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Opus

There was a time, when I was younger, that I dreamed of life as a mother. Life as a wife. Life beyond school and work and all the mundane things.  There was a time I dreamed of beautiful, harmonious relationships that would enrich my life and make it easier.  I wanted one girl and one boy, both with blonde hair and big, happy smiles. I thought these things were a natural part of a “normal” existence. And that’s what I wanted. Doesn’t every young, impressionable girl want that?

And then one day, I sort of changed my mind. But then, I guess I’ve never truly been “normal,” have I?

When I was about 18 or 19, I watched a movie called “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”  I was living in my mother and stepfather’s beautiful home in Redwood City, CA at the time.  For those of you who do not know, “Mr. Holland’s Opus” is about a composer who becomes a music teacher. He attempts to teach his art to his students, while at the same time working to compose a piece of memorable music to leave as his legacy.  That large, memorable piece of music is an artistic work that would be known as his “Opus.”

Mr. Holland and his wife end up having a son.  That son is born deaf.

In this man’s journey to be both a teacher and a brilliant composer, he leaves his son behind.  He cannot handle his son’s disability so, for a while, he stops trying. You have to understand, this man is a musician!  A composer!  A lover of music as an incredible, emotive, auditory art!  And his son can’t hear a thing.   It is obviously devastating to him, and Mr. Holland’s character basically becomes a big, selfish, unsupportive jerk.

So, what’s my point?

Partway through watching this great movie, during an incredibly sad moment where Mr. Holland is choosing to ignore his son, I began to cry.  My mom came in because I think I was ugly crying loudly, honestly.  She was concerned and asked me what was wrong.

I’ll never forget what I said to her.

I said, “If God has some sort of quota he has to fill for putting special needs kids into the world, I hope he gives me one.  Because I promise I would love them so much.

The words were simple, but the idea was pure. A child like that would only ever know love if they were given to me. I think I even prayed to God that night and told Him exactly how I felt.

Here I sit, many years later, blessed with an autistic son, Alex, who is my whole world.

Wow.

Mr. Holland eventually came around and learned to love his son, even going so far as to find a way to include him when his “Opus” is finally presented. But Alex has only ever known that my love, my support, my everything, was always ever his.

I kept my promise. And I always will. Maybe, in a way, that will be my “Opus.”

 

K&A

 

 

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Reflection

Look at me, I will never pass for a perfect bride

Or a perfect daughter

Can it be I’m not meant to play this part?

Now I see that if I were truly to be myself

I would break my family’s heart

 

Who is that girl I see

Staring straight back at me?

Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?

Somehow I cannot hide

Who I am, though I’ve tried

When will my reflection show who I am inside?

 

When Alex was about 4 years old, and finally starting to talk, sometimes he would sing a song with words that were much more advanced than his understanding…or so I thought at the time.

One of the few songs he liked to sing was “Reflection” from Mulan.  He would sing it in the bathtub and it was so precious. It made my own heart sing to hear him, and we would sometimes sing together.  I hear this song now and I am reminded of those days – the days when we were so unsure of everything.  The days when we wondered if he would ever learn to participate in a conversation, or at least be able to tell us more than “I want cookie.”

Nowadays, Alex can talk up a storm, and we feel so very blessed to have gotten to this point…

But every once in a while, I hear that song playing in my head.  I hear his sweet little voice singing “When will my refwection show who I am inside?”  And I wonder…

Did he know what the words meant?  Was he trying to tell me something?  Was he hurting badly because he did not feel like he would ever be able to communicate with us? Did he feel ashamed of his inability to be like other kids?  Was he worried he was breaking our hearts with his understanding of his delay in development? Maybe that’s a little advanced for a four-year-old, but I’m not so sure.

When I look back, I know for a fact that I never showed anything but love and support for his trials and triumphs.  I know I celebrated him, and whether or not he was ever going to get past “I want cookie,” his family loved him and accepted him.  I think he ultimately knows that now, but DAMN.  It hurts to think of your child suffering through those types of feelings.  Lord knows I’ve had them myself, and they’re painful.

