About Kristen

A 30-something wife and mama of 3 (so far) living out my faith (Catholic) in the southeastern US.

Yesterday that started with so much promise

…came crashing down when a certain six-year-old came running in the house shortly before dinner scream-crying and clutching his head. When I got him to remove his hand there was a giant goose egg with two small abrasions. I eventually got him to calm enough to tell me he hit his head on a ceiling fan at a neighbor’s home. He was hiding on a top bunk bed and apparently in this room there is a ceiling fan and the kids had turned it on full blast. And when he popped up from his hiding place…well, he’s lucky he didn’t lose an eye. The swelling has gone down and he never lost consciousness or got sick so we’re confident of no concussion.  But man…

So new rules are in place about whose houses we’re allowed to play AT outdoors and not go indoors. He understands the rules and so we’ve moved on. God likes to throw me big surprises sometimes like this. But, I have to be confident in my response. Even if it meant losing an eye, God would not give me or my child more than we could handle. And that is so, so incredibly difficult to contemplate.

I slept part of the night on the couch last night, and part on Shelby’s bed. Shelby slept with Jeff. Joseph slept on the loveseat, William in the chair and then the couch. I needed to be close enough to hear any potential vomiting. Today has been quiet. I made bacon and hashbrowns for breakfast and hot dogs for lunch. I’m keeping Shelby out of the food and out of my bedroom today (making her be a little out of her preference zone). She’s needed decidedly less sensory input today but that’s fine. I work this evening.

If the big kids were at school, this morning would have meant Bible Study Fellowship, but with no one to keep the big kids and in light of a certain six-year-old’s head injury, we’re home.  I am tired, I am half-way through Spring Break and I am joyful and grateful.

Some days are just…better

Yesterday was one. Today is another.

Yesterday was our first official day of Spring Break. Can I tell you how I ususally don’t look forward to breaks without Jeff? Cause I don’t.

However, our wonderful friend and neighbor decided to invite us over for a playdate. So, midmorning just as Shelby was beginning to meltdown because I wouldn’t let her into the front closet, the garage, my closet, her closet or my bathroom…I announced we were going to their house. And the choir said, “AMEN!” We enjoyed our friends’ company and hospitality. So many great things were happening. Shelby tolerated their puppy. The boys cleaned up toys when they were done. Joseph got a drumming session in. William got a playdough session in. We were sorry to end our playdate but needed to get home and do some cleaning.

By some miracle, everyone agreed that after lunch and some Wii time, it would be time to clean up. And clean up we did. Shelby’s been especially sensory-needy, so she wanted lots of back-scratches, so I had to allow for short breaks in between tasks but it all got done.

Joseph and Shelby’s wonderful art teacher (also a neighbor!) is big into “recycled art” which is recycled items and re-purpose them as art. For example, when Shelby was in kindergarten, the kindergarteners and first graders collected colored lids and used them to make a community art project. They made a mosaic of the lids of the school mascot, an alligator, that is displayed in the school entryway that is both attractive and inviting. Anyway, Joseph now sees all recyclable material as art supplies, so when we got bottled waters on our playdate, he and William saved theirs. Joseph created a dragon using his water bottle, markers and paper for wings and Will designed a space ship using markers with his water bottle. They came up with everything on their own. I was impressed.

Joseph stepped up and offered to help with Shelby. She was in desperate need to deep pressure and she prefers the boys to sit on her to achieve this. So he sat in her lap. She bear hugged from behind but eventually it was making his chest sore so he let her squeeze his hands while he held her arms out. Jeff came home to this and I’m pretty sure he was a proud daddy.

I headed off to work that evening with Jeff feeling very capable with three kids who were playing outdoors (Shelby was in her sensory swing) and no one melting down or wigging out. I came home that night and the boys were still up playing the Wii and Shelby was asleep in our bed with Jeff. They went to bed when I asked and I got to watch Castle and Community and a bit of That 70′s Show before heading off myself.

I woke up this morning with a migraine. And not just any migraine but the migraine to end all migraines with sinus pressure and neck tension. The boys had gotten themselves up and were playing quietly in the living room. I was able to ask Joseph to get Shelby up. She wanted to play quietly alone her room, so I let her while I managed to rouse myself.  We stumbled through breakfast together and I managed to take some Tylenol.

