Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sensory Seekers

Happy by here we wander
Happy, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Every year about this time, people start asking us what to get the boys. Our holidays are all jumbled together - Connor's birthday in November, Christmas and then the twins' birthday in January.

Connor is pretty easy. He likes everything. He's partial to Hot Wheels, Nerf guns and Legos at the moment, but he truly likes just about anything.

Sawyer and Xander are anything but easy. They don't play. Not in the traditional sense. Give them a screen, and they will play for hours. Give them some toys, and they will just look at you like you're crazy.

Over the years, we've found a few things to interest them. Wooden puzzles work, for a while. Hot Wheels cars on tracks work, for a while. Books work, for a while.

Are you seeing the pattern? They will play with a few things, here and there, but only for short periods of time. And after a while, they lose complete interest. It might come back in a week or a month, or it might not. You just never know.

We've discovered a few things that keep them coming back. Most of them are therapy items - things used to work with kids with autism in either occupational or other type therapies. This year, there were three such gifts.

The first was a body sock. You put it over your head and let its resistance work its magic. Sawyer enjoys this more than Xander, but all three boys will actually put it on and enjoy it for a while.

Next was the new stretchy swing. The one in Sawyer's room was cotton and had lost most of it's elasticity and bounce after a year of abuse. The new one is higher-quality nylon material, recommended by the OTs at the boys' therapy group. It's gotten a lot of use since Christmas night.

And last is the tunnel. Similar to the body sock, but with an opening and handles on each end. It stretches almost the entire length of the sun room (some twenty odd feet) and the boys climb through it. Sawyer actually likes to lay in the very center of it, and his brothers like to crawl over and under him from end to end.

Welcome to an autism house. We have lots of toys that no one really plays with (except maybe Connor, and usually only if a friend is over to visit). And we have a variety of stretchy, sensory toys that two little boys cannot live without.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Morning

Three Boys by here we wander
Three Boys, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Our "Christmas" morning was actually on Christmas Eve, as Daddy had to work at the fire station on the Christmas Day. But the boys were okay with that.

In fact, only two of them really seemed to care.

And really, when you get right down to it, one of them not nearly as much as the other.

There isn't a single photo of all three boys by the tree that morning. Sawyer kept wandering off. He didn't care about opening presents or looking in his stocking. He was angry when we tried to make him join us. Xander would open presents, but then he too would wander off to do something else.

Connor had the true Christmas experience. He tore into each present, barely taking time to process it, before tossing it aside and searching for the next one.

It's always a little bittersweet. One child enjoying the moment and doing things you remember doing as a child. The other two, quite simply, don't care. Presents or no presents. It doesn't really matter. To them, it's just another day.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays



Happy Holidays. From two of the three brothers anyway.

Sawyer was having none of the holiday photos this year. And he was really not happy with Connor's impromptu decision to grab each of his brothers around the neck to wrangle the group shot. Mommy just went with it. Two out of three is not bad, especially considering it only took about 50 photos to get two of them smiling.

So happy holidays from two of the brothers. I'm pretty sure the third brother would tell the holidays where they could go. He was not much of a fan this year, for the card or anything else.

The card is slightly modified to make it blog-friendly, and they were mailed out last Monday, so hopefully everyone received their card before the actual holiday!

A Favorite

One of Many Great Gifts by here we wander
One of Many Great Gifts, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
The boys back packs were incredibly heavy on the last day of school before winter break. Turns out they were carrying home lots of gifts from teachers and classmates.

This one is one of my favorite gifts. Ever.

Do you see Xander's letters? The entire alphabet, both upper and lower case letters, are inside. And so is his name and the date.

It's something completely and uniquely Xander. He routinely carries around a page of letters just like this one. We have stacks and stacks of them in our house. He even sleeps with them sometimes.

Now he has his letters on his own cup. I love it. Special thanks to Mrs. B, his resource teacher, for finding, making and sending such a great personalized gift.

Brotherly Love

Brotherly Love by here we wander
Brotherly Love, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Every once in a while, you see it. Two brothers. Playing. Laughing. Enjoying their childhood together.

Now don't get me wrong. It usually deteriorates pretty rapidly into tears and screaming and maybe even a little hitting or biting.

They are little boys, after all.

My favorite is that Xander has now started to yell "Connor!" in that tone of complete disapproval whenever his big brother is doing something mean or hateful (which is, of course, pretty often).

Connor HATES it. He always screams at Xander to "Stop saying my name!" It makes him a little crazy, because Xander just keeps saying it over and over until Connor really does leave him alone.

Ah, brotherly love ... or something like that.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Three Brothers

Engrossed by here we wander
Engrossed, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Just give the boys a little popcorn and put in Cars 2, and look how nice and well behaved they can be. It happens ... sometimes.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Going, Going, Gone ...

Every year it seems the holidays get busier and busier. They are not my favorite time of year. There is simply too much to do and not nearly enough time to get it done. And now that winter break has officially begun for the kids (as of 3:15 this afternoon she says with a little sigh), my free time just disappeared.

So here are a few of the moments I've been trying really hard not to forget but that I simply haven't had time to write about ...

The Falling Tree. Do you see where this one is going? Oh, yes, it is. We put our Christmas tree up in our family room, right in front of the three big picture windows that face the street. Seems like a good place, away from the main activity of the house but still in view most of the day. Except that it's not a good place. Because that's the exact spot Buster likes to sit during the day, watching over his yard and the neighborhood, barking like a crazy dog at anyone who dares to set foot on the public sidewalk or actually just walk into view. Did I mention Buster is a 180-pound English Mastiff? Or that we put the tree in his spot? Because one day while we were out, he decided the four inches between the tree and the picture window was a big enough space for him to walk. And bark like a crazy dog at some passerby or perhaps even a squirrel (also a dreaded nemesis). Yeah, the tree went over. The water - because it's a real tree - went all over the wood floors (though thankfully most of it was soaked up by the tree runner). Ornaments came crashing and shattering down. There were three total losses, and about ten that required super glue. Good times.

