Tuesday, December 30, 2014

12 in 2014 A Photo Link-up

I'm linking up with Dwija because she is so awesome! Also because I love photo heavy posts and I so rarely post these days, it seems I may have needed an excuse to get started again. :)


We spent a lot of time outside, it seems like January left us plenty of nice days that allowed for outside play. We learned that Christopher loves being on a merry-go-round, he could spin all day.

February was tough for a reason...I went through all of the baby clothes and sent them on to my friend with whom we've exchanged clothes. I came to a realization that we might always be a family of four, and I tried to come to terms with it. I'm still working on it. Dominic learned to pain and Christopher decided he liked ice cream...so long as it's plain vanilla and he isn't forced to use a spoon.

We decided to try out bunk beds for the boys in March in hopes of getting bed times working a little better...it actually helped a lot. We have since enjoyed many nights of sleep without small children in the bed with us.

Daddy and Grandma's birthdays are a day apart and Dominic began his obsession with birthday cake this year in April and really, who can blame him?

The heat came early this year, May gave us plenty of days for outside swimming before the swimming pool even opened.

We took a vacation in June to Texas and enjoyed lots of train rides and parks!

I set up a family altar in July in hopes that we would find a place where we could pray together as a family; we've finally gotten into a good habit. We also visited as many splash pads as we could...none in our town, but we found them where we could.

Earlier in the year we bought a tandem bike, and August gave us plenty of opportunities to try it out. We make quite the spectacle.

We went hiking for the first time all together in September, and we found some fun places to try out only about an hour away.

We joined a play group at a local kids' gym and in October it seems that Christopher started feeling comfortable and actually playing with another kiddo. Definitely an amazing experience! We also had Christopher tested, and received the diagnosis of Autism.

Jason spent an entire day in November getting these tree swings put up, and they continue to be a major joy to the boys.

The boys enjoyed Advent and preparing for Christmas this December and enjoyed what that brought.

What an awesome year! Hard to stick to just one picture a month, but as Dwija says, it is my blog so it's OK.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Integrating Advent Traditions When You Weren't Raised With Any-A Blog Hop Post

Hi all! I'm taking part in Beth Anne's Best's blog hop this Advent and I'm really excited about it!

Something that I'm constantly thinking about throughout the liturgical year is how I can make things exciting for the boys and also help create traditions that they remember for years. Since I wasn't raised in a particularly religious home, most Holy days seemed to pass by without notice. We didn't have things that we did for special saint days, and we weren't baptized so obviously we didn't do anything celebratory for those. I'm slowly trying to integrate some of those things now for our family, and it is fulfilling but also hard! Family life is hectic for all people, so I'm finding that having a tradition is something that I have to force for a while. Like a habit.

Last year for Advent I bought a calendar that I could fill with some chocolates and I had a pop-up calendar with small verses from the Nativity story that I read before Dominic got his chocolates. Last year, all he really understood was that he got some chocolate, and still that is definitely the primary thing for him, but he sits and listens to what I say this year before eating his chocolate. We try to do this in the morning so it's one of the first things that we do and maybe it will stay with him throughout the day. (In case you're wondering, Christopher doesn't eat chocolate anymore that's why he doesn't get one, and he doesn't really eat anything on demand, if he's hungry he'll eat, but if not it doesn't really matter.)

A few months ago I set up a family altar in our bedroom so that we have a place where we can say our prayers that is quiet and away from most of the toys. I've placed our largest Nativity set on the altar along with our Advent wreath and I made a big deal to describe the people to Dominic and explain why they are separated right now. We light the candle and say a small Advent prayer every night before we say our family decade of the Rosary.

I've been looking at one of the Little People Nativity sets as well, but I can't decide if I really want to let the boys "play" with the pieces. I understand the idea is to give them something they are allowed to play with so they'll leave any of the breakable ones alone, but I still can't decide. In the meantime, I have this magnetic one on our fridge and Christopher likes to take all the pieces and throw them on the floor. 
Dominic has been known to line them all as though they are standing on each other's heads.

