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Quiet the Questioning

The phone beeped, buzzed, and rang all within a few minutes. These interruptions snatched me from a dream I had been caught in, promising to keep me engaged in another intriguing world until the sun was shining bright enough to end it. It was the Friday after parent teacher conferences, the middle of March, and two weeks before spring break. There was two and a half months left of school. It was the last year of our son’s elementary years. Spring was just around the corner. But all of these things were in the shadows . What marked that moment was a heavy, pressing question: What does all this mean? It lead to an endless series of questions.

The immediate answer for me was a cup of tea. One sip of hot chamomile was calming and soothing. But then, questions blew in like a gust of wind and caused me to shiver.

“What was that sound? What happened? What’s going on? ” Goldi, asked with the bright eyes she always wears when she is excited or extremely curious.

I took one more sip to wet my still dry and tired pallet to help make my answer sound clear and confident:

“School is closed because of the coronavirus.”

Holding my mug of tea and still wearing my pj’s, I had hoped those words seemed more like words of everyday news like there is slight chance of rain today or dad forget his lunch. No big deal. But my answer invited more questions from the wide open floodgates.

“Are we going to get the virus? How long will school be closed? Why does school have to be closed? Will I still have to hand in my homework? What are we going to do today?” Both Goldi and her brother didn’t seem to be breathing . It was simply hopeless to attempt to “step over their words” with attempts to silence and satisfy.

Soon, the subject was left hanging. We carried on with the usual things as though nothing had happened. Goldi dressed in her outfit she had planned to wear that day to school, combed her hair, brushed her teeth, and began talking in various accents in her room as she played with different dolls and figurines. Her brother got lost in checking scores and stats for the upcoming NBA championship. ( thinking all games would still take place) I found a pencil and a piece of notebook paper. I wiggled the pencil back and forth thinking and scratching out a plan.

By the end of the first week, we had established a routine and it was set it stone enough for the kids to begin to argue it:

“Why do we have to do math at 9:30 am? Can’t we just skip reading today? Could we watch a movie while we eat lunch and have a longer recess? ”

After three months, the questions were few and far between and nearly back to the normal inquiries kids ask ” What’s for dinner? Who touched my tablet? Can you please tell her/him to stop bothering me! Can we get Disney Plus? Can you help me find some socks?”

Under lockdown, our routine was in automatic mode. It was almost like we turned into robots going through the motions of our day without any emotion and on never ending repeat cycle. It was hard. It was tiring. It was sometimes complete drudgery.

Then, summer came and we grew pleasantly lazy and care free. The green grass, the blue sky, the warmth of the sun, all color our days with an easy breezy feeling. Despite the looming danger of the virus hovering over life, the questions have turned to wonders:

“What makes the sky so blue? Why does the hummingbird flap its wings so fast? What makes the firefly light up? How many shapes can a white fluffy cloud make? How do you tell if the watermelon is ripe? I wonder how fast I can run from the mailbox to the end of the street and back? Is there a dandelion I can pick and make a wish on? “

Wonderings on summer lazy days are a perfect respite from the agonizing questions with only unknown as the answer: How long will we have to wear a mask? How long until the virus is over? Will I get the virus? “

We still live in summer and are still living in this wonderful dreamy respite. There are moments that feel so normal and we forget that a virus indeed did hit and that there is still so much unknown. How pleasant it is to put that in the shadows and just live and be. But then there are moments when through one word from someone, a story, or a bit of news, buzzes in our ear like a mosquito.

“When IS this virus going to be over anyway? Are we going back to school? Will they have choir and cross country? Will I have to wear a mask all day? “

These questions are asked before spooning a bite of cereal into their mouths or right before they fly out the door. There is less panic in their tone and maybe a little bit of patience. Even when the answer is “I don’t know ” Miraculously , Goldi will shrug her shoulders and say “Oh.” Both Goldi and her brother have endured this. They have no clue as to how much longer we will worry about the virus. There is no vaccine, no cure, no promising medications, and no true rock solid facts. But Goldi flies around on her scooter, practices various accents, imagines, creates, and lays in her hammock looking up into the sky in perfect stillness. Her brother flies around on his rip stick, flips on the trampoline, pesters his sister, and slows down a little to wipe the sweat off his forehead. They have shown that even though the unknown is a constant, they aim to be a kid.

As the summer waves goodbye, and school speaks of reopening, I have asked questions to them as I worry through the laundry list of questions of my own:

“Do you feel okay? Do you want to go back to school? How do you feel about going back to school? How would you feel about school at home?

“I feel fine! I want to go back to school!” shouts Goldi’s brother.

“I think I should try to go back. ” says Goldi looking off into the distance as if she had a peek into what “going back” would look like.

They are determined to experience even the slightest trace of what was, holding on to those “good old days” with all their might. They dream about it and wish for their return.

We still have questions that float around in our heads. But they don’t blurt out as rapidly as before. After they are verbalized, even if the answers are not what they would like, we all respond with a sigh, and move forward with even a small thing like licking a popsicle, twisting a rubrics cube, or just walking around breathing in the summer air. As we all do these things, a dream of “someday soon” stirs up inside us. There is a peace and a comfort because Someone else has all the answers. Someone has wisdom beyond us. Someone is able to quiet our worries, our cares, and our endless questions with His love.

