This is our 29th Valentine’s Day together. Kind of blows my mind when I think about us all these years later.
Valentine’s is just another day in our crazy lives, no reason to make a fuss or waste money on cards. We know exactly what we mean to each other.
We are best friends underneath it all and we have helped each other through some really tough times.
We don’t always see eye to eye. That is an understatement.
I was recently asked how we have stayed together. I honestly don’t know.
There are times that we barely speak. We just coexist in the same household. Times that we can’t get on the same page about anything.
Then there are times when I think the sun sets and rises on his back. When I can’t breathe at the thought of doing life without him.
He is a great husband. He takes care of me, loves me, does numerous things without me asking or even realizing. I can totally take him for granted. I know if I need him, he’s there. That goes both ways.
We have grieved losing parents together, dealt with an autism diagnosis and all the emotions and difficulties that come with it. We share 4 children. The bond underneath it all is built on love and strength.
He is an amazing father. When I watch him with our children I fall in love with him all over again. He is so loving and patient with our daughter. All three of his girls adore him. He gives them safety, security and unconditional love.
He can lose his patience and we all drive him nuts but the way he loves his family makes me realize how lucky we are.
Underneath all the disagreeing, the bickering, the frustration is a man who loves with his whole heart and soul.
Just don’t ask him what’s for dinner
Happy Valentine’s Day Babe, all I want is a spot on the couch, to watch our show (and maybe a good snack)
I am proud to Announce The Table For five podcast that me and four other Autism mamas host,have found someone who shares our mission to partner with us.
Lindsay Rosenthal is a behavioral analyst who works with children on the autism spectrum as well as other developmental disabilities. She saw the difficulties the caregivers moms specifically have providing care to their children and lack of support and understanding that there is. We at the table of five know first hand now emotionally exhausting and isolating that can be.
Lindsay had a vision to find a way to give support to lessen the isolation and to make moms feel “pampered”.
Moms in a general and especially moms of children with high needs take care of everyone and put themselves last. The grueling therapy schedules and consuming care that our children require make it card fit in self care.
She started a subscription box called The Pampered Parent,designed for moms of children with special needs
A “featured item” that’s from a company that is run by and/or employs individuals with special needs
Self-care products like motivational books and interactive journals, positive affirmation items, relaxing bath and beauty products, and delicious edible treats
An exclusive item (t-shirt, tote, mug, or tumbler) with a special saying or quote
Each month, our box has a different motivational theme that is carefully thought out and tied together.
A part of the subscription contains access to an online community filled with people who understand.
The best part is that she employs special needs adults as part of her box. The adult disabled community is often forgotten. To find someone who recognizes that and empowered to find a way to Spotlight that community is beyond amazing.
You can sign up for one box,or a monthly subscription. You can also gift a box to someone in your life that is in need of support.
Young love , there’s nothing like it . You live in this bubble of hope. You make plans for the future and wonder about what your life together will bring.
You dream about where you will live , how many children you will have, what vacations you will take. You look forward to a happy life together.
Especially being so young and naive you are not imagining all the heartbreak and loss you will have to go through. It’s a part of life and how you cope and support each other as a couple has as much to do with how you get though these things together as the actual loss itself.
As young couple , we turned into young parents and we were motivated and determined to build a good life. We had a son and then a daughter, and then we bought a house. Things appeared to be going well or so we thought
Our daughter was struggling and wasn’t developing language. She began to disappear before our eyes. She stopped responding to her name and had some different things she would do. You pushed to get her help when the doctor kept wanting to wait. Things began to get more difficult. She would scream and cry for hours and wouldn’t allow you to touch her. You never left her side. She had many behaviors , she would head bang constantly , flop to the floor and you were so patient, so loving to her. It wasn’t always easy.
We were waiting on an appointment for an evaluation. The day finally came and two weeks later we went to get the results. I sat directly in front of the doctor and you sat over to the side observing , quietly , calmly. Then with one word that bubble popped, turning our world upside down. ” Your daughter has autism.” Tears poured down my face and you stared straight ahead, the rest was a blur.
You held me in your arms while I sobbed You wipe my tears and told me everything would be ok even though your own heart was broken too
You stood strong and tall so you could hold me up when I need to lean on you .
I yelled how unfair it was , how could this be ! And you tried to keep me calm and reassure me.
