Right or Wrong

So often Aaron’s honesty in his comments can nearly take our breath away…………sometimes because we’re fighting the desire to speak as honestly with him as he does with us……….or because we’re laughing so hard.  He just doesn’t seem to “get it.”  Or just doesn’t care.  It’s hard to tell with Aaron.

Aaron likes to read at night before he goes to bed.  It’s actually the only time during the day that he will sit down and read a book.  We’ve tried and tried to get him to read at other times during the day, but in Aaron’s rigid world the time for reading is only at night.  He has his bed just right, with pillows here and pillows there……….and always his back scratcher by his side……….don’t ask my why.  He will read one of his Handy Answer Books until he gets sleepy.  The other night I walked in to tell him good night and there he was, with his opened Handy Answer Book on his lap…………and leaning over with his eyes closed.  Good grief!  He looked like a dead body, honestly, which can be a little shocking to this tired mom at the end of the day.  At any time of day, actually……..but I certainly react differently when I’m tired.

I touched him and he stirred, so I said, “Aaron, you need to close your book and go to bed.  You’re falling asleep while you’re sitting up.”  And of course, he had one more small section to read because he just HAD to finish that certain part.  He read it quickly and then packed it up and went to bed.

The next day I told him that he needed to start his bedtime routine earlier.  He has been trying to do this………trying to start reading earlier so that he can read longer and still go to sleep earlier.  On Saturday evening, during supper, he said, “Mom, you know how you told me to start reading early and then going to sleep?”

Yes, Aaron.  I remember telling you that.

“Well, you’re either right or you’re wrong.”

That was it.  He just had to tell me that I was either right or wrong about that subject.  The jury was still out on this matter, according to Aaron, and he wasn’t sure if my advice was working for him or not.  Gary, Andrea, and I had to laugh at how matter-of-fact he was.

Right or wrong.  The end.

The other night he said something that I know all kids would love to say to their parents.  He asked me a certain question about something and as I was thinking of how to answer him, I said, “Well, Aaron, it’s hard to explain.”

And he said, “Oh come on, Mom!  Just tell me without explaining!”

Hmmmmm………….now wouldn’t that just cut out a lot of MY words and leave more time for Aaron to talk?!

That seems right or wrong to me.

Global Aaron

As I’ve written before, Aaron has an interest in where people are from based on their skin color or their accents or some other feature that peaks his interest.  For instance, I blogged in the past about the time that he kept telling me about his new driver in his day group – (Where is He From?  Dec 30, 2011).    He was sure that she was African…………and then I met her and was sure that she was NOT African.  Turns out she is from Vietnam. His attempt to identify people or languages or looks can be quite funny at times.

Even the movie that he’s looking forward to seeing more than any movie in the world right now, Transformers 4, has not escaped his attempt to figure out where some fine details of this fine movie originated from.  Take Unicron, for instance.  One day Aaron was, once again, attempting to describe and define Unicron’s facial characteristics.  “Mom, Unicron looks different.”

Personally, I don’t really care much about Unicron in any way but I know that off and on for the next 14 months we will be having these conversations………….so I may as well ask and get it over with.

How does Unicron look different, Aaron?

“Well, his face………..it’s not in the smoke way.”

I was not anywhere nearer an understanding of Unicron’s different looks now than I was before we began this conversation…………before AARON began this conversation………..but I just shook my head as if I understood.  Aaron proceeded:  “And Mom, could you tell that Unicron had a beard?”

I was trying to remember exactly what I observed when Aaron was gleefully sharing that Transformers 4 movie trailer with me, and all I could remember was looking at the little numbers that showed how long I was going to have to stand there and endure watching this yet-another movie trailer.

My hesitation at answering didn’t phase Aaron one bit.  It never does.  “Mom, what kind of beard do you think Unicron had?”

What kind of beard?  You know, Aaron, I just really don’t remember much about that beard.

And he continued:  “You know, that beard on his chin.  It looked like a Mexican beard!”

I am certain that there are many Mexican men whom Aaron has seen that have some sort of unique chin beard that Aaron identifies as being uniquely Mexican.  I am fairly clueless, but Aaron is sure of this fact and so I don’t disagree.  I just shake my head in some sort of understanding way that satisfies Aaron and allows us to end this conversation.

Aaron is also fascinated by a Mexican radio station that he has heard.  Every now and then he will walk up to my radio in the kitchen, and without permission he will begin to push the button in order to change the station. I know exactly where he is going with this.  Soon I hear the unmistakable sound of Mexican music, and Aaron laughs and rubs his hands together in excitement.  This occurred the other night………….again……….and Aaron happily asked me if I liked this music and did I understand what they were saying…….or singing.

“Mom, is this a Mexican station?  Or is that a Spanish station?”  This brought on a long discussion about the country of Mexico, but the language they speak is called Spanish.  No, Aaron, the language is not called Mexican…………it is Spanish…………and we had a little brief history lesson in the midst of the loud Mexican/Spanish music…………..with me knowing full well that Aaron wasn’t totally listening to me as he stood there rubbing his hands together amidst the sounds of trumpets and maracas.

He loves to identify flags from around the world on our large world map still hanging downstairs in our old schoolroom.  Which reminds me of the time years ago in the day school when Aaron said they were told to draw a flag……………and I looked down in horror to see the flag that Aaron had drawn………….the Nazi flag. We had seen a special on television and had studied this in history in home school and through normal exposures……………Aaron had decided that this flag was very interesting.  Oh my.  Well, it was simple to draw and it was at one time a flag………….but why is Aaron always drawn to the forbidden?  To the unacceptable?  Thus ensued another lesson and afterwards Aaron was more sure than ever that this was indeed a very interesting flag.  Sigh.

