Thursday, January 30, 2014

It'll be okay.

"Courage isn't just a matter of not being frightened, you know.  It's being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway."  ~Third Doctor

More than about any other comment, when someone approaches mid- or post-meltdown, is "I don't know how you do it."

I know it's a compliment.  It's something to say when the frustration and obvious hurt creates a vacuum.  It fills the air without being insulting.  If taken the right way, it can even be a compliment.  When speaking to moms who work outside the home, I've said it myself.  And I mean it in a positive way.  Like, "Look at all you do.  I'm not sure I could do that."

Partly, that's correct.  I couldn't do what you do with your kids in your life.  I'm not you.

When I hear that same thing directed at myself, I'm often tempted to say, simply, "I don't."  Because I don't feel like I "do it" in a good way, or even an acceptable way, all the time.  Things don't always go well.  I don't always handle them well... or at all.

Sunday, as I headed into worship, all giddy because Ryan had a great day in CE, I was slapped with a tidal wave.

Eric had tried to convince Ryan to do something slightly different... and I mean SLIGHTLY... and he completely came apart.  I caught this as Eric was escorting him out of the building to calm down.

With Richie in tow, I was suddenly struck with a whirlwind of what to do next.  In about a nanosecond,  I looked up and saw our pastor, milling around in the back in the usual black robe.  I don't even remember what he said, but it was some kind inquiry about whether or not it was okay... or maybe it was just that it will be okay... and my usual composure flew apart.  Another friend flew up beside, offering her help.

I had absorbed all I could.

It doesn't happen often, amazingly.  We all pretty much keep it together because it's what's needed.  Every minute, I truly believe, God gives us what we need.

Us.  Not me.  Us.

Ryan is not in a good state of mind when this happens, I'm sure.  I know it's horrible for him.  Honestly, that is why it's horrible for me.  It's just as horrible when no one is looking.  It's just as horrible when we're at home alone.  It's hard to watch your child suffer in that way.

Make no mistake, I celebrate him for who he is.  He is a cool kid, just as my other two are.  He is funny, sweet, smart, loving, and just amazing.  But there are times when it's hard.

I get confused as to what's okay to say.  I see so many polarizing posts about autism parenting and I just don't understand it.  Yes, Ryan is awesome.  He's severely autistic, and completely awesome.  But meltdowns are NOT AWESOME.  They're painful for both of us.

And on the other end, Ryan is not a miserable burden.  Life as an autism parent is, if I'm honest, probably harder than general parenting.  I like to say it's an extreme form of parenting.  But it is certainly not a fate worse than death.  Being Ryan's Mom is something I would not trade for anything, just as I wouldn't trade Richie or Maelynn.

Do I wish it was easier?  Sure I do!  I wish it was easier for him.  Everything.  But if that means he would be a completely different kid?  No way.

And this is where I'm torn.

These people should be respected.  People who have autism, people who are autistic, should be respected as any other person would.  They should be given helps to make things possible where possible.  Their feelings, thoughts, and emotions need expression and heeding as much as anyone else.

All of this is extremely important, and it should be at least half... maybe 75%... of autism awareness.

Then there are the rest of us.  Those who hear the screams.  Who watch him pound his own little hand with his chubby fist with all his might.  Who advocate for him.  Help him find his voice.  Pray for peace for his heart.  Adapt every little thing at home to make things doable for him and us but at the same time push him to do things like dress himself, tie his shoes, clean up his toys, speak kindly, ask for things appropriately, and a myriad of other things that seem so commonplace and regular.

They're so much more of a fight.  It's just something you'd have to be here for.  Yes, all kids have to be taught all that stuff.  And you get screamed at a lot.  You watch him hurt himself because of something simple you asked him to do.  Every day.  Sometimes at the very start of the day.  Sometimes before he's out of bed.

And it gets hard.

You get tired.  Not a nap-tired, more of a weary-soul tired.

It's hard to watch your child hurt.  And this may not be physical, but it's definitely pain.  If you could see the look on his face, hear the pained strains of his voice... this is not a throw-down temper-tantrum.  It's an indescribable amount of frustration, confusion, and things I can't describe because I haven't personally felt them. You'd have to be here.  I've thought briefly before about a way to share what it's like, but that's where I draw the line.  You won't catch me posting video of his pain.

We have to, choosing our words and the recipients of our words, be able to say it.  It's hard.  I don't like that part.  I don't like having to say it's hard.  But it's the truth.  We have to, as parents, be able to say it. We need someplace to safely say the things that are hard out loud.

We need those folks to come alongside and listen to us cry.

And that's what I got on Sunday.

An inquiry, shoulders to cry on, arms to hold, hands to help.  And judgment-free ears to hear those words spoken so hesitantly, so seldom, and only in safety.

I just get tired.  Sometimes it's so hard.

Saying this doesn't lessen Ryan.  It doesn't diminish who he is.  It doesn't mean I love him less.  It means that I'm human.  And I get tired.  It does mean that I love him enough that it hurts to see him hurt.

