Uncategorized

Be the Kind One

My husband and I tell my kids they can be anything that they choose to be. 

If they can dream it, they can do it.

We want to them to embrace who they are and not allow their peers or society to make them feel that they have to conform into any little box. 

They can be astronauts or first responders or rock stars or artists or dreamers. They can be anything that they choose to set their minds to. 

But.

There is one thing that they cannot be. 

They cannot be unkind.

We teach them to embrace their differences and the differences of others.

We don’t all look alike or think alike or feel alike.

We have different beliefs and different values.

We teach them that what makes us different and diverse is what makes this world a beautiful and special place.

We need the dreamers and the doers and the tender hearts.

Everyone has something to contribute and we all deserve a place at the table.

We teach them to go ahead and march to that different beat. Do their own thing, but understand that others are doing the same. 

We teach them that understanding and kindness aren’t negotiable.

Because in a world where you can choose to be or do anything, it will never ever, ever be wrong to choose kind.

Uncategorized

Awareness Versus Acceptance

April is a month in which autism has the stage and the world is listening— perhaps a little more than the other 11 months of the year.

Autism Awareness Month.

Autism Acceptance Month.

Awareness versus acceptance.

Which one is it?

Maybe it’s both?

I think it’s both.

You cannot have acceptance without awareness. Awareness leads to understanding. Understanding leads to acceptance. And in the most perfect world, acceptance leads to inclusion.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Truth is, it isn’t that simple.

1 in 44 children are diagnosed with autism, but we’re still so far from awareness, acceptance, and inclusion.

I think that comes from misunderstanding or lack of understanding what autism is. Autism is a spectrum and no one person with it presents the same. That can make it had to truly understand.

It’s hard to understand what life with autism is like if you aren’t living it or if it hasn’t touched your life personally.

For me, autism awareness and acceptance is as simple as understanding that autism is a part of our family story through our boys.

It is as much a part of my boys as the color of their eyes. It doesn’t define them. They are who they are and I love every fiber of them. They are not less. They are good and perfect gifts from above.

I’ve learned so much about autism because of them and from them. They’ve truly become two of my greatest teachers.

I’ve learned to advocate for them and for others who are like them.

That’s why I’m here. That’s a lot of why I write— to increase awareness and understanding and hopefully, through that, acceptance and ultimately inclusion.

Awareness leads to understanding which leads to acceptance which leads to inclusion.

I’ll never stop pushing for that.

Parenting

And All You’re Ever Gonna Be Is Mean

My oldest daughter has the most beautiful blonde mop of curly hair.

It is seriously so soft and full of perfect spirals. I’m so jealous of it and I tell her that all the time. I’ve paid a lot of money over the years to try to attain a crown as beautiful.

She’s gotten used to people remarking on and complementing her for her hair over the years. So, yesterday when a classmate asked her if her curls were soft and could she touch them, Emma didn’t think much about it.

Not even when the classmate started to laugh and another classmate said “No, don’t do it.”

Don’t do what?

The “what” was described to me by an administrator at the school as a completely unprovoked and violent tug of her hair. He told me that just watching the video footage of the incident he knew it had to hurt.

This was when he called to inform me about what happened and to assure me that while he couldn’t give me specifics, it was handled.

After discussing it with my child, reaching out to her teacher, and considering the conversation I had with the school administrator, I just find myself so floored by it.

It was, by all accounts, just someone actively choosing to harm someone else. It was just someone actively choosing to be mean. It was just someone actively choosing to laugh about it as my daughter cried in pain.

The sheer cruelty in those facts makes my heart so heavy.

I will never, ever understand no matter how long I live why some people are just mean.

Don’t they know that you will never ever get taller by attempting to make someone else feel smaller?

We had lots of big feelings in this house last night. Lots of them.

This wasn’t a teaching moment I ever would want to have, but there we were.

Our conversation went a little like this…

“Hurt people hurt people. Something is happening in that girl’s life to make her feel like she has to behave this way to feel better about herself.

Her actions and her feelings toward you are not your problem. You are who you are and you are enough.

