A family's story

Posts tagged ‘Growing Up’

I am “here”.

I saw that a friend from high school got published on Scary Mommy. Her post was brave. It was powerful. It inspired me to write again–thanks, Jeanine! (You can sneak a peak here: http://www.scarymommy.com/dear-college-boys-in-the-school-bookstore/)

Oh, my poor, neglected blog. I don’t come here as often as I used to. Raising 3 boys, maintaining a steady level of chaos and balance, volunteering and experiencing life as a family do that. I’m an almost 40-year-old stay-at-home mom to a middle schooler, a fourth grader and a first grader. I don’t even know how I got “here”, but “here” I am.

Just to keep everyone abreast of the boys’ lives, they are doing well. We have our bumps, but overall, they are growing and learning and finding their way. Jake is navigating middle school. Tate is embracing his status as “the oldest Hope boy” so well at the elementary school. And Cole is just so damn typical. Seriously. I love it and want to rip my hair out at the same time.

Anyway, getting back to being “here”. I have three boys in school full time. Six years ago my plan was to be back in the workforce by now, earning a paycheck, and having a career. Then, well, life happened. So, I scrapped my original plan, and Hubz and I moved ahead with a new one. I’m living the life of a mom whose work lies within the confines of being a parent and probably the only non-ADHD member of the home, so at least one of us has some good executive functioning skills!

If anyone thinks that I “just” stay at home, well, don’t I wish!!! With my “free” time, I volunteer at the elementary school. I am able to help in Cole’s class with literacy stations and with teacher projects. I’m able to run PTO events and assist my friends with their endeavors at the school, as well. I’m even able to have lunch, on occasion, with other moms whom work flexible schedules or are still at home, themselves. Additionally, I run errands, grocery shop, shuttle kids and their friends to therapy, practices and games, and I still manage to find time to grab a latte most days!

I have a sixth grader. In our district, sixth grade is in a middle school. His schedule reminds me of my high school schedule. It’s likely as demanding as my life was in ninth grade, although, I never had to contend with ADHD nor learning difficulties. And yet, my kid is still kicking butt! I am so proud of the maturity with which he is handling this new phase in his life. I, on the other hand, feel as insecure as I did when I was 12. I mean, 10 different teachers, 10 periods, homework every night, gaah!!!

I have a fourth grader. He’s also going to be 10 in six months. How is my Tater “going on 10”?! I remember “going on 10”. I love watching his expanding experiences. He’s learning so much. And he’s doing it rather successfully. I’m not sure if I would have been able to handle as much as he has to handle every day, and he does it with few complaints, and often, with a smile and a giggle.

I have a first grader. Scratch that. My BABY is a first grader. I can’t even. This is the one that tends to blow my mind. Wasn’t Jake just my trailblazing first grader?! It’s amazing to see how much has changed in just 5 years. The curriculum is more rigorous. The demands are high. And my little Cole is doing first grade like.a.boss. Not that I would think he would handle it any other way, as he’s always taken on experiences and tasks that are clearly above his age level. But he is. And he makes me so proud every day as he learns to make the choices that are right, but not always easy.

I am almost forty. For serious. In three and a half months I join the “Fabulous at 40” club. I have some friends that are already reaching this milestone birthday. How did we get here?! I remember the year MY mom turned 40. It was a big joke about how old she was. I really never understood it until it started to happen to me, but holy cow, I completely feel no older than 25, and many times, in terms of being awkward or unsure of myself, I still feel 15. My birth certificate and driver’s license beg to differ, however. Guess I’ll just keep on practicing “fake it ’til I make it”.

I have been working on being healthy and taking care of myself. When I peaked the scales this summer, I realized that I can’t continue to gain weight every year. I no longer felt comfortable in my skin, and I was achy and exhausted all of the time. The diet of cheese, bread, and ice cream (which I really, really, REALLY wish I could sustain) was catching up to me. I took charge. I work out five days a week. I eat relatively healthily most days. I have cut out most processed carbs. I have reduced my cheese intake. I feel so much better. My knees don’t hurt when I sit down. My back isn’t achy every night. My jeans fit again. And, AND, I went in a belt notch. Wooohooooo!

