Looking Back on 2018

Happy New Year!!

Hello everyone.

Can you believe it’s 2019?! Where in the world did 2018 go? I guess the Gretchen Rubin saying is true, The days are long but the years are short. 

As we settled in for a night of movies, popcorn, pepperoni rolls, and giggles with the littles I could not help but look back at what the past year looked like for our family. What a difference one year makes.

Last January we were in Tennessee. We were fostering a beautiful little girl. She fit in perfectly with our little loves. That was actually her second time with us. Man I miss her sweet smile, the sounds she made while she slept, and the way she took in everything around her. I am happy she is now with family members that can care for her the way she needs to be. For a moment we thought she was meant to be ours, God had other plans for her and for us. So we will continue to pray for her, her parents, and those taking care of her. Baby Peaches will forever be in our hearts.

In March she went to live with her grandmother, and our lives went back to our normal. The kids were doing well in school. My husband was busy at work. All in all things seemed to going well. I became a published author in March. Beautiful Chaos Our Story about Foster Care, Adoption, Faith and Love hit Amazon (and some bookshelves) on March 14. I never thought it would happen, but it did. It finally did. Some dreams are meant to be reality. In March my mom and I were able to attend a Women of Joy conference. Powerful messages and wonderful worship filled three amazing days. While there I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa Harper in person. Her testimony is so touching. Her books are amazing. Being able to give her a copy of my book and get a copy of her book was amazing.

In April we welcomed a very tiny sick little boy into our home. It was just for a week until his grandmother could get things in order at her house so she could care for him at her home. It just happened to be the week of Easter. What a perfect week to have him with us. He was able to attend one of the most memorable Easter services I have ever been to. He was prayed for and prayed over by our pastor and his wife. And even though he was only with us a week he too will have a place in our hearts. Its not about the amount of time we spend with someone, its about what we share in that time that matters.

May brought about a trip with my oldest daughter and my momma. The previous Christmas Sierra and I surprised my mom with a tickets as one of her presents. My mom, recently retired, had always wanted to take a cruise but was never able to go. My dad does not care for the ocean so Sierra and I decided we would take her and make it a girls only trip. We had a blast. Seeing my mom so happy and excited was truly one of the highlights of my year. Maybe we can make it a yearly thing? Maybe.

My mom, daughter, and I sailing to the Bahamas

May also changed things. My father in law was not doing well. I’ve said it before and I will say it again cancer sucks. He was fighting a losing battle and time with him we knew was growing short. My husband and I started talking about moving back home but it was not as simply as “just moving home”. The thought of taking JR out of his school scared us. I knew our other little loves would adjust fine, but him, we worried about him. His needs are much different than theirs. We prayed and talked and talked some more trying to figure out what was best for all of us.

June we received a call for a little girl and welcomed her into our home. She was a bundle of joy. Always laughing and by far the best sleeper we had in a long time. Our little loves loved having her with us.

I was not feeling the best and after talking with my doctor I was scheduled for a hysterectomy in mid June. During the pretesting the doctor discovered something wrong. It appeared that I had had a mild heart attack. I was floored. I’m only 42. The doctor had more tests ran and it was later determined that it was not a heart attack just a heart issue (still not completely sure what happened or what the issue actually was.) But truly thankful whatever it was God saw fit to fix it. Thank you Jesus!

With my health scare and Todd’s dad sick we made the decision to move back home. We needed to be closer to our families. I brought the kids up and they spent most of the summer at my parents home. I would travel back and forth between to two states. We still had our foster daughter and she had visits and meetings we could not miss. When we knew for sure we would be moving (still in the middle of all my testing on my heart) we discussed her case with her caseworker, her GAL (guardian at litem) and her mom. The decision was made that she would be placed in another foster home where she could continue to thrive while her mom worked her plan to get her back. It was with a heavy heart we had to let her go. The day I dropped her off to her new foster family was hard. We did not plan for her stay with us to end like it did. Last I heard she is doing great and her mom is working hard on things to one day have her back. I pray all works out.

August arrived before we knew it and we closed on our new house, the day before school started. Talk about crazy timing. Todd was still working in TN, traveling back and forth to see us and his dad. School brought about new schools, new teachers, new everything for our kids. It was a difficult time but thankfully everyone is adjusting well now.

