Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hair Raising

Aaron has always noticed people's hair.  Well, he notices everything about people that he sees - but some of his hair comments over the years have been funny.............except when it gets a little too personal, which with Aaron it usually does.

Aaron loves looking at our pictures from our wedding or our early years of marriage.  Any time he starts talking about "back then"................then I know I'm probably going to hear something about my age, my weight, or my hair. "Mom, your hair was smooth back then."  I cannot tell you how many times I've heard Aaron talk about my smooth hair "back then" and I still am not totally sure what he's referring to.  I think it's smooth now but somehow he sees it differently.  I'm really hoping he doesn't come across the pictures of my perm days when I looked like a sheep.  Seriously hoping that I can keep those unnoticed!

When he says "back then" in reference to Gary, it's usually the amount of hair that Aaron notices.  "Dad, back then you had more hair."  Gary thinks that poetic justice is smiling upon him now because Aaron has the same thinning hair on top that Gary has.  HA!  Gary doesn't say that to Aaron, but I know he's thinking it. 

Mr. Z, too, who was Aaron's teacher for 3 years at the day school in Goddard, was often the brunt of Aaron's observations concerning hair - or the lack thereof.  I wonder how many times Aaron called Tom by the respectful name of Mr. Baldy?  Thank you, Tom, for your understanding.  But not so understanding was another teacher whom Aaron introduced us to by saying, "She looks like a hedgehog, doesn't she?!"  Read about it in my earlier blog - The Introduction.  Well, her spiked hair was very interesting to Aaron and he calls it as he sees it.  That was a shining moment for us, let me tell you!

When Aaron sees someone with red hair, he tells us about that person he saw that has orange hair.  And blonds really have yellow hair, according to Aaron.  That actually is more accurate than red and blond.........or maybe I'm growing to think more and more like Aaron as time goes on.

One day I was in the process of fixing my hair when Aaron knocked on my door.  The reason he knocked is because it was locked.  Usually he just barges in, which is why I often keep it locked.  Anyway, my hair was pretty much standing on end, similar to a long-haired hedgehog, when I opened the door.  Aaron didn't even act like he noticed my hair, but as he whisked past me he muttered, "Bad hair day!"  Excuse me?

He even notices the hair that is no longer on our heads, like the day he commented, "Mom, some of Andrea's hair leaked out on the bathroom counter!"  Andrea still hasn't gotten that leaky hair fixed!

And tonight he had a new one.  After supper he was talking about his Star Wars game that he's been playing and how one of the women did this and that.  And then he said, "You know, she's the one who has the old hair!" 

Old hair?  Of course, if hair is gray or white it's because it's old hair, at least according to Aaron.  We'll explain someday that this isn't always the case, but not now.  He was also excited to tell us that her hair came down beside her ears - he was using hand motions to explain it to us - and then said, "She had braces hanging down!"

Later he showed me a picture.  The woman had braids! 

I didn't think old hair and braces really went together anyway!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

He's Back!

Aaron has rebounded from his seizure day on Thursday.  I woke him up on Thursday afternoon so he wouldn't sleep all day.  He finally made it downstairs, only to lay down on the couch.  He wasn't feeling the greatest and said he felt like throwing up, so I offered him some chicken noodle soup.  As he ate it, though, the look on his face reminded me of when I try to swallow Brussels Sprouts.  The soup wasn't helping, so Aaron and I began to brainstorm about what would taste good to him.  He eventually asked for one of his favorites.  "Mom, can I have cinnamon toast?" 

So I fixed him 3 pieces of cinnamon toast, which he scarfed down..............after walking over to Jackson's pillow when I had my back turned and giving him a chunk of toast.  Well, at least Aaron was moving around now, talking clearly, and up to his old tricks.  Is getting back to normal always a good thing?   That's the question, as Aaron would say.

He asked for more toast and when all was said and done, he had eaten seven - yes, seven! - pieces of cinnamon toast.  He then settled in his favorite family room chair, old person style, with his usual fuzzy blanket, clock, etc., etc.  You know the routine well by now.  And decided that he was still hungry.  "Mom, could I have some celery and peanut butter?"  So I fixed him this other favorite food, and found that he had about 15 paper towels that he had taken in there with him............he loves the peanut butter but detests it on his hands.  But really, Aaron?  He's always in overkill mode when it comes to the paper towels. 

He was worried about the blood on his pillow case from biting his tongue.   "Mom, can you change my pillow sheet?"  I went upstairs to change his "pillow sheet", telling him that I would just change the bed sheets, too.  As I started to change his sheets, he appeared at the doorway to his room...............not to help, mind you, but to direct.  Read the Order of the Covers blog to understand the importance he places on having his covers in just the right order...........an order that he's sure I will mess up again.  He pretended to want to talk to me, but he was watching my every move.  I knew this when I got ready to put his long body pillow back on his bed, and he interrupted himself in mid-sentence to say, "Put the zipper on this side of the bed."   Yes, Aaron!

I left the house to go have dinner with friends, and soon after I was gone, Andrea came home.  And Mr. Aaron told her that he sure would like to have some peanut butter and celery..............that Mom hadn't fixed him any supper...............that he sure was hungry..............and so she fixed him MORE peanut butter and celery and he was very happy.  When questioned later, he smiled in his way that says he knows he got caught and he said, "Well, I didn't think what you  made  me was for supper!"  Yeah, right!  Back to normal indeed!

He went to Paradigm yesterday and went to see a movie with his group.  He had his usual popcorn.............with butter, even though I tell him he doesn't need the butter..............and Twizzlers................and, as he said, "Mom, they gave me a water sample!!" 

A water sample?  "Yeah, you know in a cup about this big.......and I DIDN'T have to pay for it!!!!" 

I thought he knew about the free cup of water but he seems to have experienced this for the first time.  Now I can just see him going to the snack counter next time and asking for a water sample.  No telling what they'll give him!  Yuck!

He ate supper with us before we headed out to a concert and he clicked his teeth on his spoon with every bite of his Cheddar Pasta Salad that he requested for his special Friday treat and he excitedly told us all about the movie he saw and the popcorn he ate WITH butter and the Twizzlers and the water sample and on and on and on. 

Yeah, it's good to have Aaron back..............Mr. Talks-A-Lot has returned.   

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Seizure Day

Today Aaron is having seizures.  I heard the first one on the monitor at 4:06 a.m. and the second one at 5:18 a.m.  Aaron would love the fact that my times are very precise, wouldn't he?  He got up this morning for a short time.............took his meds and then spilled all of his coffee after his hand jerked.  He felt so bad about it, but I told him it was OK and made him some fresh coffee.  He showered and tried to watch a DVD before he got so sleepy that he asked if he could lay back down.  His head hurt and he was very tired, both from his meds and from the effects of the seizures.  Of course I told him to lay down and sleep. 

