Time For MOPS (with one more Let It Go parody)

Time for MOPSSometimes – okay, maybe a lot of times – motherhood can be very lonely.

A few years ago, I was just on this side of Caleb’s autism diagnosis with Grace in the terrible twos and Jake in nursing school.  Most of my friends had moved away.  I was feeling pretty lonely when a new friend invited me to a meeting of MOPS (mothers of preschoolers).

MOPS International “is a grassroots movement that believes moms are world influencers.” (MOPS.org)  It has been one of the best things I have ever experienced.  I know not all “mommy groups” are actually beneficial to a mom’s sanity.  Sometimes, they can be cliquish and competitive and miserable.  But not this one!  This group of women has been caring, supportive, and fun.

The best way to build relationships is to first tear down the walls we have surrounding our vulnerability.  And the only way to get a group of mamas to do that is to be willing to say, “I’ll go first.”  So last year, I volunteered to coordinate the group with another awesome mom.

It’s been an amazing year.  We wrapped up our theme, “A Beautiful Mess – Embrace Your Story,” and are so excited to get going with plans for next year’s theme, “Be You Bravely.”  If you’re not a part of MOPS, I definitely recommend it!

I recommend it so much that, even though there are a million and one parodies of Let It Go, my friend, Courtney, and I wrote our own version because MOPS needs one, too!  Think of it as a jingle.  =)


Time for MOPS! (to the tune of Let It Go)

A mess spread wide in the kitchen tonight
Not a helper to be seen.
A kingdom of dirty dishes
And it looks like I’m the queen.

The baby’s howling despite everything I’ve tried.
Can’t keep thoughts straight. My brain is fried.

Where are my keys? My phone is where?
Can’t remember when I washed my hair.
But just hang on – We’re almost there.
We’re almost there!

Time for MOPS. Time for MOPS.
Yoga pants are welcome here.
Grab a chair. Sit right there.
Eat food you don’t have to share!

Coffee flows.
You don’t have to wipe a nose.
You just sit and breathe!
Maybe during crafts, we’ll make a wreath.

It’s funny how these cuties
Can make us feel insane.
But twice a month, we’re reminded –
“Mom” is not my name.

It’s time to see what we can do
(Besides laundry or cleaning poo).
It’s Wednesday morning and I’m free –
To be me!

Time for MOPS. Love this place!
They show me love and grace.
Mentor moms, chats galore.
I’m always learning more.

Here I come
Down Killarney Way!
So glad it’s Wednesday!!!

The laughter’s floating through the air – I love that sound!
My troubles lifted by these sisters I have all around.
Through highs and lows, I know we’ll have each other’s back.
I know who I can call
When my mind’s about to crack!

Time for MOPS. Time for MOPS.
There’s a place for everyone.
Moms Night Out – Give a shout!
They’re always so much fun.

So here I am!
And here I’ll stay!
Let the coffee flow!

I might age out but I’ll never go.

The Talk: Telling Our Son about His Autism

c by the tree ADP

It started like every other night. It could have been any other ordinary day. Any at all. The same instructions had been given. The same teeth-brushing arguments, both pro and con, had been repeated. The blessed melatonin had been given. We sat down and pulled open the devotion book but we never read past the date–April 2nd.

Before I even realized what I was saying, I asked the kids if they knew that it was World Autism Awareness Day. They looked interested and were being exceptionally angelic at the moment. So I took it a little bit further. “You’ve heard the word, ‘autism,’ many times. But do you know what it means?” They shook their heads and wanted to know more.

It was happening. We had anticipated this moment for four years. When would we tell Caleb about his autism? How would we tell him? We decided on the gradual method of slowly, bit by bit and inch by inch, laying down the groundwork. We wanted them to have a firm foundation in knowing that everyone is different and that is a beautiful thing. We wanted them to be solid on the fact that God has created each and every one of us so beautifully and wondrously and intricately and intentionally. We wanted them to have the practice of loving others and seeing past differences to the heart and soul.

Years of anticipating this moment, sometimes eagerly and sometimes anxiously, and it was here. Even in those first few moments, I was unsure if I should shut it down. Jake was still at work. He was missing this milestone. But the ball was rolling and it was rolling down a steep hill. It felt right to allow it to continue on its path. Wherever it led.

We talked about what ASD is and how it can make some things easier and others more challenging. I told them about some common experiences among those who live life on the spectrum. And I simply asked if it sounded like anyone we might know. I could see his wheels turning. I showed them the episode of Arthur (“When Carl Met George”) and within 35 seconds, it happened.

