Friday, January 29, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sawyer at School



Some days he participates, like this photo from back before Christmas break. Other days, like today, he falls asleep within 15 minutes of arrival and sleeps all day long.

Either way, school has definitely been good for him. We're seeing lots of improvement from this time last year when both boys began Early Start. The program and teachers are wonderful. And we're so glad they're going to be there again for one more year.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Is It Summer Time Yet?

The boys and I are over winter. It's been cold, with lots of rain and snow. In fact, the light snow we had yesterday morning caused the twins "afternoon" school session to be canceled. Which meant another day at home. Trapped inside. Bouncing off the walls and ready to strangle each other for much of the day.

The walls close in on us. Rotated toys (or even relatively new ones from the boys birthday) don't even help. We're all restless. The puppy mopes around wanting us to take him out for a walk or outside to play. And the boys are needier than usual, wanting someone to constantly play with them or watch over them. The television is constantly on because it buys me a little peace and quiet to attempt to get some things done around the house. It is not our finest hour.

We're not winter people, Mommy especially. The idea of going out to play in the cold is not at all appealing. All those layers, all that effort, for such short periods of play. Or perhaps it's that one child already has a rather nasty cough that he can't seem to shake and another has the perpetual sniffles. I don't need any more sick or unwell children. I'd be happy if those two felt more like themselves (and were therefore a little less whiny and needy than they currently are).

So, the boys and I have decided we're ready for summer. Forget spring, with its wind and rain and unpredictable temperature shifts. We just want summer. Warm days, even hot ones, are fine by us. Some time in the kiddie pool. Stroller walks and bike rides around the neighborhood. Adventures to the park or picnic lunches in the truck with the windows down. Trips to the lake.

Yes, please. All of the above.

And can you put a rush on it? Please.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Under Deep Cover



If you're around him very much, one of the things you'll quickly discover about Sawyer is his need for pressure. He LOVES big, strong hugs. He loves to have things constantly pushing against him or laying on top of him or squeezing him. Many nights at bedtime, he will actually reach over and pull me on top of him. Something about that pressure, that heaviness, makes him happy. It's one of his sensory things.

Last week at our IEP meeting, his occupational therapist listened as I explained some of his needs and also some of the things that might interfere with his school performance, like night time waking and dancing across his room for a few hours (which sometimes makes him fall asleep in class). She told us she would get a weighted blanket for us to try at home, because it often helps with kids like him who are known as "sensory-seeking" for things like deep pressure.

And while it has not turned him into a little boy who sleeps more than 8 or 10 hours a night, it has made him a very happy little boy at bed time. He crawls right up into his favorite spot - curled on top of the pillows and right next to the headboard (often squished in between, in his constant search for said pressure). And when I put that heavy blanket over him, he gives me his big, happy grin. He LOVES it.

Looks like we're going to be investing in a weighted blanket of our very own!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Birthday Boys

Four. The little guys turned four today. And I guess at some point we're going to have to stop calling them the little guys. They really aren't so little anymore. And we might want to think about retiring "Saw-Baby" as a nickname, too.

Today was a big day. It started off with an early lunch at, where else, McDonald's. We met up with Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle Brian and cousins Austin and Kyndal for some chicken nuggets, french fries and sodas. The day could have ended right there, and the boys would have been happy.

But it didn't. Grandma, Grandpa and Connor went to watch Austin play his Saturday afternoon league basketball game. The twins and I came home for some down time. And then everyone met back up at our house later in the afternoon for cupcakes and presents.

For starters, both boys got several books to begin their own Eric Carle collection (they often try to steal Connor's collection from his bookshelf). And the big ticket item from Grandma and Grandpa were the new big wheel bikes (see here).

Uncle Brian and the cousins stole the book show at that point, giving Sawyer a motion book (which he refused to put down or share, offering his little "Get-ta-wee!" chant which his speech therapist swears is his version of "Get away!"). Xander got a fun ABC animal book, which he loved right up until the point where he saw Sawyer's book. Then he wanted them both!

The evening ended with even more family. Grammy and Pappy and Grandma Jo arrived for dinner at home. We do birthday dinners around here pretty simple - spaghetti, with meatballs on the side of course, and chicken scallopini (a fancy way of saying spaghetti with fried chicken covered in butter sauce).

