Grasshoppers + Death + Life

The Roc and I went on a walk a couple days ago, and as soon as we came back inside he settled in with his iPad and I came up to my computer and started to record our conversation.  I’ve come back to this page over the last few days and written the rest.  He’s come so far and I’m so proud of the connections he is making and the emotional growth he is able to express.  I wanted to capture this time.

***

I have been pushing the Roc to converse with me instead of delivering monologues at me.  It’s really hard to talk about Halloween (since the beginning of August,) Plants vs. Zombies (since last Christmas!) and what we are going to bake next – over and over and over again.  Every.single.day.  It is extremely one-sided and the Roc has been expressing anger when I don’t listen and answer him with a distracted, “Umm-hmmm.”  I want the Roc to be able to converse with peers and adults (and me!)  So I’ve been pushing the boundaries of his language skills.  I prod him to give me more details about school by asking if something fun happened that day, and he is no longer allowed to say recess and/or lunch.  I tell him that I will only talk about Plants vs. Zombies for the first two minutes of our walks and then I try to steer him in a different direction.  I prompt him to ask me a question, any question he can think of, about me or my day.  He usually asks me if I had a good day and what I did.  Even though it’s forced and he told me he doesn’t actually care what I did that day, it’s a start, and a skill needed to get along in this world.

We’ve been going on a lot of walks lately, both to enjoy the weather, and also to get out of the house while GC is ripping out and installing new flooring.  It is so loud and the Roc has a hard time with the noise, even while wearing his noise-canceling headphones.  The grasshoppers are everywhere on the trails during our walks and the Roc tends to get frustrated when they jump right in front of him.  One day last week he got so mad that he stomped on a grasshopper and when I turned to look we both saw the grasshopper half smooshed, pulling itself by centimeters across the blacktop.  I gasped and said that looked like a horrible way to die and the Roc immediately crouched down and tears came to his eyes.  He told me he wished he hadn’t stomped on the bug, that it was living before he did that, and now it couldn’t go on with it’s life.  He asked me if I could fix it and hung his head when I told him I couldn’t.  We watched the grasshopper eventually stop moving and the Roc asked if he could mark the grave by piling up some grass.  After he did that he wanted to celebrate the grasshoppers life, which we did by saying a few words about the weather and how nice a life the little bug must have had in the park.  After some time the Roc said he was ready to walk on, but he didn’t think he would feel better for awhile.

Seeing how open he was I tried to make the connection of how the Roc felt about the grasshopper and how much worse it would be if we were to see a pet get hurt.  I mentioned how much harder it would be to see Guinness get injured and how devastated we would feel if we couldn’t save him.  Our conversation moved on to hunting (which he was talking about lately with GC ) and he made the connection that if it was hard for him to watch a grasshopper die, then it would be near impossible to watch a deer die.  (I breathed a sigh of relief as I didn’t really want him to want to hunt.)  He wanted to know why people hunted instead of just letting the animals live and I tried to explain population control to him, but he got stuck on wanting people to leave animals alone.

Talking about animals seemed to brighten the Roc up considerably and he launched into telling me about how more animals are made…and then people…I was fully enjoying the fact that we were not talking about one of his three main subjects of late.

“Mommy, did you know that one animal makes another animal and then that animal makes two more and then those two animals make more and more and it just keeps going?  Did you know that animals make animals?”

“Yes, Roc.  I did know that.”

“Did you know that people make people?” he asked me.  “Yup.”

“Did you make me?”

“Yup.  I did.”  I wondered whether this was going to lead to the question I don’t want to answer:  How did he get inside me?  Luckily, he didn’t ask that particular question.  Instead he brought up the miscarriage I had a few years ago.

“Mommy, remember that baby that was in your belly and it died?”

“Yes.”

“I still feel sad about that and I wish we could have had another kid.  I really wish I had someone to play with.  I don’t have anyone to play with and I really wish I did.”

“Well, I know you wish that and sometimes Mommy feels sad about that baby too.  But you know what?  I am so happy that I got to have you.  Did I ever tell you that when you were in my belly the doctors told me that there was a chance that I might lose you?  I didn’t know for a long time while I was pregnant with you if you were going to live.  It was hard and I am so thankful and grateful that I got to have you.  And there are some benefits to being an only child you know?  You get all my attention.  I can take you places and travel with you, like when we go to Arizona in the winter.  It’s lucky in some ways, that you are an only.”

