Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Within the last few months, Jack has become very interested in fire, fire fighters, fire trucks, fire alarms, smoke alarms, fire departments...I think you get the idea. And by "very" interested, I mean - that's all he talks about. Anyone with a kid on the autism spectrum knows that when your kid becomes interested in something, it quickly moves from interest to obsession. His MOPS class was recently visited by the fire truck and fireman and he absolutely loved it. Then his preschool class was also visited by the same fire truck and fireman! And then they had an accidental fire alarm at school. (Yeah. Awesome. They were fixing the roof and accidentally set off the alarm.) And then our smoke detector went off at home (more on that later). But, the thing is, he also has a little bit of fear surrounding the loud noises that come with fire trucks/fire fighters/fire alarms, etc. So with that fear comes the constant talking to reduce his anxiety. We drive by our local fire station quite often and there is a big banner outside the building that reminds people to change the batteries in their smoke detectors. On the sign, it reads "beep, beep, beep!" Here is an example of what Jack might say every time we drive past this sign -

"Mommy, do you see that sign? It says "beep, beep, beep" because that's the sound that the smoke alarm makes when there's a fire. I want to practice when there's a fire at our house and I can crawl down low and feel the door with the back of my hand and you can press the button on the smoke detector and we can practice. Is there a fire truck outside? If there is a real fire at our house the fire truck will come to our house and they will put the fire out and they will park the fire truck by our house. Is that what our smoke alarm says? Beep, beep, beep? That's what the sign says because that's what the smoke alarm says. Why does the sign say "beep beep beep?" Why does it say that? Can we go to the fire station and look at the fire trucks and spray the hoses and talk to the firemen? Can we go now? Please mommy? I want to go to the fire station now. Why can't we go now? You have to tell me why. I want to go now. I want to go to the fire station now."

Again, I am so thankful for his verbal skills, but it is exhausting!

So...back to the smoke detector going off at home. Yesterday the fire alarm went off accidentally at school. His special ed teacher let us know that it happened and said that Jack handled it really well. He covered his ears and they went outside and then they went back in and talked about it. Jack talked about it all evening. :) This morning, while I was getting ready in the bathroom, Jack was talking to me about the smoke detector that's in our hallway, right outside the bathroom door. He was asking me if I could "test" it and make it beep. He's been making this request a lot lately - Lonnie had just "tested" it for him last night, so I told him that I wouldn't be testing it this morning - we already knew that it worked fine. So, Jack talked about the smoke detector a little longer and then just kind of stood there as I was still getting ready in the bathroom. No more than 2 minutes after our conversation, the smoke detector went off! WEIRD. Normal, smoke alarm beeping. Not the "dead battery" beep, but a regular, going off beeping. Poor Jack jumped out of his skin, started crying and yelling and RAN to the garage door. I turned the alarm off and reassured him that there wasn't a fire and that we were OK. He kept saying "I thought there was a real fire in our house." Poor kid! We took the battery out of the smoke detector just to reassure him that it wouldn't go off again. But, honestly, why in the world did it go off just minutes after him talking about "testing" it? So so so so so strange.

My dad is a retired firefighter (currently he's teaching), so I think he'll be pretty happy to know about Jack's new obsession. Maybe he'll have some connections so we can get Jack a ride in a fire truck one of these days. :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Choices, choices (Holiday Cards!)

I recently found out that I have the opportunity to discuss some of Shutterfly's holiday cards and get the chance to get 50 of my own free cards. Woohoo! So, the minute I got to Shutterfly's holiday card page, I kept thinking, "oh, I like that one! oh, I like this one!" I really don't know how I'm going to choose when it comes down to it. They have so many adorable designs.

For starters, I am loving this one -

I really like the collage photo holiday cards. I have such a hard time picking one photo for our Christmas cards, it's nice to have an option for more.

Oooooh, I really like this one.

We have yet to get photo cards that are "real" open and fold out cards. Which I kind of miss. So this would satisfy both things! Photos for everyone to see and an actual card where I can write things.

In addition to cards, Shutterfly has some great calendars that would make awesome gifts. I think it would be great to order one of these and give it to the grandparents for a nice, personalized gift.

If you're a blogger and interested in the 50 free card offer, check this out! http://bit.ly/sfly2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2010

We went out trick-or-treating this year with a group of friends and Jack had a lot of fun. This is the first year that he seems to "get" it, so he was really good about saying "trick-or-treat," saying "thank you," and leaving the candy in his pumpkin until we got home. :) He went as Superman this year and I have to say, he was the cutest Superman EVER.

The gang that went out trick-or-treating.


In my previous post, I mentioned how Jack doesn't have a filter for his words. He just talks and talks and talks. And he has no concept of strangers (I know...we're working on it). So when he would walk up to someone's door and say "trick-or-treat!" he would then start asking them, "Do you have a dog? Do you have a cat? Can I pet your dog? Can I pet your cat?" He would begin a conversation with the person at the door and want to keep talking to them. :) So we had to keep reminding him to move along and go to the next house!

"What do I do next?"

Checking out his goodies and picking 3 to have before bed. :)


Jack is in preschool this year. Another year of preschool. At the beginning of the year, I had mixed emotions about this. On one hand, I knew that we were doing the best thing for him by keeping him in preschool for one more year. Technically he could be in kindergarten this year, since he turned 5 over the summer. But we knew that he just wasn't ready. So we signed him up for a preschool class that is an "inclusion" classroom. There are 12-14 "typical" children and then there are 3 special ed kids. (I can't tell you how much it hurt to write that -- my kid is one of the special ed kids. I never thought that would be me. Moving on....) So, I was relieved that he would still be in preschool and have another year to gain some of the skills that he'll need for kindergarten. But, all of the other 5 year olds were going to kindergarten. Whenever we would tell someone how old Jack was, they would ask "are you ready for kindergarten this year?" And we would have to explain how we were doing another year of preschool. It was bittersweet.