I turned on the monitor and kept it beside me as I did a few things around the house.  Aaron rarely has daytime seizures.  I got in the shower and was nearly finished when I heard him through the monitor, seizing.  I turned the water off and listened, which was all I could really do.  He was fine and I hurried then to finish and go check on him. 

He had already bitten the end of his tongue pretty badly during his first seizures this morning.  Now he had bitten it even more, and had more blood coming out of his mouth, oozing onto his pillow.  I wet a wash cloth with warm water and went back to gently wash the side of his face.  He opened his eyes............and gave me a smile. 

There went that door of my heart that I rarely open, coming ajar enough to feel the hurt of this moment and this dear oldest child that God has given us.  I blinked back my tears.  I don't want Aaron to see me crying at these times and wonder what is wrong with himself that would make his mother cry.  I tried to remember how irritated I was with him last night when I wouldn't let him put his questionable hands in the tortilla chip bag, but made him let me put them in a bowl for him to eat.  He did NOT like that at all and became very grouchy.  If I can bring back the irritation that I felt last night, then maybe this moment of pain wouldn't be so real.

Yet I don't want to lose the pain.............the awareness that God has given us a special child...............for life.  Because if I lose the pain, I may lose my heart of trust in God.  I have to trust that God is sovereign and that God had a reason for giving Aaron life and for giving Aaron to us..............or us to Aaron. 

Sometimes I look at Aaron and I think that he should have hung his college degree on the wall and be enjoying a wonderful career or ministry............that he should be married and maybe have children of his own...............that he should be driving a car..........

Or should he?  God has given Aaron his own special life and ministry, if we but see it.  I'm convinced that God has a very unique and amazing calling for our special children.............for them to help lead us to a fuller life of faith and trust.............to point us to Christ and His love for us..............to deepen our relationship with Christ and with others..............and so many more possibilities that I won't know until the Lord Himself explains it to me one day.

My dear friend, Wendy, has two sons with Doose Syndrome.  What a load Dan and Wendy carry!  What a testimony they are to so many of us!  Wendy and I have had these discussions about our boys.  And in our frail, human way of thinking..............she and I have decided that God is going to let Elijah and Aaron drive the absolutely coolest cars in heaven!  As if it will even matter then, but it matters now and it gives us a chance to laugh and imagine the joy of it all. 

We have hope...............hope of far more than cool cars in heaven.  We have hope of grace for each day down here on this sad, tired earth...............hope that Sovereign God is with us................and hope that one day we'll see Him, touch Him, worship Him............with our sons beside us, whole and healthy and happy for eternity.

And no more dirty hands in the chip bag!   

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Little Toilet

Can you handle another toilet story?  Well, kind of another toilet story...........because it's not really a toilet at all.  Let me explain.

Last year I bought a new porcelain scented oil warmer to put in the guest bathroom.  I placed it on the counter beside the sink on the day that I bought it.  I got busy with my day and just left it there, not putting the oil in it or plugging it in.  When Aaron came home from Paradigm, he went right to the bathroom first thing................and then darted right back out, carrying the new oil warmer. 

"Mom!!  Why is there a little toilet by the sink?!"

I had to laugh.  You  know, it really did look somewhat like a miniature toilet.  Aaron certainly thought so! 

Some time went by and still I hadn't decided if I wanted to use the oil warmer in that bathroom.  I left it where I had placed it, still unused, and with Aaron's natural distrust of toilets, this little miniature, wanna-be toilet became quite the fascination for him. 

One day he emerged from the bathroom and asked, "Mom, can I put that toilet shape smell thing in my room?" 

I didn't let him do that, but maybe it would have been good therapy for him. 

Then on another day he asked, "Mom, can you fill up that little miniature toilet thing?  You know, that smelly thing?" 

That does not even sound nice or appealing at all.  My oil warmer was becoming pretty disgusting to me, to be honest. 

I put it in a drawer.  Out of sight.  Out of our smelling range.  Nasty little toilet shaped smelly oil warmer!

The other day I opened the drawer where it was tucked away and saw it there...........all new and clean and sparkly, just like a brand new porcelain toilet.  I got it out, put a few drops of oil in it, plugged it in............and waited for the reaction from you-know-who. 

It didn't take long.  "Mom!!   What's that juice you put in the little toilet smell thing?"

He's probably told everyone by now that Mom has a little juiced up toilet! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Love of a Dog

Our Jackson is so sweet.  Sometimes Aaron pets too roughly, talks too loudly, feeds too "muchly" - although Jackson loves the snacking! - but Jackson always loves Aaron.  Jackson will go to another room when he wants away from Aaron, but he doesn't hold a grudge and he's always patient. 

We can learn some valuable lessons from our big, sweet dog! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Family Picture

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, I think you understand that Aaron is:

1.  Very observant
2.  Very blunt

Those two characteristics don't necessarily work well together.  Anyone who lives or works with Aaron knows that having thick skin is of great benefit.  A good sense of humor helps, too.

Several years ago I was able to fly home to West Virginia to spend some time with my family, and to also attend the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Johnston Chapel Baptist Church.  Mom and Dad raised us in this church, and we have many special memories of our time there.  My brother pastors there now. 

Anyway, during that visit my brother and my three sisters and I gathered around my dear parents for an impromptu photograph.  It's one of my favorite pictures of the five of us with Mom and Dad.

Now I have to explain that:

1.  All of us are.........how do I say it?.............well rounded.
2.  Except for Jan, who is not well rounded..............in the sense that the rest of us are.
3.  We love Jan anyway.

OK, Jan has managed to remain thin after all these years AND after giving birth to TWO - yes, I said TWO - sets of twins.  It's not fair - but like I said, we do love her anyway. 

When I received my copy of this picture, I framed it and displayed it proudly.  Of course, Aaron noticed it right away and wanted to look at it.  He and I stood there, gazing down at the picture, and talking about who was there.  Of course, there's Mom.......and Aunt Mary Beth........and Uncle John..........and Aunt Jan..........and Aunt Kathryn.............with Grandmother and Granddaddy.  

He pondered the picture for a few seconds longer, thinking, and then pointed to Jan as he blurted out, "So.......what happened to HER?"   

 Leave it to Aaron.  And every time we see Bob and Jan, Aaron will invariably mention that Aunt Jan is thin and you're not, Mom, and yada, yada, yada.................I just block it out at that point.   But I do love Jan!!  Love you, Jan!! 

Maybe I'll hide that picture.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sharktopus. The End. I Hope.

The Sharktopus Film/Food Fest is officially over.  No one could be any happier about that than me;  Courtney;  and Krysten.   Aaron would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

I thought that the Berlin tornado movie last year was bad.  I mean, a German movie dubbed over in English where the English words didn't match their lip movements and the classic line was "I could hurt you real bad!"................was actually a notch above Sharktopus.  And since I didn't win the Mother of the Year award for Vortex Five.............the Berlin tornado movie actually did have a title.............I am convinced that I will win the 2012 Mother of the Year award for enduring Sharktopus. 

