Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Have You Figured It Out Yet?

I'm sure you have by now.

With all three girls home this week, plus my parents in town, I'm just not getting around to posting.

So in case you've been patiently waiting, checking the blog each morning this week in hopes of reading something new and exciting, I feel like I need to come clean and quit stringing you along:

I'm not going to be posting this week.

Hopefully, that means I'll be back next week with some really great stuff for you - pictures and stories galore.

I'll try to not disappoint.

Have a wonderful week and I'll see you January 2nd!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

From our home to yours....

Looking for some ideas to help your kids (and yourselves!) keep the focus on Jesus this Christmas morning?  Click here to visit Ann Voskamp's A Holy Experience blog and discover 10 Ways to Celebrate (Regardless of What's Under the Tree).

In the midst of all the excitement, presents, catching up with friends and family, and eating way too much good food, I pray that you catch a glimpse of Christ and remember that He is the reason for the season.

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

HACKED! An Unauthorized Blog by Lana's Husband

I thought I'd "break in" here since Lana is out of town for the day.  For our anniversary, I sent her to a hotel by herself - which may sound bizarre, until I tell you that I am meeting her there for this afternoon for our second night.  Have you heard of Gary Chapman's five love languages?  They're very perceptive and helpful to couples, but I think the language that best expresses love to Lana doesn't show up in his spectrum.  Her love language is alone time - especially since the Bird came along.  So right now she's sitting next to a fireplace reading a book, and I am getting a new appreciation for all of the stuff she does around here to keep us alive.  She's been gone for less than 24 hours, and we're barely surviving!

Dropping Lily off at school this morning:

Me: Hello!  Please excuse anything that might be missing.  Lana wasn't here, and I don't know if I followed all of the instructions.

Therapist: Oh, I'm sure it will be fine.  (Looking through the bag)... Does she have her iPod Touch?

Me: Oops.  I did think to plug it in, so it's charging at home! 

Therapist: (Fake smile) No big deal.  

Lily reaches for a cup on the outside pocket of her bag.

Therapist: Sorry Lily!  You can't have that one until lunch.  But you can have your regular morning drin... (looks back at me) Did you pack her a morning drink?

Me: I packed the thermos with the extra lemonade in it, but not an extra cup.  I didn't know!  The sticky note didn't say pack an extra cup!

Therapist: (Second fake smile - eyes saying "You're a moron.") No problem!  We'll just get her to drink it straight from the thermos out of a straw.  

Me: I remembered her jacket! (Very proud of myself)

We wave goodbye awkwardly, both fully aware that there are sure to be missing elements from her bag throughout the day.  And I'm having second thoughts about the leftover Chinese food I put in her lunch to save time.

So I'm not the only one today who is reminded of all the little things she does that no one ever notices or applauds.  And it dawned on me that it might be a good opportunity to tell you how amazing this woman is who exposes our quirks to the world on a daily basis through this blog.  Here are a few things that Lana loves:

1.  Lana loves the big city for very short periods of time.  She loves the country for long periods of time.

2.  She loves 80's rock. When we met, she had more 80's hair band albums than anyone I knew, which was a bit bizarre for a very preppy "Duran Duran" profile girl.  It still amazes me, when Van Halen, or White Snake, or Wenger come on the radio (If Wenger every actually comes on the radio), how she can identify song, band, lyrics, and some bizarre trivia about the band.  Who have I MARRIED?

3.   She loves books.  But then, if you've read this blog, you already know that.

4.  She loves sports more than she lets on.  And will often shock me by commenting on a play or player in the midst of a game in a way that shows me she's very aware of what's happening.  (This isn't really true, but I slipped in one that I hope becomes self-fulfilling prophecy.  Who knows - maybe she really DOES love sports more than she lets on!  I once went to an NBA game with Lana and her parents.  She and her mom talked the entire game about things totally unrelated to Carmelo Anthony and Tim Duncan.  It was an amazing game, and a shot at the buzzer put the game into overtime.  I looked over at Lana and said, "Can you believe this?!?" To which she replied, "I never noticed until right now that there is a Disco Ball hanging in the ATT Center!  Do you think that's just for concerts?")

5.  She loves little, mischievous boys.  You know those ones with the look in their eye like they're up to something no good but they're trying to pull the "Eddie Haskell" fake innocence?  The six-year-olds who are the first ones who will find trouble if it's within twenty feet of them?  She's always loved them.  Even as a teacher, when she wanted to strangle them, she would come home and tell the stories of what they did, and then smile almost in admiration.  I have often thought it would have been dangerous if we would have had a son, because he would have gotten conflicting messages about his bad behavior.  "Son!  Just because it's sort of the right shape doesn't mean you can play football with the lamp! What were you thinking?  Now its broken forever.  But, then again, you're kind of cute when you're bad.  Let me take your picture for my blog!"

6.  She loves old people.  And by old people, I don't mean to offend the old people reading this.  If you're offended, then you're not old enough to be the ones I'm talking about anyway.  Do you know how people get old enough that they start bragging about their ages again?  She loves those people, and I've always enjoyed watching her love on them, engage them in conversation, and listen intently to their stories.  It always makes me think she'll be a really good old person when she gets there.  But then again, it's hard to picture Lana bragging about her age.

