Saturday, March 30, 2013

Roller Coasters and Masterpieces

I've been on a roller coaster ride this morning.  Not literally, of course, but being around Aaron leaves me with that up and down roller coaster feeling..........and with that sensation of wobbly legs you feel when you get off the roller coaster, but also the satisfaction of saying, "I did it!!" 

First, there was surprise.  I heard Aaron get up and open his bedroom door.  I was sure that he would come down the stairs to join me in the kitchen, but instead I heard the bathroom door close and then the shower running.  Usually he holds off on showering for as long as possible, hoping on many days to avoid it altogether.  That's why I was surprised to hear him taking a shower right away, willingly.   Then when he came downstairs he was actually clean.  I can always look at his hair to tell if he has showered.  That was surprise number two......the fact that he really did shower while the water was running.  And that he was in a good mood.

I soon learned why he was in such a willing, compliant frame of mind.  "Mom, can I have the keyboard this morning?"  Oh, yes, his motives are becoming clear.  He's happy because it's Saturday and he's compliant because he wants his keyboard sooner rather than later.  I told him that he could have his keyboard, and then he asked, "So when can I have it?"  And I told him that I would see about that...........and asked him about breakfast.  Gary and I had earlier enjoyed an omelet and bacon, so I asked Aaron if he wanted some of that yummy omelet and he said no..........but he said yes to the bacon, of course.

He proceeded to get a huge plate for his two pieces of bacon that were already on a plate, but Aaron can't use the plate that the bacon was already on because he must have a new plate.......and the roller coaster started slowly chugging up the first incline.  He poured himself some cereal and dumped milk in the bowl........lots of milk.  I usually ask him if he wants some cereal with his milk, but this funny saying is wasted on Aaron so this morning I saved my breath.

"So have you decided when I can have my keyboard, Mom?"  And he clicked his teeth with his spoon because he can't stand to get his lips messy.........chug, chug goes the car on the roller coaster. 

I don't know about the keyboard, he slurps his milky cereal and I try to ignore the irritating sounds.  It does no good to remind Aaron to not click his spoon or slurp his cereal.  When I do remind him, he just slowly puts the spoon in his mouth and ever so carefully scrapes it over his teeth......with his lips bared back from his teeth like a rabid dog.  It's quite a sight and not one that I want to see this morning. 

Aaron got up to get his coffee, and of course spilled some on the floor.  That, and the fact that he fed Jackson a cheerio when he knows that he's not supposed to feed Jackson our food........even one cheerio because with Aaron it will turn into multiple cheerios..........made my chugging roller coaster car go over the first hill and come barreling down the other side.  He can't help the shaky hands that spill the coffee......and I guess in some ways he can't handle the impulsiveness that makes him feed the dog.  Still, so frustrating! 

"So Mom, did you decide when I can have my keyboard?" he asked as I swiffered up the spilled coffee.  My threatening look was answer enough for him, so he was quiet for a few seconds before launching off on his favorite!  Yesterday when he came home from his group, he loudly pushed the door open and loudly exclaimed, "I'M FULL!!!"    Tell me something else I don't know, Aaron.  So as he loudly slurped his coffee this morning, he said, "Mom, Allen said he likes those one hot dogs that are called Bratwurst.  I'm guessing a Bratwurst is a pig, right?" 

Continuing on after discussing pig Bratwurst, he moved along to what he saw at the store.  "Mom, guess what I saw in the dairy section?  It was that bean casserole.  On top of it is that thing that's kind of crunchy." 

And......"Mom, at Long John Silvers they have those Hush Puppies.  You have to curl the bread into a ball."

Still at Long John Silvers........."Mom, John likes that fish that you have to pull the tail off!!"

Then I later turned around to see him holding the cantaloupe that he saw on the counter.  "Mom, I want you to open it!"

We finally headed upstairs, but not before Aaron had to check the weather in the newspaper.  This is very important to Aaron.  He saw that we have a chance for rain, so he had to discuss and discuss what this means.  "A chance means it's not really!"  And we'll just leave it at that, Aaron.  All these discussions are wearing me down as my roller coaster car is inching up another incline..........nearing another downhill lurch that lay just ahead.

We walked into my bedroom and for some reason, Aaron picked up a pin on my desk and scribbled on my box that is a part of my new desk set.  He knew right away that he had goofed big time as I gasped.  I went on and on about why he did that as I tried to scrub the ink stain out, and poor old Aaron just went into overdrive with his talking.  This is the way he handles the stress of a major blunder.  His impulsiveness has gotten him into hot water and Mom is not happy...........and he knew the keyboard was in jeopardy.  My roller coaster car was crashing down the steep incline as I tried to hang on and not lose control or lose my temper.  He did what he does best...............talking in the fastest speed that he could muster. 

Well, soon it was over.  Aaron was happy on his computer, pecking away on his keyboard.  I stared down at my blotched box, hoping that the ink stain would be gone when it all dried.  I thought of the marks that Aaron leaves on my life.   Some are welcome works of art, and others are carelessly splattered dabs of ink that are reminders of frustrations and anger.  Yet all can be used to create a masterpiece painting if I let God have them.  I need to wipe away the marks that bring defeat or that can cause hurt to Aaron..........difficult as that can be at times.  Ignore the clicking teeth and slurping noises even as I remind him to stop, and sit back to enjoy his conversation and listen to his unique expressions of the world he sees.
The roller coaster of life with Aaron can take my breath away, but I pray that it's more often because of laughter and delight instead of anger and reprimand.  And I'll wipe away the ugly marks, and strive to leave none of those on Aaron's life, as well. 

Let God's artistry shine!  And hang on for the ride!

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Testimony of Katy

A few months ago, someone on Facebook sent me a friend request.  Her name is Kiki Davis (Katy) and I soon learned that she was the daughter of our college friends, Leroy and Cathy Davis.  As I read her posts and comments, I also learned that Katy had been away from the Lord but had recently given her life to Christ again.  I also learned, just a short time ago, that Katy had a serious blood disorder that prevented her body from being able to fight infections. 

Like I said, I didn't know Katy well - but here is what I do know from the short time that Katy has been my friend.  I knew that she was very thrilled to be walking with the Lord again.  She posted many exuberant statuses about her love for God and her desire to be where - and what - He wanted her to be in every area of her life.  She admitted her weaknesses, her fears, her frustrations............but also repeatedly gave these areas to God for Him to handle.  She felt that God was calling her to something great and she was stepping out in faith and in submission to fulfill this great calling that He had placed upon her. 

