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Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Happy Birthday Indeed

So, I turned the big 3-2 Saturday...which directly coincided with Meet the Rebels day at Ole Miss.  It was really nice of them to have an event on my birthday, wasn't it?  We went last year and really enjoyed it, so we thought we'd give it a go again this year.

We headed out Saturday, and everyone (especially Korban!) was excited to be headed to Oxford.  The thing was held in the indoor practice facility, which is really nice.  It was packed out!  Much more so than last year, and it was crowded then.  The lines to get autographs from the football team were seriously out to the parking lot.  We decided there was no way we were going to stand in line that long for autographs, so we just milled around and looked for a while.  The kids checked out the bouncy houses.  They didn't actually get in them, just checked them out.  Selah climbed in for just a minute and decided those were too crowded too, but they had fun looking.

We saw the cheerleaders and got autographs and some of them remembered Selah from the Rebellete  camp.  "Who could forget those curls?" one of them commented.  It was sweet.  Selah was happy to see them too, and we went down the line with our poster getting the signatures.  At the end, they passed the poster to Selah and she looked at all the signatures scrawled on it, and then looked up and me and shouted "MOM!  WHY DID THEY WRITE ALL OVER MY PAPER?!?"  Oh my.

We were also able to get signatures from the women's volleyball team.  Korban was happy about that.  I think he flirted with them and witnessed to them.  He walked up, all smiles, and kept saying "Hi!" and "Nice to meet you," and then he told them "Jesus loves me!"  How cute is he?  They liked him and were sweet to him.

After hanging out there for a while, we headed back towards Corinth.  We were supposed to meet Brad's family for dinner that night.  His granddaddy went to heaven to be with his Savior a few weeks ago, and his grandmother recently spent some time in the hospital, so needless to say Brad's family has had a tough time of it lately.  We were meeting Brad's parents, his grandmother, his brother and his family, and our great-aunt at Dinner Bell.

I really thought since this wasn't technically for my birthday, even though it happened to fall on my birthday, I would get out of having everyone embarrass  sing to me in the restaurant.  I thought wrong!  I told Brad not to make a big deal out of it being my birthday, and not to even mention it to ANYBODY but especially not the wait staff, but apparently I forgot to threaten my brother-in-law.  They all ganged up against me to let everybody in the restaurant know I was another year older.

So when the waiters and waitresses rounded the corner, all clapping and singing the pepped up happy birthday song, I was shocked.  And by shocked I mean SHOCKED!  Luckily for all of you, my loving husband had his phone at the ready.  Brace yourself:

How you like that?  I look like a donkey!  EEEEE-ONNKKKK!!!!
So if you've ever felt like maybe you weren't photogenic or whatever, this should really boost your self-esteem.  The only thing that made me feel any better at all about this picture was when they passed it around the table to laugh at, my nephew Trevor said "Who is that?" so that gave me hope that I don't typically look like this.  Because I'd hate to have to jump off a bridge on my birthday...Good thing I'm not vain, right?  Honestly, I couldn't be too bummed about it.  I DID get a free dessert.  And at 32, a free dessert covers over a whole multitude of ugly pictures in my book. 

So, if you're retinas aren't scarred from that fun tidbit, I have some more pictures for you.  And these don't resemble farm animals, I promise.  (Hey, I just noticed that the "Hotty" part of the "Hotty Toddy shirt I'm wearing seems to be leaping off the page.  It's like it's mocking me!)

They are in the process of doing a lot of renovations and upgrades at Ole Miss.  My husband is extremely excited about this.  I think his favorite part was seeing all the things they had changed and added.  I might not have noticed if he hadn't have been jumping up and down and pointing them out to me, but I gotta admit it's pretty cool.  They even decorated with Fatheads!  (Although I'm pretty sure they don't call them Fatheads--ha!)

Oh, and Brad's other favorite part happened during mine and Selah's potty break, so I missed it.  He and Korban were waiting for us in the hallway and they got to see the whole football team come down the hall and enter the IPF through a "secret door" Brad says.  He swears it was all James Bondish, and they had to have their fingerprints scanned to gain access.  Oh, and "IPF" stand for "Indoor Practice Facility," in case you didn't know.  I did not know, but my husband was more than happy to tell me.  Anyway, my two boys were excited about seeing the players up close and personal
before everybody else.

We love Dexter McCluster, and although he wasn't there in person, we got a cute shot of Korban posing with his likeness.

Here's Selah doing her cheerleading thing.  She was happy about holding that pom-pon!

