Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Overcoming Stage Fright

Last Thursday, B had a choir program at school.  The entire 2nd grade was putting on a patriot program.   The music teachers had the awesome idea to let the kids introduce veterans in their family.  Not only was B going to sing with his classmates, he was also set to introduce his Cool Ronnie who served our country in the Army.

As far as we knew, everything was going according to plan.

Then last Wednesday, B had a rough day at school.  That evening he asked me to take him out of the program.  He told me he was scared and he "just could not do it!"  He was worried that he couldn't keep up with the plate dance.  I had no idea what this meant, but I assured him he'd be fine.  He wasn't buying it.  We talked about it some but he wasn't budging.  I reminded him that he was going to get to introduce Cool Ronnie.  This bought me some time.

Thursday afternoon, he was back to his not going plan.  But it wasn't wholehearted.  He got dressed.  He told me how nervous he was.  We said some prayers.  He had the great idea to bring his stress ball that a buddy had given him.

We got to the program, he picked up his flag and plates. But his paper he was going to read to introduce Ronnie was missing.  My nerves were a bit frayed. Thankfully, his teacher swooped in with a piece of paper, rewrote the intro and saved the day.

The program started and my boy shined! He got to come to the front to play the finger cymbals for one song.  He really made the most of it! His teacher sent me this photo.  Pure joy! And, of course, he added his own little flair to the cymbals! His stage fright was put to rest.

When it was time to introduce Cool Ronnie, he patiently waited his turn in line.  Then he did a great job of reading his paper.  I was so proud of him. I may have cried.

After the program, B was so proud of himself. He knew he had overcome his anxiety and worry and he was so proud of himself.  And I was bursting with pride as well!

We've been on this autism journey for a few years now.  But God never ceases to amaze me.  He gives my boy the strength he needs.  He shows us and others how to help B.  God is amazing!  I'm so thankful for His guidance and provision on this journey.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


My dream is to be a writer and speaker.  There I said it.  It's out there. I can't take it back, you all know now.

I have always wanted to write.  I've written my entire life.  I just never thought I could have it as a job.  It never occurred to me.  I guess I thought a job was something you had to get up and go to everyday.  You have to apply and interview for it for jobs.

In college, I had a double major of counseling and public speaking.  I know, it's a weird combo but I knew I wanted to help people and speak to large groups.  I'm thankful that I had went to a small university where weird combos are possible.  Speaking has been a part of every job I've had whether it's speaking in front of new students, my own students,  parents or other teachers.  I always enjoy it.

About 3 years ago, God really put these dreams on my heart.  It's as if they were there all the time but God started really pressing me on them.  The problem was, and is, I didn't know how to go about achieving these dreams.  I still don't, really.  When I wanted to become a teacher, I took classes, got certified and applied for jobs.

What I did know to do was to be obedient.  I started to pray for opportunities and committed to be obedient in whatever God told me to do.  Almost a year ago, I committed, in obedience, to writing 3 times a week on this blog.  So far, I haven't missed a post.  I wrote a couple of weeks ago about writing my first Bible study.  Again, obedience.  The idea came up, I prayed and did what God was asking me to do.

My struggle is in the day to day.  I have a great job.  I enjoy serving the teachers and students at my school.  But I have this dream in my heart that I don't know what to do with. I want to write all day. I want to speak to women about how Christ has impacted me.  I want to point them to hope.  I'm not sure how to fulfill it.  And it kind of eats at me.  Do you know that feeling?  You want to do something but you can't seem to make it happen?

What I'm left with is obedience.  Jesus tells a parable about two workers.  Their boss entrusted them both with a bit of money.  One hid his money so that he wouldn't lose it.  The other put his money to work so he could return the money plus some to his boss.  I want to be that second dude.  So, I get up every morning and I write.  I read and I study.  I pray.  I listen.  I try to be obedient.  And I hope because I know He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.

I want to know about your dreams.  What has God pressed into your heart?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My Antidote to Stress

I've been feeling kinda stressed lately.  Some of it is just normal stress - deadlines, going out of town, trying new things - that kind of stuff.  And some of it I'm not even aware of yet.  But my body is sending me signals.  My neck is stiff and sore.  I'm tired.  I want to eat everything I can get my hands on.  And the headaches! Good gracious the headaches.  Last week, I woke up with one everyday from grinding my teeth.

