jake’s big sister :)

So many times much of our focus is on Jake. We have big decisions to make when it comes to his education, we struggle with which therapies are most important and we work on his behaviors. John and I discuss this often and at times I feel as if Allie is in the background. I have asked Allie to be honest with me and tell me if she feels “left out” and she assures me she doesn’t feel this way, but as her mom I wonder if this is a true statement or if she just doesn’t want to hurt my feelings.

First let me say that Allie is indeed an awesome big sister! She would do anything to help her brother and is one of his biggest supporters! But they are siblings. There is an 11 year age difference and, at times, if you were to pop in my home you might think I had two 5 year old’s! At other times you might think Jake has two moms! In some ways it is much harder having two kids a decade apart! There are many times it is difficult for me to switch gears. I often find myself babying Allie if I am in that mode; there aren’t many times I go there but sometimes I just can’t switch it off which is infuriating for a girl of 16! Then there are times it is easier because Allie is such a huge help to me. I often have to remember that she is a kid herself and to let her be one.

I try to make sure that Allie is taken care of; meaning that we spend time together, I try to make sure I know what is going on in her life, I stay on top of her grades and help her when needed. But she is pretty self-sufficient most of the time. Unfortunately her dad and I take her self-sufficiency for granted. Occasionally get so used to Allie doing what she is supposed to do that when she doesn’t it throws us off a little bit. I have to remind myself, again, that she is¬†only 16 and will make mistakes.

Bragging for a moment, because, well…she deserves it ūüôā

Allie is 16 and just got her very first car! It is a 1999 Saturn, there are no bells and whistles in this thing. There are no power locks, power windows, power seats or seat warmers…it is your basic car that gets you from one place to another. She is thrilled! She loves it and couldn’t be happier to have her very own car! She is grateful for all that she has, she doesn’t ask for a lot and when I have to tell her no she tries to be understanding. Now, she is not perfect by any stretch of the word. We have had our moments of screaming, groundings, ungratefulness, disappointments and just this past week I left her at the mall for her to find her own way home (before she got her car) because of her attitude. But at the end of the day she is a pretty good kid. Allie is an excellent student, studies hard and is dedicated to her school work. ¬†She was just inducted in the BETA club at school and is pretty much a straight A student. Allie is a great employee and has been top seller in her store for the past couple of months. If she makes a commitment, she keeps it. For the most part, Allie is pretty honest but I am not unrealistic when it comes to the way a teenage brain works – ha! Allie will ask questions on how to help Jake with certain tasks, she watches me and uses the methods we have learned to work with Jake. When Allie is home, she works with Jake and helps him understand something better or works with him to help him do whatever task is on hand; by himself. She loves Jake as if he is her very own, there is nothing and I mean nothing she wouldn’t do for him. The love she has for Jake is unconditional.

When Allie hit the terrible two’s at 18 months she was a monster! ¬†She had the verbal language of a 3-year-old and would fight, throw tantrums, roll on the floor and had been known to spit on people when she was really ticked off. ¬†We worked hard to stop these behaviors and it wasn’t easy! Now looking back, I know God was preparing me for Jake. Once Allie hit 3 she was the sweetest child. She was always happy and had the best manners etc. It was like a switch flipped. We often laugh at how horrible she was between the ages 1-3. When Allie was Jake’s age, 5 years old, the girl had attitude! She was strong-willed, opinionated, she knew everything and would argue with you about the color of the sky. And here we are 11 years later and it has been one heck of a roller coaster of a ride. It is hard for me to believe she is 16 and that she will be a Junior in the fall as well as turn 17 in November. It is like someone hit the fast forward button; it is all going way too fast!!

As I sit here and think back to where Allie was 10 years ago I can’t help but wonder where Jake will be when he is his sister’s age. But that is as far as I let myself go…because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt he will be great! ¬†I used to wonder what Allie would be like when she was her brother’s (Anthony & Nathan) ages when they were 15 & 16. I didn’t know what she would be like anymore than I know what Jake will be like.

I have been blessed beyond what I deserve with all of my kids. From the moment we found out we were pregnant we called Jake our bonus baby. He is that…he is a bonus! He keeps me young, he makes me laugh and he challenges me daily to be the best mom and person I can be. All of my kids have done this; I just didn’t know I would get a 4th shot at it at this stage in my life.

