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Ladies and gentlemen, we have a high school graduate!

Walking in line at the graduation ceremony

Walking in line at the graduation ceremony

It has been a long road, but it has been worth it.

Our oldest (my stepson), who is on the autism spectrum, graduated.   He got his actual high school diploma, and is looking toward a bright future!  Hopefully he will be attending school in January, as space becomes available at a special school here in PA called The Hiram G. Andrews Center.  Not only will he be able to get an associates degree, but he will also continue to learn independent living skills at this residential school.  Yes, residential! We are all excited for this!  🙂

But more about that later.  Right now we are basking in the excitement and the glory of his graduating from high school.  I have not told his story on this blog in order to protect his privacy, but it suffices to say that, when I married my husband, my then little 3-year-old stepson was not expected to ever be independent.  There are many reasons for this, but we are so thankful that he overcame all of those obstacles!  Here’s a little of his educational story:


Celebrating at the graduation party!

Celebrating at the graduation party! Not so little any more!

  • Entered school for the first time at age 9, as a third grader (when he came to live with us).  He didn’t know all of his alphabet or his numbers.
  • Caught up to 3rd grade math, after not knowing all of his numbers, by 5th grade.
  • Was in special education most of his school career.  However, as a senior, was in a regular senior English class!
  • Graduated on time, with an 81 GPA!

When my oldest crossed that stage at the graduation ceremony, my younger boy called out, “It’s been tough, but your made it.  Go, big Brother!”  And that sums up how we all feel. He has overcome much.  We, as a family, have overcome much.  And we are looking forward to what God has in store for him.

Congratulations, buddy.

Investigation: The Case of the Missing Tablet

I am just beside myself with joy!  Want to hear a true feel good story?

When we helped out at the church’s pantry on a Saturday, my son’s tablet was stolen. He had left it unattended to come find me.  I was sad, but not surprised. We tried to track the tablet electronically, but it had been purged and reset.  So sad.  We figured that the tablet was gone. My son, husband, and I had lots of conversations about what my son would do next time if he took an electronic to pantry day, or anywhere else.  We decided to work on street smarts with all the kids.

However, my church family was not content to just be sad and chalk it up to “lesson learned.” In fact, they were pretty upset.  My “sister” Wendy, who is going to partner with me for a new ministry at the food pantry, and “Peanut,” a man who comes to the pantry and has become active in church, “investigated.” Peanut then called his suspect and told him that if he didn’t return the tablet to Peanut within 1/2 hour of when Peanut got off work, then Peanut was going to come get it and bring the police. Peanut had the tablet within 25 minutes.

When Wendy messaged to tell me, I was shocked. I’ve never had someone watch out for my family like this… and sadly to to say, especially in the church! Wendy and I were so excited, and I could hardly wait to tell my son.

“Guess what!!!” I said to my boy.


“You know Ms. Wendy and Peanut from church?”


“They did an investigation!”

“An investigation?”

“Yes, and guess what they found!”

Pause.  Look of wonder emerges on my boy’s face.

“My tablet?!?”

“Yes!  Do you want to go with Wendy and me to pick is up from Peanut?”


So my boy and I picked up Wendy at her place and went to meet Peanut at a 7-11 and got his tablet!

 My boy was so happy.  He danced, ran around the parking lot, exclaimed, “You even got the charger!”, and hugged Wendy and Peanut.
I love it that we have have a community that watches out for one another, and that we can watch out for, too.  I was able to explain to all of my kids that they have a real church family that cares for them and really likes them, a lot, and that they can count on this.  We can do the same for them, too.  I explained how rare this is, and that this is God’s love in action.  We still need to have street smarts, but we also know that someone has our backs.
Community, love, and justice.  It was a great day!


I have to say that I’ve struggled to let myself off the hook for this one. I know that if I get too busy, something is bound to fall through the cracks.  Kids know that and they are sneaky!

Last fall, I vowed to be a better help to my younger son regarding school work.  I knew that I had  dropped that ball for sure when I received an email from a teacher saying that he was in danger of failing because of missed homework.

Imagine my surprise when I found that my  “honor-roll”  student was making D’s in some of his classes, and that my precious little boy had been lying to me (“I don’t have homework. I did it in resource period.”) like some crazy teenager.

Oh, wait, he is a teenager.  Wake up call!!!

The D that surprised me was in English, most notably his spelling assignments.  He has always been an excellent speller.  I noticed that, although he was making A+’s on his exams, he was making F-‘s on his homework.  Since there was more homework grades than exams grades, his average had plummeted to a D.

