Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Caution: Change Ahead

There have been a few changes around the Rush house.

Lily has finally started music therapy one afternoon a week and occupational therapy two mornings a week.  It has added to my taxi driver status but I'm hoping we see some positive changes that make the extra driving and gasoline worth it.

Now, some of you may be thinking that occupational therapy is job training for children that ensures they will one day be well-paid adults who can then use that money to take care of you in your old age.

But you would be incorrect.  Though I bet many parents would be very interested in therapy that promised those kinds of results!

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, occupational therapists help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities or "occupations".

Since a child's main occupation is playing and learning, OT provides them with the skills they need to participate in these types of activities.  Many children in need of OT have to be taught how to play - something that most kids pick up naturally.

So an occupational therapist will do all kinds of things that look like play to you and me, such as swinging, jumping on a trampoline, stringing beads, doing puzzles, playing with shaving cream or Play-Doh, blowing bubbles, crashing in beanbags, playing board games, climbing stairs, riding a tricycle.... the list is endless.

All of these activities are designed to help a child play and learn.

I like to call it "playing with purpose".

Music therapy is pretty self-explanatory, except for the common misconception that it's used to improve one's musical skills.  Ryan was considering having me attend on the off chance that it might improve my singing voice but no.

Music therapy is simply a different means of communicating (in this case, with a child) to help him learn to count, express emotions, learn body parts, engage in imitation, improve social skills... another endless list.

So Lily is beginning her third week of OT and music therapy.  She's still at school, too.

I'm hoping to get the music therapist to come to Lily's school once a week to do music with all the kids.  I think it'll be good for all of them and they'll like it as well.

The other change that's taken place around here has nothing at all to do with therapy.  But I'm excited about it, too!

We got rid of our nasty, yucky carpet on the bottom floor of our house!  WOOHOO!  We replaced it with lovely laminate that looks just like real, slightly roughed-up wood.

Here's a couple shots for your viewing pleasure:



I think it's just beautiful!  And so much easier to keep clean than the solid cream colored carpet that the previous owners had in here.  I mean - cream colored carpet?  Really??

By the way - if you haven't voted for Along Came the Bird as a Parents Magazine Best Blog, why don't you just go ahead and get that knocked out now?  I'll love you forever!

Well, that's all, folks.  Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Just In Case You Ever Wondered....

Since last week was our first ever Week of Questions, I've had questions on the brain.

A while back, I gave all of you an opportunity to ask me anything you've ever wondered about kids with special needs.  No one asked a question so I took that to mean that I have been so forthcoming with incredibly informative and enlightening wisdom, you couldn't even think of anything to ask me.

That is what happened, right?

Whatever the reason, I thought I'd share something with you today.

One of my very favorite blogs is called Love That Max, written by Ellen, the mom of a son who has cerebral palsy.  I've learned quite a bit from her posts - plus she's got a great sense of humor.

Ellen recently began a new blog on the Parents Magazine website called To The Max and one of her very first posts was titled, "People's Questions About Kids With Special Needs, Answered".  I thought it offered some great insight into what can be a sensitive subject.  Ellen offers some tips on typical children and kids with special needs interaction that I think you'll find especially helpful.

And remember, the offer still stands.

You can always feel free to ask me a question - that is, if you can come up with something I've not already covered with my incredibly informative and enlightening wisdom.

Good luck.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Tale of Two Babysitters

Last Monday night, Ryley babysat for her former science teacher.

It just so happened that Ryan and I were going out to eat with some friends that same night so Reagan was at home with the Bird and our sweet sitter, Julie.

While Ryley was babysitting, she sent a text to Reagan around 8 PM that went a little something like this:

"Just tucked K in and she's down for the night.  Easiest. Baby. Sitting. Job. Evah."

(Veronica - you might be overpaying her!)

A few minutes later, Ryley received a response text from Reagan letting her know how things were going at our house.  It went a little something like this:

"Not even fair.  I WANT MONEY TOOOOOOOO.  Lily, on the other hand, just ripped one of her whiteboards off the wall like The Incredible Hulk.  She literally ripped it out - even the screws from the wall."

Just another night at the Rush house.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Question for Friday... Plus a Couple Other Things

Well, today is Friday.

And that means our week of questions has come to an end.  It's been nice to take a little break from special needs and just get to know each other a bit better.  I've loved hearing from each of you and seeing what an eclectic group of people read the blog.

Before we do the last question, I want to tell you about two exciting things!

First, Along Came the Bird has been nominated for a 2011 Best Blog Award hosted by Parents Magazine!  Woohoo!  

But I need your help to win!  If you look to the right of this page, you'll see a nice bright pink button that you can click on and it will take you to the page where you can cast your vote for Along Came the Bird.

Now, I need to tell you that you do have to register with Parents Magazine to be able to vote.  But it's a quick process (should take you less than a minute) and you do not need to subscribe to any of their newsletters in order to vote.  That is, unless you want to.

I know it would be so much easier to just get to vote without registering but I guess this is the way Parents Magazine gets some feedback for hosting the contest. 

