Thursday, July 10, 2014

Distance Walking

Hello Blog, I’ve done a bad thing and joined face book and therefore have neglected my writing to you.  But I want you to know that despite the neglect, I have missed you. I have missed writing… So I sit here with my laptop tonight by the window, listening to the thunder roll across the sky as it lights up with the monsoons.
My writing. My therapy.
I wrote this on Sunday. Just now getting around to posting it...
Race had a meltdown at church today. It was his first in a while. Except this time it was a little different. There was a defiance about him that I haven’t seen in a while. Usually I can put my hand on his shoulder and the pressure actually helps to calm him.  Today he wanted me to go away. He flinched when I tried to put my hand on his shoulder. 
Part of it, I know, he was mad at me. He gets mad at me when I get after his brothers… even when his brothers are being stinkers the way boys can be.  He takes his role as big brother very serious and doesn’t even want me, their mother, to reprimand them. It’s very frustrating for all of us. And it usually causes this ridiculous spiral effect in our home- I get after brother for something, Race gets mad at me. Then I get after Race for getting after me, and by that point, John is getting after Race for getting after me, and I’m getting after the brother for starting the whole thing in the first place-and so it goes! And when it’s all said and done, everybody is frustrated, and everybody needs cool down time, and then thirty minutes later we are all hugging, apologizing, and sometimes crying because of it all.  It’s exhausting, and despite the strategies we have in place, sometimes this still happens.
Makes you want to come live at our house on days like that, doesn’t it?
Our perfect little family.
But in the midst of the congregation at church, people sitting next to us, in front and in back of us, many of who saw it happen, I felt sad and uncertain because he pushed me out. My role as a mother for him is changing. He is growing up. And just when it seems we get things in a good place, it all changes and new challenges are handed to us.
I know it’s like that for all parents in different ways.
But Race is finally getting to a good place socially. And now he is ten and his friends are getting older too. And girls start getting weird and complicated at that age anyway, so his friendships are becoming a little more confusing to him.
And I want to help him understand this, but he wants his space and independence. And I am struggling to find that balance once again of where I stand as his social support.
I am feeling frustrated and nervous for the upcoming years. And I have no words of wisdom to give you tonight because I don’t know myself.
And so I send these questions out into the virtual world- letting you know that a new quest for answers and guidance from my Heavenly Father as begun for me. How do you know when and how much to let go? How much space is the right amount for him?
It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord gives us answers. Today, I subbed Adriane’s primary class because she’s out of town. And the lesson focused on the Bible story of Joshua and the Israelites taking over the city of Jericho.  There is a part of the story that keeps coming to mind as I sift through my thoughts tonight. When the Levite Priests who carried the Arc of the Covenant were commanded to step into the River Jordan and carry the Arc across. Did they feel doubt or unease as they did as they were told, not knowing that the waters would actually part for them as the Red Sea did for Moses? But they walked forward, having faith in Heavenly Father that they would be ok.  They walked into the unknown with faith.
This is the answer I feel in my heart this evening. I’m going to stumble through questions as a parent. My answers are not going to be given to me straight forward. The Lord is requiring me to work and walk forward into my own river with faith.
It is so hard sometimes- especially when my mind is so unsettled.

In time.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

She Chose Us

I was not an easy kid to raise.

There are times when I'm crying and complaining to my mom about something the boys did, and she just laughs...
Because she'd been through it all with me 25 years earlier. And what goes around, really does come around. :)

When I was a teenager, like most, I knew everything, and my parents knew very little. It's funny how it works that way, because now I call my mom with every little bump in the road because she's the smartest lady I know.

But I remember being that know-it-all teenager, when our family was sitting down for dinner one night. And I can't remember what we were eating, but all of a sudden, Dad began to choke. And after a few moments the choking got worse. It was not the kind of choke that passes after you get your airways clear. He was REALLY choking and he couldn't breath. And whatever was down there was blocking his airways.

