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. 

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. 

 

 

 

Painting Aaron’s Room

This past Saturday was a big day for Aaron.  That’s the day that we had his room painted.  The popcorn ceiling was removed and then the ceiling was painted; his walls were repaired and painted; and then the hall bathroom was painted as well.  “Us kid’s bathroom,” as Aaron calls it.  It’s fun to have a room painted, especially when you’re not doing it yourself.  We hired our neighbor’s friend, Rudy, to do the job for us. 

But for Aaron, it’s not fun to have a room painted…..especially when the room is his room.  He doesn’t care who is doing it.  He just doesn’t like all the ways that it affects him. Of course, we know this about Aaron.  That’s why we started preparing him for this big event a week before the job was to be started.  As we were eating on that Sunday, we told him with excitement that his room would be painted that following weekend.  We exhibited the same enthusiasm as we told him that we would need to move all of his furniture, except for his bed, out of his room before the painter came on Saturday.  

Aaron tilted his head as he often does and was silent as he thought about what we had just told him.  He was staring out ahead, but we knew that in his head things were happening.  You could almost hear the wheels turning as Gary and I waited with apprehension for his reaction.  Finally he spoke.

“Are you moving my book shelf with all my DVDs on it?” he asked.

We told him that we were going to move it.

“They need to be in order!” he told us.  “You’re not taking them off, are you?”

We assured him that we could move the book case without removing his DVDs……DVDs that are in a particular order and should not be disturbed by us mere mortal parents who have no idea of the importance of that order. 

On the next day, Monday, during supper again, Aaron asked about having his room painted.  “You’re not messing up my DVDs, are you?” he once again asked.  And we once again assured him that we would not mess them up.

“Well, can I play my computer?  Will it be messed up?” he anxiously asked us.  So we assured him that his computer would not be messed up and that he would be able to play it again.

“After the room is painted, can I hang my calendar?” he wanted to know. 

We told him that he could hang his calendar after we decided where all his new wall art was going to be hung…..but yes, he would definitely have his calendar.  The smallest things are huge to him.  There is no such thing as a small change in Aaron’s life.

And later that night, we heard the question again.  “So you’re moving my book shelf and DVDs?  You won’t mess them up, will you?”  This is when I began praying that we wouldn’t tip the book case over and spill the DVDs.  I couldn’t even imagine that scene.

On Tuesday, Aaron looked at us with worry as we told him that we would move his things out of his room on Friday night. “Can I play my computer just one last time before we paint my room?” he questioned.  He sounded like he was making his dying wish, for heaven’s sake!  This was just Tuesday, but he was wanting to be sure that on Friday night he could play it just before we moved it. 

Over the next several days, he continued to ask questions and to try to adjust to this huge coming disruption.  The big move on Friday evening went smoothly.  Gary even hooked Aaron’s computer up in Andrew’s room, still on Aaron’s own desk, and he was one happy camper…..despite the change.

We then broke the news to him that he would be sleeping in Andrea’s bed on that night.  He was very skeptical about this prospect.  I praised her bed and extolled all of its comfort and convenience, but he wasn’t convinced.  He said it wasn’t the same size as his, and I told him it was.  He said his sheets didn’t fit on it as well as I took her sheets off and put his on, but I told him they did.  I shot down all of his arguments as we placed his covers on the bed in their particular order that he likes and as we placed his snake, skunk, and frog in their certain places.

I got him tucked in, turned the light off, and said one last good-night as I closed the door.  I went to my room, but it wasn’t long at all before I heard that he was out of bed.  I opened his door and found him sitting on the bed, signing his bedtime log.  Of course.  It’s important for him to record the time he goes to bed and the time he gets up.  Once that was done, I tucked him in again and turned off the light.  He was in bed once again.

I was washing my face when I heard the knock on our bedroom door.  “Mom?” I heard Aaron ask.  “Can we watch Wheel of Fortune tomorrow?” 

Yes, Aaron, we’ll watch Wheel of Fortune tomorrow.  Now go to bed.

“Well, I don’t really want to sleep in Andrea’s bed.”

Go to bed, Aaron.

