Is it to early to pray for Spring? I know it’s just January. But I am tired and exhausted with winter and Omicron. The thought of Spring seems soothing. I saw yesterday on New York Times, that parents with kids under 5 are in despair. The stress of the pandemic has brought many of us to our breaking point. Our children under 5 cannot become vaccinated. Omicron is surging along unperturbed. Meanwhile, every time I drop my kids under 5, I keep wondering if I am sane or insane for letting them live as if Omicron is not around the corner. Everyone at this point knows someone that had gotten the virus. And Omicron doesn’t really care. Then I looked outside my house this morning. I looked as saw black birds flocking around. It’s been awhile since I looked intently at nature and seeing these birds this morning helped me remember to live, helped me crave for Spring. The bipolar nature of weather in Saint Louis doesn’t help, but at this point the thought of birds and flowers, helped me get through feelings of exhaustion. It also inspired this little thing to keep that I wrote for myself this morning.

I keep rising again, yet things on my mind, pull me down, dragging me deep, down into the ocean foundation, the despair, failures, the self-doubt, all linger like a fortress of solid rock, pulling me down.

I keep avoiding again, the magic, the love, burrowed deep into words that become doors, with vision among stars, words that lead to openings for healing, gifts of restoration, many I crave right now, to help me remember why all this began.

Then I remember to bloom like flowers. Black birds are all round. They see plants transitioning into flowers. I see myself initiating my flowering again. The tips of myself, becoming clusters of flowers again. Together, we are becoming a collection of meristems, generating a collection of undifferentiated cells, that slowly become organs within unpredictable environments again.

Now, I choose to keep protecting all that makes us fragile. Attracting things that help us reproduce. Generating seeds that helps us grow. All of us together, in our bright colors, keep rising again, keep coming into our bloom again.

Born in the year of a pandemic, I remember when he started to crawl. He crawled as if he was ready to walk. He walked when he turned 9 months. He has been walking ever since. Late last month, we started to remove all the protective features around our stairs. By this month, we removed all of them. We had quite a few and the thought of a fall was forever on our minds. I knew we would get here one day. Just didn’t want the day to come so soon. Watching him grow has been everything. Now my baby walks up and down the stairs all on his own. He has mastered the stairs too all on his own. And that’s a feat worth celebrating. This is also what it means to be a toddler. Every aspect of his being, full and free. Wisdom he never knew now blossoms through his life with delight. Watching as he follows directly in its path even with walking up and down the stairs is a prayer answered fully. There is no end to your treasures and like an olive tree you are loaded with fruits that will continue to tower to the clouds with every step you take, even up and down these stairs. Keep moments like this.

I am raising a boy whose on the spectrum. He is becoming more than I ever dreamed of. More than I ever hoped for. More than I ever thought he would become. He is also doing it his way. Sometimes his ways are out of sight. We are all astound. Here is a boy that barely said a word at 3. A boy for whom meltdowns were all he knew. Until things changed. I still pinch myself as I have not really taken the time to truly uncover all we did in the beginning. And we did a lot.

If you told me back then that we would get to this place one day, I would not believe you. He was kicked out of his first school at age 2 after attending for 2 days. The odds were completely against us. My own child was kicked out of school before he could say his name. I still remember crying by myself that day wondering where to begin. I remember calling a helpline for special needs kids in Georgia that day too. The person on the other line had to have been an Angel. After briefly chatting with her calming me down, she asked what we both did for a living. I said I was a researcher and dad was a resident in neurology. Her response, I wouldn’t worry to much about your son then. I asked why. She said because we would both use our gifts for him and that’s more than most kids on the spectrum would have. Looking back, she was right. When we learnt through research that a drug for cancer had speech properties, my son was on it. When he had a series of nonstop laughing episode, and my husband remembered something about the brain and laughter, my son’s brain was observed via EEG which uncovered mini seizures while he slept. Our gifts were indeed useful for him.

Today at age seven, I keep pinching myself every time I have a heart to heart with him or watch as he reads a book. These days Dog man’s series are all he knows. All he is obsessed about. That he reads makes my heart swell. His ways are still forming, still making sense of this world, still stimming, still repeating things that make no sense, still involves play that makes no sense too, but all of it, all his ways are perfect by design. These days, I would not trade any of this for any sense of normalcy. Not with him. He is perfect by design and even when he tries, all his ways are good. It’s the smallest things with him, the hugs, the meltdowns too, all of them combine, remind me just how blessed we are as a family. To be in the midst of a child on the spectrum is a blessing. One that I am extremely thankful I got to witness with my own eyes. Today he is in a Christmas play in school. The boy who barely spoke at 2, was kicked out of school at 2 as well, is in a play at school at 7. His ways remain out of sight with great days and days with good tries. The sky is not a limit and I remain hopeful for what the future will bring his way.

