Un-plan.. 

Some of the best things in my life were unplanned …

Don’t get me wrong.. Some of the things I PLANNED for are pretty amazing .. I planned to have kids.. and they are the joys of my life.. 

.. but the sunflower that popped up out of nowhere is gorgeous… the wildflowers that are growing wild in my flowerbeds are more colorful and healthy than the ones I planted … the detoured road I drove on today caused me to look around instead of driving on autopilot.. the car repairs that gave me a chance to have lunch with my parents.. the exchange students I didn’t plan to “host” are a part of my heart.. the theatre kids I didn’t plan on directing are a huge part of my life.. 

I am a very spontaneous person.. 

..it’s true…

It took me a lot of years to Grow up enough to come up with plans.. make plans.. make budgets.. 

Years of reform.. 

.. and I am mostly proud of myself.. 

But there is something so beautiful about surprises in your life.. finding the unexpected… and enjoying the unplanned Blessings  in your life.. 

.. so next time Life throws you something unexpected? Look up.. look out.. and take a moment to appreciate it.. Pause before you pull that wildflower.. wonder what’s down the detoured road.. 

.. and plan time for the Un-Plans… 

Growing.. 

A little over a week ago, I took my exchange daughter to the airport. It’s always hard to say “see you later” to these girls. They truly become a part of my heart during the time that they stay with me. 

But this last daughter was something that I didn’t expect. She was something I didn’t even know I needed. 

She helped me grow. 

Yes .. yes.. I know.. I should be done growing. 

But I’m not.. and honestly I doubt I ever will be. 

And today? Today I am so glad that she was a part of my year. I’m glad she taught me to live in the moment.. and to love myself.. and to remember what is truly important.. 

I can’t wait to hug her again.. but she is a part of my heart everyday from now until I do!!! 

I love you Başak.. today and always… and I am EVER so thankful that God led you to my door.

Too many hats…

Growing up, I was really close to my Dad. (I still am.) We talked about everything.. but I only remember him yelling at me once. 

Now don’t get me wrong.. I wasn’t a perfect kid.. so there were many times that he was disappointed in me.. and many times that he corrected me. 

But he only yelled at me once. 

It was my senior year, and I changed my college plans at least 5 times .. and my majors even more. And when I changed to a completely different field of study, my dad told me I was going to have to make a decision. And then he said something I will never forget.. “You have so many interests that you divide your energy too many ways.. and you will NEVER succeed at any of them.”

Wow did that hurt… 

At the time? Yeah.. at the time I was mad .. and hurt. I mean why would he say something so hurtful. “..NEVER succeed..?”

Well??  I see what my dad was talking about …now…

I have always had a lot of interests. And I mean.. A LOT!! I volunteer for everything… and I never ask anyone to do something I could do myself.. 

But… 

I get really tired. 

These days, I call these interests my “hats”.. 

There is my Mom Hat.. the one I wear whenever my kids are my biggest priority.. Chaperoning, rides to school, panicked calls from college kids, help with homework.. baking cookies… 

I have 2 kids of my own.. and I have had 4 exchange students call me “Mom”… the most amazing of all my interests! These kids amaze me. 

My Wife Hat.. (kinda self explanatory) 

The Aunt Hat.. closely related to the Mom Hat.. the Aunt Hat is a nurturing Hat but in a fun way. These 17 nieces and nephews are blessings to my life .. and I love to put my Aunt Hat on and invite them all over for Cousin weekends. Hide and seek in the dark, swimming at midnight, shaving cream paintings, watching movies until dawn.. I wouldn’t miss this.. 

House Elf Hat.. All things having to do with the house.. There is the typical cleaning.. then canning veggies… making jams.. baking bread… caring for the birds.. gathering the eggs .. haircuts.. pool cleaning.. it seems like the House Elf Hat is always on.. 

