Monday, March 24, 2014

I'm Not Alone, and Neither Are You

I know it sounds crazy, but I have no great urge to blog when things are going well with Bear. I know, I'd all love to hear the good stories, the stories that give you hope that things will get better for you and your kids. Here's the thing, though. My blog is where I come to scream and to cry, to vent and to laugh. It's where I get everything off my chest so that I can keep going, because some days I'm not sure I can.

Today was one of those days. Things with Bear have been getting rougher and rougher for months, and I've thought of sitting down and writing a number of times, but every time I thought about it, it just seemed like one more thing I had to do. And let's face it, as special needs parents, there are a lot of things we have to do. Rarely do we get time to do the things we actually want to do.

Today has been so bad, however (and for the record, it's only 10:00 a.m.), that I turned straight to my blog. Here's how my morning went, in a nutshell. Bear's anxiety was so bad that I had to pin him down and dress him, after which TheODDDad had to carry him out to the van. Once at school, it took two EAs to peel his arms from around my legs so I could leave. I literally ran out of the school sobbing and then sat in the parking lot because I was crying too hard to drive. Then I drove home to pick up Stitch, who was at home with Daddy, and took him to daycare where my normally daycare-loving child proceeded to wrap his arms around my neck and cry when I tried to hand him over. By the time I got home, I was an emotional wreck.

My plan when I sat down to write had been to scream and cry and vent. I really didn't anticipate any laughing. Not today. But here's what happened instead. I started reading the comments that readers have left over the past few months and, as I did, I felt my shoulders begin to straighten, my head start to clear, and my spirits begin to lift. I was reminded that I'm not alone in this journey and that there are people out there who know exactly what I'm going through. They understand the euphoria when things are going well and the devastation...the utter devastation...when things go horribly wrong.

Because your comments helped me so much, I thought I would share some of them. After all, if they lifted me up, they might do the same thing for you. So here it goes...

I am slowly coming to grips with the part about being a parent of a child with mental illness... and it’s not easy. Helps to know there are others out there, too.

