Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Three Wishes

Birthday s'mores, of course. My mom always makes different colored candles represent numbers. This is for you mom: This candle stands for 37! 

   I turned thirty-seven as I slept crammed into a tent with Erik and my four children. Above us, pine trees reached for the sky, and alongside our camp the wild Umpqua River flowed on its journey to the sea. I was exactly where I wanted to be, enjoying a long weekend in the forest with the people I love best. I had three unofficial wishes for my birthday and I felt incredibly blessed that they all came true! Here, in no particular order of importance, are my three wishes:

    Crater Lake. The last few years we've made a big poster listing the things we want to do during the summer. I keep writing Crater Lake on it and we keep not making it. This year I was determined to make it happen, and a few weeks ago I told Erik that for my birthday weekend I wanted to go camping and make a day trip to Crater Lake. It was perfect. We had a gorgeous campsite in the forest and spent a day driving around Crater Lake. The whole weekend was full of fun and a relaxing retreat from the responsibilities of life at home.

Yes, I shared. 

    Thimbleberries. This was just a little wish, that I would find ripe thimbleberries on my birthday. I'd seen some growing on the side of the road the day before but they were in a place where it wasn't possible to pull over.  We drove up the road to hike to Tokatee Falls, and there by the parking lot I found a little patch with a few ripe thimbleberries. So yummy; soft, sweet, melt-in-your mouth deliciousness. If you've never had them I suggest you get yourself to the nearest forest and look until you find some. 

Pending Sale!

   We accepted an offer on our house! Yep, you read that right! Our home is officially "pending sale". With three days left until we planned to take it off the market, our realtor negotiated an offer on our behalf while we were happily out of cell range. So, we've been launched into several levels of craziness here, with the targeted closing date only three weeks away. We realize anything could happen between now and then, but we're going full steam ahead. We are thankful, excited, apprehensive, and a whole range of other emotions. It was on my birthday weekend seven years ago that we put in an offer on this home, and Erik started his current position on August 1st of that same year. I thought it would be neat if it all came full circle after seven years, and here we are. 

    And so I enter another year, thankful for the many blessings God has given, and excited to see how He leads as we go forth! 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Summer of Unknowing


    I think I will remember this as The Summer of Unknowing, a time of learning more deeply that we make our plans but God directs our footsteps. And as hard as it is to watch things unfold differently than we'd planned, it's good. It's good to know that I'm actually not in control of my life, that I can trust God to work things out not only for our good, but for our best. This is the summer of waiting, watching, wanting something to happen. We've been trying to sell our home for a few months now. After working on it through the fall and winter, we heard from a number of sources that the market had picked up and homes in our price range were selling quickly. We felt encouraged that the time was right. Whereas before I'd been thinking that the market was dismal, that it could take months, years even, to get an offer, we felt hopeful that perhaps it would move quickly after all.

    We were further encouraged by not one, but two, different families who basically came knocking on our door and showed a strong interest in our home before it was even listed. The first couple was getting together with their realtor to write us an offer when they learned that a home across the street from where they were renting was about to be listed and decided to stay in their neighborhood. The second couple also loved our home and, I think, would have bought it if their first choice had fallen through. Even though neither of these buyers came through, I felt a strong sense that it was God's way of showing me from the beginning that He was in control, that if He could bring someone to our door without any effort from us, that I could trust Him when it seemed like things weren't working out.

    So here we are. Our home has been on the market since mid-April. We've had countless showings and two open houses, each preceded by a frenzy of cleaning on my part. We've ridden the roller coaster of preparing and hoping and waiting and being disappointed. We bought tickets to Peru for September, trusting that it would all work out, that our home would sell, and that we'd be on our way this fall. We wrote into our contract with our realtor that if we don't have an offer by August 1st that we will take it off the market. At that point, our plan is to refinance and either do a lease to own option or keep it as a rental property. Neither of those is our first choice, but either could be a good option. Due to some of the details of refinancing we would need to cancel our trip to South America though, which would be a huge disappointment. (Thankfully, we have trip cancellation insurance and would be able to get our tickets refunded.) 

    As August 1st approaches we feel a growing pressure. Our moment of decision is coming, and I'm not sure what we should do. Take it off the market and refinance? Rent it? Lease to own? Keep trying to sell? Cancel our trip or go anyway? There are some other options I'm not sharing at this point, but it all feels pretty complicated. I feel a mild panic rising when I start to dwell on it. But mostly, God has given me an incredible peace through this time, a strong sense that He is in control and that we will know what to do when the time comes. Maybe we'll receive an offer in the next week, maybe we won't. Maybe He will make the path very clear before us, or maybe we'll just have to choose an option.

