Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 - New Beginnings

Hey there everyone I hope that you have had an amazing holiday week so far and with one more to go, even more reasons to celebrate and be thankful for all the great things in your life.

2014 will be a new year and with a new year come changes and new beginnings.

This time, I will be beginning the new year single once again.

Yes, Mr. Big and I are no longer together.

It was a sudden change that I was not expecting but after much time, I have come to realize that it was the best thing for both of us and my family.

I'm not going to deny, it has been hard and a times very emotional but I have taken more away from this than I thought possible.

Mr. Big and I are remaining friends and that is the most important thing to take away from this.

We placed one another in our hearts for almost three years, a hard break would not be possible.

I wish nothing but the best for him and his family and I'm glad for all that I have learned from him and that he has taught me about myself.

So for now, I await 2014 and the new beginnings that it is bringing my way.

I don't know what the future holds - nobody does.

One thing that is for sure is the fact that I think I'm ready for it, hopefully "it" is ready for me.

Have a Happy New Year everybody.

See you next year!!

Much love!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Climbing Mount'ns

Well, we all know that I recently lost my mind but I think I have found it again.

That is the one thing about life - when things get hard and tough, we find the way to get back up and dust ourselves off and keep going.

As I was telling Tamara, I don't think I fully found my marbles until this morning when I saw the face of that person near and dear to me and what they were going through - it put everything into even clearer perspective.

Sometimes we get wrapped up in ourselves and what we are going through on our own that we forget to see what others go through.

This person just needed some time and space to just be and well, I screwed that up. And I will be forever regretting it.

That was my mount'n that I had to climb.

The other mount'n climbing that went on was a couple weekends ago with the kiddos.

You see, one of the restaurants was having a Winter Wonderland celebration - with bounce houses, slides, obstacle bouncy-thing, goodie bags, and Santa! I thought that this would be a good idea to take the kids to - yeah, I know stimulation overload but I figured it wasn't going to be that big. You know, Island living and all - maybe not everyone heard about it. Also, Mr. Big had the day off so I wouldn't be alone.

Well it rained a bit. I thought we weren't going to go. It cleared up and the kids were getting restless so we tried it.

The first 2 minutes of it were a complete success!!

Afterwards, not so much.

Between Silly just running up the slide without regard for the fact that only 2 kids could go at a time, Buddy's melt-down and being sent to time-out next to Mr. Big about 3 times - I was ready to go home.

Then Mr. Big intervened. (I think he saw the next melt-sown He saw the putt-putt course attached to the restaurant and said "Let's take them to putt-putt"

I gave him the "are you nuts?" look and asked him "Really? Do you think they would handle that?"

His response "You don't know until you try". And so we did...

There were a few hiccups along the way like Buddy flipping out because he couldn't get the ball in the hole. Or Monkey swinging the club so much that he knocked Princess's glasses off her face (luckily they didn't break). Oh and the melt downs at the end when it was time to stop playing. Promises of drinks and sno-cones and goodie bags weren't working too well.

Until the word SANTA was mentioned.

I was initially going to avoid it because well, there is usually a long line and my kids don't do too well with lines. We didn't have the luxury of having access to a Quiet Santa here. But once again, I tuned to my jolly giant and thought - let's try.

We were very lucky because there was NO line - this was easy for the kids to interact with Santa and Mrs. Claus and even get their pictures taken...

She had a blue sno-cone..enough said

Yeah, Princess said she was too big for the individual picture with Santa but said okay to the group picture...

This was a multitude of mount'ns to climb because it had to deal with a very public outing, new activities, and lots of stimulation. In between the ups and downs, the laughing and the was a great day. I couldn't have asked for more - time with my kiddos and Mr. Big all rolled into one - priceless!!

Oh, in case you were wondering about the whole "mount'n" thing - well, a friend of mine was surprised that when I responded to her question as to whether or not I've gone skiing/seen snow I told her that the closest I had come to snow is on the top of a far away mountain in Nevada but I pronounced "mountain" like "Mount'n" - I didn't break down the word into the syllables and well, she loved that and laughed and so this was kinda in tribute to her as well.

And yes, Tamara is totally my blog crush and if I were to ever meet her I think I would just be speechless and shake in my flip-flops.

So this will be my last post of the year...I will stalk you all but this is it for me. Until next year that is.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, good tidings on whatever you celebrate and have a Happy and Safe New Year!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Can You Help Me Find My Marbles?

Yeah, so it seems I have lost my marbles.

Apparently yesterday my mind decided to go on a vacation so when something happened - I became a total other person.

Has that ever happened to you? Where you know that something is going on and it is generally nothing serious but for some reason your brain just stops thinking logically and you go and become this Mr. Hyde-like different than you usually are?

Yesterday something happened with someone near and dear to me and I just took it to a whole other level that I should not have.

I freaked out because this person is on a new medication and of course, I read the dark bold face print warning on the label and well, you know, my Masters in Psychology went out the window and crazy faced lady came in instead.

Even though in the back of my mind I knew that everything was alright because well duh, I know this person and what they are capable of what they are not capable of but yet I went through these scenarios:

- Wrapped around a pole in a car accident
- Arrested because was hanging around the "wrong" crowd
- Lying in a ditch somewhere unconscious
- Arrested for getting into a fight
- Just completely lost their mind and wandering
- I even checked with the police department to see when they would update their website for arrests!! (YEAH, I KNOW CRAZY WTF?!?!)

There was nothing to be worried about but I just could not stop thinking the worst and I don't know why! It is not like me at all to do this.

My trust was called into question when I trust this person with the world and more and I hate that.

I hate that I put this person through hell over something so stupid and insignificant.

I hate that I put myself through this when I should have just relaxed and thought nothing of it like I have done many times before in similar situations.

There has to be something said about these damn warning labels on medication. They make things sound so much worse than they are and then make the sanest of people crazy.

It might have not helped that I had 2 full glasses of wine on an empty stomach when all this was going on as well.

All I know is that I lost my marbles but from now on, I will make sure to not read bold face print on medicine packaging,  not listening to commercials, and keeping the wine to a few sip minimum.

Because seriously, who wants to chase after a crazy lady searching for invisible marbles right?

