A family's story

Posts tagged ‘Things that make me happy’


I am fighting the cold that my beautiful boys decided to share with me. We are all sniffle-y, cough-y, and cold-induced fog-y around here. As we prep for our spring break, I have numerous topics rambling through my head. Figured I’d try to get them out here.

1. We have three boys. Three amazingly gifted and talented boys. Ironically, when I tell people that I have three boys, almost everyone jumps to the conclusion, “Oh, you have your hands full.” Well, yes, I do…but don’t we all? We are all busy and trying to balance schedules and trying to find the perfect alignment of boundaries, expectations, and abilities. I usually answer, “Yes, but I’m sure you have a lot going on, too.”

2. Along with the having three boys thing, I am often asked which sports they enjoy. I know it is a gender stereotype. Boys love sports. When we found out Jake was a boy, Hubz was anxious to share his love of football and college basketball and his moderate knowledge of baseball with him. Jake is probably as interested in sports as I am in scuba diving. That is to say, we know they exist, and we’d prefer to not have to do them. Aside from swimming, which Jake finds to be calming and relaxing, he doesn’t have much need for sports. He doesn’t even really like watching them. At first, I was a little upset by this because, well, I love to watch sports. I am not very athletic, so I understand not wanting to play…but not wanting to watch?! What? But, it’s all good. I know he has his own passions and interests, and I try to help him enjoy such things.

3. This leads me to the next thought. I just signed Jake up for a Saturday morning zookeeper class. He is going to L-O-V-E, LOVE it!! He’ll be squeaky and flappy and jumpy and oh-so-engaged. And to see him be happy makes me happy. I am thrilled that we found a program relatively nearby that encourages kids to take an active role in nurturing animals and caring for them. I truly believe that we may have a future zookeeper in our midst. Now he can see what it feels like to be one!!!!

4. Tate is my hero. I know I’ve said it before, but I just had to put it out there again. This kid. Where do I start….he tackles all of his obstacles (even when he’s not feeling well) and finds ways to overcome some of the most frustrating situations. He is like a Goonie. He never says die. He just keeps plugging along. He has frustrations, he has regressions, and he has times when he just wants to do his thing, but knows he has to do homework or go to therapy…and he does it (with minimal grumbling). And, even when things are really, really hard for him and we think he is going to totally fall apart, he totally doesn’t. He pulls it together, uses those ever-growing language skills and tells us that he needs to get away from the overwhelming. Needs to have some squishes to help him feel better. Needs to sleep with us because he is not feeling well. Just amazeballs. He shows up every day, knows that things are not going to be easy, and he STILL has a smile on his face and a giggle waiting in reserves. I need to approach my “hard stuff” like he does.

5. Cole is becoming such a big typical-ish kid!!! In September this child would not tell us what any letters were, would not write his name, would not point out numbers, and he often needed help with getting undressed/dressed, etc. Now? He recognizes and knows the sounds of most of his letters, knows numbers up to 25, can rote count up to 15, is understanding basic addition, and often pretends he’s a superhero and changes his clothes and does his “taa-daa” reveal to show us how he gets changed out of one outfit and into another. He’s doing so well!

6. In the interest of fostering my kiddos’ passions, we are attempting to visit Legoland over Spring Break next week. Our local-ish Legoland isn’t very big, and incredibly over-priced, and I know that I’ll end up paying exorbitant amounts for a set of Legos as we leave through the gift shop, but I also know how much all of my boys (especially Cole) will love it. And to see the enjoyment on their faces will be worth the second mortgage on our house…almost. 🙂

7. We’ve already received positive feedback about Jake’s use of the iPad at school. Whoo-freakin’-hooo!!! Technology can do wonders…really. When harnessed appropriately, it can help the weakest students find some success. I am so glad that we tried this route. Now he can be just like his classmates…and he’s enjoying grade-level books!! (About animals, but still…he’s loving the reading and using his class time to engage in literature!)

