Friday, September 19, 2014

How I Spend My Time

When people find out that I have a son with autism, 90% of the time I'm asked the two following questions:

1 - "Did you vaccinate him?"  Of course what they are really asking is, "Did vaccines give your son autism?"  This is an easy one: no they did not and there is no scientific evidence tying autism to vaccines.  

and

2 - "What do your days look like?"

I've always been baffled at how to answer this simply because, well, I have no idea what a "normal" day looks like to parents of children without special needs.  So, when people ask me, "What does your day look like?" I stumble.

To help solve this problem, I made some graphs (because that's the kind of person I am)....

Since about June of 2012, my days have looked like this....




Which so much of our time devoted to therapy, the therapists really become part of our lives; they've been to birthdays, grocery shopping, trips to the park, and are frequently mistaken for my significant other.  In fact, I've had more than one neighbor awkwardly inquire about the "guy" I was out with all over the place; I'm not totally sure they believed me when I said he was a therapist...

However, recently Craig's therapy has been winding down, and this is medically appropriate; after all, he's catching up.  So, now with only 6 hours of therapy a week (down from the 27+ hours at it's height), our days look a little more like this:
So, the other day I found myself sitting at home thinking, "What am I going to do with Craig and all this extra time?" and at that second it FINALLY dawned on me that's why there's literally THOUSANDS if not MILLIONS of Pinterest Boards, websites, books, and discussion forms going over what parents can do with kids all day long.

It's a little embarrassing, but up until a few weeks ago, when Craig's schedule changed, I honestly had always wondered why moms found it hard to fill up a day.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Beer and Bikes

Our family has lived in Fort Collins for a little over a year now, but we knew on the first day of that first visit when Bob came out for his job interview that there are two main things that make Fort Collins...well...Fort Collins: Beer and Bikes.

The little "tourism" book that every hotel room has contained basically page after page of one activity for visitors to FoCo (yep, that's how we abbreviate it): beer and bike tours.  It's a little odd considering that you can still get a DUI on a bike (at least I'm assuming you can since apparently you can get a DUI on a horse...I've never actually taken the time to look it up).

For those who don't know, Fort Collins is the undisputed beer capital of Colorado.

It's also one of the most bike friendly towns in America...which also means that a vast majority of our bike racks look this this.
However, it's a little known fact that Fort Collins was an inspiration for Disneyland's Main Street USA.  Considering how much time he spends criticizing how "terrible" Colorado is now, I'm guessing that Governor Chris Christie isn't privy to this information.  I'm also guessing, that if he could re-title this post it would be "Beer, Bikes, and Bongs."

Yes, Colorado recently "entered a higher state" (which is misreported on Wikipedia as being Colorado's slogan...the slogan is actually "It's our nature").  However, the main problem has only been debates over who gets the tax dollars from retail sales.  Other than squabbling over who gets the extra money, life has pretty much continued on as usual.

...and "life as usual" in Fort Collins, as I discovered over the past 466 days, is....

1 - Severe weather
Yeah, I thought I knew what this was after going through all those microbursts in Utah (during one of which my neighbor's house was struck by lightening...which gave the kid an AWESOME excuse for not having his homework finished the next day in school...only problem was he wasn't the "trust worthy" type, so the teacher didn't believe him).  Yeah...I didn't....I had NO IDEA what severe weather was.
That isn't snow...it's hail...after a storm in mid-June
My concerns weren't helped when on our first Sunday at church, someone casually mentioned the "Windsor tornado."  I gave her a puzzled look and she said, "Oh!  Don't worry!  They are much less common here."  I would have preferred her to say, "I'm kidding!  You didn't just unknowingly move to the edge of tornado alley!"

At I watched this storm unfold, I was very grateful that Bob's phone receives severe weather alerts...I was just hoping that the tornado warning would go out before cell phone towers were blown down.
2 - People here forget flooding pretty easily
Yeah, this isn't due to too many reefers.   This forgetfulness extends back hundreds of years.  In September 2013 (ironically enough, over Friday the 13th), Colorado made national news when a flood of biblical proportions hit NoCo (how we abbreviate Northern Colorado).  Yet, you talk to anyone and they will say, "It never floods here!" Obviously they are forgetting the 1864 flood, the 1976 flood, and the 1997 flood (and more).  Yep, despite the fact that "it never floods here" we still bought flood insurance.

