Sunday, August 26, 2012

Another Birthday!

Another year has passed and Itai just keeps growing.  He has grown and changed so much this year.  He is an amazing little guy.

In keeping with tradition, I asked Itai his birthday questions.

"What are you afraid of the most?"

"Ghosts, spiders and bats, because bats are scary, but the Holy Ghost is a good ghost!"

Baby Itai
"What makes you happy?"

"When Avi, abba, and mommy are home."
1st birthday!
"What do you want most?"
"An Optimus Prime birthday cake!"

Two years old!
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
"An astronaut"

3 years old and happy!
"What is your favorite place?"
"A restaurant place.  Chuck-A-Rama"

"What do love most about mommy?"
"That she loves me."  
This doesn't seem fair to me.  He loves that she loves him?  That makes it easy for her.

"What do you love most about Avi?"
"That he loves baths."

"What do you love most about abba?"
"That he plays with me."  See?  I have pressure on me to stay loved!

"What is your favorite thing about you?"
"That I help Avi eat his food."  (One of my favorite things about him too!)

Then he just suddenly started telling me things about himself without being asked or prompted.

"My favorite color is black.  My favorite number is 5 and 10.  My favorite food is ham, my favorite drink is chocolate milk and grape juice and I like candy."

I asked him if there was anything about him that he wanted me to know.  He said, "I like Transformers!"

Happy birthday Itai!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

What (Else) I Love About Autism

It has been a long time since I wrote a post about what I love about autism.  In the time since I wrote that post Avi has changed and grown a lot.  I may have changed a bit too.  In light of these changes I thought I'd update my original post.

It is impossible to know how things would have turned out if Avi did not have autism.  Perhaps some of the things I love about autism would have been true even if he was not one of the 1 children in 88 diagnosed with   autism, but since this is the reality I know, and the reality I embrace, this is what I love.

I love little victories.  I love that I have learned to accept victories both big and small.  When Avi was born I imagined all of the things that he could be: the president, an athlete, a father.  The day of his diagnosis most of the things I had hoped and imagined for him were dashed.  I still have so many hopes for him, but mostly I hope he's happy.  I love that I have learned to celebrate his little victories as well as the little victories of others.  I believe it makes me a more whole human and a better father.  This song by Matt Nathanson called "Little Victories" is one of my all time favorites because it reminds me of how important learning the value of  little victories is.

I love little moments.  Little moments can happen when you least expect, or even when you least want it, but I love them.  The little moment that stands out most in my mind was one of Avi's middle of the night awakenings.  I was exhausted and he was happy and energetic.  He was trying my patience without trying to.    Suddenly, even though I was frustrated, he gave me a huge hug and kiss.  Would this moment have happened if he did not have a sleep disorder related to autism?  Possibly.  A similar moment would definitely have happened, but I recognize that this moment did happen and I loved it.

I love the person that Itai is and the person he is becoming.  Again, he could have turned out just as sweet and caring as he is now, but studies show that siblings of children with chronic illnesses or disabilities frequently score higher on measurements of empathy and compassion.  Itai is certainly empathic and compassionate.  I love that he will follow Avi to make sure he eats enough, that he tries so hard to help Avi speak, and that he makes sure to share with Avi, even if his style of sharing is slightly more 60/40 than 50/50. (Hey, he's a toddler, of course he's not sharing perfectly!)  Itai loves his brother and is learning empathy and compassion for others.

I have always enjoyed different perspectives.  I love reading books by people whose lives and life experiences are different from my own.  Even if I don't agree with everything they say or think, I enjoy seeing things from another angle.  Avi has certainly brought a new perspective into my life.  He literally sees things differently than I do.  Sometimes I am completely surprised by what he sees and what he thinks.  Autism has also given me a new perspective on everything.  I love looking for similarities between autism and the non-autism world.

I love the bond I have with Avi.  My bond with Itai is strong.  It is strong because I love him for who he is.  For the great things he does and the happiness he brings me, but I also love him for his constant striving to overcome his shortcomings.  My bond with Avi is no different.  I love him for all of the same reasons.  I love him for all he is, and part of who he is includes the things that come with autism.  Perhaps some of the bond comes from a realization that Avi does depend on me.  I believe he and I would probably have shared a loving relationship even if he did not have autism, but autism is a part of our relationship and I recognize that. Whether he wakes up tomorrow and suddenly does not have autism or not, our bond is eternal and I love that.