Thanks be to God for the unshockables.  For those who reach out and aren't afraid to get tears on their clothes. Who aren't afraid to deal with the mess.  Who really want to know how you're doing. Who will not just tell you it'll be okay, but put feet to helping it BE okay.

Live in the Waco area?  Need this kind of unshockable grace and mercy?  Click here.  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mom Confusion

I just had the best moment.

I've been moderately bummed all day, over this and that.  After a no-big-deal, what-again kind of dinner that my husband graciously assembled, I sat here pinning pictures of Doctor Who stuff.  Just mindlessly puttering.

Eric, Mom, and I were chattering about random things off and on, Maelynn was trying not to have to eat the rest of her dinner, and Richie had long since finished and gone off to the living room to catch a little solo train time.

Okay, so I've been bummed because I miss what I used to do.  I loved my job.  It was something to leave it behind.  Honestly, I'm thinking that the time has almost come to go back... or has it?  And in all of that back and forth and pro and con I'm just... tired.  Nervous.  Unsure.  Yes, I loved my job.  I wasn't the worst at it.  But I'm the only one who can be their mom.  But I know moms who are AWESOME who only stayed home the six weeks allotted them after the birth of their babes.  And I'm torn. And there is about a year and a half before I'd even think about it, but for some reason, I miss it more than ever for the past few weeks.

Would the kids resent me for going back, even after they're in school?

Could I ever find a job that would fit our needs?  The kids have to come before the job.

Can I even still do it?  I mean really DO it?  I was okay at it, but I didn't stay at it very long in the beginning.

Could I take care of Ryan and do my job correctly?  Advocate for him, help him, be there for him?

It's kinda part of who I am, and that part is starting to scream.

My husband is behind me.  We're praying and considering and talking and any even looking is still a year and a half off.  I had an awesome conversation with one of my favorite working moms today, and she was fabulously encouraging, and great as usual.

But at the end of the day, it's still a long way off.  And I still don't want to miss the days with the kids in my desire to do it again.   I certainly don't want to wish away any of these days with them while they're little.  Honestly, painfully honestly... I miss my job.  There's a lot of me that wants to say that this whole being home thing is so fulfilling and ohmywordwhywouldIwanttowork but for today, and the past few weeks, that's just not where I am.

Tonight, after dinner, I got the most amazing comfort I could have dreamed.

Ryan walked over, put his chin on my shoulder, and draped his arms around my neck.  Usually this is a sure predictor of an oncoming request for something he wants.  But he just stood there, leaning into me.  After a minute, I leaned my head back, petted the arm under my chin, and said, "I love you, Ryan."

And you know what he said?

The kid who usually stares off into space when I tell him I love him, said "I love you too."

My eyes began to water, and I said it again, just because I didn't know what else to say.

Again, he said, "I love you too."

Just as naturally as if he'd always done it.

Y'all, I think I'm in.  I'm Mom.  I'm so thankful and grateful that I'm Mom, Mommy, and Mama.  I'm thankful that I'm their boo-boo healer, heart comforter, toy fixer, stuffy mender, food cooker, taxi driver, and referee.  I'm so inexplicably fulfilled by THAT.  The joy that God has given me through these children in nine short years alone is more than I can even say.

And whether I continue at home or wind up working, whether I wear jeans and a t-shirt or dress pants and a blouse, I am their mom.

When my Mom dropped me off in her dress pants and blouse for work, a light, clean perfume hanging on her collar as she hugged me good-night and implored me to be sweet for the sitters, she was still my Mom.

When she returned, often late because of emergencies at work (it was a hospital, folks) and dropped me off at school, usually exhausted, then went home and fell into bed to rest for the day until work again, she was still my Mom.

When she had a day off, and we went to the grocery store and rented a VCR and some movies, and we stayed up late watching and munching popcorn, she was my Mom.

When she had to let me go to Kansas with my father for a week, two weeks, or for the summer, she was STILL MY MOM.  And I missed her so.

And even now, whether she's on her way to work or home with my family, she's still my Mom.

And I'm theirs.  Our time together is great, and I will always cherish it.  I will always be grateful for the time I got to be home, no matter how long or short it remains.

And I'll always be Mom.  Whether at the band hall or the ball game or on the bus, at home playing video games inside or in the backyard playing or at the doctor's office with them, I'm still their Mom.

Thanks be to God for Ryan, for his love for me, and for his response.  And for the different shapes, sizes, types, and kinds of moms everywhere.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Little Big Brother

Have you met this kid?

His name is Richie.  He's Ryan's brother.

Technically, he's Ryan's little brother.  But the other day, I slipped a little when I was talking about him and what a great brother he is.

I looked in the living room and saw something that amazed me.  Our kids don't get to play video games on the TV during the week.  During the week they can have iPad, maybe some iPod time.  They ask all week to play their favorite, Mario Kart, all week.  Especially Richie.

Richie LOVES Mario Kart.  This is quite recent, and he's become a pretty great little driver!  We even found some extra controllers online for the ol' Gamecube so we can all play together.  This weekend, we spent a lot of time sitting down, sometimes just me and the boys and Maelynn cheering us on, driving those little carts, exploring the characters, and just hanging out together racing.

