Taking the Scenic Route

Gingerbread Houses

6th December 2010

Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbread houses completed! Yay! I think I am going to try and buy some gingerbread house molds this year so that the kids don’t have a box to reference…Mr. Literal thinks that the end result should look EXACTLY like the box and mom & dad end up doing a lot more work than they should.

posted in Autistic Life, Christmas, The Kids | Comments Off

26th November 2010

Christmas Tree Time

In the new “Christmas Pajamas” from Grandma.  Zane surprised us by being totally excited by the slippers.

For the first time the kids didn’t need grown-up help to put the tree together.

Zora put the angel on the top of the tree, but the tree top bent funny and the angel took a nose dive. Luckily, Zane caught her before she hit the ground. Twice.

Dad had to fix the tree so the angel would stay there.

Done! Let the season commence.

posted in Autistic Life, Christmas, Zane, Zora | Comments Off

25th December 2009

Wonderful Christmas

The weather cleared long enough for my parents and Steve to make it here.  (although it wasn’t clear enough for Steve to go where his heart was this year.  ;-)   ).   It was low key and relaxed, as usual, and we all had fun.  The food included the 6 cheese crabmeat lasagna that has become the tradition, bone-in ham and green beans with bacon, lots of veggies & some dip, fudge, toffee, and almonds.  (and sent a lot of planned leftovers home with everyone)

By the time Christmas got here, I think we were more excited for it than the kids so we could see their reactions to things.  We did almost all our buying the week before Christmas, and with that, you would think we could find everything easier but we still ended up on scavenger hunts all over the house trying to find a few missing items.  (stashed too quickly, without thinking beyond “will the kids find it here”).

The kids woke up to their stockings and Santa gifts on the mantle.  I know that it took his elves a lot longer than they were anticipating to put those suckers together and did not get the sleep they were anticipating, even though everything else was wrapped.  lol.

Zane LOVES marble runs, and Zora loves having toys like her brother’s (and she likes marble runs too), so this was a huge hit.

Stocking booty!

When everybody arrived I was pleased to see that both kids were more interested in giving their gifts to grandma and grandpa than they were to open their own.  Grandpa got a beeping tire gauge with a big readout screen (easier for his eyes) and Grandma got a butterfly stepping stone the kids made for her flower garden.  They were so excited about the stepping stone, and Zora told grandma all about it several times, but since she can’t speak very clearly, and Oma didn’t have a reference for it, “bu-by tone” (butterfly stone) wasn’t making any sense, so she still didn’t know what she was getting, despite Zora’s inability to keep a secret.

The big hit of the day were the gifts that Steve and Dad made, and Mom decorated.  I sent them this idea I had seen in a few therapy catalogs a few months ago, with the comment that I thought the kids would like it, but how insane the price was for a relatively small woodworking project.  They came through in spades.  They were awesome.  They not only made it, but they made each kid a one-footed one and a wider two footed one, PLUS a balance board.

Shortly after this picture was taken, Zora stomped on it hard and the ball smacked her in the face, so I went to our massive ball collection (for a few years, that was the only toy Zane would really play with, so we ended up with quite the collection of them) for some lighter balls and they used those instead of this heavier one.  They also use them by making an obstacle course where they walk over them and all sorts of other creative uses.  They really are a great open ended toy.

Here Uncle Steve made Zane a very happy kid.

And Zora LOVES her new cars from Uncle Steve too.  This time he got her a convertible Mustang so that she didn’t have to break out the windows to stuff her little play figures in the car. She also got an RC car, but we need to get batteries for it.  (off to the side you can see those boards…Mom actually drew a Mario on Zane’s wider board…I was impressed.)

Now, I knew the kids were taken to a “paint your own pottery” place here in town to make us “something”, and Zora’s inability to keep a secret let me know that it was a cup, but I just was not prepared for the tear-jerking presents that they presented.  Mom had been telling me that Zane was VERY SPECIFIC about what he wanted to put on each of our cups, but not what he put.  (One side of the cup is Zora’s handprints, the other is Zane’s specific picture).  Get ready for the kleenex…..