7.  Lana loves being at home with her family.  She would prefer this more than just about anything (with the exception of the aforementioned time alone), and so our home always feels like the most welcoming place on earth.

8.  She loves her extended family, and loves hanging out with them too.  Incidentally, we have two nephews who have that "look in their eye" like they're up to something.  I will not expose them on this blog.  They know who they are.  One of the challenges of having Lily has been a lot less travel to see everyone, and she misses that.

9.  She loves sitting by a warm fire on a cold day.

10.  She loves coconut gelato.

11. She loves the babies at the Baby Rescue Center at our missions partner in Zacapa, Guatemala.  If I would let her, they would all live at our house.  (By the way, the same rescue center Lana has told you so much about and has raised funds for was featured on Fox News this past Sunday, where our good friends Vernon Brewer and Noelle Yeatts.  You can watch the clip here.)

12.  She loves driving around looking at houses, and really enjoys walking through them.  After moving five times in the past eight years, I think we've kicked the habit of moving into them, but she still likes looking.  In fact, she found the house that my parents ended up buying when they moved to Austin.

13.  She loves shopping with cash.  That may seem odd, but if I get her an outfit, she appreciates the effort and sometimes appreciates the outfit (I can't really tell until it sits in the closet for a year.  I also don't want to make it sound like this is a common occurance. I've purchase maybe three outfits for her in two decades.)  She's okay with just going shopping with me or me saying, "Go get yourself something fun!" but I still don't get the same excitement.  I think it's because, with the checkbook or bank card, she knows it's coming out of the budget.  With the cash, there's no connection to real life.  What she really likes is, "Here's $_____ cash that can only be used on you and nothing else.  Go to the mall and get something you love!"

14.  She loves special needs children.  And this is not a phenomenon that happened when we had one.  Lana has always been the one to walk across the Wal Mart to say hello to a child if she felt it would make his or her day, and make the mom and dad feel better.  This is noteworthy, because Lana is not a chatty socialite with strangers.  But she'll go out of her way if it's someone she thinks a person is hurting, sad, alone, or marginalized.  When we first had children and we started planning for what attributes we wanted to instill in them, Lana's priority was compassion.  She often said, "If there's a child at school who others make fun of and is all alone, I want our girls to be the ones to walk across the room and be a friend when no one else will."  Incidentally, that describes our older girls pretty well.

15.  Lana loves frosted sugar cookies almost as much as life itself.  Please send them to her by the dozen.*

16.  She loves long walks on a cool day.  We spend lots of time on the Hike and Bike Trail in Austin.  This is her most relaxing time.

17.  Lana loves you!  She loves this blog, and interacting with the community of people that have gathered here.  She loves the idea that she might be able to take some of our experiences and bring joy to a family who is hurting and overwhelmed - as we have been at times - and share that there is hope.  I have a friend who has been dealing with the overwhelming challenge of a brain tumor, and he recently wrote, "Laughter feels like faith to me."  I think that's true.  Laughter is an expression that life is not so serious, that the sun will still come up tomorrow, and that there's joy found even in the midst of difficulties.  Lana's ability to spin our lives in a way that makes us laugh at ourselves has been a blessing to us, and hopefully a reminder that having a special needs child is not one big pity party.

18.  She loves suspense movies and TV shows.  I count that as a great blessing in my life, having not married someone who loves chick flicks.  If people will be murdered and others are trying to solve that murder and there is some government conspiracy, it's her kind of film.  (This sometimes concerns me.  If I turn up missing, don't automatically assume I ran away.  Check the backyard for fresh dirt.)

19.  She loves her children.  Lana taught elementary school when we first got married, but her dream was always to pour her life into her own children as soon as they came our way.  And that's exactly what she did.  I have never, ever seen a Mom love so much, offer so much insight, and inspire so fully (and I had a GREAT mom!)  Since Ryley was born 18 years ago, I've been amazed by her ability to recognize a sense of "time and place" and accept her role for the season.  In other words, she has other hopes, dreams, aspirations, etc, but she puts her children first - and doesn't really care whether people are mad because she doesn't accept the position on the board.

That's why Lily's coming five years ago so profoundly impacted our family.  Not just that Lily can't speak yet, or that she's another mouth to feed.  It's that Lana has once again re-calibrated her plans and expectations to give everything to her family. And you might say, "What choice did she have?"  But she had plenty of choices - even within the obligations that every parent holds.  Lana hasn't simply "held on" to her obligations with Lily, or kept plodding along as a mom.  She's poured her heart and soul into Lily Bird.  She's read every book she can get her hands on to help improve her quality of life.  She's been her advocate when it's meant being rude, when it's meant faking niceness to people she didn't like, and when it's meant pleading with doctors, nurses, or insurance companies to move things along.

Lana has literally given her life to her family, and I don't know if there is a greater example that any mom could follow.

20.  She loves me.  I still haven't completely figured out how I pulled that off, but she does!  And twenty years ago today, at 11AM, I had the privilege of marrying my very best friend.  Every year since then has been better than the one before.

*Actually, I'm the one who loves the frosted sugar cookies, but I felt like I should get something for my effort today.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Santa Visit of 2011

You may remember that I recently shared with you about our last Santa visit.  

Since Lily Bird joined our family, our visits with Saint Nicholas truly try the patience of a saint.

