Saturday, April 1, 2017

31 cents worth of Autism

It is the beginning of April! This has become a very important month to our little family because we are foot-loose and fancy free for a whole month to share our crazy, nutty, perfect (ish) life with autism in an effort to make the world around us more aware. Here is the thing, the numbers prove that it is nearly impossible to not know someone with autism. 1 in 62 people have autism and that is just the diagnosed ones. It is more common in boys and approximately 1 in 42 males are diagnosed with some form of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). This is the statistically reality. The real-life reality is that daily our little boy meets people who stop, who stare, who don't understand. I was telling a story the other day about being at one of my other boy's basketball games and I noticed two women turn around and do a double take to Garrett. It took me a few more minutes to realize that G was getting excited and he was expressing his excitement with a humming sound and hand-flapping. In order to redirect him, I handed him a hairband to chew on and placed my hand on his head to help him get his body under better control. A part of me wanted to be offended. A part of me wanted to be sad. Another part remembered how I felt the first time I witnessed G handflap. I'll never forget it because Ryan and I and G were at the Klingberg center and our baby boy was  being evaluated for ASD. Ryan and I had talked about what we would hear and I thought we were ready to hear the words whatever they might be. And then, standing right in front of a two way mirror, my little boy started flapping his hands and jumping. I felt a hurt like never before. That sort of mom feeling that you get when your whole life just changed in an instant. I looked over at my husband and simply said that we just got our diagnosis. Hand flapping is definitive sign of autism. It was like watching my world be permanently tilted and realizing that it would never go back to normal again. We did indeed walk out of that 3 hour torturous eval with our diagnosis and a large packet of information and, even though life would never be the same, my little boy was not one bit different to me. He was the same kid that I carried in. The same kid I had known for every day of his life. He was my G baby. I cried the whole way home. I am crying as I type this. I remember praying. I remember calling my mom and saying, "It's not going to be a secret. G is still G and this is going to be ok." I knew nothing about autism. I was unaware. I may have done a double take a time or two. I may have stared for a moment too long at someone else's child, and now that was my life. It still is my life. The difference is that I am now aware and I am so abundantly blessed by that awareness. I wish I could go back so that Ry and I, and, maybe even Parker and Carter could jump right up there beside G, in front of that two way mirror. We could all stand tall and proud and flap our hands right alongside our G. Now,  we celebrate it. On the good days and the bad days, we know that we have been given a gift we didn't ask for and will never stop unwrapping and discovering. One that we enjoy and embrace and love beyond all reason.

I thought that as a kick off for the month I would give you "31 cents of autism". A couple of months ago, G was being observed by someone who works with us from a program for families with autism. We think of her as our autism angel and feel blessed to live life with her on our team. One thing that Peggy has encouraged and guided us in is trying to help G become more self aware of his autism. If he can recognize and embrace it, then he can deal with it himself more independently and become his own advocate. This can be tough to do though because the whole concept makes no sense to his literal concrete mind. He thinks everyone is just like him. We have attempted to help him with this in many ways including reading some great children's books that explain autism and ASD. These tools help him and we share them with anyone who wants them, especially friends, neighbors, and family. We have really seen more  self-awareness from G in the last couple of months, on more than one occasion, G has said that he might have autism (and that I might too), and he has been ok with that. These are major steps for him and us. On this particular day, our friend Peggy was observing G in his classroom and watching him and another little girl playing a math game that included counting coins. G had noticed Peggy and is very comfortable with her and at some point in the game, he looked up after counting out $0.31 and said, "Yeah, I might have 31 cents worth of autism." Self advocay at its finest! I thought it might be fun to give you all 31 thoughts from G, his brothers, and some of our friends who know and love us. Some are funny. Some are sad. All are honest and real. Life with autism requires those two things. You've gotta be honest and you've gotta be real. So here goes...