As much as I never wish this on anyone else, I am comforted feeling I am not alone in this struggle. Over time certain behaviors may lessen, but we are finding new ones emerge. My son is 13 (ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, ODD). He no longer melts down for 2 hours at a time, but his school and social issues persist. He is failing most of his subjects and talks about dropping out of school. He is an extremely bright kid and has endless potential. We are just hoping we can find a way to tap into it. I embrace all of you facing this tremendous life-altering experience of parenting a child with ADHD. I wish all of us and especially our beloved children peace and happiness.
Everything I have read so far is MY life. I am actually on antidepressants now because of the constant struggles and every waking minute battles with my ADHD/ODD/OCD son. It feels wonderful to know that I am not alone and that I am not imagining that my life is a constant battle.
I feel as if I am living a nightmare with my child. She is severely ADHD, with anxiety and mild ODD. I feel like the worst parent at times and am so frustrated by those other parents who judge my child and ask me "What's wrong with her?"
My son was diagnosed ADHD/ODD when he was 5 and let me tell you, everything you wrote under The ODD Child tab hit home. He is now 14 and doing better at using his tools that he learned from counselling and us to take control and not let it control him.
My son has ADHD and ODD as well, and I REALLY wish I had found something like these blogs and websites when my son was first diagnosed!! I was alone in a new town with family over an hour away, so I had no help and no support system, which amplified the struggle, and diminished my "taking care of me" time. Anyway, I realize I am not alone, and am NOT A BAD parent, but at that time, I wasn't so sure.... My son is 11 now, and things are better, but we are still not without our struggles! I really HAVE to keep reminding myself that he doesn't do this on purpose and it's not personal!! Thank you so much for that reminder!
My son, who is 6 with ADHD and ODD just like yours, has had some serious regression in the last couple of days. I am home today from work because I simply do not have it in me to go and work with those kids at school. They deserve me at my best, and today I am not. I will cry today.... but I will get back up. That is what I do too. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone.
I cannot tell you how timely finding your blog is for me. I am you. I am dealing with an adhd/odd five year old boy and the people who I need their support the most, they have repeatedly told me.... today even....after a meltdown of his (and mine... from sheer exhaustion of emotional resources) that I am doing everything wrong, and that I need to be better. I am a teacher. I know how to deal with a class of 23 unruly kindergarteners.... how am I failing so deeply with my own son?! Today has been a tough day. Most days are. But despite, I am the positive shiny person that everyone but my family seems to see.
I often think about you and what a really great, kind, funny, intelligent person you are and that for me is proof that you get what you get in terms of kids. You don't get to choose their temperament. I often beat myself up about having created an 'out of control kid' - I mean my husband and I are pretty strong personalities and we could definitely work on improving our own emotional regulation at times - but I know that isn't the whole story. My daughter was pretty unique from the day she was born: long overdue, in distress and screaming bloody murder. The screaming didn't stop for 5 months. The midwives called her 'cross'. Her grandparents said she definitely knew her own mind. She was 'the girl with the curl'. I read every book and tried every approach we could find but we just couldn't seem to help her. It was tearing our family apart. Then I read your post about ODD and thought 'That sounds just like my daughter but she only ever does that at home. She's an angel at school.' Then early this year it spilled over into school for the first time - a 45 minute meltdown in front of the principal's office - and no one even tried to help. Her very young and inexperienced teacher walked right past us! The next day I went to our pediatrician and shared the story I'd been embarrassed to tell (she'd already been diagnosed with cyclical vomiting and anxiety). I mean, I'm a teacher, I know how to discipline a class of crazy teenage boys, how could I not help my own 5 year old daughter? Long story short, we now see an amazing child psychologist who has made so much progress with her. I like to think that all the hard work we're doing now will pay off later.
Last, but not least, is this one. In fact, I think this might be one of my favourite comments ever. From judgemental super-mom and special education teacher to mom of a “naughty,” and all with a sense of humour.
I think I just found my new best friend, although you don't even know it yet :) ! I have just spent a couple of hours reading through some of your posts. I can not tell you how awestruck I am about stumbling upon my own thoughts and life written with in the pages of your blog! God is GOOD! I AM NOT ALONE! But my story is a little unique because I have literally lived the life of the “I KNOW I'm a good Mom. Just look at my kids, well behaved...always, great students, kind, popular, EASY.” I was the Parent/Teacher organization president. I was the school board president. I was the mom muttering in my head about the "moms of the naughties." I knew if you would just give me a chance with your kid, I could get him in line, after all look at my kids and I was a special education teacher. Our friends told us our kids were not "normal" and that we had NO idea how hard parenting could be. We didn't believe them, we thought that you just had to be clear with your expectations and consistent with your consequences and pray for the Lord's guidance, and all would be so easy for you too. Honestly, this I exactly how I thought! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! And then, 16 years later, came BEN! Our beautiful blond haired, bright eyed ball of fire! God is FUNNY! Our friends are morbidly satisfied! NOW you know, they say. AND THEY ARE RIGHT! Ben is 7 1/2 and in the second grade and is every bit as ADHD and ODD as Bear. Here we are back at the same school, with some of the same teachers, who knew us as the "other parents" now suddenly on the side of the "naughties". Now when we walk into school the staff looks at us with their jaws on the floor, shaking their heads in disbelief. We have been through more meds, counseling sessions, neurofeedback...that I feel like an expert with all the knowledge and science on these conditions but with little know how on how to REALLY HELP MY SON! I know the judgement that comes from the bystanders because I was one of them! I know how fun and easy parenting can be but I also live how lonely, exhausting and overwhelming it can be. THANK YOU for your honest feelings and your love for Bear. It is not easy being a parent of an ODD child but how frustrating it is for our boys! I can not even imagine the pain that goes through their little brains when they are asked and expected to do something they are completely not wired for and then have adults, like the former me, totally not get it! I could go on forever but I'll stop now, but just know you have one more mom who "gets" you, and is walking a similar journey. ONE DAY AT A TIME!

As one commenter wrote, as much as I would never wish this on anyone, I am comforted by the knowledge that I'm not alone in this struggle. I am not alone, and neither are you, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Update: I received an email from Bear's EA telling me that he's having a great morning. In fact, he started talking to her about attending college and his uncertainty about what he would study. Life as a special-needs parent is never dull!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Taking the Time to be a Happy Mama

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the 2nd annual Happy Mama Conference and Retreat in Raleigh, North Carolina. What, you ask, is the Happy Mama Conference and Retreat? It's the brainchild of some great special needs mamas of kids with invisible disabilities (ADHD, ODD, ASD, OCD, FASD, etc...) who decided it would be a hoot to get together for the weekend with a bunch of other special needs mamas...and they were right! It was a great time!

