The Very Special Birthday Gift

This past Thursday, Nov. 8, was Aaron’s birthday………number 28, amazingly enough!  When I went into his room to check on him and make sure he was up, I found him watching a video.  I said, “Aaron!  Today’s your birthday!”  And he replied, in his rather flat voice, “Yeah.”  But he had a smile and he rubbed his hands together, and I knew he was happy with the fact that today was finally THE day.  The countdown was over and he could now enjoy this special, once-a-year day that belonged only to him.
I returned to his room later to urge him to shower and get ready.  He was immersed in his video, watching…………the credits.  Yes, when Aaron watches a movie he watches every single part of it, from the very beginning to the bitter end.  This includes those credits that we usually pass up or watch briefly, at best.  Not Aaron!  He watches until the very last tiny word passes off the screen; and then when the black, blank screen appears, he is finished.  He held up his finger as I spoke to him, a sign that he is engrossed in what he is doing and that I needed to be quiet and wait my turn.  Rolling my eyes, I walked away.  His shower would have to wait until the important credits were finished.

I also noticed that on his desk next to him was a dinner plate full of some sort of crumbs.  I soon learned that the “crumbs” were actually pieces of peanuts.  He reached down and picked up the jar of peanuts that Dan and Wendy had bought him the night before……….and it was empty.  Yep, he was starting his day off with a bang by eating an entire jar of peanuts!  
Finally, he was clean and ready to begin his wonderful day.  He let me take his picture under our old family Happy Birthday banner that we hang up on each birthday, even though having his picture taken is not his favorite thing to do.  He then followed me around the house, talking as usual about whatever popped into his ever active mind.  Such as:   “Mom, something last night was so much funny!  I was reading my Handy Answer Science book.  Have you ever seen a picture of Isaac Newton?”
Yes, Aaron, I’ve seen a picture of Isaac Newton.  With that, Aaron laughed and then continued, “He looked like he was wearing a wig.  Did people back then not have real hair?!”   So we conversed about the fact that people have always had real hair and why they wore wigs, and on and on about hair and wigs and people “back then.”

As we drove to meet his group at Quik Trip, Aaron talked about things that he always talks about…………the funny shaped house, the bulls in the field, and the candy-cane striped cement dividers in the dentist’s parking lot.  And cappuccino.  “Mom, what is cappuccino?”  I answered that question briefly, and he said, “Last night I saw some at Braums.  It looked like a greenish dark color.  That’s nasty!”  So I assured him that it was his color blindness that caused cappuccino to be a greenish dark color, that it was really not greenish dark, and that yes………he would like cappuccino if he ever tasted it, greenish dark color and all. 

After Aaron returned from Paradigm, we picked Gary up at work on our way to Cracker Barrel, where we met Aaron’s special friend, Rosie, and her mother, Louise.  This was the first time that Rosie had joined us for Aaron’s birthday dinner.  Aaron had been so excited that she was coming and had talked about it for days.  I had told Louise not to get Aaron a gift, but several days earlier she had told me that Rosie really wanted to get something for Aaron.  So  Rosie brought a gift for Aaron………a spiral notebook, some ball point pens, and some Mike and Ikes.  And a birthday card, signed by Rosie.   So sweet………so simple………….so special.  I wasn’t sure what to expect with the two of them together, but it was so funny to see them sitting right beside each other, yet not talking.  Aaron spent the majority of the evening talking to Gary, while Rosie talked mostly to her mother and me.  Rosie likes to wear caps and to pull them over her eyes, but occasionally she would push the cap back and show her pretty, dark eyes.  On this night she had on a bright and sparkly pink hat. It was a nice evening and it was good to have the opportunity to get to know Louise better, and for us to see our special adult children together.  Their friendship is something that we are both learning to treasure and to understand.

Soon the night was over, we were home, and Aaron’s gifts were all opened.  He ends these birthdays much like he ends a movie.  The plot has been planned and carried out, the action has all taken place with the major characters involved, the credits are finished, and off he goes to his room…………carrying his gifts and moving on to the next event.  He never seems greatly  excited about most of it, though we know that he is by the way that he plans it and the way that he talks about it for weeks beforehand.  We had to urge him to thank Rosie for the gift that she gave him.  If you go by his outward reaction, he didn’t seem to be very thrilled with it.

But don’t be fooled.  Last night, when he came down to play Skip-Bo with me, he was carrying one of the pens that Rosie had given him.  He reached over and removed the usual pen from his notebook in which he records our Skip-Bo wins.  “Mom, I want to start using Rosie’s pen now in my Skip-Bo notebook.”  I told him that this was fine and he said, “Well, that old pen was almost out of ink anyway.”

