Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A List

I'm going to be honest here.  While contemplating today's post, the first thought that came to mind was "All the Ways My Children are Driving Me Crazy Right Now".  But I slowly talked myself out of it because one, all of us moms could write that post, and two, truth be told, my kids could probably write the post "All the Ways My Mommy is Driving Me Crazy Right Now".  So instead, a list:

1.  Y'all, the apocalypse is coming.  Joshua was not interested in Cheez-Its today.  Anywhere, anytime, if everything else in the world is wrong, a Cheez-It can fix it.  A few months ago he decided to go off hot dogs, which was a sad day.  So his lunch options are shrinking.  I finally pulled out the next best thing after school, tortilla chips (our favorite: Costco brand organic tortilla chips) and that sufficed.  Oh Joshua, please like Cheez-Its tomorrow!

2. The only important thing in life right now to G is racing:  cars, planes, people.  That's what he wants to watch on TV, play on the iPad, and do as his exercise.  If you come to our house, chances are you will end up in a foot race. This past Friday his school held a fun run.  Basically, instead of having a school fundraiser of selling gift wrap and candy, they have the students solicit donations and they run laps for 15 minutes.  I, for one, am a huge fan of this.  ALL the money goes to the school AND it encourages physical fitness. Brilliant.  Anyway, we were given the option of showing up to cheer them on.  So Mary and I took the little kids to watch. It was like a real race with a DJ and balloons and a water stand. I had dressed G in his work out clothes and "fastest" shoes because, as Mary noted, it was probably the most important day of G's life.  Oh, we had the best time.  He was so proud, and ran so fast every time he came by us (Please see the 9 second video below) and if you have seen him (or FaceTimed) in the last few days your ear has been TALKED OFF about this "race".

3.  Just a couple of notes for me to remember about Baby A: Her favorite word(s) right now sounds like,"I do".  It's not that she wants to do anything yet, but that's what she says for ANYTHING she doesn't know the word to.  Go outside? "I do" Meatball? "I do"  Play with cars? "I do" Help? "I do". Her other frequent words include no, na-na (banana), go, night-night, bye-bye, Mama, and Dada.

4. G is really asking a lot of questions about heaven recently.  Heaven is a tough concept for him because at this age he wants to live with Mommy and Daddy forever.  Joe explains to him that in heaven it will be better than our favorite day we EVER had and we get to be with Jesus.  But at this point G says he only "loves Jesus medium".

5.  Back to Joshua, that boy is imitating like crazy!  It's so exciting, because that is one of our major goals for him right now.  He consistently imitates "Cheez-It" and "Juice", but has also imitated "Joshua","Ready", "Bubble", words I can't think of now, and lots of random sounds.  Yay Joshua!

That's it for today, see y'all Friday!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

About that Moroccan Artisans Festival

This weekend we caught wind of a Moroccan Artisans Festival taking place down in Old Town Alexandria.  After naps today we loaded up the whole crew and headed down there.  This is where I shamefully tell you that after 9 years of living in this area I have never been to Old Town.  It's pretty much all Beltway between here and there, so you can forget it during the week.  Unless you want to sit in standstill traffic.  Anyhow, I would liken Old Town to Charleston, SC with slightly different architecture.  So, you know, amazing.

After a cold and dreary week, today was finally sunny and warm-ish.  We walked up to the square where the festival was held.  They were playing a little fast and loose with the term "festival".  It was a few white tents with some Moroccan-ish looking shiny fabric splashed behind.  Supposedly there was food, music and dancing during some portion of the weekend; when we were there it was one lady applying henna to hands.

As far as the goods being sold, Joe likened it to a Marjane going out of business sale. Just packaged up and shipped over.  Mary and I liked one blanket, and this is when we discovered that the customer service was oh-so-the-same as in Morocco.  As in, not their strength.  Queue the flash back...One time in the Rabat Medina, I stopped in at my shoe guy's place looking for a specific pair of shoes.  Here I should also note that in Morocco there is a guy for everything.  We had a shoe guy, a custom framing guy, a pouf guy, a rug guy (in Marrakech), a scarf guy, a leather guy, a car repair guy, a flower guy, and my favorite, our fruit guy.  Back to shoe guy.  I can't remember the specifics, but let's say I was asking for a pair of brown shoes in a size 6.  He looked and looked and couldn't find any.  He asked his fellow shopkeepers up and down the street to no avail, and he finally showed me a black pair; the only color he had in a 6.  I politely declined, thanked him, and said A bientot! (I will see you soon).  Well, that did not sit well.  He was upset that I wouldn't just take the black shoe even though I wanted the BROWN one.  I hadn't even given a hint that I might consider that black one. And really, I can't say that I left there shocked by the events that took place.  The customer is NOT always right in Morocco.

