Thursday, January 12, 2017

Russian Roulette

Christmas vacation is officially over. I have conflicting feelings over this. I am a bit relieved because it is exhausting, and the long breaks during the day will be nice. I don't think people understand how much special needs parents desperately need some room to breathe. I am also sad to see them go, because I truly find joy in spending time with them. And, for another reason too.

On Tuesday afternoon when the boys arrived home from their first day back, they were happy. They shared bits and pieces of their day. Micah chatted about nothing and everything. (To his teachers, I love you. I forget how much that boy talks and this break has reminded me. Thank you for listening to him and making him feel important.)

When they arrived home from school and had had their snack, they started on their chores and homework. When they were done, they got their much anticipated screen time. While they were running minions and giggling with that ridiculous talking cat, I made a cup of tea and sat down. That's when it happened.

The first of the daily e-mails arrived. If you don't know what kind of e-mail I am talking about, I am jealous of you and your inbox. It couldn't have been more ominous if it tried. Nestled in between a note from my Mom and an update on my order from David's tea was an e-mail from a teacher. My fingers hovered over the tempting mini trash can off to the side, but there is this little thing called responsibility. So I opened it.

These e-mails are a bit like Russian roulette. You know what is coming, so you brace for impact. But at the same time, there is a small chance and with it a glimmer of hope that you won't take a hit. Maybe it would be more accurate if the gun was loaded with all but one bullet, because that is how often you get good news.

I sometimes wonder why they can't seem to write some positive with the negative. Because I know my children and I know the terrible things they are capable of. But I also know their hearts and they aren't evil. They are sweet, and loving and kind. It is a bit of a messy package. I think it would be easier on autism parents to be able to handle the stress and grief over what their children were up to at school if they could cling to a little bit of praise as well.

My heart sank as I read not one, but two e-mails. Two e-mails for my two very different children. Two e-mails from frustrated teachers who had to come back from a relaxing break and had to deal with my son all day.

But here's the thing. These are my babies. I have been dealing with my sons for over a decade. Far longer than any teacher. Yes, their days during the week are longer than my days with them. They have more waking hours with my children than I do during the week. But you know what? Teachers, I am giving you my children at their best.

What the teachers don't see is my children when they wake up in the morning. Screeching because they can't shut out the noise and desperately need to drown it out. Dumping things all over the floor because they are overly impulsive. Walking around naked because they're so distracted they can't even remember they were in the process of getting dressed. In the one hour before I send them out the door, I manage to get them fed, guide them as they get dressed, pack their lunches, and instill some peace in them so they are ready for their day. What the teachers don't know is that sometimes my children are late to school because I won't let them leave until they are ready.

I have medicated children. As a parent, that is sometimes a tough pill to swallow. When you first hold your baby in your arms, you fall in love with the sweet. In that magical moment, you don't really think about the future. When I first held my babies, I didn't know the magical moment would be when their medication kicked in. Like a light switch from chaos to contentment. When their switch finally reaches contentment after an hour of chaos, I send them out the door and pray they will have a good day. I never dreamed I would have a pharmacy in my home. I never dreamed I would have to give my children meds every day, probably for the rest of their lives. But it's okay, because it helps them be their best.

Only, I guess their best isn't good enough. Because the e-mails keep coming. And not just e-mails from the teachers, although those cause me the most stress. Also the e-mails scheduling therapies, doctors appointments, and hopefully some respite. Sometimes I wish for just a moment I could be the parents who get e-mails scheduling play dates and birthday parties. But I am not one of those Moms.

I don't resent it. I just wish that for one day, I could have it as easy as the teachers. Because when my kids come home, their medications have run out and it is back to chaos. I don't get the level of contentment the schools do when I send my kids there every day. I wish I could have that. But it's okay that I don't. Because I am the mother. The one who will love them, no matter what the e-mails say. The one who will wrap my arms around them when they have had a bad day and just need some love. The one who will stand beside them and advocate for them every step of the way.

Because I am an autism Mom, and it's my super power. We stretch and give. We deposit here and deposit there and have very little deposits coming back. We get by on little sleep and a lot of caffeine. We show up for meetings. We schedule those appointments. And we answer those e-mails.

Don't even ask me about the phone calls. That's a story for another day.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Beauty in the Broken

As some of you may know, I'm in the process of writing a new book. In order to get things ready, I've created a sister blog where I'll share more about struggling with a disability and how God is changing and shaping me through it.

