The end of an era…

Last week my beloved BOB double jog stroller finally kicked the bucket.  Honestly I didn’t think this thing would ever truly die but alas it did and of course I was wearing my Chaos Coordinator shirt when it happened.

I was fortunate to be with someone while running and to not be too far from where the van was parked.  It was also luck (or divine mercy) that the boys managed to not be harmed when the stroller broke down.  My new running partner (yes I’m dating again – I’ll have to write more about that another day – dating as in finding new people to run with) carried Audie and I took Mikey and the stroller stayed tucked behind a tree on the trail until I drove back to pick it up.  The axle of the front wheel was so bent that there’s simply no way to get it out without taking a hack saw to it – not even sure if that would work because of the bolts – anyways y’all this thing got so bent jacked up!  After examining it a bit more Troy determined that when the wheel popped off the first time one of the springs must have gone off as well and since I hadn’t realized that when it happened a second time that’s what did the stroller in.  We decided that we weren’t going to take it to the bike shop to be repaired because of some damages to the front fork as well.  Plus the stroller has already needed two rear tire springs as well as canopy bolts.  All of these are specialty parts that we would have to get hopefully through the bike shop.  Yet again, it just wasn’t worth it to us at this point.  You see, we’ve had this stroller for over 8 years and after around 5,000 miles I lost track of the mileage on this stroller.  We guesstimate that it’s probably has somewhere around 6,000 miles on it.  That’s a solid amount of miles over the years.  When my mom got me this stroller as a gift 8+ years ago I would’ve never imagined that I would have it this long and that it would’ve seen so many miles!

The stroller still sits in the garage though, I don’t have the heart to get rid of it just yet.  Troy will probably have to put it out on the curb for me.  This stroller has been one of the few things that every single one of my kids have used!

Tedy & Phia

Sophia – She had  just turned 2 when we got the stroller.  She was not a fan; heck she was never a fan of any stroller.  Back in the days before ipads and smart phones I would pile in books, snacks and other little toys for her when we would run.  I knew where all the bathrooms were in Colonial Williamsburg and everything in between where we lived (in the Jamestown part of the burg) and where the Child Development Center was (in CW) which was about a 6 mile route.  20130105-212816.jpg

Tedy – He probably spent the most miles out of all the kiddos in this stroller.  He was just an itty-bitty baby when I first started using it; I had a car seat adapter back then.  When I stopped working I would often run with both Sophia and Tedy from our house to the Child Development Center.  I did it as part of my marathon training but also because there were many weeks when I simply couldn’t afford to fill the car with gas.  When I stopped working it was a huge sacrifice and we very much lived pay check to pay check in those days.  I am forever thankful to my mom for paying for Sophia’s child care back then so that she could still be a part of something while Troy was gone.  After we dropped Sophia off at “school” Tedy and I would attend various story times at the library or Barnes & Nobel and often meet up with friends for play dates.  I would usually pack myself a lunch and refill my CW mug around town.  We would often spend the entire day wandering around CW while we waited for Sophia and then we would run back home.

20140417-191101.jpgCeci – Tedy & Ceci were my best stroller running duo.  They both loved being in the jog stroller and once Ceci could talk she became my personal cheerleader and would often shout at me to “run faster!”  When Sophia was Pre-K we would often run to pick Sophia up from school and then I would wear Ceci on my back and Sophia would sit and we would walk back.  That route wasn’t nearly as far as the CW days but I could make a nice long run out of the route from our house to the school by going up and down each road between the two points.

IMG_20170224_102707.jpgMikey – Oh boy, this kid HATED the jog stroller as a baby!  For the entire first year of his life he would fuss and fuss and fuss and I would often have to take him out and nurse him for a bit to convince him to get back in or I would have to keep the baby carrier on me and wear him and walk to get some miles in.  Close to 18 months he finally stopped fussing and started to enjoy our runs and would often use it as his nap time (he still does).  Mikey’s biggest thing though is for us to go to a playground or Dunks after a run.  So in a way he still has to be bribed to go run haha.  He’s my kid that knows all the routes along a run and sometimes when I try to add-on some mileage by going the long way around to the playground he will tell me no mama that’s not the way.  I’ve learned to go to the playground first and then after get more miles in as he takes a nap.

IMG_20180123_131707.jpgAudie – Baby Cinco has had his moments of fussiness in the stroller as well.  If we meet up for an early run he often glares at other people.  I say he hasn’t had his morning coffee yet – haha that’s the type of look he gives.  If looks could kill Audie would’ve pierced many people with the daggers he throws.  All in all though he enjoys the ride and will often use it as nap time as well.

