Parenting Fail = Lesson in Love
So I was a terrible mommy last night. I reacted out of frustration to something Vincent did and he got so frustrated in response that he actually started crying.
Seeing him scrunch up his face and cry like he'd been wounded through the heart made we wish I had a medieval flaggellant on hand to smack across my back a hundred times.
I'm his mom. It's my job to keep calm and show him the type of mercy God has in store for all of us. If he doesn't come to recognize compassion in me, how will he ever come to recognize and emulate compassion in the world?
So I immediately pulled him close to me and apologized. I sat him on my lap and cuddled him to my chest saying, "Mommy was very wrong to be so mean. You are not a bad boy. You are a very good boy and I love you very, very much. I'm sorry for being mean and I am going to try really hard to be better for you."
Still crying, he nestled his head into my neck and said, "It's okay, Mommy. I still you're best friend."
I pulled him back to look at him. His little tears streaked down his face, so I wiped them away with my thumb. I kissed his cheek and said, "Mommy is not good enough for you, Vincent."
He looked back at me and he said, "Mommy, I love you. You a good girl. I still love you. You love me. I want to serve you. You serve me. That is love, right Mommy?"
I was stunned. Where did he get that from? I never compared service and love before. For a second, I wondered if he understood what the word "serve" meant and tried to figure out where he might've heard it before. It's just an odd turn of phrase for a 4 year old.
I laid him down on his bed and asked, "How'd you get so smart to say something like that?"
He just giggled and said, "I a smart cookie and you a smart cookie!"
I then laid down next to him and realized that he showed me exactly the sort of compassion I'd mentally chided myself for withholding from him. He was Jesus in that moment, showing me what true love looks like - forgiveness and an instant willingness to rejoin the circle of service that is indicative of care and compassion.
I'd made a mistake, I'd apologized, and I'd been forgiven - all in the span of 60 seconds. I failed as a parent, but God used my failing as a teachable moment. I learned something of what true mercy and love look like, and my son was able to exercise his mercy-muscles. I really don't deserve my son. He's such a good, wonderful little boy. I wonder sometimes how I got chosen to be his mother.
Then I realize the poor kid was sent precisely because I needed a teacher to guide me into becoming a better human being. I'm not molding him; he's molding me.
Again, the adage comes to mind: Adults do not make children; children make adults.
Dear Myla - Happy Anniverary
I love you, sweetheart. Do you know Mommy thinks about you every day?
Every single day.
And I know you think of Mommy, too. I know you're praying for your big brother and Daddy, right? Are you praying for your cousins, too? I bet you are. What a sweet little girl. I'm sure you make your guardian angel smile all the time.
One year ago today you entered Heaven. Mommy is celebrating your happiness with you!
For Vincent's first birthday, I wrote a letter to him explaining how much he was loved from his very first moments in Mommy's tummy. I want you to know Mommy loves you just as much. In fact, do you wanna know a secret? God created you in a special way for a special reason!
Mommy and Daddy love each other so much that our hearts filled up with love. That love would've spilled out, but God doesn't waste love; sacramental love is special. So to keep that love growing, He created a brand new heart to catch all the love that overflowed from Mommy's and Daddy's hearts. It was your heart God created, Myla. Your beautiful little heart was able to capture all the love that poured over from our hearts.
That's right, sweetie. You were born into a sea of love. Your very first moment on this earth was a reception of love. And for a few weeks, you drank up that love. Then, for reasons you and Jesus will have to fill me in on later, you decided to give that love back through sacrifice and an eternity of prayer.
I think about that every day. Sometimes I get a little sad because I want to hold you. I get a little jealous of the angels and saints up in Heaven who have gotten to meet you before me. I wonder who is with you. I'm sure Grandmom and Grandpop Rizzo take turns cradling you in their arms. Grandpop Joe and Grandpop Auggie might tease each other into who can woo a smile from you fastest. Is Karen playing with you, too? Aunt Loretta? Great-Grandmom Evelyn? Aunt Pat for sure!
I'm not jealous for long, though. You're happy in a way earth could never have given. And you're so close to Jesus up there. You will forever know joy because of how much you loved Daddy, Vincent and I.
Your earthly life started in the acceptance of love and ended in the giving of love. Your entire brief existence was bathed totally in love, and now, you live in the Presence of Love.
And our lifeline, sweet one, is love. The litany of kisses Mommy sends in the hands of her angel to yours... take them and shower them back upon me when I finally get to hold you in Heaven. Myla Therese, you are my gift of love.
My son said the strangest thing to me en route to daycare yesterday, and I was so caught off guard that I almost pulled the car over to allay my own confusion.
He said, "Mommy, I'm peach."
He was referring to the color of his skin because he uses the peach crayon for his face and body (also known as circles 1 and 2).
I said, "Yes."
He replied, "I want to be brown."
Curious, I asked, "Vincent, why do you want to be brown?"
He replied, "All of my friends are brown."
I said, "Vincent, is your heart good?"
"Do your friends have good hearts, too?"
"Yes, Mommy. They are very, very nice."
"So it doesn't matter what their color is. It doesn't matter what color you are. What matters is how you treat people. If your heart is good, YOU are good, okay?"
He seemed content with that, but I was so caught off guard! I honestly didn't think a thing about skin color until I was closing in on 8th grade. I was a minority in my elementary school, and that fact never actually dawned on me until someone from high school brought it to my attention when he looked at my graduation picture. He said, "You only had 5 white kids in the whole class?"
Looking back, I remember feeling instantly defensive and incredibly stupid. It had NEVER occurred to me that I was a minority until he pointed it out, and I felt stupid for never making that connection. Then I felt doubly stupid for thinking my color-blindness was something to be ashamed of.
It makes me sad that Vincent is already aware of color. Granted, he obviously doesn't think about it negatively, but the fact that such a thing is on his radar at all surprises me. I asked his teacher if they did a lesson on differences or something, but she was just as surprised as I was.
His class is a good mix of kids, and I like that. I grew up in a diverse community and I want the same for Vincent. He's got friends of both genders, of several ethnic backgrounds, and doesn't care if you collect Star Wars or Star Trek memorabilia. He loves everyone regardless, and I love that. I'd love to know what spurred that comment, though. I really would.
Ah well. At least he seems satiated for the time being. Dunno what I'll say if it comes up again, though.
God's Little Helpers
Vince was "helping" me in the kitchen the other day.
He's been doing this a lot more frequently. He'll grab a kitchen chair, drag it to the counter, and start doing any number of things that "help" me.
Now as every parent knows, help from a 4 year old is rarely help. Usually it's a sure sign your two-minute prep is about to become a 15-minute circus show of you trying to keep him from burning himself on the stove, stop him from reaching for a knife, begging him not to dance on the chair, and assuring him that the pasta doesn't need Cinnamon Toast Crunch added to the sauce.
However, we grin and bear these annoyances because, quite frankly, it's really sweet that our kid wants to help. It's wonderful that our children love us and want to be near us, even braving the sweltering heat of the kitchen and the annoying sound of the exhaust fan. It's a beautiful thing that our kids want to feel like a needed and necessary part of the family, and it's even more beautiful that we've done something right to get them to express that (by dumping cereal into your pot roast; I gotta move that stuff to a higher shelf).
That being said, Vince was being particularly "helpful" that afternoon. I almost sent him into the living room to wait for lunch because I was getting frustrated. Terrible, right? But it's the truth. Sometimes having a 4 year old's "help" is frustrating.
Before I gave the order for him to plant his butt on the couch, a little voice whispered in my ear, "You are the same."
The thought came and went so fast I actually stopped smearing peanut butter on the bread and pondered it a second.
"You are the same."
I'm an annoying kid pulling butter knives from the dishwasher?
As I thought on it more, I realized that in many ways, I am like Vince at the dishwasher. I love God and want to help Him out, but does God really need my help? No. My version of help is only going to result in Him cleaning up after me. However, God doesn't get frustrated that my pathetic offerings of help muck up His groove. Instead, He patiently allows me to try - over and over again - giving me pointers on how to better do the job of helping Him. In this way, I grow and mature until I am eventually able to offer help that is worthwhile.
The reflection was humbling.
I did not send Vincent to the couch. Instead, I taught him how to properly put the silverware away (which you can see him doing above). I snapped this picture because it was an eye-opening moment for me.
How incredible the lessons of parenthood. We are called, as parents, to exemplify the love of the Father. And in this, God is leading the way, briliantly choosing to use our own children as examples of His Love.
You're Not Listening to Me!
I have been having a very rough time getting Vincent to pay attention to directions. Because he's all over the place, I need to be very firm with him sometimes.
"Vincent, look at me. Look at me in the eyes, Vincent. VINCENT."
Then he'll finally realize I'm talking to him and look at me for a split second before turning his attention elsewhere.
"Vincent. Mommy is talking to you. You need to look at Mommy."
He looks at me again for about two seconds. When I think I've got his attention, I begin to tell him to get on his shoes. No dice. He's not paying attention again.
"Vincent, put on your shoes or we're not going outside."
Begins to move towards shoes, but clearly only discerned the word "shoes" because once he gets to where his shoes are, he makes no move to put them on.