Last night Aaron thumped down the stairs and proceeded to tell me about a movie he was watching.  “Mom, this man on there has an accent.  It’s either country or continent!”

Did you say country or continent, Aaron?

“Yeah, it’s either country or continent.  I don’t know which yet.”

And later, he thumped down the stairs again to give me an update.  “Mom, I found out he’s Paris.  Is that Italian?”

Stifling laughter as I tried to answer this question was indeed difficult.  And slightly confusing, even to me.

Aaron is so global!  I just have a hard time following him!

Aaron’s Pockets

Aaron has always had the sharpest eye of anyone I’ve ever known.  He’s also very curious.  I can’t begin to count the number of times we’ve heard him say, “I was just curious……..” and then proceed to tell us or show us what he was just curious about.  His other favorite comment is, “I was just looking.”  And my repeated response to that statement is, “Aaron, you never just look.  You touch, and pick up, and open, and taste……….”  My statement has never, ever made a difference in Aaron’s touching, and picking up, and opening, and tasting. 

Sometimes it’s a good thing that he has an eagle eye.  He has found money in parking lots, or even found wallets, and is very proud to turn these items in to the store where he found them.  We’ve let him keep small amounts of money, and of course that makes him very happy.  Even a penny, to Aaron, is a worthy find that pleases him greatly.  Other finds are not so good.  He’s often come home with someone’s hair band or hair clip that he’s found laying somewhere and stuffed in his pocket.  Yuck!  I never know what he’ll pull out of his pocket on any given day after he comes home from his group.  When he was younger, and attended school in Germany on our military post, he came home with quite an assortment of treasures.  He had a box that held the treasures that I let him keep, so nearly every day after he showed me what he had found and if I let him keep it, off he would trot to his room to deposit his new item in the box.  One day he came home with something that wouldn’t fit into his pocket.  He was pushing a bike!  And I made him push it right back to the dumpster where he found it! 

Then there was the day in second grade that I’ll never forget.  As Aaron walked the short distance to his school, he passed by a set of military quarters that were being repaired and painted.  On this particular day, Aaron was sitting in his reading group and the volunteer mom on that day was reading to this sweet little group…………when out of his pocket Aaron pulled a box cutter.  Yes, a box cutter! He found it on the ground near the building that was being remodeled.  I don’t know the exact sequence of events after that point, but I do know that the mom was calm and the teacher was summoned and the box cutter was taken away and then I received a nice little call from the school principal.  I remember saying, “Aaron did WHAT?!” and then walking to the school towing little Andrew with me as I wondered how long Aaron would be suspended.  However, the staff was very kind and understanding.  Aaron was given a good talking to and had some fear put in his heart – but over time he continued to stuff his pockets full of whatever caught his eye – just never another box cutter.

Golf balls have always been a favorite of his.  Don’t ask me where he’s found all the golf balls over the years, but his nightstand drawer is still totally full of his golf ball acquisitions gathered over the years.  He refuses to part with them so there they stay, safe and useless but of great meaning to Aaron.  Another great favorite of his is ball point pens.  He has dozens of pens from businesses that I know he’s never been to………at least that I know of………..but somehow he finds these pens and into his pocket they go.  Or we’ve come home from stores or from doctor’s offices, and the next thing I know, I find a pen from that place laying on his desk.  He is very quick and very sly about slipping pens into his pocket when we’re standing at a doctor’s office and signing in, or at Great Clips for a hair cut, or at the grocery store…………he’s not choosy about where his pens come from.  I’ve learned to tell him right away to stay away from the pens, no matter where we are………..but sometimes he still slips by my not-so-sharp eyes and comes home with a new pen.  Oh well!

When Aaron eats, he somehow and for some reason must have multiple pieces of silverware.  I always give him a spoon, even if we’re having pizza, but no matter what we eat and no matter what silverware I set out, he will quietly……..as quietly as Aaron can be…………edge over to the silverware drawer and pick out several more pieces.  The other night I had given him a fork, a spoon, and a knife……….and as we were getting ready to sit down, I saw Aaron ease open the silverware drawer and quietly slide one more fork, one more knife, and one more spoon into his pocket.  The problem was that he was wearing soft nylon sport shorts with an elastic waste.  He looked hilarious as he tried to walk slowly and quietly across the kitchen floor with his pocket bulging and the silverware softly clanging against his leg………..and his pants starting to slide down from the weight of the hidden silverware.  I hid my face and chuckled, and didn’t let on that I saw him as he sat very gingerly on the chair…………clang, clang…………and attempted to not get pierced by the fork and to remove them without Mom and Dad catching on.  There is no reason to correct him. 
Today Aaron came home from his group and clomped upstairs, where I was vacuuming.  I turned off the vacuum because I knew that what Aaron had to say would not wait, and I did want to find out about his day.  I sat on the bed and he sat in my chair, telling me about watching Men in Black at the theater and eating his large buttered popcorn and getting a refill and not being hungry now and how Men in Black is not his favorite movie and he wished he could have seen Battleship again……………no surprise to any of this.  No surprise, either, when he stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out his wallet………..and then said, “Oh, here Mom.  I got you a magnet from the theater so you can put it on the frig.”  Out of his pocket came the magnet.  And then, “Oh yeah, I got these, too.”
I turned around to see him pulling out of his bottomless pocket a HUGE wad of napkins.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention that Aaron seems to have a need for multiple napkins at every meal……….but this stack of napkins was really overkill!  Good grief, Aaron!  He had enough napkins for several rows of theater patrons! 

