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Friday, March 20, 2015

Blue Sky Among Clouds

Having a public forum where you share some of your deepest feelings and emotions can be dangerous. I totally went left the other night on this blog. I was feeling completely overwhelmed and pissed off, so I purged all of my feelings in writing.  I don't have a therapist (dumb I know).  I have some really good friends and family members who care, but no one knows everything that's going on in my life. Besides, I can't say everything in one conversation. I don't often get to have a telephone conversation without it being interrupted. It was therapeutic for me to get it all out.

When I went back and read it again the next day, I thought to myself, what the hell did you do? My husband is going to be pissed when he reads this.  Everyone will know how completely nuts I am. I know that's not really a newsflash.  I kind of sound like I'm whining and complaining a lot. I don't want people to feel sorry for me.  I just wanted to get the feelings out.

Hundreds of views later, I couldn't take it back.  Apparently, my feelings connected with a number of you who said it read like it was your life. That's always a really good thing.

Going back and reading it,  allowed me to see exactly what is happening and what part I am playing in the process. Life doesn't just happen to you. You usually have a part in what you are allowing to happen.  This is especially so, when it is a pattern of things that  seem happen more than once.
There are no mistakes really.
Failures are an opportunity to learn.
There is a lesson to in every trial we go through.
I am learning every.single.day.

By re-reading what I wrote, I learned so much...
First, I need to slow down. 
It made me look at myself and say, 'What in the hell are you doing?' Obviously, way too much.
I am allowing too many people to put too much pressure on me, not to mention the amount of pressure I am putting on myself.
I can only do one thing at a time.
I have got to get better at saying no.
Not just no but,  'Hell no! I'm not doing that!  Do it your damn self!' 

For example the other night, Blue comes into my room at 9:30 asking about me warming up tacos for him and his friend.  My first impulse was to say yes,  because that's what I do.  This time, I stopped myself. I thought, I don't want to do that. What's more I don't have to do that. I'm tired! I've been experiencing extreme fatigue for days. I'm relaxing right now. I'm not changing my program just because they came in here hungry this time of night. 
"Make yourselves some corndogs! Have some yogurt, or some popcorn. Whatever it is,  get it yourself." 

Second, I am feeling pressured to make Red gone like yesterday, as if that will solve all of our problems.
The thing is, he's a person. A complicated person and this is a complicated situation.
I can't make everything happen overnight.
I have been working on this process diligently, for months and I am on the right track.
When you are dealing with government agencies, things take time.
When you are dealing with a less than stable young adult who has rights, but not all of the abilities that go along with those rights, nothing is simple.

Third, I need to give myself some credit.
  • I applied and got him qualified for SSI.  Now that he is 18, he qualifies based on his diagnosis, and his own income and not ours. 
  • That helped him qualify for Medicaid to help with the cost of his healthcare and medication. That is major! 
  • We applied and he has been approved for services through DARS (Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services) which is going to help us get work on behaviors and obstacles that need to be removed in order to get himself ready for full-time work and therefore, independence.  We met with his DARS counselor a few days ago. He offered to get  Red a Functional Behavior Assessment
  • Then he will start working with a BCBA Behavior Therapist here at home, in the community and at school.  If he happens to move during that process, the therapist will provide service where ever he lives. 
I have a feeling when the behavior therapist comes, she will note that we are all giving Red a payoff with our reactions.  The rules and structure need to be clear and enforced with everyone who lives here.
  • I have applied and qualified him for Autism services through our local MHMR (county mental health agency).  
  • This gives him a Case Manager to help coordinate services for him.  
  • He also qualifies for Home and Community Supports,  a provider who will spend a few hours a week with him out in the community, taking him to the bank, getting a haircut, going grocery shopping, maybe even taking him on a date! That will give me some relief. 
  • We can now receive Respite services (someone to come into the home or take him out of the home to give us a break for extended time.) 
  • We also put an emergency game plan in place if I am seriously about to break. They can provide emergency respite if I need to get him out of here with a quickness on a temporary basis, before he actually moves. 
When it comes to my mom, I have arranged for her to use a car service for her physical therapy appointments. Next, I will look into her actually having a part-time caregiver.  I can't always be 3 places at once.  It won't be easy to get a 75 year-old woman to change her ways. Especially, when her behavior seems to be going more and more in the direction of childish, antagonizer every day.  She is going to have to live by certain rules as well.  I'm not going to continue to put up with chaos.

