To the Mom Trying Her Best As the Holidays Approach

| 5 minute read |

Aah, the holidays.

Time to curl up with a hot drink and… drown in your insecurities as you compare your seasonal festivities to every family in your social media feed!

…I know I’m not the only one, right?

I’ve always loved this season: the colorful transition to fall, the fun and whimsy of Halloween, the warm and nostalgic family meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The joy in the air is palpable, and everything seems to feel a bit lighter.

But if you saw my house, you’d never know I had a festive bone in my body. I’m not the “kind of mom” with the cute, seasonal craft ideas or the Pinterest-perfect home. Aesthetics have just never been my strong suit.

Click here to read the full piece at Her View From Home.

My Best Friend’s Death — and My Own Survival — Taught Me the Vulnerability of Joy

My entry into the Medium Writers Challenge is about the single most impactful moment of my life. It’s about my journey through grief, and the sense of “foreboding joy” (as Brene Brown calls it) that has been a part of my life ever since. And of course, it’s a tribute to one of the greatest humans I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing: Terrance De’Shawn Davis the First.

Click here to read the full piece on Medium.

There’s More To You Than Motherhood (And It’s OK To Say It Out Loud)

| 5 minute read |

I don’t want motherhood to be all there is to me.

Has this thought ever crossed your mind?

When I look in the mirror, I see a compassionate soul, a bubbly extrovert, a caring friend, a singer/actress who wishes she could dance, a bookworm, a Georgetown and Michigan grad, a passionate advocate, and so much more. Those closest to me see all (or at least most) of those things, too.

But I have this nagging fear that most people see me as “just a mom.”

Click here to read the full piece at Her View From Home.

I Almost Let My Expectations Steal My Joy

| 3 minute read |

We recently had a beautiful family getaway to a nearby hotel.

But I almost let my own expectations get in the way of my joy.

I had spent hours searching for the perfect hotel. I knew it had to be beautiful and a little bougie, because that’s what feels restorative for my husband. (I’m the on-the-go, sightseeing type, in contrast with my husband, who puts the STAY in staycation. We alternate on whose needs we cater to, and this time we were definitely going for restful vibes.)

With that in mind, my only other requirement was: a pool. Since we wouldn’t be out and about much, I imagined splashing around with the kids as a central feature of our time away. So I ordered a new swimsuit for my 3-year-old son and super cute floaties for both kids: a classic flamingo for my 6-year-old daughter, and an airplane complete with a steering wheel for my son. I went all out, y’all.

And I found the perfect spot! A hotel with not only a pool, but a splash pad and water slide just for kids! I just knew it was gonna be – let’s use that word again – perfect. I definitely feel guilt over multi-tasking and not being present enough during the week, so in my mind, this getaway we were going to have ALL the fun. ALL. OF. IT.

My daughter had seen the photos of the hotel and kept asking, “when we get there, can we go STRAIGHT to the pool??” So once we checked in, we changed clothes, used up all the breath in our lungs to blow up their floaties, and eagerly headed downstairs…

…and neither of them were feeling it.

My son couldn’t care less. My daughter was overwhelmed by the number of people. No worries, I reasoned. We have 2 more days.

Saturday morning, the splash pad was empty, so I convinced my daughter to just walk in and take a look.

We got one tiny surprise splash from one bucket, laughed hard, and ran out… and that was it.

We didn’t so much as dip a toe in the rest of the weekend.

The old me would have been furious. I feel my emotions HARD, and I know my disappointment would have turned into anger and been hard to shake.

Embarrassing story: I once had a whole temper tantrum (crying, foot stomping) after we had run across Disneyland to try to get a photo with the Zootopia characters. They cut off the line a minute or two before the narrow time window was supposed to end, and I was livid.

My daughter, a toddler at the time, who that whole trip was for, was unfazed. If only that had been enough for me. Instead, I let my deep need to check off every single box on my “FUN” to-do list ruin a whole portion of my day.

Fast forward a few years later. You know what has helped me prioritize true enjoyment and connection over my image of what fun “should” look like?

Parenting an autistic child.

