The words "shelter in place" have the ability to bring me back to 2009 when the Fort Hood shootings occurred. This tragedy was repeated yesterday in the Navy Yard in Washington DC. I can't even begin to fathom the whys or the hows. Most everyone knows my feelings on gun control, etc. This post is about the children.
My children were intimately affected by what happened on Fort Hood. We were there enjoying cake after Ben's promotion ceremony. We left quickly after not really knowing how dire the situation really was. We detoured to return a coffee urn but were locked out of the Officer's Club. That's when the sirens went off and the "shelter in place" warnings were given.
As you can imagine, with a child on the autism spectrum, the loud sirens were disturbing. However, the greater picture was even more so. The rest of the children were panicking as were my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. We did make it off Fort Hood before they closed all the gates. We would not be stuck in our car for the 6-8 hours it turned out to be.
There were many questions and I shrugged them off as best as I could. But, Ben ended up being locked down where he was. So, I did have to answer a few but I answered with as few details as possible.
In 2009, my children were 11, 8, 6 and 4. They were about to send their father off on a deployment to Afghanistan. I didn't tell them much about the deployment but by reading books (American Girl Molly), the children did eventually figure out that he was headed to someplace dangerous.
I will never know the effects of these deployments on the children completely. I have seen the pain in their faces when they realize their father is leaving. I have seen the relief when they learn he's coming home. I had never fully realized how much they kept inside until my oldest daughter dissolved into sobs upon learning her father was coming home safe and sound.
They had already witnessed their mother losing her control when her friend was killed on a deployment. Deployment means danger to them.
So, I want these children everywhere but most especially in the Washington DC area to feel safe. I don't want them to lose the peace and innocence. Once it's gone, it's gone.
I pray for all the children. The world is so different.
And, so I ramble on and on with no cohesive idea. This is basically a brain dump of all the thoughts in my head since yesterday morning.
Brother decided this year he'd like to play football. It's such a change from our regularly scheduled life that I was surprised and worried. I worried how we'd handle a sport that's in the opposite direction of ballet. But, Ben offered to take the football. I handed the ball off to him(pun intended). Occasionally, he has to pass it back like when he was on TDY last week.
He plays in a homeschool/private school league and it's 6 man football not 11. But, it is Texas, y'all. Football is big.
It's been hard for Brother, but he's sticking it out. I'm proud of him.
He just turned 15. I could've sworn just yesterday he was 2.
Pumpkin has been wanting to play soccer but I just couldn't imagine fitting that into our schedule. So, we compromised. I told her she could participate in the Challenger British Soccer Camp.
This camp was so well run. It was organized very well. The coaches were fantastic. I think Sister liked to come watch just so she could listen to the coaches speak as they sounded like One Direction.
The last day of the camp, the kids were told to bring things for the coaches to wear. I whipped up a tutu for one of them and brought another tutu that we had.
They were good sports.
Pumpkin had not played a single second of soccer before this camp. I know her skills have improved quite a bit. And, she had a blast.
The camp taught some virtues that the children can apply on and off the field: respect, responsibility, integrity, sportsmanship, and leadership.
The coaches were fun, but firm. Next year, I think we'll host a coach. It will be a neat experience for all of us although I'm not sure what they'll make of us.
It was neat to watch the coaches play around.
Coach Matt giving Pumpkin her evaluation.
Coach Declan who was a bit offended when a mom told him they should play in kilts. He replied, "I'm a wee bit Irish."
Coach Ollie who was also the joke teller. He was a great personality.
And more gratuitous Pumpkin shots.
She's not quite sure what to make of this goalie thing.
If you happen to meet a child/person with autism...it's okay. They don't bite. Usually.
Sometimes their conversation is odd. Sometimes, they will talk about something endlessly. Sometimes they don't understand personal space.
But, guess what? They can be redirected very easily. Ask a question. Most can answer the question. Answer questions they may have. Most teens with autism have been taught how to have a conversation. They forget the rules sometimes, but can be sent back on track when they go "off topic". They know that term. They know to answer questions then to ask one right back. Why? How? Their therapists work very hard with them to teach them social skills.
