Category Archives: Children

Apples and Family Trees

It’s one of those mornings. I hadn’t even had my first cup of coffee. I wasn’t even out of bed. My husband dumped linoleum samples on my pillow for my review as he was leaving for work. As I was reviewing the samples while I was still groggy under my covers, my youngest pops in without knocking.

“Here you go. Sign these forms. I need them for band.”

Dealing with her and her Aspergers syndrome has always been a challenge. The connections she makes in her brain between ideas are crystal clear to her but the rest of us sometimes feel like we’re wallowing in quicksand while gazing at the world through molasses prisms.

But sometimes, if we think fast, we can get her to give us a rope to get out or spray those prisms with glass cleaner; the questions we ask and the answers she gives make it easier to look through her eyes. And the social connections she doesn’t get are just as challenging.

“Good morning, daughter of mine. Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, mom. Could you just sign the forms?”

“You do understand I’m telling you you have to be a little more human before demanding something from me, right? And knocking would be good too.”

She sighs and looks away, her equivalent of rolling her eyes. Then, as I review the forms, she started talking about her blog.

As a writer, I was pleased and irritated. I love that she has this body of work out there that’s hers. Yet I hate that she’s never trusted me to share it with me.

Secretly, I think she’s afraid I’ll get out the modern equivalent of the red pen to bleed profusely over her work. Or maybe she’s afraid she’ll be grounded for life for something she’s written, whether it’s the storyline or mode of expression. And yet, I need as her momma to see it.

After all, words and stories and poems are a kind of child, and I want to know my grandbabies. And I want those babies liked, loved, and wowed as much as possible; I don’t want them sitting there ignored, neglected, and unappreciated. 🙂

“Yeah, think you could share it with me? I don’t even know how to find it.”

“I’m not sure. It’s just stories, fiction stories. It’s kind of dark and deals with abuse. I don’t think you need to see it.”

My heart stopped. My brain panics. I’m not doing anything wrong, but I know what happened to writers in the past — burned at the stake, stoned with real stones, jailed for years in danky and musty rat traps, locked in mental institutions. And I’m thinking they get much the same today–stoned on psych drugs, limited financial mobility, visits from Children and Youth.

“You know you have to be careful, right? You write the wrong thing, and they could take the house and you and everything.”

I’m crossing my fingers that she gets the facetious hyperbole, knowing full well she’s quite literal and I could be triggering a massive meltdown.

“Okay, I will let you read it. But not yet. And I’ll delete anything that’s bad.”

My heart stopped. We love freedom in our house, especially freedom of speech and freedom of the press; nothing, nothing, nothing in heaven or on earth should ever touch that freedom. Being a responsible adult means knowing how and when to apply that freedom, but it’s still freedom.

“Oh, I know you. Nothing you’ve written could be that dark. But we won’t delete anything, we’ll just revise it. Okay.”

The signed forms disappeared, and she dematerialized from my presence with the unique rhythm of foot fall that can only come from a rapidly growing teen still not comfortable in her own skin.

All my daughters are my daughters. They are becoming what our Heavenly Father designed them to be–unique, special, different. One loves animals, one loves babies, and this one loves words. They’ve all fallen off the family tree in the same old patterns. But this one, she’s gonna rock her little corner of the world. And I have only one response, based loosely on Psalm 17:8 (NIV, The Voice, Amplified):

Jesus, keep my little baby girl as the apple of your eye. Guard her, watch her, protect her. Hide her in the shadow of your wings. Give her tender heart a shelter in the cool breeze of your Holy Spirit.

A Scary Thought…

Author’s Note: This piece is going to publish much later, just in time to let tempers cool for my next grand feat of feet in mouth up to hip, or so it’s been perceived. I believe the best audience is educators, youth ministers, and anyone–lunch lady, bus driver, parent–who works with kids.

I did something lately that I thought was really smart.

In a public gathering, I watched a woman walk away with tears, not big, messy ones, but tears. I was angered; I couldn’t encourage her in the moment, but I sure wasn’t happy with the way no one seemed to notice. Eventually, the wife of one of the leaders did appear to check on her. I didn’t like the way anyone in the crowd handled it, and I didn’t like the way I handled it. Even my daughter with Aspergers knew she was crying and was at a loss for what to do.

So I went home to my trusty nemesis Facebook. I posted to my very close, select group of friends (at the time 144…yes, I have even fewer Friends than trusted blog companions) with Friends Only security, knowing it would only be seen by six or seven at most. Admittedly, it was more rant. But I digress. My hope was my friends would know the best route in the future because country girls like me just don’t have a good fund of experience to work from.

Commence Armageddon.

