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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Service Dog Match!

So we started the process of getting Korban's service dog back in April of 2014, but until recently we didn't know which dog he would wind up with. We've met several and liked them all. Mr. Charles likes for the child and the dog to pick each other, and that made a lot of sense to us. I didn't want to get in the way and try to influence the process. It's hard because I now know the difference these dogs can make and I want that so bad for Korban.  Patience is something I struggle with but have had no choice but to develop the skill set.  The process of getting a service dog is a long journey but we have been very grateful for the moments along the journey thus far and look forward to the ones ahead of us.

About a month ago, Korban and I went to visit Retrieving Freedom. Charles had told us about a black lab he has named Jet. Jet turned two on Valentine's Day and has been doing fabulous with his training. He's everything Korban needs in a dog: smart, social, and as Charles said, "bulletproof." So he had Jet out for us to meet. Korban walked right up to him and said "This gonna be my dog."  Well. That was easy, right? ;). Jet didn't seem to have any objections and Charles said we would start working them together. 

Here's some photos of them together the day they met: 



I love this picture!


And this one because Korban had his arm on Jet. :)




I am a horrible photographer and Jet totally blends into that dark rug, but look at Korban's happy face.


Here they are walking together. Korban did a pretty good job holding his leash!


We even got to play outside. Naturally, Jet loves to retrieve things and he also loves the water. Korban got a huge kick out of throwing things into the water for Jet to fetch. Charles told me that Jet's foster home had a pool and they let the dogs swim in it. So now I'm trying to convince Brad that Jet NEEDS a pool. I'm sure Jet wouldn't mind sharing with the rest of us, right? ;)

We also got to visit with Jet again at the Hernando library a few weeks ago. Korban was very excited to see him again (and so was Mom!). 

I tried to get a better picture this time. Charles found a white wall for me to use as a background in hopes that Jet wouldn't blend into it. Ha!  You really can see him better in this picture but it still doesn't do him justice. He's such a beautiful dog, with a very sweet personality. 

Hopefully he can come live with us within the next few months. It's hard to nail down a timeline because we have training and fundraising left to do. I'm wanting it to happen quickly of course--we are SO excited. But I want to make sure I do everything right and know all the things I need to know to take care of Jet and make sure he and Korban have the best relationship possible. Hopefully we can do some weekend visits soon. I feel like we are adding to our family and it's a very happy and hopeful feeling. 

The other day Korban and I had stopped by the grocery store after a doctor's appointment. It was just me and him, and I had to return the grocery cart to the store (we were at Aldi's). I couldn't leave him sitting in the van while I went to turn the buggy in, but I was afraid he would bolt off while I loaded the groceries in the back of the van. I wound up sitting Korban on the bumper of the van and blocking him with my body while I loaded groceries so he couldn't jump down and run off. We made it just fine but I was tense. I just always worry that I'll get distracted for just a second and he will get away from me. But then I took a deep breath and realized that soon we will have Jet, and Korban can stand there tethered to him while I load up the groceries or whatever. Of course, I'll still be on high alert but it will ease my worry. That's so important because Korban can always sense when I'm anxious and it makes his anxiety that much worse. And then I feel guilty. It's a vicious cycle!

God is always faithful!  There is no doubt that He always comes through.  It may not be in our timing, and if it was then it wouldn't be perfect.  We are far from perfect.  God knows how to slow us down when we need it.  Our faith and trust have to be put in the right place.  During this past year there have been difficult moments for sure.  There have been times when there seemed to be no hope.  We would continue in our efforts of praying for situations that seemed to have no answer, and sometimes no answer may BE the answer.  Then, just as with Bolt For Blue in Hernando, God shows up and shows out.  My kids sure do love all of God's creatures.  We are very grateful for the opportunity granted us to be working towards bringing the perfect match into our home to help our Korban in so many ways.  What better way for prayers to be answered than with the aid of Man's Best Friend! God didn't automatically grant us what we needed. There is nothing special about us as parents.  When doors or even windows of opportunity are opened then we have looked for ways to get in.  RFI is definitely  one of those doors that were opened for us.

