You Gotta Think Positive

When negative thoughts rise within him, Sweetboy needs as many hands on deck as possible to redirect him towards hope. Sometimes, my earnest hugs and feeble words don’t come close to touching his darkest thoughts. Or, it might be a day where my mood might be a tad bit darker than his, making it even harder to help him move toward joy.

But God…

He provided me with Sweetman, who can pick up where I leave off. And He also saw fit to give us Sweetgirl, who carries hope in her pocket every hour of every day.

It’s within the safety net of home that we are able to be helpers to each other. We find ourselves dancing around each others’ moods with just the right steps. And we come to know which moves to use under what circumstances, the longer we have had to be in each others’ presence.

I’m grateful that Autism touches our family. It forces us to dance to rhythms we might never have chosen. It also teaches us to be patient as we learn new moves.

I’ve been giving negativity a lot of thought, lately; as in, wanting to give it the boot. And, when I read this blog post about the ill effects of negativity, by Michael Hyatt last week, holy cow! My determination to keep moving Sweetboy in positive directions got a major boost.

To that end, Sweetgirl and I made up a chant to help our Sweetboy think more positively. Our little ditty isn’t likely to win any Dove or Grammy Awards, but it surely does help to snap that child’s mind into a better place. And, while he does indeed groan whenever we fire it up, we’ve started hearing him hum it to himself as he bounces around the house, once in a while.

“You’ve got to think POSITIVE, POSITIVE, POSITIVE! And only think the BEST, the BEST, the BEST!”

(I totally stole that from God. In Philippians 4:8. Where He directs us to think about only the things that are good and worthy of praise.)

Progress – that’s all any of us can hope for as we go along. Certainly not perfection. There was only One who was perfect. And He longs for us to keep moving forward, inching our way as we crawl on our bellies, some days. But, moving forward, nonetheless.

One way to keep taking steps in the right direction is to keep our eyes on all that is good. Another way to do that is to surround ourselves with folks who look for the best in a situation. I see us, Sweetgirl, Sweetman, and me, as those people for our Sweetboy.

And, I pray God continues to surround him with those people outside of our four walls.

Ahab always told us to “plan for the worst and hope for the best”. Solid advice, that.

And I’d add, you gotta think positive!

Yes indeedy!

For Time to Stand Still

Forget time-travel…I want to stall it!

Sweetgirl has developed quite a sense of humor. And lately, she beats me to every punch line. I have a funny come back for Sweetboy and she spouts it off before I get out the first syllable. We watch a funny scene in a movie and she’s chortling before I get the first snort out.

And then, she knows things that are beyond me. This kid, she has a sense of time and space that I do not even aspire to. This simply must come from Sweetman. I assure you, these skills of modulating an area, sequencing tasks in order of efficiency, enjoying math… alllllll Sweetman. Thank you God for letting me be yoked to my Sweetman!

Yet, she is still small enough to sit in my lap and let me cup her cheeks in my hands and murmur how much we adore her. She fits. Right there in my lap. Secure. Cherished. Mine.

I am clinging to these hours, days, weeks-months-years. As graduation looms around me for so many other parents, I want to linger in these fleeting moments.

Can we parents come together and agree that it would be a fantastic idea to create a sort of “time-stopping machine”?

Can we?

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Because, imagining the ability to soak in a moment of the sun glinting off of her pale yellow hair as she dances amongst the wildflowers swells my heart. I want to press pause as I watch her tiptoe with gentle and cautious optimism toward the bird nervously perched five feet away.

And Sweetboy… oh child! How I love that my heart is beginning to beat more in tandem with his. The thumping is erratic at times, but as he discovers more of his gifts and talents and loves, I see that we are not that different, he and I. We both laugh hysterically over bathroom humor. His laugh… I could listen to that beautiful sound play over and over and over.

What a gentle way he has with others! I like to eavesdrop on his conversations sometimes. I wish I could halt the flow of them and take notes on how he waits attentively, taking feelings into account in ways that others his age often don’t. He is expert at feeling empathy in situations others would flat-out miss.

