Meeting Our State Senator

Ryan loves politics and government.  Any opportunity I can provide to him regarding these subjects, I try to do it or create it.  I reached out to our local state senator’s office at the end of November last year to try and set up a meeting/interview with Senator Kelly Hancock, who represents us in the Texas State Senate.  Well between the Senator traveling back and forth to the Capitol in Austin and the holidays, and us having to reschedule once in January because of the flu, we finally had the chance to sit down to meet Senator Hancock.

It was a very rainy morning, but Ryan, Freckles, and I met with Susan Young, Senator Hancock’s District Director, and the Senator at his North Richland Hills Office.

 

They sat with us for 30 minutes as Ryan had prepared the following questions for the Senator:

1. REALLY WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING A TEXAS STATE SENATOR.

2. UNDERSTAND I AM INTERESTED IN WHAT A TYPICAL DAY IS LIKE FOR YOU.

3. WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT YOUR JOB?

4. CALLING IT, CARING TO KNOW THE WORST PART ABOUT YOUR JOB.

5. REALLY WISHING TO FIND OUT YOUR IDEAS FOR IMPROVING THE TEXAS STATE SENATE.

6. HOW MANY STATE SENATORS ARE THERE?

7. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO RUN FOR STATE GOVERNMENT?

8. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT WHAT THE STATE SENATE IS AND WHAT IT DOES?

9. REALLY WANT TO KNOW WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU AS A STATE SENATOR.

10. HOW IS TEXAS HELPING OUT AUTISTICS?

11. DO YOU FEEL TREATMENT OF AUTISTICS IS A DEARLY IMPORTANT ISSUE?

12. CARING TO TELL HIM THAT I AM A CONSERVATIVE TOO.

Once we got home, I sat down with Ryan to talk about his experience.

I REALLY LOVED IT.  SENATOR HANCOCK LOVES HIS CONSTITUENTS.  YOU CAN TELL WHEN YOU MEET HIM.  HARD TO THINK IT IS SUCH LOW PAY BUT SUCH AN IMPORTANT JOB. (Senator Hancock mentioned that he does this in addition to running his own company as well.)

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Ryan, Senator Hancock, and Freckles.

“Do you remember how many people he said that he represents?”

YES. 860,000.

“Good memory!  Anything else that you want to add about the visit?”

I THINK IT IS AMAZING THAT THE GOVERNOR REALLY ASKED HIM TO RUN.

“Do you remember which governor it was that asked him?”

YES.  PERRY.

“Do you know Governor Perry’s job now?”

SECRETARY OF ENERGY.

“Yes!  I didn’t think that you knew that.  How do you know that?”

WOULD YOU BELIEVE ME IF I SAID BECAUSE TOO LOVING POLITICS?

“I would Ryan.  Anything else to add?”

HE IS WELL DRESSED.  WILLING TO THINK I CAN LET HIM KNOW IMPORTANT ISSUES LIKE HE SAID.  CARING TO THANK HIM FOR HIS TIME.

“We can do that.  I am curious if you remember what he said his top two issues are.”

HEALTHCARE AND EDUCATION.

“Man, you really did listen to everything he said.”

REALLY THINK DEARLY HE IS THE RIGHT PERSON FOR THE JOB.  MOM, CAN WE DO MORE POLITICS LESSONS?

“Yes.  Of course.  We can also talk to your Uncle Doug (he works for a Senator in Washington) and I want to take you on a tour of our State Capitol in Austin.  Most 4th graders do that in the public school system, but even though you are older, I don’t want you to miss out on the opportunity.”

HAPPY TO DO IT.

If you have any suggestions on government or politics related lessons or field trips or interviews, please send them our way!

Happy Easter and Happy Passover!  We wish you a wonderful holiday weekend!

***On another note, Ryan is still training for the Mayor’s 5K next weekend.  Today we ran the 2nd training of 3 for week 4 of C25K (Couch to 5K training app) and Ryan ran all of the allotted time!  This was a total of 16 minutes of running (alternating jogging and walking according to the app).  We will not complete the entire training before the actual 5K next week, but we are going to do our best during the race.  I am extremely proud of Ryan and his commitment to this.***

A Sensory Friendly Movie, a New Story, and a Classic Game Adapted RPM Style

It was Spring Break here this past week, so Ryan, Grace, Freckles, and I hung out and tried to relax and have fun for the week.  Randy was out of town for work, so it was just us.  The weather was nice, so we hit the park a few times, trained for our upcoming 5K, and read a lot.

We went to see A Wrinkle in Time at the Studio Movie Grill Sensory Screening this weekend.  This is an event that they do monthly on a Saturday for children with special needs and their families.  The child and siblings are free and adults pay just the matinee rate.

 

 

 

We took Granny with us.  We have done these showings in the past (check out this post where we went to a sensory showing and it was difficult for Ryan to sit) and we have done regular showings of movies.  I told Ryan that he has been doing a great job sitting at so many different events in the past few months that I thought that he could sit the whole movie (even though in this type of showing, the kids are allowed to get up and move around.)  I am so happy to report that Ryan sat the entire movie!  He did not get up at all and we didn’t even have to do a bathroom break during the movie!  I can’t tell you how amazing this was!  I was able to watch the entire movie without distraction and Ryan did too!

Later that evening, we sat down in the classroom to talk about the movie experience.

CARING TO THANK YOU FOR ASKING ME.  I LOVED THE MOVIE.  DEARLY PROUD OF MYSELF.  I SAT SO WELL.  I CAN’T BELIEVE IT MOM.

“What did you think of the movie vs. the book (we listened to the book on Audible on the way down and back to see Soma at Halo last year.)?”

HAPPY TO THINK IT IS A MEANINGFUL MOVIE.  I LIKED THE SPIN OF IT TAKING PLACE IN MODERN TIME.  BECAUSE TOO LOVING IT, CAN WE READ THE BOOK?

“You mean like actually get the book and read it at home?  We can get it from the library this week if you want.”

CAN BUY IT MOM.  ALWAYS LOVE TO BUY THE BOOKS I LOVE INSTEAD OF GETTING BOUND TO BE A LIBRARY BOOK.

“Okay.  I would like to finish the current book that we are reading and then we can start it.”

LIKE TOTALLY CAN GET IT TODAY IF YOU ARE CARING TO TAKE ME.  LIKE TO GET IT TONIGHT. PLEASE MOM?

