Thursday, July 05, 2018

swim swam swum

 this year, the girls signed up to do swim team. i've always been very apprehensive about swim team in the past because our experience with our neighborhood in south carolina was not the best. it was more intense than educational. i didn't feel like the head coach was interested in working with a kid with autism either. we ended up quitting after a week. plus, i had a newborn. i'd avoided swim team ever since. this year we encountered some people from church who encouraged us to try it again because it was such a fun and laid back experience for them. we signed up with several friends from church in a nearby neighborhood pool(instead of our own neighborhood) because we knew a few of the girls who would be coaching. immediately it was a positive experience. scarlett was on the actual swim team and athena blythe did the swim lessons portion. they met each morning at 830, monday through thursday for 45 minute sessions. i truly loved getting out of the house early each morning and getting our day started. i'll never claim to love being an morning person, but i love being a person who can get plenty of stuff done. that forces me out of bed each and every time. 

scarlett and i were both SO STRESSED before her first meet. i didn't even want to do any meets! she insisted so i went with it. we were most stressed about arriving to the meet on time. neither of us were actually worried about the events, just the punctuality. having a refusing to nap 3 year old makes afternoon activities thrilling. will herschel fall asleep randomly? will he throw a tantrum when we need to be loading up? several times, the answer was yes. 3 years old are pretty difficult on me emotionally and physically. 

pre-meet nervous smile:

scarlett warming up at her first meet:

scarlett especially loved the swim meet sharpie art. most kids washed theirs off immediately, scarlett's would last for days. i even bought two sets of 12 colored sharpies so that we could get really fancy. 

i think the best thing scarlett learned at swim team was hard work because swimming is HARD WORK! not just the staying afloat aspect but the perfecting the technique aspect. we were lucky enough to have a great girl from our church work with scarlett three times a week on extra technique practice. worth every cent. i could see a vast improvement in ability and confidence. scarlett was never the fastest but the week she dropped 7 SECONDS on her time made me feel like i won a gold medal and i was just standing there yelling. all my yelling practice is finally working.

scarlett also had some really great friends on the team. 

good friends make all the difference. 

still working on the dive form. diving is so tricky. and probably overrated. i think i heard michael phelps say that once. "just flop in. extra points for a big splash." that's how he won all those gold medals.

athena blythe enjoyed swim team too, but i know she was a PAIN to work with. her coach, "ronnie" was very firm and athena blythe was finally able to be more compliant. lots of kids in a bunch of splashing water was a lot for her to push through. 

coach ronnie is the one looking at athena blythe with the laser beam eyes. those laser beam eyes came in very handy on pulling athena blythe back into the group. 

 "oh hey, we're taking pictures? i've got some poses for you!"

i think if the beginning swim group would have started with a race, athena blythe would have been much more amenable to practicing. she kept announcing she won and wouldn't stop talking about racing kids when it was over. 

herschel was dead to the world on the way to the final meet and he made us late and spent a good 45 minutes on my shoulder, sweating and drooling down my back. so, everything i was worried about happened. the best part was all the help i received from other swim moms. so many people willing to keep and eye out or my kids when i was distracted or running late or generally struggling with the reality of my life.

athena blythe did the entire lap unassisted at the last meet. then demanded a trophy.

the car mat brings kids together. other kids came along and played for a while and there was peace on earth for short periods of time.

a swim meet rainbow:

athena blythe needs constant activity. she's excellent at finding constant activity. she was able to easily insert herself in the rival team's concession stand. the people running the stand loved her and gave her jobs that she readily completed. she was the juicer on the snow cones and retrieved selected concession stand orders. they even tasked her with giving change to the customers after the adults counted it out. Athena blythe is the most industrious kid i know. i'm sad to admit it's too often to my chagrin because she takes matters into her own hands, supervision and cleanliness be darned, but it really is one of her best qualities. she will not be deterred once she's decided to create something to accomplish something.

