Saturday, June 30, 2012

Swimming in the Dark

We have been waiting for it all week! Friday night.....our family date night. And I was so excited for it! Corey had the idea earlier in the week. It was so awesome to see him excited about it. Typically, I'm the over the top excited parent, so it was nice to have TWO super excited parents. You would have thought it was Christmas morning!

Here is what we did....a late night swim in the pool with all things that glow! It was so much fun! At one point, we even saw an airplane fly directly over us, and we saw all the lights on it. Ethan thought that was pretty cool. He also kept commenting on the "full moon" and the fact that it was dark but it wasn't bedtime. I think he enjoyed staying up "late." (Earlier in the evening, he crawled up on my lap & fell asleep for about an was the perfect day for him to actually nap & then stay up late.)

Here are a few pictures of our late night swim!

Corey added 4 tiki torches around the pool

Me & Ethan playing in the pool

These were from my step-grandma, and I wish I knew where she got them (she passed away a month ago). These 8 flowers float in the water & only light up when IN the water...I love them! We have green, yellow, red & blue.

Here are some of the glow sticks at the bottom of the pool.

Ethan playing in the pool...he loved it!...especially not having to wear sunblock!

That's my boy!

I loved having the tiki torches. It was so much fun!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Feeding Frustration & Fortune

Popcorn, poptarts, bacon, chicken nuggets, chips/crackers, fruit snacks, applesauce, and Spaghettios. These are the things that Ethan will eat faithfully. That's it. So, I KNOW that he isn't getting the amount of nutrition that he needs in order to have healthy bones or to help with his muscle development and other things growing boys needs. I have talked about this before, and I did find a few ways to sneak in the healthy stuff. To read about that, click here.

But the NEW issue is that Ethan doesn't WANT to eat.......he wants to play. So now he isn't even eating the 8 things I know he likes! I was telling all of this to my sister while we were cleaning up Ethan's birthday party. He didn't eat much during the party because he wanted to play. And then he was crabby after the party because he was hungry.....but didn't eat when the rest of us were eating. It is so frustrating for me. As I was telling this to my sister, Ethan comes up to me & asks for a poptart. I just wanted to scream! NOW he was ready to eat, and he is gonna eat junk. Great. Here's my mom of the year award down the drain! :0)

My sister, I'm sure sensing my "limit," scooped Ethan up & took him to her fridge. She opened the doors & asked him what he wanted. He immediately spotted a logo that he recognized.....Motts. As in Motts Applesauce. The surprising part is not that he picked applesauce or even the logo.....the surprising part is that he ate is all......and it was PEACH applesauce. I about fell over in my chair. Unbelievable.

So, my new thing that I'm trying out is not feeding Ethan until he ASKS for food.....and then give him choices of good things. I also had him pick out what flavor/brand of items while at the grocery store due to a tip from my sister....the only person that has gotten Ethan to eat a strawberry. (She took a picture otherwise I wouldn't have believed it! And, PS Rachel - he picked out Mott's PEACH Applesauce at the store!)

I've done it all this week, and it seems to be working great! He is getting more fiber, protein & fruit (still no veggies) and less carbs & sugar. I was able to sneak in some yogurt in our grocery cart because it has Cars on it, but he still didn't like it. Oh well. Baby steps. I'm just glad he is eating & getting better nutrition. And of course he is still getting his multivitamins.

It is still a challenge because everyone in my family is eating at different times, so it makes dinner time at the dinner table a little hard, but I guess that will be my next challenge. Or maybe we could "play" dinner table & use that time teach table manners as well as sitting at the table for longer than 5 minutes. But that's for another time. For now, I'm just so thankful that Ethan ate OATMEAL today! WOOHOO!

***Update - I generally write my posts days before they are published. Since writing this post, Ethan has eaten a bigger variety of food than every before! Including TILAPIA fish! This is really working for us!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A New Sleeping Challenge

A common trait of kiddos with autism is that they don't sleep very well....and Ethan is a TERRIBLE sleeper. Thanks to a sound machine, a few calmly moving night lights, a pacifier, and a weighted stuffed lizard, Ethan was been able to get 10-12 hours of sleep during the school year....even if that meant dropping his afternoon nap.

And if my loving Ethan did not get his sleep.....yowza! Look out! He is super whiny & teary! (He gets that from me.) So, we were very strict with Ethan's 7:30pm bedtime so he could get enough sleep & get up on time for morning preschool. Now that summer is here, however, we have been very laxed on his bedtime. Ethan has been going to bed around 9pm (unless he shows signs of needing to go to bed earlier), and waking up about 8am. His summer preschool is in the afternoon as will his new preschool time starting this fall.

However, the last several weeks have been rough ones. Ethan will get up & out of bed almost every night between 3am & 6am. He then wanders the house & can't find us. We finally wake up to hear him crying because, as he says through his tears, "Ethan lost Mommy." One day, we even found him in our construction zone basement...scary.

We have been trying to get him to understand that if it's dark when he wakes up, that he can come to our bedroom.....that's where mommy & daddy will be when it's dark. But it hasn't clicked yet. So, because I don't want him to be scared or hurt himself, I have been sleeping on the couch in the living room....and we installed additional locks on our basement & outside doors.

Well, the last 2 nights, he has found his way into our bedroom.....but he is still crying.

This is such a new sleeping challenge for us. Until now, Ethan has always laid in bed until we would go open his door & get him up. So, I'm really glad that he has realized that he can get out of bed on his own, but now we need to help him know what to do next.

We have been talking about marking our floors with colored tape arrows. The first set would be to go potty & the 2nd set would be to our bedroom. Or maybe some kind of alarm on his door that alerts us when it is opened. I don't know....I need to do more research.

