Super Busy at Home

Family blog about homeschooling, autism, saving money, mom blog, travel, vacation, budgeting.

How Autism Has Made Me Aware...

Every April I'm usually all over Autism Awareness month.  It's felt like if a treky had some Star Trek month they got to relish in all month long.  These are my people.  This is my tribe.

But this month I've been having a hard time with Autism Awareness Month. 

Perhaps I'm a bit perturbed about Autism keeping me from having one night of rest for the past 8 years.

Or maybe I've just had it with the tests and diagnosis and appointments and reminders and therapists and behaviourists and specialists and pharmacists and medicine runs and visual aids that are all needed to try to get us through at a time.

It could be that I'm just so frustrated with everything.  Cleaning the same messes over and over again.  The same arguments.  The same whatever every day.

So upon a lot of self reflection I think I have come to the meaning behind my begrudging Autism Awareness:

It came when I saw a really good article about Autism.  It was all about how autism is diagnosed vs. how autism is in the reality.  One of the examples was something like Autistic kids may not interact in peer groups but the reality is that Autistic kids often find the universe more stimulating than interacting with peers.

What an awesome perspective!  And so in reading this I have to admit that I began to feel twinges of guilt.  I think the reason is because I have not been looking for the silver lining of the Autism cloud. 

Quite frankly I've been a Debbie Downer of autism.  Talking all about how awful it is. How much it has affected my life.  How we struggle.  How we don't sleep. 

And let me tell you, all of those things are true.  I'm praying for the day that one day they won't be. After all, I think it would be really cool to get a full nights sleep.  I'm a big dreamer like that. 

But when it is all said and done we are still here with this elephant on our shoulders.  And I am getting pretty fed up with complaining about the elephant. 

It's not going anywhere.  It's been here for 8 years so I guess it is time to stop complaining about it and start talking about how cool the elephant is. 

Afterall, Autism is awesome.

I never thought I would be in a place that I could type that last sentence.

I've cursed autism and tried to tp its house a few times.

It always calls the cops.


But aside from that I am learning that it is pretty great.

How Autism Has Made Me Aware. Super Busy at Home.

Like that Cal imagines things and could care less about what people think of him.

Or how he is so loving.  In the photo above he begged me to take a picture of him with all of his friends, isn't that just so presh?

Or that when we fight and yell he just walks around the house yelling "family sticks together" over and over and over.  It's from lilo and stitch and it always, always, always brings everything back together.

Or that one time when his sister got mad and decided to run away from home.  He threw on boots and a coat and followed her out the door.  He is loyal to the very core to that sweet little sister who defends him to the very end. 

He is the smartest little boy in the whole wide world. 

And the silliest.

And the kindest.

And the scaredest.  But we're working on that.

Autism has challenged me to think out of the box in every situation of my life.

Like how I now call chicken ham.  You know, because he doesn't eat birds.

Or how I let him wear brown dress shoes with knee socks with gym shorts.  We're cool like that.  He doesn't care and it takes every fiber in my being to not care either.  But I am doing it.  You know, because they're comfortable.

Autism Awareness month is for all of us to try to stir up awareness about Autism.  Things like, yes my son is still a person who should be treated with respect.  No you can't call my son a retard or I will punch you in the face. 

That kind of stuff. 

But for me it is teaching me how to be aware of just how neat Autism can be. 

And for me that is the best awareness of all.


Riding the Waves of Being an Autism Mom

The other day I had the pleasure to sit down with my childhood bestie and talk Autism. 

I never would have dreamed that being Autism moms would be a common thread between us, but there we sat, spilling our fears, dreams, hopes, and realities of the every day.

She's started down the Autism path more recently than I.  It was when I was sitting with her and I heard myself talking that I realized I've been on this journey with an autism diagnosis for the past four years.

Four years.

In some aspects it seems like it's been much, much longer and in some aspects it seems like it's been a lot less time.

I mean, shouldn't I have this stuff down by pat by now? But I digress..

One of the things she asked me was about being a mom of an autistic child she said something like "do you find that some days you think it's not so bad, and other days you're crying and it's horrible. Some days I don't want to believe this is happening and other days it all seems doable and totally okay?"

Um, yes I totally feel that.  All of that.  And in that moment I can see a beach-like scene of all of us Autism moms.  Some are just getting to the water, others are way, way ahead.  And we're all wondering if the others are feeling the same things, going through the same things, fearing the same things, celebrating the same things.

Riding the Waves of Being an Autism Mom. Surviving and Thriving at Super Busy at Home. #autism #autismmom

And the answer is yes.  No matter where you are on the path into the water, we're all getting hit with the same waves. 

