Thursday, June 30, 2011

Back to Basics

I am a sucker for good packaging.

For instance, I am totally convinced that all natural, chemical free products like these:
Mindful Beauty Everyday Basics
are so much more effective and so much better for me than say, Dial body wash.

My dad would say that what's in those cute containers is probably the same thing as Dial body wash, just with a beautiful label and double the price.

Since there are no money trees growing in my backyard, I simply can't afford to indulge in these lovely products on a daily basis.

But I do have a child with autism.

And I do hold fast to the belief that while none of us needs repeated exposure to tons of chemicals, she definitely doesn't.

So I buy myself good old Dial body wash and splurge on California Baby or Burt's Bees or Original Sprout products for The Bird.

Which takes care of her, but leaves me with the question of what to do about the rest of my house.

I want my home to be clean but I also want it to be healthy, safe, and non-toxic for all of us.

Most chemical-laden cleaning products don't really clean any better than back to basics stuff.  They just clean faster and might require a little less elbow grease.

(I feel the need to insert a note here - I know my little brother is rolling his eyes right now and thinking I've been living in Austin way too long.  Right now, he's telling his wife that the hippies have gotten to me!)

But honestly, having Lily Bird with all her issues and sensitivities (and the thousands and thousands of kids like her) has really opened my eyes to how many potentially harmful products we come in contact with every day.

So while I do admit to having a cleaning service come into my home twice a month, the rest of the time I use natural cleaning products.  I know there are all natural cleaning companies but doggone it, they are so expensive that it's just not an option right now.

What's a girl to do???

Make her own inexpensive and chemical free household cleaners!

And the best part for those suckers for packaging like me?  You can put them in any cute containers you like, craft unique and expensive looking labels, and laugh at how much money you saved.

So here we go.... Make Your Own Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit.

Here's how to make my favorite all-purpose spray that I use on absolutely everything:

1 tsp. Borax
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tbsp. white vinegar
1/4 tsp. liquid castile soap (scented is fine)
2 cups hot water

Put in a spray bottle and go to town.  

FYI - you can double or triple the recipe and just keep the spray bottle under your kitchen sink.  The water doesn't have to be hot to still be effective.  And that way you don't have to keep mixing it up every time you want to clean.

What to do with all that extra Borax?  Since it's a laundry booster, put a scoop of it in the wash with sweaty work-out clothes.

And how about all that extra castile soap?  Bathe with it!  

If you click here, you'll get an entire page of non-toxic cleaning recipes from that can tackle any dirty home with ease.  And a little elbow grease.

Let's be safe.... and get clean!

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Who You Calling Bird Brain???

  I waited to do a blog post so I could show you Lily Bird's latest academic achievement.

We went to Lily's school for another parent training today.  

Last week, one of her therapists told me that Lily can do a new game on the iPad.  Alphabet letters come floating across the screen and she can tap the letter and put them in alphabetical order. 

I couldn't wait to see it!  And now you can, too!

Check it out:

No one, at school or at home, has taught her anything about ABC order.  She just started playing the game one day and got it all right.  And she does it right every time.  She even gets a little impatient with the other kids at school who don't get it right every time!

I'm telling you - that child may not be able to talk, but she is brilliant!

I can't really say the same thing for that child's mother who sounds like a total redneck in the background.  But I don't think there's any doubt that we're all excited about this latest achievement.

She's a smart one, that Bird!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Just a Few Things

Yesterday you got a list.

Today you get another one.

1.  It's hot.

2.  Since we've been talking about reading lately (which is one of the few activities you can take part in around here without sweating), thought I'd share something really sweet with you.  Have you heard of The Reading Promise?  Love, love, love this idea.  Click here to read about an amazing dad and his lovely daughter and how they created a bond through reading.  After you watch the video, take a peek at Alice's website.

3.  It's really, really hot.

4.  Last week at Vacation Bible School, Lily managed to give her iPod Touch a nice thorough dunking in the toilet.  Despite being encased in an Otter Box, it did not survive the swim.  So off we went to the Apple store.  (I think it would be really nice if Steve Jobs would just adopt our family and keep us stocked in Apple products but that's not likely to happen.)  Rather than buying a brand new one (since we cannot guarantee this one won't ultimately end up in the potty) we handed over the damp Touch and are now the proud owners of a refurbished one, a much less expensive option.

5.  We have now had 17 days where the temperature has been over 100 degrees.  And it's not even July yet.  100 degrees, people.

6.  Speaking of the Otter Box, we have a different protective case on Lily's iPad.  It's called a Trident Kraken and it seems to be working better for Lily than the Otter Box did.  Of course, most protective cases work well when the owner puts it on and leaves it alone.  Not many can stand up to a child who is actively trying to remove the case.  But the Krakken seems to be holding up longer than the Otter Box did.  Just passing that along to any of you looking for a durable and less bulky (not to mention cheaper) protective case.

7.  I finally managed to get all of Lily's medical records collected and photocopied - one copy for the California doctor and two copies for myself.  I mailed the enormous stack to the California doctor and now we wait for him to look it over and see if Lily meets his autism criteria.  If so, we'll head out there for a visit with him.  Getting all that paperwork together and organizing it in some workable fashion took me back to college when I wrote endless research papers.  Back in the day when you actually had to go to the library and use the card catalog.  I don't miss those days - the school or the card catalog.

8.  Have I mentioned yet that it's very hot?

9.  And speaking of a possible California trip, I really don't relish the idea of flying with The Bird.  Those moments when you can't use electronic devices will be an eternity for her.  Which means an eternity for Ryan and I.  And possibly our fellow passengers.  I really wish I was related to Steve Jobs.  I bet the man has a private plane.  And I bet he lets you use Apple products during the whole flight.

10.  Are any of you related to Steve Jobs?  Can you put in a good word for us?

11.  It's hot.


Monday, June 27, 2011

No One Can Say They Have Nothing To Read


After Friday's post, I discovered that many of us have a love of reading in common.

You can read Friday's comments for yourself but since I also got some some Facebook and email suggestions, I thought I would compile a list of authors and books so we have it all in one place.  Then you can print out the list and head to the bookstore or the library.

I'm helpful that way.

So, without further ado,  I give you.... The List.

