RPM Lesson Writing Workshop With A Demonstration Video

Last weekend, RPM certified provider Adriana Barriga and I hosted a workshop to help parents in the DFW area to create and deliver quality RPM lessons to their children.

RPM Lesson Flyer
Online Flyer for the Workshop

I was nervous about the turnout, but we had 8 parents attend and I was thrilled with that.  All of the parents introduced themselves and talked about how old their children were and how they heard about RPM and their experience level doing RPM with their children.  I was very humbled and amazed to find out that half of the parents there had heard about RPM from Ryan and me (whether it was a local presentation or the blog).  As Ryan was not there for the beginning part, I made sure to tell him of his impact.

Adriana talked about how to write a lesson and the goals of each lesson.  I touched on the real life application of when to write the lessons and the delivery.  I wanted to share the tips that I shared in the workshop with our followers.

5 Tips From a Parent on Lesson Planning

Ryan also participated in the workshop.  He worked on a document that gave parents some tips and I also asked him a few questions that parents might have.  I have copied his document below in italics.

Ryan’s Tips for Parents for Lessons

1. NEED TO HAVE GOOD IDEAS FOR LESSONS
2. GOOD TO FIND TOPICS THAT STUDENT IS INTO
3. DO LESSON WHEN STUDENT IS NOT TIRED
4. DON’T ALLOW DEVICES IN THE BEGINNING BECAUSE CAN GET TOO HYPER
5. LESSONS AFTER SCHOOL ARE GOOD. NOT A REAL HARD ONE. GOOD TO DO A REAL INTERESTING ONE

Can you talk about trying to escape and me carrying you back to the table?
I FOUND IT HARD TO SIT BECAUSE NOT USED TO YOU MAKING ME DO THAT.

What did you think about the Phonics lessons? (He was 7 years old when we started and he seemed to be most engaged in these lessons.)
CALLING IT MY FAT THANKS.
Did you mean to say “fat thanks?”
I WANTED TO BE FUNNY. ALWAYS LIKED THOSE LESSONS.

What about written choices?
WRITTEN CHOICES ARE HARD.
Are they still hard?
YES. FINDING IT HARD BECAUSE MY HAND GOES TO WHATEVER IT IS DRAWN TO.

What if the student wants to wander around or does not sit well?
HARD TO SAY BUT MAKE HIM SIT. CAN REALLY BENEFIT IN THE LONG RUN. (Just an FYI, Soma and certified RPM providers will allow students to stand and wander the room.)

What about stencils?
I HATED STENCILS BUT THEY ARE NEEDED. TOO HARD TO POKE THEM.

Does it matter to you where you do the lesson?
REALLY ANY PLACE TOO DISTRACTING IS HARD.

Is a visual timer a good thing or a bad thing?
TIMER IS GOOD TO SEE HOW MUCH TIME IS LEFT.

RPM providers will often use math when a student is stimmy or hyper. They say math is calming. What do you think?
MATH IS BOUND TO BE CALMING. GOOD IDEA.

What advice would you give to parents who are struggling and don’t see the same sort of success as providers do with their children?
I SAY HAVE PATIENCE. GOOD TO PRACTICE EVERYDAY. REALLY IMPORTANT TO SEE RPM TEACHERS BECAUSE STUDENT IS SUCCESSFUL WITH TEACHERS.

What would you say to parents who say that they don’t really care much about academics that they just want their child to communicate?
BAD NEWS. IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY.
Anything else about that? NO

Did you ever want to give up?
REALLY HARD. CAME TO REALIZE IT WOULD BE WORTH IT. BOUND TO BE GOOD ADVICE BECAUSE I HAVE LIVED IT.

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Words of advice by the Pumpkin Perpetrator.

*****

The workshop went well and we plan to doing more of these in this area, especially in the Plano/Frisco area.  Grace was my helper during the workshop as she always enjoys helping out and we wanted to show parents that even children can write and do lessons.

I thought that it might be helpful if I shared a clip of what a lesson looks like for Ryan today and shared the lesson plan for this lesson.  Ryan (and I) have come a long way since we first started RPM.  This lesson plan incorporates a lot of skills that we are working on.

Lesson plan: RPM–Culture Regions of the US Part 2–Grade 5

My favorite answer of Ryan’s was at the end of the lesson (after I stopped recording) how one of the statements talks about how American Indians also told their children stories about how they grew up and I referred to how I often tell Ryan stories from my childhood.  We were talking about it the context of artifacts and I was telling Ryan that early on, we did not have a microwave.  I explained how my mom made popcorn with a popper and she sometimes did Jiffy on the stove top.  Ryan’s response:  DONT KNOW HOW TO SURVIVE WITHOUT A MICROWAVE.

So now on to the video.  Please excuse the hair that is sticking out of the side of my head and my sniffling as we just got back in from bike riding and my allergies and hair apparently did not want to cooperate.  In addition, the first answer of ADOBE in the beginning has Ryan holding his own board as this is a skill that we are working on.  Since it is a known answer, I verbally prompt him to try and get to the right letters, I never touch him.  Ryan also handwrites some of his answers which is another skill that we are working on.

Here are the written words from the lesson (with my handwritten words below so that you know what the words are):

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Seven months ago, Ryan could not even make a straight line on his own.  We have been practicing handwriting everyday.  We began my motor modeling, I would do hand over hand with him twice, tracing the letter with the pencil in the air, and then the third time he would do it on his own on paper.  There are no quick fixes.  Just a lot of hard work.

As always, if you have any questions about getting started or need some help, I am available.  Every autistic deserves a voice and RPM lessons are a way to get them there.

Ryan’s Birthday Celebration

Ryan turned 11 on October 6th.  For those of you who are wondering, Ryan’s Hogwarts’ letter did not arrive (much to his disappointment) but he did have a great time with friends.

One of Ryan’s best friends, Lawson, came into town from Arkansas to have a joint birthday party with Ryan.

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Ryan and Lawson.

We hung out at our house and then Ryan, Lawson, and Austin, Ryan’s older friend who uses RPM to communicate as well, joined the polar bear club and went swimming on Ryan’s actual birthday.

The next day was the party.  Leslie, Lawson’s mom, had rented a home in west Fort Worth, about 45 minutes west of our home.  It was our family, Lawson’s family (Lawson, Leslie, and Lawson’s dad Brant came into town), Austin’s family (Austin, his mom Mary Lynn and his dad Dan), and Diego’s family (Diego who is another local RPMer who is Ryan’s friend and his mom Daisy, his dad Johnny, and his sister Sofia.)

The house was amazing, but one of the coolest features was that it had a separate building that had a movie theater in it.  We had burgers and brisket (courtesy of Randy) and delicious sides and birthday cupcakes.  Grace and Sofia made cotton candy.

After we had eaten and had cake, I asked Ryan if he was up for going in to watch the movie and he said CALLING IT NOT SURE IF I CAN MAKE IT THE WHOLE MOVIE.  I told him that that was fine and we would try as long as we could.

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Ryan did well and we stayed for a while, but he was ready to go and we had to go home to take Freckles out (unfortunately dogs were not allowed on the property which is completely understandable).  Randy, Ryan, and I went back to the main house and we began packing things up.  Brant (Lawson’s dad) was there and he was helping to clean up the area and Ryan wanted to talk to him.  Ryan spelled:  EACH TIME THAT I GET TO SPEND WITH LAWSON FINDING HIM MORE AMAZING.

