I’m Trying to Go HAPPY!!

Aaron and I sat down to play Skip-Bo the other night.  It’s a familiar nighttime routine for us on many days, this game of Skip-Bo.  As Aaron came to the table, I saw that he was carrying two bowls.  One was empty, and the other was full of Tootsie Rolls.  These Tootsie Rolls had been a sweet surprise from our friends, Jim and Joyce, this past Sunday.  Aaron was very happy to have been given such a huge bag of Tootsie Rolls, trust me!

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As we sat down to play Skip-Bo, while I was shuffling the cards, Aaron began unwrapping a Tootsie Roll.  He carefully took off the wrapper, and I then learned the purpose of his second bowl, the empty one.  He placed the Tootsie Roll wrapper into the empty bowl.  Soon he was ready for his second piece of candy, so he once again pulled on the wrapped Tootsie Roll, removed the paper, and carefully placed it alongside the first wrapper in the proper bowl. 

If there was ever a picture of how Aaron organizes his life, it would be in his use of multiple bowls.  I have blogged about this in the past, especially this piece from a few years ago.  It so fully explains Aaron’s use of bowls.  Put That in a Bowl!!

So as I watched him eat his Tootsie Rolls while we played Skip-Bo, I was once again reminded of how Aaron wants……no, he needs……his life to be just a certain way.  We all do that to some extent, but for an individual with autism, those needs are ever more acute.  The smallest disruption in routine and expectations can totally pull the rug out from under Aaron. 

Providing some fluctuations in his day and in his life can actually be very good for Aaron.  Finding the balance, though, is tricky.  Giving him consistency while also guiding him through changes can be very challenging for him, and definitely so for all of us who are a part of his life.

The staff at Paradigm can most assuredly attest to this fact.  They endure changing Aaron more than anyone.  Aaron can be very up and he can be very down at his day group.  Sometimes we see and know the triggers, and sometimes we don’t.  They have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly from Aaron during his nearly 11 years there. 

Aaron has been home this week with a bad cold.  He totally loves staying at home and would do so every day if we let him.  But like I said, Aaron needs to be away from routine and predictability in order to grow and to thrive.  He has friends at his day group and staff that he loves, but the atmosphere there is active and sometimes loud.  He can’t totally control his environment there……what people say or do……what activity he will participate in that day……how he will feel.  So for Aaron, staying home is much more preferred, but is not at all what he needs to do every day. 

He was well enough to return to Paradigm yesterday, on Friday.  I could tell he didn’t really want to go……didn’t want to think of leaving home for the day.  I was encouraging Aaron to keep a good attitude as I poured his morning coffee under his watchful eye.  He watches to make sure I do the coffee job JUST RIGHT!

“Mom,” he finally said.  “I’m not trying to go MAD!  I’m trying to go HAPPY!”

Wow!  His insights floor me sometimes.

He really wants to process life correctly.  Sometimes, however, it’s just a huge stretch for him to be able to do that. 

For Aaron, it’s Tootsie Rolls in one bowl and Tootsie Roll wrappers in another bowl.

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He can control this business of candy and candy wrappers.  He can’t control, though, his atmosphere at his day group.  Some days it’s just too much.  But we must gently push……must keep trying……must understand how hard it can be for him.

He had a great day yesterday at Paradigm.  They went to watch Rogue One at the theater.  Well, I’m not sure if it was a “great” day, but Katie told me that it was a good day……and to me, that’s great. 

Gary and I had Aaron with us at Sam’s on Monday.  I was checking out the asparagus when Aaron walked up to me with a bouquet of flowers, his face all smiles while Gary watched in the background.  Gary had pointed out the bin of flowers to Aaron, and Aaron instantly wanted to buy me some.  We’ve watched those Iris’s this week, some blooms falling off as they wilt while other buds burst into bloom.

Again, just like Aaron.  We wait for him to grow……hopefully to bloom……and in the mean time we enjoy him and his unique, colorful life that we see every day. 

Candy and wrappers…….buds and blooms……it’s all part of what makes life with Aaron both challenging and beautiful.   

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New Year, Old Ways

A new year is upon us!!  Welcome, 2017!

A fresh start can be so nice.  New everything.  Out with the old, right?  Well, not always, as I have seen on the past two days.  We all know that to be true.

I ended my old year on a most familiar note…..playing SkipBo with Aaron right before bed.  I guess that’s our version of a party, which suits Aaron perfectly as he really does NOT like parties.  Parties have too much noise and emotion for him, thank you very much.  But SkipBo with Mom is orderly, predictable, with nice piles of sequential numbers, and plenty of opportunity to cheat.  Yes, cheat, of which Aaron is a master if not watched closely.

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The next morning, our New Year morning, saw Aaron blandly staring at me as I very happily wished him a Happy New Year!!  His lack of expression at these moments is often hilarious, but I can’t always laugh because he finds that emotional expression irritating or he thinks I am laughing at him.  Which at times I am, but in a good way that he just wouldn’t understand.

Anyway, Aaron’s main concerns on our New Year morning were:

1)      Can I have FOUR cups of coffee?  (Don’t worry.  The cups are half full).

