What’s Christmas About

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These are 3 of my grandchildren.  And it’s rare to see them all getting along at the same time!  So when we were almost done setting up the tree, I had to capture these precious moments to keep and now share.

Khali is the little one on the left.  She just turned 2 in October.  She came to live with me in May of 2012.  Brooklyn just turned 10 in October and that’s her brother Caleb she’s holding on to (hoping he won’t drop her), he turns 9 in January.  Those two have lived with me since 2008.

As I’m typing this I realize I have a pretty big smile on my face and tears are starting to form in my eyes.  Most days with the kids aren’t always presenting a smile.  For those of you that have kids old enough to bicker and battle with each other you know what I’m talking about.  And when those days happen, or should I say when those moments happen, it can be tough.

IMG_7767These kids go to school and play with friends that have a mom and most likely a dad that take care of them.  And my two have a grandma they call Nana that they live with.  They’ve been through struggles most of us as adults can’t even imagine seeing or going through.

When their friends ask why they live with their grandma, they aren’t really sure what to say.  But I tell them that they have a home that is filled with love and a grandma that has chosen to have them live with them because that’s just how life turned out to be.

IMG_7755I’ve said this many times before, I may not be perfect (well ok, most days I think I am!!!), but I do what I can and I do what I have to  where help is needed.  And when there are children involved, our hearts should all be willing to give.

As I grow older and wiser as time goes by, I’ve realized that what I’m doing is one of the most important things in not just my life, but their lives.  And though they have hurt and pain and so many unanswered questions, they are my life.  And I would do it all again if I had to.

IMG_7770The smile on their faces are priceless.   You can’t take that away.

IMG_7772That’s our tree.  We got a real one this year.  The house smells fabulous.  And it couldn’t be any prettier.  It was decorated with love and caring little hands.  (We had some dogs that had to make their presence known too – that’s Coco).

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I’ve done my best this year to teach the kids the true meaning of Christmas.  Yes, we all love waking up on that morning to see what’s been left under the tree for us. And sometimes that meaning falls short.  But I want the kids to know why we set up our tree.  What each piece means.  What the star means, what the candy cane represents, what the gifts that Jesus got mean.  I want the kids to know and learn as much as they can each and every year.  Enjoy your family/friends and the time you spend with them this year.

This Christmas I pray for each and every family to have a home filled with love.  A family that they can lean on.  Someone to put a smile on their face.  Opening a gift will give that joy for a moment, but the true joy is the meaning of life and family.  If you don’t have that I pray you find people in your life that will be that for you.

May many new memories be made for you and yours.  May you have a blessed holiday and the beginning of a wonderful new year.

From our home to yours.

Patricia

Three Day Trip to Duluth

The kids and I have never been on any kind of vacation since they’ve been with me.  We’ve traveled to Duluth for a day, but that’s pretty much it.  This week was their Spring break from School and I had taken Tuesday through Thursday (today) off.  Last week I said to myself, self…let’s go to Duluth and visit Uncle Joey (my younger son).

Me not being the random person sure didn’t give myself much time to PLAN.  But once I made up my mind, found a hotel for us, I got online and started planning out each and every day for us.  Then I checked the weather and saw that it was going to be nice and cold there with tons of chance for rain.  So, back to planning stage one and created an agenda for inside activities for us to do.

We got in the car and traveled our 3 hour trip up North.  Not one fight with the kids.  We actually had a nice quiet trip with no bickering or fighting.  I was already in vacation mode.  Bring it on!

Got to Duluth, checked in our hotel, drove up to Two Harbors and met my son, Joey.  Since it wasn’t raining outside we decided to take our chance at Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse.  It’s been a while since I’ve been to either of these places so I was really glad that I could share this memory with the kids and Joey all over again.  Just seeing the falls and the looks on the kids, I knew we made the right choice to go here and be at one with nature.  Little did I know as this trip went on how close to nature I would actually come.  More on that in a bit.

We walked through the falls and just took it all in.  Caleb and Joey were a bit more risky than Brooklyn and I were.  Caleb took a dip in a the water a few times!  It felt so good to laugh.  Life has been a bit on the stressful side and this is what, at least I needed for the next three days!!!  Peace, quiet, nature, time with my son and to forget about life for a bit.  Yep, we’re back now, but we had a great time and created life long memories that we will never forget.