The previous two years, Jack was in a special education preschool. He was in an environment that was completely catered to his needs. Every other kid in the classroom had special needs also. Last year, his class was all boys on the autism spectrum. The special attention was great. But this year, we had to move a little out of our comfort zone. Now we're dealing with a classroom that doesn't revolve around Jack and his needs. Like everything else, there are pros and cons with this. We are glad that he has the opportunity to be around typical kids and, in a sense, mimic their behavior. He can see how his peers react to certain situations and how his peers behave. I have yet to see very many positive effects of this - but I am hoping that they will show up eventually. Being in this classroom also means that there is less individualized attention for Jack. There are more kids that need the teachers' attention. The special education teacher isn't in the classroom for the entire class. But, we realize that this is a good "stepping stone" to mainstream kindergarten. Where there will (most likely) be even less individual attention. Less special treatment. We are relieved, though, that it looks like Jack will be attending a mainstream public elementary school. In the long run, I think that is a very positive thing.

Jack L-O-V-E-S school. Adores it. Thinks it is the best thing in the world. And this makes me very happy. I hope that he continues to feel this way (I know, I know...keep dreaming). He is growing in his social skills. He talks about his friends at school. He recalls things that he did during the day and can talk about them. He is in an afternoon class this year (was in morning classes the previous 2 years) and he just can't wait until lunch time, because he knows that the bus comes shortly after lunch. I don't know how we're going to survive winter break. :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Life With Jack

So...I last blogged when it was Jack's birthday. That was 3 months ago. Sometimes life just gets too crazy and blogging takes a backseat to the rest of the activities. So right now I am sitting at Starbucks, my pumpkin spice latte next to me, and I am setting aside time to write. I think I need to make this a more regular occasion! Although, Starbucks is kind of busy right now and the only table available (with an outlet) was right next to the window. The window that the sun is shining through. The sun that is shining right in my face. I closed their little flimsy "blind," but it's not doing much good. So I am typing while squinting. And unfortunately, there isn't anything that the sun will be going behind any time soon. So I sit. And I squint. At least it's warm. OK, I just tried to switch sides of the table and that didn't work either. Now the sun is just on the other side of my face. And now my drink is on my left side. Sigh.

Let me talk about my kid for a little bit. Jack is 5 years and 3 months and 1 day old. He is awesome. And he is challenging. There are so many adjectives I could use to describe my son, it would take up a whole post. In complete honesty, we have more bad days right now than we do good days. What triggers Jack into meltdown is a mystery. But, we have a lot of meltdowns. We have a lot of behavior "issues." We have a lot of questions. We have a lot of concerns.

But, we also know that this is one of the most difficult times in our life with Jack. He is at the age where he doesn't know why his brain works differently. He doesn't understand why everyone else thinks differently than he does. He doesn't know why the world doesn't make sense to him. I am sure that he's confused, but he can't communicate why. His confusion comes out as anger or as misbehaving. Not that I'm excusing away his actions - but I truly believe that there is a greater underlying cause for his behavior problems. I don't think that he's acting out just because he can. The behavior issues make trips into the community fun and exciting. The tantrums, the yelling, the screaming, the constant running into things or people - the looks from people get old. I am getting used to the dirty looks...or I am just doing a better job at ignoring them.

We do what we can. We try our best. But at the end of the day, our best doesn't look like much. I think that most parents - even parents of "typical" children - struggle with guilt over their parenting. When you have a child with special needs, you can multiple that guilt times 10. We are constantly worrying if we're doing enough. If the therapy we're doing is enough. If the school is good enough. If the discipline is enough. If the picture schedule is enough. If the play dates are enough. And on, and on, and on. I find comfort in the fact that I KNOW that we're doing the best we know to do...right now. Even if we're messing the whole thing up, we're doing what we think is best. We are loving, intelligent parents and we have our son's best interests at heart. All we can do beyond that is pray that he turns out OK from there.

One thing I am so thankful for is that Jack has started loving to hug us. He wants to hug all of the time. And while I must admit that there are times when I get somewhat annoyed with the constant touching - overall I am so thankful that he wants to hug us. There are so many kids on the autism spectrum that have a hard time with touch. So many kids that don't want to be hugged. Jack was sensitive to hugging up until a few months ago. Now he wants to sit in my lap and let me hold him for awhile.

Jack talks. A lot. Constantly. All of the time. Continuously. Talks. Which, again, I am thankful for in the grand scheme of things. I would much rather have a child that talks too much than a child that doesn't talk at all. (I think.) A lot of his talking revolves around anxiety. He talks when he's anxious. He'll talk about anything that's on his mind. Never a flowing string of thoughts - it's always a broken mix-up of thoughts that are floating around in his head. Lines from a movie in one minute, and talking about the car wash the next minute. Actually, I should say that his thoughts don't make sense to US. I am sure that they make perfect sense to him. He sees connections in topics that we just don't see. He associates one thing with another thing...and then that thing to another thing...and it all comes out of his mouth. The boy doesn't have a filter. Sometimes it's hilarious and sometimes it's exhausting.

So...there's a quick snapshot of our lives right now. There is so much more going on, but I find it hard to organize it all right now. Hopefully there will be more blog posts coming soon.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Jack's 5th Birthday

Last Sunday we had a birthday party for Jack. We invited 2 families over - two of the boys were in Jack's preschool class last year - and we had a great time. We had a bbq and the kids played outside and Jack opened presents and we had cake. Last years' birthday party was kind of a disaster...mostly because of the number of people we had over. Jack was completely overwhelmed and melted down. So we knew that this year we had to keep it a little simpler.

A view of the inside of Jack's birthday cake. So fun!

Jack's actual birthday was today, the 28th. He woke up at 5:30 am and bounded into our room saying "it's my birthday!" We quickly came to the conclusion that Jack was a little confused about his birthday. And we are still confused as to what his expectations were. He was upset right away that we weren't "doing" his birthday and he couldn't "eat his birthday." My best guess is that he was talking about having cake, presents, and party all over again - even though we had explained multiple times that he was having a party on Sunday and then we were just hanging out on Wednesday - when he would turn 5. We still did special things - we went to the store and let him pick out toys using his birthday money, we went and got ice cream, and we had cupcakes after dinner. But today was one of the more stressful days with Jack. He was so upset about his "birthday" all day - and we just kept missing the communication piece.

The morning of his birthday - before 6 am. :)

He had therapy this morning and had a pretty difficult time doing very simple tasks. We also found out that Jack's occupational therapist is leaving. This is heart-breaking for me. We absolutely love his therapist and she was one of the reasons we were looking forward to staying in Minnesota. He doesn't know yet that she's leaving. I think he'll have a very hard time dealing with this transition.

