One minute your little girl is knocking over bookshelves, breaking priceless souvenirs, throwing rocks at Scrooge on tv, writing on walls, putting pop tarts into the VCR, serenading the neighbors as they stroll past your front porch, trying to defy gravity, writing stories that don’t make sense, reading encyclopedias to get out of cleaning her room, reading books thicker than her arm, breaking lamps with her imaginary friends, performing lion king in a bathing suit and a scarf, wearing underwear on her head, and asking endless awkward questions in her endless pursuit of knowledge…
.. and the next minute you are dropping her off at college.. Wondering what kind of trouble she can get into there.. 😳😳😳😳
Seriously love this girl of mine… And so stinking proud..
The thought of not hearing her practice her operettas in the shower EVERYDAY? It almost makes me miss the times she used whole bottles of conditioner in her bath time experiments..
Actually I don’t… I don’t wish that time back.. I enjoyed it all while it happened..
But I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this magnificent blessing God entrusted to me..
While I was pregnant with my first child.. my strong willed daughter.. we could not decide on a name. So my husband and I struck a deal..
When our daughter was born.. If she looked like a “princess” then we would name her “Sabrina” ..
..and if she looked like a “little ruler” we would name her “Ryanne”..
Lol.. Then I prayed to God He would send her into the world boisterous and crying..
When that moment came? The moment I laid eyes on my girl? I had been awake for 40 hours.. And in labor for 28 hours..
FYI .. They call it labor because it is REALLY hard work..
Someone placed that beautiful baby in my arms..
Well? She stared right back at me. Her eyes were wide open .. and so curious. She was taking in the world around her without saying a word.
When her Daddy commented on something? She turned her head toward him and listened. When I laughed at her serious expression..? Well.. then she turned back to me.
The nurse commented that she had never seen such an alert baby.. And our girl turned toward her and listened carefully.
We quickly decided that her serene and graceful personality was more fitting of a “princess”.. And her birth certificate was filled out..
The last 18 years have sped by so quickly.. But she has remained much the same.. Always looking at the world around her with her eyes wide open… Curious and alert.. Learning as much as she could.. Holding her eyes so wide, as if she could soak in knowledge faster that way..
Lol.. But she also learned to express her opinion.. And negotiate..
Soon? Yup.. Her father and I wondered if we should have named her “little ruler”..
Recently I looked up “Ryanne” again.. Wanting to use it in a new book series.. And I realized the technical meaning was “a feminine version of Ryan”.. And Ryan means “little King”..
So Ryanne would mean “little queen”.. A mature and educated ruler..
Hmm.. So my husband had chose to name our daughter EITHER a queen OR a princess? Both of these names mean a natural leader..
And a leader she is.. An educated, empathetic, observant leader..
Maybe we should encourage her to run for President.. We could use more leaders like her..
But my little princess has dreams of her own.. And she will go on being a leader in her own world.. Clearing her own path..
We never saved money for my daughter’s college.. We started to, but then…?
Well.. then life happened.
As I was pulling pictures for my daughter’s open house last week.. I saw snapshots of that life …
First there were gymnastics classes and dance.. To give her socialization skills.
Then it was off to preschool .. To give her a headstart in school.. After all, she was already so smart.
Then came trips to museums and zoos.. Nature centers..
As her desire to perform evolved.. We added Performing Arts camps and classes..
Add in piano lessons, Girl Scout camps.. Community college Musical opportunities..
Yup.. Pretty soon her college fund was history..
But that isn’t the end of her pictures..
No sir-ee.. Then comes to the cross country trips that my husband and I took our kids on..
To New York to see family.. And to see Niagara Falls..
To California to see family.. and a quick stop at the Grand Canyon..
As we added each new state to our map of “places”? Yup.. More pictures.. Each picture brought a smile to my face.. Remembering the adventures .. the life lessons.. the laughter and smiles..
Along the way…?
