Free Range Parenting and When Chickens Come to Roost

I am actually a big fan of free range parenting. I let my kids walk to the end of the units and throw trash away. I let them play outside with an adult not physically present both in our gated postage stamp back and out front and on the side yard. I even allow my boys (8 and almost 7) to use public restrooms alone. In our old neighborhood they roamed unsupervised for hours at a time riding bikes, taking walks, playing games with friends…(there aren’t many kids here their ages).

But I did all this with a wary eye. See, I had a police officer come to my front door once. The boys were playing in the median in our cul-de-sac. The officer was doing patrol and saw them. They were six and four and while there were no adults around, we could see them from inside our house. The officer didn’t exactly take them by the collar, but he might as well have. He informed my husband that according to state law, the kids were being neglected. State law says they both had to be 8 or one of them over 18 to be out and about like they were. An adult had to be physically present,  not just watching from inside the house or even the front porch. My husband had been in our front yard just feet away a few minutes before and had gone inside to use the bathroom and get something to drink. Thankfully, we were let off with a warning.

Like all great parents, I was incensed that my parenting was being questioned and undermined. But at the end of the day, the law was the law. And until we moved, we were subject to multiple law enforcement drive-bys. The kids weren’t allowed out of our front yard if we weren’t outside (unless they were in a friend’s house). It wasn’t safe enough to risk the cops taking them.

I get that parents feel like I do, we want our kids to have freedom and explore and learn for themselves in an unstructured way. I’m not naive, I know Tina Fey’s face was slashed when she was a kindergartener by a mentally ill stranger while she was playing in the alley behind her house. I’m aware kids get grabbed out of shopping carts and lured into vans while playing all the time. But I also know there is a very fine line between free-range and irresponsible parenting.

A former co-worker posted about an eight-month-old left in a running car at a grocery store. No older children in with the baby, mom just didn’t want to wake the baby (who was on a tight schedule), so she left the car running (so the AC would be on), locked it, and went into the store. Here’s the thing, the car didn’t actually lock. Her car could not lock with the key in the ignition remotely. She had no idea and threatened to sue the store when she was paged to the front because other patrons had noticed a running car with no one but a baby in it and that it was unlocked. Seriously, someone could have gotten a free car and a baby that day. This woman was irresponsible, plain and simple. This case is clear.

But what about those not so cut and dry cases. The favorite one I hear frequently is the young children left in the care of the older children in the car while mom runs in “just for a minute” to grab something or get a child from a dance rehearsal or something similar. We are trusting our children to care for other children and they do it all the time at home…

I live in an area where children are frequently left in hot cars and some of them die. In a few cases it’s a change in routine (Dad is supposed to drop the kid, who is sleeping, off at daycare which he hasn’t done in a few months and forgets and drives to work) but in more, it’s that the sleeping child was taking their regularly scheduled nap and mom or dad needed to make a stop and was only going to be a minute and then they get distracted, or the line is really long…the line is a little bit gray here. I say a little because most of us wouldn’t leave a baby completely alone, that’s why we have a nine-year-old who is capable of calming the baby and rolling down windows, right? He or she is allowed to ride his or her bike around the neighborhood alone, so sitting in a car with a baby is no big deal.

But what happens if the nine-year-old suddenly decides to get out of the car, and then locks the baby in alone, accidentally? What if she or he leaves to find mom and can’t find mom…

The fact, in that case, is that nine-year-olds don’t have the judgment capabilities of an adult. And they are not culpable. But the parent who entrusted the nine-year-old? Legally, they are responsible.

I’ve known moms who’ve let big kids (10, 9,8) take the little kids out to play in the snow and forget to bring all the little kids in resulting in frost bite for the one who didn’t get brought in.  I was at the beach in college where parents had a big group of kids together while they were socializing nearby. Suddenly they realized one little boy wasn’t there. He had wandered over a mile down the beach when ocean patrol finally found him. He was five, the parents assumed he was safe because they were in the vicinity (although not keeping the most watchful eye) and he was under the care of his 11-year-old older sister. Last year when Abby Johnson tried to give helpful hints to not forgetting a child in the backseat, she was met with hostile opposition and hateful comments about forgetful parents for the most part but she also got responses like one from a mom of nine who relied on her teenagers (fifteen and up) to get the littles out of the van one day and the sleeping six-month-old got missed. This happened somewhere in AZ and thank God her husband figured out the baby wasn’t in the house within a couple of minutes.

In the end, in all of these cases, had the ending been tragedy, the parents would have been held responsible for the death or serious injury. Even if charges were not filed, in the court of public opinion the verdict would be guilty.

