[Five on Friday] This and That.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Hello Friday!!! I've been waiting for you all week. It is Friday, isn't it? Goodness I was confused yesterday and thought it was Monday again after working last week Monday - Saturday and then again Sunday - Tuesday with a random Wednesday off in the middle for a funeral and back to work yesterday. It's been a whirlwind!

I feel like I've had a Friday Favorites type post in the works for a while, like I have TONS of random to share, yet all of a sudden, I can't think of anything. I really need to start a list. I'm old.

Let's start with what I'm most excited about...

ONE.
Museum of Ice Cream.


Yes, you read that right. A WHOLE museum dedicated to ICE CREAM! Sadly it's only in LA for a short time and they only have a certain amount of tickets a day so I'm not sure if I will get to check it out, but their Instagram makes it look epic. I mean, there's a pool full of SPRINKLES!


TWO.
The Postal Project Instagram.


In my Instagram browsing the other day, I found this account. I mean, how perfect, right?! I've been debating posting, but most of the pictures are JUST the post office and I like Mason to be in the picture and also, I don't necessarily want to post the city I live in. Maybe I'll hit up a local city's post office and then post it for them to add!


THREE.
Key hook.


We're moving in about a month (long story, not sure if I'll share it on the blog or not, but same city, different place) and when we were looking at places, we saw this on the wall at once of them. I secretly loved it, but didn't say anything about it, and apparently so did Seth because he took a picture! I thought maybe it was from Pottery Barn, but I looked on the website and didn't see anything like it. Does anyone know where I could get something like this? Or maybe a little smaller?


FOUR.
Ausome Sauce.


My boss told me about this news story that she saw and then I saw them post about it on Instagram as well. This boy has autism and is an entrepreneur. He makes his own sauce that he called Ausome Sauce (autism/awesome combined). He has a passion for cooking and actually has a local restaurant sell and USE his sauce at the restaurant. Seriously such an inspiring story. There really is no limit to what you can do when you put your mind to it.


FIVE.
Loft shirt.


I got this Loft shirt the other day (in two colors because I loved it so much!) and had to share. I don't know if you've ever tried the Lou and Grey line at Loft, but it is amazing. I'm obsessed. The shirts are seriously SO soft and so comfortable, but are also sadly so expensive. I happened to be coerced (they didn't have to try very hard lol) by my sister in law, mother in law, and niece the other day to tag along with them and go to Loft when they were having a sale. Lou and Grey is rarely on sale, but I happened to get lucky and pick a shirt that was a part of the sale. They had this green color in my size in store (50% off!) and then I was able to order a ship-to-home of the gray color and get the sale price AND free shipping! #winning . I've been wearing them non stop since the gray one has come... at least once a week (sometimes more if I do a mid-week load of laundry)!

Happy Friday!



[Autism] Some Advice for Parents of Newly Diagnosed Children.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

This is a post in a series of posts that I'm doing during the month of April, Autism Awareness Month, to help people understand our situation. I feel like I don't talk about autism much on the blog in general and it's not because I'm hiding it or anything, I'm very open about it and don't mind talking about it, but in general, I don't let it define our family, Mason, or how we run our day to day. Sure we might have more "stuff" going on than most, but I don't let that define us. During the month of April, I wanted to bring more attention to it than I normally do. You can find more information about our story here.





Please note that these are just things that I've found helpful in my journey through motherhood with a child with autism. Everyone's experience will be different.

It's been almost two years now that we've been on this journey and I can't believe how far we've all come. When Mason was first diagnosed, I wrote this letter and it was truly how I felt. Some may say I was naive, some may say I was lost, some may say I had no idea what I was doing. And they'd probably all be right. No parent ever wants anything wrong with their child, no matter how big or how small, so yes, I probably was in a bit of denial. They can't be right. My child is perfect. But they were right. AND my child is perfect. In his own way.

And I wouldn't change a single thing about anything.

I've been wanting to share a few tips that I have for a while now, but I definitely don't want to come off as "knowing it all" because I DO NOT KNOW IT ALL. I am just a mom trying to do the best that I can.

Having said that, these are some things that I have found helpful to me that I thought I would pass along (in no particular order). (These are what I can think of now... will update if I think of more!)

1. It's ok to feel confused and overwhelmed.
Someone just told you that there is something "wrong" with your child. It's ok to feel overwhelmed and confused! What does this mean? How is your life going to change? Where do you go from here? There are SO many questions that come up after a diagnosis and it's ok to feel like you have no idea what to do. The doctor basically told us that Mason had autism and then said "do you have any questions?" I basically just sat there with a dumb founded look on my face thinking YES I have TONS of questions yet no questions would come out of my mouth. I didn't know what to say or what to ask so I just said that I was good for the time being.

2. Take autism classes at the place that your child was diagnosed.
I cannot stress this enough. This was a life saver for Seth and I. After Mason was diagnosed, we knew NOTHING about autism. My main question was "what do we do? what does this mean?" and the classes that we found answered that. And more!

3. Talk to people.
Seriously, this was SO helpful to me. For the sake of people's privacy, I won't name names, but I had an amazing support system from day 1. I know someone whose children have autism and while she doesn't live in the same state as me, she gave me TONS of advice and help from just having gone through something similar. Every state has different laws and supports in place for children with special needs. It's important to talk to people in your state as well, but out of state people can help too. My out of state person was able to give me some advice on the next steps to take, what information to look up online, and who to talk to. It was seriously SO helpful. I also talked to a friend who is a speech language pathologist who recommend looking into our county Regional Center to help with services. Regional Centers typically only help children that are younger than 3, but it never hurts to ask for information.

4. Search for Facebook groups of people in your area with similar situations.
This kind of goes along with #3...
One of my friends started a group on Facebook that is for moms in our area with kids with special needs. This encompasses ALL special needs, not just autism, but I've learned SO much from these moms and they have all become amazing resources for various things - doctor references, therapy references, IEP help, you name it, someone has experienced it. I'm also a part of two other groups that are specifically for moms (or dads) of kids with autism and those groups are super helpful as well.

