LIFE IS A SPECTRUM

turkeycraft

This masterpiece is available as a T-shirt, wall clock or hand puppet for a small fee.

It's weird the things that stick out in your memory. I can remember one Thanksgiving while I was still in elementary school when the teacher had given us the assignment to take each letter in the word “Thanksgiving” and come up with one thing for which we were thankful starting with that letter.

I was going like gangbusters till I got to “V.” I couldn't think of a single thing. “V?!” What is there to be thankful for that starts with a “V?” I didn't care anything about the violin, was completely ambivalent about the state of Virginia and verbs.

I was so proud of myself when I finally came up with “vision” that I turned to the girl next to me to show off. Her “V” word was “Very Happy.”

That didn't even make sense. How could you be thankful for “very happy?” I can remember trying to explain to her how that didn't make sense ...

And 30-plus years later it's still bothering me, because I am THAT much of a nerd. A nerd who LOVES the holidays. I love getting turkey crafts sent home in the kids backpacks and going to parties where the kids wear slightly racist Indian headdresses and we celebrate the fact that we left England for a better life! (That last bit is a little in-joke between me and the hubby. He calls Thanksgiving “That time of year when you Yanks celebrate giving smallpox to the natives, right?”)

I have so much to be thankful for this week, this year, and I'm going to do it (literally) old school-style:

T is for toilet-training! We're 90 percent there! I can't get any more specific without spoiling your Thanksgiving dinner.

H is for hair cuts. My beautiful little man finally got one from the nicest, most patient beautician at a Supercuts. Her name was Mary. Now that we've started reading Christmas stories, every time the Nativity comes up, Billy points out “Baby Jesus and Joseph and Mary ... Mary cuts your hair.”

A is for autism. It's always there; a part of every holiday, for better or worse.

N is for Nan, as her grandkids call my mom. She has a close relationship with all her grandchildren, and particularly with Billy. There are so many times that she can get through to him when no one else can. He's made so many breakthroughs in her company. It just goes to show that sometimes love is the best therapy.

K is for Kindermusik! I discovered both Billy and Willow's love and talent for music in this special class, and we'll miss it after this semester when our wonderful Ms. Jaci moves on to other musical opportunities. So, Jaci, next semester we're cool to just drop them off at your house on Saturday mornings, right?

S is for Sisters: Mine is hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year! Thank goodness, because my house currently looks like we keep a herd of goats in the living room. “S” is also for Willow's favorite new way of describing herself: “I saucy!” she tells us regularly.

G is for gymnastics. Billy rules the school on the balance beam. This from the kid who literally falls out of his chair at the dinner table 16 times before he can finish a cheese sandwich.

I is for “I,” a pronoun that Billy has started occasionally using. It's still a rare occurrence, and you're still likely to hear him scream, “You don't need a poo-poo!” at the top of his lungs, much to the alarm of passersby.

V is for vegetables, which thanks to ABA therapy, we are occasionally managing to get our son to swallow. With great effort. And bribery. Um, I mean reinforcers.

I is for Immodium and Immodium for Kids, without which our family wouldn't have made it through the last week. (Am I oversharing again?)

N is for neurotypical. I may write more about Billy, because this is an autism blog. But I thank God every day for both my kids and the fact that the second one has been so easy ... which probably means, of course, that on her 16th birthday she's going to get her eyelids pierced and elope with a motorcycle gang. Eh, it's still been worth it.

G is for gang. HA! Just kidding. Actually, I'll go with that – my gang. You know who you are. I'm related to some of you. Some of you I've adopted because you listen to me whine so regularly that you're entitled to be the beneficiary on something. Some of you I've never actually met, officially, face-to-face, but I talk about you to the rest of the gang so frequently that we've decided to give you a jacket and let you in on the secret handshake. To all of you: Thank you.

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Reader Comments

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T is for...

T is for Thank God it's over. I know that makes as much sense as very happy but I hope toucan forgive me. It's all I've got.

N is for Nougat

I tried to do this exercise based on a prompt from my friend Sherri's blog, but when I could only come up with "nougat" for the first N, I knew that I had to throw in the towel.

A VERY Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Just a quick comment between calories. I'm pretty sure I'm well on my way to 4,000 for the day, calories that is. Love you post, again. You'll have to write a cr@ppy one soon so I can say something mean... but not today, on Thanksgiving. You all have a lovely day. We flew to NY to celebrate with my wife's family. It's very Norman Rockwell here. Talk to you later.

--Michael (aka: http://adaddyblog.com)

p.s. My daughter did Kindermusik since she was a tiny girl. Oh, and the eye piercing comment made me laugh... LOL as they say online.

