Monday, February 22, 2010

Remember that one day we got snowed in? Oh was today.

So I'm snowed in today. Yeah. For real. I was pretty sure things were headed that way yesterday when the snow just would not quit. I'm not sure all total how much we got...maybe 8 inches? And we already had some. They cancelled school for today at 8 o'clock last night. I texted my foster son and told him there was no way his car was making it home from town so he could stay with friends. My husband said on the news this morning they showed their "sky cam" pictures and the town was pretty much not moving. But out here...nobodys moving. That's the beauty or curse (whichever you prefer) of living off the beaten path. I mean...way off. After you turn off the drive eight miles down a little two lane blacktop. Then two miles up a hill and around some curves on a narrow gravel road. Then another 1/4 mile gravel driveway to my house. My husband plows the drive, so it gets done relatively quickly, although it's bad to drift. The other gravel road? Last road in the county to be plowed because it's the county line. Sometimes it's plowed before 3 in the afternoon. Sometimes not. And the blacktop. Well it's kind of a crap shoot too. So today? No one's going anywhere.

This is the deck in back. The railing...all fresh snow.

This is the front yard. Poor pine trees. It's really a heavy wet snow.

More front yard. Want to swing?

The dog's roof to her pen collapsed under the weight of the snow. Luckily, she was in her house. Hubby and genius boy went out to rescue her and make a new roof. Lu's cat wanted to go outside when I opened the door to take pictures, until he realized the snow was deeper than he was. Yes, Sean and I did laugh at him.

Ordinarily? This would be my dream day. I love being snowed in. Really. I keep my freezer and pantry stocked well (you know, in case of the zombie apocalypse) so we don't need food. We have a fireplace, in the event we lose power. I got videos from town yesterday. And Lu was already off work today. So it would be a good day to be snowed in. Except that I had somewhere to go today. Lu and I were going to pick up CJ and bring him home for a few days. We were so excited. We haven't seen him in a couple of weeks. But even if we could get out to the highway...the highway takes a southerly turn and they got hit worse than we did, oddly enough. And this highway is notoriously bad for being icy. They never seem to get it cleared well. Even if I wanted to risk mine (I would) and Lu's (I would not) lives to get there, I most assuredly would not risk his to bring him home. Lu is disappointed because it's her only day off this week and she wanted to spend it with her brother. It gets harder and harder to coordinate every one's schedule so that I can bring him home when everyone can spend time with him. The only saving grace is that I hadn't notified his school yet that I was coming to get him, so he doesn't know and won't be disappointed. He'll still be happily surprised if I show up tomorrow instead. But I'm in tears.

Some of you reading my blog are probably lost right about now. CJ is my nineteen year old son with autism. Not the kind of autism you see on TV. Not Aspbergers. More severe. He is nonverbal. He understands what we say and we back it up with some sign language but he can't talk back. He uses some signs (mostly when we insist upon it) and somehow gets his message across most of the time. He is amazing. He has the best most infectious smile of anyone I know. And big expressive eyes. He's friendlier than most autistic children and people fall in love with him easily. He loves to be cuddled, he gives kisses, and his sister is his favorite person in the entire world. He likes spongebob and jump ropes. He can Rollerblade with amazing agility and grace. He bikes so slow that the bike wobbles from side to side and I am amazed that it remains upright. His favorite food is frozen burritos. He can eat a whole bag in a day, if you let him. He loves candy and can sniff it out no matter where I hide it. He hates crowds and loud noises. When he's frustrated he bites the back of his hands. They are permanently scarred. Sometimes in frustration and anger he lashes out. You must be vigilant for the "head butt". My nose has been broken, my cheekbone and jaw fractured. Concussions also suck. He hates the time out chair. He loves playing in the snow.

He's been attending a residential school since he was nine. Do not judge me for this. I remember thinking once, when I was at a conference, that no way would I ever let CJ move from home. No one could take better care of him than his family. Didn't that mother love her child at all? But what I came to realize was that sometimes loving your child means doing what's best for them no matter how it breaks your heart. The difficult and continually painful decision to let him attend a residential school stemmed from the fact that our school district did not have the resources to provide him with the services he needed. Nor could we off the level of routine at home that he requires to make him feel safe. His increasing level of frustration put his sister and brother in danger as well as himself. The school he attends is amazing. While they accept children of all disabilities, in the last several years their focus has been autism. He receives cutting edge therapy from the SIU school of medicine. His teachers, aides, and homeworkers have all been trained and continue to be trained in helping people with autism. He lives in a group home setting with other boys his age. He gets to go on field trips and do activities on a regular basis. They have a set routine so he knows what to expect. There have been a few problems through the years, but they've been dealt with swiftly and mostly to our satisfaction.

We bring CJ home for visits as much as we are able. He goes everywhere with me when he's home. Grocery shopping, out to eat, ect. We get stared at alot. It's odd to see a nineteen year old holding his mother's hand or dropping it so that he can pirouette for no apparent reason. But we are used to the stares and pay them no mind. I use sign language in public to alert people that there is more going on than meets the eye. We plan alot of family activities when he's home so that he has a chance to be with us all. And when the visit's over and I take him home, I cry. It's like leaving a part of me behind. When we first took him to the school, I slept with one of his sweat jackets for weeks. Now I content myself with a pillow. I can't explain to you how gut wrenching it is to leave him behind. Mostly, he seems okay with it and doesn't seem to mind, but there are occasional times (mostly few and far between now) that he will keep hold of my hand or his sisters jacket and we barely make it to the car before bursting into tears. So don't doubt my love for my child.

CJ has taught me so much. He's taught me that love really can be unconditional. Because his is. He taught me about appreciating people of all abilities. He's taught me to be completely secure within myself. Not to worry what other people think. And that the most important thing is to be able to look at myself in the mirror each night and be able to say "I did my best today". Because in the end, that's what matters. That I do my best. And take responsibility for it. He taught me not to judge others. He taught me that laughing is better than crying. That I can't control what the universe throws at me, I can only control how I react. He taught me that my husband's love for our children is just as strong as mine. That we may express it differently, deal with it differently, but that doesn't mean he doesn't feel it. He taught us to be partners. He taught us not to blame each other for things beyond our control. He taught us that life is rarely fair, but that we could persevere through the bad times. He taught us that pain makes the good times that much sweeter and more dear. Without the rain, you wouldn't know to appreciate the sun. He taught us to live for the moments that take our breath away. And that life is a never ending journey of learning and discovery and growth. He taught me to not be ashamed to ask for help when I need it and to never turn down another's plea for help. And he's taught my children these lessons too. I firmly believe that the higher powers put people like CJ in our lives not as a punishment but so that we may learn from him.

CJ and Lu

CJ jumping on the trampoline with Sean and Lu

Me & CJ at his prom last year. Sean, Lu & I were all there.

This has been a heavy post. Thank you to everyone who's kept reading til the end. I've been crying steadily the entire time. Lu stopped in to see what I was doing and started crying too. So in the interest of not leaving anyone in tears...I'm going to include an anecdote that makes us laugh. It illustrates how humor has always gotten me through...

One day when CJ was about six, I took him shopping while the younger two were at preschool. We'd run several errands and it was nearing time to pick them up from school. I don't remember why CJ wasn't at school that day but he was definitely getting tired of the shopping. He'd recently started opening the door and escaping the house if my attention was distracted. I cannot tell you the fear that struck in my heart. So my last stop was to Shopko where I was picking up some hook & eye latches to place on the door, well above his reach. I promised him a bag of skittles if we could just get through this last stop. I quickly found what I needed, got in line and placed them on the conveyor belt, along with a bag of skittles. CJ kept reaching for the skittles and was growing more and more frustrated that I wouldn't let him have them. The lady in front of me was taking her sweet time paying and the store was crowded. I pleaded with CJ to be patient and give me a few more minutes. But I could tell we were rapidly approaching meltdown.

Finally, he could take no more. In an effort to convey to me his supreme frustration, he picked up the package of hook & eye latches and hurled them. They sailed over my cashier's head and landed on a register three lanes away. Everyone stared at me open-mouthed. I briefly considered explaining, which was my usual mode of operation, but I was almost as tired and frustrated as my child, so instead I sighed wearily and said "Do you suppose someone could pass those back, because I really need them." And that was it. They got passed back. The cashier quickly rang us up and finished the transaction. People continued to stare and I could almost hear the thoughts of "why didn't she yell at that kid. what a horrible mother! why can't she make him behave?". But I honestly didn't care. Because the only one I was responsible to was myself and CJ. I handled it the best I could at that exact moment. I don't owe anyone an explanation. And yeah, I still gave him the skittles.

I promise to be funny tomorrow...


  1. Spot,

    So yeah - - your post did make me cry. I think CJ sounds like a fabulous boy, and I am glad you let him have the Skittles anyway. And you're right, you don't owe anyone anything in regards to your son. I think you're a great mother. I really do.


  2. Probably about the only thing I can say in response to this is... I so completely understand.

  3. The more I get to know you the more I realise how great you are. Happy anniversary! You and himself have made wonderful kids. Loads and loads of love to you and yours!

  4. Ditto what Tina said.

    You made me cry... and feel REALLY guilty for my mini melt down today. (My weakness)

    and ... nobody who has read any amount of your writing would EVER judge your decision to allow CJ the school experience. You are Uber Mom.

    Sorry you had to postpone your trip... maybe tomorrow.

  5. Hmph, my own parental trials just dimmed considerably. Thank you for adjusting my perspective (not to worry, it will quickly slide right back into "why me?" mode later). Your children are beautiful and you are inspiring, Spot!

  6. Spot - you are an amazing mother and your love for your kids absolutely shines through your words. You owe NOONE any explanations for the decisions you make in your life. It sounds like CJ is living his life to its fullest and for that you deserve all the praise in the world.
    Thanks for letting us in to see this side of you. =)

  7. Spot, that almost made me cry, and I'm the person who doesn't cry while reading theses things (I definatly do when I hear about it from a friend, or when I'm experiencing it, so I'm not heartless)
    That was beautiful. Give CJ a hug from me ^_^

  8. Sweetie, you KNOW you're an amazing mom. And ALL your kids are amazing're aware of this, too.

    People who don't understand will NEVER understand. I gave up trying a long time ago. Now, it's TRULY one day at a time...

    That photo with the tire swing is positively GORGEOUS. Don't cry,'re making me cry...

  9. There was never a second in reading your post that I thought you were a bad mother for allowing your son to go to a school where he would have extra people there to make sure he feels loved, gets the extra attention he needs and deserves, and is living a rich rewarding life. When I first read that you let CJ go to a residental school I was very proud. (Notice I didn't say that you put him there.) That told me that you put his and your families need above your materinal instints. It is a very brave step your family took and one that should be applauded and not looked down for it. Further proof (as if it was needed) to what an amazing mom and family you have.

    Hope you are able to get out and can bring him home tomorrow.

  10. Spot! This was unbelievably touching and so very, very personal. Thank you for sharing CJ with all of us, we can learn so much from you both..

  11. Wow! Just ...WOW! You are an amazing mother, woman, human being Spot.Thank you for sharing CJ with us through this post...I, too believe that people who are 'different' are here to teach us about what's really important.

  12. Spot, I hadn't planned on crying today, that just got blown to heck! You are an awesome mom and NO ONE has the right to judge you. I had a cousin that had several handicaps and lived in what was called at that time a training school. Everyone visited him often and he came home for visits. On his birthday each year, the family had a huge birthday party-family reunion...Danny and the entire family looked forward to it each year. He taught each of us so much. When I was in high school, the county made provisions for children with special needs. There happened to be a little boy with autism who was the son of a local pastor. He was the sweetest child who didn't talk or make expressions often, but when I'd take him (yes, students were allowed to check out the students and spend time with them by taking them for walks or to other classrooms) and sit him up in a particular classroom picture window that overlooked the highway, he suddenly became alive. I'll never forget the joy in his face as he watched the cars and trucks zooming up and down the highway. Your family is blessed, and you are a blessing. BTW, love the snow pics, esp the one of the tire swing. I always wanted a tire swing, but had to swing on my cousins cuz I was a deprived child (ha)!

  13. McKenzie~ thank you girl. Your praise really means alot because I think you're wonderful. And I'm betting someday I'll be telling you what a great mom you are. (and author...)

    JP~ 'nuff said, dear.

    Tina~ Thank you! I think I'll keep them all awhile longer. Lol. Loads of love right back.

    Dani~ Thank you! But you are still entitled to your own meltdowns. Sometimes they're what keep us sane. I'm going wednesday to get him!

    Eyvi~ I'm sorry for making you cry, but glad the change of perspective helped. Another blogger recently shifted mine and I was so grateful for it! Thank you!

    Mindy~ Thank you dear! And your welcome. I always think no one wants to hear the really sad stuff...

    Dorkvader~ I will definitely deliver the hug! Thanks dear.

    Kathryn~ thank you! I know you understand completely! And day at a time it is. Glad you like the photo!

    Crazy in the Making~ Thank you. That was eloquently put and made me feel much better. You completely understood. Thanks.

    AA~ thank you! Been missing your comments!

    Brite~ thank you. Been missing you also.

    Suzi~ Thank you! And thank you for sharing that story. CJ has had some really good people through the years and some he became really attached too. CJ lights up like that when we go on golf cart rides! I'm sorry you never had a tire swing! We put that one up as soon as we moved in! Now, mostly my nieces use it when they are here.


  14. Your kids are very lucky to have you for a mom. You seem to be a tower of strength. : )

  15. Oh my goodness, that darn snow. I am so sorry you had to wait. What amazing boys both your brilliant sons are I am so proud of your strength and heart.
    I truly believe only very special parents are blessed with CJs.

    My sisters little boy Cody was special needs. He never spoke and she used sign language. He had a wheelchair and lots of equipment. We lost him at four and a half years old. We loved him so much. Nothing mattered but that love. He was a happy, joyful baby that changed all of our lives and how we view disabled children.

    Hugs and love to that precious CJ.

  16. I knew I was friends with a fabulous woman and here is the proof. Love ya!

    I have been having this discussion about the better welfare with my brother for many years. He is one of those parents that think they are the only ones who can care for my nephew. Drives me insane. I truly think he is being selfish and arrogant. I know it is hard for them as much as it is with you but sometimes a little sacrifice is for the best intrest of the child and the family.

    I loved this post and had a real good cry with ya. I am sending this link to my brother!!

    You truly are an amazing woman!

  17. C~ Thank you. Some days I feel like it might be the leaning tower of Pisa though. =]

    Angelia~ Thank you. It seems odd to say, but I'm glad you guys had Cody to touch your lives.

    Heather~ thank you lady. I think you're pretty special too.

    And I want to thank everyone for their amazing outpouring of love and support.


  18. Hi! I was blog hopping and found yours. I was laughing at all of the little things until I got to this one!

    I don't usually cry with my coffee but this made it happen!

    I have a very good friend that has a child with Aspbergers and my own 12 year old is severely Bi-Polar so I totally got everything you said.

    You are a great Mother, even though I just *met* you!

    You, like me, don't really care what other people think because we know our children and how to cope without going completely insane. OK, most of the time!