Aaron’s Note

I have another funny note story to share.

When we were in Houston last month with our daughter and son-in-law, we also got to see our other son, Andrew.  He was in town because there was an NHRA drag race there, and he works on one of the teams.  

Andrew was able to come over to Kyle and Andrea’s one evening for supper.  While he was there, Aaron ran inside and came back with something for Andrew.  It was a pack of Juicy Fruit gum.  Random, I know, but Aaron loves giving things away and this is what he grabbed for his brother. 

This past Monday morning we got a text from Andrew.  He was getting ready to leave for the track in Richmond.  He sent this picture:

“Tell Aaron I’ve been chewing his Juicy Fruit every morning when I leave for the track.  I’m almost out.  Guess he needs to send more.”  😊

Aaron jumped on that in a flash.  He pulled out his three-pack of unopened Juicy Fruit gum and said he wanted to send that to Andrew.

“Mom,” he directed, “you put it in a box, and I’ll sign a note.”

The plan was made!

I got the box, placed the gum inside, and gave Aaron a piece of paper for him to write his note. 

This is what I later found. 

How I laughed!  But not in front of Aaron. 

Remember my last blog about the note he wrote to Cody?  Here was another note, this one to his brother, and this one also flat and factual with nothing personal added.  Nothing endearing.  Not even a “Love, Aaron” to be found.

Yet this note IS very endearing because it is so very Aaron.  I could have dictated to Aaron what to say, but then it wouldn’t be Aaron’s words from Aaron’s heart and Aaron’s unique ways. 

And those unique ways are what make Aaron endearing in his own right. 

Believe me, there are plenty of times that Aaron’s words and ways are anything but endearing.  But these moments that are totally Aaron are moments that make us smile and make us thankful that we can share in his very special ways.   

Little Huge Gifts For Mom

Last night Aaron and I were headed downstairs to watch a couple shows before bed.  This is our nighttime ritual.  He gathered his blanket, his drink, his new bag of cheese cubes, and his empty bowl in which his cheese cubes would soon be poured. 

Speaking of ritual, Aaron’s life is full of those.  Something as simple as putting his blanket over his outstretched legs requires the ottoman to be just right, his legs on the ottoman while still wearing his slippers AND slipper socks, and then the blanket shaken several times to get out as many wrinkles as possible and to be in just the perfect position to then be pulled up over his legs and onto his lap.  I always cringe when he realizes he has forgotten something because the blanket is thrown back, and the process must be repeated. All of this must occur before we start watching our program. 

Sigh.

After he was sufficiently settled last night, he opened his bag of sharp cheddar cheese cubes and poured them into his bowl.  Aaron will not eat out of the bag.  He must have a bowl for everything, including a bowl for chip crumbs…croissant flakes, as he calls them…the crackers he doesn’t like in his Chex Mix…his Red Hots…peanut shells…  The list is endless. 

Soon our show was on and Aaron was allowed, in his mind, to begin eating his cheese cubes…but only after the opening song was finished.  One does not actually start eating, my friends, until the program has actually begun. 

The store only had sharp cheddar cheese cubes when we went to buy them.  Aaron usually gets mild cheddar.

“So do you like those sharp cheddar cheese cubes, Aaron?” I asked.

“YEAH!!” he declared happily.  “They’re GOOD!”

Soon, without saying a word, he reached over and placed this lone cheese cube beside me.  It was his gift to me.

I’ll be honest.  Sometimes eating food that Aaron has handled can be a challenge for me.  I know where those hands of his may have been.  I see how he puts food into his mouth with those same fingers that are now on the food he wants to give me. 

But how could I say no to this little gift that came straight from his heart?

To Aaron, this little cheese cube comprised a huge gift for Mom.

“Awwww, Aaron, thank you!” I told him as I looked down at the little cheese cube. 

“Oh, Lord, please protect me,” I also added silently as I ate the cheese.   😊

Aaron rubbed his hands together and gave his guttural chuckle as I ate the cheese. 

He was even happier to give me that gift than I was to receive it.

What a small little thing a cube of cheese is!  But what a huge deal it was to Aaron to give it and to watch me receive it with thankfulness.

This long-term mothering of Aaron is full of those sorts of gifts, but often if I’m not careful I don’t see them as such.

