Thursday, December 7, 2017

Family Pictures

I was always sad that my family rarely took family pictures as a group.  I've tried to remediate this in my own family but life gets terribly busy and we seem to only manage it every 2-3 years.  We were overdue and so when the chance came to do it in Puerto Penasco for a good price we took it!

Jumping together just wasn't going to happen!

The background couldn't be more perfect and we had fun and they were lovely.  Now to get these up on my walls!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Puerto Penasco 2017

Years ago when we only had two children we bought into a timeshare in Puerto Penasco.  It has been the best thing for us, 4 hrs away  at a beachside resort that has a familiarity of a second home.   Even Bubby knows his way around and the staff recognize us and are so helpful with him.  We had a bit more excitement than we are use too this time around but it was still a blast and very memorable.  

Observing sea snails.

Throwing shells to splash into the ocean was Bubby's favorite hobby.  Pumpkin happily aided him by picking the biggest shells for him.

The sand turtle is now a tradition!

Love this shot of my girls!

Bubby would strip down everything for the chance to get into the water.  Even on the 'colder' days when we only intended to go for a walk, hence the diaper!

We found many more than our usual sea life thus go around.  Among our shell collecting we found a live cone snail.  We had recently watched a video regarding this mollusk that it has a venomous 'harpoon' that it uses to kill its prey. It's a pretty intense neurotoxin and so while it was a small shell when we discovered it was alive Bud was quick to put it into a glass cup and keep it far away. 

Other shells had no inhabitants inside but we felt badly for the barnacles and sent them back out to sea

There are warnings that jellyfish and stingrays visit the Sea of Cortez depending on the time of year. We'd never seen the stingrays but Bud had an intimate exp to when he stepped on one.  It was rather painful and he ran back up the beach to the resort.  A local took a look at his foot and told Kent about soaking it in hot water to draw the venom out. Ibuprofen helped and the next day the medics cleaned the wound further and he was back out on the beach with a slight limp. 

Two days later Kent saw an octopus about the size of a quarter hiding in a shell.  Bug was thrilled and without a single thought to safety picked the little guy up.  It tried to get away and as a last resort it's beak bit her on her pinky finger and it burned with an unusual pain.  We kept the little bugger that Bud carried back in a sea shell in case we need to identify the toxin while Kent rushed her back.  In the meanwhile I carried Bubby and Pumpkin stoically trudged back.  Sadly the little octopus died and Bug felt badly and gave it a nice burial deep in the sand away from scavenging birds. 

We drove into town to do some tide pooling and found our usual living mollusks along with a two sea stars and a very special sea slug.  Kent has a good eye for these things.  If you watch the two videos you'll see that the octopus experience has made her a little more hesitant to hold unfamiliar animals - but only a little!

A tiny brittle starfish

This was a brilliant find by Kent, a beautiful sea slug with bright turquoise streaks.  The quality of the video is poor but it was pretty unforgettable, as was the kids responses.  Watching the videos on this is a must if just to hear the kids arguing in the background or to hear Bug's love of all things living.

Live periwinkle with it's clear operculum

A sunray starfish wedged under a rock

Bud touching tiny sea anenomes

Kent found this for me, a rare find for all it's spines intact.

A fort is always made in the front room with all the cushions and pillows.  I had to snap the shot of Bubby as he plopped down to watch his Signing Time show and was confused as he slowly sank down in. 

We had heard of places you could go to dig your own clams so we went and discovered that this is where many of the locals go to launch their boats and bring in the catch to the day.  The kids found many intact clam shell which really weren't  since sand and water had suctioned the two parts together.  There was one exception, a turkey wing shell that we ended up cooking and Bug ate happily.  We found many live oysters which were tiny but Bud broke a few off and so we cooked those up as well. For being such tiny oysters they were quite sweet. 

A few gorgeous shots of this little girl against the white sands having fun with her footprints.

On he day before last Kent was nearly pinched by this large crab when he accidentally stepped in it.  It must have been pretty upset to go attacking the grocery bag. Bug also found a live sand dollar. 

