Hello everyone. Have you ever thought about the role you play in your family?When I was growing up my family consisted of my dad, my mom, my younger brother and myself. When I was little my job was to protect my little brother. Not because my parents told me I had to, but because I wanted to. I took being his boogie monster chaser, don’t eat that or I’ll tell mom, slow down or you will fall advice giver very seriously back in the day. I still try to give him advice, but he turned off his listening ears a long time ago lol. But I try, after all what are older siblings for if not to look out for younger siblings?
When I had my own children, my daughter looked after her little brother from the moment he came into the world. Heck she still tries and they are both in their twenties. As the oldest she wants what’s best for him, whether he realizes it or not. And now that she is the oldest of seven her role has become even more important to her. She is after all Big Sissy.
Older siblings automatically take on that role. It’s human nature. Well most of the time.
My husband was out of town working a few weeks a go so it was just me and the littles here at the house. When dad is not here JR is lost. His anxiety is at an all time high and his behaviors tend to increase. Those days are hard, really hard. On those days I find myself looking into his future. Our future. We have come to the realization that he will most likely be with us our whole lives. We accept that. But who will care for him once we are gone? Dark subject I know but please bare with me.
See he is older than three of our children. Typically he would be the one caring for the younger siblings if the unthinkable were to happen after he reached the legal age. The problem is…He simply can’t.
However over the last year we have noticed a reversal of roles in our household. Our five year old Al has taken on the job as JR’s big/little brother. He makes sure JR always has someone to play with if he wishes to play with another person. He lets us know if JR is getting anxious about something if we are out of the room. You can hear him throughout the day saying things like Hey JR no put that in your mouth. No running you get hurt. No no no we no climb. He wants to keep him safe. He wants to make sure he is okay at all times. He has taken his role very serious, well as serious as a five year old can. He does not realize their roles are reversed, he is just doing what he feels he needs to do.
Yes they still have their disagreements, all siblings do, but to see Al take notice of his brother the way he has is heartwarming.
No, I don’t want to think about the what if’s but as a mom I do. And yes I know for a fact my older two children would take care of all five littles if something did happen (we’ve had that talk) but it’s nice to know that JR will have many people to look after him, protect him, love him long after me.
There is nothing more precious than the love among siblings.
Can you believe it’s 2019?! Where in the world did 2018 go? I guess the Gretchen Rubin saying is true, The days are long but the years are short.
As we settled in for a night of movies, popcorn, pepperoni rolls, and giggles with the littles I could not help but look back at what the past year looked like for our family. What a difference one year makes.
Last January we were in Tennessee. We were fostering a beautiful little girl. She fit in perfectly with our little loves. That was actually her second time with us. Man I miss her sweet smile, the sounds she made while she slept, and the way she took in everything around her. I am happy she is now with family members that can care for her the way she needs to be. For a moment we thought she was meant to be ours, God had other plans for her and for us. So we will continue to pray for her, her parents, and those taking care of her. Baby Peaches will forever be in our hearts.
In March she went to live with her grandmother, and our lives went back to our normal. The kids were doing well in school. My husband was busy at work. All in all things seemed to going well. I became a published author in March. Beautiful Chaos Our Story about Foster Care, Adoption, Faith and Lovehit Amazon (and some bookshelves) on March 14. I never thought it would happen, but it did. It finally did. Some dreams are meant to be reality. In March my mom and I were able to attend a Women of Joy conference. Powerful messages and wonderful worship filled three amazing days. While there I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa Harper in person. Her testimony is so touching. Her books are amazing. Being able to give her a copy of my book and get a copy of her book was amazing.
In April we welcomed a very tiny sick little boy into our home. It was just for a week until his grandmother could get things in order at her house so she could care for him at her home. It just happened to be the week of Easter. What a perfect week to have him with us. He was able to attend one of the most memorable Easter services I have ever been to. He was prayed for and prayed over by our pastor and his wife. And even though he was only with us a week he too will have a place in our hearts. Its not about the amount of time we spend with someone, its about what we share in that time that matters.
May brought about a trip with my oldest daughter and my momma. The previous Christmas Sierra and I surprised my mom with a tickets as one of her presents. My mom, recently retired, had always wanted to take a cruise but was never able to go. My dad does not care for the ocean so Sierra and I decided we would take her and make it a girls only trip. We had a blast. Seeing my mom so happy and excited was truly one of the highlights of my year. Maybe we can make it a yearly thing? Maybe.
May also changed things. My father in law was not doing well. I’ve said it before and I will say it again cancer sucks. He was fighting a losing battle and time with him we knew was growing short. My husband and I started talking about moving back home but it was not as simply as “just moving home”. The thought of taking JR out of his school scared us. I knew our other little loves would adjust fine, but him, we worried about him. His needs are much different than theirs. We prayed and talked and talked some more trying to figure out what was best for all of us.
June we received a call for a little girl and welcomed her into our home. She was a bundle of joy. Always laughing and by far the best sleeper we had in a long time. Our little loves loved having her with us.
I was not feeling the best and after talking with my doctor I was scheduled for a hysterectomy in mid June. During the pretesting the doctor discovered something wrong. It appeared that I had had a mild heart attack. I was floored. I’m only 42. The doctor had more tests ran and it was later determined that it was not a heart attack just a heart issue (still not completely sure what happened or what the issue actually was.) But truly thankful whatever it was God saw fit to fix it. Thank you Jesus!
With my health scare and Todd’s dad sick we made the decision to move back home. We needed to be closer to our families. I brought the kids up and they spent most of the summer at my parents home. I would travel back and forth between to two states. We still had our foster daughter and she had visits and meetings we could not miss. When we knew for sure we would be moving (still in the middle of all my testing on my heart) we discussed her case with her caseworker, her GAL (guardian at litem) and her mom. The decision was made that she would be placed in another foster home where she could continue to thrive while her mom worked her plan to get her back. It was with a heavy heart we had to let her go. The day I dropped her off to her new foster family was hard. We did not plan for her stay with us to end like it did. Last I heard she is doing great and her mom is working hard on things to one day have her back. I pray all works out.
August arrived before we knew it and we closed on our new house, the day before school started. Talk about crazy timing. Todd was still working in TN, traveling back and forth to see us and his dad. School brought about new schools, new teachers, new everything for our kids. It was a difficult time but thankfully everyone is adjusting well now.
October we celebrated Halloween. We had the Ghostbusters along with the Marshmallow man and the cutest little Dale Jr I’ve ever seen. That would be the last time the kids and I would see my father-in-law. It is still so hard to believe he is gone. I am thankful for the memories he gave to my kids, to me. He was truly an special man.
November is a blur. That’s when our world changed forever. When Jesus called him home. He fought a hard fight. We went through the motions at Thanksgiving. I cooked. I wanted my mother in law’s Thanksgiving to go as smoothly as possible. My orders from my seven year old were to make sure she was happy. JR knows she misses him for he too misses his papaw. They were inseparable. Not a day has went by he has not asked about him or how he can get to him.
December my husband was able to finally move home. After our TN house sold and things at his work slowed down he was able to transfer back up here. Having him home has been the best gift. We are once again under one roof. We are stronger when we are all together. Christmas was a busy time, with our five little loves and our daughter and her boyfriend, and our son and his girlfriend, our house was filled with laughter and presents. Lots of presents. There were laughs and some tears, but over all we had an okay Christmas. We missed papaw’s laugh and smile, I guess that’s something we always will.
2018 brought about many changes for us. Life is about change. We must learn to live life and love the people we are surrounded by. We must forgive others and forgive ourselves. We must be patient with what’s going on and see where God leads us. In 2018 we made some new friends (stopped talking to a few). We discovered we are stronger than we realized and our faith grew. Our hearts were broken and tears we shed many times, but through it all we had each other. I am not sure what 2019 will hold for us. And that is the beauty of change. My prayer is that whatever life throws at us in the new year we learn from it, we grow from it, we are blessed by it, and we embrace it. Through it all may God keep us and guide us all the way.
From our beautiful chaos to yours, May 2019 be a very blessed and exciting year.
So with the okay from my mother-in-law, let me tell you about a boy and his best friend, my son and his papaw.
Losing someone you love is hard at any age. Its hard to wrap our minds around the idea that our loved one is not here physically anymore. It’s hard on adults to process the loss, so just imagine you are seven and autistic.
I was blessed to have my father-in-law in my life for over eleven years. He was one of those guys that loved to help everyone. I swear he never met a stranger. If he had it and you needed it, well then it was yours. His smile was infectious and that laugh, oh how I miss that deep belly laugh. I did not know him as long as most, but in my time with him I discovered how much and how deeply he loved people. And you know what else? He loved being a papaw.
When my husband and I got married, my in-laws became instant grandparents to my two preteen children. When my husband and I decided to become foster parents, they were on board with the idea and were excited for the journey that awaited us all. And from the moment our wild man was placed with us, all of our worlds changed. From the second he came to us, so tiny and so sick, I knew he was ours. And on a cool day in September 2013, two and a half years after wild man was first placed in my arms, papaw Jim(along with our whole family) was in the courtroom with us as JR became forever ours. JR had us all wrapped around his little finger from the beginning. But the two of them had a special bond. They were inseparable.
JR went everywhere with papaw. Whether it was to the grocery store or down to the wrecker (tow truck) shop, it didn’t matter to them. He was so excited when papaw bought him his own car seat for his truck. JR loves that truck, and he loved going bye-bye with his favorite person. My father-in-law never saw our JR as a child with autism, to him he was just his grandson. His beautiful, full of energy, always laughing, popcorn eating, adventure seeking grandson.
After the “twins” arrived to our home, my father-in-law offered to start taking JR to his OT, speech, and music therapy appointments on Fridays. It quickly became their thing. My in-laws would pick him up shortly after I got our daughter on the bus and off they would go on their weekly adventure. He loved spending his Fridays with them. My father-in-law also filled in for us at his preschool when they would have special days or field trips that my husband or I could not go to. He always found a way to make sure JR was included in everything at the school. He became more than just JR’s papaw, he was the classroom’s papaw.
In my son’s words, Cancer sucks ass. And he is 100% correct, cancer does suck ass.
My father-in-law was the healthiest sick man I have ever known. He never complained or questioned why him, at least not in front of us. He always had a smile on his face when he was around the kids. They never seen him as sick. Hearing the words, he has cancer, took months for all of us to process. How could he get sick? He was our rock. The doctor’s had to be wrong. He was a fighter. He did everything he could to stay strong and beat the hand that laid before him. As the days turned into months and he became weaker we tried to prepare ourselves and the kids. We explained things to our little loves in a way that we hoped they would understand, but how can we expect them to understand when we don’t fully understand ourselves?
Halloween night, I called to see if he was up for some trick or treat visitors. I drove my twelve passenger van through the sea of candy hungry neighborhood children so that our kiddos could get to papaw and mamaw’s house. Papaw made his way out to the porch and stood while holding the back of a chair. He made sure to tell all the kids he loved them and made sure they all got more candy than they needed. JR asked if he could go get a prize out of the treasure box and of course he was gone before anyone could say yes. We visited for a few minutes and gave hugs goodbye and off we went. When we got back into the van the first words out of JRs mouth were, momma papaw must be getting better. He was standing tonight. I will forever be thankful for this last memory he gave to our kids. I know it took everything out of him to come out and stand and pass out candy. But he did it for them. And he did so with his signature smile on his face.
JR did not just lose his papaw. He lost his best friend.
There has not been a day that papaw Jim is not mentioned at least a thousand times by our sweet boy. JR can not process what has happened. He is fixated on the why’s and how comes. He is lost without his number one fan. He loves for us to tell him things the two of them done, and he always has a few of his own stories to share. He sleeps with the flashlight he got out of the treasure box on Halloween night. And he talks to papaw’s picture he had me hang in his room. He asks if we can make an airplane and take a trip to heaven and he is full of questions about cancer and death. Some days he is happy, knowing he will see papaw again other days he cry’s non stop for he misses him more than anything.
The two of them shared a love of the ocean, swimming, and eating cheese flavored popcorn. They loved “fixing” things and taking drives. There will always be a great big place in JRs heart for his papaw Jim. And because of JRs unique look on life I know for a fact papaw Jim will live on through him and us. He may not physically be here with us but his spirit is strong, especially around our wild man. I know when JR is in his room and I ask, who are you talking to? And he replies papaw Jim, I know that he really is. Thank you for looking in on him. Life will be hard without him but you can bet JR will remind us of something the two of them did that will bring a smile to our faces daily. Their relationship will live on through the memories they made.
So thankful for the memories, precious, precious memories. In JRs words, Heaven is an extra special place now with papaw Jim in it. Yes it is little buddy. Yes it is.
There are moments as parents we catch ourselves thinking about as our little loves grow up. There are the early questions, When will he walk? When will she talk?What sport will she play? Will he be in the band? And then questions that come as they get older, Will they go to prom? To college? Will she get married? Will he be okay? All questions that have ran through my mind more than once.
As an autism mom, some of even these simple questions leave me in tears after a long evening of stimming and repetition behaviors. Most days we fight the good autism fight. Our lives are arranged around what he can and can not handle. Is it always fair to our other little loves or our older two children? No, no it’s not. However life as we know is not fair. We do the best with what God has given us. And what He has given us is beautiful, chaotic at times but beautiful.
With my first two children, I was the typical mom. We had piano lessons, dance lessons, taekwondo practice, a little t-ball, and soccer. Then came high school and it was marching band, jazz band, color guard, concert band, winter guard, and still taekwondo, They received awards for most everything they participated in. I have a filing cabinet full of awards, still waiting to be scrapbooked. And while I was taken back if they didn’t win something, I didn’t worry about it because I always knew there would be another award/trophy around the corner. Then JR came into our lives.
Autism is so misunderstood and so complicated, yet beautiful and full of surprises. With JR we are not in a hurry to run from ball field to ball field, he could care less about sports. With him we get to see life through his beautiful heart and mind. He has taught me so many things about slowing down and enjoying the small things out of life. Not getting called up during an assembly to receive an award like the other students phases him not. But if I’m honest with myself, it bothers me a little. Ok maybe more than that, maybe more than it should. I know he could be that one in a million that becomes a childhood prodigy, but I know my son. I know that he is beautiful and funny and the happiest kid you will ever meet. I also have come to the realization that he has autism and that’s ok. He is exactly how he is supposed to be. My perfect little sometimes rotten wild man. But sometimes the “normal” mom in me becomes sad at the thought of a life he will never have.
So when my normally quiet seven year old came bouncing in from school, I knew something was up. Then I received a text from his teacher asking me if he had told me about being named Student of the Month? When I asked him about he got the biggest smile on his face. He told me all about hearing his name “over his head” (the school speaker) and how everyone knew his name now. He called his dad and told him about it, and then his big sis. He was so excited because it will mean that Santa would hear about it and maybe just maybe bring him an extra special gift at Christmas. Being student of the month is special momma. Maybe Santa gets special gift for me cause I did so good.
I asked him what kind of special gift he wanted from Santa, you know so I could pass the information along I was floored by what he said. He was not asking for a new plane, or new NASCARs, or LEGOs for himself. My son asked for a new kitchen for our house. I stared at him with a puzzled look and then he ran over to show me what he was talking about. On his tablet he had created a whole house for us. In the center of the house was a beautiful kitchen. From the cabinets to the flooring everything fit so well together. It’s the table(island) you like right momma? I can change the lights if you like. I fought back the tears. Instead of using his “extra gift” from Santa to get himself something he was thinking bigger. He was thinking about all of us. He truly he a special kid.
I don’t think Santa will be getting us that new kitchen, my boy has very expensive taste, but I’m sure he will get something extra. This beautiful little human has taught me so much about the importance of loving others and embracing life. I am so happy he is a happy child. Way to go wild man!!! Momma loves you!
I am so thankful he is adjusting well to his new school. We have been blessed with teachers who see his true potential.
We have also found some wonderful worksheets for all of our kiddos over at Education.com be sure to check them out
Losing baby teeth is part of growing up. I remember one time when my oldest son was around five. He had lost a tooth at my then mother in laws house and the tooth fairy traded him ten dollars for his tiny tooth. To my son (and me) that was a lot of cash for one tooth. A few days later he jumped off the couch and hit the table, just as he had planned, and out come another tooth. He was so proud as he showed me the bloody tooth and his lip. Unfortunately for him at our house the tooth fairy did not pay out as much. That stunt was never tried again. Thank goodness.
Last night was yet another big tooth event in our home. Wild man does not tell us a lot of things when it comes to physical pain. So when he told me his tooth was squeaking, I had to check. Sure enough it was moving. He has lost teeth before, most of them we only notice once we see the empty space in his mouth. One he lost at school in an apple slice, he was excited to bring that one home apple and all. So for him to notice his tooth was moving is a huge win for him (us). All day his tongue wiggled that tooth back and forth. I offered to help but he insisted he could do it on his own. Independence something I have prayed for him to have. And then it happened. That tiny little grinded down tooth popped out.
His sister told him to do’s and don’ts of leaving a tooth for the tooth fairy, at the age of eight she is a pro. He wanted to make sure we placed it under his pillow, so we did. He made sure it was well protected. His plane, his bumble, and his body sock all placed in the way he wanted. He paced back and forth for over an hour making sure everything was just right.
He went to sleep with ease (which is not something he does) all in the hopes of getting treasure from the tooth fairy. When the first signs of the early morning light come through the bedroom window he was up. The tooth fairy had given him some money and even left his tooth as Wild Man had requested. He wanted to add it to his treasure box, how could the tooth fairy say no?
Such a normal everyday event, and yet I have cried my eyes out.
There are so many days I would give anything to get inside his mind and see the world he sees. Today our worlds come together over a small tooth.
This evening we continued the celebration with a movie night. He is starting to interact more with our other boys, where as he use to only parallel play along side them. As we watched Frozen (thank you Freeform) the boys asked if he wanted to have a sleepover in their room. I carried in his mattress while the boys brought his bag of cars, his rocket, his treasure box, and the all important blue light lamp. They wanted him to feel safe and made sure he had all of his favorite things.
Again I’m in tears.
As they get older they are bonding, as well as siblings can when autism is a factor. Tonight was a good night.
I am thankful for lost teeth and sleepovers. What are you thankful for this evening?
Have you ever wanted to run to the top of a mountain and just scream? I’m talking the type of scream that has hot tears running down your face, your whole body shakes, sweat pouring off of you and it solves absolutely nothing but you continue to scream anyway type of scream because no one can hear you. The type of scream that makes you feel better for just a split second but you know the pain that will follow in your throat for days to come. The type of scream you scream where no one else can hear your sadness, your isolation, your frustration, your pain. The life as an autism mom has these days, today in fact was one of those days.
I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s back up.
Like most families we have our days. We have days that are good, days that are okay, a few great days that give us the strength to continue forward and then those days were I feel like a complete failure. Meltdown after meltdown. Nothing. Going. Right. Days. These days drain everything ounce out of me. This day started around 4am this morning.
I knew when we went to bed it was going to be a long night. I saw the signs.
I had to tell him daddy was on call this weekend so he would not be in to see them. Big Sis had told him she had plans to go to a football game so he would not see her for a few hours. My other little loves were excited for the weekend and the noise level in the house showed it. He paced the floors in a circle around the couch. He held his stomach as he does when he “needs to go” I check his calendar, it’s been four days, he will probably go this evening. I make a mental note to take extra pull-ups and wipes to bed with me. By nine all the kids are sleeping, even him, but he is not resting. He tosses and turns in his bed. I hear him groan as he sleeps and I know his belly hurts. I drift in and out of sleep because I know he will need me soon. Around midnight he yells and I run to his aid. He can’t sleep know, he is wide awake, I make his pullout bed in my room so he can feel safe. He finally drifts off to sleep around two and I can finally close my eyes.
Then it happens. 4am comes with screams of complete terror. I jump up but can’t see a thing. Complete. Darkness. I am frozen for a split second until my ears lock on his scream. Power outage. I’m not prepared. All I have is the flashlight on my phone. Why oh why did I not unpack the candles? He makes his way to me he is now wide awake once more no sleep for us now. With every noise, every sound he hears and his mind wonders. By five two more of my little loves join us in my dark bedroom. They are also scared. I must be brave even though my heart is racing. Finally around seven the sun begins to break through the clouds. The scary night is over, a new day can begin.
But his routine has been changed. Nothing will be easy today. I try my best to make it work but it does not. Daddy is suppose to be here today. He is not and our wild man does not understand. Things spiral. Lack of sleep is not helping the situation. We load up and drive to my parents. He is happy to see them, but notes that he sees them on Sundays not Saturdays. He writes me a note letting me know he loves me, hard days are less hard when he gives me notes like these. A few hours at their house was helpful, maybe the rest of the day will be better. Cue meltdown number three.
Car ride home. Sister singing. Brothers laughing. Sister yelling for brothers to stop. Noise all around. I ask them to calm down, I fear it’s to late. To much for him to handle. So it starts.
Hitting. Kicking. Screaming. His body takes over. I get us home. I try to hold him, try to contain the storm within him, but he is not a small two year old anymore he is a 65 pound seven year old that is stronger than an ox. I really wish my husband were here. A few hours, yes hours, pass and the storm is once again my sweet loveable little man. He says things like, I sorry momma, I will not bite myself again momma. Momma today a bad day. He cries. I cry. I pray for rest tonight but can see it will be another long night. Days like these are hard.
I try to be honest about how life is. I try to let those that want to know how things are going, how things are actually going. But no one really understands what it’s like to have a child with autism unless they have a child with autism. I try to make things as normal as possible around here, whatever that is, but there are days I feel so isolated. There are days I feel like all I do is scream both figuratively and literally. There are days I wish I could get in his mind and figure out the why’s and why not’s. People say we are lucky because he can talk now, and we are blessed he has found his voice. But that does not make his autism less hard. It’s hard. So hard.
I look over at him. He is finally fast asleep in his pullout bed right beside my bed. He is at peace. He feels safe and that’s what’s most important to me at this point. I set here on the top of my mountain screaming inside knowing no one hears me. I pull on my invisible super mom cape so that people see what they want to see, so they don’t feel obligated to pretend to understand or worse give me advice on what I should do when he acts out. Tonight as I look at him and know we made it through a hard day we pray for strength to get through future hard days. We pray for a better days. An easier day. I pray I can be the mom he needs me to be. And I give God thanks for making me his mom. God knew we needed each other on days like this. Tomorrow is a new day.
Our school year is well underway, our little loves are adjusting to their new teachers, bus drivers, and schedules….well most of them. Our littlest guy was not adapting well at all. While his brothers and sister were excited to see what their new school’s had to offer them he was terrified. Completely. Terrified. This year he would be in class without his brother. This year he had a male teacher. This year he would start without knowing anyone. Kindergarten can be a scary place. His preschool had some worries about him starting kindergarten. Academically he was ready. He knows all of his colors, he can count to 100, he knows his shapes, and he can write all the letters not the alphabet. He can even correctly spell his full name. He can even sign the alphabet (forward and backward) I think he is pretty smart for a new five year old. But kindergarten is more than A B C’s and 1 2 3’s. Socially he is not ready. We tried the kindergarten class, but within a few days we knew it was not going to work. His teacher said he would stay to himself, he would not answer (or even acknowledge) anyone that asked him a question. He basically shutdown on us all.
He did not want to get up in the mornings. He cried as we went to the bus. He would not talk about anything that happened during his day. He didn’t want to go to bed at night because he knew he had to get up and go to school the next morning. Our happy, go lucky, always making a joke kid was miserable. My momma heart broke for him. When the school called for our meeting I knew something had to change.
As I sat in a room with teachers and staff that barely knew my son, I questioned if we/I was doing the right thing for him. If I stuck to the plan with him staying in kindergarten he could come out of his shell in a few weeks/months and everything could be okay. He could also be completely miserable and in the end fail kindergarten and have to repeat it again next year. Or we could place him back in preschool and help him build on his social skills and possibly transition him into the kindergarten class a few days towards the end of the year and that way he would be ready for kindergarten next year. The choice was clear. He needed another year of preschool. But how would he adjust to yet another change this year?
Part of me wants both of my five year olds in kindergarten together. But I want what’s best for him, not what I pictured life would be. He needs this. His teacher knew I was worried about the decision we made, so she sent me a few photos through this first day. I can’t tell you how much those photos meant to me. And when he got off the bus from his “second first day” the smile on his face said it all. He was happy, so very happy.
I hope as the years go by he understands why he and his brother are not in the same grade. I hope he understands we did what we thought was best for him. I hope he understands that every decision we make is in hopes of giving him a better life and giving him the best opportunity we can. But those are all questions for a later day. For now I will focus on the smile on his cute little face and know that he is happy and feels comfortable in his new class. Here’s to a great preschool year!!