My Love Note to Laura

by Tim Paauw
7/8/18 aa

I remember vividly holding hands with you, the love of my life, and walking through the sparkler-filled tunnel of our favorite people at the end of our perfect evening. I can still see family and friends holding their sparklers and smiling with us as though that moment happened in slow motion and was meant for eternity. I was about to enter the next chapter of life with you, the big unknown was in front of us and yet we promised to take each step together. That was a promise that was easy to make and has been easy to keep, because we did it with Christ in our hearts and as Lord of our life. We love because He first loved us.

The pastor preached our wedding message earlier that day from 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Our wedding day was filled with surprises, fun, toasts, and songs (even a Paauw Brothers Special and a Tito & Rich Blue Moon duet). We danced our first dance to “Bless the Broken Road” by Selah. I believe that song choice was not just a reflection of our past but nearly prophetic about our life ahead as it is a broken road but God has blessed each step.

Twelve years later, we find ourselves celebrating our anniversary in the spirit of true, eternal love – filled with self-sacrificing Christ-like ‘agape’ love each putting the other’s interest first and finding joy in that. Since our wedding, we have celebrated new life with our 3 kids!

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I would have never imagined when we said “I do” that it would come with the autism journey for two of our kids. I also believe if someone had been able to give me that heads up years ago, I would not have been able to imagine the amazing blessings that are found within this journey. I get to see your love daily as you put our kids needs above your own. I’ve seen your strength as you have advocated in situations where autism has been challenged in ways that others can’t even fathom. I have grown in my faith by seeing you model a self-sacrificing love in ways that most moms have not been privileged to know as a result of the needs that come with autism. I’ve learned about hope through you as you’ve taught many others and continue to build awareness within our community of how to better understand autism and warmly embrace our boys. I’ve learned endurance through your ability to manage school, therapies, and swimming lesson schedules for all 3 kids so that each one would know that mom cares and is there for them.

What I did already know twelve years ago when I said “I do” is that you are a teacher, but I have now seen you teach our kids things that I didn’t think they’d ever be able to achieve. You’ve taught our daughter how to understand, love, and befriend both of her brothers – she is ‘all in’ for this crazy broken road with us. You’ve taught our boys how to face challenges and know they are able to grow through them. You’ve encouraged them to see beauty in their abilities rather than be bogged down by the glances of the public or the comments and questions people ask in front of them about their autism. You have taught them to be their best even when they are facing their worst moments.

So, God HAS blessed the broken road that led me straight to you AND the road that you and I walk, hand in hand. Although the road may feel quite different than that magical moment filled with sparklers and smiles, I believe as our West Side Christian School friends would say, it is ‘beyond belief’.

I love you to the moon and back and cannot wait to see where this crazy broken road will lead us next. We’ve got this!!

 

 

 

We are “that” family… Pa’auwtism’ Awareness

April 2, 2018
by Tim Paauw

Our family is quite unique. What do I mean by that?…

Rule #1 with Autism Awareness: When you have met someone with autism… you have met ONE PERSON with autism. Since our two sons have been diagnosed, if you have met our family – you have met two individuals with autism.

So, here is a little Pa’auwtism’ Awareness today.

We are “that” family that you see in public and aren’t quite sure whether to stare, offer help, or remind your kids not to stare and walk away. Statistically, option three is what people choose as often the following thoughts overwhelm, “I don’t want to offend. I am not trained in this! I may only make things worse…”

Both of our boys have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The first time someone hears this usually one of the following types of comments comes up:  “I’m sorry”,  “Oh! What superpower do they have?”, “But your child isn’t severely autistic, right?”

I smile as I write this, because those questions and thoughts are normal. Those thoughts are okay. Believe me, we have at times even had a few of those thoughts ourselves. We didn’t sign up for the autism journey, but we sure enjoy our tour guides! Those with family members with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) need to learn to be more gracious and not quick to return a judgement when people sort through how to get involved or help. Your sorting through options and building awareness is the heart of what it means to say “Autism-Awareness”. As a dad of 2 with autism, I’d submit to you that you are equally qualified to be involved in my boys’ lives- simply include them. Flexibility is the qualification. If you are willing to adapt from what you are normally used to doing and find the joy of the moment with the person rather than focusing on an outcome of an expected task- you are qualified and your heart will be blessed.

