Somehow time has flown.

All of the sudden we have shimmied from April right through summer and into the start of another school year.

There was so much that I had wished to chronicle here, but … yeah.

Let’s just say that these months have been a journey…

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… during this time we have experienced awesome accomplishments and stared some huge fears in the face. There have been tweaks, tantrums, and tears. There have been sighs, snickers, and great rejoicing.

Through the good, the bad, and the ugly, it is amazing to see how far we have come, as individuals AND as a family.

We have walked, crawled, and sprinted along the way. Sometimes together. Sometimes on our own. But always with God at our side.

And as I hope to return here again to write soon, I just want to leave the verse that I have been clinging to on this journey… “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11

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Sigh. I’ve waited to post this (and actually wondered if I ever would) because it gets my emotions so raw. Let me start at the beginning…
Brian and I decided that it would be a good idea to put both kids in swimming lessons this spring. Liv has never taken “formal” lessons. Christian took “special needs” lessons last winter. Christian enjoyed the water, however, Brian and I were concerned that they didn’t focus enough on swimming skills vs. the-love-of-water. Christian has never had a problem with the latter. We really wanted him to learn some basic water survival skills.
About a month before the classes were set to start (and we were ready to register), I tried emailing the aquatics director to see if it was feasible for Christian to partake in “regular” lessons. I waited and waited. A week passed and I hadn’t heard from her, so I stopped into her office to talk with her directly.
She didn’t seem too concerned about anything that I wanted to tell her about Christian. She just asked (more than once) if Christian was OK without me in the water with him.
Well, yes, he is OK without me.
Her answer to me then was to enroll him in whatever class I wanted to. She didn’t seem to have time or attention to listen to any of my other concerns, so I left her office and signed him up for “regular” class at the same time as Olivia. Easier for me. Awesome.
…or so I thought…
I arrived with the kids on the first night of class. Both were excited and couldn’t wait to get into the water. When all of the children were divided into smaller groups, I could sense a rumble of concern about Christian from the instructors. They were nervous about him. One of them went and asked the aquatics director if she was “OK with him being here.” Her reply was, “If he’s OK without Mom in the pool, then I’m fine with him being here.”
I started to get nervous and anxious about my son being referred to as him. I was starting to get irked, but tried to stay calm and positive for Christian.
I backed out through the door and watched carefully. As I stood there I was horrified, crushed, and angry as one of the instructors (right in front of Christian), started tearing up and shaking. As I tried to read her lips, I could see that she was saying, “I can’t handle this! I don’t know how to teach him! I can’t do this!” She was panicking, shaking her hands, and looking at him like he was the plague! I wanted to run out there, grab Christian out of the water, and shield him from her reaction.
Eventually, the aquatic director came out and talked to the teary-eyed instructor, went and talked to one of the other lifeguards, and then headed my direction. Sigh.
Aquatic director walked right over to me, and in front of all of the other parents, started telling me that Christian could not be in these classes. She told me that he is not capable and that thankfully they were overstaffed on lifeguards that night so one of them could spend time with Christian for the rest of the allotted class time. She told me that I would have to enroll him in the “special needs” classes if I wanted him to continue lessons and that she supposed that she could “roll him over” into the special class that started in two days. She made this sound like she was doing me this huge favor. Sigh.
Had it not been such a long day by that point, I might have been more vocal with the aquatic director. However, as I watched my beautiful boy now happily splashing around with extra lifeguard, I just nodded and told her that I would like to continue the lessons and to go ahead and put my baby in the other class.
I’m sure that aquatic director said some more things to me, but I was done listening. I was too busy watching Christian and fighting back my own tears. I was lost in thought wondering whether Christian had heard and how much he understood about what the swim instructor had said about him at the beginning of the class.
As soon as aquatic director walked away, I could no longer hold myself together. I started bawling, uncontrollably, by that window, in front of the other parents. I tried to stop. I really did. But I just couldn’t. There were too many emotions washing over me all at once.  I donned as brave face as best as I could and attempted to pull myself back together by the end of the class.
Two days later, Christian started lessons in the special needs swim class again.
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Three weeks passed and my emotions were not as raw as they had been. The kids are thriving in their swim classes. I made an appointment to talk to the CEO of the place where the kids were taking their classes. He agreed to meet with me the next day.
I recounted our story. He listened to my every word. He asked questioned and repeated me, just to make sure that he fully understood what I had said. He promised to use it as a “teaching moment” and asked that I let him know how the swimming class turned out in the end.
I was satisfied.
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Swimming lessons have now come to a close.
Olivia did fantastically well and loved every minute of her class.
And Christian … well, Christian did great. He also had the most excellent of teachers, Mr. Tim. Mr. Tim was genuinely happy to see Christian every week. Mr. Tim was energetic, caring, and resourceful. He got Christian to try things that I wasn’t sure I would ever see him do – like putting his head underwater to grab a ring off of the bottom of the pool! I know! Awesome, right?!? Mr. Tim had him working on paddling with his arms. Once Christian could do that pretty well, Mr. Tim had Christian start working on his kick. Christian still may be a long way from swimming on his own, but he is now on his way thanks to the patience and understanding of Mr. Tim.
I wish that there were more Mr. Tim s in this world…

To others, what Christian accomplished this morning might seem minor, but I can promise you that it was/is a HUGE deal.