He walked himself over to the sink, and it was getting more scary. Annell started crying and Tyrrell and I sat petrified. And Mom, instantly knew what to do- she didn't even hesitate. My mom, who is the same height as me, about 5'7", was like Superwoman as she picked my dad up from behind somehow and did the Heimlich. And if you know my dad, you know he's a big guy. But my mom- it was like she had superpowers. And Dad was OK after that.

And still today I remember looking at my mom in awe. And I remember thinking- she can do anything:

My mom grew up on a ranch. She was a cowgirl, and has always worked hard at everything I've seen her do. She has always been one tough lady. She can ride horses like a pro, and whistle louder than anyone I know. That is how she called us kids home when we were young, and my son Witten has a goal to whistle like his Nanna.

My mom was the only mom on the street who could ride a unicycle. She was amazing! I would try and try and always got way too scared to be successful at it. My mom is brave.

She can build a house from the ground up.

She cans food and grows beautiful gardens.

She's flown planes, skydived, and scuba dived. She's been a dispatcher, police officer, and traveled the world. She has a masters degree and is a teacher.

My mom taught us the importance of education, and we got to see her graduate college. She instilled in us a love for reading and stories, and when she's at home she always has a book in her hand and now-a-days a kindle. :)

She taught us to choose the right, and to always work hard. And that it was more important to be smart than popular, and to never care what people think when you're doing the right thing.

So, I remember standing there, watching her take care of my Dad in the kitchen, and calming us kids at the same time, and I remember thinking- my mom can do anything... and she chose us. She chose to be our mom! She chose to take care of all of us, and Daddy too.

I would dance around the house when I was young, lost in my imagination. Dreaming big dreams, and wishing for greatness. I would want to be a singer one week, a veterinarian another, a movie star another, a movie director, a writer, journalist, physical therapist, athlete, nurse... and I would tell Mom about my future plans and she would always tell me, "Teddy, you can be whatever you set your mind to. And I know you will."

And looking back now, I know she was right. Because she could have been all those things too. And she was. But ultimately, she chose us- she chose to be a mom. And she inspires me. On days that are hard; when money is tight, or the kids are fighting, or Race had a major melt down, or I just feel alone- my mom inspires me. Because I know I can be brave, and be tough as nails, and smart, and beautiful, and have superpowers. I can be all those things and be a mom.

Just like her.

I love you MOM!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

And the winner is...


the lucky winner for Stellaluna is:


I'll be contacting you shortly by email.

Thanks to all who left comments. Please hop back to Team-Armstrong any time to read about the world from our perspective...  

Happy Autism Awareness Month!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Autism Awareness Giveaway, Week 4!!

I can't believe it's the end of the month. Thanks for everyone who stopped by to read life from our perspective. I hope you went away feeling enlightened and uplifted.

There are so many things to read on autism. So many positions one can take on the topic : opinions, facts, what's real, what's true, what's not.

 Where do you stand?

I am not here to tell you where to stand, or sway you one way or another. I am just here to share bits and pieces of our story in hopes to spread awareness; awareness that everyone is different, and we all need to be loved and valued.

So it is my hope, that maybe, if you are the anxious mother who is up doing google searches on autism at odd hours of the night, or maybe you're on the spectrum and you're just feeling a little alone right now, or you're the dad who wants to connect with his son or daughter, or the sibling of someone on the spectrum- maybe, you will find this blog. And you will read. And you will be comforted, uplifted, and inspired.

That is my hope.

 That completely away from Autism Society of America, Autism Speaks, TACA, and any other organization or research study, or whatever; maybe you just need to read- to laugh, cry, and connect with simple experiences from a simple family. Maybe you just need to feel emotions. And maybe that is just what you needed tonight. Maybe you just need to know you are not alone. Because no matter how much support there is, no matter how much information there is out there, the road is still lonely at times. And you are not alone!

That is my hope.

And so this week's giveaway is a little different. I was reading Stellaluna with Lane this week and came to this page:

They perched in silence for a long time.
"How can we be so different and feel so much alike?" mused Flitter.
"And how can we feel so different and be so much alike?" wondered Pip.
"I think this is quite a mystery," Flap chirped.
"I agree," said Stellaluna. "But we're friends. And that's a fact."

