Only TWO?!

I’ve spent the better part of the past three days at church, cooking for several events.  On Monday night I brought home some leftover rolls…………..and we know how much Aaron loves rolls!  I was in my bedroom the next morning and heard Aaron come clomping up the stairs.  He marched into my room, holding the bag of rolls.

“Mom!  Can I have some rolls?  I brought them up here to you so that I wouldn’t feed any to Jackson!”

It’s good to see that there are times, few though they be, that Aaron does realize his limitations at self control.  He knows that the temptation for him to feed the dog a roll or two is just more than he can resist, so he decided to let me supervise the roll allotment this morning.  Besides, this good behavior will surely earn him an extra roll or two – right?

I opened the bag and handed him two rolls, which he chowed down very quickly.  “Mom, can I have some more?” he asked.  I told him that I thought two rolls was plenty.  He pondered this for a few seconds.

And then he responded, “I think, like two, is just not plenty.”

Well, of course Aaron thinks that two is just not plenty.  Two of anything is a mere starting point to Aaron!

This morning I was unloading the dishwasher and opened the cabinet to put away some plates.  This is what I saw:

I knew right away what had happened and when I asked Gary about it, he confirmed my thoughts.  Sure enough, last night Aaron was once again drawn to the bag of rolls.  I’m sure if left alone, he would have polished off the entire bag………..with a little assistance from Jackson.  Gary rationed them out to Aaron like I had done that morning, and then laid the bag aside.  Aaron knows our strategy very well.  When we realize that he will completely devour a particular food, we find a hiding place for it.  So Aaron strolled through the kitchen and as quietly as Aaron can be quiet, he put the bag of rolls into the bread box where they normally belong………….but where he also knew he can easily find them again as soon as the dust settled and Dad was distracted.  But Gary has the wisdom of experience and so he waited for Aaron to go up to his room.  As quietly as Gary can be quiet……….and he can be much quieter than Aaron, trust me!……………he went to the kitchen and hid the rolls.

Oh yes!  There is plenty of intrigue and sneakiness in our house!  Sometimes Aaron out-sneaks us and sometimes we out-sneak Aaron.  Gary won this round, as I discovered this morning.  I do believe that I’ll leave the misplaced bag of rolls in their clever hiding place, because I know that Aaron will be searching for them this morning.

After all, according to Aaron, two is just not plenty………and I’m sure he hasn’t changed his mind on that at all!  

Lionel Ritchie is Weird?

Last night, Aaron and I took some time to grab our backscratchers and tickle each other’s backs.  AH…………feels so good and it’s very relaxing.  Well, it’s relaxing as long as Aaron doesn’t get frustrated and start bearing down too hard, or giving random little stinging whacks on my back.  When that happens, I ask him if something’s wrong and he says, “Why?!  Am I not doing you right?”  And if I tell him that no, he is not doing a good job, then he often gets more frustrated and says, “There!  Am I doing it right now?  Is that better?!”   I just finally tell him that it’s my turn to tickle his back.  His response, invariably, is to say, “I’m not making you tickle mine, Mom!”  I assure him that I know that, and to just let me tickle him now.  It’s a lesson in frustration for me to hope that he’ll get any softer or calmer at that point.  Time to give in and get it over with.

Such was the case last night.  We sat down a little after 9:00 for some unwinding time before bed, taking the backscratchers – he likes a different one from the one I like – and getting settled.  I sat on the ottoman with him on the chair behind me as he began tickling my back.  I turned on the TV and there was the Lionel Ritchie special.  Fun!  I like his music and the guest singers were interesting, too.  I thought that Aaron would enjoy it.  He likes oldies music and likes watching American Idol.  I was ready for some soft tickle time before we switched places, and I would tickle Aaron’s back.

We listened to the music for a minute.  It didn’t take long for Aaron to ask, “Mom, who is that person singing?”  I told him it was Lionel Ritchie and some other singers, too…………Ritchie’s friends that had made a special program and recorded a CD, too.  Soon Aaron muttered, “Oh brother!”

Oh brother?  What’s wrong, Aaron?   “He’s weird,”  Aaron answered.

Weird?  You think Lionel Ritchie is weird?

“Yeah, he’s weird.”  So I asked why he thinks Ritchie is weird and he said, “He’s trying to be too cool.”

Oh.  Why do you think he’s trying to be too cool?  “I don’t know!,”  Aaron responded.  “He just is!”  I knew not to press Aaron for info because at times like this he can’t really verbalize exactly what makes him feel the way he’s feeling.  He just “knows” that something about this person is weird………..to him.  If I press too hard for answers, then Aaron will get frustrated.

