Sam’s World ~ Not What You’d Expect

When you hear of someone with autism you generally probably think of someone who doesn’t speak. And in the beginning Sam was non-verbal. But now?

He talks a lot. I mean a lot. Like sometimes I am telling this kid that is supposed to have communication issues to be be quiet.

Life with autism just isn’t what I expected it to be.

I didn’t expect his fascination with words. Hours can be spent on mad libs and, honestly, they just aren’t that funny – at least not to us so called normal people…to Sam the hilarity just keeps on a coming.

Or the elaborate stories he would develop for all the characters his imagination gives birth too.

I didn’t expect how much he enjoys the swimming pool or that his body would be affected by the chlorine. Every time he swims he has to take at least a 30 minute Epsom Salt detox bath. (Very grateful that there was something we could do other than not swim though!)

I never expect what will come out of his mouth because apparently there is no filter in his brain that slows down what he is going to say. Which means that even if you’re sitting at the dinner table with guest and he has a sudden pain in a private area he will grab said private area and he will moan loudly about his groin.

It also means that if three hours after you’re home from the grocery store you realize that a bag of frozen food stuff was somehow left in the car and you say “Crap!” within earshot of Sam that he will, for the next ten minutes, label you a “curser”.

I didn’t expect his sense of humor or his willingness to mimic various accents. He does this Brooklyn kind of one that makes me laugh every.single.time.

Because his brain doesn’t process fear the same way ours does he lives so buoyantly. He’s not slowed down by thoughts of failure or weighted down by what if’s. He gives no thought to what someone may think of him.

I didn’t expect that his love of music would also spawn a love of dancing. The boy feels the beat down in his bones. But he still dances like a white boy.

And who knew how enthralled he’d be with pregnancy and how life begins in a mamma’s tummy? It amazes him and his fascination has no bounds…or boundaries sometimes, for that matter. And he’s always concerned for the pain the mothers will face so he prays very specifically for all our pregnant friends, of which there are plenty at the moment. To Sam this is a good thing because he just loves babies.

And that is something else I didn’t expect: his capacity to love. His heart is huge and open – even if it is unfiltered and awkward at times. It’s genuine and clean…free from bitterness and is never fettered with past offenses or grudges.

I expect that our lives would be a little happier and we could love a little better if we all lived a little more autistically.

The Hospitable Wife

Over the weekend I had a conversation with some friends about doing things that please our husbands. I specifically mentioned keeping my hair long because I know Rob likes it that way and other preferences he has about how I dress.