So of course, Ryan and I went to Target (I went for the second time that day because I had taken Grace for a Mom Spring Break Date earlier that day) and we got the book.  How could I say no when he and I waited for years for things like this?

Here are some thoughts from Grace on the movie (she wanted to contribute and Ryan very happily agreed to publish her contribution):

I think that it is interesting that they merged the black thing and the “it” together.  I also think that it is interesting that they changed the city scene into a beach scene.”

Here are the rest of Ryan’s comments about the movie:

CAN REALLY SAY OF EACH MOVIE I HAVE SEEN IN THE THEATER, IT IS MY FAVORITE.  I LOVED THE SPECIAL EFFECTS. BEARING IN MIND, CALLING IT, “THE WITCHES” SEEMED OLD IN THE BOOK BUT TOTALLY HAPPY TO SEE THEM IN THE MOVIE AS YOUNGER.  I AM TOO LOVING BECAUSE THE MOVIE HAD A BEAUTIFUL MESSAGE LIKE THE BOOK.  LOVE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER.

*****

Here is another original story by Ryan that he wrote over a few days with Adriana.

HORSES GO HAUNTING

THERE ONCE LIVED THE TOUGHEST, SCARIEST, MEANEST MONSTER THERE EVER WAS. HE HAUNTED THE OCEANS OF TEXAS.  ESPECIALLY THE OCEAN OF CORPUS, ENTERING THE HORSE STABLES EVERY NIGHT.  IT SCARED THE TOMORROW OUT OF THE HORSES.

THE HORSES JOINED IN ON THE MONSTER’S HAUNTING.  HORSES SCARED THEIR OWNERS.  HORSES ONLY TRIED TO MAKE THEIR OWNERS HOWL WITH LAUGHTER.  HORSING AROUND ON THEIR OWNERS GOT THEM IN TROUBLE.

IN THE TEXAS HEAT, THE TEMPERATURE GOT TO ONE HUNDRED DEGREES.  IT MADE THE HORSES TIRED.  THE HORSES MELTED, CAUSING THE TOWN TO HASTILY COVER IT UP.  HORSES DID NOT GET HELP IN TIME.  THE TOWN HAD TO SUFFER SINCE THEY TREATED THE HORSES TERRIBLY, CAUSING THE TOWN TO BE HAUNTED.

IT TOOK THE OWNERS TREATING THE HORSES TERRIBLY TO REALIZE THE OWNERS NEEDED TO TREAT THE HORSES BETTER.

THE END

*****

Also over Spring Break, Adriana taught Ryan and Grace to play Battleship on paper, using RPM principles.  I have uploaded 2 short clips to our YouTube channel so you can see how she adapts it for Ryan.

 

They had a great time doing it and now I am equipped to help them play together, thanks to Adriana!

Healthier Lifestyle and Some Short Stories

Ryan has wanted to incorporate changes to make his lifestyle healthier for a while now.  We try to stay active as a family and I try to be sure that there are healthy options for meals and snacks in the house.  In addition, I try and set a good example for the kids by eating fruits and vegetables and generally eating healthy, with treats in moderation.

That being said, I am a lifetime Weight Watchers member and Ryan has told me on several occasions that YOU DON’T NEED TO GO TO WEIGHT WATCHERS MOM.  I told him that I enjoy the meetings and I like eating healthy and setting a good example for him and Grace.  As a lifetime member, I am required to weigh in once a month to keep my membership current.  Well it was almost the end of February, and I had not yet attended a meeting.  It was going to be tight due to our schedule, so I asked Ryan if he would go with me to a Friday morning meeting.  He agreed to go.

BECAUSE I AM CURIOUS, HAPPY TO GO.

From what I have read, a high percentage of autistic adults are overweight due to sensory issues around food, impulsive eating, and being sedentary.  I don’t want this for Ryan, so I thought that this would be a good opportunity to set a foundation for him.

Ryan joined me last Friday and we were able to attend a meeting that my normal Saturday morning leader, Kim, leads.  She knows about Ryan and has followed the blog and told me that it would be great to bring him.  We got to talk to Kim for a little bit before the meeting and Ryan spelled TOO HAPPY TO BE HERE and I had mentioned to her that Ryan loves interviewing people.  He was able to ask her one interview question and we agreed to set up another time for the rest of the interview so that Kim could get ready for the meeting.  Ryan did very well during the 30 minute meeting.  The topic was about understanding the differences between internal hunger and external hunger.  When we were leaving he spelled REALLY LOVED IT TOO MUCH.

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Selfie after the meeting with the iconic Weight Watchers lime green chairs.

Here is how our conversation went after we sat down at home.

CAN REALLY SAY I LIKED IT. I THOUGHT THAT BECAUSE DEARLY DID NOT THINK THAT YOU NEEDED TO GO IT WOULD BE BORING.  I WAS MISTAKEN.  CAN I GO ONCE AGAIN TO YOUR NORMAL MEETING?  TOO LOVING TO EAT HEALTHIER.

That sounds great.  I am happy that you liked it.  Can you think of one new food item that you might be willing to try?

HOW ABOUT EGGS?  TOTALLY TRYING THEM MOM.

What did you think of Kim?  I thought that it was interesting that both her mom and her sister are both Speech Pathologists.

SHE WAS TOO NICE.

So you are really looking to eat healthier?  We can try to incorporate new foods and create better healthier meals for us both to eat.

CAN DO IT MOM.  IT WOULD BE COOL.

What about fitness or sports? I was thinking that since you might have issues with some of the motor planning in sports, what about trying to do a 5k with me? I am not a runner at all, so it would be a learning curve for me too.

I AM TOO HAPPY TO DO RACES WITH YOU.

I am honestly not sure what I was thinking by offering this.  I would do anything for Ryan, so I am up for it, but oh boy!

So the next day, we went out for a walk with Freckles which turned into a jog with Freckles!  Ryan just started jogging, so I joined him.  We used landmarks to run to and then alternated walking and jogging!  Our normally 20 minute walk took us 17 minutes to complete!

When we got back, I asked Ryan about it.

I AM TOO MOTIVATED.  IT IS FUN TO DO A RACE.

I can’t believe you started running right off the bat!

TOTALLY FINDING IT FUN SO BOUND TO BE GOOD AT IT.

