Sunday, May 29, 2011

Stories for Cruz

At about 7:15 a.m. the three garage doors finally rolled open in synchronization. It had been years since I had been involved at a garage sale, but my mom had warned me about the first few hours. I drank my coffee as quick as I could and tried to scrounge together everything I needed. As the garage doors raised to eye level I literally saw people running down the sidewalk. Within five minutes there were probably 30 to 40 people rummaging through and bumping into each other. It was madness! I couldn't believe it. The first item that I sold was a cropped fur coat I had bought at a flea market in college. And then it began... Over the course of two days the widest variety of people made there way through our garage. It was a very unsettling feeling to have strangers pick through well loved sentimental items and try to bargain the price down by a quarter. Especially since some of the items where my grandmothers and she passed away last month. I know that grandma would have been proud of us. She held many a garage sale and she was a stickler that would not budge much on her prices! Especially on home decor. There were times when I would see someone pick up a blanket or pitcher or shirt and I literally wanted to run over and tell them to put it back down. "I'm sorry that's not for sale" I could hear myself apologize in my mind. Instead I would try to stomach the lump and realize that everything has its season. We still have the best of the best items from my grandma and those that were of sentimental value with my kids. Still, there were moments of grief, and even panic. Mom and I would look at each other with wide eyes, "Should we move that back inside?" "Are you sure you don't still need that?" We could have justified saving many things only to put them back on a shelf in the closet to pull out at the next garage sale. I remember thinking, if they put that toy back down then I will go grab it. Instead, they would bring it over and try to bargain the price down even lower. Some people were unbelievable. One of the first couples that came through I know stole a new 3-6 month dress that hadn't been worn yet. I saw it under her arm as they walked away without paying. I figured that if they had to steal it from a garage sale when it cost $3.00, they must have really needed it.

The people came in droves, all kinds. Tall, short, fat, skinny, some dressed in rags, and some wearing tons of fake jewelry. Each one looking for something special, knowing that somewhere out there someone might be getting rid of just what they needed. I was shocked at how many strangers openly shared stories of their lives. All it took was one person saying, "How are you doing today?" for them to open up and share their life story. I heard many times over about a relative having cancer, or the person himself recovering from cancer or surgery, people that had asthma, allergies, babies on the way, and so on.... One of the things that was fascinating to me was watching who found value in which items. Each person looked at the same merchandise in completely different ways. Some saw junk and some saw treasure. What was it in their DNA, their life story, their past or personality that defined value to them? Some people could glance at an item and within five seconds judge its value. Others would pick it up, study it, feel it, ask questions before deciding if it was worth the 'price'. There was even one particular man there with an inventory scanner that came and scanned the books to see if they were worth value and then left. There are so many parallels I could pull from these experiences, like  'not judging a book by its cover'... but I just keep thinking about all of the different people that walked through the room and how different they were. Each one created equal and each one created with a purpose. As infants we are all born more or less the same. Naked, small, helpless, slight variations in personality but for the most part similar. Each baby is born into different environments, different circumstances that shape and mold their character, personality, and value system. Just like I could hear my grandma's voice in the back of my head talking about why some of those items were worthy of their price, they could possibly have heard a mother or grandmothers voice explaining the value to them. I would watch the cars that they would drive off in, notice the people that came in groups and just wondered what their stories were. One lady came in crying, cried the entire time, finally went back and sat in the car crying while she waited for the girl she was with. Some seemed content to just 'be'. Some seemed to have the demeanor of constant struggle and strife. Some laughed with friends and seemed to find joy in just being together. Some aggressive ones seemed bitter and eager to try to stretch the dollar at any cost. What was it that shaped these peoples priorities and values? Besides feeling ridiculously gluttonous, I wondered what kind of demeanor that I carry. I know I would not have been one of those people that spilled their life story to a stranger. I can tend to be more private and closed off. I wondered if I would come across to these people as rude, spoiled, friendly, sarcastic. Then I wondered what kind of environment am I allowing to shape Cruz and Wren. Already at two years old he is being molded. We 'teach' him to be honest, to share, to do what he is told, etc. But what is he learning from the way that I am living my life. When nobody is around and I am alone with both of the kids, what is he absorbing from my character and behavior. I am embarrassed to say that I am sure he is learning some bad traits. I know there are times when I am snappy with him because I am frustrated. I know that there are times that I need to stop and sit down and show him complete attention. I know there are times when I push him to try to do the things he doesn't want to do. Is he learning that the iphone, text, email, or 'wordswithfriends' game is more important? Is he learning that mommy tries to multitask too many things? Or is he learning how to communicate feelings appropriately?  Is he learning how to love? Is he learning how to have fun? I am not sitting down and showing him a value system chart or graph of what is most important to what is least important. I am not explaining monetary value, or beauty. But by my actions every single day he is learning what is most important. Watching me he sees the tasks that are important. He hears who is important by who I talk to on the phone or who we talk about, or who we don't talk to or talk about. He is learning how to respond to someone when he is angry by the way I respond to situations around me. He is learning value in all the moments when I least expect it and probably when I would rather he look the other way. What kind of story am I writing for him. What kind of person am I shaping him to be? Twenty years from now if he were go to a garage sale. Which person would he be? Would he hear my voice in the back of his head correcting him or guiding him? Would he be open and honest and friendly with people? Would he be closed off and private, or would he be willing to sit and talk with someone who needed a listening ear? These are the kinds of thoughts that could keep me awake at night if I let them. I will be honest, I mess up all the time. I am no Saint, but I am a writer. What kind of story am I writing for Cruz?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Better Days