And so between letting our kids play unsupervised because of the limited risk of anything happening that is “bad” and making judgment calls about how old is old enough to be responsible in a very, very real sense for younger children we have this story out of Florida: the story of Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos; two teenage friends described by family as “experienced watermen” who went missing months ago in the ocean and whose craft was recently found. The boys had been allowed on the boat multiple times before unsupervised. They were given very clear instructions and boundaries. The parents had no reason to expect anything different would happen. But Perry and Austin decided that day to leave the perimeter set by their parents. Who knows if they’d done it before without getting caught so they figured it was no big deal or decided that fateful day to take a chance. They made the immature and inexperienced decision that day, however, to sail on rough seas and into stormy weather. They were, in fact, only fourteen-years-old. Not old enough to vote, smoke or even drive a car yet. And at the center of the storm swirling about iPhones and electronic devices are four parents grieving the choice to trust boys, not men.

My parenting methods will not change because of this but I am always careful not to put adult responsibilites on the shoulders of children who do not have the experience nor maturity nor even the reasoning to handle them. Kids make poor decisions when they do not have guidance in new, unfamiliar situations. They are not miniature adults and therefore we should not expect them to behave as such. It’s not fair to them and sometimes has disastrous consequences. Free range parenting should never mean “anything goes” and no one can expect that there will never be consequences. Like all parenting, it should be done with careful thought and consideration and part of that should be understanding that no matter how mature they behave, children are still children and parents, are still in charge and bear the brunt of responsibility.

Mercy from this side of the Altar

This is the Year of Mercy, which if you are Catholic, you should already know. And much debate rages on about how the faithful should celebrate and what constitutes “mercy.” Because apparently the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy the Church sets out aren’t good enough.

A week ago, my son received his First Holy Communion and debate again started up. Do we receive on the hand or the tongue? Well, my kid is, thus far, the only new First Communicant at our parish who received (and continues to receive) on his tongue. His reasoning has nothing to do with Catechesis (as he has been taught that receiving on the tongue and on one’s hand are both valid) but the fact that he’s a lefty and the whole right-over-left-lift-with-your-left-then-Cross-with-your-right is really confusing to him. Also, I receive on my tongue. Bottom line: he’s not doing it because he feels it is more valid to receive this way, it just happens to be easier for him. He’s eight, if you want to pick on an eight-year-old for his reasoning, well bully on you because he believes in the True Presence, he knows what transubstantiation means and exactly when it happens during Mass. Your average adult Catholic does not. But…I digress…

This debate of validity often leads to great disparagement of priests and dioceses. For an example, remember when this happened a year ago at the funeral of Katrina Fernandez’s grandmother? The original post tells the tale of a truly awful event and one that should be avoided whenever possible by all clergy. The follow-up post makes some clarifications and Fernandez is careful to point out that this was not intended to be a N.O. vs M.E.F. debate (because inevitably that’s what happens with these kinds of stories). She also regrets airing the problem before speaking to the priest in question. She states in the follow-up that she got a satisfactory response when she did contact the priest. 

What happened to Katrina happened because a priest and parish “did things a certain way.” Had she been to a parish I know and the pastor emeritus was presiding, it would have been a different story. (This is where mercy comes in…)

Father B. at St M’s  is retired from active ministry with a cancer diagnosis. He is also the priest who baptized Joseph as an infant. This past New Years, for the Solemnity of Mary, we attended this parish and while I had known about his diagnosis and decline, I was shocked to see how frail he appeared. At Communion, only Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist gave the faithful the Body and Precious Blood. After Mass, I made sure to bring Joseph over and tell Father B. that Joseph would be making his First Communion later this year. He was very happy to hear this and see that baby he baptized 8 years previous.

Last weekend I found out why Father B. rarely distributes the Body of Christ at Mass. His arthritis has become so bad that he can no longer safely place the Eucharist on the tongues of the faithful. And the faithful, in response, behave poorly. As in, stomping out of Mass like a two-year-old poorly. And frankly, if that’s your attitude, you might not be in a state of grace to receive…

If this was the situation I found myself in, I would simply receive in my hand. This is a small parish, they are truly blessed that they have a retired priest in the vicinity who loves Jesus and the sacraments enough to still take part and fill in for the parish priest. There is no parochial vicar here. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is still Jesus regardless of how we receive Him. Yes, from the perspective of not having Jesus fully consumed because particles remain on one’s hands, it is best to receive on the tongue, but in a situation like this one, our mercy should outweigh our sense of piety.

But this whole “Communion in the hand vs on the tongue” debate brings about a larger idea. Do we show mercy to our shepherds? Really, seriously, are we merciful in our assessments of them? Do we pray for the priests we have that aren’t our favorites?

