Birthdays and Braces

January 18, 2016

“Smile!” I said to the twins as a snapped a quick photo on my phone.

“It hurts to smile.” Ethan complained

“Look up here” Emma said as she opened her mouth and tilted her head back. She pointed to plastic attached to the back of her front teeth. “These are called stoppers and they are to keep my top teeth from breaking off the brackets on my bottom teeth” she explained. “It feels like I have two sets of front teeth!”

Fred & Ethel (aka Ethan and Emma) got braces for their 13th birthday. Not exactly the “presents” they were hoping for. I had scheduled the orthodontist appointments for the first week of January, but they had to be pushed back a week due to a scheduling conflict at the dentist office. This meant that they would get braces just 3 days before their birthday.

We had several pain-filled days where they could only eat soft foods that required little to no chewing. Applesauce, yogurt and mashed potatoes were pretty much all they ate until their birthday when they pushed through the pain to eat some Fazoli’s spaghetti and breadsticks.   They couldn’t resist Fazoli’s breaksticks!

Of course, you can’t have a birthday party without birthday cake and ice cream. Fred & Ethel were happy to discover that there’s not much chewing required for cake and ice cream. They were also thrilled to receive their presents and to be able to enjoy spending time with family.

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Emma and Ethan will be getting braces this week, just in time for their 13th birthday. They have both expressed their displeasure with the timing of this not-so-pleasant birthday surprise. In preparation for braces I was told they need spacers so today I had to take them to the dentist for this pre-braces appointment.

I picked the twins and Caleb up from the Junior High and we traveled though the snow-covered roads towards the dentist office. We were running a little early (I know, so unusual for us) and so we stopped at McDonalds for a quick snack.

“What would you like?” I called towards the back of the van.

“Is this a meal or a snack?” Ethan asked.

“Just a snack.” I replied. “We will eat dinner after we get home from the dentist.”

“Hmmm…” Emma thought aloud. “I already had popcorn for breakfast. What else won’t I be able to eat after I get braces?”

“I want chocolate chip cookies!” Ethan shouted

“No problem. But you don’t need to yell. I’m right here.”

“I guess I’ll have a milkshake. Can I have milkshakes when I get braces?” Emma asked.

IMG_9268“Yes, milkshakes are OK. Really, there’s not a whole lot you can’t have. Just nothing too hard or sticky.”

“Can I eat Three Musketeers, Famous Amos cookies and brownies?” Ethan asked

“If you eat all that at once you will be tossing your Famous Amos cookies” Emma replied with a smile.

Caleb tapped me on the shoulder and said, “French Fries”. I smiled and thought how great it was that he could communicate what he wanted so clearly. Caleb’s verbal vocabulary is limited due to his autism but he can communicate fairly well through written or typed words and he can verbally say quite a few words now too. It’s great to see him communicate, especially when it is unprompted.

When we arrived at the dentist I told everyone to bundle back up for our walk across the parking lot since the HIGH today was only 17 degrees. Winter is not my favorite season, but I guess I shouldn’t complain since it’s really been pretty mild so far. Once inside the warm dentist office we unbundled ourselves and found seats in the waiting room.

“I hope they call Ethan back first.” Emma said.

“No way! I always have to go first!” Ethan protested.

“Well, that’s what you get for being 4 minutes older than me.”

While Emma and Ethan were busy taking bets on who would be called back first, Caleb was quite the social butterfly in the waiting room. He worked the room making sure to say “Hi” to all the other patients. (You can read more about Caleb’s improvements in social skills over on my other blog, Caleb’s Voice.)

IMG_9269“Emma and Ethan” the dental hygienist called out.

They looked at each other and laughed.

“I guess you guys BOTH get to go first.” I teased as they got up and followed the hygienist back into the exam room.

I read a few magazines, checked my email on my phone and before I knew it “Fred and Ethel”, as we affectionately call the twins, came strolling back into the waiting room together. Emma was smiling as big as life but Ethan looked less than thrilled. Apparently only Ethan needed spacers and Emma got off easy this time.

