Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Small Problem

I want to preface this post by saying that I'm a reasonable person. I KNOW that the people I mention here are kind, curious folks who mean absolutely no harm. I am in no way upset with them--just the situation.

Here's the scenario, which is very, very common:  Amelia, Anderson and I are walking into Cardinal Hill Pediatric Outpatient Therapy for Anderson's Social Skills group.  The waiting room is always hectic--lots of kids waiting for therapy, lots of parents waiting for kids. On this day, it's fairly calm, and I recognize a couple of the women from our appointment the previous week.  We walk up to the sign-in desk, and one of the women says, "She is SO TINY!! Isn't she precious?"  I smile and nod, say thanks. I try not to say too much because honestly, I don't want to have this conversation. I know what's coming. And it does.  Another woman pipes up and asks what is becoming the dreaded question, "How old is she?"  I sigh inwardly and say, "She's four years old."  Insert a variety of loud, shocked comments here. Meanwhile, Amelia slithers between my legs, shyly buries her head into the middle of them so that she isn't facing the mamas. On this particular day, the conversation is extended--usually it kind of ends here, but it's a small space and we aren't going anywhere. The women talk back and forth about people they know who have tiny children; I gather my two and we go and sit on the other side of the waiting room. Amelia walks with her head down, careful not to make eye contact with any of them.  We sit, and I'm thinking to myself that it's over. It gets relatively quiet in the room, and then one of the women says loudly, "How much does she weigh?" Ahhhh, yes. Another question that always gets a big reaction. "She's a little over twenty pounds", I say. Another round of shocked, loud comments on how petite she is, how tiny! A woman closer to us asks how old Anderson is, and I explain that they're twins. All the mamas kind of chuckle, say they were afraid to ask. Then, I hear another unfortunately common comment: "He just took all of the food in there, didn't he?"

When the kids were much younger, this conversation was not a big deal to me. See, they couldn't hear it, and more importantly, they couldn't understand it. The problem herein is that Amelia is a four-year-old girl (and a smart four-year-old girl at that) in a body that looks closer to 18 months. So, when curious people ask these kinds of questions, THEY aren't expecting her to understand them, and yet she does. And although she never comes out and directly says that she doesn't like it, her displeasure manifests in other ways. She is unhappy that she's so small. She asks almost every single day if she is going to get tall. She tells me she will be big some day--and she isn't talking about getting older. She's talking about her size.

I want Amelia to know that her size absolutely doesn't matter, that it doesn't define her in any way. But right now, in other people's eyes, it kind of does. It's what she's "known for", so to speak. Of course I make sure to talk to her about all of the other great aspects of her being--I tell her how smart she is, how good she is at dancing, how beautiful her art is, etc. etc. I also tell her that it's okay to be small, that her smallness doesn't mean anything except that she's a little shorter than everyone else. But she's four. None of that really matters yet. She wants to be like everyone else, and in her eyes, she isn't.

I have no doubt that we will struggle with this many times, and in many ways, over the years. The reality is that there's not a chance that she's going to "catch up" and be anything near an average height/weight for her age. I know that there will be tears and frustration and confusion, and I just hope that we have the right words for her in those moments.

Her size did make her crack a smile yesterday, though. Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" was on Sirius as we were driving to the store, and I may or may not have been singing very loudly, cabaret-style, to the kids in the back seat. When I got to the "Hold me closer, Tiny Dancer..." part, Amelia said, "Hey! That's me!"  She's all about the ballet right now, and she's tiny. I told her it was in fact her. Now she calls it her song. :-)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On The Move

As I've gotten older, I've developed the perfect ass...

...for "Mom Jeans".

You like that? That little line came to me in a dressing room as I was looking in those god-awful mirrors that allow you to see both your front and your back in what has to be THE brightest lighting in the world. It came to me as I was, shall we say, 'evaluating my backside'. Not that I ever had the perfect ass, but about seven years ago, it was definitely

Before I even entertained the idea of having the kids, I was fairly athletic. When I say that, I mean that I was a willing participant in athletic activities, not that I was any good at them. I jogged a few mini-marathons and a variety of other races, played a few sports for fun. Going out and running three or four miles was nothing.  I remember that the night before I really got started with the IVF process, I ran four great miles, and that was it. Trust me, one doesn't feel like exercising when injecting oneself with all kind of fun drugs with even funner side effects. I didn't exercise again until well after the kids were born. I'd been on bed rest for about three months and I had absolutely no muscle anywhere. At first, walking a tenth of a mile was tough. And then there was getting up in the middle of the night, going back and forth to the NICU, blah blah blah.  Long story short:  there wasn't much exercising going on. At all.

The kids are four now. I can't use them as an excuse anymore. And yet, over the last three years, I still haven't gotten my groove back with exercising. I'd run consistently for a week or so, then stop because some life crisis would come up--sick kids, busy week at work, whatever. I wouldn't think about exercise again until months later, and of course I'd have to start over with what little endurance I might've built up. It's safe to say that I slipped into a bit of a depression over my lack of fitness. It had become part of my pre-child identity--much more than I'd realized at the time--and I missed the endorphin rush that always accompanies a good workout. Not to mention that the old body was changing. Things were...shifting a bit. My weight stayed pretty consistent, but I certainly didn't look the same. And my clothes definitely didn't fit the same. All of this added to the depression.