I knew it wasn’t almost out of ink, but I didn’t say a word.  I left Rosie’s pen laying on the notebook.  Beside her pen was my discarded wrapper from a fruit bar that I had just eaten.  And without saying a word, Aaron reached over and moved the wrapper away from Rosie’s pen.  Then he said, “Don’t put trash near Rosie’s pen.”

And there you have it.  Rosie’s pen is a very special pen, because Rosie is very special.  You don’t put trash near Rosie’s pen.  There was a small glimpse into Aaron’s heart.  I won’t read too much into it, but I do know that Aaron has never cared about any other pen to that extent.  I value this little look into how he feels about his special friend, Rosie, and how much he treasured the gift that she gave him.  He won’t express it verbally like you and I would, or be able to write it in a pretty poem or story.  With Aaron you must be alert to these simple, brief moments in which you see into his heart and his thoughts.  It passes in a moment, and I know better than to ask probing questions or to seek more explanation from him.  I am satisfied with that moment, brief but profound.

I am thankful that Aaron has a special friend, a girl, with whom he has formed a unique connection for some unexplained reason.  Can any of us explain these things?  There is so much that Aaron will never be able to experience in this life, so having this friendship now is indeed a warm spot for him.  It’s a touch of normalcy in a world in which Aaron is usually anything but normal.  I’m glad that we invited Louise and her sweet daughter, Rosie.  I’m glad that Louise had the wisdom to let Rosie buy Aaron that gift.  I’m glad for what the little pen showed me about Aaron and his connection to Rosie. 
And I’m glad that now I know to keep my trash away from Rosie’s pen!

28 Years Ago

Today is one of Aaron’s favorite days of the whole year.  Today is his birthday!  Aaron is now officially 28 years old!  His countdown is now over…….the long anticipated day is finally here and he can continue his celebration that actually began yesterday with a special lunch, and then being taken out to get ice cream last night by the Atkesons.  Aaron has never lost his child-like enthusiasm for his birthday.  He relishes the fact that the day is all about him, although he’s not annoying about it.  He’s happy and exuberant for sure, and sometimes uncomfortable with too much attention……yet he would be very disappointed if that attention never came. 

I’ve been thinking back to that time 27 years ago when Gary and I were wanting a baby.   We were nearing our 5thyear of marriage when we found out that I was pregnant.  That was such an exciting time for us!  When I went into labor late on that November night, three weeks before my due date, we were surprised and a little scared.  My labor lasted only about 5 hours and there he was……..our baby boy.  A son!  We named him Aaron Daniel, and I was positive that no one on planet earth had ever given birth to a baby as beautiful as our Aaron.  No mother could have been prouder and more thankful than I was.  Those were my thoughts as I looked at this little tiny bundle of boy………our Aaron Daniel.  He only weighed 6 lb. 4 oz. at birth, and was even lighter than that when we took him home with us. 


Aaron grew and thrived normally, never giving us pause for alarm in any way.  He was bright and curious, and as cute as he could possibly be.  Aaron knew all of his letters, randomly, before he was two years old.  Gary was so shocked one day as he held Aaron on his lap before his second birthday.  Gary was reading a magazine and suddenly Aaron started pointing to the letters on the page that Gary was reading.  Aaron was telling what each letter was and in his amazement, Gary called urgently for me to come.  I thought that Aaron must have hurt himself, so I ran downstairs to find Aaron safe………..and calling out letters as Gary would point to them.  We laughed and cheered for Aaron, and Aaron was delighted……..though he wasn’t quite sure why.


As Aaron grew, we noticed that he was sometimes a little different from other children.  Still we weren’t alarmed.  His funny clapping seemed like an appropriate behavior for a young child, and was something that we knew he would outgrow.  He didn’t like the feel of certain clothes or the tags on shirts, but sometimes other kids didn’t like those things either.  He was very hard to potty train, but aren’t boys often that way?  Then came his first seizure in the winter of 1992 while we were stationed in Germany.  We were terrified at this unexpected and awful event.  Aaron spent nearly a week in the German children’s hospital in Mannheim and was diagnosed with Epilepsy.  I cried one night at home until I felt that I had no more tears, and then Gary and I faced the future with faith in God and love for our Aaron. 

Aaron adjusted to his seizure meds and kept on being a normal little boy.  He taught himself cursive, learned to read, and played with his friends.  But he didn’t like many of the loud sounds at school, and we noticed that he had a hard time with maintaining friendships.  We returned to the States in 1993, and that next year Aaron was removed from his seizure meds because he had been seizure free for two years.   Soon, though, the seizures returned and so did various medicines.  Aaron continued to regress socially as he grew older, and his behaviors were more extreme and very hard to understand.  He became more isolated…….it took very special people to understand him, especially boys his own age.  Yet God put us with some wonderful friends as we lived in Leavenworth and then again when we were stationed in Arizona.

