Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fifteen Long Hours Later ...

Silhoutte by here we wander
Silhoutte, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

The boys could look, but just not touch. That's fair, right?

Actually, we needed the boys to sit still and be good while the rest of us brought stuff inside and got organized after a very long fifteen hour car ride. Grandma and Grandpa invited the boys and I along for a week at the beach before school started (Daddy unfortunately had to stay home and work). We all left at midnight on Friday, drove through the night, and made it to the beach about 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon.

It was a long, long drive. The boys slept pretty well through the night, which was our plan, but the last few hours in all of us had our moments.

And the boys really did just look at the beach the first day. We were all pretty exhausted after our late night journey with only a few stolen moments of sleep. Grandpa and I took turns driving, and Grandma kept three little boys in line from the back.

And though we didn't venture out to the beach just yet - it's extremely hot and we're still tired - we did take the boys down to the pool last night (see photos here). All three wanted to stay all night long. We spent a few hours before we made them get out and head back upstairs for a bite to eat and bath before an early bed time. We all needed it.

Now we have the rest of the week to alternate between the sensory heaven (or landmine, depending on who you're talking about) of the beach and the swimming pool. I would be a bit more excited about the pool, except this particular pool has salt water filtration, so it's pretty much all the same.

We have sun and water, so we're all set for the week.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Days

Time to Eat? by here we wander
Time to Eat?, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

If only he knew how quickly it was about to end ... he would be much happier to be spending the afternoon outside in the back yard pool. Two more weeks until school starts, but it's not on his radar yet. Reality will crash into all of the boys pretty hard. No more lazy days of swimming and snacking and playing computer. So it goes ...

Going Green

Mommy's Helper by here we wander
Mommy's Helper, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

A little bit, anyway.

Last weekend, Uncle Brian was nice enough to pick up some tasty fresh vegetables for us at the local farmer's market. He gets up early, and we, sadly, do not. So he brought us some fresh green beans and fresh corn on the cob from the market, along with some tasty samples from his own back yard garden - tomatoes, banana peppers, cucumbers and a host of spices (fresh bruschetta, anyone?).

Today I decided to break out a few of the fresh veggies for dinner. Connor, as always, was excited to help in the kitchen. We  got most of the stuff ready just after lunch, so it would be ready in time for our dinner tonight. I started out by making some good, Southern "refrigerator pickles" with the cucumbers. I did the dicing, and Connor put them all into the bowl. Next up was green beans. We rinsed them all off with cold water, then got them ready to simmer all day. Connor helped me "break" them, getting rid of the ends and putting the bite-size pieces into the pot. We added some bacon grease (of course) and some onion before covering them with water and putting them on the stove. Last was the corn, but we left it until about an hour out. Connor helped me "shuck" it over the trash can (it was still pretty messy with my little helper).

Connor tried everything. He kept telling me how good the "farmer's market corn" was every few bites. He ate four pieces (they were halved, so two full ears of corn). Clearly he liked it. The extra butter and salt probably helped. He even ate most of his green beans, though he's not generally a fan of them. He tried one of the chilled cucumber slices, and even ate the whole thing, but it was clearly not his favorite. He didn't want seconds.

The twins, of course, would touch none of it. It was unfamiliar and therefore unacceptable. Xander wouldn't even try the green bean, and it's normally one of the only vegetables he will eat. He looked at the corn on the cob (corn is usually his favorite vegetable), but wouldn't eat it off the cob. He had a healthy dinner of applesauce, grapes and popcorn (don't ask, he always wants popcorn for some reason).

And Sawyer, the stinker, slept through dinner. This does not bode well for going to bed tonight, or getting up tomorrow. It certainly does not bode well for our upcoming trip (think fourteen hours in a car) tomorrow night. Like I said, stinker.

So that was our foray into fresh eating. Connor and I enjoyed it. Xander passed, and Sawyer didn't even know anything about it. Unfortunately Daddy missed out. He's working at the fire station today, and since we're leaving tomorrow, we couldn't wait for him to get home to sample the goodies. We did, however, leave him plenty to fix for himself while we're gone.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Just Because ...