And the child has caught my love of reading. I don’t care that it’s Big Nate that makes him read voraciously. Seeing his love for what the written word can do for a person, grow is a joy. I sneak in sometimes, long after “bedtime”, and just stand watching his eyes dance across the pages.

I want… no, I need time to stand still for all of these precious moments that I know are fading from our daily interactions.

Indeed.

We danced in the living room, the other day. Homework was done, we were all feeling worn down from the day, and there was an energy zinging amongst us that desperately needed release. As I pressed play, my children, these precious people who God knit inside of me and allowed me to birth out into the world, they danced around me in circles of love.

I just want it to go on forever.

But it can’t.

So, for now, I just need time to stand still.

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.

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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.

 

Why The Little Drummer Boy Still Rocks

Sweetman came home, the other day, with a boxed set of “Christmas Classics” DVDs. We only wanted Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeeryou see; but, we missed the buying boat for just that one. Everyone else had already been there and bought that.

Because Sweetman is brilliant (and really, because he knew coming home without the movie in-hand would cause a mutiny), he bought the boxed set. All for the low-but-actually-not-so-low price of 2 Many Dollars. It includes Rudolph, of course, and Frosty the Snowman, and The Little Drummer Boy, and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, and a couple of other “original” classic Christmas movies.

Except, I don’t remember some of these movies as being classics.

In fact, two of the movies included are Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol and Cricket on the Hearth. I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure I would have remembered a “classic” about a young woman going blind from shock, and a crow sent out to murder a sweet little talking cricket, and Brandon Thomas’ toothy grin as he narrates it all. Oh, I especially would have remembered that. That’s the stuff of nightmares, folks. Oh, yes it is! No matter how delightfully Mr. Thomas croons about the birth of The Savior.

Anyhoo, one of the movies that I had plumb forgotten about, was The Little Drummer Boy. We snuggled in and began watching. Five minutes into it, though, I considered the choice a mistake.

WHY did they kill his parents, Mama?” Followed by, “But WHY does the little boy not have people who love him?”

And then, the tears!

I’ll be honest, I wanted to have a stern word with the folks who thought this kind of story line was a good one for children. Until, of course, I realized I’d likely be yelling at a bunch of dear elderly persons in a nursing home.

Sweetboy interrupted my imaginings by innocently asking why the little drummer boy wanted to be alone with the animals and why he hated people?

And, I realized with a start that I had one of those rare golden parenting opportunities. We, parents, only get this kind of opportunity every-so-often. I wasn’t about to let this one go by with a shoulder-shrug.

We pressed pause.

As two expectant pairs of eyes stared at me, I realized how many directions I could go with this conversation. Anger is an emotion all humans experience. Death is an experience all humans will eventually meet with. And, hatred is something none of us ever wish to encounter, but far too often do.

Where to start? How far to go? What words are appropriate for a six and eleven-year-old?

The words I chose were the ones that were the simplest. And the most truthful. I asked them if anyone had ever hurt their feelings. When each said yes, I asked them how it made them feel. One said sad, the other said angry.

Ah, yes. Emotions that we all feel.

We talked through some of the ways people respond to others when they are angry. Or hurt. Or sad. Because, really, sometimes they’re all bumping up against each other. Right?

I asked them why they thought Jesus came to earth as a baby. That was a tricky one for Sweetgirl. But Sweetboy? He nailed it. “So we could be in God’s family.”

Oh, child… YES!

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The Truth. It’s the best place to start and the best place to end.

Always.

They both got antsy, after that, and asked me to press play. We watched on as, in the end, that little drummer boy was able to give away his most prized possession out of love. Love that was placed in his heart, and is placed in ours, for the purpose of overcoming the anger and the hurt and the sadness.

Thank you Jesus!

What grace!

It turns out, The Little Drummer Boy still rocks! He may be stilted in his movements, but the heart behind his story beats strong among us all.

