We have an Aspie. There, I said it.

It was Autism Awareness Day yesterday. I read so many blogs, articles, and social media posts about raising awareness (which has filled my heart with joy). I have been pretty quiet for the most part about our journey into Aspergers and today, I want to share a little hope by writing a tiny nugget of our story. It has been challenging to write this post simply because looking back is emotional. I can clearly see how God gently guided us to a diagnosis and was holding us up during this tough time. Meet Carson...

Our Carson was a spit-fire of a little boy. Our firstborn, he helped us dig the trenches of parenthood in unexpected ways. I have learned how to be a better human from my son. He was a late talker, and didn't put sentences together fluidly until he was three and a half. He would mostly grunt and point as communication. He was strong willed (times a million and a half), he was very particular about toys, foods, and routines. His tantrums were Oscar-worthy and would test the patience of the most seasoned parent, which we were not. Every parent waits in anticipation for their child's first words, first steps, first poops, first everythings. Carson was hitting those firsts in his own timing. Our pediatrician, parents, friends and family repeatedly told us "He's fine! He will do such-n-such when he's ready." Being first time parents, we took their advice and settled into raising this feisty, uber silly, little boy.  Needless to say, things got ugly.  I hate to be exclusive but, if you have never lived with someone on the Spectrum, you won't get it and it will not flatter anyone to try and explain it. Moving on...

We spent the first 9 years of Carson's life trying desperately to figure out the whole discipline/parenting thing and failing miserably. I should mention at this point in our lives not one-single-person had ever mentioned or suggested to have him tested for anything. I received a billion parenting books and advice from good intentioned people, I researched the internet for parenting help and some guidance, nothing seemed to eliminate the stress of raising our son. There were many dark, dark days that I spent in tears not knowing or understanding how I could mess up a human being so bad. It was a very lonely time; no one seemed to see what Eric and I were watching develop in our precious son.

We didn't understand how deep we were until his siblings began school. Their approach to life and learning was so different in comparison to Big Brother. In fourth grade we were blessed with an incredible teacher for Carson. Mr. Jacoby was the first person to ever suggest that Carson may need to be tested. He worked with Carson and us throughout the year and really was an advocate for him in the school system. This same year, Eric and I started watching a show called, "Parenthood". There is an actor on the show, Max, who has Aspergers. Every episode we watched we would look at each other and nervously giggle (or cry) because the character was so much like our son. We connected with the struggles of the family but, our son didn't have Aspergers.

Throughout his fourth grade year, we became more and more educated about who our son was and how he functioned. A few others began to suggest he might be struggling with something. He started acting out more in public and school. We finally took him in to be tested. We really expected we would walk out with an ADD diagnosis and that was that. Long story short and hours of testing later, he was diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, and ODD. We would discover a year and a half later that he was misdiagnosed.

After the initial "triple-fun" diagnosis, we were still at a loss on how to raise and love our son the way he needed. I studied like a crazy lady all about ADHD/OCD/ODD. Still failing hard to help my son. After almost two years and a little more education in my brain, we decided to have him re-tested by an Autism Specialist. That is where Dr. Jim and Dr. Carol came into our lives to save the day.

D-Day (aka Diagnosis Day) felt a little surreal. I remember sitting in Dr. Carol's office as she sweetly explained a plan to help our son. I wanted to bawl right there on her couch and hug her forever. Someone had finally said it out loud, our son had Aspergers. I can't say that we really believed it immediately or accepted that our son now had "a label". I do know that a mammoth sized weight was lifted because we could move forward to help our son and someone actually believed us. We weren't crazy.

Circa 2009

We began therapy immediately. Things got drastically worse before they began to get better. We started Carson on Neurofeedback therapy. What an insanely fascinating education to learn about the brain functions and watching our son begin to balance himself.