I asked Ethan if it hurt and he said it did when they were putting them in, but his teeth felt OK now.

“Mine didn’t hurt at all.” Emma said, teasing Ethan.

“Just wait,” Ethan warned,  “Thursday is coming and you are NOT getting out of the braces!”

So stay tuned for more of this story when we journey back to the dentist on Thursday for part 2 of Fred and Ethel Visit the Dentist.

Chocolate and Happiness

June 24, 2015

Emma and share a love of chocolate. We are constantly reminding each other, “A girls gotta have her chocolate!” Emma and I also share a love of writing. I have shared creative notes Emma has written to the Tooth Fairy and also a hilarious note she wrote, along with illustrations, on how to pull a tooth using a rhino. Yes, I said a rhino.

Last week we were watching a video on YouTube about the ridiculous new proposal from the USDA and Michelle Obama to make S’mores “healthy” by replacing the unhealthy ingredients (chocolate and marshmallows) with healthy alternative ingredients (strawberries and yogurt).   The video showed a teenage girl trying to figure out whether to “roast” the strawberries or the yogurt. She ended up trying it both ways. She was more than slightly disappointed in the results. Emma and I both agreed we would stick with the original, unhealthy, but oh, soooo delicious version of the S’more. As the girl in the video said, “These new S’mores should be called ‘S’lesses’ because you want less of them!”

IMG_9173Watching this video reminded me of a note Emma wrote last year to Michelle Obama. Well, actually it was a petition. A “Petition to Bring Back Junk Food”. Emma had had enough and she wanted to let Michelle know how she felt. I think the thing that pushed her over the edge was when they took away the ranch dressing at school. Now I have to point out that Emma doesn’t even like ranch dressing. However, she was upset because many of her fellow students liked ranch dressing and her teacher liked ranch dressing. She felt very strongly that they should not have to put up with this “silliness”, as she called it.

This was not the first time that Emma noticed her rights and the rights of her fellow students being infringed upon. Earlier in the year the school had sent home a note about opting to bring in healthy treats such as hummus and crackers, popcorn or vegetables for birthday celebrations, instead of cake or cookies. Next, they took away french fries and ketchup from the lunch room. All of these changes were brought about by Michelle Obama and her quest to make us a healthier America. There were even rumors of more drastic changes to come such as outlawing bake sales and banning our favorite fund-raiser of all times, the Otis Spunkmeyer cookie dough sale. (gasp!)

Below is the petition, which reads:

Petition to Bring Back Junk Food

Dear Michelle,

I’m sorry to say this, but this healthy food thing is getting out of hand. Taking away Ranch, then ketchup and then ketchup again. I CAN understand that you want us to be healthy, and some of us really are. But America literally NEEDS Chocolate. Chocolate gives kids motivation, and happiness. You can’t always be the perfect person and have the perfect body. Face it, do you eat chocolate? No need to throw insults but I’m just saying, and all of these people are with me to get our life back to normal.

Well, there you have it Michelle Obama. “Chocolate gives kids motivation and happiness.” Especially when it is melted in between two graham crackers and a toasted marshmallow! Keep the S’more alive in America!

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School Daze

August 17, 2013

IMG_5654School started this week and we are slowly adapting back into the routine of going to bed earlier, getting up earlier and having to do things like check homework and pack lunches. Wednesday night we ran out of lunchmeat and bread and so I decided I’d just run to the Dollar Store since we live in a remote location and the nearest grocery store is 20 minutes away.

Ethan joined me on my shopping trip with the secret hopes of getting a toy. I am a softy and so I conceded and let him have one dollar to spend. He ended up buying fake lottery tickets and playing a joke on Emma making her believe that she had won $5,000 – she was not amused when she found out it wasn’t a real lottery ticket.

When we got back from the store I was putting things away and found that the lunchmeat I had bought was “bacon lovers” honey ham. I had never heard of such of thing.

“Hey Emma” I called (since Emma is a big fan of bacon), “Look at this. I accidentally bought bacon lovers honey ham – it’s ham with bacon in it. What do you think of that?”

