The Reason I Jump

November 11, 2013

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OHMYGOODNESSHAVEYOUREADTHISYET???

Well, ok.  Let me slow down.  If you love someone with autism have you read this yet?  Granted, this book will not interest everyone, but if you love someone with autism, YOU WILL LOVE THIS BOOK.

I call it the Autism Bible.  It’s that amazing.

Written by a 13 year non-verbal autistic boy, he answers all the questions people wonder about kids with autism.  By using an alphabet grid to write out his thoughts, he answers questions like “Why do you ask the same questions over and over?” “Why can’t you have a proper conversation?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?”  “Do you prefer to be alone?”  “What causes panic attacks and meltdowns?”  “Why do you obsess over certain things?”

I read this book in a day and cried all the way through it.  It explains SO much the quirks of Gavin.

Some of Naoki’s answers saddened me.  Here’s his answer when someone asked if he preferred to be alone: “The truth is, we’d love to be with other people.  But because things never, ever go right, we end up getting used to being alone, without even noticing this is happening.  Whenever I overhear someone remark how much I prefer being on my own, it makes me feel desperately lonely.  It’s as if they’re deliberately giving me the cold-shoulder treatment.”

Gavin OFTEN plays by himself.  I always thought he preferred this and that he was too overwhelmed to play with others.  Turns out I was greatly mistaken.

In another section of the book he answers the question as to why people with autism don’t make eye contact.  He says, “Then where exactly am I looking?  You might well suppose that we’re just looking down, or at the general background.  But you’d be wrong.  What we’re actually looking at is the other person’s voice.  Voices may not be visible things, but we’re trying to listen to the other person with all of our sense organs.  When we’re fully focused on working out what the heck it is you’re saying, our sense of sight sort of zones out.  If you can’t make out what you’re seeing, it’s the same as not seeing anything at all.” 

This book is beautiful.  It has opened a door into Gavin’s world that I have never opened before.  I now understand why he gets so emotional for what I thought was no reason.  I understand why he loves to hike and be out in nature.  I understand why he takes so long to complete a task.  I understand why he repeats himself over and over.  I understand why he does things after he’s been told a million times not to.  I understand why he can’t have a proper conversation.  And the list goes on.

It feels as though some of the weight of this autism burden has been lifted from my shoulders.

My eyes have been opened and I love what I see.

(A million thanks to Marcie for dropping this book off on my doorstep last week and changing my world!)

9

November 6, 2013

So I’m officially a month and a day late on this post.  Sorry Gav!

Happy (extremely belated) birthday to the boy that made me a mother.  To the boy who has been walking around with my heart for nine years.  To the boy who has faced so many challenges and has risen above them.  To the boy who never questions why he has to do the things he does.  To the boy who has to work harder than the rest of us to make sense of this world.  To the boy who is amazing, talented, funny, smart, and sweet.  To the boy who is still locked up inside trying to find his voice. 

I love you Gavin Walker.  You are my hero.

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Firsts

September 8, 2013

Whew! It was a big week around here last week.

Tuesday: the boys started soccer.  This is Liam’s 3rd year, Gav’s 2nd and Tate’s 1st.  Let’s just say there were some tears near the end of practice because it was close to bed time and he was “just SOOOOO tired.”

We also started home school today.  I was planning to wait until Tate started on Thursday, but Gavin was very anxious to start.  We have a ton of great curriculum this year and I think it’s going to be more fun than work!

Wednesday: I turned 35. GAH!!  How did THAT happen? And let me tell you, I got 3 hours of sleep the night before (stupid crazy brain) and I felt 85 all day. It was awful.

Thursday: Tate started pre-school.   Again, tears when he got in the car because he forgot his “extra clothes” (for accidents) in his locker (they were supposed to stay there).  And he was just SOOO tired.

Friday: Gavin started home school co-op.  This is a great group of about 30 families and what seems to be a million kids.  They meet once a week for art, music, PE and various unit studies.  He had a blast but we were exhausted when we got home!

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And this little guy joined our family on Tuesday.  Meet Jack Black.

