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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Elf on the Shelf

I mentioned earlier that this is our first year doing Elf on the Shelf, and we have enjoyed it so much. The kids love seeing where Ribbit is every morning and they get a big kick out of it. One morning Brad said "wow, how did he get there?" and Selah looked at him very seriously and said "It's just pretend, Daddy!" Ha!  Just in case me and Daddy forget....

We've done some silly stuff with our elf but we've also attempted to use him to teach the children and point them to Jesus. Day before yesterday they found Ribbit in our pantry. 

We talked to the kids some about how we have lots of food but there are some people that don't have enough to eat, and that we wanted to help them out. That night Selah prayed for God to put more food in the grocery store so people wouldn't be hungry. It was very sweet. It's hard for me as a mom sometimes because I don't want my kids to worry but I do want them to be thankful for all the blessings we have and to be willing to reach out to those who aren't as fortunate. 

So Thursday got the ball rolling with the food pantry idea, and this is what the kids found when they woke up Friday morning:

Our church actually has a food pantry, so that's where we headed to drop off the goods. I'm thankful to be part of a congregation that is so mission-minded!  Brad called our children's minister to let him know we were coming, and he was there to talk to the kids and guide them through the donation process. They were super excited!

Here they are meeting Bro. Donnie in the parking lot. 

They even got to help put it on the shelves!

They felt good about leaving food there for people who need it. Selah told Nana later that our church has a grocery store in it. Ha!  I hope this stirs their hearts to be the hands and feet!  :)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Trip To Ave Maria Grotto

There's a place called Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman AL that we pass going to Birmingham every month and we had been wanting to go. It's an old monastery and a monk named Brother Joseph built miniature replicas of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, etc. We had heard it was beautiful and thought it would be a great thing for us to do as a family, especially since it's the Christmas season. Brad found a Groupon for like $11 for the family (yay Groupon!) so he jumped on that and we made plans to go. 

Korban's infusion was Friday December 6th, and we left on Thursday to drive up and spend the night at the Ronald McDonald house. The weather was supposed to be yucky with possible ice that weekend so I was extra thankful we were getting to go up Thursday. We planned to make our visit to the grotto on the way. It was actually unseasonably warm on Thursday, and since Ave Maria Grotto is outdoors that also worked in our favor. 

I'm so thankful we got to go. It truly is a beautiful place, and it was a good opportunity to talk to the kids about Jesus and what all he has done for us. 

(She was seriously trying to get to a frog she saw down in the fountain!)

Inexpensive AND meaningful family fun!  I'm grateful we got this opportunity to make sweet memories. :)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Going The Second Mile

Eleven years ago today I married my closest friend, my partner in adventures, and as Phoebe on Friends used to say, my "lobster."  We had dated for over three years before we got married, so Brad has been in my life for quite a while now. I can't imagine him NOT being a part of my life. I feel the same way about the kids, now that we have them. 

Brad was one of the first friends I made at Northeast Mississippi Community College. I met him the first day of my freshman year. He was a grown-up sophomore (ha!) and he made it his mission to help me get involved. I was extremely shy and quiet back then and he would always invite me to go do stuff with his group of friends and encourage me. 

We met at the Baptist Student Union, and actually became a couple at the same place, even though it wasn't planned that way. It actually wasn't planned at all, at least not by Brad. Heh. 

Honestly, I was really hoping that our friendship would turn into something more but I didn't want HIM to know that because I wasn't sure how he felt and I was a big chicken. 

One night in September we had gone out for ice cream with a group of our friends and then we went back to the BSU to hang out. We were all standing outside talking and Brad had his arm around me. There was this guy named Bam Bam (pretty sure that's not actually what was on his birth certificate but that was what we all called him.). Anyway, Bam Bam, God bless him, noticed Brad's arm around me and in the typical blunt fashion of teenage males, he said "Are y'all going out?" Awkward much?!?  I just did my best impression of a deer trapped in headlights because I sure wasn't going to say yes because Brad hadn't asked me out and I wasn't going to say no because I didn't want him to think I didn't want to go out with him. So after a long, awkward pause, Brad looked down at me, shrugged casually, and said "It's alright with me if it's alright with you." And I nodded my head, and that's how our relationship began. I know that seems really improbable, but everyone reading this who actually knows Brad is nodding their head in agreement right now. 

Our relationship got off to a good start, but it wasn't without its issues. For our first official date, Brad asked me to an Ole Miss football game. Again, if you know him at all, no big shock there.  I readily agreed but my parents wouldn't let me go unless they got to meet Brad first. What can I say, I was 18 and living at college but my parents didn't play...more about that in just a minute. 

So one night during the week prior to the game we rode to my house so my parents could meet Brad. Everything went smoothly and they gave their approval for us to go to Oxford that weekend. I breathed a sigh of relief had after biding my parents good-bye we headed on back to Booneville. 

I had left my car parked at the BSU, so we had to stop back by there before we parted ways. We got to the BSU but sat and talked in Brad's Blazer.  Now let me say, I had my very first cell phone at this point but it was 1999 and cell phones aren't what they are now. For crying out loud, texting hadn't even been invented yet. Wow, I feel old. So anyway, I had a cellphone but I only turned it on when I needed to make a call. Truly, I think my parents only bought it as a tracking device. It was basically only used to call my parents and let them know where I was and that I was okay. Have you picked up on the fact that my parents were a smidge overprotective?  Yeeaaaah. 

