Sunday, November 13, 2011

No I Didn't!

Jordan's initial response to just about anything is "No I didn't!"  I think that's because typically kind behaviors don't come naturally to Jordan the way they do for most of us.  Though he doesn't want to be mean or unkind, he can come across that way with his lack of natural kindness. This results in lots and lots and lots of discussions about what is kind behavior and what is not.  Today, explaining to Jordan that what he had done WAS kind took just as much effort as explaining why some things he does aren't kind...

Having been sick in bed most of the day, Kacey didn't get to eat dinner with the family.  When Kacey emerged from her room awhile later, Jordan asked if she would like him to make her a plate of food because the rest of the family had already eaten.  This seemed quite out of character for Jordan, so Kacey brought it to my attention.

Being impressed with Jordan's thoughtfulness, I wanted to praise him, so I asked, "Jordan, did you offer to make Kacey a plate of food for dinner?"

"NO!" was the response--as if he had stopped listening after "Jordan, did you..." and he was being blamed for something he didn't do.

Knowing Jordan hadn't grasped that I was in the process of praising, I got a little more specific and asked if, when Kacey got out of bed, he had offered to get her some food since she had missed dinner.

The clarification did nothing other than make Jordan more specific with his response which was, "NO! I did NOT offer to make her a plate of food.  I told her that her plate was at the table and she could go make herself some food."

This was one of those times where the connections just weren't coming together.  Because Jordan had assumed whatever I was asking was a result of some misdeed on his part, it didn't matter what I said.  He was bound and determined to deny.

Why would someone deny a good deed?  Doesn't make a lot of sense unless you live with Jordan.  It all goes in the same bucket as not making the connection that someone crying might be sad or someone making a stern face is upset. The version in Jordan's brain didn't match the story we were telling. 

But I know.

And Kacey knows.

By the end of the whole "incident," Jordan was genuinely confused that a kind gesture had come naturally to him, but he managed a smile that seemed to say, "I guess I did good." 

Next time I'll just say, "Hey, Jordan, good job!"

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Genius Savant

The other day Jordan helped a neighbor move.  Being kind of new in the neighborhood ourselves, we didn't really know the neighbor, but when Jason learned he needed help, Jason readily offered Jordan's services.

Jordan was the only helper that day.  Jason and I were working and taking the girls to their various activities, so it was just Jordan and a 60-something year-old man.  The neighbor knew nothing of Jordan prior to their day together--just that Jordan was a 17 year-old 175 lb. kid who could probably help lift a few things.  So, for several hours, it was just Jordan and Darnell, a U-haul, and a few trips back and forth.  I would have liked to have been a fly on the dashboard of that U-haul!

Jordan has enough social skills to know not to comment on Darnell's color.  He learned that social skill the hard way when he called a black friend "Nigger" in 9th grade.  To this day, Jordan cannot understand why black people can call other black people that name and be joking and having fun, but when Jordan uses that term, he gets sent to the principle.  Regardless, we were certain color would not come up.

I didn't waste any time worrying about Jordan and the neighbor.  Maybe it was because the neighbor was moving anyway.  Maybe it was because the help was free, so a little enlightening conversation in Darnell's day should have been okay.  After reflecting on his offer of his child's free help, Jason asked me, "Do you think it was okay for me to send Jordan with a virtual stranger?" Hmmm.  Why didn't we think of that before?  I don't know, but the story of "The Ransom of Red Chief" came to mind.  For those of you who don't know the story, to summarize, a little indian was kidnapped and ransom was demanded.  The little indian kid drove the kidnappers so crazy that, by the end of the story, not only had the ransom amount been reduced again and again, but the kidnappers begged to PAY the Indian Chief to take the indian kid back.

I got a call or two throughout the day from Jordan.  One was when Darnell drove into a gate downtown and the police were summoned.  The second was when Jordan wanted to know if I was interested in the salon pedicure chair Darnell offered Jordan as payment for his help. Nothing out of the ordinary for Jordan.

A few days after the move, Jordan asked me if I knew what a genius savant was.  I asked why he wanted to know.  Then Jordan told me about a conversation he and Darnell had.

Darnell: "Why do you think so much?"
Jordan: "Because I have autism."
Darnell: "Oh.  Well you are a genius savant, then, cuz you sure ain't no idiot savant!"

Then Jordan said to me, "I just wondered if you knew I was a genius savant."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Who?

After a Trunk-or-Treat reprieve last year, the Smith Family was back in full force!  When we decide to do something, we're all in, and this Halloween was no different.  We decided to transform from the ordinary Smith Family (seriously, anything more ordinary than "Smith?") to the Whos from Whoville.

With the help of Kacey's awesome new convertible, some fake snow, the Grinch soundtrack playing in the background, and a little Who Magic (for the hair, because this kid of awesome hair is only possible with magic) we were a big hit at our ward trunk-or-treat. 

We got a few confused looks from little kids who thought maybe we were confused about which holiday we were celebrating.  It probably didn't help that Kacey handed out candy canes (thanks, Sam's club, for rushing into Christmas before we could even say "boo"), and that I said "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Halloween" to everyone.

When Jase posted this picture on facebook, he added the comment, "Looks like Mrs. Who has the hots for the Grinch!"  He's right :o)

I LOVE that Jason is such a good sport.  He makes a pretty great Grinch! Jase practiced "Grinch" phrases and did a great job of trying to steal children's candy.  In true Grinch fashion, Jase even taught one little Batman and Robin brother-due the words to "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells."  One little girl cried when she saw Jason the first time around.  The second time she came by our car she said, "Hurry, Mom, before the Dad comes back!"  The truth is, I was probably more grinch-like when I wouldn't let him put his green-grease-paint arm around my waist for this picture because my white shirt was new.

Happy Who-lloween!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Favorite Holiday!

I'm not sure when it happened, but Halloween has been my favorite holiday for years. It's possible that my love for candy corn is responsible, but it could also be that Halloween marks the time of year when my home transforms and takes on new life every month from now until spring.

I've been wanting to revamp the black feather wreath I made several years ago, and I couldn't wait until October.  I got several ideas from pinterest (my new little buddy) that I wanted to incorporate.

The first was this one:

It's a great cheap way to make a wreath HOWEVER, it wasn't a great solution for the wreath I made because it wasn't strong enough to hold everything without losing shape.  After the first wreath, my daughter and I made two more smaller ones, and the tubing worked okay.

