Fail

keep calm and clear customsOur treatment of the mentally ill in the United States is legit crazy.

Let me start by saying this: writing is the great refuge of introverts.  As Kafka wrote once, “Writing is utter solitude,” and its exercise is a great comfort for people like me who are happiest in front of a plain white screen than in front of a room full of people.  Writing is also where I’m bravest, and while I normally reserve political commentary (choosing instead to discuss only matters of the heart), I will today share with you a little bit of my current righteous indignation related to an op-ed piece that recently appeared in the New York Times.

Ellen Richardson, a Canadian woman was recently denied entry to the United States because she had been hospitalized for depression in 2012.  Before her entry, she was required to obtain medical clearance from one of three doctors approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Her reason for visiting?  She was on her way to New York, where she had intended to board a cruise to the Caribbean.  Border authorities quoted a portion of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows patrols to block people from visiting the United States if they have a physical or mental disorder that threatens anyone’s “property, safety or welfare.” Find the Act’s full text here.

How her medical diagnosis was retrieved by authorities remains questionable.  A long-ago 911 call to police based on a suicide attempt in 2001 may have set off the investigation.  However the final version of the federal health care stimulus bill negotiated by the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate includes a provision creating a federal database that will hold the personal medical records of every American.  If the database isn’t already in place, it soon will be.

The fact that Ms. Richardson’s depression diagnosis was relevant at all to her passage through this country is what raises the hair on the back of my neck.

Here is the unbalanced truth about the mentally ill in the United States:  state standards for institutionalization of the mentally ill remain inappropriately geared toward personal liberty unless the mentally ill individual is essentially holding a gun to someone’s head at the time of commitment.  That leaves many who are in desperate need of care on the street, or in a potentially explosive situation.  Adam Lanza was the perfect candidate for institutionalization, but the ACLU was instrumental in recently ensuring that Connecticut’s SB452 bill for “assisted outpatient treatment” was defeated before it could help him. (See http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/12/16/Recently-Defeated-Connecticut-Mental-Health-Bill-May-Have-Stopped-Friday-s-Shooter.)  This treatment may have led to his institutionalization, and ultimately, the prevention of one of our nation’s greatest tragedies.

The same country failing to adequately treat the mentally ill is also blocking them at the border through articulation of the same standard, and according to the whims of the customs officers who happen to be perusing medical records that day.  So apparently we won’t institutionalize the mentally ill because of their right to privacy, but we’ll fail to admit them to the U.S. by invading that very same privacy right?

Even when a state’s involuntary commitment laws appear in theory to protect those most at risk, they don’t always do their job.  Take the recent attack on Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds by his son who – after stabbing his father – went on to kill himself.  While institutionalized under an emergency protective order the previous day, he was released due to a lack of beds in the psychiatric hospital.  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/11/21/virginia-looking-into-treatment-creigh-deeds-son-before-stabbing-attack/

Our mentally ill are not only stigmatized – injury enough, I believe – but they are the victims of a great hypocrisy: they are not enough of a concern for proper medical treatment, but are apparently enough of a threat to be turned away at the borders.

Pray for our leaders.  Because frankly, our mental health system is – to quote those YouTube, Twittering millennials – an utter and #epicfail.

-          Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org

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The Season of So Much

Christmas tree with giftsJesse has a habit that was either modeled by his big brother, or which sprung ex nihilo from their shared genetic make-up.  Each day in front of the t.v. (yes, my children watch t.v. every day; we can argue about this later), Jesse will monotonously chant, “I wanna get that.”  There is a commercial for a race track. “I wanna get that.”  Next is an ad for a Wii game.  “I wanna get that.”  There is even a spot for a doll set.  So great is this “compulsion” of his, that out he blurts – “I wanna get that!”

Yes, he apparently even wants a Barbie dream house.

When Noah was young, we realized that in so chanting, Noah believed he had covered his bases during Christmas. For if Matt and I couldn’t hear him, then Santa surely would.  And he would deliver everything asked of him.