Christian doesn’t have school today, but Olivia does so Christian had to accompany me to drop her off this morning.

I had decided a couple of days ago that I would try Friday morning chapel with Christian while there. Sitting in the church proper. (Something that we haven’t attempted in years because of meltdowns that occurred just even walking through the door.)

We arrived early, before any of the students entered, just to adjust to the space. (And forgoing a big dramatic scene just in case this idea didn’t fly.) Christian tested the acoustics. (They are fantastic.) He decided that it was too much to sit in the pews, so we grabbed a row of usher seats along the back wall. (The seats are the same as what we sit on weekly in the Child Training Room.) Christian got comfortable and Pixar found a spot on the floor and we waited patiently for the school students to file in.

I was having a hard time thinking of a way to explain to Christian why we were sitting in church and waiting. What were we waiting for? He had no concept of “chapel”. Hmm… It was Christian who finally said, “And Nick and Jr will have devotion.” Yes, Christian. We are staying here for a devotion. His reply, “OK.” 🙂

I can’t say that we were completely undistracting during chapel. I mean, we had a dog. In church. That doesn’t happen everyday. And I tried my best to keep the shouts of “Jeopardy” “Alex Trebec” “Executive Producer: Josh Selig” etc. under control, but they did slip out on occasion.

Through it all, I thought that Christian did great job. He happily put an offering in the basket. He prayed The Lord’s Prayer with the rest of us. He moved his body to the hymns as we sang. He did not meltdown, cry, kick, or scream. He seemed truly happy to be there. I was/am SO proud of him and am thanking the Lord for yet another humble reminder of how important it is to make sure that all of our kids hear the Word no matter how difficult it can seem to make that happen.

Here are a couple of notes that came home with Christian today…

Christian shocked Mr. G (the principal) this morning by stopping him in the hallway, giving him great eye contact, and initiating a greeting!!! 🙂

He also initiated a great conversation about my dog, who he heard me say had hurt his leg.

Good Day!!! 🙂

I’m always so excited to get great reports like this from school, but even more thrilled that it contained smily faces. Especially since it has been a rough couple of weeks!

My husband and I have been working really hard to establish the routine of having a nightly family devotion right after dinner every evening. I think that the routine is engrained now because before we even finish dinner the kids are both talking about “and next we have devotion.” 🙂 Sometimes the negativeness inside of me, though, makes me wonder if it’s worth it as we wrestle Christian or he runs the room with a loud vocal stim (to the point where I wonder if anyone can actually hear me read) or he rattles on about “Nick and Jr wearing costumes for Halloween.” My soul lets out a sigh of a prayer – Lord, please let your Word reach my boy.

Yesterday afternoon I got the encouragement that I needed to know that Christian is being reached. Christian ran into the kitchen while I was working on supper. In his hands, he was carrying his beloved “Nick” and “Jr” Lego creations. He bumped over to me and said, “Nick and Jr having devotion.” Wanting to make sure that I had heard him correctly, I asked, “They are having devotion?” Christian ran out of the room repeating what he had first told me. My son’s most beloved creations were having devotion. It is confirmed that devotion is important to Christian. It is reaching him. Lord, forgive me for my doubt.

You may not realize what a HUGE deal this is, but Christian asked for a doctor on Monday evening.  On his own.  Using words.  And then proceeded to poke around at his neck and ears.

Awesome.

Not awesome that he wasn’t feeling well, but SO AWESOME that HE asked to go to the appropriate person who could help him even though he has been scared to go there in the past.  (He’s not a fan of shots.  Who can blame him?)

Tuesday, Christian and I went to the doctor.  (Yeah, Mamas apparently get strep, too. 😦  Yay for meds! )  He wasn’t overly happy about going when it was finally time for our appointment, but he came.  And listened fantastically well!  And anticipated what was going to happen next.  (Like when he saw the doctor with the “ear light” and he took off his headphones so that she could look before we even had to ask him, too! 😀 )  If I hadn’t been SO sick at the time, I would have totally happy danced right there in the examining room!!!  [Feel free to envision that. 😉 ]

And guess what, he needed antibiotics, and we opted for oral meds instead of the usual injection, and Christian is taking the meds amazingly.  [insert a look of happy shock here]  He just needs a chocolate chaser, but really, who doesn’t after taking liquid antibiotics???

I am SO proud of my boy.  Way to go, Christian!!! 🙂

I have been waiting (impatiently) for Christian’s service dog fundraising to begin.  I was actually waiting for his name to appear on the Compassionate Paws website so that we could start direct donations.  (Want to check out Christian’s page?  Click here.)

If you’d like to see our events, check out our service dog blog 😉 HERE.

I am happy dancing, cartwheeling, and smilin’ from ear to ear this morning!  This is GREAT!  Woo-hoo!!!!  😀

(If you want to help us spread the word and are on Facebook, please join our open group PAWS 4 CHRISTIAN and pass the word along to others.  Thanks!!!)