And to this person who is near and dear to me - if you are reading this because I don't know if you do - I'm sorry for going crazy. I trust you more than you know and promise to never act like this again. You know that this was totally out of character for me and I cannot say sorry enough times for this. I hope you can forgive me for this and only give me shit for it for a limit of one year? XOXO

Monday, December 16, 2013

Changing the Concept of "FAMILY"

When you ask a child what they think of when they are told to describe "family", most would say, - mommy, daddy, and siblings right?

Then asked how their family is special, well, there they would have a variety of selections of things to say.

That is the amazing thing about children - they can see the beauty and differences in life and accept them and just have fun with them because to them, it is normal.

Adults on the other hand, we are a bit more skeptical.

Nowadays though - the dynamic of family has changed and the new family is full of different lifestyles, members, and even hardships - but the truth is, all of it is held together by one thing - LOVE. These are the modern families and we can learn so much from them. 

Huppie MamaOne amazing blogger, Carrie over at Huppie Mama decided to write a post bringing to light the REAL modern family. Like I said on FB - Sofia Vergara and Al Bundy have got nothin' on these families!!

So please, check out her amazing post...

                                                   The Real Modern Family

where you can see and learn from some amazing families and realize, that every family is special - no matter who is in it or what they face every day.

What makes your family special? I know - but hit Carrie up - I know she would love to hear your stories!!                 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Violets Are A Bloom!

Hey everyone!! I got an early Christmas present from Influenster!! Woo Hoo!!

See these amazing goodies?!

I got them in my Influenster Violet Vox Box (#VioletVoxBox) this past weekend and well, I'm not a girl who wastes her time so I got started and enjoyed the products and because I am all kinds of awesome, here is what I think about these products, you know - someone has to do the hard work right?
(I received these products complimentary for testing purposes from Influenster)

I love dark chocolate and cherries. I am even a fan of protein and healthy eats bars but I just could not get around to liking the Soy Joy - Dark Chocolate Cherry Soy & Fruit Bar. It was just too dry and felt like I was chewing a mixture of cardboard and chalk. The chocolate flavor was "off" as well. It might be okay for some but for me, its a no go. I honestly couldn't go beyond the first bite.
(@SoyJoy / #SoyJoy #VoxJoy)

Okay, so this box could not have come at a more perfect time!! I had just spent the day with the kids and as most moms, time for a shower is well, sometimes non-existent and washing my hair? Ha! A joke! So when I saw the Not Your Mothers Clean Freak Refreshing Dry Shampoo I heard the singing choir of angels!! So, for my first attempt at a Dry Shampoo - not bad. Seeing as I have thick curly hair, combing it out was a bit of a chore but I have to say, I liked it!! My hair definitely did look and feel cleaner. I think I would use it more when I straighten my hair out to let the look last longer but this product - I definitely recommend - especially for moms. Who knew you could shampoo your hair without getting in the shower?! (@NYMBrands / #NYMCleanFreak)

I previously mentioned that my go to color for my nails has always been blue. Yeah, I've used red or silver every once in a while but that would be for special occasions only. So when I saw the purple hue in my box I was a bit hesitant at first but I said to myself - "You don't know until you try right?" so, while Mr. Big was watching TV (translate: falling asleep in front of the boob tube) I decided to take a few moments for me and try out the Sally Hansen Triple Shine Nail Color in the oh so violet shade known as Vanity Flare. Another hit!! I loved the fact that the color went on smoothly. The brush was not your traditional round stem brush but kinda flat so that the bristles smoothed the color on perfectly and evenly. Two coats and a few minutes later and I was done!! Very quick to dry and n need for a top coat because my nails are oh so shiny. Great for someone looking to change up their look and do it while not having to wait around all day for the paint to dry. Thumbs up in my book and I think I might have found a new color too!! ( @SallyHansen / #TripleShine )

Okay, so we all know that I have made comments about my hair and its, well, mind of its own. I have so much hair, and its curly, and well, hard to maintain that finding good products to keep it tame - well, just don't seem to work. I'm an active person and finding something that will keep my hair out of my face is very hard. I tend to use bandeaus because they are just easier to deal with. So once again, I was a bit skeptical when I saw the Goody Athletique Ouchless Headwrap but willing to give it a shot. The fact that it is adjustable is a plus and definitely that it is made of that quik dry fabric - even better! Especially on those days when I will be running (still sidelined because of my ankle). All in all it is an okay product. Doesn't blow me out of the water but serves its purpose. See? ( @GoodyHair / #GoodyAthletique )

Now, the piece de resistance!  The Montagne Jeunesse Dead Sea Mud Spa Masque - try and say that 5 times fast! All I have to say is spa treatment in a bag!! I'm not a mask person to be honest. The whole whip it up and lather and wait - well, not my cup of tea. Especially the mess to clean up afterwards - no thank you!! But this mask, this mask is different!! It is a clay infused fabric that leaves your skin feeling refreshed after use. Yeah, you might look like the Man in the Iron Mask while wearing it but the perks are worth it. Easy clean up, smooth skin - sold me here!! Oh and bonus - it smells good too!! Definitely worth it for a busy mom that needs a quick refresher and get away - or if you want to scare your kids into cleaning up their room! ( @MontagneJeuness / #MJClaySpas )

For my first effort on the whole Influenster Vox Box product review - I have to say, I like it!! These are amazing products and I think everyone should check them out and see for yourself. Check out Influenster too! Let them know I sent you!

I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

It's Good To Be Healthy

I wasn't planning on writing today. I have a lot to do at work but in my morning routine of drinking coffee and surfing the internet, I came across two things that just connected, in the weirdest of ways but they got my mind working and well, I just had to put it down on "paper" so to speak.

I was reading an article on Cosmo - well, not really an aritcle, it is one of their slideshow list things that they do. This one is titled "10 Secrets of Healthy Relationships".

It went something like this...(As summarized by me of course)

1) Express yourself - Pretty much what it says, express yourself as you are while also listening and "getting" your partner. Take them into consideration but don't just settle to avoid conflict.

2) Quality Time - Again, pretty self explanatory. We all get into ruts and routines so its important to schedule quality time together just for you as a couple so you don't get lost in the routine. This one is difficult for us autism families as sometimes, routine rules our lives.

3) Argue one thing at a time - Yes, this one is important! Instead of throwing everything that you have bottled up inside for months when an argument about filling the dishwasher the wrong way again starts - focus on one thing because it is easier to work through and "fix" instead of trying to get at everything that is bothering you all at once. I know, easier said than done.