    In my years of singleness, when I had many choices to make about how and where to spend my time, I often was in angst over what to do. "I just want to do the right thing", I would moan. I've always struggled with indecision, as those who know me well can attest. My mom used to tell me, "Rebeca, what do you know is God's will for your life? It's that you become like Christ, transformed into His image, right? Maybe it really doesn't matter if you choose A or B, because we know that as long as your heart is turned toward Him, then He will work all things for your good and do His work in you." Once again I'm brought back to those words. Sometimes the path seems clear, and other times it doesn't. I've been wanting, waiting for, some very definite light to shine on our path, and maybe it's just not going to happen that way. I've also had a strong sense that "you will be able to look back on this time and see that it all happened the way it was supposed to."

    And so I wait. And I (mostly) enjoy a sense of peace and even rest in this, the Summer of Unknowing. As much as I'd like all the ends to be tied up and the pillar of fire to move before me, I know in my heart that it's all happening as it should. I still have no idea how it will play out, but I'm excited for what He has in store for us, and trusting that as we walk with our hearts open to Him, He will transform us.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It Takes a Village

Ruins of an eighteenth century church, Mascota, Mexico.
I reserve the right to post pictures that are completely irrelevant  to the text. 

 When I shared the other day about Peregrine having Asperger Syndrome, I was so blessed by the outpouring of love and support that came our way. Warm, loving comments filled by inbox. Thank you. And for those of you who wrote me privately, I will get back to you, hopefully soon. Your words meant so much.

    It's nice to know I'm not alone in this struggle. Some of you also have children with special needs. Some of you know yourselves what it's like to be "wired" differently and are able to encourage me based on your own experience. This is what spurs me on to share my life, to be honest not only about the funny things my kids say and the special memories we're making, but the struggles we have along the way. I've found that as I've opened up, others have too. I've talked with mama friends about Peregrine and learned that they too have kids who aren't typical, that their families are also struggling along. I may have never known if I hadn't said something first though. And sometimes,  before I opened up, they didn't really have anyone to talk to about it, or didn't know where to look for help or support.

    It's made me realize that we've got to be real with each other. We've got to stop worrying about what other people will think of us or our parenting skills. We've got to stop being afraid of labeling our kids because we don't want to excuse bad behavior or whatever other reasons prevent us from sharing our struggles or seeking help. I can say these things from my own experience, because I've been through it and because in many ways I'm still there. I'm not pointing a finger at anyone else here. Rather, I'm hoping to extend a hand and invite others to come on in. The water's fine. There's good company here.

    It seems that every time I've found the courage to share my struggles, I find community. I find my village. I realize that I'm not alone, that other people are experiencing similar things and that we can encourage and pray and cry and strengthen one another. That sometimes we don't even need good advice, we just need a listening ear. We need someone who, just by being there, by not judging, somehow gives us what we need to keep on going. And that when I open up, they do to, and we are both given much needed strength as we realize we're all in this together.

   Some days, like today, I feel like I don't have what it takes to keep going. I walk out of the room in tears. I curl up on my bed, sobbing, feeling like I just can't go on, like there is no more energy to listen, to comfort, to solve another fight or listen to another fit or try to talk Peregrine down one more time. I fight visions of a future dark and scary and sad, not just for him, but for our other kids. I try to breathe, and it feels like I'm pinned down, like the weight on my chest just won't give.

    In the end though, I always get up. I have to. My kids need me to be the mama and love them and keep caring for them. And I know I have my village, that a listening ear, a praying friend, a word of encouragement, even tangible help when I need it, is only a phone call or an email or a Facebook post away. We are blessed with supportive and loving family and friends, both nearby and far off. Many of them I know in person but some of you I've never met. Technology has given us the opportunity to have a myriad of shallow relationships, but also allowed us to create community in ways that weren't possible before. It allows us to reach out and find people to walk this road with. I've found Asperger's groups that have been a big help to me. I've also received much support through relationships I've formed in the blogging world. I hope that somehow, by being real about all of this, I can be an encouragement to others as well.

    Thank you to each of you who have taken the time to read, to comment, to pray, and to otherwise support us on this journey. Thanks for being part of my village. It means a great deal to us, and I hope that by walking together you are encouraged in your struggles as well.


