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Archive for July, 2010

Guest Post: Three Channels Defined

Since Elizabeth is at the beach this week with our kids, I’ve received permission to “guest post” here and offer my own perspective into the meaning of “Three Channels”.

I am Elizabeth’s husband, and am the one in the relationship that remembers our anniversary each year and can accurately recall the year in which we were married.  We have a crafty-looking paint-your-own-pottery plate that Elizabeth decorated and presented triumphantly; it describes our family and boldly says “Est. 1996” – it is a beautiful plate, but we were married in 1994.  We did acquire a pretty good dog back in ’96.

I like to drink coffee and Tab (not together); Tab reminds me of my grandparents and, without the continued support of folks like me, we may be in the final days of Tab.  Drinking Tab makes me a statistical outlier, and I like that.  I think it’s fun when a waiter or waitress asks “what would you like to drink?’ to reply, “do you have Tab?”  So far they don’t.

Today, sales and marketing professionals collect consumer information and analyze buying patterns on a massive scale.  They define market segments, and develop marketing campaigns and targeting strategies to appeal to prospects and individual customers.  Technology is enabling mass customization and personalized marketing that would have been impossible to achieve even on a small scale just a few years ago.  Chief marketing officers take great pride in how creatively they can personalize their brand and message down to an individual consumer.  While this may seem cutting edge, it’s a concept that is as old as time itself.

On the sixth day of creation, God foreshadowed both Jesus and the Holy Spirit when he said “Let us make man in our image.”  Even since then, God has been executing His plan – a plan that leverages His absolute knowledge of each of us into personalized and easily accessible opportunities for relationship with Him.

It is difficult for us today to imagine the Old Testament concept of God these early people had as neither Christ nor the Holy Spirit had been fully revealed to them.  Prophets began to hear from God and foretold the next epoch of God’s manifestation of Himself to His people – Christ’s ministry on earth.  How unbelievable it must have been for the few people who actually got to see or hear Jesus, the Lord incarnate.  The overwhelming population, however, as a circumstance of time or geography, could not participate firsthand in Jesus’ life events.

Jesus’ disciples were appropriately sad when He told them that He was going away.  Jesus explains in John 16:7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. These were men whose best friend was, literally, the Son of God.  Because they would have rightfully considered Jesus to be irreplaceable, the idea that a complementary third channel of God, the Holy Spirit – equal in power, relevancy and relationship – was abstract to them.

At each stage in the Lord’s revealing of Himself – first as God, then as God together with His Son Jesus; and finally the Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – God is in direct fellowship with an increasingly large number of people.  Because of God’s infinite capacity, through the perpetual ministry of the Holy Spirit, He is able to have an ongoing, individual relationship with an infinite number of people.  It is a degree of complexity and personalization that is incomprehensible.

So while the Coca-Cola Company probably doesn’t know me, and has no idea that I drink Tab, God does and I’d like to believe He thinks it’s funny – because, after all, that’s just how He made me!

Posted on 25 July '10 by , under Guest Post. 17 Comments.

Mexican Combos, Steam Cleaners and Goat Milking

A ten-year-old may ignore the start of stomach troubles and insist on consuming a Number 5 Mexican combo to impress his 11-year-old friend.  Later, in the wee hours of the morning, this same boy, might run for the bathroom, sailing over ten feet of carpet and his sister’s giant wooden doll house, yet not making it to the bathroom before a Mexican eruption takes place throughout the room.

(Come to think of it he does look a little peaked here.)

This vesuvius might lead a weary mother to scream into the night, “This will never, ever, ever come out of the carpet!  It’ll have to be ripped up!  There’s no hope!  No amount of steam cleaning can get this up!  I don’t know why I ever agreed to buy a house that had carpet again!”

This mother will then need to sheepishly apologize to her ten-year-old for Mexican fest throw-up blame.

The next morning, this same mother may reluctantly rent a steam cleaner and proceed to spend seven full hours steam cleaning not only the upchuck room, but also every other wretchedly carpeted room in her home.

