What I Learned in 2014

2014 was a year full of new challenges, grand adventures, goals met, lessons learned, and a whole host of moments where dark chocolate was desperately needed! I’m including my favorite posts from each month. But, I have to tell you – it was not easy to choose which posts to include. In fact, reading through each month sent me running for the tissue box more than a time or four (not to mention the stash of dark chocolate chips I realized I was going to need to keep on hand just to get through the month of June!)

So, grab your favorite cup of something warm (or cold) and join me as I reflect back on 2014.

Lessons_Learned_2014_Missindeedy

In January, I learned that I was one in a million. I also realized how very deeply I love my Dermatologist.

February reminded me that Sweetman is wicked smaht, and that I need to pay better attention during our conversations.

March was the month where I finally pursued a long-held goal of mine to enter the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. And, although the outcome wasn’t what I’d hoped, it felt good to give it a go.

And, of course, in April, Dentists became dead to me, as we learned of sweetgirl’s boo-boos on her teeth.

May was where I reflected on the BOOM created by the very different Myers-Briggs personalities in my marriage.

June brought a painful lesson in turning the other cheek, from Sweetboy, and reminded us how Autism can have painful ripple effects for a parent – but that it doesn’t win!

July reminded me that Sweetgirl is always watching, and that Autism can sweeten the interaction between siblings – especially when a yoga ball (or two) is involved.

August is when I finally realized where my mission field is. And, OH, how I yearn to work it well!

September was the month where I learned that I can both set a goal and reach it and set a goal and fail! The women’s triathlon was successful. The goal I set afterwards was not. (There is always 2015!)

In October, I proved that I can indeed get along with Commitment, after all. I accepted the Write 31 Days challenge. Because, Grace, I know Him well.

November was full of masks, casts, and WINS! (P.S. If you need me on January 1st or, LORD WILLING, January 12th, I’ll be parked in front of the television, yelling encouraging my beloved BAMA’s football players to RUN THAT BALL!)

And, December, of 2014, taught me to shop a little earlier for the “classics”, as I reflected on the beauty of the lesson in the The Little Drummer Boy.

Such grace laces my days. I was reminded of that on more than a hundred occasions over this past year. I’m encouraged to keep moving toward new goals, maybe even toward an old one, or two, that got dropped along the way.

Hope sparkles on the horizon for 2015.

I’m praying that it does for you, too.

Yes indeedy!

What were some of your favorite lessons learned in 2014? Please, share them! I’m linking up with the lovely Emily Freeman, over at Chatting At the Sky, for her “What We Learned” link up.

 

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Bliss Gets a Bad Rap

Productivity was at an all time high around here, yesterday afternoon.

Why?

Because, Sweetgirl had a playdate directly after school.

You’ve just not heard silence so golden as the silence we experience when our resident chatterbox isn’t chattering.

Blessed.

Silence.

Sweetboy desperately needed to get his haircut before we fly down to see The Nana and Ahab this weekend. His awesomely awesome fauxhawk isn’t going to maintain itself!  We knew sissy was going to be gone a few days beforehand, so we hatched a plan to spring him from school an hour early and get the haircut taken care of.

The poor child’s nose has been running, as if in a marathon, for the last few days. Being the fabulous and fancy mama that I am, I offered to take him to Tarjay for an Icee after the haircut. I figured that would give me the excuse I needed to go back and get the two things I actually went into that dratted store for, the other day. Because, Target!

Driving to and from each errand, with no little sister to interrupt our conversation with her own thoughts on what brother should do/think/feel/say, Sweetboy opened right up.

Like a can of worms.

We discussed the upcoming Geography Bee at school, this week (He’s excited. And nervous. But mostly excited. However, he doesn’t want to “actually make it all the way to nationals in another country, because I’m not ready for that yet!” At which point, we had to have a conversation about all the levels he’d have to master before making it that far. And, of course, how “nationals” doesn’t actually entail leaving your particular nation. Fun stuff, people.)

From there, we moved to halitosis. Riveting, I tell you. I was reminded that, although he loves me dearly, I really do need to brush my teeth in the morning. I kept my comments about his own dragon breath, in the morning, to myself. He then proceeded to expound on the pros and cons of cinnamon versus mint toothpaste. (One, he informed me, tastes better in the morning, and one better at night.) He covered using his fluoride rinse in the morning versus the evening.  (Have your eyes glazed over, yet?)

He ended the stream of chatter with a solid exclamation about how he can. not. wait. to get down to Florida so that he can finally, FINALLY, wear shorts again! “Mama, you did pack only my shorts, right? Which shorts did you pack? Can we buy a new pair of shorts down there? Can I wear shorts to the airport? Do you think Nana will buy me some Florida shorts?” (Still trying to figure out what those are….)

I was dizzy from hearing the word “shorts” so many times in one hot minute of conversation. Thankfully, we arrived at home.

He almost skipped into the house, he was so content.

And, happy.

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I can’t express to you how much joy fills my heart when this child feels content. And happy. This eleven-year-old, who fights his dark thoughts so valiantly. This child, who worries about whether his hands need to be washed again, moments after washing them vigorously, every. single. time. This guy, with an intense need and desire to hop his troubles away…

When he feels happiness?

Well, the word bliss gets a bad rap, because in this instance, it aptly describes my state. And, clearly, from the joy emanating from his own face, his, too.

It would seem that a mental health afternoon was exactly what this kiddo needed.

And, you know what?

His mama did too.

Yes indeedy.

Smitten With Grace

Watching The Three Caballeros with Sweetboy  and Sweetgirl, the other day, I was reminded that families can have rituals that make no sense what-so-ever, to other families. And, they don’t need to.

Watching this Way Retro movie, that my children adore, I was given about an hour and twelve minutes to reflect on how this came to be a comforting ritual for us.

3_Caballeros

Sweetboy’s Autism Diagnosis was something we almost felt relieved to hear. Listening to the child regurgitate entire portions of “Blues Clues” at 22 months old, was unnerving, to say the least. His preoccupation with the handy-dandy notebook being exactly right, even more so. Terrible Two’s aside, we realized that his reactions and perseverations weren’t that of your average bear.

Once we were given an idea of what we were up against, we were able to redirect our energies into seeing how Autism could work for him instead of against him, as it had for the previous year.

We always said that our Sweetboy was like a 1,000 piece puzzle. And, up until we heard the words, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, we felt like were being given one piece at a time.

Frustrating.

Achingly frustrating.

And then…

We felt like with the diagnosis came 500 pieces. It was a grace. It was truly a grace in every sense of the word. It was an unmerited favor – as no one owed us an explanation. It became an honor to carry this mantle with our child. And, to be brutally honest with you? We now view the wiring of our child’s brain as that of done with finesse, by a Master Creator.

There are so many gifts that Autism brings into this family. When we  see roads and maps and cultures and weather, we get to view them through such intense lens, through Sweetboy.

And that, is a grace, too.

Endowed by The Giver of all Grace.

And we are grateful. We are.

From the first time that Sweetboy’s eyes lit on Donald, Ponchito, and Pablo, he was smitten with their quirky ways. Just as we have become smitten with Sweetboy’s. Viewing that movie, through his eyes, became something our entire family could enjoy together.

And, just like that, it became a ritual. Something we could do together. An activity that we could all, every one of us, experience and enjoy.

Grace, indeed.

31days_of_grace_button_missindeedy

This post is day 23 in the Write 31 Days challenge.

Would someone kindly remind me never to auto-schedule again? 9:45 am is O9:45. Got it Missy? Get it? Good!

 

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!

in_knots_missindeedy

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.

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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.