Monday, December 1, 2014

Love the Kid, Hate the Autism

Usually I wait to post until I have some kind of an "ah ha" moment or insight that has come of an experience.  But I am not yet to that point.  No insight, "bright-side", epiphany, learning, or lesson to share.  In fact, just a poopy story.  Well....not literally (though you know I have plenty of those for real).    Poopy in the figurative sense.

We decided to take a trip to CA to be with Todd's sister and her family for Thanksgiving.  It was an incredible trip....the kids all had a great time, Todd and I got a little time to be humans (I got a nap one afternoon!!!), and we even had some little victories with Matthew.  We took him to a football game and not only did he NOT freak out....he spent 50% of the game cuddling, giving loves, hugs, talking to me, etc.  It was beautiful!

I was super impressed with each of the nieces and nephews as they would seek out Matthew and interact with him in such mature ways.  They range in age from 8-15, but their willingness/desire to spend time with my son brought tears to my eyes a number of times.  They rejoiced in his little successes, wanted to sit by him, would follow him around, participate in his activity choices, and just plain loved on him.  It was a gift.

If only it could have ended on that high note, but alas...all good things must come to an end.  I'm just disappointed this one came to an explosive halt instead of a coasting conclusion.  We boarded our plane around 10 this morning and, because I had chosen to sit with Matthew on the flight out, it was Todd's turn.  We pre-boarded and buckled him into the last row of the plane, as we always do.  Liam and Adi sat in the next row up and I joined them in the aisle.  Because this was a completely full flight, the seat next to Todd and Matthew was taken shortly thereafter.  When dude sat down, Todd and I both warned him that Matthew can be a bit unpredictable on flights and is often noisy.  He assured us that was no big deal--he hadn't been on a flight for 12 years and was more anxious about that than he was about our son's potential volatility.  Well, I don't think he, nor we, for that matter, were prepared for what happened next.

About 15 minutes into the 90 minute flight, Matthew flipped out.  He started to scream like we were stabbing him, sobbing loudly in between screams, kicking the seat, kicking Todd, flailing his arms, and behaving almost like an animal.  After Todd handled it with total calm and control for 30 or so minutes, I offered to switch.  Matthew immediately started going for my hair-yanking it, clawing at my face, kicking me in the legs and side, and continuing to scream.  After more than an hour of this, we offered to have dude switch with Todd (who was now sitting with Adi and Liam) so that he didn't catch any accidental blows.  He was leaning away from me at this point, turning his back as much as possible, and attempting to avoid eye contact.  When I looked at him, I knew he was a bit traumatized by what was happening.  When they switched places and Todd came to sit by me, we tried everything we could possibly think of in tandem to settle Matthew--counting on our fingers, singing, headphones, music, phones, iPad, books, food, candy.  We were at a total loss.  That feeling of total defeat and claustrophobia combined with embarrassment and anxiety for those around us who were surely also feeling stressed got to me and I started to weep.

Todd took Matthew to the bathroom to distract him and I just sat there shaking with sobs, mortified at my weakness, and desperate to avoid anyone noticing.  A sweet flight attendant just handed me a box of kleenex and walked by with a compassionate smile.  And a guy in the row next to us, rather than avoiding eye contact as I sat there with tears streaming down my face, sought my eyes and just said, "we all have bad days!  Even adults. Poor guy....he is certainly having one now, but that's OK!"  Of course, his compassion started a new wave of tears.  He was so sweet and, not for a moment during the rest of the flight did he attempt to avoid looking/staring.  Rather, he would look right at us and offer assistance, including asking if he could help us deplane.  I was so touched by his desire to help, though there was nothing he could do.  He was just so sincere about it.

Fast forward...the madness continued for the rest of the flight.  I mean, not a moment of reprieve.  People who are waiting for the restroom are staring with looks of disbelief on their faces.  I caught one woman's eye and attempted a feeble "sorry!" but she looked away immediately.  I was devastated....I guess I was, in my heart, just pleading that those around us would feel patience and compassion for the situation.  Anyway, we finally land, and the plane is stuck on the tarmac inches (so it seems) from the gate for another 20 minutes.  Todd and I wanted to throw our children out the back of the plane because now, all three are a wreck. Instead of helping, Adi and Liam have started to fight next to our traumatized friend and, much to my dismay after watching his continued body language of total avoidance, Liam starts pushing Adi into this guy.  Todd tries to make jokes and employ this guys help in some tiny way, not realizing that dude was completely fed up with us.  While we are hanging out on the tarmac, Matthew still screaming loudly, dude gets on the phone and, with no attempt to hide his comment, starts apologizing to the person on the other end for the "very very loud kid on the plane."  I was so spent at this point that, rather than ticking me off that he would be making thoughtless (I'm sure not malicious) comments like that while we are very clearly within ear shot, I just started to cry again.  Of course, our sweet friend across the isle notices and just shoots me looks of compassion.  It was interesting...Todd pointed this out to me.  We both expected dude that sat next to us to be super nice and understanding because of how he looked.  The guy across the isle looked a bit more "hard"--lots of tattoos, kind of a stern face, tough guy body language.  We were kind of nervous that he might be a bit less sensitive to our situation.  Shame on us for labeling or pre-judging.  We were wrong.

We finally deplane and, while we are getting our luggage, Todd overhears a conversation traumatized dude is having on the phone with someone else, reinforcing our perception that he was, in fact, completely horrified by the events he witnessed.  He made comments like, "I've never seen anything like it in my life!  He was so completely out of control and wild!" He called him a "barbarian." On and on he went, talking about my son, not as a person, but with amazement and shock at what he had just witnessed.  It was as though Matthew was something incredible he saw at the circus that freaked him out.  My son.  My Matthew.

I chose to approach him after Todd overheard that.  I told him how sorry we were that the flight was so difficult and offered to explain.  He tried to brush me off, but I said that I wanted him to know that Matthew has autism.  This isn't a typical child...this is a kid with challenges.  I told him that some flights are harder than others and I was just so sorry that he had to go through that.  He was kind enough to say that we seemed like "really sweet people" but that it was an early flight and he hadn't flown in 12 years, so he it was a bit hard for him.  He did say he had a brother with a son who has autism, and was obviously embarrassed when I pointed out we had overheard his conversation and knew he was a bit shocked by what he had seen.  He was kind about it, but the way he chose to talk about it the minute he thought we were out of ear shot was crushing to me.  It made me think, however, about the times that I have done something similar...seen or heard something and been anxious to grab my phone so I could call my husband and rant/rave or whatever about the experience.  We are all guilty, so I certainly don't blame him.  Just hurt my feelings when we overheard.  I love Stephen Covey's philosophy of "never say something about another person you would be ashamed to have them overhear."  I'm not perfect at this, but after Todd's "fly on the wall" experience, it was a good reminder of just how hurtful those behind the back comments can be.

