LUKE – I AM YOUR FATHER

While I was still pregnant with Luke and considering names for the perfect, little boy that would soon be joining us, I remember distinctly the moment that the name Luke popped into my head.  I was stopped at a stop sign in our tiny little town on my way home from grocery shopping.  Suddenly, I just heard it in my head, “Luke.”  That is a very nice name and I think it meets all my criteria.

  1. I have never dated a Luke.
  2. It is short.
  3. It doesn’t rhyme with any derogatory words.
  4. It will not be mispronounced.
  5. It is common enough to not be weird, but not so common that three kids turn around every time I call his name.

I took the idea home to my husband.  Who immediately agreed.  The name had also come to him.  Of course, he had a much more practical reason for liking the name.  “After all,” he said, “I have always wanted to say, ‘Luke, I am your father!'”

And so it was that Luke came to be Luke.  We knew Luke was perfect when he was born.  His life was a miracle. We loved every piece of his 5 pound, 11 ounce body.  We watched him grow and waited eagerly to introduce him to Star Wars so he could meet the hero that inspired his name.  As time went on, though, we began to realize that our perfect son may not ever understand the humor in his Daddy’s words, “Luke, I am your father.”

The unfortunate fact is that the movie Star Wars is notably lacking tractors of any kind.  Now if our hero, Luke Skywalker, were to fly through space in a John Deere tractor battling evil farmer clones in combines, Luke might be convinced to watch.  However, since Luke prefers harvesters to jet fighters and perfectly hitched fertilizer sprayers to witty robots, we reconciled ourselves to the hopelessness of introducing our Luke to THE Luke.  Until today.

Unlike Luke, Thomas loves all things Star Wars, so he was elated when I offered to let him watch one of the DVDs on my laptop today.  Not long after the movie began, Luke bounded into the room, and I thought, “Well, that was fun while it lasted,” knowing the battle that would follow.

However, instead of pushing away his loud, aggressive, older brother, Thomas excitedly invited Luke to join him.  “Luke, you wanna watch a show with me?   The hero is Luke – just like you!  C’mon!”

20170409_144259Luke happily plopped himself next to his brother.  They hugged for a few minutes and then resumed the movie.  Luke lost interest after a few minutes and has been in and out of the room many times, but each time he returns, he is welcomed by his little brother who pauses Star Wars long enough to love on Luke.

Who knows, with enough loving invitations, maybe Luke will understand the story someday.  After all, “The force is strong with this one!”

An Intelligent Brand of Stupid

“Now! NOW!”  The urgent call ripped me from sleep and I took off toward the kitchen stumbling over the laundry basket of clothes as I rounded the corner praying, “Please, not another fire.”

Fire was our Sunday morning activity two weeks ago.  Luke and Little A were hanging out in my bed, Luke watching tractor videos on YouTube and Little A fussing because Luke kept displacing her and snuggling up to me.  His mischievous smile and sudden bolt from the bedroom should have been my tip off to follow him immediately rather than sleepily giving my bed a thorough pat down in search of my phone.  I texted hubby requesting backup then walked out of the room to see what Luke had found to entertain himself.

My first thought as I opened the door was, “Ah crud; he’s melted something then thrown my hot curling iron in the toilet again.”

Nope.  Curling iron was undisturbed. I heard Luke’s voice, coming toward me, “Is it a fire?” he asked innocently.  The flames were already brushing the ceiling and heavy black smoke billowed toward me.  On the bar in the center of the kitchen was the toaster, completely engulfed.  My mind raced as I considered my options.  Electrical fire; what do I do?  Is it safe to throw water on it?  I think so; no gas is involved.  Just a little cup at first to make sure.  I tentatively threw the water at the fire as I hollered at the top of my lungs with all the urgency I could muster.  I hadn’t blown up with that first cup, so I started dumping cups full of water on the flames, wondering where the heck my backup was.  The kids all started filing upstairs, big ones getting the little ones outside where the air was clear.  Finally, hubby appeared.  He grabbed a towel, wet it and threw it over the flames, extinguishing it completely.

It was all over in a matter of minutes.  We opened windows and doors to begin funnel breathable air back into the house.   I soaked my burned arm in cold water as hubby investigated the cause of the fire, although we both had a fairly good idea what had happened.  Sure enough, in the bottom of the burned out toaster were the charcoal remains of a train from our collection of Thomas the train collection and a metal race car.  The damage was relatively minimal.  Several 4-5 inch boils and holes in the laminate counter top and a smoke stained ceiling.  A heavy layer of soot caked anything that was out in the kitchen or living room, and we were blowing black boogers from our noses for a couple of hours.  I had minor blisters on my arm, hands and feet, but we were lucky, and I collapsed and sobbed at the thought of what could have been.

Now, here I was again waking to another untold emergency with panic in my heart.  I ran to the kitchen, but saw no evidence of foul play.  Then followed Luke’s cries to his bedroom where I immediately knew what he had done.  There, on the floor in front of the electrical outlet, was a pair of blackened scissors, and Luke was armed with a kitchen knife ready to go in for another battle.  I wrestled the knife from him and picked up the scissors.  He recoiled in fear of the scissors that had shocked him.

“What the heck, Luke?!”

We keep the breaker to his bedroom flipped off since the wiring is exposed after he tore the sheet rock off of all of the inner walls.  However, he has recently figured out how to flip it back on when we want to use the television in the living room.  He must have flipped it on so he could see to operate on his plugin patient.  And even after his shock, he was ready to go back in for the kill, blaming the scissors, not the outlet for his pain.

This evening, hubby remarked, “I wonder how many lives that boy has.”

“I don’t know. He’s used up three just this month.”

