I originally started this blog a few years ago to chronicle Noah's daily struggles with autism. It was a dark time in my life - a time when I felt that things would never get better. It was a time when I felt that all my hopes and dreams for my son and for our family had died. In my efforts to help Noah recover from autism, I began a journey that inadvertently led me to rediscover myself. I learned how to laugh again. How to dream again. How to live again. How to love again.

Autism Schmaustism. He's still our son.

This is a blog celebrating our family. Our kids. Our life.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Noah Christmas Morning

It's a Bird.. It's a Plane...It's a Trampoline!

Santa brought us the motherload this year. I think he surveyed our family over the past 12 months and said.... "Hey. Now there's a family who has 3 kids in OT, 2 in PT, and 3 in Speech Therapy. Come on elves, let's get to work!"


Each kid got one toy and one educational board game. But the real presents were the toys that could be doubled as therapy use:


A mini-trampoline with a stabilizer bar (also helpful for mama to work off that crockpot full of cream cheese rotel)


A see-saw




A mini skate board ramp to work on walking up an incline


Two pedal cars




and a rockerboard for balance and trunk stability


Insurance pays for ONE 30-minute therapy session for 30 weeks - so from mid-July till the end of December - we have to pay out of pocket or do without. And... cough cough.. it's $185 an hour PER therapy.

So Santa got smart this year, hit the sales, visited a flea market, used the services of a great friend who is a fabulous carpenter, and used some coupons (yes, even Academy Sports has coupons)... and there ya have it... therapy tools at our fingertips 24/7.


But what's even better is the bond that's developing between Noah and his siblings. He can finally play with them. Eli loves being able to get on the see-saw with Noah. He has never been able to play with Noah before. It's brilliant - and so heart warming. He even begged to sit with Noah at supper last night.


Thanks, Santa!






Wake up, Noah. Wake up! Santa came!



He spots the trampoline.....



He smiles......




Here he goes......

See video post above... for the life of me, I can't figure out how to get it all on one blog post.

Self Portraits

Eli actually commented that he doesn't have any pictures of just "me and Mommy" - compared to the thousands of pictures we have of me and Noah when Noah was little. (The first born, you know. The others all got shafted.)

So, yesterday we broke out the camera...



Noah was easy - although I had no idea there was ketchup smeared all over one side of his face. Figures - since he had his head poked in the fridge when I grabbed him for the photo.



Nandi was easy, too. And, as you can partially see, is still gearing up for a future career as a nudist.




And then there's Eli.

Eyes shut tight on purpose: Picture #1

Eyes shut tight on purpose: Picture #2

Eyes shut tight on purpose: Picture #3


Wait till Mommy bends her head down... wait... wait a minute... open eyes! Bingo.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas




Ahhh, another craft stolen from some creative parent's blog. Are you sick of them yet?

This turned out to be a great one. I had originally planned on saving it until tomorrow night, but then I thought.... "Hmmmm... do I really want to get the kids all hyped up on icing and candy when I really need them in bed by 8:30??"

So we did it this afternoon.


Here's what you do:

Take one box of sugar ice cream cones - you know, the triangle ones
Add 3 tubs of white icing + green food coloring
One foil Santa
A cookie sheet or cake pan or whatever you have laying around
And Assorted candies. We used mini M&M's, Jujubes, and Gum Drops
(Oh, and I'm thinking about adding those miniature Rudolph's that CVS has on clearance)

Spread 2 tubs of icing on the bottom of the cookie sheet. Give an ice cream cone to each kid and let 'em go crazy. My kids had a blast. Well, Noah decided he was just going to eat all of his decorations. And by the end of it, Nandi looked a bit like Shrek with all the green icing on her face. Only Eli was Mr. Gung-Ho about having the absolute best decorated Christmas Tree in the whole world.

He's a bit competitive that way.







Anyway, it was a cool little craft. We played Christmas music in the background and drank hot chocolate - we basically turned a drab, drizzly day into a wonderful Christmas memory.

Hope you have as much fun as we did!


Gross, Gooey, Yucky Sensory Craft for Kids Who Live in the South and Don't Get Snow


Isn't that snowman the cutest? Who would've ever thought it was made of grated up Ivory Soap, some warm water, and 1/2 a roll of toilet paper.

See, Eli and Nandi are fascinated with Frosty the Snowman... courtesy of the inundation of Christmas cartoons that have been coming on since the day after Thanksgiving. And Eli just can't understand why it doesn't snow in Texas.

I can tell him why. Because Texas is God's Country and God knows that mama can't live anywhere where it dips below 75 degrees on a regular basis.

It's a fact.

