New Beginnings

IMG_6080-1Today is Hailey’s first day of the 7th grade.  After a lot of prayer and discussion, we decided to place Hailey in a private Christian school this year.   We truly feel that it is going to be a great fit for her.

We started praying about our school options for Hailey’s 7th grade year in January. We discussed homeschooling her another year, private schools, and placing her in our local public school.  Hailey was 1 of 30 students in her 5th grade class and she struggled tremendously with focus and staying on task, and that was with only having 1 teacher who was very aware of Hailey’s strengths and weaknesses.  So, it only took us about 2 minutes to eliminate the public middle school here due to the large class sizes.

I really enjoyed having Hailey at home last year, but I knew that she desired to be back in a classroom setting.  This is where knowing your child really comes into play. Although she learned well at home, I know that she loves the classroom.  She loves a more rigid schedule and she desires to be with other kids.  Hailey spent a day in May shadowing and absolutely loved it.  When she came out at the end of the day she said “Mom, I LOVED it!  I totally want to go here next year.  The teachers prayed, it was awesome!”

I could go on and on about this subject, but I won’t.  I know that this is an exciting new chapter for Hailey.  This morning when we dropped her off, I did so with both excitement and a bit of sadness.  The sadness is for me.  I will miss having her here at home with me every day.  I will miss hearing her whistle and hum throughout the day.  I will miss those days when she decided to speak in a British accent because we were studying the Revolutionary War.  But I am also excited!  I am excited to see how Hailey grows this year.  I am excited that she will attend a daily Bible class.  I am excited that her classes will start with prayer and that her teachers desire for her not only to grow in her knowledge of math, science, history, and language arts, but also to grow in her faith and her knowledge of Jesus Christ.  For that, I am excited and tremendously grateful!

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!


Differently Beautiful!

A few weeks ago I was down in Phoenix for Skylar’s physical therapy evaluation. Afterwards, we met up with my sister at her favorite local hangout, Luci’s.  Before we headed out for the 2 hour drive home I ran to use the restroom. The beautiful apple artwork above was hanging on the wall.  As soon as I saw it, I immediately had so many thoughts start running through my head.  I ran back to the table & grabbed my phone so that I could snap a picture. Oh yes I did!

Many of you might ask “What is so special about these apples?”

Well, I immediately saw my girls in these apples!

-They are both different in many ways from many of the people we come in contact with, but they are absolutely beautiful souls!

-Unfortunately, many people see individuals on the spectrum (or any individual with special needs) as “less than” other human beings.  They feel a sense of pity.  When I look at the picture above I think how the red apple is different from the rest, but it is still an apple!  My girls are still beautiful, unique human beings!  They aren’t “less than” anyone!

-Different isn’t bad! Different is different! Sometimes it is hard, but many times it is beautiful!

As I drove home I thanked the Lord for the beautiful reminder of how differently beautiful my sweet girls are!  It was just what I needed!

Thanks for letting me share!


I Am JuJu to “I Wish I Didn’t Have Asperger’s”: AutismPositivity2012

Dear “I Wish I Didn’t Have Asperger’s”,

I’m so sorry that you feel this way!  I will be honest, I do not have Asperger’s, but I do have two daughters, one with Autism (13) and one with Asperger’s (11).  Both of my girls have asked “Why do I have autism/Asperger’s?” That is not an easy question to answer and I’m sure that other parents might answer that question differently than I would.  Here is what I have told my girls:

1)  I don’t know why they have Autism or Asperger’s!  Plain and simple!

2)  I do believe that God is in control.  I believe He has wonderful plans for both of their lives and that both of them are capable of truly amazing things!

3)  I won’t ever stop advocating for them and whatever it is they might need!

4)  There are many others all over the world that also fall on the autism spectrum and they are NOT alone!

I cling to these things every day!  Although I don’t personally have Asperger’s and can not know how they feel (unless they share that with me specifically), as their mom, I hurt when they hurt!  I am so thankful for the wonderful individuals on the spectrum that I have met through Facebook and Twitter.  I am thankful that they share their struggles and their triumphs!

My prayer for you is that you will find the support that you need!  Please know that you are NOT alone!

My 11 year old Aspie recently said:

“Mom, I’m not weird, I’m just different!  And that’s ok!”

Blessings to you!


