Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011. It's been real.

I have to say, 2011 was really a challenging year for us.

But here we are, at the very end, and all I can do is look forward with hope and optimism for 2012.

In April of 2011, Jonathan was officially diagnosed.  By that time, we had been through so many screening, tests and appointments, the actual "your son has Autism" label was a sigh of relief.  Finally putting to rest what we already knew, and gave us the opportunity to move forward. 

Moving forward was not easy.  It took time to get him therapy, to get used to our new schedule and routine, and to let that routine sink in. 

I also had to finish my mourning.  I think this is pretty typical for any parent with a special needs child.  The letting go of your lofty dreams and expectations, and finally being able to embrace the unknown, as well as the present.  Usually the present gives you many gifts you never thought you would receive. 

This year was stressful.  This year was messy. This year was hard.

But oh the progress we've made.
Potty trained, talking, reading, and being the silly, adorable boy that he is.

We got our kitty in January of this year.
I completed my first Triathlon in July and first Half Marathon in October.
We are moving forward on Mike's back pain.
We took a parent's weekend away, leaving Jonathan with a baby-sitter for a full 2 nights.
We visited family in both Ohio and New York (car trip and plane ride!)
Mike and I both tried our hand at single-parenthood, due to business travel respectively.  And both hated it.
And you can't forget the welcoming of our beloved iPad.   

Lots of laughs, tears, frustration, a little sweat and lots of hard work. 
Summarizing it up makes it seem like it wasn't that big of a deal.  And maybe it wasn't.  Maybe it was. 

2012.  So much to look forward to.  Mike and I always sit down and write out our goals and resolutions for the year.  And I can't wait.  We have much to be grateful for.  We have much hope for as well.
We're ready to turn the calendar.   

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Our Little Family's Christmas and Hanukkah

Disclaimer:  I just feel like I should start this post with a brief disclaimer.  
We are an interfaith family.  I am Jewish.  Mike was raised Catholic.  We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas.  We light candles on our Menorah, and we have a Christmas tree.  There.  I said it.  No need to question what we do or how we celebrate any further.  Just like dealing with Autism, it works for us and our family.  Thank you!

Mike and I were discussing our various Christmases together. There was the one we were stuck in Philly.  The one where we all got strep throat.  The one where we all got the flu.  The one where we had Xmas dinner at Hooters before we left on a family cruise.  And of course, the many with Mike's family in upstate New York.  We realized this was our fifth with Jonathan.  The second in our house.  And this year, it was just our little family, which was great.


The day started out with a bang.  My friend and co-worker agreed to stop by dressed as Santa.  I left a gift out for him to give to Jonathan.  He rang the doorbell, and Jonathan greeted him at the door.  He reacted just the way I thought he would....huge smile, and took off running and flapping.  He knew it was Santa and was very excited to see him.  We got a few pictures.  And then Jonathan retreated to his iPad, to which "Santa" oversaw, and snapped a few pics. Our friend just let Jonathan be Jonathan, without judgment or issue.  I'm so glad Jonathan was able to see Santa without all the noise of going to the mall, fighting the traffic, etc.  We just felt so glad our friend was able to do this for us.  It was really so sweet.  
Santa and the Farley boys.  Look at Jonathan.  He looks so giddy.

Pepper had to get in on the Santa action.

Santa checking out the iPad.
The rest of the day was spent wrapping, last minute gift shopping, cooking and baking.
If you noticed in the pics, Jonathan does have a cold, so he is still a bit under the weather.  It really is a good thing we didn't do much.

The day started out with me getting yelled at.  "No Potty!"  We had a bit of a rough transition today.  Maybe it was because we were not having a "normal" morning.  But once he got settled in with iPad, he was fine.  Mike and I were able to enjoy some coffee, and I had to step back and expectations.  I had a brief moment were I felt sorry for myself that my son was not going to run down the stairs on Christmas morning, anxious to see what Santa brought...having to rip into every gift right.this.very.second.  In fact, it was quiet the opposite. 
Yes, those are all gifts for him.  And yes, he could care less.

