Monday, January 30, 2012

Electronics vs. Traditional Play: What the Therapist Thinks

I'm finally getting around to organizing my thoughts about the play saga going on around my house.  For those of you who missed it the first time around or just need a refresher, here's the link so you can get all caught up.

Today, I'm going to tell you what the therapist thinks of Lily's play skills.

First of all, this is from a speech therapist's point of view.

Second, this is a speech therapist who is not a fan of ABA, or applied behavioral analysis, a type of behavioral therapy that Lily receives.

And thirdly, this is her opinion and should not be taken as fact, or even 100% my opinion.

Here we go:

If electronics are not in the picture, Lily loves water play.  I really think she is part mermaid.  In fact, I may not have water play on the agenda for the day, but odds are good that she will find a source of water  and engage in some play whether I like it or not.

She also loves good old-fashioned horse play with her dad.  Lily is a rough and tumble kind of kid so she loves it when Ryan throws her on our bed or chases her around the house, only to grab her and tickle her.  I have tried these games with her myself but unfortunately, I am a poor substitute for her dad.

She loves being tickled in the armpits by her big sisters.

So, as you can see, the list of non-electronic play is rather short right now.

We are working to expand her play repertoire at the moment, something that will probably take a few months.

The speech therapist feels the main reason for this lack of play is that Lily no longer thinks of traditional play as fun.  She doesn't look at puzzles or balls or Legos or play-doh as enjoyable activities.

In short, she has lost the joy of play.

The speech therapist believes this disengagement from play is mostly the fault of ABA.

You see, one part of ABA is something called Discreet Trial Training, or DTT.  In very, very simple layman's terms, this means getting a child to complete a task, essentially for a reward.

Think of a mouse running through a maze to get to the cheese.  Does the mouse run the maze because he loves the maze?  No.  He's in it for the cheese.

So for the past year and a half, Lily has been engaged in DTT.  She has learned to do all kinds of things, like putting puzzles together, stacking blocks, feeding a baby doll, and the like.  But she has learned these things not because she likes doing them, but because once she completes the activity, she gets to choose something she wants to do.  In other words, something electronic, like the iPad or the clinic's touch screen computer.

Essentially, and possibly by default, Lily has learned that giving a baby doll a fake bottle or pouring a cup of tea is simply a task to complete, much like the maze is for the mouse.

What she hasn't learned is that some kids think feeding baby dolls, having a tea party or doing puzzles is actually fun.  These activities are play, in and of themselves.

The speech therapist thinks Lily doesn't think of these things as play, but rather as work.

And she believes that's the fault of DTT.

Do you see how she came to this conclusion?

Now our goal is to help Lily re-engage in some of these kinds of play, showing her that this is the play.  The reward is not the play.  I'm thinking of calling it Operation Restore the Joy.  Nice ring, don't you think?

I've been scouring Pinterest for ideas and spent last Friday at Wal-Mart picking up a few things that will hopefully capture Lily's attention and help us restore the joy of simple play.

And since I'm no dummy, I'm starting with water play, the most highly non-electronic motivating thing for her.

I'll keep you posted on how it's going - and hopefully, I'll write "What the Mom Thinks" tomorrow.

In the meantime, any thoughts to share?  I'd be interested to hear...

Friday, January 27, 2012

From the Archives...


I've just had one of "those" weeks.  I can't seem to find the time to sit still long enough to accomplish much of anything.

So for today's post, I dug back through the archives and found a little something I hope you'll enjoy.  Maybe it'll even send you off for the weekend with a little smile....

No She Doesn't..... But She Does.... (from September 2010)

Tests..... Paperwork.... Forms.... Evaluations.... Meetings.... Online research.... Therapy....  and endless, endless questions.

This is the world of special needs kids.  Well, I guess it's only a portion of the world, but it's a big ol' piece.

One thing that always drives me crazy is sitting across from some evaluator and having to answer hundreds of questions about Lily.  Most parents don't mind talking about their children and I certainly count myself as one of them.

But these aren't fun "tell me about your child and show me some cute photos" kinds of questions.  These are hard questions and most times, the answer is no... no... no... no... no.....

Here are some examples:

"Can Lily purposefully kick a ball?"
"Can Lily fill a bucket with sand or water?"
"Can Lily imitate facial expressions?"
"Can Lily engage in back and forth play?"
"Can Lily imitate your verbalizations?"

Yuck, yuck, and more yuck.

After meetings like this, I feel the need to turn the tables and give a little lecture on all the things Lily cando that never came up during the evaluation.

So, for all those times I didn't get to say what I wanted, I give you the "No She Doesn't.... But She Does.... List". 

No, she doesn't roll a ball back and forth but she does dismantle a childproof lock faster than I can install it.
No, she doesn't put two words together but she does latch all the straps on her carseat, booster chair, and grocery store carts.
No, she doesn't engage in pretend play but she does know the way to our neighbor's house with the swimming pool and yellow Lab.
No, she doesn't ride a tricycle but she does know if she empties her toy tub, puts it upside down and stands on it, then she can reach the sound machine on the top of the bookshelf.
No, she doesn't scoop sand into a bucket, but she does know how to turn on the bathtub faucet even if you remove the handles.
No, she doesn't initiate play with other children but she does destroy a book series called "Indestructibles".
No, she doesn't play with toys appropriately but she does have the amazing ability to create ladders out of anything.  Give her some gum, a few toothpicks, and a paper clip and she's better than MacGyver ever was.