Likewise, Krysten and Courtney deserve Friends of the Year awards for giving up a good chunk of their Saturday to watch this movie with Aaron.  Or maybe a settlement from OSHA for damage done to them related to work...............or hazardous duty pay..............or at least a pat on the back!!

Those young ladies are amazing, really.  They love Aaron and they came all pepped up and happy, ready to have some fun.  Aaron just wanted to know what size pizzas I was ordering and how many.  I surprised him with the bread sticks, which we caught him trying to put in his pocket before I grabbed them to put away with the little bit of leftover pizza that somehow we managed to rescue before he scarfed it all down. 

He's worse than Sharktopus.

We decided to eat the pizza and bread sticks before the movie, as well as the Fruit Pizza cookies that Krysten brought.  Yum!!  We couldn't put it off any longer, though - it was finally time to watch Sharktopus.  Of course, Aaron had to homestead in his chair, getting up repeatedly until he had everything just so-so.  His blanket, his slippers and slipper socks (yes, both!), his clock, his bag of tostito chips, his crumb bowl, his napkins, a band aid that I had to put on his finger, and I don't know what else.  Sometimes not knowing is easier.

Sharktopus was beyond awful.  It was predictable with terrible acting, no plot worth mentioning, totally unbelievable story line, absurdly ridiculous special effects.............shall I continue?  And Aaron loved it!  He kept asking us if we liked it and what did we think of this scene and that scene, of this comment and that comment, etc., etc.  Sharktopus is 89 minutes long and we were counting every single one of those minutes.  Riveting..........absolutely riveting. 

At the end of this classic movie, when Sharktopus is blown to bits..........sorry for the spoiler for those of you who will plan to waste 89 minutes watching this movie...............there is an unforgettable line when the girl says, "Do you think that Sharktopus will come back?"  And the guy says, "That only happens in the movies."  Wow.  Deep.    And I hope it is only in the movies because I WILL not buy or watch that one.

There was a trailer before Sharktopus played that showed another first-class ScyFy movie.  It's called Dinocroc vs. Supergator...........I think.  I am so hoping that Aaron doesn't notice or research this movie, even though I was very intrigued by the trailer and I talked about it.  What was I thinking?!  I've paid my dues, though.  No more.

We did it!!!!!!
Courtney and Krysten went on their way.  They offered to bring the next movie that we watch.  They are not only sweet................they are smart. 

Friday, January 20, 2012


First of all, I do not want to be embarrassing or demeaning to Aaron with this post - but there is a facet of Aaron that is very interesting.  I was reminded of it this morning when he came downstairs.  I could tell that he didn't have his usual bounce.  He was somber and his eyes showed an element of fear.

"Mom," he quietly said, "the toilet upstairs is stopped up."  I understood, then, why Aaron was so quiet and withdrawn.  He has always battled a fear of toilets.  Yes, big and loud Aaron is afraid of toilets.  And he is even more afraid of stopped-up toilets.

I probably unknowingly created this monster - or at least contributed greatly to it.  The year was 1987.  Gary was in the military and we had enjoyed several years in Colorado Springs, our first duty assignment.  In May of 1987, he traveled to Germany to begin his new flying assignment there.  Aaron, Andrea, and I had to wait until Gary got temporary quarters, at least, before we could join him.  That didn't happen until August, so in August we  moved to Germany. 

We had only been there for a few weeks when Gary had to go to the field for several weeks.  There we were, living on the fourth floor of a huge building full of temporary quarters while we waited for our permanent housing to become available.  Surroundings there were a little drab and sparse, to say the least.  I didn't know many people; couldn't drive yet; had a 2 1/2 year old and a 1 year old; the washers and dryers were way down on the basement level; etc., etc. 

The morning that I woke up and said goodbye to Gary was a lesson in having my own personal pep talk, as well as leaning on the Lord.  I told myself that I could do this - no problem!  Soon I heard Aaron and Andrea giggling, so I walked in their room to find this:

Not the best start, but what can you do - except laugh and take pictures?!  Anyway, in the midst of all this stress I decided that I may as well begin potty training Aaron.  I had waited long enough during our moves and upheaval, so why not now?  I had gotten him some cute little GI Joe underwear and proceeded to fill him with excitement about our new potty-training venture.  "Look at your new GI Joe underwear, Aaron!!  Won't this be fun?!"    "Look at you, such a big boy in your GI Joe underwear!!"  And on and on I went.

Soon after he started wearing his GI Joe underwear, of course, he pooped in them.  No big deal, I thought.  I knew that I could just swish them around a little in the toilet, put them in the underwear pail, and we'd be good as new.  But I never thought about the difference in American and German toilets.  German toilets are eco-friendly.  They have a shelf, then a drop-off, and then just a tiny little bit of water below the drop-off.   To make this design effective, the toilets have an extremely strong suction when you flush.

OK.  I stood Aaron by the toilet, took his special and wonderful GI Joe underpants off, and soon realized that there wasn't enough water in the toilet with which to clean them.  I decided to hold them down in the little bit of water below the shelf, flush, and let the flushing water clean them off while I held them.  I was feeling very smart as I reached over to the handle and flushed, with Aaron standing there watching his very smart mother's every move as I held his very special GI Joe underwear down in the little bit of water. 

One thing I hadn't counted on.................the suction.  The very strong suction.  It ripped Aaron's special GI Joe underwear right out of my hand and sucked it down the toilet, never to be seen or heard from again.  I can still hear that suction sound.  I bet Aaron can, too.  Poor little guy!  He stood there staring down in that toilet, eyes huge, and speechless with fright. 

From that point on, Aaron wanted nothing to do with any form of toilet or potty chair.  He'd look at me as if to say, "Do you honestly think I'm going to sit on that monster?!"  Couldn't say that I blamed him.  Potty training him took a very long time.  The autism certainly didn't help, but the monster suction toilet that ate his special GI Joe underwear was not a bright spot in our potty training journey.

Aaron's lifelong fear of toilets is legendary in our family.  We have some funny stories of how he's behaved over the years in public toilets, trying to stretch his arm out to flush while running out of the stall as fast as he can.  He does much, much better now but still has a hesitation around these contraptions.  And like this morning, if it's stopped up then I must fix it right away.

So I asked him this morning, "Aaron, do you want me to fix it right now?"   He said yes, and I knew it couldn't wait.  I asked him, actually, if he would be OK if I worked on it later, and he got "that" look as he said no, that he wanted me to do it now.  No need to question him further, or make him feel bad for being fearful of the stopped-up toilet. 

And no need to expect him to help me or to be anywhere near the bathroom as I plunge and flush.  He's as far away as he can be, probably remembering his special GI Joe underwear and hearing that awful sound. 

He and I do NOT miss German toilets!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sharktopus Update

For any of you who are interested.................and I can't imagine, seriously, why you would be.............Aaron is now in possession of the infamous Sharktopus movie. 

