Peter and the Band

12 01 2013

Last night, an event occurred that made me very proud, and frankly, amazed me.

Although I retired from the Washington, D.C. U.S. Navy Band in 1996, I did not become a dad until 1999 for the first time, and Peter came along in 2003.  I continue to perform professionally in many venues, but until last evening, Peter had never attended a live concert of any sort.  His inability to sit quietly for any length of time (when not engrossed in something) has mandated this.

Peter attends his first concert

Peter attends his first concert

The Navy band came to Lorton for a performance in our high school last evening.  In addition to getting to see a few old colleagues who are still playing in the band, I would have the chance to see someone that I haven’t seen since September of 1981.  He is Brian Walden, and he has become the leader and Officer in Charge of the DC Navy Band.  Brian and I were ‘roommates’ in 1981 – along with 78 others in a fun little thing called boot camp!  Brian a trumpet player and I play oboe – each heading to different assignments in the Navy music program.

OK, so the stage was set.  Many old friends have not seen Kathy since I retired from the band, and with very few exceptions, no Navy Band friends have ever met my kids.  We arrived in 2 cars – just in case Peter needed to be somewhere other than the auditorium before the concert ended.  We sat on an aisle for the same reason.  Headphones were in hand in case the music volume was too loud for Peter.  The concert began, and there was no immediate protest.  Overture… march… vocal soloist… piccolo solo… Strauss Serenade (!).  One after another.  And Peter (and his headphones & Nintendo DS after an hour had passed) sat quietly.  If he looked a bit antsy, I nudged him and gave him a thumbs-up – and he responded with the same.

After the great concert, I took my family up on the stage to see some old friends.  Peter was cordial and careful, and even insisted on singing a tune for Captain Walden.  It was so great to hear the band once again, and to see many talented and great friends that I don’t see very often anymore.  Perhaps most importantly, I finally got to share an integral part of what I am with my son.  And it went well… VERY well.  I was very proud of many people last night.  Bravo all!





little feet – giant steps

27 05 2010

We recently attended our annual Independent Educational Plan (IEP) meeting with Peter’s teachers, specialists and school administrators.  These meetings are where we learn, in great detail, how and what Peter is doing in school.  We are able to discuss how well he has met his goals, and plan any strategies for future goals in the coming school year.

Peter has had an awesome year as a first grader.  His progress from September to May has been remarkable.   He is reading and writing sentences and paragraphs!  His artwork is immediately recognizable.  He needs no help in P.E.  He converses with classmates, and is very popular.  Other students love to help him if he falls behind in a task.  Peter’s reading ability is about in the middle of the range of his mainstream 1st grade class, and his math may be a bit higher than that.  Peter is a leader on the playground, and other kids want to play with him – his basketball court “posse” is a very popular crowd.  Membership is exclusive, reportedly.

Both Peter’s Autism & mainstream teachers fully agree that he does NOT need to be in an Autism class for 2nd grade.  He still will receive services, and will have an aid for certain activities.  Starting immediately, he will be going directly to his mainstream 1st grade class to hang up his backpack and start his day.

We went into this IEP with a list of questions and concerns.  We did not have to voice a single one.  Peter’s success and progress is not anything that has come on suddenly.  He has been in the best hands since his 1st day of preschool over 4 years ago.  Peter’s teachers have all been exceptional and we credit them all every day for their skill and caring.  There will probably be some stumbles along the way.  We will, however,  do our best to take them in stride.  One thing’s for sure; Peter has his eyes focused forward and marches onward.  Stay tuned.  Peter’s on the move.

Today was our annual Independent Educational Plan (IEP) meeting with Peter’s teachers, specialists and school administrators.  These meetings are where we learn, in great detail, how and what Peter is doing in school.  We are able to discuss how well he has met his goals, and plan any strategies for future goals in the coming school year.

Peter has had an awesome year as a first grader.  His progress from September to May has been remarkable.   He is reading and writing sentences and paragraphs!  His artwork is immediately recognizable.  He needs no help in P.E.  He converses with classmates, and is very popular.  Other students love to help him if he falls behind in a task.  Peter’s reading ability is about in the middle of the range of his mainstream 1st grade class, and his math may be a bit higher than that.  Peter is a leader on the playground, and other kids want to play with him – his basketball court “posse” is a very popular crowd.  Membership is exclusive, reportedly.