This Autism Positivity Flash Blog Event is the brainchild of Thinking About Perspectives, a group of bloggers committed to increasing autism awareness and acceptance via open and respectful dialogue.  We are:  30 Days of AutismOutrunning the StormThe Third GlanceAspie KidFlappiness Is,Quirky and LaughingLife on the SpectrumFairy Tale ForgottenThe Aspie Side of Life, and Inner Aspie.

Another Chapter in Hailey’s Story

The past couple of months I haven’t posted as much here on the good ‘ol blog.  I’ve been sharing my Project Life pages each Tuesday and occasionaly sharing a funny story about the girls.  The truth is that there has been a LOT going on.  We’ve been processing through information and emotions.  First and foremost my concern has always been and will always be about my girls and being sensitive to their feelings about what I share here in this space.  I’m so thankful for our family and friends that have walked this road with us and who have encouraged us to take our time in processing this information, as long as that may take.  I just really haven’t felt like sharing about any of this until now.

I have shared a lot about Hailey’s journey as an infant, being diagnosed with Failure to Thrive at 11 months old, and the subsequent placement of a G-tube to nourish her for the following 2 years.  If you missed any of those posts you can go back and read them here.  Shortly after moving to Arizona last April we started the process of having Hailey tested to determine whether or not she fell somewhere on the autism spectrum.  After a long, arduos process, we received a definitive diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome in February. For those of you who don’t know what Apsperger’s is, it is often times referred to as High Functioning Autism.  It falls under the autism spectrum and is usually characterized by difficulties in social interactions, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It is often times, though not always, diagnosed later than autism and PDD-NOS.

I want to share with you a couple of reasons why it took so long for us to have Hailey evaluated.  It is my hope and prayer that our story might help others in a situation similar to ours.

-Having our 1st child diagnosed with autism played a big role in our delay.  Hailey functions at a much higher level than Skylar not only academically but in everyday day life as well.  Because she is independent in so many areas our original thought was “She has just picked up some of Skylar’s quirky habits because they are around each other so much.”  I didn’t want to be THAT parent that thought “since I have one kid with autism, I bet my other kid is going to have it too.”  I didn’t want to overreact.  I didn’t want to have Hailey labeled if it wasn’t the case.  And honestly, I wished with every fiber of my being that I was wrong!

-Every one of Hailey’s teachers, since the 2nd grade, has approached me regarding Hailey’s difficulty with attention, staying on task, and forming friendships.  In meeting with those teachers we always seemed to come up with a reason that she might be “off”.  For the 1st half of 2nd grade Chris was deployed to Afghanistan and she really struggled emotionally with that separtion.  After he returned, she was less emotional, but still had multiple issues in the classroom.  In 3rd grade Chris was again gone for several months conducting a special study for the Air Force.  He ended up leaving that assignment early as his father took a turn for the worse and later passed away after a 9 month battle with brain cancer.  It was easy to attribute Hailey’s difficulties in class and her withdrawn behavior from other children to the fact that she missed her dad & just lost her grandfather.  However, in 4th grade, Chris was home and our lives were in a completely normal routine.  When her 4th grade teacher approached me shortly after Christmas with her concerns, I was aware that we needed to have some evaluations done.  Shortly after that we received word that we would be moving.  Chris and I agreed that once we moved and got settled in that we would request further testing.

After 2 weeks of being in her new classroom here in Arizona, Hailey’s teacher requested a conference with me. This gal had been teaching for over 30 years and clearly knew her stuff!  I knew what she was going to say.  “Difficulties staying on task.  Multiple visual cues needed to get back on task.  Extremely fidgety.  Would rather play by herself even though the kids in her class were inviting her to play with them.”  At this point I told her teacher about Skylar and the fact that she had autism.  I then said “I have had some concerns that Hailey might possibly have Asperger’s.  Would that surprise you?”  When she answered “Mrs. Coryell, that would not surprise me at all” I knew that my gut feeling was right.

Those of you who have been down the road of testing know it is not a quick process. There are many appointments, referalls, & lots of time to wait.  Prior to Hailey having the full neurocognitive testing done, we met with the psychologist for about an hour. She asked Hailey all sorts of questions and the two of them had a great rapport.  I was so thankful that we had been placed with this psychologist as I knew that Hailey would be willing to work with her as she had such a sweet personality.

Following the testing we had to wait several weeks to get the results as the psychologist had 7 hours worth of tests to go through and evaluate.  One Wednesday night, while we were waiting for the results, I had the opportunity to take Skylar and Hailey out to dinner before youth group at church.  Chris was working so it was just me and the girls.  We went to Red Robin and when we came out of the bathroom Hailey saw this picture.