Three School Parties in One Day. Yes. Two of them - the two kindergartners, of course - at nearly the same time. Sawyer's class play started at 11:00 o'clock, Xander's at 11:10. I managed to stay in Sawyer's classroom long enough for his aide to lead him through his part in the gingerbread man, then ducked out early to head into Xander's class. I ran into them marching down the hall for their grand entrance, and had to run in ahead of them. I watched as Xander pretty much ignored the production in favor of drawing letters, though he did say his line with prompting from his aide - "Yum, yum, you smell good, I want to eat you!" - and then go back to drawing more letters on his page. He also may or may not have said several other people's lines for them when the notion struck him. His memory is an amazing thing to behold sometimes, though the other parents might not have thought so. I got to have lunch with both twins, and even see Connor in the lunch line before taking Xander back to his class and then heading upstairs to Connor's holiday party.

The Early Christmas Present. Daddy swears part of this one is for the boys, but I think it's for him with the added benefit of the boys most likely enjoying it too. We now have an xbox kinect. Call of Duty is definitely not for the boys. The other games probably more so. And we may or may not have bought a new 60-inch big screen television and sound bar to go with it. In fairness, it does replace the nine-year old version that we bought when we moved into our first house many, many years ago. And it also makes room for a desk in our bedroom (our dresser was moved into the family room as a base for all the gadgets and storage for the things that go with the gadgets). Which brings us to another bit of news ...

Probation is Over. Daddy took his final fire test earlier this month and got to trade in his orange "probationary" fireman hat in for the real deal. He's an official fireman. And he also tested into and was accepted into the next paramedic class. It's an accelerated class during his work hours, so he's going to be very busy next year working, studying and doing clinicals. Which is one reason we moved the dresser out of our room (see above story) to make way for a new desk (which we're still currently shopping for). Go ahead and consider me a single parent for the next year. I already do.

Finding Words. Sawyer has made some exciting steps in speech lately. We are hearing a few more random words here and there - "hi" and "bye" during greetings, "want" and "bear" for wanting gummy bear treats, and a few other things. But more exciting is his increasing willingness to mimic beginning sounds of words. For instance, when he wants to play his iPad, when say "p" for "pad" and he will repeat it. He will frequently come to me unprompted and say "p" and attempt to get his iPad from it's resting spot (on the top of the refrigerator). We are getting lots of different sounds, many of them on the first try, and some of them beginning to show up spontaneously. He is also offering true greetings to people, often prompted, but sometimes completely spontaneous. He responded to a little girl in his kindergarten class when she waved and said "hi" to him. She frequently tries to interact with him, and his aide told me she was completely surprised to see him respond.

Quirky and Cool. Sawyer's newest sensory seeking issue is that he feels the constant need to chew on his sleeves. It's one of the more annoying habits he's developed, because it largely means that I don't put him in long sleeve shirts. Even on days like today, when it was 30 degrees and snowing outside. Even his jackets are not safe, though I do put those on him and just resign myself to saying "hand down" about a thousand times a day. Xander's newest sensory seeking habit is equally annoying. And it's also painful. He craves deep pressure under his very pointy chin. Know how I know his chin is pointy? Because the back of my hands have bruises to prove it. He likes to take your hand and press his chin hard over the bones, rubbing it back and forth. And surprise, it will leave a bruise after a few days of this. I learned the hard way. Who knew you could actually bruise the back of your hand? So here's hoping these are short phases in our quirky and cool diaries. Because I'm ready for them both to go.

There is probably a lot more that I should write about. I do have a list (of course she does), and I will eventually get back to writing more frequently. After I plan, shop for and coordinate the family holiday party that's happening at our house on Christmas Eve. Or wrap the presents that will not be placed under the tree until Santa arrives (see above story about puppy and then add three nosy little boys if you're not sure why). Or finish baking cookies for a few remaining recipients. And after I label and stamp the 90 Christmas cards that just arrived (you know, after I design and print the invitations for above family holiday party).

The holidays can't last forever .... can they?

Hey, Charlie Brown!

Here You Go by here we wander
Here You Go, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
When I snapped this picture, I could not get Charlie Brown and Lucy out of my head. It's the classic Lucy holding the ball for Charlie Brown, waiting until the last second to pull the ball and watch Charlie Brown go flying up as he kicks pure air.

Luckily for all involved, Connor played nice. He really did hold the ball while Xander ran up to kick it. With his left foot, of course. He is our true lefty. And also with his letters in hand. You use your feet to play soccer, after all, so why shouldn't he keep his trusty letters in his hand - the whole time we played.

The boys and I spent Wednesday afternoon out in the yard, enjoying some unseasonably warm weather by kicking and tossing a few balls around. We started with soccer, which both Connor and Xander loved. Daddy may have some hope after all of getting the boys to play his preferred sport.

But while Connor likes engage Xander in play, he doesn't enjoy Xander joining in when Mommy is playing with him. So he quickly abandoned soccer for football, which he didn't think little brother could do.

Just goes to show you how wrong assumptions can be. Xander has proven himself quite athletic over the years. He's a climber, to be sure. But he also has ridiculous coordination and strength for such a little guy. He can toss a football as well as big brother, and he can catch it better. But don't tell big brother that, he would not appreciate it at all.

Just another day in the life ...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Saying Thanks

The Result by here we wander
The Result, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
There really isn't any way to truly say thank you to all of the people who work with our boys on a daily basis.

School is hard for them on so many levels. The noise. The sitting still and listening. The people and expected interactions. It requires a lot of patience and skill to not only reach them, but to help them move forward.

For the second time, we find ourselves at a school that is beyond impressive. We have a group of people who care so much and work so hard to help our boys on their journey. Every single day we feel lucky to know that they are going to a place that they enjoy, and that they are in good and loving hands.