It turns out that hubby wasn't mad at me after reading the blog. He actually came home and asked me out for dinner.  Since then, he has been trying to use a firm, yet milder tone when speaking with Red.  I sincerely appreciate the effort.

In the meantime until Red moves, I am going to have to take things one day at at time.
I will work on accomplishing one goal at time, instead of worrying myself to death about every little thing.

As many of my dear friends from my Facebook Support group reminded me, some more subtly than others (Tonya), I can not control everything.  I need to stop sweating the small stuff and let a lot of these grown folks in this house manage their own lives.

I have been getting a lot more rest in the past few days. I can see the blue sky among the clouds, which is God's way of telling me, 'Everything is going to be alright. Trust me.' 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Excuse MeWhile I Go Left

What is so f*#%ed up about this situation is that this is a family crisis, but I feel like the only person tasked with solving it, alongside taking care of everyone's never ending personal needs.

It's not just one issue it's several issues that each and every person in this household is a part of and are affected by. 

It's the toxicity that lives here. It's a bad chemical mix. 

Red is the catalyst and we all are promotors, triggers that help stir the chemicals together for subsequent explosion. 

It's me, the mom.
My lack of ability to make the hard choices.
It's my level of stress and lack of time to take care of myself. 
It's my fear of making wrong choice and how that will impact his life. 
It's my not being able to put the ball entirely in his court, because I don't think he really has what it takes to make the best plays for himself.  
It's me making excuses for him at every turn. 
He's not balanced on meds. 
He needs hospitalization.
He needs behavior therapy. 
Yeah. 
Whatever.  

Life doesn't slow down long enough for me to think things through completely. 

Life certainly doesn't stop long enough for my partner to be completely engaged in the game with me.

It's my husband, my partner, the dad.  
His big reactions, his anger, his fatigue, his short fuse, his stress, his disgust, his alpha maleness wanting to protect me at any cost from the catalyst.  
It's him wanting me to himself more and me having very little left to give. 
It's how little time we get to spend being us ...being adults, being a couple not just being parents and decision makers. 
It's how hard he has to work to keep us financially afloat because he is the soul breadwinner.  
It's how absorbed he is in work and travel which leaves very little left over for patience, understanding or complete, active involvement in solving this crisis. 

It's Blue with his big reactions to everything. 
He is drawn to the catalyst like a magnet.
It's the fact that they are boys, brothers, teenagers full of testosterone. 
Both of them, jockeying for position, authority and superiority over the other. 

It's my mom literally, constantly, sitting in the middle of everything, commenting on things that are none of her business. 
Our drama is her hobby. 
Today she asked, what happened to my good mood? 
I said, "I spent 3 hours with Red taking him to, from and sitting through a meeting with his DARS counselor." 
She said, "You shouldn't spend 3 hours with him doing anything. It doesn't do any good."  
Boy did that piss me off! 
What if she's right?! 
It's her answering questions when my children are asking me, literally echoing from another room. 
It's the door that she doesn't have to close or the apartment she doesn't have to go home to. 
It's her screaming, engaging, sometimes even taunting, or teasing the catalyst like another child. 
Did I tell you I caught her sticking her tongue out at him the other day? 
It's her adding to my "to do" list, while she is either not capable or doesn't want to do for herself any longer.
It's my guilt trip for feeling like I'm blessed to have her. I should take care of her while I can ...even if it's killing me. 

It's that a year ago we had our 20th wedding anniversary celebration.  
We had to put our trip to New York on hold because my mother was sick.  
We have yet to reschedule it. 

It's the fact that in less than three weeks, I will celebrate my 50th birthday. 
I wanted to finally go on that trip with my husband to New York to celebrate. 
As of today there has been no time to plan any kind of celebration.