1. "Autism is when you feel things in different" - C
2. "One thing that I've noticed about autism is that some kids with it can be really normal, like G. Well, until he starts talking like a TV show!"- P
3. "Autism has different degrees and G is a 2-3 with 1 being no signs and 10 being severe"- K
4 "Autism makes you different from others, like care free, you know like G-man. He can run around in his underwear and not care" - J
5. "Mom, I think you might have a little of that autism"-G
6. "When I see others who are autistic, I want kids to be nice to them. I hate it when kids are mean about that kind of stuff." - P
7. "Some folks, like the Stucks and Hendersons, don't even seem to notice. That's a good thing about some people." - C
8. "G looks at life with different eyes. Like we can be seeing the some show but he doesn't even notice it."- P
9. "Autism makes me really good at some things."-G
10. "Kids with autism have a different mindset. They see things differently"-H
11. " The thing I hate the most is when people stare at G." - C
12. "Autism makes some kids see things different and they may tell you no if you ask them to play."-J
13. "It can be a bit socially awkward at times, but we just roll with it." - P
14. "Autism is like OCD." - K
15. "G has autism. I think he is fun loving and playful, nice and very creative. He isn't afraid of what people think of him." - J
16. G is a normal boy. One of his friends -R
17. "I love the fun of G, the nerf wars and being crazy. He has a lot of fun." - P
18. "Having a brother with autism makes us good protectors of G and of all people"- C
19. "It's hard work to get G to listen.  Sometimes it's hard to control him because he can get angry easily.  Sometimes he is very silly just like me." - L
20. " This autism is going to help me win the war against this sickness." - G (when he had strep)
21. "G gets so excited about things, like flapping or making sounds, that sometimes I find myself getting excited and wanting to jump around too!" - C
22. "G isn't really different because I moan too and I am OCD about my nerf guns." - R
23. "We do have one of the coolest houses"- C (read on to find out why!)
24. "For real, swings, gorilla gym, giant bean bags, sand and rice boxes, and all of it INDOORS!" -P
25. "G has autism but he's awesome, creative, and I love having nerf wars and missions with him" - J
26. "G is not like anyone else. He is his own person.  It's like he has his own world." - H
27.  When asked if there is anything odd that G does- "He moans sometimes". - K
28. "A pro of having a brother with autism is that it makes me notice kids with differences. Even like a kid whose mom passed away or a girl who wears glasses or a boy who is a really good builder, and I am cool with differences. I notice them and I think it makes them cool." -C
29. "G doesn't seem to care what anyone else is doing or saying.  I think that makes him special because things that might bother us don't always bother him." - H
30. "I can't imagine our life without autism. G is just G to us." - C
31. "There are pro and cons to life with autism but the pros way out weigh the cons." - P

That folks is our 31cents worth of autism! Stay tuned for an entire month of what we affectionately call "G-isms"!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Plan and a Purpose

I have a reader and sports enthusiast. I have one who is good with numbers and can carry on a conversation with absolutely anyone. I have a G......

I was cleaning up some madness in my mom "keep" pile a while back and I stumbled upon this beautiful note from a former teacher of Garrett's that said, "remember always that Garrett is a child of God's and then he is your child and lastly, he is a child with autism". That reminder was meaningful when it was written and it impacted me similarly that afternoon months later. It was during a time when I was very much focused on surviving autism and second grade and, to be honest, that week. I couldn't see past bedtime much less any farther. I was forgetting the "plans and purposes". Plans and purposes are something that I talk about all the time with my big boys. We pray about them and I encourage them always to trust that God has wonderful plans and purposes in mind just for them. I pray they will walk those paths and trust in the Father's perfect will for their lives. Now let me be honest, the funny thing is that I had never really considered it much for my Garrett. My failure in this area was also noted in my heart a few months ago when we were in a team meeting with some key folks in G's life and we were talking about our hopes and dreams for his future. The whole idea of thinking and planning and praying about this for him felt foreign to me and I was ashamed and shocked at my lack of faith. It wasn't' intentional that I wasn't planning or praying for G's plans and purpose, it's just that first I want him to wear his glasses, finish his homework, make a friend or even two, use kind words and actions,  and, to be honest, survive. These are the plans that I have for him; homework, getting some sleep, self control, joy. Yes, they are good and right but not his God ordained purpose, right?

