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"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil,
to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Go Ahead, Rain on My Parade!

...I mean, my vacation! :)  For security reasons I did not post that we were going away.  Here is something I wrote in the first few days we were away.  I hope you find it to be a blessing in your life, too!

Aug. 20, 2011
So here we are in beautiful Cancun, Mexico.  The flights went without a glitch thanks to our Lord and the help of the little man's comfy car seat, Curious George and his iPad...but with the lack of sleep, drastic transition, heat and cabin fever from being cooped up in a plane for hours, everything came crashing down on us upon arrival (literally, as we stepped off the plane!).  Something about extreme heat and wicked humidity transforms my adorable, loving boys into total BEARS!!!  We've seen how the little guy can get when we travel: tantrums that get the attention of even the laziest security guard, hunger strikes, messed up sleep schedules... but our last trip last summer had gone so smoothly that our guards were down.  I will spare myself from reliving the horrors of our first day here.  What's important is that in the end we got the most AMAZING suite (thanks, MOM!) with a gorgeous private wrap-around ocean-view balcony with even an ocean view from our shower!!!  After such a horrendously exhausting day, our little man literally passed out at the dinner table (never happened before in his life), which, ironically, allowed us to have a fantastic quiet dinner serenaded by live mariachis!  God ALWAYS has that long-distance vision and allowed us that peace before the storm...

But before that, let's backtrack a bit. After checking into our room we'd finally gotten the little man to eat a roll of bread which, technically, meant he had "eaten" and he'd earned a trip to the pool. At the pool, he had a BLAST jumping, splashing, dog paddling, twirling and, unfortunately without us noticing soon enough, drinking a TON of pool water (in a kiddie pool in Mexico, people!)... fast forward to midnight and waking up to my husband caring for our little puke machine!!! Our little man had terrible reflux as an infant and spat up like you would not believe, but he had never thrown up before... at least not like this! He was totally freaked out!  Yes, it was a looooooooooooooooooong night of lots of dirty laundry and diaper changes.  Everything seemed to settle down around 5am, just as we'd run out of clean linens... after about two hours' sleep we awoke to a tropical depression.

How can this story be a blessing for anyone, other than making you feel better about the bad day you just had that may have paled in comparison? Well, the little man's stomach bug pretty much ruled out any trips to the pool, beach or water park (cue the instant screaming and meltdown).  After the day and night we'd just had, I was ready for Round 3 of this match, but God had another plan.  The sounds of the choppy ocean, the stormy wind, rolling thunder and the rain hitting the windows were an exact combination of the nature sounds I use to relax at home! Add to that the dark skies and it was the perfect formula to FORCE my over-achieving, stressed out and exhausted husband to just sit and relax... but we still had this hyper 3 year old poop factory to entertain! Well, growing up in the Caribbean taught me a thing or two about warm rainy days... and water on outdoor tiled floors! ;) So, while my hubby slept in a completely ambient dark room with God's nature sound machine, I took out a small bottle of shampoo and we turned our flooded balcony into an instant slip & slide! My goal for this week was not very ambitious: to live in my bathing suit with no shoes on (well, occasional flip flops). I believe the little man's goal was water play: check!  And my hubby just wanted to relax: check, check!

So, in the midst of this horrible storm which probably would have ruined almost anyone else's vacation, we had the most amazingly fun but relaxing day of slip & sliding, cuddling, napping, recuperating, reading books and eating room service! So what if I'm not getting a tan? Who CARES?!?!? I am at total peace and rest and so are my two favorite people in the world.  In this moment I realized that I'll take a dark rainy day with my happy, calm and peaceful family than any warm sunny pool day full of tantrums and chaos! This is exactly what the Word refers to when talking about peace in the midst of the storm.  Isaiah 54:10 "Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

It is the awfully horrendous days in life that have taught me to see the rainbows through the rain and I praise my Lord for that amazing gift!  Have a blessed day!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Circles and Rocks

Another dreary day today... not a good one for Nathan!  As parents of children on the autism spectrum (or any other special needs, for that matter), we have to be expert detectives in figuring out our kids: what are they saying/communicating? does something hurt? are they sick? are they hungry? what is making them act differently today? did I skip an important step in our routine?... the questions go on and on...and so do our worries.

