Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Autism Is

Last Saturday I heard a mother explaining to her children about people with special needs. Just moments before an older woman and her daughter with Down Syndrome had been waiting in line for the dressing room. After they left a little child started asking questions. The mother was doing her best to answer. One older child spoke up and said, "So people with disabilities are different?" The mom replied, "Oh no honey, they're just like you and me. They are just special". I cringed.  THEY ARE DIFFERENT. And that is OK.

My daughter is different. Sometimes it is a beautiful different, other times it is a devastating different. I don't want people to treat her UNFAIRLY. Yet, they need to know she is different and needs to be treated differently than most people. Speak softly, rub her arms when you talk to her, walk away when she pushes you off, let her come to you, don't take it personally, remember she is different and can't socialize the same as other children. Autism is different.

Autism is frustrating.
Autism is death by bathing.
Autism is seeing the beauty in the abstract.
Autism is laughing at her own thoughts.
Autism is routines, routines, routines.
Autism is bending the rules.
Autism is letting her cry it out in her room. She's safe.
Autism is a stressed out mother.
Autism is a feeling helpless father.
Autism is rough days, nights and life.
Autism is swaddling her. Protecting comes first.
Autism is quick to forgive.
Autism is an intense game of charades. Remember, no words.
Autism is never losing her favorite toys.
Autism is happiness in milestones.
Autism is a precocious IEP.
Autism is remembering to breathe...and exhale.
Autism is she doesn't like me today.
Autism is she'll love me forever.
Autism is her having a quite zone.
Autism is apologizing at play dates. She didn't mean to hurt.
Autism is ignoring judging looks.
Autism is siblings who love her...always.
Autism is jealous a jealous sister and brother. They want her toys.
Autism is knowing that imperfection is perfection.
Autism is rejoicing. She started walking.
Autism is screaming. No talking yet.
Autism is guessing what she wants. 2 hours later...success.
Autism is lying, "I wouldn't change a thing".
Autism is this is our life, our daughter.
Autism is accepting what we can't change.
Autism is letting myself cry. This is my battle too.
Autism is part of our life, part of her.
Autism is different.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Reminds Me of You

I like the smell off Folgers brewing first thing in the morning. In the morning, just as the sun plays peek-a-boo with the farm. The thick aroma of coffee, just before a hard day's work, reminds me of you.

I like the smell of a hot summer's day. The kind of hot day when dust kicks up, sticking to the sweat beads on everyone's hardworking neck and arms. The  sweet scent of salty dirt and tractor dust reminds me of you.

All I ever wanted was a big sister or big brother. A brother who teased me like big brother's do. But loved me enough to stand up for me and give me advice I didn't want to hear. My time with you was fleeting, but when you were here you were there.

I like the smell of fallen maple leaves after an autumn rain.  The kind of rain that would drench uncovered bails of hay and pound against  the windows of your home. The heart warming smell of fresh mud as we pulled weeds, reminds me of you. 

I like the smell of a dusty old pickup. A dusty pickup with sunflower seeds scattered on the floorboards, empty chew cans tossed in the back and a scented tree desperately trying to mask the scent of a farmer's truck. The rustic scent of dusty seats and sunburned sunflower seeds reminds me of you. 

Brother, I use to hear how you "struggled" Oh, how they said you "struggled"! I saw you! I knew you; hardworking, loving, a natural-mistake making-man, filled with determination, good values and unconditional love for family. I did see you struggle; struggle to be loved unconditionally for the man you were. You had your demons, (didn't we all?), yet when you were here you were there. 

I like the smell of Em's perfumes. That passionate smell of her perfumed mixed with the the burnt leather scent of your tractor. The intoxicating scent of true love finding time to talk among busy farming season, of an imperfectly perfect love, reminds me of you. 

I like the smell of Folgers brewing first thing in the morning. For a moment I see you talking to your beautiful wife about the day ahead. For a moment I hear the laughter of two little girls madly in love with daddy's tickles and tractor rides. For a moment, just a moment, even though you are there...you are here. 


