Gracie Goes to Disneyland: The Adventures of Our Elf on the Shelf!

A few weeks before our family left for Disneyland, I asked Chris “How funny would it be if Gracie made the trip to Disneyland with us?” to which he replied “Let’s do it!”.  I’m so thankful for a husband who is game for my silly antics!

Gracie was packed & ready to go the morning we left!


She sat up front with us.  The funny thing is, Chris and I drove by ourselves as the girls rode with my parents.


Finally to the state line!


They didn’t look too scary so I picked these two up!  What do you think the chances were that a bus-load of prisoners would pass us as we were taking this picture? Yep….totally happened!  


Raring & ready to go the first morning!


Checking out the crowd while hanging out on Aunt Jenny’s shoulder.


Happy to be safe & sound with Chris!


The obligatory photo op by the tree!


Gracie had no idea that Space Mountain would be as fast as it was!


It’s a Small World was definitely more her speed!  She was thrilled to see the North Pole! She rode the whole ride on Grandpa’s shoulder…he’s such a good sport!


The Jingle Cruise was another favorite!


Ready for our character breakfast on Christmas morning!


She loved the attention from Rafiki!


And thought Alice was definitely beautiful!


Her favorite ride of all was definitely California Screamin’! She was happy to be sitting next to Skylar! (Sorry for the picture of a picture!)


All in all it was an amazing vacation for Gracie!  She is hoping for a family Christmas cruise next year!  We sent her back to the North Pole with the message to Santa to help make that happen!

I hope you enjoyed Gracie’s adventure to Disneyland!

Make it a great week!


*We clearly do not follow the “don’t touch the elf or she’ll lose her power” rule!  We were more than happy to include everyone in on the fun with Gracie!



























Hello December

Hi there, friends!  December is one of my favorite times of year and I was so excited to say Hello to December this year!  This morning we went to church and I was thrilled to find that it was Communion Sunday!  Seriously…what an AMAZING way to usher in this season of Advent!  It was beautiful!

My friend, Stephanie, posed the question today “What are you doing this Christmas to be intentional in making this a season of joy?”  I shared our family’s plans with her and thought I would share them here with all of you!  First and foremost, I want to keep my focus on the reason for this season, and that is Jesus!

So here are the things that we as a family will be doing to focus on Advent, document our memories, make fun memories together, & serve others this Christmas season.


I searched for devotionals that would be good for both Skylar and Hailey.  I wanted to make sure that they would interest Skylar, but also challenge Hailey.  I found the perfect resource!  We are using the e-book Reasons for the Season by Kathy Hutto. I’m looking forward to all the different activities we will do together as a family.

For my personal devotional time, I’m looking forward to using the Advent devotional videos from Ann Voskamp and also following along with the Advent devotional series from Good Morning Girls.



I’m really looking forward to documenting our December with a simplified version of Ali Edward’s December Daily.  This year I will be using one photo from each day, like the one above, dated with these digital elements.  It’s going to be super easy:  snap photo, print, back on chipboard, & attach all photos with rings.  I’ll be sure to show you as the month goes along.


We have a list of activities that we are going to do as a family.  Each day we will do one activity.  Here are a few examples:

-watch a Christmas movie together (this is one we will do multiple times)

-get cocoa and drive around to see the Christmas lights

-bake cookies for our friends and neighbors

-make a CD of our favorite Christmas music and share it with some of our friends

-go to ZooLights with our cousins

-pick out a new ornament from the Christmas Store

We will also choose different service projects as a family.  Some will be simpler than others, but we want to make sure the girls recognize that helping others is what we are called to do.



This morning marked the return of our friendly elf, Gracie.  The girls absolutely love her!  When Skylar walked into the kitchen and saw Gracie, she read the card and said “Oh Gracie!  I missed you too!”  Pretty sure that Chris and I enjoy this way more than the girls do.  Who would’ve thought?  I seriously used to poke fun at people that did this.  You can see the post of silly things that Gracie did last year, HERE.

We are looking forward to a fabulous December and I hope you are too!

What are you doing to make this December full of joy?

Whatever it is, make it great!


The Antics of our Elf on the Shelf, Gracie!

Hello friends!  So excited to share the adventures of our Elf on the Shelf, Gracie with you today.  I need to give a shout out to my grandmother and Aunt Carol who shared the Elf on the Shelf craze with our family last Christmas.  I admit that I was originally against adding in this tradition, but I am really glad that we decided to do it!  The girls LOVED Gracie, but I’m pretty sure that Chris and I had even more fun with Gracie’s antics.