It's weird to me that my body feels stress that my head isn't aware of yet.  But, none the less, here it is.  So, I need to decide what to do about it.  My 3 Ws antidote to stress:

URGH! Some days I do not want to work out.  I want to crawl in my bed and sleep.  My bed is so comfy and my sheets are so crispy and cool. My pillow is near perfection.  But, alas, my body cries out under stress and so I need to counter balance it.  Right now I'm doing a 31 day yoga challenge.  It's called Yoga Revolution and it's on YouTube.  It was designed to be done in January but I'm doing it now because I'm such a rebel.  (stop laughing!) I love the physical benefits of yoga.  I'm on day 10 and I've bribed myself with some awesome stickers from Etsy if I do all 31 days in a row!

My main problem with yoga is the spiritual side of it.  It can be a bit of self worship.  So, I find I need to have God's Word at the ready.  I need to mediate on His truth and not my own.  This is true during yoga and throughout the day.  Here are two verses I'm clinging to right now.  Both are on post it notes on my computer so I see them several times a day.  I also email them to myself so I get to see them when I'm going through my emails each day.

In computer programming there's a saying "Garbage In. Garbage Out." It means if you give bad instructions to the computer, it will produce bad results.  Same thing is true for your mind.  When you put in garbage, you mind turns to mush.  I love music.  I love to have music on all day.  I love to sing, although NO ONE loves to hear it!  I usually have songs running through my mind at all hours of the day and night.  So, it's important to me to put good songs into my head.

Most of you know I'm a big fan of Shane and Shane.  I knew them in high school.  They are great guys with a deep love for the LORD.  I have a huge Shane and Shane playlist of Spotify.  It's my go to playlist when I'm stressed.  I try to listen to it at least once a day so I have good info in my head.  Especially their songs from Psalms. Here's a link to my playlist.

While not a W, I also rely heavily on prayer.  I try to talk to God through out day. I ask Him to help me pinpoint the source of my stress.  I ask Him to relieve my stress.  I ask Him to take over.  I ask Him to forgive me for trying to handle everything on my own.  I thank Him for being God.

What's your best stress strategy?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


"B, do you want anything to eat?" I ask in the Wendy's drive through. He thinks for a moment.
"No, momma."
I order food for Sam and a drink for myself.  I pay, the Wendy's employee hands me a sack of food and the drinks.  I pull off.
"Is all that food for Sam?"
"Yes, all the food is for Sam but one of the drinks is mine."
"I knowed I should have ordered something."
"B! I asked you if you wanted anything! You're killing me, Smalls!"
"You're killing me, Bigs!"
A beat passes and B continues, "I'm sorry momma."
"For what baby?"
"Being embarrassing"

What just happened?  How did we go from not wanting food, to wanting food, to being embarrassing?

I tried to assure B that he's not embarrassing to me.  I tell him I love him just the way he is.  I tell him Jesus loves him just the way he is. But still, I'm bothered.

I've written before about my problem with apologizing for B's social nature.  Now I'm wondering if I've rubbed off on him.

I started noticing this behavior a few weeks ago. He's say "sorry" a lot.  A few hours before the Wendy's incident, I had picked him up from my mom's.  As momma and I chatted, he went into the living room to play.  When I was ready to go, I said, "B, where are you? Let's go."  His response: "Sorry momma, I was in the living room. I'm sorry."

"Get dressed"

"B, it's time to stop playing and take a shower"
"OK momma, sorry."

I'm heartbroken, honestly.  What has happened to my boy that he thinks he has to be sorry for playing or not already being dressed?  And what in the world has happened to make him think he's embarrassing?

Of course, he's not able to tell me just yet.  I'm sure he'll get it all worked out in the awesome mind of his and be able to tell me later.  Or maybe not.  Such is autism.  Some thoughts are just trapped in there.

All I can do for the time being is love him and try to explain when he needs to apologize for something and when he doesn't.  Try to remember to tell him that I'm not upset, I'm just letting him know what he needs to do next.  I need to be more explicit with him as he can't always pick up on my verbal cues.

