Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Confessions of a Little Blonde Chaos-maker, part 1

A while back my mom found the perfect T-shirt for Landen...the slogan reads "Every Great Idea I Have Gets Me Into Trouble!" There is no better statement to describe the many unbelievable moments we have endured upon discovering the results of some crazy idea of fun that Landen has concocted for himself! Having the mind of a 3 year old combined with the physical capabilities of a 10 year old makes for some pretty wild antics. We thought it might be entertaining to make a list of the "highlights" we remember from the last few years.

"Do you smell smoke?"
One night my mom was over and we had gone into my front office of my home so that Bethany and I could show her something on YouTube. I estimate we were preoccuppied with that for somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes. I had several candles lit all over the house, as I have done millions of times over many years. All the sudden Bethany said she smelled smoke...we jumped up, ran into the living room, and found Lanny perched on top of the kitchen bar, lighting paper towels on fire one at a time over a votive, watching them burn, then dropping them to the carpet below...where they continued to singe the carpet in a lovely circular pattern. I began basically hyperventilating over the fact that my floor was ruined...after a few minutes of that my mom told me I better grow some perspective and be thankful that the only real damage was to the floor and not my child. So after my own temper tantrum was over, we took a picture of the damage and sent the claim to our insurance, who helped us replace the floor with a beautiful laminate that we love. Needless to say, I don't burn candles anymore!!!

Recently we visited our good friends the Low's in Austin. They have a game room upstairs that Landen likes to hang out in and watch his movies or play his games. One afternoon most of the adults were talking downstairs- I was coming out of the upstairs bathroom and immediately smelled smoke. I yelled down to them about it, and Mark and his buddy Tom came running up the stairs. We opened the door to the game room and a thick haze of smoke filled the room....we all panicked and expected to find flames. Once we got our bearings as to what was going on, we discovered what had occurred. You see, they keep a handy microwave up there for a nice amenity to their movie room, complete with a supply of popcorn for your movie-watching convenience. Little man had decided to take it upon himself to cook his own snack. Yeah, he cooked it a little long! We promptly opened all the windows and comfiscated all the remaining popcorn.

fun with "wah-ter"
Landen loves water. If there is water around in any form, he will find a way to make fun with it. One example we discovered several months ago when we had a plumber out to investigate why our second bath's toilet was clogged beyond anything we could fix ourselves. The guy must have removed the broken remains of 20 toy cars that had met their demise by being flushed. When he pulled out the first couple of toys, I thought- OK, well we've found the problem....well, no...it just kept going and going for what seemed like forever- toy after toy after toy. He must have been doing it for years!!!

His fascination with water has now led his attention to our new front loading washing machine. You see, he's also majorly obsessed with watching things spin, so this washer provides lots of entertainment. When I first got it, he would come into the laundry room and squat down in front of it and watch through the glass to see the water filling it, then the spinning, etc. It was cute and all until I realized he had learned how to unlock the door and began adding dirty clothes to almost finished clean cycles. Or I would go to remove what I thought was a finished load and find that he had changed the cycle setting to something like "Silks" for a load of towels. Then one evening Mark and I were engrossed in conversation in the kitchen.....Mark said the words that in our house immediately ensue panic and divide-and-conquer action.... "Wait, where's Landen?!" After searching the house we found him in the laundry room, but this time it wasn't clothes he had added to the washer...no, HE had climbed into the empty washer- i am not kidding....i have a picture to prove it, but it's not appropriate to share because.....brace yourself......he was naked too!!! The first thing we saw as we rounded the corner to the laundry room was two skinny legs hanging out of the drum!! Now we have to keep the door locked to the laundry room, and if he happens to catch me in there putting a fresh load in, I have to shoo him out to keep him from getting involved!! You should see me in the laundry room now- I'm like all fast and furious and nervous about my own child stalking me to get to get his laundry fix. Good times.....

