April, Autism, and Awareness

April is Autism awareness month. I’m certain that by today, you’ve seen a facebook post or a newscast or one of the “light it up blue” campaign advertisements. I always wondered if they chose April because it starts with an “A” and how catchy is it to say “April is Autism Awareness Month”? It is really catchy. April is also a month (here in the Ohio River Valley) with tumultuous weather. April has these amazingly perfect days back to back with intense storms and week-long downpours. From the 10+ years I’ve spent working with people on the autism spectrum, this is quiet fitting.

I am fortunate to know a number of people who fall onto the autism spectrum. Working in Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapy & direct support services for people with all kinds of disabilities for over 10 years, I met so many amazing individuals on the spectrum. I’ve been lucky enough to see lots of break-through moments, and I have also experienced the heart-wrenching loss of a young client who suffered from very severe autism. I have found so many spectacular, quirky things that I love in the clients I have worked with. At the same time, seeing the challenges faced by these same people, I would not wish autism on anyone.

One of my cousins has autism and has been my little buddy since he was a baby (now he towers over me! And still I call him my “little buddy”). This handsome young guy has shown our family how to think and how to love outside of the box. I am grateful that he and I have always found a connection and been close. He definitely sparked my interest in working with children and ABA therapy. Through learning how to get to know my own cousin, I found a career that I loved and was good at. This April actually marks 1 year since I left that career to stay at home with my own children. I could write an entire page about the making of that decision. For now, I will just say that it was tough…But it was right for my boys and for me. I left the position I had worked toward (in a facility I kind of helped build) for 5 years. It was more than simply an adjustment…Once you get involved with families in the autism community (be it work or volunteer or personal reasons) you will just fall in love with their dedication, heart, and sense of humor. It is hard to take yourself out of “the fight” and focus on other things…even when “other things” are your own sweet, sweet baby boys!

However, my own journey with my cousin, my clients, friends, ABA, stay-at-home-motherhood, etc…is not why we are talking about Autism. We are talking about Autism because it is April and because the CDC is saying 1 in 68 children in the USA are on the spectrum. Because we don’t know exactly what causes this disorder and even after all these years of study, we can’t seem to fully “rehabilitate” those with it. And while I hope this month brings a wave of funding for organizations that work toward improving the lives of people with autism. Maybe someday they will find a cure or a trigger to avoid, or something. But…I also hope that this month brings simple understanding and tolerance. Not every part of autism is devastating. Some of my “autistic” buddies have the best senses of humor, the most creative ideas, amazing focus and concentration, abilities to retain information I could never remember, and hearts with more room in them than you could know from a first impression. And although I hate that these kiddos suffer under this label of “autism” and struggle in ways others may not have to…I appreciate the personalities they have and the beauty of who a person with autism blossoms into as he/she works to overcome the struggle to simply be apart of this society. SO, be aware that someone you encounter out in our community could have autism and could be struggling…be kind, be patient, or at the very least, mind your business and don’t be one of those jerks who stares.

I’ve not read this book yet, but this quote is one of my newer favorites:

“I know of nobody who is purely autistic, or purely neurotypical. Even God has some autistic moments, which is why the planets spin.” – Jerry Newport

Peace

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Aside

I have never been a fan of Valentine’s Day. More accurately, I’ve never been a fan of the greeting card- buying, candy heart- eating, dinner over candlelight, enormous pressure to make a huge statement of romantic love, parts of this day.

I’m also not at all amused by the anti-Valentine sentiments many singles ascribe to in “celebrating” the day. I was never one to label it a “dark day” or “lonely hearts club day” or “singles awareness day”, even when I was without my other (and often better) half.

What I am, however, is an advocate of love. Love, which I have been blessed to have pulsing through my life like blood in my veins.

I have known the love and discipline of God. I have loved and been loved by wonderful parents, family, and friends. I have been loved on by strangers (don’t be gross…I’m talking about acts of kindness…like letting me cut in line at the grocery or reminding me I left my headlights on in the parking lot). I have loved and been loved by the sweetest animal pals, having had lots of pets.

And, the most amazing, overwhelming, and beautiful loves on the planet….