The thing that I'm noticing the most, as I stated earlier, is that creating these rich traditions takes work. Another important thing is to not think you have to do everything! A lot of people have great ideas that seem so amazing and I would love to try, but they just aren't a good fit for our family or where we are right now. Jesse Tree? I'd love to, but I don't think it would be that interesting to the boys right now, so I'll wait a while and maybe try it in a few years. I have a friend who has an Advent tradition of reading a couple short books in the evening and sing a verse of a song (we purchased this one and this one last year and they are lovely), but between Dominic who hates when we sing and Christopher who tears up books, this isn't a good fit for us right now. And that's OK. It's OK if I never make an Advent chain out of paper that we tear apart every day and read and do the task on it. It's OK if it takes us the boys' whole childhood to develop these traditions because that's how traditions are made. We'll probably try lots of things, and those that stick will be the ones that become traditions.

Keep checking in on Beth Anne's blog to see what else there is this Advent!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Diagnosis-the Beginning of a Journey

So yesterday we had the feedback session via Google Hangouts with the doctor who evaluated Christopher. He is definitely autistic (what we expected) and he said that if we were to measure the spectrum on a scale of 1-10, Christopher would be around a 5-6. Despite this being what we expected, I found myself feeling even more overwhelmed. I immediately started thinking about what to do to get services started. I got in contact with the case worker who would help with getting the Medicaid waiver and then I started making other calls about services.

I started to contact the schools and some private therapy places. I started to feel like I had to get something started because I couldn't possibly be the one to help him. After all, I'd been the one in charge for the past three years, and here we were. I chatted with a few of my online friends that have some older kiddos that have autism, and they all told me in various ways that we are who he needs. I don't have to make any decisions right now; as Jason pointed out, we still haven't received the suggestions that the doctor is going to send us, and waiting isn't going to make any differences. In other words, I can't make things worse than what we are currently dealing with.

The diagnosis seems kind of like an end; and it is, it's an end to the wondering, and the questioning. But it is more importantly a beginning. Whatever therapy options we choose, this is a journey that we are embarking on that will shape not just Christopher, but us as well. It's an important choice, but it isn't a permanent decision. Deciding to do private therapy or focusing on techniques we do on our own only doesn't mean that we can't send him to school later; if we chose to send him to school it doesn't mean that we can't choose not to later. What Christopher needs the most is us, he needs us to help him through this time so that's what we are going to. Be a family, and work together, rejoice in the positive moments and struggle through the difficult times. Together.

Monday, October 27, 2014


At Mass this morning, as I tried to calm down Christopher and the priest looked at me with concern (Christopher was slapping me and screaming), I had a few thoughts. My first thought was a prayer (please, Lord, help me to be the mother that Christopher needs, and please don't let me neglect Dominic in my mothering of Christopher), but then I was thinking of parents of kids that have special needs.

When Jason and I were first married I worked in Garden City at the hospital and I would stay there during the week and come home on the weekends. When I was pregnant my doctor put me on weight lifting restriction and I went from working in-patient to doing out-patient therapy. This allowed me a unique experience one afternoon. A couple came in with their young son who had CP and who they were just a little worried that he was getting too tight on certain muscles. I watched as the therapist did an evaluation and walked his family through some stretches. I watched, and listened, as this PT told the parents that even if the son expressed pain (he was non-verbal, but his face was full of expression) they needed to do the stretching to the level he was now teaching them. The mother seemed pained, but she did the stretching as she was taught. The father was much more stoic about it, but he too flinched when his son yelled out in pain.

Later I was telling Jason about that moment and I said, how do they do it? And he said something to the effect of, that he imagined they didn't think about it, that they were parents and that they did what needed to be done for their kids. I mentioned then, as I have numerous times when faced with watching a parent and their special needs kiddo, that they were chosen. Those kids were lucky/blessed that they were given to the parents that they had; that their parents were able to handle everything with grace and be the best parents for that child.

