October in Pictures

We went camping up north the first weekend of October.  The weather was  pleasant enough on our first day, but it turned ugly that night.  Rain on and off, the temperature kept dropping, and the wind picked up as the weekend wore on.  We still had fun and (most) of us (the Roc and I) were prepared with cold weather gear….ahem GC is wearing shorts in this pic, though you obviously cannot tell…

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I was glad I bought the dog a fleece sweatshirt, even though I felt ridiculous buying it.  He appreciated it.

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The Roc was happy to get out of school for two days and go to some of his favorite places.  Waterfalls!

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The windchill was definitely well below freezing on our second to last morning and the Roc looked like this

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in his sleeping bag while GC and I were getting breakfast together so we decided to head home a day early.  It was COLD.  We stopped by some waterfalls on the way home, which made the Roc happy.

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Coming home a day early meant we were back in time for the Roc to skate in the Special Hockey open skate down at the University of Minnesota.

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He thought everything Goldy the Gopher did was funny, but he still didn’t want to talk to him.

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***

The location of the Roc’s hippotherapy changed when the therapist got a new job at a gorgeous camp.  The indoor ring is awesome with lots of seating so I can watch him ride, there is a little black kitten who always comes and sleeps on my lap,

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and the trails are beautiful.  The Roc loves the trail ride portion of his lesson (which will be ending now that winter is almost here.)

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***

My mom had a birthday and the Roc LOVES to celebrate birthdays so he picked out a cake at the grocery store and insisted we bring it to Grandma.  I need more pictures of the Roc and my mom, they have a special connection.  Both my parents are wonderful to the Roc.

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***

My parents and I took the Roc hiking one day.  The fall colors were gorgeous.

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The Roc likes to geocache with his Grandpa.  When I asked him if he wanted me to buy a gps so we could go geocaching he said, “But we do that with Grandpa.”  Yup, we do.

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We went a little farther off the trail than we should have on this afternoon and didn’t end up finding the “treasure” as the Roc calls it because my dad and I were a little worried we might fall of the earth.

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Even though we didn’t find what we were looking for, and the Roc complained bitterly, the scenery made up for it.

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A whole forest of yellow maples in the late afternoon sun.  I couldn’t get over the golden color.

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***

Towards the end of October I met up with my best friend Christa for our annual get-a-way!  We spent the first two days walking around colonial Williamsburg, taking house tours and learning a lot about the revolutionary period.

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IMG_2390We also walked around Jamestown which was fascinating.

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IMG_2479We had a really great time chatting, eating, laughing, catching up, and learning all about colonial times.

Before dropping me off at the airport we stopped by a plantation and took the tour.

IMG_2484After all our touring, listening, and reading museum placards on our trip I suggested that next year we spend a few days laying on a beach somewhere reading trashy novels.  No learning allowed.  We’ll see what happens next fall…

***

Something I didn’t take many pictures, and I really should have, was all the decorating the Roc did for Halloween.  As soon as it was October 1st he was allowed to talk about the October holiday (not that he refrained from talking about it since his birthday was over in early August, but I had good reason to tell him that I wouldn’t talk about it until October 1st-my sanity)  The Roc loves Halloween and proclaims it to be his favorite holiday.  He wanted to decorate with the few decorations we have, buy more decorations, and then when I wouldn’t buy as many as he wanted, we made one,

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and then over the month he made many, many more.  He also really wanted a Halloween pinata, I think so he could get more candy.

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Like most parents we ended the month of October with pumpkins,

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trick-or-treating,

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and lots of candy.

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August Travel Part 2, SD + MN

We left Colorado with two more people in the van than we arrived with.  My in-laws had flown from South Carolina to Colorado the week before we arrived, and then rode home with us to Minnesota.  We stopped in South Dakota to visit Mount Rushmore and spent the night at a nearby hotel.

I tried to get the Roc to pose by this teepee, but he wasn’t having any of it.

He had to sit on every single bench we passed on the little trail though, and after many photos capturing his anger at my pointing the camera his direction, I got this shot.

I just love that smile and those bright eyes.

