What it's all about

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sharing a Link...

How Do We Learn if We Don't Make The Effort?

I wanted to share this link to the blog "Ido in Autismland".

He has a valuable first person perspective on Autism, as he himself is nonverbal and Autistic.

Please read more about him, and enjoy his most recent article.

I hope it reminds everyone that just because someone doesn't speak doesn't mean they have nothing to say.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

In the past three days....

In the past three days Finn has:

a) peed on the potty every day.
b) gone under water at swim lessons.
c) jumped off the diving board (twice!)
d) had his first dentist appointment with no tears and no special accommodations.
e) had his best day of preschool yet.
f) fallen madly in love with his summer babysitter.
g) said cheese for this picture "chuss!"

Folks, you're looking at a big boy.




Saturday, May 10, 2014

For Millie.

My cousin Jai asked me to write something to read at my Aunt Millie's celebration ceremony today, since she liked reading my blog so much.  I was so honored, and happy to oblige, as my thoughts always come out better on paper.  I decided to post it on the blog for any family or friends who couldn't make it today.   She was one of the best, and I look forward to the day when I'll see her again.

For Millie:

When my sister Mandy and I were little, my Aunt Millie and Uncle Jon were in their heyday. 

It was the late 80's, the economy was booming, and if you lived near the water and wore a Guy Harvey shirt, my Uncle Jon probably sold you a boat.

We loved Uncle Jon because he always took us shopping and cooked the best fish on the grill.  But Aunt Millie... well she was something special altogether.

You see, she was always fabulous.

She always had her nails done.  She always had her hair done.  She had the best clothes, and the best jewelry, and the best tan.  She had a California King sized bed and a water fountain in her bathroom. (I only found out later that it was called a bidet and wasn't actually for drinking out of at all.)

Mom and Dad would take us down to North Carolina to visit, and Aunt Millie and Uncle Jon would take us out on the boat- speed boat, pontoon boat, fishing yacht, whatever boat you wanted, and Aunt Millie would wear a bikini and the hottest new sunglasses and sit on that boat with a glass of wine in her hand like she was born that way.

I remember so many fabulous things about Millie when I was little... going through her jewelry and smelling her perfume, watching her move through a room like she was liquid, but the memory that stands out the brightest was when she was "Nurse Millie."

They would come visit us in our little ranch house outside of Baltimore whenever there was a boat show in town.   One visit Mandy and I were fresh on our bikes without training wheels and Mandy turned the corner in the driveway and wiped clean out and wound up with a knee full of gravel.   She was boo-hooing, and I remember trailing behind as Millie, in all her fabulosity, scooped her up and carried her to the bathroom and told her Nurse Millie would make it all better.  She propped her up on the sink and set to work cleaning that knee, and we were so mesmerized by her that pretty soon Mandy was laughing instead of crying and I was busy thinking up ways how I could skin my knee so I could have Nurse Millie take care of me so good.  I remember for a long time after that whenever Mandy or I would get hurt, we'd always wish Nurse Millie was there to fix us up.  It's funny, because many years later we'd both end up living with Millie at separate times when we were young women that needed fixing up... because somehow even when we got hurt the grown up way, she could still make us feel all better.

We all had our ups and downs, my sister and I to be sure, but Aunt Millie and Uncle Jon, too.  The economy bottomed out, boats weren't selling as hot, and they had to downsize a time or two.  When I think back on it now, the thing that comes to mind is that Bible verse... "I will cast all my cares upon Him, I will lay all of my burdens down at His feet".  Because we never saw Aunt Millie sweat.  She was never stressed.   She was always gracious, always smiling, and there was always a place for you at her table.  I'm sure she must have felt a lot of stress in some of those times, but the only evidence we could ever see of it was her Bible on the end table.  I know now it was because she brought all of her cares to Jesus and laid them at as His feet, so she could be there at our feet to listen to ours.