One of the highlights for me was that I managed to convince one of my best friends, who just happens to be a special needs mom herself, to come with me. When was the last time you spent two days with one of your best friends? I know, right? That's worth the price of admission right there! Just look at these happy do I look????

 A selfie in my hotel room. bags under my eyes!
Amazing what a good night's sleep and a long nap can do.
 Cheese! Smile big big for the selfie, Allison Downey!
 We liked that first one so much, we took another one!
 Now these are happy mamas!
I finally got to meet fellow blogger and special needs mama Adrienne Ehlert Bashista.
She also happens to be one of the conference organizers.

If you were to ask me what I learned at the conference, I'd tell you not a whole lot. Now, don't get me wrong...there was a lot to be learned! The sessions were awesome, and I remember liking them all. I, however, have ADHD and am currently unmedicated, which means I can't remember a conversation I had 10 minutes ago, let alone an entire conference worth of stuff. What I will say, though, is that some stuff really, really resonated with me, and that's the stuff I remember.

Despite the fact that I had spent the money and taken the time to fly almost 1,500 km (or about 900 miles, for you non-metric people) to the conference (and abandoned my husband for the weekend with the children for the second time in a month), I still felt kind of guilty. The conference may be fairly inexpensive compared to other conferences, but it was still a lot of money for us. And while TheODDDad has hobbies that take him out of the house a few nights a week for months at a time, I've never had the kids to myself for an entire weekend. It seemed pretty one-sided...really one-sided...and a part of me felt unworthy.

And then came two sessions by Vikki Spencer, also known as The Mom Whisperer. Vikki is a motivational speaker, a certified life coach, and best of all, a special needs mom. In a nutshell, she gets it. She gets the tendency, which I don't think is unique to special needs moms, to put everyone else's needs before our own. To feel guilty when we take time for ourselves, even if it's just going for a walk or locking the bathroom door and taking a bubble bath. (OK, for the record, I hate baths, but I know they work for some people.) Vikki's message was the importance of taking the time to look after ourselves, to indulge in self-care.

Vikki shared an analogy on how critical it is for us to "sharpen our saw," which I believe she said is a premise she took from Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. She explained it this way (I'm paraphrasing, but the fact that I remember even this much shows how deeply it resonated with me): A man goes for a walk in the woods one day and comes across a woodcutter hacking away at a tree. It's obvious to the man that the woodcutter's saw is dull, so he suggests that the woodcutter take a break to sharpen his saw. "I can't," says the woodcutter. "I need to get this done, so I don't have time to stop."

Of course, we all know that things would go much easier for the woodcutter if he took the time to sharpen his saw. The work would get done faster, the woodcutter wouldn't be as tired at the end of the job, and everyone would be happy. Maybe he'd even have a little time left over for himself... Happy, happy, joy, joy!!!

As special needs moms, we need to take time to sharpen our saws. We are happier and better able to deal with everything that our lives...or our children...throw at us if we look after ourselves. As Vikki pointed out, there's a reason why adults on airplanes are instructed to put their oxygen masks on first and then tend to their children. While maternal instinct tells us to look after our children first, we can't look after our children when we can't breathe. Ever get so stressed that you find it hard to breathe? get the point.

The big question, of course, is how to fund your self-care. A walk by yourself might be nice, but wouldn't a massage be nicer? Or dinner with friends? Or a date night? Or that cut and colour you've been wanting? Or going to the Happy Mama Conference? Sure, I went to the conference this year, but that's because we came into a little bit of money unexpectedly, so I used some of it for that. But the question of how to fund next year's conference...because not going is NOT an a big question.

I have to admit that when I was listening to Vikki talk about the importance of self-care, I was inwardly rolling my eyes as I tried to figure out where the money was supposed to come from on a regular basis. In our house, extra money goes to groceries, savings, or debt repayment. On occasion it goes to a special date night, but the guilt that comes with that can be pretty hefty! It seems there's always somewhere else the money should have gone.

Vikki, however, tackled that as well. She had some really great...and super easy...ways to find money. The thing is, though, that you have to change your mindset. You have to be willing to put that "found" money towards self-care, which means believing you're worth it. I know...that's the hard part.

