Tahoe 2016

Happy Memorial Day! We just got back from spending two nights in Lake Tahoe with 4 other families. 10 adults & 11 kids in 1 house all together? Could have a been a recipe for disaster but I’m happy to say that it was a really fun and memorable trip together.

This was the first real “trip” that J & I have taken with our kids since D was born. If I’m being honest, I was not really looking forward to this weekend away. Partly because I’m a true homebody and don’t enjoy traveling, partly because I’m an introvert and the thought of being surrounded by all these people (even though they’re people I adore!) intimated me, and partly because I was scared of how my kids would do sharing one room with us.

You guys, my kids did AMAZING. I almost want to say that out of the 5 total families, my kids slept the best …? I say that because they went to bed early and they also didn’t wake up very early or wake up during the night. I think the Lord was being really gracious to us while we were up in Tahoe because neither of my kids are usually good at keeping up with their sleep habits when we’re not at home.

All in all, I think my point is that I’m really glad that we went. It was a crazy time with all the kids running around but there were some fun memories made and I think it was a good opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone.

We all arrived at different times on Saturday afternoon and just hung out at the cabin, letting the kids run around the backyard and through the house. Two of the kids we were with had a birthday recently so we all celebrated that with a pizza party on Saturday night.

Sunday was our only full day in Tahoe and we knew we wanted to go for a hike in the morning. We chose a beautiful 2 mile (round trip) hike and I was SO proud of E. She walked the entire thing without complaining AT ALL. It was an inclined slope with lots of rocks and steps and she just kept trucking along like a trooper. Hubby ended up having to do the hike with D on his shoulders the whole time (OMG!)



After the hike we were all so exhausted. We went back to the cabin and let the kids watch a DVD while the husbands all went to play basketball together. Since it was Sunday, we ended the night with a really simple worship service at home … Which really just means the kids sang Jesus Loves Me and we read a couple of Bible verses together. E hadn’t napped after the hike and she was so tired that she fell asleep in my arms during “church”. J wanted me to wake her up so that she could sleep at bedtime but I couldn’t bring myself to do it! She looked so cute asleep in my arms and I couldn’t even remember the last time she’d done that!


After the kids went to bed, the adults stayed up and ate so many bad snacks while playing Mafia. It almost felt like we were in college again hahah!

Today, we all just got ready and packed up our gear. All the families were loaded up and on their way back home by 10 am. We stopped by McD on the drive back and I noticed that D & J were dressed in matching colors. So adorable I just had to snap a pic of them.


Random but funny story: When we got home, Emmy was using our master bathroom and J walked in. He asked her if she was pooping or peeing and she said “Poop. It’s not my best work.”

?!?!

Who is this funny little girl and where does she learn to say things like that??! HAHA.

Hard Things

E is entering that age when other kids around her definitely notice that she’s not like “the rest of us.” In her first ballet class last week, I noticed that when the teacher asked the kids to hold hands, one little girl around E’s age didn’t want to hold her hand and yanked her little fist away.

Little kids notice much more than adults give them credit for; I feel like I can say this because I used to teach preschool and kids would come and tell me all sorts of things about home/parents that I’m sure their parents didn’t even realize that they were noticing. I feel like in a situation like E’s, it would make the most sense to explain in simple terms exactly why she doesn’t act or talk like maybe some of our other friends do. I always encourage parents to take the proactive approach in teaching their kids about the differences with special needs kids because the more we normalize that different is okay the easier it will be on our kiddos who aren’t completely typical. Not only that but I think it nurtures a sense of compassion and awareness in little humans that will only continue to grow as they mature.

Anyway, I had the most amazing conversation with a dear friend of mine the other week. Her son comes and plays with E occasionally and I guess one day he’d gone home and told his mom that sometimes he couldn’t understand what E was saying. My friend didn’t ignore his comment or just sweep it under the rug with a passing “Oh really?” Instead, she took the moment and made it into an incredible teaching experience.

Friend’s Son: Mom, sometimes I don’t understand E or what she’s saying to me.

Friend: Hey, you know what? You know … we all have something that’s hard for us & that we’re learning to do better, right? For you, it’s basketball that’s a little hard right now and you’re working on. For your baby sister, it’s walking that’s hard for her to do. For E, her hard thing is talking. She’s learning and working on it just like you’re working on your hard thing.