After duct-taping the wreath, I made a witch's hat out of some felt and black fabric I had laying around.  I tried to hot-glue it to the wreath.  OOPS!  The glue melted the foam in record time!  I ended up just pinning things or using skewers to attach things to the wreath.

Next I dug through an old costume box for a pair of tights.  I cut off about a foot and stuffed each "leg."  For subsequent wreaths (since I didn't have any more tights, I cut each leg in half and sewed up the sides, creating a much skinner "leg" which I actually like better.

I tied each leg to the bottom of the wreath like this:

I thought the hat looked a little boring so I found a purple flower and some halloween ribbon to spruce it up:

I came across this skull at Michael's and attached it with a skewer:

I just kept digging through Halloween boxes and craft supplies to see what I could come up with.  I found this cute little guy and gave him an instant makeover with some glaze I had laying around and some glitter.  I think you could even just brush elmers glue or modge podge on the pumpkin and glitter it up.  I didn't care about the face since it wasn't going to show:

The finished product actually looks a little better in real life, but this is the best photography I could do with my phone:

I found clear glass bulbs in my Christmas supply and glittered them up.  After I attached everything I wanted, I took two black feather boas (from Michael's) and wound them around the wreath.  I also found ribbon and tulle to cover the spots that the boa didn't quite cover.  VOILA!

Notice how the weight of the wreath sags? :(  Kacey and I made two more just a little smaller and with other items we'd found either laying around or at the craft store.  I like these much better but Kacey has to take them to work.

The best part of the project, believe it or not, wasn't even getting an earlier start to my favorite Holiday.  It was spending the time with my daughter creating something awesome!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Young Women--Crazy Week Survival Kit

I love love love my calling to work with the Young Women.  I love the calling because I love those girls.  I feel geniunely blessed to know them, and to be part of their lives.  Just as with my own kids, my heart hurts when they are struggling.  This week is going to be particularly crazy for one of my laurels with her responsibilities for homecoming and student council, early morning seminary, tennis matches, and SATs.

I remember how overwhelming weeks like that felt in high school!  I hate that any of the amazing youth have to feel so overwhelmed!  I know its necessary, and I know they will survive, but I wanted to make it a little easier for this girl this week.

Given that it's Sunday, and I don't have much in the way of cool things just laying around, I did what I could to create a survival kit.  If not lighten her load, hopefully it will remind her she is loved.  At the very least, I hope it gives her a good laugh or two...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fateful Joyride

As usual, Wednesday morning started early.  4:45 to be more precise.  Typically, Kacey works her way through my darkened room to hug me before heading off to work, and I nudge Jason into taking Kennadi and Jordan to seminary.  Wednesday was different.  Kacey burst into my room to ask, "Where are Dad, Jordan, and my car?"  Thinking Jason and Jordan had run to fill up Kacey's car with gas for her, I called Jason to find out where he was.  From the downstairs family room where he had fallen back asleep after getting up too early, Jason groggily answered, "the couch."

That set off the alarm bells in my heart and head and my next question set off the same alarm bells for Jason, "Where is Jordan and where is Kacey's car?" To which Jason answered, "I'm up!"

We couldn't begin to imagine how the day would unfold as we hastily made plans for getting everyone where they needed to be and proceeded to guess where Jordan could be and why. 

The girls and I knelt in Kennadi's room where we said a prayer asking for Jordan's safety.  The timing of that prayer and the events we would later discover were more than coincidental--remarkable, really.

With Jordan's autism spectrum disorder, we have become well aquainted over the past 17 years with impulsivity and Jordan's inability to think things through to logical conclusions.  It is impossible to explain to outsiders how such an intelligent and often engaging person as Jordan can do things that the rest of us would immediately recognize as stupid, harmful, selfish, dangerous, or just plain crazy.  I can't make sense of it myself.

We knew this was one of those times.  It wasn't the first time, but we feared it could be the last time.

Within a half hour of our prayer, we received the following call from a Good Samaritan who had been immediately behind Jordan on the road.  In California.  Over three hours away:

Your son veered off the right side of the highway, hit a burm, and over-corrected.  He then crossed all lanes of traffic, and rolled the car twice.

The next call was from a paramdic at the scene who informed us they were life-flighting Jordan to a head trauma center in San Bernadino.

These are phonecalls parents never anticipate.  Absolutely everything else in your world gets pushed so far back in your brain to make room for the images of worst-case scenarios and feelings of hope, desperation, worry, and fear to consume every square inch of space.  My heart and brain were out of sync, and I felt disconnected from the person making phonecalls to family, and making arrangements to get to California. 

Without an extra car, and due to the early hour, we decided it would be best if Jason just started driving to California so I could stay in Las Vegas to make necessary arrangements for the girls.  We were blessed to have a friend loan us a car.  One less thing to worry about.

My morning felt rushed and filled, yet I was getting nothing accomplished.  I couldn't fill the minutes and hours that dragged on with anything of use as I awaited, and at the same time dreaded, news from Jason or the hospital.

Two of the first phonecalls and texts I received were from my mom and a sweet friend, both of whom went straight to the temple on our behalf.  Both of them said the same thing--that they felt peace.  As long as the day was, and as slow as the passing of time was, I felt peace as well.  Thoughts of death, brain damage, long term disability, etc. continued, but they weren't scary to me, and I was able to have the thoughts without dwelling on them.  Two quotes I recently read came to mind:

And this...

Though a storm was raging, I was incapable of calming myself, and I was receiving no calming news, I felt peace.  I have pure gratitude for those who prayed on our behalf to enable that peace to envelope me.

Upon Jordan's arrival at the trauma center, the only news we received was that an MRI had been performed, and the results would be another hour or more. 

More waiting.

Far away.

Unable to control the outcome.

Finally, as Jason's long four hour drive came to an end, and he arrived at the hospital, we received the news that the MRI was completely normal.  There was no internal bleeding.  There were no broken bones.

I am speechless.

How does one walk away from an accident like that all in one piece?!?  My mind struggles to comprehend, so I won't try.

I will just be grateful. 

Grateful that Jordan has survived.  Grateful that Jordan was blessed with a sister who won't spend the rest of her life plotting revenge.  Grateful that the bills from this incident won't arrive until I've had time to process everything.  Grateful that I continue to stand and remain somewhat sane.