Silly Bandz by here we wander
Silly Bandz, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

Sometimes the walls start to close in, especially late in to summer vacation. This week Xander discovered big brother's stash of Silly Bandz, and clearly there are quite a few. Xander decided to make quite the fashion statement with them. Until they started to cut off his circulation. And they didn't want to come off very easily. He was slightly pissed about it. Not that it stopped him from doing it over and over again. We're all about routines in our house, you know.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Adventures with Daddy




Today Connor and Daddy are off on an adventure with Grammy and Pappy. They left bright and early this morning, traveling to a neighboring state for a pretty big air show. It's apparently hot, as Connor keeps complaining to them, but also fun. Note his fan and the remains of his icee. I'd say he's doing pretty well, considering.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Attitude

Tired & Grumpy by here we wander
Tired & Grumpy, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

Please tell me what happened to my cute and cuddly little boy. Because all he's been lately is smart-mouthed, defiant, and down right mean.

I think part of it comes from summer. It's less structured for all of us, so he's starting to get a little restless. He's also been home for quite some time now, instead of off on his usual one-on-one adventures with grandparents where he is allowed to be spoiled and selfish.

It apparently also is just in his nature. He is the big brother, so I expect some teasing and taunting. That comes with the territory, right? But the last few weeks, he's just been mean. And he's been in trouble more than not.

Let's see ... his first major offense was locking his little brother in the closet. Yes, one morning I woke up to loud banging. When I got up to see what was going on, he was perched on his footstool right in front of his closet doors, sitting there holding them closed while one of his little brothers banged and screamed from inside. I cannot tell you what big brother would have done if I had locked him in there, in the dark, by himself. He would have screamed the house down if he were the one trapped.

There's also the mouth. His mother certainly knows a thing or two about sarcasm (I'm sure Grandma and Grandpa at the lake are chuckling as we speak). But the boy has taken to a whole new level. Shouting. Storming off with heavy feet. Slamming doors and knocking things over. Angry. Smart-mouthed. Not using the manners we KNOW that he knows - yes mam, no sir, please, thank you.

Sigh.

Now, let's talk about the many (many, many, many) time outs he has to have from the new back yard pool. This one is hardest to understand, because the boy absolutely loves the pool. How can he constantly keep doing things that get him taken out of it? The twins have not enjoyed it nearly as much since he came back home from his adventures. Getting constantly sprayed in the face with water will do that for you. And this kid of mine is awful. He looks - actually looks - to see if anyone is watching him. And if he thinks they are not, he purposefully goes over to one of his brothers and sprays them in the face with a water gun or using his hand to splash water right at them.

Clearly he has not learned that I can see through the windows in the house out to the pool, otherwise I would not be in the house at all while the boys are in the pool. The first few weeks I made them all potty at the same time, but I've learned to trust that they will not drown each other if I hurry one brother in to potty or if I step inside to grab juice or snacks for them to enjoy on the patio (both places are right next to windows over looking the pool area).

The boys gets three warnings - THREE - and still loses privileges. On the third warning he has to get out and get dressed because he is done for the day. The last time I caught him spraying his brother in the face, the very next day after being forced out early and also losing computer priviliges for the next two days, I took his water gun away from him and threw it in the trash can. He broke down in tears, but clearly the other methods are not having the appropriate affect.

Sometimes I want to bang my head against the wall. Sometimes I want to bang HIS head against the wall.

So if anyone sees that cute and cuddly boy, please send him back my way. I'm ready to trade back now.

Looking for Words

Double Trouble by here we wander
Double Trouble, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

Tuesday is now speech therapy day. During the school year, every school day has some component of speech therapy that is provided through the school system, both in the traditional classroom and also in special education settings. But now, every Tuesday is also speech therapy day, as in the day we take the boys to a private speech therapist for additional services.

We have long debated adding additional speech therapy for the boys outside of what the school system provides. Part of it was trying to find that difficult balance between giving them the therapy and help that they need without making every moment of their life scheduled and monitored. It was also a question of finances and insurance, and this year we finally decided it was time.

This week marks the third week in the boys' new speech therapy routine. The first week was simply evaluations and observations - all those fun forms and questions to respond to - but the last two weeks have been actual sessions. They are short, only 30 minutes long, but held every single week.

The boys are quickly learning the routine. Sawyer already tries to leave the waiting room as soon as we check in. He's not a huge fan of the waiting part, though he usually does pretty well in the sessions. Xander is hit or miss. His first session, he was really cooperative and calm. Todays' session he was a bit feisty and combative. I'm sure they will both have their days.

The good news is we really like the boys' new therapist. She is young and energetic, and on the very first session recognized something very important about Sawyer and Xander. They are stubborn. They know much more than they will show you at any given moment. Xander was tossing out one and two word phrases when he clearly knows that we expect sentences from him at this point. He KNOWS this. But he wasn't going to give it to this new person who was making him work and play by her rules. And Sawyer also knows more than a single sign, but he's taken to trying to use "eat" as his "I want" and not offering anything else unless you make him.