I have read this wonderful story many times. And every time I get to this page, I have to pause and think about the wisdom of these little birds and bat. And I am thankful to the author, Janell Cannon, for giving the world the story of Stellaluna, and it's beautiful message.

So this week's giveaway is:
by: Janell Cannon

*You do NOT have to be a follower to enter.  
*I will have one copy of a different book every week, so be sure to check back weekly.
 *One winner will be announced every Friday, and a new book drawing up on Mondays.
*To be entered in the drawings, please leave your name and a way to contact you in the comment area of this post.  Also, we are all effected by autism in one way or another: tell us about it in your comment if you like

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, April 28, 2014

And the Winner is...


the lucky winner for Mockingbird is:


I'll be contacting you shortly by email.

Thanks to all who left comments. Please hop back to Team-Armstrong any time to read about the world from our perspective...  

Happy Autism Awareness Month!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Autism Awareness Giveaway, Week 3!!

I am sorry, readers, for not getting this out yesterday (I like to address you as if there are hundreds of you... even thousands of you who stop by my blog daily. And I am this well known writer, full of wisdom, whose words you come to seek... it's a nice dream).

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend.


We all grieve differently. Each and every one of us. Based on life experiences, beliefs, and our personal uniqueness, we all express our sorrows in different ways. Individuals who are on the spectrum, and who are not: we are all different.

This week's giveaway holds a special place in my heart; it has since the first time I read it.  And even more so in the last few months than in years past does it hold special significance for me. This week's giveaway is:

by: Kathryn Erskine

This story is written from the perspective of a young girl with aspergers who just lost her brother in a tragedy. It has an important message of grieving. I always thought the message was valuable. Then recently we lost someone who was very dear to our family... And now, the book means even more.

The boys' tae kwon do teacher, Mr. Chad, tragically passed away this February. It is the first time the boys have experienced loss in this way. Yes they have known elderly family members and elderly members of our church who have passed on. But this was the first time someone young, someone we saw often, someone who the boys considered their friend had died.

The Internet is filled with helpful information, as well as not so helpful on the grieving process for individuals on the spectrum. The one I found most helpful, was The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism.  I am a visual learner and the charts and graphs in this article broke things down very nicely for me.

When Race is having anxiety, he doesn't want to do anything. He is unmotivated- and needs a lot of push to get through the emotions. He shuts down. Something inside him hits the OFF switch. And we have discovered that, in many circumstances, Race hasn't yet learned how to get through the anxiety completely on his own. He needs a lot of emotional support.

After the immediate shock of the sad news, after the tears and hugs and counseling as a family, after family prayer and happy stories of Mr. Chad, Race didn't want to go to tae kwon do. Race, the boy that found friends at tae kwon do, the boy whose big dream was becoming a black belt- the state champion. He didn't want to go to tae kwon do. All the talking about feelings didn't matter... he still didn't know what to do about the emotions, the sadness, and the anxiety he was feeling.

"I am just so sad. And I don't know what to do because I am just so sad. I don't know what to do with the sad."

"Mr. Chad would want you to go to tae kwon do."

"I can't. I can't. I can't."

"Let's just try. I think it will help you know what to do with the sad."

And finally, after having this conversation over and over, he agreed to go.

We kicked and punched bags all morning. And Race was reluctant at first. Master Conover challenged him to hit harder, kick harder and he started to. And then after minutes of pushing his body to the max, he felt a sense of release. I could see it on his face as the tears came, "It feels good," he said as he kept on kicking that bag. And the next week, and the week after, Race, Witt, and I would run up and down the street. Hard. It was the hardest I have ever seen Race run. And while at OT, his therapist said he  just wanted to do sensory work the entire morning.

Race found what to do with the sad. And I didn't realize it then, but looking back on it now, a few months later, it was as if the sad was an actual, tangible thing. And he literally needed to find a way to manipulate it, get control of it, instead of it being in control of him. And heavy duty sensory work was how he did it.

