Tuesday, March 8, 2016

slow songs

"Isaac, let's come up with some creative words."  I shift in my seat next to him on the bench at the kitchen table, while Isaac forcefully lays his head on the table.  Working on writing and using adjectives is a challenge.

It has taken a good hour to get homework into a rhythm, and things have started slide off tempo.

Then again, Isaac always has marched to the beat of his own drum. 

"This is too hard." He says. In my mind, I have to agree.  Lately, Isaac's focus and body control has been a struggle more than ever before. I know he is growing:  Physically, he is blowing by the hand-me-downs I had saved from when Ethan was his age.  I know that amazing brain of his is struggling to keep up.

How do I explain...

Have you ever tried singing along to a song that had an awkward cadence?  Those songs that have time signatures that seem to be so complex, you struggle enjoy them because you can't grasp their meter?  Those songs where you start singing along and right when you feel you have the beat, it shifts. You're left humming something unfamiliar.

This can be life with Autism. 

"Let's come up with those creative words, okay?"  I help Isaac bring his focus back to his homework assignment.

Eventually, we finished.  His paper was full of words like "fluffy," "giant", "soft", "stinky," and "interesting."  When we were putting his paper in his homework folder, he asked, "Mom, so what does interesting mean?"  "Well...it means...exciting.  It gets your attention and keeps you focused." 

Isaac nodded.  "Like my cars?"  His eyes flitted to the bin of Hot Wheels that he keeps in the kitchen.
"Yes, like those."  Before I could finish, he was making race car noises and running to the bin. 

I don't write music, and I barely read it.  I don't know much about epic symphonies or movements, but I do live with one.

Isaac has never been intrigued with slow songs.  He doesn't have a tempo for slow.  He is either full speed or complete stop, and working with him on how to self-regulate so he can find a happy medium has been the hardest thing I have ever done.  And it has gotten harder.

Sitting in a small office at Isaac's school yesterday, I listened as his teachers and advocates discussed Isaac's life, personality, his skills, and his distractions.  I added my concerns and my requests. Our yearly IEP session was one that reminded me both of how much progress Isaac has made, but also how much work he will need to accomplish.  I am always filled with hope and dread, one never overtaking the other as boxes are checked, goals are enumerated, and testing requirements are named. I think every parent with a child on the spectrum gets that feeling.

Being high-functioning means Isaac can fit in, yet, if I am being honest, he won't truly.  In a world of smooth cadence and expected rhythms, he will always have a unique time signature.  Unique is interesting...but it isn't easy.

He is the most complex, beautiful song I have ever tried to sing along to.  Even if I don't know the words...

I will continue to hum along.  Even when the beat drops and I can't keep up, I hum along.  Even if the drummer can't find the rhythm, I hum along.  Quietly, reassuringly, humming: Patiently, until we pick up the cadence again.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

breathing into paper bags

Well, hello.  It has been awhile.

You know the adage, "no news is good news?" It does apply in this situation. Mostly.

The past few months have been quite adventurous for our little family.  Instead of gifts for Christmas, we took an idyllic winter trip, just the 4 of us, to Cancun in December.  This vacation was just like pressing the reset button on life.  I highly recommend this.  (Although, when we booked the trip, the boys were going to miss a week of school since we opted to go prior to the high season of travel...after I breathed into a paper bag for a couple of hours, talked to myself in a corner while rocking back and forth about the make up work, I got over it--and I am so glad I did!)

We did some amazing things as a family.  We all snorkeled for the first time; swam with dolphins; Isaac even ate shrimp.  SHRIMP, people.  He ATE THEM. We rode Mexican buses, fed sea turtles, sat on the roof and looked for meteors.  It was a trip that will forever be embedded in our memories, and will produce topics of conversation around the dinner table when we have grandbabies.  I would say that's a gift that keeps giving. 

Isaac also celebrated his 9th birthday, to which I also breathed into a paper bag for a couple of hours, talked to myself in a corner while rocking back and forth pondering how my baby is 9.  After getting some LEGO sets and completing them in record time, Isaac announced, "this is my favorite birthday." He is entitled to this opinion, since his birthday falls around the holidays, he gets, oh, about 4 birthdays over a two week period.  He took cupcakes in to his class to celebrate in January, so just think about that for a second.  Whoever said having a birthday the week of Christmas wasn't useful didn't have a clue.