But life was difficult for Aaron, and therefore for us as well.  In Arizona, his seizures increased dramatically as did the behaviors.  Finally, when Aaron was 14, he was diagnosed by a pediatric neurologist as having Asperger’s Syndrome.  I had never even heard of this, and was so shocked when the doctor told me that it was a form of autism.  We researched and studied and read……..and again, I cried at this news.  One long, hard cry……….and then we moved on in our life with Aaron.


There have been many ups and downs in our journey………..many hard times and hard decisions………many moments when we thought our hearts would break……….and many times when we just wanted to walk away in our frustration during a particular behavior.  But Aaron is our son and we love him deeply.  With time comes acceptance and knowledge and understanding.  With God all things are possible.


God allowed Aaron to be the young man that he is today.  Aaron has redefined our parenting……he has reshaped our family……..he has refreshed my world on so many levels with his unique view of the world around him.  Would I have designed Aaron to be this way?  Probably not.   But I have a God Whom I can totally trust and Who wove Aaron in my inward parts.  Even though I don’t know the answers to the “why” questions, I do know the Who of creation.  I trust my sovereign God with all my unanswered questions.  He is an awesome God.

And He gave us an awesome son!

Birthday Eve

Aaron is very excited about his birthday tomorrow.  The celebration began today as Barb, one of his favorite staff at Paradigm, took him out to eat.  Rosie went, too, so it was a very special pre-birthday lunch for Aaron with two of his very favorite people.  He couldn’t wait to tell me all about it when he burst in the house after his day was over. 

“Mom!  Barb took Rosie and I out to lunch!  We went to that Longhorn Steak House!”

How nice, Aaron!  What did you get to eat?

“Well, I got a bacon hamburger and a normal salad.”

Sounds good!  And what’s a normal salad?

“You know, just a salad with all that normal stuff.  But I didn’t like those hard croutons so I gave them to Barb.”

He also told me about the French fries and then added, “Mom, after we ate, that employee…….is that what you’d call her?”  I asked him if he meant the waitress and he continued, “Yeah, that waitress………Barb told her that it was my birthday and so she brought me a cake with ice cream and whipped cream that had chocolate and just one cherry on top!”

Wow, Aaron, that sounds so good!  Did you eat it?

“Yeah, I ate it!  And you know what?  They sang Happy Birthday in a different way………in a cowboy way.  That’s a cowboy restaurant!”

Whatever the cowboy way is for singing Happy Birthday, Aaron seemed to like it.  He usually acts pretty uncomfortable with all that attention, but deep down he enjoys it.  He records it in his brain and shares his picture images of it with us………usually over and over again.

To top off his wonderful Birthday Eve, our dear friends Dan and Wendy came over tonight with their special Elijah.  They took Aaron out for ice cream at Braums, where he later told me that he got a hot fudge sundae.  He is now officially more than stuffed!  And he is very happy with the fun and the attention and the fresh ears that will listen to all of his stories, and laugh at his stories, and pay him such special attention. 

Aaron is truly blessed on this Birthday Eve……..and so are we!


I was enjoying the beauty of a crisp fall morning yesterday, adjusting to the time change and the earlier daylight that it brought.  The sunshine on the fading yet still colorful leaves was helping to fuel my energy on this Monday.  I was busy going about my morning routine when a quick glance out the kitchen window showed me that there was something new on the horizon, out past our tree line and the farmer’s fields across from our house.  The entire skyline was filling with clouds.  Not soft, puffy clouds – but a mass of darker, thicker clouds was filling the Kansas sky.  I wondered if these clouds were just a passing layer that would dissipate in the rising sun, but as the minutes went by I knew that they were instead building into a covering that would soon blot out the sun and turn my shining morning into a darker one.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long until the entire sky was filled with this grey spread that totally transformed the outdoor scene.  Now instead of glowing sunshine bouncing off the yellows and rusts and evergreens of our trees, the view became one of muted tones………of drabness…………of coldness.  And though I’ve never minded cloudy days, I did miss the brilliance of the sunshine on the colorful leaves, along with the energy and the warmth that the light had given me on this Monday morning.  I watched helplessly as the clouds built and spread across the blue sky, unable to change their momentum or their effect.