So he went to bed, where I tucked him in once again.

It didn’t take long until there was another knock on our door. 

“Is it going to rain?” he wanted to know.  I told him I didn’t think so.  “I mean, like a storm?” he asked.

No, Aaron, it’s not going to storm.  Go to bed.

He went to bed again.

Soon I heard it.  Thump, thump, thump.  Aaron was going down the stairs.  He was back upstairs before long, where he told me that he went downstairs to say something to Gary…..anything to keep from getting in bed. 

Aaron…..Go.  To.  Bed.  He did.  And he stayed, thankfully.

His report the next morning:  “I didn’t sleep well.  It’s not like my bed where the covers don’t move a lot.”  I didn’t have the energy at that point to ask him to explain that one.

Aaron handled the actual paint day very well.  He stayed busy on the computer, talking to us, going outside to sit by the garden and relax in the leaves and sticks, and generally ignoring what was happening in his room.  He showed no excitement or interest at all.  His biggest concern was his shower that night.  He couldn’t use “us kid’s bathroom” since it was still wet.

“It’s 8:00,” he said.  “I need to shower.”  His shower is at 8:00 every night, or shortly thereafter.  NEVER before 8:00.  Just so you know.  We do.

I took his towel and pajamas into our bathroom, which once again didn’t thrill Aaron.  “I wish this man wasn’t here,” he lamented.  “And I wish I was back in my room.”

Well, the next night he WAS back in his room.  I was worried because Gary wanted to move Aaron’s furniture around.  I just knew that this would tip the boat, and be too much change for Aaron.  We used our excited voices when we showed it to him.  All he cared about was:  were his DVDs messed up; was his computer going to work there: and when could he hang his calendar.  He was pretty unimpressed with everything else, and pretty irritated as we showed him some new things about his room. 

“You guys think I don’t know anything about my room!” he impatiently told us.  So we kept quiet as he went on playing his computer game. The amazing thing was that he handled the new room with ease.  That was a surprise for me!  He even slept in his bed that night, happily, despite the fact that his nightstand holding his lamp and his clock were on the opposite side from where they usually are.  He’s also putting his Handy Answer book on his night stand shelf instead of on the floor like he prefers, and tried to do the first day.  Progress!!
 

 
He followed me as I carried his coffee upstairs to his room on Monday morning. “Can we put the coffee on the shelf like we used to before that man came over?” he asked.  He refers to the painter, Rudy, as “that man.”  And he says it with an element of disgust, so it shows me that he really is somewhat frustrated by all of this change.  And he blames it on our painter, because Aaron has to blame someone for his discomfort.

Aaron’s room being painted is a huge improvement, though he doesn’t seem to care one bit about it.  But just as huge is how well he did with this interruption to his routine, and how easily he has adjusted to his new room. 

Also huge:  his DVDs didn’t get one bit messed up.  Thank you, Lord!!!

 

 

 

 