I didn’t understand for a long time how it was so much easier for you so accept. How you weren’t as sad as me. I didn’t realize that you just as devastated as I was, but was more concerned with being strong for me and our daughter than yourself. You cried alone , you grieved on your own time when no one else was there.
As time went on you never wavered, and we went through some really hard times. You always loved her know matter what.
You and me , we don’t see eye to eye on everything. Actually there’s A LOT we disagree on.
But ,The important things we agree on. We have agreed our daughter will be loved and cherished, no matter what. She deserves to have the same experiences as everyone else. She will be treated with respect and love , and not left out. We will bring her out with us whenever possible. We will kiss and hug her no matter how hard she squirms and pushes us away. We would do anything to ease her struggle and help her.
It was you who through her in the air and bounced her over and over. It was you who kept trying to get in her world until she let you in, never giving up. It was you who made her feel safe. You were the one who found her when she eloped into the neighborhood full of woods and a pond. I was so terrified , and you brought my baby back. You were the one on the other side of the phone who took the brunt of my frustrations and tears. You always gave me grace and were my sound of reason.
Well Mostly you gave me grace, after all you aren’t perfect and this life can be really hard. There is lots of frustration, guilt and fear. The early years were difficult but you were willing to try and take her anywhere where I wanted. You would be the carrying her over your shoulder when things didn’t go as planned.
You were the one who knelt by her side when she had her first seizure and rode in the ambulance with her. I was frozen in fear.
You are her hero. She is daddy’s little girl and I don’t need her to say the words to know how much she loves you and fells safe with you. I know because I feel the same way. You have a way of making everything okay, even when your crumbling inside. You never show it. You always make us feel safe.
You love us , put up with our crazy and take care of us.
We have been through some really hard times, there were times I thought this life could break us . We found strength in each other and in our daughter.
We are always able to rally around her , encourage her and believe in her.
We have a beautiful family, four amazing kids and an incredible bond . Best friends underneath it all
Things get hard at times, we argue , yell and bicker. We get angry and resentful but we always circle back to each other , our children, and especially our daughter. Her needs are significant and she is the ties that binds our family together.
You are the glue that holds me together. You still wipe my tears and let me know it will be okay. I couldn’t of asked for a better father for our daughter, or a husband for me.
I am going to a dark place and I can feel it happening and feel powerless to stop it
I am tired of being knocked down by autism
Not autism itself but by the effects of it
When I feel like I have accepted it . Moved on
Made the best of it
But it still can knock me down when I least expect it .
I thought I was used to it ,that I forgot about them
The heavy , the why and the unfairness of it all
It always comes back to haunt you
I know brighter days are ahead but it’s hard to see
Through the tears , the frustration , the exhaustion
I’m battling my own mental health and I’m weary
The joy , the triumphs and the breakthroughs usually over shadow the rest
But they are always there lurking underneath , usually pushed to the darkest corners of your mind far away from your heart. Until they come to the surface sometimes with no warning and take on a life of their own.
It crushes your heart and consumes your every thought,
When the darkness stares you in the face
Why does my baby have to suffer like this
Why is she put in such a vulnerable position
Where things can happen and you ‘ll never know
Why can’t things be better
Where we live in a world will people care just as much about disabled adults as they do disabled children and in turn just as much about disabled children as typical children
Where it matters what happens to them and who is taking care of them
We want to protect our children always but we can’t be with them every waking hour and even if we could we won’t live forever
What will happen when I’m gone
But then I walk in and she is sitting there with her bright eyes ,so beautiful I can just get lost in them, my heart clutches as I lean in for a hug and she squeezes me back, something she has only done in recent years.
I watch her as she goes in her room and comes out with her tiger , she is having him hold a dinosaur with a tutu and she is laughing as she is showing us. That laugh is medicine for my soul.
She is so happy, so unaffected by the sadness of the world
One of the biggest blessings of her autism. The worries of tomorrow slowly slip away.
My daughter is a gem, precious and full of beauty. I am forever grateful to have her as my daughter , she shows me the light through her eyes and makes me appreciate it, feel it
She will always be my reason to keep fighting , for her and others like her. My motivation to wipe my tears and hope for a better tomorrow. My love for her will always trump everything else and give me the strength to stand tall beside her.
There is no last minute impromt trips that are met without resistance, Meltdowns and at least a few tears …
Sometimes you wonder if it’s even worth it .
