Thursday, December 29, 2016


I had every intention of getting up early this morning to do my reading and writing.  But I didn't.  The alarm went off and I hit snooze in a stupor.  The next time it went off I had a warm little monkey cuddling next to me.  I turned it off.

Don't judge me, I'm on break.

I had big plans for this break. I was going to read entire books. I was going to make sure the couch developed an imprint of my bottom.  Not so much.  Last week I was running around like a fool getting ready for Christmas.  I did manage to stay home Friday.  This week I've been running around like a fool with my boys.  It's been great.

Today will be my stay home day.  It's currently 9:30 am CST.  I'm in my pajamas. I plan to stay that way for a long while.  I need to pack up Christmas but that wouldn't take too long.  I have some projects I'm working on but one already failed miserably this morning.  I might try again tomorrow, maybe.

Several friends posted this on Facebook earlier in the week.  It sums today up very well.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


I love a good homemade gift.  I love to make homemade gifts.  I hope people like receiving them.

I remember as a kid I'd get homemade gifts from my Granny Gheen.  They were hit and miss, bless her heart.  One year she made all the grandkids banks.  They were mason jars with a cross stitched lid cover thingy. Between the rim of the jar and the seal, she put the cross stitched fabric and stuffed it with cotton so it would stick up over the rim of the jar.  It's hard to describe.  Anyway, it said "Chicken Feed" and had our name and birthday.  On mine, both were wrong - Amiee 7/29 instead of Aimee 7/25.  My sweet Granny struggled with my name and birthday throughout my childhood. At the time I was so offended.  Until I started cross stitching.  At the time,  I didn't realize the time and effort she put into the gift, I just saw the error.  After I knew how much time each jar topper took, I was a little less offended.

Granny Gheen was a quilter and I have several quilts she made for me.  She made me two incredible t-shirt quilts of all my t-shirts from high school and college.   I took out the college one to use in our college week door decorating contest at school and I've left it out in my room.  It was such a labor of love.

My momma crochets.  Two sections of my banquet seating in my kitchen are full of afghan she's made for Ryan, the boys and I.  I have these awesome fingerless gloves she made. My momma's real medium is food.  She is a master chef.  This year from Christmas she made us all strawberry jelly and pumpkin cranberry bread.  I know she spent an entire day on the jelly.

For the past two years at school, my Secret Santas have been very artistic.  I've received paintings, wall hangings and jewelry they created.  Both years it has meant so much to me that they took time out of their business schedules to make something for me.

That's really the thing - the time.  It seems like everyone is so busy.  We want everything to be perfect so we run ourselves ragged doing all the perfect things.  When you create a gift, you are spending your time and rolling the dice on perfect.  Sometimes things work out well, other times the gift gets tossed before it can be given.

But, believe me, I'm not opposed to buying gifts at all! I love shopping for the perfect gift for someone almost as much as I love making them.

Mostly, I just love giving gifts.  It doesn't matter if I've spent my time making them or hunting for them.  I love to surprise my friends and family.  It's my love language!

Here's some gifts I've made lately.

I made these for my Fab Five
for our Christmas Sleepover
My sweet friend Mahlee graduated with
her Masters.  This was her gift. No one can
rock the messy bun like her!
My secret santa at school wrote down that
he liked sneakers, so he got a sneaker cup
I made these for the boys' teachers and office staff.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


My oldest son Sam, recently turned 16. We were able to get him a nice used truck.  He's very excited about it.  

I am scared to death.  

It's a good truck.  He's a good driver, he's completed driver's education and the practice driving  He received a backup camera as a combo birthday and Christmas gift from some sweet and generous family members.  Logically, everything is good to go.  

My stomach knows no such logic.  

Christmas night he drove us to and from my in laws.  He did a great job.  As he was pulling into the neighborhood, I realized that in a week or so he'd be able to drive without Ryan or I in the car.  I almost had a full on panic attack.  

It will be ok, I reasoned.  I'll only let him drive to school and back for the first few months.  That'll work.  Oh, what about church? No problem, he can drive to school and church only.  But what if he wants to go to Chick Fil A after church?  Maybe the one up by the mall, that might be alright if there's not a lot of traffic.  But the one in Forney, NO WAY! He'd have to get on the highway - AT NIGHT!! 

You get the idea, my crazy was spiraling out of control.  

How will he do if Ryan and I aren't there to remind him?  How long before I get that faithful phone call, "Momma, I've had a wreck"?  My mind went wild with assorted crash craziness. This was not a passing thing.  I brought it inside and played with it for a while.  I was edge and cranky.  

Then I remembered something my pastor Randy Wade says, "If you can control everything why do you need GOD?"  If I can care for Sam and protect him all on my own, why does he need a Heavenly Father?  

How does that work, exactly?  How do I stop being in control? I how do I trust GOD to care for my boys?  

Most of us have heard 1 Peter 5:7 - "Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you."

Wouldn't it be nice if that was a one time thing? I was anxious about Sam driving a few nights ago, I prayed about it and now it's all good.  That's not how it works.  Right this minute, I'm taking deep breaths because just writing about all this has stirred my anxiety.  It's a minute to minute thing.  Praying as soon as the knots start forming in my stomach.  Preemptive prayer.

That's how GOD works. He's a jealous GOD. He doesn't want a one and done relationship with us.  He was a minute by minute reliance.  Maybe He's using Sam driving to pull me closer to him.  To teach me to rely on him minute by minute.  I'll try to be a quick study.  

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.

This is John Piper's definition of joy. 

Some people think happiness and joy are synonyms.  I don't. To me, happiness is fleeting, a product of circumstances.  Something good happens and I am happy.  In the next minute, something bad might happen and then I'm unhappy. 

That's why I like Piper's definition.  Joy really doesn't have anything to do with me.  It's a gift of the Holy Spirit.  I think of joy as more a way of being than an emotion.  

I'm not sure you can really see what's happening in this picture but to me, this is a picture of pure joy.  This is a picture of B and his cousins dancing at the end of the movie Sing last night.  

They so thoroughly enjoyed the movie and music that it was totally natural to get up and dance along at the end.  They danced with abandon. They did not care. The music moved them, their hearts were happy and they could not be contained.  JOY!

