Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Happy birthday, Mama!

My original intention was to go about telling you how great my Mom is, why she's so great, and have a pretty good lineup of a range of pictures spanning her life, and cap it off with something sweet and hopefully inspirational.  

Yeah, I don't know who I was kidding.  

I was too busy to write a good blog post for my mother's birthday because: 

I took too much time getting Maelynn all primped for her girl day with Granny. 

I was busy giggling through the drive through at the donut shop on our way out of town.  

We were busy being tickled at Mae as she nibbled on her "spwinkoes" donut. 

We were busy letting her help Granny build a bear, which is something she'd never done. 

We were a tad preoccupied, mostly with laughs and shopping and even doing a little preparing for the next birthday in line. 

We were busy tonight with her birthday dinner, in her birthday storm (this woman LOVES weather).  

So as you can see, I was a busy girl today.  My house is still messy, the dishwasher needs to be unloaded, and I haven't even sorted laundry.  But I had a great day celebrating my Mama.  

I did, however, look through the pictures I have on the ol' hard drive as my husband graciously made Ryan's lunch for tomorrow and picked some favorites.    

Mama making Richie laugh... and by extension, Nanny. 

A little mutual admiration for Ryan and his Granny. 

One of our beach house vacations... 

The next few are with her furry babies and her grand-dog, our Jedi, the biggest one in the bunch. 

My Mama and I at my beautiful sister's wedding a couple of summers ago.

So I didn't get my homework done today.  But I promise I had a good excuse! 

Happy birthday, Mama.  You're an awesome mom, a great autism grandparent and advocate, my first best friend, and my first hero.  

I love you.  

Thanks be to God for my Mama.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Playland Phobia

My name is Crystal, and I'm afraid of mega-chain kiddie restaurant playlands.

There.  I said it.  Now before you roll your eyes and click the little black "X" in the top corner of the screen, hang on.

I played on them.  I took my baby sister to play on them.  I don't recall being bullied or run over, I just remember the faux independence of standing inside the bubble, looking down on the rest of the world.  Well, that and the slides.  Slides are wonderful stuff.

Fast forward twenty years or so, and I'm a 34 and a half year old mother with three kids seven and under, and the thought of letting my kids run amok in these things makes my heart do a flip.  I can't see what's going on.  I can't see if they're safe.

Okay, maybe I'm not afraid of the playlands themselves.  I think it's more of an "I don't want older kids trampling my kids" thing.

The odd part was that Ryan seemed to have fun for the most part.  But toward the end, with the seemingly fifty plus kids crawling all over that thing indoors, with all the colors and sounds that go with it, he left screaming.

Richie and Maelynn were pretty good about it.  They were somewhat freaked out by the sheer amount of kids bumping into them over and over, and a few times Maelynn came out frightened but went back in after a hug power-up from Daddy.

They needed to get out of the house.  It was drizzly yucky outside all weekend and they needed to run around a bit.  I was a good idea!  I have to say I am glad that we tried it.  But I also have to say that I left wishing it wasn't such a big deal.

Yes, there were the usual stares as we left.  Big deal.  Yes, part of the reason my littles were a little frightened is because they're not used to large groups of kids who are bigger than they are... not necessarily too big, mind you... but bigger than they are.  I know people who use these places for playdates and things of that nature all the time and it's not a problem.  Honestly, I had forgotten why the thought of these places made me nervous. I remember now.

On the way home, being the never-say-die folks we can be, we thought through ways we could make a visit to such a place possible.  We don't want to be helicopter parents, and feel the need to talk through these incidents to see what we can do to plan ahead next time.  And there will be a next time, just not today.

And likely not this month.

Other than the meltdown as we left, the thing that hit me was the sign on the structure.  "Kids ten and under only, please."

Ryan will be eight this May.  He's not a little guy.  He's likely going to be a ten year old, maybe even eleven, twelve, thirteen year old who likes Elmo, Thomas, and Caillou.  His brother and sister will most likely get into age and developmentally appropriate things.  But Ryan might not.

I hope that we'll let him be who he is.

I hope there will be friends who accept him for who he is.

I hope that those friends will gently encourage him to like some age-appropriate things.

I hope his brother and sister will always be proud of him, to love him and be with him.  Even defend him.

I hope we will always be willing to let him be who he is.