But back to the "festival".  Mary and I tried to engage the linen guy to ask questions about his blanket, price, etc.  And he wouldn't even respond.  Just kind of gave us the side-eye.  Probably we wouldn't have wanted to pay the American mark-up price for it anyhow, but still, he didn't know that.

The place was flooded with Moroccans, though, and we loved hearing them talk and watching them interact with one another.  That felt like home.

After the 7.5 minute walk through the festival, we headed down the street to the waterfront.  We walked along the docks on the Potomac and ended up in a beautiful, wide open park for the kids to run around.

G, Carolyn, and William turned the sand volleyball court into a sandbox along with some other children, while Joshua tested his boundaries with the river.  Joshua, in an outdoor space near water or a road, without a fence, is always a high stress situation for us.  Oh, there is so much to be said for a playground with a good fence!!!

Joshua finally settled down on the bank overlooking the water.  He seemed very introspective as he gazed out.  Probably thinking one of two things: Either he is coming up with a simple solution as how to solve all the world's problems OR how to sneak some dirt into his mouth while Mom isn't looking.  Who can know?

This one had a GREAT time running and playing with Daddy while Mommy took a turn with Joshua.  She LOVES to be outside, just like Joshua.  Also, she's just about 18 months now.  Sheesh.

We had another great dinner out to end the adventure.  This time involved electronics because everyone was exhausted and it was a sit down.  Still, the Mommies and Daddies got to have a beer and eat a good meal, so that's a win.

See y'all Wednesday!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Blessings for G and A

I want to pick up where I left off on Wednesday: how God has been faithful not only in Joshua's life, but G and Baby A's as well.

I've written before about G's health issue and how he takes a daily injection of human growth hormone, but I haven't written much about what his life was like prior to his diagnosis.

From the moment G was born he did not want to eat.  Actually, let me put that in all caps.  HE DID NOT WANT TO EAT.  Not the breast, not the bottle, not a tiny syringe with milk, not a little spoon.  We tried it all.  After putting him on reflux medication and gentle formula he came around a little to the bottle, but it was usually a long, drawn out, tortuous process.  For the first 3 years of his life it continued to be a battle trying to find out WHY he wouldn't eat much.  Beyond his regular pediatrician appointments he had an endoscopy and eating evaluation by a speech therapist/nutritionist. We gave him high calorie supplements used for cancer patients to help him keep up. I remember that right before Morocco he was dangerously close to being put on a feeding tube.  He was picky, and Joe and I rotated being in charge of mealtimes for our sanity.  I feel for any parent out there that deals with feeding issues; it is SO stressful.

Also, starting around 6-8 months G got sick ALL the time.  It got to the point that around 18 months of age he and I didn't even attend church because he was guaranteed to be sick by Tuesday.  He got ear tubes and saw a specialist for his asthma, but continued to get sick.  So much so, that around 2 years old his immunologist put him on a weekly infusion of healthy immunoglobulin in the hope that it would help his immune system fight illness.

Because he was sick so often, we believe, he was developmentally behind.  Not grossly so, but he seemed to lag about 10 months behind his peers.  10 months is a big gap when you're only 2 years old!  It mainly showed in his speech, or lack of it, and he saw a speech therapist until we left for Morocco.

He didn't grow, either.  The only time he made it onto the growth chart (until he was 4 years old) was when he was born at a whopping 8 lbs 2oz.  It was all downhill from there.  He wasn't skinny and kept plenty of weight on, but wouldn't grow lengthwise.

(Do you understand now why we thought Joshua would be our healthy one?)

For the first year in Morocco, G did not get sick.  Although the continued infusions of healthy IG helped, we also suspect it was because Morocco is not the anti-bacterial, purell-ed society that the States are.  Kids were exposed to normal germs and their bodies learn to fight them appropriately.  At some point during that year we stopped the infusions without consequence. But then G got the diagnosis that his body didn't produce growth hormone. The doctor told us it takes 40 days for the injected hormone to really get into his system.  He said the first thing we would notice is G's foot growing.

