Project Life 2013: Weeks 1 & 2

Welcome to Project Life Tuesday!  I’m sharing weeks 1 & 2 today as I haven’t shared it yet and I’m on vacation.  The first two weeks of the year were pretty rough for our family.  The first week the girls had bronchitis and sinus infections and the second week we did.

I decided to include both weeks in one layout.  The one thing I love about project life is that it was designed to make memory recording simpler.  No rules!  Last year I found myself getting really stressed out by what I thought I “had” to do.  After we were sick, I realized that I could easily combine those 2 weeks and just call it done. I’m really happy with the way they turned out.  Giving myself permission not to follow the “norm” was really freeing!

My layouts were really simple and it is mainly just pictures and journaling.  I used the Seafoam Edition and a couple other miscellaneous items.

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There you have it!  Simple and recorded.  Those two weeks were exhausting and full of medicine, tissues, sleeping, lots of tv watching, and meals from friends.

Tomorrow, I’m going to be sharing some of the fun games we have been playing while we’ve been on vacation.  I hope you are enjoying your summer (or your winter…depending on where you live).

I’m linking up with The Mom Creative!  Head over there and see all the other projcect life layouts this week.

You can see my previous project life posts here.

Make it great!

JuJu

Project Life was created by Becky Higgins as a simple solution to documenting your memories.  You can learn more about project life here.

Currently: On My Bookshelf

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The above books are the physical books that I am hoping to devour in the next two months.  I also have books, e-books, and audiobooks on my Kindle.  I’ll share those titles with you another day.  This collection of books includes an autobiography, a couple of fiction novels, and books on Christianity, healthy living, autism, reading/homeschooling, building relationships, and one just laugh out loud book of silliness!

A couple of the books, Nourishing Traditions and Secrets to a Healthy Metabolism, are books I read and re-read.  I consider them healthy eating reference guides.  They are packed full of lots of great information, but sometimes sitting down and trying to digest too much in one sitting gives me a headache!

I am currently reading Anything by Jennie Allen as part of an on-line Bible study that I’m doing through Good Morning Girls.  I had already purchased it and then found out about the study.  It is about fully surrendering your life to God.  Truly being open to ANYTHING He might have for you.  It has stretched me more than I ever thought possible!  So exciting!  Jennie talks about Kisses from Katie in the book so I am reading that simultaneously as we only cover a few chapters a week in our study. My sister also read Kisses from Katie and said it was phenomenal!

Here is a complete list of the books that are on my bookshelf to read this summer.  I broke them down by category.

Autism

Delightfully Different by D.S. Walker

Autobiography

One Call Away by Brenda Warner (wife of former NFL quaterback Kurt Warner) : this probably could have gone in the Christian category as both Steve and Brenda are Christians who are very open to share how Jesus radically changed their lives!

Christianity

Anything by Jennie Allen

Forgotten God by Francis Chan

The Great Evangelical Recession by John Dickerson (this is actually the pastor of our church)

The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne

Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis

Radical by David Platt

The Shack by William Young

What Women Fear by Angie Smith

Fiction

The Accidental Family by Rowan Coleman

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

Swapping Lives by Jane Green

Healthy Living

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

Secrets to a Healthy Metabolism by Maria Emmerich

Humor

F in Exams:  The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers by Richard Benson (seriously!  This is laugh out loud funny!  We keep it out and read it from day to day. I can’t imagine being one of the teachers/professors that received one of these test answers from a student!)

Reading/Fostering a Love of Reading in Children

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

Honey for a Teen’s Heart by Gladys Hunt & Barbara Hampton

The Reading Promise:  My Father and the Books We Share Alice Ozma

So there is my list! Have you read any of these books?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of them!  I’d also love to hear what you are currently reading and if there are any titles that you think are a must-read this summer!  You can leave them in the comments!

Have a great day!

Make it great!