For those of you who are new to my blog, both of our girls are on the autism spectrum.  They are very literal and we usually know exactly what they are thinking, as it just spills out!  Hailey cracked me up with her almost daily comments about what Gracie had done.  I’ll add her thoughts below the pictures.



This was our first morning with Gracie and the girls thought she was pretty funny. Hailey jumped in on the fun and continued to take parts of the orange away during the day.



“Good thing she didn’t eat all the Cheerios, Skylar would have been mad!”-Hailey



“That’s hilarious!  She must not be afraid of heights like you are mom!”-Hailey





We went down to Phoenix for an overnight trip and the girls didn’t want to take Gracie with us.  They wanted to see what she would do while we were out of town. This presented a challenge for Chris and me.  Gracie got all settled into her bubble bath right after the kids got in the car.  When we returned home the next day, the marshmallows were pretty stiff from sitting out for about 24 hours.  Hailey said, “Well that can’t be comfortable!  Why would she want to bathe in hard marshmallows?”



“I can not believe that Gracie knocked the angel off the tree!  That should definitely put her on the naughty list!”-Hailey





“I can’t believe Gracie didn’t eat all of her cake!  It was SO good!  Can I have the rest?”-Hailey



“Well that’s a waste of a perfectly good straw!”-Hailey



This is a really blurry picture, but Hailey’s comments were some of my favorite.  She said, “Oh my word!  Why is she reading Twilight?  Who told her those books were good?”





“Wow!  I hope those are clean!!!”-Hailey





“EWWW!  How’d she do that?  That is really weird!”-Hailey



“What a waste of toilet paper!  You’d better save that, I’m sure we’re going to need it!”-Hailey

Thanks for reading about our adventures with Gracie!  The girls were excited that she left a note saying goodbye and that she would be back next year.

Blessings for a great New Year for all of you!

Make it great!


December Daily: Day 1

This year I am going to document our daily December happenings here on my blog! December Daily is a concept that has been made wildly popular by Ali Edwards.  She is an amazing mom, story-teller, documenter of life, and human being. You can check out her December Daily posts HERE.   I will incorporate the photos that I share here into both my Project Life album as well as a small mini-book.

We all know how busy the Christmas season can be, and because of that I want to add my photos and my journaling here so that I have it documented.  We are doing several fun activities during December, including our advent boxes, Ann Voskamp’s Advent Jesse Tree devotionals/activities, and silly visits from our Elf on the Shelf, Gracie.



I made these cute little boxes several years ago and have displayed them several ways. This year I have them lined up on our piano.  Each box contains an activity for our family to do together.  Some of the activities are big and some are simple.


We started off December with a full day of activities!  The first Saturday of December in Prescott is the Annual Christmas parade and Town Hall lighting.  Prescott is a pretty small town and the parade had a lot of neat elements.

Old Cars


Little Ponies


The Shriners in their Cute Cars



Chris’ Cadets


And our favorite part of the parade…friends!

This is Hailey’s friend, Maggy.  I love that this drum is bigger than she is!


This is Hailey’s buddy, Owen.  They hung out the entire parade.  Thankful that Hailey has sweet friends!


After a little break, we went back to the square and waited for the Annual Courthouse Lighting.  The lighting is one of our favorite events.  I wrote about it last year, here.

The square was packed with people all waiting to hear the Christmas story read straight from the Bible.  Several local school choirs sang various Christmas carols throughout the reading.  At the very end, the courthouse and all the trees surrounding the courthouse lit up.  We were thankful to be sharing this experience with several of our great friends.


Following the lighting we had our friends over for home-made cocoa and cookies.  I made THIS amazing recipe that I found on Pinterest.  I have had WAY too much fun pinning various Christmas recipes and ideas.  You can check out and follow my pinterest boards HERE.

Thanks for stopping by today!  I know I’ve been absent for awhile, but I’m looking forward to sharing a fun month with all of you!

Make it great!


The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly!

When I started this blog a few months ago I did so because I wanted to share our experiences of raising a daughter with autism.  I love sharing about our successes and our blessings. I also love to share our No Filter Friday series as these are the moments that keep us in stitches.  Although I don’t particularly love to share the sorrows and pains of having a child with autism, I think it is absolutely necessary that I do.  I believe in being 100% real with all of you.  My life isn’t perfect and I don’t believe that there is anyone that can make this claim.  I do believe that life is good.  I know that I have been blessed beyond measure with 2 beautiful and sweet daughters, a very loving and supportive family, & a husband who “takes the cake”!  But you know what?  Some days life is hard!  Some days I can’t seem to shake the sadness that hangs over my head like a black cloud.  This past week has been that kind of week for me and I think it is important for me to share with all of you why I think it has been especially tough.

