Friday, April 30, 2010

Quick Takes Friday

1) I got all my kids to eat spaghetti last night. Well, the baby's noodles had no sauce, but I'm still counting it!
2) I get a 3 day weekend next weekend...but I have to work this Saturday night. I am praying it goes quickly and painlessly!
3) I am at a loss how in one week I will have a one-year-old. Completely at a loss
4) Overheard this week:
Me: Joey did you poop?
Joey: No poop mama
Me: Joey did you pee?
Joey (getting slightly exasperated): No pee-pee Mama!
Me: Are you sure?
Joey (smiling): not sure!
5) I have found I like sleeping in a really cold bedroom....really cold. With lots of blankets on me. I don't know why, I just DO!
6) I fully blame my best friend Paula (and Joey's Godmother) but baby fever is sweeping our house. As evidence this exchange:
Joey: Mama, want baby brother AND baby sister THIS YEAR!
Me: Joey, you might get a baby brother OR a baby sister MAYBE NEXT YEAR....
7) Speaking of babies: congratulations to Allon and Jess on Baby Laya born this week!
Wow, those were quick!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Small Successes

1) When head-on provoked by someone I have had a tendency to have a short-temper with, I simply smiled and thanked them for their opinion.

2) I managed to make it in and out of my parents' house with everything I came with. I left Will's birthday present there, but I didn't come in with that so it doesn't count :).

3) When a little person asked me on Tuesday to "get shoes, socks. Get Mama's keys, Mama's car. Go Cabo (my parents' dog)'s house." I, once again, managed to persuade him that we would be staying home.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tiny Treasures

William- In less than two weeks he will be a whole year old! He is a really cruising a lot now and wants to walk really bad. He loves Cars as much as Joey now and Blue's Clues too.

Joseph-- Joey is ever the helpful brother. He is enjoying being a little enforcer and helping make sure Shelby is not getting into trouble. He pushes Will in the swing.

Shelby-- Shelby was crying last week...because she had to change her pants before school and thought that meant she wasn't going!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Fight Goes On....

One team walked for a thirteen-year-old boy, another for a former Marine who passed just six months after his fourth grandchild was born. Team AK Strong and Team Doin' It 4 Dale still can use your support as can the other angels fighting brain tumors at Duke's Preston Robert Tisch Brain Cancer Center. Please help us end this thing!

For him:

and him:

and those of us who walked for them!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Believe

Yesterday my parents walked for Andy. My friends Holly and Christy, along with their families, walked for their father Dale. Brain tumors claim young and old but at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Cancer Center at Duke University, where both Andy and Dale received treatment, there is hope. Hope that a cure will be found. We had planned to walk but multiple scheduling conflicts combined with a stomach virus foiled our plans. Please listen to Alabama's song and watch the images and remember that there are always angels in our world. Angels like the doctors, nurses and researchers at the Tisch Center at Duke. Angels like those fighting and surviving or fighting and being born to eternal life as a result of brain cancer. Angels like Andy and Dale.

I believe, there are angels among us....

Click here to help the doctors, nurses, researchers and patients fight this disease...our team is AK Strong and Holly and Christy's team is Doin' It 4 Dale. Either team or any of the others can definitely use help in this fight!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Is She For Real?

OMG, it was a magical experience. You'll never know what it was like, but it was the greatest thing ever. It's just too bad you can't feel the empowerment I feel now....

I'll spare you the rest. Recently I met up with a couple of friends, one of whom just had her first baby. At home. With her midwife. I was totally revved up to hear her birth story. I was totally let down. Instead of hearing how wonderful it was and how much she loved the baby, I heard about how I had somehow been devalued and how my births just wouldn't measure up. I looked over at our other friend, to see if she was hearing what I was, (she has never been pregnant or given birth) and she was shifting uncomfortably in her seat. When there was a break, she tried to bring up anything not baby, but when someone is a first-time mom, everything is all about the baby. All the time. I wasn't any different.

I tried not to let it bug me. I tried to just ignore it, but it ate at me for days afterward.

I wanted a homebirth with a midwife. But I had a genetic disorder so that midwives ruled out even a hospital birth with one of their own. So I found an OB/GYN. A great one. And her amazing partner. My great ob/gyn suggested everything to try and get my baby turned. That baby was comfy and not moving. Everyone was realistic with me about my chances for an external version. I talked to Jeff. I prayed. We decided that a c-section was the best chance for me. I told friends and family, some who were worried, one who was wonderful. My friend Andrea, who had two c-sections, told me that when she was having her first and was heart-broken a nurse asked her, "Do you know what they call a woman who has had a c-section? They call her mom." That put it in perspective for me. I still got to experience labor and dilation and my water breaking and contractions! And out came a beautiful baby girl. I was never happier.