"Eyelid-piercing"...ouch! Maybe she'll go for something less disturbing, like purple hair!

Fun list, Amanda...I hope you guys have an amazing Thanksgiving!

Wendy

Big Daddy stole my comment.

But, it is good to know that somewhere out there, someone's representing my praenomen well. (Can you guess what my new word of the week is?)

LOL today my oldest, Corbin (8) , told me he was so thankful for the Pilgrims because without them we wouldn't have Thanksgiving- I quickly cut him to the core and asked shouldn't you be thankful for the Native Americans...his response, "You mean the Indians?"

Not So Bad

My baby sister got an eyelid piercing and eloped with a biker gang. It's not so bad. We see her every now and again on America's Most Wanted.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Total 7 comments

sunshine

As we prepare for the big Turkey Day holiday next week, it's easy to get caught up in the preparations, the stress that comes with housecleaning and menu planning and overnight guests. The irony is that many Thanksgivings have passed without me behaving in the slightest bit thankful for anything.

Today's guest has already made me re-think my priorities. Jessica Watson is a very talented blogger sharing her life's stories at Four Plus An Angel. Her blog is named after her five children, "four in my arms and one in my heart," as she describes her beautiful bunch. In October of 2007, she gave birth to triplets at 28 weeks of gestation, "and my sweet daughter Hadley passed away in my arms on her third day of life," Jessica tells us.

Over the next week, I'm going to be especially thankful that both of my kids have a place at our table, and I'm going to save a special corner of my heart for those parents who have suffered an unimaginable loss.

In Jessica's own words ...

---------------------------------------

Jessica_babies

Parker and McKenna's first Thanksgiving in the NICU

We've Got This One

Since we lost our daughter, holidays have not been my favorite. Hanging six stockings instead of seven and filling one less Easter basket is enough to make me want to sleep through the day all together. But I have a wonderful husband and four living children who would not dare let me stay in bed during their waking hours so I have learned to face reality and scale holidays back to what I can handle. I just don't have it in me to manage the craziness of big parties and the hustle and bustle of all the holiday happenings that were our life before.

But Thanksgiving I can do. Actually I think I'm pretty good at it.

If there is one thing that losing a child has taught me it is to be thankful. I struggled with this in the beginning, the thought of being thankful when I was bitter and felt cheated out of a lifetime with my daughter, but her last breath left me with an understanding of the fragility of life that will forever change the way I cherish life around me.

I wake up every day thankful down to my toes to have a house full of living, breathing children because I know things could have turned out much differently. Of course there are days they can push my patience to limits I never realized I had but in every tantrum, mess or sibling argument there is always a moment when my mind quiets and I am reminded that I am lucky for the simple fact that they are alive. The gratitude I now have for life is hard to explain. I have watched life stop when I had no idea that it would, to watch it go on and on each day never ceases to amaze me.

When I put my kids down to sleep at night I am very aware of the fact that there are moms out there who pass by an empty nursery each day that they have never been able to use but can't bear to take down and when my husband is running late from work I immediately run through my head to our last conversation to make sure I told him I loved him and the answer is always yes, because I never forget, and I dish out the I love you's like candy in this house.

Sometimes I wonder if it is morbid to think this way, to live each day like it could be the last, but it has become the only way to find peace for us. I don't think I will ever look back and regret living my days so consciously, reminding myself often that all I have is to be cherished.

I don't think my children will look back and be sad that the dishes were piled in the sink while we were all playing hide and seek or that Mommy and Daddy ran to them a little too quickly and smothered them with kisses if they got hurt because we were a tad on the paranoid side.

I think, at least I hope, that we are building our family with a contagious amount of love and gratitude and a deep appreciation for the fact that Thanksgiving is the one holiday that we have in the bag.

Reader Comments

What a beautiful post!

Beautiful Post

Thanks for this Jessica...I have new perspective going into this upcoming holiday week.

Thank you

First, Jessica, I'm so sorry for your loss. Your perspective is really quite amazing. It's inspiring.

I've never lost a living child, but I lost two before they were born. I could relate to what you said about your level of gratitude for the things you have, and how you lavish your children with love because of it. I've always sat in awe of the way some form of goodness tends to spring from pain. Maybe it's partly a survival instinct, but I like to call it grace and wisdom.

I hope you find peace this holiday season. What a beautifully written post. (And thanks, Amanda, for introducing Jessica to your readers.)