He had friends come over for a play date...so that was a good break in the day. Then when Lonnie was done with work, we went to Target to let Jack pick out toys with his birthday money. He had a good time picking out toys, but also had difficulty deciding which toys to get (who wouldn't?!?). We then went to the ice cream place...where Jack wouldn't eat any of his ice cream. He likes this particular ice cream place because it's near the rail road tracks and we can see a train every once in awhile. But now he has become so focused on the RR tracks that he refuses to eat his ice cream. All he can do is stare at the tracks (or at the cars going by on the street).

We knew that the rest of the evening had to be spent at home - he was done for the day! So we just spent time at home and let him play with his new toys. Had mac & cheese for dinner and watched Bee Movie. Jack and I were planning on going to the running track with Lonnie, where he was going to start training 5 people for their first 5k. But, Jack was so tired and worn out from the day that we decided to stay home so he could go to bed early.

Today was one of the days when I was reminded that my child is different. He is DIFFERENT. We can't do things with him that other parents do with their kids. Our lives are structured around his temperament, sensitivities and abilities. I am constantly under pressure to have the next 24 hours planned out in advance.

What a bittersweet day. It seems that most holidays are starting to bear this "bittersweet" feeling. We are blessed with an amazing son that we love very much. But we are most reminded on these holidays that things are different for us.

Either way - my baby is FIVE! He has accomplished so much in the past 5 years. We are so proud of who he is and who he is becoming. The past 5 years have gone by so quickly...I can't imagine what the next 5 years hold.

EXACTLY 5 years old - showing me his muscles. :)

This was the face we saw most of the day. :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Awesome things my child has said today...

J - "There was a bug."
Me - "Was it bothering you?"
J - "No, it was just saying hi to me."

"When I grow up, I want to be a doctor. To help people."

"Today is Tuesday. When I wake up, it will be [thinking] Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, WEDNESDAY."

As he's stretching - "I have a big belly. A big belly full of food."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fresh Start

I would really like to start using the blog as a record of our days here at the our house. Jack says and does a lot of funny things and I find myself wishing that I could keep better record of them. I wish I would've done a better job recording things when he was a baby and toddler - but I hope that late is better than never. :) So...my blog posts will be more boring. More about Jack. More about our mundane life. But I am doing this more for myself than anything.

Lonnie is out of town this week - again. So, Jack and I are on our own - again. With Lonnie working from home, I think that it's somewhat of a blessing in disguise that he travels every now and then. We all just might go crazy if we had to be around each other all day/night without the travel breaks. But, we really miss him when he's gone!

The hardest part of being home with Jack all day by myself is trying to find things to occupy our time. We go to the park or play outside at home when the weather permits, we go to the library, and we go to the water park about once a week. And we try to get together with friends when we can. But, that's about it! I have to admit, I'm more than a little bit ready for school to start. Not ready for the summer weather to go away, but ready for fall to get here! :)

(Jack and friend flipping backwards off the couch)

Jack had a friend come over today. They were in preschool together last year and they have become pretty good friends. It was great to watch them play together and laugh together. Jack was pretty wound up while his friend was here, so we had to have some down-time after the friend left. I think it was then that Jack realized exactly how tired he was. We took Lonnie to a hotel last night so he could get to the airport super early this morning. We didn't get home until late, so Jack didn't get to bed until around 9 pm. And, he was up before 6 am today. I think the sleepiness really hit him hard this afternoon. So after running a quick errand and eating an early dinner, it was bedtime! He was asleep by 6 pm. We'll see how that plays out overnight.

So...here goes another shot at blogging regularly. I am looking forward to keeping up with it!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Laura's Kitchen

I entered a contest on a new food blog that I love - Laura's Kitchen. She has some awesome recipes and they all look amazing. Check her out!

Laura's Kitchen

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Coconut-Pecan Granola

I have been making granola for several years, but I have finally found a combination that I really like. And it's SUPER healthy. I love it mixed in with yogurt or with milk. The fun thing about granola is that you can mix and match the ingredients to whatever you would like. You can add more sweeteners to make it sweeter. You can mix up the type of fruit you put it. Try different kinds of nuts. As long as your dry/sweet ratio stays pretty much the same, you're good!

8 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 1/2 cups wheat germ
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup coconut flakes (unsweetened)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup maple syrup (pure, not pancake syrup)
3/4 cup honey (I used raw, unfiltered honey for this and it was wonderful)
1 cup coconut oil
1 T. ground cinnamon
1 T. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325*F. Line 2 large baking sheets (with sides) with parchment paper, or use nonstick spray.
Mix together the oats, wheat germ, pecans, sunflower seeds, and coconut in a large bowl.
Put salt, maple syrup, honey, coconut oil, cinnamon, and vanilla in saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and mix well, making sure everything is coated.
Spread evenly in the 2 sheets and put in the oven. Bake 20 - 30 minutes. Stir halfway through and rotate the sheets if they're on different racks. (I baked this last batch for 20 minutes and it's still a little soft, not quite crunchy. Next time I'll bake a little longer.)
Let the granola completely cool and store in airtight containers. Enjoy!

Monday, June 7, 2010

One Day at a Time

I don’t want this blog to become a place where I constantly complain about our difficulties, especially when it comes to raising Jack. But, on the other side of it, I want to be honest in my writing and let people know what kind of challenges families of autism face. There are real challenges. Our days are more exhausting than I ever thought they could be.

I wanted to share a typical [weekend] day in our life. Yesterday was Sunday and is the perfect opportunity to show what our life is like.

2:30 am – Jack wakes up, I put him back to bed. Lately he’s been getting much better at going back to his bed when he wakes up in the middle of the night. He still throws a fit and tries to fight me on it, but he eventually makes his way back to his room and (usually) goes back to sleep.

5:00 am – Jack comes back into our room and is awake for the day. This is “sleeping in” in our book. We’re happy with this. Plus, we have to get moving early to go to St. Paul because Lonnie is running a 5K in the morning. After the 5K, there will be a parade and food vendors, and other activities going on. Immediately upon waking, Jack asks us what the day holds. He starts with breakfast –

“and after breakfast?”

“We will get ready.”

“and after we get ready?”

“We will hang out for a little bit and then we will drive to St. Paul.”

