Sunday, December 29, 2013

This Crazy Life

"God only gives special kids to special people."

I must be soooo special, cause my special needs boychild is having a continuous meltdown and my NT girlchild is twirling a broom in the hallway 5 feet away.

All this while "Magic" by Olivia Newton John is playing on the radio.

Broom just went flying, boy is screeching.

Crazy and lovin' it, amen.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Some Quick but Thorough Homeschool Resources

Some are free, all are very low priced, enjoy! 

Currclick--Curriculum and Classes in a Click (disclaimer--yes, I am an affiliate  ) this "little, quick" lapbook is loaded with some pretty thorough info for just 50 cents! Browse around currclick for so many other free and/or low priced resources.
Grammar: Conjunctions Quick Lapbook!

Enchanted Learning Curriculum Material Online -- Over 35,000 Web Pages and over 1,000,000 subscriptions!   Always free to use, although I do pay once a year to subscribe to get even easier printables. I think this is probably the best yet most forgotten about educational resource! Just about anything and everything you might need is there.

Homeschool Share--because many minds make light work! Yet another that I forget about! So many absolutely free lapbooks and notebooks and unit studies.

Confessions of a Homeschooler--many free printables available. 

Amazing Handwriting Worksheet Maker--this one is free and works beautifully!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Zach's Protector

Just a short story. For anyone who doesn't know this, Mallory is very into reading anything and everything involving mythology, demons, darkness, fallen angels, magic--I think you can probably pick up the theme there. She's also a beautifully elegant ballerina, loves all things Disney, writes moving poetry and songs, and paints gorgeous pictures. She is passionate yet timid, boisterous yet soft. As I always used to say when she was an, um, adventurous baby and toddler: she is full of personality!

When it comes to her baby brother (who is 13 now lol) she is FIERCELY protective. There is no question about it and it is clear to anyone that knows her or knows us, do not mess with Z or you'll be answering to M quicker than you blink your next blink. She has always been and still is his second Mama; she even took care of him in the crib once when she was 2 and he only about 6 months old, what a surprise when I heard her voice on my end of the baby monitor in the nursery, saying "Hi Gachy!"
Like most kids, Zach has nightmares involving demons, dragons, vampires, ghosts, and other bad guys. Every single time he has a nightmare when any of the aforementioned bad guys are after him, Mallory is the one that saves him. Every time. No matter how much they fight and argue and no matter how much Mallory's "mothering" (smothering? lol) can make him crazy, in his heart he knows she is his Protector. This morning he told me about his nightmare last night and how Mallory came into the dream and saved him yet again; when I said it's so cool how he dreams about her being his hero, he said ""Nah, she just knows how to battle demons. And vampires. And monsters." lol. I explained to him how are dreams hold meanings about what is doing on in our lives and our feelings and that these dreams show that he knows M is always there to for him, to which he gave his classic "weawwy?" (Okay, no he doesn't say it like that anymore, I just sometimes still like to dip down into my denial that the baby is a teen). He was impressed.

Mallory sat at the table reading her book, pretending not to pay attention. But I know my pink bunny, and I know she was moved and most likely wiped a tear or two away, and was also impressed.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

FREE Middle School Science App for Kindle

Who doesn't like free? Let me apologize in advance if you do not like free stuff, cause today's Amazon Kindle App is **free**. Did I mention it is free? ;) Enjoy!

Free Middle School Earth Science for Kindle


Yes, you read that right. Are you as excited as I am?? Listen to this beautiful, perfect, fabulous duet "The Call" HERE------>  Big Frog 104 "The Call"

Every day there is another tidbit of Garth news. 92.5 WXTU started my Monday morning off great by mentioning that Garth announced his return to the concert stage with a WORLD TOUR in 2014! Then Thunder 106's Party Marty on Tuesday said he'd have Garth Brooks as his guest on the Wednesday morning show, he did--AND...Marty read my question to Garth! Lovin' every second of it!

What do you think of the song?? Duh, of course you love it, right??

Monday, December 2, 2013

Amazon Prime Free trial!

Do you have Amazon Prime? Do you shop on Amazon? Give Prime a try FREE for 30 days, you'll love it. FREE 2 day shipping, plus loads of free streaming movies/tv shows/books/magazines and exclusive free Kindle Apps.

Go try it! Click HERE ! With Cyber-Monday in full swing, now is a perfect time to sign up!

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Birthday Gift from My First-Born

She told me my birthday present would be a little late. I knew she was excited for it get here; that is typical from A--she loves giving awesome presents to see the reaction of the recipient. For example, youngest got a surprise, top secret arrival of his Navy we-thought-he-was-already-deployed-brother-in-law (A's husband) for Z's birthday present! I didn't know what to expect but couldn't wait, expecting new boots (to replace the beat-up old brown boots I love to wear each winter to torture her with their ugliness) or a pretty picture or something like that.

The box arrived the day after my birthday and I opened it the minute I got inside the house. The beautiful card was honestly enough but I pulled out the gift bag to see what was in there anyway, just out of curiosity of course. It was a beautiful mug, with "Momma" hand written on the front with a heart.

On the other side I saw a handwritten note. I read and thought how incredibly sweet this was that my grown daughter made me this mug, and developed quite the lump in my throat! As I made my way through the words, they began to sound I got to "he is good, so good...." I realized it was the words to Carrie Underwood's "Mama's Song" and started bawling like a baby. If you don't know, my daughter got married about 18 months ago and lives across the country and I miss her TERRIBLY, but I take solace in knowing she is married to a good man that not only takes care of her but lets her take care of him. I was determined for her to be independent and confident and she is independent and confident--and funny, silly, incredibly intelligent with street smarts yet dippy and hilarious sometimes at the same time. This amazing child said these things to me; words can't express the depth of emotions I felt and continue to feel each time I look at this mug.