Maybe I'm not afraid of restaurant playlands after all.  Maybe it's just another magnifying mirror that blinds us as we stumble in front of it from time to time.  Maybe it's really the next reflection of said mirror that frightens.

We have to step back and remember that we can't even see tomorrow.  We can only do what is before us today.  We can and should plan, talk about the future, and know where we stand based on what we know to be true today, but our hope and our peace cannot come from our ability to see and plan.

Thanks be to God for knowing the whole story and only revealing what we can handle today.

And thanks for Mom and Dad, who held our hands through the trip and back to the van.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I've Got My Mind Set On You

"You have all the grace you need for now. You don't have to worry about then. When then becomes now you'll have all the grace you need." Paul David Tripp's Facebook status, via my dear father-in-law

It's been a rough couple of weeks to start school.  I kept thinking it was just because we were out of routine, maybe give it a little time, but now I'm starting to wonder.

Every day except Friday, Ryan has ten spelling words to write, I talk to (or at, I guess) him about his vocabulary words, then we do his "word eraser" and we are done.  The word eraser is what he calls his reading fluency folder.  I think the term actually came from a TV show, but it's kinda derived from me calling it his "word race."  Either way, he likes that part.

Every day, when we pull in the driveway, I remind him the sequence of events.  First we go potty, then we do homework at the kitchen table, then he does pretty much what he wants (within reason).  Every day, up to this point, there may have been a bit of a fight but we always wound up getting things done.

Friends, it got so bad last week that I had to call my husband and tell him I needed him.  NOW.

I don't know if I've changed the way I do things, or maybe he's just sick to the teeth of his routine.  Thinking maybe he hated the way a pencil felt on paper I've let him use crayons, markers, and sidewalk chalk to complete the writing part of his work.  We've pulled out every trick we know.

Frankly, I'm tired of getting screamed at every time I open my mouth.

The people at school and church who deal with Ryan... and even those who don't... are encouraging and helpful as they can be.  I can honestly say that we all work together to make Ryan as successful at home, school, church, and beyond as he can be.

It's time for a change somehow.  Not sure what, but I'm pretty sure it's going to involve something that takes work, patience, creativity, and a good amount of all over time.  Because what we're doing is not working.  Taking away privileges in itself isn't working.  The promise of reward after completing a task using first/then language isn't working.  Something has to change, but I'm not sure what it is.

But I can tell you that, although we're at a point when we have no idea how things are going to go even this afternoon, we will try again.  We will not give up.  We will not give in.

With that said, there are times when we're at the end of our personal rope.  At those times, we've found that instead of plowing through, sometimes it's better to not give up but take a break.  We can't always.  But sometimes, we have to admit defeat for a few minutes.  Not give him what he wanted in the first place, but give him a break and give us a break.  When I can't have Eric or Eric can't have me to come and tag-team, sometimes the best we can do is take a break from pushing.

I can also promise you that we will start again.

I can promise you that we will be given all we need to deal with this afternoon, whatever phone calls we might get from school between now and then, tomorrow, and the rest of our lives.

There isn't a patience and grace bank account to which we can deposit or from which we can draw.  It will be given as we need it.  Sometimes it will come in the form of knowing when to quit. Sometimes it will come in the form of forgiveness of our mishandling of a situation.  But there is always enough.

We cannot reach high enough or be good enough to get it.  We have no currency to offer toward the purchase of these precious commodities.  We can only receive, and give horizontally to the others we come into contact as an overflow of our gratitude for the gift that has been bestowed upon us so very graciously.

So although I have no answers, and although the idea of having to coerce Ryan into doing his homework tonight makes my stomach churn, this morning I got Ryan in the van and scrolled to a song that I used to love as a child.  It's catchy, and I used to beg my Mother to let me listen to it on repeat when CD's first came to our apartment.  As I sang along, reaching over to tickle Ryan at certain points in the music, I began to see how the words fit.

And God rained the sweet manna of joy into my van.

Ryan giggled, I smiled.

"I've got my mind set on you."  

I reached over, poked, and tickled a little on "you."

"It's gonna take time, a whole lotta precious time... it's gonna take patience and time... to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it right, child."  

How true.

We giggled all the way to school.  He smiled, signed and said "I love you" in return to me, and I drove away amazed at what the Lord can use to remind us of His promises.  It will take time.  It will take patience.  We are not promised ease, but we are promised what we need.

