Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ready to Go

Ready for School by here we wander
Ready for School, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
It's probably my fault. When I ordered the boys their new school shoes and their new backpacks, I probably should have kept them in box. And not let the boys see them.

Because once they did, it was all over. Both boys wanted to put on their new shoes the minute they saw them in the bench. And yes, yes they are bright, bright red. Both boys wanted to put on their new backpacks. And as soon as we had everything on, both of them went running for the garage door.

"School?" Xander kept asking. Over and over again. Even Sawyer was saying "Go!" And that's pretty big for him.

Let's just say they wore their new gear for a few hours before I could convince them to put it back away. And they were severely disappointed when we did not, in fact, head out the door to school.

The scene has replayed itself several times in the last week.

Lesson learned. Next year, keep the new school stuff in the box. Until the night before school. After the boys have gone to bed. Maybe then the waiting will not be quite so hard.

And no, if you're wondering, Connor did not join in the fun. He's not been home very much this summer, but even on the handful of days that he's been home, he has not wanted to try out his new backpack or shoes. He's perfectly content to sleep in while he still can.

Just a few more weeks, and ready (yes for the twins) or not (no really for Connor), school will be here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gone Again

Less than 24 hours. That's how long Connor was home from one adventure before he left on the next one. He arrived back in town Friday afternoon with Grandma and Grandpa and Cousin Austin. We met Uncle Brian at one of our favorite restaurants for dinner.

By 10 o'clock Saturday morning I was having to wake him up from a deep sleep to get ready to go again. Pappy was picking him up. They were going out for doughnuts at a local bakery, then meeting up with Grammy to head to a major league baseball game with her and Uncle Daniel and Aunt Sherry.

It is, indeed, a hard life.

They made a whole day of it, heading up early even thought it was a night game. They took in the sights, toured the stadium, played a little ball, collected some souvenirs. And they had some really amazing ball park food (Mommy is jealous, if you can't tell).

And no, your eyes do not deceive you. Our lefty is batting right in this photo. He apparently thinks he's a switch hitter. And though he did manage to hit a line drive on the first pitch according to Grammy, he really is not.

After the game, they spent the night with family. They went to church on Sunday morning and spent the day just hanging out with family. Late Sunday night, he finally made his way back home.

Other than Friday night's brief layover, he's been gone for three weeks now.

So, of course, you know what he asked this morning, right?

"Where am I going next?"

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

Special thanks to Aunt Sherry for sending us the pics from their adventure.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Snapshot Sunday (Tuesday)

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

Learning to Let Go

Free Fall by here we wander
Free Fall, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
It's only taken six years, but finally Sawyer and Xander are learning to let go.

Last week the boys and I packed up and headed down to visit Grandma and Grandpa at the lake for a really long weekend (Connor was already there on his extended summer vacation). And it was the first time the twins have truly enjoyed it.

Xander has discovered jumping off the back of the boat is just as fun as jumping into the swimming pool. And that's just what he did. Over and over and over. All day. Every day.

Sawyer is not quite ready to leap off the back of the boat. It does look like a long way down if you've not done it before. But he will climb down the ladder and free fall the last little bit into the water. He'll even climb back up the ladder just to fall off of it again.

And more important, both boys have finally gotten comfortable enough in their life jackets to enjoy the deep waters without clutching onto Mommy for dear life. Both of them have mastered the back float in our little backyard pool. Sawyer is a little more skilled than Xander, but both do pretty well. And both have a rough dog paddle down now, too. So they can move on their own. And with a life jacket, they can do so much more.

We spent hours in the water the last few days. Both boys LOVED it. Connor and I have always LOVED it. So it's nice to find something all of us can do together. You know, without the screaming and the tears.

I was fully prepared for Xander's very opinionated self to proclaim "No boat, no swim!" at each turn. Instead, we were constantly questioned about "Grandpa's truck? Boat? Swim?" And then there were tears when it was time to take the boat out of the water and go back to the cabin. You know, for important things like eating dinner.

