Zephyra is not much of a baby anymore and took her first steps a few days ago. This video was taken on the same afternoon that she took her first steps.
Zephyra is not much of a baby anymore and took her first steps a few days ago. This video was taken on the same afternoon that she took her first steps.
After not being able to get the album software working for a year, the company finally put out an upgrade that works correctly and I was able to update the site. There’s hundreds of photos added, so you’ll just have to figure that part out. Zephyra now has functional galleries with lots of images as well.
This is a basic rundown of the updates:
Zephyra – 76 images to 0-3 months, 75 to 3-6 months, 62 to 6-9 months and 65 to 9-12 months.
Xan – Finished 4 year section (13), added 5 year section (30).
Tempest – 25 images to 8 year section.
Family – Added 2012 section (24), completed 2011 section (27), and added professional family portraits by Nicole Brown Photography.
Tempest has Aspergers, a form of autism. Autism is a spectrum of disorders with different severities and presentations, Aspergers is at the higher end of this spectrum and is sometimes referred to as “High functioning autism”: meaning that she has an extremely high intelligence (most kids with AS are above average, her included) and can function fairly well. However, this doesn’t mean she is unaffected by her autism. Autism and Aspergers affects her every single day in different ways, sometimes subtle and sometimes severe. Sometimes she’ll have a really good day and do very well, and sometimes her days are much worse. Bad days often come when ‘triggers’ appear that upset her in one way or another. Changes and over-stimulation are big triggers for her that may cause panic attacks, obsessive behavior and repetitive “stimming”. Stimming refers to behaviors that self-stimulate, like hand-flapping, toe-walking, repetitive noises or actions. Some kids may bang their heads against the wall, hit themselves, hang or climb on other people or jump and spin. None of these things are intended to be harmful, they’re to help shut out the part of the world that’s frightening, upsetting or unfamiliar… though sometimes they can be upsetting or confusing to witness if you’re not sure what it’s all about.
We help her cope by keeping a routine that is familiar and easy to follow: we have dinner around the same time every night, we do bedtime the same way, and we have strict rules about ‘how much’ and ‘how often’. To an outsider, sometimes these rules may appear to be over the top… but they’re in place with the help of specialists, experts and family therapists who have given us tools to make her life easier and less stressful.
Going to new places can be a big trigger, and can result in a lot of anxiety and tantrums, so we don’t go out very often. Traveling is exceptionally difficult, and when and if we choose to go somewhere we have to be very careful to control whatever we can to ensure her stress levels stay low. The more stressed out she becomes, the more stressed out everyone becomes. Driving is one of the best ways we can do this, as it’s a form of transportation that’s familiar, easy, and very simple to control. In a car we can control the volume, the music choices, the temperature, plus we have the ability to stop and have necessary “Body breaks” on a regular basis. We can also stop and eat whenever we need to. In a car she is not overwhelmed, touched by strangers, or subject to a barrage of unfamiliar and frightening stimuli. This is particularly important if we’re traveling somewhere she’s never been before, or somewhere that will be overstimulating (ie. fireworks, a big playground or park, a concert, etc).
Above all we’re her family and we love her very much. She’s smart, beautiful, talented and amazing: we want her to grow up to be the best adult she can be. As her parents we want to do everything we can to ensure we make choices that make her life as easy to live as possible… not just for her benefit but for the benefit of our family as a whole. Over time we’ve become very accustomed to making these little changes to our daily routine, and to think differently about what we need to do to ensure the easiest possible transition from one thing to another, but to people who don’t know us very well it can be a little confusing. Hopefully this has helped clear some of that up.
If you’re curious to know more about why routines and familiarity are necessary for autistic children, here are some helpful links to start with:
[ Understanding why autistic children need routine ]
Here’s an image of the birthday present I’ve been working on for the last month. It’s a giant Totoro from the movie, “My Neighbor Totoro”. He’s made extra large (see my foot for comparison!) and stands 21″ tall and 15″ wide not including his arms. He was lightly stuffed with about 24oz of polyfill to make him squishy and usable as a pillow. I finished the final details on his face the night before her party!
We really didn’t expect that big a turn out for Tempest’s birthday. A few days before I checked the Facebook event page and didn’t see very many RSVPs, so I was getting worried only a few friends would show up. A number of our friends moved away recently, and I invited several people that were new to our social circle, but everything went really well and we had a really good turn with kids of all ages from infants to 9.5 year olds.
We decided against doing a piñata for the party because those things are impossible to break and we always end up hacking it open with a chef’s knife, so I made a few goody bags the night before to make up for it. Aside from the Totoro pillow/stuffy, we bought her two of the [ Schleich Bayala ] fairies, a carrying case to keep all of her DS supplies together, and a Groovy Girls-style fairy doll with a baby unicorn. A new Nintendo DS game, “Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story” came from her grandma and papa.
Every year we do our present free-for-all where everyone helps and everyone gets to play with the toys. It’s always a success.