Total 3 comments

wed_dave-mandi

Despite the low resolution on our photos, I was married in 2002 not 1902

A lot has been written about the dire prognosis for marriages when a child is diagnosed with autism. One stat (which I'm convinced is totally made up) claims that 80 PERCENT of marriages of couples with kids on the spectrum end in divorce.

Now don't get me wrong. I can understand why these kinds of statistics might be believable – particularly to the people IN these marriages. There have been plenty of afternoons when I've seriously considered going AWOL for a few years. I'm not proud of it, but I've had those fleeting thoughts.

I'm surprised there isn't a statistic about how many of these marriages end in the homicide of one or the other partner, because let me tell you, when you've spent the afternoon with a child screaming about his fear of kangaroos any time you try to take him to the bathroom, by the time your spouse gets home, you're in the mood to take VERY. LITTLE. CRAP.

Now. Having said all that, I have to go all gooey and tell you how lucky I am. Seriously. I hit the jackpot. Eight years ago today, I married a man whose finest qualities I had yet to discover.

I loved him from the beginning because he could spell. We met on one of those lame Internet dating sites that we both joined as kind of a joke, bringing incredibly low expectations to the enterprise – expectations that, for me, would lowered as I encountered the likes of “Tedy BARE Needz Sum LURVE!!” and “Wanna join my Hairum??” (I'm not sure, but I think that's like the Steak-ums of harems.)

The_New_Family

Our new family in front of the harbor in Chania

Within 8 months of meeting, Dave and I were engaged and talking wedding plans. I had always had this fantasy about getting married outdoors in Greece, and here's the first of David's really stellar qualities that I would uncover AFTER falling in love with him: He shrugs and goes along with pretty much any hair-brained scheme I plot.

With almost no money, one driver's license between us (mine), and knowing only the Greek alphabet (I learned 20 years ago as a Delta Zeta pledge), we set off one August day from England, where we were living at the time, on a weekend-long fact-finding mission to Crete.

First fact we found: Don't go to Crete in August. It's about a million degrees and there are more mosquitoes than tourists – which is saying something. Month of wedding set: November.

Second fact we found: Chania, a beautiful city on the western end of Crete, used to be a Venetian port and has incredible old architecture. Location of wedding: Casa Delfino, a Venetian palace converted into a hotel.

We gathered family and friends around us one breezy November night in 2002, just inside that gorgeous courtyard, just after a warm rain. Dave's best friend, Steve Eyre, a lay minister, performed the ceremony. His daughter, Imogen, our 3-year-old goddaughter, danced around us and loudly announced to everyone, “This isn't a wedding!” Then we shared a week of good food and incredible sight-seeing with our nearest and dearest before returning to England as Mr. and Mrs. Broadfoot.

dave-me-courtyard-wedding

When you meet someone, when you plan a wedding with them and first fantasize about a life together, you don't evaluate the potential of your relationship by imagining every hard thing that could ever happen. It's human nature. You fantasize about setting up house together and traveling the world together maybe and possibly having laughing, beautiful babies together.

We have had all that. And so much more.

Over the past eight years, I have been reminded at every turn what an amazing man I married. He never minded changing a diaper or getting up in the night to handle a feeding while I slept. He rarely loses his patience and genuinely loves being a dad.

Even more incredibly, his faith in our son's potential never wavered for a moment, even when we got the news about autism, even as we saw certain fantasies evaporate before our eyes. He always reminds me of the beauty in the real children we have. He has never said “There's nothing wrong with Billy” but he has always been able to see the funny side, the miraculous side, the beautiful side of just about every challenging situation.

I didn't choose Dave because of his amazing ability to parent a special needs child. I didn't evaluate the risks to our relationship if we happened to hit a really big hurdle, but deep down, I knew he could handle it. I knew and know we both can.

The only statistic that matters to me: I'm 100 percent certain I will love him for the rest of my life.

Happy anniversary, Mr. B.

Reader Comments

Blessings in abundance, always!

What a beautiful post, and a beautiful tribute to your husband. You are both truly blessed to have found each other - you're both keepers! - and I wish you much happiness and laughter together, always.
LOVE your posts, and I love catching up with your vlog every week, dear friend!
Sunshine xx

Eeeeek! How could I forget the most important part?? HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO YOU BOTH!!!

Thanks so much for sharing your story. I can tell by your photos just how happy and perfect you are together. No one ever said it would be easy but someone once told me it's how we make it through the rough patches that determine whether or not we'll make it through in the end.