This morning God fulfilled His purpose for Katy.  He did call her to something great.  Early this morning, at 5:55, He called her to heaven.  I knew that Katy was in the hospital and that she was fighting pneumonia.  I didn't know how very sick she really was.  Her body could not fight the infection and so she passed on into heaven this morning.  I was shocked to read the news.  But something soon came to my mind as I remembered how excited Katy was to realize that God had placed a call upon her life.   I'm fairly certain that she had no idea what that call would entail, but she was willing.  And I am also certain that in her death, many will be reminded of what it means to be God's child and to be sure of that fact.   I'm sure that Katy would want all of us to know that we know that we know that we are ready to step out into the eternity that awaits each of us. 

And I think that Katy would want us to be willing to let God use us, even if it's in death, to point us to what is important.  Only a life lived in and for Christ is of any value.  Katy knows that now more than ever!  Her life - and now her death - are a testimony to that truth.  Katy wanted to be a testimony and to give testimony.  She spoke of this often on Facebook.  Now she is a testimony that cannot be ignored, in a way that I'm sure she never dreamed she would be called to do.
I saw that Katy had posted these verses on Facebook on March 22.   "And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble.  For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen.  What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever."  (2 Corinthians 4:17-18  GNT)

Katy's troubles and sufferings were temporary, and she had learned that lesson.  She knew that what can be seen and experienced on this earth lasts only for a time.........and what cannot be seen lasts forever.  Now she is enjoying a tremendous and eternal glory!  My short time of knowing Katy has enriched me and she has been that testimony to me that she so wanted to be in this life.  I'm sure that she has been that same testimony to many others as well. 

Thank you, Katy, for letting God use you..........more than you knew and in a way that you probably never expected.   Now bask in God's glory on this Easter!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I Don't Know. I Don't Know. I Don't Know.

I haven't written much lately.  The inspiration to write comes and goes.  Time constraints........other obligations..............burdens and concerns that sap my motivation.............feeling like there is really nothing new to say.  Yet with Aaron, there is always something to say, whether it's exactly new or not.  How that son of ours loves to talk!  Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning in his words, many spoken in his monotone voice that can lull me into a zombie state in no time.  For instance, Star Wars Commando Republic.......oh my goodness, if I could only fully describe his focus on this particular game right now. 

He has been playing Star Wars Commando Republic on his computer over the past several weeks.  And talking about it, over and over and over and over.  I don't understand the game.........I don't know the various players...........I can't distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys.......and furthermore, I truly don't care.  But this game is Aaron's particular focus right now and so I hear about the game - I hear about the various players - I hear about the good guys and the bad guys........constantly.......whether I care or not.

"Mom, did you know that the Transdoshans..........?"  And off he goes, while I mentally am a million miles removed from Transdoshans.  Then I hear Aaron saying, "Right, Mom?"  And he waits for my answer.  There often is none.  So the question is repeated and I end up usually giving a profound answer, such as, "I don't know, Aaron."  Which only gives Aaron the go-ahead to repeat all that he just said about Transdoshans for his rather slow mother. 

Sometimes I get creative and instead of saying, "I don't know, Aaron," I will say, "I'm not sure, Aaron," and the result is the same...........Aaron educates me once again about the subject of Transdoshans or Advisors or Geonosians  or whatever it is he calls all those various characters.  Other times I say, "Well, Aaron, you're the one who has played this game and knows all about the characters, so I'm sure you know the answer much better than I do."  And yes, he does know the answer better than I do, so he proceeds to share it with me in his monotone voice that again sends me into outer space with my fellow Transdoshans, floating in a mental no-man's land.

He came downstairs this morning as I sat at the computer, thinking that maybe I would write a little.  He wasn't thumping down the stairs in his usual loud way, but coming slowly and as quietly as he can be.  He was trying to "scare" me, so I played along and gave a fake gasp as he walked over and touched my shoulder.  He laughed and then launched immediately into how he went to bed early and how he slept well and how he got to such-and-such a level on Star Wars Republic Commando...........and I knew I was trapped.  Before I was able to herd him upstairs toward the bathroom and his shower, I had looked up a video of Star Wars Republic Commando and observed the Advisor and had dissected everything about the he talks, why he looks like a ghost, what his job is, why he advises, what he advises about, and how he advises using headphones, and on and on and on...........zzzzzzzzzz.

Aaron even knows that player 40 or 4.0.........I don't an expert on "slicing into computers."   Player 62 is an expert in fighting.   Player 07 is an expert on shooting.  And I know that Player Aaron is an expert on all things related to Star Wars Republic Commando and that he wants his mom to be an expert, also, but this is not happening.  None of this computes in this brain of mine, and so Aaron continues to instruct his mom and repeat all this information to his mom and talk, talk, talk, talk to his mom.........and his mom still says, "Uh, I don't know, Aaron." 

Last week, on Tuesday, I ordered what we thought was the cheat code/guidebook for Star Wars Republic Commando off of Amazon.  This was after looking for it on many web sites..........many, many web sites.  Eureka!!  We found it!  Then I knew, as Aaron hovered over my shoulder to make sure that I ordered the book, what his next question would be.  There are some things that I do know.  And yes, Aaron asked, as I pressed the "submit order" button, "Mom, when will the book come in the mail?" 

I answered, "It will probably come sometime next week."  Aaron grabbed on to the word "week" and since I ordered the book on Tuesday, Aaron said, "So the guidebook will come next week on Tuesday?"  So I had to explain that by saying "week," I didn't necessarily mean a literal week from the day it was ordered..........that saying "next week" means any day during that next week..........not just a literal week of 7 days.  But Aaron was in the same comatose state as I tried to explain about "week" as I am in when he tries to explain Transdoshans.
Every single day since I ordered the book, and many times during every single one of those days, Aaron would ask, "Mom, is that guidebook coming on Tuesday?"  And every single day that Aaron would ask that same question, I would answer the same way every single time, "Aaron, I don't know."  It was futile to explain the literal week concept again...........except that it did cause Aaron to be quiet for a short period of time.

