July: South Carolina

July was awesome.

We spent the whole month of July in South Carolina, staying with GC’s parents for most of the time, except for one week in which my parents flew out and the five of us stayed in a house right on the ocean.


Being ocean front was marvelous.  The view from the porch was gorgeous any time of day.IMG_1059


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IMG_0293The Roc was very excited again this year to go to the ocean.  Last year was the first time he actually spent time in the water, running and playing in the waves, carefree in the sun.  I was looking forward to watching him in the ocean, getting in the warm water myself, and playing in the sand.  I was doubly excited that my parents were with us this year.  I’ve talked about the magic of South Carolina for years and it was so fun to share it with them.  The big thing this year was boogie boarding!  The Roc tried it for the first time and really enjoyed it, though he got pretty frustrated when he couldn’t catch a wave just right.




The Roc’s cousins came up from Charleston and spent some time with us at the beach house.  The kids all had a blast.IMG_0325


GC’s parents came over a few times and it was fun watching the guys play soccer on the sand.IMG_0713

It went by fast, but we had a great week.IMG_1155

GC spent some of our time in SC working, (since he works from home and can work anywhere!) so there were many days the Roc and I headed out to the beach just the two of us.  We stayed for hours and constructed a lot of sand castles.2014-07-22 11.42.48

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One morning, after a bit of a meltdown, the Roc and I went walking at the state park beach.  We were in calf deep water and all of the sudden the Roc said, “Look Mommy!” and to my left this was swimming by:2014-07-22 17.17.08

The Roc did really well most of the time we were in South Carolina, but of course, he had a few moments, and there was more than one time I thought I may lose my mind.  I never stayed mad for too long.2014-07-20 11.26.57

IMG_0119Pomegranate margaritas also helped to take the edge off.2014-07-19 13.10.28While we did spend the bulk of our time at the beach, GC, his mom, and I took the Roc mini golfing for the very first time.  He loved it!IMG_1196

We also spent a lot of time at the pool!

2014-07-19 17.34.00Quickly our month came to an end and we were back in the car headed home.

2014-07-26 14.34.49Until next time….







Catching up: The Highlights

I haven’t written much in 2014.  Not that there hasn’t been anything to say, there were so many situations, triumphs, heartaches, one step forwards and two steps back, fist-pumping moments, and on and on.  Life happened.  So many times I’ve wanted to write, but I have found it harder to write about the Roc as he has gotten older.  This is his life, his story, and it doesn’t feel appropriate to write about the harder stuff, but it also feels dishonest to only write about the good.  Because this life, as I know it, as he knows it, has both.  But I want to continue telling our story because it is a way for me to keep track of where we have been.  I have also been told that other people see their family in my own, they see their kiddo in my Roc, and whether they are looking forward or looking back when they read, I appreciate the connections.  Also, more than one real life friend has told me that they they learn about autism and what our life is like when they read my words, and I appreciate that just as much as the connections.

So, to get started again after many months off and because I like to focus on all the good stuff, here are some of the family highlights of spring/early summer 2014.

After spending a weekend up on scaffolding in our town home in Delaware a few years ago GC swore that he was never going to have a house with a two story family room and/or foyer again.  That statement didn’t hold true as the house we bought when we moved here three years ago has a two story family room.  So this spring we rented scaffolding and GC was again painting and installing a ceiling fan way up high, much to his delight.



I even went up on the top level to wash the windows and gained a new appreciation for his bravery!


I went to a Rocky Mountain School of Photography photo weekend in April and finally learned how to shoot in manual.  I practiced a lot on our pets


and at swim practice (which is very hard due to the lighting at the pool and all the movement, but I’m working on it.)  The Roc is a bit tired of me pointing my camera at him.  Actually the dog is too, though I think he is afraid of the noise, and that’s why he leaves the room every time I start snapping.


Swimming was big in the spring with swim team starting back up and going through June.  Team practice two nights a week and then a weekly individual swim lessons at a local swim school kept the Roc busy after school.  His love affair with water continues and it was a joy to watch him on the team.


