A Royal Affair

This past weekend, we celebrated E’s 5th birthday with a grand Disney princess themed bash in our backyard.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love throwing a good party. I love all the research and planning that goes into it & love executing all the little details … But without fail, for every party I’ve ever hosted, the last week leading up to the event makes me want to poke my eyeballs out. It’s not even because I have so much to do or what not. It’s simply the anticipation of a big day and the hope that everyone has a great time. This party was no different and the day before THE DAY, I told Hubby that I am never throwing another birthday party like this again. He laughed at me because we both know that’s not really true. Hahah.

The day before the party the weather was miserable. Raining, cloudy, freezing cold .. And I don’t just mean a little spring sprinkle. It was STORMING. I’d planned the whole party around the idea that guests would stay in our backyard and the bad weather was freaking – me – out. We have a pretty large yard but a tiny house and the party would not work if people had to come inside. I’d spent too much money and time planning this event to cancel so I did the only thing I could do – I prayed. I genuinely prayed and asked the Lord to just let it be dry for two hours during the party and He abundantly answered. Not only was it dry, it was HOT. The sun was shining so brightly, the desserts and appetizers started melting and the day after, I had a few people tell me they got sunburned. Crazy!

Another party planning snafoo I had was with the desserts. I’d ordered a huge main cake, cupcakes, and cake pops all from one local baker who just works out of her home. She’d gotten good reviews on Yelp and Facebook so I contacted her almost two months in advance to place all the orders. I had a bad feeling about her almost immediately because her communication was HORRIBLE. I’ve worked with my fair share of small business owners and bakers and while I understand sometimes there’s a bit of delay in hearing back, once communication is made it’s usually very thorough and detailed. This lady was terrible … I should have trusted my instincts and gone with someone else but my usual vendors that I’ve employed in the past are all located slightly out of the way for us since we moved to our current town two years ago. Well, less than a week before the party date, the baker emailed me and said she was ill and would be cancelling my entire order. What?? EXCUSE ME?? Who does that??!!? I was panicking, you guys. Luckily I made a few frantic phone calls and was able to get an actual storefront bakery to accommodate my order. The desserts turned out beautifully in the end and tasted amazing to boot.

I only have two regrets now that the party is done and over: 1) I didn’t get enough pictures of the little things, like the favor table or the desserts I’d ordered; and 2) I don’t feel like I got to really sit and enjoy the party. I kept reminding myself to sit sit sit, and soak up the moment but when you’re the host, it’s hard to be sitting and chatting. I wanted to greet people as they trickled in, make sure E was having a fun time, ensure drinks were refilled, etc. I barely ate any of the food we’d catered but I hear it was delicious :) We hired a “taco truck guy” to come and make on-the-spot custom burritos, quesadillas, and tacos. YUM! I didn’t get any pictures of that either, boo.

I think my favorite element of the entire party were the florals. I hired a local florist to do the garland and floral arrangements, including the giant floral E, and I am OBSESSED with them!! They’re still all hanging in my backyard as I write this on Monday morning hahaha.

I ordered these custom Disney princess cookies from a separate vendor than the main dessert baker and this lady was amazing to work with. She was worth every penny! Look at E enjoying her Snow White cookie ;)

And of course no princess party wold be complete without actual princesses in attendance. I found a great local company that hires out your favorite Disney characters. E’s favorites are Snow White & Elsa and it was priceless to see her hugging and interacting with them. They were legit in-character the ENTIRE time, too, even all the way back to their car. Love!

Our girl was so spoiled this day. I’m so happy that I was able to celebrate our special princess in this way; she’s been such a blessing to our family. I hope we made memories that we can all cherish for a lifetime.


Poor Spartie was confined to the house for the duration of the party. But he was allowed out afterwards and had a ball finding random desserts on the ground and eating them -_- 

In The Moment

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The other day, I was looking through old video clips from just after D’s first birthday. In one, he’s looking at the camera and then he turns to me and says “mu-jic?” and waits for me to start singing. I sing Twinkle Twinkle and he enthusiastically raises his chubby little fist in to the air and then the video ends. Watching that clip reminded me that there was a phase when D was obsessed with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and among his limited vocabulary, one of his favorite words to yell was “MU-JIC??” There were mornings I’d be annoyed with my chubby little one-year old, and was tired of singing the same darn song like a broken jukebox. It was just last year that I felt like I’d never sing the end of Twinkle Twinkle but until I’d rewatched that clip …  I’d forgotten all about that phase.

It suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks that yes, it does go by too fast. Us young moms, when we’re in the thick of it, the daily grind seems like it’ll never end. How many times a day can my toddler up-end an entire box of Legos onto the playroom floor? How many tantrums will he throw because I told him he couldn’t play with our Vitamix blender?

I hear the seasoned mothers & empty nesters constantly chirping at me to enjoy it, enjoy it, enjoy it; that once our babies’ childhoods are gone, they’re really gone and you can’t get it back. The truth of those sentiments hit me harder than it’s ever hit me before. Part of me actually longed to reach into my phone screen and cuddle that little baby who looked nothing like the active 2-year old currently running around my living room.

And I know that I’ll blink and in a moment my 2-year old will be replaced with an older, different, version of D and my toddler will be forever gone. I don’t want to look back at video clips and photos of this current season of parenting and feel like I didn’t take advantage of the time I had. Lately I’ll admit I’ve been frustrated with D – he’s going through his “TERRIFIC 2’s” as my mom likes to call it – and it seems like every single part of the day is such a battle with him. BUT! When he’s 15 and stinky and not able to fit into my lap, I know I’m going to long for the days when all he wanted to do was be held in my arms and snuggled. I want to be more intentional about looking D in the eyes and enjoying him for all he is right now, tantrums and all.

Milestones

In our Sunday school class recently, our pastor was sharing about what he overheard in the senior citizens’ Sunday school class. Their class is filled with elderly men and women who are probably around our grandparents’ age and our pastor said when it came time to share prayer requests, one 80-year old mother asked for prayer for her 50-year old son who had fallen away from the Lord. Our pastor’s point was to encourage us in that this parenting thing doesn’t end when our kids turn 10 or 18 or 35, but as long as we’re alive and our kids are alive, we’ll always be driven to our knees to pray for them – it’s just that the requests change as the milestones change.

Right now, there is one prayer request for E that weighs very heavily on my heart.

I want E to have a friend. A real friend. Not a “friend” who she’s familiar with because I facilitate very coordinated play dates. Not a friend who’s just a friend by default due to proximity or because I’m friends with their mothers. I want E to have a real friend, who has the patience, tenacity and right type of personality for someone on the autism spectrum (a very sweet, lovable & funny someone, might I add!).

That’s what my mommy heart wants the most for my daughter right now. Someone who will eat lunch with her at school because she likes sitting with E. Someone who will pick E to do group projects with because she thinks E has good ideas.

I wonder how the Lord will answer this prayer request I have. And in the future, maybe when this is not such a big issue for me, I wonder what the next milestone I’ll be praying for will be. I know that as a mom, I’ll never stop praying for my kids – either of them – but I do wonder what the subject of those prayer requests will turn into.

 

Groaning

There are days when the whole my-child-has-autism thing feels like too much for me. For the most part, I don’t spend very many of my days really thinking about it. This is our life; it’s our reality and I’ve come very far in accepting this cup that the Lord has given our family and submitting ourselves to His will for us. Most days are very joyful and full of hope and the majority of days I don’t even really think about what life could have been like anymore.

But once in awhile I find my thoughts slipping.

It’s a dangerous slope because once my thoughts turn that way, they’re extremely hard to steer back towards the correct side of eternal perspective.

There are days when it feels like my body, my whole soul, my entire being is just groaning with the weight of what we face with E. She will turn 5 this month, and she should be having complete conversations with me about whatever things are captivating her little imagination. She should have friends, real friends who reciprocate her interest and enjoyment, and she should be able to navigate her friendships pretty independently. She should be curious about the world; learning to read, learning to do math, learning how to learn … instead of learning how to verbalize requests with complete sentences and learning to greet peers with eye contact and a “Hello.”

It’s not healthy to think about the what-if’s and should-be’s for our current situation. I’m pretty sure it’s a sinful thought habit as it’s a fertile breeding ground for discontentment and the like.

But sometimes I do just feel very sad about it. When I allow myself to take a step back and have an eagle’s-eye view of what we’re dealing with, I feel very, very sad. I don’t think the sadness should overwhelm me the way it occasionally does, but I think there’s room for a bit of sadness in my life once in awhile. Christians are allowed to grieve and feel sadness, right? (Right.) Our thoughts should remain centered on Christ and ultimately joyful but that doesn’t mean we have to always be happy. At least I hope not? I’ll admit I’m a little bit biased right now so my writing may be a bit off-center heh.

I think it’s okay to feel sad about what we’re dealing with because what we’re dealing is an after-effect of sin in the fallen world. I can guarantee you there is no autism in heaven.