In preparation for my first ever garage sale this Friday we spent this past weekend digging through closets. I can't believe the amount of items and clothing that were lying around that we are not using! Embarrassingly, some still even have price tags! I blame part of this on the fact that we have moved a few times in the last five years and with two pregnancies back to back I held on to some clothing thinking I'd wear it after the babies only to realize how dated it looks now! The general rule is that if it hasn't been used in two years, it goes. When I was cleaning out my closet at my mom's house I found trinkets and jewelry that dated back to probably high school! It was amazing to look through the kids clothing and toys and see how much they have grown. "Can you believe he was this small?" "Remember how he loved this lamb?"We reminisced about so many shoes, hats, pictures, books, you name it. There were a few items that I had debated tossing, knowing that whatever goes into the sale would not be coming back home as we would donate the leftovers. But as we pulled everything into the living room, cleaning as we went, there was this refreshing sense of relief. There are some things that as we grow we don't have room for in our lives. The big question we would ask ourselves, and that everyone else always asks us is... "Are you/we going to have any more kids?" If we knew that we were, we would keep 90% of the kids clothes, toys, shoes, bedding, blankets, etc. If not, it would be nice to get rid of it. To put your minds at ease, we have not made any decisions, but have decided to keep big ticket items that we wouldn't want to have to purchase again. In my time of reflection, I visualized Cruz as an infant and could hardly recognize the big boy that he is today. Knowing the things that we now know, it is easier to look back and see early signs of problems. I can't count the number of times that people would come up to Cruz and try to get him to smile and he never would. People would ask if he was okay, or scared, or shy... we didn't know what it was but he just would stare at people to the point it made them uncomfortable. I will never forget being in a coffee shop when he was probably 11 months and some guy came up to the table and asked why our kid was staring at him so much. Jason and I didn't really know how to respond. Cruz didn't like toys, he didn't watch TV or Baby Einstein, he cried all through the night, couldn't self sooth, never took a pacifier, gagged on baby food, wouldn't put his hands down when he fell, the list could go on and on and on. So we reminisced, as I am sure we will many times over. In some sense we are cleaning out the old and making room for the new. We look back with mixed emotions, joy, love, laughter, frustration, and relief that some of those difficult times are over. We are forging ahead into unchartered territory allowing these new experiences in with open arms. There is seemingly a weight lifted knowing that we can somewhat close a chapter on that murky time of misunderstanding and confusion. As boxes, toys, and anything you could possibly name lay strewn throughout the house like a death trap, we learned of the horrible tornado that devastated Joplin. The kids had just gone to bed and Jason and I walked out onto our front porch. It was still lightly raining, but all of the neighbors were gathered in the street looking east. There were two huge glowing rainbows side by side. The air was green and still and thick. Standing there side by side looking towards the light everything seemed to stand still momentarily and the cool rain dripped onto our balmy skin. I was reminded of so many of God's promises. The inside of my house was absolute chaos, at times our lives feel like chaos. The truth is that there is hope, there is joy, and there is peace. Only one hour away lives and homes were destroyed and demolished. We may have seemingly difficult times or situations, but we are still thankful. Thankful for what we have. We have each other and we have hope. If I could do it all over again, I would choose us and I would do it all the same. So, now I am sorting through the chaos, getting rid of it, standing side by side looking to the light and remembering to hope. I am eagerly expecting to see that soon the sun is going to break through the storm and there are going to be two beautiful glowing rainbows. Two, because it is extra special and rare, just like our Cruzie.