Do not let it dull your sparkle because guess what? You’re so far above it. You are incredible and wonderful with pretty badass hair.

She’s just mean and that’s all she’s ever going to be.”

Kindness isn’t hard.

Being a good human isn’t hard.

It takes so much more energy to harbor hate and negativity in your heart and to be mean.

That’s it. That’s the message here. Just be kind. This world is heavy enough on its own these days there is no need to add to it.

Just. Be. Kind.

Parenting, Social Media

When It’s Time To Walk Away

As I am closing in on 40 here shortly, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do when I grow up (ha) and what I want my next 40 years to look like.

It is easy to say what I don’t want to fill my time with.

I am finding I have zero time or patience or the mental capacity for fake or surface level connections with people. I could care less about FOMO or trying to keep up with the Joneses (although the Joneses I know are pretty cool people!) I’m done comparing myself, my life, my home, or my children to other peoples. My journey and my life is mine and it is one of a kind. I don’t need or want to do something just because someone else is. I don’t need to keep up with anyone or be better than anyone but myself and how I was yesterday.

One thing I know I need to learn to do more of is prioritize myself a bit more and what brings me joy.

That looks like a lot of different things– making a conscious effort to be more present with my children and husband, being a better listener, worrying less about things I cannot control, fostering relationships better and focusing on the people who truly want to be a part of my life, saying no more, not letting myself bear the weight of other peoples’ judgements of or disappointments in me, and knowing when to walk away from things that no longer serve me.

That said, as some of you know from knowing me personally or just following along here, I am a contributing writer for several other blogs/websites aside from mine.

One such was Toledo Moms.

Toledo Moms was a resource for mothers in the area I live in and I was a contributing writer with them for almost two years before the site retired in December 2021. It has since relaunched as Northwest Ohio Moms and I have since made the decision to end my affiliation with them.

I love to write and I love to connect with others through my writing. Toledo Moms provided a platform for that to some extent and I am grateful for that and appreciative of my chapter with them. However, at this juncture I do not feel it is the best use of my time or writing. What I feel called to write doesn’t feel to me like the best fit for that platform and that is okay. I wish the team who is part of NW Ohio Moms the best, but part of what I’m learning in my elder millennial age is when it is time to walk away and for me, that’s now.

Thanks to all of you for sticking around and following me here on How Many Monkeys Are Jumping On the Bed? and supporting my writing on other platforms I am part of.

Stay tuned. The best is yet to come. ❤️

Uncategorized

You Can Do Hard Things

You can do hard things.

You were a quiet baby— barely cried and always had a smile and a giggle for me.

But, you barely babbled and you didn’t speak. 

By your second birthday, you were my quiet child.

But you always had a smile and a laugh for me.

We started speech therapy and were told you had Childhood Apraxia of Speech.

I dug into every book, every article, every resource I could find and you dug into your therapy.

Other children went to summer camps or other enrichment activities and you went to therapy twice a week.

You worked so hard. You showed grit and determination and kept working and always had a smile on your face.

And I prayed. I prayed for you to find your voice. I prayed to hear you speak. 

Then it happened.

It was like a light switch flipped and it all connected and the words came and I cried.

It was a couple weeks before kindergarten started when your speech therapist discharged you. She said you had caught up to your peers and we didn’t need therapy anymore.

She told me before we left that day that you had defied her expectations. When you first started working with her you were considered severe and she wasn’t sure you would ever speak.

And I cried.

Kindergarten came and went and you started to realize that you spoke differently from your peers.

It was in first grade that your teacher saw the need for more speech therapy. When you weren’t understood you would get frustrated and shrink into yourself. She advocated for you and helped us to get you on an IEP. 

You worked for years with the speech therapist at school. I sat through IEPs and ETRs and cheered you on. It became old hat and just another part of our routine. 

Today I sat through another ETR.

We went over the test scores. We talked about your strengths. We discussed your progress.

This meeting was different though.

At the end we didn’t set your follow up IEP meeting.

Because it wasn’t necessary.

Your speech and articulation is solid. You can speak and be understood. Your apraxia no longer affects your ability to communicate effectively.

