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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Part Two

 After we finished up at the zoo and went back to the Ronald McDonald House for a rest, we were ready to hunt up some grub. At first we weren't planning to go out to eat, but Brad saw online that there was a Joe's Crab Shack nearby and they were supporting Autism Speaks, so we decided to eat there. 

Brad and I love seafood, but we hadn't gotten to eat at Joe's since I was pregnant with Korban. I remember it really well because we went to a youth pastor's conference in Nashville and just had the best time. 

I was only about five months pregnant, but had had an eventful pregnancy with some real scares and we were really glad to get that time away with each other. We decided to eat at Joe's Crab Shack one night, and I mean we absolutely tore it up. It was so good, and I was at that ravenous point in my pregnancy. Ok, fine. I STAYED at that ravenous point in my pregnancy once the nausea passed and it only got worse once I actually gave birth and started nursing said baby. But that's neither here nor there. The point is, I ate a lot of good food. And then we had to walk back to our hotel!  Which wouldn't have been such an issue if I wasn't you know, fat and pregnant. To make matters worse, Brad was telling me some really funny story (which I can't remember for the life of me now) and I was laughing so hard I literally couldn't walk and had to sit down on the curb. Brad sat down with me and we just sat there on this curb, full of seafood, laughing so hard we were crying with all these people walking by staring at us. Such a fun memory. 

That was literally the only other time we had eaten at Joe's, so we were really excited to go back. We knew they had autism awareness t-shirts and we were so excited about that, we wound up going straight to the gift shop. We chatted with the employee working in there while we shopped and he was very nice and helpful. He was friendly and really good with Korban. He even talked football with him!  Korban liked him a lot and it really meant a lot to me that this guy took time with Korban and complimented him on what a good kid he was. 

They had a nice playground outside and it felt really good out, so we requested to eat at the picnic tables by the playground. Just being outside soothed my going-out-to-eat anxiety. Korban loves to go out and eat (bless him, he likes to eat, period.). He tries hard but going out isn't always easy. 

One time at Olive Garden in Memphis, he got mad and threw a breadstick. It landed in the plate of one of the people sitting next to us. Awkward much?  We apologized (a lot) and explained.  That was a time when Brad had made some autism business type cards explaining the issues and would hand them out when issues arose.   They were very gracious and just laughed it off once they got over the shock of an airborne carbohydrate projectile landing in their pasta. 

Another time he got ahold of my hair so bad in a restaurant with both hands that my friend had to pull him off of me. This really freaked out the ladies eating next to us. I can imagine it was a pretty strange sight. 

He's screamed in restaurants before and scared everybody half to death. And then there's the puking. He has a very sensitive gag reflex and with his stomach problems he tends to choke easily and then it's just all over with. One time we went out to eat with some friends and Korban choked and then threw up directly in my face. That's one of those things I would have sworn would have killed me before having kids, but I just cleaned up and went on. However, those friends have never asked us out again. I can't imagine why!  ;)

All that being said, if Korban is being disruptive obviously he is removed from the situation immediately.  It takes a lot of courage on all of our parts to be able to go out anywhere, but we enjoy going out and I don't feel like we should just hide under a rock. I don't want to ruin anybody else's night, so we try very hard not to bother other people, but I believe we have a right to enjoy the wide world too. :)

Anyway, I was excited about being outside and it felt very family friendly. Selah was all about the playground, so I walked her to it. She found a sweet little girl to play with, so I left her to her playing and went and sat back down with the boys. I could see the whole playground from where I sat and it was fenced it, so I wasn't nervous about that. 

Our appetizer (crab nachos!) was delivered and we dove into that with gusto. Selah's all like "let me play on the playground!" And Korbans all like "give me more chips!" Ha!

That was just the appetizer. We were pretty excited about the main course too!  

I told the waitress that Korban had just had his 8th birthday and asked if they would sing happy birthday to him. He loves that, and the waitress said they would be glad to do it. They were so sweet singing to him, and he was so excited. 

