Monday, April 10, 2017

Love takes you home

As I mentioned in my previous post, this past year has been a little crazy. In December of 2015, we traveled back home to Indiana from Texas for Christmas break. During our several trips home per year, my hubby and I would try to take advantage of the extra babysitting hands. This time was no different, so we went out for a few date nights. Each time we were out, we found ourselves looking for “For Sale” signs and “Lot for Sale” signs. It became almost a daily activity.
We found ourselves vaguely discussing the possibility of moving home. Then, we found ourselves becoming more and more serious about the scenario. We had not intended to move to Texas, and we had never planned on it being our permanent home, but something was pulling on our heart strings to do it sooner, not later. We missed our family. Parents and grandparents were getting older. Our kids were missing out on quality family time. Plus, our support system was at home, and as all parents of children with special needs know, having extra hands and eyes is so important. The idea became more and more real.
We had not seriously spoken with our family about moving back home. Our parents didn’t know. Our kids didn’t know. We just had serious, late-night couple talks about the possibility and how we could make it happen. When we moved to Texas, we had moved from a town that was relatively close to our family (about 30 minutes). This time, we really wanted to live in the small town where I grew up. It is a quaint little town. Everybody knows everybody else’s business (which can be good and bad).  When I was young, I had the majority of my large Catholic family living within blocks of me. Because of this, I am very close to my aunts and uncles and most of my cousins are more like siblings to me. It is a weird dynamic for some, but for me, it has been amazing! I wanted the same for my kiddos.

Once we arrived back in Texas from Christmas break, the discussions became pretty serious. My hubby had spoken to the powers-at-be at work about working from home in Indiana and traveling back and forth to Dallas and they were onboard. The search for a house became ongoing. I would check the real estate websites daily.

Then, one day in January a beautiful old home caught my eye. It would need a lot of work. Were we willing to take on that large of a project? How would we even know if we didn’t make the 14-hour trip to find out? We discussed it…and discussed it…and talked it over with the kids who were a little surprised, but had overheard some of our discussions. Then, we called our parents to let them know that we were coming home to look at a house. The cat was out of the bag.

We drove through the night on a Friday to get home to look at the house. It was a long drive and we were very tired and a little excited. We met with the realtor and looked at the house. It was as cute as the pictures showed online, but seemed really small. We would have to put a lot of money into expansion, and the foundation was a little concerning. We left the house feeling like the trip home might have been a huge and exhausting waste of time.
We spent hours on Saturday looking at lots because the homes for sale were scarce. People who were born and raised there don’t often move very far away and people who move into the area, don’t like to leave, making the real estate a hot commodity. We found some interesting prospects that we were throwing around. Then, our story made a surprising turn.
After arriving home from looking at lots, my parents graciously offered up a lot they had purchased as an investment. It was just down the road from them (I mean a stones-throw). At first, I thought, “This is ABSOLUTELY not going to happen!” I am a forty-something year-old woman. Do I want to live that close to my parents? Then, I thought about it and the idea grew on me. My kids could walk to my parent’s house. I would be close by to take care of them later. I had grown-up across the street from my Grandparents, and it was such an amazing blessing! The question became, “What is the hubby going to say about this one?” He had lived far away from grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins as a child. This was a whole new ballgame for him. Was this going to scare him? Surprisingly, as I was tossing these thoughts around in my head and contemplating the magnitude of it all he said, “I would be open to that idea. What do you think?” So…this is how our busy year began!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Rediscovering my lifeline

I’ve been kind of out of the loop for a while, off the radar, taking a break from the thing I love to do most in this world…write. Part of it has been our amazingly crazy life the past year (more to follow), some of it has been lack of clarity.  I’ve had people message me and ask when I was going to write again. Family and friends have stopped me and asked me why I wasn’t writing. The truth is, I just didn’t have it in me. I am out of practice, but I am going to force myself do it again. I need to. It is what makes me happy and keeps the small amount of sanity I have intact. Bear with me because the writing might be subpar at best.

