February 26, 2015

Kisses on FaceTime

On the way to Houston
I went out of town for a wedding over the weekend.  It's not the first time I've ever left Brandon overnight by any means, but it's certainly been a while.  I needed this weekend away.  I've been slammed at work and with my master's degree.  My head's been spinning.  I spent the weekend with one of my best friends.  We had a weekend of girl talk, wine, relaxation, and some exploration of Houston.  We celebrated our dear friend's marriage, and it was a wonderful weekend.

Brandon and I "talked" (I use quotes because Brandon is nonverbal) on FaceTime while I was away.  He's used FaceTime with his dad and his grandma, but he's never been interested.  I don't think he ever realized he was talking to someone live.  I think he just thought he was watching a really boring video.  When he saw me though, he had his eyes locked on me.  I held on a "conversion" with him for at least 10 minutes.  I yapped away, imitated sounds he made, "read" his favorite book from memory, and even sang him some songs.  If you all could see me with this kid, you would understand how weird I can really be.  We're constantly running, singing, and dancing around the house.  With every minute that passed, I was amazed at his concentration on me.  I was reminded of how in sync Brandon and I are.  It felt amazing to be able to make a connection with him from so far away.

I blew him some kisses, and to my amazement he blew them back!  He's never done that before.  He's only just now starting to make the "muah" sound when he actually gives a kiss.

When I came home he gave me a huge smile and cupped my face in his hands.

It's the little things :)

February 19, 2015

The Hardest Part About Autism

I'm frequently asked where Brandon is on the spectrum.  You know, like can he talk?  Or is he a genius?  The truth is, I have no idea.  I am hopeful that he will be verbal.  I am hopeful that he will be able to engage in meaningful conversion.  I am hopeful that he will be in a general education Kindergarten classroom.  I am hopeful that he will be surrounded by friends who love and accept him for who he is.  He is only three-and-a-half.  I can't be certain of any of these things.  I have been wondering when my son will talk for more than two years.  Every single day, I wonder.  Waiting.  Trying to wait patiently.

The hardest part about autism isn't other people, it isn't the meltdowns, it isn't the expenses, the therapy appointments, or the paperwork. 

The hardest part about autism is the unknown.

If you're a parent, you remember being ecstatic about every new thing your baby did.  The first time he held a toy phone up to his ear and pretended to talk to someone.  The first time he said "mama," or "I love you."  You remember teaching him his ABC's, hearing him request the same movie for the billionth time, or rolling a ball back and forth.  I am still waiting for all of these things.

Don't get me wrong, Brandon does a lot of other things that I am very thankful for; and he does have his own way of communicating.  It's a lot of hard work, but he's made a lot of accomplishments.  His eye contact is pretty fantastic, he picks up on things very quickly once he's taught, he is very affectionate, he loves to be read to, and he loves to dance.  He also goes to bed when I tell him it's time for bed, and he actually stays in his bed until he falls asleep.  I am so proud of the strides he's made.  This doesn't mean I'm some autism super-mom, by the way.  Another autism mom could do everything the exact same way I have, and yield completely different results.

So, that's it folks.  The hardest part about autism - at least the season we're in now - is having so many unanswered questions.

February 13, 2015

The Big Bang Theory: My Son Has Found His "Penny"

People in the autism community either love The Big Bang Theory, or they hate it.  I love it.  The show never specifically says Sheldon Cooper has autism, but it can be inferred that he has something along the lines of an undiagnosed high functioning autism spectrum disorder and/or OCD.  He is hilarious, and gives he me some hope.  Okay, odds are that Brandon isn't going to grow up to be a quirky genius scientist.  But hey, it's fun to imagine his life that way.  It's particularly comforting to imagine him surrounded by friends who love him, and accept him for who he is.  Albeit, he annoys the crap out of them on a daily basis, but they love him dearly.  Penny is the next door neighbor who doesn't take any of Sheldon's crap.  She pushes him to be better - to be open to new experiences.

Watch this video when Penny hugs Sheldon to see what I'm talking about.  Sheldon's lack of social graces is what makes this show.

I've always said that I hope Brandon has a "Penny" in his life to look out for him and challenge him.  Well, he's found her in preschool.  If he tries to ignore her she says, "Brandon, you better give me a hug!"  You tell him, Lisa.  You make that boy hug you.  Don't let him get away with ignoring you!  Brandon has a special relationship with her.  He smiles and laughs with her more than any other kid I've seen besides his cousin, Karson.  Brandon doesn't always know how to engage in social situations, but that doesn't bother Lisa one bit.  She makes sure he has fun with her.  For this reason alone, I cannot stress the importance of typically developing peer models.  In other words, Brandon has a role model he can look up to and feel comfortable with to help him navigate this confusing social world.

Brandon is mostly nonverbal, but he is very rapidly starting to say different words when prompted.  But, the other day in circle time, when his teacher asked all of the children what they love about school, no one would have expected Brandon to give an answer.  Brandon kept speaking in "babble," saying the same thing over and over.  After the fourth time of the same repetitive sounds and the same rhythmic tune, the teachers were able to make out what he was trying to say..."I like to see Lisa!"  They asked him, "Brandon, do you like to see Lisa?"  He ran right up to Lisa, put his face close to hers, and smiled.  My little boy said, "I like to see Lisa!"  That is a sentence!  It may have been very hard to make out, but it is still an enormous accomplishment.  Brandon being willing to try to talk is the most important hurdle.  Think about how this story could have gone completely differently if Brandon had not be blessed with the most dedicated and caring teachers.  Can you imagine how my son felt, knowing that he spoke his mind and someone finally understood him?

