We didn’t see much of the Hammonton Fourth of July parade this year because once again the kids were in the bike parade portion (all except Francis, who had a bad meltdown in the morning and stayed home with mom).
The bike parade was again sponsored by Toy Market, the independent toy store in town (supplier of much of our household’s Santa delivery). They had a table full of red, white, and blue bunting that we could apply to the bikes. We all had a lot of fun.
Notes for next year: a tandem extension on a adult bike looked like fun and then 7-yo Gregory will be a good age for this (we should dig ours out from the back of the garage). Also: the parade has a dog contingent so maybe a much-calmer Francis will be able to be part of that next year (we’re due to pick up the service dog in 12 days!, eeek!!!)
We love our Francis. Now 11, he can go from sweet and huggy to upset in a matter of moments. Autistic, sensory issues around sound can easily trigger an meltdown. With three siblings, sound is all pervasive in our house. We've read books, tried therapy, had him on anti-anxiety medications... While everything's helped, nothing has helped enough.
It feels like a crucial time for him. He's getting too big for angry outbursts. He needs to learn how to deal with his emotions and calm himself down. A teenager or young adult melting down in public won't get the sympathetic glances—or even tsk-tsk judgements—that passersby display for toddlers. These next few years will largely determine whether he will be able to become a semi-independent adult.
What Francis does love is dogs. Anytime we run into a dog he befriends him within a matter of moments. He shows a patience and calmness with them that is transformative. He's started going on weekly dates with our uncle to walk around the marshes. And so it's time to find Francis a therapy dog. The hope is that a trained dog would help him in times of stress. Those skills should then (fingers crossed) transfer over to dog-less times.
We've put together a fundraising page to help defray the considerable costs. Details at the link.
This weekend we took off for a family trip to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania – Julie and me, the kids and my mother Liz. I won’t have time to do a long blog post, but highlights were the Verdant View farm B&B (link) where we stayed; the Strasburg Railroad (link) whose line runs through the farm’s backyard, the Choo Barn model railway (link); and the amazing Cherry Crest Farm (link) with its corn maze and its simple games for kids of all ages (who knew you could have so much fun with a hill and a piece of burlap?!).
Large photo: Family at Strasburg RR: Martin, Liz, Theo, Julie, Francis. Below: Julie and the kids walking through fields at farm, Francis playing kung-fu with the farm dog, Theo running in terror from said dog, Engine 90 ready to pull out.