Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Courage and the Means

I love how flexible homeschooling is for us.  Some days you do just need to grab an apple and relax in bed!

Admittedly there have been plenty who have openly questioned whether or not I ought to homeschool Bubby.  I was hesitant myself initially but somehow when God speaks to your heart you know what is right and He gives you the courage and means to do it.  It has been just over a year since we began this with Bubby.  He went from being withdrawn into his own little world with no verbalizations to being happy, engaged and learning everything from his ABCs and his numbers through to 5.  He glows in so many undescribable ways.

Bubby with our latest respite worker, Stephanie.  Stephanie was actually his very first babysitter and she had to endure his cries and retreats into bed as soon as she came.  He's a LONG, LONG way from what it was so many years ago.  She was wonderful and caught on to tasks so quickly with him.

This was fairly recent.  It took me some time to slow down and give him the time to make the sounds for all the letters.  Previously he was moving his lips but that was all and one day he surprised us by doing nearly the whole alphabet.  My favorite is when he tries for W. (bubble-oo) This is now something he insists on singing with us daily and he is so proud of himself.  The delay in speaking lessens as we practice it and along with our Elmo ABC app I have confidence he will be writing a reading sooner than anyone thought possible a year ago.

Therapy was always intended to be the education of the caregiver while working with the individual with the vision of the care continuing in the home long after the therapist is gone.  Our music therapist, Ms Caroline put it so well, "You are his primary teacher, no matter what others may come in his life.  You are who we strive to support and when we do it right it carries to the individual's community."

Bubby's community and his security is his family.  With the security he's returned with a willingness to engage.  This isn't any 'structured' activity, it's what we do as we live.  It's the exchanges first thing in the morning as we greet each other and wrestle and snuggle in our bed.  Sometimes it's when we play, and yes, it's even when we fight!  These two have such a love hate relationship.  Pumpkin insists that he play with her.  She is at his level in so many ways and the competition between them helps.  She models so much for him and I would never have guessed so many years ago how much we needed her.


With our flexible schedule I can put in tons of sensory activities.  Sometimes we swing,do the trampoline,  an hour in the pool happens daily, spinning or dancing, jumping into bean bags - So much of this helps him out of his defense mode and puts him in a place to learn.  He surprised me the other day at therapies when he correctly identified his shapes, something we haven't worked on in ages.  He was taking in so much more than we realized.  There are times we've realized he likes to pretend he doesn't understand and it gets him giggling as we jump through figurative hoops to do what we want.  I think we need to award this kid with a psych degree!

Education is more than being on 'track' or meeting goals, it's really about understanding our world and finding a way to be a part of it.  We're so glad we're on this journey together!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Camping Adventure for Everyone

The years Kent spent as scoutmaster had fueled romantic images of camping in my children's minds.  I was able to avoid most trips either due to pregnancy of having a young enough child that would cry at unseemly hours and keep the neighbors and all of nature awake.  When our initial plans to visit friends in Vegas fell through the kids pushed for the first whole family campout.  Annually our congregation has a campout in the cool near Flagstaff.  I grudgingly agreed and proceeded to borrow the needed materials.  We told ourselves it would be an opportunity to see how Bubby would do in a totally new environment.  With that thought I think my adrenaline levels were in the red before we even arrived.

Autistic individuals crave routine and familiarity.  With the unknown there are so many possible sensory sources that could put them on the defensive and withdraw into their own world.  This video really helps explain it and is one of the many reasons we've chosen to homeschool Bubby.



We had been entertaining thoughts of purchasing a pop-up tent trailer to provide that familiarity while being able to travel on a budget but had yet to see what the little man might do when only nature surrounded him.  As soon as we arrived he was running off through the trees and up steep hills, only to beg us to carry him when he tired out.  Setting up camp and feeding kiddos happened as Kent and I alternated watching for this adventurous little guy.  The other three happily hung out with their peers  and enjoyed hikes, pine ball and all things in nature - sticks, bugs and squirrels.



Safely observing the fire that would not produce enough smores for this little girl to eat!





Once the tents were set up Bubby spent a considerable amount of time inside ours doing those things that were familiar and brought him comfort.  I napped by the door way, glad for some time to just sit.  Once he was rested he was at it again but was more anxious, hitting and gnawing on anything he could get his hands on.

I opted to sleep in a separate tent with Bubby so that the others might get a good night's sleep.  It was not the most comfortable arrangement but when he began his whimpering in his sleep, I was there to comfort him. We had considerable rain and at one point I  had to shift us so that the drops of rain wouldn't land like water torture on my forehead for the whole of the night.  I don't think that this 42yr old body can survive another night like that and I promptly informed Kent of it the next morning.   Bubby emerged with many sighs when he saw he wasn't magically transported back to the comfort of home but he took it all in stride.

Pumpkin had found a new 'best friend'!