She might overzealously attack the playroom, vacuuming up gallon after gallon of muddy, play dough tinged soup.  Exhausted, she may proclaim the entire house spotless, and go to bed at 8 pm.

The next morning, however, she may awaken to a troubling, moldly smell emanating from the playroom.  She may rush to Home Depot in a panic, be told that she has soaked the carpet pad and will need to rent an industrial sized dehumidifer as well as several oversized fans in order to have any hope of drying out the carpet pad.

As directed by the Home Depot professionals, she may spray a mold deterrent product all over the carpet and work it feverishly into the carpet pile using her bare hands.  She may discover this is an effective way to remove her own fingerprints, and may spend the next several days with band aids covering each raw fingertip.

In a fit of anger over the destruction of a rather complicated artifact out of floam, an irrationally impulsive 8-year-old boy might “accidentally” shove a plastic throw-up bucket on his five-year-old sister’s head.  (The bucket was rinsed out, but still!)

(The above is a reenactment.)

If this boy does such a detestable act, he will most likely find himself locked in his room, Mead Composition journal in hand, with a command to write ten legible sentences in cursive detailing why his actions were wrong.  He could possibly miss a coveted trip to an agricultural museum and a promise of actual goat milking.

(Below you see this child convincing his sister to push him around on her “princess choo choo” while he simultaneously consumes a Rice Krispie treat and balances a hard wood floor sample piece my husband brought home after I told him the carpet would never come clean.)

While locked in his room, he might write the following:

“I dumped a box that Joseph barfed in on Sue.  I’ll never do that again.  Now I’m in big trouble and have to write sentences.  Right now I am on #4.  This is my best handwriting.  This is also hard.  The words that I am writing are a punishment.  I’m missing my lunch.  I can’t think about anything else to write.  I’m starving.  This is my last sentence.”

I haven’t even started writing about the goat milking…..just wait!

Posted on 19 July '10 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 4 Comments.

Yummy Gluten-Free Birthday Cake!

I’ve experienced run of rather dry gluten-free cupcakes of late, so I decided to try Arrowhead Mills Gluten-Free cake mix for Sue’s 5th birthday.

(I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but Sue was recently diagnosed with a gluten intolerance so we are forging ahead now with two gluten-free children!)

The cake turned out quite well, and was a bit dense but not at all dry like the Betty Crocker.  Sue and Edward thrilled to the gluten-free confection after suffering through a ridiculously large batch of gf cupcakes I made a few months ago and froze.  (Maybe the freezing dried them out further…)

Even Joseph ate a large slice of cake and he is the biggest gluten-free snob I know.

I’ll be using this mix again!

Disclaimer:  I bought this mix myself and was in no way compensated for this review!

Posted on 16 July '10 by , under GF/CF Diet/Food Reviews. 6 Comments.

Autism and Confusing Faces

One of the most frustrating aspects of parenting a child on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum (whatever that means these days) is the incredible disparity in behavior.  Since we recently moved to a new town, we have had so many situations where Edward attends an event, behaves in a rather typical way, and things go rather smoothly.

Other times his behavior is so outside-the-box that both parents and children are looking at all of us oddly.  Sometimes I have to give an explanation to the parents.

It’s this roulette wheel of behavior and expectations that absolutely exhausts me.  Despite my best efforts at maintaining a great sensory diet prior to the event, making sure he is well-rested and well-fed, often times my best-laid plans just fall into an abyss of tantrums, incessant questions or just abject hyperactivity.

We’ve had great experiences, however, at our neighborhood pool during the past several weeks.  The combination of the water and activity coupled with frequent snack breaks makes for a relatively calm outing.  I have even allowed him to run off with his brother to the other end of the pool for short periods to play hide-and-go seek with the other children their age.  And he has stayed with his brother!  This is a big milestone for us, because before, he would run away the first chance he felt any taste of freedom.

Yesterday, however, I learned an important lesson about how Edward sees the world.  He had been playing with Joseph and two other boys we met through baseball.  The older boy wears glasses, so about half the time he wears them at the pool and the other half he takes them off.  All four boys were playing hide-and-go-seek peacefully, giving me a chance to help Sue with her own swimming endeavors.