But to ask him on Christmas morning what it was that comprised this verbal list?  No clue.  He’s always happy (thankfully for his parents and grandparents) with what shows up under the tree.  And what shows up is generally a lot.  In securing the “wow” factor, there is generally too much on Christmas morning.  I fault the grown-ups for this, but this year, we’ve committed to changing it.

My children have yet to discover the value of moderation.  They are so used to “so much” that they don’t recognize there is an alternative to it.  For them, this is the season of stockpiles and stores.

Understandable.  Because for all of us, there is so much to be had.

There is fellowship and warmth.  There is community and music.  There are full bellies and the sheen of new wrapping paper and gleaming ornaments and the smell of pine brought indoors.

But more than all that, there is so much because of Him who gave His everything for us.  He is so much, and we have so much because of Him.

So on Christmas morning, when I get a comment about the relative “smallness” of the stash, about why there are fewer gifts this year than the last, I will remind – praying that it somehow registers – that the gifts are a bonus, an add-on.  I will preach in a gentle tone the value of moderation, because the ultimate sacrifice was already made.  They have so much already.  They have everything they could ever need.

No matter what they chant to the t.v.

-          Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org

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Clothes Force

When the first ray of morning’s light slices its way through the curtains and I know – despairingly, begrudgingly, painfully – that it’s time to get up, I also have this accompanying thought:

“Oh no.  I’m going to have to get Jesse dressed.”

You see, dressing Jesse is like an episode of Top Chef, wherein I am given a fixed set of ingredients and am forced to come up with something satisfactory enough to prevent a little red-faced blonde guy from screaming at me.

I will spare you discussion of dressing Noah – who refuses to wear anything but shorts, even in the dead of winter because if he breaks a sweat, the sensation of damp clothing will send him through the roof – or of Grace – who took to wearing the knee-high boots from her Halloween pirate costume over her cheetah leggings like she worked, ahem…”downtown.”  I have an inch of room to manipulate with them.  With Jesse?  Clothes are a fight to the finish.

For a year, it was a firefighter costume.  All the time.  We had three, which is the only thing that saved me from having to run a load of wash.  All the time.

Then it was his tracksuit and flat-brimmed ball cap phase.  All he was missing was the mouth metal and the giant clock around his neck.  My son had fallen into an early-nineties rap time warp and couldn’t get himself out.

Today, it’s his “prep” phase.  It MUST be khakis.  It MUST be a collared shirt.  The soft cotton clothing I bought for Noah and diligently saved for his future sibling is not good enough.  All the comfortable play clothes that were both easy-wash and easy on Noah’s sensory system hang unused in Jesse’s closet.  But the stiff-collared button-downs and clip-on ties I was certain we would never re-use are his distinct preference.  As are the pants he can barely button because they’ve been outgrown.  I am no longer the only person who has to suck in their gut to button a pair of pants.  I am typing this and already thinking about a pair I’m going to throw out because they look like capris on him, and he’s finally tore a hole in the knee.  I’m sure his preschool teacher thinks I’m either blind or supremely lazy.

On any given day, THIS happens.

Yeah. On any given day, THIS happens.

But then today, after he had dressed himself and doffed his hat to me like a bigger, human version of Mr. Peanut, he said, “Mom?  Can you wash away my freckles?”  I swooped down to gather him up, kissing his little round cheeks and squeezing him like an accordion. (On a related note, I swore I would never baby my children.  Now, ask me whether I fed Jesse last night.  Like, whether I actually put the food in his mouth.  Because he asked me to.)

“Oh honey!  I LOVE your freckles! They are precious, and adorable, and unique!  They are part of what makes you, YOU!”

As is the way he dresses.  This way of expressing himself, of layering unmatched clothes, and popping his collar, is his tiny manifestation of self in a sometimes too-big world.  So I guess tomorrow I’m going to have to dig around for another pair of high-water dress slacks, and trust that this is just a phase.  Who he is underneath, and what he aspires to be is far more important.  He could use a part of the universe that makes sense, and is controllable by him.

Besides, knowing Jesse, next week we’ll be on to ninjas.

