Do I Have To Go?

Most of us live by some amount of routine in our lives.  For those individuals with autism, routine is most definitely not just a part of their lives, but a necessity.  This is certainly true for Aaron.  And when that routine is broken, we never know just how he’ll react.  This is why I was a little worried about how his first morning back at his day group, Paradigm, was going to go.  Would he be a willing participant as we switched back to the “old” morning routine, or would he be angry and rebellious?  I knew that it could go either way.
Aaron came downstairs yesterday on our first “normal” morning that we have had in a week.  All the snow from our two big storms have kept him home.  I inwardly cringed as I heard him coming slowly down the stairs.  He had just gotten out of bed and so was moving slowly.  I had prayed earlier in the morning about Aaron’s attitude, and I shot up another quick prayer as he lumbered into the kitchen. 

He was disheveled and his eyes were droopy.  His body sagged and he had no vitality at all.  Oh yeah, Aaron was playing the part of a victim very well………..a victim of being jerked back to reality and having to resume normalcy.  I smiled at him and cheerily said, “Well, good morning, Aaron!”

He continued to droop and then very wearily said, “I’m tired.”  He continued to stand there looking at me, even sagging a bit more in his effort to show me that this day was just more than he could possibly bear.  When his comment and his visual demonstration got no response from me, he flatly continued……..”I read a long time.” 

It still makes me laugh to think of how perfectly he was seizing this opportunity to appeal to my mother heart.  I was as chirpy as a spring bird as I confirmed to him that I knew he was tired and I knew he had read a long time the night before, but that I also knew a warm shower and some hot coffee would work wonders on his depleted self.   He stood there, with his pajama shirt hanging out of his pajama pants that were dragging on the floor around his feet………the perfect picture of dejection and exhaustion……….and in some disbelief he asked, “So do I have to go?”

I went about my work in the kitchen, seemingly oblivious to his distress…..and hoping that he was equally oblivious to the fact that I was dreading his reaction to what I knew I must say.  I calmly replied, “Well, Aaron, Dad went to work both yesterday and today.  I have to get back to my physical therapy today, and all the kids are back in school.  So, yes, today you get to go back to Paradigm.”

He stood there, absorbing this reality, and pondering something.  I soon learned that he was pondering a deal………..a deal concerning his keyboard that we remove every night before bed, and then hook back up to his computer while he is away the next day.  “Mom,” he began, “can we do this thing where you put the keyboard in before I leave?”  In other words, Aaron wanted to watch me put the keyboard in just before we left for his group……….not so he could use it but so that he could just have the comfort of knowing that it was plugged in and ready for him to use when he returned home.  I have actually done this before and it worked well, so I didn’t need to think long before I told Aaron that yes, I would do that.  I would plug in his keyboard before we left provided he shower and get all ready to go. 

He gladly accepted this counter deal, and his sagging body straightened.  He took his pills as he watched me pour his coffee, and soon he was in the shower.  Not long after, as I was getting ready, I heard him outside my bedroom door.  He knocked on my locked door, and I heard him flatly ask again, “Do I really have to go?”  He was hanging on to a thread of hope that somehow I had considered his plight and changed my mind.  So I reaffirmed that he was going to Paradigm, and of course he asked, “So can you put the keyboard in?” 

“Did you shower, Aaron?”   To which he answered yes and to which I confirmed that the keyboard would be plugged in BEFORE we left.  We had this same confirming conversation several times over the next 45 minutes………Aaron continuing to ask about the keyboard and me continuing to say yes……….until finally I just gave him my “mom” look and he knew that the answer was yes and also knew that mom was weary of the one-track questioning.  The questioning did not stop, however, until we were ready to leave and he oversaw me plugging in the keyboard.

And then he asked, “Mom, are you going to leave the keyboard in?”

Good grief, Aaron……….HUSH ABOUT THE KEYBOARD!!!!!

He seemed to get the message, as our drive to meet his group was full of talk about Decepticons and Autobots and other Transformer “stuff” that makes no sense to me…….but was a relief because it had nothing to do with keyboards.

He burst in the house at his usual time, and I thought that if his first comment had the word “keyboard” in it then I just might toss his keyboard in one of our backyard snowdrifts.  Thankfully, though, his first comment was, “Mom!  We had pizza!”  He proceeded to tell me about the pizza he had for lunch and then said, “I don’t have any money left.  I used it at Quik Trip.  I used it for me and Rosie.”   He told me how he had bought Rosie a lemonade and himself a bottle of water.

We had our usual discussion about how he’s not supposed to use his money for Rosie.  I reminded him that one reason for this is because Rosie’s mom doesn’t want Aaron giving Rosie money for food.  To which Aaron very matter-of-factly replied, “It was not food.  It was drink.”

Have I discussed recently that individuals with autism not only love routines, but are also very literal? 

I laughed as he went upstairs to check on that keyboard.

That Boyfriend/Girlfriend Thing

On Sunday evening, Aaron told Gary and I that his headphones were broken.  It appeared that he was correct, so I decided to run out to our new Goddard Wal-Mart to get him another set of headphones.  We were getting ready to be hit with a blizzard the next day, and no way was I going to be stuck in the house with Aaron having no headphones.  For most games and movies, he believes that he MUST be wearing his headphones.  Without them………well, he or I one would not survive, and I just didn’t even want to go there.

We climbed in the van, buckled up, put in just the right CD, and off we drove into the west………to good old Wal-Mart.  Aaron was talking about anything and everything as we rode along.  My mind was pretty much on auto-pilot, listening to Aaron talk, talk, talk and thinking of what else I needed to buy before we were inundated with the promised snow.  That’s when, out of the blue as he so often does, Aaron unexpectedly asked, “Mom?  Is it OK that Rosie and I are friends?”

So where did this come from, I thought?  I’ve written several times about Aaron’s special friendship with Rosie.  They like each other and he is so nice to her.  That last fact is in itself a miracle.  Gary and I are happy for their special friendship.  When Aaron talks about her like this, with no connection to our conversation, then I know it’s usually because he has some issue on his mind. 

I replied, “Yes, Aaron, it’s OK that you and Rosie are friends.”

He continued, “Well………she’s a girl and I’m a boy.”

