Plan B

I heard Aaron’s first seizure at 4:00 a.m. night before last.  I went in to be with him until it was over, assuring that he was safe.  And always, when this happens, my fuzzy sleepy brain tries to remember what plans I had for the upcoming day, and how those plans may need to be re-arranged.  Usually one seizure means others will follow, though in recent days that hasn’t been the case.  We just never know.

Not long after Gary left for work, I heard Aaron getting out of bed.  He came downstairs, eyes very droopy and tired, with his typical post-seizure headache and stomach ache his first concern.  I told him that he should go back to bed.

“I can’t,” he replied.  “I’ve already put my time in my notebook.”

You see, Aaron keeps a log of the exact times that he goes to bed and the exact times that he gets out of bed.  Every.  Single.  Day.

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In his rigid and organized world, he needs a period of time before he will go back to bed.  I know not to fight this.

Aaron went about his morning as best he could, with me listening closely for another seizure.  His falling seizures sometimes occur after only having one seizure during the night, so I was on full alert.

I was hoping that Aaron could go to his day group.  Friday is movie day and he enjoys that.  But he didn’t feel like going anywhere, he said, and I could see that he really was struggling.  Besides, if he had a seizure while out with his group, that could be very dangerous.

I knew that my day now needed to be changed, my plans shuffled or canceled.  Nothing in my day was hard to change, but it was inconvenient…and not only for me, but for my friend whom I was going to see after dropping Aaron off at Paradigm.  My day would have been:  take Aaron to Paradigm; go to Lolly’s house for a visit; run to Aldi for some groceries before our weekend snow comes; home with groceries; pick Aaron up from the theater; take Aaron to Wal-Mart for his “end-of-week” snacks; zip into Sam’s; and home.

Changing this day was far easier than having to reschedule a doctor appointment, for instance.  Yet having to switch from Plan A to Plan B can be irritating and at times difficult.  Poor Aaron can’t help any of this.  I’ve learned to be flexible.  And to be thankful that I don’t have to work, as having a job would be impossible.

As it turned out, Lolly came to my house.  She even brought some delicious little Brazilian cheesy bread balls that she learned to make during her years as a missionary with her husband in Brazil.  And cake!!!  She brought me…oh, and Gary 😊…some cake!!!

I was able to later run Aaron to Burger King for a take-out meal, knowing that if he had a seizure at least he was sitting down in the van.  Later, as he napped, he did have a second seizure.  I was so thankful that he was in his bed, safe from falling down!  And in the evening, we got to make our Wal-Mart trip.  Gary went with us so that we could both keep an eye on Aaron.  It was fun!  And Aaron wanted to make sure that I took a picture of him with this turkey breast that he LOVED for some funny reason!

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Not every Plan B in life is fun, though.  Many times, our switch from Plan A to Plan B is pretty devastating, and certainly not easy.  And as believers, we know that God has a plan and a purpose on this path upon which He places us.  Yet He never said that our path will be rosy.  Most often, it is not.

God told us to take up our cross and follow Him.  He did not say to take up our basket of May flowers and follow Him.

One of the most impacting books I have ever read is The Cup and the Glory, written by Greg Harris.  Harris talks about what it means to follow Christ.  Drinking the cup of suffering is what brings glory to God and great growth to us as His followers.

In Acts 16, during Paul’s second missionary journey, we see a profound example of God’s perplexing leading in Paul’s travels.  Blessings had been abundant to Paul and Timothy.  The Greek phrasing in verses 5-8 is so telling.  The words “on the one hand” are soon followed by the words “on the other hand.”

On the one hand, churches were growing and being strengthened…but on the other hand, as Paul tried to travel to Asia, he was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go there.  Later, as Paul and Timothy tried to go to Bithynia, they were once again stopped by God.  They finally ended up in Troas, where they never intended to go.

That road to Troas led through high mountains and was very difficult.  Why did God take Paul away from his intended destination, only to place him in such a strenuous and uncertain place?  Why did Paul and Timothy have to walk so long and so wearily through barren land full of dangers, and with no ministry taking place?

But Paul walked.  He kept walking in faith and in obedience to God, not understanding the reasons but fully understanding that God knew those reasons, and that was all that mattered.