We are just so thankful that we found Retrieving Freedom and for the work that they do. We can't wait to have Jet home with us and i will try to do a better job keeping everyone posted.  If you would like to donate to Korban and Jet you can do that directly to Retrieving Freedom online right here
 

On the page there is a meter with our funding goal for Korban and then where we are at so far.  We have not pushed the fundraising aspect much due to the unsure aspect of the process.  What if Korban was unable to be paired with a dog or something such as that?  We did not want to have money given towards Korban and a service dog, then it not happen.  Well now it is for real I tell you!  Last year Brad's work, Region IV, held a fundraiser during Autism Awareness month.  That is the first big amount.  Then the second amount is from when Hernando High chose Korban to sponsor and help with funds towards the service dog.  Then very graciously a company in Alabama chose to help with a very generous donation.  Now as we close in on the final touches of working with Jet to bring him home we need your help to finish out our fundraising goal here.  Please consider that even a small amount means a lot! 
 
Thanks in advance!  Love you guys. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

DisAbility Megaconference 2015

Last year was our first year to attend the Mississippi DisAbility Megaconference in Jackson, MS and we really enjoyed it. We were excited to get to go for our second time this summer. We headed down to Jackson on Wednesday, June 17th. The Jackson Zoo stayed open late for a special Dream Night event for the conference attendees. It was so cool!  They had all kind of food and drinks (for free!), performers such as magicians, and of course cool animals to look at. There was even a group of local cheerleaders who greeted us and cheered for everyone as we walked into the zoo. The kids loved that. 

This was literally the first thing we saw when we walked in the gate. Always better to just conqueror your fears right off the bat and go on about your business. ;). This is a red tail boa, and she actually wasn't horrible. 

Here we are petting a turtle, which has never been frightening to any of us but Selah was hanging back a little because this turtle started pooping right when we walked up. Ha! 

This is a bearded dragon, the lizard that first inspired Selah's longing for a pet lizard when we saw some at Repticon several years ago. They really are awesome. She told everyone around us about her Chinese Water Dragon. 

This bear came right up to the fence to check us out. 

This was fun! 

They even had a snowcone truck giving away snowcones. Korban wanted to ride on it! 


He wanted a bite of hers. :)

Korban flopped on the bed and announced he was tired when we got to the hotel room. He didn't go to sleep though, and he found a renewed source of energy when I offered to take him and Selah to the pool. We enjoyed playing in the pool both nights we were there. The kids love water. Brad had to finish up two of his grad school classes by Friday evening, so he was working on them every spare minute and didn't get to enjoy the pool with us. :(

The conference was great. Very inspiring. I learned a lot of history on how the Anericans with Disabilities Act was passed, how far this county has come in the treat of those with different abilities, and how far we still have to go. 

The kids stayed in respite care provided by the conference, which was a huge benefit. We wouldn't have been able to both attend the conference if there hadn't have been someone there to watch the kids, and their respite workers are well trained. They had a big room all decorated for them, with plenty of activities. They called it Camp Carnival, since there was a carnival theme this year. Both kids loved it and are asking when they can go back. I always worry that Korban's separation anxiety will cause problems in situations like this. We had a few snags, but overall he did well, thankfully. 

So happy we got to attend the conference this year and we are already hoping to get to return next year! 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bolt for Blue

I have something I've been trying to blog about since March. I have been struggling because it's so awesome that it's hard to put into words, if that makes sense. It's been a crazy couple of months at the Essary household but we've had some AMAZING things happen and I wanted to share with everyone. 

Remember the post I did talking about Korban's last check-up in Jackson, MS with genetics? What I didn't mention was the phone call we got on the way down there...Charles Dwyer, head of Retrieving Freedom (the organization Korban is getting his service dog from) called Brad with some incredible news for us.