5. Early Intervention!
This is KEY. Seriously, SO IMPORTANT. When our kids are young, their brains are little sponges. I'm sure everyone can agree with that. Whether your child has special needs or not, they will start soaking up every little thing you do and you say, which is why if they need extra help, you get them the help EARLY. Nobody wants to think about the fact that their child might need extra help, but ignoring it is just doing your child a disservice. Heck, I'll admit, I just wanted to believe that Mason was a "late bloomer". His speech would catch up. He wasn't doing things later than kids his age. I called to schedule an ADOS test (test to check for autism) at our local center for autism and they said the next appointment they had was 3 months away. I said that was fine. I didn't want to come in sooner. I thought the longer we waited, the more time Mason would have to catch up. They said they'd call if they had any earlier openings. I said ok, but secretly hoped they wouldn't. We went in on the day of the test and I thought Mason was doing so good. I truly had no clue what they were looking for, but I had every confidence that he was going to "pass" their test. We went back a couple weeks later to go over the results and they told us that Mason has autism and my heart sank. They were finally saying the words out loud that I had in the back of my mind the whole time but didn't want to believe.

Don't ignore the signs. Don't ignore the doctors. If you have any question at all, get your child tested so they can start getting the help they need.

6. Get your family onboard.
Educate them. This will be new to them too. Having your family on your side and fighting for you is so important. They will be confused. They will have questions. They will want to know what this means for your child. Share what you know. It's ok if you don't have all the answers. They want to be there to help. Help them help you.

7. Most importantly, make sure you are your significant other are on the same page.
This is SO important! I haven't actually looked it up, but they say that the divorce rate is higher of parents of special needs children. It's extremely sad to say, but honestly, it makes sense. Having a special needs child can be stressful. There are TONS of decisions that need to be made and TONS of appointments that need to be scheduled and gone to. For Seth and I, we always try to do everything together. And for the most part, I'd say we've been to about 90% of all of Mason's appointments together (not his ABA therapies, but actual doctor appointments). Seth's taken Mason to a couple ENT appointments on his own and I took Mason to the eye doctor on my own, but other than that, we both go.

8. And one last thing... get organized!
There will be A LOT of information thrown your way in the early months. I had a lot of information that doctors gave us, that friends gave us, that I found online, etc that I wanted to keep, but it was piling up and super unorganized. Then we started therapies and I had authorizations and evaluations and so much more just sitting there in a nice neat pile... on my counter. I finally got a binder and tabs and made everything organized. I have a tab for the place Mason was diagnosed (we go every 6 months to check in with his developmental pediatrician and I keep all the papers they give us), a tab for speech stuff, a tab for his preschool stuff, a tab for authorizations, a tab for his ABA stuff, and a whooooooole other binder for stuff relating to the transition to the school district and IEPs. I actually pulled it out during one evaluation and the person evaluating commented on how organized I was. It might seem like over kill, but it is SO helpful to me to know where to find something when I need it.

***

I don't like to give too many details or exact locations of things on the internet for all to read for obvious privacy reasons, but if anyone ever has any specific questions, please feel free to leave a comment below (make sure your email is linked to your profile so I can respond!) or send me a private email at chasinmasonblog@gmail.com and I'd be happy to help if I can!

Thank you for all your support!



[Autism] Our Journey -- An Overview

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

This is a post in a series of posts that I'm doing during the month of April, Autism Awareness Month, to help people understand our situation. I feel like I don't talk about autism much on the blog in general and it's not because I'm hiding it or anything, I'm very open about it and don't mind talking about it, but in general, I don't let it define our family, Mason, or how we run our day to day. Sure we might have more "stuff" going on than most, but I don't let that define us. During the month of April, I wanted to bring more attention to it than I normally do. You can find more information about our story here.

As most of you may know, I had the opportunity to guest post for the Spectrum Inspired Instagram page about a month ago. I was SO honored that they asked me and loved getting to tell a little bit more about our story. I thought I'd recap some of the posts that I did there and give a little more detail because I feel like it is a good overview of our journey.


This part might be a little repetitive, but let's pretend you know nothing about me and my family as I recap this first post I did...

First, let's start with a little background on us... our family consists of 3 people: me, (my husband) Seth, and (our son) Mason. We live in Southern California and Seth and I both work outside the home full time. Mason is 4 1/2 years old and goes to preschool full time. He was diagnosed with autism in April 2015, when he was 2 1/2, so we've been on this journey for about two years now.

When I was pregnant, everything was great. Everyday was rainbows and unicorns and I was in heaven knowing that come July 2012, I was welcoming a beautiful baby boy. Mason was born and I was instantly in love. My motherly instincts came in right away and I knew what he needed and what to do. I was in love. He was perfect.

Then, he got diagnosed with silent reflux and it was HARD. He was in so much pain and all I wanted to do was help him, but I didn't know how. I couldn't breastfeed. Things weren't going quite how I imagined. I'd read books, blogs, and magazines and the way things were going wasn't how I pictured my maternity leave going. It was harder than I thought it would be. But things got better, I eventually went back to work, and we fell into a routine. Milestones were met, milestones weren't met, but we didn't think anything was wrong. Boys are just slower, right?

Wrong. Time proved that that's not totally true. Sometimes boys aren't just slow, sometimes kids need help. And here we are. Many tests and evaluations later and we have determined that Mason has autism. I struggled with how much of our story I want to share on the internet [on Instagram and the blog] for all to read. How much is too much? BUT at the same time, finding blogs with moms with kid's with autism, moms who are honest and who share about their story have been SO helpful to me. I've found two that hit so, so close to home. I cried while reading their stories. How did they know how I feel? Are they in my head? And that's why I continue to share.