October we celebrated Halloween. We had the Ghostbusters along with the Marshmallow man and the cutest little Dale Jr I’ve ever seen. That would be the last time the kids and I would see my father-in-law. It is still so hard to believe he is gone. I am thankful for the memories he gave to my kids, to me. He was truly an special man.

November is a blur. That’s when our world changed forever. When Jesus called him home. He fought a hard fight. We went through the motions at Thanksgiving. I cooked. I wanted my mother in law’s Thanksgiving to go as smoothly as possible. My orders from my seven year old were to make sure she was happy. JR knows she misses him for he too misses his papaw. They were inseparable. Not a day has went by he has not asked about him or how he can get to him.

December my husband was able to finally move home. After our TN house sold and things at his work slowed down he was able to transfer back up here. Having him home has been the best gift. We are once again under one roof. We are stronger when we are all together. Christmas was a busy time, with our five little loves and our daughter and her boyfriend, and our son and his girlfriend, our house was filled with laughter and presents. Lots of presents. There were laughs and some tears, but over all we had an okay Christmas. We missed papaw’s laugh and smile, I guess that’s something we always will.

2018 brought about many changes for us. Life is about change. We must learn to live life and love the people we are surrounded by. We must forgive others and forgive ourselves. We must be patient with what’s going on and see where God leads us. In 2018 we made some new friends (stopped talking to a few). We discovered we are stronger than we realized and our faith grew. Our hearts were broken and tears we shed many times, but through it all we had each other. I am not sure what 2019 will hold for us. And that is the beauty of change. My prayer is that whatever life throws at us in the new year we learn from it, we grow from it, we are blessed by it, and we embrace it. Through it all may God keep us and guide us all the way.

From our beautiful chaos to yours, May 2019 be a very blessed and exciting year.

Check out my book over on my website at beautifulchaosmomma.com or on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Chaos-Story-Foster-Adoption/dp/1973619784/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1546358274&sr=8-3&keywords=beautiful+chaos+paperback

Student of the Month

There are moments as parents we catch ourselves thinking about as our little loves grow up. There are the early questions, When will he walk? When will she talk?What sport will she play? Will he be in the band? And then questions that come as they get older, Will they go to prom? To college? Will she get married? Will he be okay? All questions that have ran through my mind more than once.

As an autism mom, some of even these simple questions leave me in tears after a long evening of stimming and repetition behaviors. Most days we fight the good autism fight. Our lives are arranged around what he can and can not handle. Is it always fair to our other little loves or our older two children? No, no it’s not. However life as we know is not fair. We do the best with what God has given us. And what He has given us is beautiful, chaotic at times but beautiful.

With my first two children, I was the typical mom. We had piano lessons, dance lessons, taekwondo practice, a little t-ball, and soccer. Then came high school and it was marching band, jazz band, color guard, concert band, winter guard, and still taekwondo, They received awards for most everything they participated in. I have a filing cabinet full of awards, still waiting to be scrapbooked. And while I was taken back if they didn’t win something, I didn’t worry about it because I always knew there would be another award/trophy around the corner. Then JR came into our lives.

Autism is so misunderstood and so complicated, yet beautiful and full of surprises. With JR we are not in a hurry to run from ball field to ball field, he could care less about sports. With him we get to see life through his beautiful heart and mind. He has taught me so many things about slowing down and enjoying the small things out of life. Not getting called up during an assembly to receive an award like the other students phases him not. But if I’m honest with myself, it bothers me a little. Ok maybe more than that, maybe more than it should. I know he could be that one in a million that becomes a childhood prodigy, but I know my son. I know that he is beautiful and funny and the happiest kid you will ever meet. I also have come to the realization that he has autism and that’s ok. He is exactly how he is supposed to be. My perfect little sometimes rotten wild man. But sometimes the “normal” mom in me becomes sad at the thought of a life he will never have.

So when my normally quiet seven year old came bouncing in from school, I knew something was up. Then I received a text from his teacher asking me if he had told me about being named Student of the Month? When I asked him about he got the biggest smile on his face. He told me all about hearing his name “over his head” (the school speaker) and how everyone knew his name now. He called his dad and told him about it, and then his big sis. He was so excited because it will mean that Santa would hear about it and maybe just maybe bring him an extra special gift at Christmas. Being student of the month is special momma. Maybe Santa gets special gift for me cause I did so good.