Thanks be to God for his grace and joy and his promises... and for that silly, catchy song on that George Harrison album.

And for a mother who let me listen to it on repeat as a kid!   Thanks, Mom.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dear Lady Who Showed Displeasure...

Dear Lady who let me know how shameful you thought it was to lift my seven year old boy into a shopping cart at the local corporate conglomerate super center,

Duly noted.  Believe it or not, I understand.  There was a day when I was like you, the mother of one seemingly neurotypical boy under a year old.

I knew what I was doing, too.  I portioned his steamed veggies into cute little piles on the high chair tray and delighted when he reacted one way or the other.  Having put off, along with adult beverage, lots of processed food, caffeine, over the counter medications for things like allergies, and things like shellfish and lunchmeat while I was pregnant, I had it all together.  This kid ate whole wheat bread, I made most of his baby food in my blender, and I devoured article after article about preschools, developmental activities, hours of television, food additives and preservatives, and all that stuff.

And you know what?  I have a confession to make.  In my self-proclaimed expert pride I might have done what you did.  I might have made my displeasure known, and that grieves my heart.

The thing is that there came a time when the cute developmental milestone emails began to smart.  The milestones my son hadn't hit or hit and then lost began to crush my pride.

Slowly, it was revealed that I am not in control. Control is an illusion.

As the providential timing of the revealing of Ryan's diagnosis loosened the grip I thought I surely held on my son's development, I had another boy.  As he grew, the milestone emails didn't matter like they did at the beginning with Ryan.  I just watched him grow.  Yes, I took him to the doctor for his checkups, I played with him, I was his mother.  But the milestones, the words, the walking, the eye contact... they fell as manna from heaven.

And they were savored, I can assure you.

Since then, I have received a diagnosis, been through countless hours of therapy with Ryan, endured what feels like an eternity of meltdowns.  I have seen that little brother of his and his little sister seek to comfort him, only to be screamed at and scared witless.  I have also seen them go straight back and try again.  I have seen them adore their brother, trying to do everything he does... and I mean EVERYTHING... because to them, he is not some random autistic kid in the store.  He is their hero.

Dear Lady, and I mean that, you had no way of knowing what we go through on a daily basis.  You had no idea that the cart gives Ryan a semblance of his own space.  You had no way of knowing the recurring nightmare I have of running through stores, through streets, searching for my precious boy.  You had no way of knowing that the cart keeps him safer.

If you had followed us through the store, you would have seen him at his worst.  You would have seen him hit his head and scream to look at toys.  You would have seen me warn him that he would have to calm before he'd look at toys.  You would have seen me pick the other two kids from the cart, sending them hand in hand with my Mama to pick out their dollar toy for being good while I stayed with my screaming, self-injuring little man.

You would have seen that I do my best, but as Ryan and I and Eric do our best, autism still crashes through and does its worst.

You would also, had you followed us, seen the encouraging lady who pulled Mama aside and told her to tell me she appreciated how I was handling things.

You would have seen him keep screaming, not getting his way, and you would have seen the lady who smiled as we passed her.

You would have noticed that she not only smiled, but turned to me and asked, "Autism, right?"

You would have seen the conversation that nearly had me in tears.  Along with the resource teacher who came out to the van with his aid after school, she reminded me that what I do is hard.  It isn't the same.  I need people who understand.

I have people who understand, and I am so grateful.  It's hard to let things go and sit and visit about it, but I do.

If you had been there last week at church you would have seen the friend who, when Ryan kinda crashed he and his sons visiting in the junior high CE room after church, stayed with me until Ryan calmed down and I managed to get him on the road to the van, offering help and understanding the whole time.

Dear Lady, I understand how weird it looked to watch me lift my 80 pound boy into a shopping cart.  Your displeasure didn't hurt as much as it used to.  I've had some time, you see, to realize that misunderstanding and sticking out in a crowd is part of the gig.  I didn't even cry the whole way home like I have so often when people showed their displeasure and shock at my son's behavior and the way we do things.

Instead, I saw the contrast between the people who need to know and the people who know.  And I want you to know that it's not just okay that you didn't understand.  It was a spurring to stay the course. It brought into focus the need to rejoice in the wonderful folks who do, even if they don't get it, love us and trust that we are doing everything we can.