2)      Are there coupons in the newspaper for me to cut?

3)      What time are we going to Chili’s for lunch?

Aaron had opened a gift during our family Christmas Bingo game.  The gift was a Chili’s gift card that was burning a hole in…..well, in my wallet because I don’t dare give Aaron gift cards to keep.  They won’t keep with him.  They will be lost or given away.

I told Aaron that we would go to Chili’s after church.  He wanted to know the exact time, so I gave him my usual ball park figure and he was happy.  He was not so happy with the coupons in the paper for some reason.  Still slow from his cluster of seizures on Friday night, the coupons did not make him show his usual sense of purpose.  However, he settled in on the floor with his coupon trash cans as he sat on his coupon pillow with his coupon scissors…..and his FOUR cups of coffee on the bench nearby…..and he began to clip the coupons, very slowly.

I was in the bathroom later when Aaron came to the door.  “Mom,” he slowly began.  “I was cutting coupons but there were too much.”

Pause.

“OK,” I responded.

Pause.

“There were too much,” he repeated.

“Yes, there were a lot today,” I replied.

Pause.

“There were too much coupons,” he said again.

Pause.

“There were too much,” he once again asserted when he got no Mom reply.

Pause.  Sigh from me.

“Aaron, just take a break.  You can finish them later,” foolish Mom said.

Pause.

“I ripped them,” Aaron flatly replied.

Pause.  Another sigh from me.

I was following Aaron’s train of thought, one all too familiar.  He didn’t want me to cut those coupons.

“Because you don’t do them right,” he continued.  “You don’t cut them straight on the line like I do.”

He made his exit on that note.  No surprise from me.  It might be a New Year, but we are still living in our old ways…..always, always.

And sure enough, there on the family room floor lay his unfinished little stack of coupons……ripped, just like he said.  Aaron’s thinking has always been this…..that if he can’t cut the coupons, NO ONE will cut the coupons.  Especially Mom, who is a dismal failure at coupon cutting.

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Those ripped coupons were a stark reminder to me that just under the surface with Aaron there is always that issue of how he handles stress in his life.  He reacts, and often his reactions are very inappropriate.  His behaviors are a huge concern to us.  So I stood there being reminded that we were on our first day of a brand New Year, brand new beginnings, brand new opportunities……and here we were, being slapped into our old reality of life with Aaron.

Some things just never change.  We know that.

But there were other reminders of wonderful things that never change, either.  Gary and I finally got to church on time.  Yes, we were one of THOSE people who totally didn’t see the memo on the changed time for church……one of THOSE people who didn’t give New Year’s Day a second thought…..and so on this New Year’s morning we drove to church TWICE.  And we laughed at ourselves.  We’re HOW old?!

Anyway, we walked into church to the hugs and handshakes of sweet friends.  And there was Joyce, who handed me a bag containing a huge bag full of Tootsie Rolls…..for Aaron, because of my recent Tootsie Roll blog.  How unexpected and sweet, in more ways than one!  Later, Aaron was also surprised and full of smiles at this kind gift.

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The care of friends is unchanging in our lives.  Such a blessing!

The worship and the message on our New Year’s morning was encouraging and challenging.  And we sang one of my most favorite songs – Great is Thy Faithfulness.  What a wonderful reminder of God’s unchanging faithfulness in our lives!

And later, as we sat with Aaron at Chili’s, Gary and I watched him ever so slowly eat his enchilada lunch and his salad.  His joy at eating out was very evident.  Never changing, his love of restaurant food!  And seeing that joy is always fun for us, despite our constant reminders to him that he doesn’t need to take 17 toothpicks…..don’t stare at the other people and their food……don’t make noises…..don’t clap…..please don’t loudly stretch when you get out of the booth.

Never changing.

I was able to salvage a few coupons later from the ripped pages.  I didn’t let Aaron see me as I quickly cut them out behind his back.  And I know that we will continue to try to salvage good out of the bad days that Aaron will surely have this year.  It’s our reality with Aaron, New Year or not.

But through it all I know, like that favorite old hymn says, that God will remain the same, too.  Faithful to us, as always.

 

            Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,

            There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

            Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;

            As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

 

            Great is Thy faithfulness!  Great is Thy faithfulness!

            Morning by morning new mercies I see.

            All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.

            Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

 

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I’ll Go Happy

Last Monday, Aaron had a rough and grouchy day at his day group.  Sometimes we can pinpoint the cause and other times we just can’t.  I’m so thankful for the understanding staff at Paradigm.  I don’t know how they do what they do on some days, but I do know that they don’t get paid enough for all they endure on those days.  I love their philosophy:  Tomorrow is a new day and we start all over.

As I said goodnight to Aaron at the end of his rough day and gave him a hug, Aaron said, “Mom, tomorrow I’ll go happy!”

So on the next day, the new day in which we were starting all over, Aaron was indeed happy.  His attitude was entirely different than the no good very bad yesterday.  And on this better day we also got some wonderful news from our daughter in Houston.  She has a break between jobs and was coming home for a visit!!!!  Not only Andrea was coming, but also her boyfriend Kyle!!!!  Not only Andrea and Kyle were coming, but also Andrea’s two dogs and Kyle’s dog!!!!!   