"Vincent, you're not listening to Mommy. Look at me in the eyes."
He looks into my eyes.
"Put. Your. Shoes. On or we're not going outside."
UUUUUGH. Then the process all but repeats itself if he needs to put on his jacket or take a back pack with him. It's enough to drive me bonkers sometimes.
He's also having issues with impulse control.
"Vincent, stop smacking your stick against the slide."
Not two seconds later, he's smacking at the slide again.
"Vincent, look at Mommy in the eyes. Did I just tell you to stop smacking the slide?"
"I don't know."
"Vincent, stop smacking the slide. If you smack the slide again, I'm going to take away your stick. No more smacking the slide, 'cause if the stick breaks, you might get hurt."
He stops smacking the slide, but maybe two minutes later, he's at it again and I need to take the stick away.
All day, every day, this is what I sound like. I'm trying to splice together the negatives with positives ("Good job being gentle with Zoey!" or "I'm so proud of you for playing so nicely with your friends!"), but I've been feeling really overwhelmed by his inability to really listen and process directives (an ability he HAS to have for a productive experience in school).
I'm beginning to worry that I won't be able to prep him in time for school in July and that I'll be faced with him being removed again. I realize that's not likely, especially because this school had worked with him for two years successfully, but I can't help but worry.
And then there's his litany of "I'm Sorry."
Since he hasn't been listening to directives, I've had to punish him (taking away the stick, for example, or not letting him go to the park because he'd thrown a temper tantrum that morning).
When he realizes he's about to be punished, he immediately says "I'm sorry" because he knows that's what is expected of him. However, he's not usually sorry. He'll say "I'm sorry" and in the same breath, "I'm really angry with you" because I'm taking away a toy or something. He's not sorry he didn't listen. He's sorry he's in trouble.
I was about to say to him "I don't want to hear 'I'm sorry' from you ever again" until I stopped myself. Why? Because I saw myself in him. Painfully so.
How many times do I have to apologize in the Confessional for the same stupid sins over and over and over again? I have to wonder - am I really sorry at all? If I were, wouldn't I stop myself from getting into the same trouble?
And if God were to shirk my apologies, what would I do then? He even accepts my miserable contrition and extends mercy. How much more, then, should I work to extend that to Vincent so he has an example of what God's mercy looks like?
So I stopped myself from giving into my own frustration and sat him on my knee. I said, "Vincent, when you say "Sorry" to Mommy, it means you're not going to do the bad thing anymore. Sorry means you're going to work really hard at listening and doing the right thing, okay?"
He instantly shook his head "Yes" because that's what he thought he was supposed to do. I just sighed and let him loose. I imagine that's how God feels sometimes when He sends us forth from the Confessional.
I'm going to try a lot harder to be more steady in my resolve to "sin no more and avoid the near occasion of sin."
A lot harder.
Sorry, Lord. Really. <3
Vincent + Stingrays = Whoops
I took Vince to the Aquarium today. We're season pass holders, so for rainy days like this, it's a perfect "outing" that keeps him active, learning and indoors.
As usual, we headed straight for the string rays. Vince never wants to pet the sand sharks, and he doesn't care about sea stars or cucumbers or anything else. He just wants to pet the sting rays. All the time.
So he was supremely happy when we got to the sting ray exhibit to find we had the whole thing to ourselves. The lonely guide was so excited to have people present that he launched into a very enthusiastic explanation of string ray anatomy. *Grin*
Vince didn't care. He just wanted to pet the sting rays.....
What happened almost immediately after this video was taken will give me laughs long into Vincent's adulthood.
Because the sting rays were so playful today, Vincent fed off their energy. He started getting just as excited as them and that made the sting rays get even more excited. They kept coming higher and higher over the tank to "say hi." Vince would then bounce around super excited and reach his hands further and further into the tank (with the guide's blessing).
Pretty soon, I had to escort him from the room and calm him down with a hot dog. Still laughing, I made this video for John to let him know what we were up to:
Yup. He half jumped-half slide right over the edge of the tank and dove head first into the thing.
The guide and I were immediately by his side to pull him back, but it was still startling to see him just dive in like that. He was perfectly fine, of course, as were the stingrays, but whew. That'll give you a heart attack!
So since his top half was soaked, I pulled his jersey off and took him towards the gift shop to buy a new one. On the way, I saw a chance to calm him down with a hot dog and was rewarded with an instantly compliant child. Given how much he was freaking out about being wet, I marveled at how quickly a hot dog and some fries cooled his nerves.
Pretty soon, I'd gotten him fed and changed into a Shark Shirt from the gift shop and he was back to pleading for the sting rays again. This time, I let him go in, but I removed the new shirt. Good thing, too!
It's nice to know the sting rays are good sports about everything. *Grin*
Good day today. We both had a lot of fun.
While going through Vincent's toys to either donate or sell at the flea market this summer. His massive collection of Mr. Potato Heads was on the chopping block. However, this collection is one of those things I didn't think I could bring myself to part with.
So I put them in front of Vincent. We ended up playing with them for a while. Then John took over and things sorta exploded from there. It was a Mr. Potato Head night. These aren't going anywhere. In fact, I might have to add some more to the collection. :)
John, Vincent and I attended the surprise birthday party of a friend of ours this past weekend. It was really nice of Vincent to be invited, too. Several children were in attendance with Vince being the oldest (and most active!).
Unfortunately, John and I didn't know there would be a pool at the house. Had we known, we would've gone out of our way to find a babysitter. Vince, like every other child in the universe, can't be near a pool without wanting to dive in head-first.
It was still too chilly for a swim and we hadn't brought bathing suits anyway. That didn't stop Vincent for begging, bartering and pleading to go for a dip, though. When he realized John and I weren't going to budge, he placated himself by zipping around the edge of the pool, successfully giving John and I enough agita to last us the rest of our lives.
I had to put him into a time out for disobedience. He wouldn't stop running around the edge of the pool even though I'd asked him not to three times. So I stuck him in time out.
My friend, Leo, made a well-meaning comment. He said, "What's the worst that can happen? Skinned knee? Soaked pants? Just let him be."
Oh Leo. How I love Leo. He's a new parent, himself. He's got a little princess named Maggie who is about 8 months old. He hasn't had the pleasure of her testing boundaries yet. He hasn't tasted the anxiety of seeing her (in his mind) tumble head-first into an ice-cold swimming pool. He can't even imagine what that's like until she takes those first precarious steps into toddler-hood. It's all fun and games until your kid discovers how much fun dangerous situations are. LoL.
Anyway, Leo didn't realize that aside from me trying to teach Vince obedience (and actions having real consequences), I was also trying to prevent, specifically, soaked clothing. Most people don't like sitting in wet clothes, but for an SPD kid, that's akin to being water-boarded; it's torture.
Vince sometimes freaks out if he feels even a spot of wetness on his pants or shirt. Imagine, then, the freak out that would occur if ALL his clothes were soaked through and clinging to him.
Leo doesn't think it'd be a big deal, because to him, it wouldn't be a big deal. To Vincent, however, it'd be huge.
John was getting increasingly agitated, so instead of leaving, I took Vincent inside and away from the temptation. The poor kid was over-tired and frustrated by several things:
The fact that he hadn't had a nap that day (because the party started when he usually goes down) only added to his upset. After I had him sit and settle for 15 minutes to regroup, he was able to sit on the couch and watch a game being played without issue.
It's funny. I don't fault Leo at all for the comment he made. Several of our friends waved off my attempts at wrangling Vincent as overprotective. They didn't realize I wasn't worried about him bumping his knee or even going for a swim. I was aware of a bigger problem that would come should the latter accidentally happen.
My guess is that's how God feels sometimes. So often, I look at a situation and figure "Eh, this isn't really such a big deal" while God is shaking His Head and saying, "Gina, put down the extra slices of bacon. You don't think it's a big deal, but you've been eating like a glutton recently and are increasing your risk for heart attack. I want you to die saving orphans from a burning building, and you can't very well do that if you're dead of a bacon-induced heart attack."
God is able to see so much more than we can. He knows more than we do. He's experienced more than we have. So when He repeatedly throws up roadblocks to our own ideas of satisfaction, my guess is He has good reasons. Just as I had reasons that went beyond Leo's understanding, God has reasons that extend well beyond mine.
Vince vs. Pasta Sauce
Last night, I took Vince to visit with my friend and her family. While there, Vince had a mini-episode with the pasta which understandably frustrated some folks, myself included at one point.
For the last year or so, Vincent has been very finnicky about pasta - specifically pasta sauce. I thought he was simply getting into the "fussy eater" stage, but truthfully, he's not a fussy eater. He still eats fish, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, beans, corn, etc, etc, etc. He loves ham and chicken, goes to town on pork chops or turkey, and can eat starch like it was his job.
Pasta, however, he will only eat white or with cheese (mac-n-cheese).
The last year, I just thought he was being picky, but it finally dawned on me that it's a very specific sensory response.