I also discovered that his grades in history were dropping, mainly because he wasn’t doing his weekly homework.  I was surprised to find out that he had been expected to find a current news event– tv, internet, newspaper, etc.– to share with the class every week since school began and he hadn’t done it all year!

I called him in to review his grades. First, I addressed the history grade.  I asked him where he was getting his news articles or stories, and he said that he made something up every week to share with the class.  (Boy, I bet those stories were interesting. Kudos for creativity and imagination.) He also said that he “forgot” his current events paper every week.  I told him that I had found his weekly current event paper on the teacher’s web page, and made him  encouraged him to save it to his computer so he could print it out if he “forgot” it at school.  No more excuses.

Next, I addressed English / spelling. I showed him his homework grades and his average grade.  In response, he pointed out his test scores.  He didn’t feel that he needed to do homework if he could ace the tests. Good argument.  However, my goal was and is to teach responsibility for himself and his own work, and part of this is homework.

After our “discussion,” I threw down the ultimatum.  I told him that he needed to get his homework average up to a 70% in all classes or he would lose his new tablet computer.  That did the trick– he brought home his spelling homework and completed the whole week’s worth in 15 minutes.  Stinker!  He also had a “real” news story to share with the class that week.

So, I dropped the ball, but I got it back.  And I learned once again that even sweet little boys with autism grow into snarky teenagers.  I wonder what he’ll have for me next!

Question: What are some ways that you keep your kids accountable for their homework?

UPDATE! 2014!!! (And a giveaway!)

OOPS! Please forgive me!  I had a poll asking you readers about your new year resolutions and promised a give away.  What I didn’t realize was that I wouldn’t be able to see who posted what, so if you would comment below if you participated, please let me know.  I want to give away a Wildtree gift basket!  Give away ends 1-31-14. 

In my last post, I said that I would share my goals for 2014.  Here they are.  Short and sweet and simple:

1.  Get a handle on my business finances.  Going from one to three (four?) businesses is tricky for my adhd self.

2. Make sure my middle guy does his homework.  He’s one of these kids that makes A’s on the tests, so what does homework have to do with anything?  (I think he’s college material, so grades do count.)

This might mean that I have to start an incentive for grades.  Sigh.

3.  Keep decluttering, refocusing, and “clearing.” I feel that big change is a-comin’, and I want to be ready.  More on that later.

So what are you goals?  Participate in my poll, and  be entered in to win a Wildtree package worth $20!

From 2013: Back to the old school

Recently I noticed that I had never published this.  So, here it is for your enjoyment!

Life is never boring, is it? We’ve had a rough start to 2013 in our family.

Previously I  blogged about my oldest son’s new school.  We were really excited about the opportunity he had to go to a Christian technical school.

Turns out that the school just wasn’t a good fit.

Don’t get me wrong– I think that they were doing a great job, and were doing everything they could to assist our oldest and to help him be successful.   Our son is not the easiest person in the world to get along with sometimes, especially if you are in authority over him.  It just wasn’t working out.

Today we had a meeting to get him enrolled in the public high school.  Yep, back to the Panthers!  I was encouraged, because the staff truly seemed happy to have him back.  We hammered out his schedule, came up with new strategies, and breathed a sigh of relief.

I hope he has a great rest of the year.  I hope he graduates on schedule– 2014!  And most of all, I hope that he knows that he is in a good place, even if it is not the one that we envisioned.

A friend passed along this quote:  Sometimes when it seems things are falling apart, things are really falling into place.  I am hopeful!

Bye bye 2013…Here’s to 2014

I am so ready for a new start. 2013 was craaaaaazzzzzzzzyyyyyy.  Here’s why, including the good, bad, and the ugly:

1.  Major family crisis, which included 8 months of multi-systemic therapy (MST) for whole family.

2. Oldest son went to private school, then back to public school. Talk about IEP mess.

3.  I began two more direct sales businesses– doTerra and All’asta.  I still do Wildtree.

4.  My scrabble tile jewelry and craft business has taken off.

5.  Another undisclose-able business venture is in the works.

6. Oldest son preparing for post-high school education.

7.  Daughter began going to a charter school, which is oriented toward gifted kids.  It’s been a challenge adjusting, for all of us.  We really miss our neighborhood school, but she is in the right place.

8. I had one of the most challenging classes of my “career” teaching part time at a local college.  So challenging, I was tempted to quit.

9.  I had the amazing experience of being the guest speaker at an event for special needs moms / caregivers / wives.

10.  My hubby and I went to Hawaii for our honeymoon!  Then we came back and celebrated 14 years of marriage!  Thanks be to God for my parents, who we flew up from OK to watch our kiddos, and to the three support people who came in to check and make sure everything was okay!  (We had made the arrangements, and then a week later the family crisis hit.)