It was a good trip. Good to see the boys learning to let go. And having a good time doing it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hard Life Club

Silly Faces by here we wander
Silly Faces, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Connor has been having a rough couple of weeks at the lake. Can you tell?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

This Life

It's the little things, some days, that seem so very different about this life.

Connor has been off on his lake adventure this last week, and Josh has been out of town on a much-needed and well-deserved boys' weekend away. It's just been me and the twins.

And sometimes the walls close in. The house seems too small, too familiar, after more than a month of summer vacation. But our options of getting out are also limited. It's been over 100 degrees in our part of the world for weeks, and even the backyard pool has lost its appeal in that degree of heat. Our old pastime of at least sneaking out for a middle of the day (and thus less crowded) meal are over thanks to the GFCF diet experiment. Nothing, and I mean nothing, works for that when you factor in the boys' already picky eating habits.

But yesterday we ventured out by necessity. I had to pick up something to drop off for a client to review (one of my freelance marketing projects that helps pay the bills around here). After that errand was done, I decided to take the boys to Target for a little shopping.

One of the things we're working on now that the boys have started occupational therapy is play. It sounds so incredibly simple, and for a lot of kids, it is. But for kids with autism, for Sawyer and Xander, it has never been easy. Toys are usually things to be lined up or sorted, maybe even studied from all angles, but very rarely is there any actual play. That's not structured enough for their brains, doesn't fit into a sequence or have a clear enough result or reward.

I often look at the photo above - a poster size print we have framed on a wall in Sawyer's room - and shake my head. This picture, and those posters, were from a time before the diagnosis. We used to laugh at Sawyer always wanting to climb on the dining room table and "play" with this Little People airport. What he was really doing, of course, was opening and closing the little luggage chute. He was fascinated, as always, by the repetitive movement of it. But at the time, when I designed the black and white posters for the wall, this one got the "play" from our theme - live, laugh, love, play, dream, believe. Little did we know ...

But I digress, I was talking about our trip to Target. You see, I wanted to take the boys into the toy section, to see if anything appealed to them. We have recently re-organized our play room into a more "work box" setting, something both boys are familiar with through school and therapy. All of the old toys fit neatly into the containers, but I thought it might be nice to have a few new ones.

And that's when the difference of this life hit home.

If I had taken Connor to the toy section, he would have jumped up and down with excitement. He would have ran the whole way to the back of the store. He would have wanted to go through every single aisle, picking up items to explore and to want to take home with him. He would have begged for any and all of them. I would have had a list of potential birthday and Christmas gifts lined up for later this year.

But I did not take Connor. I took Sawyer and Xander. They didn't like entering the store, much less being led to the back of it. Xander flopped down in the floor several times on our way back. Sawyer had his hands over his ears practically the whole way. Neither one of them wanted to walk down any of the aisles with toys. If I forced them into one, and then happened to pick up a toy they might like, Xander quickly grabbed it out of my hand and stuck it right back on the shelf, loudly proclaiming, "No, no thanks!" with each one. Sawyer wouldn't even look at the toys, he just reached his arm out to push them away.

There was no begging, no requests for toys. There was no list of potential gifts for later. There were simply two boys, not very happy to find themselves in a toy section of a local store and certainly not inclined to take any of them home with them. They did manage to hold a bouncy ball with spikes (hello texture and sensory input) before quickly tossing it back into the bin. And Xander pulled a hula hoop down to examine it, before also quickly putting it right back.

There simply wasn't anything that truly appealed to them.

On the way toward the children's video and book section (my second attempt to find an interest), they were both far more interested in the grocery section. Xander craves Doritos - an item definitely not on the GFCF list - and made a bee line for the chip aisle. Sawyer, who never refuses a drink and often steals any that are not carefully guarded, couldn't take his eyes off the Gatorade display.

There might have been some begging, or at least repetitive requesting, here. But I moved them along.

And the movies and books were just as unimpressive as the toys. They hardly looked. They certainly didn't pick anything up to take a closer look. And they LOVE to watch movies. A screen is a screen, after all, even if it's not their beloved computer or iPad.

But the trip wasn't working. They weren't interested. And unlike Connor, who would have had a cart full if given the opportunity, they didn't have a single thing to request (outside the Doritos and Gatorade).

