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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! 

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! 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Red and Blue Through and Through

$50 Hotel ✔️
$50 Club Level Ticket ✔️
$50 Food ✔️
$35 Gas from MS to GA ✔️
Getting to see my Rebels play one more time live and in person with Rebel Nation this season...


Hey there BlogNation!  It's me, the daddy of Essary 4.0, once again coming at you with a few words.

I am a life long Ole Miss Rebel.  I attended my first class there when I was 3 years old, stayed with my aunt Sarah while she was a student.  As a kid I went to as many games of any sport that my family would take me too.  Once I was able to get myself to events when I got my license at 15, there was no stopping me.  Football, baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball (I refereed some while I attended Ole Miss), track, softball and even hockey...yes Ole Miss has hockey.  I love college sports and especially any sport from The University of Mississippi, the Flagship University.  Being actively involved is pretty cool.  There have been great moments from the past such as storming the field after wins against such teams as Florida and Alabama, great victories over rivals such as LSU and State.  My first date with Melissa was to a Vandy game in Oxford.  I plan to continue to be as involved as possible in the future.  I was active in the student rebel foundation as a student and have kept active as an alumni member in as many ways as possible beyond just the sporting events.  It's not particularly easy to be active with anything these days. To do something takes effort, whether it involves money, time or energy, whatever you want to do cost something.  If you care about something then you have to work for it, make preparations and get it done. 

Faith, Family and Friends!  For me I look at it as a triangle where my faith sits at the top point and is connected to family and friends.  Everything I do affects someone else.  It may be one of my children or one of the families that serve through my job.  Most every friend that I have is connected to me through ether work, school, sports or Church.  When I look to make preparations for something I go to extra lengths to make the best possible choices available.  The option to just go and do is not always readily available for me and my family so looking for good deals and even freebies is what works for us.  I have a pretty good knack for it, just ask those who have been along for some of the deals, but it does take lots of time and effort.  From full price tickets to see Rebel baseball in a super regional to being handed a free ticket from a head coaches wife after walking away from the Tad Pad and a sold out contest against MSU.  Just like what you see in the check list above.  I was able to make the whole trip for the Peach Bowl for less than face value of tickets.  There was the $150 game ticket, $15 Fan Fest and $50 Blue lot parking pass.  My total spending for the entire trip was around $200, give or take a few bucks.  Knowing where to look and who to ask makes a difference.  Connections in different ways help out, like having friends in high places ya know.  We all like to have fun and God enjoys us being happy right?  Should we feel guilty for having fun?  Absolutely not!  I feel that he helps to make a way for all the opportunities that I have had, even in regards to those experiences with Ole Miss.

Like I said I love Ole Miss sports and the biggest of all is football.  During high school I went to as many games as possible.  My senior year, in high school, I had student tickets but still missed a couple of games that season.  During my 6 years in college, both at Northeast and Ole Miss, I didn't hardly miss a game as had student tickets each year, one way or the other.  Those were during the Eli Manning years so there were good ones for the most part.  Once I graduated from college it became more difficult to get to the games but nonetheless I've not missed a year without making it to at least a couple of games.  For the 2012 and 2013 seasons I was able to have season tickets and even went to some away games.  I've been to several away games and to most SEC stadiums at least once.  But until the Hugh Freeze era I had never been to a Bowl game.  Now I've made it to all 3.  The first year, for the 2012 season, to the Birmingham Bowl a friend purchased me a ticket as a Christmas present that year.  I got a deal through Living Social for a hotel that 4 of us traveled together and split.  For the 2013 season I was able to start the season in Nashville with the opener as I went with Shane and some friends, by the way, I was given a free ticket just before the game for this one.  So what better way but to end the year with the team in Nashville?  So we as Essary 4.0 decided to make this our family Christmas trip.  Once again I was able to locate a great deal through Living Social for a 3 night stay in a nice hotel at a budget price.  I originally got cheap tickets for the 4 of us but the day before the bowl game I located a guy with 2 tickets in a suite for an amazing price.  Seeing as the girls were not really looking forward to the cold game I jumped on them and sold the other 4.  So now me and Korban had 2 tickets in a suite for less than I paid for the original 4 tickets.  We had a blast at the game where we ate all we could handle for free while the girls played around at the mall in Nashville.  Throughout the year Korban has talked about the bowl game and being behind the glass.

So this year the Bowl game would be in Atlanta.  We had already made plans to have our family Christmas trip in Chattanooga before Christmas, which was a very fun and relaxing trip.  So now what to do about Atlanta?  We tried to persuade different friends and family to go along with us.  Some of them said no for various reasons.  We settled on that me and Korban would go.  That was until the day to leave for the game when Korban got sick and was unable to make the trip.  I had found a great deal this time on Hotels Tonight and it was already booked so I headed out with my uncle Shane and his son Graham.

I really had a blast with the crew I was with.  Shane is a tried a true GameDay companion for sure.  Graham knows his Rebel football and seemed to enjoy the trip.  The hotel was really cool but sometimes when you get a great deal there are issues.  This was one time, they had no rooms left with two beds so we only had one.  It might have not meant much in the long run of things but as I look at it I feel that it is an example of how I truly think of others before myself.  I was just happy to be there so for the night I pulled chairs together and slept on them as it allowed my uncle and cousin to have the bed.  It was my mistake and I took responsibility.  The hotel was only a mile in a half from the Georgia Dome for the game so traffic was no problem.  We had a great parking pass just across from the Dome which was so cool.  We made our way to the Peach Bowl Fan Fest the morning of the game.  We met up with several other friends and family like usual.  There were great expectations and the game itself let us down by the outcome of the score.  It was difficult to see and hear the loud TCU crowd and tempting to leave at even halftime.  My team was just not looking good on this day and it was very ugly.  Excuses could be made and blame be labeled on individuals but it never changes anything.  The bottom line was that the better team won on this day.

