. With Love, From The Mother 'Hood

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Autism Services On Chopping Block

Every time I hear of a government official pushing for cuts that negatively affect the autism community I am baffled, outraged, and left thinking "Obviously this person has never lived with autism." Today, I learned that Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Corbett is proposing cuts to "Wraparound" services ("Wraparound", also known as "Home and Community Services", are therapeutic services that address and treat behavioral issues associated with autism, and can include the entire family within treatment/therapy.) I am not blogging about this just because it is an autism issue, or just because I feel strongly about advocating, but because this hits me on a very personal level. Over the last six years, in addition to other therapies, we had wraparound for our son and today I received word that he no longer needs this assistance. This is HUGE. Unfortunately, so are the proposed cuts.

To give you some perspective: Six years ago, at age two it was difficult to leave home with Max and I had doubts about public school. We fought hard and Max entered kindergarten on schedule, mainstreamed with a full-time therapist attending school with him. Forward to now and in third grade he is meeting expectancies for the beginning of grade level. He no longer requires the therapist in class and has learned through wraparound to self manage his sensory processing differences. One of the few outward signs that he is “different” are his stims (stim: autistic people often fixate on a comforting or compelling thing or action (such as rocking or humming); to perseverate.) and he does these quietly without interrupting the class. The assistance that we received from our wraparound providers is a large part of why Max is doing so well and our family is proof positive that early intervention makes a difference. I cringe to think where we would be today without having it, and I imagine my son would still need care of some kind, possibly for life, had we not addressed his developmental needs and behavioral issues early on. Research has shown that “Providing intensive intervention during these early years leads to a higher degree of independence and overall maximized outcomes” * which in the long run means less outlay financially for treatment and a better quality of life. I will be writing letters to oppose these cuts, and below is information if you care to take a moment and do the same. I appreciate any support that you are able to give as I continue to fight for all children and families affected by autism.

With thanks,


From Autismlink:

AutismLink has been sounding the alarm for quite a while now about Governor Corbett's potential cuts. WRAPAROUND SERVICES ARE ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK. This is not a rumor -- this is real. YOU WILL LOSE YOUR SERVICES unless we stand up -- NOW. He has already taken the first step to restrict wraparound services to children under 3 who are receiving Early Intervention. I am confident in telling you that he *will* close the loophole. This is not a drill.

Please go to http://www.tomcorbettforgovernor.com/contact/ and tell Gov. Corbett -- NO CUTS FOR AUTISM!!!!!!! Flood the phone lines (717) 787-2500 with your thoughts! Or fax to your heart's content: (717) 772-8284

Governor Corbett's Budget Secretary, Charles Zogby, 238 Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120

Acting Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare, Gary Alexander, 502 Health and Welfare Building, P.O. Box 2675, Harrisburg, PA 17120.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Déjà Vu

This is a long post even for me, but it has been a long, dark winter. I did hear the whisper of spring today after hearing that Max is nearly on grade level, when not so long ago I didn't think public school would be an option (maybe it was more of a shout) ~

When Max was little we couldn't go ANYWHERE without a “meltdown”, and they usually started when I tried to put him in the car and would continue when I didn't turn the "right" way, or while walking in the doorway of most stores, and if someone touched something he deemed his (which was anything and everything he touched), well, look out...... I could probably use an entire blog entry just writing a list of his "triggers"; his little body unable to process all of the sensory info we are all bombarded with daily. I remember watching him, time after time on the floor, his whole body stiffened against the assault on his senses, wishing there was some way for me, as his mom, to fix this. I am amazed looking back, that I attempted to ever go out at all (I suffered through depression and massive panic attacks, but the noise in my head has nothin’ on the noise in this house). Screaming could last for hours, and still does . Once, when Max was 6 months old, the relentless screaming (as well as eye rolling and his head snapping backwards) resulted in a frantic call to our oblivious pediatrician (whom we no longer see), along with a trip to the ER ending with everyone thinking I was just some crazy mom who couldn’t handle three kids. I thought he was having a seizure, and now I know it was "just" sensory overload, which I believe, also played a part in the night terrors he experienced – Max didn’t sleep through the night until nearly age 4. Thankfully, Sam isn't as sensory defensive, but he does scream and we still have few nights of uninterrupted sleep (or if we do, we don't sleep past 5:30 am), and it takes me back to the early days with Max. Lately, I have had a hefty dose of this screaming, (a second helping I could do without in this lifetime, thanks very much); ear piercing on a level that makes most people cringe while giving me the "your-such-a-crappy-mom-why-don't-you-deal-with-your-kid" look (on a recent trip to Target, a grouchy employee made the mistake of giving said look AND making comments loud enough for me to hear. Better believe Mama Bear spoke up, but, I digress).