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Can you tell I was excited?  You bet!  Aaron was excited, too.  He loves and misses his sister.  He’s getting to know Kyle and to realize that Kyle is a new part of our family.  But oh, I know Aaron and I know that having a house full of people and pets can be challenging for him.  We face this issue any time that we have extra people around…..extra noise……extra routine disruptions……extra attention grabbers away from our usual main attention grabber.

We work to prepare Aaron for those disruptions before they occur.  I went over several things with him, like how he would use Gary’s and my bathroom while Andrea and Kyle were here.  We talked about the dogs and how we need to act with having four dogs in the house.  I tried to cover all the bases with Aaron, but Aaron brings out new bases quite often……based on what’s happening around him at the time…..things we just can’t predict. 

I let Aaron stay home from Paradigm on the two Paradigm days that Andrea and Kyle were here.  Aaron was SO happy with that idea!!  He loved going with us to eat lunch at Freddy’s.

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He loved going for a walk in Swanson Park.

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He loved being here with us and the doggies.

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He loved us watching Independence Day Resurgence with him while he ate snacks and snacks and snacks.

He loved trying to sneak snacks and snacks and snacks to the doggies.

He loved talking to all of us, especially to Andrea and Kyle, about all his favorite topics.  And this is where we usually start seeing some issues with Aaron, because Aaron doesn’t know when to stop talking.  Sharing the stage is hard for Aaron.  He truly wants to be included in our conversations as we sit around the dinner table, for instance.  We do listen to him and try to include him, but Aaron isn’t going to talk about the subjects that we talk about. 

Here is a sample conversation:  We may be talking about Andrea’s new job or talking about Kyle’s summer at sea.  Then Aaron will loudly call one of our names.

“Andrea!!”  he says.  When she responds to him, we often hear this from Aaron:  “Ummm.  Ummm.  Ummm.”  We wait.  “Ummm.  Did you know what the Queen Alien on Independence Day Resurgence looks like?!”

“No, Aaron, I don’t know what she looks like,” Andrea answers.

“Well, she looks like a…..I don’t know.  Mom, what do you think she looks like?” Aaron asks.

So I try to answer but I don’t really know how to describe the Alien Queen because it’s been awhile since I saw that movie….and I don’t really care what the Alien Queen looks like…..and in trying to muster some enthusiasm and interest in this question that I’ve heard a hundred times, Aaron can sense a shift in my emotions.  As much as Aaron struggles with social norms, he is very adept at picking up the subtle cues that we are not as animated about Alien Queens as we are about Andrea’s job or Kyle’s schooling. 

He views our world from afar, wanting so much to enter in, but never knowing how.  But he does express his frustration by comments that we later hear.

“Mom, you didn’t want to talk to me.  You just wanted to talk to Andrea or Kyle,” he will say. 

I try to explain that we do want to talk to him but that we haven’t seen Andrea or Kyle in so long…..and we want to catch up with them on their lives…..but to Aaron that doesn’t make sense.  Round and round we go, and where we land nobody knows.  Or when we land.

Which happened on Friday during supper.  Andrea’s friend, Sarah, had come over to see Andrea and Kyle.  They sat in the family room visiting and talking and laughing.  Aaron was up in his room, then down in the family room…..up in his room, down again.  He wanted to be a part and he was in many ways.  He just can’t be the whole part and so conversation would swirl around him.  Kyle was talking and laughing at one point, and Aaron whacked Kyle’s leg with a book.  I heard it but didn’t see it.  It was a sign of things to come.  Aaron was frustrated now, truly frustrated, and when that happens he picks a target.  Lucky Kyle.

I don’t remember all the details of what happened at supper.  I was up from the table getting slices of cheesecake ready to serve.  Aaron was at a boiling point and we didn’t realize it.  His system was on overload…..his pressure gauge was maxed out…..and he erupted.  He leaned forward and yelled at Kyle. 

Aaron left the table.  We apologized to Kyle.  He was understanding and patient.  Aaron came down later and apologized.  We watched the movie later and Aaron was very happy, as if nothing ever happened.

Why do I tell you this story, one you’ve heard before if you’ve read this blog for very long?  Because this scenario is just a very real picture of how Aaron processes…..or doesn’t exactly process…..the world around him.  Our world is ticking along like normal, but Aaron’s isn’t.  He is so impacted by nuances that we don’t even notice.  Sounds…..loud laughter that he doesn’t understand…..hilarity……silliness…..his routine changing….   All these things greatly affect him, more than we can begin to know. 

So he reacts, usually loudly and hurtfully.  Then he’s sorry.  It takes great understanding, as I’ve said, to deal with this about Aaron.  He doesn’t think like we do or process as we do or react over time as we do. 

But he truly wants to. 

Andrea and Kyle left to go back to Houston the next day.  Aaron was with us in the driveway, entering into things, when Andrea asked for a hug.  Aaron ducked his head and walked away, through the garage and into the house as he muttered to himself.  A hug in front of everyone?  Are you kidding me?!  We know this about Aaron and it makes us smile.  He can yell, but spontaneous hugs are very, very difficult.