My favorite swim memory from this year is from the Roc’s very first swim meet at the end of May.  He hadn’t expressed an interest in the meets during the fall/winter season and I didn’t push him to compete.  After getting my fall volunteer points complete by working meet concessions I was relieved that he wasn’t interested.  The meet I attended was long, crowded, and so noisy.  I worried it would be completely overwhelming and that he wouldn’t want to continue on the team if I pushed him to race before he was ready.  So when he brought it up on his own, after seeing some of the kids get participation medals at practice this spring, I signed him up for one race, 25 freestyle.  When I looked at the team website a few days later I saw that the coach signed him up for backstroke as well.  In the days leading up to the meet we went over what to expect and decided that GC would take him to the meet and I would be the one volunteering (as a timer.)  I was so nervous for him and so proud when he went to sit with his team.  The coaches were awesome about getting the kids to where they needed to be and the Roc got in the water and raced the backstroke.  He was so proud of himself when he got to the end of the pool and I was able to wave to him before GC took him home.  There was a big chunk of time between his two races, and we live close to the pool, so GC thought it would be better to wait at home.  They came back in time for the freestyle and I was psyched that he would be racing in the lane that I was timing!

The Roc is in the lane closest to you as you watch…

He crushed it!


Right after school let out we were invited to spend a weekend up at cabin owned by the coach of the Roc’s special hockey team.  He knew that we love the outdoors and thought we might enjoy fishing and hanging out at his little place in the woods.  We did!  After one day of rain it was peaceful and beautiful.





IMG_4448It was wonderful to spend the time with the Roc’s coach as well.  He is one of the most genuine people I have ever met.  He helped the Roc fish off the dock, putting worm after worm on the hook as the Roc caught sunny after sunny, and he even got all the spiderwebs down off the ceiling. (This is an anxiety issue the Roc developed last summer, which we thought would go away like so many other things have in the past, but it hasn’t gone away…something to write about in the future.  Spiderwebs can literally ruin his day.)  The special needs world has introduced our family to so many wonderful people and we are very grateful.

After our weekend at the cabin we were biding our time until we left for South Carolina (which deserves a post all it’s own.)




Dogs + Tears

I write but don’t hit publish as much as I once did.  Here is a story from last week…

My fingers grasp the knife, the cold meat slick with fat slides under the blade.  Lucy, my sweet black cat circles my feet, chirping and purring, hoping I will drop her a scrap.  The dog softly whines, a spindle of drool hangs an inch from the floor.  The house is quiet.  I am alone (a rarity with a husband who works from home) save the pets who will attack this hunk of meat if I step away from the counter for three seconds.

My eyes scan the recipe as my heart remembers the feeling, the sights, the energy in that room last night.  Images flicker in my consciousness.  My son.  Who opened up in a way I so rarely witness.   I slice and feel the not only everything in the present, but everything from the night before.

I had been watching a dog rescue video from Hope for Paws as the Roc brushed his teeth in the bathroom five feet away.  He walked in and wanted to see.  I let him watch, and his face promptly crumbled as he took in the dirty, terrified dog.  He asked me questions and I answered them honestly.  Tears started to slide down his cheeks and he was overwhelmed.

By big, deep feelings.

“What happened to that dog?  Why does it look like that?  Oh no….  I think I feel bad.  I think I’m going to cry,” he said as he moved to the floor by the door.

His breath came in ragged gasps as he folded his arms across his chest, pulled his knees up, ducked his head.  Hiding. Full of big emotions.  He pulled the door against himself as he pressed back into the corner.

He hid and I coaxed him out.

“I’m here.  I’m here.  I’ll always be here.”  My own eyes filled with tears as I listened to his breath catch.  He was showing a side I so rarely see.  A side I know is there.  Feelings I know are there.  Sadness, despair, empathy.  Yes, empathy.  I lowered the volume on my laptop and slide onto the floor.

“Please come out.  I’m right here.  Come talk to me.”

He raised his tear stained face and I saw him.  Really saw him.  Red cheeks.  Glistening blue eyes filled with sorrow.  So often his true feelings are not seen on the outside.  I have always known everything was there.  Nothing missing.  But he doesn’t act the way people expect him too.  Often his reactions to others emotions and his often his own seem completely inappropriate.  But I know he feels everything.  Even if his face doesn’t match what’s going on inside.

My heart cracked open watching him process what he saw in the video and how it made him feel.

He came out from behind the door and received my hug.  We watched a couple more dog rescues.  He cried some more.  I held him in my lap, marveled at how long his body is getting.  He doesn’t fit on my lap anymore.  He sniffled and snuffled and had to leave the room when he was run over by his emotions.  I worried that I went too far, that we watched for too long.  That the pain and suffering he saw on the screen was too much for his heart.

I got him into bed and in the darkness I tried to unravel what he was thinking.  I asked questions and waited.  Waited some more while he tried to find the words to explain his thoughts.

About dogs and people.  About cruelty and why some people are so mean.  I could see in his face and feel in my bones that there was so much more he wanted to say.  That he couldn’t access the words to tell me how he really felt.