JuJu

Project Life 2013: Week 25

It is so nice to be back sharing my Project Life pages with all of you!  I took quite a long break from blogging and Project Life.  The release of the new editions through Hobby Lobby really got me excited again to work on my weekly pages.  I’m not sure yet how I will be sharing my pages, but decided this week to just jump in with the current week.  It was quite the week with a forrest fire that started 5 miles from our house, Hailey’s interview for private school, and a trip to Bearizona and Flagstaff.

I used the Honey edition this week along with multiple journaling cards and accents from Finding Nana!  My love for all of Leena’s goodies did not diminish one bit while I was on hiatus.

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Chris and I started taking guitar lessons together this week.  This has been something we have talked about doing since we first got married in 1997.  Better late than never!  I also put a picture of the fire from our back deck.  It was so eery to see all that smoke and the flames that close to our house.

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Last Thursday we made arrangements to go see my friend, Heather in Flagstaff on her way through town.  We decided to stop at a drive-thru wildlife park, Bearizona, on our way up.  You can read all about our visit HERE.

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Like I mentioned above, all the little accent pieces (smile, the memo circle, the remember tag, and 3 of the journal cards) came from Finding Nana’s shop.  I have all 3 sets of labels (Take Note, Daily Memory, and On the Road Labels).

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I took quite a few pictures at Bearizona, so I included a flip-up protector in order to add the additional pictures.  This was definitely a picture heavy week with all we had going on and I had already scaled back on the dozens of pictures I took.

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Well there you have it!  It felt so great to be back in my craft space, printing out pictures, journaling about our week, and telling our story!

Thanks for stopping by!  If you want to see some more project life pages, head over to The Mom Creative and check out all the other project lifers!

If you have any questions about project life or the products I used, please leave them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them!

You can see my previous project life posts here.

Make it great!

JuJu

Project Life was created by Becky Higgins as a simple solution to documenting your memories.  You can learn more about project life here.

Exploring Our State: BEARIZONA

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As a military family we have the wonderful opportunity to live in all sorts of amazing places. We try to get out and explore the area and support the local economy.  Some assignments we do better than others.  We have lived in Northern Arizona for a little over 2 years now and we only have 1 year left here before we are off on our next adventure.  

I was talking with Chris last week and I told him that I really felt like I had slacked off on exploring our state during this assignment.  I loved his response:  We have an entire year left here, so let’s get out and start exploring.  

So that is our plan!  Sometimes it is easier to just stick close to home as we never know how Skylar is going to respond to an outing, but we are really working hard at preparing her for changes in routine and helping her enjoy different places.  

Last week we had made arrangements to go and visit with my friend, Heather and her kids as they were stopping off in Flagstaff on their way to Vegas.  We made plans to meet in the afternoon, but with Chris taking the day off work, I suggested that we stop off at Bearizona, a drive-thru wildlife park on our way.  Chris was totally game.  We have literally passed this park a dozen or more times on our way to and from New Mexico, each time saying “We should really stop there sometime!”  I’m happy to report that we finally stopped talking about stopping and actually stopped.

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We stopped in Williams to grab a bite to eat.  We weren’t sure if there was food available at the park as their website didn’t mention anything.  

We arrived at the park shortly after lunch and there wasn’t a line at all.  It cost our family of 4 about $70 to drive through the park.  That included our military discount. The nice thing for larger families is that they don’t charge over $100 a vehicle, so if you have a gaggle of kids, you won’t pay over $100.  You can also purchase an annual pass that would cover everyone in the vehicle for $175.  My first thought was that the cost was a bit steep for a 2-mile drive thru wildlife park, but at the entrance we found out that the cost not only includes the drive thru part, but also a small zoo at the end, a High Country Raptors bird show, and an open bus tour.  

After receiving our instructions, we headed into the wildlife park.  Hailey was super excited, but Skylar was a bit anxious about the animals coming up to the vehicle after the stearn “windows up and vehicles locked” warning we received.  Chris, being the total goof that he is, got totally tickled by the “lock your car doors” warning and kept saying “Seriously!  These animals can’t open our doors!” which lead to huge amounts of giggling from me, Chris, and Hailey and lots of “Stop laughing!  They are going to get us!” from Skylar!

