Fertilizer isn’t just a bunch of crap.

It’s been 10 months since Jack broke his leg.
In that time we have been on a mission to learn more about osteoporosis, drug interactions, growth plates, bone structure, weight-bearing…..
The list goes on.
And on.
And we are laser focused on getting Jack to walk.

In the past month or so we got the go ahead to ramp up physical activity and get Jackson to move more.  To bear weight.  To exercise.
We go once a week  to physical therapy AND to swim therapy TWICE week.
At home I stretch his legs and make him move.
We practice standing up.
We practice putting our arms above our head.
We move.

Jackson and physical therapy is hit and miss.
He tolerates it.
He  is not thrilled with the constant movement.
It has no bearing in his life.  He cannot grasp the concept of these insane movements we put him through.

“Why am I moving over there and back again?  Why are you making me walk backwards? What’s up with this side step thing?!? Get that box out of the way….
Hey.  Just let me sit…….”

But WATER THERAPY!?!
Jackson would spend HOURS in the pool if we let him.

He floats.  He moves.  He’s supported and free.
He yells TIIIIINNNNNNAAAA!! THE WAAAATTTTERRRR! loudly and with joy.

His foot is weighted.  We walk.  We bounce.
We are making great progress.

This past Friday we were able to have Jackson’s teacher peek in on Jack’s physical therapy.  He was impressed.
AND inspired.
So much so that Monday morning when Jack was wheeled into class, Teacher Paul exclaimed, “Jackson!! So good to see you! I loved seeing you walk! Let’s walk!!”
So amid VERY LOUD protestation from Jackson, Teacher Paul and I raised Jack out of the “wheels” and assisted him to his desk, halfway across the classroom.

What happened next was so amazing.
What happened next was so inspiring
What happened next raised my faith in humanity a few more notches.

All the kids (and aids in the classroom) started cheering on Jack.

“You can do it Jack!”
“Go Jackson!!”
“I’m so proud of you Jackson!”

It was with great effort that Jack sat down . When he raised his head to the applause and cheering I was giddy to delight to find Jackson LOVING the verbal support.

He was smiling.
He was grinning like a Cheshire cat.

And the kids in the class were truly happy to see their classmate walking.

It was a spontaneous celebration and I was honored to witness it.

I have been so focused on the end result, I forgot about the journey.

And it got me thinking……
Why don’t we cheer people on more often?
When was the last time you saw someone struggling and gave them encouragement?
When was the last time you saw someone needing a lift and gave it to them?

Positivity doesn’t cost a thing.
And it reaps benefits beyond compare.
Encouragement is an awesome commodity.

Thorton Wilder once said:

“Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around encouraging young things to grow.”

I would possit that the same can be said of love and encouragement.
It’s the best fertilizer around.

Jackson and his classmates reminded me this week that you gain more by giving.

Spread that joy around.
Make things grow.

img_2334Jackson at physical therapy.

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If you’ve met one autistic kid……..

I was on a mission the other day.
The mission was to stock up on Jackson’s favorite spinnings.  Spinnings which are not to be confused with BIG spinnings or pinwheels.
I trekked two towns over to the SAK’S FIFTH AVENUE of Dollar Stores.  Truthfully.  This is the best stocked, most awesome Dollar store EVER.  Or not.  It could just be that I need to get out more.
ANYway.
They did indeed have the multi-colored spinnings that I needed.  For a buck (DUH!).  So I stocked up.

While standing in line, the cashier mentioned that one of the five I was purchasing had squared edges, rather than round.  Would that be OK?
I said, “Sure! No problem.”
She replied,  “I thought if you were placing them in your garden, you’d want them all the same.”
“No,” I said “My son is autistic and he loves to play with them.”

Two lines over a man whipped his head over to my direction at the word “autistic”.
He fairly bounded over to me and said “Hey! Hey! You’re son is autistic!? I bet he LOVES to play minecraft!”

I stared at him.
“No.  No he doesn’t”

He was undaunted, “Really? I heard that autistic kids LOVE minecraft. That’s the video game with the squares.  Huh.  He doesn’t like minecraft.”

And so he stared at me.
And I stared back.

He walked away.

Listen.  If you know me in real life, then you know that I am a fairly friendly and gregarious person.  I can chit chat with the best of them.  But at that moment I was annoyed and irritated.

First– I was annoyed with myself.  Did I REALLY need to call Jackson out like that? Couldn’t I have just as easily have said, “No, they’re not for my garden, but for my kid”?  Yes. I could have.