This is my last post before Christmas.  My prayer for you, your family as well as myself and my family is that we take the time to feel the joy of Christmas.  

I know I work so hard to make sure things are fun and memorable this time of year.  By the time the Christmas Day comes, I'm exhausted.  Honestly, I'm exhausted right now.  There's still so much I want to do on top of my usual responsibilities. But I'm working hard to not let my tiredness steal my joy.  I want to experience the joy of the Holy Spirit this Christmas and every day.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


Advent - the arrival of a notable person.  In our family, advent is the celebration of the coming of Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

I can not remember when I first bought the advent calendars for the boys.  Since I have three of the exact same calendars, I'm going to assume B-man was on the way or very little.  I know I bought them at Bed, Bath & Beyond.  I have never been thrilled with the design on the doors but I liked the size of the doors.

When we first started doing the advent calendars I would run around trying to find small toys to fit inside each door's compartment.  It was a little harder than I thought it would be.   I was super excited to discover Lego Advent calendars.

The Lego calendars are all in one outfits.  You can set them up on a table and be done.  They have a flap that serves as a play mat area.  Kids can push open the numbered door, find a small Lego project with 'directions' on the back of the punched out door.  Since we have our own calendar, I've always just opened the day myself, ripped the door off and put it in our calendars.

Lately, the calendars have been a little tougher.  There's a five year gap between The Bigs and B.  There aren't many things that interest them both.  This year I've stuck to candy for The Bigs and a Lego for B.

I get a few bags of Christmas candy and rotate through them for the month.  I also get a few specials candies for special days.  Last Saturday, Ryan and The Bigs went to see the new Star Wars movie so I put Star Wars Jelly Beans in their calendars that morning.  Later this week we'll load up in the car and look at Christmas lights.  I have chocolate Christmas light bulbs for that day.  I have Hot Chocolate stirrers for our Christmas movie night.

This year I added Bible verses to their calendar.  I went through the birth of Jesus in Luke and Matthew and divided it into 25 days.  Some days have one verse, others have up to five.  I put each day's verse into a Google Slide Presentation.  Then I printed them using a setting that printed 6 slides per page.  We've added them to fridge each day.

I've loved seeing them each day.  It's helped all of us focus on the reason for advent.  We are looking forward to the birth of Jesus Christ.  The calendar helps B keep track of how many days until Christmas.  This year it's even helped him learn about fractions.  On December 5th, he said "We are 1/5th of the way to Christmas!"  Each day brings us close to the big event!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Helping Autistic Kids Handle the Holidays

A couple of years ago, B-man had a major meltdown when presents began showing up in our church lobby.  The gifts were for our annual Sharing Christmas event where we provide gifts to families in need.  B just could not understand why he could not have one of the gifts.  He is a generous and loving kid but he wanted one of those presents.

The event prompted me to write a post for teachers about helping their students with Autism Spectrum Disorder make it through the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I usually repost it each year but I'm a slacker this year and flat out forgot.

Here are some things I'm trying to do with B to help him through this last week before Christmas.

1. Advent Calendar - I'll write more about this tomorrow but we do an Advent Calendar each year.  The boys get a little treat each day.  It helps B see how many days are left before Christmas.  It's a great visual reminder.

2. Schedule - School's out and the schedule goes out the door. I do try to give B time to be less structured during the break.  But I remind him often of what's coming next.  "On Monday, Daddy and I will be gone all day shopping. You'll be with the big boys.  On Tuesday we are going to see Dr. Roberts in the morning then to basketball later that day.  On Wednesday...." You get the picture. We go over this a lot to soothe his mind.

3.  Gifts - I don't put any gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve.  This started out as a necessity. We didn't have the money to shop until I got paid the day Christmas Break started.  Now that's not the reason but Ryan and I have kept the tradition going.  Once we're out of school we do a huge day long shopping trip.  I wrap stuff closer to the day.  If there's nothing under the tree, B can't obsess about what it might be and when he can open it.

4. Santa - We visit Santa early so I can remind B of what he asked for.  You can't add stuff after you've seen Santa!  This one has been a struggle this year.  I'm kinda nervous but holding my ground. I'll update y'all on this one next week.

5. Jesus - We talk often about the reason we celebrate Christmas.  We are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior.  We reiterate that Jesus is the true reason for Christmas, not presents.  When B's list starts to grow again and all he wants to talk about is what he's getting, we refocus him on Jesus.  It makes my heart happy to hear him tell me about Jesus' birth.

So, what are the ways you help your kiddo during Christmas?

Thursday, December 15, 2016


He's making a list. He's checking it twice. Gonna find out who's naughty or nice. 

I love to make lists.  Maybe that's why I love Santa so much - we both know the power of a list.  At this time of year I have several lists going.  I have my usual daily to do list, Christmas to do list, list of what people want for Christmas, a list of things I've purchased for people, grocery list, Christmas dinner grocery list, edible gifts grocery list.

I'm very old school on my lists.  They must be hand written, preferably on fun paper.  And I love to mark through things once they are complete.  It's such a satisfying feeling.  One semi-straight line denotes an accomplishment.  And yes, I do write things down that I've already done so I can mark them off.  Don't judge!

I have to be careful with my lists, especially this time of year. If I'm not careful my days become about marking things off the list.  I overlook the reason for the list and the people effected.  I get so focused that any interruption is a bother.   "I'm trying to get this done for YOU, leave me alone!"

I was feeling this way the other night as I finished up Christmas gifts for the boys' teachers and the ladies in the offices at their school.  I started my project early but then I let other projects sneak in between so I was feeling stressed to finish by my self appointed deadline. I found myself getting frustrated.  Doubt usually pulls up right behind frustration to let me know that I'm killing myself for no good reason, no one is going to like what I've made anyway.

Lately, I've tried to take a different approach. I'm trying to stay focused on the people part of my list.  Yes, I want to get my tasks done but I want to remember WHO I'm doing them for as well.  This has helped me stay a little more focused, a little less stressed and a LOT more thankful this Christmas.

