. With Love, From The Mother 'Hood: December 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009


Light Iris by Georgia O'Keefe

"Engrossed is the bee of my mind/on the blue lotus feet of my Divine Mother"

-Paramhansa Yogananda, yoga master

Looking at my blog tonight I realized I only have one post for December. One friend recently asked, "Are you still blogging?", and the answer is yes, very much so! But, that may leave you wondering why I haven't posted much, and the answer is, I have been busy watching the unfolding of my life, promising myself I would slow down a little, much like the unfolding of a beautiful flower. Irises are my favorite. Calling to mind the Divine Feminine, tall statuesque stems topped with the soft curl of petals that evoke delicate strength, both revealing and protecting the inner most beauty. Irises have captivated me since I was a very young girl, anticipating the rebirth of the bed at the front of my childhood home every year, waiting for the beautiful full bloom, the petals gently folding back on themselves.

I can't help but feel that the intertwining of my girl self, having finally found her feet, and my woman self embracing that girl and helping her on her way is the key to the good place I am in, enjoying this new sensation of moving forward instead of remaining mired in the past. At the recent yoga class I attended the instructor shared an inspirational quote, picked randomly by me from a set of cards. If I am remembering correctly, mine read: "When you marry action with intention, miracles happen". So reflective of where I am in my life. I loved the class and enjoyed inner peace, finding balance while providing myself with some much needed "me" time. I was going to say "On a side note" before this next bit, but I feel all of this is part of the bigger something I am moving towards, and "side note" sounds inconsequential. The yoga instructor is a friend from high school whom I haven't seen in 20+ years; and through reconnecting with her (LOVE facebook!) I have discovered we share mutual friendships, some of which have been rekindled because of our interactions on facebook. I am amazed we never ran into each other, minus the time I now know I saw her at the mall, but was too chicken to ask if we knew each other. This, along with discovering other old friends from home also live here or have connections in the area has been a grounding force. We hale from a VERY small town - still trying to wrap my mind around anyone from home living here or having family here. (I guess it is just the place to be - Us kids from WLSV are cool like that.) I could go on and on about the connections - It is like my own personal version of six degrees to Kevin Bacon.

This has been a year of discovery for Marc and me as partners and parents. With our recent major milestone reached, helping Max to gain independence from his TSS, (TSS = Therapy Support Staff; a woman that attended school with him full time up until this year to address behavioral issues and implement his treatment plan) I have been thinking a lot about the progress he has made in regards to his autism and all that we have overcome. I said to Marc, "I really don't know how I got through some of it" - it was that bad. I often didn't leave our house because it was just too difficult to manage his behaviors; he screamed about everything you can imagine from the tag in the back of his shirt, fluorescent lights in stores, the smells of the chemicals used to treat new clothing, to left turns made while driving just to name a few - and sometimes he would just scream for no apparent reason. The "tantrums" that would result from his sensory processing disorder were a 100 on a scale of 1-10 (many children have coexisting disorders with autism; Max also has Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD; please see http://www.spdfoundation.net/aboutspd.html for more information).

He is my third, so for quite awhile, two years in fact, I convinced myself he was just "the hard one" and I had lucked out with my first two. Deep down in my mom heart I knew there was so much more wrong, but it was easy to remain in denial when every time I approached the pediatrician about his milestone delays I received answers like "he is a boy, wait and see" or well meaning friends, trying to ease my mind would say "Oh my child does that too, sometimes". If you are reading this and have any doubts about your child's development don't "wait and see", it is the worst thing you can do. I am confident that all of the early intervention Max received is a huge part of his success. http://www.firstsigns.org/ is a wonderful site for info and if you have a child that is school age and need guidance, Wrights Law, From Emotions to Advocacy is a wonderful, easy to understand book detailing special education law, your child's rights and how to effectively advocate for them within the complicated system of public education. I hope my determination to be an advocate for my own children allows me to reach other families as I go.

I remember the day the Early Intervention team arrived at our home like it was yesterday. I had invited them, but definitely did not want them there. I knew before they uttered their heart crushing results, that everything was about to change. As I look back on their findings I am amazed at how far Max has come. He was 28 months old, and the results ranged from the highest, 22 months for Expressive Language, 17 months for Cognitive Development, 16 months for Social/Emotional Development, 15 months for both Physical Development and Receptive Language to the lowest - a gut wrenching score of 11 months for Adaptive Development (self help skills such as feeding, dressing, etc). At this point all we had was the SPD diagnosis, and the Occupational Therapist that evaluated him said he was one of the most sensitive children she had seen; not only was he highly sensitive, but the number of things he reacted to was remarkable. I remember Marc saying to me as we lie in bed that night, holding hands "Maybe it isn't as bad as they think" and me, tears streaming down my face in the dark saying "It is a thousand times worse than I ever imagined." Max hadn't even exhibited his worst behaviors that day, in other words, they had seen him on a "good" day. It would take another 10 months to obtain an official diagnosis of autism. By that time the diagnosis was something I was seeking instead of denying. I think any parent that has gone through this will tell you, there is a grieving process your mind has to go through, and denial is a huge part of it, and unfortunately some become stranded there, the enormity of realizing something within your child is "broken" too much to bare.

