When Is It TOTAL Morning?

Aaron got up half-heartedly this morning, saying he was very tired and that he didn’t sleep well and that his stomach hurt and do I have to go to Paradigm……….and I just walked back up the hall.  Slowly he got out of bed and slowly he came around to a measure of cooperation as I poured his coffee and fixed him a bowl of his favorite leftover potato dish for breakfast.  I barely listened as he talked about how tired he was.  This is a favorite ploy of Aaron’s……..trying to convince me that he is SOOOO tired.

The other morning he told me this same tired story about being tired, telling me that he had not gone to sleep until after midnight.  This reminded him of a question that he had been mulling for some time, to hear him tell it.  “Mom, I’ve always wondered.  Is midnight like half morning?”  And before I could formulate my answer to his always interesting question, he continued.  “So if midnight is half morning, when is it total morning?” 

I tell you, sometimes his questions and his comments just leave me:

A.  Speechless
B.  Amazed
C.  Doubled over in laughter
D.  All of the above

You can’t pull much over on Aaron, either.  He usually begins each day with asking me this question that I have heard thousands of times:  “Mom, can we do something tonight?”  He  pauses and then adds, “Like play Skip-Bo or do our backs?”  And I have told him thousands of times that I don’t know and that I’ll see and that I’ll let him know.  I never say yes, because if something unforeseen happens that prevents me from doing something with him, I have entered the category of being a liar………and I’ve written even recently about the ramifications of Aaron thinking that I have lied. 

The other morning, when asked this familiar question about whether I could do something that night, I told Aaron once again that I wasn’t sure.  And he asked, “So why don’t you know?  Are you doing something tonight?”  I said, “Well, Aaron, sometimes I just want to relax at night.”  And Aaron wisely answered, “Relaxing means we could do something.” 

Not in my book, Aaron.  You have no idea.

Sometimes Aaron and I take Jackson on a walk around our circle in the evening.  Aaron, of course, talks the entire way.  Every step is filled with conversation………..mostly one sided.  You can guess which side.  Jackson doesn’t talk……..and I usually can’t fit a word in……….so there is only Aaron left.  The other evening, Aaron pointed to some one’s yard and asked, “What are those yellow flowers?”

I answered, “Quit pointing, Aaron.”  I say this repeatedly as we walk past people’s homes……..people who are probably wondering why Aaron is always pointing at their homes.  Sigh.  Then I reminded Aaron that those yellow flowers are dandelions……and that dandelions are a weed, because I know that question is next.  “So dandelions are a weed?” he asks anyway.  “Yes,” I repeat.  About that time we walked past a pretty budding Bradford Pear and Aaron asked, “What kind of tree is that?  Is that a weed tree?”

And while I was laughing at the thought of a weed tree, there he was – pointing at another house and asking, “Is that the house that was hit by a fire?” 

Aaron, houses aren’t hit by fires, exactly……….not like they’re hit by lightning……..which could actually cause a fire so I guess you could say…………    

Aaron, quit pointing!

Aaron talks about all the animals we see and hear as we walk………the dogs and cats and birds and squirrels.  He stops and talks to anyone and everyone that may be out in their yard.  Lucky people!  Aaron won’t let them go, either.  I smile and try to ease Aaron away while making sure that Jackson is behaving, and I never know who is alarming our neighbors the most………..our huge Great Dane or our Aaron who will NOT quit talking!!

People should learn what to do when they see us coming, and especially if they see Aaron pointing at them!   Go inside.

Speaking of animals, one day as we were driving, Aaron and I smelled a skunk.  He sniffed and then wrinkled up his nose and proclaimed that something smelled like a skunk………and then added, “I’m not talking about you, Mom!”   So glad he cleared that up.

Not long after that conversation, he came home from his group and was describing the road on which they were driving.  “Mom!  You know that road?  There was a dead skunk there!  It was freshly dead and it smelled bad!”

I was very glad he didn’t reference me again.

And how Aaron loves cows…….and bulls.  We pass a field of each of those particular bovines on our way to meet his group.  First the cows.  He always looks for them and wonders where they are if he can’t see them, as was the case the other morning.  “Mom!  Where are the cows?  Are they in that farm den?”

He means the barn.  But doesn’t “farm den” have such a warm and homey ring to it?

Then we later pass the pasture that is the home to some bulls.  This morning………. as Aaron had the window rolled down and tried to sit so as to block Mom’s hair from blowing wildly…….he saw some bulls.  They aren’t often out when we drive by, so he was happy to see them.  He talked about the baby bull and the big bull………..and by the time I dropped him off at Quik Trip to meet his ride, he was talking about how bees dance.  Yes, how bees dance.

He just cracks me up and he has no idea why.  He came in the kitchen the other night and told us, “Hey!  I saw a commercial about that restaurant that I like.  You know……CAROL’S O’Kelly!!” 

Which restaurant, Aaron?  “CAROL’S O’Kelly!” he repeated.

And this morning……….”Mom!  Did you read The Wizard of Is today?”
“Read WHAT, Aaron?”

“The Wizard of IS?!”

He thought I was laughing because I had read the Wizard of Is.

Oh, Aaron.  Life is so much more interesting with you in it to make the mundane and the usual most interesting and unusual!