For some women the idea of dressing a particular way to  make a man happy is abhorrent and dated. It seems terribly antiquated at best and rather chauvinistic at worst.
But I like dressing in a manner that I know attracts my husband to me. Why wouldn’t I? It’s a simple thing to please him…choosing styles and colors that I know he likes on me. He likes skirts for instance, so I don’t mind wearing them often. At the moment I happen to be in a pair of shorts though. He doesn’t mind nor does he expect me to wear only what he wants me to. Because he knows that I am receptive to his likes and dislikes and that information helps govern my choices. 
A few weeks ago I blogged about our husbands needing hospitable grace from us. I’ve been thinking about it since then and I really think we need to take that idea a step further. Our husbands need hospitable wives. And I don’t mean they need to know they can bring company home or invite people over for dinner whenever they’d like.
I mean we should be hospitable to him
What does that even mean? I’m glad you asked because like I said, I’ve been thinking about it.
The word hospitable means “promising or suggesting generous and cordial welcome; offering a pleasant or sustaining environment.” 
Obviously there are ways that we  can be welcoming and hospitable in how we govern our homes but I’m talking about something more than that…something a little deeper and more personal than that.
Would your husband describe you as welcoming? Does your interaction with your husband promise or suggest that you are receptive to him? I realize that this type of language can be interpreted to only apply to the physical intimacy between a husband and wife but I think if we cultivate an attitude of being hospitable to our husbands in other areas a level of emotional intimacy will grow.
Does he find you to be generous and welcoming to him in general? Or does he ever feel like he’s just another plate of food for you to prepare or load of laundry to wash? While I think that being hospitable is more than how we greet them at the end of the day you should ask yourself how do you react when you see him after a separation of any length? Do you allow your eyes to light up? Do you smile and turn toward him?  If he arrives somewhere after you do you move to be by his side?
Does he find you to be a pleasant environment for his thoughts? Can he share what he is thinking and dreaming about and find you to be a place where those things are free to grow wild without criticism? Sometimes in our desire to be a helpmeet I wonder if we are too critical or practical; maybe feeling like we should play devil’s advocate on a regular basis to help him work through various issues.
Does your husband find you to be a hospitable playmate? Seriously, when is the last time you played with him? I’m talking flat out being silly doing something ridiculous? Provoke a pillow fight…ambush him with a nerf gun, whatever. Just something that makes you laugh with each other. Have you ever heard of a game called Flipping Frogs? Our son got it one year for Christmas. It didn’t take long before the frogs were being left all over the house and somehow it became a thing between Rob and me to hide the frogs for each other to find. We did this literally for years…we even hid them in suitcases when one of us was going on a trip. I won the game by actually opening a bar of soap, shoving the frog into the box and gluing it shut again so that he would find it the next time we needed a new bar of soap.
Slip a note into his briefcase or a book he’s reading. Buy a snack or candy bar that you know he enjoys and put under his pillow. Send him a text telling him that you’re making his favorite meal for dinner. Wear an outfit you know he likes. These are just ideas…any and none of which may sound like something your husband would enjoy. Come up with your own ways to be hospitable to him. Maybe what you’ll find out is that he doesn’t need you to do anything but needs you to be hospitable…welcome his opinion and thoughts. Don’t underestimate the power of touch and body language. You might be surprised at how those physical and tangible ways you can be welcoming will strengthen your relationship with him. 
Are you familiar with this quote by Martin Luther?
There is no more lovely, friendly, and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.
I think that is a hospitable marriage.  It’s the kind of marriage that produces the fruit of what he speaks of here:
Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.

Pinterest Test Kitchen #30 ~ Tortellini Skewers

Sometimes recipes can be complicated, either requiring many ingredients or steps. Other times, however, it’s so simple that the recipe is nothing more than a single picture. There should be room for both in your cookbook or recipe box but man, do I love an easy and tasty throw together recipe.

We have people over a lot and food is a central theme to our gatherings. Usually everyone brings something so it’s not like the burden to feed everyone falls just on our family. This is nice because it means I have the chance to experiment and use our friends as guinea pigs try new things.

Saturday was just such an occasion. We made ham and cheese sliders and a yummy dessert that I’ll share with you next week. Today, though, I am going to share one of those so-simple-all-you-need-to-see-is-the picture recipes.

 Pasta Salad Skewers
What you’ll need:
one package tortellini, prepared according to package directions and cooled
fresh spinach
grape tomatoes
bell peppers, chopped 
skewers (we used the minis)
What you’ll do:
Assemble by placing one of each ingredient on the skewer. 
Chill until ready to serve.

Like I said, we used the little mini skewers and they looked really pretty. It’s a simple but fancy looking appetizer with a nice flavor. You could also add a pesto dipping sauce too.

Sam’s World ~ What He Likes

It happens a lot. People find out your child is on the spectrum and at some point the conversation turns to all the stories about savants. Savants, generally speaking, are those on the autism spectrum with an unusual gift or skill that is clearly above the norm. A British study found that about 28% of people on the spectrum fit into the savant category.

I wouldn’t classify Sam in the group but he has done some nifty things like teaching himself to read when he was three with no help from anyone. Hand your cell phone over to him and he will be doing all kinds of crazy things with it. Actually, anything electronic or gadgety interests him. When he was five I had to make him stop changing my desk top around…he would get on the computer and rearrange, add and hide stuff all the time. He’s been making “movies” using the computer for eons. Before puberty became his new bff he could sing on perfect pitch and has always loved music and responded to it. His capacity to remember dates is seemingly infinite.

But drawing and creating has always been his thing. He’s always been very artistic combined with a strong storytelling fascination. Over the years he has created these elaborate characters and story lines; sometimes completely from his imagination and other times inspired by something he’s read or seen or played with. A personal favorite was Pinocchio Marlin who ran for president and had a sister named Alice. Birdstar Runner was an ode to Homestar Runner. For a while he was creating story boards that told the story of Adam and Eve. These Days Old Timey, The Fouch Kids, SamToons….comics, movies, tv shows, storeis, and apps…you wouldn’t believe the things he’s created and saved to my computer.

