The Ups & Downs of Progress

Let me start by saying that I am honestly thrilled for every step forward my son takes.  Truly thrilled!  However, there are some of his not so “normal” traits that I never want him to lose.

This realization hit me a short while back when yet one more playschool mom informed me that her daughter planned on marrying my son.  I laughed and said that she’d have to get in line as he seems to be amassing quite a group of girlfriends.

I shared this cute little anecdote with my husband that night who commented, “That’s sweet.  I wonder why all these girls are in love with him.”

Aside from the fact that he is the best looking little boy ever, in my humble opinion, “It’s probably because he doesn’t pull hair and tell them they have cooties like the other boys.”, was my response.

It was a simple comment that really got me thinking about what other “normal” little boy things he doesn’t do; and that I don’t want him to do.

He doesn’t reject affection from me

As he nears six years old, my boy still climbs up on my lap to snuggle.  He still asks to be picked up and held.  He still loves lots of kisses and tight hugs.  I realize that this alone doesn’t make him unique from most others his age, but he even allows and welcomes this in public.  There’s no, “MooOOOoomm, my friends are watching!”

He doesn’t tease or bully

He loves to play with other kids and we are working hard at learning how to ask kids to play with him.  He doesn’t discriminate as to who he does and doesn’t want to play with.  He may not pursue a relationship with someone who’s been mean to him in the past, but aren’t we all like that?

This does not mean that he is a perfect boy, he still fights with his sisters over who’s turn it is or who gets that toy, etc., but I’ve never seen or heard him call anyone a bad name or refuse their friendship because they don’t measure up to his standards.  He won’t always accept the invitation from other kids, but he’s not mean about it.

He is genuine

My son will not craft a fake persona to take advantage of a situation.  He won’t act nice to you then badmouth you behind your back.  He is who he is and he likes what he likes.  Perhaps he could be a little more subtle in his declarations of what he doesn’t like, but that is another area that we are working on.

 

As parents of young ones, we long for our children to grow up and get to the next stage (potty training, school, not needing a babysitter, and so on) all the while lamenting the loss of innocence and hard life-lessons which they endure along the way.  I remember my mother telling me a few years ago that the hardest part of having grown children is that you can no longer fix their hurts with a simple kiss and hug.  Those are days that I do not look forward to.

I’ve always said that my biggest problem with autism is that I don’t want my son’s life to be any harder than it needs to be, but somedays I wonder if maybe there aren’t harder times he may be able to avoid?  I realize that the last statement is simply a mother’s hope and not a fact.  He’ll still endure hurt and pain, regardless of autism.  But don’t we all wish we could just keep them in the bubble just a little longer?

 

Wendy

 

Leaps and Bounds

A beautiful thing happened last night.  A dream that I had long given up on came true; my son said, “I love you, mama.” to me completely on his own!

He’s said it before with prompting, or copying his sisters, but never on his own.

I was laying down with him, trying to help him sleep, gave him a kiss on the forehead and he said it.

“I love you, mama.”

His bed may have been cramped, what with sharing it with every stuffy in the room, and crazy hot (he sleeps with a heavy sleeping bag AND a weighted denim blanket) but in that moment, there was no where in the world I would have rather been.

Nowhere!

I can remember the first time my girls uttered the same phrase, and it was heartwarming and special and one of those moments that I treasured in my heart.  I’m not trying to downplay their accomplishments, but I knew the moments would come with them, it was just a matter of “when”.  With my boy, it has always been an “if”.

Two weeks ago was another leap.

One of the most heartbreaking aspects of where my son is on the spectrum, is his inability to communicate pain and sickness.  Again, the girls can tell me if it’s a tummy ache or a scraped knee.  With him, however, if I can’t actually see the incident it’s little more than a guessing game.  This particular day, he was upset about a “boo-boo” – not uncommon.  I asked, as I always do if I can’t see it, where the boo-boo was.  I expected him to simply restate that he was suffering from a boo-boo when he surprised me again.

“On my arm.”

Wait. What?

This ability to explain his pain has just opened up a whole new world to our family.  No more guesses (well, not as many), no more frustration.  He can say it and I can help him!