What helps you stay organized?  How to do keep from being over run by your to do list?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Yeti Freddy

Yeti Freddy was tired of the snow. So he wanted to go to Hawaii. So he took a cruise far away to the coast of Maui.  And he was happy. 
 by Brennan Bartis

Yesterday was our annual Secret Santa reveal breakfast at school.  I needed to leave the house early to get my Secret Santa breakfast.  Because Ryan and the Bigs were working out, this meant that B needed to go to school with me since before school care wouldn't be open yet. This also meant that he'd need to hang with me at school until his aunt came to pick him up (his school starts about an hour later than mine).

He was great during the Secret Santa breakfast.  He drew. He wandered around looking at everyone's gifts and asking questions.

After the party I needed to help our new 5th grade teacher get an online tested started.  This took a bit of running around.  Mrs. Stokes was so sweet to B.  She let him sit at a table with her students and do their morning writing assignment.  The kids were drawing a character and writing a story about the character.  

B was in his element!

I was able to get everything ready for her while he drew and wrote and visited with the sweet boys at his table.  When I was done I told him it was time to go.  He was a little hesitant.  "They're going to share their stories."

Mrs. Stokes heard him and ushered him to the front of the room to share his story with the class. B read his story, showed his picture and beamed with pride. The kids clapped.  It was awesome!

He didn't want to put his story in his backpack, he wanted to carry it himself. He read it to the ladies in the office. When I put him in the car with his Aunt Laura he was still holding it. She told me he immediately showed it to his teacher in car pool line.  When he got off the bus at my school in the afternoon he was still clutching it!

Mrs. Stokes wasn't expecting a random teacher kid in her room but she rolled with it.  She made him feel special.  He is so proud of the "5th grade writing work" he did.  It took just a few minutes of her time to show kindness to B but she made a huge impact on him.  I am so grateful.

Who can you give a few minutes to today? You never know the impact you'll make!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Goal Update #2

available at:

At the end of October, I set some writing goals for November and shared them with y'all.   Then I updated on my progress here.

The Sparks Notes version (Cliff Notes aren't a thing anymore)...I set a blog goal to brainstorm and schedule topics until the end of the year.  I met that goal on time.  I haven't followed the calendar exactly but it has been really handy to have the list to refer to if I'm feeling a little blocked.

I have not meet my Bible study writing goal.  My goal was to read 2 of the books I ordered about disability in the church by the end of Thanksgiving break.  I finished one very easily.  It wasn't great and I finished feeling sad for the author instead of hopeful.

The second book has turned out to be a difficult read.  I'm about half way through it. The author is a seminary professor and the book is very academic.   I have had to read some of the book out loud to make sure I understand what he's trying to say.

The first half has been about society's views on disability in general.  It has challenged me quite a bit.  I've really spent some time thinking about what I believe about disability.  I'm anxious to get into the theology of disability.  I'm interested to see how the author marries the ideas about disability he's set forth this far with the Bible.

So, I am updating my goals.  My December goal is to finish reading the 2nd book by the end of Christmas Break.  Since I want my goals to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Based) I'm not going to add anything else to the goal. I'm feeling pretty stressed at this moment about everything I'd like to accomplished for Christmas.  No need to add more stress.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Secret Life of B's Glasses

I have a job to do.  Just one.  But I don't get to do it often.  I'm lost a lot.  At least that's what I hear.  I don't feel lost.  I feel like I'm hanging out.  In the car, behind the bed, on the cabinet, in a backpack, in the sensory room at school.

I am supposed to work for this funny little dude, B-man.  I like him when I get to see him.  But, like I said, I'm not with him a lot.

He's supposed to wear me all the time but he he likes to take me off and set me down.  He's such a busy dude.  He's always creating or watching videos or talking.  Sometimes it's a relief to be 'lost'. It takes a lot of work to keep up with him.  I used to be orange on the sides.  I don't even know where my orange parts went!

Once I got to hang out for 6 months in the sensory room at school!  I was so well rested when I was finally 'found'.

While I was gone his parents got him another pair.  The new ones look like me, except he has green flames. Flames! Are you for real?  Makes me kinda jealous, I miss my orange parts.  Orange is the man's favorite color.  And I'm super thankful that he met B's dog while I was gone. I would not have wanted dog bite marks on my lens like he had.  There is a positive aspect.  We get to share the load.  Sometimes I work, sometimes he does.  Our man is always working, though.

Wanna know the funniest part of belonging to B-man?  He lives with 4 other people, all bigger than him.  Only one of them seems to notice when I'm not around.  The two biggest ones, I think they are called parents, are clueless.  "Did you wear your glasses today?" "Do you know where your glasses are?"  HAHAHAHA! He never knows where we are!  But his oldest brother, he's better than the rest of them.  "B, here are your glasses." "No, he didn't wear them today"

Maybe these people will get it together. Maybe they wouldn't. I'll keep doing my job when I'm able.  It sure would be easier if I could speak. Then I could just cry out to B "I'm here! You need me!" A pair of glasses can hope.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Not Enough or Too Much?

One of the things parents of autistic kids are afraid of, I think, is that their kid wouldn't be able to form meaningful relationships.  Many parents are told that their AU kiddo aren't emotional or capable of being empathetic.

Horse phoey!!

My experience is that many autistic kids feel TOO much emotion.  In fact, some autistic people can feel people's emotions as physical sensations.  You walk into the hall and you can feel everything happening there.  As you can imagine, this is overwhelming.

Some of my reading of adult autistic people confirms this.  They feel the emotions but they don't know what to do with them so they shut down.  It reminds me of having a really awful headache.  Everything is amplified.  The softest noise bangs in my ears.  The lowest light is blinding.  All I can do is go to bed.  Imagine feeling that way all the time.

I see this in B.  He's very interested in naming emotions.  He wants words to match with feelings.  He gets very upset when things are going wrong in movies or TV shows. I wrote last week about his reaction in Moana.  When she was in trouble, he was upset.  A similar thing happened this weekend when Ryan was watching Jumanji.

It happens more with TV and movies than in real like, though.  I think it's harder to read emotions in real time.  Emotions in movies and television are heightened to make the point.  The subtle clues of real life are harder to pick up.

What it really boils down to is difference.  We (the royal we of society) have a hard time understanding people who are different from us.  When someone else doesn't process a situation the way we think they should, we judge their response.  We label their response as different and therefor, bad.

