The Other Side

Dear Sweetboy,

It’s hard to be a teenager. We get it. We used to be adolescents too. Shocking! We know.

Having a younger sibling can make navigating this teenage journey particularly challenging. Especially when they do annoying things that cause you to seek refuge in your room for some much needed alone time. And, it gets you nowhere when your sibling is literally holding up her iPod and blasting Adele’s “Hello”, from the other side of your door.

And singing along with All The Feeling.

And every decibel available to her voice box.

Here’s the thing – you’re good at turning her annoyance into a game. We see you making her laugh so she no longer wants to pester you. You don’t realize it, but we notice you beginning to take challenging situations and turn them positive. (See? Singing “You Gotta Think Positive” worked!) You will need this skill every single day, the older you get.

You’re already making choices as a teen that give us reason to believe you will be one amazing adult. And that makes dad and I hopeful for your future.

We know the world is telling you that you need to charge down the hill now that you’re on the other side of childhood.

But, hey… don’t do that.

Give yourself time to grow up. Slow your roll every chance you get. One thing leads to another more often than you can even imagine. We don’t want you to get going so fast that it takes a crash to slow you down.

Rolling along will expose you to Evil. So, when you bump into Evil, because you will, remember to cling fiercely to any joy you can. That’s the antidote to Evil.

Fight for your joy, Sweetboy.

And be cautiously optimistic.

We desperately want to keep you from becoming jaded about the joy to be found in life because there is so much joy to be found, son. Despite everything going on in the world that we could stay angry and disheartened about, and despite the bad things that happen to us and around us, joy is still out there waiting to be found.

If.

If you’ll just do you and be kind.

Stay in your own lane, but be willing to reach across the lines and help anyone who has fallen down in the lane next to you. Do this as often as possible. It helps build bridges.

And relationships.

And joy.

Be kind even when it doesn’t make sense to the watching world. Eventually, this too will build bridges and relationships. And joy.

And when life seems out of control, or people seem out of their minds, or both? Shout out to God.  He is always there, ready to help. His ultimate goal for you, son, is to make you more like Him and help you find and spread joy while you are here on this earth.

Find the joy and chase it, Sweetboy.

It’s there.

On the other side of childhood.

Yes indeedy.

Love,

Mom & Dad

 

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Eating in Fear No More

We recently moved.

And, by recently, I mean last summer.

What I really mean is, we bought some new furniture pieces and rugs to go with the new house style.

What I more honestly mean is that my children eat like wild hogs after a 10 day fast.

These days, I eat most meals in fear. Mostly, that macaroni and cheese will end up strewn across my newish rug. It’s not my fault that a cream based color scheme worked best. Nor is it my fault that even Annie’s Mac-n-cheese still uses a yellow bordering-on-neon-orange in their cheese sauce.

And if it’s a dinner with any sort of red sauce involved?

(((shudders)))

Dinnertime now consists of a steady stream of reminders to use a napkin, wipe something up, or not hold your pizza cheese-side-down. Not to mention the constant refrain of “Lean in. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL CLEANLINESS, lean in!”

These offspring of mine are probably the messiest eaters I know. And I know lots of messy eaters. I’m eyeing you, Ahab.

Please tell me that I am not the only one for whom dinnertime is a major source of frustration? Clean up often consists of locating apple sauce from far corners of the house, deciphering the cause of the red Florida-shaped stain, or determining the original source of the stick.

Once I found a splattered patch of applesauce on a piece of furniture that wasn’t even in the same room as where we eat most of our meals, though, that was it! At that point, I knew it was time to enforce some rules. Applesauce on the TV? Unacceptable!

There’s nothing like new furniture to force my parenting hand.

In an effort to get through these dinner times with as little whining (or wine) as possible, I instituted a new dining policy. This sounds fancy. And fun. Like something you’d see posted above the entrance to a restaurant at Disney World. Right? (It was a hard sell for the sweetkids, too.)

No matter, I was forging ahead with my dining dictums, anyway. Yes indeedy.

Once we covered the new “no eating on the couches until you’re 21” rule (and, who are we kidding? By then, hopefully, they will have moved out. And they can ruin their own dang couches!) we moved on to the Big Three. Unlike This Is Us, these did not refer to sibling characters that I long to see develop and grow. They do, however, refer to the top three eating offenses.

 

  1. If you spill it, you clean it. I’m the only one allowed to cry about it.
  2. When you finish it, you clear it. Bonus points for clearing everyone else’s, too.
  3. If you break it, you buy it. Making a mental note to check piggy banks to make sure they can actually afford to “buy” anything.