So I greatly appreciate you taking the time to register and vote - especially my readers who don't have children in the home anymore!  Y'all are awesome! 

Next, I bet quite a few of you are familiar with the Pioneer Woman, especially if you visit the Favorites page here.  For those of you who know and love her, don't forget that her brand new TV show is debuting tomorrow, Saturday, August 27th on The Food Network at 11:30 AM ET/ 10:30 AM CT. I think it's going to be worth a look - and pretty fun, too.

OK - now for our final question of the Week of Questions:

If you had a bumper sticker on the back of your car that said, "I'd Rather Be ______", what would be in the blank?

Big surprise here - Mine would say "I'd Rather Be Reading".  Or maybe, "I'd Rather Be Sleeping".  Tough decision.

What about you?  What would you rather be doing?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Question for Thursday

Today, let's just cut right to the chase:

What's one of the best pieces of advice you've ever been given?

When I became a mom, I was advised to learn to say "No" and not get myself over-committed.  My children would only be young for a short time, no one else but me could be their mom, and I always needed to ask myself, "Is this something that only I can do?"

I think now that I'm in my 40's, I've finally truly learned that lesson.  For a while, I would think that being the room mother for my daughter's class translated to "I'm doing this for you, Ryley."  In reality, it meant that I was copying, laminating and cutting endless things out when I could have been playing a board game with her.  She could care less who the room mother was but she did care if I was too busy for her.

As did all my girls.

It was good advice even if it did take me 20 years to learn it!

Now you're up - what's one of the best pieces of advice you've ever been given?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Question for Wednesday

Based on your response to yesterday's question, I guess most of my blog readers are sharp dressers!
I could tell you more stories of my unfortunate fashion mishaps but I think it's time to move on to the question for today:

What was the first concert you ever attended?

Now, I grew up in Houston and my dad was a policeman there for many years.  Part of being a policeman is working "extra jobs" to earn a little additional money.

One of my dad's "extra jobs" was working security for concerts.  Since he had an insider's view to what goes on at many concerts, I was severely deprived as a child and forbidden to attend any.  

In the words of my dad, "Everyone is either drunk or high and all it takes is one idiot pulling out a gun and you will die."  With that glowing recommendation ringing in my ears, I lived in fear of concert goers for most of my growing up years. 

It wasn't until my junior year of college that I finally got my chance to go to my first concert.  I was still a little leery of the prospect of death, but it seemed like a safe venue since it was an outdoor ampitheater at the Texas State Fair.

My first concert?  Don Henley.  Whom I simply love.

You do know who he is, don't you?

Don Henley of The Eagles fame?

I enjoyed every minute of it.  But I did have to admit to my dad that he was right.  The majority of the concert attendees did appear to be quite... ahem... inebriated.  And the man directly in front of me was indulging in something a tad bit stronger.

In fact, when Don (his closest fans such as me call him that) started sharing about a cause near and dear to his heart, the "indulgent" man in front of me yelled, "Shut up and sing!" in a rather loud and obnoxious manner.

It was a little alarming.  And quite rude. 

But at least I made it out alive.

Now let's talk about you:

What was the first concert you ever attended?

Talk to me, people.  Don't be shy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Question for Tuesday

I really enjoyed reading all your comments yesterday.  

I heard from a few of you through email - one who decided at the age of seven that he wanted to be in radio (and actually did it!), one who wanted to be a psychiatrist, and one who had a difficult time choosing between being famous or living at home forever and being her parent's maid.

Today, let's talk fashion.  And men - don't let talk of clothes steer you away from answering this one:

What was your biggest fashion disaster?

I'll embarrass myself first.

Imagine with me.... 

Sixth grade.  Picture day.  Photos taken right after PE class.

You're thinking I had sweaty, messy hair and a flushed face or something, right?


In my effort to make sure that every hair was in place and my lips were thoroughly slicked with Bonne Bell Lip Smackers, I failed to take enough time to dress myself properly.

Imagine my shock when I got my picture packet a few weeks later and noticed that while my face and hair looked fine, I had put the top button of my shirt in the wrong buttonhole.  I have this enormous wad of shirt gaping open right in the vicinity of my collarbone.  

Not one person noticed that?  Puh-leeze.  Needless to say, I did not share photos with friends that year.

And I won't even bring up bright blue sparkly eyeshadow, overalls, and burnt orange silky pajama type pants.

Your turn now.  'Fess up:

What was your biggest fashion disaster?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Welcome to the "Week of Questions"

I thought it might be fun to get some dialogue going this week.

So every day, I'm going to ask you a question.  You can answer in the comments, on Facebook or the Twitter, or even by emailing me.

I'll also answer the question myself because I wouldn't ask you to do anything I wouldn't do myself.  I'm nice that way.

Doesn't that sound easy?  And like so much fun?

Of course, it will only be fun if all of you answer, too.  If I'm asking a question and I'm the only one that answers it, that won't be considered dialogue and won't be fun at all.

So talk to me, ok?

The Question for Monday is....

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Most of you probably already know this, but anytime I was asked this question as a kid, I always answered, "A teacher and a mom."

