Wow - I can't believe another year has flown by. Here we are one day away from Christmas! It's been a really busy day for our family, but 2013 has been a wonderful year for the Graham Crackers, especially JD. I was just telling Jason (my husband) that lately I've had this sense of peace and ease and I couldn't figure out why. But then I realized... JD is finally in the right school for him and I no longer have to fight for his well-being. Ever since the day he was diagnosed, I've had to fight for more services (OT, Speech, ABA, etc.), fight insurance companies for payments, and fight the public school system for the best IEP possible. But ever since the day we got his Matrix score and enrolled him at First Hope, I've been able to let my guard down. His teachers are AMAZING. Everyone at the school is like family, and JD has never been happier. He is learning so much.... he loves to practice his math facts, has made straight A's on his spelling tests and is beginning to read! I couldn't ask for more! Here are some pictures of my little man growing up. He's half way to 1st grade already!!
Here's JD with his best friend :)
Here's JD with Mrs. Laura, his teacher. He LOVES her!
And here's JD making a Christmas tree "treat" at the First Hope holiday party!
Ok so normally my blog posts are upbeat and glowing with positive remarks.... today isn't one of those days. It's 10pm on a Sunday night and I'm exhausted. I've been in the process of getting three kids to sleep for the past 2.5 hours. And while I laid in bed, singing the same songs over and over again, like I've done every single night for the past seven years, it occurred to me. No one tells you the truth about parenting. Sure you can see all the cute baby commercials, or photos from your friend's Facebook page, or flip through the latest issue of Parenting magazine. But they leave a LOT out. So to make myself feel better, I am writing a list of my own entitled, "The Things They Don't Tell You Before You Have Kids." Hope you enjoy... (ps. these are in no particular order)
1. You will NEVER sleep in again. Sure, you think it will be bad the first couple of months while the baby is waking up for feedings at night. But what you don't realize is that the sleep you know of is GONE for ETERNITY. Never again will you roll over in bed and enjoy the nice quiet mornings on the weekend. Or, wake up and get dressed for work with only yourself to worry about. Once you have kids you're done. Oh, and once they climb out of the crib, I hope you enjoy having someone sleep at your feet cause that's what they do. Forget restful, wonderful sleep. It's over.
2. You will watch the same cartoons OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. It starts off with Disney Jr., PBS Kids... then you make your way to Nick Jr. (thanks to Dora and Diego) and finally to Nickelodeon. Spongebob becomes a pillar in your home and all of a sudden your kids have this gross cartoon humor about butts. It's at home, in the car (thanks to mobile dvd players), on your ipad... it follows you around. You can even tell when they switch the voiceovers for the characters... come'on moms, you know that original Diego wasn't the same two years later... OMG please let me watch normal tv! Oh and yeah, those grown up shows your DVR, you're too tired to watch them after the kids go to bed so forget keeping up with the latest tv gossip.
3. There is no such thing as alone time after having kids. The best bet you can have is locking yourself in your bathroom and blaring music hoping they will stop pounding on the door crying. And, while you're trying to squeeze in some "mommy time" taking a nice bath, you get to enjoy rubber kid toys staring at you. I have about 10 minions in my bathtub at this very moment. Oh and yea, the kids have their own bathtub but insist on using mine because it's a big one.
4. Eating out is never enjoyable with kids. From the moment they're born, all the way through toddlerhood and to "big kids" eating at a restaurant becomes nothing but ordering at light speed - hoping they don't screw up the meals because the kids will FLIP, carrying around an endless supply of gold fish to hold off the hunger as they take a 1/2 hr to make chicken nuggets and wolfing down the meal as you cut as fast as you can. You pay the bill before they even bring the food cause you know one of your kids inevitably will have a meltdown and your worst fear is being stuck waiting for the check while all eyes STARE at you with hatred.
5. Forget about owning anything nice for ten years. That nice car you have... they trash it. That nice furniture - yeah they write on it, or poke things through it, or better yet, they pee on it. Everything becomes a canvas for them. My kitchen table has been drawn on, my walls, the carpet, the cabinets. Nothing is off limits to them. The sad thing is that you just get used to living that way and you realize that buying new stuff is just stupid. Oh and no matter if you try to hide the markers, they WILL find them. It's like a sixth sense they have.