There were more cupcakes and presents. The little guys got some books, some snacks (which didn't last long) and flashlights. They also now have a beanbag for their rooms to go along with their bookshelves for Christmas.

And did I mention cupcakes?



Xander ate the whole thing. He likes cake, apparently.



Sawyer preferred the chocolate icing. He ate all of his, and then took a big swipe of cousin Kydal's, who made the mistake of sitting down next to him.

Four. Our big boys. Still hard to believe how fast it goes ...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Attitude



Does the picture not say it all? Do you not hear the sharp "Anhh!" that goes with that look? Because I do, just looking at the photo makes it echo in my head.

The last few days I've found myself wondering if a bad attitude were reason enough to keep one little boy home from school. I honestly feel bad dropping him off at school, knowing just what his teachers are going to be in for. It's one thing for me, to have one fussy little guy out of three. But one fussy one with twenty others? It just seems wrong.

But off to school he's gone. The teachers have had to physically carry him in the last two days, kicking and screaming the whole way. One of those proud Mommy moments, I assure you. I'm told that he calms down, eventually.

We're all having trouble getting back into our routine, with the boys being out sick (legitimately so, with a stomach virus) several days last week and then the national holiday (and early start work day) this week. Not to mention being trapped inside on these cold, rainy days.

Always my sleepyhead, Xander got a little too comfortable with the afternoon nap. And it's thrown him off. So he's been having a rough week. Lots of tears and angry outbursts, more so than even normal for my feisty twin. He apparently went to bed about 6 p.m. last night, was up from midnight to about four this morning, and then was not at all happy to get back up at 10 a.m. this morning.

Fun times.

Chocolate Pudding Fun

If all else fails ... give them chocolate pudding for lunch!



Even the non-sensory boy getting into with his fingers.



Sensory heaven for Sawyer.



Just happy to have chocolate Xander.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Journey Continues ...

It has been there all along. We've known it, whether we admitted it (even to ourselves) or not. Some people are bold enough to ask, most are not. I'm sure many people have wondered. But I've never really answered the question for anyone, at least not with complete honesty.

Why did we have Sawyer formally evaluated for his autism and not Xander? They are identical twins, after all. And they both clearly have developmental delays when compared to your average (almost) four-year old.

For those who have wondered, I will tell you what I told the IEP committee last week at our annual meeting. It was the first time I have ever answered the question out loud and with as much honesty as I could.

The answer is actually rather simple. I simply could not do it again.

When we first began suspecting an issue with the twins, somewhere around their second birthday, it was a difficult time. So much of you wants to believe that you are mistaken, that it is just the fact that they are boys and twins, as so many suggested, and that they would eventually catch up. But, the longer the delays last and the more pronounced they become, that's when you start to do some reading and when reality starts to settle in. It's real, it's lifelong and there is very little that's understood, much less known, about the causes, the treatments or the eventual outcomes. It's scary.

At that time, when you looked at the twins, there was a big difference. The easiest way to explain it is that if you were going through any of the standard autism checklists, Sawyer would hit on almost every single red flag. Lack of eye contact. Lack of engagement with others. Not answering to his own name. Staring at random objects for long periods of time. Lining items up instead of playing with them. Yes, to all of those, and to many other things as well. He very clearly had it, and it was severely impacting his development.

But with Xander, he only hit on some of the things, and the things that he hit on were typically to a much lesser degree. Lack of engagement with others. Yes, but mostly with strangers. Rigid play. Yes, but there was still actual play. Limited eye contact. Yes, but again, mostly with strangers.

Autism a spectrum disorder, meaning there are many different levels of severity. Xander probably had it in some form, but it was not nearly as pronounced or obvious. He was, and remains, on the edges of the spectrum. I'm sure on some level we simply hoped he might grow out of some of his behaviors, that his behaviors were more an identical twin imitating his brother rather than a pervasive problem.

But beyond the different levels of severity, Sawyer eventually scared us into action. He had always been withdrawn from others, but a few months after his second birthday we started to see a significant regression. The words had already slowly faded. The OCD tendencies were getting more pronounced. But what finally got to us was that he started pulling away from even me, the one person he had always interacted with and who he had always clung to in just about any situation. He was spending more time staring but not really seeing, less time smiling or enjoying anything, and simply withdrawing from everything and everyone.

