The REAL Joy of Yosemite

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This trip we took to Yosemite was amazing and beautiful and stunning… not only because Yosemite is a series of natural wonders but, honestly, because my boy, once again, left me gobsmacked.

As you might recall….
My boy at three did not speak.
My boy at three was expected to have significant delays and his outlook was not going to be rosy according to his medical eval.
My boy at four was labeled difficult and impossible and defiant by the psych at the elementary school who was trying to evaluate him.
My boy at seven was offered a spot BACK in SPED because he was not easy or simple or perfect.
My boy, in those elementary years, rarely had a smiley face day.
My boy at eight screamed for two hours under a desk while the class was evacuated and I was called because the principal and teacher could not resolve the issue (that’s a whole other post.).
My boy at eleven was not expected to remain independent as he transitioned to middle school.

I promise you, this journey has not been simple or easy. This journey has not been filled with a line of people waiting to support or embrace us. It has been a fight and a struggle from day one to raise expectations and goals so that my boy could grow into the man he has the capabilities to be…if others would open their eyes.

He is different NOT less.

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Today he is 15 and, in Yosemite, do you know how much he needed my assistance? NONE.

  • It was the first night we’ve ever spent in a hotel where my boy simply WENT TO SLEEP. No drama, no ultra-awakeness, no agitation.
  • In the very cold weather, he explored…no complaints, no tantrums. Just a boy in the woods.
  • When the chili on his chili dog was not mine AND extra spicy, he never once complained.
  • And, in the morning at the very fancy Ahwahnee, we sat down in the fancypants dining room for breakfast…a buffet. A b-u-f-f-e-t. And when my boy said he wanted to get more pancakes, I had this gut reaction moment when I was going to get up to go with him…but I stopped myself..and I held my breath a bit…and I let my son go like any other 15 year old boy.
    And you know what?
    Along with all the other people, in the line going the right direction, my boy dealt with life in the buffet line ALONE…with no bumps or stumbles or corrections from the public.

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Just my boy…being the man he is becoming.

He is needing me less and less and although those apron strings are hard to untie, it’s very, very good to see him becoming this man I wasn’t sure he’d ever have the capabilities to be…but he does and he is and I am darn proud.

Wonder Souls…don’t ever forget…Who they are at two and three and four and seven ISN’T who they’ll be at thirteen and fifteen. This journey is a process…just keep teaching and supporting and loving.

Sparkle On, my friends.

The Gobsmacking Moment

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So, as I’ve told you, I’ve struggled with my boy starting high school this year. Sometimes as mom starts stepping back and letting the boy step up, I feel like maybe I am not doing enough, not on top of it all, not in the “know”. When his report card came and there were mostly As and Bs, I felt better but the C in math was a concern. Naturally, I went to the spectrum kiddo to discuss where he is and what struggles he might be feeling.
I will also be honest in telling you, math has never been my happy place.
Our conversation went exactly like this:
Mom: How’s math going?
Spectrum kiddo: It’s good.
Mom: The C in math makes me think we might have some struggles. You had an A last grading period.
Spectrum kiddo: Yeah. I know. I’m really not sure, Mom.
Mom: Can you show me what you’re doing in math? Do you understand all of it?
Spectrum kiddo: I think so. Yeah, sure, I’ll show you.My boy then picks up a yellow post-it note. The exact yellow post-it at the top of the page.  He asks, “Can I write on this?” I tell him sure. He then writes the equation you see on the yellow post-it.
Yeah. That’s HIS writing.

And then he says “This is what we’re doing in math.”
Mom: What is that?
Spectrum kiddo: It’s point slope and slope intercept form.
Mom: And you understand all of that?
Mom: Oh yeah. I understand all of it.

G-O-B-S-M-A-C-K-E-D.

And that is when mom closed the jaw that was hanging wide open on her face and left the boy alone because his math skills have FAR exceeded my own. And I walked away in a daze remembering all the abysmal evaluation reports from so long ago with my boy’s name on top that said he wouldn’t and he couldn’t be any of the things he is NOW and yet he IS and he DID and he COULD and I’m so glad I never listened to the can’ts and the won’ts.

Who they are at three and five and seven is not who they will be at 15.  Trust me.And, seriously, Do NOT tell me autism is not sparkly and brilliant.  It is…every single day.
Sparkle On, my friends.