Second- I was annoyed with that man.  At the sound of the word “autistic” he had to run over and give me his two cents on it.  He had to let me know that HE knew something about autism.  Did he think I would find it clever? As if he produced a rabbit out of his hat?
“Why YES, Mr. Random Guy! How did you EVER know?! Aren’t you the smart one!” (and I would bat my eyes and smile at just how much this person KNEW about the autisms!!)

This encounter begs the question though:  What do YOU know about AUTISM?

If you read my blog or follows Jack’s Facebook page,  then you are familiar with OUR version of autism.
If you are the parent of an autistic child (or a child with autism), then you are familiar with YOUR version.
And sometimes? Traits and behaviors overlap.  Food aversions, sleep patterns, stimms, etc.
And what we moms, dads, caregivers, etc GET is that:
It’s different for each and every one.
Every day.
Every time.

And so the ones that DO get it? They’re the ones that hear the word “autism” in the Dollar Store and give you a knowing smile.  They’re the ones that pass you in the mall when your child is making a barking noise for the sheer joy of the echo and they nod and smile as they walk by you.  They’re the ones that see a melt down and don’t automatically assume a child is a spoiled brat who needs a good spanking.

And the next time someone asks me why I’m buying a dozen spinnings, or several bags of fuzzballs, or why my grocery cart is filled to the top with bags of a specific  type and brand of chip, I will just say:

“Because my son Jackson loves them.”

Aaaaaaaaand we’re back!

I’ve heard it said that “blogs are crap, and just vanish when the power goes out”.
While this may be true when it comes to blogs about Traci Lords porn, fancy shoes, or the fashion choices of folks in Humboldt County California, I can personally attest to the power of “mommy blogs” and the online support community of special needs parents.

My online voice has been quieted while my family has been going through some legal court stuff that was put in motion to ensure the continuous care of Jackson should something happen to my husband.

Let me get this out there:
I blog for Jackson.  For myself.  And for those that choose to read it and carry away a grain of truth or a modicum of hope.   I believe that I have a unique voice that rings true to some.
I am a PollyAnna purist who can find the light in any darkness.
There has never been any adversity or battle that I could not overcome.
Ever.
And there have been plenty.
What has kept me afloat in the darkest of times has been the mantra:
THIS IS FINITE

Yep all good things must come to an end.  And conversely– so must the bad.

Our legal struggles are not over.

But I am choosing to get back into the habit of tapping on the keyboard and getting out my brand of blogging.
To document the life of a child with a rare genetic disease, a seizure disorder, severe autism, and a glowing soul.  To document the lessons I am taught.  To remind others in the same position that there is joy to be found.  There is beauty in the struggle.
There are monumental life lessons that are there for the taking.

And I am back– with a vengeance– to share them with you.

Stay tuned.
There is so much more to come.

Dream a little dream

As far back as I can remember I have been a very vivid dreamer.  I can still remember dreams that I had as a child in exquisite detail and feeling.
Some dreams leave me exhausted; others, exhilarated.
In my dream state problems get worked through, stress gets relieved, events get relived, and sometimes desires get fulfilled.

I recently had a dream about I child I had worked with and whose mother founded a local autism support group.

Caden is a ridiculously beautiful boy whose dx includes Fragile X Syndrome and autism.  (You can read more about him HERE as his mom has also guest blogged for me!)

In my dream a handsome young bespectacled man in a pinstripe Oxford clothe shirt approached me and asked me if I had ever worked in the PALS program.  ( an early intervention program here in Humboldt County.)  I replied that I did and he informed me that he was Caden, the little boy who used to sit and endlessly flip through pages of books.

At once the knowledge of how far this child had come and who he was now was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and the world in general.  In my dream I began to weep.  Tears flooded my face and my body was wracked with sobbing as I became overwhelmed with emotion.

From behind me I heard Clay and Jackson (also grown) laughing at me in a good-natured manner because I always get “so emotional”

I awoke from this dream with a renewed sense of passion and hope.  These children– ANY special needs child– need the constant hope of potential– the solid foundation of belief.  Our children need to be seen as unearthed treasures.  We need to forage and mine, dig and discover the beauty of who they are in this moment, as well as who they can grow to become.

It sounds so simple and chock full of common sense, doesn’t it?
But it’s not.
Routine can wear us down.
Setbacks can wear us down.
The sheer weight of what is needed to be there 100% day after day can wear us down.

So I invite you all to take a break.  Take a nap.
Regroup, recharge and rediscover that hope.
Focus on the beauty of the moment– the unique gifts and talents YOUR child possesses.

Dream of little Dream of beautiful future.

Do YOU see the fan?

I took Jack to the grocery store the other day.
We were out of chips.