I disconnected from that call and I cried.

I prayed for you to find a voice and you did. 

I prayed for this day to come and it did.

You came home today and I shared the news with you.

And this time, it was your turn to cry.

I’m so proud of you. You never gave up on yourself. You never let a difference define you. You never stopped smiling through it all. 

You climbed a mountain.

You can do hard things.

Social Media, Special Needs, The World We Live In

The Good Preacher

Before yesterday, I’d heard the name of Pastor Greg Locke— mostly because of his removal from the Twitter Platform and his political views.

Before yesterday, I’d paid no mind to Pastor Greg Locke— there is not a whole lot he and I have in common.

Before yesterday, I’d not much to say about Pastor Greg Locke.

But, that was before yesterday.

That was before one of his sermons began to make rounds— one that made my heart hurt and initiated a viscerally angry response all at once.

The good preacher delivered an uneducated and incredibly misguided sermon this past weekend. I subjected myself to the whole video of it because I wanted to be clear what I was hearing. I wanted to be clear that there wasn’t room for misunderstanding.

“Your kid could be demonized and attacked, but your doctor calls it autism,” he exhorted.

“Ain’t no such diagnosis in the Bible,” he evangelized.

While it is true that there “ain’t no such diagnosis in the Bible,” to be fair, there are a lot of ailments that aren’t in the Bible and we don’t refer to them as demonic possession of any sort.

This kind of dialogue is damaging.

The prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder is 1 in 44 and while you might think that that makes it common, it is still commonly misunderstood.

Since my oldest son’s diagnosis I have spent EVERY single day advocating for awareness and acceptance and fighting for inclusion, for services, for insurance coverage…Every. Single.Day.

Hateful speech like that espoused by the good preacher only makes the misunderstanding grow. It only further seeks to alienate our children.

This kind of dialogue is dangerous.

You don’t have to search too hard to find stories within the special needs community of parents who are searching for hope and find messaging like that of the good preacher’s.

You don’t have to search too hard to find out what happens when those same parents take drastic and harmful action based on these kinds of beliefs.

You don’t have to search too hard to find the stories of a parent who drowned their special needs child believing they were possessed or the stories of parents who feed their children bleach thinking that will “fix” them.

Yes, speech that pontificates like the good preacher’s only further spreads misinformation, mistreatment, and hate.

Last night, after realizing that he’d come under fire for his words, Pastor Greg Locke doubled down on his words.

He offered no remorse or apology, but dug his heels in.

He went on to attack anyone who disagreed with him and did so in the name of God.

If this is the type of man you follow while searching for your salvation, I would suggest perhaps you search elsewhere because God is not in his messaging.

That is not God in his words.

God is love. God is not hate.

My two boys have autism. They are good and perfect gifts from above. God knew them and formed them in the womb and made them in His image.

God doesn’t make mistakes.

There’s a lot more I could say about the good preacher, but I’m a lady and Christian, so I will refrain and instead pray for his misguided soul.

Bless his heart.

The World We Live In

What Have We Learned?

A year ago I sat in disbelief watching the events of the insurrection unfold in the Capitol Building.

I’d seen similar events in movies.

I’d seen newsreels of similar events in other countries.

I never thought I would see it here.

But it did.

It did. It happened. Rioters stormed our Nation’s Capitol Building attempting to stop our electoral process. Some attempting things much more nefarious carrying zip ties or having previously erected gallows outside the building. Some may have just been caught up in the moment and along for the ride. Whatever their motivations, it happened.

It happened and we can’t pretend it didn’t.

We can’t forget it happened for, as Winston Churchill once wrote, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Now, I try my best to be overtly political here or anywhere on social media to be honest. My opinions are my own and nothing a random user on Facebook news page is going to say to me is going to change that or vice versa. So, I save it.

I would be a fool to think that everyone thinks or believes the same as I. I firmly believe if we truly took time to listen to others, we may learn something— something about their beliefs, something about them, or something about ourselves. But, I know that isn’t how everyone thinks about such things.

So, I apologize if this piece isn’t your cup of tea.

The thing is after watching our president’s speech, I find all that happened a year ago today still feels so heavy.

The way our country works is that once every four years we vote for our president. Once every four years one candidate wins and one loses. One candidate’s supporters are happy and one candidate’s supporters aren’t. Then we all move on and do it again four years later. That’s how it works.

What we don’t do is stage attempt to stage a coup, storm the Capitol Building, and carry out an insurrection.

That is not how things work.

I’ll let you in on a little secret— I haven’t always voted for the winner.

Nope, sure haven’t.

But, I’ve never wanted to see duly elected president fail. And you shouldn’t either. If they succeed or fail, we all succeed or fail. We should root for each other and want to succeed. In a perfect world, we should want every four years to continually be better than the previous ones.

When George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton the outgoing president left a letter for his successor that said in part, “Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.

Bush got it right.

I hope we can all embrace his sentiment as we never forget the history behind us.

We all win together.

We all lose together.

Let us not forget.

Holidays and Occasions, The World We Live In

I’m Feeling ‘22

Here we are— another New Year’s Eve. It feels like I just sat down to reflect on the year that was 2020.

After a year that was long and hard, 2021 seemed to move at a faster pace. The world began to reopen. Life began to resume. Things felt more like, dare I say, normal, even if they weren’t.

We laughed. We played. We traveled. We welcomed new ones, welcomed back loved ones, and mourned as a others were welcomed to their eternal home.

The wheel of life kept rolling on.

The children grew in ways I did and didn’t see coming. They found new passions in things they learned and things they did. They climbed mountains and conquered challenges. They made new friends, tried new things, and throughout it all they maintained their spirits and their laughter sustained me.

My husband and I celebrated 14 years together in this adventure we call life. We continue to laugh and love and hold on to each other. Life is less scary when because I’ve got someone by my side who sees the real me and is still willing to hold my hand.

I took the lessons of 2020 and focused in 2021 on who and what is important to me.

There is only so much time in this life and I choose to spend mine in ways that matter to me.

I volunteered where I felt called.

I learned to say no and do so without guilt.

I made new friends and grew older with the old.

I shared— my heart, my feelings, my ideas, my words.

I learned it is okay to walk away from relationships or commitments that no longer grow me in positive ways.

I don’t know what it is about New Year’s Eve, but it makes us feel like there is a fresh start ahead.

In reality, aside from the calendar changing, not much else does. Yet every year this night comes with a promise of hope and feeling that a blank slate is stretched out in front of all of us.

The world begins again tonight and anything, yes, anything is possible.

I hope the year ahead brings more joy and less tears.

I hope the hard lessons of the past two years never leave us, but grow us and continue to remind us what is precious.

I hope we all never stop learning, loving, and laughing our way through our days.

I hope that somewhere in this year ahead, we all find or do or make something that brings us joy.

I hope that we are all here this time next year to reflect on the year that was.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling ‘22.

Holidays and Occasions

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

I grew up with a large extended family. My dad is one of six kids and each of those kids went forth and multiplied. I have first cousins that range from their 50s down to age 18. As we all grew up, we added spouses and kids. The next generation runs from their 20s down to little babies.

It was a great big, loud family.

My grandparents were our glue. My grandmother truly was the heart and soul of the family and their home was the epicenter for it all.

We gathered there for all the occasions– holidays, births, deaths, just because. We spent many a summer day crowded around the swimming pool playing Marco Polo and having diving board competitions. New Year’s Eves were spent with the kids hanging out in the basement and the parents camped out in the living room.

It was an amazing way to grow up. There was always a bevy of built in playmates.

And Christmas.

Christmas was by far my favorite.

It was the holiday that everyone came home. As my cousins grew and scattered, I could almost always count on seeing them all on Christmas Day.

We packed a 1200 Sq ft house full. We had the world’s fastest gift exchange passing presents quickly through the linked rooms. With as many of us that there were, you found a spot, you sat, and you stayed. There was food and fellowship and so much laughter and love.

The day always went by too fast.

But, all good things must come to an end, I suppose.

When my grandfather passed away the cracks within the family became evident and went my grandmother passed, the glue was gone.

