The “D” Word and Winnie the Pooh

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The “D” Word is a word all to familiar to special needs families. It’s not surprising that many marriages simply cannot withstand the constant strain, pressure, confusion and exhaustion of the life we lead. We are constantly slaying dragons that mere mortals never have to face. We have medical charts memorized, we can recite every star wars movie line in order by heart and often multi task to the point of insanity. So my hiatus from the blog and announcement of my impending divorce should come as no surprise. Although many of the “normal” community think of me as a super hero for taking on all I do, I don’t feel that way. I feel like many of you have who have crossed this bridge. I feel like a failure. Technically I am. I have failed twice at marriage.  Not that I wanted to, but I have. Autism Boy  was the amazing blessing given to me with my first marriage. My ex and I have a civil relationship and work to do all we can to support Autism Boy but time, space and the differences in opinions can make that challenging. And now I am in the middle of getting another divorce. These are words I didn’t think I would ever utter. I have failed twice. Clearly I am not good at this marriage thing. I have been doing a lot of soul searching during the hiatus away from my blog. I have come to identify a few things about me.

1) God is first in my life and as much as I say it, my actions need to live up to my words. I need to be putting him first and showing it in my actions.

2) I am a fighter! I hate the idea of failing but I am not going to let this destroy me. It took two to fail. I hate that it ended but it did.

3) I will rise from the ashes of this divorce, dust myself off and show just how awesome this dynamic duo of myself and Autism Boy can be.

If you are going through the divorce journey also, my heart goes out to you. It takes time, is painful, and well, can destroy you but it doesn’t have to. We will get through this. I have chosen this quote to lead me through today: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think,” said Christopher Robin to Winnie-the-Pooh

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The rocky road of school

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Rocky Road – When I hear those words I think of dark chocolate, creamy marshmallows, crunchy walnuts, and hot fudge drizzled over the scoops of decadence heaped in my bowl, as I slide onto the couch for a cozy Saturday night. That is the way I like to think of Rocky Road, but I also have another image that comes to mind. It is an image of pain, tears, heartache, mistakes, grace, love and acceptance. It is what we go through at the start of every home school year.

Autism Boy loves home schooling and 99 % of the time so do I, that is until we start a another year. At the start of every year is the pain of the curriculum change, teacher change, new ways that we have to do everything and it is a living nightmare. The last two weeks for us have been filled with tears, long talks, revamping the system and tons of prayers to God for peace.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise each year as we walk this road, but it does. Somehow the bliss of the 99 % of awesome makes me forget the horror of the first few weeks. So as we are smoothing out our road of homeschooling this week, I think I will settle into my chair with a giant bowl of rocky road ice cream.

Big boys do cry

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Autism boy started swim lessons this year. He is a polliwog who loves water. He has learned all the basic strokes. It has been a huge accomplishment for him. Well today he struggled. Today he tried diving. As he stood at the edge of the pool, he slipped. His legs smacked against the dock as he fell in. My heart leaped out of my chest. His instructor was in the water and caught him, but the damage was done. Biting his lip, he asked to go see Mommy. He walked slowly through the shallow end and climbed the stairs to my waiting arms and then lost it. He eyes told me everything. I’m hurt. I’m scared. I need you. And then he cried. And the tears kept coming. As he sobbed he said he didn’t wanna cry in from of his instructor cause big boys don’t cry. But they do cry and it’s ok. So tonight we cuddled and more tears flowed as the bruises and wounds swelled. But the safety of a Mommy’s arms helped to heal his heart.

I don’t ever want Autism boy to think he can’t cry. Things are going to hurt in life and there will be times where you cry. He will suffer loss, experience pain, grief, and tears are a healthy expression of what we experience. Tears are not a daily occurrence and they shouldn’t be. Tears help to cleanse our heart, soul and mind of what we can’t express into words. So the next time a child, young man, or adult cries, don’t stop them. You could be stopping their healing. Instead, embrace them and show them love, compassion, and sympathy. Hugs to all who hurt.

Hunting and Autism

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Many kids hate loud noises. Autism Boy is no exception. But his dislike of loud sounds is different. Sounds that are soft to you and I are deafening, painful and out right crushing to his ability to function.

