Tuesday, September 30, 2008


This morning I went back to bed after Joel left for school because my sinus infection is depriving me of any type of good sleep. But I did manage to have my morning cup of coffee while I was up with him.

After Seth woke up he was all over me in my bed chatting, wiggling around, telling me stories, etc. I was barely having any of it - you know, grumble here, "Uh huh," there. I just couldn't get awake.

When Seth rolled over to me to kiss me at one point, he made this gagging sound and said, "Ewww! What's that smell? COFFEE BREATH?!" And before I could even respond, he calls up a burp like all boys can do on command, puts his hand in front of his mouth as if to capture the burp in his hand, rubs it on my cheek and says, "There. There's some bagel breath for ya."

Ahh. The love of a child - nothing else like it in the world.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Would You Be Mine, Could You Be Mine, Won't You Be . . . My Neighbor?

Yesterday was National Good Neighbor Day! And what good people do not celebrate Good Neighbor Day? I'll tell you who - people without the Zipps for neighbors!

And it was bonus time on Pinebrook because brother Zipp and his wife are here visiting from New Hampshire. Double the Zipps! Double the fun!
Seth, Mrs. Zipps, Emily, Uncle Scott, Maddie, Aunt Debby

Emily, Maddie, Seth

Ain't no good party without a bounce house.

Sean and Mrs. Zipps, the "2nd wife"

Uncle Scott tried to steal my Heidi!

Mr. Zipps cracked that coconut himself and drank out of it.

Reagan doing his backward safety crawl off the deck. (And what a handsome deck that is, isn't it? Sean and Mr. Zipps built that themselves over a few weekends this summer for the Zipps' back yard.)

Aunt Debby poured out the remaining margaritas in the blender while cleaning up, thus starting a riot.

Fun was, of course, had by all. Uncle Scott made the best sea scallops. But he still can't have my dog.

I pity the fool who don't have no good neighbors to celebrate.

What a B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L Fall Morning!

I'm looking out my window this morning and the sun is casting a spectacular golden glow on everything I can see. The trees that line the back of our property are turning bright yellow, and the leaves are falling. The crop field behind us is ready to be harvested, and there is a tingly chill in the air.

It's an awesome, crisp start to an otherwise mundane Monday. But it sure didn't start out that way. I was madder than a hornet this morning upon coming downstairs at 6am.

No details, just know that God jerked a knot in my tail during my quiet time. I read two different books during my morning quiet time - one is a book about women of the Bible and the other is my devotional Bible for Moms. And wouldn't you know both of them called me out on my attitude this morning.

The first one focused on Proverbs 27:15, which compares a nagging, quarrelsome wife to a constant drip on a rainy day. Ouch.

In Women of the Bible, the author was writing about God being the only one who can see into the depths of anyone's heart and stated, "No matter how much we've been sinned against, we still have the power to choose the attitude of our heart." Okay - I hear you.

So Sean was spared of my wrath this morning by God himself. There are days that I am literally that transformed simply by my morning appointment with God.

What would I be like without it? ~shudder~


MRI today at 4pm. Some prayers that it'll be clear to them what is wrong so that a path of treatment is obvious would be so appreciated.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

&%$#(*& Fruit Flies!

I had a bunch of bananas that got too ripe, and there they were - a gazillion fruit flies that seemed to multiply by the second.

I'd heard to put out a saucer or bowl of apple cider vinegar to attract them, so that's what I did:

And they sat around the rim of the container like they were hanging out around the pool at a party. That really worked well. I had created for them an all-inclusive resort. Sandals for fruit flies.

So I went to where all good people go when they are in need of pest control.


I learned that I should do this:

Make a funnel with a piece of paper and put it into the mouth of a container with apple cider vinegar in it. The theory is that they will fly down through the funnel to get to the oh-so-delicious vinegar, but then not be able to make their way back out. Sounds lame. Except ...

It worked!

I love you, Internet. Thank you, Al Gore.

Sometimes Faith Comes In Small Packages

Everyone keeps asking how Seth did at movie night and how I ended up handling it. Well, it turns out that, in the end, I'm not even the one who handled it at all.

God showed me that I have two very capable younger sons who are learning to handle the challenges that this life will throw them even without my help. This is obviously always the objective, but when you see it in action . . . well, let's just say that my heart felt two sizes too big for my chest Friday night.

Joel came with me to take Seth to the school. With his pillow in hand and snack money in his pocket, Seth was more than excited for movie night. It was overwhelming for him when we walked in (very loud and chaotic), but he handled it well, looking around for someone from his class to sit with. He found one boy, but this little boy was far more interested in interacting with another child. I was nervous and my mama heart was doing flip flops.

I questioned Seth over and over, "Will you be okay . . . Are you sure you want to stay . . . Is this where you want to sit?" on and on, while he kept saying that he would be fine. But his face was telling a different story. He looked apprehensive, but I could tell that he really wanted to be able to do this.