Fourteen months later, my water broke, I went into labor again. The nurses asked me if I wanted to try a VBAC. I hesitated for a second and said no. My babies were very close together, my uterus had most likely not completely healed and there was a bad family history regarding VBACs. I went into the OR again. I got a blond (surprise!) boy. And 20 odd months after that a c-section went as scheduled and I got another robust little boy. (That was almost one year ago.)

They may not be stories of giving myself over to my body, or maybe they are.

One indisputable fact, they are the stories of how my children came to be. And contrary to what some may believe, they are beautiful stories. The stories about how I learned to accept that sometimes what we want isn't what we get. How I had to surrender my "dream birth" to get my "dream babies."

If you have the birth of your dreams, I am happy for you, please do not tell any other woman that her birth was less than ideal. If she already believes that, you will do her a great disservice in making her feel inadequate. If she does not, you will alienate her as she probably does not want to be around someone who looks down at her.

And if you find out that the birth of your dreams is just that, a dream and the reality is something you never imagined/wanted, take heart. You just did something selfless for your child.

Please support women's rights to birth and midwifery with Where's My Midwife?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Seven Quick Takes

1) I am nervous for Jeff taking his Praxis II in Family and Consumer Science this Saturday. It will make him more marketable for sure. No, he doesn't sew or do interior design (although those will be on the exam) he can teach agriculture and the food portions well. I really, really hope he passes!!!! For me it is more stressful than when he was taking the exam for elementary education certification for some reason.
2) Lately I am having the strangest dreams. Like that a I work at HT but it's a very strange HT and the sell things like dead rats because people in some parts of the world eat those. My friend Lea worked with me in the dream and people kept walking off without paying us while we were ringing them up and they wouldn't let us go on breaks. I blame this dream and other stranges ones on giving up soda. Yeah, that's what's causing them!
3) I am, I have discovered, hopelessly addicted to some television shows. These include: King of the Hill, Law and Order: SVU, Snapped, America's Next Top Model, and Deadliest Catch. I missed out on the Desparate Housewives, LOST and 24 addictions, but I kinda like mine better.
4) Today is a special little guy's birthday! Our friend Julie's grandson Dylan turns 2. We've never met in person, but thanks to a little invention called facebook, we have seen many pictures of this little guy and I just want to hug and squeeze him! He looks like Shelby and Will in coloration but I can tell in the pictures he is Joey's little twin in personality and adventureness. I hope one day the boys can get together and play as I think they would love each other.
5) I am seriously excited to meet Paula and Scott's little frijolito in September! Ryan already has so many people who love him and for me, that is the most exciting part of being pregnant or having a close friend be pregnant. Seeing the love that a person who we haven't ever seen can generate is freaking amazing!
6) I love it when my kids want to snuggle. Of course I tend to fall asleep and that is not allowed! Joey will pry my eyes open and say ,"No seeping Mama! No seeping!"
7) It is hard to believe, but southeastern NC is actually enjoying a spring this year. Normally we go from bitter cold winter straight to 90 degree days, but the past couple of weeks have been upper 40s at night and low 70s during the day.
Check out more Quick Takes @ Conversion Diary!

Thankful Thursday

1) For Tuesdays, SVU marathon

2) This sweet face

3) And this one

4) And this one

5) For a husband who never gives up

6) A rainy day to sleep yesterday

7) That so many people are motivated to walk for brain cancer research

8) A beautiful and fruitful vegetable garden

9) Friends who are as obsessed with baby names as I am :)

10) Really comfy pajama pants

Small Successes


1) I stopped drinking sugar soft-drinks and limit myself to one Diet Coke at work. This is to curb budget as much as waist line!

2) I have started teaching Joey to use an open cup instead of a cup with a straw. We have spillage issues, but he's been really good about trying it out.

3) I managed to hold down the fort and not count how many time I heard "where Daddy go?" last Saturday when Jeff went to a job fair. I also managed to persuade a little person who was determined we were going to "get mama's car, go out town" that we were staying home.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tiny Treasures Tuesday

William-- In 3 weeks, he will be 1. How this year has passed so quickly. He is a little machine and into everyone else's business. Let me try and change a diaper that is not his and he's in my face. He is big into smiling still and molars are coming in now. Oh the agony! But he is handling quite a bit of food, all of it real. We are working hard on a sippy cup. Hoping he gets it quick.

