Friday, November 30, 2012


It was about this time of year in college when I'd get out my school of music handbook and turn to the charts of classes required to graduate.  My freshman year it seemed particularly daunting.  But every year, I signed up for the classes that would assure my graduation someday.  

The carrot at the end was teaching.  I wanted to be a band director more than just about anything.  And through four long semesters and three summers of checking off, studying, practicing, and checking off some more, I graduated in August of 2000 with a degree in music education.  Though I had come in with zero hours, the Lord allowed me the gift of graduating with a four and a half or five year degree in four years.  There were times that were hard, but I could always go back and see how much I'd already been through, how many of these rough classes that everyone said would separate the men from the boys that I'd managed.  Although I fought hard for many of them, I'd survived.  

But there was always that carrot at the end.  There was always the chart of classes that I still have somewhere that comforted me.  There was an end.  If I worked hard enough, if I met the very clear expectations of the university, I would graduate.  It wasn't hard to meet the moral standards either; I've been boring for as long as I can remember.  

You know what else God handed me on a silver platter?  The best job any girl could have, right out of the box.  I had my first job set before I graduated.  This job was the best.  I just fit in the community, and it was more like play than work every day.  I loved it!  I loved the people I worked with, for, around, and the community.  Those two years will always be remembered as two of the sweetest in my life.  

It was there that God started to work on my control freak, planner nature.  He started to show me that the best things in life are gifts from him, not anything I can earn. 

More than anything I so wanted to be the wife and the mommy.  You can't work toward that.  There are no boxes to check, no requirements to meet.  As a matter of fact, by any worldly standards, I fell pretty short of the requirements in that area... or at least I felt like I did.  There was also the issue of my blasted test taking ability.  It's horrible.  

Even with study, I failed the first time I took the teacher certification test.  The music part I aced, the actual teacher part I just missed.  I needed a 75.  I got a 74.42.  

One day, I walked to my mailbox and tearfully opened the letter that regretted to inform me that I would be terminated if I didn't pass.  

It didn't matter how I was doing my job.  That test stood there taunting me.  

I did pass the test, but still had the hardest time with the fact that I was still just me. The first thing I wanted and couldn't work toward caused me to make some of the most stupid mistakes.  But God blessed me, in 2003, with the best man in the world.  I'm sure your husband is nice too, but to me, Eric is the best.  And there is nothing I did to earn him.  Quite the opposite.  

Then we wanted to have a baby.  So badly.  We were blessed with and easy time getting pregnant, and Ryan came along in May of 2005.  But again, so many things were going just wrong.  Eric lost his job, I worked there too, and had to keep working there so we would have insurance.  

He did get another job, but that required quite a move.  It was an exciting move, and not in a good way.  

A year or so later, in September, we decided we'd like to have another baby. Again, we had no trouble getting pregnant.  Easy-peasy.  And we were all so excited!

Through Christmas, I just didn't feel good.  Just not right.  But hey, I was pregnant, and who feels just fabulous right at the end of the first trimester?  

The day after Christmas, we found out why.  I had lost our next little one, and in the process, we came a bit closer to losing me than we wanted.  

For the first time, there was no reason.  There was not thing one I could do.  Night after night I tried to go to bed, only to lay there crying, shaking my fist at God.  Yes, the very One who had given me so much already.  Somehow I felt that if I couldn't keep a child in my body safe, how could I keep Ryan safe?  Why did I have to sleep?  Night after night I would silently get out of bed, creep to Ryan's room, and stand there over his crib in tears.  I was so inadequate.  So helpless.  Now that my heart walked around outside my body in this little boy with big, blue eyes, I was a mess.  And nothing I did helped.  

One night, I finally had to admit I couldn't do it.  There was no way.  I had to have God control it, really, in my own heart.  

The next September, I was happy to find that I was pregnant with Richie.  Along his pregnancy, we saw Ryan's lack of communication skills.  

His lack of interest in us.  

The way he'd never called us by our names.  

The way he only screamed at night if he needed us. 

The way he was completely uninterested in the other kids at church.  

How the couple of words he did have disappeared.  

And the greatest lesson in relinquishing control and relying on the Lord, his Word, his peace, and his people began.  

There is no raising a child, or a child with autism, checklist.  The only thing we can do is listen, feel around for the next thing to do, make educated guesses about what to do, and remember that we are not in control, but One who is good is. 

The letting go of control is not a school, a degree plan, a program, that I sought.  It is a journey that only in December of 2006 did I realize that I was on.  I can look back and see the track... the road... the landmarks behind me that show I've been there, but didn't know it.  

Now I sit here, the kid who always only wanted to be with her mom, the teacher and student who desperately wanted to be the wife and the mom, listening to my kids play with blocks in the floor while I wait for my mother to get ready to go Christmas shopping when Ryan is out of school at noon.  

Sometimes the blessings we want can be handed to us seemingly immediately.  Other times, and far too often than we realize, God is working in and around us to set the stage to give us His best.  And that is far better... greater... than any plan we could invent on our own.  

Would I trade having to go through some of these things?  Not now.  While I was going through them, absolutely.  "Rescue me, Lord," I'd plead.  "Take this cup if it is your will. "

But He didn't.  And looking back, I'm grateful.  

Thanks be to God. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Keeping my Promise

So I kinda lost my head yesterday.

Mother and I had planned to go to the mall and get a couple of things last night after Ryan's ABA session finished.  No big deal, just a couple of things.  One was the rest of Eric's Christmas present from me.

First strike against us was that the student who has observed Ryan's sessions this semester needed to ask a few questions of me toward a project.  Okay, cool.  No big deal, right?

It would have been no big deal had he not asked at the end of Ryan's session, for which he had to be present to complete his hours.  Having had to complete several observation hours myself as a student, I get this.  No big deal.

As I'm doing my best to honestly and thoroughly answer this young man's questions, which I'm happy to do, Richie and Maelynn are playing a little too happily with their new friend in the hall.  I was afraid of this, but figured we'd be through soon and thought the classes were on our end of the hall, not where they were.  

Wrong.  Well, according to one of the professors who walked by, I was wrong.  I wanted the earth to open and swallow me.  Both hands clasped over my dropped jaw and I ran to shoo them toward me.  Back to questions.

