19 May 2020 — The COVID Diaries: Staying Sane in a Time That’s Not


Dear Diary,

Today was our annual meeting in cooperation with Ian, his social worker, and his care provider to write and edit his Individual Support Plan (ISP) and update the detailed report of his needs, interests, and preferences, as well as what services he requires as an adult who experiences intellectual and developmental disability. It comprises an enormous battery of information, including his areas of strength and vulnerability in medical, financial, behavioral, social, emotional, and vocational arenas. Everything from yes, he balances well and can walk up and down stairs unassisted to no, he still doesn’t like pasta. Also, he wants to own a macaw someday. But, really, who doesn’t?

The ISP meeting is as encouraging as it is stressful because it’s an honest and frank conversation that includes victories and celebrations as well as what was hard last year, what’s not going so well, and what did or could cause harm so we can mitigate that together in the year to come. I’m grateful for Ian and Ian’s team who are committed to helping him live his best life. We all need a kind community — and an honest one — to thrive, and that’s what he has. It’s why he’s happy most days. It’s why I can rest easy, knowing he’s active and learning and content living with another family and with other young men who experience similar challenges. He is, in every sense, not alone. He’s with people who understand. He’s with people who cheer him on. And he’s with people who don’t put up with his bullshit. May we all be so lucky.

But I admit, Diary, as much as the ISP — like the IEPs before them — are full of highs and lows, they’re also… funny. Mostly when I realize my son and I are essentially the same person. Functionally the same person. Deeply and unalterably the same person. If anyone was writing an ISP for me, it would include much of the same information.

Beth is able to participate in housework but she needs periodic reminders and prefers someone else do the cleaning.

I mean, obviously.

When Beth cleans, she goes through the motions but doesn’t necessarily complete the task thoroughly. It’s more of a… symbolic cleaning.


Beth prefers to have others complete her laundry.


Beth’s goals include owning another dog. Also, a macaw.

Also-also, a miniature horse and baby skunks.

Beth sometimes uses her attitude and body language to communicate her displeasure instead of using her words.



So, you know. As far as I can tell, an ISP is pretty much the same thing as A List of What It’s Like to Be Human. 


Like mother, like son.

Yours truly,




P.S. “Symbolic cleaning” is my new favorite phrase. Also, it shall henceforth be my specified threshold for chore completion. “Are you done with your chores? Well, I don’t know. Would you say you at least symbolically cleaned? Yes? Well then, excellent. Let’s mark that shit done.”

P.P.S. “Symbolic cleaning” works seamlessly with my life motto: Half Assed Is Good Enough.

P.P.P.S. And also with the remarkably applicable adage by G.K. Chesterton: Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Badly. I mean, really — if I have to choose between perfectionism and joy, two states that rarely coexist, I know which one I’m picking. Joy. Hands down. Every time. And only “symbolically cleaning” the toilet. 

This is an old, OLD pic of this kid, but it’s one of my faves because LOOK AT THOSE GORGEOUS EYEBALLS.
Now he looks like a man. 😭 Someone hold me.



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7 responses to “19 May 2020 — The COVID Diaries: Staying Sane in a Time That’s Not”

  1. Sometimes you scare me because we might be the same person. Also, my kid who didn’t marry but did move all the way to Florida was back for a visit (okay, it was really for work, but we kidnapped him for a picnic and family time) and he’s a man now because he’s 24 and where did my skinny kid go?!?!?

  2. As a special education teacher, with kids who also have IEPs, who myself have educational and emotional needs, this post brought me joy! My kids come by their quirks super honestly. All of these meetings are funny, and hard, and honest, and difficult, and joyful, because they are focused on a single human. And, as humans wont to be, we are all complicated. I love running IEP meetings, by the way. I teach high school. Celebrating what has gone well, helping the team really think about how to better support, holding the kid accountable for what they can do differently, sometimes hand holding (because parenting is real hard). I love all of it. There are times I have had to find the right words to convey meaning in a kind and professional way. “Symbolic Cleaning” is a top notch example. Please tell the team kudos!! That beats my “tends to side step the truth” that I can up with in my second year of teaching a million years ago (up until now, that had been a favorite). Love that your son is in an awesome place!!! Thanks for sharing this bit of joy.

  3. It brings back some tough memories, reading this. My son went through a rough time that led up to his expulsion from school in the 5th grade. We weren’t lucky enough to have a good team. Long story short, the school administration was part of the problem.

    I’m so glad you guys are getting the support you need. *hugs*

  4. We often refer to “Disney Sweeping” at our house, but Symbolically Cleaning covers a multitude of Tasks for the Common Good (aka chores).

    • I have found a second gem of wording in this post. First “symbolic cleaning and now “Tasks for the Common Good”. I was about to attempt for the millionth time to organize our house duties. As a house of ADHD folks, the lists only last for about 4 weeks and then something shinier comes along. You have given me the title for my next chart!! Thank you.

  5. Just another point to prove life is about balance. So happy for you and Ian to be where you are with the tribes you have around you! ♥

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