I wanted to thank you so much for visiting me on my SITS day and leaving me such sweet, encouraging words. It meant the world to me, especially coming from someone with such a beautiful spirit and loving soul. You have a new follower in me :) Hope you're enjoying your weekend!

beautiful post - congratulations on your anniversary. I love your line "The only statistic that matters to me: I'm 100 percent certain I will love him for the rest of my life." That's just awesome...

Oh wow -

How incredibly awesome - you don't need to be told how blessed you and Dave are, because you know it and live it.

*Sobbing*

Tears, sobbing, shaking.....
I am truely shuddering like a child who has calmed after crying for an hour.
I am filled with joy for you and your family.
Congratulations and Blessings!!!!!

Happy Anniversary!

Congrats and wishing you many more years!!

Loved your story and tribute to a wonderful man. My parents just celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary and in today's society that was a big deal but I know some people who celebrated...get this...76 years!! Can you imagine? Unfortunately, they both died this year but they had some wonderful years together. That is something to aspire to.

You go girl. Your children will love you for it when they are grown and struggling with a spouse who doesn't do exactly right and society says "just get a d......"!! Love you story!!

Total 19 comments

Billy's got a black eye again this week. It's not his first, and most certainly not his last.

childrensinjuries

It's never a normal accident that causes these publicly obvious injuries. Clearly, people are going to ask how my four-year-old got his black eye. I'd like to be able to say something run-of-the-mill like “He fell off his bike.” But no; I have to say this: “He was balancing on two bowling pins while holding a pumpkin and then he fell off and hit his face on his wooden advent calendar.”

There was a time when I tried to lie. Instead of telling people that he was wearing one of my high heels and got his foot stuck in the staircase railing, I would say, “He slipped on the stairs.”

But after a while, the frequency of times he “slipped on the stairs” or “ran into a door” started to make me sound like a battered wife – or more like one of those characters on Lifetime movies who have the crazy Munchausen disease and like to feed their kids salt. Too many normal accidents just don't sound realistic.

I know I've written about my bafflement at Munchausen by proxy before, but it bears repeating. Supposedly (and I'll accept it happens, even if I don't understand it), these women injure their children so that they can go to the hospital and get sympathy.

S_billyinjured

March 2009 - And in case you're wondering how his hair got injured, I used to have to cut in myself.

A few problems with this:

1. If they want sympathy, why don't they injure themselves? Whenever my kids are hurt, I always feel like the hospital, teachers, passersby on the street are judging me, rather than sympathizing. Probably because I'm judging myself. And probably because they don't understand how a kid managed to get up on top of two bowling pins with a pumpkin without anyone noticing but PEOPLE, I have to go to the bathroom SOMETIMES!

2. Secondly, no one at the hospital has ever given me any sympathy – even when I was the one injured. Billy needed five stitches over his eye in the emergency room when I was nine months pregnant on the very day I was DUE with Willow and everyone acted like his autism and my pregnancy were a huge inconvenience. They actually told me, “You'll have to leave. We're not prepared to deal with it if you go into labor.” Wait a minute: You're not prepared to deal with it? This is a HOSPITAL. Actually, this is the hospital in which I'm scheduled to give birth.

3. Sick, injured children are not fun. They cry, complain, have to stay home from school. And one thing they do not do: Sleep. I would rather sleep than get sympathy.

Anyway, I didn't want people reporting me to child services, so I finally just started telling the truth. The whole truth:

“He was wearing one of my nightgowns over his head – he calls this game 'The Black Beast,' for some reason – and he ran into the fridge head-first.”

“He was wearing a laundry basket over his head while riding his scooter and hit the pile of pumpkins we keep in the living room floor.”

"He was trying to erase the chalkboard with his butt and fell off the table."

“Pumpkins won't flush. That's all I'm gonna say.” (We have a lot of injuries involving pumpkins this time of year.)

For some reason, everyone seems content with the fact that I just couldn't make this crap up.

Reader Comments

He's ALL Boy isn't he?

Mine were relatively sedate but the oldest one organized the entire playground into Dodge City (he was Matt Dillon) and the youngest was found engaged in a peeing contest out of a tree in the backyard! I also caught him and his best friend hauling a ladder into our back yard so they could lean it against the trampoline and jump from the top! He kept his angels working overtime!

I went looking for this article I remembered reading about boys and found this ... enjoy!

One of my favorite little books is titled Up to No Good, The Rascally Things Boys Do: edited by Kitty Harmon. It is a compilation of stories told "by perfectly decent grown men," recalling their childhood years. Here are several examples that made me smile:

"In seventh grade, the biology teacher had us dissect fetal pigs. My friends and I pocketed the snout of the pig and stuck it on the water fountain so that the water shot straight up out of the pig's nostrils. No one really noticed it until they were bent over just about to drink. The problem is that we wanted to stick around and see the results, but then we started laughing so hard that we got caught. We all got the paddle for that."

