Saturday, April 24, 2010

How AS Blesses Our Family...

Hi. :D I'm a mom of four adorable kids/youth. Two of them are fairly unique to the world's standards. On the outside, they were always much like all the other kids - very cute, and handsome (with exception to some of those awful stages all kids go through where they are maturing and covered with zits etc... :O). But on the inside, they've had their little social quirks that make life very challenging at times, and it is very hard to have challenges that are so real, yet so unapparent to the rest of the world (because you look normal on the outside to everyone except for the trained eye) that everyone expects you to be able to do everything (socially) that the other kids do, and to think and communicate the way the other kids do even when you can't. It is very hard for them; it is also hard for their parents, who know them well and come to realize very early on that they struggle intensely to socialize and fit in - but don't know why or what to do. Some of their social challenges can be difficult to understand. But the older they get, the more they seem to grow out of their quirks, or find ways to cope with them (mine do). It's been a really exciting journey watching them develop into wonderful, and a bit more social, young adults.

Here is a photo of two of my kids in their kindergarten class with the other kindergartners. I won't have to tell you which ones are mine as you will be able to pick them out by the way they held their bodies just a little a bit awkwardly and avoided eye contact due to social discomfort; they are the kids with Aspergers Syndrome. One of them also had the complication of sensory overload to the extent that he would only wear polyester (skin irritations) at the time this photo was taken (the polyester preference lasted around a year or so). (BTY - they did get over avoiding eye contact - for the most part - over time, and one of them talks to people easily now.)

I could tell you so many stories about all the many signs and symptoms they have had over the years and marvel with you that we went so long knowing they had... something... but not knowing what it was. But that is not the point of this post. The point of this post is to tell you how that 'something,' has blessed our family's lives.

From the very beginning, AS has blessed our lives. Long before we even knew it existed, before we had ever heard the name... it was the vehicle of bringing so many blessings into our lives.

At first, the blessings were unapparent. Looking back I can compare our lives to the life of Joseph of Egypt, enduring difficulty after great difficulty, having things happen, which at the time could never seem like blessings - and yet they were; each challenge and difficulty lead to another, and in the end they resulted in great blessings that never would have been possible without the trials. Looking back and seeing how blessed we are now - I am thankful for every ounce of it. As life continues to unfold, evidences are constantly before me, giving me the perspective that everything happens for a reason; and I know that God is over all, and that this is not an accident.

I used to want to "fix" them. I stressed and worried about them when they were little. I wondered what had gone wrong; what I had done wrong? My life was filled with "whys." It was hard. I wanted them to have everything I had; but I didn't realize that they had so much that I didn't have, or that I would have so much more in time because of all that they would give to me. I didn't realize that what they were going through was a blessing to us all.

And I didn't understand all that they do (still don't). They would do things that I simply could not comprehend; it is getting better now that I am learning more about AS. Sometimes we have misunderstandings where the boys and I both think each other is being incredibly rude or mean. It would always shock me to see that while I thought I was behaving perfectly well and good, that one of these boys would think I was being unfair and even mean. And I would think the same of them, when they would not understand why. Our perspectives and ways of thinking are so different. It used to be so frustrating. We all got angry. But God was always there to whisper to my soul and tell me, "They are SO good." Though I agreed wholeheartedly most of the time, it was at these moments when I would ask God, "are you sure you're talking about the same boys?" He assured me that he was. I simply did not understand their language, so I couldn't always see them for who they really were.

My love for them is overflowing. Finally – I can SEE them… more like the way I think God sees them... more like the way they see themselves. It's like the saying goes, that eyes are the windows to the soul; and looking into their eyes, their souls suddenly seem so beautiful, so good.

Would you like to know how our family is being blessed through Aspergers?

*I feel great joy each time these boys let me hug them and kiss their cheeks - without flinching (they rarely ever flinch anymore :). And they hug me every day, and every night before they go to sleep. I can not take it for granted or miss the enjoyment of it - like many other moms do. I am blessed to recognize this privilege as a mother - It took time to get it.

