Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hope for the Hopeless

This afternoon I found myself commenting on a plea for help (on facebook, of course).  It's not my story to share, not that part anyway, but the situation was one I'm so familiar with. 

And after I was done commenting, I paused.

I re-read what I had wrote.

And I realized how far I've come. 

It wasn't so very long ago that I felt at my wits end with Oliver.  I didn't understand how to help him, and I felt completely helpless myself. I had determined I must be a terrible mother, I didn't/couldn't parent my 2 1/2 year old! I was emotionally and physically exhausted.  Every day was a fight, a struggle between my son and I over everything.  And I believed that it was my fault. I thought there was something wrong with me because parenting was not coming naturally to me. (I don't know if being a mother comes naturally to anyone.)

A lot of the books I read talked about hope for the future.  They said that the work we do now will translate into "good" children later in life.  I got so tired of this dream future.  I knew that their future was inevitably different than what mine would be because we have different children.  I wondered if there was any hope for the now, in the midst of the difficult times, in the midst of the mess and the confusion, and I despaired that no one could offer me the reprieve that I sought.  Until I read Hope for the Weary Mom. In that book I found hope in the midst of the mess.  Not hope that it would get better, but a reminder of the glorious hope and truth that is offered by realizing that God is with me now, not just in some far off future, but He is with me in my mess getting His hands dirty right alongside me.

I'm getting off point...

What I mean to get at is that the past year has been tough.  I've had to learn different methods of parenting than I knew before.  I've had to come up with unique solutions, and there has been a lot of trial and error before finding what works (and sometimes it only works for a little while).  I still have days where I feel lost and confused, and like I just don't have a clue what I'm doing.  But those days are not nearly as often anymore.  Even in the midst of the really tough days I know more than I did before, and I feel less lost than I did before.  It's taken time and hard work to get there, and there is a long journey still ahead of us, but it doesn't feel hopeless.


Monday, October 14, 2013

He Called Me

I've made no secret of the fact that I am a follower of God, a Christian.  Yet, lately I have struggled with my faith.  Life has been difficult lately. I've felt angry and resentful which has made me an unpleasant person to live with. (I'm so sorry Andrew, Oliver, and Wynter!)  I was struggling so hard with what I knew and what I wanted.  God calls me to live free of anger, bitterness, and resentment, and yet I didn't want to let go of my pain and I didn't want to forgive the things that were causing my anger.  Mostly I was angry and bitter at God for allowing my life to be less than my view of perfect.  I wanted Him to fix it for me, without any work of my own, and I refused to be happy until that happened.

Then yesterday I saw a post by an author I follow on Facebook and it broke through my barriers and it was as if God whispered in my ear, "Come back, give your pain and your anger and your problems to me."  The post said, "Jesus never called us to the comfortable life. He called us [to] follow Him through whatever life hands us."  That is a pretty common concept in Christianity.  God does not promise an easy life for His followers. I knew this, and yet it took that simple little post to remember and for the truth of it to sink in.

I remembered a passage in Romans chapter 8, verses 38 and 39, that says, 
"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Nothing can separate me from the love of God. I belong to Him and nothing and no one can change that.  Not even my anger and bitterness.

This morning I did something I hadn't done in many months, I spent some time with God. I prayed, I read His word, and the kids and I had Bible time at the table during breakfast (which we are going to do every day from now on).

What I hope you might know from this little confession is that even Christians can be like stubborn little children sometimes, refusing their father's help when they need it most.  But that does not mean that when we realize we cannot do it on our own we have doomed ourselves, we can still humble ourselves and return to our Father, confess our weakness and sin, and ask for His help and He will help us.

5 Important Things I've Learned From Therapy

Even though I consider myself creative, and I enjoy the arts and have been involved in some form of art for most of my life, I am not an outside-of-the-box thinker.  I am creative inside the box.  If something comes with instructions then I can follow the directions to create something fun or beautiful.  If something does not come with instructions I have a very difficult time seeing the possibilities. With Oliver's therapy, both Speech and Occupational, I have learned how to force myself to think outside the box in order to teach him new concepts with old toys.  I want to share with you some of the things that I've found most valuable in continuing therapy at home during the week.

1. One toy can be used in a myriad of ways to teach many different concepts.  A memory card game does not have to be used according to the directions, instead you can use it as a matching game, or simply as visuals to introduce new vocabulary. If the images lend themselves, you could even use it for story boards.  In the same way, a bus with little people doesn't have to be used for only imaginary play, but you can set up an activity to teach concepts such as "on and off", "stop and go", "open and close", and much more.

2. While we want to push Oliver's mind, and increase his knowledge, we don't want to overwhelm him with too much information all at once so that his mind shuts down and learns nothing.  Introducing concepts one at a time, and then slowly combining them, is much more effective even if it takes longer. Patience is key here.

3. Give Oliver time to think.  It might take a while, but his brain is working trying to figure out the right answer, or how to solve the problem, or how to do what we've asked, and he needs time.