One day he said, "I can't wait til that guidebook comes.  That's not my fault that I can't wait!"  No, Aaron, it's not your fault.  And don't you know, the guidebook finally arrived..........on Monday!  Not even exactly a week from the day it was ordered, but thankfully he didn't really even care about that confusion.  He was very happy to have his book.........and I was very happy to not hear the questions over and over every single day about when the book would arrive. 

The staff at his day group is also hearing all about Star Wars Republic Commando.  He came home yesterday carrying some cheat codes that Barb had found for him on her computer.  She had printed them out and he was happy as he could be.  I'm thankful that Aaron is surrounded by people who understand him, and help him, and make sure that his life is happy.

He will continue to expound on Star Wars Republic Commando and I will continue to say, "Uh, I don't know," and he will continue to try to help his clueless mom understand all the ins and outs of this favorite game of his.  But I do know that I understand Aaron and I can explain Aaron at least to some degree. 

And I know that I love Aaron, even with all his quirky ways and his obsessions that drive me into oblivion.  I better run upstairs now and finish getting ready............and finish listening to more about Star Wars Republic Commando before I wave goodbye to Aaron for the day and leave the listening to other tired ears for a few hours.

I wonder if they know any more than I do about Transdoshans or Geonosians?     

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lessons From the New Sprouts

Yesterday was a beautiful first day of spring.   The bright sunshine belied the fact that we may get some snow this weekend.  Ah yes, spring is a fickle time of year for sure!  By this time of year, everyone is ready for the cold, gray days of winter to give way to the bright colors of spring.  We are ready to listen to the happy chirping of birds and to enjoy the fresh smell of spring that is somehow in the air.  Snow is not something that we look forward to when everything in us is longing for warmth and for open windows and walks in the great outdoors.

I've become used to looking outside and seeing our brown flower beds.  They are full of faded mulch and the ugly stubs of once pretty flowers.  I didn't get the dwarf crepe myrtles trimmed back last fall, so those tall dead limbs stick up as a constant reminder that they have had no visible life for several months.  Crunchy dried leaves are piled among the straggly remnants of last year's growth.  Almost everything is dusty and crunchy, a drab brown and gray palette that does nothing for the senses.  It's a scenery that is a reminder of what has been..........of what once was.......... but now of uselessness and decay and death.  

Yet as I drove to an appointment, I saw what looked like the beginnings of buds on some trees.  I saw some pale yellow daffodils blooming beside some one's house.  Later, at home, I went out with our Great Dane and while he explored the yard, I decided to do a little exploring of my own in one of the flower beds.  I bent over and looked closely.  Then I gently moved aside some of the dry and faded mulch.  And there, under the all the dullness of the mulch and the dirt, I found the tender green shoots of our garden phlox poking through the soil.  Behind me, as I searched some more, I found the young sprouts of our tiger lilies coming out.  Jackson and I walked to the front yard, and there as I did some more gentle digging I found the fresh green of my salvia showing among the dead growth of last summer.  In the corner of that flower bed, without any digging needed, was the unmistakable soft and fuzzy newness of my lamb's ear.  From a distance, the scenery was still dull and lifeless.  But when I took the time to look, I could see the beginnings of new life.  I could see the hope of a beautiful spring starting to emerge from the seemingly lifeless ground. 

My journey on this earth is full of ups and downs...........the seasons of life shift and change as time goes on.  There are seasons of growth, seasons of calmness, seasons of joy..........and then there are those seasons when I feel a chill in the air, seasons of storms when the sun is hidden, and seasons when I feel that around me I only see the fading of what was.  The drabness of my current sad situation threatens to overtake my vision.  Looking out the window of my life only reveals a dusty mess.  We all have these seasons of life.  Sometimes the seasons change suddenly.  In a flash, we go from happiness to despair.  At other times the shifting is more subtle.  Days and months flow by, and we begin to slowly realize that life has altered and there seems to be no way to get things around us back to the growing, thriving standard that we once knew. 

I know that in the dreary days of winter, my perennials in the flower beds around our house are safe underground.  They are alive, though not seen, and they are being fed by the moisture that comes.  Even the cold, harsh snow will give them the sustenance they need in order to survive.  So it is in my your we follow Christ.  The seasons where we only see gloom and coldness are really the times that we have an opportunity to rest under the care of our heavenly Father.  Let Him nourish us with His Word, with how He speaks to us in the listless times through the Holy Spirit, and how He uses friends to encourage and lift us up.  The reasons for our dark times don't even always need to be understood or explained.  Many times, God just wants us to be still and to let Him work as we lay buried in Him.

Then one day without even digging, we will see the sweet evidence of growth.  New shoots will be emerging from the gloom of our lives............shoots of hope, of joy, of peace.........the fruit of many lessons learned.  Isaiah may have been talking about the millennial kingdom in Isaiah 61:11, but I believe we can claim these verses for our lives as well:  "For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations." 

Just as sure as I know that my garden phlox and salvia and lamb's ear will return, so I know that God will cause His righteousness to prevail and His praise to spring up in my heart once again.  No matter what stress and change and disappointment we face, we can know for certain that God has a season of growth ahead for us.........a season of beauty..........a beautiful spring up ahead.  

Saturday, March 16, 2013

One In A Million

I was enjoying the peace of this early Saturday morning, finishing up listening to an on-line sermon by my brother, when I heard Aaron coming rather softly down the stairs.  Doing anything softly is unusual for Aaron.  I held up my index finger, signaling for Aaron to be quiet - something else unusual for Aaron to do - but he surprised me by not speaking.........for at least several seconds.  He stood there scratching instead until I made my "yuck face" and he stopped.  He actually let me finish the last few minutes of the sermon without interrupting too much, but once he heard Uncle John pray he knew that he was now allowed to be center stage. 

We said our good mornings.......well, I said good morning while Aaron launched right into using all of his stored-up words.  You know, Aaron even talks in his sleep - seriously, he does.  But it's not nearly enough to use all the words that clamor around in his brain, so he wakes up raring to talk.  After giving him some options, he decided that he wanted cinnamon toast for breakfast.  I told him to go take a shower while I fixed his toast.  I nearly always set out Aaron's clothes the night before, and I set them out because Aaron is color well as being totally clueless about anything remotely to do with the coordination of clothing.  However, last night I did not set out his clothes, so when I told him to shower, he replied, "Mom, you didn't pick out my clothes!  I can't come out of the shower NAKED!!" 

