Happy Place

One of the Roc’s favorite places to visit is the beach and we got to go many times in the two weeks we spent visiting GC’s family over Christmas vacation.

We went in sunny warm weather,

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IMG_3036with Marcello while he was still in town,

IMG_3049and with the Roc’s cousin Aiden when he came up to stay at Nonna and Nonno’s house for a few days!

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We even took our crazy dog to the beach one evening!

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It wasn’t sunny every day, but even light rain won’t keep the Roc away from the water.

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While we spent most of our time walking on the beach, the Roc and I finally hiked a little trail at the state park (that I won’t step foot on in the summer — poisonous snakes!) and he loved this awesome tree.

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IMG_3409I love that the Roc wants to be outside as much as I do.

We also stopped by the marsh and freshwater lagoon one afternoon so I could photograph birds.

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The Roc is working on his patience while I work on my photography.  We both have a long way to go.

The beach is my happy place too.  Especially when I’m with my boy.

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Couch Conversations

On Friday night I let the Roc stay up and watch the latest episode of The Biggest Loser with me.  He likes to watch the contestants try to complete the physical challenges and see how they’ve changed over time.

I like watching with him because he gets so excited for the contestants and he cheers them on.  He sits next to me and says, “Come on!  You can do it!  Keep trying!” as they struggle to complete obstacle courses, grueling physical tasks, and puzzles.  He doesn’t like it when they cry and worriedly looks to me to see what I look like.  He often asks me, “Why does your face look like that?” as I hold back tears.  I can’t help it, watching the contestants transform is uplifting and sometimes their stories are heart wrenching, so it’s hard for me not to cry.

Watching with him has led to some interesting conversations on the couch.

This season there is a contestant who has trouble controlling his emotions.  He freaks out and yells when a challenge is something that makes him really uncomfortable.  I often feel uncomfortable watching this man get angry, and his man tantrums remind me of a certain someone who lives in my house.  I’ve wondered if the Roc would make a connection to his own angry outbursts and this man.  A couple weeks ago the Roc whispered, “Come on Rob, you can do it.  Come on!” as Rob got over his freak out and mustered up the courage to rappel down a waterfall.  (For the record, I may have freaked out if someone told me to do the same!)

“Yes!  He did it!  That looked so scary!” the Roc exclaimed while Rob celebrated his accomplishment at the bottom of the waterfall.

“He got pretty mad at the top didn’t he?” I asked the Roc.

“Yeah, he got mad like I do sometimes.”

I didn’t say anything else at that time and the Roc started talking about next challenge as the show moved on.  During last weeks episode Rob started to lose control again when he was presented the challenge of vertically jumping onto a box and the Roc said,

“Oh no, there he goes again!”

“He gets really mad a lot doesn’t he?” I asked the Roc.

“Yeah….maybe he has autism!” the Roc exclaimed, his eyes lighting up.

“Hmmm.  I don’t know, no one has said so on the show, but you never know.  Either way he really needs to learn to control himself doesn’t he?”

“Yeah, I’ve been working on that.  He should too.”

Later, during the weigh-in the Roc said the before pictures of the contestants “looked scary” and I asked him to clarify.

“Their bellies look scary…so big like that….that is not good.  Is that unhealthy Mommy?”

I agreed and then we talked about what the show is about:  How the winner is the one who has lost the most weight, and how eating poorly and not moving around enough had led to their weight gain in the first place.  By losing the weight they would be able to do things they hadn’t before.

“Like that lady who said she could be the fun Mommy now!” he said.   “Exactly,” I agreed.

Sitting next to him on Friday night I realized that he had been watching the show without any judgement or criticism.  He is all about the facts and never had anything bad to say about anyone on the show.  In fact, I don’t ever hear him say anything bad about anyone.  He doesn’t work that way.  In a world where we so often hear people around us making judgements and being critical of others, when they don’t know anything about them, it is absolutely refreshing to see that those thoughts do not come naturally to my child.  It’s not something I did, a way I did or did not parent him, it’s just part of who he is.  Though I would hope that some of the our conversations about negative experiences he has had with peers and the right way to treat others have sunk in…it’s just not in his nature to be judgmental or critical of others.

I love that about him.

Car Conversations

GC took the Roc to his weekly social skills class yesterday under the agreement that I would take the Roc to his hippotherapy session in the afternoon.  I savored the empty house while they were gone.  With GC working from home, I am rarely alone anymore and when I get the chance to be alone in our house, I realize how much I enjoy being by myself…and not talking about plants vs. zombies.

When they got home GC mentioned to me that the Roc got hit at class again this week.  It was news to me that another child hit him last week, but I didn’t ask the Roc any questions about the incident(s) right away.  I knew he wouldn’t want to talk about it.  He already had it in his mind that he would be having a smoothie and then playing plants vs. zombies on his iPad during the forty five minutes he would be home before he had to get back into the car to drive to the barn.  I knew I could ask him about it in the car.

Time and growth have changed so much for the Roc.  I can clearly remember driving down Rt. 13 in Delaware and pointing out the farm equipment and big trucks to a silent Roc.  The fluttery panic I felt when I glanced in the rear view mirror and couldn’t catch his eye.  Now he is rarely silent, but many of our conversations are monologues from the Roc about plants vs. zombies, a place we have been, or a movie the Roc has watched.  Or a series of questions of which he already knows the answers.  But that too is slowly changing and I know that he will sometimes talk to me on the many car rides we take.

So while I drove out into the country I asked him about his social skills class:

“Buddy, I heard that you got hit at social skills today.  What happened?” I asked.

“Not hit, pushed.  L pushed me.”

“Oh, that’s too bad.  What happened right before she pushed you?”

“She yelled, ‘This isn’t going fast enough!’ on the obstacle course and she pushed me!  That was so rude!”  His voice rising in indignation.

