Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Karate Kid in the Making - Tales from Camp Kiddo - Wednesday Edition

Hi Aspierations Friends,


Today was Ryan's 3rd day at Camp Kiddo.  The theme for the week is Wide World of Sports and they've been making crafts and playing games this week that have to do with the Olympics.



Since Ryan loves to take off and do the sprint and he daily jumps over many hurdles, it is an aptly themed week for him!  That being said, I think after yesterday's adventures at camp that we needed to help regulate his wild body and so today when John and I brought him to drop-off, he was wearing his specially made CARS weighted vest.

** By the way, the person, Michelle who made this weighted vest is incredibly talented.  She creates vests, weighted blankets and all sorts of products to help kiddos on the autism spectrum, with Sensory Processing Disorder and with ADHD.  She has had many years of experience as both a talented seamstress and as a mother to a great group of kids!  She has a great story, a fantastic array of products and fabrics and I highly recommend her.  Here is a link to Michelle's eBay Store, Natural Remedies for Autism ADHD.



Here Ryan models his vest with chewelry (safe chewable jewelry for kids that are extra oral) in his left hand, his Olympic Torch that he made in his right hand, his orange medal around his neck (because who needs gold when you can have ORANGE) and one of his delightful camp counselors, Ms. Emily.

As it turns out, Ryan was much more grounded at camp today and did fantastic.  I'm not sure if he wore his vest the whole time but he had it on when we left and when we returned and we were told his behavior was fantastic and that he was happy the whole time!  What a wonderful thing to hear!

There is Camp Evergreen going on in nearby rooms in the school and includes different age ranges up to age 12.  The kids sometimes get together for guest visitors and the guest today was a special Karate instructor named "Mr. K."  Well, apparently Ryan took to Mr. K and Mr. K took to Ryan.  Mr. K kept saying "Karate is for self-defense only!"

He must have said it many many times because Ms. Emily told us that Ryan started counting and keeping track of when he would say it.  Ryan's voice tends to have two volumes, super soft or very loud. When he is really excited, he often gets super quiet, unless of course it is Tom and Jerry and then all bets are off and the whole neighborhood can hear him.  He's louder than Foghorn Leghorn, I say, I say.... I say, boy!

So at one point, Mr. K. asked the group what Karate was for and Ryan shouted out, "Karate is for self-defense only!"  It sounds like Mr. K., Ms. Emily and all the adults got a huge kick out of that.  Wish I had seen it.

Ryan also really enjoys playing with the rice sensory bins in the Camp Kiddo classroom and was doing that when we arrived.


If you'll notice behind him, there is another counselor who is sweeping rice off the floor.  It's one of those inappropriate things to laugh about which I find pretty funny, but I have done rice bins with Ryan at home and I suspect that there was at least one or two times that he excitedly threw rice in the air like it was confetti.  (I mean seriously, people do throw rice at weddings, so it would only make sense that a 4 year old would want to join in the fun!)  Bless the camp counselors for their patience, kindness and acceptance!

I'm heading to bed early tonight because John is leaving back for Camp Meriwether tomorrow and even though he was home last night, I still had major problems sleeping. I can only imagine what Thursday and Friday will bring.

Brief Tangent Alert:  Have you ever seen the Fox TV show, "Lie To Me?"  I LOVE that show and find it very fascinating!  Anyway, there is a character on there named Eli Loker and for some reason, he keeps popping into my dreams in the weirdest ways.  Today, as I was trying to nap but was in one of those half-dream, half-hallucinatory states, I had a dream I was in a room judging microexpressions and the two people in the room I was monitoring were Eli Loker and Al Roker.  Seriously...  Eli Loker and Al Roker...  (If you don't find it funny, don't worry, you probably just had to be there.  Actually it was a tad disturbing!)

So as I was mentioning, I am going to try and head off and get some sleep early but before I go, I wanted to direct you over to John's blog again, Life and Times of John Krejcha for more tales about Camp Meriwether and Justin.  I totally miss my oldest son and can't wait to see my brown-eyed firstborn on Saturday!  I'm sure his last couple days were challenging and if John gets a chance to call from camp, I will post more details in my Thursday edition recap!  John, I hope you have a safe trip back and have an amazing adventure with Justin over the next couple of days.  I will hold up Camp Krejcha and take over all your high scores on Mario Kart Wii!

In closing....


Time to Check Out of Camp Kiddo for the day!


Goodbye everyone!  See you tomorrow!  :-)

Ryan has his camp torch burning bright to let his light shine!
Now it's your turn!

Thanks for stopping by!
Karen

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tales from Camp Kiddo & Camp Meriwether - Tuesday Recap

Hello Aspierations Friends!

Today was Ryan's 2nd day at Camp Kiddo!  I am incredibly impressed with him and I'm even going to give a shout out to myself here because I got up two days in a row with the alarm.  (Of course, I knew both times that if I hit snooze, it would be all over and he'd never make it to camp on time so I had some motivation!)

Ryan's favorite color is orange and when he picked out his clothes this morning for camp, he chose a bright orange shirt with a siberian tiger cub on it (that's my boy!!) and orange checkered shorts.  He put on his bright yellow Fisher Price DUCK sunglasses, CARS themed tennis shoes and was eager to go!

When I was little, my favorite color was red.  I used to wear this red hooded sweatshirt all the time and my nickname in elementary school was "Karen the Red Baron".  (I had other nicknames too but this was probably the nicest!!)  As I got older, I developed a love for purple.  I also like black and teal and most jewel tones.  I'm definitely not into pastels.

Justin's favorite color so far has definitely been red and up until about 12 months ago, we thought Ryan might have liked blue but he indicated an extreme love and preference for orange when we went on our Krejcha family road trip last summer!  (Three weeks on the road cross country, 1 Autism Society of America Conference, tons of relatives, quite the adventure.)  On our trip we visited a lot of theme parks and every time Ryan had a chance to choose a ride he wanted to go on, he picked a car, bug, boat or vehicle that was bright orange.  Since that time, orange has definitely been his color!

I think it describes his sunny outlook as well.  Although he has challenges each day, he really enjoys smiling, laughing and being happy.  Each day on his calendar, he changes the date, day, weather and his mood and he almost always chooses "happy" and follows that up with a back-up of "silly".  Ryan is indeed a goofball, but a lovable one at that and we adore him!  I had never really been an orange person myself (if you look at my complexion, orange just doesn't look that hot on me) but in seeing Ryan's joy for the color, it has actually brought me a lot of cheer and I have to say, I'm coming around to seeing it as bright, positive and uplifting, just like Ry.

All went well during the morning drop-off and then I got back home, contemplated sneaking back to bed, realized I'd never wake up in time to pick up Ryan and decided to go to the computer and do work instead, getting the receipts done for packing, answering email and awaiting word from John as to if he'd be home in time to join me in picking up Ryan.

Well, John made it back in time and we headed off to Camp Kiddo, both of us eyeing each other exhaustedly but happy to have the comfort and familiarity of each other's company.  John had been looking forward to picking Ryan up so when Ryan had a major meltdown on the playground equipment at the time of pick-up, it was a bit of a bummer.  (He was having lots of fun and wanted us to wait 54 minutes before leaving the playground.  54 is his favorite number.  I offered 54 seconds but that didn't fly.)

He had apparently been "okay" for the instructors (their word)  but it was what they didn't say and how they looked (tired) that told the story that there had been some challenges. This was sports week and as such, all the kids do a lot of running around.  One of Ryan's favorite games is chase. (i.e. You tell me to come in from the playground or an activity and I'll run away until you catch me.)  He likes to test new adults that he comes into contact with by playing this self-created game.  He started out doing this in preschool until some social stories and strategies were implemented so that Ryan didn't have a group of frazzled teachers and assistants chasing him across the playground. Seriously, our son is FAST!

Before we left in the morning, I made sure to do joint compressions with Ry and told him to use his "dots and squeezies" if he had wild body but I think it was just one of those mornings where he was just a little off.  It's understandable considering all the schedule changes going on here.  I think I'll have him wear his weighted vest tomorrow before heading to camp.  I may even bring it with him.

Well, things eventually got back to our sense of normal in Krejchaland and despite everyone in the family being exhausted and spent, we all got along well and had a nice rest of the day together.  We all totally miss Justin and it was great to hear John's stories about the time he spent with him at camp.  Justin, when you read this on the 4th of July, we LOVE YOU and totally miss you!  We thought of you lots tonight during Wipeout and America's Got Talent!  Ryan saved the XXX and buzzes at the judging table for you and we'll all watch it together when you're home again!

I am going to turn over the rest of the story-telling about Justin's tales from Camp Meriwether to my husband, John who just posted a big blog over at Life and Times of John Krejcha.  I had contemplated not blogging tonight since I was so tired and leaving the writing to John but I saw it was past 11:00 p.m. and realized I had another opportunity to post a blog close to midnight.  Couldn't miss out on that!

Thanks so much for stopping by!  There will be more to share tomorrow and I appreciate those of you who visit and especially those of you who return.  By you being here, even if it's quietly from your side of the computer, you help fuel my enthusiasm to write, to further develop Aspierations, to allow me to come as I am and for me to let my light shine!  So here is to you!  :-)

Goodnight and See You Soon!
Karen

Tales from Camp Kiddo & Camp Meriwether - Monday Recap

If you're visiting Aspierations for the first time, welcome!  If you're a repeat visitor, welcome back!

