Let’s Talk (And Talk and Talk) About Lettuce!

Aaron had an appointment with his autism doctor this past Monday morning.  Dr. Ogden, a psychiatrist, oversees the aspects of autism that are not very much fun.  This means that she wants to talk about Aaron’s feelings and behaviors.

However, Aaron does NOT want to talk about his feelings or behaviors.  Years ago, we tried counseling sessions and it was a royal failure…not because of the therapist but because Aaron wanted to control the conversation and make it all about his movies and games and things like showing her the bump on his chest. 

Aaron would rather be poked and prodded and stuck with needles than to sit on a couch with mom and Dr. Ogden while explaining why he gets angry at home or his day group…why he reacts to people and situations with hitting or verbal insults…and what the solutions may be to said behaviors.

Aaron woke up that morning angry and frustrated, which is not the best way to go see the doctor who wants to talk about his anger and frustration.  Rarely is Dr. Ogden treated to Aaron’s humor or brightness.  Rarely am I treated to such fun Aaron attributes either on Dr. Ogden days until the visit is over and done…and we go to lunch. 

Lunch is the ONLY reason Aaron endures these talking doctor visits.

Aaron went from livid to lively as we drove to BJ’s for lunch.

You might say that Aaron can surely control his moods if he does so in a situation such as this.

But with autism, things are flipped.  Aaron’s moods control him.  You and I can perhaps overcome the heavy mood that weighs us down on certain days, but Aaron’s heavy mood puts him on a track from which he cannot jump.  He is stuck until something else redirects him.

And on Monday, part of his mood changer was in the form of lettuce.

When Aaron finished his French fries and scooted his chicken tenders around, there on his plate lay a nice piece of leaf lettuce.

Aaron tenderly picked it up, as if he was slightly scared of it.

Look at his face!  😊

Then he set it on the table.

“I’ve never seen this lettuce,” he calmly remarked.

“What do you mean, you’ve never seen that lettuce?” I asked.

“Well, it’s green!” he answered.

“Green?” I questioned.

“Well,” he explained, “some is black and some is green and some is white.  You usually get white.”

Oh, the intrigue of mixing autism with being color blind!

I can totally see that he sees all those interesting colors of lettuce.  Once again, Aaron caused me to pause and consider concepts that I would ordinarily never think about.

Aaron then held up the lettuce as if he was displaying a prized conquest.

Then he stared at it as he placed it on his plate again, studying it in such a serious way that I had a very hard time not laughing out loud.

“I didn’t order lettuce with my chicken strips,” he observed.

I explained that the green lettuce was there more for decoration than anything, which he thought was rather odd.

“What flavor is the green?” he wondered.

 I had to laugh at that one.

“Ummm, lettuce just tastes like lettuce, Aaron,” I tried to explain.  “Why don’t you eat it?”

So, Aaron very bravely took a small bite.

Which led to more bites as he looked postitively scared.

And finally, the lettuce was gone. 

Aaron survived!

I thought we had exhausted everything lettuce related there at BJ’s.

But the next night, Aaron’s sharp eyes spotted lettuce in a commercial.  Of all the food items on the screen, Aaron saw a piece of LETTUCE!!

“MOM!!” he yelled.  “There’s the lettuce I had in BJ’s!!  The brown one!!”

BROWN!!??

Now we’re on to BROWN!?

NOOOOOO!!!

I’m making an appointment with Dr. Odgen…for ME!!!

My Body, My Choice…and Aaron

This past week, the Supreme Court voted not to block Texas’ heartbeat bill.  This, in effect, has made abortion in Texas illegal after the first heartbeat of the baby in the womb is heard…usually around the 6th week of pregnancy.

Against the backdrop of yelling protestors –

I was looking at my own backdrop at home, which consisted of all Aaron’s bedding after his seizures earlier Friday morning.

And dear Aaron recovering from those seizures as he slept on the couch.

My mother’s heart was drawn to Aaron in his struggles.

But my mother’s heart was also drawn to all the many babies who have not had the chance to live, no matter how difficult their lives may have been.

There is a choice that is seldom addressed when most people talk about “choice” as it is defined today.

It’s the choice that Joshua talked about when Israel was going into the land that God had given them.  He told Israel to choose that day whom they would serve – the one true God, or one of the false gods worshipped by the peoples in the land around them.