Because of all of this, Ethan now will randomly repeat what I have told him by saying, "Mommy won't leave you alone. Mommy will always be in the house." And now he is my constant shadow. While I do love that my boy wants to hang out with me so much, I know that it is coming from a place of fear.....and I don't want that for him. Plus, I'm sooo tired during the days now that we are hardly doing any home therapy....and I don't like that either!

Well, if anyone has any ideas, please comment & let me know. I will do more research as well & tell you all how it goes from here. My coffee pot is working overtime these last few weeks!

Monday, June 25, 2012

4th Birthday Party

Birthday parties.....ugh! Can I just say what every mom is thinking? I HATE BIRTHDAY PARTIES! Whether it's my kid's party or we are invited to another kid's party, I loathe birthday parties. And here's why:

1. Lots of Noise
2. Kids jacked up on sugar
3. Constantly comparing my kid's behavior to other kids
4. Having to "remind" my child not to open the presents
5. Not being able to talk to my adult friends due to being on "Ethan pushing" patrol

Needless to say......I dread birthday parties. But I hear of terrible stories where kiddos with autism are left out of party invites, so I am also very thankful when we receive a party invite in the mail. He is lucky to have so many friends! But then the stress begins.....Can Ethan handle it? Do I have the strength to endure 2 hours running interference so Ethan doesn't have a meltdown? Is it worth it? And so many more questions I ask myself....UGH! Come on parents! You know I'm not alone!!!

So, when it came time for me to plan Ethan's party, I decided to go "off book," and do what I thought Ethan would actually enjoy. Here were my 3 rules:

1. Keep the noise/commotion as limited as possible by inviting less people.
2. No singing Happy Birthday (that's a big meltdown trigger for Ethan)
3. Keep it low key & hands off meaning put out a bunch of stuff for the kids to play with, but let them play as they "order of events."

I gotta say worked like a charm! Ethan didn't have any meltdowns, and everyone had a great time! And we were even able to sing Happy Birthday! We just had to do it FAST & QUIET! But it worked!

Me & Ethan during the Happy Birthday song!
For Ethan's 4th birthday party, I ironically did a POP party! It started with his favorite foods....popcorn & poptarts. Then, it grew......POPsicles, POP the Top Oreos, POP em in your mouth fruit snacks, Soda POP, Cheese POPS (balls), Blow POPs, and POP it open juice. Then, since Ethan requested his party be at Aunt Rachel's house, we knew that the kids would want to POP on the trampoline. So, my sister also offered up her BOUNCE the kids could POP in there too! To go with our theme & because Ethan loves it, I created several BUBBLE stations. The first one was the Bubble Foam Rope found at Family Fun. The second station was a BUBBLE buffet. I had a tub of soapy water with TONS of bubble wands next to it for the kids to use. We also included pipe cleaners for the kids (and adults) to make their own bubble wands. I think the pipe cleaners worked even better than the plastic wands!!! The last bubble station was a kiddy pool filled with bubbles solution & hula hoops to make BIG BUBBLES. That was the most popular one, I think. I didn't get pictures of everything (because I was playing too!), but here are a few things we were able to capture!

Food Table

Ethan's Logo Cupcakes & Road

Ethan loves logos & cars so this was a great way to do both. And he was so excited to pick out the logos!

All of our POP food!

We only invited our parents & our siblings' families. Here is Ethan playing with some of his cousins.
The kids doing all of the bubble stations

The BIG BUBBLE station!

Corey blowing bubbles with his niece & nephew.
This year, I had Ethan open his presents WITH the people that brought them. I thought this would be a good way for Ethan to know who gave him the gifts. Here he is with Corey's parents.

Opening gifts with my Dad & Stepmom
Opening gifts with my sister & her family
My mom & Ethan opening presents
Ethan, how old are you?
After the kids played, ate some food, and we did gifts/cake, I pulled out Firework POPPERS. These pop when you throw them on the ground, but not very loud so they didn't bother Ethan. I actually think the adults had more fun with these than the kids! HA!

After that, the party began to wind down....but the kids were just itching to get into that baby swimming pool filled with bubble solution. It was only a matter of time before this happened.....and they LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT!!!

Ethan & a few of his cousins playing in the bubble solution!
And then this! HA!
And as the night went on.....
It was hilarious! The adults were laughing & the kids were having such a ball! It was great fun!

As our sunlight faded & the kids became piles of soap, we rinsed everybody off & put them in some dry clothes (thanks Aunt Rachel!). That's when we got out another Ethan favorite....glow sticks! As the kids were ALL jumping on the trampoline, Corey threw handfuls of glow sticks onto the netted trampoline & the kids were so excited! From a distance, all you could see what glowing lights bouncing up & down!

Here's Corey with ALL of the kiddos on the trampoline!

I would say that Ethan's 4th Birthday Party was his best one yet! No meltdowns, lots of fun, and he keeps asking to do it again! I guess that means he had a good time! Happy Birthday, Ethan! We love you!!! Now.....mommy needs to put her feet up with a cup of coffee!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ethan is FOUR!!!!

Ethan - 3 months old
Four years ago, the most precious baby was placed in my arms, and my heart grew 10 times it's size. I am so blessed to be this amazing kid's mom. The last four years have been a roller coaster of emotions, dealing with all of this autism stuff, but I wouldn't change one thing. Ethan has been fearfully & wonderfully made by God, and I think he is perfect!

On this day, his 4th birthday, I am encouraged to see how much he has overcome & how he is developing into a pretty awesome little boy. He is funny, sweet, sensitive, silly, and joyful. I thank God every day that I get to be Ethan's mommy!


Ethan and Me

Me, Corey, and Baby Ethan

Happy Birthday my sweet baby boy!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Drive-In Movie

This would not have happened last summer. An IMPROMPTU trip!!! Normally, I am a very organized, let's prep Ethan days in advance, kind of mom. However, this past Saturday, my little family of three were swimming in our pool when Corey says, "Today would be a great day to go to the drive-in movies."