It's not one thing. 
It's all of the things. 
I just want someone to come and take over. 
I want to disappear until all of these problems are solved. 
I know that's not realistic, but that's what I want for my birthday. 
I need strength. 
I need guidance.

God are you listening?
btw God ...sorry about that F word at the top. I know you know how frustrated I am feeling in this moment.  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Script

The script/dialog all morning and afternoon... 

Him:

I changed my mind about that group home. 
I don't trust you mom. 
If I move there, they will make me eat nasty food.
I'll have to get up at 5:30 in the morning! I can't get up that early!
I will be so tired. 
I think you're just trying to ruin my life.
You will do anything to ruin my life.
I think you're just manipulating me, by telling me I might like it.  
(He has been offered the opportunity to try it out for a few days). 
You're going to make me lose everything! My girlfriend, my church family, my friends!
If I change my behavior, will you give me one more chance to stay at home? 
You really haven't tried everything yet. 
What about that behavior therapist? 
What about changing my medication? 
I know I need to change, but you really need to change.
I know I'm nice to other people. That's because I like them. 
Do I have to fake it like I like you guys? 
Do I have to be all nice like cousin Courtney? 
Being nice comes naturally to him. 
It doesn't feel right for me to be that nice.
You know that's hard for me right? 
Do you understand how I feel? 
You will do anything so that I will move somewhere and not be able to buy more video equipment. 

If I move there, I won't be able to keep running my own business. 

Me:
You're not running a business. You're running a hobby which allows you to buy more and more video equipment. Right now you have so much equipment, it would take two more people's hands to manage it during a shoot. You don't have two more people who know anything about making videos. 

Him:
At that group home, the house is closed during the day. What if I need to go back to work on a video project? 

Me:
You haven't worked on a video project in months. Even when you have one, you don't work on it during the day. You come home from school or work and follow me around the house talking most of the day or you're watching Sponge Bob. 

Him:
You don't support my passion! 

Me:
Your passion is for buying equipment and watching You-Tube videos about movie making. You don't actually make movies. You don't actually practice or get involved in the local movie making community like your counselor suggested that you do. You do event shooting if a job is dropped in your lap. If you would do more things to develop your passion, get more education, interact with the local Austin Film Society, practice more. I would fully support it.

Him: Harry! Harry! Come here Harry!(In a very high pitched squeal. Harry runs away.) 
Me: Leave the dog alone. 
Him: But I really love his cuteness. I just want to feel his cuteness. 
(This is an everyday, multiple times a day, script along with the action of chasing the 6 1/2 pound dog, like the 250 pound Jolly Green Giant.) 

I leave the kitchen to go to my room to get dressed to go to the grocery store. Harry follows me to get away from being chased. Harry regularly runs to hide if he hears Red coming into a room. 

Hubby and I are listening to music in our bedroom. When I open the door...

Him: Why do you listen to that rap music when you know I hate it? 
They are cursing and talking about shaking butts!
You're really making me angry. 
You're just trying to piss me off!
Turn that music off! 

We keep listening and dancing ...releasing a little stress. This is my house last time I checked. 

I take him to the grocery store, so that he can buy his own groceries. I have been avoiding the place like the plague for a week, so I need to shop too.  At this point, I have already had it with him. I can't take listening to another pissing, moaning, complaint. I put on my headphones as we enter the store. I play the Prince station on Pandora. I do this often, even when I'm by myself. It makes grocery shopping a little less painful. 
"Mom why are you wearing headphones in the grocery store?"
"So that I don't commit murder in front of all these witnesses."
I send him begrudgingly on his way with his list. He would rather follow me around. I.Can.Not.Do.It. 

Every time I run into him, in the store the dialog starts again...