Well, I kid you not, at 40 days on the DOT, that boy started EATING.  Eating, eating, eating. Khadija would call me at work to inform me he had just eaten his third breakfast of the day.  And energy followed. OH!  So much energy.  And then of course growing too.  It was as if all of a sudden, his BODY WORKED.  To this day, G is the poster child for the success of HGH injections.  In the next couple of years, G caught up developmentally, and pretty close size-wise.  He still receives one hour of speech at school every week, but he is expected to test out of that eventually.

G around the time of his diagnosis, age 3.5

Here's a great height comparison.  Ellis and G are only two months apart in age- and she is average size.  See how far behind he was? He looks like a baby compared to her! Now, at age 6 they could look one another in the eye.

For the most part, G is very good-natured and has a sensitive spirit.  He is mostly obedient and good to his siblings.  He has a soft heart. I think God used his early struggles to develop the sweet aspects of his personality.  And so even though it was a rough few years, I can now see how even then God was working all for good in G's life. And I'm so grateful.

Then there's this one:

Right before we got pregnant with her, I was here in the States with Joshua and had a conversation with two dear friends from church about having more children.  Joe and I knew we wanted at least one more child, maybe more, but after having both boys diagnosed with fairly significant (though seemingly unrelated) health issues, we started wondering if there was something in our genes that was affecting them.  I told my friends I was unsure if it was wise for us have another (biological) child.  Looking back I can't imagine how we would have made that decision, and thankfully we didn't have to because she showed up unplanned!

So far, Baby A, who is not so much of a baby anymore, seems very healthy.  She's on the growth chart, she eats well, she is developmentally on target.

And let me tell you something.  THIS FASCINATES US TO NO END.  It's a new ballgame, and everything she does is like a miracle.  She says several words!  She picks up her shoes and holds them up when she wants to go outside! She points at what she wants!  She wants to help with household chores!  She tries to put diapers and shoes on Joshua! She HANDS ME HER PLATE WHEN SHE'S FINISHED EATING! (We just recently got G in this habit) And while she is average to the doctors, she is a GENIUS in our eyes.

She also throws tantrums and won't watch TV, which is unfortunate when I need to make dinner. We don't know what the future holds for her, but we are all grateful for this time of health!

God has been so faithful and generous to our family by giving us the gift of Baby A. She is Joe and my precious girl, she is G's playmate and object of much affection, and she is Joshua's challenge. (Although, let me write down here that I believe she may eventually be Joshua's champion.)

 We trust God will continue to be faithful to all of our children- even when circumstances may not look like blessings to begin with. We are thankful for a God who cares deeply for each of them...and us.

Happy Weekend!  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It's the Little Things

One of the many joys of being Joshua's parents is celebrating his achievements. For Joshua, success comes little by little, and I believe that because his accomplishments are so hard fought, they are that much sweeter.

Two years ago, when Joshua and I were in the States going through his developmental assessments, he learned to walk from place to place (in public) holding my hand.  You may be thinking that the age of 2 seems a little late for that to happen.  But in Morocco, I didn't take my kids in public as much as I do here.  The main places they frequented were friends' houses, church, and the embassy/American Club.  I certainly didn't take them grocery shopping (can't remember if the carts even have child seats??  Anyone?) and when Khadija walked them to the bakery or butcher, they were in the stroller.  But when we were at home in the States for a month we walked back and forth from parking lots to doctors and stores.  We spent a lot of time walking down the hall to our hotel room.  We were on the 4th floor at the very end of a long hallway.   Joshua didn't have a very easy time complying with new things, but I remember him slowly learning, and a total champ by the time we went back to Morocco.  It is such a sweet memory for me.

Last winter, Joshua learned to kiss.  I'm not sure who was more excited about it: us or him!  Of course we had been kissing on him for years, but he finally reciprocated and was thrilled to have a way to show his affection. He squealed, and clapped, and jumped around upon realizing it was something he could do.  And it came about when I was in the trenches of trying to win him back after giving birth to Baby A, so it was extra special for him and me. Kissing continues to be the ultimate in showing his appreciation to anyone, but he also uses it in greeting Joe and I fairly regularly.