*We have learned that things are seldom as they seem – and not to judge anyone –EVER –

*We have learned that even when things seem obvious, they aren’t.

*We are learning to be more specific so everyone can understand what we are saying. We are learning to make expectations very clear.

*We are learning to try to see people the way they might see themselves… the way God may see them... to give the benefit of the doubt… to love unconditionally, and to realize that we are all in need of being understood.

*Our lives are filled with moments of laughter! :D Having family and friends who do not think in the same way as you do – can lead to lot of laughter and good clean fun! :D A sense of humor is a very cherished character trait!!! - We are so blessed!!!

*We are learning to not take anything for granted; milestones are milestones and should be celebrated - regardless of the timetable.

*Those of us who are naturally oversensitive are learning to grow thicker skins and to not allow ourselves to be easily hurt or offended. This makes for a much happier and more relaxed social life! :)

*We are learning to be kind, even when it seems that another is not being kind to us.

*We are learning that there are different perspectives and different ways of looking at everything, and that our way isn't always the only, or the best, way to think. We are learning that things go better when we seek first to understand, and then to be understood.

*We are better people because of all we learn from one another.

*We are happier. Life is more interesting and exciting when you have goals and challenges to overcome.

Imagine all that we will continue to learn and become through this blessing of Aspergers! I am overwhelmed by the blessings Aspergers brings into our lives!

Do you have blessings that you recognize as a result of challenges in your lives? I would love to hear about them! :D

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In Need of a Fun Family Night?

HI! :D

We had the funnest Family Night last night! Mindy wrote up a list of about 25 things to gather (post it note; paper clip; paper cup; condiments; plastic bag; rubber band; etc... ), another list of things to take photos of (a mother with 5 or more kids - we live in Idaho - not Utah :O - didn't get that one; someone blowing a bubble; an elderly person taking a pet for a walk {got that one, though the lady was in a wheel chair and the dog was on her lap}; out of state license plate....  and on and on.) And last of all, Mindy wrote up a short list of things to do:

Take a photo of someone in the group going down a slide,
(Oh look - it's me! :)

 ...and my personal favorite - Chinese Fire Drill! - I love that one!  :) 

(Taken through the front windshield of the car)

We split up in two groups (via the use of random drawing of little pieces of papers that said "truck" or "car") and went out on a Scavenger Hunt that lasted for about 45 minutes. There was a time limit, and both vehicles drove into the driveway one right after the other - though coming from opposite directions; it was kind of funny; yes, I am easily amused. Guilty! :). Both groups had only about 30 seconds to spare (great relief to us all - as we hoped we wouldn't be late and penalize ourselves giving the other team the advantage).

Here is a snap shot of one of the piles of "stuff" we gathered (minus the gum that we all chewed, and the tootsie pops that we gathered and ate :).

The best part - everyone participated and had a great time! The enthusiasm in Devry and Mindy (they were in my group) were contagious... much to Devry's dismay (he has a quiet enthusiasm, and was sure to politely remind me while in public a couple of times, "shh... mom, quiet!" He wanted no attention drawn to him - but played it well!

I tried to be good.
I only took one photo of the kids while in public. :D

I look forward to Dausen and Devry enthusiastically participating in activities with the church youth group. But for now - I revel in and thank God, - for the successes of the great social unit known as family. :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Random Thoughts Related to My Last Post About Discipline...

Oops... another blond moment here. :o - I already posted this journal entry on the blog post titled... Disciplining is Fun #2 (Not to mention a whole heap of Work!) ;D. Go ahead and click the link if you are interested. :)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Disciplining = FUN #2 (Not to mention a whole heap of Work!) ;D

I have written two other blogs recently about discipline: Discipline is So Convoluted; and Discipline is FUN! I was blessed with comments from these posts which got me thinking and considering new discipline tactics. Though some weren’t worth employing, the process of thinking about them was a blessing and I am SO THANKFUL for the comments I received which provoked more thinking.

