Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Duck Dynasty Birthday Bash!

Up until a few months ago, I had somehow managed to live a Duck Dynasty free life. Blissfully unaware of what I was missing. No knowledge or care for the antics of Willy, Jace, Uncle Si, Phil or the rest of the gang of duck call millionaires.

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Internet Photo

Then, one fateful day in February, my sister posted on Facebook just how “Ha-Pay, Ha-Pay, Ha-Pay” she was that the new season of Duck Dynasty was starting that night. Duck what? I commented. What are you talking about?

She tried to explain but ultimately said “you just have to watch it for yourself”. I was hesitant as I am not a reality TV show watcher; House Hunters, House Hunters International and about a million cooking shows are as close as I get. But a show about millionaire rednecks? “It is so funny” she promised. Why not. Curiosity won out and my family and I tuned into Duck Dynasty for the very first time.

And you know what? We laughed.

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Internet Image

And laughed and laughed and laughed.

And watched about 9 straight episodes because it was funny and kind of like a train wreck where you just can’t seem to look away.

There was a lot to like and a lot to laugh at. Lots of funny one-liners, sibling rivalry and the antics of adult men who act like 10 year olds. An I am who I am and proud of it attitude and of course crazy Uncle Si and his wild stories and complete annihilation of the English language “I’m what some people call, hey cultured, ok? I’m like a fine stinky cheese”.

Cultured. Not exactly what I was thinking.

Actually, watching Duck Dynasty was a lot like being back in my husband’s small hometown in Indiana. Seriously, his little brother’s groomsmen had names like Meat and Cletus and Buck. I’m not making that up and I’m still hoping there was a nickname or two in there.

But “cultured” isn’t what Duck Dynasty is about and something I’m pretty sure those guys could care less about. In fact, the patriarch of the family, Phil “The Duck Commander”, would refer to anyone who is cultured (or lives in a sub-division) as a “yuppie”. And he doesn’t mean that in a good way.

What Duck Dynasty is about is family, faith, sticking together, praying together and loving each other no matter what. It’s about being comfortable with who you are and where you come from. It’s good clean fun and something I feel good about letting my kids watch. That is saying something these days.

And, it’s funny.

My nine-year-old in particular LOVES it so when it came time to start planning his birthday party, I thought how about a Duck Dynasty birthday party? FUN! He was all for it!

Here’s how it turned out …

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A Duck Dynasty Birthday Bash

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The birthday boy bearded up and ready to party!

The Invitations

I love to make my own invitations and always have a lot of fun trying to be clever. Don’t laugh at me but I use word … as in Microsoft Word. I do everything in Word, it is all I know. Not very sophisticated or computer savvy but effective enough.

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I put a cast photo from the internet at the bottom of the invitation and then folded over the top two-thirds, concealing the interior of the invitation. The Duck Commander logo, which I also found online, along with “You’re Invited” printed on brown cardstock and then adhered to the plain white “fold-over” completed the outside of the invitation.

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For the interior of the invitation, another internet picture – this time of Uncle Si with his famous “HEY JACK!” started things off just right. The rest of the invitation read …

HEY JACK!

IT’S A PARTY!

Ha-Pay, Ha-Pay, Ha-pay (which is what Phil always says and that’s how he says it Ha-pay) Birthday David!

Let me be more “pacific” … (remember how I said Uncle Si has a gift for completely butchering the English language?)

Where: On Brewer Land (something is always happening on Robertson Land which flashes on the screen regularly) with our address.

When: Date and Time

Come sharply dressed in your best cammo and bring a swimmin’ suit. And come hungry ’cause Miss Kay’ll (the family matriarch famous for her cooking, including some non-mainstream livin’ off the land type ingredients) be cookin’ up squirrels and frog’s legs.

RSVP to the Duck Commander at …

It is easy, fun and inexpensive to make your own invitations. If Microsoft Word and I can do it, believe me, you can too!

If you would like to print my invitation, you can do so by clicking the following links and then going into the text box(es) and changing the wording as you like.

Duck Dynasty Invitation Printable.

Duck Dynasty Invitation Front Art Printable.

The Decorations & Favors

I had a great time putting this party together. I love planning the decorations and decking out the dining room table. Our dining room has been adorned with many themes over the years … Spiderman, Princesses, Cowboys, Surfin’ at the Beach, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Thomas the Train, CARS, Artist easels and canvases and now … Duck Dynasty.

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We camo’d up for this one. I ordered duck blind fabric for the table-cloth and plastic camo netting for the background – which I hung from the chandelier.

