Saturday, December 22, 2012

Four Extroverts

Josh cries to express his frustration or displeasure but he doesn't have the words to complain.  Sometimes I wonder, what would he complain about if he could communicate like a typically developing 10 year old?

One thing that I can think of that he might complain about is how extroverted the rest of his family is.  Josh's parents and sisters are all raging extroverts.  We love to talk, relate to people constantly, and talk about relating to people.  Parents of other kindergarteners complain to me that they can never get their kids to tell them about how their day was.  Anna would give me a minute by minute explanation of how her day went and how she felt about it if I didn't stop her.  We're talkers.

I grew up in a household of introverts so I think I had a vague sense of growing up wishing that people would talk to me more.  More often than not, weekends were spent with everyone reading books in separate rooms.  Car trips were usually quiet and reflective.  That drove me crazy but, then again, I didn't really know any better (or different).

The household that I am shaping is not so quiet.  We have a constant flow of people over at our house.    We have vivacious conversations at the dinner table about all manner of topics (although, usually scaled down for the kinder/ 1st grade crowd).  We usually do one round of "What was your highlight or lowlight of your day?" every day.  There are a LOT of questions asked and conversations that start with, "You know what I was just thinking about?"  People don't just think quietly around here.  We have to TALK about what we are thinking about.

I am not sure but, even if Josh had the cognitive ability to be more verbal person, I think that he would be an introvert.  He really enjoys time alone (preferably with music) and seems quite happy to just chill out in his room.  Josh is also happy to just sit together on our couch, not talking, just being together.  Physical touch is a bigger "language of love" than talking.  Sometimes, when his sisters (and their chatter) come home, he runs as fast as he can to his room and buries his head under his blankets.  Josh's proclivity towards a more introverted lifestyle reminds me that we don't always have to be socializing or talking to be happy.  I think I need that.

Especially during this holiday season, our life is full of parties, gatherings, celebrations and other such extroverted interactions.  While I really enjoy this, in general, today my spirit felt too full of talk and people.  I think that my girls felt the same because when they asked me what we were doing today and I told them that we had no plans and that we were just going to stay home, they seemed happy.

Everyone is in separate rooms reading or listening to music right now so I think I will also try to have a more introverted moment.  After I finish sharing my thoughts with you in this post :)

Friday, November 30, 2012


This week I had a number of frustrating phone calls and interactions with service providers who are supposed to be providing services to Josh but do not or do not provide it well.  Rude or irritating comments made by various people that I talked with this week are still bouncing around in my head:

       "I'm sorry but you missed the deadline for that program.  I thought I told you about the deadline the last time we talked . . ."

       "I thought I already called you back about that."

       "This isn't the right department for that inquiry."

       "Ma'am, I'm just not allowed to tell you any more about that."

       "That program is no longer funded."

By the end of the week, I just wanted to scream from all of the pent up frustration from dealing with bureaucracy.  I mean, do they intentionally stack these organizations and governmental departments with unhelpful people on purpose to make already stressed out people like me feel even more stressed?

I consider myself a decently bright person with a lot of drive and persistence but sometimes I just want to give up when I face such tension producing interactions.  I  know that a lot of parents of kids with disabilities feel the same way.

As I've been battling the systems and paperwork that are involved in my job as a mom of a child with disabilities, somewhere in the back of my mind, I've been thinking about another woman in the Bible who was dealing with the many needs of her family and a more than frustrating system that was not serving her well. In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus talked about a widow who was desperate for justice.  She kept going to a judge, the face of the current governmental system that she had to work within, to seek to have her needs met.  According to the passage, this judge who "neither feared God nor had respect for people".  In other words, he didn't really care about doing the right thing or about helping people get their needs met. Yet, because of her persistence, he decided to grant her request, presumably because he was just sick of dealing with her.

Jesus tells this strange little story and then asks, "And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" Apparently, this persistent widow is an illustration of the kind of faith that He is hoping to find when it's time to really see who is a person of faith and who is not.