Ryan was getting frustrated, though.  Every now and again he'd bang his fist on the entertainment center, frustrated about getting his cart to go the way he wanted it to go.  Sometimes he'd wind up in a full-out, head-smacking meltdown.

Monday afternoon, I'd left the boys to their own Mario-Kart-devices while I got some dinner out for their Daddy, who had to go back to work soon, and for the kids themselves.  That's when I glanced in and saw it.

A huge expression of love for his brother, but so simple and clean and caring.  So small, it seemed.  But it was enormous.

I walked in when I saw the screen taken up by a single player race, and I asked Richie what was going on.

"My brudder was getting frustrated so I changed it so he could play easier."

This was the last time till next Friday he was to get to play his new favorite game.  And his concern was for his brother.

Immediately, and without thinking a bit, I walked back in the kitchen and said to Eric, "Richie is such a great big brother."

And then we looked at each other.

He's not Ryan's big brother.  But we both knew what I was talking about.

He is a great big brother to Ryan sometimes.  But in his heart, Richie is always going to be Ryan's little brother.  He adores his big brother.  He even cut off the golden curls he loved... we all loved... to look like his brother.

I struggle to meet Ryan at his level.  I don't catch everything, and sometimes I fight the things I do catch.  But my five year old, who just wanted to see his big brother succeed, figured out a way to make things doable for him.

And Ryan was doing great.  I guess the split screen was too much for him.

Thanks be to God for those of us who stand when we could sit, who think of others and give up our seat when it would even make another happy.

And thanks be to God for my Richie.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Ice Cream and Empathy

At the end of dinner, Maelynn proudly proclaimed she'd finished, then asked for ice cream.  

"Sure, sweetie.  Just wait a few minutes to let Daddy or Mommy finish eating, ok?"

From across the table, a voice breaks not only through silence but through stereotypical barriers.  It shatters the idea that autistic people lack empathy or feeling for others.  

It warms my heart.  It makes the future look easier.  It takes the teeth from fear that he may not care about us at all... that he might just be happier if we let him be. 

It proves so much wrong.  

It proves so much right.  

It shows that a lot of the "MAELYNN NOOOOO!!!" that we hear is pure biggest brother annoyed by baby sister.  

Just like his chin on my shoulder as he walks by and stops where I'm sitting in the kitchen, his requests for "Mommy will sit on the couch", and his rare look back while he walks into school with his teacher, this one simple demand shows his heart.  

He loves us.  He wants the best for us.  I'm not just a vending machine; his brother and sister aren't merely annoyances.  We are his family.  He sees us as his family.  

His people. 

His place to belong and be safe.  

His home. 

His comfortable place, if there is one in the world, is right here with us.  

And you know what else?  It's all going to be okay. 

What in the world did he say?  What could evoke such emotion, thoughts, and pride? 

It's all in how he said it.  It's all in the recipient.  In the fire in his eyes when he stared straight into my eyes as he spoke.  Yes, straight into my eyes!  What a rare treat! 

It was simple.  

"Mae-mae WILL have vanilla ice cream!" 

He thought I was going to deny her.  He defended his sister.  

Such a brother.  

Such an amazing guy.  

Thanks be to God.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Everyday... Our Normal

Do you ever get tired of being yelled at?  Or just of the yelling, period?

Do you ever wonder if it will always be like this?

Do you ever go from a complete high point, wonderful snuggly time with your little one, then BAM you're off the cliff of screaming and yelling?

Do you feel your ears tighten every time he starts to hit the table, the walls, his head... not because of the noise, but of the heartbreaking amounts of frustration he must feel?

Do you ever wish he'd tell you?  Just put into words what is bothering him?

Have you ever held him tight, hot tears streaming down your cheeks, praying that it would pass?

Have you ever just wished with all your might that you could make it okay?

Me too.

It's so difficult to describe the hold his anger and frustration has on my heart.  The invisible link between us, the electric shock when the strains of his vexation with an unknown cause, create quite the rollercoaster of the heart and mind.  No, not rollercoaster.  That's too gentle.  Even the most gut-churning, body-wrenching coaster doesn't compare.  It's like walking around in the most peaceful setting you can imagine, and just when you begin to relax... to let the waves crashing on the shore wash all the anxiety from your soul... you find yourself careening off a cliff.

And you can't even tell who pushed you.

In two seconds, you're back on the shore.  All giggles and smiles, all fun and happy.  Again, when you least expect it... free-fall onto craggy rocks and thorny bushes.

Often, when you find yourself back in the peace, your heart is still reeling from the fall.  You're not ready for it.  You need more time to process what just happened.  But it's too late, he's over it, and it's back to normal.

It's an emotional cross between vertigo and whiplash.  And it happens every day at 7:00 in my house, then again at 3:30.  On Saturdays, it's all day.

Sometimes the peaceful time lasts for an hour.  Sometimes it's thirty minutes.  Sometimes it's five or ten.  And obviously, some days are worse than others.