Either way, they would choose a deity to worship.  They would worship God, or they would worship a non-god…a pagan god. 

“Joshua calls Israel to ‘serve Yahweh’ (Joshua 24:14).  But if Israel will not serve Yahweh, they must at least serve some god(s).  He presses Israel to the wall; they must come down somewhere.  If not Yahweh, the real historical God, then they must choose either the ancestral Mesopotamian gods or the contemporary Amorite ones.  The conservatives who were fond of tradition, of what had stood the test of time, who yearned for the ‘faith of our fathers’, might vote for Mesopotamia.  The liberals with their yen for relevance, for being in step with the times, might prefer to identify (as an act of goodwill) with the current social milieu and enter into dialogue and worship with the Amorites.  But you must choose; if not Yahweh, then take your pick from ‘these dunghill deities’ (Matthew Henry).”   (Dale Ralph Davis)

Do you see the issue here? 

Do you see the issue for our culture today?

My choice!

My choice which god I will serve.

For in making the choice to reject Jehovah God, you ARE making a choice to serve whatever pagan god fits your lifestyle.

We all serve and worship someone or something.

My choice to worship God will then dictate my other choices in life.

My choices FOR life.

For no matter how many silly arguments are made condoning abortion, we all know that something inside that woman is alive and growing.

And if nothing else, modern technology has shown us that what is growing in her womb is a human baby with a functioning heart at only several weeks old. 

Psalm 139 tells us that God has woven that baby together in his mother’s womb.  She is fearfully – reverently – and wonderfully made by God Himself!

So how do I explain our Aaron, born with special needs? 

I can’t.

But I can explain that as for me and Gary, we have chosen to serve the Lord. 

With all my body and soul and heart, I have chosen to trust almighty God to make the right decisions for me and for my son.

My body is not mine.

My choice is not mine.

I belong to God and His choice is all that matters.

And because I know Him and trust Him, I know that our Aaron whom he created is made just the way that God allowed and designed.

I walk in peace.  I don’t need all the answers to do that.

I only need to choose…GOD!

Photo taken by Karlea Tanner

What Aaron Shares

Recently, my husband and I went to an NHRA race in Topeka.  Our son, Andrew, works for one of the teams.  It’s fun to go to the races but it means even more to us to get to spend some time with Andrew. 

“MOM!!” Aaron said to me the day before we left, “take this state quarter to Andrew!”

You see, Aaron collects state quarters.  He keeps every state quarter that he finds and stashes them away in a tin box in his desk drawer.  He loves his state quarters!  So, to offer one to someone else is indeed a gift from his heart.  He sent one to his sister for her birthday in June, and now wanted us to take one to his brother.

The quarter he chose was dingy, but to Aaron it was a gift of gold.

Then to top it off, he brought me another gift to give Andrew.  He chose this gift from his new bag of bubble gum, bought just a few days earlier. 

On our first night in Topeka, as we waited on our dinner, I gave Andrew his special gifts from Aaron.  Such a sweet moment, and the look on Andrew’s face was priceless.

Aaron loves to share…to give things to people. 

Sometimes when he and I are watching a show at night, and he’s snacking on nuts or something else, I’ll suddenly have a piece of whatever he’s eating land on my lap.  He throws me pieces of his food like I’m an animal at the zoo that he’s feeding!  😊 😊

Let me share with you some of Aaron’s sharing with us.  I think your heart will be as touched as ours is.

Aaron laid these on my leg one day.  It was better than having them thrown at me! 

Another time, I found these on the coaster where he knows I put my drink at night.

And he left two of his very special rocks on my pillow one night.

Distance is no deterrent to Aaron.  He wanted to share some of his new Jolly Ranchers with Andrea and Kyle in Texas, and with Andrew in Indiana.  We bagged and boxed them up, and in the mail they went.  The postage cost more than the whole bag of candy, yet Aaron’s joy was well worth the money.

But Aaron shares more than just items like candy and quarters and rocks. 

Aaron shares huge smiles.

He shares his amazing discoveries.

Aaron shares joy in the simplest things.

Thanks for the picture, Karlea!

Aaron also shares words and actions and attitudes that can aggravate and anger us.  It’s all a part of the intricate way that his brain is wired. 

It’s up to me and to Gary to keep instructing Aaron…keep loving Aaron…and keep our emotions in check during the rough times.

