For the Love of Rivalry

bleachers

Rivalries. In the world of sports everybody’s got one. I would guess I was in elementary school when I first learned I had to make a decision between Michigan and Michigan State (Michigan of course), and that decision would be a lifelong commitment. I know nothing about the teams these schools are currently producing, but I still roll my eyes whenever I see a friend wearing a Spartans shirt in my Facebook news feed. Continue reading

Making Life Easier

Motown

It’s hard to believe it was almost two years ago that I wrote about visiting the Motown Museum in Detroit. Time does fly. Since then I have gushed about how the staff responded to our daughter’s behavior no less than a hundred times. Here I am doing it again….

It was a terrible place to take her. We knew that, which is why we had planned on taking turns. But they convinced us it would be okay. And just a few kind words turned what should have been a miserable experience into something we have been bragging about for two years.

The main reason I bring it up so much is because taking our daughter places is a serious issue in our world and at this point I don’t know if it will ever change. A few months ago we had breakfast at a local restaurant. It was during her constant screaming phase so we did manage to silence the room a few times. But then a few strangers told us how good she had been- and it’s now our new favorite restaurant. Because honestly? I can’t tell you how many times we have left a restaurant with the feeling that we can never go there again. Continue reading

Pancake! Pancake! Pancake!

Eat

Teghan goes through cycles of preferred word groupings. She is obsessed with words, even if she isn’t very good at stringing them together. She loves word apps and she seems to take pride in labeling things. Her pronunciation is constantly improving, and at home she effortlessly gets her point across with two or three word phrases- the first word usually being “want.”

A revolving door of language for us has been her unusual choice in words when she is angry. She yells and stomps her feet, and the tone in her voice is much like any other child vocally complaining. Except she doesn’t have the ability to express those words properly. She used to sing Old MacDonald. We would try hard not to laugh as she looked at us defiantly and screamed, “E-I-E-I-O!” as if scolding us. Just to keep things interesting, she would occasionally throw in a different song lyric. “Head, knees, toes!” was popular for a while. Continue reading

Teaching Beauty

T and Me

I don’t have perfect skin. I am pale and blotchy. You can clearly see the veins on my eyelids and I have had dark circles every day of my life. I don’t wear makeup to be the prettiest woman in the room, I wear makeup because when I don’t people are constantly asking me if I am okay. I wear makeup because it’s an easy fix for potential social anxiety. I don’t seek a perfect complexion. I am simply shooting for normal. Some days concealer is enough, but I apply according to my comfort level.

Women with normal complexions say they understand, but they don’t. They only understand having imperfections. My Facebook news feed regularly reveals makeup-free selfies of women who put themselves on a pedestal for not being afraid to show their naked faces. Who can be the most beautiful without makeup? Come on, girls. Take it all off so we can compare…. Continue reading

The Slide

dancefb

This past weekend we traveled to Michigan for my sister’s wedding. Teghan does exceptionally well on long car rides, but the three nights in a hotel had us a little worried. Outside of a few screams here and there, she did better than expected. As Matron of Honor I had important things to do like getting my nails done, so my husband spent a good portion of our long weekend taking Teghan on walks. Another thing she does well. They walked several miles a day and she never broke a sweat. Overall the weekend was a success for everyone involved.

On the way home we stopped at the tollway oases, as we usually do. They have a family bathroom which makes stopping with Teghan a thousand times easier. There is a McDonald’s play area inside. Usually she doesn’t notice it, but this time she pulled and cried “want” in a desperate plea to get to it. She was not wearing socks. We took her to a table by the window to calm her down.

And then I bought a pair of $15 ugly souvenir socks.

She ran to the play area and immediately climbed up into the tube that leads to the slide. Teghan has a thing about slides. It takes her forever to get up the courage to go down one the first time. And winding tube slides are the worst. I watched her through the playland windows as she tried to conjure up the courage. Continue reading

The Battle of Retard

I cannot tell you how many times I have been called retarded. Maybe a billion times. In elementary school I suppose my friends and I must have called each other retards an average of sixty times a day. Some days it could be sixty times an hour. My older sister used to do an impression of a “cripple” with a speech impediment that would have me on the floor with laughter. It was our inside joke of sorts, where she would do her impression and try to touch me while I fled for my life.

