One of the biggest changes in my life since becoming a mom to “special needs” children is that I am constantly thankful for some of the most mundane things. I know we’re taught to be thankful for everything because there are so many people out there who don’t have as much stuff/love/success/intelligence/family, etc. The truth is, though, that we humans do take so much for granted. I was one of those people. Sometimes I still am. But, when it comes to being thankful and grateful for my children’s progress and growth?! I take very little for granted.
Like many other children, our boys had Wednesday through Sunday off from school. Our routines were blown out of the water. To say that we didn’t have some struggles is to put it lightly. We went to bed later, slept in (ok, Hubz and I tried to sleep in), ate at different times, ate different foods. We put away typical house decor and swapped it for Christmas themed items. I kept going out to “run errands” during peak shopping times. Jake and Tate were totally out of sorts. Cole also spun around in a daze, but that may have been due to his surreptitious snacks of leftover cookies from Grandma. So, with all of the chaos and non-routine that our boys faced over the past five days, they actually did some pretty amazing tasks…and I know it was hard. BUT THEY DID IT!
On Thanksgiving, Tate struggled greatly at my in-laws house. There were 11 of us in one place. His brothers and 10-year-old cousin were very loud. They were playing legos and watching tv. There was excited chatter about the next holiday we’d be celebrating together. Tate was getting anxious. It is hard for him to keep up with all of the others. While the boys were being loud, Tate asked my mother-in-law if he could play with the sink in the kitchen. He asked. Politely. And in a complete sentence. With the word, “please”. She allowed him to play, and he relaxed immediately. After about 15 minutes of sink time, we told him it was time to be done. He turned off the faucet without issue, and rejoined his cousins.
A bit later, we noticed that Cole, Jake and Cuz were getting loud again. And they were wrestling. Tate was engaging in a little potty talk, which often means he’s on edge. My 9 year-old niece decided she’d had enough of the boys’ tom-foolery, so she constructed a little fort for herself with blankets and pillows. Tate, who had stripped down to his underpants, wanted to join her in the sensory-deprivation tent. We worked out a bargain. He could join Cuzzie, but he had to put his clothes back on. That is the fastest I have ever seen Tate get his clothing on by himself!! Once he was fully clothed again, Cuzzie and Tate hung out in the tent. It was perfect. Perfect that he was able to figure out what worked to keep himself regulated. Perfect that Cuzzie was aware enough to understand he needed that quiet space too. Perfect that the other boys didn’t bother them while they were in their tent.
On Friday we had every intention of decorating for Christmas. However, certain sales beckoned. I went to do some shopping. Hubz went to help his parents pick up a new tv they had purchased on super-sale. The boys hung out at home with Grandma. When I returned, we decided that Jake and Cole would go with Hubz and his parents back to Hubz’s parents’ house, because Tate had speech therapy. 10 minutes after they left, the speech therapist called–the therapy center was without power. The high winds had knocked it out. She had to cancel. Suddenly, Tate and I were left with a 2 hour window to ourselves. I decided to take him to Culvers for a lunch date.
As I pulled into the parking lot, and into a spot, Tate protested. “No, Mommy. We get it and take it home. Go the other way.” I told him that I wanted to take him out for lunch, and that I’d like to sit in the restaurant. He hesitated, and then conceded to going inside. “I have to use the potty, Mommy.” It was a deal. We ordered our usual meals. I can be so like my children…I like the same thing from Culvers. I very rarely differ in my order. I ordered Tate his grilled cheese and french fries “Scoopie Meal” and got him a pink lemonade. I also ordered a side of cheese curds for him.
My facebook post from Friday, “Mommy and Tate date at Culver’s. Complete with cheese curds and spinning fans. My boy is in heaven!”. I posted a cute picture of Tate ripping apart his grilled cheese. He was so excited–he found a table directly under a ceiling fan, and had an excellent view of the other 3 spinning fans in the restaurant. We went early enough that the Black Friday shoppers were still busy, so it wasn’t very crowded. He and I had a great meal, and even a little bit of conversation, which was icing on the cake. He told me (spontaneously) that the grilled cheese made him feel happy. Identification of emotion AND spontaneous speech?! I couldn’t have been happier!!!!