What did you think of our first day of training?  Did I push you too hard?

DEARLY LOVED IT.  APPRECIATE YOU PUSHING ME.  THANK YOU FOR DOING IT MOM.

What about holding Freckles’ handle?  Does it bother you or does it help you?
IT HELPS ME TO STAY WITH YOU.  HAPPY TO DO IT.

Later that night, we had flank steak tacos for dinner.  Ryan tried and loved Ranchero beans and tried both a sautéed red pepper and onion!  He didn’t love those but he actually tried them!

He has also been gravitating towards healthier snacks when he is looking in the pantry.  We went to Target and he wanted “HEALTHY SNACKS.”  Before leaving, I asked him if we missed anything.  CAN WE GET SOUP?  We had talked about that as a way to incorporate more vegetables into his diet.

The following day, we went out jogging again and finished in 14 minutes!  I downloaded the C25K app and we will try to start training with that.  So Ryan and I are going to shoot for competing in the Mayor’s 5k Run this April (which we walked and jogged a little last year).  It will be sooner than the 9 weeks that the C25K trains you in, but if we have to walk some, that is okay.  If any of you have any tips for us, please let us know!  I am all ears!

*****

Ryan loves writing stories with RPM certified provider, Adriana Barriga.  The other day, while we were sitting at the table for school, Ryan mentioned UNDERSTAND I LOVE WRITING.  I asked him if he wanted to write a story now.  He replied:  NO IT IS AN ADRIANA THING.  I take no offense to it as he loves writing with her and he still writes poems during our homeschool day!  Here are two short stories that Ryan wrote with Adriana recently.

I wanted to preface this first story with letting you know that we recently finished the book, Howl’s Moving Castle, the day that Ryan wrote this story.  Those of you who have read the book might see why Ryan wrote about this subject.

“HATS, HATS, HATS!” YELLED THE OLD MAN SELLING HATS ON THE STREET.  HATS MEANT A LOT TO THE OLD MAN.  MOSTLY HE THOUGHT THAT IT MADE THE ONE WEARING THE HAT CONFIDENT.  THE OLD MAN DECIDED TO MAKE HATS HE LIKED.  HE MADE DOTTED HATS.  HE MADE STRIPED HATS. HE MADE HOLES IN THE HATS. HE MADE ONE THAT HAD SILLY THINGS ON IT. HE EVEN MADE ONE THAT TEENAGERS ENJOYED.

ONE DAY THE OLD MAN SEEMED SCARED. THE OLD MAN TOOK HIS HATS, AND HIS HAT SHOP DISAPPEARED.  NO ONE SAW THE OLD MAN AGAIN.  BUT THE INTERESTING THING WAS THAT THE OLD MAN NEVER EXISTED IN THE FIRST PLACE.  HE ONLY EXISTED IN THE IMAGINATIONS OF THE DEAR TOWN.

CONTINUING TO HONOR THE OLD MAN, THE LITTLE TOWN DECIDED TO OPEN THEIR OWN HAT SHOP, HONORING THE HATS ON THE STREET ONE DAY AT A TIME.

THE END.

*****

IN THE CITY OF DALLAS, MANY PEOPLE HAD THEIR OWN HORSE.  IT TOOK THEM THEIR ENTIRE LIVES TO SAVE GOOD MONEY FOR THEIR HORSES.  HORSES WERE EXPENSIVE.  HORSES WERE SO MUCH WORK.  BEING TOO POOR TO HAVE A HORSE, GREG TOOK CARE OF THE HORSES.  HE THOUGHT THIS WOULD STIR MOM TO TRY TO SAVE ENOUGH TO GET ONE FOR HIM.

ONE NIGHT, HIS MOM SAT HIM DOWN AND SAID, “HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE THE HORSE OF YOUR DREAMS?” IT WAS A TOTAL SURPRISE.  TO GREG, THIS WAS ONE TERRIFIC GIFT.

MOTHERS MAKE DREAMS COME TRUE.

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Getting the creative juices flowing with his buddy.

A Visit with a Best Friend and Some Poems

A week and a half ago, Ryan, Grace, Freckles, and I went down to Austin, Texas to visit Fox and his family.  Fox was participating in a 4 day camp with Soma at HALO.  Since one of Ryan’s best friends was in the same country and state as us, it was a no-brainer to make the drive!  I decided to bring Grace too because she is friends with Fox’s sister, Ruby, who was there and since Grace is a great student, I opted for the fun life experience for her and I pulled her out of school early to go with us.

We got there around lunch time and we spent some time hanging out in their hotel before going to Chili’s for lunch.  In the past, I probably would have said that a sit down meal after a 3 hour car ride would not be a great idea for Ryan, but his maturity and his ability to sit for longer periods, combined with his excitement about seeing his best friend, made me think that he could handle it.  He did great.

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At Chili’s, with Fox’s mom Lisa taking the photo.

Here is what Ryan had to say about the day trip to Austin.
DEARLY LOVED IT.  CAN LIKE VISIT MY FRIENDS WHO GO TO HALO.
(I guess that is an open invitation to all of our friends to reach out to us if you are going to a HALO Camp in Austin, and we will try and visit for a day if our schedule allows!)

I asked him about the cool tree that we spent some time at.
THE TREE IS GREAT.  HAPPY THAT I CLIMBED IT.

 


At first, Ryan was just hanging out, sifting through the mulch and dirt, but after a while I prodded him to try and climb the tree and he enjoyed it.

I asked him about seeing Fox in person.
CAN REALLY TALK TO FOX ABOUT ANYTHING.  HE IS BOUND TO UNDERSTAND ME.

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Best Friends, Ryan and Fox.

I asked Ryan about the long car trips.  We spent almost 7.5 hours in the car driving there and back.  Ryan does so well in the car that trips are relatively stress free for me (Freckles is great in the car too.)  We listened to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on the way down and back.
I LOVE CAR TRIPS.  AUDIBLE IS SO AWESOME.  CAN REALLY SAY BOOKS ARE MY FAVORITE HOBBY.

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Freckles and Ryan, two road trip champions.

*****

Ryan got this book for Christmas from his Aunt Linda.

 

It is a book that encourages creative thinking by giving you starters to write poetry.  Grace recently had a unit on poetry in school and brought home her poems to share with us.