His understanding is unsearchable. Isaih 40:28

He will quiet you by his love. Zephaniah 3:17

Not normal but new

Summer’s sentimental  air lends itself to reflection. The sun’s warmth is a sweet compliment to memory building days of swimming in pools, bike rides,ice cream cones, and never ending play. Summer gives way to school, and is nearly over for Goldi. So I’ve looked into a mirror of days past, and wandered into the “what will be”.

In the sparkling waters of a swimming pool, Goldi held her breath and let the wavy water blanket her. She kicked and floated and blew bubbles.

“I saw the bottom, it’s blue!” she said popping up to the top.

Hesitation no longer crippled her. The ripples of her splash stretched as far as the pool’s width and the waves took a long while to calm.

She’s older now and those her age have aged more. They know that pink and orange clash. They are playing with their rip sticks and not their princesses. Will she be as free to make her own splash? How will she deal with the poison of some bully or one who turns up their nose at her quirkiness?

“Mom! Watch me again. I am going to be underwater the whole way!” Goldi announces.

I watch with anticipation. Goldi swims the whole length of the pool underwater.

There is a new trail that winds itself through the quiet of the woods. A hush allows us to hear the sizzle of the tires on wisps of dirt. It allows for Goldi to stretch out her hand and brush the low branches of leaves as she breezes by.

“Goldi lead the way this time!” her dad invites.

Goldi takes first place. She looks from right to left at the first cross street. She waits and double looks.

“All clear! Let’s go!” She calls out.

Sometimes, her peers instruct like a momma. They stoop down and use their little kid voice:
“It’s your turn. You have to do it like this. Be careful. ”

Will she know to pause and think on her own before she acts?

Goldi pedals onward and comes to the next crosswalk.
“Go ahead!” her father says.
“Not yet Dad,” she says back.
A car storms through unexpectedly.

Laziness is at its best while licking ice cream cone on the front porch. In the shade and in everyday view of summer, we lick, question, talk, and listen to the breeze. We wait for the hummingbird to surprise us. Sometimes he comes and sometimes he is elsewhere. We are content no matter.

“Mom, this time I want a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone”. Goldi requests.
My scooper shakes with excitement.

“You mean you don’t want vanilla?” I confirm.

“Nope! I want mint chocolate chip please.” She insists.

The humming bird comes right to the kitchen window and nods.
I become more than content. I am elated.

Summer eating has turned feasting. New on Goldi’s menu is hamburgers, cheeseburgers, roast beef, grilled cheese, smoothies, spaghetti with sauce, and mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Will she know the pleasures of the new? Will she take the risk of trying even though uncertain? So much new ahead as adolescence rounds the corner and Goldi stays in the wing of little girl.

“I’ll help cook dinner.” Goldi announces wearing her pink apron.
“We need to peel some carrots and crack some eggs.” I tell her.

Goldi glides the peeler with ease and allows the slippery ooze to tickle her fingers. New has never felt so wonderful for her.

When the neighborhood wakes up, Goldi dashes off to knock on doors.
She approaches even the big tall, booming voice fathers and asks: “Is she home? Can she play?”

Even in the disappointment of decline, she realizes there is a second chance. There is a hope stemmed from forever play days passed.

But my poison is worry. Worry is a like a sword, piercing my hope with future rejection from these same playable neighbors and others sure to meet her autism. Will she initiate friendship? Will she find those that genuinely cherish her friendship? Will their discipline, poise, and maturity drift them far apart from Goldi’s childlike manner, naivety, and innocence?

“Mom, they can ‘t play right now. Maribelle has karate and Jane and Suzie are in the middle of a checkers game. ” Goldi says softly.

Right now passes quickly and there are three knocking at the door.
Right now they are eager to play. Even if it is with a Barbie Glamour pool filled with water and complete with miniature water slide. So I shelf the worry and relish in the right now.

Summer reflection has turned to a realized hope. While the “what will be” days will be tainted with the quirky, jumpy, hand flapping, immaturity of Goldi’s autism, there is a newness that will one day overshadow it and the only thing seen will be the glory of God.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:19

Admission but Anonymous about Autism

In April there were sunny, warm, and waking up kind of blue skies days.  It seems like all winter the sky was so sleepy and lifeless and then it lit up blue just in time for April.

I admit all April I wasn’t so lit up. There was a battle in me between what I was supposed to do- spread awareness by wearing my blue shirt or dying my hair blue, or posting articles about its reality, and do what I wanted to do- just ignore it and live in the fantasy of normalcy.

Then something blue arrived home in Goldi’s brother’s school folder.

“We are Lighting it up blue” the note said.

We will be talking , sharing, and reading about autism this month.

Wear your blue on Thursday. ”

A wave of excitement spread over me.

“You should write something!” I said to my son.

“You could write about what it is like to have a sister with autism. ”

Goldi’s brother immediately scrunched up his eyebrows and said “No way! That would be WAY to embarrassing!”

Here was my chance to be the best “Light it up blue” parent.  The chance to give my Patrick Henry speech, my Patriotic Glory Glory Hallelujah music playing in the background to impress on him that we can make a difference!

“You are an amazing brother of someone who is autistic. You should share what it is like and how you feel and people will know…”

“Know what? my son interjects “That my sister is weird? That she says things that makes no sense sometimes. That she hits me for no reason?  That is not something to write about!”

“Please,” I begged. “It would be so great. I would be so proud. and besides everyone will think you are pretty cool. ”

“No they won’t” he screams with tears flowing down. “Please, do I really have to do this?”

