Eating Poison

Every time I get a phone call from Andrea, no matter where I may try to hide so that I can talk in peace, Aaron finds me.  He bugs me to pieces wanting to talk to his sister.  She’s so patient and kind to him as they talk, with Aaron doing most of the talking.  And most of the time, he talks to her about movies that he has seen or is going to see or wants to see.  Then he asks her if she has seen said movie or is going to see it or wants to see it.  
He recently talked to her about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie coming out on August 8.  He wanted to know if she had heard about it and was she going to see it and did she want to see it.  Then he asked her about Shredder……did she remember the old Shredder from the cartoons years ago………had she seen the new Shredder that was coming out in this new movie……..and since she had not seen the new Shredder, then he told her that she needed to look at the movie trailer and see the new Shredder.  
This past Saturday, just as Aaron and I were finishing a game of Skip-Bo, my cell phone rang.  I looked down to see that it was Andrea just as Aaron very excitedly blurted out, “Is that Andrea?!  Can I talk to her?!  Can I?  Just for a minute, Mom?  Can I talk to her?”
I answered the phone in the middle of Aaron’s questioning, so Andrea heard him asking something and she started laughing.  “Is he asking if I’ve seen Shredder?” she asked.  I told her he was, and she laughingly told me that just before she called, she remembered that he wanted her to watch the trailer.  So she had quickly watched the trailer just before calling.  Therefore, Shredder and all the other turtle characters were fresh on her mind as I handed her the phone.  I could hear her laughing, and of course, hear and watch Aaron’s very excited conversation.  It made me smile to listen to the two of them.  
Andrea is so patient and attentive to Aaron as he talks.  You would think she was talking to a colleague about genetic testing or virus samples or research that she’s doing in the lab.  But talking about Shredder or ninja turtles or when the movie comes out seems every bit as important to her as any lab conversation.  And Aaron eats it up! 
Aaron also talked to her about the movie he’s watching at home now…..King Kong.  “Andrea, would you say King Kong is a monkey?” he asked.  Then he was off and running, and I heard Andrea laughing yet again while trying to answer his every question.
Oh, and there was one more movie he mentioned.  Purge.  It’s a movie that just recently came out.  Aaron and I saw the trailer for it when we went to see Godzilla.  Purge looks very violent and dark, and Aaron has been interested in it since seeing the trailer.  A couple weeks ago his group went to see another movie and Aaron was quite upset that he didn’t get to see Purge.  We have told him he won’t be seeing that movie, which makes him want to see it all the more.  Typical Aaron.
As Aaron told me all about wanting to see Purge on the day he didn’t get to see it with his group, I tried and tried to make him understand how we felt about that movie.  Finally I said, “Aaron, what if I handed you some poison and told you to eat it?”  He said that would be bad.  I told him that watching Purge would be like eating poison…….it would be bad for him.  He seemed to understand and went on his way.
Here is what he said to Andrea as he brought up the Purge movie:
“Andrea, Mom said how about if you go watch Purge, I feed you some poison?”
Which is what I think I heard Andrea say through her laughter.
So if Aaron has told any of you reading this that I said I would feed him poison if he goes to see Purge, I do hope this clears up your shock.  
Maybe that’s why Paradigm didn’t let him go watch it.  Hmmm…….    

The Wrinkles

Aaron likes me to help him get his bed ready at night.  He almost always makes his bed in the morning, but at night he wants me to assist him in making sure that all the covers are pulled up just right.  Then the last thing we do is to cover all the covers with his animal print soft blanket that he got for Christmas.  He loves lots of covers, summer or winter, that’s for sure.
Last night he and I were going through this bedtime routine.  I made sure his long body pillow was centered where it was supposed to be…..that his sheet was pulled up……then his heavy corduroy cover – a bedspread, actually, that his Granny got him many years ago – was tugged into place………then his soft brown blanket had to be adjusted…….and next we shifted and rearranged his pretty red, white, and blue quilted cover that is rarely seen, unfortunately.
That was when Aaron paused and said, “Look, Mom.”
I looked down, expecting to see a spider or an ant or something crawling.  You can see how my summertime mind works.  But I saw nothing.  So there stood Aaron and I, staring down at his bed.  He was looking at what he knew was there, while I was looking at who-knows-what.
