Nothing says, “What a great mom!” like a child with a broken bone.

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My son just turned four years old and has broken two bones already in his short, little life. Now before you clutch your pearls around your neck, gasp, and call CPS, let me explain. Ok, actually, I don’t have an explanation. Not a good one, at least. The first was when he was 18 months and he pulled a huge, flat screen TV on himself. The second, was earlier in the week. I’m not sure exactly what happened because I wasn’t in the room. He said he plopped down on the bed and his arm was straight, “and it just crumpled and collapsed.” (I already told you about his vocabulary). So off we went to the emergency room as I wallow in my mommy guilt. I listened as the Dr asked my son if he was home alone and I saw the inspection for more bruises. They were just doing their job but this just pounded the guilt even further in. Guilt is kind of my thing. That and anxiety. I am super good at generating so much anxiety that I can make a chihuahua appear calm.  My guilt fuels my anxiety which puts me in this vicious cycle of insecurity. Guilt over not knowing what to do when my oldest is out of control. Guilt over my kids eating pizza AGAIN, while I’m sure ya’ll are over there feeding your kids kale smoothies and salad with non GMO, completely organic, 100% homemade dressing. Guilt over getting frustrated, again, for something I know is beyond my oldest son’s capabilities. Guilt that I try so hard, but can’t find the joy in the mundane.  Guilt that I can’t always savor every moment even though I KNOW one day I will miss this age, this stage in life. Guilt over not being the wife that my husband deserves.

God and I have been talking about this a lot lately, more than usual. Partly because I’m in a bible study which demands actually opening my bible. If I’m honest, I find it hard to just pick it up and read it. I used to get so annoyed when someone was asked what their favorite book was, and with their (no doubt) kale smoothie in hand, would answer, “The bible, of course!” (Eye roll, they need to get out. They probably aren’t readers. I bet they haven’t read since Moby Dick in high school.) But really, I was just jealous I didn’t feel that way. That’s why I adore my organized women’s bible studies. Well actually, it’s three reason. First, I grow closer to God by prayer and reading His word (novel idea). Second, I get to hang out with other women and have adult conversation. No one is going to ask me to make them juice, or fix their shoe, or wipe their bottom (thank you, big J for that). And the chances of me having to referee an argument between two women fighting over who gets a turn with the hulk lego (the one with BOTH arms) are slim to none.  No meltdowns or kicking or screaming. And when I have to go to the bathroom?  I just get up and go…by myself. I will never again take that luxury for granted.

There is something really cool about a group of women getting together to high five Jesus. Our background, financial status, number of Facebook friends, heck number of real friends, parenting style, numbers on a scale, hangups, etc etc…don’t matter. We all come to learn, from the study and from each other. Even if you’ve never owned (or even opened) a bible, or just finished writing your sixth book (with your kale smoothie) about the life of Jesus, it’s irrelevant to the purpose of the meeting. Which brings me to my third reason. Aside from my own growth, I get to see others learn and grow and it’s a refreshing, beautiful process.

But back to my God talks. I am struggling with the fact that my anxiety and guilt are so prevalent and real, but goes against everything that the Bible stands for. Insert my anxiety/guilt cycle for knowing this but not being able to apply it to my life.  I know that my identity should not be rooted in my circumstance, I get it. I know that my son’s cast or my neighbor’s eye rolls or my pizza dinners or my utter exasperation with my life as a mom, don’t define me.  James says to “consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Slow your roll, James. I’m not there yet. I can’t imagine I will be saying, “bring on the chaos and turmoil” anytime soon.  But I know God can take the ugly, wretched, broken, steaming hot pile of mess that is sometimes my life and make it beautiful. He can turn the guilt and anxiety into mercy and grace and hope. But for now, for today, I will start little. I accept the fact that I am who the bible says I am. I will hold my head high in the grocery store as my child with his splint (cast next week) and my oldest are too loud and act like caged animals that finally broke free. I see your stares.  But I’ll try to smile from confidence knowing I don’t have kale in my teeth. That goes for my children, as well.

P.S. I actually love kale, but you get my point;)

 

An open letter to my neighbor.

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Today I had a lady ask me if I practiced attachment parenting. I am not even sure what that is. Then I felt incredibly inadequate because I didn’t even realize people actually parent using a “method”, unless of course survival mode is a method. Then I’m all over it.  I just kind of wing it. I guess I’m the ring leader. Not in the sense that I lead the chaos. More that I try to corral the wild animals. I don’t always do that well. I try. Really, I do. But the truth is, I feel frustrated most of the time. I yell at my kids more than I should.  I don’t always play Minecraft with my biggest even if what I am doing isn’t that important. I let my boys jump on the bed because the occupational therapist said he needed a large trampoline to jump on every day. We just moved from Texas, y’all. It’s hot outside.  I sometimes tell my baby I can’t hold him because I am folding the laundry. I am pretty sure they ate potato chips for dinner one night last week. I am tired. I am exhausted, actually. The kind of exhaustion that sleep can not fix. I am weary. I feel ill-equipped for this whole mothering thing. I wake up every morning thinking this is the day I will not let the frustration get the best of me.  But then homeschool happens and it takes 20 minutes to answer one question because my biggest cant focus. 20 minutes.  Sometimes he says he feels out of control and writhes on the floor laughing, literally moving every part of his body.  Ya’ll those days, we are just not ready for public. Or at least public is not ready for us. So out the door they go. Run and be loud outside because we are all a little stir crazy. This basically means, my neighbor hates us. We share a fence which means they have front row seats to my crazy.  I would love to meet her and share recipes or whatever good moms do. But here’s the thing, they have already seen us at our worst.  Here is an open letter to Hannah (I have no idea what her name is).