All day I have walked around in a bit of a funk.  PTSD, perhaps.  I keep thinking about the child I sat by in the plane and trying to reconcile who he was with the Matthew I know 90% of the time.  This is the part of autism that is the scariest.  But it is part of autism.  You never know when a day like this will come and attack you (because it does feel like an ambush when these days occur), and you can never be fully prepared for it because you just plain don't know what the "attack" is going to look like.  It is the disability that keeps you on your toes...guessing, a little anxious and fearful of what might be next.  I have been on the verge of tears every time I have reflected on our experience too, largely because I didn't know how to handle it.  I was scared, overwhelmed, hurting in my heart for this sweet boy who was acting as though he was completely out of his mind.  I did not know what to do.

I still don't know what I will do next time that happens.  I'm not sure how I am supposed to handle this. I don't know what triggered it and keep racking my brain for ideas.  I don't know how to avoid it in the future.  I am scared to fly ever again.  I'm frightened that this might happen a place where it freaks other people out and how do I, as his mother, help others to know how to respond if I am at a total loss myself.

I feel ill-prepared to parent a child with autism.  I don't like that feeling at all.  I love my him with all of my heart.  But I do not love autism.  I love what it teaches us, but I do not learning these lessons sometimes because they hurt.  I face where he scratched me, my hands where he bruised me, my shins where he kicked me, my hair where he pulled it out, my head from the screaming and most of all, my heart.

We all have hard days.  I'm going to chalk this up as one of those and just pray that tomorrow is better.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Holy Cups

Lately, I have felt like the epitome of the parent I never wanted to be--impatient, yelling a lot, irritated at the little stuff, stifling fun in the name of control, grasping at threats, saying things I don't really mean, and just plain being a lame-o Mom.  I have my moments...times when I don't completely suck...but those moments are fewer and farther between than I care to admit.  I find the firm voice more habit than my kind voice.  My tone can be condescending and I almost offend myself when I use it with my kids.  I could honestly beat the emotional snot out of myself if I opted to list all of the shortcomings I feel as a parent, especially lately.

Now, the excuse (why I opt not to beat the emotional snot out of myself)....every child in our family is going through something tough. No, I'm not helping them by the way I'm reacting, but let me explain the toll it is taking on me.  Liam is struggling with writing--he is a brilliant reader, amazing at math in his head, but translating that into written material (written math, stories on paper), is a struggle.  I think it is a motor-planning issue, but we are having him evaluated to try to figure it out.  In the meantime, Mom is tutoring.  I stink as a tutor because I get impatient when he is distracted and further discourage him if I let it show.  So our hours and hours of writing practice leave me on the edge of my sanity.  Matthew's behaviors as of late are KILLING me.  My patience is shot.  I have endured months of these challenging behaviors and have now, sadly, gotten to the point where i'm annoyed with him after 5 minutes of being together.  Adi is a three-nager--defiant, stubborn, rebellious, snotty at times, whiny, and screams a lot.  She throws epic fits and has drama down to a science as well as the art of pushing my buttons.  So...add all of these things up (and every Mom on this planet will do a similar calculation in her mind of the beating they are taking from their kids) and I'm a bit frazzled and on edge a lot.

The other day I caught myself resenting Todd because he gets to work outside the home.  He talks, and people listen (or pretend to).  He is compensated.  People compliment him when he does well and he is frequently praised for his impressive work. His mind is constantly engaged.  He interacts with both adults and children.  Those he works with and around, including patients, are nice to him.  He has an element of control over things that happen at work.  And, most of all, he gets to walk away from the emotionally taxing, completely chaotic life that I am feel suffocated by, only to come back rejuvenated and "fun." The kids are therefore thrilled to see him, nice to him, loving towards him, and talk about how fabulous Dad is while he is absent and can't wait for the moment he walks in the door.

When I start to resent my husband and am frustrated with my children, you can imagine the incredible, positive energy that I exude, right?  I figured it was time to do something about this and tackle one challenge at a time in an attempt to regain my sanity and just arm myself with some tools so that I could be a nice person again.  I remember that woman--the nice one who is fun, patient (well....that might be a stretch), creative, intelligent, perceptive, intuitive.  But she is a tiny bit lost. Luckily, the resourceful side of me kicked in though, like I said, in an attempt to regain some piece of that person.  I called a behavioral consultant, figuring that Matthew's behaviors are the loudest and most disruptive to the entire dynamic in our home.  Little did I expect, dude would offer me an insight that would be applicable across the board.

As I described Matthew's behaviors, he suggested that a lot of what we were experiencing was actually not attention-seeking as I thought, and not motivated by aggression or anger or frustration; rather, his craziness was motivated more by fear--fear of losing connection with us.  Attachment fears.  Now, that is something new to us with Matthew.  All kids go through periods where they experience attachment issues, and most go through it in a developmentally appropriate way.  Matthew, on the other hand, is going through it so much later than most and his ability to cope is so limited by his delays that his behaviors/reaction to that fear is less functional and more disruptive, but the need is the same.  He desperately wants/needs to connect with us and fears losing that.  His behaviors are the worst when we turn our back, are distracted from him (a.k.a. when we are talking to someone else or on the phone) or simply walking away to do something else.  And his form of "freak out" is to scream, throw things, yell at us, and engage is another behavior that gets a reaction of some sort from us.

My desire to squelch those behaviors led me to experiment with reactions in my controlling ways--firm voice (or yelling), time outs, discipline, ignoring the behavior, giving him attention in response, different consequences, and even physically causing him some kind of pain (smacking his hand...nothing abusive, I promise), etc.  I searched for trends, examined theories of motivation I was familiar with and tried my darndest to get rid of this without losing my mind. Well, when I took a step back and realized Matthew just might be scared, I started to feel sorry for him rather than annoyed by him....and my heart softened.  Talk about a paradigm shift.

The suggestion was that I need to get down on Matthew's level with a calm body, kind demeanor, and touch him, hug him, smile at him, and otherwise help him feel connected to and loved by me.  Do this until he is satiated and indicates such by walking away.  Kids have an emotional "cup" that is full of holes and leaking, thus needing to be refilled (reconnect, reattach, etc.).  As they get older, the holes start to shrink and drain more slowly.  Or, in Matthew's case, as he starts to feel more confident and secure (which usually naturally happens as kids get old), the holes will shrink.  Matthew has just started to emotionally regulate through and with us, so this new-found ability to feel calm and safe simply by being connected to us is a HUGE leap of progress for a child with significant social challenges.  I'm thrilled by it, but kind of forgot that, as with our littler children, until they start to realize Mom and Dad are going to come home when they leave, that you will come back to get them at the end of a playdate, that if someone else holds them, they will still end up with you....they need that reassurance.  Most kids don't act out like Matthew (or their acting out looks a little different), but he is quite a bit older going through this phase.

