Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Do It Yourself Ballpit

Both of the twins LOVE the ball pit in the corner of the gym at their speech therapy practice. So, what do you do with the plastic swimming pool you bought for your new puppy (who never managed to actually do anything but climb in and get a drink once or twice). You make your very own ball pit in the kids play room ...

Pretty sure the boys approve.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer Adventures

While Sawyer and Xander spent much of the summer taking adventures of their own with their CLS workers, Connor and I managed to sneak in a few adventures on those rare days when all of our schedules aligned.

This was one of my favorite ones ... visiting a local nature sanctuary and hiking trail just 15 minutes outside of town. We hiked through the woods. We made it all the way to the river overlook. We traveled about half of the hiking trails, and took a few detours along the way to walk across fallen tree bridges or walk up dry river beds.

A fun summer adventure with just my big boy ...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Paddleboat Summer

For years, Connor has been begging to ride the paddleboats at one of the local city parks. For years, we've been putting him off. If we had only known how inexpensive, and how much all the boys would love it, we would have done it much, much sooner. This summer has become the summer of paddleboats ...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fourth of July

The fourth of July has always been my favorite holiday. I've loved it as long as I can remember. For most of my childhood, it used to be spent with long weekends at the lake, seeing summer friends who shared our campground year after year. Before that we would watch fireworks at the military base where both my parents worked, sitting on the tailgate of the truck with our short legs dangling in the hot summer evenings. More recently, it's been going to see fireworks with the kids. One year, we watched from a side street near the city's minor league baseball stadium. This year, Grammy and Pappy invited us to drive to the other major city where Josh's uncle (a retired firefighter) and some other retired firefighter buddies help put on a pretty big neighborhood show over the lake.

This year was certainly one to remember.

Josh was working at the fire department. We had a brand new puppy, too small to leave at home for extended period of times and too untrained to leave outside in our fenced in yard (particularly on a night destined for lots of unexpected noises). Bruno had to come with us. And we all piled into my Tahoe, so we couldn't even bring the crate, just our laundry basked that he traveled in on our journey back from South Carolina.

We stopped at a Backyard Burger on our way into the city. We ate outside on picnic tables, so that Bruno could be out with us on his leash (and not destroying the inside of my truck). The boys loved their french fries. Sawyer loved his chicken. Connor loved his chili cheese dog. Bruno loved bumming for treats.

We made it to the subdivision, parked along one of the residential streets, and took the long paved path by the lake back to the open field for the fireworks show. The boys stopped to throw rocks in the lake. They stopped to check out the playground equipment. We hauled our cooler and gear to the clearing and set up chairs, blankets and snacks while we still had daylight. Trucks and ATVs started driving in to get outside spots before the path got dark.

And we waited. The boys went back to the playground for a little while. We had snacks in our seats. And soon darkness fell. I was holding onto the puppy, because he was terrified of the new place, the curious people who kept wanting to come too close, and eventually the noise. The boys were in chairs on each side of me, but they eventually moved around. Connor wanted on a blanket. Sawyer moved beside Grammy. Xander went on the other side of Pappy, away from Bruno, who has always bothered him. The show started. The boys alternated having sound canceling headphones on and off, playing musical chairs with one another, asking for snacks.

It was a really good show. It was a long show. The boys came and went, always staying within our group of chairs and blankets. But then the show ended. People started getting up, packing up and leaving.

And it was in that moment, that the world stopped. Xander wasn't there. It was completely dark. All the fireworks had ended, there were no street lights in the open field. We were in a strange neighborhood, near a rather large lake, and people were starting to leave in vehicles.

It was, by and large, the scariest moment of my life. My child with autism was not with us. He may or may not answer when we called his name. He could have been gone for a few seconds or for a few minutes. And he could have been anywhere. He could have headed back to the lake where we threw rocks. He could have gone back to the playground to play. Or he might have even taken the path back toward the truck.

He was gone.

I was holding onto a scared puppy, keeping Sawyer in his seat, making sure Connor wasn't running off, all while frantically looking around trying to think of where Xander might be. All of the adults broke off to start looking with their cell phone flash lights. Grammy went back toward the playground. Aunt Lynn when back toward the playground and lake. Pappy was looking in the open field where we'd been playing.

And then I spotted him. He was about twenty-five feet away, sitting on a little park bench that he'd sat on earlier when we were the first people to arrive in the clearing. He wasn't scared. He wasn't doing anything he wasn't supposed to. He was just sitting there, watching the space where the fireworks had been shooting, looking for more.

Scariest. Moment. Of My Life.

It all ended well, of course. We found him less than 10 minutes after we realized he wasn't in his chair anymore. But it was that quick, that quiet, and that scary.

Part of me thought, well, that's the last time we try something new with the boys and the puppy. This was not the kind of adventure I wanted to repeat. But, it was just one of those things. It was life. It happens. We all thought someone else was keeping tabs on him. We all were doing different things. And he quickly and quietly disappeared.

Xander isn't the child who tries to escape. Perhaps if he was, we might have been more on guard. He's just the kind of kid who doesn't understand safety awareness. He doesn't understand that he needs to ask permission to leave, to let someone know where he's going. He follows his own impulses. He wanted to go sit on that bench. So he got up, walked over there, and sat down. We just didn't notice. And he certainly didn't bother to tell us.

It was a learning moment. It was scary at the time. But it's taught us to be more careful when we go to new places and try new things. To make sure, at all times, that the kids are either directly in our sight or assigned to one particular person. It's too easy for them to quickly and quietly disappear. And it could have been much, much worse.