Merry Belated Christmas!

Since our Christmas vacation has been so crazy…..I am going the easy route and cutting and pasting our family’s Christmas card and letter so that all of you will have a Christmas greeting from us.  More on our incredible vacay……coming soon!   🙂

 

DEAR WONDERFUL FRIENDS AND FABULOUS FAMILY,

Merry Christmas y’all! I sure hope this letter finds you at the end of an incredible 2012 and ready to tackle whatever God has for you in 2013!

It’s been quite a year for our family! I remember thinking as I was writing last year’s letter…..next year will have to be so much better. Less challenges, more fun! I set goals to no longer allow Autism to keep us at home. We were going to get out and do more. Well, we DID do just that…….but it was a much more difficult year still. Cannon’s health problems continued to persist throughout the first few months of 2012. His hospitalizations went from being an every few month occurrence to every couple weeks. His doctors told us that we were out of options and had to go the surgery route. So, Cannon had his first surgery in May and a second in July. He had a Chait Button installed in his abdomen which allows us to perform an hour long procedure at home daily and eliminates our need for week long clean outs at the hospital. It was an extremely tough physical and emotional adjustment for Cannon which lead us to decide to homeschool him for this year and take the reigns of his behavior therapy. Complications have arisen in regards to Anemia and a mysterious bacteria in his stomach. We are working closely with his doctors to get all of these issues resolved so that he can be healthy enough to enjoy life and make the strides developmentally that we know he is capable of. In spite of everything we HAVE had a lot of fun! We went to the Ringling Bros. Circus, threw the boys a blowout double birthday party at Pump It Up, picked pumpkins at a local pumpkin patch, attended a Veggie Tales Live show, and ran a 5K together to support an organization we love (Beads of Courage). We also rode on the Polar Express train near the Grand Canyon, picked 11 pounds of apples at a nearby orchard, and went surfing with the pros of Surfers Healing on Folly Beach in South Carolina. Mark and I are so thankful that amongst all the yuck…..we were still able to give our boys some great fun! Thank the Lord!

Mark is beginning his 12th year in Federal Law Enforcement. He spent too many months of this year on light duty after injuring both knees on the job. But after 2 separate and successful surgeries to repair each meniscus….he is feeling much better. He still enjoys all things old school. Music, movies, cars, and books. And the latter containing info and stories mostly about history. He is an old soul through and through. He is a personal jungle gym to our sweet boys and especially enjoys all kinds of fun with them at the park.

I am still doing the stay-at-home mom thing. Adding teacher and behavior therapist to my load this year has been extremely hectic but also incredibly rewarding. I wouldn’t have it any other way! There isn’t a lot of time for anything else so I just try to savor time at home while experimenting with more involved recipes, making creative cakes, and fun activities with the boys. I continue to write a blog about our spiritual journey with Autism and life. It is my therapeutic outlet and allows me to share the ups and downs, educate others, and hopefully show that God is constant. No matter what your circumstance, trial, or struggle. I was also able to give 3 speeches this year on teaching children with Autism. With opportunities for more in the coming year. I am so so very thankful to be a vessel that could possibly help the Autism community in a small way. To God be the Glory!

Cannon is a sweet, smart, cuddly, loving 5 year old boy. He can read just about anything you put in front of him and loves counting and math. As previously mentioned, he was able to go surfing again this year! And he got to surf with not just one…but TWO pros! One being the founder of the organization and former world champion who took him out riding the waves for almost an hour! He had such a blast! Cannon has also recently begun to enjoy shooting baskets. Which of course makes his momma super proud and is a lot of fun for us to do together!

Townsend still continues to provide the comic relief in our house! He is always smiling, the master of silliness, and just pure joy! He began preschool this year as a friend of ours began one in her home. He and 5 of his buddies have really been enjoying attending. Learning a lot and playing together. Townsend also loves to cook with Mommy. Anytime I grab a pot or pan, I hear his little feet running down the hall to get his stool and come help. His favorite show on television is called “The Pioneer Woman.” One about a blogger, turned cookbook author, turned Food Network host whose family lives on a ranch and shares their adventures through food. He has the episode titles memorized and can even regurgitate many ingredients in various recipes. Some other faves are attending his Cubbies class at AWANA and doing art projects.

Well y’all….that’s a rap on 2012! Just before Christmas, we were blessed to be able to take off to Disney World with my parents and little sister to celebrate survival of this year. And to send it off with a bang! What a blast!  We pray nothing but blessings for you and your family for the coming year! We love each and every one of you and thank you for all of the prayers, encouragement, support, and love! Please follow and subscribe to our blog for updates on us throughout the year (www.throughcannonseyes.com)!

WITH SO MUCH LOVE,

Mark, Kimberly, Cannon, and Townsend

 

 

 

3 Years Later……

 

It used to be so hard for me to even utter the word…..Autism. Especially if the name “Cannon” was in the same sentence. I could talk about Cannon and I could talk about Autism but facing the reality that one was a part of the other…..was really difficult. It took a while but now…..3 years later….it’s a non-issue.