I’ve realized I find so much more joy in his joy than I do in pursuing what I thought would be fun. Sifting through tiny rocks on the nature trail, chasing each other around giggling, and playing with the same toys over and over puts more pep in his step and sparkle in his eye than any elaborate plans I could make.

“Wait,” you’re saying, shocked. “You mean actually HAVING fun together is more enjoyable than dreaming up and stubbornly pursuing hypothetically fun scenarios?”

Yup. I know. Mind = blown, right?

And, surprise surprise, that applies to both my kids!

So this weekend, we laughed a LOT. We played a LOT. We did crazy dances during Uno Dare and acted out hilarious “lie detector” skits during LIFE. We cuddled and played Roblox and got Happy Meals and built Legos and cuddled some more.

And even as we packed the unused floaties back into the van, I could genuinely say it was perfect.

I didn’t let my expectations steal my joy…

Until I tucked my daughter into bed on Sunday night, and her face looked as though she were about to confess to a heinous crime. Timidly, she said:

“Mama? …I want to go to the pool now.”

Parenting. It’s a trip!

PART TWO — Non-Autistic Parents: Why We Should Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

| 4 minute read |

“When we speak over autistic voices, we teach our children that they don’t have the power to speak for themselves…

“When we uplift autistic voices, even when it means lowering our own, we show our children that we honor them as the experts on their own experience: both now, and as they continue to find new ways to express themselves.”

Click here to read the full article, which I’m so grateful to have published at Not An Autism Mom. (If you missed part one, you can read it first here.)

Non-Autistic Parents: Why We Should Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

| 4 minute read |

“The moment we (as non-autistic parents) enter conversations with autistic adults, we bring our privilege with us. Living in an ableist society that caters to people with brains like ours means that we have blind spots – whether we realize it or not.”

Click here to read the full article, which I’m so grateful to have published at Not An Autism Mom.

5 things I want you to know about my autistic kid

| 6 minute read |

Happy Autism Acceptance month! So far, I’ve spent April doing my best to amplify the voices of autistic people on social media – the advocates who have been irreplaceable in my parenting journey since our almost-3-year-old, Koimburi, was diagnosed last July.

In that same spirit, I’m here to share 5 facts I’d like our loved ones to know about autism – with links to learn more on each topic from advocates who are actually autistic.

I recognize that most of our friends and family aren’t exposed to autistic perspectives on a daily basis. The nature of our “real” lives can be very segregated due to societal barriers and inaccessibility, and the online world can be an echo chamber. After all, I only started following autistic adults on social media after Koimburi’s diagnosis, so I can’t expect every single friend and family member to suddenly do the same. (Although I hope that after reading this, you’ll follow a couple!)

What I can do is share what I’ve been learning in hopes that it will pique your interest to learn more. There is so much to know, but today I’m writing about what feels most crucial for our loved ones to understand as they form a circle of support around Koimburi and our family.

So if you’re looking for an introduction to how to love and support the autistic kids or adults in your life, this post is for you!

1. Autism is a neurotype, not a disease.

Autism is part of the essence of who someone is. It can’t be separated from them, and it doesn’t need to be cured.

Most of us are only exposed to the “medical model” of understanding autism, which leads us to believe that it should be “treated”: that traits should be minimized in order to function like a non-autistic person. The neurodiversity movement, on the other hand, insists that there are many different ways in which the human brain can be wired – and that’s not a bad thing. While society considers the neurotypical brain to be the most desirable, or even the only “healthy” type, neurodiversity embraces both the pros and cons of how different brains function. Because society is designed for neurotypicals, the positives of the autistic brain aren’t often seen, since barriers are in place that prevent autistic people from succeeding as easily. But if we embrace neurodiversity, we can begin to fight against that discrimination, instead of fighting autism itself.

In a sentence: autistic people aren’t broken – society is.

Helpful articles on neurodiversity at and

2. “Autistic” isn’t a bad word.

Because you can’t separate a person’s autism from their deepest sense of self, the vast majority of autistic people prefer identity-first language (“autistic person”) over person-first language (“person with autism.”) I know it may feel awkward to say, since many other communities with disabilities prefer person-first language. I also hear people say “on the spectrum” frequently, perhaps because even the word “autism” sounds harsh to our ears due to society’s negative perception. But if we truly believe that people who are marginalized are the experts on their own experiences, we should respect their requests.

