Celebrating an Autism Diagnosis 

Today is aflutter of St. Paddy’s day excitement and all the buzz of the new Beauty and the Beast movie premiere, controversy and all. In the midst of the celebratory excitement and chaos, we have a celebration of our own going on at our house.

March 17th marks a special day that is all our own– more specifically all my son’s own. This year marks his Three year autism diagnos-a-versary. Today, we choose to celebrate.

Three years ago our family was overwhelmed with brochures, charts, graphs, and “it’s a rough road ahead” dispositions. We were primed with all the classic fearmongering that is piled on thick by the go-to “autism awareness” organizations that are presented with such bright colors in the diagnostic process.

As newbies to the “parents of a disabled child” circle, we did ascribe to some of these leanings for a time– before we knew better– although it never really sat right with us.

All the resources put in front of us were so much about making us, the parents, feel comfortable and had little to nothing to do with our autistic child. It was as if he was an accessory to our lives that we could mix and match as we see fit to achieve a perfect look.

In this third year in autismland, I must say the best thing we have done for our son as neurotypical parents is to listen to the voices (or writings) of autistic people.

We must move from awareness and even acceptance to celebration. In Amethyst Schaber’s moving keynote linked below, she describes how autistic people don’t need to just be tolerated or seen as acceptable, they need to be celebrated.

And frankly, the idea of celebrating autism as a neurotype causes a lot of upset in some people. The able bodied majority has created a culture that sets up disabled people for internalized ableism. It’s gotten to the point that the only context we allow ourselves to even see disabled people is through inspiration porn colored glasses. Why is it that we are okay with erasing disabled lived unless they are objectified for our inspiration?

I believe this is why celebrating autism is so offensive to able bodied people. For some reason we think that to celebrate is to diminish struggle, difficulty, and even despair. What life, disabled or not stays on one side of an extreme? I love this except from an article by nonverbal self-advocate Amy Sequenzia who writes:

I celebrated being Autistic and disabled, with everything that comes with my disabilities, epilepsy included. Even though autism and epilepsy are two separate things, they are part of me and I cannot celebrate my life with one, and not another.

To celebrate any life, is not to erase or sweep our struggles under the rug.

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I Tried to Act Normal. Worst 10 Minutes of My Life.

Walking through the chaos, without exception, we celebrate everything that makes you our churrito!
Happy diagnos-a-versary, monkey!

♥ MM

2016 Bookscapades

Pile of Books
CB068378” (CC BY 2.0) by Raoul Luoar

Hey there.

I wanted to try and sneak in one last post before 2016 is graciously no longer upon us.

There were some pretty exciting literary moments for me in 2016. Last year I put myself up to the epic quest of visiting every single SAPL Public Library in my great city of San Antonio. This year, I had the pleasure of experiencing the reopening and renovation of the Collins Garden Branch and the launch of the Potranco Branch.

[January 30th]
Grand Reopening of the Collins Garden Branch Library

[November 4th]
Grand Opening Potranco Branch

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Believe it or not, libraries are some of the most difficult places to take children to, especially if your have kids with sensory issues. We started out our trip struggling, but by the end of it, my son was having a blast.

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As you can see, he even transformed into Raphael! Being touched with a sponge full of paint is sensory territory my son would normally never entertain. I love it when my son loves his visits to the library. These memories mean the world to me.

Another one of my goals was to visit all of the Half Price Books locations in San Antonio. I ended up surpassing that goal. I visited all 5 San Antonio locations, one in Round Rock, one in San Marcos, one in Corpus Christi, and all 5 in Austin.

Why this madness?

Earlier this year I decided to recollect my favorite series as a kid, The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids. There is just such fun in the hunt for the books you loved as a kid. I only have 9 left (of 51) to collect.


No matter what I resolve to accomplish from year to year, I am never disappointed in deciding to never stop reading.

Happy New Year, bibliophiles!

♥ MM

My Year of Eating Crow

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It’s funny how a year has its way of sneaking up on you. About a year ago I announced that I had made the decision to quit my job to become a stay at home parent. I was a ball of nerves this time last year about what our future would look like without me working. Now, a year later I just have to laugh at some of my idiotic notions.

