To Mrs. Lucy’s Kindergarten Teacher

In just three weeks from today, I will nervously drive my five-year-old into the parking lot of your school.  I will hesitate to unbuckle her while she kicks and sobs and fights me.  I will watch other parents take pictures of their sweet babies with brand new shoes and sparkly backpacks while they’re cheesin’ next to the front door.

You will already know she has been diagnosed with ASD, but when I’m coaxing [maybe pleading] her into the classroom, please don’t be nervous.  I assure you… while these first moments of the day will be the hardest, you’ll quickly see past anxious-angry-terrified Lucy and see her kindness, humor, and her big heart.

Let her be different- like all of your other kiddos.  Remember that she will always be different, but never less.  She won’t want to be the line leader or be the first to solve addition problems.  She may never want to do silly games or play with the other children.  Encourage her.  Encourage her.  Encourage her.

Don’t be offended when she doesn’t want to say “good morning” at drop-off.  Don’t get discouraged when she says “I don’t like school!” When she refuses to participate, don’t take it personally.  It will happen.  Let it roll off your shoulders and hope for a positive day.

Remember that in three weeks when I come into your classroom with red and puffy eyes,  I am handing over my most prized possession.  I am entrusting you with this tiny little person who has filled my entire heart.  I will count down the hours-minutes-seconds until she’s in my arms again, while you are broadening her mind with stories and numbers and turn-taking.

We will be an incredible team- you and I.  Working together to make this child’s future so very bright.  The priceless lessons that you teach her, I will reinforce at home.  I promise to work with you in order to best serve her.

And lastly, thank you.

Thank you for your time.  Thank you for hugs, your caring heart and firm voice.  Thank you for passionately teaching kids- one of the most important jobs there is!

Good luck.  She’s a peach.



Parenting Stinks.

Through my years of parenting, I’ve come to realize how odd it is to feel like parenting is the absolute best thing and simultaneously the absolute worst thing ever. Is there anything else that can compare? How is it possible for you to be so completely in love with a tiny human who screams and makes huge messes and smells like a mix of baby lotion and poo? But these smells are what I’ve found to be some of the best and some of the worst parts of parenting. Giving me plenty of lovely memories, as well as allowing me to recall some of those nauseating circumstances.

Here are 18 smells, good and bad, that are unmistakable once you’ve become a parent.

1. Let’s get it out of the way… poo. All poo stinks, but some are worse than others. The blue poo that happens after you’ve caught your toddler finishing the entire blueberry container. That sandy-colored poo that happens after you transition the baby into whole milk. The first poo in the toilet that you let permeate in the bathroom so Daddy can see it when he comes home.

2. The smell of melted wax that has now been saturated into the fibers of your minivan after leaving the new school supplies in the hot, humid Minnesota summer sun.

3. The unmistakable smell of a sick kid… the combo between Vicks, the pink syrupy antibiotics and the tissues with lotion.

4. Boiling macaroni noodles. Because it’s the third time this week you’ve made it for lunch since you don’t have the energy to deal with a hunger strike.

5. The beautiful combination of summer… the mixed smell of sweat and sunscreen.

6. The smell of fresh, clean sheets at the crack of dawn after the 2am bed wetting.

7. Baby nap breath. Which is unfortunately the only time in your life that your mouth doesn’t smell like a garbage truck after waking up.

8. Post birthday party vomit. Complete with cake, pizza, juice and all the other crap that your deprived child hoarded.

9. The gut-wrenching stench of sweaty feet after your child refused to wear socks with their tennis.

10. Burnt popcorn, cookies and toast while they’re still learning the basics.

11. The vanilla and almond smell of your old favorite childhood book as you open the pages and invite your child into your lap.

12. Chlorine. Swimming lessons, water park trips, hotel pools. So many memories are made next to that smell.

13. The smell of your pediatrician’s office. Can someone please pass me a Diet Coke while I wait here for 2 hours with my screaming child?

14. The three-time reheated leftover tacos since you haven’t found an opportunity for lunch.

15. The baby lotion on your sweet and snugly toddler while cuddling up for “The Hungry Little Caterpillar” after your bath time routine.