Today's topic is Tales from Camp Kiddo & Camp Meriwether, a Monday recap.

For those just tuning in to our adventure, our oldest son Justin who has Asperger's Syndrome just embarked yesterday on a week long adventure to Boy Scout Camp at Camp Meriwether in Oregon.  It is right along the Pacific Ocean and is one of the premiere camps in the country as far as offerings for boy scouts.  John went along with him and will be there off and on throughout the week to help him through challenges and encourage him.  I miss them both and so does Ryan!  The camp is about 2 1/2 hours away, so it's quite a commute and I appreciate John's fortitude and dedication to Justin to be there for him.  Justin is 10 1/2 and likely the youngest Boy Scout at this camp.   (The Washington school system starts kids a year later than in California where Justin originally started school.)  He's also one of the smallest kids there so when you see him, a natural protection instinct comes out.

Ryan is currently at home with me.  Ryan was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum shortly after he turned two and is currently on summer break from a wonderful local special education preschool that is preparing him to mainstream into Kindergarten.  As we didn't want Ryan to go all summer out of the routine of socializing with other children and practicing direction-following and safety rules, we signed him up for a locally run weekly program called Camp Kiddo.  It runs in the weekday mornings and just started on Monday.

After I published my blog last night, I finished up some work and headed off to bed making sure that I didn't set the alarm clock for 7:30 p.m. instead of 7:30 a.m.  I was allowing myself the luxury of two snoozes and I figured if I was lucky, I might get 4 - 5 hours of sleep.  (Ha ha ha ha ha!)

Unfortunately, I couldn't fall asleep right away.  In retrospect, I should have taken some melatonin but I was nervous that I might somehow sleep through the alarm and what better way to prevent that then to not sleep at all?  I had the fan on in the room because it was hot, I had the monitor on to hear Ryan if he woke up but even with both those things, I kept hearing phantom noises.  First it was noise from the Wii, then it was theme songs from game shows, then it was some of the favorite noises my oldest son likes to make when he is stimming, then it was the buzzing "X" noise from "America's Got Talent".   After I sufficiently annoyed myself and considered changing the number on my sleep number bed because that's a REALLY important thing to do in the middle of the night, I eventually fell asleep.  I'm guessing it was around 3:45 a.m. because I remember seeing 3:30 on the clock.

Then at 4:15 a.m. I was jolted awake by Ryan crying.  I rushed into his room and was informed that his water bottle was missing and that I "needed to go to the store" to get a new one.  (Naturally, I got right on that!!!)  Of course wanting to help my son, I fumbled around his bed in a half-sleep disoriented hand dance trying to find it but Ryan was right.  It was missing and it had indeed disappeared into some dark vortex.  (Probably with my missing mismatched socks!)  Oh by the way, did I say this was Ryan's favorite water cup to go to sleep with??  Fortunately what could of been a mini-meltdown was averted when I convinced him that because he was such a big boy sleeping in a big boy bed without his brother at home, I was going to go downstairs and get him a very special, "go back to sleep" (and don't call me until the morning) cup and as a BONUS (big meaning word to Ryan), it would include ice!

I don't remember much after that except tripping over something on the way back to bed and not being particularly impressed.  (Walls and furniture have a tendency to jump out at me... )

At 7:30 a.m. my alarm went off but instead of hitting the snooze, I actually got my big buns out of bed and started my day.  I was in a good mood but I wouldn't call it chipper.  I don't think I'll ever be "chipper" at that time of day running on fumes.  :-)

I went to my computer and made sure I had Ryan's introduction letter and picture ready to share with his Camp Kiddo counselors.  Many adults even with the best-meaning intentions have a tendency to freak out when you let them know that your child has autism.  There is a look they get on their face.

Micro-expressions tell all!  Sometimes it is a look of compassion, sometimes it's "poor you", sometimes it's "oh S*&!", usually it is, "okay, I want to do my best to help but I'm not sure exactly how".  We try to alleviate some of that panic, fear, confusion or whatever it is by presenting an introductory sheet that tells about our kids, about their likes, dislikes, challenges, special interests, triggers, tendencies, etc.

If I am going to entrust my child to another person even if it's just for a few hours, I want he/she to feel comfortable knowing I'm willing to partner with them and give them the information about my son they need to have the best possible experience.  So far, it has worked out really well.  I also consider it part of advocacy.

Children and adults on the autism spectrum and with Asperger's Syndrome present in so many different ways that you can't easily define what someone who is autistic is like.  Many people have preconceived notions about what autism looks like or sounds like because they have known a neighborhood kid or distant relative or person at church that had autism.  Perhaps they read a couple articles or saw Jenny McCarthy or Holly Robinson-Peete on TV.  Maybe they watched an episode of Parenthood or a Dateline special.  There is so much out there nowadays about autism and yet there is still so little understanding and common knowledge. There is so much dissention even in the autism community that it is no wonder people who do not have a personal connection with autism get perplexed!

Anyway... that's stuff is for another blog.  I'm getting a little tired here, so please bear with me!  I'm heading back on track!

Back to Camp Kiddo....  so at about 8:30 am. I got to Camp Kiddo with Ryan and dropped him off.  I had signed him up online initially but unfortunately they didn't have a printout of anything I had filled out indicating his special needs so it was a very good thing I had my information sheet with me until I had time to fill out a new set of paperwork.

I went home, power-worked (and fantasized about sleeping) and then went back to pick Ryan up, eagerly anticipating what he and his camp counselor might say.  Fortunately, Ryan did wonderful and had a great time!!  He showed off his counting skills and knack for numbers, got to play on the playground, participated in some outdoor games and did a great job listening.  He was a bit giggly and goofy but I'll definitely take that!

A surprise I was unaware of was that the kids were provided with a free lunch.  (Camp ends shortly after noon so I didn't expect this.)  Today's menu was TUNA FISH SANDWICH!  Okay, seriously, what 4 or 5 year old eats tuna fish and tomato on a sandwich??? Am I out of line here or does that just sound gross to most pre-school and Kindergarten palates? (And me?)

Ryan to his credit didn't yell out "YUCKY!!!!!!" like he normally does when foods offend him.  He apparently did take a tiny piece of the bread that was "not tuna fishy" and nibbled.  My guess is that it was a very small nibble but hey, it was a nibble and kudos to him!!!  He then ate all his carrots, drank his milk and stuck his banana in his backpack.  (This is something I'm glad I found out about from his camp counselor before we left, otherwise I would have been playing "what's that mystery smell????" later!)

Both Ryan and I are looking forward to him returning to Camp Kiddo tomorrow! I'll be dropping him off in the morning and then John should be back in time to go with me to pick him up.  I know Ryan will love seeing his Dad and I'm positive the feeling will be mutual.  We all miss Dad!

Meanwhile, from Camp Meriwether, I have some very exciting news to pass along.  Justin had a swim test today to see what kind of water activities he'd be allowed to participate in and also as a requirement for some of his advancements.  The test was in a lake and Justin has never swam outside of a pool so he was understandably nervous.  I know John will be blogging about this from Life and Times of John Krejcha on Tuesday so I don't want to take away his story telling but I just have to announce that not only did Justin pass the requirements for second class swimming but he blew past that and passed the First Class swim test as well!

He told his Dad right before the test that he was inspired by Ryan and was going to be a "flying fishy" just for him.  As a point of reference, we have a fairly large aquarium in our home with lots of fish and every night they're included in our prayers.  Ryan has taken lately to calling them all "flying fishies" and so when I heard that Justin said he was going to be a flying fishy during his swim test in honor of his brother, I was incredibly touched.  I'll let John share the rest of the story and give you the tales from Camp Meriwether but so far, it sounds like Justin is acclimating well, participating in a lot of activities and embracing lots of new challenges.  Hooray, Justin!

The big test will be when John is away and Justin has to get through routine activities on his own.  We are hoping and praying that he'll pass that test with flying colors (and flying fishies!!!!) but if he has challenges, we hope he will learn from them and use them as an opportunity to stretch his comfort zone. If you're the praying kind, please say a prayer for him for inner strength, a positive attitude, self-confidence and the ability to socialize, let go and have fun.  Thanks!  :-)

I just checked the clock and it's 1:25 a.m. (1:53 a.m. after the edits) so I'm going to try heading off to bed since I have another early morning wake-up call and quite frankly, I'm exhausted.   I really do not like sleeping alone and I hope the insomnia episode of last night is a thing of the past because I really don't need odd theme songs running through my head in the wee hours of the morning.  I'll probably just snuggle up with my favorite soft stuffed tiger and reflect upon how proud I am of my children and their successes today.  Each son came as he was and was accepted for who he was.  Each son let his light shine!!

More blogging soon!  :-)
Don't you forget to Let Your Light Shine too!  


Thanks for stopping by!
Karen

Monday, June 28, 2010

Making that Midnight Self-Imposed Deadline... Silly Me!

Hello Aspierations Readers!