This summer will mark 10 years since Skylar was officially diagnosed with autism and of all the years that have gone by, this year has been the most difficult for me.  I had told Chris this and his question for me was “Why do you think that is?”  And my answer is this:

When Skylar was first diagnosed, I was in complete survival mode.  Not only did I now have a child with autism, but I also had Hailey who was very ill and had just had her g-tube placed.  I threw myself into researching anything and everything I could get my hands on.  I honestly don’t think I had time to be emotional as I was working non-stop to help my girls. The years passed and Skylar made significant progress in many areas and even though she was years behind her peers in life skills and some educational areas I always still saw her as my “little girl”, but this year, she has really started to physically change.  She is no longer a little girl, but a young lady. If she stands on her tip-toes, she can look me straight in the eye.  As she has grown up the gap between her and her typical peers has become more noticeable.  I’ve really tried not to let that get me down. I work so hard at trying to focus on the positive.  I’ve always believed that Skylar will progress at her own rate.  But as I was shopping for Christmas this year it REALLY hit me.

Skylar loves to play with toys well below her age level.  She always has.  I don’t think I noticed it as much when she was 8 and she really liked toys that were for ages 3-5.  I think it was because I was still buying younger toys for Hailey as well as for my younger niece and nephew.  But as I was shopping this year and ordering things for Skylar, the “age appropriate labels” were for that of a 5-6 year old.  When I saw that, it made me tremendously sad.  I know it shouldn’t, but it does.  And when you are checking out of Wal Mart or Target and the nice clerk says “Wow! I bet you’ll have a little one who is thrilled when she opens this!” the sadness is overwhelming.

In working through my sadness this week I have spent a lot of time crying, praying, hoping, and looking forward.

-I have cried knowing that people will make fun of her for playing with toys that are well below her age level.

-I have cried over the bits & pieces of life we have seen our niece experience that we know Skylar probably never will.  We are not bitter that she gets to experience life, in fact it is just the opposite.  We are thrilled that she is experiencing things a typical teenager does.

-I have cried because that is just what a mom does when she hurts.  I can’t explain the hurt to someone who is not a mom.  Chris even says “Honey, I don’t always understand your hurt, because I truly believe that a mom worries and aches for her child like no one else”.

-I have prayed earnestly that the Lord would give me a total peace and understanding as we move into a new part of our journey. Let me tell you, puberty with a child with special needs is a REALLY bumpy road.

-I have prayed that the Lord would soften the hearts of those around us and that they would be completely understanding and accepting of who Skylar is and who He is shaping her to be.

-I have prayed that my family will be understanding that sometimes I am just sad and I just need time to work through it.

-I have prayed that the Lord would use me to tell our story, even the sad parts.

-I have prayed that I will let go of the worries of what other people will think, say, or feel and that I will just enjoy every precious moment I have with my girls.

-I hope that our story will encourage others on their journey.

-I hope that people will know that it is ok to be sad and to tell others about that sadness.

-I hope that if you have a child with special needs that you will know that you are NOT alone.  There is a vast community that wants to come along side of you.

-I hope that if you know someone with a family member with special needs that this might give you a glimpse into their lives.

This week as my family gathers to celebrate Christmas I’m looking forward to a lot!

-I’m looking forward to the joy on Skylar’s face as she opens her gifts, no matter what the “age appropriate” label says.

-I’m looking forward to having a little one here this year.  My niece is 2 1/2 and I can’t wait to see her excitement.

-I’m looking forward to my dad reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ to all 6 of his grandchildren.

-I’m looking forward to putting together a puzzle with my dad and my sister like we do each year, most likely with the Lord of the Rings trilogy playing in the background.

-I’m actually looking forward to the comments about how we are puzzle nerds from Chris and my bro-in-law Jeff.  They just do NOT find joy in putting a puzzle together.

-I’m looking forward to a house full of laughter and family.

-I’m looking forward to our tradition of seeing a movie on Christmas day.  I believe that this year’s pick is the new Mission Impossible.

And most importantly:

-I’m looking forward to a beautiful Christmas Eve service focusing on our Lord & Savior who came to Earth over 2000 years ago bringing HOPE to a world that needed it desperately!

May the Lord truly bless each & everyone of you!


*I was nominated for one of Babble’s Top Autism Spectrum Blogs.  I’m totally honored by this.  If you read my blog and you have found it helpful I would appreciate your vote.  I am currently #19.  You can click here and search for I Am JuJu, then click on the “I Like This” icon.  I believe you can only vote for one blog per computer/device. Thank you so much for your support!  I love sharing our journey with others and I truly hope that it brings hope and understanding regarding Autism.*