16. Soiled milk in the sippy that you left at Nana’s house from your visit 34 days prior.

17. The crisp autumn air smell that lies in your child’s hair after playing outside in the leaves.

18. And finally, the smell that makes your uterus smile. The smell that reminds you of heaven. The most unforgettable and precious smell of all… newborn baby hair.

Bottom line… parenting STINKS. Both literally and figuratively.




Bring your Brokenness

When I walked into the therapy office, I was surprised that it looked different than I expected.  “Where’s the couch? I thought I was supposed to lay down,” I thought to myself.  And as I waited in her tiny office next to her corner desk, I scoffed at how ridiculous my current predicament was.

“Why are you here?” she asked me.

“I’m here because my sister is a therapist and I think she’d be pissed if I didn’t come.”

I had set up this appointment several times and canceled after second-guessing my primary physician and the psychologist.  But after talking with a friend and my sister, they convinced me to call again.  It was one thing to be diagnosed with postpartum depression three months after Eleanor was born, but as time lingered I was desperate to blame any and all medical conditions on ANYTHING but depression or anxiety.

“I’m apparently a mental illness trifecta shit storm,” I said to her.

“And do you believe that?”

“Sometimes,” I replied.  “But sometimes not.  I think I feel my brokenness way too deeply, and while I’m on the edge of the pit of sadness, I still can breathe.  I feel like I move along just fine.  I wake up in the morning being reminded of God’s gift of a new day.  But then another part of me sits in guilt because I let hopelessness be a louder voice.”

I am not depressed.  I don’t have anxiety.  I don’t have OCD.  I am just like everyone else.  Everyone gets sad, anxious, stressed, frustrated.  Everyone feels like this.  I have two beautiful children, a wonderful husband.  I love my job.  I have numerous friends and family that bring me so much joy.  I told myself over and over, especially late into the night when the shame and doubt seemed to be the loudest.

She listened quietly, but continued to write notes quickly on her yellow pad.  When she stopped asking questions, the silence became deafening.  So… I just kept talking.  And talking and talking.  About Lucy and Eleanor.  Being a mom.  Being a working mom.  Having a special needs child.  About the panic attacks.  About not being in control.  About rewriting my lists until they are perfected.  About my incessant planning and perfect scheduling.  About feeling unrecognizable to myself.

And after all of that I thought to myself, “Oh.  Well, maybe this all makes sense.”

I left the office not feeling relieved or better, but confused.  The flood of self-doubt came rushing over me.  Maybe these three dark labels were part of me.  Maybe they were consuming.  And I could finally see what I hadn’t before.  I began to feel the walls I built out of fear. I had stayed inside these walls because the darkness felt safer and it allowed my heart to hide amidst its mess.

It seems way too easy.  There should be more to it.  But as Psalm 34:17 says, “The righteous cry out and the LORD hears them.  He delivers them from all their troubles.”  It’s right there in the book of Psalms.  And I totally believed it- I really did, but it took me a long to decide to act upon it.

I had believed depression was suicide attempts and the inability to wake up before noon.  I thought anxiety was not being able to be in crowds of people or slowly breathing in and out of a paper bag.  I had no idea what it could look like in myself so I refused to accept I was sliding down the slope.  I believed that I didn’t deserve the practically perfect life I was given… because what kind of person can be given all of these people, all of these things, all of these experiences and still be unhappy?  I thought if I said it out loud God would take it all away from me.

I was so afraid of getting caught in the lie of who I wanted to be that I was unable to lay it at the cross.  I was afraid that my brokenness was too deep.  I was afraid that if I acknowledged these labels, it would become all encompassing.  The truth just seemed so much harder than the lie.

But when I let it go and gave it a name, I gave the darkness a voice to say the words I was afraid to say.  The shame and stigma of mental illness ripped off of me quickly the more I spoke about it- giving others a chance to share their stories.  It gave us all a chance to  bring our brokenness together, with no walls and no lies.

Life is so much easier when you’re not walking around as a shell.  When you can lay it all out there and say, “This is what I bring to the table.  It’s kind of shitty.  It’s certainly not perfect.  I am broken.  I’m a mess. But this is me.”  And even when there are days that are harder to see it, the love will always shine brighter than the darkness.

“If it’s so common then why doesn’t anyone talk about it?”  I asked the therapist.

“Well…maybe you should be the one to start the conversation.”




A Boy Named Lucy


Two girls.

Two girls to adorn in frilly dresses and tutus.  Two girls to play Barbies and tea party, setting up each place setting like artwork.  Two girls to braid hair and paint toenails.

But that’s not what I got.

Instead, Lucy chose blue from the moment she learned she had a choice.  She wore Buzz Lightyear t-shirts, played with Matchbox cars and watched Monsters, Inc.  Of course I wanted a little princess, full of pink and sparkles, but that’s not who she was.  And there’s nothing I would do to change her.

As time went on and her ASD diagnosis became much more clear to us, she never stopped referring to herself as a boy.  After having several age-appropriate anatomy conversations, this was not just a “phase.”  She wasn’t confused.  She wasn’t desperate for attention or “just being silly.”  She was simply revealing to us exactly who she was.

I could never slip up- I was corrected every.single.time.  “You’re being such a good girl.”

“No, I’m a boy.”

And other times, “Here, Lucy.  Wear this shirt.”

“No! I can’t wear a pink shirt! That’s a girls’ shirt!”

Never, ever have we gender labeled our children’s toys or clothing.  Lucy was learning from what she’d seen on TV, at school, and in the community.  Boys wear t-shirts and tennis shoes.  Boys have short hair.  Boys play with dinosaurs and trucks.  Boys like to run and play sports.  My overly-observant little girl was identifying herself as a boy, because to her, the world is all black and white.  There is no grey.  To us, Lucy lives in the grey- a “tomboy” is what we’d refer to her as, but the black and white world she lives in tells her that she’s a boy.

The DSM-5 says children with Gender Dysphoria will have several of these common traits:

  • Consistently saying they are really a boy if they have the physical traits of a girl
  • Strongly preferring friends of the sex with which they identify
  • Rejecting the clothes, toys, and games typical for boys or girls
  • Refusing to urinate in the way — standing or sitting — that other boys or girls typically do
  • Saying they want to get rid of their genitals and have the genitals of their true sex
  • Believing that even though they have the physical traits of a girl they will grow up to be a man; or believing if they have the physical traits of a boy they will still be a woman when they grow up
  • Having extreme distress about the body changes that happen during puberty

It was awful to explain to my five-year-old what a penis is.   Just the word escaping my mouth felt vulgar and inappropriate, (especially after she demanded that daddy’s have “hot dogs”) but it wasn’t until then that I truly understood what we were dealing with.  She knew.  She understood.  And then she begged me, with tears, to let her be a boy.

“No, mom! I don’t want to have a ‘bagina’!  You can’t make me be a girl!”

Still, we lived each day loving our Lucy, no matter what.  No matter what she liked or didn’t like.  No matter who she was.

Though neither diagnosis was surprising to us, they both were equally challenging when thinking about Lucy’s future.  Will she have friends?  Will people accept her?  Will she be happy with who she is?

I was able to finally explain to my family and friends exactly what Lucy’s diagnosis is.  We were overwhelmed with support… no judgement.  Not even a lot of questions.  We were constantly being told, “She’s just… Lucy.”  People complied with her request to call her a boy.  No one ever corrected her, they just let Lucy be who she is.

And then, Target announced their new bathroom policy.

“Transgender people are disgusting.”

“They are just looking for attention.”

“People that are trans are just people who are perverted.”

These are just a handful of remarks that a few Facebook friends commented as they shared how repulsed they felt about Target’s new policy.

I took it all too personally.  Because you were talking about my Lucy.  My precious and perfect Lucy.  And with tears in my eyes, I text my sister about how painful it was to let my children live in a world with such hate and ignorance.

And yes, I understand that when you post hateful comments as these, you’re not thinking about my sweet, little, five-year-old daughter who is desperate to be a boy.  I understand the fear that you have because, as you know, I have two small children of my own.  I validate your fears.  We have a world that is full of pedophiles and rapists, but the reality is, the Target’s bathroom is unlikely the place where they will meet their next victims.  Not to mention the unfairness of directly relating pedophiles to transgender individuals.

The bathroom is an issue with Lucy.  We have, on several occasions, stood outside a men’s public bathroom, while Lucy whined and pleaded with us to go in.  On the verge of peeing her pants, I lost my temper at times, telling her that she was not allowed in the Men’s bathroom.

“I’ll wait until they all leave and then go in myself.  I will go so fast before they come in again.”

I ask you to, please, think about the desperation behind her plea.  The fact that she understood WHY I couldn’t let her in the Men’s bathroom, especially alone, means she has the capacity to fully understand that she is physically a girl.  She knows going into the Men’s bathroom is wrong to everyone else.  She knows that she does not, in fact, have a penis.  She knows she’s different.  But she has not EVEN ONCE let that change her mind.  She’s never wavered.  She’s never been unsure.

“What’s the hardest thing about having a child on the spectrum,” a friend once asked me.

Without hesitation I responded, “Other people.”

I will never teach you to be someone you’re not.  I will never make you feel bad for being who you are.  As long I have breath in my lungs, I will fight for this world to be a better place for you.  We will help people understand, be kind.  We will let you be you.  We will find joy in your differences.  We will celebrate you, Lucy.  Every single day.


71% of people with Gender Dysphoria will have some other mental health diagnosis in their lifetime (depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc.)

“Kissing Hurts, Mom”

Sometimes the meltdowns last so long I want to give up.  I’m sure you can imagine that after 30 minutes of incessant screaming and crying and hitting and kicking would make you fade, too.  It’s hard to watch.  It’s hard to stand back and let it happen.  It’s hard not to get angry and upset with her.  And I’ll be honest… I don’t always follow through with grace and love.

I made the mistake of asking Lucy to change her shirt before bed, trying to persuade her to wear a new shirt.  New clothes are HARD for Lucy.  For the past two years, we’ve struggled through 90% of wardrobe changes, especially when seasons change.

At first she just said, “No.” But I persisted, encouraging the new shirt, specifically purchased because it was blue and a soft cotton.  When she started crying, I “made a deal” with her.  I don’t remember what it was… probably a cookie or extra books at bedtime.  I didn’t really care, to be honest.  I just wanted her to change her damn shirt so there wouldn’t be a scream-fest in the morning.

Twenty-seven minutes went by of crying, screaming, kicking the walls, throwing books and stuffed animals off the bed.  I had given up on the shirt, but I couldn’t even calm her down to do our bedtime routine.  I did everything I could think of… rubbed her feet and legs, rocked her vigorously back and forth and finally– FINALLY– I could feel her body calming.

“Lucy, I’m sorry that’s so hard for you,” I whisper.  I gently kissed her on the right cheek and she nailed me in the shoulder.  The screaming began again and I begged her to breathe.  Through her cries I heard, “Kissing hurts!  That hurts!  You don’t hurt Lucy!”

“Okay! Okay! I’m sorry, honey.”


Her poor, sensitive body in the midst of a meltdown can’t stand touch or loud noises or people looking or speaking to her.  And I know that.  I know what I’m supposed to do.  I can’t scream.  I can’t leave the room.  I can’t touch her unless she initiates it.  I have to I whisper and stay completely calm.

I know exactly what I’m supposed to do.  And sometimes I don’t do it.

Sometimes I think I’m just yearning to have a child without these issues, wishing that simple things didn’t have to be so hard for her… and me.  Sometimes, maybe, I’m just frustrated that these issues seem so ridiculous.  Sometimes I’m just tired and crabby and dealing with my own stuff so I have nothing left to give.

Sometimes I just need to kiss her and hold her.  I want to console her in the way that feels right to me when I know well enough that it doesn’t feel right to her.

I watched her chest begin to rise slowly and her meltdown drift away.  Once she felt better, she whispered, “Read a book now.”  By now, we’d wasted the last 40 minutes on the floor of her bedroom.  “I’m sorry, Lucy, but you spent all this time crying and we have to go to bed now.”  I promised I’d read her a short book, which broke our usual bedtime routine, but she was fine with the change.

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

“I’m sorry, too, Luc.”

And just like that, she was softly sleeping, holding Eeyore in one arm and me in the other.  So I kissed her on the cheek twice.

