As autism awareness month comes to an end, I can’t help but look at our family life. Autism is not something we think about just in the month of April, we live it every day.
The wind is a little chilly but the sun is shining bright. Our little loves were eager to get outside and enjoy all our backyard had to offer. We don’t go to public parks much especially on pretty days. They are normally to crowded for our little guy. The noise can be to much for him and trying to keep him safe while allowing the others to play freely is stressful. The stares and the whispers from the other patrons should not get to me, but it does. So our backyard is our sanctuary. Here he is safe and here our other four can run and play and I don’t have to worry.
Four are dressed in their play clothes while one is in his standard pajamas. It maybe 70 degrees outside but you will always find him in his magic long sleeved flannel pajamas. They are his safety net at home. While our other little loves run and play tag he sits on the sidewalk lining up his cars. He seldom looks up, but when he does it’s for a quick Look Momma look what I did. He loves his cars. He spends hours lining and relining them up. He is perfectly happy doing so.
Today, while we played ball with our youngest daughter, JR came over to watch. We tossed the ball back and worth to our two year old and she giggled as it bounced down the hill. Out of nowhere JR decided to engage and went after the ball. He laughed as he throw it to his dad and giggled as he tried to kick it. For the next ten minutes he played with us and it was wonderful. It was perfect. Then just as quickly as he had joined in he stopped and returned to his cars.
Autism is so isolating at times. I truly believe he wants to be part of everything, he simply can’t. We have had people tell us, Just take him out or Just make him go he will get over it? As if they think we don’t want to go out and do things. But the truth is his happiness and wellbeing are important to us. We know what he can handle and what he can’t. Days that we can make it to church as a family, or trips to the grocery store without a meltdown are considered victories in our house.
If the outside world just took a few minutes to get to know our little guy they would see how truly wonderful he is. He is the sweetest most loving little guy you could ever meet. He is the best big brother to his two year old sister and he loves to cuddle babies. At his school he is known as the hugger because as everyone comes through the doors he is there to welcome them with one of his giant bear hugs. He is not less because of autism he is so much more.
As a mom I love days where we have moments like today. To hear him laugh and to see him run and interact with his siblings is something I will never take for granted. Today was a good day and for that I am truly thankful.
JRs superpower is autism, what’s yours?
Thanks to everyone who has bought my book Beautiful Chaos Our Story about Foster Care, Adoption, Faith and Love. If you haven’t done so yet you can go over to the new website at http://www.beautifulchaosmomma.com and pick up a copy. My prayer is that our story inspires others to become foster/ foster to adopt parents.
Tomorrow is my birthday. Over the last 41 years I have heard the story of my birth from different points of view, but by far one of my favorites is the way my grandmother tells it or should I say never lets me forget.
It was Easter Sunday. And like most God fearing Baptist women, my grandmother had went out and purchased a new dress to wear for the Easter services at church. In today’s society we buy new clothes at the drop of a hat and think nothing of it but back then money was tight. Buying new clothes from the department store was not done often. In fact my grandmother made most of the clothes the family wore, but once a year, on Easter, well now that was a special day and my grandmother had sought out and found the perfect Easter outfit. That Easter however God had bigger plans for her than showing of her new dress at church.
The story goes she was getting ready when they called to let her know my mom was in labor. Not wanting to get the smell of the hospital on her new dress she quickly changed before coming down to the hospital to wait the arrival of little ol me. She never made it to church that Easter, instead she welcomed a new granddaughter into the world.
She had a sense of humor about her and as I went though my twenties and thirties she would call me on my birthday, to wish me happy birthday and to remind me that she didn’t get to wear that pretty new dress. The conversation was always short and sweet, she didn’t see the need to stay on the phone to long. But her calling made my day. Grandmas are special.
As I was getting ready for bed this evening I realized I won’t be getting my call tomorrow. And that makes my heart sad. I miss her so much. But as I think back over the many things we shared the story of the day I was born makes me smile. We shared so many wonderful memories together. I was blessed to have her for 41 years and my children had her in their lives. She taught me to love the Lord, to love my family, to enjoy game shows and candy. She taught me to quilt and she tried to teach me to cook (some things just can’t be done) She may not have got to wear that pretty new dress 42 years ago, but I bet you anything she is rocking an amazing dress just for me this year. And I’m sure she’s looking down laughing saying something like, Looky here baby girl isn’t it beautiful? I finally got to wear it.
Yes, yes you did grandma.