8. Hubz and I are having a date night this Saturday. I am so excited. It’s been months since we last got out sans children. We are going to Cooper’s Hawk for some delicious food and some fantastic wine. We also plan on doing a little shopping for ourselves, and then possibly watching a movie. I’m grateful for Hubz’s parents, who really “get” that we need a break now and then and are willing to take the boys overnight. I also get a full night’s sleep out of this deal. There is no greater gift…I mean, really.

Well, I have more cycling through my head, but I have to jet. I have a barre burn class at our Y to get to…not sure if you’ve ever tried ballet-type exercises to tone your body. I really enjoy it. This instructor is kind of part Pilates/part ballet. I find it relaxing…but my muscles don’t. They hate me the next day…but it does seem to work. So, there’s that. Have a great weekend!!!

I never would have guessed…

During the boys’ first week of school, I got a text from my neighbor at about 8 pm on Wednesday night.

Ms. Neighbor #1: I’m thinking of walking before going to work in the mornings. Want to join me?

Me: Sure. When do you want to start?

MN#1: Tomorrow? 

Me: Sign me up! When?

MN#1: Sorry so early, but 5:45?

Me: I’ll likely be up anyway, so sure.

We walked that Thursday at 5:45. It was a good, fast, 30-minute walk. As much as I grumbled about getting up, it was nice to get out and get some exercise in before the chaos of the day began. We didn’t walk the next day, because she had to prep for going out of town. I did my usual exercise video. (I have been doing at least 5 days of exercise a week since July!!)

When MN#1 got back from her Labor Day weekend excursion, she texted me again, asking about walking regularly that week. She also asked if we could move it up, as she was running late after the 5:45 walk. I agreed. We walked for two mornings at 5:30, and then that Wednesday morning, as I snuck into the bathroom to get changed, I noticed I had a text. Two of her kids were sick, and she had been up all night. I was up and dressed, so I went for the walk by myself. At 5:30 in the morning. Yup. I did!

During the remainder of that week, I not only walked with her for a half hour before most of our neighborhood was awake, I came home and did my 30-Day Shred workout once the kids were in school. I felt pretty pumped. I mean, that was almost an hour of exercise a day, yo!

Last week I walked every day with my neighbor at 5:30. It was ridiculously hot for most of the week, so walking at 5:30 wasn’t so bad. I had meetings almost every day, so doing anything but my walk wasn’t possible. At least I got that in. I considered it a win.

This past Sunday I got a text in the afternoon. My neighbor had to be to work early on Monday and Tuesday, so she wasn’t going to be able to walk with me. Guess what? I set my alarm and got up those two mornings and walked all.by.myself. For serious. I checked with her last night. She said she wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be joining me today. So, I got up, even after being up a couple of times with a coughing Cole, and walked at 5:30 this morning. (While walking by myself, I may or may not have cut a minute off of my walking mile…it’s amazing what walking by one’s self in the dark will do to one’s pace! Oh..and I may have downloaded a flashlight app on my phone…you know, to keep an eye out for any unsavory predators….or skunks. Dang, there are a LOT of skunks out in the wee hours of the morning!!!)

A month ago if you had told me that I would willingly drag myself out of bed at 5:20 in order to exercise, I would have chuckled. That’s what nights were for. A year ago, I would have laughed at you maniacally. Now, though, I have realized how much better I feel after exercising. Even just that short amount of time helps. (Oh, and I have been able to get in some video, as well, this week.) I have more energy..and I am not nearly as achy or winded after playing with my kids. I just feel more…more balanced.

It feels good to get up and pound the pavement. I still am not the biggest fan of exercise. I don’t like “the burn”. Nor do I like “the sweat”. Holy gross. But. BUT. I do like feeling better in general…and not having as much muffin in my top. And seeing the scale dip instead of rise. Sooooo, I’ll keep on keeping on. And when it gets too cold to walk outside–and it will–I will drag my (not-so) flabby butt out of bed and do the treadmill. 