In Romans 12, Paul is writing to a church in Rome about using their gifts.  He tells them that each person has a gift and is expected to use it accordingly.  He relates these gifts to the body. Our bodies are one entity made up a variety of organs.  For the body to operate optimally, each organ has to do what God has made it to do.  If your lungs pump blood, you'd have a hard time breathing.  Similarly, God has designed us all to do different things.

Did you catch that!?! God made us different ON PURPOSE! We should celebrate our differences as God's unique handiwork!

So the next time someone reacts to a situation differently than you, use it as an awesome reminder that God created us differently on purpose.  Recognize it.  Celebrate the difference.

I'm so thankful God created Brennan differently.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Visiting Santa

Visiting Santa and being autistic can be akin to oil and water. They just don't mix.  Just like other kids, autistic kids get scared of Santa.  However, B has always loved Santa.  We've had some times when he was scared but not any more than other kiddos.  Our trouble is the line.  B can not do lines.  Too long, too many people, too much!

Four years ago, I tried to take B to meet Santa at a sporting goods store. Their website wasn't very clear about the process and I thought Wednesday night would be a good time to go. I can't remember why it was just B & I but I suspect football had something to do with it.

The store is large and overwhelming in it's own right.  They deck the bottom level out like a Santa's workshop.  We managed to get through the store and to the back, bottom level.  The check in desk had a sign that said "No more tickets to see Santa".  When I spoke to the employee she told me I should have come at 2:30 (it was around 6 pm at this point) to get a ticket.  I asked, "So, there's no way to see Santa tonight?" Nope.

B freaked out "I can't see Santa? Have a been bad? Is that why he wouldn't see me?" We sat down in the middle of the floor, I cradled him and let him cry a minute.  When he was able to pull it together a bit, we left the store.  He was still so confused, wondering if he was a bad boy.

I was heartbroken.  Actually, I still am. I'm tearing up a bit typing this.  I felt guilty, had I understood the process better, we would not be in this situation.  When I got him into his car seat, I slumped in the front seat tears rolling down my face.  I whipped out my phone, let Ryan know what happened then posted to Facebook looking for Santas who made appointments.  We didn't find one that year but Mrs. Claus called B!

Last year, I discovered The Big Guy at The Villages of Fairview.  It was such an awesome experience.  Santa was awesome with B. B brought him a gift of a self created Lego toy.  Santa accepted it graciously.  I cried happy tears.

We continued the tradition this year.  Our appointment is the first after their dinner break so there is no line.  It was a friend affair this year as well - 4 kids and moms.  We checked in, waiting less than 5 minutes, then B was the first to visit with Santa.  After our friends visited, Santa got them all together for a group picture.  We topped off the evening with dinner at Twisted Root.

It's a bit of drive from our house but so worth it.  Santa is wonderful, patient and kind, as are the elves!  The whole process took 30 minutes, including purchasing pictures.  The pictures are wonderful and they video the visit. You don't have to anything but enjoy the experience.  I highly recommend it!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thank you TED-ED

B-man is obsessed with TED-ED.  He loves to watch the videos.  They are visually interesting and the information just sticks with him.

He learned about figurative language from TED-ED and taught it to the 7th graders at my school via video.

screen shot of TED-ED Hero's Journey video
One of his favorite video right now describes the hero's journey.  He used the information to help him write stories and work on stories for his video games he's planning.

But last Friday night, I got to use TED-ED to help him.  We went to see Moana, I wouldn't give away the story but suffice it to say Moana was in danger. The situation was bleak.  B-man was very upset.

Thanks to TED-ED, I was able to say "Remember the hero's journey?  What part is this?"

B perked up, "Oh this is a trial!"  He turned to his friend, "Don't worry, this is just a trial!"

Before learning about the hero's journey from TED-ED, B would not have had a context to relate to.  He definitely would not have had the words to help him understand. In the past, we might have had to leave the movie to calm down.  Believe me, we watched lots of movies until the trials!

But my favorite thing was what happened in the car after the movie.  B taught his friend and cousin the stages of the hero's journey and gave them examples from Moana.  It was amazing!

So, thank you TED-ED for giving my boy context and words. Thank you for stretching his mind.  Thank you for letting him learn what he wants when he wants.  Thank you for not caring that he's autistic or "just" in the 2nd grade.  Thanks for being open and accessible.

I am forever grateful.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


I totally stole this idea from a friend of mine but I'm so glad I did!! When her son turned 16 she had the men in his life write him letters. They even came over and read the letters to him.  I had no idea what their letters said but I loved the idea.

For Sam's 16th birthday, we asked 16 men in his life to write him a letter.  We asked them to tell him why they are proud of him and what they expected from him in the future.  We chose family members, church leaders, coaches and family friends to write to Sam.  

All I can say is WOW! These men came through in a big way.  They mailed, emailed or gave me the letters and I compiled them into a notebook.  I got to read each letter.  I was so touched by the time and effort each man put into their letter.  

It was wonderful to read what these men see in Sam.  It was heart warming to read the advice they offered him.  I cried a million tears reading these letters.  I was so touched.  

Zac had an away basketball game on Sam's birthday.  After the game, we had ice cream cake (Sam's request) at home and gave Sam the notebook.  The first letter in the notebook is from Ryan. Sam read it and closed the notebook.  "I can't take this right now."  He immediately understood the significance of the letters.

We are so blessed to have a wonderful village to help us raise our boys.  The 16 men are diverse in their backgrounds, life experiences and professions.  But they all had a common theme - trust the LORD.  Lean on Him, trust Him, build a relationship with Him.  I love our village!

As I read the letters, I yearned to write Sam one of my own.  But, I'm a rule follower so I just put an index card in the back pocket of the notebook with this verse.

I pray that God uses the letters to develop Sam and bring him closer to Him. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The First

Yesterday marked 16 years ago that I first became a momma.  It was exciting, scary and something I'm still not sure I'm ready for.  GOD gave us Sambo, made me a momma and it has changed my life for the better.

Sam was born about 10 months after my daddy died.  It was such a hard time.  As soon as my daddy was diagnosed with cancer, Ryan and I decided to try to have a baby.  The doctors had given my daddy 2 years and I wanted to give him another grandbaby. It didn't work out.  My daddy was gone within 6 months and Sambo arrived 14 months after the initial diagnoses.  It breaks my heart that my boys didn't get to know my daddy but I see him in them all the time.