He’ll be home soon.  And I’ll have a new blog idea, I’m sure.

A Flower For Mom

I’m sitting here at the computer, taking a little breather from Aaron and his incessant talking, and trying to decide how to convey Aaron in my writing.  He is so interesting, yet so exhausting; so funny, yet so frustrating;  so predictable, yet so surprising.  Sometimes I just can’t fully explain or project the complexities and the simplicities of Aaron.

He often majors on such minor aspects of life.  He will focus on something and talk about it until Gary and I are mentally numb.  For instance,  the other day he bought a Cheddar Pasta Salad for his lunch while out with his day group.  He came home carrying the empty shopping bag, but inside was the receipt for the pasta salad.  He wanted me to see it and to be as disturbed as he was by the fact that his pasta salad rang up as potato salad.  I have since, including this morning, explained to him that the two salads cost the same.   It doesn’t really matter that Cheddar Pasta Salad was rung up as Potato Salad.  Both are in the deli and both cost the same.  I have assured and reassured Aaron that this matter is really no big deal…….yet I know that to Aaron it IS a big deal.  Simply put, Potato Salad is not Cheddar Pasta Salad.  This fact and this incident upsets Aaron’s world.  Mom and Dad need to get this, and need to discuss this with as much fervor as Aaron.  After days of discussion, our flat voices and vacant stares do not make sense to Aaron.  He hardly notices.  Like he said this morning, “Mom, should I fuss at those scanner people?  That was weird!”

I sigh and think of what and who is really weird, but I just assure Aaron that he should not fuss at those scanner people…….and I hope that soon he’ll just GET OVER IT!!!  Just like I’m longing for him to get over the new PC game he saw at Wal-Mart that he is wanting to buy.  Alien……which is right down Aaron’s alley because it’s full of growling, slimy aliens that your character must kill.  Gary and I want to research this game before we say yes or no.  Aaron isn’t into research………..he’s into talking us down to a level of no resistance. 

He was discussing this game while I was getting ready the other morning.  He asked repeatedly if and when we could go to Wal-Mart to check it out…….which to Aaron means to buy it.  And he says what he often says when making these requests – “Mom, I’m not making you!”  As he talked on and on the other morning, he tried a new tactic as he asked if we could probably go to Wal-Mart.  “Mom, I said probably!  Does that mean making you?”  Clever, Aaron – very clever.

That night I saw predictable Aaron as he came down to the kitchen.  It was time for bed, and he took his pills.  He then headed for the guest bathroom, because he prefers it more than his bathroom upstairs.  Aaron must always say goodnight, and he very much prefers to say goodnight in his room.  I reached out to give him a goodnight hug in the family room and he backed away.  He knew I wasn’t going to wait on him to use the bathroom, so he thumped up the stairs and walked into his room.  I followed obediently, knowing exactly what was happening.  He stepped into his room, turned and gave me a goodnight hug, and then went back downstairs to use the bathroom.  Yes, predictable Aaron. 
The next day he told me that he was tired because he stayed up reading too late.  Aaron will only read at night before bed, all propped up just so-so in his bed as he reads one of his Handy Answer books.  As he told me that he was tired, he began discussing Latin names of animals.  Last night I discovered why he was talking about Latin animal names and why he had been tired that morning.  Aaron, who reads EVERY word of his Handy Answer books, had read this long list of English/Latin animal names, along with the animal’s  expected life span.  He showed me the list that was on several pages, and also pointed out how he had read across the list…………every name…….every single name.  I just shook my head in disbelief while he was again unaware of how amazing he is. 

Sometimes Aaron is even sweet.  A couple evenings ago, he and Gary were on a walk out in the yard.  Later Aaron came in the house and with great purpose he marched over to where I sat.  He held out a “flower” as he said, “Here, Mom!  I picked you a flower!”  He thrust it toward me as he continued, “Put it in a pot of water and save it, OK?” 

I took the “flower” that was handed to me and saw that it was Chickweed.  And even though I didn’t really want a Chickweed flower, I shrugged off my resistance and accepted it gratefully.  Aaron was very pleased with the “flower” he had given to Mom, and I was so touched by his earnest show of love.  I put the “flower” in a glass of water, where it is thriving.  Aaron loves the little blue flowers that are really purple………..but Aaron is color blind and so to him this pretty “flower” is indeed blue.  And I am relieved that at least he didn’t pick this “flower” from the neighbor’s flower bed, which he has been known to do.

These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg that is Aaron.  And just as with a real iceberg, the majority of which is underwater, so it is with Aaron.  There is so much more to him than meets the eye.  It takes some time to understand him, and just when you think you do, he does something that catches you by surprise.

That’s what I think of when I look at my pretty Chickweed “flower.”  I’m glad I saved it and didn’t toss it in the trash.  And I’m always glad when I take the time to understand Aaron, and not just toss him aside in frustration. 

But I do roll my eyes a lot!

Big Red Gum…….And Forgiveness

I want to share something that happened yesterday morning with Aaron.  This incident gave a glimpse into several aspects of his autism, and also taught me yet another valuable life lesson.  Aaron does have a way of teaching me things that stay with me for a long time……..and sometimes hopefully forever.