Grandma I’m sure your dress is gorgeous and I know you’re rocking those new angel wings. I know you can’t call me tomorrow but I know you’ll be with me. Let me fell your presence as only you can. Going though life without you these last few months has been hard, I miss you everyday. I will be looking for your sign to me tomorrow, I know if anyone can get a message from heaven to earth it will be you. Continue to guide me until I see you again. Love you ❤️
Spring has finally arrived. The birds are singing, the frogs ugh the frogs that noise, and the kiddos have discovered the creek that flows beside my parents house. I love spring time. Spring also means out with the old and in with the new….clothes that is. Does anyone else dread trying on new shorts and bathing suits as much as I do?
My oldest daughter, mother, and I are taking a cruise next month. My mother has never been on a cruise so, my daughter and I thought it would be fun to take her on one for her birthday now that’s she retired and can actually take a few days for herself to relax. All three of us are looking forward to it. My daughter was just excepted into grad school so it will be nice for her to get away before she’s bogged down with work and college and for me well, I jumped at the chance to spend five days with only adults. I love my little loves but every mom needs some “me time” every now and then.
Our passports are in order, our luggage bags are prepacked with the essential goodies, all we need now are a few new pairs of shoes, some new shorts and of course the bathing suit. With only a month to go, I can’t wait any longer to go pick one out. It is time.
We made a quick trip back to our hometown this weekend to get on our parents and to take part in a birthday celebration. While there I found a few hours to go shopping. The fitting room can be such an interesting place, especially during the the changing of the seasons. Today was no exception.
I hate trying on clothes, but I hate buying clothes only to get them home and them not fit more. So like half of the shoppers in the store today, I gathered up my wish list items and made my way back to the tiny off white cubical’s that make up the fitting room. What is it about those little rooms that make people act so crazy? In one stall, was a little boy maybe around the age of nine, he felt he was to old to be in the fitting room with his mom and definitely to old to have her pick out his clothes while his mother seemed to think he was still two by the was she talked to him. Sweetie, are you doing okay in there? Do you need mommy to come help you? Sweetie, make sure the shorts aren’t to tight in your crouch area. In another stall an exhausted mom was trying on dresses with her two very active toddlers. The little girl was full of complements as her mommy tried on dress after dress, Mommy you look beautifulest in the flower one. I love that one too mommy. Let’s get them all. While the little boy was not as impressed and entertained himself by crawling under the wall to the stalls next to him until little sis ratted him out and then he started crying, correction screaming. Screaming that he was bored, screaming that he was starving. Screaming that he should have stayed with daddy instead of coming with the girls. I heard the mom let out a sigh. I’ve been in her shoes more times than I care to count. Shopping for yourself with the kids in tow is hard. (Side note thank you mom and dad for watching my kiddos so I could get out of the house by myself for a few minutes today) Still in another stall was a young lady, I’m guessing 15 or 16, with her cell phone in one hand and ten pairs or short shorts in the other she made her way to the fitting room. She looked aggravated, and by the speed she was texting I’m sure she was telling someone about it, but that’s when I noticed her dad. He clearly had no idea what he was doing but he was trying. As the swarm of mother’s came in and out of the waiting area handing in new clothes and taking back clothes that didn’t fit here was this dad holding short shorts for his daughter. She would bring a few pairs out and tell him to go get her some more and he would. Clearly he did not feel comfortable doing what he was doing, but he was doing it for her. He loved her enough to take on the chaos of the fitting room. I had to smile. I don’t know their story, maybe he told her the shorts were to short or maybe her mom got called out to work, or who know’s what was going on, but I do know that in that moment that dad was willing to take on one of the most hated places on the planet for most women for his daughter. And that was my reminder that there is still good in this world for the day.
I finished trying on my items and liked the way a few of them fit. As I left the fitting room the one mom was still handing her son clothes over the top of the stall just as fast as he was shoving them under the door. He was done trying stuff on, she just hadn’t figured that out yet. The mom with the two toddlers was trying to load the little boy in the buggy while the little girl now cried because she was not getting a new dress like her mommy. As I passed the brave dad, he smiled, Nice day out there isn’t it? , he said as his daughter handed him a few shirts. It sure is, I said as I smiled back.
I made it back to my parents house and my little loves were ready to go outside. If the fitting room taught me anything its that we all of things going on. We need to take time and enjoy what’s in front of us. Our fussy little ones will be annoyed teens before we know it. Take a few minutes to enjoy the present, be in the now. I may be taking a cruise next month but until then the creek life is fine with me.
