The First Time for the Second Time

My dear daughters,

Once again it is the night before school. I do not know why the summer went by so fast, but it did. I had so much fun hanging out with you both on our adventures.

Your bags are packed, filled with all you need for school. I just want to say that I am proud of both of you so much.

My dear older girl, your reading and writing skills have sharpened so much over summer. You are such a fun kid. I know you will have many new friends in Grade One.

My sweet young one, you are going to preschool again to see if you are ready. Last year, I failed you by not giving you the right skills. Since your diagnosis you have thrived in therapy. You surprise me daily on your accomplishments. You will rock preschool.

As sad as I am to say good-bye to summer, I can’t wait to pick you up from school to hear all about your new adventures.

I love you both so much.

Love,

Mommy

Sort Of Young and Restless

 

Earlier this year I became older than what my mother lived. That was a hard state of emotions to manage.  Every breath I took I became all too aware on how I understood my mom more than I actually knew her. So many times, of the past almost 28 years since she died, I have been in a state of sorrow. I ache to know or ask her a million questions.

 

I began writing to carve my stories for my daughters in case I met the same fate as my mom. I penned tales of our older cat, Harley, so my oldest would remember him and my youngest would get to know him. I then began to write to fill a void of missing my mother. The blogging community welcomed me and I found many motherless moms like me. Some only knew their moms through pictures.

I started justdworld.com three years ago without knowing a thing about blogging. It was a name pulled out of thin air.  For years I would sign notes Just, D. It just stuck. I am not a celebrity. I am just me. A daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother trying to figure out what to do.  And I still don’t.

I am at a crossroads, restless and still sort of young. I do not know if a new writing chapter is ready to emerge. Or if a name change is imminent. All I know is I love to write. I bare what I can to respect my children and my marriage. I write to figure out who am I now that I am older than my mother. In October I turn 39. She did not make it to that birthday. With all the tests and pro-activeness my future looks promising.

Please bear with me. I thank you for reading my blog and guest blogs. I adore it when you leave a comment or personal message. You validate that the blogging community is a kind and supportive one. I hope we can meet again soon.

Ciao for now,

Danielle

 

Things people say in the face of Autism

My shock prevents me to answer the remark a complete stranger just said to me. I am waiting to pick up my oldest from kindergarten. At my feet is my three-year-old daughter who is laughing at a kid next to her. On the outside she looks like a regular kid. On the inside she is different, autistic. The stranger had watched her and walked over to me to say. “Everything happens for a reason.” And sauntered off to get her kid.

I know I should have thicker skin when it comes to remarks like that. I know I should let it roll off my back. I know I shall expect it again. It makes my brain go into what people should say. They are:

5 things Not to Say to an Autism Parent

  1. Everything happens for a reason.
  2. At least the child is healthy.
  3. That must be tough.
  4. Can’t you control your kid? ( or the nasty glances.)
  5. I don’t know how you do it.
  6. This kid is born to you because you are strong and can handle it all.

5 things to say to an Autism Parent

  1. How are you?
  2. Can I babysit sometime?
  3. Your kid is wonderful/smart/delightful.
  4. The world is a better place with your kid in it.
  5. _______________________________________

I wish to put this on a laminated card to hand out when people approach me like that lady. The bell rings and I put a smile on my face to greet my kindergartener. As we race to the playground for some fun, I wonder what the fifth thing that should be on that list.

What would you say to a parent with a child on the spectrum that is positive?

Every Day is Autism Day

 

World Autism Awareness Day was last week.  I understand the need to bring awareness to Autism. More and more kids are being diagnosed at a fast pace. As a mom of a three-year-old diagnosed on the spectrum, I wonder when it will ever be Autism Acceptance Day. Even at her tender age my daughter has encountered a lot of ignorance.

So let me talk to you about my daughter:

  1. She loves Doritos. We do use chips as incentive to get her to complete tasks, like puzzles.
  2. She is very compassionate to animals. Some autism ‘experts’ say that is not possible.
  3. My daughter comprehends a vast amount that is communicated to her.
  4. She only has 5 speaking words that you can understand. Hugs are plentiful in our house.
  5. My life would not be the same without her. She reminds us how simple things can bring such joy.

By talking and sharing it can be realized that autism is not a big deal. It does require a lot of therapy to help kids with daily tasks that most learn on their own.

What else would you like to know about autism and/or our life involving autism?