By the time an child with autism has it teen years, they're aware of their differences. They just want to fit in. So, help them along. They know when you are lovingly helping them. Use humor.
What's not helpful? Answering a question with yes or no and then turning away effectively ending the conversation before it even starts. Rolling your eyes at them. Muttering under your breath to "Go home". Asking within hearing distance of a sibling "Why did you ask HIM?"
Above all? Remember the golden rule.
I was driving home this morning from our OT (Occupational Therapy) appointment this morning and thinking back to the day of diagnosis.
We were just coming off the high of learning of Pumpkin's pregnancy. Just the day before, on Sunday, we had learned I was pregnant with her. Such wonderful news for us.
The appointment only took an hour, but what a life changing hour it was.
The previous 12 months had been fraught with questions. Each appointment only brought questions, not answers. One psychologist insisted on medicated for ADHD. He also thought Brother had ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). We PCS'd so we sought answers elsewhere. Upon learning about developmental pediatricians, I made an appointment almost immediately to get a referral. In September of 2004, 2 months after arriving in Texas, we met with one.
He listened closely and carefully to everything I said. He asked many questions all the while he observed Brother.
At the end? High functioning autism.
It was bittersweet. Relief at a name. Relief that his behavior was not because of bad parenting. Sadness. Grief. Fear. Worry.
Then, the planner in me got going. What would we need to do? We started at another therapy clinic, but I didn't like it there. How can you treat children with autism when the appointments weren't even on the same day much less the same hour each week? We got our referral changed to Kidz Therapeze. I LOVE the therapists and staff at this clinic.
It has been a long, hard road for all of us. We had bumps along the way. I've had regrets. Regrets on how many times Brother got in trouble for something he had no control over. I know many moms of children with autism feel this way. I know as I've spoken to them.
There's still more to go. But, we're moving along. It's not going as fast as he'd like, but he'll get there. Where you ask? Independent living.
He gives me big hugs.
He is afraid to introduce himself to new people at youth group.
He remembers everyone's birthdays.
He struggles with creating the word pictures in his mind so he prefers nonfiction books.
He loves music.
He struggles with being a teen. He wants to be like everyone else which is a teen thing anyway the struggle seems bigger for him.
He is loyal.
He gets thrown off when someone is seen out of context like seeing a therapist at a store.
He knows his faith so well. He is an awesome altar server and never misses the bells for consecration and he rings them joyously.
He blames me for his loss of weight and slowing of his growth spurt. He says it's because I've made all these appointments that stress him out.
He plays baby dolls with his youngest sister.
He wears a hoodie with pockets on cold days so I can warm my hands while he wraps his arms around me.
He struggles to navigate a social world with so many unwritten rules of engagements. A world where there are too many nuances for him to catch.
This is my son.
I do enjoy blogging. Truly. I do. There's just been so much going on in my life that blogging has taken a back seat.
My baby received her First Holy Communion at the beginning of February. The Monday after the Super Bowl to be precise. Yes, it was hard waking up and getting us all to the church.
And, it was difficult to not be behind the camera during this momentous time, but I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else, but behind my sweet, joyful child.
My friend, Sue and I started a costume company called, Vitus and Company. We specialize in theater costumes, but would like to branch out into the dance. One of my goals is to learn the world of Irish dance.
You know, teen years are hard. It's hard for the child and it's hard for the parent. Then throw in autism and a parent could feel adrift. One of my favorite places for my son is the Kidz Therapeze clinic. Everyone there loves him. They enjoy him. He doesn't always get that from other places. One of our favorites? Ms. Erin. She has so much wonderful energy. And, she connects with so many of the kids there. She brightens them up. She is a blessing to me and to all the children at Kidz.
Tween years are not so easy. The social world is difficult to navigate as well.