Then there is my Author Hat, my Director Hat, my Exchange Student Coordinator Hat, my International Club Hat, and my Substitute teacher Hat.. my Research Hat.. OH .. and My Creative Hat..

I could go on and on.. 

And I realized my dad was right.. 

I am not really a success at any of them. I do not focus ALL my energy in any ONE direction.. and as a result everything is mediocre. 

So this LAST year? 

I tried to put some Hats away.. I put my Author Hat away during Musical season… I put my Director Hat away during off seasons.. I don’t take the Substitute teacher Hat home with me. I don’t even think about my Creative Hat .. most of the time.. 

But still I find myself not giving my “all” to the things that are important.. because my interests are still divided .. 

So I am going to take this next year to put away Hats I can’t wear anymore.. and it will be hard  (because I love ALL the jobs I do).. 

…but if I want to make a difference in the world?? (And I know I do..)

I think I need to finally take my dad’s advice. 

A new day.. 

Raising ANY kid poses its own challenges.. but raising a child with Autism (and a side of mood disorder)? 

Yeah… we’ve had some rough days .. 

…ok.. a lot of rough days … Days that I never want to go back to. New meds, withdrawling from meds, NO meds, no sleep…

… I could go on and on…

It was never hard for me to forgive my son for his bad days.. but it was hard for HIM to forgive HIMSELF.. 

So early on? We started telling him, “That was yesterday buddy.. TODAY is a new day.. today is going to be a good day!”

If he had a bad day and we had to take away his TV or his computer privileges? It ended when he went to sleep… 

Everything reset with the morning .. 

Luckily for us? We have had amazing support at the schools we have attended. They have maintained this “new day” policy with him through out his school career. Always forgiving him for bad days and moving forward. Sometimes easier than I could have…

Today as I watched him walk confidently into the school..? I think about how he is counting down the days until he will be a senior. And I think back to when he could barely get through a school day.. 

…there were days I thought we would never get to this level of independence.. this level of confidence.. 

..but in the morning when the sun would rise.. so would my faith that good things were going to happen.. 

When the sun rose this morning, it was such a sight. And I am filled with the promise that Today IS a good day.. 

I hope you all rejoice and are happy in it.. 

Celebrating…

What a fabulous day!!

FIRST? First we woke up late because we all slept through our alarms (hey… it was a great dream) … I barely made myself look presentable for public.. then we all rushed through our morning.. I made a boring lunch for Sy.. rushed everyone out the door and then a bus was parked at the entrance of the school.. 

And SIMON WENT to school… 

Like he physically (and calmly.. I might add) walked IN TO the school with not more than a cross look at the bus in our way (that he deems a “muddy mudslide” that’s in our way).. 

Some of you may wonder if I am serious to be celebrating such a “terrible” “mom” moment..?? HaPpY we overslept and I took my kids to school late? 

Haha.. 

I AM serious.. 

This is amazing!!!!

When Simon’s Autism was at its worst and his mood disorder was unstable? Everything had to stay on schedule .. and nothing could be out of order.. or he wouldn’t (couldn’t) have gone to school.. 

So exciting!!!

Maybe tomorrow he will let me stop and take a picture of the sun peaking through the fog on my favorite road.. lol.. 

I guess I shouldn’t press my luck ..

That moment.. 

A million years ago.. ok.. it was more like 7 years ago.. I stood on my own doorstep letting the tears run down my face.. 

Someone had asked me how my son’s appointment had gone for his legs.. 

..it had NOT gone well.. not even close to well… and I could no longer hold my fears in.. or my sorrow .. 

I am a cry-er.. I am not a loud cry-er .. ha.. but neither am I a pretty cry-er .. I do think that I have cried enough tears (in my lifetime) to fill Lake Michigan. Tears of disappointment, tears of sadness.. tear of joy .. and worry.. and often anger.. 

But in that moment? 

In that moment.. I felt so many emotions I couldn’t sort them out. 

Why? 