Friday night was relatively low key. Hubz pulled some of the Christmas decorations out from the crawl space. I put away all of the Thanksgiving and Autumn items that were around the house. We brought the tree and the ornaments upstairs to the living room. The boys seemed, at first, excited about the tree. Then Hubz put it up. I think that all NINE FEET of our artificial tree standing front and center in our living room was too much. Jake escaped into the family room to play his Skylanders Giants game. Tate followed, as he has an obsession with our Wii remotes/nunchucks. Tate doesn’t necessarily want to play the game, but he’ll be damned if anyone else gets to play the 2nd person. It can be very exasperating. Hubz and I stood staring at each other over the bin of ornaments. We decided to “trim the tree” at a later time–and joined the revelry in the family room.
Saturday morning Hubz and Jake went to go be a part of “Feed My Hungry Children”. They were there for two hours. It was a lot to ask Jake to prep food for starving children in another country. It is a bit of an abstract thought. However, he did it, willingly. He also did quite well with the packaging, according to one of the scouting moms. I was proud of him for being able to organize and plan all of that! Jake was eager to donate a $1.00 to the cause, as well. And it was from his own piggy bank. (See, when we framed it in a way he could understand, ie, some kids cannot afford cheeze-its, let alone bread, he was happy to give some money so another kid his age could get cheeze-its somewhere!) I’ve said it a thousand times over, but Jake has a heart of gold. He’s such a good kid.
Later that day, we headed out to my sister’s house to celebrate with my family. We started a “meatloaf dinner” tradition years ago when Hubz and I would go visit his family for the actual Thanksgiving holiday. It is one we have kept over the years, and it is fun. My sister, Auntie K, and her husband, Uncle J, hosted. They are always so considerate and prepare some food items that they know our boys will like. They also made sure to have plenty of lemonade on hand for the boys!!
Tate did pretty well up until all of the family was in the house…including my youngest sister, her husband, and their baby. With all 12 of us in there, it got loud and more chaotic. The baby was fussy. Cole was trying to play with his baby cousin as if he were also 3 years old. It was kind of scary. Tate needed an out. He asked (without prompting) if he could watch my sister’s front-loading washer and dryer. They saved a load of laundry for Tate, and he spent a good 40 minutes watching the load go from washer to dryer. He didn’t lose his shtuff once.
As the adults cleaned up the table, Tate helped rinse the dishes. It allowed him to “play” with water, and he even conversed with us as we asked him to help out. Jake commandeered the television. I don’t think that much SpongeBob should be seen by any one person in one day…but it helped him keep it together, so we allowed it. He even talked to his aunts and uncles about the show, and other various topics, while the show was on. He also willingly came to the dinner table and ate a decent dinner, so I couldn’t complain about that. My boys are growing up!!!
Yesterday we made it our mission to decorate the tree. We had all three boys help out. In our house, each child receives a new ornament every year. There is some story behind the ornaments, too. As we put up ornaments, we often talk about which year, why we bought them, who they were for, etc, etc, etc. The boys tolerated that for about 3 ornaments before each one was claiming that the ornament they were holding was their own. Hubz and I just went with it and eventually we got the tree completely decorated. It is surprising how quickly a tree gets trimmed when five people are doing the job.
This year, Tate was interested in more than just his favorite ornaments. He put other ones on the tree. He engaged in conversation with Hubz and me about his favorite ornaments, too. Jake told stories about the ornaments he remembered. (He has quite a memory, that one.) Cole staked claim to all of them, and declared that everything was from Target (it wasn’t), but that’s ok. We had quite a good time, and even though the decorating of the tree really made me miss my mom (we had a similar tradition at my house when I was a child), watching my boys grow and participate like they were was inspiring. I couldn’t stay down with all of that excitement surrounding me.
Our weekend was chaotic, and haphazard, and full of family, food, and love. It is amazing to look at where we are today, versus where we were just a year ago. The boys maturity and genuine interest in the traditions and festivities gives me hope for what our future holds. For all of that, the little moments…and the big ones…I am ever grateful. We are truly blessed.