If you happened to come across my blog back in April, I was really doing some power blogging back then.  In celebration of April being Autism Awareness month, I made a pledge to blog every single day that month.  To those of you out there who are prolific writers, that might seem easy.  To me, even though I certainly can and do create some lengthy posts, I have to feel inspired to write.  I have dealt with writer's block for years or what I termed in an earlier blog as "writer's dam."  (Check out my blogs from April 27th - Pontificating about Procrastinating and the beginning of April 3rd for more about this.)

Daily deadlines really don't do it for me and yet in April, I was able to get every day's entry in on time.  That was because I was very strongly dedicated to my commitment to do some sort of promotion toward Autism & Asperger's Awareness every day in April.  Integrity and accountability are very important to me.  So are my boys, big and small!!

I bring this all up because I noticed (and you will too if you read back through my April archives) that a LOT of my blog posts were being posted between 11:30 p.m. and midnight.  Recently, I've been finding myself back at that point again.  Last night I blew it and posted at 12:37 a.m. but the blog was started somewhere around 11:30 pm.   Funny thing is that I was really irked with myself for being late.  Ridiculous really!  It isn't like I'm some famous writer on a deadline with a huge fanbase of readers eagerly awaiting my next blog but I'm the kind of person who puts pressure on herself for all sorts of things!

Of course, if any of you out there in cyberland is a fan and is eagerly awaiting my next posting, you can always let me know! Sometimes I feel like I'm "talking" to myself out here.  :-)

Yes, I know these little "post by midnight" deadlines I impose upon myself are rather silly but it's just another one of those idiosyncrasies that makes up who I am.

If you want to know a little more about me and my tendencies, be sure to check out my Aspie Quiz post from Thursday, February 11th.  Take a look at my graph and the results below the graph.  Take the quiz on your own if you'd like and let me know how you compare.  I'm always interested in learning more about those who happen across my blog.

Here is a link:  Aspie Quiz!

If you ever want to find me online during Pacific Standard Time, you now know the best time to reach me!

I'll be blogging again in a few minutes because I have a lot to share about Monday!  This blog post was originally supposed to be about today's family adventures but being that I have a tendency to go off on a tangent, I'll leave this post as is and start another one with a different topic.  :-)  You get BONUS blogging from me today!

Have a wonderful evening / day / morning!
Let Your Light Shine!
Karen

Justin and Ryan - Brothers Away but Together in Heart!

There are many people out there in this world who are morning people who rise from their beds cheery, energized and ready to start their day.  Some of them probably don't even use alarm clocks.  They're naturally caffeinated.

I need the alarm clock... and the 10 minute snooze button... and the 10 minute snooze button again. When I was in college, I would set my alarm an hour early so I'd have 6 snoozes before I had to officially get up.  Lest you think I'm quirky (which I am but that's beside the point), there is likely a Facebook group with thousands of people who do the same thing!  Late night owls and snoozers unite!  :-)

On Sunday morning all of our family was up before 7:30 a.m., something that doesn't normally happen on a Sunday.  Today was special.  Justin and John left for a week of Boy Scout Camp at Camp Meriwether in Oregon.  John will be with him Sunday and Monday, then home Tuesday and Wednesday and then back at camp again Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  I am SO PROUD of Justin for embarking on this adventure and challenge.  I am also very impressed with John for all he is doing to help Justin with Scouting.  I will be blogging more about all that stuff later this week!  

As for me, I'll be taking Ryan to Camp Kiddo (yes, that's really the name!!) in the mornings from Monday - Friday and then will be hosting Camp Krejcha, party of 2 in the afternoons and evenings.  

John and I were a bit apprehensive about how the boys would deal with not being in each other's company for an entire week. They love each other so much!  Last night neither son wanted to go to bed alone.  Although they eventually did, we let Ryan have some snuggle time with Justin first and then this morning, he crawled into bed with him.  It is amazing and touching the special bond that Justin and Ryan share, especially considering that they are over 6 years apart.  Justin is an amazing protector of Ryan and Ryan absolutely adores his big brother. 

John remarked last night as we were watching them play together that Justin and Ryan have a special sibling relationship that neither he or I ever had.  We are blessed that they can experience this and feel so lucky and honored to be able to raise such amazing boys.

As a little background, I was an only child growing up.  I was adopted shortly after birth.  When I was 18 (almost 19) and in my sophomore year of college, my birthmother located me and soon after we met at the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz, CA.  At that time, I met my 2 younger half-sisters who were 6 and 4.  Over the years that followed, we would get together sporadically.  I did see them occasionally and at special occasions like graduations and weddings.  I love them and consider them my sisters but I know that their relationship with each other is majorly different and stronger than my relationship with them because they grew up in the same household and are close in age.  I'm okay with that.  It obviously makes lots of sense!

John has 7 half-siblings, 3 on his mother's side and 4 on his father's. He is the only child of his Mom & Dad.  He has expressed that he felt in many ways what he perceived to be as an only child for his later years growing up since the 2 sisters and 1 brother he lived with were around 6, 7 and 8 years older and were all full siblings.  By the time John was in his teens, his siblings were off to college and then marriage, so it was definitely a different kind of dynamic for him and them than with them and each other.

John and I don't really like saying "half-sister" or "half-brother" because we feel it demeans the sibling relationship and we certainly don't want to disrespect anyone in our respective extended families.  The reason I mention it here is because when it comes to bloodline, it's pretty amazing that between us we have 9 half siblings but neither John or I have a full sibling.  As such, we don't have that point of reference in raising the kiddos.  It's not a negative, just part of who we are.    

When we observe the strong connection between Justin and Ryan, we speculate it's partly genetic, partly social, partly environmental, partly a spectrum connection and partly because we do our best to make sure they have lots of time together and with us as a family unit.

So anyway, getting back to the point I was originally leaning toward, when it came time for Justin to go to camp this morning, he definitely wanted Ryan to be awake to say good-bye to him, give him hugs, kisses and a big send-off.  It was so sweet to watch.

After John and Justin left, Ryan and I stayed up and then later in the morning, we kept our Sunday routine of over a year and went to church.  I dropped Ryan off at his Sunday preschool and went to worship.  I thought of my family many times throughout the service and prayed for everyone's safety, sanity and positive attitude throughout the week ahead. 

When I went to pick Ryan back up after service, the first thing he said was, "Where's Daddy & Justin?".  I let him know they were at camp. Ryan told me that "he'd like to wait for them" before we left the church and subsequently sat down to do so.  Of course that wasn't really feasible but it was very sweet.  

Throughout the day he asked about his brother and Dad many times. I showed him their pictures, we went over social stories and for the most part, he seemed okay.  He has done overnights away from Justin before but never anything at all like this for either boy, so we'll just keep taking it one day at a time.  I had him draw pictures for the two that we'll mail out to camp tomorrow and I'm sure that will lift their spirits!  John was able to get cell phone reception at the camp and reach us to share a bit about their day and to say nightly prayers over the phone with Ryan and keep that part of the routine going. 

I have a lot more to share but will save that for tomorrow.  I need to get up early to get Ryan to Camp Kiddo and I have to make sure that I have the alarm set correctly!  I'm going to try it with just 2 snoozes this time!

Hope you have a fantastic Monday (or whatever day you're reading this)!
Karen

Friday, June 25, 2010

WHALE in the Pool ?? No Wailing Here!

Whales, Whales, Whales!!!



Usually in our house, we're more likely to hear wails than see whales.  This week, we were in for a different surprise!

Justin (10) and Ryan (4) started swim lessons again a couple months ago.  In my blog on June 19th, I wrote about Swimming Along the Autism Spectrum - Choosing the Freestyle and if you haven't already read it, I invite you to check it out through the above link.

Tuesdays and Thursdays have been their swim lesson days.  Each session includes 8 thirty minute lessons over a 4 week period and the last lesson usually has extra time for bonus play.  In that 4 week period, a variety of skills are covered depending on the level of the class.  

John usually takes the boys to lessons as it gives me some quiet time in the late afternoon to get work done.  However since this week was their last week of lessons for the next couple of months, I wanted to make sure to go watch their accomplishments and cheer them on!

I'm not a huge fan of large public pools and especially pool changing and showering areas.  I have some sensory issues and part of it is the smell (lots of chlorine), part of it is the feel of walking on wet tile barefoot knowing other people are walking on it too and part of it is walking around in a bathing suit in public with a lot of people around.  That being said, Justin and Ryan both asked that I watch them from the pool area and not the waiting area outside.  In order to watch from the pool area during lessons time, you have to be in a bathing suit and hang out in the hot tub area while lessons are going on.  I didn't want to disappoint my boys so I put my insecurities aside and  sucked it up.  I'm so glad I did!

The boys did great in their individual lessons.  Justin was a bit nervous having me there but I was so proud of him.  He worked so hard to improve his swimming this go-around as he heads off to Boy Scout Camp for a week this Sunday (more on this later!!!!) and they test the boys there to see what water activities they'll be allowed to participate in.  I watched him try out the freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke.  Justin has come such a long way!  He does not let his Asperger's Syndrome define him!



Ryan was rather rambunctious in his class but apparently, that is not too unusual.  When you're the only guy in a group full of girls, it stands to reason there might be a little showing off!



However when it was time to get down to business, Ryan was ready to go!




At the end of the session on Tuesday, we all went home together and all were in good spirits.  When it was time for Ryan to go to bed, I was in his room for nightly prayers waiting for John and Justin and he whispered to me, "....(indistinguishable).. applesauce... (mumble), WHALE!!!!"  I asked him to repeat himself but he whispered even softer and all I heard was "..... (mumble), leg  (mumble)  WHALE!!!  shhhhhh".

