Category Archives: Family life

Kindness isn’t wasted

How do we show children we love them?

Sometimes, I slip a little note in my kids’ lunch boxes. My youngest still enjoys the notes and looks forward to the smiley face and love letter I occasionally add.

It’s such a small thing.

I didn’t think it was a big deal. Just a little “magic” to give her a smile and warm fuzzy at a chaotic time of day.

I was out of town for work two days this week. Both days, my youngest made a double batch of smoothie for her own breakfast and for her older brother. She also added a kindly worded note on an index card, mirroring my own notes, but tempering the language because 13 year old boys don’t receive “I love you” in the spirit in which it is intended.

Have a great day
A note a little sister wrote to her older brother.

The notes I wrote mattered. And they taught a little girl how to share kindness and love.

The little, small, consistent actions matter–perhaps more than the grandiose. God is found in whispers, in gentleness, in kindness, in smallness. An ocean can roar, yes; but it can also gently whisper in the seafoam as it trickles ashore. The Kingdom of Heaven is built big and small.

I’m going to visit a kind little girl at lunch today.


A New Beginning for School

I thought I was prepared for this year. But I don’t think anyone can be truly completely prepared.

The days leading up to the beginning of school had me on edge.

I felt very triggered by many little moments, and my emotions crescendoed when I drove past the police officer (police car ironically wrapped with “Autism Awareness” art) who had initiated my child’s Baker Act.

I took my own advice and made arrangements to meet with all of my child’s teachers before the year began. They graciously stayed through part of their lunch break in a day packed with meetings to give me an opportunity to highlight my family’s care for our child, my child’s strengths, and special concerns. The school administrator who has taken point with my family accompanied me and had already explained the circumstances of last year and why this meeting was so important.

At orientation to pick up his schedule, my son seemed more relaxed than he had been the previous year. Adults greeted him kindly and he lit up, giving special “secret handshakes” and grinning at some of his favorites. He showed me where all of his classes were, negotiated an elective with his guidance counselor and waited patiently in line for final sign off and planner assignment.

The vice around my heart eased a little.

The first day of 8th grade passed uneventfully.

The first week of school, I waited for a phone call about his behavior. And it came–from a teacher notifying me of the remarkable growth he is showing.

My son filled in his planner every day. He was doing homework. He had me sign the class syllabi and other forms. We offered him an end of the week reward to continue using his planner, and he earned the (appropriate) movie rental of his choice.

I attended his school’s Open House last night, braced for the sympathetic glances and platitudes.

Instead, every single staff person–from administration to teachers–had positive comments on my son’s demeanor, attitude and behavior.

This was such a moment of grace for me.

The relief flowed over me and as I recall this wonderful evening, I am undone.

Reflecting upon what has changed, I realize that last year was stressful for all of us. A disastrous and traumatic first day coupled with missing the first 3 weeks of school catapulted my son into daily uncertainty.

He had missed the typical instructional season of instilling routines and rules into the students–step by step building of the notebooks, navigating early friendships and use of planners. He had to learn the rules and consequences and he had to learn to trust the adults at his new school.

They have proven themselves trustworthy.

Thank you thank you thank you.

Fear, Adrenaline, Curiosity

My 8 year old and I were discussing fear.

I had been listening to a fascinating podcast about turning unproductive, purposeless fear into curiosity.

I brought up our zoo’s interactive, “pettable” non-venomous snakes. Perhaps fear could be transformed in that safe moment into questions about the creature’s habitat, adaptations, and appearance.

My insightful daughter pointed out that fear can create adrenaline–which is useful for real danger.

And then my little girl broke my heart with her casual example.

Its like if you’re in the bathroom and the school goes on lockdown. But if you don’t hear the lockdown alarm because you suddenly can’t hear, and then you go outside and there’s someone with a gun….and you trip and break your legs….fear will give you adrenaline to run away even on broken legs!”

I affirmed that fear and adrenaline do work purposefully in dangerous situations while inside, unproductive fear seized my heart.

I cannot muster curiosity to combat this.

And days later, I am still heartbroken that this is a potential reality for my 8 year old, who so casually uses that situation as an example.

We have to take better care of our children. I need my autistic child to be safe. I need my neurotypical children to be safe.