I was adopted when I was 14. I was beyond excited for a real family. I was even more excited for big brothers and sisters. Koy never hesitated. From the moment he said hello, to the day he said goodbye, he made me feel like a little sister. I don't know why, but I miss him and his family terribly today. I miss the sense of belonging, kinship and knowing someone cared...no matter how we were connected. 

Please love your family members  unconditionally. Especially if you don't agree with how they are living their lives. Just love them because family is this only place we can call home when the world has failed us, our hearts are crying out and there's no where to turn. No person should ever feel like they can't go home...

Monday, January 27, 2014

I'm Just a Mom

Last week I had the opportunity to spend some time with a dear friend, Kara. That Saturday was suppose to be my "day out". I've found that once you're a mother running errands without kiddos is what "getting out of the house" now means. (:

We met at Coldstone and treated ourselves to calorie filled guilty pleasures before we sat down to talk. She picked a seat next to a sunny window. The light from the sun seemed to highlight every thing about her that I didn't have or no longer was.  It took me until well into our visit to realize I had been contrasting myself to her the entire time. I showed up in workout pants, my husband's t-shirt, no makeup and my hair in a Miss Trunchbull bun and zero confidence.

I caught a voice in my head pulling me down. With thoughts like, "Your hair could never be that beautiful", "She has such perfect teeth", "She's applying for grad school?! You could never do that". I was enjoying my time with Miss Kara. I was genuinely happy for her, her good health and good fortune. But quickly became unhappy with myself.

I left, looked in my car mirror and thought, "I'm just a mom. I haven't done anything". Then the worst thing happened I began to be afraid...afraid of never doing those things I had dreamed of in my early youth.

I came home to a messy house and children climbing all over me and fought back tears. I excused myself and ran a pity bath. Mr Lee could tell I was upset and tried to cheer me up.

I was in a funk for a few days. I made lunch one day for the kids, as I do everyday. Bronco grabbed his sandwich, hugged it tight and said, "You're the best mom ever! Thank you for my best sandwich ever!".

A new thought entered my mind that day, "You're the best mom ever".  I started to recall each of the birth days of my 3 oldest children. How wonderful it was to finally have them in my life. They were definitely sent by God to me for a reason. Maybe because He knew I was more than "just a mom".

I am teacher: The manners, kindness, respect, love, knowledge and other characteristics my children have, they learned from me.

I am a leader: My children follow me, in faith, in hopes that I will show them the ways they should go.

I am a friend: Each child knows that I will always be there to play with them, listen to them and be there through all of my years and theirs. I am not afraid to be silly. I can play with trucks and dolls at the same time with two children clamoring for my attention.

I am a healer: I cure their broken hearts, mend their boo-boos, hug away their tears and restore health when they're sick.

I am love: No matter what life brings, no matter how many time outs are given in a day, my children know that they are loved.

I am hope: How I raise my children, what I teach them, how I love them is designing their futures daily. I am preparing them to be the next fathers, mothers, leaders and superheros of the next generation.

I am just a mom.

There will always be time as the years go by for me to do what I want to do for myself. However, in these imperative early years of my children's lives it is up to me to be there for them, their wants and needs. There will come a time when they move out and are on their own. When that time comes I do not want to question if I did everything, if I loved them selflessly, treated them with kindness and respect and put them first.

I am just a mom and according to the smartest 3 year old in the world, I'm the best mom ever.

Quite frankly, I couldn't be happier to be MOM.


Mrs Lee

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Speaking without Words

Saturday morning, January 11th, started out just like all my other Saturdays. I woke up, wrestled with the kids and prepared to go grocery shopping. Most mom's might use this as a chance to leave the kids with dad and get out by themselves. Believe me I always plan it that way. I tell Jon every Friday night, "Tomorrow I'm not taking any of the kiddos with me, I'm just getting out of the house by myself" and he grins...knowing full well that plan will fall through.

