts to copy them? Well they’re starting to copy some of the things that Martin does.

All good news! What are they copying?

Some of the silly behavior. Blurting out “Mister Poopy Pants” or something like that from Captain Underpants, or calling out “ice cream” just out of the blue.

They think it’s funny so they do it as well.

            Oh . . . fab . . . .

Yes. Teacher loves it, lol.

Of course, despite these advances, life is no bed of roses. It never is. Those his self-control has improved in almost every other area, Martin remains fixated on a girl from his taekwondo class, Abby. He can’s seem to stop bothering poor Abby, alternately calling her cute and ugly, pushing her, running into her. When I confront him, he cries and says, “I don’t know why I do it! I just can’t control myself around Abby!”

Also, Martin’s skin is a mess, even worse than before we started the detox protocol. I think clearing pores and stimulating the lymphatic system, which dry brushing is designed to do, makes something I wrote six years ago just as true today: “[Martin’s] digestive tract isn’t as good as it should be at spitting out bad stuff, so his skin overcompensates.” He picks at the scratches, sores, and tiny bumps covering his limbs. I avoid the spots carefully when dry brushing. The weather has remained chilly this spring, so I have him wear long sleeves to school, but that won’t last forever. The school nurse already phoned me once to say Martin couldn’t stop scratching his arms. I attributed the behavior to dry skin, because really, how am I supposed to explain to a traditional school nurse that antimicrobial killing of bartonella and babesia can produce a lot of toxins, which we are managing through an extensive daily protocol? It’s hard enough to explain the whole thing to you, dear readers, and I know you are educated sorts.

A New Era

Today, Martin got braces on his teeth. He’s nine years old, almost 10. His permanent teeth haven’t all arrived, yet. We’ve known for years that braces would be in his future. His teeth are all over the place. They started with gaps and have pushed farther outward with his habit of pressing the front teeth against stainless-steel straws and drinking-glass rims.

Still, the decision to get braces now did not come easy. (As if any decision came easily, in Autismrecoveryland.) Some parents in my circles have complained of regressions and/or adverse reaction to the materials when their children started orthodontics. Martin is still growing. On the other hand, we understand that corrective orthodontics may help with Martin’s lingering pronunciation difficulties. (From Martin, “three” emerges as “free.”) We’d also like to have as much treatment accomplished as possible before he enters middle school.

I myself work bulky braces—those horrendous old-fashioned brackets attached to metal bands that wrapped around the teeth, including the front teeth—from age nine to age 13.

img_0453.jpg

Sorry for the poor resolution of this photo. I had to search the internet to find evidence that these types of braces existed, once upon a time. This is how my mouth looked for four-and-a-half years.

I am relieved that orthodontics have evolved at least enough to spare Martin that ordeal. After some research, Adrian and I decided on orthodontics with the Advanced Light Force (ALF) appliance, which apparently utilizes the jaw’s own growth patterns. Martin’s had the ALF palate expander for several months already. Several troublesome months. At first his fingers constantly found their way into his mouth, and the delicate device popped out. One was damaged in the process and required an expensive replacement. We forged ahead nevertheless. The palate expander is back in his mouth, and now brackets are attached.

IMG_0447 2

Also not the best photo! Martin was in no mood for a photo session after getting his brackets. Still, it is plain to see that he’s going to have a more comfortable time of orthodontics than I did.

Starting orthodontics reminds me that, physically, my little boy is verging on pre-teen. Though he’s still nine, his size-medium (“US 10-12”) pants are revealing glimpses of his ankles. I’m getting rid of t-shirts weekly because they no longer reach his waistband. The daily grind of autism recovery can make the days feel long and slow; the realization that childhood won’t last forever comes upon me quickly.

Darling Little Obsessions

At 8:30 Sunday morning, Martin was having a mini-meltdown. He danced awkwardly through the kitchen and family room, yelling, “No alterations! No, never! Mommy, is Daddy right? Can he make alterations? No, it’s thee scoops!”

The morning tantrum was prompted by sorbet. We planned to eat dinner at a restaurant Sunday evening. Nine hours before the event, Martin was already fixated on getting three scoops of sorbet. A sorbet order, he claimed, is three scoops. Last visit to the restaurant Adrian had “altered” the order and asked for Martin to receive just one. When Martin, at Sunday breakfast, demanded to know whether Adrian planned to alter that evening’s order, Adrian replied that Martin could ask for half-scoops of two different flavors, but it was better if he ate only one scoop total. And then Martin freaked.