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This summer we pet-sat Liam’s teacher’s mini-rex and fell in love.  They are super sweet and oh so soft.  I personally like them because they don’t smell, make noise, track in muddy footprints, etc, etc.  (ie: they’re not dogs……or cats for that matter).

Jack is 4 weeks old and is already well on his way to being litter trained.  He’s quickly gotten used to the kids manhandling him AND all the noise around here.

Every night I sit on the couch and cuddle with him while I watch tv.  He nuzzles up under my chin and snuggles.  And when we’ve been gone for a while, he gets really excited to see us when we come home.   I think he’s going to be a great pet!

(And in case you’re wondering, Thunderbolt, the three-legged frog died.  He lived a whopping 3 weeks at our house.  Personally I’m glad I can be done catching flies and buying crickets. Gross.)

I Just Need to Stop

August 23, 2013

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My new favorite.  Originally published in 1912 yet it is still SO relevant today.  This is education how it should be.  I firmly believe children would be more successful in the classroom (and life) if they were taught this way.  This style of teaching allows the student to learn and do for themselves while the teacher guides and directs. 

Don’t we all learn better by doing?  I have yet to meet a person who would disagree with this statement.  Sure maybe we’ll get it eventually, but don’t things “click” faster when you physically have to do it for yourself?  That’s the beauty of Montessori.  It’s ALL hands on.

It’s funny people’s reactions when they hear the word “Montessori”.  We immediately get asked if Liam just does his own thing at school all day.  It’s really quite the opposite.  There’s a great misconception with the Montessori method where people think the kids do whatever they want at school.  To some degree the students are allowed to choose the subject to work on, but the teacher gives the child the lesson on how to use the materials and there are levels to be mastered and approved by teacher before moving on.  Mastery is key.  And that is completely opposite of the way things are run in a traditional classroom.  The subjects and lessons are taught according to calendar and the teacher moves on whether or not the student has fully mastered the concept.  Which is why so many kids are falling miserably behind.  Traditional schools as a whole are not set up for each child to learn at his/her own pace.  Students are required to learn at the teacher’s pace, which many cannot do. 

One concept in the book that hit me hard was the fact that we as mothers DO too much for our children.  It’s much easier to do things ourselves for them instead of watch them struggle or possibly fail at a task.  In reality we are hurting them when we do this.  “The child who does not do, does not know how to do.”  Yikes.  It’s true and I’m oh so guilty of just doing something for one of my kids because  I can do it faster or I don’t want to mess with a mess.   Especially raising boys I want to make sure they grow into men who can and will help around the house.  I want them to know how to do laundry, cook, iron, clean (as well as all the “guy stuff” that their dad will teach them). 

With Gavin having delays, it’s always been easier to just do things for him because he couldn’t, and now he’s gotten use to it, and that’s a dangerous place to be. He just assumes I will tie his shoes, help him with his buttons, etc.  There is a severe lack in trying to do things for himself and I am to blame.  It takes a total mental shift to stop doing and make him do.  Make them ALL do. Even if it’s really hard.  Even if they balk and complain.  Even if messes will be made.  They need to know HOW to do.  There’s great joy and accomplishment in doing things for themselves.  Who am I to stand in their way?

 

Methods

August 20, 2013

School is upon us.  While summer flew by, I had in the back of my mind that I still needed curriculum for Gavin for this fall (we are home schooling again).  And of course I was completely overwhelmed and unsure, so I put it off.  That’s a terrible thing to do and I do it often when overwhelmed.  And then I become more overwhelmed and panicky because I am not prepared.  It’s a vicious cycle…..one that wakes me up in the middle of the night.

And then it hit me(or I should say, God hit me, for I had been praying about curriculum for a while).  Why not Montessori?  Liam has been in the Montessori classroom for the past two years and it has been fantastic.  The hands-on, student paced learning style is exactly what Gavin needs.  He is definitely a visual, “do-it” learner and obviously the sitting at a desk having someone talk at you for 7 hours a day didn’t work.

Me being the Type-A perfectionist immediately started worrying about Montessori teaching.  The concepts are COMPLETELY different and ones that I have not been taught.  Thank goodness for the internet.  There are blogs upon blogs with wonderful resources and tips.  I even stumbled across a Montessori teacher who has put her curriculum online!