This is Selah getting the cheerleaders' autographs.  Or, as she saw it, allowing people bigger than her to scribble all over her pretty paper.  Oh, and she cracked me up too.  She saw her daddy rolling up his posters neatly and packing them away in the backpack, so she made sure to kneel down on the floor and roll hers up neatly too before she gave it to him to stash in the backpack for her.  

They let the fans go through the tunnel that the football team passes through to get out on the field on game day.  It was pretty cool!  Selah shot out like she was jet propelled!  We thought she was going to be a cheerleader, but she may join the football team instead.

Korban and I took a more laid-back approach, but we were still happy to be there.

Blue eyes and Ole Miss!!!

So all in all, I had a really great birthday, even if I did make the worst picture known to man.  I got to spend time with my loves and we enjoyed ourselves.  Here's to a great year!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Don't Mind Us, We're High On Banana Gas

Today, Friday August 16, 2013, was our infusion day for August.  We hit the road early this morning, and Brad immediately started complaining of a heavy smell of bananas in the van.  I told him it had been like that all week, and it was from a sign he had spray painted for a yard sale recently.  He asked if I had taken the sign out, and I told him yes, that I took the sign out several days ago but the smell persisted.  He commented that he didn’t know that spray paint smelled like bananas, and I insisted it did.  

We got a little farther down the road and Brad began to say his head was hurting and made the remark that those spray paint fumes couldn’t be good for us.  I reminded him that he was the one that spray painted the sign and then put it in the van.  He apologized and said he wished one of us had thought to leave the windows open on the van and let it air out before our trip.  He opened the little back windows to give us some fresh air.

Sometime later, we stopped to get gas.  We were well into Alabama at this point.  When Brad got out to pump the gas, he asked me to get together any garbage so he could throw it away.  I leaned over to look underneath the seats, and beneath the driver’s seat was a plastic grocery sack.  I tugged it out and found a grocery sack full of bananas, which I had purchased on Sunday.  Yes, they had been festering under the seat since the beginning of the week.  I thought those bananas had gotten eaten really quickly.  Climbing back into the van, Brad peered at the sack in my hand.  “What’s that?” he wanted to know.  “I’ve got good news!” I told him.  “We aren’t breathing spray paint fumes.”  He looked in the bag and then looked at me and said “I KNEW spray paint didn’t smell like bananas.”  He was going to throw the whole bag away, but they were green when I bought them, so they had actually pretty much aged perfectly under the driver’s seat all week.  Plus, Selah started to cry for one, and they still seemed fine, so we gave her one.  (Yes, I gave my daughter a banana that had spent several days under a van seat.  It was fine.  Bananas come in their own protective packaging!)

My aunt was going to keep her today, and when we stopped at her house, Brad gave me my sack of bananas and told me to take them in.  So I arrived at my aunt’s with Selah, her bag, and a large sack of bananas.  My aunt looked in the bag.  “Did you think I had gotten a pet monkey?” she asked me.  “It’s a long story,” I told her sheepishly.  

So of course I had to tell her the long story, and she got a big kick out of poor Brad breathing banana fumes from the stalk of bananas he was practically sitting on top of while I insisted it was spray paint. Amazing how the mind works isn’t it?     Oh well.  Did I mention it was early?  REALLY early.

The rest of our ride went smoothly, and between the fresh air and a caffeine boost our headaches went away.  Korban was nervous about his infusion, but in a good mood.  He’s just now started talking about his infusions—I’m not sure if it’s because he’s started trying to work on dealing with his fears or because he has just now gotten to where he can articulate his fears or if he’s just getting better at working himself into worrying more about…well anything.  At any rate, he’s been asking since last month if it was time for his infusion yet about a million times a day and fretting about it.  It makes me feel really bad for him, but I am thankful he can at least verbalize some of it now.

They took us in a private room to do his IV, like usual.  And like usual, he got nervous and threw up.  They’ve had some personnel changes the last couple of months, and the nurses that did his IV every single time aren’t there anymore.  One went home to stay with his children—so happy for her, but we sure do miss her.  And I’m not sure what happened to the other one, but she was excellent with IVs and we miss her too.  Plus, they both had relatives with autism and were understanding of us.
The new nurses are very sweet to us, but Korban is an extremely hard stick, and he’s had to get stuck more than once the past several times we’ve been, which between that and the changes in familiar faces, may be why he is more anxious.  So today they brought in someone who is sort of like an IV specialist to do Korban’s IV.  I don’t know what her actual title is, but she was really good with IVs.  She was able to get it on the first try, which we were very thankful for, but Korban screams and cries every time and we have to hold him down and it’s just hard.  She said “WHY does this kid not have a port?”  I said “Well, the only other person that ever mentioned that to me was a doctor who is a friend of ours and knew we were having a hard time with the infusions, and when I asked his dr here about it, they didn’t seem to think it was necessary.”  She told me to talk to the dr about it again, and that it would make things a lot easier.

