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Archive for the ‘Lulu Grace’ Category

Fruit of Your Labor

Okay, I have a confession to make, and I’m going to make myself sound dumb.  But oh, well, we all have these moments!  I’m just not too proud to share mine.

One of my favorite times of the year is the beginning of June.  May rolls around, and I am anxious for it to end.  Why?  Because the beginning of June brings STRAWBERRY PICKING!  This is one of my all-time favorite things to do!  I started going strawberry picking with my mom in my teens.  It was always a big event, but I didn’t fully appreciate it until I reached adulthood!  The first year I was married, I decided I was going to be a grown-up and venture out on my own strawberry picking excursion!  I was ill-prepared for what I was getting myself into!  I went on a 90 degree day at about noon.  I went without sunscreen or bug spray.  And I went by myself.  Since then, I have learned that I broke all of the rules of strawberry picking.

There is a reason my mom dragged us out into the fields before 8 a.m.  It’s because by 10 a.m. it is scorching out there!  Rule no. 1!

I have an allergic reaction to mosquito bites, resulting in big, ugly red welts that are extremely painful and itchy!  In case you’ve never gone strawberry picking before, mosquitos love to live in the midst of those berries, where it’s all warm and damp, surrounded by layers of hay on the ground.  Mosquito paradise.  Rule no. 2!

While some people may enjoy the solitude of berry picking on their own, I believe it must be a group venture!  Go with your mom, sister, kids, or hubby!  Over the years, my kids and hubby have been my group, with a sister/mom thrown in for good measure.  It is so much more enjoyable to endure the back-breaking labor of berry picking with your loved ones!  You get to watch your kids gobble up the berries as fast as they pick them.  Your husband will appreciate that strawberry jam on a winter morning so much more if he has picked the berries with you.  But more than that, it’s the experience of doing it together.  It builds memories like no other.  Rule no. 3!

My first year of berry picking was a learning experience.  I made one or two batches of jam, sweating over the stove, hating every moment of it.  But something drew me back every year.  I think it is the satisfaction of hearing that lid POP on the fresh jars of jam on the kitchen counter as I sweat over the next batch!  Every year, the stockpile of jam grows!  And when I have filled up all of my jars with jam, I freeze the rest for strawberry shortcake in the dead of winter!

And so yesterday, my husband was a little annoyed with me when I announced that the ‘berry hotline’ said that berries were ready to be picked.  He clearly had other plans for the day, and he also despises the fact that I love to fly by the seat of my pants.  Plans?  What are those?  Plans are made to be broken.  But loving me means that when the berries are ready, we go!  The berry hotline clearly stated that due to a frost late in the season, berries were less than ideal and few in quantity.  After being almost jamless last year because of a bad berry crop, I refused to let it happen again!  So, we were ready and out of the house at a speed I generally do not move at 8:00 on a Sunday morning!

Unfortunately, I threw my back out 2 weeks ago and am still babying it along.  I decided we would just buy the pre-picked and head back home.  But Lulu Grace had other plans!  She was GOING to pick berries.  So we headed out into the field, and Jon and Lulu picked away!  Lulu resisted the urge to eat the berries for awhile, but by the end of the excursion she was in berry heaven – juice running down her chin, berry stains on her shirt!  I tried to pick, but my back squealed in pain after about 5 minutes!  So I had the joy of standing on the edge of the field and watching from the sidelines for a change.  It was fascinating to watch people work.  An older man with one arm helping his wife, very diligent in their task.  Two young families with 4 children under the age of 3, trying to keep their little ones from trampling the berry plants.  A woman who clearly had not been berry picking before, or she never would have worn the pants she had on (the worst plumber butt I have ever witnessed).  A couple on the heavier side, standing up every 5 minutes to soothe their aching backs and knees.  A mom and her teenage daughter working in silence side by side.  Each of them building their own memories.

Lulu insisted on picking a whole flat of berries, which I made into jam last night!  We had toast with fresh strawberry jam for breakfast.  As I was spreading the jam this morning, the verse from Psalms 128:2 popped into my head.  “You will eat the fruit of your labor.  Blessings and prosperity will be yours.”

So here’s my confession.  I paused from the busyness of life for long enough to fully understand the meaning of the verse.  Not that I didn’t understand what it meant before, but I actually realized how by fully living each moment and appreciating all that we are given each day, life has a depth and meaning that we can easily just stumble past as we live our lives.  Work is just work, unless you are able to find the joy behind it – sweaty brow, aching back, mosquito bites, and all!