4) New Experiences - again, with the routine of daily life we forget to do new things together. Sometimes in conversation we discuss things that we want to do or try, find ways to do them - no matter how simple but adding new things to bond over is a great way to connect.

5) Appreciate each other - This one is a big one! Let your partner know that you value them in your life and all of the little things that they do for you. It could be as simple as a thank you for clearing the table to a compliment about how they handled a situation you just faced together. Your partner needs to know that you appreciate them and that may just trigger them to say "hey, yeah, I appreciate you too for x and y"

6) Contract - we all have unspoken contracts in our relationships. In my relationship with Mr. Big, he does the cooking and takes care of more traditional male roles and I do the "women's work" of laundry, cleaning, etc. This works out for us and I actually like it. We communicate about things that go on with the house but we each know what we bring to the table of the relationship - this is our contract. According to the slideshow/article - you should "re-visit" your contracts about every year or so...I think you should only do this if there is something that is not working.

7) Permission to Speak? - okay, yeah this one sounds worse than it is - its not ask to speak like in a submissive sense, but make sure that the timing to discuss something is appropriate. There is nothing worse than unloading on your partner after he/she has had a hard day and is already on edge. Timing is everything if you want to get the most out of your conversation so make sure its okay first.

8) Spontaneity - well, that one is just what it says. Be spontaneous - keep the spark alive and burning. I know, easier said than done but you've done it before - we all know about the quickie in the car after that dinner date, don't lie.

9) "You" - yes, that's right you!! I'll expand on this one in more detail below because this one is the one that sparked all of this

10) Keep your friendships - again, self-explanatory here. We all need connections and relationships outside of our partners. They cannot be the end-all, be-all of our existences. As long as our friendships are not toxic - keep them!

Pretty good listing right? I think so. Who'd have thought from Cosmo huh?

Well, as I stated above - number 9 really hit me in the heart and it was primarily because of this:
Growing and changing for the better as a person will make your relationship a better place. “One of the most important things about being in a relationship is you learn as much if not more about yourself as you do about your partner,” says Cooper. By watching the way that you react to your partner and the ways in which you’re challenged, you’re forced to grow.
I could not agree more.

You see, a healthy relationship allows you to be who you are as a person because that is who your partner chose to be with. But, at the same time, with this new connection in your life that is so "just right" you learn other things about you that you didn't know before. You learn about sacrifices that you once thought you would never make. You learn about compassion and love in ways that you never thought possible. You also learn about acceptance as your partner is that - your partner. You accept him/her for who they are and learn from them.

I have to say that since being with Mr. Big, I have noticed the differences in myself as a person because of the type of person that he is. He treats me in such a way that makes me feel not only like his partner but a part of him while still allowing me to be me. Does that make sense? The way he looks at life and certain situations causes me to rethink my approach sometimes.

This morning was a perfect example...

I was stating how something last night bothered be because it sounded as if a woman was talking to a person with special needs with a condescending tone as if this person was not capable of the task she was participating in. I immediately judged based on a few seconds and a persons tone of voice. He reminded me that I was quick to judge without all the information. I tried to produce some sort of rebuttal but I realized...he was right. I have always been judged because I "sound" like I have an attitude when honestly, I don't and I hate it. Yet, here I was doing the same thing.

A healthy relationship is so important to who we are as because it compliments us and develops us in ways that we couldn't do on our own. These connections and interactions with that one person who has such profound impact on our lives are what makes us who we are.

Love, affection, happiness are all intertwined when it comes to that significant individual we choose to live our lives with.

And then there is this... In a life where love is not considered possible; where relationships are considered to be out of reach...there are two individuals who found love and have a healthy relationship that means the world to them because it fits them - who they are - their connection is extraordinary and perfectly, well, perfect.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Truly Thankful

I don't know if you have been paying attention to the news or the latest FB postings but there was another young man with autism who went missing in New Jersey.

He has been away from his home, from his family, from all that he knows for a week now.

As an autism parent, that sends chills through my spine and worry in my heart.

That is until this morning when my sister-in-law texted me this...

Autistic Teen from NJ Found Alive

New York News

I know this young man is not my child but he is one of the autism community and I have to say, my heart skipped a beat and a relief came over me because that could easily be any of my children and now, he is heading home - just in time to have Thanksgiving dinner with his family.

This is something to be truly thankful for.

There are many things we take for granted in our lives, even the simplest of routines and comforts that we rely on every day.

The one thing we cannot take for granted are the people in our lives.

Whether they play a large role or a small role, they shape our lives and give it meaning.

This Thanksgiving season, really take a look at the people in your lives and how they impact it in a positive way.

Focus on the good things around you and throw the negativity out with the trash.

Our lives are far too short to keep the baggage of what holds us down.

Tomorrow, really be thankful for all that you have in your life - your family, your friends, your home, yourself - yes, yourself.

Don't take anything for granted because it could all be gone in an instant.

Much love to you and yours during this most special of holidays!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's Scary Being Good

Okay, yeah, I know the title is probably making you wonder "Oh boy, what did she do now?!"

Well, you see I was trying to do a good deed.

It's the holidays, people are down on their luck, I have a heart and can't help seeing people in need.

While at work today, a young man - between 16 - 18 came in from riding his bicycle and asked to use the restroom.

He looked decent enough - clean shaven, hair trimmed, he was wearing one of those camel pack things that runners and cyclists use so I said "sure" and pointed to the rest room.

I immediately got on the phone with a friend and told her in "Quedate en el telefono con migo" (Stay on the phone with me) and explained what was going know, you can never be too careful. She knows that if anything happens to me she is to immediately call Mr. Big - she is my lifeline sometimes.

Well, we were on the phone for 10 minutes - I was expecting a pee and go.

The toilet flushed twice and I hear rustling in the bathroom.

Panic and nerves set in.

I look next door and notice that there are people at the salon that is being worked on so I go over and talk my new neighbor and say "I need a man"...needless to say, the look I got was a perplexed one.

I again explained what was going on, while still on the phone with my friend and they agreed to come over to my office with me.

My neighbor is a lady from New York with a much stronger personality than mine so she was the perfect person to be my physical back up. I told my friend that if I don't call her back within 5 minutes, to call Mr. Big.

So we went into my office and my neighbor asked the kid if he was okay - through the door - he said yes and prepared to come outside.

