In Knots

Sweetboy came downstairs, this morning, dressed in shorts that used to fit.

I sighed.

Do you ever sigh when your children present themselves in clothes that clearly don’t fit anymore?

My sigh, however, was because Sweetboy’s shorts were falling down. This means that he’s lost more weight.  Neither of which are good.

He has also, I should point out, shot up approximately 87 inches, and is getting dangerously close to my height.  That might have something to do with it, too.

I’m in denial there, though.

It’s a wonderfully lazy river to drift down. You should try it sometime.

Back to the shorts problem. It’s one we’ve encountered before.  It did not end well. You can read about how I used a social story to help The Child understand the importance of well-fitting shorts, here.

Clearly, that social story did it’s job pretty darn well! And I know that because, this morning, Sweetboy informed me that his shorts were “about the fall down and that’s not good, mama!”

A to the men!

We were standing in front of the wide open front door doing final preparations before a sweet friend’s mother came to pick him up for camp.  (Carpooling is a wonderful invention in these here modern times, is it not?) He proceeded to strip those shorts right on off, so I could “get the knot out, please?”

Doesn’t everyone strip down in front of a wide open front door?

No?

I’ll tell you, though, that was some knot in those shorts! I could not, for the life of me, get it out in the two minutes I had before the poor unsuspecting parent showed up.  But, I knew I could get that knot out, with the right tools and about five extra minutes.

Minutes that, unfortunately, I didn’t have at the moment.

So, we swapped out the ill-fitting shorts for ones that stayed up. I’m happy to report that he was fully dressed when the carpooling parent arrived. I scooted him out the door before anyone was the wiser.

I read, recently, how the strengths and skills God gives each of us are ones that simply cannot lay dormant for long.  They somehow work and weave their way throughout our living.

Positivity does that, for me.

What does that, for you?

My stomach had been in knots for the past couple of weeks, as I anxiously awaited this week of camp for Sweetboy.  It’s all day.  I won’t be there. Who are these parents that choose to give their week to volunteering from 8 – 5 with boys. In the woods. (It turns out, they are pretty amazing parents!)

And yet, through it all, I was able to find some silver lining, somewhere, at the conclusion of each set of worries.

Thinking positively has gotten me through some rough periods.

I know it’s not for everyone.

Being called Tigger, and Susie Sunshine, and PollyAnna, and all those names, taught me that. Tone does much telling, doesn’t it?

But, I do know that even in the knotted up moments of life, I can yank on that positivity to unravel the worry.

Because I also know that God’s got each worry I have and doesn’t take a single one lightly.

And, I especially know that the knots will come out.

Eventually.

Oh, yes indeedy!

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To Be Just Like Brother

Autism Spectrum Disorder touches each family it enters into in unexpected ways.

It touches ours with exercise equipment.

The particular and peculiar ways that a child will exhibit their self-stimulatory behaviors (stims) is as unique as a fingerprint. We’ve been through a couple of different sets of fingerprints in this house.

First, there was the swing. Next, was the mini-trampoline. Oh, how we loved that trampoline! Until little sister threw up on it.

And now, it’s a yoga ball.

Each of these pieces of exercise equipment has provided the deep joint-muscle interaction that Sweetboy’s body desperately needs. Each bounce signals to his brain that his body is getting the input it needs and that his world is orderly.

I’m no scientist. And, in fact, math is something that I have to remind myself is a necessary evil. But, when I see my Sweetboy feeling all jumbled up by a day that’s doing him in, and then I watch him bounce it all away on that ball for 10 minutes and come back ready to cope? That’s an amazing process to watch.

At the moment, that child of mine has turned our home into a literal Bounce House.

Three years worth of hopping has been replaced, mercifully, by bouncing on his yoga ball.

We couldn’t be gladder!

This past year, Specialists have been expressing concern for the potential of bone spurs on the heels and balls of his feet, with all of the hopping that he’s done these last few years.

The hopping was a form of stimming, for Sweetboy. When a child on The Spectrum stims, it’s often to help them regulate their outside world, bring order to feelings of chaos, and calm themselves down.