Baby boy, keep singing, keep speaking your mind, and keep looking up. I wish you could look in the mirror at your reflection and see what I see.  Your mind, soul, and heart are incredibly beautiful, and you will always be “perfect” to me.

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Pieces of the Puzzles

Soooo it’s been a while.  Life has been interesting for the last 5 years or so.

As I recently re-discovered this blog and found some amazing, heart-wrenching accounts of Alex’s earlier years, I came across a little gem I wrote in answer to the question: “Do you think Alex will ever be cured?”
My answer was: “Autism is not a disease, therefore, this question is moot.”
It is a very rare occasion that I am impressed with my younger self. In this case, I say, YOU GO GIRL!

 

My autistic son is talented, gifted, different, and so incredible! He looks at the world from such a fascinating viewpoint, and he has taught me so much! Sure, I could have prayed for a cure all these years, but instead I decided to pray for guidance and discernment to be able to see what I needed to see through the eyes of my very special son.

And it paid off.

Alex is now 12 years old, and in 7th grade. He stands at 5’5″ (almost as tall as Mom), and weighs about 170 lbs.  He is most definitely a solid boy! At times, he still uses echolalia (repeating noises and phrases that he hears) as a means of processing communication.  That is to say, sometimes he repeats things he hears because he likes the sound of them, while other times he mimics or repeats to express himself, or to process what someone has said to him.

Sometimes, when you ask Alex a question, it can be difficult to get an answer right away.  However, the really cool thing is that the question did reach his brain – he just takes a while to answer.  This is a major improvement from when he simply repeated back the question and then went on doing whatever he was doing!

Alex is now able to express his feelings quite well – he can tell me when he is angry, or sad, or really excited about something.  He can also often tell me why, though we are still working on that aspect. But to be honest, don’t we all have a hard time pinpointing why we are feeling a certain way sometimes? Emotions run very deep in Alex, and I find his insight on those feelings fascinating.

I am especially excited to report that Alex’s issue with his Sensory Processing Disorder is under control.  We now have very little aggression; we no longer have to pin him down or carry him, screaming and flailing, across a room for his safety and for the safety of others.  He is learning to self-soothe more successfully, using breathing and taking breaks when necessary.  (I wish I could say the same for myself!)

About the only place we are seeing some mild aggression is with anger when it comes to kids he views as “bullies” at school.  As far as we have been informed, these are not necessarily true bullies. Because these kids do not understand or tolerate Alex’s behavior, they come off as kind of mean in Alex’s eyes, so he considers them “bullies.” I highly respect my son’s opinion, so we are still working on this with the school to identify what is truly happening.

Alex has a very tender heart, and shows increasing signs of empathy – as a person of great compassion, this makes my own heart sing!  For example, he often apologizes when I break down and cry, and even gets very upset himself, though it is not his fault. We have learned to work through these feelings together when that happens.

We have found a definite “niche” for Alex with electronics – he just loves playing games and watching kid-friendly YouTube videos on his Ipad. He even wants his own YouTube channel! He is also still a little Lego genius, and has put together multiple large projects by himself, including a Millenium Falcon, a Star Destroyer, and an AT-AT walker!

Though my husband and I did end up divorcing, Alex still has a very strong “village” of people at both Mom’s and Dad’s house who love him dearly and provide support whenever they can! When Alex comes to Mom’s house, he is with Mom, Uncle Stephen, and Aunt Kassie. We consider our household an “Ohana” and we are a very close-knit family.  Aunt Kassie even works with special needs individuals in her career, so she is an absolutely awesome, loving addition to our Ohana.  Uncle Stephen is incredibly emotionally intelligent and provides a unique insight on Alex’s feelings from time to time – he really “gets” Alex and I am so grateful.

