Category Archives: Motherhood

I am mom to three (Sara, David and Nathan) and it is quite and adventure!

Catching Up

Nathan-Calendar-1

Nathan’s 2014 Calendar – I love these calendars the kids make at school and will be so sad when the year comes that they are all too big to make them anymore.

I’d say it’s about time we do a little catching up.

No, I have not given up blogging.

No, I was not kidnapped by Aliens.

No, I did not move to the south of France to hide away from the world. Although some days, that is still on the table.

We have had a pretty challenging couple of months with some big losses in our family and my heart has been processing it all. Throw in a couple big holidays and a birthday and this unprepared lady just had no time to write or visit my favorite blogs.

I’ve missed you guys.

In early November, we received a call that my father-in-law, who had been battling cancer for last 10 years, was being moved to Hospice care with only a few days to a week before it would be his time. My husband immediately hopped on a plane to be by his dad’s side. Proving that he is absolutely the toughest guy I know, dad fought to live for another three weeks. I am so thankful my husband was able to spend most of that time by his dad’s side. After dad’s passing, our whole family flew out to say goodbye to grandpa. Well, goodbye for now anyway. We know he’s saving us a place at the best fishing hole around.

We stayed with our family in Indiana for a bittersweet but very blessed Thanksgiving.

While in Indiana, we were also able to squeeze in a trip to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis…

Sara was off with her cousins so I only have boy pictures and boy did they have a great time! True to their nature, David loved the history and “fact” finding opportunities and Nathan was all hands on energy. We only lost him once. He knew where we were and was evading. Nearly every gray hair I have is his doing. Nearly. They aren’t all his fault but I’m still sending him the cumulative salon bill someday anyway.

It was hard to leave grandma Judy and the family, the big blue Victorian house, the crisp fall air, the falling leaves, the warm fire and the quiet time.

We love you grandpa and we will miss you everyday. Until we meet again.

After getting home from Indiana, there was not a moment to waste getting ready for Christmas. Christmas cards and letters, decorating, shopping, baking, teacher, neighbor and co-worker gifts, brunch, parties and even a Women’s Ministry event thrown in for good measure! Thankfully, my trusty staff was on hand to help – see picture below., way below.

Oh, and a Birthday to celebrate too!

Happy Birthday, Sara!! One year from now,  we’ll have a teenager. Actually, less than a year from NOW.  Gulp.

Sara's-Birthday-2

We try very hard to keep her birthday separate from Christmas and just celebrate her. With all that had gone on and all of the “Christmas catch-up” I had to do, Sara was very gracious about having a simple, low-key celebration this year. Low-key was officially supposed to come next year as the last of the “big” parties is sixth grade; says the parental management team. With the exception of Sweet 16 of course.

Instead of a big party, we decided it would be just as much fun to take her and as many friends as I could safely fit in the van to Jump Street where they could trampoline themselves to their hearts content.

Fun. Did I say fun? Oh my will I have to tell you all about it some time. For now, I will just let you imagine a half an hour in a car with six 11-12 year old girls, too many cell phones, too much perfume, lip-gloss and nail polish (all of which were opened, sprayed, dripped and gooped in my car at least once) and far too many pre-teen hormones. They are fun in groups of three or less. Anymore than that and a pack mentality seems to set in. A half an hour EACH WAY. Did I mention that.

Sara's-Birthday-1

We do have a special birthday tradition just for her that we never miss. Every year, on her birthday, we take her out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and give her all of her gifts from the family. It is always a special evening and she loves it.  This year’s coveted birthday items – crazy knee socks, floral combat boots and anything with a moustache print on it.

Sara's-Birthday-3

Nope, I wasn’t kidding. Don’t ask me?? If it is safe, appropriate and makes her happy, I don’t question.

One day soon, I will do a series of posts on some of the kids’ past parties. We’ve had some fun ones! For now you can check out the two I have posted; David’s Duck Dynasty Bash and Nathan’s Despicable Me Party.

In other news, Noodles the Elf on the Shelf was back for the Christmas Season so there was much Elf Management to be done …

The Elf Management team wasn’t quite as creative as last year but we got the job done. Mostly. When you have a six year old who misses nothing and wakes up instantly hyper-focused on a mission to find the elf, it can be complicated if the elf has not in fact been moved because management was dragging into bed at 1am and … gasp … forgot. “Oh, no someone must have touched the elf” came in handy more than once.