Today it was my mom who said it out loud: "I wonder what it is..."  This got me thinking about 2 wonderful short articles that were recently in the Autism Support Network newsletter.  They were each written by a different mom discussing these exact issues.  I will put these links on my list of helpful articles but I wanted to share them with you today:

Autism Circles
Whose Rock Are You?

Because these articles were found in secular sites, I wanted to expand their scope into what Scripture says in these matters.
God sits above the circles of the earth and watches over His people:
Isaiah 40:21-31
Through rivers and waters:
Psalm 46
Psalm 65:5-10
Cast your cares on the Lord:
Peter 5:6-11
Do not worry:
Matthew 6:25-31
The Lord is our rock:
Psalm 18:1-6
Psalm 18:16-36
Psalm 18:46-50
Psalm 27
Psalm 31

In my Sunday school class, I've been teaching the kids about Jesus.  Layla, one of our featured kids on this site, is THE BEST student at remembering what we've learned.  I want to leave you with a quote from her as I sign off today's post: "Jesus is the rock that makes you STRONG and keeps you SAFE!"

Thanks, Layla!!!
God bless you!

Monday, August 15, 2011

How can "puddles + fat lip = peace + joy"?

A few posts ago I shared the wonderful program of The Puzzling Piece iPad challenge with you guys... today I have a great story to tell!  Remember I love to wear my Puzzling Piece necklace and wear it often... today was one of those days!

Today is a rainy and dreary Monday... a bad mix for my little man!  But things have to get done!  We did our usual morning routine but had to interject a quick trip to the store.  With enough previewing and prompting and a good reward after, the little man usually does quite well going to the store.  NOT TODAY!  Right next to our parking spot was a puddle (well, almost a river, actually)... knowing my little man's LOVE for water, I let him splash around and have some fun.  I should have known  better!  The next 15 minutes turned into one of those "meltdown of 2011" experiences.  Without going into much detail, I managed to get him into the store and into the shopping cart...but earned myself a well-aimed head butt in the mouth and a nice fat lip in the process.  Thankfully, the "meltdown of 2011" taught me that I absolutely do NOT care what people think.  My #1 priority is to keep my little man safe.  Next comes getting him calm in order to accomplish whatever I came there to do.  I am through with the days where I leave my full shopping cart in the store and leave with a screaming child. NOPE... we're here, we are getting what we came for!

Walking through the store with a hysterical child certainly turned a few heads but I was determined to get my things done.  Eventually, the little man realized this behavior was getting him nowhere fast, so he calmed down... which earned him a toy train to play with as we finished our shopping.  So there I was standing in line, nursing my fat lip by placing a cold bottle of Diet Pepsi over it and the woman in front of me says "I love your puzzle piece necklace!"  "It's for autism awareness," I quickly replied with my usual spunk inviting the person to ask more.  "I know," she said, "my son has autism!"  All of a sudden, everything around us ceased to exist, an instant kinship had linked us together like two perfect pieces in a large jigsaw puzzle!  "So does my little one..." I said, pointing at the little man in the shopping cart, "hence my nice fat lip." "Oh, yeah," she quickly answered, "I just got over 2 black eyes from a broken nose!"  THE BOND WAS GETTING STRONGER!!! THIS STRANGER KNEW EXACTLY WHAT I'D JUST BEEN THROUGH AND COMPLETELY UNDERSTOOD! "Except my son is 21," she continued, "and I promise you... no matter what anyone tells you, things DO get better! Our fat lips and broken noses happen in those moments when we're just caught off guard."  We went on and on sharing experiences and talking about our plans for the Autism Speaks walk in October.  What an inspiration this total stranger became to me!