I could be a newborn, a toddler, or a teen or maybe somewhere in between.
I may arrive at noon or in the middle of the night.
My clothes might be to small or not fit me just right.
I’m full of emotions. I could be shy, angry, frightened, or scared. I could be crying, withdrawn, and may even avoid eye contact.
I may be hungry I may be cold.
School could be hard for me. New place, new faces, new friends, and new rules.
Don’t judge me because I am in foster care…
I’M A KID TOO!!!
I like sports.
I like music.
I like hanging out with friends.
I like watching cartoons.
I like to eat ice cream
I like to play video games
I like going to the movies
I need to feel safe
I need food in my tummy
I need to feel wanted
I need a warm place to sleep
I need to feel excepted
I need to know I am not alone
Above all, I need to be loved. After all I am a kid too.
There are over 700,000 children in foster care across the United States, over 100,000 of them are waiting to be adopted. These children are dealing with things that most adults could not handle and yet they are expected to “deal with it” They don’t want to be seen as ‘”the foster child”, they want to be seen as a kid. Don’t assume that because he or she is in foster care they are a bad kid. Most children in foster care are in the system because of what their parents or caregivers done NOT because of their own actions. All they want is to feel safe and know that someone is looking out for them. They want a normal life just like every other child does. Let them have that life. Let them be little. Let them live a life without labels. Let them be a KID ❤
I told her I would be up to see her off. No need to set an alarm, JR seldom sleeps past 5am. True to his norm, we were awake at 430. I had him lay beside me. I turned on Netflix so he could watch cartoons, I laid there with a thousand things going through my mind. This was it the day we (she) had worked so hard for, and yet somehow I thought if I just stayed there in bed time would stop and she would not have to go. I did not want this day to start.
I heard her downstairs around 6. She was trying to be quiet, so she would not wake any of her siblings. I stayed in bed trying to dry the tears that had already found their way into my eyes. Pull it together, you can’t let her see you like this. This is a happy occasion. I listened to my inner voice and got out of bed. She was trying to smile when I rounded the corner to the kitchen. There were a few boxes that she had to have and asked if we could bring them up in the van. I nodded my head and told her we didn’t mind. Her boyfriend loaded them into my van as we said our first set of goodbyes. It was raining and the drive back to her college is long. Graduation practice was later that day so they had to go. I hugged her and kissed her and said see you soon. I watched as they drove away. Warm tears slowly trickled down my checks, you will see her this afternoon, its okay. I told myself.
I went to pour myself some coffee so I could start the day. When I went to add my creamer and my container was empty. Perfect. An empty coffee creamer container and an empty room. My day was off to a wonderful start.
The trip went as easy as it could when traveling with five children under six. There was laughter, there was screaming, there was kicking, there was yelling and there was the all so famous “Are we there yet?” question asked every two minutes of our 6 hour trip. My mind was spinning and my heart was breaking. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that as her mom my job is to raise her right. My hope is that I have done so and that she has a good head on her shoulders and a heart that wants to help others, but see she is my first. My baby girl. Letting her go off to college was hard enough, watching her graduate and move even farther way is overwhelming. So while my younger kids were being….well kids my mind replayed moments of when she was young. Her first day of kindergarten, piano and dance recitals, taekwondo belt tests, school achievements and color guard trips all flooded my mind.
We made it to the hotel just in time to unload and make it over to the park where we were to met her, her boyfriend and his family for lunch. The park was a perfect place for the kids ( she always looks out of them) not sure if the others really enjoyed it or not it. The sun was hot and there was little shade. Her dad and I said some quick hello’s before we had to start catching the kids around the park. Not the introduction I really wanted to make, but its our life and we have kids….lots of kids. The kids were excited to see their big sissy again and were ready to take on the new to them park swings and jungle gyms. It was just what they needed after the long trip. We were getting ready to wrap things up after having been there for two hours, before diva had her meltdown. Things were not going her way and she did not want her 18 month old sister playing with her. We are use to her throwing her fits, my daughters boyfriends family not so much. I think they all said something about her not being happy or about her not getting her way. I know it embarrassed Sie, she was wanting to make such a good impression. Diva could not help it, her medication had ran its course for the day. Nothing any of us could have done or said would have stopped the outburst from happening. We said our second set of goodbyes at the van as we loaded up upset kids to take them to the hotel. Sie was crying because JR was upset. Elissa was still throwing her fit and the other three were just crying because they were tired and didn’t really want to leave the playground. Her boyfriend wrapped his arms around her and told her it would be fine, that “We aren’t saying goodbye forever just goodbye for a little while.” She was taking it hard, this was the last time she would see them for who knows how long and I think the kids could sense it, I know JR could anyway.
