Tag Archives: family

Cousins weekend…

Ever since my family moved home to Michigan, I started a new tradition where I picked one weekend, over the summer, and invited all of my nieces and nephews to my house for a sleepover.

Now.. one of my nephews was too old to enjoy this.. and.. some were too young..

..but every year I get a few to come..

Ha! By a “few”.. I mean 10 or more..

This year.. I had 18 kiddos at my house..

Age range .. 4 years to 20!

Doors were left open… noses were skinned… heads were bonked… snow cones were spilled.. a bean bag lost its beans… shaving cream in the eyes… stubbed toes… there were hurt feelings.. disappointment over the rain.. and cancelled bonfires..

…but there was also.. laughter .. games… late night talks.. talking in sleep… snow cones.. sundaes on Sunday… frog hunts.. snuggles… hugs… movie time… swimming… a small obsession with the kitten.. good food… some amazing fairy/gnome/snake houses craft time.. and a lot of new memories made…

Some people ask how me how I can do it?

Well?

I don’t do it by myself. My husband stayed this year for some of it. A couple of my Sisters-in-law stayed and pitched in. This helps with the mixed aged groups. And everyone sends food.

But over all?

I go into this weekend EXPECTING them to act like kids.. and then? I expect chaos. I plan certain activities to give them focus. I provide spaces for them interact.. I give them my expectations.. but give them the freedom to make choices.

And I don’t know? It just falls into place..

But what I do know?

I know that these kids all look forward to it every year… counting down the weeks until it happens.. talking about “next year”…

And every year.. I fall in love with these blessings who create huge messes a little bit more.. until my heart is near to bursting…

So this morning as I clean up beanbag “beans” in my living room.. mop my kitchen floor.. kill the flies buzzing my head… clean up the craft supplies in the garage.. and put away the bounce house..?

I find myself planning for next year…

.. our own luck..

Today is Friday the 13th .. one of the most superstitious days for some people…

As I sit here drinking my coffee, I started to wonder how many people are waiting for something bad to happen…

Not that I don’t believe in bad luck..

.. in the theater, we have a “tradition” where we have one performance where EVERY THING falls apart backstage. Costumes disappear.. buttons come off vests.. props break.. someone falls apart emotionally… the lemon/orange water springs a leak all over the floor…

.. every season it is the same..

.. we learned to expect that “bad luck” show..

.. and we laugh during the absurdity of it all…

So I can’t laugh at people who are superstitious.. and go into the “Friday the 13th’s” of this world.. prepared for the worst.

..in fact? Maybe it is foolish for me to go naively into the world .. ASSUMING that I will be able to handle any bad luck that comes my way.

Naively thinking that my Faith in God.. my faith in my family.. my faith in my friends.. and my faith in myself will get me through any luck that life throws at me..

But honestly?

The curve balls that life has thrown me aren’t things I ever would have expected.. let alone things that I could have prepared myself for..

yeah.. I’ve had an accident.. and a flat tire.. and some car issues.. and I even locked my keys in my car once..

.. but having a kid who has Autism?

I didn’t even know that was a possibility 19 years ago.

… having to have my son’s hips screwed back together?

I didn’t even know that was a thing.

.. having severe food intolerances be the cause of my kids health issues?

That only happened in movies.. right?

… a pack of raccoons wiping out my whole bird flock?

Ok.. I probably could have expected that one..

Recently my mom was in the hospital. It was pretty scary. The nurses needed to draw blood from her but they were finding it to be nearly impossible.

When another nurse came in to try to find a vein that would work..?

Well? Someone wished him luck..

Without looking up? He stated, “I make my own luck.”

And he was successful!!!

At the time, we were all simply grateful for his confidence.

But since that day?

Since that day, I have found that this simple statement is true.

We do make our own luck.

There is a saying out there..

Life isn’t about surviving the storm…

Life is about learning to dance in the rain..

I laughed when I saw it because this was how I approached raising a son with special needs…

… this was how I approached raising a very independent, strong willed daughter..

.. this is how I approach life…

I could let bad luck hold me back.. or I can focus on the good things that are still there..

Through everything? Through every tough situation I still have 2 beautiful children.. I have an amazing family… a Merciful God.. and some pretty spectacular friends..

… through everything we choose to laugh through the tears… sing through the frustrations .. and dance in the rain..

After all.. can it really be bad luck if we are all together? Or can we change those bad situations into good luck by finding the good around us? Can we change that bad luck to good luck simply by having Faith in ourselves and those around us?

So today?

Today I won’t worry about what bad luck this “Friday the 13th” has in store for me…

.. because I make my own luck…

.. mosquitos ..

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind here in our house..