Well, Aaron, you SHOULD come out of the shower naked.  It's coming out of the bathroom naked that I don't want to see.  But I kept this thought to myself as he and I went upstairs. I  picked out his clothes while he got a pair of his new underwear.  Just before he went in his bathroom to shower, he walked into my room and said, "Mom, you got me light pink underwear, right?", Aaron.   So out of his pocket he pulled a pair of his new blue underwear.  I laughed as I told him that they were blue, and I was reminded of how he sees blue as being pink.............just like Granddaddy!  And I was glad to clear up the issue of pink versus blue, as I know that he would end up telling everyone at his day group that Mom bought him pink underwear!

After his shower, he marched into the kitchen to see if his toast was ready.  "Mom!  During my shower, I got soap in my eye.  How long will it stay until the hurtness goes away?"  But he forgot all about his eye as he dug into his cinnamon toast.  He did, though, realize that he should explain why he was still shirtless. 

"Mom, I'm waiting for my underarm to cool out a little before I put on my deodorant."  OK, Aaron...........makes perfect sense to me.

As he began to eat, he started talking about what he had read about in his Handy Science Answer Book.  "Mom, that day before last night, I was reading about dinosaurs!  What is this million kind of thing?"

I was still trying to figure out exactly when the "day before last night" I asked him if he meant Thursday night, and he said yes.  Somehow it's easier for Aaron to refer to it as "that day before last night."  And as usual, I chuckle while he barges on ahead with his talking, oblivious to how intricate his wording is.  I knew where this was headed and I was right.  Evolution vs. Creationism.  Aaron knows the truth, but he still likes to ask.  "Mom?  What is this million kind of thing?"  So we discuss the possible age of the earth, and what the Bible says, before he veered off into woolly mammoths and who the cavemen might have been and did they wear woolly mammoth furs and wasn't it scratchy and smelly and "OH MOM!  Can you look up the Tarantula movie on your tablet?"

So we looked up the Tarantula movie trailer on YouTube.  It's an old movie from 1955 that Aaron found at Wal-Mart, and is the next on his list of Movies That Aaron Wants.  The trailer was hilarious..........with the nuclear genetically modified tarantula wreaking havoc on mankind and womankind.  Splashed across the screen in scary writing was "The Towering Fury No One Can Control."  EEEKKKKK!!!!!   Except that Aaron was a combination of breathless excitement and laughter as he watched the enormous tarantula attacking anything and anyone in its path.

"Mom!!!  See its biters??!!"  Yes, Aaron..........such huge biters! 

"So Mom!!  Nuclear energetic is something that makes things huge?!"   It must be, Aaron. 

"And Mom!!  They can't even blow him up!!"  I noticed that, Aaron.

"Mom!  See??  The electricity doesn't even hurt him!"  Amazing, Aaron.

Then suddenly Aaron switched to quicksand.  Yes, as quick as anything, Aaron was talking about quicksand.  That's why you would have found us looking up quicksand on Wickipedia, and then quicksand videos on YouTube..........which Aaron loved far more than just reading words.  Seeing people sink in quicksand was too cool!  He clomped downstairs to tell Gary all about how to extricate himself from quicksand in case Gary ever found himself in that predicament. 

So our morning went, as I ended up with his headphones on my ears listening to the cool music on his Star Wars game and trying to explain it to Aaron.  Believe me when I say this...........Aaron. Notices. Everything. 
From light pink underwear to woolly mammoths to genetically altered tarantulas to millions of years...........nothing escapes his attention and his lengthy commentaries.
He knows we don't agree with millions of years, but we do agree that our Aaron is one in a million for sure.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Marathon

Yesterday Aaron woke up very tired.........or so he said.  I finally agreed to let him stay home, but he did not get his keyboard all day.  That meant no computer games at all.  He could watch movies but not play games.  I was gone to my PT appointment for a short time, and then later to my mother's prayer group.  Other than that, I was home all day.  Home with Aaron.  Home with Aaron and no keyboard.  I love Aaron, but it was exhausting.  Part of it may have been my mood........I was just a little tired myself, and thinking of too many things to be able to enjoy Aaron's non-stop talking.  Seriously.........for almost the entire day, he followed me everywhere.  I did not want to talk about the Predator/Alien computer game that he wants us to let him have.  I did not want to talk about the Airbender movie.  I did not want to talk about what he had read in his Handy Science Answer Book.  I did not want to talk about forensics.  I did not want to talk about Cheetos.  I could go on and on, but it makes me tired again.  By the time bedtime rolled around, I was very thankful to pull the covers up and have a reprieve.......after two good night hugs and several, "Wait!  Mom!  Mom??  I wanted to tell you one more thing!!"  I was brushing my teeth when I heard him outside our bedroom door.  "Mom!  Mom!  Mom?  Mom?"  I opened the door, hoping he didn't see my gritted teeth, and he gave me one more big, warm goodnight hug.  That brought on the guilt, but I was too tired to really be affected much at that point. 

This morning, refreshed and with rested ears, I was in the kitchen when Aaron thumped down the stairs to find me.  He came into the kitchen and with bright eyes and a lilting voice, he said, "Mom!  I'm not tired at all!  I went to bed early!  10:59!"  I smiled at the exact time that he mentioned.  Dear Aaron!  How can he be so precise in the matter of numbers, but so clueless as to the feelings that he should have been able to see displayed so clearly the day before all over his mother's tired face? 

We had a pleasant morning.  Aaron wanted once again to stop at Dillon's for more jelly beans like we did a couple days earlier.  As we drove to meet his group, he was full of talk about the Titanic........because he's watching the Titanic movie, so this is his latest topic.  Why did the smokestack break?  Why was there an iceberg?  Was there metal in the ship?  What is that dancing place on the ship?  Why were they using Morse code?  What is Morse code?  Do we use Morse code now?  Granddaddy knew Morse code?!  He was so intent in expounding upon the Titanic that I was hoping he wouldn't notice that we drove right by Dillon's.  But not Aaron!  "Mom, was there metal in the Titanic?  Aren't we stopping at Dillon's?"  I told him that we didn't have time this morning for Dillon's, and so he continued with his Titanic monologue.

