Boys and Big Boats

Knox’s birthday was in January and Brody’s is in a couple of weeks, so we decided to do a joint birthday adventure for them. Trevor had the thought of taking them to the USS Yorktown in Charleston since they like boats and planes so much. They were both very excited to see “the big boat!”

We left this morning around 8, and it took us way longer than our usual 1 hour 45 minutes to get there thanks to roadwork which caused stand-still traffic. Someone may have had to pee really, really badly and may have gone in the woods. Not giving any more details about that situation. Except to say we had a chorus of “Daddy pee in the woods!!” afterwards. Oops, did I say too much?

After infinity hours of Brody’s ear piercing screaming, we finally got to Mt. Pleasant. By that point, it was 11:00, so we stopped for lunch, which continued Brody’s mood of supreme joy for all things. We went to Page’s Okra Grill, which is so many levels of ridiculous- if you’ve never been there, get the Redneck Rolls and thank me later (egg rolls with pulled pork and pimento cheese inside and a mustard based BBQ dipping sauce). Yes. Please.

After a totally silent lunch where none of my children got marker on their faces or pulled away someone’s chair when they tried to sit in it, we were off to see the big boat.

The collective mood elevated when the boat came into view, thank goodness. Brody was thrilled with the planes that lined the parking lot, and Knox cracked us up by walking as fast as his little legs could carry him towards the boat. He was just so excited to get to it.

image image It was so windy- like make you stumble, windy. I kept waiting for Brody to catch air. Of course, the kids loved it. Once we got to the boat, we walked all over the place, saw planes, touched helicopters, climbed one trillion skinny stairs up and down and up and down to see all of the hidden places inside the boat. It was really cool- I haven’t been there since I was about 12, so I had forgotten a lot. I can’t imagine actually living on an aircraft carrier for months at a time like those 3500 men did. One thing is for sure: I would have thrown up many, many times because motion sickness is a real thing, guys, and I have it big time. Luckily, it’s huge and still so that didn’t happen today!

Brody is vehicle obsessed, whether cars, trucks, boats, planes, whatever, and we just KNEW that he would love sitting in a real plane. Here he is standing on the plane seat because sitting was just a little too intimidating for him to handle. Knox immediately requested that I hold him and take him back down the steps, when he was in the same spot. Too much excitement, folks.

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Brody cracks me up. His little smirky grin kills me. Obviously Knox didn’t get the “we’re taking a picture here” memo, but that’s okay. He’s still cute, even if he does look very zoned out. He’s really just plotting his escape route.

 

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They were not in a cooperative picture mood today.

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Brody loved touching the propellers. Very thrilling stuff.image

Ever take a picture in the crazy wind and blinding sun that you couldn’t actually see to take, and then, they turn out to be randomly cool? Yeah, these.

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Buttons, buttons, everywhere. This was Knox’s favorite part. He touched every single one of them.

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After our extensive boat tour, we headed for our hotel, which we booked because of the indoor pool. Guess what was closed? I mean, seriously. C’mon, life. We got a great deal on Groupon which is the only reason we were staying overnight, but the pool was a big deal for our water-loving boys. In lieu of paying twice as much for another hotel that we’d still have to locate and book, we opted to just drive back home when Screamy McGee fell asleep hard during the attempted hotel check-in. In all, it was a fun day, but next time, I’ll call ahead to check on the pool situation!

I can’t believe we are celebrating 5th and 3rd birthdays for these kids, already- doesn’t seem quite right. It’s true what they say- don’t blink.

The Future

Some days, I want ten kids. Other days, the two that I have seem like ten, and I just want to go on vacation.

I think as women, we’ll always have the ache for another baby. At least I will. Every time I hold a squishy newborn and smell their fresh little head, it makes me hurt a little bit inside. I watch home videos of Knox and Brody when they were little teeny babies, and I can almost hear my uterus scream “give me more of those!!”

In this season of life, of wild five year-olds that need a little more than the average kid, and of almost-three-year-olds that have more angst than humans should possess, in this season, most days, two is enough.

But it won’t always be this way.

One day, things will feel more settled, and the ache is going to rear it’s head again. Where do we go from there? I’ve been praying a lot about growing our family, because lately, I am convinced that it’s going to grow. I just don’t know how.

Are we supposed to actively try for more babies? Should we not try and just see what happens? Should we look into foster care? Should we adopt internationally? Should we adopt domestically? When? How? No seriously, how??

So many questions. One day, maybe we’ll know the answers.

