Where Autism Takes Us

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We love a boy with Autism. Andreas is just here for the pizza. His eyes are closed because the sun was too bright.

It’s been just over 3 years since our second son, Andreas, was diagnosed with autism. He’s 8.5 now and in grade 3. He is doing well. Math is his spirit animal. His teacher was recently fist pumping with joy as she explained that she has been catching him reading books in his lap when he’s supposed to be paying attention. Why is this good? Because boy wonder was hitting junior high reading level in grade 1, despite the fact that reading was not his favorite. You’d expect a kid that advanced to be a book worm, but nope. He read when he had to. Now he sneaks books in class and that is a real cause for celebration. Geology and animals are topics of great interest, and he’s recently become enthusiastic about research projects. (Seriously, if I hear one more word about Andean condors I might actually spontaneously combust.) His teacher hit the jackpot this year by providing him with an alpha smart to do his writing with. Writing is tiresome and he pretty much hates it. Last year he had a teacher tell him that he had to write 1 sentence before going home. He wrote, “Miss Teacher school sucks I want to go home.” She wasn’t impressed but hey, a sentence is a sentence and he used his to make a point. Well done. Now, with the alpha smart he is typing pages at a time. This all sounds really wonderful, and it is.

What I want people to be aware of on Autism Awareness Day, is that the wonderful things and the moments to celebrate? They come with a lot of hard work. Andreas doesn’t even realize how hard he is working, because this is his normal. It’s our normal. And sometimes that makes me really mad for him.

A couple months into last school year (grade 2) I honestly thought I was going to have to pull him out of school and home school him. It was so bad that he was shutting down completely every day. He hated school. He was miserable. This was not like him and we were distraught. Our happy boy was sad all the time and people around us were starting to notice too. I had had enough when I was told he was being placed into literacy support. What the boy who was reading at junior high level needed was not literacy support to get him to read a bunch of boring fairy tales because “that’s the grade 2 curriculum.” He needed to be able to be himself and that wasn’t happening. Everything he did was “wrong” and he was responding accordingly. After one very ticked off email on my part, the school took action. The principal stepped in, and put him into a different classroom.  That day he came home from school and I told him the good news. He said nothing. But he gave me the happiest smile I’d seen in a very long time.

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The day he found out he’d be switching classes to be with his friends, a quirky teacher who would let him be himself, and be able to do “harder” work that wasn’t boring. It was a good day.

I’ve never shared that online because it was so upsetting for such a long time. The teacher he had did have a part to play in it, but she was also a first year teacher who had learned “strategies” for autism, but never had to implement them with a child like Andreas. The school had not prepared her for the complexity of a 2e (twice exceptional) child. The principal actually acknowledged this, took responsibility, and apologized to me. She also used it as a learning experience for the teacher – who is not a bad teacher – and the school. Going back though, twice exceptional refers to a child who is BOTH gifted and on the autism spectrum or having adhd or learning disabled in some other way. Sometimes Andreas being as bright as he is, causes people to question the challenges he has. Other times, him being on the spectrum causes people to question the gifts that he has. We are always walking a line for him. It is exhausting, complex, and more rewarding than I ever thought possible.

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This is one terrific kid.

After he switched classes last year, everything changed overnight. The rest of the year was positive and we got our boy back. I was terribly anxious at the beginning of this year though. We did not want a repeat of trial and error with classroom placement. Not just for our sakes, or Andreas, but because I didn’t want another teacher to go through what that one did. I want to acknowledge that the whole situation was terribly upsetting for her as well. The school really had learned though, and as I noted above, I’ve got his teacher reporting that he’s writing pages and pages, loving research, doing math enrichment, and hiding books in his lap when he’s supposed to be learning.

There are other challenges. Socially things are changing as his peer group is growing up and this has been difficult. We convinced him to join the after school ultimate frisbee club with his older brother Mateo this spring. I think it’ll be good for him to do something fun with his friends, that is also structured and supervised. He may love it or he may hate it, but he’s trying it. Things like that are so brave for a kid who is not athletic and not a social butterfly and who comes home from school every day in a rush to put his pajamas on and be alone.

There are surprises. Last summer Rosalie was being terrorized by a housefly. The sounds of her shrieking could be heard far and wide. Andreas found this terribly distressing. I suspect her shrieking was bothering him more than anything else, because it motivated him to come up with a solution to get rid of the fly.

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A giant crumb to entice the fly and duct tape to trap it. Brilliant.

Now that’s a fly trap. It didn’t work. We eventually had to swat that fly dead, but his heart was in the right place. He’s valiant in his own way.

There are breakthroughs. It is no secret that Andreas and Oliver are not just different, they’re almost in opposition to each other. Andreas craves order, quiet, and routine. Olivier needs chaos, noise, and surprises. As a parent, meeting each of their needs at the same time is like being a magician. Everything is an illusion. I had been praying for them to find common ground. For my own sanity as much as for their relationship. And then it happened. Olivier is all about dinosaurs. One fine day it occurred to Andreas that geology (his science of choice) and paleontology (Olivier’s science of choice) are sciences that go together and all of a sudden they’ve got common ground. It was like watching a miracle.

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My heart in four pieces.

We have a funny little life with our funny little kids. Autism is a spectrum and we have a whole spectrum of ups and downs happening in our lives with Andreas. He has taught us more than we’ve taught him. I suspect that’s what happens in many families that include people with special needs. Because we have to pay attention to every little thing, we get to really see and experience every little thing. It is a gift. A friend made the comment that to know Andreas is to love him. She wasn’t the first person to say that.

