A family's story

Posts tagged ‘Things that make me smile’

The Good Stuff

Last week Tate’s 5th grade class participated in their outdoor education field trip. It’s a 3-day, 2-night trip to a state park. While the students are there, they are learning teamwork, independence, resilience and accountability. I love that our district provides this opportunity for its students at this age. 10/11 year olds are so much more capable of this type of work than we give them credit for.

I was incredibly uneasy about how Tate would handle the rigors of the trip. The teachers do a phenomenal job preparing the students for the trip. They discuss manners, practice family-style lunch, view videos and learn about the schedules of their day. The trip is highly structured, but it is also in a foreign environment, has “outside” instructors, and they are out in the elements. We talked about the trip at home, too. I knew he was prepared, but yet, it was so NEW and DIFFERENT. Those two things, alone, can be a minefield for my kid.

After discussions with his team and other parents, Hubz and I decided that I’d go down to the area where the trip was taking place and stay with Tate overnight in a hotel. We cut his trip to 2 days and 1 night. He DID get to take the bus with his peers, and he participated in almost all of the activities each day he was there.

Tate handled the trip quite well. Yes, he had anxiety. Yes, he didn’t sleep for 3 nights prior to the trip. But, he did it. I’m grateful that the team allowed flexibility, because Tate did sleep quite well in the hotel, and I know if he had been in the group dorms, it would not have gone so well.

One of the activities that the students do is to do birdwatching. Tate is a natural. His keen eye and ability to see the thing that is out of place in a background lent itself well to this endeavor. In fact, he enjoyed it so much and did such a great job explaining the birds to his peers that his team decided to have him do birdwatching both days, and it was great! He also really enjoyed building a shelter out of branches, leaves and twigs. The heavy work was perfect OT for him.

Each day that I picked Tate up from the event, his teacher told me that he handled it well and reported a few struggles, but nothing out of the ordinary and nothing that couldn’t be redirected. Also, Tate LOVED doing the table prep and bussing (they called it hopping). He was a pro, and even did a phenomenal job rinsing dishes in the kitchen.

To some, that might not seem like a big deal, but to anyone who has kids with differing abilities and neurodiversity, well, it was celebration time! If he can bus tables successfully at age 10, then what’s to say he can’t do that as an older teen? If he can follow “job” requirements and rules as a 5th grader, what’s to say he won’t be able to do that at age 18?

When we pulled out of the parking lot and headed home on his last day with his class, he thanked me for taking him. I thanked him for being a good sport. Then he told me to relax and turn the radio up. Adele was on and I was talking too much. My kiddo was brave. He was adventurous. He ate freaking turkey and mashed potatoes for dinner! The sky is the limit, my friends.

As we plod through the next few months of 5th grade and power through evaluations and testing, this experience gave me so much hope for what he’s going to be able to accomplish in middle school. He may not learn in a typical way, but he can and will learn. That much is for sure.

Winter Doldrums

Ugh. January is such an ugly, gray bucket of suck. I feel like I’m allowed to say that because my birthday is in January, so I can badmouth this month because I kind of own it. I know, it’s not mine to own, but I pretend sometimes.

Last year, January was an unbelievably difficult time for our family. We had 4 emergency “cold” days that the school district called. We couldn’t get into a groove. Jake was struggling greatly due to a bully. We had the IEP meeting from hell, where they dropped a placement change bomb on us. Back then, it felt like we couldn’t get out of there.

Today, I am experiencing some winter doldrums. It’s been fairly cold here again. Last week the boys missed two days of school due to “extreme cold”. It wasn’t as bad as last year’s cold, but it was bad. We’re trying to get back into our groove after the let down of the holidays and so forth.

I have another birthday coming up. 2 weeks from today, actually. I always get a bit reflective and pensive around this time. What did I do with my life in the past year? What can I do better? How do I find my happy place? How do I stop losing my cool with the antics of three boys? How the hell am I already pushing 40?! When did that happen? I swear, there is a decade or so of my life that is floating around in the ether.

Instead of wallowing, I forced myself to drudge through the fog and the doldrums. As I exercised and ran a few errands, I began to sing and hum. It helped make me a bit more cheery. I came to a realization. I am in a better place than I was a year ago. We are in a better place than we were a year ago. I may have lost and gained the same 7 pounds all year (and now I need to lose them again), but I am healthier. I exercise more. I am making more real food. We have purged a bit of the stuff we have amassed in our 14+ years of marriage. We are supporting the boys and getting them through some of the rough patches. THEY are doing an exemplary job of using their tools and making them work for themselves in difficult situations. We aren’t letting the bastards keep us down!!!