A few years ago I watched, in horror, as various former parishoners of a particular parish ripped apart the pastor on a facebook forum. They denounced his every move and his every motivation from his homilies to how he ran the parish outreach. And nowhere did I see anyone saying that, while he may have upset them by his words or actions, that they were praying for him. Maybe some of them did, but it’s hard to believe by the viritol spewed that any of them thought about him except to disparage him. There was definitely no mercy extended in those comments.

I agree, priests that are committing liturgical abuse shouldn’t be excused but should our immediate reaction be burning at the stake? Because it wasn’t a far leap in that conversation for people to start calling for it. And where I live, with a shortage of priests and vocations, people seem to forget that they don’t have as much choice as they did in the northeast or midwest or California. There’s a better chance of getting a dud who has bad homilies than a brilliant, holy mind who does everything right, that’s just the state of things.

Then I run into the people who are angry at the state of things and take it out on the immigrant priest who left his homeland and learned English to serve in this tiny diocese. Really? The African and Latin American priests we have are acclimating to a different culture and language so that you have a chance to receive the Eucharist and your response is to be angry that sometimes they are difficult to understand?

And let’s not forget our priests are human too. They are subject to the same temptations and sins we all are. Which is why they need our mercy even more at times. Instead of complaining, offer to help. If that is rebuffed, instead of skewering someone in the virtual world, pray for them. Ask St John Vianney and the Blessed Mother to pray for them. Let’s not forget, not every priest is ecstatic about being assigned to their particular parish either. As our pastor said in a homily once, there was comparison even amongst the priests in the diocese about who got which assignment and not all of it happy. They serve out of obedience and they deserve a flock who, at the very least, is willing to pray for them.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy, as outlined by the USCCB here do not include bashing someone or slandering them. They do include bearing wrongs patiently and instructing the ignorant and admonishing the sinner in a certain way. It’s not enough to simply be angry at your priest or any priest. And as we continue on in this year of mercy, perhaps we can consider how to utilize these Spiritual Works of Mercy when encountering our priests and not reacting simply on our emotions and our own fallen state.

 

 

Confession, Adoration, First Communion…oh my!

I’ll say the weekend began on Friday because Jeff took the day off in part because Shelby was sick and also because he wasn’t feeling great but figured he could help clean in anticipation of my parents’ arrival that afternoon.

After cleaning and lunch (and a run to make a payment for me) my parents arrived shortly before the boys got home from school. My dad stayed with Jeff and Shelby as my mom and I walked to meet the boys at the bus. They were really excited their grandparents were waiting for them when they got home.

That evening we went to Sears Landing for dinner and enjoyed a nice seafood meal. We’d never tried the restaurant before as it’s small and usually very crowded in season (which we’re on the cusp of) but we were able to get a table and enjoy a view inside (it was too chilly to sit in the outside area, even with the plastic siding pulled down!).

The next day Joseph and I had hair appointments and my parents took William to the grocery store to pick up lunch items. I didn’t do before and after of me but I did of Joseph.

This is what we were going for and I think she did a great job:

After our haircuts, we went home and had lunch. Joseph and the adults had subs. Shelby ate Doritos. William ate a peanut butter sandwich and mac and cheese.

After lunch we watched Home which my parents had never seen before and enjoyed. Since it is William’s favorite movie, he really enjoyed sharing it with them.

Movie time over, my mom, Joseph and I headed over to Infant of Prague for Confession since it was closer and had an earlier time. Infant of Prague also has a Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration chapel which was perfect for our Penance. It also gave Joseph some time with the Blessed Sacrament before he made his First Communion the next day.

We headed back home and went out to Rick’s which is a sports bar/restaurant dedicated to Pittsburgh sports, in particular the Steelers. We decided to go with meatier meals than our Friday fare (bonus points as it wasn’t completely intentional to go to a seafood restaurant on Friday).

We came back home to rest up for Sunday.

Sunday morning, Joseph came downstairs at 6:30 AM (according to my parents) in his suit, ready for his big day. Nevermind that 6:30 was five hours before the start of Mass! We had breakfast and got the other kids and ourselves (all the adults ready) for Mass.

When we got to the Church, (30 minutes early, as we were instructed) the kids were excited but Joseph had a much more muted excitement. You could tell he was taking all of this very seriously. I sat with Jeff and Joseph’s Godmother, her husband and son on the first row. My parents had Shelby and William and sat with Jeff’s parents. Also in attendance was Shelby’s very first ever occupational therapist and her husband who are members at our parish. This was also their regular Mass but she’s known Joseph since he was a year old and was very excited to share the day with us. I had originally thought that our associate pastor would be celebrating this Mass (we love both our priests) so I was surprised to see our Pastor (also Shelby’s Godfather)  was the celebrant.