You cannot truly say thank you for that. There is no gift great enough to convey how much it means to us.

But still we try. We do little things that we hope are small indications of how great they are and how much we appreciate and value them.

So yesterday I baked. And baked and baked and baked. All told, there were more than 24 dozen cookies made, packaged and delivered to school. Big trays for the office and one of the rooms that has several different aides throughout the week. Ten individual teachers, aides, therapists and coordinators. And I'm sure there should have been many more. But these are the ones I know, who send me emails and texts and call me about progress and setbacks and just to check in. These are the people who give so much of their time to my boys. One day of baking is small in comparison.

And nothing says love like homemade chocolate chip cookies, right?

We hope so. Because we love them. Each one is like a part of our family. Day in and day out, they are right there beside us, working with our boys, helping them learn and move forward.

It's not a lot ... but it's just a little way of saying thanks, that we see and we know just how much they do every single day, and that it does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas at the Lake

Christmas at the Lake by here we wander
Christmas at the Lake, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Between finishing up the school week, work schedules, and balancing numerous extended family obligations, getting together for the Christmas holidays can be hectic. Usually, we also have to throw in the fact that one family heads south for a beach vacation. And that leads to what we call early Christmas at the lake.

This year it was even earlier than usual, but it worked out just fine. Josh and I took our boys (and Cousin Austin) down to the lake on Friday night. Uncle Brian and Cousin Kyndal came down Saturday morning, following a late Friday dance rehearsal. And that meant we had a whole weekend to relax and enjoy good food and good times with close family.

Saturday Grandma essentially fixed two dinners - turkey and the trimmings from Uncle Brian and roast and noodles for Aunt Cheryl. We all have our favorites, right?

We had an early dinner, then had our Christmas at the lake just as it got dark. The kids were all bouncing off the walls with excitement, waiting to tear into those presents.

Youngest to oldest means that Xander goes first (by all of three minutes, of course, but still the youngest). For the first time ever, both of the twins actually opened most of their presents on their own. They weren't necessarily that interested in the contents, at least not until it was completely removed from the packaging, but they took off the bows and tore off the paper by themselves.

The older three are old pros, ripping into packages, then popping up for a photo op with their gift. And then they semi-patiently waited for their turn to roll around again.

The kids got lots of great gifts, and spent the rest of the night and most of the next day trying out their new toys. Connor's Nerf Dart Tag game was a big hit, though with only two guns there were a few issues. Kyndal's old school Spirograph was a big hit with young and old. There were lots of other great gifts, too.

And Sunday night we had to pack up and come back home. Back to school and work and reality.

Just one more week of school, and then the next Christmas countdown will begin. Connor is certainly going to be ready. And we're even a little optimistic that Sawyer and Xander might enjoy it a little more this year, too.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Traditions

Keepsake Ornaments by here we wander
Keepsake Ornaments, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
The holidays mean so many different things to different people. For me, many holidays that I remember were spent on the white sandy beaches of Florida, the result of having parents who worked in the school system and who enjoyed winter vacations on their break.

The early years are kind of a blur. I do remember Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, one of the few times my brother and I went to church (the result of one Catholic parent, and one decidedly non-Catholic parent).

We would leave the house hours before the service, and drive through a few of the nicer neighborhoods in town to look at the Christmas light displays. I remember tape on the door, to keep me and my brother from ruining the surprise on Christmas morning before Grandpa was in place with his camera. And I remember turkey dinners in the middle of the day, after the presents had all been unwrapped and explored.

When Josh and I became parents, we had to figure out our own version of Christmas. We still spend parts of the holiday with our extended families, but some things belong to our family alone.

Every year since Connor was born, we go to the same little tree farm and cut down our real Christmas tree. If you look closely, Connor's picture will be on their photo wall for every year of his life, even that first year when he was a month old and he went bundled inside his carseat carrier.

Another is the family Christmas card - which I certainly need to be working on this week, as it's getting pretty late in the game to be ordering those and getting those in the mail.

And one of the really fun traditions we have with our boys is their Keepsake ornaments.

It started several years back when Grammy brought over a box of ornaments for Josh - some that had been bought for him, but mostly ornaments that he had made over the years. You know, the kind made with colored pasta, buttons, yarn and all kinds of homemade stuff.

I like seeing those on our tree. Past and present blended together. So I decided we would do that for our boys - pick an ornament each year that represents an interest or snapshot of the boys in that year.

There are a lot of Pixar moments for our boys. But there are divergent interests, too. Xander, our artist, has several Crayola ornaments. Connor likes to be different, so there are a few Hot Wheels (his personal favorite) and even Curious George, which the other boys wouldn't like at all. And there are even Little People. Last year Xander had the yellow bus, because he is slightly obsessed with buses. This year Sawyer got the fire truck - a nod to Daddy's new job and his still love of lining up his Little People when he plays.

There are homemade ornaments in the mix, too. Sawyer made a foam penguin last year with his picture in it. Connor has a very heavy ceramic hand print from preschool.

And there are even ornaments that the boys have outgrown - Connor's once love of Ratatouille is long-since over. But there was a moment in time when he loved it - two years ago when we bought that ornament.

This year there is another artist for Xander who still loves colored letters more than anything - we have pages and pages of multi-colored letters he has drawn himself. For Connor there is a baseball snowman, because his whole life has been about baseball the last few seasons. And for Sawyer there is the Little People fire truck - a toy we actually had and something he still likes to pull out and line up when he plays.

It's a timeline of sorts ... about our boys, who they are and what they love in a particular moment in time.

Friday, December 2, 2011

On the Mend ...

Last night Sawyer slept for nearly 12 hours.

I probably should have known it was too good to be true. He NEVER sleeps that much. But after staying up late myself to work on a project, I was thankful that he slept in (you know, to 7 o'clock, on a school morning).

Yes, that's sleeping in. I promise. It's much better than 4 or 5 o'clock, which are closer to his normal. The last two or three days were right around 5 o'clock.