We also had our share of trials, because, let's remember, this is life and we are human. 

Ethan had the flu which developed into a terrible case of pneumonia.  His first experience with an IV, a trip in an ambulance, and an overnight stay at the hospital was, for the most part, pleasant.  No one likes to see their children ill, and as a mom, it strikes a chord in your heart of hearts to not be able to put a Band-Aid on and kiss it to make it better.  I have to say, though, I had my handy-dandy paper bag to breathe into and a corner to rock in, so I was just fine. 

Two days before Ethan went to the hospital, we gutted our upstairs bathroom.  Then, in my wisdom, I thought I might as well finish Isaac's bedroom that I had wanted to do for months, because this is what you do when you binge watch HGTV with your sick kid who has been home for a week.  My husband and I are a great team, and when we start a project, we are usually good about completing it in a timely manner.  But, setbacks happen...life happens. Frustrations set in.  Now, things are a little chaotic and disheveled.  To top it off, my dear friend texted me to say that her little boy broke his leg and would be needing help. I wanted to be available, and struggled with feeling guilty about not having time. Paper bag, anyone?

Breathing is living.  When we aren't breathing correctly, we can't catch our breath.  We breathe into ridiculous paper bags that do nothing but rob us of oxygen--of life--and we get dizzy and lose focus.

The story of Job makes me cringe but it is in the Word of God for a reason.  Job 33:4 says "The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty has given me life."  Here is a man who suffered as no one could imagine.  His friends had nothing but empty things to say, and he himself found himself in a corner with a paper bag, trying to breathe the breath of man, and not of God. 

We were not made by ourselves. We cannot sustain ourselves. Breathing into paper bags is useless. There is no magical inward source of life that we can tap into apart from God. We are renewed and regenerated by the work of the Holy Spirit in us, and that's not according to what we do alone.  

The past few months have been a time for me to re-examine where my strength and source of life is found.  It isn't found in doing things for others (although this is wonderful).  It isn't found in having perfection (which is a daily struggle for me). It isn't found in control (because, why is this even a word?) My life comes from the Almighty.  He made me, and He alone sustains me. 

I pray the same goes for you.

Breathe in His truth, breathe out His grace.  Repeat. 


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

icebergs and other snags

We are in a new phase of infatuation here in the Hladky house.  It is mostly Isaac's infatuation, but, when he is all about something, we ALL experience the gusto.  Most of the time, I don't mind.  It's fun to learn about things that aren't necessarily on your radar of fun.  I have come to find ultimately, as a mom, I have no choice.  If you can't beat em', join em'.

Isaac's love of all things transportation has gone from a summer of steam locomotives and Amtrak to the sea.  We are all about ships here, and one in particular:  The Titanic.  

It was fun at first. I love history, and so when Isaac expressed an interest in knowing more about the RMS Titanic, we did our research:  One of the White Star Line steam ships, built in 1909, launched 1911, and sailed its one and only voyage April of 1912.  On the 14th, at 11:40 pm, the ship hit an iceberg and sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later. 

Of course, Isaac wanted to know more.  How did the people die?  How many people died?  What did the ship look like? How many tons was it?  Can we see what it looks like at the bottom of the ocean?

The journey for information continued.  I allowed him to watch a few videos on the rise and fall of the Titanic.  He began quoting random numbers and statistics I couldn't verify.  "Where did you hear that?" I would ask.  "Trust me, Mom,"  he would answer.  He would bring home sketches and drawings of the Titanic.  He would reenact scenes and a play-by-play of the ship's sinking by filling up bowls of ice water (it had to be filled with ice because, well, icebergs) and using pencils as the ship because it would have to break in half--one half sinking and the other floating until it too went under.  We have no more unbroken pencils in the house.  (Oh, we need those to do homework?) 

He has made me watch numerous Titanic videos on YouTube Kids--some of actual model ships, built by men from Germany with WAY too much time on their hands--only to be sunk with Go-Pro cameras attached to their hulls so my son can see first hand what that would look like.  Isaac's eyes would get big and he would jump up and down "Mom!"  I put a hand up and closed my eyes. "Nope.  We are NOT building a model ship and sinking it."  He used LEGOs instead.

