Autism Awareness~30 Days of Snapshots 2012: Day 10

Ok, so My goal to post everyday isn’t going so well this year. The challenges of having two teenagers on the autism spectrum in the house are, well…overwhelming at times. We have seen regression in many areas…behavior issues we have not seen in several years have returned. To say I am exhausted would be a VAST understatement!

Today as I logged in to Facebook, I saw a Blog post that struck a chord with me, Hate the Autism/ Hate the Child?  It got me thinking, and I mean REALLY thinking. I have said in the past that my kids don’t need “fixing”, that they are not Broke, just wired different, and I stand by that statement. Does that mean though, that I LIKE every behavior? No…There ARE things they do that I would change. My Heart aches when my son can’t tell me what is bothering Him, and yet I KNOW something is wrong. And that gut wrenching fear that hits when He decides to take off from school, church, or home…yeah I could live without that. It is no different than when I tell my youngest to stop whining, or some other behavior she should not be doing. I Guess what I am saying is this…I Love ALL three of my kids, in SPITE of Autism, in SPITE of those behaviors that I don’t like. God made them EACH Special, and regardless of their challenges, they are ALL Blessings. There are days when my Patience is SHOT, when I want to scream ” I Can’t TAKE IT ANYMORE!”, when I just want to go off and hide somewhere.

Yes, There are GOOD things loving a child with Autism has taught me…like how to appreciate the simple things, to take life at a slower pace, the value of a smile, a hug….One of my favcorite quotes is…

“You can complain because roses have thorns,

or you can rejoice because thorns have roses”

I have learned that wether it is with my kids, in my marraige, or in life in general If all I focus on is the Negative, I am going to be miserable, but I Can’t ignore the Bad all together either. Sometimes to see the Rainbow, one has to go through the storm first.  This past weekend, my Husband and I celebrated our 16th Wedding Anniversary. The road has not been easy, we have had our share of challenges, fights, and struggles, but we have learned a lot along the way….

Lessons learned in the 16 years I have been married to the AMAZING Man God Brought into my life….

 1.) NEVER fight in front of the kids

 2.) I MUST respect my Husband and Honor HIS Leadership. God placed Him as the Head of Our Household.

 3.) HONEST Open communication is KEY.

 4.) Resorting to name calling and fighting dirty won’t accomplish anything.

 5.) Don’t go to bed angry.

 6.) Even after 16 years, It is still fun to flirt with my husband.

 7.) No Matter how hard things seem, He is always there for me, I can depend on Him.

 8.) Without Trust, things unravel quickly.

 9.) I get more help with the kids if when He gets off work I don’t ambush Him as soon as He walks in the door. Give Him time to decompress first.

 10.) He needs “Alone time” as much as I do.

 11.) Submitting to His leadership does not make me weak, It is what God called me to do, and it actually makes me stronger. (Ephesians 5:22-33)

 12.) He can’t read my mind…If something is bothering me I need to TELL him, without backing him into a corner.

 13.) He worries about the kids as much as I do, He just expresses it differently

 14.) There is nothing wrong with being married for 16 years and still acting like newlyweds!!

15.) Even though I am a stay at home mom, that doesn’t mean I should stop dressing up for my husband.

 16.) I Love Him more today than I did when we met. The road has not been easy, but Walking it with Him by my side makes it all worthwhile.

 Our anniversary is April 6th….

16 years ago a Marine from Alabama and a Marine from Upstate NY said “I do” in North Carolina…

I Love you “Bama”,

For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part

 I am so Thankful God Brought you into my world in the middle of the desert in California!

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A Christmas Eve Truce….

As Christmas stories go, the following is one of my favorites. Maybe it is because I am a Military wife, maybe it is because I served active duty myself, I can’t explain it really, but this is one of my favorite Christmas stories….

Following is a fascinating story as told by Private Frederick W. Heath and reprinted by Alan Nothnagle of how World War One stopped on Christmas Eve almost 100 years ago and there was “Peace on Earth,” at least for one night, in the trenches of France where the Germans, French, and British had been previously slaughtering one another.

That Christmas Truce

Written in the trenches by Private Frederick W. Heath

The night closed in early – the ghostly shadows that haunt the trenches came to keep us company as we stood to arms. Under a pale moon, one could just see the grave-like rise of ground which marked the German trenches two hundred yards away. Fires in the English lines had died down, and only the squelch of the sodden boots in the slushy mud, the whispered orders of the officers and the NCOs, and the moan of the wind broke the silence of the night. The soldiers’ Christmas Eve had come at last, and it was hardly the time or place to feel grateful for it.