That said, we immediately started to apply this advice and it has helped the mood in our home immensely.  Before school, I make sure he has some 1:1 time with me.  Immediately after school, I tell the kids, "it's Matthew time for a bit!" and they seem to understand.  It has only been a couple of days, so perhaps this isn't the big answer to all of our problems, but with this "theory" came an epiphany for me....I don't always understand the cause of stuff and often need to examine my paradigm and theories, and there is likely a positive way to respond vs. my natural reactions which aren't always so positive.  It's the primo example of exercising the space between stimulus and response--the place wherein lies our freedom and power to choose our responses and, subsequently, our growth and happiness.  Intellectualized concept being put to the ultimate test via the experience of parenthood, right?

I also realized that this "theory" and idea of attachment/connection actually applies to all children at any phase.  As with a lot of behaviors, often our kids just need time and attention, not because they are brats, but because they need our love and connection--they want to feel "safe" in their relationships with us.  So I started to apply the same practice to the other kiddos--an idea that came to be via my sweet husband who witnessed me getting super frustrated with Adi as she was acting out and me responding with firmness, ignoring, stepping back and trying "not to give into her behaviors."  He suggested I try the same thing--to fill her emotional cup just a bit.  So I got down on her level and, within seconds, was able to reassure her mostly through body language and touch, that I was there for her.  Her demeanor changed quickly and crisis/emotional tantrum averted.

To put a spiritual spin on it, I think about how Christ responded to people when they threw emotional fits or behaved inappropriately.  He rarely yelled, didn't use a condescending tone and roll his eyes as he gave a curt reply to a lame, repeated question, and likely did not turn his back and ignore in an attempt to discipline.  He got down on people's level and connected....loved...helped them feel safe.  If we are to model our lives after Him, parenthood is not the single role exempt from that "rule" because our kids push our buttons to the point where we are not able to control our responses.

So my commitment this week (I have to make new commitments and recommitments every week...sometimes day....sometimes hour, depending on the severity of my instability) is to exercise the space between stimulus and response to fill my kiddos emotional, hole-filled cups.  Even if the behaviors don't obliterate, I think some of my grumpiness will.  And I am, after all, the CMO (see previous post).  Gotta use my power for good, right?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Liam to the Rescue!

I sometimes start my posts by setting the stage a bit and describing the landscape from which whatever insight emerged.  I never want that to come across as complaining; rather, it is intended to offer perspective.  This post will be no different.

Matthew is the tasmanian devil's twin.  I swear it.  Either that or a copy cat with perfect knowledge of my buttons and how to push them.  Main button lately--chucking everything imaginable.  I put something on the counter, he sweeps it off.  I put food on the table, he hucks it onto the floor via the walls.  I give him a book, he throws it.  He gets hold of a phone, it ends up in a thousand pieces on the ground.  This activity is not limited to our home and takes place in a variety of locations.  SO you can imagine just how much this is tapping my cat-like reflexes as I attempt to intervene and thwart his chucking attempts.  It is constant and,when it happens, I want to scream (not exaggerating) or punch something (or someone...but I don't).  The other main button is auditory--Matthew is making these ear-piercing, high-pitched, incredibly loud screams and growling at me when angry, saying things like, "pick up!" after the afore mentioned chucking, and in a lovely troll voice. And as though his vocalizations aren't effective at getting my attention (though I try to fake otherwise and ignore to the best of my ability), he likes to incessantly bang, slam, scrape, or pound anything that will make noise.  It is overwhelming to me.  I think I have sensory issues.  I'm tempted to go in a get diagnosed so I can self-medicate or give myself doctor-prescribed time outs or something.

Well, this morning came too soon--after only 4 hours of sleep (piggybacked onto the 3 I got last night as we were up with Liam puking the night before).  Matthew started to scream "OUT!" around 5:30.  I dragged my carcass out of bed and walked past his room before entering...and smelled the reason he woke up.  So I haz-matted up and cleaned, sanitized, and wiped until order had been restored.  Matthew, after his bath, ran into the other kids' room at top volume, slamming the door over and over in his wake.  That did not help the waking mood of the other two and you can imagine how things just started to build.  I resorted to begging my littles to go a little easy on poor, tired Mom.  Begged.  Described in vivid detail my exhaustion and laid it on as thick as I could in hopes that a piece of pleading might get through (you've gotta be dramatic when raising a three-nager).

I was already practicing zen breathing by the time Liam and Adi came down.  But what happened next totally took me off guard. Liam came over and said, "Mom, what can I do to help?"  I asked him to please give Matthew his smoothie.  So he took Matthew's hand, walked him over to his chair, sat him down, buckled him in, and gave him his smoothie. He turned to me and said, "Mom, I'm going to feed him breakfast."  I handed him some cereal to give Matthew to keep him distracted until actual breakfast was ready.  Liam took out three pieces and counted them, "Matthew, here's one...two...three!"  And Matthew said "three" with him.  He then started to do an exercise with Matthew that he has heard me do...."take away one, and you have one...two!"  And Matthew said "two!" with him.  The dialog continued as my patient little angel took over and handled the hardest of children with the ease of a professional therapist.  I had no idea how much he was watching.

As I reflected on that experience (that literally changed the feeling of our entire morning), I realized a few things.  First, Liam is oh so capable.  I underestimate the ability of my children to help.  I also try to protect them from Matthew sometimes--I don't ever want them to view their brother as a burden, so we are super conscious about asking them to help with stuff related to Matthew's challenges.  But they want to help because they are part of our family and they love me.  We are on the same team.  Second, I realized I am not alone even when I'm the only adult around anymore.  I often feel overwhelmed when Todd is gone--almost scared.  Sounds pathetic and wussy, but it is HARD to have unstructured time and it makes me feel claustrophobic in my own life when things start to get out of hand and I am at a loss as to how to help the situation improve.  But I didn't figure it out this morning...Liam did.  And third, we have done something right!  It is rare that I feel this way, but if the example we are setting for Liam is one of cherishing Matthew, treating him with respect and patience, trying to help him at every opportunity, then I feel great about that.

That little experience this morning was a gift--I can almost say I'm grateful for the crazy because it often breeds beautiful moments like that one!  And I'm so grateful to have my team--Liam was the MVP today!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger....right??

Today is not a day I would like to repeat, especially because of how I handled things.  I woke up to a VERY hyper Matthew--he had pooped and it was so "robust" it almost reached his neck (mind you, his poop is sealed in his backwards zip-up jammies as we have learned over time contain a LOT of bodily fluids and rinse easily).  Problem was that when I tried to change him, he was so out of control that he was stepping in it, getting it on his elbows, hands, the floor, the toilet, the tub.  He was literally flailing and it was as though he had no control over his body--like it had a mind of his own.  I bathed him, and I'm not sure which of us got wetter.  I got kicked, clawed, hit, bit, had his hands down my shirt feeling for cleavage, up the back of my shirt scratching down my back...and the list goes on.  He would swipe his hand across the counter, sending all objects flying.  He threw his breakfast, his drink, his fork, his books.  He chucked the home phone, almost tipped over a chair he climbed on, tried to draw on the table, pulled his sister's hair, and screamed....literally screamed loudly and in a gruff, angry voice all morning.  When he got on the bus and I was about to breath a sigh of relief, he clawed me across the face.  And then I started to cry....