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I was lucky enough to find my husband at a young age. He came into my life at IU. We were college sweethearts and best friends. We had a wonderful 4.5 years together before our son, Graham Daniel, arrived. Graham brought with him a love that changed our entire lives in the best of ways. And I am so thankful for every minute that has led to where we are now.

I love love. I am grateful for what it moves us to do and what it awakens within us. My wish for all of you is that you appreciate the love in your life, whoever it may come from.

Now, it is my goal this year to learn the stories of the saints for which holidays, like this one, are named after. So, here is the info I shared with Graham today from Catholic Online:

The Origin of St. Valentine

The origin of St. Valentine is that he was most likely a Roman priest martyred for refusing to give up his faith. There are several versions of the story out there, and no one know exactly which St. Valentine is the real deal. But, whoever he was, this man really did exist. Archaeologists have found a Roman catacomb and record of an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine.

Valentine was said to be caught performing the illegal acts of marrying Christian couples and helping Christians who were considered fugitives by Claudius, the Roman Emperor of the time. He went to prison where he found favor with Claudius…until…he tried to evangelize the guy (gotta admire that ballsy move). He was sentenced to death, and later a Pope declared Feb. 14 a day to commemorate his faith and courage.

Peace and love from my heart to yours. 

Lemonade for Santa

First of all…from our family to yours, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

ImageThe above was the best we could do with the dog and baby together…This one was also a favorite, but didn’t make it on the card 😉

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Now…why we unfortunately won’t be seeing many of you this holiday season. 

      The hubs and I had everything set for our travels and our plan for house-hopping on Christmas eve and Christmas day. We had been planning for, stressing over, and busily working on these holidays plans in hopes of giving Graham a big family Christmas full of loved ones. We were concerned on Thursday to notice little man developing a chesty cough that quickly went from mild to concerning over night. As any first-time mother would do, I called the doctor’s office and insisted that they work him in.

Sidebar: The receptionist at our pediatrician’s office nearly got a visit from “crazy mom” (I honestly believe every mom has one in her, I know I do). She insisted that there were no open appointments. I informed her that we were told to call back if his congestion worsened and to be seen. She replied that the office holiday party was that day and they weren’t taking extra appointments due to a 2 hour lunch. Then “crazy mom” took over the phone and informed the receptionist that if they could not give me an appointment time, then I would just bring my son in and we could discuss this issue in person. She was magically able to find a cancellation with another doctor in the practice. I took the phone back from “crazy mom” and all was well. It was a close one.

So the doctor came in and listened to his lungs and looked in his ears. Issue #1…Fluid in both ears…double ear infection. She then said she wanted to test him for Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which you can read all about here: here. Issue #2…he tested positive for RSV. My heart sank and my anxiety skyrocketed. I discussed our weekend and holiday plans with her and was advised to avoid doing all of them for 10 days minimum, preferably 2 weeks…..yeah, it is HIGHLY contagious for young babies. More alarming was the information about how RSV can (but does not always) turn into something quite serious for infants, specifically those under 1 year old. So we are closely monitoring him and doing all we can to keep him from progressing to the need for any hospital visits.

I’m not sure how close-knit other families are, but the hub and I are used to crowds and kids running around, and very family-style holidays. We were supposed to be traveling this weekend and next for gatherings…ones that happen typically only once each year. We were a bit disappointed…to say the very least. We were at a loss of what to do with ourselves.

BUT..The beauty of being married to one’s best friend, and having a sweet baby boy who makes every day pretty fantastic….is that it isn’t so hard to take lemons and make them into lemonade. So we will be leaving lemonade and cookies for Santa this year.

We will be home. We will be using the suction bulb on Graham-man’s nose, playing games in steam-filled bathrooms, and patting baby backs, and holding a napping boy at inclined positions…in the room with the cool mist humidifier, and baby-vick’s vapor rubbing-it up. We will play carols on the piano and watch Christmas movies, and make treats. Although we will miss our families, we have resolved to soak in every minute of quarantine-time together. We have been learning over this past year that babies kind of make the rules at first. They don’t even have to try, we just can’t help but revolve most things around their adorable little needs. We were definitely tested with this last minute change of plans. But God has been so good in allowing the virus to be caught early enough that he didn’t spread it to other babies and perhaps he will have an easy recovery. Prayers for that are much appreciated!