Oh the things that have hung from that chandelier.

The wooden crates came from Michaels and added some elevation to the table scape. I like to make the cake the centerpiece of the table and then decorate around it.

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I printed up a lot of fun Duck Dynasty images from the internet and incorporated them into the design, along with a lot of swamp creatures and critters that I picked up at Michaels.

Here are the images I used along with a couple of funny quotes …

Duck Dynasty Party Image Printable

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This was the birthday wish on the cake. I mounted the photo and salutation on orange card stock, taped a drinking straw to the back and stuck it into the cake. Easy. Cheap. Awesome!

Here is the Printable Cake Topper – just go into the text box and change the “name” before you print.

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This is my favorite part. I found some of the funniest one-liners and quotes from the show, printed them out and hung them from the chandelier with raffia.

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I don’t care how cultured you are, that’s funny!

Especially to adolescent boys. Who are not cultured.

And their dads. Hmmmmmmm.

Okay, and me.

Here are the quotes if you would like to use them …

Duck Dynasty Funny Quotes Printable

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I have a confession. I’m funny about party favors. I like quality favors. It isn’t about how much you spend but quality is better than quantity; whether it is one cookie decorated in the party theme and wrapped adorably in a cellophane bag or a few items kids will actually play with. All of those little junky plastic piñata fillers make me crazy. Please don’t take offense to this. I’m not judging. I’m just saying that at my house, those little things end up in the garbage about 4.2 seconds after we walk in the door; sadly making their way to the nearest landfill. I know I’m not alone here.

The Duck Dynasty Party Favors

Nothing was very expensive but it all fit the theme well and hopefully will be useful and/or played with. And will avoid the landfill at least for a while.

Duck-Dynasty-Party-10I know my kids have been wearing beards and bandanas for days. And blowing duck calls.

Loud duck calls.

Okay maybe the plastic spinning tops that don’t spin and dog choking rubber bouncy balls aren’t so bad.

Click the items listed above for the link to purchase. If there is no link, they were not purchased on-line and were purchased at a party or craft store (Michaels or Hobby Lobby).

Additional Party Supply links …

Camo Party Supplies

Duck Dynasty Party Supplies

The Food

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Whenever I throw a party, I like to lay out all of the platters and serving dishes ahead of time and then put the items on them that they will be used for; well the non perishable ones anyway. That way I won’t be scrambling around at crunch time looking for service items. It frees me up to scramble around at crunch time in other ways.

It is either organization and good planning or OCD. Either way, it keeps me straight. And sane.

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I also like to make descriptive food “place cards”. Who am I kidding, I LOVE to make them.

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Especially when you can make them theme oriented and fun!

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The Duck Dynasty Party Menu

  • Gator Tail with spicy BBQ dip (grilled chicken skewers, gator tastes remarkably like chicken)
  • Miss Kay’s Boudin Sausage Bites with BBQ dip
  • Buffalo Style Frog’s Legs (curiously similar to hot wings)
  • Bayou Baked Beans
  • Pulled Pot o’ Squirrel (pulled pork in the crock-pot)
  • Swamp Grass (coleslaw – a must with pulled pork and soft rolls)
  • Caprese Salad, Yuppie Food
  • Watermelon and blueberries, arranged into “Pretty Yuppie Food”
  • BBQ chips, tortilla chips and salsa
  • Purple grapes
  • Veggie tray with carrots, grape tomatoes and sliced cucumbers
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Do you see my note pad and Sharpie there? My list is never far away. Nor is my Sharpie. I’m partial to orange at the moment.

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And of course, no Duck Dynasty Party would be complete without a big pitcher of Uncle Si’s famous (or infamous) iced tea.

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Only ours wasn’t sweet. Sorry all my southern friends, we’re Yankees – or south westerners at least. There’s no “sweet” in our tea.

Printable Menu Tag 1

Printable Menu Tag 2

The Cake

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I use this three-tiered stand a lot and decorate it according to theme. It is easier than a stacked cake and leaves more surface area for decorating. Of course we had to have ducks and a few beavers and their dam; which the Robertson men do battle with on a regular basis. I used stick pretzels to make reeds on the side of the green duck cake and to make the beaver dam on the chocolate cake.

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Which by the way was a Sugar-free/Gluten-free chocolate cake.

And it was delicious. And I got to have cake.

Ha-pay, Ha-pay, Ha-pay!

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I also put out a pecan bars and peanut butter and jelly bars.

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David loved the cake and that is what matters most!

And he got all nine candles out in one breath!