When Ryan talks very softly and is hard to understand, getting down to his level, looking him in the eye and talking in a soft calm tone often works wonders.  In this case, it opened Ryan right up and he shared with me in the tone of a co-conspirator, "Mommy, when I was at the pool today, I had to sit criss-cross applesauce so that the WHALE wouldn't get me in the leg."

"The whale? What whale?"

"The whale that was in the pool...."

Hmm....   I had been at the pool that day and had not seen a whale.  I didn't remember children being hurried out of the pool because of a large mammal sighting but then again, I was focusing on my children rather than whale watching.  That being said, Ryan was absolutely insistent there was a whale in the pool and so when we put him to bed, we included all whales in our daily prayers and thanked God that the whale in the pool did not get his leg.

I told John the story later that night and he laughed saying that Ryan had shared a very similar story with him.  Ryan takes things very literally and imaginative story-telling is not something he has been prone to so I asked John how he thought Ryan would have gotten the impression that there was a whale in the pool AND that he had to sit "criss-cross applesauce" so that the whale did not get him. 

 I guess in prior lessons when all the kiddos were sitting on the pool edge, Ryan had taken to kicking the water when he shouldn't have and in the process, splashed the kids and instructors in the face.   John thought it very likely that one of the two swim instructors wanted Ryan to sit still during the lesson and therefore told him the whale of a tale!

On Wednesday I asked Ryan who told him that there was a whale in the pool and he immediately replied, "instructors".  Mystery solved!!   Of course, it all turned out well and was actually rather hilarious looking back on it but I could see in certain circumstances, if "the whale in the pool" story was shared with another child on the autism spectrum, it might have gone a very different direction.  Fortunately, Ryan took it all in stride.

As I was writing this blog, Ryan came to sit on my lap and look at pictures of his swim lessons.  I asked him which instructor told him about the whale and he fingered this guy!


Still, it looks like there might be a conversation going on in the picture below as well!


Perhaps he was just asking Ryan about his success with the ladies!  GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS!

On Thursday we went back to lessons again and the boys received their recognition and progress cards from their instructors.

In the past, this has been something we don't make a very big deal of because the boys have always been given suggestions for improvement and recommended to repeat their classes.  Rather than make it about pass / fail, we placed the emphasis on trying and learning new skills.

Well this time, when Justin got his card, it came with an extra special bonus.  Justin passed level 4 and was advanced to level 5.  He was standing next to John when the instructor told him and his smile beamed from ear to ear.  It was one of those special moments for him.  Academically, Justin is ahead of his age group and has received recognition in school before.  With athletics, it's been a bigger challenge.  It has been one that Justin has embraced but he knows he has to work a lot harder at it than other kids.  He tries really hard but doesn't always see the results he hopes to. Well when he saw that PASS, "my next class should be level 5", we knew it was a big deal and a great boost to his confidence.  It is often moments like these that come at unexpected times that really make a difference in the way kids feel about themselves.

SO WAY TO GO, Justin!   

Ryan had a card too and although we hadn't expected him to advance to the next level, there were some nice notes on the card about his effort.  He flipped the card over to show me that he was a proud member of the Turtles class and that turtles were nice animals.

That made me ask Justin to flip over his card to see what animal class he had been in.  Wouldn't you know it?  Justin was in the WHALES class!

So I guess there was a whale in the pool after all!  It was Ryan's brother!!



Hope you have an awesome weekend!  Mine will be spent in semi-panic mode as I prepare for Justin to go off to Boy Scout camp for a week on Sunday (watch tomorrow's blog), John to go off to camp with him for half of that time (Sunday and Monday then home Tuesday and Wednesday, then back to camp for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.)  I will be with Ryan all that time running the business and likely running around in circles too as I try to keep tabs on the little Taz.

Wish us all luck!  We're all going through some major schedule & routine changes this next week and it is bound to be an interesting adventure.  I know I'll have lots to blog about!!

Remember this weekend to Let Your Light Shine!!!
Karen

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Just for the Record, I HATE Computer Hardware & Software Issues!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Confirmed.  Virtual primal screams just don't have that same rejuvenating effect that live ones do!  It was worth a shot though.  Goodness knows, almost anything was worth a try today in an attempt at calmness and self-regulation!

I'm sure many of you out there have heard the idiom, "When it rains, it pours."  Well, it has been pouring here both literally and figuratively.  If you are familiar with Washington state, you know that you don't move here unless you have a taste for the rain.  Personally, I love the rain as long as I'm not driving in it!

I haven't had the best of days workwise so this blog post may start out with a bit of a vent.  Be forewarned.

Our Count Your Beans Dolls & Bears family business is run online.  We sell at eBay, Amazon, in occasional silent auction through our CYB blog and primarily through our website.  Occasionally we take phone calls but that is the exception rather than the norm. We market online through a variety of channels including Twitter & our CYB page at Facebook.  I field a substantial amount of emails each week in addition to listing auctions, updating sales channels, websites, marketing, communicating with customers and vendors and proactively trying to stay positive and keep our business afloat in an economy which isn't currently favoring our industry.  I try to ignore that and have it favor us anyway!  :-)

As such, it is imperative that I have functioning computers, functioning email, functioning hardware, functioning software, functioning printers, functioning brain, etc so that I can do my work.  If I don't, then you can guess what happens.  I'm screwed...  (Didn't mean to offend anyone there, it's just the word that I'm in the mood right now to use.)

These past few days have been a technical nightmare for me.  I have had problems with AOL, IE, my HP printers, the HP drivers and 2 of my HP computers.  I would not call myself a computer expert by any means of the imagination but I'm a fairly experienced user and what I've been going through has been ridiculously irritating and patience testing.  Fortunately, there are no viruses, just a whole bunch of apparent compatibility issues, dll files that have gone "missing", IE crashes, AOL crashes... the list goes on and on.

In fact, I used Google Chrome tonight to get to my blog to write since IE keeps "unexpectedly shutting down" every few minutes.  Since it has happened dozens of times and I seem to be doing a fairly good job now of predicting it, I wouldn't really call it "unexpected", but who am I to question Bill Gates and Microsoft? (It is times like this that I miss my college Mac!  Heck, today, I even missed my Apple IIe!)

Anyway, how the recent round of computer issues started was that we got a new wireless all-in-one printer a few weeks ago because our last one was the victim of a curious 4 year old who was interested in its inner workings.

When I was in bed sleeping one morning, John decided to be "helpful" and try to install the drivers & software on my system for me. (Please note, I already had 1 working printer that I was connected to.) Unfortunately, bless his heart, John had recently spent 3 -4 hours the previous day trying to figure out how to do this through his own system and he had problem after problem after problem. He has many God given talents in this world but this is not his forte'.  I asked him whatever he did, to please not mess with my computer because we couldn't afford (financially and emotionally) to have problems.  "Let me take care of it please."

As a bit of background, in 11 years of business, we have gone through many computers, computer crashes, reformatted hard drives and so forth and in almost every instance where there was a problem with my computer, it started when someone who didn't request permission did something on my computer when I wasn't around.  It is not only an invasion of privacy to me but at times it felt like sabotage.  Why? I just don't know. It makes no sense but after a few times of it happening, you begin to wonder... I have tried to advocate for myself in my relationship but I guess I need to keep on working on those skills because I must not be doing a very good job.   I can't tell you how many hundreds of hours of time, thousands of hours of lost work (once the computer & back-up were destroyed) and thousands of dollars it has cost me to deal with these computer issues over the years.

I hesitate putting this out here because it paints a picture that I don't like others to see.  Still I would have to imagine others have relationship issues where respect and privacy can sometimes be a challenge.  If you're with someone long enough, all sorts of issues are bound to arise.  I try to forgive others, learn from the mistakes and challenges, communicate and move forward.  I also try to forget past transgressions but I'm not so good at that.  Forgiving others is easier than forgetting.  Forgiving myself?  Well, if you read my blog from Saturday, June 12th, you'll know I have a long way to go but I'm working on it! 

Anyway, I'm still in the midst right now of trying to fix things with my computer area.  I have two computers networked together that I use, a printer and now a "back-up" bonus printer.  I am tempted to call in some sort of IT wiz but I'm so afraid he/she will do something to my system to screw it up more. (This has happened in the past so I am very hesitant.)  I also don't have the funds right now I am anticipating it might cost to have someone come in as we just spent unexpected money on car repairs, health issues & stuff the kids needed and my money tree hasn't quite replenished itself yet.

In our family, it often feels like we're the Geek Squad (I use that term lovingly).  Right now, I definitely could use a computer guru (my son will be there in a few years) AND squad, a trustworthy auto mechanic, a house handyman (clone my Dad please), a personal trainer and a life coach!  (A masseuse wouldn't be bad either but now I'm getting greedy!)

My rant is officially over....

Now I'm going to say something positive!

I am blessed in so many ways.  The opportunity to be able to have the kind of technology I do, to be able to live in the country I do, to be able to run my own business, to be able to stay home with my kids...   all of that means WAY WAY WAY much more than the irritation and frustration over some computer issues.