The toll from this experience is, I'm sure, presented in different ways with different caretakers.  I come here to sort through my issues, then share them with you, so that maybe someone will find comfort in the knowledge that they're not the only one.

Other days, I just want to go back to bed.  Shut the doors, close the windows, and just be.  Be in the safety of my own shell... our own shell.  It takes such energy to even think about taking the whole family to another family's home that is out of our routine.  As hard as I fought routine in the beginning, breaking it now seems worse than a root canal.

But no matter how hard it becomes, he smiles that toothy, chiclet grin and I realize that I'm addicted.  Completely, hopelessly addicted.  His smile and his laugh flash light over and through the dark places that want to go back to bed.  They don't solve the problem of tomorrow, or even today.  But they are a gift from God.  That smile and giggle... those big, blue eyes and that crazy thick brown hair, those pouty rose-colored lips, the way his glasses rest on his button nose... those are visual comfort, the gentle-yet-strong hand of the Lord reminding me that his mercies are new every morning... every moment that I need them.

They are reminders that it is all more than worth it.  It's my life's work, at least a large part of it.  To add to the beauty of this world as the mother of these amazing little beings.  It's not every woman's desire, and there are other ways I've been given to add to the beauty of this world, to bless the hearts of the other folks living around us.  But for now at least, it is the most prevalent.

Do you know the experiences, feelings, and exhaustion and exhilaration of which I speak?

He hears you.  He sees your tears.  His hand carries you too.

And you're not alone. Your work in adding to the beauty is not in vain.  And sometimes, getting out of bed should be met with thunderous applause.

I get it.

And for the parts I don't get, he is there.

Thanks be to God for all of us who need that thunderous applause for starting another day... and for the fact that you've apparently started this one.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ryan, Tamiflu, and Folks We Wouldn't Trade

We had a great time this Christmas break.  Really.  It was good despite the trip to ER that should have been a trip to urgent care and the five trips to urgent care after that.  We're all well again, and I'm hoping that holds.  In between a UTI, three nasty colds, one case of flu that we caught early, and two cases of strep, we enjoyed each other. 

I would not call it time off.  It was a break from the norm of Daddy going to work, driving Ryan to therapy, and all that kind of stuff.  But it was not relaxing.  Time off with kids isn't always, I suppose.  

Ryan was the last one to get sick.  He had that bad cold that started in Maelynn, then went to Richie.  It spread to Ryan and we thought it was going to just go away.  The only problem with that is the nightmare that is his diet.  

No one else got the flu, but Ryan's immune system, weak from a diet of pizza, chips, cheese, ranch, and the occasional burger washed down with milk, apple juice, and water had a harder time with that nasty cold.  Having only stayed for a feverish visit in Maelynn and Richie, Ryan's cold lingered and turned to the flu.  On Saturday evening, having come home from urgent care with my own nasty case of strep, I got up from sleeping off a pain pill to find him on the couch with a fever.  Ugh.  

Eric took him off to the same place I went, and his strep test was negative.  I'm still amazed that he was a trooper for both the strep culture and the flu test, which came up positive.  The flu had apparently decided that Ryan's weakened state was a great place to camp out for a few days.  

Thankful that we got a jump-start on it, my husband took him to the drug store with a prescription for Tamiflu.  They didn't have enough liquid for Ryan, and since insurance wouldn't pay for the liquid for a boy his age, Eric brought home the capsules.  That got interesting.  

Before I go on, I'm on the side of keeping the illnesses that medicine has kept at bay or obliterated gone.  I've had the full-blown flu, just last year.  The Tamiflu was crazy expensive, so I used the money for buying it for my daughter, and after two doses she was back to herself.  I, on the other hand, was down for about a week.  D-O-W-N down.  She got it first, and I was afraid we'd run out of money and the boys would need it, so I passed.  Never again!

So we got the Tamiflu and after a 45 minute drive home, Eric got the first dose down Ryan.  It wasn't easy.  There was much screaming.  Okay, so there's a lot of screaming at our house anyway, but this was different.  He wouldn't swallow the pill, so we had to get creative.  It finally wound up getting down him, with only two doses being thrown back up.  

We will never ever ever go without flu shots again.  Especially Ryan.  

A sick Ryan is usually a calm, lethargic Ryan.  I don't know if it was the flu or the Tamiflu, but after a couple of doses, he didn't address anyone with anything but grunts or screams.  He was not feverish, but he was not himself.  For days, he didn't eat much more than a bite or two, even of things he usually loves.  We did our best to keep liquids down him, and getting him to eat was all-out war.  

He lost his cool, we lost our cool.  It was bad.  

We were panicking.  How can he keep not eating?  What if the flu comes back?  Kids are dying down here of flu, so we were determined to keep this stuff going down him.  Through much cajoling, threats, leverage, if/then statements, and more all-out war, we would get him to take a few bites of food so he could get it down himself.  And then it was the war of getting the medicine hidden in a dose of ibuprofen and praying that the nasty, powdery pill would make it down his gullet without a taste.  