The Roc pondered that for a moment and then said,

“Well, I still wish there was someone in the house to play with, but you know what?  I’m really glad that I was born a boy.”

“Really?  Why?”

“Because then I don’t have to grow a baby.  I don’t want to have to do that and so I’m glad that I don’t have to.”

“Yup, you are right.  You won’t ever have to grow a baby in your belly.”

Then he asked if he could talk about Halloween and so I told him yes..and I tried to muster some enthusiasm and attention for this repetitive topic.  My mind wandered back over what had just happened and the connections the Roc has been making lately while he chattered on about the desserts I already agreed to bake, the costume he was going to wear, the new decorations I already agreed to buy, the kinds of pumpkins he wanted to carve, and the decorations he was going to make.

I smiled as I walked on, half listening, and thought about how grateful I am to have the chance to slow down and savor life.  Everything is hard won with this boy and he works so hard every day.

***

Yesterday the Roc was inside the house while I mowed the lawn and GC worked on the floor.  I knew he wasn’t happy as I could hear him through the open windows telling his father to be quiet.  I loaded up the van with some stuff to bring to the town composting site and poked my head inside to ask the Roc if he wanted to come along for the ride.  He did and he told me loudly how unhappy he was that it was so noisy in the house.  He was agitated  in the car and screamed loudly about a butterfly flying near him in the van as I drove out of the neighborhood.  I could see his face screwed up in anger and his arms waving around in the rear view mirror and then I saw that it was moth.

“Don’t kill it Roc!  Remember how you felt when you squashed the grasshopper last week?!”

“I already killed it,” he told me.

“Oh no, are you ok?”

“Yeah, I don’t feel bad this time.”

“You don’t?” I asked him.

“No, it is different today.  My emotions didn’t come out.”

Huh.  I didn’t see that coming.

I hid my smile and turned up the music.

 

***

I love his word choices and how he is learning to express himself.  The growth is inside as much as it is on the outside.

I feel so lucky to be witnessing his transformation.

 

Letters + The First Day

The Roc and I skipped the chaos of the elementary school open house at the end of August, and opted instead to schedule a private time for him to see his new fourth grade classroom and to meet the new autism teacher.  This private meeting is something we’ve done since he started school, and I am always relieved that everyone is willing to accommodate him in this way.  The morning of our meeting, while he played in my big bathtub, I sat on the floor and asked him questions about school, what he liked and disliked and if there was anything he wanted the new teachers to know before school started.  I also tried to get him to tell me what things the teachers could do to help him if he was having a hard time, but he couldn’t tell me.  I took notes and used them to type up a letter.  I read it to him and he approved (mostly to get me to stop talking about school I suspect.)

Here are the Roc’s words, (except the first two sentences which I added) his first foray into self advocacy:

Dear Teachers,

My name is the Roc and I am in your class this year.  I want you to know a little about me.  I have autism and sometimes it is hard for me to stay calm.  I feel nervous about school when I don’t know to expect.  I don’t know the kids in my class.  I am also nervous about what will happen during the day (my schedule) and I like to know what comes next.  I am worried about what to do at recess and who will play with me. 

I hope I have a teacher helper again this year.  I need help and they help me in the classroom.  Then I don’t have to wait for the teacher who has to help everyone else.

I am good at recess and running.  I also like gym.  Daily 5 isn’t my favorite.  Reading and math are hard for me and I always have to do work.  Work is hard and I get frustrated.

Roc

***

Yesterday I followed that letter up with an email to the people who work with the Roc everyday at school:

Hello Team Roc!

With the new school year starting tomorrow I thought I would send you all a little note about how the Roc is doing since school let out in May and what we have been working on this summer.  I thought this would be good for those of you who have never worked with the Roc before.  :)

We believe that the Roc’s success is a team effort and we are always available to answer any questions and we hope to communicate with you all as the year goes on.  We take our responsibility as part of this team very seriously and will gladly take any suggestions you have in regards to helping the Roc grow academically, socially and emotionally.