I associate these emotions and good days and bad days as waves.  Allow me to explain:

When I first became an autism mom I couldn't believe this was happening.  Everything seemed like it was turned upside down: the cleanliness of our house, the amount of doctor's appointments you find yourself going to, the behaviors, the medicines, the fact that everything is different. At first this is the toughest.  It's the first wave you get.  I liken it to just getting your feet wet and getting used to those first waves that are coming onto the shore. It's cold and you're thinking of just going back to the shore where it's dry and warm but you keep going because your feet are already wet and sandy.

At first they seem really brutal but you keep walking further into the water. And you find what was at your feet is small compared to what's now hitting you on your shins and knees.  This is when you've been with a diagnosis for a year or more. You are starting to get used to the idea of having an autistic child.  You try to own it with a sense of pride with license plates, awareness walks, books, and jewelry. Most days you can stand that you have an autistic child now but every once in a while like a pebble rolls over your foot, your remember that under current along your feet, and again you are sobbing that your child has to have autism.  The waves that feel really bad though now are the ones that contain things like self doubt: wondering how you may have caused your child to have autism, guilt: feeling bad about having not being so in love with idea of having a kid with autism.  Other emotions in this level of waves include your patience wearing thin, the reality that insurance is horrible on every level of trying to help a child with autism, and just how utterly exhausting caring for a child with special needs truly is. 

And you feel like you are going to get swept under the water with these waves but you really want to jump the waves so you keep walking into the water. The waves that hit you at your waist are easier to deal with because you dealt with the first two stages so you kind of knew what to expect.  Depression, guilt, denying your child has autism, accepting your child has autism, happiness with progress, frustration at sadness, you can feel it all ebb and flow along the surface and you also know what's going on below.  Some days the waves are calm and days are great, and you have barely any trouble.  Other days the waves are huge and gruesome: trying to wash you away with drowning strength, they can carry you under in a depression that is often a month long struggle.

But still you fight, you want to live, and eventually you come to the surface.  And again you find yourself with these waves that are always present, always multi-leveled actions and movements with no telling which one will affect you the most. 

Today I left an appointment with the Developmental Pediatrician.  We were talking about other diagnosis on top of Autism and Apraxia and ADD.  But I was able to hold my head high.  I felt like I was just dealing with gentle lapping waves that are up to my chin and remind me how close I am to going under but the gentle movement makes me feel calm and secure.  Perhaps tomorrow they'll swallow me whole and I'll drown in sorrow and resentment for a while.

But for now I'm in the water, I'm swimming my swim and I'm okay.  That's my victory for today.

So for those of you who are just starting on the path into the water, just keep walking into the waves.  It's going to be okay. I promise.  I'm out in the shark infested waters inviting you to jump the waves with me. We'll hold hands and laugh together through this journey...scary waves and all. 

Homeschool Co-op Drop Outs: What I've Learned

So I am a co-op drop out. 

Yep, I'm a cool homeschool mom like that. 

I keep thinking of that song about being a beauty school drop out. 

I'm a Homeschool Co-op Drop Out. #autism #homeschooling #grace. super busy at home.

And yes that probably makes me a dork.  I'm learning to be okay with that.

The truth is that this has been a long time coming.

And by long time I mean about a month.

Here we go with my lengthy explanation.

We started a homeschooling co-op in the fall.  It was a group of other families with the moms teaching and assisting in the classrooms with class periods set up.  The kids went to different classes throughout the day and we had a lunch period in the middle. The co-op set the school year into trimesters. 

The first trimester seemed to go fairly well.  We had some issues but nothing serious in the classroom.  The big part I was having a bit of an issue with was when the second trimester came along, the only heavy weight class the kids were in was Chemistry and the kids were falling drastically behind the class with their homework. It wasn't for lack of trying but they were just not grasping what was being covered.  So I was having to struggle with how to get them to learn it while having them behind and not knowing whether to speed them up to be with the class while not understanding what they were doing or to stay behind to understand but go to class every week with unfinished homework and assignments.

The other classes were nice but they were extra curriculars.  Legos, crochet, etc.  And so by going to co-op I felt that we were kind of missing an entire day that could be used for instruction on fun stuff.  Don't get me wrong, I know they were learning things and having a great time with friends.  But I also knew that behind the scenes we were falling drastically behind in math, grammar, and latin.  Yoinkerdoodles.

I also somehow forget that Calvin has autism.  The summer and autumn we were in a really great cycle.  I don't look at my son and see "autism" plastered over his forehead, he's just him.  But over Christmas break he started being able to not communicate again.  And started stimming again.  And a whole other myriad of things including not having control over the tone of his voice.  So when he's answering you in a good mood he sounds like he sounds irritated and mad at you.  It's difficult on us.  It's super difficult on him.

And I just knew then and there.  There was no way I was going to be able to send him back to co-op like this.  I can't ask mothers to handle this when they have a classroom of other children to help.  I can't ask other children to act like nothing's going on when he's yelling at them for no reason. 

