3 Junior Groomsmen: Part 5

Morning.  Originally my parents wanted to leave early and skip the farewell breakfast, but that didn’t feel right.   We decided to stay.  My dad and Sakai, my younger brother, helped transfer our suitcases to the car.

I put the boys in their “Autism Awareness” t-shirts, and caught the elevator downstairs.   It was a breakfast buffet at the hotel restaurant next to the lobby.  With my right hand over Savion and Taj’s joined hands and my left hand grasping Anwar’s, we walked in. Specifically, Savion skipped, Anwar tried to run, and Taj decided to squat.  I stopped, arms stretched and lifted my right hand to get Taj up, keeping a steady grip on Savion, while my left hand caught Anwar’s forearm and pulled him back.   Then, we walked in.

Family and friends gathered at a long table to say their good-byes.  Yannic and Ashly hadn’t arrived yet, nor had my parents or the boys’ Uncle Sakai.   Anwar went to a family member of Ashly’s and sat in her lap.

“Say hug please, Anwar”  I reminded him.

“ug pleez!”

I was relieved when my parents and Sakai arrived.  I needed another pair of eyes.  After preventing Taj from sinking under the table, Savion hopping out of the restaurant, and Anwar sitting inappropriately in stranger’s laps I was a little frayed.

The newlyweds appeared and the boys ate.   Savion yelled, “Bye!  See ya later!” to Ashly and Yannic, and we headed back to Junction City after an unforgettable weekend.13406948_1094246140614500_8574651360851812955_n

 

The boys are with their Uncles Yannic and Sakai in this picture, shortly before the wedding ceremony.

 

3 Junior Groomsmen: Part 4

At our reception table were three large blue gift bags.  One for each child.   The mother of the bride, Tess, had helped plan this.   I think Tess could write a book entitled:

“Autism, Kids and Weddings: A How To Guide”

The bags had wonderful fidgets and toys to keep the boys inside the room, happy and engaged.  Let’s face it,wedding receptions are  a lot to ask little bodies to handle, by the time you’re finished with the toasts, cake-cutting, etc… Inside the bags were:

  • Coloring books and crayons
  • slinky toys
  • day glow glasses, bracelets and necklaces
  • cars
  • legos
  • playing cards, old maid and go fish children’s sets
  • sticker books
  • and much more…

With the help of Anthony, Sasha and the goody bags; my parents and I were able to go out on the dance floor throughout the evening.  Which was awesome, because my family loves to dance.  We alternated who stayed at the table, who took the boys to the bathroom, and who followed the boys if they started to roam, they wanted to touch everything.

The boys were shy about going on the dance floor.  They’d gone to school dances before, with lights and smoke machines, still they were overwhelmed.  Only briefly though.

Because suddenly, Anwar ran to the dance floor, shaking his arms and legs, giggling uncontrollably.  Savion skipped up and spun in circles, jumping between turns.  Taj said,“Slide, clap! Slide Clap!” He’d follow his directions, walk, squat down, get back up and yell, “Slide, Clap!”  Savion danced with the ring bearer and flower girl.   Anwar got the general idea of line dancing.   And Taj chased the reflecting lights on the floor.

They had untucked their shirts, but it wasn’t a big deal.  This was a party!

As the thumping music lowered, Taj walked up to Sasha and said,”Sasha’s lap.”  He then fell asleep.  Anwar and Savion were also slowing down.   I nodded at Sasha and Anthony to help ready the boys to leave.   Just as we were about to exit though, pizza was served.  Well you know what happened then.  Anwar and Savion wanted a slice.  After that we gathered everyone to the elevators.  My parents stayed and that room was still rocking with energy when we left.

By the time we got upstairs, it was past 10 pm.   Sasha and Anthony helped dress the boys in pj’s, and they helped me put up the day clothes, hanging the shirts and pants, lining up the shoes neatly.   It was time for Anthony and Sasha to drive back to Junction City.

After bidding them good-bye.  I stayed up for a bit.  I was excited about the fun stories I would share with Victor when we got back home.  One more event remained of this wedding weekend before we left.

The farewell breakfast.

