Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Please Pass The Lemonade

Weeks of preparation, packing and moving, and I am finally coming up for air. Most of our possessions are still in boxes and our garage is chaos, but we are moved in and happy to be in our new home. The doors have safety locks, the gates are chained, and I can have a small sense of peace in knowing that Jacob is safely secured here.

Tyler and Madison started at their new school last week, and so far Madison has "soooo many friends" and Tyler has "two people that might turn out to be good friends, if they love football as much as I do." We have several kids living on our new street, which is really great after being the only family with young kids in the old neighborhood. Since we plan to stay in this home for a good long time, I'm very hopeful that my kids will be happy here, and make some lasting friendships.

Jacob spent the weekend of the move with Chris' parents. We knew it would be so much easier to get things done if we weren't chasing him around and attempting to keep him from unpacking boxes. What we did get packed we had to hide or disguise, knowing that it would make Jacob very worried and anxious. His teacher had made us a social story book with pictures of the old house and the new house that was meant to prepare him, as much as we could, for the transition and we had been looking at it with him for several days prior.

When he left home on Friday to stay with grandma and grandpa, the house looked pretty much like it always did. Then on Sunday evening we picked him up and took him to the old house. He seemed a bit surprised to walk in and see it was completely empty, he ran to his bedroom to see if his stuff was there, and then ran to the front door without looking back, ready to leave. I was thrilled at how smoothly it went.

We got in the van and waved bye bye to the old house, and drove off across town to this new one. Jacob got out of the van and ran right up to the front door and inside, and spent the next two hours running from room to room, out to the backyard, up and down the stairs, exploring the new place. We had set up his bedroom first thing, wanting to make at least that part if it feel consistent and comfortable. The whole process was surprisingly simple. We are blessed that Jacob adapts so easily to change because so little with him is ever easy.

It is so wonderful to be able to spread out a little bit. We doubled our square footage with this purchase, and it was about time. Five big people squeezed into 1100 square feet was a little too close for comfort. Its funny to me that we can't just yell for each other any longer- when we need somebody we actually have to go looking. This home was really what we were looking for. We are nowhere near a busy road, in a nice quiet neighborhood with just the right mix of young families and older people, and just five minutes from Chris' work.

Along with a new house come new problems. Things we hadn't thought much about we are now kicking ourselves for not preparing for and we are hurriedly trying to find solutions. Jacob has already discovered how fun it is to throw things from the top floor over the railing, and has tried to climb onto the roof from the little deck off the master bedroom. He has also managed to pick every flower in the yard, and break the cover to the hot tub by jumping on it while I ran around in circles trying to get him off. The fridge has water and ice in the door, and I thought this would make my life a little easier because Jacob could get his own drinks. But he has decided it is his job to be filling up and passing out cups of ice water to everybody several times a day. The floor in front of the fridge is never dry. We have all slipped numerous times.

But we will adapt. We always do.

Tonight when I was unpacking boxes I came across a box full of family photos taken six years ago. When Tyler and Madison were still preschool aged and learning new things every day and sweetly driving me nuts with their "why" and "how" questions and Jacob was still a typical child. He was darling with his white-blond hair and big deep eyes, and about 90 pounds lighter. Chris and I sat on our bed and looked through these pictures, and talked about what, if anything, we could have done back then to keep Jacob out of autism. We had been so happy with our little family. Our future seemed so simple. All we needed was each other, and we had big dreams.

We imagined our sons as best friends and playmates and defenders of their sister. A house full of friends after school. But today I can't even picture a life with the freedom to leave the front door open to let in the breeze and the neighborhood kids. Its deadbolts and padlocks and alarms. And only the brave kids come over more than once. We don't plan for the time when we have three teenagers and days full of activities and a million places to be. We have given up the idea that we will be Empty Nester's with a comfy RV spending our time travelling around to see the country and our grown children, wherever they might settle down.

Me- a person who never wanted to be normal and liked to stand out and be different from everyone else and fought so hard for independence- and now I dream of being an ordinary mom of a standard family in an average house with typical children who give us regular problems that I can compare with other fantastically ordinary mothers. These simple things that families all across America take for granted and that would I give anything to be able to do.

We have given up normal. It walked out the door when autism walked in.

My kind, strong husband cried tonight. Over the loss we have come to accept. Over the loss of a life we had dreamed of as a family of five. We held each other for a while, crying together and knowing that we are the only two people who know how this feels. But life doesn't stop, even for parents who are trying to reconcile their broken hearts and shattered dreams, so we dried our tears and stood up and got back to work.

Now its late, everyone else has been asleep for hours. I am sitting in my big new bedroom, in my lovely new home, listening to the snores and sleep noises of the people I love. And I remember that I AM blessed. I never doubt that I am loved by these 4 amazing people. I have been able to learn and grow and discover things about myself that an "ordinary mom" might not have the chance to develop. So maybe I've created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because I am nothing close to normal, my life is far from typical, I do stand out, and isn't this what I wanted all along?

I have to make something sweet with the lemons I've been handed. Love the sour because it makes the sweet seem even sweeter. Alter my dreams to fit my reality. And I will, because I am resilient.


Amber said...

I have no words. Your writing is beautiful and raw. Your strengths amaze me.

The Mathews Four said...

I absolutely am touched by your writing, Alaina. You have such a beautiful way of expressing things. I love you!

Inkling said...

Another indescribable chapter for the book. I imagine so many people would find your strength inspiring. I am so glad that you are settling in and happy with the house, and that Jacob is adjusting. We were planning to bring over cookies and celebrate with you but then thought you might like us to wait a little--so just give me the go-ahead when you're ready for visitors. We miss you already.