This spring, one of my co-workers suggested a little friendly competition. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am extremely, incredibly competitive. I'll say it--I like to win. I like it a lot. If anything was going to get me back into exercise, a competition would do it. Her suggestion was that we all try to do "20 in 30"--work out 20 days out of the 30 days in the month of June.  The only stipulation for counting a day as a workout day is that we exercise at least 30 minutes. We even agreed that on our busiest days, we could split the time up--15 minutes here, 15 there. I love this aspect of the challenge; it eliminates any possible excuses, because everyone can find two 15 minute blocks in their day for a little exercise.  I'm good at making excuses, and now I would have none.  We decided to use the honor system for keeping up with our workouts--but we agreed to text each other so that we could kind of keep up with who was doing what.  The reward at the end--all successful competitors will go get a pedicure and do a little shopping. Nothing big, but the reward is in the exercise, not the prize.

I am proud to say that it is June 25th, and I have only missed five days of working out this entire month. I've gotten more exercise in one month than I probably have in two years.  At first, I did a lot of long walks. I was recovering from a terrible sinus infection and I just didn't have it in me to do much more than that. However, walking in the evenings reminded me why I love exercise. I love the quiet me-time, where it's just me and my music.  Once I recovered, I started going to classes at the gym--Bootcamp classes, kickboxing classes, a few Zumba classes mixed in. At first, it was very, very hard. I had no stamina for working out. I did my best, but I had to stop a lot more than I like. Probably sometime the 2nd week, I started feeling better. I was stopping less, working harder. My muscles weren't painfully sore after every session. I started to have more energy. I decided to start back up with the Couch-to-5K program, with the goal of running a 5K race by the end of the summer.

I'm gonna be honest here. The scale hasn't changed much. I'm enjoying my summer, and by enjoying my summer I mean that I'm eating healthy more than half of the time and enjoying myself the rest. I've had Graeter's twice, gone out to eat with friends, enjoyed popsicles with my kids. The fit of my clothes has only changed a little since beginning all the exercising. BUT...I am getting fit. I can do an entire kickboxing class without stopping, and I work as hard as I can the entire time. I love being able to run without stopping or feeling like I might literally die. I realized that the feeling of being FIT--feeling capable of decent levels of cardiovascular exercise--might actually be more important to me than watching the scale. Of course, I'd be lying if I said I didn't care about the scale, or that I wasn't concerned about my mom jeans ass. Of course I want those things to change, too. But right now, I'm riding on the high of feeling like I'm getting in shape. I feel like those things will come (probably with watching my diet a bit more carefully, which I will do, eventually).  Now I just have to find a way to keep exercising when school starts up again...

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Children Are Hoarders, and Other Summer Happenings.

When your children are very young, it is typical to joke around about how common household objects--a mixing bowl, a cardboard box--are more entertaining than actual toys. Amelia and Anderson were no exception, and I laughed about how we wasted money on toys because they always preferred what can only be described as junk. However, they haven't really grown out of this, and it's actually kind of annoying.  I mean, if you walked into Amelia's room right now, in addition to a ridiculous amount of toys that rarely get used, you'd also see some old baby spoons, an empty milk jug, some random fabric scraps she brought back from Nana's house, a folded-up fruit snacks wrapper. You'd probably think that we were in the early stages of hoarding--you know, the kind where people just start throwing their trash on the ground instead of in a garbage can--and you might even be tempted to call CPS. No, no--hold the phone--it's just my kids and their weird fascination with...crap.  One time, Amelia found two squares of paper. One was red, one was purple.  They were probably 3/4 of an inch--very tiny.  She carried them all over the place. We went to put her down for a nap, and tragedy of all tragedies--the purple square was missing! Do you know what it's like to search your house for a tiny scrap of paper while listening to the dramatic wails of an over-tired 3-year-old? Not a good time. Never found the damn thing, either. Fortunately, she forgot about it.  Anderson is no better, but thankfully he chooses things that are at least large enough to find with the naked eye.  Anderson really likes lotion bottles. Yes, you read that right--lotion bottles. Specifically, he likes tiny trial-size bottles. He has quite the collection, most of which came from hotels during various conference stays, etc.  Originally, he used them to play hairdresser--they were his razors. However, now he doesn't really even use them for anything. He just carries them around and needs to know where they are at any given time.  They have names--blue lotion, brown lotion, white lotion, and the ever-elusive black lotion (which is MIA at the moment but he hasn't seemed to notice! Shhh!). Here is a picture of the bottles that were in our living room yesterday:

Yep--lotion. If any of you local friends go out-of-town and stay at a hotel with little trial-sized bottles, and you're feeling generous (or maybe just sorry for the mom who is constantly hunting for the damn missing bottles), feel free to bring us back some lotions. We can always use back-ups.

In other summer news...

Summer has been tough on the little guy in the house. The whole going-to-school-two-days-a-week thing is rough on him. He'd rather be at home, so the odd days at school make him anxious in a way that I think only ASD folks can understand. It manifests in a variety of ways--whining, expressing frustration with things that normally have no effect on him, difficulty getting ready to go to bed at night. It's hard for all of us, but we are plowing ahead. I think it's important for him to learn ways to cope with change in routine. Life isn't always going to follow a specific pattern. In the meantime, we negotiate and reason and hope for the best.

In general, nothing Anderson does surprises me anymore. Yesterday, though, he kind of blew my mind. In fact, I was speechless for a bit (and you all know that's pretty rare...).  On Wednesday night, he was really struggling with the idea of going to school Thursday--he'd had an almost week-long break, and he just wasn't feeling it.  We were in my bed, "snuggling" and watching elevator videos, and he was being his usual anxious self. He kept asking to see the "dark", and I had no idea what that was. My little dude can't really express himself like everyone else--he can't say "you know, the ones we saw when we went to _____".  He just kept saying the dark, dark doors, the dark elevator. I kept frantically searching through our usual videos for anything that might meet his criteria, and he was getting more and more frustrated.  Finally, he somehow convinced himself that I was going to actually TAKE him to see the dark doors. In an attempt to get him settled before bedtime, I agreed. I probably would've agreed to anything at that moment to get him to calm. He said, "Mom, you're going to take me to see elevators and escalators and the dark, dark doors and the trees." I was all yes, yes, okay, whatever--let's just go to bed. He was happy about it. I just prayed he'd forget about it. Yeah--you know that didn't happen. He hopped up the next morning and reminded me that, after school, we were going to see elevators and escalators. Umm, yeah, okay. Again, I hoped he'd forget.