We pulled up beside the Paradigm van, and as Aaron got out I handed him some Jolly Ranchers to take to Paradigm.  This reminded him of the fact that I hadn't gotten him the jelly beans.........and he got angry.  He yanked the bag out of my hand and slammed the van door.......but not before calling me a name.  Then another name, and another........each one a little worse than the one before.  No cursing, but just mean old rudeness nonetheless.  I so wish that Aaron could verbalize his feelings without acting like a spoiled 4 year old.  Cody, his driver, was frustrated.  I was, too, and embarrassed.  This afternoon, Aaron called and launched right into his thoughts about a game he wants........but I called his attention immediately to what had occurred this morning.

"Mom, I said I'm sorry!"  I reminded him that he had not.  "Well, I feel better now!"  And I reminded him that I did not.  "Well, when I got here today I was thinking in my mind that I'm sorry."  I told him that this didn't help me at all..........and he said he was sorry, but I never really know if he is truly sorry or if he's just wanting to put that chapter to rest. 

I saw an article in our newspaper today with the headline - Caregiving is a Marathon.  I thought of my day yesterday with Aaron.  He was happy but being with him all day was so tiring for me.  Then today...........he ended up angry and rude, which caused a different kind of tiredness for me.  I've always thought of caregiving as involving the physical care of an aging or sick family member.  But seeing that headline made me realize that caregiving is what Gary and I do day after day for our Aaron.  We are still responsible for most of his care, much as we did when he was a small child.  We love him so much and we want to care for him, but it does take a toll.  I in no way mean to sound like I'm whining or wanting sympathy.  These are just facts.

And I think of all the moms and dads that we know who are in similar, or much more serious, situations as we are.  Those with little or no help, who are stretched financially......physically......emotionally.....spiritually.  I think of the doctor appointments, the hope of a new plan or a new treatment that is slow in coming or may never be found.  I think of the effect on siblings of having a special needs brother or sister, and the many ways that this impacts their family.  I think of how hard it is to go church, a movie, shopping, eating out, a vacation.   

It really is a marathon, but we don't get much if any time to train for this one.  We often hit the ground running, trying to adjust to all the twists and turns of life with our special child.  We find ourselves winded and stretched beyond what we think we can possibly accomplish.  But then we see a smile on our child's face.......a light in their eye..........a joke on their lips..........delight at the touch of a hand or a brush of their lips.  Or of our lips as we kiss them goodnight......if they allow it!..........or as we say, "I love you."

They may not respond, but we know that they know they are loved.  Through all the ups and downs, the tears and the laughter, the tantrums and the sweetness........there is love.  We run the marathon, not knowing where the finish line even is or if we can possibly make it.  But with God's strength, and with the support and the care of our family and friends, we will make it.

We'll run the race that God has set before us.  One day at a hug at a "I'm sorry" at a time.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mom! Don't You Want a Door?!

This evening after supper our door bell rang.  Gary was way out back taking Jackson on a stroll around the yard.  I was just finishing up in the kitchen, and Aaron was with me - talking, as usual.  Aaron made a bee line for the front door as I hustled along behind him, telling him to not open the door; to let me get it; and to HUSH!  I glanced out the window and saw a cute young lady standing there with her hand full of door hangers.  Oh no!  A solicitor.  As if that isn't bad enough, a solicitor showing up while Aaron is home. 

You see, I've had my fair share of experiences with Aaron and salesmen who show up at our front door.  I shooed him away, but I had no sooner opened the door and said hello than I heard Aaron coming up behind me.  This is a familiar routine when a salesman comes to our door.  Aaron and I are about the same height, so as I move to the right in order to block his view he moves to the left.  Then as I move to the left he scoots to the right.  It's as if we have a choreographed greeting going on because I'm trying to smile and say hello as normally as possible, all the while knowing that Aaron is bobbing his head around either my right or left shoulder.  He's dying to know who is at the door and what do they want and what are they selling and will Mom buy something?  After all, it just might be cookies or popcorn!! 

This soft spoken young lady was telling me about Anderson windows and siding and doors.  By now Aaron was standing on the stairs right inside our front door.  This gave him the advantage of being able to see over and beyond me no matter which way I moved.  But the disadvantage was that he was now farther away from the action, which always makes him worry that he'll miss something important.  Therefore, he asks, "Mom?!  What does she want?"  I motion for him to hush even as I'm trying to listen to what she is saying.  She tries to continue her sales talk even as she's trying to figure Aaron out.  He can be very distracting, you know. 

I was relieved to be able to tell her that we were currently in the process of re-siding our house, and that our windows are fairly new.  That left the subject of doors, but I had the out of mentioning the siding expense that would prevent us from doing another big project.  Then Aaron blurted, "Mom!  Don't you want a door?!"  More motioning from me, which Aaron completely ignored, and another smile from this puzzled young lady.  She mentioned that each door was $200 off, and so I thanked her as I made a move to end the conversation.  But Aaron wasn't through.  He had seen, as he stood on the stairs and looked over my head, that this sales lady held some fliers and had even already hung one on our door handle.  Not to be deterred, Aaron now yelled, "MOM?!  DON'T YOU WANT TO TAKE THAT PAPER??!!"  

For crying out loud, Aaron, why don't you just ask if the Anderson company will hire YOU to pass out the fliers?  Of course, I was compelled to take the advertisement.  The nice young lady smiled broadly and Aaron clomped off to the kitchen, satisfied that Mom had taken the flier and now all was well. 

Like I said, Aaron delights in these salesman visits.  Because of him, I have bought popcorn and cookies and coupon books and some cleaning sprays.  There he stands behind me, head bobbing over each of my shoulders as he tries to see what wonderful item is being pitched.  "Mom!  Get some popcorn!"   "Mom!  Don't you want some cookies?"  "Mom!  Are you getting a coupon book?!"

 I remember the summer afternoon that the cleaning spray guy came to the door.  I thought that maybe, just perhaps, Aaron hadn't heard the doorbell.  No such luck, I realized, as I heard him thumping down the stairs behind me.  Soon his head was bouncing from side to side as we did our little dance. He was enthralled as he saw the salesman spray our storm door window and wipe it clean with his handy cloth.  Wow!  This was even better than popcorn and cookies!  I put my foot down when the man turned to head toward our van, spray bottle ready in order to show me how amazingly he could clean the spots on the paint.  I told him no, even as Aaron blurted out, "Mom!  Let him spray our van!!"  I gave Aaron a look that would have immobilized any other person............but not Aaron, of course.  The salesman began to direct his pitch to Aaron, and our bobbing dance went up a notch.  I was so relieved to finally close our door.......the one with the little clean circle on the dusty glass..............and talk to Aaron's back as he thumped back up the stairs about NOT interrupting when someone came to the door.