A Note to family & friends: Graham’s virus is no threat to persons over the age of 2yrs. SO, if you are in town and would have time to stop in, we would love to see you! Just call me! Oh, and don’t ring the doorbell or “crazy mom” will cut you. Go on, test her. Graham is a little croupy-sounding, but he is overall his usual, wild, silly self. We were already blessed to have our pal, Ben & his mom stop through last night. Yay! Also keep in mind that you can see a fully healthy Graham at his first Birthday party which will be on January 20th (invites coming later)!

Time to run…well, time to get off here anyway…

Peace & Joy to all from us here along the Ohio 🙂

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To Be Continued…

Hi there blog-world…long time no see. How have you been? Okay, enough with the small talk. I can’t handle the upkeep of this relationship at this point and time. It’s not you, it is my life.

You see, in the past 6 months I have been slightly preoccupied with….

these guys

And then more preoccupied with again, this guy…

 

Plus, let’s not forget this one

I’m not really sure what I did all day before Graham joined us here. We are constantly moving from waking up until bedtime. And once the Grahamosaurus-Rex is in bed, it’s time to throw the ball with Parker-dog or brush the kittens (yes, I realized once they tip the scales over 12lbs they are no longer actual kittens). And once the animals are contented, I am doing school work until I either fall asleep or Graham wakes up and needs something.

BUT to be clear, I am not complaining. My life has never felt so full and so real. I love that our marriage is now a family.I love that we are in this part of life where you can only live day to day and although time flies, there are also these very quiet and sweet moments when the whole world just feels still and peaceful. Those moments are pretty much always directly related to a sleeping baby on my chest…

SO where I’m going with all of this is that I decided to take a break from writing and simply read all your wonderful blogs when possible. I’ll be exploring and hopefully outlining some fun things for the future – when I am better able to be consistent with this blog…so don’t worry, I’ll be thinking of you! But until I have some material saved up, I’ll be gone for a bit.

Peace be with you all.

 

The Healing Properties of Hooters

It did not take me long after becoming pregnant to make the decision to breast feed my baby. Breast feeding was recommended by every single source I consulted, it costs practically nothing, and honestly I never really considered going any other route. Once I had little man, however, I experienced weeks of uncertainty.

Giving birth did not go at all as expected and the complications that followed little man’s birth made getting started with breast feeding extremely difficult. But even without the complications, I think I would have struggled in many of the same ways. Breast feeding is serious business and can sometimes be difficult… both mentally and physically.

I was blessed in so many ways in my situation as most of my breast feeding issues were mental/hormonal or maybe just exhaustion. My little man was a very sleepy newborn. He would have easily slept through the night from day 1. The problem with this was that he was a tad underweight and needed to eat every 3 hours to gain weight properly. My Mr. T and I spent hours coaxing little man to eat. I felt like he never got enough food. With breast feeding, I couldn’t visibly see how many ounces he was getting and for some reason it drove me NUTS for days and days. I was also exhausted and not getting enough nutrition at the time, although I wouldn’t find that out until later.

Your body uses over 500 extra calories to make milk, and I was barely eating what I would’ve normally eaten before pregnancy. I was too tired or busy to take care of myself. On the upside, I lost my baby weight and then some…but unfortunately I was also draining myself.

My best advice to new moms is to stick with it and make sure you are getting enough to eat and enough water. If you aren’t healthy, you’ll never make it long-term breast feeding…it takes a lot of work, time, and energy. But also.. if you have physical issues that prevent you from continuing, I encourage you to not get down on yourself…your baby will be OK! I know a number of formula fed babes who are healthy and happy and doing great.

SO…I stuck with it and now we are going strong at 3 months and 1 week. I plan to continue as long as possible or until little man is over a year old. I really hope it works out!

As I’ve continued with feeding little man, I keep finding the most interesting facts about human milk. Did you know that breast milk can actually heal minor cuts? Pinkeye? Ear infections? Rashes? It can be used as a preventative for eye infections and rashes too! When I started looking into the healing powers of my hooters, I was astonished at how much human milk can do.