It's another of those "Have we done the right thing?"  moments that Gary and I seem to have so many of with Aaron.  Well, anyway, we did do it and what's done is done. 

Aaron is very happy and wants to share his happiness with others.  Spread some high culture around, you know?  And so he has invited some of the staff from Paradigm over on Saturday to watch Sharktopus with him.  Krysten and Courtney actually bit..............pun intended (sorry)..............and therefore on Saturday at lunch there will be a showing of Sharktopus in our family room.

Gary and/or I will probably be drug into this showing, too.............another pun..............this is how I survive, so please understand.

I will order pizza.  Aaron thinks that pizza makes every gathering just perfect and has already been asking me how many LARGE pizzas I plan to order, and where I will order them from, and can we get three LARGE pizzas, and if we get three LARGE pizzas, and the three LARGE pizzas are from Papa Johns, then can he have all three of the garlic butters? 

It's gonna be one of those days.  I'm not sure I'm up to handling both a food fest and a fish fest.........at the same time.   I'm thinking.............pizza sauce and Sharktopus..............you know?

Krysten was texting earlier and asked if she could bring anything.  Yes!

Barf bags.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Losing Trust

Sometimes when Aaron gets up in the morning, he'll immediately get on his computer and start playing a game.  We've had mornings when he doesn't want to get off the game, then, to get himself ready to go head out the door and meet his group.  Some mornings have been pretty rough as he's gotten very grouchy.  And when Aaron gets very grouchy, he can really get VERY grouchy.

So Gary and I started unplugging his keyboard at night, removing it from his room, and putting it somewhere safe and unseen - only to be plugged back in after he was gone in the mornings.  This kept him from that ever-present temptation to get "hooked on a game", as he says, and possibly become VERY grouchy.

This plan has worked well - but for the past few days, Aaron has wanted us to try leaving it plugged in and give him the chance to show us that he can control himself.  He's actually done great with this arrangement for the past few days, either not getting on the computer at all or getting on for awhile but being willing to quit the game and get ready without becoming VERY grouchy.  He has wanted to show us that we can trust him.

Today he had a harder time removing himself from his game, however.  He didn't become VERY grouchy or even a little grouchy, though, which was good.  However, he got off the game rather late and had to really rush to get everything done.  He was worried about my reaction and decided he needed to explain himself.

Mr. Precise Aaron said, "Mom, I got up early........at 6:59!!  What was I supposed to do?  I HAD to get on the computer!"

No, Aaron - no one was holding a gun to your head, telling you that you HAD to get on the computer.   And I don't mind you playing for awhile but I want you to get off in time to get ready.

He was still worried about the situation.  Then he asked, "So.......did I lose my trust?"

Ah, Aaron, you do have a way of expressing yourself.  Did you lose your trust?  Somehow phrasing this question that way gives me pause and makes me think.  Aaron has "lost his trust" as we've struggled at times with him not telling us the truth, or cheating when we play Skip-Bo, or hiding money in his desk so he'll have more to spend the next day.  Just this week I found out that he had once again done the hiding trick with his money. 

Strange..............no matter the level of disability, the innate tendency of us humans is to sin.  That's what it is..........plain old sin from our plain old sin natures.  So instead of correcting Aaron's phrasing, I used it to try to tell him how the way he hid his money and then lied about what he bought while bowling did make him lose his trust.  Maybe he'll understand it better if I speak in his terms. 

Mom and Dad are hurt, Aaron, when you lose your trust.  But more important, so is God. 

Aaron listens, hangs his head, and thumps downstairs to get Jackson a bone and grab his huge bag of Skittles to take to Paradigm.  I wonder if he's learned his lesson.  In all reality...........probably not. 

Sometimes I don't, either.  But once again, God continues to love..........and so do I.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What Species?

Aaron was full of energy yesterday when he returned from his group.  "Mom!  Paradigm bought us pizza while we were at the bowling alley!" 

That's great, Aaron!  Did you eat some?  "Yeah, I ate some!"

So I guess you didn't spend any money, then?  "No, I spent my money on some chicken strips!"

You ate chicken strips AND pizza?   He confirmed that he had.  Wow!

Therefore, I assumed that he wasn't hungry and so didn't call him down for supper.  He has a sense, though, about when Gary and I just sit down to eat............because there he came, clomping down the stairs to join us.  "Aaron, aren't you stuffed from pizza AND chicken strips?  I didn't think you'd want to eat."

But noooooo.............he wanted to sit with us...............not to eat so much as to talk.  The eating was a sideline, but while he's there he may as well, right?

So he grabbed a bowl for his salad and another bowl for his soup and several utensils because he can't mix and match those.  And several napkins...........one will never do.

He wanted to tell us about his day - other than pizza AND chicken strips at the bowling alley.  He had news about his friend.  "Hey, ______'s mom brought muffins to Paradigm today!"

Really?  What kind of muffins were they?   "I don't know."

Well, did you eat one?  "No, but they had chocolate swirly stuff on top.  And those sprinkle things."

They must have been cupcakes with chocolate icing.  "Yeah, that's what they were!" 

So was it _____'s birthday?  "I don't know."    Did they sing Happy Birthday?    "I don't know."

This coming from the young man who can hear Gary and I having a conversation from two floors above, or who can spy a cigarette butt from across the Wal-Mart parking lot...............so he can run and try to pick it up, just to hear me tell him to stop!

Anyway, Aaron didn't seem to know much about why there were cupcakes - or muffins - or whatever.  But what he did find out and wanted to tell us was:

"________ said that she was born in the jungle!!"

Yes, Aaron.  ________'s mother told me that she was born there.

"I bet she's African!!!"     (Check out my blog - Where is He From? - to better understand)

No, Aaron, ________ is not African.  She's from South America.  Her mother went down and adopted her soon after she was born. 

And then the question of the evening, as Aaron paused for thought.  "So what is her species?"

Gary and I were speechless for a second, long enough for Aaron to answer his own question.  "I bet she's jungle people!!"

Oh good grief, Aaron!  You've been reading too many science books or watching too many Sharktopus-type movies!    ___________ is a human being!!!!!

And of course, he knows that.  He gets his terms all mixed up but sometimes it sounds pretty awful, you know?  He's clueless as he goes on merrily talking about whether they swing on vines there in the jungle, etc.  He thought that this jungle story was extremely fascinating and put his friend in a whole different light. 

I just hope that whatever he says from this point on isn't offensive, because he sure can be just that without even knowing it.  Maybe today there will be two more food choices to occupy his mind instead of jungle stories!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lessons From the Destroyed Pine

The autumn day was beautiful.  Sunshine abounded, warm temperatures cheered our spirits, birds were singing, and our home was full of activity as we prepared for Thanksgiving.  Andrew was home from college and was busy helping Gary haul off our old dining room set and then do some work on the trucks.  We were carrying in groceries that would be used in a couple days to prepare our Thanksgiving dinner, all the while dodging our big Great Dane who was happily moving from one to the other of us as he enjoyed all the excitement and bustle.  It was the kind of day I love - a day of togetherness, of accomplishing tasks, of anticipation of having the family together for Thanksgiving.