Memory in her shrine kept us in a trance of saddened silence. Back somewhere in England, the fires were burning in cosy rooms; in fancy I heard laughter and the thousand melodies of reunion on Christmas Eve. With overcoat thick with wet mud, hands cracked and sore with the frost, I leaned against the side of the trench, and, looking through my loophole, fixed weary eyes on the German trenches. Thoughts surged madly in my mind; but they had no sequence, no cohesion. Mostly they were of home as I had known it through the years that had brought me to this. I asked myself why I was in the trenches in misery at all, when I might have been in England warm and prosperous. That involuntary question was quickly answered. For is there not a multitude of houses in England, and has not someone to keep them intact? I thought of a shattered cottage in — , and felt glad that I was in the trenches. That cottage was once somebody’s home.

Still looking and dreaming, my eyes caught a flare in the darkness. A light in the enemy’s trenches was so rare at that hour that I passed a message down the line. I had hardly spoken when light after light sprang up along the German front. Then quite near our dug-outs, so near as to make me start and clutch my rifle, I heard a voice. There was no mistaking that voice with its guttural ring. With ears strained, I listened, and then, all down our line of trenches there came to our ears a greeting unique in war: “English soldier, English soldier, a merry Christmas, a merry Christmas!”

Friendly invitation

Following that salute boomed the invitation from those harsh voices: “Come out, English soldier; come out here to us.” For some little time we were cautious, and did not even answer. Officers, fearing treachery, ordered the men to be silent. But up and down our line one heard the men answering that Christmas greeting from the enemy. How could we resist wishing each other a Merry Christmas, even though we might be at each other’s throats immediately afterwards? So we kept up a running conversation with the Germans, all the while our hands ready on our rifles. Blood and peace, enmity and fraternity – war’s most amazing paradox. The night wore on to dawn – a night made easier by songs from the German trenches, the pipings of piccolos and from our broad lines laughter and Christmas carols. Not a shot was fired, except for down on our right, where the French artillery were at work.

Came the dawn, pencilling the sky with grey and pink. Under the early light we saw our foes moving recklessly about on top of their trenches. Here, indeed, was courage; no seeking the security of the shelter but a brazen invitation to us to shoot and kill with deadly certainty. But did we shoot? Not likely! We stood up ourselves and called benisons {blessings} on the Germans. Then came the invitation to fall out of the trenches and meet half way.

Still cautious we hung back. Not so the others. They ran forward in little groups, with hands held up above their heads, asking us to do the same. Not for long could such an appeal be resisted – beside, was not the courage up to now all on one side? Jumping up onto the parapet, a few of us advanced to meet the on-coming Germans. Out went the hands and tightened in the grip of friendship. Christmas had made the bitterest foes friends.

The Gift of Gifts

Here was no desire to kill, but just the wish of a few simple soldiers (and no one is quite so simple as a soldier) that on Christmas Day, at any rate, the force of fire should cease. We gave each other cigarettes and exchanged all manner of things. We wrote our names and addresses on the field service postcards, and exchanged them for German ones. We cut the buttons off our coats and took in exchange the Imperial Arms of Germany. But the gift of gifts was Christmas pudding. The sight of it made the Germans’ eyes grow wide with hungry wonder, and at the first bite of it they were our friends for ever. Given a sufficient quantity of Christmas puddings, every German in the trenches before ours would have surrendered.

And so we stayed together for a while and talked, even though all the time there was a strained feeling of suspicion which rather spoilt this Christmas armistice. We could not help remembering that we were enemies, even though we had shaken hands. We dare not advance too near their trenches lest we saw too much, nor could the Germans come beyond the barbed wire which lay before ours. After we had chatted, we turned back to our respective trenches for breakfast.

All through the day no shot was fired, and all we did was talk to each other and make confessions which, perhaps, were truer at that curious moment than in the normal times of war. How far this unofficial truce extended along the lines I do not know, but I do know that what I have written here applies to the — on our side and the 158th German Brigade, composed of Westphalians.

As I finish this short and scrappy description of a strangely human event, we are pouring rapid fire into the German trenches, and they are returning the compliment just as fiercely. Screeching through the air above us are the shattering shells of rival batteries of artillery. So we are back once more to the ordeal of fire.