I looked at Joel with, probably, an incredibly worried look on my face, to which Joel replied, "Mom, I think I need to stay with him." Joel's reaction to things like this is always to make the situation right, and I think he may have been even more worried than I was. I replied, "No, we just need to . . . we just need to . . ." and Joel finished my sentence, "have faith?" Yes, that's what I was looking for - faith. And it was coming from my 10-year-old to me instead of the other way around.

I turned around, kissed Seth and went over the rules once more and what he should do if he became afraid or upset about something. And then Joel and I walked out.

But not too far, you see. We stood behind a glass wall to watch him for a few minutes to make sure he was okay. And he was, only he was still virtually alone - and I could hardly stand it. "I just don't want him to be alone ..." and I turned around to see Joel's face looking exactly how I was feeling.

"Mom, I have to stay with him. I can't leave him like this." So we walked back in and Seth was fine, but relieved to see us again after thinking we had left. I asked him if he would like for Joel to stay with him, and he replied, "Joel, you will think this movie is SO COOL."

As I walked out, I turned back once more to see them sitting together on the floor, Joel's arm around his little autistic brother, not caring that he was the oldest kid there or that he really wasn't supposed to be there in the first place. He just knew that he wanted to make sure that Seth got to go to movie night and that he would be okay while he was there.

That's Joel's side of the story. Seth's side of the story started when we picked them up. When Sean and I got there, Seth had his face buried in Joel's chest, upset but trying to hide it. Joel said he'd been like that only a minute or so. As we left, Seth didn't want to talk about it, so we didn't push it, instead chatting with Joel about the movie.

Normally if Seth is upset about something, he let's us ALL know. He'll kick something, throw something, spout out some less-than-nice words. We are working on this, but he has a hard time with impulse control when he can't process through an upsetting situation. However, this time, he was drawing on something from within, which is not like him at all.

It was a good 20 minutes before he literally smiled and said, "Oh tarter sauce!" (SpongeBob's way of saying "darn it!") He then proceeded to say quite matter-of-factly, "They (at movie night) gave away movies and I wanted one. Tarter sauce!" and that was that.

No big deal, you say? Well, it's HUGE. He ran into something he couldn't process right away (kids getting a prize, but he didn't), it made him upset, but he worked through it himself, came out the other side and resolved the issue within his mind. HUGE. HUGE!! Not only is he beginning to recognize inappropriate behavior (kept it to himself at the school, didn't want to talk about it), but he had the desire to work through it on his own, did it, and then we all walked away unscathed! That was a major step forward for him - and for us.

God has brought him so far that some days I think he's going to walk right out of this autism diagnosis! I know, one day at a time ...

I'm so proud of both of them. God bypassed me altogether and worked straight through them!

Friday, September 26, 2008

He'll Be Fine . . . He'll Be Fine . . . He'll Be FINE.

I know I've mentioned this to friends, but can't remember if I've written about it - and I'm too lazy to go back and see if I have.

So I was a little freaking out about Seth going into kindergarten but I couldn't figure out why. He's been in that school for two years in the Early Childhood, so it's not a new place for him. In fact, his kindergarten classroom is right next door to his old E.C. room. Then it dawned on me. Up to this point, he has only been in class with other special needs kids. He didn't stick out like a sore thumb and, in fact, wasn't even the worst case there. Moving into kindergarten, he would be among all neuro-typical kids. He would be different. That worried me.

In the month since he started school, he's done amazingly well. There have been some tough moments, but he has an absolutely wonderful teacher who really knows what she is doing. My worries have decreased significantly.

However, tonight is another step. Our school hosts movie nights every so often where the kids take sleeping bags and pillows and get to watch a movie, have snacks, etc. Joel used to love it. So when the first one was scheduled, Seth really wanted to go. They are showing Speedracer. Now what boy wouldn't want to go? So I signed him up.

Tonight is the night, and now I'm a little bit coming undone about it. There will be a LOT of kids there (overwhelming for him), it will be very loud (also a hot-point with him), and he will not be with any adults that he is used to. Dear God. What was I thinking?

Well, I know exactly what I was thinking. I was thinking what I am always thinking when these things come up - that if we do not challenge him, he will not grow and learn to handle new situations. I was thinking that I want him to feel like a normal kid, not the kid who cannot do what other kids do. I was thinking that he can do this. So now I have to think I can let him do this.

It's always a bit like walking on a tight rope where these things are concerned. Do I pull one of the chaperones aside and let them know he is autistic in case something happens? Will this scare them? Will they then be looking for something? If I do not do this and he freaks out about something, will they be able to handle it? Oh my. Where is the balance?

I could always just stay and keep an eye on him without him knowing that I'm there this first time to make sure he's okay. What to do, what to do.

I don't have an answer yet. Please pray for guidance for me - and I need it before 5:45, thanks!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

One Foot, Two Foot, Good Foot, Bum Foot

I love my feet. I don't at all want them to doubt that. But I'm quite disappointed in the left one. It's not at all living up to its potential. I know what it can do - just look at the right one!

I'm not sure if I haven't treated them equally or what. Perhaps I've not paid enough attention to the left one and it's jealous. Envy is such a green-eyed monster.