I never planned to be actively mothering at this age.  I read that I am considered “elderly” now, though I don’t feel that way.  Yet numbers on paper say that I am.

How can I be this age and still going from morning to night mothering my grown child? 

But here I am, by God’s doing…and may I not ever forget that.  God has led me to this path, and I must trust Him as I walk each step. 

On this Mother’s Day I want to give to each of you who are still fully mothering in your older years a word of love and encouragement.  Whether you are mothering your own child or children, or your grandchildren, please know that your work is not unnoticed by God.  We honor Him by caring for the ones He has given us.

May we see each small milestone…each smile…every hug…and so many other small huge gifts as what they really are.

Gifts from God. 

Through our tears, our fears, our frustrations, our exhaustion, our envy of other’s lives…whatever we are going through – may we not miss those beautiful and small huge gifts around us from our children every day.

Go buy a bag of cheese cubes and have a very Happy Mother’s Day!

Another Trip to Texas

Two weeks ago today we were travelling down to Texas to see our kids.  Our “kid” Aaron went with us, somewhat compliantly until the morning we left.  The reality of actually leaving the house and his room and all his things was too much for him to handle gracefully. 

All during the packing process I encouraged him to downsize what he took.  For instance, I told him to take the one Handy Answer book he was reading…not five.  He won’t read five books in the next three years.  That’s because he will ONLY read at night before bed, a few pages, and nothing so far has ever changed that reality for him.  He agreed to this deal, but as I was putting something in one of his bags, I uncovered two extra Handy Answer books that he had hidden from me under some clothes.  I removed them, saying nothing.  He put them back, saying nothing.  HaHa!  We finally agreed on taking one extra book, which of course was never opened. 

We also let him use his money to buy a Nintendo game he had wanted.  He bought it two days before we left, but the game was in our possession until he walked into Kyle and Andrea’s house in Texas.  Call it bribery if you want, but we call it another of our clever survival tips for traveling with an autistic child.  Survival for us even more than Aaron.

Other than dragging Aaron kicking and screaming out of the house on the morning we left…not literally, but almost…he did great on this trip.  I’ll start my photo dump now. 

Happy Aaron blowing his straw wrapper on me at Quik Trip. 

Spending Easter morning at church with Kyle and Andrea.  A huge blessing!

Then giving Aaron the basket that Andrea made for him.  Sweet sister!

He helped Kyle gather sticks before their new fence was installed the next day.  Kyle is great about getting Aaron involved with activities. 

He fed the dogs every chance he got!

Our big outing was to NASA.  He was having a slow day physically and mentally, but he loves telling everyone about that day.

Our son, Andrew, was in town for an NHRA race.  He got to come over for dinner one night.  What a joy to have us all together, even briefly.

Gary, Andrea, and I went to the race on Saturday while Kyle stayed home with Aaron.

And on Sunday, their Monster Energy team won!!  Sadly, we were unable to be there that day.  ☹

I love the love that Andrea, Kyle, and Andrew show to Aaron.  I wish I had a picture of Kyle trying to teach Aaron to do push-ups while we were at the track. Or one of him the night we arrived giving Aaron the special game he bought him.  😊

The week was packed with much more, but I’ll end this now with a funny story:

Background:  For years my family has had fun with my association with cows, as in cow Patty.  I also go by Moo as much as Mom.  😂

On our way to Houston, we stopped at our favorite tourist center/rest stop in Oklahoma City.  Aaron was ecstatic that Gary told him he could buy me a little stuffed cow.

Aaron decided to explain his purchase to the clerk at the cash register.

Loudly.

“I’m buying this for my mom because she’s a COW!!”

I explained as best I could.

Then she pointed me to a bag of candy.

Cow Patties.  😂😂😂

Thanks for reading!  Have a wonderful weekend!

Don’t Try to Change Me!

The word “change” is not a welcome word to many who deal with the issues of autism. 

You can phrase that concept any way you want.

“Come on, just roll with the flow.”

“Be flexible!”

“Try it.  You’ll like it!”