I have to be honest. One of the reasons I was apprehensive about becoming a SAHM was because I used to silently resent my friends who stayed home with their children. Especially now, after coming out as egalitarian a part of me just felt like this was going to be the beginning of an avalanche of condemnation from my complementarian friends.

*Spoiler* alert: It wasn’t.

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Oh yeah.

You see, before I remarried, I used to do it all. Not only was I a single parent, but I also had a full time job and was a full time college student (including an internship). I worked my tail off to ensure that my little one and I were well taken care of. When I would hear the woes of the “day in the life” of my SAHM friends, my typical inward response would be an eye roll followed by “it must be nice”.  Obviously, I now see what a load of bull that is.

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The image we have created of mothers who stay at home lounging carefree in luxury is simply not the reality for most families with one income. Sacrifices are made. You realize very quickly that you can, in fact live your life with less. No way did I think that me staying at home would be an option. At the time I was making about 60% of our income and feeling pretty great about pushing back against the wage gap and defying stereotypical gender roles. However, I knew that in the season we were in as a family, this was the best choice for everyone. My Jesus Feminist self was not being oppressed just because I decided to take on a role that is more traditional.

We have to erase this mentality of superiority in how we choose to parent. It embarrasses me that I ever had that bitter mindset towards my other mommy friends. We don’t need to be pitted against each other.  *Stay at home moms, work at home moms, and working moms, hear me. We have to come together and be for each other.  My friend Jory Micah wrote a beautiful article about how as Christian Feminists we need to include all mothers into the fold. Being a SAHM doesn’t make one less egalitarian than a woman who is a CEO of a company. Just like I had to throw out my cookie cutter mentality in regards to my SAHM friends, we need to stop viewing our feminism as coming from one predictable, angry mold. Egalitarian means that we get to keep our autonomy intact along with our equality.

This year has been a wild ride. I have seen breakthroughs with my child. I have experienced lows like you wouldn’t believe. I have lost friendships. I have gained community. My marriage is in a better place than it has ever been. I have a new fire in my bones to be an ally for the marginalized, and for the first time in a long time I no longer feel the need to justify why that’s ok. I found my voice that I have kept quiet for so long.  I have walked through some dark places, but I have come out with my feet firmly planted on the ground.

I’m exactly where I am supposed to be.

♥ MM

*Disclaimer: I do realize that there are also dads who stay home/work at home while their wives go to work, but I am just using the language and example of SAHM as it best relates to my situation. 

5 Things I Learned During My Spring Break In Nebraska

This Spring Break I took a week long road trip with my mom and my son from here in San Antonio, TX all the way to the teeny tiny town of West Point, Nebraska to visit with some of our extended family. Even though this was a leisure trip there were some teachable moments. Other than the limits of a 4 year old riding in a car, I did learn a thing or two about a thing or two.

1. Boys Don’t Have Long Hair

Gender stereotypes are not only biased towards girls. Apparently once you pass Austin, TX all boys are expected to have nicely groomed crew cuts that are June Cleaver approved.

 

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Matthias James, my long-haired love

I kid you not, every state north of TX someone assumed that Matthias was a girl just because of his hair, which is barely shoulder length (I’m guessing his full eyelashes didn’t help his case much either).

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On our first day in West Point I was hauling a truck carrying, dirt covered, skin kneed boy home from the park (how stereotypically male, right?) and someone asked if “she” was exhausted from dance class. Sometimes you just have to laugh.

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2. Ice Machines

You will regret not going trigger happy on hotel ice machines. As a kid, my dad would compete out of state in power-lifting meets pretty frequently and my sister and I liked to tag along. Our on the road traditions were Gatorade and all the hotel ice we could muster. On this trip I passed the ice machines on the way to our hotel room (at both hotels we stayed at) with that look of longing in my eyes, but I didn’t take advantage of their frozen magic. I won’t be making that mistake again.

huge mistake

3. All The Freebies

You will go klepto on all things complimentary. If you think you won’t, you are only fooling yourself. In fact, you will end up using double extra hotel shampoo, conditioner, and soap to try and make yourself believe that you won’t go Gollum on the cute little toiletries. I have been home for over a week and I am still using the adorable paper coffee cups that were in our room. Awww.

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4. Hugs & Kisses & Pie {Oh My!}

On a more serious note, this trip did teach me some real life lessons. My grandfather passed away this past Christmas Eve unexpectedly in a work related accident. I was not able to come up for the funeral and hadn’t really gotten closure (not that you really can when you lose someone you love). But one of the things that my Grandma kept saying when we were spending time together remembering my Grandpa was how she would give anything for just one more hug, one more kiss.

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When my Grandpa would leave for work, hugs and kisses were their morning departure ritual. On the morning of the accident she said that he was going to leave for work and then came back in the house because he forgot something. There was a moment where he looked back before he left where my Grandmother recalls and just wishes she could go back and get that one last kiss.

On my visit I found out that my Grandma is a bit of a stockpiler as far as couponing and groceries go. It’s a small town so you have to get the deals when they are hot. In her pantry sat a can of apricot pie filling. She said that she bought it with Grandpa in mind since apricot was right up there with rhubarb as his favorites.

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She never did get to make him that pie.
We ate the pie in his memory.

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The lesson here is that you need to hug and kiss the one you love at every opportunity and when in doubt, eat dessert first and often (and you can’t go wrong with pie).

5. The “Good Old Days” Are Overrated

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Everyone likes to reminisce and think back to the “good old days” at least every once in a while. Especially in a relationship when things start to get stagnant sometimes we get tempted to compare ourselves to other couples and resign to the “grass is greener” mentality.

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The grass is greenest where it is watered. -Robert Fulghum

It’s undeniable that my grandma married an exceptional man. Even so, no one is perfect, no relationship is either. In our visit she was talking about how it was actually their more recent years before his passing that were their best years.

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People always want to glorify what once was and revel in memories past, but all my Grandma wanted was more of the present.

Live Free.
Live for today and don’t look back.
Love and hold nothing back.

♥ MM

Remedy Your Ignorance

In the spirit of April being  Autism Acceptance month I feel compelled to share a little something as I am  at the beginning of this journey myself with my family.  On March 17th what my husband and I already suspected about our son Matthias was confirmed. We received a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). From the early signs that we saw in Matthias to every step along the way that led to this “on paper” confirmation, I felt this cloud of uncertainty. Something I have learned in this process thus far is that our society is absolutely IGNORANT when it comes to autism… and so was I.

As a parent facing the unknown with a young child, you get your hands on any kind of information possible… both good and bad. Every resource tells you what you should be thinking and feeling and how you should react once the diagnosis comes. It seems that the path for a parent of a child on the spectrum should take is the following — curiosity → concern → anxiety →fear → guilt → settling → and finally some twisted form of acceptance, most of which are fueled by ignorance.   You should feel a sense of loss, they say. It’s only normal, after all. You should allow yourself a period of grieving over the future you envisioned for your child passing away. In an article from The Examiner they state that Autism Acceptance sounds something like this.

“I accept the fact that my son has autism.  I will never be happy or content about it, but I accept that there’s nothing I did to cause it, and probably nothing I could have done to prevent it.  Now I need to move past the grief and work towards our futures together.”

Garbage.

Throughout all the ups and downs and the Molotov cocktail of emotions that have accompanied me on this journey so far, I have never felt the need to grieve the fact that my son is autistic. What I have felt is the need to grieve for the world that we live in today and all of its ignorance towards individuals that are on the spectrum that tries to put a limit on what these amazing individuals can do. I do not fear for the future for my son. He can do and become whatever his beautiful heart desires. Autism is not a label, it’s a part of what makes him who he is. He’s not damaged,  he sees the world through a different lens and that’s okayHe is different, not less.

In retrospect, I think about friends that I had as a child who were autistic and how little I understood… or worse how little I cared to reach out and remedy my ignorance. I was only aware of one kind of “normal”,  but now I am learning more  everyday and I don’t want to stop.

We recently had the wonderful experience of getting to take part in this amazing organization A.Skate which serves individuals on the Autism Spectrum through skateboarding as a form of therapy. We went to our first skate clinic in Austin, TX on April 6th and Matthias had a blast.

mattie askate

Here are some resources for you if you want to learn more about ASD and Neurodiversity.

To begin, here are some myths about autism.

I would also recommend this book if you want to remedy your ignorance too 🙂

It’s Autism Acceptance Month.

Reach Out

♥ MM