 Jesus affirms this kind of persistence.  In fact, He seems to equate it with "having faith".  I don't think that this means that Jesus wants to His followers to be annoyingly driven, demanding people.  But, there is an insistence on hoping for something and working toward that hopefulness that I do hear in Jesus' teaching about this woman.  Through this story, I hear Him saying, "Don't give up.  Keep asking."

These are a few thoughts about persistence as I consider this passage:

1)    Being persistent means sometimes skating on the edge of being annoying.  I think that sometimes, I avoid asking for things again and again because I don't want to be seen as demanding or out of touch or desperate.  But, you know what?  Sometimes you just have to not worry about how you appear and focus on doing what you need to do.

2)     Being persistent is risky.  It's easier to give up because, then, you don't have to face the pain of things not working out or the frustration of things not working out for a long time.  It's easier to not hope for something than to go on hoping and wanting something but not being confident that you'll get it.  Yet, despair is no real solution and the best option is to keep putting yourself out there.

3)     We should especially be persistent about asking for things from God.  At it's core, this story about the persistent widow is not a teaching about activism or a "how to" on navigating bureaucracy.  It's about prayer and being persistent in asking for what you need from God.  This is a good reminder to me that the state that I live in does not ultimately meet Joshua's many needs.  God does.  I have to work it out with God.

I want to be persistent like this widow.  I want to be determined to fight for what we need even in the face of an injustice, unkindness and lack of care.  I want to be that way the next time I talk to my insurance representative as well as our regional center service coordinator.  I want to be like this woman the next time I talk to Jesus about what I really need.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's Not Fair . . . but It's Going to Be Ok

"It's not fair!"

That was the absolute last time I could bear to hear that phrase today.  I couldn't stand the sound of those three supremely annoying words.  It had become a constant mantra around our household, like a breath prayer to an unjust authority (me).  I instituted a new rule on the spot.  Those who utter that phrase of abomination will have an automatic time out; a long, serious time out.

I suppose our situation is rather well set up for people to be sensitive to the injustice in every interaction.  I have two super competitive girls who are less than a year apart.  One is adopted and one is biological.  They are both external processors.  They compete and compare about everything. . . out loud. . . usually with a whiny voice.

"Can I sit behind you, Mama?"
"She got more mac and cheese!"
"Why doesn't Anna have to take Benedryl?"  (Because she doesn't have a rash, Hope)
"I read that book first!"
"Her carrots are smaller than mine!"
"You spent more time snuggling with her!"

Little statements made by little girls were killing me like a million paper cuts.  It especially makes me crazy on days where I am facing the constant hurricane blast of the many needs of the little people in our household.

Tonight at dinner, the complaints were fast and furious.  Hope came up with three things that struck her as highly unfair in rapid succession.  I took a deep breath and continued doing dishes.  Then I decided to go for it.  I used the "Special Needs Card".

"You know, Hope, I struggle with feeling like things aren't fair too.   Other moms have sons who are normal and can do normal things.  Sometimes I feel like it's not fair that Josh has special needs and other kids don't.  Sometime that feels really unfair to me.  But you know, I realized that it's going to be ok.  God gave me Josh and he's the perfect boy for me and for our family and we love him, right?"

I am not kidding you but she took about 15 seconds to think about it and she said, "You know, you're right Mommy."  And then she went and got herself some water, took her dishes to the sink, and buried her nose back into her book.

A strange, quiet calm settled into our house for just a few minutes.  I stood there in grateful awe that the conversation seemed to have had a good effect.  Then I turned my head to see a naked Josh coming to me.  He had gone to the bathroom and attempted, quite unsuccessfully, to wipe himself.  Back to work, Mommy!


An addendum:

Later this evening, while I was giving Hope a bath, she asked me, "Mommy, why did God give you a child with special needs?"