So while Brad and I sat there chatting, my parents were calling my dorm room to make sure I had gotten back safely. And of course I wasn't there. They tried calling my cell phone, but of course it wasn't on. 

The longer Brad and I sat there and talked happily, the more anxious my parents became. While I chatted blissfully, they sat out to LOOK FOR ME!

Brad and I had no clue, so on we talked. And when we finally ran out of things to say, we shared our very first kiss. It was sweet, and innocent, and very meaningful  to me. And when I pulled back, my parents were parked next to us, glaring. 

I'm not even kidding. Remember Enoch in the Bible?  He walked with God and he was so righteous he didn't even die, God just carried him on up to heaven and suddenly they couldn't find him on the Earth anymore. I seriously prayed very hard for that to happen to me in that exact moment. Alas, God said no to that one, because I'm still here to tell the tale but if dying from embarrassment was a real thing, y'all would not be reading this now. (Quite possibly I'm not righteous as Enoch.) For real though!  Can you imagine? There we sat and Brad still had his arm around me, and he said "Who is that?" and I said "Um, my parents..." and he jerked his arm away from me so fast I 'bout got whiplash. 

So I tried to act like it was no big deal while still frantically begging God to go on and rapture just me RIGHT THEN.  I told Brad I'd get out and see what they wanted and he told me to call him later and let him know if everything was ok. 

So I got in with my parents and heard the whole lecture about "we thought you were laying dead in a ditch and here you are kissing a boy in front of God and everybody right here in the BSU parking lot" and on and on and on. 

When I finally got back to my dorm room I was doing what could only be termed as "boo-hooing."  My sweet roommate Kelli had answered all my parents frantic phone calls and she knew I was in major trouble. I remember her saying "I got on my knees and prayed for you!" and me being so grateful for her, even though I didn't get taken up to heaven on a chariot before having to face my parents. ;)

And then I still had to call Brad. I managed to reign in my blubbering long enough to call him and try to act casual about the whole thing. Which was not easy. "Hey, it's me. Yeah, my parents randomly stalk me from time to time. I'm an only child and there's no one else to distract them. We still on for this weekend?" Ha!  When we hung up I flung myself across the bed sobbing and said "He's never gonna talk to me again and it's a shame too because he's a really good kisser!"

Weirdly, miraculously, he did talk to me again. I'm not sure why, really. I think a lot of guys would've ran off at warp speed. Let me be clear--I'm not putting my parents down. They are really good people, despite their stalking tendencies. And I do have my redeeming qualities, although it was probably too early for Brad to know that for sure. I mean, I can cook, talk sports, and I know the difference between a Phillips Head and a flathead screwdriver. I think a shopping spree involves going to Goodwill and Dollar Tree. So really, I'm quite a catch. But back then I was just a silly little college freshman, and I'm glad Brad didn't jet off. He said since then it was like God had blinders on him as far as all that stuff was concerned, and it didn't even stress him. (Oh, so your parents pop up in unexpected places. No big deal. Hi Mom and Dad!) He felt that was evidence God had orchestrated the relationship and not just us and Bam-Bam. 

Anyhow, here we are now and there's so much water under the bridge since that time. Some of it good, some of it bad, but honestly WAY more good than bad. 

I'm so thankful for the life we have together and all the adventures we've had along the way. I'm thankful for all the struggles we've had that managed to pull  us closer together rather than drive us apart.

I was talking to a young friend recently. She is considering marriage and I was cautioning her not to rush into things and to be careful for what qualities you look for in a mate. I told her that marriage is hard work, and I meant that. I'm not sure she understood, and I'm not sure 18 year old me would've totally gotten it either. 

Brad and I have both made some not so great decisions and had to work through that. Autism is hard on a marriage. The human condition is hard on a marriage LIFE is hard on a marriage. But I am so thankful God has brought us this far and redeemed so much. There's no one else I'd rather be sharing this journey with. 

Earlier this week we were headed to Southaven to take Korban to the doctor. Brad was going too, as he always does, which I am so thankful for.  He had to run by his office to drop off some paperwork, and I was looking at Facebook while I waited on him. I saw that one of our friends was out ringing the bell for the Salvation Army at our local Wal-Mart that day. He does this every year as a service to God.  Brad and I both admire and respect that. It was really cold that day, and when Brad got back in the van I said "David's out ringing the bell today and we're gonna go by and get him a coffee before we head to Southaven." Brad didn't even hesitate he immediately said "And a biscuit too!" And I just laughed and said "That right there--that's one of the MANY reasons I love you." He didn't even know what I was talking about at first. It's like that verse in the Bible that says "And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two." (Matthew 5:41, NKJV) Brad's just the kind of man who goes the extra mile, and for that I'm eternally grateful. Lord knows my miles haven't been the easiest, but I thank God for giving me someone who is willing to go that extra mile anyway. 

That's what I would encourage my young friend to look for in a mate. Not that I'm am expert on marriage by any means, just someone who's thankful for what she has. Don't worry about how sporty his car is or what kind of Valentine gift he can come up with. All that stuff is fun, but it won't sustain you. Look for someone who loves Jesus, who respects you and is kind to others. Look for someone who's good in a crisis, because sooner or later you will need that. We all do. Sometimes it's just the most steadfast, seemingly mundane things that mean the most. Like when you are heading home from the hospital with your firstborn and you are scared out of your mind. You'd be surprised how sexy a CPR certification suddenly seems!  