Vikki asked a really tough question: Would you hesitate to spend the extra money on that child you love so much? Probably not, right? Then you need to love yourself as much as you love your child. When I put that question to the parents in our support group the other night, we all agreed we would find a way to pay for our child's soccer, or birthday party, or therapy. But when it came to putting that money towards ourselves, somehow all the moms and dads were suddenly looking at the ground. Ouch...

So, where do you find the money. Here are some ideas she shared and some of my own:
  • Does loose change tend to sit around in your house? Claim it! If there are any arguments, set a time limit. If it sits for more than 24 hours, it's yours.
  • Use coupons at the store and put the money you save aside.
  • Have breakfast for supper once a week. Pancakes and sausages are cheap and fun. Figure you save $5 or $10 a meal? Great...put it aside.
  • Buy your lunch during the week? Brown bag it once in a while and put the money aside.
  • Love your Timmies or your Starbucks? Forgo one a week and save the money.
I have to admit that not all of these ideas will work in my house. For one thing, I work from home, so there are no bought lunches here. I rarely hit Timmies or Starbucks, so there goes that. I do, however, see a lot of pancakes and sausages in my family's future. If I'm lucky, I may even find a coupon for them! Bonus!!!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Better Safe than Sorry

The weather this week has been pretty wild. It's been really hot and humid, and pretty much every day has brought a warning of severe thunderstorms. So far most stuff has gone around us, but today has us all watching the sky.

At this point, a good part of the province is under a tornado watch. Areas that the storm has already moved through have seen a fair bit of damage, although no tornados as of yet. Keep in mind that we don't really do tornados around here, so people are a little spooked. The sky is clear right now, but there's a major system moving our way that is supposed to hit towards early evening.

The fact that I have a bit of an anxiety thing and a bit of a weather phobia going on doesn't help. Add a tornado watch to the mix, and you have me checking the storm's progress about every 1/2 hour. Am I panicking? Heavens, no. But am I prepared? You bet.

One thing I have to think about is my guys. Stitch is only three, and Bear isn't exactly a fan of bad weather. In fact, just losing power is enough to set him off, regardless of the weather. The school once had to call me because the power had gone out, resulting in Bear hurling himself at the glass doors of the school to get out. Granted, that was a few years ago, but let's just say that I'm not confident in his ability to stay calm should the weather turn really ugly.

Thus, part of the preparation. We have a cold room in the basement right under our front steps that I'm fairly certain will keep us safe no matter what comes our way. Right outside of it, just casually sitting there, is a flashlight, some juice boxes, a cozy comforter, and a wind-up radio. I'll probably put the tablet down there, too, since Bear can play on it quite happily for hours. If things start to look bad, I'll probably sneak a teddy bear or two down there and anything else I think might come in handy.

Anything to distract and calm--both me and him.

Fingers crossed that this all amounts to nothing, but better safe than sorry.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Toronto Zoo -- and Delta Hotels -- Here We Come!!!

I'm absolutely giddy with excitement, and I'll bet you think you know why. Cause we're going to the Toronto Zoo, right? Wrong! Well, right...but still wrong. I know, I'm not making much sense right now, but I did warn you that I'm giddy with excitement!

The story starts about two weeks ago, with an email from Bear's school. Their end-of-the-year class trip is coming up, and the school wasn't sure what to do about it. Three classes are headed by school bus to a large festival, which sounds like a lot of fun, but probably wouldn't be a good fit for Bear. For one, he's terrified of school buses, so a three-hour round trip probably wouldn't be a great idea. Second, this particular festival only runs for a few days, so it will attract every school for hundreds of miles. The result will be mass chaos -- very noisy chaos -- which, again, will not exactly add to poor Bear's enjoyment of the day.

The school desperately wanted Bear to be able to participate in the trip because he's worked so hard this year, but they were torn because they weren't sure if it would be a good idea. Hence the email. What do you think, they asked? I had to admit that it sounded like way too much for him to handle, even if I tagged along. Instead, I suggested that I would keep him home that day and do something really special with him. The question was what to do that would be special enough to compensate for missing his trip.

As it happened, TheODDDad came home that night and cheerfully announced that he had worked enough overtime to take a day off, but it had to be taken in the very near future. POOF!!! A light went off! (Or did it go on...and does a light make a "poof" sound? Maybe it does when you blow a bulb, which would mean the light went off. Anyway...I had an idea...) I suggested that he take off the day of Bear's trip and that way we could do something really fun just the three of us, which he was all for. From there the idea grew.