I come from a family of teachers, coaches, principals, and superintendents so I think it's in my blood. But I knew from the moment I realized people worked for a living that I wanted to teach elementary school.

I also knew that I wanted to have kids and when that happened, I wanted to be at home to raise them myself and in my words, "just be a mom".

Little did I know that "just being a mom" would be (and still is!) the harder of the two jobs.

When I grew up (which is still a work in progress...), I did just those things.  I taught third grade and kindergarten.  Then I quit teaching when I had Ryley and haven't been back in a classroom full-time for almost 18 years.

And now, I'm "just a mom".

OK - your turn:

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Friday, August 19, 2011

The First Official Fan Club

I don't know if you realize this, but Along Came the Bird is a little over a year old now.  I started the blog in July 2010 but didn't really start posting regularly until September.  It's pretty exciting to see how far it's come in just a year.

I think one sign of a successful blog is the formation of a fan club.  I'm not talking about the number of followers or the statistics showing how many times a blog is viewed.

I'm talking about a Fan Club.  A group of people who gather together on a regular basis, read a blog and pray.

And I've got one.

Aren't you jealous?

My fan club is called Friends For Women and here's a picture of them:

In little Baytown, Texas, at Memorial Baptist Church, every Sunday morning, my Mamaw gathers with her Sunday School class. (That's my Mamaw - middle row, second from the right)

Among the items for discussion?

Along Came the Bird.

My mother periodically prints out my posts and mails them to Mamaw.  She then selects a few and takes them with her to Sunday School.

These sweet ladies who are all in their 70's and 80's (though you'd never know because they all look so stinkin' cute!) listen to my Mamaw read any blog posts that she has brought along with her that morning. And if she doesn't bring any, they are sure to ask after Lily and want to know about her latest adventures.  And then they pray for me.  In fact, I bet there's not a Sunday that goes by that I'm not prayed for by these ladies.

That is a fan club, people.

And I'm not the only lucky recipient of these ladies' love.

No, these gals are the very picture of lifelong friendship.  They are sweet and nurturing to one another. They take care of each other, look out for one another, and take time to be together. They visit each other when they are sick.  They make regular visits to the hospital and nursing homes.

In fact, every Thursday morning, a few of them head out to Starbucks.  Each of them gets a drink to go, plus one extra.  Then they head to the nursing home to give that extra drink to Eula Lee, a lovely lady who is still a member of their class despite the fact that she can no longer make it to church.  They sit with her, visiting and sipping hot coffee.

Of course, I would love for them to change the name of their class to something like, say, "The Birdies" or "The Bird Lovers".  And some matching t-shirts would be super - "We Love The Bird". Can't you just picture that?

While that might be a nice touch, I think the name of their class is perfectly appropriate for this caring, loving, precious group of ladies:  Friends for Women.  The only thing they could do to make it even more accurate would be call it "Friends for Women for Life".

Because that is exactly what they are.

And that right there is a lesson all of us can learn from these ladies.

This weekend, take some time to slow down a bit.  Pick up some goodies and go visit a friend or two. Or send a card.  An email.  Give them a ring on the phone.  Let a friend know that you love them and think about them.  Take care of each other.  And pray for one another.

And to the Friends for Women class at Memorial Baptist in Baytown - Thank you for loving me and my family.  Thank you for caring about my sweet Lily Bird.  And thank you for your prayers.  But most of all, thank you for being a friend for life to my Mamaw.  Give her a big hug for me.  She's a good one, that Maggie.

Now.  How about making me an honorary member of the class??

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Big Mouth

Sometimes I forget that not everyone's kids are in therapy.

A while ago, Ryan and I were out with Lily, shopping for shoes.  We go to a great shoe store just for kids in Austin called Sandy's Shoes.  It's a popular place and can get quite crowded on the weekends.

After we arrived, I noticed a familiar looking lady in the store.  But I couldn't remember where I had met her.  So I just kind of half-heartedly smiled at her and kept looking around the shoes, all the while wracking my brain on how I knew her.

All of a sudden, it came to me.  Her son and Lily were in the same therapy clinic and I had seen her as we were both coming and going from there.

I was so excited that I actually remembered so I started looking for her.

As I came around a corner, I saw her and exclaimed, "I knew I recognized you.  We're in therapy together!!"

We chat for a while and then go our separate ways.

I meet back up with Ryan, who's looking at me kind of strangely.

When I ask him what's wrong, he says, "I don't know who you were talking to but I think everyone in the store thinks you're in therapy.  Next time, you might want to either lower your voice or clarify that your child is in speech therapy."

Just goes to show that there are no secrets among special needs moms.  Or total strangers who happen to be within earshot.

Oh well....

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day by Day by Day

I woke up this morning thinking about Monday's post - the one about Lily's iPad addiction.

It reminded me of one of the common frustrations that many parents of special needs children face - every day is different.

Let's say that Monday you have a great day with your child.  The schedule you have in place works well.  Everything runs smoothly.  Tasks are done seamlessly.  Transitions go well.  Supper is a pleasant experience.  And the bedtime routine is a dream.