Even though we've been on this autism journey for almost two years now, it's still a little awkward sharing his diagnosis, especially with strangers. I'm definitely not embarrassed by it at all, but it's just... awkward. For example, in a store like Target or the grocery store where the cashier is asking Mason a question, even though he knows how to talk so much better now, I still have to somewhat prompt him to say things like "say hi" or "my name is Mason" or "I'm four" when he's asked questions. Sometimes I get a weird look like "he's four, he can't answer for himself?" I'm sure they just think I'm a helicopter mom, but in the span of a couple minutes that it takes to check us out, and the fact that they are a complete stranger that I'll probably never see again, I just don't feel the need to explain. Or when Seth and I are out on a Saturday morning (when Mason is at ABA) and the person knows we have a child and asks where he is, I don't know what to say. Sometimes I say he's at school but then they look at me weird like "why is your kid at school on a Saturday?".

I kind of feel like it falls in to the same category as why I don't openly (voluntarily?) share that my mom passed away when I was 18. I just talk about my dad and step mom. I don't want people to "feel bad for me" or say they're sorry. I don't think of myself or my family being in a "disadvantage" (by either situation). It's life. Things happen. I don't want people to treat me any differently nor do I want people to treat Mason any differently.

That's the beauty of life. Everyone is so different and we can all learn from each other. Everyone has things they excel at and things they need a little extra help in and that's no different for us and for Mason. If you look at my Instagram profile, you'll notice that I don't often mention Mason's autism. Again, it's not because I'm embarrassed or don't want to talk about it, it's because while it may be a part of him, I don't let it define him or our family.

"Autism is a part of my child. It's not everything he is. My child is so much more than a diagnosis."
S. L. Coelho


Let's talk bath time & bed time. Is it crazy town for anyone else? We go in phases & the phase we seem to be in is crazy town from bath time all the way through bed time until Mason falls asleep. 😴

As most of you know, Seth & I work full time. I pick Mason up from school on days he has ABA & Seth picks him up on the other days. The days the boys are together, they get home around 6pm, Seth makes dinner, we eat, & then Mason takes a bath anywhere between 7-7:30pm & then we try to get him in bed by 8pm-ish. On days he has ABA, it's even later. Ideally he'd bathe earlier & go to bed earlier but since we don't get home until late/he has ABA, it just can't happen that way.

Dinner time is fine. If Mason has the iPad or the tv is on, he's pretty distracted & we have to remind him to eat. We're trying to get better about that, but basically, he's calm. I get the bath ready, he gets in, & then it's chaos. It can be a 5 minute bath or a 30 minute bath. There can be no toys or a million toys. It doesn't matter. One time I even put a drop of lavender essential oil in the bath to see if it would help & it made no difference. He's all hyped up during & after bath time. I get him out, dry him off, take him to his room & he's bouncing all over. I put his pjs on for him or we have the following conversation until I get frustrated... "Pjs on? Yes. Or off. No, on. On or off? On. On or... Mason. Put on your pants. On or off? On. On or... Mason!" You get the idea...

He's finally dressed. We brush teeth. I fill his diffuser with a combo of cedarwood, lavender, & orange essential oils. We come downstairs for a few mins of tv to unwind. Sometimes it's cartoons, sometimes it's Wheel of Fortune 😉😂. Seth is usually on bed time duty. He & Mason go upstairs at 8pm & I don't see him again until at least 8:30, usually 9. Mason acts fine, like he'll go to bed. You say good night, get up to leave his room & he either starts whining telling you not to leave or starts crying hysterically like something horrible happened... but it didn't.

You lay there with him for a while, you think he's asleep, you come downstairs, & then all of a sudden he's running out of his room & to the stairs to sit & watch what we're doing downstairs. It's seriously frustrating & takes a good hour or so EVERY NIGHT. It wasn't always like this, it happens on and off, but it has been for the past few months or so.


The day I posted this, I felt like I'd been running around like a chicken with my head cut off, so I thought it would be a good day to do a little "week in the life of Mason" type of post. 

I just shared an actual "week in the life of us" post last week -- if you missed the post, you can find it here and if you want the cliff notes version, see below.

SUNDAY
Our catch all days. Usually lazy days filled with grocery shopping, lots of laundry, & some sort of sporting event on tv 😂🙄 Or we try to go out & do something together as a family. We also go to my mother in law's house for family dinner night.

MONDAY
7:45am-8:30am: We stop by the post office for my work & I drop Mason off at school.
8:30am-5:30pm: school
8:30am-11:30am: ABA at school
5:30pm: Seth picks Mason up & brings him home
6pm-8pm: Seth preps dinner, we eat dinner, bath time, tv time, & bed time for Mason

TUESDAY
8am-9am: speech
9:15am-3pm: school
(soon to add) 1:30pm-2:30pm: OT
4:30pm-6:30pm: ABA therapy (sometimes at home, sometimes at clinic)
6:45pm-8pm: pick Mason up from ABA (unless a home session), eat dinner, bath time, tv time, & bed time for Mason

WEDNESDAY
8am-3pm: school
9am-11:30am: ABA at school
4:30pm-6:30pm: ABA therapy (sometimes at home, sometimes at clinic)
6:45pm-8pm: pick Mason up from ABA (unless a home session), eat dinner, bath time, tv time, & bed time for Mason

THURSDAY
8am-9am: speech
9:15am-5:30pm: school
5:30pm: Seth picks Mason up & brings him home
6pm-8pm: Seth preps dinner, we eat dinner, bath time, tv time, & bed time for Mason

FRIDAY
8am-5:30pm: school
6pm-8pm: Seth preps dinner or we go out, we eat dinner, tv time, & bed time for Mason

SATURDAY
7:30am: breakfast & bath time
9am-2pm: ABA at the clinic
2pm-bedtime: whatever we want!

  • Friday's didn't use to be so open & free. Mason used to have his school ABA on Friday instead of Wednesday. I was secretly happy that they moved it because it now gives us a whole weekday day FREE & I've taken advantage of this multiple times for play dates, Disneyland trips, & visits to the aquarium. It's easy for me to take Friday off work so I'm happy Mason's schedule allows for some weekday fun (gotta take advantage before he goes to kindergarten next year!). 

