Thursday, July 28, 2016

power of choice

It's too hot to cook. Or write. Or actually even think properly. At least that's what I'm blaming my perpetual brain fog on this week. I'm not complaining, because I'd rather be hot than cold any day of the year- not that we have a choice on that one. But I'm also not super motivated to do much besides read, take a nap, sweat and eat. I'm wearing-too short for a 42 year old- jean shorts and a tank as my uniform. 

The boys have been completely unaffected by the heat. As in-out the back door at 8am and ready to play alllll daaaaay looooong. They can swim in ice cold April swimming pools, and run around in 108 degrees heat. What gives? I miss the flexibility that childhood brings. And the willingness to overcome any physical discomfort in the sake of play. 

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Parker only rides his bike now. From room to room in the house. Outside to inside. He had my put it in his bed. He tried to bring it in the car. It's as if he can't exist without it, so I let him be who he needs to be right now. This phase will pass, and a new one will replace it. And luckily this one- is pretty darn cute.

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One day, when I'm in Heaven, I will finally be able to see the world as they do. And I will cry it is so beautiful. 

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An excerpt from my book, Little Light Bulbs (Daily). After two years, I'm only about three chapters in. I plan on writing more when both boys are in school full time. 

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The pool is where we spend most of our free time.

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He swims under water now. Like face in. He dives to the bottom for toys. He swims on his back. After so much struggle, I still can't believe my eyes are telling the truth.

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Thank you, God. It happened in your (not mine) time. Never mine. And it's perfect.

I'm so over the constant flow of politics on TV and social media. It reminds me of the old comedian, Henny Youngman's joke: The patient says, "Doctor, it hurts when I do this." And the Doctor says, "Then don't do that." I really just need to quit the internet for awhile, but instead I keep subjecting myself to the awfulness.

Bascially, I have dietary restrictions- I am inspiration powered and on a constant Inspiration Diet. And when I ingest too much turmoil in the world, and pain and contradiction and and hatred, and murder- I shut down. I turn myself inside out to protect my skin. But then my insides get hurt and I just can't win. I need to limit the time I spend investing in things that make me feel bad. Like reading comments people leave on Facebook with my jaw dropped down and rolled out onto the floor in front of me. I start to think that is reality- but it isn't. At least it isn't mine. 

We have choices. We always have choices. And if something causes you pain, choose something else.

When we go to McDonalds, we give the boys an option of ice cream or fries. Greyson always picks fries, and Parker always picks ice cream. Until lately, when Greyson started telling me, "One...two" when I asked.  
"Do you want fries?" 
"No," he says, "one-two."
"Ice cream?" I counter. 
"No, one-two".
"Fries AND icecream?" I say.
"No, one- two" he responds.

I soon realized- he wants both, but he doesn't know the word and. He thinks that one or the other is the only option he ever has in life. He's so used to only being given one choice all day long- in therapy and in life. "Is it red or blue? Do you want water or juice? Under or over? A or B? Chocolate or vanilla?" 

Greyson has no idea of the power of AND. Oh, the gorgeous and enlightening power of and. We can be serious AND silly. We can be Rebulicanny and Democrat-ish. Sad and happy, empty and complete, confident and insecure, all swirled into one. Powerful and weak. So often we think we are limited by simply one or the other, when we can actually have both. Life is like a multiple choice test, and sometimes, all the answers can be correct. 

And now, sometimes Grey gets both, to show him how good and is. I can't wait to teach my boys that they have options, and so often- most importantly- more options than the ones that they are given. We are only limited by the choices we make, not the choices we are given. And we can almost always choose an and.

Friday, July 15, 2016

time to fly

Sometimes life happens and pulls us out of our comfortable existence. After that, everything is forever changed. And at first, it feels wrong and unrecoverable. So very wrong. And it also feels like everything we thought we knew about the world was also wrong. 

Want to find out who your real friends are, the ones that can help carry an uncomfortable load? Just experience trauma. So on top of your life feeling like hot, itchy, too tight polyester tights, you lose friends or connections because your story no longer fits theirs. Your story and your new needs make them uncomfortable. Their same life makes you uncomfortable. People can only meet you as deeply as they meet themselves. You are forced to get to know what you are really made of.

