Jessica has a full house: a teenage daughter who is on the autism spectrum, two surviving three year-olds that were born as premie triplets, and a baby boy, now nearly two.
Jessica writes about her daughter's Aspergers with much thoughtfulness and feeling. And, though the loss of her third triplet is never far from her mind, her posts are often full of light and laughter.
Jessica's writing is lyrical and poetic without ever being forced or precious. She writes from deep in her heart, as you will see...
Our Shopping Cart – by Jessica
Wheels spin across the floor.
Laughing with delight, my daughter catches her end. With a "wheeee" she turns the plastic shopping cart around, sending it gliding to her brother.
Giggling as he accepts the flying cart, my son's eyes glisten wide, he shouts his "wheeee" a bit louder and sends the cart back again.
They take turns again and again, trading "wheees" and laughter and a shopping cart.
Before long she comes in.
I light up because she is headed their way, the giggles enough to pull her in.
Will she join them? Will they look to her? I hold back my urge to arrange the scene.
Walking right through that sailing cart's path she stops the wheels. Unphased, the kids move a bit, trying to finish their game.
But their big sister does it again. Stops the next "wheee" before the basket can be caught.
The weight of autism hits me harder than that cart, had it been full of bricks.
She wanted to join in.
This was her way to try to play.
She was doing the best that she could.
My younger children were not yet three at the time.
My oldest, 14.
In their two and a half years of development, they had learned social skills and reciprocal play and a bit of intuition.
In her 14 years of therapy and social skills training and special education she had not. My heart broke as the ease of their play cast more light on the difficulty of hers.
Having spent so long raising one child, the shock of typical development in Ashlyn's siblings is something I had not prepared for when expanding our family.
I was nervous about autism, I knew how strong the genetic links were. But I had never once thought about the comparisons and how, in seeing the "normal" and the "easy" in my typically developing children, I may need some time to mourn the absence of this in my oldest.
I watch the relationships my younger children have, the effortless way they play, the carelessness they use in climbing on each other, imitating their favorite characters, playing in their basement band, and I can't help but feel the loss of it all for Ashlyn.
Playing does not come without practice and guidelines. She flinches from an unannounced touch, does not quite grasp make-believe and covers her ears the minute an instrument is held.
Autism has stolen her ease, the relaxation and contentment of childhood, and she is almost an adult. It is not coming back.
But for every difference adding these little beings to our family has magnified, there has been a blessing in return.
Her siblings have offered Ashlyn an unjudging audience; welcome little friends who don't care if she looks them in the eye or says hello before she begins to speak.
Unconditional love has been magnified for her and when she wants to play a game or watch a cartoon she has a three foot tall group to pick from, just in case she needs company (or someone to throw her game pieces all over the floor).
There are times I think that close family and friends are the only circle of acceptance our children can count on.
Autism can be such a hard disorder for unknowing eyes to understand. I watch my children interact and see the love connecting them all.
Although she might not find the perfect words to say it, and her unfailing honesty may give you a long explanation for why being an only child is wonderful, Ashlyn loves her siblings in ways she can't truly express.
Her shopping cart is full and they won't ever mind pushing it for her.
I am especially touched by the way Jessica speaks of and shows us her younger children's unconditional love for their big sister. Thank you, Jessica for sharing your lovely family with us here.
So now that you have finished reading Jessica’s words here, you will want to go visit her at her four plus an angel. You are in for a treat. Be sure to read this post about sibling connections, this one about her teenage daughter's recent triumphs, and this lovely one about being a mom.
Jessica is not only a lovely writer and an amazing mom, she is also an engaged and generous member of the blogging community. As such, she has recently launched a fun and funny weekly series called "The Hot Seat" wherein a different blogger is put on the spot each Monday, and has to answer questions posed by her readers.
Finally, you should absolutely follow her on Twitter (where she gives good tweet) and "like" her on Facebook. Although if there was a "love" button? You'd want to click that, too. Because even though Jessica is younger and prettier than me? I love her, I do!
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