The Fun

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Well, cammo, bandanas and beards are fun of course! And Nathan is fun!

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And friends are fun!

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And water balloons are fun!

Duck-Dynasty-Water-BalloonsEspecially when you have to toss them to your partner without breaking them.

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And built-in entertainment is fun.

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And easy for mom and dad.

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We had also planned to do some duck target shooting with Nerf guns but as is always the case, the kids really just want to run around and play and swim. So that’s what we did.

Family, friends, food, fun, cake and presents.

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And a Duck Dynasty floor mat. The greatest gift ever.

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An attempt was even made to redecorate the entry hall.

Sadly, a line had to be drawn.

As a kid, I didn’t have big blow-out parties with thirty of my “closest” friends at giant expensive venues. Don’t get me wrong, those parties are just fine and great fun; we just did it a little differently. We did family parties at home and I loved it. Those are some of my favorite memories and that is how I approach birthdays now that I am the mom. I have done a few of the big venue parties but for the most part we stay at home, in the company of family and friends. And lots of food.

I hope my kids will one day look back with the same fondness that I do. I hope they too will have wonderful memories of the fun we had at home with the people we love.

And of how they were celebrated.

Happy, Happy, Happy Birthday David.

Note: The “printables” shared in this post contain images obtained from the internet and are not official Duck Dynasty merchandise or for sale in anyway. They were created for use at my son’s party and I am simply happy to share. There is a link in the post to official Duck Dynasty Party Merchandise.

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A Very Vintage Event

Before I write another word, I first have to express a very heartfelt thank you for all of the kind words, wishes, support and prayers we received after sharing Nathan’s autism diagnoses. God never leaves us alone in our journey and it is beautiful to be reminded of that. Nathan is very blessed and loved, as are we. Thank you!

Nathan-1I had to put this in because its just so darn cute! Do you ever wish you could have just one more moment with your “baby”? I love my big kid but every now and again I just really miss that baby; soft hair, chubby hands, quiet rocking, sweet snuggles … sigh.

Tangent alert. Sorry,

I know I haven’t been writing as much lately but I’ve been reminded of something recently … summers are busy.

Really busy.

Yes, there is a season to everything and summer, with all three kids at home going in three different directions, just isn’t writing season.

It isn’t just the kids that are busy though, I have also gotten busier but in a really fantastic way and I am excited to tell you about it.

A few months back I was asked by the head of our church’s Women’s Ministry to take over the events team. We are blessed to have a large church and thriving women’s ministry with many activities and events. Needless to say, it is a pretty big job. But it is also an incredible opportunity to serve the women of our church and I must say that I was very humbled and honored when Jodi asked if I would consider it. Women’s ministry has always been where my heart is and has always been where I have served. With three young kids and our focus on their needs and special needs, I have had to serve on a smaller scale but as I said before, to all things there is a season. Nathan will be starting Kindergarten this year and my plate won’t be quite as full.

God’s timing is perfect. I love that about Him.

So, after consideration and prayer, I happily accepted the job and immediately jumped into the first event or series of events as it were – the Spiritual Growth Summer Speaking Series.

My role for this four week event is food and hospitality … hard to imagine, right? My goal each week is to match the hospitality table, food and design with the personality of each speaker as I know three of the four speakers personally. I know I was lead in this direction as it gave me the opportunity to reflect on the very distinct style and unique gifting of each of these women. To consider what each has brought into my life and to pray over each of them as I plan and prepare. What a blessing it has been for me. What a blessing each of these women is to me.

The first week, my friend Christina spoke on living outside of yourself, outside of your comfort zone, truly giving God every part of you. She was so inspirational and is currently spending two weeks in Africa living her words. She is a blogger and mama to six and has gone to Africa with our missions team to chronicle the team’s work and the experience. I encourage you to visit her at The Lang Gang Loves and read about the incredible things God is doing in Malawi and in the hearts of all who are blessed to serve there.

The second week, Christina’s mom Candace was our speaker. I have had the pleasure and privilege of sharing bible study with this amazing woman of God. She is truly a Titus 2 woman and I have been deeply blessed by her nurturing and teaching heart. Her beautiful message of forgiveness and the freedom that comes with it was one so many of us needed to hear.

Last night, my sweet, sweet friend Kristin spoke on knowing and sharing Jesus Christ. This is a gifted and anointed woman who delivers a powerful message. Wow! I am still thinking on her words this morning.