Him:

I can't live in that group home. 
I don't trust you mom. 
If I move there, they will make me eat nasty food!
I'll have to get up at 5:30 in the morning! I can't get up that early!
I will be so tired. 
I think you're just trying to ruin my life.
You will do anything to ruin my life.
I think you're just manipulating me, by telling me I might like it.  
You're going to make me lose everything! 
My girlfriend, my church family, my friends!
If I change my behavior, will you give me one more chance? 
You really haven't tried everything yet. 
What about that behavior therapist? 
What about changing my medication? 
I know I need to change, but you really need to change. 
You will do anything so that I will move somewhere and not be able to buy more video equipment. 
Will you give me one more chance if I change my behavior? 
Do you think I can change? 
Me:
I think you can do anything you want to do, but you have to actually WANT to do it. 
Him: 
Will you give me another chance if my behavior changes? 
Me: I will draw up a contract that you must follow. I can not live like this anymore. If you break it, you will have to move elsewhere. If it's not this group home, it can be another one or another  affordable living situation. 

On the way home in the car the same dialog continues...

I come home pour myself a stiff margarita with a Grand Marnier floater. 

I crawl into bed feeling like this...










Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I Can't Do This

Do you ever have those moments when you think ...I just can't do this anymore? I can't take another step forward. I don't know what else to do. I got nothing left! Yeah. Me too. 

Last night I went to bed feeling defeated …like giving up. I just can’t not do this job anymore. I quit. There is nothing left in my bag of tricks. I’m usually pretty resourceful and intuitive when it comes to figuring out what my kids need, but I’m fresh out of ideas. In fact, I have too many ideas and can’t seem to make any concrete decisions. I'm dazed and confused. I just don’t feel like I have it within me to make another decision about another person’s life. 

Red is afraid of failure. 
I’m afraid of him failing. 
I know that he needs support. 
I’m afraid to let go of control. 
I’m afraid that he will blame me when the shit all hits the fan. 
“You forced me into this, now look whats happened,” he’ll say. 

Well, what’s new? He blames me for everything that’s ever gone wrong in his life and gives me no credit for anything good that has ever happened.  

The truth is the child is no longer a child. He can only be guided. We can push …but he can push back. He has legal rights now whatever the f*#& that means. Yes. I know we could go for guardianship. Of course, we would have to prove incapacity. There are definite pros and many cons. For now, we have Power of Attorney so that we can help guide him. 

I can get together all the resources in the world, but he actually has to want them and accept them, and he is as stubborn as hell! He may not be smart enough to know exactly what to do, or how to get everything done, but he is damn sure smart enough to figure out how to get out of doing whatever he doesn’t want to do. He’s an expert at finding a backdoor -another way out. 

The straw that led to my feeling of hopelessness last night was the fact that hubby left to go to Dallas for business. That gave Red the idea that he had free rein to wreak havoc in the house. He was the prickly needle who poked and prodded at Blue until he blew. It doesn’t take much, because Blue has zero tolerance or patience when it comes to his brother’s annoyances. The fighting between them is indeed a two-way street. The difference is, Blue doesn’t fight with his brother for pure entertainment of it. He’s usually trying to make a point or teach his big brother something. They are always trying to prove the other one wrong. The argument usually turns into someone knocking someone upside the head. 

I had to pull out the crazy black woman on their asses after hubby left. I was simply in no mood. Every once in a while, I have to make them think I have completely lost my mind, so they will stop the non-sense in their tracks. Yes...this little five foot, nothing woman threatened to pull out a can of whoop-ass and start swinging their father’s belt in any which direction where there was a teenager in close proximity. If you don’t move…you lose. You best believe they took their butts directly to their prospective rooms. 

Afterwards, I was the one who felt just whipped. I'm just so tired of the fights. All of them. I'm a lover not a fighter.
Unfortunately, I live in a houseful of mens, and mens love to fight. *In my Sophia from "The Color Purple" voice.

Before I could crack my eyes open this morning, Red is knocking at my door. I couldn't believe it. He usually does not get up that early. I tried to ignore it, but it got louder. When I didn’t get up to let him in, he starts rattling the door and pushing it. He was getting so loud, in comes little brother who hates to see him hassling me. So again, World War Three is about to break out at 7 o'clock in the freakin morning! Did I say my eyes were barely open? 