I picked them up around 4:00, and of course the first thing he said was that we were going to go see the elevators and the dark, dark doors.  Finally, I asked him where the dark doors were, and he excitedly answered that they were at the mall! Breakthrough--at least I had a location now! The mall is where we go when we reward him with some escalator and elevator watching. I texted Marty, told him that we were picking him up and heading to the mall, and off we went! Anderson was SO. EXCITED. in the car. He couldn't wait to see these "dark doors". I'm talking off-the-charts excitement. I just hoped we'd be able to figure out this dark doors mystery when we got there.  We parked at JC Penney's, which is our go-to place because it's not as busy as Macy's, and the elevator and escalator are pretty close together, so we can go in between them quickly.  We walked in and he was totally unimpressed with the escalator. Hmmm.  I led him over to the elevator, and he pushed the button, turned around, and said, "Mom! Let's go to the dark, dark doors!"  Crap. Now I was at a loss. No clue what he was talking about. I said, "Show me where they are."  He started leading me through the store to the entrance into the actual mall. He also started acting anxious, saying he was afraid of the dark doors. All of a sudden, I realized what he was talking about. I wasn't 100% sure, but usually my instincts with this crazy little guy are right.

Any of you younger shoppers have a guess as to where in the mall might feature dark, dark doors and trees?

I started walking in that general direction, and I pointed to the store--and his excitement went through the roof. We were standing in the middle of the mall, staring at the dark dark doors and the trees, and he was literally buzzing with excitement. Flapping hands, bouncing in one spot (and drawing some funny looks). I just stared in awe. I couldn't believe he had remembered this store--and remembered it in detail. We had walked by it ONE TIME. One little shopping trip. One fast 30 seconds past the entrance, probably six months ago. And he remembered it. And for whatever reason, he really REALLY wanted to see it yesterday.

Figure it out yet?

Yes. We stood in front of Hollister for a good 10 minutes. He went from door-to-door. He bounced. He took it all in, looked at the trees and the doors from every angle. He asked if he could go inside so that he could look at the doors from that point of view.  We took a break to go get him some new shoes, and then came back to look some more. I set a timer, and told him that when the timer went off, we had to leave to go eat. As soon as the timer went off, he was ready to walk away. So happy, so fulfilled.  You know. Just an average trip to Hollister.

He's a funny little guy, that one. If a trip to look at the doors of Hollister is all it takes to make him THAT happy, after a difficult day back at school with no nap, then by gosh we will go.

His memory--it's just uncanny. I think it must be pretty photographic, honestly. Glad we figured out the dark doors mystery.  If y'all see me just standing around in the middle of the mall, look around for Anderson. He's probably ogling some doors somewhere nearby.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


I'm tired.

I'm tired, and I shouldn't be.  I'm not getting up early for work, I'm not stressing about work. I'm not rushing around, picking up kids and taking kids and running errands. I should be rested and feeling great. But I'm not. I'm tired.

I'm tired because I am sleeping like shit.  In general, I am a terrible sleeper--I wake up more times in a night than any human should. But lately, I've had an additional detriment to my sleep. A fun little thing called "realistic dreams". Or "vivid dreams". Or whatever you want to call them. Dreams that are so real, I have to convince myself that they didn't actually happen. Dreams that make me so thankful that I'm awake and that it was all...well...a dream.

I've always been a dreamer. In fact, I can still remember certain dreams from my childhood.  Up until the last few years, I have kind of enjoyed being a dreamer, because the dreams were interesting, unusual--funny. Lately, though, they are anything but.

I've had nightmares every night, going on a week now. Not one single pleasant dream to speak of. Sometimes, I have multiple nightmares in a night. I wake up nervous and anxious, sometimes unable to get back to sleep for a long period of time. So--I'm tired.

I have some reoccurring themes in my dreams. I dream about tornadoes at least weekly. Sometimes I just see them from a distance. Sometimes they're very nearby. Occasionally, I'm actually in the middle of one.  They're graphic, and they feel real. I assure you, I don't have an abnormal fear of tornadoes in my everyday life. To me, this means that the tornadoes are probably symbolic of something else. Now,  I'm not one of those people who believes in weird stuff, like psychics or astrology or anything else. But I do think our dreams have significance. What the specific significance, is, I'm not totally sure.

I was perusing Netflix a few days ago and came across the "TV Documentaries" section, and a PBS special caught my eye--it was called "What are Dreams?". It was only an hour long, and I thought hey, maybe I'll figure out what is going on with me. It was incredibly interesting.  It talked about how at one point in time, researchers thought we only dreamed in REM sleep; however, now there is significant evidence that indicates we dream in both REM and non-REM sleep. Interestingly enough, dreams in REM sleep tend to have positive connotations, and dreams in non-REM sleep tend to leave the dreamer with negative emotions. Clearly, I must be doing a lot of this non-REM dreaming.  The whole thing was just super intriguing--if you have Netflix and you, too, are a realistic dreamer, I highly suggest watching. Seeing how they conducted their research is really neat, and just the information in general about dreaming is worth hearing.