I decided today would be the day to change the kids’ clothes out migraine or no. Shelby’s clothes were easy and I did them quickly after breakfast. I was going to veg out a little before taking on the boys’ clothes but a fight between Joseph and William assured me it needed to be dealt with ASAP. So, with their help and Shelby on the top bunk raiding William’s candy (which he willingly allowed her to do because he’s an awesome baby brother like that) we knocked it out in less than 15 minutes. The boys decided to play with toys in their room while I slowly started lunch. I got some whole wheat pita bread last week because I love it so I made myself some tuna salad which will be my lunches for the week. The boys, as always, were easy for lunch. Peanut butter sandwiches. With Raspberry jam for Joe, just peanut butter for Will. Shelby wanted a big scoop of peanut butter. I managed to convince her to have some pineapple and since she ate several clementines on our playdate yesterday, I think we’re having a great fruit week here for her. (The pineapple is hit or miss, so I always consider it a win!) I’ve managed to keep up with the dishes and laundry the last few days which is a minor miracle too.

After lunch, William decided to make a recycled art dragon too. Only he wanted to use toilet paper rolls. I managed to find a couple and he had so much fun making his own. He named it “DragonStrong.” I think this is partly after hearing so much “Boston Strong” the last few days but this Yankees fan will take it!

Joseph also helped William trace one of their Skylanders and William cut it out which is good because scissoring is a fairly new skill for him. William also willingly practiced writing his name.

The boys then went to play outside together briefly before William decided he was ready for “quiet time.” He is now relaxing in my bed watching Spongebob. Joseph has gone out to ride bikes with the neighbors and Shelby is having quiet book time in her room. My headache is FINALLY abating and I’m going to probably join William in resting for a few minutes.

God has truly given me these better days to remind me of His glory. As Ann Voskamp says, we are a “resurrection people” we are those who bask in His love, His mercy and His joy always. And sharing those things is our gift back to Him.

Half-Way Through Easter Sunday Check-In Before the Sugar Coma overtakes us

Last week Jeff was on Spring Break and tomorrow starts the kids’ Spring Break. So, it’s been an interesting week and I’m sure the week to come will be equally as fun.

Joseph had Field Day on last Wednesday. Shelby was supposed to have a make-up field day that day, but she woke up and had a melt-down that morning. We haven’t had that happen in over 2 years and she hasn’t had a mental health day from school at all this year, so I made the executive decision to keep her home with William and I. This meant I couldn’t go to field day, but it was for the best. It was super cold and windy after weeks of beautiful weather and it rained enough to make one think we needed an ark Tuesday. After I got Joseph on the bus I snuggled Shelby who felt very feverish (probably the reason for the meltdown). She spent the day in my bed watching Elmo and Spongebob.

Thursday was a hugely busy day for us. Jeff was joining William, Shelby and I at Special Olympics. This was Shelby’s third year participating and Jeff’s first chance to come see her. Shelby is in the “young athlete program” through her school which gives her exposure to swimming, bowling, drum therapy and horseback riding. Most of the kids in her class are in the developmental activities which include things like short runs, softball throws and the like. Shelby did not participate in any events. Instead she enjoyed arts and crafts and many more fun activities including cheering on her friends and drum circle.

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In the first pic, William was drawing Angry Birds, in the second Shelby was tracing and “writing” her name. This is the first attempts we’ve ever seen and her first attempts outside of the classroom to write her own name. William loved drum circle.

Friday we went with Joseph’s kindergarten class to the aquarium. There are approximately 100 kindergarteners at Joseph’s school and pretty much all of them were there for the field trip. We met his class at the aquarium. Jeff and I were both chaperones and we were assigned Joseph and another little boy (we also had William with us) to keep track of. We were a little disappointed that instead of a guided tour by aquarium staff, it was basically a free-for-all. Joseph’s teacher had wanted us to tour the aquarium as a group but we quickly had to abandon that idea. Joseph, his friend and William had a great time. We got to see an albino alligator, tons of fish and sharks, an octopus, jellyfish, seahorses and the like.

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The boys were tired by the time we got the shot with the megalodon jaws, and our first, good attempt, was marred by a teenager also on a field trip photobombing us from the wrong side. Am I the only one tired of photobombing? Pretty much if you’re not The Rock, Benedict Cumberbatch or a stingray, you shouldn’t be doing it…

Joseph continued his field trip with a ride on the ferry back to our county and lunch at a park. We went home after the aquarium.

Saturday we had plans to go to Jeff’s dad’s house but at 5 AM, Jeff was up with a stomach virus. Thankfully, he’s the only one whose gotten sick at our house. We were rained in all day. The boys played the Wii most of the day and I kept Shelby from destroying the entire house and bothering Jeff too much. I did manage a quick trip out to get some groceries. We had pizzas for dinner because I didn’t feel like doing anything too ambitious. We boiled some pasta for Shelby. We watched Hop and had an early night in because the boys know they don’t get an Easter basket til after Mass on Sunday and that in order to get a parking space and seat, we go to the sunrise service.

