Monday, August 31, 2009

Wedding Anniversary, By the Numbers

8: Years to the day Jen and I have been married. How time flies!

7: Hours I slept the night before our wedding. I seem to remember getting woken up by my Aunt Esperanza's manic cooking at the big house at about 7 a.m. She made breakfast for anyone who wanted it.

6: Time in the p.m. we were officially husband and wife, give or take a few minutes. The wedding started at 5:30, and I remember being genuinely nervous for the first time all day right before it began. So much so that I stopped Bishop Powell before we stepped out to the chapel and asked if we could have a prayer.

5: Groomsmen in our wedding, including the best man. Also, the number of folks in the mariachi band that played after the ceremony and at the reception.

4: Siblings I inherited after marrying Jen. I even like most of them. (Just kidding, guys!)

3: Days we spent on our honeymoon in Bandon, Oregon. Yes, this was the "He's a rookie newspaper reporter/She's a grad student" honeymoon. One of these years, we'll have a proper honeymoon.

2: Children we've had since then. Noe and Asher, you guys continue to amaze me.

1: Times I've spent my wedding anniversary alone. It was bound to happen one of these years, and this was the year. On the bright side, Jen is happy because she's spending it in Portland.

0: Doubt in my mind that Jen is the love of my life.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Summer Recap

Summer is winding down around here. Taking inventory, I would say this summer was a success for our family. We all learned some new things, enjoyed the outdoors, and had some fun together. Here are some highlights. Sorry if this reads a little too much like a holiday letter....

Ed's summer started pretty rotten. His work schedule was changed back to nights and weekends, a relic from our time in New York we thought we had left behind. Ed had a lot of child care responsibilities this summer while I worked full-time and the boys enjoyed their time with him (and their less healthy meal options). I have to say Ed never complained when he had to care for the boys early in the morning after getting home from work at 2am. For his birthday present this year, I signed up Ed for tennis lessons. He made a lot of improvement and it is much more enjoyable to play with him now. Other good summer happenings for Ed: He was made the NBA night editor, which softened the blow of the schedule change. He also got to see two of his favorite artists live this summer.

Noe spent the beginning of his summer at ESY (Extended School Year) and seemed to have a good experience there. He is using his words and signs so much better, it is fun to hear him try out new words. He is working hard, but it doesn't come easy for him. He looked forward to his weekly sports camp with Asher and, from what I hear, now has some mad soccer skeelz. He is still fanatical about his bike rides. We always have to plan for at least an hour, usually two hours of riding when we take him out. He also got to experience his first rock concert!

Asher rallied late in the summer and learned to swim! He also experienced his first chapter books (Ribsy & Henry Huggins, both written by Beverly Cleary). It was a lot of fun to read to him for a few minutes each night. We had to place strict computer limits on Asher after we discovered him on YouTube searching for Thomas the Train clips.

As for me, I really enjoyed my summer of work. I had a great staff and we had minimal problems with the students. In fact, I am feeling a bit lost now that my job has ended...and I'm wondering if this is a sign that I'm ready to return to work full-time again. I commuted the 13 miles round trip by bike each day. It was a great way to start and end my day. Each evening while Ed was at work, I would take the boys swimming at the neighborhood pool and end the day reading to them. I also enjoyed the fruits of my community garden plot and supplemented it with produce from the local farmer's market. Ed and I discovered the best gelato EVER...or at least in Reston, and I saw my first live Beatle in concert. Being a half-hearted fan, I wasn't really prepared for the emotion the music would have for me and the FUN I would have at the concert. I thought a lot about my dad, who saw the Beatles live when he was a teenager, in Portland.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I feel so sad because Noe won't talk to me

I was putting Asher to bed when he blurted out this sentence. It came out just before I tink Thomas is a good train and Diesel 10 is evil and after Is a penis like a tail? Gotta love conversations with 4-year old boys.

Asher has been the little-big brother to Noe for quite awhile now. Like many kids with disabled siblings, he fell naturally into that role. Although I am determined for Asher to have as normal of childhood as possible, and I try to make sure that his responsibilities and stresses are age appropriate...he is not Noe's therapist or caretaker, he is a little boy... Asher has inevitably become Noe's helper....holding his hand and guiding him along while we are shopping, answering for Noe when someone asks him a question and cheering the very loudest for Noe throughout the sports camp they attend together.

I remember one instance in church a few months back. I was helping Noe participate in a sharing time group activity. There were about thirty kids and teachers in the room. Noe started to melt down because he couldn't get the puzzle piece on the board exactly how he wanted it. As he slid to the floor and I leaned over to pick him back up, I caught a glimpse of Asher sitting in the audience. He looked visibly stressed. It wasn't a look of embarrassment as much as concern for me and Noe. It occurred to me in that very moment that no matter how much we try and shield our struggles with Noe from him, he does absorb our stress.

A friend sent me an article awhile back about siblings of kids with autism. Research shows that siblings tend to fall on opposite ends of a spectrum. There are the super siblings that try to make themselves perfect and take on great amounts of responsibility in order to compensate for their autistic sibling, and on the other end are siblings who have tremendous problems in school and society, unable to deal with the stress at home. It is very obvious where Asher is headed, despite our constant reassurance that his efforts, regardless of the result, are always good enough and we love him regardless of how well he performs in X. Perhaps we are sending off subliminal signals to him? Because, I won't lie, I do want him to stay easy and agreeable and helpful.

I remember a particularly hard night with Noe soon after his autism diagnosis. Asher was just an infant and we did not know if he was also affected, but I suspected that with his easy personality and engaging eyes that he did not have autism. I remember that night....watching the boys curled up together asleep... finally... in our tiny Queens apartment....feeling a physical and emotional exhaustion that made me want to scream and claw at our plastered walls and curl up asleep for days all at the same time. I prayed to God and told Him that I might be able to handle one child with autism but not two. I told God... yes, I was angry... don't you dare, even think about doing this to Asher, too.

So here we are....Asher and I....four years later and beginning a dialogue about autism. What it is. How it will affect Noe. How it will impact his own life.....forever.