So this morning it was a little after 7 o'clock when he came crawling under my covers and into my bed. Daddy was still on shift at the fire station, and he's gotten used to climbing in and claiming his side of the bed on those mornings. He was happy and snuggly and fine.

Or so he seemed.

Just after lunch I got the first text message. Sawyer didn't seem like himself, was crying a little and trying to lay down. One of his classmates had already gone home this week with strep, so his teacher just wanted to give me a heads up. I texted her back that I could come get him anytime, if she thought it was necessary. We've let him sleep it off at school before, especially after a rough couple of sleep nights.

The phone call came shortly after. He was now crying, holding onto his ears for dear life, and nothing seemed to make it better.

These are not good signs. Sawyer rarely, if ever, cries, and certainly not uncontrollably. The kid has put his hand on a hot stove, suffered second-degree burns that blistered ridiculously in a matter of minutes, and not even blinked an eye. Pain tolerance is off the charts.

For him to cry like that, and not stop, means something is seriously wrong.

My work project got put on hold. I packed up a few things and headed off to school to sign him out. I went ahead and called our pediatrician, who is great with the boys and who always makes time to see you, even late on a Friday afternoon. Our appointment was in an hour.

We came back to the house for a quick stop. I rounded up a few things for our office visit, made arrangements for Daddy to pick up the other two boys from school, and we headed on our way.

From the moment I picked him up from school, he never stopped crying.

We made it in to see our pediatrician. She did a quick exam. I explained the symptoms, we made some educated guesses. A quick look into his ears confirmed it. The left ear was really bad. The right one wasn't much better. Double ear infection, both bad. No sign of strep, which was good news.

Next came the treatment. If it had been Connor, we would have done an oral medication. But the twins don't do oral medication. We're lucky to get Tylenol into their systems every once in a while. Today Sawyer fought even that, and he normally likes it.

So it was shots. Two, one in each leg. And honestly, he didn't even really cry about it. He cried more just being at the office and being examined than he did when the shots were administered.

He was asleep in his booster seat before I ever pulled out of the parking space. The combination of the little Tylenol I managed to get into him, and the big dose of medication, were working their magic.

He slept the rest of the day. And woke up about 10 minutes ago.

At least he's not crying. He still looks sad and pitiful, and he can't seem to find a comfortable position to lay down and play his iPad at the same time. But he's not crying.

There is nothing worse for me than hearing one of the twins cry. Nothing makes you feel more helpless. They cannot tell you what's wrong. And they don't cry - not the real cry - very often. So when they do, it's usually something pretty important.

You know, like a double ear infection. A really bad one.

And while I don't know how much sleep any of us are going to get tonight, I think the worst of it is over. Sawyer isn't crying anymore, and that's the most important thing. He is not himself yet, but he doesn't seem to be in pain. And if he wakes up tomorrow and still doesn't feel well, the pediatrician told us to call. They will get him in tomorrow morning for some more medicine if he needs it.

Thank goodness for a good pediatrician. She makes time to see you regardless of the day or time, and she knows the standard treatment isn't going to work with my boys.

And thank goodness for great teachers. They know when something is not right with your baby, and they have your number in their phone and call you the minute they can't make it better.

No, this life is not always easy.

But there are so many people in our lives who help make it easier.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Perspective

Upside Down Boy by here we wander
Upside Down Boy, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Words and images. Images and words. They are intertwined here. When there are no inspiring images, there also seem to be no words.

Perhaps I need to take Sawyer's advice (see photo above) and find a new perspective to be inspired, either to take more photos or write more words.

We spent the Thanksgiving holiday like most - enjoying time off from school and work, spending time with family, enjoying good food, and spending lots of time on the road.

Last Wednesday night was our first of three Thanksgiving dinners. We made the short trip to Grammy and Pappy's house to spend part of the holiday with Josh's immediate family. Grammy, a long-time ER nurse, was working this holiday.

Thursday morning we packed up and headed out early. We traveled across the state and back, first to spend time with my extended family in the morning and early afternoon in the far western part of the state and then back to the central part of the state to spend late afternoon and evening with Josh's extended family.

It was a twelve-hour day, with a little over five hours of total driving. The boys did well, all things considered.

We lost Connor between the first and second meal, an invitation to spend the rest of the weekend with Grandma and Grandpa at the lake, as an only grandchild, was too much for him to resist.

Part of our drive shared the same road, before we headed to our next meal and they headed another direction back to the lake. They followed us for a while, but at Connor and Grandma's urging, they eventually came flying around us on a straight stretch of road. It was a silver streak of Camaro with a little boy grinning from the back seat.

Yes, he was enjoying himself already.

Friday Josh went back to work for the first day of his double-shift, and the twins and I very purposefully did not do anything. We played outside, enjoying one of the last warm days of the season.

Saturday we headed down to the lake to visit ourselves. We spent the day outside again, enjoying the sunshine before the rain and cold moved back in on Sunday.

And then we came back home in time for the boys to get to bed on Sunday night.

Back to school. Back to work. Back to reality ...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

They Come In Twos

Toothless by here we wander
Toothless, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Apparently Connor's teeth like to come out in twos. At the beginning of the year, he lost his two bottom teeth within days of one another. Here's the photo of the first two teeth to go.

This week, he lost both of his two front teeth. Both of them had been loose for quite a while, and we were all surprised they lasted as long as they did.

But the last one was stubborn, and would likely still be there for a while yet if not for a little brotherly love.

You see, every afternoon, Connor and Xander come tearing into the house and start on their favorite game together - chasing each other across the house as fast as they can and then jumping onto Xander's bed (if you run in a straight line from the living room and through the hallway, you run straight into Xander's bedroom). Then you tickle each other until someone breaks and makes a run back the other way, where you then jump into the leather chair in the corner of our living room. Sounds fun, no?