The big gift for Zach Zane, a Lego Mindstorm Robot kit.  In a year Zane can join the Homeschool Robotics team, which uses Mindstorm robots (although presumably they are much bigger, more elaborate sets for the team), and we thought it would be good to get him familiar with them so that he had half a shot at participating.  Plus, and this is the main reason we went ahead and put the money in this year instead of waiting, the robot is programmable.  Now, for kids it has a drag and drop type programming interface because Mindstorm competitions have more emphasis on building the robots, but it can be programmed in C (and others most likely) and it has a host of sensors on board (and with a mechanical engineer brother and a Radio Shack, we can add anything else we need), so Zach can use it to continue his autonomous robotic programming research.  I think Zach about went crazy waiting for it to be opened.  Zane was very excited too.  It was one of only three things he asked Santa for, and was very thrilled and spent a lot of time exploring all the writing on the package as soon as he opened it.

The happy aftermath.

Other notable gifts:

From Grammie:  A big playmobil horse farm/stable thing for Zora, Magna-Tiles building toy for Zane, and both of them got an Etch-A-Sketch.

To me from my folks:  2 covered pie plates…one pumpkin, one cherry/apple and a hat to match Zora’s hat & a cool coffee themed apron.

To Zach from my folks:  a propane tank for the grill.

It was a very nice, comfortable Christmas.  We are very blessed.

There are also more gift coming with Grandma Zandra, who planned on driving up this Christmas with Great Grandma Jackie, but wasn’t able to make it because the weather got so horrible.  We were disappointed she wasn’t able to make it, but it just wasn’t a good idea to drive through a blizzard that was in between us and them.  Hopefully she will be able to make it out soon.

posted in Christmas, Extended Family, The 2 Opas (J's Parents), The Kids | Comments Off

24th December 2009

Christmas Eve Chef

Zora helped make the fudge after she donned the apron and hat from Oma.

posted in Christmas, Cooking, Zora | Comments Off

17th December 2009

Christmas Party at Heartspring

An Annual event for our family.  They had cookie decorating, a craft, coloring, a bean bag toss, a relay race, fishing and some other cool stuff that I know I am forgetting now.  Oh, and of course, Santa hangs out for a bit too.

And what has to be among my most favorite photos of Zane…

posted in Autistic Life, Christmas, Zane, Zora | Comments Off

10th December 2009

Gingerbread House at S-L-H Preschool

The annual “Gingerbread House” day was a hit, as usual.  The Clinical Educator goes to the effort, every year, of making Gingerbread Houses from scratch and then transporting them to the school.  They are always awesome, but this year, she actually put a little Gingerbread Baby (I assume to go with the book they read) and a light inside the house so that you can see it through the hole in the door.  She said the thought of Zane and how much he would have loved that when she was making the light part.  (by the way, my Mom came up to spend the day with Zane that day because he would have had a total meltdown having the watch somebody else put together a Gingerbread house and not be able to do one himself…it is one of his obsessions).

Zora enjoyed the houses almost as much as Zane did when he went here.

Jennifer, the Clinical Educator, turns on the light and shows Zora the surprise inside.

She loved decorating, but unlike Zane, she got to a certain point and wanted to go play instead of keep decorating.  She and her friend played in the kitchen area, her favorite spot, and she donned a doggie mask (she loves pretending she is a dog).

And one last shot of the house.

posted in Christmas, ST, School, Zora | Comments Off

5th December 2009


Santa visited ROCKO this year and both of the kids were excited.

posted in Autistic Life, Christmas, Zane, Zora | Comments Off

5th December 2009

Oh Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum…

Tree Decorating Commences at our House.

First, for that fresh pine tree smell…a “Canned Tree” candle from Zach’s mom.