My neighbor and her contractor stood at the front door with me as we talked all things turkey and waited for the kid to leave.

He meekly walked out, said thank you, and got back on his bike.

I closed the door and locked it.

I immediately called my friend and she said that she was getting ready to call me and that if I didn't answer, she was calling Mr. Big...I only had one minute left and she was sticking to it.

I know it might have been a stupid idea allowing this kid to come use my restroom - but I hate judging people because there is more to a picture than what we see but at the same time, I still judged because I became nervous and scared.

Yes, it could have been worse - like a 1000 times worse.

I'm just glad it wasn't.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why So Blue?

I recently posted about my, you could say, less than satisfied opinion about Autism Speaks's approach to all things autism.

As I was doing my nails this weekend I looked carefully at the color that I chose to do them.

It has been my go to color for as long as I can remember.

It is the color that I and pretty much everyone associates with autism these days.

The funny thing is, that it wasn't the first set of colors that I saw when autism came into my was one of a group of colors that made up a puzzle.

These colors were red, yellow, and blue - they illustrated the different pieces that is the puzzle of autism - that everyone with autism is not the same. Each piece is different in shape and color but yet some how connect together.

Some pieces share the same color but not shape or same shape but not color. Some pieces are the same.

This is the diversity that is autism...there are differences, similarities...but it is still a puzzle that needs to be worked on and put together with care and love and dedication.

The color is blue...according to WikiAnswers (the only way I could get an answer) the reason behind this is because autism affects mainly boys and blue is the most common color that boys prefer. Okay, I get this.

But then why is it that the main shade of blue that is  focused on is the color of Autism Speaks?

The color of an organization that clearly does not speak for our children, adults, and families living with autism.

Who chose that shade of blue to be the color of autism when there is a spectrum of colors that clearly identify the spectrum of those living with it?

Why do I care?

Maybe it sounds stupid or trivial but the fact that a particular color identifies our families and connects them with a group of people that do not truly speak for our population bothers me.

This doesn't mean that I will stop wearing light blue because well, unfortunately it is the color accepted by many autism organizations - especially two of the ones I am passionate about - Train 4 Autism and Surfers for Autism. It is also one of Princess's favorite colors.

I just wanted to illustrate how ironic it is that not only are our lives "spoken" for by this organization, but even our attempts to differentiate ourselves from said organization is still connected to them by this one simple thing...a shade of a color.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

There is Still Hope for Our Future

I haven't been in the mood to write lately once again...

Its these ups and downs that drive me crazy because they are just like emotions and anxiety, even when the way to work through the insanity is to write.

Make sense?

But then I come across the videos that I saw this morning on Teen Nick regarding the most recent HALO awards and I had to share this with you...

Why was I looking at Teen Nick?

You see, the HALO awards were this past weekend and it featured something near and dear to my heart...


It featured autism through another thing that is near and dear to my heart...

Surfers for Autism

One of the amazing and wonderful volunteers, Miranda Fuentes, was honored as a recipient of the Teen Nick HALO award for her work with the many children and volunteers that connect through Surfers for Autism.

Her inspiration was her brother.

Her smile is infectious at all events.

She connects with the children she works closely with.

She is an inspiration to many people her age.

Her heart is enormous.

I am so glad that she got the recognition that she so deserved.

I am also glad that autism and the wonderful effects of water therapy were brought into the light in such an amazing and public way.

So I recommend you to check out the Teen Nick HALO awards site here and check out the many videos as well as the other honorees and the amazing things that they are doing for their communities.

There is still hope for our future after all...these young people have given me that hope once again.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Stop Speaking and Start Listening

I have submitted this post for the "This is Autism" Flash Blog - because those with autism like my children, like countless children and adults with autism like them...they are not what the loudest voices are screaming out - and together, we will work to re-write this wrong.

Re-Published 11/18/13

It's been a while since I have done an autism related post but this is something that I have to get off of my chest because I can't continue to let others think that they can speak for my children.

You see, I'm a big supporter of all things autism and awareness related.

I believe the more we spread the word the better awareness we have and the more acceptance there will be of our children and adults with autism.

I love that there are organizations out there willing to get our message across and raise their voices to those who need to hear our cry for change.

The thing is that the loudest voice, Autism Speaks, is well - screaming and shouting that our lives, ALL of our lives are, well, hell and that we are merely existing instead of living with our children and family members with autism.

Autism Speaks co-founder Suzanne Wright, in a call to action for a national plan, wrote this piece. I'm not going to put her words on my blog because I just don't care to see them on the digital pages I choose to express myself on. 

If you choose to read the posting, you will see how she paints our lives as mere existences of bodies trying to survive every day through the loss of our children. That our families are torn apart because of this disease called autism. She didn't use those words in exactly the way I've grouped them but that is because she has clever people who proofread her work to make sure she doesn't say the wrong things but guess what - she is.

She is not speaking for me. She is not speaking for my children. She is not speaking for my friends. She is not speaking for many families out there that do not see their lives as merely existing in the day or surviving until tomorrow.

Each family has different experiences. We cannot lump each other into a one-size fits all mentality because if so, we are doing our children, adults, families, caregivers and everyone touched by autism a huge disservice.

And yes, I say touched by autism because that's what we are - we are touched. We are not inflicted, afflicted, diseased, destroyed, impacted, etc. We are touched because those we love touch our hearts and our emotions.

My children are not like your child with autism, or my neighbor or my friend's, they are different - they all are part of a spectrum of autism. We cannot put them as a whole group and expect a standard plan to "fix" them. Especially a plan that does not consider them and their differences.

Yes, there are days that are hard. There are days where we cry and we feel pain. We are human and we have emotions. 

Nobody wants to see their child become frustrated because he can't get the right words out of his mouth to say what he is thinking or feeling. 

Nobody wants to have to clean up after their 9-year old son who has just urinated on the chair because he took your statement of "go pee-pee" literally and actually went pee-pee where he was because you forgot to say "go pee-pee in the bathroom". 

Nobody wants to have to watch their child rock and bang his head against the car seat because he is overwhelmed with some of the simplest of sounds while tears stream down his face. 

Nobody wants to hear their child scream that he hates his life because he is different.

Those statements are my life - those are 4 different children with autism.

But yet, that is not all that they are either.

They are children who can draw amazing pictures with such precision. 