I tried to feel out Garrett's thoughts on all this and I discovered that it was alot for his heart and mind to wrap around as well. Maybe it's fear or ignorance or misunderstanding but G doesn't want to talk about what God's big plan is for him. When we talk about Jeremiah 29:11 where it says," For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future", G shuts down a bit. He tends to ignore it or even get a little irritated. My older boys are all in. They want to talk about exactly what sort of awesomeness might be in their future and they want assurance that it will at some point in time include their own phone and staying up later. G is ok with hanging with mom and sticking with what he knows and can control.  He would be ok to marry me and sleep in his pokemon jammies for the long term. He's good. His reaction proved to me that I needed to go deeper in this area. The thing is though that I don't exactly know how and I'm a little afraid to dream big. I realized in praying about this that I still struggle with letting go and letting God with the longterm. Let's be real, if that little guy could fit on my lap for the rest of life, I would gladly rock him to sleep in those pokemon jammies and carry him back to his tent bed in the room next door to mine. It's safe. It's sure. It's surviving.

Then, a little over a week ago, I got an anonymous gift in the mail. It was a book written by a boy who had grown up "special" and his mom who had loved him through it. It walked through several different situations that they had come through and gave each of their perspectives, but the part that spoke to me was when the mom admitted how hard it was to see beyond the todays and to trust that the tomorrows would be ok.  She talked about how she had to learn to not measure her son's future potential and possibilities by his disabilities and current limitations. She had to trust that God had a particular plan in mind for her little boy. It spoke of directing and nurturing her special needs child's passions and believing that God planted those seeds with a purpose in mind. I needed that truth more than I even knew. I needed to remember that God knew all of my boys and their talents and their limits before I even spoke their names. He knew that Parker would love to read and that Carter would engage everyone he met. He knew that G would have contagious joy. He also knew about their flat feet, their allergies, and, even autism. The truth is that none is created equal and, yet, each is made for His glory. We are limited. He is not. Not only does He have a perfect and good will for each of us but by walking with Him, we can accomplish that purpose and bring Him glory. He does not make mistakes. He creates life and breaths passionate, perfect, purposeful love into it. 

 What is my role in all this?  I can pray. I pray that I will become better at trusting. I pray that I will do my part in raising boys who will walk in the Light and trust in their God given purposes, each unique and right. I pray that they will have success and joy, and that I might get to see it all unfold. I pray that I won't hold too tight but that I will always be a safe place for my boys. My hope is that somehow I will be able to teach my boys to walk in faith, to trust in the unknown. I don't want any of them to just survive, to feel less-than or like a mistake. God doesn't make us unable to do what He calls us to do.  He equips. He plans. He purposes. He writes us each a part in his glorious script.  I certainly don't know what the big picture will look like but I am reminded to trust in the Author to have written a perfect story that includes each of us. I think the author of the book "different" put it perfectly when he wrote, "God is out there in the dark right past the spotlight, watching me perform this song called life. I don't think he's waiting for mistakes or counting the mess ups. I think he's waiting to jump to his feet in applause" To God be the glory both now and in the future, that is so much more than just surviving!