.. graduation and family vacations …

… emergencies…

.. new pets…

It was so busy that I almost cancelled one of my author events. It seemed selfish to do something for me, when there was so much to do at home.

But in the end, I kept my event. And I spent a marvelous couple days with my girl..

.. even though my girl didn’t feel well..

.. even though the hotel was less than we had hoped for..

… even though the weather was a little too cold for the sunset..

Still???

Still we had a marvelous time..

.. we laughed and talked as the sun went down..

.. we shivered and talked as we took pictures of the seagulls..

… created works of art and had a few laughs as we watched the sun go down a little more ..

As we limped across the sharp rocks to the warm car, we laughed at each other’s gasps of pain..

BUT when I got into the car.. it filled up with mosquitoes..

when I left the door open to get one more pictures.. ?? Even more mosquitoes flew into the car..

ok.. more than few.. it was like a cloud of mosquitos… and they were biting me through my sweatshirt..

This surprised me…

We had sat on the beach for over 30 minutes.. and I had not noticed ONE mosquito..

.. NOT ONE…

.. but then? Then I realized .. I had been focusing on the moment. Focusing on my girl and what she had to say.. focusing on the laughter.

There could have been a million mosquitoes.. and I wouldn’t have seen them.

Life is like that..

If I let the mosquitoes bother me? The bills.. the busy schedule ahead.. the housework.. conflict.. ??

It blocks out the “present”..

But when I write down those worries .. and schedule a time for them? Then maybe… JUST maybe.. I can focus on the present …

MAYBE I’ll even find time to write more..

As we drove away from the beach that night.. we laughed at the mosquitoes swarming around our heads..

… then decided to stop .. and get one more picture…

..eye catching

Yesterday was Easter.. and we headed out into nature to recharge..

Our family parties were done … the Easter baskets opened.. and my daughter headed back to her campus.

And.. well?

And the sun was shining. We didn’t really need any OTHER invitation.

As we entered the woods, we were reminded that Spring really hasn’t arrived yet.

The landscape was beautiful. Rolling hills… sloping roads… lazy rivers…

So beautiful!!

But nature is still sleeping here. So everything is brown. So many different shades of brown… but still just brown.

And SO cold!

Then?

Then every once in a while, we would go over a hill.. or around a bend… and something would catch my eye.

There amongst the dead leaves and the cold wind? There would be the brightest green moss growing.

I know.. I know…

Moss isn’t really that pretty.. and it isn’t SUPPOSED to be growing on the sides of trees and rocks.

But the bright green of that moss against the shades of the sleeping nature around it? It was so startling. It caught my attention every time.

That moss?

That moss reminds me of people who show happiness and positively impact the world around them .. every day.

Not just showing their green color when the sun is shining and the warmth is all around. But glowing a bright green when the winds are cold enough to make your nose hurt and cause your lungs to burn. Glowing green when nothing else is even growing.. when there feels like there is no hope of hope.

So today I wonder?

Am I showing a bright green color of hope and love against the dull colors of today?

There are always “dull” things going on around us..

..extra bills… health concerns… raising kids.. car issues… and messes to clean up..

..not to mention world troubles…

…but amongst those shades of “brown”…?

Among the lifeless colors… am I shining some green into the world? Am I handing out genuine smiles.. holding open doors… sharing my resources with the world around me… lending a hand where I can…? Am I looking for hope?

Am I offering to share the small amount of hope that I hold in my hands?

Because that is what I want.. I want my love and my hope to shine brightly against my surroundings.

What color are you today?

..the game of life..

.. this Christmas Eve I had the pleasure of playing the game of Life with my nieces and nephews…

..now…?

Most of these nieces and nephews were well below the suggested age bracket of “8 and up” that was printed on the box…

But they all wanted to play… so we opened the box… and put the board together.

… when I pointed out the starting place on the board.. one of my nephews looked at it with doubt.. and said that it looked more like the end of the game…

HA ha…

I think more than one person would say that starting a career or starting college would be the end of their life.. or at least the end of all things “fun”…

.. as I tried to get them all focused on setting up the game to play… they were FAR more interested in filling their cars full of kids … or visiting their uncle Tim in Jail.. or picking out their houses.. and definitely running over their little people…

.. finally I gave up trying to show them the rules and just watched them play.. I watched them drive their cars backwards on the roads.. ha .. that is IF they stayed on the roads at all..

As I watched them play?

I couldn’t help but think how they represented the world around us.

Not everyone wants to follow the rules of Life..

.. and some people don’t get the option of starting at the beginning.. OR following the road exactly..

Some of us start OUT doing things according to the rules.. traveling the roads in the directions we are supposed to.. ONLY to find a detour (or two) that takes us off the main stream road..

…special needs

…widowed

… job changes

… house fire

The point is?

The point is.. that there is no “perfect” road through life. No rules that apply to every person..

