June 26, 2016: Wedding Bliss!

The big news this week was that my niece Stevie got married! She and her new husband, Carlin, have been smitten with each other since they were nine, and they made it official last night. Both boys were in the wedding, though I’m sorry to say that Chris’s pictures of them coming down the aisle didn’t come out clearly, so you’ll have to wait until the professional photographers’ pictures are ready to see them. But I do have pictures of them in their finery and a lot of other fun pictures this week, so all is not lost!

The wedding was held in Lodi, at an event center called Wine and Roses—it’s a winery, restaurant, event space, etc. I had actually thought about it for Chris’s and my wedding, but then we found a place much closer to home that we liked and went with that. But anyway, now I have finally seen it in person! It was really pretty—a shady little arbor area for the ceremony, and a nice room for dining attached, so we didn’t have to drive to a separate location for the reception. The only issue was the HEAT: It was about 102 degrees with no breeze, so even though it was shady, it was very, very hot. Sam sweats pretty heavily under normal circumstances, so he was a rather sweaty mess within minutes—I’m afraid his hair looked wet and sweaty for the ceremony, even though he had only been wearing his suit for all of ten minutes! And we changed him out of it very quickly because the poor kid was just pouring sweat. For whatever reason, he sweats a lot more than the rest of us do—I offered to have Theo roll up his sleeves so he’d be cooler, and he got all annoyed because he thought he’d look “less handsome”! So evidently the heat didn’t bother him as much as it did Sam.

But aside from the heat, it was a beautiful wedding. It was fairly small—just family and close friends—which was fine with me since I don’t much care for big events! My other nieces and my nephew were all in the wedding party and looked so beautiful/handsome—and Stevie was radiant. We ended up leaving fairly early because (a) poor Sam was having trouble in the heat, despite Chris repeatedly mopping him down with cold water from the bathroom; (b) Chris had to leave for work early the next morning for a meeting; and (c) we had to drive back on a two-lane road with no divider that is notoriously dicey at night. So we missed the cupcakes, which my mom says were to die for—darn it! And we missed the dancing, which I would’ve enjoyed seeing. Theo was mad as a wet hen about leaving early and declared that we were “the worst parents in the world” for making him leave. Ah well, can’t win ‘em all!

Theo was very excited about his participation in the wedding. When we went to the rehearsal Saturday and he was introduced to the flower girl, he stuck out his hand to shake hers and said, “Pleasure.” Ha ha—such a debonair little gentleman! And the morning of the wedding, he wanted to get dressed in his slacks, shirt, and tie at 8am! The wedding was at 5pm, so I had to convince him that shorts and a T-shirt were a better choice for the bulk of the very hot day. And he did so well as a ring bearer! He has a hard time staying still, so I had visions of him jiggling and wiggling through the ceremony, but he stood very still, ever so seriously, and did a terrific job! And he was amazingly composed during the reception, despite it being very hot. I got a laugh when he told me, “I need to go to the bathroom—all that champagne I drank.” (It was cider—the bride and groom aren’t drinking age yet, so there was no alcohol.) And when I took him to the bathroom, he announced seriously, “I thought the speeches were pretty boring, but I’m glad I came anyway.” I’m pretty sure for an eight-year-old, the speeches are not the most exciting part of the event!

For me, the most amusing part of the day was when the bridal party was taking pictures after the ceremony. We were out on the lawn near them because Theo was needed for some pictures, so we were sticking close by. Chris motioned for Theo and I to stand together so he could get a picture of us, and so we did…but as we were posing, I heard several people go, “Oh! Sam!” I turned around, and Sam was in the process of carefully removing his pants! The funny thing is, he’s only ever done that once in his life, so I don’t know why he picked that moment to start disrobing! His occupational therapist has been working on it with him, so I suppose perhaps he just decided that was an opportune moment to show off his newfound skills! Whatever the reason, it was hilarious and everyone got a good laugh out of it!

The day before the wedding, we had to go to Lodi for the rehearsal, but we also had another fun reason: one of my fellow Rockin’ Moms was in town visiting family, so we got to meet up with her for a couple of hours of playtime! Her son with DS is roughly Sam’s age (just a little younger), and her older son just finished kindergarten, so Theo enjoyed playing with him. We met at a little science museum in Lodi—air conditioned, and fun stuff for all the kids! Then we drove up and had lunch with my mom before heading back down to Lodi for the rehearsal. A long but very good day!