The little house on 121st Street was eventually sold. Life marched on and things have never been the same.

The whys, the how’s, and the details aren’t important and it’s really not my story to tell. Some have made peace with it and some have not and that’s okay.

It’s all just different now.

My children don’t know what one of those loud crazy Christmases of my younger days was really like as my oldest was only one when my grandma passed. They can’t even begin to imagine it.

My children also don’t know that big, extended family. I have relatives who have never met my children nor have they ever expressed desire to. That’s quite alright as along the way I’ve learned there is much more to family than DNA.

I have a cousin who appointed herself the keeper of the flame so to speak. Each year an invite comes to a Christmas gathering that I truly have no desire to be part of. I no longer choose to take seats at tables as a matter of obligation or to make forced conversation with someone who doesn’t care what I am doing on a random Tuesday in August let alone Christmas.

My personal feelings aside, my boys have Autism. They have different needs. They simply couldn’t tolerate a loud, unfamiliar, closed environment full of strangers. They come first.

I don’t know that everyone understands that, but I know I don’t care if they do or not.

More than that, we’ve created our own traditions.

My husband and I have begun building our traditions with our kids in our home. We follow our morning up with a fun, laid back Christmas gathering at my parents’ with my brothers. It’s the perfect way to spend our holiday.

I hope that someday my children and their children will continue in our traditions, but if they don’t, I hope they know that’s okay.

Circumstances change.

People change.

Relationships change.

Life changes.

And so, we pack our memories up and put them away in the knowledge that on cold winter days we can revisit those ghosts of Christmas past.

I’ll be home for Christmas– if only in my dreams…

Parenting, Social Media, The World We Live In

It Starts At Home

There was an incident at our local high school yesterday with a threat made via social media.

Shortly after the news broke the story, because the media, they always come, the district issued a response. They explained a threat had been made, the student responsible had been identified and removed, and that at no time was anyone in the building in danger.

It seemed to me our school district and the local police department had it handled. As someone who lived through a lockdown or two in high school, I was satisfied with the response they provided. That, however, was not the case for everyone. Worried parents flocked to social media and as I am sure you can imagine the rumor mill started working.

Turns out, the incident in question was a vague threat issued by a kid who reached his breaking point over bullying. On a community Facebook page alive with discussion on this topic, the mom of the said student explained that, while inexcusable, her son has been bullied and he chose to make a Snapchat post that was stupid and wrong.

Her comments were met with a mixed bag of reactions.

There were those who had similar stories from their children about being bullied endlessly and there were those who chose to illustrate the point of what a bully is in their replies.

All of it got me thinking.

No way, no how should anyone ever make someone else feel unsafe, but at the same time, how long can we expect to push someone and they not reach their breaking point?

Right or wrong, you can only beat someone down for so long before they act out. We hear stories about this constantly where a children hurt themselves or end their lives or choose violence because they feel like there is no other way to go.

We blame social media. Yes, it certainly exaggerates the issues. We blame video games and movies and maybe those have some effect on actions. We blame the schools for not doing enough and maybe they could do more. All those pieces have a part in it.

But, it starts at home, Friends.

We need to stop clutching our pearls and feigning surprise. We need to be a bit introspective and look within ourselves. Children learn what they live and it starts at home.

Just take a gander through comments on social media posts– the way adults are speaking to each other is disgusting. We are living in the age of the keyboard warrior. It should be of little surprise that our children are watching and modeling our behavior.

How can we expect better of our children if we can’t do better ourselves?

Social media, entertainment, school environments, and peer pressure– they all play a part, but so do we as parents. We are responsible for raising up the next generation into fine adults.

Now, I understand that sometimes, we can do all the right things as parents and impart all the good lessons, but once away from us our little loves can choose to make poor choices. It is in those moments that we, as parents, have to take responsibility for our children and not excuse their poor behavior.

I challenge you to ask your child questions and dig a little deeper. Are they speaking with kindness and being a friend to everyone? Are they using social media responsibly and appropriately? Are they speaking up for others? If they can’t be kind are they being quiet?

The true content of our character is found in how we treat others.