Joseph-- So (and Jen, don't throw something at me all the way in China for this) Joey is big into repeating things, and so we wanted him to say something on the phone to his Uncle Max (who stopped a puck with his chin and required seventeen stitches to close it up) to cheer him up. The phrase I taught him, "Sidney Crosby is a girl." Max is a huge Washington Capitals fan, so I figured that would make him proud. And boy did it ever. Joey thinks all forwards in the NHL are "Wayne Grecky" and goalies are either "Patrick Roy" (which like a good little French Canadian--NOT-- he says correctly) or "I-ann Milla." We are working on manners now as well which has the funny result of Joey saying "Thank you, you're welcome" whenever we give him something.

Shelby-- Would you believe the one unrolling the new roll of toilet paper wasn't the child who loves repetitive behaviors? Shelby resisted when her brother brought her a roll to undo (he handed it to the baby who was thrilled). We got her school progress report yesterday which shows her greatest growth is social and self-help skills with progress in speech and fine motor skills. She loves school so much that yesterday when she got her pants dirty before leaving and I had to take her shoes off to change them, she started crying thinking she wasn't going to get to go.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Quick Takes Friday

So, here we are again....
1) I did our taxes. I know, I know what you're thinking, doesn't everyone do them the day you get your W2's? My answer is what fun would tax day be if I didn't do them then. I'll let you ponder that...
2) I am ever more drawn back to the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as I struggle to help many close to me through this crisis in the Church.
3) I am going to be doing pre-school at home with Joey this fall (he will be 3 in September) but am still trying to decide how I want to do it. My options are a) just one on one (with the baby too of course) or b) trying to find two to three other moms and doing a co-op preschool where we rotate houses. I'm leaning toward a) because I think it will be easier on me but I like the idea of b) and him being able to play and socialize. Decisions, decisions
4) We are so excited that Will's Godmother Gina is coming for a visit on Sunday. Due to conflicting schedules we haven't been able to see her in months! Last week Joey's Godmother Paula came by for a visit as well. We are so blessed to have their Godparents close by!
5) Can you believe in just a few more weeks Will will turn 1. Where has this year gone? He is so ready to walk it's not funny, but his body isn't quite ready yet....stay tuned for details....
6) Next weekend is the 5k for Brain Cancer Research at Duke. I am praying for cool weather but no rain to walk in. I get to push Shelby and Will in the double stroller while my brother Matt runs with Joey in the jogging stroller my mom got on craigslist. (Fingers crossed!)
7) Our peas are starting to grow in our garden and my fingers are crossed we get a good tomato crop (at least) this year. Last year's crop was foiled by children pulling unripe fruits. I guess it's the idle hands thing?????
Check out more Quick Takes over @ Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Advice? Really?

Everyone has advice. On everything. Especially parenting.

Your kids won't eat something: well tell them they can have nothing until everything is gone!

Difficulty potty-training: remove all "fun" from their lives until they decide that poop and pee only go in the potty.

Acting up: a good hard spanking will resolve that once and for all!

(These are common ones I hear people doling out to friends, family and complete strangers.)

I'm pretty up front about how I take advice on parenting. I don't. Unless I ask, don't offer. And I rarely offer advice. Only when it's asked for. In case you haven't noticed I refuse to subscribe to the "one-size-fits-all" parenting approach. And it's a good thing too, because with a special-needs child, especially one with autism, you spend a lot of time re-writing rules and being flexible. So, I especially like this button I found recently:

I found it here, where I highly recommend people visit who would like to support autism research and the families (like mine) who benefit from it. Until April 17, shipping is free and a portion of proceeds benefits Autism Speaks.

Here is the thing, I LOVE talking about autism. I love helping people understand my daughter, her classmates and children and adults around the world. I love sharing ideas. However, I strongly dislike well-intentioned people who believe it is their job to tell me what therapy I should use on my child, what so-and-so celebrity is doing that I should as well and most-importantly, how I should deal with my child's idiosyncratic behaviors.

And while we're on the subject, parenting advice is not appreciated for my normally developing sons either. When my two-year-old has a tantrum and I remove him from the situation and we discuss self-control, that is something that works for me and him. I don't care what you would have done differently, you're not me and he's not your son to discipline. He's two, there's a big learning curve, so do I think he'll have another tantrum, you can bet your bottom dollar. And yes, my eleven-month-old is teething and biting, please keep comments to yourself. I do not spank infants. And he is not biting out of malice so there is no need to bite back at this point (which failed miserably when I tried it with the previously mentioned two-year-old, I got bit back).