Our timing was poor this year.  Usually we go during March or October and the tide heads out in the early morning hours of 5-6.  This time around it was usually at 3 am, not a time I feel safe walking on my own. The afternoon tides took both of us to wrangle the kids so I was thrilled to find that on our last morning there the early tide would be 6 am so I could take my customary mile walk out in the quiet dark before the dawn.  On my way back I saved a clam from becoming breakfast to a larger mollusk and found two sea stars the kids enjoyed observing while we packed.

I'm so glad we bought in years and years ago.  I hope that in the years to come it'll be the place my children return to with their children and we make memories through the ages.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Looking Glass of Autism

Alice Through the Looking Glass, like Alice in Wonderland always felt like it was born from a feverish nightmare.  If not that then from Lewis Carroll' migraines or perhaps epilepsy as he was rumored to have suffered from. I  wanted to understand how it was such a classic so I went where all people go when they have questions - Wikipedia - the most relied upon source for unreliable material! When I understood it's many references to literature and chess I began to understand a little more its appeal.  The storyline is  the looking glass or mirror is an entryway to another world that is a reflection of Alice's own. As with all reflections, things are reversed and never quite what it seems.  Try writing a word that can be read properly using a mirror and you will know what I mean.  Your mind bridges two worlds - your end goal to be seen in the looking glass while your hand moving in opposition to what feels natural.  Only in going back and forth between the two images are you able to achieve your goal.  In so many ways  I am a bridge between the two worlds for my son of what is neurotypical and autism, I am that swinging pendulum.

My beautiful son Elias exists in the looking glass world.  The deeper he in in that world, the more withdrawn he is.   Things are not quite what they seem, lights and sounds frighten him and you're never sure which ones they'll be.   Certain textures use to create a gagging response even when only touched by his hands.  Things that seem comforting to him seem too intense to us.  His world is reversed.  Most of us exist on the other side and to us his world seems strange. 

I find myself navigating between these two worlds, trying to help others reach him and understand him.    The moments he is spinning happily, going up and down stairs or playing with doors makes these moment obvious.  The explanations are unending and they now come automatically as we try to get through the day. It is a busy labor of both heart and mind.  

Occasionally I feel that ever so slight pause at the peak of the pendulum and time seems to pause on one side of the looking glass or the other, these are the times I tend to feel the greatest pain as a parent.  I felt it a great deal on our recent vacation.   While at a museum Kent was off  playing with the other children  while I had found some glass doors for a Eli to amuse himself.  Pulling them open and stepping back to watch them gradually swing into place, he grins in shear atticipation and with a burst of giggling at the moment of closure.  His laugh as always evokes my answering smile at his deep pleasure.

It was then I chose to look through that window. A passing class of children gazed with undisguised curiosity.  Beyond them I saw my family playing happily and they felt like a world away.  I wasn't there sharing in the moment, I wondered if they'd become so use to their parents being separate in all our outside activities that they didn't miss me.   Did they miss Eli, did they wish he could be there to join in their games?   I. missed them, I missed feeling we were altogether a family sharing in our experiences of the world. Instead I felt like I was trapped on the other side, looking through touched by the heart but untouched in body wondering when we might experiencing and sharing on a connected whole family.   I mourned his diagnosis all over again.

Then there are other times when we all seem to be in front of the looking glass.  Even Eli is prepared to be there, reaching through to touch his siblings on the other side.  These are the times I feel some of my greatest joys. When we exchange raspberries on each other's bellies, when we 'blub bulb' with our fingers on our lips and end with a resounding "Tada!" That would evoke a round of laughter. The best ones are where he reaches out in his own like recently on a hike when Eli took his older sister's hand.  Her surprise and delight had stopped her in her tracks to loudly declare ," Look mama, Eli loves me!!"  He responded with his typical side head tilt into her arm as if to say, "'Of course I do!"

So if you ever wonder why it is I can swing from joy to pain in a single moment it is because of these two worlds I bridge.  The funny thing that I've come to understand is that we all have our own little looking glass worlds.  They are not as obvious as Eli's and not always as isolating but the connections that are made at the border point are the ones that help us bear through the loneliness.  More than that we are not so different from each other but our realities are, the struggle is to not let our realities define us or others.