So after Korban got his infusion started and fell asleep, I talked to the charge nurse about it.  She said that another patient’s family had just gotten through having a conversation with their doctor about the same thing.  Our doctor wasn’t in that day, but they called her nurse to let her know we had a question.  Both nurses told me that the doctors at the children’s hospital don’t like to do ports unless it is a last resort because of the risk of infection.  They had me at “risk.”  Anything like that makes me nervous, but I thought if the risks were low it would be better than seeing him suffer every month.  We’ve been doing this for almost two years now, and we thought it would get easier but it’s not really.  Even though it is hard, it’s still worth it for him not to be sick all the time.  I think even Korban would agree with that.  

At any rate, our doctor’s nurse said she would staff it with her doctor, and they would call me with more information Monday.  So we may be having a decision to make.  We would sure appreciate your prayers on that matter!

One more area that needs prayer—his doctor in Southaven wrote a prescription for some lab work.  It’s mainly to check clotting factors, etc in his blood.  This is due to his severe bruising from his skin-picking.  His skin looks awful, and it concerns us all.  His doctor knows why he has bruises (from the skin-picking) but wanted to make sure that he didn’t have some underlying condition that made him easy to bruise.  So we had the lab work drawn today after the IV was placed, to save him having to have another stick.  We were so appreciative of the hospital today taking that prescription and not even batting an eye about doing it.  They gave us a stack of lab results before we left.  Of course, I’m looking at it with an untrained eye, a natural tendency to worry, and Google, which is not a good combination.  Ha!  But some of his levels were high and some were low, and I don’t have a clue what any of it means and won’t until sometime next week when I get somebody to explain it to me.  

Korban did so well today.  He even woke up before the infusion was over with and didn’t even complain about having to sit there.  He sat in his daddy’s lap and played on his iPad .  He was a little distressed because the clinics 12:00 round of patients had just come in and were getting their IVs started and he felt sorry for those kids.  We were afraid he would have a meltdown over that, but he didn't.  He pointed to the kid across from him and said “God bless him!” and then he asked me to say a prayer for him.  So I did, and then Korban did too.  So sweet!  I love to hear him pray. 

Speaking of that, yesterday we were playing outside and poor Selah got ants on her and they stung her.  She was crying, and I stripped her down outside and then took her inside to bathe her and put medicine on the bites.  Korban was worried because she was crying and asked me to “make a prayer” for her.  Love it!

We took Korban’s picture schedule with us today, and it was helpful.  His nurses thought it was really cool too.  We had planned on going to McWane Science Center afterwards, at Korban’s request, and the nurses thought it was sweet that he was so excited and talked to him about it. 

McWane was SO crowded today.  School hasn’t started back in Alabama yet, so I assume that everybody was trying to get a visit in before then.  It was so loud and crowded even Brad and I were overstimulated.  Korban struggled a little, but only screamed one time.  I quickly took him out of the room we were in and found a quiet little nook in the hallway and we sat down and did some deep breathing for a little bit.  We only stayed about an hour, but it was fun.  This was the only time I think we’ve ever got out of there without having at least a small tantrum over leaving.  I had taken the picture card for our next activity (going back by my aunt’s house to pick up Selah) in my back pocket, because I didn’t want to take the whole schedule in with us.  I had nearly forgotten about it, and when it was time to go, we were telling Korban what we were going to go next, but he was starting to get more and more upset.  But I happened to remember the picture in my pocket, and showing is so much better than telling.  I whipped the picture out of my pocket and showed it to him and just like that, tantrum averted.  AMAZING.   I can’t wait to see what else we can do with visual aids!  

Both my kids love to go to my aunt and uncle's house, and Korban was excited.  They also have a pool that Korban loves to look at but has never been in.  He loves water but he's scared of it.  Selah loves to get in the pool, and Korban has talked to her about it.  The last time we were there, two months ago, Korban said that he was going to get in the pool the next time we came.  He's talked about it for two months, and now the time was here.

He was nervous, and we thought he was going to back out.  I was almost willing to let him, because the water was COLD!  I can't believe this great, cool weather we've had this week.  So very unusual for the South in August.  I think God sent me a birthday present.  ;)  It was great for playing outside, but not so great swimming pool weather.  Totally worth it though.  It took all of us to coax Korban in, but you should've seen the smiles.  He LOVED it, and then we couldn't get him out.  So typical of Korban.  First you can't get him to do something, and then you can't get him to stop doing in.  He was already asking when he could go back and get in the pool before we even got him out.  Such a milestone!

