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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Starry Night and Bailey

The first time I saw Bailey, I knew I was in love.

She wore purple leggings and a white, sparkly sweater.  Her little tan boots were embellished with fringe in a Native American style.  She had dark brown eyes.  Her mother had styled her full and lush hair into perfect ponytails.  Purple bows were attached to each one.  Truly, she was an adorable five-year-old!

I was picking Camren up from school that day--the day I first saw her.  I walked into the brightly lit and happily decorated classroom and scanned the squatty tables for Camren.  I watched as Bailey excitedly ran towards him and yelled, "Camren!  Camren!  Do you want to meet my baby brother?!"

I saw a baby boy--comparable to Bridget's age--toddling towards Bailey.  Camren stretched out his hand and tenderly patted him on the head.  "He's so cute," replied Cam in a high-pitched voice!  Bailey giggled, Cam grinned.  It was the sweetest thing.

I've learned a lot about Bailey since that day.  I've learned she often runs to greet Cam when James drops him off in the morning.  I've learned she leaves letters and hand-drawn pictures in Cam's cubby for him.  She's always happy to see him.  She wanted to stand beside him in the class winter program.  (They were the only two who jumped and danced during the performance of "Jingle Bells!")

Bailey doesn't mind that Camren doesn't speak well.  His quirks and idiosyncrasies don't bother her.  Young children are so beautifully innocent and unconditionally loving like that!  Bailey doesn't see Cam's learning disabilities, his sensory seeking behaviors, his Asperger's, or his social struggles.  She just sees HIM.  She sees her friend.

Vincent Van Gogh was a brilliant and notable Post-Impressionist painter.  His works are among the world's most expensive paintings ever sold at auction and in private sales.  They are known for their emotional honesty; "Starry Night" being the artist's depiction of how a night sky feels.  Van Gogh's paintings are known for their bold colors, and according to one art critic, "their rough beauty."

(Rough beauty.  I love that.  Like children with special needs.  Challenging.  Abrasive.  Bright.  Beautiful.)

And it was Van Gogh who once wrote, "Close friends are truly life's treasures.  Sometimes they know us better than we know ourselves.  With gentle honesty, they are there to guide and support us, to share our laughter and our tears.  Their presence reminds us that we are never really alone."

As 2014 closes, I think about the people in my life and the relationships I have established.  My heart sings with an honest love of people, and my lips whisper prayers of gratitude for friendship.  The type of friendship Van Gogh wrote about--one that stretches beyond the standard and becomes a gift, a blessing, a miracle, a treasure.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Shopping With Jesus

I had a "shopping with Jesus" experience last week.

I have this friend, Melody.  She is refreshingly real and vastly poetic--her talent for verse runs deeper than a river.  She is as wise as she is kind.  I respect her appreciation for the beauty of the natural world and her awareness of the people around her.  I adore her.

Melody once wrote a post on her blog about the phenomenon, "Shopping with Jesus."  It is that exhilarating moment when all the "retail planets align" and you find EXACTLY what you were shopping for, what you wanted, what you needed.  It is being at the right place at the right time.  It's finding the perfect pair of pumps the night before the wedding.  It's finding the "out-of-stock"  Christmas gift--that you have been searching and searching and searching for--on an obscure shelf in the toy aisle.  It's heaven!

On Thursday night--as I was tucking Lilly into bed--she informed me that it was "Christmas Sweater Day" at school on Friday.  Friday.  As in, THE NEXT DAY.  With tears in her eyes and worry in her voice, she said, "I don't' have a Christmas sweater.  What will I wear?"

She had had a rough day at school.  She had broken up with her troll-like (ahem) best friend AGAIN, the girls on the bus had been unkind, and she forgot her library book.  When the front door swung open--signifying her return--I knew immediately that something was wrong.  Her boots trudged heavily on the tile and her shoulders slumped.  I could see tears on her cheeks.  It broke my mama's heart.

So, with a quick hug and a kiss on the forehead, I said to Lilly, "Not to worry.  You go to sleep.  I will take care of it." 

I knew I wanted to do something special for her--to brighten her sadness and to bring a little Christmas magic into her heart.  I wanted to remind her of how much she matters to me.

There was only one thing I could do.  Go to Target.

I carefully perused the sweater racks.  I searched the piles of t-shirts on the shelves.  I double-checked the clearance section.  I walked around and around on that red carpet--dizzy by the bright lights, the Christmas music, and the lack of selection.  It was late; I was tired.  I was starting to feel stressed.

I found a long-sleeved red shirt with a glittery Christmas tree on it.  The moment I saw the glitter, I knew it was perfect.  I looked through all the sizes.  Extra small.  Large.  Extra large.  Lilly needed a medium.  I checked again and again, willing that medium to miraculously appear.  There wasn't one to be found.