Tomatoes are naturally acidic. In fact, when Vince used to break out in facial rashes as a toddler, his pediatrician warned us to steer clear of tomato sauce, ketchup, etc because he suspected they were the culprits behind his pimpled cheeks. When we cut them out of the menu, Vince's skin cleared up pretty well. Never thought a thing of it again.
His visceral reaction (almost like fear) to the pasta sauce last night suddenly made sense. He kept insisting that the pasta "smelled bad." What he actually meant was it TASTED bad, and not so much that it tasted bad, but that it hurt.
For you and I, our sense of taste and smell are inextricably linked. The same is true for Vincent, only it's a heightened experience. Sometimes he confuses taste and smell as a result of this. Also, his grasp of language still isn't super developed, so he kept using the word bad to express his negative association.
The nerves in and around his mouth and face have been inflamed enough by pasta sauce to instinctively tell his brain the red stuff on the yummy stuff is a bad idea.
He loves pasta, he just doesn't like the sauce, and it's because the sauce causes an overload of sensation.
But he likes pizza! Pizza has sauce!
Yes, but it's also got a lot of cheese, and being a dairy product, it is a base which neutralizes the acidic content of the tomato sauce. Much like a hot wing contestant chugs milk to stave off ulcers, cheesy pizza helps buffer Vincent's mouth against an overwhelming sensation from the acidic tomatoes. He still gets a few bumps on his cheeks after pizza, especially if I don't clean his face right away, but he doesn't complain that his mouth or tongue hurt.
In short, I'm not going to try to force him to eat red sauce anymore because I finally realize why he shirks it so much. It never occurred to me that this was a problem before. Now his disdain for pasta, Hot Pockets, ketchup, and even barbacue sauce makes sense.
I wish I had realized this sooner. Would've prevented a lot of frustration for all of us, especially at family gatherings (given that we're Italian and we love our pasta sauce). So if your child is getting picky about certain foods, give some thought to the sensation that particular food type might pose. It might not be pickiness so much as a sensational challenge.
I'd like to take a moment to reflect on a little known sensory disorder that many times coincides with Autism. This disorder is known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Autistic persons often have SPD, but not all persons with SPD have Autism.
SPD involves any disorder of your senses. This can range from over-sensitivity to light, smells or sound to an under-sensitivity to taste and touch. SPD can also affect the vestibular and proprioceptive systems which control balance, movement and spatial orientation.
As a mother of a young son with SPD, I've come across so many people who are unsure of and even put off by his unique behavior. Here are 10 things I'd like to say.
Please take a moment to read, share and spread the word. The more we educate others, the better we become at responding to these children who need us.
Some sensations, though inconsequential to you or me, are overwhelming to him. The tag on your shirt isn't noticeable to you, but for Vincent, his nerves are telling his brain that a thorn is digging into his neck.
He fidgets, but he has very good reasons for his fidgets.
You hear the voice of your boss telling you the deadline for your next project. Vincent hears his teacher explaining a math problem, but also hears the humming of florescent lights, the rattling of the heater, the chatter of other students, the footsteps of the aid, the cars driving by outside the window, and even his own breathing. Because his auditory discernment is not as strong as yours or mine, he is unable to focus on priority sounds and, in an effort to push aside all that noise, he makes sounds, himself, that help drown out the confusion.
I did not cause his Sensory Processing Disorder. My parenting style did nothing to bring on his sensitivity to certain situations. I love my child fiercely and do everything in my power to see that he is cared for, protected and loved. I may not be the most savvy parent in regards to the latest therapies available, but don't you dare mistake my novice ignorance for bad parenting. I are fighting to make myself and others aware of this disorder, and I are doing all I can to give Vincent the therapy he needs to cope.
So the next time you see us in the store while Vincent is having a meltdown because the lights hurt his eyes and the cart feels especially frustrating to his backside, refrain from suggesting I stop spoiling him. I might not be so charitable in my response.
We are working on this. Please be patient with him.
In addition to forcing John and I to keep the floors relatively free of items, this also creates a problem with shoes. Vincent is very sensitive to the type of shoes he's willing to wear, and it's many times a fight to get him to keep them on, even when we're outside. He's not throwing a temper-tantrum because he wants to wear his SpongeBob boots vs. his Spiderman sneakers... he's having a meltdown because his SpongeBob boots give him relief from his tactile craving while his Spiderman sneakers compound the frustration and add to his anxiety.
Again, please be patient. He is doing so much better with this, but it is a difficult skill to learn when your nerves rebel against you.
His memory is better than mine, his math skills never cease to amaze me, and his appetite for his new passion, spelling, makes my heart swell with pride. The creativity and problem-solving skills he's developed while playing adventure games with his Daddy have only proven to me that his capacity for intelligence hasn't even begun to be appreciated. Standardized testing cannot verify his penchant for architecture. Circle time cannot concede to his superior grasp of cause and effect. No Child Study Team will ever capture the wisdom he shows in his thoughtful, gentle care of those he instinctively understands need his affection.
Again, my son is fearsomely, awesomely intelligent.
What joyful music.
My son loves laughter. He loves being "tricked" and surprised. He loves being the cause of laughter around him. He'll clown about or say silly things with the sole goal being laughter... glorious laughter.
In a word, my son is love... pure, unblemished love.
Please remember that the next time his sensory challenges leave you frustrated or confused. Above all, simply remember that he is capable of giving and receiving love. Next time a sensory-craver like Vincent has a melt-down, respond with love. Push aside your own frustration and confusion because it pales in comparison to the anxiety he feels on a routine basis because of this disorder.
Respond with love, too, to the parents of these special children. Do not discount us as bad parents or folks to be pitied for having a "problem child." Far from it. We love our children and are proud of them. We are joyed at being given the opportunity to unwrap their potential and can't wait to see how they change the world.
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Spread acceptance by spreading awareness. <3
Can I Homeschool?
That's a question that's been bouncing around back and forth, over and over the last few months.
Truthfully, it's been something sitting in the back of my mind ever since Vince was a baby.
The answer to that question is "Yes, I can homeschool Vincent."
In theory, my background is education. I've taught children from preschool to high school. I've tweaked curricula to account for struggling students and I've developed entire lesson plans to challenge those gifted with a natural appetite for knowledge. So in theory, I could easily homeschool Vincent.
Theories, however, are often-times victims of reality. In this case, I don't believe homeschooling is the best option for Vincent. While my background with education is proven and strong, I don't have proper experience with Sensory Processing Disorder. Obviously I can learn, but do I want to subject Vincent to months of my own trial and error until I figure out the best course of action for him?
I fear that's doing him a disservice.
Then there's the question of financial feasibility. Are we able to rely solely on John's income? We can for a few months, but long-term? We'd really need to crunch the numbers to come up with a realistic long-term picture.
And then I worry for his social development. Most home-school families have a number of siblings, so they are able to learn social cues even amongst themselves. There are no real homeschool groups in my area... the closest to me is about 30 minutes away and in a different state. Again, that doesn't seem to be the most efficient course of action.
I can always put him into extra-curricular activities, but I truly believe there is something to be said for learning in groups (even small ones). I want that for Vincent because I believe with the proper care, he will flourish in such setting.
Right now, though, it looks as if I'll need to spend the next two months with him. I don't know what that's going to translate to in terms of work. It depends on how my conversation goes tomorrow with my bosses. Will I be able to take a two month leave? I honestly don't know. They can't really afford to lose a worker right now, especially given the contract we just took upon ourselves. But I have no other options for Vincent right now, so I either am granted leave or I give notice. Either way, it is in God's Hands and I'm sure it will work out as it's supposed to.
But I don't put forth that option as a last resort or even a jest. I truly say it knowing it's a valid option... just one I don't necessarily think is right for Vincent. I know I'm a good teacher, but I'm not entirely confident in my ability to learn new techniques that would specifically benefit Vincent in a manner that a seasoned special-ed instructor in a special-ed classroom would have already mastered.
Those are my thoughts, anyway.
I have so much respect for homeschoolers. I don't know that I am organized and effective enough to do it for my own son. That makes me feel like a bit of a let-down, but I'm trying to be as honest with myself as possible because I don't want my arrogance to be the cause of him falling further behind, ya know?
But thanks for all the encouragement and prayers. What a blessing your e-mails and comments were. I love you guys so much. Please know I kept you in my Easter prayers this weekend, too. <3 My family and I are blessed by your generosity of spirit.
On Holy Thursday, John snapped this photo of Vince and I before we left for Mass. Vincent was holding Chase, his stuffed German Shepherd. He's gotten incredibly attached to him the last few weeks, and I admit I sorta love that. He's never had a toy that he MUST have with him at all times. Chase is his best pal now, and he always wants him wherever he is.
For Mass, he was well-behaved. We were very close to the front because I wanted to explain everything to him... especially the washing of the feet. However, I was SO incredibly disheartened to see only three men come forward to have their feet washed. The rest were women.
Two or three e-mails were sent out by our Director of Religious Education practically begging people to volunteer for this role. Only three men could be found? THREE?
How incredibly sad. What does this say about the men of our parish?
