autism,  family,  mental health


Give me a bag of donuts like the one little W is holding and I might make it a few more weeks in this weather.

I’m sharing pictures of the kids in our first few winters here in Fargo because they’re stinkin’ cute and it’s putting me in a better place right now.

I’ve been trying really hard–really really hard–not to complain about these last few weeks of winter. One of my pet peeves is when people complain about cold weather. Maybe it’s the Canadian in me but I find it slightly offensive when people say, “I hate winter. I could never live in a cold place.” One of my biggest pet peeves is when we’re visiting friends or family outside of North Dakota and people find out we’re from Fargo and the first thing they say is, “Ugh, I could never live in Fargo. It’s too cold there and I hate snow.”

Well, I don’t hate cold and I don’t hate snow, but I’m getting to the point where I’m ready for a change of scenery. Something a little greener. Something where I don’t have to wear my balaclava every time I let the dog out for a pee. Something where the first thing that comes out of my mouth in the morning isn’t, “I just checked–the windchill is -37 (or -27 or -57, Fahrenheit or Celsius, you take your pick because when it’s that cold, the numbers pretty much match up).” Because I’ve felt like I’ve said that sentence at least three times a day for the last 45 days.

And technically my math isn’t that off. Because according to Fargo’s local paper The Forum, it’s been actually 50 days since we’ve last been above freezing.

Since Jan. 7, temperatures haven’t been above 32 F (or 0 C). And–I know this may be a shocker for those of you who don’t know Fargo–that’s really unusual for winter here. It never stays that cold for that long. In fact, “This streak is now in 20th place among the longest stretches of continuously freezing days since records began in 1881.

Now I’m not writing this post for those of you who are outside of North Dakota to pity us, I’m writing this post to talk about the things we’re learning as a family about being stuck in the Polar Vortex for 50 days.


Each of us has gone through our own little mini meltdown over the weather over the last few weeks. I feel like we’re winter-seasoned troopers in this house and we can keep up with the best of the locals. But J has mentioned a few times that it’s “just too cold to run outside” and W has said, “I’m so tired of running when it’s cold out.” The patience has run out. (The other day when I was walking the dog, I heard two people clearing their walkways for the 3rd time that week saying they’d had enough, so you know it’s been a long winter if the locals, who pride themselves as being winter warriors, have had enough). J had a meltdown with all of the snow days and late starts. Three weeks ago, Steve had a meltdown over the weather. Two weeks ago, W came home and announced that , “I just want you to know that I’m in a bad mood, and I don’t know why.” This week, after weeks and weeks of taking the dog out for his duties and trying to make decisions whether or not it’s safe to walk him with windchill factors, I’ve hit my breaking point.

Autism has affected our family culture in many ways, but I think one of the biggest ways it’s shaped our family culture is how we talk about mental health. Everyone in our family is very aware of anxiety, its symptoms, its triggers, and how to ride the storm. We talk about our feelings a lot. We check with each other’s mental health a lot. And so when W announced that she’s “in a bad mood and I don’t know why,” I thought, “Yes. This girl is self-aware. She knows how to label her feelings. She knows that it’s okay if she doesn’t know why they’re happening. And she knows it’s okay to feel to feel like crap too and not have to pretend that everything’s okay. And she’s confident enough to share those feelings with us.”

Sunday W and I talked a lot about our moods. I told her I was having a moody week (in which she responded–“yes, I know. And it’s made me moody too.”) We talked about how moods are contagious and how it’s so easy for someone else in the family to “catch it.” How do you mitigate your mood so the rest of the family doesn’t “catch it” but still deal with the feelings you’re having? How do we help each other when one of us is in a mood? We didn’t come up with any great answers. But I feel like talking about it–acknowledging it–is such a great thing to be able to do with each other.

Moods come and go, just like this weather. Sometimes they hold on for a little longer than we would like. But seasons change. Moods change. As we say in the Beck house, “this won’t last forever.”

So hang in there Fargo. I know it’s tough, but by the end of the week, it’s looking a little brighter. We may not make it still above the freezing mark, but hanging out in the 30s (C would be phenomenal, F would be acceptable) sounds like heaven to me!

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