A Modern Day Fairy Tale: January 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Friday ??s

1. If you had $1,000 to donate to a charity, which would you choose?

There are a few! We do support Autism Speaks, but because it is a larger charity I would probably choose one of the other great autism organizations out there, such as: Autism Society of America, TACA (Talk About Curing Autism), ACT Today for Military Families or the Hollyrod Foundation. I'm sure I missed some, but those were off the top of my head at the moment. And also, the Special Olympics.

2. Snow days: Do you welcome them happily or are they a pain in your butt?

Thankfully, we live in California and don't have to worry about such things. lol. I don't do cold weather!

3. What talent did you wish you had and why?

Hmm, I wish I was crafty, really I do. I'm always wishing I was a better (more creative) cook as well...I enjoy cooking, but it's something I have to work at, not a God given talent.

4. Are you a news, politics or celebrity gossip junkie?

Not really any of them. I get my news from The View and The Talk, and that's enough for me. I'm paranoid and the news freaks me out- all the bad and crazy things going on out there. I could take or leave the celebrity gossip.

5. What is your favorite "cocktail"? (Are you a beer person, a kiddie cocktail junkie, or perhaps your more the "Cosmo" kind?! Anything flies...doesn't hafta be alcoholic!)

My drink of choice is Diet Coke. I don't drink alcohol.

Link up at Wife of a Sailor!

1. If you were a famous movie star, what types of movies would you star in?

Probably romantic comedies...or cheesy Lifetime type things. ha!

2. What is a vacation you would like to take if money were no object?
I really want to go on a Disney Cruise! I asked Matt once about doing one someday, he was not amused with the idea. Perhaps asking while he was on a MEU was not the best timing;) (For those reading who do not know, a MEU means he was on ship for 6 or 7 months!)

3. Did you have pets growing up?

Yes, we always had some type of animal. Dogs, cats, chickens, horses...BUT I am not an animal person, at all!

4. What do you do for exercise?

Chase a crazy 3 year old! Trust me, it's a workout!
I do love my Wii Fit and EA Active, but it's been so long since I used it, it's sad! I just can't seem to find the time, or energy!

5. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a MilSpouse?
You know, I'm not sure I've ever really been given much advice about being a military spouse. Maybe the usual- stay busy, etc, but nothing that really sticks out so much. But one thing that being a military wife has taught me from experience is just to enjoy the time we have together when it's there!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wednesday Love!

It's time one again for What I'm Loving Wednesday with Jamie! If you haven't linked up before, no better time to start than this love filled season! Anyway, this is what I'm loving this week:

I'm loving getting to talk to my husband! (via email and skype). He is back to an area with better communication and I've missed him.

I'm loving the Valentine's gift that I'm pretty sure is coming. I'm not allowed to check our bank statement until it's in so I won't know what it is (or where it's from more specifically), but he's dropped a few hints and I have my suspicions. Hopefully next Wednesday (if not sooner) I will be sharing that news!

I'm loving the surprise late Christmas gift from my best friend Erica- a gorgeous vintage-y necklace with a puzzle piece and vintage rose. Perfect. Really, it should not have been a surprise, she told me it was in the mail and would get here eventually, but because we're both a little forgetful when it comes to mailing things, I thought she was kidding. No pictures yet, but it's beautiful!

I'm loving my son's singing! He always impresses me, singing along with various songs. Lately he's been playing Disney Sing It, to Hannah Montana! It's hilarious. But in the truck today he amazed me by singing 'Held' by Natalie Grant. Beautiful. The video is below if you've never heard it. Just imagine my little three year old singing along, it could bring tears to your eyes!

I'm loving my new dishes! I have an obsession with dishes, but these are certainly my favorite...I might even get rid of some of my others now! (These are from the Country Living Collection at K-Mart if anyone is interested.)

And I'll also being joining in for a:

{one} how tall are you?
Just around 5 foot...I'm short!

{two} besides bills, what do you spend most of your money on?
Groceries, gas. Really I don't buy much outside the essentials. (I know it doesn't seem that way with all the new decor haha, but really I'm still spending Christmas money!)

{three} what are your three favorite websites?
Facebook, Blogger, hmm, not sure beyond that!

{four} what brand of tennis shoes do you prefer?
I actually really don't like tennis shoes! I find them very uncomfortable! But the ones I have now are Pumas.

{five} what food can you absolutely not stand to eat?
Oh, there are so many! Well, obviously I don't eat meat, so that would be the most obvious choice. And I hate olives! Yuck! My husband likes to snack on them and the smell alone is enough to make me sick! Gross!