3 - Apparently beer and bikes are a good mix
Despite being the beer capital of the state and Colorado is arguably the beer capital of the nation, Fort Collins is consistently rated the safest city in America to drive in.  Honestly, I was expecting a lot more DUI's.  I guess CSU students are either too poor to get drunk or too poor to afford cars.  However, they aren't too poor to dress up in silly costumes for Tour De Fat (Fort Collins's annual celebration of beer and bikes).

And despite the fact that we don't drink, we were too lazy to ride our bikes, and the most crazy thing I could come up with was a fo-hawk (which I think beats Bob's "costume"), we still went Tour De Fat too.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Craig's Supernumerary Sketches (that can sometimes be sketchy)

There's no doubt that Craig tends to be a child of excess.  Seeing as how he's the descendent of a mother who once drank 10 italian sodas just to prove a point (I felt they were over priced, but they came with free refills) and bought 13 cantaloupe today (they were $0.68 each!!!), it's really not a surprise.

Generally, Craig's excess extends just to his love of cars...
Yeah....this picture is from a few months ago.  His collection is now at least 30-50% bigger.  
and elevators (IKEA is still his favorite place in the world).
However, the past two weeks this excess has taken a new form: drawing pictures...
Yep, those are all the pictures Craig has drawn over the last two weeks.  Remarkably, some of them aren't totally aimless scribbles given a random title.

For example, Craig draws pretty consistent pictures of "fish."  Bob and I were first a little concerned when he handed us this picture and proclaimed that it was a "fish"......seeing as how this is a family-friendly blog, I'll just let you guys figure it out.  I would say, "or ask your parents," but if you really don't know by now I'm guessing that further counsel from mom and dad won't help much.  
The picture became a little crinkled...sorry
Needless to say, we breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when, upon concerned questioning, we discovered that the picture is suppose to be turned this way and that there is also a tree and an ocean along with the "fish."
Switching back to my excess for a moment....

I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE being a homeowner.  Despite renovating right after we closed, I haven't exactly slowed down.  Since my last post, I've...

Installed a ceiling fan in our living room...
 Replaced our kitchen faucet...
 Replaced a leaky water shutoff valve
 Set up shelves around the TV...
 Installed new blinds (I've always wanted wood blinds!!!)...
 Troubleshooted our doorbell to determine that the transformer is broken...so now we have a useless box permanently on our wall...
 And pulled out our dishwasher 3 or 4 times in an attempt to locate a small leak...I still haven't been successful...
After all this, it's really no wonder that Craig put my screwdriver in the "naughty box" (where toys go when Craig isn't listening to us) when he became mad at me this afternoon.  Obviously, Craig thought that the screwdriver was my favorite toy.  Sadly, he might not be incorrect....

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The sass behind the sweet

Craig puts on a pretty good face from time to time.  On the rarest of occasion, he can appear to be an incredibly sweet and nice little boy....like in this once in a million (yep, I take that many photos of Craig to get just one like this) shot of Craig:
However, beneath that deceptively cute smile, kind eyes, and sweet demeanor is this:
A child who is discovering that he is stubborn, sassy, and perhaps a little too smart.  To be honest, Bob and I couldn't be prouder (check it out: being stubborn is an important developmental milestone).

For example:

1 - Just the other day while at the park Craig informed me that I'm not allowed to use numbers, only letters.  At the time I was giving him the 5-minute countdown for when we had to leave the park.  Naturally, his 4 year old mind decided we wouldn't have to leave the park if I couldn't use numbers to give the countdown.  I tried to foil his plot by spelling the numbers instead, but the joke was on me since Craig can't spell "two."

2 - The other day I caught Craig "cutting" saltine crackers with the Hammer of Thor, which I would consider to be overkill.
If you keep watching all the way to the end, you will see Craig make and eat a "butter" sandwich; he insists that it's his favorite.