Hubz and I will be celebrating our fifteenth wedding anniversary in a month. FIFTEEN YEARS. How the heck did that happen? Weren’t we just planning our wedding? We have grown up together, he and I. We’ve learned a thing, or ten, about commitment, love, communication, parenting, home ownership, sump pumps, purchasing a HOUSE, finding a good doctor, finding a second opinion, navigating school-aged children, navigating IEPs, coping with loss. We may not be as young (or as thin) as we used to be, but we are definitely still as in love. I don’t mean that as a cheesy statement. I really mean it. I know that he’s got my back. He knows I’ve got his. We’ve worked on so much together..and our lives are so intertwined. I love that. Neither of us would be the person we are today if it weren’t for the other.

When I started this blog, I used it as a way to process through Tate’s autism diagnosis and all that goes with that. Back then, I was trying to find a way to figure out what autism meant to our family, what it meant for Tate, and I felt the need to share everything with the world as a way to process through it. Today, autism is still a part of our lives, but I am not able to share everything. I know what MY experience with raising a son with autism is like, but I know that for all of the similarities, there are so many differences. I also know that if anyone has a question about autism, they are likely much better served by asking someone who is autistic, rather than a mom of an autistic kid. I mean, I have experiences AS A PARENT that I am happy to share, but I can’t tell anyone what it’s like to be autistic. I’ll leave that to many others…including Tate, whom says, “it is what I do.”

Often, I still find myself “between hope and a hard place”. Sometimes that hard place comes from a parenting moment, or watching my children navigate their worlds, and sometimes it comes from my being pulled into umpteen different directions. I am going to try to write more. I MISS that. But my writing may often focus on topics not autism related. Sometimes the topics may not even be parenting-related. But they will be Lisa-life-related, and THAT is my expertise.

Middle School is looming…

April 29th. How the heck is it already April 29th?! This year really seems to have moved full speed ahead!!! The boys are done with this school year in 6 weeks. I am ironing out therapy, summer school, and summer activity schedules right now. It seems so far away, and yet, so close.

I also can’t believe that we are nearing the end of the school year. Big changes loom ahead. Jake heads off to middle school in the fall. MIDDLE SCHOOL. I hated middle school…well, back then it was called Junior High. And who am I kidding, I went to a K-8 parochial school…but the 6-8 graders did have their own area of the school. It was the armpit of my educational experience. Yuck. I am trying not to project that too much upon him.

This is another step closer to his independence, to him being a “big” kid. Middle schoolers are required to know their schedules, juggle locker combinations, dress in a PE uniform for gym, and switch classrooms for every period. That’s a lot of moving around and keeping things straight for any child, let alone for a kiddo with executive functioning issues, focus and attention issues, and anxiety. I need to calm my own anxiety so that I will be able to help him with strategies as the struggles occur. And they will occur…but hopefully we can work through them and stop struggles from taking over.

Middle School also means a new IEP team. A new group of teachers, specialists, and the like. We are currently in the process of re-evaluation. It’s time for his 3-year reassessment. I know he’ll still qualify for services, but I’m also nervous about what may come out of this meeting. Unfortunately, we had already had his yearly review meeting in February, in which it was recommended that he take Instructional Math and Instructional Reading/Language Arts, which are smaller classes. We worry that he will lose ground on the curriculum. He is in a co-taught classroom for other subjects.

With the reevaluation, I’m hoping that he will score higher in language arts/reading to justify a co-taught experience. I really do think he can handle it. It’s not like he doesn’t get support at home. We have tutors, he works with me, he works with Hubz. I just think he CAN do it, if that is what we expect of him. The math, well, the math I understand. He is floundering. It would help if he used his tools…and if the teachers reinforced that he should use his tools. I understand that he needs to be independent and needs to figure some things out on his own, but seriously, give the kid a checklist so that he has a reminder of what he CAN use in class to help him.

As much as Jake continues to have academic struggles, it has been a banger year for social/emotional growth. He is doing amazingly well. We had to make some tough decisions, but ultimately, our choices have worked well. He is happier, more well-adjusted, and able to address triggers and cope with them. He is playing with the boys on the playground and eating lunch with them in the cafeteria. He is a part of it…instead of being mothered by the girls, he has friends…and his confidence is growing by leaps and bounds.