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415315_10101009027043637_415884828_o Baby Brody

The Fast

Beginning January 1, our church started the Daniel Fast as a congregation. I work on staff at our church, so I’ve had a while to think about and prepare for this. I’ve been pinning recipes, creating meal plans, researching, doing everything I could think to do. However, I was not prepared for how hard it actually is to fast! The Daniel Fast is based on Daniel’s fast from the Bible where he basically tells the king that he and his men will eat nothing but vegetables and water for 21 days to show that God would sustain them. And not only sustain them, but sustain them as well as the king and his men, who ate rich and pleasant food. Traditionally, fasts are used in order to grow closer to the Lord while we deny our flesh and try to live more in the Spirit.

The guidelines for this fast are pretty stringent- we cannot consume any animals products (Vegan), plus we can’t have any sweeteners, fried food, processed food, leavened bread (yeast, baking powder or soda), preservatives, etc. All grains must be whole grains (no white flour). We can also drink only water. This means no coffee. Let that sink in for a minute. NO COFFEE, PEOPLE. Have you read the title of my blog? We like coffee here.

Right now, we are about two weeks into this fast, and it’s been tough. Food-wise, the first few days were the worst. I had already weaned myself off of coffee by the week before because I had no desire to die of caffeine withdrawal while starving to death. In all fairness, I was actually pretty excited to start, not only for the spiritual aspect, but because this felt like a bit of a culinary challenge for me. I love cooking (and food), and I am glad that I do because, man alive, I have never spent more time in the kitchen out of pure necessity. The fact that we can’t have processed food or preservatives, plus the added bonus of no yeast and no sweeteners has removed almost every single convenience food from our diet. I’ve made everything from scratch imaginable: Indian Naan bread, hummus, whole wheat tortillas,  Vegan “Alfredo” sauce, and the list continues. It is safe to say that I have never used my food processor so often as I have in the past ten days. Here’s some of what we’ve been eating (and recipe links…always assume that I leave out the ingredients I can’t have, like sugar):

One Pot Mexican Quinoa (this stuff is off the chain, seriously. I’d eat it even if I could eat meat)

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Indian Naan Bread and Homemade Hummus (why am I even saying “homemade”- assume everything is homemade after this because it is)

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Veggie LoMein using whole wheat pasta

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Whole wheat tortillas. Y’all. Surprisingly simple and very good.

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Bean burritos (using said tortillas) with “refried” beans inside and topped with a red sauce and cilantro (good, but needs queso SO badly)

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Our new nightly snack- a bowl of fruit

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Veggie Burgers- I just made these up (refried beans, pinto beans, black beans, corn, rice, oats, whole wheat flour, seasonings)

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This is the face Brody made when he asked for a taste of my burger:

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Vegan Alfredo with Roasted Asparagus (shockingly good considering the sauce is made from cashews):

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Apple Pan Cake (uses dates and apples to sweeten, bananas instead of eggs)- it’s Daniel Fast-tastic.

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This is my go-to Daniel Fast lunch of a baked potato, salad with balsamic and olive oil and some sliced avocado (inspired by my friend, Karie, who made this for me on our weekly lunch date):

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Before you ask, yes, I have lost weight- between five and eight pounds, I think, but that’s not the point of this. It’s not a diet, it’s a fast. It’s hard to remember that sometimes during this process!

One preconceived notion that I had was that fasting was somehow going to make it easier to pray and devote time to God. Well. Let’s just squash that thought right now, shall we? There is ALWAYS something to take your time away from God. Always. You can count on it. Fasting has not changed that at all. It requires extreme diligence and intentionality to really take 21 days of a fast seriously. I haven’t done a stellar job, either. The first few days, I really did set aside more time to read, pray and sit alone with the Lord. Then, the hungrier I got, I kind of fell off the devotional wagon. I have tried to pray a lot during the day, regardless of what I am doing. The past few days, I’ve really kicked myself in the butt and tried to read some more devotional material and get into the Word more during the day. I just keep praying for revelation and a hunger for the Bible (to replace my physical hunger for some cheese!).

Our prayer focus during the fast is Knox. We’re praying for some other things, too, but our main focus is him. We are praying that God would remove the struggle of Autism from Knox’s life. We’re praying for clarity of mind, ease of speech and joyfulness of Spirit. We’re praying that Knox would desire to have friends, to communicate and to follow directions. A big part of the issues Knox has (the ones that are keeping him from being “mainstreamed” in school) stem from his incredible stubbornness and independent streak (I don’t want to hear it, I know EXACTLY where he gets that). When he wants to do well, he does. A huge part of this struggle is aligning his will with our will- and that is all about helping Knox succeed!

