There’s a Reason For Everything

427801_10150949266962614_1089069881_n

Last summer, I was given a tough pill to swallow. After years of testing, therapy and being told my son was fine by professionals and autistic by his teachers and day care staff, I finally went to a highly recommended, pediatric psychologist. Four hours in a small room with a doctor and a team of different therapists and we were told that our son was high functioning autistic, PDD-NOS to be specific. He met all of the criteria for Asperger’s but he had a speech delay which doesn’t put him in the Asperger’s section of the spectrum, but he had a ton of social issues which didn’t align him with PDD. This put him into the PDD-NOS category (Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified.)

On the drive home from Atlanta, my husband and I cried. I called my mom who promised me nothing was different than when we left Macon that morning. I cried some more. I can’t count the number of times I’ve broken down after a bad day. Knowing the reason behind his meltdowns does help to prevent them but that’s not a sure fire way to keep them from happening. So I have my days where I sit there, crying, and asking God why would he put this on me? I don’t see myself as strong enough to raise a special needs child. I watched my Nana raise my uncle, I watched my mom take care of handicapped kids when I was young, but I never saw myself as being strong enough to deal with that kind of thing.

This past year, I proved myself wrong. I’ve learned how to cope, advocate, educate, and sometimes… just cry. I called my mom, I cried all night to my husband, I vented to my friends (I love you guys so much), and I wrote… a lot. I got this job that I loved so much. I was taking pictures, I was working with kids and I was having so much fun. I survived the Christmas season and then things began going downhill, not with what I was doing, but other drama that no one should have to deal with while they try to earn a living.

One day while taking pictures for a customer a woman noticed my autism bracelet. She asked how long ago my son was diagnosed and we started talking about him. This lady went on to tell me that her son had been diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was younger and she started a business for people who were receiving behavioral diagnoses. The lost people wondering what the next step was to getting their kids the help they needed. My jaw dropped. When Braiden was diagnosed they gave me a stack of pamphlets to places in Atlanta and Augusta but nothing near me. For two months I was on my own, researching, educating myself. For the first half of Braiden’s school year I didn’t even know what an IEP was. Now I do, and now he has one.

After an hour of talking to the woman she asked if I lived in Macon and asked if I was interested in working for a company like hers. She only hires people who are raising or have raised a child with a behavioral diagnosis. I went to a class in Atlanta and she helped me get everything I needed. Next week I start my job as a Family Support Partner, where I get to be that helping hand in a family’s life who receive their diagnosis. The best part? I work mostly from home. I get to be a part of my child’s life without worry. I get to spend time with my family and during the week I will go and visit my clients, work with them and get them the help they need. I cannot wait to get started and now I know… I have Braiden because he was preparing me for this job and in turn this job will help me be better for Braiden.

I could not be more excited to leave the drama behind and start this amazing journey!!!! God is good and is in control. I could not be happier right now. Everything happens for a reason, even if you don’t know what that reason is at the time. Without Braiden I wouldn’t have this opportunity and without Braiden I don’t know what my life would be like. Keep the faith. If you’re going to pray for rain, then prepare your field to receive it.

Mama Bear Rant

“He doesn’t LOOK autistic.”
“Oh, that’s every kid though.”
“What he needs is some discipline.”
“You know how to get him to eat? Make him.”
“You baby him too much. You shouldn’t hold him when he’s upset or hurt. Tell him to shake it off.”

Almost a year into our diagnosis and I still have so much trouble dealing with people saying things like this to me. “Well, that’s every kid.” No.. its not. Yes your kid might cry when you tell them that they can’t have chicken nuggets and french fries because they want what they want when they want it. When I tell mine he can’t have it? He thinks I’m starving him because its the only thing he will eat that has some form of sustenance to it.

“He doesn’t LOOK autistic.” That’s because he’s autistic, which is a neural disorder not a physical one. He doesn’t have Downs, MD, or a physically VISIBLE handicap. There’s something different about the way his brain is wired. He doesn’t look a single way. Other than freaking adorable because he’s mine and he’s the most handsome kid on the planet. You can take that to the bank.