From Lana -
Mary Higgins Clark
Jan Karon
Randy Singer
Harlen Coben
Jeannette Walls - Half Broke Horses
Gesine Bullock-Prado - My Life From Scratch
Laurie Colwin - Home Cooking:  A Writer in the Kitchen
Molly Wizenberg - A Homemade Life

From Malita -
Dee Henderson
Karen Kingsbury (Redemption series)
Robert Whitlow

From Steve (aka "Mr. Smarty-Pants" whose book suggestions might be over my head!) -
James Hornfischer - Ship of Ghosts
John Parshall & Tony Tully - Shattered Sword
Kyle Thompson - A Thousand Cups of Rice

From Veronica -
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Blood Brothers
The Red Tent
The Help

From Teresa -
Diana Gabaldon (8 books in series)
Jean Auld (Clan of the Cave Bear series)
Florence Littauer
Patsy Clairmont
Don Piper (90 Minutes in Heaven)
Bill Gilham (Lifetime Guarantee)
Sheryl Woods
Intrigue series from Harlequin

From Whitney -
A Thousand Splendid Suns (second vote for this one!)
The Other Boleyn Girl
The Red Tent (second vote for this one!)
The Shack
Follow the River
Redeeming Love
Same Kind of Different as Me (one of Ryley's all time favorites, too!)
The Help (another second vote!)
The Year She Fell
Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker (Black, Red, White, & Green)

From Amy G -
Southern Sisters Mysteries - Ann George
Miss Julia series - Ann B. Ross
Francine Rivers

From Darla -
Brene' Brown
A Child Called It
The Lost Boy
A Man Named Dave
Heaven is For Real
Friendship for Grown-ups
The Gifts of Imperfection

From Linda C -
Maeve Binchy
Terri Blackstock
Michael Connelly
Dominique Dunn
Lisa Gardner
Robert Goolrick
Tami Hoag
Beverly Lewis
Louise Penny
Ann Rule
Lisa Scottoline
Stephen White

From Linda M -
What are your favorite kinds of books?
I really enjoy English-setting stories.  I like the old Pride & Prejudice type books.  I love mysteries also, but not the 'sit-on-the-edge' of your chair.   I don't enjoy tense!!!  I like the 'sleuth' to be clever - like Perry Mason or Hercule Poirot.

Who's your favorite author?
Belva Plain
Mauve Binchy
Nicholas Evans
Rex Stout
Nicholas Sparks
Robert B. Parker - until he started getting so crude
Richard Paul Evans
Jan Karon (of course)
Lori Wick
Jane Austen
Patricia Sprinkle

What are some of the best books you've ever read?
Rebecca, Daphne DeMaurier - years ago, but a favorite
A lantern in her hands - real old pioneer story
Jane Eyre
Too many more to try & list 

Linda C also told me about an amazing website called that I think all of you readers will love.  According to the site, there are bibliographies for over 30,000 authors and information on over 350,000 books.  That should keep you busy for a while!

And Darla shared a website called where you can create a virtual bookshelf to "display" books you've read, are currently reading or want to read.  You can discover new books, see what other people are reading, and read and write plot summaries.  Sounds like a great way to keep your reading organized and connect with other book lovers.  Might be more effective than the TBR list (To Be Read) I keep wadded up in the bottom of my purse.

The only trouble with all these great suggestions is that I don't think I have enough years left to read them all.  But I'm going to give it my best shot!

Enjoy your Monday and Happy Reading!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer Reading

It's Friday.

The weekend is here.

And it's summer.

So let's talk books.

Many of you know, I love to read.  I mean, I really love to read.  Click here if you need evidence of my addiction.

And like most readers, I'm always on the lookout for new authors and new books.

My most favorite kind of "mindless escape" book is mystery and suspense.  Not horror or too much blood and guts kind of thing.  Just a nice mystery - one or two dead bodies is acceptable.

My favorite mystery author is Mary Higgins Clark.  But here's the problem - the woman only puts out one book a year.

And I can read much faster than that.

Hello, Mary!  I'm talking to you.... Write Faster, Lady!!!

My favorite Christian mystery writers are Randy Singer (similar to John Grisham) and Terri Blackstock. But I've read all of their books.

So I need more!

One our recent trip to Aspen, I read "Caught" by Harlen Coben and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was a really good mystery with no bad language.  I'll be reading more of him this summer.

I've really gotten caught up in some memoir type books, too, like "Half Broke Horses" by Jeannette Walls.

And for some strange reason, since I don't really like to spend too much time in the kitchen, I find myself drawn to what I call "storybook cookbooks".  These books are basically memoirs with a few recipes thrown in.  For example, "My Life From Scratch" by Gesine Bullock-Prado (Sandra Bullock's sister, by the way) "Home Cooking:  A Writer in the Kitchen" by Laurie Colwin, and "A Homemade Life" by Molly Wizenberg.

I think I love hearing them talk about food because I love to eat.  But it also brings to mind many happy memories centered around food and family.

Don't even get me started on the Mitford books by Jan Karon.  I am in love with those books.  And so Jan Karon did what all authors do when they have a huge following of people who love a particular series.  She ended it.  It almost brings tears to my eyes.

So, let's do this.

I'll ask a couple of questions and you answer them by way of leaving a comment here or on Facebook or Twitter.  Heck, you can even email me and I'll move your answer over here myself.  Sounds fun, right?

Two things, though -

Please don't leave me hanging.  Nothing's worse than asking a question and hearing crickets chirping instead of an answer.

And I'm really sorry for those of you still having trouble leaving a comment.  I am a computer dunce and while I wish I could help you, I simply can't.  Click here to read a post from Reagan with a comment tutorial and maybe that will help.  Facebook comments are super easy so at least try that!

OK - question time!

What are your favorite kinds of books?

Who's your favorite author?

What are some of the best books you've ever read?

Let the comments fly!

And have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Vacation Bible School

After yesterday's post, I don't think I have the brain cells to write too much today so I thought I'd just let you take a peek at some pictures.

It's Vacation Bible School at our church this week so the kids are out in full force.

Here's Lily Bird having a good old time on the big kid swings.

This is a shot of Reagan (far left with orange bandana and navy tee) singing and clapping with her class of four year olds.