{six} How many pairs of jeans do you own?
Hmm, I'm not sure. I have several but only a few I really LOVE.

{seven} if you could have any job, what would it be?
Well, I would love to eventually have the skills to open my own photography business. But I love the job I have now and could not imagine not being home with my little man!

{eight} have you ever ridden in an ambulance?
I can now say, yes! A few months back, I woke up with a bad bloody nose, and (I think at the sight of the blood, but I wasn't sure at the time) it caused me to start to black out. My husband was not home, but thankfully he had a friend of his visiting and I was able to make it from my bedroom to the guest room. Since I couldn't stand without my vision going black, we called 911 and they sent an ambulance (after talking to 4 different people, and half hour later! the fire dept they came from was minutes away...that makes me feel safe!) That is my exciting ambulance story- a bloody nose! Ha!

{nine} how many pillows do you sleep with?
I start with 2 and usually end with 1.

{ten} on a scale of 1-5, how organized are you?
Eh, 1-2 but I'm working on it!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

All this talk about LOVE!

With Valentine's Day quickly approaching, love is all around us! Hearts and flowers and chocolates. Everywhere you go, it's unavoidable. Normally I love V-day, but when you're not with the one you love, it can be a little depressing. Today, while on a shopping outing with the little one, I couldn't help but notice all the hearts and the red and pink decor everywhere. And as we sat enjoying a meal at Wendy's, I couldn't help but to think about love and this day. Okay, maybe I was having a bit of an internal pity party. Most people, when talking of Valentine's Day, think of romantic love, of course. Special date nights. Romantic gestures. That's what the day is all about. But you also see other relationships being celebrated- gifts and cards for the friends you love, or from a parent to a child, and even child to parent. There are so many different kinds of love, all unique and important in their ways. And then my mind started going through all the great romance stories, which lead to love songs. (My mind likes to wander!) And as I was sitting there thinking about all this, a song lyric popped into my head, "The simplest of all love songs, I want to bring to you." This reminded me of another type of love, one that all too often gets overlooked during this celebration, one that I had not thought of myself either. And so I would like to leave you with this song, celebrating the greatest of all loves.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Search for the Perfect Potato Soup (3 Recipes)

Okay, I'm not REALLY searching for the perfect soup, but I do LOVE potato soup and have recently been trying out some different variations. In the past, I normally just bought Campbell's and used that as a base, and added cheese and lots of smoked paprika. Delicious. But there is nothing like homemade soup, and so I will share the three potato soup recipes I have tried so far! Hope you enjoy!

Potato Soup with Green Chilies & Cheese

-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
-1 medium onion chopped

-1 clove garlic, minced

-2 cups chopped unpeeled potatoes
-1 tablespoon all purpose flour

-1 1/2 cups chicken broth

-2 c
ups milk
-1 can (4 oz) diced green chiles

-1/2 teaspoon celery salt

-3/4 cup shredded
monterey jack cheese
-3/4 cup shredded colby or cheddar cheese (I just used Kraft mexican blend)

-white pepper

1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is tender. Stir in potatoes; cook 1 minute. Stir in flour; cook and stir 1 minute.

2. Stir in broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, simmer, covered, 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

3. Stir in milk, chiles and celery salt, heat to simmering. Add cheeses, cook and stir just until cheese is melted. Season with white pepper.

*I found this recipe in the Dec 07/Jan 08 issue of Easy Home Cooking. I immediately knew I had to try this- green chiles have been another favorite lately, so it seemed like the perfect combination. And it was! I loved everything about it. However, I have to admit, after the search for the white pepper and complaining about the price, I ended up forgetting to add it, of course!

(Almost) Loaded Baked Potato Soup

In an effort to keep this from being too long, you can just follow *this link* to my friend Amanda's blog, where I originally got the recipe. (She has some other great recipes as well!) The recipe includes the directions to include bacon, but because I do not eat meat, I just prepared it without (hence the almost). And it was amazing! This might be my favorite, although the next one is pretty great too. It was very thick, but so tasty! And I swear it tasted even better reheated! I will definitely be making this one again...and again and again.

Country Potato Soup

-3 cans fat free chicken broth
-1 envelope fat free country gravy mix
-1 pac
kage frozen hash browns (southern style)
-1 cup milk

-salt and pepper to taste

Stir broth and gravy together and boil. Add potatoes and milk. Cook until tender. For extra flavor, top with shredded cheddar cheese and bacon bits before serving.