As I explained in this entry, the Washing of the Feet is an act that goes well beyond proving Jesus' humility. It was an act of preparation for His apostles - the first priests of the Church. Only after washing their feet and charging them with serving one another so fully did Christ then instruct them in the Eucharistic Prayer. Only then were they to take part in the first Mass.
Mother Church requires the feet of men to be washed because of the incredible symbolic nature of this act. It's why many old-school parishes wash the feet of retired priests. How blessed is the parish that recognizes that the rituals we still take part in can be educational as well as prayerful! Should all parishes be so lucky.
On Good Friday, Vincent was pretty exhausted by the time our services rolled around. I took him in early so he could see Jesus in the place of repose. I answered his questions, but he surprised me again by how much he understood.
He said, "Jesus died, right Mommy?"
I said, "Yes, Vincent, and the Church is very sad."
He asked, "But He's in Heaven, right?"
I said, "That's right. And He's going to bring us to Heaven, too."
Then he said, "But I don't want to go to Heaven. They don't have toys."
I laughed and said, "Heaven is more fun than Ocean City!"
He looked at me, incredulous, because to his four-year-old mind, nothing could possibly be more fun than the Boardwalk, curly fries and roller coasters.
Midway during the service, he nodded off to sleep right in the pew, clutching Chase under his coat.
After the service, two kind elderly folks came up to us separately to express their appreciation for Vincent's presence the last two days (Holy Thursday and Good Friday). One woman commented that she loved how he says, "Jesus, I love you" when the newly consecrated Host is elevated and the gentleman said he liked that Vincent behaved and genuflected before the altar.
I truly puffed up with so much pride and appreciation then. I'm always so worried that I'm not doing enough to teach him about how beautiful our Faith is. Truth is, I'm not. That being said, I know that God is making up for my inadequacies and is patiently leading Vince by the hand. It makes me so incredibly happy to have reminders like that, especially given the difficult week we'd had at school.
On Easter Sunday, Vince was not a big fan of Jesus' when I reminded him that after his egg-hunting, he needed to get ready for Mass. I knew it'd be tough getting him on board, but as always, once he was in the car, he was perfectly fine.
My niece, Alliya, even ended up coming along with my MIL.
We went to a parish that I've only been to once before, and it was completely by accident that we arrived there. I've STILL got a terrible taste in my mouth from their Mass.
The tabernacle is off to the side (I hate that), the priest was omitting things left and right (whether on purpose or not, I honestly don't know, so I'm hoping it was accidental), the parishioners who sat to the right of us were incredibly rude (but they might not have been regulars) and the whole set-up felt very, very... New Age-y? I dunno. I just got a terribly off feeling and it left me unsettled until we were about half-way home.
Alliya was asking me all sorts of questions as I took them around the church to show them the various statues and sacramentals. We had gotten there early, so to burn energy and utilize a built-in theology lesson, I took them on a quick tour. Alliya had so many smart questions (questions which Vincent jumped in to answer at points!). One of her questions was about Jesus being in the tabernacle. When I explained that we genuflected to Jesus who remained hidden in the tabernacle, Alliya became confused. She wanted to know how He fit, if He was a ghost, etc (she has basically no catechesis whatsoever). These are all smart and valid questions! So I explained as simply as I could without confusing her further.
I said because He is God, He can take on whatever form He wants. Because He loves us so much, He decided to look like Bread so He could personally feed us, Himself. Thus, because He appeared so small, He could fit into the tabernacle until the priest opened the door at Communion time.
She seemed to accept this answer, but when we got back to the pew, she asked if she would have to SEE Jesus. The concept of seeing someone she only knew as dead was understandably scary to her. She doesn't get that Jesus is God. She only knows that He's someone we celebrate at Christmas but He died a long time ago and went to Heaven.
Anyway, this thought scared her, so she kept asking me if she'd see the Consecrated Hosts.
I simply said, "Alliya, Jesus is not scary. He loves you so, so much. He has a real body, just like you and I. He's the one who sent you your Mommy and Daddy who love you so much. He made sure you had a Mi-Mom and Pop to take you fun places. He makes sure all your family and friends are nice. All the good things in your life are because of Him. He's not scary... He's the nicest person in the whole universe!"
Vincent emphatically agreed with me, but Alliya didn't seem to believe me. Again, I don't fault her for this. She hasn't had any religious education. Hopefully one day she will, but even if she doesn't, when she asks me for the truth, I will always give it to her.
But to end with something amusing, on Holy Thursday, after Jesus was placed into the side repository, we waited our turn to go up to say a prayer. When we reached the kneelers, Vincent looked at the small tabernacle holding the ciborium and asked, "Mommy, how do we get Jesus' trophy?"
Ha ha. Nice.
Also, the veils pictured in this blog are from Veils by Lily and Liturgical Time respectively.
My title isn't even a little bit kidding. I feel like I've ruined Vince forever regarding school.
As a child, I always looked at school as something fun. I enjoyed learning and I RELISHED taking tests because I liked to challenge myself to see how much I knew. I even liked pop quizzes. I always assumed my kids would one day be the same way.
How wrong I was and how incredibly harmful my expectation has been for Vincent.
I fear I pushed him too early into preschool, and the experience has left him scared of school altogether.
The knowledge of that kills me. It absolutely kills me.
Once again, I got a call from the principal telling me they could not work with his specific set of issues in the classroom. My husband and I had warned them of this MONTHS ago, but they poo-pooed us and assured us they were more than capable of handling his particular brand of behavior.
Now they realize they should've listened to us a little more carefully, because their Child Study Team could not assess what we'd already seen firsthand - Vincent is not equipped to handle a mainstream classroom. He's certainly smart enough, but from a behavioral standpoint, he is simply not ready to handle mainstream education. At least not yet.
And now they realize it after a grueling two months of frustration on their part and on Vincent's part.
I hate this. Vincent gets such anxiety about going to school which only makes his time there that much more difficult. The teachers are getting overly frustrated with him and it makes for a very upsetting experience for everyone... most especially Vincent. That sort of experience is enough to scare him off of school forever. What's to stop him from being terrified of school next September?
Four schools in 9 months. The Learning Experience (which he loved), St. Theresa's (which helped us diagnose him with Sensory Processing), Tippy Toes (which harbored a bully), and now the public school which gave us an overly confident CST that now only wants to touch him if he gets an Autism diagnosis.
Pardon me while I cry my eyes out in frustration, disgust, and guilt.
I feel like I've failed him so terribly in such an important area of his life... I don't even know how to handle myself right now. I don't know how to handle him. I don't know how to handle John who is just as upset and frustrated as I am.
This entire year has been one massive struggle after another with his schooling, diagnosis, therapy and ARGH. I don't know how to navigate this for him. It's my job to know... my expertise is education, and I can't figure out what to do or where to turn without causing even greater damage to him.
There is no school that will take him now... not with only a few weeks left in the year. Next year no one wants to touch him because he doesn't have a "proper diagnosis."
WTH is a proper diagnosis??? He's been seen by a developmental pediatrician and she diagnosed him with Sensory Processing Disorder. It's not in the DSM, but it's recognized as a valid disorder by doctors across the world. There are therapies aimed at teaching a child to handle the symptoms. But yet because it isn't in some stupid blue book schools use as guidelines for IEPs, Vincent can't get the help he needs???
THAT ENRAGES ME!
It's not like he's a bad kid. All of his teachers insist that his intelligence is above average and he is perfectly sweet, obedient and docile in a small group environment. He's super affectionate and compliant. It's only when he's in a large group that his symptoms show and he falls apart and becomes a wailing, inconsolable mess of screams, tears and frustration.
I can understand that. It's like asking a blind kid to read a book. It's going to solicit frustration and tears because a blind kid CANNOT READ until you give him braille.
Vincent CANNOT learn in a large group. He is best suited to a small group environment. We've known this since the beginning of the school year, yet no one wants to try that because he doesn't have an Autism diagnosis.
What they're telling me is that they don't want to try that approach because without a "proper diagnosis" the government won't subsidize him as a special ed student. If they're not getting paid to teach him, why bother?
*Cue more tears*
I hate this so much, and I pushed him into it thinking that along the line, they'd finally understand he needs a small group and allow him access.
Stupid me. Arrogant me.
And now my son has almost 9 months of fear and anxiety under his belt by being bounced around in my attempt at giving him what I thought he needed.
And what has it done for him? What have I done to him long-term?
I shudder to think of it.
And now I don't know what to do. Short of quitting my job and homeschooling him, myself, I have no idea what to do.
I am lost. God help me, I am lost.
"It Is Good You Try"
My proudest accomplishment in Mexico was my conversation with a friendly old landscaper. We went back and forth several times until I had to apologize (which I did in Spanish) for my rudimentary grasp of their language. He grinned so broadly and said, in English, "It is good you try!"
I had been so self-conscious until he extended appreciation for me trying. I realized how arrogant we are to always expect English, so offering even my butchered bit of Spanish was accepted as a gift. How kind of that gentleman to be so gracious.
Until that point, I'd sheepishly greet folks or excuse myself as I made my way around people in the resort. I knew how to say "Hi" and "Excuse me" but I felt silly for even attempting because my accent would be terrible or people would think I was trying to sound more worldly than I am.
