Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Rest of the Sweet, Sweet Story

If you know my family, you know our love of all things Krispy Kreme.

My mother, in a brilliant effort to keep my junior high friends and I entertained would load up her 1980-something conversion van back in the day (just a few minutes ago- right?!) and take us on what we called "doughnut runs."

That class of junior high students is about to have our 20 year reunion this summer.  Guess what still comes up as a top ten memory?

You guessed it.  Krispy Kreme runs in Mama Aitken's van.

With such a rich heritage of loving all things sugary, it's only natural that my children would love Krispy Kreme, too.

To add to that, there's genetics (chocolate is in my DNA).

There's also the fact that we live in the south.  (Enough said.  We KNOW about good food.)

Earlier this year, I found out how amazing the folks at Krispy Kreme truly are through a sweet drive through experience.  (If you haven't read about it, I would encourage you to click here and do so.  It will change the way that you see the world.)

Tonight, I received confirmation that it was not just a one time thing.  Tonight we met Ms. Jessica.

A little history on our evening, first, though...

Tonight was a night where autism was rearing its head in a not so pretty way.
Overstimulation and confusion were the name of the game.

Every noise was bothering my little man (too loud).  Stopping for gas at the gas station tonight totally rocked his world (unexpected).  The lady in line at the grocery store looked at him and he was quite certain she was "being a mean lady" (I have no idea- just in the wrong place at the wrong time, sister!).

Every sensory bell and whistle that my fella had was just being a bully to his entire being.  Honestly, it's nights like this that give autism a bad name.

From a family perspective, I can tell you that some nights we wear autism better than others.  Tonight, we were toast.  Autism had worn us out... and the next right thing looked a lot like the "Hot Doughnuts" sign at Krispy Kreme.

Because for all that is lovely in the world, the crying just had to stop.

(My favorite OT in the world says, "You can't kill the mother."  Tonight, Krispy Kreme was my way of acknowledging the same.)

And so we went...

1 Pumpkin Doughnut and 1 Custard Filled Doughnut (just in case the pumpkin doughnut was not quite as yummy as it looked in the picture).  Ordered.  The night was getting better.

When we got to the drive through window, the server handed me a BAG with 2 doughnuts...


I knew that the "better" had just left the building.

See, Doughnut Story #1  taught my son that the bag would smudge his doughnut icing.  For him, that was Level 10 BAD in action...  and he just couldn't take a repeat performance tonight.

As so many of our children do, my little fella had locked his first experience (smudged doughnuts) in as a mental picture of the "bad place" that he never wanted to go back to again.  When he saw the bag tonight, it all came back to him and he is smart enough to know, "Hey- wait a minute- we don't have to go there."

I will confess.  I was TIRED tonight.  I knew the meltdown was coming and I took my chances by trying to take the doughnut bag and just drive.

And then the voice came....
"Mommy, I NEED A BOX!!!! ((sob, sob, sob, sob)) I NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED a box! No bags! No bags! No bags! Bags are not for doughnuts!"

Sometimes it takes me a minute to put myself in his place and understand that the tears are so real to him. That bag, you see, was "hurting" his doughnut.  It's just wrong.

Tonight's server, Ms. Jessica, was so sweet.  She promptly got a box to put our 2 doughnuts in and he just smiled.  All was well and we drove off.

Got about halfway through the parking lot when I heard, "Where are the other ones?!" <<insert sobbing here>>.

And I knew what he meant....

Autism parents are EXCELLENT detectives, you see. :)

Good puzzles have every piece in them... and this puzzle was incomplete by several pieces.  There were 2 doughnuts and 6 spots.

If you don't live with autism, my response (and perhaps this whole blog) sounds a lot like weak parenting.

I get that.  Before autism, I would have said, "Listen, little man.  Stop throwing a fit, say thank you for the doughnut, and we're going home" and that would have been that.

The world is not so black and white once you insert autism into the mix. Like it or lump it, it's called a spectrum for a reason and we touch every single color on any given day.

So, I circled back around... $10 in hand... ready to buy every stinkin' doughnut I could get my hands on.  I might be paying extra for it, but we were about to have some chocolate covered love in this Camry. :)

I didn't have to say much at all when I got to the intercom.

The conversation went something like this:

"I have the box you just gave me... and I need more doughnuts.  It's just been a rough night."

I could hear her smile through the intercom as she told me to pull forward.

I handed her the box and she just shook her head as she handed me another one with the missing pieces... 3 more doughnuts.

As I handed her a 5 dollar bill, she shook her head "no" and said, "I've got it.  I've got it.  I'll cover it."

And they do... Krispy Kreme has got it.

From the moment you walk in the door or roll through the drive through, they've got it.

You know the way every parent loves Chick Fil A?  That times a million is how much I love our friends at Krispy Kreme.

There's a saying that says, "Each one reach one."  The Krispy Kreme drive through in Montgomery, AL is proof in the custard doughnut that every single one of us can do that... no matter what season, position, or phase of life we are in.

World changers change the world right from the seat they've been given and when it's time to move from that seat, they make sure they leave a trail of happiness to the chair they've left for the next world changer.