Anybody know where I can get a Chinese throwing star?

-          Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org

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Flights of Fear

How powerful is the hand of fear, how strong its grip. And it has my boys – my little princes, my sons of thunder – in it every day. They wrangle and scrap and holler. They break things and chew with their mouths full and torment the dog as little boys do. But they tremble more than little boys ought.

Noah had his football playoff game this past weekend – for a boy relatively inept at sports this was the pinnacle of accomplishment for him. His hands shook at breakfast. He was ice cold. During the game, his anxiety choked him and he fumbled snap after snap. He sobbed on the sidelines. His body was more uncooperative than usual because he was stunted by fear.

Noah brings me every flyer for a group, activity or fundraiser that comes home with him. I am content to throw half of them in the trash. He retrieves them and waves them in my face, “But we HAVE to!” He is afraid of being left out – that something good might transpire without him, that he will not be accepted otherwise.

Jesse’s night wakings have begun again. He cannot fall asleep, and when he does, we can nearly count the hours, until we hear the crack of the door hinge, and he is finding a space between Matt and I where he can bury himself in safety. We were playing hide-and-seek with his sister a few days ago, and it was my turn to hide. My foot gave away my presence, and Jesse yelled “I FOUND YOU!” only to burst into terrified screaming when I jumped up and said, “Boo!” He is afraid of Bigfoot (no thanks to Noah, who delights in telling Jesse that he is real). He is afraid of being lost, or left alone. He is afraid of being hurt. He clings to me like a monkey baby, hanging on my leg, laying on my stomach. He tells me he is safe there.

He's scared of everything, so for Halloween, he tried to scare everybody.

He’s scared of everything, so for Halloween, he tried to scare everybody.

My anxious sons feel something I cannot pry from them, though I would love to take it on myself. I quietly stew, “Did they get their anxiety from ME?” (I am, too, a very anxious person). Anxious about my SONS being anxious. If that’s not neurotic, I don’t know what is.

I have lived most of my life as a prisoner to anxiety and fear. I know that gnawing, white emptiness in the stomach’s pit that nags well into the dark hours. How have I managed it?

I remember how deeply I am loved.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

I remember that I am never alone.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

I am made perfect in love. I am not dismayed. I am strengthened and upheld by a God who clearly knew we humans would be prone to fear, as much as His words speaks about it.

As they get older, my boys may need more help than we can give them in managing their fear (Jesse has already proven this), but always, they will know they are deeply loved, they are never alone, they are strengthened and upheld – not only by their parents, but by their Heavenly Father, who conceived of them before the world began.

I pray, someday, I might watch their fears leave them, and take flight.

- Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org

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Today

TodayToday was a good day.

Today my husband started his job after 6 weeks of unemployment, during which the severance ran out, and after which we didn’t know whether we would have gas money for the week.

Today my two older children hopped on the bus they had begged me all summer to take (wait – I don’t have to drive you myself? SCORE!), one bounding after each other, “bus buddies” for the day. Their homework was done, their lunches were packed. Noah had even remembered to bring home his jacket (though I would learn later that he had forgotten his lunch box and two other jackets at school). The tiniest of uninterrupted routines – the most miniscule of predictabilities – has proved reason for celebration. There are some days I cannot even anticipate what they’ll be wearing when they come home (Grace, where is your hair bow? Noah, where is your jacket? Son, WHY is your shirt inside-out?!)

Today, I laid my hand on the neck of my horse and took comfort in his clean bed and full tummy. I rolled the wheelbarrow to the compost pile and looked out over the cotton candy sky, past the horizon to the pond full of blowing geese.

Today was my day with Jesse. It was the day that he called to me from the other room:

“Mom?”

“Yes honey?”

“Never mind.”

Because this is what he does to make sure I am still near him, that he is safe and not alone. He does this repeatedly. But it is a simple thing to call back that I am here, and he has nothing to worry about.