My oldest daughter needed to see her doctor and having five children means that I rarely can accomplish a visit like this without at least one other child in tow, and this day it was with two extra along. Mars has definitely become more manageable on these trips, which is not to say that she is "easy" at this point, far from it, but we are moving in the right direction. Sam, on the other hand, is hitting the full blown, mecca-lecca-high-mecca-hiney-ho (credit to Jambi from Pee Wee Herman, once again, so that I don't get sued for violating some copyright as the cherry on top of all the latest shtuff) high note of the "terrible twos", and with kiddos on the spectrum things are magnified, LOTS – say by about 1000. Terrible doesn't come close to describing the situation that quickly spiraled downward from bad to worst; a repeat performance of two other recent doctor’s office visits when schedules meant Sam had to come with. Since this had happened twice before, I was somewhat prepared, but only in the sense that I was expecting it, not that I had anything in my bag of tricks to diffuse it (who am I kidding? Even with all of my knowledge and experience, my “bag of tricks” often consists of what I can scrounge from the bottom of my purse – lint or a used lollipop stick, anyone? - because I am the mom who waits until the last minute to get ready, and runs out the door without half (most) of the stuff I need). I knew within five minutes of our time there, when he threw himself face down in the middle of the hallway, it was going to get ugly. I wouldn't have moved him had he chosen a better spot to sprawl, because moving him during these "episodes" always prompts the intense screaming, but he clearly would have been stepped on if I left him there (OR he would have tripped some elderly patient, who would inevitably fall and break something, bodily or otherwise, and it would be ALL MY FAULT, resulting in a law suit – and yes, this is the crap that flies through my mind). Once I moved him, Sam's switch was flipped and all I could think was "please let them call us next, please, please, please, puh-leeassssse" and thankfully, they did (this NEVER, EVER happens, so yeah for something positive!), but just before this, a nurse came out and she had to say: "I thought from all the noise someone was hurt - Temper tantrum?” To which I mumbled a reply of "sort of" because in these moments I simply don't have any energy left to explain, when what I really want to say is that, "yes, someone is hurt; actually all of us are ('us' being my family) hurt by autism and its effects." (This is one of the challenges about having kids that are “high functioning” on the autism spectrum – there are often no outward signs or indicators that they aren’t neuro-typical and people may assume that what they are seeing is just bad behavior.) We move back to the exam room, and here is where we hit the dreaded level I knew was unavoidable unless we ran out of the building immediately: Sam screaming so loudly the doctor had a hard time hearing me, a pained expression on her face every time little man hit a pitch that is like a nail to the brain, driving home the fact that, THIS IS NOT NORMAL (whatever normal is). I apologized, profusely, and for what felt like the millionth time in the last few weeks, fought back tears, embarrassment and a tremendous sense of loss, feeling as if an invisible hand had somehow picked me up and returned me to START. Do not pass GO, Do not collect $200. Thanks for playing.

My oldest saw the tears fall as we walked back to the car. I looked at her, my beautiful, gracious, empathetic girl, who sometimes seems much older than her 16 years. She told me something along the lines of, “Don’t let them make you feel bad. You are an awesome mom – they just don’t know what it is like.” She is a beautiful young woman who will make a difference in this world after having these boys as her brothers. She is, and continues to be one of the proudest creations of my life.