The show continued, with me enjoying the songs and singing along to some of them.  And I noticed the backscratcher bearing down harder on my back………..and then it came.  Whack!  A little stinging, familiar whack on my back with the backscratcher.  I knew that this situation would probably only go downhill from here, but I wasn’t going to quit listening to Lionel Ritchie and Friends just because Aaron didn’t like it.

More muttering ensued.  “That’s dumb,” Aaron said.  Whack!  “This is stupid!”

Now, Aaron, you like oldies music.  There’s nothing dumb or stupid about the singers or the songs.  Why don’t you like this music?

He sighed.  “I don’t know………..different.”

Aaron, be softer on my back, OK?  I could feel his frustration level going up……..not only in his tension that was so evident but I could feel it on my back.  Whack!

Finally, after more muttered comments concerning how dumb this or that was, I told Aaron that it was time for me to do his back.  “Mom!  I’m not making you do my back!”  Whack!

Yeah, in a sense you are, Aaron.  Just let me tickle you now.  As I started on his back, he calmed down some.  Soon the program was over and our local news came on.  Aaron perked up…………the factual format of the news keeps him focused.  And of course, he loves to listen to the weather in order to find out if it’s going to rain tonight or tomorrow………..although he’ll still ask Gary and I multiple times before bed if it’s going to rain.

“Mom, are we going to get storms tomorrow?”    “So, do you think it’s going to rain?”   “Dad, is it going to rain tonight?”

Oh man, I so wanted to start muttering some feelings under my breath………that he would hear……….or give him a whack!  I didn’t.  Of course, with his back to me he couldn’t see me rolling  my eyes or shaking my head.

You’re weird sometimes, Aaron!  There.  I feel better.

Don’t Forget the Crescent Rolls!

Last night Aaron excitedly came into the family room from the kitchen, carrying this:

He found a package of crescent rolls in the refrigerator and instantly began planning his next morning’s breakfast.   “Mom!  Can we have these crescent rolls for breakfast in the morning?”  I told him that we could.  He was very happy indeed.  He went back into the kitchen, only to immediately return, still holding the can of rolls.  “So Mom, we can have these crescent rolls for breakfast?”

Yes, Aaron, I told you that we could.  “Well, I’m just helping you remember.”  Aaron, I will remember.  Believe me, with you around, I will definitely remember.

As he walked back to the kitchen, he said, “I’ll keep them on the counter.”   No, Aaron, they need to be kept in the frig.   “Well, I just want you to remember them.”

Don’t worry, Aaron.  He popped back into the family room, still holding the rolls up for me to see.  “This is the name of them.”  

Deep breath……….Aaron, I know the name of the rolls.  I know what they look like.  I.  Will.  Remember.

And do you know that it wasn’t five minutes later that he lumbered back into the family room and said, “Mom, do you remember what it is that I want you to cook?”  DO I LOOK LIKE I HAVE DEMENTIA?????  That last sentence was a thought……..I did not say it out loud.  I don’t think I did…………..maybe I forgot.

Well, this morning Aaron had a seizure around 5:00.  He would want me to tell you that his seizure occurred at 4:51.  He slept for a long time then and didn’t get up until after 9:30.  Of course, he feels awful after a seizure.  He slowly got out of bed and said, “Mom, I don’t feel well.”  He had the typical post-seizure headache and shakiness, but soon came on downstairs.

I just waited to see if he’d say anything about the crescent rolls and sure enough, after a few minutes, he said, “Hey wait!  Do you want to fix those rolls?”  So we got the crescent rolls out of the frig, opened the can, rolled them up just right, and popped them in the oven.  Aaron was very happy when he saw the hot rolls on his plate.  As I sat down, he said, “I’ll wait for you to pray.”  So sweet.  I asked him to pray and he, as he almost always does when he prays, had two sentences:  “Lord, please help me to feel better and thank you for the rain.”  And then instantly he asked me, as we raised our heads, “Is it true that slugs are slow?”  I tell you………..you have to follow Aaron wherever he goes in conversation.  Ping, ping, ping from one thing to another!

We enjoyed the rolls and our chattering……….mostly Aaron chattering…………and then he went upstairs to shower.  It wasn’t long before he was very sleepy again and so laid down for a nap……….and had another seizure.  I got him up a couple hours later and he sat in the bedroom with me while I ironed.