Then I noticed that Ms. C kept coming back to the BARC door and bringing things to bribe Ryan.  A mite overwhelmed with questions and the kids, I trusted that she had this under control.

Wrong again.

Poor kid couldn't get Ryan to move an inch.  Turns out he was stuck between the vending machines and the elevator and wouldn't go with her.  Glancing at my watch, I noted that it had been a LOT longer than I thought, and asked if Ms. C would like my help getting him back to us.  Yes, she would... because she had class thirty minutes ago.


So I run down to the other side of the hall, leaving the kids to Mother and the kids' new friend's mother.  As soon as I rounded the corner, there he was.  Stimming with all his might on the elevator.  Sweaty.

When he saw me, he immediately smiled, said "Hi Mommy" and took my hand.  Poor Ms. C had been trying for thirty minutes plus to get him to come with her.

After a flurry of activity and a text to see if Eric wouldn't mind working late, we landed at Ryan's favorite restaurant.  I was already quite strung out and wound up, all at the same time.  Mother understood that I was determined to get Eric's gift out of the way, and once we knew Eric was happy to have some extra time at the band hall, she got us some dinner.

With a good dinner under our belt, we decided that running to two stores in the mall would be okay.  I didn't have the iPod, but hey... it was only two stores, right?

Oh, so very wrong.

Let's just say we walked half the length of the mall with a screaming, hitting mess.  By the time I could get him into the van, I was a crying, frustrated mess.

The craziest part wasn't the meltdown itself, but how it ended.  He turned on a dime, stopped yelling, hitting, and being a swirling torrent of anger and confusion all of a sudden.  He immediately turned, looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, "Hi Mommy."

He said it just like he hadn't been there the whole time.  Just like he did when I picked him up.  Just like nothing. Had. Happened.

How I wish I could help him.

How I wish I could let him out of the cage in which autism encases him at times.

And just as I promised the other day, in Post-Turkey Talk, I'm gonna try it again.  Friday is a half day at school, so they get out at noon.  We have to be there anyway for Ryan's last ABA appointment of the year, so we're going to get some more shopping done.  I will make a few changes, we'll take a few more precautions, we'll prepare a bit more.  But we will try again.


Because life is too precious and too short to give up.  Because doing our best to enjoy and live this life we're promised more abundantly is not just for the best, not just a cliche, but it is obedient to the One who knows best.

How are you going to try again?

Thanks be to God for courage, peace, and comfort.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Merry Start to your Christmas!

Friday, as I mentioned before, I had the privilege of putting up and trimming our living room Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.  That was a first for my own house.   I must say, it was beyond lovely!

Since I was a little girl I've enjoyed helping do this for others.  Mostly Nanny's and Mother's, but I've also enjoyed very much helping Eric's parents with their tree, too.  While I do not enjoy so much the testing of the lights, digging out the tree, the boxes, and dealing with the chaos that is boxes all over the living room, I do love the finished product.  This year, it's exceptionally beautiful.

Before I continue, I must clarify that our living room tree... the big tree, as we call it, since we like to have a small tree in as many rooms as possible... is not a decorator's dream.  It is not expertly color-coordinated, and there is no danger of anyone wanting my help to make their tree look socially acceptable.

So what makes it so beautiful?  There are no designer ornaments, no expensive bows, and there's no tinsel.  Actually, the tree itself came from our local corporate conglomerate warehouse type store.  It's colorful, yes.  The star is a wee bit crooked, but its color and lights make up for that somewhat.  There's actually one tiny branch at the top that won't stay tamed, making the tree look as if it's waving.

This year, the thing that grabs my heart is the different aspects that make up our tree.  Each part of our tree, quite unintentionally, reminds us gently of the yarn with which our family is being knit.

The tree itself has colored lights, which are Eric's favorite.  Well, in the beginning that was the reason.  Now they're mine too.

The tree is plain, dark green, and she's just the right size... not too fat, not too skinny.  Too fat would take too much room, too skinny wouldn't be right either.

There are no tinsel icicles.  I abhor cleaning those little silver strings from the carpet and the tree itself, and it's not that I dislike tinsel garland in particular, but Eric's Mom has these pretty strings of beads that she drapes carefully between the branches.  I've come to appreciate that, and this year we have silver ones.

The star is there in part to remind us of the North Star, but also because I can't bear the thought of any angel on my tree that wasn't the ancient angel that Nanny had.  The poor thing was plastic and had a black mark on her chubby face, and she'd been around as long as I can remember.  And you know what?  My mom had a star on the tree for as long as I can remember.  Actually, she had a really cool one that was gold, and as the light inside warmed, it caused this spikey, clear, gold plastic part to spin and throw light all over the ceiling.  I loved watching that warm glow until I fell asleep to the sound of the TV and Mother wrapping and making gifts on the floor beside me.

Then there are the ornaments.  Ah, the ornaments.  The only thing I really collect, other than dust, is Hallmark ornaments.  There is the little mouse crawling on a baritone, the tiny black music stand, our first Christmas together ornaments, our parents-to-be ornament, the kid's baby's first Christmas ornaments, the ones in the series that went up to five years old for the boys, the Thomas and Cars ornaments, the Snoopy and Bugs Bunny, the 1950's Barbie, the snowglobe, and my favorite... a candy church.

Then there are the ornaments that we've picked up on vacation since we've been married.  A brass ferris wheel from Navy Pier in Chicago, a dolphin from Galveston, a clear bell with Cinderella's castle atop and a Tinkerbell clapper from Disney, a brass ornament from the Oklahoma City Zoo, among others.  And there are ornaments that came from our trees growing up, like the brass angel and deer that have our names engraved on them, the little mouse in a stocking that Eric made as a child, the clear acrylic (I assume) one that was from a fundraiser when I was in kindergarten.

There are ornaments from our childhood, our honeymoon, our kids' births, our vacations, and even one from Eric's Dad's tree as a boy.  There are ornaments representing things we love, places we've been, and times we don't want to forget.

As we pulled these things out to assemble what I think is the best tree we've had since we've been married, the kids buzzed around wanting to see what was next, trying to put all the ornaments on one branch and dancing around in Santa hats.  Eric fought the tree's lights and won, finding a safe way to have everything lit.  We talked about the ornaments, who gave what and when, where we bought each one, who might have given us each one.  Mom is the best at spacing them correctly, although we both agree that part is just no fun.

