Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Many Days of Christmas



There was early Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa, who drove up with presents for the boys a few weeks before Christmas. It took only a matter of moments for wrapping paper and candy wrappers to cover the floor.



There was Christmas Day at home, after Daddy made it back from his overnight shift at the fire station. A couple of sleepy boys (and one sleepy Mommy, who stayed up late wrapping the many presents we keep hidden in a closet until Christmas morning) rolled out of bed to open up presents. Again, in moments the floor was covered in wrapping paper and candy wrappers. Clearly we are a presents AND candy kind of family.



There was Christmas Afternoon at Grammy and Pappy's house with extended family. Lots of food. Lots of family. A gift exchange game. And presents exchanged between close family members.

The rest of our Christmas photos can be found here ...

Within just a few days, Christmas was quickly taken down and stowed away for next year. It was time to start packing up for the beach ...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fire Department Christmas Party


Just because it will make everyone smile ... Connor and Xander did pretty well this year. Sawyer was not really impressed. He just wanted to go back to the food. And the red Gatorade, as you can see from the ring around his mouth.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Christmas Fun

A gingerbread man by Sawyer (with Wonka candy, which is GFCF). A gingerbread Christmas tree by Connor. And a rice crispy train by Xander (also GFCF). All in Sunday evening craft session around the dining room table.



And just to keep it honest. There may have been some yelling during our evening of fun. You know, when little people kept trying to get up from the table with sticky or icing-covered fingers and do things like touch my camera, or the refrigerator, or the pantry, or anything that wasn't their craft. Or when they tried to walk into the living room covered with icing and candy-coated fingers. Yeah, there was that.



We survived though. And it actually worked out really well that Xander's train was the last one ready to work on. All three boys came over to help, which Xander wasn't sure he appreciated, but it was very cute to see all three boys working on the same project together.

Three boys. Three very cute and very different projects. A Sunday evening of fun.

Mommy & The Boys (Two of Them, Anyway)

Welcome to our new favorite restaurant, Red Robin.

You see, Red Robin has an extensive gluten-free menu, which means the twins can actually eat something besides french fries. Trust me, Wendy's and Chick-fil-a get really old, really fast.

One of my favorite things about Red Robin is that Xander has started requesting and eating a hamburger (on a gluten-free bun) with his french fries and Coke. This is a BIG step forward. Big.


Mmm, yummy! Xander says it after nearly every bite of his hamburger. And it's one of the cutest things ever.

Sawyer usually opts for the grilled chicken on a gluten-free bun. He eats the bun first, then shreds the chicken to eat it (discarding the pieces with black from the grill). He didn't make today's trip with us, as he was enjoying the indoor pool with his buddy M.

Connor has yet to try the restaurant's signature burger. On the last two trips, he's had spaghetti with french fries and today it was pizza with a side salad. Clearly he would prefer Italian. Although he actually requested Mexican as we were heading down the road to the restaurant.



Maybe he can hit up someone for Mexican when he goes to his martial arts classes next week. He usually gets some one-on-one time with one of us (Mommy, Daddy, Pappy or Aunt Kelly) who take him. Perhaps he can talk us into some Chipotle on the way home.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Waiting for Christmas

The Tree by here we wander
The Tree, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
A few years ago, when Connor was in first grade, one of his classmates came in an announced to a group of kids that there was no Santa, his mom had told him that it was just something parents told kids after they bought presents. Connor has been a skeptic ever since.

It doesn't stop him from wondering what he's getting mind you, but he just doesn't believe. That takes some of the fun out of it for us as parents, since he's the only one who really understands the tradition. The twins have never really shown much outward interest in the holidays. If anything, they tend to be annoyed and overwhelmed by all of the changes in schedule and general chaos that happens from Thanksgiving until early January.

Until this year. This year Xander has been excited for Christmas. He was happy to see the "pretty Christmas tree" come home when Josh and Connor came back from their annual visit to the tree farm to cut one down. He even wanted to (and actually did) help us with ornaments this year. He loves to push the two Keepsake sound ornaments (one of Connor's Hot Wheels racers and one is the countdown ornament that sings a Christmas carol). He's even started saying "Christmas tree, presents!" It's the first time he's expressed any interest in anything about Christmas.