Middle school also means new friends. Two and a half elementary schools feed into our middle school. The kids that he’s grown up with over the past 6 years know him and his quirks. They know they have to wait and be patient. They know he talks too much when he’s nervous, and that he will defer to talking about animals when he doesn’t know what else to say. They help him a lot, too. But the other 100+ new sixth graders don’t know him like that…and what happens then? I am not even going to let myself think about 7th and 8th graders. I just may faint.

I know it’s a right of passage. I know that we all have had to figure these things out..and that we have all had our share of failure and success. I just hope beyond hope that he is okay…and that we’ve given him enough tools to be successful.

They’re Not So Little…

I noticed something lately…and it’s kind of strange. I have been able to pee alone for a little while now. I mean, someone may be on the other side of the door, but I can LOCK IT…and I am not worried about imminent danger for my children. Tate may rattle off his scripts from the other side of the door. Cole may call my name eleventy-billion times from the other side, but really, I don’t have anyone IN THERE with me. After 10 years of having someone sitting around as I do my business, it’s glorious to be be able to use the bathroom without an audience!!

I’ve also been able to get dinner done (when I choose to actually cook) without trying to juggle umpteen different needs and wants. If Cole or Tate need help, Jake is able to assist. If the boys want to play outside, I shove them into the backyard and keep the screen open to listen for shouts of pain, but mostly just hear shouts of boys being boys. They bicker, they are pretending to be various characters or people, but I don’t have to sit out there and watch their every.single.move.

My house is staying somewhat neater, as well. Don’t get me wrong, we still have massive clutter and there is a family of dust bunnies planning their revenge under my couch, but I don’t have nearly as many spills, goobers, or mysterious smears to clean up. Instead, I have more time to stay on top of household chores that I typically chose to ignore, like keeping closets picked up and organized, knowing where I put important papers, shredding junk mail, and keeping laundry up to date and almost putting it all away.

I had heard about this mythical life…and we’re getting so close. Next year, all three of my children will be in elementary school. It is so weird to think that my “baby” is headed to kindergarten. And that he is, really, my most independent child. He does things at 4 that my other two never did. Some of it is that I babied Jake. Some of it is that Tate couldn’t motor plan it. A lot of it is that Cole is the youngest, and he naturally wants to be older. Always. So he does much of his own self-care. I check in, mind you, but he can get dressed, brush his teeth, get himself snacks, and keep himself occupied.

This is all quite liberating. I have time to think. I have time to sit and see what people are rambling about on Facebook. I have time to READ BOOKS! And yet, as any parent can attest, there is that little piece that is shocked that time has moved so quickly. My babies are not babies any more. We are at the cusp of that “next phase”…They’re not so little…and they’re not so dependent…and I need to figure out what to do with this new phase…I’m excited about it…just need to figure out what comes next. Huh.

 

Another Chapter

We are on the cusp of another school year. As we prep and fret and wrestle that darn anxiety beast in these last precious summer days, I try to slow down, just a bit. I take stock of the boys, who they are, what they love, how they approach life in this moment. I scan them, I commit their looks/voices/phrases to memory. I feel much like I do at the end of a great book. I have fallen in love with the characters. I want to savor all of the best parts of the story. Part of me doesn’t want to move onto the sequel, just in case it isn’t as good as the prior story…but I know that the story isn’t over…and there’s the hope…the hope that the next one is EVEN BETTER than before.

Jake is going into fourth grade. FOURTH. In the blink of an eye, or so it seems, he has gone from that shy, sweet little boy with wide eyes and a crooked smile to a sweet, gangly big kid. He sounds older. He looks older. He is grappling with that awkwardness where he knows he doesn’t quite belong with the little kids any more, but he certainly isn’t quite ready for big kid situations, either. Being the oldest, he tends to hold back, just a bit, and linger in that little kid space. As a parent, I’m grateful that he’s still more interested in Phineas and Ferb than Facebook. He prefers Plants vs. Zombies over playing pranks. He’d rather go to the park than go to the mall.

As far as school is concerned, he is handling it relatively well. Aside from anxiety-driven need for regular reassurance about his classroom and school start date, he is excited. He is approaching fourth grade with an open mind and positive attitude. It helps tremendously that he was able to meet his teacher prior to the school year, has seen his fourth grade classroom, and knows he has the same resource teacher as last year. This year we are aiming for more independence. I know he has it in him. We just need to give him the right tools to foster its maturation.