In my infinite wisdom and technologically savvy ways (har, har), I pulled out my phone and did a search for the shirt.  It was out of stock everywhere except for one store.  One store.  And it was across town.

What to do?  What to do?  My heart felt heavy in my chest as the sadness started creeping in.  I didn't want to disappoint Lilly.  I took a deep breath, threw back my shoulders, and marched out of that Target store.  I knew I was about to visit my second Target of the night.

A repeat of my first shopping experience transpired:  Searching.  Walking.  Scouring.  Looking.  Walking more, searching more.  Finally, I found the rack where all the Christmas shirts were hanging.  They were a mess!  Mismatched and out of size order.  I slowly went through each and every one.  Not only was there no Christmas tree shirt to be found, there were no other shirts in her size.  At all.  Tears pricked my eyes.

Please, God, I silently prayed as I slid the shirts along the metal bar, I just wanted to find a shirt for Lilly.  I just wanted to do something nice for her, to cheer her up.  Please help me find something...

And as soon as the word, "something," rolled through my mind, there it was.  A Christmas tree shirt.  Size: Medium.  THE ONLY shirt left.  The ONLY medium.  The ONLY Christmas tree shirt.  I clicked my heels and laughed happinly as I made my way to the register!  I knew I had just shopped with Jesus!

It was late--well past the evening news and The Tonight Show--when I crept into Lilly's room.  I could hear her breathing heavily--signs of deep and peaceful sleep.  I laid the shirt on her dresser, beside the pants she had set out to wear the next day.  I also placed new Christmas socks on her dresser.  I couldn't wait for her to discover her surprise in the morning!

As I left her room, I peeked one more time at her shirt.  I peeked one more time at her sweet, sleeping face and thought...

Thank you, Jesus. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014


I had a dream.

It was late.  The children were sleeping, the house was quiet, and James was snoring beside me.  I was lying in bed--covers tucked under my chin like so many nights from my girlhood--thinking about all I needed to get done for the week!

(And isn't that the truth?!  As women, as mothers, we think and think and think about our "to-do" lists when we should be sleeping!)

I had recently cleaned out the pantry and the storage closet, and was thinking about the closets I had yet to finish.  I knew Lilly and Camren's closet was bad, and that that would be the next on my list to tackle.  As I was drifting into slumber, I thought about the boxes of books buried beneath the toys in their closet.  I thought about how I needed to sort through them...

And then I dreamed about giving books away.  I set up a booth--like a lemonade stand on a sidewalk--and handed them out.  It was weird.  But it was wonderful!

The next morning--as I was sluggishly rolling out of bed--an idea struck me like a splash of ice water in the face!  Donate some of your children's books to kids who could use some literary love for Christmas.

The idea resonated within my heart and rang brightly in my mind.  I knew, knew it was something I was supposed to do.  I felt my breath quicken as I ran for Lilly and Cam's bedroom and threw open the closet door!  That's how it started--me in my pajamas, sporting my noteworthy bedhead, sitting on the floor, sorting stacks of picture books.

My sister, Erika (who writes a book review blog), saw my Instagram posts about giving books away, and quickly caught the vision of my project.  She eagerly got on board and it became our project.  Our blessing.

We set up a GoFundMe campaign and started spreading the word.  We watched as what started as a spark of a dream turned into a warm fire of love and kindness.  And then we watched as friends and strangers alike took that beautiful, burning fire and turned into a blaze of service.

Fifty new books were donated.  We received over $400 to help cover shipping and packaging costs, as well as the purchase of more books.  Wrapping paper was donated.  Requests for books flooded my inbox.  A fifth grade teacher felt inspired to include her students in the project.  They donated books using their class book order points.  To say that the generosity of others has been astounding would be an understatement.

Books have been sent to local Sub For Santa families.  They have been sent to first graders in Georgia.  They have been sent to a children's hospital, to a family who lost their home in a fire, to children in a number of states in the US, and to special needs children with disabilities similar to my Camren's.  All have received new books from us.  From you--Christmas angels who have lifted us and have shared our desire to put books in children's homes.

Through this experience I have learned a number of things.  I have learned that there are good people in the world; the unsung heroes, the silent saviors, the humble givers.  I have learned that the sincerest of desires can be made reality, that God always prepares a way for goodness, and that we are loved more than we comprehend.  We are a universal family; we take care of each other.

I've learned that "charity never faileth."  That books, cards, pinatas, whatever the matters.  Because it's love.  And I've learned that I live to love others.

Thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.  Thank you for your love, enthusiasm, donations, and support.  Thank you for your willingness to help me, to buoy me up, and sustain me.  YOU inspire ME!  Thank you for being the good in the world and the beauty in this holiday season.