Hernando High School host annual Light It Up Blue events.  They have added to these events each year.  On Friday the entire school gathers for a pep rally and on Saturday they have an annual run for autism awareness called Bolt For Blue. Last year, 2014, for the first time they wanted to help Retrieving Freedom so they decided to sponsor a child and help raise funds for their service dog. They wanted to do that again this year and our sweet Korban was the child they picked! 

We were completely blown away. That would have been fantastic news to hear anytime, but it came at an especially good time for us. We had been struggling, me in particular, with worry and discouragement. Several things had happened that made me feel really down, and I was in a slump so to speak. This news bolstered my spirits so much!  I can't even put into words how it made me feel. Just the thought that people who hadn't even met us yet cared enough about our son to do such a big gesture for us--It really lifted my heart. 

Charles told Brad that they were having a Light It Up Blue pep rally on Friday March 27th to kick off the Bolt for Blue run on Saturday. They had invited us to come to both events and Charles even offered to let us stay in the new cabin on the Retrieving Freedom campus for a couple of nights so that we wouldn't have to drive back and forth between our house and Hernando. All that was mind-boggling in and of itself, but to add to that, he told Brad that the TV show Small Town Big Deal would be there filming for an upcoming show. 

So let me sum it up for you--we are in a rough patch, then we get a phone call saying that a group of high school students and teachers are willing to help with raising money for Korban's service dog, they want us to be an honored guest at their kick-off pep rally and run, AND this is all going to be on TV, shining a light on autism acceptance and service dogs!!! How cool is that?  To say we were excited would be a huge understatement. :)

We eagerly started preparing for our visit. We tried to prep the kids and help them understand what was going on. Which was sort of tough, because we didn't totally know what to expect ourselves. We had Special Olympics on Thursday, March 26th in Pontotoc and then Korban had PT in Tupelo late that afternoon. After we finished that, we headed over to Senatobia to spend our first night at the Retrieving Freedom cabin. You would've thought our kids would've been tired after all that, but they went NUTS when we went into the cabin. They loved it. We all did!  It's beautiful and very comfortable. 

The next morning when we pulled onto the Hernando High School Campus I was awestruck. They had gone all out with decorating and the very first person I saw had on a bright blue wig and a blue cape. I knew we were in the right place. Ha! 

We went into the gym where the pep rally was being held. Charles was already there with some dogs. We started meeting people right away--everyone was so friendly! They treated Korban like some kind of little celebrity!  It made my heart so happy. (Korban's too. He told me the girls were pretty. Ha!) Lots of students came by to tell him hello or ask for a picture with him. I was blown away with how considerate they were in their interactions with him. Everyone was careful not to push him or do anything that would make him nervous. I was very impressed by that and appreciative of it. 

They had asked us earlier if we would like to speak at the pep rally and I eagerly jumped on the chance. I'm not much of a public speaker but I figured if somebody was willing to hand me a microphone and let me talk about how autism affects our lives, why we want a service dog and what a blessing Korban is to us, then I was not going to let that chance pass me by. I was also able to give an interview to a local newspaper, a news channel from Memphis, and Brad and I were both interviewed for the TV show Small Town Big Deal. Talk about God opening doors! It all happened and happened fast. I couldn't even tell you what all I said but I hope it made sense and that it touched somebody's heart. 

One thing that really stuck out to me was how much the students already knew about autism. They had already moved past the "autism awareness" part and gone over into the much longed for area of "autism acceptance." They celebrated my child. It was like balm to my soul. One of the students who spoke at the pep rally talked about how important it was to understand about autism because they may one day work with people on the spectrum or they may have a child with autism. To hear that said in such a matter of fact manner, without fear, it honestly kind of surprised me. I hear people talking about how to avoid autism at all costs, not about how they might be down in the trenches with us one day. To realize that they weren't afraid of who my son is...it did something to my perspective. Would I have chosen autism for my baby boy?  Honestly, no. Because it makes his life harder. It makes EVERYTHING harder. And as a parent, you don't want your child to go through hard things. It's heart-wrenching to see them struggle and not always be able to help. You feel like you're taking one step forward and two back. But no matter what we go through as a family, our love doesn't waver. Hard doesn't mean bad. And I've learned that the harder you work for something, the more you appreciate it when you get it. These teenagers are already figuring that out. I wish I had known what they know when I was their age. If these kids are our future, then I have to say I think we are in good hands. 