Am I a perfect parent, no, I am not. Is there a possibility that somethings could benefit by my changing them? Yes, of course. But let me figure that out. Don't shoot down my way of doing something because it didn't work for you or your friend or your cousin. Let me be the mom I am supposed to be and trust me, if I need your advice, I'll let you know. I'm not shy in that way.

Monday, April 12, 2010

So, now what?

We want an answer, but we don't know what that answer is.
We want accountability, but we don't know how.
We want no more lies and cover-ups, but we can't decide how to enforce this.

I feel like the fish in the plastic bags at the end of Finding Nemo. We made it this far, what next?

I feel like Dory, just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

I am angry, I am agitated. My husband always says everyone has a breaking point, I haven't come close to mine, but I know many who have. I am reminded of Rod Dreher's defection to the Eastern Orthodox faith as he grappled with covering the scandals in the church and found the pressure too much. I cannot fault him as many, many people did when they found out. Everyone has a breaking point, and everyone has different ways of dealing with it when they reach that point. How do I know my reaction would be different?

I have seen many point to the easy solution of just simply changing faiths as an answer. I remember growing up Catholic in a very Protestant south being surprised when I realized that people who found something they didn't like in their denomination just "switched" to another. I saw many Methodists become Baptists, Baptists become Presbyterians, Presbyterians become Evangelicals. I don't know that this is wrong, but for me it was certainly confusing. I know and understand people leave the Catholic church, but not quite with the frequency I was seeing. The phenomenon of being a "cafeteria Christian" is still going strong today. Don't like it, try this counter and see if it's better. While I agree it's probably not too hard to just walk into the local Baptist church and join up, does that make it right? For me, no.

For me, it comes down to beliefs. I believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist through a miracle called transubstantiation. I believe it is a gift to receive the body and blood of Christ in the form of the sacrament of Communion. For that reason, during a period of my life when I did discern whether the Church was where I belonged, the only alternatives I considered were the Greek Orthodox church in my city, a small upstart Ukranian Orthodox church and a Byzantine rite church over 50 miles away in Myrtle Beach.

For me, the hierarchy of the Church does not bother me because I go back to this:

And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18

Christ instituted a hierarchy with that statement. And in many, many Protestant churches there are hierarchies (the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Mormon prophets, the presidents of the Southern Baptist conventions). While they may not serve the same purpose or authority as the Pope does and perhaps are chosen differently, they exist in some form or fashion. I do believe that knowledge or not of incidences does not exempt the Pope from question. As the leader of the Church here on Earth, it's his responsibility to acknowledge problems, address them, and see that they do not happen again. He is accountable both to God and the people of the Church. While we may not elect him, he still should be hearing our voices.

I completely understand and respect the rights of others to disagree with me on these topics. I am not here to debate them, but share what I believe. I believe that right now, I am called to pray for the Divine Mercy to come upon the Church and the Pope to help right the egregious wrongs that were done to so many.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


How does one deal with disappointments?

Is it based on how we were raised? Our religious convictions? A combination or other things entirely?

I am one of these people who pray on things. I pray that if things don't turn out the way I would like that I will accept this as God's will and be able to bear it. I don't always succeed.

Recently one of my best friends became pregnant despite being told she would have a very uphill battle to do so. She did need some minor help, but got pregnant immediately and is nearing 20 weeks.

She had always wanted to have a little boy but had been, since getting pregnant, getting herself used to the idea of a girl. Her husband has a son from his first marriage who has 2 half-brothers on his mom's side. The men in her family were all about wanting a girl this time around. My friend is a people pleaser and would have loved to have given her husband and step-son a daughter and sister, but, was thrilled at her ultra-sound last week to find out she was having a boy and that they were just as happy.