We don’t always do it well or with grace.

But every day is a new day.

Every day, God’s mercies are new.

Every day, we all have some hard times. 

Every day, we have opportunities to focus on the blessings.

And every day is full of new discoveries and adventures for our son who is still, in so many ways, a child.  💙💙

The Autism Two-Step

Gary and I are planning a trip to Houston next month.  We’ll stay with our daughter and son-in-law (Kyle and Andrea), and then get to see our other son (Andrew) who will be there for an NHRA race. 

Happy, happy fun times are ahead!  YAY, YAY!!

Wait.  I forgot to mention that we plan to take Aaron. 

Angry, angry times are ahead!  YUCK, YUCK!

That was Aaron speaking.

As many of you know, getting Aaron to travel happily is a stretch.  We want to include him for the obvious reasons, especially the fact that he IS family and should be a part of family times. 

We’ve been making the hard sell and thought we were well on our way to traveling success.  But yesterday morning…

Aaron stood behind me early as I sat at my quiet time desk. 

“I am NOT going to Andrea’s!!” he angrily spoke.

First words out of his mouth did not bode well.

None of my soft words softened him at all. 

I ended up on our patio, coffee in hand, where Aaron soon found me and exposited further on the reasons that he will NOT make this fun, fun trip.

I escaped in the house for a few minutes.  When I looked out at the patio, Aaron was gone.  I didn’t see him anywhere.  Where could he have gone?!

Soon I saw him, across the yard sitting all dejected on our bench.  Sorry for the grainy picture.

He soon moved to the front porch, sadness all over his posture and face. 

When he rejoined me on the patio, he was crying.  When Aaron cries, he is truly and deeply upset. 

“I don’t want to leave this house!” he exclaimed, as if we were forcing him out forever instead of just taking a trip.

But to Aaron, home and the familiarity it brings is of upmost importance to him.  It’s a huge stretch to ask him to go someplace else and just “be happy.”

Aaron reacts to all the stimulation outside of himself in a far greater way than you and I do.  A long trip, another house, an unfamiliar bed, more people around, a different bathroom…just everything about traveling is huge and very uncomfortable to him. 

And if Aaron is uncomfortable, then everyone within range of his voice will be most uncomfortable, too.

It’s so easy to say he should just go and have a good time.

SO, SO hard for Aaron to do that very thing, starting with the “just go.”

Later in the morning, like a light went on, Aaron calmed down and became happy.  It wasn’t because finally, he came to his senses!

It was because he remembered the Indonesian submarine that sank.  Really.  Not that the sinking and all the death makes him happy, but all the facts of that incident have filled his fact-loving cup to the brim.

He talked about the submarine incessantly on Sunday.  He talked about it until the moment he turned his light off that night and went to sleep.  So yesterday morning, when he paused from his travel grief long enough to think of something else, his mind went back to the submarine that had so consumed him yesterday.

Ahhhhh, a subject that pleased him, odd as that sounds! 

Autistic persons are often brought back to their comfort zones by slipping into whatever groove is safe to them and meets their unusual interests.  As strange as it seems to us, Aaron was able to lay aside his angst about our upcoming trip by finding that groove, which on this day was the sunken submarine…

And then Trandoshians…clones…launch codes…Republic Assault Ship…Wookies…

It’s just the most fascinating and often frustrating thing!

Yet Gary and I must lay aside our desire to lecture as we slip with Aaron into his groove, talk about the very unique subjects that permeate his mind, and be ready for the next onslaught of travel anger.

It’s a delicate dance that we know all too well, accompanied by the music of Aaron’s world.  The band isn’t always in tune, at least not to us, but Gary and I had best just dance along and let Aaron lead.

It’s the Texas Two-Step!  Except for us it’s two steps forward…on a good day…and at least one step back.  Often more.

Last night, as Aaron still processed all things travel related, his face lit up.

“MOM!!  Can Kyle tell me all about the submarine?  Because if he can then I’ll go to Houston!”

So Kyle, who has a degree in maritime studies but has never worked on a submarine, has been given an assignment for which to prep before we come.  And his dad, Kent…who served in the Navy on a sub…will no doubt be invaluable.  Andrea said we should just have Kent waiting in the driveway when we pull in.  😊  😊

It’s good that we can all laugh. 

All of us except Aaron, who takes every bit of this very seriously. 