I need to remember that my boy is sensitive.  Again, the idea that autistic people don't have emotions is bunk.  He doesn't want me to be upset with him.  He wants love and acceptance just like everyone of us.  It's my job to try to ease his fears, to remind him that he is very loved, show him how to navigate this complicated world.  And I'm happy to do that!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Garden Box

Sunday was a big day for B-man!  The realization of a dream! He and Cool Ronnie were going to build the garden box! After church they went to Lowe's to get their supplies.

We have a little fenced in area on the side of our yard that, I think, is supposed to be a dog run.  We decided it will be B's garden location.  By the time I got home, Cool Ronnie was hard at work, B, not so much! Ronnie is building, B is messing around with his gardening tools.

After the box was built, they dumped and spread dirt the special raised garden dirt.  I don't know what makes it special but I'll take their word for it.

Then came our first big moment - re-homing the worms!  Every time I deal with the worms, I start out afraid that they're all dead in the box.  Sunday was no different.  Thankfully, they were alive and kicking (or squirming).  We dumped the entire worm farm into the garden.  We then covered them with a few more bags of special raised garden dirt.

The sweetest moment of the day was when B gave Cool Ronnie the Valentine he made in Spanish.  It's so hard to decifer B's handwriting and Spanish adds another level to that difficulty.  But the Valentine was so sweet.

For me, the real deal of this entire adventure (which is not over yet, we have to plant the veggies) is the reminder that Ryan and I are not alone.  We have a wonderful family that comes alongside us not only with B but with Sam and Zac as well.  It's heartwarming to see how much someone else loves your kiddo.

Aunt Laura and Cool Ronnie not only listened to B tell them about sustainable gardening, they helped him make a plan.  Then they made that plan happen.  I have no idea if we'll be able to grow veggies this Spring.  I do know that B has learned a lot so far.  Not the least of which is how loved he is!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


We have worms.  They've been busy composting up a storm.  Now we need plants.  B and Cool Ronnie went to Lowe's in early January to get the lay of the land.  I think the original plan was to just check on what they would need later for the garden box.  They came back with a seed starter and a bunch of seeds.

What B really wants to grow is vegetables.  He and Cool Ronnie came home with a huge variety of vegetable seeds.  Some were right up our alley - corn, spinach and carrots.  A couple were not so much us - beets and peppers.  But it's what B wanted to plant so off we went.

The seed starter kit was super cool.  You water these little discs and they grow.  After they grow you realize they have a little netting around them.  To plant the seeds, you hollow out a hole, drop in the seed then cover the seed with dirt.

B was not on board with making the hole.  I had to do that party.  He dropped in the seeds.  We're a good team.

After all the seeds are sown, you put the lid on the kit.  The lid works like a greenhouse.  It's pretty cool to watch.

The seed sprouted so quickly.  We had to keep trying to figure out how to keep the lid on.  We used toilet paper rolls to prop up the lid.  The seeds were growing out of control.  We finally ditched the lid.

After about a month we ran into a problem.  The sprouts started to bend.  They looked a little sad.  One day I noticed some white fuzz on one of the sprouts.  I think they were molding.  I knew for sure they were dying.  I think we tried to sprout them too soon.  We eventually threw them out.

We have another kit.  We're going to try it again.  But we are going to wait until mid-March.  This time we'll sprout them for 2 weeks then get them in the ground.  In the ground you say?  Where will they go? Come back tomorrow to find out.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Did you know you can buy worms on Amazon?  I did not but I do now!

In the Fall, B spent a weekend afternoon with his Aunt Laura and Cool Ronnie.  (When B was still struggling with speech, he couldn't say uncle - it sounded like cool.  The name stuck).  B had recently watched a video on sustainable gardening and was sharing his knowledge with AL & CR.

Apparently, an important aspect of sustainable gardening is composting with worms.  I wasn't there but I'd imagine the conversation went something like this:

B: Worms are good for composting.
AL: What kind of worms?
B: Red worms. I need some red worms.
CR: Where would we get red worms?
AL: (Checks her phone) Amazon has red worms.
CR: Done and done.