So, good by 2013… to the good, bad, and the ugly.  And hello, 2014, and all your goodness, badness, and ugliness.  For my next post I will share with you my goals and hopes for 2014.

Happy New Year!

Have you ever eaten a flower?

818531_daylilyThis was the question my son asked me when my hubby and I finally went on a honeymoon in Hawaii.  We called him from eating lunch in Kailua.  (Aaaah.)

Serendipity:  As soon as he asked me this, my food came and an edible orchid was on my plate.  I told him about it, then I had my husband take a picture of me eating it and texted it to our boy.  The orchid tasted like red cabbage.  Not bad!

I was definitely the cool mom then!

For the next few weeks, every time we went to a garden shop, home store, or even a garden he asked the store workers, “Where are the flowers were that I can eat?”

I discovered that dandelion flowers were edible.  So, before we sprayed our yard (Yeah, I know… chemicals), we tasted one.  Tasted like… nothing.

Then I discovered that yellow daylily blooms were edible.  So we each tried a petal from one that was blooming in our yard.  Again… tasted like nothing.

Recently, I harvested a basil stem from my garden. I put it on my kitchen window sill in a glass votive candle holder filled with water to keep it fresh.   I was pleasantly surprised when it rooted and grew! Hooray!  The basil began to bloom, so I  let my boy taste a flower from my baby basil plant. It definitely had a taste.

“It’s poison!” he said.

“No, it’s basil,” I said. “We usually eat the leaves.  Here, try a leaf.”

So he did.  And he liked it.  My “Mikey” is trying new things!

Later, my son calls to me, “Mom, are the stems edible?”

“Yep!” I call back.

A few minutes later I walk into the kitchen to get my baby basil plant and transplant it into the garden.  The glass it was in is empty.  I look in the trash. I can’t find it anywhere.

“Hey, have you seen my basil plant?”

“Yep.  I ate it.”

“The whole plant???”

“Yep, you said it was edible, mom!”

“Did you like it?”


Guess I have to start watching my garden more closely.  I may walk out and the basil “bush” that it out there may just be gone.

My Jill of all trades life

Life has been very interesting lately!

We had a family crisis at the beginning of the year, and are still readjusting.  We had hospitalizations, therapy, and emotional phone calls. Despite it all, my kids are doing great, and my family is still wonderfully intact!

In the midst of everything, I have found several ways to do “self therapy.”  As I’ve written before, I am a Wildtree representative, and we just got our organic certification.  I have been having tasting parties, relaxing, getting some extra income, and making friends.  My support system has multiplied!

I also went to a doTerra class, and learned about essential oils.  I wanted the vitamins, and to get them economically I had to pay a membership fee… which means I’m a rep for doTerra now.  LOL!  I have already discovered these wonderful oil blends that helped my kiddos sleep and really made a difference in their behavior at church today. I’ve found a blend that helped me deal with a stressful situation yesterday.   Hooray!

So, I do Wildtree, doTerra… and now I’m making jewelry out of scrabble tiles.  I’m having fun! It’s like therapy for me.  I can make tile jewelry rather quickly, and it’s almost like an immediate gratification project.  I’ve actually sold some!

My autism awareness scrabble tile pendants

My autism awareness scrabble tile pendants

I’m also possibly doing aromatherapy pendants.  At the doTerra class I was asked if I could make some, and I’m experimenting.

I’ve done some public speaking. I’ve mentioned before that I’m also an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church.  I was able to fill in for a friend during Holy Week– I did three services over Easter.  I also spoke to a group of moms of kiddos with autism and other special needs in February. Maybe I’ll post that sometime… I got some great laughs and was able to help other moms “reset” that day


I kind of like my Jill of all trades life.  It fits my adhd tendencies.  I have a  feeling I may never “get rich” with so many thing to “focus” on, but I am having fun.  I’m meeting the most incredible people.  Most of all, I feel that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing right now, and that helps me see the “lighter side” of our lives with autism.

Something wrong with my brain

My friends told me I just have to blog about this.

The week before the school’s winter break, my son was obsessing about the xBox controller.  We had lost it.  Here’s a sample of our conversation (while I was cooking dinner, of course):

Mom: “I don’t know where the controller is!  Play a Kinect game… you don’t need the controller.  Your body is the controller.”

Middle Guy: “But you said I could play whatever game I want and I want to play Lego Starwars and that’s not on kinect so I don’t want to play kinect and you said I could play whatever I want.”