Autism. 3 years ago I was focused on what brought us to that word. Now I am focused on where that word is taking us. I admitted that sometimes the challenges make me mad for Andreas. Nobody wants to see their kid struggle and be misunderstood. At the same time, I’m thankful for every hard lesson he’s learned  or that we’ve learned as a family. It’s made us more steadfast in our love and determination. It’s made him more brave than he knows right now. I can’t wish that away. What I do wish for him, with everything in me, is that he would take this exceptional life he’s been given and live it well. And I wish very much that the world will get out of the way and let him.

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I told him to be a superhero. This was the pose I got. (Sidenote: if he could have any superpower he would choose telekinesis. Of course.)

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

 

 

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Pitch A Tent

Pitch A Tent
On Making Room For the Holy

I posted a photo on my facebook page last week which garnered more of a response than I’d anticipated. Truthfully, I wasn’t even sure if I should share it but it seemed significant and so I did. In that photograph is a stack of paper.

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Not just any pile of paper.

I’ve been working on that stack of paper for over 14 years. In fact, I’m fairly certain that this ever growing act of blatant plagiarism is in direct violation of all the copyright laws – an irony not lost on someone who slaps a copyright on everything she produces. I figure what Zondervan doesn’t know won’t hurt them. Hopefully. Because this isn’t a journal or a thesis or some kind of opus that’ll one day blow the minds of all who ever knew me. It’s the Bible. I’ve been copying the Bible, painstakingly, for my entire adult life beginning at age 18 and having just passed the halfway point now at 32. So in fairness, this is only half the Bible.

Why? I guess I fell in love with the Word of God kind of by accident on my part. Initially I began reading it in order to prove it wrong. Like if I read it for myself, then I could bring my own arguments to the table and be able to believe in God (maybe) without all the Jesus stuff (because that would be weird) and I damn sure wasn’t interested in Ghosts, of the Holy or any other variety. (The lighbulb in my lamp exploded after I wrote that and I almost peed my pants. True story.)

It went well for me in that I failed miserably. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. What does that even mean? Who knows. I was in. Just like a crazy person. It was highly unsettling and I am still at odds with myself trying to reconcile logic and faith. So there I was. 18 and a new Christian. Like a for real one. Now what?

I didn’t know it then, but my now what was that God was helping me pitch a tent. I’d read the Word, but it was time for me to know the Word.

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting…Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses…Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
Exodus 33:7a,9,11

Pitch a tent. For Moses this was a literal thing. An actual tent. A place where room was made for the holy. A place of meeting with God. And what is so perfect about this for me is that tents were just ordinary to those people in that place and time. Everyone lived in a tent. And perhaps God chose this way of meeting with them to demonstrate His movement with them, among them and for them. He moved where they moved. When they moved. How they moved. Not just in a pillar of cloud or fire, but in a tent. In a way that was accessible and sensible to people who were displaced, dismayed, and at some serious disadvantage.

I shared that passage of Scripture with Mateo on Sunday at his baptism. I prayed about what verse or story would be an encouragement to him as he’s made this choice to follow Jesus at such a young age. I shared with him that it’s not Moses who strikes me in this story, it’s Joshua. Joshua the man who would later be one of only two to give a good report about where they were going, and would ultimately lead Israel into her Promised Land. Yet before all of that, as a young man he did something so odd that someone made note of it at the tail end of a narrative that wasn’t yet about him.

Joshua stayed in that tent.

This is what I told Mateo matters. We don’t know how long Joshua stayed in the tent of meeting. Or why. Just that he did. Imagine being the fly on the wall to God meeting with Moses. I wouldn’t leave the tent either. I probably wouldn’t be able to get up off my face or put words into sentences after witnessing that. So that was my advice to Mateo. That he finds a way to stay – to abide – in the Presence of God. Now. While he is young. After the baptism, after the church service, after the speaker goes home, after the lesson is over, after a bad day at school, after his heart gets broken, after he succeeds and after he fails. Pitch that tent and stay there. Learn to know the Voice of God. Acquaint himself with the holy. Before he meets whatever it is that God has called his life to be about. So that he can go forward and give a good report. So that he can be confident and sure of what that still, small voice sounds like when the rest of life is a clamorous noise. Because He knows that Voice like his own best friend.

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Glenn, a worship pastor, and his Dad, a pastor here in Canada and a church planter in the Philippines, baptizing Mateo.

As for me, I felt called to start hand copying Scripture after hearing a story about a woman who’d done so for each of her children. What a thing – I was inspired. This was God calling me to the tent of meeting. It has come with me everywhere I’ve gone and through every high and low season. It is the most valuable thing I possess. It is perfectly ordinary – nothing but a stack of paper bought for 25 cents a package. So I pitched a tent and I’ve been there ever since. This abiding has anchored me in storms that should have sunk me. I know the Voice that has called me out. I can confidently give a good report, seeing potential where others see ruin.

What this looks like for Mateo and our other kids, is for them to sort out. I’d hate for my project to become a monument where they get stuck. Whatever their tent of meeting is, God will show them. My husband is a music guy. That’s what speaks to him and where he sees and hears from God. I’m a word girl. Give me words, all the words. We each find our own way to encountering the Holy, whether that be in the middle of a desert, on a mountain top, in a moment of song and worship, in stillness, in prayer, over coffee with friends, in a church service, or at the kitchen table with pen and paper in hand.

This abiding thing. It is where deep calls out to deep and it’s exceptionally more difficult than I’ve made it sound here. Because really, it’s supposed to go out from us and bring this light to the world and I really don’t know how to do that right. It’s not about us at all. That was why I wasn’t sure if I should post that picture of my stack of paper Bible. Sometimes I think Jesus needs to make me invisible so that I get out of the way of people getting to Him. I’m no evangelist on account of my lack of people skills. I read Scripture and wonder at how the Gospel got spread because thank God that Paul was there and that the early church was fearless. The apostle Paul – tent maker for a living and a tent pitcher for the Kingdom, making the Gospel a mansion where there’s room for everyone and showing people how to get there. And all I have is my pen and my paper and my Bible and it feels very much ordinary and inadequate in a world that spurns the sacred and holy. So I abide, in hope that in my meeting with God, someone else follows and gets stuck in the tent like Joshua shadowing Moses, and refuses to depart from it too.