One evening in December, Aunt Laura and Cool Ronnie asked if they could come over.  They came bearing a large silver rubbermaid box and an Amazon box.  They gave B a letter.  Cool Ronnie would build B a garden box as soon as football season was over. In the meantime, here were some worms to get the composting started.  B was so excited!

Together we all read the directions on how to care for the worms.  And we started our very own worm farm.  I must admit, I was not sure how I was going to like being a worm farmer.  But, it wasn't too bad.  We only had one escapee situation.

According to our worm intel, the worms would be restless for a few days after we transfered them to their new home from the Amazon shipping container.  But, they would settle down and burrow into the soil.  The second day we had them, B wanted to check on his new treasures so he opened the lid to our little farm.

I should pause here to say that this was December so the worm farm was living in my guest bathroom.  For some reason, worms can live in the ground in all kinds of weather but needed to live in my house in their rubbermaid bucket if it was 40 degrees or colder outside.

When B checked on our new charges, they were every where, all over the Rubbermaid.  It kinda freaked him out and he dropped the lid.  Ryan and I rushed in.  There were worms crawling towards freedom.  There were worms on my bathroom floor.  I grabbed some tissue and started sweeping them off the side of the bucket into the dirt.  Ryan and B picked the escapees off the floor and back into the bucket.  I'm proud to report that no worm was lost.  And we managed to get B to agree to not check on them for a few more days to give them time to settle.

At a basketball game in December, we talked to another friend who had worm farming experience.  Something came up about air holes.  Laura and I looked at each other - air holes!?! I immediately when home and used my candy thermometer to punch some holes in the rubbermaid lid.  I prayed we hadn't committed worm-icide.

Over the past 2 months, we've feed the worms our food scraps.  We watered the soil and stirred in the scraps.  It seems the worms have survived and thrived.  At one point we had little baby worms.   Or just smaller worms, I'm not sure which.  But part of our intel told us that the worm colony would double every 90 days so I figured it was part of the process.

The worms got a new home last weekend.  Come on back tomorrow and Thursday to read about our next steps in sustainable gardening.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Trying New Things

So far this week I've have had the opportunity to do two new things.  I'm super excited about them and I want to share them with y'all but this post sounds super braggy.  That's not my intention.  I know that God brings opportunities. I'm so excited to be able to do the things He's put on my heart.

Bible Study
A while back and my friend Kerry Green and I were talking on Facebook about doing a Bible Study after school for teachers. We agreed that it would be great but I didn't really commit.

But I couldn't shake it.  I really prayed about it.  What I really couldn't shake was the idea of writing a Bible study.  I've wanted to do that for a long while now.  I've been reading up on disability in the Bible, researching for a Bible study for moms whose kids have disabilities.  But this would be a more general Bible study.

I also couldn't stop thinking about the book of James.  So I committed.  I would write and teach a Bible study for teachers.  In February.  I bought 2 commentaries on James and got started.

This past Monday, I taught the 1st chapter of James using a study that I created, right down to the worksheet pages.  It was a great discussion.  I really enjoyed it and I hope the other participants enjoyed it as well.  I can't wait for next Monday!

I've done a wide variety of presentations in the past.  Mostly for teachers.  Mostly 'here's how to do this in your classroom' type things.  But this one was different.  This was called an Ignite.  5 minutes. 20 slides that automatically change every 15 seconds.  It was also more personal.  The theme was "I used to but now I...".

I decided my Ignite would be "I used to be a control freak but now I'm a choice freak".  I talked about how B and autism has changed me as an educator. I tried to be honest and funny about how I've changed.

It was so much fun!

I want to be a writer and speaker.  I want to make people laugh but also give them hope.  I want to inspire people. I want to do these things to make much of God.

I'm not sure how God has planned to use me to do these things.  But this week, He gave me two opprotunities to serve Him and other.  I loved it. I hope I was able to make people laugh, give them hope, inspire them and make much of Him.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


What frustrates you?