Being a parent is hard whether you have typical kids or kids with special needs. The challenges of raising a child with special needs are different and at times there might be more stress but at the end of the day raising one vs the other is the same. You worry, you stress, you wonder, you hope, you cry, you smile, you dance, you get angry, you get frustrated but you love just as much!

Allie is my only girl and I prayed diligently for her! At times I think, oh Lord, why did you give me what I wanted? But seriously, she is a blessing and am glad to have another female in the house when all of the boys are together!!

Allie, I love that we have grown closer this past year. I love all of our chats, our shopping trips and of course our coffee time. I love that your faith in God is growing stronger by the day! I love how dedicated you are to your school work and your job. I just want you to know that I couldn’t do what I do without your support, your encouragement and your loving spirit! I love you sweet girl ‚̧

now if we can just make it through the last 2 years of high school I might just remain sane ūüôā

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let your voice be heard

These past few weeks I have been really stressed. I’ve been working on finding the best therapies for Jake and it is mentally exhausting! If we were extremely wealthy it wouldn’t be as stressful, I could do it all. I wouldn’t have to pick and choose which therapies would help Jake best. But the reality of the situation is I do have to pick and choose; it is hard but if I want to look at the bright side (which there is) at least there are more options today than there were several years ago. It is just hard, like anything, we want to do it all. Whether it is buying new furniture for your home, shopping for clothes or deciding on therapy. Not many people I know can just go out and buy whatever, whenever they want so it takes some time to plan, save and make the best decision you can make at that moment in time.

I am a woman of faith, I believe God has a plan not only for me but for my family as well. I’ve read the Bible about trusting, waiting, doors will be opened, etc. but I’ll be honest it doesn’t make my brain stop, it doesn’t ease the stress of figuring it all out. I probably should amp up my faith that God will take care of it all; I know He will but this controlling side of me wants to know when, where, how and why!

The other day when I was engulfed in looking at therapies and budgets etc. I came across (not by accident I am certain) a verse; actually a chapter. Many are familiar with the passage Proverbs 31; if you aren’t read it! A couple of verses jumped off the page and spoke to me:

Proverbs 31: 8-9 “Speak¬†up for those who cannot speak for themselves,¬†for the rights of all who are destitute.¬†Speak up and judge fairly;¬†defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Jake is not able to advocate for¬†himself yet; meaning he cannot tell others what his rights are and what his needs are at the moment. One day he will, but as a 5-year-old he isn’t there yet. But as I was trying to figure all of Jake’s ‘stuff’ out, these verses spoke to me. This is my job! My job, as of right now, is to speak up for Jake. My job is to plan a way to get him the therapies he needs and if I can’t, I need to figure out a way and “fight” to provide the things I know he needs.

Those who know me know I am not a “fighter”; I hate confrontations like the plague! I would rather just walk away than have words with anyone and it doesn’t matter if I think I am right. I am not and have never been one to jump in the middle of a conversation or argument and voice my opinion. I have my reasons as to why I am like this…but for now I can blame it on the middle-child syndrome; ha. But seriously, this isn’t really a good way to be. But I always get tongue-tied, I forget what I want to say when the other person starts debating their side. This is usually when I quit. I withdraw. I walk away. Now, I can write a letter like nobody’s business! I can put it all down eloquently and get my point across¬†but there are times when it needs to be face-to-face. I remember when I lived in NY and had this fabulous boss. ¬†He believed in me, respected me and wanted to see me grow. He used to tell me all of the time to get a back-bone. He knew I could do it, he had faith in me and would encourage me to stand up and let my voice be heard. I remember one day he called me into his office and said “Laurie, I heard you on the phone…you are too nice. Lose the southern charm and develop a New York attitude”. Those words often resonate in my head when I need to have a face-to-face confrontation. It is hard when you have been in the background for so long to switch over and be up front and in the spotlight, so to speak. But if I don’t, who will?

Jake surely can’t stand up and defend himself right now, he can’t tell his therapist’s, teacher’s or aids exactly what he needs to progress. He can’t go out and find therapies that will help him grow, learn and become a more functional individual. That is my job, that is what I need to do as his parent! ¬†I am his voice and it is time I started using my voice for Jake.