I will always worry, but I know you are happy, and knowing that makes me happy.

I am blessed.

Here are the words that are written on the mug:

Mama (except she wrote 'Momma'), you taught me to do the right things.
So, now you have to let your baby fly.
You've given me everything that I will need.
To make it through this crazy thing called life.
And I know you watched me grow up,
and only want what's best for me.
And I think I found the answer to your prayers.
 And he Is good, so good.
He treats your little girl,
like a real man should.
He is good, SO good.
He makes promises he keeps.
No, he's never gonna leave.
So, don't you worry about me.
Don't you worry about me.

Gluten Free and...whatever.

First I'm going to thank my friend Jacqui for mentioning Vitamin D supplement as the possible "feeling blah" culprit. (see my Nov 19th entry ) As soon as she mentioned that possibility, I remembered exactly why I stopped taking it last year--I FELT HORRIBLE! 24 hours after not taking it, I at least started feeling myself coming back. I was still tired into the afternoon that day and took a nap but I actually slept during the nap, and slept much less fitfully that night.

While I am still waiting for the great "wow" moment about being gluten free, I made the decision to remain a gf'er. Hmmm, maybe that should be a glufer. Herewith and henceforth I shall be known as a glufer. Until I change my mind again.

I must be honest and say I had one peanut butter cracker earlier today; it was that or faint, and while fainting would have made for better drama I chose the cracker. I felt like an addict breaking a sobriety that while I don't feel that I've reaped the benefits of said sobriety, I still felt guilty. I've forgiven myself and moved forward.

I purchased and cooked and even ATE the mysterious golden quinoa (prounounced keenwah, for those of you that are not as sophisticated as moi, because you probably pronounce it as kwinoah). It is delicious. In the funky world that is my mind I equated the description of the taste (nutty) with the texture, and that didn't sound right. I am proud to say I tried it anyway :D I could seriously eat it all day, and will be experimenting with all different flavorings.

The main part of my lunch today was zucchini mini-pizza! I sliced zucchini, tossed the slices with olive oil and garlic powder, seared them in a frying pan, placed them on a foil lined baking sheet, topped them with sliced tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, then baked at 350 for about 10 minutes. Yum! Thanks to my oldest for eating zucchini pizza first and suggesting I try it. She's brilliant.

Here are a few of my recent cooking adventures:

Pizza! Recipe from The Gluten-Free Goddess 
Bread dough after first rise

Finished Bread!

Pepper-Jack grilled cheese using the bread

Zucchini mini "pizzas"

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rookie J the Doggie Llama!

It was an ordinary day at an ordinary library; yet the event about to unfold was anything BUT ordinary. We were about to meet a superhero!

M was signed up to volunteer to check kids in for a "Read to Me" event: kids read out loud to very special dogs. Usually at least 2 dogs are there but that day there was just one special little dog named Rookie J. Youngest went off searching for books and I sat down to knit while I waited, when I saw one of the funniest and most unexpected things in the library--a little tiny dog doing an army crawl, going backwards! I watched as he got up, walked a little, hopped a little, then did yoga stretches with his back legs. Kids followed him back towards the art room and so did I! He was so much fun to watch but soon it was time for Rookie and his Mommy to go into the room for a reading session with a little girl. I saw how Rookie J was with the very small children that had surrounded him, and read what the program was and immediately thought that it could be a good idea for Z, but the program was listed as grades k-4. I had quickly mentioned to Rookie's mommy a few things about Z and she thought it would be fine for next time.

Z had developed some big fears of little dogs so I wanted him to see Rookie before I signed him up, so we hung out with M outside of the room but peeked in the window. After the session was done, Tammi (Rookie J's Mommy) invited Z to come in and meet Rookie. Z was so nervous...but Rookie was amazing. He sensed Z was nervous and took his time getting closer; I have never seen a dog react like this. Rookie wasn't nervous at all, he was completely in tune to Z's emotions and did little things help Z feel at ease, until eventually gently walking up to and climbing onto his lap. At that moment the most remarkable thing happened--youngest's body relaxed. He didn't just calm down, his ENTIRE BEING was soothed and seemed to fuse into Rookie's soothing, calm demeanor. They were communicating with each other on a level that most of us will never know. There had been some extremely stressful events in the days prior to meeting Rookie that had left all of us stressed and upset. That moment with Rookie J took the rest of the pain away and left only a sense of calm joy in its place.

I admit that I became quietly emotional, and I left the room to let Z bond more with Rookie. I didn't want youngest to see the enormity of the moment that I was sensing, I only wanted him to continue being only in the moments he and the wonderful little dog were sharing. Tammi was as in tune to what was happening as Rookie was in tune with Zach; I know that even after I came back in the room, she had some wonderful things to say but, to be honest, much of that time is almost dreamlike in my memory because it was so powerfully moving to see this child, at times so full of worry or stress about this crazy world, so completely at peace with the universe. Later I found out from Tammi that the last 2 children that were signed up were no-shows, which opened up all that time for Rookie and Z to really get to know each other.

Tammi and Rookie J were placed in our path for a reason. In the time after that initial meeting, I believed it was just for that moment of peace for Z--for which I was and would have been completely grateful! There is much more to it than that. I've had the opportunity--BLESSING--of getting to know Tammi a bit. She shared with me that the interaction of Rookie J and Z had stayed with her after we left and she, too, felt things had aligned to have us meet. We got to see them both again a couple weeks ago; dog and boy were instantly one again. I know that might sound corny or contrived but for anyone seeing it, it was real and true. Tammi has amazing ideas for Rookie J and I believe that they are going to do incredible things. Please visit his new Facebook Page by clicking Rookie J, Doggie Llama on Facebook to see pictures of our new little hero and watch the amazing and wonderful changes he is going to make in the world.