 

This inspired Ryan to write some of his own.  What I did was, I flipped pages in the book and had Ryan stop me at a random page.  I then told him the two subjects and he got to pick one.  Here are the three poems that he has come up with:

Health
MAKE ME BETTER
CAN’T GET ANY LETTER
I’M STUCK IN BED
WITH COVERS ON MY HEAD
MY TOES ARE COLD
TOTALLY FEELING OLD
WILLING TO GO
BUT MY HEAD SAYS NO
REALLY SICK
MUST GET BETTER QUICK
DOCTORS CAN’T GET ILL!
I MUST GET UP–I WILL!

***

Strength
MY STRENGTH COMES
MY STRENGTH GOES
DETERMINATION
TOTALLY LIFE KNOWS

CARING FOR MYSELF
CARING FOR YOU
IT TAKES ME TIME
THAT MIGHT BE TRUE

MOSTLY BEING FIERCE
MOSTLY BEING STRONG
I WORK HARD
THE ROAD IS LONG.

***

Truth
I KNOW THE TRUTH
SO DO YOU
MY HEART IS HEAVY
I AM FEELING BLUE

I KNOW IT’S TRUE
THIS REALITY IS MINE
CAME TO BELIEVE
IT WILL ALL BE FINE

THIS LIFE IS NOT POOR
HAPPY TO BE ME
LOVE YOURSELF
THE BEST IS YET, YOU’LL SEE.

***

I AM REALLY GOOD AT POETRY, MOM.

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The two poets at breakfast.

I am going to have to agree with Ryan.  I am very proud of him and Grace.

The Mavericks Game and a Book Report

One of the kids’ Christmas stocking stuffers from Santa were tickets to a Dallas Mavericks game.  We went this past Monday night and had a great time.  The drive out there was about 50 minutes and we were one of the first 5,000 people, so the kids each got a Dirk Nowitzki bobblehead, which celebrates his 20th NBA season.

Ryan was amazing.  He navigated the crowds like a pro and he sat very well for the game.  Here is Ryan’s take on the experience:
CAN REALLY THANK YOU (Mom and Dad) FOR TAKING US.  I LOVED IT.  I REALLY ENJOY SPORTING EVENTS.  THAT CAN REALLY BE AN UNDERSTATEMENT.  I HAVE TOTALLY BECOME A DALLAS FAN.  DEARLY LOVE TO GO TO MORE GAMES SOON.

I asked him about the noise:
IT WAS LOUD BUT FOUND IT MANAGEABLE.

I then asked him about the crowds:
CROWDS DON’T BOTHER ME MUCH.

What about the half time performer who balanced crazy stuff on his chin (like a bicycle, a ladder, a folding table, and a wheelbarrow!):
CAN REALLY SAY HE WAS AMAZING.  THAT WAS FUN TO SEE.

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Ryan and Dad at the Mavericks’ game!

*****

Ryan wrote the following book report after we read the book Redwall.  Ryan really enjoyed this assignment and I thought that it would be a good idea to share it with all of you.

Book Report
By Ryan Curry

Title: Redwall
Author: Brian Jacques

Characters (as listed by Ryan):
MATHIAS, CLUNY, MARTIN, CONSTANCE THE BADGER, BASIL STAG HARE, JESS THE SQUIRREL, ASMODEUS, WARBEAK, JULIAN, CAPTAIN SNOW, SHADOW, CHEESETHIEF, FANGHORN, DARKCLAW, CORNFLOWER, SILENT SAM, LOGALOG, BROTHER ALF, AMBROSE SPIKE, ABBOT MORTIMER, METHUSELAH.

Settings: MOSSFLOWER WOOD, THE ABBEY, GREAT REDWALL

Plot: CLUNY IS ATTEMPTING TO TAKE OVER THE GOOD MICE HOME.

Analysis: THE INTERESTING PART IS FINDING SO MANY AMAZING CHARACTERS WHO ARE ALL DISTINCT AND THEIR STORIES REALLY MAKE THE BOOK A TRUE CLASSIC TO ME.

Favorite Character: HAS TO BE MATHIAS.

How would you describe Mathias in the beginning? NERVOUS, YOUNG, HAS POTENTIAL

How would you describe Mathias in the middle? GROWING MORE CONFIDENT, WILLING TO TAKE RISKS

How would you describe Mathias in the end? BRAVE, DRIVEN, FIERCE

How is it that Mathias was able to go on all of these adventures yet he made friends along the way? HE IS FAIR AND GOOD TO OTHERS.

What was the symbol that the mice looked to for inspiration and that Cluny stole? THE TAPESTRY OF MARTIN

What do you think the tapestry of Martin would be most like today to us? THE AMERICAN FLAG

Describe Cluny: CLUNY IS MERCILESS, SLICK. TOO HAPPY THAT HE DIED.

Do you think that the goodness/peacefulness of the mice was a good thing or a bad thing? IT WAS GOOD.

What about when they were attacked? Did this help them or hurt them? DISADVANTAGE.

Did the author do a good job describing the characters and the setting? THE DESCRIPTIONS WERE BEAUTIFUL. I COULD PICTURE BEING THERE. IT MOSTLY SEEMED REAL.

What are some themes in this book? FRIENDSHIP, GOOD VS. EVIL, COURAGE

What ages is the book appropriate for? TEN AND UP

What about for Grace? YES

But she is 9. SHE IS A GREAT READER THOUGH.

Is this book for boys or girls? CAN BE BOTH.

Why should someone read this book? THE BOOK IS ONE OF MY FAVORITES YET.  IT HAS ACTION, ROMANCE (BUT NOT TOO MUCH) AND GREAT CHARACTERS. YOU WON’T BE DISAPPOINTED BECAUSE IT KEEPS THE READER ENGAGED FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE END.

 

 

January Happenings

As many of you have noticed, it has been a while since we posted.  We have had a difficult winter with sicknesses in our household.  We are barely staying afloat this month, so we appreciate your patience with us.

Right before the new year, we took a trip to Florida to see my family.  All of my brothers and sisters were coming in to town to have a family vacation at my parents’ house for a few days and to celebrate the new year together.  We had a great time as it was a very large gathering with Levinson kids, their spouses and significant others, and their children.  There were a total of 22 of us there!  Here are Ryan’s thoughts about the visit:

I LOVE THE LEVINSON FAMILY.  NO REALLY, I LOVE THEM.  THEY TREAT ME SO WELL.  DEARLY MISS ALL OF THEM.