Now several days have passed, and I've had time to feel all the emotions that raged within me that day and the days following the accident.  I have begun to recover from the physical exhaustion that resulted from the emotional toll.

Life goes on, I guess.  It must because the little jokes we always manage to make after times like these (laughter is how our family deals with our crazy) are beginning to emerge.  The words of my wise older brother spoken years ago when Jordan survived sleeping under a burning bed come to mind, and I tried to reason that his survival meant Jordan had a mission here on earth to complete.  My brother said:

The Angels are up there saying, "WE'RE NOT TAKING HIM BACK!"

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cheap and Adorable T-shirt Makeover

It's that time of year again.  Actually, in our case, since it's not actually a yearly thing due to the stress I heap upon myself and coordination required to get everyone together and looking halfway decent, it's more like that time of every-three-years again.

Family Pictures

I've combed Pinterest for hours in search of original photo ideas.  I know, "Pinterest" and "original" don't belong in the same sentence.  Nevertheless, I make no claims to originality, and I've already confessed to being a pinposter.

While scouring for pose ideas and outift ideas, I came across this one for Kami.

Our colors are:

Or something like that (the last one is gray, not light blue)

I got the idea here:

I purchased two orange shirts on major clearance from DownEast.  Each was marked down to $2.50, so the finished ruffled shirt and a headband cost only $5.00!!!

The end result?

Once again, I have Pinterest to thank for feeling so frugal and crafty and awesome!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I'm a Pin-poster!

I've found a new hobby (addiction, if you ask my family) called Pinterest.  It's this awesome virtual bulletin-board where you "pin" ideas you find anywhere on the internet.  You categorize the stuff you like into "boards" like "party ideas," "home decorating," " recipes," "favorite quotes," etc.  Because of Pinterest, I am able to feel incredibly creative, witty, and organized, when all I've really done is sit in front of the computer for three hours "pinning."

At last count, I have 28 different boards on which I've pinned 692 things.  I'm too embarrassed to admit how much time I spent gathering those pins, but I'm proud to say that, as of today, I have actually done 12 things that I've pinned!  I think this makes me officially a "Pin-poster"--someone with the ability to copy, re-create, or duplicate an idea they saw on Pinterest.  That's a term I made up, so don't go trying to use it on Words with Friends.

My favorite re-creation is this awesome monster birthday cake:

I love it for several reasons, not the least of which is that it looks just as good as the original I found here: I even made a little improvement by covering the skewers with pipe-cleaners!  On top of that, I actually used TWO pins, because I got the frosting recipe here:

My sweet friend, Heather, from, is an amazing blogger, creative genius, mom, and all-around super-woman.  I aspire to be her. Every time I go over to her house there is something new and awesome that she has created.  In other words, Heather doesn't just pin stuff and call it a day, she creates the stuff the rest of us pin!  Since among other things, Heather is a food photogrphaer, one of her favorite books is:
Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling

I always joke with her that I'm going to write my own book one day.  I'm going to call it "From Pixel to Plate--Lost in Translation."  The book will be filled with all my recipe fails because every time I try to re-create a recipe, it NEVER EVER EVER looks like the picture in the book.

Maybe I won't have to write the book after all, because today I made somethine awesome!  I feel so accomplished!

I have to thank Jake for having a birthday for which I could justifiably create my monster cake.  Jake is my daughter's boyfriend, and he's nineteen.  He may have liked the cake better when he was five, but he was kind enough to indulge me and pretend like the cake was the best he's ever had (okay, he didn't actually say that, but I saw it in his eyes.)

It's possible I'm emotionally scarred when it comes to cake making.  The last time I put as much time and energy into a birthday cake was the "Great Princess Cake Debacle of 1998."  That was the year I spent the better part of two days building a stunning "Belle" cake for Kacey, who was then four.  After the singing, candle-blowing, Kacey said, "Thanks for the cake, Mommy, but next year can you make one I like?"  It's been Costco cakes ever since.

With several years of thickened skin and the wonders of Pinterest as encouragement, I was ready to try my mad skills again.  It was Jordan's birthday earlier this week, so I casually asked if I could make him a cake and what kind he'd like.  His response was, "Nah, a Costco cake is fine."  He was only two when I made the Belle cake.  How is it possible the Belle cake was so bad that even he isn't ready for a home-made cake?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Temple Picture Project

A few weeks ago we made these awesome temple pictures in Relief Society:

During the project my friend commented how awesome it would be to have a whole wall of temple pictures. Of course, I went straight home and started planning how I was going to do it.  On a tight budget of exactly $0 for craft and home decorating, I knew I was going to have to get creative!  I couldn't afford the $30-$120 per picture it cost at the activity, so I starved my family for a week and used grocery money to make my own temple pictures for less!

Newport Beach

Los Angeles (nice iPhone blurring technique)

Kirtland (Kami's favorite)

Nauvoo (we went there a couple years ago for a family reunion)

St. George

Now I just have to finish the others (Oakland, Las Vegas, San Diego, and Logan) so I can hang these on my new temple wall!

The pictures were taken by Altus Photo Design and can be found here : 

I double checked to make sure it was legal to download the photos and use them for myself before I had them printed at Costco.  The prints cost $.39 to $2.99 each depending on the size.  The smallest print is the Los Angeles (4x6), and the largest is the Las Vegas (6x18 which I haven't completed yet.)

After Costco, it was off to Home Depot, where I had to give the wood-cutting employee a free lunch at our sub shop (shameless plug here: FIREHOUSE SUBS on Flamingo and Ft. Apache in Las Vegas.) so he wouldn't charge me $.50 per cut for the 19 cuts I needed on the 4x8 piece of wood I planned to use to back the pictures.

While at Home Depot, I utilized my big-girl panties and sawed close to a million pieces of various widths of baseboard moulding to use for my frames.  The thinnest is 3 1/2" and the widest is 6"--I bought the pre-primed mdf because it seemed like less work than the non-primed stuff.

With my backing and moulding in tow, I headed to the paint counter where I spent something like two hours deciding which black was the "right" one--who knew there were so many shades of black?!?  And seriously, those little samples of wood that demonstrate the "sheen" are useless.  I spent another hour before I finally settled on semi-gloss.

