We found it… but it wasn't the perfect day to do it. 25 degrees and windy + 2 no-nap boys = a tearful journey. But it was memorable:)
Cutting down a family tree is a tradition my family has had for as long as I remember. Even Ben remembers his Dad getting a "real tree" for them- and they lived in Florida! They are sticky & messy and totally worth it. It's something we've been doing with the boys since Eli was born.
Poor little boy!
Once we found our favorite, Ben went to work cutting and I took the boys inside the shop to watch the electric toy train and pick out a candy cane.
(I think my kids/husband are the only people on earth who actually think candy canes taste good.)
What? Is that a smile? It can't be!!
They love the train. It runs around the perimeter of the store ceiling and blows a whistle and smoke… it's quite elaborate.
The trip proved exhausting and the ride home was mercifully silent!
Usually we race to get home, put up the tree, and decorate it all in one day. This year spread all of that over a period of about a week… and it was awesome. A week of tree decorating. We might make THAT a yearly tradition!
It's been an incredible year: the seventh I've spent with my best friend, a permanent (God-willing!) home purchase, the rapid sale of our old place, a pregnancy, completion of the foster parent program, and lots of life lessons from 2 little boys. As I thanked God for all these obvious blessings, I began to reflect on some of those less apparent blessings I take for granted.
- I am Thankful for God's Word-
I've never ever ever thanked God for the Bible. It's always something I've had, something that there's 3 or 4 of on the shelf, at any given time. But I think back through my life, at it's most terrifying moments- dark with depression, heavy with exhaustion… in each of those times I had a completely good, pure, and true source of comfort to turn to. I had free access to answers untainted by someone's opinion or inability to understand. I wonder why it takes me so long, sometimes, to run to it.
-I am Thankful for America-
It seems like it's not very popular right now to be patriotic. I know there are a unbelievable amount of issues right now with our government (no matter which side you take!). But even still- we live in a country with unsurpassed medical technology, a country that allows women freedom to leave their homes, to hold jobs, to have opinions and a have a say in things that happen, and a country in which we are free to make choices about how we worship (or whether we worship!) We are blessed to be here.
-I am Thankful for my Hobbies :)
I know that sounds a little strange. I guess what I mean is that I'm thankful for a healthy outlet when the stress of the day seems overwhelming. It's SUPER dorky, but there is nothing like creating something useful from a ball of yarn and a hook. Or a few tubes of paint and a brush. I remember times in my life when my coping mechanisms were so destructive. I am so thankful for the ability to do things like crochet and paint and craft. I'm so thankful for the free minutes I find in waiting rooms or checkout lines- or once the kids go to bed- that I have to pursue these interests. These are enormous blessings in my life.
-I am Thankful for my Marriage-
7 years is a long time to be with someone, and there have been some pretty epic difficulties. But I'm so grateful we both wholeheartedly meant "for better or worse"! I'm thankful for someone who fights the every day fights with me- the kid discipline, the continual home maintenance… and for someone who fights FOR me- for our marriage, for our future, for our spiritual health.
And I'm thankful for someone who's a little bit weird:)
I haven't regretted it for a second. There were several occasions that Ben had to talk me out of finding out, and I'm so so thankful that he did.
I don't have any inclination of what we'll get in 4 weeks… both Ben & I go back and forth in our feelings. At my last ultrasound, Ben said he felt like the pictures looked like a girl, but the attitude was all boy (when trying to get a face shot, baby squeezed his/her eyes shut and stuck out his/her tongue at us!!). This mommy just has no idea. And I'm ok with that :).
So baby, if you are a boy… we can't wait to meet you. You have two feisty brothers who have paved the way and demonstrated time and again the joy of little boys. A world of pillow fights and sofa forts, toy train and car wrecks, elaborate army men battles, complete dissections of peanut butter sandwiches, mud-puddle madness, and daddy wrestling matches that mommy takes a back seat for :) Plenty of rough edges-with room in the middle for snuggling, story time, brownie baking and hugs/kisses. We love you already.
And baby, if you are a girl… we can't wait to meet you. We have little to no idea what to expect, so forgive us if our kisses are a little sticky and our hugs are a little rough. We've had fun selecting a few "girl" items for you-just in case- and even Daddy has been sucked into the whirlwind of fluffy dresses and hair bows. You'll have 2 big brothers who will protect you, a Daddy who will treat you like royalty, and a Mommy who will never spend another afternoon watching Beauty and the Beast alone… ever again. :) We're ready for a new challenge. We love you already.
About 3 years ago when we first heard the words "autism" in relation to our son, I started on this weirdly slow grieving process. In those years I've somehow gotten stuck on the 4th stage- sadness and depression- and can't seem to move beyond it.