And then, all too soon, it was Christmas …

I love Christmas. Everything about it. Next year, my goal is to have posts ready ahead of time so I don’t miss sharing this wonderful season with my blogging friends. Unless you are prepared in advance, It is just too hard to write and keep up with all of the “busy” while desperately trying maintain focus on what truly matters. Lesson learned.

Desperately busy. Which leads me to December 26th and hibernation. I am an extrovert who becomes an introvert for about two weeks a year; December 26th until the day the kids go back to school.  I’m done. Finished. Spent. Turtle in her introverted shell. I may stay in my PJs all day. I may watch movies with the kids all day. In my PJs. ALL DAY. For many days.

Needless to say, I am not a New Year’s party girl. Well, I’m not really a party girl at all (anymore – for any of my college friends who might be reading) unless it is a dinner party or a birthday party or there’s cake. You know what I mean.

New Year’s Day consisted of bike riding and a picnic out back oh, and we did share the week with one very special and adorable house guest “Buster” or “Sassy McNoodle” as we like to call him.

And New Year’s Eve?

Nathan-Chillin'

Well this is about as exciting as it gets around here folks! H.I.B.E.R.N.A.T.I.O.N. Only one kid made it to midnight. I’ll give you one guess. Yup. The youngest. Party animal – just look at that face.

JanuaryAnd so, here it is the middle of January and sadly, 2014 has not had an easy start. We just returned from Oklahoma after saying goodbye to Gary’s incredible cousin Mike who passed away just after the New Year. I will tell you about Mike sometime as I will tell you about dad. For now, I will just share this from a card that was sent to us by Gary’s uncle Chuck after dad’s passing …

My prayer for you is a little light in the midst of this darkness. “We will never be the same as we were before this loss, but are ever so much better for having had something so great to lose.” – Leigh

Cousin-Mike-1

Indeed we are. And we are grateful to the God who loves and sustains us and we praise Him in all things. We trust in Him an look to Him for comfort even when we can’t find understanding.

Boomer-Sooner!

This one’s for you cousin Mike – Boomer Sooner!

Yes, it has been a difficult and busy few months for our family but we are moving forward and I am so glad you and I are finally catching up. Thank you for hanging in there with me and for your readership and friendship. A special welcome to the new visitors who have stopped by and the readers who have so graciously followed Welcome Company. I have a long list of recipes, ideas, plans for the Hacienda, stories to share and adventures to come.

I am looking forward to all that 2014 will bring.

I hope each and everyone of you had a wonderful holiday and got some time of your own to “hibernate” with those you love most. May 2014 be a year of blessing, adventure, friendship, family and fun. And may we be thankful to the God who loves us in all that may come.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

Blessings my friends!

 

Pumpkin Bread and Other Things I LOVE About Fall

I think there are many reasons I love fall. The reprieve from the intense heat of summer. The colors. The hint of fun and joyful family time to come. Things seem to slow down or have the illusion of slowing down, anyway. So many things that make it a favorite time of year.

Pumpkin-Decor-3

Pumpkins. Pumkins, pumkins, pumpkins.

Bowl-of-Apples

Crisp Apples. Apple Crisp. Apple Dumplings. Apple Pie. Homemade Applesauce.

Our home, decorated in the rich and vibrant colors of the season. Warm and inviting.

Gardening and potting flowers. I know, only in Arizona. Our reward for surviving the summer.

Carving Pumpkins. Halloween Parties. Trick-or-Treating. Marshmallow Ghost Peeps. Ninja Turtles, Skeletons, Zom-Bees and Zombies.

Fall-Decor-3

Thanksgiving right around the corner.

Pumpkin-Bread-and-Coffee

And Pumpkin Bread. Not just any pumpkin bread, the best pumpkin bread ever.

E.V.E.R.

Well we think so anyway.

Here is the recipe, originally posted last fall …

Real Good” Pumpkin Bread.

One of my very first posts in fact. And while a few things have changed since then, like the fact that I don’t eat sugar or much wheat anymore, it is still one of my favorite things to make as a treat for the rest of my family or a gift for someone special.

I have found some pretty tasty gluten and sugar free pumpkin recipes but there is really no substitute. Thankfully, I still enjoy the incredible aroma that fills the house with each loaf.