 

A Love Letter to Nintendo…

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I understand there is a very popular philosophy these days that says electronics and video games are evil and that Nintendo and wii are ruining today’s youth. Yeah, I don’t always agree but I get it. I personaly wonder if the grown-up-blame-throwers ever calculate how many hours they themselves spend in front of screens texting, Facebooking, and all day binge watching multi seasons of television shows . Kids are no different than adults, in my opinion, their screens are just smaller.

But…here’s the thing…

I seriously need to send Nintendo a thank you note. No, really, a ginormous thank you.

For years, nearly a decade, my boy and I have battled over electronics.  My wanting him to get outside and play and him wanting to stay in the cool house and play Nintendo and wii.  Don’t worry, I always win because, as the adult, I can confiscate the electronics.  But, after many years, you get tired of having to force the child to go outside.  It gets tiring to always be the bad guy, always being the one to take the electronics away or severely limit them.  After a while, you’d like to not fight about electronics.

And that is why I am writing today.  I honestly need to thank Nintendo for bringing a new found peace to my home and to my parenting game.

It appears, in a crazy turn of events, that Nintendo’s games, Sonic Generations and Street Pass, actually require “play coins”. Play coins!! And do you know how you get “play coins?” You have to play!!! Yeah, after my glue-the-face-to-the-screen-while-sitting-on-the-couch boy went outside to “scooter” in the SUNSHINE for half an hour on three different occasions, I asked him what was going on. Not that it bothered me but, after years of couch sitting and mom having to force the outdoor play, I will admit it confused me.  So, like I said, I asked him what he was doing.

My boy then informed me, “I’m scootering to get play coins.”

Thank you, Nintendo.

Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. You didn’t have to write that into your game program but parents everywhere are thankful <3. There IS method to the madness <3.
Sparkle On, my friends ❤

Being John Goodman

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As so often happens in my house, sleepovers are never really just one night.  The last minute sleepover my youngest son threw together was slowly turning into an almost “all-weekend over”.  It morphed from a sleepover to a sleepover with lunch and movie and, by the time we were done, the seemingly innocent one-nighter was beginning to span a second day.  It happens like that when the sleep over guest conveniently lives right across the street and is also frequently a near-resident of our home.  You never know, when you make that first night commitment, when the child will actually move back into their own home.

They are twelve.  It’s sweet.  I’m good with it.

I wasn’t even very surprised when they started talking about a movie.  And when his mom asked if she needed to feed her boy lunch first, I of course said no and that we would find a fun place to eat before the movie.  I just didn’t know the slow motion service at the boys’ choice of eateries would find us splitting those very last seconds of time in order to make it on time to the movie.

Okay, and honestly, we weren’t on time enough to see the pre-movie trivia part of the program but I’m happy to report, we plopped down into our fourth row floor-seats-before-the-steps seats in a super dark theater but just in time to see the first preview.  Yeah, those seats.  Since we were running a scoche bit late, we got floor seats.  The ones that sit you down almost inside the movie screen where you are obligated to crane your neck to see the upper section of the screen.  Tough seats but perfect timing.  I was just settling into my seat and taking my first relaxing breath of our boy-brain-sleep-over-marathon when the previews began towering over my head.

That’s when it happened.

Unexpectedly.

That fly-under-the-radar-sweet-guy, unassuming John Goodman, gobsmacked me right to tears.

Really.

I have always, on some level, been a John Goodman fan.  Never a hater, perhaps lukewarm for the most part (and not a groupie by any means) but I will say with my first viewing of Always, with Holly Hunter and Richard Dreyfus and coinciding with the summer I worked/survived my wildland fire crew, he won quite the place in my heart.  At 5’3″, and 110 pounds soaking wet back in college, firefighting was a hard gig for me that summer I was assigned to Plumas’ Engine 3-81.  Somehow, Holly Hunter dancing in that white dress, making grocery lists in her sleep and John Goodman swooping in as that devoted friend to pull her out of the dumps when she was falling apart sure got me through that summer of my  own personal deep waters.  That troubling summer, I wished I had a John Goodman to be my rock, my puller-up-out-of-the-dumps-despite-my-protests.

But I am digressing. This is about John, not me.