And here's Ryley doing.... well, we're not exactly sure what she's doing but since she's on stage in front of all the kids, she's right at home being the ham.

Even Ryan is in on VBS.

He's challenging the kids to bring in 450 backpacks for needy children in Austin and Guatemala.  If they meet the goal,  rumor has it that Pastor Ryan will be doing a Slip & Slide into some lovely chocolate pudding on Friday.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Letting Off Some Steam

Before you read today's post, you might want to read the comment left on yesterday's.  It might help you understand what I'm writing about today just a bit better.

A word of caution - today's post has the potential to be quite rambling so I hope it ends up making some sense.

I can't believe that I forgot to tell you about something I saw on TV back in April.  Many of you have probably already heard about it by now.  I was reminded of it by the comment left after yesterday's post.

If you haven't heard about Carly Fleischmann, a teenager with autism, click on Carly's Voice to visit her blog.  You can watch several interviews and read about her amazing ability to communicate.

I shared with you a couple of weeks ago about a new skill that Lily has learned and that we are currently working on to expand even more.

You can goggle Carly's Voice and there are rumors floating around the web wondering if the whole thing is a hoax and simply made up by people (including Carly's parents) who are just looking for their fifteen minutes of fame.

Back to Lily's ability to match words with no pictures - this skill was discovered almost purely by accident at her school one day.  Sure, Lily has now been in intensive behavioral therapy for a year.  And she sees words on a daily basis - as she's doing puzzles, looking at books, using her iTouch to communicate or playing on the iPad.  But no one's been doing flashcards with her.

And no one had ever simply put plain word cards in front of her to see if she could match another plain word card to one of them.  No prompting, no pictures as hints, no guiding by the therapist's hand, nothing.  Just white cards with black words typed on them.

And yet she did it.  All on her own.  And she continues to do it.

Reading, writing, typing - these are skills that some autistic people will never accomplish.  Yet my Lily seems to be on her way to doing those very things.

You want to know why I think kids like Lily and Carly can do things that most people think that nonverbal autistic people can't do?

Because we're talking about the brain.

One of the most mysterious organs in our bodies.

And we simply don't know everything these kids can and cannot do.

And we probably won't ever know all they can and cannot do.

Not everything in the world makes sense to us all the time.

We're not all as smart as we think we are.

Some people are criticizing Carly and saying all of her communication is completely prompted by her therapists.  That her thoughts are not her own.  That she thinks about the feelings of others and shows empathy, something autistic people are not supposed to be able to do.

Well, who said?

And who can really know that for sure?

I don't care what kind of degree you have or what level of expertise you've reached in your field or how many alphabet letters you have following your name, you simply can't know everything.

Nor do I.

So I'm willing to accept that Carly just might be able to show some empathy.  Even though it's a recognized and accepted belief among the autism community that people with autism don't think about the feelings of others does not mean that it can't happen.  It doesn't mean that every single person with autism is 100% unable to show empathy.

We just don't know.  Because we don't know everything.

Again, I truly believe that the heart of the problem of autism rests in the brain.  We can do all kinds of things to improve the symptoms of autism, but I believe it's similar to a brain injury.  And that is the reason we are gathering up all of Lily's medical records and going to visit a doctor in California.  We want to focus on the brain, not just treat the symptoms.

But that is my opinion of Lily's experience with autism.

It does not mean that I think this is what every person with autism in the world should be doing.

It may or may not work.

But if it doesn't work for Lily, that doesn't mean I'm going to write this California doctor off as a total quack who is trying to capitalize on desperate parents willing to do anything to "heal" their kids.

I'm not going to refer to his practice as a "hoax" and dedicate a blog to trying to discredit the man.  If he helps one child with autism, then it's worth it.

We are all unique individuals.  What works for one person may not work for someone else.

For example, I have headaches on a regular basis.  I can take two or three ibuprofen and my headache just laughs at it.  It does nothing for me.  Yet my husband can get a headache, take one ibuprofen and it's gone.  Just like that.

Someone might think that my headache was worse than his and that's why mine didn't go away despite taking the same medicine.  And taking more of it.

Or maybe I have a different kind of headache.

You would not lump everyone who has headaches into one group, give them a label, and assume we are all exactly alike.

The same is true for autism.

There's a saying that goes like this - "If you've met one child with autism, you've met one child with autism."

So please do not lump every single person with autism into one category.  And one description, like this:

People with autism do not pay attention to other people.  They do not interact with other people.  They are very rigid and like order.  Routine is very important to them.  They do not like change.  They are not affectionate.

This does not describe my Lily Bird at all.

Does that mean she does not have autism?


It means she is one child with autism.

And the people you know who have autism?

They are each unique individuals.  The diagnosis, the label, is really the only thing they may have in common.

We truly do not know what all these special needs individuals are capable of.  Nor should we feel like we have to figure it all out.

The point is - you just keep trying!

You don't give up!

I don't know what's going to work.  I don't know what isn't going to work.  So I try everything.  And I'm  going to keep trying everything.  And I'm going to re-try things that didn't work before to see if they might work now.  Or years from now.

And it doesn't really matter to me if an "expert" tells me Lily may never talk.  I'm not going to just say, "Well, OK.  I guess we'll just take her out of school, keep her home, and try to give her a good life."  No.  Because that "expert" doesn't know for sure.  And he doesn't know my Lily Bird.  He does not know.  

And that is why I keep on.  And that is why every parent I know who has a child with special needs keeps on.

Because unlike all those "experts",  I don't see an autistic child when I look at Lily.  

I see my daughter.

And I'm not giving up on her. 

I never will. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Good Stuff

I wanted to share a few good things I've come across in the last few weeks.

Pick up a copy of the July issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, flip towards the back and there's an interesting article about a family with two special needs sons who are in their twenties.  Take a look at it and see what you think.

Rage Against The Minivan has a great post about being the sibling of special needs person.  Click here to check it out.

You know how I've been telling you about all the wonderful technology there is out there for nonverbal kids?  And how parents can record words or phrases into their kids' communication devices?  Well, click here to read a fun post from Love That Max about that very subject.

It made me think of a couple things I would never put in Lily's speech device.  Things like:

"Hand over the iPad and no one gets hurt."
"I'll take every kind of noodle you have."
"But my mom always lets me have all the Skittles and M&M's I want."

