Princess Ky Background - The cutest blog on the block

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Finding Scooter

It never ceases to amaze me how ordinary events are so impactful in teaching me valuable lessons about life. God uses them to bring into focus the things that truly matter- the things that will make a difference in someone's life.  How thankful I am that God values me enough to give me the opportunity to learn and serve Him by doing what I love - sharing my stories. Praise God he has a sense of humor, because at our house, we are always in supply of humorous material that will keep his funny bone limber...

The following is what led up to a humorous and memory filled Christmas Eve at the Stout House.

My hubby, Dan, and I purchased our first home in December of 1995. We desired a home with character and a place that we could make our own. We decided on a home built in 1891 (and let me tell you, it has no end of "character"). We lovingly named the cottage style house "Brighten Corner" following the Victorian tradition of naming homes.  The name was derived from the old Sunday school song, "Brighten the Corner Where You Are.

In the months that followed, we added to our happy home the pitter patter of tiny... (no, not babies)... kittens! 

Fast forward 15 years later to 2010, and you will find us in the same home with two senior citizen cats.  Tigger and Scooter are adorable, but they are the remaining survivors of the original group of 4 siblings that we raised from birth.  The other two: Curious George and Pooh Bear are no longer with us. 

Each time we lose a furry feline friend, it becomes harder and harder. The last one to leave us was Pooh Bear.  She was alive and well one evening and the next day,  we couldn't find her.  Dan searched high and low and finally found her in the basement where she had found a cozy place behind a box, curled up and exited this world.

We are fortunate that Kylie has only recently figured out that we have cats.  When she was born, Dan built a "playroom" in the basement for the animals; so, they chose to enjoy their playroom and not to spend much time in the main house with the new baby that had invaded their territory.

Our cats have been very therapeutic for Kylie. You see, children with Autism tend to be locked in their own world.  It is heartbreaking, as a mommy and daddy, to have your baby stare right through you.  You want so much to hold their eyes with your own and have that intimate, knowing "moment." You long for them to recognize your voice and turn their gaze to you. You would give anything for your precious little one to seek your attention, but many times they don't respond to their name (the perfect name that you labored to give them) or even have an awareness that you are there.  Because of this, there is a terrible grieving process that takes place in the heart of a parent of a child with Autism. We learn to cope, we find ways to demonstrate our love differently (in their language), but that heartbreaking ache and longing never goes away.

Tigger and Scooter can draw Kylie out of the world of Autism in a way that we have never been able to.  Kylie seeks their attention, talks to and empathizes with them.  She will lay her head on their fur and, unfortunately for the cats, pull their tail, grab for their whiskers and hug the stuffing out of them. They hate it but always come back for more (who said cats had brains?).  Kylie has a love for Tigger and Scooter that borders on obsession and is almost scary to us.  The first thing she says when she jumps out of bed in the morning is "Kitties? Kitties?" 

Dan and I have started to explain to her that the kitties won't always live with us, that someday they will go to... "college"!! (yes, we are terrible cowards and don't have the heart to tell her they will ...die).  They might even study internationally ... right?  (wink, wink)  =0)

All of this history/back story is information you need in order to adequately understand and appreciate what ensued at Brighten Corner on Christmas Eve 2010...

It was an ordinary Friday morning, the day before Christmas. I was checking email and responding to all the holiday greetings.  Dan and Kylie had made their way down our winding staircase to wake up the kitties for the day.  I hear Kylie's sweet baby voice sing "Kitties! Wake up!" and then "Well, there you are! Hi Tigger!"

Scooter is always slower to emerge than Tigger and seems to need more beauty sleep, so it was not surprising that he did not make his appearance right away.  Kylie abused (ahem...) ENJOYED Tigger while she waited.

Long story short... Scooter never appeared.  Dan began to search for Scooter.  We don't let our cats outdoors, but Dan looked outside in case someone had accidently let him out. He looked under beds, in closets, behind the furniture and under the Christmas tree.  What started as a casual search, soon took on a more urgent tone. Dan searched the garage, looked at the snow for paw prints, checked the front porch, moved boxes in the basement that haven't been moved in years.  He even checked the dryer (ooh yuck!)