 He had to sit on the ladder and think about it for a while.

 We got him off the ladder and onto a float, and he decided this might be lots of fun!

 Selah loved riding the whale!

 Proud, happy boy.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Essary Family News

I have exciting news:  I'm officially married to a grad student!  That's right, Brad's going back to get his Master's.  He's doing online classes through Capella, and he is working towards a Master's in Psychology/Applied Behavior Analysis.  This is the ABA therapy that Korban receives and it's considered the gold standard autism therapy.

We are so excited about this, and I'm so proud of him.  He's been talking about going back to get his Master's for a long time, and was trying to decide what to get it in.  After much research, and talking to different people, and praying, we decided that this was the best way to go.

The things he learns from this will undoubtedly help our family, and he will be able to help other autism families as well.  A double blessing!  I think it's very cool the way it has all worked out.

This step was not entered into lightly--like I said, we've been praying on it and exploring options for a while now.  The timing finally seemed right, and God opened some doors for us.  Classes started last week, and so far so good.

Please say a prayer for my sweet husband.  I know he will be successful in this, but I have to admit I'm a little worried when I look at everything he's got on his plate.  (Just being married to me is a full-time job, but the benefits are good!  Ha!)

We are blessed to have this opportunity, and planning to make the most of it.  I'm just really excited for Brad, and a super-proud wife right now. 

This has been a good weekend, even though Korban hasn't felt very well.  Not sure if he's coming down with something or what.  We went to the drive-in last night and saw Planes and Smurfs 2.  We stayed through two movies and the kids did really well,(minus a few screaming episodes) so there's something to be said for that.  But remember, the drive-in doesn't start until after 8:00, when it gets dark, so we were there until really late last night.  Both kids took good naps yesterday and did really well; however, Korban had to wake me up after I nodded off several times and also had to tell his Daddy to quit snoring.  Ha!  I told Brad we are getting OLD and he reminded me that he only got about three hours sleep the night before.  I have no such excuse--the only thing I can say for myself is that I am the only member of my family with anything resembling a normal sleep pattern, i.e. I like to sleep, so that makes me weird to all three of them. 

We enjoyed both movies.  Korban liked Planes the best, while Selah favored the Smurfs.  Korban wants to know when they will make a movie about rockets.  He loves Cars, thought Planes was awesome as well, and now wants Disney Pixar to make a movie about rockets.  Maybe one day! 

We went to church today, and Korban did really well with the service again.  He did struggle a little more than the previous two weeks, but like I said he has felt bad this weekend.  While in the service he would ask if was ok to scream but not actually scream.  He would ask questions about random things over and over but when asked if he wanted to stay or leave, he would say stay each time.  We are so thankful for this positive turn.  And this afternoon, we went to a birthday party for two sweet little boys who are special to us.  It was a lot of fun. Had a few screaming episodes there as well towards the end, but that just serves to make me thankful for friends who are understanding about things like that. 

One more thing--Korban's ABA guy came to see us again last week.  He has me doing something new:  I'm doing some data collection on Korban's skin picking.  He left me something called a tally counter.  It's basically a ring you can wear on your finger and it has a little button you push every time something happens, and it displays the number on the screen.  I am setting the timer for 15 minutes on my phone and using the tally counter to count pinches/skin picking at different intervals during the day.  We are working on a behavior management plan for the skin picking, and we really need it to work.  Korban's skin looks worse and worse.  His doctor has ordered some blood work just to make sure he isn't having clotting problems.  That's how bad the bruises are.  I'm probably not collecting the data as often as I should be, but my top count so far was 227 times.  Can you imagine?  In fifteen minutes, he picked his skin 227 times, and many of those were hard enough to leave a bruise or draw blood.  So pitiful, and the more you tell him to stop, the more he does it.  :(  His teacher tried to get him to do it to her arm the other day and she could not get him to do it.  I told Brad about this, and he said he had tried to get Korban to pinch his arm before too, and he wouldn't do it to him either.  They were just trying to see how hard he was doing it and what he felt like.  It's so sad to see him doing that to himself. 

Tomorrow starts a new school week--Korban struggled with school some Friday, but I think it's because he wasn't feeling well.  I'm praying he feels better and settles into our routine.  He's still liking his picture schedule, and it's quite helpful.  Amazing how those things work!  Actually both of my kids seem to really rely on the picture schedule.  Korban will ask if he can see the schedule and always wants to hold the next card in line.  Selah gets verbally upset (maybe even more so than Korban at times) when we do something not on the schedule.  It is quite funny but makes us proud at the same time.  We try to work on putting together the schedule for the day as a family and both kids really like being able to do this.  It's cool how it gives them a voice in what is going on just by understanding what each card is.

