wisdomfromthesisterhood

The Sisterhood is a place to bring your cup of coffee to. Heck, bring the whole pot :). Sit down, relax, and fall in for a while. No divas or meanies allowed. It's about boy brain, kiddos, food, one crazy labrador, autism and a cat in recovery from a back tire incident. Oh the places you'll go :)

Boy Brain and the Lego Battles

Boy brain is a good thing.  Marvelous things happen when boy brain wakes up.

Lego battles happen in our pool.  This is just one of the brave teams fighting against the Alligator War Machine.This is definitely the upside of boy brain.  Wild imaginations, hands on play and sound effects.  It’s good stuff.  And, even though mom-brain might not understand it all, you just have to go with it.  Boy brain has to be embraced…even if there are moments that make you wince.This is the Alligator War Machine…compliments of my boys and their boy brains.  The AWM is a tough opponent.Another team fighting against the war machine.  They are small but they are mighty.This is where the captured soldiers are forced to walk the plank.  Even though the drop is far, these brave soldiers are fearless and take their first step without fear or complaint.  There is no crying on the plank.

Enjoy your day and the boy brain that fills it 😉  And,  BE WARNED…you just never know where boy brain might take you!

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Mississippi Sky

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Reasons To Love Autism: Moment #78


It had never been done before.

My first impulse was to say no.

We could have said no.  It would have made sense to turn down the invitation to compete.  He was the first child in their elementary school who’d ever attended “regular” education classes full time, with no assistance or pull out time, and without a one on one aide.  Sometimes, I am not sure they knew what to do with him since shooing us back into special ed certainly hadn’t worked.  And, I will honestly say, we were all equally confused when he, the only autistic child in regular ed, qualified for the spelling bee.

It was a little strange for all of us and a bit overwhelming for everyone involved.

Add to our quandary that we are not good at competing.  It’s part of our anxiety thing.  We have anxieties along with the autism.  We can’t do raffles, we don’t do sports well because losing sends us into a melt down.  Actually being a goalie and missing a goal puts us right down in the grass, face planted and screams flying, as though we were three years old.  We are not three years old and a tantrum after you are three is just ugly.  Every year after three, the ugly of the meltdown gets magnified as the child gets bigger.  It’s not pretty so although we are good at many things, competition just isn’t one of them.

When he came home and he told me that he’d earned a spot in the spelling bee I was not surprised.  He is a tremendous speller.  There are many things we are not but we ARE a good speller.  Crazy good. He was nonchalant about his victory even though only two kids per class in the fourth and fifth grade are able to qualify for the competition.  Like I said, I wasn’t surprised because spelling is one of his strengths but then, just as quickly as I’d smiled, I frowned.  Oh NO.  It’s nice to be invited but we can’t do that.  I am sure the teachers did not expect him to be one of the top spellers in class.  It might be ugly, we might fall apart, we might have a stomping, crying melt down on stage…were some of the thoughts I was being bombarded with.

Mom had a bit of a panic attack and I began to dissect the pros and cons of participating in a spelling bee.  The competition would be fierce.  His sister, even with her sky rocketing IQ, didn’t make it past the third round.  Even with her intellect, it was tough and the disappointment was pretty intense a few years prior.  Being the mom I am, I try to weigh the benefit to the burden.  This wasn’t an easy one so I went to speak to the principal.

As I am having my own fretting party trying to play out every scenario as to how I would minimize any damage…it occurs to me…mom is the one who needs to calm down and embrace the fearlessness.  The pic I posted above, “Keep Calm and Be Fearless,” is more for mom than it is for my boy.  Because the truth of the matter is the boy is unmoved by it all.  He truly is calm and unmoved.  It’s just a spelling bee. Not a big deal at all to him.   He, being on the spectrum, is less aware of all the social expectations that go along with it.  He is just a boy.  They say he is the one that is socially impaired but it is that same “so called” social impairment that lets him simply BE.  He is not stressing.  It’s just a day at school.  No worries, no cares.

When I ask him how he feels about competing, he simply answers, “Yeah, sure, why not?”

