Conversations with Carter

Things have been really busy here lately, but the thing that has been on my heart the past few weeks is how grateful I am to have conversations with my sweet Carter. When he was 2 years old, I just wanted to hear my sweet boy say the word “Mama” and say it all the time. I think he had said it once prior to his diagnosis, but for whatever reason, he never said it again. Once he started saying “Mama” all the time, I wanted to hear him say the words “Mama I love you.” Such simple words, but they mean so much. I would see little children having conversations with their parents, and my heart would ache thinking will I ever get to have conversations with my little boy?

It didn’t happen overnight, but I saw Carter go from saying one word to 2-3 word sentences to complete sentences. Although he had a lot of echolalia at first, I didn’t mind because I was so thankful to hear my baby talk and a lot of it was meaningful to what we were talking about.

Today I’m able to have normal conversations with Carter. Now that he is back in school, I ask him about his day every afternoon. Yesterday I was asking him about what he did in math and if he read an AR book in class and took a test on it and different things about his day. He answered my questions, and then he said “Hey Mama, guess what?!” I’m thinking this must be pretty exciting because he seems excited about something. He then tells me he went to use the restroom at school, and there was water all over the floor. I told him the toilet probably got stopped up and it overflowed, and someone would have to come fix it. He then says “No Mama, Mrs. Pannell said there was a crack in the back of the toilet, and that’s what did it.” I was thinking well his new teacher probably met the inquisitive Carter today (see my blog post Carter’s Inquisitive Mind) and all the “why,” “how,” and “what” questions and her trying to explain the reason there was water all over the bathroom floor. I guess she will get used to my Carter. 😆 Carter then asked me “Did Mrs. Pannell tell you about the water on the bathroom floor?” I had to kind of giggle at this question as I told him “No, she didn’t tell me about that.”

It’s amazing to me the things that fascinate him. This is what makes him so special though. Sometimes life gets so busy, and Carter will keep asking those same questions for the hundredth time it seems. I find myself hurried and not wanting to answer him again and again, but I try to keep answering those questions anyway because I don’t want to ever take for granted the voice God gave my little boy. God answered my prayer on this and gave Carter his words, and I’m able to have conversations with him. And I get to hear those simple words “Mama, I love you.”

Carter’s Inquisitive Mind

We have this picture hung up in our house of Carter when he was 9 months old. I love this picture of him. The photographer captured him being fascinated by a leaf he had picked up off the ground. I walked by this picture the other day, and it made me smile. He wasn’t smiling in this picture like he was in this one …but just taking in something new. This was the first time he had seen a leaf. I was struck by how his mind has always been this inquisitive. He wants to know how everything works and is curious about everything.

Even before he could talk, he was always checking out things. Checking out the doors and how they closed. Checking out what made toys worked instead of really “playing” with them. The “why” and “how” and “what” questions started a few years ago when he really started communicating better. But I love his questions and the way his mind works and thinks about things.

I had surgery a week ago, and Carter was asking me a few days ago what they cut out and what kind of tools they used and why I have wounds on my belly. I answered his questions the best way I could. Then he wanted me to show him the tools they used, so I thought hey you can YouTube anything right? I pulled up the type of surgery I had done on YouTube, and I let him watch it so he could see the tools that were used and everything involved and why I have the incisions on my belly. He was fascinated by this.

My mind doesn’t work like his, but I’m always amazed at how his mind works and the questions he asks. God makes every one of us uniquely special. I am so blessed by the people in our lives who love Carter. He is so loving, caring, and inquisitive. God made him extra special. 😊

5 Years Ago

Five years ago today I sat at Vanderbilt and received what I thought was the worst news of my life. My sweet 2 1/2 year old Carter was diagnosed with autism. I remember thinking the lady giving us the diagnosis seemed so cold and nonchalant about giving us the news, but I had to remind myself she was just doing her job and probably had to do this on a daily basis. I remember being unable to stop the tears from flowing as I sat there listening to everything my child would need from special education services to therapy services and all the stuff I would need to do at home. I cried the whole way home and the whole rest of the day. I was angry and grieving that God would allow this to happen to my baby and to us. I woke up the next day hoping this was a nightmare but was met with the reality that I needed to face this, and we had therapy already scheduled for the week.

After his speech therapy session a couple of days after his diagnosis, Carter was laughing in the car. I took this picture of him that day. God showed me right then that an autism diagnosis didn’t change my little boy. He was still the same happy and joyful baby He had blessed me with. He also spoke to me and said this would be a journey I would have to take for a little while, but He would never leave me.

I call these last 5 years “the blessing of a broken heart.” God has shown me what real love looks like through my child. I know God makes no mistakes, and He didn’t make a mistake with my Carter. Carter has shown me how to have such love, joy, patience, and kindness through Jesus.

