My Lot in Life

Having Aaron still live at home with us can present challenges in various ways.  One issue that Gary and I face is, at times, trying to have a prolonged conversation with just the two of us.  It’s amazing how often we have the following scenario:

I walk down to Gary’s study and sit in the rocker.  Aaron is safely WAY up on the third floor, in his room, absorbed in a game or a movie.  But somehow, someway, it’s as if the tiniest sound of our voices reaches Aaron’s ears even through his earbuds.  Soon we hear the unmistakable THUMP THUMP THUMP of his heavy footsteps coming down first one set of stairs and then the second set of stairs.  Gary and I look at each other in resignation as Aaron charges into the study.  “MOM!!! (or DAD!!!),” Aaron bellows.  “Did you know that the core of the earth is HOT?!!  Why is the core of the earth hot?  Can we go to the core?  Would you like to go to the core of the earth??”  Aaron doesn’t notice the lack of interest on our faces or hear our sighs.  “No, Aaron,” I (or Gary) reply, “we don’t want to go the core of the earth.”  (Although that thought might be attractive at the moment in order to afford us some privacy!).  “Why not?!!” Aaron asks.  So we tell him that we will talk about this later and we tell him to go back to his room and ponder the core of the earth a bit more and we wait for him to leave before we try to resume our conversation.

I have been known to say, more than once, something to this effect: “You know, it seems to be our lot in life that we can hardly have a private conversation.”  Gary and I laugh as we both agree with this truth in our lives.

However, there are times that referring to my lot in life can take on a more serious tone and one that is defeating.  I may not even verbalize my thoughts.  That thought may be fleeting or if I’m not careful, may take root in my mind. 

My “lot in life” may be an ongoing situation, such as having our adult special needs son still living with us and facing all the challenges that brings. 

My “lot in life” may be a sudden situation that intrudes into my peaceful life.  We all have them.  Health, finances, children situations, jobs…

There is a truth that I must remember when my mind travels to considering my “lot in life.”  That phrase conjures up a roll of the dice…the hand I was given…good or bad luck.

Each of those concepts go totally against my walk with God.  As a follower of Christ my life is not controlled by luck or how my stars are aligned or any such nonsense. 

Here’s how David put it:

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot.”   

(Psalm 16:5)

My life’s circumstances are not controlled by chance but are designed by God for me.

God is providentially ordering my life. 

And He is doing the same for yours if you are His child and are following Him.

Therefore, I can…I SHOULD…be content with God’s design of my life.  Even the very hard parts that bring tears and fears.

One more thing.  My “lot in life” is not your “lot in life.”  And your “lot in life” is not my “lot in life.”

When I go to comparing my life to yours then I will inevitably be either discouraged or boastful…and both of those attitudes are terribly wrong.

Again, David said it well:

“I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”  (Psalm 16:8)

God is to be my point of reference.  He is the answer to all my questions.

God is the One Who has given me my “lot in life.”

THUMP, THUMP, THUMP

Such a Fun Fall Day!

Gary and I had such a fun day yesterday with Aaron! 

The day didn’t start out with great fun, however, as Aaron had a doctor appointment.  He doesn’t usually mind the actual appointment, but that little side trek to take blood wasn’t what I would call fun. 

I’m so thankful that Aaron handles blood draws with calmness, though.  What a blessing that has always been!

In the afternoon, Gary and I took Aaron down to Klausmeyer Farms.  The fall day was perfect for outdoor fun! 

There were plenty of photo opportunities.

And the corn maze! 

We let Aaron lead.  He at first was hesitant about that, but then totally enjoyed it.  He would laugh and laugh when he came to a dead end and had to turn around.

He loved petting the animals, of course. 

And we ended our time there with a visit to the pumpkin patch, where Aaron found a large pumpkin which he is all too eager to carve. 

A big meal at Texas Roadhouse was the perfect ending to our fun day with Aaron.  As we ate, Aaron talked about his happy day.

“The pumpkin patch enjoyed me!” he exclaimed loudly.

Gary and I smiled at his wording.

We enjoyed you, too, Aaron! 

THIS much!

It Was a Trip!

Well, we are home from our trip to Gary’s beautiful Smoky Mountain hometown.  Days have been busy as we settle in, with Gary and I getting ready for another trip next week…this one without Aaron…so time is short for all the writing I would love to do.

As many of you know, our trek home was to help Gary’s sister, Sandra, when she returned home from having knee replacement surgery.  So, in a sense this was a working trip, and one that we are very thankful we could take.  A big thanks, as well, to all of you who were praying for us and for Sandra!

We brought Aaron with us, much against his desires…and at times, our better judgment.  😊  But we know that he needs to travel some with us, and that this will occur more now that Gary is retired.  Plus, family wants to see Aaron, even if Aaron is less than enthusiastic.

There is so much about traveling that is a struggle for Aaron, but the biggest issue is his autistic need to have his life in just a certain order.  Sorting and packing and stuffing things in a car is NOT Aaron’s definition of order.  I work hard to have his DVDs in one tote…his music CDs in another…his snacks in a snack bag…his sweater…his Handy Answer Garden Book…his computer that Gary packed in a box…  You get the picture.

Aaron does not.

We had already decided to take his stuffed snake and his very most favorite blanket.  Yet on the morning we were leaving, downstairs he came carrying a game system that did not even work properly and that he never uses.  And two extra Handy Answer books that I knew he would not touch.  These became his hill to die on.  No amount of persuasion worked to make him relinquish these suddenly all-important items, so in the car they were also crammed and away we drove. 

Gary and I were exhausted before we had even left our circle.