But leave it to our cat to be the comic relief I needed to snap me out of feeling sad.  She finally climbed that tree, right before we started opening our gifts.  It was HILARIOUS!

"Gotta get that red ball...right...there."

"What?  Can't I be cute in this tree here?"
So Mike and I realized, if we were gonna get this kid to open any gifts, we had to do it on his terms.  We set the timer to 5 minutes.  When the timer went off, we would bring a gift to him to open.  That way, if he opened it and wanted to play with it, he could.  Or he could open and go run off and play iPad.  But once we got going, he totally forgot the iPad and started enjoying the generous gifts given to him. 

We still had to set the timer to every 5 minutes.  But that was OK.  Mike and I took our time, enjoyed the morning.  Opened our gifts, and had some good laughs.  It was awesome to see Jonathan excited about things.  He would grab the gift, and take off, usually to the kitchen area.  And this is how it went all day.
Thomas puzzle.  A must open now, please.

Reading his Handy Manny books
The rest of the day was pretty chill.  We watched "A Very Handy Holiday" and "Flicker Saves Christmas" thanks to Handy Manny.  And "Caillou Christmas" too.  We played more iPad. Enjoyed the new tent we got him, however, I think the cat liked to tent more than Jonathan. 

Jonathan was very cuddly and lovey today too.  Mike put it best...Jonathan's most favorite days are the ones where we are just with him.  And that is what we did today.

And don't forget about Hanukkah!
We've been lighting the Menorah every night.  So while I was getting the candles prepped for tonight's lighting, I heard Jonathan start singing to himself.  I realized, he was singing the tunes of the prayers we sing when lighting the Menorah.  Sure enough, that is what he was doing!  He got a few words, the rest was pretty garbled / made-up.  But it was in the right tune and intonation as the prayers. Just made me feel good to know that he is paying attention and is with us, even if he doesn't always seem like it, when we do these sort of things.

So all in all, a really nice holiday.  We certainly missed our families.  But this holiday served as a great reminder to us (or at least me)...we have our little family.  We may have to do things a little different.  But we keep doing it, knowing our boy is with us and will remember these holidays too.

Happy Holidays to all!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas, we've been waiting all year for you.

I feel like it began the day after we put away last year's holiday decor.

"Elmo Christmas!"  "Caillou Holiday Movie!"

We watched these beloved holiday movies in January, the heat of the July sun and now again in December.  The menorah was carried to school of WEEKS, and remains a prominent lovey to this day (currently sitting on my coffee table).  

The other day, we had a dusting of snow on the car, to which Jonathan exclaimed (per scripting from the Caillou movie,) "Snow!  It's Christmas time!"

That it is, Jonathan.  That it is.  And this year is the first year that I feel like he may have some semblance of "getting it."  He knows who Santa is.  He knows the Christmas tree.  He knows the dreidels, the menorah and the lights.  And recently, he's been talking about "Kwanzaa and the kinara."  Hey, I guess if we're celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah, we really shouldn't leave out Kwanzaa.

I'm thankful that we will be doing a low-key holiday season.  While we will miss our family and friends dearly, I'm glad that, after this especially challenging year, our little Farley Family can hibernate and do the holidays on our own terms.  No expectations...almost just like we've been doing things all along.

Oh, I have to mention Jonathan's preschool holiday program.  It was HILARIOUS.  The kids had learned three holiday poems.  And I was warned that Jonathan would probably not recite them with the class.  I didn't think he would.  During the presentation, while the quiet, calm children lined up perfectly in a line, my little hell-ion ran back and forth like a crazy man behind them.  He was smiling and flapping and looking for Mike and me.  For those who don't know him, he probably looked like a kid that had too much sugar, in the vein of Stewart from MadTV ("Look what I can do!").  But to Mike and me, we knew the running, flapping, smile combo meant one thing...he was super happy.  And that made us super happy in return. 