Both Peter’s Autism & mainstream teachers fully agree that he does NOT need to be in an Autism class for 2nd grade.  He still will receive services, and will have an aid for certain activities.  Starting this coming Monday, he will be going directly to his mainstream 1st grade class to hang up his backpack and start his day.

We went into this IEP with a list of questions and concerns.  We did not have to voice a single one.  Teachers, Peter’s success and progress is not anything that has come on suddenly.  He has been in the best hands since Laura took him from our arms 4 1/2 years ago.  Laura, Christie, Heather, Andrew – you have all been exceptional and we credit you all every day for your skill and your caring.

Stay tuned.  Peter’s on the move.  Time for more tears of joy for Mom & Dad.





have it your way

29 03 2010

Today was a banner day for the Mankin family.  Long-time readers of this blog know of Peter’s reluctance to eat a variety of foods types.  He does very well in the school cafeteria, but he has an extremely narrow diet at home.  Those of you who know Peter have probably witnessed the futility of negotiating with him.  No means no to food items.  We should have bought stock in Pepperidge Farms Goldfish when he was born.  We have invested millions already.

Taking Peter out for any length of time has always mandated bringing a separate bag of his favored food items – juice, goldfish, chips, peanut butter sandwich – his staples.  For some reason, Peter decided that he wanted to go to Burger King this week.  He was very insistent that we go.  Actually, there was no living with him until he was taken to Burger King.

There was the obligatory bag of juice, Goldfish & peanut butter sandwich packed in the car for our outing.  Peter mentioned over & over that he wanted to go to Burger King.  Burger King it is.  We asked Peter what type of kid’s meal he wanted.  He replied confidently “hamburger’.  Kathy unwrapped the burger, sat down the bag of fries next to it, and off he went.  He tore into the burger, and when he was through, only a sliver of bun was left.  It was a sesame seed roll, by the way.  He ate all his fries, and drank his juice box until it was virtually empty.  When he was through, Peter placed his spent wrappers & juice box in the trash can.

Most parents wouldn’t be boasting about their kid eating at a fast-food place.  I’m not inferring that this was a nutritious meal for him.  The important thing to note here is that this was a family meal… without special prep or a compromised menu.  We all went and had a quiet (?) meal together.  No big deal to most – a BIG deal to us!

Oh sure – the day had its share of frustrations for Mom & Dad today.  Lunch, however, went like clockwork… for the first time EVER.





it’s all about you (or so i was told)

24 11 2009

Peter is doing well in first grade.  He is beginning to read now.  Before school this morning, he read some words in a very familiar book.  I was suspect that he was simply reciting the words by rote, so I grabbed a piece of junk mail – from our local outlet mall, Potomac Mills.   I pointed to the phrase on the bottom of the pamphlet.  Peter, without hesitation read “It’s all about you!”

Yep – he’s reading, all right!





pepsi, ketchup & swapping flags

5 11 2009

Mel_MankinMy father passed away when I was just two years old.  Melvin Mankin was only 29 when he died.  Mom & her two sons carried on without him.  Mom remarried years later, and my brother Phil came along after that.  We had occasional contact with the Mankin side of the family, but they were all in Brooklyn, New York, and we were at the New Jersey shore town of Lakewood.  I knew of my cousin Barbara, and that I had some aunts and an Uncle on the Mankin side, but I rarely saw them, and never really knew who was who on my father’s side.

At one point in my youth, I asked my mother the Mankin’s country of origin.  I no-polandknew my mother’s family came to Ellis Island from Lithuania.  She told me that the Mankins were Polish.  Honestly, it was so long ago, I’m not sure if she professed to know for sure, or that she merely assumed their Polish heritage, but she definitely told me that I was half Polish.

A few months ago, I received a voice message from Meryl Turco.  Merly is my cousin –a 1st cousin on my father’s side!  She is my Aunt Marion’s daughter.  I called her back and we spoke for over an hour.  I had made the presumption that there was no one on the planet who knew my father and could tell me about him.  I have so many unanswered questions regarding my dad.  Suddenly, I had a resource!  She is more than a dozen years older than me, and remembers my father vividly.  He much preferred Pepsi over Coke – me too.  He was a ketchup fiend – me too.  He loved to tinker with things – me too.