It looks a little something like this photo from earlier in the week, you know, when one tooth was still there.

Today's version was a little different. During the tickle session, Xander apparently decided he'd had enough and lashed out. With his foot. And a well-placed kick to Connor's mouth. The tooth came out, as did a few tears and quite a bit of blood.

But it's all good, Connor assures me. The tooth fairy will come see him again tonight, and last time he got money. He's hoping for more money, and maybe a sticker, too. You know, like the one he got a really, really long time ago with his first tooth. Which the tooth fairy didn't really remember. But he did. And he's really hoping the tooth fairy can find one.

The tooth fairy hopes so, too.

"My Best Friend"

Handsome by here we wander
Handsome, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
For every moment that is hard, there is another moment that wipes it all away.

Friends. That's not really something to celebrate with your kids. It's just part of growing up. Kids go to school, they make friends. They come and they go with time. It's just what happens.

Except it's not. Not when your kids have autism. And things like language issues and social issues that go along with it.

A few weeks ago, I got an email for the school's special education coordinator. She was passing through the cafeteria at lunch and overheard a little boy telling his classmates that another little boy was his best friend.

That little boy was talking about Xander, telling his classmates that Xander was his best friend.

Xander is not your typical friend, of course. His autism is not quite as severe as Sawyer's autism, but it's still there. There are still language issues and social issues.

Xander does have some language, and while it's usually functional, it is typically scripted. He memorizes phrases and situations, or mimics things that you say to him. He is integrated into the classroom with the help of his aide, but he still has challenges. Like Sawyer, he has trouble sitting still for long periods of time and can also be subject to loud vocalizations that are often out of context with the classroom.

But there's a little boy in that classroom that likes him, that calls him his best friend. He looks past the differences and sees a little boy that he likes.

That is an incredible moment, one we celebrate.

The email from school made me smile.

The following emails from other teachers that went into more detail about how this little boy always sits by Xander at lunch and how he always sticks by him at recess, were even more amazing.

And the moment last week at the Thanksgiving lunch, when that same little boy's mother came up to me and introduced herself and her son, well that moment was even more amazing. She said her little boy always talks about Xander and what the two of them have done at school that day. She told me how sweet my little boy was when she came into the classroom, and she told me that her son has even gone so far to add Xander into his nightly prayers, which he says for each member of his family.

There are not words to describe how that moment felt, how much it meant.

For every really hard moment (see post below), there is an even better moment like this one. People who look past the differences, who see the amazing little boys in spite of their autism.

Those are the moments I keep close, the ones that give me hope for the future.

What You See

Bounce by here we wander
Bounce, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Sometimes I wish that the world could see the little boy that I see. Now I realize that I have had several years to get to know him, and that I have a more vested interest in him than most, but still, I wish.

I wish others could see that he is so much more than a little boy who doesn't talk yet, who sometimes does things that the rest of us don't quite understand.

Last week I went to the boys' school for their Thanksgiving lunch with family and friends. And while I sat at the table with Sawyer, I couldn't help but notice the two little boys across the table from us.

They were never mean, and they never said anything directly to us. But I know those looks, and I can hear those words.

Why doesn't he talk? Why does he make those noises instead? Why does he keep getting up to instead of eating?

Simple, harmless questions. Two little boys who were simply curious. It could have been Connor and one of his little friends. In fact, Connor has asked a lot of those same questions before.

But in that moment I just kept thinking about how the rest of the world - the world that does not really know him and may never take the time to get to know him - how they see my little boy.

And it's hard. Hard to know that they only see a small part of him, that they see his differences and his challenges without bothering to see his strengths.

Because he has a smile that can light up a room, a laugh that is pure joy. He is smart, with a sneaky sense of humor. He is persistent, and always goes after what he wants. He is not afraid to fail, and he doesn't really care what anyone else thinks. He is simply who he is, and that's enough for him.

And for me. He is an amazing little boy, and I couldn't be more proud of who he is, or how hard he works every single day to make sense of a world that he doesn't always understand.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sleep ...

Sometimes it is so elusive ... and sometimes it simply crashes into him.

Sawyer has had a rough sleep pattern the last few weeks. The change of season and time certainly play a part. The rest is simply his internal clock, so different from the rest of ours.

There have been a lot days that have started around 4 o'clock in the morning. There have been a lot of nights with only five or six hours of sleep.

And then Saturday night there was the oddest of all, asleep by 7 o'clock one evening all the way until 6 o'clock the next morning. Sawyer doesn't do all night, and he certainly doesn't do 11 hours on any given night.

And now this, sound asleep at school by lunch time. Who knows how long he will sleep, or what, if anything, it might mean for tonight. A vicious cycle, round and round we go ...



Special thanks to Sawyer's teacher Mrs. K for sharing the photos.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Asleep By 7 o'clock ...

Asleep By 7 o'clock ... by here we wander
Asleep By 7 o'clock ..., a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
This really does not bode well for the middle of the night.

Three Brothers

Three Brothers by here we wander
Three Brothers, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Fall has always been my favorite time of year in our part of the world. It's that perfect balance between summer's heat and winter's cold. I love the bright blue skies, the changing leaves, and the general lack of rain. It is pretty close to perfection.

Today was one of those days. It was a little overcast, but still warm enough to be outside without jackets or even socks. The boys and I are not fans of socks, if you haven't noticed. They're all about the Crocs, and I'm all about a good pair of flip flops. Even in the dead of winter, but I digress.

It's another work day for Daddy, so that means the boys and I had the whole day to either drive each other crazy or find a way to entertain ourselves.

We had the requisite screen time this morning, while I took some time to sleep in and eventually wake up to the day. Then the boys played with toys for a while, until it turned into chasing each other all over the house and destroying their rooms.

That's usually my sign to take them out for some fresh air. And I was ready for it, too. All three boys love to go outside. Sawyer loves it most, but Connor's a close second. Xander either really loves it or really hates it, so he's my in between one. Today he was loving it like the other two, so we stayed out for a few hours.