Today's session was also a bit of a departure. We joined a session with an older child who also has autism, and he and his therapist showed Sawyer a little about his communication software (and other software as well) on his iPad. This was one of the main reason we got an iPad for Sawyer (and why we are considering one for Xander as well). It was interesting, watching the other little boy show him things and seeing Sawyer watch what he could make the screen do. It was also nice to see the software in use by someone who was familiar with it and used it on a daily basis.

The boys are definitely ready to leave when the session is over (and there is waiting, because they are scheduled back-to-back with the same therapist). But they at least come willingly out of the truck and into the office. They also usually come willingly into the back area for the session.

Just another twist and turn on our journey. The boys are getting used to adapting to new and different things, which is a huge step in and of itself. So Tuesday afternoons, you'll find us taking time out to look for a few words ...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ball Park ...

... buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks ...

Yes, it's already time to start thinking about Fall baseball. Or, more accurately, Connor started thinking about it the minute he played his last Spring game of the season. We are now being forced to think about it because registration for Fall ball is here. The twins, if they knew about it, would be screaming in frustration. I promise.

But Fall ball is just around the corner again, and that means decision time. We've talked to Connor about maybe trying out soccer, but I don't think it's going to happen. The boy has baseball (and whatever his big cousin Austin does) on his mind, and that's pretty much all he can think or talk about. So it's looking like we're going back for more baseball.

What we are not doing, mind you, is returning to the same league.

All season long, I hinted at some serious league issues. But I wanted to attempt to be fair, to give the league a chance to redeem itself by the end of the season. That just didn't happen. If you know us, and want a heads up on the actual league NOT to join, let me know. For everyone else, I'll just offer up a few of the reasons that our next ball season will be somewhere else.

The original schedule that came out, or even the revised schedule that came out a few weeks after the original schedule, had maybe one or two things that were accurate. One or two. For the whole season. The dates, the times, the locations - all of it changed, all the time. You might get an email about a time or location change the night before the game, or you might get it the day of the game. You would also still continue to get the league-generated automatic email with the original time and location (which was of course incredibly incorrect). All on the same day. People were routinely showing up at the wrong location or the wrong time all season long, and really, who could blame them.

Some might think t-ball is an instructional league. Some would be sadly mistaken. Most of the other teams were returning kids who had played together last spring and last fall. All of the new kids were dumped on a few new teams with new coaches. The teams either won every game they played, or they lost every game they played. There were no mediocre teams. Many of the coaches also didn't bother to follow the rules. Some of the umpires weren't very observant. Kids were running two and three bases on overthrown balls, they kept running bases even after the ball was in the infield and held up, and generally tried to run the score up. Even when they were already winning by several runs. Coaches were also playing their best players on key positions, and leaving them there the whole game. So much for letting every kid get a feel for the game.

It's also hard to teach kids about the sport when they never played on a consistent field type. Almost every practice was held in a grassy field with an ancient backstop - no bases or baselines, mind you - but a grassy field. One of the actual games was played there, too. And there aren't any bleachers. There's a massive hillside going down to the grassy field. One week a game would be played on the little league field, the next it would be on an adult field - you know, with outfields more than 320 feet away. Sometimes there would be a dirt infield, sometimes a grass one. And sometimes, like I said, just a grassy field. And that cute little field right up the street from our house, where all of Connor's fall ball games and practices were played last season, well we didn't see it once. Not once. We were scheduled for it three or four times, but it never actually happened.

I'm pretty sure my patience with the league ended that day we played an actual game on that grassy (overgrown, even) field with no baselines and no bleachers. This was a real game, people. The poor kids could hardly see the baseball in the tall grass, and if it hit one of the huge divots in the field, it went flying who knows where. These are five- and six-year olds, and they might as well have been playing in someone's back yard.

Let's talk about the facilities a little more. The field we played at last year was right next to a city park. There were restrooms at the baseball field and at the park. There was also a concession stand with hot dogs and nachos and all that other all-American baseball food.

The brand-new little league field that we eventually played on - mid-way through the season, mind you - was also next to a city park. But there were no restrooms. They city brought a few port-a-potties up on the hill for each game. And the concession stand was a Pepsi trailer with nothing beyond packaged foods and can drinks. What kind of baseball field is that?