Time for me to get our day going.  Gary and I are taking Aaron to the zoo, which is close and does not require travel but also does not…to my knowledge…have a submarine.  Too bad!

Looks like it will be a beautiful day for a dance. 

Aaron’s Prayer

Last week Aaron was extra grouchy every morning when it came time to get out of bed.  Nothing I said or did made a difference.  Nothing Gary said or did made a difference, either.  So, it seemed we were stuck in perpetual morning grouchiness.

Believe me, Aaron can re-define what it means to display said grouchiness.  Can he ever! 

I have many AAAAAHHHHHH moments when he is on that level of refusal to get out of bed.  Aaron can be very verbal, and not in a nice way, when he is tired and sleepy at the beginning of his day.

Therefore, I sometimes tell him that I am done and then I disengage.  I don’t respond to his words or his demands, and I tell him that the decision about his day is his to make.  He eventually settles down and all is well.

Last Thursday, our Meals on Wheels delivery day, saw Aaron once again very angry about getting out of bed.  I quickly decided to get off that path, telling him that I would go without him and proceeding to get ready to leave.

Aaron could not bear that thought.  As we drove to the senior center a while later, Aaron’s mood improved.  His music made him happy as did the thought of eating lunch at a restaurant after our deliveries.

Aaron was very helpful and he enjoyed seeing our clients, as well as the various dogs and other animals that we have come to know. 

“Mom, did I do good today?” he asked as we finished at our last house.

I assured him that he did just fine, and he smiled happily as he rubbed his hands together.

Soon we were at Jose Pepper’s being pampered by Emily, our server that we have come to know.  She loves Aaron and is excellent with him.

We were munching on chips and salsa, along with a free espinaca, when Aaron’s salad arrived. 

“OK,” Aaron said, “let’s pray.”

I love it when the praying part is his suggestion.  I also love it when he agrees to ask the blessing, which he did on this day.

Now Aaron’s prayers are always two sentences, and they are always thanking God for things.  He might say, “Thank You for the food and thank You that we got to go to Meals on Wheels.”

But on this day, as we bowed our heads, Aaron got completely off script in a very wonderful way.

“Dear Lord,” he said, “next time on Thursday will You help me do better about going to Meals on Wheels?”

I seriously cannot remember Aaron praying like that in a very very long time.  Maybe ever. My heart was so touched and warmed by his simple yet heartfelt prayer.

Aaron does feel things much more deeply than we usually know.  It’s hard for him to process his feelings and thoughts in a controlled way when he’s frustrated.  Hard for him to let us know what it is he is feeling without hurting OUR feelings.

We enjoyed our lunch so much, even if Aaron wasn’t totally sure what he was eating.

“Mom?  What’s this green stuff?!” 

Being color blind makes Aaron’s life even MORE interesting…and ours as well. 

Green food and a great prayer. 

Thank you, Lord, for those blessings. 

But She Got Scared!

Every single day that Aaron goes to his day group, I tell him the same thing.

“Aaron,” I say with more patience than I feel, “do NOT give away any money today.”

You see, Aaron loves to give things away and one of the things he loves to give away the most is his money.  We send him with money to spend at Quik Trip for his lunch, but oh it’s so hard for Aaron to keep his money for himself. 

His philanthropy is well known among his day group friends, and there are some who are very willing recipients.

He has become quite adept at fudging his numbers, too, telling me that he bought this or that…or that the cashier didn’t give him back his change (yeah right!!)…or several other story lines that he has perfected. 

Sometimes between the Paradigm staff, especially Barb, and me and Aaron we’re somehow able to sort out the messes Aaron makes.  Often, it’s not without anger and tears from Aaron.  Occasionally Barb is able to get the money back from the person Aaron gave it to, but usually once the money is gone, it’s gone. 

Our rule now is that Aaron must bring a receipt home with him if he spends money anywhere.  He most often does this, and things are going better in the missing money department. 

Today as we drove away from Paradigm, Aaron realized that he had left his wallet there in Barb’s desk, even though she told him three times to take it with him.  Aaron told me he had only bought a slushie, so I was instantly suspicious about where the rest of his $7.00 was.

“MOM!!” he exclaimed, “I did NOT give any money away except for my change!”

“Aaron,” I reminded him, “you’re not supposed to give your change away either.”

I could feel my patience growing thin as we had the same money conversation yet again. 