6. The laundry never stops. How can little kids were more clothes in a week than a I do in an entire month?! OMG, I never stop doing laundry. I hear it only gets worse too...
7. Forget ever having extra money. If you do have an extra $100 then it goes to their school because there is ALWAYS something they need money for. And if it's not school, then it's new shoes (cause their feet grow like a weed), clothes, toys, birthday party gifts, their OWN birthday parties (which run a cool $400 nowadays and that's without the present)... the list goes on and on. Doctor's appointments!!!!!! I almost forgot those. HA. Extra money... I wish.
8. You forget what it's like to hang out with your spouse. Dinner dates?! HA!!! Yeah if you have an extra $60 to pay for babysitting on top of the $40 meal. (See #7) The only way you can keep your sanity is if one of you goes out and the other stays behind to watch the kids and then you switch. It's the only way to successfully go out, and NOT end up fighting about how much the night cost. If you're lucky you might be able to talk at home, but that's only if you can hear over the screaming, whining and wrestling of the kids.
9. You become a short-order cook. Kid 1 will eat this, but Kid 2 will not. Kid 2 wants this, and Kid 3 wants that. My sister gave me great advice a long time ago. She said, "Lindsay - you have to serve it on a plate before you can throw it in the trash." Isn't that the truth! Forget trying to get them to eat what you want them to - it doesn't work.
10. Most likely (at least in my case) you will not be the mom/dad you thought you'd be. I know for me, I grew up thinking I'd be this wonderful stay-at-home mom with four boys and I'd spend days making crafts and driving them to soccer practice. HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! I spent three years at home with my kids and I thought I was going to lose my mind (for all the reasons above). I ran (if not SPRINTED) back to work when I had the chance and I soon realized that staying home was harder than ANY job I have experienced. I didn't quite live up to my own expectations, and it eats at me a lot, but you know, that's real life. I think if I knew what to expect, not just the fake reality they make up on tv, then I wouldn't have been so hard on myself. Being a parent is WAY harder than I ever expected. And of course it's totally "worth it in the end" (I had to put the positive lining in somewhere), but MAN, I had NO clue what was in store for me.
Well, if you're still reading, thanks for reading my rant. I don't mean to be "wah-wah-wah" girl from Saturday Night Live, but it's the truth! I'd love to hear other stories - what did people forget to tell you about parenthood?!
Where has the time gone? My goodness, I can't believe we're already running full speed into the holidays! Earlier this week, Jason and I had JD's first parent/teacher conference at First Hope. All I can say is WOW - what a difference from last year... I can't believe how much progress he's made! We have so much to celebrate this year, not just with JD but with all of our munchins! It's just extra sweet when we see JD making big strides because I know he has to work extra hard to get there.
Academically, JD is doing AMAZING. He's learned how to write, he is starting to do math (he LOVES his addition tables) and his reading comprehension is testing quite well. These are all things he learned in the first 9 week of the school year! I'm truly amazed. His teachers and therapists are wonderful and we couldn't be more thankful to have them in our lives!
Also this quarter, JD went on his first field trip. Here's a picture of him and Ashley at Kennedy Space Center. He enjoyed seeing the space stuff but what he really loved what the Angry Birds Space exhibit.
And finally this past week we've been celebrating Halloween. This is a holiday that I'm always a little anxious over because I never know if JD is going to want to dress up or not, and I also worry about if some of the scarier costumes will scare him. But this year he was great. He was Darth Vadar (no mask of course) and he walked around with all the kids during our neighborhood's halloween party. It's was cute because he did one lap around the neighborhood and then wanted to go back inside to have goldfish and a juice box... not at all interested in the candy he just collected. But I am proud of him because he did try out some Nerds!
I really just can't believe how big all the kids are getting... Kyle and Ashley's birthday is coming up in a few weeks and then it will be Christmas! Where does the time go?