Later that night we attended her Baccalaureate service. With great pride my husband, our oldest son, my parents and I watched as she walked a crossed the stage to be hooded and recognized for her achievements. She would become the first in our family to graduate college with a four year degree. She was paving a new road for her siblings and future generations to follow. She surprised us all when we saw her design of her cap. She truly loves her siblings and wants to make them proud.
We snapped a few pictures after the service and headed back to the hotel to relieve my in-laws who were on babysitting duty. (A huge thank you to them for doing so, the kids would not have made it through the service without someone having a meltdown) My mom and I made a quick run to the store to pick up some snacks and juices for the kids ride home in the morning and then it was off to bed. I didn’t sleep. My emotions were all over the place. Thankfully JR could not sleep either and joined me in my alone time at 3am. Together we stared into the darkness of the room. Neither really saying anything to each other. Occasionally he would ask if it was time to wake up daddy and when I would reply no, he would settle back into my arms and let me rub his back. Sie use to do the same thing.
Morning came and it was as if a tornado had hit the hotel room. At 6:15 we discovered that we did not pack enough pull-ups. How in the world does a family of five forget to bring pull-ups??? So while I was packing things up and while the children were running through the hotel as if they had never been in one before, my husband made a store run to buy the illusive Lighting McQueen pull-ups we so desperately needed. Nevertheless, by the time my in-laws arrived to our room we had somehow managed to have everyone ready to go. We loaded them up, handed my father in-law the keys to my 12 passenger van, got all of the snacks ready to go and watched them drive off. We then loaded up in my in-laws car and headed over to the college for graduation.
Graduation was a success. Seeing her smile after receiving her diploma is something I will never forget. We did not have time for a fancy dinner after graduation, we needed to get to my in-laws to pick up the little ones, but she wanted to go eat at KFC so we agreed. Not exactly the most glamorous place to eat a graduation dinner but it made her and her friends happy. Looking back at the four of them brought back so many wonderful memories, it was nice to have most of “Momma C’s” girls together again.
As we sat in KFC eating I could not stop smiling. There at the table next to me, were four young, beautiful ladies and my handsome son, talking about future plans and catching up on the latest news from back home. As bad as I wanted them to all be ten years old again having slumber parties back at the house, eating pizza and dancing to Kids Pop CD’s, this sight made my heart rejoice. It was nice seeing most of the original Momma C girls together again. I hope they all know just how much I love them and how proud they make me as well. It has been a joy watching them grow up into wonderful, caring, beautiful young ladies. I can’t wait to see what their futures hold.
Momma C and her girls
As we walked to the car, I could feel the tears burning my eyes. I quickly hugged her and went to get in the car. But as I went to get in the car I could not move. Pull it together, you can’t do this right here right now. My inner voice was screaming at me to just get in the car. Screw the inner voice this time. I slammed the car door and ran across the parking lot and pulled her into my arms. This was our third and last goodbye. Tears ran down my face, just as they are now while I type, I told her I loved her and how proud I was of her and that if things didn’t workout with him or the job she always had a place to come home to. I tried to fit in 22 years of advice into a five minute hug. I’m not sure she understood a word coming out of my mouth because by this time I was ugly crying. Her boyfriends words, “Its not goodbye forever just goodbye for now” echoed in my mind. But He don’t get it. He is moving back to his home city, near his parents and family. She is not. He will be able to see his mom anytime he wants, she will not. He will be minutes away from his family, she will be over six hours away from hers. So yes, I know this was not goodbye forever but it sure as hell felt like it. We hugged a for a few more minutes because I simply could not let go.
This morning I found myself sitting in her room, surrounded by emptiness. Not really sure how I even got in there. It was just me, the walls, my thoughts and my tears. Not all the tears were sad. We have raised a wonderful young lady. Yesterday as I talked with her professors they not only told me she was a wonderful student but they also talked about how great of a person she was and how much she will be missed.
Today has been hard on me, dare I say I have even been a little bitchy. But as her mom I am entitled to that. I know she will be okay and in a few days so will I. I know she will succeed in whatever she does. I know that no matter how far away she is or how old she becomes she will always be my baby girl. And most of all I know she loves me just as I love her. The room maybe empty but my heart is full of memories that will last a lifetime.