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!

Carter’s First Pet

I always thought Carter’s first pet would be a dog one day. I pictured him having a golden retriever or a black lab or something like that. Well with the abundance of mice we have out here in the country (see the post Country Living), my brother suggested we get an outdoor cat. He said we should never have to worry about any mice ever making their way in the house if we have a cat outside. So we contacted places looking for a grown outdoor cat that was already spayed. We had to have a female because Carter had already named it Tinkerbell.

Well we got our cat Sunday afternoon, and she is super sweet and friendly. We are keeping her on the back porch for a week to get her used to us and her new home, and we will turn her loose running around out here next week. We love going out there to pet her. Carter has been so sweet to her. We went out to tell her we were going to town yesterday, and he repeated me and said “Tinkerbell we are going to town.” Last night he went out there and said “Tinkerbell I just ate pizza for supper.” “Tinkerbell come over here.” It’s been so sweet watching him interact with his first pet that he named Tinkerbell.

Don’t Give Up On Your Miracle

I have shared before that Carter hated the beach a few years ago (See the post Never Give Up). He hated everything about it! I found some pictures of our trip to the beach when he was 2 1/2 years old not long after he was diagnosed with autism. He had to be carried on the beach and even then he was not very happy to be near the ocean.

He was pretty content just staying on the balcony of the condo and not ever venturing out to the ocean.

We have come a long way since then praise the Lord! This was almost 5 years ago. I love the beach, and we didn’t let this stop us from ever going back. We just kept going back every year and venturing even closer to the ocean, and we got him used to walking on the sand with lots of encouragement. We went to the beach back in November, and Carter absolutely loved it. He even got in the ocean and let the waves hit his legs. He came back home after this trip in November saying he was going to buy that condo and live at the beach one day. Every time he has gotten any money since then, he puts it in the bank to save for the condo. 😍

Carter just had his first week of summer break this week, and he’s been asking me this week if we could go back to the beach. It got me to thinking again how far we have come on this journey. God is so good. My sweet little boy who hated the beach 5 years ago is now wanting to go to the beach. I want to encourage others to not ever give up on their miracle. Keep asking and believing. We ask God for the big miracles, but He is doing little miracles like this every day.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

 

 

Country Living

We moved out of town into the country last summer. We now live in the middle of a field. We are so far off the road that we were able to name our road which we named Carter Ln. This picture was from last summer before we moved. Carter was so excited to have our road named after him.

People asked me before we moved if Carter would be ok with the move. I wondered at first because we were taking him away from the only home he had ever known, but he seemed so excited to move. We were driving out to the land every day and packing and talking about it a lot. So he was just ready to get moved. I grew up in this area so I guess it was calling me back, and I wanted Carter to experience the country. We had lived in our house in town for 13 years so I had forgotten about country living. I had gotten used to living in town. The good thing about where we live now is we get the country living, but we are still convenient to town. We can be to town in less than 10 minutes which was something I wanted when we were looking for land in this area.

We got moved last summer, and Carter was so comfortable at our new place. We wondered why we waited so long, but God’s timing is always perfect. Carter would tell me everyday “Mama I like living in the country.” One of the first things we noticed after we moved was how bright the moon is in the country. Living in town in a subdivision with the street lights, we never noticed the moon. The moon is beautiful. When the moon is full, you don’t even need to turn on any lights in the house at night if you get up. Sunsets are even more beautiful coming across the corn field in the evenings. Carter will say “Look at that pretty sky!” The farmers just planted corn a few weeks ago in the field behind us, so now we get to watch it grow. We love watching the sun come up in the mornings over the mountains (hills). (We call them mountains. They may just be hills.) Seeing the lightning bugs come out by the hundreds across the field in the evenings reminds me of being a little girl catching them just to see how many I could catch. I tell Carter stories of me doing this. There’s a little killdeer that has built its nest in the middle of our driveway. This is the second time this year. I don’t know if it’s the same bird or a different one, but she has built in the exact same spot in our driveway twice. We get to watch her get mad at us every day we drive in or out. Carter will ask me why she is getting so mad, and I tell him because she is a Mama protecting her baby eggs in her nest just like I’m his Mama and would do anything to protect him. This little killdeer is like family. This second time Jeremy even took some left over bricks and put it around her nest to keep it safe. We had so much rain late winter and early spring that the front part of our property became a pond for a little while that attracted ducks and geese. We were able to show these to Carter. It’s these simple things of living in the country that I’m thankful to share with Carter and teach him. We didn’t see any of this living in town, or we just didn’t stop to notice them.