“and after we drive to St. Paul?”

“We will go to daddy’s race and watch him run.”

“and after daddy’s race?”

“We will watch the parade.”

“and after the parade?”

“You and daddy will drop me off at Trader Joe’s and then you guys will go to a park.”

“and after the park?”

“Then we will get lunch.”

“and after we get lunch?”

“Then we will go home.”

“and after we go home?”

…..and on and on and on. I would guess that this script is repeated at least 20 times a day. All day long. We usually are planned ahead by at least 24 hours. Jack has to know exactly what is coming up and when. And yes, we’ve done picture schedules. The problem with a physical picture schedule is that Jack becomes absolutely obsessed with it. And then he can’t think about anything else. And then if, God forbid, we have to CHANGE the schedule, it makes that transition that much more difficult – because it wasn’t on the schedule.

7:00 am – We head out the door and get in the car. Jack wants to buckle his own seatbelt. I oblige and let him try. He gets frustrated and starts throwing a fit. So I try to help him buckle it and the fit escalates. He finally gets the thing buckled and the fit is over.

7:05 am – We have to get gas before we go to St. Paul. This wasn’t on the schedule. Jack is OK with it, but insists that we don’t go through the car wash. He is very freaked out about the car wash and gets nervous any time we’re within sight of one. We reassure him multiple times that we aren’t going through the car wash. He eventually believes us.

7:45 am – The car ride has gone incredibly smoothly so far. Jack brought a fire truck to play with, and it has occupied his time more than we thought it would. But 45 minutes or so into the car ride, Jack gets antsy. He starts yelling/screaming/making random noises. Not necessarily a fit…and he’s not really angry or upset. He’s just making noise. A lot of it.

8:20 am – We make it to St. Paul. The car ride went so well, we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. It didn’t take long. As soon as we get out of the car, Jack is whining that he has to go potty. He went right before we left the house, so we know that he doesn’t have to go that bad. One of Jack’s “quirks” is that he insists on going potty EVERYWHERE. It doesn’t matter if he just went 5 minutes ago. He has to go potty to each place we visit. So, we tell him that we’re going to wait to go potty until daddy starts the race. There’s port-a-potties everywhere…but I would like to avoid one of those if we can. I am hoping to go to a coffee shop or something. He starts to get upset about it. Uh oh.

8:45 am – Lonnie gets all registered for the race and is ready to go. Jack starts screaming that he has to go pee. Louder and louder. So I say “fine” and set off to find a bathroom. A real one. We run into a row of port-a-potties and he insists that he wants to go there. That he HAS to go NOW. I know that the coffee shop is still a few blocks ahead, so I give in and agree to the port-a-potty. Only problem is, there’s a line. All of them are locked. So we stand and wait. Jack starts throwing a fit. I tell him that we have to wait for a potty. I tell him that we can go find another potty where he won’t have to wait. He starts screaming at the top of his lungs. I grab his hand to walk to another row of port-a-potties. He pulls away from me, screaming, and then collapses on the ground. In the middle of the street. I pick him up and move him to the sidewalk…all the while he’s screaming. He’s screaming so loudly, that Lonnie could hear him – a block away. Great.

9:00 am – We finally find an open port-a-potty. Jack touches everything and finally pees. Praise the Lord for hand sanitizer.

9:15 am – After watching the little kid’s race (so cute!) it is time for Lonnie to run the 5K. Jack is tired of waiting (a whole 15 minutes! How could I?!?!) and starting to get upset. The race starts and we see Lonnie pass us. We clap and yell. Jack immediately starts crying and screaming. I don’t know why. He finally tells me that he wants daddy to be done racing. I tell him that we have to wait for him to be done and ask him if he wants to find some food while we’re waiting. He screams and cries some more, but eventually agrees to go find some food. I grab the wagon and we go walking down the street in search of some food. I hope there’s something there that he’ll eat.

9:30 am – We finally find something that Jack is willing to eat – donuts. The little donuts, like at the fair. He is happy about that. So we buy a bag of donuts, but Jack starts yelling, once again. He can’t see how the donuts are made. There is a donut stand at the fair where you can see them frying the donuts and watch them flip over. Jack thinks that every donut stand MUST do this. So he is very upset that this particular donut stand doesn’t have a place where you can watch the donuts be made. So he yells. And yells. My patience is quickly going away. I get him to calm down about watching the donuts be made and then he starts complaining that the donuts are too hot. Of course they are.

9:45 am – We get to the finish line to watch Lonnie finish the race. We see him run by – we cheer and clap. Yay! And then the crying and screaming begins again. Why? Because he can’t run with daddy. He yells/screams/cries until Lonnie finally makes it to where we are on the sidewalk.

10:15 am – After walking up and down the sidewalk for a little while, finding a good place to watch the parade, we find a decent shaded spot. The parade was supposed to start at 10 am. We wait. And wait. And wait. Apparently we’re quite a ways down from where the parade started. It’s almost 11 by the time we see the parade. Jack spends a good portion of the time with his hands over his ears. We manage to leave shortly before the parade ends…we don’t want to try to leave there when everyone else is leaving. Jack throws random fits every now and then while sitting in the wagon. We can’t really hear him – that’s probably a good thing at this point.

11:45 am – The boys drop me off at Trader Joe’s so I can get some groceries. Why I am shopping alone? Because Jack can’t handle Trader Joe’s. We’ve tried several times to go there with him, but each trip turns into huge meltdowns. Not sure what it is about that store, but it just doesn’t work for all of us to go. So Lonnie takes Jack to a nearby park to play while I shop. Jack refuses to eat something for lunch, because the park came FIRST on the schedule and THEN lunch. Everything has its place.

1:00 pm – I’m done shopping, the boys come pick me up. Jack gets upset because I don’t have a “surprise” for him. Nothing new there.

1:20 pm – We find a Sonic Drive-In and get some lunch. Jack eats most of his lunch and then falls asleep for the rest of the drive home. I fall asleep too. Exhausted.

2:30 pm – We finally make it home. I unload the groceries and we all just hang out for a little while. I make sure to spend some one-on-one time on the floor with Jack and we play with a game. We try to keep it as low-key and calm as possible. I inform Jack that later, daddy and I are going out on a date and someone (that he already knows) is going to come watch him while we go out. He seems totally OK (and even excited) about this.

