Monday, February 28, 2011

Wake Up, Connor, It's Time for School!

It only took a matter of months’ for Connor to be over the adventure of “big kid” school. He went from telling everyone the name of his school and how he was going to be in “big kid” school to complaining about it in every breath he takes.

He hates school. He hates getting up early. He hates homework. He hates sight words. He hates having four (or three or two or even one) more day of school before every weekend. He hates Chinese. He hates work. He hates writing his letters. He hates it all.

Are we seeing a pattern?

Every single morning, I have to practically drag the kid out of bed. It starts with a fun “Wake up, Connor, it’s time for school!” This started out as a little joke we’d talk about at bed time, how I would see him in the morning and tell him this to make him excited about school. He thinks it’s funny at bedtime. Not so much at 6:35 in the morning. His standard response is always a very short, clipped “No!” that doesn’t even sound like his little voice. It’s angry, abrupt and mostly still asleep. He curls himself into a tight ball and burrows deeper under the covers. He complains the light is hurting his eyes and pulls a pillow over his head.

Every. Single. Day.

Clearly, a morning person he is not. And I honestly have no idea where he gets that from. Really.

It takes quite a while to get him up and moving. I’ve even resorted to making him brush his teeth right after he goes to the bathroom, because I can’t be certain he’ll finish breakfast in time to brush his teeth before we have to leave for school. Most days he ends up with dry cereal and unfinished milk in the truck on the way to school. He’s too busy sulking on the couch about being awake early to bother with eating while we’re at home.

Then there’s the issue of his milk. He announced a few weeks back that he doesn’t like white milk – that it’s disgusting. He has proceeded not to drink it at all. He asks for chocolate milk. Then he begs for it. And when he doesn’t get it, he drinks water and complains about not having chocolate milk.

And then he complains again when it’s time to go. He complains about putting on his jacket. He complains about carrying his backpack. He complains about the cold. About the dark. About the rain. About anything and everything he can possibly think of.

But once we start driving, his better nature returns. He’s suddenly Mr. Chatty. He starts talking as though he’s breathing. He asks a thousand questions between our house and school, you know, the 15-minute drive.

Why do you have your lights on? Whose house is that? Why are there trees? What are flowers for? Why does it rain? Why do we have to stop? What’s the traffic light for? Can you walk here? Can cars crash into trees? Into houses? What happens when you crash? Do you flip over? Why is that light flashing? Do you have your seatbelt on? How much further ‘til we get to school? Why can’t I ride the bus? Why don’t brothers start early like I do? Why do brothers still have on their ‘jamas? How come they get to wear their Crocs? Did you remember my Box Tops? What about my library book? Where’s Daddy? Why is he at work? Why is fire school over before my school? How much longer ‘til Spring? How much longer ‘til school’s over? When am I gonna play baseball again? Do you remember that swimming pool with the big slide? How come we haven’t been there in a while? I’ve never been to Poppy John’s (his version of Papa John’s, which he’s confusing with Pizza Hut where his book it certificate gives him a free pan pizza).

And on and on and on ….

And then it’s my turn to be crabby. I’m tired. I’ve been forced to wake up at least one, sometimes three, sleepy boys who need to be forced to go to the bathroom, who need some sort of breakfast and milk, and who need at least shoes and jackets to leave the house.

I, too, am not a morning person. I’d rather have the sulky kid back there than the chatty one. I can’t play one thousand questions at 7 o’clock in the morning. I just can’t.

And so it goes, round and round, every school day. Sigh. Just twelve more years to go, right?

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Sensory Heaven, originally uploaded by cheryl.

One more reason our boys love their teachers and their school - balloons! One of the teachers is expecting her first little one soon, and she keeps getting lots of balloons at her baby showers. And because she knows how much our boys LOVE balloons, they keep coming home to our house.

Sawyer actually managed to keep this one away from Xander. He claimed it for his own, and Xander was actually content to let him have it. Perhaps he doesn't like lions.

Special thoughts go out to Mrs. R as she takes time off to welcome her new baby! Sawyer is going to miss you while you're gone!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Changes ...

As far as Connor is concerned, Daddy is a builder. That's been his job his whole life, and then some. But with three little boys and a wife at home, and the current state of the economy, changes had to happen. Something more certain, preferrably with good health insurance and long-term benefits like retirement, is what our family needed.

