Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wedding Day


Now that we have THAT clear; my brother, Andy, and his girfriend of almost 3 years turned fiancee, Julie, are getting married this evening.

Last night's rehearsal dinner was a blast, learned ALL KINDS OF THINGS about Andy I didn't know before. And probably shouldn't know now. (kidding...sorta...) Saw my brother, Jim, his gorgeous sweet wife Lesley and nephews Jameson, Rylan and Greycen (aka, Peanut). Probably one of the best parts was watching the cousins tear it up on the outside deck of the golf club where the rehearsal dinner was held.

Sat up Thursday night late talking to my precious sister Beth. *sigh....sheer happiness.... (Sorry for excluding you, Matt, it was GIRL TALK. ;-)

Have been THOROUGHLY entertained by Ben, 3, and Claire, 18 months, my nephew and only niece. Children of my awesome sister Becky. Ben, in the sweetest precocious baby voice you've ever heard, sings The National Anthem, CORRECTLY, and composes his own music. He can also belt out some showtunes with the best of 'em and uses words like "perseverance" in conversation. Props to their dad, Anthony, for corralling wiggling crying Claire into a dress, tights, bloomers, patent leather shoes and a hairbow. All by himself. Well, Uncle Matt did go up and help, because Claire won't let AUNT AMY within 16 feet of her.  *sigh again...the perils of living half a country away (sadness).

This morning, my dad and I are going to Richmond's Art's in the Park event, one of my hometown FAVORITES. With my DAD.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Do I really need to say MORE?


American Idol James.

James Durbin.

American Idol season-Whatever-It-Is.

Let's get this straight right up front.


Because you see, JAMES, has an autism spectrum disorder, hereby referred to as an ASD.

And we all know I have a soft, gooey, caramely, hot fudgey spot in my heart for people with ASD's.

James, clearly, is autistic, but very high functioning.

Not everyone with autism is high functioning. Some 60 percent of people with autism are mentally retarded, that is, have an IQ less than 70.

And not everyone with autism is Rain Man.

Rain Man is what we call a savant. He had amazing skills in some areas, but was significantly deficient in others. VERY RARE. A savant is someone with rare skills, but only constitutes 10 percent of the autistic population.

Maybe James is a savant, with an incredible talent in music.

But I don't think so.

I think JAMES is a person with autism who happens to have a talent in music. Just like my friend Sarah has a talent for dance. And my friend Mike has a talent for graphic design. And my friend Jennifer has a talent for goodliness and godliness. They aren't a LABEL with a talent. They are a PERSON with a talent. Such is James.

I was all ready to vote for him. And only him. Because he was someone with autism. And I have to champion people with autism. But he was so much more than that.

James, as it turns out, in my mind, is an American Idol, without compensating for his so-called disability (that's a whole other post) at all.

Sorry, Robin, Casey is creepy. Scotty is creepy. The other dude, whose name I can't even remember, is not talented. Lauren isn't an American Idol.

If I had to bet on my top 2 today,  it would be Haley and James. With  James winning.

But not because he has autism.

But because he has TALENT.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Top 10 Rambling Topics of the Day

I might as well just face the fact that on some days, I have no point. I have to ramble.

And these things are on my mind tonight.

1. I love Italian Cream Cake. Didn't know it until today, but THANK YOU.

2. Curt has his first TAKS tomorrow. I've been nervous about this all year. At first I was irritated that math came first because I was worried he'd be worn out by Wednesday's reading test. But I think, for me, knowing he'll breeze through math will hopefully give him confidence for reading on Wednesday. I haven't said a word...I know he's hearing enough about the tests at school. No more pressure. But if anyone has prayers or positive thoughts to expend, I'd appreciate it.

3. I am blessed with so many amazing friends who will go above and beyond for me, even if life isn't  handing them roses. I am SO THANKFUL for you. I am thankful I have friends I went to lunch today with and laughed so loudly it prompted one of them to compliment my unrestrained laughter (at least, I *think* it was a compliment). Haven't laughed like that in a long time. And as for the other friend, it was a "duh" moment to find out that Aurora is our favorite Disney princess. Well of course it is. We tend to have the same thoughts at the same times and have the simultaneous emails to prove it. Thanks, J & S.

4. Despite two hours spent at the DPS office, I left with a warm fuzzy. Don't ask why. And it WASN'T the woman with the 4-inch long blue fingernails.