Every time I speak to my child and receive a blank stare, every time I have to repeat myself 6 or 7 times, every time I see him reach out to another child only to be ignored or turned away… I beg God to take this away. I beg Him. Multiple times a day. He is only four years old but the difficulties he faces and the struggles I anticipate in the future are so great they take my breath away. I am so incredibly fearful of the future. I know that I cannot protect any of my children from rejection or hurt- in other words, the world!-and that some of those experiences are necessary for development. But I fear that my sweet, loving child will be subject to so much more than he deserves. That he will be overlooked b/c he doesn't grasp an idea quite as quickly, that his quirks and tendencies that we find so special will be a joke to others.
In my short experience, this is by far the most difficult part of parenting. Letting them loose into a scary, judgmental world.
There was a day a few weeks ago when I was reading my Bible and asking God for the millionth time "why?". I'd started to pray that He would use Eli's autism to bring glory to Himself, instead of taking it away. I felt like a liar when I prayed it. I said the words b/c I felt like I needed to move on, but my heart wasn't in them. As I sat there it occurred to me that I've never had an issue in my life that forced me to go to God for a solution. Generally when difficulties arise, I'd say a quick prayer for guidance, and then go seek out a "practical" solution: I'd see a counselor, take medication, research the issue on the internet… but at this point in Eli's diagnosis we have done everything there is to do. We've made dietary changes, we've had testing, we've gotten the top-of-the-line medical care, we have 3 different therapists 3 times a week… At his last appointment in Baltimore the doctor said "just keep doing what you're doing". For a moment it felt good.
Until the next blank stare.
I guess that I've reached the point where I know that there is nothing I can do but have faith that God has a plan for this diagnosis and for my son's life. I know that he does, and I know that it is far greater than anything I could ever conceive. Writing that still feels discouraging-I'll be honest. Some days I'm 90% there, days like today it's more like 10%. I just have to keep telling myself what my head knows is true despite what my heart feels.
I found this blog a few weeks ago, authored by the mother of an autistic son. It has been a great source of encouragement to me-she is a much better writer than I am, has a much more mature faith, and so much of what she writes sounds like a page out of my life. Anyways, I read this today and wanted to pass it on: not just for anyone struggling with a disabled child, but for parents in general:
I am speaking for moms of autistic children everywhere...... please extend grace to us! Our children may do or say odd things, throw major tantrums at an age you might think is too old, have obsessions that control our lives, or respond to you in a strange way. A child you encounter in the grocery store may appear like any other kid, but you never know what is happening with that child or his family (I'm kinda getting on a soapbox here b/c this can go for anyone). Please offer grace. Instead of staring, offer a silent prayer for that mom or extend a helping hand. Don't grunt in condemnation, jerk your kids away, or (please, please, please definitely do not) offer advice!! I've had people tell me what to do, tell me in so many words that I was a bad mom, and, of course, stare at me or my child.
What a refreshing blessing it has been when people have loved my son for who he is, who have pursued a relationship with him even though he has made it hard, and who have spoken words of encouragement over me! On hard days, I still call to mind specific words people have said concerning Will. If you know someone walking this road, offer them grace in your interactions with them. Oh, and today might be a good day to offer them a word of encouragement. http://www.gracecoversme.com
Lately I'm not sure if "bad" days with the kids are because they are insufferably aggravating...
or b/c I'm halfway through that short-tempered, uncomfortable 3rd trimester.
It was a day peppered with public temper tantrums, disrespectful attitudes, headaches (literal!), and fatigue. A toddler who woke up on the wrong side of the crib and a 4 year old whose already short attention span was nonexistent. I lost my temper in dramatic fashion too many times to count. It was one of those days you look at your kids and ask yourself "Is this what I've poured the last four years of my life into?"
Today I am thankful for Psalms 3:3. For the fact that God's character does not change based on my circumstances. Grateful that He is forgiving and gracious even when I'm not, even when I spend the entire day with an angry heart, hollering at the kids moments after I've asked for forgiveness in prayer.
I'm thankful too for these words I read this morning: Don't think this: I can't do this thing called ________. I'm not a good _________. Think this: I am not adequate, but God has given me the Holy Spirit, who empowers me and makes me adequate for what God calls me to do. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency (competency, adequacy) is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant. 2 Corinthians 3:5-6
Isn't it a weird relief to know that you CAN'T do it alone? And that that's ok?
In the midst of the fury, I excused myself and took a short walk to the mailbox for some fresh air. Inside was a large manilla envelope from Social Services.
Of all the days.
You know what else I'm super thankful for? Bedtime. Also known as a "Do over". Tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it.
Church's big AWANA kick off event is going to Brookedale Farms for a night for hot dogs, hayrides, and other fall-ish things.
The main attraction at Brookedale is the FREE playground area- not the hayride or corn maze that you actually pay for. In their defense, it IS a pretty impressive playground.
He's hardcore- and partially responsible for most of the corn on the ground behind him :)
We tore them away from the fun for a 10 minute hayride around the pumpkin patch... which was fun, but not AS fun. Sitting still never is.
I love this little town we live in for its emphasis on the simple pleasures in life. Sometimes (weekly?) I long for a Target strip mall, but our community tries hard to keep developers from changing much- and mostly I'm ok with that.