Shelby did exceptionally well, she needed to get up just before the start of Mass and so my dad took her out. She proceeded to take him on a tour of the entire Church/School campus. They made it back just after the Offertory and she made it through the remainder of Mass in the pew and got to see Joseph make his First Communion.

The parish has a no photography policy during Mass but these were some of the highlights of the day.

If you look closely you’ll see almost all the grandparents (my dad was taking these pics), all three kids, Joseph and his Godmother, his Godmother’s son, his catechists and his class.

Following the Mass, the parish had a reception for the children with cake and lemonade and gifts for the children from the Knights of Columbus and Ancient order of Hibernians. Joseph got a First Communion Candle, a St Joseph Missal and prayer card for before Communion, a Rosary and his official certificate.

We wanted to celebrate some more so we all went to a downtown Wilmington pizza place called Slice of Life. Joseph had wanted pizza for his celebration and they had other menu items as well. We enjoyed a great meal and friendship.  But what happened at the end of the meal was one of the highlights of my day.

The waitress came up and knew we were celebrating something and said, “I’m not sure whose birthday it is but happy birthday!” When I told her it was Joseph’s First Communion her face lit up and she said, “EVEN BETTER! That’s awesome, congratulations buddy!” and high fived him. She was young (in her 20s) with a nose ring and not the first person you’d expect that reaction from based solely on physical appearance and age.

We are all exhausted, blessed and grateful after this whirlwind weekend. It was an especially rough Monday morning to get up but we managed it! Thanks to everyone who prayed for Joseph and our family on this very holy celebration.

These last few days…

This post is dedicated in loving memory of St Courtney Lenaburg, St Rebecca Irene, and St V.G.W.

and in honor of Shelby, G.E., the mothers mentioned (R., A., Beth), my mentor in being a mother of a special girl, Mary Lenaburg, the Blessed Virgin and mothers everywhere.

…have been difficult. And not because we’re in week two of a long stretch with no break until Memorial Day. Not because I’m sick either. Not even because Joseph’s First Communion is coming up this weekend.

Back in October, a dear friend and former co-worker’s three-year-old daughter died. She was in a car accident with my friend driving and her older sister when the SUV they were in hit water on the road and flipped three times. All the safety restraints failed and threw both girls out of the back. Understandably, my friend is not having the easiest time living through the nightmare of losing one of her children, nearly losing the other (who has lasting neurological, physical and psychological issues from the accident, although just looking at her you may not see all of it), recovering from her own injuries, oh, and caring for her other two children who both have special needs. And helping her husband cope as well.

My friend is a convert to Catholicism from the LDS church (aka Mormons). She’s lived through some pretty hellacious things in her life before the accident. Watching her break, shatter, put back together, shatter again these last few months has been heartbreaking. All I can do is pray.

But I’ve seen the way others react. Some try to build her up and tell her what an awesome mom she is and how blessed her kids are etc. They sometimes acknowledge the loss but try to keep it very, very positive. Mostly, they are helpful. Another mom who lost a daughter as a young child constantly a shoulder to cry on and a voice of reason. In a very practical sense, she is THE best friend ever.

Then there are those, when my friend asks God why and rails at Him in anger admonish her lack of faith or throw out the platitudes “God knows why,” etc. I can’t imagine how she feels reading those comments because I want to grab them by the shoulders and stand nose to nose and yell, “NOT HELPFUL!”

In the midst of this, I hear the story of an acquaintance’s daughter. This acquaintance also has a son with cystic fibrosis. This little boy has endured so much in his body in eight years and continues. I met him when he was in a class with my son a few years ago and his courage and dignity and refusal to complain and to embrace all that God has given him stand out to this day. The acquaintance’s daughter had an incident where she was talking about her brother to a friend who cut her off because she didn’t want to talk about someone dying. This shook the little girl to her core because she needs friends who will stand with her as she lives with the uncertainty and constant procedures and surgeries associated with her brother’s life and eventual death.

My heart has been so heavy thinking of two mothers dealing with losing a child (one already, one a matter of time undetermined but most likely before her own death). With the stories of the siblings left behind.

These are both Christian women and both have admitted to feeling swallowed by grief and loss and not dealing well over the past year.

Then today I realize we are upon a sad anniversary. The passing of St Rebecca Irene. I’ve been re-reading posts that Beth posted regarding the first anniversary of Rebecca’s death last year and the posts surrounding her death, her brief life, and going back to diagnosis. I could see in them the same emotions as I had heard from the acquaintance in my dealings with her. I could feel the loss my friend is currently mourning. I first heard of St Rebecca Irene shortly before her birth thanks to Mary, mother of St Courtney, who knows a thing or two about losing a child.