Thank you for being so divine.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Dear Santa; Another Letter From A Mama

Dear Santa,

Take a peek inside my house,
and you will truly see--
A diva daughter and a "barnacle" baby,
and a son with ASD.

Don't get me wrong, dear Santa--
Please don't misunderstand.
My kids warm my heart and fill it up...
I just wish I had extra hands!

OT visits and working on speech--
Second grade math homework is hard!
Baby in the garbage, in the toilet, in trouble,
I frequently play the "stressed out" card!

So a VALIUM for Christmas is just what I need!
(I know it's a strange gift to plan.)
But then when Lilly tells me to, "Chill out!,"
I actually, blessedly can!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Dear Santa; A Letter From A Mama

Dear Santa,

I have a confession to make.
It doesn't make me proud.
Whenever my home is chaotic,
and my children are being loud--

I search for a place to hide,
to take a little break.
To take deep breaths and drink a Coke,
until my joy's no longer fake!

But my children are so clever--
They keep finding me!
Hiding places are becoming scarce--
a good one is a rarity.

After weeks of looking all around,
I think I got it right.
MY BEDROOM CLOSET is dark and quiet,
but void of any light!

So when you drive your sleigh to my house,
under the cloak of night,
Remember a simple gift for me...


Monday, November 24, 2014

An Ornament And Twenty-Five Shmacks

Dearest Friends!  The moment I walked into The Wood Connection and saw the large wooden circle (meant for a Santa silhouette project), I knew I was in love!  I knew what I wanted to do for my guest post for The Wood Connection.  Just ask the lovely ladies working in the store--I could hardly contain my excitement!  I was giddy!

The finished project? A GIANT, RED, CHRISTMAS BALL ORNAMENT!!!  Hooray!  Isn't it dreamy?  I love it.  It has me clicking my heels and singing, "Holly Jolly Christmas!"

(Oh my gosh, can you imagine a whole grouping of these?!  In multiple colors?  Across a mantle?) 

My most beloved Wood Connection has generously donated a $25 gift certificate to be given to one lucky Mama Leisha winner!  Entering the drawing is easy peasy.  Leave a comment and tell me what you like about the holidays.  BONUS ENTRY:  Follow me on Instagram by clicking the round button on the right, or go to  Winner will be notified via email on December 2nd!



Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ella Fitzgerald Does My Laundry

I listen to Ella Fitzgerald while folding my laundry.

Something magical happens when I turn her music on.  My breathing slows, my heart feels light, my small corner of the world becomes as shiny as a trumpet.  Stress falls away.  Heartache falls away.  Boredom falls away.  It's me and it's Ella, in a moment as dreamy as her voice.  I hum.  I sway.  I fold (and fold) baby socks and little boy shirts, and find myself feeling happy in the midst of a mundane task.  It's very cool, Cats.

I think there's an important truth to be discovered here--in my welcome moment of peace, beneath the hi-hat and the buttery crooning.  And that is find what you love, find what makes you truly happy, and embrace it.  Cherish it.  Drink it in.  Let it fill you up until you see the stars.  Let it lift you and hold you, if only for a short time.

For me, it's jazz.

Does it cure the autism?  Heck no!  Does it make my five-year-old want to use the toilet?  Of course not!  Does it make the math homework and the bills and the cooking and the cleaning just stop all together!?  No way, Jose.  (Side note:  Have you guys tried to figure out second grade math?  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  What the heck is a "math mountain" anyway!?)

Sadly, it doesn't cure all that ails me.  But that's not the point!  The point is that for the duration of a song--when the notes and the chords fill every inch of my living room--I feel light.  Carefree.  Happy.  I see that my chaotic home is actually heaven on earth, and all the little things--a song, clean clothes, a functional washer and dryer--are good things that make up the whole of my lovely life.  It reminds me of a quote by author and spiritual leader, Marianne Williamson, "Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are."

So play on, Ella, play on.


Monday, November 3, 2014

The Pinata Thing

I suppose it all started the day I got a text message from a friend:

"Hey, can I borrow your keys to the church? I need to use the copy machine."

I happened to be in Wal-Mart at the time the message was received, scouring the school supply aisle for metallic Sharpies. (Because EVERYONE needs a gold Sharpie!) As I maneuvered my cart past the party aisle, I hit reply:

"Sure! I will leave them on your doorstep on my way home."

And that is when I saw it. Colorful. Festive. Fun. Utterly perfect.

What's not to love about a pinata?! I mean, think about it . . . It is a cardboard box shaped like a donkey (or a cupcake, or a pumpkin, or whatever other shape you can imagine), that is then decorated in fringy, multi-colored crepe paper. You fill it with all kinds of yummy sweet treats, hang it up, and then proceed to beat the crap out of it with a stick. It's genius. It's gold.