One of the first things I did after they left was to get Aaron’s things put back in his bathroom.  “Us kid’s bathroom,” he calls it.  We got his cup with his toothbrush and toothpaste put back on the counter.  We got his body wash and wash cloth back in the shower.  We hung his towel on the towel rack. 

Aaron then noticed that his razor attachments were not in the correct place.  He rearranged them the way he wanted them.  He stood back and observed the counter for a few seconds. 

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Then he said, “OK.  It’s looking good.”

That night at supper, Aaron asked the blessing.  He nearly always says two things when he prays.  He doesn’t say the same thing with each prayer, but he says two things.  On that night he said, “Lord, thank you for the food.  And thank you that Kyle and Andrea got to come.”

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Yes, it was looking good now for Aaron.  He was happy that Andrea and Kyle were here, along with Darcy and Oakley and Aries and our own Jackson.  He will be very happy when everyone comes for Christmas. 

Aaron will have every intention of saying, “I’ll go happy!” 

He’ll go happy into our family time, but it will be a time of upheaval for him and of struggle as well.  It’s up to us to understand that and to allow that for Aaron, all the while trying to help him know how to take time to decompress and not to blow up. 

Only when things are back to normal…..Aaron’s normal…..will he be able to step back and say, “OK.  It’s looking good.”

And it’s very important for us to be able to look at Aaron’s world through Aaron’s eyes, and still be able to say, “OK, Aaron.  It’s looking good.”

Let’s go happy!  It’s sometimes the hard choice, but always the best choice. 

Pass The Kleenex

Aaron has just recovered from a nasty virus.  It was nasty in more ways than one.  He felt terrible.  He had a stuffy head.  He had a sore throat.  He ran a fever.  He had some seizures.  All of this is definitely nasty.  But there is another level of nasty with Aaron when he has a cold……a level that I have written about in the past.

Aaron would not blow his nose.  We’re not totally sure why he won’t blow his nose, but he just refuses.  Therefore, as I wrote before, Aaron snorts.  It’s very disgusting and annoying.  Nasty.  For me, for Gary, and for anyone else within hearing distance.

I told Aaron over and over how much better he would feel if he blew his nose.  I finally resorted to telling Aaron over and over how much better his dad and I would feel if he blew his nose.  Aaron wasn’t particularly interested in how we felt, however, so the snorting continued.  He wasn’t even interested in the fact that blowing would help HIM feel better.

Until finally, one day, my words got through to Aaron’s stuffed up head.  He blew his nose.  He actually, for real, blew his nose.  I praised and praised him as if he was a small child who had just gone potty for the first time.  He looked at me as if I was an irritating gnat, so I backed off the vibrant praise and tried to be very flat and factual, which Aaron much prefers.

“Good job, Aaron,” I said with a level voice.  “Doesn’t that feel better?”

“Yeah,” he said as he walked away.

The next time he blew his nose, I asked to see the Kleenex.  He knew then that I had surely lost my mind, but I told him that the color of the mucus could tell us if he had an infection.

Sorry for being gross.

But Aaron held out the Kleenex very gingerly and I peeked at it, made a comment…..we don’t need details……and off Aaron went.

Aaron marked that information down, though, as a way to keep reminding us that he wasn’t feeling well.  When he’s sick, we hear over and over the same four word comment from him:  “I’m not feeling well.”

“Mom!” he said soon after the mucus color test.  “I blew my nose and it was GREEN!!  That’s how I’m not feeling well!”

I wanted to tell him that’s how I’M not feeling well now!

I heard a lot from that point on about green nose stuff.  We were still in a nasty mode, but at least it was in a Kleenex now.

Speaking of……Aaron did with his nose blowing what he does with everything in his life.  He developed his own way of doing this task.

He had to have a box of Kleenex with him at all times.  Not a few Kleenex, but a box.  A box at his desk.  A box on the end table beside his TV chair.  A box on the kitchen table while we played Skip-Bo.  A box on the nightstand beside his bed at night.

And not only a box of Kleenex.  He also had to have a trash can in which to place the dirty Kleenexes after blowing.  And not just any trash can.  It had to be his trash can from his room.  His trash can beside his desk.  His trash can beside his TV chair.  His trash can beside the kitchen table while we played Skip-Bo.  His trash can beside his bed at night.

When he finally felt better and was able to return to his day group, he was still needing to blow his nose.  By now his nose blowing was routine for him, but also done in just his routine way.  So he told me that he needed to take a box of Kleenex with him to Paradigm on his first morning back.  I agreed, and Aaron was very happy about that, as you can see.

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He marched into Paradigm that morning, box of Kleenex in tow, ready to start his new week.

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“Barb!” he said as he barged into her office.  “I’m blowing my nose!  I brought a box of Kleenex!”

Barb laughed and I explained.  She knows Aaron well enough to understand that this was a big moment for him, and to not question the box of Kleenex.

I was just thankful that Aaron didn’t insist on taking his trash can!