This song featured in the video below is my prayer, my anthem for where we are right now. I had never watched the music video before and Jason and I were surprised to see that they focus on children. The lyrics are amazing.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Yesterday I took Cruz to see the Pediatric Neurologist. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect but overall the meeting was quick and harmless. He does think that Cruz falls into the autism spectrum, probably PDD (Pervasive Development Disorder). This was of course after asking questions for only like five minutes. However, one of his therapists has said the same thing and I would of course take her word since she spends quality time with him every week. Technically he fits the criteria for classic autism other than the fact that he will hold eye contact. So for now I am trying to provide social outlets and opportunities to really push him to interact and engage with other people. He seems to enjoy being out of the house  and does well in public. It is apparently enough distraction to divert his attention away from falling into his rut and routine. Although, he does fight it initially and freaks on schedule changes. Like screaming and head banging freaks on schedule changes. So, for now I will continue to push social interactions, require eye contact, and encourage his nonverbal communication skills with other kids so that he is more comfortable being himself. Hopefully starting at this young of an age he is laying the foundation for life long friendships and giving mommy a chance to interact with other mommies as well. Let's be honest, at this age the play dates may really be more for us mommies than for the kids.

Cruz's cousins Henley and Rogan are two of his best friends

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Baby Steps

Today Cruz had occupational therapy and speech therapy and he did very well with both! Bless his heart... he is nowhere near being able to make the appropriate sounds at the appropriate time by any means but he is trying to make sound. We have to repeatedly tell him to 'turn his voice on' and we cheer when any sound comes out of his mouth. His therapist is definitely seeing his compliancy as progress. He seems to be more relaxed and more open to trying. But, we realize that we still have a very long road ahead of us. I was shocked when Jason and I worked in the nursery at church this past Sunday morning. We were in a class of 18 month olds. I was reading a book and all of the kids could say most of the words like "kitty cat", "meow", "choo choo train", etc. I was shocked! I thought, wow, these kids must all be geniuses! When I tell cruz to bump his lips and say 'ba' he can't even touch his lips together on command. But he is trying. We are increasing his sensory diet and stimulation. Now every two hours I use a brush to brush over his arms, back, legs, hands, and feet, followed by ten joint compressions on each joint. His sensory problems are just so severe, especially his oral motor difficulties. We are all amazed that he doesn't chew his food or push food to the side of his cheeks like a normal person. He keeps his food on the tongue and mashes it into the roof of his mouth. If it is too difficult he will gag, or spit it out. But its amazing to watch him eat chex mix, dry cereal, chips, etc, that way! He grazes all day long. In fact it is only 1030 and he has already had 2 protein shakes, a bowl of cereal, cheddar crackers, 2 frozen Go Gurts, and chef boyardee spaghetti and meatballs. The therapists and I are thinking that with such decreased sensitivity and body awareness he may not be able to feel when he is full. Plus he likes to go from the cold frozen Go Gurt to the hot spaghetti and back to the frozen food again. So in the meantime I am going to rethink some food options for him and continue to work on stimulating his facial muscles and mouth. We will still continue sign language as our main form of communication and insist that a sound come out of his mouth before he receives a toy/snack/etc. To add to all of this, everything is decreased on his left side so we will encouraging the use of his left arm and hand as much as possible when putting toys away, doing puzzles, etc. Oh, and heads up daddy they suggested trying to finger paint with pudding to work on his tactile defensiveness and to increase his desire to draw (which he has none now)... so if you come home to a disaster, I blame it all on therapy!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rose Colored Glasses