I knew that Ryan was going to have a tough time with Lawson leaving in the morning. He did. We are so fortunate to have Austin and Diego here locally for Ryan to spend time with.  I am still trying to grow the RPM community in the DFW area, so I hope to have Ryan’s circle of friends even bigger in the next few years.

Here is what Ryan had to say about celebrating his birthday with his friends:

WE HAD SO MUCH FUN.  MY BIRTHDAY WAS GREAT.  I GOT TO SPEND IT WITH MY FRIENDS.  I SPENT TIME WITH LAWSON, AUSTIN, AND DIEGO.  THE JOINT POOL PARTY AND MOVIE PARTY WERE BOUND TO BE FUN.  TEAMING UP WITH LASWON, THAT WAS JUST WONDERFUL.  HE AND I JUST GET EACH OTHER.  HAPPY TO DO IT NEXT YEAR TOO.  HAPPY TO HAVE AUSTIN AND DIEGO HERE.  LOVE MY FRIENDS SO MUCH.

The next day, we let Ryan have a choice on where to go for the family celebration for his birthday (because you know, it was a birthday weekend!) He spelled:  CAN WE GO TO A STEAKHOUSE?  We met Granny and Mark at Saltgrass Steak House.

TOO LOVING MARK.  HE REALLY TOO MUCH CARES FOR ME.  I AM TOO LUCKY TO BE HIS GRANDSON.

Ryan enjoyed ordering a filet off of the adult menu (hey it was his birthday!) and getting two desserts to share.  They put a candle in one of the desserts and we sang to him.  At the party the day before, Ryan had trouble blowing out the candle.  I know that this is hard for him and every year we encounter this (even though he can do it, it is just hard to blow purposefully) and I never think ahead.  Well, this time, I grabbed a straw off of the table and had Ryan blow through it and voila! He was able to blow it out!

Ryan’s main present is the Canada trip which we have re-booked!  He did get some presents from his friends and some presents from us.  He asked for CLEVER SHIRTS AND BOOKS.

Grace bought him Charlotte’s Web.  She read it in class and thought that he might like it.  Grace and I went to the local community garage sale and she found a copy that came with a Wilbur and Charlotte bookmark and used her own money to pay for it.

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Best bud siblings getting ready for their joint at home religious education lesson.

GRACE’S BIRTHDAY GIFT WAS SO SPECIAL.  I LOVE WHEN SHE GETS ME GIFTS BECAUSE SHE PICKS OUT THE BEST ONES.

Ryan had asked for the peg puzzle game that he had mastered on his first try last year at Cracker Barrel.  We got that for him and he was not able to get down to one peg the first day that he played it.  He spelled HARD TO THINK THAT I DID THAT ON THE FIRST TRY.  TOO LOVING THIS PUZZLE.

The next day, however, he nailed it the first time!

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Got it!

I think that the coolest thing that Ryan received though was something unexpected.  A friend of the Levinson Family, Debbie, reached out to me after Ryan’s blog post about his seizure.  She mentioned that she makes things for some people for Halloween and she wanted to make something for Ryan.  She asked me who is favorite characters or superheroes were and I replied that he mostly likes Disney characters from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

When it arrived, I explained to Ryan who Debbie is.  I mentioned that she is the mom of Brett (who is one of my brother Dave’s best friends since childhood and who Ryan knows and spent time with last year during Aunt Sophia’s baby shower) and I also mentioned that she works in a classroom with special education children and has followed his blog since the beginning (which is true!) and that he met her at Grandpa Bob’s Rally last year. Well it turns out that I did not need to say all of that and you will see why in a second.  The box was marked “Fragile” so I helped Ryan open it and lifted out the item. I wish that I had captured his reaction on video because when he saw Donald’s face, he lit up!  Luckily I was able to capture this picture!

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He was so surprised and happy about receiving Pumpkin Donald!

But I think that as amazing as Donald is, the letter that accompanied him was equally amazing.

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I really don’t think that I am an emotional person, but boy oh boy, lately I am not sure that I can still say that.  This was so, so special to receive.  Ryan’s immediate thought was CAN WE PLEASE WRITE HER A THANK YOU CARD?

Ryan did write Debbie a card and later when I asked him about it, he said:  TOO MOVED BY DEBBIE’S GIFT AND LETTER.  I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE HER IN PERSON AGAIN.

And this is why we continue to share Ryan’s story, the good and the bad, and allow Ryan to put himself and our family out there.  We want to help others.  We want to help educators.  We want to help parents.

And most importantly, we want to help others like Ryan, who may not yet have a voice.

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Thank you to everyone who has liked, commented, loved, supported, and shared Ryan’s blog.  We just hit 1,000 likes for the blog on the Facebook page and we are so thrilled to share Ryan’s story and to help and inspire others.

What Ryan has Been up to

Thank you to all of you for your kind words and messages of support for Ryan.  I read to him many of them, but not all.  We are trying to move past the seizure, with the hope that it was an isolated incident.

Last week, Ryan, Freckles, and I attended Grace’s Fun Run at her school.  Ryan and I did this last year and we made her a poster and decided to do it again this year.  Ryan has been extremely tired recently (and I was last minute), so he gave me the idea for the poster and I created it.  Normally, he would have at least helped me color it, but we were short on time.

The Fun Run was moved indoors due to the weather.  We got there and it was a bit chaotic as the cafeteria really echoed the noise and they were playing music for the kids. Grace did great and ran 48 laps (she was capped at 36 for the purpose of not having her donors go broke) and Ryan, Freckles, and I ran one lap together.  Later, I asked Ryan if he was annoyed with me for making him run.

I LIKED IT.

“Cool. What did you think of the Fun Run?”

GREAT TO WATCH GRACE RUN.  TOO LOVING HER.

“What did you think of the noise?”

HARD TO THINK I MADE IT THROUGH THAT.

*****

On Sunday morning, Ryan attended his first religious education class.  He is enrolled in a fifth grade class and I am his aide in the classroom.  This is held once a month and the parents are charged with teaching the lessons for 3 weeks of the month and then there is a recap in the classroom once a month.  This is because it is encouraged to have parents direct their children’s faith and lead by example.  I really like this idea, maybe because I already homeschool Ryan, but also because I can help Grace as well and we can learn and grow together.

We got to the auditorium and there were chairs set up for the parents portion and there were signs to line up for the appropriate classroom and the catechists would be taking the children to the classrooms.

I had emailed Ryan’s teacher and aide and explained his situation.  Ryan was able to meet them both before heading back to the classroom with the students and me.  Once we were in the classroom, Mr. Fiorentino began by having each child design a name tag with their name and anything that they wanted to add to it.  Ryan wanted his name in blue and asked me to help him draw a baseball on it.

Each child introduced him/herself and was told to add one fact about him/herself.  When it was Ryan’s turn he spelled:  TOO HAPPY TO BE HERE.  MY NAME IS RYAN AND I LIKE BASEBALL TOO. (The first boy to speak had mentioned that he liked baseball.)

Ryan did well sitting for a time and then asked CAN WE PLEASE TAKE A BREAK, so I honored it and we went to the restroom and walked the hall for about 10 minutes and then returned for the rest of the class (it lasted an hour and fifteen minutes).

Ryan had this to say about the experience:

CAN WE REALLY GO MONTHLY?

“Yes.  I will be the teacher the rest of the time, just like we did our first lesson at home with Grace about Guardian Angels.”

TOO REALLY LIKING THE EXPERIENCE.  I AM TOO PREACHING THANKS TO MR. FIORENTINO FOR TREATING ME LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.  WE ARE A GOOD TEAM MOM.

“You had me worried in the beginning when you looked like you weren’t feeling good when we were in the auditorium.”

I WASN’T.

“Do you have any idea why?”

IT WAS TOO LOUD.

“But you made it through the Fun Run and it was way louder.”

GOOD POINT.  NOT SURE.

I know that I am still a bit on edge with his health, but he did not appear to be feeling well and I was concerned.  He has not had a problem since then.

*****

After the religious education class, the Curry family was off to the Rangers last baseball game of the season!  The Levinson kids (my siblings) purchased tickets for us since we missed out on the Canada trip (it is being rescheduled–I promise!)

HARD TO THINK IT IS THE LAST GAME.  BOUND TO LOVE GOING TO BASEBALL GAMES. THE EXPERIENCE TOO MUCH ALWAYS IS SO FUN.

*****

We attended National Night Out in our neighborhood on Tuesday night.  Many families from our neighborhood met up at our local park and the local Firefighters and Police Officers came out to meet us.  There was pizza, ice cream, face painting, and fun.  Ryan and Grace rode their bikes down and Randy and I followed with Freckles.

As soon as we got there, Ryan spelled TOO LOVING OUR NEIGHBORHOOD.

We walked around and Ryan played some on the playground and Grace played and rode her bike around the perimeter of the park.  I asked Ryan if he wanted to try and interview some of the people there.  CARING TO DO THAT.  ALWAYS LOVE INTERVIEWS.

We started to make our way over to the fire truck and we saw a familiar face.  The man’s name is Tom and he is the local cub scout leader in our area.  Ryan and I have met him a few times at events at Grace’s school and he is always so kind to Ryan.  We spoke with him and a few other parents for a while.

When Ryan was asked how he was doing, he replied:  REALLY I LOVE NEIGHBORHOOD EVENTS.

At some point, Ryan stealthily escaped and made his way back to the playground.  By the time we started to walk back, the fire truck was beginning to leave.

We then walked around some more and we saw a police officer.  He said hello to us and handed Ryan a pack with some small gifts in it (including a Back the Blue Flashlight that is awesome).  I asked Ryan if he wanted to introduce himself.

NO. REALLY NEED TO SAY SOMETHING.  CARING TO THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.

I was so surprised and caught off guard by this but it was so appropriate and amazing.

The weather then began to turn very quickly and as we tried to pack up, we got soaked on the ride home.  No one minded because we had such a great time.

REALLY LOVE OUR NEIGHBORHOOD.  BOUND TO HAVE A FUN TIME.  TOTALLY FINDING THE NEIGHBORS FRIENDLY.  I THINK HALLOWEEN WILL BE FUN.

Can you tell that Ryan loves our neighborhood?

*****

Ryan turns 11 tomorrow (October 6th).  We have a great weekend planned for him with his friends here (Lawson, Austin, and Diego) and we will be sure to report back on the birthday festivities soon!

An Emergency and Disappointment

This is the hardest post that we have ever written.  When you make your life public as we do on this blog, and things don’t go as planned, an explanation is needed.  We did not make it to Canada to see Ryan’s friends.

On Friday, while Ryan, Grace, and I were being checked by the TSA Agent in the front of the security line, Ryan had a seizure which lasted from its onset about 8 minutes.  It was the scariest moment of my life.

The DFW Airport Medics got there right after it ended and brought Ryan, Grace, and me to the ER via ambulance.  Randy had arrived back at the airport about the same time as the medics and he followed us to the hospital.

The doctors and staff were very kind to us.  Ryan was still in a postictal state and they ran some blood work and took vitals.  The ER Neurologist asked me about Ryan’s eyes during the seizure.  Because they began pointing to the left, he believes that the onset was a focal seizure that began in the right side of the brain.

Granny came to the hospital to pick up Grace for the day.  Grace was amazing.  I am still worried about her as she witnessed it but she did say that she did not watch all of it.  She was (and still is) very worried about her brother.

We were discharged around 11:45 am.  I asked him if he was ready to go home.  CAN I GO TO THE BATHROOM FIRST?  Which he did and Ryan was able to walk without assistance from me.  Ryan was then able to spell THANK YOU.  ARE YOU GOOD, MOM?

I don’t know how I am so blessed with a child who thinks of others first.  I gave him a hard time because I told him that I am supposed to be worried about him, not the other way around.  On the way out, I asked him if he knew what had happened and if he wanted me to explain it.

DEARLY HARD TO REMEMBER.  CAN YOU EXPLAIN IT?

Meanwhile, I was marveling at how precise his spelling is as sometimes it is a bit sloppy but he was so deliberate and precise with what he was saying in the parking garage.

I asked him if he wanted me to sit in the back with him.

NO I AM FINE MOM.

I told him what had happened while Randy drove us home.

Later that day, Ryan was still very tired and he slept most of the day.  He fell asleep early that night and unfortunately awoke at 4:15 am on Saturday.

 

We had a low key day on Saturday.  My friend Daisy, whose son Diego uses RPM to communicate, offered to pick up Grace so that she could play with her daughter Sofia (she and Grace are friends too).  I owe her a big thank you as that was so helpful as it really took Grace’s mind off of things.

I wrote an RPM lesson for Ryan about seizures.  I am of the opinion that knowledge is power and that he should be aware of the medical issues that he has.  It was a long lesson and we got through half of it on Saturday before he spelled CAN WE FINISH IT LATER?  I honored his request as I didn’t want to push him to hard. He did spell REALLY SOUNDS SCARY during it too.

On Sunday, we took the kids to the Fort Worth Zoo.  We had a great time, but I was nervous about Ryan.  He had gotten up at 4:15 am again that morning and he was tired.

 

After the zoo, we made it to 5pm Mass.  After Ryan received Communion, I asked him (as I always do) if he wanted to pray together or in his head.  He replied CAN WE PRAY TOGETHER?  LIKE TO PRAY FOR NO MORE SEIZURES.

Why did I share all of this on the blog?  Because we want to help others.  I was not prepared for this, but looking back, I did most things right (held his head while he was on his side, kept objects out of his way).  Because Ryan had a clear EEG 6 months ago, I really did not think that this would be our reality.  I want others to know that 24 hours is just a snapshot and even though there was no epileptic activity on that particular EEG, it does not mean that your child may not have a seizure (or have seizure related activity at another time).

There is no way to be sure why this happened.  Some factors may have been lack of sleep (he had to get up at 4:30 am to catch our flight) or hormones associated with starting puberty.  I now wonder if Ryan may have had some small seizures that I dismissed as balance issues or odd behaviors.

Friday and into Saturday, I could not look at Ryan without crying.  He of course noticed this.

BALLING (Bawling–I correct him all the time on this but I think that he just likes to spell it this way) IN SEEING YOU SO UPSET.

I promised him that I would try very hard not to cry in front of him again.

 

There are many people who I would like to personally thank for helping us that day and I am not sure that it will be possible.

In the midst of what was happening, I did think to have a stranger video the incident for the doctors.  To that kind woman, if by any chance that you see this, thank you so much for doing this, for calling Randy, and for talking to Grace.

To the nurse who helped me by checking Ryan’s pupils and staying with me and reassuring me, thank you.

