Friday, August 11, 2017

back to school 2018

I realized I had lost my moxie.

How did it disappear? Can I pinpoint the day? Was it all at once or little by little? I sit here and ache from it's loss, yet grateful for the shocking realization. It's been months since I last felt that spark of unbreakable spirit I know is somewhere inside my soul. Since I looked in my mirror and said- "yes, that's her, that is me" and felt at home. Maybe at least knowing it's gone, is key to getting it back.

Moxie- ˈmäksē force of character, determination, or nerve.

What builds it? There is no exact recipe, but I do know it's born from struggle and dirt and pain and triumph. You can't really get it from watching reality TV and retail therapying (DAMN.)

We are approaching the end of Summer. School starts in just three days. I think back to all the Back to Schools I experienced as a child. New Uniforms, back packs, and lunch boxes were purchased. My Strawberry Shortcake lunch box was one of my favorites. Unfortunately it didn't smell like strawberries, it smelled like cool metal, stale PB+J and orange peels. We would patiently await to find out if we were getting Teacher A, or Teacher B- there were always two options per grade in the St. Louis Missouri, Catholic Schools I was raised in. I would carry my new supplies- new pencils sharpened with pride, brand new beautiful crayons aching to color all inside a shiny new pencil box- so excited to start fresh each year. The night before school started I could never sleep I was so excited.

Some back to school- "Get to Know Me's" I made for the boys teachers, aides, and school staff. It's really scary to send your children into the world when they struggle to communicate. Anything you can do to ease that fear and make the transition smoother, the better.

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We don't model please or thank you, because those are hard words to learn for learners who struggle with language. Nouns like "banana" or "car" are easy- they are associated with something tangible. Words like "go" or "put" are a little harder- but still belong to concrete concepts. However- "please" is social, not functional, and isn't associated with something concrete. When Grey is frequently told, "please" and "thank you", or made to say it- he starts adding it to every word in every sentence. It took us a year to undo sentences like, "car please, is please, green please."

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Now I'm a mom to two precious, energetic amazing little boys. This is the first year that both boys will be going to school. Our school experience is not like the one I had growing up. Teachers and programs change up until the last minute. We don't go to our home school with kids from the neighborhood because they don't have an autism program.  It takes up so much of my energy- so much so that I can barely write sometimes. It's made me realize that stress eats creativity for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's crushed so much of my confidence and my soul.

Those of you who are here with me, breaking bread in this sacred space know my heart. I just want what's right. Some of that is short term stuff, like best and current practices in education, appropriate training, open communication. I want my boys to have a method to communicate, and a method to be communicated with. For many kids with autism- pictures + words (not just words) is how to best communicate with them. I want individualized services and Inclusion that makes sense. I want a true collaboration- Teachers know a lot about teaching, and I know a lot about my child.

Lastly, yet perhaps most importantly, I want to big, systemic changes, not just for my boys but for all, and all over the world. You see, the day Greyson was diagnosed with autism-I finally realized that despite countless hours of Speech Therapy, and Behavior Therapy and diet changes and supplements, that I could not change his diagnosis. No matter what I did, I couldn't change the fact that he has autism. So I decided on that very day, "Well, I can't change the fact that Greyson has autism, so instead I will just have to change the world." And I totally thought it would be easy. Ha!

But my mother's heart aches to see a change in hearts and minds and culture showing that ALL students are capable, deserve support and deserve a great educational experience that will lead them to a life of well-being in our community. I want to shatter the implicit bias that individuals with disabilities are less than. I want to dissect the "Us vs Them" mentality of Special Education versus General Education. I want us all to belong to each other, like Mother Theresa said. I want for everyone to embrace that "Inclusion" can and should go beyond specific classroom curriculum and trickle into every breathing aspect of life.

But we just aren't there yet. And some days I'm pretty sure someone crumpled up the map to get us there and then threw it away.

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Well, yesterday, The amazing author Jen Hatmaker created a call to action on her Facebook page. She has a podcast, and was looking to the public to find a guest to interview. It's been something I felt like I HAD to do since the day she announced she would be hosting one. This gal has an enviable spirit, and charisma that pulls you in. She's everything good in the world, and she's the very definition of Moxie. I asked my Facebook friends if they would recommend me to be a podcast guest on her show too.

You guys, I was ABSOLUTELY overwhelmed with the response. It was like I got to hear my eulogy while I was still alive. Hundreds of likes and comments about me. I can barely take a compliment so it was awful and WONDERFUL. You guys said the greatest stuff on earth- about my mothering and advocacy and passion. I remembered for the first time in a long time who I was. It's one of the greatest gifts I've received, and absolutely a God thing. I was feeling at an all time low. It took you and your words to remind me who I am, because I had forgotten. I wasn't a pain in the ass, demanding, unreasonable mother.

I was and am a moxiefull Mother changing the world because it damn right NEEDS TO BE CHANGED. And if world changing was easy, everyone would do it. The truth is, I didn't pick this job for me. God tells me ALL THE TIME, with so many in my face reminders- Chrissy- this job was picked just for you. It will not be easy. However, it is worth it. Not just for your boys but for all whose world's will be changed by your words. There are amazing skills you already possess that you get to sharpen with this task- use those skills and feel alive. There are also skills you don't have now, but if you are open to learning- this will be your teacher.

And you know what? I'm here on earth to learn. Thank you for reminding me who I am and why I fight for what I fight for.

Some scenes from Summer...

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We were 92% water. You can call us cucumbers.

In July, my amazing sister Lisa and her family came from Missouri for a week to visit. It was the best thing ever.

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We love our cousins, Tristin, Levi and Maggie.

And I love my sister, it had been three long years since I had seen her. We are close in heart, but far in distance.

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We had SO much fun. My favorite part is that we got to do regular old life together. She came with me to Speech Therapy, and to where the boys do their Behavior Therapy. We worked out together and ate together and grocery shopped together, and even drank Titos and played Cards Against Humanity together. Like the real, unfancy, important stuff.  Life is so much more doable when you have family around to help carry the load, and do the fun stuff with too.

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One night when I was taking him to bed, Parker looked at me and said, "Maggie".

"You want Maggie in here with you?" I asked, mouth in an oval and eyebrows raised high in surprise. I couldn't believe he was willing and able to share his space after a full day of extroverting.

"Yes!" he said.

And I kid you not, they slept together every night after that. Oh sweet Jesus, my eyes have never seen such a thing. I almost can't speak of it, it was so magical. The first night I slept in there too, afraid Parker might wake up and decide he no longer wanted Maggie in there after all, or afraid he might pee on her! As we were lying in the dark that first night, foot cuddling and giggling (Maggie made sure to get Parker a stuffed animal to sleep with "so he doesn't get scared"), Maggie says to me in her little, perfect, high-pitched five year old voice. "Aunt Chrissy? You are such a wonderful mother to your boys." I couldn't breathe it hurt so good to hear.

While they were here, we all took a trip to Southern California, Hermosa Beach specifically. The place we used to call home before moving to the Central Valley.

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We were one with the beach and the sand and I was afraid I would wake up from this little dream of heaven.

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One morning we saw a pod of dolphins. (Thank you google for letting me know what a group of them was called). Four together, swimming majestically. The entire beach vibrated and I was afraid to blink or breathe- blinded by their beauty and grace. This is their ocean really, and we are so lucky they let us play in it. My friend- I wish you that same level of peace in your life that I felt while watching the dolphins.

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Greyson flaps with the rhythm of the sea, coming in and out with the tide. He has insight to nature and the world that we can't even see. One day when I get to heaven, I can't wait for God to tell me about them.

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From the moment we pulled onto Pacific Coast Highway and could feel the ocean pull, Parker asked for "blue house". Over and over, pointing right, (randomly I thought). "I want blue house!" he said more and more urgently. "Ok buddy- we will find you a blue house", I told him. I had no idea what he meant, until the moment we arrived on the sand. He saw the Lifeguard stand and starting running for it, joyfully exclaiming- "Blue house!!!!!" Little baby lightbulbs. They are always turning on.

My heart, my heart, my heart... Of course they are worth any battle. When you have spent your first 40-something years trying to get people to like you, it's hard to care more about doing the right thing, and getting the right thing done than caring if you like me. At any given moment there's a construction zone in my brain. Maybe I should wear a shirt that says, "Open During Construction. Please excuse the mess."

I've always been of the motto- Hey, let's make friends while we're at this life thing. And, If you are not having fun, you are doing it wrong. This life mottos of mine are not going so great for me at school. I'm learning though. It's my growth spot, and a struggle God has given me to grow. Sometimes I forget that. Sometimes I would like to return this gift like a too small sweater from the Mall.  Thanks so much, God but this struggle isn't exactly what I was looking for. Any other ones you got lying around big guy? 

Sometimes we must boldly look our struggle in the face and say, "Welcome. And thank you. What are you here to teach me?"

Have you lost your Moxie too? Join me in reading Jen Hatmaker's new book, Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight out of this Wild and Glorious Life. In it she says, "We will endure discouragement, heartbreak, failure, and suffering. All of us. And more than once. And in more than one category. And in more than one season. But we are the very same folks who can experience triumph, perseverance, joy and rebirth. More than once. And in more than one category. And in more than one season. And that? That is moxie."

(I'll give you a moment to feel your chills...)

I want you to look in the mirror and remember you and your moxie too. Moxie doesn't have to be big and sweeping. Sometimes it's just the small things we do, when even the small things feel impossible.

And in case you need this reminder like I often do...

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So much love,



  1. So many, many thoughts after reading what you write.

  2. I just want to hand you my heart right now... Thank you for sharing it all with us, not just the good and the success, but real life - the hard and the mysterious wonderfulness

  3. Good luck with back to school! We have one week left of vacation (sigh). So nice your sister came out to visit for a week!

  4. I mean RIGHT?! We just started. I had so much anxiety my neck and shoulder seized up. I WILL BE THAT MOM, but I pray I can just work collaboratively with my son's teachers and I won't have to be mean or pull the law out and slam it on the table. I used to teach sped and I wish I could go back and smack myself for not understanding the parents' point of view...but when you know better, do better. Chrissy, thank you. Thank you for all your honesty and bravery and for writing even though it's so hard to make space for that. You are inspiring me every day. We have to use our voices to make a better world for our boys, and for all the other boys and girls out there waiting for a world that accepts them and wants to know them. ����

  5. I am so thankful for your ability to put into words what I feel in my soul and don't know how to say. We started school on Thursday and I am dead. On Thursday I took my six year old into his classroom and within a few hours was told on a voicemail by the principal that we would need to find a new school, that we couldn't come back on Friday. You can imagine how complicated this is with a child who has autism. Our options are very limited and I am sick with stress. We'll try a new school on Monday. I loved your line about stress eating up parts of us...

  6. To my hero... to the warrior Chrissy... All the things you write from your triumphs to your fears, inspire me. They also keep you on my prayer list. Your sons are the most beautiful boys I've ever seen. Your photographs share with us their very nature. It makes me love them so much.

    This school year is going to be great. God is already there.

  7. We are living the same life! Your boys are adorable. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful message.

  8. Chrissy, maybe you haven't changed the world yet... but for sure you changed MY world. I discovered you when I was pregnant, my daughter just turned 3 on May. You changed my view, the way I look at things, the way I want her to see the world.
    You brought awareness to my life.
    You're doing an amazing job!

  9. Thank you so much for writing this. I love it ❤️

  10. Same!!!! Love this whole post. I think it is all one. Of mess and moxie - yep! Read it! Feel the same! Now - you've got to read Brene Brown's latest "braving the Wilderness". Some of your words here - you will know what I mean when you read it. I listened to it and it is her reading it and it is amazing and so worth it. Plus you can do other things while listening! Anyway, I found your site through a friend who shared your instapost with me and another friend. We were all lamenting these hard days. We are not alone. You are not alone. And you are BRAVE!