Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tool Backpack

If you had told me a year ago that our family would attend a three day event, at NRG Stadium in Houston Texas, with just shy of 52,000 people present...I would have laughed, and then hyperventilated, and then sobbed uncontrollably at the prospect.

In fact, back in January when it was announced that our assigned Regional Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses was going to be at this venue in July of this year, my heart did sort of stop, and my throat got a lump in it. But I prayed hard for Jehovah to carry my anxiety and support our family's efforts to be there for this wonderful spiritual event. 

We have always loved these annual educational programs, though they were usually closer to home, but the last couple years had proven challenging between Kit's and Grandpa's special needs and challenges. And even though I knew how well organized, calm and full of brotherly love this one would also be, the sheer size and number of people seemed overwhelming. Imagining Kit bolting into the crowd made my chest tight every time.

Our first answered prayer came just a day after the announcement of convention details in the way of a Loved One who volunteered to stay home with Grandpa (who could not make it through the parking lot, much less the entire weekend) while we were gone. Without her, the rest of us wouldn't have been able to go as a family. Huge huge thank you!!

And so, July 4-6, our family of five were happy to be among so many others, old and young, taking in diligently prepared Bible talks, experiences, videos, Bible-based publications, and other tools designed to help us as individuals and families to continue to "draw close to God." (James 4:8) 

Speaking of tools, there were a few that made that huge event much more tolerable for Kit. Some like long car rides to and from hotel to stadium, miles of walking, stairs, and escalators, and swimming in the pool at the hotel, all were a recipe for calming and filling Kit's seeking needs. And she and I spend a good part of every day in the Nursing Mothers room as well. She still had several meltdowns, mostly on Friday, being over tired, in a new place, and walking past stair case after star case that she couldn't climb up and down to her hearts content. But lunch and finally, a good nap, helped make the afternoon much smoother. And Saturday and Sunday she felt even more comfortable and needed less walking time.

Her other tools fit more nicely in her backpack, and we have continued to use them to make our weekly Bible Meetings even smoother for her as well.

For those of you who may not know, we are Jehovah's Witnesses. And Bible education is at the core of our worship. We never stop being students of God's Word, as it is so integral to our personal relationship with Jehovah God. And as the creator of the family arrangement, He has always, even back in Ancient Israel, stressed the importance of worshiping Him together as a family. And while on Earth, Jesus made it evident how much both he and his Heavely Father care about children and families as well. So at our meetings, we all sit and listen together.

Here is a great video of what happens at our Bible Meetings: What Happens at a Kingdom Hall?

Attending our Sunday Meeting has been very difficult over the last two years due mostly to Kit's severe sleep difficulties, which often translated into Victor and I getting even less sleep than she did. Combined with Grandpa's hit and miss agreeableness, Sunday's were and still are challenging to attend every week. But as all of our sleep has improved substantially over the last several months, this is back to being a more regular part of our Family Routine again.

Since we attend our meetings together as a family, we have found some very helpful tools to help keep Kit busy and happy (and relatively quiet) so that we are not a huge distraction to everyone else.

This is Kit's backpack:

Carrying it is good heavy work for her which helps her regulate. I usually keep a few of her things in my bag though, so that it isn't too heavy for her. But for this post, I put them all together.


Kit has two pairs because she is very specific about which ones she wants when "the sun is biting me!!"

Pencils, and stretchy bands:

These bands are so great for Kit, she always likes to have at least two at a time, and she rolls them up her arms above her elbows and wears them like arm bands. She has total control over where they go on her arms or legs and how long she wants to wear them for. They have proven very valuable in helping calm her when upset.

Extra diapers and wipes, self explanatory.

Main Compartment

Kit's own copies of songbook and Bible, as well as her Book of Bible Stories (in which she has her favorites which she asks for, in order, every time. ;) 

These are all older copies, in case she gets upset and rips or otherwise tries to damage them. She is not allowed to write all over them, but if she has a meltdown with writing utensil in hand, these have already had a few bumps and bruises so they understand.
Here is a link to the cute bookmarks we made! You can check out all of Kit's favorite videos there too!

Notebook and stickers! She loves ones that sparkle or are scented! 

Magnetic dry erase board and magnets. She loves these and will play with them quietly for several extended periods!

Quiet, clean, but crunchy snacks. 

These help in three ways. 1.) Fighting off hunger. 2.) Satisfying her oral sensory needs which feed aggression and anxiety if not met, leading to far more disruptive behavior. 3.) They help her stay quiet and busy. 

And last, but most certainly not least, Thunder the Wonder Kitty! 

She doesn't "play" with Thunder, he is just with her. He has proven to keep her amazingly focused and calm when walking around, especially from the car and into buildings and back. She is even calmer when we get home and have to go into the house, which used to be met with screaming and crying, now she mostly just says "I don't want to go in" on repeat but lets us unbuckle her and now walks in instead of having to be carried while having a meltdown. Such huge progress!! She carries him when we walk around to visit and now she actually talks to people instead of just staring, in part because they usually comment on or ask her about her cat! And as a bonus, people are more apt to reach out and pet Thunder than trying to smooth Kit's irresistible curls. A gesture always extended out of friendship and affection, but makes Kit very uncomfortable at best. She doesn't seem to mind people patting Thunder on the head at all though, and is now engaging in more conversations than I've ever seen in public! Thunder truly has helped work some Wonder with our Kitty Bitty!

Getting ready to ride the escalators at NRG Stadium in Houston with Thunder in her arms. (She loved the escalators! Daddy took her on them multiple times when she needed a break from sitting.)
I hope you enjoyed a tour of our "tools". And I would love to hear about others that you use to help your kiddos too!

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