Well.. what I thought were simple growing pains for my son? Those pains weren’t simple.. and my son needed an emergency surgery. The appointment that I had put off because it wasn’t convenient for my schedule? Putting it off those few days had caused my son to be in prolonged pain.. 

My 10 year old son’s growth plates were too soft to hold up his weight.. he would need a screw to hold that growth plate in place if he wanted to walk.. 

.. and me? I had been too busy trying to balance everything in my hectic life to notice…

.. so in that moment? 

In that moment.. as I let the tears pour down my cheeks..? 

I was so angry .. angry at myself for not seeing how much pain he was in (even if he didn’t complain).. I was so angry that I hadn’t made it a big deal about it when I called the doc for an appointment.. I was so angry that the surgery was going to cause him pain.. 

..  I was worried because.. well? ..worried because it was a surgery.. and worried because my son did not do well with hospitals …

..and disappointed.. 

.. disappointed because nothing in his short life had gone easy .. 

.. and .. I was sad… 

I was always strong.. I always carried my Faith in God’s plan like a Shield.. I always smiled through my tears .. always cheering others on .. 

..but in that moment? 

I couldn’t breathe.. I was broken.. 

..but on the other side of those tears? I picked myself up and trudged through the unknown territory that God had planned for me..for my son.. for our whole family.. 

I have often heard people say that “God will not give you more than you can handle”… I would often laugh and reply that I wish God didn’t have so much faith in me.. 

..but I think that statement is a lie… 

I think that God absolutely gives us more than we can handle.. but NEVER more than we can handle WITH HIS Strength .. 

With God .. All Things are Possible..       

                                      Matthew 19:26

.. even with my great Faith in my Heavenly Father.. I often find myself thinking I can plow through problems with my own strength.. I find myself not wanting to trouble God with my “little” problems because of all of the BIG problems that deserve His attention MORE than mine do.. 

..sometimes it takes me falling to my knees in tears .. sometimes it takes me feeling broken and alone… sometimes it takes “too much” .. to show me that I can’t do it on my own.. 

.. and then? 

Then God fills me with His Strength and His Love.. and All the things I have to do? They all become possible..

.. and it is all Beautiful in its time… 

A puzzle .. 

Parenting any child can be a maze of interesting (and sometimes painful) trials and experiences. Having more than 1 kid means you travel more than 1 parenting maze.. at the same time.. 

My two kids have carefully molded me into a strong, resourceful, patient adult.. 

How? 

Ha!! By testing every boundaries, terrible reactions to getting their blood taken, sleep walking, night terrors, wondering off in stores, tantrums, illnesses, sassy natures, emergency hip surgeries.. and medical conditions. 

By some miracle? My kids and I have survived this thing called childhood and we are ALL doing great.. 

It’s funny to me that people automatically assume that I had more trials with my Son with special needs then my “typically developing” daughter… Ha.. I have so many funny stories of my daughter testing every rule.. creating and recreating parenting techniques to guide her independent and …spirited .. personality into being successful.. and the awful (often hilarious) situations she got herself into.. 

In fact.. I often tell people that both my kids (and all kids .. in their way) .. have special needs.. Each child with their own super power.. and each child with their weaknesses.. some “special” Need that we have to pay special attention to.. 

The “great” thing about my daughter is that she showed off her super powers to the community.. and saved her weaknesses for home.. Ha.. How many times I heard a teacher say, “Your daughter is so responsible and organized.. and so polite all the time..”? Too many to count.. Then she saved her stubborn pride, her unbending determination for us at home. (Sigh)

Years later? We look back and laugh.. Man do I love that girl.. and what a successful adult she is turning out to be.. 

But with Autism? You can’t hide those “Special needs” ..and you can’t save them for home.. 

Traditionally the symbol for Autism is a puzzle piece.. because it is a puzzle trying to figure out what causes the symptoms.. a puzzle on how to get through the walls.. how to help them.. how to push them to be a success.. 
I agree with the puzzle symbol because I have done 16 years of research to figure out  how to help my boy with his roadblocks. 