So let me try this again...I have a reader and sports enthusiast. I have one who is good with numbers and can carry on a conversation with absolutely anyone. I have a G who collects nerf guns and lives and loves fiercely without limits. What will become of these boys of mine? Only God knows and that is a beautiful blessing to this mom.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Helping Hands

I have never understood the hard parts. I admit it. I realize that pain, suffering, and some sadness are unavoidable but maybe just one of the three or maybe just for a moment.  Why can’t life just be sunshine and roses? Especially if we are trying, doing our best and all that? Yet, life and living are hard and it seems some stories are sadder than others. If you know me, you know that I love romances and feel-good movies. I steer clear of sadness, drama, trauma and the like. I abhor crying and avoid it all costs. I really try to never sport a frown. I would even say that one of my gifts might be joy. You know what the really crazy thing is? Sometimes my life doesn't feel good. Sometimes it is sad and hard and ugly, more than once, and for longer than I am comfortable with. This has been my reality for the last few months. It has been a season of sickness and change and it hasn't been easy. I have felt weak and frustrated and even sad. I have cried many tears and struggled to understand. I have prayed prayers for swift healings and wise words only to get more sickness and frustrations. But, there is always a but, I have also had peace and joy and been privy to new and wonderful ways of my God.
 I read a devotional that compared some times in life like sitting on the front porch with the lights off. What should be a cozy and comfortable spot becomes different and uncomfortable. Common things look scary and shadows seem to rule. There is fear in that place. There is loneliness in the unknowns that lurk in the darkness. And then, someone turns on the light. Someone flips the switch and the shadows are gone and things don't look so scary in the light. It just took Someone. There is a story in the old testament about a battle that the Israelites were fighting. It was a frightening and unsettling experience for those slaves turned soldiers and what was the game changer for them was Moses. He was their leader and he walked closely with their Lord. He came and, he stood where they could all see him and he raised his arms. It was a victorious stance a powerful posture, until he got tired. The battle was not a short one and poor old Moses started to tucker out. His arms felt heavy and I wondered if his heart felt some doubt and dismay. The problem was that when his hands began to fall, the soldiers lost hope and began to lose. That is how I have felt at times. Even as I write this, there are tears in my eyes, because the hard seasons sometimes last too long. I have found myself, even recently, worn out. I may have started out feeling strong and courageous but time took its toll and I felt like I was losing ground. For Moses, and for me, God showed up with some friends. They came alongside Moses and they helped hold up his arms. They gave him strength to keep hoping, keep going. They helped the soldiers fighting to renew their strength and not give up and, eventually, the battle was won. For me, it has not been the physical support of my aching muscles, it has been the prayers and love of my family and friends that have kept me hopeful. They have given me strength when I felt too tired to fight. They have turned the light on for me when things looked dark and scary. They chased the shadows away by being lights in my life when I felt like the darkness was winning.

Now let me be transparent here. I don't like to ask for help.  I would put it right down there beside crying. I like to be able, able to do and be whatever I need to be and do and I like to do it on my own. I'm not great at all at asking for help. I kind of figure Moses was of the same mentality. Assertive, strong, independent, those are how of think of Moses and myself. We are the givers, not the takers. We are the doers, not the askers. Except when we can't. Except when we are too tired and weak to be able to be, to do, and to give. I love that God already knows this,  He knows that some stories need support characters and so he has them already written in. For Moses and for me. It is the love, the prayers, the hugs, the faces and hearts of the people I live this life with. They have held up my arms and seen me through the tough, long battles. They have helped me keep my peace land find my joy in the hardness and the through the darkness. I feel like God has shown me some great truths in all of this. He has shown me that some stories have the sad chapters. We might want to quite reading, give up.  Some of them seem like we might not like the ending, like it might not be what we had hoped for. The battleground looks bleak and the warriors weary, but He is still the Author and He really does only write happy endings. Living with Him means we end with Him forever. He knows every moment before it happens and He is always ready with whatever we need to get through. The good, the bad, and the ugly, we can't avoid them but we can have victory over them. It might take a little extra help, support when we grow tired and afraid. The battle may last longer than I would like, but when the dust finally settles and the sun finally rises, the light will overcome the darkness, and on that day, I will raise my hands in victory and worship. On that day (and today) I will be eternally and overwhelmingly grateful for the folks who held me up in my weakness. God uses the love and the lives all around us to support us when we are weak. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Feet in the Air Faith