As you can imagine, there were many cries of, “But, they are just accidents” and, “What if it’s just a mistake spill”?

No matter. Hope wells inside of me that someday soon, I will eat in fear no more.

With my children.

Without spinach being found anywhere other than between my teeth.

Or, you know…they’ll move out.

Whichever.

 

Why I Don’t Write About Autism Anymore

I almost titled this, “We’ve Still Got It!”  Sorry, a little autism humor.

I haven’t written much about Autism, in this space, lately. There’s a reason for that.

There was a time when Sweetboy was newly diagnosed and I needed to write of the devastation I felt at receiving the news that our child would face challenges more than your average bear. I needed every letter of the alphabet to deal with All The Feelings as they poured over me like a deluge.

So, I wrote through them.

Then came those times when I wanted to celebrate his victories and make note of every challenge he was able to overcome and highlight the achievements.

So, I wrote about them.

But, that Sweetboy is now fast approaching his fourteenth year. And you know what? He doesn’t want me to write about him here anymore.

Part of being a good story teller is knowing where your part of the story ends and another person’s begins. He would like to take over ownership of his story. And, to me, that is a grand new adventure!

I can’t wait to watch it unfold! I’m finding the beauty in watching my son, my Sweetboy, own who he is and choose to move forward from here on out.


Does that mean that Autism has no place here, anymore?

As if that could ever happen!

It does mean that I choose to honor and respect the wishes of this man-child. If he wants to share a story, you can be sure I’ll be making space for him to.

It’s all a grace, this parenting thing. And to parent a child with Autism is truly layer upon layer of grace. Daily. Hourly. Minute by agonizing minute.

But the joy of seeing your child continue to progress… there is nothing greater!

To those of you in the thick of the diagnosis, or the thrill of the achievement, warrior on! We are rooting for you and praying for you and loving on you from afar.

And always will be.

Yes indeedy!

I’ll Tell You What’s So Amazing

What’s So Amazing About Graceyou ask? Sweet Moses! Got a year?

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There are some questions we humans don’t even realize we have percolating in our hearts. That is, until we are confronted with the monotony of day-to-day living and we begin to wonder what else there is out there.

Right?

Have you hit that wall yet?

Because, I remember that wall.

It hurt.

At the time I slammed into it, I wasn’t interested in answering The Big Questions. I was, however, interested in scaling those walls. For some reason, I never chose the easy way. Skinned knees and a bruised heart were what met my attempts to climb it.

And author Philip Yancey is genius at distilling answers to life’s biggest questions down to the studs. What’s important?

Love. Love is always the most important.

And once Love found me, I became consumed by the Grace that came with it; both taken in and given out. Considering myself a sinner, and chief among them, I couldn’t get enough of God’s undeserved but freely given grace.

Yancey was the author who famously penned,

“God loves people because of who God is, not because of who we are.”

Indeed!

If you haven’t heard that yet, I’ll give you a minute. Because, truth.

Nothing, and I mean not a thing this side of heaven, will be able to keep you from God’s love and grace, once you want it. It’s like discovering a devil dog dispensary. Once you know it’s there, you can’t help but go back again and again.

And, in this very year, where election politics and race politics and gender politics are tearing at peace like a dog after a bone, I find so much of what Yancey wrote in this book to be a comfort. And a reminder.

“Politics draws lines between people; in contrast, Jesus’ love cuts across those lines and dispenses grace.”

I want to keep cutting across lines, like Jesus did. And I want others to keep cutting across lines toward me, too. Despite writing this book fourteen years ago, the problems Yancey calls attention to – the human problems we all experience – remain the same.

“Religious faith—for all its problems, despite its maddening tendency to replicate ungrace—lives on because we sense the numinous beauty of a gift undeserved that comes at unexpected moments from Outside.”

Lots of us feel “outside” an issue, these days. Grace reaches the hand across and says, “Love,” instead. I’ll tell you what’s so amazing about grace, it’s the outstretched hand.

I like that very much.

I need that even more.

And I always will.

Yes indeedy.

Well well well, this is the last book. I missed yesterday as our sweetgirl came down with a nasty case of Strep. But, I appreciate the grace to finish. If you missed any of the other books I named in this Best Books Ever series that I wrote for the Write 31 Days Challenge, click the button below and check them out. And thank you for hanging out with me (almost) each day in October. 

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Please, Just Don’t

Forget about truth being stranger than fiction, truth is way funnier. It almost always is. And Jean Kerr wrote brilliantly about her truth as a mom. Originally a playwright, Kerr also wrote magazine essays. She parlayed those into books. And she sure had a keen talent for highlighting the laughter in the mundane. I like her style.