Harris says, “It’s easy to walk with God when He exhibits the visible hand of His blessing.  However, Jesus calls us actively and continually to walk with Him – even when we can sense neither His presence nor His blessing – and not merely when you see Him feed the 5,000.”

Our goal in life should be to keep our eyes on God, not on our destination.  We may head one way, a God-honoring way, only to be re-directed by God onto another path.  Keeping our eyes on God during those disappointing times is key to experiencing His peace in the middle of our puzzling questions.

Our main goal on our journey is to be God Himself.  To know Him, to honor Him, to serve Him…wherever we are…is where we need to be focused.  God alone.  Through our questions, our tears, our concerns, our anger…God knows, and He cares, and He has a purpose.  His purpose is far greater than we will likely ever know on this earth.

Plan A?  Not today.

But on the other hand, Plan B!!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”  Prov. 3:5-6

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No More Dog

Yesterday was the day that Gary and I have talked about and dreaded for so long.  We had to say that final goodbye to our precious Great Dane, Jackson.

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What a beautiful and wonderful dog he was to our entire family!

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In 2007, Andrea really, really, really wanted a dog…a BIG dog!  Gary and I really, really, really weren’t sure.  But finally, we said yes and the rest is history.  Jackson was born in May of that year, so he lived a good and long life of nearly 12 years, surpassing the normal life span of a Dane.

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After a few years, Andrea moved to Texas for grad school, and stayed there for career and now marriage.  Jackson stayed with us and enjoyed visits over the years from Kyle and Andrea’s doggies.

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Aaron loves animals and Jackson was his special friend.  Patient, kind Jackson tolerated Aaron’s noises, Aaron’s behaviors that sometimes scared him, and other behaviors that pleased him – like Aaron’s knack for sneaking him table food and doggie treats.

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Jackson also at times showed concern for Aaron’s seizures, such as in this picture shortly after Aaron awoke from a seizure.

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Many of you have asked how Aaron handled this loss of Jackson.  Gary and I talked so much about how to tell Aaron when the time came.  For months, Aaron knew that this possibility might become a reality.  We talked about it a lot, but when our decision came, and the appointment was made, it was hard to tell Aaron that the “maybe” was now going to happen the next day.

We told him at supper on Monday that on the next day we were having to put Jacks to sleep.

“I don’t want to put him to sleep,” Aaron said.  We told him that we agreed but we listed all the reasons it was necessary.  Aaron was mostly quiet about it then.

As I tucked Aaron in bed that night, he said again that he didn’t want to get rid of Jackson, as he put it.  But Aaron knew it was not going to change, much as we wished it could.

The dread hung over us all day yesterday, like a gloomy cloud.  I wondered what Aaron would do when he got home from his day group, knowing that in a short while we would take Jackson to the vet.

“Can I give Jackson some treats?” Aaron asked.  So, I told him to go ahead and give him all the rest of the chicken jerky treats in the bag, which were mostly small pieces, but to give them to him slowly.  Of course, this happened.

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Jackson was thrilled!  And so was Aaron, most definitely!

The time came, much as we wished it wouldn’t.  Gary and I got Jackson ready to go, making a potty stop in the yard.  I ran up to Aaron’s room while Jackson sniffed outside.

“Aaron,” I said.  “It’s time to take Jackson.  Do you want to say goodbye?”

“No,” Aaron flatly said.

I told him that I understood and said we would see him soon.

Gary sat in the back of the van with Jacks, keeping him from falling as he was so prone to do.  I pushed the button to close our garage door and was backing out of the driveway.  Just as I got on our road, I looked and saw that our garage door was opening.

“Good grief!” I said.  “We don’t have time for this!”  I thought our door was malfunctioning.

So, as I pulled back into the driveway, with the garage door opening, I saw legs.  And as the door fully opened, there stood Aaron in the middle of the garage…right at the open door…his right hand in the air, waving back and forth.

Bless his heart, he had indeed wanted to say goodbye.  I will never forget that image of him standing there waving his hand to his buddy.

I opened the side van door, and Aaron walked outside.  He stuck his head in the door.

“Bye, Dad!” he said.

He couldn’t bring himself to say the words to Jackson, but his eyes darted nervously to look at his friend.  Then Aaron backed up, eyes still looking at Jackson.  And as he started to walk away, he looked back one more time, still with scared eyes focusing on Jacks.