5. This morning, when I went to go kiss my angel baby Luke goodbye in his sleep, he opened one lazy eye, grabbed onto my arm and said, "Mommy, I love you SO MUCH." Melted.

6. Praying for a best friend. You know who  you are.

7. Have complete faith that IT WILL WORK OUT. God's plan; not mine.

8. Have a nuclear medicine gastric emptying test tomorrow. I think this involves eating Japanese food.

9. Am going HOME on Thursday. HOME. Richmond, VA. My last brother, the last bachelor holdout, is getting married Saturday. Congrats Andy and Juli! Cannot WAIT to see my family. They renew my spirit like none other.

10. Someone told me today I was lucky. There was no import in their words. But I don't think I believe in "lucky." I believe in making your own way, making the best choices and shaping your own destiny as far as God will allow. Lucky? I have a blessed life. Random? No way. I've worked to be in the place I am. And whatever doesn't work at the moment, I will, with God's help, make it better.

The end.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Today is Easter Sunday.


And I am prostrate before HIM.

Because I have a multitude.

Today is Easter Sunday.


And maybe second chances. I need a lot of those, too.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


There are all different kinds of lies.

Flat out lies:

Mom, I did NOT hit my brother.

When said brother has a bloody nose.

White lies:

Do you like my sweater?


And lies of omission:

Were you at Cole's house?

I was...(unsaid) but in the meantime I was also at Sharik's house and Casey's house...where I know I'm not supposed to go without permission.

So while the technical answer was correct, the SPIRIT of the answer was violated and makes it a lie.

And lies are bad.

The end.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thimerisol, Autism, and the Great Divide

Today, my friend Gina, from high school (and an amazing advocate for natural child birthing/rearing), posted an article to my Facebook page, asking what I thought about vaccines and autism. I answered, publically, that I just got the inspiration for my  next blog post. ;-)

At almost the same time, a Facebook group I belong to, The Funny Side of Autism, (because I assure you, I've laughed more than I've cried) posted a question about the popular misconceptions of autism.

I have two things people often ask me about:

1. Is Curt is mentally retarded? I understand this question, although I don't like it. Studies vary widely as to what the actual incidence of mental retardation in people with autism is. Some put it as high as 80 percent of people with autism are also mentally retarded. I'd have to argue. My theory is that people with autism cannot communicate effectively enough to participate to society's standards in a traditional IQ test.

Example: A diagnostician administered Curt an OUTDATED IQ test designed for children who were verbal when he was 3 years old and NONVERBAL. Let me stress this dianostician works far, far away. I don't think I've ever admitted this to the general public but Curt received a score, which is in his permanent school records, which labeled him as mentally retarded.

I can assure you: he's not.

And if he was, it would be OK. But I never for a micro-millisecond thought that he was. He's now 9. In third grade. He does long division in his head. He knows how many seconds the Tyler traffic lights are "off" in their synchronicity, he calculates the sales tax on my $137 grocery bill before the cashier can hit the button on her register. And yes, he has to have FOUR items in his lunch every day. Not three.

So yes, he has his strength, in math, but that does not make  him deficient in other areas. He made the All-A Honor Roll in 2nd grade. He's funny. He "gets" jokes.  He sparkles. He asks WAY too many questions. ;-)

He can't be labeled by an IQ score.

Let me just say here that not every person with autism is Rain Man.. OH PUL-LEEZE . Raymond was what we term a savant. Yes, he could count cards. Yes, he could remember baseball stats. But not every person with autism can or will do that. It's NOT the norm.
Secondly. And maybe firstly. Yes, firstly.

2. Did vaccines cause Curt's autism? There's no answer for this, because fact is, NO ONE KNOWS WHAT CAUSES AUTISM. The better question is do I BELIEVE vaccines caused Curt's autism.

And the answer is NO.

I do not  believe vaccines are the reason for Curt's autism.

Firstly, the MMR, which is generally the culprit as the "autism trigger," wasn't administered to Curt until AFTER he was diagnosed. You see, the MMR vaccine is grown in an egg culture, which we thought Curt was allergice to. So he couldn't have the MMR until after he was cleared of egg allergy. Which was AFTER he was diagnosed.

The beautiful staff at our pediatrician's office indulged my fears and checked all the lot numbers of the vaccines Curt received before his diagnosis.

