Happy Birthday My Angel Bear!

So many people celebrate the New Years with champagne & a Times Square ball drop.  I celebrate something else entirely- my son's birthday!  Three years ago in the hospital as I watched the ball drop, I thought, "What an amazing way to start the new year!"

In our house, "New Year's" doesn't even really exist.  Just Kekito's birthday; and I think that's the way it should be. =)
Today was a great day, we got to start breakfast with special Mickey Mouse pancakes, skyping with Grammy and Papa, and blowing out some candles on brownies.  This Sunday we'll be having a big old party with pictures to follow!

To Kekito- My angel bear, I am so proud of you!  You have SUCH a sparkling personality!  You amaze me with your mind...  I am so proud of you and all the hard work you've put into therapy this year!  You've made amazing leaps and bounds; the sky isn't even your limit!

I am so happy to see you turning three today.  I keep imagining the next few years, and I'm so excited to see what happens next!!!

I love you! 

I used to be one of the "normies"

I'm about to type out some very honest thoughts that may offend some people if I don't word them correctly... and I probably won't.  That's never been my strong suit, so I apologize in advance.

I've been thinking a lot lately about "normies", as Dani (I'm just that way and that's just me) calls them.  I used to get so upset by how normies reacted to Kekito, honestly it's still hard sometimes and surely always will be.  I am beginning to realize that I totally was one, despite my own ADD related social struggles.  I used to feel uncomfortable with people with special needs.  I never disliked them, but I see now that I avoided social interaction, or kept it at a minimum.  When I was a picture framer (at age 19) there was a hearing impaired couple that came in a few times.  I was anxious when I'd see them walk up because I felt so bad not being able to communicate normally.  I felt bad for their situation.  I was afraid of doing anything offensive like talking to them, out of habit (they were unable to read lips).  I was mostly thinking of myself, of course.  It had never dawned on me how they felt about the way I acted.

I'm realizing more everyday how "normal" people with special needs are; how much they need normal daily interactions.  Just like everyone else.  There is a young man at my church with some developmental delay, maybe autism?  I've found myself going out of my way to talk to him, and smile genuinely at him.  Sadly, I would not have done that before... :(  Then there's the hearing impaired cashier at our convenience store, that situation makes me crazy these days.  There will be a long line, while hers is empty and she's just watching; waiting.  I try to go to her line if I see her.  She is truly SUCH a sweet person, but I feel like few others have the chance to notice.

I feel so badly for parts of who I've been in the past- letting fear of the unknown take over.  But I am realizing that I had always had good intentions basically.  So it is helping me to realize that the people who react some what unfavorably to K's quirks probably don't mean to, or even realize the way it comes across.

A silver lining- I can really appreciate my friends that love K and treat him like just another "normie".  I am blessed to have many, but I need to send a special shout out to Sarah, Casey, and Paul whom are in his daily life!  Thank you, words will never cover my gratitude for your attitude! ;)

The way I see life is so very different at this place and age, and I am grateful for that.  The view is beautiful from where I'm standing.

Pictures from Danny's first birthday!

This post is going to be dedicated to showing off the Pictures from Danny's first birthday party!  Enjoy!

Me and my goofball!
Don't touch the fire!!!!!

Mom, Dad, and our little baby!
  It was a blast!!!

Numbers Whiz

Today was our well check up for both the boys; all is well with Kekito and Danny, YAY!

We couldn't get a completely accurate read on K's height (because a Dr.s office is scary!), but he is finally gaining weight!  He's moved up to the 60th percentile there!  Danny is at the 75th percentile on both height and weight.

Developmentally, Danny is on track as well, so that makes me a happy mommy!

The crazy part of our day though....  Kekito stunned me yet again with his love of numbers!  The developmental questionnaire said to say "seven-three" once to your child to see if they would repeat it back.  I knew that wouldn't be a problem considering his Echolalia, but I did it anyway.  In the flash of time it took to look down and check "yes", Kekito followed up his "seven-three" with "eight-two, nine-one, ten-zero".  All in one breath... no real time spent in thinking it out. 