Your misunderstanding of my situation also reminded me to pray for and work toward spreading awareness of the need for understanding and acceptance one moment at a time.  Not just for autism!  We are all different.  We are all created unique, and we are called to love and encourage one another, and someday, I hope you will see that.  In the meantime, I also hope that you never have to know what it's like to need to put your seven year old in a shopping cart to keep track of him.  Blessings on your boy and his development, and should he prove to be neurodiverse someday, I pray that you will find the peace that comes from knowing the Lord's sovereignty and providence.

Thanks be to God for Dear Lady, the Encouraging Employee, and the Empathetic Lady, and for the parts they played in my day yesterday.  And let's not forget everyone else who isn't afraid to be boldly, gutsily unjudgemental and gracious!

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Finally... after having my planned girls' day with my Mom and Maelynn preempted by the flu and the hangings-on thereafter, we took off today and went to Waco.  We had a ton of fun shopping for scarves and sunglasses and purses for Mommy and Granny, even trying on some seriously funny hats in the process.

The whole day, I couldn't stop thinking about how much alike we all are.  The common threads, be they cute, funny, endearing, healthy, unhealthy, or even a little crazy, were obvious even in Maelynn.  We love silly.  We love fun.  We love purses and shoes and other pretty stuff.  We even tend to like the same colors.

At lunch, Mom mentioned that Eric was noting the other day that Maelynn looks more like me every day.

Then it hit me.

Maybe, just maybe, part of the purpose for our kids looking like us and acting like us in certain ways is to remind us of who we are.

When I look at my daughter, I see the most beautiful creature I could imagine.  Every night, as I tuck her in her bed, I remind her that she's the little girl I always wanted.  Such a blessing, such a gift straight from heaven.  But when I think about myself, I don't see the beauty.  I see the pounds here, the start of wrinkles there.  The social awkwardness, the clumsiness.

Then there are those times that I see the kids engaged in a less-than-endearing behavior, and it's humbling to look at these little creatures who look a little like both of us, and the remembering of the smile like his and the laugh like mine, and the sparkle in her eye that reminds him of me somehow also reminds me of their humanity.

Somewhere between their inability or unwillingness to obey at times and the precious things they say, between the times they're shouting "NO!" and professing their love for us or each other, our own need for grace and mercy collides with the need to give it.

Thanks be to God for another breathtaking, live action picture of his love for us and our need for it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. ~Hebrews 10:23

We are definitely cranking the routine up again.  The break has brought into the sharpest of relief a true picture of how much we do.  How scheduled our family really lives.  We're back on the rollercoaster of life and quite honestly, even before we add driving forty-five minutes one way to ABA twice a week, I'm already holding on for dear life.  And I'm already exhausted.

There are the things that make it so much fun, like yesterday's "did you have a good break?" And we can't forget the pretending he's done lately!  He's playing with his brother and sister more, granted on his terms and in his own way, and someone else may not recognize it.

Over the break, he got more into the Toy Story trilogy than ever.  He wanted to watch the trilogy every day, and while I was sick, that happened a lot more.  The more he watched, the more he tried to copy.  The more of the stories he became familiar with, the more he played out situations with his own toys.

He ran around the house, propping his Woody doll up on the dog's back, repeating "he's going to the yard sale" to the point we thought our nine year old Australian shepherd would surely go to the back room and never come out.  I guess ol' Jedi understood on some level what Ryan was accomplishing, because he allowed it.

He made up his own situations, too.  He stood beside the kitchen table making his Toy Story robot and Zurg (I guess that's Evil Emperor Zurg to me)... get this... HOLD HANDS.  He even said, "Robot and Zurg holding hands!"  Now, I'm not sure how that plays into the whole Toy Story world, but he's pretending, and I will take that!

But then there are the same old things.  We go through them over and over.  I repeat them here ad nauseum.  There are days I sit down to write and think that I can't possibly say the same thing again or you'll all decide there's no point in reading, seeing as I keep repeating the same stuff over and over.

The thing is, that's why I do this.

It hit me tonight as I fought a fussing, yelling, hitting Ryan to do his homework.  It hit me as I fought to get the same child who probably has entire movies memorized to tell his speech therapist what the girl is doing in the picture.  It hit me as I told him for the thousandth time to ask me nicely.  As I asked yet again, when he yelled "*grunt, fuss* MILK!" the same question.  "How do we ask for what we want?"  To which he immediately, quite politely answers, "May I have some milk please?"  