I completely agreed! So, I hopped out of the pool & looked up the times/prices of our closest hour away. The earliest movie didn't start until 9pm. And it was Madagascar 3.....a movie filled with screaming & falling (triggers for Ethan). So, Corey decided that all of those things equaled no trip to the drive-in. BUT I WAS SO EXCITED, and it's one of the things on my summer bucket list! So.......we went!

We finished up swimming, I ran to the store for some movie snacks while Corey cooked dinner, and then he got the car ready while I got stuff ready to take with us while we waited for the movie to, books, snacks, drinks, etc.

It was great! And Ethan had a great time. I think his favorite part was the board game I brought! HAHA! He kept asking to play it even when it was way too dark to see the game. (The game was Trouble....more on that another time.) When the movie started, Ethan asked to have the sound turned down. NO PROBLEM! We had full control over the sound! So, it wasn't very loud, but we could still hear it. And he only cried one time through out the whole movie & no meltdowns.....that's a success in our book!

Ethan & I in the back of the van playing games.

Shortly after the movie started, it started pouring rain. Lightening, thunder.....all of it! But Ethan didn't get scared at all! And the rain made it a little cooler and gave our trip an added piece of "adventure." I could watch a movie like that anytime!

We were about 3/4 of the way through the movie, and Ethan says to me, "I want to go home with Mommy." I looked at Corey, and we knew it was time to pack it up. So, we folded up all the blankets & pillows & raised up our stow-and-go seats. By the time everyone was back in their chairs & buckled, the movie had ended. So, we were one of the first cars out of the lot! It was perfect timing!

By the time the movie was over, it was about 10:30pm. Ethan has pretty much dropped his nap, so he was pretty tired. But this child has NEVER, NEVER, NEVER fallen asleep in the car despite how tired he may be. But guess what?????? It was a first! He did it! He fell asleep in the car! YEAH!!!

It was so much fun, and the perfect weekend to do it. It was a great way to spend Father's Day! Just the 3 of us on a little impromptu road trip!

Ethan fast asleep minutes after we got on the road. And, yes, he still takes a pacifier at night. I have addressed this with a group of OT's and they said not to make a big deal of it yet. Just like during the day, he still needs that oral mouthing for comfort at night. That battle will come in time. :0) For now, let's just celebrate this ETHAN FIRST! WOOHOO!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Our Live-In Narrator

Since Ethan has started talking, it is mostly to himself or to his toys during playtime, and it is typically something he has a commercial or a computer game. But about a month before the end of school, Corey & I noticed that Ethan's language began to bloom in a mega way! He was talking to US!

Prior to that time, we would need to cue Ethan to say hi, goodbye, please, thank you, you're welcome, and so on. But beginning this past Mother's Day weekend, Ethan has been doing this with us all on his own! I think I have also mentioned that during that weekend, I had 3 mini-conversations with him! All "unscripted!" YEAH!!!!

And since summer has started, Ethan's conversation skills are getting better & better! He is spontaneously talking to us more & more! It is the best thing EVER!!!!

However, we have laughed about it quite a bit as well. Ethan is so cute. He is TRYING to communicate with us, and we are so excited about this awesome thing we thought might NEVER happen. But, Ethan doesn't know HOW to talk with us in conversation form....for lack of a better term. So, what ends up happening is that Ethan has started narrating our life....and it is the best thing ever! It is so funny & wonderful, and this mama is over the moon excited!

So, if we are eating dinner & talking about our day, Ethan will chime in & say something like this, "Mommy and Daddy and Ethan are all eating chicken and potatoes and peas. Mommy is drinking water, Daddy is drinking KoolAid and Ethan is drinking apple juice. I am sitting by Daddy and Mommy is sitting across the table on the bench. We are all three eating dinner together!"

I gotta tell you.....these "observations" are hysterical! Mostly because we aren't used to it!!! We are used to frustrating dinners where we are not only trying to get Ethan to eat SOMETHING but we are also trying to have him talk with us. So for him to be sooooo vocal, it so funny to us! But we LOVE it!!!!! We have our own little live-in narrator!

And he is doing this ALL the time now! I can't tell you how wonderful it is to hear your child talk to you without having to work so hard at it! I know this is just another stepping stone, too! One more step he has made on his journey. He is doing so well, and it has been awesome to see our hard work paying off! Talk on, Ethan! Talk on!!!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

My Repeated Prayer

Dear Lord,

It's me again. I know I say the same thing over & over again, but it's what is in my heart & on my mind. Thank you so much for who you are. I am reminded of how big you are everyday, and I am humbled to be in your presence. Thank you, Lord, for taking the time to hear from person in this big world. Thank you for caring & loving me. I am overwhelmed by your love and forever grateful for the ability to have a close relationship with you.

Thank you for the blessings that I have been given in my life. Thank you for my family, my friends, my church, my health and provisions. Thank you Lord for the 2 men that you have place in my life. They are my everything, and I am so fortunate to be the lady in their lives. Thank you.

Lord, once again I come to you on behalf of my son, Ethan. Lord, I will not ask you for healing. I will never ask you to heal him from autism. I believe that you have created him just the way he is.....and he is perfect. Lord, I thank you for giving us Ethan....for entrusting him to us. I simply ask that you watch over him & be there with him. Guide his life, Lord. Please send him people that will love him, care for him, guide him, and help him as he faces many challenges that most other children will not face. Lord, I also pray that he learns from & overcomes the hardships that will come from people in this world. Negative comments, bullying, discrimination.....Lord, I pray that Ethan will not be entirely sheltered from these things, but will find a way to deal with it & have it develop his character.