Monday, July 16, 2012


Happy birthday to my love...
  If you read the title of this post and assumed it was going to be about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, you would be wrong. But you just might get on famously with Erik, who has acheived a certain age that would answer that all important question. If you're thoroughly confused than you've obviously never read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or lived with someone who has. And you won't understand why I gave him a towel as a gift, either, so don't worry about it. Moving right along now...

    It was eleven years ago this month that Erik and I started getting serious about each other. We'd met five years prior to that and it took a while for the chemistry to kick in. It's hard to believe it's been that long; the years have gone by quickly, and I can't imagine spending them with anyone else. We've had a some challenges along the way, but who doesn't? Life is good, and I'm so blessed to spend it together with Erik. On his birthday we drove up the McKenzie Highway, had a picnic at one of our favorite spots, Belknap Hot Springs, and then continued up to Koosah and Sahalie Falls. It was a wonderful day of enjoying one another and celebrating Erik!

We started our hike at Koosah Falls. 
Koosah Falls from above.  This is one of those places where I hold on tight to the kids!
It was a beautiful day and the kids loved running along through the forest. We were fascinated with how this tree had grown beyond the rock, which was split beneath by the roots. 
The water was so beautiful!
We stopped for quite a while and let the kids explore in and around this hollow log.
Whitewater rafting, anyone? 
We hiked upstream until we came to Sahalie Falls, which isn't far from the headwaters of the MeKenzie River.  I think it was Erik who first introduced me to this place.
The six of us in front of Sahalie Falls. 
Erik likes this picture. I'm not sure I do, but since it's his birthday and he took the picture, and I'm his ever lovin' wife and all that jazz, I'll put it in here. 
We believe in "hands on" education, and "feet on" for that matter. Here we were learning about how  rivers form up in the mountains. 
The man behind the magic. Well, behind a lot of the pictures on this blog, at least. I'm glad he enjoys photography so much. I like taking pictures of him taking pictures. 
Sweet, silly Poppy!
Happy Birthday, Erik! I love you, and am so glad we're on this journey together. My life is richer for it.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Moving Forward, Looking Back: In Which We Come to Terms With Asperger Syndrome

Peregrine and I at Proxy Falls, 2004.
    As we walked the shady path to Proxy Falls the other day, my mind wandered back eight years ago to another day in that same place. Our only child scampered eagerly along, now running forward, now lingering to examine a hollow stump or clamber over a fallen log. Little Peregrine was only a year and a half, exceptionally verbal and promisingly bright. We noticed something that day, nothing extraordinary on its own, but for some reason I've never forgotten it. And knowing him as I do now, I can see a lot of his who he is in this event. 

    It was late spring and the forest was cool and damp. The path was cushioned with pine needles and there was a quiet stillness broken occasionally by the squawk of a bird or a cry of delight from our little boy. As we climbed the path we began to hear the low sound of the falls in the distance and Peregrine began to stay close by. Long before we reached the falls he clung to us, instinctively knowing there was something there and wanting the security of his mama's or daddy's arms. We, of course, were happy to oblige, and we held him close as long as he wanted us to.

    We saw a glimpse that day of the intensity that is Peregrine. I've often said that on a scale of one to ten, all of his feelings are between eight and twelve. Because he was our first child I feel it's taken me a lot longer to notice that many of his traits aren't typical. After many years of frustration and wondering what we were doing "wrong", we have finally come to realize that Peregrine has Asperger Syndrome. I kept thinking that if we continued to provide firm, loving boundaries that he would outgrow some of his more challenging behaviors. What I took for "strong willed" or stubborn I now know is part of his inflexible thinking and difficulty in making transitions. (In this case, making the transition from his expectations to the reality of a situation. This often puts him into pretty serious meltdown.) There are many other traits Peregrine has that are very typical of people with Asperger's.


    Although we'd considered the possibility, it's really only been in the last several months that we've accepted it as a reality. It explains so many things about Peregrine, about what makes him tick, and about how his mind works. (And it's really different than the way mine does!) I went through a difficult time of wrestling with this and even through a process of grief. It still feels hard to say. "Peregrine has Asperger Syndrome." I've thought often of writing about it, and I feel that for my own sake it's important that I record a little of our experience. My goal is to think of it not as a "disorder" but to use it as a tool for understanding him and helping him live to his fullest potential. I will not allow a "label", something that for years I was determined to avoid, to define who my son is. I make a point of thanking God for making him just the way he is, and I am trying to embrace the wonderful parts of Peregrine's personality while helping him to grow in other areas. 