And right there, right smack in the middle of our messy living room with the laundry piled high and the dinner dishes still on the table and the trash waiting to be taken out, with us and the dog all squished together on the couch, it happened. It started with his eyes. They looked brighter. After five or so minutes, his face had changed. He looked older somehow. By the time the video was over, he was eagerly asking, “Mom?  Do I have ASD?”

I took a shaky breath and said confidently–no wait–I said proudly, “Yes, buddy. You do. What do you think about that?”

And he knew.

And just. like. it happened to us when we received his diagnosis, his life began flashing before his eyes. He was seeing it all with a fresh understanding. His filter had changed.

And he understood.

And he told me about how the things, the hard things, he now knows were the challenging parts of his ASD. And we talked about how far he’s come. And how much he’s overcome. And how he has done the hard things and how he can continue to do the hard things.

And he was proud.

Jake came home from work to find his boy had grown. Caleb seemed to stand taller as he told his dad about ASD and how God had made his brain special.

He went to bed that night having diagnosed our dog with autism as well. “She loves her toy like I love trains.” And any loneliness he might have felt dissolved away in the solidarity of puppy kisses.

He woke the next morning, ready to share himself with the world.

So, world? Get ready. You’re about to get a whole lot of awesome.

mom do i have autism ADP

I Once Was Lost

I don’t remember when it happened.

One day, I just realized that I didn’t do it anymore.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had prayed aloud.

Well.  There were the bedtime prayers and meal blessings with the kids.  But other than that?  It just didn’t happen anymore.

I’m not sure why.  With church or small group or Bible study always going on, there were plenty of opportunities.  I would just sit there, though, with the weight of the pause pressing on my shoulders and the heat of the moment burning my cheeks.

It’s not like I thought my friends or church family would jump to their feet, laughing and pointing at me.  Why was I so self-conscious?

ash mountain top

Once upon a time, I was an adventurer.  Once upon a time, I was fearless.  Each day was lived to the fullest.  Carpe diem and viva la vie boheme and all that.

Once upon a time, I climbed mountains and flew across oceans.  I had a passion and I wanted to offer it to the world.  I prayed aloud all the time.  In the arms of my dearest friends and with complete strangers at the next gas pump.

Somewhere along the way, that fire quieted down until only embers were left.

I think I got lost in the haze of day-to-day.  Over the last decade, my adventures have consisted of navigating Walmart without getting our faces on the evening news.  The only mountains I’ve climbed lately are the lofty peaks in the laundry room that I have to step on to get to the dryer.

When I became a mother, I think I hit the pause button and entered some kind of self-imposed hiatus on me.

My life now focused on sleep schedules and potty training, supporting my husband through nursing school, encouraging him in his music ministry, arranging the therapy schedules, and somehow making sure each one felt loved and validated.

Moms.  You get what I’m saying.  It’s in our nature to give and give and give to our families.

And that is part of what makes a mom so fiercely beautiful.  It works until the time comes when we have nothing left of ourselves to give.

That is where I was two weeks ago.  Drained.  Short-tempered.  Exhausted.  Spiritually parched.  Easily frustrated.

I was getting everything in place for me to go to a leadership conference.  I was pretty nervous because no one else from my MOPS group could go with me.  I would be on my own, not knowing a single one of the few thousand other moms that would be there.

And a funny thing happened.

It started slowly with just a glimpse here and there on the flight to Kansas City.  Then the flashes came more frequently until, on the second day of the conference, I caught my reflection in a Starbucks window.

It was me.  Me me.  I saw it in my eyes and heard it in my laugh.

I left home with a heavy cloak of expectations tied tight around my shoulders.  But there at MOMcon, it was a blank canvas.  No one knew me.  They didn’t expect anything of me.  I wasn’t “supposed” to be acting or speaking a certain way to fulfill the roles of Jake’s wife and the kids’ mom.

I was Ashley.  The cloak had been dropped somewhere along the way.

It could have been the result of any one of the amazing speakers (Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker, Lysa TerKeurst, Kathi Lipp, Elisa Morgan, Alexandra Kuykendall).  It could have something to do with the empowering workshops offered.  It may have been the new friendships forming.

I think it had to be all of that but with the key element of an incredibly rare experience of being totally on my own with no expectations.

I once was lost.  But now I’m found.

I’m Ashley.

And if you see me at the gas station, be prepared.  I’ll be the crazy lady who drops the pump to run over and pray for you.  You might want to avoid eye contact.