He talked of course, and most important, had some sweet attention from his buddy, Jackson.  Aaron is happy with the simple life that he has and I’m so thankful for that.  He has never once expressed bitterness about having seizures or autism.

And among his blessings today:  hot crescent rolls that he didn’t let Mom forget, and the love of a sweet dog……..and Mom………….and a walk around the circle………..and the Lord, Who helped him feel better and gave him rain, which he loves.  Not such a bad day after all!

Creative

I’ve written before about how Aaron likes to go sit in the mulch, or beside the mulch, in our flower beds.  He breaks the mulch into little pieces and watches as it drops into his special mulch trash can.  He will fill the can to the brim, which takes weeks, and then we’ll pour it out somewhere – and he’ll begin anew to fill the can with his broken mulch.  He has performed this ritual for many years, using leaves, sticks, grass, or mulch.

At times, neighbors or passers-by have asked him what he’s doing.  Some have said that they thought he was pulling weeds.  They must think we have tons of weeds, in one area at a time!  From these questions, Aaron has gathered that this activity of his must be unusual……or odd…….or just plain weird.  We know that his “playing in the mulch” or “being in the mulch”, as he calls it, is an autistic trait.  This ritual, this routine, relaxes Aaron.  It calms him when he is frustrated and overwhelmed.  He has asked us, though, if he is strange for “playing in the mulch.”  We assure him that this is not being strange, but that he is doing something he enjoys and that is relaxing to him.

When he was a student at the Day School here, his teacher called one day and asked if Aaron could go to the padded room that they had when he was frustrated.  This was a room where a student who was out of control could safely go and vent for as long as it took until he was spent and settled down.  They could curse, yell, bang on the walls, etc.  I found this idea, at least for Aaron, to be very disturbing.  I told the teacher that we didn’t encourage cursing, yelling, hitting, etc.  So I told him that if he had a container for Aaron, or that we would provide one, and then let Aaron sit outside the back door of the class room in the grass and leaves, that Aaron would calm down during those times that he was escalating.  Sure enough, they tried this and it worked.

I know that when people drive by and see this adult young man sitting beside our flower beds, picking in the mulch, that they find it very strange.  We’ve grown accustomed to people finding our Aaron a little strange, a little unusual, a lot loud……….and that’s OK.  I know that Aaron is also doing something else out there in the mulch.  He shared with us years ago that when he sits in the mulch, he’s making up stories in his head.  Most of his stories match his fantasy computer games.  His favorite story to make up in his mind involves……….are you ready?…………Jazz Jack Rabbit.  Yes, Jazz Jack Rabbit was a very favorite, very old, game of Aaron’s when he was a kid.  Aaron asked me once if I wanted to hear his made-up Jazz Jack Rabbit story and I made the mistake of saying yes.  It was a long story………….a very, very, very, very long story…………and it involved Aaron following me around the house as he told it in every excruciating detail.  I had to keep moving……….or I would have fallen asleep.  His monotone voice……..the fantasy story………..on and on and on……..my eyes are getting heavy even now.

Not too long ago, Aaron was talking to me again about his mulch time.  “Mom, when I’m playing in the mulch, I’m making up stories.  What do you call that?”

“Aaron, when you’re making up those wonderful stories, you’re being creative.”

And he answered, “Well, when I was doing that creative about Jazz Jack Rabbit……….”   and he proceeded to tell me something about the angle of his never-ending Jazz Jack Rabbit story.

Aaron was “doing that creative.”  I love his language…………well, most of the time………….and the way he really is very creative without even trying to be that way.  And he will continue to “do that creative” out in the mulch, I’d say, for as long as he’s able to get himself up and down onto the ground.  

I think it’s pretty fascinating when Aaron “does his creative”……………but I don’t intend to ask him to share his  creative with me again.
  

The Band Aid

A trait of Asperger’s that rears its head in various ways is the tendency to be very egocentric.  Aaron often thinks  that the world revolves around him.  I can have a cold or a headache, be laying on the couch, and all Aaron cares about is what he will eat for supper if I can’t cook.  Yet he shows more empathy now than he ever used to.  My blog back in the winter, The Hug, was a story of how he hugged me one night when I had a fever.  It was so unexpected and so sweet that it made me cry.  But I waited until he wouldn’t see me – he doesn’t handle other’s tears well, either.