“What he needs is some discipline.” Let’s put our kids in a room together. I bet if you snap your fingers your kids will keep doing whatever it is you want them to stop doing. Mine? He will stop, apologize and ask if he can do something else (in his own form of garbled english that only a few of us understand.) Wanna know why? Because I discipline him and he knows right from wrong, but kids are kids and they will do what they do until that guiding hand steps in. My son knows when I snap my fingers and say his name, there’s no more warnings, and we don’t play the time out game. He might be special needs, but he doesn’t get special treatment in the discipline department. There’s also a difference between disobedience and misunderstanding or miscommunication. I know what’s what when it comes to my child. Unless you do, I encourage you to refrain from making such comments about how I raise my child.

“You know how to get him to eat? Make him.” Um… no. You know how you have an aversion for soggy tomatoes on your burger? Well that’s him about everything else. If it doesn’t feel right, taste right, crunch right, or if it touched other food on his plate, he won’t eat it. If its green its not happening. If its vegetables cut up to look like candy, its not happening. I’ve sat at the kitchen table for hours trying to force my child to eat something new, its torture for him, its punishment for me and his father. If he wants to try a new food he will, and it does happen on rare occasion and you know what we do? We shut up and keep eating like its normal. After he’s back in his room where he can’t see us? We do some of the most embarrassing happy dances known to man. (Much like we do on the days when he’s speaking in understandable english with complete sentences and everything.) The thing about autism is that every little bit of progress is worth a celebration.

“You baby him too much. You shouldn’t hold him when he’s upset or hurt. Tell him to shake it off.” I’m not coddling my child, I’m relishing a moment. If you knew how often my child didn’t want me to hold or touch him you’d want me to hold him too. He can get hurt and think that my touch is only going to hurt it more. I can’t always kiss his booboos. Sometimes I have to kiss the air above it and he’ll run off so that I can’t hug him. Am I spoiling him? No. I’m savoring a moment. When he says “Mommy hold you?” I’m usually dog tired and just want a break, but for him I will pick him up and hold him. Yes there are days when I tell him no because I’m learning the difference between rare moments and “I’m using this to my advantage.” Because I know my child, I know his father, and I know their evil plans to work against me. When he’s hurt? That’s a whole new ball game of its own. Do you know pain is different for those on the spectrum? While he can bang his head against the concrete and not even whine about a headache, he can get a paper cut and you would think he sawed his whole arm off. Pain registers differently in his brain. Telling him to shake it off doesn’t work. He doesn’t understand the metaphor. Shaking the hurt away doesn’t make sense. Him coming to me to help calm him down does because he knows that I will get him through it. I talk to him, tell him its not that bad, we breathe and when he’s calm, he realizes he’s fine. There’s a process, it doesn’t involve the person telling me I should let him shake it off, so keep those comments to yourself.

“She didn’t care about all this advocacy before.” You didn’t either. I didn’t even know what autism was until Braiden got diagnosed and then my entire world made more sense. From every meltdown to why he stopped eating, to his speech problems, all the way to his need to cover his ears when things got just a little loud. I advocate for my child. Am I asking for a cure? No. I wouldn’t change what he is for anything. What I advocate for is understanding, education, and the ability to get him the tools he needs to reach his full potential because I have a brilliant child who can’t articulate the genius of his mind.

This blog is mainly to vent and rant because God knows I’d lose friends if I went off at every comment and “Piece of advice” I got from people who are viewing this situation from outside the box. What we need is support, love and understanding. I have no time for being undermined, dejected and judged. I’m raising a boy on the spectrum to be a brilliant young man on the spectrum who will support others, be kind to them, and look at every situation with an open mind and heart.

Please go visit TheAutismSite.com and click the red button. Every click earns a donation towards Autism Therapy funding for kids and adults like my boys. You pay nothing, you just click and close. Thanks!!!

Lessons that carried more than face value.

The BB gun was put into my hands when I was eight years old. Black birds were a nuisance to my papa’s bird feeders. He put them out so that he could watch the cardinals eat while he drank his coffee in the mornings over the kitchen sink. He told me when I saw a black bird shoot it and I’d get a dollar for everyone I killed, but if I hit a red bird I’d be in trouble. I would sit on the front porch with that Daisy propped up on the brick rail and sit patiently. “Don’t pul the trigger, squeeze it.” No it doesn’t matter much with a BB or pellet gun, but he was preparing me for the moment he put a real rifle in my hands.

