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Adventures in Moving and God’s Grace

Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of our move to Fort Knox. As I’ve said in social media for the last couple of years, this move was so good for us and we love living here so much.

In the course of looking for a blog post I’d started writing for last week, I stumbled across this article I’d written but never published. As today is the two-year anniversary of all of this adventure, I thought it would be a good time to tell you this story.

Over Christmas week 2015, our family moved across state. During the morning of the major household goods move, one of the movers said to me, “Moving is one of the most stressful things you can do. We’re here to make it easier.”

I have to agree with him. Moving our daughter into an apartment near her university, pulling a second grader and an autistic third grader out of an amazing school, and moving during the week of Christmas WAS quite stressful. The move itself would have been stressful on its own, but we had quite an adventure through the whole thing. Yet, through it all, we were able to completely see God’s hand helping us through every situation.

In the spirit of “Truth is Stranger Than Fiction,” here is a story that sounds like it came out of one of my books:

Movers moved the household on Friday, December 18th. The movers got to our house at 8:30 in the morning and left the new house at 9PM the same night. We spent the night in the new house and the next morning, drove the 2 hours back to the old house to finish moving the odds and ends that didn’t go with the big stuff. We ended up with more odds and ends than would fit in my husband Gregg’s truck, so we borrowed his cousin’s trailer and Suburban. We had several friends meet us at the old house and we loaded the trailer, cleaned the house, and signed the lease agreement with the new tenants. Then we hooked the Suburban up to the trailer and discovered the lights didn’t work.

In Kentucky, you don’t need trailer lights in the daytime. It was currently 4PM. We were going to be racing against the sun to get to our new home before the sun set. We would be lucky, actually, if we made it in time. It was important to get there on time, because we had to go through security at Fort Knox – so, no working lights would keep us from being able to get home.

About 40 minutes into the drive, we kept hearing odd noises. Gregg would pull over and we’d walk all around the Suburban and trailer and find nothing. Every time we stopped, our arrival time at home became later and later. After getting back up to speed for what had to be the fourth time, one of the tires on the Suburban shredded. Gregg managed to get us to an exit and to a gas station. How the tire, now almost entirely just steel, stayed inflated was truly miraculous.

At the gas station, we tried to change the tire, but there was no moving the rusty bolts. Even standing on the tire rod, they wouldn’t budge. By now, it was after 5:30PM on the Saturday before Christmas. The attendant at the gas station called a semi-wrecker service and caught the owner before he left for the day. Praying the entire way, we drove the 2 miles to his shop (on the tire that was still miraculously inflated). He changed the tire, then spent about an hour hard-wiring the lights to the suburban so that they would work.
Now, with a working truck and a lighted trailer, the stress of getting home before dark went away. Which was good, since it was now fully dark.

We stopped at a Cracker Barrel at the next exit and ate dinner, decompressing after the stress of the last 36 or so hours. Around 8PM, we loaded our two little kids back into the Suburban and started on the final hour-long journey home. I noticed my cell phone battery was at about 10%. My charger was in my car, which was parked at Gregg’s cousin’s house in exchange for the Suburban. Gregg had inadvertently left his phone at home that morning.

We got back on the highway, and about a mile later, the transmission went completely out on the Suburban. Gregg checked and the transmission fluid was totally dry. So, he thought he could maybe walk to the exit we’d just left and buy some fluid, hoping it would fix things enough to get home. He left me in the Suburban with the boys and a nearly dead cell phone and started walking back the way we’d come. I put my phone in airplane mode to conserve as much power as possible and waited in the dark. About five minutes later, a car with yellow flashing lights pulled up behind the trailer. Anxious, I took my phone out of airplane mode and prepared to dial it when Gregg walked up to my window.

“This man is emergency roadside assistance for an insurance company. [Side bar: come to find out, for OUR insurance company.] His wife saw me walking and called him to come pick me up. He’s a pastor and she is a fan of your books. He’s going to drive me to the service station and I’ll get transmission fluid. We’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Wow. Talk about God stepping in.

Gregg asked me to get into the trailer and get one of my books out for this man’s wife while they were gone. I just happened to have a book that a friend who’d helped me pack had pulled out to buy as a Christmas gift for someone but then never did. Perfect! I didn’t even have to dig in a box. So, I signed it to her. When the men came back, Gregg put the fluid in the Suburban, but it did not help. The transmission was totally gone. It was about 24 degrees outside.

