The Power of Pancakes

I hadn’t been sitting on our patio very long on this beautiful Monday morning when the door opened and there came Aaron.  Remember yesterday?  I wrote about happy Aaron……happy to talk and talk…..happy to eat and to try a new smoothie…….happy to watch Zookeeper……..and happy to talk and talk about Zookeeper, among other things.  But this morning I saw a very different Aaron.  This Aaron was disheveled and frowning and tired.  Very enormously tired.  His finger was wrapped in a band-aid because he had torn a large piece of skin off near his nail.  And to top off his misery, he knew that Dad and I had taken the van in for some repairs.  This meant that his Paradigm driver would be picking him up at home today instead of us meeting them at Quik Trip like we normally do.  A change in routine on top of huge tiredness was putting Aaron on overload, and putting me on alert.

“Do I have to go today?” he asked.  I told him yes, knowing this wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear, but still saying it with a smile and some pep.  Aaron wasn’t buying it.  “Why?” he asked, this time with an angry edge to his voice.  So I gave him the reasons that I always give……..that this is where he goes and what he does; that he has fun there; that he has friends there……and he angrily replied, “I don’t care!” 

Now the pep in my voice changed to firmness and he settled down in his chair for a minute.  Then I told him that I was going to pour his coffee before I went up to shower.  He was quiet.  So I asked, “Hey, would you like some pancakes?”  And Aaron told me that he did NOT want pancakes………so I said OK and we sat there in silence for a minute or two.  I finally pushed out of my chair and turned to open the door to go inside.  Aaron was right behind me, and as the door closed and I turned to pour his coffee, he said, “OK.  I’ll take some pancakes.”

I got out the old cookbook – one that I’ve had since Gary and I got married.  I stirred together the pancake batter as the skillet heated, and soon I had three pancakes ready for Aaron to eat.  By now he was enjoying the music I was playing, and was talking away, relaxed and happy.  He took the plate of pancakes to the table, along with many pieces of silverware and the napkins and toothpicks and the comics.  He spied the next three pancakes that were soon ready and claimed them as well.  As he saw me finish making the last pancakes, he asked if I would sit at the table with him and eat as well.  I really wanted to go take my shower and get this day going, but I knew that he wanted me to stay there and so I did.  I munched on a pancake and listened to Aaron talk, of course.


He was very excited to tell me that he had finished the chapter he was reading in his Handy Science Answer Book.  “Last night I finished that one chapter and I arrived in that other chapter,” he proudly told me.  He went up to his room so that he could bring the book down and show me where he had arrived in the book.  He talked about numbers again, like he did yesterday, except today it was things like Pi and what it means and why it’s used……..and I suggested that he read that part of his book again instead of asking me.  Aaron finished his breakfast and went upstairs to shower while I cleaned the kitchen and got the sprinklers turned on outside.  After his shower, I put some medicine on his finger along with a clean band-aid.  I helped him with his belt, and he asked for help with his shoes, too…….saying that his finger hurt.
 
The morning was slipping away from me.  I knew I might be in the shower when Aaron’s ride came, and knowing that he was still a little “iffy” about the ride business and the whole idea of going today, I decided to wait on my shower until Aaron left.  Therefore, we sat on the front porch watching the sprinklers water our new grass seed.  Aaron was happy to have my time and attention, of course, so he talked and talked…………mostly about the Zookeeper movie once again.  Oh my goodness, he remembers every scene and wants to dissect every conversation and every look and every mannerism.  The heat and the sound of the sprinklers and his monotone voice was driving me nearly into a state of deep sleep……..but every time I felt my eyes closing, I’d hear him saying, “Right, Mom?”  I would fumble with some lame answer to a question I barely heard and he was content as he moved right on to the next sentence that had to be said.

Finally, his ride came and off Aaron went.  I tried to get my already late day into gear.  It wasn’t  going quite as I had planned.  I wasn’t frustrated, really.  I knew that making the pancakes and then spending time with Aaron had probably saved the day for him……..and therefore, for me in the long run.  Aaron left with a full stomach and with a back rub as we had sat on the porch glider together.  He was happy and said goodbye to me nicely.  Time spent with Aaron is never wasted, but sometimes it’s hard to let what I want to do be put aside to do what’s best for him.

Later, as I hand watered a section of our grass, I thought about how our children are like those fragile seeds that lay in the dirt.  They need watering and care, even when we don’t feel like it on some days.  We understand this as mothers, especially when our children are still young enough to live at home and be under our care.  But when we are older, and our children are older, the watering is mostly done and we then have more time to pursue other things.  Yet there I was this morning, making pancakes for my 28 year old son…….and sitting with him on the porch glider…….and rubbing his back……….and listening to his constant talking. 