Along the way paying for college became less of a priority.. and preparing her for life took its place.
Now don’t get me wrong.. We have always TALKED about college.. and her future. That part was never a question. With her reading before Kindergarten? It was just a given..
The only thing that changed was our focus on saving money FOR her future.. instead of PREPARING her for that future.
What we didn’t realize in making this subconscious shift?
Our daughter has lived a very full. And she learned to live IN TODAY.. although the while working hard toward her future. She enjoys her life where ever she is.. Whether it’s tutoring.. or creating a set.. babysitting twins.. or swimming in the moonlight.. she always has a smile on her face.
Even (occasionally) she will smile while doing dishes.. (hey.. she is human after all)…
So today when I look at my daughter .. and realize that soon she will have student loans..
..and I know that we (her father & I) can’t prevent that…
I realize that .. with those student loans?
She will also have memories of moonlit kayak rides, kayak adventures to find hidden islands, cousin sleep overs (aka stay up overs), many hide n seek adventures in the dark, science experiments growing what’s in our mouth (yuck), science experiments with coke and Mentos, reading millions of books, watching “books” we have read come ALIVE at the movie theaters, doing chores, earning her own money, getting pets, saying good-bye to pets, taking 30 hour driving trips to see cousins, seeing beautiful landmarks in our country, welcoming exchange sisters into our lives, sharing a room with someone you don’t know LONG enough to know them by heart, having to hug those exchange sisters good-bye at airports, art lessons, piano lessons, acting lessons, voice lessons, summer camps, theatre camps, family camps, swimming in waterfalls, getting leaches, putting band-aids on little ones, having surgeries, playing board games all night, designing her own prom dresses, learning how to eat gluten free, saving money for Disney World, going to Disney World, learning how to drive, making her first solo trip, being center stage in the spot light, being backstage supporting someone else’s spotlight, singing songs on stage, singing her grandpa’s favorite song around the campfire,
As I tried to find the perfect 500 word excerpt from Shadows this morning, I consulted my daughters… They quickly listed off a couple samples.. but I still couldn’t decide…
So I thought I would ask you..
Which section would make YOU more likely to download a copy of Shadows?
!The first Sample!
“I can’t believe my luck. Sure was happy to see ya walk past my horse. I was jest leavin’ town myself. Now I can escort ya home,” the stranger continued happily.
“You’ll hafta excuse me, sir, I must be hurryin’. My Da will be expectin’ me ta have dinner ready soon,” Emma stated.
“Well then, we musn’t keep him waitin’,” he replied. There was a chuckle behind her. The fair haired gentleman smiled in response to his friend’s laughter. “I’ll come along with ya. Ya can introduce me, so I can git permission ta call on ya. Official like. We can git our courtin’ started today.”
“I believe ya misunderstood me, sir,” Emma replied appalled.
“Misunderstood? Na, I think not. I see that ya waited fer me outside of town, so that we could walk together without all those busybodies watchin’ us and interuptin’.” Smiling, the man reached for her arm. Emma stepped back and bumped into the horse behind her. Feeling panic well up within her, she looked around for help and was amazed to see a pair of stormy eyes walking towards her.
From behind, Emma heard the man on the horse cleared his throat in warning. The fair haired gentleman stiffened in irritation as he turned towards the approaching man, demanding, “What do ya want now?”
Emma could not take her eyes off the approaching help, even though she knew it was rude to stare. The gray eyed man did not look away from her as he answered, “When this young lady fergot ta bring me my coffee before she left town, I started in ta worryin’.”
Looking down into her basket, Emma realized that she had indeed purchased the tin of coffee the man had intended only as a distraction. “I fergot,” she said weakly, trying to figure out why he would want the coffee she accidentally purchased.