I'm so proud of JD. It's been a big transition for him to go to First Hope and to really learn what it's like to be in school. He really, really loves it and asks me every day if he can go back. I know he has to grow up, but sometimes I just want him to stay exactly the age his is now... my bubby love. :)
The other day we ran into a balloon artist at dinner and JD was going bonkers trying to explain to him that he wanted an "alien space shuttle". The guy kept telling JD over and over again that he couldn't make an alien space shuttle but JD just kept going into great detail about what it should look like (in his jibberish speak of course). "It has hands like this... onnggg!" He said... and it goes like this... ahhhh!" lol. I try not to interfere because I want him to feel a sense of independence like the other kids who ask for dog, or a dolphin. But finally I had to intervene.
"He is on the autism spectrum," I said to the balloon guy. "That's why he's having trouble understanding why you can't make him an alien spaceship." The guy looked at me and looked at JD and said, "What makes you think he has autism? He doesn't seem like he has autism."
I kind of stood there taken back. Was this guy really arguing with me about my son's autism status? Really? Deep breath... time to use this moment as a learning opportunity... "Yes, he does have autism, he's just high-functioning. He can speak and might look like a normal kid on the outside, but mentally he's about 3." The guy stood there looking at me like I was crazy. Time to give up...
One of my biggest pet peeves as an autism mom are people who make stupid comments like "he doesn't look like he has autism, or he doesn't act like he has autism." OH THAT'S RIGHT... you've seen him for about TWO WHOLE MINUTES. My bad... you're right. The last three years of therapy were not needed and that developmental pediatrician that I pay for fortune for, she's just a dumbass. lol.
I know that when people say this, they are probably trying to be nice. I get that - telling me he doesn't "look autistic" is supposed to make me feel better. I just find it irritating that people actually make that comment when they've only spent a few minutes with my child. If he had down syndrome, no one would say, "well he doesn't seem to have down syndrome". It's so annoying! Autism is an invisible disability people!!!!!
Anyway, I just had to rant for a minute! :) Thanks for listening!
If you easily get grossed out, then this post isn't for you. Cause what I'm talking about today is gross, but nothing short of a miracle at the Graham House!
Not to jinx it, but for the last FOUR days JD has pooped in the potty! He's almost six and this has been something we've been working on for two years. He's been peeing in the potty for a while now, but for some reason he was absolutely terrified of pooping. I mean so terrified that if I made him sit on the toilet he would scream and cry until his nose would bleed. He would hit me, pinch me, spit on me, scream... you name it, he did it. And that was just asking him to SIT on the potty. It's been a true nightmare - one that always ended up with us giving up after an hour of screaming, putting him in a pullup and dealing with the massive mess in the morning. It was causing major stress in our lives.
But then something clicked. Somehow I got him on the potty last weekend (using the iphone, toys, pepsi, etc. as a reinforcer) and he actually went! Of course we drove straight to Target to get him a "poopy toy". Then the next day he went again, and then next day and the next! I'm not completely holding my breath yet that we're 100% there, but we're REALLY close. I can almost imagine a day without diapers or wipes and that's huge for us. Especially since we were getting to the point where we'd have to order special-sized pullups online because JD has outgrown the ones from stores.
Here's a picture of JD proudly showing off his poop! Completely gross, I know, but a MAJOR accomplishment in the Graham household!
In addition to the pooping, JD has made major development leaps recently. One is the consistent use of holding his pencil/crayon/marker correctly. Again, another skill we've been working on for close to two years!
The next is learning math. Recently he got an award at school for completing extra math during class. I'm glad to see that he found a subject that he enjoys and is good at!
This year as been a big one for JD and I'm so proud of him! He learned to write his name, ride a bike, swim on his own, boggie board in the ocean, and so much more! I love my 'trouble graham!"
One thing you immediately inherit when you have kid with autism is the almost daily negative feedback. Whether it's from a teacher, a therapist, a neighbor, or a "friend" of theirs at school that the beat up that day... you hear it. It can be really hard to focus on the positive when all you hear about is the negative. "JD hit this child, JD slapped this teacher, JD bit his friend..." the list goes on and on.
JD spent the last year and a half in a public school prek program for kids with autism and I can tell you that in that year and a half he probably only got TWO good notes home from his teacher in his daily communication. TWO. Every day I'd read about his "melts" (the term of which now sounds like nails down a chalk board to me). JD would have 3-5 "melts" in a day. This included kicking, screaming, biting, hitting, slapping, throwing things, etc. They normally last about 10 minutes each. His teacher (in his autism classroom) would call me to even come get him sometimes because he was "uncontrollable." It makes my stomach churn to know that he was dealing with such stress during that time.