I came upon all of this when I caught pinkeye…yes…GROSS, right? And it was pretty crazy that I caught it considering I am OBSESSIVE about hand washing and such these days. But, I work with kids, it had been going around at work, and I went home one evening and shit, there it was.

I went to immediate care and the doc prescribed me an antibiotic and some eye drops…but when I got home the bottle of eye drops said “Do not use if pregnant or breast feeding”. WTF, doc? I looked up the medicine on the Kelly Mom website (awesome resource by the way). The drops were in category C, which to me is a big NO. I threw them out and started researching how I could treat my eye…and found tons of literature on breast milk. I used pumped milk as eye drops for 2 days and within less than 24hrs my eye was cleared up and symptoms subsided. Of course, I continued the antibiotic its full-course.

I’ve also been using breast milk for scratches if little man gets his face at night and it heals his skin so quickly. No kidding!

Here are some of the sites I found with more info:

http://voices.yahoo.com/10-great-ways-breastmilk-other-than-feeding-231786.html

http://www.pregnancy-info.net/breastfeeding_illness.html

http://bmsg.tripod.com/breastmilkuses.htm

Because I Can’t Help Myself

It turns out that once you have a baby, you somehow end up becoming one of those people who drive other people crazy on facebook (and wordpress) by posting WAY too many photos of your baby. My name is Jessie and I am addicted to my baby.

I’m working on a final paper for my class on Assessment of Exceptional Students this week…so here is all that my brain can handle outside of school and work-stuff….

I used to be just a tiny guy...

Now I'm a big, nearly 3 month old!

I love sitting around in my diaper!

Always thinking...

And when I'm not contemplating life...I'm SMILING!

And reluctantly modeling for Mama

...and sporting my dinosaur hoodies

 

Peace, friends.

The Other Side

Well friends, it has been awhile! I apologize for the gap in posting, however I was slightly preoccupied with all that was going on. I *hope (fingers crossed!) that I’ll be back and posting more regularly now that baby Graham is here. We are starting to fall into a rhythm as we approach 3 months together. I was going to wait and start posting when I had a little storage file of stories to share, but it seems I may never get to sit down and compile coherent thoughts without interruption ever again…which is going to make online classes and working from home difficult, isn’t it???

I thought since it happened suddenly and most people didn’t get the scoop…I would share Graham’s birth-story. I had an ultrasound scheduled for the morning of January 24th. The doctor wanted to see how big my little guy was getting due to my smallish frame and concerns about delivery. We had the ultrasound and then went to work. After a long day of meetings, I returned to the doc for my weekly appointment (I was 37 weeks). From the moment the nurse took my blood pressure, things went haywire. My BP was high, so the nurse had me turn onto my left side and rest for awhile to try to bring it down….it continued to go up. The doctor tested my urine sample and found protein, which combined with my other symptoms suggested a condition called preeclampsia.

“We need to deliver today”

My first reaction to the good doctor’s prognosis was “NO! I can’t do that this week…” My mind was reeling with anxiety (really great for that whole blood pressure problem, right?). I immediately broke into tears over the idea that we would be doing this NOW now now…I did not have the baby penciled into my planner for January 24. The due date was clearly written in ink on Feb. 13 with a little heart next to it.

Mr. T and I were told we could choose to induce labor, but that the recommendation due to my condition was that we deliver via c-section. This news fell hard on my heart because it was the exact opposite of the delivery I had envisioned. I was going to be at home with Mr. T when my water would break and we would time the contractions (like the videos from class!) and we’d go to the hospital at like 2am in a snow storm or something…I’d be yelling and pushing and the baby would come out the errr…the baby-hole, naturally, maybe even without an epidural. None of this would happen with a c-section…and I felt slightly cheated.

As it turns out, none of it really matters after you hold your little one in your arms. For me, it all changed when I saw and heard him. Most of everything from that night is fuzzy, except the moment the nurse held him out beside me so I could see him. I had been practically hyperventilating and terrified through the whole procedure, but then he was out and he was healthy and I could just…breathe again. That memory is as clear as day, and the rest is pretty foggy.