I still have watering to do for this boy who is a man in years only.  It is not another’s responsibility but is what God has given Gary and I to do.  As I watered that seed, I thought of other moms that I know who are caring for grandchildren full-time…………or who are raising more than one child with special needs……..or who happily take foster children into their homes.  These women amaze me!  I was humbled as I thought about them and I felt very blessed to have their example to spur me on toward victory in this walk.  There’s not much room for selfishness, that’s for sure. 

Over the weekend, I had told Aaron that we should play Tri-Ominos sometime.  It’s been a long time since we played that game.  He asked me to play it with him tonight.  It was tempting to say no, but something made me think again………something about that seed that I had watered.  And those pancakes that I had made this morning.  So we played a round of Tri-Ominos tonight.  It was good.  He and I were content.  And as I urged him later to be quiet because Dad was in bed, needing his sleep for another hard day of work tomorrow, Aaron asked me to just tickle his back for a minute as we stood by his bed.  I wasn’t really wanting to do that, but I’m glad I did it.  You know why? 

Because Aaron told me about seeing the Hyatt Hotel downtown, except he pronounced it “Hi-yot.”  So Aaron said, “Mom, what is the Hi-yot downtown?” 

“The what?” I asked.

“The Hi-yot,” he repeated.  “You know.  That hotel.”

And I laughed, and Aaron didn’t mind that I laughed.  He said that Barb laughed at Paradigm, too, when he told her about the Hi-yot.  Which made me laugh again as Aaron stood there enjoying the back tickling.  If I hadn’t been tickling Aaron’s back, I perhaps would never have heard about the Hi-yot.  And I would not have had the laughter that warmed my heart and this memory that draws my heart to Aaron. 

No moment is wasted with our children…….not a single one.  From pancakes to the Hi-yot……..it was a good day.

A Million……..A Billion…….

There was a knock on my locked bedroom door yesterday morning as I was getting ready for church.  Of course I knew it was Aaron.  What I didn’t know as I opened the door is that I would find him standing there in his underwear……..and a shirt, thankfully.   “Well, Aaron!” I exclaimed as I turned to walk back in my room.  “You could put some clothes on!” 

“But Mom!” he said.  “It’s 78 degrees outside!  What do you think of that temperature?”  So began my day with Aaron.  He wanted to discuss the outdoor temperature, as he often does, while standing there in his underwear……….and he thought there was nothing odd about this.  What he thought was odd was the fact that Mom was laughing.  What was so funny about the outdoor temperature of 78 degrees anyway?  I told him that this was a nice temperature, warm but not hot, and he was satisfied with my critique of a 78 degree outdoor temperature.  I also told him to please put some clothes on, such as shorts, and so he went back to his room to do my bidding……..and probably to check once again on his weather station clock to see if the outdoor temperature had reached 79 degrees yet. 

He was soon back in my room, this time to talk about his Handy Science Answer Book and the chapter that he is just finishing.  Or maybe just starting.  I can’t keep it straight, but I don’t tell him that I can’t keep it straight because he will then talk ad infinitum in an effort to keep me straight.  He wanted to talk on this morning about numbers.  “Mom, after a million comes a trillion.”  I reminded him that between a million and a trillion is a billion.  Oh yes, he had forgotten about a billion.  He continued, “And you know what, Mom?  Scientists are trying to wonder if there’s a quadrillion.”  That’s about how many times I wonder if Aaron will ever get tired of talking about these things, actually.   And off Aaron went to find Gary so he could probably tell him about the million, billion, and so forth.

Aaron’s happy day continued, even though he had a hard time eating the ribs that Gary grilled after church.  He complained of his back molars hurting, despite having them checked repeatedly.  His near-anger vanished as he ate some softer food, but his disappointment returned later in the day when he asked if I would take him to Sonic for a milkshake and I suggested that he try a smoothie that I wanted to make…….one that was supposed to taste like a Wendy’s frosty.  He was sullen and unconvinced that this substitute for a milkshake would be any good, but after his first sip I knew that he liked it.  In fact, he asked for a second one when the first glass was empty……and his mood lightened when I said yes. 

We then watched Zookeeper, the movie that his day group had watched on Friday.  This made Aaron very happy.  He tried to tell Gary and I what happened before we saw it happen…….and he laughed very loudly at the funny parts……..and he clapped even louder than he laughed as he got excited………and he asked tons of questions……..and it was a very typical movie-watching experience with Aaron.  At least the movie was fairly easy to watch, unlike Sharktopus or Vortex 5 or that spin-off of Towering Inferno that Andrea and I endured when she was home a couple weeks ago.  A Japanese movie dubbed in English?  Please, never again.  So Zookeeper was stellar compared to those, and we were all happy despite the clapping and the yelling……..from Aaron, not the zoo animals.