Aaron settled in his seat behind us, alternating mostly between watching a movie or listening to music, whooping or clapping way too loudly until we objected loudly and he quietened down until his next burst of excitement.  We saw cows and horses and sheep and rivers and lakes and interesting buildings.  But the buildings that Aaron loved most were ones where we stopped for gas, for inside those buildings were LOTS of snacks he did not have in his snack bag and slushies and hot dogs and all sorts of other possibilities. 

I had packed separate bags for our hotel stay that first night in order not to lug in all our heavy luggage.  Of course, Aaron’s arms became full of his two extra Handy Answer books that he did not need in the hotel room and his blanket that MUST go on his bed. 

Sigh.

Later, after a frustrating dinner at a REAL restaurant – as Aaron calls it – we were in our hotel room for the night.  The two Handy Answer books were on a table not to be touched again until they were carried to the car the next morning. 

And Aaron was snug in his bed reading his Handy Answer Garden Book with his blanket on top as it always is and always should be. 

This blog would be way too long if I included details of everything.  I’ll try to be brief by saying that Aaron really did do amazingly well considering all he had to handle.  He was bossy at times, but we knew he was just trying to control his surroundings.  It’s actually very interesting to watch but requires us to pull back and observe without our frustrations obscuring our view. 

We got to Sandra’s house the night before she came home from the hospital, so we had time to get situated and organized.  Gary got Aaron’s computer hooked up on the desk in his bedroom he used.  I got all his other things put in place…his star lamp we had packed, his Handy Answer Garden book within reach of his bed, his other two Handy Answer books off to the side to remain untouched, his music and his movies, his monitor on the nightstand, and finally his blanket on his bed just right. 

I got my part of the monitor plugged in and like we always do at night, I pushed the talk button and told him good-night one more time.  Getting everything all set up and plugged in was a bit of a challenge, so when I told Aaron good night I added:

“We’re up and running, Aaron!”

Aaron:  No, I’m not.

Me:  You’re not what?

Aaron:  I’m not up and running, I’m in bed.

A laugh was a great way to end the day!    😅😅😅

It was a blessing to be there to help Sandra, who is doing very well in her healing and progressing with her walking.  We got to spend time with lots of other family, which was wonderful!

Like I said, Aaron had so much change to handle and all of us were proud of how well he did.  All of us, too, were recipients of his anger and frustration that at times got the best of him. 

One evening Aaron was upset and very out of sorts.  Nothing calmed him and no one could reason with him.  But the person who helped him the most didn’t even realize that he held the key which set Aaron back on the right track.  Gary’s cousin, Bob, let Aaron talk about Star Wars this and Star Wars that.  Bob listened and commented and asked questions, and Aaron slipped back into his happy place where he is at home though he was not at home.  Aaron needed familiarity and having someone let him talk about a subject that was so out-of-place for all of us but Aaron was exactly the solution to ease his unsettled mind.

The last day and a half were particularly rough.  Aaron was done.  He was overloaded and spent and just so ready to go home.  He didn’t want to come out of his room.  He lay in his bed with the covers pulled over his head.  When he did emerge, he was defiant and angry. 

He focused his anger on Sandra.  I felt so badly for her. 

Sandra was his target because he knew we had come to help her, so in his mind his misery was her fault.  Nothing could dissuade him from that skewed perspective. 

My brother and sister-in-law came that night to visit, and somehow their attention…and their gift of a West Virginia Mountaineer cap that Aaron loves!…broke the angry cycle.  Jeanie’s great interest in those Handy Answer Books sealed the deal!

The next morning, we re-stuffed the car and said our goodbyes.  Aaron was happy as he could be, of course, as you can see in this picture with his Aunt Sandra and Aunt Mary Leah.

We soaked in the beautiful views as we drove away through those gorgeous mountains.

We smiled at Aaron wearing his ever-present sweater at a rest stop, no matter the warm temperature.

Now Aaron is home where he belongs.  Home where he is once again finding something else unique in the produce section at Dillon’s.

Home where he can settle in to watch a show with Mom and eat his snacks, with his blanket over him as it should be.

We’ll let the dust settle before we mention a possible Thanksgiving trip! 

So Many Changes!

Hasn’t this been a year of change?  My goodness, all of us are suffering from whiplash when we think of how quickly we’ve been hit with change across the board, in every area of our lives. 

When I fine-tune my vision and focus on our little family in our own little world, I see how all these changes…and other more personal ones…have affected us a lot.  Gary and I don’t just have ourselves to consider, of course.  For us as parents, certainly, we always look at how change is affecting our children.  It doesn’t matter that Andrea and Kyle, and Andrew, all live far away.  We still ponder and pray every day about their lives and what impacts them.

Here at home, though, we are the most affected by how changes in life hit Aaron.  Trust me, the word “hit” is appropriate when speaking of Aaron and change.  Sometimes Gary and I don’t quite know what hit us when change hits Aaron.

Aaron has handled COVID issues very well, for the most part.  He’s still thoroughly sick of it, pardon the pun.  Yet he wears his mask well in public and has adjusted to this new way of living much better than some I know.  I’m very proud of him for that.

His day group opened the first part of July and things have gone well until recently, when several clients tested positive for the virus.  The day center has been closed now for over two weeks.  Aaron doesn’t mind that one bit because he loves staying home.  Our quarantine is over, and he and we are fine, but the center is still closed.

We’ve still been able to enjoy walks outside, exploring some new areas and appreciating the familiar ones.