Until I sat in that crane-your-neck-movie-seat, I’d never thought much about John Goodman. I’d loved him as Pacha and Sully and in a flurry of great performances over my life but despite the stack of performances he’s nailed over decades, the importance of John Goodman had not become apparent until that near-weekend-sleep-over.  Not until the preview for Monuments Men towered over my craned neck did I notice the larger than life and wonderfully colossal qualities of this man I’d known for so long.

Larger than life is not a reference to the size of the man that John Goodman is.  Though he truly is a mountain of a man, it wasn’t that kind of colossal that occurred to me in that moment. It was that colossal kind of mettle that molds a soul into more than who you thought them to be until they towered over you.  The kind of colossal that sets a man apart from who life and his peers should have turned him into.  A greatness that comes from so much more than merely the individual pieces that make up the whole.

John Goodman?

Colossal?

Really?

You’re probably thinking, “Come on, Sparkles, he’s no Robert Redford, you know?    He’s John Goodman.  Good, kind, funny…but colossal?”

Yes.  Colossal.  Stay with me here.

I look at our autism community and we are a lot of things.  A LOT of things, my friends.  We are vocal, passionate, intelligent, educated, committed and brave but, there are moments, when we lack the colossal of John Goodman and that foundation that makes us all more than the sum of our parts.  He is that.  It’s a crazy time we’re living in, Wonder Souls. We spend an embarrassing amount of time giving our attention to the antics of celebrities, hanging on every dysfunctional word that comes out of their mouths, watching as they become obsessed with trivial things like fancy clothing, cars and being seen.  In a community of crazy that celebrities become, John Goodman is a truly and magically a horse of a different color.

A horse of a different color because he is not merely a product of the place he comes from.  He is so much more.  In many ways he is a quandry, a mystery and he is so much more than the sum of the parts.  Despite the acting community he resides in,he is not a man chasing fame.  He is not a man catering his actions to please the masses or his peers.  He is boldly himself.  He is kindly himself.  He is unabashedly himself…despite who those swirling around him choose to become.  He is boldly an independent without harboring a need to crush anyone else.

We all need more John Goodman within our lives, within our communities.

Crazy, you say?  No way.

Watching the faces of the Monuments Men, I remembered a lot of things about John Goodman and not one of them was mean.  I see a man who is humbled, flawed and modest at a time when few people choose that path.  I don’t remember one unkind word.  Not one moment of blame.  Not one moment when he was anything other than kind and true to himself.  Over the last three decades, not once have I watched him be a follower of the masses. He may not agree with me and that’s okay because, you know what?  He didn’t ask me to write this nor did he give me any permissions to see him the way that I do.

I give him a pass on this one.

But what I see, when I look at him towering above me, is a man who has always been just himself.  Throughout the many decades he has graced those celluloid cells, he has been nothing but an original.  In the acting community where so many of his peers chase a fleeting image of thin and fit, he balks at the stereotypes and chooses to simply be an independent without apology.  What I see when I look at John Goodman is incredible strength and character in a world that does not make it easy to be that way.  He is not a perfect man but he is honest and he is real and, no matter what happens, he is kind and smiling.  Positive despite the trials and triumphs of troubles or failures.

That is what strikes me most about John Goodman.  That is what I think is missing in the autism community and perhaps in life in general.  He is comfort and kindness, he is a smile in troubled waters and a familiar chuckle…no matter how deep those troubling waters may be.  We need more of that.  More John Goodman in life and certainly more John Goodman in the autism community. Just try it.  Be the John Goodman that’s missing in your life, in your circles, in the autism community.

More good.

More honest and less perfect.

More flawed, more real and much less camo and pretend.

More soft places to fall into and less finger pointer.

More acceptance and less blaming.

More being John Goodman.

I think he’s pretty darn sparkly and more sparkle is always good.  Sparkle On, my friends.

Superman Is Okay

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I was looking back through pics tonight.  The little guy pics of my spectrum kiddo.  The pics of the boy when he was one and two and three.  The pics I took during those moments of his childhood when autism was starting to swirl in our life.  I look at my spectrum kiddo in those two and three year old pics and it’s as though it was yesterday and I can still remember.  I remember how the new weight of autism felt in my life and how he behaved and how I despaired about the future.  I remember the pieces of paper I kept all over the house, upstairs and down, that counted the words he could say.  I remember how hard I worked at listing each and every word we could hold on to so that I could have a number to disprove the doctor.  I remember having fourteen when the doctor said we should have a hundred and then having just forty six when we should have had five hundred and how hard I tried to remember if there were anymore I’d forgot to list.  Sleep deprivation from a mom of three under four does not always travel well with autism and specific recall.