So, anyway, I came across a post about Faux Snow on a blog and thought it would be perfect for the kids. Plus it promised to have a lot of sensory input for our kiddoes with SID and required all three to work on their fine motor skills by tearing up the TP into small pieces.

You know what? I never thought about how hard it is to tear up toilet paper if you have weak motor skills... which probably explains why I'm still wiping butts waaaaaaay past the age that kids should still need help doing that sort of thing. But, seriously, they could not do it. It was wild.

Here's how you do it... take one bar of Ivory Soap and grate it up into a cake pan or roasting dish - or something like that. You could have the kids do it, but I like my kids with all 10 fingers, so I decided to do it myself.

Plus, I found it oddly therapeutic.

Then you take 1/2 a roll of toilet paper and have the kids tear it into small pieces (or big pieces if that's all they can do) and mix it in the pan with the Ivory Soap. Then take some warm water and pour it into the bowl and have your kids mush it all around like this...

Yes, I'm aware that Nandi is wearing the same Superman costume in practically every picture that I've posted of her in the last 6 months.

It's her thing.
Then, just let the kids' imagination run wild. Eli made a dragon. He used buttons for the nose and rick-rack for the mouth. Up at the top, Frosty's sporting a funky rick-rack scarf... as is the creation that Nandi created below. It's meant to be a dog, but ummm, yeah.... we just nodded and smiled. Ohhhhh, yes, I see. It's a dog. Look, honey (nudge, nudge) Nandi made a doggy.


It went surprisingly well. The kids played with it daily for 4 days straight. It's pretty cool. Completely non-toxic. The only part that the kids didn't like was mushing it all up together.

"Eeeeeeeew, gross! It's nasty. Mommy, it's totally gross."

I, like, totally have no idea, you know, how my kids have ended up talking like, uh, you know, Valley Girls, you know? Like, that's totally freaky.

Eventually, though, the desire to make faux snow outweighed their sensory issues and bada bam bada bing they started sculpting away.

So, anyway, there you have it. A squishy, gooey, yucky phooey craft for kids who get to wear short-sleeves in December and think that snow is that fake stuff they decorate Six Flags' Holiday in the Park with...

Go on. All you friends up north. You hate me right? It's okay. I'd be jealous, too. ;-)
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What does a dinosaur have in common with autism?

We were driving Nandi to preschool yesterday and Eli piped up in the back...

"Mom, did you know that my Dinosaur, Little Tikes, has what Noah and Nandi have?"

(Yes, his dinosaur is named Little Tikes... because, you know, that's what it says right there on his leg.)

"Really? Your dinosaur has cerebral palsy?"

"Yeah, it can't talk."

Pause.

"Eli, honey. Noah can't talk because he has autism."

Silence.

"Oh. Well Little Tikes has autism. He can't talk. His batteries are running down and he doesn't roar anymore."

Fair enough.

"Sweetie, you know that Nandi doesn't have autism, right?"

"Yeah, I know."

"Then how is your dinosaur like Nandi?"

"It has an attidude."

Smart kid.

Monday, December 15, 2008

2008 Christmas Tour of Homes

My friend Shara is participating in BooMama's Online Christmas Tour of Homes. I wasn't going to participate because I'm not the best decorator and some of those people have some fierce decorations going on.

My fragile ego couldn't handle it.

But then I realized that this is the only time of year that my house is clean - and if I had the guts to post pictures of my hideously messy bedroom for the whole world to see, then why not post pictures of my house in a rare state of cleanliness.

So, look out BooMama, here comes Recovering Noah's house. I know you're jealous - not everyone can possess the style and class that we do....

First of all, our Christmas tree. Purchased a few years ago at the one store that ALL luxurious people shop at: Walmart.



And what better way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas than to deck out your tree in Mardi Gras beads. Literally. Mardi Gras beads. Delicately placed next to glow-in-the-dark planets. Yes. That's Saturn you see.

And lest you think we're setting a bad example for the chitlin's, I can assure you that these Mardi Gras beads were not... er.... earned. They were purchased a few years ago at the Dollar Tree back when Noah was in an ABA program.

Moving on, I present to you the lovely camels that we bought in India a few years back. Next to another glow-in-the-dark planet....


And what tree is complete without an Indian-Woman-Dressed-In-A-Sari Tourist Keychain?

Because nothing spells classy like decorating your Christmas tree with keychain trinkets.



And, last but not least, here is Sir Frog. One of the many garage sale stuffed animals that has found it's way on our Christmas Tree this year.


Never fear. though. Fortunately, we have sophisticated relatives and friends who feel sorry for us and give us proper ornaments each year. Such as the lovely blue T-Rex that Uncle Mark and Aunt Beth gave Eli this year.

And the Willow Tree ornament that my fabulous friend, Susie, gave us after we adopted Eli and became a family of four.