I returned to my foot doctor this afternoon after being back in the dork boot for two weeks. I now have to have an MRI on my bum foot. The x-rays are not showing the problem, so my doctor is not able to properly diagnose what is going on. I'm thinking he should just sit down and have a long, firm chat with it to straighten it out.

It could either be a soft-tissue problem or a deep bone break. Could I have really broken a bone in my foot clear back in the beginning of April and not had it looked at all this time? No wonder my foot's so mad at me. That's dang near abuse. Definitely neglect.

So I can ditch the dork boot and be in lots of pain and limp around or keep wearing it and be in less pain. What should I do?

The MRI will be scheduled for next week. We'll see what it says. In the mean time, I'm going to look at it as a really expensive way to get an hour and a half of uninterrupted quiet time where I am required to just lie still and not talk to anyone.

Do you think they'll serve me a cocktail?

GUESS WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Guess what today is?????????


What's all the fuss about, you say? Well imagine what life would be like without punctuation It would be totally chaotic I mean we really take it for granted Can you picture a day with no commas or periods or semicolons or question marks How would we not lose our cotton pickin minds anyway I for one am grateful for those responsible for inserting punctuation into the English language As a writer I absolutely believe this is a day worthy of a celebration

Happy National Punctuation Day!

Do I Have Awesome Friends?

Or do I have awesome friends? First I have Mrs. Zipps, who goes and nearly ruins her own foot and ankle just to be put in her own dork boot to empathize with me:

Then I walk into Bible study Monday night to this:

My pal, Amanda, sporting some serious bling in my honor!

The Lord has led me to some super-awesome friends in the last few years to "circle the wagons" around our family and the issues we've had to face.

Thank you so much for being there every day in my life. Facing each day is way more easy with you guys. I love being part of your stories.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Even Sick, His Brain Keeps A Runnin'

Joel (10) is home sick today. But he can't just veg out. A brain like his has to be fed and exercised or he'll drive us all [more] mad.

So I came downstairs to find some grapes laid out on a piece of paper. Then I looked more closely at the scene:

Then Seth walked up and ate them, and Joel's head exploded.
Okay, so that part's not true; not all that farfetched, but also not true.

Shiver Me Timbers!

Talk Like a Pirate Day was great fun. How old are we, again? Oh yeah - AS OLD AS WE ACT!

We had island rice (totally made-up recipe), coconut shrimp, creole shrimp, sweet potatoes, salad (not so much pirate food ...), and pirate cake. A feast fit for a host of sea dogs!

Sean was sick with the crud all last week, so we were all glad to have him back among the land of the living.
Sean and Alexx

Coupla wenches?

Aaaaarr, me hearties!

Oscar, the victim of immature people looking for laughs.

Brian and Captain Morgan

Heidi and Oscar, banned to the outdoors while we cooked.

Alexx and me - can you believe I gave birth to that huge thing?

Alexx with Susan's awesome pirate cake!

We be savin' our doubloons to buy some property in the country!

That's one tough little pirate-in-training.

Next up? National Good Neighbor Day next Sunday ...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Avast, Me Matey?

We and the Zipps have a long-standing tradition of celebrating unique holidays. Really - we just love getting together and this puts purpose behind it. And the first rule of these celebrations is that the food must reflect the holiday. Thus on "Ocean Day" (Japan), we had seafood and sushi. "National Relaxation Day" coincided with Susan's birthday, so we just had regular food - but made sure we had put up the new hammock. We have also celebrated "Canada Day," "St. Jean-Baptiste Day," "Best Friends Day" and "Quatro de Mayo" (Cinqo de Mayo fell on a day we couldn't celebrate.)

These celebrations are dictated by an actual holiday website with dates and holidays that we strictly adhere to - we don't make any of these things up ourselves.

This weekend we are celebrating "National Talk Like a Pirate Day" and "Wife Appreciation Day." So we're having a Caribbean feast, there will be a pirate cake; and we have looked up Pirate terms to be sure we our dialect is correct:

AVAST: A nautical term meaning "What's up?" or "What are you doing?" Example: "Avast, me matey?"

PIECE OF EIGHT: Spanish silver coin, often cut into pieces to make change. Example: "We be searching the high seas for Long John Silver's lost Pieces of Eight."

WALK THE PLANK: A dire punishment in which one must walk off a wooden board on the side of a ship and fall into the ocean. Example: "The scurvy scoundrel stole me favorite pirate hat; I'm going to make him walk the plank!"

DOUBLOON: A gold coin minted by Spain or Spanish colonies, worth about seven weeks' pay for an average sailor. Example: "I'll be saving my doubloons to buy me own pirate ship. Arrr!"

SHIVER ME TIMBERS!: An expression of surprise or fear. Example: "Shiver me timbers! I just saw a ghost ship!"

SEA DOG: Experienced sailor. Example: "Blackbeard is one famous sea dog."

JOLLY ROGER: The pirate flag with its skull and crossbones. Example: "After looting the island, we left our Jolly Roger behind, flying high in the sky."