Your child’s stumbling block may not be words.  Perhaps it’s trying a new food, sitting in a waiting room and NOT needing the iPad, tolerating a public event without headphones on.  Whatever it may be, celebrate each tiny victory as though your child has just won Olympic gold.  Quite likely, he/she has worked harder to reach this milestone than many medalists!

In a month from now, when the memory has faded and this new step is part of everyday life, remember it when your child seems to be reverting.  Those days when you’re exhausted from the fight.  When your already shattered heart sustains more damage because it’s just not fair that someone so wonderful should have to work so very hard to do the things everyone else takes for granted.  On those hard days, remember the good.  Don’t just remember what he achieved that day, remember his smile because he KNEW what a breakthrough he’d made.  Remember that for that moment, your heart was whole and soaring.

Remember that moment and start looking ahead to the next one.  Never stop dreaming big, big dreams for your kids.

Remember that the victories you’ve already had, you probably never expected.  The one you’re not expecting in the future will happen.

It’s coming, mama.

My Child Failed…and I Couldn’t Be Happier

I explained to her that there was no justification in being upset with the instructor as he gave her everything she needed to be successful, it was her choice to not take it.

We live in a world that confuses “young at heart”, with arrested development.  Being young at heart means living life with vitality regardless of how many times your odometer has rolled over.  Enjoying each moment and maintaining an optimistic innocence.  It means to never stop seeing the beauty and possibility in this life we’re given and to keep learning and growing.

Unfortunately, so many have interpreted this happy little mantra to mean, “I don’t  have to grow up.”.

People of all age groups who have chosen to stay young at heart still have responsibilities. They maintain employment, pay their bills on time, have stresses and disappointments.  It’s in how they choose to let these things shape them that determines their “heart age”.

Someone who casts blame for their poor choices on others, lacks follow through on commitments, allows (or demands) others to support them in their frivolity or laziness is not young at heart.  That person is, quite simply, immature.

I know some of those people, and have often thought, “Oh those poor parents who are stuck supporting their adult children.”

“I can’t believe that he has the nerve to buy a brand new vehicle and take extravagant holidays while his parents clean up after him, buy his food and let him live in their house.  He doesn’t even have a job.”

Those poor parents.

Then one day I realized that this adult child is simply living the life he or she was raised to live.

Maybe he failed an important math test so mom badgers the math teacher until he gets a re-write.

She only showed up to 2 volleyball practises and put in minimal effort when she was there.  Dad bullies the coach into putting her in the game and benching the kids who were committed and gave their all.

Forcing the situation until our children get what they want is not preparing them for life.  Twenty, thirty, forty plus years of this kind of parenting only leads to a generation of entitlement and self-centeredness.

I’m not talking about helping out your adult children for a time when life has hit them hard.  A job loss and no way to feed the kids, the death of a spouse, serious illness.  Sacrificing for our kids in circumstances like these is loving them.

Standing up for a true injustice – that’s good parenting.  Maybe your daughter is the committed player benched because the other girl’s dad is louder and angrier.  In those circumstances, we stand against injustice and teach our children to do the same for others.

As a teen, I was a conscientious student.  I generally did well in school and followed the rules.  I may have been a teacher’s pet in a class or two.  So one ill-thought out afternoon a friend and I decided to skip one class.  I’m not sure about her but this was my FIRST skip!  She was an equally well-mannered student.  At the time we felt completely justified in our decision – looking back now we were just being stupid.

Being novices at this type of behaviour, it all blew up in our faces and we each received a 1 day suspension for our efforts.  Meanwhile, chronic offenders walked away without so much as a slap on the wrist.  When we questioned our principal, her response was bluntly, “We are going to make an example of you.”

I still hold this as a mild injustice.

What did our parents do?  Told us each to be productive and clean our respective houses the next day since we wouldn’t be at school.

Yes, our parents were aware of the injustice in this situation, but they also saw the bigger need to teach us to respect the authority of those over us.  Twenty-ish years later, I still thank them for this lesson.

