Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Not Without Hope

Yesterday one of my very best friends, Rachel, shared a video with me.  (Incidentally, today is Rae's birthday! Oh Happy Day!) You might have seen the video on the Today Show's Facebook page.  It was absolutely heartbreaking.  The lady in the video is an autism mom.  She talked about her pain and heartbreak, the secret pain of autism. 

She talks about a particularly rough day with her son and the stares from other parents.  She talked about worrying about her son's future.  I get it, I totally get it.  Our situation is different than hers.  Her son is severely autistic and nonverbal.  B is verbal.  He can communicate and sometimes tell us what he needs.

I worry about a wide range of things as it relates to B.  Both the future and the present.  What will happen tomorrow? How will he live when he's older?  Will he hit anyone at school?  Will he lose it in math today?  Will someone say something hateful to him?  What if someone in his future apartment building tells him that rent went up $200 so they can steal $200 from him? Will I be able to find shoes that he can tolerate?  How's his weight? Is healthy?

We have a wide range of tough conversations as they relate to B.  Conversations at school.  Conversations with other parents.  Conversations with the big boys.  On particularly hard conversation with the big boys was the idea that he may need to live close to one of them after Ryan and I are gone.  Which will lead them to conversations with the people who they will share their lives with. 

I'll tell you what I don't have in common with that other sweet momma - she seems hopeless, or at least low on hope.  I am not without hope.  Because my hope is not found here.  My hope is in the LORD.  Which, I know, will lead people to questions.  The main one may be "How can God allow this?"  Why does God allow anything? To point us to Him, to show his goodness. 

And that's what I see in B, even in his struggles, God's goodness. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Broccoli Piano

Every February, I attend the Texas Computer Educator's Association conference.  There are great sessions and lots of prize giveaways.  One year I won an iPad mini.  This year I won a Makey Makey and a book of Makey Makey projects.  A Makey Makey can be used to control a computer and utilized the static electric in objects to do it.

When I got back from TCEA, I wasn't feeling great.  I really wanted to go to bed and stay there.  That's what I did most of Saturday.  And the Makey Makey came in handy!  B asked me how to use it.  I told him to get on YouTube and he'd find out how to make it work.  When I got out of bed Saturday at 4:30 pm, he was so excited to have me come see what he'd done.

He'd found a website with a Makey Makey piano then used broccoli to power it.  B-man never ceases to amaze me! I can't wait to see what else he can come up with using the Makey Makey

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

R.I.P. Peppermint

Friday morning Ryan texted me "Peppermint is dead."  Peppermint, you will remember, is the gerbil B got for Christmas.

I texted back "Are you sure?"

Ryan immediately called me, "What do you mean 'are you sure?'?"

"Well, maybe he's asleep?"

"I've picked him up with tongs and put him in paper bag and he didn't move so I'm guessing he's not asleep."

Oh no! I was so worried about B.  He got on the phone to tell me.  He sounded upset but ok.  Ryan took him to school and I let his teachers, principal and behavior specialist.  I'll be honest, I wasn't sure how B's day would go.  One of his teachers just had a baby and is out, the other teacher answered my text that she wouldn't be at school that day and it was STEM career day.  I joked at work "When do we think I'll have to go get him?"  "Will B survive this day?" 

Thank God for small mercies - one of the subs for the day was B's teacher from last year who had retired.  He ended up having a good day. 

Peppermint a loyal, nice but nippy gerbil.  Amen
I had to run home (I ran out of coffee supplies at work and coffee = life at work so it was clearly a required trip).  B had written on Peppermint's bag.  I'd worried Ryan that Peppermint might wake up so he'd put the bag in the washing machine - if Peppermint woke up and ate his way through the bag, he'd be confined to the bag. 

Friday afternoon Peppermint was still in the bag so we were confident he had departed this world.  We made plans for a burial and funeral.  I put Peppermint in the freezer until the service. 

Sunday afternoon we had the funeral.  B searched Spotify for "funeral music" so we had some lovely instrumental music.  Ryan dug the grave with B's small garden shovel.  We decided to lay Peppermint to rest under B's window. Mostly the avoid the back yard and our digging dog. 

Below is the transcript of B's prayer.  I have to be honest, I had tears in my eyes after this prayer.  B comforted me "I know you loved him too, Momma." Yes, let's go with that...

Dear Jesus,
Bless Peppermint's soul with all your heart.  Forgive him of any sins he might have made. We loved him so much but now it's time to join him with Pa and Pops.  I will love him with all my heart for the rest of eternity. 
Just drop him in already.

