Name: Lauren Mckenzie (LadyNoelDesigns)
5 words that describe your "job": Mom, Wife, Creator, Loyal Friend, Disciple.
Your children's names and ages: Dylan 9, Keegan 8
How do your children inspire you?
What an amazing question and one that I love. I think my kids inspire me in very different ways. For Dylan, he is an emotional, sensitive and strong boy. Being an older sibling to a brother who is on the spectrum is no easy task. To see his patience and protection of his brother constantly reminds me of God’s grace and love. He inspires me with his insight and his ability to include anyone and everyone. Keegan for me is my soft-hearted ray of sun. He inspires me daily with his dedication and the constant battles he conquers on a daily basis. Life for him is not easy yet he is the most loving, and happy little boy I know. I think it's his easy take on life that inspires me. His ability to be content to just be with the ones he loves most.
What is an activity your whole family loves to do together?
Oh man, we are a huge outdoors family. When we lived in Florida we lived and breathe the pool life. Some of our favorite memories are poolside. Also, our nature walks are a weekly thing for our crew. It's when we are the freest and active all together.
What’s the one thing you wish people knew about your special needs child?
I'm not sure there is just one thing but I think the main thing for me is that I wish people could understand that just because he's non-verbal doesn't mean he doesn't know what you're saying. Yes, maybe it takes him a bit longer to process what you're saying. Yes, he may not always show you he's listening but without a doubt, he knows when people are speaking of him right in front of him. Just because he's non-verbal doesn't mean that he's below par. He picks up on far more than people care to notice or that he chooses to let on.
How do you survive a tough day of parenting?
Haha not always with grace that's for sure. Some days I find myself in the bathroom crying or in my room at the end of the day sobbing. I get through those rough days allowing myself to feel absolutely okay with being defeated. Some days you are defeated and you need to just feel whatever you are feeling. Then the next day you brush it off (I pray) and hope for a better day than yesterday. I tell myself constantly that I am not alone and that although my children can sometimes be my greatest challenge they are also my greatest blessing.
What is the one thing in your play space your child can't live without?
Well, there isn't just one play space in our home. Which I think at times there totally should be. Keegan's go to thing though is his paper and crayons. Every single day and I mean every single day he goes straight to the dining room table and begins to draw. Our floors and table in that room are usually covered in all manner of coloring supplies. The kid lives and breathes with such pure passion to create. It's for sure the one thing he needs in his life rather than toys.
What's the one thing you would drive back to get if you forgot it when out with your kid(s)? We recently were given an iPad from our school district for communication. It's the one thing that I will without a doubt go home and retrieve. It's been a game changer for our family and without it, it's back to the guessing game for the most part.
Your child's favorite toy? He is in LOVE with Lightning McQueen and Nemo! All things those characters.
Your child's favorite app? I'm not sure he has a favorite app really. I mean he loves kids’ YouTube and he'll spend loads of time rewatching the Disney and Pixar intro to movies.
3 Moms you follow on social media that inspire you and why?
Christy @iischristy- she's a fellow autism warrior mama and also speaks so much truth about life today in our country. She's just someone who I've grown to love and admire for her passion and love for life.
Amber @Stonephox she's a mom that I've been following for the last couple of years. It's been more recently that we have been able to speak more openly about life and some of the hardships it brings. I am inspired by her transparency with subjects that hit close to home for me as well as her ability to not make you feel so alone. She's been someone lately who has encouraged me more and more daily.
Kel @kelreynolds is another mama who has a babe with special needs. For me, she's just one of those women that I've come across that is a “take it or leave it” type. Her genuine approach for the good and bad times for life inspires me. She's not an account you follow if you don't want real because straightforward and real she absolutely is. I
What is the last thing you purchased for yourself that made you really happy?
Oh man, a new car!! Woot woot! We were driving this SUV for a couple years where the AC didn't work and things were constantly falling apart. Oh not to mention that you could hear it from a mile away. Haha but now we have a new- to -us soccer mom van and I'm all about it and that ac life.
What advice would you give to a (new) special needs mom?
I think we spend so much time trying to be professional autism advocates as parents of newly diagnosed kids. I remember when Keegan was first diagnosed I was terrified. I felt unequipped, in denial and completely overwhelmed. I would say however you feel when you find out your kid has autism is valid and your feelings are justified. Don't let anyone ever try to make you feel less because you aren't fully educated about the 100 plus therapy practices there are. Take each day one at a time because autism never gets less overwhelming. Like with any child you are raising, each year brings new obstacles and autism is no different. Just remember your walk might get lonely and you may at times be bitter about other moms who don't have children with special needs so surround yourself, seek out other women like you. Trust me you will need them more than you know. But most importantly, know that your kids were handpicked to be the child that will without a doubt change so many others live with their magic.