I feel like we live right on the edge of cliff.  One step to the right and things are great.  One step to the left and we are free failing into the deep canyon of frustration.  It can be a little like a Road Runner cartoon.  We step off into the canyon but sometimes we can stop in midair and get back to the cliff.  Other times, we fall like a lead balloon.

Yes, the frustration mostly belongs to B.  It is his body that he can't make work the way he wants.  It's his hands that wouldn't make the craft he's seen on YouTube.  The words to help us understand  are trapped inside his head, not mine.

I do share the frustration, though.  It's frustrating to watch this little person you love so much struggle.  It kills me.

And yet...

There are times I lead him to the edge and I refuse to help.  I know he must feel the frustration in order to figure things out.  In these moments, I fight with myself.  How long do I let this go on?  When do I step in?

Part of my job, and Ryan's job, is to decide what things warrant frustration and what do we shield him from.  Currently, I am letting him experience frustration in his creations.  I'm not going to step in and make things for him.  They aren't my projects.

He's cooked up an idea for a gadget that will scan a Pokemon and make it come to life. He assigned me the job of "coding it all up and putting in on a chip'.  Ummm, what? That sounds like the whole thing.  I don't know how to code, I'm not interested in learning to code and I surely don't want a bunch of living Pokemon in my house.  It already smells like dogs and feet around here, I'm sure Pokemon smell bad too.  So, I told him no, I would not code it all up and put it on a chip.  If he wanted it done, he'd have to figure it out himself.

We spend a lot of time talking about failure.  We tell him it's ok if the Pokemon scanner thing doesn't work.
Just keep trying.
Not everything happens the right way right away.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


We are a law and order society.  If you doubt that, come to a middle school.  Those kids are all over an eye for eye.  If a wrong has been committed, they want justice.  Some are very concerned with what a specific punishment will be, others are just happy knowing punishment was doled out.  Just last week, a sweet 7th grader came to me excited because he thought he knew who was sending 'anonymous' emails to the entire 7th grade.  He was so crestfallen when I told him I wasn't worried about it.  The email had no words or attachments, it wasn't sent from a school email.  It wasn't a crime, it was an annoyance.  I could just see it in his face "Oh man! I wanted someone to pay for annoying me!"

We're all like this aren't we?  We want justice.  Someone has to pay!  My food is late - give me a discount! It's our sinful nature and it's what makes grace so hard to understand.

Undeserved favor.  This is such a foreign concepts to us.  Nothing in life is free. If it's to be, it's up to me. We want to work hard and get what we deserve.

Until we don't.  We really don't want to get what we deserve in all instances.  I don't want to get what I deserve when I screw up.  I want grace desperately.

God gives us grace so freely and completely.  He sent his Son to die for us so we didn't have to receive the punishment we earned by our actions.  It should follow then that because we have been given grace so freely that it will be easy for us to give.  Wrong - o!

When someone wrongs me, I want to well up my righteous indignation.  "How dare you!"  I want to get angry.  "Can you believe!?!" But this is not the example set by my Lord.  All the way to the end, he forgave those who wronged him.

And to be honest, it's hard to accept grace sometimes.  Sunday afternoon I was 20 minutes late to let a basketball team into the gym for no good reason.  I totally zoned out.  When I realized it, I went running to the gym without even putting shoes on.  I should have been relieved by the team's graceful attitude towards me.  "It's ok" they said. "We just appreciate that you can let us in."  It kinda made me feel extra guilty.  It's weird, I know.  I would have definitely felt worse if they were snippy or treated me the way I deserved to be treated.  I was thankful for their grace but also a little guilty feeling.  I didn't deserve their sweetness.

Guess what? I didn't deserve their sweetness.  But they gave it anyway.  Jesus didn't deserve to die for my mistakes, but he did it anyway.

So today, let's be on the two way street of grace.  Let's give it freely to those who don't deserve it and let's accept it freely when we don't deserve it.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Team Monkey

When B man was little, he was in to everything.  He was, and still is, in constant motion.  He also covered in bumps and bruises.  He fell a lot! He had a near constant bump on his forehead.  Once he got a bump on top of the bump that was already there!