Watching the wheels turn behind his eyes my mind was rusty, full of all the memories of those early diagnosis years when everything seemed insurmountable and I felt impotent.  I used to ache to soothe him when he was a toddler.  When the tears on his cheeks made him slap his eyes.  When my arms and my words were not enough, when I didn’t know what to do.

Laying on the bed I held myself back and waited.  Waited with eyes and knowledge only time could give me.

We are not where we once were.





I feel a little guilty but swallow it down as I pull on my big winter boots.  I shouldn’t feel guilty for leaving the house, for wanting an evening to myself.  I know that GC doesn’t feel guilty when he leaves the house multiple times a week to pursue his hobby.

I am just pursuing quiet.  Space.  Time for myself.

Can the pursuit of quiet be a hobby?

I have been craving quiet.  After spending eight days in Arizona with the Roc and then coming home to two days off of school because of wind chills that would literally freeze the skin off your face…I am in need of some quiet.

I stuff my laptop and kindle in my backpack, pour some coffee into my travel thermos, say goodbye and leave.

The sky is grey, the pale yellow sun drops into view at the end of a line of clouds, hanging onto the edge, then suddenly it is below the horizon.  The street lights come on, illuminating the dirty snow thrown into huge piles along our street.  The Roc waves to me behind the wood blinds.  I wave back, extra big, as I start down the street, not knowing if he can see me.  I turn the corner and my mind is still full of him.

Full of his words and the look on his face as he came through the door this afternoon, “Mommy…I have some bad news.”  Of the conversation I had with the school social worker about the incident at school, the “bad news.”  I imagine the scene, the snowball hitting his face, his anger, and all the comes after.  Him getting to close too the other kid.  “In his face,” I was told and then getting pushed.  “Pushed over,” the Roc told me.  I imagine the shove, the Roc falling through the air, his anger and embarrassment, and all that followed.  The screaming, the rest of the third grade filing into the cafeteria to witness his undoing, how it felt to be so out of control…

My mind is full of him.  It always is.

I need some quiet.

Some space.

Some time for myself.

The library is blissfully quiet as I enter.  I make my way to the back, to the tables with outlets, and set up.

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I go through my photos from Arizona and smile.

My mind is still full of him.

But I’ve found the quiet.

Arizona (The Highlights)

The Roc and I escaped the Minnesota deep freeze and went to Arizona to visit my parents last week.  We were there for eight days.  Eight days of no alarm clocks, lots of hiking, sun, geocaching, sun, eating, plants vs. zombies, sun, and (almost) daily margaritas.

But first we had to get there.  A midnight snow storm made for slow going at 3:30 am when we left for the airport.  Luckily we got there with plenty of time.  Enough for the Roc to get some quality time playing plants vs. zombies on his iPad (a new obsession.)

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Soon enough we were on our way.

2014-01-18 06.45.29The Roc was so excited when we touched down in Arizona.  “YAY!!  Now let’s GO!  NOW!” was what the passengers surrounding us were subjected to after we landed.  It was loud and we were in the very back of a very large plane.

On the drive to Tucson we stopped at Casa Grande National Monument outside Phoenix.


IMG_2869The Roc was not used to the sun and he was feeling the effects of getting up at 3 am.

IMG_2872He actually fell asleep in the car for a bit.

2014-01-18 14.35.02We spent the first couple days taking it easy, walking around the neighborhood,

IMG_2897playing a little plants vs. zombies,

IMG_2907going for a short hike,

IMG_2922and to eat downtown–where I had a yummy prickly pear margarita!

2014-01-19 15.06.53The Roc got to climb in the empty fountains.


IMG_2976Then we got busy!

On MLK day we hiked to the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Area, which was once a prison camp and then an internment camp during WWII.


IMG_2998(A geocache)



IMG_3006(Another find!)

We also went to Sabino canyon, a favorite of the Roc’s, specifically for the water.  We rode the tram in and then walked the 4 miles back out.




IMG_3131(I told the Roc to see if he could run up this giant hill at the end–he did!)


He also found a geocache!

IMG_3141Something new we did was a cave tour and a hike at Colossal Cave Mountain Park one day.





(The boy can HIKE)

After a picnic and another geocache,

IMG_3212we spent one afternoon at the Desert Museum where the Roc asked me to take his picture,


just like he did a few years ago.