RomaniaFlagA few months had passed, and I received a phone call from my cousin Barbara – my Aunt Ruth’s daughter.   She was putting together a Mankin cousins reunion.  This reunion was held this past weekend, and my family and I drove to New Jersey to meet and spend time with newly rediscovered family.  I know so much more about the Mankins now.  Here’s one – we are NOT Polish.  We are Romanian!  My great-grandmother, Rebecca Goldstein, came to the US from Bucharest in 1888.

My kids have the last name of Mankin.  We now have some stories to share with them about their heritage.  Romania – I think I’ll go listen to some Enesco.  I just may hear something I’ve never heard before.





a mountain climbed in but a year

19 08 2009

nurse-holding-hypodermic-needle-postersWe took both kids to the doctor’s office today.  It was time for their annual well visit.  We have had the same pediatrician for all of Peter’s years, and most of Emma’s,  She is terrific, and we count ourselves as fortunate to be under her expert care.  Her keen senses lead to identifying & addressing Peter’s PDD-NOS issues extremely early.  She sees Peter once a year, unless he is sick.  We have been very healthy for a few years now, so she rarely sees Emma and Peter.

Emma’s visit was routine – zero issues.  Maturely handled by our 10 year old.

In previous years, Peter either screamed endlessly, or sat unwillingly and mute.  Weighing Peter has been a physician’s assistant’s nightmare.  Measuring his height had to be an estimated value, since he would not hold still for an instant. Taking his temperature traditionally took one parent to apply a full-body lock on him while the other tried to calm him verbally.  The doctor had to work quickly & stealthily as to not let Peter know he was actually being examined.

Today’s appointment (6 year old Peter) went like this:

  • Checked in and sat in the waiting room – quietly.
  • We were led to an examination room, where body temperature was measured with an ear thermometer.  Peter sat still and did not flinch.
  • Blood pressure was read with a traditional squeeze-bulb sphygmomanometer and stethoscope. Peter sat still and did not flinch.
  • Peter stood perfectly still on the scale so an accurate weight measurement was possible.
  • Peter stood still against the measuring stick, allowing for (likely) his 1st accurate height measurement ever.
  • Peter replied appropriately when his hearing test was performed.
  • For his vision test, Peter stood still and read the letters back to the Physician’s Assistant.  He covered the appropriate eye when asked.
  • The doctor asked Peter questions.  He answered in clear, plain English.  When instructed to take a big breath, he did so.

Our doctor was (I believe) a bit taken back at how dramatically he has progressed in the past 12 months.  She was clearly impressed.  We were as well.

After the doctor finished, she indicated to Kathy & me that both kids would need one shot each.  Uh-oh – this could be the end of what was (so far) an amazing well visit.  Emma is a pro by now, and knows that the worst part of any injection is worrying & bracing for it.  They are over in one second.  Bang – done.  How to handle Peter…

Dad: “Peter, you were great at the doctor’s office today.  We’re so proud of you.  There’s one more fast thing, though.  You need to get a quick pinch on your arm before we go.  It’s really fast.  Do you want the slow one or the really fast one?”

Peter: “Fast one, dad.”

The nurse entered the room with the pre-loaded hypodermic.

Dad: “Peter, tell the nurse which you want – the slow one or the really fast one.”

Peter: “The fast one.”

Dad: “OK then – If you’re a big boy for your arm pinch – no crying – we’ll go to Starbucks for a scone.  OK?”

Peter: “OK”

sconeBang – Done

Starbucks





highway phonics

10 08 2009

All kids learn to read at their own pace.  There’s probably no way to speed or slow down the process.  Like potty training, they do it when they’re ready.  Period.

gti_logoI remember the day that we realized Emma could read.  We were stopped at a red light.  Emma said over & over, “Ge-Tie”.  It took a few minutes, but we realized we were right behind a Volkswagen GTI.

Today, we were pulling out of our parking space at the grocery store.  Peter pointed ahead and told us to JeepLogolook at the Jeep.  Jeep, huh?  We don’t know anyone who owns a Jeep.  We have no Jeep toys. There are no Jeep advertisements on TV that he may have seen.  There was, however, a huge Jeep logo on the rear-mounted spare tire.  JEEP.  I asked him who we know with a Jeep.  He said. “No one”.  I asked him how he knew it was a Jeep.  He told me,  “It said Jeep, Dad”.

I’m looking out for a Maserati now!

Maserati_logo