Petting Moe, our neighbor’s cat:

And loving some time on our friend’s farm:

Besides all the COVID stuff going on, we’ve also had personal changes in our life.  Gary retired this past summer and we wondered how that would affect Aaron, but he’s adjusted beautifully and really enjoys having Gary home all the time.  I mean, now Aaron has another set of ears to listen to all his talk…and what’s not to like about that?!

We’ve had more remodeling done, including…and MOST importantly…Aaron’s room.  Aaron struggled with moving into his brother’s old bedroom.  He oversaw Gary and I as we moved his desk and computer to its new and temporary location, complaining like an old man about it…hovering and huffing a LOT!  He soon realized that his desk chair didn’t move so well on the new hard floor with no carpet, so he bemoaned the fact that his carpet was soon to be a thing of the past.  He tried to urge Luke and Noah, our remodeling team, to NOT take out his carpet but to no avail.  He also spoke to them about all the noise they were making and to please NOT turn off the electricity again!! 

He is now back in his own bedroom, with the hard floor and with his furniture rearranged.  Hey, if we’re pushing Aaron to adjust why not try even MORE new things, right?!  He’s just happy to be in his own bed again and in his own room, so this further stretch for him is being tolerated well.

Success!

Except for our latest change.  Gary and I are taking Aaron with us on a trip back east.  We’re going to Gary’s hometown in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina to help his sister after her knee replacement surgery.  AND…we’re taking Aaron with us.

Aaron would rather stay home, in his own house and his own room, even though we did put that hard floor in there!

Aaron loves Aunt Sandra and will talk her ear off on the phone, but Aaron loves being home even more.  It’s been a push to get him to settle down about this grand plan of traveling again.  Gary and I have had to be firm.  I’ve told Sandra to put on her thick skin. 

Aaron wanted to talk to Barb, Paradigm manager and Aaron’s second mom, about all this trip business.  She facetimed with him yesterday and it was so sweet.  She helped tremendously!  We may be doing that again from North Carolina!

We leave in the morning.  Our vehicle will be full of Aaron’s CD’s, DVD’s, blanket, pillow, books, food, drinks, his computer, Nintendo and games, and his stuffed snake. 

He is comforted in knowing that tomorrow night we will stop to stay in a hotel and best of all, we will eat out in a real restaurant. 

Gary and I would be comforted in knowing that as you think of us, you would pray for safety…for Sandra’s knee surgery to go well…and for Aaron to have a great time and to be happy. 

We hope to see lots of happy smiles just like this!  Thank you for praying!

Aaron’s Talking Points #10

More of Aaron’s funny comments collected over the years. Enjoy!

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First initial report from Aaron about the circus: There were not a lot of clowns so that was boring. The elephants pooped in a bucket and that was NOT boring.

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Aaron, walking through the family room: “I’m going to use the bathroom. Do you think that’s a good idea?”

Why does it even matter what I think on that subject?

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Aaron has a hard time getting family relationships correct. Brother and sister, mom and dad – he’s usually good with those, although not always 100%. Aunts and uncles – I think he just calls them by those titles but he doesn’t really fathom their connection to mom and dad. And just forget cousins.

Now that Andrea and Kyle are getting married, Aaron has really struggled – in more ways than one – with this new relationship and how it will impact him. He feels like he’ll lose Andrea – that she won’t be his sister anymore. We’ve told him over and over that Kyle will be his new brother (brother-in-law, to be exact, though that confuses Aaron). And that Andrea will still be his sister.

So today he was telling our friend, Casady, that he does NOT want Kyle to marry Andrea. His reason, in his words:

“I don’t want to be a Grandbrother!!

That’s a new one! The family tree just got even more interesting. 🤣🤔

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Aaron’s been asking a million questions this morning. I’m a little phased out at this point, so I’m giving the standard answer of, “Hmmmm.” This doesn’t sit well with Aaron, so he challenged me about not answering him well.

Aaron: What do you keep saying?

Me: When?

Aaron: Every time I talk to you.

Me: Hmmmm.

Aaron just gave a big sigh and walked away. Maybe I’m on to something. 😁

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Aaron told us that he thought one of his staff was pregnant with her second child. This fascinates him. Today when I dropped him off for his group, this staff was driving. Aaron asked her if it’s true that she’s pregnant and she said yes. So he excitedly replied, “So you’re going to do another baby?!” He does have a way with words!

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Aaron was watching the news last night when on came a story of the Pope at an Easter gathering. Aaron leaned forward on the floor where he sat, taking in all the scenes of the Pope. Finally Aaron was done and as he gathered up his things off the floor, he said, “That pastor dresses funny. I’ve never seen a pastor dress THAT way!!” Can you tell we’re not Catholic?

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Another topic that Aaron talked about yesterday: clowns. He wonders if a clown wears that same kind of make-up that I do. O.K., now he’s gone too far!

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Aaron has talked and talked and talked and talked and talked…..you get the idea……about an alien picture that he saw. Earlier, he said that the alien was pink. But knowing that he is color blind, and that to him pink is sometimes really blue, I foolishly told him that maybe the alien is really blue. This statement that I made without thinking resulted in me having to stand in his room at his computer, observing the mutant alien on a very small picture. Was he pink? Well, sort of. But I could also see a tinge of blue. Hmmmmm……

Me: Aaron, I think he’s a pinkish blue.

Aaron: Pinkish blue?

Me: Yes. A little pink and a little blue.

Silly me. This pinkish blue business is just a bit much to comprehend in Aaron’s black and white…..it’s either all pink or all blue…..world.

So a few minutes ago, Aaron stood behind me at my computer, trying to figure out once and for all what color the alien really is.

Aaron: Mom, pinkish blue.