Last month we took a little trip. Life had been so crazy the last few months with illness, new schools, sports, friends, work, church, fill in the blank....There was this calm in the storm, a moment when the skies seemed to be clearing and Ryan and I decided to book a trip to the Great Wolf Lodge. We planned it a few weeks in advance planning on Ryan feeling better and everyone being ready to celebrate an easier way of life and have fun making memories. As the date drew closer, we quickly realized that the clouds weren't exactly clearing and the skies were not very blue, life's storms weren't quite done with us yet. We couldn't back out and so we decided to make the most of it. The boys were so excited. Garrett had been writing GWL on the calendar every month for quite some time hoping to trick us into going and the boys were ready to experience it for the first time ever. Meanwhile,  Ryan and I were holding our breath and just praying that we wouldn't drown. We started out in the morning and things were going ok. I had packed us all rather last minute but we were as ready as we could be. Ryan was not feeling great at all and car rides tended to be somewhat torturous for him but he was braving the elements and trucking along (a little too fast according to the polite police woman from Ohio). Regardless of our unwanted pitstop with "Miss Policegirl", as G called her, we kept going.  The kids were getting antsy and hungry but we just wanted to arrive and get settled as quickly as we could. About an hour out, I realized that my hands were literally hurting from wringing them so much. I felt so much anxiety over how we were going to do this with Ryan not feeling good and with G and a place we had never been and without a backup plan or second string. My worries were just plowing through my mind. I kept praying but I couldn't find my peace. Then, with only about 30 minutes left, I turned around and laughed. While I was on the verge of a mega meltdown, my G had fallen asleep. I took a picture because he hadn't just fallen asleep, he had his feet propped up and blanket pulled up high. He looked like the very essence of peace. It struck me immediately that what G was showing me was "feet in the air kind of faith". His excitement, his anticipation should have been through the roof but instead he was stretched out almost upside down, relaxed and resting. That is the very picture of the upside down faith of a child. He was worry-free. He had faith that we would get him there. He had faith that he would be safe. Faith that he wouldn't be left behind or miss out. Maybe somewhere inside his crazy head, he even realized that he might need to rest up a bit for whatever was coming. G teaches me things everyday but this has to be one of my favorite lessons. Feet in the air kind of faith, no worries, no struggles, just resting in it. It stuck with me, grew roots and I knew that God had more to add to this one.

I have struggled with certain fears for most of my life. Fear of the unknown, fear of what life may bring, fear of not making it through. Lately, these fears have pushed me to new limits. I'm tired and worn and yet unable to rest, too many thoughts, too many worries. I have to believe that I am not alone in this battle. I know that other hearts feel heavy and burdened and can't find their peace because the skies never seem to clear enough, the storm clouds just keep coming. We worry about things we don't know because what we do know is already more than we can bear.  We get anxious over the state of the world we live in and don't even get us started on our kids, that's a whole new terrifying level of worry.The what ifs and the uncertainties of life make us wring our hands and seem to strangle our hearts. It's not even that we don't have faith, it's more like we just can't focus on it because we are too tired to look, at least I feel that way sometimes. Like tonight, my mind wouldn't stop and my schedule and life wouldn't allow my body to stop and then a friend offered to make me dinner. She sent me a quick text and her last three words were "don't say no". It reminded me of G and his feet in the air. I wanted to tell her no, that we would be fine. I didn't want to be a burden or a bother, but I couldn't. It was as if God spoke through those last three words of hers and said, "Rach, sit down. Prop your feet up and take a rest. Have a little faith that no matter what tomorrow brings, I've got it and I'll get you there safe and sound. Just put your feet up and have faith."

