Falling into this Season

And then Fall was upon us!  It happened all of a sudden really, I just got caught up in the hustle and bustle of things. The Spring, the Summer, and the kids back to school. I barely caught my breath. In fact you could say I'm a bit winded from keeping up with things. But we've arrived at Fall and I am excited because it is my favorite season of all. Sweater season is a'comin'. 
We're still experiencing a September heat-wave, but I'm holding onto the fact that it can't last forever. And the foliage outside is starting to turn so I have some natural decor to bring indoors.
We stick with a pretty minimalist amount of decor. There's a few reasons for that. The first is, too much "stuff" overwhelms me. In a fairly small space, adding much more can make me go bonkers, especially with how much clutter can collect with kids and mail and all the day-to-day stuff. And secondly, I have small curious fingers that like to eat and investigate everything (still). All the cute stuff keeps to the mantle over the fireplace. I have hopes that one day I can go crazy with decorating the whole house with each season. One day. When the kids are grown, maybe! But that doesn't keep me from going all out on the mantle. I love bringing in the pretty fall colors from outside. We live right near a river, and along the river runs a bike path that is full of beautiful trees and grasses and other plants. Weeds. Yes, weeds. I bring them in too! We also have lots of variety of birds that make their homes nearby, so tying in some of their feathers was only natural.
 The berry branches I collected before the colors had changed completely, so they were a lovely hombre of oranges, pinks, and peaches. They've dried now, to darker hues, but they are still very pretty. And now that they've lost a little bit of fullness with the drying process I'll likely collect some other leaves and foliage to add in and make it fuller. The one thing is to be careful if you have little ones in the house, that they don't find a stray berry and eat it!

For the little ones...something so that they can enjoy some of the season, and learn a little. Putting together a sensory box to go with a seasonal story is so great. For my youngest daughter, I picked a seasonal story about leaves and put together a sensory box comprised mostly of some leaves from a garland from the Dollar Store. You could also use a big tub and add things like beans, acorns, small pumpkins. We can read the story, play with the leaves, talk about colors. We learn Signs for the colors, tree, leaves, Autumn, weather, etc. Fun and simple!

Happy Fall!


Mother/Daughter Collab

The unexpected, and the change in perspective are what help us grow and change. The perfectionist in me tends to want to shoo away the little hands when they tug on my hem while I'm attempting anything that resembles "work". She can't be shoo-ed away, though. When her little arms rise up and search my face, and her eyes plead with me she tugs my heart and my hands naturally reach down to embrace her.

And so I'm embracing this messiness even more. It's perspective. Sometimes perfection is found in the unexpected "mess". This is perfection---> embracing my current position and working with what is in my heart. And this little one is definitely in my heart in a big big way. There's no getting around it. 

We're embracing our current position. We're collaborating. We're taking what we have and growing and making something beautiful together. 
 This is love. Laying down my expectations and embracing this point of expectation and need as service for the one reaching out to me, this little one who says with her whole self, "embrace me". It's surprisingly fulfilling.
And so we've collaborated on these pieces. 
My goal was to begin making again. 
There is much more coming. 
Watch for it. 
She's captivating. 


Down syndrome Awareness Day 2016

Here are 5 things that I've learned since my daughter was born, in no particular order.

1. Every parent that I've met who has a child with Down syndrome finds that tears come easier and more often. Tears of joy, tears of pride, tears of compassion & understanding for other families and friends with children with Down syndrome. Your heart can't help but be touched by their presence in your life. Your heart is touched in a different way. Some part of you is opened in a way you didn't know before.

2. You learn a new sense of tolerance/patience. With each of my kids, I've learned a new sense of tolerance/patience to some degree because having several children just does that to you if you want to remain sane. But having a child with Down syndrome teaches you tolerance in another way. You become less concerned about "how fast and far you can go", less concerned with keeping up with the Jones's. You learn to be more patient in "waiting" for milestones, more tolerant of things that might annoy you otherwise. And if you have any sort of heart, more tolerant of other people's misunderstandings of what Down syndrome is. After all, unless you have first hand experience with someone with Down syndrome there are several things that are commonly believed which are antiquated and completely untrue. Which leads into....

