Monday, September 29, 2014

burts and behavior therapy

I laugh out loud when I hear the term "Parenting Expert". No disrespect to anyone whose business card says that or considers themselves one -but after doing this gig for five years most days leave me still trying to figure out what the heck I'm doing. Each day brings new stages and situations, some so completely bizarre that I never could have prepared myself-there's no articles to cover it no matter how many which ways I google. On top of that- each child is so different. Just because I figured something out for Greyson doesn't mean it will work the same way for Parker.

So we trudge along, making mistakes daily and willing to try. I'm no expert but I'm certainly a parenting enthusiast because I love what I do.

Michael is gone for the week so I am flying solo. (please play the Price is Right losing sound effect in your mind right now.) He left yesterday at 6am and by early afternoon I was sweating the big and small things. The boys were FULL of energy and I was not.  I needed to find a place for them to run free- where I also didn't have to simultaneously chase them. 

When Parker hears the word, "Stop" he takes it as a signal to fun as fast as we can. So I also needed somewhere fenced in. We finally settled on a local school.

 photo _MG_1525_zps89e6662e.jpg

 photo _MG_1533_zps027c192d.jpg

 photo _MG_1535_zpsa2a4d0b8.jpg

They got to wander and run free.

 photo _MG_1539_zps7e20251e.jpg

And climb...sometimes they even stayed in the same area at the same time.

 photo _MG_1572_zps9b2521e3.jpg
And sometimes they just relaxed and thought about life.

 photo _MG_1580_zpsb65a0339.jpg

As we were walking to the car Parker danced up ten feet ahead to explore. I see him bend down near a bush to pick up something. He is my collector, always gathering rocks and leaves to bring home with us. I hear him singsonging, "burt, burt, burt", over and over again. I just watch him being happy and it makes me happy too.

I get closer. My smile drops off my face and my heart stops... that is no rock in his hands. With two tiny dimpled hands he is holding on to a big dead black bird, gingerly holding it up to his face and smiling at it. "Burt, burt, burt", he keeps saying to it. He is so proud of his new little friend. I start SCREAMING as if his life is in danger. I run and grab him by his wrist. There is no way I am starting a bird tug of war.

DROP THE BIRD, my screams are echoing off the empty buildings. DROP IT!!! NOOO NOOO!!!! PUT THE BIRD DOWN!!!!!! NOOOOO. Parker isn't budging. He holds on even tighter. I start shaking his wrist as hard as I can. DROP THE BIRD!!!! Feathers are flying everywhere. The bird's limp head is flopping back and forth. I am YELLING. Parker is SCREAMING. He doesn't understand why I am FREAKING out and trying to take away his new little -smells like a dumpster- friend. Finally it flops to the ground.

 photo 80ef8a26-4211-4474-8989-1b222c3c1b0b_zpsf4cf447e.jpg

Friends- that was DAY ONE. I don't know if I will make it out of this week alive.

We have been doing Behavior Therapy- Also called Applied Behavior Analysis for over three years now. Our house is a revolving door of therapists, learning and programs. We were told we needed an area for the therapy to occur, as well as educational games and materials for the therapists to use.

I had absolutely no idea what that included. None of it. I didn't know what to buy or where to get it. Slowly we have created many resources for both boys and I want to share some of them with you. Remember- I'm three years and two boys in. Do not feel intimidated if you are just starting out. You don't have to buy it all- and especially not all at once. All of this is a growing, building and learning process. The things I mention are also not all-inclusive. Through trial and error this is what is currently working for us.

Here is our playroom.

 photo _MG_1055_zps94d733e9.jpg

We are lucky to have an entire room we can dedicate to therapy. If you do not have that luxury of space, no worries. That's the great thing about learning at home- it really can be done anywhere. It's good to have a lot of floor space because the best kind of learning really looks like play.

 photo _MG_1056_zpsaed0f520.jpg

 photo _MG_1059copy_zps12d0c9bd.jpg

Here are some of my favorite items.

1. IKEA HANGING SEAT SWING: The boys go through phases where they love or hate it.        Right now they both love to sit inside while you twist it around and around- and then              release it so they can spin a million times in a row.

2. BAZOONGI TRAMPOLINE: My boys are JUMPERS. We burned through a few                     trampolines until we found this one. A trampoline needs to have coils to really get a nice       spring.

3. SMALL TABLE AND CHAIRS: We got this at Target. I don't see it so I linked a similar set.     Some activities (like art) are best done sitting at a table. 