The following morning, I woke my teenage son up around 1:00 in the afternoon with the sound of power tools.  Jordan was geniunely concerned enough to call my husband at work to ask if it was okay that mom was using a power miter saw in the back yard.  I guess he was afraid it wasn't safe enough to just come ask me...

With all my pieces cut and only one or two minor mistakes, I was ready to use another PINTEREST tip!

What a clever idea!  A rubber-band around the paint can kept the whole can nice and clean which totally satisfied my "keep-my-projects-neat-and-tidy" ocd.  Okay, that's not technically a form of ocd, but I have it anyway.

Here are my cut frames neatly resting on plastic cups on newspaper on my dining room table:

I didn't take pictures of staple-gunning the frames together, but I will next time, because it's not as easy as it seems.  You definitely need a frame thingamagig that holds the frame perfectly square while you staple.  The correct term may be "band clamp" but I'm not sure.

I can't wait to use this idea I found on PINTEREST to hang my pictures!

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Forgot My Punchcard

Jordan began working at our family business the day we opened.  Even though our food is seriously amazing, Jordan has developed a habit of frequenting the bagel shop next door nearly every morning before work. 

This is how it goes when Jordan walks up to the counter:

Jordan: "Dangit!  I forgot my punchcard, and it was full!"
Employee: "We don't have punchcards.  You know that, Jordan."

Feeling less than defeated, Jordan pays for his bagel and walks next door to work, only to try again the next day.  When the next day rolls around, and Jordan strolls back to the bagel shop.

Jordan: "Dangit! I forgot my punchcard, and it was full!"
Employee: "We still don't have punchcards, Jordan."

Apparently, this has been going on for months--at least the 5 months we've been open, with little variation in the routine or the conversation about punchards.  Needless to say, the bagel shop employees know Jordan well!  Finally, yesterday, the exchange went Jordan's way!

Jordan: "Dangit! I forgot my punchard, and it was full!"
Employee: "Jordan, we don't have punchcards, but today the bagel's on me.  Don't tell my manager."

Sometimes I love the persistence of that boy!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chocolate Scriptures

Today's Young Women lesson was on scripture study (Manual 3 Lesson 30.)  As usual, I have other creative bloggers and pinners to thank for making lesson time more palatable.  What's more palatable than chocolate?!?  NOTHING

Armed with this:

I made these:

Then these:

Fortunately, I thought I was teaching the entire Young Women, but I only taught the Laurels, which meant there were 20 of these little gems left over for my family to eat in 1/100th of the time it took me to make them.

As usual, I cried pretty much throughout the whole lesson.  The crying had nothing to do with the burnt fingers from using the hot glue gun to secure the chocolates to the cardstock.  It had more to do with the lesson itself.  Instead of using the case studies from the manual where examples are given and the girls are supposed to come up with scriptures that apply, I felt prompted to share personal journal entries about scripture study.

It was a good opportunity for me to read back through my journal and see specific examples, ones I hadn't thought of in a long time, of where the scriptures had made a difference to me.  I found examples of times when I found answers to specific questions and times when I didn't necessarily find answers but found peace just from reading.  I found examples of insights and understandings that "suddenly occured" to me.  I found the entry where I wrote that I wanted to be better about scripture study because I wanted to come to know my Savior.  I wrote that I no longer wanted to read simply out of obedience and simply to be an example to my kids.  I wanted to get to the point where I truly desired to read and could truly know my Savior.  It was about nine months after that entry where I found this:

"I have never felt as much excitement about the scriptures as I do right now.  I have never had the genuine desire to learn that I have now.  Before, reading was about obedience.  Now, it is about really wanting to read and to KNOW.  I truly love the scriptures."

I had all but forgotten about the first entry where I expressed the desire for my scripture study to be something more.  I just wanted to share with the girls real-life examples of what the scriptures can do in a person's life. I think it worked.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

There was that One Time...

It's significantly easier for me to write about difficult experiences long after they actually occurr.  It's not that I don't want to share such experiences, but I live with the illusion that my perspective softens over time, and I can share things with a little more humor and insight.

It's probably just a survival mechanism.

Perhaps there's a little part of me that thinks if I share old stories, it looks like everything is better now and I've learned something or gotten better at child-rearing. I hate to admit it, but crazy stuff still happens around here.  You just won't hear about it until something else even crazier happens and what's happening today no longer seems so bad.

Not long ago, during a family car trip, Jason and I were discussing how we could trust our third child to babysit our fourth without worrying, yet we couldn't trust Jordan, who is older, to babysit without the fire department showing up.  Since we weren't actually talking to any of the kids, they heard every word we said, and Jordan was livid.

He angrily responded to our lack of trust by shouting, "I have NEVER done anything that caused the fire department to show up at the house!  A few cop cars, maybe."

The car was silent.

Then Jordan spoke a little more quietly, "Oh yeah, there was that one time..."

I long for those days when it was just "that one time."


Friday, June 10, 2011

The Fight and the Magic of Superglue

Disclaimer: I am not a nurse, and any rememdies you read here are not necessarily recommended by the medical community, but I wouldn't have changed a thing.

Near the end of Jordan's first semester in high-school, I received a call from my good friend, Dean Diane, at the school.  I didn't have the choice of ignoring the call and hoping Dean Diane would try Jason's cell-phone because Jason was out of town.  I seems like Jason is out of town for a LOT of these incidents... Do the incidents happen because Jason is gone, or does Jason conveniently leave when he senses something brewing???  Hmmm...something to ponder.

Dean Diane didn't waste time on pleasantries when she opened with, "You need to come pick Jordan up.  He's been in a fight, and he needs stiches."  I blew air through my bangs and contemplated whether or not I wanted the story right then or whether I wanted to just go get Jordan and wring his neck.

I arrived at the school some twenty minutes later to find Jordan slumped in a chair with a giant gash above his right eye.  To his credit, according to Jordan's teacher, Jordan didn't punch the other kid.  This, I knew, was nothing to celebrate, because I knew that whatever Jordan had done to deserve getting punched, it was probably way worse than punching the kid back.

To make a long story less long, Jordan bugged the other kid by spraying him with white-board cleaner.  When the other kid told Jordan to knock it off, Jordan translated it to something like, "How funny.  I like getting sprayed.  Do it again."  When Jordan didn't quit, the other kid spit on Jordan, which Jordan considered an unpardonable sin and way beyond punishment for drenching the kid in white-board cleaner. 