Normally Bronco is the one I take. He can tend to be the most rambunctious at home and so I get him out of the house. Him and I always talk about what is on the grocery list, or whatever random thing he spots on the drive that is a MUST to add to our conversations. When I've taken Shelby she babbles incessantly, yelling "Whoa!" "Mommy look!" "Abby!" as she points to things out her window. Whatever kid comes with mom gets a little treat for the ride home.

This past Saturday I upset myself when I realized it had been a long time since Abigail had gone with me. Too long. I told Jon to get her dressed while I got ready so I could take her.

The car was so silent on the way. Honestly, for the first few minutes I thought I had not taken her. I quickly started to talk "with" her.

"Abigail, are you excited to go to the store with mommy?" No response.
"Mommy's excited that you're here" The silence grew.

I started squirming in my seat, slightly uncomfortable. I was so use to the other kids answering my questions with excitement, coming up with questions and comments of their own.

I felt bad. Not for me. I felt bad for Abigail. I felt that she was missing out on this adventure to the store with her mommy dearest. I peered back at her and couldn't tell if she was excited or not. It was crushing me.

We pulled into the parking lot and like every Saturday, with ever child, I said, "We're here! Are you ready to have fun?!"

I slid open the van to get Abby. As soon as she heard the door open her eyes lit up. She squealed in delight as she felt the cool wind pass her cheeks. "Outsi, Outsi" she kept repeating.

"Yes, we're outside. Do you feel the wind?" I answered back.

She threw her head back and giggled loudly. Once we got close to the store she even tried to get down and walk. The sound of passing cars scared her back into my arms.

As we walked through every isle Abigail squealed loudly, testing the size of the store. For those of you who haven't heard Abigail's squeals just wait until you hear a screamer on the 4th of July. Abby uses her squeals as echolocation to decipher the size of a room.

At one point I finally got her interested in playing with a few boxes of jello. A mom, with a boy that seemed Abby's age turned into the isle we were in. He was letting out squeals and his mother was desperately trying to quiet him. Once Abigail heard him she must of thought he was challenging her. Immediately she let out her own squeal, causing my ears to ring and the other mother to flinch. Her son retorted with a squeal of his own, in what seemed 100's of octaves lower than Abigail's.

He looked at his mom and said, "Whoa mom, she's really loud!" She replied, "and you thought you were the loudest screamer." I explained to the mom and her 4 year old son that Abigail was blind and she squealed like that to feel hear how big a place was. The mom said, "Echolocation, that's really cool". We chit chatted about it as Abby and her boy continued to have a show down. The little boy sighed and sunk his head.

"She's just so good at it. I'm not THAT loud. She wins mom. She can't see so she has super powers. I don't have super powers." Both moms laughed. It was obvious in Abby's grin that she knew she had won.

On the way out of the store Abigail got to pick her treat (which she refused to share with mom) and we drove home. I reached back before we pulled out of the parking lot and squeezed her hand.

"Mommy had lots of fun with you today Abigail, I love you." She squealed in delight, patted my hand and dove straight in her treat.

She had thoroughly enjoyed her day out with Mom. She didn't have to use words to tell me. She used her smile, laughter and tender touch to let me know she was glad I took her along. We drove home in a silent understanding that no words can describe.


Being a parent to a non-verbal child can be trying at times. Only because you don't know how to help. The worst situation for me is when she can't tell me she's hurt, sick, hungry or sad. I feel helpless trying to decipher her upset cries. There are 3 words that Abigail cannot say to me. 3 words Bronco says out of the blue on a regular basis, 3 words Shelby says before nap and bedtime; I LOVE YOU. I can honestly say that I haven't missed those words from her.

