Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Summer Fun

As time goes on I find myself finding great joy in reconnecting with old friends from days past.  There's something about seeing each other, our changes in our families and our growing children, it all reminds me of what is really important.  We had just such an opportunity when a friend from CA happened to be nearby after visiting the Tucson AZ temple open house.  I saw Anita almost 5 years ago when Bubby was 6 months old and we were headed out to our cruise vacation.   It was a brief meeting over a lunch (which I of course forgot to take pictures at!) which we had a great time catching up.  She was pregnant with her current youngest and I was still coping with the changes that Down Syndrome would bring our family.  She was so kind and encouraging.   Our most recent vacation in LA and Carlsbad conflicted with their schedule so when we chanced to find an open Sunday to meet we had to take it.

Anita had managed to gather a small group and I made friends along the way.  Her nanny from childhood, me, from her college years and a friend from her earlier married life.  (who is a fellow homeschooler which is still fun for me to find! I'm still such a newbie at this!)  There were 8 adults, twelve kids, good fun and lots of fun!

Marta's husband played the piano so beautifully for us.  It made me miss the days I could just lose myself in a song.

This was the only shot we got of all the kids.  Bubby was having no part in it whatsoever!!

What's better than seeing old friends and making new ones!

Other random happenings at the end of June included baking cookies outside in 115F weather.  We just set them outside on the picnic table and made estimates as to how long it would take and took notes every 20 minutes or so.  At the end of two hours they were not what I would call done, more dried out than anything, but the kids thought they tasted just fine!  I posted the results on Facebook and it inspired a few friends to try similar experiements it parked cars, or solar ovens.  Everything from cookies, to eggs and quesidillas were made.  It was a good way to make the heat bearable.

Taking apart our sunflowers and attempting to roast the seeds ourselves.  Not successful but the chickens we donated the seeds to enjoyed our harvest.

This little Pumpkin wants to be just like the big kids and when given the chance she joined Bug's judo class.  Sensei says she's a natural at it and she's proud that she has lessons just like her siblings.
Silly little girl, just bouncing with excitement to be in class!

On Friday's we attend a special needs storytime which the littlest two LOVE.  Bubby won't pay much attention to the book and activities but can't get enough of the songs we sing.  He's growing comfortable there and will interact with Ms. Jill who runs it.  Just recently he's shown a desire to stay and play a little longer which is encouraging and fun to see.  The wind tunnel was a big hit with the kids and he was careful to take turns and even let out a giggle or two.

Bubby and I had our own afternoon out one weekend.  DS Network held an activity about 40 mins from us at an indoor playground.  I'm always leery of attending these things since it's usually so loud and crowded but since it was just me and Bubbalicious I thought it would be good practice for him to deal with the crowds.  The ball pit was a HUGE hit with him and when the noise got to be too much we found a room where he could sort to his hearts content.  Perhaps one day he will stock groceries as a job!

After about an hour he didn't want to deal with everything so he dragged me to the door and clearly said, "Go!"  I honored his requested and we made it out nicely, walking out while holding hands, shoes on and with no screaming.  For a child with autism that was a big win for all of us.  I had to reward him by pulling into a nearby McDonalds where we split ice cream and French fries and he snuggled happily beside me.

He was worn out as evidenced by our drive home!

Park time!  I love how Pumpkin engages Bubby.  He doesn't want to be outdone by her!

Friends over to play and eat lunch

The crazy of the summer is nearly to an end.  So glad for these fun memories, family and friends.

Monday, July 10, 2017

What Really Counts!

Those who know us well, know that our family is not huge into athletics.  There's a huge time commitment that affects the whole family, politics and issues at times with coaches and or other players and their parents.  Swim team has been a big exception.  For one, when you live in AZ you HAVE TO learn to swim to survive the summers.  For another, it was a measurable 6 weeks that I could commit to and be done for the year.  We never pushed it, but this year Bud pushed himself and we really could see results.  His best time for backstroke beat the minimum qualifying time by 1.22 secs.  His best breastroke time was just 0.77 sec above the qualifiying time.  It was his big goal to simply qualify so he could be with his friends who have inspired him to do better.  Since he clearly beat the qualitfying time, we thought he was in for sure.  He spent days telling everyone and his friends congratulated him and all was well until just after the Fourth of July.