Everyone did have some fun in the end, but it is clear to everyone that both Bubby and I won't come again until we have something more solid, familiar and comfortable to sleep in.  Given time I'm sure Bubby will adjust to a tent trailer but my body is much too use to the comforts of home!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Eight and Transformative Butterflies!

This young lady is turning eight this week!  I still remember her as that snuggly bundle that never wanted to leave my side.  Now she is a nature loving young lady who loves spending hours exploring this world and understanding how it works.




This little Bug-love of mine has really grown up in this last year.  Since we homeschool she deals better with her anxiety (mostly at homeschool coops or at her 3x a week judo class) since she has the quiet of home to work and much, much less of the drama with classmates.  I was pleased when swim season came around and she elected to attend all the swim meets she could.  The first two were pretty rough, she was tightly wound and the noise and crowd  that comes with such events was wearing, let alone competing against others.  She stuck to it though and found ways to quietly withdraw in the crowd during down time while 'relaxing' enough to smile just before her turn to compete.  A friend who's children also attend kept an eye out for her since I couldn't stay during swim practices.  She remarked to me how much she thought Bug had matured emotionally  and how independent she was becoming which warmed my heart to know others could see her growth too.
Her choice of breakfast for her special day!

I love how she is fascinated by the living world around her and seeks to understand their relationships.   I recently made the mistake of doing a Jack London book "Call of the Wild" as a audiobook, forgetting how graphic he illustrates the relationships in nature of basic survival.  I worried a little as to her response and was surprised by her mature response, tearfully she said," He can't help it, he just needs to live.  He would be better if life was easier."


Weekend dinner out with just Mama and Baba!  A truly rare treat!


This level a maturity replays as she looks at human relationships.  Long after the book is done she is still pondering the 'why' of character actions. It has made her aware that people come with so much more than their outward actions and words.  Maybe this is why she is always notably kind to those with special needs.  Everyone always remarks how she reaches out to those who are alone or different.  I'm so proud of her for this loving perspective and one I pray will continue.  She has beautiful heart.



 This is a big birthday for her because in our church this is the age the children can choose to be baptized and become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  For her present we let her choose her own brand new dress (a rare thing in our household) and a set of scriptures with a carrier and a journal.  She loved everything but especially the journal.  She's already take time to record some of the most important moments in her life, such as her baptism.   We were blessed with the presence of many friends and family who helped make everything so special and holy.




Pumpkin is use to being the center of attention and was not pleased she was eclipsed by this special event.  Her newest friend's presence made her extremely happy!



She has always loved her cousin Carly and since we don't see them often we had to get a shot with everyone on the couch.  

Poor Bubby, he just hates pictures!

A week later we celebrated a joint birthday party with one of Bug's best friends. Our families are a great fit and even Kent and I had some nice adult conversation. Aside from a request of chocolate butterflies she gave me free rein on the cake so I took the time to play around with buttercream flowers.   It was a fitting symbol for the cake as these two young ladies mature in so many ways.

The cake request was to be strawberry and I cooked down puree and replaced it for the water content.   Between the layers I made a blackberry buttercream icing.   The butterflies were made of chocolate and were a fun experience for me.





Bug was just bursting with excitement as her friend opened her present.  She took a great deal of time and thought to pick out the BEST thing we could afford.  She has such a giving heart!

I love you Bug!  Happy eighth birthday and wishes for many, many more to come.  You are a beautiful young lady and I cannot wait to see how you will grow into an amazing young woman!


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Batty for Bats!

We recently signed up for a class with the Game and Fish Department of AZ to do together as a mother daughter night out.  It was specifically to learn more about bats but there was plenty of other animals to observe .  The event took place far NE of Scottsdale out on the edge of the national forest and I was a little worried how it would go between travelling the hour out and the extremely late night.  While Bug was too tired to focus on the info given about bats and conservation, she was quivering with excitement when it came time to see the creatures.
Even before things really got started she was taking pictures of bugs she'd never seen before.  This one was behaving strangely near us as was about as long as quarter.


We listened to a small lecture on the importance of bats as pollinators  and maintain a balance in the ecosystem with regards to bugs.  This was a picture of the real size of the largest bat known.  

Everything got extremely exciting when the first bat was brought it.  It was a pregnant female and it was amazing to see how thin the wings are.  They are capable of 'true flight' and no other mammals are.




The second one we saw in the net.  I swear we all held our breaths as they tried to extricate yet another female of the same species.  It's such a delicate process.

Along the way a screech owl was heard and so they brought out a screech owl call and we were able to spot the male and it's mate as they came in to investigate who the intruder was.

There were tons of bugs.  The wolf spider with all it's young on it's back was amazing for Bug to see.  It blends in with the gravel but if you look closely it's in the upper right corner of the picture.

We randomly flashed a blacklight only to find a scorpion within two feet of us.  The cicada was also another neat find.

It really was a memorable night for both of us.  I learned a ton and while facts may not stick with my girl, she really felt a great appreciation for all of God's creations.

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.