He still goes through waves of sadness. We all do. And I think we always will. But I look at my boys and their faith never ceases to amaze me. They know Mr. Chad lives on. And they honor him by striving to be leaders. By standing for the right, and desiring fairness and honesty from those around them. Just like Chad did.

The process of grieving changes people. There is something about the depth of emotions we feel when grieving that changes us.

I am grateful for all the information that is available to support the grieving process. For good books that are out there to help bring awareness and find a way to uplift us in the midst of such intense emotions.  For hope and faith. And for the knowledge that Mr. Chad still lives and we will get to see him again some day.

*You do NOT have to be a follower to enter.  
*I will have one copy of a different book every week, so be sure to check back weekly.
 *One winner will be announced every Friday, and a new book drawing up on Mondays.
*To be entered in the drawings, please leave your name and a way to contact you in the comment area of this post.  Also, we are all effected by autism in one way or another: tell us about it in your comment if you like

Sunday, April 20, 2014

And the Winner of Week 2 is...


the lucky winner for The Reason I Jump is:


I'll be contacting you shortly by email.

Thanks to all who left comments. Please hop back to team-armstrong any time to read about the world from our perspective...  

Happy Autism Awareness Month!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Autism Awareness Giveaway Week 2!!

There is a lunar eclipse happening right now. And I'm sad because I want to wake the boys up to show them... but tomorrow is a big day. So I won't be waking them up. It's testing day. Tomorrow, Race has his first of three days of AIMS testing. Yay for us! I won't bore you with my opinions of state testing and accommodations and IEPs because this month, it's about inspiring... If you would like to ask me questions about any of these things, please ask. I am full of opinions and resources. :)

 But I will say this-- Going to an online school has been a very positive experience for Race. IEP meetings have been pretty good, and Race gets so much support in speech, occupational therapy, and writing through great therapists and amazing technology like web cams and chat rooms. I am in awe at how far technology has come, and I am so grateful that we are able to use it so effectively, in a way he responds so well to.

 Not only am I grateful for the extra support in areas that he struggles but also the opportunities that tap into Races gifted areas as well.  Race gets to be in a Current Events Live Class where he gets to talk about some of his favorite stuff... facts and information! He is also taking a Julliard Music Class, where he gets to learn about music history, theory, and even gets to compose his own stuff. He loves it so much. I am so grateful he is passionate about music. Here's his latest Language Arts Assignment:

Every week Race has a big writing assignment that takes up a huge chunk of his learning time. It isn't that the assignments are difficult; it is just that Race struggles organizing his thoughts in a way that make sense to others. He hates the tricks of the English language-- the writing rules that always have exceptions, and the grammar rules that always have exceptions. We spend a lot of time brainstorming and using fun writing games and graphic organizers that help him see the picture better. To help him see the journey that each different piece of writing needs to take from beginning to end.

His mind amazes me, and along with that, the complexities of the human brain amaze me- how one kid who can show you where any country, state, capital, or geographical location is on a map, how a kid who can sit down at the piano and play a song he recently heard and how that SAME kid with that gifted memory can struggle so much in expressing thoughts and ideas both verbally and written is amazing. And in reality, we all have things we are good at, as well as things we struggle with. But with Race, and with many individuals on the spectrum, the gap is wider and more extreme. Very interesting. And tonight it has me thinking how we are all a little like the moon. How sometimes we give the world much to look at and we are easy to understand. We shine, and share our light with others. And other days, we are hiding. We don't give off our full light. And dare I say how autism is like the phases of the moon also. Race's mind is so often a mystery to me, and even though on some days, he only gives me bits and pieces at a time to see and understand, I know the whole moon is there.

And that is why I so love the book I am giving away this week. And because of it, I gained a better understanding of the amazing mind of one young man with autism. And I hope you enjoy and learn as much from it as I did. It is a beautiful, quick read:

The Reason I Jump
by: Naoki Higashida

*You do NOT have to be a follower to enter.  
*I will have one copy of a different book every week, so be sure to check back weekly.
 *One winner will be announced every Friday, and a new book drawing up on Mondays.
*To be entered in the drawings, please leave your name and a way to contact you in the comment area of this post.  Also, we are all effected by autism in one way or another: tell us about it in your comment if you like.