Every night for the last 3 months that I was pregnant with Sam, I had the same dream.  My daddy was standing on my front porch holding a red headed baby boy.  I'd walk up the steps and daddy would say, "It's about time." hand me the baby and disappear.  I just knew this boy would have red hair like his Pa.  Imagine my surprise when he arrived with dark hair!

I do see my daddy in all three of my boys.  But most especially Sam.  He's a gentle giant like his namesake.  I feel my daddy every time I hug Sam.  I still can't get over how tall he is.  And he's still growing!

I'll be honest, it's not always easy to parent Sam.  He doesn't misbehave regularly.  He's not disrespectful.  But he's quiet.  He holds things inside.  He's hard on himself. He's our guinea pig.  Ryan and I are always figuring things out on him.  But, it's always a joy to parent him.  I learn more about love every day.  I'm so thankful to be his momma.

I can't believe that in 3 1/2 short years he'll be off to college.  I'm already crying.  I told my sister in law the other night that he has to play football where ever he goes to college so I have an excuse to go see him every weekend.  In the meantime, I'm trying to soak up every minute he's here.

I am so proud of the man Sam is growing into.  He's kind.  He's loving.  He's determined. He sets goals for himself and works hard to achieve those goals.  I can't wait to see what GOD has in store for him!

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Yesterday I made 8 pies.  It's my favorite part of Thanksgiving, making pies.  I'm kinda selfish about it, I don't let anyone help. Everyone is welcome to hang out in the kitchen with me while I make them but I do all the work. It's kinda my thing.  

I make pecan, pumpkin and buttermilk pies.  This year I made 4 pecan, 2 pumpkin and 2 buttermilk.  I take 1 of each to Thanksgiving dinner and 1 of each stays home with us.  This year I had 2 extra pie crusts so I decided to make extra pecan pies to give to our neighbors. I think I'll make that at tradition.  I enjoyed delivering the pies and surprising our friends.

My pies are not special.  They are standard recipes printing off the internet.  Pecan Pie from Karo Syrup.  Pumpkin Pie by Libby's. Buttermilk Pie II from All Recipes.  I change up the pecan pie a bit.  I put chopped pecans in the batter.  I lay out pecan halves in the bottom of the pie crust (also garden variety frozen pie crusts) then pour the batter over them. They float to the top and I end up with a super pecan-y pie.  So yummy!

I didn't start making pumpkin pies until 2 or 3 years ago.  The boys didn't want it until they tried pumpkin pie at their school's Thanksgiving Feast.  Of course, I couldn't convince them to eat pumpkin pie but peer pressure did. ;) One of my nephews
particularly loves pumpkin pie so I make it for him as well.

I'm not sure of the origin of the buttermilk pie. I think my momma made it once and I fell in love with it.  Some people call it chess pie.  It's so creamy and yummy.  My father in law loves it too.

I'm not the world's best pie maker.  I don't make crust from scratch.  But I love doing it.  And I do it with love.  My boys are getting big before my very eyes.  I hope that one day they say, "It's not Thanksgiving without Momma's pies."  I imagine handwriting the recipes for my future daughter in laws to carry on the tradition.  Telling them these are favorite family recipes.  I may or may not tell them the recipes are easily accessed from the internet...

What Thanksgiving traditions are important to you and your family?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Tomorrow's the big day! I love Thanksgiving. I mean, who doesn't? The main theme of the day is eating and hanging out with people you love.  Win - Win! In preparation, I want to share some things I'm thankful for...

Ryan - He's a good man. He never bats an eye when I say things like: "I'm going to buy 60 flour sack towels and set up an assembly line in the front room."

My boys - I could go on and on here. I'm so thankful to be their momma.  They also indulge most of my craziness with a smile.  And just when I think they aren't paying attention, they surprise me.

My momma and sister - The three of us are so much alike, sometimes it's scary.  They are both very strong women who have taught me so much about being a good momma and a good person.

Ryan's parents and siblings - My sister is 6 years older than me, our kids were not in the same phases of life at the same time.  Ryan's siblings are closer in age, our kids are the same ages.  It's so fun to do life with them.  We had a game night last night and I'm still smiling.

Friends - I've written about this before but it bears repeating - adult friendships are much harder than you think they'll be.  I'm so blessed to have friends who are easy.  And supportive.  And funny.

Music - I have little to no musical ability but I love music. I love to sing.  Right now I have Shane & Shane's Psalms Vol 2 and the Hamilton Soundtrack on a loop.  Two very different albums but they both fill me up.

Finally, I am thankful for my relationship with Jesus.  Just when I think it can't get any better, He surprises me. He never gives up on me, He teaches me something new every day and He always teaching me.  I am so thankful that I live in a country where I can study and praise openly.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


I am a champ at following directions.  I kinda even like it.  I love to buy things that have to be put together.  I'm great a following recipes.  Tell me what to do an I'll do it, most of the time.

Right now I'm reading the book of Exodus.  Every morning I think, "Man! These people had it made. God told them exactly what to do!  And they are so dumb.  They screw it up every time.  If God told me exactly what to do, I'd have it made in the shade."

For example, this morning I read Exodus 26.  In Exodus 26, God is laying out the instructions for the Tabernacle.  The instructions are deliciously detailed.  The arc should be this many cubits by this many cubits.  Overlay it with gold.  Use this kind of word.  Make a pole to carry the arc.  Make rings to hold the poles on the arc. The poles shouldn't leave the rings.  I mean, for real, He does everything short of providing an Ikea style instruction booklet.  Actually, God's instructions are better - His instructions have words!

During my prayer time, I pray "LORD, I wish I had instructions like these. I wish I knew exactly what you want me to do.  LORD, if you tell me really specifically like this, I promise I'll do it.  Tell me what to do LORD and I'll be obedient."

I imagine God chuckling at me, "Oh yea, just keep reading and find out how long it took the Israelites to mess things up!"  He taps on my heart and reminds me, I have all the instructions I need.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
2 Corinthians 13:13

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Cure or No Cure?

I knew what they were going to tell us as soon as we walked back into the office.