“Mom, what’s wrong with getting some napkins?”

Aaron, nothing is wrong with getting a few napkins.  Getting this massive amount is ridiculous!

“Mom, how many napkins do you get?”

Aaron, I get one or two.

And he asked, “Why?”

Because my pockets are not as deep as yours, Aaron!  That seems to be all he understands anyway!

Lessons From the Goose Family

I was driving home after running some errands on a warm morning a few days ago.  It was another windy day, not at all unusual on a spring day – or on any day – in Kansas.  I was driving down a fairly busy two lane road, though at this time of day there was not a huge amount of traffic.  My thoughts were on what I needed to accomplish on this Monday after a very busy weekend.  I had piles of laundry waiting for me at home, as well as cleaning and cooking to do.  I was sorting out the priorities on my to-do list, lost in thought as I drove toward home.  Up ahead, on the side of the road, I noticed some geese walking along.  Their long necks and turning heads were obvious even from a distance away.  Geese are very common here as they enjoy the many neighborhood lakes in the area, or gather in the farmer’s fields and eat whatever it is that geese like to eat out among the growing crops. 

I hardly gave these geese a second thought as I drove toward them, although it did register that it was a little odd for them to be walking beside a road such as this.  As I neared them, I saw why this group of geese was walking where they were without flying away to a safer location.  There were several adult geese and between the two groups of adults there toddled several little goslings.  These young geese were not tiny babies, but were still fluffy with soft down and very much in need of the guidance and protection of their parents.  The adult geese were working to guide their young charges away from the road, for they sensed the danger that lay there.  The baby geese were chirping and looking all around as they followed the direction of the lead adult goose.  The parent goose in the rear was making sure that the babies stayed in line and didn’t wander off into danger.

Since no traffic was behind me, I was able to observe the geese for a minute.  The parents surely weren’t very comfortable with this precarious situation, but they must have had a good reason for leading their precious babies beside this hazardous road.  The baby geese totally trusted their wise parents, even though I imagine they must have wondered where they were headed and why this route was chosen.  Or maybe the babies had strayed into this bad situation and the parents had no choice but to safely lead them out.  The adult geese were diligent in their leading and in their protection of their babies.  They could easily have flown away to their own place of protection, but the love of their babies held them there.  The babies followed their parents, trusting them despite the noise all around them and the threat that was only steps away. 

I had to drive away before I knew if this family of geese made it their destination.  As I drove home, I thought of how similar our lives as believers are to those of the baby geese.  We are in need of guidance as we walk the dangerous path of this world.  It’s so tempting to run off in this direction or toward that temptation, even toward things that seem outwardly pleasing and innocent.  Only God knows the right path that we should take.  The only safe route for us is to follow Him, and we do that by reading our Bibles and spending time talking to Him.  The road beside us may look appealing and desirable, easier to walk on than this bumpy path that God has us upon.  But what does God have to say about that desire that we have?  Is it safe?  Is it one that will bring Him glory?  Or is it full of hidden dangers that will leave me injured or even dead? 

Our responsibility is to follow God, even when we don’t understand the course that He has chosen for us.  The way may be full of loud danger that is close at hand, threatening to destroy us.  We may fear that the trail is too rough and that we can’t handle what may come our way.  Just as the baby geese trusted their parents in the midst of traffic and the uneven ground, we need to trust our Heavenly Father in the midst of the turmoil all around us and the fear within us.  The baby geese had to walk through some scary and rough turf before they could make it to their destination, but they knew they could count on their parents to guide them safely there.  We may have to walk through some tough times, too, but we have a Father Whom we can fully trust.  He has a plan and a reason for the way in which He leads us. 

David knew this concept very well as He ran from Saul and from danger, and had to trust God even when he didn’t understand the way or the reasoning.   I imagine there were times that David felt he had a better plan than God, but he learned to let God be the One in charge.  David learned the hard way that giving in to temptation only brought the danger home and the consequences were costly.  In Psalm 5:8, David said:  “O Lord, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes; make Your way straight before me.”  Our goal should be to let God do the leading and make our ways straight as we do the following and the trusting.     So let’s follow our Father and fully trust His wise care.   

Home Again, Home Again

Gary and I had a little get-away this past weekend.  We took a quick overnight trip up to Topeka to see our son, Andrew, at the NHRA Summer Nationals at Heartland Park.  He works on the pit crew for Scott Palmer whenever he has the opportunity between college and other responsibilities.  It was fun and interesting to go and watch him work on the top fuel dragster.  Andrea came home for the night on Friday to stay with Aaron.  Aaron was very excited about this.  He loves it when Gary and I are gone for awhile, and someone else is there with him.  I think he sees it as a new opportunity for the things he loves……….which would be food and talking.  Surely this new person will have new food ideas.  And surely this new person will LOVE hearing about all the things that Aaron LOVES talking about.