Me: Mmmmmm. (Not really paying much attention…..brain is numbing).

Aaron: Pinkish blue. That’s like pink and blue are connected.

A good laugh woke my brain right up! I think Aaron gets pinkish blue now!

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Our sweet caregivers, brother and sister long-time friends of ours, came over Sunday to go over some things before we leave for Houston. So this morning I had this conversation with observant Aaron:

Aaron: Mom, H. looks weird.

Me: She most certainly does NOT look weird!

Aaron: I think she looks weird.

Me: Why on earth do you think she looks weird?

Aaron: Well…..she’s skinny.

Obviously, Aaron is very unaccustomed to skinny here at our house. And trust me, this is his version of a compliment. I’ve already warned H. about her upcoming compliment, too, because I strongly suspect that he will share it with her as soon as she walks in the door tomorrow.

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Same song, second verse.

Aaron: “The movie 2012 is 159 minutes long.”

Me: “So it’s about 2 1/2 hours long.”

Aaron: “No. It’s 2 hours and 39 minutes long!”

 Silly me!! We must be precise!

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A few weeks ago, when Aaron had a respiratory virus and sore throat, he had some observations, as always.

“Mom, every time I blow my nose it comes BACK to my nose!!” 😝🤢

Then he started running a slight fever, complete with some chills.

“Mom, why do I feel cold? Is it because my body isn’t at its warming temperature?” 😃

So today during Wheel of Fortune, he took a chill and then laughed and laughed at the goose bumps on his legs.

“MOM!! LOOK!! Those are bumps to being cold!!” 😅😅

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Aaron: So are we going to watch an NCIS?

Me: Sure!

Aaron: Will it be 9:00, or 8:55?

Let me think about that, Aaron. 🤔🕘🙃

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Aaron held up a Snickers bar at Wal-Mart: “Mom, this is the kind of candy bar my friend likes! But what’s that stretchy stuff in the middle?” Uh, I’m hoping you’re talking about the caramel, Aaron.

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Aaron’s had a very hard time waking up in the mornings. When I have to keep talking to him or shaking his leg to get him awake, then he becomes angry. It’s not a good start to our day, so today I decided to improve the situation by offering him a stop at McDonald’s for a sausage biscuit. It worked!

After our biscuits, as we drove to Paradigm, Aaron’s eyes were still heavy and he was unusually quiet. We were listening to The Beach Boys.

“…I wish they all could be California girrrrls…”

Suddenly Aaron started chuckling and then outright laughing.

“What’s so funny?” I asked him.

“They’re singing about BIG California girls!!” 😂😂

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Aaron, talking about all the places he went today with Amy:

“Mom! We went to that store that has all that stuff that smells! We got Barb some of that smelly good smell stuff!”

I want some!!

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One of many observations that Aaron is making as he works his way through the movie, Titanic:

“The accent of those people on that ship. They sound like Europe!” 😁😁

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Aaron wasn’t out of bed for 60 seconds before he was standing beside me, talking about barnacles.

Yes. Barnacles.

His current focus is The Titanic, and the barnacles covering the wreckage have totally captured his attention…and therefore, ours.

I just googled Barnacles. I have learned more than ever about barnacles. Go ahead. Ask me a question about barnacles. And if I cannot answer your question, I’ll have Aaron call you. So leave me your number when asking questions. You and Aaron can talk for hours about barnacles. Trust me. HOURS!!

Doing so will provide me with very beneficial mental health assistance, too. Think of how happy that will make you feel, my dear friends and family!

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Well, that’s enough of Aaron this time.  Thanks for reading.  You may leave your phone numbers in the comments for that call from Aaron. 

Just kidding!!  😊  😊

Have a great weekend!

In the Eye of the Storm

Life has been pretty tempestuous and I’m not just talking about a whirling mess out in the Gulf by the name of Laura.  We’ve had our own commotion under our roof.  Hurricane Aaron has been building for several days and the other night we were inundated with his storm surge.  Honestly, though, my outburst was stronger than his by a long shot!

Ah, the wonders and joys of autism.  Aaron wants…needs…routine and predictability and all his things in all their proper places.  Upheaval of any kind creates stress for him, and stress for Aaron inevitably creates stress for Gary and me as his parents and caregivers. 

The stresses around us that cause us angst do affect him because his level world is easily tipped by what Gary and I are going through.  Aaron expects us to stay as level as he needs us to be, but we all know that life just isn’t that way.

When Aaron sees Gary and me off kilter, he will then seek to identify what is bothering us.  Then that person or that event becomes the enemy because they have affected him.  Aaron doesn’t mean to be narcissistic.  That delightful character trait is part and parcel with autism.  We know that fact in our heads but sometimes the understanding doesn’t transfer to our hearts during the turmoil.

Several events have impacted us over this past week.  A hoped-for trip to Indiana to see our son didn’t happen.  Disappointment over changed plans crept in.

Then last week we grieved with our daughter and son-in-law, Kyle and Andrea, over the sudden serious health issues of one of their beloved dogs.  Aries started having seizures.  The next week was heart-rending as he declined drastically.  So, this past Friday they made that awful end-of-life decision.  Gary and I were so sad, but I also think that seeing our children’s grief increased our own.  We loved Aries, and we love Kyle and Andrea, so our sorrow was two-fold. 

This is the prayer Kyle prayed the night they said goodbye to Aries:

Aaron really can’t handle seeing us cry but try as we might he did see our tears over the loss of Aries.  We now had the double whammy of changed trip plans and heartbreak over Aries.