Bouncing. Swinging. Coloring with chalk. It doesn't get much better for my boys.

I love to watch them play together, though it's never typical play. Usually Connor chases Xander and tickles him. Sawyer likes to be close, but not too close, to the action. He likes the extra bouncers on the trampoline, as it makes him go higher than he can go on his own. Of course, it also usually breaks down into tears and hitting, but I think that part is probably pretty typical for three brothers close in age.

Just another day in the life ...

A Night Out (with the Boys)

Three Boys by here we wander
Three Boys, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Too often, we hesitate to take the boys out. Connor is always willing and eager to go just about anywhere, but the twins are much harder to accommodate.

With Sawyer and Xander, it's hard to know what types of events they might enjoy, and even harder to plan for all the potential problems that might arise - big crowds, loud noises, lack of movement space, ability to bring along snacks or bribes. The list of potential problems can get pretty long.

Last night, we took the boys out anyway. Grammy and Pappy had made plans to go to a local rodeo that was in town, and asked if we might like to join them. While we thought Connor would like, we weren't really sure what to think about Sawyer and Xander. If there was lots of action and movement, they might be entertained. If it was loud and crowded, they might not.

We decided to take the chance. The rodeo was small, and the arena was enormous. That helped in terms of crowd and noise. But there was still the announcer on the loudspeaker to contend with. Both boys had their hands over their ears at times, Sawyer especially.

Of course, there were concession stands. And those can overcome quite a lot. There was cotton candy (only for Connor, the twins have texture issues with pure sugar apparently), popcorn and Pepsi. The Pepsi was the biggest hit. I had also come prepared with Goldfish, gummy worms, and even Twizzlers bites.

It lasted about two hours. The boys were pretty good the first half, but got restless the second half. The seats that closed when you got up were not helpful, especially for two little boys who are fascinated with motion. Sawyer was done about 10 minutes in, so he got lots of walks and room to dance around.

Connor wanted to buy everything in sight. He wanted an expensive cowboy hat (which he would likely never wear again), and he really, really wanted the light-up swords that the three little boys in front of us all had in their hands. Didn't happen. We told him to enjoy the show.

During one of the intermissions, some people crowded into our row to talk to some other people seated below us. That didn't turn out so well, as they were blocking Sawyer's path back in to the recently acquired concession stand treats. He may have reached out and slapped a little girl standing in his way. Yeah, that was fun.

But otherwise, the night went pretty well. It was not peaceful, I missed as much of the show as I actually saw trying to keep fidgety little boys seated and from screaming too loudly (it was not a quiet place, but still you don't want your kids to be the ones screaming the whole time).

Connor had a good time, and while it probably wasn't either Sawyer or Xander's idea of a good time, it was good for them. One of these days, they're going to have to go out into this world and find their way. It's not always fun, but they need to learn how to be a part of it anyway.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Toothless

Snaggle Tooth by here we wander
Snaggle Tooth, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
For the longest time, Connor's two front teeth have been extremely loose. He enjoys wiggling them back and forth, which is kind of gross and probably pretty typical of all little kids, especially little boys.

Last week one of them finally fell out. Connor was incredibly excited, of course, because that meant the tooth fairy was going to come and see him.

And the tooth fairy apparently is pretty rich, because he woke up to five dollars instead of his tooth. Perhaps the teeth have been so loose for so long that the tooth fairy was simply unprepared with smaller change. Perhaps.

Connor's smile is a bit off these days. The tooth that fell out was actually the second one to become loose. This oddly angled tooth has been loose for what seems like forever. But apparently the teeth coming in behind these two are wedging it into all kinds of odd shapes.

Here's hoping the tooth fairy gets to make another visit again soon. Because I'm not sure how much longer I can deal with watching Connor wiggle that one, oddly placed tooth.

A Day at School

What Noise? by here we wander
What Noise?, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
On Wednesday, the boys' school invited family and friends to enjoy Thanksgiving lunch with their kids. It was a big day.

Normally these type of events never work out quite right. Until last year, the boys had always been at separate schools and generally events seemed to fall on the same day at the same time at two locations in opposite directions. But this year, the stars aligned. Sawyer's lunch was at 10:45, Xander's followed at 11:15 and then Connor's was at 11:35.

And ideally I would have gotten a photo of each of the boys at lunch. But quite honestly, it was such a busy, loud place that I had trouble just getting the kids to eat, much less stop and take pictures. It also was really crowded, so elbow room for photos wasn't very ideal.

With Sawyer, I spent most of lunch attempting to have him to sit still and stop dancing in the crowded aisles. He also had a tendency to knock his food around, often onto the floor. While we have a five-second rule at home, this doesn't exactly apply at school.

Xander doesn't eat the school lunch like his brothers, being the pickiest of all three eaters. So he got to sit at his table first, and with the help of his school noise-blocking earphones, the even louder noise and chaos of the cafeteria didn't phase him at all. He actually ate all of his lunch and didn't have any trouble (which explains why I was able to snap his photo).

The problem for Xander came when it was time for him to leave. Because I was staying for Connor's lunch. He did not approve, at all. He was giving his aide all kinds of trouble, screaming and falling down on the floor. So I walked with him to his next location, knowing Connor was well entertained, as Grammy and Aunt Kelly had shown up to join him for lunch as well.

I missed a big part of Connor's lunch, but he was perfectly entertained by his classmates. He spent most of it laughing and being silly, and didn't really eat until the last few minutes when he started shoveling everything into his mouth. I'm beginning to see why he comes home so hungry, I think.

It was a good day. I got to see and talk to most of the boys teachers, as well as a few other classmates' parents. It's great to see the boys in a place where they are clearly doing so well and where they are in good and loving hands with their team. I always worry about the twins, since they can't tell me how their day is going or whether they are enjoying their new school. It was nice to see all of them going about their school day with a smile on their faces.