I have told you how Aaron won’t eat his popcorn at the theater until the actual movie begins.  The commercials before the movie are NOT the movie.  Neither are the sometimes endless trailers that are then shown.  Trailers are NOT the movie!  Aaron will continually look down at his big tub of popcorn that he has placed on the floor beside his feet, waiting expectantly to dig in when finally THE movie begins.  Then he will pick up his popcorn and visibly relax as he begins to eat. 

Aaron does the same thing at home.  When we sit down to watch a show, he will lay his snack close to him, but he will not begin to eat it until the show actually begins.  He will sit through opening credits.  He will sit through a long intro such as Blue Bloods has.  You’re not going to fool Aaron.  He knows that these programs are tricky and that they have opening music that hasn’t played yet, so don’t EVEN try to get him to eat until all the preliminaries are over and done.  Ice cream may even start melting, but Aaron doesn’t care. 

Aaron has carried this “waiting for the actual event to start” idea over to his music that he listens to in the van.  This past Thursday we started on our way to pick up our food delivery for Meals on Wheels.  We had been listening to Brad Paisley.  I pushed the button to start the music.

Aaron pushed the button off.

I pushed the button back on.

“MOM!  I don’t want to listen to music right now!”

“I know you don’t, but I do,” I replied.

He pushed the button off.

I pushed the button back on.

“MOM!!” he protested, “I said I don’t want to listen to music!”

“It’s not just about you, Aaron,” I responded with more patience than I felt.  “I do want to listen to music.”

Aaron was still and quiet for a few seconds.  Then off went the button again. 

I sighed a very deep sigh.  My lungs are in such great shape, living with Aaron.

“Aaron,” I began, “you want to wait until we actually start delivering our meals before you turn on the music, right?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“But we can listen to music now.  It won’t hurt anything to do that,” I told him.

I pushed the button back on.

I could feel the pressure building in Aaron, just like my pressure cooker at home.

He pushed the button off.

“Mom,” he began, “uh…you know…uh…”

And thus began Aaron’s attempts to start a conversation under the guise of wanting to talk instead of listening to music.  I just decided to let it go.  Hey, that’s a song!  It should be my theme song!

Bless Aaron.  I know he can’t help it, but really…!

Later that afternoon, Aaron was very happy that Gary was going with us to Nellie’s Pond for a walk.  But there was that issue of Aaron wanting to sit in the front seat of the van because that’s where Aaron sits when I drive and he and I are usually in the van by ourselves so the front seat is his and that’s the way he likes it and that’s the way it should always be…..

“Mom!” he began as he was processing his plan, “I know.  Dad can ride in his truck and you and I can take the van!”

“No, no Aaron,” I said with a laugh, “that’s not the way it’s going to be.”

But Gary, in order to give Aaron a perfectly happy experience, sat in the back seat while I drove, and Aaron sat in his front seat.

Just the way it should be, in Aaron’s world.

And sometimes we do put ourselves into his world…actually, lots of times…so that he can relax and have total fun.

Walking through life with Aaron…balancing discipline with the rigidity of autism…is certainly an exercise in patience and wisdom. 

Gary and I do not possess either of those qualities in the abundance that is usually needed but I am so thankful that God gives and also forgives.

So often, too, I find that it is me who needs to do the most changing.  God knows that all too well!

I wonder how often I am the Aaron in God’s life.   😊

The Special Quarter

I had taken Aaron in for his physical at the air base, which in itself is full of interesting Aaron moments. 

Here’s one:  He was very worried that he would need to give a urine sample, which he completely does not want to do.  We walked up to the counter at the Immunization Clinic to sign him in for a TB test.  I always try hard to be the first one at these windows in order to spare the poor airmen from Aaron’s loudly blurted and random comments or questions.  I indeed was in front of Aaron but this in no way deters Aaron.  As I signed him in and explained what we needed, Aaron pushed his head around the side of the window.

“DO I NEED TO PEE HERE??!!” he loudly and nervously asked.

I have to say that the look on the faces of the two airmen in the clinic was priceless.  I have no idea about the look on my face, but on Aaron’s was a look of panic.  I explained to the airmen as best I could while I tried to calm Aaron and sign him in on the clipboard.  And Aaron continued to ask his question over and over, bless him. 