Until Aaron said this: 

“But Mom, Victoria got scared because of the thunder so I gave her my change to help her feel better.”

Now what could I say to that?!

Barb confirmed the story as I asked her about the wallet.  She told me there was $5.00 in it, and that Aaron had given the change, all eighteen cents, to Victoria. 

Not long ago, after Aaron hadn’t been to Paradigm one day, Victoria saved him a piece of her birthday cake.  She gave it to him and they shared some saved cake the day that he returned…the day after he had a scary drop seizure. 

Barb told me today, as she has before, that their friendship is very sweet to watch. 

Life can be tough for Aaron sometimes, and I imagine that it can be the same for Victoria as well.  Things pile up in Aaron’s brain and it’s hard for him to process and handle his emotions correctly. 

But when I see Victoria saving some cake for Aaron, and I see the happiness on their faces…or I hear Aaron say that he wanted to help Victoria not be scared of the thunder…then my heart is full, and my emotions are hard to contain.

Our special children, though adults, still think and behave at times like children.  As caregivers, we parents can get tired of having perennial youngsters to teach and to take care of. 

But the other side of that coin is that we also get to see genuine simple acts of love like we saw today.

And those sweet moments are like a breath of heaven’s air to a tired mama’s heart.

Aaron’s Talking Points #13

Time for more of Aaron’s funny comments from over the years!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Just awhile ago Aaron said, “Mom, someone in my group told me that eating pears will put hair on your chest. Is that true?”

Me: “Well, Aaron, I’ve eaten plenty of pears.”

Aaron: “But girls aren’t ALLOWED to have hair on their chests!”

I cannot tell you how relieved I am right now!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aaron and I are sitting on the front porch enjoying this beautiful evening. A neighbor that we don’t know real well came walking by with her dog. She spoke and I spoke, which Aaron saw as his wide-open door.

“HEY!!” he loudly yelled. “WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE VOLCANO??!!”

She was a trooper and answered him. while he vigorously rubbed his hands together, totally delighted.

He’s just hilarious!!! So random!! 🤣

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aaron loves giving away things to his friends at his day group, including sharing candy or cookies. He’s realized that several of the clients have diabetes, so can’t have the sugary treats. Last week I let him take some sugar free candy to share. Today while we were shopping, Aaron decided he wanted to get more candy to share, but this time he wanted to be sure he had some for his sugar free friends.

“Mom!!! Can we get some of that free fattening candy for Paradigm?!!”

Aaron just gave the perfect name for my perfect food choice: FREE and FATTENING. 😋😜🍬🍭🍰🍩

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So last night we were sitting around chilling out in the family room, when I heard a sniffing sound coming from Aaron. I looked at him just as he said, “Mom, my deodorant gave away after awhile. I need to put some more on.”

Some things I just don’t want to know.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Time for another Aaronism…….getting into the very hot van and he said, “Whew!! I can swallow the heat!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aaron just asked me, “When are you and Dad going to that anniversary for dinner?” I don’t know. I’m still trying to find it in the yellow pages!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aaron is thrilled with his new mouse pad.

“MOM!! My new mouse pad softens my arm!!” 😊

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aaron: Mom! I think I’ll put my short pants pajamas on.

Me: It’s too early to do that. It’s only 4:00.

Aaron: No. It’s 4:11.

🤣🙃🕓

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aaron and I just had a meeting here at the house with his state insurance representative. This is a required yearly meeting to update paperwork, medical issues, etc. Aaron sees it as his yearly opportunity to talk about his latest movies, alien sightings, and food exploits. I had given him the yearly lecture on what TO talk about and what NOT to talk about. He was doing pretty well, actually. I only had to employ my evil eye a couple times. He was answering questions like: Do you know what to do in case of a fire? What activities do you enjoy? What foods do you like to eat? And then something was mentioned about movies and television.

Aaron: I DO NOT LIKE LOVE SHOWS!!!!!

Well……OK.

We won’t put down the Hallmark Channel as one of your favorites, correct?

Representative (after much laughter): I’ve never heard those movies called by that name before.

Yep. Just hang around awhile and you’ll hear lots of things you’ve never heard before. Guaranteed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aaron went to the zoo today with his day group.

Aaron: Mom, I loved the Chimpanzees! They put their hands on the glass.