However, we were only halfway done with disruptions.  Out in the ocean, Tropical Storm Laura was brewing.  Kyle and Andrea live to the east of Houston, near the water.  Kyle works on a fast responder ship, and those huge vessels don’t stay in the harbor during a hurricane.  Fast forward to today:  Kyle is now on the ship up in one of the channels and will stay there indefinitely.  Andrea is home alone with their other 3 doggies.  She knows she is welcome to go to Kyle’s parent’s home a little further inland but it’s not best to leave your home if you can possibly stay.  So, Gary flew to Houston yesterday and is there with her, which is such a comfort.  His retirement a month ago is a blessing!

Aaron senses our concern about all this hurricane business.  He usually likes to watch the progress of hurricanes, but not this time.  Why?  Because Gary and I are spending too much time, in Aaron’s opinion, monitoring Hurricane Laura…wondering about Kyle and Andrea…planning Gary’s sudden trip…and talking on the phone.  No matter how calm we are, all this time and talk is unusual to Aaron.  Sometimes it takes time away from Aaron. 

On Monday evening, as I finished looking once again at the Weather Channel, Aaron became rude and I became undone.  I lost my temper and lost my cool, and Aaron reacted, and we had our own tempest in the family room.  These things do happen, especially when we are stressed, but then the tension and guilt are increased.  It takes some doing to un-do it all. 

Aaron paced in and out of the family room where I still sat.  We tried to watch a Little House episode but he just could not settle down so he chose to end it and go to bed.  But he kept coming back to me with one more word of anger.  Then he finally stood in front of me.

“I know what I’ll do!!” he belligerently said.

And with that, he stuck his tongue out at me. 

I tell you, I just had to laugh.  He didn’t mean for it to be hilarious, but it was.  I kept my laugh to a minimum and somehow he didn’t get more angry, but it was just really funny.  

I knew when Aaron was finally OK by what happened soon after.  He came bounding once again into the family room, stared at me, and then said:

“Mom?  Do you know what a sea mine is?”

A sea mine?!  But I was actually quite relieved to be talking about sea mines.  Aaron is playing Battleship on his computer, so talk of sea mines was perfectly normal for him.  It showed that he had at last moved beyond our anger and beyond the unsettled surroundings of his world, and he was back to his normal.  I didn’t care one bit about sea mines but trust me, at this point sea mines were a very welcome reprieve!

Aaron’s normal rarely involves human emotion or important life events that impact us.  These issues cause him distress, so he quickly reverts to talk of battleships and sea mines and gun turrets and whatever else comprises his focus at that time.  Gary and I so often shake our heads, but we know we must jump on board with Aaron in order to preserve our peace.  It’s both very frustrating and very fascinating to see how his mind works. 

There is one more thing going on.  Aaron’s bedroom remodel begins tomorrow.  Gary and I had to empty it before Gary left for Houston.  That caused some anxiety, to say the least.  But beyond that is the fact that now Aaron is in another bedroom where all his things are NOT in their normal place. 

“Mom!!  This bed isn’t like my bed!!”

“Mom!!  I like my lamp better!!”

“Mom!!  I don’t like this hard floor!!” 

“Mom!!  I hope I’m not getting a hard floor!!”

“Mom!!  I want to keep my carpet!!”

“Mom!!  My chair doesn’t work right on this hard floor!!”

Shall I continue?

No.  But Aaron will, trust me.

I took Aaron to Outback yesterday after we dropped Gary off at the airport.  Aaron was in his happy place…a restaurant with his choice of food!  As we munched on the warm bread and butter, Aaron looked down at the two pieces left on the cutting board.

“Mom,” he said, “you can have this one and I’ll have the other one.”

I laughed because the one he generously gave to me was the much smaller piece while he got the bigger one.  And it just reminded me of how life is with Aaron.  He doesn’t mean to be this way, but he does require the bigger part of our time and of our understanding and of our attention. 

Therefore, Gary and I require a bigger part of God’s grace and God’s understanding and God’s strength on days such as we have had this past week. 

And God’s forgiveness when we blow it. 

I’m so thankful that He understands.

And I was so thankful to see Aaron smile yesterday as I was able to restore some of his normal.  It’s my responsibility, yes, but also my joy as his mother and his caregiver.

By the way, in the eye of the storm there is peace.  God’s peace, which never fails, is there for me. 

I’m thankful for that, too, during each storm!

Aaron’s Talking Points #9

Here are more of Aaron’s comments that I have collected over the years.  Enjoy!

 

Aaron and I were driving home from Paradigm, passing downtown Wichita on Kellogg.

Aaron: MOM!! LOOK!!

Me: What??!

Aaron: Wait!! It’s coming!

Waiting.

Aaron: There it is!! LOOK!! A chicken on a building!!

And there it was. A chicken statue perched on top of a building…….except I think it was a rooster. Anyway…..

Aaron: It’s a CHICKEN restaurant!!!! It hasssss……

Thinking.

Aaron: It hassss……CHICKEN FOOD!!!!

Soundsssss…….YUMMY!!!

 

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We’ve been praising Aaron’s good attitude and his kind sharing. Today he said, “Mom, I gave Sandra a piece of my Big Red gum. I told her that she doesn’t need her breath to smell.”

Well, I think we need to work on refining the presentation.

 

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Aaron and I are watching Little House on the Prairie. He remembered how Charles told Laura that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. But of course, Aaron has his own version which he told me yesterday.

“Mom, to get the love of a man is through his stomach!!” 😍😍

 

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Aaron is not a fan of leftovers. The other night he somehow guessed that what I told him for supper was, indeed, leftovers. He looked at me suspiciously and then asked, “So did you cook it once?” Busted!