Most people who encounter Aaron are treated to an impromptu lesson in special needs.  Like the lady yesterday at Wal-Mart in the produce section…the one that Aaron followed as he asked her if she liked cabbage because we were buying cabbage and he just HAD to know if she liked cabbage and why did she like cabbage…  All while I was calling to Aaron to come with me and trying to distract him from his quest to discover if this woman liked cabbage like we like cabbage.

And the dear cashier, who had to answer lots of questions from Aaron and listen to his commentary.  Do you like chocolate cake?  Do you like chocolate icing on your chocolate cake?  Guess what we’re having for supper?  Steak!  Do you like steak?  What kind of steak do you like?  I like boneless.  Do you like boneless?  Mom, what kind of steak are we having…….

Outings with Aaron, of whatever kind, often leave me with a variety of emotions.  Humor.  Embarrassment.  Frustration.  Joy.  Relief…when it’s over!  But mostly, I really do love my times with Aaron, stressful as some situations are. 

After his physical, we went to Jose’ Pepper’s to eat.  His favorite thing to do in all the world is to eat out.  And when he has gotten to know a server, like Emily at Jose’ Pepper’s, then his fun is doubled.  He walked in the door laughing and rubbing his hands together, oblivious to any stares from others.  He immediately spied Emily and he was off, trying to talk to her as the hostess was trying to figure all this out and get us seated, and I was trying to calm and quieten Aaron, and Emily was smiling broadly. 

We do make an entrance.

We were nearly through with our meals when Aaron spied something on the floor beside us.  I followed his gaze as he leaned out of our booth for a closer look.  There on the cement floor was a quarter.  Aaron was out of the booth in a flash!  He picked up his great find and proceeded to examine it closely.

“MOM!!” he very excitedly said, “it’s a state quarter!!  It’s HAWAII!!”

He was beyond happy at this treasure that had been laying right there on the floor for who knows how long.  Look at his wonderful smile.

He did not have a Hawaii quarter.  It is now safely in its place in his state quarter folder. 

For that day, for that moment, Aaron had found a priceless gem.

And I thought, as I watched him so full of delight at something that would be less than impressive to most of us, how this moment is so like my life with Aaron.

Do I focus on the routine life we have?  Do I see him through eyes of frustration or embarrassment?  Yes, I often do.

But I CAN make the choice to view him as a real gem, full of his uniqueness and spontaneity.  Sure, he can be aggravating and especially embarrassing in public, but how funny he is!  How refreshing…sometimes.  😊 

How full of lessons for Gary and for me, and hopefully for many others who encounter him. 

So, when we are walking to our car after our excursions, and I take a deep breath in order to settle my mind and calm my nerves, may I also use that same breath to thank God for the special treasure that He has given me right beside me in this life. 

And may others who bump into Aaron in the produce aisle, the check-in counter, the check-out lane, the restaurant…wherever we are…realize that there are many walking among us who are very special indeed!

What a gift it is to find them!

Tearing Our House Down

We had a very busy last few weeks of 2021, and an exciting beginning of 2022.

After several months of planning with our contractor and prepping the house…and ourselves…our big main level renovation is well underway.  We just finished up week number three!

Aaron is not a fan of upheaval of any kind.  I would say that having our kitchen, family room, living room, and dining room torn apart at the same time qualifies as upheaval, right?

Two days before the work started, there stood Aaron staring at a wall in our kitchen.  I just stared at him, waiting for him to tell me what he was doing. 

Aaron:  Look!  There’s a crack in this wall.

Me:  Well, I think it’s just the paint but anyway, this wall will be coming down soon.  We’re going to see some very interesting things in the next few weeks.

Aaron:  Not me.

Me:  What do you mean?

Aaron:  I don’t like this. 

Me:  Why not?

Aaron:  Because Luke might turn off the electricity while I’m on my computer!

Luke, whom we’ve known since he was a teenager, has done our other remodeling.  He finished our entire upstairs last year.  So he knows Aaron well and is as prepared as one can be for the comments that Aaron will inevitably make. 