Martin has two obsessions these days: food and iPad.

The food obsession worries me more, because (1) as opposed to an iPad fixation, food fixation is less common; and (2) its cause, at least in part, is the diet we follow for recovery. Martin is allergic to dairy and to red meat. He hasn’t had gluten in more than seven years. We avoid soy. Other than those restrictions, I currently let just about everything else slide when we are dining out, within reason. Martin is now wise enough to pin me down on these restrictions: “I can have anything but dairy and gluten, right?” “How much sugar can I have?” “Does gluten-free pasta have sugar? How much?” “Are French fries a treat?” He’s developed a give-me-an-inch-and-I-will-take-a-light-year approach to pushing boundaries. I made the mistake, last year, in an effort to harmonize a Sunday dinner, of allowing Martin to order a dish of sorbet for dessert. Martin immediately placed sorbet into his foods-I-can-eat column and fixated on whether sorbet is a “treat,” i.e., something he gets only in limited quantities versus something he can eat whenever. Fast forward to today: Within five minutes of awakening, routinely, he’s asking about whether and when he will get sorbet that day, the first of may food questions.

I overcompensate. I reason that the less Martin feels left out, the less he will fixate. The freezer in the school nurse’s office is stocked with GFCF cupcakes, donuts, and ice cream, in case of classroom party or event. Every Tuesday afternoon Martin shows up to church with a snack more desirable than the pretzels and cookies the others receive. I always keep supplies to conjure a GFCF pizza, on a moment’s notice. Sunday evening, at the restaurant, Adrian ordered key lime pie for dessert. (Adrian and I allow ourselves dessert only if Martin has an equally appealing option. He had his sorbet.) “What’s that? Can I eat that? Does it have gluten or dairy?” Martin asked, when the pie arrived. I replied, “That’s called key lime pie. This one has dairy, but would you like to try key lime pie that you can eat?” He said yes. I promptly rearranged my Monday afternoon schedule so that I could take two hours to prepare GFCF key lime pie. The policy letter I was engaged to write for work would have to wait. Like I said, I overcompensate.

Then there’s the iPad. Weekdays, Martin gets 30 minutes of iPad time, after homework is complete, and dammit, he’s going to make sure he gets that time. Weekends are tougher still. I try to limit the iPad to 60 minutes, but that means occupying him the remaining 12 hours he’s awake. Yes, of course I know that I’m supposed to let him be bored so that he’ll find creative ways to occupy himself. Thus far, however, the only way he’s found to occupy himself is to beg for the iPad and stage a tantrum if his wish goes unfulfilled.

I admire parents who draw the line and curb obsessive behavior by getting rid of the iPad altogether. I’m unwilling to follow their example, for two reasons. First, admittedly, I fear the weeks of meltdown and the impact on my life, which already lacks enough hours to accomplish my goals. There could be no trial period in an action like iPad removal; if we said we were getting the rid of the iPad but eventually relented and returned the device, Martin would never respect a parental decision again. Second, paradoxically, screen time is one way that Martin is able to connect to other kids. He’s made a couple school friends through Minecraft, and other games like Subway Surfers give him ready conversation topics when he finds a fellow player. He also uses the iPad to send messages to his cousin and to his uncle. I’ve decided I am okay with him having the device, with time limits. I do wish the iPad weren’t always on his mind whenever it’s not in his hands.

Martin got his three scoops of sorbet, Sunday evening. While Martin was visiting the bathroom, Adrian asked our server please to tell Martin that an order of sorbet comprises one scoop only. The server did that. Then he added: “And you, young man, may have as many orders as you’d like!” At that point, our dilemma was three scoops sorbet, or an in-restaurant meltdown (which would have been highly unusual, but Martin was having one heckuva bad day). We went with three scoops.

Then Martin accidentally broke a glass, and melted down anyway.

IMG_0444

The Remains of the D…essert. The recipe called for coconut cream, which I didn’t have. I substituted coconut butter, and the topping came out less smooth and more chunky. Nevertheless, my GFCF key lime pie was a hit.