Jump to Sunday evening. It is our wedding anniversary; the day, 12 years ago, we promised “in good times and bad” (having no realization of the road we were headed down, but who does in that giddy moment, right?). The hubs and I are at World Cafe Live in Philly enjoying a much needed adult only dinner, and music by one of our favorite artists, Grayson Capps. Grayson is a musician and singer; a storyteller with a voice that is both raw and pure, telling rich tales of real people living hard lives. He is what art should be about – he moves me (evidenced by my attempt to capture his spirit above in a painting), his voice and words a soothing salve on the open wounds of my heart . We definitely need more time like this, but life doesn’t always allow. Instead, hubs and I do what we have learned over nearly 20 years of knowing and loving each other: we keep on keepin’ on with a strength that is hard won. We fight through the trials our life has brought, hand in hand, to arrive in these “sweet spots”, the result of a lot of give and take from both of us. If you are still with me as a reader, thank you, and if you are not, I get it – I am amazed I am still hangin’ in myself. I have returned to school and work part-time which I know is crazy in the eyes of some, but it is a way for me to reclaim some sanity, a sense of self, along with trying to make some plain old sense out of all that is my life. Listening to Grayson’s words reminded me how important it is to pursue my art and writing – that this is my story to tell, and by embracing and telling it I can let go of some of the hurt, while allowing tears to fall when and where they may, instead of becoming mired while taking in the déjà vu.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Photo by Becky Coyle, www.rebeccacoyle.com

"Wait , Daddy!" You would think my 2 year-old son recited an epic poem or some other remarkable, historic piece if you saw my response to his two word command. Simple phrases like this, or "Hi, Mom!", elicit extremely happy responses from me: "Nice talking!", or "Good using your words!", and often to the Hubs, "Did you hear him?!". I am ecstatic to hear utterances that most parents of two year-olds take for granted. At this age developmentally, strangers should be able to understand him 50% of the time, and we just aren't there, yet.

The above picture was taken before I knew 100% that we were dealing with autism for the second time, but looking at it now, I know I was right to be concerned about the episodes of "zoning out" I witnessed, among other things. It is a beautiful photo (thank you, Becky!), but as his mom I see the "stare" and the open mouth that I now know is due to low tone (and maybe I am crazy, but I have noticed kiddos on the spectrum tend to have a certain "look" about their hands). I am fully aware that we are extremely fortunate, once again, to receive a diagnosis on the "high functioning" end of the spectrum. I also know if you talk to any parent dealing with autism spectrum disorder, regardless of severity, they will (if they are being honest) tell you that it sucks, BIG TIME. Multiply "BIG TIME" times number of kiddos diagnosed.... It doesn't do anything for me to pretend that everything is "fine" when it isn't - better to let the tears fall when and where they may (and hopefully allow them to wash away some of the stuff that mucks up my life, although I hate crying in front of others).

Since hearing the second "A" word diagnosis, I have seen expectant moms everywhere, their bodies and minds full of the future, and I long to turn back time. It isn't that I want more kids, but rather to return to an innocence that is long gone; to feel for just one more moment the weight of life safe within myself before it is altered by terms like autism and AD/HD. I ache for those first moments, holding my newborn child and falling in love as if we are the only two beings in the world. Don't get me wrong, I love my children (their shtuff and all) more than anything in this world, and honestly can say I would die for them (ask anyone who really knows me - "Mama Bear" is what comes to their mind), but there are times that being their mom is so very hard. My heart breaks for them (and honestly, for myself), about how things were "supposed" to be, and it still catches me off-guard at times. The worst is when out in public, people (usually other moms with their perfectly behaved children) stare at me while I am trying to control a full-blown meltdown, and all I sense is "What-a-crappy-mom" vibe from them. The most recent episode occurred while my own mom was with me, and she knew exactly what to say: "Every mom [of typical kids] should walk in your shoes for a day."