We start off with a “Thank you everyone who brought a gift!” and end it with one, too. We also put the cards aside so she can read them all… though generally all the kids are on pins and needles to skip the cards and go straight into RIPPING THINGS OPEN WITH THEIR BARE HANDS RAWRGH!
Totoro unveiling! I didn’t realize my camera was still on manual focus so these are blurry.
I love Liam #1 in the background of the above photo looking at the Totoro, even though he doesn’t know what it is, like he might be willing to do questionable things to get a turn with it.
One of Tempest’s friends explains to me in great detail about his Angry Birds card. “Because Angry Birds is a popular game, so I knew she’d like it.” I told him we all very much appreciated his effort, though neither Tempest nor Xan know what Angry Birds is…
Sophie #1 and Tempest admire her new DS game.
And everyone’s favourite part… the cupcakes! As always, we hired our favourite
best person ever in the whole world who works with cake stuff baker again. Cupcakes are definitely the way to go when partying with small kids: less mess while eating, no cutlery or plates necessary, easy clean up, easy serving, and best of all no arguing about who gets the most frosting! Plus, leftovers are ten times easier to store and eat than a giant-ass cake that’s half-eaten and either toppling over or taking up an entire shelf in your fridge.
This year Tempest asked for cats, and our baker friend gave us a few examples to choose from. We fell in love with the cute cat faces, and Tempest asked if she could have three real breeds of cats instead of cartoony colours: Somali Shorthair, American Wirehair and Munchkin. Of course these things mean nothing, she just wanted the coat patterns. It took a while to explain that… and even after the cupcakes arrived she insisted that the orange marmalade coloured ones are “Munchkin” cupcakes.
Enough talk… ADORABLE CUPCAKE TIME!
Seriously, how freaking awesome are these?
Kids loved them, and they weren’t overwhelmingly sweet so the sugar high wasn’t that bad! The woman who makes them uses quality ingredients and tries to keep everything as natural and organic as possible, so they always taste a hundred times better than anything you could get in a store! Even the adults fight over them.
Baby Nathaniel. He was due roughly the same time Zephyra was, but born 3 weeks earlier.
Xan puts his best face forward.
My friend Claudia took this one of us as we sat on the ground cuddling with fussy baby.
She also took these photos, which she emailed to me later so I could post them here.
I think Z looks so much like Curtis here.
…And then I took one of Claudia’s daughter Naima, who spent much of her time at the party pouting on the backyard swing because no one would push her.
Guest portraits: Claudia and Naima.
Guest portraits: Danielle and baby Nathaniel.
Danielle’s other boy, Liam #2, and his strategically-placed car.
It’s just not a good party unless someone gets naked.
Guest portraits: Liam #1 and Sophie #2, Shea’s kids. Shea and I know each other from Saltspring, when we were pregnant with our first kids together. Sophie #2 and Tempest are about two weeks apart. Liam #1 and Xan are about 10 days apart. And to make it even creepier, we share the exact same wedding anniversary, almost down to the hour.
Guest portraits: Uncle and cousin Sophie #2.
Love her brown eyes.
Our best friends Freja and Aaliyah play in the yard.
Codi, Tempest and Xan play Bowser’s Inside Story.
Guest portraits: Codi.
Tempest says goodbye to Codi.
And Sophie #2.
Quotes of the Day:
Freja has this hilarious habit of calling Curtis, “Heather” (or “The other Heather”). Earlier ago she asked Curtis if he could fill up a watergun for her, and actually called him by his name! He answered, “Yes, but ONLY because you called me Curtis!” and she looks down at her feet and says very seriously, “Sorry Heather…”
Zephyra smiling and laughing on video, at around five weeks old.
A baby who should be sleepy.
Cosleeping daddy and daughter.
Fatness! She’s up to 13lbs now, meaning she’s nearly doubled her birth weight.
Since the weather has been nicer lately, we’ve had quite a few beach and waterpark days.
Xan crosses the rocks looking for little crabs.
Point-and-shoot camera pictures -
Zephyra taking her last salad bowl bath just prior to outgrowing it completely. She chubbed up fast.
Plus, they let me take their pictures, which is the first time I’ve been able to do so in months.
…Unfortunately with Xan that still means I can’t get a normal, nice photo of him. The above examples are after 15 minutes of cajoling, “Can I have a nice photo? Can you smile nicely? I refuse to show you the image if you don’t smile nicely.” I have so few nice pictures of him these days!
Babywearing in the fleece pouch.
I’m loving her eyelashes lately.
Baby in the tub with Curtis.
And her two month “portraits”, a photographic project holdover from my pregnancy pictures. I plan to keep doing this once a month for her entire first year.
Before I post Zephyra’s six week pictures, I’ll share a few cute quotes we’ve heard from the kids lately.
Tempest, on Zephyra during her fussy growth spurting: “She is a galaxy-sized pot of fuss soup.”
And, to Curtis as he told her to stop slamming her doors when she was angry with Xan.
“I am NEVER listening to you again until you tell Xan to come back here!”