As parents, we want our children to grow up, have families and really be a light for the Lord in whatever they choose to do. A verse I pray for both of my boys often is Proverbs 3:4 “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” In a nutshell, that is what I want for my children, so that’s what I am fervently praying for during these 21 days.

It has been amazing to see the notes, emails and comments pouring in over the past week-and-a-half about the change in Knox. You guys, I can’t explain to his teachers and therapists in any other way aside from “I’m praying really hard for him.” He’s been more attentive, more talkative, more compliant. I have no doubt that prayer works, but I have to say, it still blows my mind when I am literally watching it work before my eyes. I just pray that this great progress continues. It’s just really amazing to hear stories of God’s faithfulness and watch Him work.

I know that Knox may never be totally free of the struggle in this life, but it is a comfort to know that God has a plan for him- and it’s a really good one. While I continue to pray and hope that Knox is able to overcome the hard things that Autism brings to his life, I know that we’ll be okay, regardless. We love both of our boys unconditionally, and while sometimes I wish more than I can stand that I would be able to just converse with Knox and hear it, I know he loves us back in the same way.

So I’m looking forward to this last week of the Daniel Fast, and I have high expectations for what God is going to continue to do for Knox and our family. He is good, all the time.

 

Choosing Joy

This weekend, I was asked to share with my Sunday school class on the topic of joy, as a part of our lesson on fruit of the Spirit. I never thought that, one day, I’d be talking about Autism and joy at the same time. Joy is different than happiness on a lot of levels. We gain Biblical joy when we rely fully on God and have faith in Him, despite our circumstances. Happiness is fleeting because it’s based on what’s going on around us. It’s temporary. Joy is eternal, lasting and hopeful. It’s so much bigger and better than being happy.

Everyone goes into parenthood with a laundry list of expectations. We imagine how our children will look, how they’ll act, what their personalities will be like. When we see misbehaved children out in public (pre-kids), we think “my child will NEVER behave that way.” Because we’re all perfect parents before we give birth, you know. With all of those hopes and dreams, I can’t think of a single person that desires or prays to have a special needs child. Because even before they’re here, we want the very best for our children. We want them to be healthy, happy and without hardship. It’s what we do as mothers- we protect our babies.

When Knox was diagnosed with Autism at age two, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever walked through. My faith was rocked, my expectations were shattered. This was not a part of my plan. I loved him just as fiercely as ever, but with that label came a lot of frustration, anger and bitterness. I tried my best to just ignore all the things around me that reminded me that Knox was different. It was so much easier to do this when he was little. Because, let’s face it, all two and three year-old boys are loud, hyperactive and too busy. It started to become more obvious when he was around four that he was different from the other children his age. That’s when life really started to kick my butt.

Being around other kids Knox’s age just about killed me. To know that this is what he “should” be acting like, how he “should” be talking, how he “should” be interacting was more than I could handle as a mother. I felt so angry and broken. I tried my best amidst these feelings to make sure that Knox was getting everything he needed- all the therapy, all the classes, all the services. All of the “stuff” we do for kids that need a little extra help. I loved my boy so much. But some days, I couldn’t look at him without seeing AUTISM branded into him.

This summer, everything reached a head. It was a Saturday morning, and Knox was in rare form. He was into everything, disobedient, and finally, he dumped all of the toilet paper (full rolls) into the guest bathroom toilet. That’s when I snapped. I screamed at him. I put him in his room. I screamed at nothing. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried my eyes out. What a failure of a person I was! I sat there and listened to every single lie that Satan whispered in my ear: “You are not enough. God made a mistake. Knox wasn’t supposed to be this way- you did something wrong. You’ll never be better. It’s hopeless. You should not be a mother at all. You are horrible. You’re being punished. You are worthy of nothing.” I was furious at God, and I let Him know it. This was not fair. This could not be my life. This isn’t how it was supposed to be.

In that moment, I was undone.

I didn’t know what to do, so I prayed. I begged, “God, please, teach me how to be a mother worthy of this boy. Teach me how to be thankful. Teach me how to have joy. I need your peace. Please help me.” I choked out words through hysterical tears, and pulled myself together, and rejoined my family. Still shaken and defeated.

I have never had a prayer answered more directly in my entire life. The next week, I shared my struggle with my small group. The things I was telling myself, the way I felt. They prayed too. Within a week, it was like a switch flipped. God showed me a new thing- he showed me that joy was a choice, and it was one that I could make. I choose to believe that God is in control. I choose to believe that this boy is one of the greatest gifts given to me. I choose to believe that there is more to life than being like everyone else. I choose to believe that Jesus is all that matters.