Oh, and don't think for a minute that the nice laminate floor in the living room is the end of that story. No, recently Landen decided he wanted to help Mark water the plants in the backyard. Problem is, Mark has a power attachment on the end of the water hose, and I guess Landen gained a sudden sense of power when he realized Dad had walked to the front of the house, and he could cause major fun and havoc by spraying Bethany in the backyard. After she went running he opened the back door that leads to our living room and began spraying full force onto the laminate floor. I was cooking in the kitchen and it took me a couple seconds to realize what was happening. You should have seen the look on Landen's face- total thrill of "i'm in charge now, suckers!" He looked like a mini-Terminator figure looming in the doorway with his weapon posed. After spraying me, too, I had to just push him out and close the door. After using about 15 towels to sop up the standing water on our new floor- it was all fine. And the turn knob to the hose was removed and hidden.

Landen also loves balloons. We have been in the habit for awhile of getting him one of those mylar helium filled ones shaped like various characters from the grocery store as a treat now and then. It's been sort of a sweet routine for my mom to get him one when she comes to visit. He will carry it around all day and night around the house, even insist on sleeping with it- he'll hold the string in his hand as he is falling asleep, and if I go to remove it from his hand he will wake up and give me a sleepy whisper "no, mine." Recently my mom brought him a cute monkey figure balloon and he loved it. He talked to it, carried it around the house, and took a bath with the darn thing and begged me to help him "wash his hair."(And yes, I did it. He was just too sweet with it for me to resist!) But after a few days of hangin' with the monkey he decided to let him "fwy away"...so he let him go in the backyard. He perched himself on the highest 9 foot position on his swing set and watched it fly till he couldn't see it anymore. The first time he did it he cried "my bah-woon fwy away" over and over....it was so sad! Lately he has been letting balloons go within a day or two because he loves watching them float off. Now his emotions are settled about it and he just says, "bah-woon fwy home".

One balloon met a different fate....This past Sunday I got into the shower. I noticed that the water was filling up around my feet. I took the drain cover off to discover the deflated remains of a different balloon stuffed down in there. Nice. Mark's next project is to glue the drain cover down.

"honey, have you seen the remote anywhere?"
A couple of years ago we caught Landen throwing a couple of objects over the back fence into the neighbor's yard behind us. He was standing on the trampoline and thought it would be fun to watch his toys taking flight I guess. We told him "no" sternly and to stop doing that. I climbed onto the trampoline to see where the stuff landed and got a view I did not expect. It was like a Landen-sized debris field- probably 30 various objects strewn across our neighbors' backyard.... cars, planes, cups, clothes- a wide variety of items that had been missing in action for a while- even one of our TV remotes whose whereabouts had been a lingering mystery! Bethany and I walked to the street behind us to knock on the neighbor's front door to sheepishly ask if she minded if we went through her back gate to collect the damage. The lady opened the door to just a crack to talk to us..I began explaining to her the reason for my visit....."Uhhh, yeah, we know" she said, obviously irritated, "Just go on back." I apologized profusely and began, "Sorry about that, you see my son has special needs and..." She interrupted me "Just go on back!" and slammed the door in our face. Yeah, thanks for the compassion sister. Lanny should have aimed for a window....hee hee....no...that would be very wrong..... =)

I wish I could say that was the only time he's done it. Let's just say, you know you live a unique life when a regular conversation in your house is "Have you seen the (fill in the blank)?" "I don't know- have you checked over the fence?"

"poop, sweat, and tears"
Probably about a year ago Landen began climbing to the top of his 9 foot swing set. The first time he did this I totally freaked out. Being deathly afraid of heights myself and unsure of his coordination skills in that situation, I was about to have a heart attack. Mark was at work and Bethany and I saw that Lanny had drug one of our patio chairs to the end of the swing set and climbed atop to the end of the beam- the end without the fort, so he had nothing else to hold onto and could have just free fallen. I panicked and climbed on top of the chair trying to reach him in a way to help him down without causing us to both come crashing down. It was deathly hot- we were sweating, miserable, he started crying...it was awful. Then I noticed that diarrhea poop was oozing out of his shorts! So, of course, in the drama of finagling both of our bodies off of that thing we were both covered in poop, sweat, and tears.