So, Jordan spit back.

And got punched.

The other kid got suspended, and I felt sorry for him.  Jordan got to go sit in the nurses office and get pitied by passersby who didn't know better.

Unfortunately for Jordan, it was late enough in the afternoon that our doctors office was closing and didn't have time to stitch him up.  I wasn't about to spend whatever it would cost to take Jordan to Quick-Care, much less the emergency room, so I did the next best thing.

I took him home and shaved his eyebrow.

I know I didn't need to shave his eyebrow, but I convinced him I did in order to keep the area sanitary for the next step, which was Superglue.  I remembered the time Jordan split his lip open on the trampoline spring, and the doctor used superglue instead of stitches to put it back together.  What I didn't know was, it was "medical grade" superglue.  Oops.

My hope was the shame of a shaved eyebrow would be a little reminder to Jordan.  Fortunately, I didn't cause any damage by using regular Superglue, but I did save a boatload of money.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Confessions of an Easter Egg Socialist

I don’t have OCD. Things I do that appear on the surface to be OCD are merely survival mechanisms. My kids will tell you I calculate the grocery bill in my head as I shop so as to be within pennies of the final total, tax included. This is not OCD. This is a mom on a budget. My kids will also tell you I have been unsuccessful at turning the laundry over into their capable hands, possibly due to OCD. Sure, turned up hems and wrinkles bug me, but the truth is, I secretly hope when people see my kids doing something embarrassing or unbecoming in public, those people will think, “What is wrong with those kids? Clearly it’s not their mother’s fault—look how clean and pressed their clothes are. That mother surely has it going on. Maybe it’s the dad.”

Having said my OCD piece, there is one little thing that has reared it’s ugly head every spring, and it has consumed me to the point where I spent hours behind closed doors doing it. I knew it had gotten worse over the years, so I kept the details of just how extreme to myself. After all, I’d avoided the OCD label for 18 years of child-rearing, and I wasn’t about to own it over one nasty compulsion that really only lasted one day a year anyway.

I’m proud to say that, without the aid of costly therapy, time consuming meditation, or even outside pressure from well-meaning loved ones who knew my dirty little secret, I have finally broken free, and I feel liberated. As it turns out, I didn’t have seasonally-induced OCD at all. I was an Easter Egg Socialist.

I didn’t grow up that way. I don’t even know exactly when it started, but I think it coincided with the time period that “IT’S NOT FAIR!” became the most commonly uttered phrase in our household. Then again, I’m willing to admit it’s entirely possible that, once I had kids, my subconscious realized I no longer had control over much of anything…except the Easter Egg Hunt. I compensated by developing and fine-tuning such an amazing formula for making everyone happy and keeping everything 100% fair for every child regardless of age, gender or ability, that I never once heard those stupid words, “IT’S NOT FAIR!” over an Easter egg hunt. With three girls and one boy (that’s FOUR kids, one with Aspergers) spaced two to three years apart, this is an accomplishment I was proud of.

Here’s what I did…

For the hunt each year, I would buy plastic eggs in four colors—one for each child. As the kids got older, I made it extra fun by assigning two colors to each child. If the eggs came in different sizes, I made sure I used equal numbers of each size egg in each color. I always purchased several different kinds of candy to fill the eggs—things like Sweet Tart bunnies, Hershey’s Kisses, M&Ms, etc. Some years I would also fill the eggs with money. Regardless of what I used to fill the eggs, it was always fair. Totally fair. I counted every piece of candy (even the M&Ms and Skittles) and divided them equally among each color egg. If a particular candy had more than one flavor (in the case of Skittles and Sweet Tarts), I further divided the candy equally by flavor. When it came to things like chocolate Kisses, it didn’t matter whether the wrapper was pink or blue, but I would divide them evenly by color anyway because I was not about to have a child melt down over getting all blue ones when they wanted all pink. If I filled eggs with money, not only would each child receive the same amount of money, but if I put ten dimes in a blue egg, I put ten dimes in a pink egg, and so forth—not ten dimes in one color egg and four quarters in another. I didn’t want to spend that holy day explaining that four quarters and ten dimes are equal, so I avoided to conflict before it could begin.

I know it sounds crazy, but truth be told, I enjoyed the good two hours of total peace every Easter Eve—just me, my plastic eggs, and my compulsion. Besides, I always ate the “odd” candy.

When Easter morning rolled around, hiding the plastic eggs was a breeze as long as my husband paid attention to which color belonged to each child. Part of the beauty of my plan was the ability to hide little kids’ eggs in plain site without the big kids being able to come along and snatch them up. We could reserve our more clever hiding techniques for the older kids’ eggs.

My kids became pros at the Easter egg hunt system in our home. The only snags came when other families visited at Easter and didn’t appreciate my instructional lecture on color assignment prior to the hunt. In those cases, there was always a poor listener who ended up with an odd colored egg in their basket. Fortunately, those children were easily called out and compelled to hand over the egg to its rightful owner. At the end of the hunt, each basket was filled equally to the brim with all one color egg per basket, and I thought it looked really nice.

No one ever complained. I was really proud of the peaceful hunt I’d orchestrated and the equally-distributed sugar-high it produced.

This year everything changed. When I sat down in the middle of my bedroom floor and dumped out all the plastic eggs I’d accumulated over the years (because I was too cheap to buy new ones), I counted the eggs for the very last time.

There was an odd number.

That was the moment I decided to end the madness. I ripped open my bags of candy and forced myself to quickly fill the eggs without counting a single piece of candy. I paused long enough to pop a few chocolates into my mouth, but not long enough to contemplate what I would tell the kids in the morning. With reckless abandon, I stuffed one orange egg with chocolates, and the next orange egg with mostly yellow sour bunnies. I refused to pay attention to how many of each color egg I filled or what I filled it with, and I purposely put the same kind of candy in small eggs that I put in large ones. I even went so far as to put tootsie rolls in only one egg. I wondered how that would go over!

Within minutes it was over. The eggs were filled, and I could have read a novel with the time I had left on my hands.

I hid the eggs myself the following morning and smiled at the fact that I had no idea if I was hiding a chocolate-filled egg in the hot sun. I contemplated whether my son would pick up any girl-colored eggs. I hid eggs higher than my youngest child could reach, knowing she was at a disadvantage, and I didn’t think twice about doing it. There was no method and no madness, and it was awesome.