I asked him what kind of special gift he wanted from Santa, you know so I could pass the information along I was floored by what he said. He was not asking for a new plane, or new NASCARs, or LEGOs for himself. My son asked for a new kitchen for our house. I stared at him with a puzzled look and then he ran over to show me what he was talking about. On his tablet he had created a whole house for us. In the center of the house was a beautiful kitchen. From the cabinets to the flooring everything fit so well together. It’s the table(island) you like right momma? I can change the lights if you like. I fought back the tears. Instead of using his “extra gift” from Santa to get himself something he was thinking bigger. He was thinking about all of us. He truly he a special kid.

I don’t think Santa will be getting us that new kitchen, my boy has very expensive taste, but I’m sure he will get something extra. This beautiful little human has taught me so much about the importance of loving others and embracing life. I am so happy he is a happy child. Way to go wild man!!! Momma loves you!

I am so thankful he is adjusting well to his new school. We have been blessed with teachers who see his true potential.

We have also found some wonderful worksheets for all of our kiddos over at Education.com be sure to check them out

Your kids will love ‘falling’ into the season with this word search activity! Be sure to check out more language games and worksheets at Education.com

Lost Tooth

Losing baby teeth is part of growing up. I remember one time when my oldest son was around five. He had lost a tooth at my then mother in laws house and the tooth fairy traded him ten dollars for his tiny tooth. To my son (and me) that was a lot of cash for one tooth. A few days later he jumped off the couch and hit the table, just as he had planned, and out come another tooth. He was so proud as he showed me the bloody tooth and his lip. Unfortunately for him at our house the tooth fairy did not pay out as much. That stunt was never tried again. Thank goodness.

Awe memories.

Last night was yet another big tooth event in our home. Wild man does not tell us a lot of things when it comes to physical pain. So when he told me his tooth was squeaking, I had to check. Sure enough it was moving. He has lost teeth before, most of them we only notice once we see the empty space in his mouth. One he lost at school in an apple slice, he was excited to bring that one home apple and all. So for him to notice his tooth was moving is a huge win for him (us). All day his tongue wiggled that tooth back and forth. I offered to help but he insisted he could do it on his own. Independence something I have prayed for him to have. And then it happened. That tiny little grinded down tooth popped out.

His sister told him to do’s and don’ts of leaving a tooth for the tooth fairy, at the age of eight she is a pro. He wanted to make sure we placed it under his pillow, so we did. He made sure it was well protected. His plane, his bumble, and his body sock all placed in the way he wanted. He paced back and forth for over an hour making sure everything was just right.

He went to sleep with ease (which is not something he does) all in the hopes of getting treasure from the tooth fairy. When the first signs of the early morning light come through the bedroom window he was up. The tooth fairy had given him some money and even left his tooth as Wild Man had requested. He wanted to add it to his treasure box, how could the tooth fairy say no?

Such a normal everyday event, and yet I have cried my eyes out.

There are so many days I would give anything to get inside his mind and see the world he sees. Today our worlds come together over a small tooth.

This evening we continued the celebration with a movie night. He is starting to interact more with our other boys, where as he use to only parallel play along side them. As we watched Frozen (thank you Freeform) the boys asked if he wanted to have a sleepover in their room. I carried in his mattress while the boys brought his bag of cars, his rocket, his treasure box, and the all important blue light lamp. They wanted him to feel safe and made sure he had all of his favorite things.

Again I’m in tears.

As they get older they are bonding, as well as siblings can when autism is a factor. Tonight was a good night.

I am thankful for lost teeth and sleepovers. What are you thankful for this evening?

Hard Days

Have you ever wanted to run to the top of a mountain and just scream? I’m talking the type of scream that has hot tears running down your face, your whole body shakes, sweat pouring off of you and it solves absolutely nothing but you continue to scream anyway type of scream because no one can hear you. The type of scream that makes you feel better for just a split second but you know the pain that will follow in your throat for days to come. The type of scream you scream where no one else can hear your sadness, your isolation, your frustration, your pain. The life as an autism mom has these days, today in fact was one of those days.

I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s back up.