Here are some pictures of Rookie J and Z :)

Gluten Free and...BLAH

Once I post this, I'll brace myself for the backlash of naysayers and know-it-alls. I am two weeks gluten free and I feel..................NOT SO GREAT. I got my positive antibodies celiac panel results on October 29.

What is wrong with me? Article after testimonial after face-to-face after interview says, "you will feel amazing within a few day of being gluten free." I waited. I stuck with it. I ate fresh vegetables each day, made my own bread, and pizza dough, and even delicious chocolate chip cookies. I switched from my regular Cheerios to Chex. Not only do I not feel better, I feel worse, with a steady weight gain and feeling an overall sense of dragginess. I'm swollen more and my aches have increased, and I am not sleeping well, I'm foggy and emotional. I have not had one AHA moment. I just feel worse.

I'm frustrated and angry. People assume I'm just still eating junk food because I joke about it so much and because, well, I tend to be a snacker. (I can hear some people laughing right now at the minimization of that statement--oh, shut up!) I am screaming from the rooftops here, I HAVE BEEN EATING HEALTHY FOODS and NO gluten, save for 1 lone flour tortilla and a bowl of Cheerios about a week ago. This was supposed to be the Hallelujah choir awakening of my hidden, feeling better, self. I never expected to feel worse.

From all the reading I have been doing, and knowing my own body, I think it is safe to assume there are other foods I am reacting to. I know I have always had problems with corn and am just realizing there is some sort of corn (flour, meal, starch) in many things I've been eating recently. Sure, I could try to eliminate that as well; unfortunately I think there are others.  With 2 kids still in the house that are not gluten free, I don't see how I could practically track it all down. I'm not meaning to sound like a martyr (although isn't that my role as a mom??), I just don't feel that I can do this on my own, and continue to feel worse and wait up to 6 months to start feeling better.

I will continue to research and hope to find answers. I see a rheumatologist next month and hopefully that will narrow the possibilities into what is going on inside my body. Hey, I know what I need: OSMOSIS JONES! MAGIC SCHOOLBUS!! Hey Miss Frizzle, figure this out for me!

I am taking this seriously, trust me I want to feel better. I just don't see how this particular path is going to "work" right now.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Beautiful Veterans Day Ceremony

We had the honor of attending a Veteran's Day ceremony at a local nursing home, where several Veterans were residents. This event was magnificently topped off by the presence of the NAM Knights and The Saluting Marine (if nothing else, watch the video on at the end of this entry) , Marine Sergeant Tim Chambers who, in 2002, took it upon himself to salute, in full uniform, each and every Veteran on motorcycle riding into Rolling Thunder held around Memorial Day each year in Washington, DC. Ssgt. Chambers holds his salute the entire time, with this past year's entry lasting 4 hours!

Here are some pictures from the event.

Sergeant Chambers giving a speech

Army member (can't remember his name!), who sang the National
Anthem, standing during the Army Hymn.

Air Force Vets standing during their Hymn, so moving
seeing them stand up out of their chairs

The one Marine Vet (aside from Ssgt Chambers)
standing during the Marine Hymn.

My kids went around after to shake hands
and say Thank You. Proud Mama moments

This picture definitely paints a thousand words.

One of the Nam Knights greets a Vet

Mr. Chambers spoke with every one of our kids and gave them
a personalized motivational message

Our group with Ssgt. Chambers
Just had to capture these balloons at the end of the
event, drifting away.

Here is the video I watched over and over again before the event about Ssgt Chambers

Read more about the ceremony on the Burlington County Times Website

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Talking as a "stim"?

I am very used to chatty children, after all 2 of my 4 are girls! Even my older son, the quietest of all of the kids, would have times of verbal diarrhea. (like that? I just came up with it!) Youngest (Z) has his excessive verbage moments just like the other kids. But sometimes, it is different....

...especially in the car. Last night we were riding home from his cousin's birthday party; he had had a really great time, but any social occasion is just that, SOCIAL.

and stress=ASD flareups. Of course there is a back story here, there had been several triggers leading into this weekend: a few things had Z pretty worried or nervous or sad, but most were good things, however triggers are triggers and ASD doesn't really allow for differentiating. Z gets on these talking jags in the car and I am certain it is stimming. Stimming is "Stereotypy, or self-stimulatory behavior, refers to repetitive body movements or repetitive movement of objects. This behavior is common in many individuals with developmental disabilities; however, it appears to be more common in autism." (Stephen M. Edelson, PhD, ) He talked the entire ride home.

Twenty. Minutes. Straight.

Well, not fully 20 minutes. There were some breaks, some as long as 4 seconds, but mostly 1-2 seconds maximum between. He was talking about anything and everything, much of it was repetitive and scripted speech, which he doesn't usually use around us unless stress levels are running high. M (my daughter, his big sis--the younger of the 2 olders) is so amazingly patient and calm with him, she amazes me--but even she got a little impatient after the third or fourth recitation of  "isn't it so awesome how Captain Jack always has guns."

I believe he uses talking as a calmer in the car because I've worked so hard with him to not drum/flap/snap/hum/growl in the car that he had to find something else. It's just another way for him to quiet all the noise he is hearing and feeling, another way for him to place himself back into control of his atmosphere.

One of the wonderful occasions this past week was getting to meet back up with "Rookie J, The Doggie Llama", and I will update with a separate entry for the magical effects this little dog has on Zachary. Here's one picture to preview :)

He can't help but smile when he sees Rookie J, even just a pic!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fever Days

For several years I have what I have termed "fever days". I wake up in general pain all over and usually a headache is present and without fail my temperature will be around 99 degrees. It will go as high as 100, but never higher, and never below 99, and usually is gone by the end of the day though occasionally it will last 2 days. Once the fever did stay with me for about 2 weeks and, when I also woke up to almost every part of my body swollen (including my NOSE, yes seriously!), I went to the doctor. I was tested for Lyme, the testing came back positive several weeks later, but my symptoms were gone and we did not treat. I will forever wonder about that decision and if it further contributed to my ongoing issues since then.