That stuff is really minor when I think about it.  I  have two eyes that see, two ears that hear, a nose that smells, legs that walk, a mouth that smiles and laughs, a body that can do so many amazing things!

God has blessed me with so much!   All this material stuff... it's all his.    The challenges he sends my way... they're so I grow stronger.  If I fail or struggle in my relationships, it's an opportunity for me to learn from my mistakes and make changes.

Those computer problems aren't so bad after all when put into that perspective.  In fact, I embrace them!  Well, perhaps that is a bit much... (I still feel like chucking my computer out the 2nd story window.)  Tomorrow when I wake up, I will embrace them!

And hey... I would embrace your friendship as well.  Feel free to leave me a comment on this blog or one of the others.  If you'd like me to email you back personally, just let me know how to contact you, otherwise, I'll post in the comments section of my blog. 

If you want to post anonymously, that is cool too!  I respect your privacy but am interested in the comments of my visitors. (Sometimes I look at all those 0 comment posts and hear crickets!!!)


If you have questions for me or are interested in me writing about any particular topic, I'm open to that too!  Thanks for your support! 
Here is to primal screams helping replenish dreams!

Karen

Monday, June 21, 2010

This Summer Is Going To Be Anything But ROUTINE - Help!

Hello Aspierations Friends,

Welcome to the first official day of Summer!  Ryan was so excited this morning.  He has a calendar he changes daily with the day, month, season, weather and the emotion he's feeling and today he got to change Spring to Summer!  :-)


(This was from his birthday but it gives you an idea of what the calendar is like)

This is part of Ryan's daily routine and ever since Ryan got out of school last week, it has been practically the ONLY THING in his day other than bedtime that has stayed on schedule.  It has indeed been a challenge and although I love my boys, my schedule is REALLY off too!  The power-work I could usually get done in the time we had both boys at school is now taking many extra hours to do.  Of course, in addition to being business owner, blogger, entrepreneur, family financial manager, wife and Mom, I am also filling in with John as Summer Entertainment Director because goodness knows, there is "nothing to do" around here. 

Parents, I would think many of you can empathize! In just two days after school ended, "I'm BOOOOOOOORED!", "Can I download this software? It's only $100.", "Can I have Cheetos as my lunch?" and "Mom, come play EYEBALL and wrestle" are now becoming part of the daily vernacular in the Krejcha household.  Of course, Ryan is easier to entertain than Justin.  He loves his cars, he loves Tom & Jerry, he loves blowing bubbles and playing outside and he loves being in motion.  He's constantly seeking thrills and as such, we are regularly on-call to monitor him and to make sure our house isn't completely torn up. 

Incidentally, I've also noticed that Ryan has decided now that school is out, clothing is optional again after coming out of the bathroom.  He also needs to announce his bowel movements.  (TMI, I know.) After a school year of working on getting him potty trained, we're totally hoping there won't be a regression over the summer.  The summer of 2009 was definitely the one of the "incredibly naked baby"... as he loved to declare to the world!

Yes, both Justin and Ryan finished their school year last week.  Ryan completed his first year of preschool and Justin was "promoted" from 5th grade to middle school.  (For some silly reason, they called it promotion and not "graduation".  Don't ask me why!)  We're so proud of them both!


Here's Justin getting his "Promotion" certificate from his teacher, Mrs. Schwartz. Wonderful teacher!

Of course, Card and Party doesn't carry, "Promotion 2010" napkins and favors, so when we had our Old Spaghetti Factory Party celebrating the end of school, we had to settle with "Celebrate 2010"


I don't think the boys minded though.  The spaghetti still seemed edible!




Spaghetti could be eaten in our household every day!


Before the school year ended, Ryan's preschool celebrated their 20th Anniversary with a fun party at the school for current and former students, teachers and families.  Here is Ry in a photo earlier this month with his teacher, Mrs. Boule' and her teaching assistant, Leslie.  Both these ladies are AMAZING.  Ryan came a long way in the 2009-2010 school year and we believe that if he continues to progress at the same pace in 2010-2011, he'll be able to start Kindergarten in Fall 2011 at our local elementary school in a typical classroom with learning support, a program like SCIP and probably a shadow. 

Academically, Ryan is very gifted but socially, emotionally, rules and safety-wise, he's still at least a year behind.  Because he's so tall, people assume he's 5 or 6 and already in Kindergarten or 1st Grade.  They're shocked when they find out he just turned 4 in late May. Of course when people make the natural assumption he's older and try to communicate, it makes for a challenge but Ryan is such a natural light and full of cheer that even if he doesn't "get" what people are saying, his smile will have them smiling back and wanting to work with him.



Hey, Mom? Do you mind if I jump off this play structure?

Since the only time I have to work quietly is after the boys go to sleep and that is when John wants me to shut down and to go to bed, I'm finding it extremely challenging and frustrating to get done what I feel I need to! I'm used to long work days and multi-tasking but sometimes you just need some quiet to get quality work done.  John has very different responsibilities in the business and household than I do and although his are every bit as important in their own right, they don't require the same level of concentration at a computer. (i.e. web design, auction listings, marketing, emails, customer responses)  As our home's "Bonus Room" is our office and houses our desks and computers as well as the kids' computers / electronics and TV, it makes for a very chaotic work area when there are four people in attendance, especially if two of them are doing loud stimming. (Hint, I'm not one of the two...)

Right now it feels like I need a clone or more hours in the day. Respite care or a nanny is outside our financial budget and we don't have family or friends in the area, so like most families with challenges, we pray, make do and appreciate what we're given, try to work harder and more creatively to squeeze a little extra money and we try to turn oranges into orange juice. Pulp-free of course. (I was never all that fond of lemons or lemonade!)

Owning a business and working from home is a blessing but it is also a huge challenge when you have children, let alone kiddos with special needs. Please say a prayer for me that I'll successfully embrace the challenge of this summer and my own change in routine! 

I have so many skills I want to work on with the boys. I have books and articles I want to write. I have so much I want to do with selling our inventory from Count Your Beans and getting some excitement back in marketplace that is really in a slump.  I have so many thoughts and dreams for Aspierations and truly want to be involved in advocacy.  Every Sunday when I am at church, I know that I am meant to step out and do something big with Aspierations.  I just don't have my road map or GPS set yet.  I won't give up on my dreams though just like I'll never want my kids to settle for a label or think they have to live at status quo.   

If that means my routine is thrown off for the summer, so be it. Theirs is too and we all need to work together to see how we can adapt and be proactive instead of reactive.  Easier said than done, I know but I have faith!  With adversity, comes opportunity.  Without challenge, there would be no growth.  Embrace the road less traveled and enjoy the journey!

Here is to a summer that is anything but ROUTINE!

Thanks for stopping by!
Karen

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father of My Boys... A Happy Father's Day Poem to John

Hello!

My first Father's Day post today was honoring my own Dad, Paul who is an amazing, strong, funny and honorable man.

This second post I wanted to be just for John.  Although I could go all "Hallmark" because I care to send the very best, this time I'll just be silly, quirky me.  It's who I am, it's what John would want, and it's a lot more fun anyway!

Incidentally, he is currently sitting at his desk waiting for me to finish "my blog" so that we can go to bed.  Not to put any pressure on me to be brilliant and hurry up my post.... but sheesh, can't you go just downstairs and play a little Mario Kart or Super Mario Brothers on the Wii while I type?  (Kidding, of course... well, sort of...)

Okay... how's this for bizarre?  He just looked at me, said "I'm going downstairs so that you don't feel any pressure on you. Go ahead and take your time.  I'm going to try out some of those new levels." (Gaming is for all ages in our family.)

Hip Hip Hooray!!!  I will now continue with my ode to John, my tribute to the Daddy of my kiddos, my Father's Day card for the world to see.  While I don't have time to build a small monument, hopefully you'll enjoy my creation!

And without further ado...

Happy Father's Day, John!

Father's Day means a day to relax,

A day not to work, to email or fax.

Taking time for yourself, without lots of noise...

Having me head the household, picking up all the toys.

Eat what you want, we'll go out and dine,

Ring up that tab, 'cause the bill will be mine!


Our days are so crazy with so much to do...

Forget all your worries, today is about YOU!


My love, I appreciate the man that you are.

Your Dadliness is awesome, the kids say "You're a STAR!"


Being there to support them is sexy and strong.

One day at a time, teaching right, diverting wrong.

You don't define by labels, you accept and empower...

So enjoy this day fully, 'cause I'll even let you SHOWER!!




**** I love you, John!  Thanks for being such an amazing father to Justin and Ryan and for being there for me as well!  Enjoy the day.... go crazy... maybe even take a BUBBLE BATH!!!  ****

Love,
Karen

copyright 2010, Karen Krejcha (because who else would come up with gems like this?)

Happy Father's Dad, Dad / Grandpa! We Love You!!

Happy Father's Day to all you Dads out there! 

This post is a tribute to my own Dad!  Afterwards, I'll do one for my husband, John but this one, Dad is all for you!  I promise not to "write a book" as you always kid.

My father, Paul is a man of great character.  He has shown me love, strength, support, humor, responsibility and acceptance.  He and my Mom, Peggy adopted me when I was just a few weeks old and I have always known in my heart and been made to feel that I am their daughter and they are my loving Mom & Dad.  (Of course during the teenage years, they may have wondered what they got themselves into with the whole adoption process...  Thankfully those years are now behind us!)