He loves springtime in the Verde because "the cottonwoods make snow."

Once again, thanks for stopping by and for helping to spread awareness!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

And the Winner is...


the lucky winner for Autism and the God Connection is:


I'll be contacting you shortly by email.

Thanks to all who left comments. Please hop back to Team-Armstrong any time to read about the world from our perspective...  

Happy Autism Awareness Month!!

Friday, April 4, 2014

April is Autism Awareness Month! Sign up for the First Giveaway!

Well, if you stop by every now and again, you know April is a big month at our house. Time to spread the awareness:

New Research is showing now 1 in 68 US kids is diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in the US.  It effects all of us and awareness is so very important. Talk to your kids about autism.  As a parent of a child with autism, one of the big struggles we deal with is social interaction.  Again, please talk to your kids about autism, we need more awareness and understanding from the younger generation, from the peers of these amazing kids. 

I can see it in my mind like it was yesterday, all the time I spent with my grandparents. We grandkids always knew when Papa was coming or going cuz we would hear the garage door open. Out to the yard I would run; into the swealtering heat of Mesa Arizona, and hop up on the block fence that met up just by the garage.
"Where you going, Papa?" I would ask. Or, "Where've you been, Papa?" if he was just returning.
"Oh, out for a circle" was always his answer.

Being in the autism world now for six years, I can pretty much say I have walked a full circle on how I view the autism "epidemic". Where now I cringe when I see a book that uses words like, "curing", "preventing" or "healing" autism in their title, I now open books like, Autism with Honor, and  The Spark, and Autism and the God Connection.  Books that inspire me... not make me feel the guilt of giving my son autism.

I still get e-mails from people with links to articles I should read, books that would help Race and I, new studies I should read about to cure him, new teaching strategies I should use with him, new therapy programs... the list goes on. And six years ago, I would have tried it all. And three years, I would have probably cried at how I'm not doing a good enough job because look, other people think I am failing. And now... I take what I want from it. Toss alot of it, give my feedback on some, and the stuff that truly applies to me, sure I'll use.

A circle.

Six years ago, I was asking why. I was angry and scared (I still do this on bad days. And in stressful social situations, it is amazing how quick I fall back into this anxious state). Three years ago I would have been taking lorazapan my doctor perscribed me so I could sleep through the anxiety. Today, I know that despite what any of the research says, what any of the preventativs are, that Race is Race. And Heavenly Father gave him, me, and our family this trial. And he is one of my greatest teachers. He is good and kind naturally. He carries a piece of Heaven with him everywhere he goes. I feel so lucky to be his mom. And you know what else? Today more than ever, I know that Heavenly Father has been preparing me, my whole life to be a mother of such an amazing kiddo, and an advocate for others.

A circle.
  • When I was in high school, I coached Special Olympics. 
  • My elective was to help out in the special ed room and all the students who visited there were my friends. I looked out for them.
  • I took many special ed, and iep writing classes in college until I changed my emphasis to writing.
A circle.

Mariah was a girl in the class I student taught in. She has autism. She was not in the regular class with us very much. She spent alot of her time in the special education room, but would come to class with us for story time, electives, field trips, etc. Mariah was such a fun girl. I loved her, and she loved me. And just like always, just like when I was a kid, or a teenager: I looked after her.

Well, at the time I was student teaching, I was pregnant with Race. It was early, and with him being my first, I didn't show for a while. None of the students knew I was pregnant. None of the staff knew I was pregnant except Sara, the teacher I student taught under (who is still a big part of my life). She was the only one who knew. So, you can imagine the surprise when one morning, when I was dismissing for recess and Mariah came to give me one of her hugs and she paused. I didn't think much of it, but she hugged me again and looked up at me with a big grin.
"You have a baby in there." It was a statement. Not a question.
"What, Mariah?"
"You have a baby in your tummy."
I looked around, not wanting any of the other kids to hear her. And they hadn't. They were out on the playground by now. I knelt down so I was eye level with Mariah. And I can still see those innocent, knowing eyes. Those eyes that saw the world through an amazing, gifted, angelic mind. "Mariah. Shhhh. You can't tell. Not yet."
She giggled in agreement before bounding off to the playground.