My friend attended Mass last weekend and she said she barely made it through. I encouraged her to keep going. It’s the one thing I’ve not seen or heard anyone do thus far. I shared with her something our DRE said last week at a parent meeting. He was speaking of Eucharistic adoration but the same applies to Mass. He talked about being sunburned on an overcast or cold day. He talked about how we couldn’t hear or feel the sun but were changed by it anyway and how the same is true in Adoration. I know well her anger at God at losing her baby. I understand it well. It makes sense. And she hasn’t stopped talking to Him, even if in anger. I’ve told her many times that is good. He is big enough to carry her hurt, pain and even anger. She’s told me I’m the only one who’s encouraged her specifically. It was advice a priest gave me in confession once.

There is a reason God has given me insight into all this grief and I’ve thought about it a lot in the last 24 hours. I believe it is in large part to help my friends.

I was planning my lesson plans for tonight and since we’ve completed the text book, I have had to think long and hard about what to talk about. Finally, I settled on World Youth Day and Polish saints as we just had a talk before Masses on Sunday from teens making the pilgrimage this year and Monday was the feast of St Stanislaus (we also have a parish in our town in his name). The suffering of so many of the Polish saints struck me. The deaths of St Stanislaus, St Edith Stein and St Maximilian Kolbe alone are so indescribably awful and while we remember them as brave and wonderful, I am sure they had their moments of doubt and fear. And as I wondered about all these saints co-mingled with wondering about these mothers suffering now, I thought of something. Many of the Polish saints had and spread devotion to the Blessed Mother. St John Paul II, St Maximilian Kolbe, St Hedwig…they all turned to the blessed mother and relied on her intercession. Then I remembered that on Good Friday, my friend decided she would fast despite the many medications she takes, some as a result of the accident, that say to take them with food. She even publicly said she was focusing on Mary and trying to unite in the suffering of the loss of her child. Beth, a convert to Catholicism, during her pregnancy with St Rebecca Irene received her first ever set of Rosary beads. She had prayed it before but never owned her own Rosary and the story of that Rosary is a story only the Blessed Mother could inspire. My acquaintance is Christian but not Catholic. She is a prayerful woman and I have heard her mention Mary and I pray that she finds comfort in our Blessed Mother even if she believes she cannot ask for her intercession.

Mary, motherhood, suffering, loss…even the Polish saints. It’s all so intertwined that it is impossible for our hearts and minds of those who believe to untangle them. Wait, Mary, she’s also the undoer of knots…

Two years ago as I watched friends put veils on their little girls, my heart ached that I couldn’t have that, might never have that with Shelby. I’ve always believed she gives God her best and God knows that but still, this special moment, like many others, wasn’t to be for my girl. Even her Godfather, our priest, desperately wants her to receive but is caught in the conundrum of her physical age not matching her mental age and her inability to receive properly as a result prevent her from doing so. I leaned hard on Mary and came to see the things she did not experience with her Son still hurt her mother’s heart, even if she knew what was to be. That’s when I read Beth’s story for the first time. My heart broke for her and I offered up Shelby not making her First Communion and the heartbreak for little St Rebecca Irene, a little saint who would not receive the sacrament in her lifetime. I offer it now for my friend’s three-year-old who will always be three and never reach the age of reason and therefore did not make her First Communion before returning to the Father. And for my acquaintance’s child who will miss many things “normal kids do.” But as I prepare for my son’s First Communion this weekend, I am reminded of these mothers, their children, the Blessed Mother, her child and I realize that for all us mere mortal moms out there who deal with the sometimes unbearable pain of living in a state of loss either of our child’s life or what we thought might be our child’s life, we truly can lay that pain at the foot of the Cross. And if we cannot bear the weight of carrying it ourselves, the Blessed Mother, our Mother, Mary will bring it there for us.

Why Autism Acceptance is a Pro-Life Issue

Shelby Wedding pic monkey

Light it up Blue! You see all over facebook and twitter. It’s April which means it’s also Autism “Awareness” month. So to make you “aware,” “Hi, my name is Kristen and I have a daughter diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” And my job for “awareness” is done.

If you’re paying close attention though, you’re starting to see various individuals and groups talking about Autism “Awareness”/Acceptance Month. And a few dropping “awareness” from it altogether.

A few years ago, I began to realize that “awareness” was never going to cut it. As Welsh mum Martine O’Callaghan writes in her post Splatter It White-ish:

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.

Awareness is never enough.