I had 15 people trying to tell me I was too sensitive and the woman only had allergies. A subset of that tried to intimate that I had spiritual maturity issues. The best response came from a stay-at-home mom who should probably run a business; she validated my perception, presented some other alternatives, and then gave me real solutions…which when I get stuck in valkyrie on a white charger mode is exactly what I need.

I decided to pull the post, and I posted a thanks for all who participated. Even as I pulled the post, I got a voice mail from someone not even on my friend list wanting, in not so gentle a tone, to discuss my post. I had already pulled the post, so I just decided to wait for another, better day when my charger wasn’t foaming at the mouth and my sword wasn’t gleaming red.

I realized that one of my “friends” who didn’t like my tone probably tried to start a lynch mob to protect the image of all involved… despite my argument about the woes of burnout in leadership. Whoever it was probably carried it on a mobile device or took a screen shot or picture with a phone (why I actually support European attitudes and rules toward social media).

I also chortled that when I finally had to deal with that voice message there would be no proof but my own integrity.

Then I got scared. I remembered my days as a bullying survivor in the making. I had the frightening idea of how this could be misused.

I started, as a writer given to paranoia and indulgence in conspiracy theories and flights of fancy, wondering what if…

I’m 14. My grades stink. My parents are always ragging me. I have this beautiful 15-year-old neighbor. She excels at writing and studying; everyone loves her, especially my parents. They love to hold her up as a shining example of all that I fail to do and should.

My rage is seething and my hormones are raging. She’s the same way. The difference is she’s quiet, doesn’t make friends well, and always seems to cry and hate herself every 28 days. She is my competition for my parents’ attention, and I don’t like it very much.

It’s summer. Both our parents work. Like clockwork every day at 7 am all the adults leave. Facebook is our friend, and I friend her.

Around 8 am, I post the nastiest message I can. I tell her she’s fat, she’s ugly, she’s weird, she’s crazy. I can see her sobbing in her bedroom. She doesn’t respond, but all the kids do. By noon, I delete the post. And I do it again and again.

She can’t begin to ask for help because she can’t find the proof. Meanwhile, our parents are continually forcing us to spend time together. I’m getting high on her misery.

I wait a few days, and do it again. And again. By mid-July, I do it for the last time, only I don’t know it. I post my usual rant. I watch her room, and nothing happens. Still nothing by 10, by 11, by noon. I delete the post, thinking I must have missed her sneaking off.

Our parents arrive at 6:30 pm. I hear a shriek from her house. By 6:45, the coroner arrives.

I wonder how many bullies cause the death of their victims by electronic bullying of post then pull, post then pull, resulting in a torture so sadistic suicide appears the only answer. I wonder if the authorities have seen that tactic. I wonder if they’ve even thought to look. I wonder how many of the kids liking (or even seeing) a bullying post think to intervene.

And I pray that I’m just too backwater and not creating a scene. I’m praying that authorities have thought of this and are working with Facebook to not have this happen.

 

Mother’s Day 2016

This is one of those days where typically we think about our mothers. We review their achievements in our lives and consider what impact their presence or absence has on who we are as humans. If living, they may get the blessing of a gift or meal or some other token of appreciation.

Not me. I’ve often commented how I’m unique.

Me… I’m looking at the measuring stick in Proverbs 31 and critiquing my own parenting skills. As usual, I never quite make the grade.

Why? Let’s see it in a few versions…

She speaks wisely, teaching with gracious love.
(International Standard)

She opens her mouth with wisdom. Faithful instruction is on her tongue.
(World English Bible)

When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.
(New Living Translation)

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
(New Revised Standard Catholic Version)

When she opens her mouth, she speaks wisely; on her tongue is loving instruction.
(Complete Jewish)

She speaks wise words. And she teaches others to be kind. (International Children’s)

Okay, so they all pretty much agree on the first criterion: everything I say has to be wise. I’ve been falling short there lately, unless you count sarcasm.

  • Please tell me again how dumping five scoops is really good for the fish. And don’t give me any lines about the nitrogen cycle and growing soy… soy?
  • You can’t have such an unwise thought as putting the dog in the basket with socks is better for his joints. Especially clean socks… when you didn’t bathe him for three weeks…
  • Did you seriously think I wouldn’t notice you didn’t have vegetables in that casserole?!? I might be exhausted, but I’m not blind and I didn’t lose my tongue. And I don’t believe the oven gnome cast a spell to send them to visit another dimension.
  • Wait… let me guess. A good fairy is going to come and finish that assignment for you and upload to GoogleDocs. And then your grades will all be perfect.
  • Yes, please keep laughing at all the wrong times. *note this is the fifth correction at a non-faith-based public gathering* You will win so many friends and influence so many people to help you.

With just a week’s worth of failures of the first part, do I even need to go into the second part? Why, yes, yes, I do. I’m not feeling like a big enough failure.