Let's just say, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see our photo hanging in the mall, warning all Santas to steer clear of us.  Kind of like those "Most Wanted" posters you see on old Westerns on TV.

Can't you just see it now?




Because I have finally learned to just let the Santa pictures go, we were not even going to attempt the mall this year.

Now, we are fortunate to have a sweet man in our church who is the official Santa for all our Christmas productions.  And Amy, our Special Needs Director, worked with him to set up a photo op one Sunday afternoon when services were over and the church was quiet.

It was just perfect.

Now, when Lily first sat on Santa's lap, she didn't pay him a lick of attention.  How you can not notice that he looks a little different than the average guy is beyond me but she managed it.

Even doing some classic "snot rocket" blowing through her nose.  Nice for Santa, I'm sure.

Because we are gluttons for punishment and because Lily didn't seem to mind hanging with Santa (and we didn't feel he was quite snotty enough!), we tried it one more time.

Well, this time, she took a nice long gander at him.  

I mean, she really checked him out.  It was like she finally noticed him.  And while she didn't pull his beard (thankfully, since it's the real deal), she did feel the need to reach up there and check it out.

Then she turned and gave us a look that I think clearly (and very seriously) communicates she's not exactly sure what to do next.

So there you have it.

No smiles.  But no tears.

A little acknowledgement of Santa Claus.  And no injuries.

I'd call that a successful visit.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Weekend in Pictures... And a Few Words!

In case any of you are wondering, I'm still doing the Couch to 5K Program.  I'm in Week Six which means I'm now running for 20 minutes with no stops.  That's a big deal for someone who despises running.  I hope all you real runners out there are not scoffing at me...

Ryan and Lily went along for my final run of Week Six on Saturday afternoon.  Lily was definitely more comfortable than the rest of us.

Reagan gets in a little trampoline time.

Nine treat sacks of Kris Kringle Krunch (thank you for the cute name, Karla!) bagged up and ready for Lily's Buddies and Sunday School teachers. 

Every Christmas, our church does a huge production over three Sundays called The Singing Christmas Tree.  There's music, dancing, acting and an enormous Christmas tree filled with lights and singing people.  It's pretty spectacular.

And we have a real Baby Jesus.  Check him (it was actually a "her" this year but don't tell anyone!) out in the corner of the next two pictures.

Did you see that big ol' tree in the background?  You can't really miss it...

And for my more astute readers, I expect you noticed a lovely young lady in a long white dress in those photos above.  

And if you thought it was my oldest daughter, well, you would be correct!  Here's a close-up:

A little blurry but that's my girl!

I hope you had a great weekend, too.  

Now it's time to get serious about finishing up all my Christmas chores...

See you tomorrow!

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Christmas Re-Run

Since quite a few of you faithful followers were not around this time last year, I thought I would resurrect one of my 2010 Christmas posts today.

A "Helpful" Gift Giving Guide from December 3, 2010.

For the last several Christmases, I've used a little rhyme to help guide me in the purchasing of gifts for my big girls.

Something you want,
Something you need.
Something to wear,
Something to read.
Something homemade,
A game to be played.

Please feel free to nominate me for Poet Laureate of Austin.

The girls make their wish lists according to the categories in the poem and they get six gifts each from Ryan and I, aka Santa Claus.

This year, we're changing things up.  There are a couple of reasons for this.

One, I must admit the homemade something always stresses me out just a little bit.  I'm not really a crafty person, though I would like to be one.  

Actually, that's not true at all.  I think that free time means time spent doing nothing that amounts to anything.  

If at the end of my free time session, I have a beautifully decorated photo album or a knitted scarf or a hand sewn apron or a one of a kind piece of jewelry, then I was not having free time at all.  I was working.  And working is not how I want to spend my free time.  

So I don't want to be a crafty person.
There.  I said it.

Secondly, our whole family has fallen in love with the people of Guatemala so the bulk of our spending will be donated to our adopted village there, Pueblo Modelo.  We're thinking of buying livestock and I have to admit, it's pretty fun choosing between chickens, cattle, goats....  a whole new kind of Christmas list. We'll also be contributing to a multi-purpose center we're hoping to build in the near future.

INSERT 2011 NOTE HERE:  We're not buying livestock this year.  Just continuing to donate and serve.  Want to be sure I'm 100% honest.

Anyway, that means our little rhyme has to be modified for only two gifts per big girl.  This year's version goes a little something like this:

Something you need,
Something to wear.
That's all you're getting,
Please do not swear.

What do you think?

I'm thinking of seeking a publisher - I feel a book of poetry might be in my future.

Have a great weekend and I'll see you Monday!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Calming the Beast

Those of us with special needs children spend quite a bit of time trying to prevent meltdowns.

I follow Support for Special Needs on Twitter and this article caught my eye: 26 Sensory Integration Tools for Meltdown Management.  I found it very helpful and thought you might, too.  Click here to read it.

Also in the article is a catchy tune (along with a cute video) featuring actor-musician Jack Black in a duet he recorded for the Miracle Project in 2009.  The song is called "Sensitive" and captures some of the things that can lead to a sensory meltdown.  Make sure you check it out!

And by all means, if you have some helpful tips on calming down your kiddo, leave a comment and share the knowledge.

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Easy Street

Let's face it.... being the parent of a special needs child can be difficult.

