If Kate learned the "Fuck Word" today, as an awesome lady once called it, I completely blame myself. I have admitted to being a potty mouth at times but NEVER around my children, then today happened. I had a terrible sleep because I was anticipating a radio interview that I had this morning. I could not hide behind my keyboard and rely on the delete key for this). I "um'd' my way through the interview and felt immediately better when it was over. The kids and I watched Alex drive off to work and I got the kids settled with breakfast while I cleaned up and got ready for a busy day of appointments (must be Tuesday). Then this happened:
I tried to open the bedroom door to put laundry away and noticed that it was stuck. Why in the world was our bedroom door closed, anyway? I pushed a little harder and felt someone pushing back. I did two things very quickly that surprised me. I yelled 'fuck' and then after glancing to make sure the girls were sitting safely at the table (which they were because my profanity caught their attention and they were both staring at me in confusion) I used all my force to push the door in. Huh? What? Am I one of those people that would go up the stairs late at night in an old cabin if I heard a noise? I really thought I was smarter than that. I guess I had a little adrenaline rush and wanted to know who was in my bedroom holding the door closed!
If you haven't figured it out yet, the room was empty and the intense heat we have been experiencing was just making my 'usually easy to open' door stick. The door had been closed because Alex closed it when he turned the air conditioner on. What was I going to do, anyway? Scream profanities at the intruder and offend his delicate sensibilities?
So, today I am watching and waiting for that word to come from Kate's mouth. If you attend speech therapy at all you'll know they often tell you to keep feeding the language in and eventually it will come back out. They also remind you that things that are said with great emotion often come out first because children take more notice. So, it's coming; that I know. It is just a matter of time. I am guessing she will save it for the waiting room of the doctor's office or the line up at the grocery store. I'll keep you posted.
The story of Monty goes like this:
Our cat "Nuna" passed away at age 16 a few years ago. It was hard. She was a great friend. We went a year with no pets. I didn't want to replace Nuna right away but I also don't like living in a house without a pet. It feels wrong. It feels weird. A house does not seem right to me without an animal friend. Alex and I decided to go the SPCA and look at kittens. Alex was admittedly not a cat person, so I was excited at his change of heart and we made plans to meet at the SPCA after work one day. We had also read that pets were wonderful for drawing language out of children with autism.
We entered the SPCA and asked about kittens. We did not bring the girls because we were undecided about whether we would bring a kitten home. We were taken to a room full of fluffy, adorable fur balls. Each one cuter than the next. Alex, always the voice of reason, suggested we look at an older cat. The engineer in him could not help but point out these kittens might be all style and no substance. As they piled on top of one another to reach us I let Alex tear me away to the room with the older cats.
We were taken to a smaller room where three 'teenaged' cats sat. The first, was a pure white, long haired beauty. This cat lazed on her bed and regarded us as furniture. She was beautiful and I immediately wanted her. The next was a sleek black cat. He eyed us warily as we were disturbing his slumber. I was deciding between these two beauties when I noticed Alex playing with a little tabby by the door. I immediately dismissed the plain looking tabby and brought over the fluffy, white 'worthy of a Cottonelle commercial' kitty. Alex was not having it:
"That cat doesn't even care that we are here, Shanell. Look at this little guy (referring to the tabby playfully winding around his ankles). He is so social. He can't get enough of us."
I pleaded for the pretty kitty awhile longer but I was beginning to see that the little tabby already 'had' Alex. Alex, the 'dog person'. Alex, the 'cats are not even friendly' person. That tabby had claimed Alex and I knew it so I set down the pretty white cat and who didn't seem to notice our presence and walked by the sleek black cat, who gave me a swat on the way by, and headed over to our new cat; the tabby that was perched on Alex's shoulder waiting to go home.
We quickly went through the adoption process and took our cat home, excited to see the girl's faces when we came through the door. We were not disappointed.
'Monty Snowday Mouland' was named by Grace that evening and he settled in nicely. I have written about Monty here and here and those that know our family know that this little cat was amazing therapy for both of our daughters. He motivated Kate to use language and he allowed her to squish and squeeze him without protest. Our girls carried him around like a baby doll and I swear he loved it. He never purred louder than when he was in their arms.
We tease that Monty was our autism therapy cat, but that is really no joke. He was therapy for our whole family. Helping Kate with socializing and language. Teaching Grace responsibility and giving her a friend. Turning Alex into a Cat person and completing our home as pets do.