I distinctly remember the helplessness that was so often simmering right under the surface of my composure.  I remember how I fretted and would become unexpectedly tearful any time I began to speak of him.  So much for my composure during those days!  I loved him so deeply but, being me, I was pretty darn skilled at rounding life off to the nearest disaster when I resided in that helpless zone.  I was even better at looking at the future instead of the now.  There were no game plans, support groups, no FB friends, not one person to help me see beyond the darkening curtain of autism that doctors were surrounding us with.  It felt like, in those early years, I was losing my boy.

He was distant.
He was quirky.
He had odd habits.
He was overly sensitive.
He was picky.
He was not social.
He did not talk.
His evals were abysmal.
His skills were limited.

I see that little man in the pics now and I can finally really see him.  I’m not sure I could at the time when I took the pic because all I could see in those early years was the fret, the worry and the autism that kept popping up in reports.  Now, with our journey traveling as far as it has, I wish I could have stopped the fret and the worry because now that I can truly see this kiddo who has grown up, I marvel at the weight we sometimes let autism grow into and how we let it cloud our vision and allow our own fret and worry to cloud the growth of our Supermans(and girlies) as they are developing.

Who he was, over the years, did not magically change.  He still owns every single quirky piece to some degree but, tonight as I look at him playing with his wii-u, he has certainly grown immensely and yet I also can see clearly he is very much still the same kiddo that he was at three.  NO cures, NO magic bullets, NO gurus for us….and yet I see him and he is also almost entirely different.  It’s as though the wiring in his body and his brain,at two and three and four and five, was way-jumbled up and it took time, more time than for his brother and sister, for the wiring issues to be worked out.  It took lots of extra years for him to grow his coping skills and he’s still quirky and he’s still got his odd habits but….it’s okay.  It’s really okay.  Who he is….is very okay.  Superman is okay.  Not perfect and not always easy but it’s fine and who he is is so much more than I ever could have imagined and this life we live with him is more than I could have dreamed up.

So, really…from the bottom of my heart….I’m advising you to simply relax.  Step in and work hard, sure, but also give the kiddos breathing room and understand that just because it’s not happening now doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen.  Let them be kiddos and love who they are and don’t stop working on strengthening those weaknesses but do add a level of patience and fun to your bag of strategies.

Don’t be the fret-ball-o-tears that I was.

My boy, my wonder, my Superman of autism, is exactly who he is meant to be but I wasted a LOT of time in those early years grieving some image that I created in my own head of who I thought he was obligated to live up to.  How silly is that?  And, you know what?  Not only does life not work that way but, more than anything, that’s not fair to him.  It’s not right to predetermine who we expect our children to be because of some selfish vision we have in our own heads.  Let them evolve into who they are meant to be.  My boy, with all his quirkies and imperfections, is entirely himself and he is perfectly HIM. My goodness, he is Superman!  He will continue to grow and change and morph into just who he was meant to be and I will take a deep breath, fight every fight to clear his path, support his growth, strengthen any weaknesses we may find along the way and, every day, I will keep on marveling at the miracle he is in my life.  Simply the very best version of himself that he could possibly be.

I am still gobsmacked that the two year old boy in those baby pictures grew up to be Superman, my Superman, and I am the lucky one who gets to help him adjust to this journey because this world really needs more kiddos like him.  Marvelous souls who can share with us all the textures, striations and brilliance that are privy only to their spectrum eyes and, I tell you honestly, that’s a much more striking image than the cookie cutter vision that was floating aimlessly around in my head on the day he was born. He is so much more than I ever imagined and I am finally able to see that brilliance takes time to develop.  Mysteries are not unraveled in an instant and Superman was not grown in a day. Take that deep breath and remember, with patience and lots of love, they will continue to grow into the super heroes they were destined to be.

Sparkle ON, my friends!!

The Remarkable Superhero Siblings Of Autism

It was our beach day.