I looked over at Aaron and then he pointed as he said, “A wrinkle.”
Oh, yes.  There it was……an offending wrinkle.  Aaron will not tolerate a wrinkle in his covers.  Not a single one.  So I gave the cover a little tug and the wrinkle disappeared…….and Aaron and I happily proceeded on with our task.  The bed was soon made to his specifications and all was well.
Isn’t it something, I’ve thought since last night, that Aaron notices something as mundane and unimportant as a wrinkle in his covers and yet so many important things in life seem to be oblivious to him?  We go in a store and I know to remind Aaron not to whistle…….or make his farting noise with his mouth……and to keep his hand out of his pocket, because he just scratches himself in a most embarrassing manner…….oh, and don’t clap, Aaron!   Those are a few things I tell Aaron.  Other matters come up as we go along, believe me.  
Now to me, these are major wrinkles, but not to Aaron.  Why don’t these annoying traits bother Aaron as much as a wrinkle in his covers?  And why does he love to whack us on our rear end?  He does that to the staff and other clients at Paradigm.  Or give us a robust slap on our back?  Or a pinch, or treat our bodies like they are drums.  These are major wrinkles to us, but not to Aaron.  I sure wish they were wrinkles to him, but they’re just not…….and we can’t make that happen.  
Why does he say obnoxious and even offensive things to people?  When questioned about it, he nearly always says that he was just trying to have fun.  So once again, we explain the concept of fun………and remind him over and over that his idea of fun is not usually anyone else’s idea of fun.  Does he really not get it or is he just stubborn?
Individuals with autism have a very difficult time relating to others.  Aaron doesn’t have filters, so he’ll say or do whatever comes to his mind at the moment.  Some behaviors are repetitive, and others occur at the time he may see something or someone.  We know to be observant when we’re out with Aaron as we try to intercept inappropriate behaviors.  
Aaron, don’t stare at the woman in the wheelchair.  Aaron, don’t say a word about that person’s unusual hair.  Aaron, not a peep about his tattoos.  Aaron, quit staring at her piercings.  Aaron, do not say shut-up under your breath when we pass that fussing child.  Aaron, don’t pull the box of cereal out of that huge display.  I was too late on that one.  I can still hear the sound of those falling cereal boxes in Wal-Mart.  
These are wrinkles, Aaron!!  Don’t you see them??!!
Nope.  He doesn’t see these life wrinkles at all.  It’s our job to keep teaching and to keep reminding and to keep damage at a minimum.  And often to keep a red face, depending on what he said or how offensive or embarrassing he was.  
At other times he’s funny.  Even when he’s not so funny, or when others are staring at him the way I tell him not to stare at people, I can smile and hold my head up high………..or try to walk away fast from the situation, with Aaron lumbering along quickly behind me.  HaHa!  We sure are a sight to see sometimes.
A word here, a tug there, some instruction in the hopes that it will stick, and another wrinkle is gone…….only to return, I know.  But we have to keep the wrinkles smoothed out so that Aaron’s life…..and OURS… tolerable.  
“Look, Mom.  A wrinkle!”
I know Aaron.  Believe me, I know.

Thanks to Aaron……

It’s been a week since I’ve written anything about Aaron.  It’s not because he hasn’t been active……talking, arguing, laughing, eating…..plenty of eating.  Plenty of all the above, actually.  Here are some highlights of our week:
Conflict and Forgiveness:
Aaron came home last Friday with some anger.  He had a situation with someone and it wasn’t pleasant.  He was animated, bending over and rubbing his hands together as he told me what happened.  Oh boy, here we go.  He quickly conveyed the same story to Gary when he got home, but Gary and I quickly left to meet friends for dinner so there was no resolution at that moment.  It was a topic of conversation all that weekend, which is always the case.  Thankfully, things were made right at his day group.  We appreciate the staff there that care for Aaron and helped him work through it all.  Barb said that Aaron actually took the hands of the person involved and said he was sorry.  Barb was shocked and pleased at that.  I was extremely shocked and wondered if we were talking about our Aaron or someone else!  Wonders never cease……especially with Aaron!  He was so happy to rush in the door that day and tell me what happened.  “Mom!  Me and _______ made up!”   And guess what he said that was so curious?  “But it’s kind of scary to be made up with ______.”  Interesting.  I think he’s not sure that he can keep from getting frustrated again, but that’s a guess…..which is sometimes the best we do to figure out Aaron and his thinking.