Here was the problem....the more he pushed for my attention, the less I gave him because I was too busy either chasing or running away from his aggression.  But all he wanted was my attention.  When he stuck his hand into my cleavage while I buckled him in the car to take Adi to school, I smacked his hand to deter him.  When it didn't, I attempted smacking it harder and succeeding only in hurting my own hand.  Then, the entire drive to Adi's school, I regretted slapping him, and could not stop thinking about how pathetic that was.  I started to try to recall another human being in my life that has had the ability to actually make me yell--in my very meanest voice--or who has pushed my buttons to the point of me physically lashing out (or even wanting to).  I don't think I have ever hit someone, and yet I could have easily hit my son--my flesh and blood, one of the people I love most on this earth.  But today, I did not like him.

I went on a run (therapy) with a friend who has a son very similar to my Matthew.  I asked her (even though I already knew the answer) if it is OK not to like your kid sometimes.  She laughed at how lame that question was which, in a strange way, made me feel better.  As I proceeded to talk through everything that had happened this morning, she listened and empathized, sharing my pain in a very literal sense because she has experienced almost everything I described.  I confessed being at my breaking point and almost being able to understand how a parent can be pushed to abuse.  She shared with me the story of a friend who adopted a child at the age of 5....he was a student of hers who showed signs of abuse which she had adopted and raised for 20 plus years.  At the age of 25, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and had a part of himself that would hurt her to try to get her to hurt him back because it was what he had known in his childhood.  The love he lacked during those formative years had defined his future.  I can sometimes let myself off the hook thinking that, when I suck as a parent, maybe my kids won't actually remember this part of their life where I am still stinking it up.  But they do.  These are literally formative years.

She reminded me that Matthew has ME because I can and do handle it.  Rarely perfectly, but never abusively or in a way that lacks underlying unconditional love.  He knows I love him....I love him with every part of me.  And most days I like him, but I can be forgiven for the days I don't, thankfully.

Here's the lesson, though, that hit me the hardest.  To be a teacher as a parent, we are first a student.  Matthew has the ability to bring out the worst in me, but he also, somehow, brings out the best. He has taught and continues to teach me lessons than none of my other kiddos would be capable of teaching me.  I think we all have experiences that do that for us....everyone's path looks different.  But it is through the crosses we are asked to bear that we become the people God wants us to be.

So from today, I am remembering I am more patient than I used to be, less judgmental, more educated, more tolerant, more flexible, less shockable, maybe a little kinder, and much much more grateful for the little things.  My faith is stronger, my body is stronger (especially my biceps from all that lifting), my mind more focused on things that are important.  I need to work more on embracing the gift that he is and being grateful for what I am learning and less self-loathing when I don't handle things as well as I know I can.

I may not always like him, but I love my lovebug....and pray tomorrow won't suck quite as badly as today.   And P.S. my car got broken into today for the second time in three weeks which didn't really help me have a good attitude.  Thankfully a goodnights rest can work miracles, right???

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I'm the CMO

I slammed a door this morning.....really hard.  Matthew ripped our basement door off the hinges the other day because he kept slamming it, so I guess it wasn't THAT hard.  But still.  I was trying to make the point to the rest of the household that I was mad at them--every one of them.  I had it up to my eyeballs with whining (Adi), screaming and obsessing (Matthew) and totally inaction (Liam) as I tried my darndest to get everyone moving so that we could make it to church.  Not a soul paid a lick of attention to me (unless they wanted something) and the result was me getting louder and louder, them getting increasingly agitated, and the entire experience drawing to a close with my slamming of the door.  Irony is, that part of it, the dramatic door slam that I hoped would communicate my message and shock everyone into submission and bring humble apologies, went almost completely unnoticed.

Door now slammed, I laid on my bed, face up to the fan, church clothes wrinkling, contacts drying out from the fan, tears streaming into my ears as I realized something.  I am powerful.  Not powerful in the way that I hoped to be this morning where I clap and the world responds to my every command.  Rather, powerful in my ability to impact the mood and feeling of an entire household.  I look back at the events of the morning and realize that I am a bit grumpy....and it is dragging everyone down.  My happy, "good Mom" days are happy days for all.  The days that I keep my patience and can calmly talk through stuff with my children instead of raising my voice are good days in deed.  No matter how whiny Adi is, how upset Matthew gets, or how frustrated Liam may be, no one else seems to really be impacted.  But when Mom is grumpy, everyone struggles.

Now that's a lot of pressure when you think about it.  We all want our kids to grow up to be confident, happy, well-adjusted, flexible, strong, kind people.  The every-day stuff is laying the foundation for them becoming that.  If we have more of the days where we are grumpy, anxious, and controlling, we breed agitated, anxious, frustrated little ones.  If we learn to temper some of our natural tendencies to be super reactive (even if we have to fake it once in awhile) to preserve the mood in our house, we just might have a fighting chance at getting it right.

The fan and I chatted for a bit (ok, so perhaps I was talking to Someone a little beyond the fan whilst I stared at it) and I realized that I need to do a better job of using my power for good.  I sometimes make the excuse that having a child with autism makes it harder, but I think I'm wrong.  Having a child with autism makes it different. This is hard for everyone.  My ability to exercise self-control and choose my moods is the same as anyone else's...just the circumstances vary. I don't get a free pass just because Matthew's behavior might, at times, be more extreme. Where would that excuse leave my other kids?  Rather, my circumstances are the perfect ones to groom and mold me into who I need to be.  Everyone makes that same choice.

Now, with Mom's in particular, we are ALL powerful and have the burden/blessing of impacting the feeling in our household for good or ill.  We are the CMO's (Chief Mood Officers) in our homes which is a massive responsibility.  Like I said, a series of good, happy days breeds the kind of littles we all want.  For me, just that awareness and embracing my title (CMO) helps me to take the reigns and make good things happen rather than think I am the victim of my families conspiracy to take me to the edge of sanity.

I'm going to try REALLY hard to use my power for good.  Deep we go.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Real Love is a Verb

I just hung up a picture today that was given to us as a gift that says "Every love story is beautiful....but ours is my favorite."  Todd and I have a cool love story--the gushy, gooey story of "fate" and "destiny" that is faith promoting to all the singles out there who are getting a little....well....discouraged.  We met online and, after a few long-distance "phone dates," decided to meet.  I flew in from an international tour with Stephen Covey the night we determined to go out--it was the only night that would work, given that Todd was flying in from CA and leaving the next day for a family reunion.  It happened to be the night of his 15 year class reunion and my LDS mission reunion--both events making us very aware of how single we were and were sure to lend themselves to many a conversation about "who do I know that I could set you up with?"  Loathed those.  Anyway, we decided that we would actually accompany each other to those events....and pretend that we were engaged.  Yes--we faked our engagement on our first date.  Talk about the ultimate example of Habit 2 (Stephen was proud).