Speaking of LEGOs, we have watched videos of stop-action animation using LEGOs to create a true-to-movie reenactment of the James Cameron film.  I'm not kidding.  There are videos out there, folks.  We have watched the actual sinking sequence from the movie, Titanic.  Until you judge me as a parent for allowing my child to watch such a horrible scene of lives perishing, please know, we also watched it IN REVERSE, so Isaac could see the ship being put back together, and the people surviving.  Thanks, YouTube.  

I thought this would somewhat pass.  I had hoped that feeding the information monster would quench the hunger...but it just seems to be taking over.  It's all he talks about; all he wants to discuss and play.  I have had to tell him, "Isaac, I don't want to hear about the Titanic right now, okay?"  

I knew it had gone too far when Isaac was making his bed this morning.  I was pouring myself a cup of coffee in the kitchen when I heard him humming "Nearer My God to Thee."  (For those of you who don't know the song's relevance to the Titanic--Google it, and you'll know.)

 As I stood, leaning against the kitchen counter with my coffee, I tried to think of what I could do to get his mind off of the Titanic because frankly, I was sick of hearing about it all.  Then...I thought...how many times have I gotten stuck on something that I haven't been able to shake or stop thinking about?  How many moments have I rammed into an iceberg of thoughts that have steered me off course of what I should have been thinking?  I'm sure God didn't tire of hearing me hum "Nearer My God to Thee" when I just couldn't see a way out...

They're a common infatuation, sinking ships...

Isaac's Titanic is familiar to me, because I have similar infatuations.  I can get caught up with worry, or doubt.  I can get fearful of the unknown.  I can look in the mirror and get stuck on how I don't measure up--how my child doesn't measure up--to the expectations surrounding me.  I play "video" in my head of how I know things are, yet I force myself to watch it IN REVERSE to see where I made the mistake and went wrong.  

Being passionate about something is very different than an infatuation.  Isaac is passionate about ships and facts and events, and his imagination is drawn to create.  His passion is a part of the bigger picture of how he thinks and sees and interprets.  He can have time to imagine and create, but we can put a limit on that time and allow him to transition to something else for awhile--have balance.  I can help him to continue to be passionate about his perspective, but not allow it to be all-consuming or detrimental to his social behavior or well-being.  

The same can be said for myself.  I need to guard my heart and mind from infatuation--but encourage it in passion.  Just like Isaac loves facts and statistics, I need to love what is real and true.  I need to be careful that I don't allow feelings to overshadow what is really taking place, or who I am created to be--or who Isaac is created to be.  

I bought a new box of pencils yesterday.  I am sure they will be encountering icebergs later this afternoon when Isaac gets home...but we won't be sinking anytime soon.  

One of the many drawings of RMS Titanic Isaac has made--this one is framed in his room
I think he did a great job! 


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

clouds and stars

Summer is winding down.  I am in denial.  Still, I can't ignore the familiar pleasant feelings of late August: the evening breeze that turns heavy and cool, with islands of white masses moving swifter than usual through a darkening blue sky.

Isaac and I stood outside in the driveway last night watching the clouds open and close like stage curtains.  Every now and again we would see flashes of bright stars, and then the "curtains" would close and we would patiently wait.

I looked at Isaac as he stared at the sky.  In a moment's time I replayed his growth in time-lapse through my mind's eye:  a newborn, full of potential, the future broad and gleaming...a toddler, hitting every milestone, a joy...2 1/2, throwing all into reverse and feeling like starting over, only with questions unanswerable, fears mounting, language crumbling, inside ourselves and beside ourselves...preschool, with hope again--with tenacity, with grace, with tireless focus on goals as a team...grade school, progress that has no words to describe, and set-backs that seemed to crack the foundations of what we have done thus far...repairing cracks and building, stronger.  I flashed back to the driveway, coming to with a tug on my arm from the 8 year old boy going into 3rd grade beside me, jumping up and down.

I pulled him close to me and he smiled with his tight-lipped smile that has replaced his broad toothy grin.  I noticed how tall he had grown in the past couple of months, and for a split second, I saw into the future...