I LOVE me some Willow Tree ornaments.



Next up is the fiber optic Christmas tree that I bought at the Pinnacle Women's annual garage sale back in October. Nothing says "House Full of Preschoolers" like a fiber optic Christmas tree.

Oh, who am I kidding. I love fiber optic stuff. I'd have a house full of the things if Sim would let me.

But he won't.




Here's our music entertainment stand. We are so high-tech aren't we? The 1960's record player and tie-dyed speakers just scream "up with the times", right? But doesn't the fiber optic Christmas tree look pretty?



Then there's my favorite decoration of all. The picture doesn't do it justice. It's a dead tree branch collected at my parent's land and an old rusty bucket filled with pebbles that Nandi and I collected.

Okay, we actually stole them from some road construction down the street - but that's what we pay taxes for, right?

The kids are hanging all their homemade decorations on the tree. So, we've got Reindeer Handprints, Felt Snowmen, and Fruit Loop Circles.

We had more Fruit Loop Circles, but Mama got hungry....

Yeah, that's right. I ate the Christmas ornaments. Whatcha make of that?

Speaking of homemade snowmen.... this little diddy is decorating Eli's door. Don't know about you but I think it looks like a cross between Krusty the Clown and the Joker.

It's Frosty's Scary Little Cousin. And all I can say is that I'm glad it's not hanging in my room.


This is another of my favorite Christmas decorations. It's a nativity scene from Xela, which is the part of Guatemala that we adopted Eli from. They're dressed in traditional clothing - and it's so precious to me.

Unfortunately, it's not as precious to the kids because they've been holding Joseph hostage for the last year.... and they can't remember where they put him. Currently, one of the shepherds is doing stand in.



I LOVE nativity scenes. I bought this at the Family Resource Center Thrift Store. I knew immediately that it was made in Germany. The detail is beautiful! Sadly, it's missing the windmill that goes on top and that would make it sell for lots and lots of moulah on Ebay. That's okay, though, I couldn't sell it. I love stuff like this.






This little guy is the cutest thing ever! My friend Barbara lives in N. Ireland and her neighbor knitted this for Noah's first Christmas. This probably has the most sentimental value of all our decorations.



And what Christmas is complete without Charlie Brown? Snagged these at CVS for free. Gotta love those ECB's! (And if you have no idea what I'm talking about then you need to get yourself to a CVS ASAP.)



And that's it. A personal look into our home.

So what does YOUR home look like??

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rudolph's Got Some Competition....

These are some pics of the homemade reindeer headband-thingamajigs-Saturday-bordedom-buster-craft thingy that I made for the kids...

Say THAT 7 times fast. Ha!












I totally stole the idea off a blog I read last winter and have waited all year for the trees to die just so that I could snag some dead twigs off my parents' land.

The headbands are just pieces of velcroed felt with scrap ribbon hot glued on top.

Sigh. I am so in love with my hot glue gun. It's the only type of gun I truly advocate for...

Anyway, glue some pockets on the inside of the headbands, stick some twigs in, and - voila! - instant reindeer.

We've decided that Nandini's reindeer name is Fliesty the Red-Nosed Reindeer. (She's got red lipstick smeared on her nose for full effect.)


It's a combo of Flighty and Feisty put together. Kinda like Bennifer and Brangelina - because, you know, we're so cool and hip that way.


Eli decided that he wanted to be in charge of picking his own reindeer name... and came up the name Big Horny.

I'm not sure how Santa's going to feel about having a helper with a name that belongs in the... uhm.... adult reindeer entertainment business.

Especially with Eli - oops, I mean Big Horny - running around saying, "Look at me! I'm so horny!"

Spoken entirely with the purity and innoncence of a 5 year old child, mind you.

I, on the other hand, have been snickering all morning long.


And, last but not least, we have Reindeer Noah. He decided to opt out of all the reindeer fun, which is a shame because his little headband was the cutest.


Eli gave him a name, too.... Pillow Fly.


That's right. Reindeer Pillow Fly.

I don't know where he comes up with this stuff. Sometimes I wish I could just crawl into his head for a few minutes. But most of the time I'm glad I can't.

So there you are. The three newest members of Santa's team:

Fliesty

Big Horny


and

Pillow Fly

And they all went down in history.... la la la la la.....

It's your classic Reindeer story with a twist. :-)




Friday, December 12, 2008

Labels, Labels, Labels

Do any of you have any info on Expressive-Receptive Language Disorder?

We received Eli's neuropsych report back and, in addition to a few other things, this is one of the disorders that he's been diagnosed with. Apparently it's not normal for a child to be able to remember every minute detail of something that happened when he was two or be able to use the words impeccable, delectable, or persevere correctly in a sentence but NOT be able to find the words to describe a purple circle or know the opposite for the word stop or no.

