A portion of all profits made by MA! go to
'A Mother's Wings
,' a nonprofit organization
for women facing
Hillary: Mom of three, one of whom has autism
Ask me how to strap a giant whale to my minivan and drive 1600 miles home with it! I'll tell you how. Ask me to define the word sharing. It's different than what you might expect. Ask me how to get your child to learn there's more to life than pb&j. Wait, don't ask me that. Ask me what it's like to have an autistic child. I'll try to help you understand. Ask me to show you my Mom of the Year award! Oops, usually I'm out of the running for that about 10 minutes after getting out of bed.
Yet, it's all good. Sure, the paycheck is lost in the mail but I still wouldn't trade this life, quirks and all. In my posts, I'm hoping you'll find humor and honesty and that you'll be able to relate to my humble acceptance of motherhood's ups, downs and in betweens.
Welcome to my world!
Ryan, age 8, came to me earlier today and said, “Hey Mom, can I go outside and ride my scooter?”
Then Logan, age 9, who was shooting baskets in the hallway upstairs (yep, that’s right), exclaimed, “Me too! I’m gonna go shoot baskets at the court!”
And I about fell to my knees and wept tears of relief and joy.
I don’t know about you all, but 10 days ago, when that pesky little rodent had the nerve to get spooked by his own shadow (and how, I’d like to know, since I am convinced the sun does not shine anymore, anywhere), I was almost surprised to be feeling discouraged and disappointed at the news. It’s a legend, after all. It has no bearing on anything. On February 2, there are 6 more weeks of winter any way you roll the dice, even if the forecast is for 6 more weeks of balmy sunshine, there are in fact, literally 6 more weeks of winter.
Yet, I was just looking for a small glimmer of hope that this especially glum, gray, and harsh winter was getting ready to come to an end sooner rather than later, even if the logic was crazy. Instead, The Weather Channel assured me that instead of hope and change, I’d be seeing more of the same: snow, cold, clouds.
So today, after what has seemed like endless days of “hey, let’s build ANOTHER giant fort out of all the pillows we can find in the house”, my boys were finally able to take the party outside.
Yes, in case you are wondering, that is the sound of Ode to Joy coming from my house, with me doing a little victory dance in the kitchen.
Take that, Winter! You’ve tried but you haven’t beaten me yet this year.
But hurry up, Spring! So I don’t crack before the ice does.
• • •
The taking of the holiday family portrait…every family has its own traditions.
I wasn’t going to send out Christmas cards this year. For some reason, it just wasn’t a priority of mine. Which is weird for me, because I’m all about the holiday season. I love to decorate. I love to listen to Christmas music. I love to have people over to entertain and I love going to gatherings of people I see only once a year (or less) anymore. And I also have a special place for all of the darling Christmas cards that are sent my way. It’s a prominent place, right in my entry hall, inviting all guests to thumb through them and comment on the creativity and charm of each one.
Therein lies the problem.
Somewhere, out there, other people flip through other people’s cards and give their opinions–and there are some strong ones–about outfits, locations and cuteness of the subjects portrayed on the cards. If those subjects might possibly include members of my clan, then it’s something I get stressed about, as foolish and needless as that may be.
There’s just such pressure out there, and it gets worse every year! Now, not only is it expected to get an adorable photo of well dressed children, there seems to be some sort of bonus level for upping the ante. People don’t just flip through other friends’ cards, they flip the cards overto see whether the card advertises an expensive local photographer or Walgreens.com (the latter of which I’m a huge fan, by the way).
Well, since I don’t have the money for a trendy photographer with a fast photo lens and since a flip through the photos on my hard drive proved I had less to work with there than money in the bank, I decided it just wasn’t worth the hassle this year. For some odd reason, however, Rob talked me into gathering the boys for an amateur (as in me, with my camera and a glass of wine) photo session in front of the Christmas tree. He promised to amuse and entertain the boys into hysterics, which would enable me to get a shot of all three of them smiling and looking in the same direction. Against my better judgement, I sent them to change into something that was relatively coordinated and that suggested Harvard Law School or Capitol Hill rather than the Pre-tween Boy Slacker Association they were currently sporting. After several minutes of whining (them) and coaxing (me), I finally had three scowling future leaders of America reporting for duty in front of our Christmas tree. I got my camera ready for action as Rob began some kind of Ancient Moron Ritual Dance in hopes that all three will burst out laughing. I stood as close to him as possible so it would look like the boys were smiling at the camera instead of laughing at their dad who was making a fool of himself inches away…
Attempt #1: Logan and Ryan are indeed laughing and looking right at the camera. Adam is crawling away like a piglet escaping the pen. Discard.