Okay, and a little taste once in a while.

Okay, and I ate a mini-Baby Ruth or two out of the kid’s Halloween Candy. Mostly sugar and gluten free. Mostly.

Happy fall, everyone!

Now go make some Pumpkin Bread!

And watch out for Zom-Bees.

They love Pumpkin Bread you know.

 

Assemble the Minions! We’re Celebrating “Despicable Me” Style!

We recently celebrated my “baby’s” 6th Birthday.

Yes, my littlest love is now 6 and no, I have no idea where the time has gone.

He is one funny kid, this one – all three stooges in one little body as we like to say. He has an exuberance for life that takes my breath away. Usually because I am constantly running after him in 100 different directions at once. And such a sweet and fun loving spirit. Planning his parties is always a joy!

For the longest time he wanted this birthday party to have a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme and I had gone to sleep many nights with ideas and thoughts of turning giant crime stopping, smack talking martial artist turtles and their rodent sensei into a party.

And then we saw Despicable Me 2 this summer and, as it so often is with kids, everything changed. After that, I went to sleep with ideas and thoughts of turning a Ukrainian (I’m guessing) accented super villain, three sassy little girls and the most ridiculously adorable little yellow minions into a party.

In the end, it was really the minions who stole the show, as it is in the movies. Nathan LOVES the minions and belly laughed so hard at their antics that he had the entire theater laughing along with him. It is one of the things I love most about this kid, his exuberance.

You’re invited now to come on in and see how we celebrated this incredible little person … Despicable Me Style!

The Invitation

Minion-Birthday-Invitation

In my last party post, A Duck Dynasty Birthday Bash, I told you that I love to design my own invitations. Images from the internet make it easy and fun to customize your own invite in whatever theme you’ve chosen.

If you would like to use my invitation, you will find the printable here … Minion Birthday Party Invitation Printable. You can easily go into the text boxes and customize the invitation for your party. I printed my invitations on plain white card stock.

Welcome to the party …

Front-Door-Minions

The Party “Welcome Sign” on the front door, if you can call all of Gru’s rules welcoming, is a fun way to greet guests and let them know they are at the right place.

Minion-Front-Door-Sign-Cons

I printed up the images on white cardstock, mounted them on poster board and then attached them together with paperclips that I had bent and twisted into submission.

Minion-in-the-Window

I also had a couple of friendly minions welcoming guests through the windows.

Printables …

Minion Door Hanger

Gru’s Rules

Waving Minion

Window Minions

The Favors

I kept the party favors pretty simple. Disposable cake decorating bags make great gift and favor bags (they are also great for hot chocolate treats – I’ll share that fun project with you as we get closer to the holidays).

I just filled the bags with a little candy and then topped each one off with a Minion and tied the tops with ribbon.

The Minion Figures were purchased through Amazon; Option 1Option 2.

Gru made a “Freeze Ray” for each child, just like his. Well, almost like his. The didn’t actually have the capability to freeze anyone, which was probably for the best. But they did squirt water, which is something.

Freeze-Rays-1

Freeze-Rays-2

The “Freeze Ray” Printable can be found here – Despicable Me Party Signs.

The Food

Despicable-Me-Party-3

Despicable Me 2 Spoiler Alert! Eduardo Perez comes off as a friendly restaurant proprietor known for his famous but very secret salsa. BUT could he actually be the despicable villain El Macho; long thought dead? Hmmmmm …

Despicable-Me-Party-2

Whomever he truly is, he inspired the “Taste of Mexico” menu for our party!

  • Blue and Yellow Corn Chips
  • Salsa (of course), Sour Cream and Guacamole
  • Queso Cheese Dip (just Velveeta and Rotel Tomatoes melted in the crock pot).
  • Taquitos and Quesadillas (served on the white platters shown above).
  • And grapes and watermelon wedges – always a kid favorite!

An easy but festive, kid friendly menu!

El Macho and Salsa & Salsa Sign Printables.

Party-Beverage-Station

The drink station included water, lemonade and iced tea for the parents. I love to put orange slices in my iced tea and a few lemon slices always jazz up a pitcher or container of lemonade!

Now for the best part … cake!