I know this is a little scattered, but I finally got the all-clear to tell Brad's good news and couldn't wait to share it.  And now he needs the computer for homework.  My husband has homework!  I'm so happy for this new step he is taking.  And so happy he's the one with homework and not me.  ;)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The First Day of First Grade

After spending the entire summer adamantly declaring that he was NOT going to first grade, just this week Korban accepted the inevitable.  Not only did he decide he was going to go to first grade after all, he keeps telling us he is going to LEARN!  Which is definitely a good thing, and we were thankful for his change in heart.

We are blessed to have the same sweet special education teacher (or Korban and I would've both had a meltdown) and once I finally got it through to Korban that it would pretty much be exactly like last year except we were calling it first grade, he was fine with that.  It only took me from May to August to accomplish that.  We are doing the exact same schedule we did last year, with his teacher coming to the home to do homebound classes with him on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and on Tuesday and Thursday he goes to the school for a little while in the mornings, and I stay with him.

The only thing that changed is the special education classroom moved down the hall to a bigger room, which was a positive change.  It looks really nice, too.  We got to see his new classroom at open house last night.  Korban was assigned a regular ed first grade teacher too, and he got to meet her and see her class room. 

We had a good morning and Korban was pretty relaxed about the whole thing.  We got to school a little after 8:00, in hopes of avoiding the morning rush. 
This is him on the way into school.  He looks like he might be having second thoughts about the whole thing!

His teacher was waiting on us, and took him to his classroom.  He colored a picture with her, and put stickers on a picture of the solar system, and did a lacing card (fine motor skills.)  He did good work, and we were proud of him. 
Here he is in his classroom.  Happy, happy, happy.

We also walked in the hallways with him to give him a break--he has a lot of trouble staying focused and we have to take frequent breaks.  He loves walking in the hallway, and I was amazed at how he was greeting people.  He saw his kindergarten teacher and her aide, as well as the aide that worked with him last year, and he was happy to see all of them.  He also saw several other teachers that he remembered, and some students too.  He was friendly and talkative.  We saw his speech therapist and he told her that he liked ice cream.  She asked him what his favorite flavor was, and he said chocolate mint.  She was pleased with his verbal ability. 

We went home afterwards, and I wanted to do something to celebrate.  We decided to do a "project" as the kids calls it.  We made homemade Gak!  Good, messy fun, and a sensory activity too.  If you want to try it, I made it like this:
Two 5 oz containers of white glue
Food coloring of your choice
3/4 cup of liquid starch
(A lot of recipes I've seen used Borax instead of the liquid starch, and I bought some Borax but never could decide if it was totally safe to use.  I found a recipe using the liquid starch instead and went with that just in case Korban decided to try and eat it.)

 Here's the kids adding the glue to the bowl

Adding the food coloring and stirring it up...they decided to use blue food coloring, and since we are planning on going to see Smurfs 2 this weekend, I told them we were making Smurf guts! 

 Playing with the finished product.  (Yes, she's sitting on my kitchen table.  What?!?)

Now, a word about sensory play and why it's important.  Most kids love messy, goopy stuff, and they learn by playing and experiencing new things.  But it seems to be doubly important for kids with autism.  It can go one of two ways--touching certain textures can be very calming for people on the spectrum, so sensory play is great for a high-strung kiddo like Korban.  On the other hand, the feel of certain textures may be difficult for some people with autism.  (Or some people without autism.  Everyone seems to have a little bit of this.  I have a neurotypical friend who gags when she touches suede!)  At any rate, some kiddos have a hard time adjusting to different textures, and it's good to introduce it to them in a non-threatening manner so that they have a chance to get acclimated to it.  The technical term for aversion to certain textures is "tactile defensiveness," and Korban has this too.  In other words, textures sometimes make him do this:
Yeesh!  He wasn't too sure about it at first.

 But do you see that little index finger reaching out to touch it?

And he decided it wasn't so bad after all!

 Selah would've climbed in the bowl if I had let her.  She settled for adding some of her toy animals.  

All in all, it was cheap, easy fun and we all enjoyed it.  It did stick all over our hands, but it washed right off of us and the plastic animals and didn't stain skin or clothes.  I saved what was left in a plastic container with a lid and I think it will last for a little while.  