One taste, and it was game over and pill up.  Not fun.  Not one part of it was fun.  Not the fear that he'd just stay like he was acting, that maybe it wasn't the sickness or a side effect of the medicine, for sure.  We were afraid.  REALLY AFRAID.  What if this is regression?  What if this is a change we just didn't see coming?  What will we get him to eat?  

But we had saving grace.  

This Christmas season, we were blessed to have family here and to go and visit family.  I don't know what I would have expected, maybe that they would have run screaming.  But my sister and her husband stuck it out.  

They sat at the table through the battles.  

They smiled at us.  

They continued conversation in between screams.  

They patted us on the back.  

They listened.  

They cared.  

They just hung around and treated us like we were their family, and acted like this was completely normal.  

It isn't that bad all the time.  As I typed that, Ryan pounded the table with his fist and yelled something, nearly making me jump off the couch. Haha.  There are about four folks who rode through the scariest time we've had with Ryan in a long, long time.  And they want to come back!

So to all of you with family members with autism, or friends who have kids with autism, you can make a huge difference in the lives of a family with autism simply by bearing with them.  Being patient.  Unshockable.  By hanging out and asking questions and laughing at TV and sharing stories about college and your dog and everything other than autism.  And by asking some honest, interested questions trying to learn about their life.  It's simple.  It's so much easier than you might think.  Just be there.  

To all the family we either visited or family-friends who visited us over the past few weeks, thanks.  You're more than autism aware.  You're blessings that make a difference in our lives.  

Thanks be to God for Tamiflu, antibiotics, Clorox wipes, Lysol, and family and friends who are family... and for their regrets to leave and enthusiasm for coming back to see us again and/or having us again.  

To my sister and her husband and our J and her friend, thanks a million times for loving us enough to ride through that flu/Tamiflu time with us.  For not running like your hair was on fire.  For even acting like you see this every day.  Thank you. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Post-Game, Vol. 4

If you missed Post-Game, Post-Game, Vol. 2, and Post-Game, Vol. 3 you might want to click on their blue names and see what they're about.  

With our Santa-waiting victory behind us, we trudged on through to the next bump on the road before Christmas Eve... a couple of gifts to buy, a lunch date, and a doctor appointment.  All three in Waco, but no matter.  Eric and I could do this together!  We did, too.  And when we got home, we discovered a problem.  

The problem seemed to not get too much worse, and honestly, I got going with dinner and then dinner cleanup and baths and we didn't notice it much until potty time at bedtime.  Then, at 8:30 in the evening  at least 45 minutes away from urgent care, it got worse.  All of a sudden, it was apparent that we had to do something to help her.  

Once the boys were in bed, we loaded her in the van in her Minnie nightgown and warm pants and princess tennis shoes, and she rode snug with her Rudolph and of course, beloved Bearbearbear.  

This kid has never had to stop to potty.  Ever.  And we drive to Waco a LOT.  By the time we were ten miles out of town, she was crying and begging for the potty.  We stopped hurriedly in the only small town between our small town and Waco.  We had to keep going, because the urgent care located close to the hospital was only open until 11.  

After a trip to a darkened building and a conversation with a rude receptionist... laughing in someone's face when they ask how long it will be before his daughter is seen... it became apparent that we had been duped.  This was ER.  We felt SO stupid.  

We found a seat as far away from the general population as we could, thinking surely that the ladies who had given up and camped out under blankets, completely asleep, had to be homeless or without power.  Surely they hadn't been here that long waiting.  

Ha.  Hahaha.  Right.  

Over the next four and a half to five hours, we watched all manner of the city's population flow in and out of the ER waiting room.  There was one man who came to sit and wait who had a cough I will never forget.  I'll also never forget wanting to throw myself over my daughter to shield him from his uncovered cough's germs.  

Miserable in ER waiting area.  

After not very long, maybe under an hour, we were called back to triage.  I thought we would be seen then.  But it turns out that triage is quite the little tease to cases like ours.  She wasn't in a life-threatening situation, with no fever even.  We made our way back out to the waiting area, and the real wait began.

Maelynn was none the wiser.  She fell asleep on her Daddy's lap, and that's how she spent the entire next four hours or so.  That left Eric and I in this weirdly quiet setting.  All these people, sitting in such close proximity, all obviously suffering, but not one seemed to be interested in talking to anyone.  

As we watched folks from different walks of life sit together in misery, the inability to visit with even Eric gave me a long time to think.  

There was no room in the inn.  As miserable and uncomfortable as we were sitting up all night breathing germ soup, as frustrating as it was to not be seen for hours on end, to watch others who came in after us be called back, to be stuck there wondering if we should have come at all, we were still in more comfort than the way God chose to enter the world to walk among us.  

As I realized this, I soon began to see my own selfishness.  I hadn't wanted to drive to Waco, I wanted to stay home and wrap gifts and watch Christmas movies.  I wanted to be at home.  And once we got there, I wanted nothing but to protect my child from these people.  No, I wasn't rude out loud.  I never said anything out loud, but especially as the night wore on, my thoughts became nasty.