I choose joy.

Now, I feel a freedom that I have never felt before, I feel like I am able to relish and immerse myself in the parenting of Knox and actually enjoy it. Because I don’t have to do life like everyone else does. I know at the core of my soul that God makes beauty out of my mess. That, according to Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I truly believe that God doesn’t make bad things happen. The bad in this life is a result of sin run rampant in a fallen world. BUT. He can take the most stressful, scary, crazy things and turn them into something wonderful. He can take a little boy’s Autism and use it to show his mother that she is not bound by this world’s definition of good or right or perfect. Because Knox’s worth (and mine) is found in the eyes of Jesus Christ.

Praise the Lord!

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Merry and Bright (& kind of sickly)

So, it’s been a while since I’ve tended to this place. We’ve been through a whirlwind holiday season, and now have entered into a new year. Here’s an idea of what our Christmas was like…

Christmas Eve we spend with Trevor’s family at his Nan & Pop’s house (which is now right next door). We have finger foods and linger in each other’s presence, just talking and catching up. Our boys love to go there, and I don’t think it hurts that they’re the only kids and get the attention all to themselves. Knox helped me bake some cookies before we went, he loves to crack eggs!

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Christmas was different for us this year. Normally, we go to my mom’s house for dinner, but we postponed our celebration until the 27th. My brother is a medical resident and had to work Christmas, so we waited until he could celebrate along with us that weekend. So on Christmas day, we found ourselves at home all day. It was glorious. I knew the day always felt chaotic, but I don’t think I realized how much I craved the calm until I finally had it.

We let the boys wake up naturally, which was around 7:30. We relaxed while they opened gifts- this was the first year I feel like they both understood the concept of opening presents and didn’t need as much coaxing. It was a truck-tastic Christmas for Brody, which thrilled his little soul. Knox got more sensory-type toys (books with moving pictures, play foam, Etch-a-Sketch, etc.) that he really liked. Their big joint gift was a sandbox, and since it had rained here for days, we waited until after lunch to let them see/play with that.

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So we played with trucks, toy chainsaws, ate fruit snacks from stockings and just enjoyed being together. I started to cook our brunch, and we called Trevor’s parents to let them know it was safe to come over. They came and ate with us, then gave the boys their gifts. After that, we went outside to let the kids see their new sandbox and get all covered in white sand, which they thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve decided that grandparents are people that give very, very noisy toys to children, then go home and laugh and laugh about it.

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The next day, I started cooking. We were having my side of the family over for dinner on the 27th, and I wanted to go ahead and start the prep work for that. Then, mid-day, my brother, Austin arrived from Florida. Brody was supposed to be napping, but once he heard Austin’s voice, he opened his door and demanded “I see Austin!” That night, my sister arrived, and both of my siblings stayed with us for two nights. It’s fun to have a sleepover, even as a grown-up. Only now, we all fall asleep at 9 p.m. on the couch while watching Harry Potter… watch out, we’re wild ones.

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On the 27th, my mom and stepdad came over around 3 to exchange gifts.

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We did that for about an hour before I had to kick things into high gear for dinner. Then, my big family came over and we ate, laughed, caught up and had a great time. It was festive chaos! That night, I started to cough. I figured it was nothing.

The next morning, I felt sore all over. I thought it must be from standing and cooking the previous two days. Well guess what, no it wasn’t! By Monday morning, I felt that death was imminent, and it turns out that I had the flu. I got Tamiflu and was down for the count for a good three more days. I’ve never been so popular in my life with my children as when I had the flu. Knowing that I was contagious, I tried to hide out in our bedroom. Well. Knox camped out in the hallway and knocked EVERY. MINUTE. then he’d get upset I wasn’t answering and wail “I can’t get my LIFE!!!” Eventually, I gave up.

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Then, in the pattern of life, Trevor got it. He was supposed to work a double shift Thursday and Friday, and had an EMT take his temperature Thursday morning when he started to feel feverish- it was 102. Needless to say, he did not work a double shift!

We ended up sending the kids to Trevor’s parents’ house for several days to try to keep them well, and so far so good. Of course, they started back to school today, which means they’ll be sick by Friday. When Brody finally came home, he kept telling Trevor “It be okay, Daddy” in the sweetest little voice and patting his chest.

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We did absolutely nothing to ring in the new year, aside from going to sleep and thinking “oh yeah, it’s new years eve.” But we kicked off the new year in a different way by starting the Daniel Fast with our church. That deserves another post, so this will have to do for now. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!

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