I have had so many health mysteries over the past years like the aforementioned fevers, 2 weeks in the hospital for asthma, body swelling now and then, deep aches and pains (fibromyalgia was diagnosed in 2005), unexplained rashes, hair shedding, massive dental problems, inexplicable swollen lymph nodes, at times crazy low Vitamin D levels (have been as low as 7, now "up" to 17)...could it all be due to Celiac (antibodies present blood results just found a couple days ago)? Is it Lupus? Is it neither, or both plus fibro? I'm just tired of it all! I'm glad it seems that together with my doctor, we are finally putting the pieces together but I am just tired of all of it. I'm not a big complainer, and I hold back on expressing my pain levels because, well, I'm a mom and I'm a single mom and down days aren't an option, or at least that's what I've convinced myself lol. Every now and then though I just want to YELL and whine and complain and today is one of those days. I also find it can not only benefit me but also maybe others that are also searching for answers, so you are very welcome ;) Seriously, if any of these things are familiar to you, share with me! 

Back to your regularly scheduled positive, insightful, and occasionally funny but always sarcastic blog entries. And with Mama cooking primarily whole foods and gluten-free, there will be plenty of sarcastic stories to share about my kids and their LOVE of our new eating lifestyle. :-D

Friday, October 25, 2013

Help Raise Awareness of Neurofibromatosis!

NF1 can cause a multitude of physical anomalies and maladies. This genetic disorder also causes behavior and developmental problems that mimic autism and adhd. While Ella charms adults, many kids have a hard time "getting" her and she is just beginning to understand this. Watch her sing her heart out and share the video to let her know she is loved for exactly who she is! Visit to stay up to date on all that HopeforElla is doing to make the world a better place.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Autism. Mainstream. Inclusive. Non-inclusive. Integrated. High-functioning. Verbal. Non-verbal. ABA. RDI. IEP.

Words, all just words, and lately I find people increasingly focusing on the words of diagnoses and I'm frustrated. These words put so many ASD kids in a box that isn't easy to escape, through no fault of their own and the best of intentions of the community at large. Awareness is crucial but unfortunately with such large numbers of kids being diagnosed, with much of the awareness comes stereotyping and generalizing. There is no clear standard as to what works with autistic children and adults. People will argue about which therapy works best and colleges and universities teach future educators specific therapies as the be-all/end-all. STOP!

Don't box them in, get to know them. Pay attention to what she's saying but where her eyes are following. Notice his hand-flapping but see the fear in the furrow of his brows. See the jumping but embrace the joy in the smile on her face. The world sounds and feels so different to him and while he reacts differently then "typical" people, don't presume he isn't thinking like Socrates. Take the time to know them and patiently help the thoughts cross from mind to expression of words. 

Patience. Try it, you'll be pleasantly surprised with your world.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Meltdown Mayhem

Today was a day of the cosmos reminding me that youngest is autistic. Okay, honestly every day there are reminders; they are just part of every day and I guess we don't think much of them anymore, and those "things" are all parts of him and if I haven't said it lately, I wouldn't change a thing (hand flapping, bounce-hop-walking, pacing, turning circles, scripted and repetitive speech, habits, aversions, phobias, etc, etc, and etc).

I knew a meltdown was coming. Amid the joy and celebration of Z overcoming so many learning difficulties and becoming a Bar Mitzvah, small and translucent but steady storm clouds were building. He controlled himself so well and kept himself composed and polite through the ceremony and party, through the further celebrations in the days following, through his actual birthday, and through a weekend of changes and new things; yet the autism characteristics were increasing—especially the scripted speech. Z got a great new Lego set, one of the really big Star Wars sets, and set out to start building late Saturday night and continued as soon as possible on Sunday, completing it in record time by this morning (Monday). While we (and many of you lol) know that he builds the most amazing Lego creations straight from his mind, for this set he stayed with the directions the entire time; this was probably only the 4th or 5th set he has put together with the directions and by himself, and this was definitely the largest by far. As early afternoon approached, so did the meltdown. One part of the ship kept falling off and would not stay put. He kept bringing the Legos out into the living room then back into his room then back again out into dining room, then yelling—no, roaring at his sister when she reminded him “no Legos out here.” He went back into his room and was yelling, so I went in to see what was wrong and to remind him to change his shirt. He yelled and growled and screamed and I told him if he acted like that I could not help, to which he replied “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!!” Almost comical in that it was such a teenager thing to say, except it was far from a teenager reason. Also just a little comical was his comment “and, no, I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE A BREAK FROM IT,” as I guess he knew he needed to take a break from it and that he knew what I was going to suggest. I left and he headed back into the dining with his ship.

He was working so hard but that piece would not stay put. It was not making sense to him because if he followed the directions it should stay! Soon he was crying, and while he initially let me comfort him, the frustration and meltdown took over. He “roared” louder, yelled at all of us (it does not help that he is the baby, so the girls were stifling giggles because they can’t take him seriously when he’s angry….) I reminded him he was certainly allowed to be angry but reminded him at this level he needed to be in his room and on his bed so he could pound/hit/kick his pillows or mattress, and to leave the ship where it was. He grabbed it and ran to his room and attempted to lock his door—mom was quicker and I had my hand on the doorknob, insisting he give me the ship, and that if he didn’t give it to me other things would need to be taken away. Remaining calm was the only option. He finally gave in, gave me the ship, and stayed in his room until the timer rang. Later he completed the ship and all was again well in his world. These are the only times I will admit to feeling some sadness. When his disabilities crash head first into and through his abilities, I’m saddened for those moments of struggles he has faced and will face. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

For my youngest on his Bar Mitzvah

(These are the words I spoke to and for Z at his Bar Mitzvah)

“The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings!” Robert Louis Stevenson

Z, while I know you have gotten tired of that particular poem for lots of reasons, I had to start with it because I started my speech to Mallory with something that annoyed her, too.