Pause.  And I hesitantly say, “Yes?”……….and wonder what’s next.

He asked, “So what’s the difference?”

Now I’m most assuredly out of auto-pilot mode.  My mind is in full engagement, wondering what his last question means.
Then I very intelligently and fearfully ask, “What do you mean?”

He answered, “Well, does that mean I’ll be doing that boyfriend/girlfriend thing?”

My relief almost made me sag.  Perhaps this wasn’t going to be such a difficult conversation after all.  I assured Aaron, as we always do, that he and Rosie can be good friends.  Their special friendship is a wonderful thing. 

“So I don’t have to be that boyfriend/girlfriend thing?”

“Do you want to be boyfriend/girlfriend, Aaron?” I asked.

“No”, he replied, “but some of the other clients tease me about it.”

Once again, I encourage him to not let the teasing bother him…… just laugh and be nice……….and to keep being a special friend with Rosie.

By this time we were walking in to Wal-Mart.  By the time I got a cart and turned to walk in the entrance, there stood Aaron………..holding up a small round watermelon, with a huge grin on his face.

“Look, Mom!!  It’s a little watermelon!!”  I commented on his delightful find, and he hurried on back to the electronics section to look for his headphones.  He didn’t mention Rosie again the rest of the night.  It seemed that his concern over whether he would be doing that boyfriend/girlfriend thing had disappeared.

Yet I know better.  This issue is on his mind more than we realize.  That’s why it keeps coming up over and over again.  He’s trying to figure out how to do the boyfriend/girlfriend thing, as he says…..or how to BE the boyfriend/girlfriend thing.   He’s venturing into unfamiliar territory, as are Gary and I.  I hope we have wisdom, and I hope we remain sensitive to Aaron’s feelings.  We’re very happy for him to have Rosie as a special friend.

The joy he shows when he holds a small round watermelon, or as he did later, an oddly shaped purple eggplant, is such fun to see.  Likewise, I want to continue to see his friendship with Rosie through his eyes……….to know that’s it’s unique and valuable to him………….but also full of questions. 

I just pray that we will have the right answers.  Not dismissive answers, but honest answers and wise answers.

But I tell you, it sure is easier talking about watermelons and eggplants than it is to talk about that boyfriend/girlfriend thing!  

Lessons From the Icicles


It’s been another very mild and very dry winter here in Kansas.  It’s felt and even looked more like spring than winter this year.  While it’s been nice not to find ourselves maneuvering over slick roads, we do need some moisture.  And boy, did we get it!  A huge storm plowed into Kansas this week, leaving us in our part of the state with at least 14 inches of beautiful snow.  We woke up to a world of glimmer as the sun shone brightly on the newly fallen snow.  The ground is encased in a sparkly white wrap, fresh and mostly untouched in our big back yard. 
I also noticed another result of our massive snow storm as I looked out of our upstairs windows.  There hang long rows of icicles.  They have their own unique beauty, all clear and shiny like hanging crystals.  No two seem to be the same shape as the once dripping water has frozen into various forms and sizes.  Icicles are fascinating to observe and can be very pretty when the sun is shining on them, causing them to gleam in the light.  But icicles also have another aspect.  They can be sharp and dangerous as well. 
This morning I saw that the icicles hanging on the front of our house were starting to drip.  They were melting because they were facing east, where the morning sun was beating down upon them.  There was not a cloud in the sky and even though the temperature was cold, the warmth of the sun was still able to reach into their icy coverings and begin the melting process. 
Soon I walked into another bedroom on the west side of our house, where the sun was not yet reaching.  There hung another long row of icicles, still firm and cold in the shadow of the morning.  The sun had not yet touched these frozen fingers of ice, so they were still solid and stiff.  They didn’t really even appear as shiny and beautiful as the icicles that were being touched by the sun.  These hanging jabs of ice seemed colder, even more harsh, than the icicles in the front that were warming in the sun.
These icicles reminded me of some of the lingering results of personal storms in my  life…….especially times that have involved the hurt inflicted by others.  I imagine that you have had those hurts as well.  We all experience that pain at some point in our lives.  If we’re not careful, those wounds can develop into icy slivers of bitterness in our hearts.  Where there was once the flowing warmth of relationship there is now the frozen stab of disappointment that has pierced our heart.  Sometimes the situation is private and no one knows about it but us.  Other times the hurt is very public and embarrassing, misunderstood and whispered about by others.  The results are the same, though.  The pain created by these wounds is still very intense regardless of how they occur.
Solomon wrote about these matters.  In Proverbs 14:10 he said, “The heart knows its own bitterness…..”  No one but us knows what is in our hearts.  We may appear to be fine and normal to others, but those icy shards of bitterness have frozen our hearts.  We dwell on the situation and rehash the hurtful words and scenarios over and over again.  Our heart knows its bitterness, so very well, and we become numb in our pain……….and numb to the other Person who also knows what is in our heart.  God knows…..and He does care very much about that chill that has encased us and frozen us. 
In Ephesians 4:31-32, there are several sins that God tells us to put away.  The first one listed is bitterness.  Then God says to “……be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other…..”  So how can I be kind and tender and forgiving to those that have hurt me so deeply?  How can my heart be warmed again when it is so frozen with injustice and pain?   Well, it’s not easy, but God tells us here that the first way to start is to remember that we are to forgive “……..just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”     How can I be unforgiving when I have been SO forgiven by God?  I am forgiven……..and I must be forgiving to others. 
When I take this first step and realize my position in Christ, then His light will begin to thaw that immobile, cold heart of mine.  Forgiveness here carries the idea of releasing.  I need to constantly release to God the people and the situations that have so chilled my heart.  Let Him bear my pain and let Him warm my cold heart.  And if those people are still present in my life, then I am to show kindness and tenderness.  Look for ways to serve, to be kind, and to be tender hearted……..not hard hearted with a frozen heart but to be tender and loving.  It’s not easy, but God will enable and give grace to do what is the most difficult. 
Soon l will hear a dripping noise and realize that my once solid, icy heart is thawing out under the warmth of God’s love and His enabling.  He won’t force me to allow His light to shine in my inner being, but if I open that door and allow Him in, then the melting will begin.  Slowly but surely the damaging icicles will dissolve as I focus, not on the other person or on the pain that they have caused, but as I focus on the light of God’s forgiveness and love in my once cold heart.