And to top it off, in 10 days we are going to be in the “Happiest Place on Earth”. That is enough to pull anyone out of the winter doldrums. So, as I sit here and look outside at the gray skies and the snow-covered ground, and shiver as I sip on my green tea (a New Year’s Resolution….drink more healthy stuff!), and pull my sweater more tightly around my not-so-svelte middle, I know that in 10 short days I’ll be in the land of sun, fun, and all things Mickey!

Be gone, doldrums….

Finding the Funny

Jake has a social studies test tomorrow. Social studies is NOT his “thing”. I don’t understand it. We butt heads a lot while he studies because he fights it every.step.of.the.way. Converseley, when I was in school, I OWNED social studies, history, government.  I loved them. I’m a bit of a history nerd…and I am fascinated with government and the way it should work. 

Jake’s chapter test starts with Christopher Columbus (the watered-down, 4th-grade-friendly version), moves to the different types and branches of our government, and then talks about citizenship, immigrants, and responsibilities and culture. It’s kind of all over the place…and I’m sure the book’s authors had a plan in mind when organizing it the way they did.

Anywho….I have been quizzing Jake since Saturday. It’s been painful and slow. He fights me when I ask him to re-read, and he doesn’t memorize the information easily. I do have to say, though, that with our current events and reading the text through an adult’s perspective, I have really had to watch my snark and watch inserting my opinions.

For instance, when I asked Jake what Columbus’s reason was for his first voyage, Jake responded, “He wanted to take over the world.” You know, technically, the kid is right. It’s obviously more complex than that….but the Europeans DID want to gain as much land as possible and gain riches and such…and hence, take over the world. But, the answer in the book is that Columbus wanted to find a shorter route, by sea, to Asia, because traveling over land took a long time and was very dangerous. I wanted to make a snarky comment about taking what doesn’t belong to us..but I refrained. I just gave him the answer from the book.

Or the time when I asked Jake who is the head of our Executive branch of the government (for federal government). He thought long and hard, and threw out his elementary school principal’s name. (Remember, he struggles with language…so in his mind he was thinking “starts with a “p””.) I said, not your principal. The guy we elect every 4 years is the…..and he mumbled out “President?”. I gave him a high five. I asked what the President’s responsibilities were as the head of our executive branch. Jake’s answer, “Ummm, they talk a lot?” (I would give that kid extra credit points, wouldn’t you???)

Finally, we were discussing citizenship and our responsibilities as citizens. I asked how someone could become a U.S. citizen. Jake’s answer, “They can be born.” True. I asked what the other way of becoming a citizen is. Jake’s answer, “They can take a stupid social studies test and learn about the government.” (Obviously a little of that tween-ish angst is starting to creep in….yay…he’s “typical”. ) I prompted for more…and he said, “They can take a test with a process.” Close. I explained the answer and we moved on to our rights. I asked what types of rights we were guaranteed as U.S. citizens via the Constitution. Jake’s answer, “To pay taxes.” Ba-da-bum. He’ll be here all week, folks.

I explained that paying taxes was a responsibility. I told him that our rights were freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc. He perked up when I said, “freedom of speech”. “Mom, freedom of speech. That’s like we go to therapy, right?” Ahh, kid….love ya to pieces..and so grateful for the moments of levity that I could find while dealing with a non-interested kiddo.

Little Things…(that we all know aren’t so little)

Over the past few weeks, mostly while I didn’t have time to blog because I was busy reffing my children, there were several little things that went on in our day-to-day that stood out as, well, not so little.

I think it is important to capture them, especially for those times when it feels like we’re stuck and struggling.

1. Tate is trying to engage people outside of his immediate family circle. We had a play date with a few of his classmates a little while back. When the group asked him to come play tag with them, he abdicated his swing and joined them! He then asked them to follow him onto the tennis court to play chase. Also? We were at lunch the other day, and he said hi to two boys about his age. We didn’t know the boys, but the fact that Tate felt comfortable enough to engage them made me want to cry tears of joy. Cole does stuff like that all of the time. It was heartwarming. Oh, and at the school’s family fun day last Saturday, Tate asked a friend of his to join him in the bouncy house. He also asked his teacher, who politely declined. I was grinning from ear to ear.