A friend recently shared this short video with me.  I loved it and I know you will, too.


Molly Hinka - Special Olympics athlete

Anyone else have something to share?  Leave a comment and pass it on!

Have a super Tuesday!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Back to Life, Back to Reality

Call me Nancy Drew because I have a hunch.

I think Lily is making us pay for being gone last week.

A different schedule can really wreak havoc with lots of kids, but especially those with special needs.

We're lucky in that Lily has always been a fairly flexible kid.  She's not one of those who lines up her toys in certain ways or needs to eat the same thing for breakfast every day.

But for the past year, her schedule has remained 99% the same.  School Monday through Friday, family hang out time on Saturday, church on Sunday.  Then repeat for the next 52 weeks.

Take one week to basically do the same thing, minus Mom and Dad, wouldn't make that much difference, one would think.

Oh, but it does.

The Bird's therapists told us she really missed us.  My in-laws said she woke up in the mornings and headed straight for our bedroom to see if we were there.  Ryley and Reagan said she would walk around the house and they thought she was looking for us.

Kind of makes my heart hurt.  And feel like a total heel for leaving for a whole week.

But now that we are back, instead of acting like she missed us and that she's completely grateful to have us home again, she's more or less acting like a "little toot", as we say around here.

Over-reacting to the least little things.  Doing stuff she knows she's not supposed to do.  Throwing open the refrigerator door and running away.  Opening the back door to the garage and letting in all that nice trapped heat.  Stomping her feet when we say no and even though she can't say the exact words, I know she's cussing us.

So it's back to the daily grind around here.

Putting routines back in place.  Maintaining our typical schedule when she comes home from school in the afternoon.  Not letting her get away with things that her grandparents did - which is exactly what grandparents are supposed to do, by the way!  And making sure she's not eating dyes and additives and all that yucky stuff.

Speaking of dyes and additives, Lily developed a strange obsession with Lucky Charms while we were gone.  Namely, the little marshmallows in the cereal.

It's like she knows they're in the pantry so she can't stop thinking about them.  I imagine she has this little voice in her head saying, "Must get the Lucky Charms.  Must eat the Lucky Charms."  Much like the voice in my head that says, "Must get the chocolate chip cookies.  Must eat the chocolate chip cookies."

I'm hoping this goes away soon.  The Lucky Charms, that is.  Not the chocolate chip cookies.

I shared this with Reagan, who is the child we buy Lucky Charms for, and she said, "I developed that Lucky Charms obsession around age 5 and it's never gone away."

Well.  That's good news.

So my goal this week.  Are you ready for this?

I'm going to try making homemade marshmallows with natural ingredients.  Then I'm going to let them get a bit dried out, like those little Lucky Charms marshmallows.  Then I can let Lily have some without worrying about all the fake stuff in the cereal.

I could even go crazy and try tinting some of them with natural dyes.

Woo - I hope you were sitting down before I said that last sentence.  Let it never be said that I don't know how to have a good time!

Here's the recipe for marshmallows I think I'm going to try.  But if you have one that's a real winner that you wouldn't mind passing along, I'd be most appreciative.

Of course, now reading that marshmallow recipe makes me want to also try her recipe for homemade graham crackers.

Then you know what that means - s'mores!

Someone stop me now.

Things might just get a little crazy around here.

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

To all the dads out there who:

willingly change dirty diapers,
pretend like they really want to wear one of those baby slings,
put together all kinds of baby gear that comes in boxes,
learn how to curl little girl hair,
drive their "cool car" with a carseat in it,
wear ugly ties and stinky cologne because the kids gave it to them,
step on legos or hot wheels in bare feet and don't curse,
teach their teenagers how to drive,
take the kids for ice cream after bedtime,
are always up for a game of catch or shooting baskets,
proudly take pictures of their child's first deer,
participate in tea parties, complete with crowns, boas, and tiny cups,
play endless games of Candy Land or Clue and make their kids "earn" a victory...

I hope you have a great Father's Day!

I know I wouldn't last for long without the love, support, encouragement, and... let's be honest here... help that I get each and every day from Ryan.

Our girls (and myself!) are so blessed to have him as the head of our home.

If you can, sit down, put your feet up, and take a load off.  

Have a great Sunday afternoon!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What Is This? A Saturday Post???


I know it is so hot.  Well, at least it is if you live in the Austin area.  And if it isn't over 100 degrees where you live, kindly keep it to yourself.

Because of the heat and because it's summer, I know knitwear is the furthest thing from your mind right now but I just had to share a little something with you.

My middle daughter, Reagan, is quite an accomplished knitter.  In my opinion, that alone is impressive because if you handed me two needles and some yarn, about the only thing I might could make is a pretty flimsy jump rope.

But that's not all she does.

Reagan has also created several original knitwear designs all on her own.

Mind-boggling, I tell you.

Anyway, we just found out that one of Reagan's original designs is featured on the Malabrigo Yarn website!

And for those of you thinking, "Mala-what?", Malabrigo is a lovely brand of yarn.

Click here for the Patterns Page, scroll down to the bottom and you'll see it on the left hand column.  It's an adorable infant hat pattern called Hey, Cupcake!

And if you click here, you can get the pattern details as well as see "More Reagan Rush" in the bottom right hand corner.  In that box, you can see another Reagan Rush original design, the Leafprints hat along with the One Row Button-Up Neckwarmer, her variation on another person's pattern.

And yes, that's my cutie-patootie daughter wearing that neckwarmer!

I'd like to take credit for the smarts and creativity it takes to both knit and design, but I'm afraid it doesn't come from my side of the family.  In fact, Ryan's grandmother is about the only person I know in either of our families that did any sort of knitting and I think she mostly made afghans.

No matter where it comes from, my daughter has some mad knitting skills!

By the way, she's available for hire, should you be interested in having some beautiful, handmade knitwear to give out as Christmas gifts.  Just thinking ahead here.....

Have a great Saturday!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thank You For Being A Friend

I'm officially back home now!

And while I'm very glad to be in Austin, I really wish there was some way I could've brought the Aspen temperatures home with me.