In that instant, an incredible sense of peace took over my entire being.  I was NOT alone, I was NOT someone to feel sorry for... I was just caught off guard on a bad day and God sent this absolute stranger to remind me that things are going to be fine.  I am not one to talk about burning bushes, seeing visions or hearing voices, but I do remember clearly the day I heard my son's diagnosis as I sat in the car, feeling something so BIG in my innermost self where I felt God saying "Didn't I tell you I have everything under control?!?!"  And He does!  I'm not going to lie, getting the little man back into the car was not easy, but when we got home we stayed outside and played in the rain and the puddles for a nice long time... it's summertime, it's warm, no worries.  Then I realized not only had I found peace... I had discovered a hidden joy of playing in the rain and splashing in the puddles, like I loved to do as a child, yet this time I was able to share it with my amazing little man. I had his complete attention, total eye contact, and incredible social language!

So, I leave you guys with a passage in Ecclesiastes 3 called "Everything Has Its Time."  Remember that just as there is a time for pain, there is also a time for joy!

God bless you and may you find your peace and joy through the puddles and fat lips!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Puzzling Piece

To help me get over the sadness of Jessica moving away, I started thinking back to all the people who have helped our family along the way. I wanted to share about other people who have been instrumental in our family's journey through this puzzle.

The Puzzling Piece was created by a couple of parents of a child with autism spectrum disorder.  What began as a school fundraising project has become an international aide to so many children!  The Puzzling Piece offers what they call "The iPad Challenge."  In exchange for you selling a certain amount of pieces of jewelry/keychains, you receive a free iPad.  NO GIMMICKS!  We got ours when Nathan was still non-verbal and it opened up a whole new world for him!  Once he began to speak, it helped him build his vocabulary.  It has also allowed for me to run errands in the community with Nathan and it was instrumental when we were tracking all sorts of factors to try to figure out why Nathan was struggling so much with his behaviors.  Oh and I should add that part of the sales goes to Autism Speaks!  I wear my necklace quite often...

What has also inadvertently happened is that many of the "challengers" have become a sort of support community for each other, offering advice, tips and encouragement.  That was my favorite part of the challenge!  So much so that one family decided to make a video to help promote this project.  It's SO nice to feel you have people who are walking the walk with you and can really empathize!

Brett and Melissa are angels on this earth!  They have given so much for our kids!  Please take a minute to check out the video that one of the challenge winners (parent) made:
Puzzling Piece video

Here is the video they had previously made...Brett and Melissa had nothing to do with this.  The families were so touched that they decided to do this for them.  Here is the original video they made:
Original Puzzling Piece Video

Here are Brett and Melissa on the local news:
The Winters on the News

To learn more about Brett and Melissa, The Puzzling Piece and the iPad challenge, please visit their website:
The Puzzling Piece

Have a blessed day!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Feels like starting over

Today we had our last visit from Nathan's home service provider.  She has been with us since the very start.  She has held my hand and been at the other end of the phone, text or emails WHENEVER we needed her. I jokingly called her "my 18-hour bra" because she "provided support when all others would have given out."

There are VERY FEW people on this planet who really "get" Nathan.  He is a complex and strong willed little guy who has SO many strengths that most people just don't see.  I remember the look on my husband's face when she was talking about Nathan at our first IEP meeting! He was SHOCKED at how incredibly well she knew and understood him!  I know God has special plans and that everything will work out for good, but today I am sad that Nathan has lost one of the few strong members in his corner.

I remember when we first started out! We couldn't even get Nathan from the car into the house without an absolute major meltdown.  Jessica patiently sat there in our car with Nathan in the car seat, sweating like crazy, with an Elmo doll doing "replays" to get Nathan to make the transition.  Once, twice, three times... she played with us outside at the water table, collecting sticks in the parking lot and blowing bubbles in the beautiful weather.

 During our toughest times this past April and May, she was the one who encouraged me all the way, right when I was about to give up... and it was SO worth it!  Jessica was there at the start, she was a spanish speaker, she did everything she could to help Nathan interact and play with peers at daycare, she came into our home 2 to 3 times a week, she was there at our transition from EI to preschool, she was there during "The Meltdown of 2011," she went with me to IEP meetings and did school observations and consults to Nathan's school staff. She also helped us work through Nathan's GI issues, and she gets the gold medal for tolerating the most noxious smells since Nathan always seemed to "go" when she was here!