* This recipe was given to my mom by some ladies that worked at her local bank. (It was actually just titled potato soup, but in an effort to keep track of these I've renamed it!) Anyway, while we were home for the holidays my mom made this for us and I was instantly in love. This has a much different taste than the potato soups I was used to, the gravy gives it an almost breakfast food taste, and who doesn't like breakfast food? I was very happy that she had put this one in our family cookbook this year and I couldn't wait to try it on my own. To mix it up a little, I used potatoes o'brien (they have onions and red and green peppers mixed in). It gave it some extra flavor and color, and tasted fantastic, but both versions are great! This is also going to become a repeat recipe around here! Mmmm...

If you have any other great, must try potato soup recipes to share, I'd love to hear them! (Or any recipes period, I'm always looking for new ideas!) Oh, and when I've shared these pictures via Facebook, I've had people ask about the soup bowls, so if anyone was wondering, they're vintage! ♥

*Edited: this post is now part of the What's Cooking Thursday blog link up! Follow the link below for more recipes to try!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Sensory Friendly Experience

Yesterday, our local theater introduced their first 'Sensory Friendly Film' with a special showing of Tangled! For those who don't know what this means, it is simply a special showing where lights are left brighter, sound is turned down, it is accepted that kids may have troubles staying in their seat, etc. It is meant so that children with sensory issues, often present with autism, can enjoy going to the movies, an experience that might be too much otherwise. We were so excited to have the chance to go see a movie again, it had been awhile and our last experience did not go well. We have found that theaters and churches both freak Shaun out horribly!

Unfortunately, the experience did not go as well as hoped (though still better than the last). We arrived 20-25 minutes early to avoid any crowd, and thankfully, we did because it took that long to get him to finally go into the theater! We would go towards the door and once we'd reach a certain point and he'd either stop and go back, or if I was holding him, cling for dear life and protest. So we stood outside the doors watching the advertisements, gradually making our way closer. By the time the movie finally started, he was able to go in, but wanted to linger towards the back. At one point, he sat for a few minutes, and then quickly decided to leave the theater again. After walking around in the lobby for a few minutes, Shaun's best buddy arrived! He decided that his love of his friend would, for a brief period at least, overcome his fear of the theater, so in we went. I will not say he sat and watched- he was jumping around, spilling popcorn everywhere, alternating between sitting and standing but in one spot, other than the occasional trying to climb over seats. I'm not sure how long we actually stayed that time, but we ended up having to leave before the movie was over, he was simply done. (Needless to say, I know nothing about Tangled, though it seemed like a cute little movie.) He ended up falling asleep on the drive home.

So, our first attempt at seeing a 'sensory friendly film', was not the glowing success I had hoped for, but we will not let this discourage us from trying again. Maybe after a few tries, he will start doing better and eventually we'll make it through an entire movie! I have full confidence that one day we will get to that point. And until that day, we just keep on trying!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Phillippians 4:13

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.", Philippians 4:13

I have always loved this verse and considered it one of my top 3 bible passages (up there with Jeremiah 20:9 and 1 Corinthians 13:4), but in the last year or so, I have been turning to it more and more.

I have never really thought of myself as a strong person. I've always been one to play it safe and had a tendency to avoid the unknown. And then I married Matt and had Shaun. I can't help but think that God has a sense of humor, pairing me with these two boys and giving me these two challenging roles! Being a military wife and a mother to a special needs child has pushed me far beyond my comfort zone. In the past several months, I have accomplished so many things that I never dreamed possible. There have been many times during this deployment, and even before that when Matt was doing training and never home, where I didn't know if I could go on. And so many times when I felt so helpless to do anything for Shaun during his bad moments that I wanted nothing more than to curl into a ball and cry my eyes out. I won't lie and say I hold it together all the time. I have my sad moments, I think anyone in either or both of these situations who says otherwise is probably not being honest with themselves. But after all that is done I have to remind myself that I am not alone in this and God will never give me more than I can handle, and he obviously knows better than me what it is I can handle.

I can manage a household on my own. I can handle meltdowns and IEP meetings and all of those fun things that come with raising an autistic child. I can face my anxiety of driving (to an extent, this is still something I struggle with and am working on!) I can travel cross country alone with a 3 year old, and live to tell about it. I can mow the lawn (as I found out today). I can sacrifice my own wants in order to do what is best for my child. I may not WANT to do all these things, I would of course prefer if my husband never had to leave and Shaun never had any struggles, but the point is that I CAN do these things, through the power of prayer and having God on my side. Without him, I would never have made it this far and for that I give thanks everyday.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What I'm Loving Wednesday!