Make a long story short....our lie that night turned into an eternal truth 9 months later.  My job allowed me to fly on a private jet that whisked me in and out of an airport near Todd's house, and on the weeks I wasn't traveling, he made his way to UT to visit me.  So we saw each other every week, played like crazy, and fell madly in love....or so we thought.

Fast forward 8 years.  We have 3 kids--7. 6, 3--and a puppy.  Todd's job is intense, stressful and sometimes consuming.  #2 has severe autism and a myriad of other special needs.  My once-jet-set lifestyle was traded in for a very home-bound one where any attempt to leave the house is either thwarted by a pooping or tantruming child, or our outings are cut short by one of the afore listed.  While daily life does not lack in excitement, it is incredibly challenging, both physically and emotionally, as I am constantly trying to stay ahead of a spastic array of curveballs.

Back to the love story I had an ah-ha moment today, not born of my own genius, but rather that of a friend.  He suggested, in essence, that now it's real love.  What Todd and I had then was love, the emotion.  What we have now is the real deal--love in action--practiced, tested, tried, ripped at, interrupted, but surviving.

The statistic for couples who have a child with special needs is bleak--80% divorce rate.  Recently, I could see exactly why.  Todd and I have been really struggling individually--he has felt the weight of the world on his shoulders because of pressures at work.  The moment he leaves work, he comes home to a wife with expectations and children with blaring needs.  Add to that an adventurous spirit and longing for spontaneity and you find a stiffled, unfulfilled human being who cannot escape his life long enough to be himself for a minute.  I have felt super lonely as I have struggled to make medical decisions for Matthew, battled with some uber hard behavioral issues and impulsivity, and tried to be a halfway decent Mom for the other two.  It left me feeling guilty because I was not doing a great job in any area, overwhelmed which became almost paralyzing because I didn't know what to focus on, and lonely because I didn't feel like anyone could truly relate (and I didn't want to share the burden or complain).  Pretty martyer-ish, eh?  Net result of all of that was two unhappy people who needed each other desperately, too caught up in their own pile of emotional manure to allow the other to love them.  We were coexisting and almost scared to let the other person see our pain because we knew the other was already so burdened.  It started to come out sideways which, I'm sure everyone can relate, is not anyone's best angle.

Enter love the wasn't that we didn't love (the emotion) each other, but we weren't loving (the verb) each other.  Love the emotion is strengthened by love in action.  I consciously decided that I needed to start doing things to show love so that I could feel love.  So I did....tiny things that were no big deal to him, but by thinking about him and showing love, I started to feel less resentment for what he was distracted by and turned more of my focus to empathizing with him so I could share some of his burden.  Vice versa, I felt him start to warm up to me and reach out to take some of mine.

The point I'm making is this--I know that every marriage in the world is hard.  The gushy love stuff is great, but family in action is what breeds the lasting love, if we let it. Our love story has only gotten better with time because it is imperfect and stretched.  It's the real deal.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


I have a girlfriend who called me up one day while she was pregnant with her 3rd baby and, laughing, told me she had just "peed her pants in the middle of the kitchen."  Apparently she felt something trickling down her leg and, when she realized she was "leaking" pee, rather than attempting to stop it, she just embraced what was happening and made sure she was standing above a rug that could be washed.  I kind of feel a bit like her, on an emotional level right now.  I have been "leaking" emotions lately--some of them leaking out sideways in forms I am not proud of (a.k.a. grumpiness, anxiety, numbness, criticism).  Rather than continuing to leak, I think I'm going to pray I am standing above a rug that can be washed and just embrace the fact that I would much rather overflow than leak.

Let me explain that last comment. Leaking implies that something is coming out that you are trying to stop…almost like you can't prevent it, usually with negative implications, often repaired in a state of urgency in ways that aren't long-term fixes, sometimes followed by additional leaks that spurt out sideways when you've fixed another.  Overflow, on the other hand, implies excess…too much of something that caused it to spill over, usually resolved by just allowing it to flow for awhile until it kind of levels out at full.  I am going to choose to just overflow a little today rather than continuing to sprout little leaks.  Meaning, this post might include a little bit of emotional spillage.

When I signed up for autism, so to speak--meaning when I realized I had and would be raising a son with special needs into the eternities and chose to embrace everything that comes with that--I don't think I had a clue what that meant on a daily basis.  I had no idea that everyday life could be so fraught with obstacles and even the smallest of tasks could/would be so difficult.  I don't think I knew that my bad days would stink as badly as they do (antithesis is also true, but honestly, I need to vent for a bit before I will get to that point).  I also didn't know that I had a breaking point--that I literally would entertain thoughts of "running away" from my life, escaping everything and trying to find a new one.  I didn't know that it could cause me to question even the most concrete aspects of who I thought I was and what i thought I believed.  I didn't know what an identity crisis looked like because I thought I knew myself.  I certainly believed that I could talk my way out of any bad day/week/ month and positive thinking coupled with sincere prayer would pull me out of the lowest slump.  Ignorance = bliss.

Daily life with Matthew has been exceptionally hard lately.  Part of the reason for that is because he is literally obsessed with me--cannot not touch me if I am in the same room. Here's an example: he wakes up in the morning and launches his poopy self into my arms yelling "WAFFLE" (translation: love you) and "hug! hug! hug!" He then wraps his cute little leg completely around me and starts to climb up my body (yes, still poopy) until I finally pick him up and squeeze him, telling him how much I love him too.  We then go into the bathroom where I do my best to keep my distance from his naked poop-ness as I scrub him down and bathe him.  Half the time, i sit him on the potty and squat down in front of him so that I can lean forward and continue to hug him.  He sometimes launches off the toilet and literally throws me against the wall in his efforts to get another huge mid-business.  After he takes a bath, his wet self again snakes around me and I attempt to pry just one leg off and into his pants at a time.  By the end of the dressing session, I am usually wet, sometimes a bit stinky, and out of breath.  The day continues in similar fashion with each task we go through having a routine that involves me either embracing or avoiding Matthew and his exhausting, but oh so precious, "waffle" moments.  When I attempt to avoid a moment in the name of anything else (a.k.a. when he needs to eat or get on the bus or another child is bleeding in the corner), a large tantrum often ensues and doesn't end until I "hug! hug!" and "waffle" him right back.