Sweetboy is no different. And, as you can imagine, summertime brings a special kind of unrest to this house. The lack of definitive schedule and the spur-of-the-moment ice cream runs, though they are fun, take their toll on his sense of stability.

And so, the child bounces on his ball.

A lot.

And do you know who’s watching every move?

Sweetgirl.

She observes all of his idiosyncrasies not as someone appalled, but as someone enthralled.

Enthralled by her brother’s constant movement.

Enamored of his ability to balance just so.

The bouncing has been a welcome change.

We certainly do hear less complaining of how much his “legs hurt”.

But the best part about this change?

Sweetgirl now has her own mini purple ball.

To be “just like brother”.

Dueling Yoga Balls

Dueling Yoga Balls

Yes indeedy!

Watching Them Play

Four backs all turned to me, are sitting happily on the blacktop of the driveway. They are noticeably minus one.  That one is facing me. Facing the others, too.  It struck me afresh that “one of these kids is not like the other.”

Three siblings sit next to each other, enjoying the cool of the shade. My own two children are in the mix, too, but I can’t help but notice how different Sweetboy can look from other kids, just by his choice of seating position.

It’s in these moments that I feel lonely.

Watching him play.

Realizing that he always manages to find a way to separate himself from the crowd. Albeit unintentionally.

Even a crowd of well-loved friends.

I listen to chatter about water balloons, all spent and shriveled up in their burst state – a million little shards of latex balloon peppering the driveway.  Much like the shards of my heart in this moment.

Their conversation is like popcorn kernels exploding in the air.

“I so won that round!”

“My baby water balloon never popped. Look, I’ve still got it!”

“Maybe we can fill up more after we take a snack break?”

“That was fun!”

And then, his own comment. Different.

“Do you want to swing now?”

I forget sometimes. I forget that this child, this Sweetboy, he marches to the beat of his own drum. It is not the music that other kids his age often hear.

This melody is an awesome and awful tribute to how differently my child’s mind processes activities that he participates in. Conversations that he carries on with friends often reveal more about what he’s not into than what he is. It’s a stark reminder that the music he hears has strains running through it that others cannot.

I hear it, though.

In these moments, I do.

And I see it.

And I still, nine years after that first Autism diagnosis, I still rail against what I see. And, what I hear.

Until…

My heart reminds me that he does, indeed, have friends to have conversations with.  There are activities he participates in.

Until I listen a little longer to hear, “No, we still want to play with water balloons, Sweetboy.”

Until I get to hear him answer back, “Okay. They are fun!”

And I feel okay again.

Watching them play, watching him play, the music carries on. I feel sure that he’s going to be okay.

Yes indeedy.

water_balloons_missindeedy

When to Turn the Other Cheek

One of the most helpful things I ever learned in counseling was to try to limit my use of “never” and “always” when thinking and speaking about feelings.

If you just broke into the theme song from the Broadway show “Cats”, I feel you.

If not, neither did I.

Sweetboy has a tendency to take his emotions to the extreme.  Words like always and never get lots of use. Sometimes, they are warranted. Most times, though, they’re just not.

We’ve had to work incredibly hard to curb his use of these words. It’s a tricky process.  When he’s in the throes of a meltdown, for instance, and ranting about how unlucky he always is, it’s a dicey proposition to step in and attempt to stem the tide of always or never.

He’s getting there.

Slowly, but surely.

Lately, we’ve had to work a lot more on the “why” behind his use of these polarizing words.  Why, as in, “Why do you feel like you are always a nobody?”

It turns out that there are some girls, some 4th grade girls, some not-even-in-his-class girls, who have been saying things to him on the playground.  Things like, “Your shirt and shorts don’t even match, you know!

For a kid who’s finally broken through to that dreaded other side of social understanding that now knows there is a social pecking order, those sorts of comments are devastating.

Especially when you are an always and never kind of kid.

Each time that Sweetboy encounters some slight at the hands of his classmates, (And it happens more and more, in these past few months of fourth grade.), he feels it very deeply.

His emotions run high, and that’s only somewhat because of his ASD.  It’s mostly because he’s my child.

Just keepin’ it real.