"She doesn't look sick.  Why is she going in before Mae?"

"Why do they keep opening that door for people to walk through?!  Don't they know we're watching for the doc to come get us?  I jump every time!"

Instead of praying that those around me would feel better, instead of hoping for their best or reaching out to them, all I could do was think about how sick we were going to get.  All the diseases we had to be catching from this wait.

And of course, I picked on myself for not realizing this was going to be ER.  And for not taking her in earlier.

The grace and mercy of Christ that I love was certainly not in my heart in ER... and it hadn't been in my planning for Christmas.

Christmas had become about just doing the things Nanny did.  About missing the way things were.  About trying to hang on to what has passed.  Although I went through the motions of telling my children about Jesus, celebrating his birth and coming, I left out the role Christmas plays in the gospel.

The most adorable ER patient EVER... and "such a nice girl" according to her doctor, who even took it upon himself to buy her a drink when he couldn't find what she asked for. 

Maelynn and Mommy enjoying Rudolph one more time on my laptop.

No, Christmas isn't about Santa.  It isn't about lights, red and green, food, family, candy canes, gingerbread, or any of that other stuff.  It is about Jesus' coming.  It is about the coming of someone who, fully God and fully man, lived so that we could have relationship with God the father.  

And if he went to all that trouble... all that trouble to come to earth, promise us life more abundantly, teach us how to live, and die and then be RAISED from the dead to conquer sin and hell once and for all, I think he intended us to love the beauty and wonder this world offers.  We are his.  We are not of this world, no.   But we are here.  

No, candy canes, lights, trees, and their like aren't specifically Jesus oriented.  But they are how we make one of the most important parts of the gospel of Christ known and celebrated in this house.  They are some of the things that make this time of year markedly different and special.  

It hasn't snowed, and though I prayed my head off that we wouldn't, we did bring sickness back from the ER.  Five trips to actual urgent care, three colds, flu, and two cases of strep later, we're well again.  But sick or well, we lived Christmas.  We served each other, we expressed our love for each other and gratitude for our means in gifts, and we remembered that we are given such wonderful decorations and culture and memories to enjoy... and in those things, in basking in the pleasure they give while offering thanks to God for it all, we worship.  

In all my worry that we wouldn't have a worshipful, meaningful, Christ-centered Christmas, I almost threw out the beauty and wonder of the life more abundant we are given.  

And so, while we study the reason for the birth of Christ, the importance and life-giving of his coming, we also relaxed and enjoyed more of what there is around us.  We looked around and saw things that made our hearts merry and light, and enjoyed and were grateful for them.  Without worry that the merriness and light were taking away from the realness of Christmas, Christ's realness and relevance swirled around us and through us and among us.  The warmth of his light and life warmed our hearts as we took in the lights, realizing that all that is good is a gift to be treasured.  

Christmas was in it all.   It's in today, it's in tomorrow.  It's in the enjoyment of the retelling of the story, in the candle-lit Christmas Eve service, and in the manger around the holiday itself.  But it's in so much else.  It's part of our everyday make up.  It's part of what makes us, the lowliest of the low, worthy and loved and cared for by God himself.  It has nothing to do with things like Nutcrackers, music, candy, food, and the like... until those things bless the hearts of those he loves.  When the beautifulness of this world's cultures and art and music and all they entail warm our hearts and help us relate to others and thus relate HIM to others, he is in them.  

No, it hasn't snowed for Richie and Maelynn.  And it likely won't, due to our climate.  But their desire for snow, coupled with a long night in ER gave us the most wonderful Christmas yet.  It wasn't perfect, no.  But Christ was truly in it, through its ups and downs and sleepless nights, through the smiles of the family we haven't seen in forever, through the tastes and sounds and sights of the season, we were blessed and feel a little closer to him.  

Thanks be to God for Christmas.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Post-Game, Vol. 3

If you've not read Post-Game and Post-Game Vol. 2, click their titles.  If you have, welcome back.  

The Sunday before Christmas, I looked at Eric after church and said, "I wonder if the guy in the red suit is at the mall today."  Still reeling from realizing that I'd not been doing anything kiddie-fun with the kids, we had taken them to Santa's Wonderland, which was a huge leap, we'd driven around looking at Christmas lights, we made gingerbread cookies randomly in the middle of the week, watched Christmas movies, and there was this one thing I wanted to try.

I hadn't forgotten, entirely.  I had pushed the idea that I'd have pictures of the littles with Santa out of my mind because of the difficulty of making it to Waco, then having to wait in line with Ryan.  But it was time.

I wish I could say he looked at me like I had three heads, but he didn't.  He's far too used to me having these flashes of courage... or lapses of stupidity, I'm not sure which.  The morning's service had been rough, too. Crazy mama.  We couldn't even go to our regular fast food spot... Ryan's behavior had been THAT off.  But, whether I was crazy or not, after a nice little lunch we headed for the mall.

The whole way I questioned my sanity.  The.  Whole.  Way.  I was headed someplace that has historically been a consistent source of disaster for Ryan so that we could wait in line to do something for less than five minutes for his brother and sister.  That and it's just something I said I wouldn't do.

