I grew up in Charleston, SC. My family was in the bingo and country night club business. I used to love to stay with my Grandmother, who I loved dearly and who spoiled me to the max, lol. We would get up super early(by 5am or earlier) in the morning to begin her workday of traveling to each of the clubs to check the registers and do the accounting. I'd sleepily tag along and play while she worked. As I got older, I worked alongside her. She was such a strong, independent, and loving woman. She taught me so much about the kind of woman I wanted to be when I grew up. She passed years ago, and there is rarely a day that goes by that I don't think of her and long to sit and talk life with her.
I was painfully shy as a child, but fortunately for me I had my younger brother who was the complete opposite. He has always been a bit of a social butterfly and definitely a class clown. I spent a lot of time with him and his friends. I also LOVED to dance. I started ballet at the age of 3 and fell in love immediately. I took all styles of dance...tap, jazz, modern, etc., but I always came back to ballet. And so began my lifelong obsession with ballet.
In Charleston, I danced with Charleston Ballet Theater for a couple years until age 12, and then Robert Ivey Ballet from 12 to 20. At the age of 20, I moved to Chicago. There I fell in love with Vaganova Russian ballet technique. I had the honor to train at some wonderful schools in Chicago, such as Hubbard Street, Lou Conte, Boitsov Classical Ballet, and Dmitri Roudnev Classical Ballet. My technique improved dramatically over the years, but I knew I'd not be making a career of it, so I never fully devoted myself to it like I would have loved to. I knew my life was heading in another direction...and so it was.
In 1994, I met the man that would be my first husband. We met in March, while he was stationed in Charleston as an Enlisted serviceman on a submarine. One month after we met, he found out he had been picked up for a ROTC scholarship and would be attending college in Chicago. At 20 years old, and no real direction in my life, I jumped at the chance to go with him, and we made it happen. I started my first year of college at the University ofIllinois at Chicago (UIC) with a major in Environmental Chemistry. I always loved math, was intrigued by chemistry, and was concerned about the environment, so I just figured why not! LOL He attended Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), not far from me. I did great at UIC, but quickly realized I needed to be at IITas well. The following year I transferred with Honors to IIT. I changed my major to Chemical Engineering, with a Specialization in Environmental Engineering. It. Was. Intense. IIT was a prestigious, predominately male,engineering and architecture college, similar to MIT & Georgia Tech. I had to work HARD. My SC schooling did not in any way prepare me for the level of technical studies I took on at IIT. But, I persevered, and in May 1999 I received my Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering.
I married in 1998, and then moved to northern Virginia after I graduated. I was blessed to land a wonderful engineering job that I loved before I even graduated. I worked environmental & materials engineering on Navy ships. It was such an amazing feeling of accomplishment to be working in a predominately male field and doing so well. I particularly loved traveling and conducting ship checks. Four years into my career, I got pregnant with my first child. My company was so supportive and allowed me to begin working from home during my pregnancy, something that unknowingly would prove to be a necessity for me.
My first pregnancy was uncomplicated, but at my 24-week ultrasound I was told my baby had a couple markers that could indicate a genetic problem, such as Down Syndrome or T18. I was shaken to my core. I was SO scared. I didn't want there to be anything wrong with my baby. I cried and prayed and cried and prayed some more. One of the markers resolved prior to delivery, and I breathed a sigh of relief and tried to think positively. Ricky was born in July 2003. He was beautiful, and at first all seemed fine. Within an hour, the nurses became concerned and whisked him away. His respiration was extremely high and blood oxygen levels low. Next time I saw my baby was in the NICU.
My stay in the maternity ward was absolutely heartbreaking. All the new moms around me had their little bundles of joy with them, while mine was in the NICU. I had to leave the hospital without my baby. (I'm crying as I type this, because it's still such a painful memory even all these years later.) It took the doctors 5 days to figure out what was wrong with my Ricky. He had Hirschsprung's Disease and would need a colostomy until he was old enough to have the bad section of colon removed and repaired. Four weeks later, I was finally able to bring my baby home. He required a lot of extra care, and we had to learn how to install a colostomy bag and take care of his ostomy site. That was so hard. His skin got broken down all around his ostomy and we constantly were trying to figure out how to keep the bag on and not leak. It took over an hour to get one on and some days it would start leaking within a few hours, and we'd have to do it all over again. Babies move a lot!
At 9 months old, we were told Ricky was ready to have his repair. We were thrilled to finally do away with the colostomy bag and looked forward to poopy diapers instead. The surgery was rough, and Ricky didn't do as well as we hoped. We almost lost him. He spent almost 2 weeks in the PICU. It was such a scary time, and I really thought I was going to lose every last ounce of sanity that remained. But, we got through it with the help of God. We brought him home and I nursed him back to health. He had one more surgery when he was one year old to repair a hernia at the old ostomy site. Unfortunately,the poopy diapers were worse than we could have imagined. The repair caused a whole new problem. Instead of a colostomy to care for, we now had a constant stream of toxic mess that caused the most horrific diaper rash you could ever imagine. Diaper changes were frequent and involved light washing with water, drying with a hair dryer, and applying anything I could think of to help my poor baby. He was in constant pain. :(
I spent thousands of dollars on diaper creams, powders, and supplies. It took me years to figure out that the harsh chemicals and additives in all the products I was using was actually making things worse. I learned to make my own baby wipes and creams/powders. Ricky also seemed to be extremely sensitive to EVERYTHING. The foods he ate, the products we used, all made him react with various symptoms. He had eczema and would break out in hives randomly.