Shine Your light in my heart, O God, and let the melting begin!

Lessons From the Rainbow

I was finishing up my early morning routine a few days ago when I realized that I had not opened the blinds yet, and so I stood up to remedy the situation.  I opened the kitchen blinds and saw some dark clouds that perhaps promised rain off to the west, the direction our windows face.  But more striking than the rain clouds was the beautiful rainbow that was draped across the sky.  I grabbed my camera and headed outside to both enjoy the rare sight of a rainbow and to hopefully capture some of its color and beauty on film.  What a treat it was to walk around the back yard and take in the views of this long-lasting, bright rainbow!  There was actually a double rainbow, but the primary rainbow was by far the most stunning.  Later when I checked Facebook, I saw that many other people across the area saw the rainbow and were impressed by its beauty.  There were many written oohs and aahs from different friends who appreciated the unexpected sight that God gifted us with that morning. 

A rainbow is both a refraction and a reflection of light as it bounces off water droplets in the sky.  I’m not greatly scientific so I’ll leave the explanation at that.  I just enjoy the symmetry and beauty of a rainbow, and revel in the promise of which it is a reminder.  God promised in Genesis to send His bow in the cloud as a symbol of His covenant to never destroy the earth with a flood again.  As He often does, though, God used that rainbow the next day to remind me of a precious spiritual principle. 

My life is continually a reflection in so many areas.  When I am sleepy or tired, my eyes often reflect that fact by not being alert or bright.  My leg is reflecting a bruise today from stumbling over the garden fence last night.  My toes reflect the fact that I’m about to need a new pedicure.  Some of my floors are reflecting the fact that I need to vacuum.  Our drooping garden is reflecting the effects of these very hot, late August days.  My bathroom scales are reflecting……..well, never mind about that.  On the morning after I saw the rainbow, I was reading Colossians 1.  Verse 2, like so many other of Paul’s epistles, has Paul saying, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”  I tend to read over this opening without even thinking because it’s so common.  Yawn, yawn – let’s hurry on to the good stuff.
But on this morning I looked up “grace” in the concordance and here is one part of the meaning of this Greek word: “The divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life.”  So one aspect of grace is that I allow God’s influence to fill my heart and reflect in my life.  God is a God of grace to even want to allow me such a privilege!  And am I reflecting Him in my life?  It’s interesting that the word after “grace” in all of Paul’s writings is the word “peace.”  This word “peace” means: “Prosperity as far as having quietness and rest.”  When I am reflecting outwardly God’s influence in my heart inwardly, I will then exhibit a life of quietness and rest.  Grace and peace. 

Hmmmm – I better quit yawning and wake up!  How many times do I struggle under the storm clouds of life?  When I’m struggling, grasping for understanding and answers that may or may not come, I’m certainly not a beautiful reflection of God’s grace at work in my heart.  His influence is not reflected in my life at all.  People around me only see the dark clouds and the rain.  However, as soon as I allow God’s influence to fill my heart, my struggles and doubts will cease.  A colorful rainbow of quietness and rest will replace the clamoring and strife.  A rainbow that reflects God’s influence and His joy, for His glory and my peace.  And hopefully others around me will be impressed, not with my struggles, but with the God of grace that I serve!     

Wheel. Of. FORTUNE!!!!

When Aaron was very young, probably when he was about a year and a half old, he started watching Wheel of Fortune every evening.  He absolutely loved that game show!  He would laugh and clap as he watched the letters being called out and then turned by Vanna White.  He would even stand by our dishwasher, reach inside when the door was open, and turn the bottom spray arm as he gleefully clapped and laughed and in his little voice yelled out, “Wheel.  Of.  FORTUNE!!!!”  He was adorable.  And unbeknownst to us, he was learning his letters.  He totally shocked us one day before he was 2 years old by pointing to the letters in a magazine article that Gary was reading and telling him what each letter was.  Gary yelled for me to come, so I ran downstairs, expecting that maybe Aaron had fallen and gotten hurt.  But instead Gary wanted me to see this surprise that was sitting on his lap…………our little baby boy who was correctly calling out each letter as Gary pointed to it.  We clapped every bit as much as the contestants on Wheel of Fortune, and Aaron clapped in delight as well.
We moved to Germany that next year, where we lived for six years and where Aaron didn’t have the same opportunity to watch his beloved Wheel of Fortune.  As he grew up and we moved back to the States, he never became attached to that once-favorite show like he had when he was a toddler.  Last year, though, Aaron found his old Wheel of Fortune PC game.  He and I played it occasionally, and really had a lot of fun with it.  Now he has a new Wheel of Fortune PC game, which we played a few weeks ago…….and once again had fun doing that together.  All of this led me to remember that Wheel of Fortune is still on television, so I told Aaron this bit of news.  I am beginning to question the wisdom of that decision.  🙂
The first night that he and I watched Wheel of Fortune together, Aaron was almost as delighted as when he was a little child.  Now every day the questioning starts in the morning.  “Mom, can we watch Wheel of Fortune tonight?”   I always tell him that I’m not sure.  Soon he repeats the question.  “So, Mom, can we watch Wheel of Fortune tonight?”  Again, I repeat that I’ll have to see what’s going on.  I’ve learned to never commit definitely to an activity, because if something interrupts it, I am in huge trouble with Aaron.  In his mind, I have lied.  That’s the black and white world in which Aaron lives.  But again I hear, “So Mom, do you think we can watch Wheel of Fortune?”   I’ll answer the same as long as he asks, but he is never deterred.

Watching Wheel of Fortune with Aaron is somewhat entertaining……..interesting……….funny……..and definitely loud.  Quite loud.  Aaron doesn’t miss a beat, either.  Every sequence of events, every comment, every gesture……everything!…….is for him a source of endless commentary.  And the loudness comes from the clapping.  Not the contestants clapping, but Aaron’s clapping!  Oh my goodness.  That young man can clap louder than any human on the planet, of that I am quite certain.  I am taken back to his little chubby hands clapping together with great joy as a toddler watching Wheel of Fortune.  Now he’s grown and has over the years perfected this ear-splitting clap of his, made with his thick hands.  Seriously, his clap will at times leave my ears ringing. 