After delivery, my blood pressure continued to stay high. I was kept in recover for hours and kept in the labor and delivery unit over night while they kept an eye on me. I was put on magnesium for 24hrs which made me and Graham both extremely sleepy (because I am breast feeding). I looked and felt awful for the first 2 days following delivery, but withing about 4-5 days I was feeling pretty good. C-section recovery is definitely nothing to sneeze at (more on that topic later).

I learned a few things through the whole debacle…the first is that my husband is an even better man than I knew he was. He took care of me, he took care of our baby, he put up with…a lot. He didn’t just help me through things, he got me through them. I was crazy and helpless and he was the example of everything a husband should be like in such situations. Second…in the end, all that matters is that baby makes it out safely. Having him here is worth 10 c-section scars. And third…our family and friends are damn good ones. I can’t thank everyone enough for all the meals, the advice, the supportive comments, and the support.

More to come on baby, c-section recovery, and life here on the other side of pregnancy…

peace

Thanks, Eleanor

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve been throwing this quote around A LOT lately, for my own sanity more than anything.  I have always struggled with people-pleasing and worrying over other people’s feelings. I’m not sure if this is a learned thing (my mother is notoriously over-involved in people’s lives) or just a trait of a perfectionist (wanting everything to be harmonious, even relationships). Whatever the reason, this inability to just do what I want and not think about its implications on everyone else has made me feel a little nuts lately.

I’ve done a great deal of stretching myself too thin over the years and I simply can not and will not do this anymore. I’ve come to the realization that when you are often thinking “where did my month go?” and feeling like you’ve barely been able to enjoy your favorite season of the year because you’ve been “busy”…well it sucks. I’m not going to allow my life to be so booked up that the hub and I barely get to hang out. I’m not going to make choices based on what I think others want or need me to be doing….I literally can not do it anymore. I am beyond thankful that the hub and I have this full life with so many people we love in it and jobs we can pour ourselves into…but I am starting to realize that people understand when you say “no” and they don’t often go into some kind of flip-out over it. A lot of times people understand and let it go.

I am 100% positive that this stems from us preparing for our little baby to arrive. Mr. T and I have talked many times these past months about  how “family life” might look for us. These talks in combination with the many kicks and waves we can feel coming from my abdomen have honestly put so much into perspective. It certainly leaves a lot of unanswered questions…there are days when I’m not sure exactly what the next few years of my life will look like. For someone who plans practically everything out, this is difficult to accept. The one thing I do know, is that I reserve the right from here on out to make choices based on my family’s best interest ahead of anything else. I reserve the right to change my mind. I reserve my right to take my time and find my peace with where we are and what we’re doing week to week. Someday, I have a feeling I’ll be thanking my son for providing me with the kick-start to do this.

Cheers

My Midwest Marley

                                                      THIS is our Parker dog.

We came across this little pup quite by surprise. I was running errands while the Hub was helping paint a house with a friend. There sat the little pup, timid and quiet, looking at me from under a chair in a group of dogs who were also up for adoption. I walked over to him and he melted into my hand, head-first, like we were old friends. I didn’t want to leave without him.

I called the Hub and basically laid out the situation to him. I explained that this was his best shot at me falling in love with a dog that would be smaller than say, a pony. I’m typically much more of a “big dog” person. He left the painting and came to meet me…in paint-clothes, with a broken flip-flop, and paint in his hair. I’m still curious what the adoption ladies were thinking as we filled out the paperwork agreeing to take care of the dog.

Parker quickly came out of his shell in his new home. We bought him toys and a crate and set him up with everything he could need. He chewed his toys into bits…then he proceeded to knock over waste baskets and shred the contents. The first time we left him unattended and lose in the house, he ate a letter I had written to my friend, Charis. After that he chewed the wooded baby gate we bought to corral him…then the baseboards in the hallway….and the corner of our dresser. A dresser we inherited and could never afford ourselves. It now has one rounded corner…sigh.

Parker has eaten his own dog-bed, his blankets, pillows, the heads off of the flowers in the backyard, countless pairs of shoes….the fabric from the porch swing, a spatula, rocks, miracle grow…and that was the first year. Still, how can you be mad at this face….