It was incredibly sweet and sad and broke down all my tough reserves as I cried all the way to the vet.

And Jackson, in what seemed like one final way of expressing his opinion of all this, pooped in the van!  Served us right…right?!

When we got home and sat down to supper, Aaron did another amazing thing.  He didn’t seem to mind at all that we had some tears, and if you know Aaron, you know how shocking that is.  Aaron hates for anyone to cry.  If I just sniff my nose, he instantly asks if I’m crying.  He thinks crying is weird…but in reality, tears make him very uncomfortable and he doesn’t know what to say or do.

Later, after supper, Aaron and I sat down to watch some television.  He was snacking on his new bag of Chex Mix.  Suddenly, he jumped up and walked to the kitchen, returning with another of his bowls.

“Here, Mom!” he said.  “I’m giving you some Chex Mix!”  He proceeded to pour me some in the bowl he had gotten and bring it to me with a big smile on his face.  And even though I didn’t really want it, I would never have said no after I saw his happy face.

You see, Aaron loves to share with people…most of the time.  But sharing his food or his movies or his treasures…whatever he has…is Aaron’s love language.

And it was like he wanted to share a snack with me because I was sad.  Kind of like he shared all those jerky treats with Jackson earlier, except I merited a bowl.  Then he kept bringing me the bagel chips and the “twirly crackers,” as he calls them, that he doesn’t like…dumping them in my bowl with all the excitement he would have if he was giving me something of huge importance.

But this was of huge importance because it showed me that he cared that I was sad.  Empathy doesn’t always come easily to Aaron, but on this night it did.  So I ate the crackers that I didn’t really want so much, more for him than for me.  Yet it WAS for me, too, because it was like a good medicine for my heart in so many ways.

Aaron, last night, agreed with our sadness and he showed it in the way that Aaron does…not with words or deep conversation…but with his actions.  He tolerated our tears, and he shared what was important to him at the moment.  I never tasted any better Chex Mix than what I ate last night!

This morning, after Aaron ate his huge pile of scrambled eggs that I made him for breakfast, he put his plate on the kitchen counter.  Little pieces of egg were on the plate…little pieces that ordinarily would have gone in Jackson’s food bowl for him to eat, much to Aaron’s great delight.

“I was almost going to go out and put those in Jackson’s bowl,” I said to Aaron.  “It’s hard to think that Jackson isn’t here.”

“Yeah,” Aaron replied.  “No more dog!”

And he walked off with that, making his chuckling noise that isn’t a laugh.  It’s like he’s satisfied with what he’s said…not necessarily happy but satisfied.

That’s the bottom line if I ever heard a bottom line.  Just get to the point with Aaron.  Say it like it is.  Put things into facts, place them in a category, and move on.

But I know he thinks deeply and he feels deeply.

That goodbye wave and my Chex Mix will remind me of that for a long, long time.

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Set Sail!

God prepared you, and me, for every single event in our lives before we needed it. And He then stacks grace upon grace as we live through the tough times…..blessing upon blessing…..growth upon growth.

He Said What?!

It’s a good thing that I looked in the cabinet this morning, checking on a key ingredient that I needed for my chicken dish that we’ll eat for tonight’s supper.  I thought I had plenty but I didn’t, so I quickly added it to my short grocery list and was able to stop at the store later to pick it up.  Being prepared is important!

This small episode fit perfectly with what I read this morning during my quiet time.  I actually learned a new word…..a Greek word.  Well, most Greek words are new to me, but this particular word made a huge impression on me.  I hope it will do the same for you.  The word?

Pleroma.

Impressed yet?  Hang on.

Pleroma was part of the ancient world’s shipping vocabulary.  It has to do with being complete or being full.  Here is what Raymond Brown says about pleroma in…

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The Small Seeds

We have a large Golden Rain Tree in our front yard, just off our front porch and sidewalk.  We love how pretty this tree is, and we love the shade it provides.  Every spring the new growth is almost a Chartreuse Green that stands out against the dark green of the leaves on the older branches.  Then little seed pods start growing.  At first, they are a pretty mauve and soft green color, like little puffy pillows hanging all over the tree.    As autumn arrives, the seed pods turn a crunchy brown.  They fall off the tree in droves, covering our sidewalk and our flower beds, laying in the mulch under the tree, and generally becoming a nuisance.