The light in Abigail's eyes when she hugs us, the kisses that she only gives to mommy, how she calms instantly once she's in my arms are all ways she says, "I love you". The phrase, "actions speak louder than words" always seemed redundant to me. It wasn't until we had Abby that I understood a different meaning of those words.

What Abigail has to say, she says best in actions and those actions speak volumes for how she feels.

I keep thinking about the little boy at the grocery store who innocently said, "She can't see so she has super powers". She really does, she has many super powers; the ability to "see" with her ears, voice and hands. Her biggest super power is the ability to speak without words. And in many ways I am blessed because of that. I know one day she'll finally learn to use words and she'll talk non-stop and I'll gratefully sit back and listen to every word...


Mrs Lee

Thursday, January 9, 2014

It's a New Year

I  know the title of my post is pretty conspicuous and seems redundant. However it's exactly how I feel. I think of the words, "it's a new year" and I just feel a weight lift off my shoulders.  2013 started out extremely rough and dim. We were unsure of what life had in store for us, where we'd end up and how our year would pan out.

Through a series of miracles, blessings and following our hearts we turned 2013 into a positive. We took a leap of faith, left Idaho and moved to Utah. The job didn't pay more than any Jon could have gotten in Idaho. Yet the idea of him working Mon-Fri 8-5 was too good to turn down. We knew any job he'd take in Idaho meant crazy schedules, working too much over time and never having dad home for the weekend.

The move to Utah was not a smooth one at all. The house we originally planned to rent turned out to be everything we would NEVER dream of living in. I was amazed at the dishonest of the person who sent us pictures and told us about the home. I was blessed that I didn't follow the man's suggestion to pay him before getting to Utah and seeing the home.

Jon and his dad arrived with our belongings shortly after the epic home fail. I was devastated. I felt it was my fault, that I should have listened better to that voice in the back of my head. My wonderful in-laws (who had accompanied us on the trip) took Bronco and Shelby back to Idaho. Jon and I stayed in Utah in hopes of finding a place to call home for our family.

The deadline before Jon started his new job was creeping up on us and so was the pressure. We had agreed that if we didn't find a place that felt right or that we could afford, Abigail and I would go back to Idaho and Jon would start his job. When he found a place then we'd all come up to meet him.

It was the day before we would have to separate for a short while.  There was one specific apartment complex that I had tried calling and calling and could not get in touch with. Finally they answered. We went and toured the apartment that was available. It wasn't anything grand, it wasn't a house (like we'd hoped to find) and it wasn't the nicest place available. However it FELT right. We both felt like that apartment is where we needed to be.

We signed the lease and braved ourselves for our newest adventure.  There was something in both Jonathan and I that told us this move and this job would be different; it would be better.

It was. No doubt it's been difficult at times. But getting this little apartment put Abigail in a great school district for her pre-school, a great ward for her and the work schedule for Jonathan has blessed us all.

With our family about to grow it's numbers we're having to move out (unruly neighbors and prices rising are helping nudge us too) when our lease is up. I feel like finding that place for us to settle down for awhile in is going to help kiss 2013 goodbye for good. It ended on a great note but we want to make sure that 2014 starts out great and goes uphill all year long. Our goal for 2014 is to cuddle up on New Year's Eve and feel fulfilled and know in our hearts that we did everything in our power to be successful in all things.

That's a feeling worth working toward.


Mrs Lee

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Negotiator

Bronco's quiet time is deemed a success on three criteria; dry undies, he's quiet, and doesn't wake up Shelby. Lately I've been able to work with him by negotiating stickers. 
One Month Old Bronco

"If you're quiet buddy you can get one sticker, if you're quiet and your undies are dry you get TWO stickers!" The thought of two stickers was like winning the lottery to this kid.

Lately he's upped his game a little. I say my usual pre-quiet time spat about stickers and he adds to it.

"Ok, Bronco gets TWO stickers a sucker AND hot chocolate."  He always seems so proud of his new terms.
"How about THREE stickers and a hug?" I retort.