Children who can sing beautifully even though they don't speak. 

These are children that can make you laugh at the silly things that they do. 

These are children that give hugs and kisses and bring light to my eyes.

And yes, our family is a "torn" family as Mrs. Wright would call it but not because of autism. If anything, autism was the one thing that my family was able to find common ground on. It was other things that caused our family to be "torn".

And yes, my children do not live with me, but it is not because I could not "deal" with them - it was because they deserved the continuity and stability that is so important to them and their continued success. 

So Mrs. Wright, how dare you say that you or your organization speak for my children when you clearly do not know them or what my family really needs?

They know what they want, they know what they need. You just have to listen to them. Pay attention to them. They will tell you in their own way. You have no right to speak for them.

There are many other things about Autism Speaks that go beyond their blanket approach to autism. 

There are the videos that they have released such as Autism Every Day or I Am Autism that depict "our lives" as hell and torture. I am not going to post them here because again, I do not want them on my page - if you are interested in seeing them, you can do a YouTube or Google search. One video went as far as having a parent speak about how she wanted to end her life and that of her autistic child but chose not to because of her other child at home. How is this helping our children?

The words and videos that Autism Speaks puts out there as "our voice" places our children and young adults as feral animals and diseased creatures that need to be cured, that need to be pitied, that need to be saved.

No - I'm sorry - my children do not need to be cured, they do not need to be pitied, and they definitely do not need to be saved.

They need to be accepted. They need to be appreciated. They need to be loved.

They need to be able to belong and considered people because that is who they are.

They need to be given opportunities to thrive and grow.

They need to be given resources to help them live every day and use the many talents that they have but are so often overlooked because they are judged by the loudest voices that do not speak for them.

If you really want to know what a life with autism is like - read the many blogs on my "Potential Handbooks" listing. Those are real families living with autism. 

They are enjoying the milestones and the love and the smiles while working through the hard times. 

They are a community of people who work together to support one another and say "you're not in this alone".

Those are the true voices of autism.

So Suzanne Wright and the rest of the people at Autism Speaks - its time to stop speaking, and time to start listening.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Much Needed Time

Hey Everyone!! I am excited and happy to tell you...

My daughter, my now 12 year old daughter, held my hand!! By her own free will!!

Yes people!! This is AMAZING!!!

How did that happen? Well, let's start at the beginning...

You see, her birthday was last week and in order to celebrate it with her I picked her up on Friday and took her to dinner, some shopping, and a movie.

First when she got in the car, Princess told me she was excited....Yes, you read that right, she was excited. This is the same child that I have been having the misconnections with. I was over the moon happy when I heard her say that.

We went on our way to dinner - there is a Johnny Rockets connected with a Game Day game center. She had never been to a Johnny Rockets before and so this was interesting.

She perused the menu and immediately asked if they offered chicken fingers - typical - LOL

Of course they did and so we ordered dinner and she was all smiles. See....

Look, they even brought us a little bowl of ketchup with a smile.

After dinner we went to have some fun at Game Day.

This girl had an amazing time!!

She played the crane/claw games and was able to score a Minion, a Penguin, and a giant textured bouncy ball.This girl is good!!! Again, she was all smiles.

We tried the dance dance game (well, she did, I didn't) not too much success there but she tried.

Then it was on to some bowling...

Let's just say people, there were 2 strikes in her game. Did I mention how awesome my daughter is?

After Game Day it was off to some shopping.

We stopped into Ron Jon Surf Shop and she found herself this beautiful necklace with a purple flower and a watch that also was purple. She looked at me with her puppy eyes and I couldn't resist so I of course got them for her.

We looked at some other items and we came across a table of Bandeaus and she fell in love with this one...

She told me that I should buy it for myself because I used to wear my bandana all the time but haven't since I lost it during a surfing event.

My daughter knows me! I love it! And so, I did.

Then we went to FYE and she came across a Big Time Rush CD that she just HAD to have and so, I told her that she could buy it with her birthday money. She was hesitant at first because I told her she would have to hand it to the clerk and pay for it herself - that's a big deal - but she really wanted it so I gave her some moral encouragement.

On the way to the register, we came across the $5 DVD bin and rummaged through it and found the movie she has been searching for "like FOREVER!" (her words).

Again, she was told that if she wanted it she had to present it to and pay the cashier herself.

And you know what? She DID IT!!!

Proud momma right here - big milestone for her and she was actually glad she did it.

From there we went to the movies to go see Free Birds - not my first choice - but she wanted to see it (I was partial to Thor or Ender's Game)

The local Minicon place was taking pictures of movie goers in front of the Thor pictures - she was happy to participate.

She even wanted to take a picture with me!!

We did have a conversation before the movie started - she said that this was a great birthday present. She brought up her 9th birthday...the one that happened just a week after her father and separated - she said that she didn't like it. That it was NOT the best birthday present.

That crushed me but I told her that just because we were no longer together, her father and I loved her and her siblings very much and that things are better now that we are not married - I asked if she agreed and she said yes, and she smiled, she reiterated that "still" she didn't like it - but smiled and nudged me as I passed her the popcorn.

She got it off her chest after a long time of holding it in - I was proud of her for this.

I can't believe it, my big girl is growing up!

As the lights dimmed down we settled in and enjoyed the show.

She got cold during the movie and so we cuddled - we CUDDLED people!! This is HUGE!!

At the end of the movie, before we walked out - she told me that she had so much fun and was very happy.

THIS people, THIS, what happened next, is what made my night...

We walked to my car and she went ahead and held my hand.

We haven't held hands in like forever!!

We needed this time together so much. We needed to just be mother and daughter.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Just a Few Words

I started writing a post yesterday - a very long one at that about how I was hating myself yesterday because I haven't been able to run in 2 months due to an unknown issue with my ankles. Something beyond my control was causing me to hate myself and the way that I look.

Then I read over what I wrote so that I could publish it today and I thought to myself..."What the fuck?!"

This is what is bothering me?

This is what is plaguing my mind and causing me to act like an idiot around the people I love the most?

Yeah, I was not on my best behavior for part of the day yesterday.

I sheltered myself and kept quiet because I made a mountain out of a mole hill in my head.

I was angry at people that I did not need to be angry at.

I isolated myself and just withdrew and did not know what to say.