This was not Jack’s first foray out of the house that day , so he was a wee bit cranky.
And, this was not one of his usual grocery stops– this was a different store.
But what I could I do?
We needed a specific brand of chips.   Autism parents, YOU know what I am talking about.

So we get into the store and start shopping — IMMEDIATELY Jack is enthralled by the huge row of ceiling fans in the store.
He is mesmerized and I am hard pressed to navigate the store with Jack because wherever we go he HAS to see the fan.

We finally make our way to the check out and Jack is beside himself with happiness as he has a perfect view of THE FAN!
And so he starts laughing and shouting
“I see the Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!”
He stims a little.
Laughs.
Rocks a little.
Shouts once again: “Faaaaaaaan! I see the Fan!”

I am smiling.  Laughing.  And going about my business of putting the chips on the conveyor belt.
That is when I notice her.

Her.  The woman behind us in line.
She is doing every thing she can NOT to acknowledge us.  She is painstakingly looking away. Down.  Up.  Everywhere except in our vicinity– which is hard , because we are RIGHT NEXT TO HER. It is apparent that this is not what she bargained for when she came in to get her bread and milk.

Now I get that not everyone is comfortable being around special needs children OR adults.
I was not expecting her to become my BFF while we bonded over Jackson shouting FAN in the grocery store.

I realize that Jack and I threw a monkey wrench into her grocery shopping experience.

Which is too bad.
Because she was missing out on a little bit of happiness .

Had she actually peeked over at us she would have saw paroxysms of pure delight.
She could have shared some of that delight if only for a few seconds

Instead she did everything in her power to NOT see it.
Sheer delight and pure happiness was right there next to her and she turned away.

I invite you all to cast off expectations in the moment, to open your eyes to the world outside your comfort zone.
You may just find a bit happiness of your own.

Also?
We WILL smile back you.  I promise.

 

Falling for the boy

Well crap.

Jackson took a fall and broke a toe.

We thought he was running for a split second.  Until we realized that he was falling.  And then neither of us could get to him in time.  It was that super slow motion thing that makes you realize how quickly things can change.

Pavement 1, Jackson 0.

He’s got some lovely road rash to show for it too.

But I have to say:
Our little man is a trooper to be sure.  He doesn’t let much get him down.
My husband tells me that right after his brain surgery at 5 years of age, he tried to get up and indicated he wanted home.

Even as we assisted Jack in walking right after the fall he would look at us plaintively and say: Fix it? Tina! Fix it.

*heart broken*
Sorry, buddy, Tina can’t fix it.

But here we are five days past.  We’ve been to a doctor, we’ve been xrayed, and we are on our way to recovery.

Jack is once again, teaching me a good lesson.
He is same as he ever was.
And while I have had to give up a some (ok- ALOT) of sewing time to help him.
And I am not getting as much housework done as I could be on this break……

I am spending more time just hanging with the boy.
Talking.
Communicating.
Learning new things. (not to mention, fetching and waiting on Jack ‘s every whim and will.  🙂   )

And who cares if my sewing room remains in disarray?
Who cares if my floor is a little “crunchy”?
Who cares if that stack of sewing projects sits for a bit?
This is the here.
This is the now.
And sometimes you need a reminder that you need to put your feet up
(especially the one with the broken toe)
and be at one with the world around you.

Thank you Zen Master Jackson.

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Destination: Hope

Today I turn my blog over to an extraordinary woman name Fatima.
She lives here in Eureka, with her husband, two boys, and two dogs she rarely has time to pet.She is extraordinary because she holds down a very grown up job (honestly…..she wears nice clothes and sits behind a desk in a fancy office……), she runs an amazing organization called FAANFamilies Advocating Autism Now that has sensory friendly movie events, gifts iPads to classrooms, and so much more.Oh yeah.  And she’s a special needs mom.
Heck.  I’m tired just reading her credentials.

I’ve been bugging her for a year or so to guest write for me.
The other day she posted about her son’s IEP and I thought: THIS is the one.  THIS is the story that needs to be told.
Why?
Because in all the autism / TSC groups I belong to– there are three letters that strike fear, terror, anger, and frustration into the hearts of special needs parents: IEP. Individual Education Plan.

THIS IEP had a happy ending.
THIS is a story of hope.
THIS is a story keeping you eye on the prize
AND?
It’s got pictures of her son, who I fell in love with when I work in the PALs program.
A little cutie patatootie sitting on the rug, flipping through pages of a book with his effervescent smile and indomitable spirit.