A young man, much taller than his Momma, with azure baby blues that bounced when he talked: busy hands shifting in his pockets, feet shuffling back and forth as he runs a hand through his disheveled hair.  His clothes match and are correct for the season, thank God.  He smiles that tight-lipped smile, only with a face that no longer has the look of a little boy. He hugs me and my head rests against his chest.  He loves the smell of coffee, but doesn't drink any with me.  He chooses Root Beer. We have a conversation on a topic of his choosing, and I listen and watch in amazement...like I am watching the skies open to reveal a stage of shining stars, and the most brilliant one is telling me one of his many adventures.

"Mom, can we let the balloon go now?"  I snap back to the present.  Earlier that day, Isaac and I had taken a "date" for frozen yogurt and then stopped at the Dollar Store for a couple of last minute back to school items.  I had let him buy a plastic Orca Whale for the bathtub, and a yellow smiley faced balloon.  "Are you sure you want to let your balloon go, Boo?"  I made sure to ask because often, I need to remind Isaac of the next step in his decision.  "Once you let it go, it's not coming back, remember..."  Isaac looked at me in the dim light of the evening, and with a serious face and non-chalant voice he said, "I know, Mom."

The wind had picked up, and deeper, darker clouds were flying in overhead. I waited for Isaac to let the balloon go.  This was unusual for him.  He didn't like to let things go.  Broken toys, even deflated balloons that had sat, undisturbed in the playroom for weeks and had sadly shriveled up weren't to be thrown away.

I joined Isaac in a dramatic countdown:  "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!"  Without hesitation, he launched the balloon into the navy sky.  We watched it elevate until it was a black speck in the distance.  We talked about how it might travel over the ocean, or hopefully, to another state.  Then, as the balloon was almost invisible Isaac sighed and said, "Have fun on your journey, balloon.  Your eyes were creepy anyway."

I laughed outloud, and Isaac turned to me with a serious face, "It's true, Mom, I didn't tell you, but that smiley face made me nervous.  I only bought it because you liked it so much, and well, because the string got tangled around my Orca's tail in the store."

I admire my son's ability to hold onto the things that matter--to be cherished and enjoyed.  I also admire his truth, to a fault, because I saw that evening in our driveway, that he can love outside of himself.  He can give and take without being caught up in selfishness.  He also is very, very good at wanting to please others, but still knowing when to draw the line in what makes him uncomfortable. Isaac has a gift for being authentic.

We had a great day.  But as the clouds rolled in for the final curtain-call of the night sky, Isaac and I raced to the back door, giggling.

Clouds or stars; the stage of life is full.

[End Scene.]

Thursday, June 25, 2015

finding my marbles

"So...do you guys want to go see a movie today?"


For the first time since summer vacation started, I found myself out of ideas.  The weather has been wetter and chillier than summers before, and there are only so many hours one can force kids to play video games. (Yes, insert thick sarcasm).  The boys were more than happy to spend an afternoon in a movie theater, and I was happy to save a dollar a ticket because it was a Discount Tuesday (love when that happens).

We all had wanted to see the latest Pixar film, Inside Out, so I roped my sister-in-law in along with my niece and nephew, and we settled in with popcorn.

I cried.  Hard.

*Spoiler Alert*

It wasn't just that the story revolved around a young girl dealing with change who happened to be the same age as Ethan (can we say pre-teen?).  It wasn't just that the characterization of the emotions working inside the little girl's head gave me perspective as to how Isaac processes moments--sometimes, at a much slower rate and with more of the emotions "arguing" over who gets to call the next response.

It was Joy and Sadness.

The journey of Joy and Sadness was the best part of the movie, and here's why.

As an adult, especially with a child on the spectrum...a child who dislikes crying and change...this journey was a valuable teaching tool.  A brilliant one.

If you haven't seen the movie, you'll want to skip this next part...but even if you haven't seen it, and read on, you won't be sorry.  See the movie anyway.  And take tissues.

Close to the end of the movie, when Joy and Sadness have managed to find their way back to the main control center of the little girl's mind, I watched Isaac out of the corner of my eye.  He had been on the edge of his seat the entire movie, even repeating phrases out loud during the film (remember the sensory processing I brought up earlier--he needs to repeat sometimes to "get it.")  I watched as he stared, fixed to the giant screen, the light of the movie flickering on his slightly sunburned face from the water park the day before.

This is where Sadness became the hero, and Joy had to take a backseat to running the show.