Bumps In the Road


I don’t know that there is any one routine of Aaron’s that is more important than another, but if I was pressed for an answer I would say that his bed time routine is way up there near the top of his Important Routines List.  And by the way, it would be just like Aaron to keep a list of such things if he thought of it, in yet another notebook for which he would find the perfect spot in his room….and there it would stay, placed exactly so, every single day of his life. 
The strictness of his bed time routine, which includes going to bed at or very near the same time that I go to bed, is the reason I began preparing him for a change early Sunday evening.
 “Aaron,” I began, “I need you to prepare yourself because I may go to bed a little early.  I’m getting a cold and I don’t feel well.” 
I could tell right away that he didn’t like this idea.
“What time?” he asked with a frown on his face.
“I don’t know exactly what time,” I replied.
Aaron thought for a few seconds, pondering this unwelcome change.  Mom might go to bed before I go to bed?  
“Will it be before night?!” he asked with great concern.
I knew he meant before dark.  Would I go to bed before dark?!  How disruptive and awful…..for HIM.  Never mind about my cold or about how I felt.  Aaron is, without doubt, most often about Aaron. 
I assured him that I would not go to bed before night, and he walked away to think on this sudden turn of events.  But as it turned out, I ended up asking Aaron later that evening if he wanted to play a game of SkipBo.  That game took up part of the time before night, so Aaron was saved, and our bed time routine was really no different than any other night. 
During the night some storms moved through our area.  They were pretty rough storms, and we briefly lost power several times.  That meant that Aaron’s clock on his night stand was disrupted and probably flashing, I thought, as I reset the clock on the microwave that morning.  Sure enough, when Aaron walked in the kitchen later, the first words out of his mouth were about his messed up clock. 
“Mom, the clock by my bed shut down, so I can’t write in my book what time I got up.  Can you fix it now?”
Knowing the importance of this part of his morning routine, I followed him upstairs immediately.  He called out the time to me from his satellite clock by his desk as I pushed the buttons on his clock and got the time just right.  He then wrote the correct getting-up time in his notebook, and all was well for the moment.
Aaron dressed and came down to the kitchen again to take his pills.  Soon he was holding an object of great interest to him…..a summer squash from our garden that was very dark, bumpy, and tough.  Any item that is the least bit unusual holds Aaron’s attention, and for the moment this bumpy squash was what Aaron wanted to hold and feel and talk about.  In fact, he carried the squash up to his room and placed it on his chest of drawers.  I was tempted to bring it downstairs right away, but I decided to leave it there for the time being.  What did it hurt?
Aaron had a doctor appointment later that morning.  As we drove across town, he told me about a song from a movie he was watching.  He hummed the song for me to hear and to identify.  Usually I can’t really tell what he is humming, but this time he did a great job and I knew the song….except for the life of me I couldn’t remember the title.  I told Aaron about my Sound Hound app that would let me hum a few bars while it identified the song, so Aaron could hardly wait for me to do just that.  We found an area of the doctor’s waiting room that had no one sitting close, and so with a very excited Aaron sitting beside me, I sat there humming this song into my phone.  It was pretty funny!  And sure enough, Sound Hound told us that the song was “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.”  Aaron bent over in his chair, his hands rubbing together quickly and with great delight, as I wondered how on earth I could forget the title to that song. 
We waited to be called and Aaron, who can hardly keep his doctors straight by name, asked, “Is it gonna be that one who asked me if I use drugs?  That was dumb!”  No amount of explaining will ever change Aaron’s mind that it was very dumb for a doctor to ask him if he uses drugs.  The doctor soon called for Aaron to come, so we both followed him to his office.  He stepped back for us to enter, and he said, “Hi, Aaron!”  To which Aaron replied….with nothing.  Total silence.  I was glad that he smiled with what I hoped was understanding.  This is just our second time to see this doctor, who is supposed to have an understanding of autism.  I hoped that understanding of his was working today.
The doctor began asking questions about how Aaron was doing since the last visit.  How are his seizures?  So we discussed that issue at length.  How are his behaviors?  We talked about that as well.  I was talking and the doctor was listening, when suddenly on my leg came a big WHACK!!
Aaron had soundly hit me on my leg, right in front of the doctor.  And then Aaron immediately said, “Tattle teller!!”
That was what Aaron used to say when he was a kid if someone was telling something they shouldn’t, or something he wished they weren’t.  The doctor’s eyes were staring from over his computer screen as I talked to Aaron.  I knew very well why Aaron whacked my leg.  He was frustrated at being talked about.  He does have feelings.  So I explained why the doctor needed to know these things, and the doctor chimed in as well, and Aaron settled down.  Oh well.  The doctor may as well see Aaron as Aaron is.  And it was probably good for both the doctor and me to be reminded of Aaron’s sensitivities.  
I know that Aaron is facing another sensitive issue today, too.  One of his favorite Paradigm staff has left, and so Aaron’s life there will change a lot.  I know that if one thing in life is certain, it is that life will change.  Easy for me to say……far harder for Aaron to deal with in an appropriate way.  Of all days for Aaron to find this out, too.  Aaron was grouchy this morning about going to his group today.  Three days off sometimes does that to him.  He went willingly after working through it, but gave the van door a little harder shove closed than usual when he got out.  I have no idea how his day has gone or if he knows of his staff that has left, but I’m sure I’ll soon find out when he comes home. 
I thought of all this when I walked upstairs earlier and saw the bright yellow squash sitting in Aaron’s room.  That squash, so full of bumps.  The bumps are what fascinate Aaron.  They are also what make that squash somewhat tough. 
Aaron has plenty of bumps in his life, too.  I’ve seen several of them in the past couple days, much less all the years that he has dealt with so much.  Bumps in the road are a part of life.  Some seem to have more bumps than others, that’s for sure.  Gary and I are sometimes able to ease Aaron over the bumps, like I tried to do concerning the possible change in my bedtime.  Sometimes issues are easily solved, like changing the time on his clock or humming into Sound Hound.   Other matters are deeper, like the one evidenced by the whack on the leg that Aaron gave me.  He didn’t like being discussed, but it’s necessary.  It’s painful for us both, and is a bump that he and I both deal with at nearly every doctor visit.  
This new bump, of one of his favorite people being gone out of his life now, will be a huge new bump for us.  I don’t know how it will affect Aaron.  He may surprise us and do well.  He may have good days and bad days.  But it’s a bump that we will be forced to navigate one way or another.  I’m thankful for the wisdom that God promises to give to those of us that are lacking and that ask Him for it.  I have been asking today, that’s for sure!
Maybe I’ll just leave that bumpy squash in Aaron’s room.  It will remind me every time I see it of this time.  Hopefully I will look at it in the weeks to come and remember how God eased us over yet another bump in this road we travel with Aaron. 