It was February 13, 2013.  We spent that morning being interviewed while B-man under went all kinds of testing.  We took B to my momma and Ryan and I went back to Children's to hear the results of the morning's testing.  I had had a hunch he was autistic for about a year by that time.  But when we walked in, the lady with the clipboard also had a bunch of booklets with her.  There were booklets on the wall about autism.  I did the math.  

In the days, weeks and months after B's diagnosis I received all kinds of books and advice.  Several of these resources were designed to tell pregnant women how to make sure their baby wasn't autistic.  My kid was here and he was autistic.  No need for those.  Trash.

I started with the big national organization they tell you to start with.  I wasn't that impressed.  Not a lot of helpful resources.  They did have a sibling booklet that I tried to get the bigs to read.  They weren't interested.  They had long ago accepted B. I asked if they would like to go to a sibling support group. Nope, they were good.  When we talked to the bigs about B's diagnosis, we got onto the topic of curing autism somehow.  Zac said "I don't think I want Brennan to be cured.  It would change who he is."

As far as I can tell the autism community is divided by this question: should we try to cure autism or not?  And, if I can be so bold, families and caregivers are on one side and autistic people are on the other.

What the big national organization did have was lots of scientific information about the causes of autism.  I didn't need that either. I didn't (and still don't) care what causes autism. I needed to how to live with autism. This led me to blogs of actual autistic people. They were so important to my understanding of autism.

The main take away from these autistic adults was this -
they did not believe autism is something they have, it is something they are
Curing autism would mean changing who they are at their very core.  The idea that autism should be cured diminishes who they are, it implies that they are broken.

My theory is that God created B just the way He wanted him.  Autism is a part of who B is.  Autism and B can not be separated anymore that B can be separated from being a boy.  You can't have one without the other.  Peanut Butter and Jelly.  Peas and carrots.  Hamilton and Burr. They are just linked together. I can't do anything to break that bond.

I am very much interested in helping B learn to get along in a world that is not designed for him.  But it's a fine line, a tight rope.  Preserving his uniqueness, personality and creativity while helping him fit in a little better.  I want to walk that fine line.  I want him to be successful, have friends and be able to navigate the world on his own.  But I don't want to do one single thing to change his incredible mind.
I must preserve the boy who is planning a garden for the spring.  The boy who decided that the garden will be 12 meters by 9 meters.  The boy who answered, when asked why meters, "Because I like meters." The boy who has assigned each of us a fruit or vegetable to plant and tend.

There is no way I want him cured.  Never.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Mini Camp

Mini Camp - the party before the party!

Every year cLife takes it's 2nd and 3rd graders to mini camp to expose them to the camp experience.  It's just shy of 24 hours but it is packed with fun. Last year I was supposed to but the kiddo I was going to help got sick so I stayed home.  This year, B-man was able to go.

B was excited from the get go.  On Wednesday morning he told Zac that he and I would be back on Sunday.  Zac asked, "from where?" and B told him Mini Camp.  I explained that Mini Camp was Friday.  He was bummed that we weren't leaving Wednesday but still excited.

I was nervous about B-man in a cabin given his erratic sleeping schedule and his propensity to wander.  I talked it over with Laci, our campus children's minister, and because cLife walks the walk of including kids with disabilities, she got B and I a room at the 'motel' at camp.  That way I could sleep in the same room with him. This turned out to be the exact right thing to do.  The room had bunks and B was excited to get to sleep in a bunk - for about 5 minutes.  Then he was in bed with me.  He also woke up at 6 am and needed bathroom help, if you catch my drift.

B did really well at Mini Camp.  He participated in most everything with very little assistance.  He made s'mores.  He played Nerf war.  He participated in his small group discussions.  He was attentive during large group.  He praised - singing and doing the motions.

I tried to leave him alone as much as possible.  I didn't want to hover.  I wanted him to have a 'normal' Mini Camp experience.  And I think he did! I know he learned a lot.  In the last small group session he said that he learned that "Jesus paid for our horrible sins and replaced them with good things."  I, of course, cried.

I was reminded at Mini Camp that kids pay attention even when you think they aren't.  During the last large group session, Will talked to the kids about truth.  He told them that the Bible is true no matter what someone's opinion about the Bible is.  He encouraged them to read their Bible.  B was sitting at a table in the back, drawing.  When Will talked to them about reading their Bible, B shouts out, with his hand raised (God bless his teachers, this is probably what he does in school), "But I don't have a Bible."  There are no less that 25 Bibles in our house but because one has not been presented directly to him, he doesn't think he has one.

B had a sweet friend that was at camp with him.  They get along very well and enjoyed collecting pine cones and acorns while their group was on a scavenger hunt.  I think B's favorite people at Mini Camp were the volunteers.  He really does love being around adults. I am so thankful that the adults at cLife are so loving towards him.

I asked B what his favorite part of Mini Camp was:
"When Jesus took our horrible sins and replaced them with good things.  And the nerf war."

As a mom and a special needs minister, I couldn't ask for more!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Veteran's Day

I love Veteran's Day. It's one of the few pure holidays we have left. It's not commercialized.  It hasn't become synonymous with cookouts or cards or even a day off work.  It's simply a time set aside to say thank you to those who have fought to protect our freedoms.

5 years ago, Veteran's Day took on another meaning for me.  It was Brennan's arrival day.  I don't mean his birthday.  I mean it was the day his personality arrived.

On Veteran's Day in 2011, B was 3 years old. He had just started PPCD (preschool for children with disabilities).  I remember sobbing in teacher inservice being worried about how B was going to adjust to school.  He had been testing in May to qualify for PPCD and we had experienced our first ARD (a special education meeting, it stands for Admission, Review, Dismissal.).

At the time of his testing and ARD, B had, maybe 3 words.  I was getting hit in the back of the head with sippy cups a lot during this time.  He was so frustrated that he could not communicate with us. There was a lot of crying, by everyone. I honestly don't remember much about his personality at this stage.  I do remember that he was very hard headed.  We had a speech pathologist that came to the house to work with him. He did not like her.  He would not cooperate with her at all.  It got so bad that she called for reinforcements...a behavioral therapist.  He worked with her a little better but was still not making much progress.

