Sunday, April 10, 2016

For Siblings' Day

On Thursday afternoon we took a last minute visit to our little local zoo.  We saw the giraffes first, at Bug's request, and then spent some time in the snake building for you. Because we didn't make it to the elephants last time, we hiked to the far end of the zoo, and then the crying started. Nothing we did worked, but you remained calm while I wiped up tears and a runny nose. You said things that are your inside jokes with your brother, but they did not work, and so you knew we would have to leave.

I watched you calmly leave the zoo, even though it took forever to get back to the front and then to our car. Once again, you did not yell or cry or tantrum, you just held my hand as we looked both ways, and you settled for a scoop of ice cream as a consolation prize. And although you were a little more upset when something similar happened at the circus the next night, you still did not take your disappointment out on your little brother.

You teach me every day what it looks like to be an above-and-beyond sibling. I am only an average sister, on my best day. But you are gracious and loving and kind. You have a friendship with your brother that I can only partially understand. You push boundaries with your dad and me, as every child does at almost-seven years old. I am still figuring out how best to guide and disciple and encourage and correct you. But I rarely have to correct you in your role as big brother.

So on National Siblings' Day and Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to let you know that I see you. I see your strengths and weaknesses, I see the gift you are to our family, I see all that you are learning and what you are still figuring out. I hear you ask your deep theological questions about God's will and autism, and I hear the faith that you have when you say, "One day when..."

Bug has told you all week this week that you are his best friend, and that you two are the best boys, and what he said is true.I know you hear your little brother say that he loves you. I just wanted to remind you that I love you, too.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Conversation for Autism Awareness Day

It's Autism Awareness Day. Would you please take a moment to explain to the children in your life about autism? On  World Cerebral Palsy Day I presented a possible conversation. Here is what it could look like when talking about autism:

Adult: I want to talk to you for a minute about your friend G. Do you know G has something called autism?
Child: What is that? Is he sick?
Adult: No, autism is not a sickness. You cannot catch autism. It just means that G's brain works a little different than yours.
Child: What does that mean? How is it different?
Adult: Well, it's a little hard to explain. Everyone, whether they have autism or not, have things that make them different or unique, things that are hard for them to do and things that are easy for them.
Child: What is hard for G?
Adult: Sometimes it is hard for him to play with you and other kids. He likes going to Cubbies and playdates and Sunday school, but sometimes it is hard for him to know exactly how to play with you. He might not look at you or talk to you in the same way other kids do. He may not know how to ask you if he can join your game or ask you to play with something. That doesn't mean he doesn't like you. You can be a good friend by still talking to him or asking him to play even if he doesn't talk back to you.
Child: He talks about Veggie Tales a lot. Sometimes he says the same thing over and over.
Adult: When he says the same thing over and over, that is called echolalia. It is something he does to try to have a conversation with others or sometimes it just makes him feel calm and good to repeat these phrases. You know how you like to sing the same song all the time because you love it so much? It is kind of like that.
Child: Sometimes he cries or yells when we do things differently in Cubbies. Is that because he has autism?
Adult: Probably. Many people on the autism spectrum really like routine or doing things in the same order. Sometimes a change is upsetting. Remember when you organized your Legos just so and the dog knocked over your container? That was upsetting because you had things set up just the way you liked it. G likes when everything goes the way it has before. He likes to be sure of what will happen next.
Child: He doesn't like to hold my hand at game time.
Adult: Some people with autism don't like certain kinds of touches. G doesn't like anyone to touch his hands very much. It feels bad to him. But he does like hugs and he will give you a high five if you ask.
Child: What does G do well?
Adult: G likes many of the same things you like. He likes music and dogs and books. That isn't because he has autism, that is just because he is a kid who likes those things. One thing he does very well is memorize things. He has many poems and songs in his head that he likes to say sometimes. He loves books and letters. Even when it looks like he isn't paying attention, he really is. His mom can read a history book to his big brother, and then two days later G will randomly tell them about King Arthur or Lake Michigan. The Bible tells us that man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart. That is really important to remember that who G is inside is really just like you - a boy who likes stories and his family and who wants to have friends and to learn.
Child: How can I be a better friend to G?
Adult: You can start by saying hi. You can sit by him in class or play with him on the playground. Maybe you could read a book with him or talk to him about Veggie Tales or Disney movies. You could ask him about his dog, Scout. Even if it is hard to know what to say, just talk to him like you would any of your other friends.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The backyard in February

When I taught in the public schools I referred to January and February as the third quarter slump. I definitely felt it this year even though I don't teach for money any more and even though our homeschool is on the trimester/modified year-round schedule. I didn't blog very much. I hibernated and tried very hard to not act like a bear in other ways this winter.