"Why would I put my kids on some random man's lap and let them share with him their hopes and dreams?!"  I'd say.

Partially because something she asked for that she didn't get... that castle thingy with the horses that "clip-clop" down a slope... isn't her hopes and dreams.  She shares with me and her daddy her hopes and dreams, and mostly they consist of wanting to meet Cinderella and Thomas the Tank Engine.  Richie, on the other hand, only wanted a "woodent train Gordon" which, just like Ralphie, he forgot when he got to Santa.

Oh, and let's not forget snow.  They both want snow.

It's not that they matter less than mine, or anyone else's.  Just the opposite!  And if they had thrown fits about having to sit on the old guy's lap, we would have walked away.  Really.  Ryan decided that the hour and a half or so wait was fine, he'd take a pic with Rudolph, but no thanks on the Santa thing.  And he didn't have to.

The line was long.  Almost "Christmas Story" long, but not quite.  There were bits of magic here and there... or blessings, if you're more inclined.

Ryan made it.  He started to melt down here and there, but he made it.  This was huge for him!  Maybe the longest he has ever waited in line.

The littles didn't start any brother-sister fights in line.

In the tightness of the line, no one... and I mean no one... looked at us crooked or made any nasty gestures or comments the few times Ryan began his grunty-squealy, hitting his head thing.  Or when he half ran over them.

At one point, he even sang "The Chipmunk Song" in its entirety to the crowd, winning several smiles!  Okay, I say he sang the whole thing.  It was largely intelligible due to his still-needed speech therapy, but hey!  He did it, and all on his own.  No prompting.  It wasn't even my idea!

And there's this.

I can't begin to tell you how overjoyed I was that they wanted this picture.  Together.  Again, their idea.  Not mine.  Not anything I carefully planned or worked toward.  Just a random idea, because we'd watched Christmas movies and the notion came up.  

And I stopped long enough to listen.  Think.  And remember they wanted to do it.  Not hurry them through because the big people have an agenda.  

How can they get that God, who is so vast and incomprehensible, loves them and cares to listen to their requests, desires, and concerns when the people who are biggest to them don't hear them when they're standing right there?   

Thanks be to God for Maelynn asking for snow.  And for the lack that made me see her and her brothers in 4D and color. 

And this happened, and I don't think they're the worse for wear... 

And thanks for the would-be trip to urgent care on the next evening that stuck it all together, and made the little girl in this mama relax at Christmas for the first time. 

Stay tuned for the wrap up tomorrow. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Post-Game, Vol. 2

It all started one night when I was tucking Maelynn into bed.

She and Richie want snow so bad they can't stand it.  We live in central Texas, and while there's a time or so here and there when we have had snow, it doesn't happen often.  I encouraged her to pray about it, honestly not out of heart of wanting her to take her requests and concerns to The Father, but out of wanting to finish what I was doing without her asking another three-year-old question.  On some level I meant well, and I wasn't rude in telling her.  But I was tired of the question.

I had things to DO.  I had to get things decorated, make plans to make sure I had enough goodies for friends and teachers, and make sure we had the kids' gifts just right.  Did I have every ingredient for this and that organized on my lists... the now, and the right before Christmas shopping list?  Did we get the right ____ for ____?  Had that last package arrived?

She mentioned it at prayer time at night a few times, we prayed for it.  That if it would be okay with God we'd love some snow.  I really thought I was doing my mommy duty, patting myself on the back for her remembering because I prompted her to ask earlier, forgetting the setting.  Then it was back to work.

The adult side of Christmas was overtaking the kid side of life.  I never intended for that to happen.

When I was a child, it was a whole different story.  There was no Mom and Dad... it was Mom and I, and Daddy and J.  With Mother, on her days off, we decorated our apartment, shopped and wrapped presents for family, and built a pretty amazing little world for ourselves as far as Christmas wonder went.  We waited for the night "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Mickey's Christmas Carol" would come on TV, hoping it was a night she was off.  We went to see Santa, we drove around and looked at Christmas lights, and it was wonderful.  

But soon that wonderful was replaced with the trauma of leaving all that was comfortable, all that was familiar and easy to go into an unstable environment hours away every blasted Christmas.  There was even the one Christmas when I got to wake up in our apartment Christmas morning, opened presents, and then the phone rang.  He decided he wanted me to come after all, I guess.

All that left me with a rather unhealthy desperation to get Christmas-happy-joyful as right as I could with my kids.

And I've never found the correct formula.

I tried cookies plus candy plus unhealthy amounts of food for all.... and that equaled my jeans being tighter.

I tried all theology and solid, unfiltered truth minus wonder and all the fluffy stuff of commercial, cultural American Christmas... and that equaled missing the stuff I liked of Christmas as a kid.

I tried making everything for everyone and less shopping and that equaled one stressed, crying mama the night before we left to travel to see family.

I tried going over dosing on travel, making it about seeing and being with family.