Aaron wants to watch Wheel of Fortune for the very beginning until the very end.  This is the same way that he reads a book or watches a movie.  He reads a book from the very, very first word until the very, very last word…….table of contents, index, and all.  He watches a movie from the very, very beginning until the very, very end…………down to the very tiniest print at the very, very end of the credits.  Sigh.  So when I made my semi-commitment to watch Wheel of Fortune with Aaron, it was on the condition that I may NOT be able to watch it every single night.  I have to cover all my bases here.  Then I remembered the DVR, and so decided that I could tape the show on nights that I might be busy right at 6:30……….or for Aaron, 6:29…… that he can watch the very, very first part of the show.  He loves watching Vanna and Pat come out on the stage together amidst the clapping and cheers.  This is, of course, a very, very necessary part of Wheel of Fortune…….for Aaron.

The first night that I taped Wheel of Fortune, I called Aaron downstairs for supper.  He thought I called him down to watch the show and so he was very concerned when he saw us sitting down to eat.  I told him not to worry, that I was taping the show, and yet he still had worry written all over his face.  “But Mom, are you taping for the VERY beginning of the show?!!”  I assured him that I was.  Then a couple minutes later……”Mom, are you SURE you’re taping from the VERY beginning?”   And again I promised that the show would start at the VERY beginning.  I tried to explain the wonder of the DVR, but he wasn’t convinced and continued to ask several more times if I was SURE that Wheel of Fortune would start at the VERY important beginning.  I sure was praying that our DVR worked correctly, and was VERY thankful when yes indeed, we got to see Vanna and Pat walk out together.  Whew!

Like I said, there is nothing that goes unnoticed by Aaron.  His questions and his comments are numerous.  “Mom, are Vanna White and Pat Sajak married?”  I told him that they are not married.  “So why do they hold hands?”  And I explain that they are good friends and have worked together for many years……and so they hold hands sometimes.  He thought this was strange.
Aaron wonders about the clothes that Vanna and Pat wear.  “So Pat Sajak wears a suit but Vanna White wears a fashion dress.”   Yes.  “Vanna’s dress is long!  Why doesn’t she trip on it?”   “Would you like a dress like that, Mom?”    “Why is her dress all shiny?”   “Look!!  She has flowers on her dress!!”   And on and on it goes. 

He notices the card that Pat is holding and wonders what is written on it.  He notices the way that the letter board lights up and is it a computer and how Vanna just touches it and the letter turns.  He notices Pat Sajak’s personality – “Pat Sajak does this thing of being funny!  Why is he funny?”  And Aaron just can’t make sense of why Pat must ask questions of the contestants.  To Aaron this is very odd.  “Mom, why is he asking if they’re married?!  He’s not married to them!”  No amount of explanation seems to sink in to Aaron, and he continues to wonder about all those rather strange, rude questions.

And the clapping………….yes, the clapping of the audience and the contestants.  This frequent clapping gives Aaron permission to join in, much like he did when he was a child.  Except that the decibels have gone way up now, and so I cringe and I fuss and I threaten………but to no avail.  CLAP!!!  “Mom, look at how they spin the wheel!”   CLAP!!!   “Mom, did they land on the Jackpot?!”   CLAP!!!  And sometimes for no reason…….CLAP!!!!  CLAP!!!!  CLAP!!!!

Aaron wonders why the contestants are so happy when they win a trip.  CLAP!!!  “So what’s the big deal about going to an island?”   CLAP!!!   He finds the cars that they sometimes win to be very interesting.  “Mom, the car tonight was silver!!  And last night it was red!”   CLAP!!!  “So when they win a car, it’s cost free?!”   Oh, I do love how he describes these concepts. 

Yes, Aaron, the car is cost free.   CLAP!!!

He really doesn’t understand the facial expressions of the contestants.  This is so common for those with autism.  The expressions on other’s faces and the social cues that are presented  often go completely unnoticed.  Therefore, as Aaron watches the body language that goes on during this game show, he is puzzled.   “Mom, that woman is strange!”  I asked him why he would say that and he replied, “Because she’s so excited.”  I use the opportunity to explain her excitement and why it transfers to her outward behavior, but almost before I can finish he’s off on another observation. 

“Why is that woman making a face with her eyes big like this?!”  Or…..”Did you see what she did to her hair?”  He registers nearly every eye movement, hand gesture, shoulder shrug, laugh, frown……… all goes in his brain, but he can’t necessarily make sense of it.  So interesting!  At this point, I’m finding myself more intrigued by Aaron than I am by Wheel of Fortune.  CLAP!!!

Then there was the night that Vanna White hugged the guest LA Lakers basketball player at the end of the game.  Aaron found this to be of great interest, as he blurted out, “SEXY!!!”  I gave him my stern look and he explained, “But you said that word isn’t a bad word.” 

So I had to agree that, yes, I did say that the word ‘sexy’ is not a bad word……….but I just never know where Aaron is going to go with something like that.  Good grief – why does he have to notice everything?!
Aaron, why don’t you just go and……………CLAP!!!!

Is Mustard….Mayo? Or Mayo……Mustard?

This past Thursday, on Valentine’s Day, Aaron had his yearly eye exam appointment.  The exam went well, even though Aaron doesn’t do so great on the peripheral vision or the puff-of-air glaucoma check.  He doesn’t fuss but he just doesn’t see the little faint dots or open his eyes wide enough, or something, so if he was given a pass or fail – those would be a fail.  Everything else went fine, thankfully, and we were finished pretty quickly.  That gave us an edge on getting a good seat for lunch at Chili’s, which is very near his eye doctor.
We were seated in the colorful booth, and Aaron immediately began to look at the menu choices.  He mostly wanted to look at the pictures of the food, for this is his favorite way of picking out what he wants to eat.  We completely forgot to talk about what to drink before the server was there to take our drink orders.  I reminded Aaron that he didn’t need to look for pictures of the drinks, and I offered him some options.  He thought for awhile as the waitress and I patiently waited……….and then loudly asked, “Do you have water?”  I chuckled and the waitress nicely told him that yes, they had water, and off she went to get our drinks.
From that point, our friendly waitress wanted to ask me all the questions that were really for Aaron.  She looked at me and asked, “Would he like some lemon in his water?”  So I looked at Aaron and asked, “Aaron, would you like lemon in your water?”  He said no, and off she went.  Later, after Aaron ordered chicken strips……..making sure that they were indeed boneless……really and truly boneless……and crispy………our server returned with our food, looked at me and asked, “Would he like sauce?  Ranch, barbecue…..?”  So I looked at Aaron and asked, “Aaron, would you like sauce?  Ranch, barbecue……?”  He chose barbecue and again, off she scurried.  This scenario happened a few other times.  For crying out loud, couldn’t she see that Aaron was fully capable of listening, understanding, and answering?  Sometimes people amaze me!