Gary and I decided to stay in the house during this renovation.  We put together a makeshift kitchen in one of our upstairs bedrooms.  I told a friend that if I couldn’t cook with all the gadgets I have then I’m pretty pathetic.  😊

Three days into our first week, this friend laughingly said she would like to know what I had been cooking that week.  Here is my answer:

Monday – leftovers.  I felt invincible

Tuesday – I decided to unbox my new air fryer and learn how to use it because I thought I needed some extra stress in my life.  I cooked Aaron’s brats in it.  I was fixing Gary and I some precooked Angus patties in the microwave and then some steamed cauliflower in the microwave.  And salad for all of us.

The microwave shut off because it won’t work at the same time the air fryer is on.  Too much electricity being used in our upstairs at the same time.  😝😝

I had enough Olive Garden dressing in our little frig we bought for our makeshift kitchen, but I was determined to find the extra bottle that I knew was in one of these food boxes, but I could NOT find it and I was so FRUSTRATED by that point!  Aaron loves that dressing!  I did not want to run out!  Then it became an issue over me saying to myself, I WILL find that dressing!! 

I found it today in the box with the baggies and foil.  😂😂

And the steamed cauliflower last night was slightly – largely – on the crunchy side.  We sounded like we were eating Doritos.

Tonight:  I wisely used my well-known crock pot and rice cooker to make Taco Chicken Bowls.  Took me awhile to find the rice.  WHERE IS THAT TUPPERWARE CONTAINER OF RICE???  I JUST saw it yesterday!!!

I found it, finally, under a bunch of cans.

Thursday:  We are eating at Outback.  😅😅

But things got much better after that first week.  We are truly thankful to be at home and so blessed that we have plenty of room upstairs, and then a whole downstairs where Aaron and I can watch our shows at night while Gary reads. 

Aaron still wishes that Luke would just stop all this nonsense.  He has told Luke multiple times that he wishes he would quit tearing our house down!  And yesterday, with two new workers here, Aaron walked up to them and nicely said, “I wish you would go home and quit tearing our house down.” 

I told them that Aaron was our welcoming committee and to just carry on.  😊

It is not a small project!

Aaron wishes it was small…and fast.

One night, before bed:

Aaron:  Mom, is Luke almost done?

Me:  Oh no, Aaron.  This remodel will take awhile (without defining “awhile.”)

Aaron:  Well, I wish it was done right away ALL the way because I don’t like that sound they make!!    😂😂

Aaron really does have a lot to get used to, like finding an empty can of black beans on the bathroom counter.  I needed to drain them in our bathroom sink as I was putting supper in the crock-pot in our Makeshift Bedroom Kitchen.

Aaron walked in the bathroom and immediately spied the empty can of black beans on the counter.

Aaron:  MOM!!  Why do you have black beans in the bathroom?!

Me:  I had to drain them, so I used my bathroom sink.

Aaron:  Oh.  I thought maybe you were using them on your hair!!

Hmmmm…he may be on to something there.  On many days I would try ANYTHING to help my hair!! 

Black Bean Bouffant!!   😂😂

I’ll let you know if it works – may even post some pictures!

But for now, here a few more shots of our work-in-progress.

And, as you can see, Luke and his team really are making progress! 

If we could only convince Aaron of that. 🙂

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.  💙💙

Our Texas Trip – Part 3

I want to wind up my tales of our Texas trip with this blog…I hope.  This doesn’t need to drag on for weeks!  😊

I told about the Aquarium Pyramid in Galveston in my last blog.  A few days after that adventure, we went back to Galveston to go see the Rainforest Pyramid.  These are such unique buildings!

Aaron loved the Rainforest as well, although he wasn’t over the moon excited like he was in the aquarium.  Still, it was great fun to see all sorts of rainforest birds:

Flowers:

Fish:

And when I turned around, it was not such great fun to see Aaron’s hand stretched out toward this cute little monkey and see the monkey holding Aaron’s finger!!  Actually, it was adorable, but we knew he wasn’t supposed to touch the animals.  And then he told a worker about his fun moment, and he got a nice lecture.  😊

It was another wonderful day for all of us.

And ended with supper at Skipper’s.

I wanted to also share a few of the sweet family moments that made this trip extra special. 

Our son, Andrew, was in town for an NHRA race.  He lives near Indianapolis where the teams are located, and he travels all over, so we don’t see him nearly enough.  We usually go to the Houston race but the chance of the race being cancelled due to COVID kept us from buying tickets this year.  Here is a shot of what he does – he’s in the center, starting the top fuel car.