Once we sat with our last cup of egg nog to rest, we talked more about how Granny had these bubble lights that Mom remembers from when she was little, and I talked about Nanny and Grandad's lights that had this little clear plastic star around them, and how I wished they still made them.  We talked about pulling the outside lights out of the attic and how quickly we decided not to use them after they kinda exploded when we plugged them in.

Then it hit me.  I love this tree and this time because of its Ebenezer stone quality.  Such a beautiful tapestry woven of our experiences, both intended and unintended.  I thought of how important it is to us, the tradition of a Christmas tree, and how we cherish the lately rare opportunity to participate in it together.  As I sat down to bible study today, I was quickly reminded of the main tradition we are to share.

Just as the Israelites were commanded to hand down the story verbally, so must we.  It is not enough to have a bible in our home, hand it to our children on Easter, or even send them to church.  We must take the time to tell them of the parts and facets of God's love for us, remembering out loud with our voices and lives the ways we have been rescued from ourselves.  We must live it out in the way we do everything we do, from the rising to the setting of the sun and beyond.

May I take as more time with sharing the true meaning and source of joy with my children than I do the traditions as we walk through the holidays, for the joy that the gospel's light brings is the only gift that keeps on giving!

Merry beginning of the Christmas season!

Thanks be to God!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Post-Turkey Talk

Whew... it's been a whirlwind kind of week.  I have to admit that I indulged in a a pleasure I've never had.  I've always wanted it but it's been out of reach, and other things have been more important.

This year, my tree was up by the end of the day after Thanksgiving.

Before you get too congratulatory, the boxes are still out and the tree in the front room is just up, not decorated.  The two-foot tree in the dining room is in the same state, just because it comes out of the box that way.  And the greatness of my living room tree is due in part to my mother helping.  I'm convinced that things like ornament spacing come with age, seeing as I'm in awe of my dear mother-in-law's abilities in this vein as well.

Thanksgiving was a blast as well.  Okay, so it was a blast for the neurotypical of the bunch.  We had everything Nanny used to make save the five jello "salads" and about four pies.  She usually made between seven and ten.  I made four, spread between last Saturday's coconut cream for my sister, who was here briefly to help mom move her RV, to the three I made for Thanksgiving itself.  And the turkey was not bad for only my second turkey to roast in my lifetime.

But we had our moments.

As the flurry of last-minute prep settled, we called the kids to the table.  Richie and Maelynn came right in, reading the social cue that the table was set in the dining room, I'd cooked for nearly two solid days to get this together, and well, it was Thanksgiving.  On one of my many trips back to the kitchen, there he sat.

Ryan obeyed; he came to the table.  But he sat in his regular seat at the kitchen table.  The trip to the seat in the dining room was a meltdown.  Then it continued because I didn't have his pizza ready quite yet.

It's at this point that I just wanted to cry.  What do you do?  To which end do you err?  There seems to be no true answer.  No win for us or Ryan.  He did calm and eat his pizza.  His brother and sister were still questioning his getting pizza, but only half-heartedly.  On some level, they know that there's a reason, so they don't argue.  They just ask.

It wasn't a disaster, but that's mostly because we were at home.  We're usually not home for these holidays, as I mentioned before.  So at least if the wheels had to fly off for a bit, we were home.

But I know some of you were not home.  And the wheels flew off.  And you're thinking that maybe it was a mistake.  And maybe you're wondering if you should try it again for the next holiday.  Or ever.

I feel a similar pain.  If you can, reach out to this person and see what can be done to make the visit easier next time.  A cooling off place? A device you can bring to help him find his happy place?  Or maybe even a touch of education?

But either way, you're not alone.

Maybe you hosted a child similar to Ryan and you're feeling badly because he or she was so upset the whole time.  If you want to have them over again, ask the parents if there's anything you can do for the next visit.  Reach out and try again.  It's more than worth it.  And it's possible.

Let's just promise each other we won't give up.

Courage doesn't always roar.  Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." ~Mary Anne Radmacher

Thanks be to God for courage.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Catch-up on Turkey Day

I've been a little absent this week in the blogosphere... but I promise it's been for good.  For the moment, I have the pies made, the cranberry sauce and cranberry salad are in the fridge, the honey butter's ready, and the bird's in the oven, so I have a minute.

It's been a great week.  My mother is officially here, not just for the week, but for pretty much ever.  The move didn't quite go how they thought it would, but she and my sister got here about 2:30 last Sunday morning.  She pulled her RV here from Oklahoma, and you'd be amazed how much there is to re-do and how much like a real move it feels.

Much of Monday was just resting.  The rest of Monday was putting things back together in "Granny's little house" as the kids affectionately dubbed it.  Then Tuesday, after a rather harried morning of an under-the-weather dog, a subsequent trip to the vet,  my dear husband kept the kids and let Mother and I go spend the evening shopping.

Okay, so we got home at 2:00 AM.  You'd be surprised how much fun we can have in an all-night store!  There was a lot of laughing and goofing around, especially after about 10:00.  I mean, how can you not try some Christmas ornaments as earrings?

Yeah, my husband enjoyed getting that text.  You just never know what fun we'll find!  

Yesterday was mostly making pies and stuff.  Then dinner.  And there's the visit from our speech lady, Ms. K.  I'm not sure what you're supposed to do on Thanksgiving eve, but we put the kids to bed after spaghetti and watched a movie.  

In the process of all this spending time playing with the kids and having fun with each other, there is no way I could list everything we're thankful for, but we have so much.  

So today, I must say that I've missed you, and of course, that I'm thankful for this:

That's my daughter pretending to make mashatatoes just like mommy.  Well, just like Nanny, but she doesn't know that.  Then there's this:

Ryan and our sweet J, playing during the Waco Walk for Autism last April.  She's been such a fabulous grace to our family, and we're so proud to see her finishing high school and heading off to school next year.  

Then there's this: 
The most amazing little girl in the world...

The best Richie-roo in the world...

And the best Ryan-man in the world... along with the best in-laws anyone could have!

I'm thankful for silly, for fun, for understanding... for love, for caring, and sticking together... for praying for each other through everything.  