I love these pictures of Cruz and Wren. These glasses may not be the right size or shape, they may be scratched up, but its the glasses that they had to play with at that time. Neither one complained about the style, shape, size, or color but were eager to slide them on. Upside down, crooked, you name it, those glasses got worked over. I have to apply this principle to myself. This post today is more of a mental note for me than anything else. I did not choose the situation that we are in. It is not the exact way I would have preferred things, not quite the right fit. But, this is what I have been given and so I need to make the conscious effort to try to have a good attitude even when I want to complain. Today was one of those classic days that goes from fits one minute to high fives the next. The pendulum swings back and forth very quickly which keeps me on my toes. I am not even going to pretend that I have this concept down by any means, but I am realizing more and more that I have to choose my attitude. I can't control the situation, but only my response. In this life nothing is guaranteed and there is always a situation that is worse than mine, way worse. I know there are lots of cheesy quotes and sayings about having a good attitude and I won't go there. I just need to write it on my hand, tie a ribbon around my finger, do something to keep reminding myself to choose to think about the things that I am thankful for. Cruz literally sees, hears, and experiences the world differently. His glasses are a little different. So, I choose to slip on his glasses and be thankful that I even have glasses to slip on.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

High Fives, Knucks and Kisses... a note from Daddy

Lets start back a few months ago… When all of this came to light and Cruz was evaluated, Lindz and I both just looked at each other. We were aware that there were definite red flags and delays, but we weren't sure what was wrong. It took some time for us to process this and accept our family's reality. Following this, Lindz and I had an in-home meeting with the therapist, another representative from First Steps, a representative from Springfield Public Schools, and my in-laws. They have gone above and beyond any and all expectations that I have had. They are really doing what they can to get Cruz set up for success! During our meeting, I told the therapist that as a parent no one ever wants to hear that something is wrong with their child. Every parent wants their children to be perfect. I also shared with her that when Lindz told me the results of his evaluation that the first words out of my mouth were "the lady did not know what she was talking about..." again, this was me not wanting to believe than anything was wrong with my son. After accepting our reality, I did go on to tell her, with tears in my eyes, that we have total confidence in her expertise and that we are very hopeful and appreciative of the help that we are receiving. Looking around the room and seeing everyone present in support of Cruz was all the more evidence of how much we love our little guy. I told her that we also believed in God and that we believed in miracles. As Lindz has mentioned, there are good days and there are bad days. There will always be ups and downs. I just feel blessed to be able to do this thing we call life with my family. At the end of the day, no matter how frustrating we may think it is, I can't help but think of how frustrating it must be for Cruz. This is our prayer... That he would know how much God loves him. That Cruz would know how much we love him. That he would understand that we are doing what we can to help him. That he would be receptive to what his therapist, Lindz and I are teaching him. You get the idea. We know that everything that happens in life happens for a reason. When we are knocked down it is what we do thereafter that makes us stronger. We then have experiences to share with others going through similar situations. Right now, there is chaos all around us... but, somehow there’s also peace. We are so blessed that our son has qualified for the First Steps Program. As Lindsey has mentioned before, a therapist comes out to our home once a week and works with Cruz. Lindz and I continue working with Cruz on everything that she has gone over with us the remainder of the week. This is all so new to us. To be honest, it is my wife who deals with all of this more than I do. I am up around 6 in the morning getting ready for work. As many of you may or may not know, I am the proud owner of a business called Resolution Gear. During the morning, I post a daily “Anniversary of our Fallen” note to RG’s facebook page, some other Tribute Walls, and my twitter accounts. I also have a full time job working for an amazing company called Kanakuk Kamps in Branson, MO. My commute is about 45 minutes each way so I am usually out the door by 15 after 7. Most days Cruz and Wren are still asleep so I do not even get to see them until I am home around 6 that evening. This leaves me with just a couple of hours in the evening with the kids before they are off to bed. My wife is literally with them all day every day. The past few mornings Cruz has woken up just before 7 and we have been able to hang out on the couch for a few minutes. Out of nowhere, he will reach up to give me a high five! I love it! I have thrown in some knucks followed by a kiss. So, high five, knucks, and a kiss (repeat). We got a good laugh when after 4 or 5 times doing this we gave each other a high five, he moved in to kiss my fist and as I started to laugh I caught one of his little punches to my kisser. It has been amazing to see the support that has been shown for us as a family from our extended family and friends. We love and appreciate each and every one of you. From our family to yours, here’s a high five, some knucks and a kiss! Thanks!