I am so pleased to report all these wonderful updates – I really feel like the “pieces of our puzzles” are coming together beautifully.  I say “puzzles” (plural) because it is not just Alex’s puzzle that is been slowly pieced together, but also my own.  With a team of doctors and individuals that fought for my mental health, I am very stable and able to be a better Mom to my boy.

We still fight for Alex. We still have days that land us 3 steps backward.  We still cry sometimes because we long for Alex to have the best life experiences he can.  But we have come so far, and Alex has grown so much that it makes it all worth it!

Thank you for reading, thank you for all you have done to pray for and support our family…I can’t wait to share with you more of the fun stuff, the hard stuff, and the inspiring stuff that is happening these days.

Stay tuned!

 

Kristi & Alex

Alex and Kristi, September 2018

 

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Good Mom, Bad Mom

Readers, I just found this piece I started writing after my breakdown in 2013.  Heartfelt, true, sad, happy, it is a piece that still deserves to be read.  More to come soon on how we are doing these days…

So this is the first piece I’ve written for my blog in what feels like a very looooong time. And really, it has been too long. What makes it harder is that I’ve been through way too much that I’m even really even comfortable writing about. But it’s time to let you in on a little secret.

I guess the easiest place to start is that I’ve been diagnosed Bipolar 2. I already knew of the diagnosis but I had a breakdown recently. And it sucked. So much has gone on that I’m not at liberty to write about at this point, but let’s just say that I’ll speak out about it in liberation soon.

So the life of an autism mom is complicated enough. But the life of a Bipolar woman is a whole new ballgame. Wikipedia defines Bipolar 2 disorder as this:

Bipolar II disorder (pronounced “bipolar two”) is a form of mental illness. Bipolar II is similar to bipolar I disorder, with moods cycling between high and low over time.

However, in bipolar II disorder, the “up” moods never reach full-on mania. The less-intense elevated moods in bipolar II disorder are called hypomanic episodes, or hypomania.

A person affected by bipolar II disorder has had at least one hypomanic episode in life. Most people with bipolar II disorder also suffer from episodes of depression. This is where the term “manic depression” comes from.

In between episodes of hypomania and depression, many people with bipolar II disorder live normal lives.”

Yeah. Normal lives they say. Throw in a little boy with Autism and you have a fascinating little mixture of supermom (“good”) and crazy mom (“bad”).  But wait, it gets better:

During a hypomanic episode, elevated mood can manifest itself as either euphoria (feeling “high”) or as irritability. Symptoms during hypomanic episodes include:

  • Flying suddenly from one idea to the next
  • Rapid, “pressured,” and loud speech
  • Increased energy, with hyperactivity and a decreased need for sleep

People experiencing hypomanic episodes are often quite pleasant to be around. They can often seem like the “life of the party” — making jokes, taking an intense interest in other people and activities, and infecting others with their positive mood

What’s so bad about that, you might ask? Hypomania can also lead to erratic and unhealthy behavior.”

And furthermore:

“…the vast majority of people with bipolar II disorder experience significant depressive episodes. These can occur soon after hypomania subsides, or much later. Some people cycle back and forth between hypomania and depression, while others have long periods of normal mood in between episodes.”

Yep, you guessed it. I’m the kind that cycles back n forth between hypomania and depression. Those fictional “normal moods” would be a fabulous welcome to the ups and downs I face regularly. Welcome to my ever-loving own personal horror movie. I’ve had it under control until about the last 6 months. Since then, I have suffered from ups and downs so severe that I had to admit myself to the hospital because I truly feared for my life.

And in that time, my relationship with my son has been everything I never wanted it to be. I used to know how to play with him, how to cover him in love and energy with everything I had. I used to smile more, now I cry more. In that time, my breakdown has driven a wedge between my husband and me, one that I don’t know we will be able to recover from wholly. (And we didn’t.)