As a little kid, I can remember an ambulance passing on the street and Autism Boy stuck his arms straight up in the air. Not to wave hello and show excitement, but to press his arms tightly against his ears and block the sound. More and more I saw him uncomfortable in everyday situations. This just wasn’t ok with me. I was determined to find a solution. But what was I to do.

Exhausted Daddy and I tossed Autism Boy into the car and made a trip to our local hunting store. No, it wasn’t time to buy him a rifle. Exhausted Daddy and I decided to try out noise canceling headphones. Having been an avid hunter, Exhausted Daddy explained how the headphones would soften sounds and help to protect Autism Boy’s delicate ears. Do they work. YES!!!! At the age of 6, Autism Boy got his first pair and it changed his life. Our world opened up again. Things that were impossible due to sound, were now something we could try. Are they perfect, no. But they are better than nothing.

Autism Boy is processing sound much better now that he has aged. Things change with time and now we use the headphones only occasionally. Autism Boy carries them in his backpack with his other superhero supplies and he decides when he needs them. If the crowd is too big, sounds are too many, or he simply needs a break he can put them on and regroup.

I know for many in the beginning stages of autism your saying wow, my kid is no where near that. Well neither were we at 3, 4 or 5. This has been an ongoing process. It’s a journey and we are still on it. Hang in there. You can do this. Praying for each of you on your journey.

The Giant White Lie

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Hello, my name is Heavily Caffeinated Mommy and I lie. Yes, I lie regularly to my kid. I can already see the comments, how dare you, you are creating distrust, you are harming your child.Before you also go down this road paved to hell, let me explain.

For most kids getting a little excited as a date approaches is a normal part of the growing process. The anticipation is something they enjoy. For Autism Boy it is HELL. I don’t say this lightly. I learned really early on that knowing something was coming and when the blessed event was going to happen became his own personal hell. He wouldn’t sleep. He made himself sick. He was miserable. He couldn’t stop thinking about the event. It didn’t matter if it was a birthday party or Christmas. The angst and anticipation overwhelmed him and us to the point that life shut down.

Our first true experience with this was the advent calendar. You know, these cute little calendars designed to help us count down to Christmas. I hate them. That year he barely slept for a week, so I barely slept for a week. Attitudes were short, and caffeine was not doing the trick. Well that year his birthday was the same thing. Silly Mommy told him when it was and he lost it. Although he tried, he didn’t sleep, got sick, and was miserable.

So fine, I needed a solution. I lied. Yup, I did. I sat down with Autism Boy after one of our really horrible holidays and asked what he loved most about it. He talked about the people, the food, the fun. I asked if not sleeping made it fun and he cried. He honestly hated that he couldn’t sleep. So I asked his permission to lie. I told him I would never let a holiday pass and not celebrate it but that I just would not tell him when it was. He cheered and guess what, it worked. Yes, Autism Boy does not really know what the exact date is but he doesn’t exactly need to. He isn’t out there writing checks or paying bills. He knows whether it is a Monday or Wednesday  and the month but not the exact date. And yes, I have fibbed as special dates have grown closer all for him and right now it works.

Yes, this is a skill we need to work through, just not yet. When the time is right we will start with something small, but for now I am a liar, liar, pants on fire Mommy.

Preparing for the Worst

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It’s something you never want to think about. Accidents. They happen. In fact, they happen so often we almost never prepare. With Autism Boy, we are constantly preparing. I telling you this, so you can prepare.

It has taken me nearly a year to be in a place where I could write this post. It was a brisk fall afternoon, I was sitting at my desk, in my cozy office and Autism Boy and Exhausted Daddy were on there way to my work to drop Autism Boy off for a bring your kid to work day event. At least that’s what I was calling it. Exhausted Daddy had an appointment and honestly just needed a little free time and I loved the idea of having Autism Boy at work. We were gonna do school work, have lunch, and maybe take a stroll through the gardens and watch the falling leaves. I was just preparing to head down to meet them outside when my cell rang. Exhausted Daddy  had a tone of desperation. “We’re not going to meet you. We were in an accident. The car is totaled.” My heart sank. My entire world was in that car. I had no details, just an overwhelming fear. Exhausted Daddy remained calm and relayed their coordinates and I flew out of my office.  I past both the traffic officer and medics on the way to the scene. I don’t want to say that I was speeding the mile to the scene but I flew faster than a jet plane. Mama had to get to her boys and nothing was gonna stop me.