 

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Aaron was once again talking about how I looked in pictures from years ago. “You used to have long hair, Mom. Did you like it long? Do you want it long again?” As usual I replied, “Yes, I liked it long but no, I don’t want it long now.” He stood there looking at me & said, “So you’re staying with that?” I tell you, he can slap me down to earth like no one else!

 

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Gary’s plowing the garden, so Aaron just walked in the kitchen and asked if we’re getting ready to “open the garden.” Yes, we are. I’ll post the hours the garden will be open and the admission prices soon.

 

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Gary and I got some of our garden planted. Aaron is wondering if the rabbits will try to eat any of the vegetables this year. “But Mom, the rabbits won’t eat the onions.” And why is that? “Well, because then they would have spicy breath!” And we all know that there’s nothing worse than a rabbit with spicy breath! I personally hope I never run into one!

 

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Aaron, watching the game: “Is this football almost over? It says final four!” HaHaHa!!!

 

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Aaron was asking me if the ice cream that dropped all over his shirt yesterday would wash out. We asked him how he got it on there anyway and he said, “Well, it was melting fast. You know, it was not the non-melting kind of ice cream!” I tell you, it’s really hard anymore to find that non-melting ice cream!

 

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I bought some packets of mixed nuts at Sam’s, which Aaron tried to hide under his bed so he could have them all to himself. Anyway, he was telling me why he hid them. “Mom, I like them – especially those wrinkled nuts!” Can you guess which ones are the wrinkled nuts? Yep – pecans! Or as Aaron calls them – Pee-Cons. Look at them – they ARE wrinkled!

 

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Aaron, talking about his day group: Brandi was taking a vacation to a cemetery!!

Remind me not to call her travel agent. 😲 🤣

 

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You know by now that Aaron will sing a main phrase of the last song that he has heard…..over and over and over again. Yesterday he got a new CD – the Essential Elvis Presley. I’m questioning that essential part right now. Why oh why was the last song he heard just before his therapist appointment today “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog?”

To the woman who held the door open for us as we entered the building: Really, it was nothing personal.

To the receptionist: It’s not about you.

To his therapist: Just let it go.

To our waitress at Carlos O’Kelly’s: Not you! Honest!

We need to start listening to my hymn CDs.

 

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Elvis, Take 3:

Aaron: MOM!! Look up Elvis Presley Hound Dog 1956!!!

So I did, because if I don’t then my entire evening will consist of Aaron hovering, saying: MOM!! Look up Elvis Presley Hound Dog 1956!!

I was sure that Aaron’s head would pop off from laughing so hard as he watched Elvis dance.

Oh yes, Aaron has now discovered Elvis dancing.

Aaron: MOM!! Let’s show DAD!!!!

Me (MOM): Yes, let’s show DAD!! Hehehe!

Aaron: DAD!! Look at Elvis Presley Hound Dog 1956!

Much laughter ensued, from both Gary and Aaron. And finally, Aaron’s critique.

Aaron: Elvis was ROWDY in 1956!!

Stay tuned.

 

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More about Elvis on our drive home from Paradigm today.

Aaron: Mom, I’ve noticed something about Elvis. He doesn’t sing normal.

Me: He doesn’t sing normal?

Aaron: No, he doesn’t sing normal. How would you say he sings?

Me: You’re the one who said he doesn’t sing normal. You tell me how he sings.

Aaron: Well, he sings……I don’t know…..he just…..he doesn’t sing…..you know what I mean…..he doesn’t sing NORMAL!! How would you describe it?

Me: I didn’t say he doesn’t sing normal. You tell me how he sings.

Aaron: His voice is…..it’s……JIGGLY!!!!

Me (laughing): I knew you would come up with the right word, Aaron!

Aaron: Yeah. He’s just not NORMAL!!

I’m sure that Aaron and I have just begun to discover the truth about Elvis.

 

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We just got back from eating at Chili’s, where we celebrated the birthday of Aaron’s friend, Rosa. Aaron – despite his sore tooth and despite grabbing his face in pain several times – downed a salad, a plate of chicken bacon quesadillas, and an order of French fries (each one dipped meticulously in honey mustard sauce).

He ran upstairs to put on his pajamas, then thumped down the stairs and stood by me, staring.

“Mom!!” he finally said. “I don’t want any supper!”

Me (incredulously): WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU JUST ATE??!!

Aaron: Lunch?

This, my friends, is what happens when you meet at Chili’s for supper with Aaron BEFORE 5:00!!!! 🤣😋😜

 

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Aaron and I loved the new Jungle Book movie. The only thing he made a comment on was when Mowgli howled with the wolves. He thought a howling boy was pretty dumb. Haha! On the way into the theater, Aaron was reading the names of the movies on the marquee.

Aaron: Look, Mom! My Big Fat Green Wedding?

So I corrected him, changing Green to Greek, and told him about the old movie.

We went to the vet to get dog food on our way home. Aaron loves talking to Misha, who works there, about movies. They talked about Jungle Book, Independence Day, Captain America, and on and on. Finally Aaron remembered another movie he needed to tell her about.

Aaron: Oh! Guess what else is coming out? It’s The Married Greek Woman!!

It’s a good thing Misha knows her movies and didn’t even bat an eye!

 

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I asked Aaron if his glasses were dirty and needed to be cleaned, so he handed them to me and said, “Check it out, sweetie!” Sometimes I just throw parenting out the window and laugh.

 

‘Til next time!  😊  😊

 

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When is the Time to Trust?