The Roc has had a good summer and went to a few weeks of ESY before we headed to SC to visit family for the month of July, he also participated in a day camp through True Friends as well as a 4 day social skills camp at the end of August.

As evidenced in the letter he gave to Mrs. fourth grade and Ms. autism teacher when we had our private “open house,” the Roc knows that he is autistic and he knows that he has a harder time staying calm than other kids.  He has expressed this summer that he doesn’t like that he is different and he wishes his brain worked like everyone else.  We are working hard to build his self esteem and show him that he is so much more than autism.  We want him to like himself and be happy with who he is.

The Roc is still having a hard time with mimicking other children to get a reaction.  He displayed this behavior with his cousins this summer and also during day camp.  We have been talking a lot about other people’s feelings and I recently bought a self-control & empathy workbook to do with Rocco.  Just a heads up that this is still an issue.
The Roc has been obsessing over spiderwebs for awhile and it has gotten so bad that he won’t eat if he sees one (my house is very clean now.)  I do not know if he will talk about this at school, but if you see him scanning the ceiling and all the nooks and crannies of a room–he is probably searching for spiderwebs.  I welcome any suggestions anyone may have in how we can help him overcome his spiderweb issue.
The Roc has been twisting up the left side of his shirts for many months now.  I bought a bunch of hand fidgets and while he does like to have something in his hands, he still twists up his shirt.  We are not calling attention to it anymore as he was getting very upset when we talked about it too much.
The Roc loves, loves, loves plants vs. zombies on his iPad.  He probably won’t talk about it at school because he said, “zombies aren’t appropriate for school and I don’t want to get an FYI.”    He has made up his own zombie game at home which he calls nerf gun vs. zombies.  We use a behavior chart at home that is plants vs. zombies themed and he earns tokens for positive behaviors and we take tokens away for offenses.
The Roc loves a good joke and is starting to be able to tell when people are joking with him. He loves to tell jokes, but needs a little work on coming up with them on his own.  :)  (C told him to think of a few things that would help him have a good week this week and jokes came up.)  He doesn’t quite understand when people laugh because he said something funny when he didn’t mean to.
The Roc has a hard time looking people in the eye and he has told me it is because he doesn’t know what they are thinking.  I have told him he can look at someone’s forehead instead of their eyeballs if this makes him more comfortable.
Please know that we are always available to answer any questions or concerns you may have and we love to hear when you notice progress in the Roc. Feel free to pass this along to anyone else who works with the Roc.
Good luck tomorrow!
***

Last night the Roc freaked out a bit at bedtime (understatement) and even though he said he was mad because I let him play the iPad too long (I did) and I’m not tough enough to make him stop (Yesterday I wasn’t.  Hello end of summer, hanging on by my fingernails, whatever works) I also knew it was because school is starting back up.  I was proved right when he started to scream, “I hate my life!  I don’t want to go to stupid school!  It’s boring!” when I told him to get his pjs on and teeth brushed because he had to get some sleep before school.  Bedtime turned into an hour long cool down session with the white board.  I wrote what was making him angry: Plants vs. Zombies 2, the dog staring at him, and his clothes not going where he wanted them to when he tried to fling them from the second floor down into the family room.  Then I wrote some solutions/options to what was making him angry:  Stop playing the game forever, or for a few days, take a break, take a deep breath, call up the inventors of Plants vs. Zombies 2 and tell them they are greedy, stupid heads who made the game way too hard.  I wrote more silly stuff for the dog staring and clothes flinging issues and was delighted when he burst out laughing.  We eventually wrote out his morning schedule and I drew a map at the bottom of how to get to his classroom.  He didn’t want to talk about school, only asking if he would still ride the van instead of the bus.

***

It wasn’t as hard to get him up and out the door as I thought it would be this morning.  He did what he usually does on school days and dragged his feet through the morning routine causing him to run out of time to read (I read to him, either books from the library or Harry Potter) before the BUS came.  Oh my, it was a bus and not the van!  It’s been a van for three years!  The only thing he asked me the night before school started was if the van was going to pick him up and I hurriedly said, “Yup, of course!  You don’t ride the big bus, you ride the van.”  The look he gave me when a big bus stopped at the end of our driveway was of pure and utter shock.  He was speechless.  Lucky for him the bus driver seems super, duper nice and he asked me a bunch of questions while the bus aide (an aide on the bus!  Yay!) showed him to his seat.