4. CUBE STORAGE (similar) and BINS: These are not organized in any fashion. Our cubes contain puzzles, books, stacking toys, cars, trains and a million other toys. These are great because all you have to do is shove toys into the bin and your room is instantly clean.

 photo _MG_1053_zpsdbff2947.jpg

This is the mother ship. I keep this area organized and off limits to the boys when not in therapy. This helps to keep these toys engaging and reinforcing. I also switch items out every few months for the same reason. I bought the small bins at Target and keep different items inside that are used for a variety of activities like pretend play, sorting and matching.

 photo _MG_1054_zpsb51fb13c.jpg

Here are a few of our items as well as links to buy- I mostly linked up to amazon but feel free to shop around for the best price:
Threading beads
Melissa and Doug Ice Cream Play Set
Doctor Play Set
Don't Break the Ice Game
Marble Run
Fruit and Vegetables
Mr. Potato Head

A binder to keep data (hence the analysis part of Behavior Analysis) should be supplied by the Behavior Therapy Company. I put the boys names on the outside not only to keep them straight- but also so they can learn to recognize their names. 

 photo _MG_1624_zps6013b9a4.jpg

This is called a Weighted Compression Vest: Parker is modeling the vest for us-but this belongs to Greyson. Greyson is a HUGE sensory seeker. Sometimes this vest helps him focus and calms him (sometimes the vest doesn't do squat). Greyson constantly needs some kind of sensory input. Using the swing, giving him tight squeezes, giving him ice to chew, letting him jump on the trampoline or burrow under the couch cushions and wearing this vest are some of the methods we use to help calm him and provide the sensory input he needs. So far swimming has been his greatest sensory tool. Not only was he calmer on the days he swam- even his data improved.

 photo _MG_1617_zps83b5043a.jpg

I love these learning and solitary play activities purchased from an ebay store called PECS for Autism. They have all kinds of good stuff that is even great for typical children.

 photo _MG_1618_zps9cc121a7.jpg
You can also make your own positive reinforcement system. Each quarter represents one trial. The child can select a picture or an item to work towards. 

Children with Developmental delays are PROFESSIONAL LEARNERS. They are going to be learning all of their lives- so for me- the most important element is FUN. It has to be fun. I learn best while I'm also having fun too. If you have any questions feel free to email me

I hope you have a good week. If it gets hard- just think- at least we aren't the bird.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

doing the work

For so long I just didn't care what I looked like, I was in survival mode. I wore an over sized green hoodie sweatshirt from my hometown of St. Louis because it was safe and real life felt so chaotic and sickening. Sometimes I slept in it and kept it on the next day too. After too many days in a row after too many weeks in a row I let big green rest on a hanger in my closet. I up'ed my game and donned black yoga pants and a t-shirt daily. I didn't do a lick of yoga. My appearance was totally a stay at home mom cliche.

Each morning I awoke already exhausted. I had been up numerous times the evening before, sucked into a whirlwind of horrific thoughts. Thoughts of the future were unbearable. Thoughts of the past were a sucker punch. Simple, easy, perfect then. Over. Thoughts of the present were a nightmare from which I couldn't wake and took more than I had strength for. I had no where left for my mind to go.

We ran from appointment to appointment each day. Assessments, therapy, screaming, tired, numb. I tumbled out of bed each morning and landed somewhere near my coffee machine. I threw on the uniform. Black yoga pants and t shirt. No makeup. What's the point?  I wanted my outsides to match my insides- empty. Big bold life was pointless- makeup was a million miles below that. Beautiful shades of my favorite colors were sucked from my life. I was so angry with everyone else in the world that this wasn't happening to.

And  so (so)   s  l   o   w   l    y like everything in my life over the past few years, I began to defrost. I still am in many ways. I began to remember the ways that life was a gift- the ways that autism hadn't stolen. At first they were tiny and I had to search for them through squinted eyes. And then they grew. I was shocked to see there were still so many.

And finally about a year ago, I traded in the yoga pants for clothes. I still sacrifice fashion for comfort most days- but it isn't so dire. I started to get excited about a new shirt or pants or lipstick. It was the realization that I started to care about me again. A few months ago I discovered THIS BEAUTY BLOG- Maskcara.  I love when we find a new blogger we feel like we are the very first ones on earth to unveil their coolness. I DISCOVERED CARA!!! You know- Right after 100,000 people discovered her too. For the first time- probably since 8th grade I was excited about makeup.

Yesterday morning while the kids were in therapy I went and just played at Sephora. I tried EVERY SINGLE THING available on this "best of"  list. It was so much fun. They give free mini makeovers, so the makeup artist Staci and I just played. There were no goals, to treatment plans, no assessments, nothing concrete accomplished- just a focus on me and it was AMAZING.

Who wudda thunk there could be so much love and healing and nurturing in taking care of yourself? I thought makeup was something superficial- but it can be so much deeper. I discovered I didn't need to be a selfless martyr to be a good mom. I am discovering I am worth time and attention too.