Now I will give the league a few points of consideration. Some of the changes in the schedule were absolutely due to the weather. We had a monsoon season here in our part of the world this Spring. But that doesn't give them license to move every t-ball game up to the ridiculous times of 4 o'clock in the afternoon - on a school and work day. Seriously? Every change also messed up a subsequent practice. We had some practices that were moved to 3:30 in the afternoon. Connor didn't even get home from school until almost 3 o'clock. And we often didn't know about the changes until the day before or the day of.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will also tell you that Connor's team was not that great. It was once of the new teams. Connor had played fall ball last year, but he was one of maybe three or four players who had ever played on a baseball team. More than half of the team had never picked up a baseball or bat or glove before the first practice. More than half. We had trouble even fielding enough players, especially during the early start times. We also didn't have a very good practice schedule, so the kids didn't learn a whole lot in between games.

So that was our Spring season. I still find it hard to believe we spent as much money as we did to put him in a league that is so clearly disorganized and unprepared for the number of kids trying to participate. Scheduling was a disaster, the new field wasn't ready until midway through the season and even then had limited facilities available (no restrooms for little league - are you serious?), and the teams were so disproportionate it wasn't even funny.

I will also say the Spring season was a total departure from our Fall experience. We LOVED Fall ball with this league last year - practice at the same time each week, games at the same time (though different days), optional clinics for more experience, and everything held at the same facility (which, by the way, had restrooms). No matter how wonderful that first experience was, it cannot make up for the disaster that was the Spring season.

If Connor really wants to play baseball, I want him in a league that knows what it's doing. We've been getting references from other parents in town, including Uncle Brian who coaches in another league we are considering. We may have to drive a little further from home, but that doesn't matter much. Because I will not waste our money or our time with this league again. Pretty much every parent on our team said the same thing, even parents with older kids who had played in the league previously, said this year was a total disaster. Clearly there was a little too much growth and the organizers were a little out of their league. The good news for them is that I imagine they will not have nearly as many coming back next year, so maybe their numbers will be more manageable.

We'll certainly be going elsewhere.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Too Short & Too Long

It's going to be over in just a few short weeks. In some ways it will be much too short. In others, it has already been much too long. A life of contradictions, as usual.

The boys and I have been spending a relaxing summer mostly close to home. We've made a few trips down to visit family at the lake, but mostly we've been in our quiet little neighborhood. And with our recent back yard project, we've drawn in even further, into our own back yard.

In some ways, that's a good thing. The back yard is safe and contained. The boys and I can now spend hours out there all day without wanting or needing a single thing. Swimming pool. Trampoline. Play set. Shade trees and the large patio umbrella. Food and restrooms nearby. All good.

Of course, in other ways, it's bad. Seclusion, lack of interaction. The boys are falling back into their old pattern of relying on me for every single moment of every single day, to not only take care of their wants and needs, but to also be their only play friend. And by only, I mean that each one of them thinks that I should only play with him. And will get screaming mad if I dare to play with someone else, or even worse, try to take a minute to myself.

Perhaps too much togetherness has gotten to us all. Connor spent most of the day in trouble, either for not listening or for talking back (we will not even begin to talk about his attitude of late). Sawyer spent the day walking up to me with his new sign of the moment - "eat" - which basically means"hey, I want something," and while it frequently includes food, that's not always the case. Xander spent the day screaming at the top of his lungs every time Connor did something hateful (see previous statement, and you will understand why he screamed long and loud most of the day).

Tonight all three of them looked at me in complete horror when I quickly gave them their required bath and then unceremoniously dumped them in bed. No bedtime stories. No snuggling. Barely a "good night, love you" as I closed the door.

It was simply one of those days. I was done.

The kids' disbelief comes from the fact that those days are few and far between. Most of the time, regardless of how frustrating the day has been, I take a few deep breaths and go through the normal bedtime routine. Xander likes his favorite book, and maybe a song or two, but not much snuggling. Sawyer wants me to snuggle and hold him until he's fast asleep, and he will put up with a story or a song, but he doesn't really request either one. Connor begs for a story (or two or three), then wants to you lay down with him and talk about the day, and then stay until he's nearly asleep. All told, it can take upwards of an hour or two, depending on the night.

And I just didn't have it in me tonight. Josh has worked the last four days straight. The kids and I have been home all summer long, all day long, together for weeks now. I was simply done.

Here's hoping we all wake up on a better side of the bed in the morning.

To Sleep ... Or Not to Sleep

Off Schedule by here we wander
Off Schedule, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

That's the million dollar question in our house.

This has been a rough week in terms of sleep, and I may or may not have wanted to strangle the adorable child in this photo. This was 7 o'clock in the evening, which is a tad bit early for him to be thinking about going to sleep for the night. Luckily for him, he managed to sleep for 12 uninterrupted hours this night.

