Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Little Things

So much about this life can be hard. The details. The planning. Thinking about not just today, but tomorrow and next year and twenty years after that. The constant search for ways to make life easier, better for our boys. It can be hard.

Sometimes you have to take a deep breath and just stop. Stop looking down that long, scary road and just enjoy where you are. And we're actually in a pretty good place right now. The boys are happy. They laugh and smile more often than not. They are making progress at school and in therapy. They are getting out into the world so much more than ever before.

So today I'm going to focus on the little things that mean so much more than anything else ...

Sawyer stops, actually stops, to look up in the sky at airplanes and helicopters. This from the little boy who used to not "hear" anything, who wouldn't look up from his patterns or his shadows for anything. He stops. He looks up. And he smiles.

Xander walks up to strangers and says "Hi!" He sometimes even adds "How are you?" or says something about an object they have in their hands. No, it's not traditional conversation. Yes, it's been tediously learned and instilled in him, because it will never be natural to him to want to talk to others. But he does it, and he does it with a smile on his face which never fails to make other people smile, even if they're not quite sure what's going on.

Both boys reach out and hold on for hugs. Two little boys who never liked other people to touch them, willingly reach out and hold on for a hug. Two little boys, who used to like to play and be on their own, draw out bed time longer and longer each and every night. One more song. One more tickle. One more pressure hug. They are reaching out, engaging, wanting contact.

Sawyer is writing. The grip may be weak and not exactly like his classmates, but he's holding it a pencil and writing. Not just letters now, but words. He's copying his twin brother, and he's writing favorite phrases from movies and video games. "Viewers like you. Thank you. Walk Disney Pictures Presents. Pixar Animation Studios Film." They are clear and legible. Sawyer is willingly picking up pencils and markers to write, to communicate something that is interesting to him.

Xander is making decisions about what he wants to do. When his community living support (CLS) worker is coming over, he knows just what he wants to do. He makes their itinerary every single time. He likes to eat at Red Robin. He loves to go to the indoor swimming pool ("Buckets, diving board, slide!" He likes to go to Chuck E. Cheese and play video games. He's actively making decisions about what he wants to do, and he's communicating those decisions clearly.

We take walks around the block without death grips on hands or wrists. Xander is usually ahead, riding his Razor scooter. Sawyer is usually just behind, walking slowly and taking it all in. He also has to stop and jump up and down for every single car that passes. He really likes that. There was a time when I didn't think moments like that would ever happen.

Xander plays basketball in the back yard. Though he still uses and underhand shot, he makes it more often than not. It doesn't matter how high the goal is or how far away he's standing. It usually goes in. Even big brother Connor is impressed.

Little moments, that aren't really so little when you think about how very, very far both boys have come. Yes, our journey is harder than some. It may take us longer to get to certain stages than others, but we get there. And I think we appreciate some of those little moments just a little more, because we know just how hard they've worked and how far they've really come.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Adventures of a Big Boy

You know what they say about the best laid plans ... they usually don't work out. And so it was for us this weekend. We had the whole weekend planned out. It was going to be chaotic, but it was going to work. Josh was heading out of town on Friday for his annual boys weekend with an old high school friend. The boys and I were going to be home Friday, though taking Connor to his martial arts class and then letting him stay for a "parents night out"with some of his classmates. On Saturday we were going to pack our bags and head out of town. Connor and I would drop the twins off at Grammy and Pappy's house and then head to an out-of-state overnight trip with his Boy Scout troop. Josh was going to meet up with us later that afternoon, on his way back home from his trip. We would check out early Sunday morning, have breakfast, then make the long drive back home to get Connor back in time for a Sunday event with his Aunt Kelly.

Everything changed Friday afternoon. A random chain of events started the snowball. I had forgotten to send in the year book order form and check with the boys, and it was due by Friday. Since I usually come early to car line on Fridays, I decided to just park and walk it into the front office. I could stop in Sawyer's classroom and hang out with him for a while rather than just wait in the car. Of the three boys, his classroom is the most conducive to unexpected visits (less students to disturb). On my way into the office, I happened to run into another mother from Connor's Boy Scout troop. She very casually asked if we were coming this weekend, to which I replied yes we were, and then proceeded to talk about how she was rushing home right after school to load up the car and get some food on the way to check-in. On Friday night. Not Saturday night.


So my peaceful Friday afternoon turned into total chaos. Josh was in fact out of town. I wasn't sure if Grammy and Pappy were even home to take them a day early on zero notice. We did not have a single thing packed, for any of us to go anywhere. I also didn't get the shower I had planned to take, you know, before spending the night with a bunch of strangers in a public place that would not have any showers.