Friday, November 11, 2011

It Looks So Simple ...

Sweet Angel by here we wander
Sweet Angel, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
But it's not.

Sawyer has always struggled the most with sleep. Or perhaps more accurately, we have always struggled the most with trying to get Sawyer to sleep.

The truth is the kid really only needs about six hours of sleep on any given day. That's it. So when you try to put him to bed at a decent hour for a five-year old, say around 9 o'clock, that doesn't get you very far into the night.

Not once, but TWICE this week alone, he has woken up at just after 3 o'clock in the morning. One of those nights, he didn't even go to bed until after 10 o'clock the night before.

The time change has not helped, of course. But it's more than that. It's simply his internal clock. Apparently 3 a.m. is when he's ready to start his day.

The rest of us, not so much.

So it's a struggle to balance what he needs with what the rest of us need. And it's a vicious cycle that just keeps going and going.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Seven (In Pictures)








Seven



It has happened in the blink of an eye. My big boy just turned seven.

And lucky him, his birthday just happened to fall on election day, so he had the day off. Grandma and Grandpa drove up early. They offered to keep the twins so that Josh and I could take Connor out for lunch and to visit the new "super-secret" place that we've been hinting to him about for a few weeks. He has decided it's the "Christmas & Birthday Store," which seems kind of appropriate.

So we started off with lunch at Cracker Barrel. His choice, though Mommy would never argue. His first request was McDonald's, at which point I quickly and quietly suggested he might want to think bigger and better. And then we took him to the "super-secret" place, which was in fact his birthday present. We enrolled him in an indoor baseball facility for a year. It offers indoor space for practice (batting cages with or without machines, fielding practice, and also private or small-group lessons). He is all about baseball, so we figured it would be a good gift. He walked in and his eyes got big. He just stood there, not saying a word (and that's saying something, in case you don't know him that well). We got checked in and took our tokens to one of the batting cages with the pitching machine. He took 72 pitches, and connected on most of the later ones (it took him a while to get back into it, and the machine pitched a little bit faster than his coach did last season).

Our last stop of the day was something kind of different. Daddy is a firefighter. And every year the firefighters do a toy drive for underprivileged kids. We stopped at the store and let Connor pick out several toys to donate to the program. He wanted to pick up everything. Sometimes two of everything. Which was impressive, because he knew that none of these toys were for him.

Next up was speech therapy (no school on his birthday, but it was still Tuesday, and that still means speech therapy for both of his brothers). We dropped Connor back off at the house, where Grandma and Grandpa were going to stay with him, and we took the twins to their therapy. He got to spend most of that time playing outside in the back yard, enjoying the last of this week's warm and sunny weather on the swings and the trampoline.

And last but not least was dinner with the extended family. Grandma and Grandpa were there, of course. Grammy, Pappy and Grandma JoAnn arrived next. Then Uncle Brian and Cousins Austin and Kyndal. Aunt Kelly was working, but she stopped by yesterday with cupcakes and presents, and also stayed to play with the boys for quite a while.

We picked up pizza and wings for dinner. There was a Hot Wheels cake and homemade cupcakes (Connor helped with the icing and sprinkles). There were lots and lots of presents. A big marble run. An electronic bank that counts your money and encourages you to save. Cash. Baseball figures. Books. Lots of cards.

It was a good day.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Three Brothers

Three Brothers by here we wander
Three Brothers, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
It's a rare thing when all three boys sit down together to play. Today it happened, for several hours.

It was another beautiful fall day in our part of the world, and I was determined that it would not be another Saturday spent in front of screens (no matter how much Mommy might like college football). I may or may not have cheated with a movie at 6 o'clock this morning when Sawyer decided to get up for the day. But Mommy doesn't do 6 o'clock, certainly not on Saturdays.

The rest of the day was spent playing. We spent a few hours in the play room rediscovering toys. My first trick was to clean up a little and figure out what might interest the boys. They are pretty much incapable of finding anything on their own. Apparently organizing toys into bins means that they disappear. But I digress ... I pulled the trusty Hot Wheels track from the bottom of one of the toy boxes and spent some time reassembling all of the pieces. And then I had to get more batteries. Would it be incredibly wrong to ask people just to get the boys batteries for Christmas? Because that's really all they need to make their old toys seem new, and Mommy may or may not change them very often.

But anyway, new batteries were installed. And this is where the three of them quickly migrated, to the newly assembled and operational Hot Wheels track. They spent hours testing out cars, seeing which ones still had four functioning wheels and which ones could go the fastest while still staying on the track. Xander may or may not have enjoyed spending most of his time blocking or crashing cars. Connor and Sawyer were content to watch them go and go really fast.

And lest the picture above be too deceiving that the boys were playing harmoniously for hours, I feel the need to show you the following, which is more typical of their interactions ...

video


Next up in our day was to enjoy the gorgeous weather while it lasts. We moved outside for the next few hours. There was a lot of swinging, a lot of bouncing on the trampoline, and quite a bit of chalk coloring on the patio and on the wooden play set. There were attempts at tennis (don't ask) and fetch with the puppy (he's good at retrieving it once, but then he likes to just chew on it). We had icees and took lots of pictures of the afternoon.

And then it was time for dinner, a little more playing in the sun room while I cleaned up from dinner, then baths and bed.

And Mommy may or may not have turned the television back on for some college football (LSU at Alabama, that's pretty much a championship game that requires viewing). I also may or may not have gotten out the laptop to upload pictures and blog. Ahem.

The good news is the kids had a single movie of screen time (all at the crack of dawn when sane people are still asleep). And that was it. All day long. They played (albeit with some help and prodding and refereeing), both with toys in their play room and outside in the back yard.

And we all survived. My back might be a little more sore than normal. But I have a feeling this is probably my new normal, what with my having back surgery a few months ago and all.