So, three weeks into the events and it only took me two weeks and two events to realize that it might be nice to bring my camera along and share a bit of my new adventure in event planning here on my blog. I wish I could share the first two evenings with you but better late than never, right? So I’ll start with Kristin and last night’s event.

Kristin loves all things vintage, eclectic, shabby chic. I love those things too and was very excited to pull out some of my antique service pieces and my grandmother’s linens and lace.

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For the flowers, I filled jelly jars with Kristin’s favorite hydrangeas (sorry, I said hibiscus pre-edit), pink tipped white roses (which look very old-fashioned to me), small white mums, and sprays of little purple filler flowers. A larger bouquet of the roses complemented the smaller bouquets.

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I love fresh flowers and I love mixed bouquets.

A person’s favorite flower truly says so much about them.

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I decided to do “old-fashioned” treats and decided on a menu of Red Velvet and Coconut mini-cupcakes, my grandmother’s banana bread and pecan bars served alongside a refreshing platter of watermelon and blueberries and gorgeous bowls of juicy ripe strawberries.

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Watermelon-&-Blueberries

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The small seedless watermelons are great sliced in easy to hold wedges and present beautifully surrounding a mound of sweet fresh blueberries.

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Lace. Lace. Lace. I love handmade lace and am so thankful to have the ivory tatted lace from my grandmothers and great-grandmothers. It is so beautiful atop a white table-cloth.

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Or a black one.

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You can’t go wrong with a simple bowl of  fresh in-season strawberries. I knew there was a reason I couldn’t pass up that soup tureen with the missing lid on my last trip through my favorite antique store.

And now for the baked goods. I can’t eat them but I sure do love making them! I mentioned before that I wanted to serve old-fashioned treats so here’s what I came up with …

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Barefoot Contessa’s Pecan Bars

I make these every Christmas and can’t begin to describe to you how incredibly delicious they are. If I were going to fall off the gluten-free/sugar-free wagon with reckless abandon, I would fall into this plate of Pecan Bars. The honey and orange zest and rich shortbread crust are what make them so special.

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As you may have read before, I love Ina (the Barefoot Contessa) and use her recipes all the time. They always come out perfectly and are certain to be crowd pleasers. Here I made her Red Velvet and Coconut cupcakes in mini-version.

And I made a lot of them.

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I also made my grandmother’s banana bread. It doesn’t get any more old-fashioned than that and you can’t go wrong with her recipes either!

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I didn’t make it into the tea sandwiches this time as I had quite a bit of frosting and richness on the table already. The simple fingers of moist delicious banana bread were perfect just as they were.

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And there you have it, a Very Vintage Event. It was a blessed and wonderful evening. I am looking forward to sharing more “events” with you but for now, I need to get going as we are having a big event at the Hacienda and I’ve got to get busy.

I told you that my boy turned nine a few weeks back, well his party is tomorrow and we’ll be gettin’ our “redneck” on with a Duck Dynasty bash. It’s gonna’ be a party, Jack!

Only in my world do we go from vintage elegance to Duck Dynasty in the same week!

In Real Life, There is Autism

I know, I promised you food this week. I’m sorry. I also had wanted to share a little bit more about the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) plan that has been such a gift in my life and has changed my eating and health so dramatically in the past month. But each time I sat down to write the easy stuff, God reminds me that there is something more important.

He does that to me a lot.

I pray for the words and He steers me in a direction that I don’t always want to go. Stubbornly, I fight to go my own way and write what I want, what is easier, and ultimately find that I can’t write another word until I have surrendered and written what He has for me.

He has given me the love blogging and storytelling because He has a story He wants me to tell.

It is a joy and a pleasure to write about daily life around the Hacienda, to share good food and recipes and to connect with other bloggers and readers. It has never felt strange or wrong for me to put my family and my life “out there”. I felt such a leading to do so when I started this blog that I had no fear or hesitation.

After all, how can you write a blog about good company and creating community from behind a closed-door?

I trust God with our story. With the sharing of it and with the direction He takes it.

And while I struggle with it sometimes, I know that sharing our story means sharing more than just the fun stuff, or the yummy stuff, or the easy stuff. It means sharing the real stuff too.

Real life.

And in real life, there is Autism.

This past week, our sweet boy Nathan was diagnosed with autism.

Nathan. Autism.

Nathan has autism.

Nathan is autistic.

I think that may be the first time I have truly put those words together.

So, there is no easy this week. In my head and on my heart, there is only autism. Hours of reading and research already. And prayer.

How did I not see this? What did I miss?