After that conversation, though, the tiny bit of Spanish I retained from high school came out freely. I was even complimented by one kiosk worker (who was likely just trying to charm his way into my wallet, but I appreciated that particular compliment nonetheless).
That kindly gentleman freed me from my inhibitions and empowered me to use the knowledge I'd been given. What a blessing. :)
I can't help but imagine he's an example of how God views us. In our feeble attempts at honoring His graciousness, we stumble over ourselves, unsure of how to best communicate with Him. However, God does not frown at us for our weakness in this; instead, He smiles broadly and appreciates the effort. Just as a parent appreciates the torn up weed bouquet clutched in their child's fist, so too does God appreciate even our smallest efforts to return to Him the love He so graciously gifts.
Children and Gender Confusion
Remember this article? I feel like it was the one that started them all.
Little boy wants to dress up like Daphne from Scooby Doo and his mom posts, in the title of her entry, that this implies he's gay.
But no worries, because in the body of the entry, you realize that was simply a bait. She then writes "Or he's not. I don't care. He is still my son. And he is 5. And I am his mother. And if you have a problem with anything mentioned above, I don't want to know you."
I remember when I first read that feeling offended for her. How could ANYONE dare to have a problem with this? Who would think to be so callous as to spout anything negative at a little boy who just wants to dress up for Halloween? Even if it is a little odd.
Now that the feeds have been absolutely SATURATED with stories like this, I've learned to put my critical reasoning skills to better use.
She, like every other blogger after her, sets the stage for inevitable conflict. They want the conflict; it drives stats. I refuse to post the litany of these articles because I refuse to give them a bump in referral hits.
Now I just roll my eyes and pass on them. They're all the same. Each demanding respect for allowing their boys to dress as girls and play with My Little Pony dolls, or steering their girls away from pink things and more towards "boy toys" like race cars and Legos. We've all seen them. It's just...
Instead of trying to dictate what our kids play with in an attempt to show how forward-thinking we are about gender-stereotypes, how about we just let them be kids who like to play with toys of any sort?
And how about we stop patting ourselves on the back for going out of our way to confuse the very clear distinctions between the two sexes. No matter how many bags of lip gloss your son wants to have, he's going to be a little boy. No matter how many Wrestlemanias your daughter begs to go to, she's still going to be a little girl.
And no matter how many times you allow your son to dress in skirts or your daughter to pull on boxers, their biology will remain unaltered. That includes sex change operations and hormone injections.
Also, this sort of gender confusion does not necessarily mean your child is gay. But again, throwing that into the mix is a great way to solicit a jump in stats.
We need to have open, honest communication on this topic. Blog posts like those I reference above are not helpful. If anything, they're harmful because they seek to divide. They seek to cause in-fighting and paranoia (everyone's out to get me and my son because we're different!). There are children in serious jeopardy because of this confusion, and patting ourselves on the backs for the bang-up job we're doing with this saturation of gender confusion is not the right course of action. It's just not.
I don't have the answer on how best to respond to this growing trend, but I just can't take the constant stream of articles that decry any sort of acknowledgement that boys and girls (and thus, men and women) are different; they are. Does that mean that they are not equals? No; they have equal dignity. But they are inherently different from one another. Consistently ignoring that (and worse... teaching our children to actively ignore it) is a
Kids growing up in this climate are the reason we've got fifty billion "genders" on Facebook, men waging legal war against a woman's right to use a private bathroom, and young kids (and their PARENTS) fighting to dictate biology without bothering to think of long-term health consequences.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Trying to blur the lines between male and female have led folks to be hyper-aware of not only gender, but sexuality and thus, sex.
Methinks that's why textbooks like this exist. It's also why lessons like this exists.
We are hurting our children way, WAY more than we are helping them. That much is apparent. We are teaching them it's okay to disregard facts - scientific facts - and create an alternate reality that they then expect everyone else to go along with. I can't imagine that being a good coping strategy for such a real, all-areas-of-life entrenched problem.
I just don't have clue one where to begin, or even how to protect my son from falling victim to this sort of confusion. It's like parents are expected (and even bullied into) encouraging this sort of behavior.
I was recently invited to a birthday party with my son in which the parent informed me the boys would be dressing up as princesses alongside the girls.
No thank you. I opted to decline that one. Vince is curious about women's clothing sometimes (my veil and bras come to mind), but I would not actively encourage him cross dressing, ESPECIALLY at such a young age.
I'm just... ay.
What the heck ever happened to kids being kids?
These are my in-laws. I love them both. Ridiculous amounts. I always have. I've always respected their love for each other and their family. I've learned a lot about marriage just from watching them interact. I've learned a lot about John that way, too, let me tell ya. He's got so many traits that he shares with his Dad that watching his mom interact with her husband has given me a few ideas how to go about interacting with John.
Anyway, given the incredibly emotional coaster this family has been on the last few weeks, I've been dying to see them and just hug them close. Natural circumstances prevented this, but when we DID finally see each other, I was so happy to just physically hug them. However, Dad wasn't too keen on any sort of emotional exchange. He was probably too drained from grieving Uncle Billy and worrying over his mother's rapidly declining health. Also, given his status as the leader of the family, he took upon himself the responsibility of shouldering the fear and anxiety of his brothers and sister.
Oh, how my heart breaks for him. He always takes on so much responsibility. But again, it's something I deeply respect him for. He goes out of his way to make things easier for his family, but at such personal sacrifice.
However, he doesn't like to let on that his strength wavers, too. Instead of reaching out, he'll vent in short, off-the-cuff ways. I want so much to help him, but I can't just say, "Dad, I love you. Punch the wall and yell at me if it'll make you feel better."
I'd love to, mind you, but I can't. He'd never let on that he's hurting, and I would never make things worse by letting on that I know.
But I still want to support him. So I'm supporting him the best way I know how - through his wife, my mother-in-law.
In the car on the way back from Uncle Billy's funeral, my FIL had to make a tough decision. My MIL said something that I pray will stick with me until my final days.
My FIL had to decide if he'd go away for a few days on business or if he'd stay behind in case Nanny passed away. He asked my MIL what she thought, and her response was beautiful. She basically said she would go wherever he decided because no matter what, she wanted to be with HIM when and if he got news about Nanny.
It was then that I realized I could support him by supporting her. She was, is and always will be, his rock. They are incredibly blessed to have found one another.
She knows her place is with him so that she can support him in any way that she can. She wants to be there, holding his hand, letting him cry, even letting him get mad at her so he could, in some tiny way, vent the torrent of emotion eating away at his heart.
I actually teared up when she said that. It was so loving... so perfect... that is what I want my response to be to John always. Whatever you decide, I will stand by you. I will be with you because that is where I need to be. I want you to know that you will always have me to lean on.
Such love. Such incredible, faithful love.
So I made it my personal mission to support him by supporting her. Since she'll be bearing the weight of the world in conjunction with him, I can lend my assistance to her. I might not be able to reach my FIL the way I'd like, but I can reach my MIL, and if she's a little less stressed and a little more rested, she can be a better support for him.
I love these two immensely. I really do. I wish I could do something to magically wave a wand and make life perfect again, but we all must endure this valley of tears. Thankfully, God gifted us families so we could walk this valley together and not alone.
"Turn then, oh Most Gracious Advocate, thine eyes of Mercy towards us, and after this, our Exile, show unto us the Blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus."
Please keep them in your prayers. Nanny, too.
Just Cry and Offer
When the pain of loss seems too great to bear, and when the grief comes coursing in to crush the very breath from your lungs, fix your eyes on the Blessed Mother as she gazes upon her Son, gasping away His Life for love of us.
Allow the tears to come. Offer your tears together with hers... hers that shine like diamonds and are collected by the angels as tokens of mercy.
Accept the emptiness as it threatens to swallow you. Allow the weight of desolation to shatter your heart - your very soul - but do not despair.
For where God destroys, He creates. These mournful remains can thus rejoice and offer themselves as ready sacrifice for the new Life that comes in their place.
"I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you." Ez. 36:26
Blessed Mother, be my strength. I am having a really, really hard time accepting Myla's absence right now.
That television show... it was as if I was being pinned to a surgical table to have my heart sliced open by a scalpel.
But I see, I see. The tears wash away the clutter from my eyes, and the crushing grief just reminds me that I have something left to offer. It is yours... the pain and tears that echo softly your own. Tender Mother, hold her for me. Hold her and tell her all the things that I never got the chance to say. Allow her to be the delight of your Son since she could not be the delight of mine. Bring her often to see her Father so that He can tell her about the Daddy she left behind. Guide me daily with Vincent so that I can be worthy of meeting her one day.
Grief, folks. It still exists. Every day. Sometimes you're granted respite. Sometimes you're asked to experience it more keenly. But it's always there.
That is at it should be. There can be no grief if there is not, first, love. And love is forever.
And love, Myla Therese, is exactly what you were created by.
Gorgeous Painting of Holy Family
Swoon with me, people! Isn't this just darling?
This painting by John Everett Millais not only captures Jesus and His parents... it captures John the Baptist and St. Elizabeth, too!