When the kids lined up for the hunt, baskets in hand, Kennadi asked, “Okay, Mom, who gets what color?” I took a deep breath. This was the moment of truth. I announced that I’d denounced the OCD that I didn’t really have by hiding an odd number of eggs in all kinds of colors (did I mention my kids all know who the Easter Bunny is?)

The response?

High fives and cheering! WHAT?!? To be clear, I explained that it would be impossible for them to get an equal number of eggs. Not only did they not care, they were thrilled! My 11 year-old’s exact words were, “Now that’s just crazy!”

I was beginning to feel like all the thought and time and planning I’d done for over a decade in their behalf had gone entirely unappreciated as they bowled me over on their way out the back door.

I resisted the urge to point out any eggs that had been carelessly overlooked, but I was sure to praise the kids who found the “hard-to-find” eggs. Before long, the hunt was over, and the eggs were counted. As expected, no one got the same number of eggs, but, to my surprise, no one cared. Wait ‘til they figure out only one kid got tootsie rolls, I thought.

Less than two hours later, and without even opening all his eggs, Jordan traded his entire basket of loot to Kami so she’d do the Sunday dinner dishes. Good thing I didn’t waste any time filling his basket with fairness!

On the Monday following Easter, two of my girls told me they figured out there was only one egg with Tootsie Rolls. They also told me Kennadi hadn’t landed a single Sweet Tart egg, while Kami had managed to find nine. On the other hand, Kennadi seemed to have a nose for the chocolate-filled eggs because she’d found more than anyone. Unfortunately for her, I thought, the chocolate was mostly Cadbury, which I knew wasn’t her favorite. Knowing I was about to hear what I’d so craftily avoided every Easter for my entire parenting career, I braced myself, and settled in for a loving lecture on how life isn’t fair. I began by saying, “And how did that make you feel?”

Kennadi replied, “We thought it was AWESOME!” Awesome?!? What’s so awesome about one person getting all the good candy and another getting stuck with something they don’t like, I thought? What’s so awesome about only one person getting tootsie rolls, I wondered? I seriously couldn’t believe my ears. Furthermore, I couldn’t believe my problem-solving intervention skills were not being called upon to deal with this “injustice.”

It turns out the kids had developed their own system of trading and negotiating that was impressive. For the next several days I heard things like, “I’ll trade some sour bunnies for chocolate eggs,” and “I’ll give you two eggs if you’ll finish unloading the dishwasher for me.” As for Jordan, who had so easily forfeited his entire basket (which I later appreciated since he doesn’t need the extra sugar, anyway), he resorted to buying eggs from the girls at fair market value of $.50 each. I was fascinated by my kids’ ability to creatively negotiate with their eggs. Not once did I hear, “IT’S NOT FAIR!”

So, as I reflect upon my experience this Easter, it seems I am a recovered Easter Egg Socialist. It’s crazy to think I spent so many years, in the name of fairness, being a control freak over people who didn’t want or need my kind of fair. Without realizing it, in trying to help the younger “less able” child, I’d actually held her back. When I let go of the control this year, my youngest and smallest out-performed everyone! The kids were more excited at the prospect of things NOT being fair than they’d ever been when they knew the outcome before the hunt ever started. I guess knowing that no matter how hard you work, at the end of the hunt, you’re going to end up with exactly what the next kid has, isn’t so much fun, even when the results are "totally fair" and yummy.

My kids taught me that it’s not about what’s inside the eggs, and it’s definitely not about fairness, or my idea of what's fair, anyway. It’s about running around finding eggs your way in a hunt that isn’t run by a control freak who thinks she’s doing you a favor. They taught me that it is way more fun and rewarding when your basket is filled with eggs of all colors, shapes and sizes, and when you can do whatever you want with those eggs.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jordan, Paula, and the Holy Spirit

I wish my mind was capable of recalling every detail, every word, exactly as it happened because it was far more perfect in reality than in the re-telling. I know it’s tempting, when re-telling a story, to add embellishments that could render the story inaccurate. As “embellishment-like” as the things I’m about to share may sound, they actually happened. If anything, this is a grossly toned-down version of actual events.

I’m not entirely sure why our family was a good twenty minutes early for church for the first time in…ever (not an embellishment.) It’s possible we over-estimated the time it would take to detour and pick up Kennadi’s friend on our way. Suffice it to say, we were so early that there was ample parking and the ward that meets before us was still in sacrament meeting.

We were chatting and joking in the empty lobby when in walked Paula. She was easy to identify as a visitor because she, not-so-timidly, announced, “I’m here!” to no one in particular. As Jason made his missionary-instilled approach, she said, “I’m a visitor. The Holy Spirit led me here today. Where do I go?” I left this sharply-dressed black (I would later learn specifically, Creole) woman to the pros since I wasn’t quite sure yet what to make of her. What meeting was she here for? The 11:30? Was she meeting someone? The questions didn’t have a chance to move from my brain to my lips as I witnessed my personable husband, who everyone loves and thinks is pretty great, get denied by this woman. Rudely denied, to be honest. She looked Jason in the eye and said, “I don’t like you. I don’t want to talk to you.” She clearly wanted direction, but not from Jason, or the missionaries who approached her next, or pretty much anyone. Except me. She took my arm, told me I looked like a nice person and that she’d talk to me. It’s possible my eyes bugged out as if to say, “Me?" In the more-than-ample time we had, I did my best to explain what sacrament meeting was (she’d never attended an LDS meeting) as well as introduce the woman I came to know whose name was Paula to anyone who could better help her, including a member of the bishopric. She was not interested, so I was on my own.

I promised I would sit with Paula on the last row (the pew with the huge isle in front of it, with the curtains directly behind it.) Before we could make our way to our seats, and before anyone seemed to need to talk to me (Where were all my friends? Where were the people who usually have something to discuss with me?), Paula fixated on someone and said, “Who’s that? Are they all like him?” I turned to see a small group of men and a sixteen year-old boy, my son. I asked who she was referring to when she pointed out my son and said, “I want to talk to him.” I introduced her to Jordan. I didn’t know what to expect from this sudden interest from the out-spoken, slightly rude woman next to me. Had she seen Jordan do something unseemly? Would he, in his unpredictable Asperger way, say something to send this self-proclaimed visitor packing, never to return? Admittedly, both of those thoughts were less predominant in my mind than the relief I felt that I now had someone to “share” Paula with.