Yet in the background were other noises - sounds that we couldn't drown out, even in the midst of our joy and activity.  There was the grinding sound of the chain saw, the shout of the tree cutter, and the unmistakable thud of a dead branch hitting the ground.  When my eyes left the scene of happiness in our front yard and wandered to our side yard, I couldn't ignore the scene that was being played out there.  It was a scene of death; of destruction; of ending.  This was the second visit that our tree cutters had made to our home to take away not one, but now two of our beautiful pine trees that had succumbed to the deadly nematodes of Pine Wilt disease. The first dead tree further down on our property had been cut down and carted off several days earlier.   This second tree that was being cut on this gorgeous day was right outside our back door, just off the patio area.  Our large, perfectly shaped pine tree had been destroyed by the unseen, hidden little nematodes that had eaten away at the very heart and life of the tree. 

The two young men worked diligently at their task.  Starting at the top of the tree, Jordan used his chain saw to cut each section and branch down.  His co-worker on the ground would then carefully stack these portions onto the truck to be carried away.  Then they would return to repeat the process until finally the entire tree was disposed of and hauled away.  I walked outside at one point while they were gone and just observed the sad display of this once magnificent tree.  There it was, stark against the pretty blue sky - a dark, bare, useless trunk.  What a picture of loss!  This once productive tree was now only a memory of its former glory and usefulness.  Those horrible little nematodes had, unknowingly to us, been eating away at our beautiful tree and had finally accomplished their purpose.  Our tree was fit for only one thing - to be cut down and taken away, never to be of any use again.

How interesting that this once sturdy tree had stood strong against the outward, visible attacks that had come against it during the many years of its life.  Fierce winds had whipped its branches; tornadoes had come way too close; snow had piled on its limbs; thick ice had caused some of its branches to snap; drought had tried to deplete it - yet still it stood, proud and strong.  What felled our tree was the tiny, unseen nematodes that were working inside its massive trunk and extending into its many branches.  These intruders methodically destroyed the inner life of our stately tree until finally we could see the outward evidence of inward death, and had no recourse but to demolish our tree and have it carried away.

We all face many storms in our lives that bombard us with stress and grief.  At times it's overwhelming, but I know that for me these fierce storms have driven me to my knees and the Word for guidance and comfort.  I have grown even in the pain of these trials.  However, what causes me the most damage, it seems, are the hidden sins or hurts that lodge in my heart.  No one can even see them or be aware of the damage that they are causing in my spirit.  It's easy for me to hide my attitudes or my pain from those around me, at least for a period of time.  Eventually, though, the destruction that my inner destoyers have caused will begin to show outwardly.  It becomes more evident, not only to me but to those around me, that I am not the person I used to be.  My effectiveness for Christ suffers as I allow my inner attitudes to take away my joy, my peace, my testimony, my service. 

Perhaps you have allowed some of the sinful nematodes of life to take residence in your heart.  You have not been like the Psalmist who declared: "He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers."  (Psalm 1:3)   You have allowed inner hurts to take root and prosper instead;  or perhaps pride;  maybe bitterness over situations that you cannot control;  lost ministries that you miss;  children who embarrass or disappoint..............the nematode possibilities are endless, but all are devastating.  They burrow inside and take away your very life until you are a former shell of what you used to be.  Oh, may we instead be like Paul, who said, ".......but one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 3:13-14).   Oh God, purge our hearts from the sin that so easily takes control, and strengthen us to reach forward and press on toward the goal that You have for us!

Friday, January 13, 2012


Aaron and I were on our way this morning to meet Cody, Aaron's Paradigm staff, and of course the Sharktopus movie came up - again!  I told Aaron that I really didn't like the fact that the girls on the beach in the movie were wearing bikinis.  And then he informed me, "Mom, I don't like it when YOU think!" 

Well!  And then he went on to explain that he didn't like me to think of all these things that bothered me about some of his movie choices.  I realize that what bothers me doesn't often bother him - but I am still MOM!  Right?

We pulled up beside Cody's truck.  Cody has learned to go ahead and roll down his window because Aaron is going to stand there and talk for a minute - or longer - before he gets in the vehicle.  Aaron jumped out of our van and exclaimed (loudly), "Hey Cody!  Mom doesn't know if she wants me to get Sharktopus because the girls are wearing BOO-KINIS!!" 

Yes, I spelled it correctly - at least correct according to Aaron.  Aaron has always pronounced the word "bikini"  as  "boo-kini."  I used to correct him in this pronunciation goof, but now I just let it go.  To him it would still come out as "boo-kini." 

And really, when I see some of the women who are wearing bikinis..............well, they're pretty scary.   BOO!   That would be me, actually, if I were to wear a "boo-kini." 

Enough of that.  Cody was cracking up at the "boo-kini" comment..........and so was I.  Aaron noticed our laughter and was delighted that he had said something funny - although he wasn't quite sure what it was that brought such laughter.  So he turned to me and said, "Right, Mom?  You don't know about those girls wearing BOO-KINIS!"  

Which brought even more laughter, which resulted in Aaron bending at the waist and rubbing his hands together with great joy as he joined in the laughter.  Whatever he had said that caused our hilarity, he was loving it!  Seeing Mom laugh after our morning the day before was wonderful indeed! 

It did feel good to laugh loudly...............even if it was at the thought of young teenage girls wearing BOO-KINIS!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Shark Food

If I'm going to write about Aaron, I know that I should be honest in presenting him as he really is while still preserving his dignity.  In the O.A.S.I.S. guidelines that I referenced yesterday, under the section titled Emotional Vulnerability, it states:  "Rage reactions/temper outbursts are common in response to stress/frustration."   This aspect of Asperger's is one that we have seen all too often in our household.  Aaron handles his frustrations so much better now than he did when he was younger, but he still sometimes has issues in this area.  Such was the case this morning.

Yesterday when Aaron came home from his group, he immediately started asking me if I had called CD Tradepost and found Sharktopus yet.  He was disappointed when I told him that I had not done that, so he pulled out the kitchen drawer, took out the Post-It notes and a pen, and this is what I found on the counter later. 

I'm sure he thought that I must need a reminder and he was all too happy to provide it.  During the evening last night, he talked about the movie some and then this morning he flew to the computer downstairs to start looking it up again online.  I knew what kind of morning it would be when I later reminded him that it was time for him to shower and get ready for Paradigm.  He answered angrily that he didn't want to get ready and furthermore, didn't want to go to Paradigm.