I just finished reading a book with a subtitle that resonates with me--"Embracing the Relentless Love of a Special Child."  As I've read her journey with her son, Wil (book is called "Wil of God") where she shares parts of her story, aspects of her daily life, and some of her struggles, I've literally wept because it hit so close to home.  She beautifully describes a lot of what I have felt and she makes me feel less lonely in this process.  There are several things she says in this book that I want to share because they have been incredibly helpful to me these past weeks as I've been really struggling to figure out how to cope with "relentless love."  Honestly, when I first read the subtitle, I thought it was a bit crazy because love, relentless or not, is awesome!  But relentless means it doesn't sleep or pause, is not easily distracted, and cannot be redirected when necessary.  It does not relent, even when you have other children to raise and need it to, if just for a moment, not come at you with full force.

Now, with relentless love and lots and lots of "waffles" come some amazing gifts and opportunities to develop gifts--gifts that are so easy to lose sight of when a poopy body is throwing itself on you and you knock your head against the wall trying to balance yourself in the process.  I wanted to share some of what I learned from this book and I think I'll frame her insights in terms of some of the gifts I extrapolated from her story.  Please know I write this more for myself than anything--I am absolutely desperate to pull myself out of this mommy-funk and try to "embrace," as she puts it, the unrelenting "love" I feel almost buried by.

The first gift is one of understanding and perspective. At one point, she goes to a Tarot card reader in search of some understanding about what her future will look like as she is trying so hard to come to grips with a reality she never anticipated after her son was diagnosed with autism and a whole slew of other fun things (it's never just one thing with autism--there is almost always a list).  I can relate to her desire to read the future so you can plan for it.  Well, she caught a glimpse that day of something profound and, I can totally relate to her when she said it was exactly what she needed to sustain her. She is told "He (Wil) is not broken, there is nothing wrong with him.  He is perfect, but the world needs your help to see that.  So many will see what he lacks and see him as broken and in need of fixing.  he is not broken, he is open.  What are considered disabilities by some are in fact, special abilities: abilities to see the God in everyone, to love without conditions, to be completely nonjudgmental.  He has not lost his direct connection to God that all kids are born with but most lose by three or four.  He remembers heaven.  He remembers being in the holy presence of God and he will share his memories with you, but you will have to listen."

Her glimpse was a gift to her.  I crave those glimpses of my Matthew.  I want to know who he is, why he was given this challenge.  I feel so deeply that the same is true of my Matthew--though some may see him as broken, he is, instead, open.  He doesn't judge or label people--rather, he walks down the isles of an airplane, placing his hand on the shoulder of a stranger, looks at them and says, "waffle" without them having a clue they have just been touched by love.  There are moments when I look deeply into his eyes and he smiles at me and I KNOW he has divinity in him.

We all crave a bit of this perspective of our kids--we want to know what the future holds and what they are uniquely chosen to contribute.  And we all wish we could see their potential.  I believe that, as parents, we are entitled to those glimpses.  I'm not suggesting it will come from a Tarot card reader, but I do believe it can come to each of us if we are looking for it.  I know for a fact that it isn't just Matthew that has something incredible to offer the world.  I often overlook, in my deep quest to recognize what he is capable of and strong desire to not allow his struggles to overshadow his abilities, that I often don't allow my other children to shine--I am quick to criticize them, jump on their faults because I expect more of them, and less likely to praise them for things that they do because I assume they are capable. It is something I know I need to work on.

 The next gift is that of saving….let me explain.  One day, Todd came home with an epiphany--he said that "Matthew is going to save me from myself."  I kind of thought I knew what he meant, but I'm now starting to understand what he meant.  Another quote:
"This boy has saved me from myself….Before he was born, I was more concerned about a clean house than a clean heart.  I was more caught up in what others thought of me, why they thought it and how I could control all that.  I was worried about being like everyone else. Now, I have been freed from being anything but myself and he has forced me to celelbrate all that he is, to see his differences as gifts, not as disabilities."  

I wish I could claim that I'm there, but this is something I am learning.  Todd and I are forever changed, no doubt, by who Matthew is and the forced focus on what is most important.  For example,we cannot be on our phones--Matthew will literally stalk us, screaming incessantly, if he so much as catches a glimpse of an iPhone (not just any phone--has to be a working, fully-funcitioning, iPhone).  If we give it to him, he chucks it on the ground.  If we keep it from him, he'll climb any counter, open any locked door, or claw his way through any zipper to get his prize.  And he won't give up until he has it….at which point he'll chuck it on the ground, scream until you pick it up, and repeat the whole process over again.  So we, of necessity, are not on our phones.  We aren't calling people, emailing, texting, or distracted by work and other aspects of life.  Rather, it is forced focus on what is most important rather than missing stuff because WE are distracted.

Oh how I crave this next gift--that of patience.  "When you have a child with significant needs, those needs either make you or break you. They either make you bitter or they make you holy."   Lately, I have felt bitter.  I have shed tears and held pity parties in my own honor.  I have been angry and jealous, frustrated and grumpy, and wanted to throw in the towel as things got worse when I already thought they sucked.  I have prayed for patience and been given another trial.  But I have realized that patience only comes by having it tried….and I must be getting more patient if the trials of my patience have to be so much more intense now to be considered "trials."  Right?  I think about the things that used to ruffle me and kind of giggle because I don't even notice those things now--my ability to let things roll off has improved significantly.  So I must be making some kind of progress.

The last gift I'm going to mention is that of flexibility.  I partially mean being more able to "go with the flow" and "roll with it," whatever "it" looks like (and I'm telling you, we deal with some ugly "it" around here sometimes).  But I also mean being more flexible in what our tomorrows look like.  The harder Matthew gets, the more frightened I sometimes feel.  What if Matthew never talks and I never get to hear him speak a full sentence?  He's six and still not potty trained--will he be in a diaper forever?   Will he ever be able to live independently?  I always thought he'd catch up, but he just seems like he's getting father behind.  "There was a time when I really believed Wil would catch up.  Developmentally delayed meant just that to me: delayed.  I see now that he will never be caught up, and that's okay.  He's where he is, and where he is, is perfect.  Where he is going will be revealed.  All will be well.  Not better.  Not worse.  Just different than planned or hoped for."

When I read that I kind of got mad because I'm not ready to "give up" on Matthew's future yet.  BUT I need to be able to embrace whatever it looks like…and be okay.  I think part of why life is such a struggle right now is because, though I thought I'd done it once, I'm mourning the death of what I expected. One "mourning" is apparently not all we do as parents.  Matthew just turned six and I have been grieving.  I have sobbed as I realized what Liam was doing at six and how far off that is for Matthew.   What we are celebrating as a victory with Matthew at six, we celebrated with Adi at the age of 22 months.  I want him to experience success and feel confident in his own future, but how can I inspire that in him when I am too distracted by my own grief at his present?  I need to remember that where he is, is perfect. "There is a fine line between hopefulness and denial and we special needs parents straddle that line at all times.  We push, we pull back, we dream, we adjust, we never give up, we surrender.  We do all we can and when we can't do anymore, we sit on the couch and re-group until we're ready to go at it again."   I am re-grouping so that I can get back to hoping and believing....and embracing where he is.