3 years later….I can still remember that day in the Neurologist’s office like it was yesterday. I remember the busy waiting room, Cannon’s meltdown when we had to leave the blocks he was in the process of arranging in that waiting room, along with the absolute battle involved in getting vitals and particularly head measurements. I remember his fixation with some foam letters in the exam room and obsession with lining them up perfectly spaced and in order, his lack of any eye contact or even acknowledgement of the doctor’s presence, her messy hairstyle, the cold room, Townsend crying off and on in my arms, and the chaos that ensued when the doc dared to pick up a foam letter to disrupt Cannon’s order. I remember wondering why in the world our pediatrician wanted us to see a neurologist anyway. That we were wasting time, gas, and frustrating the kids. And I will always remember that one sentence. The sentence that changed our lives completely! Top to bottom. I remember the shock. The thought “Wait….she can do that? Diagnose that.” I remember trying to speak. But the shock was intense and all I seemed to do was sputter.

“Based upon my evaluation and the answers you have provided, I feel confident diagnosing your son with AUTISM.”

Ouch! Instantly there was intense, physical pain. Literally like a knife to the heart….a punch in the gut…and a blow to the head…..all at once. Because just like that……our lives would change forever and our sweet Cannon had a label that, to others, would define him. As long as my, then 2 year old little boy, lived. I couldn’t muster much of anything after that. There was disbelief, disorientation, and just an overall state of being stunned. I don’t remember much else that she said after that except to keep our upcoming appointment with the Developmental Pediatrician. He would give us a plan of attack. And also she said, “He is still the same little boy you brought in here today. He hasn’t changed. Take him home and love him.”

I felt as if my mouth was still open in shock as we walked to the car. And that people were staring at us as we walked through the full waiting room. All I wanted to do was get the boys strapped in. I felt like I was going to burst. I was desperate and fumbled with the car seat restraints in my hurry. I kissed Cannon’s forehead, shut the door, turned my back to the car, and lost it. Right in the middle of the parking lot. Mark came around the car and I collapsed into his arms. It was awful. The explosion of tears, the miserable despair, the incredible helplessness…. I almost couldn’t catch my breath. The enormity of it all just felt like it was crashing into us like a Mack truck. I have no idea how long we stood there. Forever, it felt like. Until Cannon’s needs no longer could be ignored. I remember sending out a mass text. To close friends and family. I knew some were going to start calling to see how the appointment went. And I couldn’t bear it. Per my recollection, it said something like…..”Cannon was officially diagnosed with Autism today. I need some time. I’m not ready to talk. I will let you know when I am. We love you all.” I regret the bluntness and broad siding it may have been for some but it was the best I could do at the time. I decided on that long car ride home that I would give myself 3 days. 3 days to cry, grieve, and deal with this. Then, I would lock it up and push forward. Begin the journey I was being forced on. The life God had chosen for me. Figure out what was next. And that is exactly what I did…..

I just can’t believe it has been 3 years since we heard that sentence…..

I said it in last years anniversary post and I’ll say it again. Even though it feels like yesterday, it also feels like Autism has been apart of our life forever. If that makes sense.

3 years have brought our family a long way. Cannon is not the same little boy in many ways. He talks now. Some. He makes quick eye contact at times. He has re-gained a lot of the fine motor skills he lost mostly, in my opinion, thanks to the iPad. He still has grave needs for improvement in coping skills, behavior management, expressive language, and his medical condition. But we have plans for each area and are working towards goals that we feel are achievable.

And don’t forget……there
is another component in this equation that is our family. Our 3 year old, Townsend, who has never known anything else. Cannon was diagnosed when he was just 9 months old. The effects on his life are many. He gets drug to lots of therapy appointments, has to sit in lots of doctors waiting rooms, and has endured sitting by his brother’s bedside at the hospital far too much. He isn’t exposed to a lot of foods that normal kids eat because they often share in the same meals. He has had to learn that his brother won’t play with him. Or answer him much at all. But he handles it well and loves his brother so very much. What more could we ask of our 3 year old.

If your child is healthy…..thank God EVERY DAY. If you know someone with a child with Autism…..help. Find a way. Insist. We don’t like to burden you or ask for help. But we need it. Make an effort to understand the struggles because with stats like 1 in 88…..if you don’t already know a child with Autism…..you will. If you are a parent of a child with Autism….love them EVERY second. Even when its hard. Even when you can’t see straight because you are so tired. Even when they physically harm you. Even when they throw tantrums that defy words in intensity. Even when the thought of their long term prognosis completely and totally depresses you. But most importantly remember…..they are a victim. They did not ask for this. And they are trying. It’s just that the way they express their needs is not the socially appropriate way. They are dying for you to crack the code and figure it out. They love you so much.