Who was I to tell them that my game “rules” were more fun than the “rules” they were playing by… ??

…so I laughed.. and pointed out to my nephew that it didn’t matter if he was driving backwards on the road.. but that Jesus wouldn’t want him to run over his kids…

… He looked down at the game pieces and scowled..

“Those aren’t my kids.. that’s my wife.”

I silently vowed to never loan him my keys as I helped his poor wife back in his car.

.. ‘‘twas the day…

…”Twas the day after Christmas

.. and all through the house

… were the clutter of memories

… as Mom sat on the couch

Ok .. ok.. I promise I won’t do my whole post in rhyme..

…but as I sit here this morning.. I feel much like Mary as I “store up these memories and ponder them in my heart”.

As with everyone this season, I think we spent a little too much.. ate a little too much..

But this season I also slowed down a little..

For the first time in who knows how long..? I didn’t send out Christmas cards.

We made Christmas cookies.. but not enough to share with the whole community around us..

And my house is clean .. but not immaculate…

As we spent time all over the state with family this weekend, I thought about the talks I had with my mom-in-law.. the laughter that I shared with my nieces and nephews.. the memories I cherished with my daughter.. and all the moments in between..

…and just like Jesus’s mom?

I am hoarding all the memories in my heart to think about later..

What memories are you saving in your heart ??

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.us/111/luk.2.19.niv

Left behind..

Today I was flipping through the 100’s of photos I took last week.. and I found one I hadn’t intended to take.

The accidental picture of my shadow on the pavement amused me at first..

Partly because my first novel is titled “Shadows” … and it’s based on my belief that we are often affected by the “things” left behind by others in our lives.. the “shadows” that are left behind..

As I flipped through the rest of the pictures from that parade?

I started to see that picture in a different light..

So many of my pictures were intentional. I was capturing memories of my son as he rode in the back of a truck with a top hat .. talking to an angel of a girl. I intentionally took photos of the international students as they carried their flags in the parade. I tried to capture the joy on the faces of those kids around me as they enjoyed that day.

THEN? Then in the middle of these amazing photos.. is a random picture of the ground (and my shadow) .. that I had not intended on capturing.

How often is that the way life is?

Today I INTENDED to comfort a girl who was nervous about a presentation…

Today I INTENDED on being a good influence on a young man who struggles to trust people..

Today I INTENDED to encourage a little guy who hates math.. because he doesn’t understand it..

Today I INTENDED to impress on my son, the importance of good behavior in all places.. even the halls of school.

…but what about the other impressions I leave with people ..

…the impressions I hadn’t intended to give them?

My last few weeks have been jam packed and as I go into the last few weeks of theater season? They aren’t about to get any calmer..

… I always worry that in my times of stress, I will leave behind an impression.. (or a photograph of time…) that I hadn’t intended to give…

As a result?

When I feel emotions in me start to rise? Anger, frustration, impatience, .. or tears…? I take a deep breath … and decide on an intentional impression…

… and I hope that it’s the “photograph” of myself that sticks with someone..

.. and hope that it’s enough…

What are you leaving behind today?

Adventures..

Last night I took my son on an adventure. Honestly? It was the first adventure I had been on in awhile.

It wasn’t extravagant.

Actually.. it was the simplest of adventures. But it was amazing.

If I had to list the ONE thing that I thought was the least known about me? It would be how adventurous I am. I love to explore. I love to learn knew things, meet new people, explore new places..

In another time? I would have been a pioneer. Searching out new lands..

But as a parent of a child with special needs? (Ha.. actually? Just being a parent in general…) Parenting is an adventure in itself..

So for awhile? I didn’t have time for adventures.

But this week.. my soul called out for an adventure. I have been wanting to see the sunset on the big lake again.. over Lake Michigan. Something I hadn’t seen for a long time.

And I wanted something I thought my son would enjoy…

So I packed my camera.. and some extra clothes… some food for a picnic.. and we set out for the beach as soon as my crazy schedule allowed.

With a few unexpected delays.. and a 45 min delay in traffic… we arrived.. a little hungry .. and a little stressed..

But with the feel of the sand on my feet..

..and the breeze from the lake on my face..

.. the waves crashing against the shore..

.. I was relaxed within a few minutes..

And surprisingly…so was my boy…

We ate our picnic in silence as we watched the waves .. and he was completely calm.. like a peace had washed over him.

Then? Then, I talked him into taking off his socks and shoes and putting his feet in the water.. He was tentative at first.. worried it would be cold. But then he did something amazing .. he started to dance.

Often with Autism, simple things can seem overwhelming.. the beach can be too hot.. too loud.. too overwhelming…

As a parent of a child with Autism? I struggle with the balance between keeping him successful.. and challenging him to try new things. My adventure side always wants him to try new things.. but my realistic side? Well? I know realistically too many new adventures would stress him out..