My older two are getting phones. iPhones to be precise. Mainly, smartphones because the cell phone world is heading away from regular phones.
Why? It is already difficult to be a homeschooler. You are different even if it's a more accepted way of education. Socially, my children have wonderful opportunities with homeschoolers and not. But, in this day and age, it's hard to be the only one without a phone. I know. I don't usually do what others do. BUT. Well, some friends don't communicate without a phone. Texts are the way some kids communicate. I don't want the feeling of isolation to lead to serious rebellion. I can see it happening especially in one particular child.
Did I tell you? Sister got pointe shoes! It was such a wonderful experience. The girls and I drove to Austin for Sister to get fitted. Then, we had a celebratory lunch. This is her 8th year of ballet at Newcomb School of Ballet.
I will end this with this final thought. I started homeschooling when Brother was 5. I thought I could help control certain aspects of his education. I knew he would be lost in the crowd. He is just high functioning enough that he'd fall through the cracks of an overburdened education system. Now, of course, there are many more reasons; reasons I won't get into. One of the early reasons was to help prevent any sense of isolation amidst a crowd he would feel. I also didn't want him to be a target of bullies. I had a sense that he would be. So, it pains me that sometimes the world you place your child in can create such hurt. And, I'm not just speaking of one child. I have seen and heard of the hurt that happens in the homeschool world.
Socially, we have many opportunities. But, we are all humans. The mistake I made? That by controlling who enters my children's spheres that there wouldn't be as much hurt. I was wrong. Not everyone feels the way I do. Not everyone teaches their child the things I would expect. And, some kids? They're just downright mean. And, when a family of kids are mean? No words.
Disclaimer: I'm not saying public school kids are awful by virtue of public schooling. I just thought that by exerting some control, I could control the kinds of people who would enter my children's sphere. I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
In the midst of election stuff, I forgot. I did. If it hadn't been for Facebook, I might have just glossed over what today was.
On November 5, 2009, Ben had his promotion ceremony. We had finished up with the ceremony and we were all socializing and eating cake. Our friend, who worked at the hospital on Fort Hood, came over and said he was being called back to work. We were surprised as he had taken the afternoon off to attend the promotion. He said there had been a shooting and he was needed.
We did not think it was a big as it was. So, we set about cleaning up the food and getting leftovers into the cars. We (the children, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and me) headed to the Club to return the coffee maker. My sister-in-law and I headed to the doors my sister-in-law indicated was where she entered earlier in the day. It was locked. Actually, it was locked and chained. So, we headed around the building. That's when the siren went off. The announcement was to take cover and stay away from the windows. My sister-in-law continued around the building while I ran back to get the car to pick her up.
Apparently, the call had gone out to the buildings to close up before the sirens went off. The poor soldiers inside the building wanted to help us, but couldn't as the doors were chained closed. So, we brought the coffee pot back into the suburban and took off. We didn't want to be caught out in the open.
You have to remember. At this point there was not enough information. For all the authorities knew, there was more than one gunman. I ran a red light at the urging of my mother-in-law and we turned out of Fort Hood. As we crossed the gate, the guard ran out to close it. We made it in the nick of time.
I remember all of this very vividly. I remember the sense of panic. I remember my children panicking at the sirens. I remember their fear. I remember them worrying about their father who had gone on to take care of some business. Cell phone circuits were busy as word was getting out.
They locked down post. No one could get in or out. We waited as long as we could then went to dinner. I think it's the first time we went out to dinner without having to wait for a table. We're a family of a minimum of 6, we always wait for a table. It was very, very eerie with the roads very empty.
It turned into a very long night. Until the children went to bed, we didn't turn the news on. They didn't need to see or hear about it.
Ben came home close to 11. For us that ended the day. For these families who lost loved ones or for those who survived after being shot, it hasn't ended. The man responsible has not been brought to justice yet. And, for the record? It was not workplace violence. It's terrorism pure and simple.
A bit after my daddy moved in with us, he found a job working in the garden center at the HEB (grocery store). He has always been a diligent worker never slacking in any area.