I need safe schools.

I think we all agree on those points.

The problem is we disagree on how to create that safety.

please, please, please–we have to work together to make our country safer for our most vulnerable.

Our children need freedom to explore, curiosity to be nurtured, joy to be enhanced.

Instead they cower under desks in lockdown drills.

What are we doing to our children?

This mama’s heart cannot bear more tragedy in our schools.

Perfect 10

Have you viewed the “Perfect 10” gymnastic floor sequence?

My daughters and I have been enthralled by Katelyn Ohashi’s outstanding gymnastics performances.

I seized the moment to talk to my 8 year old about body image, societal expectations and reality. As we watched the videos, I asked my daughter, “what do you notice about her body?” My daughter commented on her flexibility and high jumps.

We talked about being a gymnast and the muscular structure necessary to do those amazing exercises.

I shared more of what i had learned about this gymnast–about how criticism of her body led her to almost lose her love of this sport. How when she listened to other people she forgot that she was made beautiful and powerful and strong and talented.

And what a loss it would have been because she brings joy and inspiration to so many now through her performances.

I paused the video a couple times and pointed out the muscles in her hips and thighs. We noted how her rear end jiggled a little bit. And then my daughter sighed, “i have skinny legs. Theyre not strong like hers.” So we talked more about comparison being unfair. We discussed being grateful for the body God gave us and taking care of it–and understanding it is unique, with mom and dads genes mixed differently in each sibling and the wonderful gift our bodies are.

I read that 8 year old girls are at the pinnacle of their body self esteem; saddening me. How I treat and speak of my own body is the beginning to my daughters’ self talk.

May I be kind and gentle.

Heres something awesome: I float very easily, making an ocean swim delightful!

Don’t Push the Power Button 5 times!

FaceTime wasn’t working last night. I was trying to disconnect from an attempted/unsuccessful call but my phone was stuck with a keyboard blocking the “end call” prompt. In my flustered state I managed to accidentally hit the power button 5 times.

You know what that does? It calls 911. 😱

I explained my technological incapability to the kind voice on the other end of the phone. Still couldnt operate my phone and had to wait for emergency services to disconnect our conversation.

A few minutes later, dressed in my pajama top and pants, hair wet from a shower, I took my dogs out in the front yard before retiring for the night.

At 8:30 PM. Because I am pushing 40 and morning comes too early.

I stopped at my car to get my glasses (blind without contacts) and grabbed my daughter’s water bottle and shoes she had left in the car while I was there.

So now I am carrying in my arms: my keys (attached to a wallet and chapstick), my phone (to track every step I take), a tall stainless steel water bottle, a pair of sneakers, and am wrestling with my Great Pyrenees on then other end of the pink leash I am also holding.

It is just a quick potty break for the dogs.

We walk down the long driveway (really should have grabbed all the stuff after the dogs’ walk, not before) and a car drives through our cul de sac…and stops at my mailbox.

It is a police car.

The very nice officer asks if everything is ok. I thank him for his prompt response and he tells me he happened to be close by when dispatch called him.

I reassure him I am really fine. Standing in my yard, in my pjs, arms full of miscellaneous treasures. This is totally normal. Really.

He opens his car door to pet my dogs, and my unleashed Basset Hound, Olive, tries to go home with him. Luna, my Great Pyrenees, must also get on on the action. She pushes Olive out of the way, pulling me along in the process, so that Deputy Chris (we are on a first name basis by now)must pet her.

I would like to just go inside my home as quickly as possible.

I get control of my overly friendly dogs, thank him once again for checking on us and invite him inside. He declines, saying he doesn’t imagine I would be out walking the dogs if there was a problem. I do not dare to disagree.

I suspect my fresh makeup free face convinced him that I had been neither crying nor distressed–rather, just cast in The Walking Dead.

That is a face mask, which i was thankfully not wearing last night, but it helps you get a complete picture.

I wrangled the dogs inside, not sure if they had ever finished their business and authorized the system update on my iPhone.

I sincerely hope that is the end of my story. Next time, my kids can get their own stuff out of the car.

How to Prevent an Autistic Child’s Baker Act

Another 8 year old was just “Baker Acted” in my county.