Pictures from the swim team party .... sugar to fill their wildest dreams!

Apparently there's a rule for the Desert Swim League that only 8 people can compete for each stroke per team in each age group.  For the 9-10 yr old boys, he did not make the top 8 scores, let alone the top ten so he could be a alternate.  There are just that many boys who swim so well in his group.  This all came crashing down less than a week before finals and it was a bitter pill to many boys, not just our Bud.

Awards ceremony

It was also a bitter pill for me as a mother.  I had been hard to get him to his extra practices and pay for the stroke classes, to attend extra swim meets to get closer to that qualifying time.  It was particularly difficult to see that disappointment deaden and dull our usually happy go-lucky boy.
He wanted to continue practices and do the last meet before the competition because he loved the company of these friends so much, but the reminders and discussions revolved around what he could have no part of it was clearly painful.  For days we'd see moments  he'd be fine and then something would bring it to his remembrance and his spirits dropped again.  It was his first truly epic disappointment and he was striving to work through it the best he could.

We talked a great deal about what it meant to be a good sport and in his heart wanted to be happy for his friends but was so pained at his disappointment that he couldn't find words to express himself.  the day of the competition he managed to put together a little video clip to send to two of his friends wishing them luck. 

Such fun horsing around with his friends!  He can't wait till next summer when he sees them again.

I was such a proud Mama at that moment.  It took strength and character to do what he did.  I asked him how he felt after the message was sent and his reply was telling," Still sad, but good too.  I can be a good friend and team member."  And that's what really counts in the end and as far as I'm concerned, he won the championships in ways no trophy could ever really commemorate!  Love you Bud!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Right There All Along!

Kids really are sponges sometimes.  You never know what they pick up on and most of the time you only find out in the most embarrassing moments when they regurgitate it out in public at a not so appropriate forum.  Personal experience, trust me!

If we underestimate neurotypical children, we are more guilty of doing so for disabled children.  I'm totally at fault for this despite the wonder that Bubby has been in my life.   Bubby is still considered non-verbal even though he has a few single words.  Many times these words need to be prompted for him to say it but he surprised me the other night and taught me a good lesson.

At church the kids learn songs each year related to the theme.  Because he has no voice of his own, I worked hard to find videos, learn and help him sign these songs.  He definitely has his favorites and Choose the Right is the one most often requested.  We've prompted him so that at the right time he is able to say 'choose' or 'right' (albeit a little delayed) which makes him happy.  We'd recently been learning a new song which talks about obedience to God.  The chorus is, "I will go,  I will do the things the Lord commands".  Pumpkin loves the song, it's got a catchy rhythms and melody so I was singing and signing it the other night when I decided to pause at 'go' and see Bubby's response.  Clear as can be he yelled, "Go!!"  Admittedly I was pretty proud, but it was a familiar word in his small repertoire so I moved on and paused at 'do'.  Lo and behold, he changed the shape of his lips and gave a breathy "do".  I was a little shocked.

There is something called receptive language and expressive language.  For example a stroke victim can understand everything they hear but their expressive language may no longer be there due to their injuries.  The word 'do' is not as concrete as 'go' and nothing Bubby has ever used before let alone been coached to use.  He has heard me sing the song plenty of times, but I have never paused to have him fill it it.  He was mentally singing along with me in order for him to know what was next.  Yes there was a delay before he said the word, but the delay was not any longer than typical (the time it takes for his brain to get his lips and tongue to move as he wants let along the breath to push out so the word can be heard) He was right there with me all along!

I had Bud film it the second time.  I wondered if it was a fluke, the words are rather similar, but sure enough he did again and has done it many times since.