As a melancholy and an introvert, I'm okay with sadness.  I have learned through life's experiences that "...weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."  (Psalm 30:5)  There is something so cleansing and refreshing when I can have a good cry.   But as a child, one who dislikes tears and sadness in himself and in others, this was a lesson that allowed him to see sadness as a partner with joy, rather than an enemy.

Isaac watched as the little girl succumbed to the sadness of her situation; her memories, her parents, her not-so-great choices.  I watched as Isaac took his zipper hoodie and put it over his head.  I gently nudged him and whispered, trying not to let him hear the crack in my voice from tears, "Do you want to sit on my lap?"  He nodded, looking like a blob under his sweatshirt.

I carefully peeled the sweatshirt from his face, and he turned to me.  I couldn't hide the tears in my own eyes, and he looked at me, startled.  He didn't speak, but turned to watch the rest of the scene.

The little girl was hugged close by her parents.  She nestled into her daddy's chest, and let the tears fall. She stopped pretending everything was okay. And then, inside her head, the emotion of Sadness actually looked happy; relieved, almost...and called Joy over to her side at the control panel.  "It's your turn now," she said, and graciously gave over control to Joy.  Then, as Joy, surprised and bewildered, took control, we watched the little girl, still in her father's arms, smile with tears on her cheeks.

Isaac looked at me.  I smiled with tears on my cheeks.

After the movie, we talked about memories and marbles (each memory the little girl has are portrayed as "marbles" that are filed away in a large library of sorts...each a different color for different emotions experienced at that time--sadness is blue, joy is yellow, etc.).  We talked about emotions.   Isaac told me has all of those emotions in his head, but "at least a couple more too."  And "lots, lots, LOTS, more marbles."

Most importantly, we talked about how sadness is essential to knowing the true value of joy.  We will never completely understand joy (contentment, happiness, fulfillment in any circumstance) if we don't realize that we are hurt and broken and in need of hope.  Sadness can lead to joy.  They can ebb and flow into one another.  Our choices determine our emotions, and we alone can put Joy in charge of our thoughts and our actions.

I watch Isaac from across the room now.  He catches me looking at him.  He smiles a goofy smile and I say to him, "Did you just make a marble?"  He laughs.  "Yep. A yellow one."

Keep making marbles, and even if they're blue, they'll someday, with hope...lead to joy.

Friday, April 10, 2015


There is something to be said for hope. 
My heart was filled this morning when a friend came over with her little ones to visit.  I can't explain how we are able to pick up where we left off, connect as if we had seen one another just yesterday.  She brought donuts, I supplied the coffee. Our boys began to play.  We hugged, laughed, and then the heavy, tactical talk about our children commenced.  There, cross-legged on my living room rug, were questions and fears that came up as we talked about developmental delays.  I was brought back to the emotions I had experienced when Isaac was around the 2 1/2 year old stage--or, the stage I personally refer to as "the dark time." 
We all have those segments of time in our hearts that, after time has passed, we can look back without panic or resentment or fear.  For me, it was when Isaac was a toddler. It's hard for me to go back there.  In those days, I had gone through a sort of solitary confinement of the soul:  A time where tunnel vision seemed to be the only way I could see (and that was only a foot ahead of me)...a time where numbness to every other meaningless struggles of my days paled in comparison to the looming challenge of finding the answer to where did my child disappear to?  What happened to the babbling, giggly baby boy who called me "mama" and looked me in the eye?  How do I have conversations with people...how do I explain why my son just isn't like everyone else? How do I find him?  How do I find myself?  So many questions hovered like a swarm of bees that followed my mind every second of the day. 
In the moment when darkness looms, and we find ourselves in the space of the unknown, we are mortified.  We lose track of when and where we are as we try and focus to see something...we grip tightly to our identity as a parent--a good one--and then everything we thought we knew how to do, we have to let go of.  The ideals we thought made us the right one for this mom-job turn into failure in our arms.  Sadness.  Loss.  Regret.  Fear.  Anxiety.  Desperation. 
I remember the day when I embraced hope after dropping all of those mom expectations.  It came as I was driving in my van.  Isaac had just started his time at preschool, and I had a few moments to myself.  I was listening to a radio program, and it was about the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac.  I felt like the minister speaking should have said my name, because it was just for me.  He said:  "God couldn't do the work He had intended, or proved to Abraham his covenant of promise to provide until He was able to give Isaac willingly back to His care--His love."   All of my emotions broke free from my body like the Hoover Dam exploding.  I had to pull over into a Target parking lot and cry and scream and shake.   I needed to rededicate Isaac to God's care, and allow HIM to direct the steps and literally, be the light that would get me out of the fear.  If Abraham could do it with his Isaac, who was I not to try with mine? 
Hope was the flashlight in that darkness.  It was, and is, a strong and confident expectation of something that I believe is and will be...something that can't always be seen or touched, but can be reached.  Hope is what fuels us for each new day.  I don't place my hope in my own abilities.  I place my hope in the knowledge that there is a hope and a future for my son.  I shine the truth on the doubts and watch them slowly dissipate.  I have seen how God has worked all things together for Isaac's good, and I believe while resting in that truth.  I am who God has made me, and Isaac is who God has made him--we grow from there. Together.
I get weary.  I get scared.  But I have hope.  I get confused.  I get angry. But I have hope. 
I know Isaac does too. 
“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child.
Anything can be.”
― Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