It's not lost on me that Joshua learns (big) new things during our really hard season each year: winter. I wholeheartedly believe it is God's kindness to let us see great progress when we are having a difficult time with Joshua.  At the end of this winter Joshua started reciting his ABCs.  He chose the most appropriate time, too.  At our church the children stay in the main service for songs and prayers and then leave for their own classes before the sermon. Thankfully, there is a room off to the side of the main hall for families with new babies or a Joshua.  He was talking during the prayer, saying something again and again, when Joe and I opened our eyes and looked at one another. Was he saying the ABCs???  My mom was there, and a few friends sitting around us, all turning their heads as Joshua finished up the entire alphabet.  Sure, the pronunciation wasn't perfect, but it was close enough that EVERYONE recognized it.  We were all so thrilled!  And it was so fun to have some of our closest friends witness it with us.  This past week, during the same prayer, Joshua was at it again, except this time counting to 20.  In lots of different voices.  He is especially a fan of "five" right now and he'll show you five fingers.  He has randomly been repeating things we say much more often than usual, so we are hopeful this means he is closer to talking.

I'm so grateful that God continues to showme the little achievements along our journey as they are hugely encouraging.  Because even though our days or months can be challenging, I treasure having happy memories of his childhood, just like our other 2.

With my boy during our accidental Four Seasons stay.
On Friday I'm going to talk about how God has been just as faithful to G and Baby A.  Because even though Joshua's 4 year old self would like to think so, it's actually not all about him. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Tantrum Mat: A Public Service Announcement

Do you see this bad boy?

This was a game-changer for me this winter.

During the winter months we had quite the upswing in Joshua's tantrums.   His teacher showed me the mat they put him on at school when he is throwing a fit.  It's a safe place, but also he quickly learned that once he was placed on it he would have to stay there until he calmed down.  WELL.  I went straight home and ordered the exact same one; color and all.

The first time Joshua saw the mat in our house he did a double take.  Oh, it was delightful to watch his face.  I could read his thoughts so clearly,"Who told them about the tantrum mat?!" and "Dang it! They've outsmarted me again!"

I stored it within easy reach of where most tantrums occur (near the kitchen and in the living room).

That's "Cars" playing on the TV.  G is going through his second phase of obsession with the movie. 
 And I'll tell you, having that plan of action was so helpful once he started ramping up.  Sometimes we make it to the mat before a head bang; sometimes not.  We just do the best we can. Once he gets to the mat he will generally cry for a few more minutes. Sometimes I have to sit by the mat to keep him there; other times I can go about my business. Either way, we've been taught not to engage him.  Just let him finish and move along.  It has worked pretty well and I love the consistency for me him and me.

Also, he somehow doesn't see the mat as a bad place.  Sometimes he pulls it out to play on.  That's fine with me as long as we're clear on its main purpose.

All this to say, I know there are many of you out there in the throes of the terrible twos, threes or even (and let's be honest) fours. Maybe you could use a tantrum mat.  I'm sure Baby A will spend some quality time there in the near future.  She is developing strong opinions on a wide range of topics.

We ordered ours on Amazon.

Hope you all had a great weekend- ours was fabulous.  The trees are finally blooming here in Virginia, it was warm, and we spent a lot of time outside.  Many a bubble were blown.  (Joshua and A's current fave).

Happy Monday- I'll be back Wednesday!

Friday, April 17, 2015

About Jordan Spieth

There are probably very few of you that haven't heard about the 21 year old that won the Masters this past weekend. Jordan Spieth is being called a champion on and off the course, and I am drawn to him because of his love for his sister.

Jordan has a younger sister, Ellie, who is on the autism spectrum.  He calls her incredible, funny, and his inspiration. Jordan's mom has spoken about how Ellie's dinnertime tantrums taught her son about REAL life.

Well, that struck a chord.

How many times has G sat and watched Joshua throw major, head banging tantrums over what seems to us (non-spectrum folks) to be nothing?  At the beginning it would scare him, especially if it was in the night.  G went through a phase where he would cry too, in sadness for Joshua, I think.  Usually I would huddle with him and pray.  The tantrums don't seem to effect him in this way anymore.  And at least recently, the major tantrums have been few and far between.  But what is G thinking inside?  How does he feel watching Joshua struggle to communicate, unable to use words at this point?

 Joe and I do not want our kids to have it easy.  (We) They already have it really good living in America, having a free education, plenty to eat and good healthcare.  And feelings of entitlement run rampant through suburbia.  What is going to ground them?  I've mentioned before that I believe it is the trials and struggles the Lord allows us to walk through that we grow as people. And while we don't know all that's ahead, we've seen glimpses of what might teach our kids some helpful life lessons.