All of us either are facing, or will sometime face, these building clouds on the horizons of our lives.  We look ahead and we sense, or know with certainty, that there are changes waiting on the outskirts of our present happy situations that may change our lives………..or at least alter our current secure world.  For me, today, I don’t think I want to hear what my surgeon will say about my shoulder injury.  I don’t want to face surgery, nor the long recovery and inconvenience that may be awaiting me.   For many others, there are far more serious situations.  They watch as a tiny baby struggles to grow and thrive in the NICU;  they await the biopsy results that are coming for someone they love;  they struggle with serious undiagnosed health issues as they go from test to test with various doctors;  they deal with chronic pains and depression;  they watch with broken hearts as their children walk away from the Lord;  they seek God for wisdom in making major, life changing decisions;  they see their marriage fail and their finances plummet; they see their homes destroyed in a hurricane and their entire lives in upheaval.

And today, we watch and wait as our country selects a new President.  With the selection of either candidate, we wonder how our nation’s people will respond.  We know that there may be conflict and we pray that there will not be uprisings.  We wonder if our country will ever be as we remembered it years ago, unified and vigorous.  Or are the building clouds threatening to change our nation forever?

In all of these situations, there is one constant………one point on the compass that is sure.  Listen to the Psalmist in Psalm 42:5 – “Why are you in despair, oh my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.”   God hasn’t left us – He hasn’t abandoned us, even as the thick clouds cover our world.  We don’t need to despair or be disturbed, for we have the help of His presence!

Again, in verse 11, the Psalmist says – “Why are you in despair, oh my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”  Again, even in the bleakness we should praise God……….and in focusing on Him, even our countenance will change. 

Finally, verse 8 – “The Lord will command His loving kindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life.”  Wow!  Not only will God exhibit his love to me in the daylight when my surroundings are full of light………….but He promises that His song will be with me in the dark times.  A prayer, the writer says……… response to the growing clouds that threaten my happiness is a prayer to this God Who commands His love in every situation of my life.  A prayer of submission to God Who orchestrates my cloud cover and a prayer of praise to God Who commands His love to me. 

We submit and we praise, even when we don’t feel like doing so.  We submit and we praise, even as we watch the clouds fill our sky.  We submit and we praise, even when the news isn’t good news.  We submit and we praise, even when the decisions are very difficult.  We submit and we praise, even if our candidate doesn’t win.  We submit and we praise because we have a God Who is with us in the sunshine and in the clouds, in the good and the bad of life.    

Thank you, God, for Your presence……….for Your hope……….and for Your love!

More About Nuns!

This past Thursday, Aaron went to the mall with his group.  He loves mall days because he loves the food court or Auntie Anne’s Pretzels or Dairy Queen……….it’s his Thursday food fest.  On this particular mall trip he was proud to tell me that instead of making his lunch a super duper extra large Triple Chocolate Blast Sundae, he instead chose to eat a sub at Subway.  I praised him for that decision and then asked him what kind of bread he decided to order.  He answered, “Normal!”  This means Italian.   It’s scary that I know this.
 Anyway, in addition to all the food he adores, he also loves all the fascinating sights and sounds of the mall.  Remember the day he couldn’t wait to tell me about the very unique sight of a mannequin, wearing……..well, in Aaron’s words:  “Mom!!  I saw a statue wearing BRAS!!!”  I didn’t even bother to ask him just how many bras she was wearing.  Some things are better to just leave alone.

So on this past Thursday, Aaron rushed in the door and hurried to find me downstairs so he could tell me about his latest mall experience.  Let me preface this by saying that Aaron has a great interest in nuns.  Yes, nuns.  Maybe it’s because one of his very favorite movies is The Sound of Music.  Maybe it’s because of the habits that they wear, which are very foreign to Aaron’s world……… therefore merit his full attention.  And when something merits Aaron’s full attention, watch out.  He will stare, he might point, and he will most definitely comment – sooner or later.  We often hope it’s later but it’s usually sooner.
Anyway, here is Aaron’s story:  “Mom!  Guess what Cody saw me looking at?  A NUN!!!”

So you saw a nun, Aaron?  Where were you?
I was fighting fear at this point, wondering what had transpired.                                                                                

“We were eating and I saw a nun!  She had on those loooooong clothes that go like this!”  And he proceeded to make hand motions from his head down to his feet, describing what this nun was wearing.  This in itself is hilarious.  He continued:  “Cody told me to quit staring at her.”

Well, Aaron, we always tell you not to stare.  Were you pointing at her?

“No, I was just looking at her.  And you know what, Mom?  It was a WOMAN!!!”

Good grief, Aaron!  Yes, SHE is a woman………SHE is not an IT!!