We are taking a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard , mostly because my sister is there with my niece and my 16 year old daughter . I am venturing down for the day so my other daughter ( Kierra ) can join them for a few days .
Me , Alyssa and Kierra will drive down the cape , park the car take a shuttle to the ferry and board the ferry . It’s sounds So simple doesn’t it ?
Again with autism and anxiety always looming in the background things are never easy .
Alyssa does pretty well out and about . She has come a long way . I would never even dreamed of attempting this a few years ago without my husband . When she was younger it was all hands on deck all of the time . It was always plan b and c , divide and conquer if necessary, always have a back up plan and an exit strategy.
When we made the plan I thought sure she will enjoy getting out for the day , she spends too much time in the house I should get her out . She generally enjoys being out.
She had adapted and learned and really had come such a long way . Until Something upsets her , confuses her or triggers her .
It is almost impossible to predict
So you try to plan and prepare but sometimes it doesn’t make a difference And sometimes you decide to wing it
We were getting ready to leave rushing of course , running late and my daughter was looking for something to put her stuff in . I told her I have a backpack in my room she could take that.
Alyssa decided that she did not want the bag to leave my room and she started protesting AKA yelling
I told my daughter wait until we get in the car run back in the house throw her stuff in the backpack and bring it out after
I though it went without saying don’t let her see it . It didn’t, Kierra comes out with the bag in her hand . Alyssa started screaming And gesturing to the house
Non verbal does not mean no communication her point is loud and clear the bag goes back in the house , she then got out of the car prompt dependency out the window. She was going to grab the bag her self . I told Kierra to bring the bag back in the house and I would go get it , hide it and put in the back of the car .
I tried backing the car in the driveway but she’s too smart she knows I’m up to something and I park and open the back bit of course it won’t open . She gets out and inspects the back . She is on high alert and there is no way to sneak the bag at this point .
Again never simple
I switch tactics show her the bag and tell her we are bringing it . She begins to escalate, I tell her she can stay home I am taking the bag and leaving ~ not my finest moment I’ll admit . She continues to gesture to my room while getting more frustrated . I tell her Kiki needs the bag . I show her what’s in it .
I tell her you can carry it and put in the car
That seems to help except she takes the bag and throws it twice . And I’m Not sure if my daughters lap top is in it .
I tell her no and go to the grab the bag , she takes it and puts it in the car .
This is by no means the worst meltdown we have had or even a big deal in the grand scheme of things . It’s just added stress added frustration and extra time and steps that need to be taken .
It can be exhausting though . For us and for her . I am already questioning my decision to venture out alone . I will be traveling back ferry and shuttle alone just me and her .
I don’t know if she will understand that the girls and backpack are staying .
The shuttle ran late and missed the ferry
The next one is a freight ferry with limited passengers , I don’t know what that means but we are getting on .
I know I am blessed I am with two Of my beautiful daughters on a beautiful day , headed the the vineyard . I just wished things could be simple sometimes .
I am already getting anxiety about the return trip . But we are on route too late for doubts now .
I am sitting here with old home videos playing in the background, Christmas 1996 to be exact . It was Alyssa’s first Christmas. We had no idea the journey our life was going to become, no idea the twist that would be starting a year later.
My baby girl was having her first Christmas , sitting with a bow on her head with no signs of anything amiss, while my three year son was tearing through presents like a tornado.
We were at my parents house living with them while saving for our own house, which we purchased just 7 months later. It was our little family with my parents, and my sister .
Life seemed so much simpler then . I’m not saying it was perfect, it wasn’t .
It was full of hope. Full of love and laughter and dreams for our family . Goals and determination for a good life . Young and in love and on track to purchase our first home. Relishing in the excitement of our son and the assumption our daughter would be doing the same before we knew it. Why would we think any different as she sat on the couch, cute as a button with my dad , playing with wrapping paper and taking everything in as 8 month olds do.
It was free from the pain I have experienced since.
They pain of hearing the word autism
The pain of learning my daughter may never talk or walk the typical path
The fear of realizing our move to the suburbs away from the city in search for better life for our children, would also bring us away from friends and family and leave me isolated with two young children and no help.
A young mom 22 years old, alone with a very challenging child and a typical preschooler, trying to make sense of having a child with autism and all the difficulties that come along with it , and a young Dad with the weight of the world on him as he tried to work two three and sometimes four jobs , to support what we realized was not going to be a two person income. It was not in the cards at the time.