Yeah, mom has done this…made it way more complicated than it needed to be.  We WILL compete, we will try and we will do our best.  We talk about what happened to his sister and how he might get out too and his response to me is, “Yeah, okay.”

And so we go.  Off to compete in the spelling bee that no autistic child has ever competed in and we all kind of shake our heads as we start to do what the “experts” said would never be done.  The autistic kid just being a kid, just being a student, just walking up on stage to take his seat as a contestant.

If you were there, you might have wondered about him.  We stuck out a little.  There was the tag on his shirt that made me cringe and wonder, “How could I have forgotten the tag?”  My first instinct was to go home and get another shirt for him to change into but I let that thought pass.  Because, even as he reached his hands behind his neck to find the tag and then to finger the tag as he spelled, we were still just another quirky kid at the spelling bee.

That day my boy went on to shock not only his mom but also the rest of school including his classmates, teacher and principal because he did not foul out in the third round like his sister had.  This boy, the boy who wasn’t ever supposed to be anything other than a special ed student, held on to the very last round of the spelling bee.  He went on so long in “spell-outs” as they tried to determine third place that, after two hours of spelling bee rounds, they had to “call” the Bee and call for a continuance the next day so they could determine third place.  In a thirty minute spell off the next morning between he and another boy, my boy took fourth place in the Spelling Bee.  The LONGEST spelling bee the school had experienced.  After thirty minutes of back and forth,  he got out. My boy got out on the word “receive” because he, like most of us, mixed up the order of the ‘i’ and the ‘e’.

My boy walked away with a fourth place trophy that is not only an accolade for  his academic achievement but it is more aptly represented as a hallmark to what happens when you step up to life fearlessly and do not let yourself be hampered and limited by the expectations that someone else lowers to accommodate you.  I try never to underestimate the boy and I try to keep my own fears calmed so that I can better allow him to live as the fearless young man that he trying to be….if all the adults would simply step out of his way.

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The thought of the sand still makes me smile :)

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In the rough spots…just remember…

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The TWANDA Panerapy Friends

It’s funny how much difference a text can make.  A text of all things.  Even stranger that I feel this way because I am not a girl who embraces technology all that much.  I like the days of no answering machines when you had to call until you got a voice on the other end of the line.  I like the phones with the holes in the face where your fingers went for dialing.  I prefer talking to people face to face.  But, I have to admit, even though I do not do smartphones or internet on the phone I have, I love the invention of texting.

I got an early text this morning.  It was a good text, a text from girlfriends in Florida who were having breakfast together.  Both of the women are good friends, the kind of friends I call TWANDA friends.  Not all friends are TWANDA friends, mind you,  but they are.  There through thick and thin, divorce and marriage, the good times and the bad.  They are loyal and steadfast.  They were the friends I hated to leave when I moved from Florida to Cali and the sames ones I hated to lose this summer when I left all over again.

This crazy thing happened at my house this summer.  I quit Facebook. Yep, I did it.  The unthinkable.  I  gathered all my strength, held my breath and hit the dreaded deactivate button.  It needed to be done.  Facebook is the giver of many good things but, just like it is with most things,  the bad comes with it as well.  The mean girls, the antics that feel like high school all over again and the political wrangling that can get ugly …they all started creeping out of the virtual walls and Facebook started to feel like an emotional drain.   Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I am too sensitive for Facebook.  It was a long time coming, I should have figured it out a lot earlier than I did but, like Maya says, when you know better, you do better.  So I did my better, winced a bit as I did the thing I did not really want to do and… I quit.

After some pretty earth shattering events in my life (you can read about it in a previous post, Deconstructing a Life), I decided that a life with value and one truly worth living probably wouldn’t be found on the virtual walls of a social network like Facebook.  A life filled with real people would have to be constructed out of, well, ….real people… and, as it turns out I was in luck… my children are very real.  They are 15, 12 and ten and their childhood years are shrinking day by day.  My days with them are limited and my biggest priority is to make those days count and give them childhood memories of a mom who was present.  A mom who was playing board games with them, swimming with them and baking for them….not a mom with her face planted on a fakey Facebook wall.  It was a quality of life issue for us all so I took a big step, deactivated and did my best not to peek back in for a check.