Yesterday, he was putting together some lawn furniture at work when he heard some applause behind him. He just assumed there was something going on in the front of the store. He glanced behind him to see the management team arrayed around him.
He had been named Partner (what HEB calls employee) of the Month for September. He received a cookie cake, balloon, and a gift card.
We are all very proud of him. The kids first question? Is he bringing home the cake?
She's 11 today. Eleven years ago, the doctors pulled all 9 pounds of her out of me. She was a week early with a scheduled c-section. I wonder how big she would've been if she'd come on her own.
This beautiful girl of mine who taught her older autistic brother how to play when she was one.
This beautiful girl who is transformed when she dances into the most graceful ballerina ever (in my very humble biased opinion). Otherwise? She's quite clumsy.
This tween. This princess. This sister. This fashion maven.
This sweet girl who is my first daughter. I know we'll be the greatest of friends when she's older.
Happy birthday, my love.
My son. The one who made me a mother. The one who taught me that I'm not a very patient person.
The one who showed me to learn to accept. The one who taught me how to give more and more of myself.
This boy in a man sized body. This boy who has taken me on an adventure I would never have imagined.
This boy. I love him so much I can't even describe it.
He's 14 today. How'd that happen?
It's hard to believe that it's nearing the end of July. This summer, our weather has not been too hot. Don't get me wrong, it's still hot, but when we were having over 100 days of 100 degree weather, I was cranky AND hot. Right now? Just hot. Only sometimes cranky.
Autism is a blessing and a curse. I won't go into too many details. However, I will say that it's sometimes REALLY hard for a child who is high functioning. He acts "normal" usually. He looks "normal". And, he's just close enough that expectations are high for his behavior. There isn't a lot out there on how to help him. There isn't a lot out there for him. He doesn't need adaptive stuff but he's not quite there for normal, age appropriate stuff. My boy is getting man-sized. He's still a boy. It's harder and harder. Just when I thought I had him figured out. My dealings with him have me down. I'm not always patient. It's really hard. He's moody. Thankfully, it's not 100 degrees out.
Planning for the new year. I'm not anywhere near done. I haven't really started. I have an idea. I have to get it down on paper. I'm almost there in figuring out the schedule. There are a few changes for therapy and ballet. I'm still waiting to get it all finalized. I know Brother needs one more activity. A physical one. It's hard to find one for him. I'm thinking swim team on Fort Hood.
Ben is nearing retirement. It's making me feel a bit panicky.
Exercise. It's been nonexistent for me for over a year. I'm hoping to get back on track. I was on the treadmill on Monday. I missed today. Hoping for tomorrow. My goal is an hour a day. If I don't get up by six, I won't get it in. I dislike mornings.
My mind is all over the place. From ballet costumes to theater costumes. Did I mention that I was in the program for the first time for a theater production? I was pretty proud. I can put it on my resume. The Nut will be here before we know it. I have a few ideas. These ideas have been floating around in my head since the last one. I have different ideas for clothes for the girls. I'm thinking I want to make a bunch of their clothes, but I like the summer ones better. I'll have to figure out winter stuff.
Well, that's it for now. I need to get to sleep if I'm going to wake up and exercise.
Nine years ago, a sweet tiny 7lb 15oz baby girl was born. Our only Virginia baby. She captured our hearts from the start.
Honey loves books. She regales us with her vocabulary whenever she speaks. Her love of a story and make believe is legendary. She can be bigger than life. I don't know how nine years could have gone by already.
My beautiful girl. Happy birthday.
And, did you know she had camo paints on her birthday list? And, all sorts of tomboy stuff?
For the past three years, a family in our homeschool group offers their home for a "camping" experience. We have swimming, a campfire, and different activities. This year, we added Saturday's vigil mass. The setup was much easier having the camp starting on Saturday as opposed to Friday. Until Father offered mass for us, we couldn't figure out a way to do a Camp W on Saturday into Sunday.