 

12 years, Autism, and my camera

Anyone who knows me knows I rarely leave home without my camera. Let’s face it, I take A LOT of pictures! I am sitting here looking back through the past 12 years of my son’s life, and I am again reminded of one of the reasons my camera is so special to me. Looking back through Pictures, and am reminded how Blessed I am! To each person who is important in my son’s life, who has taken the time to step into his world, THANK YOU! To Dak, my dear sweet boy, Happy 12th Birthday! You have taught me so much about life, and Patience, Unconditional love, and joy, and here I thought I am supposed to be teaching YOU! I love you Dak-man, and am amazed by you!

Today, Dak is 12 years old. It has been an amazing, yet rough journey to this point. When he was 18 months old, like someone flipping a switch, He stopped eye contact, speech development, affection. It all just screeched to a halt. One of the most precious moments was when, for the first time, at 4 years old I heard him say ” I love you Mommy”. I still cry when I think back on it all. He has come so far from that  withdrawn, non verbal bundle of constant energy.  Sure, He still can give the energizer bunny a run for his money, but He is talking more. I don’t care if half of it is echolalia. I don’t care if 90% of the time He is speaking in “Dakese” He is TALKING, and that is a start!

One of the things that jumped out as me as I went back through photos from the past 12 years was how in the past year or so, His social world has grown. Up until last year most of his photos are either of him playing alone, or those “Mom has to have a sibling photo” type things. Then I got to the photos from 2010, and noticed a gradual change. Photos of him with FRIENDS! He ASKED for a Birthday party last year, even wrote me out a guest list. that was HUGE!

On this, my son’s 12th Birthday, I have to say Thank you….

Thank you God, for my son. He is fearfully and wonderfully made, and I know that You have a plan for His life.

To those who have stood by us on this journey, who have not walked out, but stepped up and said “I am here”, Thank you….

To those who have taken the time to see PAST the meltdowns, the non stop energy, the lack of verbal skills, and waited patiently for Dak to open up his world and let you in, Thank you!

To The kids both “typical” and Special needs who Dak has connected with, There simply are no words for how much it means to me when he yells “That’s my BEST FRIEND!” or yanks my arm out of the socket to get to you and hug you.

To his “typical” friends who don’t see the differences, who look past the surface, you are wise beyond your years, and if you remember these lessons later in life, you will go far!

To the adults who have been granted the honor of making his (Short) list of friends, grouped in with the kids, there are four of you who come to mind….You have NO idea how much it means to me to see my son’s face LIGHT up when Your names get mentioned.

To those family members who rather than judge or criticize, have held out open arms when I need a hug, called to check on me when Military orders take my other half away, who have been my rock, THANK YOU!

I am thankful for Miracle League Baseball, for providing a way for my son and his daddy to connect….

for His teachers who have helped me through so much….

to our church family ( which stretches around the world)…your prayers are what gets me through the hardest days, the moments when I feel as though I simply cannot take another step, that I can’t fight another battle.

Thank you to my husband, who walks with me on the front lines, who picks me up when I fall, who takes over when I collapse from exhaustion, who shares the joys, and tears.

Thank you to my two sweet beautiful daughters, who stand up for their brother in this cruel world, who (most of the time) are patient with him, and who amaze me with their perspective on Him, on life, friendships, and who sometimes understand their brother better than I do!

Dak, it has been an amazing 12 years, and I look forward to seeing what God has in store as you continue to Grow! Thank you for reminding me that its the simple things that matter, for showing me that TIME is what is important, for reminding me to stop and smell the flowers. I love you my super hero!

“Close your eyes,
Have no fear,
The monsters gone,
He’s on the run and your daddy’s here,

Beautiful,
Beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful Boy,

Before you go to sleep,
Say a little prayer,
Every day in every way,
It’s getting better and better,

Beautiful,
Beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful Boy,

Out on the ocean sailing away,
I can hardly wait,
To see you to come of age,
But I guess we’ll both,
Just have to be patient,
Yes it’s a long way to go,
But in the meantime,

Before you cross the street,
Take my hand,
Life is just what happens to you,
While your busy making other plans,

Beautiful,
Beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful Boy,
Darling,
Darling,
Darling Sean. (Dakota)

we interrupt the regularly scheduled Blog posting….

Hurricane Irene, she may have hit miles away from where I live, simply because she turned East and headed up the east coast rather than coming into the gulf of Mexico. I am deeply grateful for that fact, but Irene still impacted me deeply. Not only did she hit the Carolina’s where I was stationed while on Active duty in the Marines, and where my Husband and I were married, but she also tore up the east coast and devastated parts of Upstate NY, my childhood home, very near and dear to my heart.