Whaaaaat? I was blown away when she told me this little story. To her it was probably just another parenting moment in her family but for ME, as the parent of a special needs daughter, I almost could have kissed her right then and there. I absolutely loved the way she clearly explained to her son the challenges that my daughter faced and that she did so in a way that he could understand and also sympathize with. Seriously, if I could give a little gold star for Parent of the Week or something, I would!

Sometimes I get discouraged raising a daughter on the spectrum. As my daughter gets bigger, she’s probably going to rely heavily on the acceptance and understanding of her peers. Yet, I’ve met my share of parents who unfortunately seem more focused on teaching their kids to be me-me-me-centered rather than cultivating compassion and kindness in them. But then I hear amazing stories like this one from my friend and I feel encouraged. Isn’t it crazy to think that you, as a mother, can spread grace and encouragement to special needs parents like me simply by having fruitful conversations with your little ones?

Finding Beauty Here

One of my best friends just opened up her own Etsy shop called Finding Beauty Here. She hand makes beautiful fabric-covered notebooks and candles and was sweet enough to send one to me as a gift. When she first told me about her little side hobby, she downplayed it so much that I didn’t know what to expect. I was floored when I opened up her package and pulled out this little beauty!
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Her notebooks are sturdy and the covers are absolutely beautiful! She knows that I like floral prints and created this notebook specifically for me – I feel so special :) If you like this specific one that I have, it’s available on her shop RIGHT HERE! I honestly feel like this is a notebook that I could have purchased from a trendy store like ZARA or Urban Outfitters.

There are tons of blank pages inside each notebook; perfect for jotting down your thoughts or sketching things if you’re an artist. The pages are sewn into the binding and I really love the slightly rustic, handmade look that it gives. The dimensions are roughly 6 in x 7.5 in, which make these notebooks the perfect size to slip into your purse or bookbag.

I know we live in an ever-digital age but if you’re a timeless pen & paper lover like I am, I think you’d enjoy taking a glance through her shop. And, if you do decide you want to purchase something from her shop, she’s been sweet enough to offer a promo code just for my blog readers! Enter MANNA4MOMMY at checkout to get 10% off. But hurry because the promo code expires tomorrow (May 24, 2016) at midnight EST!!

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It’s A Girl

Cute clothes.

Makeup.

Boys.

Dance class.

Disney princesses.

Pink.

Prom dress.

Wedding day.

What are the things that run through your mind when you’re told you’ll be given the privilege of raising a little girl? These are the things that went through mine. I always knew that I wanted to have at least one girl. My biggest fear when J & I first got married was that I’d end up having all sons. When I was pregnant with E, everyone around us thought she would be a boy. My in-laws, my parents, our friends … everyone said it looked like I was carrying a boy or my cravings indicated I was having a boy. During our 20-week gender ultrasound, I can’t tell you what a rush of elation I felt when the tech looked at the screen and said, “It looks like a girl.” I couldn’t believe my ears and visions of pink and tulle started dancing before my eyes.

I had a lot of anxieties for the rest of my pregnancy with her. I’d have super vivid dreams where E was actually a boy or was disfigured or extremely ugly. Imagine my surprise when out popped sweet little E who was almost a complete mini-me from the moment she was born. I couldn’t wait to get started on all the fun things I’d dreamed about while baking her in my belly.

Ballet class is one of those things that I always knew I’d put her in. I think it’s almost a rite of passage for little girls. Not that I’d want any of my daughters to be dancers or serious ballerinas, but I remember taking dance classes a little girl and enjoying it so I was excited to provide that opportunity for any girls I might have.

Autism has made it hard to do a lot of the things I’d hoped for while pregnant with E and ballet class is no different. I struggled a lot with wanting to give those memories to her but deciding if she was capable/ready to take on such a class. Most of the ballet schools in my area are strict and intense, I just want to give E a chance to wear a tutu and dance around a sunlit room. Luckily, I was able to find a great class close by that seems to be more creative and fun. This week we went for her first class and she had an absolute blast.

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She hardly followed any of the directions and pretty much ran around like a wild fairy the entire time but she did indeed have an awesome time. She was so proud to wear her tutu and leotard and super excited to be in the studio with the other little girls.

I’ll be honest, it was a bittersweet moment for me. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I’d be one day taking my daughter to dance class but that she’d be accompanied by an aide or that the other kids might look at her and think she’s odd. But that’s our reality! And I’m learning to take it in and enjoy every single moment of it. Even the moments that look different than how I’d first dreamed them.

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Weekend Recap: AWANA, Faire , and Spicy Shoes!

It’s Monday! Blah. I don’t have very much to post about today so I thought that I’d just do another weekend recap.