So what's the logical assumption most parents would come to?


"Today went so well that I'm going to do the exact same thing tomorrow.  Same schedule, same routine, same tasks.... everything.  I finally have found the routine that works for my child.  Woohoo!"

You fall asleep anticipating Tuesday will be a great day, too.

But that's not what happens.

Your child wakes up at the same time, but he's already grumpy.  Even though he liked pancakes for yesterday's breakfast, today he decides that pancakes are his most hated food.  He doesn't want to put on clothes and go outside for a walk, even though yesterday, he wanted to.  And when you ask him to do the same puzzles that he loved yesterday, today he acts like he's never seen them before and throws the pieces on the ground.  Supper is a nightmare.  And bedtime routine?  Don't ask.

So what happened?

Who knows.

This is an all too common experience for special needs parents.  You can be truckin' along, just fine and then BAM!, everything that's been working like a charm for a couple of weeks no longer does the trick.

Or sometimes, what works for one person, doesn't work for another.

For example, back in the day when Lily was pinching the fire out of us, Ryley would lightly hold Lily's upper arm between her thumb and index finger.  She wouldn't pinch or squeeze or even hold her arm tight - just held her fingers in a "pinching position" on Lily's arm and stared into her eyes.  Lily would instantly freeze and stare back at Ryley, like she was waiting for the pinch that was never going to come. It was actually quite funny to witness - this stare-down between a 17 year old and a 4 year old.

But it worked.

The frustrating thing for me?

It only worked for Ryley.  Not for me.  Or Ryan or Reagan or Sunday School teachers or anyone else.

So many times when someone asks me for advice on how to handle a behavior with Lily, I just don't have any words of wisdom to share that I can assure them will actually work.  It's trial and error.  It's thinking outside the box.  It's "what works today, may not work tomorrow".  It's "what works for me, may not work for you".

See how helpful I can be?

You know how all the parenting books will tell you that consistency is the key to a well-behaved child? It is.  It works wonders for typical children.

So what's the key to keeping your sanity as a special needs parent?

Offer consistency.  But be willing to fly by the seat of your pants, too.  Be willing to change the consistency to adjust to an inconsistent child.  Continually add to your bag of tricks.  Be flexible.  Try to stay one step ahead.

And my life's motto regarding The Bird?

"Today was a great day.  I wonder how tomorrow will go...."

To loosely quote Robert Burns, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray."

So make those plans.  Create that routine.  Design that schedule.

But don't forget to expect the unexpected.

It'll just make life easier if you do.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Bird In My Bed

Lately, Lily Bird has taken to sleeping with Ryan and I.

Oh, she has a perfectly nice bed in the room right next door to ours.  And she has always, always loved sleeping all by herself in her bed.

Which is a goal for every parent - a child who sleeps through the whole night in their own bed.

But you know how nice it is to just every now and then, bring your kid into bed with you and snuggle 'em up?  And wake up to something cute like this:

I know what you're thinking:  "Oh, it's cute now, Lana.  But it won't be so cute when she's 16!"

But we've waited a long time for this.  

So we're going to engage in this risky behavior.

And love every minute of it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Device Known As iCrack

I've mentioned many times here how much I love Apple products.  They've done wonders for Lily's ability to communicate.  And it just keeps getting better.

I spent Thursday morning at Lily Bird's school and watched her use the iPod Touch to request specific items.  I am continually amazed at how intuitive the products are and how quickly Lily has caught on to the idea of using them to "talk".

But notice I mentioned the Touch - not the iPad.

Early on in our use of technology, we decided to use the iPod Touch as a communication device and the iPad as the fun device.  For example, Lily will complete several tasks at school and can then use the Touch to request the iPad as a reward for doing her work.  So the Touch has her communication apps on it while the iPad has her games, music, and the like.

Have I thoroughly confused you yet?

Then we discovered that some of the games that Lily was playing on the iPad were highly educational and while she thought she was simply having free time, she was actually learning things like alphabetical order, and matching shapes and colors.

So we increased her use of the iPad to allow for additional learning time.

That meant she was using the iPad for a pretty large chunk of time during the day, both at school and at home, for learning and for play.

I believe this is when The Bird's transformation to The Beast first began.

I started to notice that she was growing ever attached to the iPad.  It was really the only thing she wanted to do while at home.  I would try introducing other toys or games or books but they just didn't measure up in her eyes to the fun of the iPad.

And because the iPad is so easy to work and Lily quickly figured out how to use it, she began to do all kinds of other stuff with it.

She would get the iPad and immediately go to youtube and watch videos.  That was fine at first but then became all she wanted to do.  So I removed the youtube function from her iPad.  I would add it back on when she could truly have some unstructured free time.

Or take music.  Rather than listening to an entire song, she knew that if she touched the screen while it was playing, she could restart it.  Over and over and over and over again.

For example, the song of the Soccer World Cup 2010, Waka Waka, by Shakira is one of her favorites.

I know you must be thinking - "what an odd musical choice for a 4 year old."  But don't forget that she has two much older sisters.  The only music on her iPad is what they listen to.  Lily has to be the youngest Coldplay fan.