So the holidays are a little more magical around our house this time around. Connor may not believe, but he's still anxiously awaiting the arrival of Christmas. And Xander may not believe or totally understand, but he's anticipating the day and understanding the events that will take place.

Sawyer still doesn't show much interest, beyond appreciating the twinkle of Christmas lights on the tree and on houses as we drive through town at night.

But that's something, too. He's noticing things around him, he's showing interest in his environment, and he's not upset by something being slightly different.

Magical, indeed.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Snaphot Sunday (A Little Late)

Sunset at the Lake by here we wander
Sunset at the Lake, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
It was taken on a Saturday night, so it should have been the Snapshot Sunday after Thanksgiving. Better late than never, right?

Thanksgiving Travels

Three Boys by here we wander
Three Boys, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
It's a long, long day.

We cross the state and circle back, eating two very large Thanksgiving meals in the process, before the day is done. We leave early in the morning and get home really late at night.

The boys handle it well. But it's a lot for one day. One set of relatives they don't see very often, and then thinking we are done. Only to stop to see another set of relatives they don't see very often. All with food that they want but can't have.

We managed to pack enough of their favorites to keep them from going hungry. We even tried to stop and get them some french fries in between, but they were not fans (for whatever reason).

Add to that the fact that we tend to attempt to dress them up a little from their usual sweat pants and t-shirts, and it just makes for a long, uncomfortable day.

But they survived.

Daddy's phone and Angry Birds may or may not have helped. When they weren't fighting over who's turn it was, anyway.

One holiday down ... one more to go.

Saying Good-Bye

No Picture by here we wander
No Picture, a photo by here we wander on Flickr.
One of the wonderful things out the waiver program the boys are now participating in is the amazing people we have been able to find to come work with them.

One of the hard parts is having to say good-bye. Many of our community living support workers are students. They're finishing up various degrees and beginning their careers. Often in other places.

Xander's beloved B is graduating from her master's program in occupational therapy this Saturday. She leaving for her first of two clinical internships. So we had to say good-bye.

We are going to miss her. She's been such an amazing friend and teacher to Xander. We have seen so much progress and so much independence under her care. And she has taken him on so many fun, new adventures these last six months. It's going to be a long time before he stops asking for her on her usual days.

Days at the indoor pool. Afternoons at the bowling alley and arcade. Trips to the indoor climbing gymnasium (and their arcade). Rotating lunch and dinner dates at Wendy's, Chick-fil-a, Cracker Barrel and Red Robin. Eating his first real hamburger! Learning to play tennis on the courts. Going to the playground to slide and swing. Trying miniature golf for the very first time. Making his own plate at the kid's pottery place in town. Visiting the children's museum downtown. Seeing the Christmas lights at the big park. So many, many fun adventures ...

We wish B lots of luck and love as she continues on her journey. We are so thankful she was part of ours, even if only for a little while. She's always going to be part of "Team Xander" ...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Road Trip

 


Once a year just isn't enough. And the time always seems to pass much to quickly. But with busy lives, jobs and families of our own, we take what we can get.

Haley and I were college roommates. The computer matched us, and it did a pretty good job. We'll not talk about what it did the second year ...

Once a year we meet in her hometown, where her parents still live. It's the halfway driving point for her and for me. And her amazing parents are always wonderfully willing hosts and babysitters for her two girls.

We get to do a little shopping, a little eating, some drinking and lots of just catching up on each other's lives. Between us there are five kids - ages 9, 8, 8, 5 and nearly 1. She has all girls. I have all boys. Not a lot in common, but common ground just the same.

So grateful that my husband willingly offers to keep our boys at home for the long weekend. He even gave up his truck for the weekend, as mine was acting up and not up for the six-hour round-trip drive. So thankful that Haley's amazing parents always welcome us into their home and make sure we have a great time (dinners out, home-cooked meals, happy children playing while we catch up, and even a  trip to the circus for all of us the last day)!

Mostly, I'm happy that Haley and I have been able to stay in touch despite the distance, the busy lives and jobs and families. Good friends are just as important as family, even if we don't get to see them nearly as often.

And I got to meet this sweet little one for the first time ...


Good times ...