When I was pregnant with Ricky and told he may have a genetic disorder, I decided I would do everything in my power to teach him and give him every opportunity to learn and succeed. I painted his room in bright, stimulating colors, with little animals all along the wall at eye level. When I was finally able to bring him home, I filled every waking moment with learning. I put words to everything I did with him and named everything in our environment. I started teaching him colors and letters and numbers. He started saying his first words at 6 months...his first word was Boob, which I thought was so cute because I was breastfeeding him and he could ask for it. By 12 months he had lots more words and was developmentally age appropriate for his speech, although he was behind with his motor skills, which we accounted to his extremely rough start. I didn't know anything about vaccines, and vaccinated him as advised by his doctor on schedule. I remember getting to the 15-month appointment and nervously asking the doc if he really thought it was safe to give Ricky the MMR vaccine. Something in my gut was telling me not to do it, but the doc blew me off and made me feel stupid for even questioning it. He continued to get his vaccines on schedule, and I started to notice he was losing skills. He was losing words and seeming more in his own world. He couldn't handle the sound of other children and I couldn't take him anywhere without him completely melting down and crying so hard he broke blood vessels in his face. I didn't know what to do!
In 2005, I had my second child, when Ricky was 2 years old. Lawson was born, and it was hard on Ricky. Lawson cried a lot, and it was more than Ricky could handle. Still not knowing the effect of vaccines on my children, they both got all their vaccines on schedule. Way too many of them. By the time Ricky was 3 I started suspecting he may have Autism. I kept bringing it up to his doctors, but they always kept blowing me off. They said he just needed time to catch up. I knew in my gut that wasn't right, but I listened. He started having some therapy through the school district, but it really wasn't helping. I continued to learn more about Autism, and finally when he was four the doctors took me seriously and tested him...he did indeed have Autism. Meanwhile, Lawson was extremely volatile. I was dealing with some major meltdowns with him. He could talk but he spoke in phrases he had heard, not original speech. And the way he spoke was odd. He couldn't handle loud noises or other children. I remember the first time I thought he might also have Autism...I had tried to take the boys to Story Time at a local bookstore. It was too much for Lawson, and he had the most intense meltdown ever. His meltdown sent Ricky into a meltdown and I had to literally RUN out of there with both the boys screaming and thrashing about...I can only imagine what it must have looked like. As I struggled to get them into the car, it dawned on me that Lawson may well have Autism too.
Ricky used to sit and play with one toy for hours on end. It was a baby toy that he sat in front of and pushed with his feet. There was a ball that would just go around and around in a circle and it made music. He would just push the button repetitively and watch the ball go round and round. If he wasn't doing that, he would roll a ball along the window sill, back and forth, for hours. I used to think, wow, he's such a good quiet baby to play like that. You could call his name and he acted like he couldn't even hear you. I later learned why he was doing it as I learned more about Autism. Then came the day that I recognized a similar behavior in Lawson, and knew in my heart he too had Autism. I came downstairs one day to find Lawson laying on the floor looking at the wheels just spinning on a truck. He got mad when I tried to make him look away. He lined toys up, liked to look at doors open and close, and lots of other little stimmy things. At 3 Lawson was diagnosed with Autism as well. My world felt like it was caving in on me. I had to do something!
I spent the next 2 years pouring through books and anything could find on Autism. I became obsessed with learning everything I could about it and trying to find a way to heal my babies. I researched special diets and supplements and found a Defeat Autism Now! doctor. I put them on a Gluten-Free, Casein-Free, Soy-Free diet, did tons of testing, and gave them lots of vitamins and supplements. I learned about gut health and the effects of toxins on the brain. They also got Speech, OT, PT, and ABA therapy. Running one child to all those appointments is hard, but try it with 2! I was so stressed and tired all the time.
And then, one morning Lawson woke up and he couldn't talk. He all of a sudden just could not get the words out. He went from talking normally one day, to the next it would take him forever to get his words out. I was beside myself with worry. I took him to specialists and nobody could tell me what was wrong with him. He had tests and nothing conclusively indicated a problem. He stopped singing his favorite songs, and to this day he doesn't sing. I took him to a stuttering specialist and we decided it may be a sort of stuttering disorder. It took about 5 years of speech therapy, but it has mostly resolved now.
In 2011, after a particularly hard year with passing of myGrandmother and dogs Steely & Bobo (on top of everything with the kids), I broke under the pressure of it all and decided that after 17 years away, I needed to be back home in Charleston with my family, at all costs, which sadly ended my first marriage. Shortly after my move back home, I met the sweet and loving man that would be my second husband. I always felt that there was another child for me, and along came Grayson. Using all the knowledge I had gained from my countless hours of research and experience, I protected my body and pregnancy as best I could and prayed Grayson would not have Autism as well. Please don't misunderstand, I love Ricky and Lawson exactly the way they are, but I hoped that Grayson would not have to struggle in the ways they have.
Grayson was born in May 2013, and I refused all vaccines and even the Vit K at the hospital. I had a natural birth. He did great and has hit all his milestones. I am obsessive about the foods and products we buy. I buy organic, non-gmo foods as much as possible and don't use toxic cleaners or pesticides in or around my home. I know my children are susceptible to toxins in their environment. I don't doubt that Grayson would not be the child he is if I had given him vaccines and not taken strides to keep the toxins out of ourlives. There is so much we are all exposed to everyday that is out of our control. I've made it my mission to protect my children in all the ways that I can. Being a mom is the most important job I have. I've been blessed with 3 of the most beautiful and amazing little boys. I don't regret anything I've been through with them...it's all been part of the journey to where we are now. I wouldn't be who I am today without all that, and I thank God for it. <3
In 2018, I look forward to adding a little ballet back to my life, sharing with others the things I've learned, helping my kids be the best they can be, and continuing to learn and grow myself so that I become all that God intends me to be. If by chance you made it all the way through this lengthy bio, then I sincerely thank you for taking the time to learn more about me. I'm blessed to have so many friends, and look forward to learning more about you as well. :)