Thursday, November 1, 2012

Early 24th anniversary

The bad thing about a December wedding anniversary is that celebration/plans/trips for said anniversary almost always get eclipsed by the busy holiday season.  I hate to say it, but we often found ourselves going out to dinner and Christmas shopping for our anniversary; not that it's a horrible way to spend it, but every now and then it's a good idea to get ahead of the craziness and make it a priority--do something different!
Sometime mid-September we planned for my sister to come down and take care of the boys for a nice October weekend, so we could get away to Chattanooga.  We love it there...great places to eat, a fun and funky waterfront park area, and it's not a bad drive either!  We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast high atop Lookout Mountain, GA.....what a great weekend for relaxing, eating good food, and spending time together.

Chanticleer Inn Bed and Breakfast

My favorite chocolates were awaiting me....coconut gold bars and grey- and smoked sea salt caramels from Fran's

Incline Railway--72.7% incline--woah
It was blustery that day, my friends.....
(Taken by a guy from California who was trying to start some junk between us and some MS State fans  --ha ha)

observation deck--7 states

After sight-seeing and a yummy lunch at our favorite burger joint, Urban Stack, we went back to the Inn where we watched football and I had a most luxurious 3 hour nap.  That evening we were on a mission to find a place to watch the Alabama/MS State game; it wasn't as easy as we thought it'd be....our choice: Buffalo Wild Wings or restaurants with ONLY two tv's....???  We were clearly not in Alabama anymore....

We hit up a funky fresh mex place, Taco Mamacitas, for tacos and the was great!  Our waitor let us hang out for awhile and made sure the guy at the bar turned it to ESPN in time.   Roll Tide!!
best soup EVER
mexican corn and tacos the way they should always be
Of course, the weekend ended too quickly!  There's so much to do there, we'll have to go back again soon...maybe make it an annual was much more fun than Christmas shopping!

Here's to 24 more years, babe!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mr. Resourceful

Andrew loves Sunday school/Bible class. Always has. In fact, Aidan and Andrew have never had any type of separation anxiety--unlike their older brother who often cried when I left him until the day I made him sit in the adult class for the entire time. T.J. quickly decided the grown ups were boring and he never gave me any more trouble.

Worship was a whole different story with Andrew. You would honestly think we were asking him to sit on molten lava or something. Our services usually run long, so that makes it tough.  He was constantly moving around and once he found his voice, used it often to express his impatience. We tried any number of toys, books, and activities to keep him occupied, and while he had his good days, we could never figure out a long-term solution.

Turns out Andrew found it for himself. One morning recently he grabbed his Cat in the Hat bag and told me he was going to sit with his friends!  Um, okay.....
He squeezed himself between all the pretty high school girls a few rows in front of us, and we just sat back to see how this was going to go.  He was great.  I heard the whole sermon, and it was great.  {{insert Hallelujah chorus here}} Aidan was great.  Not having to share us with his brother was a win win for him.  Andrew only got up to go to the restroom, and then promptly returned to his seat.  Now Andrew sits with his friends for each worship service! BIG THANK YOUS go to Liz, Kelli, and Abby for being so sweet and always sharing their pew with him. 

That's Andrew standing on the pew to the left of Kelli during the closing song.  Just a few minutes before he had his arm across her shoulders--I really hate I missed that shot.

My sweet boy thinks he's so grown; the sad thing is, he will be before I'm ready. Trust me.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Best weekend ever

I guess that's overstating just a bit, but seriously this weekend has been full of peaceful, happy moments; everything lined up to make it a Top 100.....

Friday night, dinner at a restaurant with some dear friends.  With the exception of Andrew being a little antsy for his quesadilla, and vocally expressing that loudly several times (Netflix on dad's phone helped pass the time), the boys were very good.

Saturday morning, bright and early, we met some friends from school at Old Baker Farm pumpkin patch in Harpersville.  The two-hour round trip was very enjoyable--nothing like central Alabama in October in my opinion; the scenery was beautiful, and the weather was cool and sunny.  The kids had a fantastic time exploring the farm and searching for pumpkins in the muddy pumpkin patch.

beautiful morning

cotton jump!

Andrew is under the pile somewhere...

hay maze

checking out the animals

turkeys...Aidan's favorite...they had their tail feathers on full display and gobbling very loud

Aidan and Meredy being silly

goats...the kids were fascinated, but I can't stand them...a phobia I developed as a young child.  they always chewed my clothes and I was convinced they were gonna eat me!

climbing the very tall hay mountain

thanks for the assist, Mr. Brad!

hay ride to the pumpkin patch

can you see how muddy the boys' shoes are?

corn cob toss

sweet boy

 Tom and T.J. went to Knoxville for the AL/TN game with some friends, so I decided I needed some ME time.....

