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Summer Fun!

Before I begin, I apologize for the leaving my loyal followers without a blog for quite some time. It has been on my list of things to do but something more pressing always trumps it.

So here goes: Summer was a blast! I didn’t want it to end and summer is usually my least favorite season. The scorching heat, relentless mosquitoes, and lack of structure- yeah that about sums it up. Luckily we have amazing neighbors who allow us to use their pool. The boys were able to practice swimming, stay cool, and have fun!250We visited Jillian’s summer group at the playground- the boys participated in Jillian’s group when they were 2-3 years old and it’s always great to go back and see how much progress they’ve made. This year as Jillian tried to teach the class, Alex was front and center asking questions, trying to get her attention. I felt terrible that he was being so disruptive but then I thought there was a time that neither of them participated and I feared they never would. Jillian assured me, this was a good thing.216We visited Aunt Mary Lou who happens to have a community pool and playground you would find at a resort. The boys had a ball!241Thanks to Groupon and Living Social, we have 1-year memberships to the Science Center and Port Discovery, along with our zoo membership. Aden and Alex love digging for dinosaur bones and star-gazing in the planetarium. They are finally at an age that we can enjoy day trips and worry less about eloping or endless tantrums. Even still, I keep a close watch on them and probably always will. It’s not such a bad habit.
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4TH of July was a great. We went to our town’s parade which we haven’t done in years because of the noise. We also went to see fireworks for the first time! Unfortunately they were cut short because of dangerous winds but we’ll be back next year!354Aden and Alex did attend summer school but it didn’t go as planned. Aden sustained a leg injury or maybe growing pains…we never did figure it out! We ended up in the emergency room and he couldn’t put weight on his leg for a few days. Alex didn’t like the idea of Aden staying home. We dealt with major behavior problems outside of school. Alex refused to go into the building. He was on the ground kicking and screaming. It was awful. One day I was so stressed out and emotionally drained, I just took him home. Of course I regretted it but at that moment I couldn’t deal with anything else.465Amidst all the fun, we also made time for work, specifically activities that focused on kindergarten readiness. I purchased workbooks at Sam’s club and each day we worked on a new letter and number. I also purchased books from Lakeshore for tracing letters and numbers.
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Other than that, summer vacation lived up to its name. It was a chance for me to spend time with my boys. Because soon they would be kindergartners and the days of driving to and from therapies and having lunch together would be over. I maximized every day and every moment and gave them the best summer I possibly could. They earned it.008

Final Days at CARD

162Aden and Alex attended their last summer session at CARD, July 7-Aug 14. It was bittersweet going in knowing this would be it. In the past 3 years we’ve experienced good times, bad times, and somewhere in between. When I first began researching Autism, there was always a common theme: the earlier, the better. With early intervention anything is possible. This became my mantra. As each year passed, I knew the gap was closing on us, that the boys would be turning 5 and our time was running out. I was a bit obsessed with this notion. Doing everything I could, stretching myself thin, and giving Aden and Alex every possible opportunity that was available to them. I didn’t stop. I didn’t give up. I didn’t care if people said it was too much or not enough. I did what I thought was best. And it paid off. Aden and Alex and the progress they’ve made are proof that early intervention works.
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Watching Aden and Alex “graduate” and receive their certificates will be a moment I never forget. I wanted to share it with you:

Aden: http://youtu.be/iU5LSu96lL4

Alex: http://youtu.be/IOQF3hqGVXc

Looking back and reading past blogs, I realize just how far we’ve come. Our days at CARD may be over but what we’ve learned has built a foundation and we will continue to build on it for years to come. 107

Last Day of Preschool

For the past two years, Aden and Alex have attended preschool at our home school. Last year, preschool 3’s in the morning and this year preschool 4’s in the afternoon. Luckily they had the same teacher and support staff for both years, people who I consider not only teachers but our friends. Ms. Katie (Tate-ee), Ms. Debbie, Ms. Marissa, Ms. Mari, Ms. Lou- We will miss you!057The last day of preschool was like any other day. We played outside while we waited for the bus. Aden and Alex raced up and down the sidewalk on their big wheels nearly giving me heart failure. 056I took pictures of them on the bus…riding the bus the last time as preschoolers. As for our first experience riding the bus- it exceeded my expectations! Both the bus drivers and aides were always friendly and helpful. I felt Aden and Alex were in good hands to and from school. I only wish they could have the same drivers/aides every year. Ms. Theresa, Ms. Colleen, Ms. Darla, and Mr. Nair- Thank you! And I’m sorry you had to listen to “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen multiple times every day for weeks and weeks. I feel your pain.059058

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parents were invited to attend the last day. Each child was presented with a certificate of completion. We celebrated by taking pictures and eating cupcakes. On the ride home, it hit me: I have kindergarteners. Although, I’m pretty sure the first day of kindergarten will not be as dramatic for me as other parents. I can also say the same thing for Aden and Alex. They have already been in school for 3 years. For us, a new class/teacher and leaving me isn’t new. Plus they’ve already been in school for 5 hours a day for the past two years. The only difference will be they won’t be coming home for lunch. With that said, I’m hoping it will be a smooth transition.
??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Preschool was the best thing for Aden and Alex. I’m extremely thankful they had the opportunity. Both have come so far in two years and continue to make progress. I’m looking forward to kindergarten and the next chapter of our lives.
???????????????????????????????But first let’s enjoy summer!