We spent pretty much all day at Hernando High School that Friday. We had such a good time and they treated us like family. We had promised the kids a fun treat if they behaved at school that day. The kids were telling one of the teachers that they enjoyed hanging out with that we were going to go have fun that night. She asked them what they like to do for fun and they were telling her different things. She asked if they had ever been to Skyzone (huge indoor trampoline park in Memphis) and they told her they hadn't. So they gave us free passes to Skyzone. So nice!  We went that evening and the kids had a blast. 

Saturday morning was the Bolt for Blue run. It was cold and SNOWING, can you believe it?  But there was still an excellent turnout and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. It was the BEST weekend. Those sweet people were such an encouragement to us. 

At the end of May we went back to visit with our Hernando friends again. They had a check ready to give to Charles. They raised $1600 for Korban's dog. That is AWESOME!!! We are so grateful. 


Korban and a service dog named Presley. She's not ours (we still aren't positive which dog Korban will be paired with yet) but she is such a beauty and so sweet. She and Korban both cheesed for this picture!!! 

That awkward moment when you try to take a cute picture with a puppy dog and your little sister won't stop being sassy. Ha! 

She's not always sassy though. Here she is being sweet and kissing Presley on top of her head. 

Selah wanted to go with Mr. Charles! 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Genetics Check-Up

Korban had his yearly check-up with his geneticist on Tuesday. We've been seeing this doctor since Korban was 3 and he's one of our favorites. He's brilliant and very, very kind and I always like taking Korban to see him. The reason we see a geneticist is because back when Korban was first diagnosed with autism they did a test called a chromosomal microarray and found that he has a deletion on chromosome 15q. It's one of those things where they don't totally know if it has anything to do with his autism or not. There are still so many unknowns with autism but technology and research are helping people (like our cool doctor) find out new stuff all the time so we keep plugging away. 

We actually missed our yearly check-up last year because it fell during the time we were at Disney and this was actually the quickest they could get us back in. I apologized to the dr today and explained why we missed the appointment last May and he laughed and said "Don't worry, I think Disney is very therapeutic!" See, I told y'all he was cool. ;)

We actually drove down to Jackson the night before. It takes 4+ hours to drive, which is a pretty long haul for the kiddos. We are able to get in at their Ronald McDonald House, which was such a help to us. Of course the kids were excited to get to stay too! 

Here we are heading in. Selah likes to pull the suitcase and Korban is making sure Tigger is good to go. He got it in his head that it would be really funny to toss Tigger over the stairwell as we were walking up to our room. Throwing stuff is a big issue with him so I tried to shut that idea down pretty fast and let him know that would not be tolerated. His response was to stuff Tigger underneath his shirt. To remove temptation I guess?  Cracked me up. 

Our appointment was at 8:30 and it sure was nice to get some sleep before it and not have to head out in the middle of the night and drive all that way. Especially since Korban had a rather sleepless night Sunday night and we were exhausted from that. 

So anyway, the appointment went well and our doctor seemed very pleased with Korban's progress.  He did send him down to the lab for some bloodwork so we can get an updated array done on Korban. The doctor explained that the technology has improved since the last one Korban had, so they wanted to do another to see if we could get any additional information from it. 

Of course, Korban wasn't thrilled about having blood drawn, but Brad held him for it and the nurses were really good so they got it done the first try. That's always a good thing!  
Here we are waiting outside the lab. Korban was being very patient. The Nintendo DS is a godsend. ;)

And I've always thought Korban looked like me, but take a closer look at this one. This is Brad Essary made over. Especially how he's sitting!  Am I right?!?

When we were checking out of the Ronald McDonald House the clerk gave us tickets to the Mississippi Children's Museum. Such a blessing!  We have been wanting to go there since it opened and we were so excited to get to go check it out today. 