My jaw dropped, and eyes popped.  I told him, "Kekito, you amaze me." 

I can't believe he made up his own pattern!  I'd be shocked as it was if he'd have noticed the pattern from two sets of numbers, but making his own in a split second?!  Phew... awesome.  I swear his brain is a computer.  He may have problems processing anything more than emoticons some days ;)  but it seems like he processes consistently factual information like nobody's business!

Baby Danny, it looks like, will be the "jock" of the family!  He's already bouncing and throwing balls all over the place!  Today he even fought his Daddy for control of the football. =)

Happy Birthday Danny!

 My Danny Boy

My Baby Danny, It's been a very fast year!  You've gone from itty-bitty to big ol' cutie in no time!  Today I watched you playing with your brother and it hit me just how much you've grown!

Finding out we were being blessed with you was wonderful.  The morning sickness wasn't so great... but boy you are worth it! ;)  I hope I am giving you enough love and attention!  Always you are on my mind, and tugging at my heart strings!  I love the way you laugh maniacally! I love that you are a flirt, and how much you love your older brother.

Danny, 1 year old!

I hope that being where you are in the birth order, having to share time with K, doesn't make you feel "shafted" ever.  I hope that you will grow up seeing the benefits of your situation.  I hope that you will continue to grow up into a passionate, funny, empathetic man someday!
I can't believe that it was one year ago that I was just getting ready to meet you!
Baby Danny, It's been a fabulous year with you! ;)

Baby Danny is Walking!


Well, I'm a little late posting this video... and it's just a little sideways.  Oops...  I took it on his second day walking, with the best of intentions! ;)

He's getting really good at it now!!!!  I'll put up another video this week- I am writing a little love post for him for his birthday!

"A Room With a View"

What an awesome day!  Sergio has lately been really beginning to understand just how much I need a break from "mommy hood" to just be Jill and let off steam.

So he so thoughtfully decided to surprise me with another spa massage!  Although.... I found out that there was more to the surprise.  Two weeks ago when we watched "Date Night" he asked why I laughed so hard after Tina Fey said that she didn't fantasize about other men, but rather about being alone in a hotel for a whole day and night.  I explained that I had this fantasy several times a month... several times... the exact same one.  It was so funny to know I wasn't the only one "fantasizing"!  Sergio decided to surprise me with my own fantasy night in Waikiki! Just relaxing, relaxing, and relaxing.

Sadly for me, he didn't realize that even hotel masseurs need appointments.  I thought mine was booked by him... oops!  But boy, I still have had fun!

On a crazy but related side note....  I missed Kekito's first steps/walking on the one night I went to a hotel in San Francisco.  I had always thought, "How crazy is it that I never leave him ever, and the one time I do.... I miss it?!"  I knew this time, I would not miss Danny's because I had no one to watch them while I gallivanted about town.  So go figure; Sergio books my fantasy suite, and two days ago Danny started taking 3 steps here, 3 steps there.

This morning I told him, "Do not walk while I'm gone.  It's one day, so you can wait.  Okay? ...Okay!"  I kissed my sweet baby boy goodbye for one small day.  Less than a couple hours later, guess what text message I got:

"Danny is walking all over the living room".  So Sergio and I talk, and yes, he is walking for real.  Really Danny?  Really?!?!? ;)

So the only response I could come up with was:

"I can't believe they are so intimidated by me that they wait until I'm gone!"  Yes, I am going with that!  They want so badly to impress me, that they wait until they can perfect it before they show it off for me!  It's the only explanation that makes it somewhat OK for me... :)

Tomorrow when I get home, I'll snap up some video of my little wobbly walker to share with you all!

Cooking with kids

 I've been dying for Kekito to want to join me in the kitchen.  I have a lot of awesome memories of baking and cooking all sorts of things with my mom when I was about the same age.  We were her little helpers; she measured, we poured and stirred.  Until our little arms wore out at least.

I've been trying for months to encourage Kekito to help or even just watch.