We were blessed by our berry picking experience in more ways than I can count.  We had a wonderful morning together.  Lulu will carry those memories with her always, the way I have, of working side by side with her mom and dad.  Lulu got to visit with some newborn calves, even daring to let them suck on her little fingers! We carry that memory of what a warm, juicy berry tastes like fresh out of the field.  I thoroughly enjoyed people watching and gained a new perspective on the whole experience.  And we will all relive that experience with every bite of jam we eat over the next year.   In the end, the labor of picking berries and making jam is nothing compared to the blessings that pour from the experience and the feeling of richness and prosperity that comes with opening a ruby red jar of jam on a cold winter morning!

Berry picking season has just begun.  You should go today…

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My New Walking Partner

“Since 1995, Best Buddies High Schools has paired students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in one-to-one friendships with high school students. In the past, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have not had the opportunity to have friends outside of their own special education classroom. By introducing Best Buddies into public and private high schools, participants are crossing the invisible line that too often separates those with disabilities from those without.”  www.bestbuddieswisconsin.org

On Saturday, May 19th, we participated in the Best Buddies Friendship Walk in Delafield at Lapham Peak State Park.  It was a gorgeous day, 80 degrees, sunny, and breezy.  This was our first walk as a family.  Queenie was our Team Captain, raising $150 in pledges towards the event.  We had five members in our team.  We have decided that next year, we are going to try to have the largest team there!  The walk was 2.5 miles, but the pace was easy going and definitely family friendly!

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Lulu Grace was so excited to be walking with us!  She got all jazzy, as you can see from the picture!  She wanted to wear her striped knee highs, and I have learned with Lulu that some things just aren’t worth the fight.  Most days, it’s impossible to get socks on her feet, so I wasn’t going to argue about which socks she wore!  There were a lot of high school aged girls who participated, and they were dressed in capes and crazy outfits.  Lulu fit right in!Image

We ran into a couple of people we have met before.  We saw Brittany, a young woman who attended the pageant last year with her best buddy!  Queenie got her picture taken with the two of them at registration, and it was her facebook profile photo for a long time!  We also ran into a young man named Max who attends our support group meetings.  He is a budding photographer, and was asked to volunteer to take photos for the event!  We were so proud of him.  He did a great job!Image

There was no convincing Bass to come with us.  I was disappointed, especially once we got there.  The people that were there were so accepting, friendly, and open.  It is a community of people that I look forward to being more involved with.  It is rare that you find people who don’t question or look twice, who understand when Lulu didn’t want to talk or was upset when things were a little chaotic.  I listened in on some of the conversations that the ‘buddies’ had along the walk, and I was so touched by the genuine friendships that they have formed.  We were surrounded by t-shirts that said, ‘Be a Buddy, Not A Bully,” and “See the Ability in Disability.”  We were surrounded by people whose children were the target of bullying, whose children struggle with being seen for something other than their disability.  It was refreshing to be able to be in our own skin and be comfortable, because we were surrounded by people who get it!

Lulu Grace and Jon stopped along the walk to look at the butterfly garden.  I crossed the finish line and waited, and waited!  I was starting to think about heading back to find them, when I see Lulu’s shining face, bright red from her efforts.  She saw the finish line and started running!  It was such a cute moment.  She was incredibly proud of herself.  She wore her Best Buddies t-shirt to school yesterday, and was sure to tell everyone about her accomplishment.  I’m so proud of her!  And I think I may have a new walking partner!  🙂

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Oh, As*!&%perger’s!

Asperger’s Syndrome, a developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others.  Children with Asperger’s Syndrome typically exhibit social awkwardness and an all-absorbing interest in specific topics.  Asperger’s syndrome is generally thought to be at the milder end of the autism spectrum. While there is no cure for Asperger’s Syndrome, children can learn how to interact more successfully in social situations (paraphrased from Mayo Clinic.com).

Where to begin? The words, Asperger’s Syndrome, have been a part of our lives now for 3 years.  We knew for a long time that Bass struggled with many things that neurotypical children did not.  We brought things up with his pediatrician from the time he was an infant and were pushed aside as overprotective and worried parents.  But a parent knows things that physicians do not.  In many ways, when we got a diagnosis, those words were a relief to us as parents.  We finally had an answer, a starting point for helping him.  We were able to begin to deal with the information, develop a plan, advocate EFFECTIVELY for him, and the ‘bad parent’ feelings were subdued.  When Lulu Grace began struggling, I felt like we at least knew what we were dealing with this time around.  It didn’t make getting her diagnosis any easier, but we didn’t feel quite so overwhelmed.