We now know that all that we a part of his sensory seeking.  He can not get enough input from the world around him.  So he seeks more but jumping, touching, putting things in his mouth.  He loves deep pressure. He wants more.  We also know that he doesn't have a good understanding of where his body is in space. There's a fancy word for this but it escapes me right now at 5:35 am.  Because he didn't always know where he was in space, he didn't know when to brace for a fall until his head hit first.

During the worst of these times, before we started occupational therapy, B also didn't have a lot of words.  This is so hard to believe now.  Now he has such a tremendous vocabulary.  It's hard to remember the time I told a doctor he had 2 words - daddy and dada - and she looked at me like I'd lost my mind "That's just one word.  It's the same word."

All of these things, including the decision to decorate his nursey with jungle animals, led to B's nickname - Monkey.

Several years ago, I had notepads made for B's teachers and helpers at school that said Team Monkey.  It was becoming clear that we would all have to work together and work overtime to figure him out and help him be successful at school.  I wanted everyone to know that we were in this together!

I haven't given out any notepads lately, I probably should get on that they were super cute, but Team Monkey is still in full effect.  It was evident in his ARD.  It's evident in the way he talks about school.

Let me pause here to say what a profound blessing it is to hear him talk about school.  Many of you get every little detail of your child's day.  We get almost nothing.  I say all the time that just because B talks a lot doesn't mean that he communicates a lot.  He repeats things, almost always in the correct context, or he talks about his special intersts (Pokemon anyone one?).  But the details of his day are not important to him and so we miss out.

B adores his teachers this year.  And they adore him!  He had math homework the other day and he drew this "hydroglyfic" on his paper for his math teacher.

He was so thrilled when she drew one back to him!

His teachers this year are so fabulous! I could go on and on.  They have the right mix of holding him accountable and going with the flow.  They are such a blessing to us!

B's other favorite person is his behavior specialist.  My favorite time of day is when I lay down with B at bedtime.  The other night as I asked him "Who is your best friend?"  Without a second of hesitation he replied "Mr. Smith is my best friend. He just got Pokemon Go on his phone and I'm going to help him." Did everyone catch that?  A grown man loaded Pokemon Go on his phone so he could connect with B!

I could go on and on but I'll sufice it to say that teachers can make or break a kid.  If a teacher doesn't understand, or want to understand, a kid everyone's miserable.  I've been that teacher.  I was miserable, the kid was miserable and I'm sure the parents were miserable.  I've also been on the other side.  I've been, seemingly, the only teacher trying to understand a kid.  I've formed bonds with kids other teachers couldn't.  I've experienced the relief in a parent's voice and their appreciation for that bond.

I hope Team Monkey understand how much we love and appreciate them!  My boy spends a great deal of time with them and it's easier to send him knowing he is loved and understood.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

My Daddy

My Daddy died 17 years ago today.  That's a really long time, y'all.  Yet, here we are on February 1st and I'm laid bare again.  I feel like he's just died.  He can't possibly have missed all this.

I can not imagine how much my Daddy would have loved these boys.  I have a little idea because I got to see how much he loved my neices and nephews.  His face lit up when he saw them.  He was eat up. Just look at how he's looking at my neice in this picture! She's 'preaching'. She walked up and down that table without a shirt on giving us the what for.  I can't remember anything she said but it was hillarious.  Daddy thought it was too.

I can only imagine how he'd love watching Sam and Zac play football, basketball and baseball.  He would have been at every game! He was generally a quite man so I can't image that he'd be yelling a lot during the game but he would have loved it.

My Daddy was a master crepe maker.  Bet you didn't know that about him!  He had a crepe maker and he was good at it.  Momma would make the filling and topping and Daddy would make the crepes.  Yumm-o! He would have loved to teach Zac to make crepes.

And the B-man, he would have gotten such a kick out of the B-man!  Daddy would have been so patient with him.  He would have watched all B's videos.  I'm guessing he would have patiently driven B to all the Poke-stops he wanted.

I hope he would be proud of who I am today.  I hope he would think I'm a good momma.

I miss him. I miss getting pulled in to a big hug. He was so big that he could cover me completely with a hug.  There was nothing like it.  I miss it.

But he's here.  He's in these boys.  I see his gentleness and his smile in them.  And I am thankful.