It seems they're all hard at work in St. Joseph's carpentry shop. They're working on what looks to be a door. Poor little Jesus nicked His Hand (His Blood trickled down onto His Foot), and Our Lady stoops down to comfort Him. John-not-yet-the-Baptist comes running in with his trusty water, a precursor to his future calling.
The others surround and look on intently at the unfolding scene before them. St. Joseph even reaches out to grab Jesus' hand as if to see how badly He'd hurt Himself.
You can see the Holy Spirit hanging out on Jacob's Ladder in the above detail, too.
As St. Joseph checks Jesus' Hand, St. Elizabeth is already moving to remove the blasted nail from the door so He doesn't hurt Himself again. You can also juuuust make out the triangle, a carpenter's tool and also a symbol of the Trinity.
A young man looks on - likely an apprentice of St. Joseph's. Just outside are the herds of sheep indicative of the flocks Christ will lead as the Good Shepherd.
Yup. I'm swooning for this painting. The colors... the details... the symbols chosen... even their facial expressions. Everyone seems so somber... as if they all understand what this little event is foreshadowing.
Everyone but St. Joseph. To me, he simply looks concerned and loving towards Jesus. "Oh Son, you've cut Yourself. Let's see what we can do to make sure You're okay again. There, there."
He's even holding three of Christ's Fingers. Jesus is typically painted with three fingers up to represent His union with the Trinity. His other two fingers represent His Human and Divine natures. In this case, one is pointing upwards (His thumb) and the other is pointing down for His Humanity. I like what Millais did there.
Alrighty, you folks enjoy. I absolutely love stumbling across gems like this!
Setting Up a Playgroup
Pictures like this make it look like I'm great at making friends. They make me look like I'm the life of the party... a social butterfly... the center of all that is awesome and fun.
Truth is, all of those things USED to describe me. I really was great at making friends. I was a TOTAL social butterfly and inserted myself into the center of everything. However, all of that changed when I became a mother. I slowly began to hang back from social situations. I'd devote all my time to Vincent and allow John to go to parties and social events on behalf of both of us.
However, over the last year or so, I've realized that I missed having a social life. I've missed hanging out with my friends and doing things outside the realm of "Mommy." I've also realized that my reluctance to build a social life outside my comfort zone was detrimental to Vincent. After all, if I didn't have other "Mommy friends" who brought around their kids to play with, he was just as socially ostracized as I was.
So when John and I signed him up for a special class for sensory children, I knew I was being given a special opportunity. There are currently 6 or 7 kids in the class, and they're all Vincent's age. The parents are my age, and they're all dealing with the same struggles John and I have endured in trying to diagnose and treat Vincent. They were PERFECT candidates for the Mommy-group I'd been looking for.
After a few weeks of small talk, I gauged interest. I asked, "Would any of you like to start a Mommy-group with me? We could support each other, offer tips and tricks, and meet up for special play dates given the close age and special needs of our kids."
All of them agreed.
So the next day, I put together a basic website for us to use as a sort of forum to share things like DIY sensory toys, favorite sensory places, and articles on issues like Autism and ADD. I called the center to ask for contact information for those parents I hadn't spoke with. I wanted to let them know we were doing this and to invite them to join in.
Their response made me sorta feel like St. Peter as he was "handed the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven."
Not only was the director in full support of what I was doing, she offered me full run of their facility on Sundays. She'd even staff a therapist (free of charge!) to help run things as the kids used the various therapy centers.
And then, she offered to host seminars on specific topics like Sensory Processing Disorder and even Dyslexia if we so desired it.
HOW CRAZY AWESOME IS THAT?!
Apparently they'd been looking to do this for a long time, but they didn't have anyone with the skill set to put a site together. Since I had already done it (and was already willing to run everything), they wanted to throw their support behind this little group to see it blossom.
She asked if I'd be open to allowing other parents from their center to join in. I said "Yes" but asked if she'd be kind enough to wait a few months until I got things going with my original group. I want to get a feel for how things will run with a smaller number of people, and then when I feel comfortable adding members, I'll happily expand to include others.
But can you imagine??? I was calling for an e-mail address and she gave me keys to the center. That's just... God is so good. So incredibly, awesomely good.
And I guess that's the reward you can expect when you step outside your comfort zone to multiply the love, folks. For so long, I've been content to stay within my cocooned little shell of a life, but I knew I needed to change not only for myself, but for Vince, and look... what a blessing it turned out to be!
So that's where I've been the last few days. I've been busily fleshing out a forum / website for this parent-group and trying to come up with a game plan for how everything is going to run.
For those of you who have experience doing this sort of thing, PLEASE message me! Also, for those of you who have good online resources for things like DIY sensory things (toys, games, etc), I'm all ears!
Myla's Big Reveal
I had given up hope of ever having "proof" of my pregnancy with Myla. Imagine my surprise, then, when I walked out of the doctor's office with it on Monday morning.
Yeah. Let that sink in.
Without getting into graphic detail, let's just say God gave me the proof I thought I'd been denied and allowed me to give John what he needed to accept the reality of Myla's existence. I spent the day in a state of semi-bliss.
I was able to share the news with John over coffee Monday night. I wasn't even sure how to bring it up, so I gave him the prescription and evaluation slip from my OB. I explained to him what they meant, and he took my hand in his and said, "Now I feel terrible."
I said, "I don't want you to feel terrible. It just gives you the proof you needed, and I'm really happy you know I'm not crazy."
In truth, he shouldn't have needed the diagnosis from my OB to rationalize that. But hey... God knew he'd need it, so God made arrangements.
We only spoke very briefly, and I designed the conversation that way. I knew he'd need some time to process things, and I didn't want him to feel overburdened with guilt for his lack of trust / support. So I brought out the note at the tail end of Vincent's hour-long therapy session. We tend to go to a coffee shop across the street as an impromptu 1-hour date. 10 minutes before we had to head back to pick Vince up, I pulled out the OB's note. It gave me just enough time to explain things, let the news sink in, and hear his initial reaction.
He said he wasn't sure how he felt, because she still wasn't "real" to him. He believes now that she existed, but much like many other men, she was too early to be "real" to him. I understand that. I'm just not sure how I can support him because I don't know if he even needs support (now or ever). I don't know if he'll ever want to bring her up. I don't know if he will want to and won't know how. I don't know if he's struggling with guilt because he's secretly glad she passed away. I dunno.
I'm just so incredibly thankful that God manifested His mercy in such an unexpected way. Prayers are never wasted, and every day brings a new miracle.
Mommy loves you so much, Myla. I wonder if you made some sort of deal with God to arrange this for your Daddy. I can't wait to see you in Heaven one day, baby girl. What a moment that will be when I see you and wrap my arms around you. Kiss after kiss I will rain upon your face. My little flower. Words cannot express my appreciation for you. <3
The Hardest Thing
When asked about the hardest thing I've dealt with regarding Vincent and the confusion of the last several months (years, really), my answer was fear.
At first, I actually said that there haven't been any difficult changes to deal with. Vince is still the same happy, affectionate child. He still loves sports and kitties and trampolines. He doesn't attend daycare or school, but honestly, that means he gets to spend more time with Mommy and Daddy who don't have to spend 45 minutes each way to pick him up or drop him off each day.
If anything, this has made things easier for us (no worries of him catching that stomach bug going around, being bullied, being put in the principal's office for over-stimulation).
However, upon further reflection, there has been a major uptick in fear. I can't deny that. It's been my driving force these last few months.
I was terrified that Vincent was going to be misdiagnosed and put into a program that would not seek to challenge and engage him. I was afraid he had fallen behind his peers with his social skills. I was ceaselessly worried we weren't doing enough as parents to get him to where he needed to be... that I was missing pieces of the puzzle or overlooking some obvious trait that others could so plainly see.
Above all, I was terrified that I was failing my son. I was failing as a mother, and that really did cause me some sleepless nights.
Each time someone asked about Vincent, I physically and mentally braced myself to defend him against the misunderstandings and suggestive conversations I knew were to come.
"Did you ask the doctor about Autism yet?"
"I read this article about Oppositional Defiance. I'd like to send it to you."
"My friend knows a lot about learning disabled students. She works with kids like Vincent all the time."
"I know you don't think he's got Autism, but did you look into Asperger's?"
"Wow, he sure is fidgety. He's probably just got ADD or something."
On and on and on this sort of conversation would take place. Well-meaning individuals (family and friends alike) who were doing their best to guide me through waters which they, themselves, had no lighthouse to follow.
For the most part, I did appreciate their intentions. I just had to tune them out after a while. Behind each good-intention was an unspoken judgement: There is something wrong with Vincent.
Did they mean it that way? Of course not. But I'm his mother. I see him as perfect. I want everyone else to see him that way, too. It was killing me that others were starting to see him as a problem needing to be solved than as a beautiful little boy wanting to play Ninja Turtles.
And I felt that I, myself, was being judged as inferior. I was being deemed a parent incapable of "fixing" my son... of allowing him to spoil in some way.
Isn't that terrible? Each keystroke of this entry feels like I'm pulling tears higher and higher out of the well of my soul.