My Dad will be 80 pretty soon and we are looking forward to seeing him, tasting some of his grilled steaks and playing on the putting green in the family backyard.  My Dad has been a golfer for as long as I can remember and it's awesome that he still gets out on the course regularly.  I love the sport too, learning how to play in college, although admittedly, I don't currently have the time to enjoy it unless it is in miniature form.  Someday I hope our whole family can enjoy the game.  I have two kiddos that are lefties so it will be interesting teaching them but I'm always up for a challenge!

So Dad, when you eventually happen across this blog post (I'll send you the link), please know that I LOVE YOU, admire you and thank you for being so good to me, John, Justin and Ryan.  You're #1 in our book!



Gilroy Gardens, Summer 2009

We LOVE YOU, Dad / Grandpa!!!!!
Karen, John, Justin and Ryan

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Swimming Along The Autism Spectrum - Choosing the Freestyle



Here is a picture of the four of us.  This was the last time we swam in my parents pool in CA.  It became too hard to maintain and so they filled it in and turned it into a putting green.  Golf is great but I cherish the memories in that pool!

Hello Aspierations visitors and blog friends!

With the first official day of summer coming upon us, it's about time for some warmer weather here in Washington state.  When we first moved here from California almost 3 years ago, I really wanted to find a house with a swimming pool.  It turns out that in Vancouver, WA and probably a large portion of Washington, that isn't so easy to find.

It rains here a fair amount and I guess many of the people that choose to raise their children here aren't so concerned with maintaining a swimming pool when there are natural pools of water outside quite frequently.  Although the house we ended up picking out did not have a pool, I still someday would love to have one.

Until then, we do have this for those particularly hot days!


Oh yes, we also have a Slip and Slide.  I had a yellow one of those when I was a kid and I recall more slipping than sliding.  I used to call it the big banana, because you'd peel onto it.  (Ba-Da-Bing, Ba-Da-Boom!)

Remembering my childhood days of charm and grace, I haven't dared the backyard one yet. Aside from the fact, it's made for kids, I figured I'd save the broken bones for teaching the boys to snow ski!  :-) 



Since we won't be having a pool anytime soon, there is fortunately a really nice community center nearby that has a super pool for the kids. It has a lap pool and great areas for lessons, a fairly decent waterslide, a lazy river and an aquatic play area for the little ones.  The pool is indoors which shouldn't seem odd to most, but having grown up in California with lots of sunny days, it still seems bizarre to me to go inside a building to go swimming, especially if it's on a very rainy day!

Our boys really love the water, whether it be a bathtub or a pool and we think it's imperative they know how to swim so Justin has been taking lessons here off and on for the past couple of years. Two years ago, shortly after Ryan's autism diagnosis, Ryan took a Mommy & Me class (so FUN, we loved it together), a Daddy & Me class and now he has progressed to his own class with preschoolers where he can flirt up a storm!



Ryan is the second kiddo in line. He is the only boy in a class filled with girls and he loves it!!

Although the boys absolutely love the water once they're in, the coordination it takes to learn to swim has been a bit of a challenge thus far.  We are so very proud of Justin and how far he has come in just the last few lessons.  John has been attending with him and tells me that his backstroke is coming along and he's now learning the breaststroke.  John used to be on a competitive swim team growing up so its really neat to see him share the love of the water with our sons.



The local Parks & Rec has great inclusion programs and we've always been very lucky finding instructors who are open to working in the water with children with Autism and Asperger's.  At this point, the boys have always been in typical swim classes but we let the instructors know in advance about the boys being on the spectrum and what to possibly expect.

Of course that doesn't always mean there won't be surprises.  I remember during the Mommy and Me class where Ryan always wanted to drink the pool water so I had to hold him in such a way that he wouldn't quickly grab a big gulp. It was awkward indeed but saved some tummy upsets!

The biggest surprise to date was when Ryan's class was taking turns jumping into the pool to their instructor.  Ryan was really excited and very anxious to take his turn.  The little girl in front of him was much more hesitant and so Ryan took the initiative to fix that issue and pushed her into the pool!  As Justin would say, OMG!!!!  I wasn't there at the time or I would have been mortified.  (I may have inappropriately laughed first.  I certainly did afterwards when the story was retold.)  John DID see the incident and well... what can you do except apologize profusely and hope that the little girl's Mom didn't see what happened.   Fortunately we worked with Ryan and the situation hasn't repeated itself.  (Cross your fingers!!!)

Ryan is a child with relatively no fear and for a parent, that is terrifying.  He has an extremely high threshhold for pain and his senses are heightened in certain areas.  If he's hurt, he won't always tell us. So he's also the kind of kid that might just rush and jump into a pool without any thought about what comes next. 

A lot of children and adults with autism spectrum disorders are drawn to the water and I have to say personally, it is incredibly relaxing and therapeutic for me to be in the water, whether it be a cool pool or a hot tub.  Speaking of which, if you're ever in Palo Alto, CA, you have to check out Room #8 at Watercourse Way.  It's splendid!

Sometimes I take a look at my journey over the past year and my boys' journey over the past two and I feel like we're each swimming along the spectrum in our own unique way.  

Sometimes we swim the backstroke because there are days we definitely move backwards. Some days it is the crawl because we inch forward slowly.  Sometimes it is all you can do to just tread water and make it through the day. Most of the time it is freestyle because we tend to do our own thing and make our own way from one end of the pool to the other.  

And occasionally.... on those very special days, it is the butterfly stroke, where we come out of our cocoons, spread our wings and transform in a big leap forward to a brand new accomplishment or positive life change!

Whether you prefer freestyle or butterfly or you find yourself doing the backstroke or treading water, it certainly doesn't hurt to take the advice of Dori from Finding Nemo no matter what kind of day you find yourself a part of.

Keep on swimming, keep on swimming!!

Hope you have an awesome weekend!
Karen

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Special Thanks to a Great Trio of Aspierations Visitors!

Hello Aspierations Friends,

I want to give a very special thanks and shout out to John, June and Gavin for their recent comments on my blog post from June 12th, A 20 Year Anniversary I Don't Always Want to Remember... The Night I Was Raped.  Your words of support, love and encouragement have touched me deeply and have shown me just how wonderful, loving and amazing each of you are!  I am honored that we have connected in each other's lives, albeit in very different ways!

That was SUCH a hard and emotional blog for me to write and for a few days afterwards, I was deeply impacted by the content of what I wrote.  I went back numerous times to read the blog comments and then of course followed that up by rereading my blog post, which was pretty deep and certainly not short!

I do find it was very therapeutic to let my thoughts out in the way that I did.  That being said, it's time for me to move forward, work on forgiving myself and embrace my Aspierations! 

I will being doing a special blog post on Friday which I am tentatively going to title, "Swimming Through The Spectrum".  My sons Justin and Ryan are currently on summer break and taking swimming lessons.  I am very proud of them both and would like to share some thoughts on their love for the water!

Have a great night!!
Karen

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A 20 Year Anniversary I Don't Always Want To Remember.... The Night I was Raped

Hello Aspierations Friends,

I don't know if anyone out there noticed I haven't been blogging recently but it has been on my mind quite a bit lately.  It certainly isn't that I haven't had anything I wanted to say. 

I've been caught between going in a couple different directions.  The first direction, the easy way so to speak is to share with you some of the recent positive events that have been in happening in my life and in life here at home.  I could share with you my family news, something that my husband John does regularly in his blog at the Life and Times of John Krejcha.  (In all actuality, if you want to follow our family news in somewhat of a daily diary format, his blog is the place to go.)

The more difficult direction is to share some of the challenges and adversities I've been experiencing the past month. Let's just say without going into details yet that I've been having a lot of struggles physically, emotionally and financially and right now in my life, I am at somewhat of a crossroads.  I want to choose the right path.

Being that my blog is called "Aspierations", I've always wanted it to have a positive and uplifting feel to it but I want it to be genuine. I want to have the opportunity to encourage, uplift, empower and perhaps even inspire others on the autism spectrum and the families who love and support them.  In the back of my mind, I've always worried that if I talk too much negative or spend a blog post or two just venting that I will have defeated the purpose of my ultimate mission.

So then the follow-up to that becomes, if I am not true to myself and cannot express when I'm feeling down or challenged, then what good is Aspierations anyway?  Come as you are... Let Your Light Shine... 

Work through the adversity.  Wade through the muck.  Keep the faith, become stronger, set yourself free by being able to truly let others see you as who you are.

Be a Survivor...

Speaking of which... I think I now know which way this blog post was meant to go.  Hang on to your hats, buckle your seatbelts and if you don't like uncomfortable topics, check out my previous blog with Ryan's 4th birthday pictures.  He's such a cutie and bound to bring a smile to your face!

Be a Survivor....

So here goes....

In April I blogged every day and then in May I took a break.  It was originally supposed to be just a day or two rest from blogging but then one day turned into another and before I knew it, the month was over.  Now here we are almost in the middle of June.

I can give you all sorts of reasons why I didn't blog (illness, business, family issues... all of which are true) but after a lot of contemplation, soul-searching, self-lectures and tears, I think I'm beginning to get why I've given myself a leave of absence.  I'll call it an unexcused leave of absence...