So what do you do when your team is really getting embarrassed?  Well this is what I did.  It's not the first time of utilizing this strategy at a sporting event.  Being a true Ole Miss Rebel comes with its ups and unfortunately so very many downs.  When this happens the typical fan heads to their car for the journey home.  I took advantage of the opportunity to check out better seats than what I had.  We had pretty good seats to begin with but things can usually always be better.  Getting closer to the field or on the 50 yard line or even in club areas we couldn't earlier in the game.  A sports arena explorer I guess you could call me. We stuck it out till the clock hit 0:00.  From the walk through at the Fan Fest to the last note of the Pride of the South band.  Every day is a good day to be a Rebel.  Hotty Toddy!
From the corner of the end zone to the 50 yard line!

Got some freebies and goodies to take back to my little ones that missed the trip.  That's what made me think to write this post.  Out of all the fun that there was I just could not get past the fact that it's all better with them than without.  For about a month I've been looking forward to me and Korban going to this game.  The original plan was for us all to go stay a couple of days in Atlanta but that changed.  Then the day we were going to head out, Korban became sick.  Went to doctor to confirm it and got meds.  Man, I didn't want it to be true but it was. I then tried my best to beg, plead and bribe for Selah to go, to no avail. She sent me off with a picture of her so I wouldn't be alone.

Korban at the only game he made it to with me this year.  He always struggles in some way each time we go but we stretch and we push forward as he continues to improve at public events such as sporting events and concerts.  He works so very hard to enjoy actives even as can see his body working against him.  If it's sensory related or whatever it may be for my little dude, it is not easy for him.  The evidence is in the days, weeks or even months following as he continues to talk about every little detail.  He truly does enjoy getting to go and I can say that I enjoy it better with him than without.  That spirit Korban has was missed for the game.  So it's his fault we lost right?

This is Selah, my frog princess.  Like I said I tried everything I knew to get her to go but she didn't want to be the only girl.  I came to the conclusion that if she would have come to the game then those Frogs could have been better tamed by the frog princess.  So it's her fault we lost right?

Here is a representation of the best part of Me.  I am better with them than without for sure and That's a Fact Jack.  God knew what he was doing when he constructed this fabulous unit.  Melissa went to Ole Miss because of me and with it came opportunities that she excelled with.  She was the best social worker around and utilized specialized training to be even better.  She turns that heart to caring for the other precious 2 in the picture and does a fabulous job.  Selah is old enough now to participate in more Rebelette activities available and has plans to do just that in February with a girls sports clinic.  Last year she did a cheer camp and loved it but most of the events require participants to be 5 years old.  Basketball is here and we will be in Oxford on Saturday to watch the rebels and Baseball is only 43 days away.

Game face on in Oxford!  Go Rebels Go!

Through the autism, through the financial struggles, through time restraints and even at times pure exhaustion we find ourselves in the Grove or locking the Vaught or packing the Tad Pad one more time.  So until the next opportunity that presents itself I will continue to be on the lookout for great deals that allow for all my little rebels to be apart of something special and fun.  


It's important to me that there be more to someone and something than just the pure surface.  I love following the athletes who give back to the community or take time for the fans or best of all express and share their faith.  When a head coach does this it is even better.  The current Rebel head coach strives for passion through love for one another.  At last year's Rebel Road Show as it came to Corinth, Korban and I were in attendance.  Coach Freeze took time with Korban and made it special.  He even called Korban out as his buddy in front of the large crowd.  He has remembered us a few times since then, like when we saw him at meet the Rebels in August.  

This is what I want for my kids is to think of others and not purely themselves.  It's what I strive for in my everyday life.  I work in a field where I'll never afford season tickets in the club level but I don't have to as long as I've got the will to serve others then the opportunities for fun will present themselves.  Always have and always will.  Daily I help those who will never be able to help me and all I want is to better myself so that I can better help them.  I am about 6 months away from completing my masters degree in behavior analysis.  For example of the fun that comes along: beyond getting to take youth I work with to local activities like movies there were opportunities to take a group of special needs kids fishing and boat riding, took a group to an Atlanta Braves game and yes even had the opportunity with free tickets to take a group to an Ole Miss football game.  

Through the planning and amazing opportunities that presented themselves this past year of 2014 the Essary 4 were able to have such adventures such as Sea World and Disney in Orlando, a family wedding in South Carolina on the beach, a free trip to Branson, family memberships to Korban's favorite...the aquarium and zoo in Chattanooga, the state special needs conference and Midsouth autism conference.  It was a full year of exploring ourselves, pushing limits and most importantly learning how to better serve others.  From the Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham to food pantries to making Christmas possible to numerous families in Alcorn county the opportunity to serve is always plentiful as well.  Korban compliments a stranger in a waiting room and that strikes up a conversation about why both our families are in the clinic.  Opportunities to pray for and with nurses and other medical staff in the various locations we go for  Korban's health needs.  Selah willing to bless other kids with extra toys and gifts or taking supplies and volunteering at an animal shelter.  Melissa able to make connections with other struggling autism parents and help them to put some pieces together through the sharing of our own experiences.  I am proud of my crew and look forward to all the many experiences we will have together. 

Me and mine are no band-wagoners in any sort of fashion.  Not with the teams we support or the God we serve.  We stay active with regards to both and that's what is important about Red and Blue Through and Through.  The blood in my veins and with every breath I take I want to give it my all.  

Love God, love others, nothing else matters!

Oh yeah by the way...I guess it's my fault we lost...I left my cape at home.