Going the extra mile--I pray I'm the kind of woman who is willing to walk it. So thankful for the years Brad and I have had together and for ALL the miles we've walked together, not just the easy ones. When we first got together I used to pray all the time that God would make us better together than we were by ourselves. I definitely think He's answered that prayer--and I'm glad He answered that one and not the "Enoch me out of here already!" prayer.  Grateful we serve a God who sees ALL of our path and not just what we see in front of us at the time. :)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Worstest Party Ever

Hard to believe, but our baby girl turned four on December 3rd!  We were super excited to plan her party and celebrate.  She chose a princess party, which fit her so well.  I was scouring Pinterest for ideas and really getting into it.  I love having birthday parties for my kids--not because I'm great at doing all the decorating and stuff, just because I like having a special party to honor the kids.  It's a way of showing love. 

We had always gotten someone to do the kids' birthday cakes, but last year that changed after a conversation I had with one of my friends.  She has three lovely little girls, and she learned how to decorate cakes just so she could make their cakes every year.  She told me it was her gift to them, and I really liked that sentiment.  Now, the main difference between me and her is, she's good at it and I'm NOT, but they, it's still the thought that counts, right?  I made Selah's cake for her 3rd birthday party last year, and Korban's for his 7th birthday party this past April.  And just to clarify, when I said "I made" what I mean is "I had a great idea, tried to make it look good, inevitably messed it up someway, and my husband stepped in and saved the day."  Seriously, he's better with that kind of stuff than me.  But I'm not supposed to tell people that.  So let's keep it our secret.  Brad=Peeta.  ;)

This year Selah wanted a castle cake.  No problem, right?  I looked online and got several ideas and bought the stuff ahead of time.  This was going to be a pretty big cake, and take some time to work on.  As usual, I planned to get started early, but as usual, it didn't work out that way so much. 

We scheduled the party the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  We usually have it the next weekend, after her birthday.  But this is just such a busy time of year, and that usually falls on the same day as the Winter Wonderland at Crossroads Arena and the Corinth Christmas Parade.  So this year, I thought I was really getting a jump on things by having it early. 

On Friday afternoon we drove to Alabama and picked up my sweet cousin Courtney, who was coming to stay the night with me and help me get things ready for the party.  I was really excited she was coming to stay with us, and the kids were too.  They'd never had anybody stay the night at our house before, so it was a new experience for them.  We picked her up and went out for Chinese food, which we all enjoyed.  Then we went home and started getting the kids ready for bed.  Brad had laid down with Korban and Courtney was rocking Selah for me while I started the cakes I was supposed to have baked that morning.  Suddenly I heard Brad calling me in that tone of voice you immediately know means something is wrong.  So I hurried back to the bedroom and saw that Korban had thrown up all over the bed and his daddy.  I was hoping maybe he had just eaten too much and it wasn't the beginning of a worse issue, but it was not to be.  The Stomach Plague 2013 had descended on the Essary household.  I spent the next several hours with Clorox wipes, Lysol, and every set of bedsheets in our house.  Poor Korban was miserable.  I felt so sorry for him.  And then at 2:00 a.m., Brad joined him in his misery.  Korban grabbed my hands, crying, and said "Please help my belly get better.  And daddy's too!"  Pitiful. 

They spent a long and painful night and I got pretty much no sleep.  By Saturday morning the worst appeared to be over with, but there was still a party to prepare for and of course, I couldn't let the boys anywhere near the party goodies.  So they quarantined themselves in the bedroom with some DVDs and Courtney and I went to work.  My mom also came over that afternoon and pitched in, and I was extremely grateful for their help.  I didn't get everything done that I wanted to do, but I managed to hit the high points I think.  And I didn't have Brad to fix any cake disasters for me, so I just had to accept it was what it was and move on. 

We got everything loaded up, and the birthday girl was so excited.  Brad and Korban had to stay home, of course, and I felt bad about that.  I was really worried Korban would be upset and have a meltdown, but I honestly think he just didn't have the energy for one.  I could tell he was disappointed, but he was so sweet about it.  He said "Are you going to Selah's party?"  I told him that we were and that I would find a way to make it up to him.  He hugged me and said "I sick.  I stay here with Daddy," and went and snuggled up to Brad. 

So Selah, Courtney, Mom, and I headed to Corinth with one very massive cake perched in my mom's lap.  I could just see me doing something to make the airbag deploy and blast the cake everywhere but thankfully that didn't happen. We had the party at our church's gym and we rented a bouncy house for the kids to play in.  There was a bouncy castle available, but Selah opted for the dinosaur one instead.  Because princesses love dinosaurs.  Or at least, our princess does. 

We got to the church and started setting up and Selah started playing.  Her little friends began showing up and she was happy to see everybody.  They played and enjoyed themselves for awhile.  I began to get ready to cut the cake and realized that I had left the lighter at home, so I had to run down the street to a gas station and buy one.  Leave it to me! 

But I finally got myself together and we sang happy birthday to my sweet princess and served up cake.  I noticed Selah was just kind of sitting slumped over, and not really eating or playing.  I asked her if she was okay and she said she was just tired.  And then she got up and threw up everywhere.  (Go on and sing "Another one down, another one down, another one bites the dust!")