I remember her saying “That is such a funny picture!  Who is that man?”  I told her that it was Albert Einstein and explained a bit about him.  I told her how there is a lot of speculation that Einstein had a form of autism, possibly Asperger’s.  She was so interested in learning more about him.  We talked about Asperger’s and other famous people from history that they believed had Asperger’s. We talked about how a lot of individuals with Asperger’s have difficulty forming friendships and some of them have sensory issues.  Hailey said “that sounds a lot like me.”  I’m truly thankful for what I know to be a door that the Lord opened allowing me to broach the subject with Hailey.  This conversation was integral in setting the ground work for us to share with Hailey later about her diagnosis.

We are already undergoing the process of getting the necessary help in place for her at school.  We have no doubt that Hailey will be even more successful in school now that we know how to help her.  I am really thankful for her teacher this year,  who has worked with us since the 1st day of school to help accomodate her needs in the classroom.  She has been wonderful in helping Hailey to have a successful 5th grade year.  We are diligently praying about what is the best setting for Hailey as she transitions into middle school next year.  We are so thankful for our friends & family who have been praying along side of us for what is best for her.

One final thought:

The day that we received the definitive diagnosis of Asperger’s for Hailey, Chris said exactly what I felt and exactly what I needed to hear from him as well.  He said “Julie, Hailey is still the same kid today as she was yesterday and every day before that.  This diagnosis does NOT change who she is.  She is still the same loving, silly, quirky, & remarkably intelligent girl she has always been.”

He is such a wise man!  I’m so glad that I’m walking this road with him.  He is right. Hailey has not changed because we got a diagnosis for her.  The diagnosis didn’t change her.  It allowed us to get the necessary help she needs.  It also has answered many of our questions that we had concerning some of her behaviors.  It has made us realize that we need to be more patient and more understanding as she navigates the world around her.

One thing that we know for sure is that this diagnosis does NOT define who she is. This is just another part of her story.

Thanks for walking this road with us!


It’s All A Lie!

Hello friends!  It’s time for another installment of No Filter Friday.  This is the time that I love to share things that the girls have said or done that have left us red-faced, laughing, and sometimes speechless.  I have mainly shared stories of Skylar and her lack of filter here on my blog, but what many of you don’t know is that Hailey also lacks a filter, just to a lesser degree. In many ways it is refreshing how brutally honest the girls are, but it can be embarrassing.  If you are new to my blog or missed previous posts, you can click here for a complete list of No Filter Friday stories.

Today’s story is about Hailey.  For you to really enjoy this story I must give you some background.  Her class recently did a project call the Living History Museum. In this project the students picked a famous figure from history, wrote a research paper, and then presented a 1-2 minute speech about their figure in a Living History Museum.  It was a really cool project.  Hailey submitted her list of people for consideration and found out that she would be researching Davey Crockett.

When she came home from school with a packet of information about the history museum I realized that she would need to dress up as her character.  One day after school we were talking and I told her that I was going to order a coonskin cap for her to wear.  She quickly told me that she had learned the following:

-It was David Crockett NOT Davey.  He never went by Davey.

-He NEVER wore a coonskin cap.  He wore a brown felt hat.

-He wasn’t “King of the Wild Frontier”.  He was famous for serving in Congress and later fighting in the Battle of the Alamo.  All the stuff from the Disney show was fabricated after his death.

Wow!  I was totally surprised.  I had no idea.  I was impressed with how much she was learning about David Crockett.  Suffice it to say, I did NOT order a coonskin cap. She dressed up like an old-timey Congressman for her history museum.  I was so proud of all the work she did!  She gave her speech over 25 times to other students, parents, & visitors.