My brain was running on low by this time of the evening so I absentmindedly said, "Uh, maybe God thought that I could handle it" while I concentrated on shampooing her head as quickly as I could.  "Why do you think God gave me a child with special needs, Hope?"

She thought about it and then said, "I think it was so you could feel His love by loving Josh."

"Wow, Hope, that's a good answer."


"Yes, Hope."

"I think my answer was better than yours."

"Yes, I think it was too."

Friday, September 7, 2012


Someone recently asked me about a sentence at the end of my intro paragraph on the front page of my blog.  I have written that "I believe that stories save us."  What do I mean by that?  In general, I mean that I have experienced that as the stomach craves food, and as our skin craves touch, our brains crave stories.  That's why reading is such a pleasure and that wise preachers illustrate their points with stories.  This is why we watch TV, go to movies and listen to news on the radio, there is something deep and powerful in us that seeks stories.   Stories give us encouragement, meaning, perspective, connection, relaxation, challenge and pause.  My girls are always begging me to tell them stories about things that I did when I was a kid (like the time I stole a bag of crackers from a store when I was four . . . but that's another story).

But I have another illustration about how stories save us.  This week has been a very difficult one for me and my kids.  Everyone is still adjusting to the new school year.  Afternoons in our home have been filled with tantrums, whining and general unhappiness.  We've had several occasions where a child (who shall not be named) has gone up to her brother and screamed in his face, causing him to scream and begin hitting his head (very unpleasant).  I have been battling a headache that could not be vanquished by neither copious amounts of ibuprophen nor desperate prayer.  I needed help.

In the midst of this grumpy week, I experienced a small but welcome miracle. We had recently checked out a "book on cd" from the library of Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  It's one of the beloved "Little House on the Prairie" books from my childhood and I was eager to share it with my girls.  I put it on and they were instantly calmed and mesmerized as the narrator told stories about farming, and family meals and animals and one room school houses.  My girls were able to let go of their complaints of each other as they laughed together about the antics of Almanzo, the main character, and his siblings.  I put some watercolor paints in front of them and they quietly painted pictures on recycled paper as they listened to the stories for almost two straight hours!  It was so tranquil and quiet under the stable leadership of the cd narrator that Josh even ventured out of the refuge of his room to ask for a snack.  

As parents (and as friends, as teachers, as ministers, and so many other things), it would do us well to remember the gift of story.  We ought to find ways to connect by sharing our stories.  We should work on the art of telling a good story.  We need to recognize how we are helped by the right kind of story and seek out quality stories to help us where are in our lives.  How might you be blessed by the power of a good story today?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Learning Something that's Really Difficult

When was the last time you really gave yourself to learning something that was really, really difficult?  I am 43 years old and I am finding that I have very little capacity to learn something new at this point in my life.  I have a friend in her late 30's who is taking piano lessons for the first time in her life.  Another friend who is learning how to swim.  I have numerous mom friends who are discovering a new found drive to run marathons or tri-athalons (and posting the pics on Facebook).   I'm quite impressed with all of them.  I had a brief thought that I would learn how to knit and teach my girls.  This idea was almost immediately abandoned with one glance at my daily to do list.

Learning something new can be really hard.  This is especially true if you are not particularly motivated to learn it. Or if you are a person who, like many autistic individuals, has a difficult time being motivated by much in the first place.

The number one task that Josh needs to learn right now is to wipe after he goes to the bathroom.  At 10 years old, Josh is ALMOST done with toilet training.  It's been 8 long years of adventures in potty training and my son has come a long way.  He has not had an accident in almost two years.  He takes himself to the bathroom, even if it's in the middle of the night.  The only problem is that he has not mastered wiping.  If and when it's up to him (and if he's not being supervised) he's quite content to poo then just pull up his pants and just move on with his day.  His mom is not so happy with this.