5:00 AM came early and I was out of bed and in the shower by 5:15 and feeling every second of it. I got the boys up, fed, dressed and after finding someone’s missing shoes and someone else making a last minute shirt change, we were on the road. We slid into the very front pew 30 seconds before mass started. But there were still lots of empty seats. The boys were very well behaved and actually both enjoyed mass. Joseph said it was the quickest mass ever, which was only because Communion was so short because mass was so early! We got home and cleaned up around the house before getting Easter baskets.

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Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, those are boxes of Cheerios in their Easter baskets. We do not typically allow sugary cereals so holidays, birthdays, vacations, times of celebration, we break out some sugar. So they got Honey Nut, Chocolate and Frosted Cheerios in their baskets. I scored on $1 hollow chocolate bunnies too. And wouldn’t you know, Shelby is a chocolate lover like Mama. Her favorite is Mama’s favorite, Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs! The boys, like Daddy, prefer candy but were thrilled with their chocolate too! Will and Joseph tried Cadbury eggs for the first time. I don’t like the original creme eggs, too sweet, but like the caramel creme and chocolate creme and the boys approved of both!

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One of our Lenten exercises involved putting a lentil (get it, Lent-il) into a jar whenever we did good things for others. Well, those transformed into jellybeans on Easter Sunday. Here is Will with the jellybeans. We talked about how small deeds for others are like seeds we plant and that these seeds grow into something sweet, love, hope, faith, charity, etc. The kids loved this activity and sought out ways to serve one another during Lent. I also loved this activity because instead of a million loose jelly beans rattling around their baskets, they were all in one place and less likely to be all over the place.

Jeff made us a nice lunch and we’ll be having a very festive dinner later (no lamb…we opted for roasting a chicken instead). We didn’t get to dye eggs this year with Jeff being sick (someone has to be one on one with Shelby or she breaks all the eggs) and I’m sad we didn’t get to either Holy Thursday mass or our parishes Via Cruces, but I know we kept Jesus front and center and the kids had a great time. I’m coming down from my morning sugar high now, time to take a quick nap before we whip up dinner!

An AWARD, I got an AWARD!

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Katherine over at Having Left the Altar was kind enough to give me the Liebster Award.

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The Liebster Award is for bloggers with less than 200 followers.  Liebster is a German word meaning dearest. The award is given to up-and-coming bloggers who deserve recognition and support to keep on blogging.