He never gets what he wants when he asks in a rude, ugly, nasty manner.  He really doesn't.  But for some reason he continues to try.

Although I know this is an incredibly small offering to the world, I feel compelled to give it.  There are times I think it's crazy.  There are times I think it's an exercise in vanity, and maybe there are better uses of my time.

Seemingly in the same instant, I remember that spring.  That spring when things were so dark, and I sat here combing cyberspace for a little light.  A little help.  Someone to tell me they'd been there.  Or are there.  Or that I'm not crazy, it really is this hard and it really is this different.  Or maybe that someone would have an answer.

I did find a few helps.  Although these moms and dads didn't have identical situations, just the knowledge that I wasn't the only one helped me through that time.  But I also found a lot more darkness.  I found a lot more pain.  A lot more anger and frustration, and somewhat deeper and more hopeless than I ever thought our situation.

So I tell our story.  Over and over.  In the telling, I process.  I take a deep breath and see that it's all here, tied up in a post.  It's not the same as experiencing what we go through, but it is something.  And the posts and the telling don't at all solve the problems, or I could quit blogging altogether.  There would be no need to tell the same thing over and over. But there's something about it that helps.

Every now and again, someone comes along who gets it.

And every now and again, I'm the one who needed to get it.

So the story of the workings out of our everyday struggles as we work through the everyday things is told again, and again I come back to the One that grants and authors every shred of hope that you see in every one of these posts... God is good.  He is providential, he is sovereign, and he is GOOD.

Just as Ryan continues to do some of the same things over and over and over again, compelled by something intangible to me, I come here with nothing to offer but what has been offered me and is offered me again this very minute.  Something I cannot give myself but can testify to.

The love of Christ.  The hope of God.

To me, that's more than compelling enough to come here again and again.  Both the sharing and the finding the hope... and you know what else?  Maybe you should do the same.  Tell your story.  Maybe it's nothing to do with autism, parenting, or anything remotely related to this blog itself.

If you possibly can, share your story.

Thanks be to God for ours.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Did you have a good break?

Over the break, every morning, Ryan would say, "No school."

Every time, I'd reply "No baby, school is on break."

Then it gradually became, "School is on a break" to which I'd agree, and that seemed to make him happy.

But as school approached, he began asking and we began having to remind him that in so many days he'd have to return to school.  Usually it was "NO school!!!"

Over the break, some magic happened.  Yes, we had some hard days.  It got loud and awkward a lot.  He didn't know what to do with himself, and sadly, I must admit that there were times we didn't know what to do with him.  He seems to want what he wants NOW, and that isn't going to work.  For one thing, we learned a long time ago that giving him what he is demanding does not stop the noise.  It just perpetuates it.  For another, there are five other people in this house most of the time, and their wants and needs are just as important as Ryan's.  After all, the intricacies of unstated social contracts are at the center of what confuses Ryan so.  If we are to attempt to remove all these, such as taking turns, being nice, and not using your brother as a horse (yes, this happens), then where is he to learn?

Since we are big believers in immersion as the best therapy, we have to do our best to implement what we expect across the board.  School, church, home, the grocery store, wherever we go we must help him learn at every opportunity.

Sound exhausting?  It's only exhausting when we stop and realize what we're doing.  Then we realize how exhausted we are and how much we've uprooted and overturned to make this happen. But that's a whole other blog post.

When Ryan began asking me a couple days ago if I had a good break, I was more than surprised.  I responded with an assurance that of course I had a great break, and even went into asking him if he'd had a good break a couple of times.  I even tried to talk to him about what to say if others ask him that.  He responded only once, and that was just to ask for Gladys Mae and Uncle Eric again.

Obviously, I figured he wasn't listening and didn't worry too much about it.

This morning, after the usual "school is on break" exchange, and having to break it to him that school is back in session and he had to get dressed and go, he asked again if I had a good break.  I responded again, still thinking that maybe he has his pronouns confused again and is actually saying he had a good break.

Happy that he was in a good mood and didn't wrestle through the whole process, I situated him in his seat in the van and reminded him how much I'd miss him, and started talking through his day a bit.  You know, to be good so he can have free time, to mind his teachers, blah blah blah.  The whole mommy schtick with an autism twist.  I bet he asked me three times in the short drive to school if I had a good break.  Hmm.  Not his usual stimmy question, but maybe we're branching out a bit.