I got an email during the day from Mrs. fourth grade saying that he was doing great in her room and was “delightful,” as well as thanking me for the earlier email with all the info on the Roc, that it helped her immensely.  I also got an email from Ms. autism teacher this evening stating that the Roc had a wonderful day, was a lot of fun, was nice to a younger student in her room, and only had one hiccup which involved him not being able to take another student’s perspective when they were upset.  I was glad to get these emails as the Roc would only tell me that he had fun at recess and then all he wanted to talk about for the rest of the evening was Halloween, plants vs. zombies, and what we could bake next (we bake together every week.)

We we made it!  First day of fourth grade over and done!

Obligatory first day of school pic:

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July: South Carolina

July was awesome.

We spent the whole month of July in South Carolina, staying with GC’s parents for most of the time, except for one week in which my parents flew out and the five of us stayed in a house right on the ocean.

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Being ocean front was marvelous.  The view from the porch was gorgeous any time of day.IMG_1059

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IMG_0293The Roc was very excited again this year to go to the ocean.  Last year was the first time he actually spent time in the water, running and playing in the waves, carefree in the sun.  I was looking forward to watching him in the ocean, getting in the warm water myself, and playing in the sand.  I was doubly excited that my parents were with us this year.  I’ve talked about the magic of South Carolina for years and it was so fun to share it with them.  The big thing this year was boogie boarding!  The Roc tried it for the first time and really enjoyed it, though he got pretty frustrated when he couldn’t catch a wave just right.

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The Roc’s cousins came up from Charleston and spent some time with us at the beach house.  The kids all had a blast.IMG_0325

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GC’s parents came over a few times and it was fun watching the guys play soccer on the sand.IMG_0713

It went by fast, but we had a great week.IMG_1155

GC spent some of our time in SC working, (since he works from home and can work anywhere!) so there were many days the Roc and I headed out to the beach just the two of us.  We stayed for hours and constructed a lot of sand castles.2014-07-22 11.42.48

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One morning, after a bit of a meltdown, the Roc and I went walking at the state park beach.  We were in calf deep water and all of the sudden the Roc said, “Look Mommy!” and to my left this was swimming by:2014-07-22 17.17.08

The Roc did really well most of the time we were in South Carolina, but of course, he had a few moments, and there was more than one time I thought I may lose my mind.  I never stayed mad for too long.2014-07-20 11.26.57

IMG_0119Pomegranate margaritas also helped to take the edge off.2014-07-19 13.10.28While we did spend the bulk of our time at the beach, GC, his mom, and I took the Roc mini golfing for the very first time.  He loved it!IMG_1196

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We also spent a lot of time at the pool!

2014-07-19 17.34.00Quickly our month came to an end and we were back in the car headed home.

2014-07-26 14.34.49Until next time….

 

 

 

 

 

Catching up: The Highlights

I haven’t written much in 2014.  Not that there hasn’t been anything to say, there were so many situations, triumphs, heartaches, one step forwards and two steps back, fist-pumping moments, and on and on.  Life happened.  So many times I’ve wanted to write, but I have found it harder to write about the Roc as he has gotten older.  This is his life, his story, and it doesn’t feel appropriate to write about the harder stuff, but it also feels dishonest to only write about the good.  Because this life, as I know it, as he knows it, has both.  But I want to continue telling our story because it is a way for me to keep track of where we have been.  I have also been told that other people see their family in my own, they see their kiddo in my Roc, and whether they are looking forward or looking back when they read, I appreciate the connections.  Also, more than one real life friend has told me that they they learn about autism and what our life is like when they read my words, and I appreciate that just as much as the connections.

So, to get started again after many months off and because I like to focus on all the good stuff, here are some of the family highlights of spring/early summer 2014.

After spending a weekend up on scaffolding in our town home in Delaware a few years ago GC swore that he was never going to have a house with a two story family room and/or foyer again.  That statement didn’t hold true as the house we bought when we moved here three years ago has a two story family room.  So this spring we rented scaffolding and GC was again painting and installing a ceiling fan way up high, much to his delight.

