To Griffin On Your 16th Birthday

Griffin I can’t believe you’re turning 16 tomorrow. So much has happened leading up to this milestone birthday.

You continue to amaze me, your dad, and anyone who is lucky enough to know you.

You continue to break misconceptions of what autism looks like and openly share your uniqueness and world.

You continue to be amazed and overjoyed by things many of us take for granted like seeing a passing butterfly, squirrel, or bird.

You continue to overcome challenges like expressing yourself appropriately and connecting with others. The growth you’ve made in both of these areas in the past year has been amazing!

Griffin you continue to flourish in the many areas of interest and talents that you have. From your piano playing to your study of the Japanese language and everything in between. To see how much you enjoy learning and seeing your teachers enjoying teaching you makes me so happy and proud.

You continue to willingly hold my hand and hug and kiss me. When I let you know that I understand if you don’t want to still do this, you get upset and say “But mom, why wouldn’t I? I love you.”

Griffin you continue to be the most amazing and interesting person I know. If I hadn’t been blessed to be your mom, I know we would have still found each other and become best friends. I’ve said this to you before and it’s true now more than ever.

Griffin my birthday wish for you is that YOU continue being YOU, no matter what the outside world may tell you.

Griffin continue to live your life by not fitting in a box.

Griffin continue to find the joy in all things.

Griffin continue to be passionate about helping people, animals, and our planet. I’ve never met anyone so passionate about recycling 😉

Griffin you continue to defy expectations.

Happy 16th Birthday, Griffin!

We continue to love and support you now more than ever!

All It Takes Is One Person, One Awesome Teacher

Griffin normally has Japanese class at our house with his friend but this semester we have had to have class via Skype.

In addition to having an Aspergers diagnosis, Griffin also has an ADHD and Anxiety diagnosis. ADHD makes paying attention a challenge, even if he’s engaging in an activity that he’s interested in.

He also has a challenge with social cues, so it shouldn’t have surprised me when he started having difficulty with class being online.

I started to sense something might be up when I overheard his teacher having to give Griffin directions several times.

Griffin’s Japanese teacher Walker is amazing. He’s been teaching Griffin year round for almost two years. From the very start he’s asked questions so that he could better understand Griffin and help support him. He is genuinely excited to teach Griffin. Walker is the type of teacher we’ve always wanted for Griffin. A teacher who embraces him and who sees the amazingness that is Griffin.

Despite all of this when I got a text from Walker saying he wanted to talk to me about Griffin, my stomach got that all too familiar ache. I panicked thinking Walker was going to tell me he couldn’t teach Griffin anymore.

To some this reaction might seem dramatic or just plain nonsense but unfortunately this is based in reality.

The whole time Griffin was in traditional school, we would receive phone calls from the school and teachers. They just couldn’t understand him and often thought he was just a bad kid. He was in and out of five different schools from Kindergarten to third grade. Even some professionals in the field of autism were stumped as to what he needed.

I tried my best to stay in the moment as I spoke to Walker. He quickly picked up on my panic. I explained that I was having some kind of post traumatic stress. I told him that in the past all we ever experienced were people not being willing or able to work with Griffin.

Walker reassured me that that wasn’t the case with him. He had noticed that Griffin was having a hard time paying attention and he just wanted to know how to best help him. He asked me questions in hopes of better understanding Griffin and his needs.

I started to cry. I was so relieved. This was the teacher we knew existed but we had to wait so long to find.

I thanked Walker for being the kind of teacher Griffin deserved. A teacher that asked questions about him with the intention to help him. A teacher that enjoyed teaching and spending time with Griffin.

We came up with a plan for next week. Griffin would wear headphones that would be plugged into the computer to help him hear better and to also help with concentration.

Despite the success Griffin has been having being homeschooled, that pain and stress we experienced is always just a moment away.

This is a song I wrote that sums up how I felt and sometimes still feel. I don’t think it will ever completely go away.

Sometimes It Takes An Outsider

About a week ago Griffin and I were at the “Y” to go to for a swim. The “Y” is like a second home to us and because of this Griffin feels very comfortable there.

But on this day there were some flies in the family locker room which started causing Griffin great distress. Griffin loves bugs and has even had large snakes placed around his neck.

But flies are a whole other story. It’s the unpredictability of when and where they’ll fly by that stresses Griffin out. So seeing two of them where we normally don’t made it very difficult for Griffin.

He wasn’t having it and wouldn’t get ready to go into the pool area.