We were watching Wheel of Fortune one night, and one of the contestants bought a vowel….an ‘A.’  Aaron yelled, “A!!  As in E I E I O!!”  He sang the E I E I O part like we do in the Old McDonald song.  It was too funny.  But I couldn’t help myself, so I said, “Um, Aaron……E I E I O doesn’t have an A.”  “What?” he replied.  So I repeated, “E I E I O doesn’t have an ‘A’ in it.”   He just looked at me, then cocked his head and stared into space for a few seconds.  “Oh,” he flatly replied.  Two nights later someone bought an ‘O.’  “O!!” Aaron yelled.  “As in (and he sang again), E I E I O!!”  I laughed and he laughed because E I E I O does have an ‘O.’ And all is well with the world. 
An Annoying Ear:
Aaron started complaining one night during Wheel of Fortune that his ear was stopped up and that he couldn’t hear well.  I told him that maybe we need to take him in and have his ears cleaned.  “No!” he loudly replied.  Soon after, he yawned and then happily said, “There!  My ear unpopped!”  The next day it was, “Since my ear stopped up, I have diarrhea.”  I reminded him to check his feeding frenzy list from that day before he blamed his ear.   And the next day:  “When I talk, I can hear my voice in my ear.  I can only hear the voice of me in my stopped up ear.”  Gary and I exchanged humorous glances at that comment, unknown to Aaron.  His ear is a major concern of his now and we may need to have it checked, but we’ve learned that with Aaron it’s best to wait awhile and see how it all works out……because he has a little hypochondria at times like this.  
I went in Aaron’s bedroom to say goodnight.  He was propped up in bed, reading his Handy History Answer Book.  I was nearly ready to leave the room after our goodnight when Aaron said, “Mom, look.  Michelangelo made a bad statue.”   I asked why it was bad, knowing full well the answer.  “Look,” Aaron answered as he held the book for me to see.  “So what makes it bad?” I asked again.   “It doesn’t have clothes on.  That’s strange,” Aaron said as he held it out still for me to see.  There was Michaelangelo’s David in all his glory…..and me trying to explain it to Aaron.  I was glad to say good night and shut the door.
Wonder #2:
On Wednesday, Aaron went with his group to All Star Sports.  When he got home, as he was showing me the toy rifle he picked up somewhere and brought home, and as I was telling him he needed to return it…..good grief!……I saw something protruding out of his pocket.  I asked him what was in his pocket and he said, “Oh,”……as he reached in his pocket and pulled out the something.  It was sporks.  Sporks he had nabbed off the food counter at All Star Sports.  23 Sporks.  Really?  23 Sporks?  Really.  I counted them.  23.
Wonder #3:
Aaron was very excited to run in the house the other day and hold out his hand to show me something as I heard Gary out in the garage trying to finish telling Aaron to bring it back outside.  IT was one of our caterpillars that is eating up our pecan trees.  Aaron was intrigued by IT and really wanted to show IT to me, so I waited to tell him to get rid of IT until I had oohed and aahed over IT with fake enthusiasm.  Aaron loves bugs, just as if he was still 6 years old.  I didn’t want to dampen his joy, but I was very glad when he took IT back outside. 
Yesterday Aaron was sleeping a little late, so I gingerly opened his door to find him sitting on his bed…….writing in his “Time I Go To Bed and Time I Get Up” notebook.  He wrote down 9:03, and looked at me with bleary eyes.  He was very tired, he said, and even after his shower and coffee I opened my bedroom door to find this.
So I decided to have that fun day with Aaron that I’ve told him we would someday have.  We went to the new Sam’s that was opening yesterday.  Aaron got happy real quick, and wasn’t the least bit tired. 
 Well, it was worth it to have fun……to see his smile……and to laugh as he listened to the Mariachi band playing fun songs.  He complained that they were too loud, while I loved every minute and wanted more. 