Attempt #2: Logan is smiling politely at the unseen image of his father banging his chest and making gorilla noises, Adam’s amazement at the ridiculousness factor of his father’s actions might be able to be passed off as childhood wonder of Christmas magic and Ryan is grinning from ear to ear–with his finger right up his nose. Discard.
Attempt #3: Ryan and Adam are both looking especially angelic…Ryan even kind of has his arm around Adam’s shoulder. Awwww. Except that Logan is scowling and has tears of frustration in his eyes because “this is taking too long and this shirt is choking me”. Discard.
Attempts 4-9: It’s really anyone’s guess what’s going on in these shots. They’re too blurred from everyone moving around, plus the fact that the camera lady (read: myself) has been gulping wine from her glass on the side table a little too much at a time and her hands (and nerves) are starting to get a bit shaky. If I were able to produce sound from these shots, one would hear an increasingly hoarse Rob growl like a lion, breathe like Darth Vader and even caw like a crow. All this in hopes that they’ll just smile. At the same time. While looking in the same general direction. And not move even one inch.
Attempt # 10: The only thing that seems to snap here is Rob, who loses his mind, curses, threatens, slams the wall and informs all of them that they’ll sleep in the garage if they don’t get their s–t together.
Which causes them to completely collapse with laughter.
And enables me to get the shot I’d been trying to get for the past hour.
Happy Holidays from Hillary and Family!
• • •
I just finished reading Dear Abby this morning. One topic today was special needs children. She, at the request of a reader, printed a poem which suggested that God selects very special people to be parents of special needs children.
Well, that isn’t me.
I’ve heard that argument before. It’s one of those statements that people make to me all the time. In fact, I think I’ve posted about this previously. “God chose you because He knew you were extra special and would take care of that special boy.”
And, me being me, never lacking in the smart ass response department, I usually come back with something like, “Well then, He and I are going to have a long talk someday.”
Because that isn’t me.
I’m not patient, I’m the opposite of patient! Google “impatient” and my face will be at the top of the page! Trust me, I’m the first to fly off the handle. I used be more that way before Adam was born. OK, I will admit to being better about this now. I mean, there’s just a lot I’ve learned to let go. But before that, I was way more quick tempered and high strung. So why would God choose me?
I had no background in or experience with special needs children! In fact, I always said autism would be the one thing I’d never be able to handle! I think I said that out loud more than once! Of course, now I know that I can handle this. In fact, I now know that I can handle a lot of things that I always said I never could. But before Adam came along, I wasn’t so strong. So why would God choose me?
Before Adam, I was self absorbed. Superficial. Vain. I still am, I won’t deny it, but not as much as I was before Adam. So why oh why would God look upon me to be the one to guide this child, to take on this challenge, to step out of my selfish little world? What was He thinking?
I’m not special! I’m not strong! I don’t have an understanding of how to overcome serious challenges! I don’t have an open heart and mind!
At least, I didn’t used to, before Adam was born.
Maybe He knew what He was doing after all.
• • •
The question, What are you thankful for this season?, to me, is cliche. To say I am thankful for this or that sounds generic. Two people can finish the I’m thankful for…statement in the exact same way but the events that have shaped their statements may be deeply personal or a quickly thought up response when everyone was taking turns sharing their own at the annual family gathering.
So I’m putting thanksgivings aside for now and considering appreciations instead. Maybe it would be better to say that actually, yes, I do have many thanksgivings this year. That’s the end statement. What’s behind that statement are 365 days filled with little details and events, some of those personal, some of those experienced by those close to me, that have helped me truly appreciate why I have those thanksgivings.
This year, 2009, has not been my most favorite year. There are several reasons for that fact and as the year’s end is coming upon its close here in the next 6 or so weeks, I’ve been more than a little reflective on those reasons.
Sometimes it takes one of my not so favorite years to help me focus on my appreciations. Maybe after reading mine, you will consider your own.
This year, I appreciate the roof I have over my head. Not only do I appreciate that I have one, I actually really appreciate the roof that I have over my head. The area that is my community has a lot of, well, having, and with that comes a lot of Look what I have! attitudes. It’s easy to get caught up in all of that and very easy to start feeling deserving of all of the Look what they have! that surrounds me. Some of the recent events of my life have helped shape my perspective a bit. Now I look around and think, “This is a great roof and so is the home and family under it” and that thought has brought me way more peace of mind than a 3 car garage and a gourmet kitchen ever could. So here I am, let me shout it: Look what I have! I have appreciation!