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Deep calls out to deep.

It’s all I have to give.

(Selah)

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

 

Code Black: Company’s Coming

Code Black: Company’s Coming
Je-Ne-Sais-Quirky

Some friends are coming for dinner tonight. I know that this is a thing that people do. It’s a thing we do. We like food. Our friends like food. Are there people who don’t like food? We like to eat food with people who like food. Therefore, company’s coming for dinner tonight.

The difference in our house, is that having people over is like someone throwing a grenade through the kitchen window. Is it live? Will it explode? Does it matter? Take cover, man. Code black.

For a kid with autism who struggles with new situations, new people, noise, and changes in routine, having people over is not a thing that is enjoyable without support. Home is his sanctuary. His resting place and quiet retreat from the exhaustion of the outside world. Going out to be with people is different, because we are careful about our outings to begin with and if things get to be too much, then we can leave. When people come here, there is no leaving. They are just here. Andreas is quite polite enough to understand that you do not ask people to leave or tell them you don’t want them in your house anymore. He asks me when they’re going instead.

Knowing your kid’s triggers and managing them well is very much like dismantling a bomb. We get so good at it, that others don’t even realize we’re doing it. Do we cut the red wire or the blue wire? The blue one. Obviously. Now please pass the ketchup or he won’t eat his food. Over the years, we’ve figured out what works best for Andreas, ourselves, and our guests when people come into our home. It’s all trial, error, blood, sweat, tears, and ketchup actually. I was serious about the ketchup.

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Mateo & Andreas at a birthday party this week. When it was time to go? We left.

What works though, like really works?

1. An Escape Plan
Andreas likes a good meal and a good time as much as the rest of us. He tends to get over the good times faster than the rest of us though. What he needs, before anyone ever shows up, is an escape plan. Once he’s had it, he’s had it. There’s no turning that ship around; we’re on a countdown and the clock is ticking. He needs to know that he can go rest in his bedroom with a book or his iPad and be happy being himself, instead of being forced to act happy for everyone else until he explodes. Reminding him ahead of time that he can do this, is the most important part of having people over. Sometimes when he’s overwhelmed, he forgets that his bedroom is a staircase away and we need to point him in the right direction. You do you, kid. Be happy.

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Andreas gives actual people the same face sometimes. Nothing personal.

2. A Schedule
Not like a real, written up schedule – although we’d do that if he needed it. But verbally explaining everything that is going to happen before it happens, needs to happen. These are the people who are coming. This is when they are coming. This is what we are eating. These are some ideas of what you can play, if kids are coming. This is how long people are staying, or if we don’t know then we say we don’t know how long they are staying. Some families use a picture schedule for less or non verbal kids. We do this when we go out too. Spontaneity is not our thing. Our spontaneity involves a lot of foresight. We are not sorry.

3. Clear Expectations
Where food is involved, we have to run interference. Andreas will gag or throw up if he sees or smells something he doesn’t like. I tend to get him his food or tell him what is available to him. We remind him that he cannot say “that is disgusting” if there is food he doesn’t like. “No thank you” will do just fine. Having a house full of people can make a kid forget the normal rules. Reminding them that the expectations don’t change when there is a house full of people is very important. Just because so and so hit you in the face doesn’t mean you can hit them back in the face. (That has never happened, it just came to mind as an example.)

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When he was 5, Andreas went to a birthday party where he told the magician that magic isn’t real and his tricks are fake. Then got a balloon flower instead of a sword like the other boys. He’s a lover, not a fighter.

4. Incentive
Spelling out what’s in it for him, helps. These are the kids who are coming. Remember when you guys did this and it was so fun? Or telling them they get to rent a movie. Or that they’ve got a certain treat for after dinner. These are normal things that everybody does, I think. But the difference is that for a kid who needs something to look forward to in a situation that feels overwhelming before it’s happened, having that incentive gives him something positive to focus on. Filtering is hard, even for so called “high functioning” kids. He sees the whole picture. The people. The noise. The gross food. The good food. The movie. The fun. The annoying adults asking him questions. It’s kind of a lot. Filtering out everything except the incentive helps him look forward to the good part(s). Typical kids may do this naturally but kids with extra needs often don’t and need an adult to help them learn how.

5. Grace
Sometimes we can answer his questions and give him everything he needs and the night is going to suck for him anyway. 10 minutes in and he’s in his room. Maybe he had a crappy day. Maybe he’s tired. Maybe nothing is wrong but he just needs peace and quiet and alone time. Okay. That needs to be okay. Just getting through the day is work for him. He doesn’t owe us an explanation. Adults love explanations. “Is he tired?” “Is he coming down with something?” Yes, no, maybe, we don’t know. It doesn’t really matter does it? One more thing at the end of the day might simply be out of the question. That thing families do where they are on the go all the time, and they actually like it? We are not that family. I require a lot of downtime. So it is totally not a problem for me that Andreas also requires a lot of down time. One day out of a week where we are on the go from morning to night, can throw him (and me) off for several days to come. Our pace is not the same pace other families can keep. There has to be grace for that among us, and the people we have in our lives.

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Party for 2. Just the way he likes it.