A little over a year ago, Josh began the application process for the local fire department. It's been a long process, beginning with written and physical tests, reference checks, interviews and more interviews. After about a year, the recruit class was selected, and Josh was both lucky and talented enough to be one of those twenty-five.

For the past sixteen weeks, Daddy has been at "fire school" as Connor calls it. At class by 7 o'clock in the morning and not home until nearly 5 o'clock every afternoon. Every day consisted of long hours of studying, practicing, drilling, testing and physcial training.

Building was put on hold, because training was a full-time job in and of itself. They even did things like burn down houses (donated for said purpose) to further their training ...

Last week that process ended. The recruit class graduated in a ceremony attended by the local mayor, the upper levels of the fire department, members of city council, and lots of family and friends. The recruits became official firemen (probationary for the first year, but still official)!

Now, every three days, Daddy is a fireman. The other two, he'll still get to be a builder, if he decides he still wants to. Fireman Daddy. Builder Daddy. Connor thinks he has the coolest dad ever!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Adventures of a Big Boy

Long weekends usually mean a fun trip for Connor. This past weekend was no exception. The boys were out of school on Monday for President's Day, which meant Connor had three whole days away from school. Grandma and Grandpa put in a request for him to accompany them to the Smoky Mountains for the long weekend.

Early Friday, Grandma and Grandpa drove up. They were helping me get the twins to and from school and also picking up Connor from school so that I could go to Josh's graduation from the fire academy. It was at 11 o'clock Friday afternoon, right in the middle of the school day.

After school on Friday, Connor loaded up into Grandpa's truck and said "Bye-bye, see you later!"

We were actually worried he might not get to go at all. He had been feeling a bit under the weather since the middle of last week - not actively sick, but not completely well either. He had a little cough that kept getting worse, he wasn't eating much, and he was sleeping a lot. All bad signs. We told him he might have to stay home. We even hinted Sawyer or Xander might like to go.

Not surprisingly, he woke up Friday morning and proclaimed himself well. He was fibbing, of course, because he still had the same basic symptoms. But we let it go. Grandma and Grandpa were not alarmed by them, and decided to go ahead and take him along.

So he spent three days in the mountains with them. They went swimming at the indoor pool at the condo complex. They made the requisite trip to the OshKosh outlet store for clearance items for next year. They picked up Krispy Kreme doughnuts and ate at Connor's favorites like Chick-fil-A and McDonald's. They even ventured on one of the shorter hikes (just a few miles). They spent quite a bit of time at the track - a place with go carts and mini golf and kiddie rides.

Connor slept, a lot. He ate a little. But he had a great time.

It's a rough life, he says, but someone has to live it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bling, Bling

Our toy closet is filled with all kinds of toys. Legos, blocks, Hot Wheels, you name it, it's probably in there. We have so many toys that we actually rotate them around, keeping about half out and the other half in the closet, simply so that the whole house is not overrun with toys. It very easily could be.

Did the boys want to play with any of those real, normal toys? No, they pulled out the bin that I refer to as "trinkets and trash," the bin that has the assorted toys and items picked up in fast food kids' meals, school rewards, birthday parties and other random events. Xander was all about the Mardi Gras beads and the fake heart ring. It was appropriate dinner attire, apparently. (You might also remember it as part of Connor's Halloween costume a few years back, when he was Captain Jack Sparrow.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ready Or Not ...

Head First, originally uploaded by cheryl.

Today it was warm in our part of the world. I'm talking flip flops and sunroof kind of warm, as in near 70 degrees. That doesn't happen too often in February where we live. So the boys and I enjoyed it as much as we possibly could.

For the first time in months, a warm breeze blew through the truck during car line. The sunroof was open as we drove to and from schools. It was nice.

And when we made it home at the end of the day, we headed outside to the back yard. Well, some of us anyway. Connor jumped on the computer and started playing games. But the twins and I headed out back. They went straight for the swings, Xander requesting "swing" before he even made it through the door. The twins alternated swinging and sliding. Sawyer also had fun chasing Buster and laying on top of him (don't ask, we have no idea). The good news is Buster is a good sport about it. I also found the frisbee and got Xander away from the swings for a while. He loves to toss it up in the air and chase it when you glide it across the yard. We spent quite a while doing that.