Yesterday, after a wonderful day attending a GoTeamKate event that went off without a hitch, we were sitting on our back deck with friends when we noticed Kate was cuddling Monty in the grass. We hadn't seen Monty in over a day but this wasn't odd for him. He loved being outdoors. When we looked closer we could see that Monty was hurt. He could not walk well and he didn't look right. We called the emergency vet and rushed him in. The doctor told us that Monty's pelvis was fractured in multiple places and he had nerve damage among other injuries. She suspected he had been hit by a car. He would not recover. You know what happened next. Our little tabby wasn't come home with us and we were devastated. How would we tell Grace? The unsaid part was that Kate would not understand but she would notice he was gone, in her own way.
We talked after the girls were in bed about how awesome Monty was. We figured he was probably saving a busload of autistic children from danger when we was hit by that car. Or he was saving a baby robin from the claws of an eagle when he got hurt. We know it was something heroic like that. Monty was an amazing cat and we want you all to know it.
We will miss you Monty.
Today was great, really great. Bedtime has been a bit of drag lately (bit of an understatement) so we started the day a little weary and a lot exhausted. We went to Brunswick Nurseries to visit the animals and go for a little nature walk. This visit is always a hit with the girls but today it was extra special. When we arrived and piled out of the car the girls noticed that the horse and the llama had escaped their pens and were running freely around the garden. This excited the girls so much that they were vibrating. Kate flapped so hard, I swear she got air. I think the peacock tried to communicate with her. God, I love the flapping. It makes me so happy to see Kate become overwhelmed with so much excitement that it has to escape out of her hands. It was the happiest and most excited I have seen her in a long time. If I didn't have to keep a vice grip on her arm so she wouldn't join the horse and the llama on their run I would have taken a picture.
Once the animals were wrangled back into their pens we went about our walk and had a lovely day. Grace took her usual big sister lead role and led Kate around the trail while I walked behind listening to their funny way of communicating with each other. Grace has Kate figured out. Grace doesn't see a thing wrong with her. Today was another example of how lucky we are. I think you understand.
Our Kate soon after diagnosis in July 2012.
You know what sucked? The months leading up to Kate's diagnosis sucked. The months directly after were a cakewalk in comparison.
I've written before about how I knew something was different about Kate from birth. I guess even earlier than those months before her DX she wasn't connecting and she appeared deaf and all those things that all parents of autistic children will talk about. Those moments were not the worst. The worst, for me, were the short months after returning home from Disney, (where I finally accepted what I had suspected for awhile) while we waited for Kate to see the paediatric neurologist to get answers. During those months we watched and waited and lived in fear of hearing the dreaded words. When really, hearing those words allowed such a release of built up tension and fear that I now look back on that day with gratitude that we finally had a small piece to the puzzle, as they say.
I had some level of denial leading up to that day but for the most part I knew. The initial day of the diagnosis and the few days immediately after were difficult because we had to wrap our brains around what this might mean; but guess what? There was a huge feeling of relief after the diagnosis and here is why:
1. I had been agonizing over what was 'wrong' with Kate since she was born and now I knew that she had a neurodevelopmental disorder. (If you are hurt by my use of the word 'wrong' then you misunderstand what I am saying. Kate is perfect to me and I adore every bit of everything that she is. She does have a disorder, however, and I have written before about how dangerous I feel ignoring that can be.
2. We now had a plan of action. Looking back, things did not go as smoothly as we would have hoped but we had a team of professionals helping us figure out our next step to help Kate.
3. I could stop obsessing over Kate's developmental milestones. I could stop obsessing about why she wasn't talking or playing appropriately. Now we knew, and we immediately relaxed our expectations and everyone was happier. I did not say lowered, I said relaxed, so relax ;)
4. I could throw myself into research and writing and networking to meet and learn and advocate for Kate. I could finally direct the anxious energy into something good.
5. I could stop doing those stupid internet checklists. "Does my child have autism?", "What to expect from your two year old" etc. Someone should be policing those things. I had everyone I knew diagnosed at one point.
I suspect I am not the only parent that found some level of comfort in hearing those words. The unknown can be so much more consuming than the truth.
Happy Mail to:
27 Wellington Row
Saint John, NB
I've been a tad overwhelmed with teaching Kindergarten during a pandemic (masks and all) butttttttt, I have not forgotten my sweet patr https://www.patreon.com/sunnyandsinclair
Grace and Kate's mom. (Shanell)