Company’s coming for dinner tonight. I’m cleaning my kitchen and making room on our coat rack at the door and pretending I am ever going to get the pee smell out of the bathroom. And disarming bombs before they go off. You know. Code black. Because our home wouldn’t be the same without Andreas. He brings a certain je-ne-sais-quirky to our lives and we want him to have a good time, whatever that means for him. To know Andreas is to love him. The bomb isn’t him. The bomb is whatever gets thrown into his world to disrupt it – the people, the dinner, the whatever. We are disarming the situation, not the boy. The boy is just right. This is his sanctuary. His resting place. We like to keep it that way.

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

 

 

Pandemonium (Deep Breath In)

My daughter is talking about her birthday. She’ll be 4 years old next month. I’m supposed to say that it all went by so fast and I can’t believe she’s not a baby anymore. It’s partly true, but kind of not. While it does feel sometimes that she was just born, mostly it’s totally believable that the time has passed and here we are. Because the truth is, it didn’t go by so fast. And it hasn’t only been 4 years. I’ve been a stay at home parent for 10.5 years now to 4 kids one right after the other. Fast? No. A decade doesn’t go by quickly. I am glad for that. Why would I want this time to speed away from me? Kids are small one time. Childhood is fleeting. Let them be little and let me enjoy it, please and thank you. No. I don’t need time to speed up. One day at a time is perfectly alright with me.

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Lord have mercy. I was so tired. So. So. Tired.

I’m supposed to be registering that baby for kindergarten today. She makes the cutoff date here, and would be 4.5 years old like her older brother Olivier was when he went. If I send her at all. I’ve got the birth certificate. I’ve got the registration form. I don’t have the will today.

There’s this mom. I see her going to and from the school with her gaggle of small children, as I do the very same with my crew of not-as-small-anymore children. Her oldest is in grade 1 like Olivier. Unless she has unseen older children, this must be her first year with a kid in school full time. I was that mom, only 4 years ago when Mateo was in grade 1 and I had 3 little ones at home. 3 little ones to suit up, loading the smaller two into a double stroller, going to and from the school, exhausted and wondering if a 15 minute walk was really supposed to take an hour to prepare for. Having a kid in school is a lot of freaking work for a mom with a house full still at home. Everything we did was all-consuming. There was nothing as simple as putting on shoes and walking out the door for many, many years. 1 in school and 3 at home. That was only 4 years ago. It felt like we would never, ever get past that stage of life which can only be described as pandemonium.

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I remember trying to take this photo. Pandemonium indeed.

To be honest, the following year – when Andreas was in half time kindergarten and Mateo was in grade 2, while Olivier was still a 2.5 year old in diapers and Rosalie was still a baby – that year was the HARDEST year of parenting ever. I swear to God if parenting was going to kill me or get me locked up in a padded room, that would have been the year to have done me in. Because I had a hernia and an uncontrolled thyroid problem, so I was utterly exhausted and in pain. My daily ventures to the school increased to include an extra mid-day pick up thanks to kindergarten being half time here. 2 year olds still nap and babies need to eat, sleep, and be changed regularly. Everything my little ones did was scheduled around the school bell times. If they hadn’t woken from afternoon naps by the time we had to go back to school to collect Mateo, well, too bad for them. Wake up time it was. Our walks to pick up Mateo often included a lot of grumpiness and crying. In that year we had Andreas assessed for and later diagnosed with autism. We toilet trained Olivier. I got on meds for my thyroid. I had a hernia repair surgery. I weaned Rosalie. Olivier stopped napping. Rosalie started walking. And then at the end of that school year, to cap it all off, we moved. Pandemonium.

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4 Kids On A Log. One fell off and bumped her head. Mommy called the doctor and the doctor said stop taking your kids for walks in the woods and posing them for photos on logs. Duh.

It slowed down after that. The summer we moved, we gained a backyard. I could send my kids out to play in a safe, enclosed place. Deep breath in. Andreas and Mateo began grades 1 and 3 that fall – two in school full time. Olivier wasn’t a toddler anymore. Only Rosalie in a stroller and diapers. Deep breath in. That year went nicely by. Another summer came. Olivier went to kindergarten. The older two were in grades 2 and 4, and well settled into a school life routine. Yeah, I was doing the back and forth from school all day thing again – but it’s way different with just one kid at home. It was okay. I was sick again though. Tonsillitis from hell finally put me on the list for a tonsillectomy. Gallbladder attacks put me on the list for that to come out as well. But, by the end of that school year, the gallbladder was gone. Another summer. Deep breath in. Then it happened. This past fall Olivier was in school full time too. Finally, and just like that.

That’s when I noticed her. This mom with the 1 kid in school and 3 little ones at home. I want to tell her it gets better. But I don’t because I know it’s going to take a while. And I’m not sure how to say that in an encouraging way. A year is a long time when you have a house full of very small children. “Just wait til next year!” sounds like, “you only have an eternity ahead of you!” to a wiped out mom. From her vantage point, there’s no end in sight. And she’s not wrong. So I smile at her. I’m not even sure if she sees me. Her kids are fighting. Someone is trailing behind. Baby is crying. It’s cold outside. But I smile anyway. It gets better, I’m silently nodding in her direction, knowing she can’t hear that right now.

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A sign of things to come.

When we get home from school, my kids take off their own shoes. They get their own snacks. The front closet looks like a bomb filled with hats, mittens, snow pants, boots, and heavy jackets, just went off. There’s salt from the sidewalk all over the floor, and little puddles of snow and mud pooling under the boots. Backpacks have paper, books, and leftovers from lunch spilling out onto the floor. My boys have 153 things each to tell me about their day. Rosalie is running around hugging them all, telling them she loves them and forcing them to pay attention to her. I can’t hear anything anyone is saying. My previously clean kitchen is a mess of after school snack making. Pandemonium.

