Tuesday, January 5, 2021

About Us

I'm mom to four kids, teaching college, and living a bilingual, bi-cultural life with my immigrant husband in the rural Midwest. We are two-cultured in a number of ways: Japanese/American, Autistic/Neuro-typical, Cosmopolitan/Rural. In other words, we are fish out of water practically everywhere we go. 

If you're looking for a super mom or a Pinterest-worthy blog, you're not in the right place. I'm about as crafty as a sock. I can cook but hate it, and the only thing I seem to DIY consistently is pack. My parenting style is more cerebral than might be healthy, but my posts are always honest, usually funny, and rarely sappy. If that's your thing, this is the place for you.

Cast of Characters

Skywalker (a.k.a Sky) gets his name from his strong identification with and affinity for Luke Skywalker. Star Wars, Lego and drawing are his passions. He's also really into music and figuring out how things work. He is a teenager and diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Believe me, this explains a lot!

Falcon, who used to be called Pink Princess (a.k.a. Pink P), is in seventh grade. These days she's into archery, horses and fantasy reading. Falcon's just feisty enough to manage life with her two brothers, and she has a knack for getting them to do things when I can't. She has asthma and severe food allergies to a variety of things, but don't worry, that doesn't seem to slow her down!

My Little Stowaway (a.k.a. Stow) is our zen yet stealth ninja baby turned fourth grader. His favorite thing in the whole wide world is pandas, followed closely by building toys like Lego and models. His collection of stuffed pandas includes so many of them named Paul that I lost count. He is also on the autism spectrum, which can make life pretty interesting around here.

Big Sissy doesn't live with us anymore because, well, she's all grown up. But she still she comes to visit from time to time. And thanks to her, I got to warm-up my momming skills without having to change any diapers! She was my first kid and I was her first mom no matter what anyone tells you.

Renaissance Man (a.k.a Ren) knows a little bit of everything about everything, can fix anything, and has a solution for most of life's conundrums. In a past life, he worked for the Japanese government. In this one, he is the stay-at-home-parent glue that holds the family together. These days, he seems to have made it a habit to have back surgeries, so I write about that a lot here, too.

Mom on the Edge (a.k.a. Moe). That's me. Things that seem like good ideas to me don't to other people. How else can I explain asking my spouse to give up his very lucrative job so we could move to the US so I could get a Ph.D.? I suppose you could say I like to face challenges head-on and live life on the edge. Funny how having kids lets me do this daily...


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Monday, December 21, 2020

Waiting for Shiro

The last couple of posts I've made, I included a link to a GoFundMe fundraiser to raise money for a service dog. Though I usually keep the kids totally anonymous on the blog, I decided to "go public" for now so that we could tell you about this opportunity.

While I haven't talked about this as much on my blog as I used to, we continue to live with autism (surprise!). Some days that means amazing things, and some days, frankly, are very difficult. (Insert long parenthetical about how admitting some days are difficult does NOT mean I don't love my kids. As far as I am concerned, they hang the moon and NOTHING can compare to their awesomeness. That said, with autism comes a host of real challenges like anxiety, struggles in school, aggressive meltdowns, the inability to manage social situations, depression, and a whole bunch of other things. THOSE are the things that make living with autism difficult.) Struggles with language and social skills means that kids with autism constantly work very hard just to get through the day. I am not autistic, so I don't know what it is like, but I imagine it must be like living in a world with rules that don't make any sense and with people doing unexpected things and making demands that seem completely arbitrary. I also think it must be completely overwhelming for the senses. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I couldn't handle that nearly as well as my kids do.

When Sky was younger, the interventions we did with OT and speech therapy seemed to help. With Stow, similar interventions have not yielded the same result. The two boys are clearly wired very differently. So, we have tried a host of different things with Stow with limited success. If you are a special needs parent, you often find yourself trying to solve problems even when you don't know all of the variables. That has been especially true with our experience with Stow, and we are always looking for clues. 

Often the clues come from the most unlikely places. Our most recent clue came in the form of new neighbors and the sweetest dog on the planet (the neighbors are pretty great, too). The dog is a miniature bernedoodle called Winnie. She's still a pup but very well-behaved and a huge fan of our kids. The feeling seems to be mutual since every time Stow sees Winnie outside, he insists that we go say "hello" (sorry, new neighbors!). For the first month they lived here, Stow watched for Winnie like a hawk. Given that I'm a bit shy, it was awkward to constantly appear whenever the new family was outside (seriously, I'm so sorry!). One day, after a particularly hard morning, we got outside to wait for Stow's bus just as Winnie came out to do whatever it is that Winnie does in the morning. Stow, who until that point had been saying that he would absolutely NOT be going to school, locked eyes with Winnie, and his demeanor immediately changed. Clearly, Winnie was connecting with Stow in a way that people often don't.

Later that day, I posted this picture of the two of them looking at each other. A friend who has a son with autism suggested we look into getting a service dog for Stow. I responded that I HAD looked into it, and my understanding of the situation was that either Stow wouldn't be a high priority for a dog or that we couldn't afford the cost of one (they cost between $35,000 and $50,000). But, then another friend replied telling me to reach out to her directly, and soon one thing led to another, and we found ourselves on the road to getting a service dog.

One of these pups will be Stow's service dog.

We're working with an organization called Dawgs2Heal that trains and places autism service dogs. We've been selected to receive one of their 2021 trainees and are in the process of raising $10,000 to help pay for the training. 

A few weeks later, and they are all fluffier!
We learned that we will have the chance to name Stow's service dog, and miraculously everyone agreed on a name. We will call her Shiro, which a fairly common dog name in Japan. We chose it because Shiro is Momotaro’s faithful companion (in the well-known folktale), helping him on his long journey to defeat the ogres. We hope and believe that Stow's new service dog will be an equally brave, faithful, and helpful companion. Also, we already have two cats, Momo and Taro, so how could we not have a Shiro?

Momo (R) and Taro (L) have NO idea what is about to happen to them. I felt guilty, so I got them their own castle. Lol.
Lastly, I wanted to share this note that Stow left for Santa. I've included a picture, but since he struggles some with spelling, I will type it out here: "Dear Santa, I know I was bad, but I will love you if you forgive me, and please leave a note. I hope you finish your travel. PS: Love you. You are amazing. I hope you give me good luck for the dog."

This letter is so heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Kids with autism and ADHD struggle constantly with a fear of being in trouble for "bad" behavior. One of the most moving things about peoples' positive response to our service dog fundraiser is that it has shown Stow that there are a lot of people out there who don't think he's bad at all. I would love to give him the gift of knowing we can afford the dog for Christmas. 

If you can share the GoFundMe or donate, we would be forever grateful! We hope and believe that Shiro will change Stow's life! Here's the fundraiser link again.