To further celebrate back to school, we went to Sonic during happy hour and got slushes.  Yay for Sonic's happy hour!  We also stopped by a little grocery store in Burnsville for a minute on the way home.  While we were there, we ran into our pastor's son, who also preaches at our church.  Korban was feeling all conversational, and asked him "You been preaching?"  Very cute.  He replied "I preached Sunday."  Korban said "I enjoyed it."  And I'm getting the warm fuzzies, and thinking about how well Korban has been doing at church the past couple of Sundays and how truly amazing it is, the way his vocabulary and conversational ability has blossomed.  And then Korban decided to ask him another question.  "Do you like stinky poopie?" he inquired loudly.  Oh, my.  But you know, we take the bad with the good.  He IS having conversations now, even he randomly interjects bathroom yuckiness.  ;)

We ended our day by eating spaghetti for supper.  This is one of Korban's favorite meals, and we had it the first day of kindergarten last year, too.  He was hungry.

 And he takes his pasta very seriously...

We are so happy today went well and hope that all of you guys who are dealing with back to school are doing well too.  Please pray that this is a good year for us!  I prayed out loud on the way to school this morning, and then Korban prayed for his teacher and his friends.  So sweet to hear, and I just think I'm blessed to have my little family.  :)


Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Rest of Our Back To School Fun Day

Saturday we took the kids to Memphis for a fun day before school started back. We started the day off with a reptile exhibit called Repticon.  I told Brad that I deserved some sort of award for making it through that, so I guess the rest of the day could be considered my reward.

After bidding the snakes good-bye, we decided to visit Lichterman Nature Center.  It's part of the Pink Palace, but we had never seen it before because it is only open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and we had never made it during those times.  Also, it's mostly outside so you have to do it when the weather is pretty.  It was a great day for it.  It rained some earlier in the day, but by the time we got there the rain was over, and it was just kind of overcast and felt really good outside.

It's mostly nature trails to walk, so the staff there gave us a map and a bag of food to feed to the fish and we set off.  It was so beautiful!  This is one of my favorite kinds of thing to do, and everyone else liked it too. 
Here's my crew on the bridge feeding the fish, although I think we saw more turtles than fish.  No one was complaining though!
See?  All those brown things are turtles.
This is on one of the walking trails.  Selah said we were going on an adventure like Dora and Diego.
Isn't that lovely?
Selah loved these big plants.  So did her mama!
Walking the boardwalk over the marsh was my favorite part.
It's so hard to get a decent picture with the kids.
Know what I mean?
Found this in the gardens and the kids really enjoyed it. 
We told her not to pick the flowers...
But she slipped and got one anyway...see that guilty face?
Taking a rest on a big butterfly
We stayed until it closed at 4:00, and really enjoyed our time there.  We were hungry by then, and trying to decide where to go.  Brad checked the Living Social app on his phone--Living Social is a site very similar to Groupon--and found a deal for Incredible Pizza.  Better yet, he had accumulated Deal Bucks, and we were able to use those to pay for it!  The kids LOVE Incredible Pizza and were very happy with that surprise.
This is what my pseudo-vegetarian's plate looked like.  We are at a pizza place, and she wanted green beans, corn, carrots, and black olives.  I'm not complaining!
This game squirted water, so Selah thought it was especially cool.

Brad and Selah got to ride Go-Karts again.
She gave it two thumbs up!
Korban refused to ride, but he sure was happy to watch!
They found Korban's favorite dog game.
While Selah was riding this little car, Korban called her name and waved to her, and she honked the horn at him.  Not even kidding!
We played up such a sweat some of us resorted to using the hand dryer as a hair dryer.  I won't mention any names, though.  ;)  Seriously, they have a family bathroom and Brad went in with me to help with the kids, but decided to tend to personal grooming instead.  NO help--the kids were absolutely screaming with laughter, although they declined to style their hair this way.  If you know Brad, you know he sweats.  We might need one of these at home!
We got slushies off the food bar to cool us down.
Brain freeze!
And Daddy learned the hard way that Selah cannot be trusted around his ice cream. 
We had such a good time that day, and I'm so grateful we got to take the kids for some fun before school starts.  Other than the gas in our van that we used, we spent $9.00 yesterday.  Brad bought the Groupon for Repticon a couple of weeks ago, and it was $15.00.  While we were there, we let each kid get a treat.  Selah choose a snake necklace that cost $8.00 and Korban picked a balloon with a picture of a bearded dragon on it that cost $1.00, so that's how we got the $9.00 amount.  Lichterman Nature Center was free with our Pink Palace Membership, and the Living Social deal was covered by Brad's rewards bucks.  It included the buffet and drinks for four, and a $20.00 game card.  We got to spin their prize wheel three times: one because August is my birthday month, and they also have a promotion where you can get a free spin for checking in on Facebook, so Brad and I both did that.  We won two free attractions (like Go-Karts) and a $5.00 bonus on the game card by spinning the prize wheel.  That's a lot of fun!  I love getting to spend time together as a family--I love seeing my kids enjoy themselves and try new things and I consider us so blessed that they have a daddy who wants to be with us.  Even if he does like snakes...  