Lord, I love my little boy more than anything in this world. But I know that he will not be little or in my care forever. Please help me to parent this child in the way that will help him the child he is and as the adult man he will one day become. Please give me wisdom to understand autism and the patience of mothering a boy with it. And, Lord, I pray that you use this use our show others you. My prayer is what is written in John 9:3, Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Lord, I also lift up others in my life. Please be with Corey and my family: L, C, S, S, R, S, H, M, B, H, C, C, R, D, E, O, A, C, H, C, G. Please be with my friends & their families. Please be with all of Ethan's teachers & therapists. Lord, thank you for all of these people in our lives. 

Once again, Lord, as I think about what you have done in my life, I am in awe. Thank you for never leaving me. I pray that my child will too come to know you, love you & serve you all the days of his life. Knowing & loving you has changed my life for the best, and I am eternally grateful.

I love you so much. Amen.

Easter Seals Progress Report!

Today, we received a short & concise progress report from the Easter Seals summer preschool program for kiddos 3-5 years old who have been diagnosed with autism. It amazes me how quickly & how well teachers/therapists are able to know Ethan in a matter of days. I wanted to share this report with all of you as well as keep track for myself. I am so excited to see this program focus on our more challenging issues such as sound sensitivity & peer interaction. I love that Ethan has been able to be in this program, and I just know this will help him so much. I LOVE EASTER SEALS!!!

ST = Speech Therapy
OT = Occupational Therapy
DT = Developmental Therapy
ABA = Applied Behavior Analysis

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pool Therapy

I was so nervous about purchasing a pool this summer. I knew it would be good for Ethan, and I knew that the cost/availability was better than paying the fee at our local pool......but I was still nervous about this purchase. However, I'm so glad we did it. The reasons we bought it are confirmed just about everyday.

One really exciting thing is how it is helping Ethan's muscle development. I often say that I feel as if I'm trying to create a body builder because I am always trying to find ways to incorporate "muscle" work into our everyday activities. One reason is because he craves that in order to be calm & relaxed....part of his sensory diet. Another reason is because he really needs to develop his muscles. One particular group of musclse that I tend to focus on are his shoulder blade muscles. If you lift your arm up & down, you will feel those muscles moving around your shoulder area.....these are muscles that help with handwriting & fine motor skills. These are areas that Ethan struggles with partly because those muscles are weak. So, I try to do things that will help strengthen them. When I do laundry, he pushes my basket down the hallway (and he loves to do it!). Playing with Playdoh, silly putty & other kinds of these molding clays are really good for this as well. And, a big reason for the pool purchase, swimming will help with a lot of muscle development but especially those shoulder muscles.

So, I stumbled across a pool game that makes Ethan laugh & laugh (he loves it!), but it also helps those muscles. We have one of those dollar store kick balls. Because it has air in it, it is difficult to hold under water. And when you do manage to hold it under water, and then let go, it flies up out of water. Ethan can't get enough of this! The first day I did this with him, I had to do hand over hand with him to hold the ball under water for a 3-count. The next day, he was doing it by himself....easily. The day after that, he was doing it for a 10-count....all his idea. Yesterday, Daddy showed him how to put it under water & between your legs so the ball pops up out of the water behind you. A new kind of hilarity was reached that day.

We have also noticed that Ethan isn't as clumsy when he walks & he is calmer during the day. This has been so good for him, and I'm so glad we did it. Here is a video of Ethan playing this new game!

Brown Bear Playdoh!

Today, Ethan & I had our weekly "PJ Day." We both love Pajama Days. Every morning, Ethan will say, "Let's just wear these" as he pats his pj shirt. I remind him that we don't wear pajamas to school, church, errands, etc. So, on the rare day that we actually get to spend time at home, it is a treat for him. So, here I am typing this at 3:22pm, and we are both still in our PJs.

Secretly, this is my day to catch up on laundry, cleaning, and other things that have been put off throughout the week due to running around or spending time with my family. PJ Day is also the day that Ethan and I get to play with our "special" toys.....anything messy or detailed, like crafts or water play, is usually saved for PJ Day.

Today, as I spread out several picture cards of PJ Day type activities, he very excitedly picked Playdoh. He hasn't picked this one in awhile, so I was excited to get it all out too. We started with our typical Playdoh play, but then as I made a purple cat, Ethan said, "Purple cat, purple cat, what do you see?" Well.....I think we all know what I did next.....

Of course I went & got that book!!! Then, we began to make the animals from this book & read the book with our book-related animals. It was a little tricky because some of the animals were brown, black & white...of which I didn't have that Playdoh color....and I didn't have some of the animals, like the frog, so we had to improvise a little....a turtle replaced our frog.

Here are a few pictures of our activity. My favorite thing when I was teaching was the moment kiddos made the connection between their life & the things we were learning in school. It was so awesome to see the lightbulb come on & the excitement happen. And it's so much more rewarding when it happens to my own child. Ethan's school did a whole unit on this book, and he loved it. I was so glad to see him connect our Playdoh activity with that beloved book! (And this is so good for his muscle & fine motor development! Shhh....don't tell Ethan!)

Rolling out the Playdoh

This is the same look his father gives me when I get out my camera!

Here is our "brown" bear

Peeling away the extra

Pushing...this is sooooo good for him!

More pushing

Here is our "white" dog

Here are most of our animals all lined up in order!

"I see a brown bear, red fish, yellow duck, blue horse, green frog, purple cat, white dog......"

Look how much he loved doing this! What a great smile!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Out Of The Fire & Into The Pool!

I think the 1 year anniversary of Ethan's diagnosis was harder than the ACTUAL day we heard the news. Maybe I just dove so deep into helping Ethan that I never really let the emotions surface fully. Who knows. But, as of today, I feel so differently about things.

In one of my entries last year, I compared Ethan having autism to him being inside a burning building....and I had to save him. I don't really feel that way anymore. Maybe because time has passed or maybe because he has come so far in a year's time.....or both.....but I don't really feel the need to "save" him from autism. I don't sense the urgency that I once did. Maybe it is my anxiety medicine working or just having lived with the diagnosis for awhile. I could speculate "why" all day long. But the bottom line....I feel that Ethan is out of the burning building I once saw him in....and I'm so glad!