So back to the title of this article…

This summer my oldest 2 children did another round of swimming lessons.  In my son’s first lesson I was going to be helpful and point him continuously back to his teacher when he wandered away from the group.  I had to do this a number of times in that first 30 minutes.

The second lesson the teacher (wisely) took them to a different area of the pool where my son couldn’t see me.  Guess how that lesson went?  Swimmingly (full pun intended)!  My son responded to his teacher far better without my interference and the whole class benefited from the lack of distraction.

I sat in the observation room for the remainder of the lessons and my son did just fine.

My daughter had a great time in her lessons, but halfway through I noticed that she wasn’t jumping into the deep end, but it was more like slipping in at the edge of the pool.  They all had lifejackets on so there was really nothing to be afraid of.   She and I discussed this and she took no heed to my warning.  In fairness, she had never experienced failure before.  We have set up a cushy world that just keeps pushing our kids along regardless of their performance or effort.  In this we have failed them.

So the end of lessons came and my daughter failed her level.  Believe it or not, I was relieved as I expected her to be pushed through to the next level anyway.  The fact was, she hadn’t earned it.  She didn’t even try to jump in.  Not once.

It allowed for a wonderful teachable moment for us.  I explained to her that there was no justification in being upset with the instructor as he gave her everything she needed to be successful, it was her choice to not take it.  The consequence of her lack of effort was that she now had to go through the exact same lessons again, now with little kids.  And if she failed again, her little brother would be ahead of her.  The other consequence was that her father and I now had to pay a second time for her to learn the exact same lessons again.

My prayer is that she will now carry with her the knowledge that life is worth the effort.  A half-hearted  attitude produces a half-hearted life.

What “tough-love” lessons have you carried with you that have shaped you into who you are today?

Wendy

Meaningful Minimalism

I don’t like chaos!

I have never been one of those people who thrive on pressure or do their best work on a deadline. If you are one of those people – I admire you, but I don’t understand you. Not even a little bit.

Sure, a deadline can cause me to get things done because they have to be, but I can assure you that it won’t be my best work. I can also assure you that you don’t want to be around me during, or for a while following a time crunch. I get snappy and grumpy and more than a little yelly (it’s a word in my mom vocabulary). Even I don’t want to be around me then.

Just over 3 years ago, my oldest daughter caused me to take a good hard look at myself under pressure and how I affected those around me.

I have a bit of a side business during the Christmas Season where I bake and sell goodies. At this point I had not yet learned how to schedule orders properly and often committed to more orders per day than I should have.

This particular day I was extra snappy, grumpy and yelly and my then 3 year old just wanted my attention. I snapped at her far too harshly. She turned on her heels and headed straight for our bathroom. What I heard out of her mouth next was not only adorable, but wonderfully humbling.

Jesus,” she began, “I’m getting really frustrated with mom. I need some help here!”

She walked directly toward me with a confidence and purpose that I was unaware a 3 year old could possess.

Mom, we need to pray. Now!”

And we did. And I repented to my Saviour and then to my daughter. Both forgave me instantly and I knew that something needed to change.

I would love to tell you that I woke up the next morning a new woman and from that moment on my life was chaos free…nope. It has been slow.  It has backslidden more than once. It is still a work in progress, but progress none the less. One step at a time. No quick fixes or one size fits all solutions.

Here is how it started for me:

  1. Trimming the Excess

The summer following the above mentioned episode my husband and I sat down and took a good hard look at our finances and realized how we were being nickeled and dimed into living paycheque to paycheque. We looked at all the subscriptions we had and how little we really read any of them.

It was fun to get the latest issue of a magazine in the mail or the newspaper delivered daily, but we weren’t getting our money’s worth out of them. We would mindlessly flip through and read less than 10% of the actual publication. We cut out all but one and that one has become one of my husband’s birthday gifts since the renewal time coincides with his birthday.

My husband quit smoking. I don’t need to explain ALL the benefits of that one! I had quit previously when we decided to start a family.

We also took a look at how much he was spending almost daily at the local convenience store. $2 this day and $5 the next was adding up to $300/month! He started taking water with him to work in a giant thermos and cutting back on the other impulse items.