I feel perfectly acceptable walking out of the house without makeup on, but when I invest time in myself and love the glow on the girl in the mirror I feel even better. I left Sephora feeling beautiful. The mall was blasting music and I couldn't help but walk with a dance in my step. ABC by the Jackson 5, OMD- If you Leave, John Mayer- Why Georgia Why? (He seems like a bit of a douche as a guy, but his lyrics are outstanding- Cause I wonder sometimes about the outcome of a still verdictless life. Am I living it right? Am I living it right? Am I living it right? 

I realized I was embedded in a moment of feeling simply content. Suddenly I realized this entire little trip was planned just for ME by God. Surprises were being laid out before me everywhere. Starbucks, makeup, music, alone time. Surprises I wouldn't have recognized before. Sometimes these types of moments are so lovely they are almost painful. Maybe I never saw them before because I didn't need them so much. Maybe they were there all along and I wasn't raw and open enough to notice them. The thing about being scrubbed raw by life- it makes you more sensitive to the good things too. I hope I am always raw enough to notice all my gifts waiting for me.

 photo _MG_1142_zps20bea1d4.jpg
Here's my after. Please note the copious application of happy. Repeat after me- I AM WORTH SPENDING TIME ON.

There's been a lot of self help and reflection going on here. A couple of months ago Michael and I started to go to marriage counseling. We struggle with intimacy and communication; a faulty foundation built long before autism was in our life. But WE were put on the back burner during survival mode and it was finally time for us to invest in US.

 photo _MG_1086_zps6e70d537.jpg
I wish you could have seen our therapists face when I asked her to take our picture.  And Michael was supposed to be making a mad face like he was yelling- but he was laughing too hard.

I felt weird about it at first. Like we are bad or broken. "I go to weekly marriage therapy"- is one of those things most people keep private and many people feel ashamed of. I am realizing- we are showing up and doing the hard work- we shouldn't be ashamed of this kind of stuff. We should be proud. No marriage is perfect. 

I wasn't sure if I would write about it. And then I wanted to wait until I figured something out first. I wanted an epiphany- resolution- a lesson. But it's not that easy- real life isn't so concise (darn). It's slow. It's so hard to dig through a closet where things have been shoved into; slamming the door so nothing leaked out for years. After therapy I am exhausted. But we are slowly sifting through and searching for ourselves in the midst of marriage. It's hard. We are investing time in our relationship because it's important. WE are worth it.

Shew. All of that feels scary and good to say. Others truths have set me free and I hope to do the same. Sometimes we are the only ones thinking we are going through something hard and we all end up sitting in our isolated silence, longing for another voice to say me too.

Me too.



Monday, September 22, 2014

be patient

I should never have gotten out of bed today.

But unfortunately that wasn't an option. I don't have the ability to call in "not really sick" and watch Bravo Television in my position of Head Mom. Next time the Mom Union meets we need to put that on our contract. The morning started with two piping hot rejection letters from literary agents. In case you are new here- I am writing a memoir called Little Light Bulbs. Here's a small part of the overview.

Chrissy Kelly’s enviable life – handsome husband, great job, house on the beach, beautiful baby boy, and another one on the way – shatters on impact when her adorable son, Greyson, is diagnosed with autism. And just as she’d gathered up all the pieces again, his younger brother Parker receives the same diagnosis, smashing this meticulous, hyper-organized, Type A mom's world into a million more little pieces.

Little Light Bulbs aims to be the book Chrissy searched for in vain when her world came crashing down. She found countless grieving memoirs, platitudinous “recovery” guides and manuals for living with the disorder. But she never found a book that promised she could laugh again. Little Light Bulbs chronicles the tiniest of realizations that the bottomless well of pain she’s enduring might just help her find herself and find a purpose in her life she didn’t even know was missing.

But Little Light Bulbs isn’t just for the parents of kids on the spectrum. It’s for anyone who’s ever been so scared they didn’t dare dream of being happy again. It’s for anyone who felt so isolated by their fear that they nearly suffocated themselves with grief. It’s for anyone who needs hope and perspective instead of a bulleted list that pretends to fix the unfixable. Chrissy’s raw, vulnerable and honest writing style sanitizes nothing for readers on her journey. It’s going to hurt like hell, but she shows them that, if they tackle it with humor, grace and an open heart, it might just also be amazing.

IT WILL HAPPEN. Even though that's hard to believe sometimes. Especially hard to believe on Mondays.

I used to have a rule- when the Behavior Therapists get here in the morning make sure you have changed out of your pajamas. Now we have at therapy in our home three mornings a week. The teachers don't arrive until 9am, so that shouldn't be a problem. This rule quickly morphed into: when you answer the door-for Pete's sake make sure you are at least wearing a bra. I have abandoned both of those rules. Now I only have one rule: when the therapists are at the front door, make sure you open it for them.

When Greyson woke up this morning I'm certain he had one item on his to do list.

 photo _MG_1071_zps37c178d2.jpg
I'm happy to report he accomplished 100% of this list.