2. Jake has been doing a tremendous job with telling us how he is feeling. While it crushed my mommy heart yesterday to hear that I was embarrassing him with my paparazzi ways at school, it was also a “YES!!” moment. He told me it was bothering him, and he expressed it so age-appropriately. 

3. Yesterday, Tate’s bus was running significantly late. We made the call to drive him to school. He didn’t like that. His routine includes a bus ride to the school. This morning, he asked a couple of times if he was taking the bus. I reassured him that he was. He said, “Oh good. I like to take the bus to school. You drive Jake instead.” And with that statement, his anxiety decreased, and he went about the rest of the morning.

4. Cole has decided that streaking pants-less around the house is not what big boys do. He has started to pull up his pants and underwear after using the facilities–most of the time. I love not having to chase him around!

5. After some regression with bathroom routines in late July/August, Tate has gotten back on track. He is back to being mostly independent. He’s even washing his own hair in the tub (supervised, of course). 

6. Jake, concerned about being stinky, has started to use deodorant. He has incorporated it into his morning routine. I’m grateful that I have a boy who is worried about being stinky. I’ve heard loads of comments to the contrary about boys!

7. Tate has willingly started to eat bananas and grapes again. He cut those from his diet about 3 years ago. I’m glad that they are acceptable again! 

8. I took all 3 boys for back-to-school haircuts–by myself. There were no tears, no fights, and no struggles. Each boy got a decent haircut and sat for the entire thing. Doing my happy dance!! (Also, if you had told me that I could accomplish this feat 2 years ago, I would have laughed at you maniacally.)

9. Tate was up in the middle of the night. He was whining when I found him in the hallway. When I asked what had happened, he stopped, looked at me and said, “Mom, I just can’t fall asleep. I want to sleep.” I told him he could lay in our bed. He did, and asked me to rub his head. He dozed off within 5 minutes.

10. We participated in a bowling event with Tate’s special ed religious education group. It was loud. It was chaotic. There were familiar faces who weren’t in their predicted location (obviously we were at a bowling alley and  not at the ministry center). And Tate was able to stay for an hour and 45 minutes. He played a game and a half of bowling. He even threw the ball on his own. He celebrated when he got pins down, and celebrated when his brothers did, as well. When an older boy wanted to give Nate a hug, and Nate wasn’t wanting one, he said, “No thank you”. It.was.awesome!

The PLAY Date

Yesterday we had another play date. This play date was with Tate’s friend Geo. I’ve written about Geo before. Here, here and here. They love each other’s company. When they get together they can get squirrely, and they truly enjoy each other’s company. And isn’t that the point of being a kid? Being squirrely and goofy with your friends?? I had much less anxiety about this pairing than I have had with others. Selfishly, I know that for me it’s due to the fact that Geo’s mom gets the whole autism thing. The whole SPD thing. The whole ADHD thing. She lives this every day, as well. I don’t have to explain anything..and it saves so much energy! For Tate, he knows Geo is one of his peeps..and he loves Geo.

Tate’s therapist said that yesterday was the most engaged she’s ever seen Tate with another child. They played, reciprocated, and conversed. They each chose activities, and the other would join in the fun. She was able to get Tate to explain directions to a game to Geo, too. He rarely does that with his own brothers!! Even though I spent most of the play date out of the way, from the tone of their voices, I could tell that they were happy. Happy. And my heart sang. (Take THAT, ABA director who said that she’d prefer play dates with only typical peers.)

Tate knows that when he’s with Geo that he can be himself. He doesn’t feel the same pressure or anxiety that he tends to feel when he’s with typically developing peers. He knows that Geo “gets” him..and he gets Geo. They know what can set the other off, and they have a respectful way of interacting. Silly, yes, but ever so respectful. I feel privileged when I get to listen in on their fun.

It is said that when we find “our” people, we just know. We can let our guard down. We can laugh fully, smile brightly. We can relax and enjoy the moment. For Tate, yesterday’s play date was just that. Geo is one of Tate’s people. Tate knows it. Watching Tate with Geo is exciting. He smiles a lot. He giggles. He rarely needs to stim. He asks Geo questions and answers Geo’s, too. He may not use full sentences, but Geo and Tate have a connection…and sometimes only words or phrases need to be used.

What makes this even more amazing is that Geo and Tate haven’t been in class together (aside from the past couple of weeks of ESY) since early 2012. And yet, they fell into the same wonderful rhythm and routine together. I can’t stress enough how wonderful that was for both boys.