I want to say bad words.

Instead, I’ll take this opportunity to share what I have learned the hard way to help prevent psychiatric institutionalizing from happening to anyone else.

It’s not fail safe, and I am not an attorney.

I am a mom who is angry, sick and scared that parents of children with special needs not only have to worry about IEP meetings, social skills, physical care, emotional well being of their children but ALSO they have to worry about an overzealous person removing the child unnecessarily from their home.

I get it: Sometimes Baker Acts are necessary. This act exists to protect a person who is danger of physically hurting themselves or someone else. AND the law also states that this is only to be enacted if “it is not apparent that the harm may be avoided through the help of willing family members, friends, or the provision of other services.”
How to determine if the individual appears to meet baker act criteria.

So here is what I have done to help prevent a Baker Act in the future.

  1. I met with school staff to explain my child’s diagnoses and behaviors. A  school employed behavior analyst walked the staff and teachers through my child’s Behavior Intervention Plan. I explained that my family can and will supervise my child 24/7, we have no weapons in the home, my child is under regular care of a psychiatrist and we have resources to hospitalize him other than the awful county facility should we agree he need hospitalization.
  2. An attorney friend sent me the website of the Citizens Commissions on Human Rights on preventing Baker Acts, which has helped me with step #3.
  3. I filled out and had the form from the website above^^ notarized, and put in my child’s school file after the guidance counselor signed acknowledgement of receiving this. I keep a copy, too.
  4. I scheduled a meeting with the school resource officer. I brought a copy of my son’s IEP and Behavior Intervention Plan. I spent an hour talking to him about my son’s behaviors, what to do if he had a meltdown, and gave him a copy of the notarized form from #2 and 3 above. I talked about our ability to care for him, our family support, and that we have insurance and resources to choose which hospital our child should go to if it was necessary. I made it clear that we would employ litigation if my son was Baker Acted unnecessarily. The SRO thanked me and suggested all parents of children with autism or behavior difficulties should take the time to meet with SROs.
  5. I let the IEP Team and the SRO know that the SRO is not to become a preferred person for my child. The less interaction, the better, per our advocate from Florida Disability Rights.
  6. At our IEP Meetings, our amazing advocate reminds the team that a Baker Act for a child who has known statements and behaviors consistent with autism is inappropriate. Autism is a developmental disorder, NOT a mental health disorder.
  7. I check in via email weekly with school personnel, so they know I am continuing to be involved even if I am not physically present at the school.
  8. One thing I would *like* to have in place is a psychiatrist willing to sign release on Baker Acts in the future. Our current provider will not involve himself in “legal cases”. I’m working on changing providers, because I think it’s really important to have this “Uno Wild” card just in case. A psychiatrist is the only person with legal authority to sign a child out of a Baker Act situation once the process has been initiated.
  9. I pray daily for my child and the people who surround my child. God can cover what I can’t.

What do you do to help prevent this? I’d love to hear your ideas.


Interactive Dinner

When our oldest was a toddler, I learned how to make and roll sushi.

Its kind of labor intensive so we haven’t made it in eons.

But we were all home this week so my husband and I decided it would be a fun menu option.

I made the short grain rice in my Instant Pot. 2 cups of rice, 2 c of water, press “rice” and walk away. Add 1/4c. sushi vinegar with seasoning and voila! Rice is ready.

Everyone took a turn creating a special roll. We had cooked shrimp and ikrab, cream cheese, avocado, and cucumbers.

Note: I sometimes refer to ikrab as the “hotdogs of the sea” but my husband doesn’t appreciate that humor so I will refrain. Probably.

The plastic rolling mat was given to me by a Publix sushi chef 13 years ago when I asked him how his rolls were so tightly packed, because mine fell apart.

My youngest won’t eat seafood (you’re eating a body!!) so veggie cream cheese rolls were her choice. That is her favorite plate–with a picture of her, a birthday gift from when she was 3!

The girls both participated and enjoyed the meal. We dined on edamame as we took turns creating rolls to share.

Our son had a ham and cheese sandwich of course. We have decided not to force him to eat unpleasant (to him) options.

We all ate fortune cookies for dessert–a novelty for the kids.