Speaking of the family under that roof, I got to thinking: if half of today’s marriages end in divorce and if financial strains, special needs children and military service are often factors that lead to those divorces, it’s very easy to wonder just how Rob and I have managed to keep from packing each other’s bags over the last few years. I won’t lie. It sometimes can be very difficult to resist even considering that the grass might be greener in two separate yards rather than one. Those are reactionary moments, the results of an unusually stressful day or poorly chosen words at poorly chosen times. The appreciation in this is for the commitment Rob and I both have to honor the for better or for worse clause in our marriage vows. Unfortunately, as is also often a factor in the breakup of marriages, Rob could most likely count on one hand the amount of times I’ve told him how much I appreciate him, even though he is one of the most devoted fathers and husbands that anyone could ask for.
I appreciate how wonderful my three boys are. Sometimes I get caught up in all the things I see that aren’t so wonderful and I worry way too much over those things. Then I attend three parent teacher conferences, one of which pertained to my four year old autistic child, and I realize just how unique and awesome those three are. I don’t mean this in a “My children are the brightest, most athletic, most popular, most talented children ever in the history of this school” kind of way. I just mean, they’re neat kids. When others think that and go out of their way to let me know their thoughts, well then, what do I have to not appreciate?
Grandparents have been something to appreciate this year. Actually, for all the years they’ve held that title,but this year my eyes have really been opened to how much I appreciate their involvement with my children. I only have had one living grandparent since I was 14 and I really don’t see her that often. I also have friends who live far from their own families and don’t get to experience all the wonderful benefits of having lots of grandparents within a 20 minute reach, as my boys do. They come to the boys’ games, they have them over to play and a couple years ago, they all (plus my above mentioned grandmother, age 92 all the way in from Palm Springs) attended the Grandparents Day celebration at the boys’ school. The principal of the school was so impressed with my boys’ grandparent entourage that he invited Logan down to his office the following Monday to talk about it over the intercom during the morning announcements. When he sees me up at the school, he often asks about Great Grandmother all the way in from Palm Springs. Awesome.
My appreciation for grandparents ties in with my next appreciation, which is for life. Unfortunately, this year has included one of those quirky, unfair curve balls that occasionally get thrown and my mother in law was the one standing at the plate this time. A couple days after Christmas last year, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer. This came out of nowhere. Out of all the members of my family and Rob’s, I’d have to say she was not the one I expected to draw that card. 58 years old, healthy, active, always after us to give up some of our less than stellar health habits. That’s not the kind one expects to suddenly face a life threatening illness. I also appreciate gifted surgeons, one of which was able to remove her golf ball sized tumor as well as the medical research that has made possible the treatments to which she is responding successfully. I don’t always see eye to eye with my mother in law, as neither she nor I are ever afraid to speak our minds or fiercely stand our ground when it comes to our own opinions, but there’s no way I could deny that she is one of my children’s greatest champions. She has been since the day she found out she was going to be a grandparent.
Appreciation for life has a Part Two. My oldest son, at 9 and in the 3rd grade, is at the exact same point in his life that I was when my own mother was diagnosed with cancer. While there have obviously been many advances in diagnosing and treating cancer made since 1981, at the time my mom faced it, the prognosis was not favorable. I have to admit as I sit here writing this post, that I know when I was in 3rd grade I certainly didn’t have this appreciation for her life. In fact, it is really now as I think of my son(s), that I am overwhelmed with the understanding of how important I am to them as their mom, especially at this time in their lives, and how terrifying and heartbreaking it must have been for both my mother and my father to have planned for my younger brother and me to grow up without her.
Which is why I also have a deep appreciation for the unexplained miracles that occur from time to time. Just before I sat down to write this post, I sent my mom an email at the school she where she teaches, and next week she and I, along with my dad, will be having our traditional day before Thanksgiving lunch date. Life is good.
So now it’s time to use the word thankful. Now I can finish the This season I’m thankful for…statement. I’m thankful that I what I did gain from this year was not bitterness or envy or despair, but appreciation for the things which make my life truly blessed.
Isn’t that the way it should be?