We saw quite a few different animals on our way through.  Our first was the mountain goats, who actually positioned themselves in front of our van, even resting their chins on the hood.  Hailey loved that!  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a picture of them as we were facing into the sun and there was a total glare through the windows.  I could have rolled down the windows in this section, but after trying to do so, we quickly rolled them back up after Skylar started shrieking & yelling “You are breaking the rules!  The goats are going to eat us!”  

After the goats we got to see: 

Big Horn Sheep (we were pretty sure this guy was laughing at us!)

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And Bison (not a whole lot of movement from these fellas)

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Then we came upon the wolf enclosure.  This sign cracked me up!  

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All the wolves were sleeping as we went through, but we enjoyed seeing them all sacked out while we drove through.  Some of them slept right in the middle of the woods, while others were under man-made shade structures.  As we drove out of the wolf enclosure there was a nice, young girl there to answer any questions.  Our only questions was:  How do they ensure that the wolves stay in the enclosures? We noticed that there were cattle guards at the entrance and exit, but we thought that the wolves could jump over them.  We were told that the wolves wouldn’t jump over the guards as they do not like unsteady ground, but that they also have electric pads before the guards to ensure they don’t try anything silly!  (Those are my words, not the Bearizona employees!  She was much more technical and professional!)

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As we drove through seeing a different type of bison, we remarked about the beauty of the mountain!  Nothing but beautiful hilltops and pine trees as far as you could see.  Northern Arizona is truly stunning!

After seeing some more sheep we finally made it to the bear enclosure.

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The pictures aren’t the greatest as I had to take them through the dirty windows. We were thankful that about half way through the bear enclosure that a couple of the bears were a bit more active.  The bear below was a good hundred yards from our car, but Skylar was not happy!  She kept encouraging us to keep moving.  Our favorite was “Remember the sign? Move along if they approach your car!”  She was not even messing around!  To her this bear might as well have been sitting on our car.  She wanted to get out of there!

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To Skylar’s delight, we finally came to the end of the drive-thru segment.  She wasn’t super excited about getting out of the car to go to the zoo section because she was anxious to get to Flagstaff to see our friends.  After explaining to her that they weren’t ready to meet us yet, she got out of the car.  As soon as we walked through the entrance she was happy to be there.

The girls’ loved this peacock that walked back and forth with these little babies following her. We weren’t actually sure if they were her babies or if they belonged to the chickens that also roamed about freely.

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They also had a really large enclosure for a bunch of bear cubs.  They were totally adorable and both the girls loved seeing them.  We also got to see a beaver, a porcupine, a badger, a lynx, racoons, a couple of foxes, and some pigs and various other farm animals.  We had to stop and take a break as we walked through because Skylar was warm and her feet hurt.  Thankful that they had cute benches all along the way.

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We just missed the bird show, but we heard some people talking about how neat it was.  Maybe next time we will try and time our visit better in order to see it.  Also, the zoo did have food and ice cream available so that is nice to know for our next visit.  

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We really had a good visit to Bearizona and would recommend that anyone visit there at least once.  We would do a couple of things differently if we were to visit again: (these are things that would help us with having Skylar, not anything that Bearizona could do differently!)

-allow Skylar to use her i-pad while we are in the wolf & bear enclosures (I think this would have cut down on her anxiety tremendously!)

-either pack a lunch or plan on having luch at the zoo portion;  (or at least ice cream)

-develop some type of learning activity with the animals in the zoo portion.  My thought was some type of scavenger hunt or tic tac toe that incorporated a question that is specific to the type of animal (i.e.  I am a nocturnal animal that likes to eat fish & plants and it sometimes looks like I’m wearing a mask.  Who am I?) Some of the questions the girls might know right away, but some would require them to read the information about the animals that are available outside the enclosures.  Just a thought! 