Our Boy is now in his teenage years.  That brings challenges of its own but, layer those hormones with chemical imbalances and you've got a super situation on your hands, like code red. We have seen tremendous growth in his character and academics using Neurofeedback. We still have a long road to travel but, the future for my son is so exciting and promising.

There is hope out there for parents with children on the spectrum. Its expensive and a battle in the school system to get kids the help they need. I am so thankful for individuals out there pursuing treatments, fundraising, and advocating for families. My son's experience with treatment is proof that there is hope.

I can't put into words how much I adore and love my son. He is an incredible kid. He has taught me so much about love, respect, individuality, strength, perseverance, and humility. How on earth did I get so lucky to be his Mom?

I hope reading a little bit of our story will encourage a parent out there with a child who needs an extra dose of patience and love. Hold on to your Baby and be their strength. Imagine how frustrating it is for them to constantly be misunderstood. When that little sweetheart gets on your very last, God-loving, nerve, remind yourself that their brain is misfiring, it will allow you to have more grace. There is help available and I pray that the world will begin to see how desperately there needs to be a mental healthcare intervention.

If you would like more information about Aspergers or Autism, please visit: http://www.autismspeaks.org

The Wave

Every Mother experiences the "dropoff emotions" at some point in her mothering career.  You know the crazy emotions you feel when you drop your kid off at Kindergarten, a playdate, a Sunday school classroom... c-o-l-l-e-g-e.  Sometimes it is difficult, there are tears, long hugs, and delayed exits.  Other times you pretty much want to kick them out of your moving swagger wagon and wave your arm out the driver's side window as you pull away.

I had one of these goodbyes this morning.  Mine was a tender and precious moment that I want to savor for a very long time.  There were no tears or a speedy dropoff, just a simple departure.  I walked up to the check-in for tennis camp, thinking my son would need me for something (even if it was just moral support).  He signed himself in, gave me a glance that said "see ya later Mom", and off he went to tennis camp.

I turned and headed for my van but, something stopped me.  I turned on my heel to watch him as he wandered into the tennis court, racket in one hand, grabbing a ball with the other.  No one ran to greet him and he wasn't looking for anyone, yet he walked with a quiet confidence.  I watched him as he headed over to the furthest tennis court to start practicing.
[Here's the part where I hope other Mom's can relate
to my "dropoff emotions"!]
As I stood there, I was instantly thrown into this private conversation between my heart and my brain...

Brain.  He looks so cute out there.  I'm glad he's enjoying it.
Heart.  Why isn't anyone talking to him?
Brain.  He's shy, he doesn't seek people out.
Heart.  Oh my gosh, is he nervous?  Afraid?
Brain.  He just got on the court, you spaz!!!
Heart.  What if he doesn't make any friends?  These kids need to know how amazing my kid is!

As this conversation is going on in my head (literally seconds long), my sweet boy notices his Mama standing by the fence.  This is my favorite part....  he looks at me for a second and then lifts his hand in a quick, cool wave and carries on with his tennis.  Oh my heart.  I don't know why but, this struck me as precious as pie.  His wave said so many things to me... Mom, I'm alright, you can go.  Mom, I love you and I'm not too cool to wave at you.  Mom, thanks for watching, I see you.

As I drove home, I thought about how God is always standing and watching me with nothing but massive love.  He waits patiently until I turn to Him.  He never leaves and He never worries, He just watches.  He's there when I need him.  His heart fills with absolute joy when I turn and "wave" at Him.  He. Loves. Me.
But the Lord longs to show you his favor.He wants to give you his tender love.
(Isaiah 30:18a)
 As I pick my kid up from tennis camp, I ask him to tell me all about his day.  Ya know, the usual Mom question drill.  This was his response:
"I learned how to make my face look like a waffle!"

A Real Housewife of Wilsonville

With Mother's Day coming up, this probably isn't the best time to be writing this post but, this is a part of motherhood too... its not all lollipops and fruit snacks.  I spent the better part of my evening last night in tears struggling to find some solutions to create more peace and balance for my family.  Tears=passion not, weakness.
I wish I could be more of a Claire Huxtable but, I fit more into the Lucille Ball category (red hair and all).