4:30 pm – The babysitter shows up. She is sweet and wonderful and Jack already likes her. Lonnie and I start to head out the door and Jack loses it. Starts crying and hanging onto my leg. I manage to pry him loose and walk out the door. Jack stops crying shortly after we leave. Lonnie and I watch a movie and eat dinner in silence. We let out a sigh of relief. The relief is short-lived, however, because we know that bedtime isn’t too far away.

7:30 pm – We get home and let Jack know that bedtime will be starting in 10 minutes (we use the big hand on the clock to let him know when it’s time to go potty, get jammies on, etc.). It’s the same routine every night. We’ve been doing this for years. And yet, I could count on one hand the times when bedtime has been tantrum-less. It’s almost always a fight. So, we go through the regular arguing about going potty and getting jammies on and brushing teeth and staying in bed.

8:00 pm – He’s in bed. He stays in bed. Lonnie and I collapse on the couch.

8:30 pm – Both Lonnie and I fall asleep on the couch.

9:00 pm – We go to bed.

2:45 am – Jack wakes up, and it starts all over again!

While some might say that this was an exceptional day because we made a trip out of town and had a babysitter come over all in the same day – I would have to disagree. Even on days when we only have one errand to run, Jack’s behaviors and actions are pretty much the same. I know that part of his behavior on Sunday was related to the large amount of people and noise that we were surrounded by, but I believe that there are times when Jack needs to learn how to deal with those types of situations. We can’t keep him in a bubble and protect him from the sensory-overloading world. So, for now, we do the best we can and try to keep our sanity intact while doing it. At this moment, I don’t know if we’re succeeding at that!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Dog

When we first moved to Minnesota, we decided to bring a dog into our family. We went to the local humane society and picked out a sweet boy. We named him Buster and he made his way into our hearts. For the first couple of weeks after we adopted Buster, Jack was terrified of him. He would climb on the couch, chair, table - anything that would keep him off of the floor. He rarely wanted to be in the same room as Buster. But, then he slowly came around and started loving Buster. He would give him hugs and play with him and talk to him.

The next part of this story is really difficult for me to write. In doing this, I am admitting that my child has "issues." That there is something wrong. And sometimes that's hard to put into words.

As autism began to rear its ugly head and Jack's behaviors became worse, some of his aggression was taken out on Buster. I won't go into too much detail here (for fear of being judged), but let's just say that Jack's actions toward Buster went far beyond how any "typical" 4 year old would treat a dog. It was more than just "rough-housing." We talked to teachers. We talked to therapists. We talked to friends. We tried every piece of advice given to us. Nothing worked. It just got worse.

Several months ago, we put out a plea to our friends on Facebook. We asked if anyone might be able to provide a good home for our animals (we were having the same problems with the cat, too). One of our friends offered to take Buster into their home.

So, last Friday, we loaded Buster up in the car one last time and drove out to the country, where his new family lives. He had previously spent some time with this family, so he was familiar with them. We had talked to Jack all day about where Buster was going and that we weren't going to pick him up and that he was going to live at a different home now. We never told him that we were doing this because of his actions - I wasn't about to make him feel guilty for the dog going away. This was already hard enough on all of us. We weren't quite sure if Jack was understanding what would happen, but tried to do our best to explain it to him. Jack had picked out a toy for Buster to keep with him - a stuffed kitty. I told Jack that Buster would play with the stuffed kitty whenever he missed us, and that he would remember us.

As we drove away from our friends' home, Jack was quiet. I asked him if he missed Buster. Then the tears came. He cried. And cried. He said he was sad about Buster and wanted him to come to OUR house. I cried. (I'm crying now.) I am sure that part of his crying was exhaustion (it was a loooong day and late night for him), but I know that he really felt that emotion of missing Buster.

The next day, I went to Target and found Jack a big stuffed dog. I brought him home and told Jack that he could give the puppy a hug whenever he missed Buster. Jack named him Horton (we were in the middle of watching "Horton Hears a Who" when Jack named the dog) and he sleeps with him.

Life is actually quieter in our house now. There is a lot less stress about Jack's mis-treatment of the dog and the constant discipline surrounding that. We don't have a dog cowering in the corners when Jack gets wired. Jack is doing well. He talks about Buster sometimes, but not too often. He doesn't seem sad about it anymore. It is one less thing for us to worry about right now. We know we made the right decision - but that definitely didn't make it any easier.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Biggest LOSER

So, I'm sitting here watching The Biggest Loser. I am annoyed with it. Let me count the ways...

1) None of the final 4 contestants are married or have children. Therefore, they can spend 8 hours/day at the gym and not have to worry about missing out on things at home.

2) So, so, so unrealistic. Daris (one of the contestants) ate cereal at 4 am. They made it sound like he had just committed the ultimate sin. How dare he eat?!?! It is completely unrealistic to expect people to train for a marathon and not eat (enough to fuel their bodies). It is completely unrealistic to expect people to spend all day in a gym. It is completely unrealistic to expect people to eat extremely restricted diets 24/7. The contestants are living in a lab when they're on "The Ranch." Their exercise, diets, and activities are all controlled. When they leave, it's not controlled. It's not too hard to imagine what will happen when they're set free.

3) Who says that it's impossible to be happy and overweight? They make the assumption that if you're overweight, you're automatically depressed about it. While I agree that there are health risks associated with obesity, and I agree that you should do something to help alleviate those health risks, I disagree that you must be miserable if you're overweight. If someone is healthy, happy and they happen to be overweight...they should be left alone.

4) While the contestants were running a marathon, previous season winners met them at various points to run the race with them. All but one of the previous winners had put back on a considerable amount of weight. The show doesn't talk about this. Sure, they have "made an example" out of prior contestant Eric (who gained back most of his weight - and he is going to take it all off again - and then....), but I think that a good portion of ex-Biggest Losers have put back on a lot of their weight. Why? Back to #2. It is completely unrealistic to expect people to eat/workout/live the lifestyle that they live on "The Ranch." The Biggest Loser is setting people up for failure.

5) What kind of life do you have when you neglect your friends and family? When you have to leave parties early because no one understands your "stress?" When you can't go out to dinner with your family because the restaurant doesn't serve "your" foods? When you miss your kids' activities because you have to go to the gym? What kind of life is that?