I scooped her up and ran across the gym to the bathroom with her.  And while I was doing that, she threw up down my back.  I don't think I even really noticed until my mom wiped me off.  Thanks, Mom!  :)  So that pretty much effectively ended our birthday celebration, but our guests were so sweet about it, which I really really appreciated. 

The grandmothers cleaned up for me while I stayed with Selah.  Then we waved at our guests and thanked them from afar.  Poor Selah saw her pile of presents and asked if she could open them.  I said "Why not?" and she opened them.  She loved all her gifts and I could tell it really cheered her up.

She told me later "That was the worstest party ever because I frowed up.  But it was still fun because my friends came and me and Josh raced on the tricycles and I winned.  And you made me a princess cake that was real pretty, even if I didn't feel like eating it."  Sweet girl.  I explained to her that things don't always work out like we plan them, and that it's not anybody's fault.  It's just the way things work out sometimes.  But I was glad she still found the positives, even if she did "frow up" at her own party.  Because there are always positives, and it could be worse.  I was just glad she didn't throw up in the bouncy house or on the cake when she was blowing her candles out.  ;)

Friday, December 6, 2013

October Infusion Day

Korban's infusion day for this month was scheduled for Friday, October 10th. We got a phone call on Thursday saying that the Ronald McDonald house had a room available for us, so we were very happy about that. This has been a crazy busy week, full of sickness and dr apts, so we were so thankful to have a break and know that we wouldn't have to get up so early on Friday.

We got all packed up and headed over Thursday night. The kids were very excited to get to see the Ronald McDonald house again. Selah was full of big plans for their playroom, but it was late when we got there and she fell asleep on the way over. She did wake up when we got there, but we were able to convince her that she would be able to play the next day. Korban was in a good mood and didn't seem to be too anxious about his infusion. That's one definite plus to being able to stay in Birmingham the night before—it really does seem to help his anxiety.

So the kids got settled and went to sleep pretty easily and Brad and I were able to get our stuff ready for the next day. We got a very pleasant surprise. Brad asked at the front desk if there were any activities scheduled for the weekend—like the last time when they had the Birmingham Barons over—and they said they didn't have anything scheduled but they have an ongoing deal with the Birmingham Zoo and could get us free tickets to the zoo. What a blessing! We LOVE the zoo, and hadn't been to the one in Birmingham. (Well, actually, I had once when I was little but it had been a while. ;)

So we got up on Friday and told the kids that we could go play at the zoo after Korban's infusion. They were so tickled, and Korban told his nurses all about it. Again, it always helps to have something fun to look forward to! He had a new nurse again this time, and she was really sweet. Took two tries to get his IV started, and she kept apologizing for having to stick him twice. I hated it too, but it wasn't her fault. He's such a hard stick, I was actually surprised it only took two times. He gets so tense his veins get constricted and they blow easily. Sad. But anyway, the second one held, and we were good to go. He had told his nurse that he wanted to go see a gorilla, and she thought that was cute. She said that the Birmingham Zoo has a huge gorilla, and Korban would enjoy it. He loves gorillas, especially the way they walk. It tears him up. So funny.

We didnt think Korban was going to go to sleep...
...but he did

Selah worked on a pumpkin craft for a while.

I took Selah over to play at the Ronald Mcdonald house while Korban was resting—it's right across the street from the hospital, so that's another benefit. The lady at the front desk called the zoo to let them know we would be coming, and I was glad that was all set up so we could head out as soon as Korban was finished.

He was all done by 12:30, and we told his nurses good-bye and headed out. The zoo wasn't far from the hospital, and we were there by 1:00. They were closing early for their Boo at the Zoo event, but we had plenty of time to look around. It was very neat, because they were already decorated for Halloween and Korban enjoyed looking at all the decorations about as much as he liked the animals.

It was a really nice zoo. They had a lot of cool animals, and they looked like they were well taken care of. We had a blast looking at all of them. We went to the gorilla first thing, and found him taking a nap. It was funny because he was curled up inside a rock crevice and his big feet were sticking out. Even his toes were huge! We told Korban we would check back later to see if he was awake, and he was happy with that.

His behavior was good at the zoo. He only had one outburst. They had lots of those inflatable Halloween decorations, which he loves looking at, but also obsesses over sometimes. He got very anxious that they would take them down. I'm not sure why, because we weren't talking about it or anything, but he got upset and hit me. We were able to calm him down and get on our merry way.

I love this picture too much for words!

Giving loves...they were so happy to be at the zoo!

Despicable Me!!!

Selah as a gorilla.

And Korban as a gorilla!

Can you tell the kids weren't too thrilled about posing with this fella?

Selah really loves flamingos, and they were all asleep when we first saw them.  Later, we were walking back by and she saw that they were awake.  She went running to see them, tripped, and bumped her mouth on the fence.  She was upset and crying, yelling "Those mah-flingos hurt me!  They got a bad cage!"  She can usually say flamingos, but she was so upset she was reversing the sounds.  Which was actually very funny, but I sure hated her little mouth was hurt.

The gorilla was snoozing when we first saw him too, but we could tell he was a big ol' boy.  I like his hiding place.

I think Selah likes pretty much all birds (and animals, and reptiles, etc.)

 It's time for Veggie Tales!!!

They had some free-range guineas that the kids were very excited to see. 

Selah having some fun that evening at the Ronald McDonald House.