On the way to school Blue says to me, “How much longer do we have to live like this? I want you to know, I’m not fighting with him on purpose just to upset you. I just can’t take the way he treats all of us anymore. He changes me. I’m different when I’m around him. I don’t feel like this around any other person.” I have to say, I feel the same way. I love Red and I have more patience for him than anyone else on this earth, but that doesn’t seem to matter anymore. I can't give him enough. He appreciates nothing. Nothing I do, makes his behavior any better.

When I get home, I'm sitting in my car as I do most mornings, in a stupor. I text my husband, “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. You’re going to have to handle him.” 

Moments later, Red pulls away with Transportation services. I realize he will be home again in just a couple of hours. He only has class today and nothing else. I literally cannot take it. I cannot have him here all day. And why should I have to leave my own house to avoid him? 

It hits me. Call the high school and talk to Mr. M. to see if Red can come volunteer in his class this afternoon. Mr. M. runs the class for kids with special abilities at Red's old high school. Red used to volunteer in there before he graduated. Thank God Mr. M. agrees to have him come. I arrange to have Red dropped off there by transportation, so he can’t come home and refuse to go.  

Hours pass. I don't hear from him and I am so thankful. I had enough time to get my head together to think about my next moves for him and do some research. Then, I actually took a break from thinking about his crap, showered, washed my hair and had a Stevie Wonder, Pandora station dance party. I can sing just like him you know ...in my shower anyway. 

The phone rings. It’s Red.

“You know you were right Mom. This was a really good idea to structure my time doing something positive. I feel much better now that I’m here helping the kids and thinking about someone other than myself.”
Um ...who the hell is this and what have you done with my kid? 

Well, holy crap! This boy is definitely a great smooth talker. He certainly knows the right thing to say. He gets that from his dad. Now, if he could only actually DO some of the right things on a regular basis, he may just get to live to see the age of 20. 

During this conversation he was so lucid, it was a little strange. He also agreed that it’s a good idea to look at group homes until we find the right fit. He said, “I have to keep structuring my time so that I stay busy until we find the right place because I don’t want you to kick me out and I end up in a shelter. The food would probably be horrible there.” 

I’ll believe it when I see it actually happen. In the meantime, I think I’ll have him put that all in writing. And I definitely know my next move. 

The moral of this story ...just when you're about to give up. Don't. Or maybe you should give up as in, stop doing everything for them. The answers are coming. They may just be his to figure out. Sooner or later they have to own their own shit. 

It's our job to lay the ground work. The foundation we laid will pay off. 

Remain hopeful...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pimp Slapped

I woke up this morning thinking, Wow! I thought the worst part was over. We made it through middle school. We made it through high school.  It was torture for him.  It was torture for me. It was torture for his teachers and administrators, but we made it!

I thought for sure the worst was behind us, but the reality of transition to adulthood has really just pimped slapped me in the face. Bam! This kid is kicking and screaming to hold on to childhood and it's just wearing me out.

According to Wiktionary.org this is the definition of pimp slap, in case you're not familiar.

  1. (slang, vulgar) A powerful slap to the face;[1]  [quotations ▼]

Usage notes[edit]

  • For some English speakers, there is a distinction between a pimp slap and a bitch slap, in which a pimp slap is backhanded (delivered with the back of the hand), while a bitch slap is openhanded (delivered with the palm of the hand). For most speakers, however, the two terms are synonymous, referring equally to either kind of slap.

Pimp slapping is carefully demonstrated here.

I sat in a meeting with his Job Coach, his Occupational Therapist, his Transition Teacher, the Transition Coordinator for the school district, myself and his father yesterday to discuss his goals for his annual I.E.P.  He sat there with this scowl on his face like we were all there to persecute him instead of help him. He balked, and disagreed with every suggestion and offer of support. 

I'm like wow! All of these people are gathered here to help you darlin', not hurt you! We all want nothing but the best for you. But the bottom line is you have to want this for yourself! We can't want it for you! 

We left that meeting after almost 2 hours and went to an appointment with his doctor. He ended up yelling at me in front of her, right there, in her office. She was quite disturbed ...shocked even. I was like, Honey, this is normal. This is just an average day. 