His need was simply greater.

That's when we started the state program for assessment and therapy based on our pediatrician's recommendation. Both boys were assessed, and began receiving therapy. Sawyer was on track to receive what I had wanted to gain from the state program all along, a clinical evaluation at the statewide center for autism. One of the therapists thought Xander should receive it as well, but the other two disagreed. We were still on the fence. Our most pressing concern was still stopping Sawyer's regression, so we went ahead with his evaluation and didn't push for one for Xander at that time.

And for those of you who have never had to take a child through a serious clinical evaluation, count yourselves lucky. It was, far and away, the single worst thing I have ever had to do in my life. Ever.

It was neither the people or the place, both were absolutely amazing, but rather the process itself. The months leading up to it and following it, the actual day itself. Nearly six hours, being examined, questioned, watched, tested in as many ways as you can possibly imagine. Sometimes two or three clinicians were simultaneously asking questions, observing and interacting with us as we moved from different exam and play rooms. You are constantly being asked to recall the most minute details of development from birth to nearly three years of age, being asked similar questions over and over to check for consistency, being asked to rate skill and developmental abilities as compared with a typically developing child when clearly your frame of reference is going to be a bit off, all the while knowing the end result is going to be the same. Because I knew. I knew the diagnosis was going to come, knew it many months before the evaluation actually took place and knew it before they began going over the results that afternoon. It was there all along.

And in some ways it was good to have it confirmed. I was not crazy, all those red flags were actually there (you'd be surprised how many well-meaning people tried to tell me that I was crazy, that my children were perfectly fine and normal and what was wrong with me anyway). In other ways it was awful. It was a label. It would, of course, not change at all the way I felt about my son. But it would change how others might perceive him, or limit him or even count him out all together. I hated that part of it. I will always hate that part of it.

The diagnosis came only a few months before the boys aged out of the state program. Even if I had been inclined, which I was not because we were still coming to terms with one diagnosis, Xander would not have been able to be evaluated through that program. Our insurance, or mostly our out-of-pocket deductible, would have had to pay for it. And we were also in the middle of starting the transition to the local school system, where I knew that they could also perform a similar evaluation. Even better, as far as I was concerned, they could do it through a combination of school and home settings and we would not have to endure another evaluation at the statewide center. It would be easier for Xander, easier for me.

Basically, we waited because we knew that it wasn't absolutely necessary at that time. Based on his speech delay alone, Xander qualified for the local early start preschool services just like Sawyer did. Both were going to be entering the program and both had IEPs developed that included instruction and therapy to meet their current needs. We knew that he could be evaluated later and that it would be a (somewhat) easier process. Part of me was not ready to face it, and part of me simply knew that it was not going to change any of his services at this point so why put either of us through it. That's what I told myself, anyway.

And that brings us to now. The question was asked and answered because the time has finally come. Grant money has been received and there is a pilot program for students with autism being developed at the boys school for next school year, but only those with the official diagnosis are going to be a part of it. His team of teachers and therapists at school asked the question, and I finally answered it. It was time.

And now we're moving forward. Xander is going to be clinically evaluated through the school system for autism in the coming months. And whether he gets the diagnosis or not (some of us are still not sure that he will), it is there. It's always been there. It's much harder to see unless you know what you are looking for, but it's definitely there. I will be neither shocked nor surprised to hear the words. I will not like them, because I know now even more than I did the last time I heard them about what it truly means to have autism, but they will not be quite so hard to hear.

I also know it will not change anything. It certainly will not change who he is or how much he is loved. My son will still be the same sweet, funny, mischievous and lovable little boy he's always been. He will run and jump and laugh and climb, just as he always has. He, too, will find his own way in this world.

It's just another bend in the road on this journey we call life ...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Quarantine

For your own health and sanity, please keep your distance for a little while.

It started Tuesday night with Sawyer. A nasty stomach virus that made its way all over the living room and, later, his bedroom. Yesterday evening it found Xander, who luckily enough, was in the bathroom getting changed into pajamas when it struck. Very little cleanup required, thank goodness. But then it found Mommy, too. And Xander again, this time in his bedroom and we were not so lucky on the mess. And then Connor, late last night, also in his bedroom.