The girls had kitchen patrol duties following. They are growing up and so helpful! I am more willing to do the messy or difficult projects when the kids can actually help. Funny how that works!

New Year and Resolutions

So, what’s new for 2019?

Well, my planner is brand spankin’ new–and getting it prepped with washi tape is kind of fun.

Besides looking at a beautiful brand new open slate of blank pages waiting to be filled, the truth is:

nothing else is new.

I am still flawed. I still have dreams and goals.

My family is still, at its core, the same.

Same habits exist, some good and some that need to go.

Same teachers and homework and projects when school resumes.

This quiet Christmas space of reflection and preparation is a chance to breathe and an opportunity to set a course for when chaos resumes.

I have learned this year what and who is most important. I have discovered that God never stops caring, never ceases delighting and surprising me.

I am enjoying this family time playing new board games, listening to classic jazz while baking homemade cinnamon rolls and reading Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone out loud with my youngest on her first reading of my favorite series.

People talk about setting a word of the year, about creating New Year Resolutions. For me, that feels confining. I have some ideas in how I want to grow and how God can use me this year. But I am open minded.

I am setting my priorities and goals for this new year, and confident that my family and I do not walk alone.

Happy New Year!

Side note:
Here’s a referral link for Erin Condren planners because i love them so much–and I hope you will love them too!)

Advent Craze

Life feels hectic and crazy. I realized at the beginning of December that I was in over my head. My first clue was when my kids’ therapist started asking me more questions about myself and talking about self care.

My second clue was when I stopped going to the gym.

My third clue was when I found myself with a heaping bowl of carb laden pasta.

This was survival mode.

I dug in my heels and came to a screeching halt. All non-essentials moved to the bottom of my list. I decided to accept the carbs and the naps temporarily. I begged out of activities that weren’t necessary.

I took advantage of a cold and decided it was the perfect excuse to not attend the kids’ class parties and to not volunteer at the schools.

I stayed in bed more. I plowed through work and focused on getting my children’s academic requirements completed. We had a mountain of papers that hadn’t been turned in for one kid. His teacher said we should do the extra credit, too.

I told his teacher we are limping along until Christmas break and the extra credit won’t be completed. I’m not sorry. I’m desperate.

Gifts were purchased on amazon. I actually wrapped them all. Our elf moved to a new location in the home most nights.

This was a stressful season for me and I’m so glad the hectic Advent holiday festivities are over.

Why do all of my children’s clubs, classes and friends insist on December celebrations? Christmas is a beautiful, holy season. Advent, on the other hand…

Why not do a January winterfest? A March umbrella party? A June beach bash? We had 8 different activities scheduled by clubs and classes for December, most of which are nonreligious associations. It was overkill.

Now we are in the Christmas season. Santa and his elf have come and gone. It is time for family, games around the table, leftovers, and peace. My two younger kids even played together without fighting (and I have pictures to prove it!)

Its not all peace–it is boredom and discomfort in the quiet, too.

The one thing I insisted on was putting up outside lights. I did a simple line of icicle lights and threw our multicolor netting over the front garden. The symbolism of the lights shining, even in the darkest nights, remind me that God is still here, even when I feel like I’m smothering under a heavy blanket. I’m not alone, and there is always Hope just around the corner.

He should go somewhere else.

Someone repeated this statement to me in tears, notifying me a school employee had made this comment.

He needs too many services. Too much help.

He shouldn’t be here.

Where should he go then? He is legally entitled to a free and appropriate education.

Treating my child as a distraction to your teaching is beneath you.

How you treat the least of these speaks more to your character than how you treat the gifted elite.

You’re feeling overworked and overwhelmed and overloaded. So is he.

You’re unhappy he is in your class or school. So is he.

You notice he doesn’t work well in groups with other kids. So does he.

You think he’s unworthy.

So does he.

Your behavior models for the other students how to treat a child with special needs. Your attitude impacts your relationship with my son–and any other student who is wondering if you are a safe person.

To any teacher, administrator or staff member: if you feel a child can not learn without additional supports in place…then advocate for the child. Speak up at IEP meetings. Help determine what supports the child needs and would benefit from. Give encouragement and be willing to dig in to figure out how to reach him.

Join our team.

Please don’t work against us. It’s the child who loses.