Dear Son, On Your Last Night At Home

My dear son,

Tonight is your last night sleeping in our home.  You have been an adult for nearly two years now, but I’ve been fortunate enough to still see you at the dinner table and ask you about your day or open your bedroom door and see you sleeping or hear the sound of your laugh float down the stairs. You have reached that ever-so-important milestone of moving out into a place of your own. I am so very happy for you! Honest. As parents, this is what we’ve been preparing you for since birth. We’ve been guiding, leading and directing you towards a life of meaningful and responsible adulthood. And we are celebrating this giant step into adulthood with you.

Moving out of our nest here at home means a lot of things. It means you will now pay for your own roof, you’ll buy and prepare your own food, and you’ll learn how to pay for your own vehicle registration without me. It means that you’ll experience day to day life without the protection of your parents. It means that your little sisters will no longer knock on your door, or worse yet, open it without permission. It means you will no longer hear the sounds of your family day and night. But there are some things that will not change and I need you to know what they are. You are forever my son, and every single day of my life I will pray for you. As long as I have breath, I am here to listen to you, and to tell you that I love you. I won’t rescue you from any bad choices you may make, but I’ll stand beside you proudly and encourage you while you rise up from a fall. I will always believe in you, I will always see the best in you, and I will always smile when you walk through our front door. Anytime you want a meal, you can come home and find a seat at our table. And whenever you need a place of refuge, you will find it, here in my heart.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be your mom and it’s been my honor to see you grow into the man you are today. I look back on the last (nearly) 20 years since you entered my world and I’m taken back by how incredibly fast they passed. I wish I could have heard you call me mommy one more time, I wish I could have read you a bed time story one more time, I wish I could have watched you ride your bike one more time, I wish for your hand to reach for mine one more time, but those days have gone by and I now have to fully step into my role as a mother of an adult son. I’m not sure what that looks like or how it all works, so please be patient with me while I figure it out and learn my new position in your life. I promise you this, I will surely mess up, but it will be with the best of intentions.

And while I have you captive for one more night, here under our roof, I have a few last reminders. Always seek God, your purpose and hope will rest in your relationship with Jesus. Always treat a lady in the same way you’d want a man to treat your sisters, with respect and kindness. Always put as much money as you can into savings, you’ll be way happier you did that instead of buying that drink from Dutch Bros every day. Always look for the good in others, it’s there and you’ll want people to do the same for you. Always keep learning, we never “arrive” to an all-knowing place, so remain curious. Always forgive, it’s not for them, it’s for you. And always, always remember to call your mom from time to time, because every single day she will be wondering how life is going for you and she will be missing you.

Enjoy what lies ahead. Be present and soak it all in.

I love you. It’s that crazy kind of love that only us mommas have, don’t forget that.

Mom

Camping, How Getting Dirty Rights the Soul

Do you go camping?  My family and I love to go camping.  And whenever I say that, people in my life correct me and scoff at me and inform me that, “You don’t really go camping when you drag your house on wheels behind you.”  To which I reply, “I get dirty, so it’s really camping.” But yes, the reality is, I’m not laying on the ground in a sleeping bag, inside of a mosquito ridden tent, I lay my head on a glorious pillow atop of a memory foam mattress in our travel trailer, but dude, it’s still camping. Here’s why, my feet are ridiculously dirty at the end of every day!

We do stuff. We hike on trails, we climb up rocks and make up stories about how they got shaped into what they look like, we try to coerce chipmunks into visiting us, I pray the bears remain hidden and don’t realize my kids leave food laying around everywhere, we go stand up paddle boarding, we sit around campfires with marshmallows on sticks and we watch mountain sunsets that take our breath away…..we are camping. Why do we expend so much effort into relocating our family into remote places in the Idaho wilderness for approximately 8 days out of every month in the warm seasons? We have a very good reason, the dirt rights our souls! At least that’s what I told someone last week. I thought about it after I said it and I was like, “I don’t even know what that means, but that’s how I feel.” There is something about letting go of the day to day life and stepping into nature that shifts your spirit, you become more present, more aware. The places we go to with our family rarely have cell coverage, so there is the added benefit of unplugging from the modern world, in particular social media and the noise it creates in our heads.

Last weekend, as I relaxed in my lounge chair around the campfire, with my Bible open to a passage in Luke, 17:3b-4 to be exact, I found myself realizing how much better I absorb scriptures while in nature. Have you read it lately, allow me to share the words of Jesus with you: [3]…”If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. [4] Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent’ you must forgive them.” -Luke 17:3-4 NIV

I’ve read this passage many times in my 43 years of life, but somehow at an elevation of 5,298′ without the distraction of the LTE connectivity, I found myself actually hearing Jesus. I must forgive if they repent. I get it Lord, I get it. He met me there in the solitude of the pine trees, while I was undistracted. That’s what camping does for me, it gives me the white space, the blank pages upon which the Master’s hand can paint His masterpiece. When I’m standing on a trail overlooking the beauty of creation I am keenly and fearfully reminded of what a mighty God I serve. Can I get that reminder at an elevation of 2,605′ (the elevation of where my home is) without pine trees? Sure I can, but God has to work harder there to get me to listen.