It's been a nasty couple of days around our house. I think everyone feels better today, though no one is back to 100 percent just yet. Lots of liquids, very few solids at this point. And lots of laying around, too. The washing machine also hasn't stopped running in what feels like days.

Here's hoping that Daddy has missed this round. Perhaps he needs to keep his distance, too!

Photo Flashback



Daddy and Connor. (January 16, 2005)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Still Not Well

With Sawyer, it's hard to tell when he doesn't feel well. Clearly, being nonverbal, he's not going to tell you what hurts or even when it hurts. He simply can't. But there are other signs.

Sleep. Typically, he's a light sleeper. Eight to 10 hours a day is more than enough most days. No naps, always an early riser. Yesterday he went to bed at 4 in the afternoon and didn't get up until after 8 this morning. And even then, he was perfectly happy to curl up with me in bed for a while. That's not my Sawyer.

Calm. My son is neither still nor silent. Ever. He's in constant motion and, of late, constant jabber. He's had moments of that the past few days, where he dances and plays and jabbers, but on the whole, he's been far too calm. There are too many moments of sitting on the couch, of laying in the floor or of simply not moving at all. That's not my Sawyer.

Food. He loves to eat. Clearly, he's the heavier twin (by all of two pounds, I know). He can be picky like his brother, but he can put away what he does like. Today, since he was munching on crackers and drinking juice again, I stopped at McDonald's to try to entice him to actually eat something for the first time in over two days. Healthy, I know. He took one bite of a french fry and passed. He did eat two or three nuggets, but he usually eats six or seven. Pass on the red soda, which he usually loves. That's not my Sawyer, either.

So, lots of sleeping, lots of stillness and quiet, and not nearly enough eating or drinking. Those are the signs. And unfortunately, he still has all of them. He's currently still sleeping, since about 2 this afternoon, with no signs of having moved in the slightest or any intentions of waking up any time soon.

Poor little guy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Or Not

After spending the afternoon not quietly watching movies, as I had anticipated, but rather bouncing around the house jabbering and playing, Sawyer crashed early this afternoon. It happens. Not often, but occasionally.

Connor and I were curled up on the couch watching one of the new Christmas movies, Bolt. Sawyer came over about half way through the movie, which he'd largely ignored to this point, curled himself around my legs (on the side Connor was not on) and promptly fell asleep. You know, as in the minute his head rested on top of my leg, he was sound asleep. That's one of Sawyer's gifts, instant sleep. Wouldn't we all like to have that at times?

So I carried him upstairs about 4 o'clock this afternoon to let him nap it out. That's never a good thing, but I figured being sick last night and bouncing around all day had finally caught up to him. Imagine my surprise when I asked Josh tonight after work how long the little guy had slept on him, and his response was that he was still sleeping!

So, who wants to come over and party about 4 in the morning? Because that's probably about the time he's going to be ready to start the day.

All Better

Three different times last night, Sawyer got sick. First, all over the couch just before bath and bed time. Second, in the few hours between bath and bed and when Josh went in to check on him before bed. And last, one more time while we were attempting to clean up his bed and pajamas so he could go back to sleep. He had a rough end of the day yesterday.

This morning, I was torn between sending him to school and keeping him home. I don't want to be one of those parents who send their kids to school when they might still be sick or when they could still be contagious to other children just because I like my peace. I do like, a lot in fact, but not at my son's expense. I was torn. He really has seemed much better this morning. He's been drinking (ice water, mind you, because I wouldn't chance anything else just yet) and eating his dry cereal. He has been a bit quieter and less active than usual, but all in all, pretty much fine.

But the quiet and less active eventually got me. That's just not Sawyer. I was afraid he would get to school, and even if feeling physically fine, might be in one of his moods where he demands to be held the whole time. That doesn't help the teachers or the other kids. I decided, about 20 minutes before time to go, not to chance it. I would keep him home with me.

And if I had visions of picking out a movie and curling up on the couch with my little man, since he's never quiet or still and his mood seemed to indicate I might get away with it for a change, then I was mistaken. Sneaky little thing apparently got all the quiet and inactive out of his system this morning. He picked one of his favorite DVDs - Teletubbies - and has been happily dancing and jabbering at them the last half an hour.

Clearly, he's all better now.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Taking a Break ...