Aaron has blown and blown and blown this past week.  We hope his nose blowing hang ups are a thing of the past.  We definitely hope that his snorting is a thing of the past!!

And once again we just watch as Aaron decides to own something like this…..and to really make it his own, in the unique way that totally suits him.

Gary and I are once again along for the ride, shaking our heads and laughing when Aaron can’t see or hear us.  Even something as mundane as nose blowing becomes a picture of just how unique Aaron is.

Pass the Kleenex.

The BOX!!
 

Black Lettuce

There are some things that I can always count on with Aaron.  He will always write down the time he gets up in the morning and the time he goes to bed at night.  He puts these times in the notebook that he keeps by his bed, on the floor.  Always on the floor.  He will always only read at night.  He will always keep his tennis shoes on his floor in front of his trash can, placed just so-so.  He will always ask at night if it’s going to rain and if I’m going to have the monitor on, to listen for seizures.  He will always want four cups of coffee in the morning (they’re not full, but there must be four!).  He will always finish a song we’re listening to before he gets out of the van.  And he will always want a house salad when we eat in a sit-down restaurant.

In fact, as soon as his bottom hits the seat…..before our host or hostess can say a word…..Aaron looks up and says, “Can I have a house salad?!”  So I have to run interference and rescue the confused host or hostess by telling Aaron that he needs to wait to order his salad.

When the host or hostess comes back with our water, Aaron once again looks up and asks if he can have a house salad.  Never mind about ordering his meal.  His salad is of prime importance, and once it is ordered…..with Ranch dressing and no croutons…..then he can get on with the business of looking over the menu and making his meal decision.

A couple weeks ago, as Aaron ate his house salad in IHOP, he said, “I like this salad.  The lettuce is black and yellow.”

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I smiled and thought that of course the lettuce looks black and yellow to Aaron.  He’s color blind, and so not only did the lettuce look black and yellow to him, but black and yellow lettuce made perfect sense to Aaron.

Just like so many other things in Aaron’s life, I thought.  We don’t see it quite like Aaron, but to Aaron his view of things makes perfect sense.  The rest of us are left to figure those things out and understand them.

Here are some recent examples:

THE SATELLITE CLOCK!

It’s actually a satellite weather station that Aaron had on his desk.  He loved it.  He especially loved the precise time it kept, and the display of the outdoor and indoor temperature.  He kept a close eye on those temperatures.  One Saturday morning, Aaron came downstairs, looking troubled.

“Mom,” he began.  “My clock says that the temperature is 13!”

I knew he meant the outdoor temperature, because that’s the only temperature that he keeps track of.  Since it was summer, I also knew that something was very wrong with his weather station.  And since something was very wrong with his weather station, I knew that something was very wrong with Aaron’s world.  Since something was very wrong with Aaron’s world, I knew that something was about to very wrong with Gary’s and my world.  That’s how these issues work.  A domino effect, you know.

The planet was definitely out of kilter for the remainder of that day.  Aaron came downstairs repeatedly, telling us that the temperature was wrong.  I finally asked, “Aaron, can’t you just ignore the temperature?”

Aaron looked at me with no expression, but I could see that he thought I was very off balance.  “Aaron, can’t you just ignore the temperature?” I asked again.

“No,” was all he answered as he turned and walked away.  Life had become very hard for Aaron at that point.

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Gary worked on the outdoor sensor, to no avail.  Later, Aaron came back downstairs and told me that he wanted to take a nap.  I agreed, and he started to walk away.  But he stopped, turned around, and said, “I would take a nap.  It’s just that my clock says 97.”

So the temperature had jumped from 13 to 97?  Neither of those temps was correct, as Aaron knew all too well.  However, I assured him that he could really take a nap regardless of the temperature on his clock.

He turned to walk away once again, but once again stopped.  Turning around, he said, “I would take a nap, it’s just that……”  What he left unspoken spoke volumes.  It’s just that his clock was sitting on his desk showing the wrong temperature, and to Aaron that clock was screaming, “ALL IS NOT WELL IN YOUR WORLD!!!!  WE NEED TO MAKE IT RIGHT!!!!”

Bless his heart, Gary made it right.  He ended up buying a new clock that shows the outside temperature, and now all is well.

 

THE TV SERIES!

Aaron got all nine seasons of The X-Files for his birthday and for Christmas last year.  He finally, after several months, finished watching all nine seasons.  But then one day in Wal-Mart he found the new tenth season.  He still had a Wal-Mart gift card, so I let him buy season 10.  Those of you who know Aaron well can guess what happened.

Aaron had to start watching the whole series again, beginning at season one.  You don’t simply watch season 10, people.  You must watch the series in order.  Season 10 must come after season 9, which comes after season 8, which comes after……

You get the idea.  He had to watch the whole series again.

The  WHOLE.   SERIES!!!!!!

I think he’s just beginning season five right now.  I so hope there is not a season 11.

 

THE EXPIRED COUPON!

Aaron cuts out my coupons that are in the Sunday paper.  He is extremely meticulous, trying very hard to cut only on the dotted line.  No shortcuts are allowed.  He is sure that he is the only person in our house that cuts coupons correctly.  We have lots of coupon stories that we could tell.