Maybe for you, it’s yoga class or a bike ride or cooking or walking your dogs or while you’re driving, but for me, I am most able to hear God when my feet are dirty and I’m surround by His majesty. So yes, getting dirty rights my soul. And the residual of it spills over into my everyday way of life. I had no idea how God was preparing my heart with those verses in Luke. One might think that He was preparing me for the person that would be standing in front of me asking for forgiveness this week? But no. Humility was asked of me this week (and always, am I right?!). Those scriptures were brought back to my mind yesterday as I stood in front of a Godly man and asked him to forgive me for how I had sinned in a way that affected how I treated him. I thought of those scriptures and I prayed them over that situation, I said, “Lord, this is a man of God, so he’s read Luke 17:3-4, right? Can you please remind him of these scriptures and allow him to forgive me?!”

You see, those quiet moments with my Lord and Savior in the days prior to real life, prepared my heart so that God could show me how I needed to be better, how I needed to grow in His love and light. Where do you meet God? Where is the place that you are most able to hear Him? Do you need to go camping and get some dirty feet?

Exploring a mountain trail. August 2018.

Receiving the Autism Diagnosis

I was reading a post today on Facebook from a mom who is going through the process of trying to find answers to the troubles they are having with their toddler. It took me back a few years, to a time in our lives that I felt like life was swallowing us up.

The Backstory

Our third child was born in April of 2009. J, as we all call her, was a stunning baby girl. Born into this world without complications or issue. Within her first few weeks, I noticed that she was different from her older two siblings. She was so unbelievably fussy. The nights were the worst, she’d wake up crying every hour or so and nothing calmed her, she’d nurse and then cry some more. We staggered through this infancy stage with her, doing the best we could with our sleep-deprived selves. J hit most milestones, enough that I wasn’t concerned about development or such, she never rolled much, but she did it, so I figured she hit the mark. As we approached her 18th month I was concerned, J wasn’t saying any words, just making a few sounds, nor was she trying to imitate words or actions. She wasn’t following any simple instructions and seemed overwhelmed by her environment. When I would voice my concerns to others, they would brush it off and say things like, “That’s just kids, they all move along at a different pace.” I remember feeling foolish, I mean there wasn’t anything terribly alarming going on, because she was healthy and interactive with us. So we kept living life.

Once my girl reached two years old, my momma instincts kicked in and I knew that things were not right. The speech was not coming along she was not putting two words together, let alone a short sentence, she was terrified of upward movement even jumping, she played independently not with others, she didn’t seem to comprehend anything we were saying, the behavioral issues were extreme, there was screaming, kicking, throwing objects at others and nothing calmed her. At J’s two-year-old well child visit I explained my concerns to our family doctor and he too was concerned and suggested that developmental evaluations needed done.

Therapy Begins

Very quickly after the initial calls were made to the names given to us, our home was descended upon with various professionals, there to help us find answers. Mind you, I was in my last month of pregnancy with our fourth child at this time, so life was feeling crazy.   It was quickly established that we had developmental delays going on with J. She scored low across the board on every evaluation done, except hearing and eyesight they were both spot on.   So therapy began, J was under the care of 4 different providers, all coordinating together, working to help “catch her up” and to calm her. The one thing I poignantly remember during that time, which is causing tears to spill over even now, was J’s sensory issues.   Texture, sounds, certain movements or a tone of a voice would inundate and overwhelm her and she would flail, bang her head on the floor, scream and cry. It was horrible for her; it was horrible as a mother to watch. I could see how something that others wouldn’t even notice would feel like a personal attack to her. One of our wonderful therapists worked with us to develop a safe spot for J. After many trials and errors the spot that clicked for J was my lap, so when she would have an episode I would sit cross-legged on the floor with J on my lap and I would wrap my arms around her little body and squeeze firmly, reassuring her that it’s okay, while I rocked swiftly back and forth murmuring the words, “Calm body, calm body, calm body.” The phrase “calm body” was one we would use for years to come, as it was therapeutic for J. It still hurts my heart to remember how out of control her little body felt in my arms, how distraught she was.