 

Isolation and Labels

 

Watching my five-year-old tear around the school playground after school makes me ask myself if I was once that carefree. I realize that I must have begun for the first ten years of my life. I have small memories of after school play dates and skating club parties. That all changed the summer before I entered the sixth grade when mom died.

I remember clearly my first day back to school. I was asked by the teachers to help the librarian while the class continued on. Shortly after, I told the librarian that I had to go to the bathroom. I snuck back to my classroom door and saw the entire class gathered around the teacher. I heard the words, “Her mom died.” Stunned, I went back to the library and was excused to go back to class after an hour.

When I entered the classroom and walked to my desk I could feel all their eyes on me. No one spoke to me or looked at my eyes. From that moment on I had a label, Motherless Child. For the rest of my school years I had a hard time making friends. I still hear the whispers as I passed through the playground about how my mom died. The calls to play diminished fast. I felt like a circus freak.

As I became an adult and began working full time, I made few friends. I felt like I forgot how to make a friendship work. Yes, I had my husband who became my best friend instantly. I also had my younger sister who is still one of my best friends. Yet, as her older sister there is only so much I can dump on her emotionally. I continue spending my life protecting her.

When I became pregnant for the first time, I went into research mode. We have very little family around and I wanted to make sure that my child grew up with people to call friends. I joined a mommy and me group. All the babies were close in age. While on maternity leave we got together several times a week. We have shared a bond in motherhood that stuck through the years.

As our youngest showed global delays, it became harder to meet in groups. She would stick out with her differences, especially in her speech delay.  Her older sister wanted to go do pre-schooler things like water parks and indoor playgrounds. Her younger sister could not handle large crowds. I had to turn down invitations because I could not handle the stress it caused my young one let alone me. I had to watch her every move.

As she was finally getting the assessments for autism more friends faded, just when we needed moral support. I don’t blame them. We just could not do the things ‘normal’ families could do.  And then, magic happened. We made new friends, and new acquaintances became fast friends. They helped in ways they may not have realized. Also, entering the world of autism opened a new support system. Everywhere I looked there was the label of Autism and it felt okay.

My youngest comes over to me wordlessly demanding to be picked up. I scoop her up and look for her big sister.  I see her off on the swings with a school chum. Instead of telling her it’s time to go home, I give her a five minute warning. A compromise. It is so hard to balance both girls’ different needs. The best gift I give them is labelled simple- Love.

My wish for Christmas

 

Standing under the pale blue neon light of the toy store with my three-year-old’s hand wrapped in mine, and my 5 yo in tow, I breathe in the chaos flamed scent of it all. Around us are kids begging their parents to get the particular toy and no other. We are following my five-year-old through the Barbie/Princess section. It brings back so many memories of when I was a kid.

I recall dragging my parents through the toy store before Christmas. I would exclaim at what I really wanted. Promises of being good were spoken but never followed up. I remember the thrill of waking up Christmas morning eager to rip open the gifts to see if Santa listened.

As I got older, the gifts became insignificant. I was happy if I got gift cards or cash to get what I really wanted. After my mom died, Christmas became just another reminder that she was gone. When I became a mom, I worked hard to give our daughters the magic of Christmas. I peeled my ears to find out what they wanted. When they woke Christmas morning, I became a kid again when I saw the holiday through their eyes.

After the hard time of year, I wish this Christmas to be like the ones of my childhood. I can’t provide the busy house, however I can, with the help of my husband, make their day amazing. While I still not-so-secretly wish for a surprise under tree, I also yearn to make Christmas magic again. The legacy of the past can be our girls’ future.

I declare that it is snack time to my girls. We manage to get out of the toy store without buying one thing. We head to the food court to buy a snack. I plunk them down with their smoothies and banana bread. I watch them munch away and smile. What I want for Christmas is already in front of me. No money can buy the joy they bring me.

My Bonus Baby turns 3

Today is filled with such emotion for me. My youngest (and last baby) turns three years old.  This post will be short so I can spend the day celebrating my miracles.

Three doctors in 2005 told me I could not have children. Three months after the last appointment my first babe was conceived.

Two years later, my world rocked again in motherhood with a bonus child after a long c-section. I wish someone in the OR could have told me how amazing she will be.  I will never have another child. I really can’t.  Why would I want another when I have two beautiful girls.

I am so proud of her. She is a happy and healthy girl who makes me humbled to be her mom.

Happy Birthday sweet J who fell asleep frequently in the high chair.

Thank you for letting me be your mommy.

xoxo

Mommy

I Got What I wished for, but….

Without as much as a cry when I waved good-bye, I walked out the door of my youngest daughter’s preschool. The feeling of missing a part of me still remained when I walked to the car alone, drove away alone and wondered what to do with myself. I never planned anything just in case I had to stay at school as before.

My stomach grumbled. So, I hit the nearest restaurant for some breakfast. After the first cup of hot coffee I realized how exhilarated I felt. The first few fast bites of my food made me laugh. I didn’t have to rush. I didn’t have to cut up my children’s food or ask them to quiet down.

When I used the restroom I didn’t need to find the biggest stall to fit us into. I could use the small one, alone. Alone. Alone. Alone.

I remembered longing for this day five years ago when I was lucky to have five minutes alone just to sleep.  I love my children so much. I am fortunate to have a part-time work at home job alongside raising them.

When my oldest started kindergarten, it startled me how quiet the house was when she wasn’t there. Then, the days went by fast and I looked forward to picking her up from school. Now, it’s my turn for a wee break. To work or to do something for me. I used to think it was selfish but not now.

With my batteries re-charged, I can be a better mom and less grumpy.

The First Time I did Something for the Last time

The rain is pounding on the roof so hard I thought it is going to cave in. I then realise it is my heart thumping in my chest at full warp speed. I know it’s time to say good bye. I feel myself go breathless as I tell my youngest daughter’s support worker and teachers that it’s time. They already had their first free play time and circle. All the other moms have left, but me.

All the prep and speech exercises have led to this first time I leave her at pre-school. Every consultant on her team has said it needs to be the time. With a fast exhale, I grab my coat and purse and tell my precious bonus daughter good-bye. “Go have fun”, I say. Her worker is behind her to guide her to another activity. My daughter’s cries slip past the doorway as I close the classroom door.

As I walk around the corner out of sight, I can still feel my daughter’s cries loud in my heart. I lean against the school wall and let the tears go as the rain bounces off the grey sidewalk. I feel so weird , like I am missing a body part. Doubt riddles my brain wondering if this really is the right thing for her. Is this pushing her too hard? My hands will not stop shaking. I text my husband to let him know I did this hard task. I didn’t dare phone him because I knew I would break into a shower  of tears.

The rain stops briefly. I realise I can’t hear my girl crying. I creep low, back around the corner to peer in the window. I know it will be trouble if she sees me.  I spy her. She is smushing paint brushes at the art table. Her support worker is right behind her.  My daughter’s face is clear of any tear drama she may have had on my leaving. I already knew she will be ok.  This proves it.

I walk to the car chanting- left, right, left, right, left, right. I feel so discombobulated as I walk, alone. I am solo for the first time since becoming a mom five years ago. It is the first time for sending my youngest to school, and the last time I will ever take my child to school for the first time.  I am blessed with two daughters. A peace washes over me like a warm sunbeam.

Either of my girls may not remember their tears when I left them at school. I will never forget the first time I stop worrying as a mom for a moment and become excited for them to experience new things. Even if it’s without me, I will be there to collect them both and hear about their days.

A little moment with my little one

I am criss- crossed applesauce on our floor with about a hundred toys scattered all throughout five feet from me.
My two-year-old is running around our living room/playroom giggling away. I am speaking with her Infant Development Group consultant ( a part of the Child Development Centers) discussing ways to help my youngest daughter speak.

While she looks like a four-year-old she is globally delayed, including speech. With my oldest I did not have to consciously work at getting her to speak. At the tender age of one, she recited her ABCs. Not an hour goes by I feel mama guilt that my youngest didn’t get the intense one-on-one with me as her sister did. My oldest controls every conversation in her radius. Having said that, she is a very helpful older sister which could be hampering my youngest to speak. She doesn’t have to ask for anything. It is given to her.

So now after many months of speech consulting and developmental consulting her words are still far and few between. She communicates in her ways. It is a possibility that she may be on the autistic spectrum. We are waiting on our turn at the clinic in Vancouver. In the meantime, I want to do anything I can while she is so young. Anything to help her skills to be in this world.

She runs around the room in circles laughing away at her own joke. I ask her to come sit with us to play a toy. I
raise her favorite toy as she sees it across the room. In a warp speed she races towards me.  Before I know it her arms are wrapped around me in a death grip hug. She lowers her mouth to smooch a kiss on my cheek. And, she is off exploring and running around the room again.

The consultant and I look at each other. No words can be used to describe the power of her hug and kiss knowing I
am her mother and she loves me. No words.