Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Summer Fun, First Experiences and the BIG move

Fall is here, and that means it's time to catch up on the goings on of this past summer. As you know, summer started off a bit rough in our house as we received Johnny's Autism diagnosis. It wasn't so much of a shock as it was a blow, but we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps and wouldn't let this minor speed bump get us down. He is still the same happy-go-lucky little guy we fell in love with three years ago.

His first month at school was a culture shock. He didn't care for the structure at all and fought Miss Roxanne and her staff at every turn. There were some glimmers of understanding, but for the most part he had a really difficult time with the demands of the classroom. He liked going to school and was always happy when I dropped him off, but things were progressing a great deal slower than I expected when I'd pick him up and hear that he wouldn't sit for circle time and cried when he wasn't allowed to play with a certain toy for an extended period of time.  But then I gave myself a reality check and realized that I was setting the bar way too high. Once I came to that  moment of clarity and realized that he would 'get it' but it would just take time, I was able to relax.

And he did get it.

Well, started to, anyway. As much as one such as he could get in a six week period. He got on the bus for summer school without an issue and within the first week I was getting reports home that Johnny was having "good" days at school. He was following simple directions, sitting for circle time and even singing the songs with the other children. By the third week, Johnny had turned into a chatty-pants and was attempting to converse with anyone who would listen. There were a handful of words, but it was mostly jargon. I called it a win anyway, because he was talking! He was hailed as the most polite kid in class, because he could very clearly and appropriately say "please,"  "thank you," and "you're welcome."  He began enjoying school, and by the end of summer school in August, he got his first "great" report home!  He was well behaved, transitioned beautifully, and played with his friends. He was using simple signs and more words and phrases were popping up. We're both so proud of his progress!

Jordan, per usual, had an amazing year in kindergarten. She gained so many valuable skills over the year and through hard work and determination, proved herself more than ready for the first grade. Her graduation ceremony was to-die-for cute, with all the kids singing a song called "First Grade, First Grade" to the tune of  the Sinatra classic "New York, New York." Jordan got a diploma and my little ham posed for two pictures with her teacher, who was so proud of her. She was so excited to see that Daddy came from work to see her graduate, too! Afterwards, we went to Johnny's graduation ceremony at Mt. Pleasant, where everyone greeted her with hugs and high fives. Miss Popularity herself! And naturally, she had a stellar round this year in summer school, wowing the teachers with her skills and personality. At the rate she's going, I wouldn't  put it past my girl to be class president in high school!

Jordan and Miss Mortensen

Daddy and the Graduate!
Johnny's Graduation!
Johnny and his friend Leigha!

On to the really fun parts of summer! We spent lots of time at the beach this year! Jordan and Johnny loved it! They played in the sand, jumped waves, and collected shells, hermit crabs and sand dollars. Johnny especially loved collecting rocks, though it took quite a bit of convincing to make him understand that it wasn't okay to throw them! Another one of Johnny's favorite things to do at the beach was play with the mud. He liked to bury his feet in it and squish it through his fingers. He has no sensory issues, my quirky little guy! Jordan, the little fish, spent most of her time in the water. She loved jumping the waves and pretending to swim. She still struggles with following directions, but I'm confident that after this year she will be ready to enroll in swimming lessons next summer! One of the highlights was the hottest day of the summer where we spent the entire day at the beach with Uncle Adam, Auntie Pam, Logan and Gammie. The tide was going out when we got there, so we spent the whole time in the water. It was a great, relaxing day and a fun way to spend time with Uncle Adam and Auntie Pam before their big move to Tennessee. Our yearly trip to Saquish was a blast, of course. The kids swam and played all day and slept all night each night we stayed. Jordan loved sitting in her floatie and riding the waves with Daddy, and Johnny's favorite thing to do was chase the sea gulls yelling "quack! quack! quack!" He hasn't quite got the fact that not all birds are ducks, but he will! :) Too funny! We can't wait to go back next year!

Chillin with Auntie Pam and Logan

Silly faces with Uncle Adam

At Saquish with Mommy!


Diva in the waves!

Sitting with my sister

Quack! Quack! Quack!
For the first time this summer, Jordan and Johnny went to the movies! AMC cinemas runs a program in conjunction with the Autism Society of America called "Sensory Friendly Films" for kids with Autism and sensory processing issues. The sound of the film is turned down and the lights are kept up, and if the kids get antsy they are allowed to get up, walk around and talk if they need to. It's a great program!  Both kids are huge fans of Despicable Me, and as you are all aware the sequel came out this summer. We were very excited to learn that the Braintree AMC Cinema was running a Sensory Friendly showing of it shortly after it's release, so we surprised the kids that weekend and took them up to see it. Jordan was very excited and Johnny fed off that excitement as we waited in line for our tickets. She picked out M&M's and juice for both of them at the concession stand and they held our hands as we walked in and sat down in the theater. As soon as the movie started they were both mesmerized. Both kids sat with their drinks and candy in their lap and watched the whole film, with Johnny only checking in with me twice to make sure I got some juice. John and I both got to watch the movie, which we weren't expecting! We had a great time, and they can't wait to go again!

Waiting for the Movie!

The beginning of fall marked not only the start of first grade for Jordan and full day preschool for Johnny, but also a change of atmosphere for the whole family. Condo life just wasn't suiting us anymore. There wasn't enough room for all of us, the kids were constantly fighting in their room, and there was no safe place for them play outside. Fortune just happened to smile upon us in August and we were able to move in to my parents' old house, also the house I grew up in. With the help of good friends and family, we were all moved in and settled within just a few weeks.   Jordan and Johnny both have their own rooms now and a big back yard to play in that they are absolutely loving. We've been here about a month, and neither child has had any transition issues. They settled in seamlessly and are enjoying the bigger space. The atmosphere is noticeably lighter, Johnny and Jordan are more amenable to change now and we are all much, much happier. The new house also means a neighborhood to go trick or treating in! Johnny is going to be Spider Man, and Jordan has decided she's going to be Iron Man this year. So it looks like I'll be hitting up Amazon again for a little girls' Iron Man costume!   

Our new home!

School so far has been going very well for both Jordan and Johnny so far. Johnny now clearly answers yes or no questions, follows routine and listens to and completes simple directions. His reports home are mostly "good" or "great."  Every night he takes "beyah" (bear)  and "Woo-yee" (Woody) to bed, gives kisses and says " I yah yoo" (I love you). He is also trying harder to converse by using words more frequently than jargon. Jordan has a male teacher for the first time! I was nervous about it at first, where she's always had female teachers in the past. But she seems to really like him! Open house in next week, so I'm really looking forward to meeting with him. She is trying very hard in class, making new friends, and is adjusting well to the idea of doing homework. She still struggles with following directions, but with positive reinforcement she is getting much better. I can't wait to see what this year brings.

We're looking forward to a fun filled fall and a happier, healthier life here in our new home.

Until next time, folks!

Our First Grader!

So excited for preschool!

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