A few days later we were sitting at Cobs Bread (a chain bakery) with the kids getting a snack. I was cleaning up Xan’s face for the 400th time that afternoon, and as I did I said to him, “You’re filthy! Again! How did I get such a dirty boy? You can’t possibly be MY dirty boy!”
And he answered very seriously, “No I’m daddy’s dirty boy”.
At which point Tempest shakes her head and says, “If he’s a filthy boy now, just imagine when he grows into a man”. Indeed.
And a Xan quote:
Xan has been asking for the “pumpkin power” song for days, with no success as I cannot figure out what song that is. Finally he tells me that the song goes, “Ha haa haaaaa! The pumpkin. Power! The pumpkin. Power!” and I realize he means [ "Pump it" ] by the Black Eyed Peas.
Smiles! I’m finally getting some on camera. She giggles now, too. Oh, it kills me!
(She is not red-headed, that’s just bad lighting coming from my desk lamp).
The last of the three posts: our new family portraits care of Shealyn Jackson and Nicole Brown photography, two lovely women who often work together. Nicole and I were pregnant together and had our baby girls five weeks apart! She brought her newborn, Katie, to this shoot with her in the Uplands and she slept peacefully through the entire thing in a little pram behind us.
These were taken when Zephyra was a week old.
Xan and Curtis
Tempest and I
Tempest and Zephyra
Xan being a turkey.
The second of three backlogged professional photography posts. Zephyra’s newborn session, shot by Sarah Booth Photography, when Zeph was five days old.
And next was Zephyra’s newborn session, courtesy of Sarah Booth Photography, done when Z was five days old.
We tried so hard to fix her eye for this photo, to no avail. At least it looks cute.
I wasn’t able to pull any of these images off our CDs until just recently, so they’re (obviously) older. This is the first of three posts with some backlogged photo sessions with professional photographers in the city who are also friends of mine.
The first is my maternity session, taken at 34 weeks pregnant, at Uplands Park. All photos are copyright to Shealyn Jackson Photography.
All of these are © Shealyn Jackson Photography.
Zephyra is one month old now! She’s beginning to look less and less like a scrunchy newborn baby, and more like a member of our family. A lot of people say she looks like Xan, particularly when she smiles, but we’re not so convinced she looks more or less like anyone. She seems to be a big bucket of recessive genes: she has a widow’s peak that we can’t figure out (a widow’s peak is hereditary and very rarely skips generations, though Curtis and I do not have one and we can’t think of anyone who does), she has a single dimple on her right cheek (which my father has), a funny eyebrow that sticks up on the end (which my mother has), dark skin with a faint Mongolian Spot birthmark above her bottom (from East Asian ancestry), a cleft chin and black hair… she’s all the little pieces from our families in one little body.
Our family is adjusting well to a three kid household though we are CRAZY busy all the time now that school is out! Curtis works full time until 6pm every night, so the kids and I try to go out every day and do fun stuff like walk to the beach, or the splash pad (a small waterpark), ride bikes and run errands. Today we took a long, long walk up to the mall for some special treats and to buy some super soakers for the kids to play with. They’ve been wanting them for a while now and were very excited to finally have some. They were outside in the yard spraying the house, bushes, the garden, the car and each other for hours.
Tempest is in love and dotes on her baby sister all the time and always wants to help. She participates in diaper changes, helps to dress her, fold the laundry, hold her… she even managed to put her to sleep a few days ago by stroking her head. Xan loves her too, but doesn’t like it so much that she cries and takes up a lot of time when she’s upset; it often delays our plans for the day by a half hour or more if Zephyra wakes up grumpy. Xan told me yesterday that he wishes she wasn’t a baby because she cries so loud in the car that he can’t hear his music. I reminded him that he did that too, and she’ll outgrow it soon, which seemed to make him happier.
For Father’s Day and everyone helped bake a German chocolate cake for Curtis! We spent the entire day preparing it. We bought fresh organic strawberries and chopped them up to put between the two layers, and four on top (one for each child). Unfortunately we didn’t get any pictures from that, but it was a great surprise! Even though Curtis came home before it was finished, we had a plan and he had no idea until it was all done. Xan had him convinced that we’d made a batch of muffins instead. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen Xan lie, and I’m not sure whether to be happy that it worked and Curtis was still surprised, or a little unnerved by how well he kept the secret!
These are some recent pictures from the last week or so.
Tempest has started reading books to Zephyra if she’s awake in the evenings.
Tempest loves her baby sister.
I’ll leave this post with a funny quote from Xan. The other night he woke up crying, saying that his bottom hurt and thought it had been bonked or cut somehow, so he wanted Curtis to take a look at it. He brought him into the bathroom and inspected him for some injury, but after finding none he said, “There’s nothing there, you’re okay!”
Xan sniffled and asked, “Did you see anything?”
“Nope,” replied Curtis.
Totally deadpan, Xan returned, “That’s not true. You saw a bum. For a long time.”