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
• • •
The events of this season, beginning around mid-September, have given me a firm belief that my household must be a repeated target of biological weapons. Due to illness, my three boys have collectively missed 24 days of school–yes, 24! And Adam’s part of that only counts for 2 days! That means 2 of my 3 boys have racked up 22 absences from their school. Sheesh! It’s only the middle of November! And Logan still isn’t going to school tomorrow! He and I will be headed back to the doc instead, which, by the way, could possibly be for the 8 zillionth time. I’m picturing the staff at my pediatrician’s office receiving holiday bonus checks that I may have actually signed. Through all of this, I must give a shout out to my boys and say thank goodness they are excellent students. If they struggled in school, I don’t know how they’d be on track to get promoted to a higher grade level next year.
And it’s not just been the boys. I managed to become one of the victims last week. I never get sick. If I do, it usually is a 24 hour thing that has me throwing up repeatedly every hour or so, nasty yes, but only lasting a day or two. What I had last week felt like something out of that movie with Dustin Hoffman that was out about 15 years ago, what was it called? Oh yeah, Outbreak. I never went in for the official H1N1 diagnosis but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what it was, and if it was, let me be the first to say that it is all that it’s cracked up to be and more. Even now, more than a week after first getting hit, I still don’t feel 100%.
Pretty much all I have to post about this week is illness. Yay! Try not to get too excited, right? It’s just that I really don’t know anything else right now. I’m too busy keeping track of who is taking what and when they last took it, who needs to go back to the doctor and who is possibly finally healthy enough to go outside. Last week, I actually almost gave my 9 year old Adult Robitussin because all the bottles seem to be just one big blur to me now. Fortunately I caught myself before I had another reason to call the after hours line. I also don’t bat an eye anymore at what the thermometer says. I’ve pretty much seen it all after this season and there have been times when I wouldn’t have been surprised if I could grill a steak on one of my sons’ foreheads.
Through all of this, I have managed to spend some time gathering insights and observations and so here they are, in no particular order. Let’s just call them 5 Random Things about Being Sick…maybe you can relate? Maybe you have a few of your own you’d care to share. Here are mine:
1. Having set a record for how many times one can call her pediatrician’s office in such a short amount of days, I am now more than a little suspicious that Dr. B’s office’s #1 policy is to first put callers on hold for 20 minutes in hopes that I’ll just decide it’s not really that big of a deal and hang up.
2. Speaking of suspicious, it wouldn’t surprise me if the local police haven’t been tipped off by the local pharmacy and are staking out my house waiting for the meth lab explosion. Sorry to waste your time, officers, I really am using all that cold medicine for its intended purpose!
3. Speaking of doctor offices, really, people, please stop giving me the evil eye when I come in with my coughing, lethargic child. Yes, I know that everyone is terrified of the Swine Flu, the Bird Flu, the Elevator Flu, the Forest Flu, the Whatever Flu…I’m sorry that I have to come here and ruin your child’s well visit. You have no idea how sorry! But until the good old days of house calls return, sometimes really sick people will end up in waiting rooms, too.
*Just to make sure that Uncle Bad Karma isn’t waiting around my house to bite me in the ass, I’d like to add this disclaimer that in no way am I making fun of the flu or the need to be proactive in preventing and treating it. I’m simply making an observation about people’s behaviors in doctor offices and buildings that contain doctor offices.
4. I’ve decided that it’s a good idea to just say “I don’t know” when my kids ask me what the doctor’s office visit will entail. Because it isn’t just about a shot anymore! Now they can add, “Will I have to put that breathing mask on?” (breathing treatment), “Will they stick that thing in my throat?” (strep test) and “Will it be the pink medicine or the white medicine?” (Penicillin vs. Augmentin, which, based on my kids’ reactions, must be similar to Bubble Gum vs. Rat Poison).
5. Someday when Adam is older and able to better communicate with me, I hope that he will accept my heartfelt apology for my psycho-screaming overreaction to catching him brushing his teeth with Logan’s toothbrush. It’s just that he’s been the healthiest so far and has managed to only have had 2 days of fever back in September. I just don’t know if I can start this all up again! In fact, I can’t. Adam, if you get sick, I’ll leave the numbers to Dr. B’s office, the nearest pharmacy, and also the local cab company by your bed. If you need me, I’ll be in the Bahamas.
So with that, I end my post and raise a white flag to this hateful army of germs. I’ve done all I can do I’ve fought a good fight, now please move on to another planet! We want our lives back.
• • •
« Previous Page
— Next Page »