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I have 5 year-olds!

This year we celebrated a huge milestone, Aden and Alex turned 5! I asked Aden and Alex what they wanted to do for their birthday. They said, “Pump it Up!” We had their 3rd birthdays there and were pleased with how it turned out. Since I was already planning my own fiesta, literally, I had to cut the size of their party. For the first time, Aden and Alex were allowed to invite who they wanted, 5 kids each. This was difficult for me to give up control of the guest list but I guess I should get used to it. After all it’s their party, not mine. The boys are getting into superheroes even though they’ve never even seen one on TV? I guess that’s a boy thing. Their superhero gene has been activated. This made choosing the theme easy. I made superhero capes for the kiddos which turned out really cute. Other than that, I kept everything pretty simple. 023The next day was their actual birthday which also fell on Labor Day weekend. I decided to throw a fiesta themed party complete with pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and a piñata. My inner party planner came out and I had a blast with this theme. I just wish I could have hired someone to decorate, cook, and clean-up or at least clone myself. Parties are hard work.
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I knew I wanted to go all out this year. It’s been a rollercoaster ride over the past five years. Sometimes I still can’t believe I did it: the schedule, the routines, the lack of sleep, driving to and from therapies multiple times a day, it’s enough to drive anyone crazy. And I might be borderline crazy at this point, but I survived. Those days are over. Early intervention is over. I now have 5 year-olds who are entering kindergarten. What does this is mean for me? It means time to do all the things I haven’t over the past five years. Now that’s something to celebrate! 077

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

 

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