The Lord was faithful, and in the middle of some of the hard times Aunt Millie got herself a grandbaby.  I remember going to visit after Jenna was born, and the whole house felt brighter.  Jenna was Aunt Millie's light.  Then Zack came along, and she was just so proud.  Back then I could see those babies light up and shine through Millie, but, you know, now I can see Millie shine through them.

I thought for a while that I might ask everyone to share with me their favorite memories with Aunt Millie to include in this tribute.  But then I thought, I wouldn't be able to write about somebody else's memories and do them justice.  Those have to live in your own hearts the way that memories do.  But I thought, too, that everyone else's memories of Millie are probably, in a lot of ways, the same as my memories.  Because she was always the same Millie to everyone.

You see, she was everything.

She was always there for you 100% no matter what.

She was the best person to laugh with, and the best person to cry with.

She taught me how important it is to set a nice meal at the table.

And how it's even more important to let the dishes sit in the sink for awhile after because, girl, sometimes you just need to put your feet up and have a glass of wine.

The last time I saw Aunt Millie I had it in my mind all the things I was going to tell her, and all the ways I was going to thank her, and how I was going to say she had fought so hard for so long and she had done us all proud and she could go ahead and quit now.  But she came out of her bedroom to see me and my babies, and she still had her head held up high and, wouldn't you know it, she still wouldn't let me see her sweat.  And we sat down and had ourselves a visit just like we've had so many times before.  And she asked me to tell her about all of my stuff and so I did.  And I couldn't bring myself to talk about any of her stuff, because we just never did it that way. It wasn't right, even at the end.  So I told her about the boys, and Uncle Jon said, "You've got your hands full", and I said, "Oh, but so is my heart," and Aunt Millie sighed and said, "That's right, girl."

And she squeezed my hand.

And I felt in that moment that I had got it right, that all those years I'd spent watching her had finally paid off.

I know firsthand now that the most full life is the one that's spent simply loving on the ones you love.  My Aunt Millie taught me that. 

And I think we can all agree, that if loving on your family constitutes a full life, then our Millie had the fullest life of all.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Changes.

I remember my first day of kindergarten. 
I remember my mom took me shopping in the weeks before, and I was allowed to pick out my very own big girl backpack and lunchbox- whichever one I wanted!
It was a purple pound puppies bag.  It had a gray plastic pound puppy head that stuck out of the side of the bag.  In retrospect it was really creepy.  I adored it. 
My lunchbox was pound puppies too, but it was red.  It had a matching thermos.

I remember many first days of school in years following. 
Mostly I still just remember the shopping beforehand.  And what I wore.
And I remember the excitement.  The newness.  My name printed neatly on a fresh desk.  Sunny classrooms.

I vaguely remember my mom on those first days. 
Somewhere in the background, huddled with other moms outside the classroom doors, all laughing and mopping their teary faces with wadded up Kleenex exclaiming, "I told myself I wouldn't do this!" and "I can't believe how big they're getting!". 

I never thought much of it at the time.  I didn't understand it. 
My thought process went something like:
"moms are weird... my shoes are shiny... pound puppies!!!"

Now, almost 24 years later, I find myself playing a different role in the First Day of School story.
On Monday Finn turns three, and on Tuesday he starts his first day of preschool.
It's all happening very fast.

Selfishly, part of it seems a little unfair.  I should have had more time.
Most kids don't start any type of preschool until the fall after they turn three, at the very earliest.
And even then it's normally just two mornings a week.
But Finn's autism sets us on a different path than most, and although it is emotional for me, after much deliberation I am certain it is the very best path for Finn.

Since Finn was a baby- 15 months old- he has been in the Early Intervention program to help him learn and develop. 
He has had speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and special instruction teachers come to our home every week to teach him the very basic of things:
How to drink through a straw, how to play with his toys, how to give a high five, how to kick a ball.
All of these things never came naturally for Finn.  He was always busier studying shadows and the way the sun shines through his fingers. 
Having these teachers in our life and part of our daily routine altered the path that Finn was headed down, and through their dedication he did not only learn the basic skills they were teaching, but the larger skills of socialization, interaction, of trust.
He has gone from crying and running whenever someone walked in the front door, to greeting familiar and even new faces with a smile and a high five. 
He learned how to feel confident. 
How to be proud of himself. 
All because so many people believed in him.