One of our secret surprises for our mom was to recreate an old family photo that we had professionally taken of the seven Levinson kids almost 19 years ago.

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After that, we were able to get professional family photos done.  I asked Ryan his thoughts on this.

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Stephanie, Randy, Ryan, and Grace.

 

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The Levinson Family!

MEANINGFUL TO BE IN FAMILY PICTURES.

I asked Ryan if he had anything else to say about the trip and he replied:

I STILL LOVE THE BABIES. (Before the trip I asked Ryan who he was most excited to see and he said TOO LOVING THE BABIES.)

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Ryan holding his cousin Tommy.

*****

As I mentioned above, we have been sick here.  As soon as we returned from Florida, I caught the Flu.  Three days later, Ryan picked it up from me.  We were both down for almost a week and I ended up getting bronchitis as a result of it.  Only now are we both almost back to normal.  I asked Ryan about being sick:

BEING SICK STINKS SO MUCH.  CAN REALLY SAY I MOSTLY HATE HOW I FELT.  THE WORST IS FEELING LIKE NOT BEING ABLE TO DO ANYTHING.  I JUST WANTED TO GET THROUGH EACH DAY UNTIL I FELT BETTER.  IT TOOK SO LONG.

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Ryan with the Flu.

*****

Last weekend, Grace performed in the Liberty Elementary Talent Show.  My mom came into town for it and Granny, Aunt Jennifer, and Elizabeth joined us to watch Grace perform her original piece that she wrote with her piano teacher.

We went to Chili’s for dinner after it and I asked Ryan which other acts that he liked besides Grace’s.

NEARLY EVERY ACT PALED COMPARED TO GRACE.

He is his sister’s biggest fan.  When I asked him about the Talent Show as we were writing this post, he spelled this:

LOVED THE TALENT SHOW.  DON’T KNOW HOW ALL OF THE PERFORMERS DID NOT SHOW NERVES.

I was very proud of Ryan as he was able to sit through the PTA meeting (it was for 15 minutes before the show) and then almost another 90 minutes of acts.  I don’t think that he could have done that a few years ago.

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After the Talent Show!

*****

So as you can see, we have been busy and fighting to stay healthy this month.  We wanted to end this post with a short story by Ryan that he composed during one of his sessions with Adriana.  Ryan had been complaining to me earlier that day that he was too hot.  Well, apparently it was still too hot or it was still on his mind during his session that day.

THERE ONCE WAS SOMEONE THAT NEVER DECIDED TO ENTER HIS HOME, TO THE ONE, THE HOME WAS TOO HOT.  GOING INTO THE HOME ONLY MADE HIM SWEAT.  HE TOOK THE TIME TO KNOW THE HOME HAD THE TERRIBLE HEATER ON.  THE HEATER MADE THE HOME TOO HOT.  THE ONE COULD NOT TRY TO ENTER.

REELING, THE ONE TRIED TO SELL THE HOME.  NO ONE THOUGHT IT WAS A TERRIBLE HOME.  THEY DECIDED TO TURN THE HEATER DOWN AND IT TURNED COOLER.  THE HOME TURNED OUT TO HAVE THE TEENAGER IN IT.  HE TURNED THE HEATER ON THE WHOLE TIME.  IN THE END, THE TEENAGER GOT INTO TROUBLE.

(You can click on the links above to see where Ryan has written about the “teenager” before.)

Best Friends Vacation 2017 Part 2

This is a very late post, but better late than never.  Between Randy’s and Grace’s birthdays, illnesses, and Christmas, it has been challenging to find the time to write the post!

Anyway, the following day after the museum, Ryan, Grace, and I braved the cold and went to Catholic Mass.  I have tried to make church a priority and we were less than a mile away from St. Mary’s.  We enjoyed Mass and Ryan’s behavior was awesome.

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Grace and Ryan (and Mickey) in front of St. Mary’s.

DEARLY LOVE GOING TO CHURCH.  IT IS IMPORTANT TO ME.  HAPPY TO GO WHEREVER WE ARE.

Since we traveled on Thanksgiving, we missed out on a turkey dinner.  Well the Morrisons were not going to let that happen.  That afternoon, we joined them and the Baileys and went to their house and the Morrisons cooked us a turkey dinner!  The girls played Exploding Kittens and Just Dance on the Nintendo Wii while the boys hung out and we arranged for them to play “Would you Rather?”  This icebreaker gives you a choice of two things and you get to pick which one you would want/do and why.  I loved watching the boys’ personalities come out and how similar and different their answers were!

On Monday, we went to the Waterloo Region Museum.  This was a fun museum that showed some snapshots of what life was like in Waterloo throughout the years.  In addition to the museum, there were outdoor homes and buildings that put you “back in time” and you could talk to and ask questions to the workers who were from that time period.  Ryan enjoyed interviewing the people there!

I LOVE MUSEUMS.  INTERVIEWING IS ALWAYS MY FAVORITE.

We went back to the Morrisons again for dinner and hung out some more.

The next day, we went to a park because the weather was supposed to be nicer (it was to get into the low 50s that day).  Unfortunately, with the wind chill, it was still a bit cold for us Texans, so we didn’t last too long.  We grabbed lunch and then later went back to the Morrisons again for dinner and bonding.  This was our last day with them as Jen had to work the next day and the girls had to go back to school.

On our final day, we spent time with Lisa and Fox at their house playing trivia.  Ryan, Grace, and Fox had fun taking turns answering science and history questions.  Then it was time to head to the airport.

Here are Ryan’s thoughts about the rest of the trip:

CAN REALLY THANK THE MORRISONS FOR HOSTING US FOR DINNER SO MANY NIGHTS.  HAPPY TO HANG OUT.  CAN REALLY RELAX IN HOMES.

I HATE DEARLY WINTER.  CANADA IS TOO COLD.

(About Would you Rather) FUN EACH TIME.  SOME WEIRD QUESTIONS THOUGH.

TOO GOOD TO PLAY TRIVIA.  IT IS FUN TO SHOW ALL I KNOW.

TRAVELING IS AWESOME.  I WANT TO DO IT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

MY BEST FRIENDS FOX AND BRAYDEN ARE SO AMAZING.