One More Laugh:
This last laugh was this morning, after Aaron drank his coffee and we were taking his cups downstairs.  I guess he got a few coffee grounds in his cup.   “Mom, that coffee you gave me still had seeds in it……like specky seeds.”  
I smiled.  And I wish he could get those specky coffee seeds out with a spork.  We have a few.
Thanks to Aaron, we have sporks.  And a mostly good week to boot. 

Put That in a Bowl!!

Just a few minutes ago I waved goodbye to Aaron, went in the house, closed the door, and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  He did it!!  What did he do?  He agreed to the reality of me not being able to drive him to meet his day group because our van is in the shop.  He agreed to let the Paradigm van pick him up at our house.  He agreed to go in early.  EARLY!  It wasn’t without some angst from Aaron…….some anger…….some rude words……some refusals.  But he did get in the van when Katie pulled up in our driveway and he did go.  Success!  At least for now……for today.
Yesterday my van’s air conditioner wasn’t blowing cool air as I drove home in the afternoon from a nice visit with my friend, Jennifer.  Since it was time for an oil change and tire rotation anyway, I just called the shop and asked if I could drop the van off around 10:45.  That would be right after dropping Aaron off to meet his group.  I usually just wait for oil changes and such there at the shop, but Keith told me that I needed to bring the van in early so that they could work it in during the day.
Of course, my very first thought as soon as Keith told me this was Aaron.  Could he be picked up at home for his day group?  If so, would it be early?  If so, how early?  If so, would Aaron agree to this change in his routine…….because he has NOT been accepting of that change in the past.   See how I automatically connect the dots?  This is how it is when you have autism and routines and the great disruption that occurs when routines are disturbed.
Sure enough, Paradigm could come to pick Aaron up at home but sure enough, it would be early.  And sure enough, when Aaron came home a while later and I gently broke the news to him about the next morning……he was none too happy.  I built up the fact that he was excited about going to see Planet of the Apes, right?  And excited about getting his usual large extra-buttered popcorn with the free refill, right?  And excited about getting his end-of-the-week surprise for having a week of participation at Paradigm, right?  And it really isn’t a big deal about being picked up at home and going in early, right?  Wrong.  Right to all the above except that last one.
“But Mom, I want you to take me!” he complained.  So we spent here and there moments during the rest of the evening convincing Aaron that all the right reasons to this change in plans totally outweighed the one wrong reason.  The one really BIG wrong reason, in Aaron’s mind.  He was agreeable to this plan by bedtime, and I urged him with fake excitement that we would be as agreeable in the morning when push came to shove…….right?
Wrong.  I knew when Aaron walked into the kitchen this morning that he was back to square one, which was that he wanted me to take him in to meet his group at his normal time.  He hadn’t said a word yet but the look on his face told me that Aaron had not only disconnected all the dots, but that he had also moved the dots all over the place and he was most unhappy.  The van was gone……the driveway was empty, as were his hopes that somehow I could still take him in to QT to meet his group at 10:30.
“NO!” he firmly exclaimed.  “I’m NOT going in early!”
So I tried putting our dots in order again like they were last night by explaining all the things I previously mentioned the night before that would be super great reasons to go today……albeit early and not in our van.  Aaron wasn’t buying it.  He was agitated…..and alert.
“You’re just trying to bargain me!” he said with force.
Why is he so perceptive sometimes?
Finally he went to his room, declaring that he was not going to take a shower.  And he dressed and got on his computer, and I left it alone.  Sorry, Paradigm, for the lack of a shower today.  Sometimes bargains work out that way in these situations.  Welcome to my world of being an autism parent.
A couple cups of coffee later, some computer time, and some unwinding worked wonders by the time I went in Aaron’s room to get him moving in the right direction.  I suggested to him, with trepidation, that we go outside and sit on the front porch while we waited for his ride to come.  And I added that I would tickle his back.  This made Aaron happy, and made me feel some hope that this being picked up early at our house just might work today.