We had swimming, then a potluck dinner, more swimming, a campfire with smores, of course, and a camp sing along. The next morning, the overnight campers had a potluck breakfast. With it being Father's Day, we had the children wash the dads' cars. They had fun and then they were allowed to swim. After swimming and a quick snack, we had a tug of war.
The team on the left won.
In an effort to cut down on trash and waste, we leave it up to the families to provide reusable plates and cups. It doesn't always happen. Some families just forget (I've been one to forget when we first started doing this). Some will bring paper plates which is fine. Usually, a couple of the families provided the paper goods. So, this helps cut down on a few of the families carrying the whole group.
Well, I've just deleted a whole paragraph that wasn't going in a good charitable direction. So, I'll talk about a family who was there. This mom has four 8 and under. The youngest is a baby. She camped overnight without her husband as he was in the field. She put up her tent by herself. She was super. Without raising her voice once! I was in awe. She was vigilant. She kept an eye on her children and made sure they didn't wander into the swimming pool area.
Kids will be kids. The people who own the property keep the gates closed because they don't want their dog to wander in and and out of the backyard. That's the only reason why there are gates. And, as many of us have been there frequently, we don't close the gates. It's easier to go in and out of the pool area. So, it was neat to see how this mom took care of her children while having the gates open. But, of course, the Army is sending this family elsewhere.
This morning Brother has his second to last baseball game. His team has won one game. I love his team, coaches and players. They do not give up. They don't get mad at each other. They encourage each other.
This team couldn't have been more tailor made for my son. My son's biggest wish. The biggest thing he wants more than anything this season? A hit. He's so afraid of getting hit. I hope he gets it. Talk about BIG boost to his self-confidence. Prayers around 11 CST?
I've been pondering the ideas of exclusivity. I think that if a group, an official group, has an outing, no one should be left out. I think that if a teen invites the other teen boys (or girls) in this group to a movie, he (or she) should not exclude one boy (or girl). And, then, these boys (or girls) should know better than to discuss the movie and the outing in front of this boy (or girl). And give him (or her) the guest list. I'm just sayin'.
However, if a few of the boys (or girls) get together for something, not everyone has to be invited. It's just only if it's a group thing. Just as sometimes moms will get together to do something. It's a fine line, I know, but it's one I've always placed. Maybe it's misplaced. Not everyone clicks. It's not necessarily a clique, but some people mesh better together.
I'm also pondering backing away from our homeschool group. There are pluses and minuses. It's a hard decision. I have to do what's best for my children. It's been a positive experience...for the most part.
My oldest daughter played Princess Nadia. She opens the box which releases evil and kills Queen Adalia, her mother. The box beckons to her and she takes it and runs away.
Sister is very good at playing a naughty girl. It's a bit disturbing.
The ballet had canaries, butterflies, and villagers.
I made the princess bodices and tutus. The M.O.B. (Mothers Of Ballerinas) helped quite a bit with the decorations.
I made this one as well.
We are all still recovering from the spring performance. The girls should've been tired except they've been playing "ballet school" since yesterday. To Nutcracker music of all things. I guess they're ready to move on to the next thing. I have a house to clean for the summer. A very late spring cleaning.
Wow. You're seven! I can't imagine where the time went. If I remember correctly, just yesterday you were in my arms nursing.
Instead, you are such a fun-loving child. This coming year is going to bring so much for you. You'll receive two sacraments. You'll be in the 2nd grade.
You bring a lot of joy to this family and to this world. You do everything with passion whether it be happy passion...or not.
You're the only sister that Brother teases. It's really kind of cute even though you react with such vigor. I almost don't want to stop him because it's so neuro-typical. He loves you. And, who wouldn't.
I remember the day you were born. I said Hail Marys throughout the entire c-section. They had changed procedure so you were brought to me as soon as I was brought back into the recovery room from the OR. We were together from the get-go.
I miss that little baby, but oh, I am just loving who you are today.
Happy birthday, sweet Pumpkin. I love you!