Today was the day!!!  I was in the kitchen making "Pizza bread", and Kekito was endlessly curious!  I asked him to help pretend to stir the empty bowl and pat out some dough, and he gladly jumped in!

Man, it sure was a fun day with my little guy! I can't wait for more joint cooking adventures!

Autism & ADHD connection?

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Is There More to the Connection?

You may already know that I have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder.  I was diagnosed about 8 years ago.  That revelation changed my life.  All these things that seemed "wrong" about me finally made sense.  I always wondered why I wasn't able to live successfully the way other people so easily seemed to. I always messed everything up it seemed.  The fever pitch was when I was put on academic probation during my first college stint.  I was smart; I always tested well.  But trying to pass college classes?  Impossible.

I began to read, read, and read up some more on ADD as well as work on behavior modification.  That helped immensely.  Once I understood how my brain worked, I went on to be very successful in the military as well as college. 

Autism comes roaring in

Then Kekito came along in 2007.  My son progressed beautifully until he was close to a year old.  Suddenly, and slowly at the same time, I realized he was "different".  At first I thought, "OK, he has ADD".  Then it became more apparent that it was actually Autism.

I didn't know much at the time about Autism.  The more I learned, the more I pondered the possible connection to ADD/ADHD.  There were so many symptoms of Autism that seemed to overlap with my very own diagnosis.  So much so, to the point that I found myself googling "Asperger's in adults".  I started to wonder if maybe it was Asperger's I had after all.  But I knew that couldn't be because I was all too clearly able to empathize with others (Theory of Mind).  That is the singular difference I've noticed.  That, and the fact that in Autism the symptoms seem tenfold at least.

Day in and day out I wish that I could find some research on the possibility of a connection.  I can't help but wonder if ADD is on the highest functioning end of the spectrum.

These are my reasons for wondering:

- They are both neurological disorders that likely have strong genetic factors.
- Both affect the production and levels of various facets of body chemistry.
- Both affect sleeping patterns/behaviors.
- Both affect the ability to relate to others socially.
- Personally, I have an incredibly difficult time understanding sarcasm (just as one would with Autism).
- Both have various sensory processing problems.
- Personally, I have a remarkable memory for various types of facts.
- From what I have seen so far, both are very visual learners/thinkers.

I could go on about each of these topics- but I think that's better left for another day, another post.

I really hope someday I can find some sort of research either linking the two together, or conclusively setting them apart.  Until then, I'll keep on wondering. 

What do you think about the possibility?

Autism IQ Part II

What a day it was yesterday!  I was so exhausted by the end...

We had our eligibility meeting with the public school.  After all of K's evaluations and the endless waiting, we were going to find out if he qualified.  I was so anxious, and excited all day.  A real tight bundle of nerves, that was me non stop.

We got to our meeting and one by one the evaluators crushed my hope of K receiving services.  They all agreed that they could not recommend services because he was "too smart".  Wow... that sucks.  Despite the fact that his self help skills and communication skills were sub par; his academic IQ was exactly on the line separating "average" and "high average".  Because Kekito was, "very smart, even for a neurotypical child", then he did not need special education classes.

I stifled my tears for as long as I could.  I wanted to just get up and walk out.  I hated watching each person tell me with a long face that my son was "academically too far progressed".  It was maddening to think that it could keep him from getting the kind of help and skills training he needs.

(Let me explain real quick:  Kids "age out" of Early Intervention at 3.  If they don't qualify for special education, then they don't have an opportunity again for services until Kindergarten at age 5.  An *awesome* two year gap in which to regress, or make little progress.)

The last two people to speak at our "round table discussion" were K's  social worker Sarah, and I.  She told them that if they didn't accept him because he "knew too much" that it would be unfairly punishing the both of us for working so hard this whole last year (can I get an AMEN!?).

Then it came to me.  They asked, "Why do you think he needs this if his IQ is so high?  What academic need could there possibly be?"