And check out what came in the mail last week:

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Look at all those manipulatives!  And this is just for math!

Through these Montessori web sites, I’ve found links to great materials and those have slowly been coming in the mail.  Gav says it feels like Christmas because he gets a new package almost every day.

We are both SO excited for this year.  What a change from last year where we had no idea what we were doing!  Granted, I still feel really overwhelmed teaching the Montessori method but I have so many great resources and aids at my finger tips.

All I know is that Gav learns best by doing and that’s just what we’re going to do this year.

Outdoorsy

August 13, 2013

I like to think I’m outdoorsy, as in I don’t mind being outside….but I don’t really think I’m the camping type.   But what does a family of six, four of those being of the male persuasion, like to do?  They like to be outside.  And hike.  And fish.  And swim in lake water.  And camp.  So we did just that this past weekend. 

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It’s important to drink lots of coffee on a camping trip because you won’t sleep hardly AT ALL due to all the other people, raccoons, and a certain tiny person sprawled on top of you.

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This certain tiny person didn’t drink enough coffee because she fell asleep while hiking.  That made for some really sore arms for me the next day!

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Stair-step cousins (It was  SO nice having them along!  They kept the kids happy and entertained the entire weekend).

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It was nice to take time to stop and smell the roses….er flowers,

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to wander about aimlessly,

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to rest,

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and eat.

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This boy will tell you that the best part about camping is the S’mores.  And I totally agree.

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So does Sloane.

We also added a new member to our family…..Thunderbolt the three-legged frog.  He’s on Day 4 of living in captivity.  Fingers crossed we can keep him alive!

Here’s to another great camping adventure under our belts.  Sloane had an easier time then when we did this in June.  She’s getting the hang of it now.  Kudos to Josh who planned, packed, purchased, cooked, and wrangled kids the entire trip so my camping experience could be that much better.  And I have to admit…..it was pretty fun!

 

 

4.

July 29, 2013

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This guy turned 4 on the 23rd.  Amazing. Tate is the life of the party (obviously) everywhere he goes.  He’s loud, stubborn, hilarious, stubborn, sweet, and stubborn.  He starts school in a little over a month.  That should be SO good for him….at least I’m hoping it will be.  I’m fearful he may be the class clown and end up in the principal’s office on a regular basis.   He also is having surgery next week to aid in his loudness problem.  Turns out the guy has ears full of fluid and needs tubes and his adenoids out.  He’s very proud of the fact that he gets to have surgery and no one else gets to.  Pretty sure he’s going to be stinkin hilarious under general anesthesia.  I might be the only mom in pre-op with a video camera. 😉

 Cheers to you, Tate! Happy Birthday little dude!

Summer Sanity

June 21, 2013

For some reason, the month or so leading up to this summer had me shakin in my boots.  Home alone ALL DAY with 4 little people.  I don’t really know why I was so afraid.  I did it last year and Sloane was much more needy then.  Maybe it’s the fact that I feel like everyone’s been a bit more fighty lately, or that while Sloane was that much more needy last year, she’s just that much more loud and demanding of attention this year.  I don’t know, but I knew I had to have a plan.

Side note: 3 hours after Liam’s last day of school, he was laying on the couch lamenting how bored he was.  Definitely NOT a good way to start off the summer!

I grabbed a calendar and scheduled something fun/different to do each and every day.  From pinterest projects to play dates to road trips, we’ve got something to look forward to each day.

And the most important thing I did for a sanity saver this summer was make a daily schedule.  Now while I wish we could just bum around and do whatever whenever, my family doesn’t work very well under that environment.  They like structure and to know there’s a plan for the day (I wonder where they get that?)  If they know what’s expected of them and what the plan is, they’re far less likely to just mope around the house bored……..or fight.  With Sloanie still napping in the afternoon, we schedule our fun stuff pre lunch, then they know that after lunch is outside, quiet, reading, or screen time (depending on the hour).

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I also made these handy little “token” jars.  If the boys do their chores, obey the first time, get along, etc, etc, then they get tokens to fill up their jars. (Tokens also get taken away for whining, fighting, complaining, etc).  At the end of 2 weeks, they get to cash in their tokens for prizes or a fun activity.   So far these babies have worked great.  It’s kept the fighting mostly at bay and if someone’s having a rough time all I have to do is remind them of the tokens and they shape right up.  It’s turning into a little friendly competition which always helps!