It was hard.  There were people on Facebook that I loved, adored and I truly missed.  I wanted to check in.  I felt alone, like I was losing them and I soooo wanted to make sure they were all okie dokie.  But, I held firm in my resolve to construct a better, more wholesome life that was based in the real world of my non-virtual children and I stood down.  I did not check in.  I did not peek.  Not even an eensy little peek for very good reasons.

And, then this funny thing happened.

Those people that I missed, the ones I really loved and adored and wanted to peek in on…they started to text and call that same week to make sure the kids and I were okay.  I met each text with a smile that was so big it hurt my face because, I understood, the TWANDA friends would always be there to check in and keep the friendship strong…Facebook or NOT. And then, in a text that surprised even me, I discovered that even long distance friends you leave behind in neighborhoods when you move, can stay close…no matter what.

In one of the best texts I have received since texting began, Mrs. M texted to tell me that she and our TWANDA friend, the T-girl (she knows who she is :)) were having Panera “with” me and just wanted me to know.  There were in Tampa at Panera Bread, our Panera-Therapy girl place, having coffee and, even though I was in Cali, they took me with them….in spirit.  It’s been five years since I left Florida and they still took me with them.  And, I loved it and I realized TWANDA friends are friends…no matter what, no matter the distance, no matter the technology available.  It didn’t even matter what I was drinking…as long as they remembered to take me along!

I visit FB sometimes these days and I enjoy seeing the pics of good friends and their children growing up.  I used it to wish my daughter congrats on her outstanding report card.  There is goodness there too as long as firm boundaries are set.  Not nearly as much goodness as I have found in the TWANDA Panerapy friends but there is some goodness :).  Thank you K and T for being such lovely friends and for taking me to Panera today!  Best drink EVER.

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Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day: Animated Walking and the Graceful Soccer Dads I Envy

 

Soccer practice for the ten year old was last night.  It’s hot where we live.  REALLY hot.  Fall is no where near our town and has certainly not made even a peek-a-boo appearance in the neighborhood.  It’s just hot and that makes soccer practice a whole lot of fun.  It’s all I can do to keep the sweat from puddling in my chair.  One night was so bad that, as I walked to the car, my son asked me if I’d had an accident.  I assured him I do not pee my pants but, to look at my shorts, you might not have believed me either.

Despite my dedication to all things that involve my kiddos, soccer practice is challenging.  It’s all I can do to just sit there under a searing sun with no shade in sight.  I have even resorted to bringing my umbrella (not nearly as pretty as a parasol might be) in order to conjure up some tiny amount of shade.  Last night, as I fumbled and struggled to build my shade, I noticed one of our soccer dads doing the unthinkable at practice.

He was running. In the daylight!  In the HEAT!

Looking up, I could see he was one of those runners.  He was running effortlessly.  No gasping, no flailing, no hunching over in agony.  I might add that he was also running at a pace that would have flat out killed me.  A half mile with him and I would have keeled right over dead.  But there he was in the heat of a hundred degree day.   No fancy running shoes, no lycra, no dri-fit, no aero-dynamic anything.  It was just him, his wore-out shoes, a pair of basketball shorts down to his knees and a plain white t-shirt and he was running not only in the daylight but in the hottest part of a 100 degree day…and he was doing it beautifully.  He had grace, an even stride and he hardly seemed to sweat.  Ugghhh.

He is clearly out of my league.

I am not really a runner.  There is some technical rule that says, if you are a runner, you will run at some impossibly fast pace and, if you don’t, you are demoted to jogger status.  I do not run at a pace that comes anywhere near being fast so that would demote me into the range of ‘jogger’…but I so don’t like that term at all.  I don’t like what it means, I don’t even like how it sounds.  I can remember not liking it even when I was a kid.  Even the way the letters put themselves together sounds mucky, disgraceful, and kind of waterlogged.

I have come to terms with the reality that my nine minute mile pace that I used to own when I lived in New Tampa will probably elude me for a long time, like forever, but I just can’t face labeling myself as a jogger…ever.  So I am left in a middle ground that puts me not knowing what I am besides clearly out of shape.  I will never be in a class with that graceful soccer dad but jogging is not a badge I want to own either.  I can definitely be considered a walker because I can make that pace but I am more than just a walker.