I began to realize our life was not the same as everyone else's when Grey attended Early Intervention preschool twice a week. A friend asked me if I wanted to meet her at (the gosh awful) Chuckee cheese with 2 year old Grey and baby Parker. We had lived in Fresno for about a year, and I was just starting to make real friends. And I really, really wanted to go, but it was our first week of home behavior therapy- a therapy used with kids with autism. I asked the person in charge of our previous ABA therapy program if we could go to Chuckee Cheese with our therapist.

I'm sorry, Grey is not ready for an outing yet, she said, in that -actually not sorry at all- way. He needs to learn safety commands first. Otherwise it's dangerous for him. (Commands? I wonder. What is he, a dog?!)

Oh, Ok, I say, ready to just leave and go home for a quick lunch before his therapy. 

He's just not there yet, she says, looking at me with pity. 

I feel myself shrinking into the ground. Wanting this conversation to end. I get it! I want to scream. I've raised him! I know how hard he is! I know he doesn't stop when I say stop! I know he will try to run in the parking lot. I know he has no fear of me or of a moving car. I ALREADY GO OUT WITH HIM ALONE EVERY SINGLE DAY. Wouldn't someone accompanying me in fact be SAFER? But instead I actually say, Ok, I understand, like I do...but I don't.

I walk to our car to leave preschool. A task I always deeply dreaded, due to the fact that we had to park far, and walk by a playground but never had time to play. It always resulted in a physical struggle. I would fight Grey's tantrum with all my might, while Parker was strapped to my chest, sometimes getting hurt in the crossfire. I wrangled Grey to the car and buckled him in his carseat. I go to quickly change Parker's diaper in the back of the car. I open the hatch to our car, and the dohicky responsible for holding the door up and open is unsteady and the door slams down on my head.

Owwwww! I yell out in angry pain. It was the gateway to all my sadness. I start to sob in the parking lot. My head hurts soooo bad, I want to holler angry curse words at the top of my voice. But my heart hurts so much worse. I get into the driver's seat, and I can't function enough to start the car. All I can do is cry. I just want to go to Chuckee Cheese, I cry over and over again. I just want to be a normal mom, with a normal life. I don't want this one, because this one hurts.

That was five years and a million times ago that I have realized that our life is not the same. Sometimes our life is different indifferent. Sometimes it's different bad. And those realities can feel like a door slamming on my head. I've also realized, so many of our lives are not normal. Even if they look normal.

There is no Summer camp for us. No dropping my boys off and taking off. No letting them play in the backyard alone while I make dinner. There is no tossing the ball in the front yard with dad. No books before bedtime, because they just aren't interested. No regular play dates because we have therapy every day. Besides - most kids don't say- let's invite Greyson and Parker, they are so much fun. They don't say that because my kids aren't fun to be around by kid standards. They don't even play with other kids- so I get it. But it hurts. All of that can build up and hurt. I'm not the mom who can take off on a whim to Chuckee Cheese. Despite the fact that I hate Chuckee Cheese, that makes me sad at times.

But I've also realized, sometimes our life is different good. Really, really different good.There are experiences we've had and people we've met that we never ever would have- had our life not been touched by autism. Teachers who love my boys like their own, and get almost as excited for milestones as we do. People who go out of their way to include us in the best life has to offer. I'm reminded again and again, people are good. 

My boys show me the best of humanity.

Today we got to experience different good in our life, and we are all still glowing. Last week I posted a video on Facebook of Greyson making his latest request, "I ride airplane". Now you know when you have a child that is language challenged, you are constantly trying to help them understand the power of their words. When they ask for something- you do your best to try and make it happen. Especially when they use three words ands verb they have never used spontaneously!  And let's be honest, sometimes when you see so many things in the world your child can't have due to autism- you want the answer to be ABSOLUTELY YES for once. 

For the past couple of months, Greyson has been making this request, "I ride airplane". Sometimes he asks over 100 times a day-seriously. And he stumped me. We aren't going on vacation anytime in the near future. Toy cars, we can do. Air plane rides- not so much. And this kid was ridiculously dedicated to his request. Sometimes he said it over and over as he fell asleep at night, "I ride airplane."

So, soon after I posted a video of Greyson saying, "I ride plane." An amazing woman who reads our blog, reached out and offered to give Greyson that very ride.

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My face still hurts from smiling.

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He was smiley excited. I don't think I have ever seen him smiley excited in his life.

So excited he forgot the "Ready"!
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His energy and body was calm. He stared out the window, silent. Mesmerized. Not an ounce of fear. He LOVED it. Happy. (So so happy). His happiness instantly became my own.

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Greyson and his new friend.

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Dawan, and Tom- Strangers that turned into instant friends, You are incredible, and you made a difference in our lives today. Thank you for your generosity of time and heart. Thank you for making my boy happy. Thank you for making the answer, YES. Thanks for taking Michael, Grey and I on an amazing ride throughout our beautiful valley.

Most of all, thank you for reminding me, and everyone that reads this- that people are (SO) good. The world needs it more than ever now.


PS- Greyson. Don't even think about asking for a pony. Love, Mom

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

regular old life

The storm is coming but I don't mind
People are dying, I close my blinds.
All that I know is I'm breathing now.
I want to change the world, instead I sleep.
I want to believe in more than you and me.
But all that I know is I'm breathing.
All I can do is keep breathing.
All we can do is keep breathing
ingrid michaelson

We are smack dab in the middle of Summer. Rotating smoothly in the machine of our routines; I can almost hear them hum. The ending of the school year was hard because it meant our routine would change. The world is familiar with growing pains. The autism world is familiar with an additional term: transition pains. We feel them deep and big and wide here, anytime there is change in the wind. Sometimes big, sometimes small. But they are there, punctuating life. I have felt them, long before I even became a Momma. Life blows and change whirls up around you. But I just got here, I always think. And we plant our legs and roots and search for comfort again.

Pause for just a second. Take a deep breath in. Exhale. Slow down time for just a moment. Are you in a moment in transition, or are your machines rotating. Either way- it's exactly where you are supposed to be.

Now, I pause and remember for just a moment- our machines are rotating, life is the same. It is good. We are status quo. But it is boring and aching the living daylight out of me. It reminds me that I do, in fact like a little bit of change to feel balanced. I'm always searching for balance.There's so much I want to do and say and write. But like the song lyrics above state: instead I sleep.

I will embrace my days. Live my simple life with intent. Remember that this ebb and flow is natural and necessary. And so is sleep. I often go to bed at night, exhausted, but not really feeling like I accomplished something.

I remind myself that life is not a completed mental list of daily or weekly accomplishments. Life is not a row of check marks that must be checked off for worth. What is life though? A question that usually runs on a loop somewhere in my always thinking mind. What is life if it is not change, and it is not staying the same? I guess Life is letting go. Not needing or trying to make Life into one particular thing. Life is change and it's the same. It's easy and it's so freaking hard. It's loss and pain and goodness and God. It's not simply identifying yourself with your nouns- Mom, Police Officer, Runner, Teacher, Sister, Friend, Husband, Student. Life is constantly changing, and amidst the change- it is letting go.

It's one of my 2016 intentions, "Letting go".

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I know most of the time when I feel that awful elephant on my chest, when I can't go a real breath in, when I am feeling stuck or unworthy or afraid- chances are, I am holding on to something I shouldn't. Pain. The past. Expectations of my life and other people in it. I am SO GOOD at holding on to all that crap. If I could just free up that mind space, maybe I wouldn't be so exhausted.

What would it feel like if you just decided to let go? I think for me, it would be so scary and so good. A little pain is always required in the realm of change.

Some scenes from Summer...

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This happened tonight. And Lifetime could totally turn this into a horror movie. Scary music would play as the unsuspecting mom grabbed a cart, without realizing that both her young boys got their own kiddie cart from hell. She never knew what was coming and didn't even have time to put the kabosh on the kid carts because the small blond one was already running in circles around the banana stand. Seriously, I was yelling and laughing and then pretending not to laugh as mostly Parker RAN at full speed yelling, READY, SET, GOOOOOO!!!!!!! Oh man, the looks I got. I mean, come on woman- you have a whole other foot right on the end of your other leg. And I still need to go to the grocery store tomorrow, because I didn't get half of what I needed. We just needed to get the hell out of there. And it was scary and hard, but we tried. I tried. And at the end of the day- those are some of my favorite parenting memories. Be proud because you tried, not because it was perfect. (Because it so wasn't).

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A totally out of the norm last week at lunch celebrating my friend Lisa's birthday.

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My wonderful parents were in town at the end of June.

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Adventures in bowling. Has the potential to be another scary movie, but this excursion wasn't so bad.

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Greyson showing Grandpa the cars he wants.

As I look through this pictures I am filled with just a moment of peace. Living and accomplishing things are two very different things. And maybe, just maybe our worth from living, being and loving, is so much more important than accomplishing.

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So much love, Chrissy

PS- Miss you Mom and Dad. xoxo

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

hearts tell a million words

A picture tells a thousand words, they say.

But sometimes a picture contains a thousand words that are also never said. And so we assume the rest of the story and the details around them. That's what our mind does- it fills in the blanks to make sense of the world, ourselves and our surroundings.

But so very often those fill in the blank aren't very close to the actual truth. "You are lucky your kids do xyz", someone will comment, based on a picture. And them being able to do xyz isn't always true, but I get how they might come to that conclusion based on the picture. "You are such a good mom", someone else will say after seeing me take a picture of an adventure. Maybe they saw a picture of us at the Zoo or on a train. But they may not have seen me staring at my phone while they played on the playground earlier. They didn't see the hot dogs I fed them for dinner, three nights in a row. They didn't see me yelling and hollering and being completely and utterly impatient while on said adventure.

You see, we like real life. We like candid pictures. But mostly, we do not like real life pictures. If we did- then why don't we see someone use a profile picture of themselves with their eyes closed? Or that picture where we have three chins or a gut or sumo wrestler arms even if they highlighted an amazing memory? Because we like real life- but only up to a certain point. After that, real life starts to get uncomfortable.

Yesterday we went to downtown Fresno because I've been dying to look at this mural.

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Painter, FranCisco Vargas poured his soul and five months of work into this incredible 34 by 125 foot sign. My pictures could never properly share how immense and majestic and colorful and full of life this sign is. It was more than I expected.

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After we took a few pictures we started to walk around the surrounding area in downtown Fresno.

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By now, Michael is mostly used to my adventures. But right after we walk past two men he says, "Can we please go now? I'm not very comfortable here" he said, looking left and right.

I can't help but giggle out loud. "Seriously?! We're fine!" I tell him. I walk slowly, holding Greyson's hand and admiring all the incredible architecture and isolated streets. I absorb the hum, history and character of my surroundings. "Aren't we having so much fun?" I ask Greyson, who usually doesn't answer me, but I always ask questions to anyway.

"NO". He responds, which made me laugh so hard until I was startled by a loud bottle hitting the pavement in front of us. I see a half naked body pop out of dumpster, throwing items out for recycling. My eyes pop open wide and my pace instantly quickens.

"Ok Michael", I concede "We can go back to the car".

I look over the few pictures I got and I love the feelings they make me feel. But I have to laugh because they do not truly illustrate the moments we had there. They tell a story, but it's mostly different from the real story we actually experienced.

And the funny thing is- that is true for all of us and for most of the pictures we post. I don't think any of us set out to deliberately mislead or lie about our lives. We don't go and stand in front of a million dollar home and say, "I love my beautiful home!" But each picture contains 1,000 words unspoken. It doesn't illustrate our fears or struggles of the day. It doesn't mention that you may feel like a failure as a parent or a human. They don't mention your marriage struggles, financial strains, and life pangs. People can look at your picture and not realize you may be lonely or angry or sad or confused, or just finished yelling your face off. Pictures tell 1,000 words, but real life tells a million more.

Pictures are magical though. I'm quite certain I could not live without them. You see- because all those other things, the other unsavory details-well, we forget them. When we look over the pictures after some time has passed, and we just remember the good stuff. We forget the guy in the dumpster and we remember the awe.

Trust me, your life is beautiful. And if you were able to see it from the outside, it would become so very clear to you.

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I'll believe in you downtown- but only on the week days when it's a littler busier and a little bit safer. Regardless, you are still beautiful.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

no antidote to pain

Life is so precious. A fact never as evident as it is when it is taken away. Especially when it is taken violently and abruptly. For every 99 people, there is one bad. But that one bad has the potential to be so very,very destructive. 

There was a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida targeting the gay community. This Momma feels a fierce protection for minorities, especially those that are persecuted and misunderstood. People do not choose to be gay anymore than my boys would choose to have autism. And I will never choose anything but love when it comes to other humans. I'm way too mortal to judge anyone. I read everything I can, and watch television dedicated to covering the shooting. I just want to understand something that simply can not be understood.