I'm really just enjoying him more & more.......and worried less & less. I see him growing every day, and that comforts this mama. I love the lazy days of summer....just enjoying his company & spending our days playing. Our hard work over the last couple of years is paying off, and Ethan has come so far. I'm so proud of him. And I'm taking full advantage of our time together this summer. We are able to connect & talk & be silly better than ever before......and I'm lovin' it! I'm soakin' it up!!!

So, no longer is he in a burning building needing to be rescue. I feel like we found the path out of the scary fire, and we are moving farther & farther away from the flames. It's time to relax & enjoy the journey a little more. Maybe even skip & sing (although not too loud) along this new scary-free path.....

Here is a short clip of Ethan playing our our pool. He is laughing at a wind up frog that swims in the water...I just love this kid!

Monday, June 11, 2012


I swear to tell the truth. The whole truth & nothing but the truth...

Lots of you responded to the One Year Later post. Most of you were very supportive & loving. Thank you so much for have no idea how much it meant to me during that difficult week. I really appreciate it. However, some of you (mostly family members) expressed some concern for my well being. Well....I guess this is a topic that needs to be addressed due to it's relevance of learning to live with autism.

For several months now, I have been in conversation with my doctor about depression. Nothing severe, and honestly, I wasn't even "sad" most of the time, but I noticed that I would cry every day because something would touch my heart so deeply. I thought this was just part of becoming a mom! Ever since this amazing little guy has come into my life, I feel things deeper & stronger ever! So those silly Hallmark commercials that I used to tease my own mother for crying over.....I was now the one who was crying! This & other signs led me to consult with my doctor, family & close friends. (You know who you are! THANK YOU!)

So, for the past 6 months or so, I have been working with my doctor & trying to overcome this "emotion surge" that would happen to me several times a day. I would pray, meditate, get more sleep, eat better, do more relaxing activities, exercise more and so on. But after 6 months of this, the surges still persisted. So, my doctor has given me the smallest dosage possible of an anxiety-relieving medicine. I have been on it for a few weeks now, and I can tell a HUGE difference. I am able to talk to others about my child's disability without bursting into the ugly cry. This is nice because.....knowing that I couldn't talk about it without crying would lead me to simply NOT talk about it.....and that isn't healthy either. This is just one area that I have seen an improvement, but there are many others too. It has been a good choice for me.

Now, this is just my own story. This is not an advertisement for medicine or anything like that....I am just being real & honest. This is a journey, a learning experience, and this is where I am at right now.

But this did cause me to wonder if this is typical of mothers/parents of children with special needs. And I discovered something over & over again while researching this topic, and I guess it shouldn't surprise me. It IS common! Here is part of one article that I read......this echoes a lot of the other things that I read...

"Struggling to make sense of a foreign, chaotic and often lonely world, 40-70 percent of family caregivers show clinically significant symptoms of depression with approximately a quarter to half of these caregivers meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression, reports the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) in the 2006 “Assessment of Family Caregivers: A Research Perspective.”

Mothers of children with autism had the highest rates of depression, according to a pivotal report published in the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research. Additionally, mothers of children with an intellectual disability (ID) had higher depression rates than parents of normally developing children (single mothers of children with disabilities were found to be more vulnerable to severe depression than mothers living with a partner).

Notably, fathers of children with disabilities showed normal depression scores. Why are moms at greater risk for spiraling into depression? The study suggests what is obvious to many women: We take on a greater share of the responsibility of parenting, are more likely to give up our jobs and interests and our self-competence is often tied to parenting—something that is tested beyond measure with a special-needs child.

“Parenting a child with ID increases the risk of provoking feelings of loss (i.e. of the perfect or dreamed of child and of one’s personal freedom), helplessness (i.e. experiencing high stress, not being able to change the situation and not being able to get the help one needs) and failure (i.e. having a child with difficult behavior and not being able to pursue one’s personal goals in life),” notes the study called “Depression in Mothers and Fathers of Children with an Intellectual Disability.”

So, why am I sharing this with all of you? Because I want to share every part of this journey....the good, the bad & the ugly. And, honestly, all of you strongly responding to that particular post gave me the extra push I needed to admit that I need some extra help. So, thank you for your courage to speak your mind! And maybe this will help someone else!

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Dreaded Haircut

Anyone else have kid's that HATE getting their hair cut? UGH! Ethan HAAAATES it. Thankfully, my mother-in-law went to cosmetology school, and then had years of practice on her own 4 boys. So, typically, she is the one we call on when Ethan's hair begins to get a little long. However, in the summer, he & Daddy usually get buzz cuts. It's simple & great for summer.

Since Ethan seemed to have an especially difficult time getting over the last Grandma hair cut (every time he would see her, he would panic & say, "No hair cut today."), we decided to give Grandma a break & do the buzzing ourselves. My husband is usually the one who does this since he, too, has been perfecting this hair cut since his days of cross country/track running. But tonight, I took a shot at it since Corey is working on the basement.....and I REALLY don't want to ask him to stop! I REALLY want that room done! HA!

I took care of all of the "issues."

1. He hates to have the falling hair touch him. I put a cape on him.
2. He hates the sound of the buzzers. We played a silly "tickle" type game with the buzzers on his legs & arms. He got used to the sound & feel of them.
3. He doesn't know what is going on. I sat him in front of our mirror.
4. I gave him a fidget toy.
5. I put ear plugs in...both for sound & light hair falling on his ears.
6. I had my Mary Poppins personality in full gear....I was playing games, being silly, singing songs, etc. I must say....I was in full super mom mode.

Oh. My. Goodness. It totally did NOT work. He BAWLED the WHOLE time!!! There goes my Mom of the Year award.