Thankfully winter is almost over. The weather this month has been unusually beautiful, so the boys and I have spent many afternoons outside in the backyard. I am not an outside loving type of person, but I am enjoying the sunshine and fresh air all mosquito-free right now. A supplement at the natural food store was recommended to me, so I am taking it and feel I have more energy again. The sky is blue, and my boys don't mind our bumpy backyard that lacks a swimgset or a trampoline. They are content with the water table, chalk, and sticks and rocks. I could probably learn something from them here.

We are on week twenty-nine of thirty-six of school.  I'm not sure what our long break will look like, how Bug will do without our regular routine this summer. Already I am selecting books for his kindergarten and penciling in what our days will look like in August. Bubby had a small victory in handwriting, and I am glad I switched him to cursive for awhile this year. Soccer will start in a few weeks for him, and this spring Bug gets to play baseball on a team for those with disabilities. The Hubs has a crazy and full month ahead, but we will get through it. Today I can see the light at the end of this tunnel.

 I know there will be new tunnels waiting, and we still have almost a year left of this one, but I do see the light. I feel it shining down on me as I sit in a lawn chair, not caring about the dirt that is going to be tracked in and the raw chicken I have to touch in a few minutes.  There is grace in the backyard this February.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

on martyrdom dreams and praying in the bathroom

Three or four nights ago I had a dream that I was a martyr. Normally that sort of dream would terrify me, but this time it didn't. It was a very vivid dream. My family and I were with other people in what appeared to be a high school or college classroom.  Terrorists had come in, and we were forced to lie beneath the desks with our hands behind our heads. I remember looking at Bubby and telling him it would be okay because we were going to heaven, where nothing bad would ever happen again. I remember saying to myself that this would only hurt for a second. I felt complete calm in the dream even though the situation was intense and extreme.  There were shots all around me, one by one, and then I was shot. I woke up, not in a panic, but with peace.  Even if something horrible like this should ever happen to me, I will be okay. This is not my home.

It is strange that I have peace about such a possibility, but yet today I felt weary and worn out just by the day-to-day stresses of life. A child who wanted to sass and argue and the other child who was having a hard time with activities and choices. We have seen many gains in Bugaboo lately, but it is still the two steps forward, one step back dance. I love homeschooling, but there was a moment today when I felt like driving to our neighborhood school and saying, "Have fun doing worksheets and common core, Bubby!" I doubted almost every decision of the last six and half years within a sixty minute span of time this afternoon. I hid in the bathroom for two minutes and cried.

It was there I found myself repeating one of Bubby's review verses for this week: "Casting all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you."

Do You care, Lord? I know that Your Word says You do, but I don't feel it here and now. I feel sad because Groundhog Day was this week and that is a weird day for me. I don't understand why I lost that baby, and I'm angry that I can't have any more babies, yet I am so incredibly grateful for the two You have given me. (Even if motherhood is stressing me out right at this particular moment.) I feel worried that I am not doing enough therapies with Bug, and I simultaneously feel worried that we are doing too many.  I love our curriculum, but I feel anxious that Bubby hasn't done enough cutesy first grade things and he will one day resent me for not having him make more cotton all snowmen. The Hubs' graduation from his nurse practitioner program is in December, but it feels so far away. I feel like we have been here in this place forever.  I want Your caring to look different. I miss being a charismatic. I miss an altar to pray at with someone else and for a chance to sing with hands raised without looking like a crazy-woman. I need more outlets to cast my anxieties on You, Lord, because my bathroom can be an altar on a Thursday afternoon, but I might need more than that.

I felt a little better after telling God all of that. Little changed, but I wasn't hanging onto my angst any more at that moment, and that is a start. I'm not sure why it is easy for me to trust God with the big things, but not the little things. I guess it is because I think I need to handle the little things all on my own. I don't. I can't. So the grace I am given today is the realization that I am not supposed to handle any of this on my own. And today there was the grace that He cares enough to come alongside me and take my cares as I fling them over to Him from my little altar call in the bathroom on a Thursday afternoon.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What eleven years looks like

Our power went out this morning, right when I was considering doing my hair for church. I found the huge flashlight and you called the utility company, and somehow we still managed to get to Sunday school on time. The power was still out this afternoon for awhile, so you went to the library to work on your paper.  I entertained the kids at the piano, and I don't remember what else we did to keep busy. I forgot to buy you an anniversary card.
This is what eleven years looks like for us.

We are tired most of the time. Not the kids, but you and me. We put one foot in front of the other and then crash into bed late at night most days. You listen to my concerns about which therapies to utiltize, and I do my best to understand the stress of your semester. We see the light at the end of the nurse practitioner tunnel, but December feels far away still.
This is what eleven years looks like for us.

You picked up carry-out from a little Italian place in town while I purchased Sonic for the kids. I put out candles for the four of us at our table, but I didn't manage to light them. You were still in your church clothes, but I was in my sweats. We let Bubby attempt to take our picture, and I said I looked frumpy, but you liked the pictures anyway. I tried to shoo the kids to bed, but you had already promised Bug a game of Trouble, and it was lovely.
This is what eleven years looks like for us.

