Friday, November 22, 2013


Love, Love, Love Zach Anner!!! Every single one of his videos is crazy good, and I had a tough time picking just one to share with you. I do suggest that you go to his YouTube channel and enjoy everything he has to offer, and you will fall in love also :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Special Needs Parents Code

What? You didn't know there was a code for special needs parents? A rule book of sorts to help us navigate this sometimes challenging life we have? Well, there is and the number one thing in that code is that special needs parents DO NOT EVER bash other special needs parents, and most especially not in front of a group of people who have not walked our paths.

I participated in a panel discussion last night for a group of university students and professionals whose field of study is neurodevelopmental disabilities. Besides myself, there were two other special needs families represented. One of the two was a parent of two children, elementary and middle school aged. She was accompanied by her fiance, and she identified herself as a stong special needs advocate. The second was a father of a young boy who had received an Autism diagnosis not terribly long ago. That father and his wife, of course, knew something was different (his words) with their son, but after a long while, they finally received the definitive diagnosis.

Each of us on the panel had been instructed to share some information about our family. I shared my story as did the mother and fiance, and the father went last. He was very emotional, the way most of us were and may still be, when it came to talking about his child. He and his wife had tried for almost 11 years to conceive a child, and finally were blessed with a son. He spoke of his pride, his joy, his realization of a dream. His eyes began to mist when he mentioned that his wife started to question the child's development at his first birthday. He spoke of the search for a doctor who would understand, who wouldn't dismiss their concerns and tell them their son just needed to catch up to his peers. He talked about finally finding a developmental pediatrician who put a label to all they had been experiencing. And then he said, "My boy is Autistic...My boy is Autistic."

It felt like an AA meeting. Since my former husband was an alcoholic, I had been to an AA meeting before with him. I could still picture people from the group standing before the others and saying, "Hello, my name is ????, and I am an alcoholic." The father on our panel had just reached the same place of acceptance, and it wasn't easy. But he was there and he was ready to move forward. There wasn't a dry eye in the room.

Then the parent of the two children, the self-proclaimed special needs advocate, spoke up and said, "We don't say our children are SOMETHING...we say they have SOMETHING. Your son HAS Autism, but he IS NOT Autistic. He IS (child's name) and he IS your son, but he HAS Autism."

Okay, I get that not everyone would see this as a big deal - HAS - IS - blah, blah, blah. I happen to agree with the mom but she should NOT, under any circumstances, have called out that father on his use of terminology. The father had reached a very important place in his acceptance of his son. To call him out on his terminology trivialized all that he was feeling and all that he was sharing with us, his peers and the professionals who may offer support to his family in the future.

So, yea, there is a code, and we all need to remember that. The father on the panel didn't say anything else during the session...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Special Exposure Wednesday

Each year, my kids and I love to adopt angels from the Salvation Army Angel Tree. The Salvation Army Angel Tree program, in partnership with our local NBC News affiliate, makes available to the community thousands of angels to adopt. Each angel represents a child who without the support of the community would not have a Christmas. Members of the community choose angels from trees displayed at area malls and corporations. These donors adopt the angels by providing new clothing and gifts for their Christmas. Every year, thousands of children are given toys, clothing and other gifts through this program.

This past Saturday, we chose a 24 month old little girl and an 11 year old boy. Then we went shopping!! Here is a picture of Ashley with the two bags we filled for the children!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"All People Have The Right To Be Employed"

Although I hadn't planned it this way, I seem to have a bit of a theme going this week - employment and people with disabilities. Althought I haven't found a way to see this actual film, I'm going to keep trying and will let you know. The trailer alone makes me know I MUST find the whole film...

For decades in Toledo, Ohio, Lott Industries has excelled at manufacturing small car parts. All 1,200 Lott employees have developmental disabilities, yet the company competes with traditional non-disabled businesses and achieves the highest quality ratings. When the US auto industry crisis hits, however, Lott's market is wiped out and president Joan Browne has 12 months to reinvent or close the doors. For the workers, the stakes are even higher since their jobs are a refuge, not only from the impoverishment that affects the majority of America's disabled, but from social isolation. For employees Kevin, Wanda and T.J., work is more than just a direly needed paycheck, it's a lifeline, a symbol of their dignity, and their dreams made real. The race to find a new business plan drives this engrossing recession economy drama, but it's the humanity the film restores to the balance sheet that makes A Whole Lott More such a rare achievement.

Trailer for "A Whole Lott More" from Victor Buhler on Vimeo.

Monday, November 18, 2013

No Good In GoodWill

Just because something is legal does not mean it is right or ethical. Loophole in the law or not, this is appalling and something needs to be done immediately.

Friday, November 15, 2013

In their Words....

What are the kids in foster care thinking? Do they understand what is happening to them? Do they want to be adopted? Check out these kids who can answer those questions for you!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Throwback Thursday!

It was a little over 16 years ago that I found a missing piece of my heart. Her name is Ashley, and this is a commercial we did for the adoption agency that brought us together!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Special Exposure Wednesday

My son, Chip, has done a fantastic job of helping Ashley become more independent. When we wanted Ashley to start going to the grocery store to make some purchases, he was the one who designed an easy-to-read shopping list for her. He used actual pictures of the items she wanted to buy, and then put a number beside the item to represent how many of a particular item she needed/wanted. The result was Shopping-List-1.0, which used a printout of the list and a clipboard.

But, Ashley seemed to find carrying the clipboard a little cumbersome. So, Chip then had the idea of using an iPod for the list. It was easy to hold on to (came with a little strap), and the pictures of the items on the list could be easy adjusted to fit her varying vision needs. Of course, it didn't hurt that the iPod was pink!!

I know Chip wants a career in computers, but I think he is missing his calling by not designing support systems for people with disabilities. Maybe he could marry the two things...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Working It!

The whole family is trying really hard to improve our health and wellness, and that includes Ashley. She ADORES walking on the treadmill! She giggles the whole time she is on it. Currently, she is only doing 4 minutes at a time, but she is working hard! I'm very proud of her!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank You

In honor of Veteran's Day 2013, I want to say thank you to Grampy, Great Grampy, Dad-Dad, and all the others who have given so selflessly to ensure this life my family is enjoying.



On Veterans Day, America pauses to honor every service member who has ever worn one of our Nation's uniforms. Each time our country has come under attack, they have risen in her defense. Each time our freedoms have come under assault, they have responded with resolve. Through the generations, their courage and sacrifice have allowed our Republic to flourish. And today, a Nation acknowledges its profound debt of gratitude to the patriots who have kept it whole.

As we pay tribute to our veterans, we are mindful that no ceremony or parade can fully repay that debt. We remember that our obligations endure long after the battle ends, and we make it our mission to give them the respect and care they have earned. When America's veterans return home, they continue to serve our country in new ways, bringing tremendous skills to their communities and to the workforce -- leadership honed while guiding platoons through unbelievable danger, the talent to master cutting-edge technologies, the ability to adapt to unpredictable situations. These men and women should have the chance to power our economic engine, both because their talents demand it and because no one who fights for our country should ever have to fight for a job.

This year, in marking the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, we resolved that in the United States of America, no war should be forgotten, and no veteran should be overlooked. Let us always remember our wounded, our missing, our fallen, and their families. And as we continue our responsible drawdown from the war in Afghanistan, let us welcome our returning heroes with the support and opportunities they deserve.

Under the most demanding of circumstances and in the most dangerous corners of the earth, America's veterans have served with distinction. With courage, self-sacrifice, and devotion to our Nation and to one another, they represent the American character at its best. On Veterans Day and every day, we celebrate their immeasurable contributions, draw inspiration from their example, and renew our commitment to showing them the fullest support of a grateful Nation.

With respect for and in recognition of the contributions our service members have made to the cause of peace and freedom around the world, the Congress has provided (5 U.S.C. 6103(a)) that November 11 of each year shall be set aside as a legal public holiday to honor our Nation's veterans.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim November 11, 2013, as Veterans Day. I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor and sacrifice of our veterans through appropriate public ceremonies and private prayers. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of the United States and to participate in patriotic activities in their communities. I call on all Americans, including civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, and communities to support this day with commemorative expressions and programs.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Happens To Teens That Are Not Adopted?

