The End of the World??

December 13, 2012

“Mom, mom! Look what I made in computer class today!”  Emma said excitedly as she burst in the house after school. 

It was a calendar for the month of December and she proudly showed me how she had even added special dates to the calendar to personalize it. I looked over the calendar and was impressed with her hard work but then I noticed one small error.

“You did a wonderful job Emma, but right here where you have Dad’s birthday it’s on the wrong day. His birthday is on December 22nd, but you have it down on the 21st.”

She came over to take a closer look and then smiled and said, “Oh, that’s right! The 21st is the end of the world!  Dad’s birthday is on the 22nd, and Christmas is on the 25th.  I guess I’ll need to fix that because we all know the end of the world is before Dad’s birthday this year.”

We were both laughing when Ethan came in the room and asked what was so funny. I showed him Emma’s calendar and after a quick review he caught the error and said, “I made a calendar like this in computer class too. Yours is wrong though, because Dad’s birthday is on the 22nd.” 

Ethan reached in his pocket and took out a little square of paper that had been folded in half 3 or 4 times.  “Here’s my calendar” he said as he unfolded the paper square. “See, Dad’s birthday is on the 22nd.”

“Yeah, that’s what mom reminded me.”  Emma said as she continued to look over his calendar. “Wow, you even remembered to put the end of the world on your calendar. Great job Ethan!” 

I glanced at Ethan’s calendar and sure enough, on the 21st he had written “End of the world??”

Now before you start thinking that Dwight and I are crazy for letting our kids believe the world is going to end a week from today I need to explain that this has been a family joke for the past few months since Dwight’s birthday is one day after the end of the Mayan calendar. Back in late October the twins heard about the Mayan calendar ending on 12/21/12 and the speculation by some that it would be the end of world.

“What! The world is going to end on December 21st?” Dwight played along, “Of course! That’s just my luck! The world is going to end on the 21st and my birthday is the 22nd!  Well, I guess there is no need to buy me a birthday present!”    

The kids all know that 12/21/12 will come and go and will be just another day on the calendar. They know that life will go on as normal (well, as “normal” as life can be with four kids) and we will still get to enjoy cake and ice cream on their father’s birthday.

August 2012 042That reminds me … I need to get going on making that happen.   Note to self: buy Dwight’s birthday present this weekend and don’t forget to order the birthday cake!

My Mom and I

I have always admired my Mom and when I was a little girl I remember saying “I want to grow up to be just like my mom”. I wanted to be a teacher because my Mom was a teacher.  I wanted to have three kids because my Mom had three kids. Although I didn’t grow up to be EXACTLY like my Mom I did learn everything I needed to know about life and motherhood from her. 

Motherhood is scary because no matter what age you become a mother you feel like you are never really prepared or trained to take on this awesome responsibility.  I remember bringing my first son, Drew, home from the hospital.  Dwight and I drove home with little, baby Drew in the back of the car and I kept thinking, “Why did they let us take this baby home? We don’t have any idea what we are doing!  Are we really qualified to be parents?”  There are no special classes on how to be a good Mom. They have classes on how to give birth, but what happens after the baby has arrived? How do you know if you are ‘doing it right’?  

I’m sure my Mom probably had these same fears while raising my brother, my sister and I.  I’m sure she had the same insecurities that I have and I’m sure she questioned some of her parenting decisions too.  However, she always made it look so easy and as a child I only saw perfection.  I don’t remember the house being dirty or her yelling at me. I don’t remember her struggling to balance the demands of working, raising three kids and being a pastor’s wife. I only have happy memories : Memories of having tea parties and playing school with my Mom.  Memories of my Mom using sheets and dining room table chairs to build tents in the living room for us to play in.  I have always felt lucky to have such a wonderful mom.  I only hope that my kids will have the same happy memories of their childhood and that they will forget about the times I have lost my patience and yelled at them. I hope that they won’t remember how messy the house was or all the times I forgot important things (like picking them up from school or feeding them dinner).

Ethan asked me the other day, “Did you have to go to a special school to learn to be a Mommy?”  I laughed and said, “No, they don’t really have classes for that. It’s more of a ‘learn as you go’ type job.”   The only “teacher” I had for Mommy 101 was my Mom and she has taught me everything I needed to know.  

Not only did she teach me about being a Mom but she also taught me several other important lessons about life.