But as the sun set last night? I watched a happy .. relaxed … giggling boy dance on the shoreline… jump waves with me.. asking me to take pictures..

If I had been cautious last night? If I had ignored my need for an adventure?

I would have missed seeing that happy, peaceful boy come out to play…

So with tears in my eyes I enjoyed those moments.. and these small hours will remain in my heart for a long time..

.. and I took a few more pictures..

…selfish…

When we go to camp with my family? Chances are some small animal will be captured within the first day..

That animal?

Whether it’s a frog or a toad.. a snake.. or once even a lizard… That poor animal will be handled from one kid to the next.. making each kid enormously happy.. and making the animal enormously stressed.

Fortunately most animals take the stress well and just learn to carry on.. and well? .. I’m sure they will hide better when they hear the pitter-patter of little feet.

In some ways I know how the toad in this photo feels…

I love to make people happy.. especially my family .. especially the little ones. So by taking the little Blessings in my life for fun rides.. walks.. to make sand castles… to hunt for small defenseless animals … and to make snacks.. ? Tell stories around the campfire…?

It feels good.. I love to see them happy. In fact?

In fact it seems selfish of me NOT to do little things to make them happy.. It seems so selfish not to use my time to make the lives of other people better and happier places. So I have always avoided being selfish..

And I am always happy with my choices..

But at times?

At times I think I know how that toad feels.. over handled.. tired.. desperately in need of a shower..

Just recently I have been learning that there is a difference between being selfish with your time..

…and taking time to care for yourself..

You see.. if I have to choose between doing something for my kids and doing something for myself..? I will pick my kids.. and squeeze reading for pleasure in between bedtime and 1 am.

But I often do too much .. for too many people.. and I just end up feeling tired.. and overhandled.. just like the toad..

Last weekend we went camping for the last time this summer. As everyone planned a kayak trip down river, my niece came to ask me if I wanted to go.

In the past? I would always Loan my kayak to someone else.. because after all..

it IS my kayak.. I could use it another time.

As I started to offer it to someone else, my niece scolded me. And said frankly.. ” You KNOW you want to go kayaking.”

You know what?

I really DID want to go kayaking.

So I loaded up my kayak.. and we went kayaking..

This was the laziest, slowest kayak trip I have ever been on.. I got to take 300 pictures (no exaggeration there).. my nieces and nephew decided on trying to kayak the “gondola” way.. we got stuck a few times..

We got a little sunburned as our 1 hour trip turned in to 2 hours.. or 3…

We laughed.. we sang songs (loudly and beautifully)… we counted how many times the gondolas tipped over… and we let the peace flow into our souls..

What about you? What have you done lately to take care of yourself?

**No animals were hurt in the making of this blog…

..washed away..

With all the rain in the south, it seemed trivial for us to worry that a sprinkle of a rain would ruin our hike yesterday… so hiking we went.

Up a VERY steep hill to see the Dead River Falls..

For me?

For me .. I was going up that steep rocky hill in flip flops..

You see? I had not anticipated that we would have time to go hiking .. so I did not come prepared with hiking shoes.

But I would never miss a chance to see a piece of wilderness.

And a beautiful piece of wilderness it was. Rugged and untamed… At one point, I left my shoes behind and continued bare footed. Not as comfortable as I would have liked (and I wouldn’t recommend it). But I was able to experience laughs with my kids, see them marvel at the beauty of it and I took so many pictures..

So prepared or not? It was worth it…

As I walked back to the rickety log bridge… I saw the most beautiful sight. A tree that stood strong and healthy.. even though half of the soil was washed away from its roots ..

The soil was washed away.. Big rocks pushed up from underneath.. it looks like gravity and a little wind would push that tree right over..

.. yet there it stands.. strong and sturdy…

And it brought tears to my eyes..

As a parent of a child with special needs?

I feel just like that tree..

.. 18 years of Autism.. 18 years of tears.. 18 years of letting go of how “things were supposed to be”.. 18 years of learning new autism research.. 18 years of medical issues.. 18 years of having life wash away at the roots I had dug into the Earth…

I should have fallen over long ago..

… but I have also had 18 years of laughter, 18 years of watching this boy grow with joy in his heart, 18 years of discovering the beautiful soul buried beneath the surface…

The laughter and joy have kept me strong and sturdy… despite the feeling of being worn down..

As I pushed back my tears.. I walked back across the log bridge .. ..my son ran towards me with a smile.. and his hand outstretched to me.. and said with confidence, “Here Mom, take my hand.”

Ok Buddy… I will take your hand. And no matter how prepared we are? …we will make it strong and sturdy…