I had an obligation at church on Monday and Tuesday that prevented me from taking Aaron to meet his day group.  I arranged for his driver to pick him up at our house.  But on Monday I realized that I could drive Aaron to meet his group, and so that night I told Aaron that I would be driving him the next morning.  He likes that arrangement better and so he was very happy. 

As I got ready yesterday morning……Tuesday……I decided that I would just go over to the church a little early.  I hadn’t contacted Aaron’s driver concerning the changes yet, so I decided to just leave things the way they were and have Craig come to our house like we had planned.  Knowing how Aaron sometimes reacts to changes, I realized that he might not like this idea very well.  First the driver was coming to the house……then I said that I would take him…….and now I was back to the driver coming here.  Up and down………..changes, changes………….and I know better.  Aaron’s rigid thinking doesn’t allow for change very easily.  I was soon to see this reality in full display.

I walked into Aaron’s room, where he was watching a video, and I chirped happily to him that I was going to go on to church early and that Craig would just come  to the house to pick him up.  And in his low, monotone voice, Aaron said, “You’re a liar.”

This flat proclamation was a forerunner of trouble, and I knew it.  What made me think that somehow Aaron would be accepting of this idea?  Did I suppose that his rigid way of thinking would somehow disappear this time?  Silly me!  But I responded with more cheer than I felt as I told him that sometimes things change and that this would work out just fine.  Right, Aaron?  And his voice went up a notch as he answered, “But you lied!”

Now no amount of reasoning with Aaron would dissuade him from his notion that I had lied to him.  I told him that I would take him to meet his group, and then I said I was not taking him to meet his group.  Aaron’s dots don’t connect, disconnect, and reconnect the way that mine do.  I can’t jerk him along with all these changes of plans and expect him to comply the way that others would.  Nope.  Not gonna do it. 

We walked downstairs, where Aaron took his pills and where I had poured his coffee.  Happy Mom was quickly becoming frustrated Mom as Aaron slowly escalated from calling me a liar to declaring his feelings for his lying mother.  There was no mistaking those feelings, either, as he declared, “I hate you!”  Now this isn’t something I am proud to admit that Aaron said, but this is Aaron being totally blunt and unfiltered. 
He truly doesn’t hate me, but it’s all he knows to say in order to show me that he is very frustrated.  Aaron won’t sit down and look me in the eye as he shares his heart with me in a level, kind voice.  He isn’t able to express his feelings properly, so he resorts to what his heart is telling him.  Mom said this, then she said that, and then she went back to this.  I am so confused and disappointed and mad!  Mom is a liar!  I hate Mom!

This one-sided verbal assault went on for several minutes.  I interjected a calming word here and there, but Aaron would have none of it.  And I realized that I had actually created this situation by disregarding what I know about Aaron, and by not following the special Aaron rules that I normally follow.  I had failed, and I was paying the price.  So I told Aaron that I would take him to meet Craig, but I also told him that I was hurt by his words.  He also could tell that I was hurt by the look on my face and the sound of my voice.  He does know how to read those clues after living with me for all these years.

I went into my bathroom and shut the door.  I heard Aaron walking up the hall, and then soon walking back to my room.  Then he said, “Here Mom.  This is for you.”  I looked down as I heard a noise outside the bathroom door, and there under the door Aaron slid a pack of his special Big Red gum.  I knew instantly that this was a peace offering……….Aaron’s way of saying that he was sorry.  And he actually said, “I”m sorry, Mom.” 

I opened the door, and there he stood……relaxed and hopeful.  His anger was gone.  Was it because he got his way, I wondered?  So I started to hand him back the gum, but he said, “No.  I want you to keep it.  I’m sorry, Mom.”  And I knew that no matter what his motive was, Aaron had given me an apology that I needed to accept.  There are some things I must do because Aaron is my son……..there are things I must do because they are right………..and there are things I must do because God says to do them.  Sometimes it’s all of the above. 

Later yesterday afternoon, my heart was hurt over another incident.  Tears filled my eyes and rolled down my cheeks.  As I reached in my purse to get my keys, I saw the pack of Big Red gum.  I could even smell the strong cinnamon flavor coming out of my purse.  I thought about forgiveness at that moment…….of how important it is to ask for forgiveness and likewise how important it is to extend forgiveness, even if true motives aren’t totally clear.  And of how our obedience to God, regardless of the circumstances, is said in scripture to be a sweet smell to Him……..a sweet savor of sacrifice. 

I may not ever chew that Big Red gum.  I may keep it as a reminder of my Aaron who sought forgiveness and showed his sorrow by sliding Big Red gum under my bathroom door.  And as a reminder of the forgiving that I was allowed to extend today to that person from yesterday who asked for my forgiveness.

There’s some more sweet smelling savor going up to heaven.  I wonder if it smells like Big Red gum?

Rosie’s Birthday Dinner

Last week I got a special phone call.  Many of you remember Aaron’s very special friend at his day group……..Rosie.  Rosie’s real name is Rosa, but Aaron has always called her Rosie……which I find to be endearing.  Aaron and Rosie are very special friends, and as their friendship has grown, Aaron has struggled with whether or not they are girlfriend/boyfriend, or just good friends.  We always tell Aaron to simply relax and enjoy being friends with Rosie.