Eventually, Connor came outside. He's been kind of pitiful the last few days. Not really sick, but not really himself either. He's not eating hardly anything, though he's drinking tons of juice. And he's laying around and sleeping quite a bit. He decided to grace us with his presence only to mope and whine. We sent him back inside to watch a movie so we could enjoy the warm weather in peace.

We've missed the sun. And the warmth. Though I know it cannot be here to stay - not yet anyway - we're certainly ready for it. When it comes to the weather, I'll skip Spring and take Summer, please.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Around the Corner

It's been a busy weekend.

Friday afternoon, Connor was surprised with an invitation to spend the weekend with Grammy and Pappy. He quickly packed his bags and said see you later. He spent a fun-filled weekend being spoiled with things like an afternoon at the indoor pool and lots of Nerf gun battles with Pappy and Louie at the house.

On Sunday, Connor came back home with Grammy and Pappy, who came over to help celebrate Josh's birthday. We celebrated with Billy's Barbecue and Magee's Carrot Cake (clearly it was not my birthday). We also got to visit with most of Josh's family - Grammy and Pappy, Uncle Luke (on his new motorcycle), Aunt Kelly, and Grandma Jo. Josh's best friend, who the boys know as "Uncle George" also came over to visit. At the end of the night, the twins went home with Grammy and Pappy.

Monday was the big day - registration day for the local school system. We've moved into a new, highly sought-after district. I've heard that you have to register early to be ensured a spot - even though we live in the actual district and are less than a mile from the school. I was there at 9 a.m. on the dot. It took me nearly an hour to fill out three registration packets, but the applications were time and date stamped within the first hour of the first registration window, so surely we will be fine. Surely.

But beyond getting the boys into a good school, it was also a big day because it marks the end of Early Start for the twins. They are going to leave their wonderful teachers and therapists at the end of this school year and start on another journey. It's a big move, and a scary one. I don't think I'm ready for it at all. At least not yet.

There are still have a few months before the transition meeting, where we get together with people from their current team and also invite members from the new school. But it's looming. And it's getting closer. I keep trying not to think about it. Because I simply am not ready.

Next year will be a BIG change. The twins will go from three hours of structured play to eight hours of hard-core school. I know this because Connor is in kindergarten this year. And it exhausts him. He complains about how hard it is and how much work he has to do. And he doesn't have autism, he doesn't have a language delay or sensory issues or any of the other things that come along with autism.

So even though I was happy to go to the boys' new, much-closer neighborhood school to sign them up, even though I am pretty optimistic they will be enrolled, despite the competitive area, it was still a bittersweet moment.

Because I am not ready. Not ready to leave behind the amazing teachers and therapists the boys have come to know the last three years at their school. Not ready to have all three boys at the same school, where their differences will be so much more obvious not only for us but for Connor and the rest of the world. Not ready for the day when Connor tells us that his brothers embarass him in front of his friends. Not ready to watch as the gap between where they are and where they should be continues to widen with each passing school year, despite how hard they are consistently expected to work every single minute of every single day.

No, I am not ready.

Not yet.

Kids at School, Part II

Sawyer enjoying the (slightly) warmer weather and a little outdoor fun at school.

At home, he is content to watch (we don't have a touch-screen computer). At school, he wants to run the show. Our second little computer man!

Special thanks to Mr. K for sharing the photos of Sawyer at school!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Kids at School

King Connor, celebrating 100 days of school with the rest of his kindergarten classmates. He wanted to know if it was all over yet, and we had to tell him no.

Connor with his good buddy (and distant cousin) J at school. They're in different classrooms, but the same complex, so they see each other most days.

Xander concentrating really hard while decorating his bag for their valentine's party on Monday.

Special thanks to Mrs. S (J's mom, who volunteers in the kindergarten complex) for the pictures of Connor, and also for Mrs. B who shared the photo of Xander in her class.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spell Boy

Spell Boy, originally uploaded by cheryl.

For as long as we can remember, Xander has been fascinated by letters. He learned his ABCs early, long before his big brother even learned them, and he never really looked back. He's been singing the ABC song to us for a while, and he sings it fast. He can pick up in the middle or correct you if you miss something. The kid knows his ABCs.

Now he can write them. He's probably had the ability for a while actually. But he tends to be a bit of a perfectionist in just about anything he does, so it was kind of a problem. If the letter didn't look just write, his temper would kick in and he would either erase (on the MagnaDoodle) or scribble it out (on paper). He would often crumple the paper or toss whatever he'd been writing on for good measure. Did I mention temper?