Today I cleaned the first floor, and in Jesse’s bedroom, moved one of his many fire stations to the side so I could vacuum. If you haven’t read my previous posts, you will not remember that his affinity for fire trucks is really an obsession. Four fire stations, three fire fighter costumes, 32 fire trucks.

His interested piqued, Jesse picked up his Play mobile figurines, only to note that they “didn’t have the right hair because their fire helmets wouldn’t fit,” and I needed to help him find the right plastic hair to snap on their tiny, open heads. After searching for a few minutes, I told him he needed to make do with what he had.

To which Jesse responded by losing his ever-loving mind in an all-out screaming, kicking rage-fest that lasted a good 30 minutes. After rationalizing with him and calmly explaining that “what we have is what we have,” I told him that I was going to continue cleaning, and he was welcome to play if he wanted.

Finally exhausted from his brawling, he went back to his playing, muttering, “I sorry I hurt your feelings, Mom.” Which is about as good a thing as I can hope for – when my young son understands the marriage of action and consequences, and takes responsibility for his behavior by offering an apology before one is even asked for.

I scooped him up into my arms.

“Oh Jesse, it’s alright. You know that whatever you do, I will always love you. Nothing can change that.”

Then there was a lunch of macaroni and cheese, and discussion of more fire fighters (with some ninjas, a classmate and a dinosaur thrown in).

Finally, there was naptime – the last few hours before Jesse’s siblings descended on the gravel driveway. This, my favorite part of our day, and what made it so very good was a story under the covers with the fan humming in the waning afternoon sun masked by heavy drapes, his little head in the crook of my arm, a portion of my shirt pulled up to his nose because, as he once told me, I’m “comfy and [I] smell good.”

These good days are seasons. They are not guaranteed to last (Eccles. 3:1).  But I was reminded during Jesse’s brief emotional tornado today that no matter the circumstances, I am responsible for my attitude, and that gratitude is best experienced in the moment the gift appears.

- Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org

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Throwdown

The guitar had been given to Noah as a gift for his birthday some years ago. But that didn’t prevent him last night from putting his foot through the center and crushing it to pieces. We asked him to feed the dogs and let them out, and he began wailing like he was caught in a wood chipper. He can’t pick his clothes up off the floor without grunting and hissing his complaints – when, that is, he actually follows through with our request. He hits his siblings without distinction – pushing and kicking before his mind has even caught up with his body. The soft-skinned grinning toddler whose hand he once let me hold is now always ready to throw down. Even the dog gets it. And when he’s out of the house? We can practically hear the angels singing.

This is hard to believe for those that know Noah on the “outside.” “He is so sweet,” they croon, “So polite and compliant and kind.” And he is! I have always known that his heart is tender and good. But even now, at school, he is asserting himself to the point of being disruptive with his “loud interruptions.” Brain and body are not in accord.

And what’s more is that Matt and I feel like we get the dregs of his behavior. He will eventually cave to his teacher’s will. The pressure to be “good” is stronger at school among his peers, but it’s a fight to the finish at home. There are tears and screams and gnashing of teeth. “Oppositional defiance disorder” comes to mind. And it comes to mind because it’s one of his diagnoses. As many kids with Asperger’s do, he feels the need to assert himself over anyone who doesn’t share his perspective or desires. I came to the conclusion this week that he tasks himself so hard with obedience in public places (for fear of embarrassment – and this is a powerful fear of his) that there is nothing left when he comes home to us. He’s frayed at the edges from holding it all in. If we don’t see it his way, he’s ready to fight (often in the ugliest way possible) for what he believes.

This is where I have to thank the good Lord and my husband for a hobby for Noah on which I originally hesitated: football. For a kid whose brain already functions with particular deficits, I wasn’t real keen on him donning a helmet and taking it on the chin (or in the ear, or in the back). But I’ve since learned that there is nothing like running a set of gassers to wear out a kid who has pent up energy. He sleeps better, he eats more, he is generally easier to be around. And so far, my anxieties about injuries have proved unfounded: Noah hates the concept of getting hit so bad that he’s developed a spin-and-run technique that eliminates the possibility of any contact whatsoever. He can’t catch well, and he’s never made a tackle in six weeks, but the boy can run. Dad – as defensive coordinator – also helped by slotting Noah in the center position. All he has to do is snap and get out of the way.