It’s also how he learns to process different social situations. This is a drawing he made after he experienced some rude behavior from another boy at a soccer game. (Obviously spelling is not his strong suit 🙂

A few months ago he started taking art lessons. He’s doing well and really enjoys it. Thankfully his art teacher quickly realized Sam’s bent for comic strip type art and has used that to teach some basic elements and rules of drawing. Sam’s biggest need is to sloooooooow down and take his time. He has so many ideas going through his head that they all try and come out at once.

Right now he wants to be a cartoonist. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens.

This is one of my favorites ever…we’re big book people and story tellers in our house.

Remember how I mentioned that dates stick in his head? Well Sam thinks every holiday should be celebrated and if it’s on the calendar then he is bound to mention it. So, you know, happy Boxing Day to all our Canadian friends and what have you.

A few years ago he asked Rob if we were going to celebrate Hanukkah. Rob explained that we weren’t Jewish so…no. Sam then asked if we were going to celebrate Kwanzaa. Rob explained that we weren’t African American so…no. Sam was pretty quiet for a few minutes and then announced that he was going to create a new Holiday…Kawanzakah…and everybody could celebrate it.

Some of his newer stuff he’s done in his art lessons:

Just You Wait

“Just you wait!” they say.

Wait until they’re teething and keeping you up all night.

Wait until they start to walk and they’ll be into everything.

Wait until they get to the terrible two’s.

And the big one…just wait until they’re a teenager.

Always the words are spoken with a slightly sinister chuckle and a knowing smile…as if there is some secret club of suffering that awaits you and there is nothing you can do about it. From the moment that precious bundle of joy arrives in the world the clear and seemingly only trajectory is one that leads to hard times ahead.

Expectations of rebellion and trouble and general teenage angst are considered the norm and you just have to hope and pray that you did your best and that you’ll weather the storm without too much collateral damage. What exactly is your best and when you do it, are of course subject to some nebulous thing that is about as concrete and  substantial as the latest parenting trend.

The saddest and most tragic thing to me about the whole “just you wait” mentality is how rampant it is within the church. Believing parents and pagan alike all take a stand on this common ground as if there is no hope. But as a mother of two daughters in various stages of teendom and three other children at different ages and stages behind them, I’m stating without hesitation that Christian parents need to abandon that hill to those who have no Hope and plant the flag of Christ’s reign and rule over our children and every moment of their life.

The expectation is and should be that they will love the LORD their God with all their heart and mind and strength. The expectation is and should be that at every age you exhort them to be as Christ like as it is possible for them to be…and that imitation should grow and develop more fully with every year that they live. There should be no concept in the mind of Christian parents that they can do all they can when their children are little but should expect some kind of sabbatical from the faith from about the age of twelve or so until the early twenties.

Child rearing and boundaries should have a funnel like shape. In the early years the boundaries are narrow, and despite a negative sounding connotation, restrictive and confining.  We may have to rethink our understanding on these “negatives” though because a train is restricted to the rails and that is not a bad thing. It’s a point of fact that it allows the train to fly at amazing speeds and accomplish all that it could not do if it went off the rails so to speak. Fires are wonderful and useful when they are confined to a specific place, destructive and devastating when they are not.

As children grow in their knowledge and understanding the boundaries begin to open up more. By the time they are at the older age of the teen years our children should be at the open ended part of the funnel with lots of freedom and little fear in the hearts of the parents that the young man or woman they’ve raised cannot handle it. Mind you I am not saying the children are completely free of any restraints or ties to mom and dad but the balance should be shifting to a new relationship between parent and child with the child able to stand sure footed beside the parents.

Of course there are dangers to this way of parenting. If we aren’t careful we make it about keeping the rules and doing the right thing without teaching them to love the Rule Giver. It’s the difference between a chain linked fence with barbwire at the top compared to a garden with a beautiful living hedge. The Rule Giver is also the Grace Giver and our goal as parents should be to nurture a love in our child’s heart for the standard of holiness that we’ve been given.

So be faithful during those little years. Even when everyone else around you thinks you’re being too small minded; remember that you’re looking and working toward a bigger picture.

And just you wait. Because the discipline that is hard for you and your child now, will produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness.