Good Friday defined:
first pool dip of the season-
splashdown in the sun!
Good Friday defined:
April. Here in the States that means Autism Awareness Month. It is hoped, by those who organize such things, that a month like this will, well, grow awareness and concern about autism. Just in case you need a reminder I would like to state for the record:
I am aware of autism.
Our youngest son, Andrew, is on the spectrum. He was diagnosed in 2007 after many months (years?) of evaluation, observation, and assessment by those who know a lot about such things. He was four years old. In the nearly five years since diagnosis I have had a few things to say about raising an on-the-spectrum child. Writing about him has helped me to process the journey and celebrate the being that he is. There have been moments of sorrow and moments of joy along the way. Indeed, there is angst; there is anxiety. Also, there are questions; lots of questions. And, overall, there is growth and learning. One thing that I am most certain I have learned along the way:
Autism is awareness.
One of the incredible things about the incredible boy I am raising is his heightened state of awareness of EVERYTHING that is happening around him. The experts say that, for those of us with neuro-typicality, our brains have an ability to filter noises and prioritize what we should focus upon as we listen, or interact, or engage with the world. Not so for the specially made brain with autism; rather, sounds and stimulation all come through at the same level of volume, or speed, or overwhelm. It is much more difficult for a child with autism to distinguish noises and prioritize sounds to find focus.
Or, as Andrew says it: “I have very sensitive ears”.
And so he does, along with a very sensitive soul and an insatiable zest for life. Living with
a this child on the spectrum is a daily lesson on noticing everything, the way he does. For Andrew, every, every moment in his day is a new adventure. Put him on a swing and he shouts at the top of his lungs with unmitigated joy. Offer him a new book to read (preferably about Power Rangers) and his whoops of delight are infectious. He tells jokes. He sings songs. He chatters incessantly. He hears everything. He is readily distracted by side sightings and wandering thoughts. When I forget to remember who he is (and sometimes I do) it can be frustrating, especially when attempting to make a departure from the house to reach school on time. But when I remember to be still and watch him, I am constantly fascinated by what fascinates him. His curiosity about the world is unending–he asks questions about how things work, why things happen the way they do, and what might happen next. He (like many children with autism) interprets things literally and it takes large effort on his part to open his mind to the idea that some things we say are not what they sound like. Idioms are idiocy for a boy like this–after all, raindrops are made of water, NOT cats and dogs.
I have long said that Andrew walks at his own pace. Occasionally, that is at turbo speed (well. as fast as eight-and-a-half-year-old legs can run), but most often that is the sure and steady pace of the tortoise. He pushes along in his own time, always pressing forward in steady progress, but with a cadence that allows for him to pause, notice, investigate, and breathe it all in. I am honored to be his companion for the journey.
My son has autism.
It makes me aware.
Please visit Cafe Press to order your Autism Awareness gear!
I am the mother of three children. It’s a point of pride for me, my parenthood. I laud it as the hardest job I’ll ever have, yet fulfilling in its own peculiar ways. And fun, most times. But hard. Did I mention that parenting is hard?
My children are now 18, 16, and 8.8 years old. So, if you’re doing the maths that makes me 42.8 years worth of wise as I learn the art of parenting. Perhaps by the time I am 100 years parenting wise, I’ll be pretty good at it.
As you might imagine, raising two independent teenagers and one ultimately special guy, we have some great family moments and very funny stories to share. And some poignant, heart-moving experiences that we hold close. That’s family life, right? We are a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and sensations; keep turning us ’round and you keep making vibrant images of light and color. There’s always a story to tell in this house. This is one.
16-year-old Emma took her drivers permit exam yesterday. And she passed. (Yay, Emma!). After our 2 hours of waiting fun at the Motor Vehicle Division we walked out to the car together, she a little giddy at holding a freshly pressed permit, and me a little proud that she’d knocked it out of the park with the test. We drove out of the parking lot and then, a few minutes later, I pulled over on a side street and swapped her places in the car. She sat in the driver’s seat and adjusted her seat and mirrors. Anxious, giggly, with a tint of additional emotion, Emma pulled onto the road and drove. It wasn’t necessarily her first time at the wheel but it was the first time to be ultimately responsible for both the car and the journey.
My baby girl established her presence in the driver’s seat. And though the road is long, she’s on her way.
I couldn’t be prouder.
If I am part of your feed, it may shock you greatly to see this pop up in the reader. I’m not sure I’m sure about what I’m doing. Or how long I’ll be doing it. Again. The one thing I do know is that my fingers are itchy to write, so that is what I shall do. Right here.
Quickly, here’s the sum up. We’ve moved. Again. This time a full circle return to the very place we left six years ago. And by very place I mean VERY PLACE. We are living in Phoenix, Arizona in the SAME HOUSE we lived in before. That’s a bit of a story in itself, and it’s one that might be told here soon enough, but for now that’s what you need to know. I am teaching, the kids are schooling, and my man has returned to the world of the courts.
We are living in Arizona.
We are home.
That, perhaps, is the very thing I wanted to write about: home. If you’ve read me much, you’ll remember that I’ve oft expressed the way my writing takes me where it wants to go, far and away more often than my own thoughts dictate the course of the essay. I am used to it. The only thing I know to do when my fingers itch is to get my fingers to a keyboard and write. Here I am.
This is what I’ve been thinking about.
In recent years we, as a family, have had a few of those. In a few places. Houses of loveliness and practicality, one which we still own in addition to this one where we live. In six years there have been six houses–or dwelling places–on two continents, in two countries, two states, and five cities. Each with their own stories and adventures attached. And, here’s the interesting bit, we’ve been home every time, in every house. Yet, I proclaimed at the start of this piece that we are home here. And while I am sure there are many who’ve waxed poetic in a variety of ways on what makes a house a home, I think I’d like to add my thoughts.
Because I get it.
Home is not a place. Home is a heart state. Meaning, when you invest yourself in the locale, the culture, the neighbors, and the whole experience of the place you live you find yourself at home. For me this is a most defined effort to create and sustain a people community. I like people. I need them. So, whether I am living near my dearest friends, finding new friends in a new city, reuniting with people from my past, or even connecting with those friends I’ve not yet met in the flesh, I know that where my people are, that is where I am home.
Arizona, Missouri, The Netherlands; it’s all the same. Home is what I carry with me.
The house location just doesn’t matter.
Our bird died today.
As I held him in my hands
he took his last breath.
Em, Andrew and me
the full funeral party
sang “bye-bye birdie”.
We called him ‘uncle’
the celibate, doting, friend
to the mating pair.
Quietly he’ll rest
the sleeper of our garden
under peace and love.
I used to link these to site which hosted Haiku Friday but as I can’t find that anymore and feel like I owe Leslie this link anyway, I am now linking my haiku to her place. She’s terrific, just in case you didn’t know, and just in case you’re not reading her yet, you really should. You’ll find her here. In addition to being a brilliant writer, mother, wife and human being, she also writes a haiku every day. Also, it’s her fault I ever began writing them, or writing them this time around, anyway. The initial fault for my haiku obsession lies with my fifth grade teacher who introduced the art form. But, seriously, that’s a bit beside the point isn’t it? I mean, how do you link to your fifth grade teacher, anyway? Leslie is the originator of the Haiku Buckaroo contest which I have entered faithfully since it’s inception, but have yet to master. So, her fault, her link. Now, go read her.
Sometimes a mom
Sometimes a mom has
Sometimes a mom has to
Sometimes a mom has to step
Sometimes a mom has to step in
Sometimes a mom has to step in and
Sometimes a mom has to step in and fight
Sometimes a mom has to step in and fight for
Sometimes a mom has to step in and fight for her
Sometimes a mom has to step in and fight for her child.
Even when the
Even when the child
Even when the child says
Even when the child says it’s
Even when the child says it’s no
Even when the child says it’s no big
Even when the child says it’s no big deal.
A mommy knows
A mommy knows her
A mommy knows her first
A mommy knows her first job
A mommy knows her first job is
A mommy knows her first job is to
A mommy knows her first job is to protect
A mommy knows her first job is to protect her
A mommy knows her first job is to protect her baby.
Mama will roar.
My pregnancy with Emma was the longest pregnancy on record. I am certain of it. Weeks prior to her arrival I was put on cautionary bedrest by the midwife for contractions which were coming too early. I didn’t rest as prescribed, I couldn’t really as I had nearly 2-year old Ian to chase after. Besides that, I had been on forced bedrest and medication for pre-term labor during Ian’s pregnancy for six long weeks only to get on my feet again at 36 weeks and carry him full term. Yup, all the way to his due date. Stubborn girl that I am, this time, I took the bedrest prescription as more of a guideline and trusted my body to do what it should. It did, altogether too well. 2 weeks from the due date I was certain she was coming early. My body was ready, my capacity to remain pregnant was waning and my Mom had already arrived to help. We were all poised and ready for Emma to make her entrance. Stubborn girl that she is, she waited it out. Finally, and with the assistance of herbal tincture and castor oil, I went into labor late in the evening on 19 November. Steady-as-she-goes contractions, expectations rose as Don and I walked out the door of our duplex to make our way to the hospital just before midnight.
We checked in.
We mentioned to the nurses that my labor was quick last time.
The nurses hooked me to monitors, checked my progress and left us to our own.
Then they came running back.
Emma was on her way.
I like to say faster than a speeding bullet, Emma arrived amidst a flurry of chaos and confusion in our delivery room. No one was ready, nothing was prepared, my midwife hadn’t been called. In fact, she came scurrying in pulling her gown over her shoulders as I made my efforts to “hold on”. And then, suddenly, after all the months of gestating, all the weeks of waiting, all the minutes of holding on, Emma was there.
Bald, blue, and beautiful.
After several long minutes of inspection, Apgar scoring, and rubbing some pink into my baby girl, the midwife presented her to me. As any parent knows that meeting your baby moment is unforgettable. I can’t stop the tears as I write this, remembering. Here was our girl, wanted loved and instantly adored.
Our baby girl:
Coming home to a big brother who would worship her.
And a daddy who would forever fawn on her.
And no matter how many years pass–14 have gone thus far–she will always and forever be my baby girl.
Happy Birthday, baby Emma. I’m so glad you arrived.
We call it family poverty season.
It has already begun. We are officially in the throes of the altogether-too-many-celebrations-in-too-little-time season for our little family unit. I shall mention them by name , in list form. Because I like lists.
1. Nov. 14–Don’s birthday
2. Nov. 20–Emma’s birthday
3. Nov. 21–Don’s & Jenn’s wedding anniversary
4. Dec. 5–Sinterklaas or Pakjesavond
5. Dec. 10–Ian’s birthday
6. Dec. 25–Christmas
That’s right. 6 weeks, 6 major celebrations. And we do our best to do ’em up properly. ‘Tis the season to celebrate the lightening of our wallets and the broadening of our bellies. Because, with three birthdays, an anniversary and two seasonal celebrations, that’s a lot of presents, and a lot of cake. Happy memories, every one.
I think we need a song for this.