The best part of yesterday?? Once Geo had gone home, and after the therapist had left for the day, I asked Tate what his favorite part of the day was. And you know what he said?? “When I got to play with my friend, Geo.”

My friend Geo. Cue the happy tears. My son has a friend. He is experiencing true friendship. And I couldn’t be happier for him. That one statement created hope anew. He is experiencing a friendship. It’s organic and beautiful…and true.


I sit in the kitchen and peer into the family room. Cole is curled up on his favorite piece of furniture–our bean bag chair. He is watching Disney Junior prior to settling in for the night. He’s chewing on his finger, which is a tell-tale sign that he’s worn out–ready for bed. He’s wearing some green pj’s with trucks on the front from Old Navy. They are cute preschooler pj’s..and I know that in another year, he will be “too cool” for these. But for tonight, as I think about my youngest child turning four, I treasure the “little” boy that he still is.

Four. My “baby” is four. I think of other markers of time in fours. Four minutes after his birth he was whisked away from the OR to the NICU. Four hours after his birth I got to visit him, grasping his tiny, slightly opaque, fingers in mine. Four days after his birth I had to leave the hospital- without him. My arms, my heart, my breasts aching for the baby that belonged with me. Four weeks after his birth he was finally home. We were adjusting to a new routine. A new family. Four months after his birth he was smiling, cooing, rolling, and interacting. He was developmentally ahead of where he was supposed to be. Four years after his birth he is vivacious, energetic, intelligent, and wise beyond his years. He is feisty and protective, caring and loving. 

I call to him. “Cole, it’s time for bed.” He protests with a whine. I sigh. I give him another minute. “Cole, please turn off the T.V. and use the potty. It’s time to go to bed.” He nods. He gets up from his bean bag chair, turns off the T.V., and runs into the kitchen. “Hold me, momma. Hold, me.” I pull him into my arms. I inhale his freshly washed little boy scent. I commit it to memory. I feel a lump form in my throat. I swallow it down. “Ok, baby-” “MOM! I’m a big boy!” “Yes, okay, big boy, it’s time for bed. When you wake up, you’re going to be four!” “Yay!! Yay!! It’s my birf-ba-day!” “Yes, sweetie, your birthday.”

He scrambles up the stairs. His limbs have grown a lot this year. The baby fat is no longer obvious on his arms and thighs. His knees don’t have the little dimples that they used to. He laughs. A big, fully belly laugh. He uses the potty. All by himself. Washes his hands. Again, by himself. He asks for a story before bed. I oblige, as usual.

He chooses IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE. Oh, how I enjoy this one. I read it, and he analyzes every page. He tells me his observations…laughing at the mouse sweeping the entire house, and remarking how the boy has to pick up after the messy mouse. He smiles at the end when the mouse gets his second cookie. I think he’s making a mental note. He doesn’t miss a beat, this one. Cole is clever. He is quick to pick up information. And it is sometimes used against me.

“Ok, ready for bed?”

“We need to sing “Twinkle”. ” I start to sing the song. I have sung that song to him since his days in the NICU. I would sing it when I would leave him each night and head home. I would sing it as he nursed to sleep, milk dribbling from his lips as he drifted to dreamland. I sang it to him as I rocked his toddler self after we would read stories together. And now, now we sing it together in his bed. His sweet little voice in time with mine. 

I look at his face. He looks more and more like a boy these days–there really is not any “baby” in there. His features are maturing. His eyes look a bit older. He doesn’t scrunch his nose as much as he used to. His cheeks have thinned out. His hair is a little less blonde.

I look at his fingers. They aren’t nearly as pudgy as they used to be. Those “baby” hands now have knuckles. His fingers thinned out. He has a strong grasp, and when he grabs my hand, I can’t envelop his into mine as much as I used to.

He still makes pronunciation errors. They are typical of his age, and endearing. Soon, those will be gone. His “L’s” will be “L” and not “W’s”. His “R’s” will be stronger and complete. He won’t call our van a “ban” or the library the “Why-bwar-ee”. Brown will not be “chocolate” and spaghetti won’t be “basketti”. I smile as he sings, “Twinkle, Twinkle, wittle stahh”.

We wrap up our song. He asks for another round. I am happy to do so. For some reason, putting him to bed means that we’re closing another chapter. It’s the last time I will put a three-year-old to bed in my house. Or, well, the last time I will put one of my OWN three-year-olds to bed in my house. I feel the lump rise into my throat again. It’s harder this time, but I swallow it down. “OK, sweetie. Time for bed. I love you.”

“Wuv you.”