So why choose this sad story to put on my blog?  Because moms like me exist in the world, fighting for our lives, whilst still fighting for the world to understand both our children and ourselves. People like you and I exist, diagnosis or no diagnosis, and it’s a story that needs to be told. Right now. So here I am, honest and true, to let you know that, once again, if you are out there, you are not alone.

I wish I could say there is a happy ending to this piece. However, there is happiness to be found, and the happy part, my friends, is that there is no ending. I, with a team of doctors, am working toward bettering myself to give an even greater love and life to my wonderful son. I know this to be true because I have been through hell and back again and I am still here, fighting for that very reason. But sometimes we have to work on ourselves first in order to give our children a better life.

The best part? My son has never stopped loving me. Not once has the light in his eyes faded when he sees my face. He still utters the beautiful phrase “I love you, Mommy” every time I hold him – in fact, he lets me hold him more now.

Winston Churchill was once quoted as saying: “Never give up, never give in – never, never, never, never…”  And I never will. Never, never, never, never.

P.S. Ludwig Von Beethoven, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams…and more? All Bipolar. Can’t wait to see what else I create…after all, you can’t keep a good (Bipolar) woman down 😉

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50 shades of BLUE

IMG_0210World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD), celebrated each year on April 2, was adopted by the United Nations in 2007 to shine a bright light on autism as a growing global health crisis.

On World Autism Awareness Day, Autism Speaks celebrates its international Light It Up Blue Campaign. Thousands of iconic landmarks, communities, businesses and homes across the globe unite by shining bright blue lights in honor of the millions of individuals and families around the world affected by autism.

We’re talking the Eiffel Tower in France. The leaning tower of Pisa in Italy. The Sydney Opera House. The Empire State Building in New York. On April 2nd every year, they are all very specially adorned with a fantastic display of blue lights shining up and down gloriously to bring Autism awareness.

So, what can you do? Pick a lamp, or – even better – a porch light, and put in a blue bulb (you can get ‘em for about $1.29 at a local store). How does putting a blue light on your doorstep increase autism awareness?  I’m so glad you asked that question ;).

Just by putting a blue light bulb into the lamp on your porch, you are affecting someone, somewhere. Why? Because someone is going to be out there asking themselves “Why is that porch light blue?”  Or maybe it’s more like “What are those weirdos doing in March with the funky Halloween lighting?”  Either way, someone is asking a question.

One person asks a question; they are seeking an answer. Once an answer is given, the information gets passed on so others can reap the fruit of such knowledge (or, you know, because we like to gossip).  Because doesn’t everyone need to know that Bob and Sue’s porch light is blue for a great cause?

Let’s look at the numbers…Simply put, if all 50 states decided to “Light it Up Blue” for a night, and if only *ONE* person asked that ONE question in every ONE state, we’d have 50 people who are more aware of Autism. Can you imagine the possibilities? How many people drive by your home in a week?

Let’s do ONE better…let’s see if WE can get 50 people to “Light it up BLUE” this year on April 2 just from reading this post. Ready? GO!

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5 steps to changing the world

Today, my heart hurts.

Special needs families – special needs Moms – do a lot of hurting, sure. There’s a lot to face, a lot to overcome, and a lot to mourn. But as time progresses, it becomes very clear that there is also a lot to celebrate. For instance, that first time your child calls you “mommy” and means it…well, there’s no greater joy in that moment, and you tend to *live* for the chance to hear your maternal “name” being called out again by your little sweetheart. It is especially sweet in a case like mine; my son didn’t call me “Mommy” until he was probably 4 years old. (Ah, a story for another day…)

My point today is that my heart hurts like it hasn’t in a really long time. People who have been in this “boat” for a long time often remind you to pace yourself when it comes to rejoicing the good in progress. It always seemed so skeptical to me, so presumptuous when some other Autism Mom would give me the proverbial “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch” comment. It felt rude, even a little unfeeling at the time. I never understood why they felt the need to burst anyone’s bubble about overcoming triumphs!