Me: Do you mean the Gorillas? The big ones?

Aaron: No! The Chimpanzees. The green ones!

Being color blind is…..interesting.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chubby Update:

Chubby sits here every day, where Aaron places him along with his bright red peace hand, as if he’s looking up the hall waiting for Aaron to come in his room.

Aaron has not forgotten that Chubby is in reality a piggy bank. I had some friends over last Thursday night. We were sitting on the patio when Aaron burst outside.

“Hey!!” he blurted out. “Do you have any change?”

And despite my protests, these dear ladies dug in their purses and donated to the cause.

Aaron was thrilled!!

Anybody need a marketer? I have one for you! I may have finally found a career track for Aaron!! 😅💰💵

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So Aaron saw this sign today in the Dillon’s parking lot, and of course asked me what an expectant mother is. I asked him what he thinks it is and he said, “It’s when they’re expected to have birth!”

So glad I didn’t give him my boring definition but let him give me his hilarious version.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I just remembered that I cut a cantaloupe yesterday, so I offered some to Aaron. He watched me place several slices in one of his bowls.

Aaron, staring down at his bowl: That?

Me: Is that too much?

Aaron: No! It’s less!

He does have an unusual way of asking for more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aaron has never shown interest in learning to wash dishes until last night. He did very well. We only had a little water on the floor; he carried bubbles downstairs to show Gary; tried to introduce bubbles to Jackson: kept holding up his hands to look at the wrinkles – oh, and he did wash some dishes in the process!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aaron: “MOM!! Kenny Rogers sings POKER!!” 🤣🤣

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aaron saw some Civil War scenes on TV the other night. This morning he saw me with spots of makeup on my face before I smoothed it in. Of course, he has to comment! “Mom! You look like one of those people in the war in history!”

Say anymore, Aaron, and I’ll be on the war path!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aaron told us he saw a minor car wreck. “Mom, there was a piece of fender bender in the road!!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This morning, Aaron was telling me about his friend who was mad at one of the staff at his day group.

“Mom, N was giving Barb a mad eye!” 🧐 😅

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Aaron, listening to Neil Diamond sing Kentucky Woman:

“CHUNKY woman??!!”

Never a dull moment.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I hope all of you enjoyed a few more of our Aaron comments from over the years.  Never dull is correct! 

Too Much Love!

I guess the best way I could describe Aaron and the subject of love is this: 

Aaron holds love at a distance, admiring the concept but not wanting or able to become too involved in the process.

Welcome to how autism colors every single aspect of Aaron’s life, and therefore ours as well…or anyone who is associated with Aaron.

Valentine’s Day has been on Aaron’s mind since soon after Christmas when all the red hearts and cute stuffed animals and boxes of candy appeared on store shelves.  Aaron flits from one shelf to the next, holding up items and laughing as he very loudly says, “MOM!!  Look at this!!  Can I have it??!!”

It’s all great fun as he zooms around finding lots of treasures.  This idea of love is safe as Aaron, ever hopeful about his quest for “things,” attempts to score a bag of candy or a cute trinket to tuck away in his room.

Aaron does love showing love, but on his terms.  Aaron’s terms are dictated by his inner workings and thoughts, deeply affected by the effects of autism. 

At our local Dillon’s just down the road, we have come to know Jody.  She is a joy with a warm and loving heart.  Jody has personal family connections to special needs.  She has come to know Aaron and loves to interact with him.  Jody knows that sometimes Aaron enjoys buying flowers there that he gives to certain people, often ones in his day group, Paradigm.

One recent day, when I was in Dillon’s without Aaron, Jody asked me if I thought that Aaron would like to give flowers to his friends at Paradigm for Valentine’s Day.  Dillon’s donates flowers to all sorts of local places like hospitals, nursing homes, etc. 

I thought that was a wonderful idea, so we made our plan.  Barb, Paradigm supervisor and second mom to Aaron (though she’s too young to be his mom!), gave me numbers, and Jody did the ordering, and Aaron and I did the picking up. 

Perfect, right?

Wrong.

Aaron and I were eating lunch after our Meals on Wheels delivery the day before the flower pick-up and delivery.  The day before the big Valentine party at Paradigm.

Aaron does not handle parties and celebrations well…at all. 

Aaron does not handle expectations well…at all.

“Mom?” he began as we ate our lunch, “you make me feel like you think I need to be in love with the clients.”

