Friday, September 28, 2012

Second Grade Field Trip

Let's just say it was a little bit silly and a lot of fun. More details to follow ...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sensory Afternoon

Even after a full hour of their weekly OT session, the boys were still in the mood for a little sensory play time.

Who needs a real bed when you can have a swing in your room, right Sawyer?

We took his bed apart a few months back and just put his mattress on the floor so that we could give them more room to swing (a few too many cuts on their ankles from banging into the foot board). The light fixture keeps us from truly centering it in the room, but it's close.

We were actually going to get rid of his bed altogether and had ordered him a giant crash mat. Amazon somehow managed to lose this 5 foot by 5 foot, incredibly heavy (as in nearly $40 in shipping charges) item in transit. And they also forgot to tell us about it, because they charged our credit card and we never got it. But my annoyance with Amazon isn't the point.

The point is moving the swing and making Sawyer's room a virtual gym for the twins was worth it. And Sawyer couldn't be happier with the arrangement, in case you can't tell from the video. Gives him something to do on those days when he decides 2 a.m. is a good time to be up for the day and the rest of us still think it's a good time to be sleeping.

Just another day in the life ...

Stocking Up

My apologies to the other GFCF parents shopping at our local grocery store. You have no idea how hard it is to find some of the more popular items, and this expensive little box of Gluten-Free Bisquick is one of the more elusive ones. Our local store has been totally out of it every time I've shopped there the last month or so.

And it's probably because of parents just like me. When you see it on the shelf, you stock up. I took all four boxes, and those were the only ones that were left.

We won't talk about how I had nearly the same experience with the Snyder's Gluten-Free pretzels at Whole Foods. I may or may not have bought 12 bags the day I finally found them. And also ordered another case of 12 from an online retailer.

This diet is hard. Really, really hard for our boys. They are already extremely picky eaters. Xander is a vegetarian, refusing to take more than a tentative bite of any kind of meat before attempting to either gag or screaming "No Thanks!" in your face (usually with tears to go along with it). Sawyer might be joining him. We've had a hard time getting him to eat meat after a recent overdose of bacon (perhaps half a pound) one day at lunch. He's been squeamish about touching most meat since that day and the resulting stomach ache.

The boys eat the same things over and over again. Fruit. Applesauce. GFCF chips and crackers. GFCF cereal. Soy yogurt (Xander only). GFCF spaghetti (Sawyer only). Non-starch french fries. And that's pretty much it. For every single meal, every single day. Variety is hard to come by, and I know it has to get old for them.

We have seen pretty remarkable improvements in both boys since we began the diet over the summer. Eye contact is so much better, for both boys, but especially for Sawyer. Focus and attention are better. Ability to sit still and perform tasks at the table is better.

I didn't want to believe in the diet. I didn't want to see improvements. But not that I have, I can't go back. And as much as I would love to let the boys cheat now and then (we did that for a while), I've also seen what a little cheating can do. Massive behavior changes. Xander unable to sit or focus, bouncing off the walls and vocalizing and scripting all day long. Sawyer withdrawing into his own world, not meeting your eyes or seeking your attention.

So we're continuing with the diet. We're trying harder and harder not to cheat at all, because it does make a huge difference. The boys are handling it as well as could be expected. There have been a few moments of Sawyer trying to steal gluten from any available place (Connor's Buffalo Wild Wings the other night at dinner, for one). It breaks my heart when I hear how hard he tries to get in line at the school cafeteria on pizza days. We've not had any luck on finding a dairy-free cheese that is both tastes good and doesn't offend their extreme texture issues. And it break my heart when Xander painfully points out every single Arby's we see in our daily travels (and there are more than I had ever really noticed, quite frankly).

Thanks goodness for Chick-fil-a and their efforts to provide GFCF food. Just yesterday Xander has some of their french fries, and Sawyer tentatively ate the new grilled chicken nuggets (no breading). That whole meat issue still working itself out, but I think he will eventually be happy with them.

Like I said, it's hard. But the benefits are definitely worth the effort. And who knows, maybe someday some of the other restaurants will work a little harder to make some GFCF food.

Until then, you'll just have to forgive me for picking up the last four boxes of Gluten-Free Bisquick. Or the last dozen bags of Snyder's Gluten-Free pretzels. We stick with what works around here ...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Neighborhood Field Trip

On Friday, the first grade class took a walking field trip around the local neighborhood. They stopped for visits at three local businesses - the post office, a grocery store, and a restaurant - as part of their social studies segment on community helpers. Parents were invited along.

And as it often goes with twins (or all three boys actually), I couldn't be in two (or three) places at once.

The first grade classes were staggered to prevent too many kids at one place at one time, and as we've always requested the boys be in separate classrooms, their classes were going to different places at different times.

I opted to take this trip with Sawyer, who I thought might have more trouble on the walk and the long talks at each location. Both boys were already in excellent hands with their aides, but I wanted to tag along. Next trip, I'll tag along with Xander.

Here are a few photos from the day (the rest are here).


As soon as we returned from the neighborhood field trip, it was time for lunch. Both boys are there at the same time, so we all sat together at the same table for lunch.

Working from home has advantages and disadvantages. Spending the day at school with my boys is definitely one of the positives.

Special thanks to Mrs. S. for sharing some of her photos of Xander.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Day at the Circus

One last summer adventure to cover ... a day at the circus. My freelance work has been busy this summer, and the beginning of the school year got even busier. Last weekend while I was working, Daddy and the boys met Grammy and Pappy at a local showing of the circus. And as you can see, Daddy didn't take the camera.