He couldn't find Scooter and finally discussed with me that Scooter might have gone to "College"- it would be the only explanation of why he couldn't find him.  I assured Dan that cats just don't disappear and reminded him that he has a (much documented - I can provide numerous examples) history of not seeing things that are RIGHT IN FRONT of (if it were a snake it would bite him) his face!

Dan continued to search and the longer that time passed without finding him, my stomach started to feel like butterflies were in it. I feared that Dan was probably right and Scooter was probably quite immersed in pursuing his "college degree".  He had most likely joined a fraternity, majored in aviation and, by now, was on his way to earning his wings (anyone else hear the little bell tinkle?).

Even if Scooter HAD gone to "college", we needed to find the "furry evidence" that confirmed it. 

We continued to search - hours crept by and still there was NO Scooter!  I finally suggested to Dan that we take a break.  The search was making our Christmas Eve depressing and this was NOT how I wanted to remember this Christmas Eve.  My husband was completely befuddled and agreed to take a break.  I kept thinking about how we were going to "sell" the "going to college" story to Kylie so she wouldn't be upset about it.... would we send care packages?? write letters??  either way, it was going to be ridiculous and NOT going to be fun.

I decided to get dressed for the day and began by brushing my teeth, washing my face and performing all the general primping/makeup applying that goes with the territory of being a  female.  We don't have a linen closet (one of the areas of "character" in our home), so we, instead, store our linens in a large cupboard under the powder room sink.

Dan was talking to me and Kylie was busy torturing (ahem...) playing with Tigger when I opened the cupboard and reached for a towel to dry my hands.  I tugged on a towel (which wasn't budging) and, as I did, I saw something move and jumped back.  I then heard a very scratchy, grouchy "meow" and was seriously scolded (in cat-speak) for displacing and interrupting the cozy nap of..... SCOOTER!!

I couldn't believe it!  We had spent hours looking for him! We have no idea how he got into the cupboard, but there he was - cuddled up on Kylie's princess beach towel!!  We were all scurrying around as he slept peacefully unaware of the havoc his lack of presence had created.

Later in the day, as I replayed the events that had happened earlier in our home, I couldn't help but think of a time many years ago when another search was heavy underway: The search for a baby that was prophesied to be King of kings and Lord of lords. 

It was a happy search: The Magi from the east arriving to worship the King baby.  Their faithful belief and a strategically placed star led them to the One they had put their hope in and whom they had relentlessly sought. 

After all that time and all that travel, we learn that they had planned in advance how they would celebrate and welcome the King: with gifts!  They came bearing gifts that were planned, purposeful and that communicated their reverence, respect, and honor to the newly arrived Savior. 

What impresses me about these great men was that they used their position of leadership, influence, and worth to set the example for mankind as to what our response should be to this miraculous phenomenon: seeking Him, feeling overwhelming joy at finding Him, worshipping Him, honoring Him, and giving in His name.

Not only did they give the Christ child gifts, but they gave what was symbolic, purposeful, meaningful and valuable to them - simply because the child, King Jesus, was worthy of nothing less.

I love meaningful gifts for just this reason.  All gifts are wonderful, but they are best when they can be used to tell a story.  Stories are a window into the soul; they create a bond and a friendship like no other. And what a story this is!!  The gifts you choose communicate to a person whether or not you really know them.

I often wonder about Mary and Joseph and what it must have been like to have world leaders arrive on their doorstep to adore and dote on their child.  If it had been 2010, digital photos would have been taken and placed on Bethlehem's facebook page post haste!  Was this a moment in time that Mary "treasured in her heart?" Did she write to her family and share all that had transpired?

I also wonder if Mary had taught Jesus how to say "Thank You" by then? I'm sure she had, but wouldn't it have been something to hear him say it?? Would it have sounded like ..."Fank Yu"?  Would he have given them each a sticky, candy cane hug and baby kiss?