I like to think that Ms. Chan left this spot just for Ms. Jessica. :)

Thank you to Ms. Jessica, Ms. Chan, and the folks at Krispy Kreme for your legacy of loving our kids and showing acceptance to the world.

You've truly redefined sweetness and I hope the whole world has a craving for more.  I may be raising a future franchise owner! Who knows! :)

©Christie Aitken, 2013
Twitter: @ChristieAitken 
Google+: +Christie Aitken 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

When God Plans a Party

We rode around the tower several times.  Our excitement could not be contained.  The blue lights shining from the tallest tower in our city signified that people knew about autism and that they understood.  Even more apparent to me was the fact that if they didn't understand, they WANTED to understand.

I looked at the park across the street from the tower in Montgomery and saw blue shirts everywhere. Families brought their kids out in droves to see this tower beautifully lit in their honor.  That was a sight much more beautiful than the tower could ever be, as each person out there was an ambassador for hope.

You see, my little man was not in a season where the park was a possibility for us.  It was too much stimulation for him to handle.  But every single person out there in blue told me that it would not always be that way... that ONE day we would be at the park celebrating with our autism family.

The lights reminded each of us that our community was celebrating those who walked this autism journey. 20+ floors of Government offices and Corporate America proclaiming Autism Awareness with the signature blue that represents World Autism Day...

The whole thing was just beautiful.

And then the voice from the passenger seat came... and the question changed my world... and will continue changing lives around the world for years to come.

"Momma, when will they celebrate me and my dyslexia?"

((Insert silence here.))

Tears filled my eyes as I squeaked out something less than profound like, "Soon, baby.  Soon.  Maybe next year."

See, my youngest blessing (we'll call him "D") has autism.  My eldest ("B") has dyslexia.

One child's exceptionality was being shouted from the rooftops and I was so happy about that.  The other was being whispered on a good day, but more often than that, it was being pushed under the rug.  And it broke my heart...

What B did not know is that I had spent the last 5 years begging people to say the "D word."

While I found a few willing folks here and there, countless hours of IEP meetings, testing, trainings, and so much more had left me in a heap of doubt.  I just wasn't sure if dyslexia would ever be understood and integrated into our schools like autism had been.  For my son and the 1 in 5 who have dyslexia, this was a tragedy.

Then, I thought of a sweet friend of mine.  Her child has a diagnosis shared by only 100 people in the WORLD.  How she must long for even just a moment where someone can relate to their circumstances... and how many more families are out there looking for the same?

This conversation played in my mind for months and I knew it would be a disservice to the world if it stayed there.

I began steps to start a 501(c)3 called Roundtable Solutions (because EVERYONE has equal position at a round table) and prepared to give our families, kids, and educators a voice.  Our goal would be to connect solutions, hope and acceptance for EVERY exceptionality.

The God-sized vision that I was given was that we would equip and inspire for our families, educators, and community members through community, technology, resources, and prayer coverage.  We would build relationships that spoke the languages of acceptance and grace and WE would be the change that I had so often wanted to find in the world.

Roundtable Solutions was created to be the special education 'city on a hill' and today we're working to finalize 501(c)3 paperwork.  Even without it, though, God has grown this group into a community and we're doing His work.

In honor of my 11 year old visionary, B, our first project would be "Dyslexia Day" and we'd start our celebratory efforts with the tower.  Our lights were about to shine... literally!  And not just our lights... the lights of many, many others to come!

Here's the fun part.  I've never planned anything bigger than a class reunion.  So, I was going to shoot out an email to the tower owners and ask for red lights (my son's favorite color) on a set date. Simple stuff.

They agreed.  It was done.

Or so I thought...

God is, apparently, quite the Event Planner and He had MORE in mind!

So, we added some balloon animals to the mix and balloon decor that would knock anyone socks off.  Yeah.  That would be fun.

What about face painting?  Well sure.  Face painting would be great.  Add a local ARTIST (like sells paintings for a living ARTIST) to mix?  Sure.  Why not! :)

And then it got bigger....

A bouncy house was donated by a family who loved a child with dyslexia.

Tables and chairs were rented and delivered to us by their business, also, who felt the same and thought our kids were worth the donation.

Musicians agreed to play because they loved my child with dyslexia and saw the vision for greater good.

A local photographer jumped on board to commemorate the event for families because he wanted to be the change.

Press coverage came out of the woodwork to talk about dyslexia awareness.  Newspaper, radio, TV...

Dance teams, cheerleaders, volunteers, prayer coverage, cupcakes.... the list goes on.

And God's Romans 8:28 stamp on the whole thing?

The Mayor of the City agreed to sign a Dyslexia Awareness Proclamation...

Read that again.  
Not only were we SAYING the "D word", but we were making it OFFICIAL.  We wrote it down! :)

How great is our God?

I want you to know that we serve the God that will use every bump, bruise, testing, wait, and diagnosis for our good and His glory.  He'll change your world, the world of those you love, and the rest of the world through the very thing that you thought might break you.