I am keeping this blog to write about our everyday life and of course, our autism journey. I'll be posting on it less in the near future.

If you'd like to keep up to date with my writing and posts, please find me here:

I've called the blog Beauty in the Broken as a reflection of the path I'm currently on. See you there!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Worth Sharing

Sometimes I have Mom envy. I know I'm a Mom already, and there are women out there who just want to have babies. I get that. And I hope and pray that you'll be blessed with a little one soon. But I'm not talking about that kind of Mom envy. I'm talking about the kind of Mom envy where everyone's house and lives look way better than your own.

I'm talking about when you're perusing the web and you see a picture perfect family. The one where he's tall dark and handsome. And she's blonde, thin and has perfectly straight teeth. And they have some perfectly adorable children, biological and adopted. And they travel the globe, doing amazing and fun things together as a family, and just look like they are winning at life. I want to be happy for them, and sometimes I am. But more often than not, seeing their photos and reading about their exciting experiences leaves me feeling empty and alone.

I know I am blessed with the tall (not so dark) and handsome hubby. At least, I think he is. But aside from that, nothing is the same. I'm far from thin, I definitely don't have blonde hair or perfect teeth. Neither do my kids - not their teeth or their behaviour. (I'll bet those perfect people don't get multiple phone calls from the school when their kids have been up to no good). And those adopted children? I'd love to have them, but my plate is sort of overflowing.

Sometimes it gets me down. Sometimes I can't see past their perfect smiles. And then, other times I can. Because not everyone can be as transparent as our family is. We joke about not having secrets, but really it's very true. Even of we wanted to have secrets, the kids would spill to the next person they see. (Like when Aiden told the person sitting next to him at the Christmas concert that I almost burnt the house down because I was trying to make popcorn in the microwave.) Not everyone can share the hard stuff. Not everyone can write about the stuff that leaves them weeping. Not everyone is me. Not everyone has that story to tell.

And that's the thing. Their story is not my story. My story is not your story. We all have our own lives, our own families, our own experiences. We all have our own moments where we shine. We all have our own failures (some are just better at keeping them in the dark as others.)  We are all equal in that way.

But that's where it stops. Because we can't all be alike. No two snowflakes are the same. We all have our own individual fingerprints, our own individual DNA. We are all unique. We can't have the same looks, the same children, the same trips around the globe. But we can stand united. Because even though we can't have the same experiences, we still need each other.

Like that time I saw another autism Mom struggling to get her child together in the middle of Walmart. And there were groceries everywhere. It's not the same experience I have every day, but it's similar. So I know I couldn't do anything to help her in that moment. But I could take her purse from the middle of the aisle and put it back in her cart. And give her one of those looks. The kind not everyone gives you when your child is melting in the store. A look not of disgust or distain but if solidarity and encoueagement.

Like the time I saw another larger Mom trying on clothing at the store. Standing in front of mirrors that don't show mercy, I watched as she stepped back feeling deflated. I've been there before. To be honest, I am there every day. Just trying to feel beautiful in a world that tells you you're anything but. So I stood beside this woman for just a moment and told her what I would have wanted to hear. And watched as her shoulders rose back to where they should be. And as she turned away with a word of thanks, she went and bought the shirt. And I felt like maybe, just for a moment, I was winning at life. That maybe, for a minute, there was a reason why I face what I face.

It's the first day if 2017. People usually make resolutions. Or they choose one little word they're hoping will make their year the best it can be. This year, I just want to live intentionally. I want to tell my story. To feel, even if very briefly, like my story is worth having and worth sharing if not just for a single moment.

We may not have picture perfect lives. We may not have the children, or the trips, or the perfectly manicured lawns and gorgeous homes. But we all have a life worth living and sharing about. My prayer for this year is that we all experience life together. Not just the good bits, but the bad too. Because sometimes, when we are real, we remember we are just where we are meant to be.

I'm going to keep sharing my story. Because it isn't glamorous. It isn't beautiful. But it's real. And it's mine to tell, no matter what this year brings.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Another Year

Another year is coming to a close. It has been quite the year of change. It's hard to put it all in a nicely wrapped package, so this will likely seem like the wrapping paper that hits the floor after the gift has been opened. Which actually describes this year perfectly.

In January, a sweet friend of mine passed away after battling cancer. One of those moments where a young Mom was snatched away too soon. My heart was heavy and to this day, I miss her smile and her soul.

In April, we moved from one church family to another. It was a lot like going home for me, because this was my church before I got married. I loved the people and the teaching and it wasn't easy to leave the first time around. Leaving churches can be messy. People get hurt, no matter how hard you try not to have that happen. But sometimes God makes something beautiful out of the brokenness. Okay, not sometimes. Always. And this was no exception. In the spring, I felt lonely and broken. But healing happens. New friendships have been made and my heart is full. God is good.

In June, I struggled with mixed emotions when my beloved grandmother moved into the mansion prepared for her in heaven. While I was happy to see her go, (at 94 years of age and many health struggles it was time), I didn't want to imagine life without her. Last November when we visited my family, I hugged her extra long when it was time to say goodbye. I am glad I did. I am a better person today because of her love, discipline, guidance and prayers. I miss her every day.

In September, another beautiful friend passed away after her second battle with cancer. She was so involved in the lives of each member of my family it rocked me to my very core. Sitting beside her hospital bed those last few days was such a beautiful gift. Even though my heart was breaking and I wanted to roll back time. I am glad she's now pain free with her Saviour. But I can't tell you how many times I've picked up my phone to text or call her and remembered she's not there.

As always, there is sweetness mixed in with sadness. It's a funny thing, isn't it? How one day we can experience endless joy and the next such sorrow?

In April, my sweet and dear friend (who feels more like a sister than a friend) had her first baby boy. Way, way too early. She texted me the morning of and said she wasn't feeling great. I told her her symptoms sounded a lot like labour...and within a few hours he was born. Thank the Lord he is a fighter and a wee bit stubborn, because he pulled through potential difficulties like a shining star. He's a sweet, smiley bundle of fun. I'm so blessed to be his honourary aunt.

In May, my sister and her girls came to visit. There's no greater joy than being an aunt of two sweet little girls. Honestly they make me smile. They bring lots of joy to my life. Their giggles and squeals and little phone chats make my heart happy. Later this summer we had many more visitors, including a very special week with my Swiss cousins and a week with my parents at the cottage. So many memories made, lots of laughs and many joyful hearts.

In June, my sweet boy graduated from grade 5. I know that doesn't sound like much of an accomplishment, but if you knew his daily struggles you'd be giving him a standing ovation. As I watched him walk across the stage and wave his diploma over his head like hockey players would the Stanley cup, my eyes filled with tears and my heart burst with pride.

In October, I *finally* received a proper medical diagnosis for the lipedema that has taken over my body. It was a very long time coming. And while it doesn't change my prognosis, it did change my heart. Finally I had proof that I didn't do this to myself, as many specialists had suggested over the years. Hallelujah! I also got to visit with my brother and his sweet wife which was a treat.

Of course, in the run of a year you have smaller joys and trials dispersed throughout your days. Like issues at the school because your autistic children are being difficult. Or celebrating 12 years of marriage with your fantastic husband. Like getting pneumonia. Or reading through your entire Bible in less than a year.

These little joys and trials that make up our days contribute to how we grow and change. They make a difference in how God is working to shape our lives.

I have no idea what 2017 will bring. Sometimes it makes me anxious thinking about it. However, we have a great God who has a great plan. Not just for my life, but for yours as well. Whatever might come this next year, we can rest knowing that He's got it under control. Happy (almost) New Year, friends!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Cradle to the Cross

The lights have all been strung. The halls have all been decked. The trees have been resurrected once more from the depths of the basement, or perhaps just from the short snowy drive from the field to the home. Christmas is just one short week away.

As we prepared for the Christmas season, we shopped among other shoppers in stores proclaiming to have just what we needed for this special season. It was hard not to notice the carts loaded with toys and treasures for the young and old as we walked through with a few gifts among our weekly necessities. It was hard not to notice the man in the red suit waving and handing out candies to children, as parents snapped pictures and others waited in line. Amidst the trappings of the season and the mall, we noticed something else. Jesus.

It is hard to find Jesus in the shopping mall at Christmas time. It is hard to find Jesus anywhere in the mall. But He is there at Christmas. Over the loudspeakers, the words rang out clear and true. Songs that everyone knows. Songs that come back to mind every year when the snow falls and the calendar rolls around to December 25th. Songs that proclaim the name of the One who was born in Bethlehem. Jesus. Do they know what it means when they sweetly sing His name every season?