The previous day I talked a little bit about our daily schedule & I mentioned Mason's ABA therapy. Now I thought I'd talk about how it works into our daily life.

Mason has been receiving ABA since Aug 2015. At that time, he was 3 yrs old. At first I didn't really know what ABA therapy was let alone how it was going to help. But let me tell you, it's made a WORLD OF DIFFERENCE. He started off with 5 sessions a week, some at home, some at school, & one at the clinic. The clinic drop off wasn't always easy. Today he barely says bye to me when I drop him off because he's so excited but Day 1 looked nothing like that. There was crying, screaming, begging for us to stay. It was like we were abandoning him. It was the SADDEST & hardest thing ever. But we worked through it & now he asks to go there. He had one therapist in the beginning & she was AMAZING. We loved her. In May 2016, she got a new job & left the company. We were devastated. Or should I say, I was devastated. Mason did so well with her. How would anyone compare?

It took a while but we finally got a new therapist to fill some sessions & slowly got a couple more to fill the rest. He now had THREE therapists & they were all... amazing! And Mason? He transitioned seamlessly to the new therapists. I was so surprised, so happy, & clearly worried for no reason. They all started off as mostly playing with him for a couple sessions & then started more in with actual ABA (since they wanted to establish a rapport with him before they started being more "strict").

We have seriously been SO LUCKY. I know not everyone is this fortunate. I am so grateful to all of his therapists for helping him learn, grow, & succeed these past few years! Sessions have gone up & back down & he now has two sessions at school, two sessions at home or clinic (they rotate based on where we need them), & one session at clinic on Saturdays. We will probably transition to less when he starts kindergarten in the fall. If I'm being honest, I hope the Saturday one is the first to go but I somehow doubt that. 

We've lost five hours of family time every Saturday for the past two years and I'm desperately wanting it back. Though, also being honest, I'm not sure I'd even know what to do. We've gotten so used to our routine that it would be a big change - a big wonderful change. But, having said all that, I fully believe that early intervention is key & if we have to lose a couple more Saturdays as a family now to set him up for a lifetime of success, I'd gladly do it. And, if given the choice to do it all again... I'd make the exact same decision in a heartbeat if I had to. 💙


I also mentioned that Mason gets speech services. I thought I'd elaborate a little on that.

Mason has been getting speech therapy since about March 2014, he was 20 months old. This was about when we discovered that he was falling behind with his speech and his pediatrician recommended speech therapy. She put in a referral to our insurance and we were on our way. Around this same time, we inquired about services from our local regional center. They established that he needed speech therapy but because we had insurance, we had to use that, and they "couldn't" help us. Thankfully our insurance was amazing and referred us to a wonderful speech place. At this time, Mason had two, one on one, 30 minute speech sessions per week.

His speech therapist told us about the preschool that they had onsite and told us to look into it. It literally was in the same building and would be SO convenient for us. A lot of kids that go to the school have some sort of speech or hearing deficit and get services at the center. Around this time, we were looking to switch Mason from the daycare he was at, so it worked perfectly. Unfortunately there was a waiting list for the preschool so I added our name to the list and hoped for the best. Over the summer, we got a call that there was a spot open to start in the fall and we jumped at the opportunity. Mason was 2 when he started at the preschool.

Over the course of the next year, we bumped up his speech sessions to three, one on one, speech sessions per week. His therapist would check him out of school, do the session, and bring him back. It was perfect!

Some time in there we dropped a one on one session and added a group session. He had about 12 of those and then we asked our insurance to approve more and they came back saying it was never supposed to be approved at all. They only allow one on one sessions. Insurance. 🙄🙄 It was now May 2016, so we dropped back down to two, one on ones, a week.

Between September and November in 2016, we started the transition from private speech sessions through our insurance to free speech session with the school district. In December 2016, Mason started speech therapy through the school district. He now gets two, one hour, group sessions a week. He absolutely LOVES it and begs to go there everyday. We have been so blessed with such amazing speech therapists. We are so, SO, SO lucky. I do not take this for granted. He has learned and progressed SO much over the past few years. He talks so much now. I still remember the day he, on his own, told me "I love you." I thought my heart was going to explode right then. I had waited SO long and he had finally said it. I'm sure I cried. Happy tears of course! 😭😍

He talks so much now, so much so that you'd want to tell him to "shhh, quiet please" but I don't dare because I know how long I waited to hear his sweet voice. My boy now LOVES letters and numbers and loves to read. Reading!!! At age 4. Don't get me wrong, he can't read a whole book completely by himself, but he can read quite a few words and with help, almost a whole book. I am constantly in awe of how much he knows and the words that he can say. Words cannot accurately express how proud I am of him.

***
More on his speech journey here.


Potty training has been one of the biggest struggles for us. Mason is 4.5 years old right now and is just barely, almost 100%, potty trained. I had wanted to start earlier, but I just didn't think he was ready. He wasn't showing signs of being ready. He wasn't interested in the potty at all and he never told us when he needed to go or seemed to care if he was wet/dirty. I didn't want to push it if he wasn't ready because I didn't want to force it. And, if I'm being honest, I didn't really want to. I mean, him wearing diapers was so convenient! I didn't have to worry about asking him if he needed to go. I didn't have to worry about him needing to go on a long road trip or if we're in a 30 minute long line at Disneyland. But I think that, too, was part of the problem, it was easy for ME.

When we went in for Mason's IEP in November, I mentioned that he isn't potty trained and I was concerned. Would they let him in to kindergarten? The team asked a bunch of questions and then one of them said "oh good, it seems like it's more of the parents fault for lack of trying than an actual problem." I wanted to bawl my eyes out right then and there. Wow. Way to make me feel like a great mom. I'm sure I teared up a bit, but then I got to thinking, she's kind of right (which I hated admitting). I need to try harder.

Shortly after that, we started trying to initiate taking him more. He was relatively compliant when it was convenient for him but if we were interrupting play time, he would protest and throw a fit. We worked through it with the help of his ABA therapists and then with the help of the preschool, we said "no more diapers" and he was in underwear all day, everyday.