SCALLYWAG: Bad person. Example: "Although Sir Francis Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, his fellow pirates thought he was quite a scallywag."

SEA ROVER: Pirate ship. Example: "Look! On the horizon, there be a dozen sea rovers heading this way!"

ME HEARTY: My friend. Example: "Ahoy, me hearty, will ye be helping me look for buried treasure?"

For "Wife Appreciation Day," the men are on their own. They say that every day is wife appreciation day, but there's no way they're getting away with that. We shall see ...

Others coming up: National Good Neighbor Day (also Confucius' birthday), All Soul's Day, Sweetest Day, Fiji Independence Day, World Animal Day, and Make a Difference Day.

Want to celebrate with us? Arrrr, me hearty!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cloud Nine Anyone?

Things are flowing well today and I'm just soaking it up (for when they don't later). Several reasons for this are stacked up one on top of the other, and I'm loving the weight of carrying it around!

I feel as though God has just paved the path through the school system where Joel and Seth and their special needs are concerned. We have had nothing but good relations since Seth began special ed. in the Early Childhood area. He has always received the services he needs without us even having to ask for them; in fact, they have offered to us more than we even thought he needed. That's pretty unheard of.

He now has a kindergarten teacher who is an absolute slice of heaven on earth for him and his needs. She has so delicately yet effectively learned how to work with him and help him integrate and transition into the class that he is happy and thriving.

She has called me several times to ease my mind and tell me how he's progressing, and yesterday she gave me a glowing report. The things she said showed me that she is taking the time and effort to know him. That means so much to me. It would be so easy for a teacher to do the bare minimum to try and keep him in line in class and follow his IEP. It is because of people like her in his life these last three years since his autism diagnosis that he has come so far.

On Joel's side, I met with his school yesterday about what needs to be done for him with his ADD, his mood disorder diagnosis and borderline Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis. The counselor was awesome. I wanted to hug her and invite her to Thanksgiving dinner.

Basically there is one more piece of testing the school requires in addition to the testing he had in the spring in order to "officially" have him logged in the system with an IEP or Section 504 plan. These will, in essence, give teachers a plan to follow to deal with his issues and help them understand his needs to provide the best learning environment for him.

What she says regarding Joel and what they are already doing for him tells me that they already know him and are working to make his days go as well as possible.

You know that old adage it takes a village to raise a child? Well, in the case of my boys, it really does feel that way. And I am so grateful that God has placed my children, so far, in all the right places with all the right people to maximize their outcomes.

And the cherry on top of this great day? I have been excused from jury duty! I was supposed to show up Monday and was dreading it for scheduling reasons (with Seth). Now I don't have to worry about it.

Yay! I wonder how I could make this day just go on and on ...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Joel Joel Joel

Let me just explain my middle son to those of you who aren't familiar with him. He is 10 years old with the soul of about a 35-40 year old professor with an anger management problem.

He's unbelievably intelligent and unbelievably loud. He goes here and there and all around the globe in the scope of one conversation to the point that you feel like your head is knotted and twisted like the roots of an old oak tree.

He is funny but doesn't mean to be; he is amazingly intuitive; his heart is the size of the Pacific Ocean, and he can be the most helpful, nurturing person in the world. Except when he's not.

He was diagnosed with a mood disorder this past spring, and we are in the beginning stages of learning to navigate these often tumultuous waters. It feels like when Seth was first diagnosed with autism. We're back to researching, trial and error, frustration and sometimes triumph.

Bedtime is the worst time of the day even though we have established a routine that he himself developed. I won't go into the ugly details, but just know that almost every night we have to clench our teeth and fists to control our urges to sign him up to be the first minor to do a tour of duty at the International Space Station.

Are you pickin' up what I'm puttin' down here? He's exhausting.

Today I have my first appointment with the school counselor to get the ball rolling on writing his IEP (Individualized Education Plan) to make his school day flow well with the issues he has. There are three issues to deal with: he has a mood disorder, he has ADD, and his IQ is in the superior range.

So basically, he approaches things with higher intelligence than most around him, and jumps into an activity impulsively before thinking it through (danger be damned), but has problems sticking with a concept long enough to process it through to the end before moving on to something else (gets bored with it), and goes from extremely amicable and easy to deal with to someone you want to toss on the turnip truck driving out of town and back again with little warning for the rest of us. He can't keep up with the speed of his own brain, jumps from concept to concept before finishing the last one, and lacks the emotional stability to handle it all.

It is SO FUN around our house.

Stick all of that with the autism of the 5-year-old, and you've got yourself one crazy family. The dictionary defines crazy as: unusual, bizarre; having an unusual, unexpected, random quality, behavior or pattern; mentally deranged, demented, insane.

Yeah. That's about right.

Keep me in your prayers today. This is an important meeting.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

TeenMOPS Fundraiser

Good morning, Friends!

As many of you know, I am on the steering committee of the TeenMOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group chartered by my church, White River Christian Church, here in Noblesville. We just began our third year providing support, encouragement, and fun for teen moms in the Hamilton County area. It has been such a blessing being a part of these girls' lives and watching them grow!