Oh boy!  Instead of just being able to talk to me about his stress over this movie, he reacts by being angry at the "thing" in his life at that moment - which in this case was his group, because getting ready for his group was taking  him away from the computer, away from looking at Sharktopus trailers, etc.  Then he transferred that anger to me.  I became the mother who doesn't care, who doesn't listen, who likes Andrea and Andrew's movies more than his, who wasn't trying to find the movie, and on and on.

When Aaron gets wound up like this, it's best to just pull back as much as possible from any form of verbal confrontation.  I knew the more I talked, the angrier he would become.  The few comments I made were enough to make him even angrier, so I just got quiet and let him rant.  Even our sweet old Great Dane, Jackson, came slinking into the bathroom with me as I finished getting ready.  He doesn't like it when Aaron gets angry.

It's a good thing that our neighborhood lake doesn't have a Sharktopus.  If it had then I would have been very tempted to take Aaron down for a walk by the lake, if you know what I mean.  Just teasing..................kind of.  Really, after all these years I've finally figured out (for the most part) how to deal with these infrequent outbursts.  The quieter I become, then the more concerned Aaron becomes.  He begins to realize that Mom is either mad herself.........or hurt. 

Aaron doesn't show much sorrow or empathy, but I can read him well and I know when he's nervous because he realizes he's stepped over the line.  My silence seems to touch him more than anything.  He'll soften and then begin to say things like, "OK, I'll go to Paradigm!"  He gets ready, and then returns to talk some more to me................and once again, my silence or my short answers tell him that he has crossed a line that is not easily forgotten. 

He called me this afternoon while he was with his group.  He acted as if nothing at all had happened this morning, which is very typical.  He was happy and bubbly and glad he went to Paradigm and had a good time at the "East Mall" and Krysten got them all candy and he had so much fun. 

When he gets home, any minute now, I'm sure he'll ask about the movie and talk more about his day, all the while gauging my reactions to see how I'm feeling now compared to this morning.  He might even say he's sorry - he's actually gotten better about saying those words that come with such difficulty to all of us, and especially to Aaron.  It's at this time that I can talk to Aaron about his behavior and know that he's listening. 

But I know that Aaron will some day have another period of frustration that will lead to another outburst.  No amount of reason will reach him at that point.  Yet deep in his heart he knows, from experience, that I love him and that Gary loves him.  He knows that he is always welcome home, even if there are repercussions because of his behavior.  He has a secure home full of unconditional love.  Just like God loves me - that's how I love Aaron.

He still should be thankful that there is not a Sharktopus in our lake. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

When Is She Leaving?

Aaron often exhibits the characteristics of Asperger's Syndrome listed on the O.A.S.I.S. website in an article entitled Understanding the Student with Asperger's Syndrome:  Guidelines for Teachers.   I've referenced this article through the years that I home schooled Aaron after his Asperger's diagnosis.  I look back at it now as his mother.  The seven main characteristics that are listed, and then the further traits under each main characteristic, are helpful reminders at times about what makes Aaron tick.  Maybe, though, I should change the title to:  Understanding Our Son With Asperger's Syndrome:  Lifelines for Parents. 

Under the heading titled "Restricted Range of Interests" one of the traits listed is the tendency to have "eccentric preoccupations, or odd, intense fixations."  Check. 

Aaron loves movies that are, in my opinion, odd.  He gets quite a kick out of anything that's genetically altered in order to make it huge and hungry.  Rats, bats, spiders, zombies, aliens - he's not picky.  If they are out to destroy mankind, then Aaron is happy.  He even loves the movies with huge tornadoes (see my Mother of the Year blog)  or other end-of-the-world weather events.  I've endured watching erupting volcanoes, roaring fires, enormous hailstones, city-engulfing earthquakes - you name it, I've endured it.  Quality and acting ability are lost on Aaron as long as the action is fairly non-stop and the human population is dropping like flies.

So it's no wonder that once Aaron became aware of the classic movie, Sharktopus, he has become preoccupied and fixated - completely.  As he said, "Mom!! Sharktopus is about a fish creature that's part shark and part octopus.  It was created by some evil navy men!!"  This sharktopus eats any unfortunate people who are anywhere in or near the water, of course.  And from what I can tell, that's the entire plot of this amazing movie.  Which is more than enough for Aaron.

He wants me to find this movie, and will leave no stone unturned until I do just that.  To convince me that this movie is worth all this effort, he has been desperate for me to watch the trailer.  Yesterday on the way to his group he talked and talked about it.  I reminded him that when he got home from Paradigm, I might have a friend at the house for a visit and so he would have to wait.  I was NOT going to watch the Sharktopus trailer when my friend was there, pleasant as that might be.

Terri and I were visiting over coffee in the late afternoon when I heard our garage door open.  I told Terri to get ready because Aaron was home.  Terri recently retired from teaching and has worked for years with special needs, plus she's met Aaron, so I knew she had a good understanding.  Still........

Aaron burst in the door and said, "Mom!!  Guess what we did today?"  He then proceeded to tell me about going to Wal-Mart, buying a Cheddar Pasta Salad, two more boxes of rolls (read my Rolls blog from the past and know why I sighed), and then.................."I looked for Sharktopus and they don't have it!  Can we go to CD Tradepost?  Can you take me later?"  I told Aaron no to the CD Tradepost idea and then reminded him that I had a friend there, saying, "Aaron, do you remember Terri?"  He offered the obligatory, mumbled "Hi" and went right back to Sharktopus.  "Mom!  Can you watch the Sharktopus trailer?"

I gave Aaron that look that told him he needed to be quiet as I reminded him that my friend and I were visiting, and IF I looked at a trailer it would be later.  Aaron reluctantly agreed and went on his way, thumping upstairs to his room.  However, in only a few minutes there he came, clomping down the stairs and into the family room where Terri and I sat.  He had on his flannel pajama pants with his pajama shirt tucked in and his pants pulled up at least 6 inches above his waist.  Terri handled the shock of that very well, I thought.

As he turned to me and started talking about the Sharktopus trailer again, I firmly told him that there would be no more discussion as long as I was visiting with my friend.  Aaron marched off to put his dirty clothes away, and as he returned to the family room he looked at Terri, then at me, and asked, "So when is she leaving?" 


Yes, there it is - under "Impairment in Social Interaction."  Persons with AS "are insensitive and lack tact."  And I would add that Mom's of persons with AS "are often red-faced and frustrated!"

And thankful for understanding friends, for sure!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Manicure?

Aaron has always been extremely fascinated by the nail salon inside of Wal-Mart.  He wonders what those people do in there; why it smells strange; and WHO gets their nails done.  And of course, invariably he will ask me, "Mom, can I get my nails done in there?" 

No, Aaron, you cannot get your nails done.  And his next question is, "Why?"

So I try to explain that guys don't typically have their nails done..............although I know that's not really always the case in this day and age.  Andrea just came home recently from the nail salon with a story of a very, well, unique "man" who was getting a manicure while she was having one.  We decided that she should NOT tell Aaron about this!