The phone call was from Rosie’s mother, Louise.  She and her husband were inviting us to go out and eat dinner with them and with Rosie in honor of Rosie’s birthday.   After we hung up, I went up to Aaron’s room and told him the exciting news.  He listened and then he shifted his body and hung his head.  He didn’t know how to handle this great news, but the smile on his face spoke volumes.  He didn’t even have to say a word for me to know how pleased he was.  But of course, he soon found his tongue! 

“So Rosie’s mom called and wants me to come to Rosie’s birthday?” he asked.  And when I confirmed that this was true, he wanted to know where we were going to go eat and what day and what time.  Then I told him what Rosie’s mom had suggested as a gift for Rosie when I asked her for some ideas.   Aaron wasn’t at all surprised when I told him that he could get Rosie some crayons and a coloring book for her birthday gift.  He knows how much Rosie loves crayons.  Aaron was happy with that idea, and so we planned to go shopping on Friday night.

Aaron picked out the box of 24 crayons and a bag of candy.  Then we found the coloring books, and he dismissed several before saying yes to a Disney one.  As we shopped, I thought of how normal and sweet and natural this was.  Shopping for a special friend for her birthday, and picking out just the right gift, was not only a nice thing to do…………but it was a confirmation to Aaron that he was a special friend to Rosie.   To Aaron, it was perfectly natural to be choosing crayons and candy and a coloring book for Rosie.  You would have thought he was pondering over a beautiful diamond necklace as he said no, maybe, and finally yes to just the perfect coloring book.

As is typical for Aaron, over the next few days he talked a lot about the upcoming birthday dinner with Rosie and her parents.  Over and over again, we confirmed the day and the time and the location.  Finally Tuesday, THE day, arrived.  Aaron bounded in the door when he returned home from his day group, and he immediately asked me if we were still going to Rosie’s birthday dinner.  He and I got Rosie’s special gifts all situated in a pretty gift bag.  Aaron had previously picked out Rosie’s card.  Of all the girly, pretty choices he had – Aaron chose a card with spiders on the front.  He wouldn’t change his mind, so spiders it was for Rosie!   He seriously signed her card, including his last name as he always does.  
It wasn’t long before Gary got home, and off we headed for Chili’s………..with Aaron making sure that one of his favorite CD’s was playing in the van.  Soon we were seated in the large booth with Leroy and Louise, and with Rosie.   Rosie was eyeing the gift bag that was perched on the end of the table, while Aaron was beside himself with excitement.  He was very loud and was talking non-stop………..sure signs of great excitement.  Rosie was calm and level, while Aaron’s volume kept increasing and his mouth wouldn’t stop. 

Finally we ordered our meals while we kept telling Aaron to speak quietly………and no, Aaron, don’t talk about that and no, don’t talk about this.  His soft voice and filters were nonexistent at the moment!  Rosie got to open her gift and her card, and was very happy with the crayons and the coloring book and card.  She immediately opened the crayons and checked them out, holding some and examining others.  Aaron continued to talk loudly, while Rosie calmly reminded her mom of things to tell us about………..a wedding, a shower, a baby, a shot in her arm.  Aaron was pulling items out of his pockets that he had secretly brought to show to Rosie’s mom.  Somehow we parents managed to visit a little, too, as we monitored our adult “kids” in their eating and their talking……..especially Aaron with the talking, and the show and tell!

I wondered what others who were seated around us thought of all the noise (mostly from Aaron!) and the general excitement at our table.  I wonder if anyone else saw what was really happening at our table.  Life was happening……..normal for our Aaron and Rosie, no matter how unusual it might seem to others.  Despite Aaron’s loudness and bluster, he has a tender place in his heart for Rosie.  He showed it again last week, when he wanted to take Rosie some candy and I said no, reminding him that Rosie’s mom wants her to eat healthy food.  And before I knew it,  Aaron had two apples in his hands to take to Rosie. 

There we sat in that booth, enjoying the friendship of our Aaron and Rosie.  But it went far beyond the surface for all of us parents, I’m sure.  Friendships of any kind, and especially tender feelings, are rare for our special children.  Aaron and Rosie are comfortable in their relationship.  There they were, with Aaron noisily talking and Rosie calmly joining in when she could or when she wanted.  Rosie reminded Aaron of things to talk about – as if he needed it!  They were both relaxed in their own way, with Rosie pushing back her pretty pink cap and showing us her beautiful brown eyes……..a sign that she was becoming comfortable.  And Aaron………always comfortable as long as he can talk.

As we left Chili’s, I asked Aaron and Rosie if I could take their picture.  I took a couple shots, and finally asked for one more.  Then Rosie did the sweetest thing as she stood there by Aaron, some crayons in her hand.  She put her arm around Aaron’s shoulders………and Aaron beamed!  After the picture, he bolted……….so funny!  But the joy on their faces was unmistakable and priceless. 
It still warms our hearts, and I’m sure it warms Leroy and Louise as well.  It goes beyond birthday dinners and crayons and spider cards.  It goes deep into the human connections that we all need, including our often lonely special children.  Aaron can be annoying as he tries to tease and as he talks too much.  But somehow he has found a special connection to Rosie, and I believe she has found that with Aaron, too.  So we are thankful for this fresh breath of special friendship that they share, and for how God has let them be a part of each other’s lives at this time. 