6) Since when is losing 13 lbs. in a month a failure? I hate how they make it sound like such a horrible thing when a contestant loses anything less than an insane amount of weight. They are praised for losing unhealthy amounts of weight, and looked down upon for losing the "recommended" amount of weight (1 - 2 lbs./week). So when these contestants start getting closer to their "ideal" weight, and their weight loss slows down, I can only assume that they will be extremely disappointed with their average weight loss.

Done with my rant.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Today is Mother's Day. I am so blessed to be a mother. So blessed to feel Jack's arms wrapped around my neck and smell his hair. Blessed to get wet kisses and hear him say "Happy Muhver's Day." I have much to be thankful for.

When we picked Jack up from Sunday School today, there was a table full of flowers that the children had made for their moms. I asked Jack if he made a flower, and he said "no, I didn't want to." It's a small paper flower - but I was sad that I didn't get one. While other moms were praising their childrens' artwork, I was ushering Jack out of the hallway before he had a meltdown. When I asked him if he had fun at Sunday School, he said "yes, they had a school bus." I asked him if he played with other kids in the classroom and he said "no, I played by myself." Tears filled my eyes at the thought of the other children playing together, and Jack sitting by himself, playing with a school bus. I asked him what they learned, and he couldn't tell me. Another bittersweet moment.

Motherhood is not at all what I thought it would be. My journey into motherhood has been filled with many more lows than I thought it would be. You have an expectation. An idea of what things will be like. Whether it's right or not, you expect motherhood to be filled with joy and laughter. And while we have had our share of laughter, our monotonous days are filled with tantrums, screaming, meltdowns, stimming, and repetitive behavior. Motherhood has become an experience that has stretched me thinner than I thought possible. I never thought that I would be the one raising a special-needs child. Never thought that I would be the one taking my child to therapy, special education classes, and more doctor's appointments than I can keep track of. But, here we are. This is our reality. We do what we do. We make it through each day and collapse into bed each night (for a couple of hours, at least!). We are continually learning how to best nurture and support Jack.

I have many moments of despair. Moments when I cry and yell and wonder what the purpose of all of this is. Moments when I want to give up and run away. Moments where I think that it's all just too hard and I can't go on one more minute.

But then I have moments of love. Moments when Jack smiles at me and I see that adorable dimple on his right cheek. Moments when he says or does something so absolutely hilarious that he has me laughing until I cry. Moments when he has a breakthrough and tries to do something that he wouldn't do before.

Mother's Day is bittersweet for me. Not only because of the challenges of raising a special needs child, but also because of the unfulfilled desire for another child. We watched the baby dedication at church this morning, and tears fell down my cheeks. Watching the precious newborn babies squirming in their parents' arms and hearing their baby sounds fill the room. As difficult as motherhood has been for me, I still have the desire to have another baby. There is still the yearning in my heart to have a sweet new baby to be a part of our family. God knows. He knows my desires and He knows the plans for our family. I am trusting and surrendering.

So....Mother's Day. A day filled with hugs and kisses, tears and worries. I am so blessed. I married a man that loves God and loves me. A man that loves our son and is dedicated to our family. I have a son that has such unique ways of showing me that he loves me. Even if he doesn't make me a paper flower, I know that he loves me beyond words. He makes me laugh and teaches me new things every day. I am so blessed.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Motherhood in pictures

Kristen at We Are THAT Family is having a giveaway and asking moms to show pictures the define "motherhood" for them. Here are some that mean the most to me....

For anyone that doesn't know, I had a less than desirable birth experience and had to be put under general anesthesia. Here are a couple of pictures from the recovery room as I was just waking up.

My mom. This picture speaks so much about a mother's love to me.

Awake enough to meet.

There is nothing that can prepare you for the exhaustion of the first days at home.

He rarely slept. So when he did, we wanted to take pictures.

The first time he had a really, really bad cold. My heart broke.

At a pumpkin patch, 2007.

Kisses through the bike trailer.

That smile. I can't get enough of it.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

True Love

My amazing husband wrote a heart-felt post in regards to Jack...it also includes an update to his sleep study. I'm copying it here so everyone can read it. :)

I am not much of a writer, so forgive any mistakes & apologies for the length of the note. I wrote this today about Jack and what an amazing child & blessing he really is.

No, this entry is not about crazy times as in fast running. I've still been training, but have been sidelined somewhat by a nasty cold. I managed 14+ (short considering I was over 20 the weeks prior) miles last week with a chest cold that's now a nice sneeze etc. I'm at 7mi this week with my first ever Half Marathon on Sunday the 14th.

This post is more about the crazy times in our lives. I'm stepping back to write something different this time. Something that is always on my mind, and is often reflected upon on my "Long Run" days.

Our son Jack, born in July 2005 was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder by our school district back in August 2008. He received a medical diagnosis back in September 09' from Fraser in Minneapolis.

When you first hear someone say "Your Child has Autism", you really don't know what to think. You're taken back by it. Sure, we knew something with our son was "off" due to some missed milestones, slightly quirky behaviors etc, but we were not assuming anything or jumping to any conclusions. Initially, I'll admit, I was in denial. The feeling of "That's not true" was frequent.

Our Jack is a very special boy, and I love him dearly. There are plenty of moments that I get frustrated (I've struggled with anger/quick temper forever!), but in the end I will give everything for this little boy who struggles every day to communicate with us. Jack is very verbal as far as autism goes, and knows an amazing amount of words. His autism certainly doesn't effect his amount of talking. Jack is very smart, but has trouble communicating thoughts that are his own. Echolalia effects Jack. Defined as "The involuntary parrot-like repetition (echoing) of a word or phrase just spoken by another person", echolalia can make Jack appear quite normal to a lot of people that do not know him, or those that may not understand a lot about Autism. If you meet Jack, and say "Hi, how are you", he knows the correct answer to be "I'm fine" or "Good, how are you". It's a VERY Rare occasion that we'll get an answer that reflects how he is actually feeling. For all we know, he can say "I'm fine", but be reeling inside with anxiety from any number of situations. Most of Jack's responses to any question posed to him are canned, meaning that he'll think for a brief amount of time, then provide a response he's heard from either myself, his mom or someone else. If he doesn't know "the answer", he'll give you a sheepish grin, laugh, or sometimes make an odd noise, or even on occasion, he'll just say poopie.