He's definitely had a few accidents but because we all initiate taking him pretty frequently, the accidents are rare now (it was every 20 minutes the first day and has slowly gotten longer and longer since). But that's the problem now: WE initiate taking him. He almost never tells us he needs to go. Maybe 5% of the time. I put a pull-up on him when he goes to speech since he won't tell them if he needs to go and I don't want him to have an accident but then I take it off immediately before I drop him off at school.

He also wears a pull-up to bed at night but that's all. He was scared to poop in the toilet at first but once he did (and got the train pictured above - bribery at its finest), he's been fine ever since. He won't tell us when he needs to go, but he gets this look on his face, and I rush him to the bathroom.
It's getting better and I'm so proud of how far he's come. But now I need to figure out how to get him to initiate telling us he needs to go. The few times he does tell us, he DOES go, so I know he feels it, but it needs to be all the time.

Anyone have any tips or tricks? Our ABA supervisor suggested we put up a card that says "I need to go potty" and before we take him (us initiating), we make him say the words out loud so he associates saying "I need to go potty" with going to the bathroom. But I'm open to trying anything!

***

I try to keep things happy and lighthearted here on the blog and I don't like to "bad talk" anyone, but it's not always rainbows and unicorns over here. While Mason doesn't have as many struggles as some kids do, he definitely has his fair share. For the most part, he doesn't tantrum, probably 75% (or more) of the time, but some things do set him off.

Just the other week, we were having an ABA session at home. We went outside to take a walk to the park and then when we got home, I asked Mason to go to the bathroom. For whatever reason he didn't want to and started throwing a tantrum. Usually I would just tell him to say "I don't need to go" if he doesn't need to go and we can try again later. But that's not technically what I'm supposed to have him do. I'm supposed to follow through. So since the therapist was here, we followed through and a HUGE tantrum pursued. Mason ended up going to the bathroom himself, but refused to do anything once he got there. I asked him multiple times to go potty, to pull down his pants, if he wanted to sit or stand, and nothing helped. He just kept yelling "nothing!", crying, and refusing to do anything. At this point, I'm still uncomfortable with letting him work it out himself. I'm supposed to ignore him and let him figure things out himself or move on to something else and let him finish his tantrum. For me, as his mom, it's hard for me to just let him try to work it out himself. I see him crying and I want to comfort him. But I'm not always going to be there. He needs to learn how to comfort himself. Of course if he were hurt, I wouldn't let him cry it out, but when he gets himself all worked up, I need to learn to step back and let him try to calm himself down. There are some tips that I can tell him to help himself like counting to ten or taking deep breaths, but then he needs to do those on his own.

Long story short, the tantrum went on for what felt like forever. I'm sure it was like 5 minutes, but it was a terrible 5 minutes. I tried to do it for him and pulled down his pants and underwear but then he refused to stand by the toilet and was being pretty forceful to not do what I wanted him to do. And he's strong! So we kind of just let him be for a few minutes. I talked with his therapist and we let him cry it out in the bathroom. After a couple minutes though, I couldn't take it anymore and went over to comfort him. He was having a hard time calming himself down so I hugged him tight and told him to calm down and take deep breaths and then we counted to ten. He eventually calmed down for the most part but was still doing that "can't catch my breath/stop crying" thing (if you know what I mean). We asked him what activity he wanted to do next and he said "nothing". I asked if he wanted to read, "no". Do you want to play a game? No. Do you want to play cars? No. Finally we were able to calm him down with the therapists iPad and he watched a show and was better.

Moral of the story, sometimes the littlest things set him off. We go potty ALL THE TIME and he's fine. I don't know if it was because his therapist was over and we haven't really had that many home sessions lately (I moved them to the clinic for a bit since they were doing fun activities) or if he was in a bad mood or what. Autism can be very unpredictable. You never know what's going on in their little brains, so you have to be very patient (I'm still working on this, I get frustrated sometimes still, which I think is normal) and understanding and just work with them to help calm their emotions.


With the transition to the school district for speech came our first IEP. I will admit I was nervous about what it would entail. The assessments that led up to the IEP were fine. The assessment team was wonderful, so nice, and helpful with my questions. And while the actual IEP was with the same people, it was a little intimidating for a group of 5 people to sit there telling me everything that was "wrong" with my child. I actually did agree with pretty much everything they said, nothing they said was new, but it's still hard listening to anyone say anything "negative" about your child.

With the IEP came many positives though. During his intake exam, the school nurse did a hearing test (which he passed) and a vision test which came back as "refer" (not a pass or a fail). I took him to the ophthalmologist and sure enough, he needed glasses! I'm so thankful they did that test because I honestly would have never known otherwise. The eye doctor appt actually went surprisingly well (considering they dilated his eyes) as did the glasses fitting. I was so worried because he normally hates sunglasses, hats, and anything on his head (I think it's a sensory thing, but he's getting a LOT better and now voluntarily even wears a hat sometimes!), but he was SO in to choosing his glasses and the glasses lady was SO amazing with him. (picture is Mason trying on glasses at the store.) And, I know I'm biased, but I think he looks mighty cute in his glasses. 🤓 We started them over Christmas weekend and while he took them off a few times, he did really well with them and far exceeded my expectations. In fact, to this day, he plays with them a little but 95% of the time, he's really good with them.

***

More on the IEP process here.
More on his glasses here.



I'll be honest, I never thought I'd be a parent of a child with special needs. But here we are, here I am. A parent of a child with autism. Though this is definitely not how I pictured my life, or how I thought my motherhood journey would go, I have learned so much from Mason and wouldn't change a thing. Sure it can be more challenging, more stressful, and definitely more expensive at times, but at the same time, I am learning so much just seeing life through his eyes. He is friendly, he is outgoing, he is fearless. He is a joy to be around. He lights up with joy when I ask him to help me bake cookies. He screams "YEAH!" when I ask him if he wants to go over to his best friend's house. He waves good bye to his friends at school when I pick him up, like a little celebrity, and gives a bunch of them high-fives.