I cut Aaron's nails for him because he has terrible manual dexterity.  For his safety and for the preservation of his fingertips it's just better if Gary and I take care of that for him.  I remind Aaron that when I cut his nails, he usually gets impatient or grouchy...............so why does he want to pay money to someone to do what I do at home and pay for something that makes him grouchy? 

It doesn't register.  He still would love to experience the nail salon.

Yesterday he had his annual eye exam, and then after our Pizza Hut all-you-can-eat lunch buffet..........where I had to put a stop to all that Aaron could eat...............he and I stopped at Wal-Mart for a few items.  In the check-out line he asked his usual question.  "Mom, can I go sit on that bench and wait while you check out?" 

I said yes, with my usual reminders to him...............don't run, Aaron; please don't clap while you're sitting there; don't make any weird noises; and stay right there until I come. 

I unloaded the cart and took care of paying, etc.  When I pushed the cart away and looked toward the bench..............there was no Aaron.  Then I saw him - standing in the doorway of the nail salon.  My dear somewhat big and somewhat unusual Aaron, just standing in the doorway observing all the action of the intriguing nail salon.  I could only imagine what the employees and the patrons thought of this man standing there just watching them. 

I rescued the women from this uncomfortable situation and Aaron chattered on the way to the van about how he likes the nail salon and why can't he get his nails done, etc., etc.

At supper Aaron was excited to tell Gary about his little escapade and how he nearly entered the forbidden salon.  "Dad, while Mom paid at Wal-Mart, I stood in the door of that nail place!" 

And what did you do, Aaron?  "Well, I read the sign that gave the prices.  And then one of those nail-filer ladies asked me if she could help me." 

And there it was - another of Aaron's priceless descriptions of people.  A nail-filer lady.  Don't you just love it?  Gary turned his head away so Aaron wouldn't see his smile, and he and I stifled our desire to laugh loudly.  Aaron went on to describe how the nail-filer lady took the woman's finger and filed it, and used a little drill to buff it.  He was fascinated even more by what he saw and is more sure than ever that he needs to experience whatever it is that those "nail-filer ladies" are doing in there. 

And I'm sure that I will never be classified as a prestigious "nail-filer lady."  I'm just annoying Mom who makes him pause in his day to have his nails cut.  Maybe if I bought a little drill? 

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Monitor

Aaron loves knowing what the structure of each of his days will be like.  He's doing very well with flexibility, though, and that's great progress for him.  His day group has helped with that as they have some days that are fairly routine, such as going bowling every Monday, a movie every Friday, etc.  Other days are open for the group to decide what to do and so Aaron has learned to be open to change.

Here at home there are some aspects of Aaron's day that he wants clarified.  Every day.  EVERY day.  Did I make that clear?  These things that Aaron wants to know about and fit into his scheduled day are:   

1.  What's for supper?
2.  Can we play Skip-Bo?
3.  If not Skip-Bo, can we tickle each other's backs?
4.  What will the weather be like?

He often begins asking the above questions the night before as I tell him goodnight in his room.  "Mom, tomorrow do you think we can play Skip-Bo or maybe do each other's backs?"   Or it might be:  "Mom, what's for supper tomorrow night?"  And/or:  "Mom, is it going to rain tomorrow?  Is it going to be cold?" 

If I've told him that I want to watch a movie with him, then he'll throw that question in as well.  The other day I told him that I'd like to watch Rango with him so now I get that question every day and will until we finally watch it.  At least there's a little variety in his questioning.

When he returns home from his day group in the late afternoon, he will usually begin immediately telling me about his day.  Soon, though, he'll announce that he's going up to his room..............but before he walks away he'll begin the questioning.   "Mom, so what's for supper?"    "Mom, do you think we can play Skip-Bo or do our backs?"    "Is it going to rain tonight?" 

He'll go upstairs and then soon I'll hear him thumping down again.  "Mom, you come and get me if you want to play Skip-Bo or maybe do our backs, OK?"    And on and on the evening goes, as he reaffirms the questioning and my responses.  At least he's getting some good exercise as he lumbers up and down the stairs over and over again.

Since Aaron's seizures are nocturnal now,  we keep a monitor by our bed at night.  I also usually have it with me in the early mornings before Aaron gets up, just in case he has a seizure before he wakes up.  We've heard some pretty humorous things at night, either before he goes to sleep or during his sleep.  Some of his noises are funny..............some are annoying if they wake us up as we try to go to sleep.........and of course the seizures can be alarming in the middle of the night. 

Sometimes Aaron laughs in his sleep.  That's so funny to us and we always wonder what he's dreaming about that makes him have that laughter.  At other times Aaron talks in his sleep.  That's what happened this morning.  I was listening to his steady breathing as he slept and I had my quiet time, with the monitor beside me.  And then I heard his question, spoken in his sleep:

"What are we doing for supper?"

HaHaHa!!!  He has just proven my theory to be fact!!  I've said many times before that I bet Aaron asks in his sleep the same questions that he asks during the day - and he DID!! 

Oh, Aaron - predictable even in your sleep! 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Modern Art and Taco Bell

Aaron had a doctor appointment this afternoon, so we had some time together - which is always an adventure in one way or another.  The adventure is usually wrapped around Aaron's conversations, either to me personally or what he intends to share with me personally but is spoken in his loud, monotone voice in a very public setting.  This makes his words anything but personal, and no amount of sshhhhing on my part deters him.  He may lower his voice a minuscule amount but not enough, and as he talks the level goes up again quickly, so I just give up and try to redirect the conversation if it's something way off the wall. 

Such was the case in Great Clips.  I decided to leave early for his appointment so we could stop to get his hair cut.  I always hope that no one else will be in there when we arrive so that Aaron doesn't have to wait.  I 've learned that waiting rooms can be areas of great embarrassment for me because Aaron takes that time when I am his captive audience to, of course, talk - about whatever comes to his mind.  We get enough looks as it is when he marches in to Great Clips and loudly asks, "Do we have to wait?!"  So I tell him to hush and let's see what the stylist says and wait our turn, etc.  But the interest level among the other patrons has already hit the ceiling as they quickly look up to see who has blustered in and demanded to know if he has to wait.  Oh great!  Aaron asks that question so abruptly because I've told him before we enter that if there's a long wait then we will have to leave.  No one knows or understands that background, of course, so everyone looks and I smile to set them at ease and Aaron and I eventually sit down and he begins talking.

About DNA.  Yes, today Aaron wanted to talk about DNA.  And not just  any old DNA, but crime scene DNA.  My shushing and redirection didn't work, really, so we talked about DNA and how similar relatives' DNA is to each other, and what "forensics people" have to know to be a "forensics person" and how Aaron would like to be a "forensics person" to solve crimes and how he'd have to know science and how that might stop him for becoming a "forensics person".................and I was very happy when the stylist called the name "Aaron."  Why DNA today?  I don't know..................I don't usually know..............and I'm sure the other patrons wanted to ask that same question, among many others.