“Sweet dreams.” (Sweet dweams, he echos back.)
“See you in the morning.” (See you in da morning. Wuv you.)

We do this about 3 more times, and then I close the door…but not before he asks if it’s REALLY his birthday tomorrow. I assure him that tomorrow is his birthday. He lays down on his pillow, and thanks me for leaving his light on low on the dimmer. “It makes me feel not scarwed, Momma.” I smile, and shut the door. We shout good night one more time.

I walk across the hall and tuck Tate into bed. We read a story, and I kiss him good night. I try a similar exchange, as I do every night. “I love you.”

“Mmm, hmm.”

“Sweet dreams.” (Night, Mommy.)

“See you in the morning.” (Mmm, hmm. Goodnight, Mommy.)

I head downstairs. I hear Tate’s door creak open. Bedtime is always rough when Hubz and Jake aren’t around. (They are at a 3-day overnight camp for Webelo Scouts.) I hear Cole shout out, “Tate, it’s bedtime. Go to sleep!” Tate shushes him. I call up that it is time for bed. Tate sits on the stairs and scripts. His younger, yet sometimes seemingly older, brother shouts out, “C’mon, Tate. Go to bed. It’s nighttime.” Tate stomps to his room, and shuts the door. It’s quiet.

I come back to the kitchen. I turn on my computer and start to type. As I start to write about Cole and his birthday, the lump forms in my throat. I let it sit there. I let the tears well up in my eyes. A small sob escapes. And I allow myself a few minutes of nostalgic tears. My “baby” is turning four. Four. We are almost done with the preschool years. Almost. One more year until all of my children are “school age”. I laugh through my tears. If I’m this big of a mess at his fourth birthday, what will five do to me?!?! I hear my mom’s voice…”Lisa Anne…” I smile as I watch my tears dance in the light. And I start to pound away on the keyboard.

Happy Fourth Birthday to my mischievous, clever, caring, loyal Cole. You have proven time and again that you are wise and capable beyond your years. I love you and cannot wait for the adventures that this next year holds.

Cole- 1 day old

Cole- 1 day old


Cole, a little tuckered out from excitement about his birthday party

Cole, a little tuckered out from excitement about his birthday party


I’m a fan

Here is an insight into my personality…I am competitive. Very competitive. And..I like to win. (Who doesn’t??). Unfortunately, I am not the most athletic person in the world. When I attempt to play sports, I am feisty and scrappy, and may come at you like a spider-monkey, but natural athleticism is not synonymous with my being. And I’m ok with that….mainly because I can be a fan. 

I love team sports. Watching a group of people work together to achieve a common goal draws me in. It can be inspiring and breathtaking and gut-wrenching and disappointing. I feel like we can learn a lot from watching a team, and I truly appreciate what they accomplish, as I am just not able to achieve physical feats like they can. 

I am a hockey fan. Also? A Blackhawks fan. (I know, it’s easy right now..but I do enjoy the sport. I went to my college team’s games back in the day. I went to Hawks games when they couldn’t fill the United Center. I know that it’s called a sweater–not a jersey.) There is something about watching those guys do what they do on the ice. I am in awe of them. Truly. I may not watch every game, but I follow them throughout the season–the ups, the downs, the losses the wins.

This shortened season has been one heckuva ride for us Blackhawk fans. There was the amazing, unprecedented start to the season. There was the hype There was the President’s Cup. Then, the playoffs.

The playoffs have been incredible. The Hawks were almost eliminated by Detroit. They trailed the series 3-1..and came back to win it. They fought hard against the Kings. They had so many overtime victories…but they got it done.

The Stanley Cup Finals were one of those hard-fought playoff series that I love. The Blackhawks and the Bruins really fought to the finish. They were so evenly matched. (As evidenced by the 3 overtime games, 6-5 shootout last week, and to-the-very-end finish of Game 6 last night.) It has been quite an adventure to follow this team during the post-season. A rewarding one, though, and I’ll take it.

I have hockey hangover today. I couldn’t fall asleep last night because I was so excited. I was up too late watching post-game interviews and revelry. But it was worth it…because Lord Stanley is coming back to Chi-town!! We need to bask in this glory…because the heavens know, the Cubs and Sox are going nowhere fast…and well, the Bears?? Yeah…..I’m a Packer fan for a reason.

I’m off to get some coffee and rest a bit while I have a little quiet time. (Tate is in an ABA session, Jake is at summer school, and Cole is at preschool day camp.) Happy Day, all!


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