Saturday evening after supper, as we cleaned the kitchen, I cut my finger on a can lid.  It really hurt and bled like crazy, but Aaron seemed totally unaffected by it.  Yesterday the finger started throbbing, swelling, and turning very red.  I ended up going to a nearby ER to have it checked, get a tetanus shot, some antibiotic meds and salve, and hopefully knock out the infection.

Yesterday was also a bad day with Aaron.  He didn’t want to go to Paradigm and we had some words in the morning.  He ended up staying home, but I didn’t say much to him all day.  I tried to just avoid him, and he knew why.  Sometimes he has such a hard time controlling his emotions, but I was having a hard day, too – and his actions didn’t help my emotional state at all.  He doesn’t like to see me withdrawn and quiet, but doesn’t know how to repair the results of his actions.  It’s really a stretch to think of him sitting down and saying he’s sorry, and then explaining how he’s feeling.  He gets close sometimes but not in the way that the rest of us can.

When I returned home from the ER last night, Gary had just finished mowing the yard.  I had dropped my prescriptions off on the way home, so he drove back down to the pharmacy to pick them up for me. Then he helped finish up supper, clean the kitchen afterwards, wash the dishes that didn’t go in the dishwasher, etc.  It was all so sweet of him.

But what touched me the most during that time was what Aaron did.  Aaron loves band aids, and because he always picks on his fingers he ends up slapping on a band aid here and a band aid there.  He takes our band aids out of the bathroom to keep them in his room, and because it’s a losing battle to try to keep him from doing that, I just buy him his own box.  While we were cleaning the kitchen, Aaron ran up to his room and then thumped loudly back downstairs.

He lumbered into the kitchen, held out a medium sized little band aid and said, “Here, Mom.  I got you a band aid.  It’s my last one but I got it for you to put on your finger.”  I almost told him no, that he could keep his last band aid, that I would get one from our bathroom……………but then I realized what had just happened.  Aaron cared about my finger!  And he was also reaching out to me, trying to repair our fractured relationship.  He was very pleased with what he had done.  How callous it would have been for me to reject that little band aid!  It would have been a rejection of Aaron and of his show of love and his attempt at reconciliation.

So I smiled at him, took the band aid, thanked him, and gave him a pat on his back as he quickly turned to thump back up the stairs to his room and his computer game.  I waited until bedtime, and the last thing I did before I got into bed was to put on my salve and  gently wrap the little band aid around my finger.  I felt better already, but it was a sweet feeling in my heart.  A rare tenderness wrapped around my finger and into my heart.

Lessons From the Fog

As I walked down the stairs first thing this morning, I paused to look out our little front door window like I often do.  It was still dark outside but things looked normal.  I sat at the table with my coffee and got myself awake for several minutes before beginning my morning time with the Lord.  I’ve been feeling some heaviness in my heart lately.  It’s hard sometimes to pinpoint exactly why and so I wanted to have some quality time with the Lord today.  Still, my mind was wandering and my thoughts felt disjointed.  Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate on scripture and on prayer, and today was one of those times.

I realized that dawn had broken and light was peeking around the edges of the blinds, so I opened the first set of blinds behind me.  Those windows face our back yard with lots of tall trees and bushes.  I was surprised to see, as the blinds lifted, that fog had suddenly moved in from the north.  Where an hour earlier it had been clear, now everything was covered in an eerie haze.  I just stood at the window looking out at the blurry trees and watching as the fog was floating in.  I knew the trees were still there but they were becoming more and more obscured by the thickening fog.

This haze that shrouded my world this morning matched my mood.  A heaviness in my heart, like I said, that can’t quite be defined had been bothering me for a few days.  It could be any number of things, I know.  Primarily I wonder if it’s Satan’s darts being hurled at me.  Discouragement is a favorite weapon of his.  An old physical issue is bothering me again; an old hurt is trying to bubble up once more; feeling adrift and not sure of my place in ministry…………yes, those concerns keep me awake at night and press into my thoughts during the day.  And there are so many people that I care for that are struggling with serious health issues.  I believe all of us know more and more people, young and old alike, that are facing very dangerous illnesses and treatments.  Even my neighbor was carried off in an ambulance last week.  Turning on the news certainly doesn’t help in the discouragement department these days!

I do not usually have an Eeyore type of personality.  Negativity is something that I avoid.  Yet sometimes life just gets tiring, doesn’t it?  We don’t always see God’s hand at work or hear His voice speak.  Like a creeping, silent fog, our disappointments and worries can seep into our hearts and minds to the point that God is almost obscured.  We blink and try to focus, but His shape is hard to make out through the thickness of our concerns.  We get tired and weary, weighed down more and more by all the messes that are swirling around us – in our own lives or in the lives of the ones we love.  It’s difficult to concentrate on His Word and our prayers seem to bounce off the fog in our minds.