"How about a lot of stickers and hot chocolate?"  He's clever this one.

"How about one sticker and hot coco?" I have obviously won.

"No, Bronco gets 2 stickers, a sucker and a hug?" He says, with his arms open wide.

"Deal" I say, swooping in to hug my little negotiator. 

I'm pretty sure the only sucker in the house is me...a big sucker for my kiddos and free hugs!

Today's negotian?? 

A Gatorade, two stickers and mommy reads him a book. That seemed like a pretty dang good deal too. ;)

I can't believe he's already 3. My how the time has flown with each of our babies. It's exciting and scary to know it'd 15 years and he's on his own. Nevertheless, I'm holding onto now and the special moments he gives me.
3 Year old Bronco

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Oh My!

So after being sick for nearly two weeks Abigail had a week off. She is now sick again and seems to be a little annoyed by the whole thing.  Despite being sick she has started to really explore the house. She wants to stand on Bronco's timeout stool and feel the stove, the sink, the counters and cupboards. It's really exciting to see her learning and growing in ways we thought wouldn't come for a few more years.
This is not a smokey eye attempt on my part...it's a sleptinmymakefupanditworks look.
This girl has been so cuddly and cute despite being sick!
We had her stand on the stool at the sink and we filled it with water. She loved splashing and feeling the water pour from the faucet. It was super cute and exciting to watch. However, now anytime she hears the water running in the kitchen she walks to the kitchen (yes walks! no crawling!) and demands we pick her up so she can play with the water. Needless to say this is extra motivation to get ALL the dishes done every night so she can go exploring. :)
Shelby loves her big sister.
She's always trying to follow her and do what she's doing. 

Bronco has really started talking more eloquently lately.  Jon was brushing his teeth and rummaging through drawers. Bronco came up to me and said, "Oh mom. What is dad looking for? His clothes?" I was amazed at all the words he fit into his question and how much attention he was paying to Jon's morning routine.
We were just taking picture this morning. :)
such a stud like daddy!
He's also started dressing himself, (best gift ever!), keeping his undies dry all day (and on occasion all night!) and doing his chores without being asked. I credit all this to his brilliance and his sticker chart.
So simple it works!
This little chart I threw together in minutes has been a life saver. I see posts of all these super cute crafts for kids' charts and thought mine had to be cute. But we picked 5 easy categories for him. Anytime he meets one he gets a sticker. When he gets all his stickers each week he gets a reward. Last week he got a Jr Frosty date with mom at Wendy's. His two week goal?? He's earning stickers to buy batteries for his remote control McQueen car. :) He wanted candy at first but when his car wasn't working I told him the batteries were dead. And a light clicked on! I said, "Bronco you can get batteries for McQueen when you get all your stickers". Now he always tells me, "Mom Bronco's earning stickers to get batteries for McQueen, so he's not dead anymore!" LOVE IT! There isn't anything he does that isn't followed by him saying, "See mom, Bronco's earning stickers! It's so exciting!".

Shelby has demanded she get a sticker chart too. So I drew a giant heart with her name above it. After she's done eating we give her a sticker.She thinks she is the coolest girl ever putting them on her chart. She's so active and chatty! If she's not bringing out all of her "babies" (every stuffed animal in their room) and telling me all about them (wish I knew what she was saying), then she's walking around the house pointing and chatting about everything she sees. She recently started eating with a spoon and fork like champ. Which has eliminated 80% of dinner clean up! If she decides to go face first in her bowl of spaghetti than I just sit her inn the sink. :) 
She also has a VERY unique method of drinking out of her sippy.
She only uses one when she's playing.
This chick is expert at drinking out of cups.

"Chug!" That green ribbon is her pretty necklace.
She won't let me remove it!

All together these three kiddos keep me on my toes. I am happy they're becoming more independent. It's giving me time to write, relax, clean and hope that things will go smoothly once baby Scott arrives in February!