Until this moment, I never gave any thought at all to us being chosen as the parents for Christopher. I mean, more than the obvious. I had never thought of us as being parents of a special needs kid and doing what needs to be done for that child and just doing it. But as I looked at the priest this morning, and as I saw the mom behind us reach up and give Christopher the sign of peace and smile at us, I realized that people might have those thoughts about me, about us. "How do they do that?" "Why can't she stop his slapping and his screaming?" And then Christopher pulled away from the swaddle/hug he was wrapped in my arms, and I braced myself for his screech, he looked me right in the eyes and he smiled at me and then he hugged me. My heart melted and I was filled with such joy; that is how parents of children with special needs do it. Those wonderful, loving moments when the child expresses in whatever way that they can, that they feel safe with you, that they love you unconditionally. During the consecration Christopher is entranced; he watches the priest do all the motions, he beats his breast at the consecration as he has watched his dad and mom do, and he often lifts his hands and flaps his fingers in front of his face in excitement. Those moments make up for every single difficult moment.

Tomorrow we'll have the video chat with the psychiatrist and we'll have a definite path of what to do next. I continue to pray that God blesses me with being able to be the kind of mother that Christopher needs, but I'm going to be adding another prayer of thanksgiving that I get to be his mother, that we get to be a part of his world-he has such a very small world right now, but that we are part of it is an amazing gift.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Christopher Update

There has been so much happening with the situation with Christopher that I haven't updated much recently. I mentioned before that our insurance adjuster told me that we should be able to get an autism evaluation covered through our mental health portion of our health insurance, so I set out to figure out how to do that. A friend on Google+ mentioned that they had the evaluation done for their son with a psychiatrist and so I decided to look into that. Another friend mentioned the Autism Speaks website as a good source of information and so that's where I decided to search. I found an impressive list of Colorado providers, and basically just started calling the stand alone psychiatrists on the list. I got one call back (eventually I got a second one, but not until after we'd already been scheduled with the first one for a week), and it was actually the doctor himself. He spent about 20-30 minutes on the phone with me getting a basis and then we scheduled.

It was about a month out, but that was much better than the 3 months or more that we had to wait for the Children's Hospital appointment. He checked on our insurance and gave us an estimate for out of pocket expenses.

The appointment was this past Friday in Ft. Collins, CO, which is about 4 hours from us. We decided to get a hotel room so that we didn't have to leave at 3 or 4 in the morning (9am appointment), and that way we could enjoy an indoor swimming pool and relax a little. On the way up, I talked Jason into staying an extra night even.

I was so nervous before the appointment. While, I didn't have many doubts prior to the appointment that Christopher would be somewhere on the spectrum, I'd be lying if I didn't say that I was hoping that one morning he would wake up speaking in full sentences. The first hour and a half maybe was spent with just me and the doctor going over history; from pregnancy to right before the appointment. He asked about a myriad of different things: does he play well with other kids? (no) does he self-injure? (yes) does he have any hand gestures? (yes) After that he set up for some tests with Christopher. Jason had been hanging with both boys in the waiting room, and took Dominic out while I took Christopher back to the room for the testing.

Christopher handled everything really well. We had about 2 minutes of screaming/throwing his head around and hitting me, but the doctor was really great with him and brought over a clock he had noticed Christopher liking and that pretty much eased him in. He wasn't able to do any of this testing really. The doctor showed him a series of pictures and wanted Christopher to pick out something specific. He tried several times, and had me try as well, but Christopher wouldn't even look at the pictures. He got out some colored blocks and Christopher was very happy with this, but the doctor was going to have him do some specific things, like stacking certain colors and only a few blocks; Christopher was having none of that! He kept stealing the doctor's blocks for his own tower. I'm pretty sure that those tests were inconclusive, and he sent us back to the waiting room again while he got an assistant and set up the room for the next series of tests.