One quote caught my attention. It caught my attention so much that I recorded it. One of the scientists was talking about how having nightmares is actually a GOOD thing (HUH? He must not have them himself...). Here's what he said: "The nature of bad dreams and nightmares is that they contain threatening events, and they force us to go through those simulated threatening events, in order that in the waking world, when we encounter similar or other threatening events, we are more prepared to survive those when we are training for them in our dreams." Yeah, it's a bit of a rambly quote, but it struck me right in the heart. Our dreams are training for surviving threatening events.

Last night, I had one of those dreams.  I dreamed that Marty was back in the hospital, and that it wasn't good. It wasn't good, and we all knew it, and it was 100% horrifying. He was conscious, and we were actually having a conversation about it all. I can't even bring myself to type the details here--I don't want to give any life or acknowledgement to the words that were spoken in this nightmare. I woke up completely shaken, rattled. It took a LONG time to get out of that state of mind. I could barely talk to the kids, and I asked Marty about five times if he felt okay before he left for work. I'm sure he thought I was a bit crazy. I couldn't even talk about it, couldn't tell him what I had dreamed (so if you're reading this, Marty, that's why I was weird today!). I was in a state of total bewilderment until my 2nd cup of coffee, long after he left and the kids were at school. I'm good now--but some of my dreams take awhile to dissipate.

I sure hope that this dream is not training for surviving a threatening event. I certainly didn't survive it well in the dream itself. Maybe in reality, our nightmares are helpful for learning to get through difficult occasions, but I will never, EVER say that I think these dreams are a good thing. Ever.

Anyone else a vivid dreamer?

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Little Hairy...

Things are getting a little hairy around here.

And by hairy, I mean Anderson has developed a strong distaste for hair. Specifically, loose hair that might be on the floor, couch, etc., and Marty's chest hair.  I don't know if it's sensory thing or not--he doesn't touch the hair, so I don't think it relates to how hair 'feels'. I think it's just an odd aversion, like Amelia's fuzz aversion. However, because he fixates on everything, including aversions, this hair issue is causing some minor inconveniences at home.

As in most households with young kids, there are no sacred places in the home, including the bathroom. Anderson enjoys being in there with others, regardless of what they might be doing in there. In fact, one of his favorites things to do is come in while you're...well...using the bathroom, and ask you, "Hey ____, what are you doing?" Umm..pretty obvious, buddy.  Anyway, he also comes in to hang out while I'm getting ready--you know, fixing hair, putting on make-up, etc. However, now with this whole hair issue, he immediately comes in and looks for stray hairs on the floor. You all, my hairdresser calls me a "hair monster"--I have a LOT of hair. To think that my bathroom floor would ever be completely hair-free is pretty much ridiculous.  When he finds said hairs, he is quick to point them out, which often leads to incessant whining until the hair is removed. Which yeah, picking up some hair isn't a big deal, except it's pretty annoying when it happens ALL. THE. TIME. Especially when I'm trying to get ready in a hurry. So, I've started vacuuming the floor more often, to try to avoid these instances. Yesterday, he came home from a night at Nana and Papaws and immediately came into the bathroom with me. I had JUST vacuumed, so I triumphantly pointed out that the floor was clean as soon as I saw his little eyeballs searching the ground obsessively. He walked over into a corner where the closet door meets the bathroom tile, found the tiniest hair, and pointed it out. I'm developing a cleaning complex as a result of this stupid aversion.

The other hairy issue is Marty's chest hair.  This one is actually kind of comical. I mean, he's seen Marty shirtless a zillion times, but it was like one day he woke up and decided that chest hair was gross.  When Marty wakes up, he does a few things before he puts his shirt on. If Anderson is awake, he will say things like, "Daddy, you're gonna put your shirt on."  If Marty doesn't immediately oblige, it can turn into, "Daddy, put your shirt on!" (said in an incredibly whiny voice).  Marty took him swimming, and he refused to be carried by Daddy in the water for fear of brushing against the chest hair. Fortunately, he hasn't developed an issue with the arm and leg hair--yet. Today, I told him that he would grow chest hair when he got older, and he looked appalled. Sorry, son. Some things can't be controlled.  I'll give ya the number to a great waxer. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Fathers Day Retrospective...

As mentioned in a previous blog post, this year, we decided to combine all of our holidays and gift-giving into one fun-filled family trip. Well, said family trip hasn't happened yet (but it will!), and here we are at Fathers Day. For the occasion, the kids picked out cards for Marty (which are hysterical--I'll post some pics after he opens them), and I decided to do this--a little blog tribute to him.

For those of you who don't know Marty, he's the kindest, most laid-back, most genuinely himself person in the world. Those of you who DO know Marty are nodding your heads in agreement.  Everyone--and I do mean everyone--loves him. He's soft-spoken, gentle, stubborn, and smart. And, he's an AMAZING father--and I do honestly mean that. When you have multiples, it is all-hands-on-deck with parenting, but he never hesitated to be just as involved as me. We are equal partners in this adventure called parenthood--you'd never hear either of us say anything like "Wait till your ______ comes home"--we share the responsibility. Fortunately, we also share parenting beliefs, so we've never had a situation where we've disagreed on a parenting decision--which is pretty amazing, considering we have two special-needs kids with very different situations. Yeah. He's pretty awesome.

So...without further ado, a little retrospective of his journey into fatherhood. Warning: adorable pictures ahead.

Keeping me entertained  during my 33 day hospital stay before the kids were born.

Yes, he found endless ways to entertain me, including wearing his jeans tucked into his boots and his phone in a case.