“Well, I love bacon, but I am not sure I would like it in my ham. Besides, I don’t even like ham.” she informed me.

“Wait a minute. What do you mean you don’t like ham? Last night you and Ethan made ham sandwiches to pack in your lunch and you even ate some of the ham as you were making them. And then tonight you had a ham sandwich for dinner.”

“No, I didn’t.” she objected. “That was turkey.”

“No, sweetie – that was ham. We just finished off a package of ham.”

“Really? It was ham? Huh, I guess I do like ham then. But I still don’t think I want to chance mixing ham and bacon.”

“Well, OK. Then you guys can just have peanut butter sandwiches in your lunch.”
They packed their lunches and got their backpacks and shoes and socks laid out and then started getting ready for bed.

Two hours and several requests for drinks of waters and hugs & kisses later, all was quiet in the house as the kids finally drifted off to sleep.

For those who are not aware I am currently taking classes and working on getting my MBA so after the kids are in bed it’s my time to study, do homework and write papers. I finished up my schoolwork, threw a load of towels in the washer, brushed my teeth and my weary body fell into bed around 1:30 am.

At 3:30 am I woke up briefly when I heard Caleb get up and go to the bathroom. I assumed he would go right back to bed so I didn’t get up. I fell back to sleep and was awoken again by Caleb standing over me and watching me sleep. I glanced at Caleb who was fully dressed for school with clothes, shoes and backpack on. I then looked over at the clock, blinked several times as I realized that it was 4:30 am. “Caleb, its way too early for school! Please go back to bed!” He took off his backpack and shoes and got back into bed. I went back to bed to try and get another hour or two of sleep.

“Mom, mom, mom!” I hear a little voice say in a whisper. I look up and see Emma standing at my bedside. It was 5:55 am.

“What are you doing up?” I asked her.

“Caleb woke me up at 4:00 and I have just been watching TV in my bedroom with the volume down really low.” Well, at least someone is trying to be quiet.

In the other room I could hear Caleb’s bouncing on his bed and laughing. Where does he get all that energy? I closed my eyes thinking I just needed five more minutes of sleep.

Emma came back in at 6:10 and said, “I’m hungry mom. Can you fix me some breakfast?”

I decided that sleep was not an option at this point so I might as well just get up and join the party. “OK Emma. What would you like for breakfast? Maybe an Eggo waffle?”

“Umm… I think I’d like bacon.” She said with a smile.

“Honey, I don’t have bacon. Unless you count that ham with bacon I bought by mistake. We have waffles, fruit loops, poptarts or fish crackers.” I replied.

“Oh, OK … I guess I’ll have waffles. I’m gonna go see what Ethan wants.”

“Wait, is Ethan up too?” I said as I followed her into Ethan and Caleb’s room. Ethan was stirring a bit since Emma was talking him, but he was still half asleep.

“I asked him what he wanted for breakfast and he said cinnamon rolls.” Emma reported.

“Cinnamon rolls? I don’t have cinnamon rolls. Remember, we only have waffles, fruit loops, poptarts or goldfish crackers.”

“Oh, that’s right. Sorry Ethan – you’re out of luck. Mom said we don’t have cinnamon rolls. Don’t feel bad though, I’m not getting the bacon I asked for either.”

Ethan just rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. I walked over and sat down on his bed and started rubbing his back. “Did Caleb wake you up too? He’s been up for hours and he woke Emma up at 4:00.”

Ethan yawned and said, “Well, Caleb woke me up but I just went back to sleep. But now that you and Emma are in here too and so I guess I’m not going to have any chance for sleep now.” Ethan, like me, had decided he might as well get up.

By this time it was 6:45 and probably time for everyone to start getting ready for school anyways. Ethan and Emma got dressed and Caleb started getting excited that everyone else was up and that it was getting closer to time for the bus to arrive.

We all ventured downstairs to Drew’s room and woke him up. Beware the sleeping teenager…..he was not happy to be awakened by his cheery siblings. He pulled the covers back over his head and mumbled, “Just five more minutes….” I know how you feel Drew!