After Korban finished eating, he asked to go to the playground. There were lots of kids playing, so Bradwalked him down there and stayed with him. He just walked around holding his 
hand for awhile. Then Brad and I traded out when I finished eating so he could finish his meal. 

By then Korban wanted to slide. Can I get some props for climbing up in a play structure, through a tunnel and down a slide with a belly full of coconut shrimp?  

We played together for awhile, and then something pretty amazing happened. Korban grabbed my arm, pointed down at the ground and said "You go down there." He was telling me to leave him to play and go on--pretty big step for him. And honestly, for me too. He clings to me for comfort, but I'm used to keeping him within arms reach at all times because I just never know what he's going to do.  But I felt pretty confident. He had been doing so well, and pretty much all the other kids playing were as big or bigger than him. 

I went down to the ground and just enjoyed watching both my kids play. Korban wandered around and went down the slides head first and just had a ball. It was so cute. From time to time, he would lean his head out and say "They're being loud!" And I would tell him that they were just playing and ask if that was ok. He would say yes and go back to playing. He touched a couple of kids, but not in a mean way. Like he would just smile and hold his hand out to them. There was one little boy that was so sweet to him. He reminded me of our friends' son Jakub. He sort of looked like him, and he seemed mature for his age and just so KIND like Jake and his little brother Jack.  I love seeing a sweet, gentle spirit like that. 

This little boy kept speaking to Korban and giving him high five or shaking his hand. It made my heart so happy. 

Selah played the whole time with the first little friend she met on the playground. That little girl was so sweet, and they played so well together. 

So I was happily watching the kids play and I looked up and noticed Brad talking to a couple who had eaten dinner close to us. They chatted for a while, and when we all left Brad was so happy he had gotten to talk to them. They had noticed that Korban had special needs and explained to Brad that their daughter did too (a chromosomal abnormality I believe) .  So they were talking for a long time about that. Their daughter just so happened to be Selah's little playmate that she had enjoyed playing with the whole time we were there! 

They also had two older children, a son and another daughter. While Brad was talking to the dad, their son ran up saying "hey, there's a kid that's like sister on the playground and he's really cool!"  (He was referring to Korban.) Remember me mentioning the little boy who had been so kind to Korban?  Yeah, same kid. Special needs siblings are rock stars too. 

I just thought it was such a God thing that we ran into such a precious family. Amazing way to top off an incredible day. Full bellies, even fuller hearts. :)

Being Thankful

Very happy to be able to say that Korban's new medicine is working very well for him. It's a very small dose of a beta-blocker called Propranolol being used to treat his anxiety. He's more relaxed and interactive, and also MUCH less aggressive, with no negative side effects like acting drugged or whatever. Very big praise report!  We have had the best weekend we've had in a very long time. Friday was his infusion and while he still didn't like getting his IV, it was much easier than it usually is. He still cried and screamed a lot but he didn't get sick beforehand like he often does due to nerves. We only had to hold his arm steady and keep him still rather than laying him back and having to hold him down like we normally do. It was far from perfect but it wasn't the battle we normally have to fight. He fell asleep and had a nice little nap while getting "infused." 

Love that sweet face!  

He woke up before the infusion was over but was in a good mood and was ready to eat. 

Selah played and watched tv while waiting on her brother to get finished. The volunteer who does the face-painting was there and Selah was all excited to see her. She had her mind all made up--she wanted two apples, one red and one green, painted on her arm. 

It turned out so cute!  I especially like the worms. :)

After Korban was finished, we headed back across the street to the Ronald McDonald House. 

Here's Daddy carrying Selah and her much beloved Hundley. 

We had lunch at the house. There was a surplus of Easter candy, and of course it caught Selah's eye. She's mine, after all. 

She chose this candy which looked like a rubber ducky. She loves ducks and it really was cute. I'd never seen anything like it. 

At least she shared: 

She ripped off the duck's head and passed it on to Korban. (After taking a bite to make sure it tasted okay first. 
I'm sure she wouldn't want to give her brother sub-par candy.)

Then she tore into his tail feathers, saying "bye-bye, butt!" Oh, Selah. 