Christmas Season BEGINS!  Hurray!

posted in Christmas, The Kids | Comments Off

30th December 2008

Zach’s Dad and the Christmas letter (split from a post about autism)

This holiday was difficult because of the loss of Zach’s dad. We found ourselves having to correct ourselves when presenting gifts from “Grammie” instead of “Papo and Grammie”. We are still really struggling to adjust to the idea that he isn’t here any more. We are finding our thoughts wander to him and his absence feels really profound, despite the fact that we didn’t see him very often. My thoughts often went to Zach’s siblings, knowing that they are likely feeling his absence much more immediately than we are, and how difficult this holiday must be for them. Even for us it was enough to make it impossible to write the traditional Christmas letter and card because I just couldn’t find a way to state the obvious without feeling competely ovehwhelmed with grief. I have thought about just sending the cards late, but honestly, I don’t think I can. It is just too much for me right now. The grief is just too fresh and raw.

Until I talked to my mom about it, I didn’t even realize that it was just this year that Zach graduated with his Master Degree, and, realistically, we did actually have some good news to share in a Christmas update. Before talking to her I felt like the whole letter would be: Zora is growing, Zane is still autistic, I am still fat, and Zach’s dad died. That pretty much summed up how I feel right now. It isn’t fun, it isn’t uplifting, and it is a picture of people really working to keep our heads above water. I WANT to feel empowered and happy, but I don’t most of the time. I feel pretty fragile most days to be honest. I take things much more personally than I should because I am just struggling to hang on most days. I know it will get better, and I know I have the strength to keep going, but some days it is just really hard. I feel so very, very human many days.

As I look towards the next year, I just hope it is better than this year. I look forward with hope and resolve to do everything in my power to make it as good of a future as possible.

posted in Christmas, Death, Papo (Z's Dad) & Grammie | 2 Comments

30th December 2008

Autism this Holiday Season (edited into two posts)

Honestly, he did a lot better than he has in the past. There is growth and improvement. However, it doesn’t mean it all went smoothly. We missed church the Sunday before and on Christmas Eve because he just wasn’t dealing with life very well. He seemed to be on the edge of an emotional break and I felt like I spent the last week or two trying to balance his needs with the holiday stuff. I did a better job than in the past (experience does help) and he didn’t have a meltdown, but it was really close a lot of times.

I think one of the main things that made a difference was my ability to let go of what “should be” to “what is”. It is sort of depressing, on one hand, because you want your child to be able to enjoy everything and dive full force into what is “supposed” to be fun, but it is more important to recognize when your expectations are not realistic. I really, REALLY wanted to participate in the Christmas Eve program. I could almost TASTE how badly I wanted to do that. However, not only was Zane starting to crack on Saturday (before the Sunday of the last rehearsal), and was totally not dealing with anything by Sunday morning, but he was really, REALLY not dealing by Christmas Eve. He was incredibly thin-skinned, having a hard time dealing with typical conflicts and interactions, plus he developed really bad bowel movements (really watery and stinky), presumably from the difference in food. (we also realized later that we hadn’t been as consistent as usual with his anti-yeast meds as we had been…so I feel guilty about that too).

He did seem to enjoy things, but he also seemed to be PMSing on steroids through much of the week. By his birthday, he was barely hanging on, and by the next day, he was sleeping extensive amounts, puking, not eating much, and was screaming every time he needed a new diaper (with no solids waste to be seen). He was in agony and life was a stimmy, stressful mess for everyone around him.

This holiday season was another period of growth for me. Sometimes painful, sometimes a feeling a resignation, but mostly just trying to enjoy “what is”. Mostly in the moment and doing a better job of giving him gifts that he will enjoy rather than what I want him to enjoy.

posted in Autistic Life, Christmas | 1 Comment

  • Zane's age

  • Zane is 19 years and 22 days old
  • Zora's age

  • Zora is 15 years and 26 days old
  • Random Quote

  • Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better? — Jane Nelson

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