This stroller saw 5 kids, 4 pregnancies (1 miscarriage), multiple states, training for 1 ultra-marathon, 5 marathons, a dozen or so half-marathons, a few 10Ks and countless 5Ks…6,000ish miles.  This stroller helped me through when Troy was gone.  This stroller allowed for some good naps when my kids wouldn’t nap otherwise.  It allowed me to see some beautiful sites all around.  From the Blue Bonnets of Texas to the Cherry Blossoms of Virginia.  We crossed paths with anything from Alligators to Deer. 

One of the biggest excuses I hear about why people don’t run is because they have kids.  I really try to meet people where they’re at but since this double jog stroller has been such a saving grace for me over the years I have a hard time with this one.  I also have a hard time with the oh my kids have to nap or my kids _______ insert whatever excuse here.  I get it, I do, and not every run or walk goes according to plan for me but unless you keep trying then you’ll never truly know.  So I encourage you mama’s to get out there, invest in a jog stroller, it doesn’t have to be a crazy expensive one like mine was (though I will say that it was completely worth every single penny) and get moving.  Your kids see what you’re doing too.  They see you being active and it instills a lifetime of, being active is what we do, in them.

To my Double BOB – thank you for all the miles and memories over the years, you will be truly missed but you have been replaced.  I now have an in-step double stroller/trailer.  My goals are adjusting to the new equipment because we live in the Active Duty Army world and having 5 kids and a husband constantly gone means goals adjust.  I feel like I need a name for my new stroller though…hhmmm… anyways, it’ll never truly replace my Double BOB, that’s just not possible but here’s to the end of an era and the start of a new one.

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Adventures with Autism – being Catholic

It’s spring and friends are posting gorgeous pictures of their sons and daughters receiving First Communion. They’re all so adorable. I remember when they were all itty bitty babies and when some of us would have play dates together. I remember how even back then Tedy didn’t really interact with his peer babies but they were babies so really it didn’t matter to me back then.

I’m truly happy for my friends and for their children but a piece of my heart aches. The tears flow as I realize that yet another regular kid milestone has come and gone for my son.

I mourn another part of his life and wonder if he will ever be in communion with the church. If he does truly understand any of church. I wonder if he believes in God. It is so difficult to raise a special needs child in the Catholic faith.

We have had some terrible past experiences and have literally been asked to leave during mass. Don’t believe me? Ask my dad he was there with me when it happened once in the days before we even knew Tedy truly had autism. It crushed me. It has continually been a struggle to go to church. It has weighed so heavily on my heart.

We kept searching for a church that would accept our hot mess express family. After so many years of feeling left out we finally found a great church in San Antonio; The Shrine of Saint Padre Pio Catholic Church was the first time I genuinely felt my family was accepted. Yet then of course it was time to move because we are an active duty army family and we move every few years.

I was so nervous about having to start all over and to find a new church. It weighed so incredibly heavy on my heart that I broke down in the confessional when we first got to Fort Bragg. Yet the priest reassured me that Tedy is welcome in the Catholic community. He reassured me that Tedy knows God in his own way. He reassured me to keep coming to Mass and that it would all be okay. He helped me to let go of so much Catholic guilt that I had been feeling [confession will help you like that].

Yet the devil still creeps into my life. The devil gets personal. The devil tries to make me envious of my friends and their kids celebrating First Communion. The devil won’t win this one though because we have been blessed by being a part of the Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic Community here at Fort Bragg. I am thankful for this community. We are genuinely welcome. We can comfortably go to church and not worry about being stared down and asked to leave because Tedy makes a noise. The community is vibrant. It is full of families, of children who don’t always sit still and stay quiet for the full service. Not every community is this way though. When a community isn’t welcoming it’s easy for the devil to win.

I challenge you if you’re a regular church goer take note, what do you see? How do you react? How can you make your community more accepting of others?

I encourage you if you’re a parent of a special needs kid and have fallen away from the church, don’t lose faith, keep calm and say a Hail Mary and get back out there.

Maybe one day I will be able to post a First Communion picture of Tedy.

People of other religions or versions of christianity please don’t ask me to leave my church [yes this has happened on numerous occasions]. I love my church. I truly do. I love my religion and being Catholic. Yes I wrestle with God but that’s ok – I feel like it’s part of how we grow in our faith.