I remember coming up to the scene and praying. I didn’t know the condition of anyone, whose fault, or what I would need to do. Shock was taking over. Exhausted Daddy was fine and walking outside the car. The vehicle that had rear ended them at full speed, was completely under the SUV. I hugged my husband and ran to Autism Boy. He was still strapped in the car, which was the safest place for him. Tears were rolling down his face. Although he had initially said he was fine, he was now complaining of pain. The ambulance was on it’s way.

Why am I telling you this deeply personal story. Weeks before the accident, Autism Boy and I started practicing what to do in different scenarios, including an accident. We talked about the need to stay in the car. An adult has to get him out. If Mommy or Daddy is not awake to stay in the car and help will come. We talked about what Mommy or Daddy would do after the accident. We talked about his emergency bracelet and how it reminds him and others who he is and how to get in touch with Mommy and Daddy. We looked at accident photos and talked about all the loud noises and strange motions that occur in an accident. We talked about all the helpers and what the helpers do.

Now was our moment to meet the helpers. Autism Boy and I rode in an ambulance that day as Exhausted Daddy stayed with the car. It was another thing we had talked about. We had recently toured a fire station and seen the firemen and ambulance drivers. They had made him familiar with all things in the rig and it helped. Autism Boy was fine that day, but only cause we prepared.

Accidents are something you normally don’t prepare for, but why not. In our home we prepare for all sorts of things, accidents, fire, tornadoes, and earthquakes. Having a few talks and showing a few pictures could change the outcome during any incident.

I have no doubt in my mind that Autism Boy didn’t run because of all the talking and practice we had done in the weeks prior to the accident. I know his staying in the car ensured that he didn’t incur additional injuries. I know that had my husband been injured Autism Boy knew where his bracelet was and who to show it to, to get Mommy called for help. I am thankful my family is safe and I hope you will talk to your family and stay safe also.

Autism and the Big Bang Theory

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The Big Bang Theory (tv show, not scientific theory) is very popular with Exhausted Hubby and I. We have spent many nights cuddled up on the couch laughing as these geeks(I say only cause I am one) engage in life.

And it was all fun and games until The Big Bang Theory came to our house. Sheldon sleeps in our house. This year Autism Boy started to resemble Sheldon. Although loveable, he has a clear lack of understand of why society expects certain things.  I can’t say I blame him. I wish I didn’t have to conform sometimes but I have had to start describing things as socially necessary, so he could understand why we were going to do certain things. You don’t need to understand why, just do it because it’s socially required.

Now if he starts to claim a spot on the couch as his, I will really lose it.

Shaving

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It happened a few nights ago. At least that’s what I want to believe. All of a sudden my little guy had facial hair. A full mustache. Well the peach fuzz kind. Having started my life with my son alone, as a single Mom, this was one of the many things I feared. I have always feared those moments when a Dad would pull his little guy to side and guide him gently into manhood. I have feared the talks, the questions, and the sheer fact that there is so much I don’t know that I should be teaching him.

My first experience with this was with the cup. Not the sippy cup, the manly cup. The one that I had to go into the store to buy so he could play sports. The one that I had no idea what to do  with. But God blessed me with a trusting young man who without fear followed my lead and the directions I found on google.

Well, we are again about to cross another bridge. Autism Boy has facial hair. I am terrified. I have to teach this boy to shave. Exhausted Daddy has been trying to talk to him, but sometimes he just understands Mommy better. So together we are venturing into this uncharted territory. I have to ensure that he does this right. I have to ensure that it doesn’t end up like a scene from a horror movie.  So tonight, with my pint of Ben and Jerry’s I will sit down and explore the world of men’s grooming with google and my husband. My husband has tried to explain all these delicate matters to me, but the lotions, smells, and various torture devices scare me. I am so thankful that Exhausted Daddy is here by my side. But for all the guys out there who know a single Mom with a son……….have pity on her. She’s trying her hardest. She wants to raise a man. She wants to provide for him and doesn’t know it all. Be kind and pull her under your wing. She is probably too proud to ask or fears rejection when someone doesn’t have the time or energy to teach her what she needs to know to raise a young man. Please offer help. I’m sure they would both appreciate it.