Tate is going to be a second grader. I can’t quite fathom this fact. As much as my heart tries to insist that he’s still a wee little kid, my head verifies the reality. He’s growing up. He’s taller. He’s stockier. He’s using his routines to get through the day. He relies on his weekly schedule and can answer his own questions about “What do I have today?”. He’s found some scripts that work really well in pragmatic language. His vocabulary is blossoming. When we go out in public, he is more able to regulate himself. He is able to advocate for himself in many basic situations. Sometimes he surprises us and advocates for himself in complex ones, too. (Like when we were at IKEA last weekend and he told us the lights were hurting his eyes, and he needed to get out of there.)

As he heads into second grade, I think this is the most comfortable that I have ever felt. His teacher is phenomenal. She is communicative. She truly wants to help her students learn–in their own way. He is familiar with the school. He knows many of the routines. He knows many staff members. He calls it “my school”. He has back-to-school anxiety, but it really is not nearly as significant as it has been in past years. We have a good plan in place for his educational and therapeutic needs.

And Cole. Cole blows my mind. So this is what a typical four year old is like. Wow. He makes my head spin, leaves me frustrated many days, and makes me feel like I still haven’t figured out this parenting gig. And that’s a very good thing. He is clever, adventurous, and willful. He is creative. He loves taking objects apart–just to figure out how they work. As spirited as he is, he also has the most amazing gentle side. He doesn’t like seeing others hurting or upset…and he is very loyal. Once you win him over, he’s got your back.

My “baby” (wait– he is NOT a baby, he’s a big boy!) starts Pre-K on August 26th. We switched preschools this year, and he will be attending the school district’s preschool program that combines the Early Childhood students with typically developing peers. We are familiar with most of the staff, after Tate’s stint there, and we couldn’t be more excited for Cole. He has so much to offer, and I am confident that the teachers will really challenge him and pull out that knowledge he has stored in that amazing mind of his. Also, he’s grown up with a special needs brother. He has been around special needs kids. He doesn’t see them as different. He sees them as kids. And he’s such a social butterfly, that he’ll enchant even the most socially-challenged kiddo. (He was amazing with Em’s daughter earlier this week.)

In nine days I will send all three of my kids onto their next adventure. Our next adventure. While I still savor the memories of the character development and story lines from our recently completed chapter, going into this next one, I have a good feeling that it will be just as great…maybe even a little better. And I can’t wait to get started.

What a chore…

I will admit that we have been spotty when it comes to having our boys do chores around the house. First, I am very particular about how some things are done, and my control-freak tendencies are hard to part with when it comes to giving my children more independence. Second, they whine so much about doing the littlest thing sometimes, that I prefer to save my sanity and just do it myself.

Jake has been begging for another BeyBlade. He has 20-something of these things already, but of course he doesn’t have this particular one. We have heard nothing but facts about this particular BeyBlade since last week when he happened upon it while online. So, to sweeten the chore chart I wanted to implement, Hubz and I told him that he had to complete the 10 chores on the chart. Once completed, we would get him this BeyBlade–this time. Going forward, though, he has to do chores and will not get a BeyBlade each time. We’ll figure out an allowance that is appropriate, but other than that, he won’t get a new toy each and every week. (Remember, my house already looks like an episode of “The Hoarders”…we don’t need more stuff.)

On Saturday we wrote out Jake’s chore chart. He was required to do the following:

1. Put laundry away

2. Fold towels and put them away

3. Learn how to do a load of laundry–wash & dry clothes

4. Put dishes in dishwasher away and load dirty ones

5. Help weed the front yard

6. Help clean the floor in the kitchen

7. Clean bedroom

8. Help clean bathroom (the one the boys share)

9. Work on learning to tie shoes

10. Set table for dinner

We finished the chore chart at 9:00 a.m. At 9:05, he was busily playing with his new shoes to learn how to tie them. He worked with Hubz for about 15 minutes. He did another 10 by himself. I joined him at the 25 minute mark, and talked him through it. He still isn’t quite there, but it’s *this* close. Tying shoes is really difficult for kiddos with fine motor delays and executive functioning struggles. Holy moly!!! Our goal is to have him tying his own shoes by his 10th birthday.