The young college student selling books was also a favorite of Aaron's.  He was very interested in all the books that she quickly told me about before I could even interject a no.  She asked if she could come in and show us some of the books, and as I did finally say no, Aaron interrupted.  "Mom!  Let her show us the books!"  I wanted to throttle Aaron as I stood there with a forced smile on my face.............a smile that I hoped was hiding my true intentions toward my son at that moment.  "Mom!  Don't you want some books?"  Somehow I got out of that predicament, even though Aaron talked for days about how I wouldn't let that nice girl show us some books. 

Don't even ask me how much fun it is when Aaron opens the living room doors while I'm distracted and lets Jackson out.  Dealing with a 175 pound Great Dane PLUS a very loud son who wants to buy whatever is being sold is just more of a good time than I deserve.  Trust me.  It is.

I've about decided to put up a No Soliciting sign.  Why doesn't someone come to the door selling one of those?  Then I would let Aaron buy one..........maybe even two!  That would make us both very happy!     

Monday, March 11, 2013

I Was Creeped!

The time change certainly caught up with Aaron today.  He was sound asleep when I finally went in his room to wake him up this morning.  Pillow marks were all over one side of his face, and he was struggling to open his eyes.  I think a lot of people could relate to Aaron on this Monday morning of Daylight Savings Time.  I was surprised that he wasn't irritated with me for telling him that it was time to get up and get ready for his day.  But when I returned to his room a couple times, and found him still sleeping, his mood began to change.......and not for the better.   He informed me in no uncertain terms that he was tired, that he did not want to get out of bed, and that he most definitely did NOT want to hurry!

I went into de-escalation mode before he fully escalated.  That means that I didn't harp on him to rush, rush, rush.......but I did tell him that I had poured his coffee and I asked him if some cinnamon toast sounded good.  Sometimes these incentives work far, far better than to nag or to display anger.  I could hear even in Aaron's voice that such was the case today.  He was relieved and all too happy to say yes to the coffee and the toast.  But he still refused to come anywhere near the concept of "hurry."  I left him at the table while I took Jackson, who doesn't need to eat the cinnamon toast that I knew Aaron would feed him, up to my room with me while I finished getting ready.  It wasn't long before Aaron had eaten his breakfast and came to my room to talk to me.........and to ask if we could stop at Dillon's on our way to meet his group.

Now I knew that the reason Aaron wanted to stop at Dillon's would involve food, and more specifically, I imagined it involved candy.  He has been without candy for days, and now that we know he is not Diabetic, I was fully expecting this request to come at any time.  I told him that I wasn't sure if we had time to stop at Dillon's, especially since he didn't want to hurry........when suddenly the idea of hurrying became very appealing to Aaron.  It wasn't long at all before Aaron was almost ready to leave.  He finished putting his shoes on in my room as he confirmed once again that we were going to Dillon's, and I confirmed to him that we were not going to go overboard on buying candy.  Of course he agreed, and soon we were in the van.

Aaron shivered on this cold yet sunny morning as he buckled his seat belt.  He commented on how cold it was and I agreed.  He continued, "Mom, when will it quit being cold?"  I told him that it would be warm later in the week.  "When?" he asked.  And I repeated that later in the week it would warm up. 

"Mom, quit saying week!" he declared.  "What DAY is it going to get warm?!"

How could I be so silly?  Of course, literal and specific Aaron wanted to know the exact day that it would get warm.  None of this nebulous "week" business would fully answer his question.  I picked a day and told him and he was satisfied.  How could I forget his simple rules for living?  Pick a day and be done with it!

Soon Aaron was in candy heaven at Dillon's.  He and I scanned the shelves for his favorite Starburst Jelly Beans, but they were not to be found.  Then I remembered that they were probably on the Easter aisle.  Aaron was disappointed at this point, and was skeptical that his jelly beans would be on the Easter aisle instead of the regular candy aisle where they always are.........but there they were!  Stacks of Starburst Jelly Beans were right there amongst all the other Easter candy.  He agreed that one bag was plenty, and soon we both left Dillon's, happy with our find and with each other.

As we drove to meet Cody, Aaron commented that the rash under his arms was better.  I had looked at it earlier and was also very glad to see that it was healing.  The blisters have dried up and disappeared, leaving dead skin in their place.  This has not gone unnoticed by Aaron, of course.  "Mom!  My skin is coming off!  I was creeped!!"

I assured him that this was natural and normal anytime that a blister was healing.  He was happy to hear this news, but continued, "When I looked at my skin, it creeped me off!!" 

Well, don't be creeped off, Aaron.  You're healing and you're going to be just fine.

But he moved quickly on from being creeped off to being quite excited as he informed me of his progress.   "Mom!  I can lift my underarm now!!"

Wow, Aaron!  You can lift your underarm now?  That's..........amazing!

We were now at the Paradigm van and Aaron, as always, rolled down his window while Cody rolled his down.  And as always, Aaron didn't say hello or how are you or anything else personal.  It was, "Hey, Cody!  My skin under my arm is coming off!"

Yes, yes, Aaron.........the whole world wants to hear that the skin under your arm is coming off.  Cody laughed because he gets Aaron, and I laughed because I get Aaron.........and I'm happy that Cody gets Aaron and so does the other staff at Paradigm.  Aaron held on tightly to his bag of candy as he got out of the van, and I wondered if he would share it or keep it all for himself.

Despite the juggling act of keeping Aaron level and happy, I'm thankful for this morning that we got to share together.  Simple, yet complex, this mind of our autistic Aaron.  As colorful as the jelly beans that he clutched so tightly. 

Aaron does color our world with his unique personality and expressions.  Life might be quieter and simpler without Aaron...........but it would also be dull and bland. 

I love all the colors of Aaron!  And I'm so happy that he can now lift his underarm!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Scare

This has been a fairly stressful week in several ways.  You may have read my last blog about Aaron's hilarious doctor visit.  It was hilarious because of Aaron's actions and because of his responses to the questions that he was asked.  However, it was not hilarious in the sense that he had us worried for awhile.........and our concern still isn't completely gone.  Aaron has some symptoms that have troubled us for awhile.  Then he developed a rash under his arms.  This is why I took him to the doctor on Monday, but I also discussed his other issues with the PA and the doctor.  They decided to check him for Diabetes.  I was shocked and alarmed.  I hadn't put two and two together, but this diagnosis did indeed seem like a real possibility.