Time to link up with Jamie once again for WILW! I love this weekly sharing of what everyone is loving! It's such a great way to stop and think about the positive things going on in life instead of dwelling on the negative! So anyway, this is what I'm loving this week:

I am loving:

Taxes! Okay, is that weird!? Let me explain, I got our taxes done this morning- and I did it by myself for the first time ever! Does that make me a grown up now? Should I ditch Disney Channel and start watching the news? Hmm, maybe I won't go that far, but I was pretty proud of myself! I wish I could say we were going to go crazy and buy something frivolous and fun, but it's going to pay off our truck...nearly a year early! That's pretty exciting too!

I am loving:

Parenthood! Anyone else watch this? It's an amazing show and it's wonderful to see a show that portrays a child on the spectrum. It's among my can't miss shows!

I am loving:

Being back in the kitchen! I feel like I hadn't really cooked anything decent in awhile, with all our traveling of course, but also before that. But in past few weeks, I've tried a few great new recipes (shrimp enchiladas, loaded baked potato soup -without the bacon, and homemade blueberry muffins!) and a few old favorites (stuffed peppers, homemade potato salad...to name a few!)

I am loving:

how the redecorating and organizing is going in my house! I ended up switching out the bedding I'd originally bought for the guest room. I fell in love! Haha. I ordered new bedding for the guest room, and I can't wait until it comes in!

And most importantly I am loving:

emails from my husband, and conversations on skype, even without the webcam. There is no greater feeling than seeing a message in my inbox from him! ♥

Monday, January 17, 2011

Small Gestures=Big Differences

When Shaun was diagnosed with autism, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to do everything in my power to raise awareness and tolerance for my son and others like him. I have said several times that pre diagnosis I thought I knew quite a bit about autism- my brother had been suspected autistic back in the 80s but passed before being diagnosed so there was always a part of me that wanted to know more. My favorite book as a child was, 'Inside Out' by Ann M Martin, a book about a boy whose brother was autistic. For awhile I played around with the idea of working with children on the spectrum, or in special education in general. It has always held a special place in my heart. But even still Shaun's diagnosis came as a bit of a surprise. Autism is so complex, and I have found that despite the growing numbers, most still know very little about the disorder. It is for that reason that I have been very open and honest about Shaun's struggles- from his lack of sleep, to his brief issues with poop smearing (we believe he was acting out scenes from Thomas, going through mud- oh boy!), self injury behaviors, etc. It would be easy to pretend that things were easy and never bring attention to them, but if I did that, how would anyone learn? And if people don't know, how are we supposed to be tolerant of these differences? We have participated in the Autism Speaks walk in our area and are more than happy to donate to various autism organizations when possible (or buy lots of Snapple Compassionberry Tea to support the Hollyrod Foundation), but to me, while raising and donating money is wonderful, I believe raising awareness is in many ways just as important.

Now that you know where I'm coming from, you can imagine how wonderful it makes me feel when others tell me that they've learned something new because of my posts on here or via Facebook, or from just talking to me in general. I've had several people email to ask me questions about Shaun or wondering if people in their life may be on the spectrum. While I am in now way claiming to be an expert, I am always more than happy to share what I know in hopes that it will help someone or get people thinking and talking.

If you read the post about our train trip, you probably saw the pictures of Shaun wearing his 'Shauny shirt'...the tee that we made for the autism walk saying 'Autistic Kids Rock'. (pictured above) It is one of his favorites because it says his name. I specifically chose for him to wear that shirt on Day 1 of our trip so that if he would have had any difficulty on the train, people might have been more understanding. People can be very judgemental, and the kid screaming and kicking on the floor can get a lot of negative attention and unnecessary advice. We also come across issues where people want to ask Shaun all these questions- what's your name? how old are you? etc, etc that, while he's getting there, Shaun never really answers. I know people are merely being friendly but it can be very difficult for people to understand why he's not responding to their questions. On top of all those reasons, it's also a great way to get people talking, as we found out firsthand. As we were leaving the bathroom, we passed through a group of men waiting to exit the train. Noticing his shirt, one man agreed with the sentiment saying he believed his son might be on the spectrum and as the other men continued to talked, one man said that he was an adult with autism. Now unfortunately, I was unable to stay and hear where this conversation went because Shaun was pulling me away, but I cannot help but think how something so simple got these men (who were very manly men I might add), to start this discussion.