Jack's memory, both audio and visual is astounding. Take for example, listing to a music CD. One of his favorites is "Church Music", by David Crowder Band. He has had his own little CD player that has since been destroyed by his recent destruction faze. We provided him this David Crowder CD as he really enjoys their music. Within a week of him having this CD in his CD player, he had memorized the track number of ALL 17 tracks on the CD by way of listening to the first 2-3 seconds of any song. Now, w/o ANY prompting, we can play the Church Music album on the iPhone in the car and within 3 seconds of the song starting, he'll say "That's number 10" or "That's number 6" etc. He knows every track on the CD and can give you the track number of them regardless of the ORDER they're played back.

Jack's hearing is amazing. So much so that we think he hears nearly everything going on around him, all at the same time. Imagine for a second that you're in Grand Central Terminal, NY. Thousands of people walking, talking, trains, escalators, cash registers, cell phones etc. Now, imagine hearing all of these sounds at the same time and trying to process them. This is what it's like for Jack. Trying to take all of that in, all at once and process it. It get's overwhelming and can lead to melt down city because he can't otherwise express how he feels in those situations. We're learning as parents that we need to carefully plan outings with Jack and make sure that we talk to him about where we're going, what will be going on there, if it'll be loud or not, if there will be a lot of people etc. Doing this ahead of time can make all the difference in our day. Sometimes, he'll still "lose it", but that may be because he's tired as well.

Jack is also VERY schedule driven. This is common with autism and he appears to fit right into that mold of having to know what's coming next, when, how long. It's a difficult task to plan your days as structured as Jack needs them. There's a fine line between planning every minute of his day, vs. trying to teach him that schedules can sometimes change, or things might be different and that it's OK. We're adapting, and so is Jack.

Another big area that Jack struggles with is transitioning from one thing to the next. Sure, any kid that has to stop playing with toys or stop doing something they're enjoying to do something else will not like it. With Autism, this can be magnified to an extreme in any transition no matter how big or small. Jack occasionally struggles with processing these transitions whether big or small. Sometimes it can be as simple as pulling the car into the garage and going inside. We'll pull in, open the doors, unbuckle him etc and he's simply not ready, or hasn't processed yet that it's time to come inside. We've left him in the car on several occasions and he's done well with coming in on his own after a few minutes.

We have some crazy months coming ahead of us; For about the last year to year and a half, Jack's sleep has gone really down hill. He is up and out of his room multiple times 99% of nights. Sometimes, it'll be just 2-3 times a night that he'll wake up and need us to put him back to sleep, but it can be as many as 10-12 times a night. Regardless of how many times, he is up for the day at or before 5am. We've tried consistently putting him to bed later, say after 8:30-9PM, but that doesn't change anything. He still wakes multiple times and is up and ready to go by 5am. We initially inquired about this with his pediatrician and received the "maybe he doesn't need that much sleep" speech. After a couple times of mentioning sleep issues, it was suggested that we try melatonin for him. Melatonin is an over the counter regulator of serotonin. This would help Jack fall asleep quickly, but even with doses over 3mg, he wouldn't sleep consistently, or any later than 5am. Finally after a year of asking about it, his doctor put in a referral for a "sleep study" at MayoClinic in Rochester, MN.

This sleep study just occurred overnight on 2.9.2k10. Getting any child hooked up to more than 30 EEG sensors would be difficult, but factor in Autism and it's that much tougher. The AMAZING part of getting hooked up was that Jack was a TROOPER. His anxiety was obviously elevated, but he did a great job of letting them put sensors/glue/tape all over his head, legs, face, chin etc. He's one tough dude! I probably would've pitched a bigger fit than he did. Only one of us was allowed to stay overnight with him, and Stephanie decided she would do it. She is so amazing with Jack. Patience, compassion, kindness...you name it, she's all over it.

The morning after his sleep study was the follow up with the sleep doctor(s). This was probably the hardest morning we've had..even more so than hearing "Your son has Autism". We met with the doctors and in the beginning it was seeming like everything was good. Jack's oxygen while sleeping was good, heart rate was great, sleep/wake cycles are fine. The answer we got about why he might not sleep that well wasn't what we were expecting. They believe it may be due in large part to an attachment issue & Jack being so anxious all the time. Jack has ALWAYS slept in his own crib, bed etc, but they think that due to his anxiety levels, he may hit a "wake cycle" and get worried that we're not here or something, so then he has to come downstairs, realize that we're there, get put back to bed, and go back to sleep for a another couple hours or so. Repeat this process until 5am and then it's time to get up for the day.

It's what came after that explanation that totally threw us off. The doctor explained that Jack has an exceptional amount of brain "misfires" while he is sleeping. This occurs on the left side of his brain and was very frequent while sleeping. Then, it hurt more..the word seizure came out of the doctors mouth. She said the type of activity he's having in his brain while sleeping is prone/related to seizures. She advised that while he didn't have a seizure during the sleep study, it's likely that he's had several seizures of a non-clinical variety..meaning that we may never see them happening, and that he isn't convulsing etc, but that there is something going on that needs addressed. Immediately, it clicked with me that we've probably witnessed our son having a seizure on several occasions. Jack has these periods of 30 seconds to 1 minute where no matter what we do, we can't get his attention. He'll just sort of sit there, starting off into space and nothing seems to rouse him from that. Then, all of a sudden we'll get his attention and he's back to his usual self. Seizure? Who knows...but we're determined to find out!

It was with that, we learned that within the next month, he'll be having an MRI of his brain focusing on seizure something or other, and for that he would need to be put to sleep because it can take about an hour for a child to go through the process, and he would NEVER lay that STILL for THAT LONG. He also has to have another EEG, but this time it'll be while he's awake, not sleeping. Hopefully he does just as well this time with getting all the sensors hooked up. Once those appointments are done, we'll meet with a neurologist to review results and go from there.

In the meantime, we moved Jack's bedroom back downstairs next to our room, and will be on our toes even more now watching for any signs that something is wrong.