We are looking forward to exploring our state even more this coming year.  The places that we have down on our list to visit include:  Sedona, Jerome, the Grand Canyon,  and Tombstone.  We would love to hear of any suggestions you might have.  We are excited for a fun year of exploring Arizona!

Hope you all have a great day!  

Make it great!

JuJu

 

 

Totally Groovy

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This past Saturday we had the opportunity to attend a 60’s themed dance being held by a local program that puts on activities and events for individuals with special needs.  The program is called SNAP (special needs activity program).  It is really neat how the Lord orchestrated our learning about SNAP through the free swim at the Y and one of Chris’ cadets.  

Skylar was really excited to go and after I was asked to help serve dinner to the attendees, we decided to make it a family event.  Skylar actually went online and googled different 60’s themed outfits to get an idea of what to wear.  We got a suede vest at Goodwill and I made the headband out of some brown cord that I picked up at Hobby Lobby and a sunflower I had in my craft stash.  I knew that it would be important for Skylar to be comfortable or she wouldn’t want to stay long.  

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Before we left for the dance we took a bunch of portraits on the front porch.  The picture below was my absolute favorite!  It is a great picture of what it is like in our home.  Just complete silliness!  I told Chris that his glasses looked a bit more like Elton John than John Lennon!

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Oh how I love this crazy man!  

When we got to the dance, Skylar immediately got into line to get her food.  I loved having the opportunity to serve dinner to the other attendees.  It gave me a chance to say hello to everyone.  So many smiles, so many thanks!

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This was pretty much all Skylar cared about!  The food!  One of the guys she had met the week prior at bingo asked her if she wanted to dance and I heard her say “Nope!  I’m eating! I’ll dance later.”  

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It was fun to watch Hailey and Chris eat dinner and chat.  They truly enjoy each other’s company.  

Not long after dinner, people started making their way on to the dance floor.   As I watched them start dancing, some by themselves and some as couples, I remarked to Chris that I loved how there was no pretense.  No one looked worried about what other people were thinking.  There wasn’t anybody in the corner whispering about anyone dancing.  There were only smiles, complete joy!  My heart was overwhelmed as I watched everyone dancing and saw all the caregivers just beaming.  These were truly our people!

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Chris, Hailey, and I danced together for well over an hour.  Skylar didn’t want to be anywhere near us.  Total teenager!  While we were dancing, a sweet lady came up to me and shouted:

“Would you like to dance with me?  I am a FANTASTIC dancer!”

Well, how can you say no to that?

We danced for 3 or 4 songs and she sang her heart out the entire time.  It was awesome!  I loved hearing her sing all the 60’s music.  

One of my favorite parts of the night was watching Chris dance!  It was so funny. He had a blast.  He was definitely the guy all the ladies wanted to dance with.  He treated them all like princesses and they giggled with delight!  And just when I thought I couldn’t love this man any more than I already do, I watched as a lady in a wheelchair who was non-verbal reached out and grabbed his hand.  He took her hand, danced around her and just talked to her the whole time.  I fell more in love right there on the dancefloor!

The entire crowd errupted in cheering when the DJ played YMCA!  I told Chris that I was pretty sure that this was a 70’s song (it actually came out in 1978).  We figured that they must be playing a mix of 60’s and 70’s music.  That was until they played the Cha Cha slide, Celine Dion, and Taylor Swift.  That gave us a good laugh!  Not long after that, Skylar said her feet were tired and that she was hot!  These were both signals that she was done and ready to go home.

As we walked out to the car, both Hailey and Skylar remarked how much fun they had.  Chris and I definitely agreed that it was the most fun we’d had as a family in a long time.  One of the best comments of the evening came from Hailey. She said “I am so glad that I am a 21st century kid!  I could not have handled the clothes and the music of the 60’s!”  She is looking forward to the next dance, which is cowboy themed! (Can’t wait to see what Chris decides to wear to that one!)