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I even went up on the top level to wash the windows and gained a new appreciation for his bravery!

***

I went to a Rocky Mountain School of Photography photo weekend in April and finally learned how to shoot in manual.  I practiced a lot on our pets

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and at swim practice (which is very hard due to the lighting at the pool and all the movement, but I’m working on it.)  The Roc is a bit tired of me pointing my camera at him.  Actually the dog is too, though I think he is afraid of the noise, and that’s why he leaves the room every time I start snapping.

***

Swimming was big in the spring with swim team starting back up and going through June.  Team practice two nights a week and then a weekly individual swim lessons at a local swim school kept the Roc busy after school.  His love affair with water continues and it was a joy to watch him on the team.

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My favorite swim memory from this year is from the Roc’s very first swim meet at the end of May.  He hadn’t expressed an interest in the meets during the fall/winter season and I didn’t push him to compete.  After getting my fall volunteer points complete by working meet concessions I was relieved that he wasn’t interested.  The meet I attended was long, crowded, and so noisy.  I worried it would be completely overwhelming and that he wouldn’t want to continue on the team if I pushed him to race before he was ready.  So when he brought it up on his own, after seeing some of the kids get participation medals at practice this spring, I signed him up for one race, 25 freestyle.  When I looked at the team website a few days later I saw that the coach signed him up for backstroke as well.  In the days leading up to the meet we went over what to expect and decided that GC would take him to the meet and I would be the one volunteering (as a timer.)  I was so nervous for him and so proud when he went to sit with his team.  The coaches were awesome about getting the kids to where they needed to be and the Roc got in the water and raced the backstroke.  He was so proud of himself when he got to the end of the pool and I was able to wave to him before GC took him home.  There was a big chunk of time between his two races, and we live close to the pool, so GC thought it would be better to wait at home.  They came back in time for the freestyle and I was psyched that he would be racing in the lane that I was timing!

The Roc is in the lane closest to you as you watch…

He crushed it!

***

Right after school let out we were invited to spend a weekend up at cabin owned by the coach of the Roc’s special hockey team.  He knew that we love the outdoors and thought we might enjoy fishing and hanging out at his little place in the woods.  We did!  After one day of rain it was peaceful and beautiful.

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IMG_4448It was wonderful to spend the time with the Roc’s coach as well.  He is one of the most genuine people I have ever met.  He helped the Roc fish off the dock, putting worm after worm on the hook as the Roc caught sunny after sunny, and he even got all the spiderwebs down off the ceiling. (This is an anxiety issue the Roc developed last summer, which we thought would go away like so many other things have in the past, but it hasn’t gone away…something to write about in the future.  Spiderwebs can literally ruin his day.)  The special needs world has introduced our family to so many wonderful people and we are very grateful.

After our weekend at the cabin we were biding our time until we left for South Carolina (which deserves a post all it’s own.)

 

 

 

Dogs + Tears

I write but don’t hit publish as much as I once did.  Here is a story from last week…

My fingers grasp the knife, the cold meat slick with fat slides under the blade.  Lucy, my sweet black cat circles my feet, chirping and purring, hoping I will drop her a scrap.  The dog softly whines, a spindle of drool hangs an inch from the floor.  The house is quiet.  I am alone (a rarity with a husband who works from home) save the pets who will attack this hunk of meat if I step away from the counter for three seconds.

My eyes scan the recipe as my heart remembers the feeling, the sights, the energy in that room last night.  Images flicker in my consciousness.  My son.  Who opened up in a way I so rarely witness.   I slice and feel the not only everything in the present, but everything from the night before.

I had been watching a dog rescue video from Hope for Paws as the Roc brushed his teeth in the bathroom five feet away.  He walked in and wanted to see.  I let him watch, and his face promptly crumbled as he took in the dirty, terrified dog.  He asked me questions and I answered them honestly.  Tears started to slide down his cheeks and he was overwhelmed.

By big, deep feelings.

“What happened to that dog?  Why does it look like that?  Oh no….  I think I feel bad.  I think I’m going to cry,” he said as he moved to the floor by the door.

