Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kindness in their eyes

Last weekend my husband took our family horseback riding as a gift for my birthday.  As long as I can remember, horses have been a source of relaxation for me. I think it has something to do with their gentle power. There is something about the kindness in their eyes that melts my heart. Climbing on a horse takes me to another place. It has been so long since I have ridden, so this was the perfect gift!

Since our move to Texas, I have promised the boys that we would take them riding, so they were both excited. Neither one of them had ever been on a horse, so this was going to be quite an adventure. I figured Hunter was going to be a nervous wreck. Because of his Aspergers, any change is difficult for him and the unknown is even worse, so I wasn’t sure what was coming.

When we arrived at the stables, the guys working there helped each of us saddle up on the appropriate horse. Grant (non-aspie and 8 years-old) was the first to get on his horse. The horse's name was Texas. He was a large, brown, beautiful horse. Grant acted like he had been on a horse a million times. He looked so comfortable. He seemed to instinctively know what to do. I have to say that it warmed this mom’s heart.

The guys gave me a beautiful horse by the name of Poppy. Poppy was an eater. She would eat the grass and plants and leaves off the tree, so while watching over everyone as they mounted their horses, I was struggling with her a bit, but man was she fun!

Hunter (12 year-old aspie) was next. His horse was named Cookie. Cookie was a black and white spotted horse. It was the one both boys wanted, so he was pretty excited to get to ride him. Hunter had not been nervous all day (much to my surprise), but while we had been waiting for our horses, he seemed to get more and more nervous by the minute. I was really nervous to see how he would react. I was praying for no meltdowns. When it was his turn, my boy climbed on that horse like it was nothing….and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Jeff was next. I think he got the oldest horse they had!! The horse’s name was Blazer. We were all chuckling. Somehow, Hunter and Grant got the young, spry horses, and Jeff got the one who had been around the block a few times! It made for a great laugh.

We took a trail ride, and we were with several other families. Grant was so ready to go that he ended up with another family at the front of the group. I ended up few people back from him, and Hunter and Jeff (with his very slow horse) ended up at the back of the pack.

The trail ride was beautiful. It could not have been a more perfect fall day. It had rained right before our ride, so the greenery looked fresh and beautiful. It was a late afternoon ride, so the sun was starting to go down. The lakes we passed had that beautiful evening glow from the setting sun. Grant would turn around every once in a while to point out a cactus or a deer in the woods. I had to keep reminding him to HOLD ON with both hands because he was getting so excited.
 At one point, we had to go through a gate, so I trotted Poppy up to Grant to help him guide Texas. We both made it through just fine, so I turned around to check on Jeff and Hunter. I was amazed at what I found. Hunter was smiling! I mean really smiling!! I mean that innocent, childlike, nothing like it smile!! Of course I’ve seen it before, but it has been so long! It was before our move to Texas away from family, friends, and familiarity.  It was before these horrible thing called hormones invaded his body. It was before those hormones mixed with Asperger’s Syndrome making life so confusing for him and such turmoil for all of us. I teared up! I breathed! I smiled. Unlike the gentleness in the eyes of those horses, Hunter’s eyes, so many times have fear and confusion and anger. For that hour long ride, his eyes too had a gentleness in them, a kindness to them. It was an amazing transformation!

When the ride was over, Grant could not wipe the smile off his face. He was so excited! He just kept asking if we could do this again. Hunter had a different reaction. He walked around to each of the horses and pet them and stared into their eyes. The horses stared back. He seemed changed in that moment.

When we got in the car, Grant said what an amazing time he had and asked how soon we could do it again. Hunter said something even more amazing, “I loved that more than Minecraft!” Jeff and I looked at each other with our mouths wide open, as I said, “I’m so glad buddy!! We will have to do this again very soon!"

What an amazing day!!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thank you

This past year has been tough in so many ways. It has taught me many things. I've had to swallow my pride more than once. I've had to get through many things I never could have imagined. I've lost people in my life who I thought were friends. I've gained new friends and a renewed trust in the human spirit. Many people have disappointed me. Many have truly amazed me. To all of you who have loved me unconditionally through the good and the bad (and you know who you are), thank you!! For all of you who called or sent a text just to make sure today was a better day...thank you!!

After moving 14 hours away from home, family and friends and starting all over again, I started writing to deal with my feelings. I started writing this blog 7 months ago and it has been an amazing experience. It has made a difficult time in my life bearable. It has uplifted me and been therapeutic in so many ways. It has reunited me with many friends from the past. I am so happy to hear feedback and know that the things I am writing mean something to so many of you!   For all of you who have supported me in this new endeavor, thank you!

Knocking down the brick wall

Sometimes as parents we wonder if we are talking to "brick walls". No matter how much we talk to our kids, it seems like they just don't hear us. I deal with this with both of my boys, but with Hunter, the job is a real challenge. Aspergers makes the communication much more difficult, and he is also a pre-teen, so whatever I say normally goes in one ear and out the other. My husband always reminds me that it is our job as his parents to keep talking. No matter what, we have to keep pounding the messages, until eventually they hit home with him. Eventually, some of it will sink in and he will get it. Well, here goes hubby...deep breath...YOU ARE RIGHT!!!

