November 29, 2008

New Family Member

We now have a new family member named Lily Lightly(she is really a boy but Nevaeh wanted to give her a girl's name)!! She was a birthday present from my sister & family to Nevaeh for her 6th birthday.

November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving & Holiday Lights on the River

Happy Thanksgiving!! My sister and her girls came down from Virginia to spend Thanksgiving with the kids & I. After almost ruining thanksgiving dinner we went to Saluda Shoal's Holiday Lights on the River. We have went before but the kids always have a blast going. They danced in the parking lot in front of the Dancing Forest.

November 25, 2008

Nevaeh's Kindergarten Holiday Performance

Nevaeh's school had it's Christmas holiday performance last night. Here are the only two pictures that I got to take. When you are dealing with a 3 year old that doesn't want to be there and finding ways for him to sit still, it doesn't leave much time for picture taking.

November 17, 2008

Those left behind deserve recognition

By: Daniel L. Davis
Tuesday, November 11, 2008

As a member of the Army, I have been deployed many times over the years into war zones and fought, sometimes intense battles. As a result of that service, I have been the fortunate recipient of numerous public displays of thanks from a grateful American public, received offers of dinner from total strangers, and been shown other acts of kindness and support. We in uniform are commonly lauded and praised as sacrificing servants of the nation, for which I have always been particularly grateful. But something happened to me recently that exposed an imbalance in that adoration that frankly left me humbled and a bit ashamed. I hope through the power of the written word to perhaps make a dent in that imbalance.

I recently traveled from Fort Riley, Kan., through Baltimore-Washington International Airport on my way to Iraq. This trip would only last 10 days, but was designed to set the stage for a successful year-long mission I'll undertake beginning in a few months with a team of 10 other officers and men. Because my wife Natasha and two fabulous, young boys live in the Washington metro area, I was given the privilege of spending a couple of hours with them between flights at BWI. When my six-year-old saw me at a distance, he came sprinting through the terminal and leapt in my arms; his one-year-old brother was following after him, waddling as fast as his little
legs would carry him. Behind them was their lovely mother - a sight that would thrill any soldier. After a few enjoyable hours together, however, the inevitable time of anxious separation arrived for Natashia: her husband was about to get on a plane heading for a war zone. Holding back the tears, she took the two boys in tow and walked to the car for the long, lonely drive back home where soon she would have to begin a 16-month voyage as a single parent - again. At the end of my tour in Iraq, we will have been separated because of Army deployments 43 out of the previous 60 months.

Shortly after my wife left the airport, I sat waiting for the next leg of our flight contemplating what lay ahead. I remembered the very genuine and enthusiastic applause our group of 15 uniform-clad soldiers had been given aboard the Southwest Airlines flight from Kansas City and felt a bit buoyed. But then my thoughts returned to my wife who was still on the road heading home. She had been given no applause. No one had offered to buy her a meal. No one told her how much they appreciated her sacrifice. Instead, while we in uniform get all the public
accolades, unbelievable support from organizations like the USO, and are taken care of in the war zone by our government better than any army in the history of armed struggle, my wife gets only endless days of loneliness, anxiety, and the burdens of single parenthood.

She has her own full time job as a nurse. She has to take the kids to school and daycare every day. She has to come home at night and give them the attention they deserve (and demand). She has to be a compassionate mother, a disciplinarian dad and fix the leaky faucet. She has to do everything, by herself, alone, all the time. She gets no days off. She has no intimate confidant, no family living nearby, and has none of the emotional support a woman needs (and deserves). The more these thoughts permeated my mind, the more I began to squirm in my seat at the growing realization of the imbalance in how equal sacrifice is not being equally recognized.

As I began to share these thoughts with some of my fellow military travelers, I discovered that my situation was quite common, at least among the people I talked with. Only one was making his first deployment to a war zone. They all recounted the sacrifices and suffering their loved ones have made over the years. Those left behind to fight the battle of the home-front live every day with the realization that their husband or wife serving in a war zone could be killed or wounded.

It is sobering for me to realize that since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has lost more than 600 soldiers in Afghanistan and nearing 4,200 in Iraq. The total wounded are well over 45,000. Have you ever stopped to consider the anguish, the mental turmoil suffered by the wives, husbands, and children of those nearly 50,000 total casualties - or the hundreds of thousands of others that wonder every day if their deployed service member will be next? I have heard many leading politicians over the years proclaim, "I understand what the families of our service members go through," but with all due respect, they don't. I don't.