Bass and Lulu Grace are amazing gifts, beautiful children full of more compassion than I’ve seen in the pinky finger of most people.  Bass still gives me hugs, just because!  He is SO smart.  Although he struggles with school, he aces standardized tests, scoring in the highest percentiles.  Lulu Grace hates school, but carries a song in her wherever she goes.  She has a great sense of humor and sees things in unique ways.  I cannot imagine our lives without their quirks and cleverness.  On the other hand, our family has struggles that we did not anticipate.  We have had to develop our own mode of operations, to learn that it is important to choose our battles carefully, and develop the ability to say, “We’re not perfect, and that’s okay!”   We have ALL had to learn new coping skills, ways to step out of the situation at hand and not let our emotions take over.

So here’s my secret…  There are days of chaos, where no matter how well we have planned and tried to foresee potential situations, Bass or Lulu Grace just cannot cope.  On these days, I know as a mom that this is the most important time for me to be able to keep my cool.  It is my role on those days to support them, guide them, and give them the tools to begin to create healthy and effective patterns of coping.  Oh, As*!&%perger’s! is the image I get in my head on these tough days.

If you’re an Asperger’s parent, I hope you can identify with the phrase!  I don’t use it because I want to ‘define’ my kids or excuse their behavior.  There are times where something simple becomes a huge obstacle course.  I get so angry to see Bass and Lulu Grace struggle with things that come so naturally to other kids.  I don’t want to take that anger out on those around me (which I have to admit I have been guilty of doing!).  I don’t want to get upset with them for not being able to navigate something that seems easy to me.  So I have decided that on those days, the best thing for me is to break my cardinal rule of always talking like a lady and scream in my head, “Oh, As*!&%perger’s!”  It certainly doesn’t solve anything, but I feel better!  And then life can go on…

Trash to Treasure

It’s a beautiful April morning, and I should really be outside working on some spring clean-up and outdoor chores.  I’m lacking motivation, however.  Maybe it has something to do with the 2 a.m. wake-up call from Lulu Grace, who came down with a stomach bug.  Nothing like washing sheets and her comforter in the middle of the night, let alone bathing a pukey rugrat!  So here I sit with my morning coffee, organizing my thoughts, and hoping that if I think long enough about yardwork it will be done through the power of my mind.  Kind of like in Sleeping Beauty, where the mops and brooms dance around the house by themselves.

I actually love flowers, the outdoors (minus the bugs), and the feeling of satisfaction that a long day of work brings.  I am a notorious starter of projects.  It’s the end I have trouble with!  As my husband will adamantly attest to, I am always so excited to begin gardening in May, but by the time June hits I just want to be at the beach!

So I am trying to become a more effective and efficient gardner this year.  It may have taken 40 years, but I am finally beginning to understand the benefits of perennials!  🙂  I began planning about six weeks ago.  My planning includes developing a theme for my yard.  Can you guess?  Yep, our theme is going to be ‘Trash to Treasure.’  Over the coming weeks, I will post updates and photos of work completed as we go along.

I am going to break the yard down into zones.  Each zone has to have a purpose if I am going to be spending my time on gardening in it!  As much as I LOVE to plant, I HATE to weed.  So we will have a play zone, a water zone, a meditation zone, and a food zone.

This area is traditionally where we grow veggies and herbs.  We also grow sunflowers here.  It’s always a fun area, where Lulu Grace and I splash in the kiddie pool, Queenie catches some rays, and we play with our beloved chocolate lab, Junior.  So this will be our play zone and food zone combined.

Our water zone is our Lulu Pond, which I created when I was pregnant with Lulu Grace.  April and Queenie helped me dig the hole.  It was a lot of fun and has brought us a lot of joy over the years.  We watch the birds take their baths here, host frogs all summer long, and love to sit on the front porch and listen to the fountain.  Yes, putting the fountain in is one more of those chores that I need to get done today!

I think this is the area that I want to use for a meditation zone.  Lulu Grace calls this her tree house and hides under its long, overhanging branches throughout the summer.  When the leaves fill in, it casts a green glow to this splendid little hideaway, where you can watch a whole insect world come to life.  It is a great place to just sit and watch the world go by.

Unfortunately, I peeked outside and there are no rakes or shovels dancing around my yard.  I guess that means it’s time to get moving, but that’s okay.  After laying out my plans, I am suddenly feeling motivated.  Thanks for the push.