Beyond my family, autism has brought some amazing, beautiful people to my life, and I am truly thankful for these individuals - they "get it". It has taken quite some time (good wine, and a LOT of soul searching, too), but I am realizing that my life path is leading me towards helping others dealing with the same, and I am finally returning to school in hopes of pursuing a career focused on therapeutic support for individuals and families managing autism and developmental/sensory processing differences. I know from firsthand experience that early intervention is truly a key to opening the door toward functioning in a "typical" world. I received two phone calls this week about my older son on the spectrum, (my now sweet boy, who at age two had so many sensory challenges I wondered if he would ever attend a traditional/public school - and daily, if I would survive being his mom) and because of all our hard work together, he no longer needs speech therapy or special education for reading (HAPPY DANCE!!!!). He is attending public school with minimal assistance, and we were able to drop his TSS (Therapy Support Staff) almost a year ago. Now most people are not immediately aware of his challenges. When sharing with his speech therapist how hard it was to even leave the house with him six years ago, she had a hard time believing we were speaking of the same boy. I still worry about him, and about his future, but I am grateful for the knowledge he has given me. My other sweet boy is ahead of the game because his mama has already walked this path with his older brother. These are the moments that it all makes sense - these are the moments I am thankful.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Knitting Naked for Autism Awareness

We did receive an official diagnosis of autism for our youngest son (which I was pretty much expecting and is the reason behind my "blog neglect"), but before you all think I have gone off the deep end, Knitting Naked is not some sleep deprived, burned out, crazy hobby I have taken up. In fact it is a very real fundraiser, started by a loving grandmother in order to provide her grandchildren on the spectrum needed therapy (Marsha, you ROCK!). It is a tasteful, tongue in cheek calendar, and from the "Knotty Knitters" here is some info: "Have you heard about the Knotty Knitters from Tacoma, WA? When our story was in the local paper, it was picked up by the Associated Press and it has been non-stop since. 8 local knitters and one knitter-designer from New York posed "almost bare" wearing hand knits for a calendar to fund raise for children on the autism spectrum. visit our website at http://www.knottyknittersforautism.com/ Limited Edition, 2011 calendars are selling for $20.00, plus $5.00 shipping and handling." The calendar is also available for purchase at a discounted rate to families of autistic children for fundraising purposes.

The Hubs and I have been talking about fundraising, but with all we have on our plate, I think it may be awhile before we are able to pursue it. I would love to coordinate a 5k race and dinner to follow in honor of my diagnosed boys with funds going towards research. Someday I will. Right now I am pouring my energy into my kiddos as they return to school. Already I have sent numerous emails, requested a change in guidance counselors for one, a change in teacher assignment for another, attended a meeting to discuss a treatment plan for a third, and orientation for preschool for #4 (phone calls from the teacher are imminent for this one), and school has only been in session for two days. I am also applying to return to school myself while juggling therapies for our newly diagnosed son. My ultimate goal is to work with families and kids dealing with autism.

Today, not for the first time, someone said, "I wouldn't know he had autism", about my older son. I know, I should be ecstatic, right? These comments have increased in the last couple of years as he has reached a level of functioning I thought at one time we may never see (It was truly difficult to navigate everyday life with him just a few years ago; I cried like a baby at his kindergarten Christmas concert when he was able to participate with his class in typical fashion - people definitely stared at me - what a mess I was). While this is what I have strived to achieve over the last 8 years, through all the therapy sessions and the tears, it can be frustrating to hear the doubt in someone's voice when I have lived it. Right now I am feeling a little burned out - I mean, raising a child shouldn't involve enough paperwork to wallpaper my entire house (and so far 4 out of 5 have said paperwork), but that is my reality. It is my life, and I don't know that I would change it if I could - in the end I have five amazing, unique children. Is it difficult, often maddening, trying to get them where they need to be? Absolutely, but if it becomes too much, maybe I will just take up a quiet hobby like knitting naked.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Still Here, Mostly

My friend recently said, "Where have you been?!", in regards to my lack of activity on facebook. Once the weather breaks and Spring has really sprung, I am outside, A LOT. My husband is only half joking when he says that I am solar powered. I am definitely one of those people whose mood improves in direct proportion to the amount of sunlight she receives, and my children are much more manageable with a daily dose of fresh air.