Of course, Andrea isn’t a new person.  She knows Aaron every bit as well as we do…………and she came anyway.  Way to go, Andrea!  She and I were texting while I was in Topeka, and we talked once.  Aaron kept trying to call me or Gary, but it’s very hard to hear anything at the race track.  Plus I knew what he wanted to talk about and I knew that it could wait.  Our catching up time would come soon enough………..and it did!  Andrea told me to be ready.  You see, Aaron went to the movies Friday with his group and saw the new movie, Battleship.  It doesn’t matter that the review I read was dismal and that the movie had a rating of only 1 1/2 stars.  To Aaron, Battleship is an epic movie…………and when Aaron watches an epic movie, we are all treated to a seemingly endless rerun of all its epicness…………over and over and over again.

Gary and I pulled into the driveway on Saturday evening and before I was out of the van, Aaron came through the garage door.  Of course, as always, there was no “Hi, Mom!”………or “Did you have a good trip?”………….or any other personal comments such as you would expect.  Of course, we don’t expect that from Aaron so it’s no shock or disappointment to us.   We would actually be shocked if he DID say one of those personal things to us!  So Aaron walked to the van and said, “Mom!  I went to see Battleship!”  Well, let’s not waste any time.  We may as well get to the point at hand right away.  After all, Aaron had been saving up his words and I had been saving up my ears.  There was no running away from it now.

As we unloaded the van, greeted big old Great Dane Jackson, and tried to put things away………Aaron was right there, and the commentary was in full swing.  “Mom, Battleship was a good movie!”   And I asked, “So you liked it, Aaron?”  Of course he answered…….”Yeah!  It was a big navy ship!  There were lots of weapons!”   On and on and on Aaron talked, following me as I put things away in the kitchen.  We hadn’t been home more than 15 minutes before I was upstairs staring at his computer screen as he showed me two clips from the Battleship movie on YouTube.  He loved the scene where they took the helmet off the alien and  shined a light in his eye, only to find that he wasn’t really dead, and he raised up off the table, and he grabbed the man by the throat, and everyone was yelling…………..including Aaron…………..and leaning over rubbing his hands together………….Aaron was, not the alien.  Oh my.  How soon would Monday come and Aaron would be going to his group?

We have talked………….actually, Aaron has talked and we have mostly listened…………to all sorts of rehashing of the Battleship movie.  Are the creatures aliens?  Or are the creatures Martians?  What is an alien?  What is a Martian?  Does an alien look like a bear?  Are those soldier guys in the Army or in the Navy or in the Marines?  Why would an alien want sharp teeth?  Would I want to watch Battleship?  When will Battleship be out on DVD?

And then there’s the soldier with the leg prosthesis…………both legs…………..and as Aaron talked about him, I told Aaron that he was a real-life soldier who really had lost his legs in battle.  Aaron doesn’t show much politeness, let’s say, when he talks about things such as this, so I mean no disrespect when I repeat what Aaron had to say.  He was very intrigued by this soldier who had lost his legs and he was especially interested in him after I told Aaron that he was a real soldier.  Aaron paused in thought for a second and then asked, “So, are those REAL fake legs?”  I answered yes, using the term prosthesis, but Aaron clomped downstairs quickly to tell Gary this amazing news.  He soon clomped right back up the steps to continue his movie review with me and said, “I told Dad that was a REAL man with the FAKE legs!”

Last night at supper, as Aaron chowed down on his second helping of Potato Salad and a chicken thigh……….boneless, the way he likes them………….he lowered his voice and in an almost hushed tone, he said, “Do you know what Andrea said?”  He paused and waited for an answer, so I told him no, that I didn’t know what Andrea had said………..and he continued, “Before she left, Andrea told me that it was nice to spend time with me.”  He is so touched by these words…………and so are we.  Aaron does know when he is loved and these words touch a chord in his heart.  How precious that Andrea said those words to him……..and how profound that his heart was touched.  We just never know all that goes on inside our Aaron.

But he does love to talk, and I think Aaron has caught us up on all the news there is to know………and most of it we really didn’t want to know, but I didn’t tell Aaron that.  Last night he and I played two games of Skip-Bo and he talked some more about Battleship…………..and the genetically altered Rats movie that he’s watching now and that I had to go watch a clip of (another story)…………….and many, many other issues that are of interest to Aaron.  Believe me, only to Aaron.  As I finished cleaning up the table and getting ready to fix the coffee pot for the next morning, Aaron sat on the ottoman in the family room……………talking………..even after I had told him to go on up and get ready for bed.

He asked, “Do you want me to just sit here and talk?”  I had to laugh.  He was so serious and so oblivious to my NOT wanting him to just sit there and talk.  It was after 10:00 and I was all talked out, believe me!  So I told him that even though that would be nice, it really was time to go to bed, for all of us………….and so finally he made his way upstairs to his toothbrush and minty mouthwash and his bed with the covers just the way he likes them in the proper order and his Handy Answer Book that he’ll read before he turns his lamp off and writes his going-to-sleep time in his notebook just right and then turns his monitor on for me to hear all night and settles down under his mound of covers with his head on his pillow that he makes sure has the zipper on the correct side……………yes, it’s nice to spend time with Aaron.

A little quiet time is nice, too.  Good night, Aaron.  Morning and more talking will come soon enough.

The Insecticides

Aaron once again burst in the house today when he came home from his group, and soon I heard him tromping up the stairs to find me.  With Aaron there is never a “hello” or a “hi” and definitely not a “how are you, Mom?”

This is Aaron, as he barges into my bedroom, “Mom!  I went to the mall today!”

And I say, “Hi, Aaron?  How are you?”