After lunch we headed to the Birmingham Zoo. The Ronald McDonald House has a membership arrangement so that any of their residents can go to the zoo for free. We love the zoo so much, so this was a big treat for us. The weather was just lovely and Birmingham has a very nice zoo. We really enjoyed ourselves. 

We went to the reptile house first. (Of course we did!). See the tortoise in the picture above?  He's sort of flat and camoflauged on the ground there. He's actually called a pancake tortoise. See?

This completely tore Selah up because she thought it meant he liked to EAT pancakes. I get a really lovely image of the zoo staff taking the tortoises on a field trip to IHOP if I think about that for very long. 

We were walking around looking at a different things, and Selah started trying to pull us down this dead end alley. We told her no, that there wasn't anything to see down there, but we were wrong. This was what Selah had spotted:

A big peacock in all of it's glory!  

Selah sidled up for a photo op. She was probably trying to figure out how to get that thing in our van!  ;)

Both kids even got to pet it!  Niiiiice peacock. 

Selah also got to see her other favorite bird, the flamingos. 

Since she's Selah, she also did some climbing. 

Hang on, sister!

Korban went to visit the gorilla. That's his favorite animal there. The gorilla was totally chillin'--enjoying the sunshine. 

Look at him--all laid out. I love the arm in his face. So funny. 

He did sit up and move around a little bit while we watched. Very pretty animal. 

Korban loved watching him. 

We had a blast at the zoo. This whole weekend was great, and I want to write about all of it but this post is already long, so I'm going to have to break it up. Consider this part one. To be continued! 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Service With A Smile

Korban turned 8 today!   I know it sounds trite, but he's growing up so fast. I can't believe 8 years have passed since that first time I got to hold him. A LOT has happened in those 8 years, and I'm proud of how far we have come. 

We started the day off headed to Southaven for two dr apts for Korban. They were at the same clinic--the group that oversees his medical care and provides behavioral therapy for him. 

The first apt was actually an intake session for his upcoming psychological evaluation. Nothing big, it was just time to get an updated one and I'm excited to see where we stand. So Korban basically got to play with some cool toys while me and Brad talked with the doctor.  Me talking to someone other than Korban usually doesn't end well.  Today was no exception as he punched and scratched me a few times.  Brad had to forcefully remove Korban from both rooms at some point even though both doctors attempted intervening and tried to make him happy, it just didn't last.

Then we met with his medical doctor. We decided to try a beta blocker to help with his anxiety since none of the traditional anti-anxiety meds have helped at all and some have made him feel worse. PLEASE pray this medicine is the "key to the kingdom" so to speak and that he has no negative side effects from it. We are beyond ready to see our little guy get some relief from his horrible anxiety. It's so frustrating to try and try to help and NOTHING works very well. I feel so bad for him....

Along that line--we are also pursuing another avenue to help relieve Korbans anxiety and other issues. Very exciting news:  we have been approved to start training for a service dog!

We have been thinking and praying about this for a long time--as in years. We started researching service dogs when Korban was about 5. It's not just something you decide to do and then go pick up a dog the next day. To get an actual service dog, there is a lot of training and fundraising involved. But I'm thankful to say the pieces are starting to come together for this.

Brad and I both put out some feelers a few months ago. I talked to some of Korban's therapists and one of them knew a guy who knew a guy, and the rest is history. There is an organization called Retrieving Freedon that has a branch in Senatobia, MS, which is about 45 minutes out of Southaven. That was where we headed as soon as we finished Korban's appointments this morning. 

Well, ok, we stopped and got lunch first. ;)

I was so excited to get to go meet the dogs and their trainer!  They mainly train dogs for people with autism and veterans with PTSD. (Said we would be surprised at how similar the two groups of people are. Stop and think about that for a minute.)

We tried to explain to the kids a little bit about what we were doing without them getting overly excited and thinking we were bringing home a dog today. 

Mr. Dwyer, one of the owners of Retrieving Freedom, was so nice to us. He answered all of our questions and was so good to our kids. 

