I took Quinn back to the Playseum today to see the bunnies. You might remember the cute from the last time we went there.

Only one of the baby bunnies was still there. The others had all been adopted. Yet the cute was still in full force.

This bunny doesn’t have a name. Quinn called him “Bun.” He’s been talking about Bun all day.

That’s all I have. No Dipshit Friday this week, because I was a very chill and excellent mom today. Enjoy your weekend!

The Autism Path

I feel that when I got my son Jack’s autism diagnosis, it was as if I had been given directions to a trail head that started us down a path. The path was different than the one I’d planned on and this path was rockier than the one I left behind, but still, it was a path. Walking along this autism path was better than milling around aimlessly in a meadow, unable to find a trail head of any sort.

When I think of Jack’s autism and where it takes us, I can actually see this path in my mind. It is made up of dirt and rocks and it winds through and up a mountain pass. I’m walking it with Jack, and my other children walk on either side of me. Sometimes the rocks in our path cause only Jack to stumble, but sometimes they are spread out so all of us trip and struggle.

Here’s the thing about this difficult autism path though: It’s beautiful. There are trees and ponds to the side, and every once in a while we see a deer or a squirrel. Yes, the terrain is bumpy, but the setting is gorgeous. This is how I see my life with Jack. Parenting a special needs child brings so much love, joy, learning, and amazement. Some days, when we trip and fall, we see a beautiful flower under a rock that we wouldn’t have seen had we not stumbled.

Often times our children with autism forge straight ahead through the hardest section of the trail, but sometimes they notice that there is an easier way around. Every time they take that easier way, every time they learn that they should look for the possibility of an easier way, the sky seems to get a little brighter.

We’re not alone on our path either. There are special needs families strewn all over this trail, walking with us. Sometimes we hold hands as we struggle up a steep incline and sometimes we catch each other as we slide down a scree-littered down-slope.

No matter where our paths are taking us—and they stretch all over the mountain—we all started from the same trail head, more or less. We all saw that signpost with the words, “Diagnosis: Autism” on it.

Some of us set off with purpose in our hearts and our heads held high. Some of us feared the heavy trees and that initial almost-vertical climb. Some of us tried to turn around to find a different trail. Many of us had hope. And we needed it too, because that first couple of miles? They are a bitch. The terrain is unpleasant and the overhanging trees block the view. There is so much to learn about how to climb and we often forget to look for the bright spots hidden among the boulders.

But we keep going because someone a little bit ahead holds out a hand, or we see a beautiful rock that a previous passer by dropped for us on the ground. We keep going, because our child keeps going, and he needs us to keep up. He needs us to remember that even when he is struggling up that path on unsteady legs, he is still the same child who days ago was frolicking in the meadow before someone said “autism” and pointed him toward this trail.

There are people who are much farther ahead of us on this path. Through the special needs parenting grapevine, word comes back that there is a really steep hike coming up. The word warns us to work hard and keep trying but don’t despair, because there is a lovely flat section after you reach the top, and oh my God, you won’t believe the view from up there.

These paths wind all over the mountain of autism, intersecting, diverging, and running parallel to each other. There are times when I am on my path, picking my way around trees when I can see my special needs friends on their paths below and above me. Some of them are struggling, some of them are running, and, look, that guy there is sitting down nursing a bruised knee.

But we all get up and we keep walking.

Sometimes the path is dark and scary. And sometimes its beauty takes our breath away. Sometimes we gaze at the path of neurotypicality on the valley floor and wish for those easy slopes and the way all of those paths run close together, providing easy company. There are some beautiful plants and geographic formations down there, that’s for sure. We forget that there are hazards down there as well, that they are merely different from our own.

There are days that we don’t envy those valley-floor paths, however. Those days we realize that those trails don’t wind around high-altitude lakes, stunning in their beauty. Those paths don’t force their walkers to fight through a bramble of thorns, which means their travelers don’t get to feel the surge of pride and victory when they emerge back into the sunlight. We don’t get to experience the same beauty as those walking on the valley floor, but our scenery is gorgeous in its own right.

Everyone’s path is hard. Everyone has to struggle up and down the trail on which we have embarked. We struggle over the uneven ground and hope that around the bend there is a nice flat section or a tree stump, upon which we can take a rest and enjoy being with our fellow travelers.