“She was behind you on the obstacle course and you weren’t going fast enough for her?”

“Yeah, I guess I wasn’t going fast enough for her and she pushed me.  I got so mad I had to go around the corner to calm down.”

“Well, it sounds like you made the right choice.  I’m so glad you didn’t freak out and scream or push her back,” I told him, knowing that he probably wouldn’t have touched her since he doesn’t like to touch people or be touched.

“I don’t like that she pushed me!  Why did she have to do that?”

“I know buddy, she shouldn’t have done that.  No one should push.  But you did the right thing by walking away.  I’m so proud of you for making the right choice.”

“Ok…but I’m still kinda mad about it.”

“You know that you can tell someone not to touch you right?  You can stand up for yourself.  No one has the right to put their hands on you.”

“Well!  I did!  After she pushed me I got mad and told her not to push me!  And!  She got even madder and she threw her stuffed animal down really hard and screeched at me!  That was when I went around the corner.  Why did she have to get more mad at me!  SHE screamed at ME!  SHE pushed ME!” he yelled from the backseat.

“Roc, I’m so glad you stood up for yourself and we are talking about this now.  You made the right choices.  You are growing up and learning how to handle yourself.  I think L will learn the things you are learning too.  It might take her awhile.  But you showed her the right way to react today.”

“I thought that would be my best choice.  I didn’t want to get in trouble.”

“Well, it was.  It sounds like L was having some problems making the right choices today.”

“Yeah!  You know what?  M showed us the smiley face he drew and L just said, Nobody cares, and that was rude.  She has a problem being rude.  And then M grabbed a couple pictures off the schedule and ripped them into pieces and said, There!  That will make it go faster!  And I thought, Man! What is up with these two today?'”

“Wow.  It sounds like social skills was pretty interesting today.”

“Yeah, I didn’t say that last part.  I didn’t let it out of my head.  I didn’t know if I could say it out loud.  So I didn’t say anything…”

We pulled into the parking lot right at that moment.  I put the car in park and turned back to the Roc.

“I am so proud of you Roc.  You are growing up into a very nice young man.”

“I’m proud of me too.  If we gave gold stars I would definitely have gotten one for that!  I would have gotten TWO purple sticks if that had happened at school!”

“Yup, you would have,” I told him as we walked into the building.  He immediately changed the subject to what makes him nervous about riding and we went through our familiar pep talk about the noises horses make and how it is important to learn all the steps of taking care of a horse, not just how to ride one.

A few minutes later, after he had gone off to brush and help saddle his horse, I started scribbling down our conversation, knowing that I would want to record it here.  When the young therapist came over and sat down I relayed the conversation to her and she said,

“He is growing up into such an awesome person.”

I wholeheartedly agree.

Awesome indeed.

 

SC Christmas + Cousins

A few weeks before Christmas we decided to road trip to South Carolina to spend the holidays with GC’s family.  We hadn’t spent Christmas with his parents since 2006.

We were in good spirits on our drive down,

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even the dog.

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GC’s parents were on a cruise so we spent the first couple days in their house without them.  The Roc and his Nonna made some Christmas cookies together when they got back.

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IMG_2791The Roc was very excited to be with his SC cousins for Christmas.  He was most excited to sleep at his cousins house on Christmas eve and wake up with them on Christmas morning…which is what GC and I were most worried about.  Our Christmases have always been quiet and calm.  This year would be so different and we could envision many things that could make the Roc melt.  We did a lot of prepping before we left home and crossed our fingers that things would go smoothly.  I was still worried a little until my sister-in-law Andrea texted me,

“We love Roc so much and will be there to help if he has a rough time.  It will be different for him to be here and we totally understand that.”

There is nothing like family who love your kid just as he is, understand that things may be hard for him, and are willing to step in and help.  We are so lucky.

The Roc spent Christmas eve morning playing on the iPad and continually asking when we would drive down to his auntie Andrea’s house.

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When we got there the fun began.  The kids were so joyful.  The Roc and his cousins immediately got together.  They spent the night laughing and dancing.

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IMG_2853The Roc and his cousin Bella even made up a dance and performed it for us.  They are so cute together.  Bella is a gift.  She is sweet, playful, and so wonderful with the Roc.  She reassures him when he is anxious and she is willing to play all night.  She is a very special girl.

IMG_2928The kids weren’t the only ones having a good time.  There was a lot of laughter in the kitchen.

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Guinness found a friend in my youngest nephew Anderson!  He tried to hide his face but I captured this shot this funny little guy.

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My mother-in-law shed a few tears when my brother-in-law from Colorado surprised us all and showed up!  We were so happy to see him!

IMG_2921At the end of the night the kids all opened new pjs from their Nonna and Nonno.

IMG_2931Before the kids went to bed my nephew Aiden read, “The Night Before Christmas” to all the younger kids.  Almost all of my pictures of Aiden on Christmas Eve are of his blurry face as he slid in front of the camera or waved his hand in the corner of my frame.  Except this one.  He’s a good kid.

IMG_2957A moment the Roc still talks about.

The next morning the Roc expressed some anxiety before leaving the bedroom to open presents, but after a little pep talk he told me, “Okay, I’m ready now.  Let’s do this.”

IMG_2958The kids had a blast opening up their gifts.

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We spent the rest of the day eating and relaxing before we headed back to GC’s parents house.

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The holiday was a success all around.  The Roc had so much fun spending time with his cousins and he was very well behaved.  As we drove out of Andrea’s neighborhood GC and I looked at each other and he said to me, “I think that was my favorite Christmas yet.”

Last year, for reasons we never figured out, the Roc had such a hard time on Christmas day.  So we are extra thankful for such a family filled fun holiday.

We made wonderful memories.