With the help of his home therapists, we are working on a strategy for mastering wiping.  The first step is to teach the process of wiping in general.  Thus, we have been practicing putting peanut butter or chocolate sauce or toothpaste on his arm then wiping it off with a toddler wipe.  We ask him to look at the wipe and answer the question, "Is it dirty or clean?"  On a good day, he can get it right about 75% of the time.  On a bad day, he does not care one bit and seems greatly annoyed that we are asking him to engage with this inane task so he just echo's whichever option was given to him second.  ("Is it dirty or clean?"  "Clean."  "Is it clean or dirty?"  "Dirty.")  On a very bad day, Josh resorts to crying and head hitting which usually results in peanut butter, chocolate or toothpaste in his hair.

Everything that Josh learns how to do for himself takes about 5 to 10 to 100 times longer than your typical person.  Using a fork, putting on a t-shirt, putting on his own seatbelt; all of these things have taken an unbelievable amount of time and coaching to master.  However, in so many of these things, ardent practice and great determination have yielded success.  Sometimes I can't believe how much he HAS learned to do for himself!

Yet with every challenge, I can feel like "this one is going to be impossible".  It's just so darn messy to make Josh keep working on wiping himself.  His visual impairment, low motor abilities, and lack of motivation results in a "poop getting everywhere" scene almost every time.  It's incredibly un-fun. Thus, it's so easy to take the short cut and just do it for him "just this once".  Yet I know that we are on a long journey and we must prevail.  I can't be wiping Josh's butt for him when he's 30.  This lesson, tough as it is, must be taught and the skill must be mastered.  I am praying for the determination, endurance and discipline that we need to help him to learn this really difficult thing.

What are the things in your life that are really difficult for you to learn?  Where do you experience the  need for determination, endurance, and discipline?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Joshua and His Dad

Well, the summer is over and the kids are back in school.  As evidenced by my lack of blogposts all summer long, it's been a full one.  New programs, new issues, new people, new therapists and new routines and a new school for Josh were all introduced this summer.  And I managed all of it.  On top of that, Josh had surgery for his obstructive sleep apnea which came with some amount of complications regarding his normal meds.  Now that the summer is over, I am realizing how much my parenting is about getting stuff done.  I'm a doer and there is always a lot to do for Josh.

Josh's relationship with his dad is different.  Alex had the gift of being able to "be" with his kids.  Maybe it's because he's a more "in the present" kind of person rather than a "plan for the future" type like I am.  Maybe it's because he had to spend so much time comforting and snuggling with Josh while I was caring for the girls when they were babies.  This sometimes drives me crazy when they are just laying on each other or wrestling when there are dishes to be done, teeth to be brushed, and other things on my list of things that should be getting done.

However, I'm glad that Josh, Hope and Anna has a father who is very present to them.  Many people in my husband's profession cut corners on spending quality time with their kids.  I know, deep in my heart, that Alex will not do that.  Even in the busy seasons, he makes time to just be with his kids.  I am more likely to skimp on being present to the kids than Alex is.  Just today, Hope asked me to play Connect Four with her and it took every ounce of will that I had to be able to turn from my chaotic kitchen and say "Uh, yeah, okaaaay. . ."

I love these pictures of Alex and Josh just being together.  Even if they are not having a deep conversation, I think that something profound happens when father and child can enjoy quality time in each other's presence.  Enveloped in the safety of sure love, there is an exchange of joy and peace.  This transcends conversation or information exchange.  Nothing is "getting done" but plenty is happening.  I want more of that in my life and in my parenting.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Wonderfully Normal Mother's Day Dinner at a Nice Chinese Restaurant

He was a perfect gentleman.  He used his fork to eat his noodles and broccoli.  He used his words to ask  for more ice.  He waited patiently for more meat and he used his napkin.  Josh handled dinner out tonight with absolute peace and grace.  It was the best Mother's Day of my life.

