Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My friends and I, we've cracked the code...

<i>Friends, there are less than two hours left to enter to win the new paperback version of Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Melton (of Momastary fame). I am so, so eager to share this book with one of you, so if you haven't eneter yet, please do! To enter, just visit this post!

{stream of consciousness} 

To start, "stream of consciousness" seems to be far too fancy a term for what really happens to posts bearing that label. I should start calling it "Crap I Am Going To Spew With Little Proofreading." 

And to whatever wise-ass is thinking "Um, that's what she should call all of her posts!" Well, yeah. That, too. 

Anyway...I haven't written in a few days because I was firmly planted in the garden of "If you have nothing nice to say..." It was an emotional week followed by a fun Saturday followed by a missed trip to Sesame Place because poor PJ is sick as a dog (Strep throat, poor dude). I had plenty to say but just didn't have the energy or desire to sit down at the keyboard and pour out a big, cold glass of whine. 

But since my tendency to internalize my problems is something I am (supposed) to be working on in therapy, I figured I should face the music blog. Still, I'm not into a "Woe is Me" post, so I am going to pick out the best moments from the last few days:

1. After three doses of amoxicillian that looked like an MMA fight while being administered, PJ took his medicine like a damn champ tonight! Even better, he was basking in the cheers I showered upon him, looking so proud! Considering I actually threw out my back giving him a previous dose, this was a Big Fat Deal. And while we are on the subject, I love our pediatric practice. They are never alarmist, but also never ignore something that needs tending to. They always have time to answer questions and never look at me strangely when I ask them. 

2. Pete turned 36 on Friday, and we celebrated on Saturday night with a trip a local mexican place. They were PACKED and no wonder- the food was unbelievable! We enjoyed the night with my sister, her husband, and a few of our great friends and it was a fun, relaxed evening! The night ended with us paying a visit to a local dive bar. John Taffer would die to get his hands on this hot mess, but since it was karaoke night, we had much to observe!! 

3. We had a stretch of absolutely glorious weather, and we soaked in every single second! It's rainy-cold-spring weather now, but it's the sign of things to come! I am so, so ready for this summer to get here! Also, I love rainy weather, it just needs to be a tad warmer. 

4. Because he is a spoiled brat, we bought a teeny flip couch for PJ to snuggle on while he's sick. A friend has one for her son and PJ loved it, and because we are that parent sometimes, we got one for PJ. When we gave it to him, he sat down and squealed with happiness, a huge smile despite his teary eyes and puffy, sick face. Couch- $30. PJ in a moment of pure joy.- Priceless. 

Picking out the joyful moments is always a dose of medicine for a bad day (or week...). However, it's becoming increasingly clear that holding my upset in doesn't help at all. There should be a balance of both, and it's something I would like to work on. But, in the meantime, the lovely moments are my swimmies in a pool of suck. Just keep swimming! 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

All the things to get and keep getting...

things on thursday

Already with the selfies and cute girls. Oy. 
...PJ's last cheer performance for the season was this past Saturday! This was such an amazing experience for us, and it was a little sad watching the season come to an end. It will be no fun to spend our Friday nights doing anything else but heading to the gym for practice, despite the horrible traffic on the way there! PJ learned and grew and loved so much, and I will be endlessly thankful for this unusual opportunity for my son.
I mean, seriously. This kid is a super star! 

...Sunday, of course, was Easter, and Pete and I filled a small basket of goodies (and a large chocolate bunny on the side) for PJ the night before. A little candy, a few trains, and a few eggs hidden about the living room made for a smiley boy on Easter morning.

I know. We are so not religious.

PJ is an excellent eater, so a few days a year of nonsense don't really phase me. This attitude resulted in PJ having copious amounts of chocolate, my living room littered with pastel foil wrappers. Pete and I let him go to town on a giant, now deaf, chocolate bunny.

"You're going down, dude."

The kids enjoyed the Annual Cousin Easter Egg Hunt. PJ's method of hunting for eggs was to step on each plastic shell, pluck out the candy, and leave the open egg on the ground, the nerd. What a nerd! And now, Easter 2014 is in the bag. It was a loud, full, fun, beautiful day!

Copious cousins cheese cheerfully. 