For G, we thought he would mainly be effected by the diagnosis of an ectopic pituitary gland. We've always believed that as he gets older and matures, his dependence on a daily shot to grow taller and for his body to function properly, will humble him.  And though the journey to figuring out G's body was long and hard, thankfully, the fix is easy.  So it was easy to champion this idea of him having a "hard" thing in his life.

But Joshua's challenges are not an easy fix.  And I will tell you that from the beginning we have taken great comfort in the fact that Joshua will teach our entire family and be a blessing to others.  I think we especially hope that it will do a great work in Baby A and G.  From an early age they will observe plenty of "real life" as Jordan Spieth's mom puts it. They will have to go the extra mile to communicate with their brother and show him grace.  And Joshua will have to learn to show us a lot of grace when we can't understand his way of thinking.  Oh, that we would let our challenges with each other build character instead of animosity! I pray that Joshua, through his own struggles, will have a soft heart.  And then, as the kids have happy times together, they will be able to enjoy each other and appreciate their differences.

Thank you, Jordan, for being vocal about what a blessing your sister is.  It makes this mama smile with hope.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I Will Not Be Falling Into the Gap

I gave up many things when we moved away from Texas: the culture, the mild winters, Tex-Mex on every corner, and most importantly, our family.

This was tempered by the perks of the DC area: beautiful scenery, four seasons, a great job for Joe, and most importantly, being able to walk to stores like the Gap.

HOWEVER,  the Reston Gap has closed down.  (Local peeps, are you aware of this?)  I am a little ashamed to admit that upon researching this topic it appears the store actually closed down 2.5 months ago due to a lease issue.  But what can I say?  I don't get out much during the winter months.  And I swear I was in there days before the closing buying a gift for Mari's new baby.

All this to say: BARBARIC.  What am I supposed to do?  Go all the way to the mall to conduct Gap-related business?  It's just all very shocking.

And I don't want to brag, but I should mention that I can still walk to Anthro and J.Crew.

I'll be back on Friday with a post of actual significance. It was supposed to be today's but what can I say?  I'm tired.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

That Time I Won

As a parent I feel it's a rare moment when you KNOW you did the right thing.  But Friday morning the score was, for once:

Mommy: 1
Grayson: 0

It actually started Wednesday when G stayed home from school.  He had quite the cough in the morning and maybe a little trouble breathing so I kept him home.  When they're sick, we let them play with the iPad or watch movies, something normally not allowed on school days.  So he spent a good part of his day doing those things, even though it was clear by noon that he wasn't that sick.  

Thursday he went to school fine.  But Friday morning, oh Friday morning, he was throwing a fit about going to school.  Kept saying he was sick.  He had a "heading" (headache).  We're talking crying, pleading, kicking, and screaming.  He had absolutely decided he was not going to school.  We spent an hour trying to figure out any other reason why he didn't want to go.  He kept playing the sick card.  We threatened him up one side and down the other. At one point Joe was trying to force his shoes on and get him out the door.  He was like a rabid animal, y'all.  Not going to happen.  The whole time Joe and I kept sneaking out of the room for little pow-wows as to what our strategy would be, second-guessing ourselves, etc.  I just wondered if he wanted to stay home to play the iPad.  SO.  We told him he could stay home, but if he did he had to stay in bed all day and sleep (since he was sooooo sick).  No screens.  This was met with horror and disbelief, but we persisted.  He made the decision to go to bed.  But I had a feeling I would be taking him to school by 10 am.  

After Joshua left for school, I walked back in the house and he was putting his shoes on.  "I'm going to go outside."  Ha.  Hahahaha.  Oh no, friend.  Back up to bed.  (Or go to school).

At approximately 9:20 he wanted lunch.  I said it was 3 hours away.  And that he still had the option to put his shoes on and go to school.  Well, he did.  We smoked him out!  And once he set aside his pride and made the decision, he was downright giddy!  Talking up a storm, playing with Baby A,  and he be-bopped right into school, happy as a clam, miraculously healed from his morning ailments!  

And just so you know, I spoke with his teacher briefly to make sure there wasn't a glaring issue at school that might be causing his reluctance to attend, and there wasn't.  