Then it happened.  We pulled up, the aid opened the door, and it happened.

It took about two seconds.  She opened the door, Ryan turned, looking her full in the face, and bubbled over proudly, "Did you have a good break?"

Her mouth dropped.  So did mine.


Then, in an instant (and I don't know why I didn't think of this before), I decided to sign "I love you" to Ryan as I said it.  My great aunt Gladys Mae taught him this years ago, and I thought this might be a good way to start saying goodbye.  He's responded to it before, but this morning, as he formed his fingers, watching them intently, then looked back up at me, saying, "I love you", there was a warmth in his eyes.

Maybe it's been there before.  Maybe it's been there all along and I've been too busy or too worried to see it.  But the autism-formed shell is cracking.  Light is beaming through.  More and more every day, we see Ryan.  We see his personality, his sense of humor, his heart.


And how was your break? 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Laundromat Theory

After a week of being incapacitated with the whole flu thing, there is one thing I can look back and say with all certainty... I do a lot more than I thought I did.

Before I got sick, though it's been a short albeit icky illness, I would have told you if I were asked, and maybe if I weren't, that I don't do enough.  I can't get it all done.  And there are even times when I feel that if I just tried harder, wasn't so lazy, didn't take time for things I like at all, things would be so much more efficient, and the house so much happier.

Now that I'm back up and starting to run again, I can see the half-truths and misinformation of those thoughts.

Even without therapy and school schedules to keep, without church responsibilities, without writing, I do enough to choke a horse.  Oh, to me it's not a big deal.  But I'm used to it.

It's an interesting thing, being stuck on the couch while life swirls around you.  So strange to lay on the couch and hear my husband and my mother talk through how to do things I do without thought, much less discussion.  They did well, too!  They chose the most important things and let the others go.

Before you get the idea that I think I'm hot stuff, hold on a minute.

When I was in college, I did my laundry in a laundromat.  It was always interesting to see the mix of folks doing laundry.  Everyone wears clothes.  Everyone has to wash them.  It's one of those things that must be done, whether you do it at home, hire someone, or go someplace to do it, the fact remains that we all do it.  Now imagine what would happen if you walked in one day, decided you were sick of your own clothes, and randomly chose another person's load.  Just walked in, took it out, loaded it in your car, and left.  No size or gender checking.  Just clothes dryer grab bag.

What do you think the chances are that those clothes would fit?

Oh, they'd have two arm holes, two leg holes, and a hole for your head, so they should be just fine.  They're human and so are you, so what's the big deal?

Obviously, we're all different.  My life is somewhat like an old pair of jeans... or a worn pair of shoes.  Someone else may not like them.  I might even get tired of them and look around, thinking someone else's look better.

This is where we get into trouble.  Weary, road-worn, we start looking around.  Or maybe we're feeling pretty good about ourselves, and begin looking at others thinking, "wow, if they'd just do things I like I do, they'd be in good shape."  Neither is correct.  Neither is helpful.

Our lives, including but not limited to difficulties and happy things, are more designed for us than we know. So much more than a pair of jeans, they are intricately designed so distinct from each other, but still just the same enough to empathize.  Just enough that we need one another, with a common thread enough to make it possible, with a large amount of grace and mercy, for us to love and encourage each other.  Pretty amazing, no?

Thanks be to God again for my Mom and my Eric picking up all my duties while I was down... and helping while I'm getting used to it all again!   It's so much easier to stop than to re-start!  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Flu 1, Mommy 0.

After a week of laying around in a daze, I'm back.  Sort of.  I'm still foggy, but at least I'm sitting up at the table.  I'd always heard people talk about the flu.  How horrible and miserable it is, how it levels even the healthiest of individuals.  But somehow, for thirty-four and a half years, I've managed to elude it.  Oh, I've hugged the throne of the porcelain gods with stomach bugs, had colds, sinus infections, and allergy-related messes.  A somewhat snotty nose is a way of life for me.  But the flu?  Nope.

The only thing that has ever knocked me out for more than a weekend is having the babies.  That's it.  Well, I guess there was the time I broke my arm in the third grade.  In my adult life, however, there's just not been much that had the power to knock me cold.

Until last week.