We kickstarted our weekend on Friday night with AWANA awards night where E received her first AWANA ribbon ever! I had so many doubts on whether she’d be able to hang when I first signed up at the beginning of the achool year. But this girl proved me soooo wrong – not only did she memorize her verses each week but she actually remembers all the verses from weeks previous! She’s got an amazing memory, this one.


We ended the night with some good ole McDonalds … Nothing tastes better than fast food late at night, am I right or am I right??!

On Saturday we went to our local community fair. Some of the fun stuff they had included a vintage car show, face painting, live music, and balloon animals!


After the fair, we took the kids for ice cream and then to the park to run out the rest of their energy. Honestly, E usually has therapy on Saturday mornings (we canceled it for this week) so it’s been a long time since we last just went out and enjoyed family time doing fun but no-pressure stuff like this.


On Sunday, I decided to be wild and wore my super neon pink high heels to church. I felt so fab and ON IT … Until about 2 hours later when I was literally limping back to the car after service because my feet hurt so bad. Sigh, and I can’t believe that I used to RUN around the streets of Seoul in high heels all day when I was 21. Ah, youth.


I hope you guys all had an amazing weekend, too!

Wanna-Be

You know how they say that children see everything that you do, even if they don’t say as much? I’d always wondered how true that really was …

YOU GUYS, IT’S TRUE!!

We bought D this toy golf set a few months ago and it’s sort of been hanging out neglected in our yard since then. D liked to use the golf clubs as his little sticks more than anything else. He didn’t seem to grasp the concept of hitting the ball into the hole.

Well, lately my husband has taken to practicing his swing in our yard after dinner. He’s obviously always careful when the kids are around but I guess D took notice and something clicked for him with his own toddler golf set.

This kid. LOVES. GOLF. Hahahhaaha.


He totally grabbed that ball and set it up by himself. He even took a moment to collect his thoughts before swinging just like his daddy LOL.


And then when he was done he went and leaned his club against the house just like his daddy does. He was so proud of himself!

Maybe we’ve got a future golfer on our hands??

Or .. maybe not.

Mother’s Day 2016

Did you guys all enjoy your Mother’s Day weekend? I hope so! 

I’ve been so blessed to be able to be called Mommy by my two sweet babies. E made me a card and drew a picture of Elsa in it all by herself. And D apparently practiced saying “Happy Mother’s Day!” all weekend with his daddy and surprised me with his new words on Sunday. 

We tried several times to get a picture with me and the kids but alas, it wasn’t meant to be hahaha. Instead, enjoy the photo outtakes, none of which were good enough to make it to social media ;)

Welcome To My Happy Place

Last week, I introduced E to my “happy place” … Can you guess where that is? Hahahaha. 


I’ve been wanting to take E to get her first REAL mani/pedi for awhile now and found the perfect excuse last week. 

She had her 5-year well check at the doctor’s office and I decided to not send her back to school for the morning and use the time to have a special date with her! It all worked out, too, because my mom was able to come to watch D while we were out so E really got some undivided attention from me. 


Her check up went beautifully. She’s healthy and growing like a weed; she grew THREE inches in the past year alone. Her pediatrician also has an adult son on the spectrum so I like that she has a personal connection with patients with autism. In general, E loves going to see her doctor. Her favorite part is when the doctor listens to her “boom-boom” (heartbeat) with a stethoscope. 


After the doctor’s visit, we headed over to the nail salon. Take a wild guess what color E chose. Just guess. (Hint- it rhymes with glue.)


She did amazing! I’ve painted her nails at home plenty of times so she already knew she needed to sit still and not touch anything. After hers dried she was so excited, she twirled around the salon over and over. It was really cute :)

DD-isms

D is at that adorable age when his language skills are blooming and he’s become very efficient at communicating. I’d say for a boy, his language is pretty advanced … but compared to those 2-year old girls, he nowhere close (hahaha).

Anyway, even though he has a pretty wide vocabulary, his pronunciation is still very baby-ish. It’s actually very adorable, so I thought it might be fun to document his version of some common words:

  • DD = his name (although very recently, he’s learned how to actually pronounce his own name correctly)
  • Farten = Spartan (our dog)
  • wah-lo = water
  • meck = milk
  • DDD = DVD
  • wah = want (“I wah ___ = I want ___)
  • ah-ssah = outside
  • swide = slide
  • choo choo = Cheerios

I feel like there are more but I can’t seem to think of them. In general, though, he can’t seem to pronounce his R’s and L’s … It’s pretty cute to hear him talk :)

Five

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E at 5 months old.