But....his hair is cut, and it's done & over. And the beauty of a buzz cut....a longer time until the next hair cut. And next time.....we are calling Grandma!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Ethan's 4th birthday will be this month. Every year, my very talented artistic husband makes Ethan's cake based off of what interest Ethan is into at that point in time. The last 2 years.....we have had car themed cakes & parties. I was REALLY hoping that this year we could do something else! So, I have been randomly asking Ethan which he would prefer....and then giving him 2 options. Up until about 1 month ago, he would pick cars, Nascar, or Disney Cars every time. Until one day, when choosing between Dora & Lightening McQueen.....he picked DORA!

Dora is a new-to-us show that we watch, and he really likes it. But, I am already envisioning having to apologize to 18 year old Ethan that I let him have a GIRL (said in that "girls are gross & have cooties" voice) for a birthday cake. Ethan, are you sure you don't want cars?! HAHA!

Soon after that, however, I noticed something. He started constantly wanting to play the Jake & the Neverland Pirate Games...both on the iPad and the computer. Then, as I watched him play one day, it hit's not the characters he likes.....he likes that these videos/games follow & use MAPS! Dora is constantly pulling out "the map" to complete her goal, and Jake typically has a map to a treasure!

OK....this he TOTALLY gets from me! I, too, have always enjoyed reading/making/following maps. On road trips, I was the map reader/navigator.....and I loved it! So, this realization gave me an idea to help Ethan out with some of his anxiety.

Earlier this week, we drove to our closest Easter Seals branch....about a 35 minute drive. That doesn't seem long to me, but to a 3 year old....that seems like FOREVER! The entire trip, he kept wanting reassurance of where we were going. Eventually, either from being tired of saying the same thing over & over to him or because the light bulb finally went on in my head, I picked 3 noticeable landmarks for him to look for that were on the way to Easter Seals. This worked great, and he was even laughing whenever he would "find' the next landmark.

So, before we left for our 2nd day of our Easter Seals summer preschool, I quick sat down with Google images, and created a super simple map for him to have in the car. OH MY GOSH! HE LOOOOOOOVED IT!!!! He was having so much fun looking for the next thing, and his anxiety about a long car ride was gone! It was just plain fun! I guess I will be making a few more of these to have on hand for our car rides this summer!

Here is the simple map. I picked several things that were on the way to Easter Seals & did a quick "route." Next time, I will need to add labels to the pictures as well as our house for the start....such rookie mistakes!

Here is Ethan reading the map! You will hear him throw in a few memorized phrases from several of his "map" games. But, hey, we are communicating!

Summer Reading Program 2012

Last year, we participated in our Library's Summer Reading program. Ethan & I loved it! However, we never actually went to any of the library's activities.....I was too nervous after his GI-HUGE-ANT meltdown at his Early Intervention's Christmas party held at our library. (For that story, click here.) Before Ethan started attending daily preschool, he & I would go to the library once a week. He would play with their toys while I would search for new books for that week....for both him & me. But I thought I would try to do some of the library's programs this summer. I figured there had been enough time gone by since that meltdown, and he is older now...maybe he could handle it!? we went for Preschool Story Time.

How did I not think this through? It's IS summer.....and kids are out of school.....

There were about 40 3-5 year old kids for this story time.....yep.....40 LITTLE kids. YIKES!!!

Ethan actually did fairly well! No meltdowns AT ALL! But, he didn't want to sit & listen to the story or do any of the song/story motions. It was just too loud for him to be able to concentrate on any of it. So, after about 2 stories & 2 sing-songy poem type things, he was DONE. were my niece & nephew who were there too. So, that made me feel was a lot for ALL of them.

We each got 2 books for the week, and Ethan picked out an ELMO movie. (I will be surprised if he actually watches it....he never sits for movies.) We signed him up for the Reading Program, and put his name in the weekly drawing.

I really think if it was a smaller group of kiddos, he would have done just fine. So, I'm glad we went, I'm glad we didn't have a meltdown(s), and I'm glad it was only an hour! HA! I think we will try it again sometime, but maybe not EVERY week. Baby steps. He was SO excited to go to the library, and I want him to keep that joy of getting new books/reading. One of those things that I wish we could do, but he's just not ready. But....I am able to see us doing it in the future....and that gives me joy!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Has Started! Updates!!! seems like FOREVER since I have been able to sit down & write! I'm so thankful that Ethan is taking one of his rare naps today! This is giving me a chance to have my 2nd tall tumbler of coffee & catch up on things!

The last several weeks, as I mentioned in an earlier post, have been CRAZY! Pretty much since the week before Mother's Day, I haven't had a quiet moment to myself. But, now that life seems to be settling back down & sickness seems to be leaving our house (shoot! did I just jinx it?!), I can tell you all about the exciting things that are going on, regarding living with autism.

First of all, we got a pool! Not anything spectacular, but it will be great for Ethan. A few months ago, I was contemplating which activities to put him in for the summer. His teachers & therapists all seemed to think that swimming was the best choice out of all of my ideas, so we were planning on signing Ethan up for swimming lessons all summer. Then, we figured up the cost of that as well as actual time in pool, and it was definitely cheaper to buy our own. So...we got one of those Easy Set-Up pools, and Ethan LOVES IT! We were out there every day until we got sick. However, I foresee us spending a lot of time swimming. It is shallow enough for him to walk around & play in the water, but I can also teach him to swim in it. He is already getting really good at kicking his legs! YEAH!

Second, we have started summer preschool at Easter Seals. It's only 2 times a week for 3 hours each time....which I thought was fine to do in the summer. Just enough to keep him moving forward yet still have some lazy summer days at the same time. We both participated in a 3 hour evaluation last week, and by the end of that time, he was done with ANY kind of therapy/teaching. That is a lot for a 3 year old. BUT...when I asked him if he was ready to go, he told me, "No!" He really liked all of the new toys & the new classroom. We will see how he feels about it in a couple of weeks. :0) However, his first day was great, and he seemed to really like it. He was VERY chatty when he got home. So....he either was quiet for 3 hours & let it out when he got home? OR he was excited & was still on a learning "high" when he got home? Either way, it was nice to see a good reaction after his first day.