I truly never would have guessed that this would be my lifestyle….ever.

Editor’s Note: I do have a fabulous reinforcer for my behavior. 90% of the time, as I walk up my driveway, I see Tate’s smiling face peering out of our front window. His megawatt smile and “Hi, Mommy!!” make it all worth my while–even if I’m sweaty, gross, and feeling the burn.

Piece of Cake

So, I omitted one aspect of Father’s Day from my “Moments” post. It was a moment…but a not-so-little one.

This past Mother’s Day I really wanted an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. It had always kind of been a tradition with my mom. It was our “thing”. Now that she’s no longer here, Hubz has been pretty good about getting me that ice cream cake every year. He’s a good guy…that Hubz. This year, though, we had Hubz’s entire family over, and my mother-in-law offered to bring dessert. She wanted to make a cake for my sister-in-law’s birthday/Mother’s Day. I was happy to have her bake–she’s phenomenal at it. Her cake was exquisite, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. Or, well, needed.

On Sunday, I decided to get Hubz a Dairy Queen cake in honor of Father’s Day. I totally cop to the fact that this was much more for me than for him, but seriously, who does NOT LIKE DQ cake?! The ice cream? The fudge? The chocolate crunchies in the middle? It is, quite literally, as close to a slice of heaven as I’m gonna get.

When I brought it home, the boys’ eyes all shone with delight. They were super excited about our cake. Cole immediately figured it was for his birthday. Because, when you’re just-about-four-years-old, EVERYTHING is about your birthday. And it’s his birthday month. Jake and Tate ran up to me and took a long look. Jake read the phrase, “Happy Father’s Day”, and in his know-it-all tone, let Cole know that it was “For Dad, duh.” Tate saw the man mowing the lawn on the cake and declared that it was Daddy. Hubz cleared a spot in the deep freeze, and we counted the moments until cake time.

Hubz had requested chicken parm for his Father’s Day meal. We had to eat relatively early, as he had to catch a flight for his business trip. I got the food prepared, and we sat down to eat. Well, most of us, except for Tate. He kept saying he wasn’t hungry..and he was gonna be sick…which is a total script. *sigh* We let him roam–free range style–as we ate our dinner. Cole wouldn’t sit at the table either, preferring to do run-by bites of his pasta and chicken. There was too large of an opportunity to tattle on Tate to sit still and talk with us. So, Hubz, Jake and I had a nice conversation about the week, and what we were all going to be doing.

Once we were done eating, I started to clear the table. Jake was helping. Tate asked about the cake. He wanted to know when we’d be eating it. He started to squeak with anticipation. I told him that we would do that once everything was cleaned up. He nodded, and skipped away–flapping his hands ever-so-softly as he went down the hall.

Hubz grabbed the cake from the freezer. He set it on the counter to warm a bit, so that we wouldn’t have to chisel pieces off. Tate swooped in with a finger and got a big dab of frosting. “Mmm–de-wishous”. Jake helped get some forks out, and I grabbed the plates. Hubz started to cut slices of cake for the 5 of us.

“WAIT!!!”, shouted Tate. “We have to sing, “Happy Birthday!” Jake, ever the big brother, chimed in, “Tay-ate. It’s FATHER’S Day. NOT BIRTHDAY. Duh.” I asked Jake to check the attitude at the door. He muttered an apology, and then Hubz cut and distributed the cake. We all sat down to enjoy. As we started to take our bites of cake, Tate demanded that we all stop. He needed us to sing.

So, I started to sing “Happy Father’s Day to You” to Hubz. The boys all joined in. Tate sang with his entire body. His arms swung in the air. He twisted his torso to-and-fro. His head tilted from side-to-side. He was so into it. As we finished the song, Tate clapped and shouted “Yay!!!” Then he ate his cake…but not after swiping a little more frosting from Hubz’s slice.