When most people think about adoption, they imagine a young child, possible a baby, that they could welcome into their home and life. They envision all the things that could be enjoyed with that child as the child grew up, not unlike the similar thoughts that parents have when giving birth to a child. But when I think of adoption, my heart aches for those children in their teens who also do not have a permanent family, teens who in a very short time will be pushed out of the foster care system and into an often cruel world.

Parenting an adopted teen is not easy. But heck, parenting a birth teen isn't easy either. In both cases though, the rewards can definitely outweigh the challenges. I've highlighted below a message from the adoption agency I worked with for my children. Please take a moment to put yourself in Carrie's place and imagine how you would feel. Then please use those feelings to help you decide if you could help a teen in foster care.

"This is the story of Carrie, a hypothetical 17 year old girl in Virginia’s foster care system. Carrie has been in the foster care system since she was 9 years old. Her biological father is in jail and her biological mother suffers from a mental health disorder. Carrie has been in 4 foster homes. In a few months, Carrie turns 18 and though she is available for adoption, she has not been adopted. What will happen to Carrie when she turns 18?

Carrie, while hypothetical, represents the nearly 1,300 children available for adoption in Virginia’s foster care system. Without permanent connections and a family, children who age out of the foster care system are at an increased risk of pregnancy, jail, homelessness and drug use. Knowing that, would you consider becoming a foster or adoptive parent to a child or teen in the foster care system.

“November is National Adoption Month and we want to highlight the great need for parents to adopt or even foster a teenager in the foster care system,” said Greg Peters, CEO of UMFS, the agency that assisted me with the adoption of my children. “Studies have shown that with permanent connections and families, teenagers in foster care are more likely to be successful, contributing members of society once they reach adulthood.”

Becoming a foster or adoptive parent begins with a phone call to UMFS or the agency of your choice. All agencies will provide in-depth training to foster and adoptive parents and continued support as well as access to a social worker 24/7."

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Special Exposure Wednesday

Ashley cheered Ronnie as he played in his first wheelchair basketball tournament of the season.  I like to think that it was her cheering that helped the team win both games they played!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Who Do You Run 4?

Have you heard of the organization, I Run 4? If not, you definitely should check them out.

Tim Boyle, founder of the I Run 4 organization, describes his mission:

I posted a picture for inspiration for my first official 5K run and one of my facebook friends commented on it. His comment was simple yet profound. He said “you can run for me anytime!”You see my friend was diagnosed with bilateral hip dyspasia. He was told he would never walk again. He found a doctor who was willing to perform a risky and experimental surgery over a period of two years. He spent a year in a body cast and underwent 17 months of gruelling physical therapy five days a week. He DID walk again. The miraculous results were expected to last two to three years. He recovered enough and so strongly he competed in the Olympics… The Special Olympics. You see, my friend Michael Wasserman has Down Syndrome. This “Old Champ” (as his mother, Mary, calls him) stretched out this miracle 24 years and 24 days. He is now in a wheelchair and can no longer run. But that’s not the end of the story… he has been inspiring me for several months with his artwork which he sells in facebook auctions and donates 100% of the proceeds to charity. Last year alone he raised $2500! So I RUN FOR MICHAEL!

I Run 4 pairs runners with children and adults with disabilities. In Tim's words:

The mental and emotional encouragement for both runner and honorary runner is proving to be a whole new level of motivation and awareness. Runners are able to find a whole new sense of purpose in their running while sharing who they are running for and bringing awareness to diseases and disabilities of all types.

Ashley's runner is a wonderful young woman named Maggie Clegg, and Ashley loves getting pictures and messages from Maggie! I urge you to check out both the organization's website and their Facebook page. Then strongly consider signing up to be either a runner or a runner's inspiration! You won't be sorry!

Monday, November 4, 2013

National Adoption Month

November is one of my favorite months! I love Thanksgiving and I get a lot of time off from work. But another of the reasons I love November is that it is National Adoption Month!! And I want to use this month to raise awareness about the urgent need for adoptive families for children in foster care in the United States.

Did you know there are over 100,000 children and youth in foster care nationwide who are waiting for permanent families? Why don't you take a few moments to meet some of the waiting children on the AdoptUSKids website.

And lest you think you need to be perfect to be a perfect parent to a waiting child, think again! Check out this PSA that speaks right to that issue :)