The Patriotic music stopped. I sighed and cried myself. My own son did not want to admit that his sister had autism. He wasn’t at all ready to join in the mission to spread awareness.

“Maybe now isn’t the time.” interjects my husband.

“Son, ” I whispered solemnly, “Write whatever you want.”

He took out his weekly school journal. The one he has to read every week in front of the whole class. I watched him write probably about some basketball game or some play date,  and shrugged my shoulders.

I made intentional escape from this piercing reality of disappointment by joining Goldi in watching a cartoon on Youtube.

His closed journal caught my eye, laying there on the island counter. My son was nowhere in sight. I thumbed through the pages to find his new fresh entry.   This contained the pages of the history of his life told through his eyes. Here the pages revealed all that was important to this seven year old boy. I found the ink written page still clean and crisp.

Fun Things with Sister

My sister and I like to go to Sky Zone.

My sister and I liked the movie Finding Dory.

My sister and I like to go swimming.

My sister and I like to race our scooters.

My sister and I like to play Uno.

My sister was born with autism.

“Well, are you proud of me? ” my son asks catching me in the act.

I hesitated and pondered the simplicity of his message and yet it’s depth.  Scooters, and swimming, and Uno, and jumping, and movies, and………a sister named Goldi. Fun before autism. Fun with Goldi despite autism. Life as it is to this young seven year old.

“I’d say you are a real Patrick Henry!” I said drawing him close.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Goldi gets a life

“Mom, hold out your hand and close your eyes.” Goldi commands.

“Why?” I ask

“Just be still!” she says impatiently.

Goldi ‘s finger tips tickle my palm.

I muster up a meaningful guess.

“Water!’ I said with opened eyes.

“That’s right! ” Goldi says clapping her hands.

Goldi met Helen Keller recently.  Movies, books, and pictures have led to many hand spellings and questions.

“How can she spell so fast? Did you know that Alexander Graham Bell was her friend and HE invented the telephone and did she swim in a pool? Goldi asks without pause.

I google for answers.
“Yes, she did go swimming!” I answer. ” She could not see, she could not hear. But she had a real life, an exciting one.

Goldi’s eyes brighten and sparkle as if she could see a once far off dream now within close reach. Now that Goldi has met Helen,  autism waits last in line behind them all.

” I want to be on the stage. Or maybe I want to be a puppet lady and do shows for kids. I want to be a teacher or a piano player. ” Goldi peppers out.

” Sounds  really exciting.” I say smiling.

For awhile, we were enthralled. Our talk centered on all things Helen. We were captivated with all the things she could do and easily forgot about the two big things she couldn’t.  A videos of her talking brought many wows. Google and youtube fed our fascinations.  In Goldi’s eyes, the sky was the limit for a really exciting life all because of our hero, Helen.

But then, reading on Google , I found a word. A word nearly synonymous with Helen Keller and even……  Hitler!  It was a hateful, awful, sinful word– EUGENIC- it means to improve human population with a superior gene creating a superior human race. It means to wipe out that which is inferior or defective.  Helen herself said: allowing  a “defective” child to die was simply a “weeding of the human garden that shows a sincere love of true life.”  Everything came to a thud.

Helen the hero turned brute! Brute because my autistic child, who flaps when she is excited or nervous, who speaks in echolalia when she is sad or worried, who won’t pet a fluffy kitty cat, who has trouble learning simple addition facts,  who to this day can’t survive a drive through a car wash without a scream.  My child -who makes a mess while she eats, who speaks loudly and expressively at the crack of dawn, who takes a bit to calm down when wrong has entered her life, my child whose brain works hard to keep up with the rest of the “superiors”,  My child is…. not….normal! Therefore according to Helen, my child is “defective” and not worthy of a really exciting life or any life at all!  Unbearable!  Helen the hero turned villain!

“Mom, I want to see the Helen Keller Movie again!” Goldi requests.

I am tongue tied. A hard rock pressed against my heart. Her innocence only knows Helen as hero.

I bury this dreadful secret and say “Would you play some some music for me instead?”

Goldi willingly bounces into the living room and props herself up at the piano as if ready for a concert performance. She confidently and enthusiastically plays.

For a moment I close my eyes and with faith and hope strain to see a dream for Goldi.   She begins playing Happy Birthday. I see her standing in a garden of flowers galore.  There are more colors of flowers than in a rainbow. The sun is shining down making Goldi’s hair glow. The flowers are swaying and smiling as Goldi pours a gentle shower on each bloom.  A garden of life and Goldi stands in it.  Goldi stands up and takes a bow. Her face beams as she looks up. I clap my hands until they itch.

“I did it!” she says. “I can play all the songs in my book!” She proudly announces. In our open living room with good acoustics – perhaps the whole world heard.

“Yes! I say, “That is really exciting!”

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

Peer to Peer

Michael had fogged up glasses that slid down his runny nose. He didn’t walk or stride ….he hobbled like a baby taking his first steps.   You knew he was coming near when you heard a tip toe sound.  When Michael saw girls, he puckered up his lips and gave air kisses. We stayed clear of Michael.

One sunny recess, some friends and  I were running around on perfect spring day. The scatterings of dandelions was like sunshine that had rained down from the sky.  Then there he was.

“Well, Well …what ….DO we have here?” Michael  said in his sly little voice.  “One…..two…. three…. four girls.”

“EEEK! ” we screamed.

“It’s Michael,  let’s get out of here!” I shouted.

But one of us didn’t run.  She picked up a dandelion and bravely walked close enough to rub that yellow staining flower under his chin.