I think of that mom at her house. She’s taking her baby out of the carrier. Stripping snow suits and boots off of little kids. Checking who needs to potty or be changed. Making everyone a snack. Cleaning it all up. Is there anything in her son’s backpack that needs to be signed or read or cleaned? Someone is probably crying. The baby needs to be held. “Mommmmm come wipe my butt!” is not an unfamiliar sound emanating from her bathroom. Toys? Everywhere. Laundry? I promise you don’t even want to know. Pandemonium.

I take a deep breath in and yell at my little twerps to clean the mess they made in the kitchen. Put their boots on the mat and wipe up the snow. Get me whatever I need to see from their backpacks. Put away their hats and mitts and jackets for goodness sakes! Yes you can have screen time after you read. Someone turn on a show for Rosie while you play your games. I’m sitting at the table drinking a coffee. They don’t need me for everything anymore. They just need me. It’s a welcome change. The pandemonium is actually kind of nice these days. I can take a deep breath in and not feel like a loon in the midst of it all. Usually.

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After school snack these days is smooth sailing.

I’m supposed to be registering Rosalie for kindergarten today. But she’s the last bit of little one I have in this house. She reminds me of the long, long days and years of mothering very small children. Those were some hard years. But they were our years, mine and these kids. Years of reading just one more story. Singing another song. More milk please. Pushing on the swing. Endless cuddles. Walks to the park. Sneaking cookies. Trains on the floor. Finding lost bears and kissing away tears. She’s here still, for now, reminding me of all those years that almost broke me, but also built me up into someone I never would have been otherwise.  So. It’s about to be pandemonium around here as the boys get home from school. I’m going to take a deep breath in. I made the lucky ducks some brownies. Signing Rosalie up for kindergarten is going to have to wait until tomorrow. I’m ready for it if she’s ready. Maybe tomorrow we’ll finally say hello to that mom with all her little kids if we happen to pass them by.

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Fine. It *does* go by pretty fast when you look back at those baby faces.

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

La Paix Pour Paris

It’s not often that I title my blog posts in French. My actual working knowledge of the language is not strong. French happens to be the first language of my mother, who was born in Quebec. Her family’s genealogy can be easily traced back to France on both sides. I do so love the French language despite my lack of understanding of it. I love listening to my mother and her family speak it. Two of my children, Olivier and Rosalie, have French names that show up in the family tree several generations back. The other two, Mateo and Andreas, have names with very close French equivalents. I want to keep the connection to the French side of my own history. I want my kids to be reminded of it when they hear their own names. Someday, I want to take them to visit both Quebec and France. I’m always kicking myself for not keeping up with the language or sharing it properly with my kids.

When I turned on the news tonight to watch as the terror attacks in Paris were being reported, my heart sank. This cannot be. What I was seeing is a war zone. Paris and terror are not words that go together. Paris is the city of love. Not hate, not fear, not violence. Certainly not terror.

Love.

And I wanted to pray, for Paris and it’s people, but I couldn’t even find the words. What do you pray? One word came to mind. Peace. And a prayer I was reminded of.

The Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

I decided to look up the prayer online tonight, as I wasn’t even totally sure of it’s history or authenticity. Sure enough, while the prayer was later attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, it was first published in 1912 long after his death. Where? In Paris.

Of course in Paris. Here is the original French, which as usual, reads more beautifully than the English anyway.

Belle prière à faire pendant la Messe
Seigneur, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix.

Là où il y a de la haine, que je mette l’amour.
Là où il y a l’offense, que je mette le pardon.
Là où il y a la discorde, que je mette l’union.
Là où il y a l’erreur, que je mette la vérité.
Là où il y a le doute, que je mette la foi.
Là où il y a le désespoir, que je mette l’espérance.
Là où il y a les ténèbres, que je mette votre lumière.
Là où il y a la tristesse, que je mette la joie.

Ô Maître, que je ne cherche pas tant à être consolé qu’à consoler, à être compris qu’à comprendre, à être aimé qu’à aimer, car c’est en donnant qu’on reçoit, c’est en s’oubliant qu’on trouve, c’est en pardonnant qu’on est pardonné, c’est en mourant qu’on ressuscite à l’éternelle vie.

“Faites de moi un instrument de votre paix” – my French is not strong but I do understand that statement. In a world where terror tries and fails to destroy democracy and freedom, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix. I may not be of any influence on a global scale, but in my small part of the world, where I may be but a breath in light of eternity, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix. At the grocery store, in my own home, among friends or in the company of strangers, at church, or the bookstore, or the playground – wherever and among whomever it is needed, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix.

The world is watching Paris tonight because Paris isn’t just any other city. Paris is a city that belongs to the world. A place people feel connected to through travel, film, literature, art, history, language, and even proud genealogy. An attack on Paris is a shot through the heart. Globally, I think.

So how do I pray? I just pray for peace. Peace for Paris. La paix pour Paris. That I would be an instrument of peace in a world where people strap actual bombs to themselves as instruments of terror. That the people of Paris and France as a whole, would find this peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding. How do you drive out terror with peace? It doesn’t make sense. It’s not possible. But it is, in my faith anyway. We – Christians I mean – call Jesus the Prince of Peace. When we pray for peace, we’re praying for Jesus. Jesus who was murdered by a government to whom He would not bow, and yet death had no victory over Him. The power of peace is the resurrection power of Christ; a power that death cannot defeat. We sing Peace on Earth, Goodwill To All Men – and when we sing it, it’s more than just a pretty carol. We mean it to the marrow in our bones. It’s a prayer. It’s a declaration. Peace and Goodwill.

Peace On Earth A candle beside one of the drawers from my Advent calendar, which is soon to be filled with treats for my kids, but serves at the moment a reminder of the need for continued prayer.