I want to know how to fold laundry with my toes because my hands are occupied with homework help and dishes while coordinating my social calendar because my children are involved in multiple sports and after-school activities without forgetting to grocery shop, meal plan, and cook three meals a day (all healthy meals of course, pffftt).  And let's not forget to brush up on my refereeing skills because the many fights my loving children will have with each other will out number the gold fish cracker crumbs stuffed into the seats of my swagger wagon. Meanwhile, keeping up-to-date on the newest fashion trends and must-have Mom gadgets all with a smile on my face and keeping the dog from eating my shoe (#dexterno).  Oh yes, and let's not forget to exercise so that I can find the energy to keep my house as tidy as possible so when Better Homes and Gardens calls to confirm my photo shoot, I will be ready.
[insert eye rolling here]

Being a Mom is hard and I'm wondering why nobody ever talks about that at baby showers or the whole 9 months you are growing a child?  No one tells you that your sweet, adorable, angel of a baby might   someday scream at you with rage in their eyes and say "you are the worst parent in the world, I hate you!" and you are supposed to ignore the emotional punch to the gut because you are the adult afterall.

No amount of advice, child-rearing books, or girlfriend chats could have prepared me for the incredibly demanding job of being a Mom; this situation is a "throw her in the pool and hope she can swim" kind of scenario.  White picket fences?  No way.  More like "sharpie art" on the new couch.

Being a Mom is absolutely, without a doubt, not for the faint of heart.
BUT.  (you knew that was coming, right?)
Here are a few things I am learning through all of this chaos...

One.  I adore my children. Like seriously looooove them. The word love and all its meanings does not adequately envelop what I feel for my kids.  Yes, they drive me crazy at times and hurt my feelings on occasion but, I would do it over and over and over again a million times.  I am God's Nanny for these three blessings and I am so thankful for the job.
Two.  I owe my Mom a million apologies and I am so thankful she didn't ship me off to Neverland because I totally deserved it.  Thank you, Mum.
Three. I don't believe in that phrase "God only gives us what we can handle" and here's why... if God only gave us what we could handle, we wouldn't need Him and I. Need. Jesus.  I need him like I need air.

This weekend, I will reflect on my role as a Mom and ask myself what Leslie Knope asked the members of Pawnee recently,
"Am I better than I was a year ago?"
That is all I can do, improve on who I am and what I've been given.  I have to cut the crap of trying to be Carol Brady or June Cleaver and embrace my Lucy-ness.

I also get to honor my incredible Mom who has been an amazing example of grace, humor, love, generosity, and sweetness all rolled into one.  And, my Mother-in-law who has adopted me as her own, loves me endlessly, and continues to teach me so many things.

I also want to say the following:
To my husband.  Thank you for doing this parenting thing with me.  You are the mac to my cheese (yay!  cheese!)  And thanks for the late night froyo to clear up the tears last night.
To my Mama girlfriends.  You keep me sane with our Starbucks chats, our mani/pedi dates, our clearance rack shopping, watching my kids, scheduling playdates, bus stop walks and more.  You are my village (you know who you are) and I adore you.  May your Mother's Day be full of blessings.
To the Mommies By Heart.  For some of you, this holiday hurts.  Its a reminder of the months of negative pregnancy tests and heartache you feel longing for a child.  To you, I say thank you.  Thank you for smiling and listening genuinely to the stories of my kids, for asking about their well-being, and loving on my Babies.  You play a huge role in my life by reminding me that Motherhood is to be treasured and that I too once longed to be a Mama.  I can only pray, cry and hope alongside you until you celebrate your first Mother's Day.

Happy Mothers Day.
(who came up with this holiday anyway? I'd like to send them a Hallmark card.)


ps, Writing is such good therapy.