No Thimerisol.

He's NEVER had a vaccine with thimerisol.


Now as far as mercury goes, I do not discount enviornomental mercury or pollutants. We lived in Beaumont, Texas, when I conceived Curt. The petrochemical of the Gulf Coast, one of the TWO main petrochemical capitals of the country. Which, incidentally have the highest rates of autism in the country.

But you CANNOT discount the genetic factor?Boys are 10 to 1 more likely to have autism than girls. How is that NOT genetic? Neither of  Curt's parents have a family history of autism; yet, once you have one child with autism you are 90 PERCENT more likely to have a second with autism.

Since we're being honest, Luke was conceived before Curt was diagnosed. Or we suspected Curt had autism. And it wouldn't have mattered. Luke was coming into our family NO MATTER WHAT. And AFTER Curt was diagnosed we wanted a third child and God decided that was not in the cards. Point being, give me another child with autism.

Any time.

Any day.

Curt is an INCREDIBLE child. With no mental deficits, just social and communitcation challenges. We have to tell him "It's OK to touch people you KNOW on skin you can SEE." Quite practical advice for almost anyone, with or without autism, really. He's not your "typical" child (I HATE the word "normal.") But he is magnificent.

So there are the answers to your two most pressing questions and THANK YOU GINA for the inspiration. You inspire me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spit It Out

Friday, I got an email at work from Mrs. H that Curt had received lunch detention. 

For the first time ever.

He couldn't stop  himself from yelling out during class while Mrs. H was teaching and it seems he was having a problem staying seated. Day after day after day.

So he received what I'm sure were multiple warnings and finally lunch detention.

He was very upset. And rightly so. But he doesn't get cut any slack at home and I don't expect him to be cut any slack at school, either.

I exchanged a few emails with Mrs. H Friday morning. It seems Curt was mostly upset about repercussions at home. [insert jokes about CPS here]

After school Friday, Curt came trudging out of the building hidden behind his teacher, a hangdog look on his face, dragging his backpack behind him.

"Now Curt," says Mrs. H, "You need to tell your mom what happened."

Curt refused.

After a few more promptings, Mrs. H says, "Curt, just spit it out."

So Curt, with his fabulous, miraculous, very literal 'autism brain,' collects a large wad of mucus in his mouth and hurls it to the sidewalk.

There was nothing we could do but laugh.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Shark, Sausage Biscuits and Storage Bins

For the past two days a friend I don't get to see very often has been staying with us. 

Despite time and distance, he's still one of my heroes.

We've had so much fun reminiscing about the week the boys and I lived at his house.

With no power. 

A natural gas leak

And 15 other roommates in 100 degree temperatures post Hurricane Rita. 

We were living in Beaumont at the time. At only 40 miles away from the coast, with Hurricane Rita barreling through the Gulf of Mexico in September 2005, we knew city officials were going to call for an evacuation. That was a given. The only question was: where do we go?

Rita was expected to hit the Corpus Christi area far west of us, which made going east a great idea. 

So the boys and I fueled up the car (the day BEFORE the evacuation was called when people sat parked in their cars on IH-10) and headed east to DeRidder, Louisiana. 

I'll be honest. I DID NOT WANT TO GO.

You see, Brian had arranged for us to stay with David and Susan Broussard in DeRidder. I'd only met them ONCE and here I was barging into their home with two toddlers, an air mattress, a case of diapers and the two boxes of valuables that couldn't be lost if our home in Beaumont was destroyed.

They were relative strangers. 

We arrived at the Broussard home in DeRidder Wednesday before the storm hit Thursday night. And let me tell you, David, Susan and their two boys were only "strangers" for about 5 minutes. They are probably the most warm and welcoming people I know. Full of energy and life, David and Susan are "good peoples."

Wednesday night was a blast. Susan made spaghetti, we tracked the storm on the Internet, watched movies and talked until wee hours. Their son gave up his room to the boys and I and bunked with his brother. 

Thursday was a little more tense. The storm, tracked to hit Corpus, had swung to the east, making a beeline for the Galveston area, less than an hour from where we lived. Brian had stayed back in Beaumont, of course, as the managing editor of the Beaumont Enterprise.
By the time a suggested evacuation of Beauregard Parish, where DeRidder is located, was called, there was no where to go and no time to get there. We were going to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm. 