Peace On Earth
A candle beside one of the drawers from my Advent calendar, which is soon to be filled with treats for my kids, but serves at the moment a reminder of the need for continued prayer.

So that’s my impossible, ridiculous, small faith, sorrow and hope and agony filled prayer for Paris. Peace. In hearts and minds, and on the streets. La paix pour Paris. Not a peace that dismisses or ignores or passively sits down, but a peace that is confident and sure of a just, victorious end. Peace for leaders to make wise decisions and secure their city and people. Peace for children to be able to sleep at night. For peace to replace panic. For peace to bring healing, in time.

Faites de moi un instrument de votre paix. Fais de nous des instruments de votre paix.

Belle prière” indeed.

*link to the French prayer: http://www.franciscan-archive.org/franciscana/peace.html

copyright (c) 2015 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

Give Them Potatoes

My follow up post to the Halloween blog. Personally, I think this one gets my point across much better than the previous one, but people like the more contentious stuff better I supposed. Either way. If this helps, then I’m glad to share it once more. Happy Halloween. Or not. Whatever. It’s up to you!

TroubleFace Mom

Congratulations, internet. You have rendered my loud mouth speechless.

When I started getting ‘likes’ on my TroubleFaceMom Facebook page over the weekend, I told my husband that something was wrong. Because my blog is normally a cozy little kumbaya for the friends and family who tolerate me talking too much about my kids. I hadn’t even posted anything in a few weeks. My friend thought I was about to be harassed by a gang of trolls. Then the likes kept coming so I decided to check what was going on around here. It told me that nearly 10,000 people had viewed my blog yesterday.

I died. Surely I must have posted something that angered the beast that is the internet. But what? Between my two blogs, I write about sex, marriage, autism, divorce, affairs, porn, the church, Jesus, demons, angels, faith, and parenting.

The internet is broken.

That was…

View original post 1,323 more words

On Halloween

It’s become an annual tradition to repost this blog from 2012. It got a lot of attention in 2013, which was simultaneously a lot of fun and mildly terrifying. I know that Halloween is hard for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. This blog was written with the intention of challenging people who are hiding from it for no good reason, not to make anyone feel worse for avoiding it for very good reasons. Be blessed, truly, and stay safe this Halloween!

TroubleFace Mom

I think I may actually offend many of the church going people I know with this post. I’m not sorry. Just so we’re clear, you know – in advance.

(*Edited to add that when this post was written in 2012, the only people who read it were my church going friends who really know me, and they know that when I say I might offend them, that I’m saying so in a let’s-still-be-friends-even-if-we-disagree, kind of way. I did not expect this blog to blow up the way it did the following year in 2013. I did not intend to offend the church going people everywhere, all the time. Holy smokes. But that seems to be what happened, however unintentional.)

Every Halloween it’s the same silly thing.

People getting annoyed with the gore. The focus on death. The devil. The blood.

And you know, I’m not a huge fan of all…

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Boy Mom Problems

For Mel. Because you’ve arrived.

***

My friend’s kid broke his clavicle (collarbone) today. I was all, “OMG how did he do that?!?!” And she was all, “as if I know!” And I was all, “being a boy mom is like having Pinocchio: they’re cute and sweet and funny and sing songs and get into trouble – until they break their bones or sever their toes. Then HE’S A REAL BOY NOW! It’s all downhill from here.”

Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails? NO. Broken bones, severed digits, stitches, casts, and slings. That’s what little boys are made of. I once had an EMT tell me my sons reminded him of himself and his brother as kids. Thank God because it was that or child services was going to make a visit. The conversation with my friend made me think though, about how boy moms have our own lovely set of problems that I never experienced growing up in a house full of girls.

1. You associate the “Cheers” them song with the ER, and quietly hum it to yourself every time you happen to be passing by a hospital. Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name. Your friends also joke without being kidding at all that you should just get yourself a hospital parking space on reserve. Whatever. At least you know where the cash machine, empty outlets to plug in your phone, and vending machines can be found. When well meaning staff ask if you know where you’re going, you assume they must be new here.

2. You ration food like it’s war time. Because the ongoing conflict between your bank account and their appetites is never going to end. Sugar just disappears and makes it’s way onto the household black market as their currency with each other. The kitchen is either open or closed, and when it’s closed you keep watch over the surrounding area for insurgents trying to make sneak attacks so that you can intercept them while screaming, “fall back! Fall back! The kitchen is closed! This is not The Hunger Games! There is more food!” You’re considering raising chickens and planting a garden to cut down on food costs and give them something to do with all that energy.

3. Everything smells like pee. They’ve all been toilet trained and somehow that made it worse. Somebody peed the bed the other night and slept through it, didn’t tell anyone upon waking, and it didn’t go discovered until that somebody gave mom a big, urine-smelling hug later in the day. (True story) The bathroom was just thoroughly bathed in enough chemicals to start up a meth lab and it still smells like pee. The Elf On A Shelf *must* have paid a July visit. That’s the only reason the entire laundry pile smells like pee because everybody swears that nobody peed their pants, we promise mom. If you grew up with sisters in a home that smelled like scented candles and perfume, the pee smell is going to assault your senses terribly.

4. Violence is your love language. This one comes courtesy of my husband, because obviously he’s a boy. Man. Man-child. Whatever. If any of them came at me trying to flatten me with a power bomb, I’d call the police and have them arrested whether they were borne of my uterus or not. When they come at each other like that I turn around and walk away because at least they’re getting along and not fighting for once. When they need love from me, they ask me to hug them, chase them, or tickle them until they can’t breathe – a fine line indeed with asthmatics in the house. When they need love from my husband, they jump on his head, fart, and get mad if he doesn’t retaliate by pinning them to the ground and tickling them until I yell at all of them to stop because it sounds like someone is being murdered.