Quite frankly, I am all for anything that involves candy. The fact that I get to take out all my mommy frustrations and life stresses on a cardboard donkey, with a swing and a crack of a bat, is just a bonus. Plus, those pinatas are awfully cute.

An idea struck me like a zap from an electrical socket:  Put your church keys inside a pinata full of candy. Your friend will think it is hilarious; her kids will LOVE it.

So that's what I did!

I had such a jolly good time (seriously dudes, I was at the maximum level of giddy) leaving a pinata on my friend's porch, that I wanted to do it again. And again and again and again. Before I nodded off to sleep that night, another idea zapped me. (That's how my ideas come . . . in zaps!)   

Leave pinatas on other people's porches. Do it as a way to serve those around you. Let it be your signature act of kindness. Let a cardboard donkey become a symbol of your love, gratitude, and affection for the beautiful people around you.


In answer to the question, "What's up with the 'pinata thing?,'" I would offer this:

I hope to make the most of the precious lifetime I'm blessed with. And if that means filling it with goodness and service--assuring my sisters-in-spirit that they are seen and that they do matter--I can do that. It was William Penn who wrote, "I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, as I shall not pass this way again." If there be any kindness I can show, let me do it NOW.  

This is my chance, my friends.

I can start by filling a pinata!

*Are you on Instagram?  You can search #porchpinata to view the pinatas I've given away!  Lots of crepe-papered donkey goodness!*    

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rules Shmules!

I love the story of Officer Buckle--the mustache donning, "round around the middle," police officer and his trusty canine companion, Gloria.  Peggy Rathmann's book is a favorite around our pad!

Since Officer Buckle and Gloria understand the importance of rules and safety, they volunteer their time traveling to schools and educating young children.  They speak in large auditoriums, they share safety tips in 313 schools.  After every speech they go out for ice cream.

Their rules are hoot!  Some of them include:

--Never play in the microwave oven.
--Wash your hands after you use the toilet.
--Never eat mayonnaise that's been sitting in the sun!

Recently--and in a true "Officer Buckle Moment"--my children engaged us in an impromptu "rule making" session at the dinner table.  It was Taco Tuesday on a Wednesday.  (Because that's how we seem to do things at our house!)  We were enjoying the crunch of the shells and the zip of the salsa when Lilly began telling us about her school teacher's classroom rules.

"I know!  We should have family rules!," Lilly suggested.

"Hey," I said, "that's a great idea, Lil!  Let's make some up."

"Lilly is a fat donut!," Cam yelled, exuberantly and unexpectedly.

Lilly crossed her arms, scowled across the table and said, "RULE NUMBER ONE:  Do NOT call people fat donuts!"

And so it began.  We talked and talked--some rules bringing on fits of giggles, others being vetoed like rejected bills in government.  The meal was finished, the table was cleared, and the whir of the dishwasher provided methodic background noise.  By the end of the night, we had compiled a small list of McDaniel Family Rules:

1.) Do not call people, "fat donuts."

2.) No electronics at the dinner table.

3.) Do not show people your middle finger.  (Don't even ask...  I have the public school system to thank for this one, and the fact that I have little control over who Lilly's teacher sits her by.  Apparently her "desk buddy" has a daddy who has a chronic middle-finger problem.  Oye.)

4.) Do not use your pencil as a weapon.

It was the illimitable Katherine Hepburn who said, "If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun."  I beg to differ.  Kids are the fun!  I mean, come on!  Don't use your pencil as a weapon?!  Dudes, I can't make this stuff up if I tried.

I could go for a fat donut about now...


Friday, October 10, 2014


When I was a little girl, I loved Alexander.

He was perfectly adorable with his unruly red hair and his pursed, pouty lips.  His button nose was to-die-for darling.  I could relate to him and his "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad" day, as I knew about bad days as a third grader.  (I wore a retainer and frequently had tuna sandwiches in my school lunch!)  He was my favorite boy in one of my favorite books. 

By now I'm sure you have heard that Judith Viorst's timeless piece of children's literature has been made into a film!  What fun!  Will you see it?  Will you take your children to see it?

You'll find me in the concessions line, ordering the extra large popcorn!

I hope your day is anything but "terrible, horrible, no good," and "very bad," my friends!  
Happy Friday!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Festive Fall Wreath and 25 Shmacks!

Friends!  Fall is here, The Voice is back on TV, and Adam Levine is oh-so yummy.  (Wait!  What?!)  HA!  I ADORE this time of year--crisp mornings, chilly nights, sweater weather, new boots, hot cocoa, and FALL CRAFTING!