Difficult Come, Easy Go

Two years ago, I wrote my only post ever titled in all-caps: “MARTIN MADE FRIENDS.” I described how Martin finally managed to make friends in a scenario not arranged by adults: He rode his bicycle across the street to play with the twin girls who live there. I also admitted that the friend-making appeared limited to the specific situation—the same week, Martin bombed a play date and failed to speak to another neighbor girl. I predicted that making friends might be one of those skills that pops up, disappears, and then reemerges to stay.

The friendship with our twin neighbors faded, once other kids got involved. That fall, Martin transferred to the same school as those girls, and they joined the school-bus bullying fiasco. Martin tried sometimes to make friends at recess, but his classmates rejected him, and we were left with only playmates from his social-skills group and former special-education school.

Twenty-four (long) months later, fledgling friend-making is back. A month or two ago, as Martin and I were walking to the car at afternoon school pick-up, a boy ran up and said, “’Bye, Martin! See you tomorrow.” Martin replied, evenly, “’Bye, Manuel.”

“Martin,” I asked in the car, “who was that boy?”

“That’s my friend Manuel. He just moved here from Texas.”

“Is he in your class?”

“No, I met him at recess.” Martin said this matter-of-factly, as if he were constantly making new friends on the playground.

I asked Martin whether he’d like to invite Manuel for a play date. He replied that he would.

The next afternoon, I introduced myself to Manuel’s grandmother, who picks him up from school because his mother works. The grandmother said, “Oh, you’re Martin’s mom! Manuel talks about Martin. Let’s get them together.” We arranged a drop-off play date, at our house. The play date lasted two hours, which is a long time for Martin to hold it together and pay attention to another kid, but he managed, and the affair went pretty well (some bumps, resolved with agreement to watch a spooky video together). Thereafter, Martin reported playing with Manuel at recess several times. Once he said, sadly, that Manuel had decided to play soccer with some other boys instead. I suggested that Martin consider asking to play soccer too, but he said he was sure Manuel and other boys would say he couldn’t play. The next day, however, Martin announced that he indeed asked to play soccer, and that the boys had said yes, and that he had played soccer. I was overjoyed.

Most recently, Martin invited Manuel to “bring a friend” day at his taekwondo school. I consider this Martin’s first self-generated, sustained friendship. Manuel is a cheerful and polite boy, slightly clumsy and overweight, in a mainstream classroom and receiving limited (very limited, by our standards) special-education services. I don’t envision him and Martin ever becoming the coolest kids on the playground. That’s fine by me. Adrian and I were hardly cool kids, either.

Martin plays Minecraft on his iPad. Back in February, he asked me to buy him a particular Minecraft book he’d seen two classmates reading. I did so gladly, because Martin hates reading, and I’m happy for anything that gets him looking at words. Then Martin asked for a plush Minecraft zombie, and then for a plush Minecraft baby zombie. I hesitated, as Martin is nine years old and doesn’t need any more stuffed animals, but relented on the basis that the Minecraft theme might be a way to connect with other kids. I made the right choice: Martin’s teacher and behaviorist both said that a couple boys from class asked Martin to play with his zombies, and subsequently that the three of them were sitting together talking Minecraft at lunch and snack time. Martin himself said, excitedly, that he’d played “zombie chase” at recess with his “friends.” His request for the plush toys appears to have been calculated, for the purpose of attracting positive attention. Good work.

Martin also has reported that playing more with Lucas. Martin has known Lucas since fall 2016, when they shared a desk, and we’ve attempted play dates with him before, without too much success. Now Martin says the two of them have invented a game that involves hanging upside-down on the playground slide and yelling, “Help me!” (Um, okay . . . .)

In sum, over the last couple months, Martin has cultivated a playground repertoire. He plays with Manuel, he engages in Minecraft-related activities with classmates, or he hangs out on the climbing equipment with Lucas. When none of those options is available, Martin says, he sits and reads a Minecraft book. Last year he spent virtually every recess alone on the swings. The swings have been removed due to ongoing construction at Martin’s school. I was scared of what that removal could mean for recess, but he seems to be weathering the storm. He’s made a few friends.

And now—just a few months after moving here, Manuel’s family has decided to leave. The cost-of-living in our area is too high, Manuel’s mother says, and they aren’t able to make ends meet.

Martin is losing his first real, independently found friend. He’s crushed.

So are we. Adrian asked me, “Could we lend them money? Help pay for their apartment? Anything?” He wasn’t serious, of course. We can’t go around sponsoring families to make sure Martin has friends.

Even if we might do just about anything else.