Along with my kids' energy, my gardens erupt in Spring, and beckon me with weeds to be pulled, flowers to be tended and promises whispered of sunshine for my soul. It is my escape - there is something so soothing about working the earth with your hands. With Spring also comes the end of the school year, and then the kids are all home for the Summer - with five here all day it never ends: "Mom?, MOM!, MOMMY!!!!" I can't imagine anything else (actually I can imagine a tropical getaway to recharge, or perhaps a week or two in Italy, but I can't imagine my life without my kids (although right now I could do without all the "extras": autism, AD/HD, sensory induced tantrums, and screaming on a level from a certain three year old that tests every fiber of my being as a mom). There are days I feel as if I may actually lose my mind and truly run away(what mom of more than one child doesn't feel this way at some point, especially during the summer months when school is out? (if you really don't, kudos to you). My sanity is still (mostly) intact thanks to my zoloft and resumed running (another escape and mood booster), but there are still times I am convinced that I am (unwillingly) part of some extreme parenting, hidden camera, game show.

I have also started a new diet and am slightly smaller and healthier as a result, and I am glad to say "see ya!" to that part of me - unhealthy weight that needs to go away for good, but it is always hard to change old habits. I am considering a second blog (in all of my free time) to chronicle this weight loss journey, which I hope will be a true success this time. It is amazing what five babies can do to a body (and mind). I have been searching for my pre-baby self for awhile, and the legs are finally returning thanks to the new diet and all of my miles run (portions of my mind may be MIA for years to come).

In addition to my lost pounds, we are minus a few pets (just fish) at this point -"Lucky Bob" a.k.a. "Swimmy" is lucky no more (he apparently didn't like the move to his new digs), and we also lost two of the three new goldfish we added. I don't think we are good "fish people", but better the fish than my dogs or cat. As much as Stella drives me crazy, I know it will be a whole 'nother ballgame when my old girl says "goodbye". She is 10.5 years old, and her age is starting to show in the white fur covering her face, and the way she seems to "zone out", just standing and staring off into space.

Mostly, I have been busy with our new therapists for Sam (Currently OT and Specialized Instruction 1 x a week, PT every other week, and Speech 1 x a month). Our autism evaluation is coming up, and that has been on my mind as well. We may or may not get an official label (obtaining additional services is so much easier with one). There are moments I wish I could go back to the summer that I was pregnant with him, and to the few months after he was born when all seemed to be "normal". I remember thinking how much easier he was than our other son with autism, and in many ways he still is, but there are many differences that I am still navigating.

Lastly, I am looking at returning to school. I have always wanted to pursue a profession that would enable me to help others, and the path my life has taken with my children has made that choice more concrete. All those years ago when the hubs and I dreamed of this life it wasn't quite what it is now, but it is still here that I imagined I would be, mostly.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The "A" Word

Houston, we most definitely have a problem. Below is what I had written in mid-April:

4/13/2010 "Early Intervention arrived yesterday for a three hour evaluation and Sam is functioning at about a 13 month level at age 19 months. I was very calm while they gave me the results. (One of the evaluators even commented about my reaction, remarking how well I took the news. I was expecting their results and had been through this before - they weren't telling me anything I didn't already know, even if it was deep down in my heart.) We still have lots of evals ahead, and may not know for several months or longer if we are looking at just a developmental delay or autism, but I have a pretty good idea which direction we are headed toward. I have suspected for months something was "off", but last fall there was not enough of a deficit for Sam to qualify for therapies. We are also participating in a sibling autism study, and experienced the same results: slightly delayed, continue to monitor. Now the delay is too significant to ignore."