As the storm swung east, the Broussard's relatives in Port Arthur and in the coastal parishes of Louisiana evacuated, heading for Hotel Broussard in DeRidder. I don't know how many people ended up staying with David and Susan that week. Maybe it wasn't 15. But it sure was close. And they welcomed everyone with open arms and found a room or floor space for them.

Ironically, that afternoon, a pickup truck with a drunk driver hit a utility pole near the Broussard home and we lost  power HOURS earlier than we would have had the storm knocked out lines and electricity. It was funny at the time; little did we know power wouldn't be restored for weeks.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and in retrospect, heading East probably wasn't such a good idea. The storm tracked right up over Beaumont and headed right over DeRidder. Luckily, DeRidder was far enough inland that the storm was "only" a Category One by the time it passed over us in the early morning hours of Friday morning. 

We'd gone to bed that night in the upstairs bedroom of the Broussard's historic home, listening to the winds picking up outside and rattling the windows. The boys (Curt was 3, Luke had JUST turned 2),  fell asleep immediately. There was no way I was closing my eyes. Around midnight David and Susan tapped on the door. It was time to move downstairs to an interior room.

There we all were, huddled on blankets, chairs and couches in the living room. Somehow, most of the others slept as David, Susan and I sat quietly, staring at each other wide-eyed as the winds and rain ripped through the city. Somehow, Luke stayed sound asleep (as he did three years later when we rode out Hurricane Ike in our Sour Lake home). Curt woke up, but was largely unperturbed by the percussion of falling trees, snapping limbs and the rattle of the doors and windows under the dangerous winds.

When the rain eased and daylight limped out from behind storm clouds, we emerged, a bit shell shocked, to survey the damage. Mercifully, the house was largely untouched. Trees were down everywhere. The yard looked like a jungle of tangled power lines, fallen trees, limbs strewn everywhere and littered with blown branches and foliage from other yards.

But what this post is really about is the aftermath of the storm. I know it took me long enough to get here but you had to understand the events leading up to those days post-Rita.

But after Rita, there was no power.

No hot water.

Cell phone service was out.

Land lines had toppled. We had no communication with anyone outside DeRidder.
A gas main had somehow been compromised behind the Broussard home, so there was a natural gas leak.

It was 100 degrees that September in 2005 with probably 90 percent humidity. The mosquitoes swarmed. The National Guard rolled into town.

David worked hard in the yard to start the clean-up. Susan mothered all the refugees. I remember wandering aimlessly and should have done more to  help the clean up efforts.

A neighbor who was leaving the area to try to find a hotel room somewhere within a 12 hour drive with power brought over a cooler filled with the contents of his freezer, which would be rotten by the time he returned.

We opened the cooler. It was filled with shark meat. 

David and Susan, always up for a party and always rolling with whatever life throws their way immediately fired up the grill. None of us had eaten shark before. I wasn't going to try it, to be honest. But food was food and that was the day's offering. I don't know what David did to that shark, but it was seasoned and grilled to perfection and absolutely delicious.

Of course nothing in town was open. You lived off the resources you had available when the storm struck.

We had a cooler of by what was then warmish beer stashed in David and Susan's upstairs closet. We shared warm Shiner in their sweltering upstairs bedroom and didn't share with our other 15 roommates....shhhhhh.....

By day three or four, we were all pretty cranky, stressed out, bug-bitten, tired and the close quarters were wearing on everyone. But David, his father and his brother got up in practically the middle of the night and used precious gas resources to drive to Alexandria, Louisiana, which was over an hour away. Alexandria wasn't hit as hard and was rumored to even have POWER. They brought back ice, which was a hot commodity during that time, filled gas tanks and, by the time we were waking up that morning, greeted everyone with a McDonald's sausage biscuit. I can't even tell you. HOW. GOOD. THAT. BISCUIT. TASTED. And it wasn't that we hadn't been eating well; we certainly were grilling everything we could possibly put over a flame, but that biscuit represented our only contact with the "outside" world since the storm. With modern convenience and civilization! Spirits soared that morning.

With our bellies full, our loads shouldered seemed lightened somehow. Since the heat was overwhelming, Susan filled plastic storage bins with water, put them in the shade of the front porch and my babies stripped down to their diapers and "swam" in the cool water of the bins. Bliss.