To which he mumbles a quick mumbled “Hi,” and then hurriedly continues with what he was trying to tell me before I so rudely interrupted him with that very unnecessary “Hi and how are you?”

“Mom, I decided to go to the mall with everyone.  And I got pizza for lunch.”

Good, Aaron.  I’m glad you went and glad you got pizza.  Was it good?

“Yes, it was good.  I got a supreme……and it came with a drink and with bread sticks!”

He then told me that he got a Root Beer and that it said it did not have caffeine, so we had a long discussion about caffeine.  But what he was most excited about was this:  “Mom, the lady at the pizza place told me that I could have a free refill!”  And of course, Aaron got the free refill………..do cats have a climbing gear, as Gary’s sister, Sandra, would say?

“And Mom, I got a knife and fork to eat the bread sticks with.”  I asked him why he needed a knife and fork for bread sticks, since we always pick those up with our hands………….and in talking to Aaron I realized the reason.  His fingers had pizza on them, and he will not mix up his foods, if at all possible.  I know he really doesn’t like his foods touching on his plate, and today he didn’t want his pizza fingers to touch his clean, garlic bread sticks.

Oh, Aaron, you are so interesting sometimes.  Many times!

Aaron started to leave the room, but he remembered that I had told him this morning that the exterminators were coming today.  We found a black widow outside last week and I told Aaron about it so that he would be careful.  He’s been wanting those bug sprayers to get here!  He turned around before he left the room and said, “Mom!  Did those insecticides come today?”

The insecticides did come, Aaron…………except we call them exterminators.

Clean bread sticks because of his knife and fork………….clean bug-free house because of those insecticides that came today.  Life is good!  A little weird, but good!

Lessons From the Storm Clouds

My morning was full of errands that I had run in our summer heat. As I drove home I was noticing some hopeful signs of rain as I glanced up at the sky.  There on the horizon was the tell-tale sign that rain was around us, off in the distance.  Perhaps.  When you’ve lived in a location long enough you can just tell what the weather may be at times without any definite word from the weather guys.  But this summer has been unusual and disappointing as we’ve had extreme heat and a severe lack of rain. Was I being too hopeful?  After I had been home for a couple hours, though, the skies were definitely darkening and then I heard the unmistakable sound of thunder. What a relief!  And even though it was still very hot, I decided to sit out on the front porch and revel in the awesome sounds and smells of a good thunderstorm.  It reminded me of sitting on our front porch on Third Street when I was a girl and how I loved feeling close to a summer storm.  Today the lightning flashed a few times and the thunder rumbled.  The wind blew faster and faster, whipping up the dry dust and dirt.  Finally I went inside and smiled as I turned on the radio.  Sure enough, the announcers were in full storm mode as they announced the severe thunderstorm warning, and the mobile units began reporting.  These guys had been quiet for so many weeks and they sounded positively gleeful to be reporting on a good old Kansas storm again.
I went about my cleaning, all the while looking out the windows and waiting for the much needed rain to begin.  I moved some plants off of their plant stands so they wouldn’t blow over but left them where they would get the moisture that was surely coming.  I kept looking to the skies and seeing the dark clouds, but I also noticed how the skies to our west were turning light.  Soon I knew what was happening.  This storm was going to miss us.  All the rain was to the east of us and we wouldn’t get a drop.  How disappointing to be so close and yet so far!  I knew that many people were receiving the wanted rain, but we were not to be one of those. It was tempting to complain, to sulk, to feel envious of those “lucky” people who got the wonderful rain while we remained barren. 

This incident brought to mind some attitudes that I have fought over the years.  How many times has something good happened to someone else and instead of feeling joyful I find myself battling jealousy?  It’s not something that any of us want to admit.  I find it easy to compare myself to others and find myself coming up short.  Why do others seem to be the recipients of so many blessings while in those same areas I feel dry and barren?  This kind of thinking will lead to a shriveled heart instead of a healthy heart that is genuinely able to share in the happiness of others.  Paul reminded us in Romans 12:15 to “Rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those that weep.”  Unfortunately, sometimes it’s easier to weep with someone during the sad times than it is to rejoice with them over their good times.  A rejoicing attitude requires an unselfish way of thinking, and this just doesn’t come naturally.  It requires a work of the Spirit in our hearts.  Our yearning for the refreshing rain of blessing mustn’t become a source of jealousy towards those whose lives seem blessed over and over again.  Gary, unaware of my thoughts, said it very well when he prayed before supper tonight and said, “And Lord, thank you for all the people who got some rain today.  We ask for rain, too, but thank you for sending it to some today.”  May I learn to rejoice with others even as the dreary dust may blow around in my life, trusting God to send me some rain when He wills to do so.   

The Chips Mystery is Solved!

A few weeks ago, when we returned home after our trip with Andrea to Fort Worth, she was getting ready to leave for McPherson, where she lives and works now.  Before she left, Aaron asked her if she wanted the Sour Cream and Onion Pringles that he had bought while we were gone.  We were surprised at that offer because Aaron loves Sour Cream and Onion Pringles.  It would be unusual for him to give them away………or very generous.  Very, very generous in Aaron’s case.  When he returned with the chips, she asked him why he was giving them away and he admitted that he didn’t like them.  What?!  But he assured us that he didn’t like them and so he was happy to give them to Andrea.