Coming to stop a few steps from Emma, the gray eyed man smiled at her. “Ya steal a man’s heart and then ya steal his coffee, darlin’?” He winked at her. “Ya go too far.” The smile that touched his mouth, did not reach his stormy eyes. They tried to convey a meaning to her. A meaning that Emma could not quite grasp. “Ya shoulda waited fer me ta walk with ya. I’ve been wantin’ ta speak with yer Pa,” he paused briefly before continuing, “before the weddin’.”
Gasping as his plan dawned on her, Emma ducked around the fair haired gentleman and reached for her rescuer’s arm. He weaved her hand around his tense elbow and held it there. Wanting to look convincing in her new role, she desperately tried to remember how Abigail had looked at her David all those months while they were courting. Opening her eyes wide, she batted her eyelashes. “Oh do forgive me darling,” she said, attempting to mimic Abigail’s sugary tone. She hoped no one would notice how her voice quivered.
!!The second Sample!!
By the time she walked back from the field and made it to the hill by the creek, she had convinced herself that Thane would have left by now. When she arrived, it was indeed vacant. Emma sat down in disappointment, but intent on looking carefree. “Well Mama, it looks as if I brought ya a sandwich.”
“Ya’ve already given my sandwich away?” asked a voice that made her jump guiltily.
“Ah—No, of course not,” Emma replied, willing her heart to slow down. “But I almost dropped it in the water, ya scared me so,” she scolded. Thane sat down a couple paces from Emma. She handed him a sandwich, wrapped in a towel.
Thane took a bite of the sandwich. Looking thoughtful, he asked, “Ya gonna introduce me ta yer Mama?”
Emma looked up at him. She couldn’t decide if he was making fun of her. Finding no hint of teasing in his face, she replied, “Mr. Hawkins meet my Mama, Lilliana Wells. Lily, to those that loved her. Mama, this is Mr. Hawkins.. He’s taken ta savin’ me lately. Even promised ta marry me ta protect me from an ugly mess,” she ended with a smile.
“Pleasure ta meet ya ma’am. Please call me Thane.”
“Mama wants ta know where ya come from that we shouldna know ya already? We thought we knew everyone here in the valley,” Emma asked innocently.
“Well ma’am, I live in those hills,” nodding his head across the creek, “tucked in a valley. I come this way a couple times a year but spend most my time on the trail huntin’ and trappin’.”
“So yer a trapper?” Emma asked between bites.
“Call me Emma –,” she reminded him.
“Beggin yer pardon, ma’am, I thought I was talkin’ ta yer Mama,” he said with a lopsided smile.
She chose to ignore his teasing and looked toward the hills.
“Yer mama seems ta belong in this spot,” Thane observed.
“She does,” she stated simply. “A fever took her and my baby sister ta heaven a few years back.” Her final words were barely above a whisper.
“I’m sorry,” Thane said softly.
Emma blinked back a tear before she looked at him.
“Where is yer sister’s stone?” he asked.
“Isn’t one. She was so small, I couldna bear fer her ta be put by herself. Mama had wanted her so. And Da– well he couldna bear ta name her. So she sleeps in Mama’s arms, here in Mama’s favorite spot.” She waved her arm to indicate the hill top overlooking the little creek. “Da brought this rock here. When he dug it up outta the cornfield – he decided ta roll it here so Mama wouldna have grass stains on all her skirts. She always was sittin’ in the grass. She tried ta make them stop before they hurt themselves. But Da had jest teased how “embarrassed” he was ta have a wife with green dresses. She finally relented then …but wouldna come down here fer weeks,” Emma laughed sadly. “But when she did, she sat on the rock.” She paused, remembering. “She kept one skirt with an especially bad grass mark though. She hung it right in their room. It’s hangin’ there still. Da won’t even let me wash it.” She didn’t notice the tears on her cheeks until Thane handed her his towel.
“What about yer Ma?” Emma asked, trying to lighten the mood as she dried her cheeks. “Will I know her if she’s in town? Or will I have ta wait `til the weddin’?”