This verse comes to my mind:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. -Romans 8:18-25

Crowns Fit for Royalty

I have to admit, my kids are a definite weak spot for me. I’m sure most moms will be able to identify with my struggle when I say that I take great pleasure in seeing their little faces light up and I don’t take great pleasure in disciplining them or seeing them sad.

When I got pregnant with E and first found out that she was going to be a girl, I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was. My mind started dancing with visions of the adorable & perfect little lady that I would get to raise. She was going to be the smartest, best-dressed, & kindest little girl that anyone had ever met.  I knew what mistakes my parents had made with me growing up and I was going to avoid repeating them so that my daughter would grow up to have the advantages that I missed out on. I had such lofty plans for her; she was going to be our little princess and I was going to treat her as so.

Obviously, autism throws a wrench into the best of plans and our life took detour from where I thought we were steering it to go. I’ve since blogged extensively about God’s perfect plan in giving us special needs in our family and the amazing things it’s done in refining my faith. There are definitely lessons and prunings that arise in your character that can only come about through struggles and heartaches.

I read this article on The Gospel Coalition a few months back and have had it bookmarked so that I could eventually write a post on it. The article is called There Is No Crown Without a Cross for Your Kids and I remember being immediately attracted to the title because I was curious about the idea of “a cross for my kids.”

It talks a lot about how we, as parents, oftentimes want to shield our children from anything that may hurt them. We want them to be well-liked, to have friends, fit in, never be ostracized or injured, safe, etc etc. Not bad desires but completely unrealistic since we can’t actually be there to protect our kids from every single harmful thing out there. In the years since E’s diagnosis, I’ve also personally come to the conviction that, at least for me, many of those desires to shield our kids can be rooted in pride. We don’t want our child to be the loner because that’s not only painful for my child but also painful for me as the parent! I want my kids to have the best clothes because then they’ll be well-liked but also, I’ll probably be well-liked and perhaps envied. Do you see how sinful thinking can creep into good intentions?

Anyway, as I read through the article I thought a lot about D. In many ways, I find myself slipping into my old way of thinking when it comes to D. With E, I know she’ll have a lifetime of struggles ahead of her and it breaks my heart to think about it, but D … D could still grow up to be a golden boy. I could still mold him to be the smartest, kindest, best in sports, excels in leadership type of son that every mother (and father) could be proud of. This thinking is so, so wrong.

All of us parents know this is true: no person gains any character, humility, empathy, or integrity in the context of comfort. These attributes grow by God’s grace in the fertile ground of pain, struggle, and humiliation. – There Is No Crown Without a Cross for Your Kids

Here I am, wishing and dreaming for these things for my son but at the same time never wanting him to be stretched or struggle. Sometimes I think my view can be so narrow when I look at my babies. The world is bigger than the four of us or our little home on our quiet street; life is bigger than who is the soccer star of their team or valedictorian of their high school.

I once met a mom who told me she wasn’t sure she wanted to explain E’s autism to her kids because she didn’t think her kids were old enough to understand and she was afraid it would only confuse them. I was greatly saddened when she told me this, not only for my own daughter’s sake, but also because I feel like her overprotection of her kids means that her kids are missing out on some valuable character building. If you’re a parent who is reading this blog, may I encourage you to not be afraid to expose your kids to things like other special needs kids? “Protecting” your kids from something that will only benefit them – understanding and knowing that there are people who are made differently and people who require those who are stronger to stand up for them, will not scar your child, it will only make your child wiser and kinder.

My babies are still precious and still royalty as they will someday grow up to know their Father who is King of all … but I’m starting to realize that for them to inherit their crown, it’s gonna take more than the latest pair of shoes and good grades.

Spring Break

Hi! You may have noticed that I missed this week’s Monday post (I’m generally on a Monday/Friday posting schedule). My kiddos are on spring break and I’m soaking up the time I have with both littles at home with me, so I’ll probably resume regular blogging next week. Thanks!

 

-Sophia

Easter Weekend 2016

This year, we had some absolutely gorgeous weather during Easter weekend! On the Saturday, we were invited to go to the zoo with some of our friends who have memberships; we were so blessed to be able to spend some time with our families together! The wife is a fellow autism-mommy and she’s been a great person to navigate special-needs with. Nobody will understand your struggles the way other special needs parents will!

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I definitely underestimated how warm it would be that day. I wore black and long sleeves/long pants … big mistake! We were absolutely baking whenever we had to stand in the direct sunlight! I don’t have too many pictures from this day but the kids had a great time exploring the different animal exhibits. We packed a picnic lunch and ate together near a grassy area where the kids could play while we watched. E had tons of fun but D is still on the younger side to really appreciate the zoo, I think. He kind of whined and clung to me the entire day … story of my life lately. Hah!