Aaron kept up his usual chatter as we ate.  “Mom!  That sign says ‘MARGARITA Bar.’ ”  He emphasized the word ‘Margarita’ because I think he knows what it means and that he’s not allowed to have that beverage.  He continued, as he pointed toward the sign, “Is that beer?”  To Aaron, any alcoholic drink is beer.  I tried to explain, knowing that he would continue to see it as beer.
We had a lengthy discussion about tornadoes.  Aaron is aware that tornado season will be upon us soon, so he’s been talking about it a lot.  I should just record my answers to his usual questions and push the button when he begins the discussion.  And we also had our running back-and-forth commentary about tornado sirens………..where they are located, what they are for,  how they sound, how they rotate, why they rotate……     All the while, Aaron was trying to solve the problem created when his chips and salsa eating was interrupted by the arrival of his meal.  He usually eats one item at a time, so the big plate of chicken strips interfered with his chips and salsa.  He took a bite or two of his chicken, but decided that this was just too confusing.  Plus he noticed that occasionally I would reach over and take a chip, and this was an even bigger problem.  He couldn’t risk me finishing off the chips, so he abandoned his chicken and very quickly started scooping up chips, carefully dipping them in the salsa and quickly reaching for another one.  He’s so predictable and so all about himself!  I know this and I understand, but I teased him anyway and he seemed to not even hear.   However, he did notice when I reached over and took one of his French Fries.  He promptly moved his plate away from me, and reached for yet another chip.  Ah, Aaron!

The server came by and thought that Aaron was finished, so she asked if she could take his plate.  Yay!  She finally talked TO Aaron!  But he moved his plate away from her and told her that he was not finished.  He meticulously took each French fry and dipped it carefully into the ketchup……..and somehow was reminded of mayonnaise.  “Mom, is mayo another name for mayonnaise?”  I told him that it is, and he then went down the road of mayo and mustard.  He seems to get them confused continually.  “Why is mayo a different name for mustard?” he asked. 

Mayo is not a different name for mustard, Aaron.  Mayo is mayonnaise and mustard is mustard. 
“Oh,” he replied.  “So mustard……’s called mayo?”

No, Aaron.  Mustard is mustard.  Mayo is mayonnaise.  They are different things.

“So is mayo mustard?” he asked. 
AHHHHH!!!!  I reminded him that mayo is white and mustard is yellow……….and he nodded and went on to the next subject, even as I wondered if he got mayo and mustard straight in that brain of his.  I doubt it.

“Mom, I told Barb that I wish I was young.”   I told him that he is not old and he said, “I’m 28!”………as if 28 is indeed very old!  So I said, “Well, to me you’re young.  But to an 8 year old you might seem a little old.”  

I wondered what I was thinking as he responded, “So to an 8 year old I’m half old?”  I was just trying to formulate my answer to that question when he continued, “So I’m half old and half young?”  I love how his mind works as he connects the dots that my comment created…….half old and half young…………and I was a bit relieved when the server came to our table with the bill and Aaron said to her, “It seems like your voice is kind of high!” 

She laughed and I laughed, and Aaron wanted to know if he was being rude.  Soon we were ready to leave, and before we got up from the booth I reminded Aaron not to clap……….and please don’t stare at people or point to their food………….and don’t make any farting noises with his mouth…………..and by all means, DO NOT STRETCH!!!!  If you’ve seen Aaron stop in the middle of a crowded restaurant and stretch, you would totally understand this instruction from me.  Hands high about his head, stomach way out, and lots of noises.  Think gorilla.

We safely and rather quietly left the restaurant, with Aaron talking all the way………which is never really quiet, but it beats the stretching routine any day. 

I am somewhat mentally fatigued whenever I have an outing with Aaron that involves public settings and other people and food and plenty of time for rather loud conversations and the presence of BEER in any form!  But he’s never boring and he’s actually delightful if I take the time to really listen……….like the half old and half young comment.  I wonder if I’m the only one who understands that connection that he made.

And I’m thankful for the connection that I have………that we as a family have……….to this very unique Aaron…………noisy, one-of-a-kind Aaron!


I heard the wind picking up on that sweltering September day last year as I worked around the house.  Our long, hot, and very dry summer was coming to a close.  At least the calendar said that the end of this season was near, although the thermometer didn’t agree.  Everyone was tired of the unrelenting heat and was wishful for some refreshing rain.  As I heard the wind outside begin to batter our house, I looked out the window, hoping to see the approach of rain.  Instead I saw, rolling in from the farmer’s fields behind our house, an encroaching wall of haze.
It was eerie to watch this cloud of dust from our upstairs windows as it was carried ever closer to our house, blown about by a force beyond its control.  Furthermore, this whole scene was beyond my control.  I could only stand and see this mass of dirt and dust being pushed straight toward us.  Soon our house was enveloped in a choking fog of dirt.  The trees whipped around and the dust covered everything.  Nothing was spared from the layer of blowing soil that the ripping wind carried along in its wake. 

The whole scene was rather alarming as the sun was hidden and the dust created an almost twilight atmosphere.  It was dirty and rough, and even stung the skin and caused the eyes to water.  This was not at all what I had hoped that the wind was bringing our way.  However, I soon heard a sound as I stood on our front porch and observed the unpleasant sight.  Ever so softly, I heard it.  Could it be rain?  And as I watched and listened, I knew that in the midst of this dirty mess there was indeed the unmistakable sound of raindrops.  The little pinging drops of rain soon turned into a shower and then into a nice downpour. 