But here are a few things (other than sweet, helpful, patient family and friends) I've found that make my "special needs life" just a bit easier:

1)     A white noise machine - I originally bought this to help the Bird sleep by muffling the noise of the rest of the family after she was tucked in.  But I've gotten so used to hearing it through the baby monitor that I've pretty much gotten to where I can't sleep without it, either.

2)     Back Zip Pajamas - These handy pj's keep Lily Bird from stripping herself naked during the night. In case you're interested, click here to see the ones we use.

3)     24 Hour Drive-Thru Pharmacies - This seems pretty self-explanatory.  I feel certain a mom came up with this idea.

4)     Pill Splitters, Crushers, &  Pill-a-Day Trays (with AM/PM slots) - These are all small and inexpensive little devices that make the process of dispensing meds just a little bit easier.

5)     The iPad - Ummm.... DUH.

6)     A regular once a week babysitter - This has to be some of the best money we spend each month.

7)     Reading other special needs blogs - I look forward to checking in with all my online buddies each day.  Not only is it a source of comfort to see that I'm not the only person in the world with a kiddo like Lily, I just enjoy catching up with my newfound "tribe".

8)     A pizza cutter - These handy things cut way more than just pizza!

How about you?  What are some things that make your life easier?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Clean Car.... For Now

Over the weekend, Ryan took Lily's car seat completely apart and I gave it a very thorough cleaning.

Inspired by a freshly washed car seat, I decided to to give the Tahoe a good vacuum.  Then because I was on such a roll, I wiped down the entire inside of the vehicle and sprayed a little Febreeze on the floor mats. 

Every singe time I clean out my car, I never fail to be amazed at all the food crumbs I discover.  While some may think that's completely disgusting, I take comfort in the fact that if we ever got trapped in our car, we could forage for food and survive for quite some time.

Cleaning my car reminded me of a comic strip I read a while back.  Read and enjoy....

Baby Blues

Monday, December 12, 2011

Just Trying To Get Out The Door

I think all of us parents know that getting out the door in the mornings can often be the most difficult part of the day.

Being married to a preacher means that most Sunday mornings, Ryan leaves before the rest of us.  And now that my girls are older, many times one or both of them is heading out early as well for choir or youth group stuff.

Ryan is great about helping in the mornings, but since Lily has taken to chewing her way out of clothes, I don't dress her until the moment I'm about to walk out the door.  Which means Ryan has already left.

Despite the fact that on Sunday mornings I get up in plenty of time to do all that needs to be done, I still always seem to be late for church.

Yesterday morning, I was trying to figure out exactly why that is.

My conclusion?

It's that last thirty minutes before I walk out the door that seems to seal my tardy fate.

And while that should be an easily correctable thing, here's why it's more difficult at my house: in a word (or two) - The Bird.

See, there are lots of things that happen around here that I just can't plan ahead for.  So even though two and a half hours should be plenty of time for all of us to get up, get dressed, get fed and out the door, a few "extra chores" never fail to crop up that I'm fairly certain don't occur regularly in most other homes.

Things like -

Prepare Lily's breakfast cocktail of apple juice and crushed anti-viral and deliver it to my bedroom where she is lounging in my bed with the iPad.
Head to the kitchen to crush yet another one of Lily's morning medications, this one mixed in a spoonful of soy yogurt.
Hand the yogurt to Ryan who helps Lily feed herself the yogurt, hopefully without getting any in her hair - or his!
Finish getting myself dressed while Lily continues to recline on my bed and Ryan heads out.
Lily notices that someone left a cup with a tiny bit of hot chocolate on the nightstand and proceeds to dump the remaining liquid on my clean sheets.  It no longer looks like a tiny bit of liquid.
Throw a towel over the spot, get her settled again, then put on lipstick and perfume.
Notice that Lily is no longer in my room.
A quick sprint to the kitchen reveals I left the lid off the bottle of cinnamon and Lily has dumped the contents on my kitchen island.
Strap the Bird in her Tripp Trapp chair, give her a bag of chips (the breakfast of champions) and clean up the cinnamon.
Get Lily dressed.
Realize I forgot to put on my jewelry.
Leave her in her room a grand total of twenty seconds while I sprint to my closet, grab my watch, ring and earrings, sprint back to Lily's room...
Only to discover that she has stripped off her pants and Pull-up.
Ask her if that means she'd like to go potty.
Set her on the potty and feel like I need one more good spritz of hairspray. (Hey, I live in Texas and my big hair doesn't stay up all on its own!)
Leave Lily on the potty for a grand total of ten seconds, sprint to my bathroom, grab the hairspray, and deciding not to waste any precious time spraying in my bathroom, I sprint back to Lily's bathroom to spray my hair in there....
Only to discover she has pooped, removed the potty seat from the toilet, sat back down and is in the process of trying to dip her behind in the disgusting water.
Extract the Bird from the toilet, noticing that the back of her shirt has also taken a dip.
Strip off what remains of church outfit number one, turn on the shower and stick her in.
Soap her up quickly, trying to not let the shower humidity wreak havoc on my big hair.
Remove her from the shower and put her in church outfit number two.
Realize the shower steam has done a number on my hair, along with all my frantic running, and I'm  going to need to do a ponytail.
Place Lily in her carseat FIRST, give her the iPad, sprint back in the house, pull my hair up, spray it one more time for good measure, then grab my purse, my Bible, the Bird's shoes and coat and her bag containing Pull-ups, an extra outfit, snacks, a chewy tube, a drink and her helmet, then sprint to the car....
Only to discover that I forgot to put an old t-shirt over Lily Bird's clothes so she has now successfully torn the collar of her shirt with her teeth.
Sprint back into the house, grab church outfit number three (or at least another shirt), run back to the car and FINALLY drive to church.