Thane looked back towards the hills. “Awhile beyond that, I expect,” he answered softly. “My Ma died when I was young. We went out trappin’ and when we returned.. she was gone.”
“Oh,” Emma replied, not knowing what to say. “How old were ya?”
“Not sure really. Probably 9 winters ago.”
“Ya don’t know how old ya are?” Emma asked incredulously.
Thane shrugged his shoulders. “Pa doesn’t keep track of such things-says they’re nonsense. I stopped askin’.”
Wiping her eyes again, she cleared her throat. “Maybe we should jest start plannin’ our weddin’ before I start cryin’ again.”
**Please Vote in the comments below**
… if you haven’t downloaded Shadows yet.. you should… It’s a bargain at 99 cents..
Once upon a time.. About 13 1/2 years ago.. a little girl (with lots of curls) headed off to her first day of kindergarten.
And like EVERYthing in her life? Yup! She wanted to do it on her own.
She did NOT want me to drive her to school that first day.
She did NOT want me to walk her into her class and help her get settled.
She wanted to ride the bus like EVERYone did..
She wouldn’t even let me hold her hand..
I was a little hurt I guess.. I do make plans in my head.. You know those plans, right? Plans on how to be the best mom..
But neither me nor my husband were suprised that she simply announced she would have none of my plans..
Why? Well you see.. Everything in her life until that point had been the same..
When she was 3 weeks old? She simply refused to let me rock her to sleep anymore. She wanted to be put in her crib so she could go to sleep ON HER OWN..
At 6 months? She clamped her mouth shut.. Refusing to be fed anymore. She wanted to do it ON HER OWN.
Doing puzzles? She would gently move my hand away.. She didn’t want any help.
Now this “on her own” attitude did get her in trouble.. Because it often slipped into.. “Let me do it my way”…
Lol.. Once that attitude had her preschool teacher telling me she’s be better off with younger kids.. My beautiful, smart, strong willed girl…. was demoted to a younger class..
.. and well? Let’s just say her ballet teacher was so relieved when we moved to Missouri before recital.. I guess having my girl “co-teach” the class (only when she felt the teacher was being boring) wasn’t as fun as it sounded..
Sigh.. Honestly I knew how the dance teacher felt.. I wondered often why my daughter couldn’t just do it my way FOR ONCE..
Last night my daughter gave a speech at graduation.. as Valedictorian. That same stubborn pride.. The same frustrating determination to do things her own way.. ??
It would keep my daughter up until the WEE hours of the morning doing homework after a long night of Musical practice.
It would have my daughter going the extra distance to do a project the way she wanted.. Which was often more than her teacher had asked for.
Yes .. My daughter’s determination to do things ON HER OWN and in her OWN WAY.. is the very reason she made it to the top of her class ..
So even when I retell stories of her childhood around the fire.. Tales of her stubbornness and the frustration I had endured… And laughing until I have tears in my eyes..
.. Even when I act like it was awful.. I am actually so very proud of the young lady she has become…
.. and I don’t really worry about her future.. I know she will get there ON HER OWN timing and in her own way..
Luckily I have God in our corner.. Watching out for her along the way.. because it’s going to be great.
I don’t write about my daughter a lot.. Probably because I prefer to tell her tales of “terror” around the campfire … Where we can all laugh until we cry..
You see? The “legal adult” you all see before you? The beautiful, polite, smart, sweet, politically correct, top scholar? She was once a beautiful, smart, sassy, stubborn, strong willed, test-every-rule kind of girl…
I was so glad she out grew that Last year…
All kidding aside? She has always been a great kid to raise.. (Except that time when she accused a kind old gentleman of trying to kidnap her.. Or the time she tipped the bookshelf over.. Sigh.. Or the time she screamed in the store bathroom that the dinosaurs were going to eat her.. Sigh.. Or the time she dumped all the shampoo, conditioner and body soap into the bathwater as an “experiment”… )
Ok .. Ok.. There were times that I questioned my ability to parent this child successfully..