He was teaching me how to shoot a gun, but there was so much more to it. He taught me patience, because I had to sit there and wait for the right moment so I didn’t hit a red bird. He taught me observance because I had to make sure I was shooting black birds and not thrashers. He taught me to persevere, because as much as I’d like to say I was always a good shot, I wasn’t. Every time I missed I sat out there a little longer until I got at least one bird that wouldn’t come back to ruin my papa’s morning routine. He taught me early how to do a job, do it right and get paid for it. Earn what you want and need. Most importantly, he spent time with me, taught me, encouraged me, was proud of me and told me he loved me. All of those lessons by putting a gun in my hand.

A skeen of yarn, a crochet hook, and just me and Nana sitting in the living room. She taught me how to make a chain first. Tie your first loop, hook the string, pull it through and keep repeating. Over and over again I’d hook and pull, hook and pull until I had a seriously long chain that looked nothing like a blanket or scarf or hat. Hook and pull. Then she stopped me and showed me hot to go back and double crochet. Wrap around, hook under, pull through twice. That that chain grew a little ticker. It still looked more like a rope than a blanket. At eight years old your attention only goes so far and it didn’t look like I’d have anything like the blanket that covered my nana’s lap. I retained the lessons and when I grew older I made little things like pot holders and place mats. Now I’m twenty-seven and making hats, working on a blanket, fingerless gloves and scarves.

My nana taught me a different kind of patience. While papa taught me to sit and wait, Nana taught me to keep working through even thought it looked like no progress was being made. She taught me to keep at it because I would eventually make something beautiful. She taught me to enjoy the quiet. Our family was so big and so busy all the time, we never really had time to appreciate the quiet moments. I think the most important thing she taught me was how something extravagant and beautiful can be made from one piece of string. These big, beautiful afghans, baby blankets, shawls, hats, even Christmas ornaments. They were all made from this one long piece of yarn at a time. It took time, patience and practice but it taught me that even and eight year old little girl could do great things with very little.

Bad things in life have turned into lessons too. They aren’t lessons you ever want to learn that way, but lessons are priceless no matter how they are delivered. My parents’ divorce taught me that great father’s are’t made of money and material. Great fathers are made out of effort. A parent shouldn’t have to be forced or guilted into spending time with their kids. When my parents split up, I learned that the reason my dad was around when I was younger, was because my mother would tell him he hadn’t spent any time with my sisters and me. When he left it was more important to find someone to be with than find a way to support his kids. He always turned the tables to say it was all about money with us, when we never wanted anything more than knowing our father would make time for us without saying something like “I don’t have the money to take you out to a big dinner.” “I don’t have the gas money to come see you.” “I don’t have the money to buy groceries.” If he would just say “Sure, come over and see me.” or “I’ll be there in ten” and then not say one negative thing about our mother then it would’ve been enough.

184528_10150996815572614_417960543_n

In that same time my mama taught me what it was to be a parent. Not that she hadn’t taught me before, but I watched my mother drop everything to be the best single mom in the world. She supported her girls, she fought tooth and nail to give us what we needed and was there for us when we fell down. There was never an excuse of “If I had the money I would….” It was always, “I’ll figure something out.” “We can make something at home with what we have and pretend we went out to Quail’s Nest.” Then there were those times when we were up until 2am watching TV and a Steak n’ Shake commercial came on and she said “Let’s go get Milkshakes.” Just because. It was never much but it was everything. So when drama is brought up about my father, I think back to the excuses made and the negative things he says, claiming everything was about money when really it was about effort. His heart belongs to another family and that’s okay. That’s the life he chose and I’m better for it in my opinion. I think that entire section of my life taught me about strength I never knew i had. It taught me to let go, because many people judge me for not talking to my father. “He’s the only one you’ll ever have.” I’m grateful that he did his part in bringing me into the world, but I’m not here to be his crutch, or his counselor, or his confidante, or the buffer between him and my mother, and I’m not here to be his grown up. I’m supposed to feel like his daughter and that is something I felt less and less like as I got older. He never fought for me and I’ve come to realize that he never will. That’s not the kind of person I want in my life or in my son’s life. My son needs people who will fight and advocate for him, not claim that there’s only so much that can be done without money. I’m a better, happier person without my father guilt tripping me every day, blaming my mom and lack of money for the issues we have with one another. So those people can judge me all they want, but until they’ve learned the same lessons the way I learned them, their opinion is invalid to me.