Robert Louis Stevenson is Z’s favorite poet. While “The Swing” is Z’s favorite poem, the one I read here is, to me, the epitome of just who Z is: a child who thinks everyone should just be happy, and if they aren't then he will find some way, somehow to remedy that situation. Z will take any difficult situation and find a positive no matter how bleak it might seem to anyone else. 

Z arrived into our world on October 9th, 2000 on the solemn holiday of Yom Kippur. He was quiet and solemn as if right from the beginning he felt a deep affinity for Judaism, which has grown into a love and appreciation that many don’t feel until well into adulthood—if ever. I remember at our very first High Holidays at our synagogue, we had been talking with Cantor L, and she put her arm around Z and said to me, “this one is special, isn't he—he is an old soul in this little body.” When he started preparing with Rabbi for his Bar Mitzvah, he was overwhelmed with such deep awe because he understood how important becoming a Jewish adult is AND was overwhelmed with joy at becoming an *official* member of the congregation. While he is a typical kid about not wanting to go to services many, MANY times, once there Zachary always finds deep meaning, whether through a prayer or feeling accomplished from helping in the kitchen. As many of you know Z loves helping out around the temple, and one of the greatest pieces of news he got recently was being told by the family service leader that he wants Z helping him at next year’s High Holiday family services.

On to Legos. Need I say more?? 

Z was building “contraptions” when he was barely a toddler! Not quite 2 years old, he wound, twisted, and threaded a bunch of yarn and string around and through his crib, the rocking chair, and his closet door. When the rocking chair moved, the closet door opened! That was only the beginning…I can’t  count how many times all of us stumbled or tripped over one of his webs. He quickly incorporated household objects—like the time he used yarn, the treadmill, the coffee table, a paperclip and his Elmo slipper to make a roller coaster road for his little Ernie stuffed animal! 

Speaking of stuffed animals, have you met Goggy? Need I say more?

As the baby of 4 he certainly gets lots of attention—but of course, he also sometimes flew under the radar and learned just how to use that to his advantage. Schoolwork can be frustrating for Zachary; information doesn't always process as he intends it to, or as others need it to be processed. The most amazing thing is, though, that for those patient enough to stop and wait—the thoughts he expresses are usually mind bogglingly correct and stop us in our tracks trying to figure out how the heck he figured it out! Many times his words melt our hearts and many others’ hearts. He has a way of being charming but with such sincerity you can’t help but love him. I am his rock, yet he is a rock for so many. Joy and laughter and love emanate as physical senses from his soul. 

Thank you to our synagogue family. You have truly become part of our family; all of us feel a sense of home when we walk through the doors of this wonderful synagogue. This was the perfect congregation of which to be a part when life through us some curves, and it is absolutely the best place to be to celebrate this wonderful milestone. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Help for the Jersey Shore!

Hope for Ella ( HopeforElla on Facebook or HopeforElla on the web ) is helping at the Jersey Shore, THIS Saturday, September 21! Please join Ella at The People's Pantry in Toms River. Here is the description of the day:

After Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, our Jersey Shores were left devastated. Many lost some and some lost all. It is hard to imagine losing everything you own and having to start over. Although much work has been done and some communities have been restored there are still many displaced and longing to resume their lives. In an effort to lend a hand we will be joining The Peoples Pantry in Toms River to pitch in where needed. Please come out and join us for a day of community service. Kids (with a few adults) will stay back at the pantry and help with sorting and making happy pictures to beautify the pantry. The big kids (ages 14 and up) will be headed out with clean-up or demo/reno projects. Plenty for all!!!

Starts at 9am. For more information send an email to, message the HopeforElla FB page. Click HERE for more info on The People's Pantry.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Hills are CRYING!

Please, tell me this is a joke!

To quote myself:
I love Carrie. But NO ONE can ever be except . Or me. I do a great spin. Otherwise NO ONE.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Planks...and stuff.

Still doing the plank challenge but I had to adapt it for my own strength, or lack thereof haha. Here is how I've done it so far:

Day 1:    Plank hold 10, rest 10, 3 times.
Day 2:    Plank hold 15, rest 10, 3 times.
Day 3:    Plank hold 20, rest 10, plank hooooold darn almost to 20, rest 10, hold 15, done.
Day 4:    They think I'm ready to jump to 25? Ha! Repeat of Day 3.
Day 5:     Um, really, I tried to get to holding 25.
Day 6:    Plank hold 25, rest 10, 3 times, YES!
Day 7:    RESTED!

I've gone back to increasing my squat amounts along with this program and went back to using weights with my arms. Tonight will be a Plank night again.

Yesterday was just an off day with organization. As the week progressed I was doing less and less of the "extra" post-it notes, and by yesterday felt very down with accomplishing none of the tasks on the extras. I pulled out my planner at the end of the night to write in what I had done for the day. Before I started transferring the finished tasks into my planner (from the calendar post-it notes) I wrote "bad day" off to the side of the day's planner entry. I looked at the list in my planner and was pleasantly surprised to realize I had done all of my routine tasks plus a couple extras. Without realizing it! I had been feeling discouraged all day and almost let myself give up and chalk the less than stellar week of tasks off to my hurt foot...thankful I've kept up my "program" so I can see for myself that I actually am still getting things accomplished. Those are the days when I can see why Pam and Peggy ( Side-tracked Home Executives ) so strongly recommend attempting such big changes with a buddy (or several), to cheer each other on even when we feel like throwing in the towel.

Off to play some frisbee in the sunshine!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What Happened to Customer Service?