We had a third meeting scheduled after that appointment. This one was Person Centered Planning, another group of mentors getting together to help him work on short-term goals. I knew he wouldn't make it through that meeting without exploding. I had him contact his facilitator to postpone it. 

When we got home, I got him to settle down, take a shower and relax a bit. We walked through some of the scenarios discussed during the day. He was able to come to terms with a few things and actually took some action.  He actually contacted his job to open up his schedule with more availability for work. The busier he is, the less time he has to get into trouble. 

That's just one of the changes that we are about to implement for him. 

By the time I hit my bed last night, I definitely felt like I had been pimp slapped followed by a swift kick in the a**! 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Today this happened...

"Oh crap!" I thought to myself when I got the phone call. When there is even the possibility of ice on the ground the world stops in Austin. Today was a 2 hour delay because we were below freezing and their was a little precipitation.  For Red's adult transition program, this would mean NO CLASS today.  

To top it off, I have to drive him to therapy. It's gray. It's cloudy. This is going to be hell. Or so I thought. 

Then this happened...

While I was having my coffee and avoiding contact with Red, he posted a status on Facebook to the attention of close friends and family. 

"I've been feeling really guilty lately because haven't been living the true Christian life like I'm supposed to. I haven't been reading my bible. I haven't been praying that often. I honestly haven't been paying attention in church. I haven't been excited and on fire for God like I was when I got out of church camp. I feel like I'm starting not to care as much about anything but myself. And that is not good. 

I've been a selfish arrogant fool to my loved ones and those who care about me. I don't know what is real anymore. Sometimes there are days where I don't want to believe in anything but I can't let Satan win. I just hope that I never loose my faith because sometimes I feel like he's not there. The faith is still there and I just need to grow my faith and trust God and the people he has put in my life. 

I've been struggling a lot at home and it's been getting worse and worse. It's getting to the point where I can't live there anymore. My parents are about to kick me out the house and I cannot let that happen. I've disappointed a lot of people. I have a lot of apologies to make. 

Usually, life takes more than it gives. To my family members and loved ones, I apologize for my arrogance and rudeness over the past few months but all I'm asking for is forgiveness. To anyone who is reading this, I'm asking for your prayers for me and my family. Thank you for your acceptance and forgiveness over my blunders. I love you guys so much." 

*Reposted with his permission. 

To which I replied, 

"You are an excellent writer son. You should stop being afraid to take college classes. I think you could do great. You seem to have your mother's talent for writing.  Now if you could only live this. You're living your life in fear instead of trusting God's plan for your life. 

By the way ...we don't want apologies. We get apologies all the time. We want progress. We want you to stop fighting against all of the help that you have in your life. We want to be treated with dignity and respect. This writing and self-reflection is great, but action is much better."

Now I don't know how much of this is real. What is scripted thought he's picked up from a song, or what he's heard someone say, but I don't care. It is a step in the right direction. And today was a good day. 

The Lesson I learned? 

Just because the ingredients are present, don't always assume it's going to be a recipe for the worse day ever. Be hopeful ...optimistic. You just may end up with chocolate chip cookies. 

Does that make any sense? Sorry. I have cookies on the brain. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Blue 16

Dear Blue,

Sixteen years ago your unique, little soul came into my life. You were an easy, breezy baby. Curious by nature and naturally independent. You started trying to walk when you were 8 months old. You were successfully running by the time you were 10 months.  As soon as you started to get around, you were wrestling with your big brother.  I remember thinking, who taught this baby to do a headlock? 

You were a messy toddler, always climbing and getting into everything. You had an affinity for getting into things like lotion and baby powder. You once massaged my bedroom carpet with Vaseline. You were always climbing onto the counters and into my cabinets.  One time you climbed the pantry shelves and spilled the cooking oil all over the floor.

I always felt like an angel with wings followed you around because for all of your climbing, you never got hurt. One of the reasons you climbed is because, you did not want to ask for what you wanted. You wanted to get it yourself!