We finished the night with a stop at our favorite frozen yogurt place and when Skylar walked out she said “This was the best night ever!”  I have to agree that it was pretty great!

And just to give you a little bit more of a glimpse into the silliness that is my family, I asked Chris and Skylar to look serious for a couple of pictures and this is what I got.

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Heaven help me!

Make it a great week!

JuJu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Fathers

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These 3 guys are my favorite fathers on earth!  From left to right, my brother-in-law, Jeff, my husband, Chris, and my dad, Tom.  All 3 of them are dedicated dads, hard workers, great husbands, spiritual leaders, & they are all totally funny!  They always have a good time when they are together!

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I am so thankful for a husband who loves his daughters with an amazing kind of love!

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Who prays with them over FaceTime while at military training.

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Who is willing to picture text clothing options when his daughter is sick!

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Who sits in a warm hyperbaric chamber so that they aren’t frightened.

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I’m also thankful that he loves our nieces & nephew like they were his own!

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And that he is never afraid to be silly!

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I’m also thankful for Jeff!  I’m so thankful that he came into my sister’s life when my oldest niece, Rebecca was a year old.  He has been an amazing dad to my nieces & nephew and you only have to be around them for about 5 minutes to realize that they are CRAZY about their dad & that the feeling is mutual!  

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When my sister went through cancer years ago, Jeff never left her side & I never stopped thanking God for bringing him into our family.

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And then there is my dad!  He has been such a source of encouragement to me and to my sister for our entire lives!

He is silly!

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He is competitive!

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And he is always a helper for Skylar!

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But I must say that one of the things I love the most about my dad, is how much he loves my husband!  He has been a spirtual mentor to Chris and he is one of the first people Chris goes to for career advice.

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And it sure doesn’t hurt that they share a deep love for the Arizona Wildcats!

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I can’t convey enough to you how blessed I have been by these men!  I am so thankful that the Lord saw fit to place each and every one of them in my life.  

Happy Father’s Day!

Make it great!

JuJu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where I’ve Been

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I realized that I haven’t written in this space for quite some time.  Thank you so much for the messages asking if everything is alright with our family.  The answer is:  everything has been good.  We are doing well.  Living life, focusing on what matters, learning new things, and enjoying each other.

I have several reasons that I have stepped back from sharing here on the blog.  The first and foremost reason is the division that exists in the autism community.  It really is totally ridiculous.  I’m so tired of people accusing others of not loving their kid fully if they wish that they could heal them.  I’m exhausted by the constant “I have it rougher than you” and the “you just don’t understand” mentality.  

We shouldn’t be beating each other up over what we do or do not do for our children.  We should be encouraging, listening, and coming alongside one another to walk this difficult road together.  

The other reason I haven’t written here is that I don’t want to constantly write about autism.  Autism is a big part of my life.  How could it not be?  Having two children on the spectrum, I am constantly faced with the ups and downs of autism, but I am so much more than just a parent to children with special needs.  

Today while driving home from the gym I said the following to Chris:

I’ve been thinking about blogging again, but I don’t just want to write about autism. Although it is a huge part of our lives, it doesn’t define me.  I love our girls and I want to share about their struggles and their triumphs, but I also want to share more about me.  I want to:

-write about the different books I’m reading or listening to

-get back to sharing my project life pages that I so love to put together

-share our adventures in homeschooling

-share the different things we are implementing in our home that make everyday life easier for me & the girls

-share the life lessons I really want the girls to learn

-share the constant funny things the girls say

-share about balancing my desire to be healthier with my love of food

-share what we are doing to really develop deep friendships & community with those around us

-share about our faith in Christ

I really just want to share my life with those that come to this space.  Share whatever is going on in our life at the time.  I don’t want to get wrapped up in number of readers, how many comments I receive, or other statistics.  My hope is that people will come here, be encouraged, laugh, and connect on a personal level. That is all I want!

Chris’ response was simple, yet just what I needed to hear.  He said:

I think you just wrote your blog post & I think it is perfect.  You ARE more than just a mom to children with special needs.  You have a lot to share with others.  I love you!