We stopped to get food on the way and Korban got ill about something and threw his hamburger in the van. It splatted against Brad while he was driving and got mayo and mustard all over the back of his shirt. Not cool. So unfortunately Korban had to sit in the van with Daddy while Selah and I went on in to the museum.  They were able to join us after Korban calmed down. (It took about an hour. Brad waited him out. We are hoping it won't take too many more times like this for him to realize that certain behaviors (i.e. projectile hamburgers) are NOT acceptable. Pray got us to be loving, firm, and consistent and for him to understand!) 

They had the neatest play home with a big kitchen area and Selah and I had a lot of fun "cooking" together while we waited on the boys. 

We were glad when Korban was finally able to join us! 

Floor Scrabble!  Why do I not have this at my house?  ;)

They had the coolest water table!  You could actually go underneath it and watch the water spray over you. 

This is a replica of the Mississippi Capitol building that you could climb in, but Selah was convinced that it was a princess castle. She wasted no time in climbing to the top, pressing her little face to the window and calling down to Korban "Help me Prince!  I'm stuck in this castle! Come get me down!" He looked at her like she was nuts and said "Get your own self down!" Nothing like a very literal big brother to bring you back to reality. ������

Korban sliding 

Selah climbing UP the slide...

And then sliding back down. 

And here's one thing they were both afraid to climb in--it's a replica of the stomach. I went in to try convince Korban to give it a try. It made noises as you climbed through. When it started making chomping noises as Selah and I climbed in, Korban flat-out refused saying "It EAT you!"  Even brave Selah was a little unsure but we pressed on and Brad snapped that picture of us right before we ventured into the small intestine. (And that's a sentence you don't hear every day!) Shortly after that, we started hearing loud fart noises and Selah deserted me, leaving me to unfold myself from a very tight position while obnoxious noises boomed all around me. True story. All I can say is, I'm glad that exhibit wasn't scented! ;

Here they are "picking cotton."


This area was very fascinating to the kids because it had a real car they could play in, along with a play gas pump. When we first walked up there was a little boy about Selah's age in the driver's seat. She climbed in beside him and they started talking. After awhile she announced that they needed gas, and hopped out and pumped some. Then she jumped back in and shouted excitedly "Let's go!  Drive me to Egypt!" His mom and I cracked up. Pretty ambitious for a first date. And it also begs the question, exactly how much gas do you need to drive to Egypt? 

Korban loved playing with the toy boats in the water area. 

Selah loved it too. 

He was fascinated with the spinning globe. 

Check out Selah's backwards vest. Ha! 

We even got to stop at Bop's Frozen Custard for a treat after we left the museum. 

Here's Selah enjoying her confetti cone. 

We arrived back home safely but exhausted and very grateful for a safe and successful trip! 


Sunday, February 1, 2015

A night of hockey, dogs and Zambonis

I've blogged before about our decision to get a service dog for Korban. We started the process in April 2014 with a wonderful organization called Retrieving Freedom, which is located in Senatobia MS. 

On Friday the River Kings (hockey team in Olive Branch MS) honored RFI at their Hero's Night. A portion of the ticket sales went to RFI and Mr. Charles and his family was there with a table of information set up as well as some dogs! There were also some veterans with their dogs that we got to meet and hang out with.  

We were so excited that we got to go. We went to see Ole Miss and State play hockey in Tupelo for Brad's birthday and we all loved it. That was the kids' first hockey game, and this was their second. 

We had great seats too, with a good view of the action. The River Kings played (and beat!) the Pensacola Ice Flyers. 



This was Korban's reaction to the game. He loves sports and hockey is exciting. He wants to learn to skate. It was loud, especially when they scored a goal, but Korban refused to wear his noise canceling headphones. It's a toss up for him as to which is worse--loud noises or something touching his face!  But he did really well that night and I was so thankful. 

When we were at the Ole Miss/State hockey game, Korban was amazed with the Zamboni and wanted to drive one. I posted about it on Facebook, and Mr. Charles remembered. So guess what he arranged for Korban to do?!?  