3. Education. There are a wondrous variety of things to learn on this journey. It starts on day 1. The first thing that I hope you will come to see is that these persons are more alike than different! They desire love, compassion, understanding, friends, family, education, all the things that any other person may desire. When you receive the Down syndrome diagnosis, it is my hope that it will be delivered with a sense of joy that you have a new human being to get to know. Who will Lisette be? What will she do as an adult? What kinds of food does she like? What makes her laugh?

4. Family is not always blood. People who you can relate with, who are experiencing similar circumstances, whether they are health related or simply because you have this rare and beautiful thing in common can be the binder in these people becoming your family. Some of these people are some of the greatest gift to my life. They can relate. They cry with me. They lift me up. They are my people.

5. You'll wear tshirts. Usually, I like to wear simple stuff. When my daughter was born this desire to share suddenly sprung up inside. Though we mostly keep to ourselves, wearing a tshirt is a way to spread awareness for a cause, and I became drawn to them. That, and buying tshirts can support your local group. Consider buying a tshirt if you see your locals selling them! More often than not the proceeds benefit your local community.

This is just a tidbit of what's come in the last couple of years. I can't wait for the journey to continue.


An Accidental Advocate

For the most part, I live a quiet life. You mind your business, and I'll mind mine and we'll all get along happily. You won't find me being one to rock the boat or stir up a storm over much. But every once in a while a fire starts burning in my belly, if you will.

Sometimes you find yourself having to say things when you'd rather not have to, which is what I've found myself having to do a lot of over the last few years. In the recent past I've written about having to advocate for my kids because they need my voice. Even with that I try to be as cooperative and flexible as possible with regards to working things out because I want to get along with people, I don't want to be that special needs mom. Nothing against you mom's at all! You just have a knack for having the right words at the right time. On the other hand, you'll find me fumbling for words and trying to piece together a cohesive sentence. That's just me. I have to take time to form my thoughts, to be able to process those cohesive sentences so that I can get the right thing out.

First I want to open this with...we have been extremely blessed to have had a mostly pleasant experience with receiving services and healthcare while here in California. Up to this point all the social workers we've met with have been very helpful and accommodating as well. That's not to say there haven't been instances of difficulty due to confusion between healthcare providers, or insurance denying certain things. However, our overall experience has been good. Later on, towards the end, I will share some of our struggles now. But they are nothing compared to what some people I've met have experienced.

Bear with me as I figure this out as I'm writing it. The plain and simple truth of parenting special needs kids is that a great portion of energy can sometimes go into having to advocate and fight against a system, or systems, that were brought into existence to help exactly those people who are now fighting to get the rights which those systems were created to help with. In the last week alone I've heard several stories about having to fight the school system to get an IEP for a child who is medically entitled to one but which the school district for whatever reason feels that they can deny. (We actually faced this while in North Carolina.) And then the systems that are set in place to help families stay together in their own home rather that have their child or family member sent away to some state/governmental institution to be cared for by healthcare workers that are over-worked and under-paid themselves. It's corruption. It's wrong. It wears on care-givers that are already at the brink with giving 24/7 care to a loved on that they want to help. I have heard stories first hand of social workers interrogating the disabled and making the family members feel violated and in the wrong for seeking help from the exact systems that are there to supposedly help them.

It's frustrating. It makes me so angry. It's not fair. These social workers are not only taking advantage of people in fragile situations, but the harassment and the double-talk and the total lack of compassion for these peoples situations is less than human. To treat these people who may be medically fragile as though there is no need for outside help or assistance is cruel. To down-play their difficulties is cruel. What percentage of these social workers or state workers have any sort of experience first hand with living with and caring for someone with a disability or special needs? It should be a requirement. What is the percentage of people taking advantage of these programs? Something like less than 2%. Who would even want to spend their time and energy spending months trying to get these "benefits" when the journey to get there is like having to fight some corporate giant (government)? The whole thing is atrocious.