Of course, he talked for the rest of the evening about Zookeeper……..every animal, every scene, every word, every single little part.  I could hardly say goodnight between his continual rundown of the movie.  Finally, as I turned to walk out of his room, him in mid-sentence or not……he wanted to ask just one more time about the wolf that was in the movie.  “Mom, was that a Swiss wolf?  Like from Alaska?  What species was it?  Was it a Swedish wolf?”  I just hurriedly told him that I didn’t know because at this point my brain was dying and I was so confused about this Swiss Alaskan Swedish wolf. 

I closed…..and locked……our bedroom door.  I was in “preservation of the mom and dad species” mode at this point.  But Aaron was not done.  Oh no.   He remembered that he had forgotten one more nugget of information that he had stored in his brain…….and one more question concerning that nugget.  He somehow remembered that he had not finished his morning conversation concerning numbers.  Yes, he was back to numbers once again……….back to the morning, but thankfully this time with his shorts being worn. 
“Mom!  I was reading about Roman numerals.  Are they from China?”

Oh, good grief, Aaron!  I didn’t say that, but I did think that.  The words Aaron heard were, “No, Aaron, Roman numerals are not from China.  Roman numerals are from ROME!”
 
“Rome?” he asked.  “So Romans didn’t know how to use American numbers?”

I was done.  I didn’t care about Swiss or Swedish wolves that might be from Alaska.  I didn’t care if he skipped a billion between a million and a trillion.  I didn’t care about Chinese Roman numerals.  And I definitely did not care whether he went to bed thinking that Romans didn’t know how to use American numbers.

All I did care about was Aaron going to bed………..so that we could go to bed.  And therefore I just said yes, Romans didn’t know how to use American numbers.  I went to bed and slept, despite the fact that I had given Aaron wrong historical information.  I slept with not one twinge of guilt about the incorrect sequence of Roman and American numerology that I had left with my son the night before.

Besides, I’ll hear it all again and maybe I’ll correct this historical mess the next time that Aaron brings it up. 

Maybe. 

Aaron’s Footprints

I wrote a blog in January of this year entitled Footprints.  I wrote about two young men, Tyler and Paul, who left footprints of blessing in Aaron’s life.  Today I’ve once again been thinking about footprints, but in a different way than before.  It all started this morning with Aaron saying, “Mom!  Guess what woke me up at 5:30?”  Since I could not guess what woke Aaron up, and since he barreled right ahead without really even giving me a chance to guess what woke him up, he continued.  “Dad walking down the steps.”

“How did you know it was Dad walking down the steps?” I asked.   Aaron quickly answered, “Because I know his footprints.  His footprints are heavier than yours.  Yours are lighter.”  I smiled, thinking of how on another occasion Aaron had described Gary’s footsteps as being deeper than mine.  Today he used the word “footprints” instead of “footsteps.”  With both words, though, he talked about hearing our feet as we walked without even being able to see us.  He recognized who was there without sight because he was so used to the sound of our steps. 

I’ve thought about this today in relation to Aaron’s footsteps and therefore his footprints in our lives.  Physically speaking, Aaron’s footsteps are very, very loud.  He doesn’t usually just walk up the stairs, for instance.  He thumps on each step with such force  that he sounds like a huge animal going up the stairs.  The same is true as he barrels down the stairs, and even as he crosses the floor.  Clump, clump, clump!  There is no mistaking that Aaron is on the move! 

Often when we walk into Aaron’s room to tell him something, we’ll find him with his headphones on as he plays a computer game or watches a movie.  He can hear us coming in, but he acts like he can’t.  We’ll speak to him or touch his shoulder, and he’ll give a fake jump and then loudly say, “You scared me!”  The other day I was downstairs on my computer when Aaron came home from his group.  I heard him, of course, but as he came down the stairs to find me he decided to turn the tables and be the one to do the scaring.  It was so funny to hear him trying very hard to come down the stairs as quietly as Aaron can be quiet………which isn’t very quiet at all.  But I played along and didn’t turn as he came into the room where I was sitting with my back to him.  He walked near my desk and then stopped, so I finally turned around and found him standing there with a huge grin on his face.  “I was trying to scare you, Mom!” he exclaimed.  “Did I scare you?”   I told him that he did scare me and I faked being scared as much as Aaron fakes being scared and he was very happy to have scared Mom!


Emotionally, Aaron certainly leaves footprints in our lives that we hear loud and clear.  One minute we’re laughing and the next we’re wanting to yell……….and sometimes do!  This morning he was talking to me and he was so happy.  Then I felt that little sting that he inflicts when he puts his middle finger behind his thumb and gives me a ping on my arm or my back.  I fussed at him all the way up the stairs!   And I know he’ll do it again at the first chance. 