He was able to come over to Andrea and Kyle’s house for an evening.  It was so wonderful to all be together for the first time since I don’t know when. 

We took a picture that’s not the greatest quality but still shows the greatest time together. And look at Aaron!  😊

Another sweet moment was playing Skip-Bo with Andrea.  Aaron keeps a notebook record of who wins each game when he and I play. 

But as we played with Andrea, Aaron REALLY wanted her to win.  He watched her cards carefully and would purposely not play his if it meant she could play hers instead.  Therefore, she won the game and Aaron was thrilled!  He had already gotten a piece of paper and very happily gave her a column with her first win mark.  It was just precious!

Kyle promised to play catch outside with Aaron on Saturday, but it poured rain all day.  Therefore, Kyle grabbed some soft dog toys and played catch with Aaron inside, which tickled Aaron to pieces.

Aaron had lots of quality doggie time, which he loved…and so did the dogs (for the most part!).  They certainly knew where to go to have a treat slipped to them!

On the morning we left to go home, Aaron was all packed up and ready to hit the road. 

Aaron:  I’m sad to leave Andrea.

Me:  So you’ll want to come back again and see her?

Aaron:  Nah.

😆😆

But he did worry all the way home about leaving her and whether she was lonely.  We didn’t tell him that she might have been enjoying the quiet.

So, again, I want to thank all of you that were praying for us on this vacation.  This trip truly was the best ever with Aaron, and we are very sure it was due to all the prayers from all of you.  Thank you so, so much!

And thank you for reading about our fun times and all the sweet memories made. 

Our Texas Trip – Part 2

In my previous blog, I shared with you some of the difficulties Aaron had as we went to Texas to see our other children.  Kyle and Andrea live just east of Houston, and our son Andrew was going to be in town there for an NHRA race – he works for one of the teams.

Aaron loves talking to his siblings on the phone.  He could go on for hours, literally, talking about all his interests.  But suddenly the idea of actually being with them was not so appealing.  It’s the traveling and leaving his comfort zone that he simply cannot handle. 

We all know Aaron very well and have come to expect his anger when his world is upended.  During Christmas, we refer to Aaron’s Annual Christmas Meltdown as we know it will inevitably occur.  So on this week of vacation and visiting, we were fully expecting Aaron’s Annual Vacation Meltdown.

We started our week off in a safe mode, doing something Aaron loves – shopping!  He was happy to go to Sam’s with me and Andrea, carting home extra goodies that he chose.  He was more relaxed and happy that day, until we told him that the next day we were going to the Aquarium Pyramid in Galveston. 

His discomfort level rose as he contemplated tackling one more unfamiliar place.  But when we showed him a video of some of the displays there, his interest overcame his doubt.  And oh my goodness, what a day we had!

The building itself is beautiful:

And once inside, Aaron was beside himself excited!  He loved every single minute.  Everyone nearby heard and saw his joy as he laughed and pointed and talked up a storm.  The day was truly delightful.  Here are some pictures.

Near the entrance, with Gary and Andrea:

He LOVED the penguins: 🙂 🙂

The tunnel was amazing:

He got to pet the Manta Rays, but the first time he bent over in a deeper area he started to fall in the water!  He would have totally fallen in had Gary and I not grabbed him.  His soaking wet shirt and shorts didn’t bother him in the least.  We went up to a safer place and he carried on while Gary and I held on…to HIM!

A visit to the gift shop ended with us buying Aaron a stuffed penguin he wanted.  On the way out of the aquarium, we passed one more penguin display, where Aaron showed the live penguins his stuffed penguin.  The reaction of the one of the penguins, and of Aaron, was priceless.

We ate lunch at Jimmy’s On The Pier.  It was very windy outside but so beautiful!

What a very fun and wonderful day for all of us, full of happy memories!  I’ll share more in my next Texas blog.  Thanks for reading!

Our Texas Trip – Part 1

I heard an old George Strait song yesterday that could have been Aaron’s theme song leading up to our trip to Texas.  The song is titled “I Hate Everything.”  And oh boy, did Aaron ever!