My response went something like this:
"He has Autism, so he needs to be in an environment where he can be socialized with his peers.  He needs specialists to help him progress in all the areas where his IQ was lacking.  If I send him to a regular preschool, they won't likely be equipped to handle his temperament.  They don't choose to work specifically with special needs children.  They won't necessarily have the patience to handle a child like K.  Nor do they positively have the specialized skills to help him the way he needs to learn.  I'd rather keep him at home than chance those things.  Kekito needs to learn especially how to communicate with his peers.  He is dying to make friends.  He desperately wants to be included in activities.  When he plays with other kids...."

And then it happened.  My mind played the videos in my head of all the times kids pushed him, kicked him, or screamed in his face to "Go away!  Leave me alone!"  And his oblivious response was always to hug them more, chase them more, love them more.  It is probably the hardest thing I have come across so far with Autism  It is the thing that devastates me the most.  Endless tears have been shed at those sights.

With my face soaked, voice and body vibrating inside; I continued, "When he plays with them they scream at him, they shove him, they kick him.  And all he does is hug them, lay on them, or smile an inch from their face.  He is relentless... and so are they.  It is devastating to see.  At some point he will realize that they can't stand him.  He needs the chance now to learn to fit in."

My, how a desperate woman blubbering like an idiot must guilt people.  It absolutely was not my intention.  I tried so hard to hold it together.  But I simply couldn't.  I felt like the BIGGEST moron, but it was just that painful.

Luckily, his new teacher was the first to point out that she thought that was an important skill for academic learning.  Then one by one the evaluators all started piping in with phrases like, "Oh, yeah, yeah, that's important!  I think that's an academic need.  They need to fit in with their peers to learn.  Yeah, he's got an academic need". Hmmmm.... I was grateful to the one educator who started this wave of agreement.  Until that moment, it was as though I was watching everything in slow motion.

So I'm guessing, sadly, the water works got him accepted.  When we left, I was telling Sarah how stupid I felt.  She told me, "Don't feel stupid!  I was SO excited when you started crying!  They weren't going to take him otherwise.  I've never seen a child with an autism diagnosis not be immediately accepted before!  But they were not going to accept him until you lost it.  So it's a good thing."  Oh thank you so much Miss Sarah for making me feel slightly less stupid! :) I'm sure the board of people think I am overly emotional wreck.

It's a sad policy in my opinion.  Either Early Intervention needs to be extended through age 5 or, any child with a diagnosed disability (helloooo?!) should be accepted into special education classes... PERIOD.

Austism IQ

Can I find the words to tell you how proud I am today?  Probably not.

My son has recently undergone a huge round of evaluations in hopes of being accepted into special education preschool.  He was tired, crabby, and fairly uncooperative for them overall.  I was so anxious to see what the results would be.

I got my results in the mail yesterday!  I am proud to report ....drum roll please... they found his IQ to be on the lower side of average for his age!  All despite how much he was ignoring many of his everyday actions they requested of him. 

Having Autism he, of course, tested as low as 18 months on some skills (His chronological age was 35 months), but on others he tested into the 5-6 years age range.  My boy has mad memory and number skills....

I am left still hoping and praying he'll be accepted into the preschool, and will find out this Monday.  I definitely want him to go to preschool there because they understand the disorder, know how to best help him, and chose to do this for a living.  I can't be so sure of any of that with a typical school! Although, I do hope for him to attend K-12 typically.

I'll let you all know on Monday what fate has in store for us!

A love letter to my sons

Kekito and Danny,

I love you so much more than you know.  It is true that you cannot understand until you are a parent.  It is life changing, the biggest game changer there is.  My love for you is so immense and consuming.  I could sit and stare at you forever as you sleep or roll around laughing on the floor.  All the while my eyes would pour tears and tears of joy.  And I will forever thank God for the gift of you.  It's happened many times already...

I feel very badly on the days that I don't have enough patience for you.  But you need to know that my love is never lessened on those days.  On the contrary, it really does grow more and more each day.  Every smile you flash wraps me further around your finger.  I wouldn't have it any other way!