By 12:30 p.m., when I returned from getting my hair cut, he had accomplished four of the ten chores. I have never seen him that eager to do work around the house. I know that I will not seem him that eager ever again…unless we make him work for a toy again..then, maybe he’ll bust his butt like he did this weekend! By the end of Saturday, he had six chores done.

When we woke up yesterday, Jake was already asking when he could finish his chores. After breakfast, we tackled the dishwasher. He struggled a bit with the directions, but after taking a deep breath, I reminded myself that he does have some receptive speech issues, and that his executive functioning skills are weak when it comes to task planning and completion. We got through it, though, and he did a great job once it was explained a few times.

We had our good friend over for lunch. He’s Tate’s godfather, and we haven’t seen him in about 6 months. He had a belated birthday gift for Tate, and we spent a few hours catching up. It was great to see him, and see Tate respond to him. During our 3-hour visit, though, Jake asked no less than 10 times when he could do laundry. That was the second to last chore to complete. I was not about to do laundry in the middle of our visit. I patiently told him to relax and that we’d tackle the laundry once his “uncle” had gone home. He had to wait another hour after that last request, but then my friend had to go home, and we were able to get to the laundry.

I had Jake pour the detergent into the measuring cup. We have one of those huge Tide dispensers that has to be pushed. He barely had enough finger strength to do it. I made a mental note to have him work with some more fidgets to increase his finger dexterity. I showed him how to select the water temperature and agitator speed. I showed him what cycle to choose for that particular load of laundry.  He got it all in there on his own, and I showed him how to close the lid of the washer without slamming it. He did great.

Hubz shooed me out of the house at that point to enjoy an hour to myself. (I really needed that hour..and I am so appreciative that he knows better than I do, that I need a break.) While I was out, Hubz showed Jake how to put the laundry in the dryer. He did his load of laundry. He was very proud. The only chore left on his list was to set the table for dinner…so he did. At 3:50 in the afternoon. But, it was set. And he was able to check-off all of the tasks. At 5:15, Jake and Hubz went on Amazon and ordered the Flash Saggitario Beyblade for Jake’s collection. Hubz showed him how we can track the shipping of the BeyBlade online. I think we found a new way to keep Jake occupied when he gets home from day camp today! He loves seeing where his BeyBlade is at the moment. He’s slightly disappointed that he won’t get it until late this week or early next week, but it allows for a little more excitement in his 9-year-old-life.

I was slightly exhausted after dealing with the chore perseveration the past two days, but I know that we both gained from the experience. He is learning how to be more independent. And I’m learning that it is ok to let go…and to let him do things on his own…because he’s going to need to know how to do this when he’s older. I also learned that even if the chores aren’t done my way, they are done….and I have about an hour of time to myself that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s a win-win!

Emerging Skills

One phrase that I have grown accustomed to hearing at IEP meetings, teacher conferences, and even doctor appointments, is “emerging skills”. Often, I find myself looking for these “emerging skills” in all three of my boys’ lives. 

Right now, Jake’s emerging skills have to do a lot with conversation. He is learning to listen, wait, and respond. He’s learning, and starting to make much headway with, speaking in turn and appropriately interrupting. (“Excuse  me” is used..a lot.) I am gaining such an interesting insight into my oldest’s mind with this new skill. And I am really enjoying the boy he’s growing up to be.

Cole is recognizing his letters and numbers. He’s trying to write more letters. He’s building complex creations out of Lego blocks. He’s doing jigsaw puzzles. He’s also learning how to share. That is a TOUGH skill for him. But it is emerging. I still need to prompt a lot, but he’s getting better with each skill independently.

Tate is learning how to self-advocate right now. For a child who struggles with expressive language, self-advocacy can be difficult. He is building the experience, finding the right words, and is trying to apply them appropriately. Learning this skill is tough for him…but he’s really starting to emerge and come into his own.

For instance, we had Cole’s birthday party this Saturday. About 20 minutes before the party started, Tate started to squeak and squeal…his nervous sounds. He then started to walk up and down our stairs. I asked if he was ok. “Mmm-hmm.” I asked if he was nervous. “Yes, I am.” I asked if the stairs made him feel better. “Yes. Shh, Mom. I’m busy.” I let him be. He clearly needed that time on the stairs to organize himself and work out the anxiety. He also needed me to leave him alone, so I did.