swim team was a really great experiences for scarlett and athena blythe. i wish reagan would do it because even though swim technique eludes him and his arms and brain don't like to work in tandem, he's figured out a way to stay afloat reagan-style and he seems to enjoy the pressure of the water on his body. herschel is going to do it next year because he loved watching the kids swim so much and picked up a few things that he would practice at the pool in his puddle jumper. the cost was extremely reasonable. the meets were long but the pace was constant and the weather wasn't bad this summer. luckily we had mostly overcast meets. i loved that everyone cheered for everyone. that's how i want my whole life to feel. lets all cheer for each other. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

fortune and glory in may!

if there is something i detest, it's an awards ceremony. i'd rather go to the dentist any day of the week. problem numero uno is how ridiculously long they are. let's recognize accomplishment! let's not recognize EVERY SINGLE accomplishment. i have a 45 minute rule. if it's long than that, then a nice letter in the mail will suffice. problem numero dos is the fact that most people don't know how to act. look, i don't care about your kids either, but it wouldn't kill you to do a polite clap for each recipient. 

reagan got some awards and his award ceremony was right at an hour long. i clapped for EVERY SINGLE kid because i believe in making a point. imagine what i am like with low blood sugar? have ax, will grind it.

mr. reese, jean luca and reagan

reagan's little hop and jump of approval. 

action shot! also could be titled, "why i'm nervous each week when reagan passes the sacrament"


everyone was having a great hair day today on the 2nd to last day of school. no other significance. 
and to make it even more confusing, athena blythe is flashing a 1 for GOING to 1st grade next year and scarlett is flashing a 5 for COMPLETING 5th grade. 

athena blythe had her party at some point. i wish i had taken a picture of my outfit because i was mega cute that day. 

athena blythe the reading aficionado

it was some sort of spirit day so i dressed athena blythe like this. i can't remember for what reason. but it was fun. red white and blue day? i think. i told her to tell everyone she is dressed as a firecracker because she really kind of is one.

last day of school video interview with dad. do y'all do this? my dad always did it on the first and last day because he liked using his handheld camcorder and interviewing us. the beck kids allllll acted like dum dums in these interview videos. reagan saw one of our interview videos a few years back and decided that was going to be our tradition too. my kids also act like dum dums too.

scarlett's 5th grade awards ceremony was on the last day of school at a super inconvenient time during heavy morning traffic and as an added bonus, there was a "ceiling fell out of the sky" downpour. i was mega late because of all those factors and i was dragging a toddler with me. plus the shirt i was wearing is horribly itchy and my skirt was too tight but i'm not willing to admit defeat and i so keep putting it in the rotation. my discomfort flavored my reception to the awards ceremony but i STILL CLAPPED FOR EVERYONE. scarlett was still clearly the best.

highest social studies grade in her class. 

the final walking of the halls. pointless but they still convince all the parents to come. i didn't cry. because i was WORN OUT. i'll cry when she graduates from college. i will cry at the culmination of the plan. 

reagan's last day with his wonderful teacher. mr. reese is moving to a new position. i don't blame him. special eduation is hard emotionally and physically. ask me about reagan's reaction every time directTV does an update to the DVR format. we all struggle. so many people have prayed for us in this school transition and we are going to see it as a blessing and an opportunity. we must. THE FUTURE IS AS BRIGHT AS OUR FAITH!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

brace for impact

anywhoo, i'd hate to bring up something as controversial as not liking fruit and ice cream together so i'll just talk about getting braces. for the record, i won't reject a fruit pie with a healthy scoop of ice cream, i just prefer fruit as fruit and ice cream as dessert. and nuts should be buried deep in the ground. don't get it twisted. 

now that reagan can easily get his haircut at a salon and his teeth cleaned at the dentist with little drama, it was time to embark on the next personal appearance frontier, BRACES. reagan's british ancestry was showing a little too strongly and he was constantly getting confused for mid 90s alan rickman. (reagan just came over my shoulder and read that sentence and said, "do you sometimes make jokes on your blog?" i try to, reagan, i try.) our orthodontist office is incredibly patient and kind, and based on what we just forked out, they can afford to be. dr white even assured us if reagan could not handle the orthodontics process and the braces needed to be removed, that he would refund the entire amount. they started small with only 4 brackets. it still took as long as it would take someone else to get a full mouth of braces, and there were plenty of breaks and a few tears(by me too!) but he persevered with those 4 little brackets. the technicians went above and beyond to soothe his anxieties and one even took a turn entertaining herschel so that i could focus on reagan. again, i hope to be that person for another mom when the opportunity presents itself. 