You are the loves of my life, and I will try my hardest to be there for you everyday.  I will try to be strong for you on the days you need to cry.  Even though it will rip my heart to shreds to see you go through hard times, I will always do my best to be your rock and give you support to the ends of the Earth.

I will do my best to understand each of you as individuals and learn how your minds work; though I'll never fully get to see inside.  I hope that you'll feel comfortable sharing your thoughts with me.  I promise I will do my best never to judge you.

I can promise that I'll never be a perfect mom.  I'll fall short often, and by great distances.  But I will always, always, always try.  I will do my best to teach you about love, life, and laughter.  And I will do what I think is best for you, even if it's harder for me.

All of my love is yours forever,

...That's what little boys are made of...

I found prince charming!
Remember the nursery rhyme that says, "Frogs, and snails, and puppy dog tails"?  Well, my little munchkins made up two of those three for Halloween this year!  I didn't think of it until the next day.  Upon pointing that coincidence out to Sergio, he suggested just one more baby boy.  That way Kekito could be the snail next year! =)

But I'm good with just the frog and dog!  They are absolutely wonderful, and more than enough...

K LOVED Halloween this year!
We took Kekito for his first ever "trick-or-treating" this year (Danny came along to watch), and he had a great time.  There was a bit of a meltdown getting into costumes, but not one while going house to house (Yay!).  Granted, we only trick-or-treated at four houses in complete daylight.  But it worked!  No major freak outs means next year we may get to push it further! 

I hope every one had a Happy Halloween!  Here comes Thanksgiving!  (yessss!!!!) Post inspiration provided by SITS!

A squash is a squash?

Our Halloween creations!
So we realized this year that getting a pumpkin in Hawaii is a feat.  Or at least the kind of thing you have to plan ahead for.  I saw the pumpkins in the supermarket a few weeks ago and thought, "Psh!  We're going to the pumpkin patch!"  Well.... we went to the pumpkin patch on the second day it opened and.... NO pumpkins left!  Eeek!  Well what is a mommy to do???  My sister told me to carve a butternut squash.  I think she was joking.  But I did it.  AND IT WAS SO CUTE!  It was a pain to carve, but I think I may do one from now on!  I love the shape of it- so unique!  We also had to carve our little decoration pumpkin- Now I'm glad I went nuts buying pumpkins for Kekito this year.  Otherwise we'd have had the lone Butternut.

Our other Halloween creation was a bundle of window decorations made from construction paper!  Kekito had so much fun coloring them all in.  And even more fun peeking at them through the window everyday!

What fun things did you make this year???

What a difference a year makes!

My ONE photo with eye contact that Halloween...
It's hard to believe that just one year ago, I could not get a photo of my son's whole face, let alone one with a smile!  I would twist and turn at every angle to try to get a shot of his face.  Mr. K constantly avoided eye contact.  So many of my pictures at the time are serious side shots of his face.  We also have many pictures of him moving around when I was too slow with the camera button... in my awkward positions.  The evidence is below (I call it the "Godzilla" picture ;)  We started Early Intervention about a week or so after Halloween.  Best week of our lives! 

Now my little Kekito is a total cheese ball!  He will bring me my camera and pose up all cute with a big grin and say, "CHEESE!!!"  If you don't take a picture, he'll tell you to!  Over and over... 

Take a look at our successful picture this year:
I can't wait to see how much he'll love Halloween this time around!!!!!!!

Post inspiration provided by the Halloween Party at SITS!

Remembering Self Care!

Hey everyone, here is a post written by my friend Chris over at "A Crazy Kind Of Faith".  She is a mom to two beautiful children, one of whom (Kai) has Autism Spectrum Disorder.  We decided to swap writings about how we remember to take care of ourselves, because taking care of others starts with making sure we are prepared to do the best we can!

Taking care of ourselves is usually not something we women do very well, and I tend to think that when parenting a child with special needs we seem to do a worse job of taking care of ourselves. After all, we have therapy appointments to attend, doctor appointments, IEP meetings, insurance issues to contend with, and the list goes on and on. We can easily become so consumed with all of the caretaking that we forget to take good care of ourselves.