Honestly, though, I’d like to know who doesn’t go all Mama Bear when other kids pick on their children. Really! Show me a mom that exhibits loving-kindness in that kind of social situation, and I would like her to become my mentor.

Preferably, tonight.

Determining that turning the other cheek is the right course of action is generally not so hard for me.

Actually turning the other cheek?

That takes some prayerful effort.

Turning the other cheek when the circumstances involve my children?

Oh, jeepers…

I know what the right answer is… I do!

Thankfully, I didn’t have to give it.

“That’s not a nice thing to say,” he told them. “Besides, they’re just clothes.”

The boy up and turned his cheek all by himself.

Forgive_One_Another_Missindeedy

And, while I’d love to pick up the phone and ask these mothers, both of whom I am acquainted with around town, if they are aware that their girls are speaking to another child this way, I won’t.

Instead, I’ll turn the other cheek.

Because, God knew it would take my Sweetboy to plant that particular lesson a little more firmly in this thick head of mine.

I’m learning that the answer to the question of when to turn the other cheek, is one simple word.

Always.

Find Your Special

I_Won_April_Fools

APRIL FOOLS!

(Someone go check on Sweetboy.  I’m pretty sure he’s online trying to buy us a house in Disney World as I type!)

Special is as special does. (Did Forrest Gump say that?) And, since my sweet family has just come off of the high that was “The Lego Movie”, we’re all feeling like we really can be special.  And, that everything is awesome. I have to admit, I’m a fan of the message that movie sent.

Find your Special.

We’re all diamonds in the rough.  Some of our rough is just… well, rougher than others.

Back to being special.  Because, really, don’t we all long to be?

Tomorrow is World Autism Awareness Day.  If you’ve been around here for any length of time, then you already know the scoop.  Sweetboy was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, an Autism Spectrum Disorder, when he was two years old.  You can read how we roll with it here and how the depression hit because of it here.

I think it’s safe to say that this day holds a very special place in my heart.  Greater awareness helps everyone – the children, the educators, the parents, the care providers and the larger community.

The theme this year is “Light It Up Blue” for Autism. You can find out more about that here.

And while we’re talking about being special, unique, and yea, maybe even nerdish, please! Go check out this awesome answer actor Wil Wheaton gave to a young girl’s question about being called a nerd at Comic Con.  So. Amazing.

We need more of exactly this in humanity.

Less looking for how others are weird and more finding your Special.

Yes indeedy.

Dontcha’ think?

Jesus Wore Pink

Jesus_Wore_Pink_Missindeedy

Growing up, we attended a church that was more famous for the pastel color painted on the outside than for what was taking place on the inside. The color of the church didn’t bother me much, although I can imagine many a visiting family’s conversation that went a little something like this: “Sorry family… We simply must find a church that’s less… pastel.”

While there were certainly some who adored Jesus and His ability to transform lives, none were as passionate as my Youth Group Leader. That building may have been pale on the outside, but it was ablaze with a fire for Jesus in this one man’s heart. And that fire spat embers of Life out onto all that came into contact with him.

I’m sure that Jesus wore pink because, over ping-pong and Orange Crush, I met Him. He scooped up my heart and claimed it right there in the middle of all that pastel.

My youth group leader’s influence has been on a my mind a lot lately. What he tirelessly sought to do was make each one feel included.  He brought so many of us tweens to the feet of The Only One who could soothe savaged hearts.  I remain forever grateful for his willingness to reach out to those who felt isolated, outcast, and awkward.

Some of you, who have graciously hung around here for a while, know that we went through a painful church search last spring. We found a church to call home, but it hasn’t called out “Home!” convincingly enough, to me, yet.

And, it certainly isn’t calling out home (or anything even remotely comforting) to Sweetboy. He was the reason for the change. It’s more than a little upsetting to hear your quirky boy, who has trouble connecting to others out there in The Everyday, issue the same indictments week after week. “No one likes me there.” “I haven’t met any friends.” “They’re not very nice there.”

My God!

If we can’t get it right for the least of these, then I think we may be getting this church thing all wrong.

I’m not sure what to do with how I feel about all of this at the moment.  Do I volunteer to be a Sunday School teacher so that I’m “being the change I want to see”? Do I be the “squeaky wheel that gets the grease” and tell the Children’s Pastor my concerns? Do I just keep hitting my knees and praying for God to open eyes and hearts?