If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well  – My mom has always been a very hard worker and she takes great pride in her work, both inside and outside our home. She taught me to always do my best and taught me to have a good work ethic.

J.O.Y (Jesus, Others,Yourself) – My mom taught me that to have true Joy in life you need to think of Jesus first, then Others and then Yourself.  If you think of yourself and your needs before you think of Jesus and Others then you will never find the Joy and happiness that life has for you.

Money can’t buy happiness – My mom taught me that you can have a lot of fun without spending a lot of money.  We didn’t  have expensive cars, brand-name clothes or take lavish vacations. Many of my favorite childhood memories were ones that were FREE (playing Monopoly, eating popcorn or ice cream together around the fireplace, swimming or taking hikes in the mountains).

Family Time is important (and fun) – My mom always sacrificed time and energy to make sure we were taken care of.  She always made time to spend with us and made spending time with her fun.  Even when I was a teenager I loved hanging out with my family and I NEVER thought my parents were “un-cool” or too embarrassing to be seen with.

It’s not always WHAT you say, but HOW you say it – My mom taught me that the “tone of your voice” can make a big difference in how what you say is interpreted by another person.  Use caution because a harsh tone, negative body language and other non-verbal cues will dictate how what you say is heard by others.

The hunt for the bargain is what makes shopping fun – I have always loved shopping with my mom and before I could even read my mom would find me picking up price tags and looking at them as she pushed me in my stroller through the aisles at the store.  She taught me that there is nothing quite like that thrill of finding a great sale at your favorite store or even a garage sale full of bargains too good to pass up!

The journey is part of the gift – My mom was always very creative and thoughtful.  The gifts I receive from her mean a lot to me because of the thought she put into what to give me and the time and energy she often put into making the gift special and personalized for me.  This taught me to do the same for others. It not only makes the recipient of the gift feel special, but it makes the gift even that much more fun to give!

Three Generations of Mothers

When I was born my Mom had some serious complications and almost died.  I am so glad that God decided it wasn’t her time to leave this earth because I can’t imagine growing up without her.  My Mom has always been there for me and I know that I can call her any time, day or night, and she will drop everything and rush right over to help.  She has taught me more about motherhood and raising children then I could ever learn in a parenting book or class. 

I love you Mom  ~ Happy Mother’s Day !!

Miracles Come in All Sizes

January 10, 2011

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is though nothing is a miracle. The other is though everything is a miracle.” ~ Albert Einstein

Having a child with Autism has tested my faith and my relationship with God.  I have had to try and continue to have faith that God hears my prayers even though he has not answered them (or at least answered them the way I want him to).  Eight years ago my husband Dwight and I had two children, Drew (who was 5) and Caleb (who was 1) and we had just learned that we were expecting twins. This was a big shock and our lives were turned upside down.    In January of 2003, after being on bed rest for a month the twins, Emma and Ethan, were born – one month early.  The first few months of sleepless nights, endless loads of laundry and diaper changes were all a blur.  To add to the stress during this hectic period in our lives, Dwight and I started noticing changes in our middle son, Caleb’s, behavior and development.  He was not talking like he used to and he began to withdraw and became very destructive.  At first we just thought it was regression caused by his adjustment to the pregnancy and birth of the twins.  After all, Caleb had been the baby of the family and now there were two new babies taking all of the time of attention of his parents and grandparents. 

We tried putting Caleb in speech therapy through an early intervention program to see if that would help. After a year of speech therapy and very little progress we decided to have him evaluated again by our pediatrician.   After her evaluation she sat Dwight and I down and broke the news that from everything we had told her about Caleb’s behavior and his regression in speech and communication, it was very likely that Caleb had Autism.  She referred us to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis where they had a special center for diagnosing and treating children with Autism.  As I looked over at our sweet, blonde-haired, blue eyed little boy, who was quietly spinning around in circles in the corner of the room I couldn’t help but ask the question, “Why would God let something like this happen?”

Of course my first reaction to Caleb’s diagnosis was denial.  There is no way my child has Autism.  He’ll grow out of this ‘destructive phase’.  He’ll go back to being the happy, cheerful and social little boy he was.   He’ll start talking again and everything will be back to normal.  I started reading and researching everything I could on Autism. I read books and looked up experiences of other parents on the Internet. Google became my new best friend and I spent endless hours (mostly in the middle of the night since my days were filled with raising four children) and tried to find a miracle cure to bring back my little boy.