But we're on week three at First Hope and I'm so thankful that he's received a few POSITIVE messages from his kindergarten teacher. Here's the one I got today:
Now, I know that JD has his good days and bad - and the vast majority are not in the "good" category. BUT, the difference to me so far this year has been nothing short of amazing. His teachers share with me the areas where he needs work, but they also share the GOOD things.
As a parent I can't say thank you enough when I get these emails. It completely makes my day! Hearing something positive from another adult or child really gives me hope. It reminds me that JD is working hard, his teachers love and respect him, and best of all - he's in the right school.
I am really looking forward to this year, I have a feeling that JD is going to flourish at First Hope!
I know that "normal" is only a setting a on dryer, but sometimes I wish that my life was just that... a little more normal. When you have a child with special needs your life is turned upside down. Sometimes, on bad days, you feel like you're living in a prison. You can't do things that other people can do, you can't go places other people go. It can be very lonely because you feel like no one else can understand what you're going through.
The past two months have been very emotional for me. JD started kindergarten at First Hope and while I'm so excited he's finally started his journey there, it also makes me realize that his autism is for life. I drop him off everyday with kids his age as well as those that are much older than him and it's hard. It makes me think about the future and stress about where he'll go in life. When he was first diagnosed I always felt that we could do enough therapy to make it go away, it was kind of my mission, and lately I've realized it just doesn't go away. I'm reminded of that daily and it makes me sad and worried and then back to sad.
Sadness quickly turns to jealousy. And I'll admit it - I'm jealous of everyone else having a normal life. I'm jealous of my friends who can go out to eat with their spouses because they either don't have kids or have no problem finding a babysitter because their kids are "normal". I'm jealous of the money they save by not having to pay for therapy, special schools, doctor appointments, etc. I'm jealous because I had to go back to work after being a stay-at-home mom to pay for all of those things. I'm jealous of my friends having fun on the weekends when I'm stuck at home, a prisoner of JD's routine. I'm just jealous... I wish I wasn't but I am. Some days I can deal with it, others I can't. I wish people knew that.
But then there are moments like today, when I picked up JD from school and he turned and said to me, "Mommy, I always love you." Those moments make me realize that I'm just being selfish. I love him more than words can explain, more than going out to eat in peace, more than going shopping with friends on the weekend, more than the money I could save by putting him a regular school... more than my desire a "normal" life.
Jealousy is a crappy thing. The grass is always greener on the other side. But sometimes my grass looks pretty green, I just forget to look at it long enough to appreciate it.
One of the main reasons we chose First Hope was because of their inclusion program. Even though it's a special-need program, two days a week, JD is "mainstreamed" into a regular kindergarten class with his First Hope teacher by his side as an aide.
Today was his first day in his inclusion class and he was doing great at drop off. I'm so excited that First Hope has this practice in place - I think it will really give him a balance of what he needs: very small group instruction on M/W/F and inclusion on T/TH. Here are some pictures from the morning!
On May 5, 2010, I started this blog, Following JD's Journey, with my first post, "Our New Beginning." A month prior, in April of 2010, we learned that our 2-year-old son was diagnosed with Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder and Apraxia (speech delay). When you're a parent, and you hear those words, your life is turned upside down. You realize what you thought your life was going to be like is no longer the case, and your mind starts wandering all over the place trying to determine what your new life is going to be like. It's a scary place to be.
Fast forward three years, and JD is now 5 and a half. He's come so far, learned so much, and I am SO proud of him for everything he's accomplished. When he diagnosed he had 5 words, could hardly walk, was unable to jump, swing, slide, climb (all motor skill problems), hardly ate solid foods, and was OBSESSED with trains to the point that he would not interact with anyone, only play at his train table.
Three years of intense therapy (speech, occupational/sensory, behavior) and here we are. Today JD started KINDERGARTEN at First Hope, a special-needs program at The First Academy! There are few days when I sit back and think to myself - this is a perfect moment. But this morning, as JD proudly showed off his new uniform (complete with a Batman backpack!), and grinned from ear-to-ear with his big sister as we took "first day" pictures, I couldn't have been happier.