3 - And then there was our trip to the indoor pool.  Those who know Craig well just shot up and thought, "What the what?!?!"  Yep, Craig's ABA therapy has helped him generalize skills across various settings so now we have a membership to our local indoor pool.  Craig asks to go almost every day.  However, he's still a little freaked out of the locker room, but that's fair (I am too).

Anyway, it moments like this that I'm so happy to have a waterproof camera....
Yeah...it looks cute....but that water is freezing...and Craig insisted I stand there for like 10 minutes....

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Cartoon Illustration of the Logic of "Wait & See."

For years, parents have gone to their pediatricians and family physicians to express concerns about their child's development.  And for years, doctors across the nation have told concerned parents that they should, "wait and see" before seeking further evaluation for children who are showing delays.

I could drone on forever about the different reasons why this is C-R-A-Z-Y, but instead I took the liberty of drawing a few cartoons to demonstrate my feelings on the matter:

A doctor saying:
Is about as smart as any or all of the following: 

I'm pretty passionate about the matter because we have seen first hand the massive difference early treatment makes.  As most of you know, my son Craig started speech therapy at 18 months, intensive floortime at 28 months, and 24 hours a week of ABA therapy a few months before his 3rd birthday.  

For those of you wondering, no, this wasn't easy: we had to rearrange our lives to accommodate therapy schedules, move states, and spend thousands upon thousands of dollars in co-pays.  All that being said, I'm NOT complaining. 

In fact, I'm very pleased to announce that just last week Craig's therapist informed me that, due to his continued progress thanks to early intervention, they are ready to start the process of slowly phasing his therapy program out.  

In simplest terms, thanks to early treatment Craig has caught up, his therapy will be ending soon, and will he will now grow up to be an independent adult. 

Now, as irreverent as my illustrations are, Autism Speaks has a great video that essentially sums up what was Craig's future will likely be due to his doctor refusing to "wait and see."  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Becoming Homeowners




On June 2nd, Bob and I became homeowners for the very first time.  Those who know us well (or just read our blog regularly) know that this is....

1 - Our first place with a yard
2 - Our first place with multiple floors 
3 - Our first place that is 100% totally above ground

Needless to say, we're really excited (enough so to take a super corny picture at the final walkthrough):
Immediately after signing the papers at a title company (that apparently also supplies reading glasses), we set about ripping out the old carpet, installing new flooring, re-painting, removing/repainting baseboards, replacing outlets with tamper resistant ones, building frames for mirrors, and so on.  
Because I'm incredibly stubborn and my parents instilled a strict "you do all housework yourself no matter what" kind of attitude in me, the only professional we hired the whole process was an electrician when an outlet happen to have one too many contradictions.  For those who speak, "home improvement," it was a split GFCI outlet, without a GFCI receptacle, with 6 non-standard colored wires, including a gold non-grounding wire.  Yeah, don't act like you're not impressed. 

Thankfully, Craig was more than happy to help with the simpler things.  My parents came to help too... but my mom and dad don't look quite as cute as Craig when painting...so I don't have any photos of them to share.  
Of course, Craig did need to take frequent breaks.  His favorite was napping on the hammock while under a cardboard box.  
Right after we made the offer on the townhome, I told Bob, "You know...the first thing I'm going to buy is a hammock."  Of course, two days later, this little number went on sale.  Taking it as a sign, I bought the hammock and it sat in our car from that day until the day we closed...because we didn't have a place to put it in our apartment. 
Naturally, doing all these upgrades meant that our car constantly looked like a Home Depot for the past month...
Yes, that is flagstone in the back of my car.  Yes, I did take my super tiny car to a quarry to buy it.  Yes, I did get a lot of strange looks from the guys in super-sized trucks. 
It also meant that I got the chance to use a table saw.  That, in turn, meant that I had the chance to see how quickly a piece of wood can become a bullet on a table saw.  Thankfully, our bed is VERY strategically place.  

Now, after all that time, energy, and work, I have a lot of really awesome before and after photos to show off. 

So, drum roll please!!!!