    As we once again made the trek through the woods to Proxy Falls, the memory of that long ago day filled my mind. I sat on a log,  holding little Pearl and watching Raphael and Poppy play, while Erik and Peregrine hiked down to the base of the waterfall. Peregrine, still intense, but on this particular day, fearless, climbed across fallen logs and explored the creek. I wonder what the future holds for him, what challenges, but also what opportunities he will face due to his unique mind. I hold to God's promise to give us a hope and a future, and to His unfailing love for each of us. I trust that His plan is good, that His grace is sufficient, and that He holds us all in the palm of His hand. 

    I hope to share more about some of the challenges our family faces as part of Peregrine's Asperger's. I have been hesitant to write some of this for a couple of reasons. First, I am determined that my little space in the blogosphere be one of encouragement, not a complaining fest.  On the other hand, I'm committed to honesty, and have been encouraged to share my struggles. Second, I want to be very careful not to share things that would be embarrassing to my husband and children. I have come to realize though, that if one of them had cancer or some other sickness, I would have no problem writing about it. This is part of who Peregrine is, not by his choosing, and I don't want it to be something that remains hidden. Third, in speaking with a number of other moms I know, I've realized that many others have similar situations and there is a hesitancy to talk about it. I have some thoughts on why, and I don't think it's healthy. We need each other. Fourth, this plays a huge part in our family dynamic and in why we are making the choices we are. If I am to share honestly about our family life, it must include how this affects us all. 


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In Which a Boy is Four (and a Half)

Raphael loves animals, "dogs especially", he says. He came and asked if I'd come outside to take his picture with the dog. 
Dear Raphael,

    You turned four a couple of months ago and I've been meaning to write your birthday letter over since. That's kind of how life is around here these days. Busy. Between you and your sisters and your brother,  it seems there's always a lot going on.

    You are full of life, full of energy, all at once a wild and rough-and-tumble boy and the sweetest little lover, constantly coming up and giving my hugs and kisses and telling me how much you love me. Recently, I've had to do a double take when I look at you. It seems that suddenly you've outgrown the dimpled fingers and sturdiness of your toddlerhood and have stretched up into a tall boy-child. You are my Man Cub, my little Raphi Boy Boy, my Boyberiffic Raphikiki. You put up with all the silly names I call you.

    Sometimes I watch you and take little mental pictures, trying to frame you in my mind, to hold onto the moments I never want to forget. You, with your green eyes and your little freckles, your charming smile and crazy laughter. Here are a few things I want to remember about these days with you:

  • You've been talking for a while about wanting to go out on a "date" with me, for lunch. We finally got to go yesterday. When we approached the door of the restaurant someone else held the door and you stood there, refusing to go in because you wanted to open it for me. And you did. We had a good time together, just you and mama.
  • We found some volunteer pumpkin plants growing in the compost and you excitedly adopted them and are watering them with your squirt gun. You grew some tiny squash last year too and were so proud of them!
  • Every morning you climb up on me and snuggle and kiss the top part of my arm over and over. You say "I want to kiss your big fat arm!" You, my dear boy, are the only person who can get away with that. 
  • I love the look on your face when we stop to watch a big crane or a loader. Pure delight and wonder. And when we saw fireworks on the Fourth of July? I hope I never forget your screams of joy!
  • You are a real do-it-yourselfer, and it's fun to watch as you learn new things and make them your own. You love to put seeds out for the birds and pick raspberries, and you're getting a lot better about putting away the silverware without complaining. When we cut your hair you like to have a turn holding the trimmer up to your head. Last time you exclaimed, "Mama! It's kind of like a lawn mower, only for heads!" 
  • You tend to be a little shy and hesitant about new experiences, and I love to watch your determination and interest win over the part of you that feels scared. 
    I love to hear your observations about things. Every day you are learning and making connections. You ask a lot of questions and are always trying to figure out how things work. It's really fun watching you grow and become such a big boy. I'm so glad I get to be your mama. I look forward to lots of fun adventures with you this year!

   Lots of love, 

Monday, July 09, 2012

Old Mckenzie Highway: A Day Trip

    There are a number of special spots in our area that beckon us to return again and again. The Old McKenzie Highway is one of them, and yesterday we headed up the river to explore this magical place together. Due to snow, the road is closed much of the year, but it's worth the drive when it's open. It's been a few years since we've done this particular outing, so for most of the kids it was like discovering it for the first time. 