Anyway, click here to have a listen to Waka Waka.

But you don't have to listen to the whole song.  While I actually think Lily would've liked the whole thing, her favorite part was the "yell" at the very beginning.  So she would select the song, listen to the yell, then touch the screen, and restart it to hear the yell again.  About 17 times in a row.

And if I would reach over and block her from touching the screen, well... let's just say that if I could understand what she was saying, I have a feeling she would've been in trouble.

Her behavior became quite erratic.  She was overly emotional or totally wired.  She would have the iPad for some free time and then all of sudden, she would just jump up and start running around the house.  Or be just plain grumpy. I began watching for triggers - events that happened immediately before the unusual behaviors.

Taking the iPad away from her started to cause ugly scenes around the house.  And I noticed in the daily notes from Lily's school that some ugly scenes were happening there as well.  Her transitions to new tasks after having the iPad were becoming more difficult.

The Bird was officially The Beast now.

Then one night, I was laying in bed reading a new book called The Anti-Romantic Child by Priscilla Gilman.  It's the story of a family of academics whose first child was diagnosed with hyperlexia and Asperger's, a form of autism.

One sentence leaped off the page at me - "It just kills me to see him anguished by worry or tuned out in a dull haze of perseveration or revved up by a tormenting obsession." (emphasis mine)

Call me slow but that's when it hit me - Lily is revved up by a tormenting obsession.  She is quite literally addicted to the iPad.  It's all she wants to do all the time.  And I believe it's what she thinks about when she can't have it.  And I also believe when she does have it for a chunk of time, it's totally getting her revved up - almost like she's high.  And her erratic behavior is almost like drug withdrawls.

That sounds a little dramatic, I know.  But I think you special needs parents can understand what I'm saying.  Our kiddos can get so fixated on something that it becomes a problem rather than simply a favorite thing.  Something that is actually good can sometimes turn into something not so good for our children.

So now we're in the process of drastically reducing the time Lily uses the iPad, even for educational purposes.  It'll give me an opportunity to see if some of what she's been learning on the iPad is transferring to other tasks.  I just bought some of those large magnetic alphabet letters and I'm anxious to see if she can put them in alphabetical order like she does electronically.

We're also trying to find fun replacements for the iPad that she will hopefully grow to love as well.

For example, to get her motivated to curl up and look at a book with me, I'm bribing her with a favorite snack.  Right now, the sheer pleasure of reading is not the reason she'll sit with me.  M&M's are.  But combining an activity I want her to engage in (reading) with an activity she wants to engage in (eating candy) is the first step.  So what if she associates reading with candy right now?  

The iPad is still a wonderful device, don't get me wrong.  (especially if Mr. Steve Jobs is reading this and wants to donate one - or several - to me!)

But kind of like children who play too many video games must take a break, go outside, breathe some fresh air and rejoin the "real world", so must we with Lily.  We'll reintroduce the iPad in controlled settings and free time with it will be more limited with fewer choices of activities available.

If we don't make some changes now, one day you may see her on the TV show "My Strange Addiction", right next to the lady who eats laundry detergent and the woman addicted to ventriloquism.


Friday, August 12, 2011

What on Earth? And A Couple New Things...

It's Friday.

I used to be a teacher and school's about to start so let's have a pop quiz.

You ready?

Look at the picture below and see if you can guess what it is:

Need a little closer view?

Cottage cheese?

Curdled milk?

White cotton candy?

Nope.  None of the above.

In fact, if you're thinking of any kind of food item, you're incorrect.

Let me give you a little hint.

It involves Lily.  Taking a shower.  And being alone for two minutes.

Have you figured it out yet?

I put my precious daughter in her bathroom to take a shower (which is right off the kitchen) so I could load the dishwasher.

She helps herself to the roll of toilet paper and decides to take it in the shower with her.  Where she then  
proceeds to tear it into little tiny bits that get soaked from the water and become a wet, soggy mess.  

What fun!

Some kids like to play with cups or bathtub toys while in the shower.  Mine is a little more inventive and chooses paper products.

That cup which looks deceptively full of light, fluffy stuff probably weighs about five pounds.  And is now in my trash can.

My Bird.  She is one of a kind.

Now, before I send you off for the weekend, I want to point out a couple of new features on the blog for your reading enjoyment.  (Do I sound professional or what?)

At the bottom of each post, you will find two new things.

One is called a Sexy Bookmark, because that's how I roll.  Just kidding.  I didn't come up with the name nor was it called that in my honor - at least not that I'm aware of.

It's the little statement that says "It's nice to share" and has several little icons below it to choose from.  If you happen to read one of my posts and think, "Wow!  That was some life-changing material!  People everywhere need to read this so their lives can be changed, too!  I MUST share this with the world!", now you can do so very easily.  Just click one (or all!) of the icons to create a link to the post you want to share and voila!  It's out there on the site you choose for all the world to discover.

Some of the icons require you to create an account and some don't.  Creating an account is quick and painless but the choice is yours.

Share away!