For the next year, we had an average of 4 to 5 appointments per week for therapy sessions, and in some areas we saw improvement, some we saw declines. Speech improved through techniques like sign language and visual aids. Behavior was one of our biggest challenges, normal disciplinary techniques were completely ineffective with J, they just frustrated her more and caused more stress for us. I remember one day, I was sitting on the sofa, nursing our then 9-month-old baby girl, and J had finished the drink in her sippy cup, which was cause for instant rage for her. She took the sippy cup and threw it at me as hard as she could, I was not able to move quick enough and it hit me square in the temple. I sat there bawling holding our infant daughter. I was crying because it physically hurt, but also I didn’t know what to do with my emotions, I was angry, I was overwhelmed, I felt inadequate to mother J and I had three other children who needed me too. It was a harsh moment for me, a place of darkness, I couldn’t see a solution and I felt scared.

By the age of three, J was placed in a developmental preschool through the public school system on an Individualized Education Program, otherwise known as an IEP. For any out there that need a definition (because I certainly did) there is a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. This law mandates that the public school system establish an IEP for every child receiving special education services.   Well, that was a gut punch, we didn’t see our daughter as “special-ed”, but that’s the category she fell into because she wasn’t meeting standards, she couldn’t even pull her pants up by herself at the age of three, nor understand simple commands. At three, she had the comprehension of an 18 month old. Little did we know how that preschool would become a place of success for J, the educators there were incredible. We saw the biggest strides with J during her 2 ½ years there.

The Diagnosis

At J’s three-year-old well child visit our family doctor, once again, had a recommendation. He felt it would be prudent for J to be evaluated by a well-respected developmental pediatrician in our area. The wait to be seen by him was long, but it was well worth it. He has been a great resource in helping us navigate through everything and see clearly, so that J is well cared for. So during the summer of 2012, J was three-ish, and had already had her first few months in the developmental preschool when we met with the specialist. The appointment lasted hours, he poured over all her history and medical records, he listened to me explain her three years of life thus far and from there he suggested a couple more in-depth evaluations. At our next visit with him, this doctor sat there with such compassion as he very delicately delivered the news to me that according to everything he has reviewed and his life’s work in this area, that our daughter has a spectrum disorder. I sat there like, what? “What does that even mean?” I asked. He then proceeds to tell me that I may know it better as autism. I felt my world come crashing down upon me at that moment. The next 45 minutes felt like a blur as he explained what this meant. I remember a few key points in the conversation, things I didn’t expect to hear, like, “Mainstream schooling may not be a good option.” Or, “She will need to continue with most of her therapies for an extended period of time, if not most of her life.” There was this one, “Do you have a good support system?  The years ahead are going to be fraught with challenges, and you will need people around you.” And this one, a favorite of mine, “You will need to keep a watchful eye on your marriage, the divorce rate among parents with special needs children is astronomically high.”

For those of you that have had your children diagnosed with autism, you may have experienced what I’m about to explain, for those that haven’t I’ll shed some light on the process your brain (and heart) goes through upon receiving this diagnosis. Not that this applies to everyone, but I think many can relate. My first feeling was that of grief, grief for the life my daughter would have lived without this autism diagnosis. Because we were no longer facing developmental delays that would go away, we were facing “a disorder”, her brain was wired different and would never be the same as a neurologically typical person. I felt sorrow in the first 24 hours following the diagnosis. And, if I’m being honest, there was a lot of self-pity going on. I am human, a flawed one at that, and I was struggling to see beyond the diagnosis.

On the second day, there was a sense of relief, because we knew. We knew what was going on now and we could do something. Right?! We could address it. We could figure this out. I bought every book I could get my hands on downloading them to my Kindle, I devoured blogs and websites, I was going to learn about autism. I was going to fight this and conquer! (Hahaha, yeah, there was some arrogance going on there. Be forgiving, it’s a lot to absorb for a momma.)

Then came day three, and every day since then. These days are the awesome days. It was when I realized that autism was not a life sentence, the word disorder shouldn’t even be used to describe someone on the autism spectrum, it wasn’t something I, or my husband, needed to conquer.  What changed? Well, I learned from the experience of others, other mothers who had been where I had. But more importantly I learned from adults with autism. What did I learn? That everything was going to be just fine. My girl, my love, she was born with super powers and it was up to me to discover them, because they were there, they were hidden under the speech delay, hidden under the behavior problems, hidden behind her sensory processing issues and hidden behind her social awkwardness.

Photo credit: Urban Chic Photography

Photo credit: Urban Chic Photography

Let me tell you, it took no time at all to find her super powers once we looked. This girl, Miss J, she’s amazing, she’s artistic, she can remember anything (ANYTHING, don’t try to pull one over on her), she loves to entertain, she is intelligent beyond her years, she is intuitive, meaning she can recognize that you are sad or hurting and she will stroke your arm and love you, she is loyal, she is fierce and passionate, she sees the world from a perspective of beauty.  Out of all four of my children, J is the one who will say, “Momma! Momma! Stop. Look up. Do you see all those stars, isn’t it beautiful?!” In those moments my eyes fill with tears and I look up to the heavens and I say, “Thank you! Thank you for this blessing, thank you that you entrusted her to me, thank you that I get to call her my daughter.”