waves of mercy

It has been a challenging month, to say the least. 

Parenting comes in waves.  One moment, you're paddling out, feeling confident with the sun on your face and back.  Then, you crest the top of a massive swell, and feeling strong and proud in your "I've got this" attitude, you ride it...until it crashes on top of you reminding you that you are still at the mercy of the elements of life.  You don't make the waves, but you certainly have to navigate them. 

Navigating these past 4 weeks has been a series of attempts and fails, until last Tuesday. 

There is really no way to sugar-coat the fact that my son has been habitually stealing.  He has been taking things that don't belong to him:  Small toy cars from play time, coins off of friend's desks at school, even his friend Rylee's headphones that she needs during the lessons in the classroom--somehow those ended up in his backpack, according to his testimonial to Sister Sharon.  "Look what I have in here!" Isaac said to his teachers a couple of weeks ago.  "How did THESE get in MY bag?" he said with an exaggerated expression.  "Hmmm, how DID those get there?" Sister Sharon responded with equal overemphasis. 

There is an element of compulsiveness that I believe contributes to this behavior with Isaac, and some of that can be contributed to his inability to stop and think before reacting.  Still, I don't believe this is an excuse for behavior that I know he can work through.  When driving home from school after the 3rd report of his pilfering from desks, I was so disheartened that I pulled the van over in a bank parking lot and snapped.  "Isaac.  Please tell me why you are taking things that aren't yours?  I seriously need to know how to help you, and I am confused and hurt."  He looked at me, blank faced and matter-of-factly said, "Because I see it and I want it."  I sighed and looked away.  As a parent, I was completely clueless.  Was I not doing something?  Was I doing too much?  Not enough?  The thoughts raced around in my head, and Isaac interrupted my pity party with "Holy MOLEY! Mom, did you see that Corvette that went by!?"  How could we deal with the compulsive decision making without having a foamy wave of disconnect crash on us every opportunity? I was trying to force a teachable moment, and it just wasn't happening. 

I would drop Isaac off at school every morning, asking him the usual questions:  "Are we going to make good choices today?"  "Yep!" would be the enthusiastic response from the back seat.  "Are we going to ask before we take things that aren't ours?" "Yep!"  More yeps and smiles and thumbs up.  Then, when the end of the day came, Isaac would be escorted to the van in the carpool line and my heart would drop as I saw his head hang down and his feet drag.  "Mom, you're not going to be happy with me AT ALL today."  I again would brace myself for impact.  Another crashing wave on my psyche--another notch in my parenting fail belt. 

Dan and I rallied to impress on Isaac the severity of his actions.  We pulled out the big guns: long talks (making Isaac sit still is punishment enough), grounding from the I-Pad and the TV, even a spanking from Daddy on the 3rd offense.  There is nothing more heartbreaking as a parent than having to spank, because I believe it allows you to suffer with your child, and to remind them that we feel the pain too.  (And yes, we DO believe in spanking--just not in every situation or for every child at every age and NEVER in anger.)