After Gooseberry Falls we took our chance to go to Split Rock Lighthouse.  We jumped in the car and made our drive.  We got there and there was only one car in the lot.  We got out and noticed that the building was closed.  Joey insisted that we could still walk around and take our pictures, we just wouldn’t be able to go inside.  I was okay with that.  I just wanted the kids to see what this beautiful place held and why.  We got to the lighthouse and I started to tell the story to the kids of what was behind this talk building and the houses that stood by them.

When I looked up, there was Joey climbing as high as he could on the lighthouse.  Snap, snap.  I kept taking pictures.  We get Joey to come down and get prepared to walk down the 168 steps (yes Joey counted them last time he was there).  But there was a fence up that said “Closed”.  Apparently that was not going to stop my son from taking us down those stairs.

He opens the gate and gets us all in.  I was NOT feeling this at all.  I felt like we were doing something wrong.  But he insisted.  So snap, snap, pictures kept going.  Down the stairs we go.

Caleb following Uncle Joey on his journey of jumping and climbing all over the rocks, buildings and running down the stairs.  I just took in the beauty of all of this.   I guess as you grow older you sure do appreciate what sits before you.  Snap, snap.

I sit here trying to find words to express my feelings and emotions that I felt being where I was with the kids and my son because, as I’ve said, seeing such beauty at a different stage in life so appreciative.  It wasn’t just a three day get away, it was a true three day get away that was needed to refuel myself.

All things happen for a reason.

For dinner that night we went to Red Lobster.

We went back to the hotel that night and went swimming.  I haven’t been in a pool for a very long time.  Touching the water with my toes, I really didn’t want to get in that pool.  But I was doing it for the kids.  I got in and we swam for over an hour.

Day two held more fun and adventure.

My indoor plans were put to rest for a bit as we walked around Canal Park taking pictures of the lift bridge, the barge that came through.  We walked through the Maritime building learning about the history of those big boats and how they run and were put together.  We had so much fun.

We traveled on down the road to Adventure Zone to find the door open, but the lights off.

We found out that they didn’t open until 2pm.  The look on poor Caleb’s face…..so off we went to do some hiking.

Now when I say hiking, I guess I meant hiking.

My son and his girlfriend apparently do this quite often.  They find parks and wooded areas and wander around, looking for items they can find, but more importantly, they knock over the dead trees.  Which in turn got the kids to start their new adventure of finding the biggest tree they, too, could knock down.  Snap, snap.  Pictures were going.

We finished at one park and went to another to Enger Park.  Another beautiful site to see with your own eyes.  The scene is so hard to explain unless you see it for yourself.  My pictures may tell our story but can’t express what you feel when you see it on your own.

As we traveled through to the wooded area, in my mind, we were lost.  I was proud to say that my iPhone did not lose signal.  I was able to post my pictures on Facebook, text them to friends, but not able to find our way out.  My sister told me to use my GPS on my phone.  I sent her a note back telling her I think that works on roads, but not sure how it would work in a wooded area.  “Hi GPS, I’m located at tree C here, can you find my way to my car?”  Which then led the kids to tell me to use my “Find My Car app”.  However, if I’d have set that app prior to getting into the woods, it may have worked.  But I didn’t know my son, Mr. Adventure would get us into the woods where we saw nothing but trees.

We did find a couple of home made tee pees made out of wood that we thought we could sleep in if needed.  Here’ll you’ll see Joey and myself in this little house and then me having a hard time getting out of this little house.

Thank the Lord when it came time to find our way out and head back to Adventure Zone.  I can honestly say that at that time, I was glad to see a building that had a bathroom I could use.  Though I’ll admit, the hiking adventure was fun.

I took some time to just sit and watch everyone play mini golf, hit balls at the batting cage and then eating some pizza that Caleb insisted on having.  Fun was had by all.

We decided to head back to the hotel to swim and meet up for dinner around 7pm.  Grandma’s for dinner tonight.

I chose not to get in that freezing cold pool this time.  I sat in the chair and watched the kids swim for almost two hours.  Feeling so relaxed.  The kids were getting along so well, with a few minor hits and bickers in between.