I don’t even think Aaron said goodbye as he bolted toward the van.  Yet Rosie isn’t encumbered with all those expectations that crowd our usual female brains.  Sometimes their world is to be preferred as they function on a much less complex level.  Rosie had her crayons, and Aaron had his good meal with lots of talking.   And we parents had a warmth in our hearts over time well spent with our special kids and their special friendship. 

Coupon Craziness

I recently re-posted a much earlier blog I wrote about how Aaron cuts out coupons for me that are in the Sunday morning newspaper.  Coupon cutting has been his Sunday job for many years and he has refined it into an exact science all his own.  Aaron’s autism is in full display as he tries very hard to cut exactly on the dotted lines, and then has multiple containers for the various large and small pieces of paper.  He still takes the thin strips of paper that are left after cutting on the dotted lines, and he cuts those strips into small pieces as he holds the paper over his “small paper” container.   He enjoys watching the tiny pieces of cut paper fall into the container.  What would take me maybe 15 minutes to cut will take Aaron much, much longer because of these tireless coupon-cutting rituals that he performs. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                The actual coupons that he saves for me are placed carefully into a little plastic box that has a lid…….placed very carefully and in just a certain way.  He prefers that only current coupons go into this box……….coupons that he cuts out on that particular Sunday.  He has occasionally mixed new coupons into the old if I haven’t had time to empty and file away the current coupons that are in the box.

Such was not the case this past Sunday.  I walked into the kitchen and there on the table I saw a messy stack of coupons.  When Aaron walked into the kitchen later, he pointed to the coupon pile and said, “Mom, those are the old coupons that were in the box.”  Knowing what he had done and why he had done it – but wanting him to tell me himself –  I asked him why the coupons were on the table.

He patiently explained to his silly mother that he had dumped the coupons out of the box………but still he didn’t admit why he had done such a thing.  I finally asked him why the dumped coupons couldn’t go into the box and he told his still silly mother, “Because they are the OLD coupons!” 

Still playing dumb, I asked, “So can I just put the old coupons in the coupon box now?”  That crazy question caused him to firmly shake his head no and then say, “No!”………just in case, since I was silly, I might not understand the firm shaking of his head. 

Just to be certain, I asked, “So the old coupons can’t be mixed in with the new coupons?”  And again came the firm shake of his head and his even firmer, “No!”  I know that it’s best to play by Aaron’s rules in these matters that have no serious consequence, so I left the coupons out for a couple days, in plain sight.  Later, I put them away in the box in which I file my coupons so that Aaron wouldn’t by some chance find that I had disobeyed his coupon orders by mixing the old and the new together. 

If there are some good coupons in the Sunday paper, I will sometimes buy a second paper.  Aaron used to cut out all the sets of coupons that I had gathered, but over the past few months he has gotten tired of all that cutting.  One full set seems to be enough for him.  One Sunday, I came home with a second paper.  Aaron saw the extra coupons, and so proceeded to get out his scissors and all his special coupon-cutting containers.  However, it wasn’t long before he was tired.  He didn’t finish all those coupons.  I told him that it was fine, that I would just cut them out later.  This did not sit well with Aaron.  He is the chief coupon cutter……….not Mom!  He began to get angry, so I just let the matter drop.  Later, as I walked through the family room, I saw that the unfinished stack of coupons was gone.

Now I know Aaron very well and I somehow knew what he had done.  Sneaking up to his empty room, I carefully opened his desk drawer and sure enough there they were………..the missing coupons were tucked away in his drawer.  He was not going to cut them out, but he was NOT going to let his silly mother cut them either.  Mom doesn’t even cut on the lines half the time!!  I very quietly eased the coupons out and softly shut the drawer.  I cautiously walked downstairs.  Good!  No sight of Aaron!  I went to Gary’s study and was in the process of sharing the coupon escapade with him when I heard the unmistakable thump, thump, thump of Aaron hurrying down the stairs!

I hid the coupons behind me as Aaron entered the study and I acted like nothing at all was amiss.  But as I tried to slyly walk around Aaron and escape, he spied the papers in my hand.  “What is that?!” he suspiciously asked.  I felt like a teenager who got caught trying to smuggle something forbidden past her parents.  “Oh,” I casually answered, “it’s just the coupons.”  And in a flash, Aaron lunged out and grabbed them from me.  Wow! He was very angry!  As I tried to reason with him, he escalated quickly.  Gary and I were both taken by surprise. 

“I’ll cut them out!!” he yelled.  And as we tried to reason with him, he became more and more upset…………until finally he wadded most of the coupons up into a wrinkled mess.  Gary and I hadn’t seen that coming!  But Aaron’s reasoning was clear now……….if he couldn’t cut out the coupons, NO ONE could cut out the coupons.  He finally relinquished the crumpled coupons and we were able to get him to calm down, but not before he was in tears and was an emotional mess.  Somehow the rest of the evening was salvaged and things returned to normal.  And I learned a big lesson.