The Way Aaron Wants Things

Transition:  a passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another; CHANGE.  (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary)

From Online Asperger’s Syndrome Information and Support (O.A.S.I.S.):  Individuals with Asperger’s are easily overwhelmed by minimal change…..  MINIMIZE TRANSITIONS.

Guess what we are in the middle of with Aaron?

CHANGE!!

TRANSITION!!

And we cannot minimize this transition period.  Our motto, and Paradigm’s motto, this week is “Hang on, breathe deep, and hope and pray for the best.”

Aaron returned to his day group, Paradigm, yesterday – almost a month to the day after he entered the hospital for a week.  After returning home from the hospital, he had doctor appointments…..he had lots of healing to do……lots of strength that needed to return…..and setbacks, like his rash last week that needed to be treated.  We also took a trip to Houston over the Fourth of July, spending five fun days with Andrea and on the road.  Life was good for Aaron, especially after he started feeling better.  He loves nothing more than staying home with his computer and movies and games and television.  Throw in an occasional shopping trip, eating out or bringing in take-out, and what’s not to like?

I’ll tell you what’s not to like.  Returning to the real world, to a schedule, and to Paradigm is what’s not to like…..for Aaron.

Transition….big time!

One evening I was in Aaron’s room as he got ready for bed.  I had helped with putting Mr. Snake, Mr. Skunk, and Mr. Frog in his bed.  Every bit of each stuffed animal must be just perfect, placed exactly where Aaron’s unwritten rules say they should go.  I thought I had them perfect, but they were just a tiny bit “off” and so Aaron pulled back the covers I had pulled up, and he rearranged them just the very littlest bit.

I chuckled at this.  Then Aaron said, “I want things the way I want them.”

 
No truer words were ever spoken!  This describes Aaron better than any concise statement I could have ever tried to formulate.

Aaron wants things the way he wants them.  I guess we all do, really.  But for Aaron, as with so many autistic individuals, the desire is carried to the extreme at times.  Many times, in many ways.  It’s very difficult to dissuade Aaron from wanting things the way he wants them, too.  And to accept the fact that life doesn’t always allow him to have things the way he wants them. 

Staying home has always been the way Aaron wants his life to work.  So being home for all these weeks was just the best case scenario for our Aaron.  Going back to Paradigm is the worst thing, in his mind, that could have happened.  And it happened.  It’s happening now.  And we are hanging on for the ride.