Noah football

I can hear him in the next room with his siblings, fresh from a bath where he holds his head under the scalding running water and lets the noise and pressure remind him of where he is in space and time. He’s eating his second bowl of oatmeal (what he loves to call a “midnight snack” even though it’s 8:30 pm, a designation he picked because “I thought it was cute, and you’d get a kick out of it, mom”). This bowl follows two helpings of lasagna, two pieces of garlic bread, broccoli and two bottles of Gatorade. But he’ll sleep well tonight – once he and his brother stop picking at each other. And once Matt and I yell down through the floor register in our bedroom for them to hush up and go to sleep. That will take about ten minutes. Then those extra-large teeth will be half-hidden by lips parted in sleep, and I will be grateful for the expenditure of energy and the structure of a game he’s not too awful at playing.

Then we’ll have to contend with Jesse. Who is ALWAYS ready to throw down. And who prefers to do so after 10pm.

- Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org

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Fat Jeans

fat jeans2You know that moment when you take your jeans out of the dryer and they’re just a little snug? That unhappy moment between panicking that you’ve hit the pasta bar too hard, and little bit of time before they re-conform to your shape and stretch a little? I put mine on the other day, huffing and shifting them up my legs, and then tried to button them. “They’ll stretch,” I reassured myself. “Just walk around without buttoning them,” I said. Brilliant, I thought. That’ll open them up. Only they didn’t. After 15 minutes of wearing them barely hitched over my hips, I had to lay on the bed and enact every romantic-comedy cliché by sucking in and zipping up at the same time. I had gotten them on all right. But I couldn’t bend over. Because I was afraid of what might come spilling out.

Why the sudden costuming difficulty? The sudden change in girth? I’ll tell you why. BECAUSE I AM EATING EVERYTHING I CAN GET MY HANDS ON.

This morning? I had two – TWO! – bagels. But they weren’t just bagels. One was a bagel sandwich with egg, sausage and cheese. The other was a bagel with honey, orange and cranberry cream cheese that Jesse didn’t want. If you’re impressed now, wait – that followed half a chocolate donut at my kids’ “breakfast with parents” event. Normally, the vainer part of me would demur on the thick, sugary donuts (who wants to be the one stuffing in the simple carbs when all the other moms are sipping coffee and snacking on apples?), but I folded halfway through. There is no ladylike way to eat a frosted donut, by the way. I discovered this after I had waited too long to wipe my face after everyone had left the cafeteria. Yep. Conversations ala chocolat. They’d been happening for at least the past ten minutes. Please, people. Be a friend, and wipe a face!

I used to be a stress shopper. Oh, I loved stress shopping. No extra calories. No guilt. No self-flagellation or moaning in bed after a too-big dinner. My wardrobe was fat and my waistline was thin. But we don’t have the money for that anymore. So I’ve turned to food. And not just the sugar that once brought me comfort (sugar’s a natural choice – there’s a correlation between sugar addiction and anxiety, as sugar stimulates the same neural pathways that promote euphoria and relaxation). Last night was an Italian bonanza – wine, cheese and salami before dinner, then two pieces of French bread and a huge bowl of sausage and marinara rigatoni. For dessert? Reese’s chocolate peanut butter cups. Help me, Lord – we haven’t even gotten the Halloween candy avalanche, yet! I didn’t even know my stomach had that kind of room! (Parenthetically, it doesn’t. I found out the hard way).

I am stress pigging-out. My husband’s out of work, Jesse is sick with something undiagnosed, and the world and its many earnest burdens keeps on kicking me in my chocolaty teeth. So I gotta grab joy when I can find it.

Today, I find it in the Yankee candle I waited 6 weeks to buy. I love the flicker of its little light in the still-dark morning kitchen.

I find it in Jesse’s yelling from the other room, “A squirrel! A squirrel!” because to be as excited about anything as my son is about a furry rodent with a chestnut is a great joy, indeed.