But I understand now that their intention was not to “burst my bubble,” or rob me of my joy in a moment when my son was achieving a long-desired goal.  Their desire, their drive, came from a place in their own guarded hearts, which had been broken again and again by achievements and milestones first gained by their own children and then, sadly, lost again for a time. It took me a long time to realize that these women were not trying to be bitter or jealous of me; they were simply trying to prepare me to guard my heart against the dreaded “2 steps forward, 3 steps back” moniker that is pretty much guaranteed to occur regularly in the lifelong journey of an autistic child.

Essentially, their purpose was the exact opposite of what I had thought…these other, wiser, Moms were trying to prepare me to withstand the depression that threatens to overwhelm a young, hopeful, optimistic heart.  And so, with my best interests in mind, these caring people did their best to bring me back down to earth, with the intention of sparing me the amount of pain that had saturated their own hearts when dreams and love did not “conquer all.”

I appreciate these Moms (and Dads!) because their guidance has been vital in learning important steps I needed to take to help my son. And they were right! I had hard lessons to be learned and so many tears to be cried because I thought one particular milestone had been “conquered”…but yeah, that’s not always the way it works.

Still, I am not one of these moms. These women (and men) are strong, wise, formidable and unmoving… but I am not one of these moms.  Now, I thank the Lord God on high for these types of ladies/men, because we NEED their perspective (especially early on)…I will just simply never quite be one of them.  Why, you ask? Because I still believe in miracles. I still believe in love, God, the goodness in the world, and the fact that, though my son is categorized as “different,” he is so much more than he appears.

I believe there is a reason my son is the way he is. I believe he was sent here to change my life. I believe he was sent here to change YOUR life, and so many of those around us. I believe that, together, we can change the world.

Am I, therefore, a wimp? A pushover? Do I sit back and just hope and pray that God will “cure” my boy? No way, man. I am firm, I am determined, and if I believe my son is being wronged or misunderstood,  you better back up off me at that point because my Mama Bear personality comes out… (No really, I get a little scary). I am fighter for my cause…but I am *not* pessimistic.

Confused? Let me give you the details of my crazy heart mixed with my crazy mind…

I believe in love. I believe that good will triumph over evil in every end. I believe that “different” is NOT a bad word, but a NEW way to look at the world. I believe that our nice, comfortable, tunnel-vision belief systems need to be shaken up a bit. I think people need to know *why* they believe in something, and that the reason in which that belief system is rooted should *never* be based on simply accepting what a parent or other authority figure told you to do.

I believe in the good in people. I believe that, no matter what someone does to me, I have the capacity to forgive, because *I* have been GRACIOUSLY forgiven.

I believe that 1 person can change the world, just by *being* in it.

And I believe that 2 + 3 = 5. Sometimes the first 2 steps to making the world a better place may result in 3 steps backward. You want to know why?  Forward or backward, it’s still 5 steps toward changing the world.

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My son’s school Burned down…

To the Ground.

I’m not kidding. It’s not a metaphor—It’s real. It’s surreal.

Have you ever seen a playground on fire?  I still can’t get it out of my head.

Let me back up a bit: Alex, my autistic son, started 1st grade this year in a K-5 ALC Classroom. Kindergarten had brought so many trials, heartache and hard work – I was afraid of what was to come. But my worries were over quickly; this year he was matched up with the most wonderful folks I could ask for… I don’t even like to refer to them as “teachers,” because the word seems somehow inappropriate.

(I think maybe God personally addressed His angels in heaven and said “Look, y’all, Alex’s family has been THROUGH IT. They need some good folks to lead their boy through his first grade year…Volunteers?”…And 4 or 5 angels floated down to Earth to nurture one of their own.) I finally had peace when my son climbed onto his school bus each morning.