Now we had to decide what to do. I had very little phone life left. Praying about it, we decided to call our daughter, Kaylee. She was an hour away and still at her retail job at the mall. She would get off work at 11:00, then come pick us up and take us to the new house. In the meantime, the pastor-emergency-roadside-assistance-man took us back to his home, where his wife greeted us with coffee for us and snacks for the boys. The trailer and Suburban were left on the side of the road.

Around 12:30 in the morning, Kaylee arrived. At 2:00, we pulled into the driveway of our new home. Kaylee, bless her heart, had to leave by 8:30 to make it back home in time to be at work by 11:00. We packed up fully charged cell phones and met up with Gregg’s cousin and his crew, who brought a car carrier to take the Suburban back, and brought us another truck with which to haul the trailer. We got to our new home around 6PM Sunday night and just left the trailer there.

Monday morning, I unloaded the trailer, loaded the boys BACK up, and returned the truck and trailer to the farm, collected my car, and completed the 4-hour round trip around 5PM Monday night. I promised the boys we wouldn’t have to do that drive for a long time, not knowing that Kaylee would get into a fender-bender in the mall parking lot coming out of work the next night and that we’d need to drive back to Lexington on Christmas Eve to get her, bring her home for Christmas, and let her take a car home with her.

It’s hard to believe all of that happened just 2 years ago. But, through it, we saw God’s guidance, His hand, and His provision. What should have been enough stress to knock a grown man on his feet ended up being an opportunity to fellowship with new friends in their home. Through the trials of the circumstances, we received a major blessing and gave others a chance to minister to US, something that is usually what WE do for others.
I’m thankful for God’s grace and His love.


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Five Tips for Moving with an Autistic Child

20151109_162017_resizedOur eldest son, Scott, cannot handle change. He has to sit in the same chair, on the same side of the car, in the same pew in church. He needs things to be done in the same order and on schedule.

Consequently, when we found out we had to move, we first sought to make the transition as easy as possible for Scott and his younger (7-year-old) brother, Johnathan. As a military brat, I KNOW that people move all the time. For the most part and in most normal neuro-typical situations, kids bounce back from moves and are just fine within a few days or weeks. In our case, though, we have to deal with a child who would have a major meltdown if unintentionally given the wrong thermos in his lunch box, so we decided to take a proactive approach.

My husband and I sat down and discussed things that might make it less scary, less stressful, and less confusing for him. While, to the outside eye, Scott appears unaware and possibly even a little slow, he is highly intelligent and perceptive with an uncanny power of recall. Knowing this, knowing how his mind works, we developed five objectives:

  1. Be transparent and open
  2. Engage him in the move
  3. Visit the new area
  4. Make it fun
  5. Stay consistent

The end result? We had NO meltdowns from Scott. At all. The entire move happened smoothly and without a hitch (as far as he was concerned — there were plenty of other hitches. See my article in Bookfun Magazine in the February edition.)

Breaking down our objectives, here are our five tips for moving with an autistic child:

(1) BE TRANSPARENT AND OPEN: Be open about what’s happening the first second you can. There might be a gut instinct to hide the move until the last possible moment as if to cushion or protect the child. In constrast, we decided that if Scott had enough time to process and analyze the move then, when it happened, he would be more mentally shored up for it. Springing it on him at the last minute would have removed the opportunity for him to process all of the information.

20151109_155400_resized(2) ENGAGE YOUR CHILD IN THE PROCESS OF MOVING: Let your child be an active part of the physical move. Give him boxes to pack or her nic-nacs to wrap. We thought if we made Scott and his brother responsible for packing their room, the change of everything being in boxes wouldn’t feel so sudden. It also gives the child a feeling of control and adds a physical manifestation of the concept of packing up and moving.

(3) VISIT THE AREA: If it’s possible, visit your new area before the move. We scheduled a meeting with the special ed teacher and guidance counselor at the school where we transferred two weeks before we moved. Because we’d  contacted the school even before that, they had already assigned the boys teachers and had them present at the meeting. We took the kids and let them meet the teachers and staff and let them see their new school. In the meantime, it allowed the school a chance to review Scott’s IEP well before he arrived and to ask any questions or address any concerns ahead of time.

My husband drove them around the area and said things like, “Look at that playground. We’ll have to go there when it gets warm. There’s the movie theater, guys. Over there is a doughnut shop like the one we visit on Saturday mornings now.” It let the boys process the differences while assuring them that the things they enjoyed were not gone for good. We also went ahead and signed them up for Tai Kwon Do so that they could meet the instructor and get to know the school. Even though the martial arts school was different than the one they had attended for the last year, by the time their first lesson started, they felt familiar with it.