Then, just two days after that episode, thinking we had made a point, I was sitting in the carpool line.  It was one of the first mildly spring-like Tuesdays and I was basking in the warmth with the sunroof open, sunglasses on.  I saw Isaac's reading group teacher, Mr. Ratkovsky, helping some other students to their vehicles.  I have had the privilege of knowing Nathan since Isaac was interviewed at JB the summer before Kindergarten.  He is a wonderful teacher, and Isaac looks up to him and has learned a tremendous amount from having him as a reading teacher for two years.  I smiled and said, "Hey!  How are you doing?"  He paused and I said, "Everything ok?"  He walked closer to my open driver's side window and lowered his voice.  "Well, Isaac took my cell phone today from the table in reading groups.  I found it only after I had tried calling it and heard it vibrating in his desk.  So...yeah..."  I had no words, except, "I am so sorry."   Enter the tidal wave. 

I had reached rock-bottom of emotions.  I had been through them all.  And I was all out of conversation starters as Isaac tried to tell me about his day, tried to tell me that he was sorry.  I was numb to how to listen and how to feel like anything I did to help mattered. 

That day, Ethan had Writer's Club after school, so Isaac and I went to Target for our weekly homework date:  I would get a coffee and he would get a cake pop from Starbucks.  Not only did Isaac look forward to the routine, but I also looked forward to just he and I time. 

Isaac didn't chat in his normal non-stop way to fill the heavy silence as I walked slowly, feeling crushed.  We got inside and into the line for our usual treats.  Neither of us spoke.  I had taken Isaac's choices and made them my own.  I had allowed his rule-breaking, to in essence, break down the trust I had in him and the trust his friends and teachers were losing in his behavior.  How could I show him I loved him despite the choices that had made me so sad and so desperate to understand him?


The word popped into my head and heart just as the barista behind the counter asked "What can I get you?" 

I felt like responding "A venti mercy please."  But, that was what I was supposed to give, and not get just then. 

I ordered quickly, trying to smile.  As the girl went to make my drink, I felt a different type of wave wash over me.  It wasn't drowning me or suffocating me--it was freeing and weightless.  I took a deep breath and kneeled down, right there in the line at the Starbucks counter. 

Isaac looked at me, surprised.  "Isaac, you know what I'm going to do?"  He shook his head slowly, eyes wide and round.  "I am going to show you mercy.  Do you know what that means?"  Again, he shook his head, his blue eyes never leaving my own.  "It means I am going to give you a cake pop, even though you have broken the rules and broken mommy and daddy's hearts.  I am going to forgive you and start fresh and clean, and you are going to stop taking things that aren't yours because it's hurting those who love you."  It was as if time stopped, and it was just he and I, face to face in that Target store.  I didn't say another word.  I just whispered a prayer in my heart, thanking God for the strength to show the same kind of mercy to my son that Christ has shown me every day of my life--in spite of my pride and selfishness. 

The next day at school, I went in to talk with Isaac's teachers about his stealing and about his behavior and grades.  "Isaac is doing wonderfully in his academics" his teachers praised.  We laughed about some of his comments, and we were encouraged by his desire to please and help.  Then, when the topic of the stealing came up, I mentioned how we had tried all forms of correction, and it wasn't until mercy came into the picture that I had sensed some form of understanding on Isaac's part.  His teachers were quiet for a minute and then, Sister Sharon smiled, "You know," she said, "that's exactly what he told me this morning.  He said, 'My mom showed me mercy and I don't want to take things anymore.'" 

Mercy is sweet, like that cake pop Isaac ate silently across from me at the table in Starbucks.  It isn't easy to give, and is a result of cultivating a relationship with Jesus that responds to His love for us.  It doesn't come out of a selfish desire to get something, but it comes from a desire to put ourselves in someone else's shoes, seeing with their eyes, and feeling with their heart.  I know that won't be the last time we deal with mistakes or selfish behavior with Isaac, but I am so thankful I was allowed to see that waves of mercy are just as great, and if not greater, than those waves of life that seem to crush our desire to grow. 

Paddling out to the next swell...

Psalm 103: 8-11 (amplified)

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy {and} loving-kindness.  He will not always chide {or} be contending, neither will He keep His anger forever {or} hold a grudge.  He has not dealt with us according to our iniquities.  For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy {and} loving-kindness toward those who reverently {and} worshipfully fear Him. 

Riding the waves...summer vacation, 2011