It has been very surreal the past few days to be sitting in the southeast praying for, and watching the devastation caused to NY State by a hurricane, waiting on word from family and friends that all is well.  I am used to it being the other way around, them waiting on ME to call, them praying for ME as a storm moves in.

My thoughts and prayers are with ALL those effected by Irene, from the Carolinas to Canada, and my heart aches for all the farmers in the rural areas devastated by all the flooding who have lost so much more than just their homes….but their crops, their very livelihood to this storm. My heart breaks for upstate NY, but I am VERY Thankful that all my loved ones are accounted for and are all ok.

This is Our Autism

Fellow Autism Momma, Blogger, and Military wife, who also happens to share the same first name as me posed the question “What is Your Autism?”

I started to respond as a comment there, but there is just too much to say…..

Autism is a journey. It started as speech, eye contact, and all other social development screeched to a halt when our son was 18 months old. It is Doctors who wont listen. It is family members in denial, critical , blaming me. It is other family members embracing us, coming along side and being there the best they know how. Autism is sensory issues, meltdowns brought on by the sound of the vacuum cleaner, the lawn mower, the sound of his little sister crying. Autism is cupping his hands over his ears and repeatedly opening and closing them as a thunder storm approaches.

Autism is no sense of danger, jumping into the deep end of a swimming pool or darting into the street without stopping to look. It is wandering away from the safety of home because he gets an idea in his head and decides to go to Toys R us on his own.

Autism is knowing an animal for every letter of his ABC’s. It’s watching the same movie over and over and over and over and over….(you get the picture ) repeatedly, day after day. It is randomly, usually out of context repeating lines from said movie, at any given moment of any given day.

Autism is long sleepless nights. It is non stop hyper active energy.

Autism has sent my world upside down, into a complete tailspin, and yet, it has shown me so much about myself, about my children, about the world we live in. I have seen the best come out in some people, and the worst in others. I have heard it all, “but He looks so normal, there is nothing wrong with him.” “He is just spoiled, your a bad mother” “Autism is ruining your lives, you should put him in an institution” “Oh we will watch your girls, but you have to take that boy with you”. It is rejection, Pain, sadness. A loss of dreams and hopes, a bundle of fears, a constant, daily struggle.

Autism is learning about things like IEP meetings, meltdowns, seizures, elopement, and echolalia.  it’s piles of paperwork. It is Dak standing up at church, in the middle of church and announcing “I done, I go home NOW!” It is screaming and wanting Daddy home NOW when Daddy goes away for Military training. It is taking something, anything he can get his hands on when Daddy’s gear comes out of the closet to go away for training, and hiding it.

But, Autism is so much more. It is a reminder to slow down, to cherish the simple things.

It is the first time I heard my son say ” I love Mommy” at age 4.

It is seeing Him jump up and down with excitement and yell for the first time EVER, at age 11 “That’s MY BEST FRIEND!!”

It is the leap my heart felt when He ASKED, guest list and all, for a Birthday party for his 11th birthday.

It is the sound of his contagious laughter ringing through the house as he plays WITH his sisters instead of alone in his room.

It is trying not to laugh as my youngest daughter comes flying out of his room screaming “MOM tell Dak I am NOT evil!” with Dak HOT on her heels swinging his lightsaber and yelling ” I Dak-man, I battle evil”, and wanting to jump for joy that he is PRETENDING, while having to explain that he can not hit his sister with his lightsaber, that she is in fact, not evil.

Autism is a journey, paved with tears, patience, and LOTS of prayer. It is hoping for the best, and preparing for the worst. It is a battle some days, and on those days, I feel like I simply can’t go on. It is a rollercoaster where the highs are WOW! and the lows are……well, Ouch.

Like my husband tells anyone who will ask, our son is not broke, He is just wired different.

Autism is love, Unconditional, deep love, stronger than any meltdown, bigger than any low. It is a love that keeps me going even on those days when I want to give up. It is a love that enables me to pick up the pieces, calm him down when he falls apart, to fight with doctors, to stand up for his rights at school. It is a love that is like nothing I have EVER known in my life.

Some Gave All: Memorial Day 2011

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend. What does that mean to you? Do you know the difference between Veteran’s Day, Armed Forces Day, and Memorial Day?