An hour and a half later, we were all packed and on our way a day ahead of schedule. We met Pappy across town and handed off the twins and their packed bag (swimwear for a planned trip to the pool being the most critical item, and one Xander was very concerned about as we ran around trying to pack). Connor and I continued on our journey to meet up with his pack. I was expecting us to be late. The original Saturday plan had a 5 p.m. check-in time, and we weren't leaving town until well after that and had a several hour drive to make. We stopped for gas and dinner (Subway, Connor's choice) to go, then started our journey.

We arrived a little early. Friday check-in was really 7:30 p.m. We made it to the designated parking area just after 7 o'clock. We took a little walk down to the river's edge, where I snapped the picture above. We talked to some other scout families while we waited, and then were ushered into the aquarium with all of our gear.

Did I not mention that I had to quickly pack two sleeping bags, two pillows, snacks, flashlights, overnight bags for both me and Connor, while also getting Connor dressed in his Cub Scout uniform and bringing his Cub Scout gear? I also had to carry the majority of said gear into the aquarium from the parking lot, as Connor couldn't handle much more than his Cub Scout backpack and the pillows. My back surgeon would not approve at all.

But we made it. We checked in, put our stuff away and waited to be sorted into groups for the evening tour. There were about 80 people joining the overnight, so we had a while to wait. Connor found some of his friends, and I chatted with a pack mom I'd never met before. We eventually got going on our tours, including a behind the scenes tour at the top of the aquarium.

The boys were impressed with lots of things, getting to feed the Amazon tank among the top of the list. Connor also became the infamous Boy Scout who leaned over the railing and lost his Scout Clip into the twenty-one foot tank of water with all of the sharks and shark rays. It was nice and shiny on the bottom, so we could see it really well. Twenty-one feet down.

We continued on our tour, getting to touch lots of animals (a crocodile, a snake, some sharks and rays), seeing lots of cool things. It kind of blurred at some point, since it was going on midnight before we were told to get our things to bed down for the night. We got to sleep with the fishes, which was very cool. We put our sleeping bags in one of the tunnels, and the fish swam over and around us all night long. Not that I noticed. Or Connor either, for that matter. Did I mention after midnight, after a full day of school and running around like crazy people making a trip a day earlier than we expected?

Morning came much too soon. Just before 7 o'clock the lights all came back on and people started packing up. We had an hour to explore and get some breakfast (snack items really), then shop at the gift store before essentially being kicked out so they could open for the public.

All in all, it was a really fun trip. Connor really seemed to enjoy being with his pack buddies. He's a fan of the ocean and sea animals in general, so he was interested in everything and asked our poor pack leader tons of questions. All the boys did, really. He really liked sleeping in the tunnel, though he was bummed not to get in the one tunnel that goes under and above (it's small, and only about ten people could actually sleep in that spot).

Connor also got his Scout clip returned. They thought they were going to have to send in a diver for it early Saturday morning, but one of the engineers fished it out with a long-handled net. Apparently they were worried the old sea turtle might decide it looked tasty and try to eat it. Did I mention the infamous Cub Scout?

And since our plans changed unexpectedly, we had Saturday to continue our adventure. I knew that Grammy and Pappy wanted to take the twins swimming, and they probably hadn't even gotten up to have breakfast at that point (just after 8:30 a.m.). I had heard wonderful things about the Cincinnati Children's Museum, so I plugged it into the GPS on my phone. We headed across the bridge from the aquarium and into Cincinnati.

And we drove up to a massive building that I was not expecting. The Cincinnati Museum Center was originally built in the 1930s as a centralized train station. A really, really big train station. We parked (for free, because the attendant wasn't on duty yet since the museum hadn't quite opened). We made our way inside and checked out our options. There were three different museums - Children's Museum, which I'd planned to visit, but also a Natural History and Science Museum and a History Museum. We bought the all-museum pass, and waiting about 15 minutes for everything to open up.

Six hours later, we had made a day of it. The museum itself is another post for another day. Let's just say it was well worth seeing, and that we could go a few more times and still not manage to see and take in all of it. So even though our weekend didn't go as planned, it may have actually gone a little better in the end. Loved spending one-on-one time with my big boy. He's growing up way too fast, and I know that time is limited.

More photos from our Cub Scouts overnight at the aquarium are here ... and more photos from our trip to the Cincinnati Museum are here.

I can't wait for our next adventure ...