He continues to climb to the top of his swing set. It's a daily occurrence now, and he seems adept to it and so I have tried to chill out about it. It's a place of escape for him and he loves the view. He watches planes fly, the moon at night, and loves to watch the fan on top of my neighbor Marilyn's roof spin. Hey, cheap entertainment, that's for sure!

One lazy Sunday afternoon a few months ago I was watching a show in Bethany's room with her. Mark had gone outside in the front yard, and I thought Lanny was with him. Mark thought Lanny was with me. Bad combination. He had gone into the backyard and dragged one of our patio chairs to the fence, (it's a tall, bar-stool height chair), and climbed over the fence into my neighbor Marilyn's backyard. He apparently grabbed one of her patio chairs and dragged it about 75 feet from their deck to the opposite fence and hopped that one too! So next thing we know is- the doorbell rings and my neighbor from 2 houses down is standing there with my son. He said, "My kids started screaming that they saw a little boy in the bushes in the back of our yard." Nice. Time to start considering implanting a tracking device into his arm!

Well, I wish I could say this was the sum of Landen's antics. There's more. It will just have to be a separate chapter. Next I'll share some of the just plain weird things he tends to do on a regular basis, as well as some of our experience with him amid Hurricane Ike. That will be part 2 of the chaos-maker's confessions....coming soon!!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

healing wind

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine posted a wonderful blog post to her site, Scripture for Today...In it was an excerpt from an interview Rick Warren gave after he wrote the book The Purpose Driven Life. A few particular lines struck me deeply, and I have not been able to get them out of my mind:

"I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don't believe that anymore.

Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life. No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on.

And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.

You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems. If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness, "which is my problem, my issues, my pain." But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others."

I was so struck by that analogy of life being more of two trains, rather than the often emotionally vacillating perspective of the mountain top/valley approach. How much of my spiritual focus is spent on evaluating whether or not I am currently in a mountain top or in a valley? Does my view of God's "blessings" change, according to what season I think I'm in? And the burning question, do I trust God's plans and faithfulness as long as "relief" is on the way, or the mountain top is in view? Is that really living for God, or more of a "I will follow You as long as I know-You're-always- gonna-make-things-better kind of thing"? What if He doesn't?

I know people that would not agree with me even asking that question- what if He doesn't make it better- because, they believe, that God always has a positive answer, and that true trust in Him is reflected in the ability to always claim that. But many situations in my life have sort of always haunted me, if I'm being honest... because I have felt to my very core that truly trusting means being very aware that we live on earth, not in heaven, yet, and that if God promised us anything He assured us suffering would be a part of life, but that He would be with us. This belief I have held has often made me feel somewhat less faithful next to the more positive-thinking people in my life, and often, judged. Usually those individuals, in my estimation, have not endured some of the situations I have, so I struggle at times with judging them in return I guess. The question of "what if He doesn't?" stares at me everyday in the eyes of my overgrown toddler. It's as if Landen asks me, essentially, "what if I stay this way forever, mama? Will you still consider your life to be a good and happy one?" Having a doctor tell me 8 years ago that my child will never be normal, will never win trophies in sports among his peers, never go to college, probably never get married or have children has tested this struggle in me to degrees I wish every day that I didn't have to reconcile. I have had well intentioned people tell Mark and I that Landen's syndrome must be the result of our sin or unbelief. We have gone to many a prayer service asking-begging God to heal him, and I promise you, not an inch of our being doubted that God could do it. I do get confused when I read in the Bible how often it is said, "because of their faith, they were healed..." or "if you have the faith of a mustard seed"....those are passages that I am still pondering, still seeking to understand.

In the meantime, we live. We live each and every day, continuing in the hope that God will heal Landen, but reaching for joy and contentment in the mundane, amidst the under-current of grief that just won't go away. The analogy of life being more like 2 trains resonates with my heart. How freeing it is to realize that problems are always present, really, and the best use of our relationship with God is to embrace the contradiction of hard realities that are seen by God and allowed by Him, but being thankful that we are protected in it, guided through it, hopefully growing in it, but following Him even if we are not saved from it. After all, Christ asked that He might be spared of the cross, but was not. Of course, we know that He was not spared of it so that the biggest accomplishment of the universe could occur. It was for God's glory.

