Christmas 2014: Vomit, Anxiety, and Other Plot Twists

It is December 28, 2014. Team Robs is two days removed from the fifth and final family function of the Christmas season, and I can sum up the holidays with this review:

THANK GOD THEY ARE (ALMOST) OVER.

I really hate to be a downer. That I have a large family with members who like each other enough to get together is a true blessing. But contrary to the rose-colored Facebook posts I keep seeing, I’m convinced I’m not alone in thinking there has to be something we’re all doing wrong with our overbooked and over-the-top Christmases. The constant rush to do all the shopping, wrap all the presents, take all the pictures, see all the people, cook all the foods, and just DO ALL THE THINGS takes away from what we’re supposed to be celebrating in the first place: the holy night, the newborn King, the light of the world. Continue reading

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Romans 5:3-5

Note: I wrote this post three years ago on another blog for an audience of family and friends. Today I revisited it (thanks Time Hop app!) and realized I’m particularly proud of what I put to paper. What follows is a modified version of the original text – enjoy!


The calendar page has turned from September to October, signaling the start of Fall and its accompanying bedlam. I’ve entered the second six weeks of the school year, Monkey is about three weeks into his new school, and the hubs entering the final quarter of his year. We’re going to blink and it’s going to be time for Christmas – and rather than that being exciting, it just feels like that’s one more thing to do. I’d bet you find yourself in the same situation these days. Days fly by, but when Friday evening arrives, you know that logically only five days have passed, yet your body tells you five months have. We’re tired. We’re a little overwhelmed. We’re feeling like life’s treadmill is operating at the speed of sound, and there’s so much noise, it’s tough to process everything.

To make things more exhausting and challenging, Monkey’s been… well, he’s been particularly autistic the past few weeks. I know to the outsider that sounds ridiculous. Autistic is autistic is autistic. How could it get better or worse from day to day?  Well friends, I’m here to tell you it can. It does. And when it gets worse, the confidence and glee that come from progress are haunted by the specter of terror. And though terror sounds melodramatic, the term isn’t inaccurate. You put on the brave face and you keep on working. You think back that other times of regression like this have been followed by great strides. When he was like this the first time, a few weeks passed and he started saying the letters of the alphabet. Last time he had a phase like this, he started saying some words. So your head tells you this is just another one of those, and you dare to dream the good that will follow this spell will be amazing. But while you wait – and watch all the hand flapping, listen to the random babbling, awake to his noises in the wee small hours – you try not to let that specter haunt every aspect of life.

Right now, we’re still waiting. I’d say it’s been about two weeks of Monkey just not being the same independent little guy he had been in August and early September. My guess is that this is positive, that the new things he’s learning at school and observing everywhere are ginning in his little noggin. Since his brain isn’t as skilled as dealing with inputs as most, this is just going to take a while and manifest itself in different ways. But in the meantime, we wait.

I tell you this not to have a pity party, but to let you know how things really go. I love this blog for the opportunities it affords me to make sense of my feelings and, more often than not, identify the blessings out of the challenges wrought by autism. But I also think that I often put on a brave face that neglects to share those harder realities of autism. And truly, I promise this isn’t going to signal a change to this blog being a joy sponge, because that’s no good! I feel very called to be authentic here. Autism’s prevalence is only increasing, and my sad guess is that my boy isn’t going to be the only child with an autism spectrum disorder that you’ll know. He likely isn’t already. So perhaps if my candor about the down side of autism does anything, it can help you see the reality of the condition. It can help you have empathy for someone you don’t even know who needs it more than you could ever imagine. It can help you do for another mother or father struggling to make sense of autism what you already do for us: express support and show thoughtfulness. For what it’s worth, we appreciate it more than we could ever express.

The title of this post cites a favorite passage of mine from Romans:

…We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5, NIV)

Though we have had two hard weeks, we’ve also had reasons to feel hopeful. The first was a random act of the sweetest kindness by my cousin, L. She just graduated from college and attended a lecture on campus given by Temple Grandin. You may not know much about Dr. Grandin, but she has autism, is a world-renowned livestock expert, and, most importantly to me at least, is a source of great hope for families affected by autism. Well, sweet L. bought Monkey a children’s book at the event and had it signed by Temple.

My eyes fill with tears just typing this again. L., thank you again for thinking of us and giving us something we’ll always treasure. We appreciate you so much!

The second: yesterday, I opted to take a break from lesson planning to write thank you notes to those of you who have so generously donated in Monkey’s honor to the 2011 DFW Walk for Autism Speaks. Yes, writing those notes helped me mark something off my growing to do list. But more importantly, writing you filled my heart with gratitude. To those who donated – and we’re up to $800?!?! – thank you. You are so generous! To those who have given to us not from your wallet but from your ears, your eyes, your hearts: I just can never tell you how much you’ve helped us get through one of the most challenging times of our lives. Thursday marks the anniversary of our boy’s diagnosis, and I find myself so introspective. Without question it has been a time of unprecedented struggle. But I also know that while I am exhausted, I am enlightened. Though we have been tested, we have triumphed in trusting God more than ever.

And with that – I’m reminded why I write. Thanks, as always, for listening, for supporting. 

Something for Me

A little over four months ago, I resigned from an 11-year teaching career to stay at home with my children: my oldest, a son whom I’ll call Monkey, who is 6; and a daughter, whom I’ll call Cat, who is 18-months old. I’ll elaborate on my reasons for that change sooner or later, but I went into the choice with both complete confidence and… well, fear. Because for over a decade, the hat I had worn the longest was not that of a wife or mother, but of a teacher. And while being the best mother I can be for my babies is, without question, the most important job I will ever have, teaching was more to me than a paycheck. Teaching high school English inspired, encouraged, challenged, and moved me like few things ever have and likely ever will. I’m confident I made the right choice leaving the classroom, yet regardless of whether or not I’m employed as one, part of me will always be a teacher.

My choice to resign was fairly impulsive, but I sought advice from some of the stay-at-home moms I knew before writing the letter and making things official. One thing I heard over and over: find something to do for yourself. I thought, rather naively, this wouldn’t be all that difficult. While Cat naps every day and Monkey is at school, I will read. I’ll catch up on my Netflix list. All the house projects will get done. I’ll work out regularly.

It was adorable of me, really. 🙂

About six or seven weeks into the school year (now that summer vacation is over and things are getting real), I’m finding that believing life can be a well-oiled machine WHEN AN 18-MONTH OLD IS INVOLVED is delusional. But, the advice that I need something for myself? Pure wisdom.

This blog is that “something that is yours.” It’s my attempt to make sense of the full, complicated, and wonderful life I lead, even and especially when it feels like all I do is run the dishwasher and tend to a ceaseless cycle of laundry. It’s a way I hope to connect with others, albeit virtually, the way I did when standing in front of a classroom. It’s a place where I’ll write about what’s on my mind, which can span from raising a child with autism, bringing up a girl in a world that terrifies me, learning more about God’s word and applying it to my life, selecting entire NCAA basketball tournament brackets based on which mascots would win were they to fight in real life… because I actually do this every year, and, moreover, this post makes me sound much more serious than I am. I promise I am funny. This blog will have sass and snark to spare.

The last group of kids I taught (high school juniors) gave me a nickname: LRobs. That they felt comfortable enough to do so conveys that my classroom was one that thrived on an air of collegiality and camaraderie (and not, as I fear you may think, that I was the teacher version of Amy Poehler’s character in Mean Girls. I was liked and respected. Promise). I chose to bring that moniker to this blog to commemorate what turned out to be one of the best years of my career and to preserve the teacher part of my identity.

So with that: welcome to my classroom. I’m looking forward to sharing, writing, reading, and learning with you.