5. You are morally obligated to donate $1 to the Children’s Hospital, every time they ask you in the grocery store checkout line. You have long since learned not to joke that it’s because you “spend enough time there” or you “never know when you’ll be back!” (The cashiers give you the side eye when you say things like that.) If you said no, you’d feel like a traitor, because refer back to #1. Donate, donate, donate!

6. Everything is broken. Including your spirit. Ha! Kidding, honest. But seriously, the door knobs always need to be tightened, their brand new clothes are torn apart, you’re not even thinking about investing in nice, new furniture for at least another 5 years (because you’d be so sad when it started smelling like pee anyhow), and you gave up on trying to fix toys a long, long time ago. It’s a blessing really because you learn the necessity of quality and will pay for the high priced Legos if it means less overpriced broken action figures strewn all over the toy graveyard playroom floor.

7. Competitions can be made out of anything. Who has more bites of egg left? Who can drink their milk the fastest? Who knows the most about dinosaurs? Who knows the most about rocks? Who can build the highest tower? Who can finish their book first? Who can spell the hardest word? Who can fart the loudest? Who can hold their breath the longest? You want to make it stop but you can’t because they’d turn it into a contest over who can stop the fastest. Competitions that involve being the most quiet and listening to their mother first do not count but you don’t know why because you’d hand out medals for those.

8. Nothing is sacred… I mean, sure you’re teaching them respect and boundaries and all of that “raising a man, not a boy” stuff that you know is important. But they’re still going to think it’s hilarious every time you say “but” in a contextually appropriate way that has nothing to do with butts. Your husband is going to try to back you up unless you actually ask for him to back you up, in which case you may as well just throw up your hands and go read a book alone in the tub with bubbles. NOT fart bubbles, if any of the boys ask (they will ask).

9. …except for penises. Those are sacred. I think they come out of the womb feeling like they’ve won the jackpot just for being in possession of one. When my oldest was 2, he told his cousin to point her peepee down when she sat on the potty. I laughed and and told him girls don’t have penises. He was appalled. And then devastated – for girls. How do we live without one? Why don’t we have one? We manage and I think we’ve got the better deal anyhow. Just don’t tell the boys that. They don’t seem to have the coping skills for that kind of revelation.

10. Everything is enhanced with sound effects. They just don’t know how to not make noise. Even the quiet ones, who enjoy solitary, low stimulus environments and for whom you have purchased noise cancelling headphones. Noisy. Why cook dinner quietly when you could cook it with a real time voice over giving a play by play of your every move. Why go on a nice walk and enjoy nature when you could frighten away every living thing in close proximity with howling noises that sound like a cat dying and bird calls that sound suspiciously like the sound effects in their latest video game. You’re lucky if the park ranger doesn’t track you down because someone called in worried about a possible animal in distress.

BONUS
It’s not all bad. In fact, it’s mostly good. While I did end up being shocked with a girl baby in the end, I wouldn’t trade my boys for all the girls in the world. (Or her for a boy, for that matter.) Being a boy mom is something else, especially for someone who never got into babysitting, didn’t have brothers, and wasn’t boy crazy. Someone at church recently offered to help me carry my things out after the service. I told them I have 3 sons for that, and I meant it. They’re hard working, diligent, persistent, problem solving, tough, and always ready to step up for someone who needs or asks them. They love their sister and their mama and you better not give them a reason to prove it. That’s where the “raising men, not boys” part comes in. The truth is, if you’re a boy mom you’re going to want them to learn how to take risks, you’re going to be glad that they’re full of energy and always hungry, you’ll be proud that they want to be challenged, you know that material things can be replaced, and you will be relieved when they learn how to get back up when they get hurt. I can’t really help you with pee smell though. I’m told once they stop smelling like pee, they start smelling like rank teen boy b.o. so this problem might be hopeless. Scented candles help.

Superhero pose in the Alberta Badlands. Superheroes in the BADlands, get it? They were amused.

Superhero pose in the Alberta Badlands. Superheroes in the BADlands, get it? They were amused.

Anything else you’d add to this list, boy moms?

copyright (c) 2015 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

10 Years of Mothering (a reflection)

I wanted to write something when Mateo turned 10 this month, to somehow commemorate a decade of mothering by summarizing the lessons I’ve learned along the way into a cute, tidy, entertaining little snippet. I tried. But I couldn’t do it. Because I don’t know how to make mothering come out tidy in words or in real life. So that piece of writing had to die and instead I’m going to tell you the truth.

We are in a season of change around here. Our boys will all be in school full time this fall. For the first time in 10 whole years, there will be no little boys home for all or part of the day, at least until 2:45pm. Also, Rosalie is not a baby anymore. She and I are going to have a lot of girl time while the boys are in school. My heart is soaring and aching at the same time. I love watching the boys learn and grow and become more independent. I’m enjoying my time with the little girl I didn’t think I would have. But those years of them all being little one right after the other – those hard, intense, exhausting, demanding years – I sometimes miss them. I listened to all of the people who told me to enjoy it because it goes so fast. I don’t regret not holding them enough because I held them all the time. I didn’t miss a single thing. And it still went by too fast and too slow. I guess that’s just how it works no matter what.

Being a stay at home mom was not my plan. It was the opposite of my plan. I knew plenty of women who did plan to have a houseful of kids and be home with them and I thought those women were crazy. I thought I’d be bored or need more stimulating, meaningful things to do with my life, my time. I didn’t imagine I’d ever want to slow my ambition down for motherhood. Now, as I have started working part time from home and talking seriously about returning to work and/or school in the near future, I am wondering how I am ever going to slow down motherhood for my ambitions. Motherhood seemed small before I walked into it. To be honest, I felt small for a long time as a mother. I was constantly calculating how many years before my kids would be in school and I would return to my previous pursuits – not because I was wishing time away, but because I am a planner. I like to know what’s coming and when, as far in advance as I possibly can. I had this need to justify being home, by having a long term plan for what would come after. Because I felt like I *should* want to be studying or working or using my God-given talents and intellect for something loftier than mothering.