Readers?
May I introduce to you,
the lovely Fatima…..
**********************************************************
To do a guest blog or not to do a guest blog?
My goal in the beginning  of writing this was to be witty and sound semi-  intelligent, now I just want to get through it without losing my dinner. 🙂

My amazing son, Caden was diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome at the age of one and Autism at the age of two.  He has a wonderful little brother, Tate that was diagnosed with Fragile X at the super young age of 3 months.  The road has been windy, long, scary and has had so many twists and  turns that I have wanted to get off it many times.

 The light at the end of the tunnel must not have been in service during the first 2 years ofCaden’s diagnosis. (or so we thought)

Now fast forward at least 5 years…. Caden is 8 and I can see all that he has to offer to his family, his friends, and…..
THE WORLD.
This kids is destined for greatness…..
Today was a big day for our family.
We had an IEP (individualized education plan)  meeting for Caden to be fully mainstreamed in the Fall at Washington Elementary. For those of you that don’t know what that means– Caden will be in the regular ed classroom for the day, with necessary breaks, etc., as needed.   Currently, he is in special day and is mainstreamed.You couldn’t have told me a year ago that this day would come. Not because I didn’t believe in Caden, but because I didn’t know how many roadblocks we would be up against.
 His very first IEP was with 22 people in a large conference room with the air conditioner on in January of 2009.  Who the heck needs an air conditioner in Humboldt County?  We were nervous, uncomfortable and freezing our asses off.  All we wanted to do was to make sure our son received the best possible education.
Easy? Not so much!
Three hours later, my husband and I walked out of there dumbfounded.  What the heck had just happened?  Yes, Caden had received the services that we requested, but there was so much red tape, so many unsmiling faces, just so much.. SHIT.    It was a sad day, and I remember crying for a long time that night dreaming of what our future was going to look like.
Fight after fight.   Could we handle this? Were we equipped to handle it?  Did I really even want to handle this?My, how things have changed…..In this IEP meeting we discussed Caden’s growth and also the challenges that he will face. But, as a TEAM (yes, a real team) we decided that mainstreaming him is in his very best interest. By the end of the meeting, most of us all were in tears.

Happy tears.
Caden’s aide (not a worthy name for her at all) is truly amazing and she knows when he needs her support and when he can “fly” on his own. Caden’s 2nd grade teacher has truly shown our family what I can expect for him. She has paved the way for Caden to excel in anything he chooses to do. His classmates are amazing and I will thank his teacher for the rest of her life for showing them how to accept/love/share/cherish  Caden as their friend. The sky is the limit for him and we are so blessed that we have a school that will support Caden in being the best student he can be.
“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Maya Angelou
 cadenCadenhappy

A little Slice of Heaven……

Routine.
It’s what keeps our sanity.  Our family functions like a well oiled machine.
We each have our “assigned” tasks and chores and we rarely deviate from the path.

Except today.
Today, I decided to cook dinner and to do that, I would need to go to the grocery store.
With Jack.

While this may seem pretty routine for the average person.  It’s not really for ME.
I am beyond lucky that not only does Clay do all the grocery shopping, he also does all the cooking.
He can successfully navigate three stores every Saturday with both Jackson and Darrah and lay a bounty of well purchased goods on the counter upon his return home.  He can tell you what sales will hit when and where to get the best deals.  He has Darrah to help with Jack.  And it’s a perfect arrangement.
Especially for me!
But, hey!  It’s spring break.  And I am feeling quite domestic.  So what could POSSIBLY go wrong with me breaking Jack’s routine and bundling him into the car right after breakfast for a trip to Winco!?

Turns out– absolutely NOTHING.

I will grant you that it certainly helped that it was early morning and there was not a lot of shoppers.
I will also grant you that was in a good mood given that THIS was the only task I assigned myself with nowhere to go but home when I was done.

Jackson leads the way

Jackson leads the way

We walked the aisles.  We chatted away.  We sang Jackson’s “Annu Annu” song.
Occasionally something would catch his attention and he would stop to ponder it.
Some people stared. Alot of people smiled.

 

Jackson ponders the wide variety of canned beans offered at Winco.

Jackson ponders the wide variety of canned beans offered at Winco.

 

Jackson places the Tuna Helper box he had previously thrown on the floor.  I feel ya', buddy.  That stuff is nasty.

Jackson places the Tuna Helper box he had previously thrown on the floor. I feel ya’, buddy. That stuff is nasty.

We took our time.  We had fun.  I let go of any expectations of what could possibly happen and I just let myself be there with Jack.
And so I got to thinking…..ALL the stress we put on ROUTINE in the autism community? Maybe we need to shake that up a little now and then.  Maybe we need to trust our kids that yeah– they can handle it-if we let OURSELVES handle it, too.
I can tell you that todays break from routine was a little slice of heaven.  And I can’t wait to do it again.