Inside each seed pod are several little black, round seeds.  As the seed pod dries up and blows away, those small black seeds nestle down into the mulch around the tree or in the flower beds.  They fall into the cracks of our sidewalk.  They disappear under the Moneywort ground cover in one flower bed, or under the Salvia in another bed.  In other words, those pesky seeds go everywhere and there is no controlling them!

It’s easy to forget all about them during the cold days of winter when nothing is growing and when little attention is being paid to my flower beds.  But as always happens, winter ends and soon the warmer days of spring are upon us.  The rain falls; the sun is higher in the sky; the days grow longer; and plants are growing and blooming and coming to life.

Something else grows, too.  In the mulch under the trees; between the cracks in our sidewalk; along the edges of the landscape bricks; mixed in amongst the Moneywort ground cover…just everywhere…grow little tiny Golden Rain Trees.

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And so begins my spring and summer job of being vigilant to look for these new little growths, and when finding them, to immediately pull them up from where they are happily growing.  I can pick dozens of these beginnings of Golden Rain Trees one day, and literally the very next day find more popping through the moist soil.  They grow quickly and they grow abundantly.

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They also hide very well in my Moneywort ground cover, being nearly the same color and having very similar leaves.  It takes time to look carefully, to find them, and then to pull them out.

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These fragile miniature trees have an amazing root system from the very start of their growth.  If caught early, they are easy to pull up.  But the longer they are left, the harder they are to fully remove…root and all.  They take hold quickly in order to grow strong and to secure solid footing.

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It would be far easier to just leave them alone…to ignore them…or to even enjoy how fresh and cute they are when they are just small, harmless plants.  They won’t hurt anything, right?  Besides, who has time for all that searching and bending over and pulling and throwing away?

In the Old Testament, God chose the nation of Israel to be His people…the nation through whom He would show His plan for redemption through the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.  As God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel was given commands from God…laws to be obeyed…wars to be won…plans to be fulfilled by God through His people.

But over and over the people of Israel tired of obeying God.  They forgot God’s abundant love and His steadfast promises…promises that hinged upon their obedience.  It didn’t seem like such a bad thing to them to intermarry among the heathen nations…to worship those nation’s false gods…to join in all sorts of pagan living and beliefs…and eventually to totally forget God.

Their sins were like our little Golden Rain seeds…small, and seemingly no big deal.  But oh, when left unchecked, how huge they became!  How far reaching their impact and destruction, both on a personal and a national level!

Listen as the Psalmist describes the result of unattended sin:

“…they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did.  They served their idols, which became a snare to them.  They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood.”  (Psalm 106:35-39)

 

Sin and disobedience, either personal or national, that is left unchecked will grow deeply and dangerously into actions that could never have been dreamed possible.  I’m sure Israel never thought that falling in love with the heathen people and marrying them would one day result in offering their children in an idol’s fire.  But indeed it did, as what was once deemed wrong became acceptable and condoned and fully embraced.

It’s true for us today as well.  We rationalize…we explain away…we conveniently ignore…we refuse to speak truth.  We think that “small” sins are really no big deal.  God understands, right?

I mean, your truth might be different from my truth, but what does it matter?  As long as no one gets hurt, then it’s OK.   The world has changed, and we have to change with it.  We need to be tolerant.  And on and on we go, even Christians, turning a blind eye to the small dark seeds of sin that are growing unhindered in the hearts of individuals and in our nation.

Now we’re left reeling in the aftermath of sin left untended too long.  We’re left wondering what has happened to morals and decency and the fear of God.

It’s happened because of years of ignoring God.  Years of not obeying His clear commands.  Years of refusing to teach the absolute truth of God’s word and His ways.  In our own personal lives, and therefore in the life of our great nation, we are reaping the harvest of disobedience and disbelief.

Sin is relentless because Satan desires to destroy each one of us.  Sin may seem innocent enough…such a small matter here and another one there, falling into the cracks of our individual hearts.  But sins left alone to grow will do just that, becoming rooted in our lives and then in the lives of our family and finally in the life of our nation.