This last set of tests was interesting. I was not allowed to engage unless the doctor told me specifically to, which was very hard. I found myself wanting to make excuses for him ("he doesn't normally play with those things" or "he's never seen a remote control rabbit"), but I did pretty well with just following directions. Again, it took about 2 minutes for Christopher to calm down and start playing. There were various things he tried to do, like get Christopher to play with anything on his own, try to get him to follow his sounds, anticipation for tickling. At one point it was time for the doll's birthday party and he tried to get Christopher to take part in the birthday party, but Christopher just wanted to rip up the cake (play-doh), though he did clap for the doctor when he sang Happy Birthday. There were bubbles and balloons, which showed us the finger flapping that Christopher does (we couldn't remember what specific hand gestures he did, it was so weird, until we saw it). The remote control bunny was what the doctor used to try to get Christopher to look over at something that he was looking at, which Christopher did not do.

After that portion there were about 4 workbooks that I had to fill out. Lots of questions with does he do certain behaviors and how often does he do them. That was kind of eye opening in and of itself because there were some behaviors that Christopher definitely does that I had no idea were "red flags".

All in all I think things went really well. Christopher participated so much better than I thought he would do, and he didvery behavior that we've been worried about. The doctor really got to see a full picture of what Christopher is like. There will be a feedback appointment where we will get the diagnosis as well as some start for how to progress from here. And, this awesome doctor of ours, is willing to do that appointment via video chat so that we don't have to make another trek up there. That is winning in my book!

That was a bit of a brain dump. I wanted to get everything down so that I don't forget anything, but if anyone has any questions, feel free to ask and I'll elaborate on anything.

Another amazing G+ auto awesome where they put together multiple pictures-this time giving us 2 Christophers :)

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Spano Paleo Plan

I read the success that a blogger I follow had doing a 30 day challenge of paleo in combination with her cross fit and running regime. It really seemed so great that she had such success, that I decided to give it a try. And force Jason to do it with me.

So, for the record, we are not changing our lifestyle permanently to live paleo. I'm doing this purely to lose weight (which we are!) and I am extremely excited to have cheese and bread in 23 days. If you don't know much about paleo, basically it's grain free. I would say low carb, but you're still eating fruit which is high carb, but no grains or breads or anything like that. Also, different from every other low carb diet I've tried, there is no dairy allowed. If I continue to have such good progress though, it is likely that I'll continue with this in some form, possibly with one cheat day.

I would love to try out a cross fit class, but we don't have any here...I'd likely have to travel to one of the big cities. Maybe we will some Saturday just to drop in on a class and try it out. But, I am continuing with my couch to 5k and I'm having good progress. I've done two 5ks but only running the time my program suggests and basically finishing out walking.

This was the color run I did in Las Animas this weekend. I ended up with a longer distance, but I actually felt like I was struggling during the whole thing. Because the course was kind of hilly I seemed to have a hard time pacing myself, and I kept getting a stitch in my side. I'm really proud of myself though.

We are also starting the new Beachbody workout P90 tonight. So excited!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Small Success (Vol 6)

Small Success Thursdays at CatholicMom.com 

It's been a while since I've participated with the ladies over at CatholicMom but let's be real...it's not like I've posted with any regularity. I always feel better when I blog regularly, it's like an outlet I think.

1) We made it to two different playgroups this week. We went to the gym for the romp around yesterday, and today we went to the community building for the free parent and tot play time. We got there right at the beginning, and nobody showed up for an hour, so Christopher was almost done by the time that  other kids got there.

2) I've started some one-on-one down on their level play time. I have a tendency to put on a movie or even let the boys play on their own for long periods of time. Which is great, I'm glad they can entertain themselves, but since we are not able to do a real pre-school curriculum with Dominic right now it's best to get in some learning play. And this week it has gone well. Dominic is letting me read to him, and is often doing searches in the pictures. Christopher is pointing and building blocks with me.

3) Even though I'm spending more time one on one with the boys, my house is pretty clean-ish. I mean, let's be real...I'm never going to win any awards for housekeeping. But I kept feeling like I had to sacrifice one for the other. I could have a clean-ish house or play with the boys. But that hasn't proven true this week.