When it was all over, and I was buckling him up in the car, he looked at me, and started reciting one of the poems, with hand movements and all.  He couldn't do the words exactly, because that is not how he hears it.  It came out "I sabba sabba snowball.  It sabba sabba sab."  But he did the vocal inflections perfectly, and I knew what he was doing.  So I had my own, private performance.  I think MY show was the best.

So while Jonathan might not understand the difference between naughty and nice, and while he might break his record of taking three hours to open gifts, I know he is excited and happy for the upcoming holidays.   

And now he's singing "Jingle Bells" and waving at the TV along with the Elmo movie. 
Happy Holidays to all. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

IPad apps

So, if you've been following along our little journey thus far, and I'm sure you know we have purchased on iPad for Jonathan.  And there are MILLIONS of apps out there for kids, especially kids with ASD. 
My good friend asked what apps we like, so here goes!

Educational Apps:
Touch and Learn by Alligator Apps - a which one does not belong type game
Emotions by Alligator Apps - shows photos of different emotions
SeeTouchLearn by Brain Parade - a which one goes together type of game
Touch & Say from interbots - 6 different game choices varying in feelings, colors, repetition, etc
Let's Name Things by Fundeck - Attempts to engage the child in conversation with different questions

Clean Up by Different Roads to Learning - putting items in their right place game
Together by Different Roads to Learning - which one goes together game

Speech with Milo - Prepositions - very cute mouse showing prepositions

First Words: Deluxe - spelling!

Just for fun:
Thomas - by Hit Entertainment - 3 different game choices: match game, puzzle, maze
Handy Manny - Disney Mobile - 4 different game choices - match game, puzzle, coloring and hide & seek
Caillou by Night and Day Studios - uses Caillou characters and pictures and child picks the letters to spell items
Talking Tom Cat - HILARIOUS!

Most of the educational apps were free.  If anyone has app suggestions, let me know too!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wife Appreciation

Last week I was reminded of how awesome my wife is, when she had to travel on business for two days. Sure, it was only for one night, and sure, Jonathan knew his mom would be "out of the office" for that one night. He even seemed to be okay with me taking him to school on Friday morning, like Jen usually does.

But then it started. I forgot that I was supposed to park in a specific spot, and Jonathan was screaming "light pole!" Luckily his teachers knew what he meant and I moved the car. Oh, did I mention the kid flat out refused to put a jacked on no matter how much I tried or bribed him? So it was cold out and I was dragging him back to the car to move it. Okay, for now. We get to the classroom and he was screaming something again. Yikes. His teacher, Jamie, said to just go, which I did, but I could see Jonathan's face pressed up against the window screaming as I did leave. Turns out, he was screaming "Katie story!" Meaning, the book his therapists made about one of the therapists who left the company, but who Jonathan is still attached to.

He also refused to put his pajamas on that night, and went to sleep screaming and crying. He is now potty trained for the most part, but we still put a pull-up on him at night. But he refused to even put that on, no matter what I did. Turns out he was just tired and missing his mom, and that's how he decided to act out--falling asleep naked. So I waited until he fell asleep on the floor, then went in and slipped on a pull-up and carried him to bed.

The next day we went grocery shopping, and again he was freaking out about his coat. I finally got him to put it on, but it took a good ten minutes. We went to Trader Joe's and to our regular store, Copp's, and all was okay. The rest of the day was okay too, but it's nerve wracking trying to remember to take him to the potty every hour or two and trying to avoid an accident.

Oh, and Jen is really great about knowing what to bring, everywhere. Meanwhile, I left the house without an extra pair of underwear or his potty seat. And he had two cups of apple juice in him. So when we got to Trader Joe's, we went straight to the potty, and luckily he was able to go there. Whew.

But let me tell you--I was frazzled by the time Jen got home Saturday evening, and Jonathan was so thrilled to see her and to have his mommy put him to bed. And I found yet more ways to appreciate her and what she does around here.