When Mr. T took up running last summer, Parker’s behavior improved considerably. We were also able to build a fence, which kept him from tying up his slack line around all the patio furniture…every damn day. I love our fence. Me LOVE fence.

Still, I’m not sure our dog will out-grow his spunk…and I think I’m happy with that. Sure, he gets insanely excited when he sees other animals…he practically clotheslines people with his leash as he wildly swings around whoever is walking him. He might get over excited and bark uncontrollably while rocketing through the house….jumping over the couch and squeezing between tables…..knocking over anything nearby.

Parker has even been to obedience classes…2 of them…which produced some results. Maybe not the model-dog we expected, but he definitely gets points for spirit. On his last day of class 2, he managed to pass the “leave it” part of his exam, even after tricking me by coming to the correct spot, sitting, accepting his treat, and then (like lightning) doubling back to get the food he was supposed to leave. The instructor was delighted with his creativity despite the disobedience.

He hasn’t & maybe never will outgrow that whole “eating weird shit” phase. He has crafted a skill for pulling food off of the kitchen counters….he has eaten a loaf of Hawaiian sweet bread, a dozen homemade doughnuts, a container of cupcakes…that was just last month. He ate half of a lighter this year…yeah. Most recently, he knocked a sample container of paint off of our spare room shelves…then he chewed it open and walked in it…blue paw prints…on carpet that had been cleaned just 3 days earlier.

He is an expensive dog. Expensive in vet visits, and toys, and shoes, and household items. Expensive and yet I don’t think Mr. T or I have ever considered not keeping him as part of our family. I have never understood how people can do that…make a living creature a part of the family, and then just cast it out over some “thing”. YES, Parker barks at sometimes nothing at all…yes, Parker ate my red dress shoes, and my favorite sandals.

Yes, he digs our backyard up every chance he gets….but he also waits for me everyday when I come home from work. The excitement in his face and in his howls is unreal…it is like I’ve been gone for months…every afternoon. He is fierce when strangers come to the door, and by my side in the night…even more so when the Hub isn’t home. He runs faithfully beside Hub for around 4 miles, every chance he gets. He reminds me to take time-out and throw a ball in the yard once a day. He makes our marriage even stronger with all the fun activities we do with him and the thought we both put into his care. He is definitely a bad dog…but he is loved….so loved…and he is a good-hearted pup.

Blue Things

The world changed a bit today, at least…for us it changed.

The hub and I went for our 20 week ultrasound and came to find that this little anonymous alien inside of me is not only a tiny human with all the vital organs and limbs and such…but it is also a boy. A BOY! I must admit that we were not exactly prepared for this baby to be a boy. I’m sure you’re thinking “but you knew there was a 50% chance it could be a boy. WTF!?” Well,  we just really thought it would be a girl…not to mention there were various people in our lives seeing us raising a girl as well. So, what does God do, He grants us…a son. And we are already pretty much in-love with the duty of raising a little man, even as unprepared as we may be.

We were sitting in the soon-to-be baby’s room tonight, talking about things. I have decided I should’ve guessed it would be a boy from the 12 week ultrasound we had. At that time, the little guy was swirling and sliding ALL around before our eyes…literally bouncing off the (uterine) walls. And then today, before the ultrasound tech even told us, she commented on how the little babe was resting just right on top of my bladder. I had to drink 20+ ounces of water and was not allowed to pee for an hour….this is no small feat for me now a days. And there is this kid, chilling on my bladder – not a care in the world. Only boys do things like this!

There was also the comment our friend, Keith, made in his infinite (perhaps alcohol induced) wisdom…when he said one night not long ago “Matthew is so manly, he can’t even produce a girl. His baby will be a boy, and it might come out with a beard.” I should’ve known…my manly husband would only be capable of producing superhuman hero boys….which he is convinced this baby might be. Yeah. I’m in for years of batman, spider-man, and Thor costumes, aren’t I?

I’m not sure what else to report. We will know the true results of how the pregnancy is looking next Tuesday when we see our doctor to go over the ultrasound. The tech didn’t seem to see anything unusual though, so we’re feeling good about that. And now its time for the fun stuff…the decorating!

More to come on creating a cool nursery with little money, zero artistic ability, and some high hopes.

Peace