I reached over to get Aaron’s glasses so that I could clean them when I saw an extra bowl that I hadn’t seen before.  There was Aaron’s bowl full of Jolly Ranchers, and his other bowl with only his favorite grape Jolly Ranchers, but this third bowl was new to me.  I looked inside and there I saw several toothpicks laying in the bottom of this bowl.  A whole bowl with only a few toothpicks inside.  This is so Aaron, I thought.  He had told me the other day that he was saving these toothpicks, so of course he put them in a bowl.
As I walked through the family room a few minutes later, there I saw two more bowls on a shelf of the end table that he uses.  They were empty at the moment, but for some reason they were important to Aaron.  That made five bowls that Aaron had out at this time for all the various reasons that sometimes only he knows.  Unless there are more under his bed.  That’s entirely possible.
He turned off his computer and I heard him come coming down the stairs as I walked out on the front porch.  He came out the door, carrying his bowl of Jolly Ranchers, and then sat by me on the glider……with his bowl of candy on the table right beside him.  There he sat, dejected in defeat.  He wanted to go to the movie……he wanted his popcorn with butter and a free refill…….he wanted his end-of-the-week surprise.  But not this way.  Not with having to go in early and not having Mom take him in the van to meet his group like we nearly always do.
Aaron reached over and took a Jolly Rancher from the bowl.  It was a grape one.  He handed it to me to place on the table on my side of the glider.  Then he got another Jolly Rancher and it was not grape, so he put it in his mouth and enjoyed it while I tickled his back.  He was mostly quiet as I stroked his back and he relaxed.  Then we talked about the wasp we saw and the seed pods from the tree as I opened two of them for him to see and about Loony Tunes and about the neighbor mowing his yard.
He got another Jolly Rancher……another grape……so I put it beside the first grape one on my table.  He sucked on another flavor then as we talked some more……and I tickled his back……..and the van pulled up.  “NO!” he said.  So I stood up with my happy face on that I didn’t feel, and Aaron stood up and took the two grape Jolly Ranchers and went in the house.
He put the grape Jolly Ranchers in the grape bowl.  Then he came back outside and took the other bowl back into the house.  He returned with a baggie of Jolly Ranchers and a frown, saying again that he was NOT going.  But he did get in the van as I stood there talking to Katie, and I can only hope that he’s cooperating with his group on this movie day.
Who would have thought that such a small thing would create such a large problem?  Well, I thought it because I know autism and I know Aaron.  I look around our house and I see all his various bowls.  I see how he divides his special items, be it food or toothpicks, into these bowls.  This is how it is.  My house has bowls everywhere, it seems!  The marks of Aaron’s mind and how it operates, put into bowls in the family room and bowls in the kitchen and bowls in his bedroom.
So this ride business and the complexity of solving it, of connecting the dots for Aaron, is so much like those bowls.  Aaron has a mental bowl that contains the fact that we leave the house shortly after 10:00 and we go to Quik Trip to meet his ride.  On the way we listen to music, and we might stop at Dillon’s for something, and we see the field with the cows, and the field with the bulls, and the bent house, and the striped parking cement fixtures in a certain parking lot, and the old car parked in someone’s driveway.  It’s Aaron’s morning routine bowl.
His morning bowl does NOT include being picked up at our house.  It does NOT include being picked up early.  It does NOT include sitting on the porch waiting for his ride, nice as that was.  So my job is to try to make this unwanted bowl somehow agreeable to Aaron.  I never know if my efforts will succeed until he is in the van and driving away.
And then I am both relieved and still a little worried, hoping he doesn’t take his frustration out on his staff or friends.  I also hope that he will see that this bowl is all right and that he can use it again on other days that he will need to be picked up at home, early or not.
He found one more grape Jolly Rancher before he got in the van, so he handed it to me.  After he was gone, I went into his room and dropped it into his grape Jolly Rancher bowl.  Keeping order is so important to Aaron.  This morning I’m sure he felt like there were many unwanted flavors in his morning routine bowl.  I can only hope that he’ll see that those flavors are good and that he can tolerate them after all.  I hope he’ll see that I’m not a bad guy for mixing things up for him.
One thing I do know, though, is that this story is not over.  There are always more bowls for Aaron to fill, his way.  Because to Aaron there is no other way.
You can put that in a bowl!