“Do you like butter?” my friend asked Michael.

“Yes, on toast, pancakes, and waffles.” Michael answered.

“Good! Because here’s some!” yelled my friend.

We joined in and grabbed  handfuls of dandelions rubbing his cheeks, forehead,  and hands…. . Michael looked like he had splattered himself with mustard.

We all gathered around pelting him in the face causing him to fall to the ground.

“Stop that now!” yelled a booming voice. “You girls should be ashamed!”

The man reached out and pulled Michael up. There was a father and son embrace. The bell rang.

As the rest of the swarm of kids raced to the line up, we stood frozen in shame.

Goldi and I were standing out in another field one not so springy day. We huddled close together as the winter wind haunted the promise that spring had really arrived.  A school field trip had brought us outside to a certain horse farm.

Goldi watched with bright eyes as kids took turns taking a ride around the huge arena. She flapped and jumped when some she called “Friend” rode with ease. She hobbled along the bumpy ground and nearly stepped into  a pile of  manure.

It was the first year of Goldi’s involvement in her school’s peer to peer program. It was one of the first times I had seen interactions between my own quirky one and those more   “typical”.

“That was so fun!” said a girl to Goldi who had just taken her turn on a horse.

“Don’t you want to try?” invited another.

“NO!” shrieked Goldi

“We will take our turn soon.” I said.

“No mom!  Goldi said loudly yanking my arm.

Blank stares from Goldi’s peers seemed pressed against her full display of quirkiness.

” She’s got autism” I read from their shrugged shoulders.

Though Goldi was settled on just watching, I insisted she ride just like her friends.
“No! I won’t! Don’t make me!” she cried. She shrieked, she yelled.
“She’s got autism.” I read from their shrugged shoulders.

“We will try this just like your friends!” I said. I nudged her into the fenced area and up the stair boost to seat her on Chloe. I held her and walked alongside.
“No! Don’t make me! Get me off! Goldi screamed.
“We will do this just like your friends!” I insisted.
Her friends had all had their turn and were probably waiting with annoying impatience for this to all be over. I looked down the whole ride around the area. There was silence.
Then as we slowly stopped, I heard not teasing nor laughing but ….clapping and cheering from  her PEERS.  I looked down to the grass to hide my tears. Face down ,  I noticed a a clump of dandelions. It was like sunshine rained down.

I know now that  Michael’s quirkiness was autism and as peers to Michael we were  staying in our own “I am better than you world.”   Goldi’s autism invites the same response we gave to Michael. Only her peers are learning to realize she is a part of their world.

I wish I could see Michael today . I would offer him a fresh bouquet of dandelions in a vase tied in a gold ribbon. Make that two bouquets. I really need a big one for Goldi’s peers.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Pie Thanksgiving

Plop goes the flour into the silver bowl.

“Let’s do a play mom!” says Goldi “It’s almost Thanksgiving!”

SHHHH  goes the melted butter.

“I know, I am making the pumpkin pie!”

“Pumpkin Pie!” Goldi says those words like it’s Christmas. “Okay, you be the mom Pilgrim and I will be the Little Girl Pilgrim.”

“Okay, but I also have to make this pumpkin pie. ”

“That’s perfect.” she says as she jumps and flaps her hands.

“Let me introduce it. ” She says clearing her throat.  She stand in the middle of the room. “Ladies and Gentlemen Boys and Girls, we will  now tell you the story of the First Pumpkin Pie.

Impromptu plays right in the middle of life’s events is a norm in our house. Yet, right in that moment I was slow to act. My mind had to rehearse how to thread it all together:the Pilgrims leaving their homeland for freedom to worship and pray, the long journey on the Mayflower, meeting  and befriending people of a totally different walk of life,  working the land, suffering, and then a Vivaldi’s  Spring announcement of planting and growing, ending in a bountiful harvest and a feast where people of two different races and faiths, sat down, ate, and played together not just for one day but three! All on the day of the First Pumpkin Pie.

This was more than a just a little play time.  It was a teachable moment. The reason for the   Day of Thanksgiving to really sink in and develop into a deep understanding. A play always does the trick with Goldi. It gives her a chance to live and breath life’s learning. Sometimes, it is the only way.

“Once there were some….” she pauses a bit and looks at me as I finish measuring the filling ingredients. “What were those people called again? ” she asks.

“Pilgrims. ” I answer as I stir.

“Yes, Pilgrims. They were about to take a long trip on the Mayflower. ”

Goldi changes her Narrator voice into a Pilgrim Girl:

“Come on Mom! The Mayflower will be here any minute.”

“I am almost ready dear. ” Says me the Pilgrim Mom “Did you pack your trunk?”

“Yes, I have my clothes, food, and my toothbrush. ” Pilgrim Goldi says.

“Good. Now all we need to do is grab the seeds.”

“Seeds? Whatever for mother?” she says.

” When we get to the new land, we will have a new home. So we need to have food. ”

“But what about the Pumpkin Pie mom!”

Being  history dunce, I can’t draw from many known facts about Thanksgiving.  Pumpkin pie had to be eaten. IT was the perfect time of harvesting this vegetable. But did they have enough eggs, condensed milk, flour, and the perfect open hearth oven to make it? Did they have the spices? For Goldi, pumpkin pie is synonymous with  Thanksgiving.Just the way it is with me.