She told us that she did feel a twinge of something, but Jeff quickly assured her that she was only human (before I could even process a thought! sometimes my husband really amazes me) and those things happen and we shouldn't feel guilty about them. I told her that during my first pregnancy when I didn't know the sex of the baby, I had no expectations. I only looked at yellow clothes. I had long lists of names for both sexes. I listened as one person told me I was having a boy because I carried low and another tell me I was having a girl because I threw up EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. When Shelby was born, I had a very hard time believing I had a girl. For one, my husband's family told me almost daily that they only had boys (and he is one of four boys). And since I had no expectations, I am sure I would have been just as surprised to be the mom of a boy. But I got that twinge. When Shelby was about four months old I was shopping and saw so many cute little boy outfits. In my mind I thought, "So this is what I would have bought for a boy." The feeling lasted a brief second as the sleeping baby in my cart that I never imagined I would have reminded me of the gift I had been given. And two short months later I was pregnant again, this time with the first of my two boys. After sharing this with her, my best friend said she had gone to the mall the day after her ultrasound and saw all these little boys with their mothers and thought to herself, "This is what I get to look forward to!"

But I know many women who have cried for days on end after an ultrasound where they found out the sex wasn't what they were expecting. And in one extreme case, I know of an intact family who turned their daughter over to social services after she was born because she wasn't a boy. I'm not posting these as judgment, just as a contrast to the other example.

I know people who do not find out the sex of the baby simply because they fear they might not like their own reaction. I find that opinion extreme because honestly, even if you follow Landrum and Shettles to the letter, there are no guarantees you are getting what you are trying for. And I have seen people be downright competitive. For what? I have no idea.

Disappointment is something I feel when my team doesn't make the playoffs or I don't get a job offer I really want. Disappointment is when I expect something better than what I end up with. Wondering what if about a baby...I don't qualify that as disappointment.

And I while I don't fault people who may have a much different reaction than my own, I do sometimes wonder about the degree of the reaction. I wonder if people remember that God is always in control, not us.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Reality Bites...or does it?

Last night I briefly had the pleasure of meeting Marc Elliott.

I was at work when I opened the door for a man about my age (there is a remote button behind the desk). The man entered and was making a loud noise over and over again. As he approached the desk, he looked at me and smiled and said, "Sorry, it's Tourette's didn't mean to scare the hell out of you." I smiled back and said, "That's certainly okay, I've met scarier." He laughed and went on his way. My heart was instantly touched. I didn't know his name or story, but something spoke to me.

This morning when he checked out I found out more about him. He was in town speaking at the local university's Greek Life program on tolerance. He is a motivational speaker. Tourette's was not the first major struggle in his life. It probably won't be the last. But in my brief meeting him, his friendliness and upbeat attitude made me instantly forget those things.

I've told many, many people who would like to help my daughter that she is receiving therapy, but in the end, if she still has some meltdowns over sensory issues or if she never speaks, I am okay with that. Really, I am. But I know the rest of the world, the world that doesn't know Shelby doesn't understand her and is not always okay with her being different. I wished I had been able to hear Mr. Elliott's speech last night. It would have been wonderful to see someone living against such odds holding an audience of sorority (and yes, I am a sorority sister) and fraternity members captive. It might have given me a light too look to when I let my mind wander to what may become of Shelby as she becomes an adult.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Matters of Sin

I'm not going to beat around the bush because unless you've been hiding under one, you might have heard about the latest scandal/cover-up regarding priests and sexual abuse.

Let me start by saying that sexual abuse of anyone by anyone else is always wrong and should be punished by law. Yes, I think that priests who abuse children should face the law the same as any other citizen and those who think priests are above the law and protect the ones who abuse children should be punished as well. This is the reasoning side of my brain talking.

My heart hurts though. Because although priests are not above the law, I do hold them to a higher standard and I believe people should. So it hurts to be this let down. And I am grieving. Grieving that I cannot trust that someone who helps nourish my soul, who feeds me the body and blood of Christ will not turn around and do something so terrible, so heinous to another human being.

But my feelings on this subject took on a new meaning this week. Everyone has shakes to their faith periodically, and something minor can rock that shaky faith one direction or another. So imagine you were truly standing at a crossroads in your faith. You could seriously turn and leave at any moment because you felt pushed to an edge for whatever reason. And something major happens (like this most recent scandal)...what would you do? Lerin doesn't have to ask this hypothetically, she is there right now.

When I first read her post I wept. Tears for what she has gone through, what she is going through now and for the unknown future. And I prayed because I knew God was calling me to answer her thoughtfully but I didn't know what words to use. I had wanted to blog about this recently, but everytime I just sat and stared. Suddenly the words poured out of me. And to my surprise, they made sense and they seemed to help me process what was happening.