You Do Your Thing

I returned on Sunday afternoon from my trip to Houston.  The long weekend with Andrea was wonderful.  It was time to come home, though…….time for another re-entry into life with Aaron.  I saw Gary as I walked down the slight incline from the security area in the airport.  We hugged…and then Aaron stepped up.  I hadn’t seen him at all, so I was surprised and he was very happy about that.  He gave his low chuckle and smiled broadly, but I knew he wouldn’t want a big hug so I just said, “Hi Aaron!  I didn’t see you!”  
“Mom!” he replied.  “I’m hungry.  Can we eat at a restaurant?”
And there was my welcome home.  Gary and I laughed, both of us knowing that Aaron wasn’t going to ask about my trip or my flight or Andrea or even her two dogs that he likes.  Nope.  Not Aaron.
I told him that I was hungry, too, but I didn’t think we needed to eat at a restaurant.  “So what is there to eat at home?” he asked.  And I reminded him that I hadn’t been at home for a few days but that I was sure there was something there to eat.  
“We need to do my sheets,” he then said.  Our routine is to change his sheets every weekend, and Aaron wanted me to know that time was running out on our weekend chore.  I assured him that I would make every effort to help him with his sheets before the day was over…….before the weekend chore was left undone when the official weekend was over.  We can’t have that scenario!
As we stood at baggage claim, Aaron talked about his latest movie that he’s watching, as well as one he finished.  He talked about Wheel of Fortune and what he and Dad had done while I was gone and all sorts of his usual random topics as we got in the van and drove home.  Still no interest in where I had been or what I had done.  I would have been shocked senseless if he had asked me a personal question.  Aaron was just glad that Mom was home so that we could change his sheets and he could talk to me and maybe, just maybe, still talk me into that restaurant idea.
Sure enough, we were later changing his sheets and he was still talking.  “Mom, there’s a girl at Paradigm that speaks Spanish.  She has to have a girl with her to tell what she’s saying!  Do you call that a pronouncer?”  I almost hated to tell him the correct term, as I so often hesitate to change his way of speaking…….because he is refreshing and unusual and I love that.  
Aaron has recently taken a liking to Jolly Ranchers, so before I left I bought a huge bag of Jolly Ranchers from Sam’s.  I feel like they take longer to eat and so he’ll consume less candy that way, yet still satisfy his candy urge.  As we were changing his sheets, I looked down and saw quite a few Jolly Rancher candy wrappers in his trash can.  Then I saw one of his bowls, full of Jolly Ranchers, and another bowl containing only some grape Jolly Ranchers.  There goes Aaron.  He puts EVERYTHING in a bowl or in multiple bowls, but I didn’t think he would put those hard candies in a bowl.  Silly of me.  The grape ones are his favorite so he was keeping those separate.  He always develops his own system for organizing his items, and so Jolly Ranchers were no exception to Aaron’s rules.
I was concerned, though, with all the wrappers in his trash can.  I was hoping he wasn’t chewing them and hurting his teeth, so I just asked him if he was chewing them.  He told me he was.  Hmmm.  I wondered if he was waiting for the candy to get small in his mouth before chewing or what.  “Aaron?” I asked.  “When do you chew them?”  
“When they’re done being sucked on!” he answered.
Well, of course.  Silly me again.
We’re back in the swing of things now.  He’s been in a mostly good mood since I’ve been home.  He walked in the kitchen the other evening, wanting me to watch a movie clip on my notebook.  I was cooking supper and told him it would have to wait.
He came back a little later with the same idea.  “Mom!  Can you watch this trailer now?  It’s 1:47.”  And you know that he’s telling me the time of this particular clip.  I told him it would still have to wait.
Soon he was back in the kitchen.  “Mom!  It’s not 1:47.  It’s 1:46.  Is that better?” 
Oh, Aaron, you make me laugh sometimes.  You actually make me laugh a lot.  And I was proud of him for waiting until we were watching Wheel of Fortune for me to finally find and watch with him the movie trailer……….the 1:46 movie trailer.  Not 1:47.
I was in the garden this morning, hunched over picking green beans…….wondering what possessed me to want to plant green beans again.  I looked up as Aaron walked outside. 
“Mom!  I got up at 9:02!”
“9:02,” I repeated, realizing how odd that would sound to others but how normal it is for our home.  “That’s good, Aaron!”