And lastly, you'll notice under the bookmark, some suggestions for other blog posts to read.  Just another way to make posts easier to find for newcomers to the site.

Now.  Get out there and have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

One To See And One To Skip

It's almost the weekend so let's talk movies.

I've got two recommendations for you - one that I really encourage you to see and one that I really encourage you to skip.

So, which movie to see?

The Help.

Click here to watch the movie trailer. (look in that little purple box for the speaker symbol and click it to turn off the background music!)

I cannot say enough wonderful things about this movie.  I read the book first, based on several people here saying it was one of their all-time favorites.  I absolutely fell in love with it.  I told Ryley to drop whatever she was doing and read it.  She obeyed like a good girl and loved it, too.  I have gifted several people with their own copy and told my mom and mother-in-law they needed to get it for their Kindles.

Since Ryan hosts a daily radio show, he received some sneak preview passes for the movie and we saw it about a month ago.  I fell in love all over again.  Ever since, I've been anxiously awaiting its arrival in theaters.  I've been telling people right and left - "Go see this movie!"

So now I'm telling you - Go see this movie!  (You men will like it, too!)  

And if you haven't read the book, you should get a copy on your way home from the theater.  It's still worth reading even after you've seen the movie. 

Now, which movie to skip?

The Change-Up.

I have not seen this movie nor will I.  I'm not even going to put a link for a trailer up for this one.

What I am going to do is have you click here for a link that will tell you much better than I could why you should not see it.

After reading Rob Rummel-Hudson's blog post about this movie, I think you'll find it ironic that The Change-Up is in theaters at the same time as The Help.

This weekend, treat yourself to a little "you time" and go see The Help.  If you just can't get away, make sure you look for it when it's on DVD.  Just don't miss it!

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's Good To Be The Preacher's Wife

Once or twice a year, a group of about twelve pastors from different churches and different denominations in Austin come together for a retreat.

This is unique in and of itself simply because most pastors of different denominations are not always willing to set aside theological differences to work together toward a common goal.  Heck, pastors of the same denomination can have that problem!

But this is a special group of men who have made a conscious decision to work together to make a difference in the city of Austin, Texas.

So anyway, this group of pastors met together on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

This year, they decided to do something a little different and they invited the wives to join them Tuesday night for supper and a time of prayer.

I'll be honest.  My first reaction was not - "Woohoo!  Pastors' retreat!  Can't wait to go to that!!"

But it should have been.

Because last night was just what I needed.

Oh, I enjoyed supper.  Anytime I don't have to cook is a reason to get happy.  And the conversation was great.  And getting to know the wives was a treat.

But the prayer time.... wow.

Now, I'll be honest again.  I'm not one who loves to pray out loud in front of people.  Shocking, I know. I'm a little on the shy side when it comes to that and I find it stressful trying to come up with something "good" to pray.

I want you to know that I drove to that retreat feeling better than I felt Monday, but still with a weight on my shoulders.  Well, after spending about an hour in prayer with these pastors and their sweet wives, my soul was totally refreshed and my shoulders were no longer sagging.  I actually felt like I had lost weight!  (It was totally a false feeling as I weighed myself this morning and the number had not changed one tiny bit - a little bit of a letdown, I'm not gonna lie.)

We prayed together as a group and then we broke into couples to do a little more intimate prayer.

Ryan and I found ourselves in a group with the Wilkersons and the Clarks, two sweet couples who just happen to be African-American.

And I have to tell you - those ladies and gentlemen don't just pray.  They PRAY.

I mean, I would totally not have been surprised if the Lord Himself had just shown up in person in that room with us and said, "Bishop Wilkerson and Pastor Clark - I couldn't stand to just listen anymore.  I had to come join your prayer circle right here in the flesh.  So here I am!"

There was such a powerful connection.  And I learned that I want these men and their wives praying for me every single day.

In fact, Bishop Wilkerson said something that I loved.  He said, "Lord, we are going to pray for Lily every day.  We are going to keep praying.  In fact, we are going to annoy you with our prayers for a blessing for that baby girl."

I loved it. I wished I had recorded it.

And while I know that the Lord never really gets annoyed with our continued prayers, I just might annoy the Wilkersons and the Clarks to pray a blessing for me every day.  I have them on speed dial.

And despite all that "good praying", I found myself not the least bit intimidated to pray all by myself in front of them.  Shocking, yet again.

It was a good night, to say the least.  In fact, after it was over, I asked if we could do this again next week.  They thought I was joking.

So why am I sharing this with you?  Because I want to remind you (and myself!) of a couple things:

  • Sometimes, the thing we least want to do is the very thing we most need to do.
  • While support from online friends is wonderful, there is nothing like good old-fashioned real-life supportive people that you can get your hands on.  Talk to someone.
  • Talk to God.  Even if you're mad at Him.  Even if you haven't talked to Him in years.  Even if you don't understand what He's doing.  Even if you don't like one bit of what's going on in your life.  Tell Him.  Don't sugarcoat it, either.  Get it out there so you can move forward.
  • If you talk to God, tell me about it.  If you don't want to leave a comment, email me.  You know how to pray for me - let me pray for you.  Let me help support you and you can help support me - is it a deal?
Have a good Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

At The End of The Rope

So I guess you figured out that yesterday was a tough day for me.

