Family

This Woman's Work

IMG_1695.JPG

 "So are you concerned about this-the oral stimming, the mouthing of objects-do you want therapists to get him to stop?" "Well, yes I am concerned about it because he's putting things in his mouth that aren't healthy or safe like batteries/charging cables/my rings/his clothing...but I don't want him to stop stimming, no-I don't want him to stop doing something that helps him find comfort and process stimuli (internal or external). I'd much rather focus on helping him find safe things he can chew or mouth on, you know? Like chewy tubes, or some kind of fidget that can help him get the input he's seeking orally. But I don't think this particular stim is one we should work on getting rid of. No."

I spent 2 hours in a room doing this-advocating for my kid, talking, explaining, objectively and constructively fleshing out as accurate of a picture of him, his needs/strengths/abilities/struggles as I could for the intake therapist at Easter Seals. Just like I did last week for an hour with the speech therapist, last month with the team at Kaiser's Autism Center in San Jose during his assessments, and as I've done repeatedly for the last 3 years for Alex. It's a weird balance trying to maintain when you're working to get your kid the help he needs while also making it clear that he is not "broken". It's pushing back at the subtle and overt messaging that there are parts of your kids that need to be fixed by asserting instead that perhaps what needs "fixing" are the classifications of certain behaviors as "typical" (i.e. "good") + a world that isn't inclusive of difference that exists outside of narrow parameters. It's choking back whatever worries/anxieties/fears you have as their parent and steadying your voice so you come across as concerned but informed/proactive/capable. It's ignoring the surprise that starts in their eyes and spreads across their face, alters their body language, and shifts their tone and warmth toward you once they realize the Black woman sitting across from them can talk about things like language development, the vestibular system, primitive reflexes, sensory integration, and varying behavior modalities on a "professional" level. It's verbally adding nuance to the questions that can't be answered with a simple "yes/no/sometimes" or the 2 lines they give you to "explain further". It's smiling and relishing in the moments in between answers when you can elaborate on who your kid really is in spite of what's in the reports and diagnoses.

I've done it so much for all 3 of my kids over the last 3 years I've learned how to talk about them/their needs/their struggles as their mother and advocate simultaneously. I've learned how to detach emotionally and be objective and firm. I've learned to remember what's been said in every evaluation/appointment/therapy session. I've yet to learn how to keep it from exhausting me though. I'm hoping they learn from watching and hearing me do it how to do it for themselves as they grow and navigate the world on their own. 

It's what I wasn't taught how to do by my own parents. Isn't that the goal, ultimately? To do for the next generation what couldn't be done for your own, so that each one becomes more equipped to navigate life and better themselves and world? That's the work we've been asked to do isn't it? It's exhausting work but I choose to believe it's worth it. I do. 

IMG_1696.JPG

Easter 2016

image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg

My Easter reflection this year comes from Rev. Broderick Greer. It is honestly one of the best messages about faith and the Resurrection I've ever read/heard, and I don't say that lightly or because he's a leader and teacher I follow. It's a message I desperately needed today, and perhaps you do as well. 

   "Resurrection does not happen outside of death, suffering, and trauma, but in the middle of it. In a world still marred by sexual, racial, gender, and economic violence. A world in which our loved ones still die. A world in which the middle and working classes are being forced out of their neighborhoods at alarming rates.

A world in which - without a moment’s notice - terrorists disrupt workaday life in places like Brussels, Paris, and Charleston, South Carolina. Easter isn’t the erasing of our individual and collective traumas, but the gathering of our glooms and transformation of our traumas. It is God staring us in the eyes and saying, “Death, oppression, and grief are real and so are joy, love, and resurrection.” 

Read the rest: "Fire, Water, Bread, and Wine" 

Happy Easter, friends. 

Oldest

This guy.  

image.jpg

Fully alive. Fully comfortable with being himself. He is the embodiment of empathy and compassion. With him everything is literal and everything is meant to be deconstructed, examined, and pieced back together. The Engineer. The Dancer. The Illustrator. The Observer. The Gamer. The Talker. 

He's his own person, but I see so much of myself in him. I'm grateful he came first. I'm grateful that his brothers have him to follow after. I'm grateful he's here because he holds our family together and keeps us on our toes.

He is magic. 

A Parking Lot Conversation

Scene: Target parking lot. 

Me: "OH- look at that mama with her baby-isn't that baby adorable?!"

Alex: "He is-look at his wittle face and baby toes! Baby toes! Mommie, we need to get that baby one day."

Me: "Uh, no, we can't just take other people's babies, sir. We can adopt a baby that needs a family, but we can't just go GET one that isn't ours."

Brennan: "Yeah, Alex, if we didn't adopt one, Mom would have to MAKE a baby, which is kinda gross-have you seen what babies look like when they come out? There's blood, and mucous, and a woman's insides all over it, because it was INSIDE of her. Like next to her ORGANS. It's so gross, but once you clean them up, and they lose the peeling skin, they're cute. Loud but cute."

Alex: "WHAT?! I don't want a poo-poo baby!"

Me: "Who said anything about poop?!"

Austin: *unleashes blood curdling scream, once again cementing his position as The Baby in the family and the last to ever come from THIS body*

End scene

Austin's Power

image.jpg

You. The force and power is strong with you. I hope you always know it and channel it to live life as it's meant to be lived: out loud, wholehearted, and on your own terms. Always stay connected to your power, and remember it's okay to remain unconventional in your approach to this Life, my Bandersnatch. Allow no circumstance or misguided opinion to temper your intensity as you grow into it either. Hold onto your joy as tightly as you hold onto your brothers when pulling them down to the ground with you to laugh and wrestle. Refuse to let go. Be you. Always. 