Theo had another fun week at camp—their big outing was an A’s baseball game (against the Brewers), which he enjoyed. And they also went crawdad fishing again (and someone caught one this time!), went swimming a few days, did a lot of crafts and outdoor games, etc. He is really enjoying it, and he says he’s made a lot of friends. There is one girl he does not like, but it’s been a good learning experience for him. He has mentioned her behavior a few times, and most recently she apparently whacked him in the stomach with a baseball bat because she didn’t like his lanyard. (Man, camp is BRUTAL!!) This isn’t as bad as it sounds—they are foam-covered bats, and he didn’t seem in the least bit hurt, so I think it was more of a nudge than a full-on smack. He was more ticked off than anything, and I didn’t blame him. He said the counselors took the bat away from her and that she’s been talked to before by the camp director, so I knew they had it handled. But based on what Theo has told me, I had a feeling this might be a case of a kid acting out because of issues at home or perhaps behavioral problems. So we had a good talk about how he ought to stay away from her if he doesn’t care for her, but that he should remember that sometimes people behave badly if there’s something in their life that upsets them, and he shouldn’t take it personally. And sure enough, a few days later I saw the little girl with her mother, and her mother was yelling at her something fierce—I felt sorry for the girl. I’m not thrilled that she hit my kid with a bat, but I see I was right that there may be reasons for her behavior that have nothing at all to do with Theo and his lanyard.

And Sam had his first week at his Communication Readiness Program (CRP). He is doing fantastic, and I’m so pleased that we got him into the program! The only negative to it is the amount of gas I’m burning up driving him to/from the program—ouch! Our gas bill is exponentially higher now! But come late August, I won’t be driving hardly at all since I can walk both boys to school, so this too shall pass. But the program itself is fabulous! Sam is excited to go every day and loves the teacher and aides. And his talking is already showing progress—I don’t know if it’s coincidence this soon or if the program is already working, but on Friday (after four days of the program), he walked up to Chris and said, “Hi, Dad,” clear as day! He has said “hi” and “Dad” for a long time, but he hasn’t really put them together before. And then a few minutes later, he pointed to the cat, who was playing in a towel, and said, “Eat towel!” She actually wasn’t eating it (just nosing around in it), but this is significant for two reasons: (1) he used a two-syllable word, which he rarely does, and it was a brand-new word for him!; and (2) he put together a two-word phrase with a verb, which he has rarely ever done! Exciting times for us!!!

It’s actually a nice complement: His speech therapist works primarily on the physical act of forming the words—she tries to get him to enunciate words clearly, say two-syllable words instead of just the final syllable of any word, etc. And the CRP program works more on back-and-forth communication with other people—even if he can’t talk, they’re teaching him back-and-forth communication through gestures, whatever words he does have, etc. So he gets four days of CRP and that back-and-forth work, and then he gets one day of individual speech therapy for actual speaking words. Between the two, he’s getting quite a comprehensive summer of speech work!

One of the ways they work on back-and-forth communication is kind of fun. Each child has a recording device, and every day in class the teacher (or aide) and child record several sentences about what they did in class. If the child can’t speak much, it’s mostly the teacher/aide speaking. And for kids who can speak, it’s the kid speaking. But the device works in such a way that the child can press the button and it will play the first sentence. Then he can press the button again to play the second sentence. And so on….which allows us to respond to each sentence as it’s delivered. So it’s something like this:

Sam presses button: “Hi, Mom!”
Me: “Hi, Sam!”
Sam presses button: “Today at school I read books!”
Me: “You read books? Was it fun?” (He will usually say yes.)
Sam presses button: “We played in the water, too.”
Me: “You played in the water? Did you get wet?”
Sam presses button: “What are we doing tonight?”
Me: “We’re going to go swimming (or read books or play outside or whatever).”

And then we record over that with what we did in the evening—a series of five sentences like:

“Hi friends!”
“Last night, I played with blocks!”
“I also went swimming!”
“I had bacon for dinner!”
“I’m happy to see you all!”

And then in circle-sharing in class, Sam gets to push the button five times to deliver his five sentences, and his teachers and the class respond after each one. So it’s a way for kids to have a back-and-forth conversation even if their speech skills aren’t there yet, and reportedly the kids get so excited to share their conversations. One of the moms brought us all to tears when she talked about how last year her son would excitedly bring his recorder to the dinner table so that when he family talked about their day (he is almost 100% nonverbal; he has apraxia of speech), he could push his button and tell about his day, too.

Very cool stuff…very cool stuff indeed! It makes me so happy that we had Sam at a time when there are so many ways to facilitate inclusion, even when a child can’t speak.

Anyway! You’re all waiting for pictures, aren’t you? Without further ado…

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