The Sweetest Thing

How sweet it is.

How sweet it is.

I don’t know how the cantankerous child that screams, “You idiot, NOAH!” is the same one who crawls into bed with me and peppers me with kisses each morning.  But he is.

The more carefully I watch, the more I am inclined to believe that the screams are more in self-defense than anything else.

My little Jesse is the tail on the dog.  There is something about a little brother that lends itself to being pestered from the oldest siblings.  Particularly if one of those siblings has Asperger’s and is absolutely energized by the little one’s screams, particularly if his OCD means that repetition is as natural to him as breathing and so his poking and punching and pushing of Jesse mean he flaps and stiffens and grins with delight.  That is a thing I hate about Asperger’s: the way it makes hateful things delightful for my sons.  Like pestering.  Like screaming.  Like the pressure of a heavy hit – against themselves, or each other.

But Jesse finds a safe place in me.  He is loving and tender, he is affectionate and grateful.  His words toward me are rarely, if ever, cruel.  He opens doors for me, because I am “a lady.”  He says “may I please?” if there is something he wants.  He does his best to clean up.  Today, after being asked (only once!) to make his bed, he pulled the covers up over his pillow and tucked his bunny underneath. I very nearly passed out from sheer happiness.

His status as “mama’s boy” is legend among our friends and family.  But I wonder if it is because I find all those sweet things in him that his siblings are too young, or too busy tormenting him to see.  A mother sees what no one else does.  And she rarely, if ever, forgets.  She will not forget the hands pressed to her face for a kiss, or the song sung while playing his tablet (“I love my mama, I love my Ma-MAAAA!”), or the encouragements, or kindness, or prayers (“Please Lord, let mama feel better”).

But to others?  Well.  Jesse isn’t always given a fair shake.  He’s written off as “difficult” or “defiant,” stubborn or contentious. And I love him but can’t deny he is probably all of those things.  My little boy is as hard to please and as quick to anger as any child I’ve met.  But when he is sweet, it is a wonder.

I can do nothing about the birth order of my children.  I know Jesse will always be my youngest, and therefore subject to a certain degree of the “obnoxious little brother syndrome,” but I can show his siblings by continuing to love Jesse and point out the things he does for me that he is very often the sweetest thing.

– Sarah


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Happy Double Digits

Noah is 10There are rarified moments that my husband puts to paper (or computer) what we are both thinking, but he is better able than me to express in writing. Today, the day of Noah’s birthday, was just such a day. Noah is ten, and he reminds us every day, in every morning appearance, that he is getting older as it seems he climbs In Stature overnight. We are grateful for him, and for his double digits, which are a challenge overshadowed by the blessing of him, and the One who gave him to us.



From Matt:

“I love reflecting on Birthdays. Today my wife and I celebrate the birthday of our 1st born Noah Paul Perry, who turns 10 years old.

This morning I was reflecting about what it took to get him to 10 and I was moved to tears. I thought it was appropriate to take the time to thank some of the people who have blessed us.

Thank you to my wife who blessed me with children. I’m not sure anyone in their right mind would have made this decision .

I thank The Lord for allowing me to steward an autistic son. A good friend of mine once said about his son, “I know The Lord chose me to raise my special needs son.” I will never forget that and how fortunate I am.

I thank all our family for the support over the last 10 years. The Grandparents, the Uncles, the Aunts, the Cousins. You have given us so much.

I thank all the parents of the kids who made his transition easy. They never, ever enabled him. You hear all the stories about bullying. Our experience is completely different. Our community has loved my children and set high expectations for their kids. I have a great deal of excitement and hope for the future of our country. You have helped teach Noah the difference between what you have and who you are. Thank you.

I thank my daughter Grace for having the gall to be the only child in our family without autism. She is wonderful and loving to both her brothers.

Thanks Jesse, my youngest child, for walking the same path that Noah is walking, only with a different pace.

Thank you Kennedy Kreiger,Trellis, and Evolution Sports. When people say “I would have never known he had autism,” I smile and think it is because of the team we have been blessed with.

Finally thanks to Noah. He is everything I could want in a son and more. He has taught me so much about myself and life. I am not sure I will ever teach him as much. To him I am most thankful and humbled. I hope he has a birthday and a life that reflects the joy he has brought to us and the people who know him.