But then, on a Sunday morning in February, Alex’s school was in flames. Have you ever had to say those words out loud? It’s not easy. In an attempt to respond to many concerned loved ones, I posted this to Facebook…Take this journey with me; you may find the strength I never knew I had:

“My son’s school burned down to the ground today. An elementary school is just a building, yes. But the news that my son’s school had burnt down was incredibly painful. My son has special needs and will not understand. ALL 500 kids have to be moved, spread out to other schools in the area. I have been so afraid of what will happen to Alex’s classroom, his amazing teachers, his little friends, everything familiar to him. I have no words. 

Even as I wrote this, Alex’s teacher was calling.

We cried together. I had not considered how hard this would be on all those angels God sent down to that class…

STILL, there was beautiful news: That solid, brick, school building burnt down to the ground – yes – but Alex’s portable classroom, made out of plywood and all things flammable was, and remains to this day, untouched by the fire. The sprinkler system caused water damage, but the simple structure, which stood just a few feet from the destruction, remains untainted on the outside, a symbol of the strength and purity these kids reflect in Heaven’s eyes.

That little building may be waterlogged and ruined inside, but it didn’t matter to us. No, not everything will be salvageable, yet even one or two familiar items can help special needs kids feel more at home, more safe in their new environment. And so I rejoiced because that portable classroom still stands in defiance of the flames that took a school away from 500 children.

With tears of sadness mixed with newfound joy, his teacher then assured me that, whichever school hosted them, the district promised to keep the whole class together. ALL OF THEM.

Teachers, students, and Alex’s 1-to-1, they were all allowed to stay TOGETHER. You have no idea how much this means to me. These Special needs kids – MY special needs kid – have been given 2 miraculous gifts from God. I am so thankful. I cannot describe the lengths to which this reaches into my heart and reminds me that God is watching over *not* just their safety, but their WELL-BEING. It is as if He is reminding me that He understands their lifelong needs, even when I feel like the world doesn’t. God will make a way, even when there seems to be no way.”

 

Today, I am here to tell you that it has not been easy, and that, though the kids are handling everything like little champions (maybe better than the adults), they still do not understand…Alex remains thankfully, blissfully ignorant. Still, he misses his old school.

 

An Elementary School is in ashes. But Mrs. Hamilton still stands. Ms. Carolyn still stands. Alex and his little friends still stand. Love, laughter, friends, community…they all still stand. OUR. KIDS. STILL. STAND. They’ll never be able to fully replace that building. Thank God an Elementary school is not just a building.

Alex on his new swings

 Instead of posting a picture of the fire, I have chosen to post a happy picture of Alex on his new playground =)

( If you’d like to read more about the fire, you can go to this site: http://www.oregonlive.com/clark-county/index.ssf/2013/02/crestline_middle_school_destro.html )

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This is not a real post…really. ;)

To coin a popular phrase from one of my favorite bloggers, this is not a real post. Mostly it’s an apology with a side of excuses, drenched in promises and a “teaser” on top!

Truly, I just wanted to reach out and apologize for slacking, and that I will be back up and blogging soon, with all sorts of stories, great lessons and exciting moments to share, including the tale of our 2nd annual “magical” trip to Camp Meadowood Springs!

I have really good excuses for flaking, by the way, including surgery on my lower back (resulting in weeks oImagef recovery) and a sprained ankle (another sneak peek at what’s to come)!

…Okay, so I’ve *gotta* give you one quick tidbit to keep you coming back: I do want to say that my very hyperactive, autistic son, Alex – who is now 6 years old & 65 lbs – has become SO gentle, sweet and careful when he’s around Mommy, because “Mommy hurts.” And he cuddles into the corner of my bed every night to be near me. It’s pretty great.

More to come SOON, as I start getting back to my old self 😉 I PROMISE.

~ Kristi ❤

^ ^ Me after my surgery, ^ ^

w/Boo-boo bunny (the family healer).