The boys had a big time. Connor wanted cotton candy, but apparently it cost way more than it was worth. He settled for popcorn. Xander was entertained, and Sawyer could have taken it or left it. But they all went, they had a pretty good time, and they all made it home in one piece. We call that success (even without pictures from the good camera).

The Big Day Trip

It was something we had talked about for several summers, taking all of the boys to a nearby amusement park (that also has its own water park inside of it). Connor has actually been there before with Grammy, but the twins had never been there before. We weren't sure how the day would go, but we were determined to try.

We left early on a Sunday morning. Grammy, Pappy and Aunt Kelly all joined us on the adventure. We arrived about an hour after the park opened, and decided to hit the water park first. It took a while to get everyone inside and organized (buying tickets, finding a park map, locating and purchasing locker rentals, lining up our first area to try). Connor wanted to do EVERYTHING at one time. The twins just wanted to do SOMETHING besides wait. It took a little while, but we finally got organized and got started.

We spent most of the day at the water park. Our first stop was popular with Xander, an enclosed area with several tubular slides. Our next stop was the wave pool, which made Sawyer pretty happy (once he got over his anger at having to walk past to food area).

We eventually ordered some pizza and french fries for everyone.

And then we made our way to some of the amusement park. We divided and conquered here. Pappy, Josh and Aunt Kelly took Connor on some of the bigger rides. Grammy and I took the twins on some of the smaller ones. We all met up at the end to do a few of the water rides (still on the amusement park side, just the kind that get you wet).

We made our way back to the water park. We all tried the lazy river, and then we took the boys to their favorite areas. Xander went back to the slides and Sawyer went back to the wave pool. Connor tried a little bit of everything.

Once the water park closed, we went back for a few other small rides. We did the kiddie coaster several times. And then the tall swings. And one last ride on the carousel before we called it a day.

All in all, it was a good trip. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the twins did. They protested a bit when we had to wait in a few lines (though they really were not bad, as we never had to wait through more than one group going in front of us). Connor had a blast and wanted to know how long before we could go back again.

It was a long day. Nearly two hours in the car each way, plus the whole day in the park. We were all ready for bed when we finally made it back to our beds after midnight. Even the boys fell asleep on the ride home. And that's saying something.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

More Summer That Was ...

As far as Connor is concerned, there is really only one sport. And that's baseball. Here is another one of his summer adventures, in pictures. Have I mentioned the "Hard Life Club" around here before? I'm pretty sure I have.

The Summer That Was ...

After baseball season ended, Connor went a little bit AWOL. He came home for a weekend or two, but spent the majority of his summer at the lake with Grandma and Grandpa.
Here is the summer that was ...
Clothes drying outside on the deck is a good day ... it means you made it onto the water.
Another good sign ... the rainbow is the bonus, the good sign is the boat out in the sun, trying to dry after a good day in and on the water. 
Happy water boy ...

Big boy on the tube.

Fun with Cousin Austin.

Deep into the cave system.

Visiting a national park with Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Brian, Austin and Kyndal.
A little more fun on the water.

Some front of the boat fishing.
Catching a little fish ... and letting him go again.

More tubing fun.

Too cool for his own good.

More water fun.

Finishing up a long day on the water.

More front of the boat fishing.

And more fun with cousins.
Welcome to the "Hard Life Club," or what we call Connor's world.

And this was just one summer.

Learning to Play

One of the things I've always said about our journey is that I wanted to try to find balance. Among the autism community, there are different schools of thought on the levels and amounts of therapy that you should do. While I want to offer the boys as much therapy as they need, I also didn't want them to spend their entire childhood in therapy (hello, ABA, I'm looking at you).

Beyond the time consideration, there is also the financial consideration. We are fortunate to have pretty good health insurance through Josh's job with the local fire department. Since we started private speech therapy a little over a year ago, it's covered the majority of it. This summer we decided to add occupational therapy. Insurance, unfortunately, doesn't cover all of that. Mostly because the practice we found (and love) is out-of-network. But for now, it's working out.

So every Wednesday afternoon, I pick the twins up early from school. We head across town for their afternoon appointment, spend an hour in therapy, and then head back across town to pick up Connor as he finishes school at the end of the day.

We considered adding an after-school session, but we already do that with speech on Tuesday afternoons. And the boys have trouble sometimes focusing during that half-hour session right after a full-day of school. We weren't sure they could handle a second after school therapy, certainly not one that is an hour-long and also pretty intense. So we opted to pull them out, which makes for a busy Wednesday afternoon for me, but so far it works.

We also opted for two therapists instead of one, which means that the sessions happen simultaneously. I spend the bulk of my time with Sawyer, who needs a little more help and interpretation as we get started. I finish up the sessions by checking in with Xander.

There have been some pretty significant improvements since we began this summer.

Xander's patience level is so much better than it's ever been before. He's learning the concept of "wait" as well as "first, then," though he might be taking that second one a bit far in terms of wanting to bargain for EVERYTHING. Usually it's "first X, then computer!" or "first X, then myPad!"

Sawyer's ability to sit still and focus continues to improve. And his willingness to work on new things, and to work on those skills that come hardest for him (fine motor, using his hands), is definitely getting better.

Both boys have different OT goals, but some of them are also the same. The one that kind of runs through all of it, and which makes OT so much fun, is that the boys are constantly learning how to play.