Noah lives and loves deeply. He changed my life everyday for the last 10 years.”

– Matt (and Sarah, too)


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The World Inside

At the end of the year, there is so much to be completed and so much to review.  And there is so much that comes home crammed in a book bag bursting at the seams.  In it are all manner of unclaimed project and memento.  There is an art smock, and half-used pencils, and a notebook with only a few blank pages left.  There are crumpled assignments, too, and sometimes, writings of particular depth.  Sometimes, there is given a tiny peek into the world inside the book bag, and into the owner’s unique and lovely mind.

Noah is so adept a user of words, with such giftedness in his writing.  His use of language is – and always has been – excellent, but he’s even better at writing than he is at speaking.  Probably because the one permits more time to craft it, than does the other.  Noah can put the sequence together correctly with his writing, he can select the best words, and in the safety of a blank page, he can fully be himself, with no fear of embarrassment or of being “wrong.”

Noah’s poetry journal was a thing of wonder.  He was fairly proud of it, too, sliding it over my dinner plate last night, his hands fluttering at his sides as they do when he is excited.

“Mom!  Look at my poetry book.  Read the table of contents.  Make sure you look at all of them.”

“Oh honey,” I laughed.  “I can’t wait to read it!”  And inside was his autobiographical ballad that read:

His world inside.

His world inside.

I was grateful for the window into his soul, and the parts of him he carries but of which he doesn’t speak.

“I worry if I get lazy.”

Please, Lord, let me balance the encouragement toward industry with a commitment to accepting that he’s done his best.

“I cry when one of my family members die.”

Please, Lord, let him come to me when he is grieving so that I may encourage him, the one who grieves in silence and doesn’t let us see.  And Lord, comfort me, as I am still grieving, too.

“I say I believe in God.”

Thank you, Lord, that my son yet stands strong in his faith when so many around him insist on proving him wrong.

“I try to work out seven times a day.”

Thank you, Lord, for a son with a healthy self-image and a tendency toward imaginative license, because this statistic is definitely wrong.

“I am fast and powerful…I feel energized.”

Thank you Lord for my Noah, who is always going, and full of energy.  Thank you for my son, who is a boy of fascinating contradictions, unimagined depth, and who is indeed, fast and powerful.

Thank you, Lord, for the world inside.

– Sarah


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Clock Hands

Imagine holding tight to your tears in an effort not to let them slide during your son’s pre-school graduation, which, if you’re to think about it, is ridiculous, because it’s both unnecessary and expensive, as you’ve had to shell out $25 for a miniature cap and gown set that will never again see the light of day.  But as he clamors up your neck after the ceremony, telling you he can’t wait to go to the “big kids’ school,” the whole thing reminds you that he’s growing bigger.

Imagine the biggest one singing and chanting to himself in the shower, back from his LaCrosse scrimmage and smelling very much like a boy older than he is, telling you later as he wings the wet hair back from his forehead that he doesn’t want a haircut because “they never do it the way I like, and I prefer to swish it like this,” showing you, with a hand raked through the front.  And you wonder to yourself when your nearly-10 year old started looking like a high school kid, and how much faster time is going to move for you, while feeling, for him, as though it’s standing still.

You are the one for whom things seem to be moving too fast, now.  Once these little people of yours have reached independence of thought and movement and feeding (and all manner of bathroom habit), you realize from one year to the rest, in the simple act of examining an Easter photo from last year as it’s replaced with this year’s, that 12 months is nothing to them.  It is, however, everything to you.  They wait to lose teeth, to fit into certain clothes, to be kissed, to grow up.  You hold your breath, knowing that all of it will happen, and with more haste than you’d ever prefer.

In the span of 12 months, one of them learns to compete in a new sport, and learns difficult lessons in truth and valor, explaining to you that though you and his father believe otherwise, he is ready for the next level of play, because, “Naturally, I can do all those things.”  In the span of 12 months, one of them makes his own set of friends, and memorizes the class roster so that you can be tormented daily on which one of 22 children is going to come for a “play date.”  In the span of 12 months, you find two notes on the way to an early-morning horse show, written on stationary that is pilfered from your own collection, with sentiments that seem the faintest bit backward:

Found letters. Didn't even mind she was stealing my stationary.