Job said it very well:  “Behold, I go forward but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him.  When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him;  He turns on the right, I cannot see Him.”  (Job 23: 8-9)   No matter which way we turn, sometimes, we don’t see God.  Oh, we know in our heads that He is there but we don’t see or feel the evidence of that truth.  Circumstances don’t change………pains of whatever sort don’t go away………..hurts aren’t resolved…………..God, where are You?

But listen to Job continue speaking in verses 10 and 11:  “But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me I shall come forth as gold.  My foot has held fast to His path; I have kept His way and not turned aside.”  Maybe I can’t see God, but He sees me!  He knows the way I take.  He has planned this path that I am on and even when it’s clouded with fogs of uncertainty and pain and discouragement, I am to hold fast to this path that He has for me.  I am to keep His way and not turn aside.  I know that God is present in the pain; I know that He cares; and I know that His light will again shine in my heart, even during the tough times.  The fog will lift and the view will be clear one day, but even IN the fog I am to stay on the path……….keep trusting……….and don’t give Satan  the freedom to cloud my faith.

And in verse 14, Job says:  “For He performs what is appointed for me……..”  God will perform what He appoints for me, even in the fog.  There are lessons to be learned from the fog out my window and from the fog in my heart!  And when the fog lifts, how beautiful the view will be!  Thank you, Lord!

A Walk in the Park

Andrea was home again for part of the weekend.  I know her days of living this close are soon to be over, so we  enjoy every weekend spent with her. Our weather has been beautiful and so sometimes she and I will slip out for a walk with Jackson in the park.  We try to slip out because, sad to say, we don’t want Aaron to go with us, usually.  That sounds mean, perhaps, but when he’s with us he will monopolize the conversation and we don’t get to chatter between us like we love to do.

Yesterday, though, Andrea told me that we should take Aaron.  She really does miss him and that warms my heart.  I asked Aaron if he wanted to go on a walk with us as we took Jackson to the park, and he was just very excited. He hurried and got his shoes and socks on, and off we went.  Aaron sat in the middle seat of the van with Jackson right behind him, breathing heavily with his own doggie excitement.  “Mom, Jackson is breathing in my face.  His breath doesn’t smell good.  Do you think his breath smells good?”

Well, Aaron , you’re the one who asks me nearly every day if Jackson can go with us when we drop you off to your group – so now you just sit back and enjoy your time with the dog.  I was already enjoying myself very much.

Swanson Park was green and pretty, with some puddles here and there from our early morning rain.  Lots of people were out and many were walking their dogs.  Jackson loves other dogs and so he was delighted, and sometimes a little hesitant, to meet all his four-legged friends that crossed our path.  Aaron, on the other hand, was a little nervous about the other dogs.  When he would see a family approaching us with a dog, he would say (loudly), “Oh No!”  I’m sure those that heard Aaron’s exclamation wondered what was wrong, so Andrea and I kept having to tell Aaron to be quiet.  Several people stopped us to talk and to let our dogs meet each other, which gave Aaron the opportunity he loves……………talking!

“This is a Great Dane!” he would say……….as if most people don’t know that already when they see this 198 pound giant of a dog.  “What kind of dog do you have?  Do you think they like each other?”  And of course, “Look!  They’re sniffing each other!”   Some dogs were playful and would get a little frisky, which made Aaron nervous again.  “Is your dog mean?  Is he going to bite?”

Aaron talked about the graffiti that we saw painted here and there, to us and to many of the people that we passed.  How many times did Andrea and I say, “Come on, Aaron.  Let’s go!”  Off we would go again, and soon Aaron would repeat what we heard all during our walk:

“Mom, am I losing weight from walking?”

“Mom, have I lost weight from walking?”

“Mom, look!  My shirt won’t stay tucked in.  I’ve lost weight!”  

Good grief, Aaron, just tuck your shirt in, pull your pants up, and keep walking.  Trust me, weight loss does not come that easily.

As we finished our walk and neared the van, Aaron asked, “Mom, is Jackson tired?  His tongue is a lot lower than it was.”  And as we got ready to get in the van, “Mom, Jackson gassed!”

Well, let’s be glad that Jackson gassed outside the van, Aaron, instead of inside!  Besides, we have enough hot air inside already………….believe me!