As adults, we can't help but anticipate and, often, our anticipation becomes anxiety and worry filled. The world we live in isn't easy and just surviving it is sometimes hard enough. We get tired because of sleepless nights and non stop days. We feel like we can't put our feet up and rest because we don't even have time to sit down. Sometimes we need a reminder to not say no and, always, we need to remember to have faith. Why not combine it all? Why not take a seat, settle in, prop our feet up, pull our blankets up to our chins and rest in our faith? Feet in the air faith can handle sickness. It has finances wrapped up tight. Elections cant shake it, and neither can every other thing we can throw at it. It's an absolute hope in our God who knows it all and has it all under control. He has big plans and storms clouds lead to rainbows in his story. He has no fear and his love is boundless. He is the I am who has always been and will always be. We can let him have it all. We can trust Him completely. What I am going to do, and I have to suggest the same to you is to go ahead, friend, grab a blanket and settle into a comfy chair. Prop up those tired feet and have a little faith. Now, keep going, take this moment and find your peace and then close your eyes and rest in it all. We all could use that kind of faith sometimes. Feet in the air faith. It's upside down. It's child-like. It's faith. And it is taught to you, and me, by my little G-man.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Valleys Fill First

This morning we forgot our shoes. We pulled up the the drop off line. We had prayed. We had our backpacks. We had reviewed our new motto of "zero meltdowns, and get our work done". We had talked about reading all the questions on our tests. We were even discussing a book G was reading in the backseat about our friend Flat Stanley. And then, as I pulled up and began the daily "I love you" and "have a great day", I turned around and realized that G was not only shoeless but his shoes were not even in the car. Sometimes, we do it all right, only to still get it wrong. That's life and living it can be hard and frustrating and scary but that's ok.

I heard a song this week as I was running and it had a line that struck me. It said, " so I'm down in the valley,  but valleys fill first". I have spent alot of time lately feeling like I am struggling to get over one mountain only to find a bigger one the other side. My job has had hiccups. My kids have had loads of changes that we have needed to adapt to. My husband is trying his best to feel better. In one week, we forgot shoes once, a lunchbox twice,  and to change pants before church on Sunday morning. NOTHING has been easy or simple. So I was running one day and I heard that line and I realized that the valleys in life at least have that going for them, when the rain finally comes, they will be the first to be filled. It made me laugh. It gave me comfort. I'm not down here alone and forgotten, I'm just waiting on the rain.

The rain in life can take different forms. I would love to think that it always makes itself known with easy days, happy transitions, health and good times. Picture a commercial where the family is gathered around laughing and playing scrabble, that is the rain I want. Those houses are always clean. Their lunches are safe and packed in their backpacks. Their shoes are waiting by the door. They have eaten three healthy balanced meals and they are not only happy but also healthy. They pray before bed and then the littles fall quickly asleep while the mom and dad enjoy snuggles on the porch swing. They never forget anything, especially pants!

My rain looks totally different. My rain last week was that when we realized that we had forgotten the shoes, we didn't meltdown. We dropped off the one who remembered shoes. We drove on home and got the misplaced ones. We took the time for a brief and mostly ignored lecture and we laughed. We pulled back into the drop off line and said "I love you" and we moved on with our day. My rain looks like laughing over doing church in our jammy shorts and dress shirt. It laughs at the nerf gun in the backseat, the constantly misplaced glasses, the gluten-free dinner that bombed and the vet bill because the dog ate something not digestable. My rain is always running late which is why I am as well and why I  rarely take time to do my hair or put on makeup, other than at red lights (at least they are good for something besides just making me later). My rain is not typical but when it comes, I am abundantly satisfied.

At the end of the week, a typical crazy-insane-nutty-long week, we were all in the car headed to a soccer game and I felt a little of that rain. The car was messy and dirty but quiet. The kids had pizza for lunch but were drinking water and reading. Ryan felt up to going with us and I was just enjoying the moment, when I read another beautiful line in a book I was reading. It said, "one sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak" That quote is so perfect and true. My view lately has been looking up at the big, the scary, the hard. I push myself. I push my kids. I pray for strength and perseverance. I climb, scratch, crawl my way up but I need to always remember to take a moment and enjoy the view. The biggest things look tiny from the top. The valleys will fill and the rain will come. We will conquer all our mountains, as great as they may seem from down here, and they will always be worth the effort. Thank God that our valleys fill first!