This is the day after the kids were born. I was SO incredibly sick up in my room and he was gone forever! He came back giddy, because the nurse had let him change and hold Anderson.
Saying goodbye to Amelia before her hernia surgery

When Amelia first came home, she ended up right back in the hospital two days later.  She didn't tolerate her formula well. Marty stayed with her the entire time, relieving me of the PTSD issues and allowing me to be home with Anderson. AMAZING. DAD.

This is AFTER she came home--still that tiny. 
I know this is me, but I was shocked when I saw this one! Look how SMALL Amelia was--this was shortly before she came home! Wow.

Words not needed.

Friday, June 14, 2013


Whew! It's been awhile since I posted--things have been pretty busy around the Jones house. Okay, maybe busy isn't the right word because summer break isn't actually "busy", just hectic in its own way. Meaning I have two four-year-olds.  THEY are busy. Busy, busy, busy.

So yeah...I now have a mini-van. Yeah. Alright--it isn't horrible. I do have to say I'm a bit self-conscious driving it, because I can't tell you how many times I have been behind one that is driving slow and possibly used some explicit language--especially if they were driving slowly in the left lane. However, the features are FABULOUS. I mean, seriously fabulous. I am pretty sure they load them down with awesomeness so that people like me will buy them.

Yep. Me driving the van off the lot.

We actually went to the dealership just to begin negotiations and had no intention of purchasing anything that day--but you know how those car dealers are! Kidding...we actually love both our car dealership (Don Jacobs Honda) and our salesperson (Joey Banbel). I'm not just saying that--when you go there, it is a non-haggle situation.  We bought our CR-V there three years ago, and I vowed to never shop anywhere else because the experience was so pleasant compared to previous car purchasing nightmares experiences. When we walked in the door on Tuesday, our guy--Joey--was the one who greeted us, and he actually remembered us from three years ago! I was totally impressed, and we picked up right where we left off. It was great to avoid all that chit-chat nonsense that is the beginning of the purchasing process.  He remembered we had twins and therefore our logistics, so we got started right away. I decided to drive the van first, and it was...a van. I wasn't overly excited but it was nice and roomy.  Before I drove the Pilot, I checked out the leg room situation in the back, because I did NOT want to drive it and fall in love with it if it wasn't even a possibility. In reality, there is honestly as much leg room between the front and middle seats in the Pilot as there is in the Odyssey. I was amazed. So, I drove it. And I loved it. Dearly.  Drove much sportier than the Odyssey, had better pick up (obviously). Just loved it. When we got back to the dealership and sat down to decide, Marty was kind and didn't pressure me in any direction. He was happy with either. Here's what it came down to:  we knew we wanted to get something that we would be keeping for quite awhile. I didn't want to feel guilty six years down the road because we are stuck driving an SUV, needing more room, just because I couldn't suck it up personally and get the van. It made me feel selfish in a way that I didn't like. So--here we are!

Here's what was funny, though.  If you've purchased a car recently, you know that they wait to show you  how to use the features until you're about to drive off the lot. I knew it had the rear DVD player, XM Radio, and Bluetooth. That was about it. When Joey took us out to get acquainted with it before we left, I learned about ALL! THE! FABULOUSNESS!  I had no idea cars were so advanced these days. The CR-V was pretty stripped down, and the Civic is definitely simple. I had never purchased a car that was fain-cee like this! First and foremost, I had no idea that you could play your iPhone music through Bluetooth! I'm used to the little cable connecting the iPod/iPhone to the car. Wireless music? Yeah, that's pretty awesome to me, because of my well-known love of music. Bluetooth calling? Speed-dial radio buttons? Wha?  Connect a computer to the DVD player in the back, stream movies? Play video games? TOO. MUCH. Not to mention the XM radio, which is awesome, the butt-warmers (my first...), cooling compartment to keep things cold while ya drive...the list goes on and on. See? They make vans all nice-like so that people who are skeptical are sucked in. And I was. And I'm happy.

Ethel is her name.  I wanted a nice 50s house-wife name for her, since that's who should be driving a van. I think Ethel sounds like someone who would dutifully drive the van but would secretly rock out to inappropriate rap music when she was alone in the van. You know, like me.

(Quick story:  As Joey was teaching me how to use Bluetooth to play my iPhone music, he was scrolling through my music and this song came on.  The kids were in the car, not to mention that I'm pretty sure he wasn't expecting that music from me. Let me explain--I heard it in my Bootcamp class (pretty sure that was the edited version though), and I like having music from my exercise classes on my iPod so that when I'm running outside, I can hear the same music. Sounds weird but it is motivating to me. Anyway, needless to say I was a bit embarrassed...)

Grand adventures to come in the van...

I have so much more to share...check back this weekend!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Rock Star.

When Anderson was diagnosed with ASD in February, one of the first things I wanted to do was have him evaluated for outside therapy--meaning outside of the school system.  If you aren't familiar with how special education/school therapy works, essentially a child with special needs is potentially eligible for all kinds of therapy when they attend public school. The caveat is that the goals of therapy have to be related to the educational impact on the child. So, Anderson has IEP goals that will help him work on fine motor so that his handwriting will improve, speech goals so that he will be able to communicate in the classroom, etc. These are fantastic goals, and as a teacher, of course I want him to be able to work on those things.  The issue is that OT and Speech therapy can address SO many more issues than those that will impact a child in a school setting. That's why I wanted the outside evaluation--so that he can get therapy in school to address areas of academic concern, and outside therapy to address all of the rest.  At his four year check-up, I got the referral from his doctor and made some calls. We decided that Cardinal Hill Pediatric Therapy was where we wanted to start, and I set up evaluations for summer break, when we would all have more time.