We did get to meet some of the dogs. Some of them have already been matched with someone and are being trained to work for that person. It's not like we just go in there and pick out a dog. The dog and the boy--they will pick each other. Which is how it should be. 

Korban wasn't afraid of the dogs today but he wouldn't pet them either. Mr. Dwyer said not to worry and not to try and force it. It takes a while to find that bond but it will happen. 

All the dogs they have are labs or golden retrievers. I was in the floor loving on a beautiful lab today and he leaned over and licked me right on the nose. I didn't mind at all, but Korban raced over and started wiping my nose off and trying to "clean me up."  It was very funny. It also seemed backward to me--the kid trying to wipe down the mama. I guess I'm just lucky Korban didn't spit-clean me, right?  

I didn't get any pictures while the dogs were out with us--I was too excited. But I snapped this sweet shot of Selah and a pup named Bruno. 

I love how he's looking at her!  It looks like they are having a conversation. Shoot, they probably were!

Today was sort of our interview.  The trainer said he has a good idea from today of Korban's energy so that he can be looking at dogs to match him.  We were expecting for there to be a waiting period before we could start but he said "we've started today" and that is so cool.  Next we figure out what timetable works best for us and then we will start meeting dogs and training. It's a time-consuming and expensive process but we are looking forward to this journey.  Much support will be needed as we move forward and we know we have the community of family and friends to make this happen.

Mr Dwyer gave Korban this hat today as a birthday present, we can add it to his collection.  Korban wouldn't wear it long enough for a picture but I just had to show off this logo design.  The dog in between a puzzle priece and American flag.  I love it, it's so perfect.

So, you ask, what exactly a service dog does for a child with autism--it depends largely on the needs of the child. 

1. For us, we are looking for something to help ease Korban's anxiety, especially when we are out places. We can't just stay at home all the time and Korban actually likes to go places but it's hard on all of us. I wish people knew how brave he has to be to do all that he does. I'm his mom, and I don't even fully understand what it's like to live in his world. 

2.  Tethering. When we are out and about, the dog would wear a special vest and would be hooked up to Korban with a special leash. Bolting and wandering is a huge, scary problem for the autism community. Korban is an intermittent bolter. Which is good, because he doesn't do it all the time, and bad because I get lulled into a false sense of security thinking he's finally over it and BOOM he's running out to the middle of a crowded parking lot. I live in fear of losing my focus for just one second and something horrible happening. It would bring me an incredible amount of peace if I knew I had a relatively large and strong dog who was specifically trained to stop my sweet boy in his tracks if necessary.  Korban has gotten stronger and often jerks and pulls away from us without realizing the consequences.  Korban has to have time to process a comand or directive and sometimes there's not time for that processing period.  When you need a reaction to happen quickly, it's just not going to happen with him so it has to be done for him.  Peace of mind!  

3.  Grounding. This ties in with tethering. Kids like Korban have tons of sensory issues and often don't have a good sense of where they are at in the world. This leads to anxiety, stimming, and behaviors like Korban frequently engages in to orient himself, such as bouncing off of people (or objects!) grabbing at people, etc. In other words, the dog would bring Korban a sense of security being attached to him, he would know to move when the dog moved, and so on and so forth. 

Honestly, I just love the thought of another set of eyes looking out for him. I'm very hyper vigilant with both of my kids, but I have a horror of missing something. Not to put too much responsibility on the dog of course, but I simply adore the idea of Korban having a friend who will love him unconditionally, without judgment, and who is specifically trained to watch out for him. How cool is that?

One of the dogs we met today is being trained for a veteran. The dog showed us how he could turn lights on and off with, open the refrigerator, and even fetch a bottle of water on comand. Seriously one of the coolest things I've ever seen. The man he is going to has PTSD with severe nightmares, and the dog will sleep with him and is trained to wake him up when he starts having a nightmare and can even go turn on a lamp with a special foot pedal. What a friend!  My mind was blown and it just makes me teary eyed to think about. 