I watched my Matthew laugh a lot the last few days.  I got lots of "waffles" and rough, but sweet hugs. I even had some moments where his almost-always frantic, moving body softly rested….his head laying on my shoulder, his breathing slower, not pulling my hair or "mouthing" (translate: biting) my shoulder.  Just resting and "waffling" his Mommy.  Those are my moments.  I watched him on the airplane in the row behind me with Todd, the two of them giggling, looking deep into each others eyes (a HUGE victory), sharing inside jokes and just having fun.  Todd gets his moments.  In those moments, it is easy to remember that Matthew is a gift, and he is a teacher.

I realized as I knew I wanted to write this post that, though my story my feel unique to me and the specifics of my experiences might be different than those of other mothers, none of us is totally alone in this process.  Every Mom, no matter how angelic her kids, battles her own demons--the demons of doubt, insecurity, loneliness, guilt, fear, blah blah.  The list is long and different for each one of us.  But each of us is also given gifts from our children which can sustain us even when we are knocked off balance for an extended period of time.  I am trying so hard and praying my guts out that I will become all that I am supposed to because of and through the experiences of raising these children.  I am in awe that God trusted me enough because really….I'm not that good at all of this!  I'm grateful my children are resilient as I mess it up over and over.  But I am OH SO GRATEFUL that God chose them--my three extra special, hand-picked-for-our-family, very incredible little ones--to teach me.  They might kill me….or they might just give me the gifts that make me into a better woman.  Regardless, I am so blessed to be the recipient of their "waffles!"

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Looking forward

I am of the firm belief that looking forward moves you forward while dwelling on the past can paralyze.  I had the gift of a weekend away, which gave me a bit of time to reflect on my life and kind of take inventory.  I hate inventory sometimes because it hurts. 

The last several weeks have been exceptionally difficult for me as I have felt like a failure in every area of my life.  Thank goodness for amazing people who reassure me that I don’t totally suck, but the voices in my head were screaming otherwise. And while all of this screamed at me, I stared at my three kids, all with different needs (some louder and more intense than others) and felt almost immobilized because I was so frustrated by my failings.  I realized I needed to get control over this emotional chaos.  That led me to tighten our schedules, push them harder to get things done, spend more time frustrated by their resistance….blah blah.  A familiar cycle for any parent. 

Todd and I spent a night together and I finally just emotionally vomited. During our talk, he listened so carefully and did not try to silence the screaming voices.  Rather, he helped me realize something—that I was kind of grieving a loss.  I was grieving because, after 7 years as a mother in total, I finally realized that I could not be superwoman or superhuman or fix everything through a little R&I (resourcefulness and initiative).  Can you believe it took me that long?

I think that, in my life, I have cherished the fact that drive has helped me to succeed—I could push my body to do hard things, practice improved my musical abilities, I had a successful and exciting career.  I guess the mantra was always “make it happen” when things got tough.  I will never forget the day that Stephen Covey carefully pulled me aside and basically attempted to break the news that, once I had kids, such would no longer be the case.  Admittedly, his “caution” that I needed to let a little bit of that control go when I had a family fell on deaf, very single ears.  I couldn’t imagine finding a husband at that point, much less birthing anything.  I took his sincere and sweet message and found a different application—more of a spiritual one—which served to be a life lesson for me.  But just recently, another life lesson—less spiritual, more practical, equally impactful—has hit me.  I can’t fix it all, control it all, or manipulate things to ensure they turn out how I want them to when it comes to my family.  All I can do is listen, love, and look forward.

Let me give an example of a failure….my Matthew has been doing this therapy for ages and we’ve seen incredible results when we are diligent, but it is something we have to do ourselves.  Recently, I have been excusing myself from doing it in the name of “I want to me his Mom and not his therapist” and avoiding it because of the fights we sometimes have.  Enter guilt because, in my mind, we do the therapy, Matthew gets better.  We don’t, and I’m failing him.  I was missing the point though….we do the therapy and it is an opportunity for me to connect with my son.  The therapy isn’t the point—the point is the connection.  As I dodge something that feels difficult, I am missing a big opportunity.  It isn’t about manipulating the outcome—it is about the relationship with my sweet boy. 

Like I mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity to get away for a few days and just be selfish.  Yup.  It felt great.  Part of that selfish time was time with just my thoughts.  I was walkng around the streets of New York, exploring with my incredible, kindred friend and thinking about my life….stepping back and taking the birds eye view of my world and my life, considering where my current perspective and actions might lead my family.  I started to, candidly, freak out a little and feel so sad at the things I need to fix.  Maybe because the list is a little longer than I ever thought I would allow it to get, or maybe because my failings have been staring me square in the face lately, I felt so sad!  But the prevailing thought, and this was so clear to me and literally stopped me dead in my tracks, is the simple idea that I needed to look forward.  People have the capacity to change….but it isn’t an overnight BAM! I’m amazing.  Rather, each fix is an evolution.  I don’t do well with evolution, mind you…I like BAM! 

My evolution needs to start with a mindset—I cannot fix/control/manipulate my children.  Motherhood is not about marching your kids through life in a certain direction and when they stray from what YOU think is the perfect path, beating them (only figuratively) back in line.  Rather, it is about backing off sometimes.  Seems counter-intuitive, but for me, that’s exactly what needs to happen.

Sometimes when we back off of our ideas of what things need to look like, we can catch a glimpse of the bigger picture.  Too close is the worms-eye view—and only seeing the “dirt” in front of you is not a fabulous way to live.  What I hope the “back off” view will give me is a better picture of the unique capacities that each of my littles has—including my loud, rough, but amazing love bug Matthew who I have literally pushed away in exhaustion lately.  Even writing that has the tears flowing.  But it is true…I have pushed each of my littles away a little as I have been bogged down by my failings and exhausted by the worms-eye view.

While the birds-eye view was a short-lived luxury, it helped.  I might not be superhuman, superwoman, or Mother-of-the-year (unless you are using the term sarcastically in which case it might be appropriate), but I can certainly envision myself being better than I am today.  Yesterday didn’t erase that opportunity…I have a lot to learn from yeseterdays .which I am grateful for.  And it is with eyes fixed forward, I commit to back off a little so that I can better appreciate the masterpiece in front of me.   

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Good in the World

We just took a trip to the happiest place on earth with our little fam.  It proved to be just that--we witnessed a side of our son that we didn't know existed.  He was talkative, behaved, excited, laughing, connected, and oh so much fun!  We loved loving on him and Todd kept saying, "I like him so much!"  To us, that's a big deal.  We always love him....the "like" part is not always quite as easy, if that makes sense.