And my favorite sanity saver so far this summer has been The Fresh 20.  Have you heard of it?  OH MAH WORRRRD.  Amazing!! 20 ingredients, 5 meals for the week, a shopping list and absolutely no processed food.  How easy is that?   (For those of you who know me well know I loathe cooking.  I wish I didn’t, but it’s something I detest EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.)

So now all I have to do is print out my recipes and shopping list for the week, and each morning I just turn the page to see what’s on the menu for dinner and possibly do minimal prep work to make the dinnertime process faster.  We’ve loved each meal, and the recipes are easy to follow and quick to make.  I’ve actually enjoyed cooking these past 3 weeks.  We’re eating healthier and feeling better. Check it out, you definitely won’t be disappointed! (And even better, she also has gluten-free and vegetarian meal plans to make it easier for those with special diets!)

Motherhood

May 12, 2013

Before I was a Mom
I slept as late as I wanted and never worried about how late I got into bed.
I brushed my hair and my teeth everyday.

Before I was a Mom
I cleaned my house each day.
I never tripped over toys or forgot words to a lullaby.
I didn’t worry whether or not my plants were poisonous.
I never thought about immunizations.

Before I was a Mom
I had never been puked on.
Pooped on.
Spit on.
Chewed on.
Pottied on.
I had complete control of my mind and my thoughts.
I slept all night.

Before I was a Mom
I never held down a screaming child so that doctors could do tests. Or give shots.
I never looked into teary eyes and cried.
I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.
I never sat up late hours at night watching a baby sleep.

Before I was a Mom
I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn’t want to put it down.
I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn’t stop the hurt.
I never knew that something so small could affect my life so much.
I never knew that I could love someone so much.

Before I was a Mom
I didn’t know the feeling of having my heart outside my body.
I didn’t know how special it could feel to feed a hungry baby.
I didn’t know that bond between a mother and her child.
I didn’t know that something so small could make me feel so important and happy.

Before I was a Mom
I had never gotten up in the middle of the night every 10 minutes to make sure all was okay.
I had never known the warmth, the joy, the love, the heartache, the wonderment, or the satisfaction of being a Mom.
I didn’t know I was capable of feeling so much love or so much pain before I was a Mom.
I never knew I would love being a Mom.
— Author unknown

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers in my life, young and old.  You are amazing. 

 

Gavin had his 4 hour diagnostic evaluation at ChildServe last Friday and it went very well.  There were so many factors that could have made it a difficult day (who wants to sit and be tested for four hours??)  But he was happy, alert, “on”, and throughout the test he kept exclaiming, “This is SO fun!” And he totally meant it.

I have to give huge props to his tutors at Educational Resources for all their work over the past year and a half.  The test he took Friday mirrored the activities he has been doing there for the past several months.  He did well because he was confident in his abilities and we have them to thank.

The official report won’t be back for a few months, but I was able to meet with the psychologist and therapist who tested him and their initial findings are that he will keep his PDD (pervasive developmental disorder) diagnosis for now.  They believe strongly that he has a language processing issue and that is something totally “fixable.”  His brain is wired differently, but through various therapies it can be “re-wired”, so to speak.  Ultimately, that means more therapy time which makes me slightly crazy (only because I feel like we spend so much time there as it is), but I know it’s best so we’ll do it.  Obviously.

We also have decided to home school again this fall.  Gavin did fantastic and I finally (now that it’s May!) feel like I have a better understanding of what works and doesn’t.  This past January we had applied to open-enroll him in one of the online schools that is offered in our state but we were denied access by Des Moines Public Schools.  We’re not allowed to leave the district….unless we move.  It’s so awesome that the state gets to determine where I send my child.  I thought we lived in a free country, but I guess I was mistaken………Man, don’t get me started.

And for anyone interested, Josh will be on WHO Radio (1040 AM) at 9AM tomorrow with Judy Hintz, owner of Educational Resources (who also feels very strongly about the way education is failing our children).  Should be some interesting conversation!