And how much time elapses from church outfit number one to church outfit number three?

About thirty minutes, my friends.

I'm frantically going through the above list, give or take a couple of items, from 8:30 AM - 9:00 AM most every Sunday morning.

It's really a wonder that I haven't shown up at church yet without my own shoes or for that matter, without wearing a shirt.

Honestly, I think the only way to remedy my late arrival to church is to revert back to the days of my youth: taking a shower and washing my hair on Saturday night.  Laying out my church clothes on the dresser, complete with shoes and jewelry.  Putting my purse and Bible at the back door, with the addition of Lily's coat, shoes, and bag, ready for departure. Putting an old t-shirt at the ready in Lily's car seat so I can throw it over what is hopefully still church outfit number one.

If that doesn't work, I guess I'll just give up sleeping on Saturday nights.... but the preacher might notice if I sleep through the sermon!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gifts Galore... For Therapists, Teachers, & More

Before I go any further, I'd like to make sure that you noticed my title is actually a little rhyme.

I've never been accused of being a poet and I think you can see why.

Now, on to the good stuff.

The school my big girls attend does not allow students to purchase Christmas gifts for their teachers.  Because we are way past the days of having only one teacher for all subjects, us parents could go broke trying to get something for every single teacher our high schoolers have.

So the rule is - teacher gifts can only be something homemade.

Nice for the wallet but trying to come up with something a little out of the ordinary, yet simple and sweet can be a little daunting.

Enter Confetti Popcorn.

Photo courtesy of www.nestofposies-blog.com

Now, I know what you're thinking - "that looks nothing like Christmas popcorn".

But that's the beauty of this recipe: it works for any season.  The batch above is for Valentines Day.

The first time I made it was last Easter.

Photo courtesy of www.bakeat350.blogspot.com

Bunny Bait.  Cute, right?

So for Christmas, the big girls and I will making several batches of this popcorn for every single last teacher and therapist we have.

It's super simple and very yummy.

Here's the recipe in case you're interested -

Confetti Popcorn

1 bag of M&M's (use whatever seasonal ones are appropriate)
Almost 2 bags of Orville Redenbacher's microwave Tender White popcorn
1 bag Wilson's Confetti Candy Melts or White Chocolate Melts

Pop popcorn.  Put in large bowl.  Melt chocolate.  Pour over popcorn.  Add M&M's and stir.  Spread on baking sheets to allow time to dry before packaging.

Doesn't get much easier than that!

But I do need a cute Christmas-y name, don't you think?  Santa Sweets?  Reindeer Rations?  You can see I'm into alliteration.  But not so creative.  Help a girl out here - send me some cute names!

One last thing - since the title promises you gifts for teachers, therapists, and more.  We've covered the teachers and therapists so who's the more?  

Well, how about a little something for your kiddos' friends?  Or your kiddo?

I saw this on Pinterest and fell in love - Gingerbread Playdoh.

Photo courtesy of www.sweetsugarbelle.com

Wouldn't this make a cute kid gift?  Maybe with a little kid-sized rolling pin and some cookie cutters...

It's not to eat, though.  Just smells like lovely, spicy gingerbread but tastes like regular, yucky playdoh.

If you're interested, click here to check out the recipe.

One last thing - I think it's been waaaaayyy toooooo long since y'all have seen a cute photo of the Bird on here and since we're coming up on the weekend, how about one quick pic to last you til next week??

Told you it was cute...

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Blog Writers Unite!

I always joke with my family that if I miss a post, there will be an outcry from "my public" as well as rioting in the streets.

I really don't think they fully grasp the magnitude of my following.

I mean, there are people out there who just don't feel like their day is complete if they don't visit my blog, right?

Aren't there??

So when my oldest daughter found this on Pinterest the other day, she just couldn't wait to show it to me.

Pinned Image

Recognition at last.

Next time the kids ask me to do their dirty laundry, I'm going to remind them of this.

Surely big deal blog writers don't do their own laundry.....

Enjoy your Thursday!

Visit Parada Creations, an Etsy shop, to purchase this print and see lots of other cute things!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Jolly Old St. Nicholas... not so jolly, maybe?

Ever since the big girls were born, I have had a picture of each of them taken with Santa.

I have them all displayed in those little clear acrylic frames with the year marked in red paint pen.  See how cute:

Since 1993, I had not missed a year.  

In fact, I didn't quite realize the depth of my obsession until the year 2006.

The year the Bird joined our family.

Granted, it's not completely her fault.  The big girls were 10 and 13 and they were pretty much over having their picture taken with Santa.  They were only doing it for me.  And for the bribes I was offering.

But Christmas 2006 rolled around and Lily was 4 months old and awaiting open heart surgery.  I literally could not take her outside of the four walls of our home (per doctor's orders) for fear of her getting sick.  She just didn't have the strength to fight off infections. 