I learned that if I buy another Sunday paper, I have to be as sly as Aaron.  Gary and I sometimes stop by the store and get another paper, but now we might leave it in the car until the coast inside the house is clear.  In other words, until we can furtively sneak the paper into the house without Aaron seeing it.   Or we’ll bring the newspaper in the house, but quickly hide it before Aaron sees what’s in the bag.  The other day, I had the extra paper in full view on the table when Aaron bounded down the stairs.  I quickly hid the paper on the chair, out of Aaron’s sight, again feeling like a reckless teenager hiding a secret stash of cigarettes or something from Mom and Dad. 

All of this for coupons!  Oh, and for our peace of mind………..both Aaron’s, and Gary’s and mine.  I never dreamed I’d be hiding coupons from my 28 year old son.

But then I never dreamed I’d have such a unique son as Aaron, either.      

Seeing the Wonder


Aaron woke up a little earlier than usual this morning.  I heard him come slowly to my bedroom and knock on the door.  He knocked because the door was locked……….otherwise he would have bolted right in……….which is why I had the door locked.  Anyway, he immediately wanted to show me something about his lip.  His lips are chapped and during the night his lower lip cracked and bled some.  Aaron twisted his mouth sideways as he attempted to show me his damaged lip, and then he silently pointed to the dried blood on his lower lip and on the side of his mouth.
Satisfied that I was appropriately impressed, he said, “Mom!  There’s blood on my pillow!”  And with that, he strode with purpose back to his room and returned carrying his large body pillow that he loves.  Sure enough, there was a big spot of blood on the white pillowcase.  To be sure that I understood, he explained, “Mom, the lip area was on that pillow area.” 
I thanked him for explaining that, and told him that we would get him a new pillow this evening.  He knew that we had a Wal-Mart trip planned when he returns from Paradigm, so this news of a pillow purchase made him very happy.
He and I went downstairs to the kitchen, where I poured his coffee while he took his morning pills.  He spied some boiled eggs in a pot in the sink.  “Mom, what are those?  Eggs?” 
“Yes, Aaron, those are eggs.  Do you want one?” I asked.
He looked down at the eggs and replied, “No.  I want some……….not one.”
I laughed.  He was serious. 
“What number is some?”  he asked. 
Again I laughed.  Again he was serious. 
“How about two?” I queried.
“Can I have three?”  he countered.
And so I guess that to Aaron, some is not two.  Some is at least three.
I agreed that he could have three and then asked him if he wanted them sliced. 
“Yes,” he replied, “with that harp.”
This time I smiled with my back to Aaron as I got out the egg “harp.”  He was still serious about this matter of “some” eggs, while I was again enjoying how fun Aaron’s world can be.  He takes the most mundane of matters and makes it so distinctive. 
Later, we drove to meet his group and listened to my Carpenter’s CD.  He was talking about a movie where a robot from the future comes back to the present, and he said, “How come he doesn’t know what type of year it is?”  Just then, I heard the Carpenters sing,”…….there is wonder in most everything I see……”
That would be a perfect description of Aaron.  He either sees wonder in everything or he’s wondering about everything, but his take on life is so interesting.
Just like us with Aaron.  We’re either scratching or pounding our heads in wonder, or laughing at the wonder of the world that Aaron sees and shares.  I guess he keeps our brains sharp as we try to follow his thinking.  And with that I’ll close.
I need to go dry and put away the egg harp.

Milk and Manure

I have never lived on a farm or on a ranch, so I won’t pretend to know much about the subjects of barns or cattle.  And this post has nothing to do with the fact that I have borne the nickname of Cow Patty for many years………thanks to an old song and a family with a wonderful collective sense of humor.  Even when I pick up prescriptions at our pharmacy, there in bold black letters on the paperwork stapled to my little bag are the first three letters of my last name…….MOO.  So I know that God also has a sense of humor.

I give you this history to explain that maybe this is why I first noticed a verse I found as I was reading one morning in Proverbs.  Proverbs 14:4, to be exact.  Now I know the verse uses the word “oxen”, but oxen are close cousins to cows………and I relate somehow to cows, as you read above.  I mean, even my daughter calls me “Moo.”  Seriously, she does………with respect.    Anyway, as I pondered this verse, the truth it taught jumped out at me even more than its bovine contents.  This verse says, “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean; But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.”

I can imagine a pretty barn, much like this beautiful red barn not far from our house.  I have no idea what the inside of this barn is like, but I know that if a barn is full of cattle, there will inevitably be messes.  Some very big messes, if you know what I mean.  And there will be the hay and the dust and the tools and all the other implements necessary in order to raise these farm animals.  Now if you decided that you want a clean barn…….a clean barn all the time………then you’re going to have to get rid of the cows.  There’s just no other way around it, because where there are cows there are going to be piles…….of mess. 

So as this verse says………sure, when the cows are gone then the barn is clean.  BUT………where there are cows, there is revenue.  Whether the revenue is from milk or from meat……….or as in Bible days was also from the oxen pulling the plows in the fields…………you gotta have the cows if you want the cash. 

I love the note that is in my Bible in reference to this verse.  It says, “There is no milk without some manure.”  I love that word picture and the lesson that it teaches!  The note continues by saying, “Some disturbance is the price of growth and accomplishment.” 