The Mighty Two-Wheeler

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It is a right of passage. It usually happens when you are about 6 or 7. Whether it is a birthday or Christmas gift,you get a bike. Mom or Dad takes you outside, holds on to the back and within a short time, you have a newfound freedom. Autism Boy is like all neuro-typical kids. At 6, Santa brought him a bike and it sat. He simply wasn’t ready.

Well, Santa paid another visit 1 1/2 years ago and brought him a new bike. This bright, shiny red object has been the bane of my existence. It has caused more heartache than anyone ever intended. On Christmas day, we faced cold temps and tried. In fact, we tried all the time. Well, I finally quit. My arms are just not strong enough to hold Autism Boy in all of his 5’6″ frame and the bike. So I walked away a few weekends ago and decided to mow the lawn and just let Autism Boy do his thing with the bike. Well, lo and behold the boy did it. He rode the bike. My excitement could not be contained.

That week, I had been bombarded with social media posts and videos of my young nephew riding his two-wheeler at a very young age. And of course everyone was proud and as parents do, we compare. I felt awful. I know Autism Boy is awesome and so is his cousin.  His cousin was rocking it on the bike. I’m really proud of him, but I felt the ugly rear of a jealous spirit. I wanted the same for Autism Boy. But Autism Boy taught me to never stop believing. He never gave up. In fact, when he saw his younger cousin riding, it inspired him to overcome his fear and he accomplished riding a bike. Both of these accomplishments are great but not everyone saw it that way. I got a lot of backlash that he didn’t have the skill before now.

Everyone develops at his or her own pace. It can be hard to see our kids lagging behind but we need to praise them just the same when they do get it, no matter how old they are.

Thomas Edison, Autism Boy, and the Autism Question?

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It happened last night on the drive home from dinner. Autism Boy asked the dreaded question. So what is Autism?

I had all these thoughtfully prepared answers. As we drove along, I realized all those answers weren’t cutting it. He didn’t get it. Till I told him this great story about his idol, Thomas Edison.  You see Thomas Edison was very much like you, I started to say. Well one day his mother received a note from the school teacher.His mother’s eyes were tearful as she read the letter out loud to her child: Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have enough good teachers for training him. Please teach him yourself. And that’s just what she did. She home schooled him.

After many, many years, after Edison’s mother died and he was now one of the greatest inventors of the century, one day he was looking through old family things. Suddenly he saw a folded paper in the corner of a drawer in a desk. He took it and opened it up. On the paper was written: Your son is addled [mentally ill]. We won’t let him come to school any more.

Edison cried for hours and then he wrote in his diary: “Thomas Alva Edison was an addled child that, by a hero mother, became the genius of the century.”

You see, Thomas Edison, was home schooled by his mother after performing poorly in the school. His mother refused to believe the teacher’s assessment that young Tom’s “brains were addled” (mentally slow). Clearly Tom was experiencing the world quite differently from his classmates. Just like those with Autism. Those with Autism experience the world differently. Thomas’ mother knew her son had the capability with great deal of nurturing and leadership, she gave him the basic tools to learn, both in the form of process and content; and empowered him to learn.

So what does that have to do with Autism?

Well you see you are like Thomas Edison. You experience the world in a different way. Noises, smells, textures are all felt computed differently in your brain. This sparked a tremendous conversation about how and why God made him the way he is and led us to why we home school. I told Autism Boy, that like Thomas Edison, he too needed the most special teacher God could provide with a custom education to unlock his hidden potential. Autism Boy loves home schooling and now he loves his Autism. Yes, he loves who he is. Sometimes it is challenging, but we all have challenges. Embrace them and don’t fear them.