The night before we left saw us reeling under all Aaron’s verbal blows.  He was livid at having to go with us, far preferring that we hire a caregiver to watch him while Gary and I went alone.  We were definitely with him on that as the evening wore on and we were worn out. 

The next morning was no better.  Aaron didn’t like us, the trip, the car, the snacks we took, Texas, Andrea, Kyle, their dogs…nothing.  The only thing he liked was his idea of staying home and that was NOT going to happen, so we were stuck with lots of “not likes” and plenty of anger. 

“I hate this vacation!!” he declared as we drove down the interstate. 

Aaron does not enjoy leaving his room, his house, his routine, his bed…his normal.  These things are such a part of what makes Aaron function in his normal that the process of uprooting, even for just a week, is nearly more than he can bear. 

Aaron accepted his inevitable doom as we drove farther away from normal.  Gary and I left him to his games, his music, and his movies as we quietly recovered.  How draining it all was!  I texted and messaged friends and family to please pray.  What a comfort it was to know that we were being brought before the Lord!  I know that many of my fellow bloggers were also praying, and I thank you so much for that. 

We stopped a few hours down the road at our favorite Oklahoma City rest area.  And there Aaron found a cute little stuffed owl that we let him buy.  He rubbed his hands together in his happy way as we paid, and Gary and I felt like doing the same as we saw a lifting of Aaron’s anger.  A chocolate milkshake and onion rings from the nearby Sonic gave him further reason to smile. 

It’s a very long drive to Houston, and then even farther to Andrea and Kyle’s house in League City.  Aaron had lots of time to think about the upcoming week of change and uncertainty that he felt waited for him there.  We saw occasional outbursts from him about how he still didn’t like this vacation. 

Finally, there it was…the Houston skyline.

And not too long after, we were pulling into Kyle and Andrea’s driveway.  We could hear their 3 adorable dogs barking as we got out of the car.  Soon we were sharing hugs and doggie pats, settling our things in our rooms, and sitting down to the pizza that was waiting for us.

What a relief it was to see that Aaron was relaxed!  He had immediately given the dogs their treats and toys we had brought to them.  As we sat around the table, I was so touched to see the total attention that Kyle and Andrea paid to Aaron as he talked non-stop. 

That attention to whatever Aaron is saying is one of his major love languages.  The things he talks about can be mind-numbing to us but not to him.  Listening, commenting, answering his many questions…that means more to Aaron than we often stop to recognize.  But Kyle and Andrea know Aaron, and they love him, and they showed it by listening with great interest to his talk of…whatever it was he was saying.  😊

Later, as we were getting ready for bed, Aaron had me fill his water bottle that he keeps by his bed to drink while he reads a book before he goes to sleep.  Got that?  Because that little fact is very important.

I gave Aaron his pills while he was getting in bed.  Not having any other water, I told Aaron to just drink some of the water from that water bottle. 

“No!” Aaron told me.  “I can’t drink that water to take my pills.  That’s the water I drink while I’m reading in bed!”

I was so tired.  I sighed, and Aaron heard me.

“You don’t understand,” he said, with some anger returning.  “No one understands me!”

It was like some of that water splashed me in the face as I was hit with a fresh look into Aaron’s heart.  Try as we might, sometimes it truly is very hard to understand Aaron. 

Or maybe we understand on paper, when things are calm, but in the middle of the moment when we’re stressed it can be very hard to slow down, take a breath, step back, and see the world through Aaron’s eyes.  Feel it with his senses. 

This whole trip was like going to Mars for him in many ways. 

“Please, Mom,” it was like he was saying.  “Don’t also make me use my bedtime water bottle for taking my pills.  Don’t you understand?!”

My rising frustration was immediately replaced with empathy for this son of ours who didn’t ever ask to have autism.  But he does ask that we try to understand him as he lives with the rigidity that autism causes. 

Just understand.

Push aside my exhaustion, my frustration, my expectations – and simply give him a separate glass of water for pill taking.

What a gift that was to Aaron!

And to me as I once again saw him relax.  I knew that I, too, had spoken Aaron’s love language.

I have so much to tell you about our time in Texas.  It was the best trip ever for all of us!  I’ll share more later, hopefully soon, in my upcoming blogs.

Bless all of you for reading and for caring!  Good night and sweet dreams.