Our checker?  But of course!!  Jackson spelled out the letters for him: J A C K S O N!

Our checker? But of course!! Jackson spelled out the letters for him:
J A C K S O N!

We had to stop and check out the lights on the way out.

We had to stop and check out the lights on the way out.

Dancing in the Moonlight

Hang on….
We are gonna need a soundtrack for this installment.
Please, go HERE and listen.

So yesterday, Jackson’s daddy put up a Wind Catcher that he had purchased at Costco.
Call it a Wind Catcher.   Call it a Garden Spinner. Call it whatever you want…….. JACK will call it a “Spinning” And from the time Clay took it out of the box and began assembly Jackson was engaged and interested.

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HOLY CATS!
This thing spins in TWO different directions.
It catches the LIGHT!!
It casts the most amazing shadows!!!
And……..
IT’S RIGHT THERE IN JACKS BACK YARD!!
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Oh how delighted he was……
He stood there and played for hours….
Threw rocks at it. Threw pieces of fuzzball at it.
He spun it with his hands when the wind died down and was beside himself with Joy watching the shadows it cast.

But, there is always a down side to obsession with autistic kids.
You can’t reason.  You can’t explain temperance.  You can’t advise on moderation.

So Jack was none too happy to step away from the spinning.
I fed him outside.
He got on an extra sweatshirt.
And he stayed till dusk turned to dark– still laughing.  Still happy……

And when it became too late to stay outside, I braced myself for the struggle to get him back in.

I needn’t have.
I went outside and stood next to Jack in the moonlight.
He smiled.
He said “I see the spinning, Tina.  I see the spinning.”
I told him that I saw it too.
He must have know it was time to go in, because he turned and started walking back to the house with me.
He stopped mid way.
I turned to face him and he put his arms out.
I leaned down and he put his arms around me.
Then he began his happy dance, his happy song.
It basically consists of Jack rocking back and forth with a little bounce and chanting : “anu, anu, anu , anu, anu anu”

Time stood still at that moment.
I gave myself up to his song and his dance.

 

And like the lyrics go….
you cant dance and stay uptight 
its a supernatural delight 
everybody was dancing in the moonlight

And Jack dances divinely.

 

 

Out of the closet…….

It has been over a year and a half since I have begun blogging about my adventures with Jackson.
Through it all I have received nothing but positive feedback and praise for this little boy whose life touches many.
My readers here and over at Jack’s Facebook page have come to love this little boy.
Jackson’s smile gives joy to people.  His love of fuzzballs, slinkys, and all things spinning is endearing.
His struggles with seizures and TSC is inspiring.
Jackson is, as always, living in the moment.

So now it is time to come out of the closet.
Jackson is part of a movement that many support, some fear, and others are on the fence about.

Jackson is a medical marijuana patient in the state of California.
He is so with the blessings/knowledge of his local pediatrician and his TSC clinic.
While some may have images of a an 11 year old “sparking up” , let me assure it is nothing like that.
Jackson takes a dropperfull  of a non alcohol based tincture in the morning and a product called Rick Simpson oil (also known as “Phoenix tears”) in the evening.
Neither of these products have a psychotropic effect.
Let me repeat that:
They do NOT have a psychotropic effect.  That is to say: Jackson is NOT getting “stoned”.
There is no “head change”.

These are carefully crafted MEDICINES that have proved radical in Jackson’s treatment for his seizures, his TSC, and his joint pain.

The process is above board and on the up and up.
The dispensary where we choose to purchase Jack’s medicine is safe, friendly and……INCREDIBLY KNOWLEDGABLE about their products.

We live in Humboldt County which is widely regarded as the stoner capital/pot growing mecca of the United States.   However, we are not alone in the medical marijuana movement.

Check out what is happening in Colorado- with the Realm of Caring – and their specially crafted strain known as “Charlotte’s Web” that is showing amazing progress in the treatment of seizures.

Georgia is next.
Fingers crossed.
Check out what is happening there through Connor and his mommy

It’s happening, people.
It’s slowly happening, but it IS happening, and lives are being saved and being made BETTER with the use of medical marijuana.
I’ve seen it.
I’ve felt it.
And I stand solidly behind those that are fighting for the legalization of medical use of the cannabis plant.

Still with me?
Does it change the way you see Captain Jacktastic?
Are you appalled?  Surprised?

We are still who we are.
And we continue to fight the good fight.