God is a God of mercy and forgiveness, yet He is also a God of justice and holiness.  Sin left to grow will show itself in so many ugly ways, and finally we will face its consequences…not because God is mean, but because God is just and He, as Holy God, cannot tolerate sin.

May our hearts be tender to God’s instruction.  May our eyes see with wisdom the sin that so easily besets us.  May we uproot those sins, constantly, and live in obedience to God…as individuals and as a nation.

 

Special Aaron

 

No mother can ever forget the birth of their babies, each one so unique and completely amazing.  That first baby, though, holds a very tender place in a mother’s heart.  Our first baby was Aaron.  He wasn’t loved more than our other two children, but that first birthing experience was one of a mixture of fear and uncertainty that culminated in total wonder at the little squalling miracle lying in my arms.

A son!!  I remember a feeling washing over me that I had never experienced before.  Total love.  I knew that certainly no other woman could have ever felt as blessed and…well…as special as I did in those new moments of motherhood.  I know now that this wasn’t true, but you could never have convinced me otherwise during those first fresh days of holding my little son.

I examined him from the top of his fuzzy head to the very bottom of his wrinkled toes.  Every detail was so perfect.  He was so tiny and complete…wispy eyelashes, button nose, tee tiny little fingernails and toenails…just every single part was truly a work of art from God.

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Lots of years have passed since my first introduction to motherhood in that old wooden WWII hospital at Fort Carson, Colorado.  So many details of Aaron’s future, unknown to us back in 1984, have woven themselves into our own future now.  Never, ever did we dream that our Aaron would continue to be defined as “special,” but now in the sense that we often call “Special Needs.”

Sometimes I still shake my head in disbelief at that title.

Yet there is no denying the reality of this path upon which God set our steps.  Aaron’s first seizure in Germany at the age of seven led us to a diagnosis of Epilepsy.  Seizures have never been out of the picture since that time other than for brief periods of reprieve.

Then later, at the age of 14, came the surprising diagnosis of autism…Asperger’s Syndrome.  This wasn’t a common condition at that time.  I didn’t even know what Asperger’s was.  But we’ve all learned along with Aaron just what it means to live with what we call “Special Needs.”

It’s very interesting to look up this word “special.”  It’s a word that we so routinely use that we don’t give it much thought.  So, I did just that…I looked up this special word in the dictionary…and I was touched by just what it means to be special.  Especially what it means to Aaron, and so to us as well.

 

SPECIAL:  Distinguished by some unusual quality.

Our family would laugh at this one, not because we’re cruel but because Aaron has LOTS of unusual qualities.  Many days I wish it was only one.  Some are funny; some are annoying; some he repeats over and over; some are loud; some are very embarrassing….

 

SPECIAL:  Readily distinguishable from others of the same category.

Well, that’s one way to put it.  He’s very readily distinguishable when he stops in the crosswalk at Wal-Mart and holds his arms up just to be sure that traffic knows to stop!  He’s totally distinguishable when I remind him to look UP as we leave the store and enter said crosswalk again so that he looks for traffic and not at his feet…and he stops in the middle of the crosswalk and looks up at the SKY!!

He’s also very likely to hover at the door of the nail salon like a stalker, watching the women getting their manis and pedis…fascinated by the smells and the sounds…but a little alarming as he curiously stares.

He whistles…he claps…he sings.  Or he stands in the little restaurant in the Wal-Mart entrance and delights in the fact that the attendant thinks he wants to order.

 

SPECIAL:  Being other than the usual.

Usual is so boring to Aaron.  Some days I wish for boring.  But Aaron does add a spark to life on most days.  Sometimes a raging fire, honestly.  Like Gary and I envisioned Friday evening in Cracker Barrel when Aaron decided to take the globe off the oil lamp…that was lit…with real fire.  All was well.  Nothing to see here, people at the table beside us.  Move on.

 

But there is also one more meaning to this word…this special word.  And this meaning is by far my very favorite.

 

SPECIAL:  Designed for a particular purpose.

You see, Aaron was indeed designed by God, just as much as all the other babies ever conceived.  He was designed for a particular purpose.  I don’t always live in that reality, especially on the hard days.  But I know deep in my heart that God made no mistakes with Aaron.  God’s sovereign hand made Aaron just the way he is.  It’s up to me to live in that knowledge, especially when I’m tired or upset or discouraged or embarrassed.