Head over and check out everyone else's Small Successes!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Insurance, Autism, and Gymnastics <--summary

We had Christopher scheduled for an Autism clinic/evaluation last Friday, but on Thursday we got a call that our insurance wouldn't cover it. According to our insurance, Autism is a developmental delay, and our insurance doesn't pay for evaluation or treatment of developmental delays.

So right now we are trying to figure out waivers for Medicaid (we would never qualify normally) or some other options with our insurance. An adjuster told me that we should be able to have the evaluation covered under the mental health portion of our insurance, so we are looking into that as well.

And we are looking at another option as well. Though more hesitantly. If you've read the blog, you know that we plan to homeschool, but there is no public school provided assistance if you homeschool. So that is kind of our last option. If we put him in school he will get services through the school. If that is the best option for him, we will do it because we know that it is important for him to get the services he needs. But, it definitely isn't what we want to do. So, prayers are appreciated that the best option comes out and we get Christopher the help he needs.

On a bit of a brighter note, we started a romp around class for the boys today at our local gymnastics gym. It's mostly free rein; there are trampolines, foam pits, a bouncy floor (like what they do floor techniques on), bars, and balance beams. On top of that there are some extra mats and other fun gymnastics things. The boys loved it. It is from 9-11 and for most of the time it is free, and the last half hour or so they do some parachute games and sing songs. The boys were pretty much done by around 10:45 so we didn't do that well during that time. Christopher just wanted to be under it and Dominic wanted to be on top. But, they got to play with other kids and Christopher did pretty well with that even. He touched a baby nicely, and he let another baby sit with him in the toy bin. Those are big wins for us. Dominic was, of course, in his element as he loves being around people. Meanwhile, they are both napping right now. :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Misfit Shine vs Jawbone UP-A Review

I've never done any sort of a review on my blog here, so I'm not sure of all the rules. But I'm just going to say that nobody is paying me for anything. :) Everything you see is my own opinion based on purchases I made (even some I wish I hadn't!).

So around November of 2013 I think I purchased my first activity tracker. After doing a lot of research on the Fitbit Force and the Jawbone UP I decided to go to the Verizon store and check them both out as I knew they stocked them both. The salesperson they directed me to was great as he had USED both! After a long discussion, I decided on the UP.

I used the tracker diligently and I got some interesting tips and information. There aresome great graphs and long-term tracking, so you can really see trends. The app is user friendly and smooth.

While I was having good luck with the app, I was actually having hardware problems. From trouble Charging (twice) to trouble syncing (once) and even a problem with my lights not working. But, Jawbone's warranty and customer service were awesome, they replaced every faulty UP.

So why would I have switched you ask? Well, there are a few things that the UP can't do. Like go for a Swim. And it doesn't track cycling well. So I looked for a tracker that was waterproof and did cycling. What I found was the Misfit Shine.

So the Shine uses a points system instead of just steps, so if you aren't taking steps (cycling, s winning Shine uses a points system instead of just steps, so if you aren't taking steps (cycling, swimming, weights) you're still going to get credit. But, it seems that those people at Misfit are Apple fans and those of us on Android devices got a VERY basic app and experience.

So the real downside to the activity tracking is that if the wrong thing is chosen (for example- I NEVER run) you can't change it. So if you are using your tracker to tell you how many calories you've burned and using that info to know how much you should eat, it's innacurate. I have chosen cycling as my main activity So if I triple tap it will start that activity and the Shine knows if I'm walking or running (supposedly). But! There is no way to END an activity besides being at rest for 5-10 minutes. That doesn't work for me as I cycle to the gym do the elliptical then cycle home. Oh, and there is no option for those kinds of workouts. No elliptical, stair-climber or the like.

And while both track sleep, the Shine app graph is difficult to understand.

I can also set smart alarms on the UP as well as an idle alert. Both cause the UP to vibrate and annoy me into getting up.

In the end, well for now anyway, I've gone back to the UP. The options available at this time just make it a better fit.