He agreed, and then I asked him if he had drunk his coffee yet.  He had not, so I told him that I was nearly done and would pour it when I came in.  
“No,” he said, as he headed back in the house.  “You do your thing and I’ll do my thing.”
And Aaron will most definitely do just that.  He will do his thing no matter what’s going on around him.  In fact, much of our thing is actually dictated by Aaron doing his thing………doing his thing in his way, always.  Like the Jolly Ranchers in the bowl………changing the sheets on the weekend no matter what…….the 1:47 and the 1:46………..getting up at 9:02.  
As much as we can, we allow Aaron to do things his way.  Life is better that way, usually, and a ton more interesting than most of the boring ways we do things.  
Have at it, Aaron, as Gary’s Mom would have said.  Do your thing!

Good Job, Aaron!

I was so proud of Aaron this morning.  He’s on a new medicine and it’s one that has hit him full force with sleepiness.  He’s gone from usually getting up in the morning between 5:00 and 6:00 to sleeping until sometimes after 8:00.  He would be much more precise than that with the time, as you know, but I won’t tell him that I wasn’t.  He came downstairs this morning a little before 8:00, barely able to keep his eyes open and asking if he really had to go to his day group.  I sensed a rough morning ahead.
He took his pills and I carried his coffee upstairs, keeping the conversation light and free of conflict.  Conflict can come easily enough when Aaron is tired and not feeling well.  My heart went out to him and I wanted to just say that he could stay at home, but I knew better.  He sometimes snaps out of these very tired moments and so I wanted to give that possibility a chance.  Plus today is his last day for the week since tomorrow is a holiday…….and today is mall day, which he usually enjoys.  He enjoys it because of all the food choices there, but at least he goes and has fun.  
Today I’m leaving for a trip to Houston to spend the long weekend with Andrea.  I had lots to do this morning, so I left Aaron with his hopeful thoughts of getting to stay home as I headed for the garden.  Finally finishing there, I went upstairs to shower.  As I walked up the stairs I heard a noise.  There was Aaron, sprawled across his bed, snoring to beat the band.  I was pretty certain then that Paradigm would be a no-go today.
Later, to my surprise, Aaron walked in my room and asked again if he had to go to Paradigm.  He was more awake now and still not in a bad mood.  I told him to shower, which he agreed to do, and as he left the room he reminded me that today was mall day for Paradigm……if he HAD to go.  Here WE go, I thought.  But still the eruption didn’t occur.  He was mulling his options, though, but not hateful….yet.
Soon I heard him thump up the hall with purpose………and I was soon to discover what that purpose was.   He looked at me and hopefully asked, “Mom, today since we’re going to the mall, can I have extra money?”  
“How much do you need for pizza?” I asked.
The look on his face was priceless as he quickly formulated his response.  “Well,” he slowly said, “sometimes it’s 15.”
We stood there staring at each other as I enjoyed the look on his face, and as he hoped I would believe him.  Then I laughed, and laughed some more………and he didn’t even get angry at my laughter as he sometimes does.  He knew that I wasn’t buying the story of pizza that’s sometimes 15, so he turned and walked away as I chuckled some more.
He was very happy when Gary, who is off today, offered to take him to meet his group.  Having Dad take him is a treat!  He loves time with Gary, so before they left Gary showed him the caterpillars in our tree.
Then they climbed in the truck and I got one last goodbye hug.  I told him that I would tell Andrea he said hi and he gave his low laugh…..meaning that he agreed with my doing that, but he would never ever offer that gesture himself.  
Every day with Aaron is both full of sameness and yet full of diversity.  We never know what mood he will be in or how he’ll be feeling or what he’ll say.  We definitely never know what all he’ll say!  Like yesterday on the way to Paradigm, when we passed by the sign outside of Dillon’s that announced the fact that they have barbecued ribs for sale.  There hung the ribs sign, with a wooden pig hanging on it. 
And Aaron, who never misses anything, said, “Mom, are ribs really made of pig?”
Yep, Aaron…..those particular ribs are really made of pig.
And many of my days are really made much more fun and funny because they’re made of life with Aaron.  Other days…..not so much.  But we take them both because he is ours and he is what God made him to be.