Hi Hannah! I’m your new neighbor:) Yes, that neighbor.  As you already know, I have two boys. They are both great kids. My biggest little is funny and creative and spontaneous and brilliant and loves to do. He loves to ‘do’ anything, as long as he’s moving. My littlest little is sweet and loving and has the vocabulary of a college professor. He goes with the flow and is content and easy to please. I tell you this because you haven’t gotten the chance to see that side of them.  I know you’ve heard some strange shenanigans going on and I would love to explain. A couple of weeks ago when you heard me yelling at my son to get out of the pool and it was 50 degrees outside (who knows how cold the water was)? Well, he has sensory issues and doesn’t feel the same things that we do. He has always been the kid that refuses coats, no matter how cold. On that particular cold day, he ran outside in his underwear. I told him to go back in but sometimes he is in his own world and doesn’t seem to hear anything. I saw the wild eyed look and knew what he was thinking. My calm mom voice didn’t work and I was’t close enough to him, hence the yelling.  He jumped right in like it was a warm, 95 degree, sunny day and swam without missing a beat. I thought for sure I would have to actually get in to physically pull him out.  Did I mention he was spontaneous? I guess impulsive would be a better word.  He is a sensory seeker, mixed with impulsivity which means there isn’t a puddle he hasn’t jumped or laid in or wet paint he hasn’t put (at the very least)his hand in. He touches everything, really. He might even throw it. Just today he threw a cherry slush in my car. He loves a switch to flip, or something to be pulled down or pushed over or (his favorite) something that can sustain his weight so he can climb on it.  He drove a locked car through a busy, restaurant parking lot when he was 3. Jesus for real took the wheel that day;)Around that age, he pulled the water hose into our living room and turned it on full blast. But I want you to know my son is not bad, he has autism. He has a problem with cause and effect. He is still learning the consequences of his actions. Aren’t we all. And you’ve become acquainted with my 4 year old and his scream. I was hoping he would leave that blood curdler in Texas but no such luck. You hear it several times a day, I’m sure. One example might be that he is being repeatedly steam rolled by his brother. My big needs pressure on his body. He likes to be squished and begs for us to put couch cushions on him and put all of our weight on them (pretty sure I might have lost you on that one). He begs his bother to roll on him. He loves it and doesn’t understand why his brother does not.   You’ve witnessed (well, heard) my son’s melt downs that are alarming to say the least. You might have even witnessed some of mine.  I know it sounds like WWIII over here and to that, I would have to agree. It kind of looks like it too.  But if somehow you could look past that, we are a super fun family. My boys are adorable and will quickly win you over.  I would love for us to be able to talk, although I wouldn’t be able to offer quiet morning coffee on the porch. But if ever you are up for a rowdy, family game night and a killer lasagna, I’m your girl.

Sincerely,

Your New Neighbor

P.S. Sorry about the grass. Our lawn mower is broken, both of them. I promise we are working on it;)

What Autism is NOT….

Today, I meticulously worked with a needle dipped in paint to try to turn a regular Lego minifigure into Two Face. You know, from Batman. I worked on that dumb thing all day.  I proudly presented my finished work to my son, sure he would be overwhelmed with my genius artwork.  He stared at it blankly for a full 5 seconds then very slowly began to scrunch his cute little nose and then furrowed his brow. “Well it’s not good but I’ll play with it. Thanks, Momma!”  Really, kid? Did he really just say that?  A little part of me died. I wish I could say I was kidding but it felt just like it did in middle school when someone made fun of my shoes.  You see, my son has no filter. It’s kind of his thing.  When our realtor (who is also a dear friend that drove all the way from Indiana to Texas for us) was at our house, my son entered the room and broadcasted in his most polite voice, “You said he was coming over to talk about the house. You never said he would be here for 4 hours. Is he about to leave?” He’s a straight shooter. He tells it like it is without regard to your feelings because in his mind, he is just pointing out facts.  This is something that we will obviously have to work on. The boy does not have a future in customer service…or with the public (bless his heart).

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We are desperately trying to learn more about autism so we can meet him where he is and give grace when we can. But along this road, I have learned that there are a lot of misconceptions about what autism really is.  There are tons of great books out there on the subject. In short, it is a huge steaming pile of frustration with a side of guilt for not having all the answers. Maybe it would be easier if I tell you what autism isn’t….