Found letters. Didn’t even mind she was stealing my stationary.

“I love you.  I hope you win.  Mom, you’re growing so fast.  I don’t like how you grow so fast.  I want you to stay forever.” [sic]

Somehow, the one in the middle, the neuro-typical one who is also the only girl, recognizes the state of affairs of things around her, and is smart enough and intuitive enough to bend her mother’s sentiments to her own use.  And she wants to remind you that she doesn’t like how fast you are “growing” (which is to say “aging,” and you apparently both agree on this, because you’ve begun hoarding wrinkle cream in secret).  This is ok, because you don’t like how fast any of them are “growing,” either.

You thank her for the cards, and hide them away in a safe place so you can take them out and remember when she was little, and think again of how time once seemed slower than it is.

– Sarah


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The Now

This working-from-home-with-your-husband thing is rife with both blessings and challenges.  We enjoy the chance to eat lunch together, to discuss household “administration” when necessary, to schedule appointments around each other’s plans.

But our work styles are vastly different.  The minute the kids are on the bus, I’m clearing my desk, laying out binders, lighting my “writing candles” (I cannot summon all my available productivity unless the ambiance is just right) and getting down to it.  Sometimes this happens before I’ve even had my first cup of coffee.

Matt, on the other hand, likes to ramp up slowly.  There is coffee, and some MSNBC, and a little breakfast at the table while he peruses the headlines, or sends messages to some friends.  He does this after taking the kids to school on certain days of the week (a mighty blessing to me whose arthritis mutinies before 10:30 a.m.).

This morning, after these rituals, Matt came into my office.

“Let’s snuggle.”

Yep, kinda hard to say "no." Unless my computer is on fire.

Yep, kinda hard to say “no.” Unless my computer is on fire.

I didn’t turn my back but, as I am adept at doing, continued to type while talking, thinking (a) the bed is already made, (b) the kids are gone so it’s finally quiet enough to work, and (c) if I live to be 102 I still won’t get everything done that needs to be done.  Then they will have to dig me up and sit me right back at my computer.

“Can’t.  Too much to do.”

He was undeterred.

“Listen, the kids are out of the house very rarely, and when summer comes, they’ll be here all the time.  I know you’re stressed.  Let me pet your head.”

This, I love more than just about anything.  I blame “Little Women.” Therein, the sisters remark about how nice it is to have their hair petted.  My Grannie did the same to me when I was young, and I do it for Grace.  And Matt does it for me.  When I can extricate myself from my work.

He was grinning with his arms open.

“Fine,” I snorted.

He grabbed me in that bear embrace of his and wrapped those athlete’s arms around me, making me feel small, which I love.  Especially when I’m still grief-eating and I can’t fit into my regular jeans.  He ran his fingers through my hair, and must have felt me exhale, because he laughed.

“This is your kryptonite!  You’re not stressed anymore!”

And I wasn’t. As long as my mind stayed in the moment.  As long as it was obedient to a concept my father recently mentioned to me: that of the “eternal now.”

A book by theologian Paul Tillich in 1963 by the same title explored this concept.  Tillich wrote:

“‘I am the beginning and the end.'” This is said to us who live in the bondage of time, who have to face the end, who cannot escape the past, who need a present to stand upon. Each of the modes of time has its peculiar mystery, each of them carries its peculiar anxiety. Each of them drives us to an ultimate question. There is one answer to these questions — the eternal. There is one power that surpasses the all-consuming power of time — the eternal: He Who was and is and is to come, the beginning and the end. He gives us forgiveness for what has passed. He gives us courage for what is to come. He gives us rest in His eternal Presence.”

God, who understands my fears and my ever-growing list of “must do’s;” who knows tomorrow will be imbued with its own worries in a meeting with Noah’s new special education coordinator, and later, with his neurologist, and subsequently, with his teacher who has told us she can “no longer control him,” that same God who understands also gave us that moment.

I chose, despite the worries of tomorrow and the mistakes of yesterday, to be present in the now; to mirror, as best I could, God’s presence as much in that minute as it had appeared before it, and would, thereafter.

It was a respite, that “eternal now.”  We were fully present.