Whatever Gets You Through The Day

A couple of weeks ago, we had a follow-up appointment with LeBonheur Neurology.  This was our first follow-up appointment since Korban was in the hospital, and it was with one of their doctors who travels to Tupelo to the clinic there.  This made it easier on us, and I certainly appreciated that. 

I went by myself, and took both kids, which was an adventure, but overall it went really well.  We liked this doctor.  I was sort of nervous about meeting her—remember the doctors in Memphis were nice but gave us some pretty dire “what if” scenarios.  This lady was nice and we didn’t have any really hard conversations, so that was a good thing. 

I mentioned before that Korban has been seeing a play therapist this summer—she had talked to me about the possibility of him having Tourette’s and I wanted to bring that up to the neurologist.  I asked her about it, and she agreed that he has enough tics to probably qualify for a Tourette’s diagnosis IF he did not have autism.  Confused?  I was too.  The autism umbrella covers so many different symptoms, but they are not expressed in the exact same way in people with autism.  After talking with me for a while, she said that Korban showed MANY features of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and some features of Tourette’s; however, she did not officially add these diagnoses.  She said that some doctors tend to be “lumpers” rather than to list everything out, and she falls into that category.  She felt that his autism diagnosis expressed all his symptoms better than adding additional diagnoses. 

I was okay with this, because it wouldn’t change anything however she listed it.  It wouldn’t open new doors to us, as far as new therapies or medication.  If it did, I would be all for it, but for now just the knowledge is enough for me. 

She talked to me a lot about the OCD symptoms, as she feels that this may be the root of his aggression.  No one had ever put it like that to me before, and I was intrigued.  She had reviewed his file before seeing us, and brought up his aggression.  I told her that we had always been told that his aggression stemmed from his inability to communicate; however, the aggression has not decreased even as his ability to communicate has increased.  She explained that children with OCD feel a deep desire to control everything around them because there are so anxious.  Even grown people aren’t able to control everything around them, much less a little kid, so this leads to tons of frustration for them, which can lead to them lashing out.  She told me that she has quite a few patients with just OCD, no autism or any other complicating factors, and that they are “hell to raise.”  (Her words, not mine.)

She reiterated his need for intensive behavioral therapy and told me that we were already probably getting more than most people she sees.  Although I have to say, it’s clearly not enough!  But the rest of the appointment went smoothly and she plans to see us back in six months.

After our appointment, we went to Ballard Park (or as the kids call it, “the duck park”) and played for a while.  It was nice.  We hadn’t been there for a while, and I actually remembered to take bread to feed the kids’ beloved ducks with us this time.  They were happy.  So were the kids.  ;)
Here's an action shot of Korban feeding the ducks.
We found some ducklings.
And while we were admiring the ducklings, these big boys approached Korban for a hand-out!  He wound up just dumping all the food he had on the ground in front of them.  I don't blame him though--they were pretty persistent.  Look at Korban's face!
Selah got close enough to pet one!
He was singing "Jake and the Neverland Pirates and meeeeeeee!"
Sliding together

But back to the OCD business, as Korban gets more verbal I am more aware of just how much he worries and obsesses over things, and yet I know there’s so much more going on in his head that he’s not verbalizing.  He asks over and over if our house is going to fall down, despite our reassurances that it’s not.  He still has a great deal of separation anxiety and worries that me and Brad are going to die.  He loves holidays, which is much more positive than the other things I just mentioned, but he obsesses over them.  Halloween is his current obsession, and I bet he asked me over a hundred times the other day if it was Halloween yet.  He knows when Halloween is (October 31st, he told me that about a hundred times too) and he knows that it isn’t quite time yet, but he just can’t get it out of his mind.  And he always needs to know what’s going to happen next.

I had been talking to his ABA lady about this, and she’s been working on a picture schedule for us.  I used to think that PECs symbols and such were mainly for kids that were non-verbal, but that is NOT true!  Even though Korban is highly verbal, he’s also highly visual.  I can tell him a million times that we have to eat lunch and fill the car up with gas before we go to the park, but it doesn’t matter.  A picture really is worth a thousand words in this case. 