Let me tell you, there's a huge difference between 72 degrees and 103 degrees.  Yikes!


Those of us with kiddos know the hardest part of heading out of town without them is just getting ready to leave.

And I'm not talking about actual packing.

I'm talking about making lists of who needs to be where when, who likes this for breakfast and who doesn't, who to call in case there's a medical emergency, who needs to be in bed by what time, who sleeps best in a particular kind of pjs, who can use the computer and for how long, which kid is allergic to what, who needs a packed lunch for school and what's going in that lunch, and on and on it goes.

It's enough to make you second guess your trip!

My in-laws graciously volunteered to keep all three kids so we could enjoy some time away alone.

Since my in-laws have moved to Austin now, they're more familiar with Lily's routine so it makes things a bit easier.  For example, I didn't need to tell them how to get to Lily's school or places to grab something for supper.  They just know those things.

Ryley and Reagan would be here part of the time we were gone so I knew they could help out.  But I also knew they would each be leaving on some trips of their own while we were still gone so I couldn't count on them to be 100% available.

I left notes taped to my kitchen cabinets like usual - notes of what to put in Lily's lunch each day and a list of important phone numbers.

Then Ryan and I headed off to the airport, preparing to enjoy an entire week away, just the two of us, something we hadn't done in about seven years.

And in less than 24 hours, we remembered why we never go away for any length of time on our own. Things just never seem to run as smoothly as planned.

Ryan's parents were called out of town due to a death in the family.  Actually, two members of the family passed away within hours of each other and Ryan's dad would be doing the funeral.

So they needed to get to Indiana.

Before Lily Bird, this really would not have been that big of a deal to solve.  I mean, our big girls are 17 and 14 years old and pretty self-sufficient.

But adding Lily to the mix creates that little extra layer of excitement.

Not just anyone is up for taking on The Bird.

Ryan and I were preparing to head back home when he decided to make one attempt at getting someone to hang out a couple days with our kids so we could stay in Aspen.  It needed to be someone Lily knew and felt comfortable with.  And someone who felt comfortable with her as well.

Ryan made one phone call and enter....  "Carla and The Team".

Carla is the Children's Minister at our church and we affectionately call her group of friends, "The Team".  They hang out together and many of them work at the church.

Carla, Kathy, Amy, and Terre are the kinds of ladies you call when you need something D-O-N-E done! That saying, "If you want something done well, just do it yourself" does not apply to these ladies. They are go-getters, they all have hearts to serve, and they do everything with the most positive of attitudes.

Most importantly (to us!) is that they all know and love our Bird.

One phone call to Carla and she quickly reassured us that she was up for the challenge.

She called The Team and before we knew it, there was an around-the-clock schedule in place, all kids were accounted for and taken care of, and we were to stay in Aspen the entire time we planned and "do not worry about one thing!".

Well OK.

And that's just what we did.

We would never have been able to stay, let alone relax and enjoy the time away without the help of these wonderful ladies.  We knew things would be fine at home while in their very capable hands.

Ryan's parents were able to be back to spend the last two days with our kids.

Isn't it great to have friends and family who drop everything to help out?

I mean, lots of us say we want to help, and we really do want to, but when push comes to shove, it can be hard to move around the things we've already planned to help someone out.

It's not always convenient. Or easy.

But speaking from experience, it means more than words can say to those of us who need some occasional help that you're willing to be inconvenienced just for us.

Or our kids.

I hope that I can be that exact same way for someone when the time comes.

So to my in-laws and Carla and The Team, Ryan and I thank you.

And we promise not to go away for a week again for at least another seven years!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hitting the Road

Since I'm flying home today, I have travel on the brain.

Times sure have changed from when I was a kid, sitting in the back seat of my parent's Oldsmobile, arguing with my little brother about crossing the invisible line that divided his side of the seat from mine.

No DVD player to keep us entertained - just those travel bingo games with the little red plastic windows you slid over when you spotted something out the window.

Thank goodness I loved to read and didn't get carsick. I passed many a mile lost in a book with my dad begging me to look out the window at the scenery. At that time, I felt like if you saw one mountain, you'd seen them all. I was much more interested in what Ramona the Pest or Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle had going on.

Though my kids still enjoy a very competitive Alphabet Game, I know that sometimes it takes a little more than that to reach our vacation destination in peace. And in one piece!

And since it's summer, the time when many families are hitting the road or flying the friendly skies, I thought I'd share some great tips I've come across recently on making traveling with kiddos just a little bit easier.

The blog is a great resource for flying with children, among other things. I especially love this post about how to maintain a sense of humor when traveling with your kids.

Click here for an airplane scavenger hunt that will keep your kiddos flying with their eyes peeled. A small reward for whoever spots the most might provide some good incentive.

And here's a great article on how to make your car kid-friendly, both for long trips and just running around town.

Family Fun has some terrific travel games to play while you're on the road. They even have some fun printables you can stash in the glove box and bring out when the kids need a little pick-me-up.

In my mind, the most important thing to remember when traveling is to be prepared. And while kids today really have no idea how easy they have it when it comes to entertainment while traveling, the trip is certainly more peaceful for the parents when they take a little time to plan ahead.

And I'm all for keeping the peace.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Let's Do Lunch!

I know that for many of you, your kids are out of school now and you're free from lunch-packing duty.

But there are quite a few of us whose kids go to school year round, like Lily Bird.

Some of you may have kids going to day camps where a packed lunch is required.

And don't forget about family picnics!

So the bottom line is there still may be occasion for food to be packed up and transported somewhere.

I don't know about you but I get stuck in a rut and end up sending the same food week after week. Of course, Lily Bird doesn't mind all that much. I think the girl could eat buttered noodles every single day. But I'm hoping to add a little more variety to her diet.

I'm also trying to be a little earth-friendly and cut down on my use of baggies and plastic wrap. But I don't want to break the bank on expensive bento-type lunch boxes.

I recently found what I think is the greatest lunchbox system ever. It works great, keeps food cool, and best of all - it's inexpensive!

It's called Easy Lunchboxes and you can check it out here.

I have eight of the containers and one cooler bag.

If I want to send something warm in Lily's lunch, I just stick a thermos in the cooler bag, too.

Now, for some good ideas on what to pack in that lunchbox, click here.