See you Sunday, Aaron.   You and Dad have fun while I’m gone!

Lessons From the Beetles and Worms

It’s been an interesting June here in Kansas.  We’ve had lots of rain…..over 10 inches!  It’s been really nice.  Our grass is so green, flowers are pretty, and our vegetable garden is thriving.  But looking closer the other morning, as I was finally able to gingerly walk on the muddy ground among the vegetables, I was very disappointed to see a familiar sight.  Some of the squash plants had a familiar wilt about them……sagging leaves that point to that old squash beetle that attacks the roots.  Sometimes you really have to look to find the beetles, but you don’t have to look hard to see the evidence of their destruction. 
Then over the past several days, Gary and I have made another discovery in our pecan tree in the front yard.  Caterpillars.  I know there are technical names for the variety of caterpillar they are, but suffice it to say that these web worms are destroying the leaves on our pecan tree.  We fight them every year, but this year they have just multiplied tremendously in a short time…….and now we have quite a mess.  We can definitely see these ugly worms, and can surely see the damage they are causing.
This morning I walked out to the garden to take a quick look.  It was still too muddy to venture in yet after receiving several more inches of rain night before last, so I just stood there at the edge in the wet grass, looking at the summer squash and the zucchini and the cucumbers.  The summer squash plant that I first saw made me really stop and think.  The right side of the plant was droopy even in the morning coolness.  Not just droopy, really, but downright wilted……gone…..dead, I do believe.  You could definitely see the tall weeds growing up around the dead leaves………weeds that had been able to proliferate because I had been unable to spend time fighting them.  Weeds that were clearly seen now because the leaves were hanging over, dead as can be.
The other part of the plant looked healthy and strong.  Its leaves were upright and vibrant in the morning sun, belying the fact that right beside it was its wilted half.  It’s like a fight was going on there… and death……good and evil.  Again, I couldn’t see the culprit……the squash beetle was hidden from my sight.  Yet I sure could see the result of the battle that was taking place there.
I later walked around to our pecan tree, checking once again on our worm situation.  There they were, thousands of worms doing their dirty work for all to see.  Both of these plants need our attention if they’re going to live and grow.  Both are in real danger if we don’t do something soon.  

I’ve been feeling like my squash plant looks lately.  Part of me is all vibrant in my walk with God, and some days I feel strong and spiritually productive.  But on other days, no matter what, I have a heaviness around my heart and feel like I’m wilting.  What are the culprits on those dead days?  Why is it that I can spend time reading my Bible and praying, and still feel like I’m just getting nowhere? 
Like the squash beetles, out of sight, I know that Satan is trying to eat away at my roots.  I find it hard to concentrate, find it difficult to pray, and often can’t really put my finger on the problem.  It’s easy to just want to give it up…….to wilt and say there’s no use in continuing to try.
Other times, I’m like the pecan tree.  I can see the problem for sure, just as we can see the worms crawling all over that tree bark.  I can point to the sin that so easily besets me and then confess it.  
I feel like some of you are like me.  I know that God warns us to be alert.  Satan is slinking around, working overtime to discourage us.  Sometimes we can’t identify the cause of our weaknesses, and other times we can see the cause very clearly.  Either way, we need to take action.  Paul told the Ephesians to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”  He told them to put on the full armor of God in order to stand against the schemes of the devil.  Paul told the believers in Ephesus that they were in a battle against spiritual forces in dark places, and he told them how and what the armor of God is……how to take it up, put it on, and use it to its full capacity.  God’s Word…….truth…..righteousness……the gospel.
And to pray at all times while being alert.  Pray…..when we don’t feel like it.  Pray…..when we’re wilting.  Pray…..when we see our sin outright.  Pray….when hidden sin is eating away at us.  Pray…..when we don’t understand why we’re weary and tired.  Pray…..when we do understand why we’re weary and tired.  Pray anyway.  Pray always.  Just pray……faithfully pray, with thanksgiving……with confidence……every day.
We’re going to fight our beetles and our worms that are trying to destroy our squash and our pecan tree.  And I’m going to fight, with God’s power, the schemes of Satan that are trying to bring me down.