I want to encourage you to never give up hope. My child was practically nonverbal 5 years ago today, and now he sings on the praise team at church. He’s not afraid to lift his little hands and dance for our Lord when he’s on stage either! God continues to do stuff right in front of our eyes. I’m amazed as I watch him at what God is doing in his life. God’s not done with him either!

God took my broken heart from 5 years ago and healed it. He showed me what a blessing this journey has been. Some days are still hard, but God will never leave us or forsake us.

Carter’s Trip to the Bank

A dear sweet friend of ours gave Carter $20 last week to sow seed into his life. She had heard that he never wants to spend any of his money because he is saving for a condo at the beach so she wanted to bless him. She ended up blessing us just as much as she blessed him.

I took Carter to the bank Friday to put his $20 in the bank. Here in this picture I made him do all the talking to the teller. 😊

When he was done he asked “Now do I have enough money to buy that condo?” I told him not yet but to just keep saving his money, and one day he will have enough to buy that condo.

It is sweet people like this that bless us every single day. Just the smile this put on my sweet child’s face made my day. My prayer is to be a blessing as well to other people I come in contact with.

Carter’s Play and Social Interactions

I woke up around 5:00 this morning, and I laid there watching Carter sleep beside me. (He got in the bed with us last night). I never get tired of watching him sleep, and he’s 7 years old now! I got to thinking about this week, and Carter asking me every single day this past week to take him to play with Hunter and Harleigh (his cousins). He has started this thing at home lately where he will come down the stairs and get to the 3rd step and then jump down to the bottom floor yelling “Hulk smash!” I asked him where he learned this, and he informed me it was a game he played with Hunter and Harleigh. He then told me he played Hide and Seek and pretend nap with them.

A few weeks ago we helped out at a yard sale at church, and he played with his sweet friend Aubree the whole time. They played with a beach ball or hide and seek. He was wanting to go home with her to keep playing and was sad when we had to leave. He threw a frisbee with the older guys when they showed up.

My niece Katelyn has stayed with us a couple of times this summer, and he has loved every minute of playing with her (See the post Carter’s Sleepover).

I see God working in this area of play and social interactions. My heart is so grateful to all these kids who play with Carter because really he is just now learning how to play with others. I see their love, patience, and acceptance. A few months ago, he would’ve been content just off playing by himself somewhere, and now he is seeking out these play interactions. I see the miracle in my child when he goes up to hug everyone he sees when he used to just walk right on by people and we had to cue him to just say hi. God’s not done with him either. We learned right from the start to never take anything for granted. We have celebrated every little victory or success, and we give God the praise!

Swimming Lessons

Carter had swimming lessons this week. This was a huge step for him considering a few years ago he wouldn’t hardly get in a pool, and if he did, he would just sit on the very top step. This picture was 2 years ago in Florida, and this was all he would do even with my niece Katelyn playing with him.

I took Carter to a teacher at his school this week that gives private lessons. Her name is Mrs. Patton. She was wonderful with him. Carter was so comfortable with her from the very beginning. Her and her husband were so welcoming to us this week while we were at their house. Carter loves garage doors, so her husband Mr. Jason let him listen to their garage doors open and close. This just made his day.

Carter didn’t learn how to swim this week, but I’m so proud of how brave he was. These lessons got him used to being in the water. He was all over the pool with Mrs. Patton. He did what she asked him to do. Some things made him a little scared, but he did it. I took this picture below because he was laughing as she was teaching him to blow bubbles in the water.

One of the days we were there, his extreme best friend ( see the post Carter’s Extreme Best Friend) even stopped by to see him a few minutes during his lessons. This made him so happy.

Carter may not have learned how to swim this week, but I’m still just as proud of him. I hope I can get him in a pool somewhere and maybe build on some of the things she was working on this week, but there is always next summer. I’m grateful Carter had this experience this summer with Mrs. Patton. So many people are so wonderful and accepting with my child, and my heart is so full of gratitude. In Carter’s own words “I loved swimming lessons, and I love Mrs. Patton.” 😍

Carter’s Sleepover

My 12 year old niece Katelyn stayed the night with us Thursday night so Carter had someone to play with besides us Thursday night and all day yesterday. He had the best time. She is so sweet and patient with Carter. His favorite thing to play with right now is to count money so she played right with him. She got him to play Pop the Pig and watch roller coasters on YouTube with her. They went out several times to pet our cat Tinkerbell. I got to enjoy drinking coffee with her. 😊

Katelyn used to stay with us a lot before I had Carter. I have all these memories of her being a little sweet toddler. She has the biggest heart of anyone I know and is beautiful inside and out.

She called me into Carter’s room to show me what she had wrote on Carter’s board, and this brought tears to my eyes. I told her I would probably share this on my blog. Here is what she wrote:

Of course she had to add a little humor at the bottom! And Carter probably did do this to her. 😂

Everyone needs a Katelyn for a cousin, and I’m thankful Carter has her!