Because we moved the week of Christmas, the boys did not start their first day of school until two weeks after we moved in. That gave us time to partially settle in before they had to begin their new daily schedule. Every time we drove past their school, we made a big deal about how it was their new school and how neat it looked and remind them about how much we liked it when we visited. We believe it made that first day of school an easier transition.

dog pillows(4) MAKE IT FUN: Even though a move is stressful for the grownups (and we all know it is), children will feed off of your energy. Make a conscious decision to find and focus on the positive. Let yourself feel excited, go exploring, make new traditions and new adventures. Scott and Johnathan each got their own bedrooms in this move. Not only did Scott have to have a new room, he lost the roommate he’d had most of his life. So, my husband and I decided that we would also give them new beds and chose platform beds with desks underneath. Suddenly, we had something to get excited about — “these awesome beds! How cool! Bunk beds AND desks.” Even the first night, we had zero issues with the boys being separated.

We’ve looked at tourism guides, explored our neighborhood, picked out a fishing spot, gone swimming and bowling, found our Saturday morning doughnut shop, and really engaged the boys in the excitement of where we’re living.

table(5) BE CONSISTENT: Try to keep some things as much the same as possible. We have dinner at the same time that we had in our old house. The dinner table is set with the same dishes and everyone sits in their same seats. If I plan on making any changes, then I will make them gradually. Our living room sectional couch is backwards for the room it’s in. No matter which way we turn it, it’s just wrong. However, we’ve decided to wait a few more weeks before we get a new one. Scott still sits in the same spot on the same couch as he did in our old house. The day the couch was set up, he found his spot and settled into it with a smile saying, “Ahh, there’s my spot. Just like the old days.” Clearly, the couch being the same served as a kind of security blanket for him.

During the entire move, the only issue we had was when we went to our old house, returning something to our tenants that the movers had accidentally moved. When Scott went into his old room, he had a total meltdown, because it was DIFFERENT, and I hadn’t thought to prepare him for it. But, that’s it. Typing this one month after the last truck left our house, that single episode constituted the only issue we’ve had with Scott in all of these changes. We believe the move went so smooth because we took an almost aggressive proactive attitude about it.


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We’re Moving!

20151109_162017_resizedI’ve been quiet of late. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been buried under writing A Harmony for Steve, but that wouldn’t be true. My husband was offered a new job in another part of the state. We’ve traveled there twice in the past several weeks for interviews and preliminary planning. We’ve talked to schools, looked at houses, talked to movers, and arranged home inspections with a Realtor.

Then, the two of us went away, alone, and spent the last week praying about the decision. When we came back home, Gregg put his resignation notice in at his job and solidified the arrangements.

Now, we’ve started packing. The kids’ last day of school is December 18th. At 8:30 that morning, the movers will arrive and load our household up, then cart it across the state to our new home on Fort Knox Army post, near Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

Gregg and I are both Army brats. I’ve lived in this house for 8 years, and it’s the longest either one of us have ever lived in the same house. We brought our youngest son home from the hospital to this house, and he’s 7 now. Despite the ties to church and community we have here, we are thrilled to be moving onto an Army post, where Gregg will work 2 miles from our home and our children can grow up in an environment similar to the one in which we grew up.

Despite our excitement, nothing about this move will be easy. We have an 18-year-old college Freshman at a local college whom we’re moving into an apartment. We have a 9-year-old autistic son whose OCD tendencies make him absolutely terrified of something “different” or “new”.  And our 7-year-old is very social and already mourning the thought of leaving his friends and classmates behind.

cover-front_9781939603-4ah4s_640I should have finished A Harmony for Steve by now. I’m about 10 chapters away from finishing it, but haven’t spent any time on it in a few weeks. I’d promised it before the end of the year, but I’m positive that I cannot make that deadline now. I have a million details to see to, and the more that I pack and manage, the more chaotic my environment becomes. I have a hard time creating in chaos, and I have I hard time focusing on fiction when there are other things overwhelming me. Instead of stressing it, I’ve made the decision to just put it on hold until after the move, after Christmas break. Once we are settled into the new home and the kids go back to school, I’ll be able to refocus on my writing in my way.

20151109_155400_resizedIn the meantime, I’ll be penning a series of articles on moving with a child on the autism spectrum. I may pen a few articles about how our nest suddenly became 1/3 lighter as we settle our daughter into her new home. And I’ll be digging up articles on decorating and organization as we empty this house and fill another.

I saw a sign once that absolutely resonated with the Army brat inside of me. It said:

Home is wherever you are.

My prayer is that this new home will be a place of security and comfort for our children, that the walls will be bursting with laughter and prayers, and that we grow to love our schools and community.

I’m so grateful for your visit, today.
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