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Nathan, autistic? But he makes eye contact, he is funny and engaging, he has a sense of humor and is full of life and personality. He is social and happy and doesn’t throw huge fits or tantrums. He connects. He is kind and empathetic, loves animals and small children. He is talking now and telling stories and plays imaginatively and independently.

He is all of those things and more. And he is also autistic. I didn’t see it.

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I have read some incredible blogs in the last several days, written by mamas with autistic children. I tell you what, you can read all of the clinical information you want but if you really want to know something, read the words of a mama who lives it everyday. Their stories are both similar and unique but the universal theme that runs through each is  … “I knew something was wrong.”

I knew something was wrong at six months, twelve months at the very least by two. I knew something was different.

I didn’t. I didn’t know. At least not that early.

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As an infant, my son did not display many of the things I have read about. He made eye contact, he tracked, he smiled and laughed and responded to us in all of the right ways. He loved to be held and cuddled and snuggled.

What did I miss? What did I dismiss? I have racked my brain thinking back.

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He had a very sensitive startle reaction (he would cry every time Gary sneezed – it’s a loud sneeze, but still), he hated tummy time, he walked at 10 months but didn’t talk until after 16, he was a tip-toe walker, he couldn’t tolerate loud noises and was very sensitive to sound. But that’s it and except for a sensitive tummy and some digestive issues, he was an easy baby; a great sleeper, not overly fussy, happy and content. We considered ourselves fortunate as he had been methamphetamine exposed the majority of his birth mother’s pregnancy and despite a rough start, was absolutely thriving.

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As a toddler, we were concerned about his delayed speech so we set up early intervention services for him and he had speech and language therapy for a year. He was displaying some rigid behaviors and inflexibility and had a need for control and had some obsessive “quirks” but truthfully, that describes me too (I’m getting better, truly  I am) and it was all easily managed. He otherwise continued to be the happy, healthy, delightful little guy who was advanced in so many other ways. He blew us away with his early ability to focus on and figure things out, to do complicated puzzles, find hidden pictures with little effort. He was a mover and a shaker.

Nathan-6Truthfully, my husband noticed more than I did. I remember him saying “have you noticed how his cars always have to be lined up perfectly and are always arranged by color? Do you see how upset he gets when he can’t get things to work just how he wants or when things are moved around or messed up? His temper concerns me a little.”

I would dismiss it saying, “oh he just has a bit of a temper and he likes to have things just so.” Now, it sounds so obvious. Why does hindsight always sound so obvious.

In retrospect, there were whispers of concern in the back of my mind and I even read a bit about Autism but so many things didn’t fit that I just put it away and dismissed it.

I didn’t read enough.

It wasn’t until pre-school that we started noticing social difficulties and trouble relating with peers. He was easily overwhelmed and overstimulated in a large groups of children. He could be aggressive and was often too rough. We had him in a Montessori type of pre-school setting and it was a disaster for him. It was his sweet teacher who finally pulled me aside and said very honestly “I don’t know how to work with him. I love him and I want what is best for him but I don’t think he is getting what he needs here.” That was the first “bubble burst” and prompted an initial round of testing last fall and my first true inclination that something wasn’t quite right.

The testing we had done was academic and behavioral as it related to an academic setting. His cognitive levels were off the charts. I will never forget the testing process or the amazement of the testing administrator as she would place a series of picture cards in front of him in a particular order, telling him he had several seconds to look at them before she would take them, mix them up and give them back to him for him to put in order again. He would barely glance at them and then shove them back to her, look right at her and say “I ready”. Wanting an accurate test result, she would say, no, Nathan, you can take a little more time.

“No, I ready.”

So she gave him back the cards and in a matter of seconds they were all in exactly the same order she had initially placed them.

The pictures got more and more complicated but the results were the same.

“I ready.”

Eventually, she ran out of cards. “I don’t have any higher level tests with me to give him, we don’t usually need them at this type of testing.”

Concern came when she would give him auditory tests like a simple sequence of words or numbers and ask him to repeat them.

“Nathan, can you please repeat these numbers for me. One. Eight. Four. Two. Six.”

“One. Eight. Four …… what dat nex one? Mommy, what dat nex one. I dohn no.”

And then he would refuse to do it at all because he knew he couldn’t.

Precious boy.

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And so the testing continued and we eventually ended up with a diagnoses of Expressive Language Delay and Sensory Processing Disorder and an IEP including speech and language and behavioral and social goals.

Still no Autism anywhere on the radar.