Speaking of God's glory- i think about, how when we refer to our pain and struggles, we often talk about how God will have His glory in it, and usually we picture "His glory" appearing later..as a child healed, a family's home saved from foreclosure, the cancer gone. But the longer I live I am learning that it is also comes as a deep contentment and growth that comes right smack in the middle of the problems, and that the struggle itself is the "answer", the glimpse of God's glory, the light and the beauty that is noticeable because of the darkness. My heart must wrestle with this truth, or I will never really grasp a selfless surrender to His greater purposes.

Landen being who he is, there are many moments on a daily basis that test these ideas in me. So often we have set off in the car as a family, hoping to enjoy some sense of "normalcy" and togetherness as a family of four. Many times these outings begin and Landen is thrilled with the ride in the car...with the windows down, the wind blowing his hair crazily- (he tells us "Open the hole!" which means the sunroof) He shuts his eyes with his head sticking out of the window in total uninhibited glee...and hanging his airplane out the window so he can watch the propellers spin in the wind. I love those moments with him with all my heart. And then, as anxiety sets in on him about where we're going or an unmet expectation, he can melt down and get upset. I sink in my own way, with disappointment that our "family outing" doesn't look like what I hoped it would. I used to think, "that's great...he was having fun, we were all enjoying it, having a grand time...then it always has to end this way." And so the mental choice in me begins...i can tank emotionally or be thankful for the precious moments we did have, and that Landen does have and share joy. All I know is, I am pursuing a life that is far more captivated by gratitude and hope, and loosening my grip on self-pity and defeat, or I will die trying.

I love these additional words from Rick Warren:
Happy moments, PRAISE GOD.
Difficult moments, SEEK GOD.
Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD.
Painful moments, TRUST GOD.
Every moment, THANK GOD "

This picture is from 2005 in Lake Tahoe...but it captures the same "wind in the face-glee" that Landen gets when he rides in the car! I love it!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

more beautiful, less chaos...

Today is National Fragile X Awareness Day. And that has gotten me thinking about how different our lives are this summer from where we were a year ago. This last year has been filled with a whirlwind of changes, pain, laughter, and growing. But to really appreciate it, I have to go back to the painful beginning last summer.

Mark and I have been talking a lot about how utterly awful last summer was for us as a family. Pretty much everything that could be in shambles... was... save for our marriage- (praise be to God!) We were remembering the other night how one particular evening we both hit the bed, exhausted and emotionally drained...but i mean the kind that feels like despair from your very gut and no light of hope. We had been thrust into a season of unexpected job change, which led to a long job search for both of us, financial turmoil, and all amid behavioral problems from Landen that were the most damaging we had ever endured with him. We were devastated by the seven plus episodes a day of Landen hitting me, kicking me, pulling my hair, freaking out about even putting clothes on, pooping in his pants several times a day, throwing things, and he had begun to lash out at Mark for the first time too. There was no evidence of the joyful little boy we had known anymore. This particular night burns deeply in our minds as a snapshot of that time, as it had been one of the worst days ever. I remember laying down on the bed in the darkness, Landen laying between us asleep. I started to cry, and after a few minutes I realized the bed was shaking. I looked over and realized Mark was crying, too. I reached over Landen and we just layed there, sobbing together, holding onto Landen between us, and each other. There are hardly words to even describe the pain. After a few minutes, we began to cry out to God together....basically, "we can't do this anymore God, we're gonna lose our home, we can't pay our bills, our son is turning into a monster we don't recognize....surely this isn't the plan you have for us, for his life....we are losing hope, we are at the end of ourselves, and we know that only You know the answer...we beg You to help us....we're done."

As the days following went on, God gave us the hope and grace to choose to believe in His goodness, and that He was going to find a way out of that hell. Mark even worked at Starbucks for a few months just to get us health insurance to cover the $1000 a month of medical expenses, while he continued the job search. I watched him not only swallow his pride in doing so, but he embraced the opportunity by loving on the people he worked with and pouring into their lives. I respect him so much for that.