For many of these young, at-risk girls, we are the only positive words they hear, the only resource they have, the only parenting and relationship support that they receive. We've made a commitment to these girls, and our group is growing monthly. Everything provided for our teen moms and their babies is free of charge to them, and is run on a completely volunteer basis.

We will be joining other TeenMOPS groups across the nation in the Great Moms Walk fundraiser on October 25th and are asking for pledges to help fund our group and activities for the year.

If you are interested in sponsoring one of our girls for any amount at all, please contact me or send a note of support along with a pledge to:

Great Moms Walk 2008
1685 N. 10th Street
Noblesville, IN 46060

All donations are 100% tax deductible, and you will receive a receipt for your donation after it is received. Please remember that some companies match donations for events like this.

If you would like to sponsor a particular girl in our group, please let me know who that is, or contact me for a list of girls and their children in order to choose one.

For more information on our group - here's a link:

Thank you so much for your consideration!

Monday, September 15, 2008

I Guess It'll Be Okay ...

So I've been dreading summer ending, because we spend a lot of time outdoors and on our screened-in porch. However ...

One cool day and I'm ready to carve pumpkins and get my down comforter out! It's a chilly 67 degrees here in Indy today - I saw my first tree that is beginning to change from green to a vibrant, lively red, and I'm ready to make spiced apple cider and sit by the fire.

I'm not sure what Seth (5) thinks that it being "fall" means, but when he asked me if it was turning into fall this morning and I said, "Yes," he crumbled into a heap on the bathroom floor exclaiming, "Oh NO! I don't wanna DIE!"

Do you think my complaining about winter coming has rubbed off on him? Or is it the native Texan in him coming forth? Because when we lived in Houston and returned to Indiana for visits at Christmas, it did feel like we were going to die. Whatever it is, I fixed it with macaroni and cheese - at least temporarily.

I will begin moaning again when the leaves are gone and the colorless months of winter set in. These are the times that I sure miss living in a place that has nice weather all year long ...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Keith Urban Rocks - Again!

What a great evening! Mrs. Zipps and I found out Thursday that her husband was getting us comped into the Keith Urban/Kenny Chesney, etc. concert at Lucas Oil Stadium!

First you must know that my cousin dragged me into this Keith Urban obsession in 2005, and I've since been to five of his concerts. I, in turn, dragged Mrs. Zipps into it with me and this is our 2nd KU concert together. Fabulous!

On a side note - we are BOTH in dork boots right now. What are the odds, right? The foot that I had surgery on last November was injured last spring, and my foot dr. is trying to fix it. Susan has a whole bunch of weird things wrong with the ligaments and tendons around her ankle, so that's what's going on with her.

We had so many people tonight at the concert commenting on and questioning us about both of us being in boots. What happened? Who kicked who? Now that's friendship! Some people seriously just pointed and talked about us! Well, we were glad we could be entertainment for so many this evening.

Dork boot twins

So we get there and our "connection" gives us the tickets outside, comments and laughs, of course, on the dork boot sisters, and then we're in. Not until we asked for directions to our seats did we find out that they were on the floor! Mr. Zipps' guy totally came through! We were on the right side of the "sandbar" (walk-out stage). Awesome.

Opening the roof

We had a great time - even with the extremely drunk guy sitting next to me that became my new best friend for the night:

Lucas Oil is a very nice stadium - and they opened the roof just before KU went on - very cool!

Here's some of "Raining on Sunday" if you're interested:

Friday, September 12, 2008

Too Much To Say!

I have lots of stuff to write about today - lots to say and little time to write it. So look for a couple more posts if time allows. But the most important today is this.

Please pray for my friends, and well, everyone of course, in the path of Hurricane Ike. The funny thing is, I'm not sitting here glad that we don't live in Houston anymore. Quite the opposite. It takes me back to when Houston flooded after Tropical Storm Allison. It was awful, but to be there and doing what you can to help other people felt like we were exactly where we were supposed to be. The flooding did not reach us, so we were fortunate and able to be on the helping side.

Right now I'm praying for my old neighborhood and good friends who still live there as well as anyone who will be affected by this storm.

Quite weirdly, wishing I was there. I still get homesick after 4 years back in Indiana.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sometimes Life Is Just Mean.

I would love to put my chin up and be the positive, chipper person that can stare life down and move on right now, but that ain't happenin'. Not today. Sorry! Those of you who tell me that you appreciate how real I am, that I don't try and sugar coat it? Well, today is your lucky day.

Problems and issues with the 17-year-old continue full throttle. The antibiotic I'm taking for my sinus infection is making me incredibly nauseous, my face and teeth continue to radiate with pain, and my leg is trying to adjust back to wearing a nearly 10-lb. boot again which results in cramps in my calf muscle. Sleep was not happening last night, so I'm running on fumes today.

On a good note - we had our first small group last night (us and three other couples from church). It was great! I think we're all going to mesh very well - that's how it felt, so I'm excited to start this new journey.

