That's what the guy at the scary clown restaurant uttered in a little-too chipper manner the other day. Those words are even scarier than the clown. Miracle of miracles, thank you Lord, Ryan chose to eat his chicken nuggets with catsup that day. We'd waited for our food longer than usual in a fast-food establishment already, and Ryan was getting a little hyper, to say the least ("a little hyper" for a kid like Ryan is... well, cross a spider monkey and a laughing hyena and that's close. Hey, at least he's happy like that). He settled, ate, and we were able to get done and get our groceries.
Fast forward to this evening. Mom is at work out of town for the weekend, and we chose to try a restaurant that we'd heard several good things about (including that they were super sweet with kids... and they were). We picked a corner table, out of the way. The table was perfectly placed in a front window so the guyzos could watch the trains (trains are big in my hometown... really, really big). It was completely empty except for us when we arrived. Knowing that most of the churches in town are in session Sunday evenings around six, I thought this was the perfect time to give 'er a test run. Don't even ask if we visit churches while we're here. Short answer? Too much stress. I'd love to, but it's too much.
So we tried it. With no one in the place, I silently spiked the ball. Oh yeah! Mama one, autism ZIP!
First, I picked a table that was closest to the stupid sticky fly strip. These are pretty common in this part of the world. "Shoo-flies," as Ryan calls them, are meal-killers and deal-breakers for our boy. I think it's some hybrid of the buzzing and unpredictability combined with that light touch if they land on your skin. The minute they start... even one... buzzing around Ryan, he starts shaking, crying "it's a SHOO-FLY", covering his ears, and generally freaking out. One uber-hilarous, shocking moment... Ryan tried to pet the fly. He gently stretched out one finger and tried to touch the fly on the window. Needless to say, the shoo-fly wasn't interested in making friends. He was pretty talented, too. Eric is pretty awesome at killing the little buggers, but this one eluded him.
Next mistake... ambition. Silly mama. I ordered some fried quesadilla that looked like it'd be just like cheesy chippies at our usual Mexican restaurant back home. Soon as it came out, he asked for a burger. D'oh!
Then, the little dude needed ranch for chips. He wasn't interested in the cheese dip we ordered, other than making a nice chip-bouquet using the cup as a vase.
That's pretty much it. Well, those are the antagonists. The behavior resulting from the antagonists included banging on the window, screaming, beating his chest, banging on the table, yelling things like "want some RAAAAANCH!", and thrashing around in his chair.
The first mistake was actually trying to go out in the first place. Mom's having a bit of a drain problem that makes dishes a challenge, and she's looking at moving very soon. Long, long story. Ryan misses Granny while she's at work, and his behavior shows it. We knew he was having a rough day, yet we needed dinner... I could have cooked. I could have brought something home. But no.
This is one of the many times Eric and I want to smack ourselves, repeating "STUPIDSTUPIDSTUPID!"
But we've learned, among a lot of things, that you have to just keep swimming (thanks, Nemo). Keep going. Keep smiling. Keep your chin up. Even when there are tears dripping down your face, do your best to stay calm, respond out of love. We don't have this mastered, mind you. Knowing and doing are separate actions.
I must admit, when we got there, I thought it was going to be easy. Then, when people started arriving (yeah, I was wrong again) I was looking around to see if I knew anyone. When the fits started, I stopped looking around.
That's hard to admit.
It's hard to watch your three year old and 17 month old act like little angels, and be largely ignored while you deal with mister "ranch is life". It's also hard but amazing to watch your three year old give his favorite toy to his older brother to help him calm down.
I am proud of Ryan and all he is, just as I am proud of Richie and Maelynn. I just can't describe how it feels to watch your son in such a disturbed frenzy, powerless to help other than to stay calm and ride it out. My dear friend Tawana, who also has an ASD boy, said one time that she wished there were an "autism bubble" that she could throw up when her sweet boy is melting down in public. A little, instant privacy bubble. Oh, how I wish there was such a thing. The thing is, these things are not really fits. Not all of them. Telling the difference between a fit or a meltdown is half the battle sometimes. There are times that if I'm thinking I can avoid meltdowns, or at least have them at home.
Remember the poem "Footprints in the Sand"? You can view and read it here. I also included it below.
|One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.|
|Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.|
|In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.|
|Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,|
|other times there were one set of footprints.|
|This bothered me because I noticed|
|that during the low periods of my life,|
|when I was suffering from|
|anguish, sorrow or defeat,|
|I could see only one set of footprints.|
|So I said to the Lord,|
|"You promised me Lord,|
|that if I followed you,|
|you would walk with me always.|
|But I have noticed that during|
|the most trying periods of my life|
|there have only been one|
|set of footprints in the sand.|
|Why, when I needed you most,|
|you have not been there for me?"|
|The Lord replied,|
|"The times when you have|
|seen only one set of footprints,|
|is when I carried you."|
There are so many times I don't necessarily "feel" peaceful, yet I don't lose it. The things that frustrate us the most continue, yet we keep going. We keep starting over. It's not always fun, but we manage. We figure out a way to laugh, or at least not lose faith. People as us how we do it. The answer?
That is when He carries us.
Those times when we don't know what's next, don't know what else to take away or to use to reason, or when we've been completely outsmarted and our carefully conceived plans are made to look ridiculous in an instant, He carries us. When we look at each other for comfort, but all we find is a mirror of the frustration, He carries us. Holds us together. We will not quit living completely. We will adapt, we will guide, direct, and fight through it... but we will certainly not quit!
How do we do it? So many people have asked.
We don't. He does.
Praise Him! praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
Sing, ye saints! His wonderful love proclaim!
Hail Him! hail Him! mightiest angels in glory;
Strength and honor give to His holy name!
Like a shepherd, Jesus will feed His people,
In His arms He carries them all day long;
O ye saints that live in the light of His presence,
Praise Him! praise Him! ever in joyful song!
Praise Him! praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer,
For our sins He suffered and bled and died;
He, our Rock, our Hope of eternal salvation,
Hail Him! hail Him! Jesus, the Crucified;
Loving Savior, meekly enduring sorrow,
Crowned with thorns that cruelly pierced His brow;
Once for us rejected, despised, and forsaken,
Prince of Glory, ever triumphant now.
Praise Him! praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer,
Heavenly portals, loud with hosannahs ring!
Jesus, Savior, reigneth for ever and ever;
Crown Him! crown Him! Prophet and Priest and King!
Death is vanquished! Tell it with joy, ye faithful,
Where is now thy victory, boasting grave?
Jesus lives! No longer thy portals are cheerless;
Jesus lives, the mighty and strong to save.