I’d encourage you to re-think your question to someone who has autism and instead of asking “How bad is it?” Rephrase that question to be more of a learning opportunity for you in understanding that particular person, “Oh, I know that autism is a spectrum that impacts social, behavioral, and language stuff. What are a few things you have done recently or noticed lately where you have had to make a few flexible changes based on your autism?”… “What is one thing I can keep in mind as your friend in order to encourage you?” (Remember, some with ASD are non-verbal so rather than asking – take time to observe and attempt to interact in their setting as they allow you to do so).

Here are some examples of ‘abnormalities’ that have taken flexibility in Paauw-lifestyle. Often you will find our boys flapping, stimming, and sometimes forgetting to wear shoes or decide not to wear a coat in the winter when they are in public settings. In our family… We only attend “sensory friendly” movies and look for events that we know will not have large crowds. We have a room next to the main auditorium in our church where our family participates for worship – it has lights that dim, a sound dial to adjust volume to the room, and windows into the service. As a whole family, we rarely visit a restaurant with a server because of the possibility of a meltdown with one of our boys before we’re finished. We don’t often stay in hotels or travel more than a few hours from our house so that familiarity and comfort can keep anxiety in check.

Disney World sounds like a nightmare not a fairytale. Fourth of July Fireworks celebrations do not bring about positive thoughts of freedom but rather lead to covering of ears and sometimes sleepless nights. Laura will preview every park in the area before a playdate as part of planning to make sure it is fenced so wandering can’t happen and supervision is possible, also making sure there isn’t a lake or pond nearby since our boys are drawn to water and the statistics of autism drownings are staggering (our nightmare) – side note, if you notice someone with autism missing ALWAYS CHECK THE NEAREST WATER FIRST.

I snuggle our youngest son sometimes for all hours of the night because sleeplessness is a common occurrence with our boys’ autism – therefore often sleeplessness is a common occurrence for all of us in the family. Laura meets for a few hours weekly with a behavioral specialist as part of our insurance company’s requirement in order for our ABA therapy to be provided for both boys. When added together, our two boys receive more than 35 hours a week of therapies… that is less than they likely need but as much as we can figure out in our weekly schedules. Laura and I have both seen the movie Curious George over 100 times because it is both of our sons’ favorite movie. We have seen Leapfrog’s Alphabet shows on repeat (sometimes just the theme-songs on repeat) and notice our 3 year old spelling complex words and sounding them out as a component of this joy.

We pray daily for our boys to know Jesus more and to make/keep friends without getting picked on or teased. We celebrate things that seem little to others, like when our 7-year-old learned to zip his coat for the first time this past week and used the words “zip my coat”!

As I write, I am visualizing the words found in the beginning of Hebrews 12 of the Bible. My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude for the “great cloud of witnesses” that surround our family and help us with endurance and join in the race – my boys, all those with varying abilities and perspectives on life – are part of the body of Christ found in 1 Corinthians 12.

So, I’ll end this blog-post with a shout out and some THANK YOU’s to those who have thrown the question, “Am I qualified for this?” to the wind and made the decision to simply befriend us. Our family has a few key ladies (you know who you are) who have babysat our kids regularly regardless of what that may have entailed when they first agreed – to you we are eternally grateful. We consider you family and our boys consider you some of their closest friends.

To the amazing team at West Side Christian School who works with Nolan daily, we owe you our heartfelt thanks daily. You continue to teach him about Christ and Christlike love, while ensuring that his peers are aware and empathetic, becoming friends who are not ignorant but do ignore the ‘odd’ side of autism.

Margie Hayward, Rachel Bhuyan, and the many technicians at West Michigan Behavioral Analysts who know our boys and have patience unending as you teach them things we simply didn’t think were ever going to be possible – THANK YOU!!