I'm not a total ogre.  I could see the most important thing that year was not a Santa photo op but a healthy child ready for heart surgery.

So no 2006 picture with Santa Claus.

But I was a woman on a Photo With Santa mission and after doing this since 1993, you better believe I wasn't going to miss another year.  I was a slave to my own tradition.

December 2007 rolled around and we attended the Christmas grand opening of the brand new Ronald McDonald House here in Austin.  Santa was there, just waiting to have his picture taken so we went for it.

Here's what I got:

Can you tell which kid doesn't give a rip about my bribes?

December 2008 comes and goes with no Santa photo.  Honestly, I procrastinated because I knew the Bird was going to be a challenge and by the time I decided to go for it, so did the rest of Austin.  The line was so long that I actually stood there and told myself to just "let it go, Lana".

But I'd been doing this for so long that when December 2009 arrived, I was determined yet again to get a photo of Lily with Santa.  By this time, the big girls were really giving me a hard time.  No one's really looking forward to the now somewhat annual visit with Santa but because I am a control freak, I pressed on.

We made a plan.

And this was it -

Just. Be. Quick.  

Get up there, set Lily on Santa's lap, squeeze in beside her, smile, snap, get her and be gone.

I'm sure you already know it didn't go down quite that way.

Lily did not want to sit still.  She did not want her picture taken.  She didn't appear to be afraid of Santa. She just wasn't all that impressed.

Because I refused to be deterred, Ryley wrestled Lily Bird up to Santa.  Reagan jumped to Santa's left side, prepared to whisk Lily away as soon as the camera clicked.

Ryan quickly moved into place behind the camera man and started yelling for the Bird to look at him.  

I got behind the person working the computer, ready to shout, "there it is!"as soon as the picture appeared on the screen so I could snatch it up, pay and get out of there. 

Doesn't this sound like a fun tradition you'd like to create each year in your own family?? Just throwing that out there....

Well, we forgot to let Santa in on our little plan.

As soon as Ryley placed Lily on Santa's lap, she did that wet noodle, boneless kind of move she does when she doesn't want to be held.  She started slipping through Santa's grasp just like she was hoping for.  

Santa reached down to get a better grip on the Bird and hauled her up to his lap.  

The camera clicked, and almost immediately after, before Reagan could grab her, Lily arched her back and treated Santa to a big ol' backwards head butt right in his chin. 

Santa did not say Ho, Ho Ho.  

He released Lily, grabbed his chin and said, "Oww!" and possibly some other choice words that got lost in his beard.

Reagan grabbed the Bird from her momentary freedom and she and Ryley hauled her away from Santa as fast as they could go.

Meanwhile, clueless me has missed the whole thing and I'm paying for the picture.  All of a sudden, I hear all three girls almost running behind me, and Reagan saying under her breath, "Move, move, move.  We need to GO!  Don't make eye contact with Santa!"

I was totally bewildered but I was very confident that we had done something dreadful to Santa.  I quickly finished paying and we not only left the festive Christmas area, but the entire mall itself.

I think the big girls were afraid that Paul Blart, Mall Cop was going to chase us down on his Segway and arrest us for assault on Santa Claus.

Here's the photo exactly one second before we left Christmas carnage in our wake:

And that, my friends, is the last photo I have of Santa and Lily Bird.


The year my lovely tradition died a painful death.  (admittedly more painful for some of us than others....)

This year, the support group at our church is having a special photo time with Santa just for special needs kiddos.  The Santa is a friend of ours so I won't have the option of fleeing and never seeing him again should Lily decide an injury is in order.

So here's my philosophy this time:  Let Lily walk up there totally by herself, if she wants to.  Let her check out Santa on her own terms.  If we get a picture, great.  If we don't, that's fine, too.

This is the new me - no longer on a Photo with Santa mission.  

No longer a slave to my own tradition.

Just let it go, Lana.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Life in Contrast

There are countless moments in my life when I am reminded of the stark age difference between my big girls and Lily.

I mean, they're kind of hard to miss.

Let me give you just a few examples of how my parenting skills swing from one end of the spectrum to the other:

  • Advising a daughter in the best method of leg shaving while trying to wean another daughter from a pacifier.
  • Taking a daughter to an empty parking lot to practice giving turn signals while driving and arriving home in time to change another daughter's dirty diaper.
  • Helping a daughter shop for a Homecoming dress while teaching another daughter to eat with a spoon.
  • Watching Backyardigans with one daughter, then tucking her in in time to watch Psych with another daughter.
  • Taking a daughter to get her braces off while hoping that another daughter will someday brush her own teeth.
  • Shopping for undergarments at Gap Body for a daughter while picking up a package of Pull-ups for another daughter.
  • Getting one daughter at makeover at Sephora and trimming another daughter's fingernails and toenails.
  • Watching one daughter play JV volleyball while keeping another daughter entertained in the stroller.
And last but not least,
  • Getting a college acceptance letter for this coming fall for one daughter while trying to decide if another will be ready for kindergarten that same fall.
I could go on and on but I think you get the idea.

Things can get pretty crazy around here.

I've been known to hand a sippie cup to Ryley and a full glass of iced tea to the Bird.  To cut Reagan's food into teeny-tiny bites and hand Lily a whole sloppy joe.  To suggest that the big girls try using the potty when I was meaning to take Lily.