Have some fun with lunch!

See you Thursday!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I Spy With My Little Eye

Note taking.

List making.

Chart creating.

Record keeping.

All of these things are just an everyday part of life with a special needs child.

We keep track of what foods our child eats and how many calories he consumes. We make sure the "output" matches the "input", if you know what I mean. We record what milestones are met and when they occur. We write notes on progress made and any loss of skills we might observe. We take notes on hours slept and how well the night went.

And on it goes.

Since I've been collecting all of Lily's medical records, I've come across several journals in which Ryan and I recorded just these types of things about our girl.

Looking back over them, I realized something I don't think I really noticed at the time those notebooks were written.

Observing your child in that way 24/7 can take a toll on you.

In a way, you are forced to look at your child with clinical eyes, rather than through the loving eyes of a parent.

The simple joy of being a mom can almost be crushed under the weight of the additional responsibility of playing clinician.

You can't seem to escape that lingering voice of worry that whispers things in your ear, such as, "she's still not stacking blocks", even in those moments when you are just trying to relax and play.

Yet you cannot stop writing these things down because there will be endless questions at the next doctor or therapy appointment.

It can be hard to find a balance.

While I still record things about Lily, I must admit I've lightened up on the 24/7 observing.

Because at the end of the day, I want to be Lily's mom.

Of course, I want the best for her.

I want to be able to answer questions about her habits, behaviors, routines, and milestones. I want to truthfully tell therapists that we work on newly acquired skills at home. I want medical personnel to think that I am the best data management mom they've ever seen.

But more than all of that, I want to have fun with my daughter.

I want to lay on the big green beanbag and watch youtube videos with her. I want to give her a foot massage when she sticks both feet in my face. I want to take her outside when she grabs my hand and pulls me to the back door.

I want to be the mom.

Lily sees about five doctors and eight therapists. That's 13 people involved in her care. That list will most definitely change throughout the years.

But she only has one mom and one dad.

And that will never change.

Ryan and I were given some advice right after Lily was diagnosed. The advice came from a family with an adult special needs son.

They told us to spend at least ten minutes each day just watching Lily.

I have to admit, I didn't really think this was such valuable advice at the time. In fact, my first reaction was, "well duh.... I don't think I've taken my eyes off this child since she was born."

Upon further explanation, I began to understand what they were saying.

For ten minutes every day, shut out everything. Turn off that mean voice inside your head that points out everything she can't do. Tune out voices of doctors, nurses, therapists, specialists, and teachers. Don't set up any therapeutic play. Leave the pen and legal pad in the office.

For ten minutes, just let Lily be.

And then watch her.

See with your own eyes "Lily Your Daughter" not "Lily the Girl with Autism" or "Lily the Nonverbal Child" or "Lily - the No Block Stacker".

Get to know your daughter.

Learn to interact with her on her terms.

Learn to play with her the way she wants to play.

Make a unique connection with her that only her mom or dad can have.

And fall in love with her.

It truly was some of the best advice we were ever given.

Oh, I was good at looking at Lily as a project. Or as something that needed to be "fixed". Analyzing her. Taking notes.

But looking at her as my daughter? It was getting lost in the midst of all the data.

I did love my daughter right from the moment of birth.

But in ten minutes every day, I FELL IN LOVE with my daughter, head over heels with my whole heart, a feeling that was almost robbed from me because of a diagnosis.

Today, take ten minutes to just watch your child.

Yes, it's ten minutes of therapy lost.

But what you stand to gain?


And worth every minute of "wasted" time.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Coming to a Bookstore Near You.... If He Can Find a Publisher


I guess my idea about answering any of your special needs questions wasn't such a great one, after all.

I didn't get a single question.

Maybe it's like this: my life is pretty much an open book just by the writing of this blog so more than likely, I've already answered all your questions, right? Right.

Moving on now.

I think many of you have figured out by now that I am on vacation at the moment.

Usually at some point during a vacation, Ryan will get some burst of creative inspiration which results in a sermon series or book idea.

Most often this moment of inspiration comes from something beautiful in nature.

This time, however, the inspiration is from something I never would have expected: the kitchen in our condo.

Namely, the instant hot water dispenser located at the kitchen sink.

You know what I'm talking about - that typically skinny little faucet right next to the hot and cold water taps. This is almost a standard feature in many homes in cold weather country.

Now, when I see an instant hot water dispenser, I think of hot tea or hot chocolate with no wait.

Not so my husband.

I can almost see the wheels turning in his head.

He looks at me with something closely resembling excitement on his face and says, "I can make instant oatmeal."

OK. I guess that's nice, if you like instant oatmeal.

But he wasn't done yet.

"I could also make Easy Mac. Or Ramen."

I'm looking at him a little funny now.

I mean, the man doesn't even really like to use the microwave at home because, in his own words, I push the buttons better than him.

In almost 20 years of marriage, I've never seen him quite this excited about cooking, if you can call preparing food using only an instant hot water dispenser, actual cooking.

I jokingly said, "Maybe you should write a cookbook."

Well, now the man is on an official roll, dreaming of an instant hot water dispenser cookbook.

While we have discussed other topics, I know this cookbook idea is simmering at the back of his mind. I know this because every now and then, he will just blurt out something like this:

"It could be called 'Just Add HOT Water'."


"Another recipe could be an oatmeal suicide - mixing together two different instant oatmeal flavor packets, like maple and brown sugar with apples and cinnamon!"

or, I suppose for those with more refined taste buds:

"How about boiling pasta and then pouring Ragu over it? Instant spaghetti!"

For any of you, such as myself, who worried that Ryan might not be able to really slow down and relax on this vacation, rest easy.

I believe contemplating a cookbook whose only potential audience might be college boys is the sign of my husband's mind at rest.

Unless he starts trying to turn this idea into a sermon illustration, the man is relaxed.

I myself am relaxed but I might lose that if he starts asking me to taste his "creations".

He just walked by with something hot in a bowl and asked me to please refer to him as "Chef Rush".

Help me, Lord.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Welcome Wagon

I wanted to welcome any new readers who found their way to Along Came the Bird by way of Kelly's Korner or Love That Max.

I'm glad to have you here!