Birthday Boy



So ... we're running a little behind here on the blog. Our big boy turned nine last month. And because of the way the days fell, he ended up not with just a birthday, but an entire birthday weekend.

His actual birthday involved a trip to Cracker Barrel, his choice, with just Mommy and Daddy while Grammy and Pappy kept little brothers at home.


Grammy and Pappy actually kept the boys for us on Saturday as well. And Connor got to go with Mommy and Daddy to watch an SEC football game.


And then there was Sunday. Connor's birthday request was to actually go to a new indoor entertainment center that offers several fun things for kids to do. So we went. He got to ride in go-karts (with an adult, as you have to be 10 to drive on your own ... maybe next year)! He got to play arcade games. 



We saved the miniature golf for another day, as we had extended family in town waiting for a late lunch, cake and presents.

We picked up Buffalo Wild Wings on the way home, also his choice, and enjoyed a good meal with family. Cake and presents followed.

And that's the birthday weekend that was. It's hard to be him. Really.

Friday, November 8, 2013

No Where Else

Last night I was busy working on three different client projects, two of them due today. Dad was nice enough to be doing the bath and bed routine so I could continue working.

Connor and Xander were content to come give me hugs at the desk before going on to bed.

Not Sawyer. Bed time is our time, and he's not easily persuaded to give it up. He comes running out of the bathroom, spins my office chair around and physically tries to pull me out of it onto my feet.

"Let's go, lady" is what his actions tell me. Sometimes he even says, "Go!"

Yes, I still had a lot of work to do. I'd been working all day and would work well into the night to finish. It's the nature of my job and the deadlines associated with it.

But I got up when he pulled. I let him lead me by the hand down the hall into his room. I saw his big grin and heard that sweet giggle. I watched him jump onto his pillows and wait for our routine to begin.

Sawyer lays on top of both pillows against the wall. He waits for me to add the doubled up sleeping bag on top of him (our inexpensive version of the weighted blanket). Then I climb on top. He loves pressure, especially at the end of the day. He pulls my hands under his head and holds onto them with his own. He expects us to stay this way. I usually roll over beside him at some point, worried that even though he likes the extra weight, it may be too much for him.

Some nights he shoves and tells me "bye," signaling it's time for me to go. Other nights, like last night, he reaches his arms out and holds on.

I love those nights.

Sawyer is the one who often prefers to be by himself. He likes his space. He's not big on prolonged hugs or touch. Not usually. But sometimes, like last night, he just reaches out and holds on.

In those moments, I will always stay. Even if I have more work to do, even if it means a longer night for me. Because when he does reach out, when he does hold on, it's one of those moments you just can't pass up. There is nothing else more important, and no where else I'd rather be, than right there inside his tightly held embrace.

My sweet boy, who works so hard and goes through so much every single day. Yes, I'm going to stay.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Progress



Progress comes in many different shapes and forms, especially when it comes to our boys. This little picture is a HUGE, huge step forward.

Those letters are Sawyer's.

Let me say that again. Those letters are Sawyer's. This is the little boy who hates any kind of fine motor activity. A kid who has never liked coloring or writing. A kid who has just recently, at the age of seven, shown an interest in letters at all.

And those are his letters. He wrote, from memory, "Viewers like you (in orange)" and "Thank you (in green)". He's learning the phrases from his brother's drawings and writing, but he's replicating it completely on his own from memory.

Letters. Words. Phrases. Write now it's just duplication. But someday ... someday it could be communication. It could be describing something he likes. Something he wants. Something he feels.

Huge.

None of this would be possible without all of the amazing people in place on "Team Sawyer" - both at school and at home. His teachers. His therapists. His aides. So many people have played a role in getting him, and us, to this point.

Special thanks are definitely in order to his private occupational therapists, Ms. A and Ms. J, who started him on a new writing program over the summer because they thought it would offer a meaningful way for him to communicate outside of his current signs, gestures and his iPad software. We moved away from just Handwriting Without Tears to a box and arrow system. The visual and spacing really made a difference for him.

Letters. Words. Phrases. That's my boy.


A Day with Xander

Last year we went through the process of obtaining a community living support waiver for both of the twins. One of the greatest benefits is having extra pairs of hands to help out with the boys on day-to-day activities, whether it's homework after school or getting the boys to and from their various activities and interests. It requires quite a bit of oversight, paperwork and planning. But it's made a big difference in the lives of our boys.