Anderson's evaluations were this past Friday. I was both excited and nervous leading up to the date--excited because I am more than ready to get this ball rolling, and nervous because I was afraid Anderson would be uncooperative. I was afraid they would try to assess him individually, without me being there, and I knew without a doubt that he would absolutely not allow himself to be taken away from me willingly.  When he woke up that day, I started prepping him for the experience by telling him that he and I were going to do something special. The word "special" always gets his attention because he knows usually that means something exciting.  I told him we were going to go play with some people (I knew that the evals would involve some playing), and he was game. He was nervous that I was going to take him somewhere and leave him; he kept saying "Mommy isn't going to leave" and "Mommy isn't going to wait in the car". I have no idea where he got that last one; I don't think I've ever waited in the car while anything scary has happened to him, but whatever.  Unfortunately, I kind of got lost trying to find the right building--Cardinal Hill is a sprawling complex of buildings that are attached yet were built at various times over the years, so it's pretty confusing. The longer I was lost, the more anxious he got. Finally I found where we needed to be, and we went in.  I let him take his beloved Tofu, which seemed to help.

The registration process took forever, and he just stood there, smiling and enjoying watching their printer print about a gazillion papers that I had to sign. So far, so good.  We took a seat to wait for his first evaluation, and he was calm, happy, adorable.  Then, I saw a bus pull up outside. I'm not kidding; about 10 kids got off and ran into the building. They were pretty well-behaved, but they were a waiting room...they were loud and all over the place.  Anderson, for whatever reason, thought I was going to leave him with them and he started to get very nervous. I just put him on my lap and kept whispering to him, talking about what the kids were doing, etc., which helped.  About five other families came in to wait for therapy appointments--you all, this waiting room was an absolute ZOO.  I know I was in sensory overload; Anderson was pretty well over the top.  Fortunately, a therapist came out to get him pretty quickly.

His first evaluation was for speech.  The therapist was incredibly nice and told Anderson immediately that Mommy was going to stay with him. He had to be reassured of that oh...about 100 times, but there were no tears. To start the evaluation, I had to answer some questions about Anderson, which gave him the opportunity to settle into the room--a great thing.  Then, she started the assessment. That's when I child is a teacher's WORST NIGHTMARE.  He was compliant, happy even...but he could not attend to a task for any length of time. Teacher friends, you know the type. There was a multiple choice portion of the test, where he had to look at four pictures and pick the one that she was describing. He would point to a picture BEFORE she even finished talking! took everything in me to keep quiet. I just sat back, rolled my eyes (he couldn't see me).  I'm kind of joking here, but I was also a tiny bit frustrated because I knew that he could actually answer some of the questions she was asking but he wasn't attending or even really trying. Ah, well. That's why we were there, I guess.  We only got halfway through the test before she recognized that he needed to be done; we will go back and finish in two weeks, assuming insurance will cover a 2nd day of evaluation.  She actually said he was doing very well (which shocked the crap out of me...I saw what the boy was doing...). I was immensely proud of him because he never cried, he never ignored her completely or said he was done. He didn't even really get frustrated. He worked HARD.  The therapist walked us out to the waiting room to wait for OT.  By this time, it was easily 10:00; we'd been there since 8:15. I was worried about how well he'd do in another lengthy evaluation, but knew we had to give it a shot.

The waiting room was even more of a zoo, if that's even possible. SO. MANY. KIDS. So loud!  We sat down next to a lady who was holding an infant. Anderson is suddenly fascinated by babies, so he was more than happy to stare at the little guy, which was a fabulous way to keep him from getting overwhelmed while we waited.   Thankfully we didn't wait too long for the OT to come and get us--Anderson was okay but I was personally overstimulated in that crazy room.

The OT evaluation was very interesting. I was a little put off at first; the woman didn't seem to know where to start with him, and she balked at my ASD diagnosis that came from the school system, which irritated me because I know all of the assessments that were administered, and they're no different than what would be given by an outside psychologist.  She also immediately started talking about a gluten/casein-free diet, which I was also uncomfortable with; I am not at all sure how I feel about that path, personally, and Anderson is a great eater. I don't want to mess with that unnecessarily because the little dude is tiny as it is. She seemed so scattered...the first thing she asked him to do was copy a shape that she drew on a paper. No getting-to-know-you stuff, nothing. He picked up the pencil and drew an elevator. I told her he only draws elevators. She seemed shocked, took the paper away, and started other testing. I was a bit alarmed because it didn't seem like she was using any specific evaluation--she was just pulling different things out of a box and taking notes. However, it didn't take long to realize she had Anderson's number.  She asked lots of pointed questions about things that Anderson definitely does--looks at things out of the corners of his eyes, likes to watch fast movement, etc.  I felt much better because I knew she was getting a sense of what he was like.

The rest of the testing was positively intriguing.  Anderson's horribly short attention span was once again very evident. If he was "on" when she asked a question, he could do whatever she asked him to do, including building an incredibly complicated bridge out of blocks. If he wasn't attending, though...he couldn't do it. At one point, he almost cried because he couldn't make his block structure look like hers--he tried SO hard, but he could not figure it out.  The other thing that was pretty neat to watch was how using play, song, and rhythm could get his attention long enough to get him to learn something.  He couldn't copy a shape when she just literally asked him to do it, but if she made it into a game, or put it to song, he was all about it.  All of this proves that he IS totally capable of doing anything, but his inattentiveness really hinders his learning. The last thing she did was probably the most interesting part of it. She asked him to come and lay on a mat in the center of the room. She said she wanted to test his reflexes--specifically his primitive reflexes.  Now, I consider myself a fairly well-versed mom; I keep up with different therapies and tests, but I really knew nothing about this.  He was totally cooperative and did everything she asked, and she showed me how he had retained two of his primitive reflexes.  I was caught off-guard with this and therefore didn't have the with-it-ness to ask which ones, but I feel certain that the Galant Spinal reflex was one of them--which would make sense, given that a delayed Galant reflex can lead to inattentiveness and bed-wetting.  Anyway, she did many different things, he continued to be compliant, and then fortunately, we were finished. At this point, the poor kid was starving--he'd usually had several snacks by that point in the day. He asked for a snack; thankfully I had a bag of Chex Mix in my purse from Amelia's doctors appointment earlier in the week. Buddy scarfed them down, then started whining for more.  We wrapped it up with the therapist saying she definitely recommended OT for Anderson, and us scheduling our first visit for week after next.