I was trying hard with four children to get out the door by 7:30 a.m.  We were off to our beach, Jellybowl, and there was still a bit left to do. I had three kids of my own plus one friend to get organized, sandwiches to make, a dog to feed and a cat to appease.  The kids needed to get dressed, remember their rash guards and beach shoes and mom needed to remember to find the sunscreen, pack chairs, gather enough towels, bring clean comfy clothes for the drive home and enough drinks to keep everyone hydrated (but not too many since I would need to carry all those drinks  up and over the train tracks on the trail to our Jellybowl).  I’m pretty good about the chairs and towels but I have forgotten the sunscreen before and it is never pretty.  I didn’t grow up using sunscreen so it is not top on my list.  But today I have been entrusted with a friend’s child so I can’t mess that one up.

Ok, I digress.  Away from the sunscreen and back to my point.  This is about autism.  Really, it is.  Just wait for it…

So in the middle of the chaos after I have just finished cleaning up the zucchini bread mess the dog left in the kitchen (because we did not adequately protect the zucchini bread my daughter made from the food obsessed labrador) and I am in the middle of brushing my teeth when my fourteen year old comes in to my bathroom to finish drying her hair.  It’s all good.  We co-habitate well and we share pretty well too.  And, at the same time as my daughter begins to unravel the cord on the hair dryer, my twelve year old comes in to ask if I will tie his swim trunks.  He is all about being naked at home and not ashamed of his body in our halls but being on the beach and losing your shorts is an entirely different story.  He wants to be certain his shorts stay up.

With my toothbrush in hand and the toothpaste slop dripping off, I ask him to wait a minute.  He stands there patiently, waiting pretty well and then his sister does this thing she has started doing.  She is fourteen, he is her little brother and the really neat thing I see that morning is that he is just her brother… before he is her autistic brother, and she does this thing.  She steps in to help out.  Without a word, without a huff or complaint, without announcing it to me and before she plugs in the hair dryer she instinctively reaches down and, in a motherly fashion beyond her years, she ties his shorts.  He says thank you and goes on his way.  Without fanfare, she asks, “Isn’t this autism day or something?”  I finish brushing my teeth and tell her, “It’s autism awareness day.”  It’s a quiet conversation between us.  I tell her what the world is doing.  She asks what we are doing.  I tell her we are going to Jellybowl.  I tell her she can wear blue if she wants to.

I smile quietly to myself so that I don’t shine too much light on it.  This is all normal for her now.  I realize as we are speaking to each other that…. autism is natural to her.  Autism was never really part of her existence.  Well, it was and it wasn’t.  Everything about autism is familiar to her but it just never had a defined name.  It was not applauded or hated during her childhood.  It was not painted in neon and carted around our life.  It was just part of us and, because of that, autism is different to her than it is even to me.  It was just her little brother.  We never spoke about autism or being less or giving him special privileges.  He was simply her brother and she treated him…well,  just like a brother.  She never asked what was wrong with him, he was a part of her world and she just accepted who he was.  His value was simply equal to hers and her other littler brother.  Yes, he might have been quirky or amplified at times but it was normal to her.  He is nothing more than the older of her two little brothers.

She was twelve before she ever spoke the word.  She was twelve before she ever asked what autism was.  She was twelve before she asked if her brother was.  I had books on the shelf and she was helping me organize them.  Actually, being the girl she is, she asked if she could organize the shelf.  When she was finished, she asked, “Mom, is my brother autistic? You have a lot of books about autism.”  And, that was the beginning of her understanding and maybe even putting together the pieces of her memories.  It wasn’t a big conversation.  I think I said something like, “Yeah, he is.  But that doesn’t mean we treat him any different.  We expect as much out of him as we do anyone.  He is just as capable as any of us and just as intelligent.  This doesn’t change anything.”  Her response, in that oh so lovely fourteen year old tone, was something like, “I know, Mom.”

And, she is the sibling.  She is the next generation.  She is amazing.  She knows autism on a different level than most of us and it is simply part of life.  It is neither less nor is it more.  It just is.

She is the awareness others seek.

And, honestly, there is little fan fare.  We don’t hang banners, we don’t do walks, we accept and love it and bring it to the world in our quiet way and when others ask, we say, “Yeah, it’s autism.”  And, they say, “That’s autism?”  And, we say, “Yeah, it’s autism.  Yeah, that’s what it looks like.”  It looked different at three than it does at twelve but, yeah, that’s what it looks like. It was a lot crazier at three and at five and at seven than it is at twelve but he is still himself.  Autism is part of him but it is not all of him.  Yeah, it’s autism but it’s more than that too because he is more than autism.