And all it required was five minutes of cuddling.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” Revelation 21:6

–          Sarah


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Skating the Brink

I am (or was, more accurately) on the brink of losing it.

My husband travels for work, and it is a universal law that things must fall apart when he does.  In his absence, I’ve had power outages, run out of oil, tended to sick kids.  The days unfurl like Groucho Marx comedies.  You know, the ones where an innocent woman is caught up in some madcap caper, shocked at all the shenanigans around her, and very confused because the crazy people seem to be running the show?

That was today.  Because Matt was delayed in Georgia on business.  Because he was gone.  Because it is a universal law.

A bloody nose – a function of my many weird health issues – started the morning, and scared Jesse so that he asked if I was going to die.  To his credit, the blood splattered all over the floor in such dramatic fashion that I’m sure it looked like I was going to leak out all my essential fluids.  Then a slammed toilet seat sent a candle down into a ceramic trash can where both shattered.  On my way out the door, sprinting hysterically, I was yelling instructions at the kids, and simultaneously slipped in a puddle of puppy pee (not yet having discovered the puppy poop in the corner, equally revolting).

Then, driving our “new” (used) car to school, I heard the dreaded thud of a flat tire flapping on the asphalt.  Grace yelled, “It’s definitely flat, mom!  It’s FLAAAAATTTT!!!!”  I answered, “Alright, Grace, ENOUGH!” Background note: we’ve replaced two of the four tires already, even though we’ve had the car less than three months.  A call to the dealership is in order.  Though I am generally loathe to confront, somebody needs to answer as to why my tires are crumbling, because either dry rot is to blame, or the raccoons have found some new way to work their mischief.

I was on the brink of a total freak-out.

I began howling at the kids to “shut up.” I am not proud of this.  So please don’t judge me.  Or do.  But don’t tell me about it, because I don’t want to know.

And then I apologized, and prayed (loud enough so they could hear me, so they would realize how spiritual I was, even though I had been a shrieking harpy two minutes previously):

“Lord, your ways are not my ways.  I don’t get this morning.  But I trust that it’s all for something.  I’m not sure what…but of course, that happens a lot.  So just…Just help me come back from the brink.”

The kids were quiet in the backseat as we hobbled into a gas station on the corner.  Like they knew a spoken word was going to interrupt mommy’s communion with God.  Because a praying mommy is a serious mommy, and serious mommies don’t play no games.

In the parking lot, to my delight, an old neighbor called at me from his truck: “Hey there!  You need some help?”  He then proceeded, with four co-workers who were also filling up, to find all the random tire repair pieces in my car trunk, jack my car up, and replace my tire with a spare.


Chivalry is not dead yet.

Chivalry is not dead yet.

Notwithstanding the money it will take to replace the tire and the overall hysteria of the morning, I was grateful for the experience because (1) it reunited me with an old friend, and elicited promises of a summer reunion at the pool for all our children, (2) the donut tire kept me from speeding, as is my unfortunate habit, and (3) I was forced to answer the question, “Do you preach it, or do you really believe it?” I ask this question of myself, often.  It is easier to do the one, than the other.  But with six eyes watching me intently, three bodies late for school, six hands folded in prayer for a fix, my mind and mouth were forced to consort.

Funny how forcing yourself to do the right thing actually leads to believing the right thing.

God is good.  ALL the time.

Skating brinks, notwithstanding.

–          Sarah


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Learned Tenderness

Jesse holding FaithWhen you have spent the better part of 10 years telling your child to be gentle, it is no small feat to have him lay prone on the floor and pet with one hand the tiny new life you’ve brought into the house.  (As to this new life?  Well, I’ve not gone daft and had another baby, but I do suppose we’re pitching BRAVO for our own reality show.  Because who else brings into their lives – one already full of horses, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and hermit crabs – such a thing as a puppy unless your life is crazy to the point of broadcastability?)