"Truck," Xander finally said. "I want truck, please."

And we were done. Our little shopping trip yielded nothing, not a single item of interest to either one of them.

And as we walked back out to the truck empty-handed, I was a little disappointed. I had hoped they would find something that interested them, that we could put something new into the play room that they might enjoy. Maybe then Xander would not always be so quick to say "No toys!" when screen time is over and my inevitable response of "Play with toys!" follows.

But as I was helping them get buckled into their seatbelts, I thought a little more about the experience. No, selecting a toy was not successful. But the rest of it was a huge step forward.

Up until last year, I hardly took the boys anywhere that I couldn't fit a double jogging stroller or a double cart. Yesterday we stopped at three different places. The boys had to go in at each one of them, and they willingly climbed down from the truck, held my hand (or allowed me to hold theirs) as we crossed streets and parking lots, and they went inside. They didn't always like what was inside, and sometimes flopped onto the floor in protest, but they went. And they kept going in, even after not liking one of the stops that came before.

Progress. Maybe not always in the way that you want it or expect it, but progress just the same. Maybe we'll eventually work up to picking out a toy or book we like. And maybe we'll eventually work up to actually playing with it when it comes home. But for now, I'll be happy for what we did accomplish. We got out of the house, out of all of our comfort zones, and we made it home without any major issues or meltdowns. A step forward is still a step forward, even if it is not the one you were trying to take.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Artist

If you don't have young children and are not familiar with PBS Kids, let me introduce you to one of Xander's favorite things ... Word World.

It's something we know A LOT about in our house. Some might say a little too much.

Xander can recite entire episodes verbatim (and with perfect inflection). He anticipates moments in each show, laughing just before something funny is about to happen or saying a line just before a character has the chance to do so. He knows how to spell all of the words featured in the "Let's Build a Word" segments. He knows the entire series inside and out.

This summer Word World is also showing up in other ways.

Xander is our artist. He LOVES to sit down with markers or crayons or paint. He will go through an entire ream of paper in one sitting if you will let him. The desk in his room is filled with his "papers" from letters to numbers to drawings to signs to whatever his current obsession happens to be.

Here are a few recent examples ...

"Pig's Perfect Pizza" is a favorite episode.

 As is "The Lost Letter L" episode.

And, as anyone who's ever watched PBS knows, every show ends with a thank you to the sponsors as well as "Viewers Like You" and then ...

"Thank You."

Welcome to our "Word World."

Monday, July 2, 2012

It's a Hard Life

Mommy's Chair by here we wander
Mommy's Chair, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
Now that baseball is officially over for the summer, Connor is trading in his lazy days around the backyard swimming pool for some lazy days at the lake.

Grandma and Grandpa drove up this morning. The three oldest cousins (Connor plus Austin and Kyndal) left with them for an extended trip to their cabin on the lake.

There will be boating and swimming and tubing. Charcoal grilling and good eating. There will probably even be a few day trips to other fun places, like maybe a local water park or a nearby national park.

Yes, it's a hard life, Connor says, but someone has to live it.

A Simple Request

It was a simple request.

"I want sandwich, please. I want pretzels, please."

But it was so much more. It was a moment in time.

It was the first time either of the twins had ever requested a specific dinner (not just a specific item), and not only that, actually finished the entire meal.

It happened last week. We were on our way home from our pool outing at the club with Grammy and Aunt Kelly. All of the boys had hovered around the cooler we always bring, begging for snacks and drinks all day long. That's just what they do. They will eat and drink all day long if you will let them.

But on the way home, even as we drove past the fast food places near the interstate, Xander piped up from his seat right behind me.

"I want sandwich, please. I want pretzels, please."

And when we got home, he repeated it again as we were unloading the truck. So I got all the boys inside, took a few minutes to take care of our giant puppy, then got started on everyone's dinner.

Xander had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (the only kind he has ever eaten) and pretzels, just as he requested. And he ate every last bite of it. All the more impressive because it was a GFCF meal (frozen sandwich bread from Rudi's and pretzels from Snyder's).

One simple request. One big moment.