He hasn’t really been able to describe to us why he all of a sudden doesn’t like Sour Cream and Onion Pringles………..until today.  I was outside watering our new growing grass when Aaron got home.  He came across the yard, swinging a Wal-Mart bag.  He told me about his day………the number 52 Slushie and only one box of candy from Quik Trip………..and then the Pringles from Wal-Mart.  He reached into his Wal-Mart bag and took out one of the two canisters of Pringles that were in the bag.

“See Mom?  I got some Sour Cream and Onion Pringles.”  And I said, “But Aaron, I didn’t think you liked Sour Cream and Onion Pringles anymore.”

“Mom!  I found out why I didn’t like the other Sour Cream and Onion Pringles.  It’s because they were the bursting flavor!”

Oh, I see……….bursting flavor, huh?

“Yes!  I don’t like the bursting flavor ones, but I like these.”

And these that he likes are Multi-Grain Sour Cream and Onion Pringles…………..which are obviously very different from the bursting flavor Sour Cream and Onion Pringles.

Soon after this conversation, I was in the kitchen getting supper ready when Aaron came in and held the Multi-Grain Pringles up for me to see.  “Mom, these multi-grain Sour Cream and Onion Pringles are better.  They’re better than the bursting flavor ones.”

He must have seen my confusion because he continued, “The bursting flavor means it has a higher flavor.”

Well, of course.  A higher flavor……..and that’s just not so tasty, is it?

“No, the bursting flavor is more spicy.  I’m glad they’re not like that bursting flavor!”

Absolutely!  Bursting flavor is just too much!

After supper, Gary and I were working in the yard and garden.  I was watering more grass when Aaron came outside and walked over to the garden to talk to Gary………….and of course, he wanted to tell Dad all about the multi-grain chips compared to the bursting flavor chips.  That accomplished, he walked over to me and said, “Mom, I really like those Multi-Grain Sour Cream and Onion Pringles.  They’re better than the bursting flavor.”

Yes, Aaron, I know.

“And Mom, the multi-grain ones are green and they have black dots!  The bursting flavor ones are clear!”

Well, now, there’s a clever marketing ploy!  So I tried to explain what the black dots are, but I realized that his descriptions are much more interesting than mine are and so I just hushed.  Aaron went inside for awhile, but returned one more time.  This time, he strode purposefully up to Gary in the garden…………and he was carrying a canister of the Multi-Grain Sour Cream and Onion Pringles.  He once again explained to Gary the difference in the multi-grain ones and the bursting flavor ones, and concluded by saying, “And the multi-grain Pringles have polka dots!”

Maybe I’ll have time to play a game of Skip-Bo tonight with Aaron………..and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to eat some of those green polka-dotted multi-grain Sour Cream and Onion Pringles.  Who needs plain old bursting flavor ones anyway?  These new ones sound like way more fun!

In Aaron’s world they sure are!

Mother’s Day and Cavemen

I got the best surprise for Mother’s Day.  We had been helping at a friend’s 50th wedding anniversary party, working in the kitchen.  Well, Gary was fishing but Andrea came in from McPherson and came out to the party, where she worked and worked with us in the kitchen.  My sweet, beautiful daughter didn’t mind a bit to be washing dishes and doing whatever else needed doing for several hours.  What a blessing!  Then later, when we pulled into our driveway, there was Andrew’s truck!  That was my big surprise that everyone knew about except me.  We hadn’t seen him for several months, so it was wonderful to give him a big hug and cry on his shoulder.  To top it off, there were beautiful pink roses and funny cards…………and Andrea even made sure that Aaron signed a card.

We talked until late that night, catching up, and then they wanted me to decide about what to do the next day.  I chose to grill steaks……..well, Gary would do the grilling and then Andrea and I would do the rest.  After church, Gary and I went to Sam’s for the steaks and other groceries.  On the way home, my cell phone rang and I saw that it was our home number, which means one thing……….Aaron.  So I answered my phone – “Hi, Aaron.”

“Mom, when are you coming home?”  I told him that we were on our way.  I knew exactly what his next comment would be………..and it wouldn’t be to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day.  I actually knew that it would be a question and sure enough, he asked, “So, what are we eating?”

I told him that we were having steaks with Potato Casserole, Bean Salad, Tossed Salad, Ciabatta Bread, and Strawberry Shortcake.  He seemed fairly unimpressed, but I knew he was happy about this menu because I know Aaron.  I also knew his next comment/question and of course, he delivered:  “Mom, when are we eating?”

I answered that question and there was a very brief pause.  Would he just maybe say something about Mother’s Day?

“Mom, I was watching the Science channel.  Do you believe there was such a thing as cavemen?”

Cavemen.  That doesn’t even remotely have anything to do with Mother’s Day……at least that I’m aware of………maybe a little to do with eating steak……….

Oh, Aaron.  I really wasn’t too surprised at this random turn in the conversation, but it did make me chuckle.  And as I talked to Aaron about my belief or unbelief in cavemen, Gary was smiling, too.

“Mom, the cavemen lived in caves and wrote on the walls, and they wore fur animal skins.”

Well, Aaron, I believe that people lived in caves and did all those things, yes.

“And they killed a deer.  It was an elk, and they used the antlers for things!”

Aaron, let’s talk when I get home.

But he would not hang up because he had more to say about the cavemen.  Oh dear.  Finally, I just had to tell him that I was hanging up and would see him soon………….knowing full well what the majority of the rest of the day would entail.  Cavemen facts……..cavemen stories………cavemen ideas………….cavemen theories………..cavemen anything and everything.  