Girls night out = late night (+ one sick little boy who keeps throwing up) = no blog entry.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Let It Snow!

Okay, not really, I'm actually sick of the stuff. But the kids had a big time on Sunday afternoon, playing outside in the snow with Grammy and Pappy while they were over to visit (Mommy and Daddy were enjoying a delayed anniversary dinner out).

There was sledding down our sloped driveway. There were snowball fights in the back yard. And there was the little snowman in the corner.



If it had been up to Connor, he would have had a hat. Not one of his, mind you, but one of his brothers. He has several, but the twins only have one each. Connor still thought one of theirs would work best!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bad Habits

You would think it would take more than a week to pick up a really bad (and annoying) habit. You would be wrong.

Grandma and Grandpa like candy. They always have a lot of candy. Fruit slices (jelly candy coated with sugar). Little candy bars in assorted flavors (think at least five kinds, if not more). M&Ms. Assorted holiday candy (chocolate covered raisins, chocolate peanut clusters, peanut brittle, etc.) You get the idea.

So after every meal (and sometimes in between), the kids got to pick a piece of candy for dessert. And now that's all one little (big) boy can think about. Candy, candy, candy.

Most of his meals this week have been on the light side, as in he eats about half of what he normally eats. And then he looks up, smiles and says to you:

"I ate all my food, now I have a candy!"

You look back at him. Because even if we're going to have candy, and that's a big if, this is not an appropriate way to make the request.

"I ate all my food now. I a good boy. I have a candy now? Please?"

That's a little better. It works some of the time. For now anyway. We're slowly weaning the kid off the candy. It's been a bit ridiculous.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow Day



Though I'm not exactly one to make New Year's Resolutions (if you're going to do something, just do it, don't wait until January to talk about it!), one of my goals lately has been less screen time for the boys, be it computer or television or game or whatever. More play, less watch.

The boys did incredibly well the first two days home from vacation. They were so excited to see all their toys again, they've just played at home. But today was a snow day, and they were here all day in the house (driving their mother a little crazy).

So I gave in. I opened up one of the Christmas presents we didn't get set up before we left on vacation - the new educational gaming system that Aunt Kelly and Aaron got for the boys. It was a hit, in case you can't tell. Connor likes to think of it as his game, so he played it most of the time. Xander played a little, but hasn't mastered the controls just yet (though he was telling Connor the appropriate letters during the games, which Connor sometimes didn't even know)! I'm sure Xander will figure it out soon enough. Sawyer, as usual, was happy just to dance.

We may have blown the "more play, less watch" goal today. We'll be better once the snow is gone. Swear.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Nine.



Together for ten, married for nine. Sometimes it feels like forever, other times just like yesterday. A lot of good memories, and a lot more yet to come.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Winter Beach Trip

As you may have noticed, we've been gone for a while. Grandma and Grandpa always invite us to join them on their annual winter beach trip to Florida, so we made the 12-hour drive the day after Christmas, spent a little over a week relaxing and unplugging, and didn't return until the early morning hours today.

The weather was cooler than normal, but still warmer than home. The boys don't sleep all that well away from home, but Grandma was always there bright and early to keep them quiet and let us sleep. There was a big screen television, a breathtaking view from the 18th floor, an indoor pool and numerous hot tubs, and a few good days of sun, sand and water with the boys. There was good food, good company and good times.

There are lots and lots of photos here, but I'll share my favorite one of each of the boys below:



This is what you get when you ask Connor to smile. Usually it also includes a very loud and definitive reference to his recent obsession, "Hot Wheels Battle Force Five!"



A smiling Sawyer, who wasn't too big on the beach the first day but seemed to enjoy it more the second trip. He was not a fan of walking on the sand, but loved picking it up and throwing it (as you can see from the sand all over him, even in his hair). He wouldn't touch the water, and had a lot of hands over ears moments. Sensory overload.



And the unlikeliest of water boys was Xander. He hates the pool, hates to take baths and generally is not a fan of the water at all. But he LOVED the beach. He loved playing in the sand near the edge, he loved wading in and letting the waves crash over him, and he even loved sitting down in the sand and letting it crash onto him. He even told us about it, over and over again, saying "Beach!" Pause. "Water!" Pause. "Sun!"