After my early surgeon appointment on Tuesday morning, I rushed home to get Aaron and take him down to the lab at the air base.  He was to have some fasting blood work done.  Aaron had cooperated very well with not eating, which isn't always easy for him.  He does love his food!  As we drove away from the house, Aaron had settled himself in the passenger seat, buckled his seat belt, and then asked about putting in a CD.  "Do you have that cowboy lady and that man?" he asked.  It's amusing, or maybe alarming, that I know exactly what he's talking about.  We put in the correct CD with the cowboy lady (now THAT should be alarming!!) and Aaron proceeded to begin his talking.  First thing was food - "Mom, when I went to Applebees on Saturday I had raspberry tea!"  I asked him if he liked it and he said, "Yes!  It tasted weird!"  Only Aaron would say that he liked something that tasted weird, and only Aaron would look at me like I was weird when I laughed.

Aaron continued his usual monologue as we drove to the air base, finally ending as we pulled into the parking lot with, "Mom, I saw a state trooper one day.  So state troopers control the whole state?"  I briefly tried to explain, but was happy to tell Aaron that we would talk about it later.........because we always do...........and that it was time to go in to the lab.  Aaron was seen right away, and as he sat in the chair, he proceeded to say something to the lab tech about not hurting his arm.  He was referring to the rash under his arm, but she thought he meant something about his veins.  Seeing her confusion, Aaron decided to take his shirt off, which he loves to do in order to show off his rash.  I stepped in to tell Aaron to leave his shirt on, and by now the tech was very concerned.  I briefly explained while she decided to look at Aaron's other arm, which made him want to show her the rash under THAT arm............good grief!  He was going to take his shirt off AGAIN when I firmly told him to leave the shirt ON!!  I reminded Aaron that he knows the blood work routine and to leave his shirt alone and to let them draw blood.........but as I left the small room, another tech stood off to Aaron's other side..........either to intervene if something else crazy happened or to yank Aaron's shirt down if he started to disrobe again.  Dear Aaron.  He is so oblivious to the confusion that he often leaves in his wake.  He just happily sits there and wonders why no one wants to see his rash!

Aaron's PA had told me the day before that the results of this blood work should be ready by Tuesday afternoon.  I waited for her phone call that day, but it never came.  I waited all day Wednesday, but still no call.  On Thursday, I called and left a message with her office, asking her to please call with the results.........and still no call all that day.  By then, I was fighting several emotions..........worry and anger being most pronounced.  I was angry that we weren't being informed quickly of Aaron's results.  And this delay only gave my worry more time to build.  I prayed often during the day and I reminded myself of the principles I know about NOT worrying..........but when it comes to Aaron's health and the possibility of a new diagnosis, that gnawing worm of worry was trying to eat its way into my heart.  Worry and anger..........and in the midst of all this, I was having several imaginary conversations with the PA concerning their total lack of caring!  Certainly none of this was helping, so I transferred my conversations to the Lord and asked for His peace and for good test results..........and talked to friends and family about this need and our desires for their prayers as well. 

Another emotion I was dealing with was guilt.  If Aaron had Diabetes, surely I was largely to blame.  I didn't control his eating like I should, though I tried.........but not hard enough.  Why hadn't I read the signs?  Why did I let him eat candy?  How could I have been so blind?  And then there was blame.  Why didn't the PA last year tell me that Aaron's blood sugars were up.........although that blood test was not a fasting test.  Still, why wasn't it mentioned?  Why did his autism doctor ignore my concerns about his weight loss and vision issues?  Yes, I felt that there was plenty of blame to go around. 

And how on earth would we control Aaron's eating when he wasn't at home?  Bless him, he does love his food!  I thought of the day last week when he burst in the door after his day with Paradigm and I heard him yell, "Hey!  I came home now!"  I laughed as he tromped downstairs to tell me all about his day.  "Mom!  We went to Popeyes!!"  I asked him what he had and he answered, "That number 8 meal!  You know what that is?" 

It always makes me laugh when he thinks that I should know the content of the meal numbers at all the fast food restaurants.  I assured him that I did not know what a Popeyes number 8 meal was, and he was all too happy to tell me.  "It has LOTS of those little chicken nuggets!"  Oh yes, those wonderful little chicken nuggets!  He continued, "It cost seven something.......the staff helped me."  I asked Aaron why the staff helped him with the extra money, and he said, "Because that restaurant came up with tax!"

Oh my, that pesky tax that restaurants come up with!  He went on with telling me that Popeyes is going to start selling seafood, but that this doesn't make sense because Popeyes is a CHICKEN restaurant and CHICKEN restaurants do NOT sell seafood and why are they going to sell seafood in a CHICKEN restaurant............

Aaron and food........what would we do with Diabetes thrown into the mix?  I know that many people with special needs handle this issue and that we would, too, if necessary.  And so I waited for that phone call, which finally came yesterday, on Friday morning.  The nurse told me that Aaron's blood work was very good and that he does NOT have Diabetes.  Such a relief!  I texted everyone to tell them the good news, and I thanked God for this answer to prayer........all the while being reminded that even if Aaron did have Diabetes, I would need to see that as an answer to prayer as well.  God's answers do not always mean that He will agree totally with our request.  If Aaron had Diabetes, then God would have had a reason for that.  I would have had no right to say that God didn't answer my prayers.  He always answers and His answers are always right and beneficial.  This is God's sovereignty in full display, these "no" answers as well as the "yes" answers.

I couldn't wait to tell Aaron this good news as I walked into his room.  "Aaron!  Guess what?  You don't have Diabetes!" 

And his response on this movie Friday at Paradigm?  "CAN I HAVE A LARGE BUTTERED POPCORN??!!"

Oh, Aaron.  See what I mean?  No sign of relief from Aaron as you might expect.  No thankfulness or elation.  Just concern about his next food splurge. 

Sometimes I wish my life was so simple that my main concern was about whether I could have a large buttered popcorn on that day.  Yet I know that God wants me to place my concerns on Him and have that simple faith that says He always hears and He always knows best, no matter the outcome.  Buttered popcorn or not!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Depressed? Feeling Sad?