Maelynn started running a fever Tuesday... New Year's Day.  By that night she seemed just fine, so we all went to bed thinking this was no big deal.  Kids just get sick every now and again.  They've always run fevers when teething, so I wasn't worried.  The next morning, when she was blazing hot and miserable, it was doctor time.

Thankfully, our doctor could see us that afternoon.  Within a few minutes my fear was confirmed... she had the flu.  I knew it had gone around church, and we were just there Sunday, so there you go.  She was so precious.  Soon as the nurse took her temp, she smiled that bright, show-stopping Maelynn grin and sparkled, "I'm all fitsted!"  She insisted the same to our doctor.  I just love that kid!

Armed with a prescription for what she would soon dub "the most howwible medicine" we made our way to the pharmacy.  The whole way I kicked myself for not getting us flu shots.

Then I paid for the Tamiflu, and I really kicked myself.  Turns out there is now a $200 pharmacy copay for our insurance that we hadn't yet seen.  Per person.  Goodie.

Thankful for the flexible spending account we took out for the first time this year, I took the liquid gold this stuff had to be and went home.

Knowing full-well how contagious this mess was, I sat right there by her.  She was so miserable.  So confused.  So scared and utterly blindsided by whatever it was that caused her to feel so awful.  Her nearly three year old body was completely plowed by that flu nastiness.

By Wednesday night, I was coughing.

By Thursday morning, I got out of bed and went right to the couch.  By that time, Maelynn was all but ready to run a marathon.  Knowing that sweet nurse told me to call them if we started experiencing symptoms, and knowing the cost of the medicine, I decided that I'd suffer through it.  Since it was so contagious, surely the boys would come down with it, and there's a finite amount of money we can spend on Tamiflu... right?

Sunday, Eric was worried enough about me that he talked to our doctor (who is super awesome by the way) when he saw him at church.  A few calls later, I'm on an antibiotic to get rid of the nastiest sinus infection I've ever had, and the chest mess that's lingering with it.  Today, Wednesday, a week later is the first time I've felt somewhat human and un-plowed by a tidal wave of fever, muscle aches, coughing, headache, and overall ickiness.

They boys?  They're fine.  Neither one came down with it, thankfully.

So here's what I've learned through all this mess.  I'd like to say I have all these things down, but I'm pretty sure I'll have to learn at least some of them again someday.

~Good health is really a blessing.

~My mother, although she had her two kids 11 years apart, is great at breaking up sibling fights and keeping my family fed.  She's creative enough to keep all the plates spinning and humble enough to sweep up after the ones that fall.

~My husband is good at working with my mom to keep things afloat.  Thankfully he wasn't sick, either!

~Flu shots are good.

~The flu is NOT good.

~The flu knocks me flat.  Flatter than a pancake.  No, a crepe.  No, flatter than west Texas.

~We will get flu shots next year.

~If we do get the flu again, even if I am first to get it, I will take Tamiflu.  I will not worry about having enough money to treat the whole family.

~The same heart that stood in the pharmacy silently thanking God for the money to pay for the $213 medicine for my baby girl is the same heart that turned around and wasn't sure we'd have enough to help if the boys got sick.  While I thought my heart was in the right place, it really wasn't.

~The world will not stop spinning if I'm not able to keep doing what I do.

~Autism doesn't let up because I can't keep up.  I was up a few times and saying from the couch even "First *x,* then *y*!"

~Again, even though routine was upside down, things were often pretty screamy and touch-and-go, but we're all still alive.

~I'm still struggling with the same pride issues.  You know, the "I don't want to bother anyone" and "I'm not worth the trouble" things.  I still struggle with thinking those things are humility, when in fact they're not.

~Again, I learned that autism does not equal no empathy.  You know how I know?

"Want Mommy back."  

"Mommy's sick."  

"Are you ok, Mommy?" 

All those from Ryan.  That's how I know.  And the littles were great, too.  Richie said at least once every day, "I'm sorry you're sick, mommy."  Maelynn did sweet little things like bringing me a cotton ball to make me better and insisting that I need medicine.  

So I'm back up and running... well, wheezing, coughing, and panting... but up, anyway.  Thanks for everyone who knew I was sick and prayed, and to Mother and Eric?  You two are so good to me.  

Please address any grammar or spelling errata complaints to the flu.  My head is still in a fog! 

Thanks be to God for it all!

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