“We will one day child. When we get to the new land we can run free and worship the God we love. We will build a new home. We will grow food. We will have a new life. ” I say. After such words, I find myself really sounding Pilgrim. So serious, determined, and ambitious.

“But how are we ever going to do all that? “Pilgrim Goldi says. She too is sounding her Pilgrim part. Curious, anxious, and ready.

As I pour the filling into the easy pie crust, ( no shortening melted butter- the kind you press in and not the kind you roll out) Goldi busies herself with building a house, a fire, and planting the seeds. She hurries over to me and wipes her forehead.

“I think all the work is done mom. Now can we have our Pumpkin Pie?”

“Soon child. But first we have to wait for the pumpkin to grow. It should be ready after the winter snows melt. “

“You mean we have to wait all that time?! Pilgrim Goldi says stomping her feet.

At that moment, the smell of a real pumpkin pie baking is what we breathe in.  Tasting time was two or three hours away. The wait of the Pilgrims was just not in her grasp nor mine.  I can’t imagine that first winter when the Pilgrims were cold and sick. When the draft of a winter wind battled their small little fire on the hearth. The wait for spring was all to unbearable. And meeting that first Indian all brown and unknown. Yet so much they knew that could help.  And the wait for the Pumpkin Pie. That first slice- it was a winter, spring, and labor intensive garden growing everything  first before tasting time away.

 “No worries. ” I tell her.

Goldi jumps into a narration and my ears tune in:

“And so the Pilgrims worked hard for a long time. They had some special friends called the Indians to help them. They knew the pumpkin pie would not be ready until the work was done. And when it was ready, they all sat down and held hands to say a prayer and then when they ate it …. they said “This is the best pie ever! Happy Thanksgiving everyone. “

THE END

Planting the seeds, working the land, waiting for rain and sun to grow the crops. Waiting for the winter winds to blow past.Waiting for what looked foe to turn friend. Waiting and accepting the kind of life that would unfold.  Waiting with prayer for God’s protection and provision. Celebrating His goodness and thanking Him.  This was the Pumpkin Pie Pilgrim Story.

Working on social skills, anxieties, building friendships, and  ….faith.Planting the seeds through lessons, social stories, and .. plays like this one.  Waiting for understanding of the why and how. Waiting for the seasons of stress and hardship to blow past.  Celebrating the successes of her growth, her maturity, and her gifts.  This is Goldi’s Pumpkin Pie Story. All for that moment of  slice of pumpkin  pie- dabbled with a little whipped cream.

That first pumpkin pie served on the first Thanksgiving must have tasted like a piece of heaven.  The verdict still stands on the pie this Thanksgiving.Regardless,  I know Goldi is ready to celebrate.

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (Psalm 107:8-9 ESV)

Goldi’s locks

With every reading  of  Goldilocks and the Three Bears, I have transitioned from a sweet little pleasure to a scratching of nails on a chalkboard. I never thought I would admit such a detestable feeling for a fairy tale. They have always stolen a piece of my heart. Then came Goldi’s obsession with the story.

I’ve read it. She’s read it. She’s watched the play. She’s performed it. All of the above on endless rewind. It’s her story.

The Goldilocks in all the stories show the look, but Dom Deluise’s girl is the real mackoy. Her long hair is golden, curly, and thick.  “It really got your attention.”

It caught our attention that our Goldi, wasn’t born  olive skinned, brown eyed, and with curly black tresses. All the features of her mother’s dominant genes. When I introduced her to any audience for the first time, the reaction was “Oh!”

As in “Oh, I didn’t expect blue eyes. Oh, I didn’t expect fair skin and “Oh! Is that blond hair I see? ”

Must I show paperwork proving her biological connection? There was no hospital mix up.  And the nickname Goldi didn’t just come to mind because of looks.

It came because combing her hair was too “ouchy” and involves pinning her to the ground. The minute “too scratchy”  polka dot bow touches her hair with “girly”it is yanked out succinct with a photo click.  I have to cut off every clothes tag,  thus “winging it” when washing. “Goldi” because  foods were too stinky or too sticky.  Noise was too loud.  Her appearance was just a hint of who she was and what would make daily things a challenge…………….

Like …….getting ready for school.

I act as maid in waiting for our Goldi and consider her line up of  cute dresses and tops. I lay out a perfectly matched ensemble that would make Fancy Nancy pleased.

Goldi bounces into her morning with wrinkled pajamas that have warmed her all night.  She eyeballs the required costume for the transformation of Rag Doll to Princess.   I wait for her to show herself presentable.

“Tada!” she appears with a beaming face.

Crowned with bedhead, her turtleneck seam aligns with her chin. Her two toned  pink socks are smashed up against her green striped pant ends. The turtleneck is hot pink with purple dots, and her pants are green striped. Not at all the cute little Goldilocks walking through the forest in her puffed sleeved dress. More like Pippi Longstocking.

I eyeball her accomplishment and flashback many years ago…..

“Tada!”  I  said with excitement. I was wearing my brand new bathing suit for the first time at the beach.  I felt like a bathing beauty ready to run over the pillowy sand into the sparkling waves. …… My suit was on backwards. My brothers’ HA HAS rang out my immaturity. . My five year old brain puzzled  over their laughter and was saddened.   

I hear those  HA HAs  in the far off distance. I won’t have it. Not for my Goldi. I nudge toward her with  “fix it” determination and a comb. She is going to avoid social fashion faux pas if it kills me.

I touch one strand of hair and she pulls away. I  surrender and resort to just fluffing  with damp fingers through her hair.