“Mom, kill them!” he kept repeating. All I wanted to do was get in the pool. Momma didn’t have time for this drama!

“Just hurry up and get in the pool. They won’t bother you there” I reassured him.

I could feel myself getting impatient with him. I try to honor Griffin’s anxiety, especially since I also have anxiety but on this day it was a challenge.

In the past creating a story around whatever is bothering Griffin has helped him. For example when it comes to encountering smokers we say that they’re his great-grandparents, who were also smokers. We say that it’s just them coming to say “hello.”

“Give the flies names” I suggested. It helped and before we knew it we were in the pool.

As I thought back on the day I couldn’t help but feel like I could have been more patient with Griffin, this is a common theme. I also feel like I could do better as a mom.

A day later we were back at the “Y.” I was waiting for Griffin in the lobby when I struck up a conversation with another mom.

We soon realized that she had been in the locker room at the same time as the great fly debacle of 2018 😉

I expressed how I felt like I could have been more patient. That having a child with special needs makes me feel like I can never make mistakes and when I do, which is often, I feel like I’ve let him down.

We continued to talk about motherhood. It was just as she was about to leave that she told me she thought I had been very patient with Griffin that day in the locker room.

I didn’t realize how much I needed an outsider to tell me that until she did.

I probably will always feel like I could be doing more for Griffin, that I could show him more patience in any given situation. But I know that every parent feels that way no matter who their child is and that makes me feel less alone. Knowing this also helps me be kinder and more patient with myself.

A Special Moment I Didn’t Hear Coming

This past weekend Tom and I went for an overnight getaway because my mom was in town and we really needed it.

We visited the town of Cedarburg, WI. Tom had read about how charming and historical the town is, so we decided to check it out. I grew up in Williamsburg, Va, so historical towns have a very special place in my heart.

One of the things Tom researched was places for us to stay in Cedarburg. He found a bed and breakfast called “The Stagecoach Inn Bed and Breakfast.” I was reluctant to stay there because we’ve stayed in other bed and breakfast inns and I just didn’t feel comfortable. So we stayed somewhere just outside of the town.

Despite not staying at the Stagecoach, we decided to check it out and grab a drink at their pub.

As soon as we walked in I knew the Stagecoach was a special place. One of the owner’s, Bill came over to our table and started talking with us. We left and agreed to come back the next day on our way back home.

The next day we returned and when I say magical things happened I’m not exaggerating. When we walked in, Bill and his friend were playing music and singing. Bill called out to us and remembered our names, what we do for work and even remembered Griffin’s name.
We met Bill’s wife Anne, who was so kind and welcoming. She shared with us that in the past she had worked with a child on the autism spectrum.

At some point Bill asked me if I sang and I said yes not thinking much of it.

Then before I knew it I was up and singing.

I haven’t sung in public in this way in over five years. I’ve been dealing with challenges both as a mother, artist, and human that have put my passion for singing and acting on hold. I want to sing but my song just hasn’t been there.

But then it happened. All of the sudden I was singing a song that I had never sung before in front of strangers that quickly became friends. They were all so supportive and kind.

“Somewhere Over The Rainbow” was not my first choice and when it was suggested I was like “no I can’t sing that!” “Why?” someone asked. “Is it because you don’t know it? I was like “no” because Judy Garland sang it!

Well the support I got made it impossible for me not to sing the song. We found a key that fit my voice and away I went!

After I sang I explained to everyone how special this moment was for me. I shared how I hadn’t sung in public in over five years. I got so many hugs and a new found energy and confidence I didn’t have before I visited and sang. I even sang more songs!

I wasn’t planning on singing and this was the first time I have ever sung “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” It wasn’t perfect but it was a very special moment for me.

We can’t wait to stay at the Stagecoach and sing with our new friends again soon 🙂

A Glimpse Of What Griffin’s Autism Looks Like

Snakes, Spiders, and most bugs are welcome in Griffin’s world but flies, forgettabout it.

Most people would be freaked out but not Griffin. I love the girl in the background. Her face says what I was thinking, better you than me!

It’s the not knowing when or if the fly will buzz by him that causes Griffin major anxiety and forces me to be on fly squashing duty 😉

So here he is wearing earplugs and headphones as he plays piano in and effort to prevent hearing the fly buzz by.

I love Griffin so much and having this reminder of just how complex his world can be breaks my heart.

I’m in awe of the beauty of this picture. Despite his fears he keeps playing on and showing up as the person he is suppose to be.