Just another day at the Rush house.

Oh and by the way, in case you're wondering.... yes, my Ryley did get her first college acceptance letter! Actually, it's the only one she'll get because it's the only college she applied to because it's the only college she wants to go to. Confused, yet??  In the fall of 2012, my oldest will be attending Liberty University in Virginia.  Proud of that girl!

Friday, December 2, 2011

I Give Up

I have had somewhere to be every single morning this week and it's just been wreaking major havoc on my blogging.

And I'm sitting here now with just a couple minutes to spare to let you know that I will be back on Monday.

Not posting anything new gives you plenty of time to peruse the gift lists suggested in the last post and do a little online shopping, right?

So really, I'm doing you a favor by not giving you something else to read, right?

I like the way you think.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Looking for Some Good Gift Ideas?

Let's face it.

Shopping can be hard.

Finding the perfect gift at the perfect price is challenging for everyone.

So shopping for a child with special needs can seem near impossible.

This time of year, family members are usually asking me for gift ideas for the Bird and sometimes, I honestly cannot think of a single thing that child would like.

So this is the time of year that I'm especially thankful for the internet and all those lovely parents out there who share wonderful lists of things their special kiddos enjoy.  There are several such lists circulating around Twitter right now.

If you are in the same boat as myself, never fear!  Check out these sites for some gifts that any child is sure to love.

Ellen, over at Love That Max, always puts together a great gift guide.  But this year, it's even better than usual.  She enlisted the help of actual special needs kiddos and their parents in testing out toys.  So not only do you get great gift ideas, you get helpful reviews from fellow special needs parents.  Good job, Ellen!

Click here to see Ellen's Best Toys for Kids with Special Needs: Holiday 2011 Guide.

Shannon Des Roches Rosa of Squidalicious wrote a great gift guide that's published over on BlogHer.  Click here to see the Very Necessary Holiday Gifts for Kids with Special Needs.

The Coffee Klatch has a helpful list of businesses that create products specially created with special needs children in mind.  Click TCK Special Needs Children's Wish List to check it out.

And don't forget that Toy's R Us puts out a toy guide for differently-abled kids every year.  Click here to see this year's guide.

Looking to gift a child with some fun apps for Christmas?  Read Finding Good Apps for Children with Autism for some great advice and suggestions.

Last but not least, click The Holiday Book Wish List put out by The Coffee Klatch, a list of books for the parents of kids with special needs.

Of course, if you buy one of these gifts and it turns out to be the "perfect present of Christmas", I expect to receive full credit...

After gushing about me and my gift-purchasing wisdom to your family and friends, a nice "Thank you, Lana" comment left on the blog will suffice.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

You Might Be An Autism Parent If....

Are you a "twit"?

Or a "tweeter"?

I mean, do you "tweet"?

I'm not exactly sure what you call it but I'm wondering if you use Twitter.

And if you do, have you seen the #youmightbeanautismparentif conversation going on over there?

It was created by two autism moms - Jenny from Many Hats Mommy (who had the idea) and Elise from Raising Asperger's Kids (who created the hashtag, or subject for conversation).

See if you can relate to some of these tweets:

#youmightbeanautismparentif Your child can tell you something you said 3 yrs ago & the date you said it but can't tell you what he just read (@KatieMollo)

#youmightbeanautismparentif The only part of the play kitchen your child actually plays with are the buttons on the microwave (@donnamcmurray)

#youmightbeanautismparentif You are willing to sleep on your kids bedroom floor if that is what keeps him calm (@aspieside)

#youmightbeanautismparentif When you say "I don't know", you're accused of withholding information (@littlefluffycat)

#youmightbeanautismparentif The term IEP instantly conjures up the theme song to "ROCKY" in your head (@sunflowercyn)

Are you catching on now?

Do you have thoughts running through your head right now that you just know other autism parents can understand and appreciate?

Want to get in on the fun?

Then join me (@lanalrush) over on Twitter and have your say.

Come on - you know you want to....

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thirty Minutes of Fun

We had a great Thanksgiving - I hope you did, too!

Since all the girls were out of school, we decided to spend Friday at Morgan's Wonderland in San Antonio.  In case you aren't familiar with Morgan's Wonderland, it's an all-access amusement park designed especially for members of the special needs population.  You can read more about it here.

We've taken Lily there twice and she's really enjoyed herself both times.

So we expected pretty much the same this time, too.  You'd think we would learn to not have expectations of how things should go by now.

While Lily did have some fun, the fun happened in about the first thirty minutes of our arrival time and then she was ready to head back home.  No amount of bribery, cajoling, or even unlimited water play could convince her otherwise.  

So we packed it up and headed back home, earlier than expected but before utter and complete meltdown mode. 

I do have some pictures to share with you, though.  And I think you'll see that we did have a good time overall. 

Lily typically has two favorite things at Morgan's Wonderland - the roller slides and the water play area.  We save the water play for the very end of our visit because it usually requires a change of clothes upon completion. 

Since the Bird had already decided she was ready to leave by the time we hit the water area, that part was a total bust.  

But check her out working the roller slides like a boss. 

And one rule of thumb for all girls to keep in mind:  Even when swinging, you can still sit like a lady.