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Oh, Happy Day

Today, as recent as an hour ago, I hated my life. After mopping up a flooded bathroom floor for the 3rd time this week, trying to avoid being smacked in the face, failing to rescue a picture frame from destruction, barely rescuing a crystal vase from a similar fate, and dragging my crying, flailing, 60-lb 5-year-old son across the room to keep him safe, I was ready to give up.  I literally wanted the earth to just open up and swallow me whole.

Right now, my autistic son is going through a state of major regression, which basically means that he lost skills and/or functions that he had as recent as a week ago.  We were warned about these periods of regression – how all of the sudden one day you just have to start over, pretty much throwing away everything that “worked” before & develop new strategies, create new boundaries, figure out what works NOW. Because the other stuff doesn’t work anymore.

Let me give you a better picture: for those parents out there who have 2 or more children, do you remember what it was like figuring out that what works on one kid doesn’t necessarily work on the other? Maybe you have one child who would burst into tears with a harsh look, but the other was so defiant that stronger measures had to be taken. Or maybe one kid breezed through Math while the other needed tutors, extra homework and constant monitoring just to get a C. Imagine all of these things all balled up in one kid, and changing every so often during childhood.

Don’t get me wrong, my boy is smarter than ever; I’m positive there are amazing things going on in his mind…It’s just that he struggles with sensory issues that cause his body to get in the way of his mind. And his body is freaking out again, except this time he is heavier, taller, and stronger. We thought we had finally overcome this obstacle, but we’re back to square one.

And my heart breaks daily because of it.

So, I cried today. And I screamed. And then I hated myself for screaming and crying. And I hated that I felt like a bad parent. I hate that I love him so much and can’t help him. So I guess you could say that this was a BAD DAY.

Still, even in the midst of my absolute destruction today, I remembered a music video that always brings me joy. It just happens to be a song called “Oh Happy Day,” and it is featured in the movie “Sister Act 2.” So I got on my computer, and I played the video of that song. And I cried, and then I smiled, and I sang, and then I cried some more. Then it hit me. I know why I love this video *so* much. It’s because of the progression of emotion that unfolds during the course of the song.

See, in the beginning, the teenage choir and their soloist appear obviously unhappy while singing those words. Oh Happy Day.

Haha, they WEREN’T HAPPY. But they still had to sing those words. They had to keep singing that stupid song, even though they didn’t feel anything like its intended message. But then something wonderful happens…someone encourages them, sorta whips ‘em back into shape, reminds them of why they’re doing what they’re doing, and BAM. All of the sudden, that soloist starts singing with more intensity. And that choir starts getting more confident. And that music builds and builds, and it feels like they fight the world, singing with everything they have, until they are finally bursting at the seams with JOY. OH Happy Day!

That’s what it’s about, that’s what we do, THAT’S how we FIGHT when we have days like this. Just keep singing. Just keep moving. I don’t have to put on a happy face at first, but when I keep singing and fighting, and I remember why I’ve been chosen especially for this job, that sun begins to burst through the clouds and I swear that Heaven shines down and the angels shout it, too: OH HAPPY DAY!

And then it all falls into place. And I watch that stupid video over and over again. And I calm down, take a deep breath, and move forward. And my son visibly gets a little calmer, too.

So next time you’re hoping that crawling under a rock will help your mood, I dare you to watch this video instead and not have a big fat grin on your face by the end of it. In fact, I double dare you 😉

Click Here & enjoy: “OH HAPPY DAY!” – Sister Act 2

UPDATE: Alex has begun to stop and watch this video *with* me! You wanna know the best part?  He sings along =D

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My name is “Mommy”

Mother’s Day weekend is always special to me. You see, May is my birth-month, and my birthday is always a couple of days away from Mother’s day. This used to be hard for me in the past…I mean, it is, in some small way, *kind* of like having a birthday a few days before Christmas. Everyone just sort of lumps birthday + holiday into one, because it is in our multitasking, time-saving nature to “kill two birds with one stone.”  I mean, who wants to throw two celebrations for someone else in the same weekend?  Who wants to buy two sets of presents or cards, or flowers, or whatever? Doesn’t one expression of amazement to a person in a weekend suffice?  Do they really need that again? 