I'm thankful for our Father in heaven who makes it all possible.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Including Inclusion

In Tuesday's post, "My Welch's Man", Ryan was having lunch troubles.  They're solved for now, but the solution wasn't what I thought.  Apparently the brand-switch was so much too much that he now does not want any jelly or jam on his sandwich.  Just peanut butter, please.

Alrighty then.

I have asked several times if there's anything else he'd like to have in his lunch.  He's not talking.  The only way I knew about the peanut butter thing was the classroom aid, Ms. K.  I know lots of kids don't tell their parents much, but this is different.  With Ryan, with so many special needs kids, it's an inability to express it.

This morning, he worked so hard to formulate the correct way to tell us he'd like to see my sister and her husband.  Usually, he asks to go to aunt Bree's wedding.  That was great, but they're married now.  So then he'd ask for "unkla city" or to go on I-44.

Make no mistake.  This kid is paying attention all the time.  An inability to effectively communicate does not mean there's nothing in his head.  It just means we, he included, have to work so much harder to get it out.  It means we have to pay extra attention.

It also means that we have to be diligent about inclusion.

That's one of those education-ese words I learned in education classes in college.  Another one of those terms to which I wish I'd given more attention.  Everything you hear about inclusion is school oriented. It comes with alphabet soup like IEP, ARD, BIP, PPCD, and all these other crazy clumps of letters you wade through with glazed eyes in college classes.

Then it's your child.

Then you wish you could have all those classes that you're still paying for back.

The thing they don't tell you is that one of these things might have bearing on your life later.  They don't tell you that.  It's always about the kids you'll deal with in the classroom.  And honestly, some of the things I learned came in handy once or twice.  I sat in a few ARD meetings, gave input for some IEP's, and had to follow a bunch of them myself.

But when they're all looking at you in the meeting, it's a different story.

It's a different story when your son is screaming and crying for help like he's been put on the rack because he has a loose tooth.

It's a different story when he's shaking and crying and beating his head and chest because of something you honestly can't discern.

And when everyone starts looking at you for the answers.  Yes, when they start looking at you saying things like "tell me about Ryan" right before you're to leave him with them for an hour in a room full of other children.

It's then when panic sets in.  I can't talk, think, or relate fast enough.  Try as you might, there is no pouring Niagara Falls through a drinking straw.  We have to try.  We have to.  But it's just hard.

For so long we've wondered, agonized, prayed, stewed, and hurt for ourselves and everyone who goes through this.  Because it's important.  Just too important.

He hears.  He learns.  He files away things we had no idea he heard, although he doesn't talk about much.  We don't know what he's retaining.  But we know there's nothing wrong with his hearing, he can read, and every now and again we catch a glimpse of what he's catching when we weren't looking.

He's not the only one.

That's why we'll work to make sure he's counted.  He needs to be around his peers, and not just at school.

Inclusion applies, even to especially to church.  No child should be turned away.  No leader, of infants to hundred-year-old adults, should be content only teaching to the ones who look, talk, behave, communicate, dress, or sin just like us.  The mere thought of a child or adult being turned away at the door of a church or church classroom should break our hearts and move us to action.

Action can be hard.  It will likely be messy.  There will be trial and error, reading and listening, talking and thinking.  There will be a lot of praying.

But it is worth it.  Actually, it's beyond worth it.  It is essential.

It is obedience.

Ryan snuggling in church following a successful time in CE (Christian Education... akin to Sunday school), but not before making it through a meltdown between the two.  It's not always easy, folks... but as Jesus said, "let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven."   (Matthew 19:14)

Not the ones who dress like you.

Not the ones who behave acceptably.

Not the ones who can communicate effectively.

Not the ones who come clean and tidy.

Not the ones who are easy to handle.

All of them.

Thanks be to God for all-encompassing grace and love, and for hearts that believe in it enough to carry it to the ends of the earth, starting in their own backyards.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Two Years

I've gone on at length before about who this more than precious person is... so for more on today's topic, click here and here.  Maybe I'll be through going on about her someday... but I doubt it.  Thanks for understanding.  

Do you know this little girl?

I did.  Well, much later, anyway.  She grew up mostly in Enid, OK but spent a few years in Stilwell, OK too.  She lived with her mother and stepfather, and later her two younger sisters (half sisters, but "half" never made it into the relationship).  

Work was scarce, and her mother often took in laundry so they could afford to eat.  Some of the depression-era things never quite left her in some ways.  Her father owned and ran a lumberyard in Enid, and she did get to visit him until my mother was young.  Her stepmother wasn't a fan and wanted her out of the picture, and eventually got her way. 

That's her again, on the far right.  This was an FHA project, this being the after school result of it.  She couldn't ever remember exactly what the project was, only that it was something silly for FHA (Future Homemakers of America, for you young'uns that only know FCCLA).  

Somewhere along in there, she met the son of the man who owned and operated the telephone company in that part of Oklahoma.  He was the baby, the youngest of seven with four brothers and two sisters.  

Aren't they sweet? This was, if I recall correctly, taken at her family's house on a day when my Grandad was visiting.  I can't remember if it's from the days when she had to move back to Enid with her family or not... but I do remember that Grandad hitchiked all the way across Oklahoma to see her.  

I also remember a story about a blank postcard she received in those days.  He had written on the bottom of the stack of postcards, then flipped the stack, addressed the top one and mailed it.  Not the one on which he'd written!  They laughed about it when I knew them, but I know at the time it wasn't funny.  

I love these pictures.  She was so beautiful, so fragile, so ladylike in a setting that I know required hard work of her.  She desperately wanted to be a nurse, but never got to go to school.  I know she wanted to be in band, but there was zero money for such frivolities.  

This is Nanny with her mother, our Granny.  Not sure when or why, but this was taken after Nanny and Grandad *ahem* Carlene and Robert were married, at Granny's house in Enid.  It's pretty obvious here who she looked like... she really took after her father, Pop. She even had his bow legs, and though she wasn't proud of them, every time I see someone with bow-legs I smile, remembering how silly it seemed for someone so pretty to be so preoccupied with her knees. 