The Magic of Christmas

Christmas is absolutely my favorite time of year.  It's even better now that we have kids, and also now that they are a little bit older.  When Korban was really little, winter was awful because he was sick ALL the time, and this was before we knew about immune deficiency and how to treat it, so it was just one sickness and asthma issue on top of another and the whole season honestly just sort of passed in a blur.  Also, he wasn't very communicative back in those days and it was hard to tell what  he thought about things. 

Now it's easier.  Winter is still tough as far as getting sick, but nowhere near as bad as it used to be.  I think about when Korban was about 18 months and had just been diagnosed with asthma after we had all been scared out of our minds by his first (and worst!) asthma attack.  I remember sitting and looking at his Christmas gifts that we had stored up for him in our spare room and crying because I was honestly scared he would die before we could give them to him.  I don't say that to be morbid, I say that to explain how sick he was and how terrified I was.  Also, let me clarify that no doctor ever gave us any sort of grave prognosis and that I was over-thinking things, but when your baby suddenly wakes up and can't breathe and you don't think you are going to be able to get him to the hospital fast enough, it does something to you.

We had our two-year anniversary of being on IViG last month, and it has been such a game-changer for our sweet boy.  He's so much healthier, and he can communicate with us now which automatically eases my worry.  And we also have Selah, who of course communicates her thoughts and opinions on everything in such a big way.  Our kids are a good match for each other, and they make everything more special for us. 

Here lately, Brad and I had been talking about exactly how we wanted to approach Christmas traditions with our children.  We both grew up in Christian homes, and we both learned that Christmas was to celebrate Jesus' birthday.  We also both believed in Santa as kids,and when we found out the truth we weren't devastated or scarred for life or anything like that.  It was a fun part of our life, and neither of us had any regrets about the way our parents handled things in that regard.

But after much discussion, we felt led to do things differently with our own children.  We didn't want them to miss any of the magic of Christmas, but we also didn't want to do anything to confuse them.  We always have to think of how literal Korban is, and also Selah is not autistic but she is a bit of a concrete thinker herself.  We didn't want them to learn that Santa was not "real" and then decide that Jesus was a fairy tale too.  Now this never even crossed my mind as a child, and it probably wouldn't have been an issue with our kids, but we didn't want to take the chance. 

We had also been discussing whether or not to start the Elf on the Shelf tradition with our kids.  We both thought it looked like fun and had seen some great ideas online about how to incorporate Biblical principals into elf play.  So Brad bought us an Elf on the Shelf the other day.

That night, after our city of Burnsville's Christmas Parade, (December 2nd, the night before Selah's birthday) we sat the kids down to introduce them to our elf and have a little talk.   We started out by asking them what Christmas is about.  They both immediately said "Jesus!" so that was a good sign.  Then we started talking to them about real vs. pretend.  We asked them if Dora was real or pretend.  ("Pretend," said Selah, "but I can watch her on TV.")  We asked them if other things were real or pretend.  They both seemed to understand the concept, and they both said right away that Jesus was real when asked.  We asked if Santa was real or pretend.  Korban didn't answer, and Selah said "Real!" So we took that opportunity to explain that Santa was pretend.  We told them that St. Nicholas was a real person who loved giving gifts, and that we love to give gifts too.  We explained that we love for them to have good gifts because they are our children and we love them, like we are God's children and He loves to give good gifts to us.  We told them they would get gifts at Christmas just like always, and that we would "play" Santa, but that we wanted them to know that Santa wouldn't be what we were focusing on but that it would still be fun to play.

They took it well.  Selah kind of dropped her head and thought on it for a few minutes, but she was fine.  She said it was fun to pretend, and that Santa was like the magic on Dora, or like when she gives me play food and I pretend to eat it.  I thought that was hopefully a good indicator that she understood what we were trying to tell her.  Korban remained completely non-plussed by the whole thing.  I don't really think it was brand-new information to him.  In his practical little mind, I'm pretty sure he didn't really think a fat man in a red suit was popping down or chimney with gifts anyway.  So he was fine with it. 

Honestly, Brad and I struggled and fumbled around so bad in this conversation and we were worried that we had totally confused everybody because we felt it confused us.  But God knew the intent of our heart, and I feel like He honored that.  We certainly weren't eloquent or perfect, but I'm glad we tried to explain to them.  In the days since then, we have had peace that we did the right thing and maybe didn't mess it up as bad as we thought we did.  ;)

We also showed them our Elf on the Shelf that night and read the book that went along with it.  It focuses a lot of naughty vs. nice, and Santa, but Brad had found a letter online that tied it into a Biblical perspective and we used it to get started.  It was excellent and massive props to the family who did this.  Their web address is and the elf note can be found on  We told them that the elf was pretend too but it was going to be a fun game for us to play.  They were excited about it. We pulled out a package that came from Santa with the note with it.  We read the note first that tied together the true meaning with the pretend pretty well.  Then we read the Elf of the Shelf book, went over the rules and let the kids name him.  Korban just wanted to name him Elf, and Selah wanted to name him Ribbit (after the sound her beloved frogs make) Korban liked it to, so he officially became Ribbit the Elf.

The next morning was Selah's birthday, and Ribbit the Elf had a birthday message for her.  The kids were super excited and it's so cute seeing their little faces.  I'm such a sucker for fun traditions!  Like I said before, we were so worried that the real meaning of our conversation the night before didn't penetrate, but even though we didn't do the best job, God still blessed us. 