One of my absolute favorite things about the program are those days that allow me to spend one-on-one time with one of the boys. Sunday was Xander's turn. Connor was away for the weekend with Grammy, attending a children's dinner play and visiting with extended family. Sawyer was out with his helper, and Josh was working at the fire department. It was just me and Xander, so we made a day of it.

First we went to the local Arboretum to do a little walking (and some random sitting and people watching).



Next we tried the bowling alley, but it was more crowded than we'd ever seen before. We went in to give it a try, but there weren't any open lanes. So we had to leave. I was expecting trouble, but Xander was remarkable calm about it (a huge step forward for him and a major benefit of the waiver program which has allowed him to get out of the house so much more to try different activities). We put his shoes back on (he took them off while I was checking in at the desk), and then we headed back out.

Next stop was Wendy's for some french fries. He placed his own order, though I paid this time around instead of letting him pay (as his helpers usually do).


After that we headed back to the house. Xander was still focused on bowling, so I suggested some Xbox Kinect bowling. We played a few games, and then we headed out again. This time we took a scooter ride to the local neighborhood park. We packed our tennis rackets to get in a little practice. We started on the playground, and then ended our afternoon on the tennis courts.




And that was our day. Having three boys can be a lot of fun, but often requires a lot of multi-tasking on my part and a lot of compromise for the boys. Days like Sunday are really fun. We got to plan our day based on Xander's personality and what Xander wanted to do. That doesn't happen very often.

And I think he enjoyed it, too. I got extra big hugs Sunday night when it was time for bed, and that's not his usual style at all.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Field Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

It's one of our favorite field trips every year, the fall trip to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch. The boys look forward to the slide and the playground. I look forward to the delicious ribeye sandwich from the grill. And it's fun to see the boys riding on the wagons and picking out their very own pumpkins.












And have I mentioned the slides? Because that's what the boys love the most ...


Downtown Parade

The Fire Prevention Parade was a few weeks later than planned because of some uncooperative weather, but we still managed to get everyone there. The twins and I met up with Grammy, Pappy and Louie close to the beginning of the parade route. We set up our camp chairs and got out our snacks, which is required if you expect the twins to cooperate for just about anything. 



Josh and Connor were actually in the parade, dressed up as minions as part of his fire station's "Despicable Me" themed float. That would be them spraying bystanders with the giant fire extinguisher. 



Super Louie was not so impressed with the noise and the lights. He also tried to steal the show, as most of the people on the floats kept talking about him.



The twins and Louie may not have been thrilled, but they survived. They also got candy and treats tossed to them, so it wasn't a total loss. Xander enjoyed some Nerds and Sawyer had some Gobstoppers. And Connor had a blast being in the parade.

A good day.

Bowling Night

 

A few weeks back, the boys got to spend an evening out with some of their TOPS Soccer friends and families. We met up at the bowling alley for a night of pizza, bowling and fun. One of the boys enjoyed it a little more than the other.

Xander would bowl all day long if you'd let him. He was bowling his turn, Sawyer's turn and anyone else who wasn't quick enough picking up their ball to play. He played three games, but if you count all the players he was playing, he probably played more like six games before the night was over.

Sawyer took a few turns with the ramp, and even rolled it from the ground one time. But he was more interested in the food. He was into the cooler the minute we sat down, and the gluten-free-casein-free pizza I'd made and packed to bring was gone within minutes. And then he wanted the real kind that was being served by the TOPS Soccer group for the party. That made for a long night as far as he was concerned. Everyone around him was eating pizza and cookies, and he couldn't have any of it. Never mind that he'd had his own of both, that wasn't the same. Poor kid.

Xander was too busy bowling to care about the food. He ate some of his in between bowling turns, but not nearly as much. Bowling was much more fun. He got several strikes and spares, which is his favorite part because it flashes blue up on the scoring screen.

All in all a good night. Connor and Daddy couldn't join us, as they were doing their weekly Cub Scouts meeting across town. It was a divide and conquer kind of night.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Buster Brown (in Instagram Shots)












Every image is a snapshot of his personality. Love him. Miss him more than words could ever express. Rest in peace, sweet baby boy.