We cut down our cell packages. Huge savings there and we still had all the minutes that we needed.

The most difficult cut for us was our satellite TV. We had so many excuses but eventually came to the conclusion that BECAUSE it was so hard for us to give up was precisely why we needed to. TV had far too tight a grip on us.

We signed up for Netflix and after a bit of an adjustment period, I can honestly say we don’t miss having the dish. We certainly don’t miss commercials!

With this step done, we were saving hundreds of dollars each month. The benefit was not only monetary, but this relieved a great financial strain which relieved an emotional strain between us.

  1. Guarding Our Schedule

    I actually know people who's calendars look like this.  It makes me tired just looking at it!
    I actually know people who’s calendars look like this. It makes me tired just looking at it!

A few years ago I had a couple of girlfriends over for coffee and they looked at the calendar on my fridge and commented how nice it must be to have so much free time. It is not by accident or laziness that our calendar stays clearer than most people’s with young children. We work hard to keep it that way.

There are so many reasons to guard your time, and your reasons will not mirror mine. My husband and I were both blessed to grow up in Christian homes and it is of utmost importance for our children to have the same blessing. God comes first in our house!

That doesn’t mean that we spend every waking minute in bible study and prayer and live perfectly wholesome lives. Not even close. However, Sunday morning worship service is ALWAYS part of our schedule. We only miss church if we are out of town or very, very sick. Going to church doesn’t make us Super Christians, but it recharges us, teaches us, connects us to God and to others. My heart always grieves when I hear of families who have decided to trade church time for family time.

“Sunday morning is our only time to just relax and be together” is a common phrase.

I’ll tell you something – those two things are meant to go hand in hand! Relax together in God’s presence.

We also don’t over schedule our children.

Our oldest 2 attend BG Club twice yearly for 10 weeks at a time and we as parents love it and our children love it. If it conflicts with other activities, the other activities lose. Our oldest also does soccer in the spring. Our son tried it last year and did not have a good experience so he opted out this year.

I know my big girl would love dance, but it is more of a financial and time commitment than my husband and I are willing to give and she is just fine with that. We don’t feel like our children will lose out on their childhood if they don’t have EVERY experience available to them. Our belief is that they will gain more by having parents who are present and happy than they would by being rushed to and fro and having parents who are financially and emotionally drained.

I also have one day a week that I do my house cleaning. Of course I clean every day, but the dusting, floor washing, nooks and crannies cleaning happens every Thursday. My close friends know that if they show up unannounced they will see me in my cleaning dungarees with hair poorly pulled back and my kids probably still in pyjamas. They have been warned.

Again, I don’t like chaos and this ritual helps me conquer that.

  1. A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place…Even Papers

Oh vile paperwork. My nemesis!

Bills that have been paid, but need to be filed. An expense claim sent in to our insurance provider, awaiting payment. Home school marking/corrections.

Papers are so thin, but can create such an overwhelming presence in my home. It was so easy to just close the door.

A few months ago, I saw this thing on Pinterest. I tweaked it slightly but I now have a small hanging file box with folders for each day of the month and each month of the year. If the water bill needs to be paid on the 10th, it goes into the file dated the 10th. If I’m waiting for my expense cheque to come back I will file a note for the expected day to follow up if I haven’t received it yet.

Our mortgage renewal comes due in August so I have a note in the August folder to deal with that.

I go through the folder of the appropriate day and deal only with what is in there. When a new month starts I open that month’s folder and file everything according to the day it requires attention and start all over.

I also use this for my daughter’s lessons. She is in Kindergarten right now so it works. I know I will need something more complex as the years go on, but that’s a job for Future Wendy!

This is working and takes up minimal space!

  1. Meal Planning

I don’t mind cooking, but I have great difficulty coming up with ideas of what to make each day (I call my mother often and apologize for groaning at whatever she made for supper). This usually leads to procrastination which leads to either convenience foods or a quick trip to the grocery store. Impromptu trips to the store also usually lead to unplanned and unnecessary spending. Ugh.