Joey calls shortly before 7pm to say that Grandma’s on Canal Park was packed and we needed to go to the one by Miller Mall.  He said he heard that possibly the Jonas Brothers were going to be at the Sports bar.  Well that had me going.  If the Jonas Brothers were going to be there, I’m sure that Miss Brooklyn would love her Nana even more than she does now (if that’s possible) if I could get her to see the Jonas Brothers.  I get on my phone to find the number.  I call, it rings.  A voice mail picks up and and says they couldn’t answer the phone because they were busy.  OMGosh, I better try to call back.  I try again and get someone on the phone.  I ask who their entertainment is for the night….NO ONE.  Way to go Joey.  Now we drove out of the way for dinner AND the Jonas Brothers were not at Grandma’s across from our hotel.  Dork.

Back to the hotel we go to get some sleep.  NOPE.  The hotel does S’mores at 8pm.  We thought we missed it.  But the fires were still going.  We get our gear, head out to the fire pit, and make our bed time snack before settling in.

I set the alarm for 7:30 to get up and get our awesome continental breakfast.  Joey was coming to eat with us and then set out for more “hiking”.   The hotel has belgium waffle makers, eggs, egg rolls, yogurt parfaits, yogurt, fresh fruit, cereal, bagels..you name it they had it.

We fill out bellies, we walk back up to the room, finish packing our bags and head out for our last day of our Duluth journey.

I can’t even say if we went to one or two wooded areas today.

All I know is that I had the funniest Nana moment that the kids nor I will soon forget.

Mr. Joey felt the need to get from one side of the river, lake, creek, whatever you want to call it, with a broken tree.  Yes, a broken tree.  Why was I the last one to go across?  Because the oldest must watch over the youngsters?  Yeah ok.  Not.  So here comes my turn.

Joey even says, here give me your camera so we can take pictures of you crossing.  Oh, yes, this is my fun!  Snap, snap.  Not by me this time.

We get across, get more pretty pictures.  There was, yet more falls that we got to take in.

So now we must go to the top of the falls to see it even better.

Hey, I know lets climb up this muddy area, and crawl under this little bridge type of things.  Oh and even better, lets have Nana go last.  Why, so we can all laugh at her as she’s being pulled through the mud, being told to grab the tree branch so help me on my way.  Well, apparently that was not going to get me up that stupid muddy hill and under that stupid make shift bridge.  Snap, snap….grab my hands they kept saying (all I could hear was laughing)…grab my hands.

I’m now on the ground being dragged by my son and his girlfriend as I’m laughing so hard I swear I peed my pants.  Mud.  Mud…it’s filling my pants, my jacket.  Oh Lord, what if my new camera gets dirty.  I’m beating the crap out of Mr. Adventure if my iPhone even has a speck of dirt on it.

They finally pull me out as we all sit and laugh….at my expense of course!!  I finally get up off of the ground, pull up the pants that fell half way down, look at myself and just laughed even harder.  I was so glad I got up and put on clean clothes, fixed my hair and makeup today to be pulled through mud so I could pee in my pants.  But on we went to see more of the wilderness.

All and all I may have been bruised and humiliated and sore as all could be.  But I have memories that no one can take away.  Not from myself or from the kids and my son and his new girlfriend.

I’m getting ready to settle down for the night and put away the computer.  I’m ready to head off to put the last load of clothes in the dryer and tuck myself into bed.  Ready to face what my work day has ahead of me tomorrow.  Which will be busier than I’m sure I’ll be ready for.

I will take it all in stride in knowing that for those three days, I got to escape reality for just a bit.  I got to spend time with my son and my grandkids and have an awesome time knocking down trees, eating food that is so not good for me, for hearing my grand daughter say that I look pretty good for a 44 year old in swim suit, to seeing the laughter in all of our eyes.  I’m ever so thankful that I’ve been blessed to have taken this time to renew my thoughts and just be me.

Have a great weekend.  Take time for yourself.  I do know that I can’t save everyone, but I can save myself.  And this week, I did just that.

I have over 900 photos that I took away from this.  Oh how I’d love to share, but doubt that you all want to see it!  Otherwise I’d be happy to share.

Patricia

Mason and ASD

Mason

This is my Grand baby, Mason.  He will be celebrating his 2nd birthday this month.  I’m not quite sure what to get him yet, but whatever he gets, I’m sure he’ll love it no matter what!  Two year olds love toys.  Two year olds love to play.  Two year olds are learning quick how to get into as much trouble as they can.

Mason though, is a bit different.  He goes to Pre-school and his teacher suggested that he see a speech therapist because he wasn’t talking possibly as much as he should be.  He can say Momma, Dadda and Nana – oh and I believe he says NO too!  But what kid can’t!