The Proxy Falls loop is a perfect hike for kids of all ages. It's only 1.25 miles, with moderate elevation change. The well maintained trail begins in a beautiful shady forest with a lush understory of viny maples and rhododendrons, whose last pink blossoms decorated our path. After a few minutes the trail opens up to a lava field. The boys were busy collecting rock samples along the way. Poppy played "leader" and she and Raphael ran ahead joyously. They had loads of fun hiding behind big trees and jumping out at us as we came along. "Ambush!"

Lower Proxy Falls cascades about 200 feet over a mossy cliff. At this time of year Proxy Creek is full and the falls are spectacular. I also love coming here in Autumn. Although the falls aren't as showy, the viny maples with their brilliant reds and oranges make the hike just as beautiful.

I stayed at the lookout with Poppy, Raphael, and Pearl while Erik and Peregrine hiked down to the bottom of the falls to take pictures and climb on fallen logs. I love this shot Erik got from the base of the falls.

Another short hike through the forest led us to Upper Proxy Falls., which tumbles into an  inviting little pool. A cool breeze blowing up the path beckoned us to hurry along. 

Framed in green, the pool empties into an underground spring, making it a peaceful place to sit and watch the kids splash and play. Pearl marched right in and promptly got soaked. The other kids all enjoyed wading and playing in the cold water.

Everyone was a little cooler after their dip in the pool, and the hike back to the trailhead was done in varying states of dryness and with a couple kids in their bare feet. 

I had to strip Pearl of her wet, mucky clothes and soggy diaper. Since Peregrine had shed a layer, I made her an improvised outfit from his button up shirt. (This isn't the first time big brother's extra shirt has come in handy. I was reminded of this time I used one to make a diaper for Poppy!) 

The kids were fantastic hikers. We took turns carrying Pearl along some parts of the trail, but everyone else  scampered along the whole way with great enthusiasm.

We left Proxy Falls and continued east into the Cascades. Have I ever mentioned how much I love the mountains? The road twisted and turned and led us through meadows. Glimpses of the Sisters Mountains and other rocky, snow capped peaks kept me sighing with happiness and reminding my family that "I love mountains". We had just missed a thunderstorm, and everything was vibrant under the dark sky. Wildflowers bloomed along side of the road, and in spite of it being over 70 degrees there were still large patches of snow that refused to melt. 

At the summit of McKenzie Pass sits the Dee Wright Observatory like a medieval fortress made of lava rocks.  From inside, one can observe vast lava fields beneath Belknap Crater, as well as the fertile "islands" where  lava flowed around the hill, leaving mounds of green in an otherwise desolate landscape. You can also look out various "windows" that direct your eye to different mountains all around. Atop the observatory is a compass pointing to the surrounding peaks. It was very windy and there were some big drops of rain leftover from the storm, but the kids enjoyed running up and down. 

The sky was a beautiful play of light and dark.

The hikers triumphant! (Yes, the kids started out wearing matching shirts. By the time we got here  a couple of them had changed into drier duds. Thank you Nana and Papa for these shirts! We felt so "homeschool" with all the kids matching.) 

Hanging out in the observatory with my Pearl Girl and the Photographer Husband. I chose to leave my camera at home, and was very happy to not have it with me. Thus, all photos on this post courtesy of Erik! 
(And why yes, that is a Texture Comfy Skirt. Of course! Lives up to its name in every way, perfect for, well, pretty much every occasion!)

My kiddos with Mount Washington in the background.  I love them. (The kids, that is. I love mountains too, but this time I was talking about the kids.) 

Classic Pearl, little finger outstretched, excitedly saying "Mountain!"

Spotted through the viewing hole: one Poppy Joy!

The lava fields are stunning as they stretch across the valley. We even spotted a couple lava tubes as we drove, but left them to explore another day.

I thought this outcropping of rocks was entirely dramatic.  
I love the contrasts of this one, sunbleached tree against the dark lava field.

    We rustled up a simple dinner from the grocery store in Sisters before heading west toward home. As we drove the clouds turned orange and pink and the McKenzie River accompanied us back to the valley. We had our share of kids fighting and whining after our long day out. (I'd like to say the parents maintained perfect patience and grace in all of this, but we had our moments of frustration as well. Just to be honest.) It was dark and way past bedtime when we rolled back into our driveway, and thankfully most of the kids fell happily into bed. It was a lovely day sharing a favorite place with my "little people" and making memories we'll hold in our hearts for a long time. I was reminded of what a beautiful place Oregon is, and thankful for these days of exploring it together.