At the museum I finally get to see the coyote,


catch a sweet shot of a hummingbird,


and get a picture with my boy.IMG_3246We had one overcast day and we took the Roc to Coldstone Creamery and then for a short hike at Saguaro National Park.  The Roc was super silly and I couldn’t get him to stand still for a picture with my mom!



His silliness went away a mile later when he got a very small splinter in his hand and he spent the rest of the hike agonizing over it’s removal, which my mom was able to do when we got back to the car–thank goodness for a Grandma who hikes with a first aide kit!  (I have no photographic evidence of the splinter.)

On our final day in Arizona we went for a long hike and I soaked up the sun, knowing that we would be heading back into sub zero temperatures the very next day.

Gabe Zimmerman trail head.


IMG_3384Lest you be fooled by all the smiling photos in this post, the Roc fell apart at the turn around spot on this hike.  He had complained of hunger and so my mom and I sat down with him to eat while my dad went on to find a geocache.  When my dad came back, after finding the cache, the Roc lost it.  He wanted to see the “treasure” and proceeded to sit down, scream, and throw his hat and some rocks.  He was disappointed, sad, and frustrated that we wouldn’t go on so he could see what my dad had found, and instead we were heading back to the car.  We had a long way to go, over 3 miles, and we needed to start back to make sure we got there before the sun set.  I felt for him and was frustrated with myself as I had a feeling he was going to be upset when my dad came back and he realized he had missed out.  He wasn’t happy for a lot of that hike back, but eventually he followed close to my dad, and I didn’t hear most of his tirade.

IMG_3360We were bound for home the next day and the Roc and I were both sad to leave.  He was happy to have a treat at Starbucks near our gate at the airport,

2014-01-26 11.22.59and play plants vs. zombies while we waited to board the plane.

2014-01-26 11.59.42Which is what he did the whole way home.  I tried to get him to watch a movie, but he would have none of it and continued to play the game, while wearing headphones–which caused him to very LOUDLY exclaim for me to, “LOOK AT THIS!” and “WATCH THIS!” jolting me and the poor couple seated in front of us.  But I reminded myself how I had to entertain him by reading books, doling out snacks and crayons, and watching movies with him when he was younger and we flew across the country, and I felt a little better about the loud exclamations.

2014-01-26 12.26.42We landed and were both shocked by the below zero windchill!

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Back to real life and our routine!

Suviving the Deep Freeze

Did you hear?  It’s been really cold!

The Roc didn’t have school on Monday and Tuesday due to the cold.

And we couldn’t go outside.  At all.

This coming off winter break.

Oh my.

How to survive?

Keep busy.  Or try to…

I will freely admit to watching moviesIMG_2838and playing on the iPad.  (Can you say Plants vs. Zombies obsession?)


The Roc also slept in a bit and I was happy to have him be my alarm clock.  Even if he was a bit louder and he only “rested” for about two minutes when I let him get in my bed…

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The Roc did help me bake some cookies.



IMG_2802We balanced out those cookies with fruit/veggie smoothies.



IMG_2815The Roc did a few craft projects from the art kit he got for Christmas, he colored in his coloring books, and as a grasp at straws I had him glue all those box tops onto some sheets to send into school.

IMG_2844I still think that GC may have found it hard to concentrate when the Roc visited him at work…



But he was nice enough to make pizza for us.

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He also took the dog outside so I wouldn’t have to.  (What a guy!)  (The poor dog could hardly walk in these wind chills.)


How did I stay sane?

I spent some time in the basement with this guy on Monday,


then I watched Jane Eyre while running on the treadmill yesterday,


and I kept my eye on weather.com to make sure we were going to be approaching zero degrees on Wednesday, which would mean school’s back in session!


My wish for the Roc

My wish for the Roc in 2014 and beyond.

May I work to find and foster connections for him so he can have acceptance, with himself and from those around him.  May those who encounter him not just accommodate him, but celebrate him, for he is worth celebration.  May those who work with him find joy in the process.  May he be loved, not because of obligation, but truly loved, for he deserves nothing less.

I will build the Roc a family of relatives and friends who accept him, celebrate him, and love him.

Inspired by words written by an autism mama friend.  Words that have stuck with me since I read them a few short months ago.  Words that I wrote down, because we all deserve as much:

“At the end of the day, there was so very much to be grateful for. But this — this is what I will remember most.  Not just tolerance, but acceptance. Not just accommodation, but celebration. Not just patience, but joy. Not a sense of obligation, but LOVE.”

If only we could all have this.  If only it were easy.

My wish for the Roc will take more than a year.  It will take more than 2014.

It will take me a lifetime.

It is worth working for.

He is worth everything.