That's right!
He got to ride a Zamboni!!!  

How cool is that?!?  They wanted to get one of the dogs to ride too, but there wasn't enough room. I was a little worried that Selah would feel left out and was already working on a plan to make it up to her. But after we got Korban and Brad all settled on their Zamboni, the representative from the River Kings that was helping us turned to me and Selah and said "Are y'all ready to go see the one you'll be riding?" ��

So then this happened!  

It was so much fun. Selah was a little shy at first but she got really into it and was waving at people with both hands before too long. Both kids were really amazed with how it worked to smooth the ice. Korban told me "it spit out ice!" He was so impressed.  Brad said he called it a "trumboni" because they sat right behind its big "horn" (pipe). He also liked when it dumped the ice out at the end...I never thought of what happened to the ice after if left the floor, did you?

Getting ready to go! 

A Zamboni selfie--notice Korban is covering his ears. It was sort of loud and he struggled a little but still refused the noise-canceling headphones.  He kept putting Brad's hands over his ears instead.  He was still happy though, even with the anxiety.  He wanted off but then wanted back on after it was over; he's so funny.

The only real trouble came when it was time to get off the Zamboni. And the struggle wasn't with Korban, it was ME. Let's just say I had a little issue with my dismount. We all know I'm not exactly the most graceful person, but I didn't fall. That's been done before.  No, I like to embarrass myself in new and different ways!  The Zamboni driver drove off the ice and parked and the nice man who had been helping us came over and helped Selah down. He asked me if I needed help and I said "Oh, I've got it!" And then I proceeded to prove that I did not, in fact, have it. I managed to snag my sweater dress on a pipe as I was climbing down, succeeding in pulling my sweater dress plum up my back. And then I was stuck standing there with my dress over my head because I couldn't reach up high enough to unhook it. The very nice man politely averted his eyes and released my dress for me. This is reason #941 I am thankful for leggings. ��

After I got my clothes situated, we got to visit with some sweet service dogs. 


This is Diesel--we've met him a couple of times before and he is precious. He's  a golden doodle (cross between a standard poodle and a golden retriever.) Diesel is an autism service dog. 

He's a big dog!  I love his feet. :)

Selah is amazed that he has curly hair like her. 

We got to visit with some interesting people too. :)

Photo booth fun! 

Selah took this picture. She loves to play with the camera on my phone. Not sure what she did with the lighting on this one but she's getting better! 

We had such a good time. I was a little worried about going because Korban was really tired. He has started going for PT in Tupelo 2x a week in addition to his other therapies. (He's having trouble with his muscles, particularly in his legs, so we are having to do some intensive therapy to work on that.) So we are all adjusting to a new routine, and I knew he was exhausted so I was unsure how good his behavior would be. He was whiny and loud in the van on the way there. But once we got there it was great and I was so glad we went. Even though he was tired and anxious I know he had a good time. He is still asking to go back!  He told me yesterday that he wants some "hockey shoes" so he can play hockey. I think he is looking for ice skates. Ha!  I love to hear him talk about things we've done and ask to do them again. He also asks frequently about "Mr. Charles and his doggies," when we can go see them, and if he can feed the dogs. :)

What I'm saying is, it's not always easy to go places. It can be scary to try new things because we aren't sure how Korban will react, or how others will react to him. But we've been working his entire life to stretch him (and ourselves!) out of our comfort zones bit by bit. It's been hard but most importantly it's been WORTH IT!!!  

When I was watching Korban ride that Zamboni, I was thinking about how that was a once in a lifetime experience and how blessed we are to have such good people in our lives and that we've made some many wonderful memories as a family. It was a very big "Thank You Jesus!" moment for me. 

Mr. Charles, thank you for all that you do and for caring so much about the dogs and the families you pair them with. Korban says we are coming to see you soon so have some dog treats ready! ��

This was Korban after the game, pretty much as soon as he got in his car seat. Good night!