And the short bus never drove by without someone saying, “there’s your ride.”

None of us were ever offended. Not once. At least, not for any reason that was directly related to the word itself. Why? Because it was always used in humor among friends. Did we know kids who were developmentally or physically disabled? Of course we did. When we were young and cruel we would accuse each other of wanting to marry that kid.

That was in secret. We never said cruel things to his/her face or in front of adults. We knew better. And as we got older, we thankfully became too embarrassed to use an innocent in our ridicule of each other anymore. Because we grew up, and because we were kind and considerate people who understood that it was a terrible thing to do. But the word “retard” remained.

The word had no personal attachments. It was just that thing we had been saying to each other forever. Always while laughing. Always with friends. Always without thinking. Then one day I found out it was something people are no longer supposed to say. And my initial reaction was to roll my eyes. Continue reading

It Could Be Worse, It Could Be Better

Kreskin

It’s been four years since our daughter was officially diagnosed and we took on the challenge of autism parenting. It could be worse, it could be better. That’s true for everyone. You know the rule, STOP comparing. But the autism world is filled with comparisons. Comparisons can hurt, offer hope, or simply be a part of survival. Look at what they are dealing with. And they seem to be doing okay…

Ask a special needs parent what they are thankful for and they already have that list ready to go. And not for any profound reason. Because for every moment I feel a twinge of jealousy toward my parenting friends whose children can do things they take for granted, I will find three more examples of parents who have it harder than me. I suppose that just happens to be the balance I need.

Maybe your two-year old communicates better than my seven-year old; but someone out there is envying me because my seven-year old sleeps through the night, is potty-trained, and hardly ever has a meltdown. And believe me, these are things to be thankful for. Do I sometimes take them for granted? Absolutely. Continue reading

Making Something Every Day

GobletsThe summer before my younger sister was born I was eight years old. My parents bought a house that summer, not far from the one we had rented since the time I was born. This new house was surrounded by woods and water. On one side of us was a popular apple orchard, which brought in plenty of traffic during the autumn months; and down the street was a cross-country skiing spot.

In the summer months I spent a lot of time roaming those ski trails.

The Actons were our new neighbors who owned the skiing business, and they invited our family to their Halloween party that first year. It was 1984. The party was held in the main lodge area; kind of a big cozy barn atmosphere with plenty of room and a bar that was serving hot drinks and snacks. Skis lined the wall behind the counter, and there were stoves circled with seating where one could warm their hands after a long day in the snow.

Although it was kid friendly, this was the first party I went to that felt like a grown up party. I don’t know if my parents knew anyone or had any fun, but me and my older sister spent most of the evening up in the loft drinking hot chocolate by a stove. We dreamed of what we would do with a loft like that, and it felt like we were on vacation. Continue reading

Living the Easier Life

JumpRaising a special needs child is full of ups and downs. When we first received the diagnosis, I could never have anticipated how different things would be from year to year. How one challenge can mean the whole world is closing in on you, and then one day you wake up and realize that overcoming one challenge can also give you your life back.

Right now we are experiencing an easy existence. Sometimes I forget to be thankful. There were a few years when I thought we couldn’t do it. It’s hard to say that unless you are surrounded by other parents who understand what you mean. It isn’t that you aren’t willing to do anything you can for your child, but in the back of your mind you really do wonder what will happen when you fail. But these thoughts come and go. Continue reading

Letting Your Autism Light Shine

To the Christian friend whose last straw was when I listened to a podcast hosted by a known atheist:

A Christian chooses to respond to unbelievers with kindness, or with distance. You are either a soul who possesses love and empathy for others, or you spend your life misinterpreting that bible verse about not yoking with unbelievers. And you ARE misinterpreting it; in fact, you are using it as an excuse to ignore people who are not exactly like you.

Right now you believe that I am a vessel for Satan to make his move against you. I’m pretty sure that’s not happening. But believing that it could be happening gives you an excuse to turn off all empathy for me and forget that if it were true- I would be the one needing protection, not you. No hard feelings. Truthfully, weren’t we both a little surprised when we survived that marriage equality debate a while back? When you find yourself hating people for their religion, politics, or lifestyle choices you tell yourself you hate the sin not the sinner. But that isn’t true, is it? Continue reading