Yesterday wasn’t bad.  Aaron was a little reluctant about going, but he and I walked into Paradigm with Aaron beaming.  He loved seeing Barb and Brandy, and later seeing Bryan.  He loved his friends saying, “Hey Aaron!  We missed you!”  He loved telling them about his trip to Houston.  He loved going with Bryan to help lay tile at a Paradigm house, and eating lunch at Wendy’s.  When he came home, he told me all about his day.  He showed me his receipt from Wendy’s.  He pulled out a business card from his pocket that he had gotten at a building supply store with Bryan, and he added it to his other business cards that he has confiscated over the years.  He also pulled out of his other pocket some change that he said he found on the floor at Paradigm.  He listened to my skeptical response.  He pulled out his billfold.  Finally his pockets were empty, and he went happily about his evening.

But today…..today wasn’t good.  Aaron didn’t want to go this morning.  He made that known at home by continually telling me that he wasn’t going today.  Finally he got in the van, and he was fairly pleasant on the way to Paradigm, although still saying that he didn’t want to go.  I’ve talked to him about a special meal on Friday to celebrate his first return week to Paradigm, but he told me this morning that he didn’t care about a special meal.

It’s best when Aaron is like this to just keep my affect as low as possible.  If I react strongly, then he will react even stronger.  Trust me….I have learned this.  So the less I talk, the better.  The less I react, the better.  I may tell him I’m sorry, or that I understand, but trying to lecture or to make a point is useless.  When Aaron is in his “I want things the way I want them” mood, then it’s best to be as quiet as possible.

I pulled up to Paradigm.  Aaron crossed his arms and refused to budge.  I calmly urged him to go on in and start his day.  After a short time, he opened the door and got out, but his face was a picture of real anger.  He slammed the van door, and then walked with sloping shoulders, slowly, up the sidewalk.  He looked like the weight of the world was on his young shoulders.  Then he stopped, and sat down in the rocks beside the sidewalk.  Melinda was just going in, so she stopped and talked to Aaron.  I decided to drive away as Melinda and I waved.

I guess that she talked to Aaron awhile, and then Brandy came out to talk to him.  She sat in the rocks with him, on his level, and he cried…..a sure sign of great frustration.  They went on a drive and Aaron calmed.  Bryan came back to Paradigm to pick Aaron up and take him to help him lay tile again, I assume.  Aaron enjoys helping Bryan with house jobs.  And I’m thankful for the gentle care that the staff at Paradigm gives to Aaron.  Their understanding, and the fact that they “get” Aaron, is a great relief to us. 

I hope that Aaron’s having a good day.  I suspect that he’ll come home happy again, full of talk of his day.  I don’t know what tomorrow will hold when it comes time to walk out the door again and face another day. 

Aaron’s greatest challenge in life is to learn how to process change…..how to transition from one way to another way.  Sometimes he surprises us.  In Houston, when we would tell him of our day’s plans, he would automatically say, “No!”  No to the beach…..no to the boat ride…..no to shopping, although we totally expected that.  But it was easier for Aaron to want to stay in his comfortable world, watching his movies at Andrea’s apartment and playing with her dogs. 

Yet when he went to the beach he loved it.  He loved the boat ride.  He endured the shopping.  And of course, he loved eating out!  I’ve reminded him of how he said no to things, and then how he really enjoyed those things once he did them.  This fact seems to mean nothing to Aaron now.  His mind is closed to this idea. 

He wants things the way he wants them.

And our job is to be patient, to not give in to his wants, to not lose our cool, and to ask God for lots of wisdom. 

If only Aaron wanted things the way I want them!! 

Yeah, I laughed at that, too. 

Our Nest

I remember being pregnant with Aaron and hearing the term “nesting.”  I wondered if that phenomenon was really true, and later discovered that it certainly was.  I had the rush of energy and the desire to get our nest in order before Aaron’s birth – and he was three weeks early!  Interesting!

I find myself considering our nest again, but now on the other end of the spectrum.  Goodness, how time flies!  And now I sound old even in just saying those timeless words about time.  I don’t really feel old, but soon our nest will be a little emptier, and I know that the years have rushed by much faster than I ever dreamed they would when I was knee high in diapers and runny noses.