Tada! Here she is-She’s not the Princess of Monaco. She’s our Goldi.  Blond locks, blue eyes, fair skinned,  and  backwards, mismatched clothes.

Once upon a time, there  lived a beautiful little girl with the most gorgeous blond hair you ever saw…People were always complimenting her on  how wonderful she looked because it really got your attention.  

Once upon a time, there was a young girl named Goldi. Her hair was wind combed and her clothes were mismatched. People were always whispering about her quirky look because it really got your attention.

One day Goldilocks went walking through the woods looking so cute.  

One sunny spring day, Goldi went to school wearing backwards mismatched clothes, a pink winter hat, sunglasses, and holding a Hello Kitty Umbrella.

She came upon a little cottage and knocked on the door.

“Hello? Is anyone home? “Goldilocks cried out.

Even though there was no answer, she let herself right in. Being very hungry she saw three bowls of porridge. She helped herself to the first bowl. Too hot. She tried Momma Bear’s bowl. Too cold. Then you guessed it- “Yum Yum” , she said smilingly “this soup is just right.” 

Goldi walked in parade mode right into school and down the hallway to her locker.

“Good morning!” she announces to some kids.

“Why are you wearing that winter hat? asks one classmate.

“It’s too windy,” answers Goldi.

“Why do you have an umbrella with no rain?” asks another.

“Too bright.” shares Goldi.

She stuffs everything in her locker and bangs the door shut.

Goldi nestles in her seat like a frog on a lily pad.

“Just right.” she whispers.

There are a few stares. Goldi  is unaware.

“Good morning Class!” her teacher greets. “Let’s stand and say the pledge.”

Goldi doesn’t stand, she jumps. She doesn’t gently lay her hand over her heart, she grips her shirt tightly and holds it steadfast as if her heart were really in there.   She does her best to verbalize the fancy words and their wonder,   sways back and forth to the same rhythm of the flag that dangles in front of the school.

Miraculously, sometimes Goldi does look the part. Like one Sunday morning when I suggested shiny black shoes.

“Tada!” she comes up twirling and dancing just like Shirley Temple . Whew! This time, she looks more the part.

And……..yet…… always acts the part……….

“Let’s sit in the middle.” I say as we walk into the sanctuary.

“Too crowded.”Goldi insists.

We sit in the back row. No stares or raised eyebrows there.

We stand and sing  and Goldi jumps with an excitement that cannot be contained. She folds her hands and scrunches up her entire body with head in her knees to pray. She flaps her hands when a baby gets baptized. Sermon time comes, and she listens in anticipation for one word to grab on tightly while I write a dissertation.

“Samaritan.” Goldi whispers. “The Good Samaritan is my favorite story about God.”

Someone has been eating my porridge! Someone has been sitting in my chair.

Someone has been sleeping in my bed. Well, at that moment Goldilocks woke up and was so surprised to see the three bears looking down at her that she let out a noise that startled everyone. There was a lot of screaming and yelling. 

Someone has been talking too loudly. Someone has been jumping up and down. Someone has been galloping in the school hallways. Someone has been showing up dressed in quirky. Someone has been flapping their hands. There are a lot of stares and whispers and laughs.

“Tada!” it’s our Goldi. She  could surprise anyone.

Of all the stories of Goldilocks I know, Dom Delouise’s version is one I could read again and again:

Things got a little calmer, and a little clearer. Goldilocks would visit her new friends. From time to she would eat corn muffins with honey. Bears do love honey. And the three bears did love Goldilocks. 

There’s  still a Goldilocks in a story and my own that still steals my heart.

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting in the room

 

The waiting room at the Children’s hospital was big, open, bright, and cold.  Even at 8:30 am, there was bustling- the ins and outs of people, young children hopping about to make the most of the unpredictable wait. The air conditioning polarized the air and I shivered in thought as we sat.

This journey has taken us down the road only nine years. There was a time when we  first heard ” autism” and it crippled our thoughts of a promising life. God declared that Goldi was perfectly knit together in my womb. But why then did he choose to drop a stitch? The journey of raising Goldi seems like a long wait for answers. It began with “What in the world is she saying? For Goldi spoke in tongues. Then How long until she eats what the rest of us are eating?
Time now for more of the unexpected and mysterious.

My nerves were busy at work. I slid my hand up and down my arms trying to erase the permanent tattoo of goosebumps. I sighed deeply. This was the moment of true exposure.

Goldi giggled at the pestering of her younger brother, then took in all the action around her.

“Goldi” announced a voice from afar, “I am Miss Kelsey and I will be working with you today. ”

Her ID badge spelled out five titles. The tips of her stringy hair brushed her wrinkled collar.

“Right this way!”

Goldi was unsure of what this was all about. Unsure of what the four hours would demand of her.  It was test time. Testing all that Goldi knew. Her reading, her math, her IQ, her language, her problem solving, her attention, her memory, …….all about poking and prodding into her mind to see the Goldi she had become at the near age of nine.

The thought of it all pinned me to the chair. But  Goldi hopped up off and stood tall.

“Do you want to take a snack?” I asked.

“No,” she said assuredly. The double doors closed behind her and I was cued to wait.