Sometimes Aaron’s footsteps are light, as he says that mine are.  He can be funny and happy, showing us a view of life that we don’t see otherwise.  He notices everything, like this morning when he talked about the three sprinkler tripods that Gary set up in the front yard to water some grass seed.  “Mom, I see dad put sprinkler systems in the yard.  There’s almost a lot of them.”   I asked him how many sprinklers are “almost a lot” and he simply said, “Three.”  He didn’t say it, but I do believe he was thinking that Mom was very slow today.

Or the day that there was a staging crew at the house for sale across the street from us.  Aaron asked what they were doing and I told him they were staging the house to help it sell……..and I explained staging.  Later he went out to the garage and told Gary, “Dad!  There were scavengers in that house today!!”  Gary came in laughing and Aaron was still wondering about scavengers. 

His descriptions of things are amazing and unique and so funny.  Talking about a hot air balloon as opposed to a blimp, he said, “You know a hot air balloon……..the one with the bag on top!”  After listening to a song several times that I had played on a CD, he complained, “Mom, you got that song stuck in my head.  I want it stuck OUT of my head!!”  And describing the fact that his whiskers on his cheeks have grown some, he informed me, “Mom, the whiskers on the side of me have grown!”

Just as Aaron leaves footprints of frustration or footsteps of joy in our lives, he also leaves us at times with those deeper prints……….those times when we see his vulnerability and when we get a glimpse of his heart.  When he tenderly puts his arm around my shoulder and lays his head against mine………for no reason but to want to be close for a few seconds.  When he can’t speak after a seizure but looks at me with such trust and pleading in his eyes.  When I look outside and see him sitting by the mulch, thinking his thoughts and processing his stories in his head.  When he offers Andrea or Andrew a movie to take with them when they leave after a visit, or when he wants to buy them candy at the store when they are here.    When he calls me from his day group, like he did today, and says with childlike joy, “Mom!  I’ve been good today!”  And certainly when he talks about Rosie, like this morning when he said, “Mom, Rosie likes me.  What does it mean that she likes me?”


Sometimes Aaron’s footprints leave us heavy, as he described Gary’s prints.  Heavy with guilt as we react angrily to him.  Heavy with worry when he has seizures, or when we wonder about his future.  Heavy with responsibility as we weigh medical decisions, weight loss, friendships or lack thereof, and many other issues.  Heavy with tiredness at the end of a long day, when Aaron wants to play a game or wants help with getting every single wrinkle out of his bed or wants to ask about the weather one more time or tell me that he saw an ant in the sink……..and then thumps up the hall and knocks on the door one more time to tell me what the current outdoor temperature is.   Really?

With the deep prints and the light prints of Aaron we learn more about him……….and we learn much more about ourselves.  Some of what I learn about me isn’t so pleasant, and then at times what I learn is that I have grown a lot by having Aaron in my life.  Some of his prints I see and some I only hear, but they all are a definite part of my heart and of who I am today.  And I can hear him loud and clear, like when he was trying to quietly sneak down the stairs and scare me.  He doesn’t even know that I can hear him all day long, but I can.  In my heart I can hear him and I know his footprints in my life.

I pray that each step…….each print……..will make me a better mother to our special son.

Day By Day

My last blog was about the meltdown that Aaron and I both had last week.  Wednesday evening was not a time that I want to re-live.  I’m very thankful for the fact that Aaron and I  have been able to move beyond it.  I’m amazed at both his ability to act like nothing ever happened, and his inability to stop the impulsive behaviors that cause him so much anguish. 

On Thursday, the day after all the mess, Aaron didn’t want to go to Paradigm.  Whenever he has a significant incident,  he doesn’t want to face the people or the place right away.  I know this about Aaron so it didn’t surprise me at all that he didn’t want to go to his day group.  I also know better than to try to force him to go.  He calmed down on that morning when he realized that I wasn’t going to make him go, even as he promised that on Friday he would go to Paradigm.  He and I went to our optometry clinic, where they tried to repair Aaron’s glasses but couldn’t.  However, they were able to order new frames under warranty so there won’t be any charge.  This was the beginning of a day of blessings.

Aaron was fairly somber that morning, so I took that opportunity to talk to him again about his actions that sometimes get him in trouble.  As we began to talk, he asked, “What is my problem?  What do I do?”  He wanted to know what it is that he does that causes him such trouble with others at times.  His honest question surprised me.  I told him about the way that he likes to poke, pinch, and hit others.  Aaron thinks that this is funny, but no one else likes it.  Or they may tolerate it for awhile but then erupt in fury, such as happened the day before. 