I guess that would be considered a bit odd.

Asperger's was ruled out - yeah! Although they were quick to point out that there were many similarities and that they could easily give him the diagnosis if he needed it.

Uh, thanks, but no thanks.

Also, one of the things that disappointed me is that they gave Eli an IQ test. Well, if you have a language disorder or a learning disability, how can you test accurately? Eli scored in the low IQ range - and, therefore, was also diagnosed with a Cognitive Disorder.

Everyone knows that's just a PC way of saying "mentally retarded".

And I'm so glad they don't call it that anymore because it makes me cringe to hear it. My biggest pet peeve is when people say "Oh, that's so retarded" or "Don't be retarded." Ugh. If I ever suddenly smack you upside the head, it's most likely because you let that word slip out in conversation.

But, the truth is, it DOES have negative connotations and to be told that Eli is MR - or Cognitively Disabled - geez, that's just mind boggling. It's crap is what it is.

I refuse to let my mind go there. He's such a smart kid. He just learns differently.

Oh, and they also think he has dysgraphia. And some other things. I don't know. I've got a lot of research to do.

But here's the thing. In 20 years is it really going to matter if you can't write correctly? Won't everything be done on a keyboard anyway? Who cares if math is hard. That's why God invented the calculator. And if you can't remember something automatically... hello! G-O-O-G-L-E.

But to put him in an MR range and give him that diagnosis because he can't test the way other 5 year olds do? That's just plain nonsense.

Okay, okay. I DID want the neuropsych done. And now I'm complaining about what it said. It's kind of hypocritical isn't it?

I'm angry because it shows me how the system works. If you can't complete a standard IQ test then you must be dumb. A slow learner. But it takes NO consideration that not every child learns the same. I took some of those same IQ questions and reworded them for Eli and he answered every one of them. But because he couldn't answer it they way the test had it worded... well, then he's got a low IQ.

That's what frustrates me. It is so ridiculous! The kid can tell you every continent. Knows the capital of Ethiopia. Can name half the unpronounceable villages in Wales... but has a low IQ?

Puh-leeze.

Yes, learning is going to be hard for him. He's going to require a lot of hands-on learning. He learns and retains from having actual, real-life experiences. It IS going to be a challenge. Math will be a challenge. Reading will be a challenge. Writing will be a challenge. Memory retention will be a challenge. We're going to have to be really creative with his learning and his education....

But I would bet my life - and it's that whole Mother's instinct thing - that this kid is going to prove them wrong. I can feel it in my bones. In my soul. In everything I have. This label does not mean anything. It's hogwash. A bunch of phooey. Nonsense.

Will it be hard? Yeah, definitely. Impossible, no.

So there you have it. On one hand, I'm angry about it. But on the other hand, relieved. In a weird way it's good to put a name to it because it gives us a starting point. We have a better idea of how Eli learns now and we also know that some things are just really difficult for him. I used to think he was being lazy or just pulling my leg when he would say that he couldn't dress himself. Now I know that it's really hard for him to coordinate himself correctly. It would frustrate me when he would get dressed and his entire outfit would be on inside out and backwards. But knowing that maybe there's something neurologically going on helps me to be more patient with him... and to help him through it.

Now that we know what's going on, we can help him learn the way HE learns. The way HE learns best. Not the way some textbook says he has to learn or the way a bunch of professionals have deemed the most appropriate way to learn. But the way HE learns.

So if anyone has any suggestions or websites or blogs that you can point me to... well, point away, please.

And if anyone knows of a school likes THIS ONE that exists in Texas and will not require me to sell a kidney or prostitute myself in order to pay for tuition, I'd be much obliged.

Or if anyone wants to help start a school..... now that would be really cool.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How To Teach Basic Math to a 5 Year Old Dinosaur Lover

Take one T-Rex dinosaur



Add one Oviraptor (egg-stealing) dinosaur


Add one nest of T-rex dinosaur eggs (technically, T-Rex didn't lay eggs in a nest, but it's okay)


Finally, add one pair of dice


Roll the dice and have 5-year old count the number it landed on. Add that number of eggs to T-Rex's nest.

Have 5 year old roll the dice and subtract said number from T-Rex's nest. (Oviraptor steals them)


T-Rex realizes that some of her eggs are missing


T-Rex - being the fiercest dinosaur in the whole word - attacks and kills oviraptor and reclaims her stolen eggs.



Count how many eggs are now in T-Rex's nest. It should be the original number she started with. Roll dice, rinse, and repeat.


We also have similar games for a 4 year old- dog lover who is learning to count.

And a 7 year old who likes to steal pillows from everyone's room.