Then later in the night after we returned home from dinner I said something to Mr. Big about what was bothering me and after I said it, I laughed at myself at how stupid I sounded. Especially after his reply because it reminded me that what we were discussing was something that never bothered me before and that I let the insecurities in my head get to me.

Something trivial that doesn't even deserve to be mentioned amplified my craptastic feeling about myself that it made me miss out on spending the little bit of time that I have with Mr. Big and just feel like shit about myself.

I let my mind go to a cloudy place where emotion and reason and just plain stupidity came over me and fogged who I truly am.

Then this morning I read this post by one of my favorite bloggy friends Tamara of Tamara (like) Camera and I stopped at these words...

I'm aware of the darkness. I beware of darkness, however, I follow the light and I follow it well. I know how to see its bright glimmer and I know how to feel the warmth that radiates from it.

Wow! Just wow!! These words hit close to home and reminded me that when things get hard and dark for me, I need to remember the positives and focus on them to see me through and get out of the negative thinking going on in my mind.

Earlier I said "Something beyond my control was causing me to hate myself and the way that I look." - well, it is not beyond my control - I can control these thoughts - I will do it.

Beyond my insecurities about myself, beyond my feelings of doubt, beyond any negative thoughts and emotions that come into my head - is the brightness that will lead me out.

I'm going to focus on those very wise words of a very dear friend...

Thank you Tamara <3

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Worst Feeling Ever

You know that feeling that you get after you have had a horrible nightmare that feels so real?

You know that feeling that keeps your heart racing, your body sweating, and your head pounding as if it is a ticking time bomb ready to explode?

Yeah, that happened to me last night.

I had one of those nightmares.

The type that you wake up to not being able to breathe with tears streaming down your eyes because if just felt like it had happened right before your eyes and there was nothing you could do about it.

What disturbed me in my sleep?

A nightmare of seeing someone I love beyond words and logic on life support.

A nightmare of a child clinging to dear life with tubes and wires all around to ensure the ability to breathe.

A nightmare of rage and anger at not being able to stop or control what was going on and rescue this precious and perfect little person.

A nightmare of my youngest daughter Baby Girl, on life support, looking like an angel in the deepest of sleep.

There was no logic behind the images in my head.

I can't recall what happened in the moments that led up to my precious child being so ill.

There were no doctors to turn to in this horrible nightmare.

There were no answers.

All I remember is yelling and screaming "You were supposed to watch her!"

When I awoke the image was so engraved in my head that even when I close my eyes now, I still see it.

Her Victorian doll face, her light brown curls covering her pillow, her eyelashes so delicately closed, the lack of color to her always bright cheeks.

It was horrible.

The tears could not stop falling.

I had to leave my room. I had to leave my bed. I had to leave the place where these images came so freely into my sleeping subconscious.

I never want to feel that way again, even in a nightmare.

I never want to feel that way in the real world.

I don't think I could handle it.

There would be no walking away.

I just want to see her smile and laugh and play - that is the only way a child should be.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Unbreakable Bonds

Hello peeps!! How are you? 

I take it that you all have survived Halloween and managed to hide the remaining candies from your children if you haven't eaten it already yourselves.

This is only the start of the sugar highs and regrets about calorie consumption!! 

Well, this post is not about candy but to me, its just as sweet.

This past weekend I was driving with the kiddos to my house and as usual, there was swapping snacks and sharing of iPhones. Complaints that "I just got it!" or arguments about who gets to sit with who - even though they always sit in the same spot because strategically, that's the safest for them and my sanity.

Well, as usual, Silly sits next to Princess...and this is what I am writing about...

As we were driving, I was watching these two and my heart just skipped a beat - nothing in particular happened just a realization.

You see, there is something about the relationship between these two - they have this unique bond.

She is 11. She is growing up and going through those awkward and terrifying tween-teen years (she will be 12 on Thursday - help!!) and along with that comes the "I know" and "Ugh" attitudes about life and the people in it - except when it comes to him.

He is 9 - on the outside, on the inside he is more like 3 or 4. He is a loving, smart and funny kid but with the stimming, the scripting, the noises, the flapping, and obsessiveness on particular things, it is hard to make connections - except when it comes to her.

These two children of mine are the perfect blend of sibling love.
She understands him like nobody else. She knows what sets him off and what calms him down.

He looks for her and wants to show her everything he does.

She can decipher what he is trying to say when all I hear is words that do not make sense put together. (Really, he was saying some words together but I couldn't figure out what they were referencing and she immediately knew he was talking about Thomas the Train)

He asks for help directly from her "Help please Princess."

She has the patience of a saint when it comes to her brother, when so many other people don't.

He seeks comfort from her - he lays on her lap in the car when he is tired or pokes her thigh when he is upset and crying so she can rescue him.

I don't know how this bond developed but it has always been there.

She has always been his rock and his solace.

I am so glad that they have each other. 

I am so glad that the love of family is there among the screaming and fighting.

I am a truly blessed momma.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I'm shocked my little blog has not shut down yet from the amount of activity that it received this week from being my SITS day on Monday.

I wanted to start off by saying thank you to everyone that stopped by.

I'm trying to get to everyone's comments and blogs to show some love as I do sincerely appreciate it all!!

It was amazing to see such great comments and thoughtful responses to the posts that I chose as my top 3 favorite posts.

I felt that those best described me, who I am, and what my life is about.

I try to be as open and candid as I possibly can because I spent so much time of my life holding it all in that it made me a not so nice person...letting it out and just being me is giving me the outlet to get through the good, the bad, the hard, and the silly.

I have made great friends through blogging - some that still blog, some that don't, and some new ones that have made it all interesting.

So again, thank you to everyone that has stopped by, is still stopping by and to my friends who I love for just being there even when I'm not around!!

I will be by to visit you all soon!!

((HUGS)) and have a great day!!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Where did it go?!

Do you know how quickly time flies?


If you're a parent you know this all too well. 

On Saturday it was Baby Girl's birthday. She turned 5. Yeah, 5!!

That's my last baby. 

As we were spending time at the beach I watched her and her siblings playing and I noticed one thing - time has passed so quickly and I was wondering where it went. 

My kids are no longer tiny little creatures with indecipherable language (well they are to those who don't know them but I understand them) - they are individuals with thriving personalities all their own. 

From the quiet child who likes to listen to the wind blow, to the child who can discuss the origins of the dinosaurs and their corresponding historical periods. 