As a hard-working, Disney-princess-singing, world-changing, fundraising, trailblazing mother of an autistic son, stepmother to a teenage girl, and wife of an equally hard working husband, I am here to tell you that YEAH. Yeah, I really do need that again.

All that being said, I should that my birthday this year was absolutely amazing…not only did my family completely knock it out of the park with their special treatment of me – and some precious moments that made me cry, made me laugh, and made me feel *so* loved – but I felt like God just kept raining down new blessings on me with every passing hour.

Short, selfish version: My son spoke his first real spontaneous sentence to me (a HUGE step for us), which left me feeling amazed and hopeful. Then, *I* was left speechless and teary-eyed by a loving card written by my teen stepdaughter in her OWN handwriting. And, of course, I giggled and beamed when my husband took me to dinner and then shopping for a few ridiculously frivolous gifts just so he could see me smile in that special way again. My whole family helped me feel loved beyond my imagination. What a rush! What an outpouring of love and adoration! Best. Birthday. Ever.

With my family’s promise that the weekend would essentially be “mine” to do as I pleased, I was excited for Mother’s day. Could it get any better?  Well, I started off that very special Mother’s Day clinging to the promise that I would be celebrated, and that maybe I would get a day off!

To be brief, Ummmmm, yeah, NO. It didn’t happen, and I was hurt. My regular duties weighed heavily on my shoulders, just like always. And I attended to them, because that’s what moms do. Dangit, I knew the whole thing was too good to be true!

But that afternoon, while I was feeling forgotten and sorry for myself, I looked outside and saw my son – alone – trying to swing on his play set. He wasn’t getting far, but he was still smiling to himself. I was drawn to him; I walked out and played with him on the swings. On Mother’s Day, with big fat grins on our faces, I told Alex, my awesome autistic son – that I loved him…and he repeated it back.

I may not have been treated like royalty this Mother’s Day, but I got something better. I was given the blessing of meeting my special son exactly where he was. I was given the gift of hug as I un-wrapped his sweet smile, topped off by the big, beautiful “ribbon” of a giggle. There are very few greater gifts than these for the Mommy of an autistic (or ANY) child.

I was suddenly overwhelmed by the meaning of ‘motherhood.’  It is not just a title or a privilege that was meant to be celebrated on this day. It’s a state of being, or state of wanting to be. It’s a title that women would die for, and maybe that others are (jokingly) really tired of.

Here’s my history, for those who don’t know…My son, Alex did not truly refer to me as “Mommy” until he was around 4 and a half years old. That might not mean a whole lot to everyone out there. But I had been waiting for that word my whole life (yeah, ok, drama, leave me alone)! And then I was blessed with a beautiful son who finally called me “Mommy” – and meant it – about 2 years after a lot of those other little boys. Did it break my heart during the wait for that title 2 years longer than other mommies? Maybe a li’l bit. But it *rocked* my whole world to hear my little boy ask for ME, his Mommy, when he finally did.

I don’t have any truly profound words to describe it, except to say that my name is finally “Mommy.” ❤

So this year, on Mother’s Day, nobody treated me anymore special than my son, now 5.5 years old, who laughed, and smiled, and called me “Mommy.” In doing so, he taught me a thing or two about that special day.

Mother’s day is meant to honor mothers…and until very recently, I thought it meant another day to be honored..and it IS to some families. But in this family, it doesn’t quite work out. Still, in one simple moment, I was reminded by an adorable little boy that I am his “Mommy.” And that right there?  That’s what it’s all about.

Treat me like a queen? Awesome! Treat me like a mother? Unbearably, heart-wrenchingly, incredibly priceless.

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