Okay - so I can't help but let some positivity come through. Seth is doing extremely well lately, and we're so proud of him. To put it most frankly, he is doing life very well - handling things, processing everyday situations, taking on challenges, pushing himself in new areas. It's as if the connections and bridges that we worked so hard for two years to manually build in his brain through so many thousands of hours of therapies are taking flight automatically. It's so exciting to watch! It's all beginning to click!

It's all still a daily struggle - but little by little, he is making it. Thank you, God!

So I'll end on that note so I'm not all Debbie Downer on y'all.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lovely. Just Lovely.

Okay - two doctor appointments, two prescriptions and a bit of bad news later with one net result: my life is sucking right now.

I've got a raging sinus infection (thank you, Mrs. Zipps, for diagnosing me and telling me to go to the dr.). I have an apparent soft-tissue tear or sprain in my foot - nothing to do with my original foot surgery last year, but nonetheless, I'm back in the dork boot. If lying low with the dork boot on for two weeks doesn't do any good, then I have to have an MRI to specifically diagnose what soft-tissue damage has occurred and go from there.

Oh - and I got in trouble for waiting so long to go back to see him about my foot. I believe the words were, "You're smarter than that and you know better! I would expect that from a man - but not from you." Ouch. He compared me to a man. That may be even worse than putting me back in the boot for two weeks.

On a side note - Mrs. Zipps was put in a bigger dork boot yesterday for a host of things wrong with her ankle; thus proving the theory of what comes around goes around. She had a heyday last year when I was in the dork boot for 3+ months ... hmmmmm ...

Now we are twins. Photo forthcoming.

So Needed To Hear This.

I logged on to get my e-mail this morning and this is the first thing I read. Thank you, Jen, for sending this to me on this morning, during this very hard week. It is so awesome to read when someone gets it, and then takes the time and effort to say it.

Special Needs, Special Love
Hal Runkel, LMFT

During college, it was commonplace for me to enter into philosophical conversations about the nature of things. What is truth? What is beauty? What is love?

That last question was always a hot topic. Is love the stuff of romantic fantasies? Or does it only belong to the realm of religious devotion? Most importantly at the time--what does it mean to "like" a girl, and what does it mean to "love" her?

One of my philosophy professors stumbled upon us during one of these speculative conversations, and simply told a story.

He had known a man in his church, a man whose only wife died while giving birth to their only child. Their boy did not escape the tragic birth unscathed, either, unfortunately; it left him practically in a vegetative state. In one afternoon, this man's life-calling was cast: he would raise an incapacitated son as a widower. The man and son went on to live the rest of their long lives together, my professor explained. And then he showed us that he had been listening to our conversation the whole time.

"You wanna know what love is?" he asked. "Here's a man who, for the last forty years, has shaved two faces every morning."

I must confess, I really have no idea what it must be like to be the parent of a child with special needs. Sure, I've been around hundreds of kids with physical and mental disabilities, counseled families of such, but that doesn't mean I know the exhaustion of living with the daily dependencies (and nightly worries) of patiently raising a daughter with severe developmental delays, or stubbornly trying to connect to a son with autism.

Sure, I watched firsthand as my parents battled my brother's dyslexia and tragic head injuries, but that doesn't mean I know what it's like to watch my own child continuously struggle with reading, or stay up nights reading about head trauma and worrying about its effect on long-term life success.

And sure, I, unfortunately, even know the pain of watching my wife battle cancer. I know all too well the dilemma of struggling to handle the unknown future while dealing with the known, at times miserable, present. But I don't think for one minute that my experience this past year can tell me of the dilemmas parents must face while deciding upon treatment regimens and school schedules, or the horrible pain they must feel while holding little hands pricked with chemo IVs.
But many of you know these struggles. Many of you live these lives. And I thank you.

I thank you, special needs parents, for all the ways you band together with other parents facing similar struggles. The networks of parents banding together, whether it be because of their autistic children or their cancer-surviving kids, are an inspiration to us all. So many ScreamFree Parenting Groups are forming all over the country because people are recognizing the value of struggling together. Parents of kids with special needs have this awareness thrust upon them, but the rest of us sometimes try to cruise through life (and stumble through relationships) thinking that we're not supposed to struggle. For letting me watch and become continually aware of how I can benefit from others' support, I thank you.

I thank you, special needs parents, for your tireless attempts to wrestle with your own conflicting desires. On the one hand, you want the best possible support for your child in their battle, finding the best schools, the top techniques, and the latest research to justify special treatment. On the other hand, you strive to normalize your child and his surroundings, never allowing your child's special needs to rob them from the joys of "normal" life, nor excuse them from the painful lessons that life has for all of us. Those of us without special needs kids face this same internal battle, wanting to both protect our kids from life's dangers and yet expose our kids to life's lessons. For showing me how to fight this battle on both ends, equally holding up both protection and exposure as valuable, I thank you.

I thank you, special needs parents, for your enduring efforts to emotionally connect with your children, even when they cannot connect with you. So many of you, especially those whose children have autism or developmental delays, continue to put yourself in vulnerable positions, looking (and desperately hoping) for the slightest signs that your child can reciprocate your affection. While learning to never need your own emotions reciprocated to keep you going, you can appreciate those fleeting moments with a heartfelt gratitude that few of the rest of us can ever sense. We, instead, place ourselves in an endless chase, needing our children to appreciate us, respect us, or just acknowledge our efforts so that we can feel like good parents. For showing us all that it's what we do, regardless of what our kids do in return, that validates our parenting, I thank you.

In many ways, all of our kids have special needs, because all of our kids are unique individuals, with unique lessons to learn as they carve their unique paths through life. But so many families out there know what it means to have kids with real special needs, families whose daily experiences, and choices in response to those experiences, give the rest of us hope that life can still go on, hope can still ring true.

I guess what I'm really trying to say is thank you, special needs parents, for teaching me what love is.

Hal E. Runkel, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of the National Bestseller ScreamFree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool, from Waterbrook Press. Visit http://www.screamfree.com/ for more information.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Taking a break - can't think, can't write. Sinuses feel like my head will implode at any moment.

I have two dr. appointments tomorrow - one for my head, one for my foot. Ahhh, the foot. If he puts me back in the dork boot that just may send me right over the edge that I'm teetering on this week.

On a good note - some of you may know that I am on the steering committee for the TeenMOPS (Mother of Preschoolers) group chartered through our church. This is our third year and tonight was the first meeting back since May.

We had a great time. I have such a heart for these young girls and the challenges they are and will be facing. I remember all too well how it all felt when Sean and I were struggling in college with a baby. This feels like it will be a good year.

Now to bed. I'd rather be lying down when my brain comes shooting out my eyeballs any second now.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Oh, Yeah.

By the way, jury duty is looking more and more fun.

Tons Of Questions, Few Answers.

Middle dude (Joel, 10) is lucky I didn't call first thing this morning and sign him up for a lobotomy.

Oh. My.

I very-uncharacteristically stayed calm, knowing that any minute now, he will turn on a dime and be fine. Such is life with a mood disorder. I am getting better at managing these things - not managing him, but managing the situation from my end. And staying calm is the key. Which is hard when every fiber of my body wants to SCREAM MY FOOL HEAD OFF at him.

I was in tears after he left, all questioning why I am even a parent, why God gave me three kids with three different neurological diagnoses, praying for a mentor to materialize in my life so I could have someone praying over me every day.

In the end, I know that prayer works - in fact, I'm counting on it - and that's the route I am taking because, honestly, I don't know which way to go anymore. I really don't know what else I can be doing but what I'm already doing. We're providing all three of them with the resources that their individual diagnoses require; we learn all we can about how to manage and help them from our end; Sean and I stick together like super glue to wade through it all; we pray consistently, every day (or every hour, as it seems).

What else is there?

Thanks for listening. Tomorrow is a new day (thank God).

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I Think We May Have Something Here

Joel is quite enjoying music class and learning to play tunes on the keyboard. Mental note - get the piano tuned so when he plays it doesn't sound like a wounded cat.

So Joel came home yesterday and showed Seth one time how to play part of the Star Wars theme. And Seth has been playing it ever since. Even Joel is amazed that he picked it up so quickly.

Time to dig up the money to get the piano tuned and perhaps begin teaching Seth to play?

He's so darn proud of himself, and when he accomplishes something and realizes it -well, it's just amazing because he often has to work so hard to get through something.

I'm so amazed at how far he's come ...

Friday, September 5, 2008


Daily Recipe - Pasta e Fagioli Soup

This is one of our favorites. It's simple - and also cans very well (for those of you who even take the time to do that!)

Pasta e Fagioli Soup (Olive Garden knock-off)

1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, diced (1 cup)
1 large carrot, julienned (1 cup)
3 stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can red kidney beans (with liquid)
1 15-ounce can great northern beans (with liquid)
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 12-ounce can V-8 juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 pound (1/2 pkg.) ditali pasta
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Serves 8.

Brown the ground beef in a large saucepan or pot over medium heat. Drain off most of the fat.

Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients, except pasta, and simmer for 1 hour.

About 50 minutes into simmer time, cook the pasta in 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of boiling water over high heat. Cook for 10 minutes or just until pasta is al dente, or slightly tough. Drain.

Add the pasta to the large pot of soup and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve.

Goes great with garlic breadstick or garlic toast. Mmmmmmm!

Palin's Record

A friend (thanks, girl!) brought to my attention that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin slashed funds for schools for special needs children in Alaska by 62%.

I haven't done enough research on my own yet, but I did find an article at EdWeek where I got this excerpt:

Members of education organizations in Alaska generally spoke favorably about Ms. Palin’s record on school issues since she took office in January of 2007. The governor has become a popular figure among the 13,000 members of the Alaska National Education Association, said Barbara Angaiak, president of the state affiliate of the National Education Association.

The union official credited Ms. Palin for having backed a legislative proposal, which became law this year, that overhauled the state’s school funding system. That plan brought more money to the state’s many rural and remote school districts and raised spending for students with special needs. ("Alaska Legislators Overhaul Funding," April 30, 2008.)