I think about Mariah alot. I wonder what happened to her. She would have graduated last year. But some days when I see Race do things that don't make any sense to the world, or when I see Race forgive kids easily who have been unkind, or when he is so quick to appologize when he has wronged someone, or the fact that he just doesn't know how to lie. Or when he is being the peace-maker in our home. I think of Mariah. And I want to tell her, "Mariah, guess what? You know that baby that was in my tummy? He kind of sees the world the way you do..."

A circle.

And once again, I will be hosting my own Autism Awareness Giveaway where every week during the month of April, some of my favorite books will be given away. 

And the book this week is:

Autism and the God Connection
by: William Stillman


*You do NOT have to be a follower to enter.  
*I will have one copy of a different book every week, so be sure to check back weekly.
 *One winner will be announced every Friday, and a new book drawing up on Mondays.
*To be entered in the drawings, please leave your name and a way to contact you in the comment area of this post.  Also, we are all effected by autism in one way or another: tell us about it in your comment if you like.

Thanks for stopping by, and remember to spread the awareness!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Our Big Bear.

Well, for those of you who don't know, Race LOVES scouts. He loves the program. It is laid out for him in a book, and all he has to do is the requirements set on the pages before him (which are mostly super fun, boy stuff), and check them off. He's all about checking stuff off. I think that's one of the reasons he loves Tae Kwon Do so much as well. He can visually see the goals, and works to accomplish it.

It's that simple.

Well Race has had a lot of fun with scouts lately.

  • He earned his Bear in December, and can't wait for two more weeks when he can start WEBELOS!

  • He and Daddy made a super cool looking car for the Pine Wood Derby. (It turned out it wasn't as fast as his last year's bat car, but he didn't care. He wanted a flame car and named it, Supernova. I love my little smarty pants!

  • He and I also made this cake for the auction at the Blue and Gold Banquet last week. And it sold for $140! I'm super proud!

The Cub Scout Program is so great. It builds character for boys today who don't get opportunities to do out-doorsie stuff anymore.

We can't wait for July when Witt will join us as a Wolf! He's already quite the little scout, and was thrilled to find out that one of his heroes Bear Grills was also a Boy Scout. :) He cracks me up.

The roots of scouting run deep for our family. I am so grateful that my boys are excited to carry on the traditions of it.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Witt's New Project

Witt told me the other day that when he grew up, he was going to be an engineer on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, a mechanic on Thursdays and Fridays, and mow lawns on Saturdays. So, you can imagine his excitement when our neighbor, Jim, gave Witt his old, broken mower...

And now Witt and John are being kept very busy on their new project.

Lake Pleasant...the Arizona one.

Well, we have lived in the Verde Valley for almost 12 years. And we have driven the interstate to Phoenix probably a hundred times in those years. And we have never seen Lake Pleasant.

So, we went.

And we loved it.

The water was so clear, and there were rocks everywhere to throw. And we could throw them all we wanted and not have to worry about hitting anyone other than ourselves... that's what happens when you go to the lake on a Tuesday in February.

Arizona Temples

Today was the dedication of the Gilbert Temple. It was beautiful and so special since Race got to go with us this time. This is the first time since Race has been eight and baptized that a temple has been dedicated in Arizona.

When we were down at the Tae Kwon Do State Tournament, we were right down the road from the Gilbert Temple, so we visited afterward. It is such an amazing building. The architecture is incredible.

Every time we go to the valley, we stop by the Phoenix Temple being built to check on its progress. It will be done this fall. We are so excited for this temple because this will be OUR temple. It will be the closest one to us, only an hour away! What a blessing.

But really, this one will always be OUR temple.
 The Mesa Temple.
 John and I were sealed on March 9, 2001.
 Yep, next week will be 13 years.
Just crazy.

Thirteen Years...

I love the Temple.
I love my Savior, Jesus Christ.
I know because of the Temple, I can be with my family forever.
There is nothing I want more.