Pray for me. Pray for Tedy. Or if you aren’t the praying type send out good vibes, etc that as we close out April, the final day of Autism Awareness and Acceptance month that some hearts have been changed; that people were truly made aware and that people continue to accept others who are a bit different.

Moving in the now…

I really struggled this morning. I woke up with terrible vertigo and missed the wear blue run. Fortunately after a solid chunk of extra rest thanks to Troy the day got better. He held me accountable and took the kids to the playground and basically forced me to go for the 8 miles that was on my training calendar today.

He was my support in so many ways today. He let me rest when I needed to and then kept me accountable when I needed that.

My run was not easy. Everything was not all better. It was physically painful. Then it became emotional.

It made me reflect on some past issues and think about upcoming doctors appointments. Appointments that I’ve honestly been avoiding and yet again Troy has kept me accountable there and expressed his concern for me and that I need to go. When I was in highschool and on a trip with my BFFs family her mom noticed some moles on my back. My mom took me to the doc and then to the dermatologist and it was determined that those moles needed to be removed. The surgery itself went fine but in those sorts of surgeries they tend to take more than needed to make sure they have everything. Though the biopsies came back fine I was cautioned that it is something I need to continually keep an eye out for and I’ve had a couple other surgeries to remove moles since. Back to those high school days, not too long after the surgery I started to suffer from severe back spasms. It’s since been determined that a nerve was likely damaged during that surgery. Fast forward to today and we’re trying to figure out the extent of the damage done or if there’s another underlying cause to the numbness I experience on an all too regular basis now.

I honestly have been avoiding making these appointments. I’m nervous. I manage with the pains I have but it’s gotten to the point where I can’t really manage anymore. The uncertainty of when vertigo will hit me or when I drop something because I’ve lost feeling in my hand is concerning to me and I’ve been lucky that I’ve been in safe environments during most of these instances. Really I’m afraid any results from these appointments will mess with plans I have coming up.

As I thought about all of this and cried during my run today I reminded myself that I’m out now. I’m moving now. I’m doing this now. I can’t change the past and I can’t predict the future. I can learn from the past and use that knowledge in the future. I can enjoy the now and the beauty all around me.

I am moving in the now. I am surrounded by a virtual community of women through Skirt Sports and the Real Women Move group. I know these ladies will be supportive in this latest journey down an uncertain path and I am extremely grateful for them.

So if you’re out there struggling just know you’re not alone. We all struggle in our own ways. Move in your now how you can and be proud of your movements no matter what they are because sometimes we can’t move and that’s ok too. Sometimes we will have bad days and that’s ok but on those good days and in those good moments file away those beautiful times to use as light during your darkness.

They lived…

Real talk….
Our 10th [Church] Wedding Anniversary was yesterday [April 19th]. It sucked. It was a rough day. We fought. Probably more than we should’ve. Marriage is not easy. There is no “and they lived happily ever after…”

There’s just a “they lived…”

Right now we are in an extremely difficult stage of life. Being an active duty military family is stressful; there’s uncertainty and not much control in your actual life of what your days will look like. Redeploying and reintegrating (aka coming home after being gone a year) is stressful. Moving is stressful (we just got his stuff from Korea last week and still don’t have this whole house unpacked anyways). Preparing for yet another deployment is stressful…and we have all of this going on at once. Not to mention everything that goes with all of that related to the kids…life is stressful.

I also deal with chronic illness and the demon of depression. Troy deals with his crap. Spring with all of its beautiful splendor of nature and warmer temperatures (for us at least sorry peeps who are still getting snow) is a tough time of year for us. This time of year brings back memories of the friends we lost to war. It starts to bring up memories of Troy’s incident as well as Tedy’s diagnosis. It brings up memories of the child we lost and that we still mourn for that child even 7 years later.

Old wounds were opened and salt was poured in yesterday. That’s what marriage can be like. Yet I wouldn’t change it for the world. I can’t go back in time. I can’t fix any of it. I can only move on from it. We can only grow and learn from it. These tickets showed up today.

Troy’s gift to me for our anniversary, tickets to see Ben Folds. Ben Folds sings our song, The Luckiest. Truly I am the luckiest. Life isn’t easy, marriage isn’t easy but I wouldn’t want to go through it with anyone else.

Month of the Military Child

April is the Month of the Military Child.