The Minion Cupcakes

Floating all over Pinterest is this great idea for turning Twinkies into Minions. It couldn’t have been simpler. Make your favorite cupcakes (I made vanilla cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes) and frost them with blue butter cream. I put the frosting in a pastry bag, snip off the end and swirl it on. Cut the Twinkies in half and with ready made frosting tubes, put on the eyes (Wilton now makes candy eyes that you can find at the grocery store) add different funny expressions and hair and then place a Twinkie Minion atop each cupcake. I had a few more cupcakes than Twinkie Minions so I frosted those yellow and sprinkled them with blue sugar for a little variety.

Minion-Cupcakes-8For the cake topper, I added text to an image from the internet, printed it out on white cardstock and the mounted it on yellow cardstock. I taped two of the yellow striped drinking straws to the back and stuck it into the cupcakes.

Minion-Cupcakes-9

A few candles and the Minion Fireman (“be-doh, be-doh, be-doh”) to keep everything in line and the cupcake tower was complete.

Yes I had far to much fun coming up with Minion hairstyles. Do you see the comb-over in the back on the left? That is really my best work.

Minion Birthday Greeting Cake Topper Printable.

Shrunken Moon Bites (donut holes dipped in white chocolate – if you are really ambitious you could do these as cake pops), Coco-Nutties (Vector’s favorite cookie – conveniently purchased at the grocery store), an Ice Cream Cone station and a dog “food” bowl (just like in the movie) filled with candy finished out the treat table.

Despicable Me Party Food Printable.

Despicable Me Lunch Plates, Cake PlatesCups, Lunch Napkins, Beverage Napkins and Yellow Striped Paper Straws.

Despicable Me Figures of Gru and the girls, Kyle the Dog and four minions used to decorate the cake table were purchased on Amazon.

The Fun

Nathan's-Birthday-6

There’s that precious birthday boy!

Minion-Shirts

We all wore Minion T-Shirts, which was very fun but of course, I didn’t take a minute to have someone photograph our family together in our shirts. I’ll have to make everyone put them back on and fix that! Sara did have a minion shirt but must have changed into something more fashionable after swimming. Oh to be a tween and still have someone else doing your laundry.

I have learned over several years and A LOT of birthday parties that planning a ton of games and activities really isn’t necessary. What the kids really want to do, especially when they are little is run around and play together. At our house, there is a lot of room to run and many imaginative adventures to be had. And with the boys having birthdays in June and September, they also want to swim (Sara’s is in December so even in Arizona, swimming is out).

Nathan's-6th-Birthday-Party

So, while I had a lot of different games in mind, (freeze tag, boogie robot freeze dancing or musical chairs, etc.) I ended up only putting one together – The Space Killer Carnival game from the first movie. Space-Killer-Despicable-Me-

I printed up images of the space aliens from the game in the movie in varying sizes and then glued them to a foam presentation board. The kids used Nerf guns to shoot at the stacked cups.

“KNOCKED OVER!” Of course I had to include an image of Gru after he blew the whole thing up.

If you have not seen the movie, you really must. And then get the second one when it comes out on Blue Ray soon. They are so clever and very funny!

Of course we sang happy birthday, blew out candles, had cake and ice cream …

Nathan's-Birthday-4

Nathan's-Birthday-2

Nathan's-Birthday-3

Nathan's-Birthday-5

and opened presents – my friend Eileen had a captive audience as she read birthday cards.

Nathan's-Birthday

And then after a lot of fun and a little too much sugar, some down time racked out with your buds watching your favorite movie is a must. You can get away with this when you’re six.

Speaking of buds …

Nathan-&-Hayden

Hayden is one of Nathan’s favorite buds of all time. Hayden and his wonderful family were our neighbors for many years. When Nathan was a baby and Hayden was about eight, he would pop over all the time to play with Nathan. As they both grew, Hayden never got too big to hang out with Nathan. I have a picture of them together at each of Nathan’s Birthdays. It is great to have a friend who has loved you your whole life! We just wish he was still right over the fence.

Nathan-&-Hayden-2

We love you Hayden (and Michael, April and Hope)!

So that’s it. One more birthday party down for the record books.

Whaaaaaaaat? The Party’s Over?

Yes, the party’s over. But around here, it won’t be long until there’s another one!

Minion-Thank-You-Note

Thanks for coming!

Thank you note printable.

