*** Cross-posted at all the Lotsofkids blogs. ***

It’s New Year’s Eve (at least in this part of the world). 2009 is almost gone and 2010 is standing before us. It was a difficult year for many people. Financial hardships and insecurity made the year a struggle for so many. That said, even though things were hard, the trials led so many back to focusing on what is important, such as family and friends, as well as simple living.

2009 was a difficult time for us over at Lotsofkids, as we had to focus our spare time on projects to help make money to pay the bills, including our server costs. Though things are not particularly better now, we are thankfully at a point where we can re-focus on the site and our blogs like we want to.

A big “thank you” to all of our followers here, as well as our wonderful Bloggers who have kept things going during this down time. We appreciate you all! We are looking forward to 2010 and hopes for better times. We are excited as the prospects and hopeful that in the coming weeks we’ll be getting things back to normal with regular blog posts and new content.

In the meantime (and while there is still a couple days left in the “holiday” season), we leave you with a little visual/musical gift created by me and my husband. We hope you like it…

When I heard that there was a new outbreak of the Swine Flu, I have to admit my response was more of weariness than concern. Now, I’m not downplaying the seriousness of the situation at all. It’s a dangerous flu and people have died–that’s not good at all. However, over the last couple of months my family has been wracked with one illness after another. Stomach bugs, flu bugs, and severe chest colds. There was one brutal week where literally everyone was so sick there was no one available to play nurse to the others. This culminated in me and 2 of my daughters getting pneumonia a few weeks ago. So, when the Swine Flu news hit, it was more of an “oh no, not more sickies” from me than anything else.

I am sharing this because I know this blog has been a bit slow over the last couple of months. It’s been a hard time for my family, as well as some of our other bloggers. Juggling a large crew is difficult enough. Throw in illness and general economic woes and things get even more harried. So, please forgive the quietness around here. It wasn’t intentional, and we don’t mean it to be permanent. I’m hopeful that this current flu will not turn into the horror story that it could and that soon everyone will be enjoying warm summer weather and be healthy…and blogging again.

I want to thank everyone who has been following this blog for your patience and continued support. We are working on getting things together and having more regular posts. We also hope to do a few interactive things with our readers–so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, remember to wash your hands and keep safe until this latest threat has passed.

***This message is cross-posted on the various LOK Blogs.***

Wow, there is a snowman on this page! And Valentine’s hearts on the last post! Man, guess it’s been a while since we’ve had a post. Sorry about that, folks. Tons of stuff going on at the Lehmann house and the Lotsofkids front. I am working on a couple of posts that I hope to have up soon, and will update you on the various happenings.

In the meantime, I’m breaking my unexpected silence to post this find. There’s not much time in the day, but if you’re interested, enter to win:

As a webmaster of a site for large families, when there is some type of news about a big brood, I often get called for an interview. This time, the news is the octuplets. Well, more importantly, the fact that the woman had 8 babies and *gasp* had six others at home.

Anyhow, the paper wanted to do a photoshoot of our family for inclusion in the article. Now, I should tell you, I get very hesitant to do these things. Not because I am camera shy (though I have to admit to being self-conscious about my weight in pictures), but rather because I worry about Raif. He does not do well with strangers. He does even worse with strangers in his house. In fact, that is the main reason I have never pursued any reality shows. I have actually had producers approach me and ask if I would be interested in doing them and I always decline. I could not do that to Raif, not to mention my other kids who are on the spectrum. Granted, they do fine for short periods, but being followed around for weeks would just destroy them.

Anyhow, I did make it clear to the paper that if a photographer came, it would have to be a limited shoot. In the living room area only. Any other parts of the house, particularly the upstairs bedrooms which are Raif’s domain, could not be used. Thankfully they were accomodating, even though the photographer get a bit daring near the end and asked if she could get a “bunkbed shot”.

The thing that amazed me is that Raif did fantastic. First of all, he was really good about keeping his clothes on. Yeah, I know that sounds odd, but if you have an autistic kid you’ll understand.* Second, he was very open and receptive to the woman, whom he had never met. That’s huge. Now, Raif is a total ham. He loves to get his picture taken and will hog the camera mercilessly. However, he was very cooperative with the woman, following directions, and being polite. When the majority of the pictures were taken and the woman was taking candid shots, Raif instinctively knew it was okay to get a little nutty. He started doing goofy poses and pushing his way into other shots. It was interesting to see him assess the situation and know when it was appropriate to relax.

I have to admit, I don’t know if the photographer really believed me when I said that Raif would only do well for so long and that he would freak if she went into another part of the house. I mean, he was being so polite. But, true to form, after about 45 minutes of her being there, Raif walked up to the photographer, shook her hand, said “bye” and gestured for the door. The autistic equivalent of “okay, now get out.”

Either way, I was proud of my boy. This year Raif has made such major advancements. It just floors me. I am still realistic that he will probably never be even remotely what would be considered normal, and probably never live on his own. But to see him becoming so much more personable, and understanding social concepts warms my heart.

To read more about the feature and the shoot, and for a link to the NYT article, check out my post on the Mega-Moms blog HERE.

* I wanted to note that at the end of the session, it was Paige that ended up trying to strip. And she’s normally really good with strangers. So, my apprehensions about these things are justified.

A few days ago, we were making dinner. What we were having on the menu was not something that Raif will eat. Now, I know there are some parents of SN kids who insist their kids eat what they eat. Problem is, Raif won’t. His texture issues and aversions will simply have him gagging and throwing-up.

Normally I try to cook meals with at least one dish he will eat. Meaning, I will cook chicken and mashed potatoes, knowing he’ll eat the mashed pots. However, for the days he doesn’t like anything, I have a short list of alternates that I can easily make that he likes, such as hot dogs. On this day I asked him if he’d like soup and crackers. Raif went to the pantry, pulled out a can of tomato soup and said, “Soup. Tomato Soup.”

Then came the amazing part. “Soup…and… Soup…and…cheese.” At this point he stopped and thought really hard, working to articulate. “Soup and…cheese sandwich.”

This was a breakthrough! Raif meant grilled cheese but it didn’t matter. My son had articulated a want, but more importantly had used the word “AND”. For anyone familiar with the whole development thing, there is a huge thing getting to a point where you can express 2 distinct thoughts. “This and that” or “This then that” are huge milestones. Before that day, Raif would speak his wants, but usually one at a time. If there was more than one thought, it was usually disconnected with some space of time. Granted, this might not have been how it was panning out in his head, but it was how his limited speech worked.

One of the things having a special needs child has taught me is to never take anything for granted. Those things, albeit small, are so important.

In a time where there are so many ups and downs, in life and also in Raif’s life and development, those glimmers truly keep me going.

The past year has been quite a roller-coaster at our house. Like many people, we have struggled through a poor economy, unemployment, and the changing needs of our family which are always made a bit more challenging as we deal with our severely autistic son, and our daughter who is showing more prominently that she has pronounce Aspergers. However, despite all the ups and downs, we go into the new year happy and hopeful. We are also committed to posting more here and sharing more of our life with a large family and special needs kids. We hope you will continue to join us here on our journey, as well as getting to know better our newer bloggers.

From our family to yours, we hope that you have a wonderful and prosperous 2009!

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