So there you have it my friends!  I look forward to being back in this space.  Sharing our lives with you.  Being real.  Being myself.  Some of the things I share might bore you to tears, but other things might excite you.  My one desire is that you will connect in some way!

Make it great!

JuJu

 

 

Attending Church with an Individual with Special Needs

Some days Skylar really struggles with going to church.  Yesterday, as I sat in worship, I got to thinking about why it is often difficult to take an individual with special needs to church.

It is difficult to explain the fears that many parents of special needs children have in taking their children into a worship service.  I hear from many families that they gave up going to church a long time ago!

Why is that?  Well, let me share with you my own thoughts on this matter.  Let me start off by saying that I am not speaking for all families that have a child with special needs, just MY family!  So here we go!

1)  PEOPLE STARE

This is a biggie!  I can’t even begin to tell you about the stares that we get.  You would think that it would be better in church, but nope..it isn’t!  This seriously saddens me!  I understand people’s curiosity, but for the love of all that’s holy, quit staring!  This wasn’t as much of an issue with us when Skylar was younger, but as she has grown into her teenage body, it has become more of an issue.  When you have a younger child in service who is a bit restless people don’t even think twice about it, but when you have a child who is taller than her mom and the age of a young high schooler, people are staring when she is hugging me tightly, holding my hand, rubbing her face against mine for that deep pressure input, or moving “a bit more than she should” during worship.  You know what?  If you can’t move during worship, when can you move?  One thing I won’t ever do is tell Skylar that she can’t dance during worship or tell her that she is singing too loud!  That is how she worships and I will never try to change that!  

2)  PEOPLE ARE JUDGEMENTAL

We do make Skylar stand and join us during the worship segment of church.  Some days she adamantly says “I am NOT singing with you today!” but we still ask her to stand and read the words on the screen.  

When it comes time for the message, we allow Skylar to use her i-pad (with the volume completely silenced). Some of you might think that is wrong and that is ok, but until you’ve walked a mile (or a quarter of a mile for that matter) in my shoes, then please keep your judgements and opinions to yourself!  This keeps Skylar happy and entertained so that Chris and I can listen to the sermon and be encouraged by God’s word!   My guess is that most people see Skylar on her i-pad, think that she is some teen that is bored, make a snap judgement about our parenting abilities, and then give us dirty looks, roll their eyes, or make comments loud enough for us to hear them.  Guess what?  When this happens, most people would be so hurt and angry that they wouldn’t darken the doorstep of your church ever again!  But oh no…not me!  I have been known to turn around and say “Just so you know, my child has autism!” which in turn usually leads to a horrified expression and something along the lines of “I’m so sorry!  I had no idea!”.  My point is not to shame people, even though that is often what they are trying to do to me, instead it is to educate people.  I hope that you will think twice before making snap judgements.  Church should be a safe place for people, instead many people feel more judged at church than any other place they go.  

 

3)  MOST CHURCHES DON’T HAVE PROGRAMS FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

When we meet other families with children who have autism and they find out we go to church, one of the first questions they ask is “Does your church have a special needs program?”  None of the churches that we have attended here in Prescott have had such a program.  This is something that we, as a church, need to step up and do something about.  This would be such an amazing ministry and blessing to families in our community!

Several months ago we were talking to some friends of ours that are church planters, who are very aware of Skylar’s needs.  The pastor said “Julie, as a church body, we are failing your family!”  I appreciated his candor.  He then went on to ask a question that I had never been asked in over 10 years of having a child with special needs.  “What can we do as a church to serve families and individuals with special needs?”  Here are my responses:

-Churches need a buddy system!  We need individuals who will step up and hang out 1 on 1 with our kiddos during service.  Most of the time, most churches only have childcare/Sunday School for children through 5th grade.  Even though Skylar is in 8th grade, she wants to be with children that age.  Why not let her attend those classes?  If she had a buddy, whether it be an adult or an older member of the youth group, she could enjoy their lesson and be happy in that classroom.  The buddy doesn’t have to be the same individual!  Imagine if 4 people stepped up and said “I’ll take one week a month and hang out with Skylar!”  That would be awesome and I can guarantee you that not only would they be a blessing to us, but Skylar would be a blessing to them.  What a great thing to be teaching our youth!