It has made me wonder what I say about him in his hearing.  How often do I lower expectations, when is it reasonable to raise them and when do they become too high.  On the other hand, if I don't raise these expectations I'm doing him a disservice.  Frankly I know that when I don't raise expectations it's because it's harder - more work for me, more struggles but then there's the other side of the coin, there will be more triumphs and more joy.

I've always need to re-examine myself as a parent, my limited viewpoint and readjust to see more.  We all do for all our children but especially those with special needs.  As so many say, "Don't limit me!"

Monday, June 19, 2017

Surviving and Thriving in June

June is insane for me.  Between two birthdays, father's day, swim meets and practices and cub scout day camp - feel like I come out of June smoking and frazzled as if I'd been electrically shocked.  We're only half way through but despite all the demands, it is a wonderful time for growth and memories.

Swim team is in full swing and this year, unlike the past, Bud has decided he really wants to work to qualify for the finals.  This means going to his 7am practice and also an additional stroke class at 11:45.  (in between I drive Bug to her hour practice as well.)  Home meets are typically once a week but competing in more meets means more chances of doing a qualifying time.  The summers here are dreadful and sitting in 100 degree weather with only a spray bottle to cool really drips of blood and sweat and my tears!  I truly hate how much it sucks up our schedule for the six weeks but this year, THIS year I'm willing to make the sacrifice to a greater degree because I have never seen so much drive in my boy.

We've known some of these boys for the last three years but many have matured into wonderful athelets with great sportsmanship.  Bud is the slowest in the pack and the usually the least serious, but these boys have planted in him the seed to truly strive for more.  They always tell him he's doing a good job, they point out when his times are getting shorter and he's closer to being in the finals with them, one always shakes hands with his opponents after completing the race, they warmly welcome him in all their side games.  It's so heartwarming to see and I know these are things I can't teach him on my own.  So I've committed to get him to as many meets as possible, to pay for the extra swim classes and really encourage him in his practices.  It's paid off, he's seen his times improve and he sees that while great efforts produce hundredths of seconds of improvement, it is still improvement and there's joy in it.

With attending more meets, Bug-love has joined in too.  She really doesn't care for it much but when the reward is an ice cream treat for each meet, she has found motivation to attend.  She herself has improved her times as well and the sisters of these boys have slowly drawn her out a little more each time.  Her introvert heart longs for a quiet intimate chat which is impossible with the boisterious game these boys play but secretly I think she's having fun too.  Her friend Alex put an arm around her and lovingly dragged her into the picture!

We also had our first homeschool bookclub on "The One and Only Ivan".  So much came in the way of four families meeting together, but we finally managed to get two to meet to eat yogurt covered raisins, mangos, fingerpaint a favorite part of the book as well as watch a short video on the real gorilla.  It was really fun and a good way to get us use to the idea of opening our home to a larger homeschool group since this fall we will be hosting the youngest set of kiddos in the coop which will be well over 15 kids.

It doesn't matter how little Pumpkin is, she is 2 going on 18 and ready to join in no matter what!

Our home has also hosted various other creatures recently.  Bug's milkweed she got from bug camp was 'chosen' to be home to 4 monarch caterpillar eggs.  Initally we thought it was only one but the eggs are so tiny and hard to see on the underside that it was only after several days that we saw it was four rather hungry fat fellows.   Bug was determine they would not fall prey to a hungry bird so she and Kent created a netting sewn from broken window screens to keep them safe.   Two developed chrysalis' at the same time on the screen.  We then moved the other two inside our butterfly cage so we could more closely observe their progress in the comfort of an aircontrolled home.
Yes, the tiny glowing speck right about Bug's forehead is a caterpillar egg.
You'll have to excuse Pumpkin's whining in the initial part of the film.  She was desperate to touch the little guy and we wanted to protect it from her not so gentle hands.  She does make me laugh though when her voice changes to the 'awww' signifying she finds it incredibly cute!

Getting ready to pupate, they must have hung like that for nearly 18hrs.

How it looks immediately after it splits and sheds its final skin, you can still see the segments of it's body at the top.