For the last three years, we've been working for THIS DAY. I've wanted him to go to First Hope since I stumbled upon their ad in the Bright Feats magazine shortly after his diagnosis. I truly believe that this is the best place for him. Small classrooms (there's only 4 kids in his class and 2 teachers!), inclusion with an aide two days a week in a regular kindergarten classroom, individual speech and occupational therapy for 45 minutes each day, and ongoing behavior and sensory support around the clock with teachers and staff who love their children and display the word of God in their teachings and actions every day!
Today is sort of another "New Beginning" because this is the beginning of the rest of his school life. First Hope and The First Academy are where we call home. Our entire family fits there - not just our two "regular" kids. Ashley was SO proud of her little brother today, walking him into his classroom and telling him not to worry. I am SO glad she will be there with him each step of the way, like siblings should be. And next year, when Kyle starts school at The First Academy, Ashley and JD can walk HIM in as his older siblings. We are ONE family and we do things TOGETHER!
On a closing note, I just want to say thank you to my husband, who has been my rock for the last 13 years. Jason isn't the dad who sits on the sidelines... just the opposite. He's right there next to me, fighting this fight against autism. Thank you boo :)
And thanks everyone for taking the time to read this. Each of you have played a significant role in JD's Journey. We appreciate your support, "likes" and kind words every day. Thank you!!
I remember the call so vividly - the day JD was diagnosed with autism there was ONE person in my life who could understand what I was going through. Her name is Amy and her middle son Harrison has autism. We had met a few months earlier through what I can only describe now as divine intervention. I called Amy the night we found out about JD, sobbing hysterically because she was that knew how I was feeling. I had no clue what my future held. When someone tells you your child has a major disability you instantaneously realize that what you thought your life was going to be like is thrown out the door for some massive unknown space. But back to the call...
Amy listened as I cried, and let me talk through my range of emotions. But at the end of the call she got real. She said - "Lindsay, you are JD's advocate. He NEEDS you to be strong because the next few years will define so much of his life." She wasn't talking about therapy, sure that would be a major part of the my life and I would have to fight with insurance companies to pay their fair share. What she was talking about funding.
Amy told me - "Listen Lindsay, from this day forward, until JD gets into Kindergarten you will have to fight for him. Don't get me wrong - you'll still have to fight for him after he goes into Kindergarten, but these next few years will define so much." Amy went into great detail about something called the McKay Scholarship. A state-funded program that allows your child to take money that would otherwise go to their public school and use it for a private school of your choice. There was a matrix... 251 to 255. And my whole goal as a special-needs parent was to get a 255 because that meant the most funding.
Amy told me - "Lindsay, as a mom you will naturally want to focus on what JD CAN do, but you have to change your mindset. You have to focus now on what he CANNOT do. You're going to go to meetings, lots and lots of meetings, and people will ask you all these questions about his development. Don't lie to make his case look better! If he can't say 5 words, don't say he can because you wish he could - this will only hurt you in the long run! His funding is determined by what he CANNOT do, so take that mommy mindset and flip it upside down. You want the most for him, so you have to focus on the bad for a few years."
She was dead on. As a mom, my natural instinct was to "brag" about my kids... Ashley walked by this month... JD rolled over on x date. We ALL do it. But what I had to realize is that now I had to completely switch my mindset and focus on what my child couldn't do.
For the last three years I have been to so many meetings, so many therapies, so many schools discussing the things that my son cannot do. And the fight is now officially over. Last month we found out that JD got a 255 matrix score - the highest you can get! We were hoping, fighting and praying to get a 254 and when 255 came in I cried. Then this week we found out that his funding is $19,457! I feel like I'm still in shock, but what's even stranger is that I feel a weird let down from it all being over.
I feel like McKay has been my goal for so many years now, and it's over. I keep staring at the screenshot in disbelief. I'm kind of lost in a way. For the first time in three year I can breathe. No more IEP meetings. He starts at First Hope in August and we'll be on the next phase in his life! Without the McKay Scholarship there would be no way that he could go to this school (as you can see from the picture, the tuition is extremely expensive!) but we know it's the best place for him!!