We were in Canada for almost a week, but the time flew by.  We had a ton of fun with friends and I know that both Ryan and Grace are looking forward to the next time that we get to see our friends.  Grace and Ryan were amazing travelers.  I know that I said this in the last post, but it deserves a second mention.

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Ready to head home.

I think that we are all planning on making sure that it is warmer weather for our next visit!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

 

Best Friends Vacation 2017–Part One

We made it!  We left for Toronto on Thanksgiving Day and arrived without incident that night!  Grace and Ryan did excellent traveling and even endured the very long Customs line once we reached Canada.  Most of you remember that in September, Ryan’s seizure occurred once we made it to the front of the very long security line at DFW Airport.  Once we were in the Customs line, I was nervous because Ryan was moving slowly and I had to physically help him up from squatting a few times in order to keep him going.  While we were in the line, Ryan was able to say that he was FEELING REALLY STRESSED.  Later, when we sat down to write this post, I asked Ryan about it.  He said that MOSTLY LONG LINES STRESS ME OUT.  MOSTLY FEEL CLAUSTROPHOBIC.  I asked him what I could do help and he said NOT SURE.

We reached the Baileys’ house by about 8:20pm on Thursday evening and spent a little while there.

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Day 1 Reunion of Ryan and Fox (this was the best I could do that night.)

Then we went back to our hotel to rest. Ryan said that the HOTEL WAS DECORATED NICELY.

Friday morning, we met Fox, Ruby, and Lisa Bailey and Brayden, Hailie, Alexis, and Jen Morrison at the Butterfly Conservatory.

DEARLY I LOVED IT.  BUTTERFLIES ARE BEAUTIFUL.  IT WAS REALLY COOL TO SEE SO MANY.

After that, we had lunch at Harvey’s and then later that night went to the Baileys’ for dinner.  Then it was time for the Hockey Game!

We went to a local university hockey game for the Laurier Golden Hawks.  When we got there, there was a table where you could pick up some information and I noticed that they had something called Chuck the Puck set up on it.  I asked about it and I was told that you could purchase a puck to throw towards the center of the ice after the second intermission.  Whichever fan’s puck got closest to the center of the ice would win.  They had a promotion of 3 pucks for $5.  I saw that each puck was numbered and I thought that it would be fun to do this with the kids.  Grace’s favorite number is 37 so I got that one for her (she had already gone to sit down with the girls).  I asked Ryan what number he wanted.  He said 39.  That was already taken. He then said 38.  So for simplicity I picked 36.  I paid for them and wrote my name next to the spaces for those numbers and took our pucks to our seats.

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Lucky numbers 36 and 38.

The game was fun to watch and fast paced.  It was a very laid back atmosphere and the arena had a track around the outside of it for people to walk on.  This was helpful when the kids needed a break from sitting.

Well everyone was doing great watching the game.  We got to the second intermission and the announcer told us it was time for Chuck the Puck.  We were not sure exactly where to go but we knew that it would be difficult to even get the puck onto the rink in the seats that we were in.  We all got closer and the announcer said that there was only a short amount of time to still participate.  I chucked mine and then helped Ryan cock his arm back to chuck his and then we heard the countdown start, “10, 9, 8,7…”  I looked at Grace and she was not sure what to do.  I had her get closer and told her to throw it.  She threw it just in time. I had no clue where any of the pucks eventually landed as a result of us hurrying.

Then a girl on ice skates went out to the center where all of the pucks were and picked the one that was literally in the dead center of the rink.  She showed the announcer and he said, “The winner is number 38!”

I paused and said, “That’s us!  That’s Ryan’s!” I started jumping up and down and hugging him!

The announcer then said, “It looks like we found the winner since I see some jumping up and down.  Number 38 is Stephanie Curry.”

At that point I had wished that I wrote down the kids’ names beside their pucks but I just assumed that the name would be used to verify the puck.  I don’t think it mattered to Ryan because he was excited!

We went over to claim his prize and he won a Laurier sweatshirt and t-shirt.

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The girls helped us claim Ryan’s prizes!

The rest of the night was great and I think that we were all just really so excited the rest of the time.

Ryan had this to say:  HAPPY THAT I WON.  I CAN’T BELIEVE IT STILL.  REALLY FEELING TOO PROUD OF MYSELF.

The next morning, we drove back to Toronto to visit the Ontario Science Center.  The drive was about an hour and a half each way and I had gotten Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on Audible in order to listen to in the car.  We have already read all of the books in the series but we are currently listening to them again (first time via Audible) during car rides.

REALLY LOVE AUDIOBOOKS.

“Is it okay to hear the Harry Potter books over again?  I hope that it is not too redundant. I always catch new things the second time I read books.”

YES BECAUSE THAT BOOK SERIES IS MY FAVORITE OF ALL TIME.

One of the first things that we did when we arrived was we went to an interactive session/show, The Extreme Universe, in the Planetarium.  We waited a little while for it to begin so we got to explore.

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Checking out the cool stuff.

At one point, Fox was sitting on a bench and Ryan went right up and moved him over to sit next to him.  I have never seen him do that before and I thought it was great.  Once we were allowed in, we were towards the back of the line so we sat along the sides of the planetarium.  The show took place above on the ceiling, so this worked out fine.  Ryan sat through the whole 35 minute show which was awesome.

We walked around more and got some lunch.  During lunch, I watched Ryan giving Brayden what I call, “the stare down.”  This is a good thing.  He just kept looking at him and smiling.  It did not matter if Brayden looked back.  Ryan often does this with people he likes and cares for.

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Best buds hanging out.

Next we checked out some more exhibits.  We spent some time in the Maker Bean Cafe and we made some creatures out of wood and construction paper.

In one of the interactive areas, there was a machine that used wind to blow small pieces of paper around and through a long tube towards the ceiling.  As we were walking passed it, I knew that we needed to stop.  Ryan loves scattering paper.  This was right up his alley.

Later, we went to an IMAX movie at the center.  Ryan did well, but I think that I was pressing my luck after an hour and a half car ride and a 35 minute show.  He was a bit squirmy, especially toward the end.