Words call us, we go. A blurry thought, uncertain notes, hopelessly we stroll until meaning becomes clear, becomes us. Today we sat patiently trying to wait for words to come. It took a while. Children were crying. Hearts were weary but souls were full from a reunion a pandemic almost denied. We waited for the words to come, to express how we felt for we where thankful, full of thanks for a day that kept giving, spilling into another day that continues to give. Then the word ‘serious’ leapt across our mind. We questioned its intent, waited even for the discontent. ‘Serious’ what are we supposed to do with you. Then we remembered, being together is a serious matter. Being with family even in the middle of a pandemic is serious. The terrible stories we could have told are blunted because we did together seriously. So as we settle in, as we bask in the glory of yesterday, the majesty of today, and the hope for tomorrow, we know that together will always remain serious for us. Thanksgiving with people like us is a serious matter and we intend to keep it so.

Simple words are all we need to touch each other. To feel, to wonder, to love all that makes us whole. I am learning the power of simple. The power of soft words, like velvet gently brushed across my skin. The power of inclusive words too that wrap us all together like a fuzzy blanket on a cold winter night. The power of memorable words, unforgettable ones that tell how sweet it is to be loved by you. The power of paradise words, all of them that speak of the bliss we all know truly exists in heaven. The power of loving words, living words too that help us all rise up on wings like eagles. The power of enlightening words, those that let you bloom where you are planted for your light was never meant to be hidden. The power of simple words are profound, easy, effortless, sincere, honest, open, direct, pure, comfortable, uncomplicated, coherent, just, straightforward, elementary, natural, undemanding, plain, innocent, real, and light. So too are the words through which my kids gifted me with this Thanksgiving. Simple words that are as warm as a hug from loved ones this season. Simple words that share all they are thankful for. Keep simple, like Happy Thanksgiving. I am happy and thankful for you all. I give thanks to you all. That’s all.

We started the day in church and ended it on a hayride across our village. We were covered in hay and my heart was full. This Halloween was fun and something I didn’t know my soul truly needed. For all the loss, for all the pain, for even all the heartache, it was simply glorious, I tell you, downright splendid to see our kids just be kids and happiness flow like waters that run deep. I wouldn’t trade this happy place for anything. This forever gift my children continually gift to me. Happy Halloween and may yours lead you to treats full of happiness.

My daughter wrote a haiku about birdhouses, about how birds get food from inside them, and of course how birds eat the food. It was nestled towards the end of her book of poetry where anything was allowed. Roller skates made in rainbow colors. Birds and their birdhouse. Puppies playing. Even her name and all it stands for, at least to her. To go through life fixing your mind on others, birds, brothers, puppies is freedom to me. Sitting under a moonlit sky is freedom too. To go through life, under a moonlit sky, with others, my daughter, her brothers, is the ultimate freedom. Keep this freedom for you.

My son has begun to leave traces of his drawings and coloring everywhere. He loves drawing these days because Mo Whilems taught him how to draw a pigeon trying to drive a bus. He also loves coloring because alpha blocks are zesty and full of colors. They taught him how to color within alphabet known as blocks. It’s as if he has begun an endless hunger for art. But it’s his art assignment at school that has me mesmerized this morning. Coloring or drawing didn’t come naturally or easy to him. Here is a boy for whom coloring between the lines or within spaces was a chore. There were assignments full of coloring that he never really completed, never really understood, and saw as a waste of time, if as things to assign. The colors he placed rather haphazardly disturbed nothing, moved nothing too. From then on, coloring became a chore, another thing to do, another thing, often described as boring, this thing that we bore into him.

Pigeon from Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.
Alpha block

Until this summer, our summer of light, our summer full of discoveries. It was this summer, one with no therapy, that my son discerned for himself, the intimate sustained surrender to art for art’s sake. In the absence of demands, through frames that are separate, yet particular, a pigeon, alphablocks, and now the Virgin Mary, this thing that was once boring, complements his minds’s many dazzling ways, deepening an enduring desire to do more, be more, involved yes, but consumed more with what he creates with his own hands. A pigeon, alpha blocks, even the Virgin Mary all pry open the pages of his intriguing mind. His art, has become now, more important, than his silence, more important than days where his mind frays or melts down. This is a keep worth reliving over and over again, one where his art is becoming life, one frame at a time.

Virgin Mary

I asked him, why he even painted Virgin Mary brown. Most depictions are of a fair lady, fairer than the white of snow. His is only 7 years and I am fascinated with how he depicts humanity. His response as clear as a sunny day: because she is supposed to be brown. I don’t take this response lightly. His mind is a puzzling masterpiece to all of us that know him intimately. To see this journey, to watch as he follows his path, through art, through colors, through people, is to see possibilities with minds on a spectrum. All of us that are typical have so much to learn from children on the spectrum, whether from their thoughts on pigeons, or alpha blocks or Virgin Mary. Don’t wait for society to tell us how they should act or speak or even react to ways that are untypical to a typical mind. Each of us are destined to use the skills we have to meet minds that dream of days were dreaming is life’s streaming, this beaming in need of more esteeming. I am learning each day that those of us with the privilege to see how the brain works differently are the lucky ones. How each coloring, each drawing becomes a thing worth keeping is my prayer for you, for me, a desire for what to come when we all keep coloring. Keep it, because it’s what you, we, are all supposed to do.