I've mentioned Aaron's Staff Respite ministry in a prior post; well, they were having their monthly "parents evening out" that night, so I decided to take the opportunity to let the boys have dinner and fun in a loving atmosphere while I got away for a bit.  There was even a petting zoo that was brought in for the kids!  Their volunteer staff and program is a blessing...I can't say enough good things about it, and they all donate time and resources for no cost to the parents.  See Aaron's Staff Respite Ministry website .  I dropped them off at 5pm and headed out for some shopping; I pretty much completed the boys Christmas!  Because the Bama game had kicked off, the store was nearly empty and QUIET.  What in the world is that?!?  After leisurely shopping with Starbucks in hand, I went to Ruby Tuesday's for a steak and veggie dinner (complete with dessert for one---hey, I felt like it was a special occasion!).  The hostess, spotting my Alabama sweatshirt offered to seat me in a booth in view of the game--uninterrupted by unruly youngins; at one point thrusting my fork and steak knife in the air in celebration of an awesome play by Bama. :)  I picked Aidan and Andrew up at 8:30 and they had a terrific time; straight home to bed with no fussing...and slept ALL night!  Ahhh.......

Sunday morning...usually stressful, but this time, I left the boys to eat breakfast at the table with their play truck and helicopter. at the table??  Yep!  My parents would have never allowed that...
I was able to dry my hair, get dressed, and do my makeup without one interruption, argument, or any bloodshed whatsoever!  Yes, they were still alive and the kitchen had not been destroyed!  They'd finished their breakfast and playing together like angels.

I have no idea why, but God was smiling down on me this weekend.  I did nothing to deserve it, but so thankful He chose to send those blessings my way!

Roll Tide

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Big School visits

We've recently closed another chapter in the boys' more preschool special ed services at our home.  We've felt extremely blessed to have been able to work with some wonderful ladies over the last three years, but now the boys have "graduated" to going to our elementary school for speech only.  Once a month, I pick the boys up from MP right after nap and take them to see Mrs. Paula at HES.  I felt that I had prepared them pretty well for this new adventure, but I wasn't sure if there might be some anxiety in going to this new school.  Aidan had already said he was staying at MP and so was Andrew.  They loved HES alright; so much so, that as we left that first afternoon, Aidan kept insisting we ride the bus home, and poor Andrew just melted down (the worst public one in a long time) because he wanted to stay. Andrew is five going on fifteen, always wanting to be grown up and be a part of something bigger.  Not that he doesn't LOVE Mitchell's, mind you, he's just always wanting a new adventure.  So there we were, attempting to cross the road to the parking lot, with Andrew crying and snotting--I couldn't very well drag him, #1 because he's easily half my size, and #2 I really didn't want to make a bad first impression with all these people, that I was a child beater or something.  We'd walk a couple of steps and stop and I would do my best to explain he had to graduate from Flamingoes then he would be going to Big School all the time.  Poor fella, he can't help the fact his mother rushes through the details.  I know better.

Thanks to Mrs. Denise and Mrs. Paula they made a social story for him which broke things down step by step.

 It worked.  Why was I surprised?  I mean really....he's a visual learner and it's always been a useful tool.  It was definitely a face palm moment.  No supermom points for me that day, in fact, I'm certain I went at least -5.  ;)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sleepless in Helena

In case one or two of you are wondering.... no, I am not recycling an old picture previously posted on Facebook a few months back.  Oh, no...the nocturnal bandits have struck once again.

the damage
I've not heard one parent say they wish to go back to the sleep patterns of their infant or toddler child, have you??  Let me be the first to say it, then...I long for those days!  Aidan and Andrew had been angels in the sleeping department from the age of nine weeks until two years old.  Down by 8:00 pm, awake around 7:00 am, with a nice nap in between.  Ahhhh......heaven! 

Sleep problems are one of the many FUN things about autism, and are as varied as any other symptom of the disorder.  ASD kids may be unable to go to sleep until the wee hours of the morning or may fall asleep okay, but aren't able to maintain a good night's sleep and are up and down on the hour, and this may vary from day to day or week to week.  Like I said, FUN.

I remember a time early on when Andrew would awaken in the middle of the night, decide it was time to play, and I heard Aidan crying because he had turned on the lights.  Pictured above is the second time the boys went into big brother's vacant room and had a late night game night.  Why didn't I learn the first time and put those board games high in a closet or under lock and key?? 

Now, most nights the boys fall asleep really well, but at some point Aidan will sneak in our bed, and I never know it until I wake up the next morning.  Andrew, however, will often get very close to my face in the dark and say, "good morning, mommy! Can I watch Spongebob?"  A peak at my phone reveals that indeed it is morning, but 3:00 am is not a good time. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

You've got a friend in me

I never spent much time worrying about how to help T.J. make and keep friendships; it just came naturally to him.  He was always scheming of ways to spend time at a friend's house or see just how many he could invite to a sleepover at our house (because one friend was never enough).  Tom and I wanted ours to be that house:  we were flexible about last minute plans (even when the twins were newborns), never required much notice for these gatherings, and made sure the pantry was stocked.  Tom was always great about ordering pizza, making those last-minute Publix runs as needed, and boy, would he cook up a breakfast spread (if they woke up before lunch).  I could always be coerced into baking up a batch of cookies as well.....