Craig's Room Before:
 Craig's Room After:

 Bob's and my room before:
 Bob's and my room after:



 Upstairs bathroom before:
 Upstairs bathroom after:
I'm still not in love with what I did to the cabinets, but I'm going to make myself live with it for a while
Living room before: 
 Living room after:
Note the new grout around the fireplace, childproofed stairs, new outlets, added shelves,  wall anchored future...yeah...I really went all out. 
I am still trying to figure out what floor covering we can use on floating stairs....there aren't that many options.
 Kitchen before:
 Kitchen after:
Yeah, it's a small kitchen.  However, my stance on life is summed up on the sign in the window which reads, "I only have a kitchen because one came with the house." So, a large kitchen isn't exactly at the top of my list.
After watching us draw guide lines on the flooring, Craig took it upon himself to "help out" by drawing on our kitchen cabinets.  On the bright side, those are really good circles. 
And this is the downstairs bathroom.  I only show this picture so you can see the color of paint that was everywhere before.  While I don't mind it in a small bathroom, I wasn't a fan of it everywhere (my apologies to those who picked the color).
One of my favorite changes is the entryway (sorry, no before picture here).  It's kind of small area, so I added more floor space through transforming a closet into a cubby by removing the doors, taking out the hardware, adding some shelves, putting in some hooks, and painting the inside. Ta-da!
 
 Again, I don't have a before picture, but here is our backyard now.  We tore out all the patchy grass/weeds and put in mulch and flagstones.  Besides being a ton of work and requiring a lot of water, I have a significant skin allergy to grass....so it just didn't make sense for us.
Because we're total dorks, we even put a weeping angel in the backyard (yeah....it's a thing that you'll get or you won't). 
 Here is another shot of the yard and....our new dog COOKIE (yes Aunt Tammy, I stole your dog's name...it's just an awesome name).  I tried to get a better shot, but he just wouldn't hold still.  Cookie is a 57 pound, lap-dog, brindle boxer, who we're guessing is about 4 years old.
 While Craig LOVES LOVES LOVES his new dog, our cat HATES HATES HATES him.  She is constantly looking over her shoulder.
There really isn't any need for this however...Cookie is dead-set terrified of Nacho (notice him running away in terror when Nacho just looks his way)
We're really working hard to help the two get used to one another.  I know they can be friends once Nacho realized that Cookie isn't here to eat, maim, or terrorize her.  

The past month has been the busiest I've EVER had, but we've taken it in stride, laughed at our mistakes, and goofed off with some friends....like when Bob and a family friend put Craig's giant moose in the front seat of the moving van...
 
Now that most of the work is finished (I still have 2 week, 1 month, 3 month, and 6 month project lists I'm working my way down), we get to enjoy our new home!  

Besides fully above ground windows, more than one toilet, and a tornado shelter (otherwise known as a crawlspace), our apartment has a lot of other great things too: quite neighbors, tons of storage, more square footage than we've ever had, an awesome stone fireplace (for the girl who has always dreamt of living in a log cabin) and fantastic natural lighting:

Monday, June 2, 2014

Happiest Place on Earth

Most people think that Disneyland is the happiest place on earth.  These people have clearly never been to IKEA.

Living proof that Craig is my son comes through our shared love of the blue and yellow store.  While there, he'll run up to random strangers to proclaim his excitement at just being in the building.  Yesterday morning, Craig enthusiastically drew a picture of Ikea (yeah, he came up with this idea on his own).
While Craig doesn't understand that IKEA clearly holds the best collection of home decorations on the planet, he does love the large elevators, escalators, travelators, ice cream, and adjacent airport.  It literally contains everything he could dream of (except motorcycles).

While in Salt Lake, we had an IKEA just minutes down the road.  Now, it's a 3 hour round trip.  Despite this, we still visit about once a month.  Why they won't build an IKEA closer to us exclusively for our family is just well beyond me....

On the flip side, the bane of my existence is a closed Ultimate Electronics store in north Denver.  The building is painted exactly the same as IKEA.  So, naturally, Craig always thinks it is an IKEA...it causes a lot of problems.