Waiting equates itself with wonders and worries. Autism is such a puzzle.. Goldi’s growing up with the remaining truth that she has autism.  It’s evidence is so disheartening at times. With age, I had hoped and still do that she would look “cured”.  
The first hour was fresh with people watching action. They helped distract me from my own story. A mother and her daughter had seated themselves close by. Mom sat touching distance from her daughter who was in a wheel chair.  The  teen looking girl looked vegetable like.  She stared cross eyed and distant, with only her breathing to distinct her from a statue.  She had a sleeveless shirt and her arms soon broke out in goosebumps as the cold showered her.

I imagined up their journey. There must have been a time when her mother learned that her daughter would be crippled of the “good life”. There must have been a time when she had to be trained to feed, bathe, and dress her. A time when she had to learn how to read her and know her the way she was– a vegetable. How long til these challenges push her over the edge? 

Suddenly, the young girl moaned. It was of medium volume  but loud enough to know she had a way to voice her mind Her mom first sat unmoved. She moaned again this time loud enough to let it bounce off the walls. Again and again, she cried out. After such frequencies  I began to translate:”How long until we see who we need to see so we can get what we need?

Some of us froze in foolish stares.

Goldi’s brother asked “Why is she screaming?”

“She’s asking the same thing you are asking.” I answered. Brother pondered my words and maybe realized a connection even to someone so far from him.

We tried to ignore the “disturbance” with tic- tac- toe. But my eyes soon wandered over to watch again. Her mother  was gently pressing her face against her daughters. She kissed her forehead and whispered sweet nothings that seemed to massage  her whole being. Suddenly the girl smiled. Her eyes no longer cross eyed but  sparkled. She seemed to sit taller. There was peace and she was transformed.

I sat in warmth that took over shivers and worries.  In my wait, I saw the hands and feet of the One who loves us. The One who waits for us daily. The One who waits to transform us if we only cry out to Him.  At once I knew, that my wait was not, nor  never will be in vain.
Psalm 13:1-3, 6 How long, O Lord?Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Goldi on Stage

 

The world became her stage when I heard  two doll’s voices in English Accents coming out of her bedroom:

 “You cawnt my dear. It simply isn’t possible Princess Aurora!”

Well, try to control yourself Princess Cinderella, everything is going to be awl right!

Goldi considers the world her stage. It is a  ritual to rehearse in the “backstage” of her room first thing in the morning.  When guests come for dinner, the dessert proceeds an  impromptu performance of  Annie, Cinderella, Mary Poppins or some other newly invented story. There have been raging reviews  like ”That girl can sing. That girl can act.”

People are  just being nice. I thought. They have to say that because she’s autistic . They are being forgiving and compassionate.  It’s not like she’s Daryl Hannah or Susan Bowles. ( both have autism) Although even THEY they had to start somewhere.

She started with one week of Theater Camp  downtown.  I clasped her hand and guided her to the welcome area where all the theater teachers greeted us  with articulate projected voices  and exaggerated gestures. Feeling Goldi’s  heart beat reminded me that her nerves were in a tizzy  like mine.

Golidi waved goodbye  I was escorted to the waiting area where I experienced the nooks and crannies of theater life.  Directors sat going over call back lists.  Young ones passed through with heads held high and soon belted out some familiar Broadway numbers about Tomorrow and Music of the Night.  Real live Broadway actors  from the  production of Book of Mormon came promenading in ready to WOW some Broadway wanna bes with some “I made it big advice.”  I people watched and listened and  played the part of wall flower.

All the while, I wondered about Goldi . Would she be fine?   Maybe I should have just had the neighborhood kids act out some familiar fairy tale with an old sheet curtain? Is she standing on the stage scrunched up with tears flowing  not able to follow some blocking direction?

Lord, help her to find Your pleasure in doing this so that she might discover that this can be done for Your glory.

Suddenly a voice interrupts my wanderings of worry:

“Hi Mom! Know what? My part is  going to be Flies! Here is my script. I have to practice my lines and tomorrow I am going to stand on the real stage!

There is a quick scene change from city to country. Closer to home, I breathe a sigh of relief for more reasons than one. She had a good time and she was smiling at the prospect of tomorrow.

The Final Day of Camp was performance day. We are sitting up in the theater balcony for  Goldi’s big debut in Pirates Take Broadway. An off the beaten path story of which I am clueless about.  But at that moment it is about Goldi.

Lord, work in her Your power so that she can “Break a leg”. 

The opening number unfolds and out she comes singing and dancing in sync. She knew to move to the left or right. She knew to cross over and line up and raise her hands into the air .

A few scenes later,  Flies (Goldi)  comes out in costume.   She wore a flower ruffly dress and  clutched a clipboard.   Goldi had  nine lines.  Nine lines that meant  nothing to her as far as as sense or story. But she was determined to say them because she called herself “actress.” The other characters moved the scene along with their memorized, perfectly timed lines and then……..all eyes turned to Goldi …… for her first line.  She buried her face in her clipboard ( her cheat sheet) and …..a whisper floated out into silence…nine times.The scene progressed. The characters played on each other …..even Flies. The story unfolded as planned.

Lord,  help her to be who you made her to be despite autism so that others will know that you are greater and that you have overcome a world  that might throw tomatoes and reject her.

The finale: “I am a Pirate Broadway Baby”. There was stomping, stepping,  and gesturing and there was Goldi, singing in harmony with her feet and hands.  The bows at curtain call prompted enthusiastic applause.

Lord, if there is any success in this it is  because of You.  ­There is something great in her from YOU  waiting to come out .  Is this a gift you gave her? For some amazing purpose? 