But it seems Noah has learned at least a little of what we’ve encouraged these many years in a life full of animals: that they are God’s creation, too, and worthy of tenderness.  Even his brother has taken to holding “Faith” (aptly, and unwittingly named by the breeder even before my brother’s death) in a less-than-man-handling way.  Borzois are known for their gentle temperament and can be shy when first making introductions.  A real change from our Texas Heeler, Zelda, Faith has proven to be every bit the breed standard, flopping down the hardwood hallway on horse-like feet, all limbs and ribs and slender head.  My brother says she looks like a velociraptor, which is a bit true.  Though she will make tentative advances to my rough sons, they have learned kindness with her after years and years and long, hard years of asking them how it would feel if THEY were squeezed or pinched or hit?  Which tells me that in some way, their “mind blindness” can be overcome – not internally perhaps, but with the power of repetition and committed parenting.

It brings me such joy to see this learned tenderness because it is one of the few instances in which the “getting through” to them is visible.  Noah will still wear his pajamas to school if not reminded to change, and Jesse still panics when he cannot hear my voice, and there are all the trappings of a life on the spectrum for them both, but here, the Lord’s presence is tangible, and I am encouraged.  I remember reading Eustacia Cutler’s memoir, “Thorn in My Pocket,” about her life with Temple Grandin, and about how she was committed to sameness in her parenting, instructing her daughter in the proper way no matter what neurological construct prevented a natural inclination toward it.  So that is where we head.  Most importantly, because we are told to train up our children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6).  And they haven’t departed from it.  At least not here.  For once.

So our hearts are glad.

–          Sarah


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Handle It

Jesse ran screaming to dad:

“Grace is not letting me play the Play Station!!!”

Dad bent himself over the bannister and yelled downstairs,

“Grace! You are to let Jesse have an equal turn on the Play Station!”

Jesse harrumphed and stomped hard – twice – on the ground.

“THAT’S how you’re going to HANDLE IT?”

Yes, it was.  What was HIS suggestion?  A summit for universal house-peace?

They run screaming to us every day, sounding a bit like:

“Noah used all the milk – HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO EAT MY CEREAL!”

“WHYYYYYYY do I have to let the dogs out – Grace was supposed to do that!”

“Grace just punched me in the arm!”  Retort: “Well, that’s because Jesse called me STUPID!”

All we do is handle it, it seems.  More than one in the room means no peace in the house.  All these fights pour in like waves on our heads, and we yell, we plead, we cajole.  We separate, negotiate.  We work with what we have, which most times seems like very little.  I whisper sometimes, thinking that the low tone will get them to stop simply because they’re curious as to what I have to say, because it’s an interruption in the cadence of their brawling.  Like a shaman whispering a healing that never comes.  Noah usually shoots, “SPEAK UP!”  And then everyone is back to yelling.

Do everyone’s kids fight like this?  Are their houses packed-stadium loud?  Do other parents bite their lips when the school bus unloads its cargo and their children are chasing each other down the driveway, hurling insults?

My nieces are quiet, as are my friends’ children.  The little playmates that come to visit us are as mousy as can be.  Is the comparative loudness of our kids some function of a lapse in parenting, or are there genetics at work here that we can’t ever contain?  Noah is – Noah has always been – the fire starter.

His mien is angry of late.  As he grows older, he seems to grow crueler.  Or maybe there is no safety in his mind when he comes home from the chaos of school and his siblings invade that part of his environment (his h0me) that ought to be calm.  I can guarantee his four-year-old brother doesn’t do much to make for a quiet house.  Jesse set himself to screaming the other day because he was trying to create the wrestling cage from a WWE match on his iPad in Minecraft: “I CAN’T MAKE THE CELL!”  I am plumbing this question now, and haven’t an answer.

Noah cannot even be served dinner without serving some snarling contempt right back.

“Mom – you KNOW I hate rice!  Ugh!” (shoving plate away) “Forget it.  I’m not going to eat!”

I’m tired today.  There are no quiet days here.  Why do people only have a single child?

Oh honey, I’m sure I know the answer to that one.  Now, I do.

My hands aren’t big enough to push kids to their respective corners and keep them there.  So Lord, can you help us handle it?  I don’t know how.

anger management

– Sarah


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(Un)Common Core


This is how it is.

This is how it is.

I am working with a conservative policy organization right now.  A little “side thing,” that turned out to be a very big thing by the nature of how far the issue around which I base my work, stretches.  It stretches (to date) 45 states wide.  My work for them involves addressing education, and in particular, Common Core State Standards – that nightmare of a federal land-grab brought to us by the same administration that proffered  It is a nightmare about which I can give you 10,000 words worth of dialogue – which represents about how much research-based writing I’ve done on it thus far.  In the course of four weeks.  Without even really trying.  Because everyone from union bosses to tea party activists realizes it’s the worst educational debacle since “No Child Left Behind,” and the work is just pouring in.