During late spring I signed up for the Courier-Post, a Philly area newspaper. They were running a promotion in which new subscribers would receive an AMC gift card. My paper started but I never received a gift card. I tried contacting customer service for this paper but could never hit it at the right time. I called my carrier who said she had no control over the gift cards. 

I did not pay for the following subscription period so that I would end the subscription; the company certainly "reached out" to me then, with collection notices and emails! I spoke with someone and told her I would gladly pay AND renew, IF she would guarantee I would receive the gift card. She did, as did the supervisor that got on the line to verify the order. That was in the beginning of August and my subscription was to start the 2nd weekend of the month.

The weekend arrived but no papers appeared. The newspaper has a subscription line to call and report no paper...if you manage to catch the limited window of hours available to call. I used the website to send an email but got no response and, when another weekend came and went with NO PAPERS again I took to twitter, thanking them for the scam to get customers to sign up! (hey, I was really mad!) I did get a twitter response within hours with an email address, to which I sent the requested information. The person on twitter told me I'd hear from someone by the next day (which was last Monday). I finally got a call on Wednesday and the gentleman took my information, apologizing and explaining there was a new carrier that was working the route now but that he would forward my info to customer service. Thursday a voice mail was received by me and I was a bit too annoyed to return the call. The woman said that the gift card promotion required me to sign a premium form and, since they "still" had not received that from me (implying it was all MY FAULT!) they would send a new form to me and get my subscription straightened out. 

Hey guess what--that's right, nothing in the mail and no paper on Saturday. This morning I got a Sunday paper: laying on the sidewalk, no plastic bag, no special Sunday sections, no comics, no inserts, and NO COUPONS. I left the woman that called earlier in the week a voice mail and have tweeted. This is ridiculous and unacceptable. Where is customer service? Where is the thinking that "the customer is always right"? I understand that there are loads of people that stretch the limits of customer's always right and they have made things difficult for legitimately dissatisfied consumers; however there comes a point when a company representative needs to be able to look away from the computer screen and try a human response! I am taking to the electronic option since this seems to be the only way to get their attention. I hope I have reason to update this entry with a positive outcome. 

PS At this point do they still really believe that a $10 gift card is going to fix everything??

Friday, August 23, 2013

Plank Challenge Day 1, Done!

I would have been on Day 6 of the the plank challenge I had been doing, but with having found the one I posted yesterday and having at least one FB friend doing this with me, I decided to restart. It already feels more doable and I'm certain using this method is working my muscles more efficiently.

Getting my foot put in an orthopedic boot today (if that's what it is called) is NOT going to sideline neither my fitness nor organization goals, no way, no how! If I have to adapt some things a bit I will but as of today I am staying on track. Are you with me?

Here is the challenge in case you missed it yesterday :)

30 Day Plank Challenge

Okay I admit that I'm a little late to this party, but off I go! Youngest two are gleefully doing this, too. I apologize if I just made you spit out your drink or choke on something you just ate; let me rephrase to reflect reality--youngest two are doing this. Period. End of discussion. Hug hug warm fuzzies all around!

I've been using this chart:
I just completed Day 5 and that jump up to 40 seconds was rough (trembling was so bad in the last 10 seconds I bet there's a heightened Richter scale measurement!), and looking at the Day 30 hold of 5 minutes almost has me tossing the whole idea. Hold a plank for 5 full minutes?? Seriously, who has 5 full minutes. 

With my panic in full swing that I would never be able to build to that I hit up good old Google and decided to blog about it, too, hoping someone will do attempt this with me. Hey, you'll be doing my kids a favor! I found this Plank Challenge and, with the hold times being broken up, I know I can do this! I love that this shows options for the plank positions, too.

The kids are sort of building their own challenge. I had them take the position and hold it for as long as they could the first day, and as long as they at least hold that amount or increase by at least 1 second each day, I approve. After seeing the above photos, I realize they could have been using their knees but um, well, we all make mistakes, right? Guess I'll take that drill sergeant cap and whistle off....

Let me know if you're doing this, too by commenting!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Progress not Perfection!

I have said and read "Progress not Perfection" frequently through the years. I've preached it to my children and to myself over and over and over; how shocked I was to realize I was preaching to the choir while I was the congregant with earplugs AND fingers jammed in her ears, stomping her feet in anger, frustration, and confusion at this message. No matter how many articles, books, blogs, statuses, tweets I read to support the statement, I could not accept this for myself.

Through learned behavior from different, well um, negative "life experiences" I believed that everything I did was just not good enough rather than baby steps forward. I could encourage anyone and everyone that they should be proud of each and every achievement no matter how small it may seem, yet if my own action was small I would berate myself for not doing it better. While I never used the word "failure" for myself it was always tossing around in my mind, sometimes a quiet but constant little whisper that was just enough to keep grabbing my attention away from whatever task was being attempted; upon distraction that whisper would become a screaming, screeching voice bringing a pain so deep I was at times reduced to tears. 

Lists were, to me, evidence of all the things I didn't do. While all "the experts" (many I truly admire, including my oldest daughter) kept insisting successful people make lists, my answer was always "yea, but..." or "they just don't work for me!" I could not get past those things that didn't get crossed off and the thought of carrying those items forward--adding them to the next day's already full record--was not only failing but also impossible and overwhelming!

I stumbled across another book, about a week into this jambalaya of techniques I'm implementing, called Organizing for Your Brain Type: Finding Your Own Solution to Managing Time, Paper, and Stuff , by Lanna Nakone . After only reading the first few paragraphs I thought, "She knows ME!" The descriptions of my brain type(s) seemed tailored just for me. Being able to connect accurately and directly to a specific "type" allowed me to further break free of the hard barriers I had built in my mind against organization, and left me with an empowered feeling with the knowledge that I can't possibly be alone in this if there is a published book! "Number of times a piece of paper is moved before it is tossed or filed: 8", writes Ms. Nakone. Reading her analyses and suggestions was like reading something in a language I hadn't realized was my native tongue.  Everything made sense and filled me with a sense of calmness in attitude I have never experienced in my life.