I was so thrilled to hear this story, that it only crossed my mind for a half-second that he has yet to call me Mom.  :P

He is getting there.

This child is blossoming right before my eyes.

February 12, 2015

My Liebster Award Nomination

I was recently thrilled to learn that a fellow blogger, Autism Mom, nominated me for a Liebster Award.  This is an award passed from blogger to blogger.  I am part of a supportive blogging community, and am very happy to learn that this award is out there.  I'm looking forward to continuing to meet many more bloggers and growing my community.

Here are the questions she asked me:

1. How is blogging different than how you thought it would be when you started?
I never dreamed that so many people would want to read my "ramblings" about life and autism.  I am touched with every comment that is left for me.

2. What is your favorite blog post that you have written?
I have a few favorite posts that tend to change depending on my mood.  Right now my favorite blog post is, If You Want to Know How to Treat a Child With Autism... It's about my beautiful nephew, and how he treats my son who has autism.  If you want to know how to treat a child with autism, look to my nephew.  At three years old, this kid has accomplished what many adults fail to do.  My all-time favorite is probably my very first post, Lessons from Brandon, which explains what my son has taught me without saying a single word.

3. What is the most surprising thing that you have blogged about, that you never thought you would blog about?
I had a blog draft written titled, "Why I Cringe at the word Autistic."  I had yet to publish the post because I hadn't found the right words to explain why I hated that word.  I came across a comment on another blog that completely changed my perspective.  I scratched my old blog post and created one called, Why I Cringe at the Word Autistic, and Why I Don't Anymore.

4. Where is the strangest place you have blogged (e.g., typed on your computer, wrote down blogging notes, etc.)?
I come up with ideas on the fly.  I jot down ideas at the most random times.  I have to write them down or type the idea in my phone right away, because an hour later I will forget my brilliant idea.

5. Which blogger would you most like to meet?
This is too hard to answer.  There are several that I would like to meet.  Life's a Disco Ball is an incredible blog, and I've actually had the pleasure of meeting the author, Heather.  I would also like to meet Autism Daddy.  He's funny and very real about the daily struggles and joys of autism.  Plus he's anonymous, so there's some intrigue and curiosity there.

I nominate the following bloggers for a Liebster Award.  These ladies are inspiring people, and I am grateful for their insight.
One Mother's Perspective on Autism
Saying Yes to Opportunities, Loving People Recklessly, and Making the Best of it All

Frayed Flowers
One Mom's Thoughts on Autism, God, and Other Things

If you are listed above and would like to participate, please answer these questions about yourself and make your own nominations (5).  Here are my questions for you:

  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. What is your passion?
  3. What is something we don't know about you, that is not related to the topic you blog about?
  4. What is your favorite quote, and who wrote it? 
  5. What is your favorite blog post that you have written?
Thank you again to Autism Mom for the nomination!  Don't forget to stop by her blog!

February 7, 2015

Easy DIY Hardware Activity Board for Kids

An idea for the kid who likes to get into anything that is not a toy...so, basically all kids.

You can make this Hardware Activity Board with any items you want.  Just head to your local hardware store and get inspired!  All you need is a board and some doohickies.  If you want to jazz it up, you can even add some decorative duct tape.  This one has a pad lock, velcro, a gate lock, a chain lock, a plastic thing that spins (not even sure what that thing is!), a hinge, and a springy doorstopper.  You gotta have the door stopper...a long time favorite among the toddler crowd.

This board helps with sensory input, developing fine motor and cognitive skills...and it's just plain fun!

February 3, 2015

Midnight Panic

I keep waking up in the dead of night.  My eyes pop open in fright and intense panic.  My heart is thumping.  Sometimes I sit straight up, my eyes darting, trying to catch my breath and make my mind work.  I wake up thinking, "Where is Brandon?"  This whole time I am completely panicked.  I'm on the verge of tears but too stunned to cry.  Or move.  It takes what seems like several minutes for my brain to adjust and remember that he is upstairs fast asleep in his bed.  A wave of relief rushes over me, then my heart aches at the memory and I have trouble falling back to sleep.

I am busier now than I have ever been since Brandon was born, as I am currently doing an internship.  I love everything about it.  I could not be placed in a better situation.  My hours during the day are not much longer than my regular job, but it not about the physical time.  It's the mental time that is a stressor.  I am mentally exhausted.  People say this all the time, but this is my truth.  My mind is on-the-go from the minute I wake up to the minute I rest my head to my pillow.

A huge part of this midnight panic is guilt.  I know I am a good mom.  I have no modesty or hesitation in saying this, so it's not that I think I'm being a bad mom.  It's just that with a child who already struggles to make a connection, throwing in a mom who's mentally bouncing from one thing to another makes it harder on the both of us.  When Brandon pushes me away because he's not in the mood to snuggle, or doesn't feel like including me in his play, I just feel a little helpless...rejected.  I can't help but thinking of what I have done to form a disconnect - if I have reached my mental capacity, and I'm just not providing enough.  I know better than to think this.  This comes from a place of guilt.  I know in my head that this is normal thing.  I'm craving some quality time with him, and he just wants to do his own thing.  These feelings are my issue, not his.  If that guilt didn't reside, I wouldn't be worrying about it.

After this week, a huge chunk of my work will be done, so at least part of my brain will be freed up.  A weight will be lifted off my shoulders, and the hardest part will be over.  I am truly enjoying myself, and working towards the job that I feel called to do.  I don't regret any of the time I am spending investing in myself, but it doesn't erase the guilt.

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