And so I will continue to proudly display our autism magnets on our truck, wear my autism bracelet and necklace and let Shaun wear his shirt. These are small gestures, but even the smallest things can make a difference. If more people will do these small things to start the conversation, I believe that one day more people will be more understanding to the differences and unique qualities that make Shaun who he is and to see that he is amazing, autism and all.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Over The Border Shrimp Enchiladas

It's been awhile since I've shared any recipes! I have several I never posted about from a few months back, but mostly I've been in a bit of a slump and making a lot of old favorites...which is actually pretty rare for me, I like to make new things!! But anyway, a few months ago I found this wonderful shrimp enchiladas recipe in a magazine and decided that I would make it one day...and then I completely forgot which magazine it was in. I have to tell you, I am obsessed with cooking magazines! I have a collection of well over 100 of them! I was not having much luck finding it! So I decided to google it and thankfully came across this blog. Yay! Then after I posted the photos on Facebook, a friend asked if it was from the August Taste of Home, and sure enough, it was! So glad I was pointed in the right direction, there were several other cream cheese recipes in that issue and I LOVE cream cheese! Anyway, this recipe was very easy and so delicious! Enjoy!

Over The Border Shrimp Enchiladas

-1 medium onion, chopped
-2 Tbsp. olive oil

-3/4 lb uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

-1 can chopped green chilies

-1/2 tsp chili powder
-1/4 tsp salt

-1/4 tsp ground cumin

-1/4 tsp pepper

-1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, cubed
-8 flour tortillas (8 in), warmed

-1 1/2 cups chunky salsa

-1 1/2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese

1. In a large skilled, saute onion in oil until tender. Add the shrimp, green chilies, chili powder, salt, cumin and pepper. Cook 2-3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Stir in cream cheese until melted.

2. Place 1/3 cup shrimp mixture down center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam down in greased baking dish. Pour salsa over top, sprinkle with cheese.

3. Bake uncovered at 350 F for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

*Edited to add, this will now be linked with What's Cooking Thursday at Feeding Four as well. I hope those visiting from there will enjoy.
Check out more great recipes by clicking on the picture below!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Blogger Award!!

A huge thank you to Kelly Ann at A Postcard From Kelly Ann for honoring me with this award! This is my first blogger award, very cool! So here's how this works:


1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award
2. Answer 10 questions
3. Pass it along to 7 blogs you've recently discovered and enjoy
4. Leave your recipients a note, telling them about the award

The 10 Questions (and my answers, of course!)

1. Why did you create this blog?

I started this blog for several reasons: to try to get back into writing after about a 5 year case of writer's block, to share recipes, and to share stories with friends and family far away that deserved just a little more time than what a Facebook status would allow. When Shaun was diagnosed with autism, it became a great outlet for me to share his triumphs and to teach others a little more about something that is so common and yet still so misunderstood.

2. What kinds of blogs do you follow?

I have a little bit of a mix that I follow! Military, autism, recipes, crafting...anything that I can relate to and that catches my interest really. I love positive and uplifting blogs as well. I have found that many of my favorite blogs are written by ladies who have a strong relationship with God and that really comes through in their posts.

3. Favorite make-up brand?

I am definitely an Avon girl. In the past I would just go with whatever I found cheapest. But then I started selling Avon for a bit and fell in love, and the prices are great too! Unfortunately, with Shaun's therapies, etc I could not find the time I would have liked to devote to selling, but I still buy all my makeup there!

4. Favorite clothing brand?

I love Ann Taylor Loft and Gap...but my bank account does not! Haha. I cannot bring myself to spend that much on me, but I will buy things on sale from both places. Actually, their sizes do not agree with me either, I'm very petite and still have to shop in the juniors clothing, even the petite don't always fit! I have discovered that Target has great clothes as well. And looking through my closet- I have a ton of American Eagle, especially jeans! I will admit that most of my clothes are from yard sales! I have managed to find some great deals on clothes that look brand new (and some that are!)...why spend all that money anyway?

5. Indispensable makeup product?

I am in love with the Juice Gems lipgloss from Mark (avon).

6. Favorite color?

I LOVE red! Anyone who comes into my house can probably tell you that! There is only one room in my house that does not have at least a bit of red somewhere!

7. Favorite perfume?

I do not wear perfume often, but I LOVE Victoria's Secret Love Spell...and Pure Seduction, but Love Spell is definitely my favorite!