His diagnoses qualified him for specialized services and we enrolled him in a special needs pre-school. He did much better in a setting with only 11 other children a teacher and three aides but he still struggled and our concern grew, especially with kindergarten and a mainstream classroom of 28 kids on the horizon. So, I made an appointment with Wendy, our older son David’s incredible behavioral health caseworker whose expertise and opinion I value greatly. Her evaluation led us to the office of the Child Psychiatrist who observed and interacted with Nathan, reviewed his IEP, asked me just the right questions and then leaned forward, looked at me and said “you aren’t going to like me but your son has autism.”

And there it was. Autism. Your son has autism.

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I took in what he said as I held my wiggly five-year-old in my arms. Innocent and unaware of what was hanging in the air. Impatiently rubbing my face and poking at me to get my attention; “mommy I ready to go home. We go home now.”

We went home and I began reading. I wasn’t convinced. So much didn’t fit.

And then I read about High-Functioning Autism and a picture perfect profile of my son began to emerge from the pages. The pieces came together and they did fit. Autism.

Because he didn’t fit the typical signs of Autism, it was easy to dismiss and to simply assume he was just a bit type-A; believe me, type-A is familiar around here. We accepted the “unique” and incredible things he did as a sign that he was probably gifted and advanced. We were dealing with his speech issues and used a lot of signing to communicate with him. We were patient, certain the speech would come with time.

What we dismissed as just personality, a bit of OCD and a little quirkiness were truly the signs of high functioning autism. We just didn’t know enough about it to suspect it. Or we didn’t want to see it.

I didn’t want to see it.

In the book “Children with High-Functioning Autism” author Claire E. Hughes-Lynch talks about her journey with her own daughter’s diagnoses; “I can look back now and say, ‘Ahhhh, so that was the autism coming out.’ But at the time … I have backgrounds in both gifted education and special education, and my gifted education experience means I tend to look at kids from a strengths-based perspective. I see things that could be the germ of a talent or activities that show promise of great thinking … I tend not to look at things from a deficit view.”

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This really resonated with me. I have always been amazed by my son and chose to focus only on the strengths and great thinking that I saw in him. I found ways to explain away the other things I saw.

In hind sight, I think we missed some of the signs with Nathan because we were dealing with so much with Sara and David. They had come back to us when Nathan was about 18 months old and we had hit the ground running with their healing and trauma therapy. Nathan was our “normal” kid … whatever that means. Sara and David’s psychological wounds and needs were so extreme that I’m pretty sure I just didn’t have it in me to handle the realization that something could be wrong with my precious baby too.

That isn’t pretty but it is real and it is honest.

God’s timing amazes me. Always. But never more so than now. He restored our family at exactly the time He intended. He knew that we would walk with Sara and David through some very dark and terrifying places in the process of their healing and restoration. He knew that they were going to need every bit of us for that journey.

He also knew that it would ultimately be the end of me.

My reliance on Him who sustains, restores, redeems and strengthens me made absolute under the weight of my own weakness.

Complete surrender.

Then, and only then, would I be ready to hear and accept the words “your son has autism”.

For my strength is made perfect in weakness.

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My son has autism.

My son has autism and he is still the exact same funny, sweet, incredible little boy he was before the word ever entered our lives. In fact, so many of the things that I love about him, the things that make him unique, that make him Nathan, are the “autistic things”. He is wired differently, yes. But he is fearfully and wonderfully made. Created perfectly for the work God has for him to do.

He is truly a gift. He came to us in such a miraculous way and I have always been so thankful to God for entrusting me to be his mama. But now more than ever before, I am humbled and grateful that my husband and I have the privilege of raising this precious boy.

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My son has autism and he will always know love and acceptance and the promise and hope his future holds.

My son has autism. And it’s okay. That is real life.

God has a beautiful plan for him and we will be blessed to watch it unfold. I hope you will join us for the journey ahead.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Summertime and the Schedule is Craaaazy!

C.R.A.Z.Y. Soon we will get into our summer groove though and the livin’ will be easy as it should be. This first couple of weeks has been an adjustment and my beloved routine is all out of whack. With all three blessings home or headed to numerous camps and activities, I am busy and running in three different directions at once.

My blogging routine is non-existent and may have to switch to more of a Tuesday/Thursday posting with a Saturday thrown in here or there. A lot of healthy, yummy things have been happening in my kitchen and I am eager to share; so hang in there with me. I promise to have some fun stuff up soon.

