I originally started this blog a few years ago to chronicle Noah's daily struggles with autism. It was a dark time in my life - a time when I felt that things would never get better. It was a time when I felt that all my hopes and dreams for my son and for our family had died. In my efforts to help Noah recover from autism, I began a journey that inadvertently led me to rediscover myself. I learned how to laugh again. How to dream again. How to live again. How to love again.

Autism Schmaustism. He's still our son.

This is a blog celebrating our family. Our kids. Our life.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Lorenzo Odone Passed Away

Lorenzo Odone, the little boy whose life is featured in the movie "Lorenzo's Oil" passed away yesterday.


I rewatched the movie shortly after Noah was diagnosed with autism. I was so struck by how persistent and diligent Lorenzo's parents were - and how they refused to give up - and in doing so they discovered Lorenzo's Oil.

His parents NEVER gave up. Even when he went from a vibrant, multi-lingual little boy to a man who could not move, speak, or communicate... his parents NEVER gave up. And I just think of how many children afflicted with ALD have been helped because of that persistence.

If you haven't seen "Lorenzo's Oil", you really should. In fact, I think I'm going to have to watch it again.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Beached Whale

Today I finally joined my kids in the little plastic pool we bought a few weeks ago. For days, I've been sitting out on a lawn chair going over homeschool stuff while keeping an eye out for any sign of Nandini trying to sit on Eli's head and push him under the water. But today it was just so stinkin' hot that I dusted off my swimsuit and decided to join them.

As I neared the pool, Eli shouted:

"Wuh Oh, Nandi. Look out! Here comes Free Willy!!"

Now, I assumed he meant Free Willy, the whale. But seeing that willy is also what he calls his dingaling, I figured I'd better get some clarification - and fast.

I think the words "'cuz you look like a big whale, Mommy" cleared up any confusion.

Thank Goodness.

Although, I'm not sure being compared to a giant whale is any consolation prize.

Ah, four year olds. Ya gotta love them. They just shoot straight, don't they? None of that "You look fine. Don't worry about it" crap that adults give. Nope. If a four year old thinks you look like a beached whale, then he'll tell you.

I'm sure hoping the eye doctor determines that he needs glasses. With really thick rims.

That would make me really happy.

But, seriously, I'm not going to worry about it too much. I try to take things he says with a grain of salt. I mean, this is the same kid who five minutes later told Nandini that it was okay to poop in the pool because poop in a potty stays big, but poop in a pool shrinks and gets really tiny.


I have no idea where he comes up with that stuff. Although if he's correct that poop in a pool looks smaller, then you can guarantee that my next swimsuit is going to be a solid brown one-piece.

I'm just saying.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

So This Is What A Typical Day Looks Like At Our House..

Curious to know what a typical day is like at our house? It's NONSTOP!!!

I was cooking supper tonight and had U2 blaring on the little portable CD player next to the stove - and Nandini and Eli sauntered in and started getting down. You'll have to excuse that it's U2's "Desire" playing in the background - not exactly a fitting choice for a couple of preschoolers to dance to, but it was the song that happened to be on when they wandered into the kitchen.

Pay close attention and you'll see Nandini whop our dog on the back at the very beginning of the video. Don't blink or you'll miss it. And stay tuned to the end when she reels Dolly over her head and whacks Eli with it. I wasn't kidding when I blogged about her hitting habit.

There's also plenty of Eli pretending to be a dinosaur and Noah making a beeline out of the room in hopes of finding some peace and quiet.

The video's only a few minutes long, but the scenes are repeated all day long.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

My New Favorite Blog

Ya'll have really got to check this blog out:

Postcards from Insanity: One Foster Mom's Journey Through the System

It is the funniest thing I've ever read. Well, it's not all funny - it deals with serious stuff - but the blogger is hysterical and has such a way with words. I know her from another list I'm on and have to keep everything anonymous - but her journey through the fostercare system makes for great reading. It's like a suspense novel - she blogs another piece of the journey each day and I just sit at the computer waiting for her to update.

You have to go back to the very beginning of her blog to catch up. But she only started blogging in April, so it won't take too long. And it'll be well worth it. I promise.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ignorance is the REAL disability

Someone that I love very much - who is very near and dear to me - told me today...

"You'd better not adopt any more kids with brain injuries."

You see, Nandini is missing almost a fourth of her brain. The actual term is porencephaly. It's a brain cyst. But basically, her front parietal and temporal lobes are gone. The cyst is just formed around the empty space.

And she's okay. She's funny and smart. Sharp as a tack. Way clever. Very manipulative. The girl's got street smarts likes I've never seen. She's very quick to catch on to things. She's super, actually.

But you can't have a quarter of your brain missing without there being some sort of risidual effect. It just doesn't happen.

So we're starting to see some of these things. And, honestly, it's really hard because we're dealing with a child who spent three years in an orphanage. Who has a brain injury. Who is amazingly strong-willed and has a strong sense of survival - and who is now trying to learn to live in a family setting with all these new sights and smells and words and faces. You know, how much is it from the orphanage? How much is the brain injury? How much is it just her to trying to adjust to everything?

But, deep down, we get a sense that things aren't going to be as smooth as we originally thought. Learning is going to be a huge challenge for her. She's super smart, but she will have a hard time sitting down and learning. Memory is a big challenge for her. Speech is a big challenge. But, hey. We're up for the challenge. This is what God led us to do. But it doesn't always make it easy.

So, anyway, this same person who I love and adore told me...

"Well, you're the ones who chose her."

Uh, no. We weren't out seeking to adopt again. This was DIVINE INTERVENTION. God led us to Nandini. And he made an awesome choice. Fantastic choice. She is amazing. But, uh yeah. It is hard. Just because God tells you to do something doesn't mean that it's going to be easy.

And what the heck does that mean anyway? "You chose her?" Like, what? We'd give her back because she's most likely gonna suck at math and the teenage years are going to be hard? Um, hello. She sounds like the spitting image of me.

It just frustrates me. We love our kids. So what if it's hard. Isn't life hard anyway?? I mean, our kids could be perfectly healthy and it'd still be hard. At least I don't ever have to worry about Noah going off and knocking up some high schooler. I don't have to worry about him drinking and smoking pot. Life is hard no matter what. That's why it's life. It doesn't matter if you're children are perfectly healthy or have special needs. Life.Is.Hard. Period.

People look at us and think that we asked for it. I've literally had people tell me that.

"Well, that's what you get for adopting special needs kids."

What? So I can't have a bad day? Everyone else can lament and complain, but Leslie has no right to because she "asked for it." She knew what she was getting into.

Okay, it's fairly obvious that I'm going on a tangent here. And while I'm on a tangent, let me just say that it ticks me off when people tell me that we don't need to adopt anymore. I mean, I'll be the first one to say that our hands are full. Like, hugely, overflowingly full. But I have no idea what God has in store for our family. And if He calls us to adopt again, how dare we say no to Him.

Anyway, I have no idea what I'm exactly trying to say in this post. And I have to go. I never should've started blogging in a timecrunch anyway. It just frustrates me that we can't go to people we love and trust and say, "Hey, I'm having a bad day. This is really hard" without them throwing it back in our face that "we chose this life", "that's what you get with special needs kids" or "well, don't adopt anymore like them."

Ignorance is the real disability.

The WHAT Fairy???

Okay, I know that it seems that I'm always posting Eli stories - but you have to understand. Eli is my only fully verbal kid, so it's easier to blog about the funny things he says.

So, anyway. He woke up this morning in a foul mood. Let me tell you... he was SULKING. I just sort of waited it out because he's not a morning person anyway and normally needs about 30 minutes before he turns into an approachable person. So, I sit down at the computer and he comes up to me and thrusts a toenail in my face.

A toenail.

A nasty ol' toenail.

And he's mad because apparently he lost it last night and stuck it under his pillow for "The Toenail Fairy" to come and get it - and she never came.

That kid will do anything for a quarter.

Seriously. What's next? Pick a scab and get a visit from the Scab Fairy? Lose a strand of hair and place it under your pillow for the Hair Fairy? What about the Booger Fairy? Is she supposed to pay a visit, too? 'Cuz I don't think I have enough quarters for that one.

He hasn't even lost a tooth yet. He only knows about the Tooth Fairy because Noah lost two teeth a few weeks ago.

I'm thinking a quarter is too much. Eli has a bunch of teeth. I don't know how many -but it sure looks like a lot. I think he must have twice as many as most kids have.

That's a lot of cash right there.

I think we're going to have to downgrade to a penny. Or maybe just a hug and a kiss.

And besides... who came up with the bright idea of a Tooth Fairy anyway?? Because now my kid thinks there's a fairy for every situation in the world.

Oooh, I know. Maybe I can just not give any quarters under the pillow. I can say that The Toenail Fairy swiped the quarter that the Tooth Fairy left and now all the Fairies are in a big fight and have declared strike. And then the strike can get called off after my youngest child looses her last tooth - which will be in about 6 years.

Yeah. Yeah. Maybe I'll try that.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Things that make you go hmmmmm??

You know that neighbor guy that I blogged about a few months ago? You know. The one who has a bit of a problem with our kids?

Well, you can imagine the look on his face when Eli and Nandini raided the dress-up box and came outside to show us their new creations...

Mr. Neighbor happened to be outside mowing at the exact time that Mr. Snow White and Little Flapper Girl sauntered outside. I swear his eyes nearly popped out of his head. And then I think he swore under his breath and muttered something about "freaks".

Oh, yes. I'm sure we're the talk of our neighborbood.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Noah's Autism Slide Show

Two years ago, we created a slideshow for Noah's website to help raise money for his autism treatments. Well, that site has long since been abandoned. Blogging is much easier! I've been wanting to shut the old site down for awhile, but wanted to get some of the content off it first. So, that's what I'm going to be working on for the next week or so.

The first step was getting Noah's slideshow on the blog and - fingers crossed - I think it worked. The slideshow shows how Noah changed as he started to regress into autism. It ends with him being 4 1/2 years old. He's 6 1/2 now. So much has changed since then, but also, so much hasn't.

It's bittersweet watching the video. I cry each time. I know I have nothing to complain about. We are so incredibly lucky with Noah. He truly has a heart of gold. He is without a doubt the best thing that has ever happened to me. And I truly mean that. But, still, the "I wonder's" and the "What might have beens" do creep up from time to time. As it says in the story, "Welcome to Holland", you learn to love and enjoy your life - you end up having a wonderful and fulfilling life - but deep down inside you never, ever, ever forget that this wasn't how it was supposed to be.

Click to play Recovering Noah
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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Celebrating 6 Months with Nandini

I can't believe Nandi's been with us for 6 months now. Where did the time go???

Here's a slideshow that we put together celebrating the last 6 months. There weren't many options for songs, so the song doesn't exactly fit - but I kind of like it. :-)

We love you Nandini!!!

P.S. For some reason, you have to turn the music on at the bottom of the screen. I can't get it to turn on automatically.

What do you mean I'm not their REAL mom?

I'm not a very controversial person. I know. I know. Somewhere, my mom is reading this and laughing. And, yeah, it's true. In my teens and all the way up to just a few years ago, I loved nothing more than a good argument. I would argue anything and everything.

Hey. I wasn't the Captain of the Debate Team for no reason, you know.

But somewhere along the line, it just stopped being fun. I no longer got an adrenaline rush out of it. I got a headache. And I officially hung up by debating boxing gloves when we started homeschooling. One of the reason we looked into HS in the first place was because I spent all my time and energy arguing with the Special Ed department of our former school district (yeah, I'm talking to you Denton ISD).

So, anyway, (and it's impossible for me to make any story a short story), I just decided not to let things rile me up anymore. There are more important things in the world than having to prove I'm right or arguing a point with someone who doesn't even really care about me or my family.

But that changed last Friday.

I went to the Homeschool Book Fair in Arlington last week. It's really great - totally overwhelming (they should pass out barf bags to all parents before they walk in) and really expensive (they should also snip holes in your pockets as you fill out the registration form), but it's a really great Fair.

So, I find myself drawn to this booth about Homeschool How-To's and the booklets were pretty cheap and looked really good, so I bought a few. One of them was about how to be a focused mother - and it's pretty good, actually. Until you get to one certain part...

Basically, it talks about how we moms don't realize how important we are to our kids. That no matter what we do or how we treat them, we are their life. I mean, it wasn't advocating that you beat your kids and leave them... it was just giving illustrations about how amazingly important we are to our children. And then it says,

" Check this out.. even if you are a rotten mother, a drug addict who abandoned your child as a baby, your child will spend the rest of his life LOOKIN' for you! Orphans want to find their REAL mothers... it is their one and only obsession until it is accomplished".

Okay, that chapped my hide. Seriously, what's that all about??

Semantically speaking, the whole thing doesn't make sense. An orphan, by definition, has no living parents. So, technically, an orphan could never accomplish "their one and only obsession".

But, yeah, I know that's not what she meant. What really ticked me off was the use of REAL parents - and how it was emphasized. And, I know, she didn't write it thinking, "hmmm.. how can I really piss off adoptive parents?". It was probably very innocent - but it was ignorant. So, I'm here to say....

PLEASE don't use the words "real mom", "real dad", or "real parents"... because you're going to make me want to smack the crap out of you. And unless you want to be on the other end of an angry Leslie tirade - which I guarantee none of you - except my parents and one particular ex-boyfriend who I still would like to beat the living daylights out of - have ever witnessed - please, please, please think before you speak.


Now, let me take a deep breath here. Alright. Look. before I became an adoptive mom, I used the term "real parents". I didn't know any better. I didn't think about it. It never occurred to me that I might be offending someone. I mean, I specifically recall finding out - during the middle of adopting Noah - that a co-worker was adopted and I asked her if she ever wanted to find her real parents. She just let my ignorance roll right off her because she's a much better person than I am. But, now, remembering that... I'm so embarrassed.

You can look at it anyway you want. My kids have two moms. They have a birth mother and an adoptive mother. They have a birth mother and me. They have two REAL moms. We're both REAL people. True, I didn't give birth to my children. But I've fed them, rocked them, stayed up all night with them. I've kissed boo-boo's, made up songs, wiped up throw-up. I've been there for first words, first walks, and first stumbles. I was there when Eli cried for the first time when another child made fun of him. I was there, in the hospital, all day and night when Noah was hospitalized last year with MRSA. I am there every single night when Nandini wakes up screaming from night terrors - and I haven't had a decent sleep in almost 6 years. I love my kids with my heart and soul. I would die a thousand deaths for them. I would give my life for them - without blinking an eye. Without hesitation.

Am I not a REAL mom?

This isn't about Me vs. their Birth Mom(s). This is me getting sick and tired of people assuming that parents who adopt can't possibly love their adopted kids as much as their real kids. Puh-leeze. This is for all the people who constantly ask if we're ever going to have "one of our own" while my kids are standing right there in front me - listening with their little ears. This is for the lady at Walmart who nodded at the kids and said, "How much does one of them run?" Unless you are seriously interested in adopting, please don't ask my kids "how much they cost" - especially in front of them. Unless you want me to ask what your hospital delivery bill was, if you emptied your retirement to pay for in-vitro or what position you used to get pregnant... do NOT ask me such personal questions unless you are seriously interested in adoption - especially not in front of my children.

This is for all the people who ask if we knew about Noah and Nandini's special needs - again, in front of them - before we adopted them. If we say yes, then we're thought of as either crazy or noble. If we say no, then we get a look of pity.

This is for the man who looked at Noah and said, "Why don't you just send him back?"

Yeah, and why don't you just crawl back under the rock you came from.

This is for everyone who says, "Oh, your kids are so lucky you adopted them." Uh. No. I'm the lucky one. Pre-Mom.. I was a selfish brat who didn't give a flying fig about anyone other than myself. I am the lucky one. They have changed me - and I am forever grateful for that.

And, while I'm on my gigantic soapbox.... and, ahhhh, it feels good to be back... let's just say Jeers to NBC for their Mother's Day Special that aired the other day. I didn't see it... but, boy, did I read about it. What ignoramus came up a category of honoring Non-Moms? And, I quote...