I had also talked to some other autism parents who were having great success with the picture schedule, so I was encouraged by them.  I went around and made pictures of a lot of the places that we frequent.  I kind of felt like a stalker doing this, but it was interesting.  Selah asked me why I was making so many pictures, and I tried to explain the whole concept of a picture schedule to the kids.  When I finished Selah said “Oh Mommy, are you doing this because you keep forgetting what we are supposed to be doing?”  At that point I realized that pictures schedules aren’t just for people with autism.  ;)

Brad also helped make pictures and I have to say he’s better at it than I am.  When we did Korban ‘s infusion last month, we took pictures of places in Birmingham that we go to.  I was supposed to be snapping a picture of the McWane Science Center as Brad drove past it, but when the time came I was busy looking at something on my phone and missed the opportunity.  Brad laughed and me and said “You’d be a terrible gang member.  They’d want you to do a drive-by and they’d pull up to the place and you’d be like ‘Look!  Squirrel!”  Which totally cracked me up.  He’s right, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the ONLY reason I’d be a terrible gang member.

At any rate, we got all of our “drive-bys” finished and our ABA lady also took pictures, and pulled some icons off the internet for us, printed out the pics and laminated them for durability.  Because let’s face it, those pictures may go through a lot at my house.  I met her and got the box of pictures from her one day a couple of weeks ago.  One autism mommy that I talked to uses a five gallon paint stick for her son’s schedule, and she graciously brought me some to use for ours.  Our ABA lady provided us with some Velcro and also some clothespins so that we could choose how to attach the pictures to our stick.  Incidentally, Brad refers to our schedule as the “stick system” but I told him I thought saying “picture schedule” sounded nice than telling people we were “on the stick system.”  Heh.

The day I got the pictures from the ABA lady, I met Brad over at his parent’s house so that Selah could go to VBS with her Mammaw.  I planned to take Korban on to the house and Brad was going to stick around and bring Selah home with him.  I excitedly showed him the box of pictures and we started going through them together.  He was worried when he saw the picture I made of his parent’s house, because I made it facing the front of their house, when we usually enter through the back.  He didn’t think Korban would recognize the house that way.  I held up the picture and asked Korban what it was.  He glanced at it and immediately said “Mammaw and Grandpa’s house.”  I looked at Brad triumphantly, and he proceeded to go through all the pictures with Korban.  He knew!  We were thrilled. 

As we were going through the pictures with him, Korban latched onto the picture of his ABA guy as soon as he saw it.  He insisted on carrying it around with him (even though we had no plans of seeing him) and was still clutching it when I loaded him up and we headed home. 
Here's a picture of him making silly faces at the picture.
 He was so quiet on the way home I thought he had fallen asleep.  I turned to look at him, and he and the ABA guy were both staring at me.  I almost ran off the road.  Even when we got home, he refused to turn loose of that picture, although he did try to put it down the air vent at one point.  I frantically yelled “No Korban!  Don’t put Mr. (insert name of ABA guy here) down the air vent!”  And that’s one of those sentences I never imagined myself saying until I had children…

We are still getting accustomed to the picture scheduled.  As I’ve mentioned about a thousand times before, Brad and I aren’t exactly the most organized people in the world.  *Ahem*  But we are learning, and I think this schedule thing is going to be good for our whole family.  Selah loves it too!

Last Sunday we got the pictures out and started clipping them to the stick and explaining to the kids what was going to happen that day.  You know Korban has been really struggling with sitting through a church service.  We showed him the picture card for our church and told him it was “church day” as he calls it.  We asked him if he wanted to go out and eat afterwards, and he said that he did.  We let him pick where he wanted to go, and he picked the picture for New China Buffet.  We told him that if he was good in church, we would go eat afterwards and we also picked out the cards for everywhere else we needed to go and showed him those as we clipped them on. 

When we got to the church, he wanted to hold the New China Buffet card, so we let him carry it.  He held it through the whole service and every time he started to talk or get wild, Brad would tap on the card and remind him and he would settle right now.  Amazing.  He lasted through the whole service for the first time in I don’t even remember when.  Such a blessing!  I told Brad that our boy may be the only kid in the whole world who held a picture of Chinese restaurant in order to successfully sit through a worship service, but WHATEVER WORKS!  Seriously, I firmly believe that if it isn’t harmful and it HELPS, do whatever you can to get through the day. 

There was one thing about the picture schedule that I did not foresee…the kids got together without me the other day and planned what they thought the day should look like.  Let’s just say it involved a lot of bouncy houses.  It was hilarious, but seriously, how clever are they?  I told our ABA lady about it and we laughed but she did say they could certainly help pick out the schedule, I just had to make sure to give them doable options. 

Pray for us as we continue to work with the schedule and pray that we all learn how to ease Korban’s anxiety and manage his obsessions.  Coping skills are very important!  I really feel like these pictures are a big step in the right direction, and we sure appreciate our ABA lady getting it all together for us. 
Here's Korban after a successful Sunday at church.  Brad was still sitting there reading the church bulletin when I got Korban out of his car seat, so he climbed in the front to keep Daddy company.  :)