Here goes…

In 2012, my hubby unexpectedly lost his job. We had just finished remodeling our kitchen and family room of our older home. We had hung the final pictures on the wall on Tuesday evening and by Friday afternoon, he was looking for jobs. Soon we found ourselves uprooting our family to Denton, Texas from Indiana. We started a brand new life. It was difficult. We were away from family and friends and our support group. It was hard. I was alone in a big city. My hubby was working crazy hours. Our kids were trying to adjust. I knew no one. Having a child with Autism made this even more difficult. He was angry about moving. He was struggling making new friends. He was almost 12, so the hormones were in full swing. There were days I just didn’t know how I was going to make it. I was trying to hold it together for my kids and my hubby. Putting on a brave face for everyone around me.

In March of 2013, my husband came home to find me still in my PJs for the third day in a row and he said, “Maybe you should start writing again…” This in a nutshell meant I think you are losing your shit, so maybe you need to do something so you do go over the edge, so I did it. By the next afternoon, I had started my Sassy Aspie Mom blog. I had figured out Twitter and Facebook and Blogger and posted 3 things. For the first time in a very long time, I felt alive. Don’t tell my husband this, but he was right!

Writing has been a way for me to stay connected to those around me, especially parents going through similar life experiences. Being the parent of a child with Autism can be very lonely. You learn very early on that your child’s accomplishments and goals are going to be different, and that is okay. It isn’t easy, however, to fit into the conversations of the parents around you. It can be isolating. I found that by writing my blog, I suddenly opened my world to a group of people with the same hopes and dreams for their children, but who also understood the stresses and concerns of raising a child on the spectrum. Suddenly, I found that people were reaching out to me to find out how I handled certain situations…the initial diagnosis, school, medications, bullying, telling the child about their diagnosis. I was able to help in small ways to make those parents feel less lonely, less scared, and less isolated, by talking about my own experience. The feeling was mutual.

As parents of children on the spectrum, it is really important to remember that we have to have our own lifelines. Talking to others, reading a book, taking a walk, getting a massage, journaling, writing a blog…whatever brings you back to center, has to be part of your routine or you will lose yourself. It is not selfish, it is essential to a life full of taking care of others. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hunter's Gameplan

Several months ago, Hunter and I began having serious discussions about his future. What were his goals? What career did he want to pursue? He is so much like his dad in so many ways, so I always assumed he would want to follow in his footsteps and do something in the business field. Nothing else had ever really occurred to me until he started talking about becoming a writer. I was shocked!
I wanted to have a better understanding of his interests, so I had him take several online aptitude tests. Much to my surprise, my boy not only looks like me, but he has a lot of my creative interests. The tests showed over and over that he should be a writer, blogger, teacher or historian.

His freshman year of high school has been full of super highs and super lows. There have been many life lessons learned about friendships. He's been hurt, mad and sad lately. I knew he needed a way to express his emotions because he felt very alone and frustrated, so I asked him if he would like to start writing his own blog. When I didn't know where to turn in life, I started writing, so I thought maybe it would help him. It would be a creative outlet, something to turn his attention away from those people who were making his life miserable. Maybe this would be a way to get his mind off his troubles, use his creativity, and maybe even start setting those goals for his future.

I think the suggestion of beginning his own blog surprised him. At first he acted like I was insane, but several weeks later, he did it! I got an email from school one day with the subject "blog". I smiled. The poor boy is a lot like is mom.

Here it is ladies and gentlemen... my boy's very own blog: Hunter's Gameplan

When Peyton Manning retired no one was surprised. You could feel him slip away over the course of the last couple of years. When his numbers went down in 2014, it was easy to assume that his career was coming to an end. In comparison to his 2013 fifty-five touchdowns in a single season, who would have thought that in 2015 he would throw more interceptions than touchdown’s? However, in 2016, Manning showed amazing resilience, going out on top with a Super Bowl win. In order to claim the victory, he had to rely more on his run game and defense, rather than his raw talent and amazing arm of years prior.

When reflecting on Super Bowl wins for Denver, it is hard for me not to compare the performance of Peyton to that of John Elway. Elway, the only other quarterback to ever bring home a Super Bowl victory for the Broncos, happens to be my favorite player of all time. When comparing the two player’s games, it is easy to see that Elway had a much better running game than Manning's. In Elway’s last two years, he brought home 2 Super Bowl victories. He ended his career stronger than Manning's with higher stats and a Super Bowl MVP award.