Hair cut and goatee trimmed, we drove to Taco Bell for his favorite part of any day out and that's eating out.  Eating out and talking to a captive crowd are two of his very most favorite things.  Today was turning into a winner for Aaron!  He decided he wanted a number four as long as it was something big, and of course he had to start asking questions about how the Mexican Pizza was put together while I was trying to pay, so I moved him on and settled our bill.  He was busy getting about 53 napkins and several sets of plastic silverware for us, but at least it kept him quiet. 

As we ate, he was observing the pictures hung on the walls around us.  Finally he said, "Mom, I don't like those pictures that are on the walls.  They don't make sense." 

I told him these pictures were modern art and he replied, "Well, not to me!  They're nasty paintings!"  Then he pointed to a Taco Bell picture of a taco and said, "Now, that's a real picture!"  Well, of course he loves the taco picture - it's food, and he can certainly relate to that! 

So I asked him what kind of pictures he would like hung in his bedroom and he declared, "NORMAL pictures!"  As I studied the picture hanging above our table, I could see why Aaron didn't like it.  The jumbled designs and colors would really drive him to distraction, as they were doing there as we ate.  His mind isn't geared to jumbled anything, even when he seems random to us.  He's connecting dots that make sense to him and modern art certainly doesn't fit that bill. 

This doctor visit is one we make only once a year now, for the Asperger's, and Aaron had a good time sitting on the couch telling the doctor all about his ER visit for the "Cellulite"  and how he had a couple seizures the other morning and maybe it was because he stayed up too late the night before and how his Aunt Sandra came for Christmas and on and on. 

On the drive home he asked me if I like Red Lobster and then informed me that he does NOT like Red Lobster because, as he puts it, "I don't like to eat fish food!"  I don't remember seeing fish food on the menu but decided not to go down that path.  We talked about bright digital signs and parking garages, and then he excitedly pointed to Lawrence Dumont Stadium to inform me, "Mom, that's the baseball playing area!" 

Yes, Aaron, the stadium.  "Yeah, where they play baseball!"  Which to him makes it a baseball playing area................which makes sense, really. 

The day ended perfectly with a stop for his weekend Mike and Ikes, an attempt to grab a coffee bean from the grinder so he could sniff it, and the kind act he performed of rolling a loose kid's cart back to the store without being asked. 

Never a dull or quiet moment with Aaron.  I'd worry if there was!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Fruit With Spines

I've mentioned before how Aaron is very fascinated with unique fruits or vegetables that we sometimes see in the produce section of grocery stores.  One of his favorite to talk about and to eat is fresh pineapple.  I guess I need to buy one again because tonight at supper he couldn't seem to remember the name of that fruit.  He asked, "Mom, what's the thing that has that stuff that grows up on top of it?" 

An artichoke, Aaron?  And don't laugh!  He's very intrigued by artichokes and we haven't looked at one in ages, so I figured that's the "thing" he was talking about.   I mean, surely he'd remember the name "pineapple!"

"No,"  Aaron replied, "not an artichoke.  You know, it has that long stuff growing on top.  And it has spines on it." 

Well, of course - you mean a pineapple. 

"Yes!"  Aaron answered, "a pineapple!"  Then he asked how a pineapple grows.  Well, none of us was totally positive about that.  I said tree........Gary said bush.............Andrew didn't know and didn't really care..........so I told Aaron to google it.  That's my standard answer for "we don't really know and why are even asking us this question anyway, Aaron?" 

But Aaron wasn't ready to give up this stimulating discussion yet.  He continued, "I bet it grows on the ground like corn!" 

Aaron, corn doesn't grow on the ground. 

"Well, I bet it grows like some of the other stuff in our garden that grows on the ground.........like carrots."

Uh, Aaron - carrots grow UNDER the ground. 

"Well, some of that other stuff that grows on the ground."

Cucumbers, maybe?

"Yeah!  Cucumbers!"

I guess I can't expect him to know how pineapples grow when he doesn't even know how the "stuff" that we raise in our back-yard vegetable garden grows! 

This summer, we begin Gardening 101. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lessons From the Brown Pine

I've been observing the large pine tree way out back for some time now. Months, really. I look at it out of the kitchen window when I'm at the sink; stare at it while I'm watering flowers out back; glance at it when I pass an upstairs window. Now I know that my first inclinations were true. Our huge pine tree does indeed have Pine Wilt. At first there were only a few brown needles that started presenting themselves among the pretty evergreen. Pines sometimes do that and so there was no reason to overreact. It's just that our history here has taught us that this might spell trouble. In the 12 years that we've lived at this house, we've cut close to 40 pine trees because of Pine Wilt. Some were small trees that were crowded into our back tree line and haven't been missed. Others, like this current pine, are huge and beautiful and leave a hole when they are gone.

It's amazing how Pine Wilt occurs. It's a disease that's caused by a small nematode laid by a beetle. This nematode buries itself into the trunk and limbs of the pine tree and begins to eat away at the heart of the wood. No one can see the nematode so there is no way to observe it doing its dirty work inside the tree. A few brown needles begin to appear but sometimes even then we're not fully sure of the danger within. Some trees continue to live and seemingly thrive despite a few brown patches. However, one day we notice a distinct difference in the tree as the brown begins to overtake the branches rapidly. By the time this occurs, the end has already come and the tree needs to be cut. Actually, when the nematode is deposited inside the tree it spells the end of the tree because there is no way to be rid of this destroyer. The outward evidence only demonstrates the death that has been inside the tree for many months.

I know that in my walk with the Lord for these many years there are nematodes of various sorts that are deposited in my soul if I am not careful. How easy it is to let down my guard during the busy days of this life; during the stresses of living in this world; during the peaceful, carefree days. I may feel that I have a handle on spiritual issues and don't need to spend so much time with the Lord in prayer and Bible study. Stress can create all sorts of dangers that eat away at my inner being. Worry, fear of the unknown, bitterness towards those who have hurt me, anger at others or at God for my lot in life - the list goes on and on. Even such disagreeable but unseen "smaller" nematodes can eat away at my effectiveness and joy. How often do I envy someone else's house, figure, or bank account? How many hours do I spend worrying about my children instead of praying? We all have issues that can eat away at our core and make us brittle, unhappy believers. And sooner or later those inner eaters of our joy will start showing outwardly. The brown and ugly attitudes will overtake the pretty green of growing in grace. Our lack of joy and peace and other fruits of the Spirit will be evident to all. Through God's grace it's not too late for any of us to say along with David in Psalm 139:23 - "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me; and lead me in the everlasting way." I don't want to turn brown and useless. I want to, with God's grace and strength, let His hand rid me of the inner destroyers of my life and testimony. I want to be evergreen and full of life for His glory!