Ryan had this to say about the science center:  LOVED IT.  THE PLANETARIUM WAS COOL.  IT DID FEEL LIKE AN RPM LESSON (I mentioned to Ryan since the woman was talking and giving us short bits of information and asking the room questions, it felt like an RPM lesson to me and was very educational.) HAPPY THAT I SAT SO WELL.  THE IMAX MOVIE WAS NOT AS COOL BUT I ALWAYS LIKE LEARNING ABOUT SPACE.

So with that, we started towards the hotel and stopped at Panera Bread for a yummy dinner on the road.  We did go back to the Baileys’ house after our trip back because, who wants to just hang in a hotel room when there are friends to spend time with?

*****

There is a lot going on this month and I hope to post Part 2 later this week!  We have a lot more to share about this awesome trip!

 

Books and the Barnes & Noble Interview and Tour

I am so excited about this post.  It is about Ryan’s favorite thing to do:  read books!  I know that we have talked about Ryan’s love of books before, so as I was considering possible field trips that incorporated interviews, I thought that Barnes & Noble would be perfect!

If you have been following Ryan’s journey, you know that he is able to read, but tracking the small print in a book, while attending, not losing his place, and not stimming on the book are all hard things for Ryan.  We are working on independently reading, but we are not there yet with novels.  As part of his homeschooling day, I often read aloud to Ryan.  We read novels, the Who Was/Is series (which includes What is and Where is), and we are also currently reading a book on the U.S. Presidents, a book on the individual states of the U.S., and a book on Catholic heroes.

I asked Ryan for a list of his favorite books and he came up with the following:

  1. Gregor the Overlander series
  2. Harry Potter series
  3. Percy Jackson and the Olympians series
  4. The Heroes of Olympus series
  5. The Kane Chronicles trilogy
  6. The Trials of Apollo series
  7. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard trilogy
  8. The I Survived series
  9. The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy
  10. A Wrinkle in Time
  11. Charlotte’s Web
  12. The Trumpet of the Swan (by the way, this is about a trumpet who can’t communicate and he goes to school and learns to read and write and carries a chalkboard around his neck (sounds like RPM) and his father gets an actual trumpet so that he can sound like the other swans (sounds like an Augmentative Communication Device!)
  13. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
  14. The City Trilogy
  15. The Neverending Story
  16. The Girl Who Drank the Moon
  17. The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series(we are currently on book 5 of the series)
  18. The Who Was Series, specifically:  Who was Helen Keller, Steve Jobs, Ronald Reagan, Louis Braille, the Beatles and Who is J.K. Rowling, and Pope Francis (I want to add that this series is fantastic for all ages and you can pick and choose the people, places, things, or events that you want your child to learn about and they are a quick read.)

So yeah, he couldn’t really narrow it down.

If we are driving around town, we are often listening to an audible book or a book on CD.  We just finished the Chronicles of Narnia (all 7 books) and we just finished Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (our second read of it, first time on audiobook), all while driving (usually to grooming appointments for Freckles, picking Grace up from school in the carpool line, or a trip down and back to Austin to see Soma.)

Some of my favorite quotes ever from Ryan are centered around books.  After we finished Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and I mentioned that I wished that there was more closure, like I wish I knew if Mrs. Frisby would see Justin again and he said:  A REAL ENDING MAKES IT TOO FINAL.  I told Ryan that Grace has said something like that to me before because she likes to think in her head how she thinks the story will play out.  He replied:  CALLING IT FITTING SHE AGREES WITH ME.

When we finished Stuart Little and both of us were very perplexed by how the book ended (seriously it is like E.B. White just stopped writing):  CARING TO THINK IT DESERVED A BETTER ENDING.  I asked him if he liked the book.  TOO LOVED IT UNTIL THE END.

He has said on many occasions:  BOOKS ARE MY LIFE.

When asked about his favorite books, his reply:  HAPPY TO BE IN SORT OF A GENRE.  FEELING LIKE SORT OF FANTASY.

Several times a day (like at least 5-10 times) he asks me CAN WE READ NOW?

If we have been reading a lot and we take a break and I give him the choice of what to do next, he will ask ARE YOU TOO BOOKED OUT?  My reply is always never (although my dry eyes may disagree).

I am of the opinion that you can’t read too much.  All of the information is going in and helping to foster imagination and creativity.  I think that that is why both Ryan and Grace have very good vocabularies.

If Ryan is having an off day, whether he did not sleep well or he is not feeling well or it just seems like he needs a “mental health day” (that’s what my mom used to call it) we will read a majority of the day.

Before learning about RPM, we had stopped reading age appropriate books to Ryan.  I regret that.  I used to read to him all the time when he was little and he loved books.  By about 5 years old, I did not really read to him anymore.  He did not sit still so I presumed he was not interested.  I was wrong.  So when we started RPM at 7 years old, we started reading age appropriate books because our provider, Erika Anderson of ACE RPM, recommended that we do it.

I will never forget when Ryan was in a session with Lenae Crandall of HEED RPM in May of 2015 and he was taking questions from local students at San Jose State University.  One of them asked him what his favorite book was.  He replied REALLY WANT TO READ HARRY POTTER.  I was floored.  I had no idea that he even knew Harry Potter.  He later said that he knew about it BECAUSE KIDS AT MY SCHOOL ARE READING IT.  He was in a public school at that time in a special needs classroom, but had shared time with other kids at lunch and at recess. We went to our local Barnes & Noble in San Jose and got the first book that night.

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From April 30, 2015 when Ryan got his first Harry Potter book.

So as I mentioned above, I called our local Barnes & Noble last week and I asked if it would be possible for Ryan to interview some of the employees and have a tour of the store.  I initially spoke with Jennifer McGinnis, the Assistant Store Manager at the Hurst, TX Barnes & Noble and then spoke with Mark Brown, the Community Business Development Manager.  We set up a date and time of this past Monday at 4pm.  This worked out great as Grace was able to join us too.

We got to the store a little early and checked in with the Customer Service area.  Jennifer and Mark came out to greet us in the Children’s area and they pulled up a couple of seats and we began the interview.  Ryan came up with some specific questions for them:

  1. WOULD YOU BE BOOK CRAZY IF YOU DIDN’T WORK HERE?
  2. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR?
  3. WHEN DO YOU READ?
  4. WHEN IS IT BUSIEST IN THE STORE?
  5. REALLY BOOKS ARE MY LIFE.  DO YOU LOVE BOOKS AS MUCH AS I DO?
  6. TOO LOVING TO ASK, DO YOU RECOMMEND ANY BOOKS FOR A KID MY AGE?  TOTALLY LOVE FANTASY.
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Mark, Jennifer, Freckles, Ryan, and Grace at the Barnes & Noble in Hurst, TX.