Oh, my sweet.




for my next birthday

For my next birthday, I am asking for a nap.

Not just a regular nap.  A nap where I don’t have to share blankets and pillows and bed space.  A nap where no one talks or screams.  A nap where no one is touching me.

If the nap works out, next I would like to go away.  By myself.  Again, without screaming or hitting or shoving.  If I have to go with someone, could I request that it be my husband? Though I adore our time together once the kids have fallen asleep, it would be nice to remember what it’s like to shop or walk or eat without small humans to look after.

After I get to be alone and once I can spend some time with my husband, I’d really like a friend.  I would like to laugh until I cry.  I want to eat junk food until my yoga pants won’t further stretch.

After all of that, I would like a pan of brownies with 30 candles to blow out.  I want to hear my family and my friends- all at once- in the same room.  I want to hug people and tell them how much I love when they make me feel special, not just on my birthdays, but every day in between.

Next year, I want to shred the guilt that I’ve been carrying after the “worst mom ever” plaques were awarded today.  Because, at least for today, I wanted these little people to nap.  I wanted them to sing and smile with me.  I hoped they wouldn’t hit or scream or throw things at me when their juice wasn’t poured quickly enough.

Next year, I don’t want to be angry with myself for not loving every second of my time with them because… that’s okay.

Next year, I want to remind myself that I’m a pretty good mom, that I try my best and that I am not going to screw this up.

Next year, I don’t want the mom I hate being to show up.  Leave her out of it.  Tell her she’s off for the day.  Because, for just one day I want to do it perfectly.

I want all of the tears and guilt and anger washed away next year.  I want it to be easy.

So… here’s to being 29.  Living the life.  Living the mom-life that I never dreamed I wanted, but would never give away.  Knowing that tomorrow is a new day.  Feeling blessed to be given another day to start again, hug my monsters and know that everything will be okay.








The Brutally Honest Christmas Letter

The 13 tiny lines of our family Christmas card wasn’t able to adequately provide you with all of the information I could have shared about our past year.


Poor little Eleanor gets picked on all the time for being so ‘terrible,’ but it’s all {er… mostly} in fun.  This child has no fear of heights, climbing to the top of the counters and INTO cupboards.  She has no interest in following any kind of rules or be contained in the slightest bit- a pew at church, a shopping cart, nothing.  If she ain’t free to do her own thing, she ain’t happy.

She started a new school this September where she broke my heart the handful of times I had to leave her crying for me.  She LOVES her teachers and new friends, so we are happy that we made the switch and she’s doing so well in a structured environment.  Eleanor continues to have Little Sister Syndrome in every way imaginable- always taking Lucy’s toys just to see her reaction, wanting to do everything Big Sister does, and blaming Lucy for all of her poor choices.  She’s insanely high maintenance, [where the hell did she get that??!} but her little voice makes me weak in the knees.  “I wanna snuggo, Mom,” is one of my all-time favorites.  She is SO beautiful and SO smart.  She is delightfully entertaining.  She is quite the addition to our family.

Eleanor’s 2015 highlights: Learning LOTS and LOTS of new words, new school, potty training (about 85% complete!)


Lucy is… Lucy.  It’s really hard to compare her to anyone else.  And as far as Lucy goes, I believe this was our hardest year yet.  At five  years old, she’s beginning to “look” differently than other children her age and it’s becoming more and more apparent that she’s atypical.  Don’t get me wrong- I absolutely would never change her, I’d never trade her in for anything different. But I don’t believe that Autism is a gift.  It certainly makes her who she is, she is incredibly bright and hilarious.  Along with that comes violent outbursts, kicking, screaming, biting, and 50 minutes of trying to get her dressed before school.  Some days are certainly better than others, but it’s a constant struggle to meet her in a balance.  We have not quite learned exactly how to deal with some of her struggles, maybe we never will, considering she’s a constant spinning wheel that changes daily.