We recently made a trip to Disneyland and ventured into Frontierland.  I asked Hailey if she wanted to ride on the Davey Crockett Canoe Ride.  She said “ok” and so we got in line.  As we were waiting, the Disney cast member came by (in a coonskin cap) and asked the girls if they were “excited to ride in Davey Crockett’s canoe and to see the wild frontier he was the king of?”.  Hailey had the following conversation with the cast member.
Hailey:  Did you know that Davey Crockett NEVER wore a coonskin cap?
Disney guy: Sure he did!
Hailey:  No he didn’t!  He wore a brown felt hat.
Disney guy:  I think he wore a coonskin cap for a play once.
Hailey:  No he didn’t!! His name was David, NOT Davey! He was NEVER the “King of the Wild Frontier”.  He NEVER wore a coonskin cap AND he fought and died at the battle of the Alamo to help make Texas settlers free!
Disney guy (looking rather flustered): Wow! You’ve done your research haven’t you?
Hailey:  You see all this? (waving her arm around at the canoes and the “frontierland”)  This is all a lie!
At this point, Chris and I were rolling with laughter.  Hailey was as serious as could be!  The poor Disney guy couldn’t say anything else.  I’m pretty sure he had never had a 10 year old tell him his job hocking Davey Crockett to the public was a total farce .
But it doesn’t end there!  Oh wait…there’s more!  As we got onto the canoe we were seated in the back.  The only person behind us was another cast member who was responsible for the rear of the canoe.  As we were paddling along, the gal up front kept talking about the frontier.  When we were about half-way along on our journey, Hailey just blurted out:
-This is ridiculous!  What in the world is this teaching people about David Crockett?  NOTHING I tell you!  Absolutely nothing!
The cast member behind us was hysterically laughing!  Thankfully only the couple of people in front of us heard Hailey.  In fact, the younger girl directly in front of me said “I don’t think that girl likes this ride very much!”
When we got off the canoe Chris and I could barely keep it together.  It was truly one of the most AWESOME moments of “No Filter” EVER!  I immediately called my dad at work to share the story with him.  After he finished laughing he described the moment perfectly.  He said “That is CLASSIC!”
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!
Make it great!

Movie Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

I’d like to start this post off with a little disclaimer:  I am in no way a professional movie critic, however, I am an avid movie-goer.  These are purely my personal opinions.

I went to see Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close earlier this week.  I went to the very first showing of the morning in hopes that if I cried like a baby, there wouldn’t be as many people to witness my extreme emotions.

I want to give you a little bit of my background going into the movie.  I have not read the book by Jonathan Safran Foer so I did not have any pre-conceived notions as to how this movie should go.  I am the mother of a child with autism (13) and I’m active in the on-line community. Because of this, I was very aware that many parents were upset by a review that came out about the movie and the main character who is said to “possibly” have Asperger’s Syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder).

Brief Synopsis:  Oskar Schell is an 11 year old boy whose father was killed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  Over a year after his father’s death he finds a key, hidden in a blue vase in his father’s closet.  This launches him into a remarkable search to find out what the key opens.

Overall, I really liked this movie.  There were times that I wondered where exactly Oskar’s search was going to lead and I was hoping that the movie would not end leaving me with the feeling “What in the heck was this movie about?”  As quickly as I thought that, the movie took a turn and all of my questions were answered.  I didn’t particularly like the way some of the 9/11 events were remembered, but I think that is a topic that will always evoke raw emotions from individuals who lived through those horrific events.

I was extremely impressed by the newcomer, Thomas Horn, who plays Oskar.  I watched his actions and mannerisms closely.  I’ve seen so many movies and TV shows where individuals with varying degrees of autism are portrayed and I’ve cringed at the actors/actresses attempts to capture the nuances associated with autism.  Watching Thomas Horn, I truly believed that he had Asperger’s. I saw so much of both of my girls’ actions and mannerisms in his.  Maybe it was because of this that I felt so “at home” in the movie.  Please realize, this is my personal opinion.  Another parent of an individual with autism could possibly hate Horn’s portrayal of an individual with Asperger’s. You might ask “Why is that?”  My answer is this: Although many people with autism share common characteristics and mannerisms, they are all so individually different.  You only have to spend 5 minutes on Twitter to see how passionate one parent of someone with autism can be about a particular issue and how the very next parent can be just as passionate on the extreme opposite side of the same issue.

I’m glad that I went to see the movie and plan on going back to see it with my husband.  I would love for other family and friends to see it to gain a deeper understanding of the profound sensory issues that both of my girls struggle with on a daily basis.

I will be posting a separate post about movie specifics and my feelings about Oskar’s mother who was portrayed by Sandra Bullock.  If you have not seen the movie, do NOT read that post.  I will mark it with *Spoiler Alert*.  These are things that I would NOT have wanted to know prior to seeing the movie, but would love to share those thoughts and feelings with those of you who have seen the movie.

Have you seen the movie?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Please leave a comment below.

Make it a great one!