Now the three or four nights before that were a bit different. As in about seven hours less, every single night. The kid was falling asleep around 10 or even 11 at night, and then promptly waking up for the day about five hours later. Yes, 3 o'clock in the morning and he was wide awake and ready to start the day. And no, he didn't go back to sleep. Not once. Not even a tiny little nap in the middle of the day. And he was still never ready to go to bed, despite the string of long days and short nights he was accumulating.

So I was not in the mood for an early bedtime only to be followed by yet another middle of the night wake up. But, luckily for all of us, it finally caught up to him and he managed to sleep for more than a few consecutive hours at a time.

Sigh. Let's hope tonight is another good night, and not another short one. Sometimes that one good (dare I say normal) night of sleep is enough to throw it all back off again. Fingers crossed ...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Hard Life

The Hard Life by here we wander
The Hard Life, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

Clearly we are having a rough summer around our house. Another summer day, another day spent lounging in the back yard pool. It's a hard life, Connor says, but someone has to live it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fourth of July with Cousins

Fourth with Cousins by here we wander
Fourth with Cousins, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

For the first time in I don't know how many years, I spent a Fourth of July away from the lake. And while part of me missed it - thought about all the summers spent at favorite lakes with faraway friends and with family - yesterday came pretty close to being perfect.

Uncle Brian and Cousins Austin and Kyndal joined us early in the afternoon to spend most of the day under the patio umbrella and in the back yard pool. The kids had a great day, going from pool to slide (it was better when you were wet, of course) to trampoline and back again. They spent the better part of five hours out there splashing, sliding and bouncing. Uncle Brian and I sipped beverages on the patio, caught some sun (mostly for me) and enjoyed catching up.

Sadly, Josh was working. But as he's not big on the pool or the sun, I don't imagine he felt like he was missing much. Certainly not with time-and-a-half holiday pay.

After soaking up as much sun and water as we possibly could, we all came back inside to get dressed and get ready for the second half of the day. Up next was dinner at El Chico, arguably an odd choice for the Fourth of July, but it was a belated birthday dinner for Kyndal and it was her choice. So Mexican was on the menu.

Our night ended across town at Uncle Brian's house. The kids alternated between the back yard trampoline and the indoor Wii Gaming system. We sipped some more beverages as we waiting for dark to come.

And then the real show began. I was a bit hesitant, wondering how the twins would do with real fireworks up close and personal (hello new state laws allowing military grade shells). But the boys surprised us all. There were a few hands-over-ears moments, especially at dusk as the neighborhood starting popping and cracking with the first fireworks. But once they saw the flashing lights, the noise faded into the background.

We all left the back yard and headed out front to the cul-de-sac in front of the house. We opened the back hatch on my truck and the kids sat down (though this would not last for long). Uncle Brian began setting up the show. Bottle rockets, roman candles, sparklers, big and small shooting fireworks. It was a big show and a big night. All the boys did incredibly well, watching and bouncing and smiling the whole night. We had to warn the twins back a few times, as they desperately wanted to touch the bright, shooting sparks from time to time. But all in all, they did well.

It wasn't a typical Fourth of July, without the boat and the lake and the grill, but it was still a great one. Back yard fun. Family and Friends. Good food and good times.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Summer Time

Pure Joy by here we wander
Pure Joy, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.

If we would let them, both Sawyer and Xander would be in the pool day all day, every day this summer. I am pretty sure that both of them agree that it was the best addition to the back yard, ever. Sawyer loves the trampoline and at times seems addicted to it, but even bouncing cannot compete with the lure of the water. Xander also likes the trampoline, though not to the same degree. And the water is his first choice, too. 

In typical identical-but-not exactly fashion, the boys have two different ways of enjoying the pool.

For Sawyer, he is slowly teaching himself to swim. He is practicing his doggie paddle and his back float, both with some success given that he's never had a single lesson and will not let anyone even attempt to help him in the water (at least not when his feet will touch, because the lake and life jackets are a whole different story).

For Xander, it's all about jumping. And yes, we know that you're not supposed to let them jump off the ladder of the above ground pool. But quite frankly, he doesn't do anything remotely dangerous. He climbs up two steps, then hops down on his feet. He loves the big splash, even though he's not really "jumping" very far, since his feet barely even leave the water.

One swims, or something very close to it. The other jumps. And they are content. For hours at a time. Yesterday the boys and I spent several hours, in between potty breaks and snack breaks, in or around the pool.

Good summer fun, from the comfort and convenience of the back yard. We love it.