-- Mark, Ohio, b. 1960.

"A friend and I found a coffee can of gasoline in the garage and decided to pour some down a manhole, light it, and see what would happen. We popped the manhole open, poured some gas in, and replaced the cover so that it was ajar. We kept throwing matches down but nothing happened, so we poured all the gas in. Finally, there was a noise like a jet engine starting up, and then a big BOOM! The manhole cover flew up and a flame shot up about fifteen feet in the air. The ground was rumbling like an earthquake, and the manhole cover crashed about twelve feet away in the neighbor's driveway. What happened was the gas ran down the sewer lines for a block or so and vaporized with all the methane in there, and blew up all our neighbor's toilets. I'm a plumber now; that's how I know exactly what happened."

-- Dave, Washington, b. 1952.

"I am blind, and as a kid sometimes I played with other blind kids. And we always found just as many, or more, ways to get into trouble as sighted boys. Like the time I was over at a blind friend's house, and he took me into the garage to show me his older brother's motorcycle. We decided to take it out for a spin. Why not?

We rode down the street feeling for the curb, and at each intersection we'd stop, turn off the engine and listen, and then cross. We rode all the way to the high school track, where we could really let loose. First we piled up some dirt at the turns of the track so we'd feel the bump and know we were still on the track. Then we took off, going faster and faster and having a blast. What we didn't know was that people showed up to run on the track and were trying to wave us off. We couldn't hear them over the roar of the motorcycle engine, and nearly ran them over. They called the police, who showed up and tried to wave us over too, but we kept going. Finally they got their sirens and bullhorns going and we stopped. They were furious and wouldn't believe us when we explained that we hadn't seen them. We proved we were blind by showing them our braille watches, and they escorted us home."

-- Mike, California, b. 1953

from http://www2.focusonthefamily.com/docstudy/bookshelf/a000000388.cfm

The Eraser

Poor Billy! Even though that's one heck of a shiner, you have to admit it makes him look like a tough guy, especially with those Spider Man jammies!

This post made me think of the first time Henry really got hurt. He was standing up in the laundry basket, laughing like crazy, when he lost his balance and fell backward againts the hard, plaster corner of the wall. He got a goose-egg the size of a fist, and the worst part is that I was sitting just inches away from him, too shocked to brace his fall. Big mom fail.

Little boys, I swear. When they're not being absolutely wonderful, they're giving their mothers heart attacks.

Erasing the chalkboard with his butt...ha! That's my personal favorite. Our stories aren't nearly that interesting. Audrey has ended up in the ER twice during the Halloween season, but somehow neither time involved a pumpkin.

Oh sweet boy

Oh sweet boy :) This is such a great post A. Thank you, you CAN'T make this stuff up I know; some of the things my kids have done just make me crinkle my brow, stare gaping at them, with a great big "REALy?!"

SO freakin true!

This is HILARIOUS! Isn't it soooooo true? My son split his chin 4 times- and I'm always freaked out that people are going to think I'm beating him! But yeah- you just CAN'T make the stuff up. I like the white board one! How does he handle it? Funny thing is a lot of times, K can eat it HARD (he does at least once daily anyway...) and not make a peep! Othertimes, it's the end of the world. We have a lot of balance problems over here/combined with curiosity! ;) Bad combo.

Oh No!

The poor guy! You should stop making these outlandish stories up!

Hehe!

I hope he feels better soon.

I've always thought...

....funny you should bring up Munchausen Byproxy. I've often said "Why don't these women (usually women...I never hear about men w/ munchausen's) just adopt a child with significant special needs??? I mean....if you WANT all the attention and appointments, there are plenty of kiddos with LOTS of special needs just waiting to be adopted. Really!

I hope your little man heals quickly.

The worst is when as a parent, YOU accidentally injure your child. The J-man was having some serious issues with getting into his carseat, and fighting us like crazy. I ended up holding his legs down while Tim buckled him in. The next day, he had fingerprint bruises on his legs. Oy.

When I was very early on pregnant with Dale Jr, I ended up in the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack. My doctor told me to go to this particular one... so I went. I ended up being transported via ambulance to another hospital because the original hospital no longer had an L&D (how is that possible?!). I couldn't get them to agree that at 8 weeks, I wouldn't NEED an L&D unit if something happened.

Hoping the Blue Eye gets better soon. Ouch!

Total 12 comments

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