Last, now that my husband has a break from his college classes, we are hard at work on the basement once again. (I say "we," but I really mean I tell him my ideas & he does the work.) The last couple of weeks, we have really been focusing on getting our house organized. We moved into this house when Ethan was 6 months old, and we have never really been able to set things up how we want them. (You know how house projects get put at the bottom of the list when you have little ones!) So, as of right now, the upstairs has been completely gone, closets, clothes, etc.....organized & labeled. Corey has started back up on the basement, and we are hoping to move lots of our "DIY Therapy" stuff down there in the next few weeks! YEAH! It will be so nice to have the extra room to do therapy with Ethan without it messing up our dining table or living room! A HUGE shout out to my husband for running with this project even while Ethan & I were sick with strep throat & he was our caretaker after working all day! THANKS COREY!

Well....that's basically it. I am SUPER excited for the start of summer, and I get to have more time with my Ethan. We have LOTS of summer LIVING to do!!!!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Last Day of School With DADDY!

The following post is from Ethan's Dad, Corey. I was planning on participating in Ethan's last day of school "Fun Day", but a terrible ear ache kept me up most of the night before....leaving me feeling exhausted & even more sick. Thankfully, Corey was able to sneak away from work for a few hours. Here is the day in Corey's words......

Please excuse my poor grammar and punctuation. I am not as good of a writer as Jessica.

When we left for school, I let Ethan choose which vehicle to take. He said my car which kind of surprised me. I figured since he thrives on routine, he would for sure associate going to school with going in Jessica's van because she takes him to school in it every day. So we drove to his school, and I let him know that today was different. Daddy was going to stay with Ethan at school today. He said "I like my friend Daddy to stay at school". I smiled really big and kept reassuring him, yes, I would be staying with him. I was feeling pretty anxious myself as I don't do well with unfamiliar events. However, I was excited to share this moment with Ethan so reassuring him....I also was reassuring myself.

We got to school, and he fell right into the typical routine of what he does every morning. I had never seen his routine, so it was interesting to have Ethan leading me on what to do and where to go. He put his book bag on the table, and then got out his daily binder & snack. He handed me the snack to hold, and placed his binder on the table where all the kids put them every morning. Then, he came back to the table, zipped up his book bag and put it in his locker. I am just watching Ethan, and so proud to see him do these things without any assistance or prompting from anyone! We then got in line to walk to the gym where all the kids eat their breakfast. Ethan took me by the hand and walked me down the hall leading the way again. The class stopped at the restrooms. Ethan went in while I stayed out. He did his business then came around and started pushing the soap dispenser to wash his hands. No prompting from anyone at all. He then got in line and waited for his classmates.

Once everyone was  ready, we continued our walk to the gym. He stopped at the little cooler they have outside the gym. In the cooler, there were crates of milk and then an empty crate. Ethan went past the milk and looked in the empty crate. All he said was "No juice today". One of his teachers let him know that they would get some juice in the gym. However, Ethan didn't get upset in any way. He again just lead the way to the table and sat down. He said "Daddy, will you sit by me?" I said "Sure buddy." We sat as he ate his snack and got his juice. It was cool to see this routine that I had never been a part of and that he seemed to know so very well. I just sat and watched him. Again, beaming with pride at how my little boy seemed so grown up.

Once everyone was done eating and threw their trash away we all lined up again to go do some activities outside. Outside, they had the following stations: water table, fishing pool (numbered and lettered paper fish with magnets on them and a doll rod with a string and paper clip to "catch" the fish on), sand table, sidewalk chalk, and a station with paint brushes and water so the kids could "paint" on the brick walls of the school. Again, I started to feel anxious because kids are running everywhere. But not Ethan....he immediately went to the water table and jumped right in with the other kids! He played in it for a while...mainly with the boats and sticking his arm in it. Then he went to the fishing pool. He couldn't get the fish to stick and to be honest neither could I because the fish was heavy and the paper clip didn't get much grip on the magnet. So he improvised and just grabbed a fish. :)

Then he went to the sand table and picked up the little hand rake scratched around in it a bit and then walked away because the sand was sticking to his wet hands. He doesn't like messy hands!

Next he decided to go play with sidewalk chalk he just wrote his name and said excitedly "E-T-H-A-N......ETHAN"! Next station...

On to the last station...(yes he did them in order). 4 little buckets of water with paint brushes in them. The kids were "painting" the school. Ethan painted a little bit in the midst of all the other kids, stuck his arm in the water then was all done with that station.

I thought it was great that Ethan was ready and willing to just jump in and try every station. Watching Ethan just move from station to station and interact with some of the other kids was something I don't get to see. Then it was time to line up and go play in the grass area stations.

In the grass area there were several stations the kids could choose to do. A sack hop, hula hoops, bean bags you could toss through foam hoops, and a little putting green with flowers around it. Ethan immediately ran to the putting green which surprised me because typically (like his Dad) he could really care less about sports (we are car guys) :)

My surprise was quickly tossed out when he said "Look at this beautiful flower garden!!!" (which is a clip from an Elmo game he plays on computer). By now I am feeling a LITTLE less anxious. I think I only slightly deal better with transitions and new environments than Ethan. The Ethan I am watching at this school event seems pretty fearless to try anything and interact with his classmates. He was dealing with all the new events very well. Then he started charging at me like a bull. He would keep trying to run his head into me. Usually when he does something like this it means he is getting overloaded or tired. He is looking for me to spin him or flip him or wrestle with him. So I did just that. I spun and flipped him in the field. We laughed and had a good time and it helped him kind of relax a little...and me too :)

Ethan & his AWESOME Teacher's Aide! (See the flowers by the putting green in the back?)