I find it in the smell of bleach on a basket of white, fluffy towels because it means I have gotten the laundry done. For now.

I find it in my horses brown eye, and the whiskers on his dark muzzle upon which he entertains the occasional kiss.

And I find it in Noah’s math test that came home requiring a signature. For though he scored a 78%, his answer to a story problem requiring him to “show his work” was answered thusly:

“I thought to myself and BAM! It’s in my head.”

Which made me laugh so hard as to shake the belly in my too-tight jeans.

The literal version is almost always the funniest.

The literal version is almost always the funniest.

- Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org

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There He Goes Again

Just when you think you know a kid…

You come to retrieve him at school and round the brick walls toward the playground where you find the other three and four year olds squealing their glee on the slide, while he is in the corner on the ground, sprinkling handfuls of sandy dirt on himself. Alone.

Just when you think you know a kid…

His teachers tell you that he had a toileting accident at school and that he wet himself at naptime. When he was still fully awake.

Just when you think you know a kid…

He throws two metal toys through double panes of glass to get to you, howling his anger that you weren’t at his side, but rather a few feet up the driveway.

When you think you’ve seen it all, experienced it all, felt it all, you reach into his drawer to retrieve his pj’s for bedtime, only to discover that everything in the drawer is soaked in urine – and he cannot tell you why. He can only say, “that’s how they are in there.”

It’s when you think you know a kid, and he holds your hand on the field at his brother’s football practice, and he looks up at you and says, “There is no sadness in my heart right now!” that your breath is sucked out by the impact of his statement, and you think, “There he goes again, surprising me.”

I am no longer worried about Noah. Not in the way other mothers worry – about germy hands, or needing another pair of shoes, or whether his homework is finished. I worry only about whether he will make friends, or whether he is going to fail math, or whether at nine – older than some of his classmates by even two years – he is ever going to be able to button a shirt the right way. And this is a tiny peace. Noah’s disabilities have fallen into a level of predictability that comforts us. Here is God’s hand upon us, giving us light for the next step of the way.

Sarah and Jesse

But Jesse – my dimpled, freckled, blue-eyed sprite of a boy – he is different. With him, I see nothing coming. The only predictability we’re afforded is the unpredictability itself. We have plans for him, but it is only the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21). The Lord has not seen fit to give us a pattern for our youngest son, so we trip forward, mostly ignorant. What Jesse proffers by way of behavioral warning is nothing more than a whisper, if anything at all. We keep loving him, and sometimes, when the stars align, the thing that shocks me is the sweet tenderness of his hand in mind in the blue-black night, or his impromptu compliment, “Oooh, you look beautiful, mom!” Sometimes the surprises are the kind I want to come again – and are sweetest when no warning precedes. The kind of surprises that make me shake my head and laugh, “There he goes again.”

- Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org

Better Left Unsaid

Mothers hand over mouthLast Wednesday, I had two children in a crowded dentist’s waiting room, eager to get their check-ups complete before the start of a new school year. I was already on edge. All three would be attending new schools, and I had a raft of paperwork knee high to complete. The dentist’s form was but one leaf of paper in a whole stack. I was mentally ticking off items on my to-do list as I bounced an impatient knee.

“Guys, wait right here. Mommy is going to the bathroom. It’s that door, right there.”

“K, Mom.”

I came back about two minutes later, whereupon Noah stood up and loudly proclaimed to a full waiting room, “Mom! When you were in the bathroom, someone came over, sat in your seat, farted, and got up and walked away!”

Now, if I’d had less experience in oh, say, navigating faux pas or surviving humiliation, I’d have grabbed them both by the hand and fled the office, appointment be hanged.  But I am not your average mother. Chagrin is my middle name.

“Shhh. Okay Noah, thank you, but that’s inappropriate. Let’s change the subject, please.”

Three days later after a party, our family stopped to get ice cream on the way home. I will admit this was not an incontrovertible parenting choice. It was late, they were filthy, they were already over-sugared and under slept. But I made a last, mad attempt to grab the waning summer and took them anyway.