One example:  We were in the grocery store that afternoon, and as I was checking out the cashier complimented the kids on how cute they are and asked me how old they were.  I told her that Korban is seven and that it was Selah's fourth birthday.  She wished Selah a happy birthday, which tickled Selah.  Korban was standing behind me, but at the mention of a birthday he made his way around to the front between me and the register, looked the cashier in the eye and said proudly "We celebrate Jesus' birthday at our house!"  So precious!  "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!"  (And the cashier said she did too.  :)

For the record, we have told our kids that not everybody does things the way we do, and that people have different traditions.  Let me clear this up right now and say that if you are a Christian and your kids believe in Santa, I think that's absolutely fine.  Remember, it's the way I grew up and I enjoyed it.  We just made our decision based on what we thought was best for OUR family.  We told our kids not to talk to other kiddos about Santa being pretend, because we didn't want them to ruin anything for anybody else.  How do you guys handle this at your house?  I'm curious and we are still looking for good ideas to help all the pieces click with our sweet kiddos, so feel free to share. 


I have completely fallen away with the blogging here lately, which makes me sad. I've been missing it. So I thought I'd give a little update on what we've been up to lately. Brad finishes up his second grad school class next week. He's doing so well in school, and I'm very proud of him. He is enjoying it, and while he certainly has a lot on his plate, he is managing it well. He's also making very good grades. I think maturity and perspective goes a long way towards success in school, so if you have been thinking about going back to school, let that be your encouragement. When Brad's mom saw his grad school grades she yelled “You mean you could've been doing this all along?!?” I wasn't surprised; I always knew he had the ability. I'm just glad the motivating factor is there now and he's so determined to succeed. Not that he did poorly in school before, but let's just say I never thought I'd see him griping about getting a 95. Ha!

Korban still has his struggles, but compared to this time last year, I can see we are making progress. I'm so thankful for that. I'm often tempted to wish it were more, but when I took at just how far he has come, it's mind-boggling. Aggression continues to be an issue, but it isn't nearly as severe as it was this time last year. I live for the day aggression isn't a factor at all, but for now I'm thankful that it does seem to be getting better. He is also talking a lot more and picking up new skills all the time.

School: Our situation is very unique and a lot of people have been confused as to what's going on with that. Korban is still on a very abbreviated school day. He just can't handle long school days at this point, and we are working around that. I also stay with him while he is at school, and his teacher works with him one on one. This serves to mitigate the aggression and keep the other children out of harm's way. He is still extremely clingy to me. If I leave, he will lash out at those around him and I will get a double portion when we are reunited. Of course, we are working on these issues, and like I said, things are better in many ways, but it's a slow process.

We love Korban's teacher—she is so good with him and we are so very thankful to have her. He's working on sight words, and he cracks me up because he is so stubborn about learning them, yet he wants to learn how to read. He “reads” to us out of books and makes up all kinds of fantastic yarns, but resists doing his sight words in the most creative ways. He is also learning to recognize numbers. He can count very well, but the actual numbers didn't mean so much to him if that makes sense. He is working on counting objects and doing simple addition and subtraction.

He continues to get occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech at school. He also receives ABA therapy at home and at school. One of his ABA ladies comes to the home and works with him two afternoons per week, and his other ABA lady works with him at school, usually on Friday mornings. She is doing a form of ABA called Discrete Trial with him, and his teacher is also using this method at school and I am at home whenever I can. We are seeing some great things come from this and are so thankful and happy to be receiving this much needed therapy on a regular and consistent basis.

In addition to this, we started both children in play therapy this summer. It mainly focuses on Korban's sensory issues (they have a sand table and a therapy swing that he loves, as well as a bunch of other cool things) and also social skills. His therapist has been role-playing how to be a friend and use gentle hands with him by using puppets. I think that's the neatest idea, especially since he loves puppets.

Selah is also seeing the same play therapist, to help her work through the issues of having a brother with special needs. Play therapy is often used to help children who have been through difficult or traumatic things, and we thought this would be beneficial to her due to Korban's aggression towards her and us. Her therapist continually reassures us that she is incredibly well-adjusted and processing things in her own little way. I'm so glad to hear that. We were just concerned and wanted to make sure someone outside our family who was trained in these matters had their eye on her in case we were missing something.

Their therapist also works with both of them on playing together and interacting in a healthy way. They love going to play therapy and Selah never wants to leave. She thinks it's great fun, and I'm glad we went ahead and did this for both of them.

Selah turned four this week, and I'm still in shock. Ha! She is growing up so fast on me. Four going on fourteen she thinks. Slow down, baby girl! She started head start this year. I didn't plan on putting her in school, but we needed somewhere consistent for her to be while I was at school with her brother, and she was accepted at the same head start I used to work at. I have a lot of peace knowing she's in a good hands, with people that I consider family. She enjoys it a lot. She doesn't stay the full day—I drop her off in the mornings before I take Korban to school and then pick her up by 12:00. She's made a lot of little friends and gotten to do a bunch of fun stuff, and for that I am grateful. Some people thought that I put her in head start so that I could “get a break” but it wasn't about that. I would prefer to have her with me, but I can't be in two places at once, and I HAVE to be at school with Korban for now. She has noticed that I go to school with him but not her, and asked me about and cried a little. I did the best I could explaining it to her, and I pray I make it up to her in other ways.