Friday, August 26, 2016

What if I'd Known...

God woke me up the other night. I say it was Him because I know it was Him. I woke in the middle of the night with a question burning in my heart and my mind. It begged to be answered and refused to go away. The question that He was asking me was, "What if you had known?" I tried to shrug it off but sleep wouldn't return until I asked and honestly answered for myself. Would I do it different, would I change anything, if I'd known? I sat up and let it roll around inside me. I searched my heart and by brain and I let my tears fall as I was made certain of my reply. I asked myself about it all and dug for the truthful answer...

What if I'd known that that first date would turn into a lifetime? What if I'd known about the good, the bad, and the ugly? The easy laughs and often unspoken words? His fear of needles? What if I'd known about all the shirts and dress pants I'd have to iron, which I hate doing? What if I'd known that he would rise before most of the neighborhood and take with him my chance of ever sleeping in again? What if I'd known about his fear of heights and his love of research? What if I'd known that promising through sickness and health wasn't a guarantee of health? What if I'd known about the things that make me tick like the hair in the sink and six string instrument that would become like an extremity to him? What if I'd known that his t-shirt collection would only continue to grow and that he would expect me to match his socks? What if I'd known that he would never pick a romance over an action film or volunteer to read our devotional at night? What if I'd known that he hates sleeping on the couch while I love it? What if I'd known how much smarter than me he really was? How much my babies would admire him? What if I'd known that I would come to depend on him like air? What if I'd known that he would never understand the female brain or like jeggings and other fashion trends? What if I'd known about his cheesy midday texts and how much more he likes the dog than the rest of us do? What if I'd known that he would encourage me and challenge me and love me and annoy me all at the same time? Would I still promise until the day I die and give my very self to him?

What if I'd known that there would only be sons? What if I'd known that the moment that first little boy opened his eyes he would steal a part of my heart? What if I'd known that those boys would just keep coming and keep taking a part of me with them? What if I'd known that they would get louder as they got older? What if I'd known that they would love toots and dirt? What if I'd known that they would never tire before exhausting me? What if I'd known that bedtime books and prayers would replace any television show and that I wouldn't even miss it? What if I'd known that the stinky boy smell would permeate my car, my home, every part of my life? What if I'd known that I would fear for them more than I ever did for myself and that I would pray for them with every breath some days? What if I'd known about the jumping, the running? What if I'd known about the sock obsession and all the underpant varieties? What if I'd known about the ever present ring of dirt in my precious bathtub? And the dog? That dog really could be the swaying factor! What if I'd known that there would be days when I would want nothing more than ten minutes boy-free, but those same days they would need me even more? What if I'd known that one of them never makes it to the toilet when he is sick and that the other wants his back scratched when I have just sat down? What if I'd known that you would want to have important life conversations while I am in the middle of making dinner? What if I'd known about the autism and the therapies and the struggles and the triumphs? What if I'd known how they would change me and grow me beyond what I could imagine? Would I change any of it, if I'd known?

As I rolled over and buried my tear stained cheeks in my pillow and prayed through it all, all I could say was "no".  No, I wouldn't change a thing, even if I'd known. I would do it all again, every painful and beautiful and hard and wonderful moment again. This life is mine and I would never want to change it. I'm not sure how much time passed but eventually my tears subsided and I felt God's peace leading me back to sleep and I knew that He had woken me so that I would know and He would know, and that would help us both through wherever He took me. The next morning as I lay in bed listening to my love shower and snuggling with one of my littles, I was overcome with the awesomeness of the midnight awakening and how much joy and strength it gave me. As I climbed out of bed and prepared to make my husband's breakfast and pack his lunch, I looked at him and I told him, "you know, even if I'd known it all, I wouldn't change it." He looked at me and words passed in his look without him speaking a thing and I knew that he needed to know it too. Sometimes, when we want to think we want things different, it's good to realize that we probably really want to be right where we are. Even if I'd known......I really wouldn't change a thing.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A new friend named Zoey