In one of these blogs, I brought up the IDEA/CONSIDERATION of having the kids do the chores of the person they wrong, as a consequence to certain behaviors… I then brought up this idea at our Family Meeting yesterday. This time, the boys knew I was serious, so I didn't get the joking responses that I got from them the first time I mentioned the idea (which I quoted in the first "Disciplining = FUN" blog). This time, all 4 of the kids responded simultaneously, immediately, and emphatically with a resounding, "NO!" followed by numerous responses confirming each other's thoughts that "having" to do some one's chores would only provoke anger towards the person whose chores they "had" to do. One person actually used the word "hate" as the emotion that could result; needless to say, we dropped that idea as quickly as it was opposed.

Given some relaxed thought, common sense tells me that if I want my kids to serve each other, then I need to set a good example of serving and frequently encourage them to serve each other during times when feelings are positive. Since I already do this... the reality is that even though my kids are absolutely amazing and wonderful (on their good days ;)... nothing I do is going to make them perfect! They still have their free agency, and they are still human (not to mention youth who are still becoming... still maturing and still growing up). You already knew that - didn't you? ~

Furthermore, no matter how much they love and serve each other, - I'll probably want them to serve and love MORE, and there will still be occasional bouts of evidence that they are most definitely right smack in the middle of the years of learning to assert their independence and of becoming selfless…

Now, back to that conversation with the kids… When one of the kids said something about having (“had,”) to serve (rather than “getting” to serve) it got me thinking, (once again) about how consequences from God never involve forcing children to do a right as a result of having done a wrong; Christ never forces. I didn't even realize that is what I had thought to do by CONSIDERING making it a "rule" that when one of them wrongs another he “has” to serve the one he wronged. I contemplated again on the fact that just as I cannot force my children to do right, I also need to be mindful not to disguise a means to forcing as a consequence.

I decided it is so much better to simply set a repentant example myself, and let them know that I have found that when I serve others my own feelings of anger, frustration pain, and other negative feelings dissipate and I am left with feelings of peace and love for others. Perhaps it is best to simply teach by example and let kids govern themselves to the best of their abilities… knowing that they too are capable of maturing and growing. Teaching is often times best done without any punishment at all. Sometimes the best consequence is simply the opportunity to learn a better way from someone trustworthy and loving.

Sometimes I just need to remind myself that "disciplining" isn't about “making” my kids perfect, or about making sure they behave “now;” it's about teaching. It takes patience and time to get results; discipline it isn't a quick fix.

Disciplining really is tough. It involves things like exercising... unconditional love, patience, listening, understanding, enduring well, teaching, leading, guiding etc. The results to good discipline are not usually instant; they come over time as the lessons sink in and self discipline is mastered.

Good, true, discipline does not involve quick fixes. It requires thinking, praying, humility, listening, and loving even when it is hardest to love. Real discipline is not about punishing (though it does mean NOT protecting from consequences of their actions!), it's about really teaching - which can only take place if relationships are good so youth care about the "teacher's" opinion. But despite all the self discipline and hard work involved, the fruits of true disciplining are lasting. They are worth it!

I am still thinking, and going back to basics. The reality is that I need to be patient and focus on what is going on inside each child - not just on current behavior... And I need to have faith that they will turn out great… and focus on encouraging repentance, rather than on trying to see to it that they never make a mistake.

OK - time to stop rambling...
I hope you have a great day! :D

PS. I love my kids SO MUCH!!! - They. Are. AWESOME!
They are worth every single ounce of every effort and brain strain imaginable (I'm sure yours are, too ;)!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Discipline = FUN! ;)

As some of my readers already know... I have had disciplining on the brain lately. And after getting a few good ideas and looking at disciplining with a the new lenses of adventure... things are going well. :) I'm finding that I really enjoy this adventure of disciplining more than ever before. And I even have a couple of enjoyable experiences to share. So, here are a couple of choice tid bits from a conversations I had with my boys concerning rules and consequences. These were just too enjoyable not to share. :)  (he he - I'm really not as evil as I seem.)