I could go on and on but I think you get the point.

Now I would like to take this opportunity and send a message to all those evaluators with all their questions and this is it:


There - I feel so much better now.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Let's Make a List Together!

I'm not purposely trying to create a cliffhanger about the electronics versus toys.  I just haven't had enough time to sit at the computer long enough to get it all out.

And today is no different.

So how about we do this instead...

Tell me a couple of your favorite special needs books.

What books have really helped you in your journey?  Or inspired you?  Or given you a sense of hope?  What books have let you know that you're not alone?  Made you laugh instead of cry?  Or laugh and cry??

I'll add the books that we come up with to the Resources section of the blog.

All of us can use a good recommendation from time to time so let's hear some titles, folks!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Need to Read

I saw this on one of my favorite blogs, Love That Max, and had to pass it along to you.  Since so many of us are big-time readers, I knew this would be easy win - help a kid out while doing something you love.

And since I'm super lazy, I simply stole Ellen's description of the campaign rather than re-writing it myself: 

List your favorite books, help a kid in need: Scholastic recently kicked off the One Million Bookprints for One Million Books campaign, an initiative to donate one million books in need through the nonprofit Reach Out and Read.  When you join You Are What You Read, you make a "Bookprint"—a list of 5 books that have shaped your life. Both kids and adults can do it. For every Bookprint, Scholastic Book Clubs donates a book to kids in need, distributed through pediatrician offices around the country.

You can also check out the Bookprints of some famous people,too, like Taylor Swift, Bobbi Brown, The Jonas Brothers, and Eli Manning. 

Thanks, Ellen, for letting me borrow your words.  And if you haven't discovered Love That Max yet, you really need to check it out.  It's amazing and you will love it!

Thursday and Friday, we'll talk more about the electronics versus toys issue going on in the Rush house now.

But for now, go make that Bookprint and spread the word!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

If You Were Stranded on an Island.....

Actually, no one that I know of is stranded on an island.

I mean, I'm still stranded in Week Two of boot camp but no one wants to hear my pain.

But remember that logic question that used to pop up in school every now and then:  If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you, not counting people?

Well, I've got a variation of that question for you and I'm really interested to hear what you have to say.

If your child could have no electronic devices (iPads, iPods, iPhones, Android devices, tablets, e-readers, DVD players, etc...), what would they play with instead?

A little background on the reason for the question - Monday, Lily had a visit with her former speech therapist that we haven't seen in almost two years.  After an hour session with the Bird, she came out and asked me, "What exactly does Lily like to play?".

Of course, my immediate answer was the iPad.

Then she asked me, "Besides electronics, what does Lily like to do for fun?".

To which I answered, "Ummm.... Gimme a minute, here.  Ahhhh..... OK!  Got one!  She likes for her Dad to throw her on our bed!  Does that count?  Oh, and she likes to crawl under our covers and kind of "hide out".  Oops!  But that's with the iPad.  Oh, she likes this sensory tunnel thing that she combat crawls through, but.... oh no, that's with the iPad as well.  Soooo, did you mean like no electronics at all??"

And while I've noticed it before, I think it's the first time I voiced it out loud - My child does not really like to play anything.  Or at least, anything that's not electronic.

There are definitely worse problems and it's certainly not the end of the world but it does raise an interesting question.

Or at least, it's interesting to me.

While Lily has never been what I would call a "stellar play-er" (and I don't mean that in the sleazy sense, in case you were wondering), there was a time that she played.  She would drop balls down a marble run type toy.  She matched these little plastic puzzle cookies that looked like Oreos.  She spun plastic tops. She squeezed Play-doh, though it's always been so tempting to take just a small bite or two.  She looked at books, before she took to ripping them to bits.  She filled and emptied plastic eggs with little rubber bugs.

She does none of that anymore.

And she's not all that interested anymore.

Granted, she's 5 and some of those things might just fall by the wayside now that she's a little older.  But nothing non-electronic has really taken the place of any of these activities.

So of course, the first thing I thought of is to do the good ol' comparison thing that none of us are supposed to do but we all do anyway and take a casual "opinion poll" on the blog today.

In the next couple of days, I'll offer some conflicting reasons for this "lack of play" ("the mom" thinks, "the therapist" thinks....) and see what you think about that.

But for now, just answer this for me:

If your child could have no electronic devices (iPads, iPods, iPhones, Android devices, tablets, e-readers, DVD players, etc...), what would they play with instead?

On your mark...

Get set....

Comment! (or facebook or tweet or email....)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

You've Got This, God

One of my very favorite things about having a blog is connecting with other special needs families.

After doing my morning post here, I often spend the next hour making the rounds to all my bloggy friends, just checking in to see how things are going in their neck of the woods.  I gain so much insight from the fellow parents who are slugging it out in the trenches just like me.  The understanding and encouragement is simply priceless.  And I usually laugh out loud at least once because our kiddos can do or say the funniest things.

But it seems like ever since the holidays ended, I've detected a note of discouragement in several of the posts I've read.

Maybe it's the winter doldrums.  Maybe it's wacky barometric pressure.  Or just getting back into the daily grind of things after a long break.

But for some of my sweet online friends, it's additional pressures like caring for aging parents and making hard healthcare decisions.  Dealing with the loss of a loved one.  Unexplainable aggressive or sad behaviors in our kiddos that try as we might, we simply cannot fix.  And oftentimes, the guilt that we're not doing enough, the fear of the unknown future, and the anger that we have to deal with all this in the first place.

It's simply not fair.

I took a little trip back into the archives of this blog and found something I needed to hear again.  Maybe you can get a little something out of it, too.

More Than I Can Handle - A Post from June 2011

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.


When the world says, "Give up",
Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I'm assuming that all of you in the special needs community are familiar with the term Individualized Education Program, or IEP.

Since I know how many of you feel about the IEP process, and since we're trying to keep it clean around here (!), we're not going to talk about that today.

Instead, let me tell you about the latest, and hopefully greatest, thing we're about to embark on in the Rush home.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you..... the Electronics Intervention Plan, or EIP.


I know.  I know.  You like how I flipped the letters around.  I'm clever that way.  But enough about me.

So, here's the thing about the EIP.

For a while now, I've been thinking that while I'm a big, big, big fan of the iPad, it's just not been exactly what I want it to be.

Through no fault of the iPad, Lily just has so quickly learned to work it to her advantage that the device is not accomplishing what I was hoping.

Follow along with me:

  • We introduce Lily to the iPad.
  • We show her that it plays Backyardigans movies.
  • She contentedly watches videos for a week or so.
  • Then we introduce a few apps, showing her how to touch the screen to work the games.
  • She happily plays with apps for a week or so, only watching videos when we turn them on for her.
  • Then one day, as she is switching apps, she notices the youtube icon.
  • She remembers this is the button Mom and Dad use to play her videos.
  • Now she can switch between apps and youtube all by herself.
  • Then she gets braver and starts working the music icon, selecting songs from our iTunes library.
  • So now she can do apps, youtube, and music all by herself.
  • Then she figures out that all the icons do something so within 24 hours, she has learned how to change wallpaper, delete downloaded videos, access iPhoto and browse through pictures, view Ryan's calendar at work and make a few small changes, and send tweets on his behalf.
  • Lovely.
Needless to say, she can't be left alone with the iPad or she will send blurbs of the Backyardigans dancing to the Black Eyed Peas singing in German to all of Ryan's Twitter followers who will then be scratching their heads, trying to figure out why this was sent to them and if they're missing something.

True story.  I can't make up stuff this good.

Now that Lily knows everything the iPad is capable of doing, and how easily it can do it all, it's like she simply must work it.  She is no longer content to just play an app or watch a video.  She must fast forward and reverse her way through movies.  She must select a new family photo for the home page. She must attempt to log in to Netflix.  She must play one app for ten seconds to appease Mom and then try to crack the passcode that blocks youtube.  She must check out what people are saying on Facebook. She must play the phrase of one song over and over again and then switch to another song to do the same thing.

Get the picture?

While it's impressive that a 5 year old knows how to do more on the iPad than any of the rest of us in the family, it's frustrating to me.  I think it's got to be bad for her attention span and focus if she's constantly jumping from one activity to the next without really finishing anything.

And I really want to see her do more apps because that's about the only way I can get an idea of what all she knows since she can't just tell me.

Here's where the EIP comes in.

Despite the fact that most everyone in the world is moving towards one simple device that does everything except cook supper and wash the car, we at the Rush house are moving in the opposite direction.

We are going for more devices that function in a single purpose manner.

So, Lily has:
  • a portable DVD player just for watching movies.
  • an Mp3 player just for listening to music.
  •  an iPad just for playing apps.
  • an iPod Touch just for Proloquo2go, her communication app, for talking.
Four devices.  Ridiculous, I know.  

But each of them does only one thing.  

And Lily can only have one device at a time.

Now, you may be wondering how I'm able to accomplish having an iPad that just does apps and nothing else.

First, I had two conversations with Apple Support, throwing out my idea of a "gaming tablet", something that looks and works like an iPad but only supports apps and nothing else.

While they were both very nice, even telling me that what I was suggesting made perfect sense for my goals with Lily, apparently I'm the only one who really wants something like that.

I laughingly asked if maybe there was a way to simply "grab" an iPad off the assembly line after it gets loaded with app capability and before it gets all that other stuff on it.  

That's when they hung up on the crazy lady.

No, they didn't hang up but I think I may have lost a little credibility.

Any-who, I did the next best thing to getting something invented just for the Bird.  

I called my friend's techno-genius husband.  It's good to know smart people. 

After much discussion and thought (mostly on his part because I was no longer certain he was speaking English - he pretty much lost me after, "Well, we could try....."), he is "jailbreaking" the iPad.  

Meaning pretty much every single icon that typically shows up on the iPad will no longer show up.  The only icons will be ones I choose.  

And those will be icons for apps.

And only a few apps at a time.  Probably no more than five or six choices or I think she might just flip from game to game.

I'm fully aware that once the iPad is jailbroken, it no longer has warranty.  It's pretty much no longer considered an Apple product.  But we don't have any warranty on it anymore anyway so we're willing to take the chance.

And my techno-genius friend can "un-jailbreak" it, too.  Told you he was smart.

Of course, it remains to be seen if Lily Bird is as smart as he is.

If she figures this out, I'm done with electronics.

We'll move to a cave and go back to hieroglyphics.

The end.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Even though it's January, the weather has been so beautiful and mild here in Austin.

We recently took Lily for a little stroll around the Austin Nature & Science Center.

As we entered the "zoo" portion, it was recommended that we not make sudden loud noises so as not to disturb the animals.

We almost turned around and walked right out.  I mean, we did have the Bird with us so sudden loud noises are pretty much a guarantee.

But we pressed on.

And Lily did great.

In fact, the only sudden loud noises she shared with the animals was a couple of tunes from her jambox, propped on her shoulder like a throwback to the 80's.

And really, don't all God's creatures love a little Coldplay "Paradise" mixed with a little "Jesus Loves Me"?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Just Passing Through....


I survived the first day of boot camp.

One day down, fourteen to go.

I am so utterly exhausted that I am just going to cheat and take the easy way out today.

I am passing along two things that I think you'll like.

The first is a list of 100 Healthy Snack Ideas from the blog, Six Sisters' Stuff.

Pinned Image

Since I'm doing boot camp, I'm trying to watch what I'm eating as well.  But I'm a big snacker.  This list has helped me make some smarter choices when I'm standing in front of the pantry looking for something to munch on.

The second is just a little something to read for fun.  It's called If You Give A Mom A Muffin and was recently posted by "Andrew's Mom" over at Kids, Autism, and Finding Joy.  If you're familiar with the series of kids' books by Laura Numeroff, you'll recognize the rhythm of the story.


Monday, January 16, 2012

If You Don't Hear From Me The Rest of the Week, This Is Why....

Well, I've gone and done it now.

See if you can relate to this scenario:

A friend calls you on the phone and says, "Hey, you're never going to believe this but (insert store you love here) is having a sale!  (Insert item here) is only $20 for each of us if we go in together!  But we have to act quickly because there's only 3 left!!!"

And because you feel that surge of adrenaline rushing through your body, kind of like when you're bidding on an item in an auction, you find yourself throwing caution to the wind and saying, "What a deal!  Let's do it!  I'm in!"

I mean, it does sound like an incredible opportunity, right?

Except for one small detail....

The "item" in this particular scenario is.....  Boot Camp.

Oh. My. Word.

I got so caught up in the rush of beating someone else to get this amazing deal that I totally and completely missed the fact that I don't really even want this deal.

But I have committed.  And I have paid my money.  And a friend is counting on me to show up.

Oh, did I tell you when I'm supposed to show up?






AT 5:30 AM.

For three entire weeks.

Don't you just wish you could find such fabulous deals like me?

Maybe if I recover from this, I'll write a post sharing the details of my shopping prowess.

I'm sure you don't want to miss out on bargains such as these, either.

Oh, and if you needed some proof that crazy runs in the family, Ryley, my oldest, is going with me.  I taught her my best shopping tricks, too.

So, just in case I don't make it out alive, I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate you reading the blog.

It's been nice knowing all of you.....

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sweet Victory

Do you remember how I told you that Lily will go from loving a food for days on end and then one day, with no advance warning whatsoever, that same food will become horrid to her?

Like bacon?

Well, the latest food to meet the same fate as bacon is vanilla soy yogurt.

And while it's annoying to have this ongoing love/hate relationship with certain foods, the despised yogurt presents more than just one less food the Bird will eat.

See, I've been sneaking two of her crushed medications in that yogurt.

So I'm stuck with trying to disguise the blasted pills in yet another food item that will, one - disguise the taste, and two, ensure she's getting all of said pill.

And then I had a stroke of pure genius, if I do say so myself.

While searching for some treats that Lily could have every now and then, I discovered that the lowly Junior Mint is within Dr. Goldberg's diet protocol. 

Look very closely at the picture below and see if you can tell what I did:

If you looked at that photo and thought....

" I know exactly what she did!  She took a shish-kebab skewer and dug a small hole into the center of a couple of Junior Mints.  Then she took that tiny bit of crushed up pill and "injected" it into those tiny holes.  Then she mixed the "special" Junior Mints in with a few regular candies and fed them to Lily.  I just know that's what she did!"

.....then you would be 100% correct.

I performed successful candy surgery.

My kid ate the "special" Junior Mints right alongside the regular ones without batting an eyelash.

Score one for Mom!

Of course, this will only work until the day she decides she loathes Junior Mints....


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Getting to Know Meme

Nope, that's not a typo in the title.

For all my non-social media friends who so sweetly follow my blog, here's how Wikipedia describes a meme (pronounced like meem, in case you were wondering):

An Internet meme is an idea that is propagated through the World Wide Web. The idea may take the form of ahyperlink, video, picture, website, hashtag, or just a word or phrase, such as intentionally misspelling the word "more" as "moar" or "the" as "teh". The meme may spread from person to person via social networksblogs, direct email, news sources, or other web-based services.

In layman blogger's terms, it means that someone "tags" you, often with a list of goofy questions.  You answer the questions and then "tag" a few other bloggers.

And on and on it goes.  Where it stops, nobody knows.

Bloggers typically respond with groans and sighs, wishing they hadn't been tagged but I think they secretly love the recognition.  It's like finally getting picked for the kickball team in gym class instead of being the last man standing.

So I've spent the last year and a half faithfully writing my little blog, standing on the sidelines, in my PE class issued elastic waist shorts and stinky t-shirt, patiently waiting to get picked.

And it finally happened.

I got tagged!

Maybe once I've been tagged multiple times like all my veteran bloggy friends, I'll groan and sigh and roll my eyes, too.

But today.

Today, I wear the crown.

I am "Meme Queen".  Hear me roar.

I was tagged by Karen over at Solodialogue and if you haven't seen her blog yet (and her too cute son, Tootles), you really should rush right over there and check out all the good stuff.

Now, on to the questions...

My Favorite Color - I'm going with red.  But not like crayon red.  More like that rustic, old wood barn kind of red.  Like this:

My Favorite Animal - I hope no one likes me any less when I admit this but I'm just not that much of an animal lover.  Would a dolphin count? 


My Favorite Number - I've never even really thought about this.  Hmmm.... I'll take unlucky 13 because no one ever picks him, not even elevators.

My Favorite Drink - Now we're talking.  Without a doubt, Route 44 Diet Dr. Pepper with a Double Shot of Vanilla.  From Sonic.  Amen.

Facebook or Twitter - Twitter.  Short blurbs of information.  Kind of like the ticker at the bottom of news network stations.  But with more fun stuff.

Passion? - If this means something I can never get enough of, something I do when I have free time, and something I can get totally absorbed in and lose all track of time, it would be reading.  I have always loved to read.  And once I start a book, it has to be simply awful for me to not finish it.  Like Don Quixote awful.

Pinned Image

Giving or Getting Presents -  Ummm.... gotta be honest here.  I do like me a good present.

Favorite Day - Monday.  My husband usually has the day off.  The kids are back in school.  And I usually do not do not much of anything on Mondays.

Favorite Flower - Sunflowers.  They're huge and happy.  What's not to like?

And this marks the end of my reign as "Meme Queen".  

It's time to pass off my crown and tag some of my fellow bloggers.  

So without further ado, the envelope please.  I tag:

Lisa, over at Autism Wonderland because I've just discovered her and want to know more!  And what better way than a meme?

Allie, from Little Baby Fields x2 because we have a connection besides just blogging and special needs kiddos.  We both love Jesus!  And I think she needs a good ol' mindless meme post to take her mind off her house conundrum.

And Jon, from Happy Trouble simply because he's the new kid on the block and I want to give my first meme to him as his first meme.  And he's one of the few dad bloggers around here.

There you have it!

I will be checking the blogs to see if you caught the joy I just sent your way.

Have a lovely Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

The "Butt Dip" gone too far.....

Umm... a little help here?


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Better Late Than Never

I don't know about you, but I'm not that big on making New Year's Resolutions.

I think because my kids are in school, I tend to follow the school calendar.  For me, the beginning of a new school year often feels like a "new year" to me, even more so than the first of January.  So my resolutions for the year are more likely to be made in September.

For the past several years, we've put a different spin on the resolutions and turned them into predictions.  It goes a little something like this:

Each New Year's Eve, our family sits down in the living room with pens and a big pile of paper strips.  We make predictions about the upcoming year - one per slip of paper - then sign our name to each.  For example, "The Spurs will win the NBA Championship", "We will meet someone famous", or "The girls will get all A's on their report cards".  Then we seal the predictions in an envelope and store them in a box with our Christmas decorations.  The following New Year's Eve, we open the envelope and read the predictions to see which ones actually happened.  Then we get out new strips of paper and start all over again for the next year.

I'm thinking I probably should've told you about this back in late December but you really could still do this.  We're not too far along in 2012 for this to be a total bust if you want to try it.

Also, most of you know that I'm a big reader.  As in, anytime I have a few free minutes, you can bet I am going to spend it reading.

So the only resolution I'm 100% willing to commit to is to read even more in 2012. 

Thankfully, there are several reading lists floating around the internet to get me going.

Bloom (in)courage has their winter reading list up and it's a good one!

The Nester tells us the books she read in 2011 and the ones she hopes to read in 2012.

Sandra Peoples (author of Speechless, a book about her first year's journey with autism) has a list of what she read in 2011 and several of them look really good.

And check out the School Library Journal's Best Books of 2011 for some great reads for your kiddos.

Now, one more thing that I'm a little behind on.... the Joy Dare 2012.  But this is my only other 2012 resolution - to be more intentional about looking for the gifts and blessings in my life. To try to find at least 1000 of them.  And to write them down.  I hope to have a lovely notebook to show you this time next year, a beautiful visual reminder of my grateful thanks to a loving and good God.

Ann Voskamp, the author of One Thousand Gifts has even created monthly "guides" to help in the search.  

Here's January's:

Pinned Image

Will you join me in this?

Obviously, you don't need to be strict about this guide.  It's simply some suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.  The goal is to be looking for blessings, not going thorough a checklist.  Use it only if it makes it easier for you to get started.

So, let's chat now.

1.  What's the best book you read in 2011?
2.  What was your biggest blessing in 2011?
3.  Will you dare to join me in the Joy Dare 2012?

Your turn.  Leave a comment.  Ready.... Set...... Go!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Easing Into The Week... with Pizza

I don't know about you but, we have had a weekend at the Rush house!

And I'm not talking about the nice, relaxing kind, either.

Without going into all the gory details, I'll just tell you that I don't have enough brain cells to compose anything too life-changing at the moment.

Instead, how about I give you a pizza recipe that just might change your life?

It's not my original recipe so I'll be sure to give credit where credit is due.

Last week, I finished an amazing, wonderful, thought-provoking book called 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.  Click here to read the description if you're interested.  I'm sure I'll be referencing it in other posts to come.

Let me say that I took much, much more from the book than the following recipe - the only recipe in the book and such a small aside, the really deep thinking readers probably glossed right over it.

But the concepts in the book plus this pizza sauce recipe will certainly rock your world.

Pizza Sauce
Courtesy of Jen Hatmaker

Saute 3 garlic cloves and 1 tsp. red pepper flakes in 1/4 c. of good olive oil for 3-4 minutes.  Add one 28 ounce can of Muir Glen organic crushed tomatoes (must be this brand according to Jen and I certainly didn't argue with her). Stir then simmer for five minutes, add salt and pepper to taste, along with a bunch of chopped fresh basil.  Heat through.  Spread on pizza crust.  Use any leftover sauce for dunking pizza crusts - or eating with a spoon, in my case!

Trust me, it is worth taking those few extra minutes to make this sauce.  Nothing in a jar tastes this good.

Now, I love this recipe for Pizza Crust from Barefoot Contessa.  It's my all-time favorite.

But I cannot tell a lie.

I did not make homemade pizza crust this weekend.

Instead, I purchased homemade pizza crusts from Cafe on the Run at my local HEB grocery store.  So to my way of thinking, it was still homemade, just not made in my home by my hands.

Here's how I put the pizza together:

I spread that yummy sauce on that homemade pizza crust.
I placed some lightly sauteed red and green peppers and onions on top of that sauce.
Next, slices of fresh mozzarella cheese.
Then, a few pieces of pepperoni.
Last, I placed it directly on my oven rack at 400 degrees and baked until it looked done to me.

I sliced it up.

I took a bite.

And I died.

The end.


I didn't actually die.

But my tastebuds felt like they were in heaven.  And yours will, too!

Come on people!

Make those tummies happy.

Make some pizza.

Friday, January 6, 2012

News You Can Use - Volume 1

I have come across so many nifty things lately on Twitter and Pinterest that I decided you simply had to know about this great stuff!

So without further ado, I give you "News You Can Use" - a variety of things I find interesting that I think you might, too.

Instagram News:

Most of you know that I'm a big fan of Instagram, the fun and easy way to share photos with your iPhone. So how about some ideas on how you can get those photos off your iPhone and into your hot little hands?

  • Stickygram turns your Instagram photos into magnets.  Jim over at Just a Lil' Blog tried this out so maybe he'll leave a comment and let us know what he thought.
  • Postagram is an app that turns pictures from your phone, Facebook, or Instagram into photo postcards. And here's the really cool thing - you can customize a message, choose people from your contact list to mail the postcard to and when they receive the card, they can pop the photo out to display.
  • Printstagram is an app that turns your Instagram pictures into cool posters, miniprints, stickers, photo books, minibooks, and tinybooks.
  • InstaShirt prints your Instagram photos on a shirt.  The baby onesie is especially cute.
  • CanvasPop will print Instagram photos on canvas.
And for the computer savvy out there, here's a tutorial on creating DIY Instagram photo strips through Photoshop.  Very cute!

Special Needs News:

Notice anything about this Target ad?

Now take a minute to read this great article, "Target is 'Down' With Down Syndrome: 5 Things Target Said By Saying Nothing At All".  It'll make you smile - and give you another reason to feel good about shopping at Target, as if you needed one!

Here are Friendship Circle's Top 20 Special Needs Resource Posts of 2011.  

Now, I'm not foolish enough to think that you've got time to sit down and read every single one of these but glance through the list and see if something catches your eye.  The list runs the gamut from school lunch ideas and suggestions for play therapy all the way to handwriting tips and 17 great colleges for special needs students.

Technology News:

For those of you interested in sharing some engaging Bible stories with your kiddos, check out the free Read and Share app from Thomas Nelson.  

Once you've downloaded the free app, you can purchase a book a week for $2.99.  If you click the link, you can see a video that lets you know what the stories are like.  I personally love the illustrations!

And speaking of apps, how about a list of 25 of them that the whole family will love?  Click here to check them out.

Most of us with special needs kiddos have our iPads in cases designed for maximum protection.  Well, I can't vouch for any increased protection with this case, but the iGuy is one of the cutest covers I've seen - and ideal for hands free vertical viewing.

Speck Products iGuy Standing Cover for iPad and iPad 2

Organization News:

Now that a new year is here, maybe you've decided to eat out less.  This handy fill-in-the-blank menu planning & grocery shopping form should help you meet your goal.

Want to simplify but getting started just seems so complicated?  

I just purchased my own copy so I don't have a personal glowing review yet but here's what sold me - I don't have to do the projects in any particular order, I don't have to do a project a week and be done in a year (even though there are 52 weeks in a year), and some of the projects, I might not even need to do. 

But what it does do is give me a place to start -  to take some of the tasks I really need to do around here and break them up into very manageable steps.

For those of you who want to start even smaller and just get a good daily to-do list going, click here for a free printable daily planner page from Ann Voskamp.  This is a daily draft with a higher purpose so be sure to read how to fill it out... and be inspired and encouraged at the same time.

So - that's it.  A collection of things that caught my attention in the last couple of months - that hopefully won't totally overwhelm you and send you running for the hills since I crammed it all into one post!

Now get out there and have a great weekend, folks!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What I Got For Christmas

Before you officially start reading, I just wanted to let those of you who are wondering if I'm ever going to talk about anything else know that this will be the last post referencing Christmas.  Even I know it's time to move on....

Hey - did you know that Santa brought me some good stuff, too?

Since I started the Couch to 5K program, I've been in need of a new pair of running shoes.  My previous pair had gotten a hole in the left little toe side of the shoe.  The hole was getting larger after every run - to the point where running on the Hike & Bike Trail meant gravel and dirt easily working its way in.

I'm enough of a reluctant runner that I look for any excuse to stop and a sandbox in my shoe was a good one.  But I am trying really hard to keep this up so new shoes were in order - if for no other reason than to remove the excuse to stop running.

Of course, I wanted good shoes that would hold up well but my priority was "cute".  I wanted some of those really colorful shoes I see all up and down the trail.  Yes, I'm huffing and puffing but can't a girl try to look snazzy while doing so??  I was convinced that cute, colorful shoes were just the motivation I needed to keep running.

So I was really happy to find these under the tree:

Fun, huh?  I'm sure that I'm running faster, jumping higher, and looking good while doing so...

I also got a Kindle, something I swore I'd never do.  In fact, my oldest thinks I've crossed over to the dark side and is totally and thoroughly disgusted with me.  I think she truly believes I can no longer call myself a reader.

We do love real books around the Rush house.  And my Ryley can be a tad bit obsessive about books - click here to read the proof.

I didn't get the fancy new Kindle because I didn't want a backlit screen.

I like the idea that it looks like a real book page and it doesn't hurt my eyes like a computer screen will.

But what really sold me?

The library I frequent allows you to check out e-books.  I don't even have to go to the library anymore!  Now, I love me some free books.  But free books I don't even have to go pick up or return?  Can I get an Amen??

Ryley gave me a Sonic gift card.  But... wait for it.  It's in the exact amount of not one, not two, but seven Route 44 Diet Dr. Peppers with Vanilla, my drink of choice.  She knows me well.

And Reagan knitted me a beautiful shawl/wrap/scarf:

It can be worn all kinds of different ways so if you would like to see what it looks like on an actual human, you can click here.

As I'm putting this post together, I have no make-up on and I'm too vain to take photos of me in my shawl.  But every time I've worn it, someone tells me they like and asks where I got it.  They're always surprised when I tell them Reagan made it for me.

So - what about you?  Did Santa bring you something good this year?  Spill it!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Best Gifts of Christmas

Imagine the scene:

A Christmas tree beautifully decorated with colorful ornaments and lovely tiny white lights.  Delightfully wrapped gifts spread around its base in a dazzling array, just beckoning children (and teenagers!) to come close.  The tantalizing sense of anticipation.  The pleasure on the faces of the adults, observing the children (and teenagers!) take joy in the gifts they lovingly selected for each recipient.  The sweet chorus of "thank you" mingling in the air with Christmas carols playing softly in the background.

Does this sound like Christmas at your house?

Mine either.

While my big girls do a great job of getting in the Christmas spirit, opening up gifts with the appropriate and truly sincere "oohs" and "aahs", and giving genuine hugs of thanks to the gift-givers, Lily doesn't quite catch the spirit of the season in the same way.

The post from yesterday gave you the low-down on how our actual Christmas Day went so I won't go over that again.

One of Lily's biggest issues with Christmas is that she really could care less about the gifts.  She just doesn't get all the hype and the drama.  For a child who will rip any remotely paper product to shreds and bits (especially those items not intended for tearing), she will not touch a wrapped gift.

So we wrap only a couple things, just to let her try and see if this is the year she "gets it".

And we try handing her a new toy, excitedly pushing buttons to show her how it lights up, plays music and generally does every thing she likes in life, except maybe throw dark chocolates directly into her open mouth.

Her response?

She won't even look at it.  Or she'll glance at it, press one single solitary button, and then look at us like, "There.  Are you happy?  This toy is dead to me."

Wow.  That little girl is a tough crowd, let me tell you.

I've finally sold her grandparents on the best method of giving a present to Lily.

Set the unwrapped toy in her general area with a vague announcement.  "Here you go, Lily!"

Here's the clincher, though:  Walk away.

That's the hard part.

But if you try to "push" a present on the Bird, she will not respond in the way you want her to.

Whether or not this is autism or sheer stubbornness on her part, I'm not 100% sure yet.  I just know that letting her discover the toy in her own good time is the secret to getting the thing played with.

It can take as long as two weeks for her to actually "adopt" a new toy into the fold.  Then I let the grandparents know that it finally "took".

This year though, both sets of grandparents hit the jackpot.  They each gave Lily a gift that she took to almost immediately.  Even I was surprised at how quickly she responded.

Wondering which gifts the Bird thinks are the bee's knees?

The first one is the Cuddle Me Sensory Tunnel.  Lily's OT highly recommended one of these for us to have at home since she loves the one at the clinic.

Pinned Image
I'll have you know we whipped that thing out of the gift bag and the Bird knew exactly what to do.  I held one end open and she ducked her sweet head and crawled right in there, all snuggled up with the iPad.  She emerged a few minutes later, grinning from ear to ear.

And the next gift....

Philips PET741 DVD player
a portable DVD player.  I know what you're thinking... in this iPad/Netflix day and age, she goes and gets a DVD player??!?  But the Bird loves it.  She's even traded me the iPad for it a time or two, and that's saying something.

Now, I've got a plan for this DVD player that I'll share with you later.  Something like, an "electronics intervention plan", so to speak.

The gifts Ryan and I gave her?  Well, we're still waiting for ours to "take".  Sigh...

But, at least this year, we had two sets of happy grandparents and one happy little Bird.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Holiday Highlights

While I am really glad to be back in the "regular routine", we did have some good family time during the holidays.

Because we were able to spend so much concentrated time with the Bird, we were really able to see how much progress she's making lately.

Here's a couple of examples:

  • Lily surprised us by unwrapping one gift without any help at all.  Of course, she had more than one wrapped gift but hey, it's a start!
  • She rediscovered the trampoline and really enjoyed some good time bouncing in the backyard.
  • She had lots of moments of calm, "chill out time"when she was perfectly content to just lay beside us in the bed or watch TV with us. (this is not normal for her!)
  • She even fell asleep on my dad's lap one night (a highly unusual event) and I think this might have been his best Christmas gift.
  • We have taken lots of walks on the Town Lake Hike & Bike Trail but this week, Lily finally noticed the ducks.  She took great delight in feeding them several times when we were out walking and it was fun to watch her taking it all in.

Of course, we still had moments when autism, and all that entails, reared its ugly head.  

On Christmas Day, we went over to my in-laws for dinner.  My parents were there.  So was Ryan's sister, her husband, and their son.  Of course, my in-laws were there and so were we.  

Twelve people in all.  Not too many.  And only two little kids, Lily being one of them.

Lily was doing fine until we sat down to open gifts before eating.  

After about five minutes, she was done and ready to move on to something else.  We let her have the iPad so we could finish watching each other open gifts.  

That worked for another ten minutes or so then she was ready to head back home. 

She started pulling us to the front door.  

We started trying to distract. 

Cue meltdown.

Now my mother-in-law has her table beautifully set so that all of us can sit and eat together.

Nice idea but it just wasn't going to work this year.

Reagan and I ended up taking our dinner plates and Lily upstairs to the gameroom, where it was nice and quiet and looked the same as it always does.  Lily crawled in her favorite comfy chair with the iPad while Reagan and I ate and softly chatted.  In a little while, Lily had regrouped and was ready to eat, which she also did upstairs.  

After about thirty minutes, Lily went to the baby gate and motioned for me to open it.  Then she went downstairs and rejoined the group like nothing at all had happened.

Go figure.

As for the big girls, we never let them come downstairs on Christmas morning until we are awake and up and have cameras at the ready.  You can tell how thrilled Reagan is about this, even though she's been doing it for fifteen years...

But she did recover enough to take on her Dad in a little Just Dance 3.

So.  Did we have some lows over the break?  


But did we have some really wonderful highs, too?

Most definitely.

And it's those really wonderful highs that get us through those lows.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Top Three Posts... and Posts I'm Glad I Didn't Have to Write - 2011 Edition

Since 2011 is now nothing but a memory, I thought it might be fun to look at the blog's stats and see which three posts got the most views.

The first one?

A total brag video of the Bird.  Who You Calling Bird Brain???

The third one?

A total rant written by a very discouraged mama.  Sick and Tired

And the second one?

Hacked! An Unauthorized Blog by Lana's Husband

Something I didn't even write!!

But since I'm the subject of the post and since he was so sweet (despite the blatant plea for frosted sugar cookies), I've decided not to get my feelings hurt.  I've got me a good husband and I think I'll keep him around for 20 more years!

As I was thinking about 2011, a few blog posts that I'm glad I didn't have to write came to mind.

Titles like:

Five Year Old Chews Her Way Out Of Clothing and Claims To Be A Nudist

Five Year Old's Teeth Finally Fall Out Due To Continual Chewing Of Clothing

Woman Denies Herself Sleep and Food To Support Her Pinterest Addiction

Rush Family Wins Award for Most Visits to The Apple Store in 2011

Woman Carried Out of Store For Laughing Maniacally at So-Called Indestructible Toys

Woman Begins Couch to 5K Running Program - Couch Wins

Apple Recalls All iPads, iPods, and iPhones - Declares Then Unsafe for Children

And last but not least, I'm so glad I didn't have to write:

The Blog That No One Reads - Along Came the Bird Shutting Down

Thanks to each and every one of you for coming along on this journey with me.  I'm looking forward to more adventures with you in 2012.

In fact, let's get things started right now -

What blog posts are you happy you didn't need to write in 2011?
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