4. Don't give him too much time or he will get distracted from his task and you will lose him to another interest.  When that happens it will take time to refocus him, but do it.  It's important for him to not jump from one thing, to the next, and the next, but to remain focused on one activity at a time and finish it before moving on.

5. Don't assume Oliver has the knowledge if you've never purposefully taught it to him.  Even though it's something that seems as though he'd have learned it in everyday interactions or activities, he may not have, or he may not understand something even if he can spit out the word or do the action.  First teach him what you want him to know, over and over and over, and then give him the opportunity to utilize that new knowledge on his own.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Why I Am Glad Autism Did Not Come First

Can you imagine if we all went around introducing ourselves by the qualities that make up a part of us, whether they are good or bad?

"Hi, my name is Sarah, and I'm short tempered."

Or, "Hi, I'm Sarah, and I enjoy serving others."

The people we meet would first and foremost see us in light of what we'd just told them about ourselves.  As they spent time with us and got to know us better they would learn we have other qualities that make up the rest of who we are, but it would take time.

Oliver did not come into the world with any sort of label that caused us to think of him in only one certain way.  Oliver was born as a healthy boy, as a baby, and as our son, that's all we knew about him.  As he grew he began to display his personality, his preferences, his idiosyncricies, etc. We got to know who Oliver is first and foremost.  Nothing was pressumed.

This is why I am glad that we had that time.  I know that it's typically recognized that early intervention is key, as early as possible, but I am glad that we did not have that Autism label until we had time to see him without it.  Now the label is just that, a label.  It provides services for Oliver, and it helps us to understand him better, but it did not change the knowledge we already had of who Oliver is.

I have to admit that despite that help that Oliver's diagnosis has brought, there are times that I wish we didn't have it.  There are times that I wish that I could just not know and just enjoy my little boy the way he is without any sort of knowledge of Autism.  Ignorance is bliss.

Yet, the knowledge has brought understanding, and the understanding has enabled us to help Oliver in ways we hadn't before.  And so I am conflicted.  I do not like his diagnosis, but I do appreciate what it has done for us and for him.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Let's Pick Some Apples!

Last Saturday, September 7th, we drove the nearly 2 hours up to Wilcox, AZ to visit Apple Annie's Orchard.  The trip was long, but definitely worth it.

To be honest, though I knew it would be a fun family trip, I mostly saw it as a great photo opportunity.  I've gotten a little tired of the same old background, the little yard right out front of our apartment.

There were little wagons, and fruit pickers for us to use, and while the fruit picker was just a nuisance to me, the wagon was very beneficial for keeping the kids contained while we moved between the rows.

The kids had a blast at the orchard, especially Oliver.  There was a little tractor show there as well, which was Oliver's favorite.  He sobbed his little eyes out when we had to leave.

It also just so happened that the tractor Oliver and Wynter got to sit on was an Oliver brand tractor!  What a crazy coincidence!

Overall it was fantastic day, and we hope to start planning more frequent family outings like this.

The Call.

Nothing has changed. Everything has changed.

Last Thursday Oliver had an ADOS test performed by a wonderful woman, Maria. The test was mostly a semi directed play time with observations made and scores given according to what he did, or did not do.  We'll receive the official report soon, but yesterday our Developmental Pediatrician called with the results.

Oliver has Autism Spectrum Disorder.

I read that as mild or higher functioning Autism.  Classic Autism had it's own category and that is not where he scored into.  Personally, I was thinking that he might not score into an Autism diagnosis at all.  During the test he responded to his name, looked at Maria (though I'm not sure if it was eye contact or not), he followed many directions, engaged in pretend play, and easily transitioned from activity to activity.  Where I still saw subtle signs of ASD were when Maria pretended to get burnt by a match and he did not react, between activities he constantly refocused on the cars and trucks, he did not follow Maria's eye line to look at something, he did not engage in pretend play focused on putting a baby doll to sleep... there might have been some other subtle indicators, but I didn't notice them.

Despite the finality of the diagnosis journey, nothing has changed.  Oliver is still Oliver, and I love him.  I love his quirks, I love his smile, I love his uniqueness.  Nothing has changed.

And yet, everything has changed because before Oliver was born, and for the first 2 years of his life, we did not imagine that we might be heading down this road. Yet, here we are, and it's okay.

Everything has changed... and yet, nothing has changed.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

face, meet palm

Last Thursday the kids and I went to the apartment above us for a little play date.  The plan had been last week her house, this week my house.  Well, last week she told me that her little man is starting pre-school and so they won't be coming...

Yeah. I forgot.

I moved the TV out to the living room.

Which was a pain.

And I didn't even have to!

Now I should move it back...


Bonus:  I cleaned the house and dressed the kids so I decided to whip out the camera and experiment.  I discovered the lovelyness of the "P" setting!  I need to refresh myself on exactly what that setting does automatically, but I think I was adjusting the exposure...

At least I discovered that it's a good setting for indoors/low light.  I seriously need to learn more about my camera!

P.S. Not all our play dates are sitting in front of the TV, but this particular little boy is very shy and so far our attempts at playing outdoors together have him crying.  We thought maybe doing some less involved activities together could get him used to being around Oliver and Wynter.