I love my Cannon more today than yesterday. I respect him and his journey. I empathize so strongly with what he goes through. Patience is a daily struggle, especially when you factor in the sleep deprivation….but it has grown. Autism has broken my heart. It has beat me down, drug me around, and worn me out. It has challenged our family, faith, and foundation to the core. BUT it has also taught me things I would never have learned otherwise, given me a whole new level of empathy and patience, shown me that I am much stronger than I think, and proven to me (beyond the shadow of a doubt) that God will NEVER leave me. NEVER let me go through one minute alone. My Father provides me with all the strength I need to get through each day. And has given me a new purpose. To be a voice for Cannon and others like him. Crazy when you think we didn’t even tell people outside of our immediate family and circle of friends about his diagnosis for almost 2 years. Now I have been provided the opportunity to speak to groups of people who desire to hear our story and learn about Autism. I hate Autism but I am thankful for these lessons and the spiritual refinement and growth that comes alongside it. Cannon is my hero. I gave birth to my hero. Not many people can say that.

3 years later……I am ok with the direction our lives have taken. I hate that it had to happen. But I am ok with it. And I have NEVER been more proud of someone in my life! God bless my sweet Cannon and all others like him!

 

 

 

Halloween

The back tracking continues…… 🙂

This year, we didn’t do too much in regards to Halloween. Townsend went to one party with a couple of friends and also dressed up at his preschool. But we had just found out about Cannon’s Anemia and he wasn’t up for much during this time. So, we kept it chill for him. The only thing we did was have some professional pics done of the boys in their costumes and went to a carnival of sorts at our church.

Prior to Halloween, I asked Cannon what he wanted to be. He didn’t say anything. No surprise there. So, I began giving him ideas. “Do you want to be a pirate? Do you want to be a cowboy? Do you want to be a doctor?” “Yes” he said! “A doctor like Doc Mc Stuffins.” For those of you who don’t know……this is a show on the Disney Channel about a little girl who doctors her stuffed animals. And he and Townsend really love it. So, that was it. I found a doctor costume…..scrubs and a lab coat. Bought a medical bag with instruments. But since those were plastic and my boys are destroyers…..I went ahead and bought him a real stethoscope as well.

On the day of the photos, we drove about 50 minutes (a norm for us as we live remotely) to the home of my good friend, Susan of Susan {d} Photography. She was doing Halloween mini-sessions and we were going to spend a few minutes on each kiddo. Capturing their cuteness while dressed up. I came prepared with snacks and their favorite music loaded into my phone. For smiling motivation. Well, Townsend did awesome!!!!! He was a ham and a half. Grinning up a storm, doing whatever Susan asked, and other crazy expressions and silliness. That’s our Townsend! He was dressed as The Cat in the Hat. At one point during the shoot, he discovered the tail…..and hilarious-ness ensued. He was great! Well, Cannon….well, Cannon was the opposite I am afraid. He did not want to put on his costume. He just wanted to play with her foosball table and manipulate buttons on her electronics. And super roughly might I add. He would scream loudly with his teeth gritted anytime I tried to guide him away. I finally was able to get him into his costume while distracting him with a snack. But as soon as I stuck him in front of her cute backdrop…..he made his displeasure known. I turned on a favorite song. I mean who doesn’t get happy when they hear “Call Me Maybe?!” 🙂 Well, not Cannon. On any other day…..yes. That day….no! We tried more treats, different music, playing with the “medical” instruments, and acting like total goofballs. Not much could evoke more than a smirk. Susan is Houdini and managed to get some good shots but you wouldn’t have guessed it to be possible if you were there. Cannon looked super pale and like we were causing him physical pain. So, we packed it in fairly quickly and called it a day.

This first pic pretty much sums up the difference in the two boy’s attitudes about the shoot….

And this was a much better moment…..

And here are some of my faves of Cannon…….




And of Townsend…….




The AWANA program at our beloved church sponsored what they called AWANA-ween. A fun family alternative to Halloween. One where there is nothing scary and all is FUN! They have lots of great food, 2 different jumping castles, games, and most importantly tons and tons of candy. Well, for Townsend at least. Cannon has never even tasted candy. He has almost always been on a restricted diet. So, he enjoyed the games that gave little prizes as well. At first, the boys spent a lot of time in the jumping castles. Eventually, we meandered over and played many of the different games. We knocked over bowling pins, bobbed for apples, had a boat race with Daddy powered by blowing the boat through a straw. Cannon struggled after about 40 minutes with his energy level. He wanted to be carried in spurts and was just dragging. But I will tell you what…..he perked up like no other when he laid eyes on a certain booth. One where you could through a whipped cream pie in the face of a volunteer. Townsend did not like this at all. He was concerned for the person and would hide behind me and whine. Cannon just cracked up with a grin on his face from ear to ear. And when he got to be the throw-er! He loved every second! He threw a pie at our wonderful AWANA director, Mrs. Vicky. And nailed her in the arm! He was so proud and excited! We got home that night….exhausted from all the fun. But glad that we ventured out to give it all a try. One of our goals this year! Enjoy some more pics from our super fun Halloween night! 🙂