Regrettably, not a lot of yumminess has happened on the baking front as I am still learning to work without sugar and am being very picky about an authentic flavor. I am turning into a bit of a mad scientist and doing a lot of research on combining natural sugar substitutes in an effort to get far, far away from the bitter aftertaste that leaves me wanting to scrub my tongue with lye. Okay, well that may be a bit of an exaggeration but you didn’t try the gluten-free/sugar-free carrot cake I made the other day.

It was pretty. But awful.

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Pretty awful.

In small doses, like muffin in a mug or the cake in a mug I am now loving (and will share), Stevia is fine. A wonderful alternative to sugar. On a larger scale when much more is needed, bad things seem to happen. Well at least bitter and yucky things.

Thankfully, all is not lost.

Not with Salmon Tacos, Portobello Sliders, Trimmed-Up Broccoli Salad, Cheeseburger Pie, Italian Sausage and Vegetable Gratin and a gorgeous Greek Appetizer Platter just waiting to be written up and posted.

Starting next week. I promise!

For now, I’m off again to pick my girl up from theater camp. I would have gotten this post out earlier but I had an important movie date with my littlest. Ironically, we went to see The Croods, which was perfectly suited for my little caveman. Who, while waiting for me to finish writing, has made a tent under the dining room table out of my grandmother’s antique linen table-cloth that I had out for photos.

Caveman.

One last thing, my middle guy turned nine yesterday. NINE.

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I was so busy getting he and his dad ready to leave for Cub Scout Camp that I didn’t have a chance to post a proper Happy Birthday! He was so excited about his first big Cub Scout Campout. Four days of fun and adventure with Scouts from all over the valley.

And with his dad.

Which is the best birthday present ever!

Happy-Birthday-DavidHe even got a birthday can of coke for the road. Trust me, that is a BIG treat in his world. They called me from camp last night just before bed and I could tell how happy and excited he was. The whole camp sang happy birthday to him and my heart was full knowing he felt special and would soon fall asleep, exhausted, with a big smile on his face; a whole day of adventure ahead of him.

His official birthday party is just a few weekends away. I have been busy planning and will be sure to share photos and tell you all about it. The theme? I’ll give you a hint …

It’s gonna’ be a party, JACK!

Can you guess? Anybody?

Quack!

Good Girl Moonshine

So, a few days ago, I revealed a few big lifestyle changes to you. If you didn’t read that post, no, I am not joining the circus, dying my hair purple or taking a year-long sabbatical from my life to backpack through Europe to find myself.

Please.

This is far more shocking.

I have gone gluten and sugar-free.

Gasp. I know, shocking.

But surprisingly, not as hard as you might think.

And before you traditionalists go running for the hills, stick with me. I promise there will still be regular stuff too and you might find a few strange new things you’d like to give a try.

Strange new things.

Boy have I got something for you today!

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research and much of the inspiration for the change (the change – that sounds so ominous) comes from the book Trim Healthy Mama by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett. If you are interested in making … “the change” … or just some changes in your diet or learning more about some incredible super foods and healthy additions to your eating habits, I HIGHLY encourage you to invest some time in this book – it is 600+ pages but it is filled with some eye-opening and thought-provoking stuff!

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I hate and hesitate to call it a diet because it really is a lifestyle change (I know, cliché’ – but true) and should be a focus on health and wellbeing rather than just on losing weight. That being said, a healthy weight is foundational to a healthy life and I must tell you that in two weeks of following this plan and making these changes, I am down a full size and am starting to see the healthy athletic shape I know and love emerging from the layer of over-indulgence that has been hiding it for too long.

I can’t tell you how much actual weight I have lost because I HATE scales and won’t step foot on one unless dragged onto it completely against my will. I close my eyes and plug my ears at the doctor’s office just in case the nurse can’t help but let out a gasp or tsk! tsk! when the dreaded number flashes red across the tiny display window that somehow feels more like the Times Square JumboTron.

I believe that sort of behavior is often referred to as denial.

Making “the change” is enough for me. I don’t need to know the numbers. At least not until they are in a range that won’t put me in bed with the covers over my head. For the time being, I’ll continue to cling to my quirks and idiosyncrasies, thank you.

Denial.

I can’t wait to tell you a bit more about what I’m learning about a GF/SF lifestyle and some of the incredible super foods I had no idea were out there; but today, it is all about moonshine.

Yup. MOONSHINE.

But this moonshine is for good girls. And guys. No backwoods distillery required. Baptist approved. I read that somewhere and couldn’t resist.

This drink has quickly become a favorite for me. And I must say, it was an unlikely favorite because, well, when you read the ingredients, it really just sounds kind of gross.