And I don't know what to do, but pray.

And now we arrive to where I currently am. I have several kids with several different diagnoses. I am tired most days. I get bleary eyed. I forget things, or I over schedule appointments because it's me alone coordinating all of this. Even with support of several family members I still struggle to balance it all. As supportive as they are, none of them are versed in the first-hand of having to deal with each child's needs full time. I realized my need to delegate things out. But I also realized my need for some backup with regards to having someone that can point me in the right direction and be my second-hand-man. That's where it came in to play for me to acquire an Advocate. The reason wasn't to "fight against the big guns", but to have someone there who knows what to ask for by looking over each of my kids file-binders to see where I am lacking in knowledge or skill to get the services that they are entitled to that might be beneficial to their future success. I want each of my children to succeed in life, no matter what that means. (Here in my home as adults, or on their own. I'm always thinking of the future.) It made sense to find an Advocate for help. As soon as I took advantage of her assitance to make some calls on my behalf it was as if I had called in the big guns. It felt like I might as well have "lawyered up" against the people that I had a good repore with, and so I had to make calls to sooth hurt feelings....

This will need to be continued as I have chores and kids to tend to. But I'm sure you can imagine my feelings of frustration. Can you relate? Do you have an experience similar?


Leprechaun Trap DIY

There must be some magic going on because it definitely was magical how it took my son's Kindergarten project to get me back here to share something creative. 
Life is just so busy and crazy sometimes. I wish sometimes that I was that stay-at-home-mom that sent the kids off to school and had "free-time" to do crafts and such, but that's just not the case these days! My little's schedules have me running here, and there, and everywhere. Throw in the never-ending (so it seems) stream of sickness that keeps hitting and you've got me running around like a hen with her head cut off. 

When the teacher sends a notice home from school that a project is due the following week, my deal is to put it off until the last minute. Because I'm busy. Or because I set the notice down, it gets put in the recycle bin, and I forget. Or, likely, a bit of both! This time we were supposed to make Leprechaun traps out of whatever we had around the house. Okie doke. I spent a few minutes looking at ideas, gathered some stuff I had laying around, made a quick run to the Dollar store for the green poster-board and decorative green thingy (what do you call that?), and got out the glue gun. You'll love this. It took about an hour total and turned out pretty well, if I do say so. 

Here is a list of the things I used
  • An Oatmeal container
  • Black lid, you could paint one if you don't have one
  • Strip of black felt
  • A handful of rocks from the garden
  • A greenery swag of some sort
  • Couple of Twigs for the ladder, and other twig stuff for decorating
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Cotton Balls
  • Miniature Clay Pot
  • Glue gun and glue
  • Xacto knife for cutting a hole in the lid
  • Black Marker 
  • Gold Spray Paint (Or Rolo's or gold coins or fake coins...or pennies?)
First, I made a hole in the lid of the oatmeal container for the Leprechaun to fall into. I traced around a medicine measuring cup. It was a good size. Then I cut and glued the green poster-board onto the container.  Next, glue the lid on.  
Using a plate as my template, I cut a round of the green poster-board as the base of my hat and glued the oatmeal container to it's center. Use plenty of glue so that it stays attached as there is only a small rim.

Cut a length of felt to go around the base of your container. We're making it look like a hat with a buckle! Glue it on, being generous with the glue around the base of your hat. It will help it stay attached to the base as well as keep the felt on. Next, determine where you want the front of your hat to be and glue your black lid onto the felt.