Every morning starts the same. I wake up to find my youngest, Garrett,  standing inches from my face or snuggled at my side, requesting his chocolate milk. I tease him about bringing him strawberry milk instead and remind him to go potty first. We talk about how we are BFFs while I stretch and, usually, he places a second request for his milk before I roll my tired self out of bed and meander toward the kitchen. It's always chocolate milk, always in his fish cup, always in my bed with me laying beside him. That is how we roll. Garrett likes for things to stay the same. Honestly, I think we all do really. He feels safe when life is predictable. A new cup, a different drink, a distracted mommy, these just don't work for G and so our days start the same, unfortunately,  not everything can always stay the same.

As the first day of school too quickly approaches, I have begun prepping my boys for some major changes. One of the biggest is that Garrett will be going to a new school this year. It is not one that he is terribly unfamiliar with because both of his brothers have gone there but it is new to him. Anytime we can prepare him and help him adapt more easily,  we try to do just that and so we have been talking more and more about some of the things that will be different. Garrett admits to feeling nervous and a little scared which both breaks and warms my heart. I love to hear him express himself so clearly but I hate that it is not always confidence that he feels. I want him to not fear change but to be able to adapt. Admittedly though,  even I am a tad frightened when I think about new beginnings in our little world.

Another change our family is facing is that Parker is moving up to middle school. Those two words should cause all parents to shudder and I am no different. Already I feel disconnected and like I am sending him out into the  great unknown. I am not sure how to best prepare him but we are doing the basics. We talk about it and we bought the trapper keeper, pencils, and high lighters. I, of course, don't show any of my fear to him but, when I start to think on it too much, I have no choice but to pray before the panic sets in. Change may be necessary in living life, but it is also scary.

Change is a natural and unavoidable part of life. Just in the last few months, we have seen several in our family. We have changed shapes. We have changed sizes. We have changed seasons and sports. We have changed treatment plans. Goals and dreams have changed. We have even switched the boys' bedrooms up a bit (another change strongly protested by G). Change is inevitable. We can't stop it and sometimes we can't prepare for it. Sometimes it brings good and healing and rightness to our lives and sometimes it brings pain and struggle and hardship. What anchors me in the midst of all this change is a truth expressed in a song we sang this week at church. It says 'the wind and waves still know His name".  As I listened to those words throughout the week prior while Ryan was preparing for worship, I was choked every time I heard them. They speak of power and security even with the uncertain and uncontrollable.The waves, the tide of earth, the ebb and flow of the sea, as ever changing as they are, still know the Master's voice. The wind that bends and even breaks the trees of every forest across the land, the wind that falls the leaves and cools us with an evening breeze is obedient to His command. The changes will come but I can be sure of Him always.

Another change that our family has experienced this season is that Garrett has started some horse therapy. It has been a beautiful change for us. He seems so strong and big and at peace when he is on a horse. This week the wonderful volunteers had saddled a new horse named Zoey for G. G did not like this change. He adamantly argued that he wanted Titus, that Zoey was too many "centimeters". After some compromising from both sides and a quick side to side comparison, G discovered that Zoey was also a good horse, not one to be afraid of, and they successfully completed a scavenger hunt together. Zoey was not just a new friend for us, though, Zoey was a game changer. The experience gave us much to talk about. We talked about how sometimes new things are scary but they can still be okay. We talked about how he felt and how Zoey might have felt meeting a new boy for the first time. We talked about how change is hard but necessary. I told him how proud I was of him for being brave and trying a new thing. We are still talking about it days later. Life is never going to stay the same for any of us. There will always be new days, new experiences, new friends, and new fears but I trust in the Anchor that holds steady and true, the same voice that the wind and waves obey wants to talk with me daily.  In the face of each day and whatever joys and struggles it brings, I agree with G, who in his best country accent tells his horse friends, "walk on Zoey ( or Titus), walk on".