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.)
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.
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.