After vacation it was time to switch gears and start preparing for our final IEP meeting of the school year and in my opinion, the most important IEP meeting ever! This meeting would determine what kindergarten class Aden and Alex would be attending in the fall. Going in, I already knew Alex would be attending a general education classroom (Woo-hoo!) but not knowing if Aden would be was a bit unsettling.

Aden has come a long way but still has challenges including behavior and speech/language/articulation issues. Even with these challenges, he still needs to be challenged. Setting the bar high is the best thing for him. Going into the meeting, we were prepared to fight for Aden to be in a general education class despite his challenges. I even had his developmental pediatrician write a letter of recommendation as to why she believed Aden would benefit from a general education classroom. In other words, Jon and I had our ducks in a row.

When I walked into the office, I immediately noticed the special education teacher from the nearby school I visited. Oh crap. This couldn’t be good. I was sure she was there to welcome Aden into her class for the fall. I just smiled and kept it together.

For 30 minutes, everyone talked about Aden, his progress, his challenges, his behavior. My anxiety level increased as the meeting went on and at one point I wanted to shout: What is the recommendation?! Finally, Aden’s teacher said, “after everything we’ve discussed, it is our recommendation that Aden attend a general education classroom with supports in place. What? I couldn’t believe my ears!

I left the meeting feeling a sense of accomplishment. 3 years ago when Aden & Alex started receiving early intervention, I always hoped that one day they would both attend kindergarten in general education, in the least restrictive environment. At the time, I didn’t know if that goal was attainable. I had no idea what the future held. And I still have no idea what the future holds. I just know where we’re starting.

Vacation!

For the fourth year, we took Aden and Alex to Busch Gardens, Williamsburg. It might seem boring to go to the same place every year but it is really quite the opposite. Knowing our way around is a huge perk plus we get to see how much the boys have changed in a year. 051050
We  stayed at Kings Creek Plantation, a resort with 3 pools, a playground, a miniature golf course, and a Target with a grocery store right around the corner. Best of all, our place was less than 15 minutes away from all the major attractions including a bounce house for rainy days. What’s not to love?!

We left after class on Friday; Aden and Alex were super excited. Both were entertained on the 3 1/2 hour car ride thanks to our portable DVD players- a must have for any trip over 2 hours! That same evening we went to Busch Gardens. Right away I noticed how much the boys had changed since last year. No strollers, no book bag harnesses, no constant hand holding, and no chasing them. I’d say that’s Progress with a capital P. Parents told me this day would come. That things would get easier. They were right. And thank God for it. 149Both loved Water Country, the water park. It’s sad to think that next year they will be too big for the kiddie area.109110They both rode water slides for the first time by themselves. I’ll admit I was a little nervous but since both can swim now, it put my mind at ease.072073The telltale sign of any child’s happiness is hearing the word, “again!”. We heard this plenty of times and it always put a smile on my face.078We rode more rides, we lasted longer at the parks, and once again we pushed our boundaries. It wasn’t without stress and exhaustion but Aden and Alex have worked hard this year and deserved a vacation. Although, next year I think we may plan a shorter trip.171Thanks to Mom-Mom, Uncle Jesse, Aunt Jessica, Melissa, Dustin, Landon, and Baby Luke for making our trip extra special and loads of FUN! We love you guys!

 

Motherhood

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I had an amazing day. Jon and the boys surprised me with breakfast in bed and I had lunch with my Mom and Mom-Mom, the two most important ladies in my life. I also spent two hours with Aden and Alex while Jon spent time with his Mom. Those two hours were stressful and exhausting. But it did remind me what Motherhood is all about.

I always thought I would make a good Mother, mainly because I’m a hard worker. I always put 100% into everything I do and failing isn’t an option. Call it perfectionism; call it whatever you want, but that mindset has helped me to be a good Mother. I do have some key Motherly traits: I’m animated, creative, and caring. I’m also impatient, pessimistic, and type A. These traits make Motherhood extremely taxing.

Motherhood isn’t what I expected. I didn’t realize how much of myself I would have to give up. My career, my time, my sleep, my sanity, and my marriage- my marriage isn’t failing but kids certainly change things. Anyone married with children knows exactly what I mean.

Since becoming a Mother, I believe certain women are more equipped to handle Motherhood than others. I put myself in the “others” category. I was a career-woman with a social life; I never envisioned myself as a stay-at-home Mom. I also never pictured myself as a Mother of twin boys on the Autism Spectrum. My advice to anyone thinking about becoming a Mother would be to expect the unexpected. Life changes and you must adapt. Motherhood requires sacrifice, selflessness, and stress management capabilities far beyond your wildest imagination.