Jesus wore pink, back when I was growing up, so I know he has no problem meeting people wherever and however He can.  I keep thinking back on that time and trying desperately to remember what the Sunday School teachers said and did that ushered in a sense of belonging and welcome.

I’m coming up empty, because I’m remembering through the lens of a parent whose child is hurting. And that lens? It keeps getting clouded over with tears. Talk to me. Please.  I need some community right about now.

Let’s brainstorm how The Church can do this better.  How can they meet the needs of the marginalized better? What can we, who believe in redemption for all, do to spur on a better way of loving those who are hard to love? 

 

Speaking With an Accent for Love

Those stormy moments we have with Sweetboy? They are always, eventually, countered by the treasured sound of his laughter. His giggle and guffaw do more to soothe our tattered hearts…  I believe that God provided Sweetboy’s laughter as a gift, wrapped up in this quirky melancholy son of ours.

And nothing makes my Sweetboy laugh harder than people talking in accents. If you ask him why, he’ll tell you that he finds different accents “interesting”.  And, in his mind apparently, interesting = hilarious.

This child is obsessed with All Things Geography, so it should come as no surprise that he enjoys learning how the people speak over in, say… Wales.  Or Mozambique. Or France.

I seized the moment, recently, when we were in the midst of a full on meltdown, to try out an accent that I’d been working on to make him laugh. (Try asking Mr. Google how to speak in a Welsh accent, some time.  Pure entertainment.) And it worked. Oh, how it worked!

He instantly snapped out of his deep dark place and asked, “Do you think they speak like that on the Western border of England, too, mama?”

Wait. What?

“Wales is on the western border of England. So, do you think that the people who live in England on the western border, but on the England side, not the Wales side…”

I now see who got my propensity for wordiness.

Seeing something worth moving his mind out of that negative parking space for, we were off on a You Tube search for “Welsh Accents”.

Just a few days ago, it was National Drink Wine Day. Serious. I took that as a sign that I should work on my Italian accent.  Maybe from the Tuscany region?

Yes.

Yes indeedy.

One In A Million

You may remember we had back-to-back episodes of Strep Throat in this house last month.  Well, it’s the gift that keeps on giving…

What started as a strange little rash on the backs of my legs two weeks before Christmas has spread like wildfire all over my body. Not. Even. Kidding. And I would have lived with it…happily. And stayed covered head to toe in clothes that would not only guard against these single digit temperatures we’ve been experiencing up here in the Northeast, but also hidden the effects of some of the leftover Christmas cookies I may or may not have consumed recently.

But, once I discovered they were making their way upwards and started to see them in my hairline, I put my foot down.  You do NOT mess with a girl’s hair!

Amen?

Now, when my general practitioner initially took a look at this little rash those four weeks ago, she had no idea what it could be.  “Maybe an allergic reaction to the amoxicillin? Why don’t you stop using it and let’s see what happens over the next 2 weeks.”, was her suggestion.

She then kindly sat down on the bench next to me to thumb through her manual of Every Horrendous Rash Ever. I became more woozy with each turn of the page as she kept murmuring things like, “Hmmm, certainly not that.” and “DEFINITELY not that!”.  I may have gagged a few times and danged near passed out, but she was not to be deterred. “We” looked through far too many pages of that blasted manual of ailments. Ailments, I’ll have you know, that I may need CIA level brainwashing techniques to ever remove from my mind. (I don’t know if the CIA does that sort of thing, but if they do and any of y’all “know someone”, please, help a girl out! )

So, back to the doctor I went. But this time, I was rerouted to my dermatologist. Now, I love my dermatologist.  He reminds me of Mr. Magoo and he always has a mischievous twinkle in his eye.  Plus, he’s seen me naked and never batted an eye.

Anyhoo, he saw me and instantly lit up with a huge smile and shook my hands warmly as he asked me to what he owed the pleasure of seeing me again so soon. I threw off that glamorous johnny quicker than a woman on fire and pointed to my head. “Look at this! This rash is creeping up into my hairline! You’ve got to help me get rid of this rash, Dr. G.!”  Now, I think the nurse might have snickered a bit at the fact that I didn’t mind standing practically buck-nekid while I feverishly pointed to my hair, but I didn’t give two hoots.