I love the candidness of this shot.  This was on a day when she and Grandad took my mother to see her dad, Pop, on a construction job.  They weren't welcome in his home by his wife, from what I hear, but they could triangulate and meet to visit when he was at work.  Not too long later, this way of meeting wouldn't work any more.  She lost contact with Pop until I was in junior high.  I'm still humbled that I got to be the first person to go with her to see him when she found him again.  

That dress in the picture?  She made that.  You can't really see mother standing in front of her, but she was wearing a matching dress.  Nanny was cool like that.  

This was on another day, visiting Grandad's family at his childhood home in Stilwell.  Mother's on Nanny's lap, and standing behind them is Nanny's nine-years-younger sister, Gladys Mae.  She and their younger sister Dixie often visited Nanny and Grandad in the summer, getting to do whatever they went to do.  

Same kind of thing.  From left to right is Nanny, Grandpa (who I thought was her dad until I was in junior high), Dixie (I think), Gladys Mae, and Mother.  It's apparently one of their many trips out camping or just to the lake for the day.  No idea what in the world Mom is holding!  

Fast forwarding a bit, simply because I can't fit everything in here... here's a shot of Mother, myself as a little one, and Nanny.  This was at Granny's after she moved to Heavener, OK to be closer to Nanny and Grandad.  

The rest of the shots I could find rang true with what I remember of Nanny.  From silly: 

to well, silly... she was always interested the most in her family and friends.  There was no greater joy for her than having everyone up on the hill, enjoying a piece of pie, a cup of coffee, and many laughs.  

Nanny, Mother, and I in front of Granny's house in Heavener.  
I'm pretty sure that she and I wanted the same things.  An education, to help others, and to have a safe, happy, solid place for our kids to grow.  

I know she wasn't perfect, but I do know she loved us.  She loved us and wanted us to love each other and care for each other.  

Nanny and Dixie outside Pop's cabin in Ames, OK
I know I miss her.  

My university graduation day, providentially enough on Nanny's birthday.

I don't know everything about her, but I know how much I loved her.  And I know how much she loved me.  

I miss her laugh. 

I miss hearing her say, "Good girl."  

I miss her greeting as we pulled onto the top drive.  

I miss knowing she was there... that I could dial that same number and have a friend.  

I wish I could go back and retroactively give her the things she gave me.  

I know I've tried to put it all into words before, and I know I'll always fail to convey who she was and why, as my uncle put it this morning, it's been two years and our hearts still bleed from losing her.  

Since words fail, you'll just have to trust me.  She was wonderful.  

She was so much to all of us that none of us could even talk about the idea that she couldn't live forever.  It's been two years today since I promised I remembered all she taught me and kissed her good-bye, and it's still hard.   

As I prepare to make one of her favorite meals for one of her favorite times of year, my heart aches and smiles at the same time to see her handwriting on the recipes.  

I wish my kids could know her as I did.  And I used to wish she was here.  Yes, I was glad she was out of pain.  No, I wouldn't wish her back into that cancerous, tortured shell her body had become.  I miss her spirit, her seeming unsinkability.  I will forever be grateful for her lessons, intended and unintended. 

I wish I could say something magical right here that would make death and pain and mourning all better, but I can't.  It's not okay, it is painful, and the only thing that makes it right is Christ.  And I don't even understand all of the ins and outs of that.  

But I do know that God loves us.  I know that death and seeing us hurt is not what he loves.  And I know that He loves us enough to send us comfort in the knowledge that He is in charge.  He is sovereign!  We don't have to figure it out.  

We can, however, accept the gift of the comfort of the Gospel.  

Thanks be to God for my dear Nanny's life, and for His comfort in her death.   

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Welch's Man

Every evening after the kids go to bed, and sometimes while Eric's reading stories, I pack the same lunch for Ryan.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, fruit snacks, chips, and a drink.  That sounds so simple.  All-American, easy kid's lunch.  Could be any first grader!

Specifically, he has to have creamy peanut butter and grape jam on honey wheat bread, crusts cut, sandwich cut into triangles, trains, or dinosaurs.  Chips have to be ranch or nacho cheese tortilla chips.  Fruit snacks must be Welch's and absolutely must be the purple pack or red pack.  Drink is wild cherry Capri Sun, but in the past I've subbed Kool-Aid Coolers as long as it was cherry.


What happens if he doesn't get his regular lunch?  I could say he just throws a fit.  But to say it that way communicates that I don't begin to understand my son.  Oh, you wouldn't think so.  You'd think that he was a regular kid, just a rather picky and a bit spoiled.  Some of you may think that anyway, though I doubt you'd be reading at this particular web address if you were that type.

It's not just a fit to get his way.  When something as small as the type of his fruit snacks is different, it might be okay one day.  It might be okay but the larger chance is that it would be as big of a shift as walking outside for work one morning and finding that someone switched your car for a different one.  The same kind, style, year model, but maybe a different color.  Maybe the key even works.

What's wrong?  It's just a car.  Don't throw such a fit.

This is precisely what we're experiencing this week.

Last Wednesday night, we can't remember who did it, myself or my husband.  I think it was me.  Not that it matters, but part of deciding why Ryan has all of a sudden rejected his lunch three days in a row is considering every factor.  And who made his lunch is a factor.  We're trying to pick apart every little thing, because the only lunch I know he will eat has been thrown away uneaten Thursday, Friday, and yesterday.

And it makes me panic a little.

Okay, a lot.

I brought up the subject carefully.  Eric and I both worry when he won't eat.  It's just scary.  So when we started talking about it, we considered everything down to the possibility he could be antsy looking forward to weekend plans.  We thought maybe it was because Eric helped me by making lunch Thursday and Friday.

If you know our house, you know conversations can't last long after school.  Richie and Maelynn discovered that daddy was home and came running, and the lunch dilemma was tabled.  He went to play and I went back to folding laundry.

Then as I was making lunches late in the evening, it hit me.

Friday he threw away his whole sandwich.  But Thursday he peeled it apart and ate only the peanut butter side.  Then I looked at the jam jar.  There was barely any used from it.

Soon as Eric came in from covering plants, I said, "It's the jam."

I bought a different kind of jam.  Dangit.

Considering the time, I finished making the sandwich and put it with a note in his lunchbox.  If he doesn't eat the sandwich today, we know why.

He's a Welch's man.

Thanks be to God for our little Welch's man, and that there is something Ryan will eat.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Train Theory

Every weekend that we visit Eric's parents, we all venture out for a train ride.  I think that Saturday morning treat might be Ryan's favorite part of life.  He has most of his favorite people within reach, and well, a train ride is a train ride.  It's wonderful, and I can't say that it's just the kids who enjoy it.  I grew up in a train town, wishing I could ride on just one train, so it's a great treat for me as well.

In the beginning, we thought we'd take the train as an addition to another trip.  The first one was to the aquarium in downtown Dallas.  We had a rich, full day planned!  It was just Eric, Ryan, a baby Richie and my pregnant-with-Maelynn self that summer day.

Let's just say the aquarium was busy, enclosed, and the best part of the trip for the kids was the train.  The best part for me was getting to see friends that day, but the kids were in love with the commuter train.

The people train, as Ryan dubbed it, has been a staple of a trip to Grammy and Grampy's ever since.  We may have ice cream down town, we may just ride to the end of the line and back.  What we do at the end doesn't matter so much to Ryan, as long as he rides the train.

Grammy and Grampy being who they are, they seek to love us and the kids in a way we and they understand.  One way they love Ryan is to make that train trip a part of our every visit.  The mere mention of visiting up there prompts a "you will ride the people train" from Ryan.  As soon as we cross the threshold, he begins asking.  And asking.  And asking.

Then the asking turns to demanding.

Then the demanding turns to crying.

He wants to know when.  How.  What time.  He has to know when he will receive his train fix. The pull is too great; the desire is too strong.

Honestly, I am sad to say I'm not always patient with this.  It's not the trip, it's the perceived lack of gratitude that makes my gut reaction to spit something about how not every kid gets to do this and how he should be grateful that he gets to go at all... but usually, something stops that train of reaction in its tracks.

He is a lot like his mother.

There are many things I treasure in this life.  And when something rises as a perceived threat, or I'm asked to wait on something I deem almost life or death-worthy, I begin asking.  And asking.  And asking.

Then the asking turns to pleading.

The pleading turns to dealing.  Demanding.  Begging.

Often, it then turns to throwing my own grown-up version of Ryan's train fit.  The waiting is uncomfortable.  I want to know what time, how, when, and I want to know it all now, or I just want to get what I want now.

So I pray I'll always take a step back before dealing with my son in this matter.  It is his heart's desire, and in his world, a train ride is as important as any of my grown-up desires.  While I must help him learn to be grateful, I have to remember the Lord's grace and mercy in dealing with my own selfishness and impatience.

And I must remember that if I don't get my equivalent to a train ride, there is a reason.  Just as I would never take something this precious from my son without a good reason, so will God not withhold anything from me that is good.

What a great comfort!

Thanks be to God!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lucky Charms Morning

Just between my mom and I, we call them Lucky Charms moments.  Well, Mother and I and now you.

The moments when you have your own little mommy meltdown.  You know, the ones like mine yesterday, when you have a four year old running around still half naked after being told several times to put on underwear, the oldest taking twenty minutes (yes, that's 2-0 minutes) to put on his shoes and socks, and everyone just isn't heeding anything you say?  Well, mine ended up with me on the floor with the "toothbrush alarm" still going off on my phone, the deadline of the school bell ahead, and myself blubbering in a big mommy pile of mush because I just can't take it.

You know, those moments when you think that surely, somewhere along the line, you failed to do, say, or think of some key thing that has completely ruined your children.  The times when you've reached the end of the rope, and holding on is impossible.

Normally, our bible study group is very bible-focused, with a lot of great theological discussion.  A little life experience makes its way in, but we do a lot of staying on topic and learning more about the bible than I ever have, and I love it!  But today, it seemed that all of us had carried the small-children frustrations too long.

Our mommy stores were spent, and we all desperately needed refilling.

Just about every other mother in the bible study group was having the same kind of week.

When we came together today, fresh faced as we could on a Thursday morning at 9:30, we began to look into the lesson.  It was on Deuteronomy 6 and 7, Moses' last exhortations to the Israelites before his death.  You know, comparing it to how important it is to give our children a heritage of faith... of trusting, believing, and allowing the word to seep into every part of our lives so that we shepherd them in His comfort and peace.  

No pressure.

As Moses' words came off the page, over the dams of our hearts flowed the fears and desperation and desire for our precious babies to know Him.  Of how hopelessly far short we fall.

It came not in talking about techniques, books, and articles on parenting.

The comfort came in admitting.  In understanding.  In talking about our perceived failures, our sharing of how this happened and how we were sure at that point we must be the worst mother ever, and how we're so concerned about our children growing healthy and happy and kind and strong, and in the process, we didn't get much bible study done.

No, we didn't get many of our homework questions discussed.  But sometimes taking the opportunity  to live out the parts you already knew is more important.

Mother by mother, story by story, confession by confession, we traded our fears for encouragement of the other ladies, some who are there, have been there, or will be there soon.

The study didn't prod us into talking about these things.  This moment didn't come pre-packaged with bells and whistles and the latest look.  There was no multimedia presentation, no famous speaker, no specially hand crafted platform based on the previous year's numbers.  There were no tear-jerking songs, no special lighting, no emotional manipulation, no enticing entertainment hook.

This moment... this special hour of women finding a safe place to share, to receive encouragement and understanding... came with the gathering of women who came to seek God through his word.  And God's word never fails.  It is powerful.  It doesn't need to be polished or primped.

It just needs to be opened by a willing, ready, believing heart.

We only finished four questions of the study itself.  But all of our discussion was right on topic.  Better than on topic, it was wind in our sails.  No, it hoisted our sails and then filled them. It was wonderful to see the gospel in action this morning, all these hearts ministering to one another.  No judgement, no condemnation.  Only the sharing of experience and hope.

And kleenex.  We must have kleenex.

Thanks be to God for the ladies of the Thursday morning bible study at Redeemer.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Whoops... Silly Mommy.

At the risk of sounding whiney... which is fitting, since I'm feeling quite that way... I'm not proud of my decision-making skills today.  Just when I think I've scrubbed the last bit of preconceived notion from my mind and heart, just when I think I might be hitting a stride in this exclusive club into which I've been thrust, just when I thought I was able to "just do it" in regard to dealings with the differentness of dealing with Ryan, autism deals another dirty low blow.  