I would also pray every day that God would heal Caleb. I prayed that he would have the miraculous reactions to some of the treatments we tried as I had read that other children had.  There were many parents that claimed they gave their child B-12 shots, vitamin supplements or put them on a gluten-free diet and the child just woke up one morning and was talking and all the behavioral problems were gone.  They claimed that their children had been cured from Autism and that is what I wanted. So I chased every rainbow, trying treatment after treatment and praying to God, begging him to make Caleb “normal” again. 

As the months passed I went through many emotions. I was mad at God, mad at myself, mad at these people who gave me false hope in the treatments that they claimed would cure my son.  I felt overwhelming guilt. Was it something I did when I was pregnant that caused this?  Is it because I am a bad mom? What am I doing wrong? Why are other Autistic kids being “healed” but not Caleb?  I would read stories of other parents that told of how they had recovered their children from Autism and I had done all the things they had.   It just depressed me to read these stories and I kept asking God, “Why won’t you heal my son?”

I wanted the BIG miracle but as I continued praying and listening to God I began to realize that maybe God’s plan was not the same as mine.  I started to notice little glimpses of hope that God was working in Caleb’s life in small, yet amazing ways.  Some of the things we noticed would really not seem that amazing to most parents, but to us they were nothing short of a miracle. Little glimpses into Caleb’s world that let us know that God was there and he did hear our prayers.  Every time my fear and discouragement started to overwhelm my faith God would send one of these small miracles to remind me that he had a plan.

One night when Caleb was taking a bath and playing with his foam letters I noticed him lining up letters like he was trying to spell something. I saw he had a “C”, an “E” and an “A” and thought maybe he was trying to spell his name. I was so excited because I knew they had been working on writing their names at the special needs preschool he was attending.  I continued to watch as he lined the letters up trying to figure out what he was spelling.  “ICE AGF” was what he had spelled out.  I didn’t recognize it at first, but when I did my excitement level climbed leaps and bounds above where it had been when I thought he was spelling his name.  He had spelled out the title of his favorite movie “ICE AGE” and since there was only one “E” in the foam letter set he had used the “F” for the second “E”.  Not only did this mean he knew how to spell the title of the movie, but he also had great problem solving skills for a 4 year old!  This small miracle led to other miracles in communication as he went onto spell other words he learned from his movies and DVD’s. He started with words like “Lighting”, “Effects” and “Production” and then moved on to spell longer words and longer phrases.  Next, he began spelling words he could use to communicate his wants and needs like “drink”, “cracker” and “play”.  We still have magnetic letters on our fridge so he can use those to communicate if we can’t understand what he is trying to tell us. 

Several months later we were potty training Emma and Ethan and were blessed with another small miracle.  Caleb came into the family room where the twins were playing and he pulled out the waistband of Ethan’s pants and looked down his pants to see his underwear. He then pulled out his own waistband and saw his diaper.  He immediately took off his pants and his diaper and pointed to Ethan’s underwear.  I said to Caleb, “Do you want to wear big boy underwear like Ethan?”  Caleb didn’t reply in words, but he got very excited and started jumping up and down and squealing with delight.  “OK, I told him, but that means you have to go potty in the toilet like a big boy.”  I gave him a pair of underwear and within less than a week he was potty trained.  This was a big surprise because I had been trying to potty train Caleb for over a year and he had shown no interest at all.  I had read that potty training children with Autism is very challenging and sometimes next to impossible.  I was so thankful for the miracle that Caleb was able to cross this milestone with such ease. I was also amazed that it was possible because of the miracle that Caleb had noticed Emma and Ethan were potty trained.  Caleb had become withdrawn and would retreat into his own little world where he didn’t really pay attention or care about what others around him were doing.  This was the first small miracle of many where God showed us that Caleb was starting to notice the world around him and that he wanted to be a part of it.

Caleb has overcome so many obstacles and made wonderful progress over the past few years.   He is mainstreamed into a Third Grade class with an aide and is learning academic and social skills from the other children in the classroom. He has a wonderful teacher, aide and support system at school and also an excellent team of therapists that he works with two days a week to help him with speech and sensory issues.  I am so glad that we did not lose faith just because God did not give us the big miracle that we were praying for.   When we have faith in God’s plan and we let him take control, wonderful things happen.

(This is part of a blog hop for Women of Faith.  Click here to view other Women of Faith Talk Back entires)