"The Non-Mom: Grandparent, stepmom, or mom to adopted children, each one raising and loving a child. A priceless gift for everybody."

You've got to be kidding me. Do you really want to go there? What... we parents who didn't give birth are now reduced to being "Non-Moms?"

Fortunately, so many people wrote in and complained that they changed the category from Non-Mom to Adopting Mom. But still... I'd like to throw a mud pie into the idiot's face who thought that whole thing would be a good idea.

Yeah. See. Now you know why I try to stay out of arguments. Because I get too riled up. And it takes me forever to get over it. Which is why I'm not saying anymore... because I could seriously go on for days and days.

And, just in case you're wondering, I did fire off an email to the lady who ticked me off in the first place. It was rather pleasant, I thought. I exercised full self-control. I was a true lady.

Or so I think. She hasn't responded back.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Guess Who Eli Likes?

So, guess what Eli's discovered...............

Yep. The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley.

I blame you, Cedar Creek Public Library.

We went in and checked out some movies that Eli wanted to see. Namely, Sound of Music and Snow White. So, a week passes and he remembers that he hasn't watched Snow White yet. Well, we pull it out, put it in and....

it's Mary-Kate & Ashley.

Some doofus switched tapes on us.

But, hey, I'm a doofus, too, because I once turned in our Lion King video in a 101 Dalmatian's video box by mistake.

All Doofuses of the World Unite!

We were bracing ourselves for a mega meltdown... but he loved it. In fact, I was in Austin with Noah yesterday and Sim said Eli watched it 8 times.

Now, in all fairness, it was "The Case of the Sea World Adventure" and had whales and sharks and stuff. But he also said that the girls in the movies are "soooooooooo pretty" and we did catch him dancing along to the musical numbers.

Which brings me to this. It is so bizarre watching The Olsen twins in a movie. I've never seen one of their movies before. They sing. And dance. And are 9 years old. And cute. And I can't help put picture them now with their stringy hair, humongous purses and ginormous sunglasses - and bony figures.

And, they're, like almost 22 now.

Very bizarre.

Let's just hope this isn't the beginning of a new obsession. His dinosaur one is going on 3 years now.

If he finds out that their are 379 MK & Ashely videos out there, we are in deep trouble.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

When did I turn into such a dork??

You know, most people my age would probably get excited about all sorts of things.... maybe an upcoming vacation. Maybe buying a new outfit. Maybe losing 10 pounds.

But do you know what had me doing cartwheels in the living room this afternoon?????


And this...

That's right. I'm doing the Happy Dance over two new Elmo DVD releases.

Did you see what they are about???


And Protecting the Earth!

Oh, I love you Jim Henson Productions. My kids are going to love you, too. This will make their day.

And when the kids are happy... mama's happy.

Ahhh, I can't wait until next Tuesday. The countdown begins....

P.S. You can check out all the upcoming releases here.

Just a wallowin'....

Well, I guess all those years of Sensory Integration Therapy really paid off.

You'd never know that Noah used to freak out whenever anything touched his hand.

Yeah, it made for some difficult times. But no worries now, eh? Because......

Yep, that's our Noah sticking his face full-on in the mud.

And, uhm, yeah... that's him eating it....

And, well, uh....hmmm... maybe we did a bit too much therapy...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Day on the Lake

We finally took the boat out today. It's just a little aluminum boat about 40 years old with a trolling motor. We can row faster than the motor goes - but, still, we had a great time. It was the first time Nandu's been out on the water and she LOVED it. We literally had to hold the strap of her lifejacket to keep her from going over. She just wanted to keep leaning over the side and dunking her face in the water.

Of course, she learned that trick from her big brother, Noah.

Sim and I are burnt to a crisp. You'd think we'd learn by now.. but, nope.

Anyway, here are some pics from the day. We tried to catch some catfish by hooking bits of salami on a toy fishing rod.. but no such luck. I think the Three Musketeers were making way too much noise. Plus, I have no idea what we'd do if we actually caught one. Freak out and throw the whole rod in the water, I guess. :-)