As Tate did all of this, I couldn’t help but think back to his neuropsychological evaluation in March 2011. How my son, my precious fun-loving-son, cringed when the doctor sang “Happy Birthday”. How he cowered back into his chair, covering his ears. How when she prompted him to celebrate, he chose to grab the “cake server” and stim with it. How when she prompted him to say “Happy Birthday”, he laughed and giggled and started asking about grilled cheese from his favorite take-out place because it was all just too darn much for him.

I thought back to prior celebrations. How we’d have to sit in the other room, I’d cover his ears and hold him in a bear hug while others sang and cheered and celebrated with cake. How he’d whine and plead and beg for it to be done. How he just couldn’t handle having cake at any time because, God-forbid, there may be singing involved…and it was just too much.

So, even as I fret over his slight regression with speech/language lately, or his peer-to-peer social skills, or his proficiency with Reading Level B (and most First Graders are on J or whatever-the-frick-it-is), I can look at this moment. I can see the progress. I can beam with pride that my son, the one who never could be a part of celebrations that included cake in the past, could now LEAD THE FAMILY IN SONG to celebrate his daddy.

He made it look like a piece of cake…and well, I know that it has been anything but to get to this point. He works hard, that Tater Tot. And his hard work is paying off…in spades.

Full Time Job

I was talking to a neighbor yesterday, who was flabbergasted by the amount of work it takes to do my job. She was amazed by all of the calling, emailing, following up, driving around, and over all persistence towards achieving goals that I have to do to ensure that my kids get what they need. I know that I sometimes get judged by my neighbors (who work, at least part-time) because I’m just a stay-at-home-mom.

This is not a sit-on-the-couch-and-eat-bon-bons-and-read-PEOPLE-all-day job. Oh, no. I am the bug up therapy director’s behinds. I am emailing teachers and principals and therapists to discuss behaviors and progress (or lack thereof). I am checking calendars and squeezing in therapy and appointments as I can. I am managing several different disciplines and personalities every.single.day so that my kids can succeed in this world. On top of that, I do all of the regular stay-at-home-mom things like volunteer at the school, help the PTO, manage a household, and try to hold on to some semblance of myself.

While I’ve been a full time stay-at-home-mom, I have really begun to appreciate all of the skills I learned while working outside of the home. The organizational skills it takes to keep my house afloat are amazing. Then there’s the multi-tasking that is necessary while I do laundry, clean up kid messes, put away breakfast dishes, and pay bills. I’m also a negotiator, mediator, therapist, triage nurse, and short order cook. I have to deal with all different groups of people and plan accordingly. I am a task-master, a problem-solver, a teacher and a trainer and an event planner.  I make sure I stay relatively within my budget, and I deliver results to my stakeholders (those 4 guys whom I love so much).

After we chatted a bit, I heard the words, “That’s a full time job. How do you do it?!”. Well, just like everyone else, I do what I have to do. I make sure that what needs to get done gets done. I’m not perfect. I screw up. But I pick myself up and start over when things don’t work out. Yes, it is a full time job. But I’m a grownup. Life isn’t supposed to be cushy and easy. She has to go into an office every day of the week…my office just happens to be at home. 

I am not going to lie. There was a huge part of me that relished the fact that she was so shocked. It made me feel vindicated. I am busy…just in a different way than she is. I think she can appreciate that a bit better now than in the past. And, thus, my job here is done…well, not really. I have a ton to do today…so off I go!!

A Good Team Makes a Difference

Our teachers and principal are working on assembling next year’s classes. They’ll have them done by May. At the PTO meeting earlier this month the principal explained the process for class formulation. The teachers work together and assemble classes in groups. They look at the different needs and abilities of all the students and put them together. I can only imagine the drama that takes place when trying to create the classes.

Our district does not allow for teacher requests. Instead, we are encouraged to write the principal a letter with information about our child that we believe may help in class assignment. The teachers do their part, and then the principal assigns teachers based on the classes and parent and teacher input. 