This past summer Finn started at a private therapy school a couple days a week to receive ABA therapy.  We had wonderful teachers there as well.  People who truly loved (and still love) Finn and fought for - and with-  him every step of the way. 

All of these people have not only been a part of Finn's life, but a part of my life as well.  A big part.  They became my friends, my family, my social life.  No matter how different we all were, we were all united in our common goal: to help Finn succeed. 
And our common belief: that he would.

Finn turns three next week, so this has been our last week with Early Intervention.  These services are only available from birth to age 3.  We have said goodbye not only to some of our most beloved teachers and friends, but also to a way of life we have gotten very accustomed to over the past 21 months. 
I keep telling Finn that he's "graduated" and he seems quite pleased with himself.
I, on the other hand, am still floundering.  Wading through the emotions.

Despite my knowledge of Finn turning three and losing his Early Intervention Services, I did not plan on having him leave his ABA school. 
I didn't plan on sending him to preschool through the county- which is what most kids do after Early Intervention. 
I planned on keeping him at private ABA school because we liked it so very much. 
I didn't anticipate a big change.
At the urging of some of our mentors and teachers, we went ahead and proceeded with all the evaluations and transition meetings to get Finn eligible for county preschool, and to visit the classroom that was recommended for him at the very least before we decided against it. 
So I did that, even though the whole time I thought we were going to decline it.

But much to my surprise, when I visited the classroom they found for Finn this week, I loved it so much that I literally burst into tears.  Which was weird for me, because I'm not much of a crier.
The teachers were happy, determined, and confident. 
I was surprised again still when I found that the kids were, too.
The classroom looked tailor made to Finn- brightly colored rugs with his favorite letters and numbers, swings, ipads, games with gears, puzzles... a sensory room across the hall with trampolines, monkey bars, bikes and stairs, and a big playground outside. 
But my favorite thing of all was that I never once felt like I was in a classroom with special needs children.  The teachers didn't treat any of the children like they were disabled.  There were modifications in place to help the kids learn and succeed, but no one was treated like they were Less.
I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it was the perfect place for Finn.

I am so glad that I listened to the advice I was given and followed through to see this classroom. 
I am so glad that Finn is going to be going to school there, because he is going to GO PLACES in that room.  Big places.
But I was so utterly unprepared for a big change, and for the tidal wave of emotions that are coming with it.  My baby turning 3, my baby going to a big preschool classroom four full days a week, saying goodbye to our Early Intervention teachers, saying goodbye to our ABA teachers... it's so much for my little mama heart to take...

And I find myself now understanding what my mom, what all those moms, felt on the first days of school so many years ago. 
The pride.  The wonder.  The fear. 
The magic that is creating something from nothing, of growing him inside of you, of bringing him into life. 
The painful raw feeling of time passing. 
Of watching this person... your person... go. 
Down their own little road. 
Capable.  Incapable. 
Ready.  Not ready. 
Oh, the vulnerability,
the simultaneous agony and joy that is watching your beating heart live outside of your body.

It's especially hard for me because Finn is still by all accounts a toddler.
My first day of school memories with my pound puppies paraphernalia were made when I was twice Finn's age.
So it's been hard for me to let this happen. 
I have had to consciously work to sit my maternal feelings down and pick up my practical and proactive feelings and make my brain work for Finn's best interest. 
Because the truth is, he doesn't have a typical toddler brain.  He has an autistic brain.
And if I am honest with myself, although he loves me and snuggles me and tolerates my constant kisses and hugs, he is bored at home.
And he will thrive at this preschool. 

And I will be my mother. 
Wiping the tears from my smiling face. 
And I am better for it. 

 
 
"And will you succeed?
You will indeed!
98 3/4% guaranteed.
Kid, you'll move mountains."