-Churches need to come alongside families that have individuals with special needs and get to know them!  Many of us have learned more about patience, love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace than we could have ever imagined by parenting a child with special needs.  I, for one, know that my faith has grown by leaps and bounds this past 11 years.

So there you have it!  These are the reasons that we often find it tough to take Skylar to church. I pray that you will be open to getting to know individuals with special needs at your church!  I am confident that they will bless you far beyond anything you ever imagined.  Their joy is contagious!

This past Sunday was just like most Sundays!   Skylar woke up in one of “those” moods.  She immediately started saying she didn’t want to go to church. Unfortunately, it set my mood for the morning and I was just dreading going into service.  As I stood during the first worship song, Skylar LOUDLY whispered “I’m NOT singing with you today mom!”  I tried to clear my mind of the stress and sadness and I immediately prayed that the Lord would comfort me.  I also asked Him to bless sweet Skylar through the music.  I remember questioning whether or not I was doing the right thing by continually forcing her to come to church and wondering if she gets anything out of it.  The third song we sang was a mix of an older worship song and the chorus to Hallelujah (Skylar calls it the Shrek song as it was sung in the first Shrek movie).  As I closed my eyes to focus on the chorus, I suddenly heard Skylar’s sweet soprano voice carry over most of the voices around us.  My heart was overwhelmed with joy at the sound of her praising God!  As a tear rolled down my cheek, I thanked God for such an immediate answer to prayer, for comforting me, and for Skylar, who is such an amazing blessing to our family!  I truly believe that the Lord gave me a glimpse of what hearing the angels singing will be like!  

Whatever you do today, make it great!

JuJu

 

 

 

Wishing You Love, ALL Year Long!

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So those of you who know me well, know that I am not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. Why is there ONE day during the year to show your loved one that you really love them?  I totally believe that it is a day that merchants can charge $100 for a boquet that you would normally get for $15.  Don’t get me wrong…I love flowers, chocolate, and tokens of affection as much as the next person, but it means a heck of a lot more to me when Chris brings me those things on a whim, in July!  I am extremely blessed to have a husband who shows me and tells me that he loves me every day of the year.  For that, I am truly thankful!

Now that I have all that out of the way, I do like to do fun love themed things for the girls around Valentine’s Day and now that they are being homeschooled, I try to still do Valentine’s with them as that was one of their favorite things to do at school. Since they are not getting a ton of individual cards this year we made sure to get them a fun card.

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I will also admit that Valentine’s brings some of our favorite candies packaged together.  What other time of year, besides Halloween, can you get Twix and Snickers together in fun-sized packages?

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I have an entry table that I decorate around the different seasons throughout the year and during the month of February I do decorate it in a fun love theme.  The subway art hanging above the table came from the lovely ladies of Eighteen25.  I love their blog and all of their fun ideas.  I actually have a subway art for just about every season, holiday, etc.  They all are housed in the frame and I just open the back and rotate them.

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Each year I add to the mix and this year I made these yarn-wrapped LOVE letters. You can find the tutorial HERE.  I will just say that they were not as quick and easy of a project as I would of liked, but I do love the finished product.  The frame with the “love u” art also came from Eighteen25.  That frame also houses multiple 4×6 sized holiday themed prints.  This makes a really fun gift that keeps giving all year long! You can find the links for the subway art and 4×6 framed art HERE.  The heart shaped candy dish is just a bowl from Target that I adhered to a candlestick that was given to us as a wedding present.  I glued them together with E6000, which can be found just about any place where craft items are sold (Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, JoAnn’s, Wal-Mart).  That was another really simple idea I saw on the Eighteen25 blog.  Their blog is truly one of my favorite, go-to places for projects.