Mason is going to kindergarten in the fall and as excited as I am, I am also terrified. He's more than likely going to be mainstreamed (which was the goal and is ideal but is also scary) but with speech services. Mason is the happiest and friendliest kid. He is oblivious to the bad that goes on in the world... which is good in a way but also scary for me, as a mom, because kids are mean. How will others treat him? (<-- that's the BIGGEST question for me. and the one that makes me cry the most when I think about it.) I would give ANYTHING to be there to be able to protect him. ANYTHING. But I know he will need to stand up for himself. I'm sure I've skipped way past steps 1-100 and have gone straight to 101 and don't even know if any of this will happen. Only time will tell. And I know I need to let time run it's course, but it's SO hard not to think of all the 'what ifs' and what will happen to your child. I want to protect him so bad. I want to make it ok. I want to make it good. I know it will crush me to my core if he comes home from school one day to tell me that a mean kid made fun of him. So far, the kids in his preschool class have all been amazing and so welcoming, but who knows what a whole new class and school will bring. I'm probably being overly paranoid but I can't help but being an overprotective mama bear. Parenting. All the emotions. All of the time.

I know this diagnosis doesn't define Mason. He is the same sweet, caring, loving boy that he was the day before he was diagnosed. We don't treat him any differently (as we should). On the day he was diagnosed, we were given a piece to the 'Mason puzzle' and a tool to help us help him. I know this isn't a death sentence. He is not sick. But, I'm only human and I'll be brutally honest, I can't help but think "why me?" "why us?" "why Mason?". I'm sure someone somewhere thought we could handle this and I know we can, and we have, but I still wonder, why. I think that is a normal question to ask. I mean it can be applicable for anything. It is common for people to wonder why. Nobody wants anything to be wrong with their child, no matter how big or small. Nobody wants to be told, by a doctor, that their kid will need extra help.

Speaking of... sometimes, I feel alone. Well, maybe not alone, but like nobody fully understands me. I feel like SAHM's don't understand me because they don't work outside the home full time like I do. I feel like working moms don't understand me because I'm constantly trying to juggle doctor appts and therapies all while being a good employee. Thankfully my job is so flexible and understanding. I don't know what I'd do if it wasn't.

Speaking of therapies... sometimes I feel guilt over the fact that he needs therapists and specialists to help him with things I feel like I should have been able to do.

Most people can tell their kids to "smile for a picture!" but pictures aren't that easy for me. Pictures are hard, he's almost never looking because it's easier to take them when he's distracted.

I feel like this post has been all over the place and for that I apologize. While having a child with special needs can definitely have its challenges, it can be ever so rewarding as well. The first time Mason said "I love you", my heart burst in to a million pieces. When he puts together a sentence with six words or asks me a question, I am so proud. When he makes good eye contact without me asking for "eyes", I am so proud. It really is the little things that matter the most. I love this boy with my full heart and would not change one single thing about him. 💙

***

Hope these "mini posts" (aka which turned in to the world's longest post ever) gave you all a little insight on us. Can't wait to share more!


[Mailman Mason Monday] #postofficeadventuresofmasonb #part11

Monday, April 24, 2017

When I last left you, we had gotten through March 3, 2017. Which means... I thought we were going to be caught up in this post, but apparently I took too many pictures this month and... we'll be caught up next time! #sorry

Here are the pictures that I've shared on Instagram as well as the captions (PLUS the emojis -- I finally figured out how to copy them over!) that I've shared from March 6, 2017 to March 27, 2017.

3.6.17 // After working 8am-5pm on Saturday and 3:30am-2:30pm on Sunday, we made one last stop at the post office to get some last minute mail this morning. The trip was quickly followed up with a stop at Starbucks (with no wait in the drive thru 🙌🏻) and a trip to Target this afternoon and a much needed pedicure after walking 10,000+ steps yesterday. Minus the lack of sleep, this week is not off to a bad start! ✉️📮📬

3.11.17 // Mason doesn't find mailboxes and post offices. They find him. ✉️📮📬 || The post office in Toon Town in Disneyland yesterday! 🐭🏰

3.13.17 // Happy Mailman Mason Monday! ✉️📮📬

3.16.17 // I stand by my statement that Mason doesn't find mailboxes, post offices, and mail trucks... they find him! || #tbt to a couple weeks ago when we were at a shopping center and stumbled upon these mailboxes. ✉️📮📬

3.20.17 // Happy Mailman Mason Monday! ✨✉️📮📬

3.20.17 // The mini mail truck made an appearance at the post office today too! 🚐✉️📮📬

3.21.17 // Post office pit stop on the way home to mail just a few things. You know... 1 tube, 20 letters, and 1,350 post cards. No big deal. 😳✉️📮📬

3.24.17 // Are you holding that envelope close enough, Mason? 😂🙄✉️📮📬

3.26.17 // We went go to visit Bubbe (Mason's Great Grandma) today and naturally the mailboxes were our first stop. ✉️📮📬

3.27.17 // "Mason, what happened?" "They fell." Riiiiiight. 🙄✉️📮📬

***

A little back story... When we stopped doing the Picture Perfect Project last year, I stopped sharing Mason's post office pictures on the blog. I had deemed it my "photo project of the year" through the PPP and when it ended, I didn't stop taking pictures of him at the post office, but I forgot to share them here too. I was thinking about it the other day and I want to continue to share them here even though I don't technically "have a reason" to each month. So instead of sharing per month, I'm going to share per event cycle (for my work - essentially why we go to the post office so often). We have seven events per year and as the events approach, we go to the post office more often and as they pass, we go less often.

You can find more of our post office adventures on Instagram here.


[Autism] A Week in the Life + an Erin Condren Giveaway!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

This is a post in a series of posts that I'm doing during the month of April, Autism Awareness Month, to help people understand our situation. I feel like I don't talk about autism much on the blog in general and it's not because I'm hiding it or anything, I'm very open about it and don't mind talking about it, but in general, I don't let it define our family, Mason, or how we run our day to day. Sure we might have more "stuff" going on than most, but I don't let that define us. During the month of April, I wanted to bring more attention to it than I normally do. You can find more information about our story here.