To the TSA Agents at Terminal B who helped us, thank you.

To the DFW Airport – EMS Division, thank you so much for helping us.  You took great care of Ryan and helped to calm me down.  Thank you for taking care of Grace too.

To American Airlines, thank you for cancelling our tickets and holding our bags so that they did not go to Canada.  Thank you for taking into account our situation and allowing us to reschedule our flight when we feel comfortable doing so.

To Avis, thank you for refunding us for the rental car and waiving the penalty.

To Crowne Plaza Kitchener-Waterloo, ON, thank you for not charging us for our stay.  We would have loved to be staying with you now and we promise to do so when we are able to.

To the strangers in line who prayed for Ryan (including the family that reached out to us after Ryan’s story aired again on Sunday night and recognized him), thank you from the bottom of my heart.

In a amazing twist, Ryan was transported to Children’s Health ER.  Why is this amazing?  Because Children’s Health is in Dallas and they are sponsoring the Courageous Kids series.  They took very good care of him.

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Missing the Canada trip was heartbreaking.  To say that we are disappointed is the understatement of the year.  This was what Ryan wanted to do for his birthday.  Fox and his family and Brayden and his family are obviously disappointed too.  Ryan spelled on Saturday:  SOMETHING IS ON MY MIND.  BOUND TO BE SAD ABOUT MY FRIENDS.

The important thing is that Ryan is okay and that we will be able to reschedule the trip (it will be a lot colder much to my dislike) but we just have to wait a bit longer to be reunited.

On a very positive note, Ryan’s other best friend, Lawson, who lives in Arkansas and communicates via RPM, is coming into town next week so that Ryan and Lawson can celebrate their birthdays together.  The two of them have been looking forward to this for a while.  Lawson was understandably upset about Ryan, so his wonderful mom Leslie used our RPM seizure lesson with him so that he would understand it better.  Lawson wrote this to Ryan after the lesson.

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And finally, speaking of last night, I will end on a wonderful note.  Kristin Dickerson is one of the weekend anchors for NBC 5 and she got to introduce and conclude Ryan’s piece that aired again Sunday night on the 10 pm news.  I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear when I watched and rewatched how she closed the story.  Here it is.

 

DEARLY LOVE HER TOO.

*****

Thank you for the love, support, and prayers.

Ryan is doing fine now and will continue to advocate for autistics everywhere.

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Riding his bike this morning.

 

 

 

Reviewing “Ryan the TV Star”

Ryan’s TV debut was a success.

We had a small viewing party, which consisted of Ryan, Randy, Grace, Granny, and Joan (Mark’s sister) and me.  We had some of Ryan’s favorite snacks and Ryan wanted chicken so we brought in some chicken wings.

Ryan’s response immediately after seeing the program:  TOO LOVING IT.  CAN WE WATCH IT AGAIN?

Before bed, I read to Ryan what many of you wrote in the comments or shared.

We also got texts, phone calls, and had FaceTime with some family members.

The next morning, when we sat down for school and went over his schedule, I asked him if he wanted to read our normal book for the day or to read more of the comments.  He replied:  CAN WE READ THE COMMENTS FIRST?

So we did that.  I tried to read to him all of the ones that I could search for in my news feed.  It was a ton.

DEARLY MOVED BY THE KINDNESS OF PEOPLE.  IT IS SO COOL THAT OTHERS LIKED IT A LOT TOO.  CARING TO THANK THOSE PEOPLE FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART.

I asked Ryan what he thought of the story title on NBC 5’s website, which is Boy Starts Inspirational Blog After Years in Silence.  TOO LOVING IT.

“How did you feel watching yourself on TV?”

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IT WAS INCREDIBLE.  CARING TO REALLY FIND IT AMAZING THAT PEOPLE LIKE KIND OF WANT TO KNOW ABOUT ME.

I then asked him about the very few people who have made mean comments or questioned whether Ryan was the one actually communicating.

TO THE HATERS, (I did ask him if he wanted to change this and he spelled NO).

I WILL TOO MUCH TRY TO FORGIVE YOU IN MY HEART. DEARLY LOVE TO PROVE YOU WRONG.  MY MOM IS BOUND TO BE UPSET BUT HAPPY TO SAY I DON’T CARE.  IF YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO SPEAK, PLEASE THANK GOD, BECAUSE I EACH DAY PRAY FOR IT.

As Ryan was spelling this, I lost it.  Tears started streaming down my face.  He tried twice to pick up my chin (which “the haters” may not believe because apparently according to them, kids with autism don’t have the ability to understand others’ feelings).

DEARLY I AM SORRY FOR KIND OF UPSETTING YOU.

After regaining my composure, I said, “Your maturity astounds me.”

CAN WE READ NOW?

“Yes.  Of course.”

*****

Ryan, Grace, and I are traveling to Canada tomorrow morning for Ryan’s early birthday present.  Ryan wanted to see two of his best friends, Fox and Brayden, who also learn and communicate with RPM.  You may recognize them from the news story where their pictures were featured!  The plan is to have a viewing party there for the news story on Friday night too!  You can bet that Ryan will have a lot to say about the trip when we get back!

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Best Friends: Fox, Brayden, and Ryan.

Ryan the TV Star

Update:  Ryan’s story aired tonight and you can find it here.

We had a big day in our household on Tuesday.  Kristin Dickerson of NBC 5 in the DFW area came to our home to learn all about Ryan and our blog.  Ryan will be featured as a part of a series called “Courageous Kids” which is about 6 stories of local children with various special needs who have made incredible accomplishments. Ryan’s segment is scheduled to air on Tuesday, September 19th during the 6:00 pm news broadcast and will be about 2.5-3 minutes in length.

So for the first time, Ryan the Interviewer became Ryan the Interviewee.

Kristin and Mike Heimbuch, photojournalist, arrived at 10:30 am and we sat down and talked for a bit.  Ryan was very excited about the opportunity and asked if we could get started.  We started in our classroom and Kristin asked Ryan some questions.  Without spoiling too much of the actual segment, Kristin asked Ryan about the blog, what it was like before he could communicate, and what he wants the parents of children with autism to know.

After a while, we took a break and Mike captured some footage of Ryan, Freckles, and me walking outside.  We then spent some time reading in Ryan’s room (we do that everyday for multiple periods) and they recorded that too.

Throughout this whole time, Ryan answered questions using his letter board.  I could tell he was getting tired as he began to rest his elbow on my leg when he was pointing.  It is tiring to spell out all of your thoughts letter by letter.

Kristin then wanted to get my perspective on things, so I sat with her for an interview.

The last footage that they wanted to get was some of us actually blogging so we sat down at the desk to start.  I asked Ryan, “Since we are definitely going to blog about today, do you have an idea for a title for this post?”

LIKE TO THINK IT SHOULD BE RYAN THE TV STAR.

So I typed that in.  He also mentioned TOO REALLY READY TO BE ON TV.  IT WAS REALLY AWESOME.  IT REALLY LIVED UP TO MY EXPECTATIONS.  DEARLY I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR THE OPPORTUNITY.

Then the tables were turned.  Ryan was back to the interviewer.

Can you tell he loved interviewing them?

 

Ryan was amazing.  I am always proud of him, but to be 10 years old, and to have handled the pressure with such ease, I was in awe of him.