I am giddy with excitement over my latest project.  It turned out cuter than I could have imagined, and I hope you love it as much as I do.  Be sure to visit The Wood Connection for the full tutorial!

The Wood Connection has generously donated a $25 gift certificate to be given to one lucky "Mama Leisha" winner!  (Thank you, thank you, WC!)  Entering the drawing is easy.  Simply leave a comment stating what you love the most about this time of year.  Winner will be selected at random and notified via email October 7th!


Monday, September 29, 2014

Brave and Beautiful; A Movement

I am Brave and Beautiful - a beauty movement that is sweeping the globe.  Colbie Caillat started it with her recent song and video called TRY.  My blogging friend Megan of Brassy Apple wanted to push this movement along and invited women from all over to share what they looked like without makeup... and I joined in!!  Colbie's song says, "Take your makeup off. Let your hair down... Look into the mirror at yourself, Do you like you? Cause I like you... "

Megan and her friend Cobi of Peacefrom6pieces have been the team behind this whole project.  Their worldwide vision included creating their own video inspired by the song TRY.  The talent of Robbins Creative made it possible for them to pull it off.  You have to click play and see the beauty and bravery displayed and you might even recognize a few faces in there.

Me, along with 101+ other blogging women from different backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, ages, shapes, and sizes, have decided to be Brave and Beautiful!  You can join in this movement too by sharing what you look like without makeup on.  You don't need a blog either!  Just tag your photo with #IamBraveAndBeautiful on Instgram and search the hashtag to see who else has joined in.  ALSO, if you tag it with a second hashtag - #ColbieTRY - we just might be able to get Colbie Caillat's attention!  She was the inspiration behind it all!

Are you brave and beautiful?  I am.  Here I go...

Sure, my under eye concealer hides those telltale signs of exhausting motherhood.  And absolutely, red lips make me feel fierce and fabulous.  
But when I take those red lips off--when I take all of it off--I feel real.

Sisters, that is my natural self.  And I have to tell you, it feels real pretty.  Because I am a real woman with real hopes, real dreams, real gifts, and real joys.  Just like you.

I am pretty because I am kind.  I am pretty because I am divine in spiritual origin.  I am pretty because I use my hands to give, my lips to praise and pray, and my whole heart to love.  
Just like you.   

In taking off my makeup for that natural shot, I took off something deeper and far more substantial.  I took off the heartache from being teased as a child for having buckteeth and a big nose.  I took off the fading scars of awkward adolescence, the fear of rejection, and the loneliness of self doubt.  I took off societal expectations; what the world tells me of what my physical appearance should be.  I took off pop culture's silly and unobtainable definitions of beauty.  I bore it all--my heart, my face, my courage, my knowledge of my infinite preciousness.  

I saw me.  Brave.  Beautiful.

Do you see you?  The real and glorious you?  You are more breathtaking than you know.

share your natrual beauty -

Don't stop here!  Get clicking around - its a blog hop!  Below are more brave and beautiful women bearing more than their natural beauty.  They each have a little bit of their heart to share with you.  Some get very personal.  Some share stories.  For some this was very hard to do, yet they gathered their courage and did it anyway.  We hope as you click around (and YES pin these different posts!) you will feel the importance of it, the empowering effect it has.  We hope it helps you and encourages you in some way.
women sharing their natural beauty - no makeup
women with our makeup on and what makes them beautiful
women from around the world share their face with no makeup on -
Mommy bloggers share their face without makeup and what makes then beautiful
Natural beauty untouched photos
raw natural beauty - join the movement
beauty and bravery - women wearing no makeup -
#colbietry #iambraveandbeautiful
Ready in join in?  Snap, hashtag, and share! Tag @BrassyApple and @Peacefrom6Pieces if you can too!
Also follow our Bravery and Beauty PINTEREST board for more inspiration!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Silent Prayers

Can I be brutally honest?

I had a rough day yesterday.  I watched Dr. Phil--which was utterly stupid--and it freaked me out.  I'll spare you the details, but the fourteen-year-old featured was severally autistic and aggressive.  She was horrifically violent.  She would beat her mother unconscious.  

It was devastating to watch and I cried through the whole show.  I cried for the mother--now in prison--and for the pain and desperation she suffered.  I cried for the hopelessness she felt; a bleakness that smothered her, that led her to unspeakable actions.  I cried for her whole family, and for the fourteen-year-old's siblings who were frequently hurt by her rage.  I cried for this damn disorder--so diverse, so complex, so mysterious in nature.

And then I crept into Cam's room while he napped.  

I cried for him too--my beautiful, peacefully sleeping boy.  I put my hand on his face and said a silent prayer.  I asked God to make me brave.  I asked Him to make me strong--to give me the courage to face the unknown road that lies ahead.  I asked Him to stay with me.  To stay by my side, always.