That summer, though, he had an explosion of language.  We couldn't understand a lot of it but he was talking.  I can remember his pre-k teacher telling me, "This is not the kid we thought we were going to get. He's so much different that his testing."

He was so small and sickly.  He actually missed his first day of school with strep. He had already had pneumonia 3 times.  That summer he contracted mono after one group therapy session. I was so worried about him going to school and being around all those germs.  I made my students use Germ-X before they entered my room so I could kill as many germs as possible before I took them home to B.

Every Veteran's Day, the high school hosts a program.  They invite local vets, the pre-k kids sing, some other students perform and they have a speaker.  I knew B was going to perform but I wasn't expecting much.  I hadn't even told my mom about the performance and I didn't think to ask Ryan to attend.  My brother in law is a veteran and my niece was also performing so he and my sister in law were in the audience.

I still can not get over what we saw that day from B-man.  It was the first day his personality really shone through.  He tried his best to sing the songs.  He won over the crowd immediately. You'll notice in the video that there's a woman behind him on the stage.  That's one of the aides for his class. His teachers weren't even sure that he would do.  You'll also notice that the camera shakes during the performance.  That's me, I'm crying.  I was so thrilled that B seemed to be enjoying himself and engaging with the world around him.  It was a sneak peak at his awesome little personality.  Our B-man had arrived!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Team Player

"Thanks for being a team player."

I replied with "You're welcome" but inside I was thinking, "How could I not be?"

This compliment always boggles my mind because usually I'm just doing what comes naturally to me. Being a team player means being humble and kind and forgiving the mistakes of others and of yourself.  It means putting yourself aside for the good of the team, to meet a common goal.

I forget that some people don't care about the people around them.  That they are just out for themselves.  I am naive in that way, I think that everyone sees things the same way I do.  When I am reminded that they don't, I always wonder "why?"

In Ephesians, Paul reminds us that we are on a team with other believers.  He was urging the church as Ephesus to treat each other with love and respect.  He was reminding them to be team players.

One of the many reasons that I love that older boys play sports is that they learn to be a team player.  They learn to put the needs of the team in front of their own.

I must admit that this is harder for B because he hasn't had the context of sports to help him understand.  We have to be very clear and direct to teach him to think of others first.  For example, when he has a friend over we remind him that his friend is our guest so he needs to ask what the friend wants to do instead of just doing his own thing.

Since his default is to play near his friends instead of with them, we have to be more intentional about giving him the words to use when with his friends.  Recess can be a hard time for him.  He's not real physical. He wants to use the time to draw and then show off his drawings to the other kids.  We have to tell him "When a friend wants to play, don't just say no.  You can say "give me 5 minutes to draw then I'll play with you.""  These scripts seem to be helpful to him.

But still I worry.  Part of being a team player is recognizing the need of another person and filling it.  Autism makes it difficult for him to recognize the need.  It's as if some of the social parts of his brain are turned off.

I don't know how many times we've told B "autism makes you AUsome!" I want him to be proud of how God made him.  I recognize that we have to directly teach some of those social skills that the older boys just seemed to get.  It's a small price to pay for his wonderful mind and unique personality.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


How often do you rest?  I don't mean how often do you sleep. I hope you are able to sleep every night.  If you're still in the up at night phase of momma-hood, hang tight sweet girl.  Your day will come.  Personally, I never thought Bman would sleep through the night.  I'd say we're up to to five nights a week that he's sleeping straight through.  The other two nights he's learned to crawl in with us and not wake either of us up.

I mean really rest.

For me the hardest part of rest is ceasing movement. I am almost always moving.  If I stop moving, I fall asleep.  Really the closest I come is when I settle in to read.  There are just not that many nights that I am sitting in front of the TV vegging out. 

This is not one of those "oh look how busy I am, aren't I great?" things.  I'm bothered by the fact that I don't sit still often.  I'm even more bothered by my internal monologue when I am sitting still.  It goes something like this...

"What am I forgetting to do?"
"Maybe I should start on XYZ?"
"There are dishes in the sink. I need to get those done before momma comes over tomorrow so she wouldn't feel like she needs to do them"

It's like I wouldn't let myself rest without guilt.  And that's not ok.  I'm tired. I need to rest. 

I have always loved the promise in Matthew 11:28-30.  I have a silver yoke necklace to remind me of this verse.  A yoke was used to bind two animals together so they could plow.  I love the idea of taking on the LORD's yoke, being bound to Jesus in all that I do.  But I've only recently started thinking about taking off my yoke to take on Jesus'.  In order to take on Jesus' yoke, I have to take mine off. And there it is again, my desire to control everything.  If I give my problems to God, what will I have left to try to control?  Nothing! That's the point.  God is in control.  He's good at being God, I am not. When I take on Jesus' yoke, I can rest.    

Working on it...

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Small Talk

I was at an event Saturday with a group of ladies I don't know very well.  I was feeling confident when I walked in thinking that I would see several familiar faces.  I walked to the drink station and poured myself some lemonade, still relatively calm.  As I sipped the sweet sour goodness, I continued to scan for people I knew.  No luck.  Two young ladies approached me, introduced themselves and we chatted for just a minute.  At the first lull I excused myself to the bathroom.

Why am I here?  I can not do small talk.  My social anxiety is through the roof right now!

I texted some friends, received a pep talk and ventured back into the fray.  

Everyone was seated now.  I still could not spot anyone I knew.  Nervously, I walked toward the first table with seats and asked to sit down.  The other ladies were much younger than I but were gracious enough to try to include me in the conversation. 

When I got up to get my food, I did spot some familiar faces but their table was full.  After the meal, people began to mingle. I went to visit with the ladies I knew.  Both of them said, "I see you on Facebook and I read your blog so I feel like I knew what's going on with you." I was flattered, as I always am, that they read my blog but it's the Facebook comment that got me thinking. 

Has Facebook killed small talk?

Pre-FB you had a few things you could always lead with...

"Where are you living now?"
"What are you doing?"
"How are your kids/animals?"

Seemingly those questions are moot now.  (It's like what a cow things, it doesn't matter - for you Friends fans) We are already privy to everyone's day to day lives.  You have to lead with something bigger now...

"I saw that Tommy made the school play.  How is he liking that?"