After dinner we headed down to the hotel pool and the Roc was surprised to find a water slide there.  He was hesitant and GC and I pushed him too hard to go down.  As soon as he got to the top and saw the rushing water, he could not bring himself to get on.  No matter how many times I explained that the water wass only spraying out at the top of the slide to get it going, his fear was too overwhelming, and he walked back down the stairs in tears.  I shouldn’t have pushed.  I still feel bad as he was very stuck on the fact that he didn’t go down the slide, and I know without a doubt that my pushing made him feel worse.  Sometimes I have a hard time controlling my emotions, and I definitely learned a lesson that night.

We had a very long, very boring drive across South Dakota and back home the next day.  Very long.  Very boring.  Some screaming for the last hour…or so.

We spent one day at home unpacking, doing laundry, and then repacking for a short(er) road trip to the north shore.  We stopped at Split Rock and hiked up to a look out, then back down to let the Roc throw rocks.

We all enjoyed the view from the balcony at our condo when we arrived.

The Roc enjoyed the pool after dinner.

Guinness enjoyed being there…I don’t know about the hug.

Especially because he looked like this 2 seconds after the above photo.

And then this.

“Help me!” his eyes seem to say.

The next day we went to Cascade State Park to see the waterfalls.  Of course.

Then we continued north to Grand Marais where we walked out to the light house and around the little town,

then stopped to eat at The Angry Trout.  The weather was so warm we were able to eat out on the deck, which was wonderful because they allow dogs on the deck and we had Guinness with us.  He was perfectly behaved under the table, our waitress didn’t even know he was there.

We drove on to Grand Portage where we saw some wildlife,

a really tall waterfall,

and Canada (that’s Canada across the river.)

My in-laws really enjoyed seeing the North Shore and I’m so glad we took them.  I have so many childhood memories of camping up north, I always like sharing that part my beautiful state.

We were all so tired after our long trip from CO and then our northern MN trip, but we did make some time to go see my Mom’s beautiful yard,

and we convinced my father-in-law to make calzones for us,

as well as pizza!

It is hard being so far away from GC’s family, seeing them during the school year is something we gave up when we moved from the East Coast to the middle of the country.  I’m so glad we were able to overlap our trips and bring them to see our new home.

And now they know that it doesn’t snow in August – so they’ll definitely come back!

Weekend Camping

Last October we had a wonderful experience camping with the Roc.  We knew we wanted to go again this year, and decided to try this weekend.  With only 5 days of school left we pulled the Roc out of school 2 hours early on Friday and drove up north.  We knew many of the state parks had first-come-first-serve sites and we were hoping to get up there early enough to get one.  We didn’t have a back up plan in case all the sites were taken, other than turning around and driving all the way back home!  We lucked out and got to choose from 4 sites.  We choose this cart-in site, up on a hill (which was really fun for GC to lug all our gear up!)

But it was worth it in the end.

After setting up camp we went down the lake the throw some rocks and build a rock tower.

On Saturday GC was up early preparing breakfast.  This is what he made (and that’s his plate, not mine!)

He was a very happy camper (and he finished all that food!)

The Roc kept asking if we could go see waterfalls so we decided to drive up the shore a bit and go to Temperance River.  He was so happy.

The water was really rushing from all the recent rain.

Then we went to Cascade, to see more waterfalls.

On our way back down to Split Rock we stopped at Tettegouche and hiked to the high falls.  GC had to carry the dog across this bridge.  I could hardly look down as we crossed.

We stopped at the top of the waterfall (and GC kept a tight grip on the Roc)

Then we hiked all the way down to the bottom,

and I remembered the last time I was at that same spot, June 2008.  How different things were, in so many ways.  The river was a lot lower, and the Roc was much harder to photograph.

We headed back to our campsite for dinner and some quality time around the campfire (s’mores).  On Sunday we packed up all our stuff after breakfast and then set off on a hike to see the backpacking sites at the campground.  The Roc had to get down to this beach and throw some rocks.

We hiked for awhile before doubling back towards the campground.  We were all tired and sore from Saturday, but decided that since we were there, we might as well hike to the top of Day Hill to the look out.  It was worth it.

Look!  I exist!  I need to give GC my camera more often.

A rare photo of me and the Roc.

This boy has the best smile of anyone I know.  He is my outdoor kid (as long as it’s not raining) and I love being able to show him the places I went with my parents growing up.

On the whole the Roc did awesome camping.  He had a few moments when we were really, really glad we chose that cart-in site deep in the woods with no one around.  He also needed to know exactly what.came.next at every moment of the day, and that was hard when you don’t know exactly what comes next!  But when I look through the photos, the fun stands out and the couple incidents are already fading in my memory.  We will go again, for sure.