A few years ago I would have been disappointed by today, the lack of pomp and circumstance. But today it was beautifully imperfect. We are praying for people we know - a baby needs miraculous healing, a friend needs wisdom, a husband needs a job, a missionary needs provision. Our problems, our tiredness, and our questions look smaller this year. We keep putting one foot in front of the other, tripping and crashing sometimes, but still walking together.
This is what eleven years looks like for us. To God be the glory.



(My letter to Mike on ten years of marriage can be found here.)

Monday, January 18, 2016

birthdays

1.
"Mom...where are you? Does your nose hurt?"
This was the start of my birthday - me blowing my nose and Bugaboo concerned and trying to find me. He had been up for a couple of hours reading his books in his room, and he padded into my room in his footie pajamas, leaving a mess of books behind him.

2.
There are a few days each year that have some tough moments. I never fail to wonder if my father thinks about me on this day. Does he feel bad about what he has missed out on? Does he even think for a moment on this day of doing the right thing? I know on my kids' birthdays I remember so many beautiful things about the day they were born. Does my father remember anything beautiful about me?

3.
Sometimes, especially on birthdays, I can think of what I should have accomplished or acquired by now. I make checklists in my head, and very few of the items are marked off. But having a bigger house in a better neighborhood with more money in the bank would not guarantee more happiness. Doing something notable does not equate to doing something valuable.

4.
Birthdays in the 21st century are wonderful and strange. Thanks to Facebook I received birthday messages from friends from every stage of life - it is like having one's life flash before her own eyes via newsfeed. Beautiful memories of birthdays past celebrated with slumber parties in my basement or Cheddar's on South Glenstone. In every season of my life I have been given the gift of amazing and true friends. This year is no exception.

5.
My morning started with my three guys bringing me birthday cards. "MOME" was written on one of the envelopes.  Bubby also made a to-do list for the day: "CADS. BLOONC. MAC HOUS LUOK PRID. LOUC. HPENI. PDE HATS." He handed it to me and said, "I messed up on the word lunch." My life is not much like I thought it would be at thirty-five. Yet when I stop and think about it, it is everything I hoped it would be. I lack no good thing. I can say that with confidence. I lack no good thing.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What I read in December

Here's a summary of what I read in December:

My Name is Mahtob by Mahtob Mahmoody
Not Without My Daughter was the first grown-up book I read as a kid, so when I saw that the library had a copy of the daughter sharing her story, I knew I needed to read it. Part of the book is about their time in Iran and the escape, but the rest of the book was about what has happened since. Mahtob writes about her childhood, her college years, and wrestling with forgiving her father while still wanting nothing to do with him. So much of this portion was relatable because although my dad never was physically abusive or held me in a foreign country, the heart of who Moody was to Mahtob in his unrepentence and unwillingness to do the right thing is exactly like my dad. The writing in this book was not outstanding, but the story Mahtob shares from her experiences is well worth the read.

Wild in the Hollow by Amber C. Haines
Although I haven't read Amber's blog in a long time, I used to.  She is a fabulous writer, and I knew I wanted to read her memoir. Her writing is poetic and she holds nothing back about the details of her past and her faith struggle. There were some theological things that I didn't agree with, but I am thankful Amber shared her story. I do wish I understood more of the why's in her struggles as a youth- as I am someone who ran toward faith as a teenager instead of away from it. The section where she writes about her child's medical issues resonated with me, as well as some other things about community. (Technically I finished this in January - but most of it was read in December.)

Felicity by Mary Oliver
I picked up a book of poetry this month. It was lovely. I need to do this more.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
So many people recommended this book, and I ended up loving it.  I don't even know how to write a review of this book. It is more than just a World War II novel. The characters seem real, and most of them I wanted to befriend.

Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman
I would like to reread this one when I have time. It is about contendness and smallness and simplicity, but it is written in a way that doesn't feel preachy. Emily writes beautifully, and this book was an easy read, but also an encouraging read.

Books I tried and didn't finish:

Sarah Bessey's Out of Sorts - Love her writing on her blog, and I loved Jesus Feminist, but I couldn't get into this book. I will try again another time, but it went back to the library.

Jefferson Bethke's It's Not What You Think - Many people I like recommended this book, but I found it just so-so and couldn't finish.

We have also been listening to audiobooks in the car. It makes all the driving to Bug's appointments go a little better.

In Novemeber I introduced the boys to Anne of Green Gables - and it was delightful. There were tears as we listened.

In December we got through: Charlotte's Web (I read this to the boys earlier, but hearing EB White read it was such fun!), George's Marvelous Medicine, Matilda, and Pippi Longstocking.