“Hmmm…”, he said all calm-like. He then asked me exactly 2 questions before solving this mystery.

“You just got over a couple of bouts with strep throat?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have a history of psoriasis in your family?”

“Yes.”

“Guess what you have?”, he asked as if he was dying for me to know the answer and just couldn’t wait to tell me.

“A rash?”, I gamely replied.

“Better!  A STREP RASH!”, he excitedly said.

Me?  Not so excited.

I am apparently “one in a million” people who get an All Over Body Rash from Strep throat. Yes indeedy.

It turns out that I’m allergic to Strep Throat.

Perfect.

“Look! Look right here!”, he pointed to HIS manual of Every Horrendous Rash Ever (what IS IT about me that makes doctors think I’m up for seeing that business???).

Strep_Missindeedy

My poor Sweetman doesn’t know whether it will make me happier to love on me or to not touch me all. My Sweetboy is “too worried that I’ll catch it, mama!”, to let me love on him.

But, as usual, God got the last laugh in this situation because Sweetgirl? The one who I could use just an ever-so-teensy break from? She’s all over me.

Like a rash.

How About Some Shorter Days

Christina_Shaw_Creationswap_Missindeedy

This has been a vacation week full of laughter and tears (goodbye routine!). We’ve been mending bodies that are trying desperately to stay healthy, enjoying family time in another state, and playing games that require a doctorate in astrophysics to understand.

It’s been fun.

Wouldn’t you agree, Sweetman?

Sweetman???

I think he went on a long quick Starbucks run.

Desperate times…

In addition to all of the fun and games, we’ve had a few new interesting conversations, too.

“I’m not gonna teacher you any more daddy.”, promised Sweetgirl.

“What’s that now?”, he asked.

“Teacher you! You KNOW, Daddy, drive you crazy.”, she explained.

“Ah, you mean torture me?”

“Yeah, that word.”

So she says…

And then, Sweetboy… He who is obsessed with All Things Maps and All Things Countries, presented us with this little list of Countries that interest him. Some, he’d like to visit.  Some, he hopes never to have to.

Sweetboy_Country_Info_Missindeedy

Beware the Puffer Fish!

As of press time, he informed me there are new ones he’d like to add.  And I’m guessing poor Papua New Guinea will be on the left; for, as we talked last night, he made sure to tell us that they wear scary looking masks there.

And, with that pertinent information, I know you are waiting on the edge of your seats for the newest additions. I can only imagine that you are especially eager to find out which column each additional country will land in.

He says they will be forthcoming.

Oh children… how I love you and treasure this time with you. And, to be quite honest, I’d prefer some shorter days and longer years, please.

Yes indeedy.

Do NOT Go In There

You know how they tell you that you should never go to the grocery store hungry?  Well, you should also never go to Target with your wallet.

True story.

I walked in intending to pick up three things.  Soap (a noble endeavor, as everyone likes it when I shower), a gift card for my nephew (I started wrapping all of those presents I was talking about the other day and apparently, I forgot his!), and a new cereal that Sweetboy is fixated on (and, as luck would have it, only seems to be at Target right now).  Three things, people.

It did not go well.

target_cart

And this is only the top part of the cart.  You know… that little part where your baby/toddler’s sweet cheeks used to rest, but is now occupied by your purse?  Or, it was. Now, there’ no room at the Inn De La Tarjay Cart.

And, if you are an astute observer (as I’m sure all of you are), you’ll notice that I did indeed score the gift card.  And, buried in that pile in the actual cart is the cereal.  (We do not even want to consider what fresh hell awaits if I return without The Cereal.)

What I did forget, though?

The soap.

Yup.

Today, I’m so going to smell Peachy Keen.  Yes indeedy.  I’ll be using Sweetgirl’s 2-in-1 shampoo/body wash.  Because that’s what we’ve got on tap.

Sweetman’s just gonna have to fend for himself.

Beside, I can just run to Target to get some soap.