Jordan, Paula and I sat in the middle of that last pew. And something amazing began to unfold. Actually, it had already been unfolding unbeknownst to me. Time slowed down, the congregation was a muffled blur as it filed in around us, and I prayed for time to slow down more. I witnessed the incredible orchestration of my Heavenly Father. A tender mercy. The birth of a testimony.

With a remarkable calm, Paula looked Jordan in the eyes and, with earnest, told him the Holy Spirit had led her there that day to meet him. She said she was looking for someone (I wish I could remember the descriptive words she used) and Jordan was that person. She told Jordan he had greatness in him. She pointed to his head and said, “Not up here. That’s the devil’s playground.” Then put her hand on his chest and said, “In here. There’s something in here. You need to share what that is.” Jordan proceeded to tell Paula that, as a matter of fact, he was speaking in sacrament meeting that day. Paula’s eyes lit up, and the only way I can think to describe it is that she appeared to feel and act as though she knew she was in the presence of greatness. I don’t recall how many times she said, “The Holy Spirit led me here today”—one time going into as much detail as to describe how the Spirit told her which streets to turn on since she’d never been to our building, much less as LDS church, and didn’t know what she was looking for. There was no question in Jordan’s and Paula’s minds that the Holy Spirit had indeed led Paula there. There was no question in mine, either, and tears streamed down my face to prove it.

As Jordan and Paula shared their time, that no one else would ever appreciate, I experienced an entirely different moment, just between me and my Heavenly Father. It was a moment of sheer gratitude and love. A tender mercy for me. I have to pause Jordan and Paula’s story to share a little background of my own.

While getting ready for church that morning, Jason and I had spent close to an hour discussing Jordan. I’d been in tears, and we seemed to be getting nowhere. This was a very familiar scene behind our master bedroom doors. Without going into detail about Jordan’s history, suffice here to say that as his mother, I feel a desperate need to help him understand his worth. I’ve said it a million times in Jordan’s 16 years, and it has become my mission for Jordan to know he has greatness in him. I have never been able to adequately express these feelings to others, and I was failing to do so again that Sunday morning. It is more than a mother knowing her child has potential and wanting him to reach it. It is not a case of wanting a lazy teenager to get off the couch and make something of himself. I can’t even put my finger on what the “greatness” is other than to say that I know Jordan is here for a specific reason, it’s important, and it’s something only Jordan can do.

Up to now, Jordan’s life hasn’t exactly demonstrated this greatness I’ve always professed, other than giving us glimpses of quirky genius here and there. In fact, it would be accurate to say that Jordan’s life has included as much heartache, confusion, and sadness as it has hope, promise and happiness. My tears that Sunday morning in the bathroom were mostly because the feeling I’d had about Jordan for 16 years was beginning to dim, and I was scared. I knew I was the last person to have that feeling, and if I lost it, who would be Jordan’s champion? I cried to Jason, “My greatest fear is meeting Heavenly Father and having him show me Jordan’s mission that he’d been unable to fulfill because I’d failed to help him recognize his worth.” I’d left our bathroom discussion the way I’d started it—still desperate to somehow get Jordan to see the greatness within him.

As I enjoyed my own personal moment with the Spirit, Jordan and Paula wrapped up their conversation, and Jordan took his place on the stand. For a brief moment then, Paula fancied herself a psychic or something, turned to me, placed her hands firmly enough on mine that I couldn’t have broken free if I’d wanted to and said, “People will want to know him and what he has to say. Don’t try to shelter him from that. Do you understand?” I’m not sure of my response. I think I just nodded.

As the meeting began, I resumed my role as Paula’s tour guide and explained each part of what was happening—prayers, singing, the curtain opening up behind us for latecomers, why a woman with an accent was “preaching” from the pulpit. Paula didn’t seem to know how to whisper when she expressed her disdain for “you people” needing the words (hymnbooks) to sing praises. Paula was less than impressed with many things, and she let me know. I tried to reassure Paula that even though our meeting was probably quite different from other church meetings she may have attended, the Spirit was there, and she would feel it.

When the young men passing the sacrament lined up in front of us, Paula asked what they were doing there and told them they looked like they were ready to take her to jail. Huh? Needless to say, several members of the congregation turned around to find out who this irreverent woman was. Someone may have said something, I didn’t hear it, but Paula sharply told them to turn around and shut up.

I didn’t know at this point what to make of Paula. She’d made it abundantly clear that she needed and wanted to be there, but she didn’t seem to be getting much out of the meeting. Again, I put my arm around her, and I silently begged of the Spirit what I needed to do for Paula. I didn’t receive an answer of what to do, just the assurance that things would unfold as they should.

Finally, after being able to pay very little attention to the meeting due to the energy it took to educate Paula to her satisfaction, it was Jordan’s turn to speak. This brought on a whole new set of anxious feelings because my unpredictable son was about to give a talk that he hadn’t allowed me to preview. A talk that the woman sitting next to me, who was not shy about expressing her feelings, was convinced the Holy Spirit had led her there to witness. Would Jordan embarrass me? Would his talk “deliver” for Paula? When will I ever learn to quit worrying and let the Spirit do his work?!?

As Jordan approached the stand, Paula and I simultaneously sat up straighter. Jordan proceeded with confidence, eloquence, and a little bit of humor to deliver a great message on love. I cringed just a little at Jordan’s sarcastic first example of showing love to his neighbors. He said, “When the rocks from the neighbor’s yard get pushed into the street, I show them love by going over and letting them know.” Most of our ward understands Jordan’s sense of humor, but would Paula? Fortunately, I didn’t waste much time wondering because Paula slapped her hand on my knee just then, made an “mmm mmm” sound and said (again, NOT in a whisper), “He tells it like it is!” Apparently Paula was getting what she came for, and I was settling into a proud, relaxed smile. That was my boy giving an amazing talk.

Near the end of his talk, as Jordan bore his testimony, he, and of course I, teared up. Jordan spoke about meeting Paula that morning. He shared what Paula had told him about being led by the Spirit, one street at a time, to be there that morning. Jordan explained how he knew it was the Spirit because Paula walked into our hard-to-find, somewhat hidden, building instead of the grand, hard-to-miss, Greek Orthodox church next door. His emotions deepened when he touched his chest and said, “The Spirit led her here today to meet me. To hear me.” I’ll never forget Jordan’s next words, “My testimony skyrocketed.” What a crowning moment! I wept. Jordan wept. Paula wept.