Spring break for us this year fell during the first week of April. I can’t remember the last time Troy was actually home for spring break. This year and the last two years for sure he wasn’t and I feel like the year before he was either still gone or just getting home from a mission or something like that. This is a real talk post here – my feelings – my experience. I know that everyone is different and I try to meet people where they are. I know that we chose this life and continue to choose for Troy to serve in the military. Actually our kids are a big reason why he continues to reenlist; because it does allow for at least one of us [me] to be home with the kids. Yet still…pangs of jealousy hit me every time I see people post pictures of themselves with their families on spring break trips. Even if Troy was home we most likely wouldn’t be able to take trips like that. Our military service members pledge to protect our freedoms and yet they have few freedoms themselves.

I grew up a military child but my dad was toward the end of his career when I was a kid. I didn’t have to go through what my kids go through. Yes my dad went TDY [aka temporary assignments away from home] and deployed during Desert Storm; but things were different then.

I don’t mean to sound whiny or anything I just want to show some perspective to the reality of the situation. I say Daddy because Troy is the one who serves in our family but I know and acknowledge that women serve as well so the same can apply the other way around. I want to show what it’s really like to be a military child. It’s not all that the media shows. The big surprise welcome home reels are just that, highlights into this life. Most of it is trying to teach a child how to be ok with her Daddy being gone. It’s trying to teach that no we can’t just up and call Daddy whenever we want. It’s lots of maybe Daddy will be home for _____ or by _____. It’s comforting a child in those difficult times when they just don’t get it. They don’t always understand why Daddy can’t be around for a birthday or a holiday or spring break. They don’t always understand that Daddy has to leave again. Yet they cope and they are proud of him.

My tip to other parents living this military life is to acknowledge your kids feelings and to not be afraid to use counseling services. Your child may not have anything “wrong” with them but being a military child can be a big burden to bear and sometimes it helps them to talk with someone. Sometimes a professional can help you and your child cope better with all of this.

To all the military children serving in a life they didn’t ask to serve in, I salute you. I know first hand how tough it is to move and have to start all over again. Yet remember the dandelion, it’s your flower – don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s a useless weed. Next time you see one close your eyes and make a wish.

Adventures with Autism – what did you do to your hair?!

What’s in your hair?! What did you do to your hair?! Don’t put that in your hair. It’s time to cut your hair…

Hair…

I’m constantly talking about Tedy’s hair. He’s constantly putting random stuff in his hair like mulch, dirt, gobs of toothpaste, etc. Yet he HATES having his hair washed or cut. Yes he enjoy bath time but don’t you dare touch his hair!

Everyone else’s hair is fair game to touch for him though. He’s notorious for pulling hair. Even men’s hair that’s so short you think there was nothing to grab onto and pull he somehow manages to find a chunk. It also doesn’t matter if your hair is up or down when he’s upset and wants to lash out he will find a way to entwine his fingers and pull hair over and over again.

Yet he also touches hair to show affection. Especially towards Troy. He will rub Troy’s short hair and it’s like he’s telling him he missed him.

Saying people with autism don’t know how to show affection is one of the biggest myths about autism. Their love language is just different than most people and probably isn’t in a book.

Hair though is a common problem amongst people with autism. Many have difficulty having their hair cut or washed. If you’re fortunate enough to have a hair stylist who has experience in working with children with autism you’ve found a rare gem.

I’m not a hair stylist but I do cut my kiddos hair. The following links are not affiliate links, they’re just two great tools that I have found and been using for a couple of years to cut Tedy [and my other boys] hair.

Calming Clippers are basically hair cutting scissors with a blade guard that you attach on. These are very easy to use and what I recommend when first starting to cut your kiddos hair. For months I worked with Tedy’s ABA therapist to get him used to these scissors. We started out by just having them on the table and then slowly progressed to being able to use them. Patience and not being overly worried about what your kids hair looks like is key. It will get shaggy, he will have a bad hair day and anyone who judges you for it can go suck an egg. When introducing these scissors we found that Tedy likes to watch what you’re doing. He has to be able to feel like he can trust you so having a mirror present helped. Also having him “count” helped as well.

Noiseless Water-proof cordless hair clippers are first of all not completely noiseless. However, they are very quiet in comparison to any other clipper on the market. They’re also cordless [you just have to initially charge it and recharge when needed]. These clippers I highly recommend to anyone with boys, autism or not. They’re what I use to cut Mikey and Audie’s hair as well. These clippers come with a few guards and work great with doing fine cuts especially around the ears and on the back of the neck. When using them on Tedy again he likes to be able to see what’s going on and have you cut on his terms of counting. Remember, patience.

I hope you find those tools helpful. Even if you choose to not cut your kiddos hair I recommend discussing using them with your trusted stylist.