Our flights there were great--uneventful equals great. On our drive to the hotel, I had a stroke of genius....I called and requested that they remove the TV's from our room.  Matthew is obsessed with buttons and the TV becomes a focal point for him, often to the point of abuse.  They, sadly, turned down my request and said they are unable to remove furniture from the room.  As I thought more about the idea, I became more convinced it would make a HUGE difference in our trip--every time we were in the room, we'd have to deal with Matthew's obsession, telling him "NO" every five seconds, pulling him off the TV, trying to keep him from pushing it over, trying to threaten him and other such negative parenting strategies.  We had already committed to put our phones away, so this would serve as a continuation of our electronics purge.  So when we checked in, I asked again....and, perhaps because of my pleading eyes (and batting lashes--JK), they said yes!

Engineering dude arrives at our room and I quickly realize just why they don't want to remove it--it is bolted to the dresser.  He gets ready to unscrew it and I almost said to forget it, figuring he can't do THAT much damage, right?  Well, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that was a naive pipe dream and I let him continue his efforts for a few minutes.  I started to feel really guilty, however, when he needed to leave for new tools and came back with the head of engineering to try new strategies to remove the TV from the dresser.  It quickly became clear that we were the first people to ever make this request...and I'm sure the last they would acquiesce to. I tried to let them off the hook and explained to the sweet lady who was the head of engineering exactly why we were doing this.  She reassured me it was just fine....and made me feel like she sincerely didn't mind.  She could tell I felt bad, so she reached over and gave me a big hug before continuing her efforts.  We finally decided that removing the entire dresser would be easier--so they did.  We then put Matthew down for a nap in his tent (yes, we travel with his full-blown tent and mattress--don't ask me how, but we managed).  Well, he wasn't ready and somehow ripped the entire front door of the tent open and climbed out!  Todd and I were panicked and flashes of sleepless nights started to bring on serious anxiety.  How would we contain our little demonic sleeper (he literally does not relax and settle down if not fully enclosed and contained in his tent) if the entire front of his fabulous dreamland has just been destroyed?!  Stroke of inspiration strikes Todd and he goes to find our engineering friend who donates the largest roll of duct tape you have ever seen to our sleeping cause.  DAY SAVED!  I already loved her for hugging I love her even more.

The next morning, Todd goes out to try to buy some water so we can avoid the $5/bottle fee at the park.  He runs into our engineering friend and she says that there really isn't anyplace within walking distance to purchase waters, but that she could get us some from their staff lounge for $1/bottle.  Gratefully, Todd gives her a several dollars and she equips us with the max she felt comfortable snagging from their staff lounge. Even more love for this fabulous woman.

After a fantastic day at the park, we come back to our TV-less room and find a CASE of bottled water sitting on the desk from this fine, extra-mile, incredible mind reader of a woman.  I'm telling you, she made my day.  I feel so grateful that people like lady exist in the world.  Though perhaps not a huge deal to her, it was a MAJOR deal to us.

Fast forward through our trip (which, I again have to say, was absolutely incredible and we have decided that we are going to take Matthew back for his birthday so that we can truly celebrate with him--we have finally found what makes him the happiest and it leaves us overjoyed and willing to do it a million more times).  We are ready to leave.  Packed up, breakfast eaten....and Matthew starts to fall apart at the seams.  So does Adi....Liam is still holding it together.  Take us to the airport--kids are running absolutely wild.  We are those parents that I'm sure everyone was feeling sorry for or judging.  Good news is that we didn't feel either one of those things.  People were very kind.  Just as we are getting ready to board the plane, Matthew starts to throw an EPIC tantrum--one that no amount of one-on-one conversation, try every therapy strategy we know, get down on the floor with him to try to pull him out of it....nothing we are doing seems to be helping him at all.  He is screaming, crying, flailing, throwing his body on the ground, etc.  Mind you, all of this is happening at the front of the Southwest line as we are standing there preparing for family boarding.  So every person in that line is witnessing this little exchange as we try our darndest to help our child get a little control over his emotions.  I finally picked him up, looked at everyone staring at us in the line, and said "I promise, he'll be fine once we are on the plane!"  I got not a single dirty look back.  Some stunned faces, but mostly kind ones.  Comments like "we have kids" and other nice reactions followed.  I was shocked.  So what do I do?  I burst into tears.  Then I'm totally embarrassed.  I think I was completely overwhelmed by the whole situation and so incredibly touched by the compassion of those that had every reason to be a bit crusty that they were about to board a plane with what appeared to be the devil in a child's body.  I start walking down the jetway and am trying to hard to get control of my emotions when the kind business traveler behind me says, "you're doing great, Mom." I could hardly turn around to thank him....I tried, but I still couldn't talk through my blubbering.  He probably thought I was a crazy lady and ungrateful, but I was so horrified at my own inability to maintain any sort of control over my emotions.

As we boarded, Matthew grabbed some guys phone--literally dove into his lap and down through his legs to try to grab his phone.  I grabbed him as fast as I could and quickly tried to explain to the guy what happened (the look on his stunned face was priceless), but as he recovered from the shock of the flying child, he laughed and said it was no big deal at all.  Again, I almost re-burst into tears, but managed composure until we got to our seat where I spent the next several minutes trying not to talk to my husband because I was worried it would open up the flood gates all over again.

During the flight, Matthew peed his pants.  Completely leaked all over the place.  We took him to the back of the plane and changed him, stripping him of his pants and he exited the restroom in a pullup and sweatshirt.  The flight attendant laughed with us and chatted it up with Todd who is convinced it is his fault since he took him potty last.  Well, our half-naked kid who never poops decides to relieve himself of pent up yuck at 37,000 feet.  It was unpleasant to say the least, and I'd be shocked if no one noticed....but no one did anything but smile at us and laugh at the irony of this pantless kid and his Dad (who qualified himself for sainthood by taking his poopy child and inflexible self into a room the size of a coffin for an acrobatic diaper change).

People are good.  People can be kind.  Those that aren't, I think I will choose to ignore.  Those that are, I wish I could somehow express how much it meant to me to be the recipient of some of that kindness.  I wanted to run up and find that dude who had said nice stuff to me that I couldn't thank through my "tears with snot" (as a dear friend of mine so affectionately termed a legit cry).  I kept trying to figure out how to get him a thank you note or something, but I'm sad to say that I wasn't fast enough on the draw to make that happen before he deplaned.  I get it--not everyone will be nice 100% of the time, but if everyone tried--like our engineering friend, or dude in the jetway--then we are one step closer to making this world a better place.

There are days when I look around at the people around me and feel jealous because things, like travel, appear so easy.  But I guess that "ease" isn't what shapes us--it isn't what life is all about.  We are given what we need to grow.  I feel like I did a bit of shrinking today as I didn't handle my children as well as I could have/should have in my exhaustion and impatience, but I did grow in that I learned from the examples of kind people around me who did a little bit to make the world a little better for this mamma.