So you know my kid has autism, so what?

Guess what, she’s also funny, silly, amazingly skilled at jigsaw puzzles, sneaky, and opinionated. But unless you accept her, you’ll never, ever know that.

And a lot of people out there are counting on you not to get to know her so that they can spread misinformation that states that autism is a disease to be feared like Zika or Ebola and that autistics should be eliminated. These are the people who link autism to mass shootings and spread mis-information that life with a child with autism is a life full of cleaning up feces off walls and violent rampages attacking parents, siblings and care-givers.

Some of the people preaching are from organizations like Autism $peaks. And more than a few are parents sharing the intimate stories of their own children.

After the Newtown shootings when it was revealed that Adam Lanza had Asperger’s Syndrome,  Joe Scarborough of MSNBC made erroneous claims about violence in individuals with Asperger’s. He is the father of a son diagosed with Asperger’s. In addition, an article was published online entitled, “My Son is Adam Lanza” by a mother who initially put her name and all her information on it, thus exposing her son’s identity in the process.

And let’s not even get started on the parents who murder their autistic children and then are routinely praised by the media and considered “courageous” for killing an innocent human being because they had “suffered” so greatly.

Are some autistics violent? Yes. Do some smear feces and never make a human connection? Yes. But to exclusively focus on every single negative regarding autism is to discount the many, many wonderful things many of these children and adults contribute to this world.

And to further discount the joy of a child like mine living with, not suffering from, autism we have groups like A$, who have the lion-share of funds, further degrading their humanity through genetic research which they intend to use the way M@rch of Dime$ uses genetic research to prevent birth defects: aborting unborn individuals with genetic markers.

And guess what other human abomination is rearing its ugly head. Eugenics! As this article from The Spectator points out, it’s not just for Nazis. Wonder how European nations are “curing autism” that’s right: it’s euthanasia!

If you want to know why this is happening, well we’ve spent so much time make people “aware” of autism and particularly the nasty, ugly parts of it that they refuse to accept individuals with it and believe their lives are no value! Think we are so much better than Europe or countries where these children are institutionalized, well, then, aside from glamorizing parents who murder autistic children whose statistics are we always touting? That’s right, the Center for Disease Control. We’ve villianized the neurology of individuals with autism to the point that we consider their neurology something to be rid of like cancer.

To be sure, an individual diagnosed with ASD will face challenges in life. Some similar to those without ASD and some unique and owing to that neurology. Just as some neuro-typical individuals have lives they hate so will some with ASD. And for bullying? Why are we saying that the ASD individual must want to die and therefore should be euthanized but not the obese individual? Nor the acne-ridden one? Nor the one with scars from a fire? Why are their lives worth saving but the ASD invidual’s should be “mercifully” ended? Trick question: all their lives are worth saving and there is no mercy in euthanasia.

We need to stop “being aware” of autism and start accepting the human beings born with this neurology. We need to stop funding endless studies into causation and begin using those funds to help with education, therapy, housing and job  placement for those already here living and navigating a world that was not designed with them in mind. We need to develop policies that help these individuals succeed in life. And we need to hear the ALL the autistic voices, not exclusively the ones who hate their lives but the ones who love their lives and wouldn’t change them.

Currently, people are “aware” of autism and autistics. And the majority of their awareness leads them to believe that autistics are less than second class citizens and not worthy of love, acceptance, and even life.

Well, to help you accept and love my child with autism here are some awesome things going on her life this week:

  1. Every day, like any other nine-year-old, we are having epic struggles about wardrobe choice.
  2. Tomorrow she will participate in Special Olympics in our new county for the first time.
  3. In the last few weeks, she has started learning and using “praying hands” during grace before meals. This week she has started praying The Sign of the Cross as well before grace with visual cues and almost no hand over hand.
  4. She recognizes the sign for “bus.”

She also laughed hysterically with her brothers at “The Amazing World of Gumball” and had the easiest transition back to school after Spring Break.

She is not a statistic. She is not someone to be avoided. She is worthy of love. Her life matters. And protecting her life and the lives of others with autism spectrum disorder is a pro-life issue of moving beyond awareness to acceptance.

Spring Break is over and all the Mamas said “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

This year, our district began Spring Break on Good Friday and it ran the week after Easter. I think Easter Monday kind of felt like the “official start” of Spring Break for our family however.

I had to work Easter Monday, and Tuesday. Monday Jeff spent cleaning while I rushed off my lesson plans for Faith Formation to the sub (I had a sacrament prep parent meeting to attend) before I clocked in at work. Jeff took the kids to Goldsboro to visit his mom and older brother.