I should tell you that my mother did this to me once.  But I think I stuck it out all day, which just means my heart is even more prideful than my son.  So there's that.

And a couple of teachable moments of note this weekend since we're talking about G:

1. He informs us that he doesn't like Cheez-Its.  Um, what?  Who doesn't like Cheez-Its?  So I quoted a well known proverb to him:

"The wise man built his house upon the rock.  The foolish man did not like Cheez-Its."  

2.  "G, take off those socks.  We never, ever wear socks with our sandals."  Oh bless him.  

I thought I should give a little update on not-so-Baby A.  She is now running around.  Her favorite word is "NO!"  And doesn't that really paint the picture?

Be back Wednesday.   

Friday, April 10, 2015

Playing with Joshua

Well, first of all I would like you to know that we are now living at the height of luxury.

That's right, we had the hole in our kitchen ceiling fixed.  You know it's been there too long once you stop noticing it.  We had a leak in the kids's bathroom in the fall that we had fixed before Thanksgiving I know because my parents came and used that bathroom.  We had originally planned for Joe to patch the hole as he's quite handy.  There is not much he and a youtube video can't fix.  But no one was looking forward to that project while the kids were around so we decided to have it done professionally in January.  And yet here we are in April.  We honestly kept forgetting it was there.  And then where did we put the number for the guy?  And oh, Joe's out of town that week.  Did the guy call us back?  Anyway, today was the day.  It's a beauty.

Secondly, I just have to tell you all that Joshua has continued to be a delight this week.  I'm not sure if it's the warm(ish) weather, being back in school, or the processed snacks we have reluctantly given in to (especially Cheez-Its), but that boy has been so sweet and loving and interactive.  In fact, this morning he was almost too cute to send to school.  Almost.

But what I really want to talk about today is the joy we get from watching other people play with our boy. Of course we love watching all of our kids play with family and friends, but Joshua takes a little more work.  Until someone mentioned it, I had no idea that some of our friends felt unsure around Joshua.  As in they didn't know what to do.  My reply to that is to treat Joshua like any other kid.  We talk to him like our other two, even though he doesn't talk back.  We tickle him,  give high fives, wrestle, push cars around, run and jump, and he loves it all.  I can't say every kid on the spectrum desires the interaction Joshua does (though he can't show it), but I am fairly certain that every parent with a special child wants their kid to be noticed and engaged with.  It really blesses us to see people go the extra mile.  Really, really blesses us.  I CANNOT OVERSTATE THIS.

And I will tell you that once you put in the work Joshua will acknowledge it.  We are thankful to belong to a small church.  Or at least small compared to Texas mega church standards.  It's a safe place for Joshua because many people know him and appreciate him for who he is.  We have a new associate pastor whom we adore, and the other morning I couldn't find Joe to pass Joshua off when I needed to report for duty with the children's ministry.  Seth was standing nearby and I asked him to walk Joshua to Joe.  He grabbed his hand and as they were walking off.  Seth looked down at Joshua and said,"Hey buddy!  Do you know what my name is?" and I just started giggling because I imagined Seth wondering why this 4 year old was giving him the silent treatment.  For some reason, this continues to tickle me to no end.  Probably because I knew Seth is full of love and grace for Joshua, and has since gotten to know all of us better.

But I digress. The reason I brought up our church to begin with is to tell you about a friend of ours from church that worked on Joshua for months and was sweetly rewarded. We see Ed (or as I like to refer to him, Elder Beach) frequently not only at church but also at small group.  Ed picked up on the fact that Joshua was drawn to him and always paid him lots of special attention. He held him, talked to him, and threw him around.  One night, in the middle of their play, Joshua stopped and kissed him right on the mouth.  We couldn't believe it! For a kid who doesn't make eye contact very often, this is a big deal. Ed hadn't asked for it, and Joshua had only recently started initiating kissing and just with mom and dad. He was showing his affection and thankfulness to Ed. To this day Ed is very proud of this, as he should be. Off the top of my head Matt and Mary are the only other non-family members to have received this honor.  Matt months ago because he's Matt, and Mary last week after months of toil.

Because we don't live near them, the grandparents have to work extra hard.  They come and go as frequently as possible, but Joshua needs persistence.  He is finally starting to show that he remembers them and one day even kissed the phone when he heard Ami D's (Joe's mom) voice on the other end.  Also, on Easter Joshua walked over to a photo of my Dad, Poppy, and started saying "Poppy, Poppy!"  Again, we couldn't believe it.