And that concluded Peppermint's service. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018


My B-man is getting older.  Kids are great noticers.  They remember stuff.  I've been concerned this year about kids starting to remember B's outbursts and meltdowns.  This year he's had a couple of rough ones.  Most of them start in his classroom, with other kids.  I don't want him to be ostracized because of his rough times. 

I'm not a mom who wants or needs her kids to be super popular.  I've always wanted them to have one good friend.  One person who got them and had their back.  One person they'd stand up for as well.  One person who picks them first and who they pick first.  Someone who gets them. 

My concern has been that B's behaviors would keep people from getting him. 

As I said yesterday, B had a Valentine.  He'd asked a cute little girl in his class to be his Valentine and she'd said yes.  He took her a Hersey's Chocolate bar and my Harry Potter owl for her to see since she likes Harry Potter.  At bedtime, he wondered what she would bring him.  I don't know the little girl or her parents so I didn't know how she'd respond to being B's Valentine.  I told him she might not bring anything but that was ok because it was nice to have a Valentine. He was cool with that and excited about the day.  In the morning he wanted to make sure to dress nice for his Valentine.  He also wanted to wear red. 

He had a great time at the class party.  Ryan went because I was teaching.  Ryan said B introduced himself to his Valentine's mom in addition to working the crowd telling parents about his new pet sitting business (Lord, help me).  A friend of mine sent me a picture of B and his Valentine.  He's right, she is a cute little girl.

B's Valentine wrote him a letter.  A letter that made me cry.  A letter more valuable than any gift.  In the letter she tells B why she likes him.  "My favorit thing about you is that your sweet, kind and generoos. Your allways kind to people even if they're rude or unkind to you.  Your creative and silly." (typed exactly from a letter from a 3rd grader)

This sweet letter gave me hope. Hope that he does have and will have one good friend.  Hope that people will continue to see his positive, wonderful traits.  Hope that B's behavior wouldn't keep people from knowing the real him. The him that I love. The him that so many of you love. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

V-Day B's Way

Happy Valentine's Day, peeps!  V-Day is not a big deal around here.  We're pretty lovey dovey all year long. 

What Valentine's does mean is a Valentine's Day party at school.  And that means a Valentine's box.  I honestly wouldn't mind making B a Valentine's box.  But he wants to make his box.  His mind is brilliant and creative.  His hands don't always see the vision.  Nevertheless, he wants to be in control of his box. 

I learned years ago to let go of my Pinterest mom dreams of crafts with my B-man.  He wants things done the way he wants them done and I wouldn't fight him.  Please see my post The True Story of Robo-Turkey That post cracks me up because I was so anti-home project.  I'm softened a little, probably because the older boys don't get them anymore and I'm overwhelmed with everyone's home projects.  Look at me, growing and stuff. 

Anywho...remember yesterday I said we went to Joann's and got stuff for B's box?  He wanted to make his box look like a four armed alien from Ben 10.  I had a fabulous plan for that box and a ton of red pipe cleaners to make it work.  Alas, I spent the better part of Saturday in bed and B's creative juices couldn't not be stopped. 

I should pause here to tell you that is currently obsessed with old cereal commercials and cereal in general.  It started with old Fruity Pebbles commercials on YouTube kids and has blossomed from there.  I'm actually glad we've moved on from Fruity Pebbles because I'd been called up one more than once to tell him everything I knew about the Flintstones. 

Here's the box B-man made, all on his own. 

Those little pom poms were supposed to be alien eyes.  But, glued into bottle tops, they look like Trix cereal.  And my sweet boy is ready for the big day. 

He also has a Valentine.  "I asked and she said yes" He made sure to ask her favorite candy is taking her a Hersey's Chocolate bar. 

My sweet boy...

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Cartoon Spider

Joann's fabric store can be a dangerous place.  There are so many cool projects and crafts!  Especially with B, you have to have a plan of attack before you go in.  And I thought we did.  We planned out his Valentine's Day box.  He was going to make it look like an alien from Ben 10.  We went in, got the supplies and he was happy.  Then I needed to pick up some fabric for Sam to make a stuff mole for Chemistry.  While searching for mole fabric, B got another idea.

He wanted to make a spider plushie (stuffed animal) for his teacher's new baby.  He was going to sew it.  I didn't figure he would actually sew it but I thought I'd give him a chance.  Plus, I didn't feel well enough to argue with him. I wanted to get home and get back in bed.  So, half a yard of purple fabric was his!  We already had to get stuffing for Sam's project, so he was good there.