It was out of character for Jordan to cry, during a talk no less, and he said as much, “I don’t cry…”

The next words were…

From Paula! She jumped to her feet and, from the last pew (which was now the middle of a crowded room since the curtains had opened up) announced before the entire congregation, “It’s okay! I’ll cry for you!” I felt my eyes bug out of my head as I, once again and for the umpteenth time that morning, witnessed entirely too many thoughts and emotions.

Paula carried on as she announced her name and that what Jordan was saying was true—that she had been (say it with me now) “led by the Holy Spirit” there that day.

Will she stop talking? Should I stop her? I can’t hear Jordan. Will Jordan be rattled? What is everyone thinking? She’s still standing. Do people think Paula is my guest? Is the priesthood on the stand going to do something? Is anyone going to do something? My heart is going to jump out of my chest. My mouth is dry. Keep going, Jordan.

The thoughts just scrambled over each other inside my head when, all at once, I noticed the entire ward was acting as if this was a completely ordinary meeting. Jordan was carrying on with his talk as if Paula’s comments were part of the plan. The surrounding calm took hold on me, too, thankfully before the chaos in my mind started to show on my face, and I gently touched Paula’s elbow. It wasn’t immediate, but she finished her words and sat down. I put my arm around Paula I think to comfort her but maybe, just a small maybe, it was to hold her down.

Jordan continued his talk by sharing his feelings about President Hinkley’s example to him right up until he died—feelings and inspiration Jordan had felt that I was learning about for the first time. My heart was enlarging with pride at every word Jordan spoke. My ugly cry face was far beyond repair, and that was the furthest thing from my mind.

All too soon, Jordan closed his talk. No sooner did Jordan utter, “Amen” than Paula proudly rose to her feet, once again, with her own sustaining, “AMEN!” and a one-woman standing ovation. Because, for Paula, amen wasn’t adequate to describe her emotions, she made one last announcement to the congregation before sitting down, “That boy is an apostle!”

I could only imagine what everyone was thinking. Probably something like, “Sure glad I didn’t sleep in today. Of all the Sundays to miss, this definitely wasn’t it.”

The meeting continued on in what now felt a little anti-climactic, and Paula quietly (seriously, NOW she found her whispering voice) told me she needed to leave. I knew without question that is was okay because Paula had done and experienced that day what she’d come to do and experience. She asked for my phone number, and I gave her mine. With my head still spinning and my heart as full as it had been in a long time, I hugged Paula hard and thanked her for listening to the Holy Spirit. I told her it was a gift, that not everyone listened to it, and I was grateful to her because she did. With tears in her eyes, Paula hugged me back, thanked me, and reminded me one last time, lest I ever forget, that my son was filled with greatness. And she was gone.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

From My Journal

I decided to read some of my old journal entries in search of something worth posting. I found this one from a year and a half ago. I don't think I could have shared this at the time I wrote it. I feel compelled to share it now, though, because it's important for me to recognize how really good things are right now. Some days, things don't feel great, but they are light years ahead of where they have sometimes been.

I can't believe I am the only person who has felt the way I felt when I wrote the following in my journal. Perhaps in the sharing will come peace and hope and a feeling of not being so alone for some other mom out there.

August 12, 2009

Here I am in the middle of another sleepless night. I have more of those now than I do restful ones. I have more of them now than I did with any of my newborns. In fact, the only restful nights seem to come after a string of long, sleepless nights, when I am so physically and emotionally exhausted that the only thing left is to crash hard. All because another day has gone by where I have failed my son.

The idea that I cannot save Jordan is the heaviest burden I know. I cannot accept it. It makes me weary, and we are both suffering for it. I cannot accept that Heavenly Father sent Jordan to this eart to fail. All I ever wanted for Jordan was to be able to help him become the best Jordan he is capable of being. Sometimes I know for sure that "that" Jordan will be far greater than anything I could ever have imagined for him. Other times I despair "that" Jordan to be far less. I feel guilt for the second Jordan I imagine because if that is the Jordan he becomes, I will have failed him.
Every day ends with Jordan consuming my prayers. Every day starts with Jordan consuming my prayers. It is not enough. When I imagine Jordan's qualities belonging to another child, I have all the answers on how to raise him. When I am faced daily with Jordan and his unique challenges, I seem to forget everything I know to be right and good and effective for Jordan. Each night I lie in bed re-living the day, and I become consumed with my inability to reach Jordan and help him and love him in a way that he can truly feel. I vow to do better. I vow to be his best advocate. I vow to lead a better life so the Spirit can better guide me. When morning comes I am grateful for a new chance. Then, almost as soon as Jordan awakes, my resolve begins to crumble. I become a terrible mother who creates more experiences to re-live as I lie sleepless again.

I become more desperate each day because I am running out of time to fix all the terrible mothering mistakes I have made with Jordan and at the same time help him see his potential with eternal vision.

When I contemplate my time with Jordan on this earth, my thoughts are flooded with proud glimpses of genius, laughter at sheer quirky behavior, deeply sorrowful times of disappointment in Jordan as well as in myself, and angry moments I can never take back. I have one memory of complete and utter love so intense that I remember having this thought at the time, "Remember this moment because you will need this memory in the future." It was when Jordan was about two years old. He was lying next to me on my bed taking a nap. I looked over at his peaceful chubby face surrounded by a halo of sweaty blond curls, and I felt pure love. I took his dimply hand in mine, held it for as long as I could, and tried to imprint the details of the moment in my mind and heart. I long for that moment again, but I would settle for another one like it.

I have known for a long time that Jordan would seek the ever-illusive acceptance wherever he could find it, and I feared where those places would be. As much as I want him to feel that love and acceptance at home, I have failed miserably in helping him find it here. So, my fear grows. He has begun his quest for acceptance outside our home with devastating consequences so far. His search seems to grow and gain momentum like a snowball racing down a hill, gathering speed and debris as it becomes harder and faster and stronger. It's a snowball I can't stop--one that has become so large I cannot hold it back, much less mold it back into a little, magable, pure white, soft snowball again.