At 18 months, we moved up here to Austin and bought our first home. We put a gate on the stairwell to keep you safe upstairs, especially since you started climbing out of your baby bed.  I will never forget the day, you came to my room with a box of cereal. You had climbed over the gate, walked down the stairs,  climbed up to the top shelf of the pantry to get the cereal and then climbed back down. Then you climbed up the stairs cereal in tow, back over the gate and strolled into my room to wake me up.

Notice, you didn't wake me up to get the cereal for you! And that still hasn't changed. You continue to find your way through life.  No matter how much I want to and try to help you, you pretty much want to do most things on your own.  That quality will serve you well throughout your life.

You have always been a deep thinker, asking me questions about things that I've never even thought about. You have always had a strong interest in science and weather. You could be found, talking about politics while on the playground or in the swimming pool instead of playing. I remember once saying the words, "Stop talking about politics and go swim!" That was the year that President Obama was running for President. You and your best friend J, had some pretty interesting debates about that election.

That brings me to another point, despite your social challenges caused by autism, you have managed to connect to friends so deeply, that those friends remain in your life to this day.  You met the twins in pre-school. You all were 3 years-old.  Your friendship flourished over the years and in middle school it seemed to really take off.  Here we are 13 years later and you guys are still hanging. You're like brothers. And even through some challenging times in your lives, you guys have been there for each other, forgiven each other and continued to grow your relationship.

You met J. in the 3rd grade when you guys shared a class.  You advocated to help transport J. in his wheelchair to lunch and other activities.  Thankfully, he is stronger now and no longer needs to be pushed in a wheelchair. Even though the two of you are not in the same school anymore, you have remained close while going to different middle and high schools.  You made the effort to continue to call and make social plans with him on the weekends and throughout the summer. That speaks highly of your character.

You were always so different than your brother so for the longest, you went without a proper diagnosis. I knew that you had strong opinions and you really challenged some of your teachers. You were also insightful. In first grade you told me that your teacher didn't like you. That she never smiled at any of the boys in class.  She and I had to have a few chats and then I had to chat with her boss, the principal. By the end of the school year, you guys were pals. I saw her a few years later and she said, she still has your picture on her desk.

You frustrated the hell out of your 5th grade teacher. It was his first year teaching and you challenged him often. Because of course, you knew more than he did.

It was the years of fear and anxiety over thunderstorms that got me really worried about you. Do you remember hiding sometimes for days at a time, when there was even a threat of storms? By that time, your brother had been diagnosed with autism and though you were very different, I started to see some erie similarities.  I followed my instincts and had an evaluation.  We found that you too were on the spectrum.  It answered so many questions and it seemed to give you a sense of relief.  You wanted to read as much as you could about it so that you could understand why you felt so different.

You have made so much progress since then. The years of middle school that you found so daunting in the beginning, had you soaring through by the end. The fears and anxiety subsided tremendously! You began taking some advanced classes.  You started learning how to advocate for yourself with your teachers. By the time high school rolled around, you were ahead of the game having high school Spanish and Algebra under your belt.

The first year of high school was tough! But look at you now! You have started your very own club at school.  It has flourished to include those who just don't feel comfortable anywhere else ...whether they're on the spectrum, have ADHD or they just feel different. You include them and make them all feel that they are important.

You've built relationships with a number of mentors.  You seek out your natural supports and problem solve on your own! You are self-aware and set goals for yourself to work on your social skills.  You are your own advocate. No one has to tell you how to improve your life. You see something you want to change and you figure out a way to get it done. Many adults can't or won't even do that!

I know that you hate to hear the words, "You're so smart!" So I won't say that. I will say, that you demonstrate the skills of a young man who will definitely become a successful adult.

We have our moments of wanting to probably punch each other, or at least give each other a good smack upside the head.  You think you know so much more than I do, so that gets on my nerves. I know that my constant humor gets on your nerves, but it has helped you develop your own sense of humor.

Really son, I could not be more proud of the young man that you have become  and I can wait to see the adult that I know you will be.

Happy 16th Birthday!

I love you!

Mom

If Blue's story has inspired you over the years, please tell him how below. It can be your birthday gift to him. He also likes cash.

*Blue's birthday was actually February 17th.