What Do You Love About….

What do you Love about those around you?

We need to look at ourselves and those around us and celebrate anything and everything we can. We need to remind ourselves, regularly, what we love about our kids, our spouses, parents, siblings, friends… We genuinely need to learn to be more grateful for what is.

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One thing I love about my son, J.J., is his very active imagination. We have to be very careful about what we let him watch, because he will become a chosen character from the video/movie/documentary and his life will suddenly revolve around the character and things they said or did in what he watched. In cases where this is actually a really cool thing is when he speaks in a British accent like David Attenborough and talks endlessly about animals and little known facts about them. Or there are times when he adopts an Australian accent and speaks like Geoff Lawton, the Permaculturalist, and speaks volumes about establishing a proper “food forest” and its multiple layers.

There are plenty of animated characters he loves as well. Lately he has taken on the identity of Wall-E. I don’t mind this so much, since it is a movie I love and respect…besides, I get to be Eve when he’s Wall-E! J.J. will pretend to collect trash, smash it into a cube, roll around with a cockroach, and, of course, save Earth.

It used to not be so with him. He used to never pretend play about or with anything at all. I find it so amazingly gratifying and refreshing to see his imagination at work these days. I love how special and different he is than other kids his age. I love seeing a new interest or passion become awakened in him and that’s all he wants to do or talk about for days, weeks, or months on end.

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I love the way my daughter, Ava, calls out for “Mama” as if I am the sole keeper of the key to her comfort. I love the way she lights up whenever she hears music and begins to dance, clap, bob her head, or sway to the music without restraint. I love seeing her scoop up her stuffed animals and love them so tenderly — giving ample hugs and kisses so the still beings know how much they are loved and appreciated. I even secretly love the way she refuses to sit in her booster seat to eat at times and wants me to hold her — because she would rather be close in my arms than sit like the big girl she so often wants to be.

I have a love-hate relationship with each of my children’s very, very strong wills. Both are, and always have been, very sure of themselves and how they think the world should work. I sincerely appreciate this quality in them, as it will serve them well when they are older and I feel confident they will grow to be strong adults that are capable of making big, positive waves in the world. Yet now, as they are still young and Nathan and I are charged with their guidance in this crazy world…the job is not always that easy when we are at odds with our views on how things should go. And although it can be difficult to remember in heated moments, I know that all the hard work with their strong characters will pay off. Really, it already pays off when I sit back and watch when they take charge of a situation…it makes me so proud of them.

The point is that despite their ability to test patience, deprive me of sleep, and frankly make me want to pull my hair out sometimes…both of my children are so wonderful in their own unique ways. It pays to remind oneself of the virtues within those you live and love with. In the end it could make you happier and appreciate them even more.

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Now, to make the sharing of Love and Appreciation complete… What do I love about my husband, Nathan? Oh, Dear…so many things! I love that he is so smart and passionate and capable of doing just about anything he tries. He has an insatiable thirst for knowledge about life and the world, and he is always striving for better. He is always honest with me, which is great…even if I don’t appreciate it in the moment. More than anything, I love his drive to care for his family and his intense moral standards. I love and respect him so much… He always continues to surprise me with how wonderful and thoughtful he is.

I am so fortunate to have such an amazing family, and I strive to remind myself of this everyday.

So, tell me… What do you Love about those you care for?

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Answers for Autism Walk 2013

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This past Saturday (September 28th), my beautiful family and I attended the Answers for Autism Walk in Carmel, Indiana. Ever since J.J. was diagnosed with Autism almost four years ago, I have gotten the flyers in the mail advertising the annual event. Yet, never before had I been really interested or able to go.

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This year has bred many changes within J.J. and his awareness of himself… It was only earlier this year that we told him about his Autism. We had waited until we thought he was old enough to somewhat fathom what it means to have Autism, rather than tell him when he is too young to understand and it just be another word to him. J.J. has done a lot of growing up in the past year. He is becoming more emotionally mature, more thoughtful, more clever, and more understanding of people as well as many other things.

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So this year, we decided to attend the walk. We wanted to do something to show J.J. how proud we are of him and how special he is in this wide world. We tell him these things all the time, but as the old adage goes: Actions speak louder than words. Here was a chance for a bigger action than is possible in our daily lives.

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We decorated t-shirts together to wear to the event, which J.J. had a lot of fun with. Drawing is his favorite thing to do these days (just a couple years ago, it was like pulling teeth just to get him to draw a stick-figure!) and being able to wear his creations was a source of great pride for him.

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We primarily went for the purpose of showing our support, but we raised some donations from family members to help fund Autism programs in Indiana and to hopefully meet other families with children on the spectrum. My family and I are essentially an island in a sea of people which we share virtually nothing with. We are secular homeschoolers of a child on the Autism Spectrum, suburban permaculture implementers, and we have a diet that consists mostly of raw fruits and vegetables — to state our most drastic differences. There are not many people around where we live which share even one of those characteristics. But I digress… We hoped J.J. could find a friend with whom he could have a common bond.

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Unfortunately we didn’t meet any new friends for J.J. or ourselves, but we had a pretty good time nevertheless. There were several activities there for the kids to enjoy. There was bubble wrap to pop, tons of balls to play with, and kiddie pools filled with dry rice where they could use sandbox-type toys to play. That was a huge success with both of my kids! J.J. got upset when it came time for the balloon release, as he had quickly become attached to his balloon. We tried to coach him to be ok with the concept of releasing the balloon in celebration of his Autism, but we ultimately let him keep it. How can you decide otherwise when your child tells you (almost in tears) it would make them “very happy” to take it home?

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All-in-all, I am very glad we decided to go this year. It was a great experience for all of us, and getting involved in such things will only serve to help remind us of the special circumstances we have in our lives — we actually sometimes forget in our daily interactions that J.J. is on the spectrum… We also hope that as Ava grows older that she will have an inherent appreciation of what makes her brother different than most people, and I think going to functions like this can help.

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When we asked J.J. if he would like to attend next year’s walk, he replied with a resounding “Yes!”. Hopefully in the coming years we can become more involved in things like this and expand our social circles to include those with similar life experiences. The older J.J. gets, the more important it will be for him to have someone besides Nathan, Ava, or I to connect with, whether it will be because of Autism or a shared interest in the Solar System.

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In the end, I hope J.J. knows how proud Nathan and I are of him, and how incredibly special he is to us. We are so glad we got to show our support and love for him in a new way at this event.