It was while I was struggling on the road in the dark yesterday morning, as I tried to make it for the full ten minute “run” that I had set as my goal, that I realized who I am athletically and where I fit in.  I get that what I do on the road in the dark hours of morning is not a real run and I can’t be a jogger but, as the street light behind me helped me glimpse my shadow, I came out of the gray area that was defining me.  I watched my shadow do whatever it is I do and I realized, more than anything, what I do is animated walking.   My body is kind enough to keep a pace that allows for breathing/gasping and while that pace is not a run, it isn’t always a walk either.  That thing I do in those ten minutes when I stop walking and before I reach “runner” status one day is “animated walking”.  Not quite running but not at all walking.

It is who I am and it is where my fitness is at the moment.  Tomorrow I will bump my “animated walking” goal to 15 minutes and see how many houses I can clear because even though the ten minutes isn’t a breeze to complete, I sure do want to get back my mileage.  I may never see the 4.5 miles I used to run before the kids woke up in the morning, but I would like to get up to ONE MILE without walking before Halloween gets here.  It may be a pipe dream but, the way I see it, it’s better to set the goal high and adjust later than it is to go easy and keep buying fat pants to cover the ever expanding belly and thighs.

So, I am learning to bury the ego and leave it at home in the mornings when I go on my animated walk because egos can be powerful and damaging and I am suddenly becoming aware that they can make or break your progress.  I will be slow, my pace will hardly exist faster than my animated walk but I know it’s an ‘animated’ walk and one day, if I am consistent and persistent, it will turn back into a run.  And, every soccer practice, I will watch the graceful soccer dad and I will be inspired by the beauty in his pace and his posture and that fact that he runs circles so effortlessly around me.  And, somewhere in my envy, I will find the pride that is building in my own effort because no matter how slow I go, I am still faster than the couch brigade.

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Reasons To Love Autism: Moment # 49

I believe in fostering independence. It doesn’t matter what the disability or the diagnosis may be, independence matters.  It gives the child a sense of accomplishment, self worth and it allows them a sense of responsibility and belonging in the family.  It makes them part of a greater good.

Not everyone can do everything but everyone can do something important.

It was breakfast time in my house and my oldest boy asked to help with breakfast.  I had already muddled my way through TRYING to fix my grandmother’s biscuit recipe…the one that is not written down, the one with no directions, the one I am expected to “eye.”  It’s not an easy recipe so I practice.  And, because we are from the South, we eat grits for breakfast (butter and sugar if you’re curious because everyone eats them differently) too and those were just getting going along with the bacon.

My Boy:  “Can I help you make breakfast mom?”

Mom: “Sure.  How about grits duty?  You can stir.”

My Boy: “Great.”

A few minutes go by and I am setting the table, about six feet away from him, when I hear him use a stern voice at no one in particular because no one else is in the kitchen but he and I.  He knows better than to use that tone with me.  He is still standing by the stove.

Mom:  “Hey, you okay?”

My Boy: “No, I’m not okay.  Those grits spit at me.” And, after a minute of quiet, he asks, “Do I spit back?”

Mom:  I assured him, “We do NOT spit back at the food.  Ever. Not even when the grits are spitting at us.”

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Mr. Wizard the Lizard

I believe in getting dirty and chasing butterflies and catching lizards.  It’s part of being a kid and I whole heartedly promote it in all my kiddos.  When we lived in Florida, my daughter used to get called by the neighbor ladies to catch lizards that had snuck into their houses.  I would send my girl around the corner to save the day.  My daughter at just eight, told one of my best friends/neighbors, as she was trying to rid my friend’s house of the unwanted lizard, “Would you please stop screaming?”

This picture happens to be a lizard my youngest caught at the family farm in Mississippi.  And, just so you know and can rest easy…we practice catch and release.  I don’t believe in caging and keeping critters for very long.  I promise he was unharmed…except for a little bit of boy dirt… but I don’t think Mr. Lizard minded that much at all.

 

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Wish I was here too :)

Wish I was back on the farm in Mississippi eating boiled peanuts.  These two characters live across the road.  Love them.

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