da da

Thursday, May 12, 2011

keeping the pace

Lately we've been enjoying the evenings together as a family. Jason built this giant swing set that was a gracious gift from my father. The kids love it and we are able to incorporate it into Cruz's therapy as he craves the movement. Wren lately has been really letting her personality start to show. She tries to stay toe to toe with whatever her brother is doing. Last night we were dying laughing at her. She is really flexible and kept trying to climb the ladder by just placing her foot at the top. I kept having to come behind and lift her up. She just could not understand why she couldn't just take one step and reach the top. As I kept looking at her picture today and laughing I couldn't help but see the parallel with Cruz. We want so badly to take one step and reach the next level, the next advancement. Just like Wren, it can seem daunting to have to do each individual step. Our steps are specific therapies that work on just getting his lips to touch when we ask, or just get his mouth to make a circle shape so that he can say 'oh', or telling him to 'use his smiley face' to try to get and 'ee' sound. (which is hilarious to watch) But, just like Wren, the only way to really get to the next level is by taking each step one at a time. We have to pace ourselves and not get overwhelmed looking ahead. We have to pace ourselves and not rush through the process and tire out. Some days that's easier than others. But it is nice to know that we have our family and friends standing behind us just in case we need that extra boost to get up one more step.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

3... 2... 1... BLASTOFF!

 Last night I got one of the best surprises that I've had in the last couple of years (minus of course the trip to the Bahamas)! We've talked about it many times before but last night Jason showed up and surprised me with it! The kids weren't quite sure what it was at first. Cruz was of course fixed on watching the wheels of the bicycle and didn't realize that he was actually going to get to ride. For the first time in a long time I felt like a kid again myself. I ran inside and put my tennis shoes on as fast as I could. We strapped both the kids in and they seemed to get excited just sitting next to each other. Jason and I snapped our helmets on and hit the pavement. There was a slight pause of anxiety as I mounted that bike as I haven't been on one since I got pregnant with Cruz. But as soon as I pushed those pedals I immediately slipped back into it. That 30 minute bike ride was the liberating, exciting, and full of promise. There is nothing like feeling the rush of wind against your skin. For the first few minutes I didn't even think about our kids, I got to be the kid again. I probably repeated 'oh my gosh, I am so excited' a hundred times. I was like a kid on Christmas morning! I finally slowed next to their seat and peeked in. They both were grinning ear to ear. Occasionally I would look back at them and see them holding hands and enjoying the ride. For Cruz, the avid adrenaline junkie, I know he was loving feeling the speed that makes stroller rides pale in comparison. Both the kids remained quiet the entire time minus the occasional giggle. There was no screaming, there were no tantrums, no punching or kicking. Cruz submitted to feeling the new sensation. This seemingly 'recreational' piece of equipment brings me to the point of tears I am so excited. It is full of hope and promise to me. Promises for evenings together as a family. Promises of the chance for Jason and I to have meaningful conversations as the kids enjoy the ride and scenery. Promises of the chance to get out of the house together. Promises to explore new places together. Promises of a positive things to look forward to. Lets face it, sometimes just having something to look forward to is enough to take you through the day, hour by hour, no matter how difficult it may be. Even now I am watching the clock and counting down for daddy to get home so we can go for a ride. So today, I feel a refreshed sense of hope and choose to look ahead to fun family evenings together!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Franklin James