I am still a work in progress, I still have far to go. Last week I added several new post-it notes to the top of my calendar. Not every post-it was making it to the calendar day and I was starting to feel discouraged. Rather than scrap the entire project (as I would have in the past), I looked those post-its straight in the--well, okay, I looked straight at those still up top and said, "it is OKAY, I'll move you a different day!" And you know what? It really was okay, because still that calendar day box was filled with completed tasks! Realizing a couple of the notes were too broad or had more than one task on them, I began to erase certain things. My initial self-reaction was negative and punishing; I felt my throat begin to tighten and burn with the urge to cry making an attempt to surface. NO! I was not going to, and did not, allow that stinkin' thinkin' to have its way with me, I'm no longer that kind of girl!

I erased and edited. An example: one sticky note had "tighten legs of living room table" and "clean living room table". I erased the first part and changed "clean" to "straighten". Clean is a perfection word in my book (no, it's not written just!), but straighten is kinder and more flexible. I went to write the "tightening" on the next day in my planner but had the brilliant idea to write it 3 days further into the week, knowing that I still have a tendency (inexplicable--though it is attributed to my brain type!) to avoid something written down. I tricked my own brain into tightening the table the next day! Ron commented on my previous post how good rewards are; it may seem silly to need rewards at my YOUNG age yet perhaps by considering it "silly" was another way I was being far too harsh with myself. The journey continues...join with me!

My dining room table every night, and the most recent calendar day!

There's a website for Ms. Nakone's book! Organized World Website

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Oh Heck Organization continued

Here's the beginning of my, well for lack of a better word, system. On each sticky note is one daily task. I started with more than one task per note, however I quickly realized *for my preferences* the only thing accomplished there was feeling like a failure if everything on the note wasn't done. Now, one task per note only! As each task is accomplished I move it to the day it was done. It might seem silly but it makes me happy seeing them all piled up on any one day!                  

At the end of the night I pull out my planner and write each accomplished task for the day and cross of the day in the planner, then move the sticky notes back into the memo section of my wall calendar and cross the current day off on there, too. With this system I am getting not one, not two, but THREE affirmative actions each day to encourage me to move forward! 

A bonus is I'm looking at both calendars each night which keeps me aware of upcoming events. Perhaps you'll see us on time and on a more consistent basis...hmmm, I hear the footsteps of people running for the hills...

I'm doing the same with the kids. The teen girl is resistant. Wait, let me rephrase that--she DESPISES this! Not only is this a change, she sees this as an attempt to comply to societal rules and we all know that teens are against those!! The preteen boy is enjoying the feeling of accomplishment with the movement of the sticky notes (I have the kids' notes on one side of the bathroom mirrors), though he is very happy to see only one or two move over. I've bitten my tongue so many times I'm surprised I can still speak; I am determined to let them work through this system and find what is "good enough" for them (for now lol) to allow time for the new habits to form. 

Beginning next week I will assign points to each task based on the approximate amount of time required to complete the task. This idea is from Pam and Peggy's book "Get Your Act Together", and I will be working on what/how exactly the points will be used over the week, most likely combining the point usage ideas from the book and adapting to our own lifestyle. Wish me luck and please please please share this journey with me! 

Pam & Peggy's book is available on Amazon!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Orga...Organiz...Or....oh heck.

If I can't even type out the word, clearly I have trouble with "it". That O word is an elusive idea that everyone else has and can maintain, except me. I've joked about it, I've lamented about it, I've attempted it, I've cried about it; I have never maintained it. Maybe, just maybe, I'm beginning to chip away at the key to that lightbulb. (yes, those were intentional mismatched cliches)

The Flylady system has worked for me in the past but as soon as I'd feel stuck or as if I wasn't progressing I'd give up. It has just occurred to me that I AM MY OWN WORST ENEMY. Why it has taken this long to figure out is beyond me--I can tell anyone else they need to be easier on themselves and give themselves credit for trying yet not give myself the same courtesy! I'd just allow myself to believe that Marla's (Marla Cilley, Flylady founder) system just did not work for me and forever be in search of a better system. I've tried email groups and online only sites, read books and blogs...all through those years of searching I'd at least hear "just 15 minutes at a time" in my head, and even use the timer to keep focused on the task at home. Starting at the very beginning of May I started leaving a shiny sink every single night, and have only missed three nights over the past 3 months. Did I let myself see that as progress? No! At the same time I also began an exercise regimen, slowly building from 10 squats that first night, to now 80 squats, 100 crunches, and several different arm exercises. Surely I saw that as progress--nope. That stinkin' thinkin' of just not good enough apparently ran deeper than I thought.

Today I have finally realized I am making progress. Is it in the form of any one particular program? No, it isn't, though the sticky notes and calendar use and 15 minute work timers sure do resemble you a whole lot, there Marla lol! I'm not sure why I can't acknowledge I'm beginning to fly again, but I can at least say that something is beginning to work, and all I can do is keep moving forward. I'm also using Cozi calendar on my computer and phone. Will you take the journey with me? Tell me what's working for you. Born Organizers (BO's) please be kind if you comment or share :)

Today I'm celebrating that I've moved each morning sticky from the microwave to my calendar, including the zone mission for the day. I'm not organized, but I'm facing my challenges and forging through, and that is good enough!

FlyLady is
Cozi is

Rapping Mannings!

Heck yea! Don't know F.O.Y.P.? Consider yourself educated, and you are very welcome:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Education Freebies!

A couple great free resources were posted on one my local homeschool groups today, so great I had to share them! While I can't vouch for what will be received because I just signed up today, the potential for what will arrive is terrific!