I have admired the meal planners out there for a while now but was intimidated by the idea of it. I had tried before and failed, often because when I looked at what I had planned for the day I didn’t feel like making that. So I wouldn’t.

Four weeks ago I finally committed to not only planning our meals, but also STICKING WITH THE PLAN!

Guess what? I am loving it.

I do NOT get this fancy!
I do NOT get this fancy!

I do NOT post on a fancy chalkboard or other Pinterest inspired piece of art what the meal plan is. That only invites “helpful” suggestions from my family which leads to frustration (see: grumpy, yelly). Nope, she who cooks, plans.

I also do NOT let my feelings take me off course. If meatloaf is on the list, meatloaf shall be on the table even if I’m in the mood for chicken.

One weekend I didn’t get around to planning and for three days I was back into frustration and lack of ideas. I sat down and planned out the remainder of the week and the pressure just melted away.

Another beautiful benefit is that, because I plan with great intentions and before the weariness of the week gets to me, I plan healthier meals. Because I stick to the plan, we eat healthier meals.

  1. Wants vs. Needs

Marketers are just so talented and blurring those lines for us, aren’t they? And I find so many of their lines easy to swallow.

Just recently I was flipping through the Home Hardware flyer and saw a remarkable machine that combines and 12 cup coffee maker with a single cup brewing system that uses K cups.

Gasp. Where has this been my whole life? I. Need. This.

Why do I need this? Because it would take up 2 less inches on my counter than my existing 12 cup coffee maker and Keurig….that I already own. Hmmmm. I want to pay $80 for a machine that replaces 2 machines that I already own. Both of which are in perfect working condition.

But I could sell the other 2 machines for probably $30 so then the new one would really only cost me $50. Well, realistically I’d probably be better off to just put the other 2 in the camper….

Seriously. These thoughts went through my head. More than once!

This mindset shift is a tough one for me. I could come up with so many excuses why my want is justified, or why the purchase is really a need. The truth of the matter is that I just need to think things through more, and take more things to God in prayer. You may think that praying about buying a coffee maker is silly, but God cares about every aspect of our lives. Shopping included.

Saying yes to this purchase would have meant a no to something else either now or further down the line. That something else could be anything from extra grocery money, to clothes for the kids, curriculum or even just extra padding in the savings account.

That is the question I ask myself now before purchases (most times). If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to later?

It’s taken me 3 years to implement these changes and none of them happened simultaneously. Each was a step at a time with enough time between to get used to the changes and let them become our new normal. There are more changes coming, but not until we’re ready for them.

Wendy

 

How do you keep life simple?  I’d love to hear what has worked for you!

When Help isn’t Helpful

Remember when you were in grade 12 and everyone was giving you advice on what to do with the rest of your life?  What school to go to, what career to pursue and so on?

Or when you were dating and people who cared about you tried to advise you on who to go out with and who not to?  How to behave on your first date or when you meet his or her parents?

Then you eventually settled down, got engaged and started planning the wedding.  “Oh, not those flowers!  Great Aunt Ida is allergic and even though she probably won’t attend she might and we’d hate to give her an attack!”

“In my day, we didn’t register for such extravagant gifts.”marriage meme

“You’re choosing that song to walk down the aisle to?  Are you too good
for The Wedding March?”

Then you weren’t even out of the reception before everyone starting telling you how to be successful in marriage and when babies should come.

And then the babies start coming…and the advice flows freely once again.

“Don’t eat that when you’re pregnant.”

“Just rub a little whiskey on baby’s gums to soothe the teething pain.  Helps baby sleep too”

 

I’ve heard it all, and so have you.  If I’m honest with myself, I’ve probably even dished out some of this one of a kind, well-meaning advice.  If I’ve ever been this “generous” with you, I’m sorry!  To my nephew who graduates this year, I’m extra sorry because I know that while telling him to ignore everyone and figure out what he wants for himself, I’m pretty sure I’ve thrown some of my own wisdom (and I use the term loosely) into our conversations.

