Not So Typical Mom

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I’m not your typical mom. I always thought I would be. On my journey of motherhood God decided in his wisdom to give me one incredible boy with ASD and one incredible boy with motor delays and well, our family can seem a little quirky.  

Here are some of the ways that I am reminded that we do things a little differently. See if you can relate!

When school asks us to bring in milk cartons and shoe boxes for a project I have to borrow an empty milk carton from a neighbors recycling (being dairy free we don’t have many of those lying around) and I have to borrow a shoebox from my mom because I buy all my boys clothes resale. 

On baking days at my son’s school I’m the mom sending in organic beet juice so he won’t touch the red food coloring. 

We bring our own food everywhere we go. I often receive crazy looks when people put out the fruit snacks and apple juice and I say, “My son can’t have that.”

While other moms at the park are telling their kids not to climb the slide, I am praising them for it and am thrilled they are trying something new and, also cheering inside because it’s great heavy work activity and I know it’ll calm them down later!

I have an enormous trampoline ball pit in my family room for the boys during these winter months where we can’t get out much. And I’m okay with it. Most of the time. It’s a little deflated in this picture.

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On our counter is an enormous box of vitamins and supplements, all of which, my son takes on a daily basis. He is such a trooper. I feel like I spend a lot of my life sorting pills. We recently stopped 2 of these things so that makes life easier right?

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We don’t have many “normal” toys. Think scooters, plasma cars, chewy sticks, weighted toys, and therapy balls. This picture is kind of blurry!

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I have no idea what shows or songs are popular or what celebrities are doing or what  is going on in the news. But I can tell you a lot about autism, OT, ABA, Speech, special diets, fermented foods, etc.

Sometimes I watch typically developing kids interact with their parents and something within me aches. And to me, it seems unnatural, even though it’s what everyone else would say is natural but has not always come as naturally to us. And when my sons interact with me in sweet ways, I choke back tears of hope and joy. I’m hoping someone out there will understand this. 

I love my life and my boys. I’ll be honest. There are days when it just feels hard. It’s hard to see the parts of my children that are typical from the parts that aren’t so typical sometimes. I confess, I have days (even seasons) where I let it get to me more than I want it to. I’m learning that for me to live it well I have to constantly engage in the process of embracing what is and letting go of what isn’t. And thanking God not just for the good but for the hard parts of each day that remind me daily that raising special needs kids takes a whole lot of courage. 

So for those of you who can relate to any of this, you are not alone my friend. There are those of us who are on a slightly different route in parenting too. I’m glad to be traveling with you brave souls.

– Amy

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My Lesson In Generosity

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I recently learned an important lesson from my 2-year old son. It was Little Man’s birthday and we had invited my parents and grandparents over to celebrate. He is two years old. How did this happen? Two years gone by seems like a few weeks. Two years ago this time I was great with child, with anticipation of baby boy number two. And now, he’s here and growing up and walking and talking and I can’t imagine life without him. And the truth hits me afresh. The thing that every mother at the grocery store a few steps ahead of me in life tells me,

“It goes by so fast. Enjoy it.”

The whole evening big brother, Little Dude, was really struggling with the attention being on little brother. In my mind, He was putting forth his most loud and in-your-face efforts at getting attention. He was off. He really needed to be pushing furniture around for some heavy work. Ugh. Why didn’t I write him a social story? Where was the one I wrote for this same occasion last year? Why don’t I save these things? I blamed myself.

When it came time for Little Man to open his presents, Little Dude fell apart. I was torn. My sweet firstborn who needs so much, his needs pouring out in front of me. My sweet second born, who needs so little, contentedly opening presents with grandparents and great grandparents while mom and dad try to calm down big brother.

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And then, Little Man opened the trucks. A Brudder jeep and a monster sized police truck. With lights. And music. And Little Dude could hardly handle it. It was all he could do to keep himself away from his brother’s brand new, shiny, birthday toys.

And the amazing thing? His brother knew it too. And so, my toddler, my baby, picked up his brand new police car, the gift he had just received, and handed it to his brother. “Brother’s turn with police car” he said. Then he went to his jeep and played happily. He acted like it was no big thing.

It was one of the biggest things I’ve ever witnessed.

The whole evening changed.

The tension faded in an instant. The building frustration in our older son crumbled under the grace of his brother.

Joy. Two children completely content because of one generous act. Brothers playing side by side. A gift received and given back. Generosity changed everything.

I praised Little Man for being such a good sharer. I sat back and tears welled up in my eyes. My eyes trying to recover after witnessing such a miracle.

My baby saw a need in his brother that I had missed. The need for someone to extend grace rather than judgment. The grace to see beyond the diagnosis and all it’s symptoms and causes. The grace to understand when someone needs a little sharing. A little understanding. A little act of kindness.

Sometimes as a parent of special needs I feel needy too. I see my son’s needs and I feel insecure. I feel like I need to take what I can get. I watch other’s open the gifts of life and it’s all I can do to keep it together. I receive a gift and feel I need to cling to it like it’s my saving grace.

My little son recognized the power of sharing a gift. Of taking what he received and passing it on.

Because it’s not so much about what is given, as it about how it is given. The attitude of the giver.

Generosity. I can pour love into another’s wound instead of being sucked in. I can see beyond a child who cannot appropriately express his feelings and see that he needs someone to notice his heart and not his symptoms. I can give grace that saves the day because I have received grace that has saved my life.

Maybe I am blessed because others around me might need a taste of those blessings too.

As Christmas approached, I needed this reminder from my child. That one night in December, the generosity of God came in a child. A Father’s humble gift. That child was our saving Grace, yours and mine. The gift that was given in humility, like it was no big deal but is the biggest most profound thing that happened on this globe.

Don’t miss it. It’s for you. Receive it. See a need. And give . . .

Isaiah 9:6 . . . For a child has been born—for us!
the gift of a son—for us! – The Message

1 John 4:9-11 . . . God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. (NLT)

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Why I’m Glad I Didn’t Get My Way

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When Preston was four, he went through an amazing early childhood program. I was a little nervous at first, but came to love this program. His teachers said it would be his “bloom” year. And they were right.

This school was where he needed to be. When my LIttle Dude entered the program he had very little original speech. He was highly talkative and very verbose but he only spoke in lines from movies or TV shows. Everything he said was scripted and sounded scripted. By the end of the year, he no longer relied on scripted speech and his conversations lengthened and became more natural sounding. He was even starting to show interest in relationships with his peers. This seemed miraculous to us!

My husband and I commented many times on how this program had done so much for our son. By the time the school year came to a close, Preston’s growth was so amazing that I couldn’t imagine him going to school anywhere else. We knew that socially he wasn’t ready for Kindergarten even though academically he was WAY ready. I was nervous about a mainstream classroom preschool class and wondered about the challenges of that program. The early childhood program was so safe, so visually based, so perfect for him. I asked (begged) the school district to let him stay. I really wanted to give him one more year in this safe and enriching environment.

That was my best plan. It didn’t work out. We found our “Plan B,” a local park district program where he could have an aid in the classroom. Today, I can say with confidence that my best plan then would have held my little boy back in this season. I was trying to hold onto an old thing when God was trying to do a new thing. I am so glad I didn’t have it my way.

Little Dude entered a mainstream Pre-K class this year and struggled at first. It was a long, tough transition. I wondered if this was really right for him. He kept trying. I realize now it was the perfect amount of pressure. Not enough to break his desire to try but enough to push him and help him see how much he is capable of. I have to say, even though this year has been challenging for him, I have seen him grow more this year than even last year. He is needing his aid less and less. He is forming relationships with other kids and demonstrating some pretty amazing social skills. And I realize now that this was God’s best, and I almost kept him from it.

My plan would have been less of a transition, less struggle, less hard. Yet my plan would have yielded less growth, little progress, and few lessons learned.

We are faced again with a few options for school next year. So as I approach decision time again, I do so with new perspective. Open to God’s best, I will try to lay my plans at the feet of the one who made my son and knows the right path. I chose to accept his best regardless of the circumstances he brings. I place my son into the protective hands of the one who decides when programs or therapies get old and when it’s time for a new work in my child’s life. After all, I am not writing my son’s story. I am only a small piece. So I peacefully give our plans to God, the Author of life.

So what about you? Do you feel like your plans aren’t working out? Do you feel like you are holding onto an old way of life because it’s safe? Has something served it’s purpose for a season? Do you sense God is moving you to something new in your life? Perhaps time to let God lead you to the next chapter in your life …

What Am I Feeling Today?

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Happy Monday! Today’s post is a visual aid that I use with Little Dude from time to time. I wish I could take credit for this brilliant idea but I first saw it while he was in play therapy. The therapist would start off with this exercise to help understand what was on his mind that day. Sometimes when Little Dude is having a tough day, I’ll pull out this sheet and we’ll talk through what he’s feeling.

This helps 1) for me to understand what’s on his mind today, and 2) to help him reflect on his own feelings.

This was very difficult for Little Dude when he first started doing this. But as we have practiced, I believe this has helped him become a little more self-aware. Now he is getting to the point where he can say, “I’m so angry!” A huge milestone for us. A year ago, he’d just rage and hit or kick. He still hits and kicks from time to time, but I’m so happy that he can at least communicate now, “I’m so angry that Little Man took my toy!” Progress. is. good.

What have you found helps your child understand and communicate their own feelings?

Friday Fun

Boys will be boys.

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One of the things about being a mom of boys is that I find matchbox cars and trucks in the strangest of places. It keeps me laughing!

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Guess this fire truck was getting a little dirty.

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Why decorate with candles?

How about you? What do your kids do to keep you laughing?

Happy Friday!

A Letter to My Son on His First Day of School

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Dear Little Dude,

You are precious to me. Each year about this time, my heart swells with pride as I watch you put on your tennis shoes and grab your backpack for the year’s first day of school. And my mommy heart is excited for you, and anxious with you. I know this year, like the last two years I’ve sent you off to preschool, will bring another huge growth spurt, so many things will be learned, so many new experiences will expand your horizons.

As I drove you to school, my insides twisted up with mixed emotions about starting another year, you said, “Mama, I’m nervous. What if my teacher doesn’t like me?” I wanted to pull over and hug you. Part of me wanted to cry and comfort you and tell you it will be okay, another part of me wanted to smile and tell you all the million reasons why your teacher will like you!

I watched you for a moment after I dropped you off. How you used your walking feet and went and sat calmly down on the reading rug. Your face a big bright smile, your big blue eyes so kind. And I choked at how these small things are huge victories for us. How 2 years ago, these small things were so hard because we didn’t know what was going on. And I said thanks to God for you and all you’ve already overcome. And then I left you to enjoy your first day at school.

Little Dude, as I send you off, let me remind of you of what you bring with you that will help you along the way . . .

First, you are responsible. When I put you in charge, you always follow through, even if imperfectly, I can trust you to try. And more often than not, you exceed my expectations. I love how you surprise us all with what you can do. I hope you never stop doing that.

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You have the most helpful spirit. I love how you always volunteer to be a helper. Just remember that helping means doing what the other person asks, and not what you want to do. Keep this in mind, and you will continue to be a blessing to those around you.

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You have the energy! Some days I wish I could borrow some of your exuberance! You have a way of revving people up and getting us all excited about a new game or a special outing. You are charismatic and others want to be around you. Your excitement is contagious. Use your energy to encourage others to do what’s right, and you will be one heck of a leader someday!

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Finally, you are an encourager. I love you how tell others when they are doing a good job. There are some words not worth saying. Leave those in your head. But a word of encouragement is always worth saying out loud. If you use your words to lift others up, you have friends wherever you go.

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So when Mama’s not around, remember that you carry within you the tools to succeed at whatever you try. Don’t look at your struggles as obstacles, but instead as opportunities for God’s power to make you strong. And how much sweeter the reward when you work hard and overcome, as you continue to do.

Look at these unique qualities you have. Isn’t it amazing how you were made? I marvel in you all the time. And I marvel in you now.

Happy first day of school sweet boy. I love you.

Love, Mama

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My First Blog Post

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I am so excited as I type this – my very first blog post! This blog has been many months in the planning and I am thrilled to finally get started!

I am the mommy of two little boys with special needs. My Little Dude (age 5) was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, an autism spectrum disorder) last winter. My Little Man (age 1) has low muscle tone and delays in his gross motor development. You will be able read Little Dude’s story and Little Man’s story shortly.

The reasons I started this blog are: 1) to encourage other families who are raising children with special needs, and 2) to be a resource, and 3) to challenge myself to continue to find creative and fun ways to meet my families needs. Over the last year I have learned so much about sensory processing, gluten-free/dairy-free/sugar-free diets, and autism. I’d love this blog to be a place to share what I’m learning on my journey as a parent, but also to learn from you too! I truly believe that we are stronger together.

Finally, you have to know that I am a woman who loves God and that drives everything I do. I will probably mention Him from time to time – as he is the reason I can breathe and blog and do therapy after therapy and find joy when it shouldn’t be there.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ll find Our Special Nest to be uplifting, encouraging, and practical!

– Amy