All of the party printables shared in this post are made with images found on the internet and are for personal use only and not for sale or distribution in anyway. Please play fair and have a fantastic party!

S’Mores Cupcakes

With the start of the school year, we are back in full swing with Cub Scouts. I love to blog about Cub Scouts because it is such a big part of our lives and has been an incredible experience for our whole family. The Scouting program is awesome and I love sharing all of the fun and important stuff we do with all of you.

This past weekend, our Pack got together for a lesson on the Scouting principle of Leave No Trace. Leave No Trace means just that. It focuses primarily on camping and outdoor activities but the underlying principle applies to all areas of our lives. Take care of your environment; whether it is the outdoors, your school, your home, your room, the park, the movie theater; you get the idea. Wherever you go, whatever you do, be mindful of the environment and how you have an impact upon it.

And ALWAYS leave a place better than you found it. Which means sometimes we have to pick up after others too.

Rather than just talk about it with our Scouts, we wanted them to experience the lesson first hand. The best lessons are often learned by seeing and doing. So this past Saturday, our boys and their families spent a few hours cleaning up along the banks of the Salt River.

The lower Salt River is a major recreation site in our area and unfortunately, not everyone respects the privilege of enjoying such a beautiful place. A LOT of trash gets left behind. It was important for our Scouts to see first hand how even a little waste has a big impact when the effects of so many visitors is combined.

Cub-Scouts-Clean-Up

They worked hard and cleaned up a lot of trash.

Cub-Scout-River-Clean-Up

We are very proud of our “Bear” and his understanding and respect for nature and the need to care for and protect the environment. He is passionate about it. Now, if we could just get that same passion to carry over to his room.

After all of that hard work and a lot of hand sanitizer, it was time for a treat. It was way too hot to roast marshmallows (and open fire isn’t allowed right now) so I decided to improvise and turn Scouting’s signature dish into a cup cake.

S’Mores Cupcakes

S'mores-Cupcakes-1

I love to bake from scratch and have some wonderful chocolate cake recipes from my grandmother. But there are times when practicality wins out and you just have to break out the cake mix. I adapted a recipe from the cookbook “The Cake Mix Doctor” by Anne Byrn and came up with a yummy chocolate cupcake, perfect to feed a lot of hungry Cub Scouts. Three batches yielded 60 cupcakes. If you don’t “overfill” as I tend to do, you might just get 24 cup cakes in a batch.

Cup Cake Ingredients

  • 1 package Milk Chocolate cake mix
  • 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 Cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Cup Cake S’More Toppings

S'mores-Cupcake-Toppings

  • Graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 Bag of jumbo marshmallows, each marshmallow cut in half
  • Graham cracker pieces or mini graham crackers for garnish
  • Chocolate pieces for garnish

Cup Cake Directions

In pure cake mix fashion, put all of the ingredients together in your stand mixer and blend it all on medium to medium-high for a minute. Scrape down the sides and blend for another minute or until well combined and smooth. Line your muffin/cup cake tin with paper wrappers and fill each 3/4 of the way full.

S'mores-Cupcake-Prep

Then sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs (about a teaspoon each). I made the first batch with the graham cracker crumbs placed in the bottom of the wrapper and the batter poured on top. It didn’t adhere to the cake like I wanted so I opted to sprinkle the crumbs on top.

S'mores-Cupcakes-ready-for-

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

I love how they look with the graham cracker crumbs on top.

Next … the fun part.

S'mores-Cupcakes-2

Set your oven rack, two spaces down from the broiler and then turn the oven to the broil setting.

S'mores-Cupcakes-Marshmallo

Put your cupcakes on a sheet tray and place a marshmallow half on top of each one. Place the marshmallow topped cupcakes under the broiler for 1 minute and 45 seconds. That is the exact amount of time my oven took to perfectly toast the marshmallows. The time needed in your oven may be different so keep an eye on them.

S'mores-Cupcakes-4

Finish the cup cakes off in true S’Mores fashion with wedges of graham cracker and chocolate. The crackers can go on right away but let the marshmallow cool a bit before you add the chocolate or you’ll have a melty mess.

The boys and families of our Pack spent and afternoon doing our part to clean up a bit and leave things better than we found them. But our day wasn’t all hard work. Yes, there were yummy cup cakes but did I mention there was a also helicopter?

No? Ohhhh, there was a helicopter!