I remember hearing about the concept of self care when I was in graduate school for social work. A term that was frequently thrown around was caregiver burnout, or secondary trauma. It is not uncommon for folks who are so “other” focused to become depressed and fatigued…particularly in situations where we are working through difficult circumstances. While self care is always a good idea in theory, it is seldom really encouraged in the workplace. Reality sinks in….and there are always more “fires” to put out.

Having a child with special needs is not like having a job, however. It can CONSUME every aspect of your life if you let it. You cannot “leave it at the office.” There is no turning off motherhood-- if our kiddo struggles with sleep issues, emotional regulation, or a bout of the flu… SO DO WE. It’s just par for the course! There’s no saying “I’m outta here!” at the end of the day….that is, unless we have a spouse or significant other who is willing to step up to the plate (at least for a while!) I am lucky enough to have a husband who can and will take the kids for me, so I can “do my thing.” The trouble is, I’m still always THINKING about my son, even when I’m doing other things (I have to get better with that!)

One of the buzz phrases that has become en vogue recently is extraordinary parenting. Extraordinary parenting = more than ordinary, above and beyond what is “normal”, exceeding the “typical” parenting experience. It is not part of a job description or even an expectation. It is just something we DO when walking the journey with our SN children.

Consequently, I have decided to begin “walking the walk” of self care. I have taken it upon myself to set aside three days per week to exercise and attend yoga, as well as putting a lot more effort into healthy cooking and drinking plenty of water. It doesn’t hurt to load up on foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids to help combat depression, especially here in Wisconsin where the winters are long, cold and gray! I’ve started looking for some creative outlets (such as blogging) to pour my creative energies into. It is amazing how much more revitalized I can feel just from giving myself permission to self-nurture.

My son was really my inspiration to begin my OWN self-care journey. He is on the autism spectrum, and recently has begun ABA therapy 25 hours per week (in addition to early childhood special education classes in the mornings). It is no picnic for him….but we have every reason to believe that the outcomes will be well worth the effort. SO, I thought I would also use this time as an opportunity to create and adhere to my own schedule and eat a healthy diet to sustain optimal mental, spiritual and physical health. When my kiddo is struggling, I want to be in tip top shape in all of those areas.

Someone told me recently that parenting a child with special needs is very much like running a marathon. Just as marathon runners cannot “go the distance” without appropriate training, I cannot expect to give my best to my children without being the best I can be.

Chris blogs about family life, special needs, adoption, and the excitement of having a child on the autism spectrum at: http://www.acrazykindoffaith.blogspot.com/
If you'd like to read the post hosted by Chris's page, click here!

Don't forget to enter my AVON giveaway- It's my thank you for reading my blog!

Post it note tuesday

So here are my four favorite status updates from friends this week:

I'm "guest blogging today", first time ever!

So I was just saying... "THIS is the essence of Danny".
Guess what everyone!  It's my first day as a guest blogger!  And I'm blogging in two places.  Funny how that worked out!  Well I hope that you enjoy my picture of my little cutie Danny Boy, and stop by my friend's blogs to browse through and to read my guest blogs as well!

A Crazy Kind of Faith by Chris

Both of these beautiful moms are mothers to children with special needs, and they are a part of a great support network that's growing together! ;) (Shout out spring chickens!-Woot Woot!)

Post-It Note tuesdays

I saw the cutest "Post-it note" posts on Three Peas in a Pod last week and fell in love with them!  Immediately I realized that I just had to be a poser! ;) 

For my Post-it note Tuesdays, I've decided to post my favorite Facebook posts of the week.  A lot of times there is something I post up there that isn't quite enough on it's own to warrant a blog post.  Sometimes it's something funny that happened, often it's something the boys did that I am uber proud of!  This week I'm putting up all my own posts.  But I'm going to start keeping track of all my friend's posts that crack me up or catch my interest this week and start including those!  So here goes with my first Post-it note Tuesday:

 Which of your own social network posts were your favorites?  I'd LOVE to hear! ;)