But now that we have overcame the most difficult of these roadblocks..? Now that we have solved the mysteries of vitamin deficiencies and self stimulating behaviors..? Now that we have come back from the abyss of aggression and irritability??

Now that I just have my son back? 

I realize that my symbol for Autism is a little different than just a “puzzle” piece. 

When you see a sunrise coming up behind the trees? It can be a little frustrating because the trees are blocking out the light.. blocking out the beauty of the sunrise on the horizon.. 

But I love to see the sun peaking through the trees.. 

To me? To me the sun peaking through the darkness gives us the promise of better things… Hope for tomorrow .. a peak at what’s behind the shadows.. 

This is my symbol for Autism.. the sun peaking through the darkness.. 

When my son’s Vitamin deficiencies reached their lowest levels? The light in his eyes all but disappeared. He was malnourished (even though he ate enough to keep an army alive), he was unhealthy (despite the best medical attention).. and he was so miserable. He couldn’t focus, he could no longer make eye contact, he was aggressive and you couldn’t have a conversation with him. 

But in the midst of a storm of emotions? 

The rage would pull back.. the curtains would lift from his eyes.. and all of the sudden? All of the sudden the sun would shine from his eyes.. and I could see my boy again.

 I could see that he was still in there. 

He was still there.. Shining from behind the shadows of Autism.. 

and it was THAT sunlight that kept me going.. The hope that kept me pushing on.. 

And NOW? 

Now that we solved so many puzzles, we get to see his sun shining every day. 

There are days like yesterday, where his sun disappeared behind a clump of trees.. a little grumpy.. a little stubborn.. and a lot frustrated.. 

.. and I found myself annoyed.. annoyed because it was bad timing.. Bad timing for me.. 

But when I took a step back.. and took a few deep breaths.. (..ok.. ok.. a LOT of deep breaths)… ? I could still see his light begging to get out from behind that frustration.. 

So to me? Autism is so much more than a puzzle.. 

.. it’s a light.. that insists on shining through the darkness.. 

Sunsets.. 

The number one reason people give for NOT hosting an exchange student? It’s that the “good byes” would be too hard in the end.. 

..and today I would agree..

..the good-byes when I send home an exchange daughter are hard.. 

..beyond hard.. 

But the alternative would be hard as well.. 

In order for me to never hurt.. in order for me to never cry.. never hesitate.. or miss someone? 

Yup.. 

I would have to NEVER grow close to any one .. not a pet.. not a child .. and not an exchange student.. 

I would have to NOT live.. 

…and BOY have we lived.. 

Today my 3rd exchange daughter carried her luggage out of my house and loaded it into her mother’s rental car.. 

A year’s worth of memories and living were packed into those suitcases.. A year’s worth of holiday gifts and souvenirs… and some chocolate covered pretzels too.. 

..but what weighs more than those suitcase?

The love that we shared over the last year.. the laughter … the inside jokes.. the memories.. the songs we sang in the car.. the movies we watched.. the hugs.. and the tears we shared.. 

I can’t say that I would give back that “living”.. just to save a few tears .. (ok.. a LOT of tears)… 

I thought about that as I watched the sunrise this morning… 

..sometimes we only appreciate how beautiful the day was as we watch the sun set at night.. and sometimes we are sad to see it end.. 

..but then? 

Then if we watch carefully (and get up early enough).. we can watch the sun RISE on a new day.. a day full of promise and full of new possibilities.. 

So today as the “sun sets” on the time my exchange daughter stayed in my home.. I am a little sad that it’s over.. and I am spilling more than a few tears remembering how much we have lived this year.. 

..my cup runneth over tonight.. 

..but tomorrow morning?