The worker behind the glass was sweet and tolerant as I grabbed at kids running wild in the parking lot and pushed them to the counter to make their choices. Matt was useless, guffawing with the mooning young couple sitting on the bench next to us.  The counter-girl, bless her, was quite heavy, and a dark shadow marked her chin and cheeks. A hormonal imbalance, I thought. I internally saluted her, someone who’s body, like mine, didn’t always cooperate.

And then Noah got to the window, and came face to face with the young woman behind the counter.

“Um….I want a milkshake….Oreo.” Then he turned to me. “Mom? Why does that woman have a beard?”

In one smooth gesture, I shoved him to my left, out of the eyesight and ear sight of the small glass window, and prayed she hadn’t heard.  Which, of course, was impossible considering that he said it within eight inches of her forward-leaning face. Then I had the 1,000th conversation I’ve had with Noah about what is and what is not appropriate conversation in public.

“Noah!  Do you think saying something like that makes her feel good or bad? If you have a question about someone’s appearance, we can discuss it quietly in private later.  But the last thing she needs is to be made to feel worse about something I’m sure already bothers her.”

Ah…..autism. It always keeps you on your toes.  It is the genesis of the humiliating, irritating and sometimes shocking.  That mind blindness thing, it’s not just uncomfortable for the “victim,” it smarts pretty hard for the mother of the “perpetrator,” too.

“His heart is so kind. He means well!” I want to scream. “This isn’t who he is!”

Maybe I’ll get cards printed:

   To Whom It May Concern:

Please forgive my son’s remarks.  He doesn’t mean to be callous.

He’s really a great kid with a bad case of mind blindness.

Thank you.

(P.S.  If you’re going to make some smart remark about how his behavior shows a lack of parenting,

do yourself a favor and save it.)

I wish Noah would – I wish he COULD – leave alone the things that are better left unsaid. Impulse = action. That’s how he operates. There is no filter.

Nor for Jesse.  Though the little one surprised us all today when he wanted to add on to Noah’s prayer at dinner time. “Jesus, I sorry I broke Grace’s crayons.”  Grace harrumphed here.  Dad pinched her knee.  Jesse continued.  “And Jesus, I love Noah.  He encourage me, and I encourage him.”

And they get each other, and we get them, too.  And sometimes, they say exactly what we pray they will.

- Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org

Time to Go

bored kidListen, I don’t know about you, but I am counting the minutes before school starts. My children will have had over 100 days off. Of these, three were spent in day camp, and 17 were spent with grandparents. That means I have had 3 children underfoot for 80 straight days. No babysitters. No sports teams. Not even a family vacation to pass the time. It’s time for them to go. Because I am losing my ever-loving mind.

My kids are losing theirs, too. They’re now complaining about their boredom as they slouch on the couch in front of TV with a bag of chips (that I have told them (1) to make better food choices and (2) NOT to eat in front of TV matters not to them). They’ve stepped up their inter-sibling warfare. Their sloth begets even more sloth. Even swimming in the pool has become routine.

However, this year will be different. All children will be at different schools. Noah and Grace will be at a new elementary school, and Jesse will be by himself at a different preschool campus. And if you don’t think this fills me with unrelenting terror, you’d be wrong. But I know there are those of you who read these posts that have come upon similar life stages – those of you who are faced with the clock that clicks down to a departure date for your children (whether near or far), and like me, you’re freaking out a little bit.

So let’s pray for one another. This is a conflicting season of life for me as I send two sons with hidden disabilities off to new schools and pray that the disruption in routine and deviation from the familiar doesn’t send them into behavioral landmines. This is when I look on the parents of neurotypical children and sigh with longing. A new school for them is just a new school. For parents like us, it can be an utter nightmare. But I will hold my hand open with gratitude for an excellent, free education, and in return, I find the Lord filling it with courage and strength. Oh, and enough exasperation that I am able to straighten up and declare, “My darlings, it’s time to go.”

- Sarah

Contact: Sarah@chosenfamilies.org