I started to write something different but when I sat down at the computer, all I could think about was how much I just needed to be honest.  Some days are harder than others to focus on the positive.  Some days, that silver lining is a little more elusive.  And yes, even though I'm a preacher's wife, sometimes God seems just a little further away.

My first reaction is usually to try and keep my feelings locked up tight inside, like I'm keeping a secret from the Lord.  Yet He knows me inside and out, knows my every thought before I even think it.  So I am fairly confident that when I am wrestling and questioning and basically heartsick, that He knows.  It's best to just get it on out there, tell Him out loud exactly how I feel, even if that means admitting that I'm mad at Him.  He's a big God.  He can take it.  Once it's out there, then He and I can start dealing with it. The healing can begin.

Does that sound anything like you or am I the only one?

Anyway, I heard from so many of you through email, text, Facebook and comments here and I am most appreciative.  Thank you for giving me the freedom to share despite the fact that the cold hard truth can be quite ugly at times.

So here's my question for you today:

What do you do when you're at the end of your rope?  Pray?  Bake?  Walk?  Call a friend?

For example, after I spent quite a bit of the morning just wallowing around, I got up and cleaned out my pantry.  It turned out to be the perfect thing, that little "kick in the pants" that I needed to get going again, to take my mind totally off Lily and helmets and hitting and therapy..... Afterwards, I felt like my mind was almost as clean as my pantry - trash thrown out, necessities back in place and everything neatly organized.

Sounds a little silly, but it worked for me.

So tell me - what do you do when you feel like you're about to snap?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sick and Tired

Warning - Today's post is brutally honest, quite negative, and therefore, not uplifting in the least.  I apologize.  Let's just say it was not the best of weekends.

I am sick and tired.

Sick and tired of:
  • my child needing an adult buddy just to be able to attend church.
  • wondering if I'll ever watch my child in a children's church choir.
  • seeing my child's peers progress while mine remains so far behind.
Sick and tired of:
  • my child hitting herself in the head.
  • hearing my child hit herself in the head through the baby monitor.
  • putting my child to bed with a helmet on then having to sneak in and take it off once she's asleep.
  • hearing the loud "thwap" of my child hitting her helmet.
  • seeing my child wear a helmet more often than not. 
Sick and tired of:
  • therapy - behavioral, speech, occupational, music..... all of it.
  • the iPad, the iPod, and any communication device other than a voice.
  • progress reports, program sheets, and trying to teach my child things that should be instinctual.
Sick and tired of:
  • reading and researching and constantly looking for something, anything, that might help my child.
  • always having to advocate for my child.
  • being one of those moms.
Sick and tired of:
  • wondering if my child will ever speak.
  • always attempting to figure out what my child is trying to say.
  • just trying to get through the day instead of really enjoying it.
  • not getting to play with my child like other moms.
I am sick and tired of being different.

I am sick and tired of special needs.

I am sick and tired of autism.

I am just tired.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Give a Listen

A while back, a good friend told me about this great song she had heard.  I promptly forgot about it until yesterday when I heard it on the radio while out running errands.

Since yesterday's post could've been perceived as a bit of a downer (and maybe only spoke to those of us with special needs children), I thought I would end this week on an up note and pass along the song to you.

Enjoy your weekend!

Laura Story "Blessings"

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Navigating the Airport is the First Part of a Trip

A couple weeks ago, I shared with you an essay called Welcome to Holland that is often used to help explain what it's like to have a special needs child.

And while it does offer a glimpse of what our lives can be like, it kind of glosses over that initial adjustment phase, which, by the way, is an ongoing process and can pop up multiple times for many years after diagnosis.

To be totally truthful, our lives are messy.

Yes, we may one day reach a level of acceptance and we love our children no matter what, and we've learned valuable life lessons and good has come out of all of this.  But I think all of us with special needs kiddos would take that diagnosis away in a heartbeat if we could.  We are trying to make the best of what we've been given.  We are trying to look beyond what the world sees as imperfection and really get to know our child's heart and soul.

And that can sound heroic or all butterflies and rainbows.  But it's not.  It's simply how we get through life, how we get through our day, and sometimes the next hour.

I found something online that's kind of a "spin-off" of the Welcome to Holland essay and I want to share it with you.  Because I think it gives a more realistic picture of what it can be like when you first find out you're one of those people - a special needs parent.

Now I must first warn you of a couple things:

1.  It would be good to re-read the Welcome to Holland essay first.
2.  There are a couple of times that language I don't use is thrown around - remember I'm not the author!
3.  This is not pretty, flowery reading.  But it's pretty dog-gone close to the emotions I felt when I go back to the birth of Lily Bird and all her medical issues.  And then again at 18 months when she started losing skills and we faced yet another hurdle(s) with her.  And even some days still.
4.  The author never mentions the Lord and of course, He is what saved me through all of this and helped me get out of the airport.  And He is still the One who saves me when I find myself back at the airport some days.  You'll understand after you read.