I endeavor to reserve further discussion because this isn’t a political blog, but one designed specifically to help families dealing with hidden disabilities in their lives.  I will simply say that today, for my son with Asperger’s, my non-neurotypical, out-of-the box, un-common son, Common Core came home.

Today was Maryland state testing day – the first of two.  And, as the state has bought into the idea of Common Core – their obedience purchased by the government with “No Child Left Behind” testing waivers and a cut of $4.3 billion in federal funding – the curriculum in our state is new this year, and pulled from materials that are deemed “core approved.”  I held my breath as I sent Noah out the door today, yelling after him,

“Don’t worry honey – you’re not being graded on this!  I love you so much!  Just try your best!”

This, because I’ve heard horror stories of children in other states bursting into tears, vomiting, and even getting nosebleeds from their experiences with Common Core assessments.  This, because I feared very much that my son’s panic button would be pressed and he would utterly lose it after three hours of testing in an environment where not even questions of clarification could be answered.

Thanks be to God, the opposite happened.

“So, how did it go?”

“Good, good.”

Like Mr. Rogers.  This is the top-line, every day, for every question, unless-you-dig-answer.  And dig I did.

“Okay buddy, tell me all about it.  I want to hear.”

“Well, there were some questions that I didn’t know the answers to, so I just put down anything.  And then some questions where there were two right answers.  And then the last question on page seven was about how many points the basketball team had scored in the fourth quarter, and I KNOW the answer was zero, but there wasn’t an option for zero.  So I just put whatever.  Then, I just put my head down on the desk and slept, because the questions were ridiculous, and I fell asleep, and the kids told me I was snoring.  When the timer went off, it was a cow noise [his teacher likes cows], and I jumped out of my chair, and the kids started laughing.  I laughed a little, too.

Then at the breaks, we got to run down the ramp in the school near the music room, since no one was playing their instruments, and we could run down as quick as we could to get energized.

Finally, we did the third section, and this time, I didn’t fall asleep or snore…The worst part of the tests was no talking – not even to the teacher – and the final page in the third section, because it was really hard and I didn’t know the answer.  Actually, a ton of times I didn’t know the answer, even though I used my tools for most of it.”

So he’d hit the wall, and instead of imploding, he’d simply decided to take a nap.  I whispered a silent prayer of gratitude.

Here’s the kicker:

The tests today weren’t Common Core assessments.  They were the old MSA standards.

Oh no.

He’d hit the wall on the standardized tests of the old curriculum, and we haven’t even gotten to the new PARCC (core-aligned) assessments yet.  Dear Lord, give a mother strength.

My son is not common.  He does not bend to a standard or a platform; he cannot be shoehorned into an agenda, and I guarantee you that when he is assessed according to Common Core tests next school year, he will throw the county numbers out of whack because no one – nowhere – among the Common Core proponents has attended to the needs of developmentally delayed children – children who may not (likely won’t) shine on a standardized test, nor within a “standardized,” abstract, theoretical, explain your-answer-to-show-your-critical-thinking-process-and-don’t-bother-memorizing-things curriculum.  In fact, Noah was asked to explain his answer on one particular Common Core math question this year.  His answer,

“I just thought, and thought, and BAM!  It was in my head!”

How do you explain critical thinking to someone who interprets everything literally and suffers from mind blindness?

I say this to those mothers and fathers, those brothers and sisters, those precious educators whose classroom creativity will be sacrificed at the expense of making our children little “global workers,” who will be forced into the reading of scripts because the curriculum is guided by standards that are soon-to-be-identical in every state, that I HEAR YOU.  My heart goes out to you.  I applaud your fighting for the “little guy,” for the kid who doesn’t get what’s going on around him because he literally believes his animals are talking to him – let alone that among four addition sentences and a picture of some blocks, there is actually a related “subtraction sentence.”  Oh yes.  This is an actual PARCC question.