By 7:15 the kids were dressed and happily eating their breakfast of waffles and poptarts. The bus came right on time at 7:25. I waved goodbye as they took off on their adventure for another day of school.

I would loved to have crawled back into bed since I didn’t have to be to work until 11:00, but I was scheduled to speak to Caleb’s class at 8:45. Caleb has autism and is mainstreamed into a general ed classroom. Every year my husband, Dwight, and I go and talk to Caleb’s classroom in the first week of school. We talk to them about autism and about ways they can interact, communicate and include Caleb. Since I needed to hop in the shower, get dressed and make my way over to the school sleep would just have to wait.

ImageAs I got ready for the day I thought about when the kids were infants and how every night was a series of feedings, diaper changes, etc. Especially that first six months of the twins lives. I don’t remember much from that period of my life and I blame that on the sleep deprivation.

I guess I should just be thankful that these short nights are much less frequent now and that, for the most part, the kids sleep all night. I am also thankful that on Saturdays I can sleep in since the kids are old enough to entertain themselves for a few hours.

This morning Caleb crawled in bed with me around 8:00 am but then after a few minutes of cuddling he went back to his room to play and I had the luxury of sleeping for another hour or so. I finally got up when I heard the kids talking about what they wanted for breakfast. Guess it would have been a good morning for cinnamon rolls and bacon… If only I had remembered to go to the store and buy some. Oh well, maybe next Saturday!

“What are we doing on Saturday?” Ethan asked me earlier this week

“Well, I have my book signing on Saturday afternoon and I am getting the oil changed on the van in the morning.” I replied as I finished setting the table for dinner

“Are we all going to your book signing?” he asked

“I don’t know. Do you want to come?” I hadn’t really thought about making it a family event because I really didn’t know if the kids would enjoy it.

“Yes, I think it sounds like fun!” Ethan replied. “Plus, all of us kids should be there because people will probably want to meet the stars of the book.”

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Emma & Ethan playing with the umbrellas

So, Saturday afternoon the “stars” of Running Through the Raindrops were all in attendance at my book signing and they had a great time playing with the props (umbrellas), sampling all the cookies and talking with those who stopped by to purchase the book. It was a successful book signing and I was so glad the kids all came along.

Now by “successful” I don’t mean I sold hundreds of copies of my book or that there was a long line of people waiting to meet the author.  It was successful because we had the opportunity to meet other parents and talk with them about the struggles and the joys of raising kids. We had some especially meaningful conversations with parents who also had kids with autism and had been through many of the same struggles we had. My husband, Dwight, and I really enjoyed meeting these wonderful families and, after all, that is the whole reason I started writing in the first place. I wanted to connect with other parents and share our joys, our fears and our frustrations.

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Caleb, Drew, Emma & Ethan

One of the most amazing moments was when a friend of ours brought her granddaughter, Hannah, into the book signing. Hannah is in school with Caleb and she also has autism and is non-verbal. When Caleb and Hannah saw one another they both smiled and started jabbering away. We couldn’t understand what they were saying, but Caleb was making his “happy sound” and jumping up and down so I think that they were excited to see one another. It was blessing to see a friendship that goes against what so many have defined autism to be.  Friendship is one thing that kids with autism are said to not be capable of understanding or obtaining but it was clear to us that assumption couldn’t be farther from the truth!

So here is to my “stars”: Drew, Caleb, Ethan and Emma – I love you and I had an awesome time celebrating with you on Saturday!

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If you haven’t read my book and want to learn more about it you can click HERE for an interview I recently did with Michelle Lynn Brown. You can purchase Running Through the Raindrops on Amazon as a paperbook or Kindle. Also available as a NookBook and on Kobo.  If you have read the book it be great if you’d leave a review on Amazon – thanks so much!

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They Grow Up So Fast!

May 25, 2013

“Hey Mom ~ Look! The nest is empty!” Ethan said with a frown. “I’m going to miss having those cute little baby robins to watch and talk to. They grew up way too fast!”

I had to agree with Ethan. They did grow up fast – kinda like my kids are growing up way too fast.