Of course there are the minor annoyances of the country like MICE! Jeremy pointed out they were here first in this field and then we showed up. 😂 Last summer not long after we had moved in, I was walking up and down the driveway and noticed a piece of tire buried in some dirt. I decided I would be helpful and “clean up.” I lifted it up and there were 2 sets of beady eyes staring up at me! I think they were just as scared of me as I was of them. I slammed the tire back down and the men (Jeremy and Carter) took care of it. 😆 I’ve only seen one snake at the end of the driveway. I think it was just a black racer, but I don’t care. I don’t like any snakes. Carter was trying to see it too, but it was already gone before he could look out the car window. But we will take these minor annoyances for the blessings of this home and land God has given us.

Since we’ve been living here almost a year now, I’ve just been reflecting on these simple things I’m grateful for with our country life.

Saying Goodbye to a Successful School Year

Well today is the last day of school. Tomorrow Carter will meet the teacher he is assigned to for 2nd grade.

This picture was the first day of school with Mrs Amado back in August. This week has been emotional for me. My baby boy is finishing up 1st grade (where has the time gone?!) and I’m having to say goodbye to his teacher and aides. Carter is asking me if he will have his friends Reese and MariJo with him next year in 2nd grade. He even prayed the other night at bedtime that he would have them with him next year in his class. It was the sweetest prayer.

I have shared in previous blogs that I almost homeschooled him this year. I’m so thankful God didn’t let me mess this up. God always has a plan. Carter probably would’ve had a good year if I had homeschooled him, but he has made tremendous progress this year. He has become more and more independent and matured so much. The friendships he has made have meant the most to me. Anybody that knows anything about autism will tell you that making friends is hard for people with autism. Seeing my sweet boy walk out to my car holding Mrs. Amado’s hand every afternoon looking up at her with such awe on his face or seeing him walk in to school in the mornings holding Reese’s hand…these are the moments that I have to thank God that He has a plan and He works everything out for our good. These moments are answered prayers. When the doctors say your child will have a hard time with relationships/friendships because of this diagnosis…faith says no he won’t.

Carter got to go on a field trip yesterday to the Rec Center Pool. I was able to be there too. I thought this was a great way to end the school year. Carter has just recently started to like getting in a swimming pool in the last year. I looked and Mrs. Amado was taking him around the lazy river. This made me tear up. It just shows what an awesome teacher she is. Mrs. Amado showed Carter love and acceptance and believed in him like I do. That’s all I want for my sweet boy. I pray we have many more successful school years like this one.

When we asked Carter what he wanted to do this afternoon to celebrate the end of 1st grade he said he wanted to go to Lowe’s and go eat at his favorite Mexican restaurant in town. Gotta love this sweet boy.

Mother’s Day

FC42068D-233D-49D7-B47A-AC786340A938.jpeg8 years ago on Mother’s Day weekend I found out I was pregnant with Carter so every Mother’s Day is extra special to me for that reason. I can still remember going to throw the pregnancy test in the garbage early that morning thinking oh well it didn’t happen this month, and as I was throwing the test away, I saw the faintest pink line. I pulled it back out of the garbage and went running to find Jeremy. I took another test the next morning, and that pink line was even darker. By the 3rd day, there was no mistaking that pink line was there! Hey I had a 3 pack of tests so might as well use them all right?

The funny thing is I think most people had already given up on us ever having a baby. We had already been married going on 10 years, and people had been asking us for years “when are y’all going to have a baby?” I was content being an aunt. I just had one niece at the time, and I loved her (and still do) like she was my own. When I finally got pregnant, I think we shocked everyone.

My aunt told me not too long ago that when I was a child I said I wanted a blond hair boy with blue eyes. Well that’s what God gave me. 😁 I wouldn’t take anything in the world for my little boy. Carter has been the biggest blessing in my life. I think wow I’m his mother. He has taught me so much and made me a better person. He has showed me how to really love people like Jesus does. Carter doesn’t know anybody who is mean. He will tell you that himself. It’s easy to love those people who love you back, but it’s a lot harder to love those people who talk about you behind your back or judge you or say mean things about you. So when Carter says he doesn’t know anyone who is mean, I know he has seen people being mean, but he chooses to still love everyone. And that’s a love like Jesus. So I want to love like Carter, so I can love like Jesus does. I pray Carter doesn’t ever change. My prayer is if anyone is ever mean to him, he can still say that person is not mean.

Being a mom isn’t easy. There are days I think I’m not good enough, or it’s so chaotic and I don’t really have my stuff together. But then my sweet little boy will give me a hug and say “Mama, you are the best mom ever.” He said that to me twice just this week. Those words are better than any gift I could ever receive.