as we were driving back to school, 3 of the 4 brackets popped off and we had to turn around and head back. it was the office lunch hour at that point but the same great group came together and quickly reattached the brackets. i knew it was a successful visit when reagan asked his favorite conversation starter question, "dr white, when's your birthday?" for the record, it is in january. 

we went back the first week of june to add 4 more brackets and it was going so well that the technician was able to put ALLLLLLLLLLLLLL the brackets on. the full mouth. 
reagan was cool as the other side of the pillow and i enjoyed listening to the office's late 90s pop station.

he is still mourning the loss of popcorn. i'm still mourning the loss of skin elasticity on my stomach. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

athena blythe was perfectly named

athena- deity of the ancient Greeks worshiped as the goddess of wisdom, fertility, the useful arts, and prudent warfare. At her birth she sprang forth fully armed from the head of her father, Zeus

blythe-The word blithe means "carefree." It's a lively, sophisticated little word that many associate with Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit -- a lively, sophisticated little play. The spelling Blythe wraps all those good vibes up into an elegant English surname. This is an uncommon and stylish name

how do i start a blog post recording athena blythe's autism diagnosis? how is autism such an integral part of me life? how in the world do i have TWO kids with autism?

 athena blythe was diagnosed with autism this year. this diagnosis was much easier to obtain than reagan's diagnosis. we've had our concerns with athena blythe's development for a couple of years now but getting the autism ball rolling is often not easy. especially since, athena blythe's version of autism is so different that reagan's or what i've seen in most of the other people we know with autism. like they say, "if you know know person with autism, you know one person with autism". athena blythe has always been very precocious and very verbal and possesses an indomitable spirit but absolutely has other struggles in flexibility, impulse control, correct socialization. 
i'm taking the "news", which isn't news at all, in stride. i cried but not from fear. i cried because of exhaustion. i know what it's like to raise a child with autism. despite the differences in manifestations between reagan and athena blythe, the hallmarks of autism interactions are the same. it's stressful. very. stressful. i think of myself as a security agent who has to scan and secure an area before we can proceed. each place we go i have to check for loud noises, dogs not on leashes, sirens, clocks flashing 12:00, people not following expected societal norms, to ensure that we can proceed without incident. this is rarely possible. reagan still feels inclined to shout, "where's my mom!" whenever i am more than 15 feet away from him at the public library. athena blythe has never met a baby that she believes does not need her intense scrutiny and inspection. she has left no ladder unclimbed and no bird's nest left unpoked. why us? why autism? why not?

despite all my worries for raising two future adults with autism, they are pretty spectacular individuals. 

everyone knows and loves athena blythe. everyone. everywhere we go, people know her and have an anecdote about her antics and imagination. today, a pregnant lady at church pulled me aside and said that during primary athena blythe said, "i know where babies come from and that one is coming out of your VAGINA!" loud emphasis on vagina. she is too smart. 

the hardest thing to do is to discipline her. it's like breaking a boulder with a spoon. the spoon gets more damage than the boulder. she often seems unaffected by time out and loss of privileges. she'd rather win than have dessert. she loves to build and create and use all materials to do so. she will trick the best of them, including me, into getting her way. i love this girl so much. 

she insisted on sleeping on the floor on this miniature couch rather than sleeping on a real bed. it sounded terrible but she could not be deterred. 

 anything she sees on tv or a book she tries to recreate. we've made birdhouses and bird feeders and terrariums for lizards and chameleons that remain uncaught. she makes lists for baking and things she needs to find on a safari. she is best at sneaking away from responsibility. she is a terrible liar. but she still tries. you can't stay mad at her for long.

one of her many science experiments.

the three big autism struggles for me are:

1. people who think all kids with autism have a special trick or talent. my dental hygienist asked me this week what reagan's "special talent is". she didn't mean to be ignorant, but these special kids don't all have parlor tricks and memory games to impress other people. they're nobody's entertainment. 