But this was not all that Aaron had to say about this nun.  “Mom, I didn’t know they were in the United States!  I thought they were in another place outside the United States, like China!!!  So they’re allowed in the United States?” 

China.  Why on earth does Aaron think that nuns are in China?  He couldn’t tell me and I really have no clue………unless he’s heard that nearly everything “American” is actually made in China.  I don’t know.  I will be on the lookout now for Chinese nuns because this has made me curious.  Chinese nuns that are allowed in the United States, actually.

I do hope that if Aaron made comments about this nun (who is a woman, possibly from China but somehow allowed in the United States!)………..well, I hope that his comments were made quietly.  Aaron doesn’t do quietly very well, though.  This poor nun may be wondering about Aaron’s stares and about his surprise that she’s a woman and about the Chinese connection.  

And I would like to tell this woman nun not to worry – that we are often left wondering, too.




Timely Matters

Aaron keeps close tabs on matters pertaining to time or seasons or special events.  I talk about this fairly often here in my blog.  He is so precise and very aware and sometimes frustratingly regimented.  When I’m not rolling my eyes, or chewing on my tongue to keep from either cackling or making a smart comment, I will often laugh at his displays of rigidity.  He looks at me as if I have surely taken leave of my senses since he sees nothing humorous in what to him are perfectly normal behaviors. 

When it comes to the changing seasons, Aaron is often confused at oddities such as warm days in the fall or winter, or cold days in the spring or summer.  If Aaron was in charge, every single winter day would be cold; every single spring day would be warm; every single summer day would be hot; and every single fall day would be slightly cool.  How logical that would be!  How precise! 

I wrote before about how confused he was at the end of last winter, in early March, when we had some warm days.  He found me outside pruning when he came home from his group and he said, “Mom, those kids said it’s spring.  It’s not spring until March 20!”  And later, “So is it spring yet?  I don’t understand that!” 

I tried to explain that we sometimes say it’s spring when it turns warm, even if it’s not precisely March 20th or after.  But he was having none of that!  It’s not spring until it’s really spring, in Aaron’s world!  People are so confusing sometimes! 

And sure enough, during some recent cold weather Aaron asked, “Mom, is it winter?”  I told him that no, it was not winter yet…………and I knew exactly what was coming as he responded, “But all this coldness!!  When will it get warm?”  He gets very annoyed sometimes at how the weather jerks him around. 

He’s been on his birthday countdown for some time now.  He counts the days and makes his plans and has everything sorted out in his mind.  On October 4, he said, “Mom, we only have till my birthday one month and four days.”  I had to stop and think a minute, but as always he was totally right about that number. 

Last night as we played Skip-Bo, he said, “Mom, tomorrow’s the first of November!”   I said, “Yes it is, Aaron.  What do you think about that?”

“It’s almost my birthday,” he flatly replied.  Well, of course that’s what Aaron would think about when the month of November is mentioned.   He may be egocentric, but at least he’s honest about it!

He has really missed the absence of his portable clock that he carried around the house.  He broke it one day and I have refused to replace it.  But if you remember, his birthday is coming up……….in 7 ½ days, to be precise………..and I imagine he’ll get the same portable clock for his birthday as the one that he is missing.  It tells the indoor and outdoor temperatures, too, so he can see if the seasons are cooperating.  Anyway, he keeps this clock with him by his computer……or beside him as we play Skip-Bo………..or with him when he comes to the family room to watch TV…….

Last night as we played Skip-Bo, he lamented once again the absence of said clock.  He showed me how he has to take his watch off and “roll it”, as he says, and place it on the desk so he can check the time when he’s on his computer.  No matter that his watch is conveniently on his arm, pushed half-way up but still there, for him to check the time.  No, he must have it right beside him in the place of his absent portable clock, in order to keep track of the time.  To try to make him think otherwise is futile.  I may as well go outside to convince the pine tree as to try to convince Aaron.  He also has a clock on his night stand, but that clock is strictly for telling the time when he goes to bed and when he gets up, so he can record the precise minutes in his notebook by his bed.  That clock is not to be used when he is on the computer.  I feel sometimes as if I live in some sort of asylum.

And finally, speaking of time, as we began playing our Skip-Bo game last night, Aaron asked his usual question – “Mom, can we play more than one game?”

I said, “Probably not, Aaron.  It’s almost 9:30.”

Aaron pushed up his sweater sleeve and he pushed up his shirt sleeve in order to retrieve his watch that he keeps half-way up his arm.  He looked at his watch after hearing me say that it was almost 9:30 and he then replied, “No, it’s not.  It’s 9:24.  So how about it?”

He still thinks his mother is very silly for laughing.  What’s wrong with demanding precision?!

How about it??!!