What a welcome sight!  The falling rain washed away the awful dirt, cleaning the atmosphere and the trees and the grass from the ugly coating of grime.  The air cooled, and the scent became moist and sweet instead of dry and dusty.   I stood on the porch, reveling in the pleasant change that the rain had brought.  I was happy………the trees and grass seemed to glisten with relief……….and soon I heard birds singing with joy.  On so many levels, this burst of rain was exactly what we needed at that moment!
Have you ever been so discouraged that you feel as if you’re looking out the windows of your life and seeing nothing but an approaching wall of dirt?  Everything seems bleak as you think about your circumstances and problems.  You can’t see any sunshine or any hope of relief, and as life’s issues come bearing down upon you, you can say with the Psalmist as he cried out to God –  “Why do You hide Your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression?  For our soul has sunk down into the dust; our body cleaves to the earth.”  (Psalm 44:24-25)  Oh God, you cry, where are You?  Why do I feel so hopeless and so alone in this swirling mess of problems in my life?

We’ve all been there.  I know I have.  Over in Psalm 119, the Psalmist in verse 28 says, “My soul weeps because of grief.”  Beside that verse, I’ve written a note – a way I have of memorializing certain events in my life.  By that verse I wrote – “March, 2002; worry for Aaron.”  Aaron was a student in a school that was not a good fit for him.  It was an extremely stressful time in our lives.  Gary and I knew that Aaron was going to have to move to another school, and we were scared.  We were tired and we were unsure of what the future held for Aaron.  We felt like the writer in verse 25 of that chapter when he said, “My soul cleaves to the dust.”  There it is again…….that hateful, choking dust that crowded out our view of God. 

Yet the second part of verse 25 says, “Revive me according to Your Word.”  And the second part of verse 28 agrees – “Strengthen me according to Your Word.”  I remember God’s faithfulness during that time with our decisions concerning Aaron…….and I remember so many other times in my life when God spoke to me or to our family through the reviving strength of His Word.  His Word……..the living water of His Word……….that comes in and washes away the dust of fear and discouragement and sin.  Even in those oppressive days when I don’t feel like reading my Bible or listening to God, I know that when I do take time to let Him speak to me, it’s as if refreshing rain is washing over my spirit and renewing my joy.  The problems may not disappear, but the Solver of those problems speaks comfort and peace to my heart during those times. 
Resolve to stop… listen closely………to let God speak to you when all you see around you is darkness and stress.  God longs to revive us and to strengthen us if we will but let Him.  Meditate on what He says in the pages of scripture and to what He whispers in your heart, even in the midst of the choking problems you may be facing.  He is there in the darkness, longing to refresh you and love you……..and give you a promise for tomorrow.

The Just-Right Pillow

One of the main characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome, or any other form of autism, is the insistence on sameness that displays itself in a multitude of ways.  Aaron manifests this characteristic in so many areas every day of his life.  One way in particular is his bed, as I’ve written about in other blogs.  Every tiny aspect of his covers, his pillow, his nightstand, and even the items that he insists on putting on the floor around his bed must be just so-so.  If they are out of place then Aaron cannot rest. 

I remember when he still put his stuffed animals on his bed.  He did this into his early 20’s, which bothered me a lot.  I tried to get Aaron to put the animals away but he wouldn’t hear of it.  Every night he would meticulously place each animal on the bed in just a certain order, each in their own place that never varied.  Then he would adjust each arm, each paw, each ear, each tail…………and step back to view his bed.  If anything was out of place he would then adjust it carefully.  Or if we messed anything up as we said goodnight, it had to be fixed immediately.  Only when it was all exactly right would he softly climb into bed and settle down for sleep.   When Aaron had his VNS surgery, his upper chest and neck were very sore from the incisions.  Only then did he agree to let the animals stay in their crate in his closet.  Lo and behold, he realized that he could sleep just fine without his stuffed animals!  And also saw that he had more room to toss and turn without the fear of messing up a tail or an ear on his stuffed companions!  He has never asked for them again.  Victory!!

One day years ago I bought Aaron a body pillow to use.  I thought that it would keep him from settling at night into the space between his two regular sized pillows, where I would often find him during a seizure or when getting him up in the mornings.  Sure enough, he slept very well on his new large pillow and has never wanted to go back to regular pillows again.  There are some requirements for his body pillow, however, when we help him make his bed or change his sheets.  The pillow must be stuffed smoothly and fully into the very long pillow case, with no wrinkles or bulging.  And when placed on his bed, the zipper must always go on the left side of his bed.  Always.
This morning Aaron was grouchy, not wanting to go to Paradigm.  I just treaded lightly as I poured his coffee and offered him some breakfast, which he refused.  I went about my business as usual, hoping all the while that he would settle down and cooperate.   I still kept up my soft tone while being firm, not giving in to his demands to stay home.  And for some reason, he did start calming down.  I was in my bathroom getting ready when I heard him walk into my room and say, “Mom, something’s wrong with my pillow.”  I glanced out into my bedroom to see that Aaron had placed his long pillow on the end of our bed.

“What’s wrong with it, Aaron?” I asked.  He pointed to it and said, “See?  It’s all fluffed up!”  I couldn’t see anything fluffed up about it, but I knew that in his current mood I needed to take his concern seriously.  Any dismissive attitude on my part pertaining to his pillow would possibly only escalate his fragile mood.  I peered down at the seemingly normal pillow as he pointed out the problem.  And yes, there it was………..clear to me, since I do tend to see the world through Aaron’s eyes.

The pillowcase had been changed the day before, and the end of the pillow that Aaron sleeps on………the unzippered end……….was not perfectly flush inside the pillowcase.  The two sides at the end of the pillow were a little folded in, which made the two corners of the pillowcase sag down a little.  So this was why, when I went in to get Aaron up this morning, he had pulled the pillow way over so that he was sleeping in the middle of the pillow and that unzippered end was hanging off the bed.  He could not bring himself to sleep on that part of the pillow that wasn’t just right. 