Aaron listened, and then told me that he had talked to Melinda, one of the staff, about how he likes to hit and poke people.  He said, “I told Melinda that I think it’s fun.  Tomorrow I’m going to tell her that it’s not fun to me.”  There it was…………another glimpse into Aaron’s mind.  He really wants to be able to make himself quit thinking that this behavior is fun.  He rationalizes that if he tells Melinda it’s not fun, then maybe it really won’t be fun to him…….and maybe he can stop himself from this annoying behavior.  This will be easier said than done for Aaron, I know, but for then I encouraged him to keep on thinking this way. 

I had plans on that day to meet my good friend, Atha, for lunch.  I can leave Aaron for a period of time and so I decided to go ahead with our lunch date.  However, I still felt very tired from the bad time the night before.  I knew that time with Atha would be good for me, though, and so I looked forward to lunch.  I got a text from Atha that morning telling me that she had invited her friend, Joyce, to join us for lunch.  I wasn’t sure I was up for that, but off I went to eat lunch with my friend and to try to summon the energy to meet someone new. 

As we ate lunch and as I was getting acquainted with Joyce, I learned that she was widowed last year………but that God had brought a wonderful man into her life and she was going to marry him right after Christmas this year.  The three of us women, of differing ages and situations, shared stories and laughter and yes, tears, as we ate our lunch.  I was relaxing and I was thankful that I had come, and that I was getting to meet this sweet woman with a story of her own pain and joy.  I sat there fully aware that somehow God had ordained this day.  Another blessing was mine in that Applebee’s booth.

I heard my phone jingle, signaling me that I had a text.  I looked quickly to see what it was, and saw that Barb from Paradigm had sent me a message.  She told me that the staff had met, and that they had some plans concerning Aaron.  A therapy dog had been approved, so they were going to start the process of finding a puppy for Aaron and the other clients to love and enjoy.  They are going to set up a safe mulch area for Aaron so he can have some mulch time in which to calm himself.  They plan to schedule staff for small outings that Aaron might enjoy more than some of the big outings………like taking him and Rosie for walks at the YMCA.  She ended by saying, “We love him and we won’t give up on him!!”  Tears slid down my cheeks as I read the message to Atha and Joyce.  A third blessing!

As I was getting to know Joyce, I learned that she was an accomplished pianist and accompanist.  I told her that I would love to hear her play someday.  As our lunch ended, Joyce asked Atha and I if we would come to her house so that she could show us her newly painted peachy pink garage.  I told Joyce that I would come if she would play her piano for me, which she happily agreed to do.  But then Atha said that I must sing…..and I was not so sure.  I haven’t sung in several years and though I wanted to sing that day, I wasn’t sure if I could or if I would just stand there and cry. 

But there I stood by Joyce’s piano, after we had seen the peachy pink garage and been given a tour of her home……..and I held a hymnal and I sang parts of two hymns as Joyce so beautifully accompanied me.  It was a personally significant moment for me on several levels.  I didn’t cry, but I was deeply touched by God’s gift of this moment for me.  He knew that I wasn’t sure I wanted to meet someone new on this day.  He knew that I was tired and discouraged.  But He orchestrated this day for me……and for Joyce…..and for Atha.  It was no mistake that Joyce had called Atha that morning, lonely and wanting to see her.  It was no mistake that Atha and I already had plans on this day after my meltdown with Aaron…….and that I was very tired and in need of encouragement.   God prompted Atha to invite Joyce to lunch, and each of us was especially blessed because Atha obeyed.  God brought smiles and joy and some healing to each of us on that day, in just the ways that we needed.  A fourth beautiful blessing!

The last song I sang that afternoon was Day by Day.  This song so well describes our day by day with Aaron.

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best.
Lovingly, it’s part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me.
He whose name is Counselor and Power.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord.
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
Ere to take , as from a Father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

The perfect words to end a perfect afternoon.

The Meltdown

I had a meltdown last night.  A bona fide nasty meltdown.  I’ve been debating within myself about whether I should write about it.  I’ve told myself not to write about it for several reasons.  I don’t want people to think that Aaron is all that bad, you know…….because I write so often of his uniqueness and his humor.  And then my pride is involved.  What will people who think I have it all together think about the fact that I fell apart?  But then there are more compelling reasons to go ahead and admit what happened.  I thought of my friend Brittany, whose blog post about the reality of living with her special sister so touched my heart just a couple days ago.   http://www.specialneedsiblings.com/bring-the-rain/   If I’m going to be honest, where do I draw the line?  Will I be totally honest, or just partially so? 

I received a call yesterday afternoon from Barb, one of the managing staff at Aaron’s day group.  Aaron loves Barb and trusts her, as do we……….and we know that she loves Aaron.  As I listened to her, I could hear her heartache for Aaron.  It seems that Aaron was irritating a client by poking on him with his foot while this client lay on the couch.  It ended up going from fun to chaos, and Aaron came home with his glasses all bent and impossible to be worn. 