A couple mornings ago I felt compelled to open my very old copy of the classic devotional book, Streams in the Desert.  This book was a gift from my home church when I graduated from high school way back in 1973.  But even though my graduation date makes the book old…of which I am all too aware more and more each day…the actual writings of Mrs. Charles Cowman were first published in 1925.  Her writing style may be old school, but the deep truths contained therein are timeless.

I was touched deeply by what I read that morning about faith and trust.  I jotted a few notes, tucked the truths away in my mind, and was soon about my busy day.  Aaron was staying home that day and we had fun plans!

Our plans were to meet some friends at All Star Sports for a morning of games.  My friend Joyce and I had decided to get our two sons together.  It would be the first time that Johannes and Aaron would be with each other for an outing, and we both wondered how it would go.

How it went was great!  I mean, there wasn’t tons of interaction between them, but the ice was broken, and plans were made for more time together.  Sweet Johannes held his hand out and with a prompt from me, Aaron shook his hand without squeezing it too hard, and Joyce and I laughed and were happy.  The boys had a good time and that’s what mattered!

 

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Aaron and I then went to eat some lunch and to drop off donations at Goodwill before heading home.  Soon after we got home, Aaron took a nap.  I had the monitor nearby, listening as I always do when he sleeps.  I really didn’t expect to hear a seizure, so I was surprised when I suddenly heard that unmistakable sound coming across the table where I sat.

It was a hard seizure, lasting close to 3 minutes.  And exactly one hour later, to the minute, he had another one.  It wasn’t as long as the first one but was still 2 minutes long.  Thankfully, he was done then and had no more the rest of the day.

It’s so surprising, even now after all these years, how quickly Aaron can go from being out and about, happy and fine, to having a seizure.  I don’t try to figure them out like I used to do, but I still find myself wondering why.

Even the next day on the way home from his day group, his speech was somewhat slurred, and he was very tired.  He fell asleep on the way home instead of his usual non-stop talking.  Was it the residual effects of yesterday’s seizure, I wondered?  Is his sodium low again?  Will he have another seizure when he gets home and takes a nap?

 

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So, even though this is Aaron’s life and our life, it’s still disconcerting.  Worrying.  Unsettling.

My mind was drawn back to the devotional I read earlier that morning.  I went back to it and was, as I always am, so amazed at how God has for me just what I need when I most need it.

Mrs. Cowman’s words were based on the story of Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27.  The south wind blew gently as the sailor’s pulled anchor.  Paul had warned them not to take this trip, but they didn’t listen.  And that south wind was such a hopeful sign to them that they were right, and Paul was wrong.

But soon a terrible storm hit.  For days the ship was violently tossed on the waves.  During that horrible storm, with no sun or stars for days…with everything thrown off the ship that could possibly be tossed overboard…verse 20 says that all hope of being saved was abandoned.

But an angel of God stood before Paul to assure him there would be no loss of life.  Paul stood bravely before those battered and terrified seasoned sailors, and confidently said, “So take heart, men, FOR I HAVE FAITH IN GOD!!”

I thought about our life with Aaron…the ups and downs in so many areas…and the fear concerning his seizures.  How that day had been so much fun and so without fear, and then out of the blue came two hard seizures.  It was easy for fear to replace our fun.

My need to trust God is always there, right at the surface, even underneath all the normal and the fun and the hopeful.

But ACTUALLY trusting God is a must when suddenly the normal and the fun and the hopeful is yanked away.

That level of trust is a conscious decision that I must make.

That level of trust isn’t based on circumstances or on feelings but is rooted in God Himself…in Who I know Him to be.

This year for all of us has seen the rug pulled out in so many areas of our lives.  Things were going along pretty well for most of us.  Then…BAM!!

COVID…jobs…riots…anger…fear…disagreement.

I want to leave you with the hope that God is not taken aback or surprised by any of this.  He has a purpose and a plan.

Can you say, with Paul, that you have faith in God?

I want to leave you with a wonderful poem shared by Mrs. Cowman that I read that morning.  I hope it will mean as much to you as it did…and does…to me.

 

When is the time to trust?

                        Is it when all is calm,

                        When waves the victor’s palm,

                        And life is one glad Psalm

                        Of joy and praise?

            Nay!  But the time to trust

                        Is when the waves beat high,

                        When storm clouds fill the sky,

                        And prayer is one long cry,

                                    O help and save!

 

            When is the time to trust?

                        Is it when friends are true?

                        Is it when comforts woo,

                        And in all we say and do

                        We meet but praise?

            Nay!  But the time to trust

                        Is when we stand alone,

                        And summer birds have flown,

                        And every prop is gone,

                                    All else but God.

 

            What is the time to trust?

                        Is it some future day,

                        When you have tried your way,

                        And learned to trust and pray

                                    By bitter woe?

            Nay!  But the time to trust

                        Is in this moment’s need,

                        Poor, broken, bruised reed!

                        Poor, troubled soul, make speed

                                    To trust thy God.

 

            What is the time to trust?

                        Is it when hopes beat high,

                        When sunshine gilds the sky,

                        And joy and ecstasy

                                    Fill all the heart?

            Nay!  But the time to trust

                        Is when our joy is fled,

                        When sorrow bows the head,

                        And all is cold and dead,

                                    All else but God.

 

 

Aaron on the Wild Side

Not even two miles from our house is an amazing wildlife park.  Tanganyika Wildlife Park is a favorite of ours, and definitely a favorite of Aaron’s.  Yesterday afternoon Gary and I took Aaron to Tanganyika for an afternoon on the wild side.  I loved these pictures so much that I just wanted to share them with all of you.

You can see by Aaron’s smile that he loves Tanganyika!