You see, Jesus came to earth fully human, while yet still being God.  He came so that we could see, and touch and EXPERIENCE Him in a way that our limited brain could wrap itself around.  Jesus became even more approachable and accessible by coming to us.  He didn't meet us halfway, he came all the way!

Unlike Scooter, who did not budge or come when we called his name (a thousand times), and who grumbled and complained when we disturbed him, Jesus is always here for us.  He wants our companionship, our honesty, and wants to share in our life happenings.  If we seek Him, He can be found. 

I could never walk this road of Autism without Him by my side.  He holds me up when I am exhausted from a day of meltdowns, he gathers me in his arms when I can't bear any more news, he loves me when I am least lovable, and he is the best listener when I need to vent. He holds my hand when I walk down a scary or unknown path, He bandages every broken heart and he guides every decision that I make. He is with me when people don't understand Kylie's behavior or when I have to explain to other children about why Kylie does the things she does. I don't have to do my hair or wear makeup for him, I can go to him in my footy pajamas or in my evening dinner gown.  I can eat beef or pork or chicken or go on a grapefruit diet for all he cares. I can wear flip flops in the winter, watch reality TV AND wear socks on my arms when I play volleyball (don't ask)  =0)

The bottom line is this... and it is so simple...He loves me (and you) just the way we are. He asks nothing of us, other than a place in our life and a relationship with us.  He offers everyone the gift of himself and we simple have to unwrap it and accept it.

I hope you will accept Jesus' precious gift this Christmas season because He promises that...

If you seek Him, you will find Him, when you search for Him with all your heart
(Jeremiah 29:13)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

Kylie playing dress up with Tigger- love the accessories!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Gift of Grace

Her name: Kylie, means "Full of Grace" or "Graceful one".  Though the meaning of her name isn't as important for her as it is for me.  When God gave us that name, I think he knew we would need a day to day reminder of what GRACE truly means. 

Maybe it is because God knew in advance that yesterday Kylie would dump an entire can of baking soda in my first cookie dough of the holiday season.  It happened right before my own eyes!  I was mixing the dough with one hand, dumping the flour in with my other hand (I am a classic multi-tasker), and my third hand (EVERY mom has a third hand, right??) didn't catch her in time. 

I swiftly "thanked" my husband (who was supposed to be on "Kylie duty" -and who, I would like to add, had 2 hands freely available-AND who had thought it would be "fun" to pull her step stool up to the counter AND THEN walk away).  My "sincere thanks" was laced with just a tiny drop of sarcasm. (ok, so I'm not perfect!) 

His response was to explode in laughter and simply say "Christmas memories" (I was up to my elbows in flour and baking powder and I have to confess, he almost lost his life right there).

Dan went on to suggest that we throw the batch away and start over... "Oh no!", I replied, "Christmas Memories, remember??!!  These are Kylie's first cookies and we ARE baking them (and ...heh, heh, heh...YOU are eating them, I whispered under my breath).  They might be the size of the empire state building when they are done, but we ARE baking them" 

(I'll be sure to post a pic after we bake them later today)

Grace was also required the day that Kylie decided to demonstrate the appropriate technique for applying water proof mascara - all by herself!  (She has been watching her mommy, but I promise you that I have better aim than this!)

Kylie also dipped into the grace bucket when she decided to skip the makeup pencil and go for good ol' inexpensive MARKER... !  And to tell the WHOLE story, I must confess, I needed some grace too... 

The night before these pics were taken, Kylie had colored on her legs with permanent marker while daddy was on "Kylie duty" (are you seeing a pattern here?). I gave my precious hubby a thorough scolding for not watching Kylie close enough.

 The very next day, when I was on "Kylie duty", I turned around to find my princess looking like this.

She was rather proud of her art work and I had to eat a big slice of humble pie!
( least when it was my turn it was dry erase marker and not permanent marker!)

And I wouldn't want to leave out the water incident of last week...Yes, here it comes...

Wonder who did this????

and yes... in case you are wondering... the BASEMENT floor under this bathroom got a good cleansing.

Despite all the grace being doled out in this household- or maybe because of it- Kylie still remains the most precious gift we have ever received.