Mason & Justice (his brother)

A speech therapist has been seeing Mason for quite a bit now.  And I’m not certain if it was the therapist or his school teacher that recommended that he be tested for ADHD.  I’ll be honest, at that age, I thought it was too young to say that, but Tanessa (Mason’s mom) did as she was asked and had him tested.  it turns out that that doctor said he didn’t believe that he had ADHD, but possibly Autism.  So she was told to get him in to see a doctor that specializes in that area and have him tested for this now.

Mason & Tanessa (his mom)

I’m not sure what sort of testing is done to determine that a child has Autism, I wasn’t there, and I honestly know I asked but can’t remember.  But, Tanessa did call me after and said that Mason did have ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).  She explained what that was to me and I went online after to read about it.  I remember that Jenny McCarthy’s son has or was diagnosed with Autism so I actually sent her a tweet.  She did respond to me three times!  It just shows that she has a passion for children that have been diagnosed with Autism.

Mason & Joey (his dad - my son)

After hearing that Mason had this it started to make sense to me after reading what the symptoms are.  He has frequent ear infections, he wakes up in the middle of the night screaming, his vocabulary is about 3-4 words, he has a lack of focus and he has a behavioral issue.  Well outside of any other “normal” two year old.  I can only assume what must go through his mind.  He’s not able to communicate so I guess I’d get mad and lash out too.

Mason hanging out

The internet can be a wonderful place for fun, games, research…the list goes on.  But I can get myself into trouble by too much research.  So I’ve done my best to read up on what ASD is and find books from people that have gone through the experience and try to learn how to help my son, Tanessa, Mason and Justice go through life on their new journey.  This is a shock for all of us.  But I’m the type of person that puts things into action.  It’s easier said than done when I’m more on the outside, because if it’s me, I’m not sure I handle it the same way.  I will admit it made me very sad to know that my grand baby will experience things in life that not be so fair to him.  I never once thought that this is going to be and issue or that I’d see him differently.  I cried only when I realized that not everyone in this world will see him the way his mom or dad or his family does.  And those things made the tears fall from my eyes.

All I know is that I love all of my grand babies the same.  I will love Mason no matter what he has or doesn’t have.  If he doesn’t get the ability to speak, then I will learn sign language with him.  If he throws his tantrums when he’s here with me, then I’ll hold him until he can be soothed.  That’s what Nana’s do.

But then he goes home and his mom and her family are there on a daily basis dealing with this and becoming unaware of what to do or how to react or what to just do plain and simple.  It’s easier when there isn’t a “label” put on a child to say he’s just a naughty little boy.  But now there is a reason behind that behavior.  And that behavior can be helped through treatment and lots of love.

When reading over some of the symptoms that ASD includes, one of them was sleep problems.  I found this portion of an article very interesting.

Sleep problems

Children with ASD tend to have problems falling asleep or staying asleep, or have other sleep problems.15 These problems make it harder for them to pay attention, reduce their ability to function, and lead to poor behavior. In addition, parents of children with ASD and sleep problems tend to report greater family stress and poorer overall health among themselves.

Fortunately, sleep problems can often be treated with changes in behavior, such as following a sleep schedule or creating a bedtime routine. Some children may sleep better using medications such as melatonin, which is a hormone that helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Like any medication, melatonin can have unwanted side effects. Talk to your child’s doctor about possible risks and benefits before giving your child melatonin. Treating sleep problems in children with ASD may improve the child’s overall behavior and functioning, as well as relieve family stress.

I know that Mason has this problem and does take Melatonin to help him sleep.  Last I heard from his mom, is isn’t helping much.  My hope is that once he has been seen by a Neurologist, they can move on to getting a treatment plan in place.  I can really understand how tiring it must be knowing that your child is going to wake up every night crying and screaming and feeling helpless for him.  I imagine it does add much more stress to their daily lives for sure.

For now I’ll continue to read books and find learning materials for Mason to use.  We do have a website set up for him at www.masonsjourneythroughautism.wordpress.com and a Facebook page you can find on there as well.  We are trying to get him an iPad, which has been shown to help with learning development as well as behavioral issues.  There are a ton of apps that I’ve seen so far.  If anyone is interested in donating what you can, please go to ChipIn and do so.  Anything is appreciated.

Support Autism

Please keep Mason and his family in your thoughts and prayers.  I’ll be doing most of the updated on his website as we all travel this road together.  Thanks for taking the time to read and care.

Patricia

 

Nana, Justice & Mason