By the time we finished brainstorming (which means me spending hours on the computer researching ideas and then reporting back), we were headed to Toronto with both boys to visit the Toronto Zoo. The Delta Toronto East has a package for under $200 that includes a one-night stay and entrance to the zoo for a family of four. I know, right??? They even have a pool and two waterslides -- a big one and a little one. Way cool!

So now comes the good part. When I made the reservations, I requested an extra cot in the room. Bear and Stitch have never slept together, and I wasn't sure this was the night I wanted to try it out. I figured they'd sleep much better in separate beds, which would make for much happier children the next day. Turns out that an extra cot is $25. Ya...I don't think so.

Instead I decided nothing ventured, nothing gained. In researching the hotel (because you know I have to research everything), I came across the name of the guest services manager, so I sent him an email. Here's what I wrote:
Hi Azhar,

I just made a reservation at your hotel. My husband and I are treating our two sons to a day at the Toronto Zoo thanks to the great package you’re offering. My sons are 3 and 7, and my eldest has mild autism. My son’s end-of-school trip is that week, but they’re going somewhere that simply won’t be conducive to his needs. He’s worked so incredibly hard at school this year (his challenges make school extremely difficult for him) and we didn’t want him to feel left out, which is why we’re headed to Toronto.

My son’s autism means that he’s extremely sensitive to noise and to touch, among other things. For this reason, I asked if we could have a cot in our room so that the kids don’t have to sleep in the same bed, but I was told it would be an extra $25. I was wondering if it might be possible to waive that fee. I’m not asking for a cot for convenience or because we’re squeezing an extra person into our room, but because my son is going to be overwhelmed enough from all the excitement and we need to make things as comfortable as possible for him in order for him to be able to function. I also wondered – and I realize this might be a little difficult to predict – if it would be possible to have a room on a quiet floor.

I also thought I would mention that the menus for T.W’s Bar on the Delta web site aren’t working. My son has to eat gluten-free, so I was trying to see what kind of options might be available.

Thanks so much for your help, Azhar. I look forward to hearing back from you.

My hope was that we would get the fee for the cot waived. If they were feeling really generous, maybe they'd go so far as to throw in an in-room movie. Instead, I received the following email this morning. Hang on to your hats.
Good Day Ms. Wright,
I would like to take this opportunity and thank you for considering the Delta Toronto East as your choice of accommodation in Toronto. I can personally assure you that my team will do their very best to ensure you along with your family have a truly relaxing and renewing experience.
Ms. Wright, I can understand the extra pressure on you as well as your son during the school year and to reward him we have upgraded your reservation to a beautiful 1 bedroom suite compliments of the hotel. While the bedroom has a king size bed, it is equipped with a sofa bed in the living room and I will arrange for an additional cot complimentary.
Thank you for bringing the menu section to my attention, I will follow-up with our Food and Beverage manager however our culinary team would be delighted to arrange a special Gluten Free meal for your son during any meal, simply inform your server or order taker and our chef will work his magic.
If there is anything else we can do to make your stay more enjoyable please feel free to contact me and I will be delighted to assist you. Hope you have a wonderful day ahead.

As if that weren't enough, he emailed me a few minutes later to ask for the boys' names and their favourite snack, because "we want to do something special for them."
Funny, he thinks he's doing something special for them...he has no idea what he's just done for us.
P.S. No, I wasn't compensated for this blog post. They have no idea I'm writing it -- I just wanted to draw attention to something really nice that someone has done for my family.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Calling all Exhausted Mamas!

If you're the mom of an alphabet soup kid (ADHD, ODD, SPD, ASD, FASD, etc...), which I'm betting you are since you're reading this, then this post is for you.

Consider this your friendly reminder that April 30th is the last day for early bird registration for the Happy Mama Conference & Retreat. What is the Happy Mama Conference and Retreat? I'm so glad you asked!

Last year some very smart--and exhausted--special needs moms decided that there needed to be an opportunity for smart and exhausted special needs moms to get together to share their stories, learn a little bit, and laugh a lot. After all, who knows better than other special needs moms what it means to be a special needs mom. Hence, the Happy Mama Conference and Retreat.