Motherhood also brings you joy and happiness that far exceed any other life experience. Motherhood gives you purpose. I’m the most important person in Aden & Alex’s world. The weight of that responsibility is overwhelming. I have days of doubt, days when I feel like I could be doing more. Even with all my negative qualities, the way Aden and Alex see me is different than how I see myself.

I think this video sums it up: http://www.upworthy.com/these-kids-finally-say-what-they-really-think-about-mom-and-her-reaction-priceless-9?g=2&c=cur1

All parents have doubts, flaws, lack confidence and patience…but your child sees you differently, in a positive light. No matter how young or how old. Whether your child can express themselves verbally or not, you are their superhero! Remember that.534171_3923419006199_42142584_n

 

HAPPY Spring!

It might seem crazy what I’m about to say
Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break
I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don’t care baby by the way
                      ~ “Happy” by: Pharrell Williams

By now I’m sure everyone’s heard the “Happy” song by Pharrell Williams. It has a catchy upbeat tune and it’s being played on almost every radio station. This song is perfect for my life right now. For the first time in a long time, I truly feel happy.

Sure, I’ve had happy moments over the past few years but the sad moments always seemed to cast a shadow over my life. At times, fear, worry, and doubt consumed me. It made it impossible for me to be happy. I finally reached a point where I was tired of being unhappy, tired of fearing the worst, worrying about things I cannot control, and doubting myself as a Mother. It was time to STOP.

Once I stopped focusing on the negative, I could focus more on the positive and we’ve had a lot of positive lately. Last month was amazing, here’s a recap:

Autism Awareness Month
April was Autism Awareness Month and as usual our weekends were packed with activity. On April 4th, I hosted the 2nd Annual Howl for Autism Happy Hour at Howl at the Moon. 50 people showed up to support Autism Awareness! I received $1 for every person who attended and the bar matched it. I donated the $100 to Pathfinders for Autism. Pathfinders for Autism provides resources for parents navigating the Autism world. They also host family-friendly events for the Autism community. We recently attended the Skate Party! The boys didn’t last long skating but it was still a good experience. ???????????????????????????????Party Time!
The first weekend in April, we attended back-to-back birthday parties. This same time last year we dreaded going to parties. It wasn’t fun. We barely lasted an hour and we constantly had to watch the boys while other parents enjoyed themselves. This year the boys did great! We stayed 2 hours at their friend Palmer’s pirate-themed party and another 2-3 hours at their cousin, Camden’s 1st birthday party. For once, Jon and I enjoyed ourselves. We watched Aden and Alex engage with other children and participate in party activities- they both loved the pirate ship piñata. On the way home, Alex told me he wanted a piñata at his birthday party. It was great to see how far they’ve come in just a year.065071Surviving & Thriving
We survived spring break! The week every year I dread turned out to be a nice relaxing week for all of us. We kept it low key. We visited grandparents, played in the backyard, and went to the zoo on Good Friday. Even though both boys were pretty well-behaved, I was ready for them to go back to school. Mommy missed her quiet afternoons.???????????????????????????????010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both transitioned smoothly back to school from spring break. Alex started typical preschool and had no problems adjusting. Alex now attends typical preschool from 1:15pm-2:30pm M-F. Aden started 2 weeks later and goes from 2:00pm-2:30pm during centers/play. So far he’s doing well playing with other children. If this continues, his length of stay will be increased to include more academics. We recently discovered that although Aden can count, he can’t identify written numbers so we’ve been working on number labeling and identification. So far, so good. Same with letters, he can now identify more than half of his letters with the correct sound! Kindergarten here we come!

Happy Christmas?
Easter was a huge success. We had an egg hunt in our backyard. Last year, Aden wasn’t interested in looking for eggs. This year he was just as enthusiastic as Alex. It was nice to see him joining in and having fun. I forgot all about sitting on the Easter bunny’s lap…maybe next year.013We also dyed Easter eggs which I didn’t even attempt last year for obvious reasons. It was messy but the good thing about dye, it washes off…eventually. 007005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went a bit overboard for Easter. Their baskets seemed more like a mini-Christmas present display. Yeah, I’m that person. I can’t help it! I’m excited that Aden and Alex can finally play functionally with toys! They’re actually interested in toys (Alex- Octonauts and Aden- dinosaurs and monsters, Both: Superheroes!). I’m just making up for lost time.022ROAR!
Finally, we attended Roar for Autism’s Family Fun Festival at Oregon Ridge. Again, I couldn’t believe how much Aden and Alex have changed in one year. Last year, we spent 2 hours running around bouncing to and from activities. This year they were able to focus and participate in games. They watched the mascot obstacle course challenge and engaged with the mascots. They waited for balloons and had their faces painted. No major meltdowns. Best of all, I met my fundraising goal of $500! Thanks to my family and friends! By donating, they are giving other children a chance to meet their full potential! iPhone Photos 200iPhone Photos 243iPhone Photos 248iPhone Photos 252iPhone Photos 204iPhone Photos 208

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, I have a lot to be happy about.

 

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