I knew we were in trouble with all this business of flowers and parties and LOVE.

I explained, much more than once, over the remainder of that day about the purpose of the flowers.  I knew I was fighting an uphill battle, though.

I especially knew this when yesterday morning, Valentine party and flower delivery day, Aaron stood by my desk early…eyes droopy with sleep…and spoke his first words of the morning:

“Mom, I feel embarrassed by this love thing.”

Sigh.

Over the course of the morning, I told him that I would take the flowers…that he didn’t need to go…that it was fine for him to stay home from all the party stress…and so forth and so on.

But no, Aaron felt compelled to go…to give this difficult day a try.

Later, as we picked up the big box of beautiful roses from the Dillon’s florist, one of the ladies there very happily looked at us and said:

“You’re delivering some LOVE!!!”

Bless her heart, she had no idea.  I don’t think she heard Aaron’s reply.

“No!!” he simply said.

But that simple reply told SO much!

I made it to Paradigm with grouchy overloaded Aaron.  He was showing anything but love, except to Barb when he gave her a gift he had made.  He managed a smile for a picture.

He fell on the floor when he backed up into a friend in a wheelchair (neither were hurt).  But that certainly didn’t help his love feelings.  The party atmosphere was loud and just too much for Aaron, but it always is, so we left and headed home…with Aaron feeling terrible about the fall and the unmet expectations.

The flowers were beautiful and made the clients, especially the girls, feel loved and happy.

Aaron enjoyed seeing a picture of his happy friends that Barb sent.  But again, seeing it from a distance was best for him.

Gary and I took Aaron to lunch at a small local Asian restaurant nearby.  This made Aaron happy.  He processed the morning as he talked about it with us. 

He also made us laugh and laugh at his reaction to only having ONE fork.  To Aaron, one eating utensil is never enough!  This is Aaron’s norm:

But he handled that one fork very well, which was an accomplishment worthy of note to me and Gary. 

Small victories are pretty big to us. 

Aaron’s happiness is big, too. 

A trip to Wal-Mart after lunch.  Some Red Hots and a new game for Valentine’s Day.  All these things made Aaron very content and happy.

We know to do life Aaron’s way when we can.  Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. 

Seeing Aaron’s reaction to his one fork held a world of meaning to me and Gary. 

I’ll hold that in my heart on this Valentine’s weekend.

We love you, Aaron! 

Up close or from a distance, depending on Aaron – of course! 

HALT!!

Walking into Wal-Mart with Aaron is like opening a box of Cracker Jacks.  You never know what the surprise inside will be. 

I sure do have some Wal-Mart stories.  Like the Valentine nightie story.  Maybe I should share that one yet again since we’re in that time of the year.  And yes, Aaron has seen some sexy little lingerie hanging in our local Wal-Mart, but I gave him THE look and walked briskly away with him trailing behind before he could say more than:

“MOM!!  LOOK!!  BRAS!!”

I made a mad dash for the electronics section then since I knew Aaron would follow me there…because as much as he was fascinated with those BRAS, he does love those shelves full of games and movies. 

I almost always give Aaron a few instructions as we walk into Wal-Mart, especially if he wants to branch off on his own…heading to electronics, of course.  Or the snack aisle.

Aaron, don’t run.

Aaron, don’t make funny noises…and yes, that includes farting noises.

Aaron, don’t ask the Wal-Mart associate for help a dozen times.

Aaron, if you do ask the Wal-Mart associate for help, don’t begin by saying, “HEY!!!”

Aaron, not everyone wearing blue is a Wal-Mart associate.  Please don’t ask multiple random people for help.

There are a few other guidelines that I wish I had given Aaron in the past, but the past is in the past, right? 

Aaron, please don’t pull a box of cereal out of the lower row of that huge cereal display at the end of the aisle. 

Aaron, please don’t make the fox whistle, especially when there are multiple couples nearby…including men with big muscles, you know.

Aaron, please don’t keep flashing the peace sign at every security camera you see.

And this one especially:

Aaron, please don’t sing the last line of the last song you heard in the van.   Repeating “Man!!  I feel like a woman!!” over and over was a bit much for me. 

This past Friday, Aaron and I made our weekly Wal-Mart excursion and of course Aaron wanted to venture off in his own direction.  Soon, I saw him up ahead in the snack aisle.  He saw me coming and immediately he did this:

He just held his arm out there for the world to see…and they did. 