There are so many more lessons I’ve learned that would make this an awfully long blog post, and I’m sure some people didn’t even make it this far. I’m sitting her lying in bed before I have to go to work this afternoon and thinking about things I’m teaching Braiden and what he’s actually learning from them. He learns so much differently than I did. He remembers so many things that you don’t expect him to. Like I came home from work and asked him how his day was. He told me “Daddy honked the horn. The car went whooosh and daddy said are you serious and the horn it honked at the car on the road.” And Tim looked at me saying that it lasted maybe two seconds with someone trying to come over into his lane on the way home. He told me February is red because of hearts and love and valingtimes (Yes that’s how he gets it out). I can’t argue with him, he’s not wrong. I just pray that the things I teach him while we’re doing therapy at home have so many of these priceless lessons that stick the way the car horn honking does. I want to be the best I can for him, and I want him to think as highly of me as I think of my nana, papa and mama when he’s my age.

Eight years…

I know people probably read my blog posts and think I’m insane because I talk to you like you’re reading this with them. Maybe you are, maybe you’re not, but everyone has their own way of coping right?

I’m a few days early, but you’ve been on my mind a lot. Another year has gone by and I still haven’t stopped wishing that you were here. Braiden was diagnosed with autism and as many times as I’ve looked at him and wished he could meet you, I never thought I’d look at him and hear you tell me what you told me about Danny. He’s no different than any other kid, he’s special and you’ll never love him any less. Its true, but I wish you were here to tell me yourself. You taught me well enough that I know what you would say for everything I face, but that doesn’t change the fact that hearing your grizzly old voice say it wouldn’t make me feel a thousand times better.

Megan, your little mean-mi, had a baby. She’s beautiful, papa. Oh lord she’s gorgeous and you would’ve doted on her and got in Nana’s way of making her too girly like you did with us and mama. She’s got the best smile and she’s as spoiled rotten as you made all of us growing up. And that spit-fire of a grand daughter you got so much joy out of watching grow up is an amazing mother. You’d be so proud of her. I think Katie spoils both of the kids as much as you would though. Buying them everything they want or reach for, taking them everywhere, or babysitting every chance she gets. I think you’d enjoy making Mama feel old now that she has not only one but two grandbabies. I can just see you giving her a hard time while you hold Emma and watch Braiden run around the yard.

Your grandsons-in-law, are amazing. I only wish you’d have gotten to meet Josh, the one who tamed that mean ass Mimi. They are both amazing fathers and husbands, they take care of us like you would want them to. Yea they have their moments, but we’re all human. If there’s one thing you taught me in life, it was that it was okay to mess up as long as you fix it and learn from it. If they don’t learn from it, we beat them. I’m sure that was in your lessons somewhere.

Eight whole years and its still painful to remember losing you. I think the sound of that flat line will forever haunt me. I remember so many great things about you, and that constant beeeeeeeeep it just wants to pull me back to sadness. I want to build so many memories with Braiden like I had with you, but they’ve been delayed a bit. I don’t think he’s ready to shoot a gun, but I want to teach him. He doesn’t know how to be quiet enough to go watch deer cross the yard and fishing just doesn’t work out well for him. I’m trying though.

I think what I miss the most about you was how you were there to be the man who protected me. I wasn’t afraid to have Tim meet my dad. I was afraid for him to meet you and mama. I know that’s not how things are supposed to work. You were in my life to show me what the man in my life was supposed to be like. Every father should give their daughters an example of the kind of man that they should spend the rest of her life with. My dad never set that example for me. When he fought with mama, he always blamed her. When he got caught cheating, it was her fault. When we were broke, it was her fault. When me and mama had our fights, he never stood up for me or the girls. He was never honest with mama when she was being crazy and he never fought for us. You… you beat us with switches when we did wrong. You rewarded us for good grades in school. You made us do our homework. You gave us a place to hide when you agreed that mama needed time to cool off. You told us when she wasn’t crazy and sent us back home. You fought for us when dad left. And up until you fell asleep that last day, you argued with me about being in school instead of visiting you in the hospital. You taught me how to fight for myself too. You also taught me when to shut up and let it roll because fighting was exhausting at times and it was just better to save it for a bigger battle. I miss you fighting for us. When random drama comes from your ex son-in-law I just wish I could hand you the phone and let you tear into him. But I’ve gone silent because the battle is too exhausting and the outcome is never going to change.