Here are the “rules”:
1. Answer the 11 questions given to you
2. Create 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award.
3. Choose 5* bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate.
(I’m abbreviating a bit to try and avoid tag-backs)
4. Go to each blogger’s page and let them know about the award.
5. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog!
Here were Katherine’s questions for me:
1. If you could choose another name for yourself, what would it be and why?
You know, I’ve thought a lot about this because I love names. At this point in my life for my first name, I’d probably pick my confirmation name: Juliana in honor of  St Juliana Falconieri who rebelled from her parents by creating her own religious order. I’ve always liked the name and I guess that’s why I would choose it. (Sorry, not very deep there.) Middle name is tougher: I narrowed it down to Mary for the Blessed Mother, Bernadette for Bernadette of Lourdes whose story was a favorite from my childhood, or Hedwig because I like it and it’s different. And it sounds cool and happens to be a saint name.
2. What is your favorite book you are least happy to tell others about?
This is an interesting question. Thinking now, as a teenager, I became a huge fan of Ayn Rand but I guess I don’t like telling people about it because a) I couldn’t fully comprehend Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead the first times I read them (and I own Anthem but have no recollection of reading it). b) It’s safe to say I might have missed the point the first read-throughs. c) I never went back and re-read them, I’m afraid I’d be too disappointed now. d) OHMYGRACIOUSITSANATHEISTTOME I should just go re-read them. After all, if Rush could devote an entire album to Rand’s work and then Geddy Lee come back and say, “Psych! I’m a Christian now,” maybe I’m not so terrible.
3. What is your favorite season and why?
Autumn, hands down. And I don’t like calling it fall. My birthday happens then as does Halloween which is my favorite holiday and my favorite holy day of obligation All Saints Day and a whole day devoted to giving thanks. Let’s see, there is football and the State Fair and bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils. Root vegetables and honey crisp apples and pumpkin EVERYTHING. Yep, it’s autumn (which I just spelled a-u-t-i-s-m…wow)
4. What is your favorite thing to wear and why?
Pajama pants. Because they are comfortable honestly.
5. What is your favorite prayer/devotion?
 I have to say this one is particularly apt for me right now.
Suspice
Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me. 
Ignatius of Loyola wrote that. For someone who prays for acceptance of the divine Will of God, for HIS will, not mine, be done daily, yep, this is one is just about perfect.
6. Where do you like to eat out best?
Wherever someone else is paying haha. Seriously though, for fast food we are huge fans of Chick-fil-A because a) it’s good food and b) it’s Christian owned-operated. For a sit-down meal, hmmm, Szechuan 132 in Wilmington is the best Chinese in the entire world and is Catholic-owned and very family-friendly while still being world-class food and atomosphere. Never once have my kids been made to feel that they are causing a ruckus. No, the owner welcomes them and the staff is amazing! And they even serve Jeff an old dish they’ve taken off the menu because they are just awesome like that! I tend to be a huge fan of local businesses rather than chains, so I’m happy to give them this shout-out!
7. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Wow, um, where would I not go? ;) Wow, it’s hard to narrow it down. Right now London has a huge chunk of my heart because it is the home of my dear friend Tim whose heart is as big as the ocean that separates him and our family and it is home to Selfridge and Co (new obsession, Mr Selfridge from Masterpiece). We are hoping to take Shelby on the Camino through France and Spain. Of course, Rome and Italy. We’ve had a strong pull to Poland, Russia and Armenia as well. Our goals for Shelby include having her travel the world with us. So, we’re going to see as much as we can!
8. If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be?
Whose living now? Pope Francis and Pope-Emeritus Benedict. Hands down. How blessed is the Church to have TWO such humble and gracious servants leading her people?! Of the deceased, of course Jesus. And Simon Peter.
9. What kind of books do you like best?
Another loaded question ;). I like literary novels and non-fiction. Non-fiction is kind of broad but I like both memoir and science related books the best.
10. If you could recommend one current TV show or film, what would it be?
Call the Midwife. It’s 1950s London’s East End. It’s young women midwives, it’s nuns, it’s giving birth, it’s PBS/BBC (and bonus: Mr. Selfridge is on right after, I am having no trouble waiting for Sherlock and Downton to come back…in fact I have to catch up on those!)
Honorable Mention: Reign. The French Court when Mary, Queen of Scots was there was never more awesome.
11. Favorite card game?
I don’t play cards. My family does, but not me. On my mom’s side they are fond of Pounce and Euchre. On my Dad’s side, Pitch. I can’t remember the rules of any games except Go Fish or War :)
Now  11 Questions: hmmm
1. What is your favorite cuisine?
2. What is your favorite book of the Bible?
3. What is your favorite Bible verse?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. What is the best way to spend “found money?”
6. What is the best way to spend “found time?”
7. What is the grossest/weirdest food you’ve ever tried? Did you like it?
8. What is your favorite holiday tradition? (Can be any holiday!)
9. What state would you like to visit?
10. What are your feelings on buzzfeed quizzes?
11. What is your favorite social media outlet?
Now, for my nominees (and I’ve probably nominated some before so just visit them again!)
1. Maria at Four Blessings Academy. Maria hosts a beautiful meme called Light in Darkness and shares her beautiful life, faith and family.
2. Maurisa at Half A Dozen and More Productions. She has a very thoughtful but also fun blog.
3. Priest’s Wife at Fear Not Little Flock. Read her, it is fascinating to learn about our Eastern Rite bretheren, especially as they will continue to get more attention during Pope Francis’ papacy.
4. Sonya at Glam-O-Mommy. I love her adorable Sophie and stories and she has some awesome adventures I like to live vicariously through!
5.And I have no idea how many followers this blog has, but I really think more people would benefit from Pelianito Journal Blog.
No one is under any obligation to do any of this, I just thought it was fun.

If you don’t have anything nice to say…

usually you can come sit next to me. But sometimes, just go away.

I gave up blog reading for Lent. I’m not even kidding you. I still glance in to my reader to see if friends who are expecting post any info or if blogs I follow who are irregular posters have posted anything because typically they are my best reading. And I’ve clicked through links on facebook of blogs I follow frequently when they have promising spoilers but I’ve given up the excessive reading and the excessive agonizing over who I missed that day.

And I’m glad I did. Because far more often than not, most bloggers lately have had nothing nice or even informative to say. I love a good rant as much as anyone, but when every other or even every post is a rant, I pass. I have better things to do. Like take a nap or google “tiger vs lion.”

A few blogs I used to love I gave up forever when I began to question the road to sanity that some bloggers were de-railing from. And it usually started with ranting non-stop.