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After seeing most of the animals we were interested in, both families headed over to an adjoining “carnival” area where there were rides for the kids to enjoy. D passed out at this point and took a nice nap in his stroller while Hubs took E to ride as many rides as she wanted. She looked so happy to be riding each ride, it made the hot weather and cranky brother worth it for me :)

On Easter Sunday, we went to church service in the morning followed by a casual Easter lunch (pizza take out hehe) and Easter egg hunt at our house with my friends. This is my second year hosting an Easter get-together and I liked this year’s so much better than last year’s! For one, last year it RAINED and the weather was so miserable. The kids were cooped up inside and only got to go outside for a tiny bit to do the egg hunt while there was a 10-minute lull in the rain. It was icky and wet and muddy. Yuck! We also did a potluck style thing last year and I think people were stressed about having their dish prepared before church and transporting everything. This year we just did cheap pizza take-out with some chips and fruit AND the weather was marvelous so the kids got to romp around in the backyard as much as they wanted.

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I really wish I’d taken more pictures of the kids during the egg hunt. There were tons of eggs e v e r y w h e r e and the little munchkins were so adorable running around like lunatics. I think we have the perfect yard to do an egg-hunt type of thing, maybe we’ll host it again next year and make it a tradition! :)

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In previous years, E hasn’t really understood the concept of an egg hunt and has therefore just stood to the side kind of aloof while others around her would go buckwild for eggs. This year, we practiced doing an egg hunt with her several times before the big day so on Easter Sunday, she knew exaaaactly what was up and what she was hunting for. I laughed at out loud after I looked in her basket though because she had obviously been mainly searching for the blue colored eggs!! (Her favorite color is blue.) That girl cracks me up like no other.

Girls & Autism

“Autism – It’s Different in Girls”

The other week, Hubby linked me this super interesting article on autism in boys versus autism in girls. I found it very fascinating as my own daughter is on the spectrum and very different than what I’d always imagined the typical autistic child to be like. From an early age (18 mos) I had a feeling her language was delayed, but unlike some of our friends who had boys on the spectrum, E never had any sensory issues, lack of eye contact, or disinterest in socializing. She was still diagnosed at a relatively early age (2 years old) but her pediatrician seemed very skeptical that anything was wrong and only agreed to evaluate because I’d been pushing for it for 6 months. If you have the time, read this article. It’s a really interesting look into how female and male brains present DIFFERENTLY with autism.

TL;DR – Brains of autistic girls look the same as brains of typically-developing boys. And in behavior markers, autistic girls tend to score within the normal range for a neurotypical boy but below that of a neurotypical girl.

 

Kindness

A few years ago, I was at a women’s retreat put on by our church. I honestly don’t remember much from that weekend; I don’t remember what the retreat topic was, I don’t remember who was in my small group … but one thing does stick out to me.

During our first evening session there, a woman was leading a discussion on friendships and the role they play for women specifically. I remember this vividly because she opened her talk with the sentence, “If you don’t purposefully intend to be kind, you will by default be rude.” 

Wow. Do you want to let that soak in for a second? Maybe go back and read that one more time. If you don’t purposefully intend to be kind, you will by default be rude.

In the years since that retreat, I’ve often found myself in situations where I find that saying to be true. I encounter “nice” all the time but it’s rare that I see real kindness. It’s not enough for us to be nice to others around us. Smiling at the person next to you in the checkout line at the grocery store is being nice. Kindness – true biblical kindness – I think requires a bit more intention and effort.

I could probably write a whole essay on this and how I think it applies to me as an adult but sadly this post isn’t going to be about that. It’s going to be about my daughter.

In my experience, I see lots of kids around her being nice but very few of them really being kind. As her mom, this stings a bit.

I see this nice-but-not-kind thing manifested in ways such as:

  • E is so excited to see a friend she knows and repeatedly says “HI (insert name)!!!” (which is a lot for a socially challenged little girl) only to be ignored or maybe blandly told “Hi, E” and then ignored for the rest of the time**
  • Being told that E can’t sit next to someone because that seat is saved for a different friend – to be fair, it’s not that this child didn’t want to sit next to E (I hope) but more that s/he would rather sit next to the friend the seat is saved for
  • Kids being really excited to see each other when we do large group play dates but nobody that excited to see or play with E
  • One kid passing out snacks to friends as they come up and ask for some but E, although she clearly is interested and wants some (standing right next to kid, looking and pointing at snack), is ignored and not given any because she didn’t verbally request it

**I’d also like to note that I’ve seen this behavior from kids who are E’s age or older — kids who are at the appropriate age to understand and be able to extend kindness to others. I’m not expecting miracles from toddlers/young preschoolers!