And Parker was no angel either.

 photo _MG_1065_zps32e1099d.jpg

Please note the similarities...

 photo doodlenotle_zps253c19e0.jpg

And it was one thing after another today. Even though it was Parker's nap time -after Speech Therapy I decided to stop by a park nearby just for a little bit. I feel guilty when we are always in a rush and don't make time for fun. 

Grey was that kid at the playground- taking your kids toys and running away when I tried to grab them back. The kid kicking sand dangerously close to your adorable babies face, ignoring my requests to stop. "If you don't listen to Mommy one more time we are going to leave" I told him. So he ran and grabbed another not his toy and it was time to go. I scoop Parker up and let Grey know we are leaving. He proceeds to climb to the top of the structure, screaming as loud as he could- NOOOOO NOOOO NOOOOO. I put Parker down so I can grab Grey and Parker immediately runs for the street. I am sweating and fuming and no longer using my socially acceptable fun mom park voice. GET DOWN HERE NOW! I yell to Grey like a demon. COME BACK HERE! I yell to Parker like a witch. I turn to the Dad (with his seriously perfect three kids) and give him a polite smile- like- opps, sorry about that! 

I cloned myself and we finally made it home. Parker's nap was a bust due to the infamous "crap nap"--When your child's entire nap is ruined due to them going poo. After that you're screwed.  Parker was screaming and kicking because he didn't want me to change him and he flung some poo on me as I tried to wipe the "gloop" off. (Poo that has the consistency of glue). By the time Michael got home I felt like I had run 3 marathons. I was ready for the finish line.

And now it's 9:03 and Bravo is on. I've found my finish line. (Now I just need some ice cream.) (And chocolate). And I've already moved on. Today is already the past. No matter how tight we hold on, the past always slips away. Unless it's bad of course. Isn't that funny? Sometimes we hold onto that kind of past forever. Carry it daily. Mentally, and physically. If you don't believe me take a huge breath in. Then exhale- out loud with a whoosh. And imagine how good life would feel if every single thing you worried about no longer had any power over you. Your shoulders- the ones who spend most of their time up around your ears could travel south- where they are supposed to be. Imagine taking all the bricks that weigh you down and throwing them off a cliff one by one. Anger. Fear. The future. Doesn't that feel better and lighter already?

Today's entry in my Jesus Calling book says, "You are feeling wobbly this morning, looking at difficult times looming ahead, measuring them against your own strength. However, they are not today's tasks- or even tomorrow's. So leave them in the future and come home to the present, where you will find Me waiting for you". That sounds like a good plan, Jesus. 

Each one of us thinks we are air traffic control. But were really are just a single air plane. We don't always know what else is coming and going. There are a million factors we can't decide or control. There's three steps ahead we don't even know about yet. There's a gift disguised as tragedy around the corner. Something difficult. Something fabulous. Always. We just have to wait it out. An amazing thing might just be waiting to happen to you a week from this Thursday. Until then- just be in charge of your own airplane. Not the whole damn sky. 

 photo _MG_1079_zps77be20cd.jpg

I needed that reminder so I put this tattoo on tonight. It helps me breathe easier. 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

living the dream

Many of us our busy living our dream lives and we don't even know it. We can't see beyond that damn plan that we came up with ions ago. Our current life doesn't even have one single thread in common with how it was supposed to go, the one we compare our actual life to. It's easy to miss because it lacks the simplicity and perfection of "2.5 kids by the time I'm 30", or "own my own business" or "kicking ass at xyz by the time I'm lmnop". Our real lives are so much less linear and so much more messy and complicated and jumbled and happy and sad. It's usually not all good or all bad- just a blessed mix of the in between. Most of us couldn't have written our real life into existence. We just aren't creative enough.

For one moment, stop. Look around. The clutter and chaos and life that unfolds... it's all yours. It's easy to forget that it's pretty darn great exactly the way it is. Good job you.

Some days I am so good. Because I check everything off the list. I return phone calls. I go to three different grocery stores and the boys are behaving like angels and my hair looks great and I smile at strangers because I am just so happy and so awesome.

And some days- a few more some of the days-I suck. "Not enough" echos in my bones and it feels so lonely and incapable. I forget to call to schedule an OT appointment for Grey (for the THIRD day in a row) ((but remember to buy lip gloss at Sephora which makes me feel even WORSE)), and I am TOO TIRED to go to a single grocery store and don't make eye contact with the neighbor dragging their trash can out to the curb because I can't bear to make small talk. And everything good I ever did before this very day is erased. I hate that. Our self worth is so much MORE than this single day. Good or bad. I am better than my empty (or even full fridge). Better than my to do list. Better than the stupid ice cream cone I ate but didn't want to.  All of that stuff is fake and fleeting and doesn't mean jack compared to who I really truly am. How I am. If my dear friend Wendy with four kids and a crazy busy schedule doesn't remember to do something- I don't think wow- Wendy really sucks all around as a human being. I still think she is the amazing Wendy. Calm and consistent like the Ocean. Sometimes totally crossing off her to dos and sometimes not.