And I think THAT is one of the reasons I don’t write about my daughter as much as my son..
I made a ton of mistakes..
One of the worst was the day my daughter told me she KNEW she wasn’t pretty..
Frustrated I asked her how she could KNOW that she wasn’t..
She stated (very matter-of-factly).. “Because YOU have never told me that I was pretty. Everyone knows that mothers ALWAYS think their children are beautiful no MATTER what .. So if my own mother doesn’t tell me I’m pretty.. Then I must be pretty ugly.”
I remember my world froze in that moment..
After a moment of silence, my daughter shrugged her shoulders like the whole thing was no big deal..
… it WAS a big deal to me..
But it was also true..
Why wouldn’t I tell my daughter she was beautiful?
Well… This world is so hung up on our girls BEING beautiful.. That I wanted to emphasize everything that was below the surface with my girl.. Her intelligence.. Her kindness.. Her empathic heart.. Her natural leadership .. Her imagination…
I wanted her to like who she WAS on the inside no matter what her outside looked like..
I was too intent on keeping her confident, humble and successful… And kind..
But in that moment I knew I had failed..
Every child likes to feel cherished by their mother.. And I had not given that need a thought..
So with tears in my heart (and in my eyes), I told her I thought she was the most beautiful girl .. And that I also thought she was beautiful for the girl she IS on the inside.. I explained that I hadn’t told her she was beautiful because I didn’t want her to think Beauty was the most important thing..
I told her I made a mistake.. That I should have told her both..
And then I hugged that beautiful girl to me..
I don’t know why God trusted me with this strong willed, stubborn, beautiful girl to raise..
I have often been asked what I have planned for my son’s future. I always smile and reply “He wants to be a farmer..”
Most of the time people smile in return ..
But sometimes there is an awkward silence and the inevitable.. “Do you really think he will be able to work? To hold down a real job?”
Yes I do!
And no I am not offended by this question..
You see? While my son has Autism (and a splash of bipolar).. His disabilities don’t own him. Simon is his own person and he knows what he wants.. He has known since he was 4.
You may think Simon grew up in a farming community and THAT is why he wants to be a farmer. That he knows no difference.. Well THERE you would be mistaken. Our Simon grew up in a city from age 3 to 13..
Yup his love for farming seems to have been destined for him.
So what did his father and I do? Well? We moved to a farming community back home in Michigan.
Most people question our Sy’s ability to hold down a job because of his behaviors at school.. Freezing in doorways, anxiety over homework, refusals to take tests at times.. And wanting to go home.
But you see? At school?
At school, Simon knows he is behind his peers.. School work is hard… He doesn’t understand test questions because of the wording.. And sometimes (even IF he did understand them) he doesn’t know what they are asking.. He KNOWS he is built inadequate for school..
Yet you will see Simon get up every day and force himself to try to go to school. He can be close to tears in frustration over homework.. And yet he is one to INSIST he finish.. He pushes through anxiety, confusion and what ever distractions are around him (or distractions going on in his own head) to SUCCESS on the other side.
That sounds like a job to me…
At home, Simon is different. At home he is confident, creative, helpful.. He washes his own laundry, washes dishes, cooks whole meals, cleans the house, does chores, builds with his dad..
He does an amazing job!!
Not “pretty amazing” for a kid with autism..
JUST pretty amazing for a 17 year old.. Because he does it exactly the way I do.. (Or the way his dad does).. Exactly the way he was taught..
Then? Then he adds a slash of creativity.
This week, I woke my son to face another hard day at school. As I rubbed his back and talked about his day.. I told him I was going to teach him to drive our lawn mower after school.
He sat straight up in bed and wiped the sleep from his eyes. “What did you say?”
Smiling, I repeated that I thought he was old enough to learn to drive the lawn tractor to mow the lawn.