THAT was the hardest part in all of this. Feeling like a failure. Feeling like others were judging my son... judging me. Feeling like they were judging correctly and feeling absolutely worthless for being unable to change that judgement because they were right.
That sort of paranoia... it is devilishly intense. I'd beg, barter and plead with God to just lead me down the right path because I had no idea what I was doing.
And in all those times of desperation, He answered.
He gave me the mental dexterity to show EI the door when they pushed for Autism testing before Vince was even three. He opened the doors to TLE when I had no idea where to place Vincent. He dropped the most perfect speech therapist into my lap who took flawless notes about his progress. He reminded me of those notes when I read Cam's entry on her own daughter, and He put the pieces of the puzzle together for me before I even knew I was holding puzzle pieces.
Each and every time I found myself doubting His sanity in placing Vincent into my care, He'd swoop in and reassure me that He wasn't, in fact, crazy. He just had a lot more faith in me than I had in Him.
And when I finally realized that, I was amazed and infinitely grateful to be counted worthy of raising my son. He is a gift, and with God in my cheering section, what is there to be afraid of?
As parents, we're always going to fear we're failing. We just need to remember that God would have never placed these blessings with us if He didn't think we could do it. Together, we can. :)
This is Vince and our friend, Chrissy. This photo was taken today, right after we got back from the pediatric office. Vincent had such a fun time there that he promptly dressed up in his doctor costume (a Christmas gift from my mother - thanks Mom) and went to work on her. It was adorable!
Anyway, the evaluation was pretty straight forward. The D-Ped did two types. The first was a history log of my pregnancy with Vince and his behaviors since birth.
Good thing I kept a meticulous baby-book for him, because I needed each month to remind myself of which milestones he hit and when he hit them. I highly recommend keeping up with those books for your children if at all possible. I always thought his would be a keepsake memento. It's actually been more of an archived medical history given what I've now learned about milestone achievement and their connection to autism and sensory disorders.
But I digress.
After the history, she did a current snapshot of Vincent's behavior through conversation. She asked me questions, I answered. She took notes the entire time and was sure to ask for clarification on anything she was unsure of.
The entire time we were having this discussion, there was another D-Ped in the room simply observing Vincent. They had a train table set up and the 2nd D-Ped was there strictly to observe Vincent and his behavior as I spoke to the first doctor, as I interacted with him, as the other doctor interacted with Vince, and as he was left to his own devices. I thought that was great. Two doctors for the price of one, and each could focus on a separate task instead of one trying to observe Vince while getting a family history down.
Anyway, once the D-Ped was done asking questions of me, she had me fill out a GARS-3. For those unfamiliar, GARS stands for "Gilliam Autism Rating Scale" with "3" being for the 3rd edition.
As I filled out the scale, the doctor turned her attention to Vincent. She did a brief physical exam, and then she spent some time "playing" with him. She wanted him to draw certain things, point to certain things, or do certain things as she tested various capabilities. At this point, the second D-Ped interjected because she was so excited by Vincent's drawing of me. When asked to draw a picture of a person, Vincent kept drawing various scribbles. It dawned on me that the word "person" was not part of his vocabulary, and when I suggested they use a different word, he was able to follow through with the request to "draw Mommy."
Vincent kept looking at me and then adding features to his stick figure (glasses, earrings, my ponytail, etc). The silent D-Ped couldn't resist commenting on how detailed his drawing ended up being. I was delighted she took such joy from his art. I was even more delighted that she acknowledged how intelligent he was - something I sometimes fear people neglect to realize when they're busy looking for labels.
The original D-Ped finished her assessment of Vince a few minutes after I'd finished the GARS. It only took her a few moments to add up the data and place him into percentile rankings. This standardized scoring method is useful in predicting Autism. It doesn't, however, diagnose it. Rather, it establishes a baseline of probability and possible severity level based on 6 areas: Restricted / Repetitive Behaviors, Social Interaction, Social Communication, Emotional Responses, Cognitive Style and Maladaptive Speech.
For Vincent, his percentile ranged him as "Autism is Likely" with "Level 2" severity (out of 3) which would require "Substantial Support."
However, as the D-Ped pointed out, he "failed" the DSM-V criteria for Autism completely.
How is this?
Well, the DSM-V (read: Psychologists' Bible) notes that for Autism to be diagnosed, three persistent deficits MUST be present: Socio-emotional reciprocity, non-verbal communicative behaviors for social interaction, and developing, maintaining and understanding relationships.
Now, in addition to those top three criteria, there are things like repetitive patterns of behavior, inflexibility and fixated interests that are also added to the list, but in all Autism diagnoses, the three I mentioned in the preceding paragraph MUST be present. Since they were not, she explained Autism could not be a diagnosis. I asked about Asperger's Syndrome. It's not technically an Autism disorder anymore, but given it is still spectrum, I wanted her feelings on that, too.
She explained that Vincent didn't measure up to that diagnosis, either. The closest she could come up with was Sensory Modulation Dysfunction which, again, is another way of saying Sensory Processing Disorder. It was exactly what I had anticipated based on my own research and findings.
She did mention he exhibited signs of being hyperactive, but this is not surprising. She explained that many children with SMD / SPD can either be hyper- or hypo- active depending on where they fall on the scale. Vince, being easily over-stimulated and constantly craving a stream of tactile sensation, was obviously going to be on the hyperactive side of things.
Point is, all of his "Autism symptoms" were strictly related to his sensory issues. Since the two do overlap at times, it's easy to understand his GARS ranking. However, since the D-Ped was able to add her own analysis and evaluation through the DSM-V, I was able to walk out of the office with a diagnosis that would finally take Autism off the table for Vincent's child study team.
I felt like I'd finally be able to tell the surgeon I needed kidney surgery vs. a stomach surgery. The CST will FINALLY have the D-Ped report they've been hounding me to get since Vince was in Early Intervention from 18 months of age. I can finally prove to them that he is not so easily labelled.
He won't be so easily placed into their bucket of special needs children to up their state funding.
Not my child. I will never let him be a statistic or a financial victory for those people. I know how the system works and I absolutely refuse to let it take advantage of him like that.
So two hours after walking through the doors, I walked out victorious. My son was confirmed as having Sensory Modulation Disorder (or SPD) and the current course of therapy that John and I currently have him on is exactly what was prescribed.
Vindication is glorious. I finally, finally feel like we are going to get somewhere with his education now. There is no excuse not to proceed now that they've got everything they demanded of us. I find it delicious that the diagnosis they were so SURE we'd get today not only falls short of their expectation... it falls completely in line with mine.
Parents know best.
And praise God for allowing things to line up so perfectly for this today.
Pediatric Lottery Win
This is Vincent dressed up in his rain gear this morning. I had to get him up at 6:45 AM so we could be out of the house by 7:30. It was a rainy, wet morning, but ya know what? I was feeling pretty amazing, and by the grin on Vincent's face, he was, too.
Well, we had won what I'm henceforth calling the Pediatric Lottery yesterday afternoon.
You see, on December 31st, I was told I'd need a "proper diagnosis" from a Developmental Pediatrician for Vincent's Sensory Processing / Autism symptoms in order to move forward with his district evaluation. So, I set to work getting him in to see one.
For any of you lucky enough to never be told your child needs to see a D-Ped, you might not be aware that wait time for these rare birds is about 12 months. 12 MONTHS.
I spent that afternoon calling 6 hospitals (which had between 2 and 3 locations each) trying to locate one for him. Every.single.one. was booked solid until December 2014.
I was somewhat disheartened by that (not just for Vince, but for all the other families being told they needed to wait so long for the tests needed to move forward with district evaluations). However, I wasn't going to let a little thing like ridiculously long wait lists slow me down.
I asked each hospital to pre-register us over the phone in case something popped up between now and December 2014. Only two hospitals agreed to take my info this early. I kept a running tab of hospitals, wait times and pre-registration requirements on a list on the back of Vincent's evaluation folder. Then, starting January 2nd, I went down the list of hospitals and called every other day, hoping for a cancellation.
Yesterday, January 13th, I struck gold and was given an 8AM appointment with a leading developmental pediatrician who specializes in autism and sensory issues.
Seriously - I was running around the office like this:
Euphoric, I must've thanked God about a thousand times before I'd even called John. Miracle of miracles, I just cannot believe we got in a full 12 months early! That's just INSANE!
So really, thank you, Lord, for being so amazing to Vincent!!! What an unexpected (and immensely awesome) blessing!!!
I gathered all of his materials together and called in a last minute referral to be faxed over by Vincent's regular pediatrician. They obliged, but couldn't believe I'd gotten an appointment that fast. They had to call me back just to make sure they'd gotten the date right.
Pfffft... this is why I don't stress about things. My God is an Awesome God.
I couldn't even sleep last night because I was so excited for today. Seriously - I didn't sleep at all. I just kept watching the clock as it ticked away the moments until I could finally get his diagnosis confirmed by someone with more authority than me.
Truthfully, the last few months have been incredibly taxing. I've had so many people tell me I was missing something. It seemed like everyone was trying to prepare me for the autism diagnosis they were sure I'd hear. His teachers, the school district, family members, friends... it was beginning to really wear on me.
I know folks meant well, but I hated constantly being second guessed about my own son simply because I don't have a PhD behind my name. I would NOT allow him to be labelled autistic if he was not, in fact, autistic. I wasn't going to just "settle" for the label because it is something easily identifiable to insurance companies. I wasn't going to allow the Child Study Team to throw together a one-size-fits-all IEP based on expectations for a child with Autism.
If I had even an inkling that Vince was autistic, I'd be singing a different tune. I'd label him, myself, and make sure everyone was aware of his strengths and difficulties. I'm not afraid of labels, and I'm not afraid of Autism.
I am, however, afraid of a system that routinely misdiagnoses children and haphazardly categorizes them into programs that are more detrimental than they are helpful. I would NOT allow my son to fall victim to that.
So I educated the heck out of myself. I've spent weeks pouring over everything I can about Sensory Processing Disorder. I poured over Autism research, Asperger's research and even dabbled in the ADHD, ADD, ODD suggestions that were thrown my way. I analyzed Vincent at home and had him try activities suggested by the Pinterest Boards I'd looked into. I even joined a parent-group and spoke to others struggling with the same issues.
I was not crazy. I was not blind. I was simply refusing to accept their "professional opinion" when they, themselves, didn't have the PhD they scoffed at me for lacking.
So to say I was anxious to hear the Developmental Pediatrician's evaluation is a total understatement.
I was going in with the expectation of war, and I knew I'd be coming out victorious. I had to. I was fighting for Vincent's future.
Wherein a Crazy Catholic Rants
The Pope baptized an infant (along with plenty of others) on the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, and folks have once again gone psychotic in one form or another because *gasp* the parents of this child were not married in the Church.
WHY IS THIS NEWS?
For the love of all that's holy, people, Pope Francis is not Christ come back to Earth (and he's not the anti-Christ, either, for you folks wagging your heads at his supposed lack of decency). He did what he did as a priest in Argentina... he did what priests and deacons all over the world do on a weekly basis; he exercised his vocation and gave himself over to God to be used as a conduit for Divine Grace. He welcomed a child into our Family. He brought God's blessing down on that child in the Name of the Blessed Trinity and encouraged family and friends alike to bear faithful witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis was not, as I've seen some suggest, blessing civil marriages as if they were equal to sacramental unions. He was not acting blasphemous by recognizing the inheritance this baby was due as a child of God. Regardless of a person's background - ALL are welcome to the flood of grace God wishes to reign down upon us. We were all created SPECIFICALLY to be His children forever.
I mean, are you seriously going to look God in the eye and say, "Nope, God. This kid doesn't have two sacramentally married parents. You CAN'T want to baptize her, right?"
GAH! The audacity. That's exactly what you're saying when you complain about Pope Francis baptizing her! SHAMEFUL.
Also, Pope Francis was not, as others have suggested, being some sort of social prophet by his actions. It is very doubtful he baptized that child to condemn the Church's stance on the traditional family. It's also very doubtful he was trying to cause any waves or be the beacon for social justice folks are clamoring so hard for him to be.
He acted as any priest should have - he acted with love and a deep respect for his God-given vocation. May that child grow to love and honor God and His Church, and may the Pope's encouragement strengthen her parent's resolve to reconcile themselves with the same Church they professed their desire to graft their daughter into.
It's beginning to drive me insane - from both ends of the spectrum! Folks are hating on him for being "untraditional enough" and then others are lavishing praise on him as if every pontiff before him was a baffoon. It's ridiculous.
On the heels of that, there's this little button thingie (and others like it) going around that was commented at least a dozen times on various threads about the above story.
NO, NO, NO, NO and NO.
The Blessed Mother was NOT an unwed mother. Stop spreading this. Correct anyone you see posting it. It's NOT TRUE.
I've posted about this before, but it obviously bears repeating:
She wasn't unwed, though a lot of people misunderstand that.
In being "betrothed" to St. Joseph, she was married under Jewish Law. Jewish marriage was a two step process back then. Betrothal (important part) and then public witness (formality). Kinda like us with our Church ceremony and then shipping off our papers to the town hall with the signatures of our witnesses.
Betrothal was so binding that upon completion of the betrothal ceremony (which Mary and Joseph took part in), the woman was considered a wife (and hence if we follow the language used in the gospel of Matthew back to its roots, we see that he does, in fact, use the term "gyne" or "wife" for Mary after she and Joseph are betrothed in the Temple).
Besides, God specifically sets forth laws for us to follow. He wouldn't break the rules for Himself, especially since He came to serve as our example on how to fulfill the law faithfully in every respect.
It is simply through present-day misunderstand of ancient Jewish custom that we believe the Blessed Mother to have been an unwed mother.
So please - stop posting the memes about the Blessed Mother being unwed. If you see others posting the memes, enlighten them.
Finally, a plea from a parent who happens to still believe in the saying "It takes a village to raise a child."
While I was in the waiting room of the Emergency Room a few days ago, I witnessed an incident that STILL has me absolutely baffled.
A mother and father were sitting one row ahead of me. They had a gorgeous little girl of maybe 18 months of age. She was toddling all over the place, but walking was apparently new for her given how much she'd fall.
Her father got up and left (where he went is anyone's guess) and her mother was on her cell phone. The little girl was walking all over the waiting room, and given how much she was toppling over, I sorta kept an eye on her in case she hurt herself. Her mother wasn't paying any attention to where she was walking. She was on her phone the entire time I saw her.
The little girl toddled over to an elderly man in a wheelchair. As soon as he saw her, his face lit up and he said, "Hey baby! Hi there. Want to give me five?" and he held out his hand to her. She looked at him with the biggest smile and immediately went over to interact. Just as she was about to reach him, she fell over. The elderly man immediately reached down to scoop her up - and it obviously hurt him to do so. As he set her back on her feet, she let out a big squeal. It's that sound babies make when they're really excited and half giggling about something.
I guess that sound made it through her mother's cell phone conversation, because she finally got up to see where her daughter had wandered off to. When she came around the column (which was blocking her view of her daughter), she noticed the elderly man patting her on the head.
While STILL having the conversation on the cell phone, she angrily looked at the older man and shook her head "No" while dragging (physically DRAGGING) the little girl away. She didn't even look at her daughter. She just glared at the elderly man and yanked her back behind the column.
A few moments later, her boyfriend / husband / whatever walked in and sat next to the mother. Again, mom is STILL on the phone, but tells that person to "hold on" so she can relay what happened with the man in the wheelchair. She proceeds to tell him that the "creepy old guy" was "grabbing our daughter." He got angry and said, "Where? Who is he?" and she starts saying "He's behind the column."
I saw where this was leading, so I immediately got up, walked over to them and said, "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I just wanted to let you know that he was only helping your daughter up. She fell in front of his wheelchair, and he just helped her to her feet."
She shot me an angry look, but the man she was with said, "Oh, okay. Thanks."
Mother-of-the-Year went right back to talking on the phone as I made my way back to my seat.
A few minutes later, dad was telling his daughter she can't go near strange men because they would take her away and rape her.
This child was MAYBE 18 months old. I would hope she has no clue what rape is. And what in God's name is he attempting to scare her off men like that for??? He SHOULD have been reprimanding his partner for letting the little girl wander off in the first place. He SHOULD have been telling her to put the phone away and giving the little girl any semblance of attention. Instead, he scares his little girl into thinking every male in the universe is a bad guy seeking to kidnap / sexually abuse her.
And all the elderly guy - IN A WHEELCHAIR - was trying to do was be helpful. All he wanted to do was help a little girl up and make her smile.
I'm all for teaching kids that they need to be aware of their surroundings and who they're with, but c'mon. This is ridiculous. We need to recognize the good in people.
Bullying Follow Up: A Hug
So a really sad, but ultimately beautiful, thing happened last week.
After storming out of Vincent's daycare on what proved to be his final day, I realized I'd left his sleeping bag and extra pair of clothing behind. Eventually I'd have to go back to collect them.
Well, I finally made my way back to their building just before close on Friday. The remaining children were all huddled in one room around a TV playing a cartoon. When I walked in, I saw William. He saw me, too, and instantly looked around for Vincent. He said, "Don't bring Vincent back. I don't like him."
Again, my heart hurt. William was sitting off by himself, having been removed from the other children for God only knows what. I said, "Vincent says 'Hello,' William." He turned his face away from me, so I walked over, dropped to my knees and hugged him.
He instantly bristled. He pushed me away and turned his body around in his seat. One of the teachers sorta laughed (either at me, or the situation, I have no idea). I was so, so sad again, because I just had this intense feeling that he doesn't get enough physical affection. So I released him from my hug and walked across the hall to find Vincent's stuff.
When I came back to say goodbye to the staff to let them know I was leaving, William was still sitting at the back table but he called out, "Vincent's Mom!"
I looked back and he said, "Tell Vincent I say 'Hi," too."
I'm not ashamed to admit I drove home crying.
Just a little love. That's all this child needs. Just a little bit of love. Isn't that all any of us needs?
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