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In my last post “Signs of Spring” I shared that we had a mother robin who built her nest right outside Ethan’s bedroom window and she had laid three eggs. Two of the eggs had hatched and the mother robin was patiently waiting for the third egg to hatch.

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The next morning we checked and found that the third egg had hatched and there were three hungry baby birds with their mouths open, waiting for their mom to feed them.

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The momma robin made endless trips out in the yard and then brought back worms for her little babies.  They didn’t even have their eyes open yet, but they knew when their mom came near and they would wake up and open their mouths in anticipation.

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“Wow!” Emma said one morning as she watched the momma robin. “That poor momma bird never gets to sleep! She just feeds those baby birds and sits on the nest but I never see her close her eyes to sleep.”

“Well, that’s kinda like human moms, Emma. When you guys were little I felt a lot like that momma bird. I didn’t get much sleep and sometimes forgot to eat. I was more concerned with taking care of you than sleeping or eating or anything else. It’s what mommies do for their babies!”

“I still want to be a mom someday but it seems like a lot of hard work. Maybe I’d better start resting up now. I think I’m going to need all the sleep I can get now!”

“Yep! It’s  a lot of work. But it’s worth it!” I said and gave her a hug. “Now lets get dressed and get ready before the bus gets here!”

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As the days went by the baby birds quickly lost their fuzzy down and it was replaced by feathers as they began to look more and more like their mother. It was only a week after they were born and they already looked twice as big and had opened their eyes.

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We saw the father bird a few times but it was mostly the mother that came with fat, juicy worms to fed the growing babies. She would sit on the nest and protect at night and when it was raining or stormy out. However, as the baby robins continued to grow it became harder and harder for the mother bird to sit on the nest.

The next week I noticed that the mother came around less and less. She would still feed the babies but she didn’t sit on the nest during the day at all. Usually at night she would come back, but it was so crowded there really wasn’t room for her in the nest anymore.

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The baby birds began to start grooming and preparing their wings to fly. One by one, they starting leaving the safety of the nest to set out and explore the world for themselves.  The first bird flew off and the second bird was not far behind. Emma and Ethan were discussing the birds “flying the coop” and they asked me when the last bird was going to leave.

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“I think he is enjoying having the nest all to himself.” I told them. “Kinda like when you were born. Ethan, you were bigger than Emma and after you were born they did a quick ultrasound to check on Emma and they said she was stretching and seemed to be enjoying the extra space.  You hung out for a few more minutes, Emma and then you decided it was time to make your grand entrance!”

“Yep, and I’m older by four whole minutes!” Ethan bragged.

“Oh, boy! Here we go again!” Emma sighed and rolled her eyes. “You always have to bring that up!”

Later that afternoon we came back and found the empty nest. The last baby robin had finished his nap in the nest and decided it was time for his grand entrance out into the wide, wide, world.

“So long little birdies! It’s been fun watching you grow up. I’ll miss having you around!” Ethan said sadly.

“It’s OK.” I reassured him. “I bet if we look hard enough we will still see them now and again.”

And we have. They are all living in our yard and we occasionally see them in the trees or on the power lines. Not as up close as when they were living in the nest, but we still see them and we are still reminded of how we got to watch three little blue eggs become three beautiful robins!

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Check out my new book ~ Available now on Amazon!

Running Through the Raindrops … Finding Joy in the Chaos of Raising Kids 

Lori Elliott is the wife of a pastor, holds a full-time job and is a mother of four, including a special needs child. Lori has realized that life is messy and figured out there is no such thing as a “perfect” mother. Although motherhood can be overwhelming, stressful and chaotic, but there are those magical moments when the joy and humor you find make all the craziness seem worthwhile.

Signs of Spring

May 3, 2013

“Mom! Mom! Come look and see what I have outside my window!” Ethan grabbed my hand with excitement and led me into his room.  He slowly pulled back his brightly colored Angry Bird curtains and there in the window sill was a carefully crafted bird nest with two tiny blue eggs resting safely inside.