All of these struggles and trials aside, he is one amazing child, and is truly a gift to us. Through his Preschool, speech and occupational therapy, we're learning a lot about who he is. We're learning to work with him, and help him communicate his needs and true feelings to us. It's a long road, but we wouldn't trade it for anything.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Eye Update

Yesterday Jack had an appointment with a new ophthalmologist for a surgery consultation. The doctor agreed that he is a good candidate for eye muscle surgery. Now all we have to do is call the surgery scheduler and arrange a date for Jack to have the surgery. He said that they usually schedule a few weeks out. The ophthalmologists office is located right next to a Children's Hospital, so that is where they will be doing the surgery. He said the procedure takes about 40 minutes and recovery is fairly easy. He was very good about explaining the procedure to me - they even got someone to take Jack out of the room and play with him so I could have an uninterrupted conversation with the doctor. That was really nice!

He will still need glasses after surgery, but there is a good possibility that he won't need bifocals anymore. There is also the possibility that we will still need to do some type of patching after surgery if his vision isn't good enough. For some reason yesterday, he didn't do well on the vision test (reading the letters) for his left eye (the "bad" eye). I've seen him do better - so I don't know what was going on yesterday. So hopefully his vision is good enough that he won't need patching after surgery. However, he does need patching done starting now until surgery - at least 2 hours a day. That isn't too bad. His old fleece patch (seen here ) doesn't fit his glasses anymore, so we'll have to use the adhesive ones for a few weeks. Ick.

I will update when we know more about the surgery date - and of course I'll update after surgery!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

This Wasn't In The Parenting Books...

I almost don't know how to say this.

Every time I write something down, it just doesn't sound right.

It sounds a little bit crazy.

Far-fetched, if you will.

Like, I never-in-a-million-years thought I would be saying something like this.

So, I will just say it.

Are you ready?

My son ate a light bulb.

No kidding. The kid BIT, CHEWED, and SWALLOWED the glass part of a nightlight light bulb. Want the whole story? If so, keep reading.

Jack has "quiet time" every day after lunch. This has replaced nap time. He usually stays up there for an hour or so. It gives us both some down-time and is a nice break in the day. (Who am I kidding...it's mostly for me.) So, yesterday, he was having quiet time in his room and Lonnie and I were downstairs watching TV. We heard Jack coming downstairs and figured he was just coming out to whine about some toy being broken or not wanting to stay up in his room. The first thing out of his mouth when he looks at me was, "That was icky." And he spit. Confused (because there isn't anything edible in his room), I asked him, "What was icky?" His reply?


Hmmmm? Come again? The nightlight was icky? Not exactly something you want to hear from a 4 year old boy.

I bolted upstairs to find his nightlight, in the outlet, with the bulb broken. The entire glass part of the bulb was broken off of the metal part of the bulb. When I saw this, I may or may not have muttered some very inappropriate words in front of my 4 year old. I quickly scanned the area and picked up the shards of glass that I saw on the floor, unplugged the nightlight and ran downstairs. I told Lonnie "We're going to the hospital."

Before we left for the hospital, we sat down with Jack for a second and asked him what exactly happened with the nightlight. His responses -

"I put it in my mouth."

"It tasted icky."

"I chewed it, like this."

"I swallowed it, like this."

We asked him 20 times if he swallowed it, and his response was consistently YES. So, off we went to the ER.

We walked up to the ER desk and they asked why we were there. "Um, well, my son, you see, he, um, bit and chewed and swallowed the glass part of a light bulb." I'm sure my face was bright red. It's a bit embarrassing to admit that your child has just swallowed glass when you weren't watching him. Both of the receptionists gasped. You know that's not a good sign.

We got back to triage and got a room really quickly (the ER happened to be very slow - something I was praying for while we were driving there!) and saw the doctor. They took x-rays of Jack's neck, chest, and stomach. And the results were - nothing. They didn't see anything. Which is great. They probably wouldn't be able to see just glass anyway, but the doctor wanted to make sure that there wasn't anything else stuck in there (since obviously our kid has a thing for putting stuff in his mouth). The doctor thoroughly checked his mouth and gums and teeth and didn't see any cuts or blood or glass. Now, we just watch him and make sure blood doesn't start coming out of places it's not supposed to, or that he doesn't get a fever or start throwing up.

When we came home, I looked more thoroughly in Jack's room for glass pieces and I found quite a few more little tiny pieces on his carpet. One of them had blood on it. Good grief.

Apparently it's time for us to provide Jack with more APPROPRIATE things to stick in his mouth. We know he has a lot of sensory input needs for his mouth, we just never thought he would resort to a light bulb.

So...needless to say...Jack no longer has a nightlight. All of his outlets have plugs in them. He had several conversations with us and the doctor about only putting food in his mouth.

Yesterday was exhausting! Here's a picture of the infamous nightlight. Sorry it's fuzzy, it was taken with Lonnie's phone and we were heading out the door to the hospital.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

10 in '10 - Week 3

So, just completed week 3 of the "10 in '10" Challenge. I am officially down 6.5 lbs! Not much, but pretty good considering I haven't made any MAJOR changes. Oh, and I have lost 1" off of my waist! I am exercising almost every day (at least 5 times/week) and making healthier eating choices. I decided to not completely rule out sugar, but to have it in moderation. I've been doing much better with this approach. It seems that as soon as I make something a "no" food, I crave it and think about it and dwell on it and obsess over it. And then I end up overeating it! I've just been trying to have smaller portions, eat more fiber and protein, less white bread-type things, and very few sweets. For exercise I've been doing Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred DVD. Whew! She really kicks my booty. I am on Day 6 and am already noticing a difference in my stamina and what I can complete during the workout. Very encouraging! It's much easier to stick with exercising and healthy eating once you start seeing results.

Eventually, I would like to sit down and write my story of weight gain and struggles with losing it and where I am in my journey now. I just don't have time right now!

For now, I am very happy with the way things are going and am confident that I will reach my goal of 50 by 30!!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Just had to share...

I read this blog post this morning and it brought tears to my eyes. I can't tell you how many times we've gone to a public restroom and Jack has "freaked out" because the toilets have automatic flushers or someone else flushes unexpectedly. He always walks into a bathroom with his hands over his ears.


Saturday, January 9, 2010


Maybe that will be my word of the year.

Gained 1.5 lbs. during week one of my "10 in 10" Challenge.

I still worked out this morning. I still ate healthy. I am still (trying very very hard to be) committed.