And just like that, now she’s five.

Our sweet little baby girl, born into our family at a time when both J & I were pretty much still babies ourselves. We had no idea what we were doing. Granted, most first-time parents don’t but I feel like we really, really didn’t know what we were doing.

Her birth was traumatic and everything I didn’t want it to be. 30+ hours of medically assisted labor that finally culminated in an emergency c-section after two hours of unfruitful pushing. She was immediately whisked away to the NICU for observation, her 10 lbs & 4 oz of newborn girth a stark contrast against the preemies that usually dominate the NICU.

I remember being in the surgery recovery room, exhausted and no baby to hold in my arms. J was so tired he could barely keep his eyes open but in a bleary state of fatigue, he gave me my first ever push gift – something that I’d coached him on in the 9+ months leading to this momentous day. They were Tiffany earrings that he had thought were pearls but were actually silver orbs (the lighting in the store was tricky, I guess). We both had a good laugh at that and then it was silent because .. I had just given birth but we didn’t have a baby with us. Is this what it’s supposed to normally feel like after you have a baby? Empty and exhausted?

We were all eventually discharged to our tiny 2-bedroom apartment and that’s when the real adventure began. Newborn colic, nursing troubles, her need to constantly be rocked 24/7 in order to fall and STAY asleep; this girl kept us on our toes from Day 1.

And then things started to settle down a bit and I thought maybe, just maybe, the crazy stuff was well behind us now. Just another collection of stories to keep in my back pocket and conveniently whip out at future baby showers or coffee dates with friends.

Except that a year passed, then two, and she still wasn’t saying mommy & daddy like all the other little babies her age were. My mommy instinct raged strong inside me, warning bells screaming their alarm even against the pediatrician’s reassurance that everything is fineall babies develop at their own rate. Luckily for E, I’m not a mama to be told to sit when every fiber of my being says that I need to stand, so I fought for an evaluation even thought it wasn’t professionally recommended.

And then came the bombshell diagnosis that imploded our entire universe and changed everything forever. Autism. On the spectrum. Possibly high functioning but really, still too early to tell. Future difficulties include making friends and possible cognitive deficits, among other things. It’s a wide spectrum so there really are no answers other than yes, your precious baby girl, the one you’ve spent the last two years loving and raising, fits the qualifications for autism and may never learn to speak to you. Boom.

The darkness and heartache that followed is indescribable. I’ve blacked it out from my memory but my husband tells me that there were days that I didn’t even get out of bed. He’s now told me that he’s never been more scared than those months, seeing his wife curled in fetal positions and crying herself to sleep every night. I don’t remember but I believe him when he tells me these things because unless you’ve been through it yourself, you can’t know the pain that kind of diagnosis brings.

That is, until it doesn’t really bring that much pain anymore. Some sadness on some days, yes, but not the gut-wrenching-can’t-function-can’t-think-foggy-days kind of depression that initially followed me post-diagnosis. There’s a true hope that radiates when you’re being refined by fiery trials; everything the Bible promises about character & faith building during times of difficulty is true.

And now here we are. Five years old and so much SO MUCH so much to celebrate. This vibrant little girl whose words are at last starting to click with her mind; she’s beginning to let us see so much of that funny personality that we always knew was inside of her. She has developed such a compassion for her little brother and others around her. If she sees someone sad, she worries about them and wants to comfort them. Her favorite foods are pizza and bell peppers; her favorite colors are blue and pink. She’s shy and quiet, not one of those kids who will constantly be vying for your attention. She’s content to sit and look at a book by herself. She loves snuggling with us in the quiet hours of the morning, when the house is cold and little brother is still asleep. She’s girly to the core, and loves dress up, make up, and jewelry. She’s a perfectionist, always hesitant to try something unless she knows she can master it fully.

But most of all, she’s a blessing to us and to all who know her. She’s taught me more about faith, compassion, and kindness than my entire life taught me in the 25 years I lived before having her. She pushes me to be better because she reminds me that this life right here, although it seems like everything, it’s not everything. There is more & greater that is promised for us; a place where sinners are perfected, where autism doesn’t exist, where little girls who don’t have all the words they need to express themselves can open their mouths freely and worship The Creator who knows and sovereignly ordains all.

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Happy 5th birthday, my sweet E. I can’t wait to see how the Lord will continue to write your story and mine. I love you to the moon and back.

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