What I am about to say, is pretty much what I said in the comments on her blog. I am not defensive about media portrayal of the Church as many are. Fair or not it is there. I am not going to attempt to hide behind the bias of the majority of the media (and let's face it the world) against the Church and Catholicism. There is no excuse for the behavior of any of the people involved in these cases. What these priests and those who covered up their actions did is unconscienable. Wrong.

It is very easy to say that if these men are called to be the shepherds, we, the sheep, should trust them and our faith and perhaps walk away because of these recent actions. But that is not the best response. Christ institued the Church, he founded it on Peter, the Rock, the first Pope. But men run the Church. And men sin. They are fallible. They see the same temptations we all do. We, quite simply, cannot find perfection in them or in any other human being. Only He is perfect and it is through Him that we seek and find perfection for our souls, our selves.

What remains true no matter what the time, place or situation is that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. Christ is forgiving our sins in confession. Christ is present and blesses the union of a man and woman in Holy Matrimony. The Holy Spirit comes in when a someone is baptized and is renewed when one receives Confirmation. Christ is present when priests and nuns go through Holy Orders. And it is Christ who blesses us when we are sick and annointed. These things remain true no matter if a priest abuses his power and position or not.

Many of my Protestant and Evangelical friends will like to point out that if we go to the Bible it shows us the real truth and that turning to Christ is the only means of redemption. Let me answer this in two parts:

1) If someone attends a Protestant church faithfully and listens each week to the teachings of the Bible as delivered in the sermon and/or in Sunday school and then finds that their minister has been abusing a child or children, does that make the words in the Bible, the things it has taught us any less true or relevant? After all these things came out of the mouth of someone who directly disobeyed the teachings of the Bible? The answer is no. And the same is true when receiving the sacrements and attending mass. Those teachings, Christ's presence does not change.

2) Because Christ is present in all the sacraments, when we receive them, we are in fact turning to him.

Now here comes the part where people always like to pick on a sacrement: confession. Did those priests go to confession? Were their sins forgiven? Assuming yes, the priest did go to confession, yes his sins, are forgiven. But that does not absolve him from sinning in the future. And in the Act of Contrition we speak these words: "I detest all my sins because of your punishment, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin."
Meaning that this priest who would have received absolution of past sins is promising God that he will attempt not to sin again. Yes, we can question the sincerity of someone saying this prayer but what does that accomplish because in the end, as George Clooney says in O Brother Where Art Thou, even though God has washed away your sins,the state is a different matter. So the fact that a priest went to confession is not reason to shield him from the law if matters are reported.

There is no easy solution to this mess. I have heard people say we should allow priests to marry and that will solve all the issues. I have been ministered to by a convert to Catholicism who was married with children and grandchildren. He was and is a wonderful man. Who was falsely accused of abuse by a church member who disliked the fact that the Vatican had allowed him to be ordained. That is a whole can of worms I'm not sure I want to open up except to say, that a married priest is not the salve to cure-all. After all, the highest percentage of pedophiles are married heterosexual men. And the majority of the high profile cases we are seeing are involving homosexual priests, so does that mean that the Church will also need to allow homosexual unions? And the point of celibacy is self-control and true devotion to the Church and her people. Regardles of sexual orientation, if one is seeking to become one of the religious, then in fact, he or she must take the vows of chastity. And stick to them.

And stripping the Church down and starting over will only serve to create a greater division among peoples.

Ordaining women is not a cure either. While it may very well be a wonderful thing, it does not stop the actions of people or the sin in their hearts.

I don't know the answer, so I pray that God will reveal it to those who can affect the changes needed.

Years ago, while going through a crisis of faith and during the trial of John Geoghan and it's aftermath, I realized through prayer that if I let my faith be shaken by the sins of others, I was allowing Satan to cast his net even wider than the original sin. He had not only taken over the person who had sinned, but my heart as well. I have to pray, literally every day, that the sins of others do not lessen or damage my faith.

I pray today for the victims of abuse of all kinds, that the abusers will see the sin they commit and stop themselves from more vile action, that those whose faith may be rocked either as a victim of abuse or as just one of the faithful find strength and comfort in Jesus and through the sacraments, and for all of us who are struggling to move on and make the Church the noble institution we know it to be.

Rachel may want to consider changing her blog name....

while it's still true there is so much testosterone in that for something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT! Congratulations to the Balducci family! I cannot stop smiling.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Some FAQs I get about being a parent of an autistic child...

These are some of the most common questions I am asked:

1) How young can children be tested for autism? When was Shelby evaluated?