I know this is just the next step in his journey. One door closed and another one opens. I'm a little nervous for what the future holds, but I feel SO amazing in our accomplishment! I'm also excited because we can finally begin focusing on the GOOD rather than the BAD!!! Thank you Amy for giving me the first direction from day ONE! And thanks to everyone reading this for being there for us along the journey!
Parenting isn't easy, I think all parents can agree. But when you have a child with special needs, it takes parenting to a whole new level. We spent the last four days on a family "vacation"... hahahaha. (Seriously - work is more of a vacation than spending four solid days with three kids ages 6, 5 and 3!) But overall it was a great trip, LOTS of ups and downs but we try to focus on the positive. JD is actually getting a lot better at the whole vacation thing. The first day is always really rough, as we go through all the transitions of checking in, getting to the room, getting to the pool, etc.
Today for Father's Day, Jason and I decided to take the kids to go to Downtown Disney to see Cars Master Weekend. It's a car show that includes the Disney Cars - Lightning McQueen, Mater, Finn McMissel. Now I'm not really sure what in the world was going through our minds as we decided this but once we got into the parking lot I knew we were in for a FANTASTIC day, lol. Three kids, 100 degree heat, about a million people crammed in a small space, and a line about a mile long (1 hr exactly) to actually see the Cars. Hmmmm.... ok, decision time. Do we 1. - back out at the parking lot and feel that wrath of three kids screaming because they didn't get to go, or 2. spend the next two hours in the heat, listening to the kids complain, and smile at each other in mutual grief? We opted for #2.
Now normally when we go anywhere I post all the good pictures, not the meltdowns. But sometimes I like to capture the reality that is special-needs parenting. Today was one of those days as I watched Jason deal with a meltdown the size of Texas as we left Downtown Disney without a Buzz Lightyear in hand. Now, about an hour prior, JD saw some kid holding one of those spinning Buzz Lightyear's and from that moment on he was obsessed with getting one. Now, of course we could have bought the stupid Buzz Lightyear, however, then we have to buy THREE. One for each kid. A $10 purchase is now costing me $30, so no thanks Disney, we'll go without. Especially since it will end up in the massive mound of toys, long forgotten is less than 24 hours. However that decision came with a massive autism tantrum.
When JD has his mind set on something, it's SET. There's no turning back (hmmm, I wonder where he gets that from?) Now, I understand that all kids are like this, but with autism it's taken to the Nth degree. And now that JD is getting bigger (he's 5 and a half), it's really hard to chalk up those tantrums to the terrible twos or threes. Now he just looks like a super spoiled kid and it feels like the stares come from everyone in a mile radius.
Jason always has the wonderful duty of stepping in during those tantrums, picking JD up and walking out from wherever we are. Every single time it happens I thank God that he gave me a husband that is 6 foot 3 and has super muscles so he can throw a 60-pound child over his shoulder without a blink. I can't do it anymore - JD is just too big and too strong. He fights back, hits, punches, bites and screams. It's the most stressful situation I've ever been in. My job during those moments is to grab Ashley and Kyle and follow Jason out as quickly as possible.
It's times like those that I remember how much having a child with autism has changed our lives. Lots of parents can't take it, some check out and some even leave. The divorce rate for parents of children with autism is extremely high. And I can understand why - it's extremely stressful. ANY family outing has the potential for a nightmare. But my husband has never taken the easy road out - he is probably the best dad I could have ever asked for.
When JD was diagnosed, Jason came with me to EVERY doctor's appointment. He came to EVERY therapist evaluation, and a lot of his actual therapy sessions. He has been at EVERY school meeting, and knows all of the kid's teachers by their first names. I don't know how many times JD's teachers and therapists have said to me how unusual that is - most dads leave it to the moms. I'm always shocked when they tell me that because Jason would never want to be anywhere else.