When Jason and I decided to get a dog a couple of years ago, we had no idea what kind of investment we were making. We both loved dogs and had grown up around them. I wanted a golden retriever but Jason is allergic to dogs, so we settled on a Golden Doodle, half golden retriever and half poodle. He was fiesty and silly from the beginning and as my dad likes to call him "A Circus Dog". There is just something different about him. There have been many days were he has destroyed things, drug trash through the house, and tracked mud across the floor. (Not to mention destroyed just about everything at my parents house during the year, yes year, that we lived with them) However, now, Franklin is proving to be a constant source of therapy for Cruz. They are best friends. Everywhere we go Cruz will ask if Frank is going or if we can see him. They sit together, walk around the house, share snacks, you name it. Frank is so big that he doesn't mind if Cruz sits on him, pulls his hair, wrestles him. Franklin got a haircut on Sunday. Normally, Franklin is the one that hates it. This time, when Cruz saw him he cried for about 20 minutes. He didn't recognize him and thought it was a different dog. He was devastated until we convinced him it was still his dog. For Cruz, Frank is someone that he can be really rough with and roll around on and chase. He likes to feel Franklin's tongue and thinks it is so funny to 'hide snacks' and have Frank find them. He will put a small cracker under a toy, in between his toes, on his head, and watch to see if the dog can get it. So even though it is another mess to clean up and days that I have threatened to get rid of him. I never could because he's Cruz's best friend. Weighing the ups and downs, he's proving to be a good return on investment. Meet Cruz's therapist and best friend, Franklin James....

Monday, May 9, 2011


In honor of Mondays which can sometimes be rough I am choosing to focus on the positive. We had a triumph yesterday... Cruz blew bubbles for the first time in his life! He only did it once and couldn't repeat it. But for the first time I held the wand in front of his lips a few tiny little bubbles floated out! I think he was just a surprised as I was. We cheered and clapped our hands. He is a funny guy. Yesterday Jason and I laughed so many times over some of his 'quirky' behaviors. So cheers to blowing bubbles and to looking forward to new triumphs everyday. Whether they are big or small, we'll take them!

Friday, May 6, 2011


Remember when you were little and playing tag with your friends? You could play for hours on end outside and keep your stamina going. Running until you could hardly breath was fun and exciting. Maybe its because right before you knew you were about to get caught, or fall down, or pass out you could call a time out. You could stop, put your hands on your knees and catch your breath. It also gave you moment to strategize especially when the 'it' was standing next to you. The whole key to yelling time out was that, for whatever reason, it was honored by all kids everywhere. It was a universal rule that if someone yelled it, you had to stop or you'd be in the wrong. Lately when Cruz is repeatedly screaming mama at the top of his lungs for 20 minutes straight and my head feels like the steaming tea pot about to blow. I wish I could throw my hands to the T position and call a time out to catch my breath. If only they could already understand this simple principle. I could strategize my next plan and stop myself before losing my cool. I am sure it would improve my endurance and stamina with them. I would be able to go on a little longer before daddy gets home. Neither one seem to grasp the concept when I tell them to be quiet or put my finger to my lips. For now in my head I pray to Jesus to give me strength in that moment. I think this is going to be one of my goals to work towards, figuring out how to get them to stop screaming and let mommy have a 30 second time out. Who knows it could spark even a game of tag with them chasing me!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Through The Looking Glass

I've often contemplated archiving the ups and downs of this journey that we are on with Cruz. This journey is taking us through a world that we knew nothing of. Like most first time parents we have had our moments of pure joy and pride for the accomplishments of our first born. However, we have also had a multitude of difficulties as well. We first realized that there was a problem shortly after his first birthday. We couldn't put our finger on it exactly but we grimaced when he didn't reach the appropriate milestones and hoped that he would catch up. A few months ago we finally had him evaluated. He was diagnosed with Apraxia. Childhood Apraxia of Speech is a motor speech disorder. For reasons not yet fully understood, children with apraxia of speech have great difficulty planning and producing the precise, highly refined and specific series of movements of the tongue, lips, jaw and palate that are necessary for intelligible speech. He has decreased sensitivity in his mouth and therefore has problems eating, talking, etc. In addition, he has other sensory disorders as well: vestibular dysfunction, and proprioception. These are words that a couple of months ago I had never heard and even now I still mispronounce them. Since this realization we have gone through a roller coaster of emotion. We are very blessed to be in the First Steps program which provides both speech and occupational therapy for him at home. We are still watching him closely to see if he may have autism but as of now it is difficult to tell. This initial blog could go on for pages into the details of the the disorders. But for now, it is a simple introduction into this wild adventure that Cruz is taking us on. Some days are good and some days are awful. But we are believing God for healing and trying to do everything possible to provide the best resources and opportunities to this funny quirky little guy. This blog will tell the story of the wonders we encounter as we grow, learn, and navigate Through The Looking Glass into Cruz's world.

"I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then. "
Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)