Just another day in the life ...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Little Big Things

Just a wave ... it's quick, fleeting, and if you blink, you might even miss it. But it's there. A greeting. That's such a small thing for so many, but not in our house and not for two of our boys.

One day a few weeks ago this video appeared in a text message on my phone. Sawyer, with prompting (and instant rewarding) from his teacher, waved good morning.

video

Like I said, it probably wouldn't be such a big deal for most people.

But for Sawyer, it is.

He hasn't waved to us since this photo was taken.

That was January 2007.

He was just a year old.

Special thanks again to Sawyer's teacher Mrs. K for sharing - we feel so lucky to have the boys in another good school program with amazing people helping them on their journey.

School Days

Every day at school should include a little sensory time. Or a lot, if you can manage it. At least that's what Sawyer and Xander both would tell you. They're both inside of the tunnel, and perfectly happy to be there together. Sometimes it's the little things that make your day ...

Special thanks to Sawyer's teacher Mrs. K for sharing the photo (and the moment) from their school day!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Day at the Park

A Day at the Park by here we wander
A Day at the Park, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Another beautiful fall day in our part of the world ... so we took the whole family up to the neighborhood park for a little afternoon adventure.

I have a feeling these days are quickly coming to an end. We'll enjoy them while they last.

More photos are here.

School Pictures

The good news is there was no crying and fighting this year.

The bad news is that they are still standard school pictures.

Blue cloud background, fake smiles (or half smiles for the twins), and very little personality. We order them, of course, for posterity's sake.

But the school pictures are not the photos on my walls. Nope, those are snapshots. I like big brown eyes with the sky reflected back inside of them, spontaneous (or sometimes tickle-induced) smiles, and big belly laughs. You won't see any of those in school pictures.

But just in case you wanted to see those, too ...



Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Trick-or-Treat

And They're Off .... by here we wander
And They're Off ...., a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Halloween. Connor has been looking forward to it for weeks. He picked out his own costume, was excited about it, and couldn't wait for the night to arrive.

The twins may or may not have been anticipating the night. It's hard to tell. They talk about it at school, and Xander will even say "Happy Halloween," but that's no indication of just how much he understands about the day or the night to come.

Grammy and Pappy joined us on our night of fun. Pappy offered to stay at the house with Cousin Louie and pass out candy in the front yard. The rest of us were going to take the boys down the street and back, and see how things went.

Costumes were our first challenge. Connor's went on easily, of course. He was a ninja, complete with samurai swords on his back. He was more than eager to play the part.

Sawyer was a soldier, and his costume went on just fine, but he kept trying to take it off. And when we wouldn't let him, then he thought it was time to go. Like RIGHT NOW. And he kept pulling everyone to the doors.

And then there was Xander. He kicked and screamed and cried and pulled it off more times than I care to count. And he only had a muscle shirt to wear over his other clothes. It was a struggle.

But once 6 o'clock came and it was time to leave, they all went out the door just fine. Connor running far ahead, Xander close on his heals, and Sawyer lagging behind. He likes to stay close, and as usual, likes to do things in his own time and his own way.

We got up and down the street with minor issues. The boys liked to ring the doorbell multiple time (annoying, we know, so our apologies to all the neighbors). They also were not opposed to just opening the front door if someone took longer than say two seconds.

Connor and Xander had it down. They were quickly looking for the next house with their front porch lights on, holding out their bags and saying "Thank You" after each offering, even if they sometimes forgot to say "Trick-or-Treat" first.

Sawyer was done after the first trip down the street. He was happy and fine, but it quickly lost it's appeal. He enjoyed a big green sucker, which seemed to be the highlight of the night, and was simply done. He stayed at the house with Grammy and Pappy while Josh and I took Connor and Xander on for more.

Connor actually gave out first. He was tired. He was whiny. And his costume was starting to annoy him. I ended up walking him back to the house while Josh and Xander made the final loop around the block.

Lots of candy. The boys seemed to have a good time, for the most part. It was fun to see friends and neighbors and their kids all dressed up.

Halloween is just one more reason we love the neighborhood we live in these days. Almost everyone has their light on, and even if they're out trick-or-treating themselves, they leaves baskets of candy on the front porch. It's a fun, family-friendly place to live ... and to trick-or-treat!

Snapshot Sunday (Tuesday)

Drama King by here we wander
Drama King, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Our little drama king.

Adventures of a Big Boy

Straight from the pumpkin patch back to the mountains with Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Brian, and Cousins Austin and Kyndal. Pappy calls it the "rough life tour" when we talk about Connor's adventures.

So here is Connor's weekend in the mountains in pictures (special thanks to Grandma from the lake for sending them while they are still vacationing the rest of the week).

By the creek, getting a helping hand from Grandpa.

In the creek, getting a helping hand from Uncle Brian while cousins Austin and Kyndal look on.

 In the pool with cousins.

 About to wreck his go-kart, apparently.

 And having fun with Cousin Kyndal on one of the kiddie rides.

Clearly it is hard to be Connor. Field trip to the pumpkin patch on Friday. Trip the mountains Friday afternoon. Back late Sunday night for school on Monday and trick-or-treat on Monday night.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin Patch by here we wander
Pumpkin Patch, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Thirty-five degrees. Perfect pumpkin patch weather, right?

Not so much, but it was the day that Connor's first grade class was scheduled to go, and that's what we did on Friday.

It started off with the informative video about the orchard (in an open air tent). Next was the tour of operations. Then the token sample of apple cider. Followed by the requisite hay ride through the wet and muddy fields. Then the kids picked pumpkins from the bins in front of the store (too muddy to go into the fields). Next was lunch (also in the open air tent)

And last was a quick trip to the playground. The big slides, the rolling tubes, the pedal tractors. Lots and lots of fun. For just a little while, then back to the buses for the ride back to school.

It was cold. But that didn't stop Connor from having a big time. He had a smile on his face the whole day.

And because it wasn't enough to have a school adventure, he had another one lined up right after ...