If you'd like a little background on our family journey, check out these posts:

I don't have a computer with me at the moment so I'm using an iPad. You might have to actually cut and paste these rather than click them as a link. Sorry about that but I'm a bit of a computer dunce!

Welcome aboard - I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Stump the Mommy

I have an idea.

I mentioned in Wednesday's post about a conversation taking place between two blogs - Love That Max and Scary Mommy. People can ask questions or make comments about special needs and they are discussed by special needs parents.

That got me to thinking that maybe you might have some questions for me.

There might be some things you've wondered about special needs families, such as "Is it ok with you if I ask questions about your child's diagnosis?" or "Is it alright to offer help to a family whose special needs child is having a tantrum?".

You might even have some questions that are Lily-specific.

I may not have all the answers but I can give you my honest opinion on what's helpful, what's not, and how to appropriately bring up a topic that can sometimes be difficult to talk about.

So take some time this weekend to think about what you might like to ask and then bring it on! You can post your questions as a comment below or you can click the email button and contact me that way. You could even click the Facebook or Twitter button and ask your question there.

I'll spend some time next week answering your questions.

Don't be shy! This is your chance to open a conversation that will be good for all of us.

Enjoy your weekend - see you Monday!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sweet Summer Fun

I remember when my big girls were younger, one of our favorite things to do was sit down and plan out all the fun things we wanted to do during the summer break.

We wrote it all - big stuff, like vacations and waterpark visits and little stuff, like baking cookies and reading a book together.

While I'm a big fan of letting kids get bored and entertain themselves, I also like to have a few things at the ready when everyone could use a little fun family time.

Need some inspiration?

Check out this poster idea I found at Forever Folding Laundry:

Look at this cute freebie from Laura Winslow Photography that you can print out, frame, and hang up:

I think you've got the idea.

Take some time to make a list with your kiddos.  Get them involved in the planning.

And don't complicate things with elaborate events.  The simplest things are often the most enjoyable.

Most of all, have fun!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Join the Conversation

Thanks for your encouraging words about yesterday's post.

I wanted to share with you an email response from one of my very best friends in the whole world.  While she's not the "wise woman" referred to in yesterday's post, she is quite wise herself.  She loves the Lord with all her heart and it is very obvious to anyone who spends more than five minutes with her!

Here's what she had to say:

That blessed my socks off this morning!  Oh, wait…I don’t have any socks on yet. J  I agree.  People often taken I Corinthians 10:13 out of context, which says, “No TEMPTATION has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful.  He will not let you be TEMPTED beyond what you can bear.  But when you are TEMPTED, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.  He will never give us temptations that we cannot overcome with His power.  But He will and often does give us SITUATIONS OR CIRCUMSTANCES that we can’t handle.  And it’s only in those times that we truly understand our desperate need for Him.  Only He can turn the most difficult of circumstances for us into things we praise Him for later on, when we have the bigger picture.  I guess it’s all a part of the refining process that is making us ready for our eternal home.  Have a wonderful day, my friend.  

Now you understand why I passed it along to you.  It's a good word for all of us.

On to another subject....

There's an interesting conversation going back and forth between two bloggers and their readers.  Ellen from Love That Max, mom of a precious boy with cerebral palsy as well as a typically developing daughter, and Jill from Scary Mommy, mom of three typical children, are collaborating on a "project".

Here's how it works -

Scary Mommy readers (who tend to have typically developing kiddos) are posing questions regarding special needs which are then being answered by Love That Max readers (who tend to have special needs kiddos).

No question is off limits.  The goal is for all parties involved to learn a little something from each other.

Click here if you're interested in reading along, or even joining in the conversation.

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

More Than I Can Handle

Today, for some unknown reason, I was reminded of some wise words that were shared with me shortly after Lily was born.

Most of you already know that our Lily Bird was a bit of a surprise for our family.

Adjustment number one.

Then on Day Two of Life, she quit breathing for about 30 seconds - just enough to shake us up, not to mention the nursing staff.

Adjustment number two.

On Day Five of Life, she quit breathing yet again, which led to a panicked 911 call, a midnight ambulance ride and the discovery of a hole in her heart requiring open heart surgery, and a host of other physical conditions.

Adjustment number three... and four... and five...... and one hundred.

Then at 18 months of age, the loss of skills such as speaking, eye contact, and smiling for a camera.

Adjustment number... infinity.

Anyway, I was sharing my overwhelming feelings of fear and inadequacy with a very wise woman and I said something along these lines to her:

"I just don't know what to do anymore.  I am at the end of my rope and I just can't take one more thing. I keep thinking of that Mother Teresa quote 'I know God's not going to give me more than I can handle, but I just wish He didn't trust me so much!' and that's exactly how I feel."

This sweet lady looked me straight in the eyeballs and said these words:

"Lana, listen to me.  That quote sounds great but it's simply not true.  God WILL give you more than you can handle.  Because He doesn't want you to handle it.  He wants you to trust Him.  He wants to take your burden and handle it.  If you could handle everything that came your way in life all by yourself, you wouldn't need Him."


It was a true lightbulb moment for me.

I cannot tell you the sense of relief that flooded through me.

I don't have to handle everything.  Nor should I expect myself to be able to handle it all.

That's God's job and I was more than happy to delegate it right on up to Him.

Now, that doesn't mean that God's going to show up and make lunch.  Or drive Lily to yet another therapy or doctor appointment.

But it does mean that in those moments when I just don't think I can go one more minute without having a breakdown, I can keep going.

When I think my heart cannot be twisted and stretched and tugged anymore without being totally broken, my heart takes more.

On those days when I think I cannot deal with one more bit of bad news, I deal with it.

And when my prayers are nothing other than "Please, God....", He shows up.

I'm not a Superwoman.

But I am a child of God.

And He is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Coming to a Town Near You... I Hope!

I just heard about the coolest thing.

It's called The Abilities Expo.

Think of something like a Car Show or Homeschool Convention.

But instead of cars or curriculum, this expo showcases all kinds of stuff to enhance the lives of special needs individuals, as well as their family members, caregivers, healthcare professionals, and therapists.

The Expo is also designed for senior adults to assist them in staying healthy and active as they age.

And best of all - it's totally free!