But after we sit, after we rest, we stand up and we keep walking. We continue to find ways to help our kids avoid the most difficult pitfalls and we keep on in our search for that small, beautiful flower or the overwhelming gorgeous view.

We’re tired, but we keep going, because we get to be with our children and they make the walk oh so worthwhile.

Cross-posted on Stimey’s Washington Times Communities column, Autism Unexpected.

Museum of Modern Sam, Part Deux

Sam is only eight years old and he has just had his second art showing. Back when he was in kindergarten, one of his (yes, I’m going to call them) pieces was chosen to be put on display in a county-wide display of students’ art at a local mall.

This year, another of his pieces was chosen. This one:

It’s pretty, huh?

Sam also wrote a little something to go along with it. He wrote: “I created a seascape. The mood of my seascape is calm and breezy. I showed this by making the waves wiggly. I used several techniques in my painting. (Masking; crayon resist; wet on wet and salting.) I showed depth in my painting by overlapping my boats. The smallest boat in the background does not have any details.”

I’m so proud I could just about bust. I’m also a little jealous. I don’t think any of my art even made it up onto a refrigerator.

From the looks of it, Sam is pretty proud too.

Kindergarten, Ho!

Dude looks little, doesn’t he?

Oh my God, the cheeks.

He’s not little anymore though. He’ll be five in a month. He’ll be going to kindergarten in four months. He’s a big kid. (But he’s so little.)

I took Quinn to kindergarten orientation today. He was really excited. But he was also very nervous. He was absolutely uninterested in going anywhere without me. He was also uninterested in wearing a name tag, so I had to sneak it onto his back. He almost caught me.

When the people running orientation wanted to take his mug shot, he was displeased and made me sit with him. Yet he was okay posing for me.

Turn to the left please.
Also, please take that thing out of your mouth. Geesh.

I’ve been in those kindergarten classrooms so many times. But it’s kinda crazy that this time it’s Quinn sitting in those chairs. I’ve been waiting for him to go to kindergarten for so long, but I can’t quite believe he’s going to go.

If kindergarten requires a pointer, he is super prepared.

He chilled out a little by the time a teacher took him to do their little let’s-figure-out-where-this-kid-belongs quick assessment. I was completely ready for him to refuse to do anything. I was happily surprised when he was compliant.

Well, now he looks so big in this photo.

I was hanging out, you know, not hovering. Although I was the idiot parent with the fancy camera, per usual. In fact, I was the only parent taking pictures. Come to think of it, I guess I was hovering. (See how selfless I am in being a dork so that you can see these very important photos of Quinn getting schooled?)

Of course, my fancy camera’s battery went dead partway through,
making me the idiot parent with the non-working fancy camera.

Where was I? Oh, right. NOT hovering. I saw Quinn misidentify a lowercase “j” by calling it an “i”, but while going over numbers, he mentioned pi, so I’m pretty sure he’s going in the super-advanced class. But then again, when the teacher asked if he knew what pi meant, Quinn mumbled something about a “cooked pie.” So maybe he’ll go into the super-poseur class.

However, now that I think about it, the teacher then went off on a tangent about one being the loneliest number and how two can be as bad as one, but one is really the loneliest number—to which Quinn responded with a blank stare and I responded with my characteristic guffawing idiot laughter—so it’s entirely possible that we won’t even be allowed to enter school at all.

I have an ace in my pocket though in the case that the school decides I am too big of a dork to allow me to send a third child there. I’m pretty sure this pumpkin seed rhyme constitutes a legal contract.

Take that, public school! I’ll be as big of a dipshit* as I want.

Can you believe it though? My baby’s going to go to kindergarten. Be prepared for wildly vacillating mood swings from hysterical joy to maudlin retrospectivity. (It is too a word.)

* For you Dipshit Friday lovers.

Holy Crow, What the Hell Just Happened?

It’s Thursday, which means that Jack and Sam’s friend E comes over to play with her little brother P. Today, our other first grade neighbor, V, and her babysitter, S, came too. (Do you have that straight? )


Things were going well until E mentioned that she wanted to marry Jack. Which I love because I love anyone who loves Jack. E had even found a couple of costume jewelry rings for them to wear. Well, Sam was not okay with this because evidently at the beginning of the year, E had promised Sam that she would marry him.

Five minutes later Sam was upstairs sobbing, E was confused, and Jack was oblivious to the whole thing. In fact, after the nuptials, Jack passed his ring over to V’s babysitter. I’m not sure if that makes Jack and the babysitter married or E and the babysitter married. Either way, it didn’t matter to Sam.

I know that Cliff Huxtable would have handled this in a very after-school special sort of way, so I headed up the stairs to have a heart to heart conversation with Sam about love. Unfortunately, Sam isn’t Theo Huxtable. Sam reacts to disappointment by withdrawing and screaming about wanting to be alone. He won’t even let me hug him to comfort him.

In my infinite wisdom, I decided that adding E to the situation was the way to handle it. But after Sam yelled at her for breaking her promise, she started sobbing. Nicely done, Stimey. Now, not only was Sam heartbroken and angry, but E was convinced that Sam would never talk to her again.

I am an excellent playdate facilitator.

More drama ensued with E swearing that original promise took place in kindergarten and that it didn’t count, because, you know, kindergarten, c’mon. Then there was some passing of notes written in marker on Kleenex and some more crying, and then E’s dad showed up and everyone went home, but not before E very dramatically removed her ring and handed it to me.

If this is age 8, what the hell is age 16 going to be like?

Shannon Des Roches Rosa Interviewed Me at BlogHer.com!

Recently, the fabulous Shannon Des Roches Rosa of Squidalicious interviewed me for her BlogHer.com column. The posts she puts up there are incredible and thought provoking. It’s an honor to have her interview me.

Head on over there to read what I told her about being an autism mom and what I hope to do at this summer’s autism panel at BlogHer ’10.

And because that interview is a lot about the loveliness and quirk of Jack, I thought I’d illustrate this go-read-elsewhere post with that clay sculpture to the left that Jack brought home from school today.

Confused, I asked Jack to tell me about it. “It’s me and Izzy,” he said. See, Izzy is our cat, and that flat thing with the wiggly eyes on top is Jack. So cute. And it’s even more awesome in person. He made clay whiskers. That’s hard to do. I assume.

Also cute was that after he heard Jack tell me it was him and Izzy, Quinn cooed, “Awwww, can I hug it?”

Autism Unexpected: Noticing the Bright Spots


When you have a child with autism, so much of what you do is notice their deficits.

When my son, Jack, was first being diagnosed, I spent days, weeks, months, noticing what he did differently from other kids. I saw the way he didn’t speak like the other kids. I saw the way he obsessed about certain things. I saw the way he wouldn’t interact with children.

When I am trying to get services from the school, I comb through his records to find what he can’t do. I list his behavioral abnormalities. I document what he has trouble with. I create papers with bullet points of how he is unable to access the curriculum.

Sometimes, amid all of this, I forget to notice what he can do. The simple act of attending a birthday party the other day brought the beauty of my child back to me.

I truly believe it is a joy and a gift to raise a special needs child. Jack has taught me so much. Through him, I have learned to look at the world differently. Parenting Jack has taught me to see the joy in his successes in a way I sometimes don’t do with my typical kids.

All three of my kids attended a birthday party last weekend. They knew the birthday girl and her little sister, but none of the other guests. Yet, as kids do, they fell in and happily played together. The difference with this party is that all three of my kids fell in—including Jack.

Jack, following the lead of his big brother, played interactively with all of the kids in a chasing game. He stood in line to participate in the obstacle course the party girl’s mom had set up. He patiently sat with the other kids to eat cake. He didn’t necessarily act like all the other kids the whole time, but he successfully interacted and had fun.

I left that party feeling high. It’s not that I want Jack to “pass” as typical. But I saw him being able to find his way in an unfamiliar social situation and enjoy it. While I’m happy my other kids had fun at the party, seeing Jack have fun with the other kids lit me up.

This is one of the purest gifts Jack has given me. He has let me see a small success and really feel it, really revel in it. Having a child who struggles has helped me notice little victories.

And those little victories are amazing.

Originally posted at Autism Unexpected on April 20, 2010.