The second part is about teaching or instructing. While I make numerous attempts, it doesn’t mean the attempts get noticed.

And then there’s the what am I to teach or give instruction about? Kindness, faithfulness, gracious love… The first set of bullets shows that I don’t live kindness or gracious love. The repetitive nature of my efforts could be argued to be faithfulness in action, or it could be unwise nagging (my kids will vote for nagging).

The problem is the standard society sets for me and the standard I set for myself. Society pretty much expects me to earn the paycheck, do the house, and make sure all my kids are model citizens. And then in a warped part of my mind, I have the words of Christ in Matthew 5:48 to remind me of my goal: So you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (ICB)

The reality is I can’t, and I will break myself if I try. We all sin. We all fall far short of the goal. In those moments when my failures scream at me the loudest, when I am most anxious about my job performance as a mother, I must remember the words of Isaiah 26:3: You, Lord, give true peace. You give peace to those who depend on you. You give peace to those who trust you. (ICB)

Jesus, help me depend on You as my children depend on me. Let me find trust for You in this dependence. As I trust You, give me peace, true peace. 

Thoughts on a Red Pen’s Demise

I returned to my home office recently after a lengthy diversion for a customer. I’ve set up my desk, and I’ve stacked my bookshelf with all those books that we word geeks need–the unabridged dictionary, the thesaurus, the style guide, an industry-specific dictionary (older than the web site stated and priced far too high).

A co-worker brought me a business document for review, and I reached for that trusty red pen from my cup at the corner of my desk. I felt this inner surge of joy as I removed the cap from the pointy business end (why, yes, it does remind me of a rapier) and put it at the other end.

Imagine my chagrin as the pen refused to bleed in frustration at the issues in the writing. Don’t get me wrong; my team has excellent written communication skills. And that’s why writing issues are so egregious (and not in the archaic sense). But I digress…

As I fumbled for a new red pen, I began to let my mind wander.

First,. I felt sorry for those whose gifts weren’t written communication, who would sit in English, literature, or language arts classes and dread that paper coming back. That paper would be covered in the blood of the teacher’s pen, a pen assaulted by misspelling and grammar and usage errors. I could remember eye rolls and extra sweaty sweatshirts and bodies slinking to the floor.

Then I thought about immigrants from China trying to take a standard English class. I could imagine the confusion as red, their color of fiery expansive joy and good fortune, is used to tell them their writing has missed the mark and is just average and not real fortunate.

Then I visited the meaning of red in Christianity. Red is used in Revelation for the horse that indicates war and bloodshed. Scarlet, a shade of red, is used in Isaiah to describe sin and sinfulness. Red was also the color of the robe thrown roughly on Jesus’ shoulders after His scourging at the pillar when the Roman soldiers prepared to mock Him. Then His blood ran red at the crucifixion; because of His death and resurrection, I am covered by His blood so the Father sees only His Righteousness and not my sinfulness.

Then I came back to red on a graded paper… the papers my older children bring home. They are preemie survivors. The doctors didn’t know if they’d walk or talk, and then they falsely swore the kids would catch up. But whatever that history, red on their papers, just average, is a joyous sign of life and love and survival.

And then I swallowed some coffee and returned to my error hunt for survival of the economic stability of my home office.

Melodrama, anyone?

 

Growing Up, Ninefold Challenge Week 2 Catch Up

Author’s Note: Go visit Ninefold Dragon’s blog for a good ninefold explanation. (Yeah, I am changing words on the fly as syllables don’t add up. 🙂 )

Voices raise, doors slam, silence ensues.
Babe turned woman-child fights without clues.
Stomp, stomp, sigh… stomp, stomp, sigh… start the waltz.

I’ve lost my precious giggly baby.
A joy turns to loss, turns to sadness.
Anger and frustration reign supreme.

Sensing sadness for the girl that was,
Broken boundaries cause searing pain.
She holds soul responsibility.

 

Living with CAPD

Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) is a neurological issue affecting an individual’s ability to process sound. Normal auditory screenings, designed to measure the pitches or frequencies a person hears and the volume or intensity a person hears, will not indicate CAPD; in fact, people can have normal hearing but still have CAPD. An experienced clinical audiologist executes a specially designed battery of four tests to rule out hearing loss and identify neurologic sound identification patterns that indicate CAPD. Usually, these tests cannot be run until the person is older than seven due to the level of interaction required for diagnosis.

Some sample indicators of CAPD that a parent may notice include:

  • Prefers conversations or entertainment systems to be louder than most peers
  • Requires frequent repetition of new words to understand them
  • Confuses similar sounding words
  • Interprets speech quite literally
  • Late development of speech

CAPD is a disorder recognized by ADA, so there are protections under the law. Currently, kids with CAPD can receive accurate diagnosis with some treatment. However, there are individuals with CAPD who would not be diagnosed because they were educated before CAPD was identified as a disorder.