My boy must have an full army of guardian angels looking out for him.  His intelligent brand of stupidity is enough to wear out even the most angelic of guardians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kumbaya?

“How do you spell, ‘penis’?”

The question posed by this seemingly innocent elementary school student jarred his teacher to attention.  The class had been asked to draw a picture about their lives, and the fact that this was his student’s choice aroused immediate concern and suspicion in the conscientious  teacher.

“Why do you want to spell that word?” he asked, fearing the response.

“Well, you see, I drew a picture of a rainbow and I want to write, ‘happiness,’ under it.  I have the, ‘hap,’ but I need the, ‘penis.'”

This was just one of the many stories shared during a four-day retreat for special needs mamas that I attended last week.  It has been years since I sat up late swapping stories and laughing with friends. I seriously felt like a 13 year-old girl again, and it was beautiful and healing.

By nature, I am a fairly reserved person.  I am not comfortable in large groups of strangers; I have even been known to develop a last minute, “illness,” when I feel pressured to participate in social groups.  I was tempted to back out of this one too, but others had been turned away from the opportunity.  I could not intentionally skip out on it.  Sometimes those nagging feelings of guilt and responsibility really  do save me, and this was one of those times.

I entered the room with an overwhelming sense of trepidation. “Please don’t make me hold hands and sing, ‘Kumbaya,’ with a bunch of strangers,” I silently prayed.  I was one of the last to arrive and had missed several of the introductions already.  The group was busy making Journey Boards – scrapbook pages of themselves and their journeys that landed them here.  As I hurried to catch up, I became overwhelmed by the lives of the women surrounding me, and I immediately realized I had entered a room of sisters, not strangers.  These women had faced and conquered struggles that I cannot even imagine.  Loss of husbands, abusive husbands, children with multiple diagnoses, and multiple children with special needs.  By the time I had my board prepared to share, I felt nothing but pure joy for the life I was blessed to have, and this was only the first hours of a life-changing event.

Over the next four days, our group participated in courses tailored to the significant challenges that come from raising special needs children.  We were taught about working with our schools to develop amazing IEPs (Individualized Education Programs – not plans – see Lana I remembered something :).  A local chiropractor volunteered his time to discuss chiropractic options to treating our special kiddos.  We learned about resources available through Medicaid and other charitable organizations.  Did you know that Idaho Falls has a group that is dedicated to finding bicycles that work for our special needs kids?  Neither did I. Amazing!  And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

We learned about the importance of taking care of ourselves and putting priorities in proper perspective.  Later in the week, a certified ABA therapist provided training on handling many of the challenging behaviors we see every day with our children.  I had more questions answered in these four days than I have in all the years of being Luke’s mommy.  I came home on fire with new ambition and drive to make changes in Luke’s care that will help him develop to his full potential.  More than that, though, I came home with a new network of support, new friends living with parallel challenges, new skills (and no, ladies, painting is not among those skills), and new perspective.

Thankfully, my prayers were answered.  Although we did have one very close call, we were never required to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.”  I would say, however, that I do have more of a Kumbaya spirit now.  A huge thank you to all of the many, many people and organizations that contributed time, money, and effort to make this possible.  Every one of you contributed to healing this stressed-out, tattered mamma.

 

 

 

Folks Who Get It

“Let go of my cart!  I said, LET GO!”  I heard the demand, but took several moments to register that it was aimed at my boy.  Luke sat in the back of my cart happily smashing her cart into ours as she vainly tried to pass us in the grocery store aisle.  I quickly moved his hand away, freeing her cart, as I registered the icy glare that said more than words ever could.

“I’m sorry; he’s autistic.  He doesn’t understand.” I offered up feebly.  The assaulted customer passed by like a cold wind.  My heart sank.

Behind her approached another shopper, momentarily distracted by jars of spaghetti sauce.  Luke saw his opportunity and lunged for her cart.  “You want my cart too, huh?” The second victim asked him playfully.  She squeezed my arm as she maneuvered past us.  “I have an autistic niece.  I get it.”

I have been the beneficiary of many simple acts of kindness from random strangers who “get it.”  Luke’s autism greatly affects his ability to control impulses and emotions, but these kind people see that Luke’s behavior is not an intentionally mean act directed at them, but the uncontrollable impulse of an autistic child.  They see that what looks like the nasty tantrum of a spoiled child is actually an autistic meltdown, and they know that once he is in a meltdown, no amount of parental discipline will change this behavior because this is not a behavior that he can control.

During what should have been a quick trip to Target for emergency diapers, Luke spotted an end cap of Oreo cookies, and we were done for.  Anxiety in the check-out line progressed to a full-on meltdown as we moved toward the door – minus the Oreos.  In the back of the red, plastic cart, Luke hit and kicked, screeched inconsolably, and banged his head over and over.  Considering both his safety and mine, I decided it would be best to let him cycle through the meltdown there in the cart rather than trying to remove his 90-pound flailing body.  Customers passing by shot sympathetic glances my way.  Several stopped to see if they could help.  An older cowboy suggested, “That boy could use a dose of good, old-fashioned discipline.”  Another gentleman walked by and slipped a Snickers bar into my hand.

“Thank you, but he can’t have candy.” I responded, thinking his intent was to bribe my boy out of his tantrum.

“You misunderstand,” he replied.  “This is for you.  It’s from another mom who just checked out.  She asked me to give it to you; thought you deserved it after going through this.”

Yes, some folks just get it.  They know that I am embarrassed and frustrated by my inability to control my son, but that I love him unconditionally.  They know that behind the mischief and misdeeds is a sweet, kind boy who wants to be loved and treated just like any other kid.  They know there is more to Luke than his autism shows.