Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Off to a Great Start!

Gabe is officially a Kindergartner!  He seems to be loving his new school and so far the reports have all been good.  (Actually, they have been great!)  I am so proud of him.  He seems to be adapting to his new school and routines remarkably well.  He has manifested some anxiety about leaving his Special Education room to attend his Kindergarten class, but even worked through that today and was able to visit his class for a few minutes.  It's only the third day of school, so I feel that he is working through his anxiety at an extraordinary pace.  I was also pleasantly surprised to hear that he watched PE for a long while today and even entered the gym for a few minutes without having a total meltdown (or any meltdown).  Things are moving along quite well!  Hooray for Gabe and his success so far!  I hope this is a sign that we are going to have a wonderful school year at Hyer Elementary.  

Sunday, August 23, 2009

First Communion

We had an exciting day this past Sunday.  We joined a church!  We are very excited to have finally found a church home.  Gabe did such a great job of standing with us in the front of the church as we were welcomed as new members.  He did shout out "Chicken Little" once, but it was when the congregation was still singing and I don't think too many people heard him.  

A very special moment occurred a few minutes before we were asked to join the pastor in the front to confirm our membership.   As communion was winding down, the wonderful lady in charge of the special needs accommodations brought Gabe into the sanctuary.  I had no idea that she was going to take Gabe to the front and let him share in the communion experience, but she did and it was one of the sweetest moments I have witnessed.  The pastor knelt down  to be eye level with Gabe and presented him with his wafer (gluten-free, no less).  Gabe took it and did everything just perfectly, as if he had taken communion a dozen times.  He didn't flap, run or spin and didn't laugh inappropriately or yell something out that is completely random (not that it would have mattered).  My eyes teared up as I watched my sweet boy take part in this special sacrament.  I feel certain the moment also touched the pastor, who witnessed my tears when he looked up to see Gabe go take his seat with his family.  The pastor later commented on what a special moment it was for him to meet Gabe for the first time and be a part of his first communion experience.  It was indeed a special moment for all involved, but most importantly for Gabe, who is made in God's perfect design.  The adults in Gabe's life may not always know how best to reach him, but God will always know exactly how to reach his precious heart.   

Friday, August 21, 2009


We have a new pet in the Cavazos household.  Fin is a beautiful teal-colored Beta that Gabe picked out himself.  We were a little hesitant about bringing Fin home with us, knowing our son may not understand how to properly care for a fish (like the fact that you can't take it out and hold it or put it inside your tepee).  It turns out, we might should have evaluated our decision a little more closely.  

Yesterday, as I dried my hair in the back room, Gabe was left with some unsupervised time and used his free time in typical Gabe fashion.  I walked out to check on him and found scissors and an opened ice pack sitting on the kitchen counter next to Fin's bowl.  The ice pack had already melted quite a bit from being used earlier in the day and the watery, gel-like contents were spilled out all over the counter.  There was also a spoon in Fin's bowl, leading me to conclude that Gabe had emptied the gel (and who knows what else) into the bowl and then stirred it up with the spoon.  Sadly, Fin was barely moving and looked like he may be on his last leg, or last-"fin."  

I called my husband in a panic because I had actually grown quite fond of this fish and didn't want to see him suffer.  Long story short, I was able to save Fin and he is unbelievably still swimming strong this morning!  Hooray!  

I don't know if Gabe understands that he hurt poor Fin, but I hope his visit to "time out" got his attention enough to think twice before trying to use Fin's bowl as a place to create his own concoctions.  

Cheers for Fin, who has survived Hurricane Gabriel and lived!  

In the words of Dory, from Finding Nemo, "Just keep swimming!"  

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thank you, Jesus.

Last night as I was rocking Gabe at bedtime, I started a prayer with him that began with, "Thank you, Jesus."  We thanked Jesus for all of our loved ones and even our new fish, "Fin."  I then left a blank to see if he would fill anyone in... and he did!  He thanked Jesus for three of his in-home therapists.  This is so sweet and so needed for me to hear.  I often worry that we make him work too hard and spend too much time in therapy.  Sometimes I feel guilty and sad that instead of going to t-ball and soccer games, he is instead working very hard to learn things that come so naturally to his peers.  There are times when my husband and I drive by little league practices and notice that the children are Gabe's age.  We then sit in silence (what is there to say?) and wipe the silent tears that fall down our faces.  Our sweet boy sitting in the backseat appears oblivious to the entire occurrence.  Instead, he sits smiling and laughing to himself and appears to be completely content in that moment.  We could learn a lot from him and his outlook on life.  He never seems to feel sorry for himself and never, ever expects others to pity him or the unfair hand he has been dealt.  Yes, we could learn a lot from this special child.  Instead of wallowing in self-pity, he thanks Jesus for the very people that are helping him to have the best possible chance of a bright and productive future.  Thank you, Jesus.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Back to School!?!

Oh, how I have been counting down the days until "back to school!"  Summers are LONG around here and the daily structure and routine that school provides is greatly missed.  However, now that the end of summer break is upon us and I am finally in the single digits in my countdown, I am not feeling quite as enthused.  I am actually beginning to feel a little apprehensive.  Thoughts are racing through my mind... will the teachers and staff understand my sweet boy who has limited abilities to communicate?  Will they be patient with all of his fears and anxieties?  Will the other children be quick to notice and point out his differences and if so, will he know what they are saying and will his feelings be hurt?  Will we be able to still implement the diet that is necessary for his continued progress?  Will Gabe have the same heartbreaking emotional meltdowns at school that he has at home and will the staff be prepared to help him through it like Mom does?  It's difficult to shut my brain down and make the madness stop!  

I had the opportunity to meet with the new principal and was very pleased with the meeting.  I walked away feeling reassured and many of my fears were calmed.  I am certain that I will have a more difficult time with the transition to a new grade and new school than Gabe.  I know I should be used to him being in school by now since he has been attending an elementary school since the age of three, but this is different... it's KINDERGARTEN!  This is serious stuff!  

Gabe's preschool program began exposing him to a general education Kindergarten class this past year and I think it went well overall.  He attended the class for a few minute each day with the assistance of a classroom aide.  I had often wondered how he handled this environment and if he was able to actually sit still and be quiet while in the Kinder classroom.  I received a humorous report one day by chance when we were picking Gabe up from Sunday School.  A sweet little girl stopped us and said, "I know him!  He comes into my Kindergarten class."  She went on to ask us, "Do you know what he did the first time he came into class?"  Oh no!  I was not certain I needed to hear the answer to that question, but I heard myself respond with, "Oh, what did he do?"  She was very eager to describe Gabe's nonstop talking about fire drills and excitedly told us about how he moved around the entire time and couldn't sit still.  Great!  

I hope and pray that Gabe's new classmates will learn to appreciate his quirkiness (and even his love of Expo markers and Wet Ones.)  If that's too much to ask, then I just hope that they will be kind and see him as the sweet, loving, funny and unique little guy that he is.  I long for his teachers to have a sense of humor and when Gabe randomly names off every character in Trucktown books or repeats a lengthy list of items found in the "I Spy" books and television series, I wish that these teachers could draw upon creativity and quick-thinking and somehow incorporate these inappropriate outbursts into their lesson (in an effort to not make him look and feel so out of place).  Is that too much to ask?  Possibly, but I choose to be optimistic. 

Gabe's Sad

Gabe has been an emotional roller coaster lately.  He can go from laughter to hysterical sobbing in just seconds.  It's heart-breaking to watch.  We never know what will send him off into the sudden abyss of despair.  His eyes have welled up with tears while sitting at the dinner table, on the couch or while driving in the car and we can't find any reason for the sudden sadness.  Gabe will tell us, "Gabe's sad" but can't offer any further explanation.  

A few days ago, Gabe was caught painting some decorative lemons that I keep in a basket on the kitchen table.  Before I could say anything, Gabe began sobbing and repeating the phrase, "Don't paint lemons.  Gabe's sad."  This went on for some time.  He was deeply distraught and I was completely crushed watching him carry on this way.  

The exact same scenario happened a few days later when he was playing with Lego's.  This time the repeated phrase was, "Don't bite Lego's.  Gabe's sad."  He was once again nearly inconsolable and exhibiting a very painful sadness.  I was heartbroken and feeling completely helpless as I watched him.  

It's times like these that I so wish I could have a conversation with Gabe about how he feels and what he is thinking when this sadness comes over him.  No one ever prepared me for just how difficult parenting would be.  I never imagined a scenario where I would not be able to communicate with my child.  I guess I never imagined a scenario where my child would have Autism.  Gabe isn't the only one who is sad.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Stinky Toots!

Yes, you read the title correctly.  Gabe has become aware for the first time of the bodily function of "passing gas" or as he calls it, "dirty poop."  Why "dirty poop" you ask?  We have no idea.

As typical five year-olds are telling fart jokes and giggling uncontrollably at the mere mention of anything potty related, Gabe has remained completely unaware.  We were recently at a church event and waiting in line with other 4 and 5 year olds to enter the sanctuary.  Two little boys began dancing and singing, "I like to toot it, toot it" (to the tune of "I like to Move It" from Madagascar).  I laughed hysterically while Gabe appeared to be oblivious to the entire performance.  (Is it any wonder why I enjoyed teaching middle schoolers?)

I admit to being quite fond of bathroom humor and perhaps that is why I found it so exciting when Gabe cracked his first version of a fart joke a few days ago.  He ran up to his father and made an odd sound with his mouth and then said, "Dirty poop!"  He then smiled and ran off.  Woo-hoo!  How NORMAL!  Yes, I consider this a milestone to be celebrated right up there with learning to jump for the first time and potty training!  How else is my sweet and socially delayed boy going to fit in with other boys his age if he can't appreciate a little potty humor?

Obviously "dirty poop" is an odd expression and not quite accurately descriptive of passing gas and so one of his therapists suggested we teach him to say, "Stinky toots" since he insists now on saying something to announce each occurrence. (Can you imagine having to teach this stuff?  I guess this all comes much more naturally to his typical peers??)  

Gabe has been so excited about a new tepee that he got a few days ago and loves for me to sit inside with him and read books.  This is such a sweet time... both of us cuddled up together in a tightly enclosed space... until I hear a sweet little voice announce, "Stinky toot!"  Time to clear the tepee! 

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sundays Fundays

I despise Sundays.  I know I am probably in the minority here, but I HATE Sundays.  I have often wished for a special power to fast forward through Sundays and skip directly to Mondays (one of my favorite days).  Let me clarify that I am excited to be joining a church that we enjoy attending and I am thrilled to share this Sunday morning experience with my family, but that ends for us at 10:30AM and we are then left with TEN hours to fill before Gabe's bedtime.  This is when my mood begins to sour.

Gabe does not play with toys.  He also does not play games and refuses to watch TV.  He is very difficult to engage in activities and has the attention span of an 18 month old on meth.  We would love to spend Sunday afternoons outdoors, but it is currently August in Texas and even Gabe draws the line at 100 degree weather.  We would also be happy to visit places like the Dallas World Aquarium, The Zoo, "Going Bonkers" or the local movie theater, but Gabe's severe fears, phobias, and obsessions make this nearly impossible.  So once again we are stuck at home, trying to engage our son in an activity (ANY activity) that will occupy him for several minutes at a time and get his mind off of the destruction he could otherwise be doing to our home.  Gabe has the uncanny ability to destroy things and in fact, this is one of his favorite past times.  Writing on walls, painting furniture, ripping up books and important documents, pouring out cleaning products into the sink, shaving cream into the bathtub and filling medicine bottles with water are his specialties.  If left with "down time," Gabe will partake in these destructive activities with great exuberance.  "Down time" also often leads to another behavior that is equally if not more annoying... the dreaded running.  

Gabe's "stim" is running.  (For those not acquainted with "stimming," let me briefly explain.)  "Stimming" is the term used to describe self stimulatory behaviors that are sometimes manifested by a child with Autism.  These behaviors are repetitive and provide some sort of comfort to the child.  For Gabe, this means running back and forth across a specific area of the house while making a particular humming noise.  He can do this endlessly, never tiring.  It breaks my heart to watch it and at the same time it is incredibly nerve-wrecking, especially if it has gone on for a lengthy period of time.  I allow it for short spurts because I know that it does meet some sort of sensory need for him and comforts him, but I am guilt ridden every time it occurs (MANY times a day) because I feel as though I should be doing something to distract him, but WHAT?  If he is doing this, it is usually because I am attempting to clean, do laundry, shower or any number of things that must be done.  (But I digress...)

This is why I become a curmudgeon on Sundays.  The good news is that I am usually quite cheerful and excited about Mondays.  I cherish days filled with routines,  like school and therapy. Does this make me a bad parent or would anyone feel the same if in my shoes?  

I will now stop rambling on about my aversion to Sundays and will instead go contemplate how we will spend the next 5 hours!!!

The Mailman... Santa Clause or Personal Shopper?

Gabe thinks the mailman is Santa Clause.  (Well, Gabe doesn't really understand who Santa Clause is, but that's the best comparison I could come up with).  A few weeks ago, we ordered some Trucktown books (Gabe's favorites) online and then made a big production about their arrival in the mail.  His face and excitement were priceless when his beloved books arrived!  

Now whenever Gabe sees something that he wants, he proudly declares that the mailman will bring it!  He is quite sure of this fact.  He even goes so far as to state that the mailman will bring things we run out of, like his favorite snacks.  In Gabe's world, we no longer need to visit the grocery store (or any stores) because the mailman is now his personal shopper.  Anytime Gabe spots a toy that he likes, he runs to his father and I to let us know that the mailman will bring it.    He is especially excited about a special "Expo Dry Erase Eraser" that should arrive later this week.  (His new "Expo" obsession is a whole different topic, worthy of it's own post).  

Gabe is awaiting many things to arrive via the mailman.  When we check the mail and sadly none of his requests have arrived, he goes completely "postal" (yes, clever pun intended) and then tells us that "maybe the UPS man or maybe the DHL man or maybe the FedEx man will bring it.")  

My boy is a firm believer in the parcel service industry.  

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Gabe ate tacos! Wait... WHAT?

Yes, you read the title correctly.  Gabe ate tacos.  While this may not sound like very exciting news and hardly worthy of a blog post, it is in fact a milestone.  My boy who eats the same things every single day and rarely branches out, not only tried something new, but ate a variety of textures AND mixed them together!  THIS, my friends, is exciting stuff!  There was no bribery involved, no ABA tactics applied, and not a single tantrum... just a crazy mom snapping pictures and cheering after each bite.  (I am sure the tables around us did not appreciate this milestone as much as we did.)  

An interesting thing occurred before the tacos arrived.  As we sat munching on our chips and salsa, Gabe suddenly shot out of his seat and raced across the room.  I was several steps behind him by the time he reached the opposite end of the dining area and climbed up in an empty booth.  (Of course, everyone in this area of the restaurant is staring at this scene, including me... I am completely baffled.)  He then points to a picture located just out of his reach and says, "Lightning!  Lightning broke the house!"  Sure enough, there is a flash of lightning in this picture that is striking a house.  Only my son with his eagle eye vision would notice this tiny detail in a small picture located on the OPPOSITE end of the room from where we are sitting.  Gabe's unique abilities and thought processes  never cease to amaze me.  

Oh, and let's not forget the real reason for this post... The boy ate tacos!!!