In other news, we are so excited the holiday season is here! We started getting excited about fall and Halloween. Korban asks all year long if it's time to go to the pumpkin patch yet. He loves him some pumpkins! And Selah adores playing dress-up, so Halloween is always a fun time at our house. And then there's Thanksgiving! We have SO much to be thankful for, and it usually provides us a good opportunity to get together with family we don't see very often. Christmas is my very favorite holiday, and we are getting into the Christmas spirit in a big way. We are trying to impress upon our children that this is the time of year to celebrate Jesus' birth and work on our relationship with God. We have made some little changes in the way we do things, which probably will be it's own blog post at some point, if I can find the time. Hope all of you guys are doing great and enjoying this time of year as well!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

September Infusion Day

So for our infusion this month, we did something we had not done before—we drove up Thursday and spent the night in Birmingham. The Ronald McDonald House didn’t have any rooms available, but they do a thing where they give you a much reduced rate at a hotel close to the hospital. So we took advantage of that offer so we wouldn’t have to get up so early on Friday. Let me tell you, it was such a relief to know on Thursday night that I was not going to have to get up before 4:00 a.m. Friday morning.

The kids were excited to be staying in a hotel, even if we did leave late after Brad got off work, so we just went there to sleep. Korban actually slept most of the way there, but went back to sleep pretty easily once we got settled into our room. Selah watched Mickey Mouse the entire way to Birmingham, then wanted to take a bath as soon as we got in our hotel room. After she had played in the warm water for a while, I put her pjs on and she climbed in bed and went right to sleep.

Again, it was super nice to not have to get up so early. But we made a mistake thinking we had plenty of time and were actually late for the first time ever! Not terribly late, but the nurses laughed at us when we explained what had happened. Korban did really well. He didn’t throw up, but he did get a bad nosebleed while they were getting ready to do his IV. He’s easy to get nosebleeds and I guess the crying triggered it. But we got that stopped fairly quickly and they got the IV in on the first try.

He slept for most of his infusion, like usual.  Sweet boy!

 Selah was good. The volunteer who does the face-painting came, and Selah was so glad to see her. This time she wanted a kitty with wings. She planned to name her Watermelon, like her stuffed cat Watermelon, so the lady painted the kitty eating a slice of watermelon. It was very cute. She sprayed glitter on it when she was finished, so Selah renamed it “Sparkle Watermelon.”

They have a drink machine and snacks that you can help yourself to anytime, which is very nice. Korban’s favorite thing is the chocolate chip cookies, and he usually gets a package of those when his infusion is over. This time Selah asked if she could get a snack, and she also chose the chocolate chip cookies. When we went back to Korban’s room, I opened them for her. She knows they are his favorite, so she pulled one out of the package and had Brad put it on a napkin to save for Korban to eat when he woke up. I thought that was really sweet. But she ate her cookies and started looking around restlessly and staring at the cookie she had saved for Korban. I knew what was going to happen, and I was watching her closely. She moseyed on over to look at the cookie she had set out for her brother. Then she picked it up and broke a corner off of it. She started to leave the big piece for Korban and eat the corner herself. Then she switched and laid down the crumb for Korban and kept the big piece for herself. She must have felt bad, because she switched them again and got the crumb for herself. Brad and I were both intently watching her struggle and were very amused by it. Brad told her she could go ahead and eat the cookie and we’d get Korban more later. She screamed “Dad, that’s SO mean!” and then ate the cookie. I laughed so hard. Self-control is a hard one to learn, especially when chocolate chip cookies are involved!

Selah, showing off Sparkle Watermelon and eating her cookies.  

It seemed like the time went by pretty quickly this time, and around lunchtime he was finished and awake. He told all of his nurses good-bye and showed off where he lost his tooth and then we hit the road. Of course, he was anxious to go to the McWane Science Center and was starting to fuss but we were able to show him with the picture cards that we were going to eat lunch first and then go to the McWane. He accepted that, and we went to a nearby deli that we love called Mama Goldberg’s. Remember Selah doesn’t eat sandwiches so I took her “lunch” in—a bag of baby carrots—and we ordered “dessert” for her—a fruit cup. She’s so weird, but I can’t complain. Korban wanted a chicken salad sandwich. He loves chicken salad, and so do me and his dad. A few weeks ago Korban was having speech therapy at school and the speech therapist had some go-together cards. Example: Socks and shoes, etc. First she had Korban tell her what all the pictures were and then he worked on matching them up. One of the pairs was a slice of bread and a toaster. She handed him the bread card and asked “What goes with bread?” He immediately responded “Chicken salad!” That’s my boy! So funny.

Korban eating his lunch like a little gentleman.

I have to say, Korban was extremely well-behaved during lunch today. He sat quietly, ate all of his food, said it was yummy, and even cleaned up his napkins and put them on his plate and handed them to me when he was done. We were so proud. Selah, on the other hand, was a force to be reckoned with. She would not put her bottom in a chair! She was standing up in her seat, climbing on my back, running around, and on and on. As we were getting ready to leave, Brad got up to refill our drinks and I started to get the kids and head to the van. Selah darted away from me and was laughing and being silly. I just started walking away and said “Okay, Selah, me and Korban are leaving!” She had pretty much no reaction other than to stop running away from me, but Korban said “Don’t leave my sister here!” Bless him. At least he wants to keep her!