We are so, so thankful to those of you that invest in Joshua's life.  He (and we) are better for it.  And to everyone I encourage you to be intentional with any special child in your life.  It will bless them, it will bless their parents, it will bless YOU.

See you Monday.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

We Made It

Y'all would not believe how much I dread school holidays.

I'm sure many of you can sympathize with this.  I really hate that I don't look forward to having my kids home with me for extended periods of time.  And I trust that this is a season.  But for me, time off school, while Joe is at work, usually means begin stuck at the house.

I am not able to take all 3 kids out in public by myself. At the beginning it was because I was afraid Baby A might make a noise and Joshua would throw a fit.  And if I can't do much about it in the house, public will be that much worse.  At the end of last summer I thought we might be ready.  We set off for an outing with the best possible assistants: my friend Abi and 3 of her (much older) kids, all who are a huge help and love my children.  And yet, while walking into a farm, Joshua had a huge tantrum right outside the entrance.  Like 20 minutes long (? is that right, Abi?) all out screaming, trying to hurt himself, fit.  All I could do was sit on the ground in the parking lot and hold him in as safe a way as possible.  It went on for so long that I didn't know what I was going to do.  I thought I was going to have to call Joe at work, an hour away, and have him get in the car and come for us. I was so hopeless. Thankfully the others were looking after G and Baby A, but it shook me up big time.  It finally ended, but all I wanted to do was cry and cry and cry.  But I went on with the outing and finished the day.  (Until Joe got home from work, I'm sure.  At that point I probably curled up in a ball and lost it).

It was decided after that, with affirmation from our therapist, that neither Joe nor I should take all 3 kids out alone.  Good plan, but gets a little tricky over school breaks.

This past Christmas break Joe worked only half days to help out at home.  It certainly saved me, but even with Joe home, 2 weeks of Joshua being out of his school routine got really rough. It was a dark time.  Not as bad as last winter, but close.  Those times continued throughout the winter with numerous federal holidays, teacher workdays and 12(?) snow days.  It just gets old.

So Spring Break has been a dark cloud hanging over my head for a couple of months.  Thoughts in my head turned into "after Spring Break I'll deal with this/take care of that/start planning those things".  It was like this big hurdle that I couldn't wrap my mind around.  I knew that Joe really shouldn't take off if possible, and my Mom had been visiting the week before, so I was on my own.

And then, an idea!  Some dear friends of ours, actually Abi and co. from above, would be traveling overseas for all of the break, maybe we should go housesit at their (large) house in the country and take care of their dog?  They agreed, always looking to bless others, and it was a plan!

I was slightly optimistic about the week because they have a few acres of land for Joshua to run on, lots of square footage inside the house that he also loves to run in, and Mary would be staying with me for part of the week.

And you know what, we had an almost perfect week.  We really did. I enjoyed my kids so much that I felt bad for being so cynical beforehand about the possibility of us having a nice time.  It was a great reminder that God cares for me even when I doubt His ability to work things for good. And Joshua.  That boy was so, so happy all week long.

Here are some highlights:

I'm not sure why we thought it was an OK idea to let all 5 (walking) children on the trampoline, but it worked for a few minutes.  This locale was popular all week.  

Here's a few things I remember about this moment: We had just gotten a kite stuck in the tree out front after flying it successfully for only 3 minutes.  Mary didn't care because Joshua had not only asked her to hold him, he had stopped and KISSED her.  (Besides immediate family and grandparents there are only 2 other people he has done this with).  She was giddy, which blessed my heart.  Carolyn was completely distressed that her kite was up in the tree. G was sad that we never got his kite off the ground (his was from Dollar General, dang).  And as usual, A is just happy to be in the big middle of things. 

For those of you with kids, you know what a miracle this picture is.  Our whole crew.  Want to know how we got everyone to look and sit still? See below.

Jumping up and down, clapping and Knick Knack Paddy Whack, Joshua's current favorite.

Our last night we built a fire and roasted marshmallows.  You can tell there has just been a fire safety talk by the placement of the 3 in the back, holding hands somberly.  BEHAVING of all things.  

The next morning we had a lovely Easter Egg hunt before leaving. Same Knick Knack song and dance going on here. I love how I haven't bothered to change my kids out of their jammies.