I try to never assume that anyone knows anything that's going on in my life. I don't want to assume that people are reading what I write and post. But I do want people to know that I see what they post.  I want to acknowledge that connection.

That's the key, right? Acknowledgement.  We all want to be seen.  We want to know that another human being sees us.  As Christians, we have the ultimate acknowledgement.  Our LORD sent his son to die for us.  He saw us in our sin and created a way out.

How can we show others that we see them today?  How can we acknowledge their presence, their struggles, their awesomeness? How can we love them?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

November Goals Update #1

Last Thursday I wrote about my writing goals for November.  Here's a quick update...

My November SMART goal for my blog writing is to brainstorm a list of 27 possible blog topics by next Wednesday.  

I met this goal! I finished my list late last week.  It took a little longer than I thought it would. I tried to think of what would be relevant around the holidays.  I also took my calendar into consideration, what would I be doing in the next two months that I might want to write about?

This week I took the list and organized it.  I wrote out all my posting dates and assigned a topic for each day.  I know I probably wouldn't stick to this list.  Things will come up that I'll want to blog about but now I have a plan.  No more going to bed wondering what I'm going to write about the next day.

The list will really help me because I like to think on things for a while then put them out of my immediate attention to let my brain work on them.  I call this percolating.  Like a coffee maker.  My brain drips through the topics and when it's time to write, I have the ideas I need.

And everything is better on hot pink paper!!

My November SMART goal for my Bible Study is to have 2 of those books (books about disability and the church) read by the end of Thanksgiving break, November 27th. 

My books arrived Tuesday!  I love getting packages in the mail! This time when I ordered from Amazon I chose to have them delivered to a locker location because the shipping seemed quicker than to my house. The lockers were outside a gas station. They look like a bank of post office boxes.  You scan the bar code Amazon emails you then  the locker door pops open revealing your stuff!

The first book I started reading is a 40 day devotional for parents of autistic kids.  When I read the back cover I was put off.  The 'about the author' section mentioned all the author has done to put her child on the 'road to recovery from autism'.  Y'all know this is not my stance.  If B were cured of autism, he wouldn't be himself!

I almost chucked the book in the trash.  But GOD really challenged me to read it.  I can still learn from another believer even if we don't agree about autism.  I decided to read it straight through instead of doing it as a 40 day Bible study.

I'm up to day 20 and so far, my heart just aches for the author. I can tell that she loves her son and is very committed to healing him.  My heart aches because I want her to be able to find joy in the way GOD created her son.  I am learning though.

One goal met on time.  One goal about 1/4th finished and on track to be finished on time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Music and sports are in the same category for me: love it but can't do it.  I'd say music ranks a little higher than sports.  I don't know how much I'd miss sports if I never went to another game but if I never listened to music again, I'd be miserable.

My current musical obsession is the Hamilton soundtrack.  The songs are so varied.  I just keep thinking, "One man wrote all these songs."  I love how the songs all come together to tell Alexander Hamilton's story but can also stand on their own.

I have never been a fan of silence.  When I'm working, I usually can not have silence. I need music or a podcast playing.  It's like one part of my brain needs to be engaged with the sound so another part of my brain can create. But when silence is required, my mind supplies the music.  I'd rather it supply a praise song than the Schuyler sisters singing "Work. Work. I'm looking for a mind to work, work".

The trouble with my love for music is that it sticks in my head and crowds out other thoughts.  Especially during my prayer time.  This morning I was trying to concentrate and pray.  But "My name is Alexander Hamilton.  Just you wait. Just you wait." was playing over and over in my head.

I was really frustrated. This was my special time with the LORD and Alexander Hamilton was screwing it up.  But I'm the one who put Alexander in there.  I'm the one listening to the soundtrack on repeat.

In computing there's a saying "Garbage In. Garbage Out." It means if your code is garbage, your program will be garbage.  Your code has to be good for your program to be good.

It's the same with what we but in our mind.  If we want to think good thoughts, we have to put good stuff in.  For me this means I need a steady diet of praise music.  When I infuse praise music into my day, that's what my mind wanders to, instead of Alexander.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween Milestones

B thinks he's giving the peace sign
Zac as Benny "The Jet" Rodriquez
from The Sandlot
I love Halloween.  I'm not too big on dressing up but I do love to make Halloween food.  Last night I made these cute mummy pizzas.

But I really love Halloween with B man.  He never ceases to amaze me.  Like the year he couldn't say Trick or Treat but did say "Wow!" every time he got candy.

Last night he did it again.  We made it through trick or treating with no meltdown!  He got scared a couple of times.  Once he didn't go up to the house at all.  The other time he started up the walk but quickly ran back down.  When he was done he said, "I'm ready to go home".  So we went home.  I'm learning to listening to him.

He was also able to wear his costume to school yesterday and he stayed in it the entire day.  I packed clothes for him but he stayed in his costume!  I was shocked when he got to my school still dressed up!

B understands scary.  Scary costumes.  Scary decorations.  He does not understand stranger danger.  We started down a street in our neighborhood and he announced that he needed to use the restroom.  By the time B tells you he needs to go, it's almost too late.  I told him we would be at a friends' house soon and he could go there.  

He ran up to the next house.  When he didn't come back with the other kids, I walked up to the door.  B's goodie bag was sitting at the front door. The man at the front door said, "He asked to go to the bathroom. Want to come in and check on him?" He introduced himself.  I told him my name and tried to assured him that we lived in the neighborhood and were not complete weirdos.  When I walked in, I realized that B had not even bothered to close the bathroom door! And he came walking out of the bathroom, tugging up his pants, without washing up.  As I'm typing this, I realize I didn't check to see if he flushed.  Oh, please, dear LORD, let him have flushed.  I helped him wash his hands and say thank you.  We rushed out the door.

Thankfully, our neighbor was kind. But I did not know him. I knew of him. I taught his daughters but I had never met him before.  And B had definitely never met him.

These are the things that keep me up at night.  Will B ever realize that he can't trust everyone?  That not everyone is kind?  How do we teach him this without scaring him?

I am so thankful for the little bubble we live in.  People are so kind to him.  But I have to figure out how to teach him how to be more careful.  It's a daunting task.