They are all so different and grown that I wonder how I have missed it. They are in front of me but yet it happened as if it were a flash of light. 

And before I know it they will be older, taller (even though 3 of them are getting awfully close to my own height), smarter, funnier, and just plain awesome. 

I can't wait! But then again, I can. 

I think there is a country song that says "Let them be little" Yeah, I agree with that!

Oh and if I read my email right, tomorrow the 28th is my SITS day!! To my new and not so new readers...welcome!! I'm glad you stopped by. Here, have a cookie! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Saying it again...

Okay, I have to clear the air on this because I am tired of assumptions and accusations and just straight shit talking by some people out there that do not understand and are judging me.

When it comes to my children and why they don't live with me, here is the truth....

At the time of our separation, my ex and I agreed that it was in the best interest of the children to stay in their home with their father because of the stability that he was able to offer them.

Moving out with me would have required a change in their schools, therapy schedules, routines, living arrangements, etc. All things associated with a move would have made an impact. Add on to that the divorce alone - the chances of disrupting their progress was a HUGE one. Children with autism like mine thrive on structure and routine.

The lesser of two evils was them staying with their dad because the home we shared did not have my name on it. It was his mothers and I had no claim on it to stay there with the children.

I DID NOT abandon my children. If I could have it my way, my children would live with me. There is nothing more that I want in this world than to be able to tuck my children in bed at night. The sleepless nights and the mess in the house that most parents complain about - I want that - I crave that.

People may judge and criticize me for the choice that I made and they do so without the full details and information. They judge based on what is told to them by others and make their own assumptions.

I am painted as the mother who gave up and walked away from her children.

I did no such thing. I did what was best for them at the time and it kills me every day and tears my heart apart to hear that I am being thought of as the mother who just did not want anything to do with her children.

Do I regret that decision? EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE since then because no mother should be without her children.

There is so much more to what has happened during the past 3 years and I could go on and on and on but I just want to be clear about it....


If you want to judge me - then judge me based on conversations with me. Ask me all the questions you want. I have nothing to hide. But please, don't go around thinking something until you have the full story.

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Blanket Please" Breaks My Heart

You know that feeling that you get when your child is sick and all you can do is sit there, watch and wait for the medicine to take effect?

That was me this weekend with Silly.

(Yes, I got the kiddos this weekend but I will get back to that later)

When I picked him up he was quieter than usual. On the drive he didn't even play with the iPhone so I knew there was something up.

I took the kids to take a restroom stop and when I touched his skin, he was burning.

I rushed to Walgreens next door and got him some Motrin and gave it to him right there in the parking lot.

(Note to self: ALWAYS carry Motrin with me - this is the 2nd time I have had to get meds on the ride with the kids)

I gave him the Motrin and as we approached the house, Princess told me he was still hot. I called my father's girlfriend to see she could stop and get me a thermometer and drop it off at my house. I couldn't afford another stop and judging from the previous occasion - finding a shop that sells thermometers is not that easy. 

She agreed and we were on our way.  directed some of the AC vents to him and headed to the house.

When we got there, my dad was waiting. He had dropped off the thermometer - a cute little duck one I might add. He too saw the ickiness in Silly's eyes 

I immediately took his temperature - seemed to have been going down as his skin was a lot cooler. Thank you to all things holy and myths of Mount Olympus!! 

He just slept and watched videos on the computer.

He didn't want to drink much but did eat once the fever broke. SCORE!!

And then the fever came back.

He still didn't want to do anything, not even watch videos, all he wanted to do was crawl under the covers and sleep.

That was a battle seeing as he couldn't be covered up, but I just hated hearing him cry "blanket please" in a low tone of voice with tears in his eyes and a tremble in his lip. Heart wrenching does not even begin to cover it.My neighbor was with us making cupcakes as we carved our jack-o-lantern and she even had a broken heart. 

This child is sick and not even cranky or whining. All he wants to do is just lay there. He doesn't complain. He just wants to be comfortable and rest. 

I carried him to the living room and sat him next to Princess on the couch - he wanted the throw blanket on the couch - I told him he couldn't have it and little tears fell and he closed his eyes. 

I just sat there and rustled his hair and begged for him to feel better. 

After a few minutes, he fell asleep and the fever began to come down.

Being a mommy is never easy, especially when our babies are sick. We are helpless because we are at the mercy of medication and time.

We just want to make it all go away and take it upon ourselves so that they no longer feel so wretched. 

According to his dad and step-mommy, he is doing better today. I am so thankful for that. The less days they are sick the better.

Keep your medicines handy - flu season is quickly approaching!

Friday, October 18, 2013

By Jorge I've Got It!!

Wow, I haven't been here for a while!!

But look! I don't have to decorate for Halloween because the spiders have taken care of that ;-)

Oh and I know the saying is "By George..." but I'm of Cuban heritage so for me its "By Jorge..." so deal with it.

I haven't written because there has been way too much shit going on for me to concentrate on anything else. Its a miracle that I have made it through the days at work and managed to take a shower at the end of the day.

I was having a pity party of 1. Yeah, I was angry and depressed and all kinds of yucky gray things rolled into one because things weren't going my way.

Then yesterday something clicked in my head or the light bulb was jiggled around enough to turn on and I had a moment of clarity...

I can't control EVERYTHING and that I need to stop trying to or else it is going to make me feel like a shithead for the rest of my life!!

Yeah, I have said this many a times before and have had the same revelation (is it still a revelation if you've had it multiple times?) that I need to calm the fuck down and live my life.

This does not mean not to fight for what I want and need but to give things time to actually happen and not go crazy because it hasn't happened like right now!

I have had moments of insanity because once again the visitation arrangements with my kids have been screwed up and I need a better solution to it but until I find out I have a wealthy relative who has died and left me a fortune - affording an attorney  is not going to happen. I need to work with what I have until I can afford said attorney or said unknown wealthy relative or anonymous donor comes forward. You all know how desperately I need my children and I haven't seen them in over a week and right now I don't know if I will be seeing them this weekend so you can imagine how this is making me feel. I'm a walking Hallmark card. But I'm being positive about it - I've thrown some things out into the air and I am hoping that they will catch and things will change. I miss my babies and I need them - but I'm no good to them if I'm a raging emotional basket-case now am I?