In early May of 2010, I "celebrated" (definitely NOT the right choice of word but I'll leave the sarcasm for now) the 20th anniversary of the night that I was raped and lost my virginity.

You don't know how hard that is to leave on the screen.  Truth be told, I have my doubts as to if this blog will ever be published but if you are reading it, then you know that I had the guts and faith (and yes, probably a bit of naivety too) to be able to put this out into the blogosphere.

Usually every year at around that date in early May, I begin having nightmares and bouts of insomnia.  I know in my heart I'm a survivor but I beat myself up again and again and replay over and over the details that led up to the incident, the rape itself and the nightmare that followed.

I was 22 years old at the time.  I had been in a long-term relationship for over 4 1/2 years with the first true love of my life. (Out of respect for him and his family, I won't mention his name here.)  He grew up in a Catholic family and believed in abstinence before marriage.  I totally respected him and his feelings and was willing to wait. He was worth it. In my heart, I truly believed we were soulmates and I was someday going to marry him.

He was an awesome guy, funny, motivated, honest, loyal, athletic, trustworthy, strong, bright and family-oriented.  For the first time in my life, someone "got" me... well, as much as was possible at the time. (The way we met was very unconventional, not particularly safe and not the way I would encourage Aspie girls to go out looking for guys or Aspie guys to go out out looking for girls! I was "cruising the strip" and met him at a stoplight.  I was 17 1/2 and had recently graduated from high school.  He was 19 1/2 and in college. He was 6'3", I was 5'9 1/2".  The fact I thought it was okay to think it was a "safe" thing to do to meet strangers on the strip at a stoplight makes me happy I have boys and not girls. I don't regret the night in any way shape or form but looking back, I was so so so naive safety-wise. I guess I liked to call it risk-taking and since the risk paid off, it positive reinforced my behavior. Fortunately that night all was right in the world.  An angel was definitely watching out for me.)

Young love, first love, so many new experiences.  I realize (especially now knowing that I grew up on the autism spectrum undiagnosed) that I had to have been incredibly overwhelming as a girlfriend, although hopefully I had some redeeming qualities as well other than my love for plain food.  It was by the grace of God that we even met but I believe it was for a reason and that at that point in our lives, we both needed someone on our path.  The fact that we were together for over 4 1/2 years is a testimony to his patience, courage and fortitude.  I really liked his family too.  They were quirky like me and all had good hearts.  Although I won't play doctor, I strongly suspect that his oldest brother and father are somewhere on the autism spectrum and who knows... maybe he might be there himself.  We did both like plain hamburgers and hot dogs and not like vegetables that looked like trees.  Guess what? Not eating vegetables didn't stunt our growth either.  ;-)

Of course, I'll admit, I unfortunately tried to push the issue of marriage on more than one occasion.  I had so much baggage and so little relationship experience that I didn't understand what was socially appropriate.  I could see and feel my baggage and insecurities and lack of social grace coming to the surface many times in an inappropriate way but I didn't know how to process it because I didn't get it. I tried to communiciate with him but I must have been incredibly overwhelming and overpowering.  Not really having any female friends or other close friends I could "talk with", he was my only support network and sounding board and unfortunately, I didn't know when to just be quiet, give space and develop a healthy relationship. Also, I was a gal, he was a guy.  (I cringe when I think about how clingy I probably was. I must have been such a difficult girlfriend.  One of those, if I could turn back time moments...) I guess what I was looking for was a sense of security during a time I was unfortunately feeling very vulnerable and insecure.  With all my relationship "experience" and awkward social graces at the time, I know this came off much stronger than I intended and much much more emotional. 

Through my Aspie eyes, lots of reading and reflecting and the experience of an additional 20 years of life, I can now look back and see that I scared the heck out of him and put on way too much pressure.  If he indeed also was somewhere on the spectrum himself (or at least related) then that adds even a further layer of fear of complexity.  I also had some deeply rooted childhood emotional issues that he knew nothing about and that I certainly hadn't been able to appropriately process at the time. I did know that I didn't want to lose the one relationship in my life that I knew in my heart was right and yet it seemed in retrospect that I did everything (unintentionally) I could to smother it, sabotage it and push away, perhaps because of insecurity, confusion and a lack of social grace. 

That being said, in May 1990, I was starting to get into a better place with myself and I was learning to give my boyfriend his space. I was becoming more confident and secure and coming into my own.  I was performing well in my job at the time and was on track for a promotion and a raise within a month. I had longings to become an entrepreneur on the side and train for the Ladies Pro Bowlers Tour. I had just lost about 25 pounds and was on track to losing that final 20.  I had more body self-confidence than I had ever had.  My bowling was going well.  After leaving Cal Poly a couple years prior due to a whole hostload of crazy reasons I won't get into details with in this blog, including a stalker (seriously), a run-in with a professor who had sexually harrassed me (jerk), a car accident and the fact that I was socially inept during most of my college days, I made the decision to go back to school part-time and was feeling confident.  I was even taking a First Aid class and although that probably is a "so what" to most of you, I had never been able to stick my face on a dummy to give CPR... not in high school health class, not at UCSC, not at Cal Poly.  (I now know that was a sensory issue and related to my autism.  Ahhh if I only had the benefit of some of this knowledge back then...)

I was starting to dream again... and I had hopes and plans for a bright future ahead...

And then came the night of the rape....

I seriously don't know if I can post this.  I started writing at about 8:30 a.m and it's been almost 90 minutes. Now given the fact I can type about 120 WPM, there has been a lot of dragging feet going on here. 

Okay... deep breath.... here goes....

And then came the night of the rape...

You don't want to hear the details.  Really, you don't.  If my parents, husband, kids or friends ever read this blog, they wouldn't want to know the details either.  Quite frankly, I wouldn't want them to know and I've protected others from knowing.  I've been able to desensitize myself over the years by telling it in my head as a story, by pretending I'm an actor in a movie, by pretending I'm writing fiction, by changing the details to make it less horrific.  I've done a pretty good job of separating myself from that for the vast majority of each year.

Then that stupid anniversary date rolls around and BAM, the nightmares, the daymares, the sub-conscious and all that crap comes to the forefront.  Usually it just lasts a couple days.  This year, the 20th anniversary, it lasted about... well... a month.  Not a good month...  Very little sleep.

So maybe if I purge some of that here I can get it out of my head once and for all!  (Yeah, right. Good try!  But if it's just a little bit therapeutic even in the short term, then why not?)  Yes, I do realize I could and probably should "talk to someone" but I've tried that many times before and have never found a counselor that could get me other than in the pocketbook.

Where was I?  Still with me?  Would you tell me if you were?  :-)  It's okay, feel free to lurk.  I realized shortly after I started blogging at Aspierations that most of the people in my life that I had friendship, acquaintance with or relation to from my past (i.e. over say 15 years ago) would probably never post here, even though I have set it up so people can be anonymous, post anonymously, set up an anonymous way to follow or be clever and use pseudonyms.

I figured there might be a few that came here once or twice out of curiousity, found out that the quirky gal they thought they "knew" way back when was on the autism spectrum, perhaps had an "aha" moment (so that's why she was so shy, quiet and "different") and then headed back to their lives, perhaps coming back once in awhile to peek and see how much I was willing to disclose to the world.

Ironically if you were to meet me in person, you'd probably describe me as very quiet and amiable unless you were one of the very few who I felt comfortable opening up to.  My writing personality is extroverted. I am introverted unless putting on my "mask" or with people I feel safe with.  Yes, at 42 years old I'm still working on my social skills.  I'm sure that all the writing I do here wouldn't be considered socially appropriate by most, but what the heck?  It's not like those people really give a darn about me anyway.  :-)  I guess now instead of scaring others away in person, I have the ability to send them away with my long, drawn out writing.  So that being said, just in case there is anyone still with me, thanks!!  I'm going to continue on in just a few moments because I feel like I still need to tell some of my stories to the world just in case there is someone else out there that may someday need to read or hear it.

Tangent alert....

Those of you with tween, teenage or early 20 something daughters who are or who might be on the spectrum... even if they come across as very gifted or high functioning and appear like they'd "know better"... please, please watch over them, educate them, empower them and help them understand the social dangers out there.  Talk with them.  Don't assume that because they're bright, that they're wise.  So many times I should have "known better" but found myself in very wrong or awkward social situations with boys, men, teachers, professors and people I should have been able to trust.  My naivety in early childhood became a pattern that left me susceptible to all sorts of bad and potentially unsafe situations.  Things that happened to me... well, I justified, excused, accepted, thought I deserved or thought were how the world worked.  I thought I knew better but I didn't know anything at all.  Book smarts and street smarts.... totally different animals.

Anyway, I am off digressing.  Call me the tangent queen.  This is because right now I am trying to avoid talking about the rape and what it did to my life 20 years ago.  It would be so easy to hit the delete key.  It would be so easy to not share.  If you're with me at this point, you're witnessing me trying to be free with my thoughts without editing.  I'm SO good at the edit key...  it can change a story altogether, can't it?

Maybe there is one person out there that this will impact.  I feel God's voice inside of me encouraging me to continue.  Ever heard that song, "Calling All Angels" by Train?  "I won't give up, if you don't give up...."  Google it if you're so inclined...  While you're at it, check out "Drops of Jupiter" too.  It kind of fits in with my "I feel like I'm from another planet theme" from an earlier blog.