As cute as he is now, one day he will be a man and I will not be always there to bridge those worlds.  Will he come to the looking glass and find anyone there?  Will he reach through and find that connection that gives his life meaning and worth?  Will it be only a few or will we have built him a community? 

Will you come to the mirror?  Will you cross that bridge for him.  It becomes easier each time you go and as you understand him you will see him for the beautiful individual he is.  I love him with all my heart and the more you take this journey with me, the more my mother heart can rest assured in the future - a future of greater understanding, compassion and grace.  This is the prayer of every special needs parent.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Judo, Chess and More!

The days and all our activities fly by so quickly I'm often afraid they'll be forgotten if I don't record it here for my kiddos.  Bug had a big achievement the day we left for SLC.  She competed in her first judo tournament and while she lost the match, she was actually given the most points and was awarded a medal.(unfortunately it was lost in transit and she never got to see it)

It was an anxious day for her but we knew she'd do wonderfully once she got there.  We took care to keep things relaxed and to get there in plenty of time so she could warm up with her friends and they could get her familiar with the routine.

All the flip flops left a the edge of the mat had me chuckling.  It looked like massive party at an Asian's home!

Everyone bowing in.

Our dojo is run by a man in his 70's named Larry Gaines, otherwise called 'Mean Sensi' by the kids.  He's a grandfatherly figure who loves to treat them to gifts from his trips and candy during holidays.  Unfortunately he had a hunting trip so another Sensei stepped in to coach Keila.  He could tell she was extremely nervous but once she was on the mat he said she did great, especially given her opponent had more experience and that this was her first time.

Admittedly all such activities need a bribe in her case.  She loves to 'collect' living things (that's how Kent puts it!) and was eyeing a pink-toed tarantuala initially.  I was a little uncomfortable with the choice (can you blame me?!)  We readily consented when she changed her mind to a beta fish which she has named Coral Golden Montierth.  The things we do for children!  Not long after she earned her yellow belt.

Otherwise our days a spent between therapies and homeschooling.  On some days it feels like everyone is getting therapy all at once.  Bug was helping Bubby feel secure in this different swing by distracting him with his favorite game.  Of course everyone else needed in on the action and before I knew it they were either swinging or spinning.  It's makes me a little sick to watch Bud but with everything I've learned about child development I now know these experiences help them develop awareness of their body.

I love some of the educational toys they have there.  If I had all the space in the world and the money for it ....

Isaac has been busy with an online chess class.  He absolutely loves the tournaments and it's been a humbling experience since he's up against some pretty amazing players.  In general he's lost most of his games but he enjoys the mental exercise and learns a great deal from his opponents.  The tournament he played in today he tied for third place and qualifies for the more advance class.   We have him do extra chores around the house to pay for these tournaments and his eagerness to do the task is a testament to his love for the game. 
His engineering brain can't help but build ALL THE TIME!

For Halloween this year Bug requested to be a blue jay. She helped as much as possible and did all the glitter work on her mask which she was so proud of. Thankfully everyone else had fairly easy costume requests.  We tried a more elaborate pumpkin this year and Bud ended up doing most of the work. The perfectionist in him was bothered that a piece fell out and vows next year to do a better job.

The homeschool coop is still continuing.  Admittedly there are days when I'm tired and a houseful of people seems like more than I care to take on, but at the end of it I'm so happy to see my kiddos having fun and learning so much.  Best of all I've seen some real growth in Bubby as he has slowly joined in some of the activities.

One of our days we attend AZ on the Rocks for their Homeschool day.  Thankfully we meet up with some friends from church and they literally showed us the ropes.

For all his fear of heights Bud did great!  Bug was in her element, and daring to do everything.  I managed to get in one climb up but the two littlest were too shy.  Perhaps next month!

Our days alternate between therapies, coop and just doing the basics of reading, math and spelling.  On and off we get in a little something extra like Dia de los Muertos.  As we made the papel picados we got a side lesson on symmetry (bilateral and radial)  They enjoyed learning about another culture and it gave us time to remember some of our loved ones who have passed.

It's a good life.  Insanely busy, but wonderfully so.  Glad to have these munchkins to make these memories with and to celebrate all their achievements.