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..

Imagine…

Do you know what you get when you are raised in a family with a Strong faith in God.. AND you have a vivid imagination?

Something beautiful .. aaaand a little scary at times. 

When I was little? My dad would tell me that even if I THOUGHT I could get away with doing “little” bad things with no one knowing..? That God would still know.. And it would break His heart to see me make bad choices. 

In my mind’s eye I could see a God like “face” looking at me .. The same way that my earthly father looks at me when he had to punish me.. Broken hearted and sad.. Maybe tears in His majestic eyes? 

Yup.. That kept me on the straight and narrow.. (90% of the time).. 

But sometimes my imagination is just plain good.. 

This morning I received the call that my grandma passed away. 

The only grandma I have ever known .. Had gone home to heaven. 

It was peaceful for her .. She was surrounded by the family who could make it in time.. They were loud at times.. (How could that be peaceful you ask?)  She would have liked it loud and lively. She loved to see the “characters” around her. I think even when she was resting .. she was probably comforted by the loud voices and laughter.. 

But I can imagine that moment when she slipped from this world into the next.. 

In that moment?

 Standing outside those pearly gates.. She would see her 3 children, that went along Home before her, waiting patiently for her. Her parents would be there too.. And her siblings.. 

But in the middle of them all? 

In the middle of them all, I imagine my grandpa standing. I can see his eyes light up when he finally sees her. The way his eyes always lit up when he saw her. 

And then? 

Ha ha.. Then he’d say something sassy like.. “What took you so long?” Or “I’ve been waiting for you for ages!”

Then I imagine my Gram K would smile gently and put him in his place.. With a “It wasn’t my plan to send you on ahead..” Or more likely… “Well .. waiting builds character.”

And then my Grandpa will laugh .. The way he always does when her quiet sass amuses him. 

Someday it will be my turn to meet them all at the pearly gates.. And I know they will show up to meet me. 

Until then I have to finish the things God sent me here to do.. 

But I am so curious.. 

I wonder if my Gram K will have her bright red hair back in heaven.. (Which would make my Grandpa happy..) .. Or if she will be able to convince God that the gray hair suits her better .. (After all? You can’t wear pink with red hair..) 

Deep Roots…

dpp_0017I love family trees.. I love to try to trace my ancestors back to their origins.. The countries they were born in..  Oh the stories these trees would have to tell.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to listen to these ancestors tell their stories..?? And to be able to ask them questions.. like why did you leave your countries? Would it have been for adventure? Greater freedoms? Escaping bad memories?

Oh the possibilities…

I mean .. really? I have a great great grandfather named Dougal McDougall. An afternoon with him?

YES PLEASE

But there is more… Great people like Fredrick Law Olmsted.. or the original Olmsteds who came over when America was young. Sarah Fitzgerald (what a fun name).. the Von Kuhlmans from Germany..

All of it has me so curious and writer side of me ITCHES to record it all…

But then there is the Start side of my family. My Grandma Betty.. and her parents. They are Dutch.. all from the Netherlands. This side of the family never seemed as interesting to me.

Why??

Well… because they were so familiar to me. Familiar and safe. My grandma’s dad had a soft laugh when he was amused. My grandma’s mom was always smiling. They would offer you little candies from little dishes. Their backyard was like a little park. And even when they were upset with you (hey.. we were kids).. you just felt disappointed in yourself.. not scared.

My Gram Betty is in so many of my memories.. I remember her singing Brenda Lee songs with me.. and Johnny Cash’s “Everybody loves a nut.” I remember her always giving us fruit to snack on.. teaching me to eat rhubarb with sugar…. telling me that her “mom always said there would be days like this,”… sometimes adding with a wink, “she never mentioned there would be so many”… I remember her wearing hats… I remember laughing with her when she recalled being relieved to turn gray so “early”.. instead of “that awful red”… (Which we all know her red hair was actually quite pretty.. because grandpa always told us).. and I remember her being called Miss Blue. Because she loved the color blue.

img_3496After my grandparents moved to Florida, my memories of them were more sparse.. but just as loved. I loved hearing about their travel adventures.. their little arguments… and hearing my grandma use her age as an excuse for not having to do things she didn’t want to..

My grandpa died young.. only in his 60’s.. but I have so many teenage memories of him teasing my grandma, winking at me.. his laugh that echoed joyfully where ever he was.. his bear hugs.. and his more serious moments when he encouraged me to reach for the stars. (Not his exact words.. but that’s how I always felt. He had so much faith in my future being great.)

This side of my own family tree is the strongest side.. The Start/Kuhlman Roots of my tree go down deep… Deeper than any roots on paper. The love.. the stability.. the generations of support.. those roots go deeper than any other branch of my family tree.

But as a teenager?

These roots felt like home.. and I wanted adventure.. I wanted to be like Dougal McDougall and set forth from my homeland for adventures and tales across the sea…

As an adult? I realize that I missed an opportunity to explore those roots. I was always exploring the branches.. looking out over the horizons.. looking to the future.

Today?

Today instead of looking for adventures… instead of feeling curious about the great people of the past.. or wondering what tales my exciting ancestors might have to tell?

Today I am wishing for a conversation with my quiet, safe Grandma in Florida… To hear her soft laugh.. or hear her tell me that her “mom always told me there would be days like this”, and that “this too shall pass”.  To hear her tell of her sassy days of dating my grandpa.gram-k-2016

And I’d love to tell her how much I love her .. and how she shaped my life and gave me such strong roots.

Turning a page.. 


You know that feeling when you are in the middle of a great book? 
One of those books that is SO good ..you just can’t wait to see what will happen next or how it will end.. 

And it is so good that you don’t want to miss a single word.. 

…no speed reading this book…   

NOPE.. You read each sacred word and savor them all… 

But then? 

YUP.. Then you have to put that book down because life is going on around you… The dishes need to be done, the chickens need food.. the kids need to be socialized …

…but all the while you are being a responsible human being? The whole time ALL you can think about is that book … ??

WHAT is on that next page? What will happen to the heroine? What adventures and mishaps are in store?

THAT is how it feels to drop your daughter off at college.. 

.. I can’t wait to pick that book up again and see what is written on those pages… I can’t wait to hear about her adventures .. 

… but I admit.. It is hard to walk away from her beautiful book… 

Into the future…


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.. 

…almost…

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.. 

Love you Princess Tiger Lily…

Eyes wide open.. 

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”.. 

THEN? 

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.. 

..and.. 

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.. 

Always with her eyes wide open.. 

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