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our little bumblebee July 21, 2011

Posted by caizooka in autism parenting.
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I had an interesting train of thought the other day when I was trying to explain how O talks. He is like Bumblebee in the Transformer movies. It makes perfect sense. Bumblebee ‘speaks’ through utilizing different song bits to express his voice. So does O. He will use a snippet of Scooby Doo, then the very next sentence he uses the words of Elmo from Sesame Street, then Ming Ming from Wonder Pets, then Ironman. It’s quite a concoction. But, to us, it’s our norm. In the beginning it’s hard to understand, but we’ve learned to decode what he is saying and hardly even notice whose words, or what character’s words he is using. The point is that although he might be using someone else’s words, we who know him well, can hear his voice. Just like Bumblebee. Although he, too, uses different songs’ words and tunes, it is voice that you hear once you know him.

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the summer of boredom July 5, 2011

Posted by caizooka in autism parenting.
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Welcome to summer in our household. I’ve taken upon myself to create ‘the summer of boredom’. It’s a long story how I got here, but I’m intent upon seeing this through. I believe in the principle whole-heartedly. I’m tired of being a slave to everyone else’s schedules only to have them unhappy and irritated at the end of the day. Is it all worth it? I often ask myself, ‘what am I doing?’. Every summer until now has involved a tremendously complicated schedule of who has to be where and when. The process begins in January…what camps? …will my child make baseball All Stars?…if not, we need a back up plan…if they do, how long will they play for?…who else is in the camps you are signing up for?…will my child even be friends with them when the camp rolls around?…can I afford this?!!

There is this unbelievable pressure that you feel if your kid isn’t trying to excel at EVERYTHING at EVERY GIVEN TIME. Gone are the days that you just give you kids time to ‘be’. Make some mistakes, find their creativity, learn their own strengths, be silly, and find out what their balance of their own expectations of themselves is with that of their family’s. I know…there is the flip side of this where if you give your kids too much room that they’ll dive into the world of drugs and become hoodlums. Quite honestly though, I wonder if another group of kids might be more susceptible to this…the group that are pushed so intensely by their parents in sports and academics to achieve, achieve, achieve . They want to revolt against the constant pressure. The looks on their faces of sheer agony when they miss that goal, miss that basket, lost that game.

I feel like I’ve been given a chance to just step back, enjoy, and let my kids just ‘be’ for the summer. They all have some things to do. We got a puppy last week that we’ve been planning for. We’re learning together how to care for him. We are going to learn how to fish. We are spending time with family. J is going to an Outward Bounds trip in Maine for 2 weeks. That will eat up most of our family’s entertainment budget…but it is worth every single penny. I’m so excited for him to learn. Learn about himself. Learn what his mind tells him to do, what song his heart sings, and how his spirituality speaks to him. What a wonderful opportunity for a 14 year old boy. He’s had a year that would make most veer off course, but he has held strong. Very strong. Unbelievably strong. I want him to be proud to be himself and to create his own internal barometer for his life. I want that for all of my kids. Hence, the summer of boredom endures…learning how to be bored is something that kids these days in our world aren’t often given the space to just ‘be’. The voids are seemingly filled with passive activities like tv, video games, etc.

Growing up, we certainly knew how to be bored. We built forts, we roller skated, we made up words that made no sense for no reason and laughed hysterically. It is great to have a sense of others’ expectations and a sense of humility. But, is over programmed and being told what to do at all hours the answer? Say what you might, but what seems to be missing in the kids these days is their own voice. They are so busy ‘being’ for someone else, for something else, that they hesitate to express themselves in that.

It kills me that my kids stand there waiting for the next direction from me. I hear things like, ‘I want to play with your iPhone’, ‘I want to watch a kids show!’ ‘What are we doing next?’ ‘When are we going to …’ Dare I declare that those days are over in our house?!! Well, I’m certainly going to make a concerted effort to make a change.

We recently attended the Ironman celebration in Coeur d’Alene to cheer my sister on. (btw, what an awesome event…so proud of my sis!!!) The kids were all sitting on the hillside complaining that they were ‘bored’. My mom told them to ‘find something to do’. About 10 minutes later they were all down on the street handing out water, powerade, ice, and cheers to the passing athletes. The older kids helping the younger kids. They didn’t have to be told to do it. They did it because they wanted to. They had a really, really great time doing it, too!  If they had been asked or told to do this they would have dragged their feet and revolted to no end, causing pure misery to everyone in their paths, including themselves.

I’m not a crunchy, make your own clothes, shoot your own meat, kinda gal. In case you were wondering and don’t know me. I do know that the lessons that I’ve learned the most from in life were the ones in which I had to learn on my own. The ones in which I was inspired by others and was guided by their confidence in me, given space to grow, yet not told what to do. And very importantly, I knew I was loved no matter what.

my thank you speech July 1, 2011

Posted by caizooka in autism parenting.
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This is the speech that I wrote for J’s 8th grade graduation. I wrote and read this with the intent of saying ‘thank you’ to a community of whom rallied for our son. We are so grateful…
———-
About 4 years ago, J came home and said confidently, ‘I am going to go to Villa’. We said, ‘sure, seems like a nice group of kids, high academic standards, superb teachers, and a good community’.  He started at Villa 3 years ago. He learned some amazing study skills, built some incredible friendships, and his life was truly enhanced by his study of the Cabrini traditions.

But, then November 21st, 2010 happened. Playing the sport that he loved, J suffered a traumatic brain injury. It was an unbelievably scary time. Not knowing if he would come out of it and what he would be like. There was a constant during this time, however, and that was the unwavering love, support, and prayer that this community extended to our family. 

In watching the slideshow yesterday, it was abundantly clear to me just how special each of these kids are. They take care of each other. They put someone else’s needs before their own. When one of theirs is down, they pick them up. It has been a privilege to bear witness to the pure kindness and love that they have poured into their prayers, their cards, their posters, their messages, and the way that they have made J feel appreciated, cherished, and important. 

You would be amazed at how the teachers, staff, and administration put so much careful thought and consideration into to his return. They did everything possible for him to be successful. There is even a sofa in the library that was set aside if he ever got tired, he could rest on.

We feel moments of awkwardness because it is so difficult to articulate the deep appreciation that we have for this community. Each one of you has left an indelible impression upon us. Life will never be the same. Colors are more vivid, flavors more intense, intentions more pure. 

We are humbled by the blessings of God and the true power of prayer. J and our family were guided to your community by the hand of God and were graced in your presence. 

You have inspired us. You have taught us to love whole heartedly, to laugh from of the bottom of our souls, and to see the blessings lurking around every corner…even in the most inconspicuous of places.
Thank you.