When we got in the car, however, Edward started talking about there being two boys named “Joshua.”  Joseph said something like, “Well, I don’t know who you are talking about.  We only played with Joshua Smith.  There weren’t any other boys around.”  And Edward said, “Well, there was the Joshua with the glasses who is eleven and pretty tall, and then the Joshua without glasses who is also eleven and pretty tall.  We played with both boys, right?”

At that moment I realized that Edward could not read the boy’s face well enough to tell that he was the same person, glasses on or off.  I suddenly felt this great rush of empathy for him, and how confusing the world must be for him at times.  I started to feel so bad for the frustration I feel toward him when he doesn’t recognize a friend’s parent or a teacher he’s seen many, many times.

It was a good learning experience for Joseph, too.  I believe it is incredibly difficult for Joseph to have any concept regarding what the world looks like from Edward’s perspective.  Because he doesn’t understand these differences, he has little patience.  This event, however, gave Joseph a little taste of how Edward sees the world.

It’s a taste we all need more of…

Posted on 13 July '10 by , under Autism Spectrum/Sensory Processing. 11 Comments.

Why Boxing Gloves, Boys and Teeth Don’t Mix

I decided today was the day to try to do something about the troublingly stained champagne-colored carpet in my dining room.

Yes, dining room.

Who puts carpet in a dining room, you ask?  Well, the person who owned this house before I did.  She had three young children, too, so I’m not sure what she was thinking but this carpet is nasty.

I even thought about pulling it up and painting the subfloor a distressed white but I took a gander at the subfloor and it is far to splintery for my household.

So I settled in this morning with a fresh white cloth and a brand new bottle of carpet cleaner.  It was actually quite peaceful.  I listened to talk radio and tried to catch up on current events, as relaxing as that could be in this day and age.

I was well into my project, faithfully scrubbing away at a deeply set-in spaghetti sauce stain when Edward shot past me at record pace, a panicked look on his face as he screamed,“Ohhhh noooooo!  And it was a permanent tooth, too!”

I actually kept spraying and blotting.  I think I was giving myself a moment to compose my thoughts and prepare to meet a ten-year-old missing one of his two front teeth.

I mentally calculated how much some sort of dental implant might cost, along with the knowledge that most dental insurance plans don’t cover cosmetic dentistry.

I could hear Edward in the background wailing from his self-imposed exile:  “A permanent tooth!  A permanent one.  They don’t grow back!  Aghhhhhh!”

Then I remembered some rule about putting knocked-out teeth in milk to preserve them for a possible re-implantation and realized I had to face the truth.  I hurried over to the playroom where I found Joseph and Sue on their hands and knees searching through carpet and wailing, “It’s got to be here somewhere!”

Sound familiar?

Joseph stood up, clutching his mouth, and delivered the news with a hopeful look, “Only part of it is gone.  It was a permanent tooth, but part of it is still here, and the other part is in the carpet somewhere.  I think.”

He jumped back down and dutifully continued to sift through the shag.  I knelt down next to him, steeled myself to the possible blow, and asked him to open his mouth.  To my utter relief, only a half-moon shaped chunk was missing from one of his lower middle teeth.

A sharp shard poked forward to be sure, but it was nothing like the horror I had imagined.

I smiled.  He looked afraid.

“If I find the piece, do you think they can graft it back on?” he asked, hopefully.

“I’d just like to hear the story, if you please,” I said calmly, fully expecting the dreaded word “wrestling” to be front and center.

Joseph began sheepishly, “Well, I was just sort of wearing these boxing gloves…”

“I don’t need to hear any more.” I countered, my confidence building as I imagined the scenario.

“Well, it was his head that knocked into my mouth.”

Isn’t it always?

We’ll be visiting the pediatric dentist in the morning to find out what can be done.  In the meantime, the dentist warned us that further wrestling, roughhousing or consumption of crunchy foods could make the situation worse, or cause the jagged tooth shard to impale the lip.