We had a great weekend!

Camping: A First

Camping has been a part of my life since I was a child.  We tent camped when I was young, my sister and I sleeping in the back of our mustard yellow van, and when I was a bit older my parents purchased an RV and we traveled out West, to Canada, to Michigan, and to the “north shore” of Minnesota.  I have so many good memories from our camping trips and I am so thankful that my parents took me.  I always hoped that my children would love the outdoors as much as I do and that we would camp as a family.

But all your best laid plans seem to change when your child is diagnosed with Autism.  As I watched the Roc struggle to communicate as a 3 year old, seeing him through eyes filled with the diagnosis, I worried about so many things, life had suddenly seemed to veer off course.  I also wondered if we would do the things I had dreamed of doing, and one of them was camping.

I knew early on that the Roc was an outdoor kid.  He cemented it when I started to take him out to Arizona during the winter to visit my parents and he would hike.  What 3 year old will hike a few miles willingly?  We took the Roc to Colorado around his 5th birthday and the boy hiked 5 miles in the mountains, all for the promise of a waterfall, and he didn’t complain.  I’ve reveled in the fact that I got my outdoor kid.  With our move to Minnesota, I started to think more about camping.

Could we?  Would he like it?  What if it rained?  (The Roc is like a cat when it comes to rain, don’t rain on him)  Would he sleep in the tent?  What about all of our daily routines that would most definitely be out the window while camping?  Would he eat camp food?  and on and on.

There are so many variables with camping, so many things that would roll off another kids back, but would greatly bother the sensory sensitive Roc.

We decided to give it a try.  Because you never know until you try.

I told the Roc on Thursday morning that I had a surprise for him when he got home from school.  He immediately wanted to know what it was, but I told him to wait, I would tell him when he got home.

“What’s the surprise?” the Roc asked me as soon as the van door opened.

“How would you like to go to Duluth tonight, stay in a hotel with a pool, and then tomorrow we’ll see waterfalls and go camping?” I asked him excidedly, sure that he would burst with joy.  Hotel!  Pool!  Waterfalls!  Lake Superior!  Camping!

“I thought we were going to Coon Rapids Dam!” the Roc screeched at me.

Oh boy.  After talking him down and explaining how we could drive to the dam any old day, but that hotel/pool/waterfall/camping is something special he got excited.  We left when GC got home from work, and the evening went well.  We arrived at our hotel, stashed the dog and our stuff, went to 5 Guys for dinner, and then came back with enough time for the Roc and I to take a dip in the hotel pool and whirlpool.

We woke up early on Friday, not sure what time the park office opened, but without a reservation we were banking on getting a non-reservable site, and were hoping for a “cart-in” site to maximize the distance between us and other campers, therefore reducing the chances of us greatly disturbing anyone should a meltdown occur.  It was still dark when we left our hotel.

We watched the sun rise out of Lake Superior.

The park office wasn’t open when we got there, so we checked out all the empty non-reservable sites and got our first choice when the office opened.  We were lucky and got a great cart-in site at the end of the campground, set back in the woods.  We quickly went to work setting up our site.  Well GC did,

the Roc, Guinness and I went down to check out the lake.

After set up and a quick lunch, we packed a bag and headed off to see some waterfalls and hike to the top of Carlton Peak, the trail sign stating a 3-hour round trip hike.  At the top of a series of waterfalls we asked a guy with a big camera to take our picture,

and enjoyed the view before setting off to the peak.

It was a long hike and a strenous climb to the top, but the views were worth it.

We rested and had a snack before heading back down.  We knew it would take awhile to get to the bottom, and even longer to get back to our campsite down by the lake.  The last bit is a scramble to the top, which took awhile, and took even more time to get back down.

We made it back to our campsite and started dinner.  GC had some trouble with his little portable cook stove, that he had just purchased from a guy at work and had never used, and we ended up eating dinner and washing up in the dark.  The Roc was good throughout it all, he sat by the fire, he ate his dinner, he repeatedly asked when we were going to make s’mores, and around 8:30 he announced he was tired and he wanted to go to bed.  He went to sleep in the tent with the dog and a lantern.  GC and I looked at each other in amazement.