Tomorrow, barring any delay, Andrea will officially be moving to her new apartment.  She’ll only be an hour away but the distance isn’t what matters.  This marks the beginning of her independent life.  She’s worked since she graduated from college, but has patiently still lived at home as she waited for the wisest opportunity to launch out on her own.  That time has come for her, and no one could be any happier for her than Gary and I are.  Yes, we’ll have the normal sadness as we watch her go, but the sadness is tempered by the happiness we feel for her.  She has a job that she’s wanted and that God put into her lap, so it seems, and now her own place.  Her patience has paid off and we believe that God has honored her.

When Aaron found out that Andrea would be moving, he was very surprised.  He blurted out, “NO MORE ANDREA??!!”  Well, kind of, Aaron………….she’ll still come to visit but no, she won’t be living here anymore.  He’ll miss her a lot, as we all will.  And she’ll miss him, too – in some ways more than others, for sure.

The nests I’ve seen around our yard, up in the trees, are all empty.  It’s the time of year for empty nests.  When I think of our nest, the Moore nest, I know that we have a different nest than many other people have.  We’re not alone in our uniqueness, certainly, but we are in the minority.  At our age, Gary and I should have an empty nest…………but when you have a child, or an adult, with special needs – sometimes the nest won’t be empty for a long time, and maybe never.

This fact hit me at some point when Aaron was entering adulthood.  Some of our friends were anticipating their own empty nests, or celebrating that fact when it occurred.  None of us dislike our children, but when the time of life comes that our children move on and we’re still young and healthy enough to be alone again – well, it’s just fun!  But as Gary and I dealt with the reality of Aaron’s needs, part of that reality that hit us square in the face was that Aaron may not leave home for a long time.

I’m not complaining and I sure hope I don’t sound whiny.  When we were first exploring what options we had for Aaron’s services, we chose an agency that would provide Aaron with a group home.  We were definitely headed in that direction…………..until one of the staff physically and verbally abused Aaron.  Gary and I considered that door shut, and so have kept Aaron at home with us.  Some day we will have to cross that bridge again, but we don’t know when that will happen.  His day group is a blessing to all of us, with an awesome staff.  But honestly, I can hardly imagine someone being able to love and understand Aaron enough to live with him, to care for him during his seizures, to know how to defuse him when he’s angry, to read his body language, and on and on.

There are some lessons that I have learned over the years in regards to our lack of an empty nest at this point in our lives. I don’t always practice what I preach, but I have learned:

1.  Do not compare myself to others!
This is a trap that I think we women fall into so easily.  I remember in our early years of marriage how I would listen when other wives told me that Gary and I should do this or go here or experience that.  I had to learn not to compare our lives with their lives.  Now as I think of Aaron being home I must also not compare our lives to those who are “free.”  God has given us this life with this situation, in His sovereignty, and to live any other way than in freedom would be defeating.

2.  Do not covet the life that others have!
     This goes along with not comparing ourselves to others, but coveting takes it one step further down that slope of sinful behaviors.  Other couples may have more time alone, more opportunity for travel, more peace and quiet, more time for their own hobbies or pursuits……..but I should never covet these things.  Coveting is purely sin!

3.  Be content!
     Paul had a lot to say about being content………….”Godliness with contentment is great gain;” and “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  Being content is an act of my will and an act of obedience to God.

4.  Count my blessings!
I have so many reasons to be thankful and so many blessings to count, every single day!  And counting my blessings keeps my mind on positive attitudes and focuses me once again on being content.

As Andrea and I worked in her apartment the other day, we noticed the pretty tree out the front window.  It’s a Redbud and this spring it promises to provide lots of beauty for her to enjoy.  As I was working on something, Andrea said, “Look, there’s a nest in the tree.”  And sure enough, there sits a nest up in the branches of the Redbud.  What a perfect reminder that now Andrea is starting her own nest!  Her first nest is not like my first nest, but it’s a nest and will be blessed by God as she honors Him.

 

And I want to continue to honor God with the nest that God has given to Gary and me.  Our last bird may be here for a long time, but that’s OK.  What a privilege to mother our special bird!

Besides, what would I write about if not for Aaron?