Hearing stories from other moms can be so encouraging.
My child had a public meltdown yesterday.
I just had a conversation with his teacher about her IEP. I’m exhausted.
My son meows too when he is unsure what else to say. (For reals, this happened to me. I was thrilled.)
Marisa is a momma and a reader of Not The Former Things. She has four children, two on the spectrum. She is busy. She is working hard everyday to figure this life out.
And now, she is an author.
Allow me to introduce you to her new book – Broken Cookies Taste Just As Sweet: The Amazing Grace of Motherhood, Marriage, and Miracles on the Spectrum.
Marisa graciously agreed to share on excerpt from her book here, in an effort to encourage us all. Her words are kind, gentle, and very real.
Her heart shows through.
Elijah’s third-grade year saw another change from the norm. For the first time ever, he had a male teacher, thanks to some excellent advice to request him for Elijah. This man was a fine example of a Christian as well as being well-versed in special needs, and thanks to his encouragement, Elijah experienced great academic strides, not to mention someone to connect with in his passion for superheroes at that time! I still recall how Spiderman, the major focus of his little mind, parlayed into a study of spiders in general and brought about one of the biggest triumphs Elijah had experienced to date—a well-written, detailed essay on black widows, complete with a truly awesome art project of a pipe cleaner spider complete with web. He was so proud of that project that it hung in his room for years to come, and it was with much sorrow (on mommy’s part) that it was finally sacrificed as he made the decision he’d outgrown it. I still regret that one didn’t get tucked in my humongous file cabinet of keepsakes, but there was no way of cramming it in there without damaging it!
I am an unabashed admirer of my children’s efforts. I think most mamas are, but mamas of special needs children are even more so because every effort is so precious, another piece in the timeline of their learning. I can pull out an old paper from years before and relive the victory as well as marvel over how far they’ve come. It’s also great when we’ve had a particularly down day, an unexpected setback, or an arduous tussle. It serves to remind me all they are capable of through Him who gives us strength.
Even now, I have to smile to myself at the way the Lord directs what I write about and when. We are at the beginnings of a new school year as I write this and grappling with a few less than stellar grades as the material takes the next step up for them. I have had some less than patient moments in my day, and honestly, in recent days, even as I preach to the masses more patience! More tolerance! (See? Even we moms of special needs who are so often told to feel “special” for being chosen by God to parent such kiddos are capable of appalling hypocrisy and lack of hope. Throws the saint theory right out the window, huh?)
Anyway, back to third grade… That was a happy year for Elijah, full of bright moments, though my favorite was a brief breakthrough in that wall concerning music that was going up.
It was the spring concert, and though I’d encouraged him to have fun with it, I’d about reconciled myself to watching him become stiff and uncomfortable and either barely moving his lips or not moving them at all—when I wasn’t desperately trying to shush preschooler Sarah from singing over everybody, that is! And mostly, I was right until the class got to the old spiritual that goes “All night, all day, angels watching over me, my Lord.”
I believe I had been fussing with Sarah just before, Timothy was in his usual “help Mom” mode, trying to coax little sis to sit by him in his cheeriest tone, and Mom was trying to help me with the both of them. But in spite of all that, the minute the music started, I looked up to pick Elijah out of the group. It was more to get it over with than anything, as I was expecting abject misery.
I was floored instead to find the most beautiful, peaceful expression on his face as he sang out, eyes closed, hands folded against his cheek. It was as though all faded from my sight but him, and he was the only child there. I think he felt it, too, though these days, whether he remembers depends on when you ask.
Even Sarah was quiet then, a miracle in and of itself. I knew he was talking to the God we were trying to teach him to understand, and I knew that he already did understand, more than any of us gave him credit for.
Still, it was a long time till I heard him sing like that again, and that has only been in recent times (when I am sneaky enough to catch him) as he discovered an area he could connect with: parody singers, particularly the Christian group Apologetix.
Now if I wanted to hear music, Sarah would—and will always—oblige, complete with sassy choreography, often accompanied by Timothy, my budding percussionist/electric guitar player, though we have learned she stays on key better on her own!
In the midst of Elijah’s third grade year, she was getting set to graduate preschool—two separate schools and two separate ceremonies. She felt like a star. All the practicing songs and walking up to shake hands and receive diplomas…she took it all in stride.
I’m told it’s odd for someone on the spectrum to so enjoy the limelight, but enjoy it she does…though admittedly, there are times even she has had enough—and that did happen at the daycare graduation.
By then, she had already done the one at her other school and had practiced for weeks, and she was tired. She lasted till the last song, and then, when they were supposed to go shaking their little booties down the aisle-ways, she ran straight for me.
It was with a twinge of sadness I wrapped her in my arms—she was almost there, after all, and she normally adores dancing—but I quickly shook it off that night and told her how very proud I was of her.
It doesn’t do to dwell on your dreams of “perfect” experiences with your child, special needs or otherwise. (Pssst…it’s because there aren’t any!)
Marisa Ulrich is a mom of four, two autistic, two “typicals”, living in one of those great old fixer-uppers in rural Kansas. She is in a blessed second marriage with the handyman of her dreams.Her writing has appeared in Autism Parenting and Zoom Autism. Her first book, Broken Cookies Taste Just as Sweet: The Amazing Grace of Motherhood, Marriage, and Miracles on the Spectrum is available via eLectio publishing.http://www.electiopublishing.
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.