Oh, how it does!

Yes indeedy.

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.

5 Lessons I Re-Learned About Parenting While Filming a Video

I made a mini-rap video for a sweet group of friends, recently. I needed tech support. And a back-up dancer. I recruited Sweetgirl for the dancing and Sweetboy as my videographer. Seemed legit.

And, it worked well enough.

Until I messed up.

By the seventh “take”, however, my filter started to slip.

Then, I remembered that I was in front of little ears. I was reminded that even the tamest of DADGUMMIT’s could be imitated in all the wrong ways.

When the “filming” wrapped up (after Take 14, by the way), I had re-learned a few precious parenting lessons.

1. Whatever dance moves you are attempting, whether poorly or worse-than-poorly, the six-year-old will emulate.  This is not the time to attempt those fly moves (do people say that anymore?) from J. Lo’s latest music video. And for goodness’ sake, it’s not all about that base!

2. Your reaction to a flub up will be on video. The person filming you will be watching intently as he films you. Therefore, he may start stomping around and screaming “DARNIT DARNIT DARNIT” the next time he makes a mistake. You will think he looks ridiculous, and start to tell him so. Until you remember where he got it.

3. The backup dancer is closest to the under-the-breath mutterings. She will hear them. She will ask questions. Questions you didn’t intend to have to answer for your six-year-old.

4. Making up your own words to a song like, say… Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” is all fun and games. Until one child, or both, asks if they can see “the real song” on The YouTube. That’s a whole lot of behinds. And bad hair. And explaining. They get enough of All The Real with media pushing pictures of champagne corks popping and backsides. You will regret choosing that song. You may also end frantically looking up pictures of puppies, instead, with promises to talk to daddy about getting one. To divert their attention, of course. Possibly.

And…

5. Your videographer and back-up dancer will have enjoyed the experience so much, that they will ask you to show them other rap songs that they can change the words to and make videos of themselves singing. You will realize the scarcity of appropriate songs. You will rue the day.

Oh, yes indeedy.

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*A note to The Nana, Ahab, Gammy and Grampy – I did not let them actually see the “real” video. They were far more interested in the adorable French Bulldog puppy video that I was able to switch over to, oh-so-quickly. If we end up with one, I blame myself.

*Also, a note to Sweetman – we may end up with a French Bulldog. I’m sorry.

Flying in a V Fourmation

Sweetboy, and then, Sweetgirl, fell in love with a children’s album by the Bare Naked Ladies, a few years ago.  On it was one particular song that Sweetman felt he could tolerate.  It quickly became “Daddy’s song”. It was titled, “Here Come the Geese”. 

It has a soothing melody, and for that, Sweetman and I are eternally grateful. As, we had to listen to it on repeat eleventy hundred, plus one, times.  Whenever we’d get to the chorus, the word “flying in a V formation” always harked me back to a particular verse from the Psalms.

V_Fourmation_Geese_Wanderlust_Missindeedy

I don’t know you very well. And, I certainly don’t know your heart. But, I think most of us are trying very hard to figure out who, exactly, stands with us.

Whether we’re seeking those willing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder politically, spiritually, emotionally, or any other -ally, we’re searching.

And when I search, I always find Grace sweeping in to my right, or left. In those moments when I’m looking backwards (and nothing good ever seems to come out of that, for me), He’s there. And when I’m more forward thinking, I can just make out the shadow of Grace, watching.

Isn’t that just like Him? Hemming us in, in all of the right ways. Leading us on, into greater and greater love.

Being our Wingman.

“A wingman (or wingmate) is a pilot who supports another in a potentially dangerous flying environment.”

Even, maybe especially, when we didn’t even know we needed one?

Because, I don’t know about you, but I find myself in plenty of “dangerous flying environments”, on account of all the spunk.

And, an Eternal Wingmate is a lovely way to think of Grace.

Don’t you think?

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This is post 4, as part of my contribution toward the #write31days going on over here.

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.

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