Fast forward to May 5th, a mere three weeks later, and I was sitting in the CAR (Center for Autism Research) waiting room with Sam. Looking back, I have suspected for the better part of Sam's life that we would likely hear the dreaded "A" word, for the second time as parents: "Autism". I remember crying to Marc last Fall as he tried to reassure me, and me saying to him "I know what I am seeing!" My fears were solidified last week when I drove Sam to CAR to meet with one of the doctors who is part of the sibling research study we have been participating in since Sam was six months old. We were not scheduled for a visit, just an 18 month phone interview, but because of his increasing delays, our growing concerns, and the red flags that showed up on his M-CHAT (The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers), they requested to see him.

Within the first 5 minutes, I knew what the doctor would tell me, but there was still that sliver of hope wedged in my mind that refused to budge until she uttered the word. I wouldn't say it for her; no, she would have to be the one to utter the word. After she said "Hello" in the waiting room and spoke with me, she then attempted to engage Sam several times, saying his name over and over, but he did not turn to look at her or even acknowledge her presence. Before we left the waiting area she said to me "You look concerned", and I thought, 'Autism', but I said, "I just want some answers". I didn't want to sway her perception and I wanted a truly objective opinion.

We walked the hallway back to the same little exam room we had visited for his 12 month eval. Two other women, part of the research team, stepped out to say "Hello, Sam!" as we passed their doorway. He didn't respond. Sam also had no interest in the toys laid out for him, and instead chose to focus on my bag and water bottle, poke at the door stop, and smash his face into the office chair that was every autistic child's stim dream - it would spin, had a texture to the seat with holes he could look through, and wires across the back. ( A "stim" is a self-stimulatory behavior; they can be very disruptive and all-encompassing). When he did use the toys it was in a repetetive manner - turning the dial on the toy phone back and forth, without purpose.

The doctor turned to face me, and the look of sad understanding in her eyes told me all I needed to know. We were scheduled for a two hour visit, but it took her less than a half hour to assess Sam and say, "He needs more intervention". I said something like "So, you think that it is...." trailing off, and she replied, "I can't give you an exact diagnosis of where he will fall on the spectrum, but yes, I believe we are looking at autism". It suddenly felt like she was talking to me from very far away and I had landed in a place that I had hoped we would never visit again. She called me an "expert" when I told her through my tears, I had suspected, and she added, "unfortunately science has not caught up with a mother's intuition". I had prepared myself for this, yet I still was holding on to the slim chance that I was wrong up to the moment she spoke that dreaded word. Sam will have a full diagnostic evaluation in the Fall at age two and then we will know exactly where he is on the spectrum. A formality really - the label isn't as important as making sure he receives the necessary therapies.

I know in my soul that there is a greater purpose within all of this, and in helping the other parents I reach out to, I have glimpsed the direction my life is meant to take. Right now I am grieving and moving towards acceptance. At any given moment, I cry, [a lot] but I know it is part of healing, so I let the tears fall. Anyone who has had a child diagnosed knows there is a tremendous sense of loss upon hearing "autism", but I know from our journey with our older son that many moments of beauty lie ahead, waiting for us - different, but still beautiful.

*Please see www.firstsigns.org for info on early signs of autism.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What I Know for Sure