It was such a blessing to be able to go there today, especially on Korban's birthday. Like I said, it's just the start of a very lengthy process but we are happy to be taking the first step. Time frame?  We could have a dog in 18 months, less if training and fundraising goes well. These dogs are amazing. Check them out for yourselves. or look them up on Facebook. I'm a hopeful mama!  

After that little adventure, we headed to Incredible Pizza at the request of the birthday boy. It wasn't crowded and we really enjoyed ourselves. 

Great atmosphere!  Korban was super excited to see all those cool balloons. 

He loves playing games!

Both my kids are crazy good at Ice Ball!

"Outta our way, people!"

"Beep, beep!"

Selah and Daddy playing a game together. She pouted so bad because she thought he won!  (She's a sore loser. The only game she knows is "I Winned.")

She looks disappointed--probably mad the giant frog isn't real!

Happy boy!  Happy birthday!

How amazing is it that we get the approval to start this process on Korban's birthday?  That is just too cool! God knows what he's doing and in his timing it is all just perfection!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boys Night Out, Girls Night In

Yesterday was a not so good day. By "not so good," I mean biting, hair pulling, standing on the kitchen table, whining, screaming, pooping in the floor, terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. Well, I can't honestly say it was no good. There's SOME good in every day, and I've had days a lot worse than yesterday. But it was very trying on patience and I fell into bed exhausted last night praying "Please let tomorrow be better!"

And it was!  Today was busy, but I'm tired in a good way tonight. This is how my day went:  Dropped Selah off at head start, took Korban to school to see his teacher and physical therapist, went home and did a few things there, went and picked Selah up, took both kids to play therapy and then back home for ABA therapy. (Yes that's a lot of therapy but most days aren't this full and we are just very thankful to be getting it!)  

When Brad got off work he and Korban headed off to the Crossroads Arena for the Rebel Road Trip. It's a dinner and meet and greet with the Ole Miss football coaches and of course my boys were very excited about it. 

See that happy face?

I love this picture!  This is Korban and Brad with head football coach Hugh Freeze. He is seriously a class act and I'm glad he's our coach. He was very nice to Korban and told him he looked like he was ready to wrestle. Brad said when he got up to speak, he was like "Where's my buddy Korban?" They were standing in the back because Korban had gotten overwhelmed and Brad was walking him around, but the coach called him out!  How cool is that?  Nice man. 

They brought Selah home a surprise. :)

And here's Korban's.  Love the fact that Coach Freeze put Bible verses on there. 

While our boys were doing their thing, Selah and I were enjoying some girl time. Of course, we felt the need to make something yummy in the kitchen. Selah loves to help in the kitchen. She even "reads" recipes and tries to boss me around. Ha!

Tonight we made two different kinds of fudge. The first kind was supposed to be healthy, so that's why we made two. One healthy, one not so much. Selah is so much like me when it comes to sweets!  Cracks me up. 

"Hello, lover."

"Prepare to die, fudge!" 


Ever had one of those moments?  

(And even though the fudge was "healthy" I promise I didn't let her eat all those pieces on her plate. She didn't even try to eat that much. It really was good though! ) 

Here's the link with the recipe if anyone is interested. I'm storing mine in the freezer. So good like that!


We also made a chocolate chip cookie dough fudge. It's still setting up in the fridge and I haven't even sampled it yet, but it looks fantastic. 

I brought out a new sensory bin in honor of spring. We used coffee beans and plastic carrot containers from Dollar Tree. She loved it. 

She really enjoyed scooping the coffee beans into the carrots and "planting" the carrots. 

It also lead to an interesting conversation.  Selah planted some of her toy animals in the garden and then laughed because animals don't grow in gardens. I asked her if she grew in a garden and she laughed and said "No, I grew in God's heaven."  Awww. She amazes me sometimes. But it's not always that easy. She wanted to know how she got here after that and I told her she grew in my belly. She shouted "Gross!  Did you EAT me?!?" Like I said, not always that easy. ;)

So, today was much better than yesterday and tonight we enjoyed splitting the kids up and having some one on one time with them. That's so necessary sometimes. Now mommy and daddy just need to carve out time for a date night!  ;)