Like most families we have our days. We have days that are good, days that are okay, a few great days that give us the strength to continue forward and then those days were I feel like a complete failure. Meltdown after meltdown. Nothing. Going. Right. Days. These days drain everything ounce out of me. This day started around 4am this morning.

I knew when we went to bed it was going to be a long night. I saw the signs.

I had to tell him daddy was on call this weekend so he would not be in to see them. Big Sis had told him she had plans to go to a football game so he would not see her for a few hours. My other little loves were excited for the weekend and the noise level in the house showed it. He paced the floors in a circle around the couch. He held his stomach as he does when he “needs to go” I check his calendar, it’s been four days, he will probably go this evening. I make a mental note to take extra pull-ups and wipes to bed with me. By nine all the kids are sleeping, even him, but he is not resting. He tosses and turns in his bed. I hear him groan as he sleeps and I know his belly hurts. I drift in and out of sleep because I know he will need me soon. Around midnight he yells and I run to his aid. He can’t sleep know, he is wide awake, I make his pullout bed in my room so he can feel safe. He finally drifts off to sleep around two and I can finally close my eyes.

Then it happens. 4am comes with screams of complete terror. I jump up but can’t see a thing. Complete. Darkness. I am frozen for a split second until my ears lock on his scream. Power outage. I’m not prepared. All I have is the flashlight on my phone. Why oh why did I not unpack the candles? He makes his way to me he is now wide awake once more no sleep for us now. With every noise, every sound he hears and his mind wonders. By five two more of my little loves join us in my dark bedroom. They are also scared. I must be brave even though my heart is racing. Finally around seven the sun begins to break through the clouds. The scary night is over, a new day can begin.

But his routine has been changed. Nothing will be easy today. I try my best to make it work but it does not. Daddy is suppose to be here today. He is not and our wild man does not understand. Things spiral. Lack of sleep is not helping the situation. We load up and drive to my parents. He is happy to see them, but notes that he sees them on Sundays not Saturdays. He writes me a note letting me know he loves me, hard days are less hard when he gives me notes like these. A few hours at their house was helpful, maybe the rest of the day will be better. Cue meltdown number three.

Car ride home. Sister singing. Brothers laughing. Sister yelling for brothers to stop. Noise all around. I ask them to calm down, I fear it’s to late. To much for him to handle. So it starts.

Hitting. Kicking. Screaming. His body takes over. I get us home. I try to hold him, try to contain the storm within him, but he is not a small two year old anymore he is a 65 pound seven year old that is stronger than an ox. I really wish my husband were here. A few hours, yes hours, pass and the storm is once again my sweet loveable little man. He says things like, I sorry momma, I will not bite myself again momma. Momma today a bad day. He cries. I cry. I pray for rest tonight but can see it will be another long night. Days like these are hard.

I try to be honest about how life is. I try to let those that want to know how things are going, how things are actually going. But no one really understands what it’s like to have a child with autism unless they have a child with autism. I try to make things as normal as possible around here, whatever that is, but there are days I feel so isolated. There are days I feel like all I do is scream both figuratively and literally. There are days I wish I could get in his mind and figure out the why’s and why not’s. People say we are lucky because he can talk now, and we are blessed he has found his voice. But that does not make his autism less hard. It’s hard. So hard.

I look over at him. He is finally fast asleep in his pullout bed right beside my bed. He is at peace. He feels safe and that’s what’s most important to me at this point. I set here on the top of my mountain screaming inside knowing no one hears me. I pull on my invisible super mom cape so that people see what they want to see, so they don’t feel obligated to pretend to understand or worse give me advice on what I should do when he acts out. Tonight as I look at him and know we made it through a hard day we pray for strength to get through future hard days. We pray for a better days. An easier day. I pray I can be the mom he needs me to be. And I give God thanks for making me his mom. God knew we needed each other on days like this. Tomorrow is a new day.