Tuesday was more cleaning. But before that William got his glasses! A couple of weeks before Spring Break, William had an eye exam. He has them annually because of an odd optic nerve that may just be his normal but the eye doctors want to keep on top of it in case it starts to change. Last year he was 20/20 but this year he showed signs of “far-sightedness” which means glasses for anything up close (reading, computer work, video games etc). He was so excited and picked out awesome glasses. Now I hope maybe some of his reading will come together more.

William Glasses

 

That afternoon Jeff took the kids to Wally World while I worked. His mission was to fill in the wardrobe gaps for the boys and get fishing gear. With all three kids, he was somehow successful! (I later found out part of that success was owed to Bob’s Sweet Stripe soft peppermints. Shelby grabbed a huge container and carried them throughout the store.)

Wednesday morning we did a family first. We went fishing.

Jeff and I have fished before but Joseph expressed an interest in trying so we jumped on it. Shelby is not a fisherwoman and I had to remove her because she was scaring all the fish away. This is on the sound-side of N. Topsail Beach. I took Shelby across the street to the beach which she was not happy about when she realized that she was not going to swim in the ocean! Despite it being a windy day, William caught 2 “throw away fish” (too small) and Joseph caught a crab! I can’t wait til they can catch our dinner!

After subs for lunch we all relaxed until it was time for Faith Formation. Now, this is where people start to say, “Wait you had Faith Formation over spring break?” Allow me to explain. Each public school system in NC is allowed to determine their own breaks for Christmas and Spring Break. The county where our parish is had Spring Break during Holy Week. The Catholic School at our parish also took that week off. We live two counties away and our school system had the week after as Spring Break. I could have let the boys stay home but I had a parent meeting and Joseph is getting close to First Communion time, so, off we went.

Thursday morning the weather got cooler but was still sunny so Jeff and the boys went fishing. Shelby and I stayed home and cleaned and vegged. After lunch, Jeff took Joseph to buy his suit for First Communion. We decided that each boy would get his first suit to commemorate the occasion. When we were thinking, we thought a gray suit but as it turned out there were no gray suits anywhere they went. They ended up getting a black suit with pin-stripes, white shirt and silver tie.

Thursday Jeff also made Bean Soup with our left-over ham bone and beans (of course).

Friday was rainy. And I mean get the Ark out rainy. We stayed home and continued to clean in the morning. That evening we headed back to our old neighborhood for William’s best friend from kindergarten’s birthday party. We only stayed for about half the party but it was fun for William to get to see his friends. Also his friend’s older brother was in Shelby’s class at their old school and she enjoyed seeing him as well. (Sorry, no pics, the only ones I got didn’t have my kids in them. What the what?)

After the party, we headed down to Southport to meet up with Jeff’s Dad and Step-Mother. They had spent Easter weekend up in Maryland visiting Jeff’s half-brother whose birthday was Monday. We had dinner at Bella Cucina, an Italian restaurant that Jeff had worked at while I was pregnant with Shelby. We had eaten at little at the party but were still hungry! I got a yummy Stromboli that I saved half of for later:).

Saturday morning was gray and gloomy. Joseph and I headed out early for First Communion Rehearsal. This one was for all English speaking kids from the four faith formation classes and two school classes. He was supposed to have a soccer game immediately after but I got a text that it was cancelled as soon as we got to the church. Just as well as the ground was a mud mess AND this meant I didn’t have to rush back!

I have to say, Joseph did very well at the rehearsal. A lot of kids cut up and a lot were scared and a lot more, had no idea what they were doing. Joseph only forgot to genuflect during the “mock processional” but that was due to a huge log-jam of kids who weren’t listing/got confused/wanted to talk to their parents etc.

After rehearsal, we headed home with a quick post office stop to get stamps because we had invitations to send out.

We had Chinese food for dinner because Jeff was getting sick of cooking and we wanted something different.

Sunday morning, Joseph and I attended our regular Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday. At this Mass, our candidates were received into full Communion with the Church. Deo Gratias! We also remembered at that Mass a member of our Church family, Bennie.  Father Pat mentioned Bennie in his homily and we prayed a Hail Mary for him at the end of Mass as a congregation. Bennie was not Catholic but faithfully attended Mass at our parish. He passed away Easter Sunday morning and some of his last hours on Earth were spent at our parish at the Easter Vigil where Joseph and I saw him for what would turn out to be the last time.

After Mass, we came home to French Toast brunch made with the challah I’d had blessed on Holy Saturday. I had to run to work to get my schedule and after that we watched NASCAR and had a hodge-podge of left-overs for dinner.

We then had to get ready to go back to school.