The smile on his face made my heart happy..
He quickly got ready for his day.. Was still a little grumpy with his sister.. But went to school easily..
AFTER school? Well after school he quickly changed into his farmer hat and overalls, his John Deere shirt with long sleeves and farmer boots..
And our lessons began..
I admit I get nervous with vehicles.. The same nervousness I got when I taught my daughter to drive ..
I ran from one side of the lawn mower to the other .. Pointing out how FAR the mower deck sticks out.. How to slow down.. How to stop.. How to speed up a little.. How to crank the wheel so you don’t crash..
The first 5 mins were nerve racking for me.. Because he learns best by doing.. So at a snail’s pace and yelling over the motor and earplugs.. I gave him on-the-go lessons..
And then he was off.. One circle around the yard and I moved the mower one notch faster.. He watched how I did that too…
He looked for cars when he circled up into the road.. Kept the mower in a straight line.. He mowed next to the first stripe perfectly (or circled back to fix it.. Mowed around baby trees and big trees.. Power poles and ditches..
By the 3rd circle of the yard, I stopped following him.. He no longer needed me.
After 4 hours? He was up to full speed (by his own choice) and the yard was flawless..
Not “pretty good” for a boy with autism..
Not “pretty good” for his first time..
It was pretty awesome.. No missed spots.. Straight lines..
In fact? My husband said he had to weed whack far less than when I mow..
I am not offended by that.. Just really proud..
But I am not surprised.. He always throws himself into his work.. And doesn’t stop until the work is done.. And done well..
We could use more workers like that in the world..
So YES… I think Simon will keep a job and support himself..
And yes, he will need support to start new adventures and to get through difficult situations.. Like doctor offices.. paperwork.. And paying bills..
But he will make it.. And it’s going to be amazing..
Not amazing for a kid with Autism..
Just plain amazing ..
But you don’t have to take my word for it.. Stick around ..
Ok.. I know he has Special needs.. With Autism and a Mood disorder ? I’m not in denial.
But sometimes? Sometimes I think my boy has things figured out better than I do..
You see? When my son is stressed? He takes himself off alone and does something he enjoys until he calms down. Most often that “something” is a campfire. He can sit for hours just watching the flames dancing in the fire pit. And with a content smile on his face, he will call out to me.. “Come sit..”…
But usually? Usually I am too busy.. Getting dinner around or cleaning it up afterward.. or there are emails to answer… book promoting tweets to copy and paste… research to search for… schedules to plan for..
Yes I know… it doesn’t sound like much.. but it seems like there is always something that needs to be done.
Last week I was sick.. and so tired. So I just sat down.. and read a book. NOT skimmed through a book.. but slowly read each page and enjoyed it. Slowly fell in love with each character.. resisted the urge to read the last page… read every descriptive word…
Refreshing… and I was oh so calm.
So why is it that we give up “refreshments” as moms? or even just as adults? Why do I feel like I have to sacrifice my favorite things to be a good adult? I was able to DO so much more that following day because I was content and clear minded…
So maybe my son does have special needs… but I still learn so much from him.
At Easter we find ourselves celebrating with Eggs..
Colorful delicious Easter Eggs.. And sometimes chocolate eggs..
What do eggs REALLY have to do with God sending His Son to die for our sins? To pay for our pride, our envy.. Our jealousies.. Our gossips.. Our judging.. And our other sins we hope no one knows about..??
Well the Egg represents the New Life we find in Jesus .. WHEN we accept that sacrifice He made for us..
We make them colorful to represent that Blessings can make our lives so colorful .. WHEN we follow Jesus…
And chocolate eggs represent.?? That life can be so sweet.. WHEN we have Jesus..
So this weekend as you see Easter Eggs everywhere you go? Let us remember that they represent New Life with Jesus…
Happy Easter All.. And may God’s Love fill you this celebrated weekend..
Everything sounds better with the echo of a still small voice.