Today I am going to treat myself like I'm Wendy. I'm so much nicer to her.

People LOVE to feel sad. There's poof of that everywhere. Ever heard of the band Cold Play? Of course you have- and they always make people feel sad. In fact sad music makes me so happy that I think it's actually happy music. Sad movies too. Tear jerkers. Life of Pi, Shawshank Redemption. Sad sad sad. Even sad is a gift because it means we have to ability to FEEL. And feeling is so much better than numb.When your fingers and heart are numb and you can't feel too much at all. Because where there is sad there is also always love. I think that's why we love each others sad stories. Because they inspire us to be alive and to FEEL alive and to have thoughts like- this crazy life with my totally NOT check the box kiddos and my beautiful really hard marriage- now complete with weekly marriage counseling, and the fact that DON'T have it all figured out yet and I am 40 - WOW! It's all such a gift. A good life doesn't mean a perfect life. It sure has taken me a long time to figure that one out. 

But of course we still search for happy. We can vacation in sad but happy is where we prefer to live. Research shows that half of your happiness can be attributed to one thing: you. Not your kids or your dog or who won the Fresno state Nebraska game: but YOU. That's awesome.

 photo _MG_0546_zps1a1c20ea.jpg
It was our first tail gate EVER. (Fresno got their butts whipped- 55 to 19.)

 photo _MG_0548_zpsaae65090.jpg
Every so often I have this moment that overtakes me. It feels like- ohmygosh, I am a Mom and a grown up and this is how I expected life to look but so much better and this is so amazing. I was having that moment watching this community of red all excited for the same thing.

 photo _MG_0555_zps1689f3e8.jpg
Sometimes it was too loud for Grey, but he still had fun.

 photo _MG_0585_zps219ba5da.jpg

 photo _MG_0609_zpsca3d0c89.jpg

 photo _MG_0623_zps0dd20006.jpg
This is as close as we can get to a family shot. And do you know what? It's perfect.

Pick a theme for your day that will help you find your happy. Mine is LETTING GO. I was texting with my friend Carli earlier this evening and she mentioned that she is working on letting Jesus take the wheel more. Totally, I told her. I back seat the crap out of Jesus. Jesus- you drive. BUT DON'T TURN HERE! And stop going so fast, Jesus! And now go faster, Jesus- I don't like this part, AND WHAT DOES THE GPS SAY TO DO JESUS?!

LETTING GO. (shew). It's gonna take some work, but I'm worth it. So are you.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

humanity first, label LAST

I just rocked my precious Parker before bed. As we swayed back and forth I buried my nose deep into the top of his powdery mist of soft blond hair. He smelled of baby and heaven and bubble bath and hope. It sounded like the hum of outside street lights and I'm eight years old and out past my bedtime and anything is possible. 

It still is, whispers a voice deep inside me. A calm, hopeful voice that I often try to squash down.  But tonight while the warm feel of summer still lingers in the air, I believe those words completely.  

Anything is possible.

Earlier today I was watching a youtube video recommended to me by a dear friend in nursing school. The video featured a woman by the name of Pat Deegan-  a disability-rights advocate, psychologist and researcher. She has created "Hearing Voices"; a groundbreaking simulation that helps individuals, students, and professionals understand the challenges faced by people with psychiatric disabilities. During the simulation, participants listen to distressing voices through headphones while completing a series of tasks, such as taking a mental status exam in a mock emergency room. She is changing the way the world helps those with psychiatric disorders. You can see Anderson Cooper's participation and thoughts on the simulation HERE

Deegan was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 25 years old, a fact that blew my mind wide open. Stories like hers remind me that anything is possible. Don't let your mind set limits on what you or your boys can and can't do. You see- we are not so different, people with psychiatric disorders and us. People with autism and you and me. There is no "me" and "them"- we are all humans together. Any of us could be one simple chromosome or traumatic event away from a diagnosis of our very own. Or if not you, your sister, your friend, your child or your spouse. 

Deegan discusses the profound impact her diagnosis had on her. She felt like she was no longer "Pat"- but that schizophrenia was now the master status in terms of her identity. Her humanity seemed secondary to the fact that she had a disorder. After many years of struggle and learning how to cope, she now realizes that she is so much more than her diagnosis. Reading about Pat's life made me ache with empathy and understanding- that although our circumstances are different- so often the feelings are the same. I believe that holds true for many of us.