One blog I gave up a long time ago caused me a lot of stress. The indignant, self-righteous tone this particular blogger has was borderline psychotic-episode inducing for me as a reader. I could not imagine what it might be like to live in this person’s skin. First of all, this person was objectively wrong on almost every single count they ranted and raved on. And if someone dared to disagree in a civil manner, this blogger gave a swift thunder-punch to the throat via the internet. I never bothered commenting because these are people you can only pray for. In addition there was a schizoid element of wanting to have everything both ways. Everyone around this blogger both on the internet and in real life was both too conservative and too liberal at the same time. Every once in a while though, I come back for a quick look just to see if maybe, by some miracle, this person has gotten his/her life back together. And every time I’m disappointed so I go back to praying for them. Most recently this blogger decided to personally attack a very well known blogger passive-aggressively (linked to the blog didn’t call it out by name, of course) for this person telling their personal story. Well, our stories make us who we are, like it or not. And this person’s story happens to be quite different than the blogger’s who attacked him/her (for various reasons I’m going to be deliberately vague in this post, mostly because I do not want to draw traffic to the blog I’ve given up). The original blogger’s story is full of regret, woe and confusion. The blogger he/she attacked has a story full of redemption, grace and joy. I would understand the original blogger saying, “hey I don’t get what the fascination is.” but that’s not what he/she is doing. He/She is trying to portray this other blogger as a heretic and interloper. And I can say that because I read the post. He/she is careful in his/her word choice, but the message is clear. “I don’t like this person, I’m going to tear this person down.” And that’s not right. You can not like the person, but why must you tear him/her down? This blogger has stated several times her distaste with her own life and life choices, but that doesn’t give her free-license to slander and blight a person who is telling a very different truth?

That’s why I don’t miss reading blogs. People only seem to want to write lately when they don’t have anything nice to say. And some of them write so much that you begin to wonder, is there ANYTHING good in their lives? Ever? And so I’ve been forced to become super-picky about which blogs I feed myself on voraciously, which blogs I simply nibble at occasionally, which ones I glance at and which ones I toss without another care. This internet is a brave new world still. And I, for one, am going to be much pickier with the path I tread in it.

Aware. And just don’t care

I’m sorry I did not do the obligatory “World Autism Day” post yesterday. Well, I’m not sorry at all for me. But I’m sure people expected it.

A couple of years ago, my friend Sara who is an adult on the autism spectrum with two sons also on the spectrum, told me she felt that Autism “Awareness” was passe. She even said,  “Everyone I know is pretty aware.” And I agreed then but now the rest of the NT world is catching on.

Awareness does not equal acceptance.

To quote Welsh autism-mom blogger Martine O’Callaghan:

Awareness is passive. How many times have you been “made aware” of a situation without being expected to do a single thing about it? “I’m just making you aware…” does not compel action or a change in behaviour. It does not, in real terms,impact the lives of Autistic people for the better.

Read her entire post. It contains a real-life example of when awareness fails miserably. Closer to home a mom I know recently confessed to me that her son was making a weird noise in a store and a woman kept giving them ugly looks. She smiled at the woman and said, “I’m sorry he has autism.” The woman scowled back and said, “I’m AWARE of what autism is,” and stormed off. Awareness, yes. Acceptance, not a freaking chance.

People have been made aware by being “blued” to death every April and by being educated by parents in the grocery store and it hasn’t accomplished almost anything. And if we want our children to be accepted, perhaps we shouldn’t take our cue from the number one autism group whose name should not be spoken. <–See what I did there? Anyhow, the “awareness” campaign is hand in hand with the ideas of  “curing” the neurodiverse and “fixing” them. While it is true that some individuals with autism just want to “be like everyone else” there are a lot more out there who embrace what makes them different and feel put down and ashamed by these “awareness” campaigns.

Don’t believe me? Well consider this:

Compare two different examples in how parents of newly diagnosed children are first introduced to autism, and how these introductions serve to stage the way parents approach their child’s neurology.

“We’re sorry to tell you that your child has autism. Tragically, there is no cure. Unfortunately, your life will never be the same. Your marriage will never be the same. Expect your marriage to fail. We are sorry that your child has been stolen, but we are happy to put you in touch with organizations that will help you to become more aware of autism statistics and scientific research. In turn, these organizations will be happy to provide you with the tools for you to raise money for them so they can continue their search for the causes and cure of autism.”

“Your child is Autistic. Their neurology allows them to uniquely perceive their environment and communications. The world has yet to catch up with neurological diversities like autism, and unfortunately this creates the challenges your child will encounter. We are happy to put you in touch with organizations who can guide you toward understanding your child by hearing from Autistic people themselves. Their firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be a person on the spectrum, as well as professional resources advocating for the importance of accepting your child’s differences, will help ensure your child’s all around success and happiness.”