Well, this is a complicated question. Most pediatricians (at least the ones accepting insurance) will have parents/guardians fill out some type of developmental questionaire when they see the child for well-child visits. The ones our pediatrician has are called "Ages and Stages." These give you a scale to rate your child on for gross motor, fine motor, social, and communication. It is important to answer these honestly because it is for the good of your child. If the pediatrician sees a gross deficiency in an area they will usually refer you out to a specialist for more in-depth testing and diagnosis. From what my pediatrician has told me they most commonly refer out from the ages of 18 months to 3 years, based on the questionaires. Of course, sometimes they refer out when a parent contacts them about a concern as well. Shelby was first evaluated at 18 months for communication delays. She was not found to be autistic at that time. However, when we saw no improvement in six months, she was re-referred and it was showing at that time a much greater delay. In fact, her speech had stopped progressing at 18 months and still has not increased. At that time an occupational therapist was brought in who also diagnosed Shelby with sensory-processing disorder.

2) Who should I see if I suspect my child has autism or is on the spectrum?

First I would contact a pediatrician because they may be able to sort out any confusing behaviors etc. Most states have some type of agency for early childhood development that will provide testing free of charge or bill to insurance. Many larger communities have non-profits that also provide this testing. North Carolina has an agency called the Child Developmental Services Agency (CDSA) which provides testing for children under age 3 free of charge. If they deem your child falls into the autism spectrum or has a significant delay in an area they will qualify for services from the state which are provided on a sliding scale based on household make-up and income. They have negotiated rates with providers that are sometimes lower than an insurance co-pay. After the age of 3, the school system will take over in our state with testing and service providing.

In North Carolina the University of North Carolina has a non-profit calls TEACCH which also offers testing services.

I opted for the CDSA because it turned out the TEACCH center had an over six-month waiting list for testing. CDSA got Shelby in same week. Also, TEACCH is able to offer some limited guidance on service providers, but no negotiated rates or sliding scale as CDSA did.

3) Does insurance cover the services for autistic children?

Check with your insurance provider, but mine did not. Speech, occupational and what is known as CBRS (Community Based Rehabilitative Services) therapy (available for children under age 3, a play therapy that reinforces other therapies and helps with socialization) were not available. Some insurers are also trying to label autism as an educational issue (like a learning disability). Forward thinking states (like North Carolina) are being proactive and trying to enact laws listing autism for what it is: a neurological disorder, in order to prevent insurers from denying coverage to adults and children with the disorder.

4) I suspect my child is autistic but many of my family members are in denial. If my child receives a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, what can I do to help them understand what this means?

When Shelby was first diagnosed, we got her into a playgroup at the local TEACCH center where another child's father was a Marine deployed in Iraq. His wife had to break the news of his diagnosis over the phone. She said he did not take it well. Denial was in full force. The TEACCH center did lots of video-taping of the playgroup to create DVDs to send him to help him feel connected to what was going on in his son's treatment.

Families are sometimes the least accepting of a situation like this sadly. Or worse, they are accepting but try to be "helpful" in less than helpful ways. Someone who googles everything and questions all of your decisions is not being helpful.

One of the best resources I found to help family was the book Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm.

This book opened up the eyes of so many in our family as to what Shelby was going through and more productive ways they could channel their energy rather than just trying to "fix" her. A young man with Aspergers is quoted in the book from an editorial he wrote for the New York Times as saying (paraphrasing) I'm not broken, I don't need to be fixed. I'm not sick I don't need to be cured. That brought me to tears as it clearly articulated from someone on the spectrum to those of us not on the spectrum how we should approach someone with autism and how we should adjust our outlook.

Also, I would say share your feelings with your family. Jeff and I made very clear that we didn't see this diagnosis as "devastating" or a "setback." We saw it as a tool to help our daughter be "the best Shelby she can be." When family members "act out" after hearing a diagnosis it is often a result of not knowing how to act around you or the child involved. But they will follow your cues and, most importantly, your words.

5) How did you come to the decision to have more children?

We decided before we had Shelby that we would have more than one child. We stuck to that. And we did have Joseph before Shelby was diagnosed.

This is a very personal decision and there is no right answer for everyone. Siblings of autistic children are 50% more likely to have autism. Again, read that statistic carefully. It does not say that autism is genetic. Remember that most complete siblings (siblings with the same two biological parents) are more likely to have the same exposure to toxins in the home because they live in the same home and if their mother lives and works in the same places during both pregnancies can be exposed to the same toxins in utero as well.