What’s Best for Him

Our school year is well underway, our little loves are adjusting to their new teachers, bus drivers, and schedules….well most of them. Our littlest guy was not adapting well at all. While his brothers and sister were excited to see what their new school’s had to offer them he was terrified. Completely. Terrified. This year he would be in class without his brother. This year he had a male teacher. This year he would start without knowing anyone. Kindergarten can be a scary place. His preschool had some worries about him starting kindergarten. Academically he was ready. He knows all of his colors, he can count to 100, he knows his shapes, and he can write all the letters not the alphabet. He can even correctly spell his full name. He can even sign the alphabet (forward and backward) I think he is pretty smart for a new five year old. But kindergarten is more than A B C’s and 1 2 3’s. Socially he is not ready. We tried the kindergarten class, but within a few days we knew it was not going to work. His teacher said he would stay to himself, he would not answer (or even acknowledge) anyone that asked him a question. He basically shutdown on us all.

He did not want to get up in the mornings. He cried as we went to the bus. He would not talk about anything that happened during his day. He didn’t want to go to bed at night because he knew he had to get up and go to school the next morning. Our happy, go lucky, always making a joke kid was miserable. My momma heart broke for him. When the school called for our meeting I knew something had to change.

As I sat in a room with teachers and staff that barely knew my son, I questioned if we/I was doing the right thing for him. If I stuck to the plan with him staying in kindergarten he could come out of his shell in a few weeks/months and everything could be okay. He could also be completely miserable and in the end fail kindergarten and have to repeat it again next year. Or we could place him back in preschool and help him build on his social skills and possibly transition him into the kindergarten class a few days towards the end of the year and that way he would be ready for kindergarten next year. The choice was clear. He needed another year of preschool. But how would he adjust to yet another change this year?

Part of me wants both of my five year olds in kindergarten together. But I want what’s best for him, not what I pictured life would be. He needs this. His teacher knew I was worried about the decision we made, so she sent me a few photos through this first day. I can’t tell you how much those photos meant to me. And when he got off the bus from his “second first day” the smile on his face said it all. He was happy, so very happy.

I hope as the years go by he understands why he and his brother are not in the same grade. I hope he understands we did what we thought was best for him. I hope he understands that every decision we make is in hopes of giving him a better life and giving him the best opportunity we can. But those are all questions for a later day. For now I will focus on the smile on his cute little face and know that he is happy and feels comfortable in his new class. Here’s to a great preschool year!!

Feeling Less, but I know I am so much More

**** this is not my normal laugh at what my kids did post. No this time, this one is about me****

Blah blah blah,

That’s how I’ve felt the last few days (okay weeks) This whole hysterectomy thing has really hit me hard in ways I did not expect.

Back in 2006 I had a procedure done where I was told it would be nearly impossible for me to get pregnant again. At the time I was trapped in an unhealthy, abusive marriage so I was fine with not being able to have anymore children. Bringing more children into that situation would not have been good for anyone. So I accepted my fate and moved on with life.

Fast forward a few years and I find myself divorced and personally struggling with not being enough for anyone. I had been told for years I was not smart enough, or pretty enough, and not worth being loved by anyone. In my mind I wondered who would want someone so unworthy like me? Would anyone ever be able to love me and all my brokenness?

Things slowly changed when I was reintroduced to Todd. In 2009 I was still struggling with my self worth but he made me see myself in ways I had never seen myself before. I was lovable and beautiful in my own ways. He loved me for who he saw me to be not the person I had been told for years I was.

After we were married I often wished I could give him a child of his own, I knew it was close to impossible but I held onto that ever so slim chance that one day it could happen. As we became foster parents and eventually adopted our five little loves the personal need disappeared. That was until I heard the words “complete hysterectomy” come out of my doctors mouth.

Those words played over and over in my mind on my four hour drive home a month ago. This phrase meant I would never have another child. That slim chance I had clinched to over our marriage was now gone. I felt the struggles of my old inner self, doubting myself worth. I would be less of a women, less of a person, I would not be whole. I would not be enough. It’s strange how things you have no control over mess with you on a deeper level.

I didn’t want to but I had surgery a few weeks ago. Those first few days after I don’t remember much, other than my mom coming into the room and asking my if I needed anything or asking me what cartoons the kids could watch (eight year old viruses a two year old. Got to find a middle ground) As I started to physically heal my emotions were all over the place. I caught myself thinking What will my husband think of this me? What if I can’t be the same me I was before surgery?