Nothing is sacred to autism.  Nothing.  

If you'll bear with me, since I'm just recovering from having the wind knocked out of my already allergy-ridden self, I'll attempt to explain. 

This morning, I got Ryan off to school, came home, played with the littles a bit, got Richie to school, and dug deep into laundry.  I sat working on another post that I'd planned for today, thinking I'd finish and then head off to Ryan's school for lunch, then take Maelynn with me to vote on my way home.  Ms. K, the classroom aid, and I had talked about how we were going to handle this.  No problem, we both thought.  I'd just pop in, have lunch with him, and pop right back out, continuing with my day's plans as if nothing had been different.  

So I gathered Maelynn and headed off to lunch with Ryan.  When we got to the lunchroom, I could see Ryan sitting by himself, munching on his chips with his sandwich laid before him to eat next.  Every day he gets the same lunch, consisting of PB&J with the crusts cut, ranch chips, fruit snacks, and a drink pouch.  Noting the long line, I chose to turn down the chance to eat a cafeteria lunch with him.  

Good thing. 

As I approached him, I could tell I had messed up.  He wouldn't look at me at first.  

When he did look at me, it wasn't the usual grinning, stimmy, hand-flapping "hi Mom" I usually get when I show up to pick him up.  No, I had definitely made a breach of routine.  I was out of my place.  

"Mom will go home." 

I explained that I would go home after lunch, and he would stay and come home after snack.  

"No music!" 

Well, uh... son, you'll go where you always go after lunch.  Mommy's just here to visit.  

Silence.  I attempt a couple of pictures.  But since I wasn't supposed to be there, well, you can see the response I received. 

I'll keep eating my chips, thank you.  

He cycled through a few short clips of things he usually says, trying desperately to place why in the world I was in the lunchroom. 

You will go to the hotel. 

Yes, son.  In February. 

You will go see Grammy and Grampy.  

On Friday, baby.  After Ms. C.  

You will go see Ms. C. 

That's Friday, baby.  This is Tuesday. 

Right around there is when I looked around and saw the other mothers, fathers, grandparents, and children enjoying lunch together.  Smiling, snuggling, sitting in laps. No big deal.  Yay, mom's here.  Oh, it's time for her to leave.  Even if they left and the kid threw a fit, they were able to enjoy haivng mom there.  On our side, he just couldn't figure out why in the world I was there. Evenutally, he reached a critical mass of confusion when he told me this: 

Ryan will go home after sandwich. 

He would not take the idea that he had to stay.  I tried explaining, but this is when my heart broke. 

He started to cry.  Real tears.  Frightened, confused, frustrated tears.  

That's when I couldn't stand it.  I put my arm around him and promised he'd go home with me.  After several promises in a row, Ms. K, the classroom aid, came to check on us, and immediately smiled warmly and said she'd go get his stuff.  She knew.  

Until she came back, Ryan stood up, took my hand, and held it tight.  

It was all I could do to hold the floodgates.  This was my decision.  What in the world did I think would happen?  That he would start telling me about his day?  That he'd say "bye mom" and I'd run off merrily along with my day's plans?  I knew it could happen this way, I chose to try to show him I love him by showing up, and well... it backfired.  

So he's home now, happily having some iPad time while his sister naps.  I'm still trying to convince myself that I wasn't mean to show up.  But it felt mean not to show up.  I can't pretend that I didn't know what could happen.  I was hoping for the best.  But what was I thinking?  Good grief! 

I was thinking that I was going to see Ryan, my son, at school.  I wasn't thinking about seeing Ryan, the autistic boy who thrives on routine.  Because when I look at Ryan, I see my son.  I see sparkling blue eyes, a heart-stopping smile, and kissable cheeks.  I see my first born baby, my eldest.  I see a boy who loves trains, iPad, VSmile, and his grandparents.  I see a boy who I love with all my heart.  

I see a lot of things when I look at him, but I don't see autism.  Oh, I have learned techniques for dealing with his behaviors and I will tell people that he has autism, but he isn't autism.  He is Ryan.  Autism is a name for his set of behaviors, a key to unlock the door to services that he needs to function.  

While I'm heartbroken that I upset him today, I know in hindsight that what I did for him I did out of love for my son.  And when I realized I'd messed up, I did what I could to make it right.  

And sometimes, dear reader, that is all I can do.  

Thanks be to God for holding my hand while I hold Ryan's. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

November Posts in a Neat Package

There have been so many improvements lately.  The improvements always come with the same old frustrations thrown into the mix, but they are to be remembered just the same.  Not one can be stretched to fill a post, because they're simple things.  So in the tradition of all things November, here's a list of some of the things I'm thankful for.  I'll try not to exceed Blogger's database.

I'm thankful for my kids, my husband, my own immediate family and my husband's.  There can't be a more supportive group of people on the face of the earth.  God has granted us harmony with our families and for that we are humbled and grateful.

I'm thankful for all I've learned in the past seven-plus years of motherhood.  It's been a wild ride, and I wouldn't trade it.

I'm thankful for all the times I wouldn't want to live through again.  Every minute of every hardship grew, stretched, and shoved me into the light of the gospel of Christ.  Every. Single. Minute.

I'm thankful for the internet.  I'm thankful for and proud of the other moms I've met via blog, Facebook, Twitter, and the host of other ways of connecting people over miles.  And I have no idea how parents handled raising kids... especially special needs kids... before the information and connection superhighway.

I'm thankful for the God-given discretion to know which of these places to heed and which to turn from. Google can be a life-saver, but it can also be a blood-pressure raiser.

I'm thankful that my brain works similarly to the majority of the population.  I can have a thought, process it, and tell my mouth to speak it.  I can hear something someone else says, think, and respond.  I can read, and at the same time, speak the very words I'm reading. I know how to say hello if you say hello to me.  I know and understand your facial expressions and how to act accordingly.

I'm thankful that two of my kids are programmed to do all those things as well.

I'm thankful for each therapist, educator, paraprofessional, student, and doctor who has helped my eldest learn to do these things.

I'm thankful for the things that brought into sharper focus how much I have to be thankful for.