As adoptive parents, we were gifted with the pleasure of sharing an intimate pregnancy with our birth parents.  We knew Kylie was coming and we planned for her to arrive.  We never imagined the grace we would need in the days to come, but God has given us an abundance.

We wanted her name to be special- a marriage of her birthmom and adoptive mom's names.  Thus, the name Kylie came to be.  Her middle name would be "Mattea", meaning Gift from God.

We had no idea that Autism would enter the picture or that Dan would lose his job, but we knew that God would be faithful in anything!  He is with us through the baking powder, waterproof mascara, flooded sinks and all the permanent marker face paint!  There is not a thing that he can't help us through.  He protects our marriage and he provides for our family in miraculous ways.

We are completely human, continually mess up, and still he is here! We smudge the canvas and mix the paints and still his brush creates the most beautiful picture...the picture of GRACE.
"May grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God our Father and from Jesus Christ his Son, be with us who live in truth and love."   (2 John 1:3)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Twirl With Me, Mommy!"

My daughter, Kylie's, favorite place to play is at the Pottery Barn Kids store in one of our local malls. Kylie goes immediately to the Madeline Play Vanity, sits on the little pink tuffet and admires herself in the mirror. She then finds the jewelry box display and spends the good part of an hour investigating the interior of the boxes. She opens each one slowly as though they contain a great secret. The treasure within is a beautiful, tiny ballerina that twirls in perfect time to the music.

My daughter is mesmerized by these simple wooden boxes, and I silently observe as she studies the ballerina, takes a step back, places her sweet little baby arms in the same position as that of the ballerina and slowly begins to turn. I try not to make a sound as I don't want to break the beautiful spell of the moment. My precious daughter is in a world of her own, make believing she is that sweet little ballerina. I feel tears pool in my eyes and I choke on the words that have gathered in my throat.

I realize then that we are not alone. A small group of ladies, employees and customers, have gathered. A hush falls over us and, as I glance at their faces, I realize they are feeling the same tug at their heartstrings. They, too, are taking a little walk down the memory lane of their own childhoods. When they rouse from their reverie and realize that I have noticed them, they comment on how beautiful Kylie is and how adorable she looks as she dances to the music- so innocent and oblivious to the audience that has been watching her.

What they don't know is that my Kylie experiences Autism. They don't know all the work, steps and conditioning it has taken to be able to even approach a mall let alone ride an escalator or elevator. What they don't know (at least not yet) is that when I tell Kylie that it is time to go, this sweet ballerina will morph into someone entirely different - a very loud and unhappy someone. A someone who most likely will lay on the floor and scream because she cannot process why we can't stay. She doesn't understand what it means that the store is closing. Her communication difficulties are a barrier to expressing appropriately how she feels.

I have a decision to make. Do I take the time to explain to and educate these ladies, who are adoring my daughter, that she experiences Autism so that they will understand when they see the transformation take place? or do I protect my daughter's privacy and let them think that she is a horribly misbehaved child and that I am a terrible mother or worse that I have spoiled her and she is a naughty child. I know I'm not supposed to care about what others think, but I do - I always do.

Just then, Kylie catches my eye and reaches for my hand. "Twirl with me, Mommy?" she asks and how can I deny her? I gather her little fingers in mine and we twirl faster and faster. The struggle of what I know is to come falls away from me. I feel less overwhelmed. I feel like I can breathe. Kylie begins to giggle and I feel a smile tug at my lips. Now we are laughing together and this mommy is getting dizzy. We twirl and twirl and twirl! Kylie could keep spinning for much longer but, mercifully, she gives me a break. What FUN we have together! Can we freeze this moment? Do we HAVE to have a transition?

Oh, what I would give to stop the clock. Right here, right now with my baby's hand in mine. The Autism seems so far away. I inwardly plead for more time.... I capture the memory in my heart.... I savor the moment.... I indulge.... I enjoy!

"Again! Again? Twirl Again?" she asks, with a sparkle in her eye and a giggle in her voice...

"Yes!", I reply, "Yes! sweet Kylie, Let's twirl again..and again...and again..."