Finally, when it was time for the boys and I to drive several hours to Shreveport to catch a plane "home" to my parents' house in Virginia, the Broussards got up in the middle of the night again to drive several hours to lead us to the main road, knowing I was (and still am) directionally challenged and would never find my way to the interstate myself. 

There were plenty of other bloggable moments during that week, but certainly the shark, sausage biscuits and storage bins stand out in my mind. David and I were laughing about that last night, visiting on our back porch, before going inside to our air conditioned house to enjoy our meal.

It really was the little things that week but the BIG thing was the size of David and Susan's hearts.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Love and Hate

There is a fine line between love and hate.

A gossamer, really.

While seemingly polar opposites, you have to feel, feel STRONGLY, in both of these instances. I posit that you can't hate if you've never loved and vice versa.

And I'm not advocating hate. I'm only saying that there is a fine, fine line.

Nothing more than a gossamer.

Friday, April 8, 2011


No organized thoughts tonight, just random musings from a full week.

Becky & Anthony weigh heavily on my mind tonight. My "baby" sister (who claims I whomped her repeatedly as a child) is one of the strongest WOMEN I know. As is her husband. And their two beautiful children. Praying for them constantly. Constantly amazed by their strength.


Also praying for my friend whose heart has been heavy for years. That she realize her self worth and have the strength to fulfill her own dreams.


Worried about Curt's impending TAKS test...I won't be in town when he takes the test and I'm worried the disruption of mommy not being at home will take it's toll. Is that selfish-all-about-me? A little bit...but I know that child inside and out. We don't disrupt routine if at all possible.


Excited for Andy and Juli. My brother, next in birth order, is about to get married. He's old. Really old. (35) ;-) and waited until he found THE ONE. That would be Juli. They are precious. Wishing them the best for a lifetime of partnership and love.


Thinking about a co-worker who today told me that our conversation on Tuesday night really made an impact on her. How she was changing some things in her life after she realized maybe she needed to do things differently.


Thankful for some beautiful friends who bring unimaginable light into my life. Couldn't do it without you. :-)

Friday, April 1, 2011

The A Word

I thought long and hard last night (when I wasn't sleeping) about whether I was going to write about this today. But then I decided that yes, in honor of April being national Autism Awareness Month, I was practically obligated to share today.

You see, something big, REALLY BIG, happened last night. And I had a big, REALLY BIG (albeit all to myself and completely quiet) freak-out afterward.

For the past seven years, ever since Dr. Graytooth made his grave proclamation that  my beautiful, sparkling two-year old was indeed autistic, I've wondered how, and when, we go about sharing this label with Curt.
Would he care? How would he react? Would he understand?

Recently, a third party told Brian and I that we'd have to tell Curt about his autism sometime between now and adulthood. Gee, really? Do you think? Thanks for the unhelpful tip there!

We didn't really talk much about it. There wasn't going to be a set moment when we sat him down and said, "Son, you're autistic." There wasn't a plan to wait for a certain age or certain time or anything. No plan.

But last night, we did.

We used the A word. 

Curt knows that he thinks differently than other kids. Even he is not oblivious to the fact that his brain isn't wired like those of other children. But we had never, until last night, used the A word.

I'm not even certain what triggered the conversation. We were sitting at the kitchen table, winding down after a horrible work day, and I think the boys came running in deep in the throes of an argument about Curt not playing Luke's game "correctly." Luke, at age 7, is pretty savvy when it comes to all things social. He's always surrounded by friends, is quite a little leader [insert shameless mom brag  here] and has a WICKED imagination. So when he plays games of pretend, of superheroes and pirates and space aliens and flying tigers, Curt, with his very literal mind, doesn't always understand. And this upsets Luke.

So last night, as I was explaining to Luke that Curt didn't, COULDN'T, comprehend the plot Luke was fashioning for the two of them, it seemed to be the right time to share the A word with both boys.

It was a simple, straightforward conversation. It went something like this:

"Curt, do you know how your brain works differently from some other people's?


"The way your brain works is because of something called autism."


"You know how you can hear trains from really far away, and how you can do long division in your head and the other kids can't yet, and you know how you love lights and spinning things? That's all because of something called autism."

"Oh. OK. Can I go back and play now?"

And that was that.

It was MUCH BIGGER for me than it was for him.

And for that, I am thankful.