We, as parents, are permitted to ask for our child to be separated from other students if there is a known issue. Last year, I asked that Jake be separated from a girl who was a best friend, but who also took over the reigns too much and bossed him around. That request was met. This year, I asked that he not be put in a classroom with a boy who I know has been bullying several of the kids, including Jake. 

Last year we had a meeting at the end of April to talk about Jake’s progress since his updated district evaluation and new supports were put into place. I never mentioned a teacher, specifically, but I was very clear about the type of teacher that Jake would benefit from…and they knew exactly who I meant…and he did get his fabulous teacher. His third grade teacher will hence be the benchmark for fantabulous teachers to hit. She has been phenomenal. 

How phenomenal? Let me list the ways….Reads and understands the accommodations in the IEP–check! Works with the resource teacher to make sure Jake is appropriately challenged and kept from frustration–check! Works with the social worker, speech therapist, and OT to make sure Jake is getting a fair shake at education–check! Communicates frequently with the rest of the team AND Jake’s parents (that would be me & Hubz)–check! Asks questions about Jake and how he’s doing–check! She has been a DREAM!

Earlier this week she stopped me outside of the school. She wanted to confirm something that she couldn’t find in the IEP…during Jake’s annual IEP meeting in October, we had discussed how smoothly his transition into 3rd grade had been. It had been so stress-free and comfortable. He didn’t take forever to get acclimated to the new grade. It was smooth. We all acknowledged that a huge part was that he knew who his teacher was and where her classroom was and that took that anxiety out of the picture. We all discussed, and noted, that for subsequent years, we could have Jake meet his new teacher at the end of the school year, visit the classroom, and get comfortable.

When I met with Jake’s teacher and resource teacher in January/February/March to discuss the behavior and coping struggles Jake was having at that time, we discussed that again..and it was implied that they would meet with his new teacher to give her (all the 4th grade teachers are women) some insight into Jake…and we talked about how nice it would be for Jake to meet her before the new school year..and how that would help him transition in August.

Apparently during class formation meetings, though, there was some push back on this agreement. It wasn’t written into the IEP…and yet, 4 different people who were in the meeting had it in their meeting notes. Jake’s teacher said she KNEW we had discussed it, and that she and Jake’s resource teacher felt it was imperative for Jake to meet his 4th grade teacher ahead of time. I agreed.

I ran home and poured over the IEP. It wasn’t in there. FRACK!!! But, I had my meeting notes, and there it was…in my notes, “Follow up with team in spring re: Jake meeting new teacher.” I had circled it and starred it. Obviously that was important. So, I sent an email to Jake’s resource teacher and cc’d his homeroom teacher. I was more than willing to request a meeting to get this formally into the IEP via an amendment. 

Both responded back within about an hour…the principal was going to grant the request. Jake could meet his teacher the week of Memorial Day, visit the classroom, and stop by a few times before the end of the year…so he could get comfortable. Jake’s resource teacher and I discussed adding it as an amendment, though, so that it would be in there IN WRITING.

We are lucky. We are blessed. Don’t think for a second that I am not grateful for this allowance. I know sooooo many schools where this wouldn’t be allowed to happen. I am eternally grateful for our son’s team…for 3 of them who were willing to go to battle for Jake so that he could start 4th grade on the right foot. You bet your bottom that when we do Teacher Appreciation Week in 2 weeks they’ll be getting the works from the House of Hope family!!!



Editor’s note: I meant to publish this sooner, but an unfortunate tummy bug took control of my life for a few days….enjoy.

Shortly after Tate was born, there was a commercial for ESPN with the Manning brothers. All five of the Mannings were touring the offices. Archie and Olivia Manning are in the lead, very interested in the tour. Cooper Manning, the eldest, is right behind his parents. Lagging behind, Peyton and Eli are kicking and jabbing at each other…like brothers tend to do. Hubz and I watched the commercial, amused, and joked about how that would be our boys some day.