I know what you're thinking. Holy cow, day in the life posts are already SO long, I definitely don't want to read a whole week in the life post. But hear me out. I wanted to share a week in the life post so you could see what a week in the life is like to me. I work, Mason has appointments, and we do our daily life routine. I don't want to get into too much detail in terms of minute by minute play by plays, but I wanted to give you a general idea of what a week looks like for us. (I didn't really include anything about Seth on the weekdays since his schedule pretty much just consists of working 7am-5pm. He does have every other Friday off though and this week happened to be his day off. Other details on Seth are added in as applicable.) Also, I highlighted Mason's stuff in blue in case you only want to see what his week is like.

And in case you only care about the giveaway... scroll down to the bottom for how to enter!

Keep in mind, my week looks MUCH different than every other family with a child with autism. I've actually teamed up with my friend, Amy, whose son, Kase, also has autism. They live in a different state than I do, there are three kids in their family, and Amy is a work from home mom. Their situation is completely different than mine. Pop on over and see what a week in the life is like for them.

Sunday, April 2
(Autism Awareness Day)
7:30am: wake up, have breakfast, Seth and I watch the news/Mason watches the iPad, play, get ready for the day
10:45am: Target run and get lunch
12:30pm: Seth takes Mason to get a haircut, I run next door to Michael's to get some Easter stuff and to Trader Joe's for some flowers
1:30pm: back home, meal plan, and head to the grocery store
3:00pm: back home again, see there's an open house in the area on the floor plan of the townhouses we like, head over to see it, back home to watch Sing
4:30pm: head to Nanny's house for family dinner night
8:00pm: back home, watch a little tv, put Mason to bed




Monday, April 3
5:30am: wake up, take a shower, get dressed and ready for the day, read some blogs (I'm early for once and have time!)
6:45am: Mason wakes up on his own (this rarely happens!), get him milk and a waffle, watch iPad for a little bit before getting ready and leaving
7:45am: leave the house, head to the post office, drop Mason off at school, pay tuition and for his OT starting Tuesday, head to work
8:15am-5:15pm: Mason is at preschool
8:30am-11:30am: Mason gets ABA at school
8:40am-3:00pm: I'm at work
3:00pm: leave work, stop by the bank for work, head home
3:30pm: arrive home, take some pictures of my Hello Fresh box that arrived, have plans to be productive, get distracted, start to clean out my closet, organize stuff, check my email, read some blogs
5:00pm: Seth is off work and goes to pick up Mason
5:45pm: Seth and Mason get home, Seth starts to prepare dinner, I give Mason a bath, we eat dinner
6:50pm: I convince Seth that he has enough time to run to Yogurtland before the Angels game starts (he probably doesn't, but he goes anyway)
7:05pm: Angels game (baseball opening day!), playing for a bit until Mason goes to bed
8:15pm: Mason goes to bed, Seth and I watch the Angels game and hang out until we fall asleep on the couch (#honesty)






Tuesday, April 4
5:30am: wake up, take a shower, get dressed and ready for the day
7:00am: wake Mason up, get him breakfast and ready for the day
7:40am: leave the house to get to speech class
8am-9am: Mason is at speech, I decide to run to Costco gas instead of my normal Starbucks trip
9am: pick Mason up, drop him off at school, head to work
9:15am-3:15pm: Mason is at preschool
9:30am-3:00pm: I'm at work
1:30pm-2:30pm: Mason's first day of OT (occupational therapy)
3:00pm: head to the bank for work, pick Mason up, head home to gather our stuff for his ABA session at the clinic
4:30pm-6:30pm: Mason at ABA therapy
6:30pm: pick Mason up, Seth had started chicken in the crock pot for tacos (he's at softball tonight), but I decide I'd prefer Chick-fil-a (I'll use the chicken for lunches this week instead... is what I told myself), come home, eat dinner, skip bath time, watch some tv to wind down
8:15pm: I put Mason to bed. A little later than normal, but I was trying to cook something for lunch tomorrow and it took a little longer in the oven. Brush Mason's teeth, get oils in his diffuser, and lay down with him so he'll fall asleep. I have plans to just lay there for a few minutes, but he's all wound up for some reason, so it takes longer than I expect and I... fall asleep.
1:30am: wake up and head into my bed to sleep for the rest of the night


Wednesday, April 5
5:30am: wake up, take a shower, get dressed and ready for the day
7:00am: wake Mason up, get him breakfast and get him ready for the day, pack my lunch
7:45am: leave the house and head to the post office
8:00am: post office, drop Mason off at school, head to work
8:15am-5:15pm: Mason at preschool
8:30am-2:45pm: I'm at work
9:00am-11:30am: Mason gets ABA at school
2:45pm: leave work, head to the bank, get back to the car and about to leave to get Mason when I get a text from Seth saying that our ABA therapist cancelled session for today. I ask him if he can pick Mason up after work, he says yes, and I come home to get stuff done. (Normally I would go pick Mason up around 3:15pm-ish and bring him home and he'd have a home ABA session from 4:30pm-6:30pm.)
3:10pm: laundry, blogging, cleaning, organizing
5:00pm: Seth leaves work, picks up Mason, and heads home
5:55pm: they get home and Seth starts dinner, I give Mason a bath, and we play until dinner is ready
6:40pm: dinner and playing until bed time
8:00pm: Mason goes to bed



Thursday, April 6
5:30am: wake up, take a shower, get dressed and ready for the day
7:00am: wake Mason up, get him breakfast and ready for the day
7:40am: leave the house to get to speech class
8am-9am: Mason is at speech, I stop by the post office to mail stuff for work and head to Starbucks
9am: pick Mason up, drop him off at school, head to work
9:15am-5:15pm: Mason is at preschool
9:30am-3:30pm: I'm at work, we go out to lunch for my boss's birthday
3:30pm: head to the bank for work and then come home
5:00pm: Seth leaves work, picks up Mason, and heads home
5:55pm: they get home and Seth starts dinner, I give Mason a bath, and we play until dinner is ready
6:40pm: dinner and playing until bed time
8:00pm: Mason goes to bed