“I know you want to play Starwars-”

“So let me have the controller!”
“-and I don’t know where the controller is, so you can choose a kinect game!”

“But you said I could play whatever game I want and I want to play Lego Starwars and that’s not on kinect so I don’t want to play kinect and you said I could play whatever I want!  Why did you change your mind?”

“I didn’t change my mind, we just can’t find the controller.  So your options are playing a Kinect game or reading or going outside.”

“But I don’t want to play a Kinect game, I want to play Lego Star Wars and….” and over and over and over.

Finally, I said, “I’m done. You know your options.”

Silence.  Then, he asked me, “Did you change your brain?”

That’s what he was saying at the time rather than “change your mind.”  At first I considered saying, “No, I just can’t find the controller,” but it would have started all over and escalated.  So I just said, “Yes.”


“You mean there is something wrong with your brain?”

“If losing the controller means that there is something wrong with my brain, then yes, I suppose so.”

Heavy and loud stimming ensued.  He was vocalizing “Eeeeeeeeeeee” so loudly I couldn’t think. So, I sent him outside to stim, which is a common thing to do at our house.  Glad we have understanding neighbors.

I could hear him so I knew he was nearby, so I wasn’t worried.  (The bright side of stims!)  I put dinner in oven and sat down to take a break.

I heard my son open the door to come back in the house.  Then he said, “Yes, she’s in here!”

A deep male voice said, “In here?”


I ran to the door.  My middle guy was standing there with a tall, big, african american guy wearing US Marines cap.  I looked at him in surprise.

“May I help you?” I asked.

“Oh, ma’am, I’m sorry… your son was out in the middle of the street and he flagged me down.  He said he needed help… that that was something wrong with your brain.”

“Oh really… well, everything’s okay.  I’m so sorry…”

“I apologize ma’am…” he mumbled something about an aneurism…

“Thank you for stopping and caring… I’m sorry my son bothered you… ”

“No problem, you have a good night.”


Big marine guy left.

Middle guy was standing there giggling.  I sent him to his room.

How embarrassing!

So, where did I find the humor?  Well, in the whole situation, after the fact.  Hindsight can be humorous.

Where did I find gratitude?  I found it in the fact that the man wasn’t a serial criminal of some kind who just came into my house.  And that my son didn’t get run over.

And where did I find the hope?  In the fact that my son knows how to flag down help if he needs it.

Now to teach him when it is appropriate to flag down that help!

Family Favorites

Weeks before Thanksgiving, I asked my family how they wanted to celebrate.  Seemed like all of my nearby family and friends were going elsewhere and my far-away family wasn’t coming this year.  It was going to be us 5.  My vote: go out to eat.  Well, I was outvoted.  I was amazed to hear that it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving for my family without a turkey dinner at home.  Sigh.

So, the day before the big day, I began to cook.  I made the pumpkin pie filling, chopped the veggies for the stuffing, brined the turkey, made the dough for the biscuits.  Then, as we were running errands, my middle guy asked me who was coming for Thanksgiving dinner.  When I replied that no one was coming, he asked where we were going.  I told him we were staying home and having the turkey dinner that everyone wanted.

Mayhem ensued.  My  middle guy and my girl were very adamant that they never said they wanted to stay home.  (What?)

Then my middle guy surprised me.  He asked me why we couldn’t call Uncle E. and Uncle R. and see if they could come over.

I explained to him that his uncles, aunts, and cousins had other plans.  He said, “Well, maybe we could just go to Uncle R’s house.” Again, I explained they had other plans.

My son has never seemed to care one way or another about holiday guests and family.  I just chalked it up to his autism.  I was impressed that he wanted to connect with others.

But then my son really shocked me.  He said, “Uncle R. likes me the most.”  That was odd. To my knowledge, my son has never had a real conversation with Uncle R.  I asked him how he knew that Uncle R. liked him the most.

“Because, every time Uncle R. sees me, he says, “Hi, Philip!'”

I learned something today. Whether or not it seems like it, my son notices who takes time to acknowledge him, who seems happy to see him, and cares about his family. This gives me hope: hope that he will have meaningful relationships outside of his nuclear family and hope that he might learn to reciprocate.

And it breaks my heart a little, because it means he also most likely notices when he is ignored, which happens a lot, because on the outside, it seems like he’s in his own world or content just to flap his hands and say “Eeeee” over and over.  It also means that I’ve been discounting him just a little.  How much else has he noticed that I just assumed he didn’t?

I am so thankful that my boy cares and loves.  Now to foster those family relationships…

Happy Thankgiving!