2. people who act like kids with autism are a sign of weakness. things that are rewarded in society, thinking differently or being innovative, are often seen as habits to be fixed in autism. the problem is people who think there is only one way to be right or happy. it's akin to prosperity gospel, or the idea that faith is associated with financial success. does my having 2 children with autism mean i lack faith? hardly. if anything, my faith has only grown. but i encounter people who i feel pity from. no one is excited about having autism, but i pity people who don't see it as a blessing. a painful, messy, stressful blessing that has only shown me the nature and generosity of the Lord and His goodness. 

3. inclusion looks a lot like an invitation. often, that's all that is needed. certain activities are impossible for our family to fully participate in. we need to leave early or have many accommodations made so that we can more involved. i realize how trying that can be for people trying to befriend us. we've had so many marvelous experiences with people reaching out to us. the extended invitations means the world, even if it is difficult for us to accept. some of reagan's best memories are simply based on inclusion. "mom, i had that BEST time" is often repeated at an activity where reagan hardly participated and ignored half the guests. 

autism is not the worst. raisins in cookies, nuts in brownies, fruit in ice cream are way worse. 

Sunday, June 03, 2018

we built this spring break on rock and roll

i have been working on this post for 2 months. and it's not exciting. just a spring break recap for the children to read someday. it's so hard to write a blog post that is so old and my heart is not in it. this will be boring. you have been warned. no one threw up. my highlight was discovering a new goodwill.

spring break seems like such a distant memory now but i hope it's the model i can follow for this summer. we can do whatever the kids want to do, as long as they've done their chores. seems simple enough? it's actually a little closer to rocket surgery. 

the first day of spring break is mostly unscheduled. i don't like an unscheduled day, but i think everyone appreciates sleeping in, eating as your leisure, watching copious amounts of televsion and getting a break from overly structured time by overdosing on unstructured time. by the end of the day, we are crying and screaming the most. then we're absolutely ready for day 2!

day 2 is complete chores and then do an activity. our cleaning plan is as follows, each room is attacked until it's done. we've tried the little bit at a time, or the collection baskets for things that don't belong method, and the crying and screaming method. each room attack is what works for us. i supervise/crack the bullwhip/give assignments and encouragement. nothing is unsupervised. we simply cannot handle that. anything that doesn't belong gets tossed in the hall. upon completion of the room, the hallway contents are redistributed. all this is happening as i play "we built this city" over and over and over. after about 20 minutes, i'll move to a new song, but i take no requests. it took us most of the morning, but the entire upstairs level was guest ready. and herschel ended up in a dress. everyone loves fancy nancy.

the post cleaning activity was a trip to the mall. kids choice. they love to go to the mall. they like eating at the food court, they like riding the carousel, someone normally needs a bribe so we end up getting cookies. scarlett loves to shop. reagan likes to do laps. we spend the most time in the disney store ie- hell. does it sound like i've recorded this same type trip a bazillion times? it feels like that to me. these kids like the mall. i think it feels like more of an outing than it is because i'm too cheap to go to the trampoline places or amusement parks more often. 


my favorite activity of spring break was the trip to the water park. everyone had so much fun we signed the girls up for swim team.

athena blythe's best quality is her determination. she wanted to dye her hair so she took matters into her own hand.

day 5 of spring break, i took the kids to a tiny free zoo in athens, just a 35 minute drive away. i still hate the zoo, but free is my price. plus, the weather was perfect so it wasn't like i was dying from humidity and animal poop smell.

do your kids do this? they all wanted individual shots of themselves by random things at the zoo. 

a portrait with painted possums? check!

13 year old boy in a bear billboard. check!

moderately well behaved baby boy in a bear billboard. check

spring break weekend shorts:

athena blythe was indoctrinated into family scripture reading. it went much better than expected for the child who declares her dislike for church each sunday.

she was also very determined to dye her hair. her best quality is her dedication to getting things shes wants.

the end