The next morning GC got his little stove working and he made us some eggs and bacon.

After breakfast we drove up to Cascade River State Park and hiked around the waterfalls there.

We picnicked down by the lake

and then drove up to Grand Marais to walk around and check out the Coast Guard area.

We went back to our campsite earlier and cooked some pasta over the fire, (in the daylight!)

When it got dark we went down to the lake with a lantern and watched the water shimmer in the moonlight, heading back when it got really dark and when we realized that the Roc wasn’t going to sit quietly!  Of course we made more s’mores that night and again, when the Roc got tired, he told us so, and then went to sleep in the tent with the dog and a lantern.

We woke up to gray skies and a screechy Roc on Sunday, he was upset that we couldn’t watch the sunrise and it took a little coaxing to bring him back down, so we ate breakfast and packed up our stuff to head home.  On our way south we stopped at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, but it had started to lightly rain, so we went down to the lake to check out the view of the lighthouse, and the Roc threw rocks.

We drove home happy, dirty and tired.

You never know until you try.  I was apprehensive about camping with the Roc, but I’m so glad we gave it a shot.  He was so happy, he kept telling us he was having fun, and really, is there anything better?

When your kid is having fun, and he tells you about it?

I know enough to deeply cherish those moments.

An Epic Weekend

It’s no secret, the Roc loves water, and he especially loves waterfalls.  Many months ago GC showed the Roc some waterfall videos on You Tube.  One of those videos became a favorite and was requested over and over and over again.  It was a 10 minute video of Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania.  It mesmerized the Roc, completely.

So we decided to go visit.

The Roc was soooo excited when we got out of the car on Saturday morning.  He was literally bouncing up and down, manically grinning, and repetitively repeating “I’m so excited!  Let’s go mommy!  Hurry up!”  As soon as we got on the trail he lead us off the path right to the water, and we were still over a mile away from the first waterfall!  He was all smiles, so happy to be outside.

We didn’t rush and let the Roc stop at each and every waterfall for as long as he wanted.

We hiked up one side of the Falls Trail and back down the same side, deciding not to risk the whole loop in one day, and when we got back down to the bottom the Roc insisted on throwing rocks into the stream.  There’s just something about little boys and rocks.

That night we stayed at a Residence Inn and while GC made dinner in the teeny, tiny kitchen,

the Roc made a waterfall on the couch.

The Roc has stayed in cabins in northern Minnesota, but this was his very first hotel experience.  We decided not to tell him there was pool there (or we’d hear about it all day) until we were ready to go swimming.  So while I was washing the dishes, GC had the Roc go look out the window where you could see a little bit of the indoor pool below us.  His expression was priceless as he realized what he was looking at.  He had a great time swimming in the (cold) pool,

and he even sat in the hot tub with me for a little bit.

We decided to hike up the other side of the Falls Trail on Sunday.  It proved to be just as beautiful,

but much steeper, see the trail there right next to the waterfall?

It was just a little bit nerve wrecking to hike this with the Roc!  We stayed glued to his side during each ascent.

We hiked to the 96 foot waterfall, but the Roc wouldn’t get any closer for a photo so I took his place.

After hiking up, up, up we found a great place to stop for lunch.

The scenery was beautiful, and when we got to the top of the Falls Trail we decided to hike across the Highland Trail and go back down the side we climbed the day before.  I couldn’t imagine hiking down the waterfalls we’d just climbed up with the Roc.

The Roc thoroughly enjoyed himself at Ricketts Glen.  We hiked around 5 miles on Saturday and just over 7 on Sunday, and the Roc really hung in there, only really showing how worn out he was about a mile out from the car on Sunday afternoon.  It was a great weekend, one we will not forget.