In the comforts of  home, Goldi rehearses backstage in her room and watches other plays. Away from the lights, camera, and action, she watches her  filmed Pirate performance and her eyes are aglow with pride.

The  Pirates take Broadway strike is done. Right now, there is a sold out production of  Broadway musical Book of Mormon on that same stage. That same stage– that for a moment welcomed and housed a young autistic girl  who dreamed of being in a real play, in a real theater.  She gave it her all in pursuit of dreams come true.  Some may look at Flies and say    “exit stage left”.    But Goldi cares little about critics.

In faith, I think she knew something that a Producer or Director of the world’s stage would not. In faith,  Goldi was on stage- displaying a good work created in her. A gift from above  for some good greater purpose. Goldi was on stage. She played her role from start to finish and….. all because He put the good work in her…. all to show the Glory of God.   Goldi on stage may one day result in a standing ovation.

James 1:17-21  English Standard Version (ESV)

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.[a] 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth,that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Phillipians 1:6

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

 

“What’s Tomorrow?” Goldi asks stroking the satin rim of her blanket.  It’s her  routine question that sometimes prolongs bedtime a bit.

Tomorrow is another day.” I said.

“But what ‘s happens in ‘Another day’? she asks.

I stare out the window  into the world held in The Hands that faithfully gives us another day .

“Let’s see… today you woke up and said ‘It’s Earth Day! I need to dress up.’ ”

Earth Day and she dresses up not down.  Earth Day- the day we celebrate the beauty we see around us and get into the dirt…..which Goldi seems to become one with at times. On Earth Day she chose to wear a green ruffled dress and a purple bow in her hair.  It was her idea.  No clashy wrinkly clothes and wind combed hair. Yesterday, she was Pippi, today she was Princess.

“Maybe tomorrow I can wear my pink polka dot dress.” Goldi says with a smile.

“That would be lovely. ” I say.

I start to inch away from her bedside until she asks:

“But  Mom, what will I DO tomorrow?”

“Let’s see… I say staring out into the sorry, world full of teasing and pain.

“Today you helped  young Janey at school. You read her a book and she liked it so much she said “More!”

”  I was sitting  with her in the big rocking chair in our classroom,” she says.

Goldi used to speak in tongues.  She had all the inflection , expression, and eye brow raising gestures. But we couldn’t understand a word. So after several speech pathology lessons,  she was finally  passed “Mommy and Daddy” and she began to open up books, see words, and voice them like music.

Goldi feared younger kids. They were like little puppies wandering all over sniffing and slobbering. Goldi jumped into my arms at the sight of kids like Janey. That was Yesterday, today she is sitting by them side by side reading a book.

“Maybe tomorrow you could read The Little Red Hen. ” I suggest.

“Oh, Janey will love that story!” she says.

I stroke her forehead with my fingertips hoping for her eye lids to wander into dreams.

“Mom,” she says gripping her covers  ” I don’t want to be scared”

“Well…. I said looking out into the world held by the Hands of the One who lights the day and night.

“You made friends with a Wolf, and an Eagle and you’ve ridden a horse. ”

Goldi stood frozen in her tracks at the sight of Ernie the Eagle. He was a giant mystery towering over her.  Ernie was her school Mascot.  He made several appearances at assemblies that Goldi refused to attend. The Horse  was a part  of a field trip activity. She  patiently awaited even the most impatient riders who commanded “Giddy up!”  But then, when visiting a water park, she ran to Violet the Wolf and hugged her. She high fived Ernie at the school pep assembly.  Before that,  she  was crowned Queen out for a ride on her prized horse and her second grade class cheered. Yesterday, she screamed at the scary unknown. Today, she stands proud of her success.

“What if it’s Saturday? ” Goldi asks.

“Well… I say  looking out into the world held in the Hands of One who stills time and quiets all that lives and breathes,

“Your fairy is ready to swing from the treetops. Your princess is ready to dress for the ball.”

Goldi’s toys  were lifeless for many months. Fun was laying each one down to sleep. No feeding a doll or taking it for a walk.  No setting up for a tea party. For the first time in my “childhood” the complexity of play became mind boggling.  What kids were born to do … Goldi was born without.   Teaching her the play schemes was like working through the Pythagorean Theorem.  But then.. she began to set the dining room table for tea and seat many “guests” for conversation and cookies.  She set up a village of castle, fairy house, and doll house, and “Once upon a time ” becomes a reality.

“I could set up a restaurant and my dolls and princesses could be the customers. ” she shares.

“Sounds like real fun.” I say with a kiss.

“It’s nearly 9 o’clock,” I say as I draw up the covers.

“But what about tomorrow?” she asks.

“Well….. I say staring out into the world held by the Hands of the One who guides our dreams according to His good plan, “Tomorrow is one big surprise.”

“What kind of surprise?” Goldi asks with light up eyes.

“A really wonderful one. Better than a tea party,  horseback riding like a Queen,  making friends with Ernie or Violet, reading to a friend like Janey, or twirling like a Princess.  Every Tomorrow has a surprise waiting. ”

Tomorrow seemed liked a million years away since  the Doctor’s told us those dreaded words “She’s autistic”.  It seemed to make each Today a chore or a hurdle. But now in the accounts of all the Todays – we see the Guide who brings the Hope of what lies in Tomorrow.

“Good night Goldi” I whisper.

But Goldi does not answer. She is busy dreaming about that big surprise in Tomorrow.

Psalm 147: 11  The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Hebrews 13:8 : Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and Forever.