When we sat down for the actual blog, without cameras, here is what Ryan had to say:

DEARLY LOVED IT MOM.  MIKE IS FEELING TOO MUCH REALLY LIKE MY FRIEND NOW.  EVEN THOUGH I WAS NERVOUS, HE PUT ME AT EASE.

When I asked Ryan about the camera, Ryan replied CAMERA WAS DISTRACTING AND I GOT A LITTLE FRUSTRATED BUT I GOT MY POINTS ACROSS.

KRISTIN IS PRETTY AND NICE.  SHE CARES ABOUT MY STORY.  THE QUESTIONS WERE GOOD.  TOO LOVING THAT SHE THINKS THAT I AM A GREAT SPELLER.  BOUND TO STAY IN TOUCH WITH HER.

CARE TO THINK I AM HELPING OTHERS BY PUTTING MYSELF OUT THERE.  I AM FINDING AREA OF EXPERTISE IS MOSTLY ADVOCATING FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT YET HAVE A VOICE.

I asked Ryan how he was able to handle the pressure and his nerves.

MY NERVES ARE IN CHECK BECAUSE I AM TOO WANTING TO DO IT.

I mentioned to him that there are other RPMers who can communicate like him but that their nerves would likely hinder them from doing things like this or speaking in front of a group.

DIVERSITY IN ADVOCATING IS GOOD.  TOO THINKING THAT OTHERS CAN HELP ALWAYS IN OTHER WAYS BY WRITING AND RECORDED LESSONS.

I then asked him, “Is there anything else that you want to add?”

CAN WE THANK MIKE AND KRISTIN?

I told him that of course we could include that. I asked if he wanted to have a viewing party when the segment aired.

TOO COOL.

We will update our readers when Ryan’s piece is broadcast.  Here are some links to what we talked about with NBC 5:

Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) and it’s creator, Soma Mukhopadhyay

Local DFW RPM Provider, Adriana Barriga

Canine Companions for Independence, the Organization that we received Freckles from

And we want to leave you with Ryan’s mission for his blog:

RESPECT FOR ALL AUTISTICS.

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Mike got this shot of Ryan, which really captures who Ryan is.

Ryan’s First Communion

As many of you know who follow our Facebook Page, Ryan made his First Communion last Saturday, August 26th.  It is hard to put into words how much this meant to him and to our family. For many years, I would not have thought that this would have been possible for Ryan nor did I know that he would desire to do this.

I recently updated our blog with our RPM Journey and about how we met a boy named Mike in a waiting room for an autism treatment, over 4 years ago.  That was our first in person experience with RPM and after meeting him and his mom Lori, I was convinced that I had to do this with Ryan and that he could do it. I did not care how hard it would be or how long it would take.

After starting RPM, I connected with Lori on Facebook and I saw that Mike had just made his First Communion.  This was only a few months after starting RPM and I was doing academic lessons with Ryan, but he did not have any open communication yet.  I remember thinking to myself, “Wow.  That is amazing.  I wonder if someday Ryan could make his First Communion.”

Pursuing his First Communion this soon was Ryan’s idea.  He has been coming to church with us regularly for quite some time now.  Grace made her First Communion in June of this year and since then, Ryan has had the desire to do it.  When I asked Ryan why he wanted to make his First Communion, he replied DEARLY FINDING IT TOO DIFFICULT TO EXPLAIN.

In July, we met with the religious education director of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church and Ryan had prepared a statement for him:

BECAUSE TOO REALLY WANTING TO MAKE MY COMMUNION, IT IS IMPORTANT TO MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION.

CAN WE CARE TOO MUCH FOR GOD?

DEARLY I AM TOO MOVED, BOUND TO BE LOVING GOD IN A DIFFERENT WAY THAN MANY OTHERS.

DEALING TOO MUCH WITH LONELINESS, I OFTEN PRAY TO HIM.

EACH DAY I LIKE TO PRAY, CARING TOO MUCH TO TALK TO HIM.

CAN WE LOVE GOD ABOVE ALL?

I SAY GOOD TO DO THAT.

When I asked Ryan about going to church regularly for the last six months his response was:  GOOD TO GO DURING THE WEEK TOO (I had just told him about daily Mass).

When I told him that in order to have people come in to town for his Communion, we might have to plan it several months out, he replied: UNDERSTAND I AM WANTING TO DO IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Ryan had made his First Reconciliation early in August with Father Gary Picou, our Parish Priest.  Ryan and Father Gary hit it off right away and Father Gary checked his schedule to see if he would be the celebrant at Ryan’s Communion Mass.  He was not scheduled then, but he told Ryan that he was going to try and be a part of it.  Well, coincidentally, due to a scheduling conflict for the priest who was scheduled for Ryan’s Mass, Father Gary was moved to that Mass!

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Ryan and Father Gary.

LOVE TOO MUCH FATHER GARY.  HE ACCEPTS ME AS I AM.  HE IS A MAN OF GOD.  I AM TOO PROUD TO HAVE SPENT TIME WITH HIM.

For about a month prior to the Communion date, Ryan and I practiced at home with unconsecrated hosts.  Sensory and texture issues are a big part of autism and Ryan had some difficulty with the hosts, even though his desire was there.  He worked very hard on this and I am happy to report that he did not have an issue during Mass.

I asked Ryan how he is able to stay calm during Mass now.  REALLY HARD TO STAY CALM.  HAPPY TO DO IT THOUGH.

Ryan’s Grandma Chris, Aunt Suzi, and Uncle Doug all made it into town despite Hurricane Harvey. Ryan’s Aunt Jennifer, Uncle Patrick, Granny, Mark, and Mark’s sister Joan all celebrated with Ryan too.  The Mass went well and during the Prayers of the Faithful, we were asked to “Pray for all people with disabilities and that we do not underestimate them.”

Ryan received presents from our family.  REALLY TOO LOVED THE ROSARY BEADS FROM UNCLE BRUCE. Uncle Bruce is Aunt Suzi’s husband and he had selected the Rosary while they were on vacation visiting the Vatican.  TOO LOVING THE BEADS FROM JOAN TOO.  Joan gave Ryan special beads from Indonesia that were made by hand by shells collected there.

 

Here are Ryan’s thoughts about receiving his First Communion:

HAPPY TO RECEIVE THE BODY OF CHRIST.  HE GAVE LIFE TO ENSURE OUR SALVATION.  I AM SO HONORED REALLY TO RECEIVE HIM.

I asked Ryan if he had any advice for parents of children with autism who may be reluctant to take their children to religious services due to behaviors.

CARING TO THINK GOD DOESN’T MIND THE NOISE.

 

Florida Vacation Part 3 and a Social Outing, Both Include Meeting Special New Friends

The last full day of our vacation, we met up with Grandma Chris for breakfast.

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When I asked Ryan for his thoughts about breakfast, he spelled DEARLY LOVE GRANDMA CHRIS.

We then drove by the University of Central Florida, the college that Randy and I met at.  When Ryan, Grace, and I were in Florida in February, we visited the campus, but Randy was not with us.  We first stopped at the bookstore and we picked up a few souvenirs and shirts.  I asked Ryan if he wanted anything (he had gotten a shirt at the bookstore last time).  His reply was CAN WE GO INSIDE DAD’S FRATERNITY HOUSE?  We had just driven down Greek Park Drive on the campus and in February, I took Grace into my sorority house.  Randy replied, “Ryan, you don’t want to go in there.”