Of course, that is before the delays were painfully apparent. Before autism and ADHD diagnoses. And before we realized how different our family dynamic would be. It’s not wrong or bad…just different. Admittedly, after we found out about Tate’s autism, I mourned that he and his brothers would not have a “typical” sibling relationship–complete with rivalry, bickering, and secret moments that only they would “get”. I was stuck on that whole “social isolation” component of autism. It made my heart ache.

Luckily, our boys have always had a pretty good relationship. Different, yes, but they have always had some connection. As Tate has made gains over the past two years, the bonds have only strengthened. So, while our boys do have a slightly a-typical relationship with each other, there is so much typical in there that it makes me smile.

For instance,Tate and Jake giggle and chat in their room each morning before they emerge. They have inside jokes. They share glances and giggle. Yes. I said it. They share glances!!

Tate is a stereotypical middle child. He loves to instigate, prod, and tease. He also tends to feel, quite strongly, when one of his brothers is sad or hurt. He is usually the first to ask about their issue/problem, and is often quick to offer a tap on the shoulder. This tap is a huge thing for Tate…and it’s his way of connecting.

Tate and Cole share banter…a lot. They bicker, they shove, and they jab at each other. And often, they end up giggling together afterwards. As much as it does annoy me, I admit that it  is somewhat comforting, as well. I love that my boys, even with all of their “shtuff”, connect. That connection is going to be important as they get older…

Last Saturday Tate had a soccer game. It was his first one of the spring season. As we walked back to the car afterwards, Jake put his arm around Tate’s shoulder. They were sharing a moment..and then it became a headlock, with Tate shrieking with laughter. He kicked his leg at Jake, playfully. Jake playfully shoved him aside. Hubz and I looked at each other…and knew, just knew….it was going to be all right. 

A little bit of awesome

Over our winter break I noticed something that’s a little bit of awesome….our boys are becoming more independent. There’s a whole other scary side to that, of course, but for now, I’m focusing on the awesome that is their independence.

Rather than relying solely on me or Hubz for assistance with a toy, or help getting a cup of water, they asked each other. I love that my nine-year-old can get into the cupboard, get cups for himself and his brothers, and fill them up. I love that after asking me for a fruit snack, Tate can go to the pantry and get it for himself. I love that Cole is potty-trained and uses the toilet without me having to clean him up after every visit. (I wish he would put his pants back on, but well, we’ll take things one at a time.)

The boys were also relying on each other for entertainment. They chased. They played with Legos…oh, did they play with Legos. They read books to each other (mostly Jake reading to Cole). They acted silly together, bantering and swapping silly phrases. There was a ton of potty talk, but it was completely age appropriate. If one of the younger two boys wanted to watch a tv show or DVD, Jake was able to help out and get it started.

The other part of the day where this awesome independence was much appreciated was early in the morning. Even though we were on break, our boys still were up by 6 am every.single.day. Yes. Every. One. However, upon waking, they were able to use the bathroom, brush their teeth, and get a tv show on the tv without needing Hubz or me to do it for them. A few of the days, Jake even got himself something to eat and drink. He hooked Cole up with a little juice box occasionally, as well.

Another big milestone is that Tate seems to be getting dressed by himself more often. He is putting his socks and shoes on, as well. I really had a sinking feeling that I was going to be helping with those until he was 16. Shew!!! Cole is also attempting to dress himself. He isn’t always successful, but he’s leaps and bounds beyond where his brothers were at that age. (Some of that was my doing with Jake…)

With the delays that the older two boys have had developmentally, it felt like this stage was never going to get here…so I am basking in the glorious feeling it is giving me. I am still busy, and they still need me for plenty of various reasons…but for some of the basics…and for some of the age appropriate tasks, they have moved to a state of independence. And I love it.

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