3 Junior Groomsmen: Part 3

Wedding day.  Our two providers arrived at 9am; ready for a day with the boys.  I was having make-up done with the bridal party, Victor was working and my parents had an errands checklist.  I put each child in an autism awareness t-shirt.   The providers had researched places to go in Wichita, and knew the boys’ favorite place to go was Sonic with the adjoining playground.

None of the Sonics in Wichita had an adjoining playground. Where to go now?  Sasha and Anthony(our providers) found a Burger King and play place.   Taj ate a cheeseburger, though he never eats those at home.   The next destination was a kid’s art place, but it was an off day.  Anthony and Sasha discovered a walkway that described the different types of fish in Kansas waterways, which the boys liked.  Soon it was time to meet me back in the hotel.

I was worried about the bow ties.  We had practiced the wedding walk in our shoes and shirts, but the bow ties and socks were new.

 They kept them on. Yay!

However, right before Taj walked out, he untucked his shirt.   One of the groom’s party quickly stuffed Taj’s shirt in the pants.

At the end of the wedding procession, Sasha and Anthony met the boys where the seating was at and walked them to their seats.  The ceremony was short and all the guests got a pair of lime green sunglasses on their seats that said  “Ashly and Yannic.”  Anwar still wears those sunglasses when we go out.

Pictures with the children were taken first.  Which was interesting.

In every picture with the groom’s party and family, someone is reaching for Savion to prevent him from running.   Or he’s limp and someone’s holding him up.  Anwar looked everywhere but at the camera in several photos(the flash might have bothered his eyes), and Taj was also trying to get away in certain pics.  We made the photo session as quick as possible.  After, there was a huge garden with pathways for the boys to release some energy.

One area had butterfly chairs and insect play equipment.   Large chimes, surrounded by flowers, could be played on.  There was a large grate that coins could be dropped in to make music, Anwar loved this.  A wet grotto could have been explored, but we decided not to press our luck with the lure of water.  A model train set and city fascinated Taj.

“I wasn’t sure about Savion’s shoes but he kept them on,” my mom said.  She spoke to soon. 

Walking back to van we discovered that Savion had one shoe on and one shoe off.

How long has he been walking like that, was he uncomfortable?  But Savion was laughing.  Anwar, frustrated with our slow progress, was trying to lead us to the car.  Taj was taking small and slow steps.  Anthony went with Savion to retrace his steps and found the shoe. Now it was time for the next part of the evening.

The reception.

 

 

3 Junior Groomsmen: Part 2

The hotel, for the boys, was a vacation in itself.  Two large fluffy beds, a goodies tray between, and tall windows they could stand in.   The sliding doors of the walk-in bathroom were delightful, too.  I gave the condiment tray to my mother, $3.00 for each snack would rack up a bill.  I gave the boys books and went to the bathroom.   If only I hadn’t forgot that hotels usually have cabinets stocked with beverages…

In a cabinet under the tv was a cache of drinks.   I heard the familiar  ‘pop’ of a soda can as I washed my face and rushed out.  Two cans of soda were on the cabinet, a shelf was open underneath, and beside that shelf an open door.  In the shelf someone had poured out soda, it was still fizzing.  I got a towel and soaked up the excess.  Behind the cabinet door was a fridge, where someone had unscrewed bottles.  The drinks were full, but we’d have to pay for them.

I knew better than to ask Savion,  gleefully bouncing on the bed, or Anwar, giggling underneath two comforters, nor would Taj answer my questions, so absorbed in drawing he was.

I clapped my hands, saying, “Time to clean up!” and called housekeeping.  My dad stopped by.   Mounds of sugar were beneath the coffee pot and table, two little wastebaskets overflowed with soda cans and bottles, comforters and sheets were strewn across the floor.

“It looks like a rock band’s been sleeping here,” he remarked wryly.

And we’ve only just begun, I thought.  I focused on our next task, the “wedding walk.”

The wedding coordinator suggested that the boys practice being” junior groomsmen” before the rehearsal dinner that night.   The rehearsal was not being held at the venue(Botanica Gardens in Wichita, KS), but at the hotel and dinner would follow.   The boys,  mom, dad and me( Victor had to work) met my brother and a bridal party member at the Gardens.  Each child would walk with one bridal party member.  Savion counted steps from the garden entrance to the circular grassy field where the ceremony would be held. Forty-seven.   Anwar walked cautiously with hands over his eyes.   And Taj.  He fell on the floor, arced his back, and buckled his knees when we tried to stand him up.