I know that that family is not my family, and their experience is not my experience.  I know we are different.  But I also know that I can't know everything.  I don't know what the future offers us, or what our ASD journey holds.  I just know I have great faith.  I know I love my son. 

I know that love is everything.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Facts

My initial response is to write the facts.

It's always the last paper in the pile. Behind the registration card and the emergency contact card, behind the PTA enrollment form and the school policies page. It's the "About You" questionnaire. The "Getting To Know Your Child" worksheet.  

What is your child's favorite food? What are your child's hobbies? What would your child like to be when he grows up?  

Absolutely, I have an idea of what I could write on those blank lines. I am Camren's mother and know him better than anyone else. There are certain things Camren likes, and there are certain things he does not. But the truth is, I don't really know all the answers to these things because he's never told me. He can't tell me. Not entirely. And what I wouldn't give to be able to unlock that mind of his, to see the answers for myself. Verbal language--something that frequently alludes him--is the key to discovering what's inside.

So I do my best. I answer the questions. I feel fairly good and confident about my answers. And then I see the last question:

What else would you like us to know about your child?

My initial response is to write the facts.

In August of 2013, James and I met with a psychologist in a small exam room--furnished with a child-size table, brightly colored chairs, and several bins of toys--and watched as he administered the ADOS test to our son. We were strangely calm and hopeful, despite being fully aware of the ominous presence in the room. It sat on our shoulders and whispered in our ears:  Autism. And when the psychologist uttered words like, "spectrum disorder," and "Asperger's," we did not flinch.  

Since that day, we have read pamphlets, print-outs, and books. We have met with school teachers, speech therapists, and pediatricians. We have sat side-by-side through IEP meetings; sobering experiences that simultaneously fill your heart with peace and pain. Last spring we spent a day at a disabilities conference, learning about how to best support children with special needs. 

Camren and I have spent hours together in speech therapy--playing Memory to learn proper nouns, engaging in ring tosses to learn action verbs, reviewing flashcards depicting various emotions and helping Cam to identify them. We've had months and months of occupational therapy, where we've been introduced to the life-saving wonder of "joint compression" and the joy of "plastic ball pits" for sensory integration.

Sensory integration. My vocabulary contains words like, "sensory intergration," now.

My initial response is to write the facts. But in a moment of freedom and unapologetic defiance, I say to hell with the facts and the diagnoses and the labels. My son is not "the facts." He is not his diagnosis. He is not a label.

What else would I like you to know about my child?

He is hilarious and charming--with a gappy smile so cute it knocks you off your feet when he flashes it your way. He is delightfully quirky. He is stubborn and smart. His mind absorbs everything; his laugh defines joy. He is full of surprises and his brilliance is astounding. Look into his dark-as-night eyes long enough and I promise you'll see stars there. There's wisdom and depth in there, too.

I can't tell you what he wants to be when he grows up--what his aspirations are, what constitutes the stuff of his dreams. He's a little boy on a journey, with a long way to go, but I will tell you this...

No.  I will promise you this...

He will be amazing.  


Friday, August 22, 2014

The Things That Ring

In July I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to San Jose for the tenth annual BlogHer conference.  (Side note:  The city of San Jose was a pleasant surprise, with lots of palm trees and architectural charm!)  From the ride to the convention center with the Ukrainian cabby, to the shirtless, homeless, delightfully quirky dude asking me if I was Keith Richard's wife (say what?), I knew I was in for a treat!

At the conference there was an abundance of good food and awesome swag.  The classes were informative and inspirational.  People were kind.  And holy moley, talented and creative women were everywhere!! 

In the midst of all the parties and workshops--the late nights and the early mornings, the motivational discussions, the laughing and socializing, and dancing with Rev Run--I learned a few things.  Relevant maxims applicable to bloggers and non-bloggers alike; things shared by women and for women to embrace.  Adages that struck a chord and rang true to my soul:

#1--Self-pity is for suckers.
#2--Don't be mean.
#3--Everyone has a story.
#4--Have passion.  Do the things that bring you the most joy.
#5--People are valuable.
#6--Your words mean more than you could ever know.  Choose good ones.

Words matter.  And these are my words, my friends.  The ones I choose to share with you when my small corner of the world is filled with light; the ones I choose to share with you when I am depressed by life's dark clouds.  Like a well-loved book with a spine that's cracked, I open myself up to you over and over again.  With sincerity.  With humor.  With love.  With a knowledge that you are much like me:  Seeking joy, facing pain, working hard, loving fiercely, fighting in trenches, shoveling discouragement.

Why do I do it?  Because someone in San Jose thinks I might be Keith Richard's wife!

But mostly because of #3.  And #4.  And #5... 