Busy Bee

I’ve been busy the last two weeks.  Annual developmental pediatrician appointment, get fit day at the Roc’s school, phone calls, and lots of driving up to PA for three straight days of evaluations.  No time to reflect through writing.  There is no shortage of stories to tell, my heart has both ached and soared, many times within the same day.  Talking to the doctor about the Roc’s progress, watching her work with him, feeling so proud and worried in the same heartbeat.  Attending school events and wondering why I go?  Seeing the gains and the struggles, trying not to compare and failing, watching the children group up with their friends and seeing that the Roc has no one, only me and the teachers.  Watching the Roc work so hard to keep it together when something didn’t go his way, and just feeling for him.  Knowing that he works that hard all.the.time.  Watching a little girl watching him struggle and seeing her whispering to her little friend, and knowing that that has only just begun.  Walking away from the event and feeling mixture of emotion I have no words to explain.  Trying to describe the feeling to both my Mom and GC, how it feels like something has wrapped it self around all my organs and is squeezing me.  It’s not a sharp pain, it’s the pressure, sometimes I feel like I’m suffocating even though I can take a deep breath.  Knowing that I will probably always hold part of myself so tightly because for me…this is the way it is now.  Knowing that I feel only a portion of what it must feel like to be the Roc.

But it has not all been so grueling.  Yesterday, after the three consecutive days of evaluations were completed I surprised the Roc by asking him if he would like to go to Longwood Gardens.  He loves it there and it had been hard for me not to spill the beans earlier in the week, as it’s the best feeling to make him blissfully happy.  On our drive I mentioned that instead of having a picnic like I originally suggested, we would be passing by the Thai food restaurant and we could stop for lunch there.  After changing his mind back and forth between the two he decided to go to the restaurant.  And so we did.  Just the two of us.  He behaved and even smiled for the waitress.

and me.

He kept asking me what the music was and I told him to ask the waitress, and he did, but she didn’t know saying she could speak the language but when they started singing she couldn’t keep up!  After lunch we headed over to the gardens.  And it was bliss.  Perfect weather, only the retired and a few with very small children, wonderful for the Roc.  For me, it’s about the flowers,

but it’s all about the fountains for him.

We found a dragon in a tree house,

and stopped to drink out of every water fountain we saw,

which makes the Roc oh so happy.

After a second visit to a waterfall,

and some more time gazing at the Italian water garden,

we headed into the conservatory where I bored the Roc by taking pictures of orchids

before letting him loose in the childrens garden.

It was the perfect way to wrap up our long three days and his smile says it all.

Now I need to go clean my house, my in-laws are coming this weekend!  If the weather is nice the Roc and I are planning on taking Nonna to see Longwood Gardens, we know she’ll love it as much as we do.


Swimming + Suckers

Swimming:

The Roc LOVES water.  He loves to play in it, bathe in it, watch it fall – as in waterfalls or pouring it or watching it rush from a faucet or sprinkler, and he especially loves to swim in it.  He started swimming lessons back in February and in the past few weeks he has really taken off at the community pool we visit during the week and on weekends.  He can now “doggie paddle” between GC and I, or from me to the side of the pool and I’ve been increasing the distance.  He will even slide into the pool and swim to me (and sometimes I back up, which causes him to scream “MOMMY” while trying to swim).  He can kick on the kick board and swim on a noodle too.  He’s also doing very well at swimming lessons and his instructor commented on how comfortable he is in the water lately.  She’s been pushing him further and further at each lesson.  Having him go under, swimming on his back, (and I say that loosely because if you were to see what I see he resembles a frog and he panics when she lets him go) and is teaching him how to kick like this:

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which also reminds me of a frog! I’m so proud of him and I think he’s a natural in the water.  The swimming lessons are also easing my fear of him drowning – did I mention the kid LOVES water and he’s isn’t afraid of it?  Scary.  I think by next summer he’ll be swimming underwater, that is if someone can teach him to close his mouth!  He SMILES the whole time he’s swimming, which is totally cute, but causes him to swallow a lot of water and isn’t conducive to swimming under the water.

Suckers:

Another new little skill, completely unrelated to swimming, has developed because of swimming lessons.  Figuring out how to eat a sucker.  That doesn’t sound too hard right?  It is hard for the Roc because he has an aversion to putting his lips on things, as in a fork or a spoon or a sucker or a straw.  He regularly bites his applesauce off his spoon, and until just recently he couldn’t figure out how to drink from a straw (I always have a plastic cup in my purse for those pesky juice boxes people always offer at parties and play dates).  As we leave the building after swimming lessons the Roc is allowed to pick a lollipop out of the basket, and his desire to eat said lollipop has finally got the best of him and after a few months of bringing them home (and his father eating them) he figured it out (after some demonstration and verbal coaching from me) how to eat them! He’s so proud of himself!

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I’m proud of him too.  I never thought that swimming lessons would teach him so much more than swimming.