Aaron and I talked about it when he came home, but he didn’t want to dwell on what happened and I knew better than to push him.  These incidents take time for him to process and to share.  However, it was very heavy on my heart.  Barb is so kind, and she and I talked about some ideas to help Aaron.  He hasn’t been participating with group activities at Paradigm like he used to do, and it’s worrisome to all of us.  

Aaron and I sat down at 6:30 for our regular Wheel of Fortune date.  He had put on an old pair of glasses that we had saved for times like this.  He got all comfy in his chair, which takes some doing, but before I saw it coming he had jammed his silverware down on the end table (no marks on the table, thankfully).  This was his way of expressing the fact that he was very unhappy about not having his regular glasses.  These old glasses didn’t fit right, so he said as I just stared at him.  He took them off, but became even angrier because he couldn’t see the TV very well without them.  Why, oh why, can’t he just talk to me about it?  Why must he instantly erupt?  And though I know why, I don’t appreciate the answer sometimes…….and this was definitely one of those times. 

My mind was already saturated with many things, chief among them being my worries for him.  As he continued to escalate, I could feel myself getting ready to boil over.  Gary was outside mowing the lawn.  I had no buffer and no stabilizing influence that he so often gives me.  And I did it………I blew my top.  I knew as I stood up and began yelling that my escalation would only escalate Aaron further.  I didn’t follow my own advice from years of experience with these situations, but instead I gave in to my anger and my worry and my tiredness.  We ended up with chicken strips on the floor, and a shattered bowl that Aaron threw on the floor, and tears from both of us, and more words than either of us needed to say. 

I was exhausted and defeated and riddled with guilt as I cleaned up the mess.  I wished that cleaning up our emotional mess was as easy as cleaning up the shards of one of Aaron’s favorite blue bowls.  Finally I pulled myself together enough to ask Aaron if he wanted to go to Wal-Mart and see if the vision center there could repair his frames.  Aaron kept trying to talk as we drove, but I was numb and fairly unresponsive.  I wonder what the woman there thought of us as she took his glasses and tried to fix them.  She probably dreaded coming back out to tell us that she couldn’t do anything with them.  I tried to smile and be myself, and Aaron’s eyes filled with tears as I said something to her about him having a bad day.  She was kind, and I felt like crying………..and I was very happy to walk out of there before I ended up in a heap on her floor.

“Mom?” Aaron said as we drove away. “Do you think I can get a pizza from Papa Murphy’s?”  So we stopped and got his pizza.  I had to laugh as the clerk stepped out to hand the pizza to Aaron, who was walking toward him but who totally ignored the clerk as he sailed right past him on his way to examine a grill that was in the corner.  The clerk looked confused and then laughed with me, and Aaron was oblivious as always.

After the pizza had cooked and as I sliced it, Aaron was sitting at the table and said, “Mom?  Do you want to be nice to each other tonight?”  Oh, his childishness!  It either drives me crazy or it just melts my heart.  He continued, “Do you want some pizza?  I’ll let you have some pizza.”  And then, “Are you gonna sit by me, Mom?”  I knew this was Aaron’s way of making up, so I sat at the table with him.  There he sat…….say it with me………..with his two knives and his two spoons and his two forks and his toothpicks and his napkins and his drink with his straw.  I listened to him chew loudly and suck in the cheese that was stringing off the pizza with each bite and try to talk with his mouth full.  I wanted to be anywhere else than sitting by him for several reasons, but I knew that beside him was where I needed to be.  This was part of our healing from the wounds we had inflicted upon each other.  Aaron needed me there………and I needed to be there, slurping and all.

“Mom,” he said as cheese dangled down on his chin, “I’ll do your back tonight.  You don’t have to do mine.  I’ll just do yours.”  He was telling me that he would tickle my back with the back scratcher.  Not asking me to tickle his back, which he dearly loves, was a sacrifice for him.  He wanted to give me that gift with nothing expected in return.  Though we didn’t have time to do our backs, I thanked him for such a sweet offer.  And the ice around my heart was thawing.

Before he got up from the table, he opened the comics from the newspaper and he said, “Mom!  Look!  Read Speedy Bump!!”  I laughed as he said “Speedy Bump.”  Then I looked down and read that day’s comic. 

Aaron loved the toilet paper comic.  Anything with toilet paper is funny to Aaron!  And I smiled, too, but for more reasons than Aaron knew.  Toilet paper was pretty appropriate, I thought.  He and I had some mess to clean up between us……some things to talk about and to say to each other.  It might take awhile, as the moment must be right for Aaron.  It might even take a few days to sort it all out………for me to have the strength to deal with what had happened………for Aaron to have the time to sort out his emotions and his uncomfortable feelings.

