Tears of Joy?

It was really difficult for me to think of a time when I had cried tears of joy. Most of the time that I cry when I’m happy, my tears are tears of relief rather than joy.

I did think of a time that I did cry tears of joy. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is my story.

My Cherry Blossom (not her real name, of course) and I are both autistic. I didn’t get a formal diagnosis until I was put through testing just as CB had been two years previously. It explained a lot about me, and it highlighted how every flavor of autism is different.

I didn’t know that CB was neurodivergent until she lost her words. She started saying simple words at around nine months, but by the time she was two years old, all of that was gone. She was mute, and she communicated by gesticulation and grunting, and by hitting or kicking me whenever she got frustrated.

After CB was diagnosed, a local organization helped us get copies of Signing Time and Baby Signing Time for free. It turned out that verbal speech and ASL use different neural pathways, so while CB was in speech therapy to relearn how to talk with her voice, we were able to learn some signs in ASL together so that she could be heard even without spoken words.

Things progressed, and as CB was able to use more spoken words, we used ASL less and less (which is sad, because it is a great language that should have more fluent speakers).

I remember the first time she called me Mama. It was unexpected, and it was beautiful.

I cried.

It may have been vain.

It might have been selfish.

I own it.

CB was my only child then, and I thought I would never have any other children back then.

I had wanted to be a mother all of my life, and to hear the word I didn’t know if I would ever hear again was miraculous, and I felt joy that she called me by my name again.

CB now talks a lot. She still has a lot of challenges, but she’s smart, and I believe in her. I believe that she will achieve anything she wants to achieve, even it takes her longer than other children.

CB relearned how to speak because she wanted to be able to speak, and I am proud of her for her hard work.

And I am selfishly joyful she calls me “Mom.”

I can live with that.


Don’t just do something; stand there

There is very little quite as frustrating as working all day, feeling completely wiped out by bedtime, but still feeling like you didn’t accomplish much.

Most of the work I do is the invisible labor that nobody really values because it doesn’t translate into income for my family. While it saves my family thousands of dollars, it’s considered worthless because it doesn’t bring my family that much closer to being debt-free or buying a house.

During the week, I get up at 5:45 am to get breakfast started. Before COVID, I would also prepare my husband’s lunch and have it ready to go for him. If I’m lucky, our 14-month-old baby doesn’t wake up until breakfast is ready. If I’m not lucky, I check her diaper and put her in her playpen so I can finish making breakfast.

Breakfast is at 6:15 am, more or less. My husband requests oatmeal during the week because it is filling and helps him get through the morning without snacking. Our 12-year-old daughter (Sam) usually wakes up around that time, too. She’s not a fan of oatmeal, but we always have her favorite cereal on hand (plain Cheerios) or sometimes muffins. Our 14-month-old (Nem) is ambivalent about solids, but she sometimes eats oatmeal or cheerios for breakfast.

After breakfast is when good intentions go to die. My husband goes to his office, and I do my best to manage the household in the interim. Sam is autistic and electronics-obsessed, so it’s sometimes hard to find a balance among letting her have non-educational screentime, teaching her essential life skills, and helping her get better at subjects she doesn’t like (and because God has a sense of humor, those subjects are reading and writing). Nem is a very people-oriented child who demands a lot of attention. (I’ve had to stop writing this paragraph four times now to attend to her needs.)

If I’m lucky, I can distract the girls with some Sesame Street and start a load of laundry and put a few dishes in the dishwasher. (I am NEVER buying pans that can’t go in the dishwasher again.) If I’m super-lucky, I can grab a shower.

Nem normally takes a nap after breakfast, and if I didn’t sleep well the night before, I sometimes join her. Other times, I take the opportunity to shower. (It’s hard to get it done when she’s awake and fussing.) Sam is very creative and mostly good at keeping herself out of mischief. Nem is very people-oriented and likes to be near me at all times. She is very charismatic and friendly, and like her sister, she seems utterly fearless. Needless to say, I have my hands full keeping Nem out of mischief.

When lunchtime comes around, I have to find a way to keep Nem amused so I can cook. Sesame Street has done the trick so far. Nem is obsessed with Cookie Monster, and she will happily watch him sing or chase cookies. Her favorite song so far is “Google Bugle.” (She and her sister both really love Fall Out Boy, too.)

After lunch, I try in earnest to get done what I hope to accomplish before my husband’s workday ends. Sometimes Nem takes a second nap, which makes getting those things done easier. Sam helps out, too, as she can.

Once Michael’s workday is done, I do my best to have supper ready. Once again, Sesame Street saves the day if Nem is awake. Sometimes, if nothing on hand seems appealing, we’ll order food. It’s tricky on a tight budget, but we have to make it work, especially when the people who fulfill our grocery order can’t find the things I’ve ordered for our meal plans. Ever since COVID hit, our food expense has more than doubled. It’s frustrating.

After supper, Michael usually plays his favorite video game to unwind. We also watch various shows together before putting Sam to bed. We’re still trying to figure out how to get Nem to go to bed at the same time every night. Given that she was a surprise baby, we had long since filed away the whole “how to get the baby to sleep at a consistent time” thing. Sam thrives on routine and is pretty cooperative as bedtime comes. Frankly, I feel a little spoiled by how well she does with routine. With Nem, it’s trial and error (mostly error, but we’re figuring it out).

Once Nem is down for bed, I finish up what I must do before I go to bed, such as running the dishwasher or handwashing dishes if I don’t have enough for a full load (I am never buying pans that aren’t dishwasher safe again). On a good night, I can get maybe six hours of sleep before the whole cycle starts again.

Weekends are a bit better, and I can get a bit more sleep, but my duties are largely the same. On the plus side, I don’t have to worry about the kids disrupting Michael’s workday by being too noisy.

Anyway, it took me a week to be able to complete this blog. I hope that future blogs are easier to write. I’m slowly finding balance.