Scene of the crime.  After taking a bath in this glorious tub the first night Joshua decided it was his own personal pool.  The following days I would realize he was missing, sprint upstairs, and EVERY time find him fully clothed in this tub filled AT LEAST halfway.  I didn't find the key to the bathroom until the end of the week, at which point I was able to lock him out.  Those knobs were just a little too easy for him.

Monday (teacher workday), was the most beautiful Spring day.  Behind our townhouses is a huge park and we took the kids for a picnic.  All the kiddos even sat and ate their lunch!  Besides Joshua biting G when he tried to re-direct him, we had a lot of fun.  Oh sweet G, what a good big brother.  

We had one rough spot during the week when Mary and I ventured to Chick Fil A and Joshua almost ended up in the middle of a busy intersection. But it was over quick; most of the trip was a success.  It was a good reminder that even after a good week I can't play fast and loose with public outings. And I'm not going to pretend it didn't take the rest of the afternoon for my blood pressure to return to normal.

But overall, I am so thankful for the gift of Spring Break with my family.  While I still want to have realistic expectations about what I can and can't handle with these three, this week gave me a little glimmer of hope that we have sweet times ahead.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Autism Awareness?

April is Autism Awareness month.  I am so thankful that there is a worldwide campaign to make others aware of what autism is... and isn't.  It warms my heart to see people wearing blue in support of all our special kids...and adults!

But ironically, as a parent, I am not always interested in being made aware.

It may surprise you that I don't read other blogs.  Clarification.  I don't read blogs about autism.  (I love a good fashion blog!) I discovered early on in this journey that generally speaking, not much good comes from me reading them.  It's not that I don't value what other parents have to say; it just hurts too much.

Each particular child discussed on a blog is going to be either "ahead" or "behind" Joshua developmentally.  Although, I know those terms don't accurately describe children on the spectrum; they all have their own strengths and weaknesses.

If the child is more advanced than Joshua it's really hard.  I struggle with jealousy.  I am sad for the frustration he feels everyday in not being able to communicate.  I wonder if he'll ever reach the milestones that other child has reached.  And when?  And what will he look like when he is their age?  I worry.  Are we doing enough?  Should I do what those parents are doing?  I wish could read these things for their informational value alone, but I get too emotionally involved.

If the child is "behind" Joshua it's really hard. First, my heart goes out to the parents and their unique struggles.  I feel for the child and their hurts.  And then my selfish side ramps up and I'm thinking maybe Joshua will regress.  What if his personality changes and he doesn't want to be affectionate anymore? What would that mean for our family?  See, nothing positive.  Even thinking "Oh, Joshua can do that thing the other child can't do" is not really positive to me.  Because who wants to make comparisons that highlight the other child's challenges?

I'm even wary of books.  Early on, my best friend recommended one to me that is written by a dear friend of hers.  Their family chronicled the beginning of their journey with autism and gave many practical tips and ideas.  There was one big (helpful) truth that I learned from this book, which I will write another post about, but mostly I came away confused and discouraged.  The things they did for their son was not practical in any way for our family.  I spent too much time taking as gospel the diet and therapy that is perfect for their son, but not for mine.  I can imagine this book is helpful to many people, but not to me.

Also, the internet is full of misinformation, as we all know.  And I just don't have the time to vet all these different sources.  SO.  What informs us?

First, I usually only read books and articles recommended by our therapists or teachers.  They are the experts and know our specific needs.  If they want me to tell me about cases similar to Joshua, I trust that information is going to be beneficial whether it's positive or not. I let them guide our therapy and our routines because they know our son.

Also, as mentioned before, I listen to my counselor.  She is a professional, wise, godly woman who knows ME and how I tick.

I do love meeting other parents with children on the spectrum in person.  It is an encouragement to talk about our lives and shared experiences.  I guess the difference is that in person you get the whole picture.  Not just snippets that are easy to bend in your mind.

Lately I've been able to live in the present with Joshua and enjoy each day with him; focus on his daily joys and achievements, as well as his personal goals. Joe and I are so grateful to have our team of experts guiding us through our journey.  We're also overwhelmed and blessed from the support from sweet friends like YOU. Thank you for caring; thank you for reading.

P.S. I may or may not be back on Monday. After making it through this marathon of Spring Break, we have a teacher workday on Monday.  I mean, love ya kids, but go back to school!