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“How exciting!”  I said as we continued to look out his window. “Where is the momma bird?” I asked

“She’ll be back soon I bet. Maybe she went to go tell the daddy bird the good news.” he replied.  A few minutes later the momma bird came back and carefully settled down in the nest covering her precious eggs.  She looked at us through the window as if to say, “Can’t a momma bird get some privacy!”  Hmmm …. I guess momma birds are like all the rest of us moms … just trying to get five minutes of privacy!

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The kids went back to watching TV and I finished folding the pile of laundry on the couch and started fixing dinner.  After dinner I decided to go back and check on the momma bird and her eggs. I peeled the curtain back and peeked out the window. I was surprised to find there were now three tiny blue eggs!

“Ethan! Emma! Come here, quick!” I shouted down the stairs.

They both came running up the stairs, practically tripping over one another.  “What is it mom?” Emma asked

“Come see the nest – there is a surprise!” I said with a smile

“Is it baby birds?” Emma asked

Ethan ran to the window and shouted with excitement, “No, not baby birds but there is another egg. There were only two eggs before, and now there are three! The momma bird laid another egg while we were eating dinner!”

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“That is so cool!” Emma said as she peered out at the nest from behind Ethan. “Move over Ethan! I want to see the eggs too!”

Ethan thought for a moment and said, “We’d better not let Caleb near the window. He might scare the momma bird. We don’t want her to leave her eggs before the babies hatch!”

“That’s true, we don’t want her to leave.  Hopefully Caleb won’t bang on the window or try to scare her away.”

For the next week or so we checked on momma bird and her eggs everyday. She did a great job of sitting on her nest and keeping the eggs safe and warm.  Caleb eventually discovered the nest, eggs and momma bird, but he was very respectful and remained quiet around the window. He would look out the window but he didn’t bang on the window or try to open it. I think he wanted the momma bird to stay too.

I came home from work late last night and as I was getting the kids ready for bed I asked Ethan, “How is momma bird doing? Have you checked on her today?”

“Oh, yes! Yes! I almost forgot to tell you!” he pulled back the curtain and continued, “Look! There they are! Look at the cute little baby birds!”

Emma must have overheard our conversation and, not wanting to be left out, she came bouncing into Ethan’s room, “The baby birds are so adorable!” she cooed, “And they are really tired too! See how they are yawning all the time?” she said as she pointed to one of the baby birds.

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I looked closely at the nest and at the little baby birds. One was curled up against the third egg, which had not yet hatched. The other one kept lifting his wobbly little head up and stretching out his neck as he opened his  mouth as wide as he could. He would hold it there a few seconds and then when his strength ran out, he dropped it back down into the nest. He kept doing this over and over again.

“They are hungry Emma.” I explained. “They open their mouth up like that to let the momma bird know that they want to eat.”

“Kinda like when we are hungry and we whine and beg for food, huh?” Emma asked.

“Yes, that’s pretty much the same thing. The momma bird is probably out getting them food right now.”  I said, “But see how they don’t have their eyes open yet? They can’t see where their mom is right now.”

“That would be scary! I’d hate to not be able to see – especially if I couldn’t see you!” Emma said as she wrapped her arms around me.

“Hey – look! Here she comes!” Ethan pointed out the window as the momma bird swooped down and landed on the window sill. She looked at us and then climbed into the nest covering up her little babies with her wings.

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“We should probably leave her alone and let her take care of the baby birds.  It’s getting late and they are probably getting sleepy.” Emma said with a yawn. “Actually, I am kinda getting sleepy too.”

“Good idea.  It’s bed time for the two little, baby birds and bed time for my two little ones too! Let’s go brush teeth and get our pj’s on!”  I encouraged them, since I was getting sleepy myself.

As I tucked my children into bed I thought of the momma bird and how she must be anxiously waiting for the third egg to hatch.  Hopefully in the next day or two we will have three little baby birds to watch.  I’m so glad that momma bird decided to have her babies in our window sill. It’s been a wonderful experience watching new life come into the world!

Happy Spring!!

coverComing Soon :  Running Through the Raindrops … Finding Joy in the Chaos of Raising Kids. 

Look for the e-book (Kindle) this weekend!

The print version will be available next week!