The measure raised per-pupil funding by $100, to $5,480, and brought the state’s total K-12 budget to $1.2 billion.

So I'm not sure, yet, how those two pieces of information figure in together. Those who know me know that RESEARCH is my middle name - no matter what the issue.

However, I do have this to say. Regardless of her past voting record, I have high hopes - and here's why. I am hoping, like happened with me, that her new role as a special needs mom will greatly influence her voting patterns and behavior overall. In fact, I'd bet the farm on it.

The minute I became a special needs mom, the world became a different place and suddenly, things that I never thought about or selfishly didn't deem important to me became the center of my existence. Sarah Palin has only been a special needs mom for a few months. She hasn't even encountered yet all of the issues that are ahead of her in this capacity.

I am COUNTING on the fact that every new therapy, every new roadblock, every new avenue she must pursue on behalf of her son with special needs, will open her eyes to the needs of every family with a special needs child in America. The "I had no IDEA!" phenomenon.

She is in the very beginning stages of being the mother of a child with Down Syndrome. I'm hoping that as she learns along the way, like the rest of us have, of things she never knew were issues, she will bring these to the forefront using her position of power in her place in the public eye.

We can only wonder and pray and research about candidates, and in the end - make a decision as to how we will vote based on these things. We shall see.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

My Oh My.

This woman is kick butt.

Stickin' it to Washington and the establishment, she's a woman after my own heart: parenting a whole gaggle of kids (teens and little ones at the same time) while running the state of Alaska, and being a special-needs mom on top of that.

This is exactly the same sort of reason why Seth has gotten so much from our school - the principal has a special needs son and he is ALWAYS advocating for Seth in our case conferences. Not only do I never need to ask for anything - he is always one step ahead of what I'm thinking.

Take that, on a national scale, and you've got what could happen with a special-needs mom in the White House. Unless she is just plain stupid (which she clearly isn't), she will see things and make decisions through a filter that I wish lawmakers would now.

McCain is one smart cookie. This election is finally getting interesting.

Now let's see what she can do.

Oh - and kudos to Obama for saying that the story surrounding Palin's 17-year-old pregnant daughter is "off limits" as is anything having to do with a candidate's family. That situation has nothing to do with who she is or what kind of job she would do in Washington. Guess what? Parents can do their absolute best, and their kids still make wrong decisions that everyone around them had hoped and prayed they wouldn't make. And I say that with experience from both ends.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Another Recipe For My Skribit-Requesting Friend!

Now - before all you northerners freak out on me - this recipe can be made with shrimp. But it's better with crawfish tails! You can find the tail meat frozen in a package up here in Yankeeland.

This is a rich, garlicky recipe. Mmmmmmm.

Crawfish Etouffe

1 stick butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers
1 pound peeled crawfish tails
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup water
1 14-oz. can petite-diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped green onions

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and saute until the vegetables are wilted, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 4-5 minutes.

Add the crawfish and garlic, reduce the heat to medium. Cook the crawfish for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Dissolve the flour in the water. Add to the crawfish mixture. Season with salt and cayenne. Stir until the mixture thickens, about 4 minutes.

Stir in the parsley and green onions and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Serve over steamed rice.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hammock Love.

So we finally put up our hammock, but it took a few tries:

Sean felt like his rear-end grazing the ground was a little too low. Men are so picky. Once we got it up high enough, the kids thought it was awesome and played on it for nearly an hour once they discovered how not to flip right out of it.

Seth and his pseudo-sisters, the mini-Zipps:

Don't they look like three little peas in a pod?

I'm not feeling well, so I slipped away this evening without anyone noticing. My view from the hammock:
My big, fierce protector, ready to fend off any children intruding upon my peace:

Heidi, defender of all that is good and decent.

So Much Fun!!!

We had so so much fun on our girls' weekend! We left Friday afternoon and came home Sunday afternoon. No kids! No responsibility! No LAUNDRY to do!
We laughed, we cried, we ate.
We went to Oliver Winery, which has really beautiful grounds.
Amanda, Amanda, Lesa, Jodona (I was taking the picture).
As we got out of the van at Oliver, Jodona tripped and her flip flop strap broke. Nothing was keeping me from staying! So I pulled a MacGyver and used a bobby pin that I pulled out of my hair and fixed it!
Lesa was cracking up at the whole scene:
This is where I told the story at dinner of when my brother was little and my mom didn't know his hamster was dead, went to pick it up and its skin came off:

About 10 minutes after we left the grocery, Amanda asked Lesa for the receipt (she needed it for the phone card she had purchased). Well, Lesa had tossed it in the trash as we walked out, so we had to go back and Amanda had to ask a grocery employee to get the bag out so she could dig through the trash. She wasn't exactly thrilled, but we all thought it was hilarious! That's her with the gross receipt and a hand wipe!

It was a fabulous weekend, despite the fact that two of us weren't feeling well. We're ready to go back next weekend! Do you think our husbands would mind?

Amanda, Jodona, Lesa, Amanda

I'm so blessed with wonderful friends!