Now that their season has ended in victory, it is hard to see what the future holds for Denver. With the absence of Manning and Brock Osweiler leaving for Houston, next year's path seems uncertain. One thing I know for sure is that Peyton Manning will be a first ballot Hall of Famer.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A little word with the genius who scheduled finals after Christmas Break

Some genius, who obviously doesn't have children, and definitely doesn't have kiddos on the spectrum, decided to schedule finals for the second week after Christmas Break. I try not to have ill-will towards others. However, I would be lying if I said I didn't have hopes that this person is suffering from severe bouts of insomnia, stomach aches, and a few nightmares after they finally get to sleep.

Let me get this straight, the proper decision for our childrens' education is to send them on a two week break from school; fill them with lots of junk food, candy and cookies; get them completely off their schedules; make sure they are getting way less sleep than normal and get them excited about gifts, snow, and the new year. Then, let them start the new school year with a week filled with trying to get into a routine, eating right, getting to bed at a normal time and doing homework. Meanwhile, the parents are failing miserably at getting an entire household back into the swing of things and are completely exhausted. Now, let's have the week after the recovery week be filled with exams that can make or break semester grades. Let's make sure these exams are filled with information they learned long before they had a two week Christmas Break Party and a week of boot camp to get them back on track.

Sounds like a great idea to me...

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween 2015-The spooky year of transition into teenagerism

Halloween 2013

Halloween 2014

For many kiddos on the spectrum, Halloween can be very difficult. It is complete sensory overload. The costumes, candles, not to mention the sugar and food dyes galore...it can be an autism parent's worst nightmare. Early on, Hunter struggled with the candles in Jack 'o lanterns. Battery operated candles were an amazing thing for us because they didn't give him the same anxiety. Costumes were also stressful for him because he didn't like anything over his face, and they were uncomfortable. We were able to work around this by picking costumes accordingly.

Through the years, Halloween has become a very important holiday for our family. It has been a great source of fun and togetherness. It has been a great way of escaping stress and concentrating on creating memories. From the time Hunter was very young, we started having family costumes. Then, when Grant was born we continued the tradition. Since both boys were old enough to contribute, we have decided as a family on our yearly theme.

We dress our house up in Halloween silliness. I love witches hats and boots, lots of lights and candles (battery operated of course), and some sparkly skulls thrown in for good measure. In the past few years, I have added in some hanging ghouls a flying ghost, and a dancing skeleton to make things a little less "cute", per the boys' request. Everything from the costumes (including the dog's), the decorations, and the pumpkin carving is a family affair.

As Halloween approached this year, things were a little different. We had our family costume (eggs, bacon, a cook, and a waitress). The decorations inside and out were hung and lit up like a Christmas Tree. The candy was purchased. Halloween cookies (you know...the slice and bake kind) were baked over and over throughout the entire month of October. Everything was the same, except one thing...my teenage son was growing up.

For the first time ever, he mentioned going to a haunted house with his friends. I inwardly cringed. We have never really been the family who was into the scary stuff  (remember sparkly skulls). Sure we had added a few mildly scary things to our Halloween collection, but they were still fun and cute. I couldn't imagine how he would manage the over abundance of sensory nightmares that would come along with a haunted house. The darkness, loud noises, scary people...it just wasn't his cup of tea. He still hides his eyes at scary commercials. He mentioned it to me several times, and each time I would go along with his plan. I wasn't going to be the mom who kept him from trying something new. I knew I had to let him grow up and find some things out for himself.

Finally, the weekend came when his friends were going to the haunted house. On the way home from school on Friday, he asked if his dad or  I could take him. I said, "Sure...ummm...but are you sure you want to go. I mean, I was never into the haunted house stuff myself, but if you want to go, we will get you there. By the way, you know Grandma and Grandpa are going to be in town, so we might be doing something with them.  If you want to go with your friends, that's totally fine. Just let me know, and I will arrange things accordingly." Then, I took a deep breath. I wanted him to make the decision for himself. I knew he felt the pressure to be one of the cool guys. Now he had an out. He also had the ability to go if he wanted to...no pressure...

Later that evening, he came to me and said, "I don't think I'm going to the haunted house on Sunday. It's $30 and I don't want to spend that much to go. Plus, I'd rather just hang out with the family." I quietly thought to myself...I would have paid the $30, and did you just say you wanted to hang out with the family? Hath hell frozen over. Instead, I said, "OK buddy. Whatever you want to do. Just let me know if you change your mind, and we will work something out. I never heard about it again.