This year marks the second annual retreat, and yours truly is heading down to Raleigh, North Carolina to attend. (And for the record, I'm not being paid to write this. In fact, I wasn't even asked. In double fact, the organizers don't even know I'm doing this, but they can most certainly feel free to buy me a drink at the conference anyway!)

This conference is truly for the exhausted mom whose attention span is non-existent. Check out Saturday's schedule:

1/2 hour Welcome
10 minute break
20 minute session
20 minute break
20 minute session
10 minute break
20 minute session
45 minute group discussion
1 hour lunch
40 minute session
10 minute break
20 minute session
3 hour spa

Now this is a conference put together by moms who get it!!!!

By the way, did I mention that the conference is only $145 if you book before May 1st? Granted, it only goes up by a whopping $20 after that, but still! Oh, and that includes lunch and supper on Saturday. If you stay at the Embassy Suites where the conference is being held, you get breakfast as well. There's also a Starbucks on site...bonus!!!!

Check out the room I booked! I know...fancy, huh? Not bad for $109/night. I tell myself I'm going to take advantage of the pool and gym too, but I really foresee myself curling up in that bed with a good book.

So, head on over to The Happy Mama web site and book your escape. Not that I don't love my husband and kids, but I will tell you quite honestly that I'm counting the days. I even get to fly on a plane! With a window seat! Whew hew!!! (Wow...I really need to get out more.)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Avoiding the Tough Questions

"Mom, what's Easter about?" Bear asked me one day a few weeks ago, without so much as looking up from what he was doing.

"Wha...huh? Em...uh...well...that's a really good question, Bear," I stammered, totally taken aback and also really impressed.

The problem was that I had no idea how to answer that question. I mean, I knew what the answer was, I just wasn't sure how to share that information with Bear without traumatizing him. Although we're a Christian family, Bear's issues have pretty much prevented us from attending church on a regular basis...or a semi-regular basis...or at he hasn't been exposed to the darker side of the Christian story. Sure, I talk to Bear about God, but it's more the warm and fuzzy stuff.

I could just see how this would go...

"Well, Bear, you see, a very long time ago, Jesus -- you remember me telling you about him, right? -- and you've learned about him at school, right? -- you know, Jesus? (insert French accent because Bear goes to a French school) -- well, he's God's son. And there were a bunch of really bad men who didn't like him, so they decided to punish him and kill him. What? How did they kill him?'s not very nice, but back then they nailed people to a really big cross, and they died there. Oh, don't look like that, Bear! It's OK, cause God knew it was going to happen. In fact, He planned it. Why did He plan it? Um...well...that's another really good question. No, you're right, it doesn't sound very nice. No, it doesn't make him sound like a very good father. But back then people had to sacrifice a lamb to get God's forgiveness for their sins. What does sacrifice mean? Um...well...they took the lamb and..."

You get the point. I just didn't see this ending well. So I pretty much took the coward's way out.

"At Easter we celebrate God and Jesus," I told him. Short and sweet.

"Oh, like a birthday?" he asked.

"Nope, Christmas is Jesus' birthday. At Easter we them."

"Oh, OK."

Then it occurred to me that surely they're teaching him about Easter at school. It was the week before Easter and Bear goes to a Catholic school. Surely they've figured out how to talk to a 7 year old about Easter.

"What are they teaching you about Easter at school, Bud?" I asked.

"Huh?" he asked, looking up from his game. " don't know," he said, looking back down.

Obviously they hadn't said anything too traumatizing, so I let the subject drop. OK, then...let's just leave it there and be happy we got off easy this time.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

You're Stuck with Me!

I wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who reached out to me to share how much this blog has meant to them. You told me how I made you laugh until you cried, made you cry through your laughter, reassured you that you weren't alone, encouraged you to keep fighting, comforted you when things got tough, inspired you to reach out in your own community and, most importantly, helped you to be better parents. You told me that you needed me, that you would miss me, and that I still had work to do.

Your words encouraged me, inspired me, made me smile, and even made me cry. You reminded me that the next steps in a journey don't cancel out the previous steps, they build on them, ultimately adding to the experience. What diagnosis is given to Bear or what I choose to call myself doesn't take away from what I've learned along the way and how it has shaped me. If anything, it adds to what I have to offer the world through my words.

So this is me -- The ODD Mom.

It's who I am.

It's who I'm proud to be.

Thanks for reminding me. I'm grateful.