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We were greeted at the beginning of our visit by these ends!  🙂

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Aaron loved feeding Pluto some carrots.  Look at those teeth!!

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The penguins are adorable!

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We fed some lemurs but couldn’t take photos in there.

Then there was this huge guy, who is 48 years old!

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The kangaroo was soft and mellow.

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And Aaron LOVED the Lorikeets, especially the one who nibbled and licked his hair.

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This beauty danced when I played a song on my phone!  So much fun!

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There are so many other animals to see.  It’s just a great place…not too big but with plenty to see.

We ended with a stop to see and feed the giraffes.  Look at both these happy faces!!  What a perfect way to end our day on the wild side with Aaron!

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Setting the Mask Example

You know how you feel if you see a sign while you’re driving that says, “DANGER AHEAD!!”   Well, it’s not like we see those signs often, if ever, but in my life with our autistic Aaron there are most definitely sure pointers to a certain danger lying ahead of us.

Take, for instance…masks.

I knew when this COVID issue was ramping up and masks were becoming suggested…strongly suggested…then required…

Well, I knew we were probably in for a rough road ahead with Aaron.

Aaron…who would come home from school at a very young age with holes torn in his shirt because he had angrily ripped the tag out.  The tag irritated him and so I learned to cut tags out of each of his shirts.

Aaron…who furiously rebelled at wearing jeans when he was young because he only wanted “soft pants.”

I could go on, but you understand.  And so do many of my special-needs friends and other parents I don’t even know who are facing this mask dilemma with their tactically sensitive children…young or adult.

Aaron and I pulled into our Aldi parking lot when I decided to have him wear a mask for the first time.  Actually, I had been plotting this day for awhile.  I took Aaron for a nice walk nearby at Nellie’s Pond.  We sat on a bench and watched a family of ducks.  We watched people fishing.  We watched geese munching on grass nearby.  We were relaxed and happy.  A perfect time to broach the irritating subject of…MASKS!!

And to break the news to Aaron that on this day…in just a few minutes…he would be wearing a mask and I would be wearing a mask when we went to Aldi.

GULP!!

I helped Aaron with his mask before we exited the van.  He was not too happy, to say the least, but he did keep it on.  We hadn’t even opened our doors yet but I was telling myself, “So far, so good!!  The mask is ON his face!!”

“Okay!!” I happily exclaimed as we met at the back of the van and I took out my shopping bags.  “Let’s go shopping!”

We had taken only a few steps when…

“This is all TRUMP’S fault!!”  Aaron angrily responded.

Oh boy.

For some strange reason, since the virus first became an issue, Aaron had an issue with Trump.  He blamed the virus and the disruption in his personal life on Trump.  Who knows why?!

“Aaron,” I reprimanded firmly, “stop saying that!  Do NOT say that in the store!”

Aaron was quiet as we walked inside.  As he looked at some cookies, he made a comment about them and then stopped mid-sentence.

“My VOICE sounds funny!!” he blurted out.

“Then just don’t talk, Aaron,” I replied with impatience.  I walked away and Aaron followed, with me dreading what the next outburst might be.  I just wanted to hurry and be done with our shopping.  When Aaron gets upset like this, there is no pleasing him.  No pep talks.  No consolations.  No smiles (he couldn’t see them under my mask anyway!!).

Really, nothing helps but to end the misery and I was determined to not give him an easy out.

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Through the rest of the store he pointed out people who weren’t wearing masks.  I glared at him with my best glare!

He complained about being uncomfortable.  He said his ears hurt.  And the second we stepped up to the register line, he was done.  Off came the mask!

All in all, though, I thought it went pretty well.  Trust me.  It could have been FAR worse!

The following weeks have seen progress with Aaron and his mask.  Look at him here at his doctor visit in June!

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But there was a big hurdle ahead…one I really dreaded.

Going back to his day group, Paradigm.

Masks were being required there, although his wonderful staff said they all understood that not only Aaron but several of the clients might have serious issues with wearing a mask all day.

His first day back last week started out a little rough.  I walked in with him and my heart sank as he at first refused the hand sanitizer, and emphatically said NO each time he was reminded to wear his mask.  I left there and drove home with a very heavy heart.  But later, after he ate, he was told to look around at how everybody else had on a mask.  So he put his on and has done well every day since.

I was talking with some of the staff later in the week.  They are amazed at the resilience and adaptability from these special-needs adults.  They have so many challenges already on many various levels, yet there they are in their day group…happy, chatting together, eating, laughing, not able to go out in the community right now, some sitting in wheel chairs, struggling with all sorts of health issues and other problems…and they’re wearing their masks.

They’re not arguing about whether masks do a good job.  They’re not talking about conspiracy theories.  They’re not reading the latest media stories or listening to all the debates.  They just know that they are, at this point, required to add one more uncomfortable thing to their already uncomfortable lives…so they do it.

They just do it.

Sometimes I wonder if our special-needs ones, full of so much discomfort already, have an easier time adapting to just one more discomfort than do we.

We…who are acting a bit spoiled, I might add.

I have ONE thing that’s irritating to me on most days.  A mask.

I don’t have the myriad issues that Aaron and his friends at his day group have.

Then why am I the one that is quick to complain?

I am humbled, once again, at our wonderful special-needs population…many of whom were unable to be with their families for weeks as they were in lockdown in their group homes.

I am humbled by the parents of our special-needs angels…parents who are exhausted and worried and have yet one more huge concern to add to their already full plates.

So let’s follow their example and just do what needs to be done right now, thanking God for each day and not letting our little inconvenience of wearing a mask turn us into absolute grouches.

Smile along with Aaron, everyone!

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