This year we actually put a box of goodies together for my sweet friend, Heather who is experiencing her first Valentine’s without her husband.  As many of you know, going through a year of “firsts” after the loss of a loved one is so very hard.  We wanted to shower Heather and her kiddos with love as they go through this day without Buddy.

I do hope that you have a beautiful day with your loved ones, but most importantly, I hope that you shower those loved ones with love and affection all year long!

Make it great!

JuJu

Pamper The Skin You’re In! Guest Post

Hi everyone!  It has been an extremely busy February so far with homeschooling, travelling, working my It Works business, and keeping our home in order.  I don’t know about you, but I could use a little bit (or a lot) of pampering!

Today I am thrilled to have Michelle Pino of Skana Salon, a luxury spa in central New York, sharing some great tips on how to get that spa pampering in your own home, for a fraction of the cost!  Michelle also enjoys cooking, fashion, and all things beauty related.

Pamper the Skin You’re In

 

With Valentines Day approaching, love is most likely in the forefront of your mind. For women, love comes naturally.  We spend much of our time caring for children, friends, parents, siblings and co-workers.  This Valentines Day, why not turn some of that love inward and give your skin a luxurious dose of affection with some special pampering?

Often women use the excuse of being short on time and money as a reason for not indulging themselves with refreshing and rejuvenating beauty treatments.  Setting time aside for a spa-like treatment isn’t always possible, but you can work nourishing beauty treatments into your regular routine without much effort.  For beautiful, glowing skin it’s important to focus on hydrating your body from within as well as externally. Proper hydration does wonders for tired skin and helps vamp up any topical treatment by working from the inside to nourish your skin as well as your whole body.

lemonmint

Internally
Drinking water should be your first priority for obtaining healthy skin. Not only will it improve the appearance of your skin, it will make you feel fabulous! Many women report the taste of plain water deters them from drinking enough.  Why not try a fruit infusion instead?  Simple to make and easy to drink, fruit infused water will quickly turn into one of your favorite pampering indulgences.  It’s wonderful for your overall health as well as your skin!  One favorite, especially during the cold months of winter, is a lemon mint infusion.

Ingredients
-1 gallon water
-6 Lemons, zested and seedless
-10 sprigs of mint

Directions
Combine all of the above ingredients into a large container and allow them to steep for at least six hours. If you like a strong lemon flavor, put the squeezed rind into the container to steep with the rest of the ingredients. If you find the mint flavor too strong for your liking, you can reduce the amount used.  If you prefer it stronger, add a bit more to taste.  You can strain this mixture with a fine mesh strainer to catch any seeds and mint leaves. This infusion is most refreshing when served chilled over ice.

Externally
Healthy skin also needs some pampering on the outside with regular exfoliation. Removing the dead, tired cells from the surface of your skin will reveal the healthy, glowing skin underneath.  Using a simple, homemade body scrub will rejuvenate your skin without breaking your wallet.  Try using extra virgin coconut oil combined with raw sugar. Mix one part oil to two parts sugar.  While the coconut oil smells divine on its own, you can also add a drop or two of an aromatic essential oil to boost the pampering factor.  Rose oil, jasmine and lavender are all wonderful choices, but remember: a little goes a long way.

Mix your oil, sugar and fragrance together in small bowl with a wooden spoon. Scoop the mixture with your hands and start rubbing it first into your driest areas. Using small circular motions, gently scrub your entire body and then rinse off with a warm shower.

Your new skin will be glowing, healthy and ready to enjoy the best Valentines Day ever!

Thank you so much to Michelle for sharing ways that we can take great care of our skin!  I’ve been looking for some great infused water recipes and the lemon and mint recipe that Michelle shared is one of the easiest I have seen!!

I’d love to hear what you do to pamper yourself!

Here’s to a great year (and beyond) of taking care of ourselves!

Make it great!

JuJu