My boy was a 100% ROCK STAR throughout the whole thing. He never cried, he always tried to do what they were asking, even when it was really difficult for him. He tolerated that insane waiting room, strangers touching him, working through hunger. He was so sweet and cute, both therapists immediately fell in love with him--the OT was dying to be scheduled as his therapist, after working with him. He was amazing, and my heart was so full of love and pride. I know how hard that was for him. I know how hard it was for ME. He kicked ass in a situation that was extremely overwhelming and uncomfortable. He is capable of so much, and after seeing him, I am determined to get him the help he needs to be successful with anything he tries.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What I'm Learning About My Kids.

I'm quickly discovering that this summer is going to be much better than past summers with the kids. They're at an age where I can negotiate with them and they can (usually) understand logic enough to avoid major temper tantrums. I'm also rediscovering how freaking cool my kids are (what a grammatically bad sentence..). They are just really, really neat kids. And I'm not biased or anything. 

That said, I'm learning new things about my kids daily. Here are some of the highlights:

I'm learning that Amelia is a follower.  Everything her brother wants, she wants. Everything he does, she does. Everything I do, she does. Everything I eat, she wants to eat, and on and on. Today I praised Anderson to the high heavens because he threw away a wrapper without being asked--guess who came strolling into the kitchen with something to throw away?  She definitely has her own ideas and thoughts, and she knows right from wrong and chooses not to participate in things that she perceives as bad (with the exception of drawing on the ENTIRE CAR), but I can see this girl giving in to peer pressure. In some ways, it's cute to see her imitating, but in some ways, it's a tiny bit disconcerting.

I'm learning that Anderson wants to play with other kids. He really, really wants it, you all. There are four little girls who live across the street from us.  They've been playing outside every day while we are out there (I wonder if their parents are teachers...), and Anderson is absolutely fascinated. He calls them "the friends"--a carry over from preschool, where all peers are 'friends'--and he is overly worried about their whereabouts at any given time.  They rode their bikes around the block, and he stood at the end of the yard yelling at them to come back.  I can tell he'd love to be a part of their group, but buddy has no clue how to talk to them, and trust me--they aren't interested in his games. Still, I love that he's at least interested. Hopefully someday. In the meantime, he's just a little stalker.

Standing watch over "the friends"

I'm also learning that Anderson says THE CRAZIEST things.  The stuff that comes out of his mouth--you guys, it's the stuff of legends.  I mean, it's already funny in the sense that he is always mixing up the pronouns and also sometimes talks about himself in the 3rd person, but when you add that to the content of what he's saying--insanity.  I guess I could be defensive about it, or feel bad that he struggles with "normal" conversations, but that's not my style. Instead, I choose to laugh with Marty over how freaking funny he is!  Let me just give you an example...these exact words just came out of his mouth when he woke up from his nap:

"The leg hurts...I have a boo-boo on my leg! It hurts by the penis (yes, we taught them the anatomically-correct body parts, and the difference between boys and girls--they take a bath together and discovered it themselves, we just did the explanation. Yes, he talks about them EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.). It's going to stop hurting when I poop. When I poop, the boo-boo will be all better."

Ummm...WHAT??  No clue at all what he's getting at there.

He also makes us repeat crazy things (kind of typical of some kids with autism)--one of this favorites is "Say 'Rexy-Tofu', mom!"--and I have to say it, lest I hear that over and over and over. He also asks questions of us, knowing what he wants us to say as an answer. A common one involves his beloved Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies.  He calls the creme "icing", which is fair because it's pretty similar to icing.  So, every time he eats one, he will go up to either Marty or I and asked, "What's this?", pointing to that delicious white filling.  The correct response is "icing".  If you're in the middle of something, you answer correctly so that the whole conversation ends. If you're wanting to mess with him a little, just to see what he does, you say the wrong thing. Usually, he just asks incessantly until you give the correct answer.

His odd conversational patterns are kind of confusing to Amelia a lot of the time, which is not-so-great.  He goes into school scripting mode if he gets into trouble, or if I say anything to either kid that seems like they're doing something wrong.  He scripts the teachers and says things like, "Oh Amelia, you are in SO MUCH TROUBLE! Amelia! You do NOT do that!".  She comes running to me and says, "Mom! I'm not in trouble! Anderson says I'm in trouble!". I have no idea how to explain to her that he doesn't mean what he's saying in a way that she will get it.  Usually I just tell her that he doesn't mean it, not to listen to him. I don't want to start that habit, though. I read a blog post a few days ago that I cannot for the life of me find right now, and it was all about an older child with autism who cried to his mother that his siblings 'always ignore him'. The mom felt horrible because she perpetuated the ignoring--unintentionally, for sure--by doing just what I'm guilty of doing, because it is so much easier to tell Amelia to ignore him or not listen to him than explain WHY he's saying random things. When she is older, it will be easier. At least I hope so.