I pray for Noah next year – that the tests and curriculum don’t get the better of him.  And I trust that no matter the outcome, the Lord will use us to prove to Noah that he is worthy, that he is smart, that his way of thinking is perfectly fine because it is the way God made him.

And that – no matter his score – he is forever loved.

–          Sarah


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Pillow Talk

It was just a pillow.  Never in the history of all mankind, I am certain, has something as simple as a pillow caused so much discord between spouses. The reason for the fight?  That thing was solid as a stone wall.  And neither one of us wanted it.

Last year, Matt and I finally relinquished our sagging mattress to a Tempur-pedic bed.  The promise of a good night’s sleep and the backing of “doctors everywhere” were highly persuasive.  We don’t sleep nearly enough as it is, considering the constant interruptions from the night wanderings of a passel of tiny trolls, but we thought we might contribute better to the sleep we WERE getting by upping the mattress quality.  It cost us an arm and a leg.

“For our health!” we reasoned.

In conjunction with this purchase, we were convinced by the saleswoman that the best accompaniment to our purchase was a set of Tempur-pedic pillows.  These pillows came in a variety of firmnesses.  (If “firmnesses” is not a word, I just made it one.  So there).

We both opted for “soft.”  Considering you can’t even jump on the bed without feeling like you’ve hit a door, we decided we needed something with a little more give to it.  What came back from the factory was one “soft” pillow and one “suitable as a car jack, or as a levee in case of a flood” pillow.  Wanting to wrap the process up and not wait for another pillow (patience not having ever being a virtue of mine), I told the salesperson, “Oh, it’s no problem.  I’ll take that one!”

I’m good like that.  Kind, sacrificial like that.  I beamed at Matt.

Matt was wary.  As it turns out, he was so for very good reasons.  I had no idea what sleeping on that thing would actually be like.  The first time I put my head down (or rather, let it drop too hastily), I told Matt I needed an Advil.  I’ve hit open refrigerator doors and didn’t hurt that much.

So began the struggle for pillow domination.  With matching pillowcases, I could slip Matt’s off his side of the bed and onto mine.  Every time one of us slept on it, we woke up with back pain, neck pain, cramped muscles, or all of the above.  I had a good mind to call the company and tell them that whatever doctors were backing this Tempur-pedic stuff needed to spend a night on their own material and get their facts straight.  But I didn’t.  I was chicken.  Plus, I’d actually said I WANTED the harder pillow.  Like a moron.

Matt – reasoning that I spend a lot of my time feeling unwell, particularly when I’m in a flare – finally offered up the pillow.  For good.  I was so touched, that I promised not to use the hard one in a pillow fight against him anymore.  The one and only time that had happened, Matt buckled to his knees.  All 6’1″ 250 pounds of him.  It was a heck of a pillow.

From that point, Matt dumped the thing onto the ground every night in order to get some sleep, retrieving one of the lumpy, old synthetic pillows from its place of retirement in the downstairs linen closet.  But when he naps (which he loves to do – I am convinced he is part bear the way he loves to hibernate) – he slides the soft pillow back to his side of the bed, and thus go the next ninety minutes or so because his sleep is so restful.  As it should be, when you sleep on an unreasonably expensive pillow, hard OR soft.

So there, on the floor, the brick-solid pillow lay.  Until one day I saw Noah pushing his fist into it.

pillow talk

“I like this.”

Matt and I watched him.

“Yes, it looks like it.”

“Can I have this pillow?  Because if I do,” (mashing his fists into it, folding it in half, kneeling on it) “I won’t beat Jesse up as much.”

I didn’t even care that he’d qualified his statement with as much.  All I heard was the first part: “I won’t beat Jesse up.”

“YES!”   I lept up.   “Absolutely, honey!  Let me get you a fresh pillowcase for it!”  I went flying down the hall.  When I came back I shot Matt a look.  It was a look that said: “See?  I get all his quirkiness AND I just saved us the money on that pillow because someone actually WANTS it!  It’s like the blue body sock, baby!  I’m actually figuring this thing out!”

So the pillow, moldable as a piece of clay, conforms every night to Noah’s head – after he’s had a good squeeze on it.  Jesse watches from his bed, spared, for now.  Until Noah starts to complain the pillow is giving him a headache.  Then we’ll be in trouble.

– Sarah


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