Monday, August 18, 2014

Ruthie's Blog Birthday; A HUGE Giveaway!

We're celebrating around here today! Whoot-whoot!
It's Cooking with Ruthie's 3rd birthday party and we're so happy you came :)
Our fabulous group of bloggers and y'all are here to get 'jiggy with it'.
The best part is... EVERYONE'S a winner!
Everyones a Winner Birthday Giveaway! on  
Everyone's a Winner: FREE itunes download of Cooking with Ruthie's Family Favorites Cookbook!!
Grand Prize: $300.00 IKEA gift card
First and Second Place: $100.00 Amazon gift card
Let's get this PAR-tay started... just fill out the Rafflecopter entry below and then download your free cookbook. YAY!
  a Rafflecopter giveaway Image Map *This promotion is sponsored by the above specified bloggers and IKEA and is in no way affiliated with Amazon, Pinterest, Instagram, google+, or Facebook. We hereby release Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, and google+ Inc. of any liability related to this promotion, the receipt of prize winnings, etc. The giveaway will run from Monday, August 18, 2014 at 12:01 AM MDT and ends Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at midnight MDT. Once the giveaway ends, winners will be chosen using and contacted via e-mail within 24 hours. Winners will then have 48 hours to claim their prize or another winner will be chosen. This giveaway is open to US residence only except where prohibited by law. Winners must be of full legal age in the jurisdiction in which they live. This group of bloggers are only responsible for sending out the prize. They are not responsible for loss, damage or theft once the prize is shipped. Participants will be responsible for any taxes, tariffs duties, etc. due upon delivery of the prize.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Back-To-School Giveaway, OH MY!

I love this time of year!  I love when kids start sharpening their pencils and buying new backpacks, all in preparation for the start of a new school year.  I love the clean, white, "crispness" of unused notebooks and the smell of textbooks that have yet to be opened.  "Back-To-School" prep is the best!

Would you like some help getting ready for school?

I've teamed up with some really cool chicks, and we're hosting a GIVEAWAY!

Image Map
Simply fill out the rafflecopter below for your chance to win, my friends!  Who wouldn't want 150 shmacks to spend at  I know I would!

Best of luck...and if you need me, I'll be in the school supply aisle at Target.  Looking at staplers.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

UncommonGoods is...well...GOOD!

I have always loved literature.  As a child, I devoured books like candy.  I'd stay up late--hidden beneath bed covers and with a flashlight in hand--and read Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary.  With age, my reading selections turned to Harper Lee, William Shakespeare, and Jane Austen.  My love of reading and books and classic literature led me to pursue an English degree from Utah State University.

Imagine my utter delight when I discovered a "lit lover's" infinity scarf on the Uncommon Goods website!  A beautiful, cream-colored, circular scarf with a passage from Bronte's, "Jane Eyre," silkscreened on it.  It was gorgeous, I was in love, I knew I had to have it!  (It can be purchased here!) 

And friends, in finding that scarf I also found a wonderful online retailer; a site offering a glorious   smorgasbord of art, jewelry, clothing, pottery, and hundreds of other unique and creative products.  One night (once the kiddos were in bed), I spent hours perusing all the gift possibilities.  (Looking for a birthday gift for that "hard-to-shop-for" person?  Like my mother-in-law?  Ahem...I mean, YOUR mother in law?  Check out this list of goodies: )

UncommonGoods is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, and all business operations are conducted within the Brooklyn Army Terminal.  The best part?  The company makes it a priority to support designers and artists, with half of their products being handmade.  That matters to me!

So read a book and buy a scarf!
Happy shopping, my friends! 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Marshmallow Towers

It has been raining here.

For the past week we've had skies as gray as pencil lead.  We've had downpours and thunderclaps.  And as much as I love summertime rain storms, it's made my children nutty!  I have the perfect activity to beat the stormy "blahs."  Marshmallow and Toothpick Towers!  It's an activity that is both easy and engaging.  (Eating marshmallows while you are building is optional...but recommended!)

Hope you are enjoying your summer, Party People!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Night Ride

At night--when the sky is not yet navy, and when a sprinkling of stars barely begin to dot the sky--I slip out the backdoor with my beautiful, red beach cruiser, and quietly push it to the waiting, welcoming sidewalk.  I listen to the muffled hum of distant traffic and the shrill chirping of crickets in the brush.  I listen to the pedals click, click, click that moment before I take off.

I ride past the pond in my neighborhood--ducking beneath low-hanging branches of trees, avoiding mama geese and their trailing goslings.  The tang of murky water, the aromatic bite of overgrown weeds, and the earthy smell of soil fills my nostrils as I pedal and pedal.  I listen to the sound of the water.

There's a summertime breeze playing a song in my ears.  I let it lift the hair from my forehead; I let it kiss my cheeks.