"Cocoon" by Max, age 7

Here we go again.... Phone calls made, Early Intervention (EI) has done their intake interview (for the second time - Sam didn't qualify the first go 'round last year, because there wasn't enough of a delay) and now we are set up for another in-home Speech/Development evaluation in April. I am not freaking out over this - probably because I have been through it all before and it was so much worse with Max - we couldn't leave our house at this age with him (well, we could, but I often chose not to because of how difficult it all was - see previous blogs about that one - there is a reason I jokingly refer to him as "Linda Blair" in my writing), and because I have had suspicions that something was up for a long time with Sam, so it isn't as if I was blindsided. There are still hard days with Max, and although right now I don't know if we are looking at the dreaded "A" word with the baby, it is a strong possibility and at the very least we are looking at a speech delay (most of his communication is signing right now). Siblings of kids on the autism spectrum, as well as boys, have a higher chance of being diagnosed, so Sam has two checks against him. Add in the fact that two of our other children are diagnosed AD/HD and it is a no-brainer he will likely end up diagnosed with something. There have been some "soft" signs here and there, and some things are not on an autism checklist,.... things that make you go hmmmmm.....maybe.... - parents who have been through this know what I mean - later milestones, odd behaviors like staring at lights and windows, the sometimes blank stare, the way he has always done this thing with his thumb on my arm, or the newest - crawling on the floor with his head pressed to the ground (Max used to do this, too), and some signs that are harder to ignore - like his loss of the few words he had, and the fact that at 18 months he has no solid words, and usually only attempts words when I prompt him. This isn't meant to be a woe is me piece - There are things much worse than autism in this world (believe me, I am not saying it doesn't suck or make me sad to think of my baby boy being diagnosed, just that there are far more horrible things we could be dealing with), and I try to remind myself of that when I start feeling overwhelmed. The hubs often says to me, "This shouldn't be so hard", referring to all the shtuff with the kiddos - AD/HD, Autism, delays, depression, other health issues, and the piles of paperwork that comes with it all..... and he is right - it shouldn't be this hard - no couple sets out to have children thinking about these things, anticipating children who come with more paper work than a major corporation, but it is what it is, and our life is what we choose to make of it. We try to make it light and fun whenever possible and Marc is great at making me laugh (the zoloft doesn't hurt either).

To add to the fun, we recently adopted "Sushi", a Siamese/Snowshoe mix kitten into our family - A "Sweet Sixteen" gift to our oldest (hey, she has been asking for one for months and it was waaayyy cheaper than a car). Sushi is another strong personality, alternately affectionate and feisty (she fits right in with this crowd). In the past, we have not had good luck with cats - I have owned three others in my adult life, two of them with the hubs; the first two were pure evil and the third turned nasty when we moved to this house. Sushi, so far, is a love bug chatter box that acts part cat, part dog and part baby - she stands on her hind legs to get my attention, comes when I call her, follows me, tells me when she wants food, likes being held on her back and right now is snuggled on my chest as I write. The ultimate test - which she passes every time with flying colors - she doesn't make a peep when the baby grabs her and carries her around like a rag doll. This is a good cat. I know some think "Are you crazy?", adding to the chaos that is our life, but I always say it is a "good crazy". We are adding a puppy to the mix in a few weeks as well - I was hoping for a Boston Terrier, then was leaning towards a Pug after meeting my neighbor's sweet trio outside with our kids. They are a "sturdy breed" and "Good family dogs" from what I have read. "Sturdy" fits the bill in this household, but the hubs wasn't thrilled with the idea of a snorty, smushed face pooch (he gets major points because he would have let me get one anyway) and I want us both to be happy with our choice. We found an ad for West Highland White Terrier puppies, and he was a goner - he had one growing up, and after meeting the sweet mama of our puppy, I was hooked too. Names are still floating around for our little puppy girl (Lily and Sidney are at the top of our list) but I bet she will fit right in no matter her name along with "Swimmy, a.k.a. Lucky Bob" the fish that begs for food like a dog, "Patches O'Hoolihan" the hamster, "Stell-A!" the 10 year old golden retriever that thinks she is still a puppy, and "Sushi" the cat that isn't sure if she is cat, dog or baby.

So, here is what I know for sure - I love my life, and as hard as it all is I know the struggles my children bring to it have made me a better mom and person. AD/HD and Autism don't define my kids - my kids are each a tiny, different definition of what these challenges can look like, and it is only one small part of who they are as people. I have tried to stop asking "Why?" and try to ask "How?" - "How can I bring about positive change and make a difference?" Raising awareness and educating others is one thing I strive to do - Hopefully this blog is one small step in that direction as I share our view of life with autism . This life isn't always what we envisioned all those years ago before five kids, but from where I am sitting, it looks pretty good and I think I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I want to leave you with a link to a piece by Cammie McGovern called " A Different Kind of Happy Ending"