This is a shot of the first two after only an hour or two , you can see the segments noted above are not absent, it's elongated and smoother.  I love the ridge of black that has specks of bright gold color that looks like jewels ornamenting the 'lid' to their home.  Flecks of gold can be seen lower as well.

The green darkens suddenly which is really the black of the butterfly wings you are seeing underneath the skin thin chrysalis.   Within hours they came out.

Really the process is such a miracle.  Each cell in the body broken down to recreate a new creature is still something that fascinates me, no matter how often I've seen it or read about it.  These shots were of us with one of the first two to come out..  It's wings were not quite ready for complete flight so we were able to hold it and take some good shots.  The other two have since made their metemorphasis and we have set out our milkweed plant and hope it will be so blessed to be made a home again to this amazing process.

It was such a thing of beauty, we were all rather captivated by it.  This one didn't have it's wings totally dry so it contently allowed us to hold it and take pictures.  Even Bud who is terrified of butterflies and other insects was so captivated he had it on his finger for a few seconds before it took it's long maiden flight.

The red liquid you see is meconium and not 'blood' which naturally freaked the children out a little.

We also found a tiny baby bird who had fallen from her nest in the eaves of our second story home.  If I had any idea where exactly it was I would have tried to find a way to put it up there again but it was the middle of the night and the cold was enough to kill it so we took it in and through the help of an animal friendly lady in our church, I kept it alive and warm through the night (which was honestly a surprise to all of us, it must have only been a day or two old).  I even made a mixture of food to feed it.  Bug named her Tulip and loved that tiny thing so much.  There wasn't any feathers of any kind, it was barely the size of a quarter and it's metabolic needs were such that it was impossible to keep up feeding the poor thing.  It died the following day and Bug wept bitterly over it.  She lovingly collected a soft bed of weeds to lay her little friend and we buried her with a prayer under our blooming sunflowers.

The little thing can be heard chirping if you turn up your sound.  It's amazing much it strived to live despite it's terribly small chances.

In a rather condensed span of time we experience birth, life and death in nature which made the wonder of it all more impressionable.

Cub scout day camp always has me annoyed and so I was glad this was Bud's last year.  In years past there wasn't as much educational activities and I hated losing at least one towel annually, let alone the ruin of many pairs of socks and shoes to the red mud that never washes out.  It also kills our schedule with the boys returning so late at night so I'm left with less sleep and a grouchy tired boy.  With Kent being a Webelos leader, he attended two of the 3 days with Bud.  The Webelos is made up of only two boys so it was actually more pleasurable to Kent then it was in the two years past.  They really did have a good time together and their lesson on circuts coincided with some of our homeschooling work that it was helped Bud remember what he has learned.

In between all this a friend and I managed to get most of the food ready for a dear friend's daughter's bridal shower.  I'm rather proud of the accomplishments since I'm not great a details but I did manage to make it look quite nice.  Savory dip, hummus and a yogurt bar with cookies as dessert.  

Its nice to do something that's not related to my kids and have some adult conversaton!

Kiddos love cake and so for Father's day we got one for Kent too.  Between just having celebrated Isaac's birthday, with mine coming up on a calender, our little Pumpkin girl thinks all cakes must have a candle and we must sing a song. And when a 2.5 year old (going on 18) thinks that you just have to comply!

The Tuscon temple open house was something we didnt' want to miss so I contacted our old friends, the Laws and went up on a Father's Day sunday, visited on the Monday and came straight home. From the days in ABQ on residency, this family has been a rock for ours in many ways.  We always just talk and talk and talk and I never remember to take much in the way of pictures.  We also managed to call up one of our old friends there, Emily Roberts who  moved to Houston when we went for residency.  It was so fun to hear her voice and realize that physical distance is nothing when hearts are still close. In looking through old blog posts it was 8 years ago when the three families were all together.  I managed to find this picture of our youngest kiddos together.  Now the Roberts and I have 3 more kids each and the Law's youngest in this picture is a beautiful young lady.  Time flies by!

  Kent caught a few pictues of us at the temple though so it's not all in memory!!!

Halfway through the month and while it's all crazy in terms of schedule it's been great fun!