I stayed in bed much of the rest of the day Saturday.  B used his time making his Valentine's Day box (not the alien from Ben 10 we'd planned on), playing with a new Makey Makey I won at my conference (more on this tomorrow) and starting on his spider.  He'd said at Joann's that it needed to be a cartoon-ish spider because his teacher was actually afraid of spiders.  By the time I got out of bed around 4:30 he'd already cut out the body and was attempting to sew it. 

Most of the time, in projects like this, I try to guide B, give him directions and help a little.  But I'm here to tell you, I had no intentions of sewing a spider plushie.  I figured one of two things would happen: 1. he'd get frustrated and we'd use fabric glue.  2. he'd get frustrated and give up.  Honestly, I was good either way.  I never expected choice number 3.

Ryan was watching the Olympics when B asked him to help.  Ryan's mom does a lot of sewing and B had decided "since you're from the sewing grandmother" he could help.  And he did!  Ryan sat on the couch, watching the Olympics and sewed the spider's round body.  I went back to bed in the meantime but I understand there was some discussion of making a head and a compromised reached of just making a body. 

Sunday afternoon, Sam was working on sewing his Chemistry mole and Ryan was still working on the spider.  Earlier in the day (again while I was still in bed with a nasty sinus infection) Ryan and B had discussed the spider's legs.  They settled on a very cartoonish 4 legs.  And Ryan was toiling away on those.  Sam had used the sewing machine (thank you Rae Harvill and her design theatre class for teaching him the sewing machine) for his mole. I offered to sew up the last two spider legs on the machine. Lickety split they were done.  Ryan was less than thrilled that he'd been toiling away sewing this blasted thing by hand. 

To feel like I had done my part, I offered to sew on the spider legs in a most cartoon-y fashion.  After receiving my instruction and oversight from B, I completed my work.  B used fabric glue to adhere the very cartoonish eyes and the spider was done!

B took the plushie to his teacher yesterday. She declared that it was cartoon-y enough to not scare her and that she loved it!  I loved the whole process.  I love that B swept Ryan up into his project.  The whole thing was really very sweet!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

White Lies

A new addition to B-man's vocabulary is 'white lie'.  He says it's a lie that doesn't hurt anyone. 

B is a truth teller. Don't ask him a question you don't want an honest answer to.  Don't ask him what he thinks of your new hair cut or your new outfit if you aren't prepared.   A couple of years ago, he spent the night with his aunt.  While they were making breakfast, he said "OK, I'll tell you! I ate the rest of the cookies before you got up!"

So, these white lies are very out of character for him.  But, here's the thing...he can't hold them.  He'll tell you everything is fine but by bed time he'll spill his guts about everything that happened. 

I always ask him if he has homework on our way home from school.  The other day, he told me he did not have any homework.  Then, later in evening he told me that his homework answer had been a white lie but that it was ok because he could do it later.  No way, dude, you've got to do it now.

Last week he told me he had disobeyed me three weeks ago.  I think he kept it in this long because I didn't suspect he'd done anything wrong and hadn't asked him about it.  It led to a good conversation about guilt and truth and trust. I told him that guilt is that feeling in his tummy that reminds him that what he did was wrong.  Ryan's told him that when you don't tell the truth, we can't trust him because we don't know what to believe.  We'll be guessing if what he is saying is true. 

I think this really hit home with him.  We'll see...he is still a 9 year old boy. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


I love lions.  It's starting to border on obsession.  I really, really want little lion statues to go at the front door.  Ryan has consistently vetoed this idea.  Bummer...

I went to college at East Texas State (now Texas A&M - Commerce) and we are the lions so I got my fill of lions in college.  I have 2 favorite lion statues on campus.  One year Panhellenic took pictures to show potential new members how to dress for recruitment.  I was super pumped to take a picture on my favorite lion. Enjoy this blast from the past...

In the fall I was able to go on a field trip with some 8th graders to Commerce.  I was so excited to see 'my lion'. But it was gone, the Victory Bell is in it's place. You can see where it used to be.  Seriously, if you know where the Class of 29 lion is, let me know.

I also love TAMUC's football field - it has a gigantic lion on it.