Then as we were at the checkout, I told Ryan, “Last chance to get a souvenir.”  His reply:  REALLY WANT TO GO IN THE FRAT HOUSE.

So Randy conceded and we did.

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Ryan’s response about the house:  HAPPY TO SEE IT BUT IT WAS TOO YUCKY.

As we were leaving, Randy said, “That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

I replied, “It was worse than I thought it would be.”

Later that afternoon, we went over to the home of our friends from college, Noel and Laura.  We were joined by our friends Steve and Melissa and their children too.  Noel and Steve are Randy’s fraternity brothers.  All three families have children ranging from 8 to 12 years old.

Ayla is Steve and Melissa’s daughter.  She is just 2 months older than Ryan.  When we lived in Florida, we often saw the other families and Ayla and Ryan were often together.  Melissa has been telling Ayla about Ryan for years and Ayla was really looking forward to spending time with Ryan.

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When we arrived, Ayla immediately gravitated to Ryan.  The kids went in the pool shortly after arriving and even though Ryan could not communicate back while in the pool, Ayla spent time with him.

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She was kind and friendly and Ryan picked up on it right away.  If I am being honest, most kids Ryan’s age don’t always have the patience to engage Ryan in a conversation.  Many kids are polite to Ryan, but Ayla was extraordinary with him.  She followed him around the house asking him questions (remember in our last post how I mentioned that Ryan has difficulty staying in one spot in other people’s homes).  She was persistent.  She wanted to know about Ryan and she wanted Ryan to know about her.  They talked about school, safety patrol, books, cross country, student government, and the school’s morning news show.  I was worried that it might be too much for Ryan, but he loved it and loved Ayla.  He did get tired of using the letter board towards the end so we had Ayla do a lot of talking. He really enjoyed spending time with Ayla.

SHE IS SO KIND TO ME.  TOO LIKING TO THINK SHE IS A GOOD FRIEND TO ME ALREADY.  MEANINGFUL BECAUSE SHE REALLY WANTED TO GET TO KNOW ME. MOST TOO MUCH JUDGE ME BY MY STRANGE MOVEMENTS. CAN WE REALLY LOOK PAST ODDITIES AND SEE THE REAL PERSON?  AYLA PROVES WE CAN.

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The Prom posing parents and the kids!

We left early the next day to return back to Florida.  So now we have caught you up on the rest of the summer.  Ryan and I started school this week and the first week went great.

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First Day of School Round Up!

One of my goals for this year is to provide Ryan with more social opportunities with other homeschoolers.  On Friday, Ryan and I attended a social event for kids in the area at the Quarter Lounge Arcade.  I thought that the arcade would be like Dave and Buster’s, but when I looked up the website, it was mostly old school arcade games, consoles, and pinball machines.  Ryan was having second thoughts on going because due to his poor fine motor skills, those types of games are hard for him.  We decided to go anyway because I told him that we would have the opportunity to meet new people and that there will be other events within this group that he will enjoy.  So we went and it was great!  We met many nice families and there are several boys Ryan’s age in the group.  Ryan was able to use his board to introduce himself to some of the kids and parents.  We then checked out the place and found The Hobbit Pinball Game!  Ryan and I had just finished reading The Hobbit the night before!  We played it and had fun.

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Ryan was then interested in interviewing the store employee there.  His name was Bast and he was busy but told Ryan that he would gladly be interviewed when it slowed down.  We walked around some more, but it was a bit loud and crowded.  Ryan then began to hover near the front lobby area in order to interview Bast.  In the beginning, I could tell that Bast was waiting for Ryan to look at him when he was answering, but I explained to him that Ryan was still listening even if it did not look like he was.  Bast understood and the interview went well. At the end, Bast asked Ryan if he liked London. Ryan replied NEVER BEEN.  Bast mentioned that he was going and was going to bring back a postcard for Ryan.

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Ryan and Bast.

When I asked for Ryan’s input on this, he replied:  TOO LIKING BAST.  HE IS A FITTING MAN WHO IS BATTLING A DISEASE BUT STILL WANTS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.  TOO LIKING TO VISIT HIM AGAIN.

I told Ryan that I wasn’t sure if I could post what he spelled on the blog without checking with Bast first.  He replied CAN WRITE HIM A NOTE THEN.

I then thought that I would try and call the arcade to see if Bast was working to see if it would be okay if we shared what Ryan wrote.  I called and Bast was the one who answered.  I explained who I was (Stephanie, Ryan’s mom who had interviewed him on Friday) and he replied, “I know exactly who you are as I have read Ryan’s blog.”  We had given him a business card before we left.

Bast went on to say that it would be okay to post about it and that he wants to spread awareness and show that people can move forward despite battling cancer and can help others.  I then explained that that was exactly what Ryan had picked up on during the interview (Bast had answered the question about a typical day by indicating that because he has cancer his day starts at the doctor’s office for chemo some days).

Bast asked me if I would ask Ryan if it would be okay for him to be a person that Ryan could talk to if he wanted to for a sounding board or advice.  I told him that I would  put him on speaker phone and that he could ask him.  We did that and Ryan replied YES. TOO KIND OF YOU SAY THAT.  I spoke a bit longer to Bast as he explained the type of cancer that he has is a blood cancer (polycythemia vera) and that he has lost a considerable amount of weight as a result and that he undergoes chemotherapy and radiation and is in clinical trials as well.

He reiterated that he really enjoyed meeting Ryan and he is sincere in his offer to talk with him and hang out with him.  I told him that we would be in touch once he returns from London.

So the event was a win all the way around as we met a wonderful person and it was good start for our increase in social activities.  I know that Ryan will have an opportunity to interact with other homeschoolers at some of the events.  I am looking forward to more of these for him!

On a final note, Ryan’s First Holy Communion is this Saturday.  We will be sure to post pictures on our Facebook page and blog about it as soon as we can!

Florida Vacation Part 2 of 3

We left off with our arrival to Orlando.  The next morning, we celebrated Nate’s Baptism.  We got to see a lot of our extended family which was wonderful.  Ryan is a regular at Sunday Mass now, so he did great as usual during Mass and at the ceremony after.  One thing that was very special was that the celebrant at the Mass and the Priest who performed the Baptism was Father Bryan Small, the same Priest that married Nate’s parents, David (my brother) and Sophia (my sister-in-law).  At the celebration at Dave and Sophia’s house, Ryan got to talk with Father Bryan briefly.  It was hard for Ryan to converse in the house with all of the noise, but we did get to share with Father Bryan that Ryan was going to be making his First Reconciliation when we returned to Texas (which he did!) and would be making his First Communion at the end of August! Stay tuned for that post!

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Ryan, Aunt Sophia, Nate, Uncle Dave, cousin Bobby, and Grace after the Baptism.

So as I stated, it was hard for Ryan with all of the people in the house.  Ryan does not sit for long in other people’s homes and especially at an event like that.  Between Randy and me, we had to chase Ryan around the house to ensure that he did not break anything or get into anything that he shouldn’t. Randy knew that I did not get to see family all too often so he offered to take Ryan on a car ride and they listened to an audiobook for a bit. It was a much needed break for me and I got a good dose of enjoying the family and of course Nate!

The next day, we met up with another RPM Mom and friend of mine, Flaviana.  She and I met through some of the RPM groups on Facebook and met in person this past March at the RPM conference.  I told her that we would be in Orlando and she immediately suggested meeting up at Walt Disney World.  Flaviana is a cast member, so she was able to help us out with passes for 3 out of 4 of us, so this really helped us be able to do this.