But that phone call. I really miss that phone call. I look at my phone a hundred times a day, but if I catch the time between 5:00pm and 5:30pm, I sit there and wish it would ring. Just to see your number pop up. “I love you, baby. Bye.” Five words could make my entire day better and there are days when I know it would be the boost I needed to get me through to the next. Tears that I know you wouldn’t want me crying are burning my eyes just thinking of hearing your voice again. Eight years since my last phone call and I still wish my phone would ring when I look at it around that time of day.

I know I say a lot of the same things every time I write for you like this, but its true. It never stops being true. I think Nana bought Tim old spice for christmas this year. He hasn’t opened it. I think he’s afraid of the emotional break down I could possibly have if he hugs me after putting it on. Its kind of funny actually when you think about it. You’re scaring him without even being here and threatening his life.

I miss you. I really do. I still have moments when I just talk to you when the world feels like its caving in. The first night it finally settled in what the doctors had told us about Braiden, I had such an emotional collapse. I prayed to God, I talked to you, I talked to Gracie, and I laid in the kitchen floor and cried. I talk to you when Tim and I fight. I don’t know how you and Nana made it through all those years of marriage sometimes. I also now understand the tuna sandwiches being thrown at the walls. Sometimes, it just that infuriating to love someone so much even when you’re mad at them. I guess that’s something else you taught me without me really realizing it. Huh. I guess you’re still teaching me along the way, even when you’re not here. Its just little seeds that have been planted waiting on me to find the fruit to harvest it.

Kiss Gracie for me.

I love you, papa. Bye.

Six months into our diagnosis…

For a first time mom, I never knew what to expect as my son got older. I knew at age three he should’ve already been talking like an excited teenage girl about every new thing he saw, but instead he was barely able to say “mama”. So many people would say things like “Well, Einstein didn’t talk until he was almost four and look at where he ended up.” So I would push it aside and try to get him to talk.

I put him in speech therapy and for a long time I didn’t see a difference until I went back and watched videos of him before when he could barely say anything at all. Then his speech therapist talked to me about autism. My heart shattered. The first time the word was mentioned to me was when he was having trouble potty training at his first day care. I started research then and I always thought he was fine, but others I talked to would send me things like “You know drinking diet coke while you’re pregnant could cause it.” Or “If you didn’t breast feed him it increases the chances.” This wasn’t stuff I read, there were things that people who said they loved me told me.

In July when we got our diagnosis, my husband and I cried a good part of the way home from Atlanta. All that stuff people said came back to me and I just knew it was my fault. When we got home that day, I was playing with Braiden and I knew he wasn’t any different than when we had left the house that morning. He’s my baby and he always will be.

10437718_10151915747167614_5512769973768822017_n

Now that I work at a photography studio, where I see kids Braiden’s age every day, I’m faced with seeing what he could be like. I see parents complaining that their kid is smiling too hard when they are laughing at the games we play with them. I hear parents looking at their typical five year old and asking “Why did you ruin all of the pictures smiling like that?” And I can’t say a word. I sit there and let them pick out their photos while I’m thinking of how hard it is to get Braiden into a camera room because the lights are too bright, the flash pop is too loud, the colors of the background bother him, or the smell of a newly painted background is too much for him to handle. I listen to these kids tell me about their birthday parties in clear, full sentences, and I watch them pose (for the most part) without trouble.

I love my son. God knows I would die for the kid, but it breaks my heart to see him struggle with telling me the simplest things. I put on a strong face, I’m that strong autism mom that can handle anything. Then I have days like today when I wake up and get Braiden ready for school and I can barely understand a word he says. I think back to those parents who put their children in front of my camera and the discouraging things they say to their perfectly normal, typical, every day five and six year olds. Then I just hug my son, kiss his cheek and tell him I love him and we’ll figure out whatever it is he’s trying to explain to me.

I have him for a reason. I believe that babies are angels waiting to be mothered and when a childless mother prays for a baby, God sends them the one that is going to teach them the most. I also comically believe that my papa stood right beside God in that little area where baby angels are waiting to be chosen, and he saw Braiden and pointed at him. “Give her that one, please.” I can just see it.

Its a daily struggle and some days are so much better than others. I keep my strong face on, I go mama bear when I have to, I advocate, I accept, I encourage him, and I pray that I’m doing it all right. I love my son and I will struggle through every single bad day to make sure he has the proper amount of good days.

Here’s to a Good Year

2014….

January- Braiden had his first surgery. The poor kid had his tonsils and adenoids removed in hopes that it would help his speech problems. Complications with him not eating or drinking after the surgery had us at the Children’s hospital for a couple of nights, but he did okay.