A few hours after the event, everyone was eerily quiet.  I hunted them as I typically do in these situations and found them piled on Edward’s bed…reading the Bible together.

They are good.

Too good.

Posted on 7 July '10 by , under Humor/Disconnected Miscellany. 6 Comments.

Authenticity: What I Learned from the Smockity Frock Affair

I tend to be fearful of jumping into the fray when controversies such as the one with Smockity arise.  Part of it has to do with my unhealthy desire to please everyone and not make anyone uncomfortable, and the other part has to do with concern that I will write something so ridiculous it will drive everyone away.

So a few months after nearly everyone in the autism blogosphere has weighed in on this painful, and at times divisive, situation, I still find myself still wanting to enter the dialogue.  Perhaps it will seem like I am stirring the ashes of a finally dwindling conflagration, but every month ought to be autism awareness month, so I will press on.

I have some complex thoughts about Smockity because I can totally see myself naively writing something like she did without being aware of the harm it would eventually cause.  Yet I also felt angry toward Smockity because she hurt my feelings by making fun of a small child’s behavior–a child whose behavior sounds eerily like my own child’s.  I do appreciate her apology as well as the flurry of unplanned autism awareness that her gaffe unwittingly caused.

As the mother of a child on the autism spectrum whose behavior can be the subject of much wailing and gnashing, at times I feel earnestly jealous of people who never know what it is like to have others roll their eyes when their physically typical darling throws down in the grocery aisle or accidentally whaps someone in the face during some excited flapping.

Yet let me dig a bit deeper and prove to be even more vulnerable.  I also felt bitterness toward Smockity because she has eight children, creates delectable crock pot dishes, homeschools successfully, makes homemade country gravy and sews, and because she does all these things and still has time to video herself making homemade Pop Up books with her children.

Sheesh.

All of this must mean she is a much more organized, talented, hardworking Christian blogger and mother than I will ever hope to be.

She must be successful.  Why, she’s the Proverbs 31 woman!

Right?

Here’s where it gets even further complicated between Smockity and me.  A few years ago a writer-friend was doing profiles on various types of mothers and asked to write about me.  The article would be complete with glossy photographs in a magazine fairly well known in my town.  At first I was horrified, but later I thought it might be fun and I would be able to share a portrait of a former public and private school family choosing to homeschool.

My friend described me as a “homeschool mom with a thriving online business and popular blog.”

Hmmm.

When I first looked through the flawless pages featuring our family jumping gleefully on a trampoline, Sue with her bow perfectly in place and me with sunglasses perched jauntily atop my head, I felt good.

I looked and sounded like I had my stuff together.

(Ever heard of pride?)

And then I immediately felt sick.  I’m not any of those things, and that magazine piece was not an authentic portrait of any kind of motherhood.

I struggled to homeschool (during the years that I did) and it was rare for me to complete a day’s lessons and still prepare a mildly nutritious dinner meal, much less something homemade.  If selling a few books online every now and then is a “successful” business, then any college student who pawns off old textbooks on Amazon is an online whiz.

Yet women who read that article about me might easily see my apparent “success” and allow themselves to feel potentially inadequate.  Sort of like I could let Smockity’s achievements make me feel today if I let the world’s twisted definition of success dictate my feelings.

After perusing Smockity’s blog, I have to say that I honestly like her.  I don’t think she would tell any of us that she is anywhere close to the perfect Proverbs 31 woman, yet.  She is called to live her life and I am called to live mine.

The blogs I return to day after day are written by unabashedly authentic and at times transparent women reaching out to other people while at the same time sharing their own joy, pain and wisdom.

I have struggled lately to find that balance in my own writing, and to find out why God has called me to write in the first place.  I find it so painful and difficult to write when I am struggling mightily, as I have lately with my son’s behavior.  Yet isn’t that the time I should be reaching out, sharing, being authentic?

I guess I am holding my own feet to the fire and admitting that I’ve become a blogging wimp.

Posted on 2 July '10 by , under Autism Spectrum/Sensory Processing. 18 Comments.