We did the best we could and our family supported us and loved our little girl the same if not more, and that has been one of life’s biggest blessings.
It was still a very painful thing to process and accept . At a time when there was no autism awareness at all. All the physical and mental demands this life brings and the emotional toll it takes is sometimes overwhelming.
To try to be hopeful and just move forward the best you can is all you can do. At this time I had no idea my child would be disabled for the rest of her life. I had hope as she was stubborn and tenacious, ridiculously beautiful and so bright, and if anyone could overcome this it was her . If any parents love and determination , if their devotion or their willingness to do anything for their child , could change the course of this path then surely it was us.
It would happen it just had too .
Three years later a devastating cancer diagnosis came . Another completely unexpected hand was dealt . My mother in law, Alyssa’s Nana was diagnosed with pancreas cancer. She was Alyssa’s person , she adored her and they had such a strong connection. She was there during the hardest of times. She completely doted on all her grandchildren but Alyssa was special to her . To think about life without her was completely unimaginable . She was the glue that held the family together .
They gave her 6 months to live and she was only 48 years old. It made an autism diagnosis pale in comparison.
She was taken way too soon. It was devastating, and as hard as autism is this showed me there are harder things in life . Other unexpected things that can change everything.
There are times in life where things are really hard , things hurt and feel like they can swallow you whole . An autism diagnosis can do this , losing a parent can do this, a pandemic can do this , there are many things in life that can and will do this .
This year has some really difficult things . A scary unknown virus, a pandemic, a shutdown. These things seemed as foreign and unknown as Autism pre diagnosis.
Loss of services, regressions, loss of sleep, the anxiety of the unknown , sickness and death for so many. The uncertainty of it all, wearing masks , the behaviors coming back and Learning a new normal , it all felt like a movie, or an alternate reality ; how could this be real life?
At the same time there came some good . Family bonding and togetherness , life slowed down . We learned to appreciate the little things . We spent time together . Alyssa, although regressing behaviorally , was progressing in other ways .
There were so many more opportunities for learning , modeling and interacting .
It made us take a second , an extra minute and find ourselves again .
We have to learn to take the good with the bad , to find the joy , and push the anxiety aside . To appreciate the little things . In some ways it’s a lot like an autism diagnosis , we have to find a way to adapt , to find joy and hope through the uncertainty , to find a new normal and forge ahead the best we can .
In not only 2O20 , but in life in general it’s about learning to live in the moment, to love and laugh and cherish these times of contentment , to work through difficult times without losing hope and losing ourselves .
Instead of achieving happiness we learn to soak up the good times , live with gratitude and give ourselves grace . Find the light or at least move toward it .
For a long time I hated autism , I resented it , I blamed it for stealing my baby girl’s life , and although a part of me will always grieve that life for her , I can see past it. I can appreciate the things autism has given me .
It has given me a beautiful girl , who will always be my girl . Who will always be sweet and innocent . Who knows nothing of darkness and although is forever child-like , radiates joy . Her smile lights my heart always.
Just like autism this pandemic has brought me unforeseen gifts . Through the zooms and the unexpected gift of time , I have made connections and friendships I Never thought I would have . Amazing moms who live the same life as me . Who understand and appreciate all the struggles and joy this life brings .
Alyssa inspires others, something I never thought possible . They look at her and see light and hope . There are no words that can describe how much that means to me . They see how amazing and special she is , just as I do .
So I welcome 2021 but as challenging 2020 was it bought me blessings too. It taught me things that I want to bring into the new year and not forget.
You never know what is waiting around the corner positive or negative . Taking life as it comes and to not always search for the next best thing, or something better, but finding solace in what’s right in front of you.
Each year brings hope for a better year but I think every year has its difficulties some are more difficult than others but it’s learning to slow down enough to appreciate the happiness and peace in between the tougher times that makes a difference, so here’s to love life and laughter in 2021.
When I look down at my daughter with bright green eyes and crazy curly hair , I feel like might heart could burst . At first glance she looks like a typical two year old bopping around the house with her Barney doll , or what ever item or toys she chooses today .
She is smiling and very busy as she wanders through the house exploring , climbing and twirling.
She will even come over to me and stretch her arms out for some bouncing and tickling and she will giggle and it’s the sweetest sound you will ever hear .
She will come to me and she will gesture towards the fridge , you see she has no words , not even any sounds really .