One of Ethan's teachers came over and told me a crop dusting plane and was going to fly over the field while we were out there. So anxiety starts to creep up. How will Ethan react? What will I do if it scares him? Before I even had the chance to tell Ethan, his teacher told him there was going to be a plane coming soon. Giving him his warning of the environment change. This relieved my anxiety even more than before. These teachers know Ethan very well. Awesome.

Our time at these stations was up, so we went back inside and to the library. There was someone making cotton candy and passing it out to all of the kids. There were a lot of kids in the room but Ethan still
seemed to be doing OK and in fact was sitting with his classmates while I was on the other side of the room just watching him. We got our cotton candy and went back to the classroom to eat it. Ethan tried
one bite. I said, "Do you like that Ethan?" He said, "Yes!" Immediately followed by, "No, I don't like this Daddy." We stayed in the classroom while the other kids finished eating their cotton candy, and Ethan's
teacher put some fruit snacks and goldfish in everyone's book bags. By now, Ethan is flopping all around on me. Again normally this means he is overloaded or tired (or maybe both). Normally, my own anxiety would be getting worse....looking for things to comfort Ethan in case he had a meltdown because he was overloaded. I felt pretty calm though. To notice how well these teachers deal with not just Ethan but all the kids was comforting. There is probably nothing Ethan would do that they hadn't dealt with at some point in the school year. So why should I worry about it?

Once everyone was done, we went to get book bags & line up to go back outside for the last activities for the day. Ethan's teacher accidentally put his book bag about 3 lockers to the right of where it normally is, I guess. Ethan got upset and his teacher apologized for not putting it back exactly where it was. I said, "It's not a big deal. He is OK." I comforted him for a minute, then we lined up to go outside. His teachers realized the kids probably needed to go to the bathroom one more time, so we did that. Now...Ethan lost it. He actually told me "There are too many choices Daddy". It was odd because I felt soooo happy that Ethan just told me why he was upset but at the same time felt so bad for him that he was getting overwhelmed. I said, "It is OK. Let's line up and go to the bathroom, then we will go play outside." He cried while we walked to the bathroom and while he went to the bathroom and while we waited for the other kids to be done going to the bathroom. Now, I am not sure what to do. I try to comfort Ethan and he is just not calming down. Ethan's speech teacher noticed him having a hard time. She said, "Do you want to come into my class and get a tissue?" He said, "Yes" through his tears, and she took his hand and we went into her classroom (right by where we were waiting in line). So I start analyzing and troubleshooting. Was it the noise of all the kids in the hall? Was it the book bag? Was it the change of his daily routine? Was it all of it? Before we even got all the way into the classroom, Ethan had stopped crying. She wiped his nose and talked to him for a minute. Ethan had calmed down and even let me take his picture with her! Do these teachers have magic powers?

Ethan & his AMAZING speech therapist!

We joined the class again and started heading outside. The kids could choose from coloring and making paper airplanes or playing with bubbles. We walked over, set his book bag down and headed towards the coloring pages. Just then there was a breeze. Ethan lost it again. The wind blowing is something he has been getting anxious about lately. He talks about it and cries about it sometimes. This time he started crying and saying, "The wind is blowing the papers Daddy." I said, "Yes but that is OK we can just pick them big deal." He continued to cry more and more. So, I picked him up and began to talk softly to him telling him the breeze isn't scary and it was OK and look at the trees they move with the wind. He still didn't stop crying. So I started swaying back and forth with him. I feel bad that Ethan is having such a hard time by now. I think maybe we should just leave. He has had enough. But then I think no...we can do this. The day is almost done. He began to calm down. So I put him down and he just stood there. I encouraged him to try the bubbles or the coloring. He said, "I don't want to Daddy. I want to go home." My natural instinct is to grab him and take him home....where I know he can calm himself much easier. But I know that Ethan needs to be stretched (and so do I). I know when I get overwhelmed, I just need a break. So, why not see if that works for Ethan too? DUH! So I say to him, "It isn't time to go home yet, Ethan. Do you need to take a break?" He told me yes. So, I went to his book bag and got out the fruit snacks his teacher had put in there (thank you!) to give him something chewy to help calm him down. We found a quiet spot in the pavilion (that Ethan picked) and sat down. We just took a break and watched the kids play. I could feel us both calming down. Sweet!!! It worked for him too!!!

A classmate of Ethan's came over and asked if I could help her make an airplane. So I did...while Ethan just calmly watched. After he finished his fruit snacks, he went over to the bubbles and popped a few. Then asked again if he could go home. It was a few minutes before class was officially out but I asked his teacher if it would be OK if we went. She said that would be fine. I took Ethan's picture with her and he said good-bye.

Ethan & his FABULOUS teacher!
We went to his other teacher and said good-bye, and she gave him a hug. We got into the car and started home. It was a very quiet ride. Overall Ethan did AMAZING. There were a lot of new things and transitions. Just him telling me that there were too many choices is HUGE because of the fact that he realized that is what he was upset about. We both had been stretched and overloaded...but we did it! I am glad we did it together!

I personally felt great. I struggle with anyone taking care of Ethan except for Jessica and myself. I know that is not good for him or us...but just being is something I struggle with. I don't get to be involved with a lot of the school stuff because I am at work during those hours. However, I felt very blessed after the day we had. To see his teachers help and guide him. To see them recognize the little things that would bother him. To see them help calm him when he is upset. It was very clear that these teacher care for Ethan A LOT!

While they still challenged him they knew exactly when to comfort and when to let him continue to try on his own. I am personally very grateful for these women that care for and teach Ethan in such a way that warms my heart. Thanks so much for all you have done for Ethan!