So this morning I’m doing the happy dance as three munchkins got on their respective buses and headed to school. Joseph will have an easy day with all his specials (William and Shelby will have theirs tomorrow). Shelby, I’m sure is glad to be back to routine. And William will get to use his glasses for the first time in the classroom. We had a good week off (and we won’t have another day off til Memorial Day!) but it’s good to be back to “normal” for a while now.

Now, to pick up my house before heading to work!

 

Putting the “Holy” back in Holy Week

Holy Week started penetentially with my flu on Palm Sunday. Things didn’t improve greatly for Monday or Tuesday despite my feeling much better. Wednesday I had decided last minute we would attend Tenebrae at our parish but Joseph had school Thursday and it was just going to be too late (we voted and next week Spring Break is scheduled for Holy Week–as God intended it).

Thursday after school, Joseph and I ate a quick dinner and then headed over to church 3 of 3 for Holy Thursday Mass. The Mass was beautiful. The priest had a great homily and it was a Mass of people who truly wanted to be there. I felt nourished  body and soul and knew that things were turning around.

Holy Thursday Tabernacle

The Tabernacle at All Saints on Holy Thursday…open and empty. (A lot of these pics were taken on my cell phone which is not great.)

Everyone was off from school and work on Friday. In the morning we just had kind of a lazy morning and a light lunch for Jeff and the kids (some of us were fasting).

At 2 pm, we headed back to All Saints for Veneration of the Cross. I had originally planned for Stations and Veneration at our parish but we had missed Stations all Lent (despite best intentions) and it was just going to be too long a day being as we would have to stay because of how far we live. At All Saints, families were encouraged to venerate the Cross together, so Joseph and I went up together. It made him feel more comfortable.

Good Friday Tabernacle

The Tabernacle at daylight on Good Friday.

Saturday was pure exhaustion. And it was all worth it. Growing up and still now, my mom had always brought our food to church on Holy Saturday to be blessed. It is a tradition in the Eastern Rite Catholic churches as well as the Latin Rite Catholics in Eastern Europe. My grandfather is Polish and we got the tradition passed down.

For years no parishes near where we lived did a blessing of the food. Last year our old parish offered it but we couldn’t get there with our move pending but this year while our parish wasn’t doing it, I found out that parishes 2 and 3 (Infant of Prague and All Saints) were. I decided to head in the other direction to Infant of Prague because I also had to go into town to get my work schedule for this week.

We raced into town to get my schedule and the last few things we needed for our Easter Basket/Food. Here is the list of traditional foods and their meanings. We made it to the church with just a few minutes to spare. I didn’t have a “basket” basket and used a plastic tub and a re-usable grocery bag and covered our food with cheese cloth instead of the fine cloths typically used. There were about eight families total there and the older parishoners loved to see young kids. Joseph was my photographer for this event.

It was Father Jeff’s first time doing the blessing and he did great!

My butter lamb was definitely lacking but it served its purpose!

Butter Lamb

Let’s just say, I could use classes, a tutorial, something!

Joseph insisted on going to “the four hour long Mass with fire” (it did have fire but it was only 2 1/2 hours) and William wanted to go to Sunday Mass. Guess what Mom ended up doing.

Joseph looked dapper for the Easter Vigil.

Joseph Easter Vigil

We got there way early but there’s no such thing as too much time for prayer! The Church looks even more beautiful at Easter because we haven’t seen it all prettied up for six whole weeks!

Easter Vigil Altar

It’s hard to see in the low light but the Tabernacle is still open before Mass!

Joseph made it through the whole Vigil! It was beautiful. We did all seven readings and Psalms and baptized one catechumen.

After the Vigil we lit a candle for Nanny Kathleen in the chapel. RIP Nanny Kathleen.

Praying for Nanny Kathleen

He slept all the way home.

William wanted Mass “just me and Mom” this morning. We had bad weather this morning so he and I went to All Saints. We had wanted to go to the beach chapel but the cool temps and rain changed our mind. It was standing room only but I remembered why I enjoy the Sunday morning liturgy so much.

Afterward we came home and hung the Easter poster the boys made Friday evening up on the front door.

Easter Poster

The boys came up with about 98% of this content. That big purple splotch is actually supposed to be the Precious Blood (it’s next to the Body of Christ) which William artistically rendered it in a “wine-glass chalice.”

We’ve decided to have “Easter Dinner” tomorrow night. I didn’t do baskets for the kids but they did get a Chocolate Bunny, jelly beans, and a couple other treats this morning. I’m sure tomorrow (when I go back to work and the kids go to visit their grandmother) will be a “holy hangover” but I can’t think of a better one! And in a few weeks, Joseph will make his First Holy Communion, welcome Easter, all 50 days!