Before you can learn to love Holland, you must first get through Amsterdam International. (click on link)

Feel free to share any thoughts or comments and we'll talk some more about Holland and Amsterdam tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Cannot Believe I'm Even Typing This


This morning my alarm went off at 6 AM.

Yes, it is August 3rd.  And yes, that is still considered summer for, oh... I don't know... everyone.

Yet my alarm still rang loudly and woke me from a rather restless sleep (more on that tomorrow) at 6 AM.

So am I getting ready to go on an exciting trip?  Or am I waking early to get a really great deal at some fantastic store?  Or even just trying to take a walk outside before it gets so hot that I could actually fry an egg on my skin??

Oh no.  Nothing fun like that.

You see, summer is officially over in my house.  And here's why:


Both my girls decided to play volleyball at school this year, totally forgetting that practice starts before the first day of school.  And of course, the girls are not on the same team since they're not in the same grade which means they don't practice at the same time.

Reagan's practice is at 7 AM, starting today.  A fact I was not made aware of until yesterday.  I didn't even have time to properly mourn the fact that from this day forward, until June 2012, I will be rising early, while it is still dark, like the Proverbs 31 woman.  Only I don't really want to rise early and I bet she does.

When I shared this with Ryan, hoping to gain a little sympathy, he asked, "Why do you have to get up just because Reagan has early practice?"

And I'm like, "Hello!  Proverbs 31 Woman here.  I have to feed my children before they go out to face the day.  I can't have my child passing out on the court because I was too lazy to make her a piece of cinnamon toast."

Then I reminded my girls how lucky they are to have me around because if it was just their dad, they would be on their own.  No making sure they're awake.  No cinnamon toast before practice. No telling them to be careful and not drive like fools as they're walking out the front door.  Nope.  Dad would be snoring and then how could they make it out the door?

Playing the occasional martyr and inflicting some good old "mom guilt" on my kids is good for them.

So I'm hoping that as you go about your day today, you will think of me and feel just a little bit sorry for me.  Because my summer is over.  It came to an abrupt, screeching halt.  And while I'm now keeping volleyball hours, you know they're not going to let me on the team.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Cake For The Ages

For about fourteen years now, I've been making the same chocolate cake for many occasions:  birthdays, potlucks, teacher luncheons, baby showers.... and on the list goes.

My family calls this yummy dessert Miss Amy Lingenfelter Cake, in honor of the friend who gave me the recipe so long ago.

I've been making Miss Amy Lingenfelter Cake for my children's birthdays (per their request) for as long as I've had the recipe.  This cake has been made and cut into the shape of a cowboy boot, a patchwork quilt, a Hawaiian lei, a teacup - and maybe even more but that's all I can remember right now.

In fact, I made one just last night in belated honor of Reagan's 15th birthday since she was at camp on her actual day of birth.

(I know this statement will surprise you but I am not a food photographer as evidenced by the pictures below.)

Thank goodness she no longer cares about cute shapes and decor on her cake because that's a little out of my league.

Every single time I serve Miss Amy Lingenfelter Cake, I get requests for the recipe.

And even though you didn't ask (only because you haven't tasted it!), I'm going to share the recipe with you today.  Prepare to be amazed at how easy yet delicious this cake is.  Whether or not you choose to pass it along to your friends or guard it like a family secret is completely up to you.

Here's what you need:

Miss Amy Lingenfelter Cake
(feel free to change the name - Miss Lana Rush Cake has a nice ring to it!)

1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix - any brand you choose
Whatever ingredients the box mix calls for - usually oil, eggs, and water
1 small box instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tub cream cheese frosting*

Follow box mix directions and mix well for about one minute.  Then add pudding mix and mix another minute.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake according to box mix directions.

Let cool completely.

Frost with cream cheese frosting.

*Note - If you choose to make a layer cake, you'll need two tubs of frosting.

I told you it was easy.

Now go spoil your family and bake them a cake!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Handy Manny Does Not Live Here

Many of you know that my husband is not the most handy guy.  And you know that I'm not the most handy lady, either.

So when a little repair job came up this weekend, I wasn't holding out much hope that it would turn out well.

We have locks on most every interior door of our home.

I'm not just talking about the lock that you use when you go inside a room and close the door and don't want anyone to join you.  We installed some locks on the outside of the interior doors so that Lily could wander freely around the house but couldn't have free access to, say, all the food in the pantry or the water in the toilet.  Understand?

Here's what the lock on the pantry door looks like:

When the lock was first put on, Lily couldn't reach it.  Now that she's grown taller, she's not only able to reach it, she has, of course, figured out how to open it.  So I'm back to re-directing the child from helping herself to unlimited snacks.

I kindly asked Ryan if he could possibly raise the lock.  He was worried that if he removed the lock, holes would be visible in the door frame.  I'm thinking the solution might be to leave the old lock in place and simply purchase and install another lock higher up.

Here's the solution my husband came up with:

This is not what I had in mind.

While it worked for the weekend, I don't believe my husband has a future as a handyman.  It's a good thing he's a great pastor!

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