 I will never forget the day Nathan was having such a hard time we had to, literally, grab garbage bags and put away EVERYTHING in our basement to make a "safe space" for him.  I remember the first time I heard Nathan say "Oh man!" just like her... and the time they were playing with the train table and he just wiggled into her lap (something he just DOES NOT do!).  During the peak of Nathan's separation anxiety, she sat with us...calming him as I hid behind the door for 1 second and came out... then 2 seconds and came out... then 5 seconds and came out... until he was able to just stay playing with her and I could actually get something done (like taking a shower!).

How do you say goodbye to someone like that?  How do we start over???  I can only pray and have faith in the Lord that we will have other Jessicas in our lives.  People who will capitalize on Nathan's strengths to help him overcome his weaknesses.  People who value his funny sense of humor, receive one of his priceless smiles and wave to him from their car as they drive off.  Nathan has gotten into recognizing people's cars.  He recognizes 4 people's cars: mine, my husband's, our neighbors and Jessica's car.  We can be anywhere and when he sees a car like hers, he yells "red yacaca car!" If there is more than one (which is often the case) he will yell "red, blue, tan, green yacaca car!"  Yup!  That's what Jessica has become to us.  We are closing a huge chapter in our lives today... and it feels like we are starting all over again.  Walking by faith searching for peace in this puzzle...


Friday, August 5, 2011

A special prayer for some unbelievable women

Just as I finished "publishing" my last post (which I posted while I sat at the salon-- something I have not done in... well, let's not even say how long!) the girl doing my hair started sharing her best friend's story.  God has a funny sense of humor and sometimes He speaks so clearly it's like He is screaming!  Here I was asking for support after some hard days and then I hear the story of Kay...

I've known the girl doing my hair for about 2 years now. She is the amazing, brave soldier who stood by us through every one of the little man's haircuts, enduring the screaming, kicking and head butting (one time she thought he had knocked out one of my teeth... and to this day still tells the story).  Kay is her best friend, and she is a single mom to a four year old son diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  It has been an incredibly hard road for Kay... and her best friend (also a single mom) has moved in with her to help out with her little guy.

This got me thinking about all you Hero Moms out there... you single moms and moms whose husbands are in the service and deployed overseas.  Tonight I am saying a special prayer for each and every one of you.  Your strength, perseverance and poise is awesome, in the TRUE sense of the word. I am blessed to have one of the most supportive and involved fathers in my husband... and I still have many a day when I am ready to give up.  How do you guys do it on your own?  People ask me all the time how I do it... and I really tell them I know no other life, I would not know any different!  As long as I've been a parent I've had to deal with having a son with unique qualities that set him apart from the average child.  But I also will concede that it is ONLY by God's grace that I am able to pull myself out of bed, run to work, pick up my son, drive him to therapy, come home for more therapy there, get dinner ready, clean up and try to stay awake past 8 o'clock so I can actually see my husband... but I am able to pass him the baton. He comes home right from a full day of work, gives the little man a bath, gets him ready for bed and then tends to all the daily home "business."

I am in awe of those of you who don't have your relay runner to pass the baton to when you've reached the end of your rope.  This is where my prayer begins... that the Lord may multiply your strength and give you wings like eagles:
"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength;They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:28-31

I pray that your strength be renewed and you be surrounded by His compassion, which is new every morning:
"Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “ The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “ Therefore I hope in Him!” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him."  Lamentations 3:22-25
I actually recommend that you read from verse 22 through the end of the chapter:
Lamentations 3 (Bible Gateway)

You are Heroes, each and every single one of you.  Life is hard... life with a child on the spectrum is hard... life with more than one child on the spectrum is hard... life with children on the spectrum for a couple is hard... life with children on the spectrum for a single mom is (quoting a doctor I met recently) "running a marathon at a sprint"... Life without Jesus Christ... well, THAT I can't imagine!

God bless you, each and every one of you.  You are amazing angels of God and I pray for you today.  Be strong in the Lord!
Hugs and blessings!!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Where does my strength come from?

"I lift up my eyes to the hills- Where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip- He who watches over you will not slumber... The LORD watches over you. The LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm- He will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more"  Psalm 121

I share Casting Crown's song "Praise You in the Storm," which was written based on this scripture.  God bless you!!!