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Please Don’t Eat the Daisies was, for me, a perfect example of how our lives are the perfect material for any piece of art we have the desire to create. Whether it’s the feelings that accompany the varied life circumstances that are universal, or the cast of characters who are almost always by our sides (again, universally), a mom-writer will never be short of ideas if they look down about 20 inches to the nearest child.

The thing about humor writers like Betty Macdonald, Shirley Jackson, Erma Bombeck, and Jean Kerr is that they inspire me. For any woman desperately seeking time to mother, wife, and foster a writing career, these women modeled a way. They just took family-life experiences and mined them for gold.

Life is messy and parenting is tornado-level messy, but with quotes like these, I feel mollified when I must loudly proclaim things like, “Don’t lick the mirror!” Because, ew! And please, just don’t.

“The real menace in dealing with a five-year-old is that in no time at all you begin to sound like a five-year-old.”

Truth? Yes indeedy.

Enjoying the books I’ve chosen in my Write 31 Days Challenge series of the Best Books Ever? Missed a few days? Click the button below!

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It Seems Like It’s Disappearing

What makes a childhood?  I’ve been giving that question a lot of thought since the day I first read Neil Postman’s The Disappearance of Childhood. That thinking took on an urgency once becoming a parent.

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Sweetgirl had a playdate for the girls in her new classroom last week. As I eavesdropped (because, MOM) on their conversations, I heard one eight year old exclaim to another that so-and-so in their class asked her out. One girl squealed, another put her hand to her heart and sighed (I kid you not), and another asked if it was The So-And-So from their classroom.

Wait.

Back that train up a sec.

HE ASKED HER OUT?!?!

She’s EIGHT YEARS OLD.

Yes, I am yelling.

Before I get an onslaught of negativity about not taking their little conversations so seriously and they are just testing out this growing up thing, SHE PRODUCED A PHONE NUMBER! He apparently wrote his phone number down and said, “Call me sometime.”

Full up stop.

Just stop.

Because, childhood? It seems like it’s disappearing.

When I was eight, the only adult things missing from my social life were teeth.

Neil Postman wrote about the phenomenon I was witnessing in his book.

More, and more frequently, I am struck by how we are losing our social idea of children as separate from adults. The divide between what experiences a child should have and what experiences we encounter as adults is shrinking.

It bothers me.

Does it bother anyone else?

Of television Postman writes,

“The six-year-old and the sixty-year-old are equally qualified to experience what television has to offer…For in speaking, we may always whisper so that the children will not hear. Or we may use words they may not understand. But television cannot whisper, and its pictures are both concrete and self-explanatory. The children see everything it shows.”

Television isn’t the root of all evil. (We all know money is, right?) But, what the t.v. does is “eliminate the exclusivity of worldly knowledge and, therefore, [eliminate] on of the principal differences between childhood and adulthood.

Right?

I mean, take a look at any current cartoon geared towards “children” and you will hear plenty of adult humor peppered throughout.

Reading this book opened my eyes to the ways in which media can negatively impact our children’s ability to have an actual childhood. And while it won’t leave you with warm fuzzies, it will open your eyes to the realities of the techno-world we live in.

Parenting is full of pitfalls and epic fails. I’m thankful for Postman’s ability to draw my eyes to the places where it can get especially holey. It helps me be more aware.

And I’ll take all the help I can get. Yes indeedy.

We’re winding down here in the Write 31 Days Challenge. If you’ve missed any of my other posts in the Best Books Ever series, click the button below. (They’re not all this heavy!)

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Through the Trees

A singing waiter, a girl who loves to read (and who fights for her education), and a bad girl who only wants to be a mama were three of my favorite storylines in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

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Taking place in the beginning decades of the 20th century, Smith brilliantly captures the plight of over-comers. In this case, the Nolan women. From the deepest desire of motherhood in Katie’s sister to the deepest desire to rise above, in Francie, this book allowed me a birds-eye view through the trees. I felt like I was given an inside track on the themes that run through many women’s hearts, even now in 2016.

The main character, Francie Nolan encountered something that felt relatable to me. Mostly, the idea of being a girl in a boys world. That Neely was loved more because he was a boy made me mad. And that Katie had to work extra hard to overcome her husband’s weaknesses didn’t help either. This book was, I believe, an ode to feminism.

But above all it’s all about the books. The love of All The Books. Of Francie, Smith writes,

“The world was hers for the reading.”

Indeed it was.

So, of course, this was one of my favorites characters in a story. And this book, one of my favorites.

Catch up with all of the other books in my Best Books Ever series for the Write 31 Days Challenge. Click the button below to see what others were on my list.

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