Flaviana brought her daughter Gabby who is 12, Victoria who is 11 and uses RPM, and her friend and former Disney cast mate Oghan.  We all immediately clicked, probably due to Flaviana’s super friendly demeanor that made everyone relax right away.  We started at Epcot and we first went to Guest Relations to get the Disability Assistance Passes.

From Disney’s website, here is the information on the Disability Access Service:

  • What is DAS and how does it work?
    The DAS Card is designed to accommodate guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities). DAS will be issued at Guest Relations main entrance locations and will offer guests a return time for attractions based on the current wait time. As soon as the Guest finishes one attraction, they can receive a return time for another. This service can be used in addition to Disney’s FASTPASS Service and Disney FastPass+ service.

If I am being honest, I am a bit disappointed with the new program.  It essentially allows parties to have two fast passes at the same time and the party is allowed to enter the attraction 5 minutes earlier than the allotted time. The last time we went to Disney (which was several years ago), they really accommodated kids like Ryan and Victoria who might have difficulty with lines, noise, and crowds that are associated with the rides.  Unfortunately, many people abused the old system and I can imagine that it was almost impossible for Disney to police it due to ethical reasons.

On a positive note, Ryan and Victoria were absolute champs.  Waiting in line is hard for anyone, but our entire party was extremely patient.  (Grace later told me that she didn’t think that she was patient.  I reiterated that she behaved so well and was very patient.  She replied, “Well, I wasn’t patient on the inside.”)

The first ride we went on was The Seas with Nemo and Friends. There was a cool aquarium at the end of it.

Ryan spelled KIND OF CUTE.  I ALWAYS LIKE AQUARIUMS.

We then went to Circle of Life.  Ryan was able to sit and watch the 20 minute movie without a problem.  Ryan stated I THINK IT IS COOL. I LIKED IT.  MEANINGFUL TOO MUCH TO ME, KEEPING THE PLANET IN GOOD SHAPE.

Ryan got upset briefly at that point.  I was not sure what was wrong.  I asked him.  KIND OF REALLY CARE FOR VICTORIA.  Ryan is a very sensitive guy and anytime he meets another autistic, whether they use RPM or not, he often feels a connection with them.  He is also very observant regarding people and is drawn to good people.  Victoria was no exception.

Our first Fast Pass was then ready and we rode on Soarin’, which was a very cool ride and the kids loved it. Ryan’s thoughts:  I LOVED IT.  TOO COOL TO SMELL STUFF. (On the ride, there are different smells as you pass over different parts of the world.)

After that, upon Flaviana’s recommendation, we waited in line at the Character Spot, to meet Mickey, Goofy, and Minnie.  Most of you know about Ryan’s interaction with Mickey that was viewed by over 205,000 people on Facebook!  I still can’t believe it!

Both Ryan and Victoria got to use the letter boards with Mickey, Goofy, and Ryan.  It was amazing to watch their interactions with the characters.

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Ryan had this to say when I asked him about this for the blog:  I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE ALL OF THE PEOPLE THAT WERE TOUCHED BY THE VIDEO.  UNDERSTAND MEETING THE CHARACTERS WAS AWESOME.

After we finished there, Ryan then asked CAN WE PLEASE GO ON ROLLERCOASTERS NOW?

We told him that we were heading over to Magic Kingdom to catch the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade and that we would do a roller coaster after it.

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Watching the parade!.
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The group after the parade!

We watched the parade which required more waiting.  While we were waiting though, Flaviana was able to get us Fast Passes to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

I was surprised to find out that Ryan enjoyed the parade.  In the past, Ryan has said that PARADES ARE BORING.  When I asked him about this parade, he said  I REALLY LOVED THE PARADE.  MOSTLY LIKED THE MUSIC.

Ryan then spelled again REALLY WANTING TO DO A ROLLERCOASTER NEXT.  I mentioned it to Flaviana and she said that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was a roller coaster.  I was kind of confused by this because the last time I had been to Disney, this was a ride where the Wicked Stepmother pops out with an apple and scares little kids (that’s what I remembered about the ride).  I did not recall a roller coaster as I thought that Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Space Mountain were the only roller coasters. I reassured Ryan that we would ride on one soon.

We grabbed a late lunch/early dinner and then headed to It’s a Small World which was a a request of Grace’s.  When I asked Ryan about this ride, his response was TOO LOVING IT TOO.  I then asked, “It’s not boring to you?”  TOTALLY NOT.

Then it was roller coaster time.

I do not care for roller coasters at all.  I did not really know what I was getting myself into with the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train but I went for it.  Ryan absolutely loved it.  GOOD TO SAY IT WAS MY FAVORITE.  DEARLY LOVED IT.

Next we went to Enchanted Tale’s With Belle, at Flaviana’s suggestion.  She thought that Grace would love it.  This was another new attraction and it was very cute.  The Disney cast member selected members of the audience to participate in recreating the story of how Belle and the Beast met.  Well, Grace, Gabby, and Victoria were all selected for parts and much to our surprise, so were Randy and Oghan (the only two adults selected!)

The reenactment was very cute and at the end, all children were invited to get their pictures taken with Belle.  Ryan was very tired by this time and he was trying to lie down on one of the benches in the room.  I asked Ryan if he wanted to get his picture taken.  MEANINGFUL TO DO THAT.  SHE IS TOO BEAUTIFUL.

We waited in line and Ryan was last and I asked him if he wanted to say anything to Belle and he replied MEANINGFUL TO MEET YOU BELLE.  She replied, “It is meaningful to meet you Ryan.”

It was nearly time for our Fast Pass for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (which of course the Disney-Pro Flaviana had scored online).  I debated on going on but I figured that you only live once and it would mean a lot to my kids.  That sounds like a great answer, right?  I won’t be making that mistake again.

Ryan again loved it.  TOO LOVING ROLLERCOASTERS. TOTALLY AWESOME TOO.

After that, Grace was complaining that her feet hurt and Ryan was putting his head in our laps whenever we sat down.  Randy and I knew that we were done and not to press our luck any further.  Grace likes to collect pins, so we stopped in the Frontier Trading Post and she picked out two pins.  Ryan picked out one to commemorate the trip too.

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The pin that Ryan selected.

We said our goodbyes to the group.  We had such an amazing time and Flaviana really made it a trip that we would not forget.  It has been so nice to connect with other RPM parents along the way and I know that I have a lifelong friend in Flaviana.  Ryan and Victoria will be FaceTiming soon too.

Ryan’s thoughts:  GOT TO REALLY HAVE TOO MUCH FUN.  DEARLY LOVED SPENDING TIME WITH THEM.  MOSTLY LOVED VICTORIA.  TOTALLY LIKE TO SEE HER AGAIN.

On our way out, we stopped at the Main Street Confectionery for cookies and treats.  Randy, Grace, and I all selected ours and Ryan spelled out TOO WANTING THE MICKEY EARS COOKIE WITH SPRINKLES.  The woman behind the counter did not see him do this and I told her what he wanted and she asked him if he wanted yellow or blue.  He spelled BLUE.  She told the cashier not to ring up Ryan’s order and that she was going to the back for his.  She emerged with the biggest Mickey cookie I have ever seen.

She gave it to him and said, “Sometimes Mickey works his Magic in special ways.”

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Eyeing his cookie.
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As big as his head!