Most of the time, these “pearls” are annoying.  In certain moments they can be downright maddening.  However, I truly believe that in most instances, they are given with the very best of intentions.

My first baby was a petite little thing.  After 5 days of struggling, both she and I got the whole nursing thing figured out.  She continued to grow and develop, but not fast enough for some people’s liking.  I was told often to put her on formula because she was starving to death.  She had regular checkups with the Doctor and Public Health Nurse, both of whom assured me that she was right on track.  I continued with what I thought was best and she is a thriving 6 year old.

My second baby took to nursing immediately, but wasn’t gaining weight.  At 6 weeks he was below birthweight so the Doctor and I both thought it best to put him on formula.  He began to grow and thrive and I felt confident with my decision.baby meme

Would you believe that the very same people who told me that my daughter was starving and should be on the bottle told me that my son was being cheated out of the benefits of breastmilk and if I was any kind of mother I would be nursing him?!

I’ve always been a heavy girl.  I’ve had more “helpful” advice on that subject alone than one blog can handle!  “Do you really need that?” can be one of the most destructive phrases to utter to someone who already struggles in this.  You want to know how I feel when someone says that to me?  It does NOT make me want to put down the piece of cake and hop on the treadmill; it makes me want to eat all the remaining pieces of cake…with ice cream.

When people first heard that I had met this guy online, I was cautioned continuously that he was probably a serial killer.  I assured everyone that I was being smart about it and wasn’t meeting him in the middle of the night at an abandoned warehouse.

Not everybody agrees with the way my husband and I live our life.  Certain people have made that very clear!

One family member has suggested more than once that my husband work up north for weeks at a time to make more money.  We have discussed this and decided that our time together as a family is more valuable to us than a bigger paycheque.  I have friends whose husbands work away for stretches and that works for them.  They have made the best choice for their family.

Then we told a few people that we were trying for baby #3.  “You’re crazy!  Three is the hardest number of kids to handle.”

“You already have a boy and a girl, why mess with the perfect family?”

“You’re going to homeschool???? Aren’t you worried about socialization?”homeschool meme

“Homeschooling will make your kids resent you! I could never do it.”

“Maybe if you were a little harder on your kids….”

“Maybe if you weren’t so hard on your kids…”

You’ve heard all the lines, you’ve probably even uttered one of two of them.  You’re just trying to help.  I know that and that’s why I can usually just force a smile, say thank you, and pay my kids to cry make an excuse to leave quickly.

I mentioned in a previous post, that we started seeing the signs of Autism in our son from the beginning.  Others saw it too and tried to point them out to us.  This is where the “help” can be especially hurtful.

Coming to terms with the fact that your child may not be “typical” is one of the hardest things a parent can do.  It has nothing to do with loving your child less, or being ashamed of them.  It has everything to do with knowing how difficult life will be for someone so innocent and fragile.  It has everything to do with your fear that you are not going to be enough as a parent to give this child everything he or she needs to have the best life possible.

Can I offer some well-meaning advice to you (the irony is delicious)?

If you know someone in this situation, please don’t point out the “obvious signs”.  We see them, we know.  We are kept awake at night worrying about our child’s future.  What we need to hear is that our child is cute, and perfect (because every person is a miracle!) and that you love them.

When that diagnosis comes, an “I told you so” or “I always wondered” can be downright harmful.

“Okay.  He’s so lucky to have you guys as parents.”

“How is everybody doing with this information?”

“I love you all.”

Those are the things we need to hear.

We’ve already read every study.  We’ve already looked into the latest miracle treatment.  Yes, we’d love for you to babysit once in a while so we can get a break.  No, you don’t need to try to “fix” him while you babysit.

I know you mean well.  I know that you have never intended for your words to wound.  I know that I would be heartbroken to find out that my “help” was hurtful to someone I care about.  So, I resolve to watch my words.   Better yet, to have significantly less words in most circumstances.  I promise to do my best to ask you what you need instead of telling you.

I’m not going to be perfect at this, but please forgive me.  You know that I mean well!

 

Wendy

 

I’d love to hear some of your favourite pieces of advice; either given or received!  Please leave a comment, and remember to keep it respectful.

 

 

My Unexpected Journey

It was a typical school assignment for a typical class.  It went something like this:

Dear future me,

Hi, how are you?  I know you’re good because you have it all figured out.  You’ll be 26 years old when you get this.  You’ll be married and have 2 or 3 kids by now.  You’ll be a stay-at-home mom, but have your accounting degree.  Your husband will be awesome.  Probably athletic.

It went on like this for probably a good full page or 2.  I don’t remember exactly because the teacher who vowed to send us our letters in 10 years never did.  My 20th high school reunion is coming up this year…I’m not holding my breath.

This was the life I expected.  The life I planned.  I saw absolutely NO reason this wouldn’t come to pass.

Where did all MY plans get me?  Well, for the record, I aced all of my high school accounting courses!  I enrolled in a local-ish college Business Administration program with a major in Accounting.  After year 1, the major switched to Marketing (I loved and excelled in these classes).  I always was a creative type and although the basic bookkeeping end of accounting was fun, I needed to let my creative juices flow freely.

Fast forward through a few years selling insurance, then being an office manager/bookkeeper (see, I did get to use some of my education) for 4 years.  Still no sporty husband, still no 2 or 3 kids.

The year I was 25, I had it all (less the hubby and kids).  I really did enjoy my job, and I was good at it.  I had a great group of friends, owned my own place (roommate free!) and lived in the same town as all my immediate family.  I was happy.

Then, God starting doing something in me.  It was time to move on.  Now I have never been afraid of change – if anything, I crave it – but why would I want to give up a perfectly comfortable life?

Over the next year, the feeling got stronger and stronger but God just kept telling me, “Not yet”.  Then, in September of 2004, within a 2 week span I had a new job, trained my replacement at the old job, sold my home and secured an apartment in a new town.

Three years went by there.  Career wise, things were good.  Promotions, travel for work, a dear friend nearby.  Still no husband or kids.  The memory of that letter haunted me from time to time.  Most of my friends were married, and had or were having kids.  I had nieces and nephews that I loved dearly but I longed for my own family.

Late 2006 I did that thing I was never going to do; I set up an EHarmony profile.  It took some time, but eventually I connected with this farm boy (who would rather play with a tractor than a hockey stick) from a tiny Prairie town.  We talked, we met, we dated and in 2008 we married.  I was 30 years old by now.  Things were a little behind schedule, but coming along nicely.

Two years later we welcomed our first child.  A sweet baby girl who filled me with so much love at times, and so much frustration at others.  She was borderline colicky and my husband worked at a job that only allowed him to be home on weekends.  At this point I was 1500KM away from my family and didn’t really know anyone well enough to reach out to here.

My Princess grew and learned…and talked and talked and talked.  By 11 months she was saying short sentences and being an all around genius (at least in my eyes).

Sixteen months after becoming a mommy for the first time, we did it again.  A boy this time.  Other than some feeding issues early on, he was one of the most laid back little kids I’d ever seen.  The exception was hunger.  I’m good, I’m good, I’m hungry NOW!!!

My little champ couldn’t really care less about playing peek-a-boo, or reading countless stories like his sister.  Just keep him fed and dry, let him watch the front load washer do a load or two and life was good.  He was a much earlier walker than his sister, but not so much with the talking.

We thought we were done.  We sold most of the baby gear and I tried to convince my heart that I was okay with these two dears.  Hubby got a job with a much, MUCH better schedule, benefits and better pay.  No more being sent out.  No more being the married single mom anymore.

Through the early years, we had our issues.  Big issues.  With God’s help and a handful of close, trusted and Godly friends, we overcame these issues and in January of 2013 decided we wanted just one more baby.  This time it didn’t happen as easily as the first two.  While trying no to worry about not concieving, I was also trying to deny the signs I was seeing in my son.  He was two years old and still not overly concerned with talking or interacting.  He’s just a little behind.  He just has his own interests.  Who cares if all he wants to do is recite the alphabet and line up his toys over and over.