A lot of this is due to E’s autism and her inability to play like other kids play. I totally understand it; why would you be excited to see someone who doesn’t even talk to you or engage with you when you’re with them? I get why friendships are forming between other kids but maybe not with my own child. I get it but … I don’t think it excuses the lack of kindness. 

This is a hard post for me to write. I don’t usually like to write about things I’m actively struggling through without presenting any kind of resolution. Some may think that this is a harsh post to write about other children but the truth is, I am not perfect and these are real emotions that I fight on a daily basis as I try and keep my eyes focused on Christ. I know my role as E’s mom colors my perspective as I deal with these issues and I want to also say that I am surrounded by some really proactive parents who try and instill true, biblical kindness in their kids. I’m in a season of life when my kids and their friends are all pretty young and still developing; I know Christ-like character takes a lifetime to form – goodness, I’m still working on kindness myself! But I guess this is just something that’s been on my mind lately and I tend to write things out as a method of working through them. If you’re reading this and you’re a parent, may I encourage you to actively pursue kindness not only in yourself but also in your children? I think it’s a seldom focused-on trait as it’s often thrown in with being nice, but as I’ve pointed out, there’s a difference between being nice and being kind. Let’s all be mindful about our intentions on kindness so that we don’t end up being rude by default! :)

 

Seasons

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Sometimes I really stare & marvel at how peacefully E sleeps. Look at her little hand tucked underneath her cheek. Where did she learn to do this?

I snapped this photo when I went in to wake E up from her afternoon nap because her therapist had arrived. This girl is a deep sleeper; sometimes I can kiss her sweaty little head a million times before she’ll even stir. I remember once I went in to check on her after a date night (around 11PM) and in the dark I accidentally kicked over her trashcan with a loud bang. She didn’t hear a thing and slept through it all.

Her love for sleep is even more astounding because when she was first born, homegirl would NOT SLEEP. Like, at all. I still feel remnant pangs of terror when I think back to her first 6 weeks home from the hospital. She used to be a terrible sleeper; it was so bad that we eventually had to call in a professional newborn sleep consultant and do some serious work with her to get her to SLEEP (I’m not even talking about sleeping in her crib or not sleeping in our arms, I mean she just wouldn’t sleep ever, anywhere). As a random aside – if you ever have questions about newborn sleep, I am definitely your gal because I’ve been through it all with E.

Anyway, back to my point.

Just a few short years later and I can’t get my daughter to wake up for the life of me. It’s crazy how much life changes as you switch from one season of life to another. Newborn to toddler. Toddler to preschooler. Preschooler to kindergartener …

Speaking of kindergarten, we recently had E’s annual IEP meeting; this is the first of several upcoming meetings we’ll be having as we prepare to transition her to start kindergarten as our local elementary school this fall. Cue: Tears. My newborn who wouldn’t sleep is now going to be a kindergartener. I was very curious to hear what E’s current Early Intervention pre-K teachers would be recommending for her as far as mainstream education and the what not. Obviously, our ultimate goal for her is to be fully mainstreamed at some point. I personally don’t think she’s ready for that 100% mainstream class quite yet but I was really itching to know what her teachers thought. Much to my surprise and pleasure, they are pushing for E to be mainstreamed as much as possible next year. Academically, cognitively, and motor skills-wise, she is more than ready to be with typical age peers. Her social and language skills tend to fall the shortest right now, and she could probably use some extra support in staying focused during class (but honestly, what 5-year old doesn’t??). We have a lot to finalize before school starts in the fall but for now, it looks like she’ll be receiving some speech services throughout her school day while spending most of her time in a regular kindergarten class with regular kindergarten kids. Yay!! We are beyond excited for her as we start this new season of life as parents of an elementary school student.

Seasons, people. They end and begin and change, and whatever challenges we face, we need to remember that they are for but a season and then the season ends. Even if the season ends up being 20 years or maybe even a lifetime, for me I know that death is not the end of it all for me. There’s more that comes afterwards and everything that has transpired here on earth is but a season. A whole ‘nother side of eternity waits for me with my Savior and Lord and when that season comes, there will be no sin, no heartaches, no tears or challenges. It’s the best news of all, that the mistakes and hard things we face right now will seem like just a blip when compared with eternal glory. I live for this hope & promise; it’s the one thing that sustains me day in and day out.

And, just because. Here’s a cute pic of D sleeping, too. Babies are the cutest when they’re asleep, huh??

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