We were not going to let a statistic keep us from having the family we felt led to have. And after Joseph was born and shortly after I found I was pregnant with William, Discovery Health ran a special called Autism x6 featuring the Kirtons family from Utah who have six children, all with some form of autism (check for local listings, since this is Autism Awareness Month, it will probably be rebroadcast). Jeff said, "If that family can handle six autism diagnoses, I am sure we could handle at least one more." So far, neither of our boys has shown any signs of autism and have shown promising signs we did not see in Shelby at a young age: looking for our faces, good eye contact, and responding to their names for example. Joseph is showing a few speech issues, which we are having him evaluated for, but is miles ahead of Shelby and is mostly able to communicate in words, phrases and sometimes sentences.

In our case, a "what-if" wasn't going to derail us. But that's not as easy for other people to decide. Please do not judge any family with a child with any kind of developmental delay or an illness in their decision as to family size.

6) Are there any prenatal tests for autism?

The short answer is no. In order for something to be tested, doctors have to know what causes it. We do not know the cause or causes of autism so it cannot be tested for.

And regular readers here will already know that Jeff and I did not have any prenatal testing of any kind for any of our children.

7) Do you immunize your children?

Yes. All of them. Autism will not kill my children. Polio, the measles, rubella...they most likely will. I know two children who died of those diseases because they were not immunized against them. I know 3 who are either blind, deaf, severely impaired or a combination as a result of those diseases. All 3 were not immunized because their parents were afraid of autism.

8) Is Shelby on any type of special diet?

No. Dietary changes may work for some children but rarely work for all. The most common diet restrictions I see/hear about in autism are gluten and soy. Keep in mind that diet is not a silver bullet. A mother of one of Shelby's classmates who eliminated gluten from her son's diet said she always tells parents who ask her that while eliminating gluten has helped her son's behavior, he is still autistic and still requires therapies. His speech did not become perfect as a result and he still has other sensory issues.

If you choose to try and change your child's diet keep in mind a couple of things:

1) Eliminate one thing at a time (for example red dye for 1-2 weeks before trying something else). Eliminating too many things at one time will not give you a clear picture as to what the aggravant is.

2) If you have other children especially, you are better off eliminating whatever it is from everyone's diet. Autistic children know when they are the only one not getting pizza.

9) What kind of support do you get?

I have a great network of other mothers of children with autism that I have met via Shelby's school and the TEACCH center. We have met more parents from the community through workshops offered. I encourage parents to find organizations like Surfer's Healing and others where their child can participate and they can socialize with other parents. While our friends with normally developing children are very understanding and wonderful with Shelby, having another parent who can sign or help with joint compression or deep pressure is a Godsend sometimes.

I am also blessed to have my husband. I do not know how single parents do it with a normally developing child much less one in Shelby's situation.

10) What do you foresee for Shelby's future?

I do not know. Because she is so young and there is still so much to be learned about autism, I try not to think too far ahead. What are we doing for school this year? What progress has she made to date? Those are things I focus on. Will she move into a group home when she becomes an adult? Will she be able to go to college? Those things overwhelm me and are not immediate worries so we don't focus our energy on them.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Small Successes

1) I signed up for the 5K in April with Angels Among Us to support brain cancer research and the Preston Tisch Brain Cancer Center at Duke where my cousin Andy was treated.

2) I didn't lose my cool when Shelby woke up from a nap with a blow-out diaper that required immediate laundering of her clothes and sheets (and some clean up of her) and then went into the boys' room to discover Joey had removed all his clothes and his diaper for his nap and wet the bed. Back to back large laundry loads, but survivable.

3) We are working on counting with Joey. Ask him to count the crickets, "one, two, two crickets!" and he is now spontaneously counting items (he can get as high as six alone).

Thankful Thursday

1) My husband because I don't know what I would ever do without you!
2) Joey calling himself Joe. So mature at two already
3) The roaster I bought Jeff for Christmas that he said he didn't want and we didn't need but we'll be using to cook a beef brisket in for the family on Sunday.
4) The wonderful people participating in the Angels Among Us 5k and Family Fun Run/Walk with us.
5) For the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And the fact that no one loves us as much as He does.
6) For my favorite bloggers, especially: Lerin, Ambrose, Rachel and Michelle, all of whom have been so inspiring and encouraging to me of late.
7) Zyrtec, I can breathe again!
8) That teething doesn't last forever.
9) That sometimes, there is a special therapist that works with your child, and your family, who becomes a good friend.
10) That tired and out of sync that it makes me, I have a job!