I’ve never felt so inadequate as a mother than when I am unable to calm her through a meltdown or control my anger when it is apparent that people are judging her in public.  Being her mother has made me… rougher?  Bitter? I’m not sure of the right word.  I have no tolerance for people’s disgusting attitude towards others that are different.  I have no patience for people who are not willing to understand our circumstance.  No time for people who aren’t going to be a positive impact in our life.  Fortunately, this usually only presents itself among strangers who have no business butting in, but I was hopeful I’d be the mother that kindly responds, “Yes, thank you.  I very much value your opinion.  However, my daughter has Autism and doesn’t function in the world like you and I.  Do you have a moment to discuss this?”

I won’t ever stop saying it- it’s hard to be an Autism parent.  It is challenging and frustrating and exhausting, but we get so much JOY out of this child.  Some of my favorite moments of my life have been with her- just the two of us- in our own little world we’ve created to be together in.  I’m so thankful that she lets me in.  I’m so proud of the things she’s done in her life, despite its difficulties.  I am proud of her for doing things she hates, things that are unbearable, things that are uncomfortable. Looking back at all of her proudest moments, knowing that most other parents don’t find these times as sweet as I do.  Precious moments that you may take for granted have been Lucy’s brightest.

I love being her mother.  She makes us all better.  She has taught us so many things about the world.

Lucy’s 2015 highlights: Last year of preschool, loved swimming (and swim lessons!), Attended another year of VBS and 1st year going to “summer camp”


Of course Devin remains the most boring of the family.  And by that I mean he’s the lowest maintenance.  But more importantly, he’s the consistent glue that holds us all together.  He remains calm in our Girl World and always gives us 100%. He cooks and cleans and lets me spend four hours at Applebee’s with a friend every once in a while.

Devin was ‘blessed’ with the opportunity to leave his previous job and accept a position at that was basically created for him.  He is ecstatic about the work he’s doing and his new work environment.   To sum it up, it’s basically a bunch of super nerdy people that all like the same things, all in one place.  He misses his PTG work friends, but he’s having fun getting to know more (nerdy) people.

Devin continues to bless me in more ways than I can ever imagine.  He’s everything I want (and more!) as a husband and father.  He is so good at keeping me grounded and listening when I need to think out loud.  He is incredibly patient with Lucy.  I love to watch them interact as they’ve created such a unique and special bond together.  I’m hopeful that 2016 will give him more one-on-one time with Eleanor.  The two of them are the goofs of the family and they keep us laughing.

Devin’s 2015 highlights: New job!, Star Wars, being married to me (Just kidding).

Little ‘Ol Me

This was a whirlwind year of trying new medications, changing dosages, refusing medication, and finding a good balance.  In my trifecta of mental illnesses world, a world that is so pale and emotionless, I’ve found to be more confident and brave to speak up about things I haven’t been able to in the 2 1/2 years of PPD, anxiety and most recently, OCD.  Guilt has been washed away, light shines through and I can remember some of these feelings I’ve had before.  Really, any feeling is better than no feelings at all.

I find myself holding tightly onto moments this year, it’s been so special.  I fricken love my life.  I love my friends, my family is amazing.  We’ve been blessed to pay bills on time and put away a little money every now and then to be able to experience DisneyWorld together in February.  God revealed himself to me many times this year, but most memorably, when I sponsored a World Vision child from Zimbabwe.

My 2015 highlights: Becoming an aunt and being able to bond with my sister on a whole new level. Being a Mom, and getting to take small breaks once in a while😉 Watching my friends be awesome- one on the verge of an engagement, some bringing babies in the world, one, whose husband has an amazing job opportunity, one who graduated with a 4.0 in her Master’s Program, a few that have turned 30… These are some of my favorite things!

To sum it up

Life is really shitty sometimes.  It’s not always beautiful.  We’ve had a handful of those moments this year.  But I can tell in the way that Devin and I look at each other sometimes that we’ve figured it out.  Maybe not everything, but we’ve figured out that even when life gets really shitty, we make it work.  We learn and grow and push ourselves.  It’s about what we do in our lives during the shitty parts that make us who we are.  We are responsible for our own happiness.  We are responsible for our actions, how we treat other people and how much love we give.  We have faith that God will provide and guide us.  We take opportunities and enhance them, we embrace change, we trust and we push the limits.  Most importantly, we love our kids.  We do the best we can.  And I think that’s pretty damn good.




*May God bless you and those you love this Christmas.  Have a happy, healthy and loving New Year.