And he confirmed this as he said, “I had a hard time sleeping on my pillow, Mom.  It wasn’t right!  It was all fluffed up!”  Yes, it was a little poochy there……..fluffed up, as Aaron says……….so I pulled the pillowcase back until it was nearly off and I made sure the corners of the pillow were rearranged so that they fit into the corners of the pillowcase.  Aaron watched carefully.  I laid it back on our bed as he examined it……….and was very relieved when he gave me his word of approval. 

We put the pillow back on his bed then, making sure the zippered end was on the left side of the bed, of course.  He had already asked me if I would help him make his bed while he was gone……….which is really asking me to just make his bed while he’s gone, which I’ve told him over and over.  Anyway, we got every cover just right and all the wrinkles tugged out and things tucked in that must be tucked in……….and Aaron was happy.

It was such a small thing, that fluffed up pillow.  It would have been easy for me to dismiss it in my hurry to get ready.  But that small thing to me was no small thing to Aaron, and it was best for me to recognize that and deal with it in an understanding way at that moment.  It saved a lot of anger in the long run, that’s for sure.  For Aaron would have been angered and bothered all day over that fluffed up pillow, and at my lack of comprehension about its importance.

This is a lesson that is reinforced almost daily in our home…………that small matters can be huge to Aaron, and to save huge outbursts or distress on his part, it’s best to nip it in the bud.  Repairing the fluffed up pillow was no big deal, seemingly, but it sure was to Aaron.  He saw my interest, too, and I hope he saw my love for him.  He went happily to his group, chattering all the way.  That makes for a good day for both of us!

And I’m sure that we’ll both sleep better tonight.


As I recently had shoulder surgery, I was reminded of the time that Aaron had surgery for a broken wrist.  It was quite a few years ago, here in Wichita.  I was busy in the kitchen that particular evening as I cooked supper.  I didn’t pay much attention to Aaron as he walked in to where I was working until he told me that he had fallen outside and hurt his wrist.  “Mom,” he said, “I was trying to be one of those people at the circus that walks on that tightrope.  I was walking on the bricks around the porch and I fell off.”  I told him to go sit in the family room and soon I stood over him, looking down at the bulging bump on his wrist, and fearing the worst.

A trip to the emergency room and an X-ray confirmed what we thought to be true……….Aaron did indeed have a broken wrist.  He wore a splint until we could see the orthopedic doctor a few days later.  The doctor said that he would try to set the wrist without surgery, but if the bones moved at all then surgery would be necessary.  A couple nights later, I stood over Aaron in his bed and watched him have several seizures.  There was nothing we could do to stop the jerking.   And there was nothing we could do to change the outcome of that movement.  Surgery on his wrist was scheduled after the next X-rays revealed that the bones had shifted out of place.

None of these events phased Aaron in the least.  I guess God has gifted him with an ability to  have no fear of medical procedures.  He has always done better if allowed to watch while his blood is being drawn or an IV inserted.  EEGs, MRIs, X-rays, spinals………nothing has ever really upset him.  Gary and I are very thankful for that toughness!  So the prospect of surgery was no big deal to Aaron, even as I was concerned about it and wondering how it would affect his seizures.

The morning of his surgery arrived and there we were at the surgery center, bright and early.  Soon a nurse stepped out to usher Aaron and I into the prep area.  I knew right away that the second she saw Aaron, she recognized that he had special needs.  Nothing was strange about that.  However, I soon realized that she thought Aaron was mentally challenged.  I knew this because of the way that she spoke to Aaron.  She was very nice, but she spoke to Aaron like he was a very young child instead of a young adult.  She spoke slowly and deliberately to him, and she also talked in a sing-song voice.
She gave him instructions about undressing and about putting on the gown, all the while her voice lilting up and down.  I hoped that she would soon see that Aaron had no mental challenges and would just talk to him normally.  I stayed with Aaron, and soon he was settled on the bed.  She returned, and began preparing him for surgery.  “Aa….ron,” she slowly said,  “this is a blood pressure cuff.  Do you know what a blood pressure cuff is?”  Aaron sighed loudly and looked at her as if she had three eyes.  I knew that we were headed for dangerous ground as Aaron gruffly answered, “Yes!”  He stuck his arm out as she continued half-singing and half-talking.  “I’m going to wrap it around your arm and then it’s going to squeeze a little bit.  It won’t hurt at all.”   I wondered if her voice could possibly go up and down any further even as I noticed that Aaron was becoming more irritated.  If only she knew how often he had worn a blood pressure cuff!  As she removed the cuff, she said, “Very good, Aaron!” with all the enthusiasm and lilts in her voice that she could muster.  And Aaron was not enjoying this one bit!

Everything she did was preceded by her elementary explanations to Aaron in her singing voice and drawn out words.  “Aaron, this is a thermometer.  Do you know what a thermometer is?”   “Aaron, this is going on your finger but it won’t hurt.”   “Aaron, this will stick a little.  Good boy!”  I was in a dilemma as I patted Aaron’s arm in an effort to calm him.  Of course, she thought I was patting Aaron’s arm because he was scared when in reality I was patting his arm in the hopes that he wouldn’t lash out at her verbally by telling her what he thought of her silly voice.  I knew that if I corrected her in any way in front of Aaron, he would say, “Yeah!  I’m not dumb!  You are!!”……….or some variation of that.  Yet I kept hoping that she would lay off the singing voice and the simple childish talk to Aaron.
Finally, it was time for Aaron to mark his arm that was having surgery.  As she handed the pen to Aaron, she sang, “Aa…..ron, I want you to put an ‘X’ on the arm that’s having surgery.  Do you know how to make an ‘X’?”   And there lay Aaron, who knew his alphabet before the age of 2, being asked by this all-too-nice nurse if he knew how to make an ‘X.’  I happily told him to just make the ‘X’ as he reached up and yanked the pen out of the nurse’s hand, and rather angrily marked a big ‘X’ on his right arm.  She seemed oblivious to his simmering mood as she again sang, “Very good, Aaron!”
I was so very happy that she then turned and walked out of our little cubicle.  Aaron immediately jerked his head in my direction and loudly exclaimed, “SHE’S CRAZY!!!”  And I wanted to say, “Yes, Aaron………but she thinks YOU are!”………..yet I knew that I could not say that, so I just told Aaron that the nurse was being very nice and that he needed to also be very nice to her.  She quickly returned and began her lilting talking again while I once again patted Aaron’s arm.  And in total exasperation, Aaron rolled his eyes back into his head and gave a huge sigh.  He kept his eyes rolled back as the nurse continued to chatter and I continued to pat……….and he now really did look like he had mental challenges.  I just wanted to laugh, but I was trying to keep things balanced and I was hoping that Aaron’s eyes wouldn’t stick like that and I was pleading in my head for this oh-so-nice nurse to just hush.