I thought about an interaction I had years ago with a woman outside of Speech Therapy one day as she waited for her child to finish. She was discussing with me the numerous and familiar-sounding therapies her daughter received and I asked, "Oh does she have autism?" The mother's face wrenched up in pain. "We don't use that word" she replied. I felt as if I had just asked her how much she weighed or how much money her house cost. I then questioned myself- You tell EVERYONE your son has autism. You write a blog that THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE READ in which you frequently mention that he has autism. Maybe this is something that you should keep hidden. I've thought long and hard about our decision to be so forthcoming- and I realized- this diagnosis does not have any power to hurt us unless I give it that power. Unless I assume society will judge us or withhold from us because of it. In fact, the more I talk about it the more I am doing to reduce any stigma or preconceptions associated with it.  And sure- I could say it's not me it's society that will judge my child. But actually- I AM SOCIETY so I can also impact society with the message I put out there. We all can. 

So we are out and proud. I don't for one second think of a diagnosis as something that will limit my sons' future; their future actually depends on their abilities and their desires. 

We are all human beings FIRST. We are not cancer. We are not schizophrenia. We are not autism or Down syndrome. We are not a divorcee. We are not a lost cause or less than or anything that is slapped on a chart or across our face. We are vast and profound and ritual and ordinary. A pure and precious soul that was born and is loved and grew and failed and tried and succeeded and made it all the way to HERE. This very day. We are simply too big to fit into a tiny little labeled cup. We overflow and spill out into the world. We try each day, and when we suck- we try again.  It's awful. It's unbearable. It's amazing. It's perfect just like this. 

We are humans first, and labels last. 

You see, a label (or a diagnosis) is important to me because it makes us entitled to benefits like Speech Therapy through our insurance. It lets school folks know that my children need to be taught differently. It provides teachers with patience and understanding. It let's society know things they may not understand just by looking at my boys. Things like- don't touch me, it makes me uncomfortable. I have a hard time paying attention. I am sometimes triggered by crowds or loud or new situations.

They are not autism. They are precious little boys, frequently covered with dirt, jumping on the bed with glee and teaching me how to really live and love life.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ten things about me

Ten totally random things about me...

  • ONE: My all time favorite television shows are: Friends, Sex and the City and Breaking Bad.  I watch lots of television - usually while I'm writing into the wee hours of the night. Bravo is the biggest culprit. I would LOVE to write for TV- that would be a DREAM job.

  • TWO: I've been arrested. Once. I was a Sophomore in college. A police officer was knocking on doors in the dorm due to a suspicion of pot. I didn't have or do pot but I did have an unpaid speeding ticket on my record. Next stop- Paddy wagon and mug shots baby. Good thing I'm not a celebrity. 

  • THREE: I am obsessed with qtips- I even was as a little girl. I could clean my ears out twenty times a day- but I limit it to one. You are NOT allowed to clean your kids ears out with q-tips. I know because I did with Grey when he was a baby and I got IN TROUBLE by his doctor. I think that tickley twirly qtip feeling is the best/worst feeling in the world. I also use them to clean. If you have any favorite uses be sure and let me know.

  • FOUR: I love hearing from you. Love love love. Sometimes it takes me a couple weeks to write back but I always do. (Unless you are trying to sell me things or are asking me to sell your things). I appreciate your perspective, your stories and the ways our story has added perspective to your life. Most days I am happy, but some days are so hard and I love to reread your emails to remind me that none of us are in this life thing alone. I crave honest intimacy from life and interactions. It's easy to press "publish" on a post and wonder if anyone is really out there reading. Thank you for letting me know that you are out there.

  • FIVE: I have an addictive personality. Totally obsessive. Now that I'm a sort of grown-up I try to channel that drive into healthy outlets. I look back and laugh at some of my past obsessions. I totally remember in college doing Jazzercise (obsession #1 exercise) and running to the car afterwards to drink a diet Mountain Dew (#2)  and smoke a Marborol Light (#3). Unfortunately (and fortunately) I am off all three for now. 

  • SIX: US weekly is the only magazine I subscribe to. But I'm starting to feel creepy looking at it. I don't know half the people are and I don't care where Leann Rimes and Eddie Cibrian went to dinner. I especially don't want to see Justin Bieber or the likes with their shirt off. E-gads! Gross- I'm old-ish enough to be some of these kids Mothers. 

  • SEVEN: I'm always late. And if I'm not late- I will stop at Starbucks "real quick" and make myself late. It's almost like I have a fear of being early, so I just try to be on time and it never ever works and instead I'm late. At least now I have children that I can blame for it.  

Speaking of Starbucks- check out this HILARIOUS bit on the REAL reason Starbucks spells your name wrong. WARNING: It contains a couple of F-Bombs. Don't watch with small children around or if you hate cursing. 

  • EIGHT: Michael travels for work every week. I usually get a babysitter at night during the witching hours otherwise I go insane. Sometimes I sit by myself in my car to soak up the last seconds of my alone time. And sometimes on the very same day I keep them up late because I already miss before they are even asleep. Sometimes I have to stop myself from going into Parker's room and snatching him out of bed. They drive me crazy and I love them so big it hurts.