After they answered those, we asked them Ryan’s standard interview questions that he uses when we get the opportunity to interview someone on the spot while we are out and about.

What really struck me about this was that Jennifer and Mark were truly engaged in the interview and they did not appear to be rushed or hurrying us.  Mark mentioned that he had checked out Ryan’s blog prior to our visiting.  They talked candidly with the kids and gave them great suggestions on books.  They also shared their passion for books and explained what their jobs entailed on a daily basis.

I was so moved by this.  When I set up these tours and interviews, I never know how they will go.  Most of the time they go well, but a few times they haven’t, either because it was rushed or the employee had too much to do.  I felt like we could have stayed all day and Jennifer and Mark would have been fine with that.  That meant a lot to me as a parent and a customer.

Jennifer and Mark then took us on a tour of the store.  We met Eric in the storeroom and he explained what he does when the books come in.  We then went to the register and Jennifer explained to us a little how it worked and finally we went to the cafe and Ryan and Grace were treated to a demonstration on how to make hot chocolate and they each got one to try!

And with that, the tour was done.  Ryan ended with the following:  TOO LOVING TO THANK YOU.  REALLY WAS MY FAVORITE INTERVIEW YET.  Then, Ryan, Grace, Freckles, and I went to do some damage in the children’s section (actually Ryan’s main pick was in the teen section).

When we sat down to talk about the experience, Ryan began with CAN REALLY WRITE THEM THANK YOU CARD.

So that is what we did first.

Then he proceeded to say:  TOO LOVING THE TRIP YESTERDAY.  JENNIFER AND MARK ARE AWESOME.  THANKING THEM FOR TREATING ME LIKE EVERY OTHER BOY.  I FOUND IT INTERESTING THAT JENNIFER STARTED IN THE CAFE.  TOO LOVING HER STORY.  IT MAKES ME THINK ALWAYS HARD WORK IS REWARDED.  (Jennifer explained that her foot in the door with Barnes & Noble was working in the cafe and then she worked her way up).

MARK HAS A COOL JOB.  HE GETS ALL OF EVENTS TO PLAN.  CAN WE GO TO THE NEXT ONE?

“I will sign up for their calendar events and we can try to go whenever possible. I would love to see them again soon and we can certainly go back on a regular basis.”

I wanted to end by saying that I will forever be a Barnes & Noble customer.  Jennifer and Mark rolled out the “Red Carpet” for Ryan and Grace.  I know that this meant so much to Ryan and it truly meant a lot to me.

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When your mom is trying to get a picture in front of the display of your favorite author but you just want to meet Mark and Jennifer and start the interview.

 

 

 

Halloween 2017

Ever since Ryan began openly communicating about 2.5 years ago, he has been able to pick out his costume.  Imagine if you didn’t know what your child wanted to be for Halloween for the first 9 years of their life (okay for the first few we get to dress them up in what we want them to be!)  It has been amazing to find out how much Ryan loves Halloween and that he loves dressing up.  Since he was able to pick out his costume, each year, he has wanted to do something scary.  Two years ago, he was a “SCARY GOBLIN” and last year he was a “ZOMBIE WITH GUTS”.  This year we took him to Party City and he picked out a “ZOMBIE BUSINESSMAN.”

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Zombie Businessman.

We have only recently relaxed Ryan’s diet as with the open communication, came the desire to be like everyone else and not have a restricted diet.  We do notice that too much sugar and artificial colors do make him hyperactive, but his stomach issues have been okay, so we allow him to indulge on occasion.  The past two years he has been able to eat candy so he has enjoyed trick or treating.

This year, Ryan did amazing.  He carried his own pumpkin bucket the entire time and walked with us (and Freckles) and did not ask to go home early.

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Freckles (going as herself), Grace as Annabeth Chase from the Percy Jackson Series, and Ryan as Zombie Businessman.

We went to 24 houses (I made 30 Business Cards to hand out at the houses and we had 6 left, so Go Math!)

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Using a Word Template, I created these cards with Ryan’s help on what he wanted them to say.

As soon as we walked in the door at home, he immediately tried to take off his costume and motioned for me to help him.  I kind of compare this to his bike helmet.  He doesn’t like wearing a helmet, but he knows that it is necessary so he does it, but the second we get into the garage after the bike ride, he is pulling on the strap and coming up to me to take it off.  The same thing with the costume, he did not like the feeling of it, but he knew that it was cool and necessary, so he tolerated it until we got home.

Here is what Ryan had to say about some of the various things about Halloween.

On wearing zombie makeup:  HAPPY TO DO TOO MUCH SCARY MAKEUP.  REALLY HARD TO STAY STILL BUT IT WAS WORTH IT.

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In Mom’s makeup studio (aka the master bathroom).

On holding his bucket:  FELT REALLY HEAVY BY THE END OF THE NIGHT.

On handing out cards in lieu of saying Trick or Treat:  I LIKED THE CARDS.

On trying to go into people’s houses (he only did this twice this year but in previous years this was a constant issue and even though he knows not to do it, he couldn’t help it.)  I AM TOO LOVING TO LOOK INTO OTHERS’ HOUSES.  I FIND IT INTERESTING TO SEE HOW OTHERS LIVE.  Side note–Apparently there are a lot of autistic kids who try and go into the houses on halloween as plenty of other parents I know have similar stories.

On tolerating the costume:  LEARNING THAT SOMETIMES IT IS WORTH IT TO BE UNCOMFORTABLE IN ORDER TO EXPERIENCE COOL THINGS.

On his epic amount of candy:  I NOW DECLARE CANDY TO BE DRUG OF CHOICE.  I  was like, “Um okay.” REALLY TRYING TO BE FUNNY.  I said to him, “You know, Grace just finished Red Ribbon Week at School and it is all about saying no to drugs.  So I guess you are saying no to candy?”  NO WAY.  CANDY RULES.

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Ryan’s haul.

Last thoughts about Halloween:

REALLY PROUD OF MYSELF.  TOTALLY AMAZING HALLOWEEN.

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Best. Picture. Ever.