This year I took a great, risky leap forward into the world of "what normal families do" and suggested that we go out to dinner as a family at a nice Chinese restaurant.  I was pretty nervous about it all day.  We've had many powerfully stressful moments at restaurants and have tended to avoid them almost entirely as a family.  It's hard enough to manage Josh's sensory needs but our girls can also be a handful in new situations.  However, in my heart of hearts, this is what I wanted.  I realized that it meant more to me to do something "normal" like going out to dinner than to have a massage or any other material gift.  And I thought we might be ready

Of course, we were still strategic about our outing.  We made reservations for 5pm and asked for a table way in the back corner.  We brought Josh's headphones and ipod in case it was too loud or in case there were crying babies around.  I prepped the girls all day on how we behave in restaurants and how we might need to leave if their brother was not doing well.  I thought through the menu ahead of time, planning for what might work for the kids to eat.

It went really well.  Alex and I even had a little bit of adult conversation about how our morning had gone at church while the children ate their food quietly (momentarily).  After the food was eaten and the fortune cookies were inhaled, we drove down the street to our local municipal airport and yelled at helicopters together.  Josh sat in the car, blissfully listening to music, laughing his head off at something only known to him.

One thing that being a mom of a special needs child has taught me is that "normal" can be so precious.  We don't always get "normal".  In fact, being different is really the true constant -- for most of us.  And "normal" is really so subjective, really.  But, every once in a while, you get to the place where you get to do something that (it seems) many other people get to do . . . and it's so nice.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Respite and the Desperate Life

Recently, the woman who has been Joshua's respite provider for the past 6 years moved on to a different job. In the context of the disability community, respite is care provided by a trained person in order to give the primary caregivers a break. Josh receives 24 hours per month of respite service from our local regional center, the organization that dispenses services from the state and federal government for developmentally disabled individuals.

Although I totally understood her decision, we were very, very sad to lose her. She was a part of our family (as was her daughter, who also served as a respite provider for a brief time). A few weeks after her last day, together with another family who were also her clients, we threw her a goodbye party. I made a lot of food and a huge chocolate cake for the occasion. Then, in front of her family, we attempted to share in words, the appreciation that we couldn't possible capture or express.

In the past six years, this woman has cooked for Josh, taken him on many outings, she's bathed him and has been a critical part of his toilet training. She has gone way beyond the call of duty in constantly being on the watch for products that might help him with his many challenges. She has cleaned up many potty accidents and has calmly weathered tantrums, including ones where he's bitten her. Joshua loves her and sometimes even asks for her by name when he is upset. She has truly been an angel sent from heaven to us. She has helped my life, managing three small kids, to work. She has helped me to survive. My life feels a little bit less desperate when I have respite help.

The transition to trying to find a new respite provider has been rocky and aggravating. At one point, it was looking like I had worked out a path for a person who I trusted to be able be trained and activated to be an official respite provider. However, after a long afternoon of trying to work the complicated logistics out, I eventually found out that, due to budget cuts, she would probably end up being paid less than $5 an hour, which made it untenable for her.

It can be unbelievably frustrating to try to attain and manage services for the developmentally disabled. They are out there but you often have to jump through time-consuming hoops in order to even be able to check them out to see if they are even appropriate for your child. It feels to me like the system is set up to work only for parents who have limitless desk time, patience, and savvy. I could spend so much energy finding, requesting, and managing help that I would have no energy left to actually spend quality time with my child.

Honestly, I have been driven to the brink many times and I consider myself to be a person with a LOT of support in my life. My husband is an amazing partner. My school district, my church, my friendship network, these are all high quality and full of compassion, care and resources. So I often wonder, "What about people who are less supported and resourced than I am?"

According to our local paper, two days ago, a mother in a nearby town shot and killed her 22 year old autistic son and then killed herself. He had recently aged out of school district services and she was overwhelmed by having to care for him all day long by herself. I've been reflecting on this story all day. I've been thinking about how, although I can't imagine taking these actions, I can understand why she did it.

There is a profound sense of desperation and despair that can descend when you can't find the help that is necessary to care for a person who has tremendous needs, even if that person is your child. I wish our society better understood the cost of not making respite more accessible to parents of individuals with developmental disabilities.

If you know anyone who is a caregiver to a child with special needs and you are struck by how much they manage don't say to them, "I don't know how you do it" or "You are so amazing and so strong." Think of one way that you can lighten their load and offer to be of help to them. We need it, even if we are not saying anything to you.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Joshua and His Grandfather

It's strange to me that of my father's five grandchildren, Joshua got to spend the most time with my dad. Josh was six when my father died. Hope was three and Anna was two. My sister's son was a year old and her daughter had not been born yet.

As I approach the third anniversary of my father' death, I've been thinking about what kind of grandfather he was. . . and the experience of grandfathering that he got to have during his life. My dad loved Josh with such a beautiful love. As you can see in the pictures above, my dad really gave himself to trying to connect with Josh despite what a different type of child he is. My father was a very composed, dignified, introverted person. Prior to his interactions with my son, I've never seen him go down a slide in my life. I don't remember him being a big "reader of books" to my sister and me. But I think that my dad knew that Josh was very special and he was willing to stretch his own personality and comfort zones to connect with this non-verbal, sensorily overloaded, non-Korean, non-blood connected kid. Joshua was his first and real grandchild, pure and simple.

During the final year in which my father battled cancer and endured eleven rounds of chemotherapy, one thing that he made sure to do was to create a fund to help take care of Joshua in the future. I was so profoundly touched that my father, who had worked so hard these many years of my life to provide for me, was now providing for my son, who's future was so unknown. My dad expressed, through his "language of love" of provision that he loved Josh and that he loved me.

The other day, Anna asked me, "Mom, did I ever meet Papa?" I showed her some pictures of herself, as a toddler with her grandfather to answer her question. I'm so sad that my girls will not grow up knowing their grandfather. Yet, the memories of my father's love for my son are a great comfort to me.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Embarrassment, Shame

I've been thinking a lot about embarrassment and shame. Josh has never exhibited having a sense of shame. He does not hide things. He has never lied to me. As far as I have seen, his brain is not wired to be socially connected or aware enough to experience shame. He is nine years old and he does not care if anyone sees him naked. He just walks through life being pretty much who he is and he does not put any of his energy into managing other people's opinions of him. Josh doesn't care about that sort of thing at all. It's kind of beautifully free.

My observation is that the rest of us spend lots of time and energy managing our own images. If we are honest, every conversation, every expression, (even every blogpost!) has some element of shaping how we want others to see us. And at the very bottom of that is a sense of insecurity, fear that we are not quite OK just how we are. We are concerned about how others see us and when we find ourselves in situations where others might (or do) see us in a negative light, we are embarrassed and ashamed.

This develops amazingly early in typically developing people. For example, the other day, I had given Anna, my five year old, some smoothie for breakfast. We were running late so I put it in a sippy cup to drink in the car. Generally, we don't use sippy cups anymore because everyone can handle normal cups but I did manage to dig one out. Anna hadn't finished the smoothie in the car so I told her that she could bring it into school with her, put it in her cubby, and finish it during first recess. Anna thought about it for a moment and then covered the sippy cup with a jacket and carried her backpack awkwardly over them both.

I said to her, "What are you doing? Here, let me carry that for you."

Anna whispered in a greatly annoyed, anxious voice, "No, mom. People might see that I have a sippy cup and they might think that I'm a baby!"

Now, I know that it's quite developmentally normal for kindergarteners to want to differentiate themselves from "babies". However, I was struck her desire to hide, to manage what others saw of her. She was developing a fear based impulse to be hyper aware of how others might see her. I know that some people live in this fear their whole lives. Maybe she's right. Maybe the other kids would make fun of her but the mom in me was still sad to see the chains of image management beginning to have a place in my innocent baby's life.

I put the picture of Adam and Eve at the top of this post because I've been thinking about their story. It's a story of the freedom and innocence that was God's original intention for us crushed by the sinful reality of our hearts (and this world). They were naked in the garden because, being totally dependent on God, they did not have to cover themselves up. They were free to be fragile creatures and still be okay because they were in a complete trust relationship with a God who fully took care of them. Only with the advent of independence came the need to cover and protect themselves. Independence from God begat shame, anxiety, fig leaves, image management and so much more.

I long for the freedom and innocence of the garden. I get so sick of living in this world of deceptive image management. I'm tired of being a woman in a culture where the message is that you have to be super skinny to be physically affirmed. I wish I could stop wondering if I was smart or friendly or charming or witty enough in this or that conversation. I yearn to be able to live just one day not being concerned about how others are evaluating me. Wouldn't that be so amazing? Just to be who you are and not be worried about it? There is a part of me that admires that part of my son who is free in this way. He just is who he is, take him or leave him.

I had an encouraging moment with my other daughter, Hope, the other day. We are needing to find a better school placement for Josh so we checked out the special education class at Hope's school (Josh is currently at a different school). When I told her that it was probably not a good fit for Josh, Hope started to cry.

"But I want Josh to go to my school!" she lamented. "I want to see him everyday, Mommy!"

As I comforted her, I cherished the fact that, Hope is not (yet) concerned about being associated with this kid who walks around flapping and making strange noises. She is aware that he is different but she is not embarrassed by him. When we go out in public and Josh has his hands down the back of his pants, she just says, "Hands out, Joshie!" Her love for him trumps shame. I love the freedom of this innocence. I am writing this blogpost to help me to remember it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Our Horse Whisperer

In our quest for physical activities for Josh, this fall we were able to connect with a woman who owns several horses and does private lessons for kids in a nearby town. The first meeting was quite astonishing. Josh immediately went up to one of the beautiful, calm horses with utter confidence. He patted the horse's face, nuzzled his own face in their the horse's flank and sniffed his mouth. Then my son started to giggle and smile. Joshua thoroughly enjoyed being around the horses. I have no idea why. After giving Josh plenty of time to "hang out" with the horses, we asked him if he wanted to ride one. Josh whispered, "yes" with a tone of seriousness and awe.

The ride itself was pretty uneventful. Josh had to work pretty hard to stay on the horse given the ups and downs of the trail. I think his low tone core muscles got quite a work out. Josh was very quiet during the whole ride and even sang a little bit along the way. Clued out suburban mom that I am, I had worn some cute sandals with a bit of a heal so my feet were heavily blistered by the end of our 45 minute trek. I didn't care one bit. We found an activity for my son that he enjoyed and was good for him. I was thrilled!

At the end of our time, I nervously asked the owner of the horses how much she would charge. It is quite common for people around here to charge $100-$150 an hour for therapeutic riding for special needs kids. I have done reams of paperwork trying to get our insurance to cover even part of it to no avail. The woman, who obviously had a heart for kids like Josh, said to me, "Could you folks handle $20?" It was music to my ears!

Since that day, we've gone riding about 5-6 more times. Josh always has a quiet but happy demeanor. This last time, we were apparently taking too long to get things going so Josh went and found a step stool and placed it next to a horse, took my hand, and said, "Wanna go upstairs on the horsey." Once up, Josh was content and calm.

There is a movie that came out a few years ago called "The Horse Boy" about a family that takes their autistic son to Mongolia to hang out with horses that are inexplicably soothing to him. I don't know about all of the mystical stuff that the movie explores but I do see that there is something about the horse/human connection that is mysterious. Never having been a horse person, myself, I haven't experienced this personally.

 My father was a horse person, having ridden them extensively in his youth in Korea. Later in his life, he had the honor of being on South Korea's first equestrian Olympic team ever for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. But for me, horses have always just been expensive, inaccessible and smelly. We could never afford to get time on horses as we were growing up so they were just big creatures on TV to me. Now, I have more respect, more questions and more of a sense of intrigue about the gift of horses.