Enough of that!

I could go on and on about all the therapies and issues. I could blast all the older generations that painted people with CAPD as lazy, stupid, illiterate. But that’s not my goal.

I want to encourage you to see the fun you can have with CAPD. Yes, you will miss conversations, and sometimes you will be in trouble over socially inappropriate responses. But there are times when you can sit back and enjoy the humor. I would not be surprised if malapropisms arise from people with CAPD trying to learn to process sound and communicate with the world.

I and one of my daughters are both diagnosed with CAPD. She got an early diagnosis, and I was 40+. In the text below, I will list the original or intended text in black, the text we heard or said in blue, and comments in italics; I will also try to stagger for ease of grouping thoughts.

 

Bringing in the sheaves! Bringing in the sheaves!
Bringing in the cheese, bringing in the cheese…
This is mine. I never understood why you would want to bring cheese to church, and the glares of little old ladies didn’t clarify it for me.

 

“It was nothing like that, penis breath!” — Steven Spielberg, ET
It was nothing like that, peanut breath!
This is mine. My father was much happier with my interpretation as I was not yet a teen and he didn’t have any explaining to do.

 

“The leader of the band is tired, and his eyes are growing old.” — Dan Fogelberg, Leader of the Band 
The leader of the band has died, and his eyes are growing cold.
This is mine. My version is accurate to life not art, but somewhat more depressing.

 

“Karma karma karma karma, karma chameleon / You come and go, you come and go / Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dream / red gold and green, red gold and green ” — Culture Club,  Karma Chameleon
Karma, karma, karma, karma chameleon /  *inaudible syllables, inaudible syllables, inaudible syllables* / With golden dreams, with golden dreams
This is mine. For the shower, it was fine. However, in junior high music class, it was so embarrassing.

 

Make me Venison to eat, mommy! 
Make me Vaseline to eat, mommy!
It was the middle of December. My daughter kept asking to eat Vaseline. I did a ton of querying and followup to determine that her request was for the meat my mother had made us.

 

May I have cinnamon on my applesauce please?
May I have synonym on my applesauce please?
This again was my daughter’s. While synonyms are the spice of good communication, they don’t help dessert taste better.

 

Remembering the Innocents

A long time ago, one of my former denominational pews was the Roman Catholic church. They have tons of feasts and solemnities and holy days. The oddest one to me was always tucked somewhere in the week between Christmas and New Years. It was the Feast (solemnity?) of the Holy Innocents.

On this feast, the Gospel Reading came from the book of Matthew. It chronicled the bizarre decision Herod made.

In hearing of the birth of a new king and that the wise men had escaped reporting his location, Herod chose to kill every male child that had an age that fit the range of the new king. Meanwhile, Joseph smuggled Jesus and Mary to safety in Egypt. (Never made sense to me. In effect, he killed future soldiers and left himself short in about 15 years.)

Usually, the priests focused their sermons on pro-life, anti-abortion topics. Birth control was anathema, and women were painted as only having value as baby incubators. (Sorry, feminazi rising up. Back to topic…I’ve digressed.)

I want to propose this as a holiday for all people of good will who love life, light, and truth. Instead of focusing on abortion, focus on loving the children in your life. Not just the polite, kind children who are easy to love, but also the ones that break your heart.

Love the little street urchin in ragged clothes with a dirty face and unwiped nose. Give him a treat, or buy her something slightly used to keep the chill out. Or invite them inside on a cold day for videos or family game time.

Have your kids be friends with that teen no one wants to hang out with. Maybe she’s overweight and covered in pimples the size of Mount Olympus, or maybe he’s always angry and tired for reasons he would never speak of, even to closest friends.

Open your home to that Goth kid. You might find he has a dazzling singing voice, or she has an active heart and mind writing the next great American tragedy. All the kid needs is a safe place to grow and explore without fear of teasing, bullying, or criticism.

If you’re a mandated reporter and you’ve seen something, make that call. Nothing may happen, and the abuse may continue. Or you could save a child a lifetime of pain and agony, as well as prevent a societal tragedy in the form of a school shooting or mall firing spree.

Befriend the single parent. Add some extra food for a family dinner and invite that family over. Offer to keep the children and hand the parent a gift certificate for a movie, coffee shop, or spa treatment. Or write a letter of encouragement listing all the good skills the parent has.

It isn’t enough to say we love someone. We have to show our love by our actions. To remember those snuffed out tragically and too soon, we need to love the ones left behind. Let’s remember the holy innocents by honoring and loving all the children in our lives, especially the tough nuts to crack.