Yesterday I drove Aaron to McConnell Air Force Base for a doctor visit.  He loves this time together.  We listen to music and there is much for Aaron to see and to talk about with mom.......who can't go anywhere else but in the driver's seat right beside him as he talks and talks and talks.  He talked about road construction and house remodeling that we passed; he talked about trucks that we passed; he talked about the purpose of U-Hauls; he talked about RVs and what they are and what they're for and what they look like inside and do they have a bathroom and can we get one to take on our next trip back east; he talked about storage buildings and what people do with them and he remembered our storage building in Arizona; he talked about the guards at the gate going on to the air base and why they have to check our ID cards; he talked about all the planes that we passed at the airfield and why are they here and what kind of fuel do they use; and he even talked about the beer bottle he saw on the ground beside us at a stop light!  My ears were very weary by the time we opened the van doors and walked into the clinic.

I had already told Aaron in the van, after he made his famous farting noise with his mouth, that I did not want him making ANY noises when we got  in the clinic.  "OK," he said........and then made his other famous "POP" noise with his mouth.  "And not that noise, either!" I added.  And as always, he questioned, "Isn't that better than the farting noise?".........and I reminded him that I said NO noises - farting, popping, or otherwise.

Check-in went smoothly and I was thankful that our name was called quickly.  After his weigh-in, we were ushered into the exam room by the little medic who looked like she might have been all of 12 years old.  She was sizing Aaron up, I could tell.  Aaron sat on the exam table and promptly began to take his shirt off and to tell her about the rash under his arm.  Our little medic was looking a little shocked, and I was telling Aaron to just keep his shirt on.........but he was having none of that.  He was ready to get down to business, much like he does when he plows into Great Clips to see if he can get his hair cut, with me walking behind him as he practically yells out, "Can I get my hair cut!!??" 

So now his shirt was off and the little medic was a little flustered, but Aaron was already well into his story of the rash under his he held his arm up high for our little medic to observe.  And she certainly could, since she was seated conveniently on the rash side.  I finally got Aaron to hush while our little medic collected herself and began to fill out the required paperwork.  She was struggling somewhat with whether to ask me the questions, or direct them to Aaron.  Finally, she got beyond the queries about phone numbers and the meds that Aaron takes.  She looked at me and began saying, "How would you rate....." and then she finished the question by looking at Aaron......"your pain level?"

Aaron was absolutely delighted to have a question aimed at himself.  He had been chomping at the bit, waiting for this very opportunity.......and before I could even part my lips, he had launched into his answer.  "Well!!" he bellowed, "it hurts when I use soap on it!!"  Our little medic grinned and was trying to decide how to put this answer on her chart......and I'm quite sure that Aaron was hoping that she would tell him that he no longer needed to put soap under his arm, as taking a shower and actually using soap is not one of Aaron's favorite priorities in life.

She glanced at the next question and then turned to Aaron........not to me........and asked the mental health question that is always asked at these military medical visits.  "Are you depressed or do you feel sad?" she asked Aaron, as he sat there grinning and wide-eyed at this attention.  Even I wanted to hear this answer, so I sat back in my chair and relaxed as Aaron pondered this unusual question.  But of course he had an answer!  "Well," he said, "I'm tired of all this!!"  I had to laugh, for my own mental health, and our little medic was even beginning to enjoy this.  I have no earthly idea what she wrote on his chart, but now she was ready to ask the last question.

She turned again to look at Aaron as she asked, "So how would you describe your overall health?"  He didn't even skip a beat as he answered, "Well, sometimes I have to blow my nose!"  I was seriously thinking that I would have to leave the room as I was about to explode with laughter.  I do believe that our little medic was wishing that she had more questions to ask.  She was relaxed and totally enjoying Aaron's answers, especially as he expounded on the nose blowing comment by explaining that he doesn't really blow his nose, but he wipes it on a towel that he keeps for that purpose and Mom doesn't want him to do that...........right, Mom?..........but that it's a towel he uses in his room, and on and on and on.  But it was time for our little medic to leave, and soon the PA and the doctor came.......which gave Aaron more opportunity to talk and to be listened to and to answer more questions, as I watched the PA and the doctor smile (they know Aaron) and try to follow his rabbit trails.

And all the while, as we waited for people to come and go from the exam room, Aaron had his eyes on the automatic paper towel dispenser by the sink.  He had talked to me about it and how much he liked those and did I know how they worked..........and I told him NOT to get off that table and go over there to get a paper towel that he did NOT need.  Soon it was time to go and Aaron was putting his shirt on.  I was intent upon looking at the PA and talking to her, when I heard a sound............brrrrrrrrrrr. 

Yes, of course it was the towel dispenser.  Aaron made a beeline for it and was very happily holding the brown towel when I turned toward him with my mother look, and with an apology to the PA.  But she was laughing and said it was just fine, and Aaron probably would have held up his hand to get another towel if I hadn't stopped him with my threatening look. 

Soon we were back in the safety of the van, where I let out a huge sigh and Aaron launched into his next list of topics.  "Mom, you know those little interviews they show before movies start?"  he asked. 

Yes, Aaron.......trailers.  He totally disregarded the trailer comment as he talked about seeing an interview for Iron Man 3......."Can I see that movie, Mom?"   And the movie, Lincoln......."I don't know if I want to see that one."  And of course, "Mom, can I see the Texas Chain Saw Massacre?" 

No, Aaron, you cannot see the Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

He shifted gears in his talking and said, "Mom, the other day when Katie was driving me home she asked me something and I said, 'OK, babe!', and she told me not to say that."  So we discussed why he should not call women "babe" and what it means to respect someone and why the term "babe" is not showing respect.........and before I knew it, we were home. 

I tell you, only Aaron can make a simple doctor visit into one adventure after another just by his conversations and his observations.  When we got home, and he was finished with his talking and went up to his room, I had some time to breathe and to collect myself. 

How would I answer the question on this day............the question about whether I'm depressed or sad?  I worry about Aaron at times, and I get aggravated or embarrassed at times......but my goodness, he makes me laugh!  And laughter is good medicine for body and heart and soul. 

I wonder if our little medic thought of Aaron later that evening after work?  I hope she's still smiling, too, and has a new insight into all the special people that will cross her path. 

Aaron's good at that!