I never dreamed that I would see the day that I was relieved to watch one of my children being rolled into surgery………….but that day had arrived.  We had survived the lilting-voiced nurse without a major blow-up from Aaron.   Yes, Aaron………..go to sleep now……….and let me go pray that our special nurse is not in recovery. 

Thankfully, she wasn’t to be seen again…….nice as she was.  But Aaron talked about that “crazy nurse” for a long, long time.   

We’re Eating WHERE?

Yesterday Aaron had a dentist appointment, and as usual, he was looking forward to our day together.  He gladly endures having his teeth cleaned because he knows that afterwards we will go somewhere for lunch, and then to Wal-Mart, and maybe somewhere else – which on this day, our somewhere else was to be CD Tradepost.  I let Aaron choose our lunch destination several days earlier and was not at all surprised when he chose Olive Garden…….his new favorite place to eat. 

He got up earlier than normal, which is sometimes a sign that he is excited about his day.  When I went in to talk to him, he immediately asked, “Mom, is 36.3 cold?”……..and I knew that he was looking at the outdoor temperature on his new  indoor/outdoor clock and weather center.  I assured him that the temperature today would be quickly rising and that we were in for a very warm, pleasant day for his dentist visit.
As I turned to leave his room, he had one more question.  “Mom, are we going to eat lunch at Oliver Garden?”  I responded with my own question to be sure that I had heard him correctly.  “Eat where, Aaron?”  And he repeated what I thought I had heard…..”At Oliver Garden,” he said.  I smiled and didn’t correct him.  Sometimes I prefer Aaron’s rendition of familiar names.

Later, as we drove past the farmer’s fields on our way to the dentist, Aaron kept up a steady stream of mostly one-sided conversation.  He talked about his Star Wars game; about Tavion; about whether cells can be renewed; about whether cells are actually nerves; and then transitioned to the fascination of crystals and fool’s gold……….among many other topics that entered that ever-active brain of his.
I enjoyed the relative quiet of the waiting room while he got his teeth cleaned, wondering if we would have a repeat of what happened at his last dental visit.  I was relaxing in my seat in the waiting area when I heard Aaron’s unmistakable voice say, “Mom!”………and I looked up to see him standing there in the middle of the waiting room, with the paper bib around his neck and the dark protective glasses covering his eyes.  “Aaron!  What are you doing?” I asked – just as the hygienist came around the corner, smiling.  He wanted to be sure that we were going to eat out and go shopping, and I said yes as he turned and followed the hygienist back to his waiting chair.  The other people in the room had that typical puzzled look on their faces and I acted like nothing strange had just happened.  If people could only see how funny their faces look at times like this!
Thankfully, on this visit Aaron stayed put in his chair and before long he was finished at the dentist and we were driving toward “Oliver Garden” for our fun lunch.  Later, as we waited for our food to arrive, Aaron spied the wine bottles sticking out of the racks in the wall.  “Mom!  Look at those bottles!” he exclaimed as he pointed to the wall. 

Aaron, don’t  point.

“But they keep those bottles in the wall!  Is that beer?”  I told him that it was wine, and he continued in amazement………”How do they get it out of the wall without breaking the glass?!”  So I gave him a lesson on how the bottles were not stuck in the wall, even as I looked at them and saw that they really did look like they were a part of the wall.  There I go, looking through Aaron’s eyes!

As we sat there, I had the usual conversations with Aaron about the usual topics.  Aaron, don’t make those noises.  Aaron, don’t stare at those people beside us.  Aaron, be careful and don’t spill your tea.  Aaron, don’t blow your straw paper on me.  Aaron, wipe up that spilled tea with your napkin.  Aaron, don’t sing.  And as I helped him get some salad, he said, “Mom, I don’t want the hard parts.”  I know that the hard parts of the salad are the croutons, even as he continued, “Do you want me to give you the hard parts?”  So I got the extra croutons and we were both happy.

As we munched on our pizza, Aaron brought up his favorite topic…….out of the blue, as so often is the case.  “Mom, Rosie likes me.”  Ah, Rosie…………Aaron’s special friend at his day group.  So here I sat with my grown son who is still a boy in most ways, and he wanted to talk about Rosie.  I asked him, “So how do you know that Rosie likes you?”  He didn’t hesitate at all before answering, “Because she sits beside me when we watch TV, and at the movies.  And we share popcorn.”

Their friendship is so sweet, and we are thankful for it.  He then told me that yesterday Rosie’s mom had come to Paradigm, and I was reminded of the very amusing comment that Aaron made a few weeks ago when he said, “Mom, today Rosie’s mom came to Paradigm.  It was the same kind of Mom that came to my birthday!!”  I had laughed and Aaron had no idea of how funny his comment was. 

He continued telling me about Rosie’s mom being at his group yesterday.  “I had a slushie that was half empty and I asked Rosie’s mom if I could give it to Rosie.  She said yes so I gave it to her.”   I asked him if Rosie ate it and he very patiently answered, “You don’t eat it.  You drink it!”  So I asked him if Rosie drank it and he said yes…………germs and all.  Well, they are friends, you know……….and friends don’t worry so much about all that germ business.

Last night, as we were saying good night, Aaron commented, “Mom, we had fun at Oliver Garden.”

Yes, Aaron, we did have fun at Oliver Garden.  I didn’t tell him that the most precious thing for me was to once again have the opportunity to see inside his heart that is sometimes tender…………at least when it comes to Rosie.  And I am thankful that even though Aaron has issues and is labeled as having “special needs”………..I have the unique privilege of having a son who will probably always tell me everything that he is thinking.  Much of it gets rather old at times, but then I have the opportunity to capture a real nugget……or more than one. 

And it’s not fool’s gold, either.  These times with Aaron are true gold……..priceless and irreplaceable.