One more thing about hair…

I dyed mine blue! April is Autism Awareness and Acceptance month. I’ll be wearing blue in my hair all month long. It’s something I’ve been debating doing for the last several years but didn’t want to have to bleach my hair at all in order to do so. I used Splat and streaked it throughout my hair. Oh my goodness maybe it’s because the dye is blue but I don’t remember dyeing my hair being this messy (it’s been over 13 years since I last dyed my hair). The color is pretty subtle but the mess and subtly totally fit with the Autism Mom life. At first glance Tedy looks like a totally “normal” kid. Just like my hair now looks dark. Yet when you’re around Tedy for a bit you see that something is a bit different about him…same goes for my now blue hair.

Remember today, this month, and everyday…show some compassion – first glances can be deceiving and things aren’t always as they appear to be.

Why I wear blue

It’s been 14 years. 14 years since I saw Lauren’s [a college classmate] heart break. I grew up an Army brat but I was still fairly naive until then. I thought we would march in and out of Iraq without issue. Man was I a fool.

It’s been 14 year. 14 years since word swept through the dorms of Regis College that Lauren’s [boyfriend] Jeff had died in combat in the war in Iraq. How could it be?! Didn’t we just see him?! Wasn’t he just here hanging out with us?!

It’s been 14 years. My how times have changed. That war I so naively thought we would walk in and out of still rages on. That young Marine, Lance Corporal Jeffrey Burgess, and so many others never came home.

I only knew Jeff through Lauren, he was always so kind when he would visit her at Regis. One of those people that greeted you as if you had known each other for years even if it was your first time meeting him.

Back in College I would run the James Joyce Ramble every year, a 10K in my hometown. The year after Jeff’s death was the year they assigned names of the fallen to runners. I had written about Jeff and this race for my Rhetoric class. My professor sent in my piece to the race director and they took the time to make sure I was assigned his name. That was the first time I officially ran in his memory.

When I decided to run my first Marine Corps Marathon, continuing to run in his memory, and for all our fallen. Our fighting service members were on my mind as well since my own husband had now joined that group who raised their right hand in service to our country knowing full well that a war is still going on.

I’ve never healed from the bite that the running bug gave me over 8 years ago. My steps have grown more purposeful with each one I take. One year while running the Marine Corps Marathon I was brought to my knees as I approached a sea of people in blue holding American flags. The reverantial spirit I felt that day was like no other. I looked up who those people out there were and came across wear blue: run to remember.

When we moved to San Antonio there was a wear blue community there and we joined them for Memorial Day. I was 35 weeks pregnant with Mikey and the weather was miserable. It was humid and buggy and then it down pour rained! Yet it was an amazing day. Not a single person complained. Troy ran on doing a mile for every service member in the 4th Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division who was killed in action during their deployment to Afghanistan the year before, a place he himself almost didn’t come home from. I knew then that wear blue would be an organization we would be dedicated to as a family.

Some how I ended up becoming the coordinator for wear blue in San Antonio. I took a break as coordinator while pregnant with Audie but I still regularly continued to run in blue and still called out the names of the fallen on Saturdays. When the San Antonio coordinator position came up again I wasn’t going to take it on again. I had too much going on. I had five kids and my husband was deployed again, I couldn’t possibly take this group on again. Yet God had other plans for me and lead me to say yes because this mission is not about me. Whenever things got hard as a coordinator or a runner I could hear whispers of this isn’t about you Liz; remember Jeff, this is for Jeff. Remember Sgt Adam Kennedy, this is for him, for PFC Barrett Austin, it’s for him, it’s for all of the fallen. It’s for all of the families left behind that you’ve gotten to know over the last several years. The tears you’ve shared with them as they tell stories of their loved ones. It’s for all the fighting.

Upon leaving San Antonio I was asked to step into a new role with wear blue, as a community lead. As I discussed the position with various friends and family members I got an array of answers but when a friend described back what it was like for her to watch me go through the wear blue mile in San Antonio and for her to experience the mile as well that’s when I knew my answer would be yes.

Every volunteer with wear blue helps keep the mission alive. Runners, flag holders, community leads, community coordinators, donors, etc…they all play a vital role in this organization and I am so blessed to be a part of it.

It’s been 14 years since Jeff died and he is truly the start of how I got to where I am today. He is why Sophia and I went out on a cold rainy morning to volunteer with wear blue. It was amazing to be on the other side of the wear blue mile and watch other runners go through. As the winds blew the flags I knew the spirits of all the fallen were with us.