Companies can demonstrate their products and services.  There are free workshops to attend featuring topics such as how to select the best accessible vehicle, tips on traveling with a disability, or how to modify your home to make it wheelchair friendly.  There are also several special performances featuring canine assistance, adaptive sports, and dance productions.

Click here to find all The Abilities Expo has to offer adults with disabilities, special needs children or senior adults.

Click here to find out if the Expo is coming to your hometown....  or somewhere near you.

And if you click here, you can see a video of the Expo.

I'm so excited about this!  I have the Houston one on my calendar and am already looking forward to seeing what all is out there for the special needs population.

If an Expo is not coming anywhere close to you, how about emailing them to suggest it???  Be an advocate!  The worst they can do is say no.

Enjoy your Monday!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Don't Worry... Be Happy

I've been doing some thinking.

Thinking about Lily's future.

Most parents of special needs children don't like to think about the future.  We don't want to go there in our minds because we're doing our best just to get through today, let alone worry about years from now.

We spend lots of time hoping and praying that our children will lose their diagnosis or be cured of their syndrome or become "normal".

And for many of our kiddos, it's just not going to happen.

The day will come when we realize that.

And that's the day that we adjust our dreams.

And we discover a "new normal".  And I dare say - a "better normal than normal".

I've mentioned before that I go to a monthly moms of special needs kids support group.  It is truly one of the lifelines that keeps me afloat.

One of the moms is further down the road than the rest of us.  Much of our worries of the future, she has already faced.  She not only lived through it all, but came out on the other side having learned a valuable lesson.

She prayed like the rest of us that her son, J, would be "healed".

That prayer slowly changed through the years and became a prayer for her son's happiness.  A little something along these lines:

"Lord, I just want my son to be happy.  No matter how that looks to me or anyone else.  Just let him be happy with his life."

Today, J is a joyful 30 year old young man, living in his own apartment at a residential facility for adults with disabilities.  He is independent, is actively involved in his church, works a bit, and participates in activities at the facility with his many friends.

He is happy.

Oh, it may not be what the world thinks of as happy.

The world might think a 30 year old man should be a husband and a father.  A home owner.  A breadwinner.  A man who works out at the gym and coaches his son's Little League team.

But the world is not right.

J is happy.  He loves his life.  He doesn't think he's missing out on a single thing.

And you know what?

He isn't.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Playing Catch-Up

Lily is feeling good and is back at school today.  With the Memorial Day holiday and then having her home with me on Tuesday and Wednesday, it means I have quite a bit of catching up to do.

By 4 PM today, I will have:

Taken my oldest to DPS to renew her driver's license.
Delivered paperwork to the church for a summer mission trip for my middle daughter.
Taken a long overdue homemade treat to our mission's director. 
Dropped off medical request forms for 11 doctors at 4 different locations around Austin.
Sold some gently used clothes at a consignment shop.
Had lunch with my big girls and my mother-in-law.
Hunted for some serious bargains at the mall.

Looking over this list reminds me that while my day may not start that great (who really enjoys beginning the day at DPS?), it's going to end well. 

I'm heading out - see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Saving a Little Time in the Kitchen

Let me start by saying that Lily is doing much, much better.  I appreciate all your prayers and get well wishes.  A hospital visit is not on our agenda this week, thank the Lord!

I only have a few minutes here since The Bird is still home with me so let's talk about food for just a bit.

I've mentioned several times now that I am removing additives, preservatives, artificial ingredients and dyes from our diet.

I just find that Lily behaves a little differently after polishing off a meal of mechanically processed meat, soy filler, erythorbate, monosodium glutamate, potassium nitrate and sodium nitrate with a side of Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, otherwise known as a hot dog and Kraft macaroni and cheese.

And I firmly believe that one of the reasons we're seeing neurological disorders such as ADHD, Autism, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Migraines reach epidemic levels is because of all the chemicals in the food we eat.

But I don't have enough time to get going on that soapbox this morning.

The bottom line is that my family likes to eat.  And we're not willing to give up things like pancakes, cookies, hot dogs, pizza and cheeseburgers.

So I have to be smart and read food labels.  Find healthier substitutes for the things we love.  And be willing to spend a little more time in the kitchen rather than just reaching for the quickest item.  Quick prep packaged foods usually equal something that's not really a food at all.

While I like to cook sometimes, I still am not one of those women who loves to spend all day puttering around in the kitchen.

I like shortcuts.

Maybe you do, too.  Here are some things I've found to cut down on my "kitchen time" and still feel good about what I'm feeding my family:

Immaculate Baking Company - You can find these delicious, all natural and preservative free biscuits, crescent rolls, scones, cinnamon rolls, and cookie doughs in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.

Applegate Farms - Minimally processed natural and organic meats like hot dogs, bacon, sausage, and deli meats also found in your grocery store.

A weekly email menu service is a great time-saver and can help you save some money, too.

In case you haven't discovered these wonderful inventions yet, here's how they work in a nutshell:  You subscribe to the site and once a week, you get an email containing a weekly menu along with a complete grocery list.  Simple!

I used one called e-mealz for a while.  There are many options to choose from, as well as the number of people you are cooking for.  I chose the portion control menu and while it was definitely helpful and simple, it wasn't exactly as healthy as I wanted.

I'm trying one called The Six O' Clock Scramble right now.  It's kid-friendly, generally quick and simple to prepare but uses a little more fresh, whole foods, which is more the direction I'm heading in.  If a meal doesn't sound quite as tasty as I'd like, I can substitute it for another one that I find anywhere on the web and it will automatically move it to my menu and add those items to my grocery list.  Impressive.

There are many others out there.  Give one a try - I think you'll like it!

One other thing I'm going to do this summer is prep my pantry with some healthy mixes so cooking and baking can move along quickly.  Here are some mixes I'm going to try:


White Cake Mix

Brownie Mix

Cookie Mix


Pancake Mix

Not having to mix all the dry ingredients together every time I want to make a cake will save me a few minutes.  Which means I can be eating cake that much quicker!

Plus, it'll be so simple that I can just tell my teenagers, "Go make me some pancakes!" as I'm lounging in the bed this summer while they are scampering about, waiting to do my bidding.

OK - that's it for today!

Have a super duper Wednesday and I'll see you tomorrow!
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