  • NINE: I can't believe it -but I've started to enjoy cooking. My favorite spice is by far Cumin. My favorite herb is basil. Did you know St. John's Wort is Basil? Some claim that one of it's many benefits is mood enhancement. I'm a self-proclaimed terrible cook- but ever since Summer started I have been cooking more and more. It's a nice escape from Mom'ing and it's a fun creative outlet.

  • TEN: I don't really like Holidays. The whole autism thing has thrown a wrench on so many of these kid-centric holidays. (Think about it- Christmas/ Easter/ Halloween). I'd like to say they are ACTUALLY about God or something bigger than that- but the world really doesn't really act that way. They just say it and then go ape shit on the commercialization of it. (Which I would be too but my kids just aren't into it.) For now- I am still wading the waters and figuring out how we can best celebrate in ways that work for us. Until then- Trash Truck Wednesday is my favorite holiday.

Some scenes from today...

 photo _MG_0394_zps422f2cd8.jpg

 photo _MG_0408_zps8070c4ba.jpg

 photo _MG_0409_zps0eaa5232.jpg

 photo _MG_0415_zps7b435ea9.jpg

 photo _MG_0419_zps3ad37a96.jpg

 photo _MG_0430_zps84049b3c.jpg

Feel free to share some of YOUR random facts with me. Either in the comments- or send an email to


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

how to (reallly) be alive

Today I was in a mad dash hurry. Grey's therapy ended early at 11:30 while Parker's went until 12. I had the brilliant idea to run to the grocery store on the corner during the thirty minute window. On the way to the store I witnessed a little boy and his father walking down the side street. The little boy was probably 2 or 3 years old. He had a ball cap and tan cargo shorts on just like dad. They were holding hands and going slow. Grey and I took our lickety split trip to the market- just picking up a few essentials. 

 photo _MG_0287_zpsf5e596f9.jpg

 photo _MG_0288_zps074f1278.jpg

On the way back from the store I notice the same father and son duo just now approaching the end of the street. Woah- that stinks- I can't believe it took them all that time to walk up the street, I thought. I went to the grocery store and back in that amount of time! We were caught at the light so I just watched them. The dad stayed at his son's pace- there was no rushing. The man somehow opened his pocket and took out a sippy cup without letting go of his precious little guy's hand. 

 photo bigstock-Father-And-Son-Hands-5847408_zpsc0f6b50a.jpg

The little boy was looking up at his dad in admiration and they were perfectly wrapped up in their every day conversation and suddenly I couldn't look away. I realized it was me that had it all wrong. That actually doesn't suck that it took that long. I was clearly witnessing one of those mundane everyday moments that make love and life so stinking precious. I took mental notes from this duo- notes on how to do life right:

Hold hands, notice details, go slow. 

 photo _MG_0298_zps17864b68.jpg
What if kids were all stressed out and constantly busy? Mowing the lawn and paying bills and stressing over traffic. Wouldn't that be funny? No wait- it would actually be HORRIBLE. Thank goodness we have kids around to teach us how to be.

I'm not scared of the dentist, or the dark but sometimes I'm scared that I'm so busy living that I forget to be alive.

 photo Untitled-1_zps8cf1c039.jpg

Back in the beautiful land of Los Angeles, California I would go running from our house to the beach after work each day. Whoot whoot, someone would on occasion call out to me. Pig, I would always think, annoyed. Fast forward four years and another kid later. I was walking in the parking lot at a busy intersection the other day when I heard it. Whoot whoot was screamed out of a car to me. No- they can't mean me. I look around and I am the only one standing there. They must have meant... Me? My face breaks into a big smile. I get into the car and talk to myself in the rear view mirror. Oh yeah girl. You still got it. Behold the Woo'er: From pig to hero; Oh my how times have changed.


So I really took my advice last week. I flipped the coin for everything that scared, annoyed and angered me. Every time I would feel the familiar itch of uncomfortable I would try it. I LOVE being 40! I am FABULOUS. I feel so AT PEACE WITH MY AGE AND MY EXTRA SMARTNESS. 


TRAFFIC IS GOOD BECAUSE IT REMINDS ME TO TAKE MY TIME. MEAN PEOPLE ARE JUST SAD SO I WILL EXTRA SEND LOVE TO THEM!  It's gonna take a bit for some of those neurons to connect, but I'm willing to try.


Sometimes I feel like too much. Much too much. I say too much. I share too much. I talk too much. I feel too much. I think TOO MUCH. I everything much too much. But I thought about it- and most of my friends are too much too. But I don't think of them as too much. I think of them as JUST Right. So maybe I am just right too. And I bet you are too, friend. Too much is the new "just right".

And in the spirit of just right- my newest favoritest song in the whole wide universe. Like on constant repeat over and over again. I promise it will make you LAUGH and smile and feel alive. 