Armed Forces Day is for those who currently serve. Veteran’s Day is for those who can be considered a Veteran. Memorial Day is for those who have GIVEN THEIR LIVES for our country.  For most, it is simply 3 days off work. For others, it’s a lot of savings at stores nationwide. But for Me, and my Family, it’s a day to remember our fallen troops that have fought in battles WORLDWIDE. Please remember the reason for your 3 day weekend and don’t confuse the days.

“All Gave some, Some Gave All”

Remembering The fallen,

the men and women who have served our country,

and are no longer with us here on earth….

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the death of these men, rather we thank the Lord that such men lived”

Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

Grandpa Day: US Air Force Retired , Died 1998

Andrew Susi: US Army ,KIA Vietnam, May 27,1970

Ruth Rabeler: WAAC

Bovina WWII Honor Roll

Specialist Matthew T. Bolar : US Army, KIA Iraq May 2007

Sgt. Michael M. Kashkoush USMC, KIA Iraq Jan 23,2007

Sgt Travis Pfister USMC KIA Iraq Feb.07,2007

Robert Banhorn, USMC Retired

RIP, and Semper Fi

“Each of these heroes stands in the unbroken line of patriots

who have dared to die that freedom might live and grow and increase in its blessings.”
— Franklin Delano Roosevelt

My Husband, My Hero

Two weeks ago, I looked around my house, as it erupted in Camo Green. It was time for my Husband to pack and leave for his annual two weeks of Training for the Army National Guard.  I had been preparing myself with Prayer, and begging for an attitude adjustment, I was NOT Thrilled with the timing this year…..Right in the middle of Ball season, REALLY? But, I put on a brave face, and helped Pack two weeks worth of clothes, uniforms, and gear into 2 seabags.

He left on His Birthday, so I baked a cake, and cooked Lasagna, giving an order that the Guy who was nice enough to give Him a ride to his unit was GOING to stay for dinner. Since Among other things, He was going to miss our Youngest Daughter’s Birthday, I surprised her with the cake and we celebrated BOTH Birthdays…..

While He was gone, we did the best we could. We stayed INSANELY Busy, and the nights were the hardest. We Missed Him Terribly, but I took MORE than enough Photos of every event He missed. We found a way to make it through Every ball game ALL three kids had, we managed to make sure Prom was a wonderful special night for Sara, we helped Shawna through missing Daddy on her Birthday, we worked together when Dak decided he was DONE and wanted Daddy home NOW.   We celebrated Easter, and did school field trips. We Prayed through a severe Tornado Outbreak. I Vented here on the Blog , I was VERY Overwhelmingly blessed by the friends and neighbors who stepped up to help me when I felt as though I could not handle anymore.

Today, when He got home, when He surprised the kids ( who thought he would be home tomorrow) it was somehow ALL worth it. It was PRICELESS!!! Shawna was waiting for her softball coach to come pick her up for Practice. She saw a truck slow down at the driveway and went to get her softball gear, then realized it was not her coach, it was Daddy, and she RAN in the house screaming “DADDY’S HOME!!!!” and then came FLYING back outside…..

On one hand, today was bittersweet. There was no Major overjoyed reaction out of Dak or Sara about Daddy’s return home, yeah, they are glad He is home, and they Hugged Him tight , but after the past two weeks of Dak screaming and crying about wanting Daddy home, His reaction today was…..anti-climatic.

~~*~~

What reduced me to tears though, was Shawna’s reaction. My sweet lil Shawna-bug…she had spent the past two weeks clinging to me like glue, crying herself to sleep, her precious light up a room, melt your heart smile had been hiding, coming out for brief glimpses, and then back into hiding again. Today, that smile was back, and has not left her face….

Shawna’s heart warming smile is back…

My Princess has her Daddy home…

and I find myself thankful that My Hero is home, and Praying for all my Military Family who are going through deployments,  thinking of those who are nearing the end and inching daily closer to their own joyful homecomings, thinking of those who are just beginning the long journey, and praying that each and everyone of them get the chance to feel the joy I saw in my child tonight. My heart breaks for the families who have lost a loved one, who will not see the joy I saw in my child’s eyes tonight, who will not get their joyful reunion.

As You prepare to celebrate Mother’s day this weekend, as You go about your daily routine, remember Our men and women serving in the Military, remember the Gold Star Mothers whose sons and Daughters will not be coming home. Remember the Military wives Missing their husband’s, raising their children with Daddy away, and PLEASE also remember the Military Husbands who are raising their children while Mommy is deployed!!! Say a Prayer for our Military Families, Semper Fideles, and may God Bless America!