After you've got the basics done, I was just creative in placing the pipe-cleaner rainbow. I didn't want to make it too tall, (It was supposed to fit in his backpack, yeah right!), so I attached them to the side. With a lot of glue. A lot of glue.  And then I covered up that glue with more glue and cottonball clouds. Because that's what we do. We cover up our nasty gluey mess with more glue and fluff so you can't see it! *wink wink nudge nudge* The other end of the rainbow is attached to the top edge of the lid in the same way. Cut a length of your greenery and glue it down around the edge of the top.
Next step is to have your munchkin pick out a handful of pebbles and spray paint them gold, or just buy some Rolo's or something fun to go into your pot! While your gold dries (if you choose that route), have your little guy use the black marker to color the miniature pot black. Be careful and sit in one spot while doing this. You don't want the pot to break. *cough* (More glue to the rescue.) I filled the pot 3/4 full of cottonballs and glue the pebbles down on top.

Next step is to make the ladder, which is easy peasy. Have the little one pick out two sticks for the sides and one that you can snip and make into the steps. Glue that baby together and attach the ends to your base and the side of you container. I used a couple of pebbles at the base to give it more stability. The rest is basically up to you as far as decorating. You can add more greenery, more pebbles, more miniature "trees", add a sign.

 It will definitely make your little one beg and plead to stay up and watch for Leprechauns. My little guy even stuffed some extra cotton balls into the trap hole so he has a nice soft landing when he falls in. So thoughtful of him!

If only I could spend everyday doing Kindergarten crafts. It's always so much fun. The expectations are pretty reasonable, and it's always fun to upcycle something regular into something spectacular! I can't wait for the next one.


Dressing the Special Needs Mom ~ Episode 2

Colored Jeans. Love 'em? Hate 'em? I go back and forth between loving some and hating others. 
Pretty sure you couldn't get me to wear any florecent colors, but then I swore after like 1994 that I would never wear spandex. And then yoga pants happened. And then my sister dragged me to hot yoga and I wore more spandex than I think is legal. Ok got a little side-tracked there. Back to the colored jeans deal. Some colors I'll do, and some I won't. Burgandy jean, yes. 
 They can almost pass for red pants, which I am ok with on occasion. Here's the thing-- colored jeans can go two ways. You can A) color block with them, or B) wear them with stripes or a pattern of some sort. In my humble opinion as long as it isn't grannies flowery mumu, you're good. Simple is a good start. I have a couple of striped shirts that I wear interchangably with different colored bottoms. It's interesting. Add a couple of simple accessories and you're good. Nothing too crazy. You can pull it off, trust me.

 One thing I am loving is wearing my jean jacket with colored bottoms, whether it's colored jeans or a patterned skirt. Jean, or even chambray, can be really cute!
 Or, you know, if you are feeling a little bit daring (as in you'll actually wear the colored jeans), but you want to be comfy too, match it up with a slouchy gray comfortable sweatshirt.
 Dressier? Have an appointment\therapy\dr appointment to head to? How about a peasant shirt, cinched in just above the waist with a cute belt.
 Or forget the belt and throw on your jean jacket. Still cute, a little dressier and pulled together.
 There's also just the plain white tee. It's safe. It's cute. It'll go with just about anything. So you're looking chic with your cute jeans, and laid back with your white tee. Go you! Feeling confident? You should.
 I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite accessories while we're at it. I can't do too much fancy stuff. If I wear a necklace, it usually gets ripped right off me by little fingers. Scarves are cute, and the weight of them can be heavier for winter/fall, or light and airy for spring/summer. A dark one and a light one are good choices. And little ones are hard pressed to spend much time playing with them once they wear off the initial rip-it-off-mom's-neck phase. You can add in colored or patterned ones as well for interest. I stick with flats. A neutral colored dressier pair, and a pair of leather go-to shoes that can be worn with just about anything. I trip and fall in heels. Especially if I'm carrying a toddler/groceries/messenger bag with kids binders of medical documents.
 A stretchy, cute belt with an interesting buckle. I do wear bracelets. For one, they make great baby teethers, and two, they're great alternatives to necklaces. One of two bangles can be super cute.

I also accessorize with cute babies. They're the best accessories. They're cute and make people smile. Oh and they make life interesting(er). While wearing colored jeans.