This morning while I was cooking "brunch" (spring break, sleep in, relax some! :) I informed Dragon Heart that he had more than been on the X-Box long enough today, and that since I had told him to get off earlier - and he stayed on regardless, he is grounded from X-Box Monday as a result of going way over the time limit today (I really am way too easy on these kids - perhaps I should ground him longer).

Dragon Heart wasn't very happy about it - at all. In fact, he immediately got uptight about the fact that he was grounded, and Black Arrow wasn't (the twin umbilical cord which exists to be sure that twins share everything - both the good and the bad - still hasn't been completely severed between these two).

Dragon Heart's temperature rose, as did his voice. "Why am I the only one grounded? Black Arrow was on all day yesterday, and he wasn't grounded!"

I had been out of the house for most of the day yesterday, so being unaware of Black Arrow's activity hadn't yet given it any thought. I knew though, that Dragon Heart was simply trying to get Black Arrow in trouble... right along with him; that needed to stop. I needed to think - and think quick.

"Dragon Heart, you are grounded, not for going over the time allotted, but for disobeying me when I told you to turn it off and get to your chores."

Dragon Heart was still angry, and let me know just how unfair it was that Black Arrow wasn't grounded too, pointing out that I shouldn't have to have needed to tell Black Arrow to get off yesterday for him to get off, because everyone knows they have time limits.

I responded to Dragon Heart accordingly; "Good point, Dragon Heart. We do have rules about how long each of you are allowed to spend on gaming, and you are all old enough to monitor yourselves; as you pointed out, I shouldn't have to tell any of you to get off, at all, ever. So..."

I turned to Black Arrow now, "Black Arrow, you should be monitoring your time on X-box and getting off when you know you should. Since you did not do this yesterday, you are grounded for one day from playing X-Box. Perhaps one day grounded for every hour over the limit would be adequate."

I then turned back to Dragon Heart, who seemed pleased. "Dragon Heart, you also need to monitor your time, and since you were guilty of not doing this a couple of days ago, you are still grounded on Monday for disobedience, but you are also grounded on Tuesday for not monitoring your time and getting off on your own that day."

Not another word was said... until a few minutes later when Dragon Heart quietly asked, "Mom, how about if Black Arrow isn't grounded at all, and I'm only grounded on Monday?"

"Sorry Dragon Heart" I responded, "you were right; you need to monitor yourself."

The conversation was over - and I secretly applauded myself.

Disciplining can be fun after all!  :D  -  Keep reading; this next story is the fun one...

Another conversation worth mentioning also occurred today. I finally decided I needed to implement the great ideas that my fellow bloggers had given to me concerning consequences for name calling and criticism (a prevalent problem around here lately). The whole family wasn't there, it wasn't a "meeting," but more of a casual warning/heads up to the two who needed it most. I sat here at the computer typing, one son was laying on the couch, and another on the living room chair - all relaxed and feeling rather happy. I told them that we were going to establish a new family rule with consequences to breaking that rule attached to it. I explained it as follows:


NO name calling, criticism, or the like - 3 strikes (unsure of # right now) and you get a consequence... I think the consequence will be telling the other person 10 things you like about them. If you get to 6 strikes (or less, still deciding upon #), you get to tell them 10 things you like about them, and do their chores for the day.

I was a just a little bit surprised by their responses.

Dragon Heart called out loudly for all to hear while laughing...- "No one get kitchen person mad at you!"

Black Arrow also responded with laughter and excitement... - "YES! I AM going to TRY to get people mad at me, so they have to do my chores!"

( lots of giggling going on between the boys as they consider the possibilities...)

Dragon Heart continued... "I'm totally going to get people mad at me while I'm in charge of cleaning the kitchen!"

I'll admit - I had to join them in the laughter. But I know, that they know from past experience, that if they do actually push someone else's buttons, that will count as several strikes and go to immediate consequences.

Meanwhile, I'll just enjoy knowing that though they may not always do as I want them to... at least they each have brains and a sense of humor!  ;)

TTFN! ;) Corine