  • A terminal illness. For the love of sweet baby Jesus in a manger.  I can’t even count how may people have responded to finding out my son had autism with a look of utter anguish, followed by, “oh my goodness, I am so sorry” (looks slowly into distance with head slightly shaking at the injustice).  He’s not dying. He is actually very healthy. His reality is just a little different than yours. Not bad, just different.
  • A bad word. Even his occupational therapist whispers the word like it’s the f bomb. Dudes! We are never going to foster acceptance if we continue treating this like a bad word.  Autism is not bad, just different.
  • In need of a cure. Friends!! I do not want to change my son. I just want what the rest of you want for your children, to be happy.  His brain is inspiring. He can do things with his autistic brain that leaves my neurotypical brain in the dust.  It takes all kinds to run this world.  I’m a nurse. It’s my passion. My son? He said he wants to make video games and be a paleontologist and an astronaut that lives in space. I believe he can. Not bad, just different.
  • Always fair. I get it. Life’s not fair.  Autism and OCD often times go hand in hand. Please hear me when I say this is definitely not the case for all children. The most common phrase I’ve heard since this diagnosis is, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”  But for my little one, he has had to endure more fears and anxieties than any 6 year old should have to endure. The constant need (not desire) to have things a certain way, are overwhelming for me, but gut wrenching for him. Despite his distress, he is brave. He describes his brain in terms of shakiness. He says sometimes it shakes violently out of control and sometimes it just sways. But it always “feels like it’s on a roller coaster and there are lots of sharp turns and I’m always moving.” He says things like, “this world isn’t made for me, momma. Other people understand what’s going on and I don’t. People get mad at things or laugh at things and I don’t know why. Sometimes I say things but you hear something else.” In some ways he is far beyond his years. Not bad, just different.
  • A stereotype. My husband has been in school since I met him 15 years ago. That is only a slight exaggeration. He has also changed his major a minimum of 1,205 times (truth).  Right now he is trying to finish an english degree. Because that helps you as a financial advisor (????). But I digress. In one of his classes, he wrote a poem about his two sons. Everyone in the class had to respond. One lady said, “Oh your son has autism? Those are some of the sweetest kids in the world.” Nope.  That’s not really their method of operation. If in doubt, see first paragraph……

All I want is acceptance. Just.The.Way.He.Is.  Some of you may see the world clearly, others through rose colored glasses. My son’s glasses are more like drunk goggles (google it, it’s a thing). But being that awesome despite his diagnosis is hard to do. And he does so beautifully.

What Now???

I have always wanted to blog…start a blog…be a blogger (is ‘blog’ a noun or a verb)?  All I ever hear is how incredibly cathartic it is.  Catharsis just reminds me of all my college psychology classes, shout out to Mr Freud.  But here I am.  A dear diary for grownups. While I don’t have anything life altering to write about, I do need all the therapeutic catharsis I can get.  I just moved 1400 miles across the country for better opportunities. Leaving behind family, a career that I loved and was passionate about, friends, a church, a support system, and perhaps my identity. I am grateful for the new adventure, really I am. I am grateful for the beautifully quirky farmhouse with the huge yard and the short distance to the beach. For the opportunity to stay at home with my kids and homeschool and run around in our pajamas and play cops and robbers with the perfect jail underneath the cute nook under the stairs.  For the church that we found on the first try, because finding a new church is much like dating. Sometimes half way through the service, you think,”what kind of tom foolery did I just get myself into” and try to figure out an exit strategy.  For a husband that is brilliant and works hard and has been making me proud for 15 years (give or take, marriage is hard ya’ll). For two kids that I so desperately prayed for. I can not imagine two kids that were more wanted than those two curly headed, blue eyed boys. The years I couldn’t sleep for the visceral pain that was caused by the thought that I might not be a mom.  I see all of these things and realize that for ALL of this I prayed. So why is this so hard?  What I did not take into consideration is life.  When I dreamed of my children, my free time was filled with us making precious memories by crafting at the huge kitchen table while my homemade lasagna was baking in the oven. I didn’t know that my son would have autism and any kind of organized crafts would be laughable and a guarantee that someone would have copious amounts of glue in their hair and glitter would be shot up a nostril.  And that lasagna? It is glorious! Seriously, my lasagna is amazing. But I also didn’t know that my son wouldn’t eat most things because of his sensory issues or that dear husband would have ulcerative colitis which is a crap shoot (pun intended) on what his poor tummy can handle, and usually results in him eating a sandwich instead.  I never dreamed that my son would go through a period where he had to see me or his dad at all times. At all times… No bathroom breaks, changing clothes, or even getting something to drink from the kitchen without a major meltdown.  No playing with friends, going to school, sleeping in his own bed. My constant shadow. Without work or friends or date nights or adult conversation,  I have no break. No time to breathe. No time to hear myself think.  Added to depression and anxiety that have reared their ugliness at the most inopportune times (another shout out to my mom’s side of the gene pool). Some days it’s literally hard to breathe. The panic that is waiting in my chest before I even get out of bed is overwhelming at best. So here I am. Trying to figure it all out, with God of course. Documenting the victories so that I can remember and be grateful. Sorting out the noise in my head.  I know that this too shall pass. And when it does, I want to look back at it fondly.  I want to see all that God has done and what He has brought me through.  This is my journey and my prayer is that I journey well.