Friday, April 7
5:30am: wake up, take a shower, get dressed and ready for the day
7:15am: blood test (follow up to check Vitamin D levels from my last routine blood test that showed they were low), stop by the post office, pick up Mason to take him to school, Starbucks drive thru since I didn't have enough time to make coffee this morning
8:15am-3:30pm: Mason at preschool
8:30am-4:15pm: I'm at work. I text Seth to see if he can pick Mason up for me. Since it's his day off, normally I would since I'm closer, but I'm running late and want to make sure he can get to the glasses store for an adjustment today.
3:30pm: Seth gets Mason, they stop by the glasses shop for an adjustment, and stop by the grocery store to get stuff for dinner on the way home
4:15pm: I leave work, stop by the bank for work, stop by the post office for work
4:45pm: I get home
5:15pm: Seth and Mason get home, Seth starts dinner
6pm-8pm: dinner and playing until Mason goes to bed




Saturday, April 8
5:45am: Mason wakes up and comes into our room. Why does this kid wake up so early on weekends but sleeps in on weekdays?? Seth convinces him to lay down and we all sleep for a bit more.
6:30am: Seth and Mason get up
7:30am: I get up (hooray for Saturday!)
7:30am-8:45am: We eat breakfast, watch the news/iPad, get ready for the day, and Seth leaves to take Mason to ABA therapy
9am-2pm: Mason is at ABA therapy at the clinic
9am-11:45am: Seth pick's up our Easter candy from his sister's house, stops by Starbucks, and then we go to Old Navy, See's Candy, the bank, and Costco together.
11:45am: Seth leaves to go to a beer festival with our friend Vickie.
11:45am: I take out the trash, clean up a bit, eat lunch, and start working on this post
1:45pm: leave to go pick Mason up from ABA
2:00pm: get Mason and head to Target
3:00pm: we arrive home from Target and I ask Mason if he wants to go to the library. He's been begging to go and keeps saying that Pete (the Cat) is there and he wants to see him. We go to our local library and find out that it's closed, whomp whomp. We head to another library before coming home for a bit and then going out to pick up our take out Lazy Dog Cafe.
5:30pm: we head out to pick up our to go food, eat dinner, take a bath, and play until bed time
8:00pm: Mason goes to bed
9:00pm: Seth gets home
Sometime later... we go to bed.




And there you have it! I left out exact details of the week because really each hour by hour details are not important. What I wanted to try to portray was all the appointments and therapies that we take Mason to and how our week revolves around them. Since I work full time, I'm sure my week looks a lot different than most parents (or moms) with kids with autism since most of them (I've found) are stay at home moms. Seth and I try to arrange our schedules to be able to pick Mason up and take him to ABA and various other doctor appointments. Thankfully my job is super flexible and allows me to take Mason to almost all appointments. They let me come in late on Tuesdays and Thursdays to take Mason to speech and I plan other appointments around my busy time so I can take him to those as well.

I don't know what life will look like next year once Mason is in kindergarten (maybe I'll have to do another one of these), but it would be interesting to compare!

***

(this was at the beginning of the week -- it is A LOT more filled in now! custom planner stickers from plan in color)

And now for what you all are waiting for I'm sure... the giveaway! Amy and I have teamed up and are giving one lucky person a $50 gift card to Erin Condren. I would be SO lost without my planner and I know Amy loves hers just as much, so we've teamed up to give you a gift card to one of our favorite paper planner sites. I know a paper planner might seem so old school, but I swear my phone calendar deletes things (I still use it too though!) and I just prefer to write things down. While neither one of us currently has an Erin Condren planner, I do LOVE her stuff and have had various EC planners in the past and would highly recommend them to anyone that asks!



(Anyone can enter by following the rules, it's open to everyone, not just special needs parents.)

Giveaway ends on Thursday, April 20th and the winner will be announced on that Instagram post.

Good luck!



[$10 at Target] April.

Monday, April 17, 2017

I'm excited to be back again today co-hosting this link up with Becky and some other fabulous ladies!  If you posted today as well, don't forget to link up with us below and then hop around and check out how the rest of my co-hosts (and everyone else!) spent their $10!




Per the usual, I went in to this month's shopping trip not knowing what I wanted to buy. I actually bought these things on two separate trips because I happened to stumble upon the straws on one trip when I didn't have enough time to look around for other items, but happened to see them sitting in the clearance section calling my name.


First up, the paper straws that I mentioned above. I love fun paper straws, but hate spending tons of money on them since you don't get very many and are purely paying for the pretty factor, so when I saw these sitting in the clearance section, I knew I had to scoop them up for my $10 trip.

A week or so later, I was back at Target to shop for my $10 trip when I was racking my brain for what else to buy. I remembered that I had been wanting to try these coffee drinks and thought now would be the perfect time. I tried it this weekend and it was... ok. I couldn't decide if I liked it or not, but ultimately I felt like it was too sweet. I used to love these sweet drinks, but I've recently gotten away from them and now I guess they are too sweet for my liking.

And last but not least, some fun new Sharpie markers to use in my planner. I remember we had some of these at my old job and I loved writing with them, so I thought, why not?

So, how'd I do on my budget?
Since I bought these on two different trips and along with other items, I don't have a receipt to show, but here's the breakdown.

Coffee: $2.89
Straws: $1.50
Sharpie's: $4.67
Minus RED Card discount : ($0.45)
Tax (7.75%) : $0.66

Total : $9.27

Under again!


Becky at bybmg // Instagram // Facebook // Pinterest
Stephanie at Wife Mommy Me // Instagram // Facebook // Pinterest
Elizabeth at Chasin' Mason // Instagram // Facebook // Pinterest

Next month, we'll be sharing our hauls on Monday, May 15th. Mark your calendars, get your shopping on, and link up with us on the 15th and show us what you got!






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