First is from the Nutrients for Life Foundation . You can order the FULL CURRICULUM, in all or any of 3 levels: elementary, middle school, high school. You can order a hard copy and/or a flash drive loaded with the curricula. Below is from the "What Your Students Will Learn":  
  • How many elements are essential to both plants and humans?
  • Why is it important to improve the health of our soil?
  • How much of the world’s land is available for food production?
  • What can farmers do to preserve our environment’s forests and other fragile resources?

There are posters (including a poster of the periodic table of elements), postcards, workbooks (again, for all grade levels), recipe cards, bookmarks and lots more. You can order as many as 75 of some items! All items are available for download AND hard copy orders, and all are free. This is fantastic for all types of schools, co-ops, and homeschoolers. 

UPDATE August 15, 2013--We got our box and it was even more than I imagined! As far as I know they are still accepting requests. So, GO! Nutrients for Life Website

Next is from NASA. Do I need to say anything? I hear free things from NASA and start drooling at the mouth and just about jumping out of my chair in excitement. Today's offer is three FREE DVDs, available for instant viewing or hard copy mailing:

  • 3D Sun 
  • Journey to the Stars 
  • Cosmic Collisions 

When you go to the website NASA Educator's DVD Collection you can select "view online",  or order hard copies of the DVDs.

**********I just found out that the DVD's are no longer available, along with many other resources formally available, however you can still watch online.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lego Competition Champion!

Youngest entered a local Lego competition (not an official Lego event). I was nervous for the "typical" mother hen reasons--I wanted him to win and not be disappointed! Those reasons I can deal with easier; it was the autism side of things that was truly worrisome: Z considers himself to be a creative builder, he loves the Lego company, he asked people to come vote--so in his mind, he should win. He told anyone and everyone he spoke to about the contest and asked them to please come vote for him. He could understand when I would explain to him he might not win but I'm not sure he could completely grasp it, which actually made things even more stressful. I reminded him over and over that just entering the contest took bravery and made him a winner, and since this was his first competition, and he was competing in the 6th-12th grade level (being a 6th grader) it would be a learning experience for the next time. The other issue causing me concern was whether he would be able to leave his Legos somewhere! He has left minifigures or vehicles or even one little Lego piece in places and would stress and worry until they were safely back in his hands. 

As the day approached his anxiety levels increased. He was so excited that the day to drop off his entry (a built, then re-built, then re-built, then re-built again, then again re-built firehouse) had finally arrived! Excitement+autism=TOO MANY EMOTIONS! He was as nervous waiting for the drop-off time to arrive as a dad in an old time movie waiting to hear news of the baby arrival, so much so that we got there 30 minutes early! Thankfully the facilitator of the contest warmly invited him to leave his creation. The look on his face as we started to drive away was heartbreaking; I asked him what was wrong and he told me it felt very weird leaving his Legos. I'm thrilled he was able to express his emotions to me but my heart lurched at what I feared was just the beginning of emotion overload...

The next 48 hours were rough; Z was edgy, emotional, and even somewhat aggressive. He had meltdowns at not just one store (which is so unusual for him) but two different stores! As I've written before, Z's meltdowns don't look like a meltdown to most people, I'm sure; however these were both meltdowns with one even including raised voice, slamming a freezer door, and attempting to stomp away from me. The humor in those moments is that when he does get angry and walks away, especially when a parking lot or street is involved, he only goes a certain distance and then--again especially with streets/parking lots--waits to grab my elbow. More on that in another post!

The day arrived and he was dressed spiffy and ready to go...only one problem, it was only 7am and we weren't arriving until 1pm! In spite of the clock definitely moving backwards at times, we finally headed out.
Very nervous young man on the ride to the competition

We arrived to find people already there voting for "Crowd Favorite". Z was at least able to relax a little because the formal judging had already been done earlier in the day. Some friends and family were there to support him--and vote for him, of course! ;) 

It was fun to see so many great creations, and it was very cool to see how much admiration was expressed over his firehouse! The rules for this competition were: no sets, no modular pieces, and the creation had to fit within a 12"x12" area and be no taller than 24". To quote Z, "It took a lot of 
hard work to think outside the box while inside the box!"

Finally, it was time for the awards to be announced. I prayed for him to just at least get a participation certificate! He takes certificates seriously, so when they said everyone would get a participation certificate I felt like I could breathe at least a little. As they began the announcements, the kids were asked to sit on the floor. 
They began with preschool and worked their way up, first through "Most Creative". I gasped when his name appeared on the screen for his age group! It happened again for "Best Architecture"...

 and the BIGGY "First Place"!

Getting his prizes and ribbon

Absolutely unimaginable ending. NOT that I don't think he's great at designing and building Lego creations--I just wasn't sure how anyone else would "see" his work. To say we were all incredibly happy is the understatement of the millennium. Legos are so much more to him than toys or building blocks; Legos are part of who this child is and who he will become. For Z, this was just further confirmation that his plan to work for The Lego Group will be reality. For me? It was an overwhelming journey of emotions leaving me drained but full of gratitude. 


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hope for Ella request for help

Ella's parents (my nephew and niece Chris and Terri) are hitting the bottom of their finances. Terri was reluctant to ever start any kind of fundraising for them personally; however they are barely halfway into Ella's chemo treatments and money is becoming a HUGE issue with travel costs back and forth into Philly, all the co-pays for things that are covered, all the expenses that come along when you are spending 8 or more hours at the hospital treatment days. In addition to all physical medical costs, Ella has developmental special needs requiring treatment (such as social skills groups, educational counseling, etc) which is very expensive. You can look back through my blog posts, searching for HopeforElla, or you can go to Ella's Blog for more information about my sweet great-niece and her amazing family.

Please help if you can, any little bit will help lighten their load--sharing is an enormous help too. They have more than enough to worry about, let's make money one less thing. Please  Click here to help with Ella's Medical Expenses  Thank you!