You know what?  Life gets messy.  Marriage, children, friendships, even ministry………they all get messy sometimes.  I can live in a clean barn if I want……….protect myself from hurt by never putting myself out there and never letting myself get close to people or even my family.  I can choose to stay away from being a part of other’s lives in ministry by just sitting on the sidelines and refusing to get involved.  I can close my heart to God, citing examples of how His children aren’t even exempt from life’s crushing blows.  I can have the cleanest and most pristine barn on the block.  Clean……empty………silent……….lifeless.

Or I can choose to fill my barn with cattle and then get busy taking care of them, all the while cleaning up the messes while I pocket all the blessings that I will gather.  The blessings outweigh the messes anyway, in the long run.  Any follower of Jesus is going to suffer.  Jesus taught that and exampled that to us while on this earth.  His was not a secluded life free of conflict and hurt……and mine will not be, either. 

When I see the pile of mess, I need to thank God for it………..because each predicament means growth in my life.   I learn from it but I don’t leave it there……….and I certainly don’t wallow in it.  I do my best to clean it up………and what I can’t clean or others won’t let me clean, I give it to God for Him to handle. 

As much as I may sometimes want a clean barn, I really do relish the life and the activity of a barn full of cattle……….messy though they are.  But I’ll also have buckets of milk lining my barn, evidence of the life and the growth there……as well as the profit.   As I walk this earth and live this life, I know that I will have discouragements and great hurt along the way.  There will be messes that break my heart…………but that likewise cause me to grow and fill me with countless buckets of blessings! 
God’s keeping the books, and the profit I receive will be eternal and everlasting! 

Remember…………No Manure, No Milk!


 *Thanks to Beth Hite for the pictures from Hite Farm and Faye Farm.

Autism Awareness at Our House

It was 14 years ago that I sat in the exam room of a pediatric neurologist in Tucson, Arizona.  I tried to talk quickly to him about the reason that I was there, because the reason that I was there was sitting by himself out in the waiting room.  There sat Aaron………..or at least I hoped he was sitting and not roaming……….all by himself while I tried to convey to this new doctor our concerns for Aaron.  There were things that I didn’t want Aaron to hear coming from his mother’s lips.  I didn’t mind talking in his presence about the seizures that he had battled for 7 years.  Seizures were out of his control……..out of our control………no matter what drugs he was currently taking.  Seizures were a medical issue.  But his behaviors that were increasingly disruptive and odd…….his social awkwardness and lack of friends during this pivotal time of puberty……….his rages and his strange obsessions………..these were issues that I did not want to discuss in his presence.  My mother’s heart hurt for him and I refused for my son to hear me talk about him in this way.

Gary and I had taken Aaron to many military doctors since his first seizure.  His care was good, we thought.  But as he grew, he was more and more different.  We blamed his differences on the seizures or the seizure drugs, but more and more we weren’t so sure.  Finally, stationed in southeast Arizona at Fort Huachuca, we had reached the end of our rope.  Gary was having to drive five hours one way to take Aaron to the closest military pediatric neurologist in El Paso, Texas.  Aaron’s seizures were worsening, and his strange behaviors were increasingly alarming to us.  We requested to be allowed to see a civilian peds neurologist and the military approved.
So there I sat in Dr. Gray’s exam room in Tucson, telling this new doctor about my unusual son and sharing my concerns.  As we talked, the door opened and an assistant stuck her head in the room.  “Uh,” she said, “can Aaron come in with you now?  He’s out in the waiting room dismantling the artificial tree in the corner.”  I was not at all surprised, although embarrassed.  That would be exactly what he would be doing and I knew it.  So Aaron was nicely ushered into the room with me and Dr. Gray, where he sat on the exam table and let this new doctor begin his check-up.  Within a few minutes, Dr. Gray turned to me and said, “I know exactly what this is.  Aaron has Asperger’s Syndrome!”  This nice doctor may as well have been speaking Russian to me.  I had no idea what this strange syndrome was.  When I asked him to explain, he did just that in three words that changed our lives……..”Aaron has autism.”  I was stunned, and remember very little of the rest of our visit……..except I do distinctly remember standing in the hall with Dr. Gray as he had Aaron walk down the hall.  The doctor pointed out that even Aaron’s unusual gait confirmed this diagnosis.

Later that night, after all the kids were in bed, Gary and I talked at length about this new diagnosis.  And I cried, just as I cried when Aaron was diagnosed in Germany with Epilepsy.  One hard, gut-wrenching cry……….and then I dried my eyes and smiled in front of Aaron and off we marched into this unknown future.  But I wasn’t alone.  I had Gary by my side and we marched and we learned together.  And most importantly, we had God by both our sides.  My special verses in Psalm 18:28-29 became even more relevant to me:  “For it is You Who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.  For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.”  And God has repeatedly done just that.  He has lightened many a dark moment, and He has given us giant leaps over lots of walls that we thought were impossible to scale. 

It’s not been easy over the years to live with Aaron.  As we have tried to teach Aaron how to adapt some of his thinking and his behaviors to our world, it is most often the rest of us that have found ourselves adjusting to Aaron’s world.  It seems that no matter what we say or teach or emulate, there are some of Aaron’s traits and behaviors that will be a part of him forever.  Some of his behaviors are very frustrating………some are very embarrassing……..and some are very funny.  Over the years, we have relaxed with Aaron and have learned to smile and to laugh at many of the things he says and does.