But, now... now, the disclaimer.

During our first Roundtable Solutions function, we did have a hiccup.  Isn't that so representative of life on this side of heaven?  There was a hiccup... and it was big.

The lights did not turn red when they were supposed to....  so we waited.

And we waited a teeny bit more.

They flipped on and we cheered with excitement...  and then they flipped back off to their normal color.

At first, I was so disillusioned.

Wasn't this what we centered the whole party around?  The marketing nerd in my head was having a heart attack... even though I was smiling.  (The marketing nerd is a multi-tasker!) :)

But the GOD of my mind and heart was not caught off guard at all!

See, lights on and lights off are so representative of the journey our families face.  Some days the world has light bulb moments.  Some days they "get it."  And special education families CHEER when they do! It's amazing!

Other days?  It's status quo... just white lights.

The average bystander doesn't notice because the world is going on and it's still beautiful, but our families notice... and it hurts our heart a little bit.  The world is still beautiful, but a piece, for us, is missing.

So, thanks to an unexpected technology moment that we never would have cheered about, we received REAL LIFE APPLICATION of what special education families live every single day.  What a blessing and CERTAINLY something to cheer about!


As I told our crowd that night, every inch of that park had been walked over and literally prayed over by me and by our volunteers  prior to the event and during the event.  Our prayer team was covering the park as all of this played out. :)

We prayed Jeremiah 29:11 and we prayed Romans 8:28... and I BELIEVED (even with white lights) that whatever God had in store here was for our good.  Even for the good of our little event.


We ended up "Shedding Light on Dyslexia" for several DAYS instead of just one evening.  The RSA Tower group was so fantastic in filling in the gap and then some!

The oohs and ahhs from our families as their kids (and my kid!) realized that THEY were celebrated is a sound that I won't ever forget.

THIS is what it looks like when the lights are on.  This is what it looks like when folks "get it" ... or even want to get it.

You see, when God plans a party, He goes big and doesn't leave one detail undone.

He even topped ours off with a movie screening by my son's school the next night.  (This school has so much vision for our kids!)

My fella got to open the movie with his school Director by introducing himself and his school.  A sweet surprise to follow that up? One of the pictures was shared by Dislecksia: The Movie on their FB page.  He was a spokesperson for himself and his peers.  What a gift that will be stamped in his heart and mind for a lifetime!

This was never about us.  It's all about God and a much bigger plan... what He has for special needs families.  Roundtable Solutions and this Mommy/son combo are simply blessed to be chosen for the journey.  (Dyslexia and special needs as a blessing?  Yep.  Only God can pull that off, friends!)

We're raising world changers that will be signing their own proclamations and agreeing to light up their towers one day.  So, keep an eye out.  You'll need these kids in your world.

In the meantime, the party continues! Dyslexia Day will be EVERY year for the 1 in 5 (we're hoping for the 15th going forward!) and Redeeming Red will continue on that day and every day.

Red is no longer the color on our kids' papers that remind them of their deficiencies.  It stands a color redeemed.... a redeemed POWER COLOR to empower them in God's love.  Redeeming Red will continue with us and beyond.  Stay tuned!

©Christie Aitken, 2013
Twitter: @ChristieAitken 
Google+: +Christie Aitken 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Never-Shuts-Down Hope

A few thoughts this morning in the light of the "non-essential employee" comments you may have heard on the news...

1- No matter what your job or career is in this lifetime, God considers you "essential."  Please don't let the news of today tell you otherwise.

2- There is a special peace of laying beside a sleeping 5 year old with autism and praying extraordinary, "it can't be done" kind of prayers over him.

PS.  My God chuckles at "it can't be done" and says, "Watch this!")

PPS.  Bonus material?  The picture reel from a K5 kiddo with an iPad is something to behold.  ;)  He's kind of into "watch this", too!

3- There is something special about showing your kids "heart's desires" prayers in action.  Got to do this yesterday with the boys and my oldest seemed to "get" the idea of praying about something that was just a dream, but that God could turn into reality. :)  Kids get it. :)  Especially super cool 11 year olds...  He understands "blessing a building" because "one day" God has something cool in store.  I pray that God always teaches me through the faith of my children.

To the person reading this...

Today is yours.  The future is untapped.  God has a plan and the plan is good.  Take a look at it from that childlike faith view of days gone by!  The view is different from there.  I promise!

You decide if your "right now" is confining or a hub where the hopes of your heart can replicate themselves and become the JOY of our world.

A great, great book says, "The joy of the Lord  is our strength."  In times like these, whether you consider yourself a Christ-follower or not, I think this is something we all find appealing... joy and strength.  I know our United States of America could use some of BOTH right now... and the invitation to both are always open.  No matter how far we stray from the One who loves us most, He will always love us individually and collectively like we are the only kids He has.

You are precious.  You are chosen.  You are loved.

No matter what is going on (or NOT going on!) in Washington today, please remember that you have 24/7 access to the God that NEVER shuts down.

©Christie Aitken, 2013
Twitter: @ChristieAitken 
Google+: +Christie Aitken