Until you live in their shoes every day for the duration of a combat deployment, none of us can truly understand the full measure of what they suffer. At least we in the military get the pat on the back. But what notoriety do our family members receive for the silent sacrifice they make? Other than comments that are frankly mostly rhetoric ("Army families are a top priority to us!"), there is virtually no recognition.

And yet I can tell you without reservation - as, I dare say most other deploying service members would - without the heroic sacrifice my wife makes at home while I'm in the war zone, I wouldn't be as effective on the front lines. Therefore, I suggest that this unfair imbalance of recognition cease immediately. Toward that end, I respectfully request the following of both the American government and people: First, that the president of the United States commemorate a special, unprecedented medal for the husbands and wives of American servicemembers who have deployed into war zones in recognition of the invaluable service to this nation they have
provided; second, that Congress pass a joint resolution recognizing the silent sacrifice and extolling the indispensable support those family members have provided to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have served abroad in time of war; and third, that the government of the United States host a grand and glorious parade for the wife or husband (along with children, of course) of every American service member who has deployed in support of a war zone. This parade route should start at the Pentagon and wind its way down the National Mall, past the Lincoln Memorial and the White House, culminating on the steps of the Capitol. Once there, the president would give a speech extolling the immeasurable contribution to the American way of life these family members have made and then he would symbolically present them their medals in one mass presentation.

The parade would take place on Sunday, 7 June 2009 - roughly half way between Mother's Day and Father's Day. Such an undertaking would no doubt prove to be a planning and logistical nightmare, and I genuinely appreciate that complexity. But many of these wives and husbands suffer years of privation and complexity. A little recognition from the people and government of the United States is certainly in order.

While I request our government leaders honor our service members' wives and husbands and agree to be the host of the parade, I call on the people of America to participate as well. It has been said that no one ever asked the people of the United States to sacrifice in support of the war effort; let me now change that.

I call on Americans to expend some time, energy, and money in finding the wife or husband of a service member who has deployed into a war zone in support of our country. Maybe it's a family member, maybe it's a neighbor, maybe the friend of a friend. Seek out that man or woman. Tell them how much you appreciate their sacrifice on our behalf. Take them to dinner. Offer them free child-care once a month so the spouse gets a chance to breathe, or take them a home-cooked meal so, at least once, they don't have to eat drive-through because there wasn't time to cook between baseball and dance practices.

I'd like to see major corporations like Exxon/Mobil or Shell provide the gas necessary for the wives or husbands to drive to Washington to attend the parade, Coke and Pepsi to provide drinks during the parade, McDonalds and Burger King the food and for American Airlines and Delta to provide free or discounted travel so those outside driving distance could come to the party. These are but a few ideas. I'd like to see some of our nation's moversand shakers use their considerable talents in figuring out how they could make even a one-time sacrifice to honor
those who have paid so much on behalf of all of us during this time of war.

The wives, husbands, sons, and daughters of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have carried the water for this nation - and for the deployed service members themselves - for seven years and counting. They continue to pay what no price tag could ever measure, have suffered mostly invisible emotional torment struggling to be everything and everywhere at once, and undergone night after night of pained loneliness that few could imagine. I think the things I've requested are actually the least we could do to recognize their heroic sacrifice.

Maj. Daniel L. Davis is a cavalry officer in the United States Army who has fought in Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Story was featured in the Washington Post

November 10, 2008

A Letter to Family and Friends from Child with Autism

I got this letter on an autism support group website and thought I would share.

Dear Family and Friends:

I understand that we will be visiting each other for the holidays this year! Sometimes these visits can be very hard for me, but here is some information that might help our visit to be more successful.

As you probably know, I am challenged by a hidden disability called Autism, or what some people refer to as a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). Autism/PDD is a neurodevelopmental disorder which makes it hard for me to understand the environment around me. I have barriers in my brain that you can't see, but which make it difficult for me to adapt to my surroundings. Sometimes I may seem rude and abrupt, but it is only because I have to try so hard to understand people and at the same time, make myself understood. People with autism have different abilities: Some may not speak, some write beautiful poetry. Others are whizzes in math (Albert Einstein was thought to be autistic), or may have difficulty making friends. We are all different and need various degrees of support.