Okay... it's now 10:46 a.m. and I need to make a decision to move forward or delete.  I have a lot of work to do today.  I need to put on my professional hat, my Mommy hat, my wife hat, my daughter hat and all those other hats I wear.  I can't believe I just lost two hours in this blog. 

So... a little over 20 years ago I was raped.  Not only did it take away my virginity, but I let it take away my hope and it changed my life in ways I could have never imagined.  How could I marry a man that I had promised abstinence to until marriage?  Logically, I could no longer keep that promise.  How would he see me? Would he still love me?  Was there a possibility he could ever be in love with me? Would he have accepted me? (Remember, I was 22 and probably socially much younger, new to relationships and winging this Aspie thing on my own, not knowing what it was that made my puzzle piece not fit.) I never gave him a true chance to be a stand-up guy.  There was no way in my mind I was ever going to be good enough for love after the rape and the last thing I was going to do was bring the person I cared about down with me when he had his whole life ahead of him filled with promise and ambition.

The days and weeks afterward are a whirlwind to me of bad bad bad decisions, pain, emotional anguish, fear, loneliness, suicidal thoughts, fear, night-terrors, trepidation, self-blame and self-loathing. In my head, I had nowhere to go, nowhere to turn. I was so ashamed.  I told a few people but I knew no one could relate and I didn't want the people I loved to feel pain on behalf of me so mainly I kept it inside.  I told my boyfriend and although in retrospect I wanted nothing more than to be picked up, held, taken care of and made to feel secure, I felt inside like damaged goods, tainted, not worthy, not loyal.  I probably became a real witch, I don't know. I do know I was a wreck and afraid to be touched.  I wanted to end it all but I didn't want the bastard that took away my virginity to "win".  I totally turned inward and created a mask of what I wanted others to see, shared what I wanted to share, retold what I wanted to tell, disclosed what I felt safe in doing so.  I really don't think I realized I was doing this at the time.  I guess it was self-preservation for keeping me from not only the pain of the rape but of knowing that the one romantic relationship I had in my life up to that point that I felt was right had to come to an end.  To my boyfriend's credit, I remember him being nothing but kind but understandably hurt and confused and not knowing how to process what happened either.  Actually, I'm not really sure what he thought. Maybe we talked about it?  I'm probably blocking it out.  Maybe I'm painting a kinder picture to myself to ease the pain.

On one hand, here was a man so good, so strong, so deserving of a woman that he could spend the rest of his life with... and on the other, here was me, damaged goods, mistake-maker, naive, insecure, confused, mad (at the rapist), mad (at the world) and MAD (at myself).  I realized that my true love deserved way better than me and so I gave up and became a quitter.

The only fair thing that I thought I should do is break-up since I was no longer in my heart, head or body worthy or deserving of our relationship.  Sadly, I couldn't even do that right and someday I wish I could apologize.  I was so confused, so sad, so disgusted and embarrassed with myself after the rape. I thought the only way to break up would be to push push push push away.  How did I do that?  By saying I wanted an engagement commitment ...  Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it??? How totally unfair. How totally selfish to try to force someone so young to commit.  I'm so sorry...
 
As I said earlier, I made a lot of really really bad choices and decisions in the days and weeks following the rape because I believed I was damaged goods, broken, unworthy, tainted, a sinner, didn't belong in the world and a huge loser.  (That was on my GOOD days...)
 
I knew he wasn't ready for marriage at the time so I took the coward's way out and put it upon him to make a commitment to me or we would need to move on.  I feel so bad, so sad as I write this because it brings back such sad painful memories. I've never forgiven myself.  I needed some sense of security especially after the rape and yet, I needed to be alone and away in a new lifestyle of self-loathing and self-destruction which would continue for about a year afterwards.  At one point (or many) I went back to try and tell him and to see if we could reconcile but he was already with someone and in my heart of hearts, I realized that was probably the best for him anyway.  Goodness knows he deserved someone stable and loving after the end of our break-up.

I wish I could have just told the truth and said that I didn't think I could ever be worthy in his eyes after the rape.  I wish I would have gone to counseling.  I wish, I wish, I wish...   I often wonder if we could have worked it out if I had just been able to process my feelings and emotions, understand what I was going through and get help.  All I know is that he deserved better than the way it ended.  Although he may never read this, I am truly, humbly, from the bottom of my heart sorry for all that happened, all my mistakes, all my pushing, all my confusion, all my mixed signals, all the unfairness. You deserved better.

Fortunately, for him, he ended up shortly later finding a woman to fall in love with and I am so happy that he found happiness because he did deserve it.  They married just 2 weeks after John and I did. Ironically, our own dating anniversary was the week inbetween my marriage (7/18) and his (8/1) on July 25th. I always think of him on that date, pray for him, wish him well and remember the great times and the amazement of falling in love for the first time.  Hopefully he remembers something positive of our relationship as well. (I often wonder about that and wish there was some way to know.)  My Dad ran into him awhile back and told me he has all daughters.  I have sons. I guess it was God's plan all along that things happened the way they did.

I regret we weren't able to remain in touch but I wouldn't want to put him in a position where he was uncomfortable.  I have the greatest admiration and respect and wouldn't want him to think I was trying to impose or do anything improper. I am sure he loves his wife and kids just like I love my husband and kids.  I do miss our connection and maybe someday we can be friends again or at the very least, I can apologize and thank him for being the first true love of my life, for "getting me" as much as anyone possibly could back then and for being my friend and helping me through some pivotal moments in my life like when I met my birthparents / birthfamily for the first time and when I switched colleges.  True friends in my life have been very few so when I lose one, there's an empty place inside.  The door is always open.  Maybe someday I'll hear a knock. 

You know, after the rape, not only did my relationship break up but I made some other very poor life decisions as well.  I left my job (the one where I was supposed to get a raise and promotion within a month).  I again left college (while I was getting As and just about to get through CPR for the first time in my life).  I quit my diet (somehow thinking it had some part in my rape...) and gained a lot of weight... a problem I would continue to sabotage myself with until this day.  I hooked up in a totally dysfunctional way with a guy who was totally wrong for me, pushed away any hopes of happiness or functional relationships with anyone, made lots of mistakes with men and I lost total respect for my body.  I alienated myself from everyone I previously cared about. I kept almost everything of importance inside and put on my daily mask to the outside world.  I HATED myself and contemplated suicide many times.

And yet....  I survived....

That's the key here.  I am a Survivor. I screwed up, I was a victim, I sinned, I made mistakes. I beat myself up over everything and blamed myself.  I went through a very tough time.  I didn't know then what I know now.  I take responsibility for my choices. 

So here I am 20 years later.  Flash Forward. I have been married almost 18 years to a fine man who is an amazing father, who keeps our house organized (as much as it can be with 3 additional spectrum residents) and who truly loves his kids. Although we have our challenges and communication issues, we also have our connections.  What a blessing he has been.  I have two beautiful boys with amazing hearts and so much to offer the world.  I have my own business which is unfortunately really struggling but it is something I founded and is my own.  I live in a safe neighborhood with great schools and caring teachers. I'm attending church regularly and am working on my spirituality. I have two amazing parents who raised me that are both having health issues (God bless) but who are both still here and wonderful people. Even on the days I'm depressed and trying to work through the darkness, I realize that I have a lot of blessings and a lot to be thankful for even if sometimes I still have those days I feel I don't "deserve" it and want to go on a self-sabotaging streak once again.

Whatever adversities I had to go through to get me to where I am today... they were part of my path.  I can think about the what ifs from the past... but I have a present and future to live and although I've given myself some leeway here to think about things rather painful, it's time to get going on my journey again. I am a Survivor.  I am meant for better things than to let the buttheads of the world bring me down....

I think the last month, I've stalled in my journey and haven't done as much as I would have liked with Aspierations or my life.  Admittedly, I've felt very guilty about this.  I need to forgive myself and move forward.  I am great at forgiving others, horrible at forgiving myself.  You'd think that if God can forgive me, I should be able to but some days, I just feel like wearing my burdens and baggage on my shoulders.

Well, this blog was long.  I'm not sure it made the points I wanted to but it is now going to be out in the world.  I am once again naked (figuratively, of course) and vulnerable.  If I had any repeat visitors before, perhaps this will be the blog that puts an end to that!

Truly though, if I am to reach my Aspierations and let my light shine, I need to come as I am, where I am. If that means today I need a therapeutic blog rambling on about 20 years ago to try and understand what might be going on in my life today, so that I can move myself forward then so be it...  It is who I am and that's okay. 

It's okay for you to be you as well.  Maybe you'll be wiser than me and blog anonymously.  After all of this,  I know it may seem like I disclose a lot but trust me, there is more I can never share here.  When you're doing something under your own name, there are still a lot of secrets and skeletons in the closet that need to be held back. I have my family to protect and think about and I don't want to hurt those few in my life I truly love or have loved.

So for now, rather than shut the door and not look back, I'll remember that our history helps determine who we are in the present and future.  I'll be keeping the door open...  letting my light shine!

Best wishes to all those who made it to the end of this post...  you know where to find me.  :-)
Thank you...

Love,
Karen