Just in:  while I was typing this, he came up to me with a stuffed snowman and told me it was his baby doll.  When I asked what his baby's name was, he told me--"Condition".  Where does he get it??

I'm learning that the kids really love each other, and love playing with each other.  Amelia completely tolerates Anderson's odd requests when they're playing together, and Anderson is learning how to engage Amelia in play.  They also have fantastic imaginations--Amelia turned an every-day string into a Super Hero cape. Anderson has turned an ordinary white mixing bowl into a "light bulb". They're just so creative--and I'm so glad.

I'm also learning to settle into Anderson's diagnosis. Not that I wasn't certain about it, but I know that other people are probably uncertain, especially when they first meet him, because he is just so verbal. Obviously, I realize that people can be very verbal and still have autism, but not everyone understands the intricacies of the condition like teachers or people who have autism in their families.  However, spending so much time with him makes me feel very, very comfortable with the diagnosis. Because he definitely has autism.  Definitely. His need for little routines and things that make him comfortable/uncomfortable...they're overwhelming sometimes.  Let me give you an example. Anderson has a very structured bedtime routine that he created himself.  His Daddy must read and rock with him, if he's home. He must sing his "Eyes are Watching" song and read a book to Daddy.  He will find his toys of choice for the night and get into bed, we will turn off the lights, and close the door. He will get out of bed about 10 seconds later and ask to go to the bathroom.  He'll use the bathroom, get back in bed.  He will, again, get out of bed 10 seconds later and ask for a cup of water, which we will bring to his bed. Then, he will stay in bed and go to sleep.  There is no varying from this.  A few days ago, he wanted to bring this junky little light-up seal to bed with him, which was fine...except he couldn't stand the texture of it.  He doesn't have many tactile sensory issues, and we are glad because when he does, he REALLY does.  He was crying, holding the thing by one of its fins, asking us to "cut the fuzz off". Marty was trying the hard core approach, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. He told Anderson that we couldn't cut the fuzz, that he would either take the seal, or he had to deal with the fuzz. Anderson laid down, holding the seal straight up in the air by one fin, and continued to cry.  There always comes a point where I just recognize that the situation is going to escalate and not resolve--and 9 times out of 10, either we can redirect him or he can calm himself, so really this does not happen often--and this was one of those. By this point, Anderson was wailing, "Get the scissors, mom! Get the scissors!"  So...I got the scissors. I tried as hard as possible to cut the fuzz off of the seal, while he watched. When I finished (and honestly, the fuzz is still there. It was impossible to remove...), and looked up into his watery, teary eyes, he smiled at me. He calmly went and got into bed, situation over.  If cutting a little fuzz off of a dollar bin toy is all it takes to make things right in his world, I'm going to be game every single time.

The seal, post hair-cut.
I learn and learn and learn from these two. Daily. And I'm overwhelmed by just how awesome they are, and how lucky I am.

Pictures of other summer fun:

Laughing at elevator videos while "snuggling" with mom.
My little Peeping Tom.
She LOVES sand. Like, really really loves it. Even homemade Pinterest sand.
I don't even know. Silliness.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Summer First.

From May 1st to July 15th, we have nothing but holidays around here. Kicking off with my nephew's birthday on May 1st, to Mothers Day, to my birthday, to Marty's birthday a week later, to Fathers Day, to two more nephews' birthdays, to my brother-in-law's birthday, to our anniversary on July 15th, there is always something going on, some date to remember.  It's kind of insane, really. We don't necessarily celebrate all of those things--the nephews and bro-in-law live out-of-town, but believe me--Mothers/Fathers Days and our birthdays, along with our anniversary, are enough!

The gift-giving is kind of insane between Mothers Day and Fathers Day. The way it works out, either Marty or I are getting a gift every week or two. I know--whine, whine--but honestly, it's kind of annoying.  This year, my birthday was kind of a bust because of The Plague, and Marty's snuck up on us (his is tomorrow! Old Man River....). OVER.WHELMING.

Yesterday, as we were sitting in the kid's room watching them play trains, drinking our coffee and looking disheveled as always on Sunday morning, I had a brilliant idea. I suggested that, since we hadn't really celebrated any of the holidays yet, we should take a very short mini-trip with the kids. And by short I mean one night. In the interest of money and time, we decided we'd go to Cincinnati, do the aquarium one day, spend the night (Anderson will be THRILLED to go to another "Trip House"), and then do the zoo the next day. All the money we'd spend on gifts for the ten zillion summer holidays will be spent on this little excursion.

Confession: we've never done anything like this. Other than Anderson's short stay at the Trip House during this winter's version of The Plague, they've never done a hotel trip before. They haven't even been to a zoo in two years. Just typing that makes me feel like a terrible mother. We are the least travel-adventurous parents ever. Poor kids.  They think an exciting outing is a trip to Shillito Park.  They may die of excitement overload when they see the real zoo! The aquarium! I expect plenty of happiness, along with some suspicion on their parts--as in, 'why haven't you taken us anywhere like this before, and are there other places like this?'

We are planning on going very soon--hopefully next week. I can't wait to see how it all plays out. Yay for short road trips with anxious mothers. Looking forward to a holiday of short fuses, snappy arguments, dirty hands, junk-food eating, no-nap whining, faces full of wonder and joy, a few temper tantrums and lots of love. Is there any other way to do it? :-)

In the meantime, I've scoured Pinterest and come up with a few really fun summer activities. Today, we made "sand" with flour and baby oil--it's actually very cool. Soft, mold-able, only slightly messy.  We will also be making sidewalk paint with corn starch, water, and food coloring.  Two ingredient activities that can be done outside are my cup of tea.  Anyone have other suggestions for fun outdoor activities to occupy two busy 4-year-olds?