But that was before I tried it and got hooked. Now I can’t get enough of it. Truly, it is tasty, tart, refreshing, has a bit of a bite and as far as I’m concerned gives the best lemonade a run for its money. Even my beloved lemonade and Prosecco. I can’t believe I just said that. But it’s true.

Intrigued?

Here goes …

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Good Girl Moon Shine

This is a recipe developed and posted by Serene Allison, co-author of Trim Healthy Mama. I have added my own “tweaks” too. Play around with it and see how it tastes best to you.

Ingredients

Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar, Ginger (fresh or powdered), Stevia Sweetener, Water, Ice.

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Directions

Fill a quart sized jar with water and ice.

Add  a generous drizzle of raw apple cider vinegar. The original recipe suggests 1-2 Tbsp. but I add 3-4 Tbsp. Yes, it has a bite. I like that. Just ask anyone who has ever had my coffee.

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Sorry, in the picture I did the ginger first.

Now, add 1 tsp. of  ginger powder (found in the bulk food section at Whole Foods  Market). This is from the original recipe. I like to put in fresh ginger, grated on a microplane so that it has a stronger ginger flavor. I grate in about a 1 inch knob.

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Sweeten by adding a few shakes of Nustevia Pure Extract Powder to taste. I only use 3-4 shakes because I don’t like things too sweet but you can play with  sweetness and try more. If you use Truvia – try 3-5 tsp. Again this is from the original recipe. I like to put in 10 drops of Stevia liquid.

Put the lid on and give it a good shake and then enjoy.

But not with a straw unless you like sucking up little bits of grated ginger. I just swig it straight from the mason jar. Moonshine style.

I know you guys are thinking I’m crazy, probably for many reasons at this point, but this stuff really is good. And just listen to what Serene has to say about the healthful properties and benefits of ginger and apple cider vinegar …

“Since I have been enjoying such copious amounts of my new favorite drink, I decided to do some studies about ginger. What do you know? I read that ginger actually dulls the appetite. But, I noticed this first hand before I even read this merit of ginger. Ginger heats up the thermogenic temperature of the body the metabolism which gives a double punch alongside apple cider vinegar’s own weight loss talents.

Ginger is a potent digestive aid and fires up the digestive juices. It reduces flatulence and eases tummy cramps. It improves the absorption and assimilation of essential nutrients in the body. Ginger clears the micro-circulatory channels of the body including the easily clogged sinuses. It clears throat and nose congestion and is a wonderful immune stimulant along with apple cider vinegar. Ginger is up at the top of the list with the most potent anti-inflammatory supplements on God’s green earth and can relieve common aches and pains and even help with more serious arthritic conditions.

Here are just some of the goodies Apple Cider Vinegar offers you:

It is abundant in potassium which is imperative for growth and building muscles, the transmission of nerve impulses, heart activity and preventing brittle teeth and hair loss. It encourages weight loss by breaking down fats to be used instead of stored in your adipose tissue. It is loaded with acetic acid which slows the digestion of starch and lowers the rise in glucose levels that occur post mealtime. It is anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial due to its high levels of malic acid. It is super alkalinizing though being rich in ash. It lowers bad cholesterol and helps to regulate blood pressure. It is a powerful detox tool and improves bowel function. It clarifies the skin. New research reveals it shows strength in killing cancer cells or slowing their growth.” Read more here.

I don’t know about you but … sign me up! In addition to the weight I’ve lost, I also no longer have any joint pain or inflammation. Not any. And I was having a lot.

More moonshine please.

I know it also has a lot to do with dumping the gluten and sugar but I’ll have some more moonshine anyhow.

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I spend a lot of time poolside in the summer because it’s hot and my kids are fish. This has become my poolside drink of choice – it is that refreshing.

And I like drinking “moonshine” from a mason jar.

Just a couple of disclaimers before I go …

One. As you know, I am not a doctor, nutritionist, dietician or expert in any way. I just read a lot (which is something like “I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV”) and know that this tastes really good and I feel better. Do some reading and research and decide for yourself.

Two. My husband absolutely hates this stuff and refuses to drink it. He likes to call it snake oil. But that is only because he is picky and because he thinks he’s hilarious.

Jokes on him. He’ll see when I’m running a marathon like a 20-year-old. Okay, well that’s never going to happen – I’ve done a marathon before. Never again. Never. I’ll have to come up with something else to convince him to try the moonshine again. He’s gotten used to my coffee after all.

Be brave. Give it a try and run a marathon or hangout by the pool. Your choice.

Either way, enjoy!

And let me know what you think. I just have to know!