Around the same time that we started seeing a local Speech Pathologist, I found out I was finally pregnant!  The emotions that accompanied me during my pregnancy were heightened as I struggled to come to terms with the fact that it was more than a little delay with my son.  We were referred to a center that deals with special needs children in a nearby city and we have put on many miles going back and forth to appointments.  Each and every one worthwhile.

Our third child, another girl, was born a little before our son turned 3.  The “A” word was getting brought up more and more to me.  I pleaded with God on more than one occasion for that not to be his future.  Please don’t punish our sweet, innocent boy for things that aren’t his fault.

The birth of our daughter was a blessing, but for me brought a level of postpartum depression and anxiety I was not prepared for.  I sought professional counselling, I tried every trick in the book.  I called out to God more times than I could count to take this crippling anxiety from me so that I could be the wife and mother my family needed me to be.  I fought and fought and that winter was the hardest of my life.  My kids were constantly sick.  I could barely function and if one more person offered well-meaning but unsolicited advice I was going to snap.  At 10 months old, my daughter was still being nursed.  Then she got sick…again.  I was done.  I weaned her and went on anti-anxiety meds.  I knew I needed medication but was holding off because I hoped to nurse for a full year.  To be clear, this was what I felt was right for me.  Other moms who wean sooner or use nursing friendly meds – I applaud you for doing what was right for you!

I started to feel human again, but depression and anxiety weren’t supposed to be part of my journey.  I did NOT write those things in The Letter!

Our son was getting older and the “delays” were becoming more and more obvious and six months ago it became official.  He is on the Autism Spectrum.  My boy is Autistic.  My boy is going to have to fight for every little victory in his life.  Things that my girls take for granted, having a conversation, telling me that they don’t feel good, or what they want to play (or don’t want to), these are things my little champ is going to have to work at.  And work hard!  And he does!  He’s still my happy little laid back buddy.  He’s a mama’s boy which is fine because my husband has two daddies girls!

More about the diagnoses process another time.

Along with the diagnoses came another BIG decision.  One that I have wrestled with since my first pregnancy – schooling.  I had felt called to home school for a long time, but it’s intimidating, it’s unpopular in most circles.  It’s time-consuming. It’s the right thing to do for my family.  My boy is smart!  Crazy smart.  Like most autistic kids, my son possesses certain skills way beyond his peer group and our local school, I feel, does not have a program that will benefit him.  I refuse to let my boy fall through cracks!  So right around the time Autism became part of our family identity, so did Home schooling.  Another detail that was not in The Letter!

And did I mention that I also work part-time.  At one point this winter it was four simultaneous part-time jobs.  That also wasn’t in The Letter.  There was nothing in there about being a family on a budget.

So Future Me and Real Me don’t quite have our stories straight.  Remember “You’ll be married and have 2 or 3 kids by now.  You’ll be a stay-at-home mom, but have your accounting degree.  Your husband will be awesome.  Probably athletic.”?  Yeah, real life reads more like:

You have 3 kids, one of them is Autistic and will require a level of parenting you never knew you were capable of.  Your husband is great, but he’s an imperfect creation just like you (gasp!).  Your girls are strong-willed and will challenge you in new ways in everyday.  You will not be one of those moms who has coffee with her friends while the kids are in school because you’ll be in school with them.  You’ll be working too.  Even though good moms don’t do that (I was an idiot back then).

But here’s where God’s plans prove SO much better than mine.  His letter to me would read something like this:

You will learn patience because what you want you’ll have to wait for, with no guarantee that you’ll ever get it.  What you think you want won’t take you where I want you to be.  That husband who isn’t quite who you expected him to be, he’s the best match for you because you two will compliment each other.  That son that some people call “disabled”, I gave him abilities that other people could only dream of.  And he’s going to give you the ability to become the mom that I made you to be.  He’s going to make you patient and compassionate and fierce.  Those girls with the determination and stubbornness, those girls who are just. like. you? Teach them to use their determination well.  Teach them to use those traits for My glory and not for their own devices.  So here’s the part of your Unexpected Journey that I have revealed to you this far.  Just wait to see what’s next!

I’m waiting!

Wendy