...it has been a bit of an emotional week, and I am looking forward to a fun, busy weekend of soccer, Sesame Place, and celebrating Pete's birthday with friends, fun, and delicious food! The weather is getting warmer, buds are blooming on the trees, and the air has that amazing feeling of the new season. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Go to the ends of the earth for you...

I never published this post from Monday...)

Yesterday was a beautiful Easter Sunday, 
Full of family and food and nice clothes and candy
Pete and I fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow. 
PJ joined us in bed at some point
(as is his custom)
And we woke up, together, as a family. 
But the glow quickly faded.
We all had the post-holiday hangover,
Not from alcohol but from too much food and fun and candy.
PJ was out-of sorts, annoyed with my denials to his requests of chocolate. 
He was grumpy and difficult and off-focus. 
Pete is at work tonight so he slept the day away. 
Even though PJ could have used an early bedtime, 
We went to the park instead. 
I was hoping that a bath in the gorgeous evening light
Would help give us back our glow
Before PJ got his actual bath. 
It worked, and by bedtime
I found myself lingering over his bedtime story 
And indulging his request for extra hugs
And "forty-ten" kisses. 
It's hard to remember,
When I am tapped out on patience and understanding and
Good Parenting Skills in general,
That those are the times PJ needs me to be at my best. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I've got a mouth like a sailor and yours is more like a Hallmark card.

{...things on thursday}

...To start off, the April Wallet Watch has been going terribly! When I set the guidelines, I forgot about a number of things that were scheduled this month, including cheer competitions, birthdays, and some outings we had planned with PJ. While some of the rules I set- no coffees, no clothes, no donuts- have stuck, but a few others, such as dinners out...pffffft. We celebrated after PJ's cheer competition with lunch at Friendly's, and grabbed a pizza on the way home from a trip to a children's museum (tired). In fact, we have failed so badly at sticking to our budget that other people have been spending our money! Which brings me to...

...last week, I asked Pete to check our bank account to see if our tax refund had been deposited. He checked and discovered fraudulent charges to the tune of nearly $2000. What. The. HELL? Flowers, textbooks, an online dating service, and a huge charge to some weird website. It's hard to know where and how the info was breached- Pete swears by his It Was Target theory, and we cancelled my card (which, by the way, he seemed a little too gleeful about cutting up...). Either way, the fraud department of our bank is on it, nobody was actually physically mugged, and we're not left destitute by the theft. So, there's something to be thankful for. Also, a dating service? *snort*

...I got new glasses! So not exciting enough to blog about, but I picked them out all by myself and they are actually flattering. If you have never seen how I usually dress/accessorize myself, then you don't truly understand what a coup this is.

...my sister, Marla, is one brave bad ass. It's been mentioned a few times before, but it's worth saying again. She takes hit after hit and keeps going with a great attitude and cute bag. This past Monday we spent an unexpected morning in the ER. Her sense of humor and perseverance amaze me all of the time. If and when things get hard for PJ, I know he has my sister to look up to and know that getting through the tough crap is possible.

...today is PJ's last day of school before his abbreviated Easter break. Thanks to Mother Nature, he only has three days off instead of six. It ruined our original plans, but I will look forward to whatever family time we can get! Now, my only problem is that Easter in in three days and I don't have an outfit for him yet. Fail.

...this commercial. Oh. My.

...and last, thank you to everyone who left such sweet, rewarding, heartfelt comments on my post from yesterday. Don't forget that you can still enter to win Carry On, Warrior in paperback! I am so excited to share this with you! After you enter to win the contest, read this post from Momastery today. Glennon tells the truths that I am learning as we speak, but with more grace and honesty than I could ever manage. Please, check it out, and enter to win her book!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Well, I won't give up on us... {my messy beautiful}

I have always had a messy life. Being the type of kid who often had to spend hours cleaning her room by way of pleading, cajoling, and threats from my mom, messy was my motto. It may have looked like a cyclone on the outside, but it was smooth seas inside.

Fast forward into my adulthood, where I found I had no greater capacity for neatness than I did as a teen. I married my husband Pete and thought I might develop a sudden propensity for housework with that ring on my finger, but no such luck. Books live in haphazard piles, laundry piles up, and I forget to take out the recycling all the time.