My daughter is a straight A student who has an IQ that mine never ventured anywhere in the vicinity of and I have great hopes for her.  She is remarkable and I hope one day that because autism is so natural to her that she will be the awareness in her generation that says, “Yeah, it’s autism.  So what?”  And not the kind of “so what” that says we don’t care about your needs because you are not like us but rather the best kind of “so what” that says, “What’s your point?”  The kind of “so what” that says we all have the same value and WILL be treated equally.  And the acceptance that follows the awareness begins with her as a role model for autism’s “So What-ness.”  By birth she has become an autism ambassador but, the really cool thing, is it is so natural to her…she doesn’t even know it.  She simply accepts it as normal.

I hope she becomes a scientist or a doctor or the POTUS and with her strength and her ability I hope she sets the tone for her generation to begin to see autism through new eyes.  Her kind of eyes that see iridescence rather than a lessening of value.   In my biggest dreams (mine and not hers I have to tell you, LOL) I imagine her becoming a doctor who works with kids.  And, with her understanding, I imagine her telling these new parents, “Hey there.  Yes, I do have the diagnosis.  We have found that your child is a bit iridescent.  The official term is autism but seriously, with the experience I’ve had, I have come to see autism as so much more than just one word can contain.  The word, autism, is so confining but these kids are overwhelmingly iridescent.  Yeah, you’re right, he/she is going to be quirky.  It’s a kind of quirky sparkle that you may not be used to and you may need some support with it.  I know, it won’t be easy and some days will just down right suck but, take heart, these iridescent kids are crazy brilliant.  You just have to be patient.  Part of their brilliance gets stuck in their sparkle and it takes a little longer for these iridescent kids to sort it all out.  Don’t give up and don’t lower your standards though because he/she sure is going to surprise you. OH, and hey…let me tell you about my brother.”

And, I know, not everyone will agree with me.  I get it.  Autism is different for everyone.  But this is my dream…that one day the awareness will be so internalized that no one will care about the differences, or the tantrums or the lack of eye contact because we will also have a plan of action, a path to follow.  I hope one day that people will understand more so they will point and blame less.  I hope one day play groups won’t gripe and complain about their inability to socialize as easily as others and teachers won’t feel they are doing favors or being slighted by taking these kids into their classes.  That it won’t take specialized training to prepare teachers for autistic students because teachers and school districts will be expected to teach all students together and equally.    And, when the world is trying to point fingers and lessen those with autism I hope she, and others like her, stand up with their young peers and begin a new generation that says, “Yeah, it’s autism. So what? It’s all good.  We are all the same.”

Autism: Ordinary and Awesome

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This.

This happened on our way to school this morning.  Just me and my spectrum kiddo during our five minute drive to middle school.  Have I mentioned he floors me?  Well, this time you could have scooped me up off the floor because I melted.

Mom:  Nonny told me you mentioned to her that you were wondering if something would happen to you because you are autistic.

My boy:  Yeah, I asked her that.

Mom:  Does it bother you?

My boy:  No.  Not anymore. It was just something I wondered about.

Mom:  You know autism just means your brain is wired differently, right?

My boy:  It doesn’t feel any different, Mom.

Mom:  Well, it’s not really, Buddy.  Just means you are capable of some pretty great stuff.  It’s actually pretty brilliant.

My boy:  Mom, not really.  As far as I can see….it’s pretty ordinary.

(speechless at this point and scrambling for some response..)

Mom: You know what, Buddy?  You’re right.

And it occurs to me that most of the time I am in go-mode, in perpetual motion, always trying to stay out in front, put the supports in place, make sure he has what he needs, train the teachers, make sure the IEP reflects his needs, ensure we are not getting lazy or taking steps back….so much so that I didn’t realize that to him, it is all ordinary.  He does not see it as brilliant or spectacular or difficult or any such thing…It is simply ORDINARY.  Today, in a breath of fresh air from my boy, I was given the opportunity to see autism anew..through his eyes.

Absolutely gobsmacked.

And, if you’d go find a snow shovel, I’d appreciate it if you’d scoop me up because flattened and floored is where I am <3.  I love this kid.  No matter how much I think I know him, he never ceases to make my jaw drop and leave me utterly speechless.