His breath came in ragged gasps as he folded his arms across his chest, pulled his knees up, ducked his head.  Hiding. Full of big emotions.  He pulled the door against himself as he pressed back into the corner.

He hid and I coaxed him out.

“I’m here.  I’m here.  I’ll always be here.”  My own eyes filled with tears as I listened to his breath catch.  He was showing a side I so rarely see.  A side I know is there.  Feelings I know are there.  Sadness, despair, empathy.  Yes, empathy.  I lowered the volume on my laptop and slide onto the floor.

“Please come out.  I’m right here.  Come talk to me.”

He raised his tear stained face and I saw him.  Really saw him.  Red cheeks.  Glistening blue eyes filled with sorrow.  So often his true feelings are not seen on the outside.  I have always known everything was there.  Nothing missing.  But he doesn’t act the way people expect him too.  Often his reactions to others emotions and his often his own seem completely inappropriate.  But I know he feels everything.  Even if his face doesn’t match what’s going on inside.

My heart cracked open watching him process what he saw in the video and how it made him feel.

He came out from behind the door and received my hug.  We watched a couple more dog rescues.  He cried some more.  I held him in my lap, marveled at how long his body is getting.  He doesn’t fit on my lap anymore.  He sniffled and snuffled and had to leave the room when he was run over by his emotions.  I worried that I went too far, that we watched for too long.  That the pain and suffering he saw on the screen was too much for his heart.

I got him into bed and in the darkness I tried to unravel what he was thinking.  I asked questions and waited.  Waited some more while he tried to find the words to explain his thoughts.

About dogs and people.  About cruelty and why some people are so mean.  I could see in his face and feel in my bones that there was so much more he wanted to say.  That he couldn’t access the words to tell me how he really felt.

Watching the wheels turn behind his eyes my mind was rusty, full of all the memories of those early diagnosis years when everything seemed insurmountable and I felt impotent.  I used to ache to soothe him when he was a toddler.  When the tears on his cheeks made him slap his eyes.  When my arms and my words were not enough, when I didn’t know what to do.

Laying on the bed I held myself back and waited.  Waited with eyes and knowledge only time could give me.

We are not where we once were.

 

 

 

Quiet

I feel a little guilty but swallow it down as I pull on my big winter boots.  I shouldn’t feel guilty for leaving the house, for wanting an evening to myself.  I know that GC doesn’t feel guilty when he leaves the house multiple times a week to pursue his hobby.

I am just pursuing quiet.  Space.  Time for myself.

Can the pursuit of quiet be a hobby?

I have been craving quiet.  After spending eight days in Arizona with the Roc and then coming home to two days off of school because of wind chills that would literally freeze the skin off your face…I am in need of some quiet.

I stuff my laptop and kindle in my backpack, pour some coffee into my travel thermos, say goodbye and leave.

The sky is grey, the pale yellow sun drops into view at the end of a line of clouds, hanging onto the edge, then suddenly it is below the horizon.  The street lights come on, illuminating the dirty snow thrown into huge piles along our street.  The Roc waves to me behind the wood blinds.  I wave back, extra big, as I start down the street, not knowing if he can see me.  I turn the corner and my mind is still full of him.

Full of his words and the look on his face as he came through the door this afternoon, “Mommy…I have some bad news.”  Of the conversation I had with the school social worker about the incident at school, the “bad news.”  I imagine the scene, the snowball hitting his face, his anger, and all the comes after.  Him getting to close too the other kid.  “In his face,” I was told and then getting pushed.  “Pushed over,” the Roc told me.  I imagine the shove, the Roc falling through the air, his anger and embarrassment, and all that followed.  The screaming, the rest of the third grade filing into the cafeteria to witness his undoing, how it felt to be so out of control…

My mind is full of him.  It always is.

I need some quiet.

Some space.

Some time for myself.

The library is blissfully quiet as I enter.  I make my way to the back, to the tables with outlets, and set up.

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I go through my photos from Arizona and smile.

My mind is still full of him.

But I’ve found the quiet.

Arizona (The Highlights)

The Roc and I escaped the Minnesota deep freeze and went to Arizona to visit my parents last week.  We were there for eight days.  Eight days of no alarm clocks, lots of hiking, sun, geocaching, sun, eating, plants vs. zombies, sun, and (almost) daily margaritas.