Milestones that we took for granted with our first two took on a whole new meaning with Max. We have reached many, and I truly believe we are better people and parents because of this journey. I know we are fortunate that he has come so far and I know in my soul that despite all the heartache I am a better mom because of it. Within the last month I connected with another old friend from home, and we have so much more in common than our roots. She is someone with an amazing amount of grace and goodness, although I don't think she feels that right now. As we shared bits of our lives, that opening, folding back feeling was immense and it was another moment that brought my life into perspective, and as I watch my son unfolding before my eyes, blossoming and becoming more than I ever dared to hope for, I know I am on the right path.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Call Me What You Will

What someone calls you isn't important, it's what you answer to that matters.
- Anonymous

I read this quote while visiting my sons' school. It was hanging in the hallway for all to read and I found myself wondering how many had read it and understood. I imagined the person that produced such a thought must be an open-minded individual, and likely a great communicator - too bad more people aren't. I'd be willing to bet that person knows how to handle life's curve balls, too.

We have learned to laugh at a lot of what life throws at us - a lot more fun than the alternative, wallowing in self-pity. What we can't laugh at we try to talk through, (Marc and I have made great strides these last few months, as we both have stretched out of our comfort zones, resulting in less fighting and more meaningful communication. An amazing gift not all are capable of giving - the willingness to look within and acknowledge faults and change them to better a relationship - so much easier to point the finger of blame than accept and change your part), but laughter is usually only a knowing look, gesture, or utterance away. It is one of the things I love about us most as a couple - our senses of humor are so in sync and we often use humor to diffuse tension. We jokingly refer to ourselves as "The Griswolds" (that is why "Holiday Road" landed on my playlist) because of all the whacky stuff we seem to attract. Marc and I have found and accepted, if it is going to happen, it usually happens to us. This isn't glass half full, we just come prepared with all of our "life experience". I am thinking about getting vanity plates for the bus I drive: "Griswold". I already have an embosser for gift tags that reads "Happy Holidays, The Griswolds". Cheap thrills carry a lot of weight around here.

Lately, in a round about way, individuals have been calling me, let's say, "chubby". Marley declared, "Mommy, you big butt!" as she, Sam and I were partying in the bathroom. Let me scar you for life, as I paint you a picture of me trying to pee, Sam climbing on my lap and Mars assessing my bare bottom as if it held the meaning of the universe. I fantasize about being able to "go" uninterrupted, in peace and without reference to my apparently big behind. Baby got back. Clearly it is time to call up those old friends, Weight Watchers and the YMCA and schedule some quality time; (as I write this, I remind myself that at one time I had, what I now consider, a very hot bod. In light of all the poor communication from those days of old, I will take confidence and healthy relationships over physical beauty any day, hands down, but since I have the improved communication under my belt, might as well go for the hot bod, too - or at least a new, improved version of the one I've got, right?). Add to Marley's assessment, the fact that my 7 year old keeps asking me if I am having another baby as he eyes my belly mush, and lest I forget, the cherry on top - the guy at the Chinese buffet we frequent, happily asking me "another one soon?" In my defense, I am minus a major abdominal muscle after having a freakish "aggressive and invasive" tumor removed along with the muscle itself in 1996(betcha didn't know Snarky Girl has a little bionic woman in her - a giant piece of mesh replacing the muscle) and it was after I had eaten and I was holding the baby, so the flab-abs were smushing out more than usual, but really? Didn't anyone ever teach buffet boy you NEVER, EVER ask a woman if she is prego unless you either:

A.) are 110% sure she is or
B.) you see a head crowning?

When I said "no" he said "Oh, just kidding." Riiigght. The food wasn't so great that visit either, so I paid for crappy food and being called fat. We haven't been back since, but it was the food, I swear.

"So, are you going for number 6?" is the other thing I keep hearing (these people obviously received the memo that my belly is the result of the 5 kids I already have, not one on the way). I usually laugh and politely say "no" (and I really MEAN it this time - I am, like dinner, DONE!!), but what I am really thinking is, "Are you on crack!?" Some might call me crazy, but I'm not that crazy - I have hit my limit with #5. It isn't that I don't love my kids - anyone that really knows me will tell you, I love them tremendously, and I truly love being called "Mom", but that title is hard earned. "People say we will miss this someday." Marc always says this to me, during the worst moments with our kids, and we both look at each other knowingly and kind of snort - those "people" don't know jack. My kids could scare most mortals into not having children. I have offered them up as natural birth control on more than one occasion -call me if you want to give it a try and we can work something out. (**Warning: Marley can scream at a pitch that may render you temporarily deaf.)

Words can be powerful, but they only hold as much power as you choose to allow them. Sticks and stones and all that (talking adults here - children are another beast entirely; their skin soft, hearts tender - teach and treat them well). Life is short, and there are instances I swear I can hear the whisper of precious time slipping through my fingers, but I remind myself, as I think of the hard year mostly behind us - can't change the past, only move forward on a better path. I look at my beautiful family and all we have overcome, and I know what is important. I am making conscious choices to change or eliminate what doesn't work in my life - I have too much I am juggling not to. Negativity and the people that harbor it will suck the life out of you - Twilight has nothing on these real life vampires that roam the earth, often in the form of miserable narcissists. It is amazing how much better life is for Marc and I with the recent positive changes we have made. Right now I would call myself "Happy, Content" and above all "Confident" - confident in the love I give and receive and especially confident in those whom I choose to call "friend". I have been called many things throughout my life, thankfully, most of them cherished names assigned with love. I will answer to a lot, good or bad, so call me what you will but if the bad outweighs the good, I'll be taking my Griswold self on down the road.