You might know that I grew up in the church and that my father is a pastor. So imagine my surprise when we sang the REAL verse two of O Holy Night in church this year. I am sure I have sung it before, but never did it register to me like it did this year. What a powerful song with a powerful meaning.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So, led by the light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend
He knows our need, to our weakness no stranger
Behold your King, before Him lowly bend
Behold your King, your King before Him bend.

No wonder they choose not to play that verse over the loud speakers. Because we know He is King, but many refuse to believe that truth. This Christmas, I don't want to forget in the midst of gifts and gatherings that Christ was born to save. I don't want to forget the purpose for the cross was born in the manger. 

As I was flipping through my Bible this morning in church, I noticed the page before the page we were reading was underlined. I flipped back and the words just jumped right off the page. The very end of Zechariah's prophecy says, "because of God's tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the shadow of peace." (Luke 1:78-79).

From the cradle to the cross, Emmanuel was born to bring peace on earth. That is what Christmas is all about. The gifts and the gatherings are good, but they will only bring you temporary joy. After the pretty wrapping has been tossed in the trash, and the tree has been put away or thrown out for another year, you might feel empty. Because temporary joy is a tricky thing. It makes you feel warm and happy when it's happening, but then it leaves you cold and lonely afterwards. 

Friends, if this is something you are experiencing, the only gift you need this Christmas is the gift of Jesus Christ. The light of heaven that came down for those who sit in the darkness is a gift that you can receive if only you have ears to hear this message. Christ is for YOU. Jesus was born in a manger so that YOU could receive life instead of death. Because the gift He is giving is the gift of His death on a cross. If this message is for you, and you want to talk, feel free to reach out to me or someone else you know who will talk with you and pray for you. This Christmas, unwrap the gift that never gets broken or collects dust on the shelf. Unwrap the reason for Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Gift of Perspective

Today I am thankful for my cane. I never thought I would ever admit that, being 34 years old and reliant on a mobility device. But today, as I walked the pathway to my child’s school and my feet slipped on ice lying quietly under snow – the unthinkable happened. In the same moment I cried out to God to guide my feet so I would not fall, I had gratitude for something I'm not all that pleased to need.

This year I was diagnosed with an untreatable disease called lipedema.  While this disease does come with a significant amount of pain, it also comes with a significant amount of disfigurement. Sometimes I jokingly refer to myself as the Michelin woman – my limbs are heavy laden with excess fat that can't be resolved with diet or exercise. In short, it is pretty ugly.

While this diagnosis is new, I've suffered from this disease for years. Living with chronic pain isn't a peach, but far worse is living in this world as a “super sized” woman. The media has made it very clear what they believe to be beautiful. Society is screaming beauty is skin deep. I've been given looks of disgust as I walk through the mall. I've heard hurtful comments as I watched my children play at the playground. I am not going to lie, it hurts. Sometimes it is hard to see your value when the world says you are worthless.

Want to read more? I hope you do! You can read the rest over on The Barefoot Blog where I have been given the honour of being a guest blogger today!  I promise it is worth the click!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Real Love

It's Christmas season, and with it brings the ever popular Hallmark movies. You know the ones - the sappy Rom Coms where the girl gets the guy and life is good. The ones where conflict is easily resolved and just in time for Christmas. The ones like the one I'm watching right now...

Ladies, we love these movies because they're sweet. Because they make us cry those happy tears. They give us the feels. Because Hollywood knows how to package love in a beautiful way to make it bright and shiny and wonderful. The women are beautiful. The men are handsome and rich. The Christmas decorations have that magnificent WoW factor. But let's not miss this one simple truth - it isn't real.

Of course we know movies aren't real. Sure, some may be based on true stories. But what I really mean here is that even though we grab the popcorn and tune in to every single Christmas Rom Com we've recorded this season, it's not an accurate depiction of love.

Ladies, let's not miss this. It's easy to forget sometimes, in the midst of the twinkling lights and the mistletoe. Real love is staring us in the face every day - it's what we have with our husbands. It is there in the moments when we've lost someone we love - real love lets us cry on their shoulder. It's there on those days when we feel less than stellar and real love tells us we're beautiful. It's there beside us when we deal with difficult situations in life.

Real love is helping with the laundry. Real love is pouring you the last cup of coffee. Real love is listening to you talk about your day. It's caring about your dreams and hopes. And holding your hand as you embrace your fears. Real love isn't always romantic. It's the every day, live with you for a lifetime kind of love.

I hope you experience real love this Christmas season. If you're not married yet, hold on. Real love is better than the movies. It's absolutely worth the wait.