I have also had moments of insecurity about my relationship with Mr. Big. Even though I know all things are hunky dorey and I couldn't be happier - I'm still worried about me as a person in a relationship. Since my marriage didn't work - I wonder if I am trying too hard or not trying enough. We are nearing the 3 year mark together and I just need to stop and breathe and enjoy it. I am one of the few people out there who can actually say that has a healthy relationship built on trust, friendship, and love. I am a truly lucky person and I am thankful for him in my life every second of every day. Now, if only Nancy Nagger in my head would just decide to take a permanent vacation I'd be in Happy Heaven...I think I'm going to book her a flight - maybe to Brunei??

Then there is the issue of social interaction and feeling of isolation. I'm not saying that I am the most social of people - well, I am but I'm not. I'm restricted socially because of budget like many people. All the action is in Key West and costs $$ and you should really do it with someone. I don't have a someone. I really don't have friends here. The few people that I do know I have met through some volunteer efforts or my father. We interact on FB but a "hey! let's hang out" kind of thing - nope! I miss my friends and family on the mainland (yes, we say mainland here...funny thing I heard on the radio yesterday "If you live closer to Cuba than to Wal-Mart, you're in Conch country" - yeah, that's me!). Mr. Big works long hours and so a lot of times I am by myself and well, that sucks ass. But, this is all on me. I need to make more of an effort to get out there and meet people and just do my thing. I'm likeable, I'm personable, right?

There are other issues with work and home and family that if I write it all I would be here all day and the truth is - everyone has issues and problems. We all think ours are bigger than those of others and our worlds crumble for different reasons.

But the fact of the matter is that the way we live our lives starts within us - we have to be able to recognize that we can't do it all and we have to wait for things to fall in to place as they should..

We have to take the necessary steps to be happy and then let fate, God, space aliens...whatever you believe to be the guiding source of this world do its magic and see what unfolds before you.

I cannot control everything, no matter how hard I try. So for now, its time to start paving the path of where I want to go and how I want to live and let life lead me the rest of the way.

This should be easy right? Right?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Catching Waves and Making Miracles

Imagine a day where the sun is shining and the sound of waves crashing and the laughter of children fills the air.

This laughter is one that is limited in its release but today, today there are no limitations to it because today, they do not have autism - today they are just children enjoying a day at the beach with friends and trying something new - surfing!

Yes, my children went surfing!!

I was given the opportunity to have my children attend a surfing session hosted by Lance Carroll Therapy Surfing and Butterfly Effects. This was their first time attempting something like this.

My mind was in a blur and my heart was racing.

I was nervous. I was excited. I was everything all rolled into one.

The boards were all lined up, the families were all gathering together and talking about their past experiences with Surfers for Autism who introduced us to this autism-surfing-whisperer Lance Carroll.

Princess turned to me telling me that she didn't trust anyone with Silly. That she was scared.

The other children looked at the water with hesitation and worry.

Silly went running for the water oblivious to the reason why we were there.

Monkey started crying that he didn't want to surf as I strapped him into his life jacket.

This triggered tears and cries from Baby Girl repeating the same thing.

One of the moms who we know came to us and told them it was all going to be okay. That they did not have to worry, they did not have to do it if they did not want to. Then she whispered to me "They will do it, just give them time. Relax and enjoy it all."

She was right.

As the other participants started to take to the waves, I heard "when can we go?"

First it was Bug and as Princess saw him approach the water, she tightened her grip on Silly's hand, looked at me, and I told her it was going to be okay.

Her eyes opened and a smile started to curve. I hear Buddy scream "Look its Bug!"

As he approaches the shore with the largest smile on his face and a "Look mom!" on his voice - the instructor approached her and Silly. I let him guide Silly to one of the other instructors and he approached her - with the worried look on her face - and told her - "Do you want to try?" She shakes her head no and I tell her - "Go with Lance - he's the best there is! You can trust him - see?" and I pointed to her brothers who were taking to the water like naturals.

He extended his hand to her and she took it and followed him into the water.

Wave after wave. Board after board. My kids entered the water with nerves and came out with excitement and the urge to go back for more.

Between Buddy's "I'm surfing!" to Baby Girl's "Again! Again!" the day was perfect.

One child was running away from the boards, no matter how many people tried to talk to him and show him that it was okay. Monkey preferred to keep his feet firmly buried in the sand. In came the whisperer to try and talk with him. All I could hear my son say is "I don't want to surf!" They compromised for a walk on the board over the sand to sit on the shore. Lance looked back at me and promised he would get him in the water.

He stood on the shore and watched his siblings play in the waves and look up at me - I tell him "it's okay - you don't have to if you don't want to" and he continued to play in the sand.

More children surfed and I heard from another mom tell me in passing that Bug told her "This is the best mommy day ever!"

Tears filled my eyes and the other moms hugged me because they had been where I was before. They had witnessed the same miracles with their children.

There was still one who was hesitant. As we ran in the sand and played in the water he kept looking over his shoulders.
He was watching the children play and laugh and scream. His siblings interacting with other children and laughing about the fun they were having.

Silly pulling me into the water and trying to push me to the boards so he could ride "More!"

Monkey was approached by one of the instructors and asked "Want to go?" He looked at me. He looked at him. He looked at the water. And shook his head - nervously - yes.

I clasped my hands together and waited with held breath and then...

He got on a board - and rode the wave all the way back to me. 

The smile and laughter that came from his little body was purely amazing, a miracle!

The waterworks started and I couldn't stop.

He was so excited and said he wanted to go back and try it again. But he wanted to go back with Lance. He wanted to show him that he could do it. 

Talk about connection! This was another miracle in and of itself!

He caught up with Lance and I heard "Let's DO this!" with a tiny fist bump in the air and they went towards the water...

My babies were doing something new. 

They were coming out of their shells.

They were being children - laughing and playing with no care in the world.

They were not being judged or stared at.

They were one of the group - there was no different or strange - they were just children. Playing with children.

I did not have to worry about where my children were or what they were doing. They were having fun and interacting with people around them. 

My children were conquering fears and most of all - loving every minute of it!!

From the emails that I have received from their teachers - they have not stopped talking about their experiences and the teachers are even using them (with provided photos) to spark conversations and interactions. 

This experience is benefiting them in so many ways and I could never express my gratitude and appreciation for those who made this day possible.

It was a magical day and I can't wait to do it all over again!

Soon - hopefully soon!