And yes, we did get our ears full of his talking about cavemen.  He talked about cavemen while Andrea and I fixed dinner, in between snatching a strawberry or asking about what food we were fixing.  He went out to the grill and talked to Gary and Andrew about cavemen.  He talked about cavemen while we ate, whenever he could get a caveman word in here and there.  He talked about cavemen while we sat on the patio and ate our Strawberry Shortcake.

The caveman chatter did come to an end, though.  That’s because as he finished cutting some coupons, he watched another program on the Science Channel.  Steven Hawking was interviewed and Aaron was intrigued by him.  Therefore, the evening was all about Steven Hawking……….his brilliance, his sad beliefs about God, his computer, the disease he has.  Steven Hawking was the last thing Aaron was talking about last night, and was what he talked about this morning.  I have seen pictures of Steven Hawking and watched a video of Steven Hawking.  Anyway, you know the routine by now.

I guess cavemen have gone the way of the dinosaur……….at least for now.  And as I said good night to Aaron  last night, I thanked him for helping to give me a happy Mother’s Day.  He just gave a little grunt.  Then I said, “After all, Aaron, you helped to make me a mother.”

He gave a laugh at my funny little joke.  I didn’t tell him, but he’s helped to make me a very interesting and random mother.  A day full of cavemen and Hawking………..I can never predict the way a day with Aaron will go.

Our Priceless Mother

As Mother’s Day fast approaches, my mind naturally wanders back to the beautiful mountains of West Virginia where my sweet mother still lives and where I was raised.  My little mother is now 85 years old and lives in a lovely assisted living center.  Her life is secure and full and happy, even as her memories fade away with each passing week.  We have so much to be thankful for…….thankful that she is mostly healthy; thankful that she is content; thankful that she has loving family who care for her, as well as loving staff and friends; thankful that she still has a sweet spirit and a caring heart.  Yet all of us children know that our mother is drastically different from what she used to be.  It’s happened rather slowly, but when we step back and compare who she is with who she was, it’s hard not to be sad.  Mom wouldn’t want us to be sad, though.  She would want us to make some funny joke and to laugh and to listen to a story that she would tell…………..and to remember the good old days.
Mom and Dad married in 1949, and in August of 1950 their first child was born.  Mary Beth was soon followed by John, Jan, Patty, and Kathryn.  She had four children in five years!  Kathryn was our little caboose, coming along three years after I was born…………a fitting name since Dad was a railroad man.  Times were not easy back then, with Dad working very long hours and on weekends, and Mom keeping babies and home going strong.  How did she make homemade formula, sterilize bottles and nipples, make formula, wash cloth diapers………….and handle all the myriad responsibilities of managing a home without all the modern conveniences that we have now?  On the day she went into labor with me, she was mowing the yard (barefoot, no less) and fixing supper and watching babies and preparing for her parents to arrive to help with the new baby.  No putting her feet up, reading a book, and waiting for the pizza to be delivered.  Not my mom!