This doesn’t mean that identity-first language is absolutely correct; we should always defer to the preference of the person to whom we’re speaking or referring. But for now, since my son isn’t able to express how he self-identifies, I will follow the lead of the vast majority of his community and describe him as “autistic.”

A thorough, balanced blog post with additional sources at

3. We don’t feel like our son has been “labeled”.

This is a tough one, especially in communities that are already marginalized due to race. I’m white, but I’m raising Black children. At the heart of our parenting, we fight to ensure that our kids grow up empowered, with minds that are as free of societal limitations as possible.

In a country where labels of all kinds are consistently used to limit Black and brown children – especially in school settings, and especially when it comes to “behavioral” issues – I understand deeply why parents of Black and brown kids would be wary of pursuing a diagnosis. While I won’t tell another family what to do, I will simply state that, for us, a diagnosis is a very positive thing. Again, we are following the lead of autistic advocates on this, and the number of people only diagnosed in adulthood is staggering. In every account I’ve read of this experience, there is a sense of finally understanding – of everything “clicking” – that they wish they had much sooner.

So that’s what we want to give our son – a full understanding, from the start, of all the beautiful traits that make him who he is. Equally importantly, we want to learn everything we can about autism so that we’re equipped to help him thrive, and able to access all of the services and accommodations he may need. We’re not naïve about the battles we will likely be fighting throughout his education, but having a fuller knowledge of how his brain works helps us to advocate for him more effectively. And at the end of the day, the opportunity for our son to know, embrace, and celebrate himself fully is our number one priority.

An important perspective on “labels” from Portrait of the Autist on Facebook

4. If you’re wondering how to interact or play with our son, feel free to ask!

Koimburi is often “in his own little world,” but you can definitely enter into it if you engage in whatever he’s engaging in. And even if he doesn’t show a response to what you’re saying, please talk to him like you would any other kid! There is definitely some overlap in instances of autism and instances of cognitive impairment, but autistic people have a whole range of IQ levels, and we’re pretty confident that Koimburi is comprehending everything we say. So chat away!

And there’s no need to feel awkward if your kids are super blunt or ask questions. That’s one of the greatest things about kids, if you ask me: they cut through all the weird societal hang-ups we have and just keep it real. And they usually don’t need overly complicated definitions of autism – “he communicates in other ways besides talking” and “he plays a bit differently than other kids his age” work for us.

More on an autistic kid’s perspective of the playground at

5. We’re probably not as focused on traditional milestones as other parents you know.

Koimburi is on his own timeline, and that’s okay with us. In many categories, he is far “behind” his peers. In others, he’s “ahead.” What we’re concerned with is making sure he grows into exactly who he’s meant to be, and that he feels loved, supported, and nurtured along the way.

Of course, conversations about kids often center around milestones, especially in the early years. It’s exciting when a baby rolls over for the first time, starts walking, or says their first words. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating all the little joyful surprises that come with parenting! But with Koimburi’s autism, we’ve observed that those little “achievements” ebb and flow. One week, he’s communicating with us in a particular way that’s super exciting… and then he stops. One day, he does something new completely out of the blue… and then doesn’t do it again for weeks.

So, although I’m happy to answer questions about how speech therapy is going, or if he’s doing anything new, just be aware that 1) his progress in uncovering how he communicates best will probably not be linear, and 2) we’re much less focused on the traditional sense of progress, and much more focused on empowering him, advocating for him, and fostering his sense of creativity and self-determination.

One last thought: Koimburi doesn’t speak right now. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like him to, or that we don’t think he will. But we want to clearly affirm that spoken language is no more valuable than other forms. Whether his growth at this stage includes communicating with spoken words, with sign language, or with an AAC device (a tablet where he can press pictures to put a sentence together), we are simply grateful to increasingly know what’s on his mind.

More on nurturing autistic kids’ growth from @neuroclastic on Instagram, and on autism and speech from @fidgets.and.fries on Instagram

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