They tell us from the time we're young to hide the things that we don't like about ourselves, inside ourselves. I know I'm not the only one who spent so long attempting to be someone else. Well I'm over it. I DON'T CARE IF THE WORLD KNOWS WHAT MY SECRETS ARE.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

flip a coin

Like so many parents before me one day I just realized it was autism. The realization burned through my core like a paper house on fire. I no longer had the power to squash out the facts that were screaming into my rigid silence. One day with shaking hands I ran to our computer. Our big Mac- the one where our legacy of pictures had been stored. I needed to find it and confront it immediately. 

I wasn't much of a camera girl during Grey's first year. We took a few pictures in the hospital when he was born and just a few in the first six months. 

 photo photo2_zps8f9ddb6b.jpg

Those were etched in my brain and offered no clues. I needed more. The in between. Everything leading up until this awful day where I transformed into fear and soot.

 photo IMG_2091.jpg

I sit and with icy intensity click through images, so afraid of what I might feel and find. Which day had it happened? I watch an old video. A profoundly ordinary moment where Greyson is pushing his favorite green truck all around the living room floor. Not just back and forth, fixated on the wheels. He is 13 months old.

 photo IMG_4184_zps7f9bf1ef.jpg

 photo IMG_4250_zpsc3f37df3.jpg

"Greyson, are you playing with your truck?" I asked, so clearly enamored with this little soul. As soon as his name sailed from my mouth his head turns fast enough to cause whiplash. Yes, that's what I thought...that is my Greyson. The one I thought was still here. The one who now rarely turns to acknowledge his name. The one who no longer pushes his truck around; he is simply content spinning its wheels. 

 photo IMG_4519_zps1efa7efd.jpg
Five months pregnant with Parker and Grey 18 months old

 photo IMG_0585_zpsf9a7e314.jpg

 photo IMG_0304_zps5a1a3a53.jpg

I scroll through the pictures with painful curiosity. My heart stops. It's his second birthday. We bought him a package of Disney Cars. He has lined them up and is examining them from the corner of his eye. I have no recollection of this specific moment and only believe it to be true because of the proof in the picture.

My stomach dropped out and my lungs burned shut. I felt like I saw the Devil. Yes, it was in our house right at this moment in this picture. In him. So somewhere between 15 months and 24 months he went missing and I didn't even go look for him. As his very own mother, his DNA. The person closest to him in the whole wide world, why can't I pinpoint the day?

I can't watch those videos anymore. It aches in places I wish I didn't have.

I think of these moments when I hear from a new mom or dad in my old shoes. Their greatest fear is my reality. They want anything but my outcome. They fear my life. Sometimes that scares me. Gosh- deep down I think we want people to admire us, maybe even envy our life. But people don't and yet I understand. And I also now know the fear of it all is so much worse than the actuality of it. I think that holds true for everything scary.

And now... I'm being honest with every part of my mind- I fully believe this is exactly the life I am supposed to have. Not just the bits and pieces perfect parts. All of it. It's a package deal and so much of it really was a custom choice by me. I picked this life. If course I didn't pick autism but I picked pretty much everything else. Marriage has been really hard- so we are working on it. That's how I feel about life- we have the option to choose or change. So often we have a circumstance, an event, a fact- and in those first moments afterwards- WE GET TO DECIDE HOW WE FEEL ABOUT IT. 

That is incredible. It's like a flip of a coin but with less chance- more choice. We can easily pick angry. No one will really talk you out of angry.  In fact, you'll find more angry people. You will attract them. And because we all love being right, we find more evidence to support our anger. That's called justification. We add in a good dose of entitlement. Like we deserve other things from life that better be pretty damn brilliant to offset this other pain. And we feel judgement at those who don't carry the burdens we do. For those who take for granted the gifts they do have. Anger, justification, entitlement, judgement and the original life circumstance. That's too heavy for any one person to bear.

But if we are really being kind to ourselves, and really give ourselves time to hurt and mourn and breathe through it all and feel about it and think about it and talk to others- we can flip to the other side of the coin. The opposite of angry- acceptance. And when you free that angry space up there then makes room for gratitude and a high gloss happy. A happy that you can easily wipe clean when you smudge it. It's beautiful and light and freeing and gives you back the rest of your life.

And now that I am here I of course have hard minutes, moments and even days. But I can also say the good parts erase, justify and even make humble the bad. This is why I am here. They are why I am here. For me- motherhood taught me what life really means. It's painful and raw and imperfect and mine. God, I'm so lucky.

If you don't like where you are, flip a coin. Try again. Pick any color you want and start over again.

 photo _MG_0270_zpsbb20d740.jpg

 photo _MG_0267_zps1e92e17b.jpg
Much Love,

If you are at the beginning of something hard- it's impossible to see the light. I promise you, it is there. Little tiny light bulbs will slowly light your way. It doesn't feel like that. You swear it won't be true for you. I promise, everything will look different soon.