My hubby and I decided to have some of Hunter's buddies over the night before Halloween. He was so excited. We had the house all decorated like normal. We put black lights in every corner of the house to spook it up. We ordered pizza and stuffed them full of sugary soft drinks and candy. They watched a couple of scary movies and screamed their full heads off. Hunter isn't a fan of scary movies, but he wasn't about to tell them that. He was so excited to have his buddies around him, in his home, with dad in the room (for a little added protection haha). 

That night, after everyone had had left, he walked into our room and said, "Thanks so much for doing that for me tonight. Everyone really had fun." He couldn't wipe the smile off of his face. He slept with his light on that night, but he was so very happy!

Halloween night, he wore the bacon costume. He wasn't as excited as normal to put it on and run out the door to trick or treat, but he wore it and thought he was pretty cool. Late that night, Grant, Hunter, and my hubby had a candy lottery... otherwise known as my husband's way of stealing the kid's candy. I just left that between the boys, as I sat back and drank my glass of wine. Cheers to a Halloween that was a little scarier than normal, for many reasons, but also pretty amazing!

Halloween 2105

Monday, October 26, 2015

Finding strength through the struggle

I saw this quote several months ago, and it hit me. It touched something in my soul. I immediately wrote it down in my journal, and then wrote my own words underneath.
This whole mothering thing is a tough job. It's a constant battle of knowing what to do and when to do it. When to say a lot and when to say a little. There is continuous doubt about whether we are doing it right. The amazing thing is that no matter how scared or unsure we are in ourselves, or how many times we "mess up",  we find the inner strength to keep going.

Then, I sat my pen and journal down and didn't picked it up again for months. Why? Because I wasn't sure what to say. I normally have my stuff together. Not now. Right now, I feel slightly defeated. I know that's not the a positive thing to say. That's part of the reason I haven't written for a while. I started writing this blog almost three years ago because I wanted to be a light to all of those moms (and dads) who needed it. I didn't want to write the sad posts about how hard this whole "Autism Mommy" gig really is because who really wants to hear that?
Last week I was determined to write again, so I sat down, grabbed my pen,  and this is what I wrote:
Struggle is the word of the day. As I sat down this morning with my journal and a cup of coffee in hand, all I could think about was my recent struggles to get my thoughts from my head to paper. As I started writing my rambling thoughts, there seemed to be one resounding theme..."Everything is a struggle." I struggle with how to parent. My oldest son is a being incredibly difficult most days. My youngest son is acting out. My confidence as a Mom has plummeted. My thoughts are foggy. How am I going to be a "Sassy Aspie Mom" when all I have are "Debbie Downer" thoughts?

As my oldest son with Aspergers enters this new stage, I just hope I am able to give him what he needs. Sometimes that seems like an impossible task. I find myself wanting to pull back and allow him to become his own man. I struggle with allowing him to fail. I struggle with knowing what my role actually is at this time of his life. Some days he still needs me a lot. Other days, he doesn't want me around at all. He is struggling to find his way. I am struggling to find my new role in his life. His new responsibilities on his path to become an adult are starting to overwhelm him, and I am struggling to help him navigate it all.

After I wrote those thoughts, I closed my journal and put my pen down. I sat and drank my coffee and then went about my day. Writing is normally my therapy, but lately, I just haven't had it in me. I haven't had the ability to give advice or even tell a great uplifting story because motherhood has truly been a struggle.

This morning, I grabbed my journal because I needed to write again. I wanted to get my thoughts on paper. Before I started to write, I looked back at my last few entries and realized that I had already written what I needed to say. My story was written in those small journal entries when I didn't have anything left to give. It wasn't uplifting or funny. It was just the true story of this "Sassy Aspie Mom's" life. Right now things are damn hard. Parenting a child with Aspergers through the teenage years is definitely a struggle, and my story is no exception.

The truth is, birth is about making strong competent, capable mothers, but strength isn't given to us. Rather, it is earned through pain and tears and  and fear and doubt and love and compassion and excepting our mistakes and loving ourselves despite it all. It is because of those struggle, not in spite of them, that we finally begin to trust ourselves and gain that amazing inner strength that makes motherhood such a gift.