At one point that summer, Mark met one of the most interesting people we had ever encountered. His name was Jessie....a Puerto Rican dude...vivacious, full of boundless energy and crazy, reckless-abandon-kind of love for the Lord...he was also a martial arts instructor who came over and taught me how to hold Lanny down when he had fits so that his movements couldn't hurt me anymore, and would aid in calming him down. I had no idea how much confidence in other apsects of my life the lessons he taught me would bring.

In the fall, many friends came together to raise money for us to hire special therapists to come in from Colorado and help us get Landen's home and school life under control. The routines they taught us to keep his anxiety and sensory issues manageable made a big difference. Finally, we had answers! They were like our very own "Landen Whisperers!"

Mark eventually found a job with MetLife, and opened an insurance agency at Panther Creek in The Woodlands. I took the Worship Pastor position at HopePointe- a job that gives me the flexibility I need for my kids and allows me to do music- the most healing outlet and lifeline I have.

In the spring we took Landen to a special needs baseball program. We were amazed from day one at how well he did...he loved it! Every single game I cried....not only for the joy of seeing him actually participating, but for the determination of the other kids with challenges. There are more stories from that, but that will have to be another blog post!

At the end of the school year, I had Landen's annual ARD meeting. All of his teachers, therapists, and school principal were there. They were all not only so pleased with the progress he had made, but were actually tearing up, (all of them, even the principal!) saying how much he had blessed their life with his smile and personality. That was the most unbelievable moment I had ever had in his school experience! I have lived in a world where all you hear is how far behind and different your child is, and how low the expectations had to become to teach him anything. But God was using Landen anyway, and was growing him in a way that made others notice His work. Every single person around the table told me that they felt they had witnessed a miracle.

When we took him to his psychiatrist appointment in early June, the Dr asked us how the end of the school year had turned out...i told him, and he started tearing up, and said, "I asked God to show me today...that He was at work in my patients' lives, that someone was seeing success, and that my help was not in vain....and this is His answer for me today..."

So, here we are. ...God is good. He hears. He answers. He rescues. He makes all things new. He is teaching me to trust His refining fire, and that the process itself is the answer....ever unfolding, ever revealing beautiful parts of Himself that a less dependant life in me would never see. This recent picture of Landen reminds me of that truth.

This picture is of him playing with a wind sock he made at summer school, trying to get it to "fly" over the A/C unit in the backyard....he went on with this forever; I couldn't get him to come in till after dark....

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thrill Ride

Ok, I have finally done it! Started a blog...something I have wanted to do for a couple of years now! I know it will be a nice place for me to release my thoughts, joys, fears, and stories. There are many in my life! I know that God has placed Mark and I on a very unique path. We have struggled in many things, but have, by grace, managed to strap on our seat belts, clutch on for dear life, screaming the whole way, but feeling the wind on our face and the thrill of the ride....even when we feel as though we are the only ones on it, and thinking, ".....but we didn't know we were getting on this ride...we wanna be on that one over there!" But, alas, here we are, on this one, made for us with custom seats, and trying our best to view the horizon through God's eyes.

For my first post...there's something you should know about me....I am obsessed, basically. I am obsessed with finding the meaning in everything. I know that God has called me, called Mark, called us to our situation, to somehow point to Him and to the grace and life only He can deliver in the midst of it. And believe me, this is not an attempt on my part to make myself feel better because life is hard. I can also be quite the cynic. But that obsession I have comes from a deep place that has known for many years that we are here for a short time, and that life should be full of passion, of shared love, of embracing moments. My sanity depends on it! Otherwise, my heart will darken in a shroud of cynicism, envy, and despair. So, many of my thoughts and stories will reflect that contradiction in me. But hopefully, I will make a record of the adventures we experience, many of which are crazy at the time, but we find ourselves laughing later. We have endured many unbelievable moments due to Landen's antics! I will try soon to post some of the highlights that I can remember so far! Thanks for walking this journey with me. Enter at your own risk!! =)