The woman who wrote those paragraphs is also a woman with autism and a mother of a child with autism. Click the link to read her entire post and how her child reacted to the idea of “awareness” and “awareness campaigns.”

And remember “awareness” doesn’t have to be positive. Google “Alex Spourdalakis death” or “Issy Stapleton, Kelli Stapleton attempted murder.” These mothers raised awareness by murdering or attempting to murder their children. Yes, there are trials, but when those difficulties and trials dominate the public discussion, it creates an atmosphere of hostility and hatred toward my child. It makes people “aware” of a life that appears to be all negative and unworthy.”

So how do we build acceptance? Well, first, do what Cammie is doing and talk about it. Talk about your love for your child and his or her positives. There is a whole world out there reflecting the first paragraph above but a lot fewer of us like myself and Cammie talking about how awesome our kids are. About how much we love them. About how a different life than we imagined is not less (thank you Temple Grandin for that idea which is still revolutionary to so many). Don’t lie and make it as if nothing bad EVER happens but celebrate those milestones. Every positive report out there is another chip in the block of lie that says, “Your child’s worth is solely dependent on whether he falls on the spectrum.”

Next, we take our kids places. We take them to the store, we take them to the movies, we take them to the beach, we take them everywhere we go. Why? Because 1 in 68 children born today will be diagnosed on the autism spectrum by age 8 and so people are going to have to get used to them sometime. Why not now? There is no guarantee your child with have a meltdown every time you go out, so give it a shot and as you get more confident, make new places familiar. And in life, meltdowns happen, to EVERYONE, so don’t let a couple get you down. Obviously work at a pace that works for you and your child but do not think autism means you have to keep your kid locked up! And if you want social interactions to become easier not only do you have to acquaint the public with your child, you have to acquaint your child with the public.

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski gave a public message for world autism day which included this:

We draw near to these families and this in particular is directed towards ensuring that hope is not extinguished in them, providing support so that they do not feel lost or in a state of crisis as regards their relationships at the level of emotions or as relatives. A real difficulty of integration and communication exists between the autistic person and those who enter into contact with him or her.

A question thus arises: how can this stigma be combated? A pathway of integration within the community must be followed which breaks down the isolation and the barriers that are established by these disorders and by prejudice, thereby strengthening personal relationships. This can also take place with the support of social commitment and with synergic actions in the fields of care, information, communication and formation, thereby fostering a move to true understanding and acceptance of this illness which never denies or undermines the dignity with which every person is clothed.

In this way the bases can be established for a hope that isolates neither people with autism nor their families but which, instead, is rooted in and nurtured by cooperation and reciprocal trust, following an ethic of solidarity which we should all rediscover and nourish.

Our lives were not meant to be lived in a vacuum, autism or not. And read that article to see what the Vatican is doing to help those with autism and their families become less isolated.

And we need to listen to adults on the autism spectrum. Their voices must be heard in our lives and in public policy. The autism organization whose name is not to be spoken does not have a single autistic voice on their board. And their fear tactics are notoriously upsetting to adults on the spectrum who feel their very humanity is being attacked. Because it is.

A friend in Australia on the spectrum who also has children on the spectrum introduced me to the new color of acceptance. Gold. Why gold? Well, on the periodic table of elements, the symbol for gold is Au. “Au” is the symbol many of us see on medical and school paperwork pertaining to our child. Our kids lives matter. They are worth their weight in gold and then some. They should be celebrated. A world with no Temple Grandin or Isaiah Paskowitz or Dan Akyroid is not a world I want to live in. I’m not going to lock my daughter up. She has a light that deserves to shine and I would be robbing the world of untold riches if I didn’t let that light shine for ALL to see.

Am I saying it’s wrong to “light it up blue”  or wear blue? No. But I do know those things are not as effective in accomplishing what we may like. Many people are aware and don’t care. We need to bridge that gap. We need to start teaching acceptance. We need to make sure everyone who meets us and our children know those children, they have worth. They deserve the best.

 

How I Met Your Mother…the end

First off I’ll say I wasn’t disappointed nor surprised. In the end it played out how it probably should have. I won’t spoil that.

I tuned into last night’s hour long finale and braced myself. The one thing I was not prepared for and made me cry was, for me, the best moment of the episode (spoiler alert!). Watching Barney hold his infant daughter Ellie for the first time and get teary as he said the words he had earlier told Ted, Marshall and Lily he could never say to any woman, “You are the love of my life. Everything I have and everything I am is yours. Forever.” And then he kissed her and broke down. I think the writers and producers brought the perfect redemption for Barney who only loves suits. Here he had just handed out cigars hoping he wasn’t the father and had to be pushed into the nursery by Ted, Marshall and Lily and now he had become the man they all knew he could be inside. And it was a woman but not romantic love or lust that changed him.

While I’d been told/figured out what would eventually happen to the “mother” who we found out’s name is Tracy, watching the montage of Ted and Tracy’s life together with their children also brought me to tears as Ted described how thankful he was for all of it. All of it. Even the painful times.

I was more emotional at the end of this series than I had anticipated. I knew I would cry at the end of The Office and would even be a little misty at the end of 30Rock. But this one totally caught me off guard. I didn’t think I had invested as emotionally as I had, after all, HIMYM was not appointment tv for me like The Office and 3oRock were. As the end credits rolled to The Walkmen’s Heaven, which paid tribute to each character and actor, I began to realize how they had impacted me. First of all, they’re my age, something I find rare in television. Characters are usually just older or younger. Second, there were underlying themes that resonated with where I am in life: Marshall and Lily who fought for their marriage and family against all odds and learned how to compromise their personal expectations for the better of their family; Ted who dated looking for someone to marry only to be disappointed that the rest of the world didn’t time and time again; even Barney who searched for the love of his life covertly and unsatisfyingly through his search for his father, various women (including, sadly, Robin, that was the only thing that disappointed me in the finale), and finally found it in a daughter he thought he didn’t have room for in his life; and Robin who struggled to find balance between who she was and who she wanted to be. Their friendship and stories met my life where it is right now. And it turns out, that meant a lot more than I thought. And just as their time together at McLaren’s has come to an end, one day this phase of my life will end. And all we’ll have will be the memories.

Remember, remember all we fight for

Why I Don’t Homeschool (version 3256)

Okay, a lot lately I’ve gotten emails, fb messages, texts etc asking me why I don’t homeschool. Particularly, why I don’t homeschool Shelby.

Taking Shelby out of the equation for a minute: I’m a lousy teacher. There, I said it. I mean, don’t get me wrong I’m great at teaching my kids their faith through application, teaching them how to be decent human beings and allowing them to *gasp* actually be children but reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic? No. Just no.

I was educated in the public school system from kindergarten through college. I thrived educationally in public education, socially it was good for me until high school. Actually, probably before then but I loved middle school and despised high school except for my teachers and actual course work. A lot of my education was direct instruction but I was blessed to know how to thrive in that environment and a brain that WANTED to learn.

My boys (again Shelby is a special case) are both very different learners. Joseph is self-motivated but also craves praise. He likes to do work-books, for fun! He is super-reward motivated. Joseph is more along the line of a direct instruction model student. But he handles more creative and organic learning experiences very well. William, on the other hand. He’s not self-motivated except for what he wants. He will sometimes want to do work if Joseph is doing it, is what it amounts to but that’s a sometimes. He is not motivated by praise or rewards, in fact sometimes praise has made him break down in tears for reasons we  can not figure out. Of course he will willingly do whatever is asked of him by someone outside of the family but us, it’s a no go every.single.time. William is also a discovery/inquiry learner and prefers learning in organic situations.

So, I know all this, I should be able to do it, right? But the idea of not just two different curriculums but two different instructional methods is paralyzing. I realize there are pre-made curriculums out there but to have to purchase them and then figure out 2 different ways to teach them? Joseph will sit and do worksheets all day, William will argue about doing one.

Then there is the fact of me. I am an impatient teacher. I don’t remember what it was like to learn something for the first time even though it still happens. I want my kids to sit there and do the work and not to do it right the first time but I don’t handle consistent repeated mistakes well. And when I considered being a teacher in college I knew I couldn’t do the amount of work required in “off hours” planning, shopping, meeting, learning new education laws etc. I realize a lot of that is avoided in homeschooling but the level of planning and work I know so many mothers do, it’s just NOT in me. I spent a good part of this year trying to create a schedule and studies for William and it crashed and burned irretrievably after a month. I wasn’t cleaning my house or making dinner, that was the extent of how bad it got trying to create this for him.

Then there’s my personality. If I were a good teacher in direct instruction or in guided discovery and chose to homeschool, well, my kids would be hermits. Unsocialized hermits. Because I just don’t do people. Period. I would never join a co-op or other “learning adventure.” I would also never leave the house. Ever. There would be no field trips even just the 3 of us. Because I just don’t deal with people. Weird, I know, but I’m an introvert through and through and social situations make me nauseas. Period.