The world sits by feeling hopeless. Powerless. Because we can't stop terror, we can't end hate, and we can't bring back life. So what do we do? I am a fixer and a feeler. I often ask myself -how can I be the change? What is my responsibility in all of this. This world belongs to all of us. But times like this I feel like there's nothing I can do.

There are no magic words to make the world a better place in an instant. And we can never ever fix the wrong that has been done. But there is always something we can do. I'm going to repeat that, because it's important.

There's always something we can do.

We can never give up on the world. On love and goodness. On doing the right thing. On waking up every day and trying our best to in moments overlook obligation and celebrate life. We must use positive forces to stand against the negative. There are a few things we can do to be who we want to teach our children to be. To be the good in a world that can often feel overwhelming and bad. 

Honor the pain- The shooting massacre in Orlando is big and awful and tragic. So many eyes saw a glimpse of tragedy too awful for anyone to have to see. Today I sat in my bedroom and read the name of each victim out loud. I wanted to honor each name, each story. Each life so unique, just like yours. There were people that had little tiny babies at home. People who just bought a house. People who just moved and were beginning fresh starts. Right in the middle of living, they died. Pray for their families and friends. Pray for the Gay community, recipients of hate from too many people. Prayer for their safety. Many people on earth are carrying their own pain and trauma. You can't put a positive spin on it. You can put a silver lining on it. You just have to honor the ache. 

Recognize beauty- The world is so beautiful. The trees, the sky, the water, the birds, the earth, the meaning of life connecting full circle with the world. Sometimes it amazes me. Sometimes I forget to notice it. I must remind my eyes to see beauty. I remind my ears to hear beauty. I remind my nose to smell beauty. The senses were created in part- to enjoy the earth's abundance. It would be such a shame to waste that. So today- notice the details. The rainbow speckled through the sprinkler spray, the smell of banana bread. The sound of giggles of dog yawns and lawn mowers. All that sound means we are alive. 

Gratitude- We have so much to be grateful for. We can't only let this be evident when things are taken away. Gratitude is a daily practice. A muscle that must be stretched and flexed. It's been proven that grateful people are happier people. Gratitude involves being present, being aware, focusing on what you do have and not what you still want. A recent study on gratitude indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy. In addition, those focusing on gratitude experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly, and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals. Focusing on the gifts we have, makes us better people. Better people make the world a better place.

Value your own life- Each soul is sacred, special. There is nothing more important on earth than life, yet it's something I know I continuously take for granted. We recognize that babies are miracles on earth, but so are we. We were chosen to exit here together for this finite period of time. God poured love into us and wants us to be a part of this world. God doesn't make mistakes. You are fricking awesome. Your life has meaning. 

Create beauty- We all have this ability, but we don't all have the ability to recognize it. Trust me, it's in there!!! God made us creative human beings on purpose. Everyone's creations look different. Do not get caught up in what someone else's creativity looks like. If you are focusing on theirs, you can not simultaneously foster your own. Some people create beauty with their words, helping, supporting and inspiring others. Some people create beauty with their hands. They build things or bake things or paint things or fix things. Some create beauty with their mind- they write words, poems, letters, notes, even legal briefs that make the world better. Some heal with their hands. 

Sunday I was feeling bleak and I decided that I simply needed to create something beautiful. I needed to feel. We took the boys to Fresno City College and roamed around the empty campus in delight. 

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It was beautiful. My pictures contain the most beautiful boys I've ever laid eyes on. I want to share that beauty with you.

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This fountain made us so (fl)happy.

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Parker likes to get real close.

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Uh oh. Too close. And back up pants in the car were used and not replaced a few months ago. Ain't nothing wrong with a naked ride home when you're five. (and we maaaay have also stopped in the McDonalds Drive thru.)

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My favorite shot of the day. The first time they've ever spontaneously held hands with each other. I couldn't breathe it was so good.

We can not stop the bad, we will never be able to. But we can create the good. In fact, creating good is a task we are all called to do. Despite the world's pain- we still must stop and pay attention. We must recognize beauty. We must hold those we love close. More than ever, we must, to the best of our abilities- to add more kindless, love, beauty and hope into the world.