Then it was on to the carousel.  This picture cracks me up because Lily Bird looks so thoughtful - but it looks like evil thoughts might be running through her head, don't you think?  "Hmmmm..... World domination today or tomorrow???"

And then she wipes those evil thoughts from her mind and starts passing out the kisses.

And here's a shot of our family photographer, with my mother-in-law behind her.  Morgan's Wonderland is a family affair.

Another rule of thumb for girls - Never be so much of a lady that you don't indulge in snack time.

And while I'm not a photographer, I did manage to capture my big girls in a sweet moment.

Even though the Bird surprised us and we cut out "day of play" short, we're hoping to visit at least once more before it gets too cold.  Maybe next time, she'll love it and we'll have to drag her out.  

Who knows? 

Her job is to keep us guessing and our job is to keep trying.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Gift of Thanks for You

I guess this isn't technically something I created myself just for each of you.

But as soon as I discovered it this morning, I wanted to share it with all of you who read my blog and share this journey with me.

I mentioned yesterday the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and what an impact it's having on my heart and life.

While there is much more to it, a large part of the book encourages the reader to actually list 1000 gifts - blessings for which you are thankful.  To move beyond the typical things we tend to think of right away - family, friends, home.... and get very specific.

You may not be able to run out and buy the actual book so I have an awesome surprise for you today:

The One Thousand Gifts App!

What is it, you may be asking?

The One Thousand Gifts app encourages you to make everyday Thanksgiving Day.  It's a visual reminder of all your many blessings that you carry with you all the time - in your phone.  Use text or photos to record your gifts, then share them with anyone you choose through email, Twitter, or Facebook.  There's even a #1000gifts Twitter Stream where you can see hundreds of others sharing their gifts, too.

And, just in time for Thanksgiving, the app is FREE!

Sound good??

Click here to find out more about the One Thousand Gifts App.

Click here to download it to your iPhone or click here for Android devices.

And remember, this holiday season:

Want this free printable for yourself?  Click here and enjoy.

I count every single one of you as a blessing.  Thank you for reading, following, commenting, praying, laughing and just being a source of encouragement to me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Little Change in Perspective

If you're a faithful follower of this blog, you will likely remember that last week, I was getting a little caught up in the whole "Is therapy really even working for Lily?" thing that drives so many of us parents crazy.

I also might have been having just a tiny bit of a pity party.

Click here in case you missed out on all that fun.

In the midst of this season tailor made for giving thanks and remembering our many blessings, I let myself get side-tracked and focus on one thing that we seem to be unable to financially make happen - an extended family vacation.

Granted, the point I was trying to make was not that we can't afford a long vacation, but that the high cost of therapy can cause me to question if it's all really worth it sometimes.

As so often happens, I was gently reminded that I might need a little work in the gratitude department.

First, I asked my husband a couple days after I wrote the original post if he thought I was airing our dirty laundry.  He reassured me that I made the point but I still kept thinking I sounded a bit ungrateful.

Maybe, just maybe, God was putting those thoughts in my head?

Then, I picked up and started reading an amazing book by Ann Voskamp called One Thousand Gifts.  (It's so amazing that I can't really even find the words to share with you what all is going on in my heart while I read it... maybe one day.)

What's the message of the book?  Gratitude.

Ummm.... Hello, God?  Are you trying to tell me something?

Finally, just like every Sunday, my husband preached two sermons.

The subject matter?  Gratitude.

OK, OK, God.  I hear you.  I get it.

Gratitude has so much to do with our perspective.  With how we choose to look at or respond to certain events in our lives.

Here's what I mean:

My husband is good friends with several other pastors here in Austin, one of which is just a dear, dear man whom I just love.

Last summer, Ryan and this pastor friend, who I'll refer to as K, rode together to a retreat.  Since it was just the two of them in the car and Ryan trusts this sweet man implicitly, my husband let down his guard and shared with K something that had been bothering him.

Ryan said, "K, it seems like every time we get a little bit of extra money coming in to the house, it goes right back out for something we hadn't planned on.  I do a speaking engagement, we get some extra cash, and then Lana's Tahoe needs new tires and there goes the extra money.  I sell a few books, we get some extra cash, and then Lily has an unexpected health issue and there goes the extra money.  I emcee an event, we get some extra cash, and then the dishwasher quits working and there goes the extra money.  There is never any money to do anything fun - go spend the night in a hotel or let Lana go get a pedicure or whatever."

K looked at Ryan and very thoughtfully and tactfully said, "You know what I thought you were going to say, Ryan? I thought you were going to say - 'Man, we have had so many extra expenses lately.  So much stuff happening that we hadn't planned for.  Yet every time something comes up, it just so happens that I've got some extra money to cover it.  God's really been taking care of us because we've been able to just keep on trucking with that extra money coming in at just the right time.'  That's what I thought you were going to say."


If you want to put it that way....

But you know what?

K was exactly right.

We were totally focused on what we couldn't do.  And every time extra money came in and went right back out, that list just got longer and longer.

Thanks to K, we made a choice.

We quit looking at our long list of negatives and started thanking God that when we needed new tires or had a health crisis or needed a new dishwasher, there was money to take care of it all.  And still eat three meals a day!

A simple perspective shift.

And all of a sudden, we were acutely aware of blessings all around us.  Filled with a sense of expectation for the next one.  And heaped with gratitude.
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