(The man whipped this up in like an hour. Coolest chandelier ever. Perfect for our perfect modern house that we have to leave in order to purchase a double-wide trailer in Bend.)
I am artistic:
(We're going to pretend this is me, and that I'd look that good in a leotard. But I seriously pull this move all the time. Molding those cute little feeties to where they should be.)
Dylan is artistic:
(He had to paint a picture for one of his pins to get his Webelos badge.)
Sadie is artistic:
(Sadie's drawing of Pepper. Including many, many teats. Hahaha!)
Micah is artistic:
(Kay, I couldn't find any of Micah's drawings, or any pictures of him drawing, which is something he does all the time, so you get to see a picture he took of a door handle. I personally think it's a cool-looking picture.)
Gage is autistic.
Literally. I just found out.
Part of me always thought he might be, but he had been tested, and they had said no, no way, he wasn't autistic. He was developmentally delayed from having been basically deaf for two years. I clung to that. It meant he could get better. I've seen kids with developmental delays catch up (including my own son, Micah). Graduate from special ed. Having caught up to the other kids. Maybe I was in denial.
Gage will have this forever.
My sister, as you know, has been giving Gage tons and tons and tons of therapy in Chicago. She and her amazing pediatric therapist friends, basically doing pro bono work for my little man. I get misty-eyed when I think about these people giving of their time and talents because they think so highly of my sis. So, so cool. It turns out there really are good people out there. Hundreds of them. I've seen them emerge during this horrible time and give so freely and lovingly of themselves. It's an amazing and humbling thing to be a part of.
So, the Amazing Therapists from Chicago have been working in tandem with each other and communicating together about my teeny man, and they have all come to the conclusion that he is autistic, albeit highly functioning. My sis says that a lot of his issues stem from sensory perception difficulties. She says he does a lot of vestibular movement - jumping off things, jumping on tramps, always asking to be swung around and bounced, spinning over and over again to make himself dizzy - because it's a way of regulating himself in some way. He needs more sensory input than he's getting in a normal environment. He's sensory-seeking.
I, of course, bawled like a baby when Lex told me. I mean, I know a lot of autistic kids. And yes, there is a broad spectrum. But still. As I wept, I asked her if he will be able to go on a mission. If he'll make friends in high school. If he'll be able to have a relationship with someone. If he'll be able to have a job. If we'll have to take care of him for the rest of his life. If he'll be able to go to college. If he'll get good grades.
All the things you hope and pray for your children to be able to do.
She told me yes, absolutely, unequivocally, yes. He'll be able to do these things. He just needs intervention right now. She says he's brilliant. A totally smart, genius-type kid. She says that lots of kids with Gage's level of autism turn out to be scientists or doctors. That made me feel a little better.
Of course, I went back in my head and said, "What did I do to make him this way, Lex? Was I not a good enough mom? Did I not engage him enough? Did I not get him all the help he could have possibly gotten? Was he exposed to something that made him this way?"
She said nope. That him having autism is like me having thyroid disease. Or clinical depression. It just shows up. And you have to do things a little differently to have a full life.
It's overwhelming, especially in the face of the other trials our family is facing right now, to have learned this about my darling youngest child.
But seriously, you guys, I'm not trying to be cheesy when I say this - I have really seen Heavenly Father carrying me through all this. I've seen Him in the people who keep coming over and asking to help clean something. Telling me to lie down while they take care of laundry or packing or de-junking. Who send me the coolest care package I've ever seen:
I've seen Him in friends who come to visit. Who send me flowers.
Who give me kick-ass shirts and bracelets that make me feel like Xena the Warrior Princess. (Is it okay to refer to Heavenly Father in the same sentence where I swear?)
Who give me cards that make me laugh so hard that my weird blood-filled lats shake and I have to hold them to keep them from flapping around and hurting.
Who cry with me on the phone for two hours. Who find me cool hats I can wear when I lose my hair.
I've seen Him in people who I don't even know donating money to help with medical bills. In the lovely couple who invited Ben to stay in their home while he's awaiting his family. In the man who hired Ben. In the couple who put an offer on our house mere days after we had put it on the market. In the people who came and worked in gosh-awful, dusty, horrible messiness for hours upon hours to get our house landscaped.
In the people who text me constantly, asking what they can do to help. Looking for houses for us in Bend. In my mother, who is sick as a dog right now, but keeps coming over to help me. In a family that has rallied around me.
In the most darling baby I've ever seen cuddling into my arms, allowing me to smell her sweet babyness and squish those cute little cankles.
In the sweetest dog ever who has been holding vigil at my side on my bed.
In my sweet husband shaving my legs, bringing me ice for my armpits, and buying me gallons of Jamba Juice.
Heavenly Father is in the details of my life. He's raining blessings down upon me.
Yeah, I'm really sad that I have cancer. And I'm really scared to go through chemotherapy. And I'm really sad that I have a chest that feels like some kind of breastplate armour thing. I'm flat-out pissed that I still have my stupid blood grenades hooked to my sides. I'm really sad that my husband isn't here with me. That I might not to get to live in the same house as him for as many as six months. I'm sad that my oldest children might join him to start school and I won't be able to hug them and talk to them every single day, for several months. I'm sad that my younger children are going to watch me wither away into a shell of a person. I'm sad that my family will be split in half while my mom cares for me. I'm sad that I won't be able to dance.
I'm sad that I have an autistic son.
But when I see all the love that surrounds me constantly, all the things Heavenly Father is doing for me through others - I can't be mad at Him. We have to go through these horrible, difficult, heartbreaking things in this life. It's the only way we can learn to experience true joy. It's the only way we can become better people. There is absolutely no avoiding it, dang it. We don't get to choose to opt out, unfortunately. But what we can choose to do is to open our eyes and see Heavenly Father carrying our broken bodies through this refining fire. We can choose to work and work and work to help our children who are struggling. This is another huge blow for me, but He is succoring me. I can feel it. I know that I'll emerge from these things stronger than ever. I know that I'm in for the battle of my life, but Father has prepared me for it.
It's time to get up and fight.