I will offer her her cup and she will either Happily receive it or throw it if it’s not what she wants . I will try to look at her but she will look away unable to look in my eyes .
The frustration will mount as I ask her what she wants and offer her a choice between two items . She will take one and she will be off again , sitting at the table is not a skill she had acquired and I wonder if she ever will .
I will repeat the words , asking her to make the sounds but it falls on seemingly deaf ears . We thought she was deaf actually for a while she didn’t respond to anything we said , not even her name . She is now responding to that , she will turn her Head and look and then quickly turn away but that is progress so I’ll take it.
She then retrieves her cup and climbs on the couch and the looks over at me . She wants to watch Barney , so I ask her do you want to watch Barney a she looks at me and then at the tv . Can you say Barney ?
She did say this before it was one of her first words but we haven’t heard in over a year .
She looks at me at say can you say Ba ? Say Ba slowly repeating the sound , silently pleading in my Mind for even a sound just one . But no sounds come out and the silence is deafening. She begins to get upset and starts flailing I retreat and put on Barney for her .
Her whole face lights up and she starts bouncing up and down while the songs start her favorite part . She is bouncing and squealing with delight . Just like that she is in her happy place .
After she resets she goes over to the door and slaps it . She wants to go outside , ok let’s get dressed . Easier said then done she does not like clothes and it is like wrestling and alligator to get her dressed .
As we are walking through the kitchen she grabs my hand and pushes it toward the counter ~~ ah she wants bubbles
She loves bubbles ! Can you say bubble ba ba bul . Nothing ~ I like I look deep into her eyes , searching looking for something , anything… She becomes Frustrated and impatient , and starts protesting and letting me know in her own way .. I want bubbles and I want them now . As I grab the bubbles I wonder if she will ever be able to say the words , to communicate .
You see I didn’t hear the words non Verbal autism yet , I didn’t know what that was and had never even heard of non verbal or a child who didn’t learn to talk .
I just longed for communication. For less frustration and more connections .
What I didnt know was she was communicating . This was her very first stage of it .
Pointing , Gesturing , pulling your hand and believe or not slapping things is all part of communication , it is considered nonverbal communication and it is the first step of communication
So as I Scurry outside with the bubbles and try to soldier on having no idea what this journey will bring and if words will even come , I remind myself she is only two she has time .
She will talk right ? Everyone learns to talk. Don’t they ?
She runs and jumps with excitement as I begin to blow bubbles . She has not a care in the world and I can’t help but laugh because she is so cute and her excitement is melting all my worries away at least for the moment
Communication is what we must fight and push for not just talking , as hard of a pill it is to swallow , there are kids who may never Speak .
We have to find a way to give them a voice and teach them to communicate .
When me and my husband got married Alyssa was 5 . She had gotten over the hump of the worst and most difficult times but was still pretty challenging . You never knew what could trigger a melt down , cause her to bolt or anything in between .
But I really wanted her to be my flower girl . I knew it might be a disaster but I wanted to try . Some thought we were crazy because honestly it was going to be an extraordinary challenge to even get her in a dress . To think she could handle walking down an aisle in a church no less was almost ludicrous . But I didn’t care I was going try ..
You see the thing with autism is you have to try and a lot of times it’s gets the best of us . It’s scary and overwhelming . It can be frustrating, embarrassing and down right heart breaking . But the successes are the best thing ! It’s feeling true happiness , relief and so much love all rolled into to one .
Unfortunately you need to go through a lot of fails in order to get the successes , I won’t lie sometimes it’s a down right disaster .
The exposure is everything it helps them so much .
I am incredibly stubborn ,so is my daughter and so is autism ~it doesn’t always end well .
I also am also realistic ,I knew that my daughter might not be able to handle it . I made a game plan .
I wanted Alyssa there ,the whole family was there and I wanted her there too .
I had my niece who was 7 be a second flower girl . That way she could help guide Alyssa . Also If Alyssa refused or melted down we still had a flower girl .
I hired a teacher from her school to come and help with her . She could take her out if it was too much without disrupting the wedding .
She wore the dress and walked down the aisle and it meant everything to me 💙
We truly didnt know what would happen . She did it and If I didn’t try and let fear dictate I would of lost out . It’s not always easy but it’s so important to try.
The experiences help them learn to tolerate the environment. It takes time but they do learn and it gets easier .