Saturday, May 12, 2012

Every Other Thing

Facebook told me that yesterday was Military Spouse Appreciation Day.  Who knew?!  Obviously some people on Facebook.  While I would have loved to use this as another gift-receiving occasion, I was a little late to the party to drop the requisite six months worth of hints to my dear husband.  Which is fine, because for the most part I feel appreciated as a spouse and I rarely think of myself as a military spouse.  But this occasion also happened to coincide with something that had me thinking about being a military spouse.  Sean was asked to do an interview for his grad school alumni publication recently.  He sent me the background paper he wrote for them, in which he discusses how his grad school education and experiences influenced his last deployment, to proofread and edit.  I read it and was amazed and proud of everything he and those he worked with were able to accomplish.  I am proud of Sean period.  But after telling him that via email (the army has put us in another geographic time-out), I kept thinking: So what did I do for a year?

What did I do for a year while Sean was deployed doing important work?  Did I organize the house? Nope, it looks pretty much the same. Did I become an integral part of the community?  Well....I know two of my neighbors and all of Sweet Girl's therapists.  That about does it, so I'm going with a 'no' on that one too.  Did I do anything tangible that would warrant an alumni publication to want an interview?  Uh, no again.  Well, that's a little depressing.  Did I waste an entire year?

Eventually I came up with an answer: No.  My year won't show up in any publication (with the excepion of this wee blog) but it wasn't wasted.  What I did was every.other.thing Sean was unable to do.  Please understand I'm not trying to "win" some sort of important-job-off.  This isn't a competition.  Comparing what Sean does to what I do is akin to comparing apples and antelopes.  There are no winners or losers in this post.  This is just a way for me to salute everyone else doing every.other.thing for whatever reason they find themselves doing it and a reminder of what I did do: that I won't get a parade out of it, but it's still important.  That the everyday normal duties of life are important and necessary, and they are not always easy.

While Sean was gone, I paid bills.  I washed, folded, and put away every load of laundry.  I washed every dish.  I made every meal.  I bought groceries, hauled them inside, and put them away.  I fixed everything that broke.  What I couldn't fix, I called the property manager or my dad about.  I made appointments.  I filled out every necessary form.  I made sure the car was serviced.  I pumped every gallon of gas.  I took the trash out.  I mowed the lawn, or I waited for a lawn guy to show up and mow the lawn.  I checked the mail.  I kept the house reasonably clean at best.  I marched forward with time while holding the past close.  Sean was busy at work and so I did every other thing for our family.

I was a mother.  I was a father.  I was a chauffeur.  I switched car seats.  I carried our kids.  And when he couldn't walk, I carried our dog.  I made countless doctor's and specialists appointments.  I took our kids to those appointments.  I desperately tried to make those appointments OK for our kids.  (Still working on that one.)  I wiped hands, faces, noses, and butts; sometimes in that exact order.  I hugged our kids.  I cleaned up bodily fluids.  I cared for sick kids.  I held them tight.  I gave them my love and more for the love their dad couldn't be here to give.  I read books to our children. I gave them every bath. I put them to bed every night.  I got frustrated.  I yelled.  Then guiltily, I cried because I yelled.  I apologized.  I was their one person.  I was both the drop-off and the pick-up.  Some days, I broke.  Some days, I kicked ass.  I told Sweet Girl and Little Man that I loved them, Daddy loved them, and he's at work but wants to be here.  Daddy was gone, so I did every other thing he couldn't do.

I checked my email obsessively.  I waited for phone calls.  I watched national news with one eye open.  I put my heart back together despite missing pieces every time I read the national news I only half-watched.  I developed a fear of government vehicles.  I lost sleep.  I held my breath for weeks at a time.  I prayed a lot.  I cried more than I like to admit.  I cussed way more than I should.  I looked at pictures.  I slept in his tee-shirts.  I tried to make new memories for our family while marking time so he wouldn't miss too much.  I thanked God that my family wasn't far away.  I got mad at God that I had to thank Him for that.  I apologized to God for my temper.  I refused to look at the calendar.  I kept a countdown.  I daydreamed about holidays together while celebrating holidays apart.  I wrote blog posts to keep Sean informed.  I didn't write half of what I wanted.  I stood in line at the post office.  I stole extras of the long form from the post office.  I checked my email obsessively.  I waited for phone calls.  My husband wasn't here to talk to, so I did every other thing that needed to be done.

That's what I did for a year.

Here's to the men and women fighting abroad.  Here's to the men and women fighting at home.  And here's to the men and women doing every.other.thing.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Didn't See That Coming

Confession time:  I used to be stupid. {Shut it, Joshua.} I also used to be more than a little naive.  When I first realized that Sweet Girl had autism, I thought "OK.  I'll handle this.  We will work hard and we will get better and we will hit the doors of kindergarten ready to go without autism." After all, this was my kid.  Who did autism think it was? Clearly it had no idea who it was up against.  Autism could try to take my girl, but it wasn't getting one piece of her without one hell of a fight.  And so we were off; diet, supplements, therapies, school, and time.  That's what we used, not to mention a lot of love and bubbles, in our fight to keep autism from taking over Sweet Girl's development.  It was a good plan.  She has worked hard.  She has gotten better.  She will go to kindergarten next year.  But she will go with autism.  She will go to kindergarten with autism because what was I thinking?

What I was thinking was that she would overcome this intangible force that made things difficult for her.  Our autism - because no two people with autism have the same autism - involves anxiety, sensory issues, communication deficits, speech delays, and social/emotional gaps large enough for Oreo to get comfortable in the negative space.  So when I thought she would go to kindergarten without autism, I pictured her talking in a natural pattern: complete sentences with proper syntax and verb conjugations.  I pictured her being comfortable with new people.  I pictured her sitting at a lunch table with other students and having a conversation over raisins and juice boxes.  I pictured her able to express her feelings calmly to others.  I pictured my girl being normal by other people's standards.  Sweet Girl is certainly going to kindergarten, but not anywhere near what others would consider normal.

But instead of normal, she is going in all her Sweet Girl glory.  She is taking her singing, and her scripted phrases, and her anxiety.  She is taking her constant motion and her struggles to put her thoughts into original speech.  Sweet Girl is taking her struggles with her.  She is taking all that, but more importantly she is taking her amazing mind, and the skills she's learned in three years, and her desire to learn and be a part of a community (even if she prefers to pick and choose how and when she'll participate), and her giant, sparkly, there-for-anyone-with-rods-and-cones-to-see heart.  She will also be taking bacon everyday for lunch, but that's neither here nor there (and it's gfcf, nitrate/nitrite free so don't judge).  That's how she's going to kindergarten.  Different by other people's standards but truly amazing by mine.

I used to think: "If I can just get her into a regular kindergarten, then I'll feel like we've done something truly great."  And we have.  She has.  Having Sweet Girl be recommended for placement in a mainstream classroom is a feat in and of itself.  She earned that placement.  She actually earned that placement about 50 times over, but she has made so much progress in several different areas that I feel (as do others that work with her, first and foremost in this process, her pre-k teacher) she really should be there.  So I was thrilled at that IEP meeting to know that was the direction we all were prepared to go.  What I didn't see coming was that I'd be worried (even after having an awesome conversation with Sweet Girl's BCBA about worry being passive and doing absolutely nothing good) about it.  We're moving in June.  We are leaving Sweet Girl's school, her BCBA, her speech and language pathologist, her occupational therapist, and the environment in which she has grown by leaps and bounds.  I didn't see this coming.

I also didn't see my change in perception coming.  I didn't know that three years removed from my stupidity {I said: Shut it, Joshua.} I would be so blown away by my daughter's abilities; how she has risen to the challenge; the way she has conquered so many things that were, and some still remain to be, difficult for her;  how she has changed to be open to others while still remaining herself; how she would change me and how I see the world, that I would be excited about a mainstream placement all the while realizing it's not the truest measure of Sweet Girl's growth.  I had no way to know that achieving the long-term goal I set for Sweet Girl three years ago, would mean so much and so little at the same time.  We have many more challenges ahead of us.  Some of them are known and some will be things we have no way to see coming.  But I have faith in my girl.  I have faith that we will find great people to help us face our future challenges.  And I know whatever comes up, Sweet Girl will handle it in her own way.  She has blown me away.  I was with her every step of the way, but I really didn't see her coming.