Of all the things I've tried, all the trying usually gets is disappointment.  Yes, it'll look great on paper.  And no, there's nothing wrong with planning and trying.  But so much of it was just empty.  How could this... Mom and Dad, our house, brothers and a sister, the dog, all this greatness... how could his be less magical than an apartment and my hard-working single mom?

Then, on another night, at another bedtime at the end of another day of running around, My daughter's precious voice came from her pink and purple comforter, and from under all those stuffed animals, said with sad eyes, "Mama, we don't need to pray tonight."

"What?  Of course we do.  Let's get to it."

"No, Mama.  We prayed for snow and God didn't give it to us.  He's way too busy for us."

Ouch.  Her sincere pout and fallen countenance spoke volumes about what had been missing.

After I my heart started, I gently explained the best way I could break down God's sovereignty for a three year old.  My heart ached because I couldn't give her what she really wanted, and then I realized that what she really needed wasn't snow.

As I shut her bedroom door, I began to think about what this Christmas would be.  What it should be.  And the more I thought, the less it would fit into a day.  And the less it mattered how perfect the cookies were or how many visits we made.  And the more I thought about what I loved as a kid.

It had very little to do with December 25.  Or Santa.  Or presents.  Or snow.  And part of it came in giving my kids what I didn't have... but not what I was thinking, and not on Christmas day.  The confusing part came in that it wasn't in just doing Christmas things, but in how we do them.  How deeply Christmas reaches our souls.  In all my Christmas checklisting, I was leaving something out.  There was a connection missing.

That day, as I realized that I was missing my daughter's wonder and childlike amazement, I started to get it.  I talked about it, thought about it, even wrote about it, but still didn't get it.

Then there was the trip to ER (that I thought would be urgent care... blast bad advertising) when I should have been in bed, the day before I had a big day of baking and prep and plans.

Thanks be to God, I eventually got it.  But it's too much to cram into this post.  See you tomorrow.

To Be Continued... 


There has been so much this past couple of weeks... and we've had such a broad spectrum of interesting this holiday season... that I'm having a bit of trouble narrowing down how to start.  So here's where I am.

I barely found time to write over the past couple of weeks.  As in I think I published twice over the last two, maybe three weeks.  The desire is there.  There just has barely been a moment when I felt I could pull out the computer and put it to words.

For years now, I've operated on the basis of "if I really want to, I will".  And when people asked me how in the world I had time to write, I just smiled.  Such an odd question.  If I replied with words at all, they came in the form of, "I just do" or something like that.

That's a bunch of hooey.

I wanted to write, I wanted to read about five different books I've been meaning to read.  I wanted to go to a movie with my husband.  There were times I just wanted to sleep.  There were times I wanted to sit down.  And every time I thought about opening this screen to start to organize a thought, something else came up.

I can tell you that we had an amazing couple of weeks.  It wasn't easy, and most of it was certainly not relaxing.  But it was amazing.  It was full.  It was truly life more abundant.

Some things went according to plan, and some things came from out of nowhere.  There were a bunch of pretty big balls I dropped to ear-splitting crashes, and there were some that I gracefully placed in their proper baskets.  There were things I meant to do that would have made things better, mostly for Ryan, but I completely just did not get them done.

As we went into this Christmas season, my greatest hope was that I would have an attitude of gratefulness and a heart of gratitude.  That I'd not take the smallest candy cane for granted, and yet be able to let go of the biggest plan without being frustrated.  To grab the moments, hug them, then release them to memory, not crushing them with disappointment that they had to end.  And, sitting here on January 8 with the laundry going and the kids watching a non-Christmas movie, I have to look back and say that by all worldly standards, I blew it.

I lost my cool at times when I should have kept it.

I forgot to put together the thing that was supposed to be a big surprise Christmas morning, forcing us to wake at 6:00 to make sure it was together.

My buttercream came out weird this year, and I couldn't seem to fix it.

I made some egregious gift mistakes, mostly because I had way too much on my plate.

I didn't get out my beloved Nanny china, simply because I was too tired to wash it.  We had Christmas dinner on my cobalt Fiesta.

The plastic kiddie tablecloth with snowmen all over it remains on her beautiful table, too.  I never once got out the deep red one that she made especially for it.

The ingredients for candy houses remain in the plastic sack in the pantry.  Like I said, buttercream fail.

Far from your hand-crafted, pinteresty Christmas, right?

But I tell you, it was Christmas magic.  Truly wonderful.  So much stuff that I couldn't find time to sit with the computer.  So cool, in fact, that I decided to tell you a little backwards.  I'm starting with the result, which was leaving Christmas break behind with a few regrets, but a much better sense of not being immortal.  And my Christmas present to you?  More bite-sized chunks of material to read.  And this.

Pretty much sums up the whole two weeks.  All we gave to the kids, and they gave this right back... and we're not talking toys. No, that was before the toys.  This was a gift from my children.  Completely unposed.  I walked in after putting the bathroom together after their bathtime, and this is what I found.

My three kids, together, happy, full of wonder.

Tomorrow, the unboxing of all the rest.

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