I will do anything just to see my little guy smile. Whether it’s buying him powdered donut holes as an after school surprise or putting his pajamas in the dryer so when he gets out of the bath at night they are extra warm. (I don’t do this every night and this does sound crazy, but if you saw his face, it’s pure joy 😊). This smile can get him out of trouble as well. 😂

I can’t believe it has been 8 years since I found out I was going to be a mom that Mother’s Day weekend. I loved him even before I got to hold him in my arms. I think about how boring our lives must have been before we had him. Carter has made our family complete. Despite the ups and downs we may have had along this journey, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Being Carter’s mom has been my greatest gift in life.

The Beginning of Our Journey

I thought I would share a little bit of where we started on our journey. My hope has been to encourage others through my blog, so today I thought I would go back to 5 years ago when this all started. Carter had just turned 2 and was still not talking. I had taken him to his pediatrician we were seeing at the time for his 2 year checkup, and he was still not really concerned about anything. He just told me boys sometimes are delayed talkers. I decided to contact Tennessee Early Intervention Services (TEIS) myself because I guess deep down I was worried something was wrong. I wanted to find out if there was something going on and get Carter the help he needed. A lady came to evaluate Carter at our house, and she was the first to say that it was possible he may have autism. My heart was crushed. I was also in denial. Yes, he didn’t quite play like other toddlers his age, but I always just brushed it off as he was different and that was ok. Everything I knew about autism didn’t look like my little boy. (I had a lot to learn). I told her how loving and affectionate he was (and still is).

I told her how smart he was with puzzles…

But she watched him play and how he liked to stack stuff…(This picture below is after I had started therapy at home and I had hung up pictures all over the house to help him start talking and get his words out).

She said being very smart and restricted interests are all part of it. And she told me a lot of kids with autism are very loving and affectionate. She pointed out that Carter rarely made eye contact with us. He would just walk up to us if he needed something and take us to what he needed.

We still had to go to Vanderbilt to get evaluated because although this lady suspected autism, she couldn’t diagnose him. TEIS went ahead and started speech therapy and had the teacher start coming to our house once a week to work with him. In the months of waiting for the appointment, I felt like this was not autism. I prayed and fasted, and I believed God had heard our prayers. I thought they would just say he had a speech/developmental delay of some sort, and we would get him on track with what we were already doing. But no, he was diagnosed with autism. I had to get past the denial and the grief and the anger. Yes, I was angry that God would allow this to happen to my little boy. And angry at myself that I must have caused this. But God never left my side, and He still hasn’t. Carter started talking and making progress once we got him the help he needed. Vanderbilt called to follow up a few months after his diagnosis, and the lady asking the questions over the phone was amazed at the progress we were already seeing. She just kept saying “wow.” He was already up to saying about 50 words in just a few months. I know it was all God. Carter has always been a happy kid. God showed me that an autism diagnosis didn’t change my little boy. I’m beyond blessed to have him. I believe he blesses everyone he meets too.

I guess I share all this on my blog because I had some pretty dark days in the beginning of our journey. I felt so alone like nobody understood what I was going through or how I felt. Everyone I knew had “typical” kids so I didn’t have anybody I could relate to. Jesus is the one who carried me through and gave me the strength to fight for my baby. I learned to celebrate every victory no matter how small it was. So, I hope people read my blog and our journey, and they see a story of hope and a mom who won’t give up on her child.

A Team Effort

As Carter and I sat at the table this evening going over his spelling words for the week, he was writing them out and “teaching” me his new words. “Mama, you have to drop the “e” in ride to make the word “riding” and the word “hop” needs another “p” to make the word hopped.” These were all new words he brought home today since it’s Monday, so I was pretty impressed. I was so proud of him for paying attention at school today. He went on to say that Ms. Caitlin taught him this today. Ms. Caitlin is one of his aides at school. I’m so thankful for not only his wonderful teacher but the wonderful aides he has as well. Mrs. Lana and Ms. Caitlin have been amazing with him. It truly is a team effort. Mrs. Amado probably went over these spelling words with the whole class today, but it took the one on one for a few extra minutes for it to click with him. She has a class full of other kids, and it’s nice that she can keep on going, but Carter can get that extra time he needs with the help of his aides.

Carter is extremely smart. Once he learns something, he’s got it. He just may need some extra time or that one on one for a few extra minutes. This was part of my reason for wanting to homeschool him last year was because I felt he needed the one on one that I could give him at home. But God led me to keep him in school, and I’m so glad that I did. He has made such great progress this year. Carter needs all of us to help him be his best. It’s a team effort, and I’m thankful for every single person on Carter’s team! God has placed every person in our lives over these past 5 years that we needed to help heal our sweet boy. Healing didn’t come immediately, but it doesn’t mean Carter isn’t being healed. God is always in control.