Anyway, the other day I was taking expired coupons out of my coupon box.  I had a pile of coupons that were of no use any longer.  Aaron walked in the kitchen and spied the pile of coupons.  He asked what I was doing with them, making me feel like I was partaking in something forbidden.  So I explained that I was sorting out the expired ones.

“What are you going to do with them?” he asked suspiciously.  I told him I would throw them away.  He stood over me staring at the coupons that I was laying out to be tossed in the trash.  That’s when he saw it……the coupon that somehow was not exactly cut on the dotted line.  I’m sure he thought it was one that I had cut out, since he knows that Mom is a very sloppy and careless coupon cutter.  He reached over and gingerly picked the offending coupon out of the mess laying there.

Then he went over to the kitchen drawer, opened it and took out his scissors, walked back over to me, and began to cut that coupon on the dotted lines…..the way it was intended to be cut!

He didn’t care when I reminded him that I was just throwing that coupon away.  He didn’t care when I told him that the coupon was expired and of no use anymore.  He didn’t care that I told him he was just wasting his time.  He continued to carefully cut off the extra little strip of paper and let it fall into the pile of expired coupons.  Then he took the coupon that he had just corrected, laid it on the rest of the coupons very methodically, put away his scissors, and walked away as if all was well with the world.

Because for Aaron’s world, things were made well at that point.

Silly Mom.

 

THE ICE CREAM!

My last example…..for now…..is Aaron’s bowl of ice cream.  This past Friday night we were getting ready to watch a favorite TV show, Blue Bloods.  Aaron was with me earlier in the day as we bought some groceries.  I bought him some Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream that he wanted, so before Blue Bloods started he asked if he could have a bowl of his new ice cream.  I got his ice cream and handed him the bowl as he sat in his favorite family room chair.

I was in the kitchen for a few more minutes.  When I walked back into the family room, there sat Aaron is his chair……but he wasn’t eating his ice cream.  He had placed the bowl on the ottoman in front of him.

“Aren’t you eating your ice cream?” I asked him.

“Not yet,” he told me.

And it hit me.  Aaron was doing with his ice cream what he also does with his popcorn at the theater.  He was waiting for Blue Bloods to begin before he would pick up his bowl and eat his ice cream.  I watched him.  Sure enough, the second that Blue Bloods began, Aaron reached over and picked up his bowl of ice cream.  He ate every bite and loved it…..but not until it was just the right time to do so.

 

You see, life for Aaron has certain rules.  He doesn’t walk around explaining those rules to us, but we’ve come to know them well since we have lived with autism for so long.  Someone else wouldn’t get it at first, but trust me when I say that Aaron would educate them soon enough……and at times maybe not so kindly.

Strange how he has precise coupon cutting and ice cream eating rules, but his rules of etiquette and relationships can be sadly lacking.  How he can’t nap when his clock is showing the wrong temperature, but he can sleep soundly at the end of one of his rough behavior days.  How he will take weeks and weeks to re-watch X-Files so that he can keep the seasons in order, but saying a simple “I love you” is so difficult for him.

It’s just like his salad with the black and yellow lettuce.  Sounds pretty weird to us, even yucky, but not to Aaron……because that’s just how he sees it, right there in front of him.  The salad tasted fine, no matter the color.  And the taste was what mattered to him.

So Aaron’s ordered world is what matters to him, too.  Ordered in his way that he understands, because that’s just what he does and it’s really all he can do.  He’s come a long way and made lots of improvements, but Aaron is Aaron.

And sometimes we’re the ones who need to improve, honestly.  Improve in our acceptance and our understanding of Aaron, not expecting him to bend to us but instead be willing to bend to him.  Our way isn’t always the only way, in many areas.

But I draw the line at black lettuce.  Not gonna do black lettuce.

Yellow, maybe……but not black.

Well…..maybe just a taste.  It might surprise me.  ♥

The Shriveling Sunflowers

Aaron had been wanting us to plant some sunflowers for quite some time.  This year I finally bought some sunflower seeds…..giant sunflowers, no less…..and while I was off to Houston to see Andrea in June, Gary and Aaron planted the sunflower seeds.  They rim our garden on two sides and have grown, and grown, and grown some more.  It’s been fun to watch them as they have progressed from little seedlings to what they are now.  They are indeed giant sunflowers, living up to their name as we hoped they would.

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One day, though, Gary announced that he would need to move two of the sunflowers.  That’s because those two thriving plants were in the way of the sprinkler head that Gary had installed in that front part of the garden.  I was tempted to say that we should just throw them away.  We had enough sunflowers and wouldn’t even miss those two, I thought.  But something stopped me from making that suggestion.  I also admire Gary’s care of our plants and animals, sunflowers included; so I just watched one day as he carefully dug two new holes, gently took those two intruding sunflowers, and placed them in their new locations. 

It didn’t take long, though, to see that this move had taken a severe toll on both the sunflower plants.  They were no longer standing straight and tall, but instead had drooped dramatically.  “They won’t make it,” I thought one day as I went to the garden to pick some produce.  “The change and the move was too much for them.  We really should have just thrown them out.”  You can see how pathetic they looked.