So to celebrate this Father's Day, I want to share some of the moments that make my husband special. He's a superhero to me! :)
More than three years ago JD was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and at that very moment my entire life changed. Like any mom who was faced with this type of news, I went into research mode. I spent hours upon hours on the internet, finding out as much as I could about his future and mine. Pretty much immediately I became what is called an "Autism Warrior Mom" - the mom who fights for therapy, who works the system, who knows everything there is to know about: Speech Therapy (SP), Occupational Therapy (OT), Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Play Therapy (PLAY) Individual Education Plans (IEPs), Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs), Health Care Plans (HCPs), Early Steps and Part B. Very quickly my life became one acronym after another. I learned insurance codes, kept ongoing spreadsheets of therapy costs, and researched all the best therapies. It was a full-time job, and luckily at the time I was a stay-at-home mom. But with three kids, ages 3, 2 and 5 months, it wasn't easy even if I didn't have a 9-5 job.
It feels like a blink of an eye. JD was 2 then and now he's 5 and a half. He can talk now. He can run, jump, climb, even ride a bike. He can color, write his name, and draw detailed pictures of Spongebob, including his spatula! He's amazing. He is loving and funny. He stands out from the crowd - and I don't mind it anymore. He's quirks are what makes him... well, him. I love him more than words can ever express. He has taught me more about life than anything I have ever experienced.
But tomorrow... ohhhhh tomorrow. Tomorrow we meet for his kindergarten transition IEP meeting. For anyone that has a special-needs child, you know what I'm talking about. And when this meeting is all said and done, I will go into more detail. Until then, all I can say is that this is a HUGE day. It determines SO much. I'm more nervous than I've been in a long, long time. I'm already planning my post-stress migraine. Why? Because I've been working up to this day for THREE years.
I think I'm ready. Wait, I KNOW I'm ready. Because if there is one gift God gave me, it's the will to win. To those on the outside, this may seem kind of funny. But any Autism Warrior Mom or Dad can tell you that's not the case. This is serious business.
Tomorrow will be a good day. And I can't wait to blog about it. Until then, what I want to say is THANK YOU. Thank you to everyone who has supported JD. Who has been there for him, followed his journey. I know I don't write as much as I used to, but that's because things are a little smoother now. Blogging has always been my outlet during stressful times and I'm so thankful for the friends and family who have stood beside me through it all.
I'll leave you with a recent picture. One that shows just how much JD has grown up. I don't know where the years have gone, but I do know that this little boy, and his brother and sister, have made my entire life worth living for!
When I have tough days I find myself on Pinterest looking for words of inspiration, whether it's when I'm having a hard time at work, struggling with my faith, or feeling alone in this autism journey. It's been a really rough week - Jason and I are coming up to a time when we need to make some big decisions about JD's schooling and therapy. I'm a planner so to say I stress about the future is a major understatement. There's never a day that I don't worry about his life and think about how I could be doing a better job as his warrior mom.
Sometimes I wonder why God gave JD to me. But it's in these weeks that I can see why. He knew that I'd fight for him, stress for him, plan for him, talk for him, cry for him, advocate for him. He knew that by giving JD to me, I would protect and love his angel and do anything in my means to give him the best life possible.
Being an autism mom isn't easy, and some days I want to throw in the towel and wave the white flag of surrender. But instead each night I pick up the towel, wipe away the sweat and tears, wash it, dry it and hang it up nicely because I'm a STARTER in this game and I'll never let him down - he's counting on me to win.
It's hard to believe it's already 2013, where does the time go? The kids went back to school today from their Christmas break and I have to say that I'm happy to get back to the normal routine! We had a wonderful holiday though - it was so much fun this year because JD really understood the concept of Christmas. He was really excited about Santa coming, and opening presents and having a "birthday party" for Jesus. He's growing up so fast!
His big present this year was a new bike and he loves it. It has taken him two years to learn how to ride a bike, but he's finally got it down. We're still working on using the brakes, but for now his feet work!
My name is Lindsay Graham and I'm the author of "Following JD's Journey." My son was diagnosed with autism right after his second birthday and I began this blog as a therapy of sorts. It helped me deal with the range of emotions that engulfed me after JD was diagnosed. Now it's more of a place to share his accomplishments with the world! I'm a mom of three (ages six and under!), a wife and a full-time career girl. Autism has changed my life, but for the better. I wouldn't change a thing about JD and I'm blessed to have such a wonderful boy!