Today has been a new day with new insights that I will write about later.  Life goes forward, not stopping for our disappointments and pain.  It’s important that we…….that I………continue to wipe up the mess, to forgive, and to be forgiven.  To move forward and to not live in the yesterday, to not live in guilt or in the tendency to point a finger at Aaron. 

Maybe tonight I’ll take out the back scratcher and tickle Aaron’s back for a good long time.

Rushing To Be Ahead

Last week was a wonderful week.  Andrea got to come home as she had a break between summer school that had just ended and the beginning of her fall semester in grad school.  She drove in from Fort Worth on Monday.  Aaron had been excited for days about her arrival.  He wondered what day she would get here, what time she would arrive, how long was she staying, was she bringing her dogs, etc., etc.  He loves his sister……….and even though Aaron is the oldest of our children, he seems to be the youngest because of his childlike ways.

Andrew also was able to come in on Tuesday from Missouri.  He had a break from traveling with Scott Palmer Racing, so the timing was perfect for all of us to have this rare time together.  Aaron has, for many years, been rather jealous of Andrew.  We don’t know if it’s a “boy” thing or just what, but where Aaron sees Andrea more as a mother figure – he sees Andrew more as competition.  He views Andrew as competing with him for our time and attention.  We always tell Aaron that this isn’t true……..that we love them both equally, but that we don’t see Andrew very often and so we do want to spend time with him while he’s here.  Aaron will say, “When Andrew’s here you just want to talk to him and not to me.”  But he doesn’t say the same about our time with Andrea. 

I wondered how the days together would go and how Aaron would treat Andrew.  When we all sat down to eat supper on Tuesday evening, though, it went very well.  Aaron didn’t say anything rude or mean to Andrew.  Of course, Aaron doesn’t ever walk up and say, “Hi, Andrew (or Andrea)!  It’s so good to see you!”  We would probably fall over in a dead faint if he did that.  Instead he just barrels into the room and basically ignores the “new” person as he launches into some topic about a movie or a game or an event or just whatever will keep him talking……..and will help him avoid the uncomfortable reality of actually saying hello.  On Monday, when Aaron returned from his group, he barged in the door as always and there was Andrea.  Aaron never said hello or acted at all excited to see her……..but he was.  He just started talking about some random something, and then would refer to her as if she was always there.  I finally asked him if he was going to say hello and he laughed awkwardly.  Then if you listened very carefully, you would have heard him mutter his hello, very fast and very softly.  There!  That was done!  Andrea laughed, and then gave him a special giraffe ball point pen that she had bought just for him.  I had to urge him to say thanks, again uncomfortably, but he was truly delighted with his new pen………and with the fact that his sister knows how much he loves ball point pens!

Aaron wanted to stay home from his day group while Andrea and Andrew were here.  My first inclination was to insist that he go to his group, but then I mentally stepped back and realized that he desired to be as much a part of the family togetherness as the rest of us.  Yes, he also had the ulterior motive of just wanting to stay home, but I knew that his decision was rooted in the urge to be a part of what we were doing.  It can be more hectic with Aaron around……more frustrating………louder……….less adult-like on certain levels……….but Aaron is a part of our family and so I decided to let him stay home. 

On Wednesday we all went to Tanganyika Wildlife Park, just a couple miles from our house.  I wondered how Aaron would do in the heat of this summer day.  Would he be impatient to go from display to display?  Would he be grouchy in the heat?  Would he demand all of my attention?  However, we were all pleasantly surprised at how well he did.  He truly enjoyed the day despite the heat.  He fed many of the animals, including the rhino.  He pet the kangaroos and he rode the camel.  He wasn’t pushy or intrusive, and he didn’t make us hurry along because he was unhappy.  Can you tell how other trips in the past have been?  This day was truly a delight to us……….and a surprise.  It was a gift in so many ways.

We ended the afternoon with a stroll through the gift shop, where Aaron was very happy that I bought him a shirt.  As we walked out the door and headed toward the van, I noticed that Aaron picked up his pace and was walking ahead of Andrew, Andrea, and me.  I knew exactly what he was doing.  “Look,” I told Andrew and Andrea.  “Aaron is hurrying because he wants to get to the van first and grab the front seat again.”  We all laughed quietly and then Andrew told us to watch.  He walked up beside Aaron and then with his long legs he began to pick up the pace.  Not to be outdone, Aaron kept right up with Andrew.  Then Andrew kicked it up another notch, his long legs easily outpacing Aaron’s short legs.  But Aaron was not to be outdone, so with his arms pumping he kept up with Andrew’s stride.  And as they walked side by side, Aaron was saying, “Um.  Um.  Um.”  This was his way of trying to look like he was keeping up with Andrew because he wanted to talk…………but we all knew better.  Aaron wanted that front seat for sure!!