I could not do much of anything so it was the perfect time to dive into the Bible and spend some one on one time with my Lord. Page after page lead me to a story of someone who thought they to were not enough but God used them anyway. In His eyes we are enough. In fact we are more than enough when we seek His guidance and look to Him for our strength. My “inside parts” do not define who God wants me to be. They are not the only things that make me a woman and I am certainly not less of a woman now that they are gone.

Our society has, for lack of a better word, has brainwashed by setting a strong definition as to what a “woman” is. But that’s not ALL a woman is. We are strong, beautiful, independent, confident, caring, nurturing, and loving. Some of us have no children some of us have ten kids. So of us work outside the home some are stay at home wife’s/mom’s. Some of us run marathons while others prefer to dance. We are all different, yet we are all beautiful in the eyes of our Lord. He does not make mistakes He only makes masterpieces.

Do I feel different? Maybe a little. But I know I am still the same person I was. It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. My grandmother use to always work on them. Sometimes we would run across a puzzle she had picked up at a yard sale or at Goodwill and she would have “extra” pieces. After she fixed the puzzle she would just throw the other pieces out because they were no longer needed. The puzzle was already beautiful. I no longer needed my “extra pieces”. God knew I would still be me.

A Little Time for Me

Hello everyone, it’s been a little while. I took a few days (weeks) off from my blog to prepare for all that this summer will hold.

My little loves are now on summer break. We don’t have any major vacation plans so that means for the next few months the majority of my time will be spent at home with our kiddos. So far the first week of their summer break we have spent most of our time inside due to the massive amount of rain we are receiving. Needless to say they are ready for some prettier days so we can be outside. I’m ready. Bring. It. On.

We have all heard the saying In order to care for others we must first take care of ourselves. I for one am not the type of mom that normally goes off to do “fun things” without her husband and children in tow. But this year I took some time for me before our summer actually began. Before the judgement starts let me explain.

My mother has always wanted to go on a cruise. So with her recent retirement and her birthday in mind, my oldest daughter and I planned a Girls Trip for just the three of us. We gave her a photo of the ship for Christmas and giggled as she thanked us awkwardly for the piece of paper. When we explained to her what the paper represented she was in tears. For the next few months my oldest and I planned out the details of the trip to ensure my mom’s first cruise was a success. And it was. From the moment we left the house, to seeing mom see the ship for the first time, to her birthday drink, to her clogging to the country karaoke, to celebrating a young couples engagement and everything in between it was a wonderful trip. I’m so thankful we took it together. I needed some time to just be Crystal and not “that mom of seven” or “the foster mom”

We returned home and my little loves were on their first day of summer break. My wonderful husband, amazing dad, and fantastic son took care of the little ones while I was cruising the Bahamas. I could not ask for a better support system.

When I returned home I was hit with news from not one but two of my doctors offices. News I knew was coming but had kept to myself and tried not to think about it. First I was given my date for my hysterectomy. Mid June. I can do that. And then the insurance company finally approved my next round of injections for my spine, also in June. As I made preparations for both I could not help but think how perfectly timed our girls trip was. I needed that trip to just be me and relax and not worry about all the chaos in our lives. I needed that time so I can be the best me I can be for my kids, my husband, and my family.

As a wife and mom my job is to take care my husband and our children. I can’t do that if I don’t take care of me first. I know things will be fine, I have the best doctors around. And I know that there are far worse things going on in the world, even in our family, that God needs to focus on. I don’t worry about me I worry about how things will affect our family. I guess that’s normal. The next few weeks are going to be crazy around here. Definitely not the summer I had planned but it’s what we have been dealt and we will make the best of it. Together.

It’s important for moms (and dads) to take a little me time every now and then. Most of us can’t take vacations all the time, and even if you can I’m sure your children go with you. I’m just saying it important to spend some time by yourself, come think about it I still had my twenty three years old with me so I was technically not childless but you get my point. I do take a few minutes each day for me. Read a book, watch the sunrise, sip a Dr Pepper and eat a donut in the bathroom, read a devotional, go to the bedroom and just sit in the quiet, or whatever you need to do just make sure you take a few minutes to focus on you. Your husband and kids will thank you. Be the mom you want to be and the your kids deserve. I hope everyone enjoys their summer. Time to go watch a movie with my little loves. Until next time,

TAKE CARE OF YOU! You are smart, you are loved, you are beautiful inside and out, you deserve to be the best you you can be❤️