Mom is, without doubt, the most amazing woman I have ever known.  As a child, I thought she was tireless and invincible and could absolutely do anything.  But now I realize that she must have had times of exhaustion and doubt and failure.  Maybe it’s good that I didn’t know that then, but I’m thankful that I recognize it now.  I just remember her strong work ethic, her superior organizational skills, her wit and humor, and many other wonderful attributes. 
Mom had a degree in Home Economics from Marshall University and was a natural with cooking, sewing, housekeeping, gardening, and so many of the other skills it took to run a home the way that she did.  I know that all of us kids remember our kitchen table full of rolls, hamburger buns, hot dog buns, and pizza crusts…….all homemade……. waiting to be frozen.  She would freeze individual bags of homemade pizza sauce so that along with the frozen crusts and other ingredients, we could have pizza at the drop of a hat.  And of course, dozens of cookies stashed away in those saved coffee tins in the freezer………..tempting us to run down to the basement and grab one whenever we wanted, blowing our warm breath into that frozen cookie so that each bite would thaw enough to be eaten.  All sorts of cookies………Chocolate Chip, Ranger, Applesauce, Oatmeal, Cinnamon, and of course – Spritz Cookies!  Perfect!    
She was always ready for people to come over because of how organized she was.  Our friends were always welcomed, whether it was on a Sunday after church or after school or for sleeping over during weekends or in the summer.  Mom never seemed to mind a house full of people.  She mothered dozens of college students over the years, inviting them to join our family for dinners and games and great conversation and laughter.  We have many special memories of Sunday dinners with visiting missionaries there or pastors and evangelists…………which meant that Mom got up early to prepare dinner.  And her very clear, firm instructions to us kids were to NOT help ourselves to seconds and to NOT start laughing at the table.  We usually did better at not getting seconds……..not laughing was altogether too hard on most days.  It didn’t take much to set us off and then our misery would start as we tried to keep Mom from seeing our shaking shoulders and red faces.  She had a look that could kill and there were many times that I remember wishing I was dead rather than face her after the company left! 
Holidays were wonderful occasions because of all she did to ensure that they were special and fun.  She cooked and cooked and cooked, it seemed.  There was that full table again, loaded with goodies.  I remember how she would let us take turns cranking the handle of the old food grinder as we would chop cranberries for her delicious Cranberry Salad at Thanksgiving.  I can still hear the pop of those cranberries and our delighted laughter.  There were big cookie sheet pans filled with hamburger on Christmas Eve, and then the wonder of square hamburgers on her homemade square buns.  We had full stockings and gifts under the tree and a special unwrapped big gift from Santa that somehow appeared while we slept………….and that sometimes we would get up and try to sneak a peek at after Mom and Dad went to bed.   
Mom loved snow so much!  Whenever the first snow occurred, Mom would play Christmas music.  It didn’t matter if it was in October…………if we woke up one morning to get ready for school and heard Christmas music, we knew without looking that it had snowed.  She and Dad continued this tradition even after we all left home.  They would call us and tell us to wait a minute, and then we’d hear the Christmas music over the phone and we knew it had snowed.  Or we would call them at our first snow………..all of us hoping that we’d beat them at making that first snow phone call every year.  The first year that she didn’t make a snow call after Dad died was when I knew that she was truly forgetting the past and the traditions of our life were slowly ending. 
Mom didn’t seem fazed by all the tromping of kids in and out of the house at any time of the year.  Whether we were dripping with melting snow, or tracking in mud, or were sweaty and dirty………she seemed to handle it all.  And the pets!  We had too many cats to count, and multiple dogs, and birds, and turtles, and even those little colored chicks at Easter.    Somehow in the midst of it all, she managed to round us up to help with the gardening.  I remember picking beans or corn or tomatoes, then helping prepare fruits and veggies for her to can and freeze.  She also taught us how to clean house and how to change sheets……..the right way!  Even now in her assisted living home, she knows the day that the staff will change her sheets, so she purposely changes her sheets the day before………..so that it’s done the right way!  She taught us how to iron.  When we saw the four baskets full of ironing for us four girls, each with one of our names on top, we knew we needed to be about the task of ironing those pillow cases or handkerchiefs or whatever else there was.  And I guarantee that each of us girls remember every step of how she taught us to wash dishes – there was a right order to it and a wrong order, of course!  Mom was particular that way about so many things………she taught us the correct way to set a table and to pass the food and be polite……..and she hoped it would stick.  We still laugh at how a few years ago, at a family dinner with lots of us together, Mom saw that someone had put the rice in one place on their plate and their meat on another.  She cleared her throat and loudly said, “Hey!  The meat goes ON the rice!”  We all snickered and rolled our eyes………behind her back, of course…………and even today here at home if I want something done just so-so, I’ll say, “The meat goes ON the rice!” 
Mom was a beautiful seamstress.  After we went to bed, she would still be downstairs making all of our clothes.  I’ll never forget our pretty matching Easter dresses, or the time she made winter wool skirts and then looked in every store in several states for just the right matching sweaters and knee socks to go with those skirts.  She sewed each of our bridal gowns as well as all the attendant’s gowns for our weddings, and several of her granddaughter’s gowns as well.   After she retired, she decided to take up quilting and ended up making each of us kids a completely hand sewn quilt.  She made quilts for others, too, some of whom didn’t have a mother of their own.  She also knitted beautiful Christmas stockings that all of us have as do dozens and dozens of people all over the world…………and even our pets!  Her knitting went with her everywhere, even to Dad’s chemo sessions, where she would knit as she sat with him.  When the nurses would comment on her beautiful stockings, she’d make many of them a stocking, too!  She never wasted a moment to be busy with her hands or to be blessing others. 
After we were all in school, Mom got a job as a school secretary.  Later she became the county School Food Service Director, and when she retired she was overseeing the school lunch programs in thirteen West Virginia counties.  How on earth did she do it?  While working she still managed to keep our family going and taken care of and provided for.  There are countless other stories I could tell about this great woman, but more than what Mom did it’s who she was……and is……that’s most important.
She loved the Lord totally and she imparted the importance of that love to each of us children.  She lived by Biblical principles and it impacted us greatly.  Even on her very busy mornings, after Dad was at work and we kids were eating breakfast, she would read the Our Daily Bread devotional and some scripture to us, and start our day off with prayer.  She always made sure that we were in church even when Dad was at work and couldn’t go with us.  We knew we could go to her for advice about anything.  And she was an encourager, not only to us but to so many others.  How many times did she tell me, as I wondered if I would ever get married, “Patty, remember that God gives His best to those that leave the choice with Him.”  She helped those who needed a hand in whatever way she could.  In later years, as she and Dad visited sick and shut-ins, Mom would learn of something that each person liked.  Then she would take that to them.  She would make her Boiled Custard for this one, or cut some of her little miniature roses for that one.  And when Dad was sick with cancer, she was there by his side every step of the way, taking care of him for eight years.
Mom was selfless.  She forged ahead with what needed to be done without any complaining that I ever remember hearing.  She cared for the hurting and the sad and those that were without what they needed and those who had messed up in life.  I don’t remember my mom taking naps or demanding dinners out or wanting a vacation or watching TV or movies.  She worked hard and she didn’t make a big deal about it.  Her joy came from what she could do for us and for others. 
Now as she spends her later years in assisted living, she is still going about there to help others.  She tells us that she feels God has given her a mission there………so she seeks out the ones who are ignored or irritating or lonely, and she talks to them and pats their hands or puts an arm around their shoulders.  Years ago she took care of both her mother-in-law and mother, and she still has a heart to take care of the ones that God has put around her now.  Mom taught us how to live because she lived it………….and she is still living out her faith today in the place where she knows that God has put her. 
Sometimes when I call her, I’m not sure she really knows who I am.  Usually after I mention one of the kid’s names then she’ll seem to catch on.  But I know who she is.  “A godly woman, who can find?”  I have found one……….my mother, Beth King……Mom.  I love you, Mom.  I know we all do.