Here's Why

Grace for the process.

Here goes.

I’m sitting on my couch with a heating pad, my laptop, and a cup of coffee. The screen door is open. I put a blanket over my legs and a podcast on the speakers.

And I don’t know what to do with myself.

The girls are napping, and Jack is at his second full day of “school”.

I mean, it’s kind of school. It’s… therapy? Clinic? Center-based services? It’s just easier to call it school. So let’s.

I’ve gotten better about writing about harder things, but I haven’t gotten good at it. This is a hard thing, and here goes.

Jack received an Autism Spectrum Disorders diagnosis this summer. I sought it out, pursued it — I knew a diagnosis would qualify us for services that Jack needed.

And I prayed and hoped and convinced myself that he wouldn’t get it.

But he did. He did qualify. And the doctor said: “Jack has many strengths. Fifteen percent of these kiddos outgrow this disorder by six-years old. If he gets intensive help, if he gets ABA therapy for 40 hours a week, we could see this go away.”

And this made me want to throw up. This made me want to punch something. This still brings stinging, mean, angry tears to my eyes. Because how dare you give me some kind of false hope, some kind of maybe.

I hate maybes.

And while this post is about Jack, it’s mostly about his mom. It’s mostly about how I am leaning in to this diagnosis.

It’s about being disappointed in myself for not learning the lesson that has been handed to me, over and over again. I get it, God. Thick skull.

You’d think I’d stop believing I was the one driving this boat.

Nope. The news broadcasted details of my divorce on the evening news. My sister went braindead even though I squeezed her limp hand over and over. And no matter how hard I “teach” him, no matter what I research and Pinterest and practice, Jack has Autism.

Exhale. Sometimes, that’s the one-way track my brain hurtles down.

I’m still going to paint my life in my dreams. I’m still going to hope and imagine and plan. I know this because nothing has ever been able to change that. This is about being proud that I know myself better these days.

But I’m also going to be honest: Right now, I am grieving. I’m feeling this, I’ve been feeling this, and this sucks.

I try not to think the hard things. Will Jack be made fun of? Will he ever date? Will he ever live on his own? Are the girls developing on pace? I try not to borrow tomorrow’s heartache. I try to give it the middle finger. Every day. Errrrr. Day.

Thick skull or not, here’s a thing I have learned: It’s ok to sit in the suck. For me, and you, and humans, it’s part of the process. It’s good to mourn the loss of how we thought it would be.

We (humans) are so uncomfortable with other people being uncomfortable. We want to fix it, fix it fast, and we go about this ‘fixing’ by telling people that’s everything is going to be ok, that they are strong, and then telling them just where their bootstraps can be located.

I am very guilty of this.

In the Autism world, this means: “You are super mom! You are the best mom for him. Have you tried essential oils? Have you tried eliminating gluten? Join this Facebook group. See this doctor, he’s the best.”

I’m trying to try (it’s a thing) to practice self compassion. To give myself grace in the process. For me, like too many other people, I’ve got enough firm; I need a little more gentle. The job will still get done. Me, I’m resilient and tough and I bounce back. I will tackle the challenge, no matter how I do it. I will kick this one’s ass, too. It’s my job, and it’s my job to do it well.

But this time, I’m not going to shove past my vulnerable spots. I’m not going to demand that I instantly redefine what my life looks like. I’ll get there.

Sometimes, you plan your life out and it blows up in your face. And sometimes, no matter how much organic produce and prenatal vitamins you consume, your kid is born different.

Sometimes, when we need it to be the most, life is not in our control.





Lean in.

My niece Miley is 9-years old. Recently, she ran for class representative. All of the candidates had to give a speech and then the class voted. In her speech, she said things like, “I’d make a great class representative because if I had to choose between being right and being kind, I’d choose being kind.”

She lost.

Her teacher messaged my sister the night before the announcement so that Michelle could prepare Miley. When my sister told me, I could physically feel my heart just crumple in my chest.

Instantly, I had about two dozen flashbacks. What it felt like when I didn’t see my name on the list after 7th grade volleyball tryouts. Falling down the stairs in front of the varsity boys’ soccer team my very first day of high school. Getting my first B in sophomore geometry. Hearing people laugh at me when I tried out for a school play. Failing my driver’s test the first time. And the second.

(Hey, I get test anxiety, ok?)

And really, there’s a lot more. You don’t get through public school unscathed. At least not when you’re a big-nosed, bushy-eyebrowed twerp with braces and a perm who openly plays with dolls past the fifth grade.

(Looking back, someone should have pulled me aside and told me: you’re the best kind of kid. Kids like you make fantastic adults. Then again, maybe I’m just super narcissistic and hope that my spawn are just like me in some respects.)