I’ve given up feeling guilty about it. Common core and all. Where I live it’s not actually catching on so much and my kids have great teachers so I am going to relish in that. For now anyways. Joseph is showing wonderful progress this year and William in his 2 hours of BSF has made great strides to prepare him for kindergarten, so I’m good. Middle school and high school are concerns but a lot could change by the time we get there. And like everyone else, schooling, for me, is a decision we make based on what our options are but also what our circumstances are. If things change, our decision may change as well. Nothing is forever.  Except salvation. And we got that covered.

Learning the difference between sympathy and empathy

Empathy and sympathy are both feelings and emotions we experience as human beings but there are distinct differences attached to these two states of emotions. Sympathy is a feeling of pity you have for a person without specifically understanding the emotion they are undergoing. In most cases you may not really understand the other person’s predicament but are aware of his plight and discomfort. So you feel sympathy for the person.

On the other hand when you are fully aware of the experience that the other person is undergoing, you feel with the emotion the person is experiencing. In short you feel empathy for the person. It is a state where you can literallyput yourself in the other person’s place and understand their plight. The feeling of empathy thus implies an active involvement with the person concerned.

Click on that link to read more.

This week I clicked on a link on facebook that linked to a blog post of a mom of many who was admitting she did not find her recent pregnancy news to be good news, necessarily. While she was grateful to have a new life, she dreaded her upcoming pregnancy and sleepless nights with a newborn.

There was lots of “here, here”-ing in the comments. But one stood out. A woman said she had recently been holding her son in her arms as his wife went through her fifth miscarriage and their family would be willing to take the blog writers infant if she so desired after birth. Someone, not the blog author, had responded angrily to this comment when I read at the time (more could have responded by now this was a little over a day ago).

Both the commenter and the responder demonstrated a lack of empathy. Surely they both pitied. One pitied the author and was, in her mind, proposing something that would help everyone. The other pitied the commenter by not understanding the pain going on in her family.

I have endured primary infertility, miscarriage, a rush of births in a short period, and secondary infertility. I understood the author’s pain, but I understood the commenter’s pain too. I’ve lived both of them. It’s upsetting to find yourself in an unexpected pregnancy when you had been trying to avoid for a variety of valid reasons but it’s also devastating to want a child in your arms and be denied and then hear someone else complain at what sounds to you like hitting the jack pot.

The simple truth is, unless you’ve lived the trials another is going through, you cannot possibly empathize with them. And it’s a severe lack of empathy that causes people to tell women who’ve miscarried that their lost child “had something wrong with him or her.” A woman whose been there can tell you that it doesn’t matter they wanted him or her. Or to hear, “well, at least you know you can get pregnant.” A lot of good that does if you can’t carry the baby to term is what I know I’ve thought as well as many moms with babies in heaven but none on earth have told me.

It’s also a lack of empathy that causes sufferers of multiple miscarriage or unexplained infertility to lash out at writers of posts complaining about “yet another baby” or make the misguided offer to adopt the child when clearly that’s not what the author was asking for.

Like I’ve said, I’ve lived both those lives and am currently in a state to where my heart went out to both the commenter and the author for their plights. Neither cross is easy to bear, much less kiss. For each of these people, they bared their souls and someone misinterpreted this.

So, now I know, how do you support someone you have no way of empathizing with? Well, let me tell you some of the nice things people have done for me. At the time of loss just simply hearing: “I’m so sorry. I’m praying for you and Jeff and your little saint.” were far more comforting than anything else. Those of us who have been abundantly blessed usually benefit by being gently reminded of our blessing “Congratulations” is often sufficient and if we express thoughts of dread or just plain exhaustion validating our feelings is always a great thing. And by validating don’t say “I understand” if you don’t (some moms of many are overjoyed with each new positive pregnancy test) but it’s okay to say, “You can feel that way, it’s totally valid.” Or something like that. But mostly, just listen. Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone facing these kinds of pains. Because inherent in both is a sense of shame and often guilt. “If I could have done this or that baby might have made it.” “If I hadn’t taken such and such medication 10 years ago, I might be pregnant now.” “I am a terrible mother for thinking these things.” I’ve heard them all. Is it any wonder Sarah laughed when she heard the Angels and then immediately lied about it?

Doubt and pain are not things that make us bad people or even bad Catholics or bad Christians. In fact, they are things that help us grow has humans and Christians and Catholics. They give us the opportunity to more fully rely on God. We cannot underestimate the gifts they have the potential to become even if we can’t see it that way in the moment.

The doubts and pains of others also are opportunities to show our love and compassion with others even if we cannot empathize with their particular struggle. Pity is often not what others need and if we cannot understand their pain or comtemplate it, we should prayerfully ask God how to love others where they are at from where we are at so we can all become more Christlike in our love for one another.