Instead of the frustration that would have been present 10 or 15 years ago, though, there were smiles and knowing glances between the three of us as we watched Aaron win the race……….thanks to Andrew’s kindness.  It really was very funny.  There was Aaron, stuck in his childhood………..determined to ride shotgun like he did years ago.  Striving for the best seat…….wanting to be ahead.  And there were my other two adult children, not making fun of Aaron but enjoying the moment and enjoying this unique person that is their brother.  Able to laugh at his funny ways and appreciate who he is. 

Andrew, Aaron, and Andrea
Aaron doesn’t realize how much things have changed over the years.  When we’re all together, he’s still in childhood mode with the competition for his place and for our attention.  If he only knew, or cared, about what I see.  I see our other two children, now adults, who have grown in their love and understanding of their brother.  Oh, they still roll their eyes and sigh deep sighs and grit their teeth and say, “Aaron!!” plenty of times.  But in their hearts, they realize more than ever who Aaron is.  It’s as if the dust has settled and they can step back and see life more clearly……..Aaron’s life.  Time and maturity sure do make a huge difference.   There were times that I wondered if I would ever see this level of love and understanding from them.  Living with a special needs child can be very taxing for the siblings, especially when disruptive behaviors are a large part of the picture.  Sometimes it takes years for all of it to make sense and for acceptance to occur. 

Aaron doesn’t need to try to stay ahead, but he doesn’t know that.  So he’ll still grab the front seat and feel like he’s gained a victory over his brother and sister.  And we’ll still smile and wink at each other, and tell the story behind his back of how he rushed ahead to be the first. 

And we’ll still love Aaron, even when he’s pushing to be ahead and not thinking of anyone but himself.  I’ve said it a lot, but some things will never change.

  

Lessons From the Garden Shoes

We had finally received some much needed rain here in this very dry and hot Kansas summer.  It was more than just a few disappointing drops, too.  We actually had enough rain to drip off the leaves on the trees and in our flower and vegetable gardens.  Enough rain that I had a reprieve from my watering duties and could let nature do her work for a few days.  Enough to more than just settle the dust – we actually had some mud amongst the vegetables.  The cooler temperature, the damp smell of the earth, and the grass greening up a little were all very welcome to every two and four legged creature around as well as to every struggling plant. 

I allowed a couple days to go by after the rains before I walked out to the vegetable garden to check on things there.  Sure enough, the rain had done her good work.  I stood there looking at the cucumbers, squash, and okra that needed to be picked.  Then I looked at the soil, still dark and wet from the recent moisture.  I slipped on my garden shoes and decided to give it a try.  Stepping over the wire fence, I gingerly put my weight down on the soil as I stood inside the garden.  Not too bad, I thought, and so I walked carefully over to the cucumbers to pick the ones that were plump and ripe.  Next, the squash – not many there but a few.  Time for the okra, in the very back of the garden.  As I walked I noticed that the garden was muddier than I thought.  “Well, I’m already in here,” I reasoned, and so I continued on.  It can’t be that bad.  But with each step I noticed that my shoes were feeling heavier and heavier with the buildup of mud, and I could see my footprints that I was leaving behind in the soft soil.  I told myself that I would get out soon, after I picked the okra, and so I trudged on through the mud.  When I finally stepped back out onto the grass, the bottoms of my shoes were covered in mud that needed to be cleaned off.  There was no mistaking where I had been, and the mark that my decision left on my shoes was messy and ugly indeed. 


Our lives are full of decisions in so many areas.  Many times the way that we should go is very clear and other times we’re just not sure.  Whether it’s an actual place or event, or if it’s an attitude of the heart, our prayer should be as David’s was in Psalm 143:8 when he said, “……teach me the way in which I should walk.”  Before we realize the danger, we can easily step over that fence and venture out into the messy areas of life or thoughts that will only mire us down.  What may have even appeared to be right or to be justified soon turns into a trap that weighs us down.  Wrong friendships or relationships; ungodly entertainments and activities; carnal or impure thoughts – all will leave a residue in our lives that builds up until finally we are having to bear the consequences of our decisions.  Our friends and family can without doubt be able to tell where we have been because the effects are so evident in our lives and in our attitudes.  Thankfully, God will clean us up as we ask for His forgiveness but often we will still bear the messy marks of our decisions.  So the next time we stand at that fence in our lives and have some decisions to make, may we say with the prophet in Hosea 14:9:  “…….for the ways of the Lord are right and the righteous will walk in them.”  Show us Your ways as we seek Your face, Lord, and keep us from venturing out into the muddy messes that are all around us.