In Closing

Are we fortunate ones?   Yes. We are. Our J is what they classify as high-functioning autistic. She is verbal, she has learned to do all the normal things any child her age can do, she has toilet trained, she eats well and she now interacts very well in social settings. Many parents are facing challenges MUCH larger than ours.   Our story is not the story of others. We’ve also made some unconventional choices along the way. We felt that J was overwhelmed by all her therapies and over a year ago we withdrew her from all services. It was a good move for her; she was over-stimulated by the busy schedule. Eight months ago we withdrew J from mainstream schooling and the IEP as well, it was not the right environment for our girl.   Although she enjoyed school and being around the other children, her outbursts and aggression increased after she started kindergarten. Within a month of being home schooled she was calmer, more well-adjusted. We have also researched and put into practice some treatments that are considered alternative. Things such as the use of essential oils, removing gluten from her nutrition plan, homeopathy and Brain Core Therapy, all of which have given us measurable success without any risks or side effects.

Today, as I write this blog, it’s hard to remember the mother I was three years ago. I’ve grown as a person, I’ve learned, I’ve fallen and gotten back up, I’ve had bad days (heck, I’ve had bad months), but I’ve had really good days and I am grateful for this journey. As I type, I listen to my spectrum kiddo explain to her little sister where Idaho is on the globe in my office and then she proceeds to show her where Santa lives, followed by where grandma and grandpa in Indiana live and where grandma and grandpa in Texas live. Yeah, we are going to be just fine. J is going to live an amazing life and I’m totally cool with this neurologically a-typical kid.

Love and light to all of you parents who may be facing a similar journey.

Kim

Turning 40, a letter of thanks

Turning 40 for me was a pretty big hurdle.  I’m not sure why.   30, however, was awesome, I was newly divorced, taking control of my life and I felt ready to tackle anything.  40, not so much.  And it’s not for the superficial reasons one may think bothered me.  I’ve got grey hair and laugh lines and veins, but I’m good with all that.  I think it was more about facing mortality, statistically speaking, life is probably half over and I’m not half done yet.

My husband did the rock star thing and invited 50 or so of our nearest and dearest to a party to celebrate my 40 years.  It was a catered, dinner party, complete with Frank Sinatra music and fancy dresses.  (For real, he’s a good man, a REALLY good man.)  It was a beautiful night, one that I will cherish always.  After the party I went home and wrote a letter to everyone who attended the party.  My intention was to mail the letter with my thank you cards.  But being the loser that I am, I never sent the thank you cards out, and for real, how do you recover from that?  It was four months ago, can I still send them?  Not sure.  I am going to share my letter with you and hopefully some, if not all, of those that attended will see my words.


March 28, 2015

I turned 40 today.  For those of you who have spent time around me during the last couple of weeks, you know that I have struggled with this birthday.  And I humbly apologize for the random outbursts of tears you have had to endure.  40 does not bother me because of the grey hairs that highlight my otherwise brunette hair or the wrinkles that deepen with each passing year.  40 bothers me because of how fast I got here, and I know the next 40 will go even faster.  So as I sit here pondering what this milestone means to me, I want to try to grasp the magnitude of how wonderful my life is right now, in this moment.  

I have friends, and by friends I mean people that I can’t imagine going through life without.  Some I have known for what feels like a lifetime and others we are in those early steps of knowing one another.  But regardless of the history, know that you are my people, my chosen family.  I have parents and step parents, four incredible people who show me unconditional love and support day in and day out.  They are pillars of strength and kindness.  I have my extended family, some of which I share blood, some of which had to accept me when I married into your clan.  You are a part of my world, something special that enriches me.  My four children, they are the heart that beats inside of me.  They teach me daily how to be a better person and they fill my life with joy and laughter.  My husband, it is hard to find the words to express the love I have for this man.  He has stood beside me when the ground beneath us was shaking and he has done so with love, compassion, forgiveness and strength.  

All the people who share in my journey, make this life amazing.  Yes, turning 40 is kind of worse than the flu, in my opinion, but having all of you with me, celebrating, eating, drinking, laughing made it way easier.  And I think that’s the lesson I’m taking away from this milestone birthday…..aging, getting older, that is unchanging, it is going to happen, day by day, but what makes life beautiful and downright breathtaking is the relationships, the friendships, the family and all the people I am fortunate enough to have along with me.

So I thank you, with heartfelt gratitude, I thank you for being a part of my life.


If you find yourself creeping up on the big 4-0, I hope you find time to reflect on all that is perfect in your world, I hope you have a crazy big party to celebrate and I hope you have peace in knowing the experience, wisdom and fortitude 40 brings is worth the wrinkles and grey hairs.  Many blessings.

XOXO, Kim

The night I turned 40.

The night I turned 40.