Cub-Scouts-Helicopter-2

Our Wolf Den Leader is a Sheriff’s Deputy and he arranged quite the surprise for our boys. For all of us, actually. When he told me he was setting up something cool, I was just thinking a few sirens and lights. Nope. There was a helicopter.

SRCU-4

Of course the boys LOVED it. And they deserved it. Hard work always has its reward!

SRCU

I know one little boy in particular who was in heaven!

Cub-Scouts-Helicopter

Really, does it get much cooler than that?

Cub-Scout-Clean-Up-2

We also had a visit from these deputies who patrol the river on ATVs. Very cool too! In fact, I’m pretty sure they have their own action figures. Well, if they don’t they should.

SRCU-2

The perfect spot to watch a helicopter take off!

A special thanks to Rob and our friends from the Sheriff’s Department for the work you do to keep our community safe and for so graciously giving a little of your time to make a kid’s day.

You guys rock!

When Did He Get So Big?

Guess what has happened around here in the last week?

Any guesses? Give up? Okay, I’ll tell you.

School started.

My kids went back to school.

MY KIDS WENT BACK TO SCHOOL!

I love my kids. You know that.

I love the first 3 1/2 weeks of summer.

And then, I LOVE it when my kids go back to school. Well, I mostly love it.

BTS-1

But this year was a little different and I will admit, mommy had some added back to school anxiety. I always have a little back to school anxiety (especially with some of our unique challenges) but this year, my  youngest, my baby, started Kindergarten.

And it was hard.

For me.

Thankfully, not for him.

BTS-4

When did he get so big?

BTS-6

When did he become so independent?

He did not want to walk with me. He wanted to do it ALL. BY. HIMSELF.

I want him to be independent and I want him to hold my hand too.

Yes, that big expanse of grass between us in just one big metaphor. Incidentally, you’re not supposed to walk on the grass so we started Kindergarten by breaking the rules. See, he should have held my hand.

BTS-2

But this boy was too big for that and he was all business! All of the friends and teachers we ran into welcomed him and I would say Nathan, tell them what grade you are in. After about the fourth time, he turned and looked at me and said …

“MOMMY, I tell you already … K – I – N -D – E – R – G – A – R – T – E – N ! !” If only I could express to you his far too grown up exasperation at my apparent inability to remember what grade he was in. It won’t be the last time I exasperate him, you can be sure of that.

BTS-3

Eventually, we made it to the classroom, Nathan ten feet ahead of me, where he lined up and waited patiently to go in.

A big kid.

Yes, my child is 4x larger than every other Kindergartener on the planet but that isn’t really what I meant.

Mama doesn’t have a baby anymore, which he so often reminds me when I try to tell him he will always be my baby. “Mommy, I not a baby. I’m a big boy!”

BTS-5
And so he is.

And then my big boy gave me a hug and marched independently into his classroom and got right down to business.

I have to tell you,  technically I should not have this picture. We parents should have stayed out of the classroom and given our children their space. Bless my son’s perceptive and gracious teacher who sensing our neediness, allowed us into the classroom for a few quick last goodbyes and hugs and a Kindergarten paparazzi of flashing cameras. Yes, we kindergarten parents are a sad lot – at least on the first day.

Thankfully, we are now through the first few days of school and all of my kids have settled in well.

And so have I.

I miss them but I know they are in good hands and are happily busy and learning and are no longer bored or fighting with each other or making me hide in my bathroom just to make a phone call.

My house is cleaner. And quieter.

And I can write again. Oh blog and blogging friends, how I have missed you!

And I am peaceful and happy to see them at the end of their day and hear all about everything they did.

Nathan LOVES Kindergarten and it has already been really good for him. Instead of his usual Three Stooges burp, he made a quiet burp the other day with his little fist to his mouth and said “mommy, my teacher show me how to burp quietly.” I have shown him how to burp quietly too, but sometimes you just need a little back up.

And they need a little independence.

 

 

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?

Nathan-13

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.

Nathan-15

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.

Nathan-16

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.

Nathan-17

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.

Nathan-7

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.

Nathan-11

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.

Swimming-12

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.”

Nathan-Adoption-Day-4

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.

Nathan-8

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.

Nathan-10

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.

GFSF-Carrot-Cake

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.

Happy-Birthday-David-2

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!