Eight months after we were married, we became pregnant with our son, PJ. He was born nearly 5 months after our 1st anniversary. We quickly fell into the chaos that only new parents know, drifting past each other in a sleepy haze as we doted on this amazing being that had stormed into our lives. We tended to our son with everything we had, through his infancy into toddler-hood and into his diagnosis of Autism shortly after he turned two. Parenthood in and of itself changed everything, but that diagnosis...the discovery that PJ had Autism turned my world upside down. I  threw myself into every aspect of his therapies, tracked every milestone as they crept by. I vaguely noticed that, maybe, I wasn't tending to my marriage, but it wasn't a concern I took very seriously. I certainly didn't consider the idea that Pete was drifting away. There was a growing valley between us as I wildly tried to keep my son connected to the world- what was more important?

This time last year, I was in bed reading Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Melton (of Momastery fame) and came across an essay entitled "Easter", detailing the demolition and rebuilding of her marriage to her husband. She spoke of going through the motions of love and marriage- just enough sex, just enough affection, just...enough. There was no way to pinpoint what was happening between them but to say that there was a disconnect. I nodded as I read, saying "Yes. This. This is what I would say to Pete, written down perfectly." I wanted to show it to him, but instead, I rolled over and went to sleep.

I never reached out. Pete didn't, either, and a few months later, it all came to a head. A late night, a lot of blame, and the worst fight we had ever had brought us to the decision to take leave of our marriage. Pete didn't sleep at home again for nearly four months. My son was confused, and although we worked together as a team for his sake, the tension between us was palpable, even to an Autistic toddler. His moods and behavior declined- another thing that was sacrificed  on this messy alter, and I despised myself for causing his hurt. Still, I couldn't simply roll over and go back to way things were between Pete and I, and neither could I just go for the clean break. Instead, we sought counseling.

It took a few tries, but we found a good therapist. This ended up being the decision that, in the end, gave our marriage a new heartbeat and continues to sustain it. Every week, we go in and sit on the couch and we agree to lay. it. all. out. There's no hiding, no avoidance, no pretense. And let me tell you something, folks. It's hard for me. I had to bring all of my hurt and accusations and broken, missing pieces to the table, and I also had to prepare myself for the understanding that I wasn't simply a victim in our marital troubles. I carried a bucket full of blame myself. Pete and I, both, had wandered so far from where we started, and in two different directions. Our therapist is our road map, easing us off the wrong path by asking the right questions to help us find a new path.

It's been nearly a year since that terrible night, and while we have come so far, we still have miles to go. Miles. The road is bumpy, messy, rocky, and soooooooooooooooo looooooooooong. And it's still cluttered with books and laundry and PJ's toys. In so many ways, the road looks the same. It's Pete and I who look different. But, that's the good news, right? There is a road ahead of us. Us. 

I'm so excited to take part in the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project! To learn more about Carry On, Warrior, just released in paperback, and join in the project, CLICK HERE

Want to WIN a copy of Carry On, Warrior in it's new, pretty, paperback form??? Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, April 5, 2014

There's a champion in everyone!

Just a quick post tonight:

It's been a very long, busy week, and it was capped off today with a cheer competition for PJ and his Storm Twister teammates. We headed over to the Philadelphia Convention Center on a gorgeous morning so the kids could show off for the crowds, and they didn't disappoint!

Notice how PJ perfectly executes the little-known cheer move Lie On Your Belly and Look Cute! Two of our kids had to miss the performance today, leaving PJ more time than usual for his tumble solo. We added the headstand, but the lay-down-and-clap move was purely interpretive! He's so avant-garde!

In the name of honesty, we paid a Goddamn fortune for parking and then took PJ to Friendly's for lunch and ice cream to celebrate, both of which are in direct defiance of the spending guidelines for April. That is mostly because I forgot about today when we set the budget. We did not have to go to Friendly's but we certainly had to park! Either way.

Tomorrow is the Hot Chocolate Run with Randi, and my fat ass has to be out of bed by 5am. So I am going to bid you good night and go pre-load the Keurig with coffee.

A few more pictures from our day:

Friday, April 4, 2014

...I'm pretty sure it ruled!

So, here's Friday.

1. {drum roll!} The winner of the FREE four-pack of lift tickets to ski Killington Mountain is Kate! She is from the Boston area and blogs over at Another Clean Slate. Thanks to everyone who entered, particularly new friends! I have enjoyed checking out your blogs!

2. Randi and I ventured into Philly this morning to pick up our race packets for the Hot Chocolate Run this Sunday. Although Randi has run a marathon, she has agreed to run the 5k race with me. This will be a walk in the park for her but is a very big deal for me. As a general rule, I don't like to run. But I promised her I would give this a shot and, truth be told, as my endurance improved, so did my tolerance for running. So, Sunday should be a lot of fun! Plus, we got a cute bag filled with goodies (including a VERY nice running jacket!) along with our race bib!

3. PJ got to try out horseback riding lessons! We headed over to F & M Farm in Thorofare, NJ to get saddled up. PJ loved the horse, a sweet girl named Ellie (who is actually a member of our family as she is owed by the sister of my sister-in-law!). PJ started off brushing Ellie, which helped both human and horse become better acquainted. Then, PJ got his helmet on and climbed was lifted into the saddle. The lesson started with PJ being taught the basic command to get Ellie to walk and stop. He was doing well, but the helmet was a little too big for him, and the strap was too distracting. Soon, all of his focus was on taking off the helmet, so we had to cut the ride short. But, that aside, PJ seemed to enjoy the farm and can potentially get a lot out of riding, so we are going to get him a better-fitting helmet and try it again!

4. I wrote a piece for South Jersey Mom Magazine about the dynamic between siblings when one of the children has Autism. I had some amazing families who were willing to share their story with me, and felt so thankful for the opportunity to share those stories with others. If you're interested, you can find the article, along with the most recent issue of South Jersey Mom here.

5. PJ has his last "big" cheer competition tomorrow (pictures to follow, natch.) and I am excited for the event but so sad for our cheer season to be winding down. We have so many fun things to look forward to (soccer, swim lessons, horseback riding) and we are so lucky for that! But this has been so much fun, and PJ has learned so much over this season.

And that's all she wrote!

Hope you had a cool Friday! 

Linking up! 

(a few more pictures of PJ and Ellie, and the farm!)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

There's still much to learn, so many dreams to earn...

{...stream of consciousness}

Today is April 2nd, World Autism Awareness Day, and it is Autism Awareness Month.

The month begins on the heels of news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that Autism is on the rise. 1 in 68 children in the areas followed by the CDC are identified as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder, up from 1 in 88 just a few years ago. In New Jersey, the numbers are far higher then the national average at 1 in 45. 

You can view a summary of the latest CDC report here, but there are two points of the report that stood out to me:
  1. Less than half (44%) of children identified with ASD were evaluated for developmental concerns by the time they were 3 years old.
  2. Most children identified with ASD were not diagnosed until after age 4, even though children can be diagnosed as early as age 2.

PJ was diagnosed with Autism shortly after his second birthday. Pete and I had already utilized an evaluation with our state Early Intervention program, which allowed for PJ to have nearly six months of therapy under his belt by the time we received the official "Yup. It's Autism." I think about how lucky we were to be surrounded by supportive staff at our pediatrician office, who didn't say things like, "Well, he's a boy." or "It's not that he can't talk, he just won't." 

I don't think that the people who say things like that say them out of malice or ignorance. Not at all, and I am sure there are some amazing physicians out there who just aren't alarmist, and might not recommend action when a milestone has just been missed. PJ was hitting all of his milestones late- rolling, walking, teething- so when he still only had a few words at 15 months, we were concerned but not alarmed. It was pure instinct that led us to follow-up again when nothing had changed by 17 months, and I am very, very thankful that our physicians trusted that instinct and gave us the correct information, allowing us to follow through with our concerns. 

Autism is on the rise, and while it's certainly something to be concerned about, it shouldn't consume you. If someone was dumb enough to ask me for advice, I would say "Enjoy every minute with your baby. That baby is yours and wonderful and perfect. Don't obsess, but always trust your instincts, and try to work with people who will understand and respect those instincts, be that your spouse or pediatrician or pre-school teacher. You are, always, the people who knows your child best and the strongest and most qualified advocate for that child."

We are thankful for every second of therapy PJ has had. Seeing PJ grow and learn and stretch and love has been all the reassure that we need. It is never too late to start therapy- not by a long shot. But it is never too early, either, and it's up to us as parents to decide which road to take. 

Every child develops at his or her own rate, and it is up to you to decide if that rate is the right one for your child. Watch carefully, listen to your heart, and in the meantime, love, love, love those babies. Emphasis on the latter.