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In Memory of Terrie Dickan

Today I am choosing not to write solely about Jake; although I am sure he will find a way to make it into this post. ¬†This past week I lost someone who was very dear to my heart. She was one of Jake’s biggest cheerleaders, she was his grandmother, my mother-in-law; Terrie Dickan. ¬†She loved to read my blog, she loved to hear Jake’s latest and greatest accomplishments. She was always quick to brag on him and she was sure to always tell me that I am doing a great job. Not only was she Jake’s biggest fan; she was mine as well!

I remember when I found out I was pregnant with Jake. It was unexpected. I remember thinking, ‘how can I have another child, I will be nearly 41 when he is born. What am I going to do?’ I still remember telling Terrie and her first words were “this is great news, now I will have 5 grandchildren!” When I found out Jake was going to be a boy she told me in an excited voice “…¬†two boys as bookends to my 3 girls!” There was never a judgmental tone, she was unconditionally excited. Jake was born on February 4th; Grandma & Grandpa were here just 10 days later! They could not wait to see him, hold him and love him with all of their hearts. Jake cried a lot while they were here but she didn’t act as if she noticed. Terrie would go to him and hold him, rock him and do her best to try to calm him. I remember feeling anxious because¬†he was so upset but Terrie wasn’t, she would offer¬†suggestions and try to help any way she could. She had this look of content on her face. Here I was a “new” mother again after 11 years and I needed her calm spirit; it helped me remain calm.

She was not only a loving grandmother to Jake but she loved her other four grandchildren just as much! Terrie would always make sure that each grandchild felt special and she made sure that each one knew that she had a special place in her heart for each one of them. Allie was blessed to spend a lot of time with her through the years. When we lived in NY Terrie would babysit anytime we asked and if we didn’t ask she would pop in or tell us to come over so she could get her Allie fix. The minute Allie walked in the door Terrie would light up and she would smother Allie with lipstick kisses. Terrie had this way of making each grandchild feel as if they were her favorite when in fact she could never pick just one…she loved them immensely¬†and unconditionally.

Terrie was not only a fabulous grandmother she was a wonderful mother as well. Terrie raised 3 great sons, she loved them and was their biggest supporter! When her oldest son was diagnosed with a form of cancer she told him when he was cancer free she would get a tattoo in honor of him — and she did! A true testament of her love for her children!

Terrie had knack for remembering what everyone liked. ¬†Whether it be owls, skull and crossbones to a favorite drink; she was always on the lookout for each family members favorite “thing”. We were all¬†inundated with her “finds” and she would almost always say “I just couldn’t resist!” She loved to watch your face as you checked out your favorite item that she found but she was always sure to say “if you don’t like it or want it find someone who does and my feelings won’t be hurt”. She meant that! When Terrie and Ed came for a visit she always had flowers for me and a compliment about the way I looked or about our home. She always had a bag of things she had collected over the course of a few months. In a way it was like Christmas each time they visited. And these weren’t elaborate gifts mind you, they were anything as small as an Army pin to an autism sticker to earrings for Allie or a Dallas Cowboy shirt for John. It was incredibly generous and sweet. ¬†But more than anything what meant the most, and continues to mean so much, is knowing we were always on her mind!!

When we found out that Jake was diagnosed with Autism one of the first things she said was “how can we help?” She and Ed would read up on Autism, they would share their knowledge with friends and family and anytime Jake needed anything that might help him progress they were their to offer their support. They tried to understand Jake’s limitations and were never offended when Jake wouldn’t come to them and sit with them. Terrie would just look at him and say “maybe in a little bit you can sit with Grandma.”

Jake and I were not able to go to her funeral and I really hate it for a number of reasons. But one thing that does bring me comfort is knowing she would have understood and she would have been the first one to tell me to take care of Jake first. John’s family understood and accepted the fact that it would just be too much for Jake to handle. Not one time over the past week did I hear a negative word or comment. This is the type of family she raised!

Terrie and Ed were married 57 years! What a testament of commitment and love! ¬†Their love for each other showed and they were the perfect fit for each other.¬†I am sure they had their moments over the course of their marriage but it wouldn’t be a marriage if it were all easy. They made it look easy a lot of the time and I am thankful to have the love, commitment and longevity of their marriage as a role model for Allie & Jake.

We have all been blessed to have Terrie in our lives. I will miss her each and every day and will always be thankful to have been her daughter!

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