 

I love you my sweet, wild, beautiful, boy. 

             -Mama

Breathe In. Breathe Out.

image.jpg

I'm not used to living here yet. We've been here just over a month now. Friends and family ask how I like it so far and the only answer I have is this: the weather. There's something about the weather that's made me realize how much I need this kind of weather as much as I need therapy, medication, and my hands working paint on canvas. Especially in the evening after navigating life, motherhood, illness and all other intersecting points of my existence, the breeze is refreshing. It breathes into and restores. It fills and carries and quietly settles my soul. During the day it's deliciously warm without becoming stifling. (I didn't realize how stifling Austin was for me personally in some ways until coming here.) The constant infusion of Vitamin D during the day paired with cool breezes in the evenings has reset and centered my mind & mood in ways I didn't anticipate. I also didn't anticipate the tears that gather at the base of my eyes at random as I go about settling in here. There are moments when they gather slowly...others they come rushing, swelling, and crashing on top of me in a way that kicks my chest in. They come on inhales and break me open when the exhales shakily emerge free. I don't know what's been broken and set free, rebuilt and released within me but the tears have me mindful that something is taking place...

We leave our doors and windows open practically all day and my hands press the buttons to roll down the windows instead of reach for the AC when we climb into the car.  I can breathe fully here. Not sure why. I didn't realize I had stopped doing that in Austin until I took my first full breaths of evening air here. Interesting. I don't know what our lives will consist of here or what California will be/come to us. I don't know how I like it yet. I just know I'm breathing again. 

Starting Week 2

Today was the start of our second week in California. I'm still not oriented to Pacific time. The days seem to simultaneously fly and stretch a lot longer than before, especially in the evenings as we enjoy the cooler air and watch the sun slowly wane. My sense of time is completely off. Life feels like it's been going in s l o w motion and I'm in my own world...

I have so much catching up to do. I set a lofty goal of tackling my inboxes today in between accepting mattress deliveries, a trip to Target for yet more We Needs, unpacking, and attempting to bring organization to the chaos strewn about on two floors of living space. 

I didn't answer a single email or do any catching up. I just took care of what was for today and I'm lying on our new bed reminding myself that it just has to be enough. I'm just one person with three kids trying to navigate the shifting. I didn't mop the floor either like I wanted to. Or put away our clothes-they're all still in totes and suitcases. The playroom is an explosion of toy chaos. I did manage to water the yard & garden, taking a needed second look to inventory what's actually growing there

image.jpg
image.jpg

I finished unpacking the kitchen and moving boxes to the garage. Put up some curtains. We all ate. The boys beds still aren't put together (long story, thanks IKEA) but hopefully tomorrow the assembly crew will make it happen.

Hula hooped in the yard because it's been too long and the evening breeze was vibratory.

image.jpg

Visited w/ Lynda. The boys played nonstop allllllll day. Our mattress was delivered and it's hella comfortable. Sat in the driveway watching color show off in the sky. 

image.jpg

Yes, it IS enough. We had a full day. I'm grateful for what lies in front of us here. I'll catch up on emails, texts, and work once The Move and its process is no longer pressing, stressful, and all consuming. Until then, I'll take the time to languish in the NorCal breeze we've already become addicted to and breathe deep. 

I'm still reserving judgement but the belief that we're going to do well here is slowly easing its way into my bones and resting in the marrow. It leaves me hopeful. 

image.jpg

How I Get Through This Thing Called Our Life.

image.jpg

"How do you manage everything on your plate and stay sane?" she asked somewhat laughingly but her eyes were completely serious. They earnestly searched mine as she grabbed his hand to take him to the back, imploring me to answer honestly.

The grappling, pulling, juggling, managing, navigating and maneuvering, keeping track and keeping pace, doing it sometimes alone, the grind, keeping it straight, holding it altogether, the staying afloat and standing upright even when your knees are buckling, the work. This work of parenting, living, surviving and grinding to thrive internally and externally. Life.  

How do any of us do it?  

"Medication," I answered with a smile. "And color. Always color. The bolder and richer the better, honey."

She nodded. "Then I guess I should tell you that Orange is definitely your power color. Every time I see you wearing it, you emanate strength. I'm going to miss seeing your colorful self and the boys here every week. I know the others here will too-we love your family."  

I swallowed back a rising flood of tears and let out a shaky breath as I smiled back. 

 "NOPE. We can't do this yet. We have three more visits left before we can get emotional about saying bye. I can't really admit it's happening because I'm still just not ready for this change to occur, you know? I know it's going to be fine, but I'm just not ready."

We hug and she takes Alex into the gym, joking with him as he skips next to her laughing. N comes and scoops up Austin, sing song-ing her hello in an effort to quell his anxiety during the transition from the waiting room to the gym. He cries like usual but I wave and smile reassuringly to let him know it's going to be fine. They disappear behind the door and I turn to Brennan. He's already engrossed himself into Creative Mode on Minecraft, and when I reach out to give his shoulder a squeeze, he looks up and smiles, scooting closer to me on the seat. 

I exhale and allow it to quiet my mind as I insert my headphones, shuffle through my library and press Play. 

This is how I do it. The living and grinding. The managing and standing upright when my knees are buckling as I do the work to thrive. 

Medication, honesty, color, reaching out for support, loving gestures in moments and in ways I didn't experience as a child. That's how I do this thing called our Life.