There are so many other things I could list.  I could sit here all day, typing the blessings we live in each day.  There is no way the list would end.  As I look over the list, the common thread isn't among the blessings, but the blesser.

And other than the Blesser himself, I'm the most thankful for the ways He rescues me from myself.  My own sins of selfishness, pride, indulgence, and control... although in ways I would never have chosen... and for His being willing to take time to listen when I'm overwhelmed with trying to figure it all out myself.

Most of all, I'm thankful for God's sovereignty; for that is the spring from which all my peace, joy, and comfort spring.

Happy beginning of the holiday season!

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Climb

"I don't know how you do it."  

Can't tell you how much I've heard that.  It doesn't offend, but it does puzzle me a bit when I stop to think.  I'm not sure what to say.  I know it's meant well, because I've heard it out of the mouths that are dearest to my heart in this life, and I know I'm the same to them.  

Since I am the overthinker that I am, I've thought about that comment a lot.  Obviously, I've decided to take it as an encouragement and sweet honesty from hearts who care for us.  

The thing is, I can't stop thinking the same thing every time I hear it.  

"I don't."

Usually I'm frozen in a state between not wanting to overload the speaker with information and not wanting to complain or hurt my children... or let's be honest, Ryan... by admitting that you know what? It's rough sometimes.  It's hard.  And honestly, I don't know how I do it either.  

No wait... 

I do know how it's done.  It's done by the grace of God.  

In bible study at church Thursday, we were discussing the difference and yet need for coexistence of the law and the new covenant in the gospel using the contrast between Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion.  There were only three of us in the room who grew up around them, the facilitator, my mother, and myself.  There were things I hadn't thought about regarding the mountains I grew up around.  The thing I thought first was the fact that you can tell the mountains by their shape and can even sort of see how to get back home by which mountain is where on the horizon.  

But you know what I hadn't thought of that the facilitator brought to light?  The look of any mountain completely changes with your personal proximity to it.  Standing from a distance, you can see that a mountain is high, wide, and that you might be able to climb it.  When you're at the foot, you're close enough to think "maybe not."  

Standing on the mountain, during the climb, all you can see is the ground in front of you.  

Oh, sometimes you look up and see what's ahead and it's terrifying.  At times you look back and think how different you are now and how far you've come.  But you also can't help but notice the muscles you've built during the climb and how different you are... and maybe even how you don't want to be the person you left at the bottom ever again.  

The most important thing, by far, is giving God the credit he is definitely due.  Praise and thanks for carrying us when we can't take another step, for the times of encouragement that are wind at our backs, and for giving us himself in which to place our trust. 

But a close second? 

Remembering that we all have a mountain.  They're all unique.  And no one can know the journey and its difficulty or ease than the person climbing.  No one knows the fatigue better than the feet taking the next steps.  And no one knows the joy of accomplishment better than the hands raised in thanks and praise for another milestone in the journey. 

We're not called to measure each other's mountains.  We're not even really called to measure our own.  We are, however, called to climb.  We're also called to encourage one another in the climbing.  

So how do I do it?  I don't.  

Thanks be to God for being the one who does. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Personally, we sit on more of the Reformation Day side of October 31.  And honestly, it's easy when you have a child who isn't exactly into chaos.  Somewhere between that and the thought that he might say "trick or treat" every time he knocked on a door for a while made it easy for us to just stay home, sit on the porch, and teach our kids to give away candy.

It was calm for a while. I took Richie to AWANA Cubbies, then came back to sit on the front porch.  In a fit of thoughtfulness, I even had a peanut-friendly bowl and a peanut-allergy-respectful bowl.  The first few people I asked about peanut allergies looked at me like I was out of my gourd. But hey, I know people whose kids are severely allergic enough to try.

For the most part, it was hanging out on the porch with my Mom, J, and my kids.  Fun stuff.  For a long time, the only thing joining us were mosquitoes, and they didn't seem interested in candy.

Ryan spent most of the evening with the iPod and headphones.  He wanted a "juicy red sucker" so I got one that his teacher gave him that day.  Such a happy boy!  I was quite impressed that he insisted on walking out to a few of the first groups and telling them hello, then coming back to his post on the doorstep.

A few times he tried to assimilate.  He tried to blend in and walk away with a crowd of kids every now and again, trying to reconcile this odd activity with his usual Wednesday night.  After all, these kids dressed strangely walked up to our doorstep, said "trick or treat", accepted candy, and walked away.  Strange activity indeed.

The groups of kids (and slightly too old to be trick or treating kids) slowed quickly.  As I left to get Richie from Cubbies, I told Mom and J to give out handfuls, fearing I'd be stuck with a LOT of candy.

When I returned, they'd done just as I suggested, but still had at least a huge mixing bowl full of candy. Our house sits farther back on our corner than the other houses on our street, so I think some people either didn't want to walk up there, or just weren't sure we were participating.  At any rate, we just didn't have many for a long time.  Wanting to get the candy out of my house, I walked out about halfway to the street with my big bowl, and sure enough, they came out of the woodwork.

After one group of mostly band students left, Maelynn, Richie, and I were looking at the stars.  Maelynn looked up and, through lots of chockie-chockie, Skittles, and other candies smeared on her face, said, "Mommy!  Look at the stars you made!"


So I've blown the first three or so catechism questions.

We had a sweet moment of explaining that no, God made the stars, as well as everything else.

Then the happy, etherial, sweet-moment mommy bubble exploded with one question from the porch...

"Hey... do you see Ryan?!?"

He made it almost to the street.  I wasn't watching.  I was talking.  I was reveling in doing just one thing right, and while I was mentally patting myself on the back, I was neglecting one HUGE thing.

Thankfully, I caught him before he followed these kids down the street.

How many times do we do this?  Flying on a compliment, being given a task, and we forget who we are.  How much responsibility we have that we can't begin to uphold... and it catches up with us.

There's nothing wrong with accepting a compliment.  There's nothing wrong with being complimented.  But there is a lot wrong with forgetting humility in the process.  I was so busy with my own little moment that I hadn't heard my mother telling me he was coming.

Yet again, I'm thankful for grace.  Ryan is safe, Maelynn learned something, and I received a nicely-sized reminder to stay diligent.

And all in all, it was a pretty great night.

Thanks be to God!

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