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I could have pulled them up right then and tossed them in one of our trash cans outside.  But again, something stopped me……and I’m so glad it did. 

I’m glad because in only six days from when I took those pictures of our very sad sunflowers, I again went out to the garden and was amazed at what I saw!  Look at this!

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Both sunflowers had grown!  They had not only grown, but they were each producing the beginnings of a sunflower BLOOM!!

Sure, they still looked a little worse for wear.  They still carried some scars from being transplanted.  Some of their large leaves were still wilted, and many of the damaged leaves had died, shriveling and brown.  But if I looked up above the evidences of their past stress, I could see life……new leaves, new growth, and definitely a sunflower bloom.

A couple days later the bloom on the sunflower at the end of the front row, the one that had looked the most hopeless to me, had opened even more.  Other sunflowers in that front row were now blooming as well, but this one had beat them to it and was holding its own among the taller, less damaged plants.  My miracle sunflower!

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Have you ever felt like life was going along just fine?  You enjoyed where you were…..what you were doing…..who was surrounding you?  But one day things changed.  Maybe it was over a matter of time, long or short, or maybe it was sudden.  But you found yourself transplanted, in a sense, from what you loved…..from what was comfortable…..even perhaps from people that you enjoyed being around.

When life changes like that and we are put into the unfamiliar or the unwelcome or the uncomfortable places, then it’s natural to shrivel up as we react to the shock of such changes.  We don’t have the strength on most days, we think, to continue on like others around us seem to do so easily.  Don’t they see our pain?  Don’t they feel our sorrow?  And even if they do, they really don’t……totally. 

But the real issue is our own adjustment to our new normal, trusting the One Who transplanted us in the first place.  Why did God think it was OK to yank us out of our growing place and put us somewhere else……somewhere that we never asked to be?  Yes, we said we trust the Lord and we trust His plan and all that, but we never dreamed that His plan would be so difficult.

Those sagging sunflowers had two things that I had not counted on nearly enough.  Roots under the soil, and sunshine up above.  The roots took hold, and the sunshine gave strength and growth, despite the trauma of being uprooted and replanted.   Those sunflowers had elements fighting for them that enabled them to eventually perk up and once again grow like they were meant to grow!

Moses looked at the children of Israel in the desert after they had just crossed the Red Sea.  They didn’t like being slaves, but this freedom business wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, either.  They had just seen God open the waters of the sea so they could cross over.  Moses then reminded them of a valuable, life changing truth.

“The Lord will fight for you, while you keep silent.”  (Exodus 14:14)

Oh, how many times I have doubted God and His plan in my life!  Or if I haven’t exactly doubted, I have deep down wondered about why I am where I am.  I liked where I was before.  I liked how things were going.  But this business of having God yank me out of my place I loved……even the place He had at one time PUT me……is not all it’s cracked up to be in all the sweet devotional books I have read.  It’s just hard sometimes…..and exhausting.

I have felt like my two sunflower plants sometimes.  Shocked……tired…..unhappy…..positively wilted. 

But what God told Israel……what He tells me……what He tells you……is still true, every single day.

He will fight for me.  There’s something to be said for being rooted in Him, and for feeling the warmth of His Word in my heart even while I’m trying to adjust to this new place.

And God doesn’t need me to do anything while He’s fighting.  Just keep silent.  “Be still and know that I am God,” David said in Psalm 46. 

My keeping silent is sometimes the hardest part of all.  I want to complain…..to question…..and most assuredly to suggest to Him a better plan.  A better place in the garden.  A better will for my life.

But He just wants me to zip my lips and watch Him take care of every issue and every concern and every worry and every frustrating moment and every sadness.  I think that about covers it.

And God will cover it, too.  He will fight for me while I am silent, watching and waiting for Him to take care of the battle.

Then one day I’ll notice something.  A bloom.  And some new leaves.  I still might feel some scars and see some not-so-pretty leaves, but I will see that I AM growing.  I AM still alive after all the stress.  Not because I am so strong, but because God is so able.

He did the fighting for me while I just did the lip zipping and the trusting.  I may never understand the reasons for all the upheaval, but I don’t need to understand.

I just need to obey, and then to enjoy the new life that God gives me.  New blooms…..new chances to thrive again……new experiences. 

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An opportunity every day to look past the stress and into the face of the One Who is fighting for me with everything He has……and that’s more than enough. 

 

 

 

My Mom is Weird!

I haven’t done much writing lately for various reasons, a big one being that I had thumb surgery recently.  This clunky splint makes typing a little difficult.  My immobile, fat wrapped thumb keeps wanting to hit the space bar, so now you will understand if you see unnecessary spaces here and there that I don’t catch.   The backspace key is my friend!

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Gary has been taking excellent care of me, and taking up the slack in areas that I still can’t manage.  Even faithful Jackson seems to have been concerned for me at first.  I think now he’s just used to the new me. 