Honestly, one of the huge purposes that I’ve seen Aaron have in my life is to remind me of how much I need God.  How much I need His love and forgiveness and patience and strength.  How when I am weak, then God is strong FOR me and IN me.

 

Aaron reminds me to give:

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Aaron reminds me to love:

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Aaron reminds me to laugh:

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Aaron reminds me to enjoy life:

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Aaron reminds me to keep going when things are tough:

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And God reminds me of these truths:

 

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret;

And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;

And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me,

When as yet there was not one of them.    (Psalm 139:13-16)

 

Aaron-mothers day 12May1985

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My Special Needs

I hate Mom.

Those were the last words I heard Aaron mutter softly as he lay in his bed after a very rough evening.  I heard those words on the baby monitor that I keep on my nightstand so that I can hear seizures.  I would rather have heard a seizure, honestly. 

And I was so frustrated at his hurtful words that I picked up the monitor, pressed the talk button, and nearly…very nearly…spoke angry words that would have only exacerbated the situation on so many levels.  I am glad I didn’t.

Earlier in the evening I had written another funny clip about Aaron on Facebook.  I love sharing the very unique and humorous ways that Aaron speaks.  His take on the world can be side-splitting hilarious and so refreshing.

But he has another take on the world as well, and that take can take a huge toll on me and on Gary…and take every tiny ounce of patience that we have left in order not to erupt ourselves into verbal onslaughts that will match Aaron’s, word for word. 

I knew that we might be in for a rough night when Aaron was still playing a game on his computer after 9:00.  He’s usually downstairs long before then, hovering over me, waiting for me to finish whatever I am doing so that we can watch one of his TV shows on his DVD set.  But 9:00 came and went, with no return of Aaron who had previously asked me to assure him that we would watch a DVD at his precise, set time.

Upstairs I went, only to find him playing one of his favorite Lego Star Wars games on his computer.  When Aaron plays a game like this, he has a very hard time stopping it and saving it.  He must reach a certain point in the game, and in his mind, before he will turn it off.  For over an hour he kept repeating the same phrase, loudly: “I’m coming!!”  Over and over and over.

I knew better than to rush him, but I also knew that the clock was moving toward bedtime and not TV time.  We were in for it, I knew it…and I was right.

Aaron finally rushed downstairs and barreled into the family room, eyes wide and words rushing out. 

“Can we watch Bones, Mom?!!  Can we??!!”

I reminded him of the late hour, but he didn’t care one bit about that.  He was in such a tizzy.  And he could tell that I was tired and didn’t want to stay up late.  His whole nighttime routine was a wreck now, due to no fault of mine, but Aaron refused to take responsibility. 

Mom was mean.  Mom was dumb.  Mom didn’t care.  On and on.

He turned his DVD on.  Turned it off.  More yelling.  Turned it on.  Turned it off.  Asked if I was crying, over and over and over…for Aaron does NOT like to see me cry.  I wasn’t crying, but he didn’t believe me, so he stared and stared at me.  And he also does not like for me to make funny eye or facial movements, so he stood in front of me as I sat on the couch, demonstrating to me with his own face the looks from MY face that he would not tolerate.

It was just too much.  He looked so funny, really, that in my tiredness I did the forbidden…I laughed.  Aaron thought I was laughing AT him personally.  He erupted and we traveled even further downhill than we already were.

It was a wild hour after that.  He was in and out of his bedroom…in and out of bed…in and out of our bedroom.  He was calmer talking to Gary…angry talking to me.   Say goodnight, Mom…no, don’t say goodnight, Mom.  I don’t want your goodnight kiss…OK, I do want your kiss. 

He calmed when Gary came upstairs.  He let me hug and kiss him goodnight.  And then the soft, muttered words that I heard on the monitor…words that showed he was still upended and very frustrated. 

My calmness during the whole episode only seemed to fuel his flames.  The realistic, upset words I did say seemed to appeal to him more than soft kindness.  So strange how that works.  So strange how that complex brain of his works.

Seizures are honestly easier to handle than are the behaviors.  Seizures are scary and sad.  Behaviors are exhausting and often hurtful.  People feel sorry for seizures.  But behaviors…what do you do with behaviors? 