At the You Are conference, the lion took on a new meaning for me.  I began to really see God as a lion.  A lion who protects my family.  A lion who is fighting for me.  He is making a way for me!  It is so comforting.  At You Are, I was struggling with trusting God with my boys.  I was feeling like I had to do everything for them.  I had forgotten that God loves them even more that I do.  He is protecting my boys and making a way for them.  What a relief!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

5 Take Aways from Give and Take

My friend Greg Garner recommended Adam Grant's book Give and Take via Twitter a while back.  Since Greg is one of the smartest people I know, I immediately put it on my to be ordered list on Amazon.  I was finally able to read it in January.  It's an excellent book, that I highly recommend.  Here are my top 5 take aways.

1.  Grant tells the story of lots of interesting people but my favorite is Adam Rifkin. Rifkin is an amazing giver and he lives by the 5 minute favor.  "You should be willing to do something that will take you five minutes or less for anybody." Wow! I love this idea.  I just need to be better at assessing how long favors will take.  ;)

2. George Meyer is a comedy writer who has worked on Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons.  He's responsible for many of the words The Simpsons introduced us to.  My favorite is "meh".  Meyer's code of honor is "(1) Show up.  (2) Work hard.  (3) Be kind.  (4) Take the high road."

3. "a remarkable principle of giver burnout: it has less to do with amount of feedback about the impact of that giving." I believe this is a huge player in teacher burnout.  Educators don't always get to see the fruit of their labor. Especially middle school teachers. Finding a way see the impact of your work, no matter how small is so important.

4.  Grant describes givers, takers and matchers.  Obviously, takers are most toxic.  They are going to take what they want and not worry about the consequences.  Matchers work tit for tat.  If you help me, I'll help you type people.  I'm pretty good at spotting takers, it's matchers that trip me up.  I usually find out about them when it's too late.

5.  The single biggest take away for me is the idea of being 'otherish'.  I've always thought of myself as a giver but as I read the book, I compared myself to some of the people Grant profiled.  I was beginning to question if I was truly a giver or if I was a matcher.  It really bothered me.  My 'why' is service.  Serving someone doesn't mean serving only the people who can help you.  Then Grant presents 'otherish':
Being otherish means being willing to give more than you receive, but still keeping your own interests in sight, using them as a guide for choosing when, where, how and to whom you give.
So there I am.  I'm otherish.  I'm not even lying when I tell you, I breathed a sigh of relief.  I enjoyed this book. I loved learning about other people and how they became successful.  It helped me understand myself better.  And it will help me relate to those I serve better.  I highly recommend it!

You can watch Grant's TED talk about givers and takers here:

Thursday, February 1, 2018


My daddy was a collector.  He collected pocket knives.  He had a large curio cabinet full of them.  Daddy also collected pens.  And books - he loved Time Life books.  Maybe it was that he liked to shop.  He did love to order things off TV commercials - Jimmy Houston fishing glasses, a sandwich maker that made triangle shaped hot pockets, a piece of metal that thawed meat quickly and would melt an ice cube (that one he tried to get me to give my momma for Mother's Day - it did not end well).

Daddy also collected watches.  This Christmas Momma decided to give each of his grandsons one of his watches.  She let me pick which one Brennan would receive.  I picked one that he received as a Safety Award from Spring Valley Construction.

I can remember Daddy working for 3 construction companies during my life.  Spring Valley was the first I remember.  I really liked their green SV logo.  I was so proud every time I saw that SV on job sites around town.  Truth be told, I still do.  It makes me proud to think of all the buildings he help build.  And I'm proud of the way he treated those who worked with him.

Daddy's Spring Valley watch does work.  Momma tried to have it fixed but it basically needs to be rebuilt.  I told her it's not worth the money.  I keep it the watch on my bedside table.

My daddy has been dead 18 years today.  I miss him.  I'd really love to hug him some more.  I love how small I look in all our pictures together.  He was tall and just covered me up with his hugs.  When I put on his watch, I remember how big he was.  I love that the watch is a Safety Award.  He always made me feel safe.

Sometimes I can feel his hugs when Sam gives me a big hug.  They are very similar.  Gentle giants.  I actually see my daddy in all 3 of my boys.  Zac has his wry wit.  Quiet but sneakily funny.  B has his curiosity.  My daddy never stopped learning.

I miss him but I'm so thankful for the time I had with him.  I am thankful for his legacy that lives on through my boys.  And I'll always be proud when I see that SV logo.

Just for fun, here are some fun pictures of me and Daddy.  He worked in Denmark during my senior year in college.  One picture is the two of us at the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen.  The second is in Sweden.