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But Aaron…..dear Aaron……has mostly been worried about……Aaron.  Oh, he’s shown a little empathy.   That’s not really the right word.  He’s shown a little interest in my condition, but showing a great deal of care doesn’t come naturally to Aaron.  But the times that he does express care are special indeed.

He was very happy that he got to stay home on the day of my surgery.  “When you go to take your surgery,” he had asked the day before, “do I have to go to Paradigm?”  Gary and I were at the surgery center very early, so neither of us could drive him to Paradigm.  He loves staying home for whatever reason, so I think he was secretly happy that I had surgery because it did benefit him on that day.

He eyed my left hand suspiciously when I got home.  I knew he was uncomfortable so I just tried to act normal and put him at ease.  But when I laid down in bed in the middle of the morning, he was very uncertain.  He understood, of course, that I had surgery.  But he did not  know how my surgery would affect our normal routine……and therefore affect him, greatly.

I kept the bedroom door open as I rested in bed.  It wasn’t long before I heard Aaron walking up  the hall from his room to my room.  I just kept my eyes closed.  Aaron just stood at the bedroom door, not speaking, but I could feel him staring at me.  He stood there and stared for awhile before he turned and walked back to his bedroom.  He was exhibiting his uncertainty.

It wasn’t very long before I heard his familiar steps once again in the hallway.  He stood once more at my bedroom door for a few seconds.

“What’s for supper?” he finally asked.

I told him there was plenty of food in the frig to choose from so he could have his pick.  It wasn’t really the answer he had hoped for, I knew.  He thought something along the line of pizza or a sub would be far better.  My hand surgery wasn’t working to his advantage as much as he had hoped!

But he was very happy that Gary brought him a cheddar pasta salad when he went to pick up my prescriptions from Dillon’s.  This surgery might work out after all, Aaron thought.

And soon I heard him walking heavily up the hall again.  No need to walk softly when there are matters to address that are very important.  I just waited quietly while he stared at me. 

“Are you watching Wheel of Fortune?” he asked.

No asking how I was feeling.  No wanting to know if he could bring me something.  No queries about my surgery.  And no surprise from me.  Aaron was uncomfortable and he wanted Mom to be Mom again, surgery or not.

I told him that I imagined I could watch Wheel of Fortune.  Later that afternoon, I went down to sit on the couch.  Aaron sighed when I asked him to carry my pillows.  He was seeing that this surgery would take a toll on him and his routine after all. 

We watched Wheel of Fortune that evening, and Aaron was happy.  He didn’t seem to notice my pain pill drowsiness.  He was just very happy that we could have this normal part of our day restored.  He was not so happy, though, to hear that playing Skip-Bo was going to be questionable for a day or two. 

Later that night, Aaron walked with purpose into the kitchen where I was standing.  “Mom!  Here!” he said.  “I brought you something since you had surgery.”

Surprised, I looked in his outstretched hand and saw that he held two yellow gumballs.  He had gotten them from his jar of gumballs in his room.  Usually he tells me I can have one gumball, and on a rare occasion I can have two.  This gift of TWO gumballs, then, was a true gift from his heart. 

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I thanked him and then put them on the counter.  “No, Mom!” he said.  “Hurry and eat it before it becomes tomorrow!”

So I had to smile and I had to “eat” the gumballs immediately.  I didn’t exactly feel like it, but I did chew those gumballs until all the taste was gone as I relished the kindness that Aaron had shown in his own Aaron way.

Life returned to a measure of normalcy fairly quickly.  A couple days after my surgery I even drove Aaron down to Great Clips for a much needed haircut.  As we sat in our chairs waiting for his name to be called, I showed him how I was to exercise my fingers that were protruding from my splint.  I tried to be funny as I bent my fingers, saying “Up, down, out, in!” as I bent them back and forth.  I should have known that Aaron wouldn’t appreciate my humor.

“You’re weird, Mom!” he said.  And then he looked toward the hairdressers and very loudly said, “My Mom is weird!!  She had surgery and she’s weird!!”  What do you do when all eyes turn to you and your son?  Laugh!  And hope they don’t agree with Aaron!

Aaron has done really well with this whole “Mom had surgery and she’s weird and I want things back to normal” business.  He has actually been helping with carrying and setting the table and bringing in trash cans and other things, much more that I thought he would.  He had a very grouchy week at his day group last week, though, and I don’t know if all this was part of why that happened or not.  Sometimes we just don’t know with Aaron.

And we have been playing Skip-Bo again.  Gary shuffles the cards for us and off we go!  Aaron sometimes acts like his silly self.  See the clothes pin on his ear?

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But he plays with the intent to win, realizing that Mom still can watch for cheating even with a splint on her hand!

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The other night he once again strode downstairs to find me on my computer.  “Here, Mom!” he said.  “I saved this for you.”

I looked at his bowl that he held toward me and saw it.  One lone little fruit gummy for me to eat. 

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It’s not the size of the gift that matters, but the heart behind it.  It’s true not just for Aaron, but for all of us.  Sometimes I have to look hard for Aaron’s gifts, but they are there, sweet and honest.

Brutally honest sometimes (weird Mom!)………but that’s Aaron!