Monday, January 30, 2017

Goods and Bads.

It turns out that life is kind of the same wherever you go, aka there are goods and bads.

Here are the bads:

1. June started school.
June's first day of school in New Jersey


Of course, this is normally considered a "good" for my sanity's sake, but June has had a rough time transitioning to her new school. June has been pretty much oblivious to every move we've ever had except this one. She loved going to school in Florida. She's been to school two days here and had rough days both days. Of course, it's only been two days, but I dread the phone calls I receive from the school.

Part of the reason she is struggling is that during her evaluation for the school, her case study team determined we needed to try having her in a general education class for the first time. She has always been in a self-contained classroom, and the structure is much looser in that setting. So this is an experiment as to how she will fit in a mainstream classroom. So far, not so good, but I think we need to give it several weeks at least.

It doesn't help that every day so far has had a glitch. The first day had the "first day" glitch--everything new and everything different. The second day, we got a flat tire (OF COURSE! WE ARE THE JOLLEYS AREN'T WE!?!?) on the way to school and had to turn around and she didn't get to go. So she was extremely traumatized by that and constantly talks about our flat tire even though it has now been fixed for several days.

Today was the third day, and the bus was supposed to come pick her up and never did. So I had to take her, and she was very upset by this change in plans after I had pumped her up to ride the school bus for the first time. Then I received a call from the school that she had a big fit right off the bat. Oh Junebug. 

2. The aforementioned flat tire. I don't know if this a "bad" or just another daily Jolley exercise. Like breathing or eating frosting from the can.

3. Both girls had a case of the barfs. But Dan set up awesome stadium seating for movie-watching.


There's nothing quite so fun as having two-year old Gwen take her maiden voyage down Barfsville. She had no idea what was happening and just kept shaking and shaking out of fear. June is an old Puke-xpert. They each had their own separate night of barfing, and I just kept the sheets flying in and out of the wash every time I could turn around.

4. It's cold.


 We have made many plans to explore, but the fact is it just doesn't sound fun to walk around NYC in 30 degree weather with two small babies who are only used to 75 degree winter weather. (And one big baby who is only used to 75 degree winter weather--me.) I've been the biggest wimp in the family about this. New Jersey is actually experiencing a very mild winter, and I am still shivering my buns off every second of every day. But we have made the most of indoor play places, and the girls have had a blast getting breakfast at McDonald's the past couple of Saturdays so that they can play. Gwen is 100% rough and tumble, and we have to make deals with her to eat a bite in between each turn down the slide.


The Goods:

1. We have been prepping for Valentine's Day in a big way. I'm not normally one to make extra fuss over a holiday, but this has been a really fun project to keep the girls busy inside. We have spent several afternoons making valentines for cousins and decorating little mailboxes for the girls to receive their V-day goodies in. Gwen likes to do this for about 3 minutes, but June can sit and decorate for hours.





2. We found a pupuseria only a 5-minute walk from our house. If you haven't had pupusas, you are missing out!! Dan served his two-year LDS mission speaking Spanish in south Chicago where he was introduced to the Salvadorean goodness. We had a place near us in Vegas that sold them, but we haven't had any since then. We walked to this new place on Saturday, and it did not disappoint. It's very rare for everyone to like the same meal in our family, but even the girls ate their weight in the corn tortilla, pork, bean and cheese goodness.







Friday, January 20, 2017

Jersey.

I almost titled this post "Joisey", but seeing as I haven't met anyone here who actually says it like that and I know how much I dislike it when people act like everyone from my home state calls it "Missourah" instead of Missouri, I refrained. Don't tick off the locals. It's a good rule, wherever you are.

We have been in New Jersey for one week, and we already have lots to tell. It's interesting how so many people (my husband) refer to a move as "an adventure" as if to psych up everyone around them. A move for a single person might be adventure. A move for a couple with no children might be an adventure. A move with children is a huge pain in the neck.

Not to say it's not worth it. It's just painful, especially at the beginning.

For our family, moving can be summed up by a couple different things: lots of fast food and lots of sleepless sleeping arrangements.