So once I finally had her under control, we walked on outside to wait for Brad on the sidewalk. I saw him stop and talk to an older gentleman that ate alone across from us. Brad was still smiling when he joined us on the sidewalk. “What happened?” I asked. He said the guy told him “Your kids sure are cute, and your son is very well-behaved. Maybe his little sister will catch up with him.” It was hilarious. The guy said it in a nice way; he wasn’t being rude, and we thought the whole thing was cute and funny. I’ve heard so many horror stories regarding special needs kids and their families being terribly mistreated regarding their child’s behavior in public, and here we are getting complimented on our autistic child’s behavior while it’s our “typical” child getting in trouble. Oh, the irony! Let me say just because she is “typical” doesn’t mean she is “easy.” Ha!

From there we headed on to the McWane. Brad has a dear friend from work who had a very serious surgery in Birmingham yesterday. He asked if I would be okay by myself with the kids if he dropped us off at the McWane and went and visited his friend and her family. I told him I expected the crowds to be down since school had started back, and that we should be fine.
Here's Korban adjusting his membership sticker on Grandpa Bear's head

Fortunately, I was right about the crowds being down. There weren’t nearly as many people there as there were when we went over the summer. It was so nice because we didn’t have to wait in line to see things, and the kids got to play for pretty much as long as they wanted to at every exhibit we stopped at. They had a ball. And they were good too! Although again, I really think Korban was better behaved than Selah. When he’s calm, he usually sticks right with me when we are out places, whereas she gets excited and tries to run on ahead. She also does stuff like this:

and this...

(That hole is for blocks, not Selahs!)

She likes to climb too!

....But she was very sweet overall, and we really enjoyed ourselves.  Brad came and picked us up right before closing time, which meant we stayed and played for around three hours. Selah went right to sleep in the van after a snack and some chocolate milk. Korban wanted to go on and have some more fun—I think he would never stop! Here’s some of the things we enjoyed at the museum today:
Korban and I playing a water game together.

Water play is always a favorite!
Korban dipped Grandpa Bear's butt in the water table and then had to dry him off underneath the hand dryer.  Grandpa Bear did not seem to mind.

I like this one 'cause it looks like she's doing kung fu. (She probably really was!)

A tilted room!  Selah looks so tiny.  

"What's this thing do?"

Selah found some rubber snakes (or course she would!) and put on a little play with them.

She said it was a puppet show!
Sticking the snake out of the mushroom house...all part of the play.  I think maybe the snake was singing to us at this point.

Digging for dinosaur bones.
Korban liked sifting the "dirt."
Doing a little grocery shopping...

This is part of the dinosaur exhibit.  Why yes, Selah is STILL climbing!
We got to see them feed the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.  Apparently they like potatoes
Experimenting with weights
Some more blocks for Selah to climb on!

Happy boy with the butterflies!

On the ride home was where Korban got so upset. Lately he has not been eating very well for some reason and has been pickier than usual. After a round about what he’d like to eat, he settled on some crackers that I made at home. He loves these crackers and once he gets started he doesn’t know when to stop and he doesn’t share. I tried to limit what I gave him but I guess it didn’t matter. He continued being upset about wanting to “go have fun” all the while stuffing his face with these crackers. Now I’ve said it before, but Korban does have a very sensitive gag reflex and it doesn’t take much most of the time and this was one of those times. He was eating so fast and so upset that some got stuck in the top of his mouth and well you know it wasn’t pretty and didn’t smell good. So what did I do? I climbed in the back seat and commenced to change his shirt as fast as I could. Why? Because I know Korban and he cannot stand to have a wet or vomit covered shirt on. And also, because one of my Autism Mommy Superpowers is leaping over tall van seats in a single bound.

So to save him waking Selah up I hurried as fast as I could while Brad drove down the highway. "Please don’t have a wreck!" I instructed him, and he listened well. Now it probably took me less than five minutes to hop in the back, get a clean shirt and get it on Korban. But in this time he screamed probably a hundred times about wanting a new shirt. I told him what I was doing but it did not matter at that point even though he could see what I was doing as well. This was probably his worst part of the entire trip. Mine too!  My head looked like this:

Just kidding.  This was made in a trick mirror at the McWane.  But is must have been prophetic, because my head really did feel like this!

He continued to scream about his pants having “mess” on them. Brad, with his own sensitivity to smells, said he couldn’t handle it so pulled into a gas station to fix it. I wasn’t sure in the moment what he was fixing because Korban got louder and more and more people at the very busy gas station just kept staring at our van as the screams got louder and louder and more constant. I refused to take Korban into the store to change him with the way he was acting--I was seriously afraid people would think we were being mean to him the way he was screaming, and I just told Brad to go on, but he said Korban needed to be cleaned up.  He was right, but still--it's hard to do anything in the middle of a meltdown that bad.  So after cleaning up some of the mess in the van, Brad took Korban, along with a change of clothes, into the store. Korban screamed until his feet hit the ground and I don’t believe he screamed again and he seemed to be very happy with a clean pair of shorts on when they returned. I reckon no one wants to have to sit in their own vomit and shouldn’t have to, so good call Daddy on getting it done. Brad said he did very well in the store and bathroom but asked if Daddy was going to leave him. Brad said he reassured Korban that we would never ever leave him no matter what and that Korban smiled and was good with that. Madagascar was the feature film for the rest of the trip and it all went rather smoothly. Handle what you got to handle as you need to handle it and all will be ok.  That, and carry extra clothes and wet wipes everywhere you go.  ;)