Lately, he's gotten over it. The perfectionism, I mean. Not the temper. He's started writing his own letters. In perfect, alphabetical order, of course. Some of them are still kind of rough looking, but they're still legible. They are, in fact, more legible than the letters his six-year old brother scribbles on his homework.

In addition to his new letter writing ability, we are beginning to suspect that the kid can also actually read basic words. It's not surprising really, given his fascination with letters. And his ability to spell words. He's been reciting word spellings off WordWorld and other shows for years, too. That kicked in about the same time as the letter fascination.

Now he's walking up to random objects, spelling out the letters and then saying the words. Before anyone else tells him what the word actually is. His teachers tell me he likes the fire alarm at school. He walks up to it, spells out "Fire, Pull Here" and the proceeds to tell them what it says. So far he hasn't followed through, thank goodness. Though, as I told his teachers, one time would do it. He would hear that loud, screeching alarm one time, quickly cover his ears with his hands and not do it again, I'm pretty sure.

Letters. Words. Reading. All big things. Now just don't tell Connor, because he's really not going to like it when Spell Boy moves past him in the reading department. It already frustrates him that Xander walks around spelling out words and Connor can't, at least not to the same degree. I get the feeling Connor is not going to like sharing his school with brothers for the first time next year. What do you think?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

So Bad, So Good

There are things that - even as we do them - we know are bad for us. Short term. Long term. All the way around, just bad for us. It doesn't always stop us from doing them.

Every night I do something that I know is setting a really bad precedent. But I'm not going to stop.

For the first couple years of his life, Sawyer was a Mommy's boy. And by that, I mean he clung to me like I was the only person who existed in the whole world. If he wanted attention, he came to me. If he wanted to be held, he came to me. And heaven help us if we decided to have a night out. I have pictures of the poor kid crying pitifully in his Grammy's arms because Mommy had the audacity to leave him. He was, simply, my boy.

And then came the regression. The loss of words, the total withdrawal from everyone and everything that started us on this journey we now know as autism. Other people he could always take or leave, everyone except Mommy. But there came a time when he didn't really care about anyone, including me.

Thankfully, we have gotten past that point. He has reattached himself to my hip as Mommy's boy, and he will also willingly engage with a select few that he knows really well. Mostly that's our immediate family and his school family (who've been with him the last three school years), but it's engagement none the less.

Sawyer is still not overly affectionate. He will occasionally give his version of a kiss - his tightly closed mouth pressed really hard on your cheek or some other part of you. He will sometimes wrap himself around your legs or hold his arms up for you to pick him up, but only for certain people and usually only when he's really tired or when he's not feeling well.

But every single night, my baby wants me to put him to bed. He wants me to go with him into his room, where he will then shut the door and pull me over to his bed. He will lay down in his customary position, on his back, feet propped on top of one pillow, laying horizontally and with his whole body curled into the solid wood headboard. He wants me to put the second pillow over his head and then cover him up with his fleece blanket.

But it's this next part that gets me.

He reaches out for me with both arms. He wants to pull me down with him, where I will wrap my arms tightly around him and squeeze him tight. He wants me to snuggle up next to him, to cover his ears with my hands. And he wants to press that tightly closed mouth against my cheek. Eventually he will settle into a comfortable position and hold onto my hand, wrapping the second arm around mine to keep it in place.

This is our ritual. Every single night that I am home (Sunday through Thursday), this is what we do. He wants me to stay with him until he falls asleep.

I know it's setting a bad precedent. I know everyone in the world would argue against laying down with a preschooler every night until they fall asleep.

I know, and I don't care.

My son is reaching out for me. My son with autism, who doesn't reach out to hardly anyone for hardly anything, wants me there with him as he goes to sleep.

Sometimes it takes five minutes. Sometimes thirty-five. Other times he's asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow.

But it doesn't matter. I will stay there regardless of how long it takes.

It's one of our moments. And I will hold onto it as long as he will let me.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Oh, Chutes & Ladders!"

That's Connor's newest phrase to come home from school.

I have a feeling this one may be from the teachers, but I don't really know. Kind of a creative way of voicing frustration, don't you think?

"Oh, chutes and ladders!" can be heard often in our house. Connor is easily frustrated these days.

It could be worse. Much, much worse, I suppose.