February- This horrible pain started in the back of my head and I had to call out of work for a week.

March- The pain didn’t stop and I went to the doctor after my husband demanded it and I heard words that made my blood run cold. “There’s a mass. We’re going to have to do some more testing to find out what it is.”

April- I had an MRI with and without contrast on my neck and brain that showed no results as to what this mass was. I was sent from my doctor to an ENT who looked at MRI and said there was nothing he could do for me except try antibiotics.

May- I started my second antibiotic treatment and the mass didn’t go away. I was referred to a neurologist. The neurologist ordered a bone scan to check for bone cancer in my skull.

June- My scan results were negative so the Neurologist recommended a nerve block to at least end my pain since they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.

July- The amazing people at the Pain Center in Macon blocked my occipital nerve and I could move my head without screaming in pain. I cried in the car all the way home because I had relief for the first time in six months. I could look over my shoulder at my son without hurting. Later that month my son was diagnosed with Autism. PDD-NOS to be exact. It was explained that he met all but one criteria for Asperger’s and all but one Criteria for PDD so he fell into that grey area in between, but he was high functioning autistic.

August- I was no longer feeling pain and the mass in my head was gone. My doctor said it had to have been a cluster of muscles contracting around the nerve. When I was able to move without pain, the muscles loosened and no more discomfort. Braiden started school the day after his diagnosis and we had our fired IEP meeting.

September- I quit my job as a vendor and started working as a photographer. I actually got a job I love, Braiden turned five, Tim and I celebrated eight years together, but between new therapies and my medical bills that had piled up we were drowning.

October- Finally a quiet month. No hospitals, no doctors, no IEPs, no fights at school. Still… we were drowning. When you get behind its so hard to get caught up.

November- I started working more and more. Tim and I hardly saw each other, Braiden missed me and because of money and finance issues, I had to start doing therapy at home because our co-pays doubled after open enrollment. Three different therapies, $50 a visit, one visit a week each. $150 a week is a lot of money when you’re barely scraping up enough to buy groceries with coupons.

December- I was able to work some overtime and get us caught up a good bit. We’ll still live from pay check to pay check, but maybe drowning won’t be a word I have to use in 2015.

I love my life. I love my boys. Times were hard in 2014. I was depressed and I spent a majority of it in pain, in tears or both. I cried when Braiden was diagnosed, I cried over our finances, I cried over the incredibly hard patches of my marriage. There were so many moments of much needed laughter laced into those really bad months, and I thank God for them because I might not have survived 2014 without them. If it weren’t for friends and family buying Braiden school clothes, helping to pay a bill here and there, giving me rides to the doctor, buying Braiden Christmas gifts, or just listening to me cry on the phone, I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through the year. All of those people who helped keep me on my feet, I’m blessed to have you in 2015 with me and my family. I love you all so much. Here’s to a good year with far less pain, less struggle and less tears.

To My Mama on Christmas

Dear Mama,

When I was a little kid, I never understood why Santa didn’t bring you presents and still you were so happy on Christmas morning. You were awake before dawn, sipping your coffee, and waiting for me to open my last present so you could go back to bed. Still you were so happy. You didn’t get presents, you got woken up after just going to bed, and you were dying to go back to sleep, but you were happy.

When Katie and Megan were old enough to enjoy Christmas and I knew who Santa was and they didn’t, you were still so happy. We were teenagers long before you started getting presents on Christmas and you never stopped smiling. Year after year you were up at the crack of dawn, sipping your coffee, fighting to stay awake and you were just as happy as we were that we were opening gifts.

I could just never wrap my mind around why you were so happy when you had so much that you complain about. These last six Christmas’s have shown me exactly what it was that I just couldn’t see before I became a mother myself. All that time that I was watching you sip your coffee and smile, you were teaching me that the joy of your children is all you really need. You always fought tooth and nail to make sure we were happy on Christmas morning. Only when I watch Braiden open small things like little hotwheels cars and jump up and down with all the happiness a kid can have, do I realize why you were able to wake up so early in the morning to watch us tear into our santa claus gifts.

So this Christmas I want to thank you for another lesson in being a mom that I never knew I was getting until I became one. You taught me that the entire world can be falling apart, but as long as my son is happy, nothing else should get me down. I love you so much, Mama. Merry Christmas.