 

That day, Mickey did work his Magic.  It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

 

***Stay tuned for the last part of our vacation coming soon!***

 

Florida Vacation Part 1

I can’t believe that it is almost back to school time.  We have had a wonderful summer so far and just recently returned back from Florida this past week.  We did not have any family vacations scheduled, so we took the opportunity to tack on some time to our trip to Florida for our nephew/cousin’s Baptism.

Before I get into the trip, I want to stress that fact that travel with both kids is extremely enjoyable.  I am sure it has to do with age and the amount that we have exposed them to travel, but it really is no sweat anymore.  I don’t live in fear of the dreaded tantrum because Ryan can communicate now and I explain everything to him.  We read a book on the plane, did Mad Libs, and did a crossword puzzle.  It was awesome.

When I mentioned this to Ryan, he had this to say:  HAPPY TO GO ON TRIPS.  TOO LOVING TOTALLY ALL OF OUR ADVENTURES.  LIKE TO TRAVEL.  BECAUSE TOO WILLING TO DO IT, CAN WE TRAVEL MORE?

I told him that we are at the mercy of our finances and we will try and travel whenever we can.  I then asked him about waiting in the security line (he did awesome and it is not even an issue) and waiting to get off of the plane.

LIKE TO TAKE TRIPS SO I DEAL WITH IT.

Randy, the kids, and I used to live in St. Petersburg, Florida prior to our move to California (and then of course Texas).  Ryan and Grace are both huge fans of the beach, so we flew into Tampa and stayed in Downtown St. Petersburg.  Once we got there, our room was not yet ready, but I planned ahead.  We had swimsuits and towels packed in a separate bag so we changed in the hotel lobby restrooms and off we went to the beach!

I wish that I could have captured the pure joy on Ryan’s face when he was in the ocean.  It is hard for him to make eye contact, but boy does he do it in the ocean!  He was loving the water and swimming and the sand.  We stayed from 3-5pm and we had a lot of fun.  I was only able to capture one picture because we were having so much fun!

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Here is what Ryan had to say about the beach:  THE BEACH IS MY FAVORITE PLACE EVER.  CARING TO THINK I AM MEANT FOR THE OCEAN.  MOSTLY GOOD TO SWIM ALWAYS.  CARING TO VACATION THERE AGAIN SOON.

The next day, we planned to meet our great friends at their home to swim, fish, and go out on their boat.  Chris and Christine Oman are absolutely amazing people who used to be our neighbors when we lived in St. Petersburg.  They have 2 kids, Adelaide (she is Ryan’s age and will be 11 this month) and Cole (who is a year older than Grace).  Christine and I used to walk almost everyday with Adelaide and Ryan, side by side in strollers.  The two toddlers used to hold hands from their strollers and they would share snacks.

The kids and Randy enjoyed the pool and when Chris got home from work, the kids fished.  Grace caught a stingray!  She set the bar really high with her first time fishing!

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Cole, Grace, Adelaide, and the stingray!

We ate grilled burgers and veggies and fruit and then went out on the boat.

Actually, first, Grace went tubing with Adelaide and Cole!

And then, Ryan asked:  CAN I GO TUBING?  He wanted to go, so brave Mom (that’s me) got on too and we went tubing!

We spent the entire day with the Oman Family and it was like we had never left six years ago.

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We talked and reminisced and looked at pictures.  Ryan interviewed Chris about his job. Chris is a Project Manager in Construction and Ryan said:  LOVE LEARNING ABOUT THE INDUSTRY.  Christine and I told Ryan that he loved construction vehicles when he was a toddler!  We explained that he had a lot of construction books and that he would point and approximate something like, “What’s this?” and we would tell him the correct construction vehicle.  If we were wrong (whether by accident or on purpose) he would not move off of the vehicle until we told him the correct name of it.  Ryan then said:  LOVE HEARING THESE STORIES.

We had dessert. And then it was time to go.

Before we left, Ryan used his letter board to say:  TONIGHT WILL ALWAYS BE A GREAT MEMORY.

When I sat down to write this post, I asked Ryan’s thoughts about the day.  IT IS NO SURPRISE WHY YOU ARE BEST FRIENDS WITH CHRISTINE.  MOST AWESOME TIME WAS HAD.  TUBING TOTALLY AMAZING.  ALREADY MISS ALL OF THE OMANS.  CHRIS GOT ME RIGHT AWAY.  HE IS GOOD AND SO KIND.  REALLY LOVE THEM.  BOUND TO BE MY FAVORITE DAY OF THE VACATION.  TOO LIKING TO SEE THEM AGAIN SOON.

The next morning, we got up and went to one of our favorite restaurants in the area, Kojak’s, where we used to take the kids when they were young.  We told Ryan the story about how we had gone there with Grandma Chris, Aunt Sam, and Uncle Doug one time and we sat at the same table that we were seated at.  Ryan was about a year old at the time and Uncle Doug said to Ryan, “Ryan, where is the fan?” Ryan looked up at the fan in the restaurant and Uncle Doug said, “He’s a genius!” Ryan then began laughing and it was a running joke that any time Uncle Doug visited, he would call out “Genius!” and Ryan would laugh.  I reinforced again him how we all knew that he was smart back then.

We drove over to Orlando and got there in the afternoon.  We met at Aunt Sue’s house and we got to see Aunt Sue, Uncle Ralph, Bobby, Uncle Doug, Uncle Dan, Uncle Dave, Grandma Chris, Aunt Sam, and we met Aunt Sam’s boyfriend, Jeff.  Jeff is a New Jersey State Trooper.  Everyone in our family calls him Mr. Jeff now because one of Ryan’s cousins started the nickname.  Ryan wanted to interview him and Mr. Jeff agreed.  Ryan took a seat at the dining room table and Mr. Jeff joined him.  On the table, there were a few snacks and a leftover donut box from Wawa.

Ryan starts off:  HAVE A FITTING IDEA.  CALLING IT BOUND TO LIKE DONUTS IF YOU ARE A COP.

Everyone in the room started laughing!  I have no idea where Ryan gets this stuff (actually probably from Randy)!  Well, Ryan and Mr. Jeff had a donut while conducting the interview.

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Ryan and Mr. Jeff, enjoying their donuts.

Ryan’s thoughts on the interview:  MR. JEFF IS TOO AWESOME.  HE PUTS HIS LIFE IN DANGER DAILY.  TOO MUCH RESPECT FOR HIM.  MOSTLY LIKE TO SPEND MORE TIME WITH HIM.

We moved the party to Uncle Dave and Aunt Sophia’s house.  We had hot dogs and hamburgers and hung out.  The best part was that we got to meet Nate, who is Ryan and Grace’s cousin, who was to be Baptized the following day!  Nate was being passed around and I asked Ryan if he wanted to try and hold Nate and he said MEANINGFUL TO DO THAT.  Well, Ryan was very happy to do this and he did great.  He said I BELIEVE NATE IS AWESOME.  REALLY PROUD OF MYSELF.  HE IS JUST TOO CUTE AND FUN. THANKS FOR HELPING ME TO HOLD HIM.

The proud older cousin!

So that is the end of Part 1 of our vacation.  Please stay tuned for Part 2 which includes the Baptism, our trip to Disney (thank you to all of you who reacted, commented, and shared Ryan’s video of meeting Mickey! Who knew that almost 200,000 people would view it?!) , and meeting up with old friends.