And I feel a sort of freedom as I pedal through quiet, residential streets.  The kind of freedom you find in childhood.  The kind of freedom that reminds you of nostalgic times, of when your deepest concerns were Popsicle flavors and Saturday morning cartoons.  The kind of freedom enveloped in innocence.  The kind of freedom that carries simplicity in it's palms, to show you the complex contrast of adulthood.

Suddenly I wish I could run through sprinklers with my siblings.  I wish my mother could tuck me into bed.

My only company is a crescent moon--hanging low, shining true, casting light on darkened rooftops.  Like a lopsided smile in the sky, it beckons.  Urging me onward as an old friend would do.  The faster I pedal, the closer that moon seems.  And the farther away my worries become.  Autism and potty training and IEPs fall away.  Depression and anxiety falls away.  The heartbreak of criticism, the pain of human error, the monotony of maintaining a household, the chaos of busy schedules and "to-do" lists fall away--all left in the dust of a receding distance.

My white-walled tires whir around corners, and it's time to point my compass home.  It's getting darker.  I know I should turn back.  I know I must keep going.

The moon is right there.  


Monday, July 28, 2014

Centerpiece and Twenty-Five Shmacks!

I have a rose bush in my front yard.  It is big and beautiful, with an abundance of hot-pink colored blossoms.  I love it!  All summer I have been snipping roses and making small bouquets for my kitchen table.  Recently, I've been thinking about how I need something to give my centerpiece extra pizazz!  And that my friends, is when I decided to make this easy project:

Be sure to stop by The Wood Connection's blog to see the full, bang-a-rang tutorial!

A ginormous THANK YOU to The Wood Connection for giving me the opportunity to guest post over on their blog.  I love when they invite me to share my ideas with their readers, and I love their store.  A LOT!


The Wood Connection has generously donated a $25 gift certificate to be donated to one lucky "Mama Leisha" reader!  Entering is quick and simple!  Fill out the rafflecopter below.  Winner will be notified via email on Tuesday, August 5th.

Happy Summer and Happy Crafting!


Monday, July 21, 2014

Kindness Is Beautiful; A Letter

To The Girls Who Started The Instagram Account, "Ugly People," As A Way To Bully And Hurt Others:

No, no, no, girls, you've got it all wrong!  You think you are witty and clever, attacking innocent victims who you believe to be less than you.  You think you have an idea of what it means to be beautiful (with society and media being powerful influencers), despite your life experience (or lack thereof) and immaturity.  Goodness!  Those underdeveloped brains of yours cause you to think you know so much more than you actually do! 

Here is what I know; what I have learned over the course of my perfectly imperfect life:

Cruelty is not beautiful.  Anger is not beautiful.  Jealousy is not beautiful.  Spite is not beautiful.  Bullying is not beautiful.  Rallying your peers to hurt another is not beautiful.  Using social media to break hearts is not beautiful.  These vices--dark and soul-staining--will never be beautiful.

This is a photocopy of a very old picture of my grandma.  She's wearing a fabulous telephone sweater, pencil skirt, a hat, and pearl earrings.  She looks classy and stylish.  But do you know what made her the most beautiful and the most stunning?  The fact that she was kind.  Compassionate.  Smart.  Happy.  She was always happy, always smiling, always laughing.  Being anxiously concerned about the welfare of others was a part of her daily, regular routine.  She sought to serve and uplift others.  She was a registered nurse and dedicated a grand portion of her life to the nurturing of others--the poor, the sick, the lonely, the weak.

Through her example my grandma taught me many things; precious "pearls" passed down to generations of good and strong women.  (Like my own mother.)  She taught me that joy is beautiful.  Intelligence is beautiful.  Love is beautiful.  Kindness is beautiful.

I believe kindness is the most beautiful of all.

Girls, you are a part of a great force for good on the earth.  You are destined for womanhood--something more glorious than the sun, more significant than you are able to comprehend right now.  And as you learn and grow and develop into the women you were born to become, you'll quickly realize the women at your side, the women at the bus stop, the women in your corners, the women in restaurants, the women guiding you and encouraging you are, in reality, your sisters.  You'll see you've been a part of the ranks of a powerful sisterhood all along--by divine inheritance--and you'll come to see yourself as you truly are:  Eternal.  Beautiful.

You will come to see your sisters as they truly are, too.
And you'll find great beauty there.

Be wise in your words, careful in your actions.  Be the kind of women your mothers and your grandmothers would be proud of.  Choose love.  Choose kindness.  For we need each other, desperately.  You can be the women to light lives and soothe souls.  Use that ability to better a scary and morally ugly world.  I know you can do it.

You've got this, sisters.

With concern and love,
Mama Leisha