And behaviors leave me feeling like a very unfit special needs mother.  I am not above the anger and the lost patience that Aaron’s anger and lost patience trigger in me.  Then comes the guilt and regret.

I lay in bed last night, Gary’s calmness and nearness giving me comfort.  But my tension was strong, too, and sleep wouldn’t come.  My tossing and turning was keeping Gary awake, too, I knew.  I would relax and then thoughts would wash over me.  I would relax again and Aaron would stir, seeming to be restless as well. 

There are so many thoughts and emotions that go through my mind after these episodes, infrequent though they have been lately.  How could I have handled it differently?  What should I have said?  What should I have NOT said?  Guilt for not liking Aaron when he’s out of control.  On and on.

What I do know is that God is always there for me.  He heard me last night, there in the dark, praying and confessing and praising.  He knows my form.  He knows that I am human and that I am weak and that I need Him, totally.  He knows that I get frustrated and tired, and that I do love Aaron with all my heart.  And He knows that though I love Aaron, sometimes I don’t like him when he’s angry and full of hurtful…and hurting…words.

Being a mom of a child with special needs is never easy.  Some days…and happenings…make it harder than others. 

But then I think about God, and how often I am that child with special needs and how much He gives me His love and His grace. 

That’s the kind of parent I need to be with Aaron.  Forgiving him…understanding but not condoning…and opening my heart and my arms with love. 

I have no superior wisdom or strength.  I mess up…I give up…I look up.  And there I find God, always understanding and giving me grace. 

God’s a good Father to me, his special needs daughter.  I need all He gives to me and does for me, for I have nothing of my own.  He certainly didn’t choose me for this parenting role because of anything I have to bring to the table.  He chose me because…well, I don’t really know.  But what I DO know is that He is all-knowing about what is best, and that in all of this I see MY special needs every bit as much as I see Aaron’s.

And in the seeing, I am shown God’s great love and great grace and how His arms are always under me, bearing me up when I am at my weakest.  Which is often.

God loves me, His special needs daughter. 

And He will give me all that I need to do the same for Aaron, His special needs son that He entrusted to my feeble care. 

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Aaron’s Bowl of Normal

Walking through the family room the other day, I noticed something red sitting on the end table beside Aaron’s favorite chair.  I knew he had left his bowl of Hot Tamales on the table, but there was something else.  I stopped to look, and this is what I saw.

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Aaron had set aside these two Hot Tamales.  This is nothing new, so I knew exactly what it meant.  It meant that Aaron realized these two Hot Tamales were a different shape and size than his normal Hot Tamales.  To Aaron, they don’t fit into the bowl of regular candy.  They are not the norm.  They must be separated from the usual candy, sitting there until all his candy is finished, and then thrown away.  He will not eat them.  They are unacceptable to him. 

Our Christmas holiday is still a warm memory to me.  However, not every memory with Aaron is warm and fuzzy.  Those unusual Hot Tamales help explain our family dynamic perfectly.

Aaron both loves, and somewhat dreads, our Christmas celebration.  He loves the anticipation of opening his gifts.  He looks forward to time off from his day group…time to be at home relaxing and filling his days with whatever he wants.  He likes seeing what food I am making, hoping that some of his favorites are in the mix. 

However, Aaron’s autistic mind is also very aware that his structured schedule is about to change.  He knows that he will soon need to share his ordered world with Andrea and Kyle…with their three dogs…and with Andrew.  He even must share his bathroom, for crying out loud!  In his mind, he is already setting aside some of these daily issues much like he does his unacceptable Hot Tamales.  They are not the norm, so they are cast off mentally as being unpleasing…yet in this case, necessary.

Aaron in many ways looks forward to our family being together for Christmas, just as he looks forward to eating his candy that is poured into one of his ever-present bowls.  But soon comes along those pesky interruptions into his ordered life…interruptions that are very difficult for him to sort and to deal with properly.

Christmas Eve is most often the time for what Andrew calls “Aaron’s Annual Christmas Meltdown.”  We say this with a smile when Aaron doesn’t hear us, but we also say it with some dread for what might come. 