Brothers and Sisters at our church, Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Ada Michigan – THANK YOU for smiling with us and continuing to figure out ways to show Christ to our boys. Even on those Sundays where we forget to wear shoes to church. 😉

Family memers of ours – you are all simply Pa’au’wsome! Thank you for loving us unconditionally. For both sets of parents who literally live in the neighborhood so that we can figure out life together. For those in California, thank you for coming to Michigan to see us as we aren’t always able to make the flight.  Thank you for allowing us to visit you at your cottage since the boys consider it home-away-from-home and view you as the king and queen of hospitality and love! For Leah – thank you for saying yes to staying with us on your visit to town this week (that was brave and showed the ultimate care). For those on both sides of our family living in other states who check in on Facebook often and pray behind the scenes for us daily – thank you!

To the many others that we interact with in a given week and to the strangers who simply don’t view us as ‘strange’… THANK YOU!!!

Most of all – to our daughter, Kathryn. She is the most empathetic person you will ever meet and her brothers’ leading advocate. She can explain autism in kid-friendly language and knows how to show her brothers they are her best friends. We could not have asked God for a better blessing in life than her. She wears blue on April 2 with pride. She includes her brothers in all activities. She will leave any situation early even if she is having a blast in order to make sure her brothers aren’t overwhelmed. When I look at the fruit of God’s Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, and Self Control… she has it all as she shines Christ’s spirit to her brothers. Praise be to God.

Perspectives ~ Diversability.

What is “diversability”? Could it be possible that a different kind of beauty exists and we are missing it in the midst of our daily rush?

By Tim & Laura Paauw
8/6/17

“A child with autism isn’t ignoring you.
They are waiting for you to enter their world.”

This is a phrase commonly seen on autism advocacy/awareness websites. It helps build understanding that someone with an autistic brain sees the world differently, viewed with heightened senses and commonly engaged in scenery that many other people miss.

Laura and I believe that we need to stop calling autism a “disability” and start calling it what it is, “diversability.” Perhaps our society should pause more often and reflect on the world surrounding us at a different level than the fast paced life many of us live. In doing so, we may begin to see the world differently too. Could it be possible that there is a different kind of beauty that many miss in their daily rush?

Here are a few perspectives that Laura and I have reflected on in the past summer months. You may agree or disagree, our goal is simply to challenge the ordinary perspective on behalf of our son Nolan.

Laura Paauw: 


The Upper Peninsula (UP) in Michigan is a different kind of beautiful. Some may think this beach scene is rather ugly. It is a place our family visits each year and cannot wait to return. I love looking past the shells, sticks, seaweed, scruffy pines and grass to find its underlying beauty. I think Nolan is such a “Yooper” at heart because he’s a different kind of beautiful too. When you look beyond his stims, language deficit, and lack of eye contact you’ll find his inner beauty. My favorite beach. My favorite boy twin. They’re made for each other because they’re both a different kind of beautiful.

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Tim Paauw:
My pondering thoughts after sitting at a picnic table with our son Nolan for a bit and just soaking up the moment and literally looking at the table together. I wondered what he thought and how he saw it:

Picnic Table
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder,
What is it that you see?

Is it the work of a creator’s design?
Or just another old knot of pine?

Can you feel the age within this wrinkled eye?
Or is it merely a board most will pass on by?

What is it that you observed today?
Better yet, what is it that gets in my way?

Open your eyes, pausing is key.
Look deep, and a brown-eyed beauty you’ll see.

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clouds

Nolan’s favorite place to be is outside. In fact, for a boy with very limited vocabulary, “Outside!” is a word we hear from him often. When we take the time to go for a walk with him and watch where his eyes wander in wonder, it always leads to a unique experience. Sometimes it may be the sunlight peeking through a cloud formation. At other times it takes a while to figure out what is fascinating him for the moment. The other day in our backyard he heard a woodpecker thumping on our tree. He spotted it first. His twin sister, Kathryn, and I figured it out a bit later and it ended up being quite an activity for a while. Kathryn said, “Nolan, I’ve never actually seen a woodpecker before! This is so cool!!!”

So, many would call his long and awkward pauses a disability. When we are trying to accomplish something and find ourselves frustrated by his gazing eye we may get tempted to believe this too. However, every moment we have attempted to step into his world we have been blessed. I would call that a diversability. Maybe our creative God is helping to remind us through people like Nolan to “Be still & know that I am God” as we find in Psalm 46:10.