And so we dropped out.  I felt really bad.  I cried.  A lot.  I've asked that they allow us to return if we want but haven't heard what the final "verdict" from the leadership board is. 

But in the end of it, I am holding my head high.

I did what was best for our family.  While it was difficult for me because it might not be the best thing for Emma to leave but it is for Calvin, what that meant was if it's not good for one of us it can't be good for any of us.  It might seem unfair sometimes but we're learning we're a team and we have to stick together.

Dropping out of a homeschool co-op is teaching me all about grace.  Super Busy at Home.

As a homeschooling mom I am constantly worried about what people think of me.  I don't want others to think I'm a "weirdo" because I homeschool.  I want the other homeschool moms to think I have it all together. Ugh.  it's just a weird place to be sometimes when you carry this title.  But in this instance I felt that I had finally grown mature enough to be able to recognize that this was not working and it wasn't the best fit for our family.

Through this homeschooling journey I swear I am learning as much if not more than the children are.  I'm learning to laugh in the rain, to give myself grace when things get rough, and to see things as trial and error rather than failures when they simply don't work out. 

As I write this we should be at co-op right now.

Instead we dropped out. Before I would have felt like a total failure because of that.

Instead we made it half way through a math lesson today before Calvin went into his quiet corner in the homeschool room and was on his own with his cat for 20 minutes.  Then he went and played piano.  He learned 15 spelling words and successfully wrote legibly two sheets of words for me in handwriting.  All of those are things we wouldn't have gotten done even last week.  I'm considering this a win.

And as a homeschooling mom and an autism mom, I'll take as many wins as I can get.

Happy weekend sweet friends!  Hope you learn to look for wins and to give yourself grace.  Love you!

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Christmas Tree 2015

Last year we had a great time getting our Christmas tree.  You can read all about it here

Our old c7 bulbs died and we had to buy new LED bulbs.  Don't get me wrong, I love them and they're pretty but they just aren't the same.  Here's our picture of the tree last year. 

I had the hardest time trying to explain this to people but while the lights were almost annoyingly bright the tree was dark. Do ya know what I mean?

 So this year this is our tree.  

It pretty much looks the same except this year it's a little glowier.  What's my trick?  Those cheap white twinkle lights.  We took 2 strands of white twinkly lights (100 bulbs per strand) and wrapped them around the trunk of the tree.  Our tree is 9 feet tall and the 2 strands worked great.  So we kept those strictly on the inside of the tree and then on the outside we put our fancy dancy LED lights. 

And this is the result.  I'm loving it!  

Our tree decorating and chopping has been a bit weird this year.  We always go the day after Thanksgiving.  But this year it was rainy and gross so we didn't go until Sunday. So we shopped Friday, decorated the house Saturday, and Sunday we were ready to get the tree.  

Most of us were ready.  This guy was just sleepy or sick or off or something.  He just was not feeling it.  

Here he's standing next to our fire pit.  My in-laws rent us a fire pit every year and we have a tailgating type party with food and drinks and good times. This year friends stopped by and we saw lots of people we know, it was so much fun! 

These kiddos have my whole big heart. Here we are on the tractor tram ride thing. Off to get our tree! 

After searching and searching an searching we found our tree!  It took lots of looking and walking and hunting and backtracking and grumbling but we found it!  And this was the best picture we found because Nick's parents were off looking for their tree, Emma wanted to be with them, so it was the three of us hunting for the perfect tree.  I've gotta tell you though, it was super weird and cray having a picture of just the three of us.  

This adorable guy has the biggest heart and decided that this year it was his year to cut down the tree!  He was so careful with the saw and was all business about it.  

He was trying so hard but it wasn't long before he asked for his Daddy to help.  These guys are so cute together!  

This is a picture of Cal getting to push the tree over.  He yelled "Timber!".  There are some days when I forget that he has Autism.  These days remind me that Autism is something like being left handed. It doesn't define him, it is just part of who he is.  We're not dragging it behind us like some type of cumbersome burden but rather it's just him, pushing a tree over and laughing.  

And just as easy as that we are ready to go!  

These cute guys are all throughout the forest and the kids love spotting them as we ride through on the tractor ride to the trees and then back to the firepit.  

And then it was time to eat and warm up by the fire!  By the way Cal here is eating a gluten free cupcake from the King Arthur Flour brand.  They are so super yummy and moist!  

There's my PSA, go buy this cake mix if you are gluten free.  Yum! 

After lots of snacking we came home and got to decorating!  Who doesn't love to decorate the tree? It was so much fun!  We got all of the decorations down before so the kids weren't sitting around waiting for us to find the decorations. 

So there was our Christmas tree experience this year!  

And our 25 day countdown to Christmas started yesterday!  Did y'all get started on a countdown or an advent calendar?  Let me know in the comments, I love all of your ideas!!!