This month of April is Autism Awareness Month.  Well, there are plenty of times that Aaron raises our autism awareness, whether we want it raised or not!  For instance, on any given trip to Wal-Mart, you will know that you are with Aaron for these reasons:

1.  As you walk across the crosswalk to the Wal-Mart doors, Aaron just might hold both his arms out as he stops in the middle of the crosswalk……….proudly thinking that he is stopping the traffic just like a policeman does…….with his head up high and a very serious look on his face.

2.  Upon entering the store, Aaron looks at the security camera and holds up both hands as he gives the peace sign, grinning broadly.

3.  If you hear some of the cereal boxes in the cool display at the end of the aisle start hitting the floor, you’re not one bit surprised to turn and see Aaron standing there, saying, “Mom!  Look!  Chocolate cheerios!!”………….as he holds up one box that didn’t fall and is oblivious to the ones laying on the floor all around him.

4.  If you hear a loud fox whistle, you know that Aaron is near………….unaware of the girls who turn and stare at him.  He just thinks the fox whistle is cool.

5.  If you hear a very loud clap, you know that Aaron is in the store…………again not one bit concerned about the number of people who are eying him suspiciously.

6.  If you walk past little sexy nighties  that are displayed for Valentine’s Day right beside a busy center aisle, and you hear someone say, “Mom!”………….and you turn to find Aaron holding up the tiger print nightie while he yells, “You need this!”…………you know that you are with Aaron and you know that you are wishing for a hole to swallow you at that moment. 

7.  If you send Aaron to get a package of the rolls that he likes, and you see him walking toward you with his hands full of packages of rolls, you just laugh and realize once again that Aaron will take full advantage of every opportunity given to him.

8.  If you hear someone yell, “Mom!”  and you are anywhere near the produce department, you know that you will turn to see him holding up an eggplant or maybe an artichoke or a coconut…….and wanting you to buy it. 

I have never liked drawing attention to myself in public, so living with Aaron has been a lesson in remaining calm and trying not to be embarrassed……..and remembering to coach Aaron as we enter public places about not whistling or clapping or making that farting noise with his mouth.  And not striking up conversations with random people, for Aaron does love to talk to anyone on whom he spies ears on the sides of their head.
Aaron definitely does not have non-verbal autism.  Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk…………on some days, especially when he is at home all day, it can get very tiring.  If friends come over, we eventually have to almost get rude in order to make Aaron hush and let the rest of us talk.  However, in the midst of all that talking, he does make some hilarious comments.  His way of expressing the world that he observes can be very amazing, really.  For instance, here a few recent comments from Aaron:

1.  “Isn’t it a legend that Huskies were used for dashing?”

2.  “I heard on Forensic Files that some people make artificial money!”

3.  “Mom!  I looked up the Archie’s on the internet!  Can I show you someday today?”

4.  Speaking of jello, he said, “Do you like that wiggly pudding?  It’s bouncy!”

5.  Realizing that he had numbers on the back of his shirt – “I didn’t know I had something behind me on my back while I was doing coupons.”

6.  Calling me a funny name one day – “Mom, I’m not trying to name call you.  I’m trying to do a teasing.”

7.  Noticing a hole in Krysten’s pants – “Mom, look!  Krysten’s pants are broken!”

I could go on and on about the things that Aaron says.  And oh, the things that Aaron does……….day in and day out, without fail.

1.  He loves to wear his watch halfway up his arm.  One day recently he said, “Mom, I don’t wear my watch up high anymore.  You know why?  It was trapping the blood!”  But he does still wear it up high, trapped blood or not.

2.  He relaxes by sitting in the mulch, breaking it into tiny pieces and watching them fall into the trash can that is just for that purpose.

3.  He will always get multiple pieces of silverware when he eats, using only one piece for each food item.  Even when eating pizza, for instance, he will have his pieces of silverware near his plate.  And a straw for his drink – always!

4.  He takes delight in the simplest things, like a special rock that he found one day. 

5.  He loves our Great Dane, Jackson, and will pet him……….and try to give him Skittles or peanuts or

Chex Mix  or whatever else he may be eating at any given moment.

6.  He loves Wheel of Fortune, and will watch it now every night………clapping VERY loudly and yelling VERY loudly…….and working hard to figure out every comment and facial expression of the hosts and contestants…….and still wondering if Vanna and Pat are married because they are always on beaches together!

7.  He loves to go out and take a walk with his dad……….talking all the while, of course.
8.  He wants to play Skip-Bo every night………..although we don’t play EVERY night, much to his dismay.

These are just partial lists of what Aaron says and does.  It’s impossible, really, to fully explain Aaron.  He is very complex while also being very predictable at times.  He is a unique young man and he has shown us a different world than I would ever have imagined.  Would I have chosen this path years ago if God had given me a choice?  I sometimes doubt that I would have, yet I think of all that I would have missed and realize that this path truly has been amazing. 

Verse 30 of Psalm 18 says:  “This God – His way is perfect…..”   Yes, His way has been perfect for us.  Easy?  No.  But somehow perfect – yes. 

And this Aaron – he is so special and we do love him very much.