Now I’m just trying to hold on to this season for as long as I can. I have loved being a stay at home mom. Period. No qualifiers. No justifications. I did it because I wanted to. It made me happy (and also crazy) in a way that nothing else ever has. The last decade has been one big long run on sentence of a come to Jesus, aha-moment, wake up call in my life. All of the books, libraries, pens, paper, time to write, read, learn, draw, and study in this world – none of the things I love to do and be most, come close to giving me the kind of joy that mothering has. I don’t know if I’ve ever been able to admit that, even to myself. We aren’t supposed to lose ourselves in mothering. They say it’s not healthy. Except that I did get lost in it and I’m better for it.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” -Jesus

The truth? There are as many ways to be a good mother as there are mothers and children. We are all laying something down, losing ourselves, praying and hoping we’re making the right choices for us and our kids in the short and long term. I’ve never met a mother who isn’t sacrificing something. Why do we do it? Because mothering is the loftiest thing. Whatever kind of mothers we are, we are doing it for the good and best of our children and there is nothing small in that. How I can have nothing but respect for my mom friends of all kinds, but constantly second guess my own self is a bit ridiculous. Maybe it’s time to stop doing that. Maybe after 10 years it’s time to just let the pressure and expectations go.

I don’t know if I’ll end up back in school or back in the maternity ward having another baby. Or both. Or neither. I don’t know anything about the future. I do know that in 10 years I’ve learned that mothering is not what anybody thinks it’s going to be, and we are all probably doing better than we think. It really is this hard, we are all sacrificing something (I think that one bears repeating), and everybody has a good reason for her choices so we all need to be kind and lay off. Internet fights are not worth the time and effort. Internet friends are worth the time and effort, but you need people in real life, face to face, too. Nobody has it completely together. Nothing we face is really new under the sun: someone, somewhere has been there. Find those people. Hang on to them. Your mother was probably right about a lot of things but don’t tell her I said so. Oh, and read with your kids, often and about everything. This gig is always changing; the kids are always coming with new and diabolical ways to throw us off our game and life just will not stay the same no matter how hard we dig in our heels and try to make it stay stuck. That’s about the gist of what I’ve learned in 10 years. It hasn’t been a bad way to spend a decade, I’ll tell you that much.

As for us, yeah, we are in a season of change. I’m never going to be a brand new first time mom again. I’m never going to have 4 kids in 6.5 years again. I could (and might) have another baby but it will never be like these last 10 years have been. I’m thankful for this wild ride we’re on. I’m thankful that parts of it are slowing down to make room for new, different things. I’m thankful for the lessons learned and the gifts that are my children. I didn’t plan for or think I wanted this path in life but it’s good to be dead wrong every once in a while.

This is where the last 10 years of my life have been spent.

This is where the last 10 years of my life have been spent and it took me that whole time to realize there’s no place I’d rather have been.

copyright (c) 2015 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

Dry Bone Pain

He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
-Ezekiel 37:3

Ezekiel 37:3

Ezekiel 37:3

It’s the day after Easter and maybe some of us aren’t feeling very resurrected. Maybe some of us are weary, sick, bended, grieving, breaking. Where is the resurrection power? Where is this new life, new dawn, new day? Someone turn the lights on and let some air in. The saints are suffocating and the sinners can’t find the door.

Ezekiel had a vision. A vision of a valley filled with very dry bones. God told Ezekiel to prophesy to those bones and as Ezekiel prophesied “there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.”

No breath in them.
No breath in me.
I’m just a bag of bones.

Away from home at a camp, I couldn’t get past the post-op pain of extracted, impacted wisdom teeth. Pain meds all gone and the nurse on the phone tells me what’s wrong. “You have dry bone pain.” I laugh, interrupting her. This isn’t about my teeth, I realized. But I let her finish because my laughing makes me sound unbalanced. This is obviously not a funny situation.

“The spaces where your teeth used to be, are full of nerves all firing looking for that tooth because the sockets are empty and dry. They don’t realize the source of the pain is gone so they are creating new pain. We’ll fax pain meds to the pharmacy out there but if it hasn’t stopped when you get back to the city, come in and the surgeon will dress the wounds for you while your mouth heals.”

There was a rattling in my spirit as the Spirit of God was shaking me back together in deep, dry, broken places.

But. Can these dry bones live?

I have learned not to ask God a question like that unless I want Him to answer. And like Ezekiel, but minus the wicked teleportation/vision to the valley, God showed me that the nurse was right. I had dry bone pain. Not in my teeth but in my heart, which was empty and dry right into the marrow of my actual bones. There were old wounds, past hurts, things that had caused pain once, but which didn’t have to anymore – still firing off and triggering pain anyway. My heart didn’t know any better. It is hard to let go of the past, phantom pain like a phantom limb, removed but still present. And it was time for God to show up and bind those old, open wounds so that they could heal.

Only the Sovereign Lord knew.

He told Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath and it came and those bones lived.

He used a situation with my teeth to open my eyes to the work that had to happen in my heart. He brought my bones back to life, too.

I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.
-Ezekiel 37:14a

Easter comes, the stone is rolled away, and Jesus is alive.

His Spirit in us and our dry bones live. Maybe it’s time for us to let Him come, bind up the wounds, and come alive again. Maybe.

copyright (c) 2015 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved