Wednesday, March 26, 2014

dear nora | you, at sixteen months.

Oh, Nora Hattie.

How do I even describe you? You are sixteen months old, Nori, and at sixteen months old, you are a RIOT.

You are growing up so quickly; lighting fast compared to what I experienced the first time around with your sister. I wish I could slow things down. I wish I could keep your babyhood for a little longer. But, I know that I cannot. Toddlerhood shows itself in everything you do.

At sixteen months old, you are busy. You love to climb and try to balance and stand on tiny things that shouldn't be balanced on. Like your toy drum, no wider than a dinner plate. I often find you perched on top, carefully, and then you steady yourself and stand cautiously up. You fall all the time, off of everything. And when you fall, you don't let anyone forget that you've fallen for 10 minutes at least. You love drama.

Nora, you are so sweet. Right now, you are my cuddliest baby. You love to be held, and you give the best hugs, with your head tucked perfectly on my shoulder and your little hand patting my back rhythmically. You often run over to me or Nana or Daddy, carrying you blankie behind you, and want to just be held and cuddled for a good long while.  You smile constantly, at everyone you see, and are always happy. I love to watch you eat your breakfast in the highchair and wait for you to notice that I am watching. The moment our eyes meet you give me the biggest, cheesiest, sweetest, grin.

When you wake up in the morning and see Evie run into your room you call out, "Ebie Ebie Ebie!" and then you'll always say "hi!". You greet everyone that way, a soft, sweet, adorable little "hi!". You have a soft spot for your Daddy and always give him the most enthusiastic welcome home when he walks through the door at 5:45. You run over to him and he lifts you up and you rest your head on his shoulder softly saying, "Daddy". He is totally enamored with you, of course.

At sixteen months old, you understand so much of the world around you. You make me laugh when you bring me your shoes, along with Evie and Will's, and ask to go "owside". You know which pair belongs to which child and you try your very hardest to put them on all by yourself, or put Will's on his feet for him. You also love to hang up your coat, put your hat away, and try you darnedest to buckle your own car seat and highchair. Miss independent. You are always noticing everything I do.

You love to be outside and you love to run. You are a stinker when it comes to going for walks and you don't listen to me one bit. Instead, you run in the opposite direction, and then laugh when I get to you and scoop you up, saying "no". You love to go to the park, climb up the steps, and slide down the slide all by yourself, laying on your belly. You are fearless, and want to be just like the big kids you watch.

At sixteen months, you are the sweetest sister. You are so kind and caring towards Evie and Will. You seem to try extra hard at times with Evie, and will squat down to make eye contact with her while she is sitting on the floor, looking into her eyes and calling her name over and over again until she notices you. She is warming up to you all the time, and now loves to give you hugs and kisses, and is starting to play with you a little bit, too. You have been so patient with her.

You and Will are best friends about 99% of the time. I absolutely love to watch your little relationship grow and develop. You make up little games to play together, that both of you find absolutely hilarious. The other day you both started walking in circles around the kitchen island dragging your blankets on the floor behind you and laughing hysterically. It was the most simple little game, but the two of you find so much joy in doing little activities like that together. My favorite is when you spontaneously give each other hugs and kisses, or when you notice each others facial features or belly buttons, making the other laugh as you point to each part. Yours is a special little bond.

At sixteen months old, you LOVE your binky. I don't know how I will ever get it away from you, because you can hardly get through the day without it. You call it a "me" and will come to me crying for "me, me, me!" if you can't find it. You don't talk nearly as much as Will (probably because of said binky in your mouth 100% of the time), but you are smart as a whip and constantly making me laugh with your little antics, and your desire to be "soooo big!"

I love you to the moon, Norsie Hattie. Yours is a heart of gold. You came into this world with a desire to be good, and do the right things. It already manifests itself in everything you do. You are obedient and kind and caring towards those around you. I have no doubt you will always protect your siblings and shine brightly in our family, like you do today.


dear evie.

 written on 12.2.13

Dear Evie,

We have our days.

Days when everything feels heavy and suffocating and you can't quite find your balance, and I can't quite find mine.

We have our moments.

At times, I want to erase this. Start over, start fresh. Flip the timer over and watch the sand pour itself from one end to the other, slowly, silently, until we've built ourselves back up again. Until everything is how I thought it would be.

I feel like that.
Some days.


But then,
we have our days.

Days like today; when I put you to sleep, close the door, and find myself standing there, smiling, because that gap in between your two front teeth is just so. Tears fall because of that moment, in the kitchen, when you smiled at me while concentrating and then, so carefully, so deliberately, put two words together.


I screamed when you said it. And you smiled, that enormous, beaming, Evie Jane smile. Because you knew. Because you know. Oh little one, you are special.

Most days, when I put you to sleep, I am utterly exhausted by the thought of you. You; with your energy bounding and pulsing. You; so vibrant, and particular, and exact. You wear me out, and wear me down, and leave me vulnerable, and open. Raw.

You, who challenge me, and push me, and mold this life into something I never saw coming. You turn it all upside down, and flip it backwards--push me into the corner and then pull me, forcefully, back out again.

Nothing is how I thought it would be. Nothing is how I imagined. Nothing, that is, except you.

You with the pigtails and the 4 consecutive kisses, and the eyes clenched tightly shut as you send your biggest smile up towards the moon.

Oh, I love you, sweet girl.

For everything you are, every second of the day. There is nothing, in this entire world, that is quite like you.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

nearly one year ago.

Last June, I found myself awake early one morning, crying to a stranger on the phone. She was an Autism mom, and was trying to help me cope during the realization I was going through--the realization that I was probably an Autism mom, too.

She said something that morning that made me mad at the time. She told me that if it weren't for Autism she would never have never met some of her closest friends in the world, and that her life wouldn't be as meaningful as it is now.

I remember thinking, "who cares?! I would give up every and any potential friendship I might make in order to take this burden away. How could she possibly think that could make me feel any better?"

It's been nearly a year since I made that phone-call, and my life has changed in remarkable ways. What used to sound depressing and impossible has become my new normal. And, just like I imagined, I do find myself curled up in bed nursing a broken heart from time to time. Occasionally, I find myself pounding the walls with frustration. I expected all of that, and it's real. But those days don't come often, and they don't stay long. What I didn't imagine, and couldn't comprehend at the time, was the unimaginable joy I would feel as I continued to love and care for my special little Evie.

I wouldn't have thought I could find myself, on a Saturday afternoon, sitting next to her as she ate her lunch and smiling through my tears as she offered me bites of her rice cake and then burst into giggles each time I took one. It was an ordinary moment that any Mother might have with their child. And yet, I was sobbing--my heart being ripped to shreds by her sparkle, and her smile, and the overwhelming feeling I had that this moment was not ordinary. That afternoon, I could feel that she was someone special, as plainly as I could feel the salty tears running down my face. I felt it all the way to my toes.

I wouldn't have thought I could find myself, writing emails to other Moms and saying things like "it gets better, hang in there, the clouds will part, you'll feel happy again." I didn't believe any of that could be possible for me, for you, for any of us on this incredibly difficult and breathtaking journey.

It's been nearly a year, and I don't wake up crying anymore. I don't wake up with a throbbing ache in my chest and a stomach full of lead. I wake up to the sound of her saying "Mom!?" and her giggle as she hugs me, touches me, smells my hair, and falls on top of me; her body relaxing against the weight of mine. I wake up and fall to the floor to pray that I can be good enough for her, brave enough for her, happy enough for her. And then something miraculous happens, and I realize that, because she is mine, I am.

It's been nearly a year, and I'm beginning to understand what that other Mom meant that morning as she listened to my sobs through the phone. Maybe another mom who is where I was will read this, and not believe me, too. To her I would simply say that Evie makes my ordinary life something extraordinary. Some days it is extraordinarily hard, and some days it's extraordinarily wonderful, but always, it is worth it. She turns an afternoon of sharing bites at the kitchen table into a miracle unfolding before my very eyes. She makes everything more than what it was before.

And I am something more now, too.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

love, like an ocean.

My life has been consumed by Autism lately.

I go through these phases, is what I'm learning.
Phases where Evie is just Evie, and life is just life, and everything seems okay. And then, out of nowhere, a phase where Evie is "Autistic" and my heart feels too heavy for too long.

I'm still getting used to it, is what I'm realizing. It's still so new. I still kiss her lips 20 times in a row as she smiles that perfect, gap-toothed smile, and wonder when this became part of her? And when parts of her that I've always loved became parts of her that technically make her "disabled".

I still have to remind myself that this is my new life. Every priority has shifted, every perspective has changed. Gone is the mother who was laid-back and carefree, and in her place is me: a mother who spends nearly 100% of her day down on the ground pushing cars, and making "vrrroooooommm" noises, and crawling after them on all fours like a monster, as 3 tiny children giggle and squeal. Because fear, like an ocean, will swallow me whole if I don't.

I still haven't learned how to stop worrying about her. I thought I would get better at that, with time. I thought that accepting it would mean I'd no longer feel the need to over-analyze it. But I still find myself, on the gloomiest of days, absolutely exhausted with worry. I've never known such worry and pressure in all my life. I never knew the world could feel so heavy on my shoulders, so heavy with the promise of another day, so heavy with the list of things that absolutely have to get done. No, I'm not talking about the dishes, or the laundry--those tasks can wait years for all I care. I'm talking about that sweet little girl sleeping down the hall with her blankie and pillow pet tucked safely under her arm, and all those dreams yet to realize.

Tomorrow we will wake up and eat breakfast, we will get dressed and brush her hair. I will remind her to say goodbye to Nana and goodbye to Papa and she will practice stacking blocks, and doing puzzles, and remembering to tell me she "wants a snack" if her tummy growls. She will kiss Will, and pester Nora, and sing along to "Five Little Monkeys" as they bounce and bounce and bonk their little heads on the floor.

And tomorrow I will try, once again, to give her my life, my sanity, all that I am.

I never knew how much I could love her.