Though the girls each have their own beds, they have preferred sleeping together for the past six months. Here is a picture of them the last night in their (June's) bed in Florida:


So sweet. And in a different room from me! My favorite. As a general rule, I do not let kids in my bed.

Things are always a bit different in a hotel setting though. Parents are too accessible in this scenario, and we end up sleeping with one parent and one kid in each bed. June LOVES Daniel and they always end up together. Gwen LOVES to HATE me, and we always end up together. The excitement of the hotel situation is always too much for Gwen. June loves the newness of it, but June also loves a good schedule and will go to sleep maybe an hour after her regularly scheduled bedtime. Gwen on the other hand was hopped up on goofballs and refused to settle down and then refused to let any pillows touch her but also simultaneously always wanted to be touching my head but not the pillow my head was on. I was jealous of Dan those nights. Gwen is only comfortable when she is making you feel a little (or a lot) uncomfortable.




The girls loved staying in hotels for three nights and June kept telling me how much she loved "our new home." Oh Junebug.


Of course everyone's favorite part of staying in the hotel was the free, huge breakfast served every morning. It was hard to go back to my gruel-like morning menu after three mornings of bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, muffins, eggs and pancakes.

We also took the girls to many a Chick-fil-a and McDonald's over the course of the three days so that they could play.



The flight from Jacksonville to Newark was supposedly short--two hours. But much akin to how one year is seven dog years, two hours on a flight is 60 in kid years. We had to split up, and of course Gwen was with me and June was with Dan. In the very back row next to the bathrooms. We each had a very tall man in the third seat in our row, and there was just not really room for all of us. Dan thought he lucked out by having June with him, but she was would not stop repeating herself on HIGH VOLUME the whole time. He kept begging her to talk at a normal level, and she could not comprehend it.

Lo and behold, Hurricane Gwen fell asleep on my arm! This meant I couldn't move and my arm went numb, but I didn't care. Dan shot me looks of jealousy and contempt from his very loud side of the plane until . . .

we hit a few bumps and Gwen woke up. And proceeded to scream and kick the very tall man beside her for 45 minutes. The flight attendants kept trying to appease her, and I didn't know how to nicely tell them that the best thing to do with Gwen is just let her get it out. The more you try to please her, the angrier she becomes.

It was my turn to shoot Dan looks of jealousy and contempt. Which I did. Until . . .

June peed her pants. As we were landing.

After a month of having no accidents, I didn't see the need to pack her an extra outfit. But my Grandma Bonnie always told me to pack an extra outfit for each person in my carry on, and now I see the true wisdom of her words. I did, at least, pack some extra underwear for her, and then she just had to sport her blanket as part of her outfit the rest of the night.

See this photo?


There are no pants underneath that blanket. June thought it was hilarious and awesome and liked showing everyone at the Newark Airport her underwear. And it was freezing.

We found our way to baggage claim and quickly identified our luggage (since it takes us 34 hours to go anywhere and everyone else had already claimed theirs). Most of our stuff went with the movers into storage but we packed as much as we could into four bags to get us through the next two months of temporary housing.

So there we stood--Cranky Gwen, Blanketed June, Tired Heather and Dan. And four pieces of luggage, 4 carry-ons, 2 personal items and 2 car seats. And we had to somehow get that on the train to pick up our rental car. Not happening.

So Dan went by himself and I waited with the girls in baggage claim for over an hour. And I shot Dan looks of jealousy and contempt in my mind since he wasn't there to receive them personally.

He was a very welcome sight when he came back with an awesome SUV with heated, leather seats. Because it was 20 degrees outside. And I don't know if you are keeping track but I have lived in Nevada and Florida for the past 8 years. I haven't been cold in almost a decade.

The next day was much better. We could almost laugh about the day before but decided not to. We went to yet another McDonald's and the girls played. Actually, Gwen slept on a bench for probably an hour. And June had another accident. But this time I brought replacement pants.



Right after we left McDonald's, it started to snow. Our girls have never seen the stuff and were so excited. I'm the party pooper in our family who doesn't enjoy the snow, and we saw a driver almost slide off the road so I was feeling pretty justified in my distrust of the white powder. But June keeps insisting that I need to like it.


We checked in to our temporary apartment, and it's in a really cool location. Downtown Morristown. Walking distance to tons of restaurants and shops. We walked to a pizza parlor that night, and even I could admit that the snow on the ground was beautiful.


And honestly, things have been pretty darn good ever since. There is a lot to see and do here. The people have been really awesome. June is going to be attending a great school. Someone from church already invited our ridiculous selves over for dinner. Dan loves his new company. And I actually like living with only a few belongings. Cleaning takes me 10 seconds. 


  Dan's first day of work at the new job.



June drew me as a pirate.


View from our temporary place.

I guess moving is like delivering a baby. Horrible and painful and then you kind of forget just how horrible it was until you have to do it again. Luckily, life has somewhat normalized and I'm already thinking the move wasn't so rough. But you and I both know it actually was.






Friday, January 6, 2017

2016


December started out fun and full of Christmas festivity and ended with craziness and scurrying and a huge change to our family plans.

We took the girls a local Christmas party thrown for kids with special needs where I was able to take more blurry photos of my posterity.





Dan's mom always sends a homemade Christmas decoration for our home. It's the only way I have stuff to put every year. Thanks, Kristi! I found out after we sent her this picture that one of the small blocks on top is supposed to be the trunk at the bottom. D'oh! The girls LOVED this decoration and it served as both decor and a toy.


June's school had a polar express party the last day before vacation, and all the students wore their pajamas.


Two things belong on the Jolley family crest: a blurry photo and these ding dang pumpkin halloween baskets. We still get them out every single day.



Dan gets free food samples at work all of the time, and when he brought this giant food service-sized nutella tub home, he officially redeemed himself of any past or future offenses in our marriage and life. We took it up to Heidi's for Christmas, and it was everyone's favorite family member there. We affectionately named it "Nutella Tubby." In an effort to help myself with No Junk January, I left it at Heidi's, but there have been many moments were I wish we had worked out a joint custody arrangement.


I hardly took any pictures of our time with Heidi's family, but it was so fun and so relaxing. Heidi has really become the best cook ever, and every meal Dan and I gluttonized ourselves into oblivion.We watched movies, discussed having a group fingernail clipping party for our dirty kids (which never materialized) and reminisced. It was just the break I needed because just a few days before we arrived in Atlanta, Dan accepted a job.

In New Jersey.

Starting January 16th.

So, as you might imagine, things have been really hectic. Our December (and January) were turned upside down and have become a flurry of planning and craziness, all while Dan has also been taking finals for his second to last semester of his MBA. And we were all sick. 

So we are moving in a week. Is everything ready to go? No. Do we know where we are staying yet? No. Are we sane? No. Should we be allowed to function in society? Probably not. 

So I thought I would devote the conclusion of this post to the highlights of our year in Jacksonville (we moved here February 2016) and the lessons we were meant to learn here.

First, some highlights:


(Isn't this the best school photo ever? June is the hardest person to photograph so I actually spent the trillion dollars to buy a packet of these photos.)

 1. June was diagnosed with autism. You might wonder how this could be considered a highlight. For about 2-3 years leading up to this diagnosis (and she's only 4.5 years old now), I knew something was wrong with June. But there was so much right, it was hard for others to see. Even Dan, though completely supportive, struggled to see what I saw. I stayed up at night worrying about it. I read tons of craziness online that didn't bring me any comfort. I took her to the pediatrician in Tampa who only spent about 4 minutes with us and said she wasn't even developmentally delayed, even though the school district thought so and placed her in special ed preschool at 3 years old.

When we moved to Jacksonville, I decided to take her to the pediatrician and not even bring it up. I was tired of convincing people that there was something wrong with June. And I was tired of people defending June to me, as though I was putting her down. So I took her to the pediatrician for her wellness check and said a prayer on the drive down.

We met with a brand new doctor, Dr. Brazile. I sat there as she tried to carry on a conversation with June. June was happy to speak to her but only about what she wanted to talk about--that she was a boy dog named Fluffy the Dog. She was adorable and sweet, but it was apparent that she was not connecting appropriately with the doctor at all.