Lenten Journey with Waiting In His Word

 It seems like Christmas was just a minute ago, but it's already February and Lent is almost upon us. Next week-- what?! Lent seems to always fall during challenging times for me. There seems to be either lots of things going on with the kids, or things going on with me personally where I struggle to do anything more or special with regards to observing Lent. Advent always seems to be more of a joyful celebratory anticipation of what's to come. It's a funny (ironic) thing really, because I consider Easter one of my favorite seasons/holidays. In years past, it has slipped by without my doing much to prepare. This year I'm going to be more proactive about it, more purposeful in my preparations, starting with myself and my own journey towards Easter.

A couple of wonderful blogging mommy's have put together a Lenten Journey for mother's with a (bonus!!!!) Facebook group. And that's what I'll be doing this Lent. Because I need help, and accountability. And friendship to help my journey along.

To keep my journal in good condition, I semi-bound it. I printed out the PDF which you can purchase here.
 I printed it out in half-page format, so that I could fold the pages in half and have a journal that I could keep tucked in my bible. The first page I laminated with transparent Con-Tact paper. You could go fancy and buy some of the actual laminating sheets, but I do a lot of "laminating", and Con-Tact tends to be a little more budget friendly.
 I covered both sides and burnished it with a butter-knife. Super fancy, I know.
Using some binder clips to hold my journal pages together, I stapled the sheets down the middle and folded the book in half, burnishing again to get a good fold.
 You can also use the binder clips at the fold to get a good fold. Easy-peasy, and this will help my journal hold up to the wear and tear that I know it will see. (Ahem, little fingers.)

I honestly can't wait to get started with this bible study and journal. I could use some alone time with Jesus and the Word. Looking forward to it. What are your plans for Lent? 


Let Them Eat Cake!

Birthdays at our house all fall close together, and so we end one year and begin the new year with lots of cake. My boys celebrate only days apart, right near (or this year ON) Thanksgiving. The girls fall days apart as well. I love cake decorating, but things can get exceedingly hectic and as much as I'd love to pay one of my amazing cake-decorating friends to make fantastic cakes or cupcakes, it's not in my budget. What is in my my budget, however, is this easy and delicious Crepe Cake. 
The thing about crepe's is that they are rich and delicious and can be transformed into what ever flavor "cake" that you desire. Fruit? Great! Lemon curd and butter cream. Sprinkle Raspberries on top. Chocolate lover? You could add cocoa powder to your batter and have a chocolate layered Crepe Cake. 
This year I was feeling worn from having been sick with the flu, and still being in recovery I felt incredibly lucky that my 10 year old agreed to a Crepe Cake. I took a couple of short cuts, which also made it super quick to throw together in only minutes. Read on!
I bought these premade and frozen crepes, and let them defrost on the counter. When they reached room temperature I gathered the rest of my ingredients.

Using a small box of vanilla pudding as my base, I folded in 1 1/2 cups of whipped cream. Let this chill a little bit in the fridge so that it will set a bit. You don't want the Cream Pie part of this Boston Cream Crepe Cake to ooz out the sides before you've completed putting all the layers together. And by the way, I did 10 layers to our cake. But you can do more of less.

Next, warm a large container of Nutella, or similar Hazelnut Chocolate spread, in the microwave for about 30 seconds. It should be runny and spread smoothly.
Take your chilled cream filling from the fridge and get ready to start layering the crepes. Alternate the crepe layering by spreading the Nutella on the bottom crepe. It will act as your base and hold the rest of the cake in place fairly well. Do be mindful that this cake is "fragile" and the crepes need to be treated tenderly. Make sure that your Nutella is soft enough. If it isn't, heat it 30 seconds at a time until it reaches a very very soft stage.
Layer, layer, layer.

When you have your desired height, spread your top layer with some of the cream and drizzle Nutella over the top.

Pop this pretty cake into the fridge for an hour or so to cool and firm up.

And then enjoy! 

Leftovers....may not happen! Just make sure to take a nice leisurely walk after enjoying. Or do a few crunches ;)


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