During the party, Tate consumed the equivalent of his body weight in Cheetos. Well, I’m guessing. Unfortunately, Tate and Cheetos have a sordid past. He loves them. His digestive system does not. At 12:22 a.m. (yes, I do remember the time), I awoke to a wailing child. As I sorted out in my mind which child it was, I heard, “HELP ME!!”. I flew downstairs. (We had allowed Tate & Jake to “camp out” in the basement that night after the party.) He was covered in puke. Hubz came down shortly after. I had him sit with Tate. I went down and surveyed the damage. (I am not going into detail…but let’s just say it was reminiscent of the scene from The Exorcist.)

I scrubbed as Jake snored away, and Tate told Hubz he felt better and wanted to go to sleep. Hubz cleaned him up and put him in our room, where he scripted until I came back up, and then promptly dozed off, eventually shoving me out of the bed. The nerve!!!

Last night, Tate struggled to settle back down to sleep. We always have trouble on Sunday nights. The transition from weekend to weekday is a tough one for Tate. We haven’t figured out how to help him through this one yet…but I know eventually we will.

As Hubz sat in his room with him, Tate told him that he was tired of being tired..and just wanted to spend time with Hubz. Hubz sat in the room for an hour, spending time with Tate. Tate eventually went to bed once Hubz and I settled in for the night. 

So, these emerging skills are being practiced more and more around our house..and I am enjoying all three of them as they explore and figure out what works best for them.

We survived Spring Break

Hello out there! It has been a while since I last wrote….I was busy surviving spring break 2013. We had a good break. It was much needed by all of us. We did have fun, and I think we all enjoyed having some time to just be. Here are a few of our highlights:

1. We survived our trip to the city! We had a great time, and the boys did surprisingly well. They loved staying at the hotel overnight. We took advantage of the hotel pool, as did about 2o other families with children, but it was fun. The kids had a great time splashing and jumping into the water. Hubz and I did realize that we need to enroll Tate in some swim lessons, because, man, he’s getting long and it’s harder and harder to hold onto him in the pool!!

2. We turned the TV off more, and played. The boys really played together this past week. I loved watching them chase and run and scream in glee. My head hurt after a while, but watching them have fun was worth it.

3. Tate engaged in some fabulous pretend play this week. Doc McStuffins and Lambie had races and went to the zoo. They cooked a meal with Tate in our play kitchen, and they performed surgery on Mario (of Super Mario Bros. fame). Tate also had trains from Chuggington that went on a field trip and went on a trip. It was glorious to watch this development.

4. Tate was reading more. It was amazing. We went out for dinner, and before I even gave him options on the kids’ menu, he pointed at the “grilled cheese” and told me that he wanted it. He also pointed to “french fries” and said he wanted those, too. He was reading signs by elevators, “open” signs on stores, and more words in his favorite books, rather than just telling the story from rote memory. Also? He wrote the words “kitchen” and “Lambie” a few times for us on his dry erase board.

5. Jake rode a bike. For real. He got on the bike, and learned how to balance, and then took off pedaling. I am glad that I had my sunglasses on, because I had tears streaming from my eyes. He is 9 1/2 years old, and after 3 years of riding around on training wheels, he finally was ready and completely self-motivated to learn how to ride his bike on his own.

6. All 3 boys entertained themselves for a few hours while Hubz and I scrubbed the house in preparation for Easter company. And the TV was off the whole time. They really can find ways to entertain themselves.

7. I took all 3 boys to Old Navy with me while I tried on a few items, and they tolerated it. We went right when they opened and it was empty. And quiet. And Jake and Tate even sat down and colored pictures while I helped Cole pick out a new spring jacket. Who are these kids? They entertain themselves?!

8. We found out my sister is expecting again, and that the boys will have another cousin. All 3 boys want to know if it’s a girl baby. (I think they have decided we have enough boys in the family now.)

9. Jake read two chapter books over break. He was able to read them and tell me what happened. He didn’t WANT to read them, but once he started, he got sucked into the stories…it was fun to watch him enjoy reading so much!!

10. Hubz and I got a date night on Saturday. It was wonderful to have dinner and spend time catching up again. It was a much needed break from “the chaos”. We are incredibly lucky that his parents are so wonderful about taking the boys for us!!

 

Tag Cloud

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