He did NOT want to be interrupted in his private quest for the best and the most snacks he could round up without Mom’s interference and unwanted input. 

Oh Aaron, you do make me laugh!

And at least you weren’t singing or whistling!!

Set It Aside

One morning shortly before Christmas, Gary and I sat down to eat breakfast with Aaron.  We were enjoying our eggs, sausage, and biscuits while listening to Aaron talk…always Aaron is talking! 

Aaron pushed back his chair and got up to get something from the kitchen – probably more napkins or silverware since one napkin and one set of silverware is never adequate in Aaron’s book.  I looked up then to see that Aaron had put his biscuit off his plate.  He had set it aside in order to keep his plate from being crowded and to keep the food from touching. 

We just left it there, choosing not to make that action an issue on this pleasant morning.  Aaron has his particular ways.  And Gary and I have learned to choose our battles carefully because disrupting Aaron’s ways can leave a trail of anger and frustration for all of us…and many times, it’s just not worth it.

Such is our life with autism, this matter of what to set aside and what to put back on the plate.

I had a full plate of Aaron issues last week.  We had unaccounted money gone from Aaron’s wallet, which means he probably gave some away at his day group.  He knows better, but he has a very hard time resisting the urge to share his money with his friends.  Therefore, he has become quite adept at not telling the truth, which was another issue we had to handle with Aaron.

Aaron became so frustrated that on Wednesday, he erupted in anger and tears at his day group.  He called me on the phone several times…he threw his shoe and his glasses…he yelled…and all in all was just extremely unhappy. 

His coat also got torn on both sides.  Aaron said that was done in fun as he and another client chased each other.  Either way, Wednesday was a rough day in more ways than one.

On Friday night, shortly after midnight, Aaron had the first of four seizures…the last one being at 6:40 Saturday morning.  I was fixing his favorite salad that morning, hoping he could enjoy it for supper as I hauled his wet bedding down the stairs and then helped him get settled on the couch for more sleep…and hopefully no more seizures. 

Bless his heart.  He can’t help his behaviors any more than he can help his seizures.  Yet while his seizures touch my heart, sometimes his behaviors do quite the opposite.

I thought about his biscuit as I was processing all that happened last week.  What do I set aside, and what do I keep on my plate?

I need to set aside resentment and anger, which is not always easily done.  Living full time with Aaron can take a toll on me and on Gary.  But God has led us to this life, and we know that He will keep us where we need to be if we just focus our eyes on Him and not on our circumstances. 

I must set aside selfishness.  Mending Aaron’s coat…taking him to have his bent glasses adjusted…washing his bedding and clothes…listening to his explanations over and over and over…  All these are actions that take my time and energy.  As any caregiver knows…as any parent knows…selfishness and service do not mix.  One must go off the plate.

Fear is another thing that needs to go.  Aaron’s seizures make my heart leap with fright for an instant.  I don’t think one ever gets used to them.  His future, too, can cause my heart to fear.  But again, I know that this path we walk is not alone.  God is with us each step and He has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind. 

Now what do I keep on my plate?  I keep the reminder of God’s great faithfulness.  I keep His Word in my heart.  I am mindful of His grace for each day and each moment.

I keep humor nearby, always.  A cheerful heart is the best medicine, like God said, for me and for Aaron, even when Aaron gives me a blank look when I think I’m very funny.  😊 

 I also count my blessings!  My plate overflows with blessings if I but look around me.  For instance, on Saturday I was very thankful for the blessing of a washer and dryer instead of a bucket and a clothesline.  Thankful for a warm house, food to eat and to fix for Aaron, and thankful that Aaron could eat some bacon and eggs later that morning.   And Aaron, who loves using multiple napkins, decided that the grease on his fingers could not wait for his napkin.  His eyes shot over to me as he wondered if I saw what he just did. 

“I was wiping a grease of bacon on my pants,” he seriously informed me.”

There’s the humor!!  😊 

Thankfulness, too, for Aaron’s amazing way with words.  After all, that’s a big reason I started writing this blog and named it He Said WHAT?!

And there is yet another blessing!  All my readers mean more to me than I can express. 

See how it goes?  My plate is filling up with good stuff, none of which I want to set aside. 

Time to taste and see that the Lord is good!