Tomorrow a new day will dawn. A new chapter with my borrowed daughter.. a new life where we exchange pictures and video calls.. and ridiculous snapchats… where we continue to share in each other’s joys and sorrows.. and plan visits.. and I think that day will be just as beautiful (in its own way)..

So tonight I will enjoy my beautiful sunset.. with a few tears of love.. 

I loved my “day” with you here Bea.. can’t wait to spend tomorrow with you.. 

these small hours…

img_6181Every once in awhile. A song comes along that speaks right to your heart.
For me?

Little Wonders“.. from a Disney soundtrack..

I love this song..

Our lives are made.. in these small hours.. these little wonders.. these twists and turns of fate.. time falls away.. but these small hours.. these small hours .. still remain..

Our family is a very busy family..

We are involved in Theater and Choir at school.. the international students .. Dance.. trombone lessons… cheerleading for a time.. and a big BIG family…

We don’t really end up with a lot of free time ..

But we DO have such wonderful times together.. in those minutes between activities.. our little conversations in the early mornings (before coffee has kicked in)… the conversations in the hall after school before theater rehearsal starts.. our conversations around the dinner table.. my kids jumping in the car to keep me company on the way to errands and meetings.. board games.. and sappy Christmas movies.. funny Snapchat videos.. and quick hugs between activities.. quick chats before bed.. phone calls from college between classes .. 

“Our lives are made in these small hours”.. these short moments.. the moments with my college girl.. my daughters across the sea.. my 2 exchange daughters.. my son .. the happy moments.. the sad.. the stressed .. the relaxed.. the laughter.. the love.. the heartaches…

…these are the little wonders of my life…

This week as we prepare to send another “exchange” daughter home .. home to her family.. we are overwhelmed with these little wonders.. the moments that have made up our lives over the last year.. the memories we have stored up…

Our hearts are full..

img_6230

Love you Bea!!

I am so thankful for all the “small hours” with you.. and with Sabrina,  Simon, Mariam, Olimpia, and Basak…

.. so many little wonders..

Memories.. 

 I grew up a 1/2 mile from my grandparents’ house. An easy walk or ride from my house to theirs..

So is it any wonder that so many of my first memories had them in it?

Most of them were good memories.. at least until that heartbreaking day in fifth grade.. when they loaded up their new 5th wheel and drove to Florida for the winter ..

Even after that LONG winter FINALLY ended..  I collected good memories with them.

As the years passed, the visits became less frequent. I moved to Missouri with my husband (for his job). I became busy with my children… and schedules didn’t always  line up.

… still visits were a treasure ..

The last time I saw my gram, she didn’t recognize me. My aunts warned me ahead of time that it might happen.

But in that moment? That moment that I realized she indeed did NOT recall who I was?

It hurt .. for a moment ..

Then she smiled at me.. and patted my hand..

and I realized..

it didn’t matter if she remembered me..

Why?

Because I remembered her..

I remembered her keeping special toys at her house for us.. A little people’s school and camper..

I remembered how she would always keep fruit around to give us..

how she taught me to eat rhubarb with sugar…

how she loved the color blue, but “hated” her red hair..

How she loved working with her roses and her rhododendrons.. and her fruit trees..

how every card I ever got was simply signed “Gram K”…

I remember how she greeted every LEFT handed person she met.. how she taught us to make her potato salad.. her spending hours with us sewing clothes.. her salt & pepper collection.. and Norman Rockwell plates..

…singing with her.. laughing with her ..

And when I said “good-bye” at the end of that last visit? She smiled and said “I’m so glad I got to meet you.” That same smile that would light up her eyes.

So you see? It isn’t important that my Gram didn’t remember me in the end.. because it wasn’t really about me.

It was about her.. 

..and her legacy that she leaves behind. And as long as I remember her? As long as I continue to retell her stories and sayings?

Then she will continue to live on in our hearts ..

So tell her stories I shall..

Everything sounds better with the echo of a still small voice.