Two of our best Christmas traditions occur on Christmas Eve.  My favorite is the Christmas Eve service at our church.  Each year we ask Aaron to come, and each year he turns down our offer.  The large crowds…all the talking with strange people…some of the louder music…and having to sit quietly for such a long time…are all very stressful to Aaron.  We understand this, and we don’t push the issue.  We know better.  But each year I’m sad that our picture in front of one of the beautiful Christmas trees does not include our full family.

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When we get home from the Christmas Eve service, our other fun Christmas tradition takes place.  Christmas Bingo!!  Otherwise known as the usual cause for “Aaron’s Annual Christmas Meltdown.”  Our Christmas Bingo is fun and loud and unpredictable.  Aaron greatly dislikes loud, unpredictable fun…which to him is NOT fun!  This is why Aaron shuns parties of any kind.  He says that people act weird at parties.  Never mind that on any given day one may hear Aaron clapping or saying outlandish things as he watches a show or scratching himself openly in Wal-Mart.  Aaron sees his actions as totally fine, but when Gary acts goofy as he announces each Bingo card, Aaron’s frustrations grow and grow.  Add to that our laughter and joking, winning or NOT winning each round, prizes that disappoint…well, Aaron’s bowl of normal is quickly being emptied and he is usually simmering as the game progresses.

This year, Aaron joined us after we had played a couple rounds.  He hovered near the table, observing us and seeming to need time to gather his courage to sit down at the table.  Aaron usually targets one of the guys, especially Kyle since he is new to our family and Aaron still isn’t sure it’s OK that he married Andrea.  He targets Andrew because Aaron has always been somewhat jealous of his brother.  And he targets Gary because Gary is Dad, and Dad is acting way too silly. 

When Aaron sat down with us to play, we all quietly decided to try to make the game as non-silly as possible.  We also decided to be as quiet as possible when announcing that we had a Bingo.  However, this plan ultimately made us laugh even more…as quietly as possible but still not quiet enough for Aaron. 

But something else was also going on with Aaron.  Andrea later said it very well.  Aaron knew that things were very funny because we were all laughing, but he couldn’t figure out what the funny things were.  There were many comical moments, but none made Aaron laugh.  He was focused and intense and struggling very hard to keep from being angry.  There was nothing worth laughing about in Aaron’s mind.  Instead, he was wondering why we were all laughing at the gifts and at each other’s comments, and as we see every year, his tension was mounting and his fun meter was doing way down. 

My heart went out to him as I just watched him sitting on the opposite end of the table from me.  He had just won a prize and was so very seriously opening the little box. 

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He loved getting a Bingo, and I found myself wanting him to win every time.  But life isn’t like that, and I knew he needed to once again learn to be a part of our world…loud and puzzling and frustrating and disappointing as it is.  He can’t remove the parts of life around him that are not his normal.  He must adapt as much as possible, and we must also be allowed to enjoy our family life together with him when we can…when he can. 

There are small ways that we have learned to let Aaron be…to not ripple the water unnecessarily.  Like when he won a bottle of body wash, but it was ladies body wash.  With each other, we would have laughed at this…making fun of the girlie name on the bottle and teasing whichever guy had the misfortune of winning it.  But not with Aaron.  We just kept quiet about it, watching Aaron stash his prize safely on the floor beside him.  And later that night, I found the body wash placed in the shower to be used by him the next morning.  I never said a word to him about it, and he happily used it…and smelled very nice!

We pick our battles with Aaron when we can, happy that he actually made it through this Bingo game without an eruption of anger.  His anger later spilled out toward me after I made a random comment about forgetting to put the ham cheese ball out to eat, saying that maybe we should start our game all over.  That did NOT make him happy…and neither did my hand motions that he copied angrily.  He was so done with that evening!  All of us were picked out of his normal bowl, trust me!

I was happy that his seizure during the night didn’t ruin his Christmas day.  I was happy that he was able to open his presents, though he was heavy-eyed and dreary after the seizure.  I was happy that his other seizure later that day was during his nap, and that he didn’t fall down. 

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And I was especially very happy that our neighbor came over and took our family picture in front of our tree.

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For really, our family isn’t complete without Aaron.  He may want to kick us at times out of his normal bowl, but then he does turn around and let us back into his life. 

And we do the same with Aaron, over and over and over again.  We welcome…we include…we modify…we adjust…we sigh…we go to bed tired – but we do love our Aaron and will always want him in OUR bowls as much as possible.