Sensory overload, stubborn,fatigued?  Savion chose this precise moment to try and jump in the fountain behind the ceremony area. We caught him just in time.   Taj was still protesting as we left.   Anwar,distressed at Taj’s behavior, was stomping his feet.  Savion, sad about not going to the garden bookstore, perked up when I said we’d see Aunt Ashly(my future sister-in-law) soon.

Two instrumentalists were at the rehearsal.   The room filled with family and wedding party members.   Everyone lined up outside to practice walking in with music, and I was tense.

Will Taj refuse to move?  Will Anwar start flailing his arms?  Will Savion dance away?  Am I being unfair to their needs by asking them to participate?  I didn’t need to worry.   Taj blew a raspberry at the maid of honor when she said, “Hi, ” but other than that it was smooth. Time to test our skills of sitting and eating.  Dinner.

They sat with some fidgeting, but did well, and were given backpacks at the meal.   Navy blue cloth bags with their names in green and gray drawstrings.   Each bag had a water bottle with a food container on top, plus another gift.   Taj’s gift was a car, which he rolled over Uncle Yannic’s head like a racetrack.   Savion got a kid’s introduction to French book, and Anwar received a yo-yo.  The night was not devoid of of antics though.

The doors were closed after Savion ran out the room.    Taj darted over and grinned as he turned off the lights.  I captured Taj, and Savion started laps around the table.   Anwar got upset at their behavior and tried to bite his hand, which I soothed with deep pressure around his body(a hug).   But everyone was understanding.

The attendees allowed the boys, the flower girl, and ring bearer to be children.   If they wanted to sit on the carpeted floor and play with their toys, after dinner, it was ok.

Victor came when dessert was served. The boys were winding down, but got excited again when they saw Daddy.   It was bedtime.   Victor went downstairs to the bar to “Toast the Couple.”  I went upstairs to the room with the boys and they immediately fell asleep.

What adventures will we have tomorrow?  I fell asleep.

3 Junior Groomsmen: Part 1

My 3 sons attended and participated in a wedding!  Not only that, but our family enjoyed the full wedding weekend in Wichita, KS.  Hotel room, rehearsal dinner, ceremony, wedding reception and all.  We started prepping the boys a month in advance before my brother’s wedding on 5/21/2016.   I made a mental checklist of what we would work on:

1. Sitting at the table.  We practiced waiting until everyone had finished eating to leave the table.  We practiced sitting nicely and not pretending to fall out of our chairs(Taj), or take bites of food while spinning in circles(Savion),  or pressing the lettuce leaves up against our faces(Anwar).  The wall next to our dining table has a picture with eating icons and text.  “Use fork, ” “pass the pitcher” and “more”  are a few,  they help foster speech and manners.  I  used the icons often as we prepared for the wedding.

2. The “wedding walk.” We emphasized that in a wedding we would walk slowly.  We walked from room to room, usually before dinner, at a  measured pace.  Taj thought it was funny and took tiny snail steps at first.   Savion would take a step, run in place and flap his arms, take a step, and say “oh boy, oh boy oh boy!” Anwar looked at me perplexed, as if to say, “Why in the world are we walking from room to room holding hands? We hold hands outside, on the sidewalk.”  It was a good thing that we started practicing early.

3. Our providers looked for footage of a simple wedding ceremony online.   One was found to their liking, but the entire bridal party was crying.  Scratch that idea.  We didn’t want the boys to associate weddings solely with tears.   They did find a nice social story with pictures of a bride and groom during a ceremony, also other members of the ceremonial party.

4. I looked for social stories on the specific topics of “keeping our hands out of our pants,” and “fingers out of our nose.”   There were printables online and I downloaded a kindle book.  But in the end, I took one of their composition books and drew simple stick figures with text the boys could understand.

5.  I looked for fidgets(manipulatives that can be used when children are sitting or waiting to keep them busy).  Playdoh, pipe cleaners, books, etc..The providers took notice of things that calmed the boys when anxious or overwhelmed.

However it was not just the preparation that allowed the family to stay and enjoy the weekend.   It was also the people who came to assist us and the way the ceremony and reception were organized.  To be continued…