I could tell the doctor was apprehensive to point out the elephant in the room because she wasn't sure if I knew what she knew. She slowly turned to me and asked, "Mrs. Jolley, have you ever considered having June evaluated for a spectrum disorder?" I wanted to hug her. I told her all of my concerns but that not many people seemed to see it. She reassured me by saying, "Oh I definitely see it, and I'm going to refer you for a full autism spectrum exam."

Many people in Jacksonville are told to see a special pediatrician who has a two-year waiting list, but we were able to find a licensed behavior analyst psychologist who can also diagnose autism. Dr. Adrienne was warm and funny and SO knowledgeable.

The evaluation started off almost too easily, and I began to feel stupid we were there. June and Dr. A played and played and June showed how smart she is. And then Dr. A asked June questions. June would continue on with talking about her own subjects, with nothing convincing her to do otherwise. Finally Dr. A blew up a huge balloon and slowly let the air out so that it made a really high-pitched sound. She did this right behind June's ear while June played. June did not look up. Dr. A did a series of other things that June did not respond to. Each and every single time Dr. A called June by her name, June corrected her. "I'm Fluffy the Dog." But it wasn't this cute thing 4 years old do. Dr. A could see it was almost a tic that June did involuntarily to make things right in her own brain.

We went back two weeks later and Dr. A delivered the news. She told us how she had only ever seen one other kid (also a girl) like June and how they are extremely difficult to diagnose. They are both extremely social and happy girls, but there is just a disconnection there that is hard to explain. And that's when she told us what I had suspected for a long time--June has autism. She's extremely high functioning but there is autism there all the same.

It was the most relieving thing I had heard in a long time. First off, I haven't lost my marbles. Second off, there is an explanation behind so much that goes on with June.

I have always felt that this was one of the reasons Heavenly Father moved us to Jacksonville. We were very quickly able to get the information no one would give us in Tampa.

2. June learned to use the potty!!!!!


This might be the highlight of my DECADE. If you have followed my blog at all or even just talked to me once in the past year, you know that teaching June to use the potty was more difficult than getting Ron Swanson to eat a banana. Even now, girlfriend takes her time on the potty, and we are late to tons of things. But she hasn't had an accident in several weeks.


3. Gwen became a little girl. Gwen has totally blossomed this past year. She and June are finally friends. Gwen is definitely in a very cranky stage, but she's also so much fun. She has an opinion on everything. She insists on wearing a "princess dress" every day, and she is so smart. She sleeps in June's bed with her every single night. For Christmas, they received this teepee and sleeping bags, and they have had quite a few slumber parties in it already.








Lessons learned in Jax:

1. Let it Go! Let it Go! So much in life is out of my control. I don't really want to move again. I wish Gwen would wear some of the nice clothes she owns instead of the same ratty junk all of the time. I wish I could get June to sit down on the potty and do her business in a reasonable amount of time every day. And then we have to go through the same routine every time to complete the potty ritual. I always have to look in the potty, discuss what happened, help her wipe herself, pull up her pants, put the toilet paper in the toilet, close the lid gently (she likes to slam it), etc. only to have June announce at the very end that she wanted to wipe herself BY herself. So we start over. And then she decides that she really wants help after all. It is exhausting.

We found a great house we wanted in NJ, but the deal fell through. We are going to be living in temporary housing for at least two months. And I'm due in three months. And I need to find a new doctor. And Dan is going to be traveling a lot, both for work and school. And so on and so forth. But I know I'm incredibly blessed. I have nothing nothing nothing to complain about. I have just had to learn how to let go. Of everything sometimes. And that's hard. I don't know why that's what I have to learn but there it is.

2. Just Say No. I have never had to say "no" so much in my life as living here. I believe in giving until it hurts, but Jacksonville showed me that you can't give until you're sick. Between Dan's busy work and school schedule, both of our busy church callings, plus my own part-time job, being sick while pregnant and raising these two hooligans, I have had to say no more than yes often. At first I avoided saying no because I felt guilty, and then I eventually reached the point where I HAD to say "no" just to survive, and I have actually had a great peace enter my life because of it. I hope to reach a season soon where I can say yes more, but right now I'm in a bit of a "no" stage.

2016 was a good year. But I think 2017 is going to be even better.