Sometimes when I am touched unexpectedly, it might feel painful and make me want to run away. I get easily frustrated, too. Being with lots of other people is like standing next to a moving freight train and trying to decide how and when to jump aboard. I feel frightened and confused a lot of the time. This is why I need to have things the same as much as possible. Once I learn how things happen, I can get by OK. But if something, anything, changes, then I have to relearn the situation all over again! It is very hard.

When you try to talk to me, I often can't understand what you say because there is a lot of distraction around. I have to concentrate very hard to hear and understand one thing at a time. You might think I am ignoring you--I am not. Rather, I am hearing everything and not knowing what is most important to respond to.

Holidays are exceptionally hard because there are so many different people, places, and things going on that are out of my ordinary realm. This may be fun and adventurous for most people, but for me, it's very hard work and can be extremely stressful. I often have to get away from all the commotion to calm down. It would be great if you had a private place set up to where I could retreat.

If I can not sit at the meal table, do not think I am misbehaved or that my parents have no control over me. Sitting in one place for even five minutes is often impossible for me. I feel so antsy and overwhelmed by all the smells, sounds, and people--I just have to get up and move about. Please don't hold up your meal for me--go on without me, and my parents will handle the situation the best way they know how.

Eating in general is hard for me. If you understand that autism is a sensory processing disorder, it's no wonder eating is a problem! Think of all the senses involved with eating. Sight, smell, taste, touch, AND all the complicated mechanics that are involved. Chewing and swallowing is something that a lot of people with autism have trouble with. I am not being picky--I literally cannot eat certain foods as my sensory system and/or oral motor coordination are impaired.

Don't be disappointed If Mom hasn't dressed me in starch and bows. It's because she knows how much stiff and frilly clothes can drive me buggy! I have to feel comfortable in my clothes or I will just be miserable. When I go to someone else's house, I may appear bossy and controlling. In a sense, I am being controlling, because that is how I try to fit into the world around me (which is so hard to figure out!) Things have to be done in a way I am familiar with or else I might get confused and frustrated. It doesn't mean you have to change the way you are doing things--just please be patient with me, and understanding of how I have to cope. Mom and Dad have no control over how my autism makes me feel inside.

People with autism often have little things that they do to help themselves feel more comfortable. The grown ups call it "self regulation," or "stimming'. I might rock, hum, flick my fingers, or any number of different things. I am not trying to be disruptive or weird. Again, I am doing what I have to do for my brain to adapt to your world. Sometimes I cannot stop myself from talking, singing, or doing an activity I enjoy. The grown-ups call this "perseverating" which is kinda like self regulation or stimming. I do this only because I have found something to occupy myself that makes me feel comfortable. Perseverative behaviors are good to a certain degree because they help me calm down.

Please be respectful to my Mom and Dad if they let me "stim" for awhile as they know me best and what helps to calm me.

Remember that my Mom and Dad have to watch me much more closely than the average child. This is for my own safety, and preservation of your possessions. It hurts my parents' feelings to be criticized for being over protective, or condemned for not watching me close enough. They are human and have been given an assignment intended for saints. My parents are good people and need your support.

Holidays are filled with sights, sounds, and smells. The average household is turned into a busy, frantic, festive place. Remember that this may be fun for you, but it's very hard work for me to conform. If I fall apart or act out in a way that you consider socially inappropriate, please remember that I don't possess the neurological system that is required to follow some social rules.

I am a unique person--an interesting person. I will find my place at this Celebration that is comfortable for us all, as long as you'll try to view the world through my eyes!

November 09, 2008

Weight Loss Update

I haven't posted in a real long time my weight loss update. I am down 53 lbs!!!!! YEAH ME! I am sure you will start seeing more pictures of me on my blog (if I can find someone to take them!) because I feel more comfortable in front of the camera instead of just behind it!

November 02, 2008

Country Adventures

Kyan, Nevaeh & I went with Bright Start to Country Adventures today. Bright Start is Kyan's early intervention therapists. The had over 500 people there. There were hayrides, pony rides, hot dog roast and smores. The kids had a blast. Both Kyan and Nevaeh got to ride a horse. I didn't know how Kyan was going to do but he loved it. Kyan was covered from head to toe in dirt by the end of the night.