Since Hunter was old enough to go to school, he has hated it. He has loved many of his teachers, but the actual schoolwork has always been tough for him. Due to his fine motor skill issues, handwriting is so hard for him, and his ADHD makes sitting and concentration difficult, so homework is a real nightmare most of the time. Eventually by the first month of school, we are fighting every night to get him to do his homework. He shuts down. He gets frustrated, and we get more and more worried about his future.

He is in middle school now, so I have really started the conversations with him about what he wants to do when he grows up. How does he want to earn a living? How will he buy the many things he says he wants? How will he support a family? What career can he see himself doing in the future? I try to explain to him that the study habits and work ethic he develops now will carry him into his future. I normally have these conversations with him in the car on the way to school. I figure it is the only time I have him trapped and there are no distractions. He normally stares out the car window like he is staring into the abyss. I usually drop him off and wonder if he actually heard a single word I said. Then, he comes home from school and the lack of interest in schoolwork continues, and the vicious cycle starts all over again.

Last week, during one of my "I have you in the car and you are trapped" conversations, I asked him what he would like to do when he is an adult, and he looked at me and said, "What do you think I would be good at?"  What? Huh? Excuse me, did you just ask my opinion? Just a reminder, I am the Mom who know nothing at all, and you just asked me what I thought. I had to hold back a smile. I felt this glimmer of hope run through my body as I answered, "Well, I think you would be a wonderful football historian or a sports reporter. I think you could also write books about the history of football." He looked at me in surprise and excitement and asked how he could do that, so I suggested he speak with his counselors at school to find out what classes he should take as electives. I also suggested that he start writing blogs during the football games on Sundays to help get him used to writing and reporting. He seemed excited! I was in shock.

Nothing else was said about our conversation until the next morning when I received an email from his resource teacher asking if I knew why Hunter wanted to go see the counselor. I about spit my coffee all over my computer. I was in shock. I called and explained it to her, and she was as thrilled as I was about this little spark we were seeing in him.

 I don't know what caused the sudden excitement in him. I don't know if it will last. What I do know is that he heard me. He actually listened to me and took my advice. He also understood that I believe in him and that I know he can do amazing things.  My wish for both of my boys is that they make a living doing something they love to do and end each day knowing they have done their best at whatever that happens to be. For right now, I am going to take my husband's advice and just keep talking.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


It is amazing how much you can learn from the simple things in life. Sometimes I feel like God has to hit me over the head over and over again before I finally say, "I GET IT!" Last night was one of those moments.

My youngest son Grant (8 year-old, non-Aspie) had a baseball game. We were running very late because my oldest son Hunter (12 year-old, Aspie) was denying that he had any homework (even though I had emails from the teachers), arguing about doing it, and basically making 30 minutes of homework turn into almost 2 hours of hell.

We showed up at the ball fields and literally ran to the field where Grant's team was playing their game. He made it in time to grab his mitt and run onto the field, as the rest of his teammates took their positions.

I took a deep breath as I sat on the bleachers. Another frustrating night. Another evening of wondering what I could do to make him understand that homework was more important than Minecraft or Yu-gi-oh. Another time that Grant was late to an event because of his brothers inability to work with the family. Another night...

As the game began, my heart was still racing from the stress of the earlier events. The game began as any other. The other team was hitting the ball well and our boys were doing their best to field the hits. It didn't take long before the other team was winning 5-0. The bases were loaded and their next batter stepped up to the plate. He hit the ball with a WHACK. It was that sound that always means trouble for the opposing team. The ball headed straight for Grant's position at third base. He raised his hand and SMACK the ball landed in his mitt!! The look on his face was priceless!  He screamed, "Yes!!" and had the greatest looks of pride and excitement, and "Did I do that?" on his face. I jumped up and down like I had won the lottery, because that was exactly what it felt like.

His catch was the third out, so his team was up to bat. It was amazing how the energy shifted. One by one, the kids stepped up to the plate. One by one, kids that had not been hitting the ball at all, were getting singles and doubles. One by one, the parents high-fived, and jumped up and down, and smiled and laughed and cheered. The kids were cheering for each other and hugging and yelling encouraging words from the dugout. By the end of the game, his team won by 1 point. The kiddos were ecstatic. The parents were elated. The win was amazing, but the lesson learned was inspiring to everyone.

I learned a real lesson from those 8 year-olds on the field. We all have those days, those weeks, those months, and those years that wear us down. Sometimes it feels like defeat is our only option. As a parent of a kid with autism, the days, week, and months seem insurmountable sometimes, but then something happens...It can be something that seems small to everyone around you, but to you it is that WHACK in the mitt! Your son makes a new friend or shows compassion to you when he sees you hurting. It can be a good grade on a test or a thoughtful gesture. It can be so many things that make you realize that what you are doing means something!!

Yes, those days of defeat will come again and again. Unfortunately, that's all part of this game of parenting. Happily, those days of playing pitch and catch end up with the ball in their mitt. Those days of explaining over and over that we must show compassion for one another, ends up with a hug at the most unexpected time. For parents, it's those moments, that are our home runs. It is those moments where our pride shows through. It is those moments that make us wake up every morning and start all over again.

Yes, life sometimes has to hit you over the head to teach you a lesson. My lesson at the ball field was "LET"S PLAY BALL!!!" today and tomorrow and the day after that because we have to, because it matters, because we make a difference in our children's lives. We also have to be teammates to those around us because on those days of defeat, everyone needs a cheer from the dugout.