These aren’t nearly the worst of the blows life has afforded me. (Wouldn’t that be great?! If getting an 87% on my sophomore report card was my biggest not-good-enough moment?!) But it sure did feel like it at the time, each time, and oh man do I ever remember that same exact feeling and recognize it the second it comes knocking. It’s the same gut-churning, can’t breathe, fiery hot feeling every time: shame.

When I heard about Miley, I’d have done anything to go back in time, storm the fourth grade, and rig the vote. Anything to stand between her and that burning sensation.

And if I could, I’d go back to the 90’s (brave, I know) and tell the knock-kneed kid who got cut from volleyball that she’d make softball and field hockey, and those were way better. I’d tell her that all that extra pretending and make-believing she did would pay off when she was a teacher and a mom. I’d tell her that you can pay to straighten up a broken nose, but a crooked heart is damn near impossible to fix.

I’d tell her so many things, but most of all I’d tell her about how that ugly feeling is one of the reasons why we’re put here, and that if I’ve learned anything, you shouldn’t be afraid of it. You should lean into it. You should wrestle it. You should pound it with your fists and call it by its name. Because everyone, everyone, knows it. Because everyone has had it knock them down time and time again, and because your pain isn’t special — but it is valuable. So feel every ounce of it and learn how to fail better next time.

fail better

Also, I’d tell her to make a friend like Miley. Because when she found out that she’d lost the vote, she shrugged and said, “I think I’ll probably run for vice president next year.”




Today started at 4:45 am. Jack was UP. “Mommmmma. MaaaaaaMaaaaaaa. Mommmm.” He lays on the ground behind his and Carter’s door (which has one of those child-proofers on the inside doorknob to prevent 2-year old escapees) and calls me until I come get him. Carter sleeps through all of this from the top bunk. It’s a Monday — and the first day of school — but my 6am alarm setting was clearly unnecessary.

Jack eats two of Saturday’s leftover pancakes from a Ziplock in the fridge as I put the coffee on, toss in a load of laundry and unload the dishwasher. I rub my eyes and my right contact RIPS IN HALF. I spend a considerable amount of time manually peeling back my eyelids and rolling my eyeball around until the missing half plops out. Gross.

Elizabeth gets up at 6:06, eats, and goes back to bed. Jack and I watch Frozen on the couch. Well, Jack crawls on me while Frozen plays in the background. I brush my teeth and apply concealer on, uh, everything. At 6:30, we wake up Carter. More pancakes, on with the new school clothes, lunchbox packed. I take pictures. So many pictures. Wake up Charlotte and feed her. Wrangle Jack into his special “muscle” shirt. Load him and Carter into their carseats. Then load up baby carseats. Carry one into the car, click it in, return for the next. Drive to school. Navigate crazy first-day crowds. Drop off.

It’s 8am.

I spend the next hour and a half feeding one twin and then the next with my phone squashed between my ear and my shoulder, trying to get in touch with doctors and developmental specialists for Jack. So many waitlists.

We do Play Doh for a while. “Sensory work”. Squish, roll, stamp. We mold pancakes and tacos, pretend to eat birthday cakes and pizzas. We make blankets and helmets for Iron Man. “Imaginative play.”

I set Jack up with a snack and make another phone call while changing round three of  diapers. Meanwhile, he ditches the spoon, opting to eat his blueberry yogurt with his fist. Elizabeth poops on me. The receptionist puts me on another waitlist.

I load them up again (four trips from house to garage, not bad) and drop the girls off at my mom’s before we drive to toddler tumbling. “Heavy work”. When we get there, it’s cancelled.

Annnnd it’s 11am.


I’m writing this down because this is what the days are right now. Because it’s 9pm now and I’m laying awake after trying to go to sleep when the kids went down (except I can still here Jack laying behind his door). Because when tomorrow starts, today will be a blur.  Because even though “they” never told me that momming is this hard, they did tell me that I should write things down. Also because someone on the radio this morning said that marriages that survive having young children are more likely to last and all I could think was WHAT ABOUT MOMS? DO I LAST?

I am trying so hard to drive this truck, but gravel keeps flying up and getting all in my grill.

Actually, it’s a mini van. There’s a lady in my neighborhood that drives a truck with a “Silly boys, trucks are for girls” sticker, and I just — ugh. All I ever think when I see it is WHO HAS TIME TO LIVE LIKE THAT?!

Which is probably not a normal reaction to a bumper sticker.

I have lots of questions, and I am so tired, and I beat myself up inside my head and then Jack steps on my toes and someone calls or emails with bad news and the floor is a mess and I honestly think I’m going to explode or cry but instead I make dinner.

Every day.


(This whiny rant should be paired with these pictures. Because life is good, and because I’m doing it right, I think, and because if you had to read that, you deserve to see these.)