But first we had to get there.  A midnight snow storm made for slow going at 3:30 am when we left for the airport.  Luckily we got there with plenty of time.  Enough for the Roc to get some quality time playing plants vs. zombies on his iPad (a new obsession.)

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Soon enough we were on our way.

2014-01-18 06.45.29The Roc was so excited when we touched down in Arizona.  “YAY!!  Now let’s GO!  NOW!” was what the passengers surrounding us were subjected to after we landed.  It was loud and we were in the very back of a very large plane.

On the drive to Tucson we stopped at Casa Grande National Monument outside Phoenix.

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IMG_2869The Roc was not used to the sun and he was feeling the effects of getting up at 3 am.

IMG_2872He actually fell asleep in the car for a bit.

2014-01-18 14.35.02We spent the first couple days taking it easy, walking around the neighborhood,

IMG_2897playing a little plants vs. zombies,

IMG_2907going for a short hike,

IMG_2922and to eat downtown–where I had a yummy prickly pear margarita!

2014-01-19 15.06.53The Roc got to climb in the empty fountains.

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IMG_2976Then we got busy!

On MLK day we hiked to the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Area, which was once a prison camp and then an internment camp during WWII.

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IMG_2998(A geocache)

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IMG_3006(Another find!)

We also went to Sabino canyon, a favorite of the Roc’s, specifically for the water.  We rode the tram in and then walked the 4 miles back out.

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IMG_3131(I told the Roc to see if he could run up this giant hill at the end–he did!)

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He also found a geocache!

IMG_3141Something new we did was a cave tour and a hike at Colossal Cave Mountain Park one day.

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(The boy can HIKE)

After a picnic and another geocache,

IMG_3212we spent one afternoon at the Desert Museum where the Roc asked me to take his picture,

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just like he did a few years ago.

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At the museum I finally get to see the coyote,

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catch a sweet shot of a hummingbird,

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and get a picture with my boy.IMG_3246We had one overcast day and we took the Roc to Coldstone Creamery and then for a short hike at Saguaro National Park.  The Roc was super silly and I couldn’t get him to stand still for a picture with my mom!

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His silliness went away a mile later when he got a very small splinter in his hand and he spent the rest of the hike agonizing over it’s removal, which my mom was able to do when we got back to the car–thank goodness for a Grandma who hikes with a first aide kit!  (I have no photographic evidence of the splinter.)

On our final day in Arizona we went for a long hike and I soaked up the sun, knowing that we would be heading back into sub zero temperatures the very next day.

Gabe Zimmerman trail head.

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IMG_3384Lest you be fooled by all the smiling photos in this post, the Roc fell apart at the turn around spot on this hike.  He had complained of hunger and so my mom and I sat down with him to eat while my dad went on to find a geocache.  When my dad came back, after finding the cache, the Roc lost it.  He wanted to see the “treasure” and proceeded to sit down, scream, and throw his hat and some rocks.  He was disappointed, sad, and frustrated that we wouldn’t go on so he could see what my dad had found, and instead we were heading back to the car.  We had a long way to go, over 3 miles, and we needed to start back to make sure we got there before the sun set.  I felt for him and was frustrated with myself as I had a feeling he was going to be upset when my dad came back and he realized he had missed out.  He wasn’t happy for a lot of that hike back, but eventually he followed close to my dad, and I didn’t hear most of his tirade.

IMG_3360We were bound for home the next day and the Roc and I were both sad to leave.  He was happy to have a treat at Starbucks near our gate at the airport,

2014-01-26 11.22.59and play plants vs. zombies while we waited to board the plane.

2014-01-26 11.59.42Which is what he did the whole way home.  I tried to get him to watch a movie, but he would have none of it and continued to play the game, while wearing headphones–which caused him to very LOUDLY exclaim for me to, “LOOK AT THIS!” and “WATCH THIS!” jolting me and the poor couple seated in front of us.  But I reminded myself how I had to entertain him by reading books, doling out snacks and crayons, and watching movies with him when he was younger and we flew across the country, and I felt a little better about the loud exclamations.

2014-01-26 12.26.42We landed and were both shocked by the below zero windchill!

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Back to real life and our routine!