During the summer I read a book about play therapy by Gary Landreth.  He emphasized that all behavior is communication.  Even a child who does not wish to speak to a therapist is communicating something.  I read this and started thinking of Avi.  I love that he communicates.  I love that he communicates that he loves me.  I love that he tells me that he loves water, he loves running, he loves jumping, he loves climbing and he loves school.  He hates nuts (good thing because he's allergic to them!), he hates leaving the pool, he hates sitting for dinner and he really isn't interested in TV that doesn't involve the Little Einsteins.

Autism has certainly complicated my life.  It changed my plans, my views, and my perspective.  But I have learned that changes do not have to mean a negative.  I still cannot say that I love everything that autism I can say that these are some of the things I love about autism.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hut, Hut, Hike!

I have a very short break from school.  I have been trying to make sure we are able to do something fun before I turn my life over to school, an internship, and homework.
This was the first break.  He was trying to find a rock he wouldn't slip off of.
Avi's hair got a little strange after I put water in it to help him stay cool.
Today's adventure?  Another hike.  This time I was determined to make it to our goal: a swim in the scenic and oddly spelled Cecret Lake.  As we drove up the mountain I watched the external thermometer slowly drop.  It went from 89 degrees down where we live, to 62 degrees in the mountain.  I was a little worried it might be too cold for the hike, but the weather turned out to be perfect.
They found a nice bench.

On this hike, both boys were excited to go.  Itai loved spotting chipmunks along the way, while Avi loved running up steep hills.
This picture will be one of my favorites of these two for the rest of my life!

We finally made it up to the reservoir only to find a sign saying there is no swimming. :(

So instead we ate our snacks, drank our drinks and just relaxed.

After we got home and the boys devoured lunch we hit the pool.  We hadn't been in a while and it was obvious that Avi had missed it.  He was swimming all over the place, begging to be thrown and pushing me underwater so he could see me blow bubbles.  Itai learned that you don't need goggles to see underwater and with this new skill begged to play a new game: Spiderman flying.  He asked me over and over to throw him so he would hit the water upside down because, obviously, that's what Spiderman does?

Good thing they got their good looks from Debbie!
After our long swim it was time to make dinner.  Tonight's dinner was sweet and sour chicken.  Typically, I let the boys free play while I cook.  They did at first, but then Itai came up to me and asked if he could help. It was so fun to have him standing next to me on his stool.  He stirred the peppers while I made the rest of the dinner.  We talked about the food and superheroes, and I was in awe of everything this little guy is becoming.
I loved this little tree growing our of a rock.
Finally, after dinner we made chocolate dipped pretzels and pineapples.  I should have known that my healthy kids would have preferred their pineapple chocolate-less.  They did eat a few with chocolate, but soon enough I had no pineapples left and a bunch of melted chocolate left over.  Not to worry, I found a good home for it.
The reservoir we couldn't swim in.

On the way home
We had such a good day, but there were two things we missed.  First, poor Debbie was working hard and late trying to make up for an unexpected day off Friday.  Secondly, in the back of my mind I knew there were few days of this fun left until next summer.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Take a Hike!

The Andes boys decided to, as Itai says, "Go to the top of the world!"  The top of the world being a small hike on a very small mountain.

Even though it was warmer than I expected I knew I couldn't disappoint Itai.  So off we went.

Avi and Itai had very different methods of hiking.  Avi instantly was off and going.  I had to hold his hand to slow him down.  Itai took a much slower approach.  Each step was an adventure for him.  He wanted to see each rock, bug and lichen covered stone we passed.  I had to hold his hand to make sure he kept up.

Avi was frustrated by my impeding his attempt at setting the world record (here he almost bumps heads with Itai to express his frustration).

Meanwhile, Itai was frustrated by my blatant disregard for scientific exploration.  Sigh.  Sometimes you just can't win.  (See that look he gives Avi?)
We didn't make it to the goal.  There is a reservoir at the end of the trail and I knew they would have loved to play in, but they just couldn't stand to take another step.
Oh well, we had fun while we were out and we can always try again later, maybe a littler earlier next time.

The scenery was beautiful and that company was enjoyable, though ever so slightly grumpy!
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