For Aidan and Andrew, however, I'm constantly thinking about, prompting, correcting, and training them in all areas social.  It's stressful.  I've never before appreciated the importance of friendships, nor understood all the nuances that go into building meaningful relationships until now.  It would be much more stress if not for two very important things....1) Andrew is outgoing and LOVES people-big and small, while Aidan is more reserved, yet better equipped to participate in appropriate interactive play and back-and-forth communication, and 2) the boys' school is such a huge help in this area.  Whether snack time, circle time, playground, table time, or lunch, those teachers continually look for teachable social moments for them.  They write their IEPs specific to each child's needs, strengths, and deficiencies.  They break those milestones down as small as needed; they're just incredible!

Recently, it has become extremely important for my boys to "hang out" with four or five of their classmates after pickup.  We are not "allowed" to leave until they can play chase on the front sidewalk, throw sticks in the little creek bordering MP's property, scare one another from behind the bushes, and show each other their amazing treasure chest prizes they got as rewards at the end of the know, typical stuff!  Us parents watch them in amazement at how far they've come and the challenges that still lay ahead, but it feels great to feel normal--if just for a little while!  These kids love each other so much, we've begun getting them together at local parks on as many Saturdays as possible.  Here's a few pictures from this past Saturday....gotta love this September weather.

Meredy and Andrew--they adore each other!

Aidan and Thomas escaping from the Evil King....

Aidan, Andrew, Thomas, & Braeden still hiding from the Evil King

Anthony, Andrew, Meredy, Braeden, Thomas, and Aidan taking a water break

Love this park!

Aidan and Thomas welcoming a new friend to the tire swing...they did so great introducing themselves and really interacting.  One of my favorite moments of the day!

"What's in your lunch?"  It's really important to know these little details.  Ha!

 What a blessing these kids have been to each other as well as a chance to visit with parents who are working through many of the same things as I am.  My hope and prayer for Aidan and Andrew is that we continue to assist them in fostering meaningful relationships with their peers, to uncover what all makes them unique and special, and help them experience the blessings of friendship as much as possible.  As for myself...I want to be that house again.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Poop...the final frontier

If I had to pick the single hardest, emotionally exhausting, frustrating, socially important milestone we've achieved, it would hands-down be potty training the boys (especially Andrew).  For a recap of all the fun details, please read the "Tale of Two Potties" post from this past fall.

Andrew has had the peeing thing down since the week before Thanksgiving, and for five months, had only ONE success pooping on the potty.  It goes without saying that conquering #2 is more difficult and takes more time for everyone as there are much fewer opportunities for success, and I was prepared for this.  However, as often has been the case, my boys are going to throw us curve balls everytime we think we've got it all figured out!  Here was the problem: he wouldn't poop until after he was in bed and had his Goodnites on; then from there it would happen between 2:00-4:30 am!!  Interrupted sleep for him and I as well as many bad rashes. 

I remember one night, in the middle of a sleep-deprived stupor punctuated by the overwhelming smell of a five year old's (with a grown up diet, if you get my drift) poopy pull up, thinking I just didn't know how much more of this I could take.  How long would this process take??  Would he ever get over his anxiety of going on the potty?  What was I doing wrong??  Most importantly, how in the world do I change up his system so he goes in the daylight hours?? 

I prayed.  Hard.

I took Andrew to the pediatrician for an ear infection (it had been a year since we had been--a blessing they are so healthy) and we talked at length about potty training.  Andrew adores Dr. Dudgeon, so when he told Andrew, "I want you to sit on the potty after you eat; you can poop in your pull up later, but just sit.  Will you do that for me, Andrew?"  He promptly said, "yes sir".  Hmm, I thought, we'll just see how that goes.  So with that directive coupled with a regimen of Benefiber and Miralax, we set off on a new direction which I was very optimistic about.  Andrew made good on his promise to the doctor, and he sat (with much protest and screaming--dude has a pair of lungs), and in a few days, once the Miralax kicked in, he had success at school!!  Ms. Bry and her assistants were a great support and showered him with praise and M&Ms.  He even got to choose a treat from Mrs. Sandy's (the school's director) desk drawer.  Kit Kat was a favorite.  Breakthrough! 

The next few days at home showed his successess increase and his anxieties decrease--quickly.  In fact, he only had one accident, and hasn't had any since!  Woo hoo!!!

Our "First/Then" Board.  On the "First" section there is a picture of (real) poop in the potty (thanks, Denise!); "Then" a picture of his favorite candy pumpkins I cut from the bag to show his reward. 

Tom bought at least six bags of these candies after Halloween when Publix put them on clearance for 50 cents! These were the reward of choice for both boys.

All of these prompts, visuals, and rewards are great, but this whole experience has proved a couple of things.  First,  Andrew had to be developmentally ready and want to train.  Moving away from the "comfort" of what he'd known for so long (going in his pullup) wasn't easy and caused him great anxiety.  Second, it takes a village.  Plain and simple.  I'm their momma and I love them more than anyone, but I have come to rely heavily on the professionals I'm blessed to have at my disposal.  I am relieved and overjoyed that we've conquered this huge milestone!!  Andrew, you are a rockstar and I'm so proud of you!!