8. Favorite film?

There are so many that I love- Moulin Rouge, Rent, Fireproof (if you have not seen this one I highly recommend it, with your significant other too!), To Save A Life, Remember Me, Julie and Julia, Under The Tuscan Sun, A Walk to Remember, Bang Bang You're Dead...well, you get the idea!

9. What country would you like to visit and why?

I have never been outside the US so anywhere would be wonderful. My top choices would be Germany, since both my husband and I are German and I speak a little bit of the language, and Italy because well, it just sounds wonderful!!

10. Would you rather forget to put mascara on one eye or forget blush on one side of your face?

I don't use blush, and when I do it's very little, so the blush would be less noticeable...plus I love my mascara!!

And now to pass along this award, here are just a few of my favorite blogs (in no particular order):

1. Beth Ann at My Life More Abundant
2.Livkit at Simply Sunshine and Daisies
3. Kathryn at Singing Through The Rain
4. Vicky at The Johnsons
5. Kerri at Oh Mann!
6.Brittany at Mrs. Yellow Ribbon
7. Lyndsey at It's A Love Story Baby Just Say Yes

Thursday, January 13, 2011

All Aboard!

So, as most of you reading this know, we recently went on a cross country train trip to visit family for the holidays. If you have never traveled by train, I recommend you try it at least once. It was an amazing experience! Although I will say alone with an autistic child, it was not easy! But I'll start from the beginning!

Our journey got off to a rough start. The morning before we left, our ride to the train station (and home from when we got back) fell through. One thing you should all know about me is that I have severe anxiety, so last minute change of plans like this put me in full panic mode. I had no idea how we were going to make it to the station, as it was a bit of a drive and I don't know many people here! But in the end, a wonderful friend rearranged her schedule to make sure we would get there! I cannot thank her enough for that! Crisis averted!

At the station was another adventure. Talk about your sensory overload! Shaun had multiple meltdowns as we waited to check in. Waiting and autism do not mix. Not to mention loud crowded train stations! (Which did not mix well with mommy's anxiety either. At one point, I could not understand what had possessed me to decide that this was a good idea. But we survived and made it onto the train alive. Whew. And once we were on I remembered why I'd chosen to take this trip.

If you know my son personally, or have followed my blog long, you probably know that my little man is in love with trains. Actually, love does not begin to cover it...he's obsessed. Is there anything more extreme than obsessed? Because that's what he is!! I wrote a post awhile back about how Thomas proved to be one of his greatest therapies. It calmed him, increased his speech, taught him his numbers...he even learned to read all of the trains names. The boy knows his trains. He still is learning body parts- but ask him where a firebox or tender is, and he can show you like its nothing! He amazes me. And so this trip was a dream come true for him. I cannot tell you the joy it brought me to see him in heaven like this. He was born to travel this way. Every time a conductor would walk by, he would start jumping up and down shouting, 'ductor, ductor!'. Adorable. They would stop and chat with him every time they came by and he loved that. It made the bad parts of the trip worth it! Usually, we make the trip home by driving. Nonstop. For 2-3 days. Let me tell you, it's not a fun trip! On the train, we were able to get up, walk around, etc and it made for a much more pleasant trip.

Now onto the downfalls. There truly weren't many. Mostly the sleep. We did not get a room in an effort to save money, so I'm sure if we had, it would not have been an issue, but as it was, it was not the most comfortable of sleep. We turned both of our seats into a makeship bed and laid across them that way. The seats recline, but I'm not one that can sleep that way so we curled up together. Let's just say, I'm glad I'm short! (I'm just under/right around 5 foot). Overall it was a good trip.

After much deliberation, I decided we would take the train back as well. A few days before we left, Shaun got sick with a horrible cough and fever. The night before we left he seemed much better, but woke up even worse but the fever was gone. I knew we were in for a long trip. We also had to switch trains this time around. I had wanted to avoid it, but in this case it was just unavoidable. Remember my severe anxiety? Oh yes, it was kicked into overdrive. At one point I was barely avoiding a panic attack. Partially at the idea of missing our next train, but also because of our luggage situation. Without going into too much detail, the original plan for getting to and from the station that had fallen through, also included plans to get all of our Christmas gifts back. Since that fell through, we had a ton of extra stuff we had to figure out how to get back. We ended up shipping a HUGE box full, and leaving some behind, but there was still a lot. And so I had a lot of stuff, plus a carseat, plus Shaun...who is a runner and cannot walk on his own in places such as this. And our first train did not allow for checked baggage. Things were certainly stacked against me! But thanks to the kindness of strangers and some wonderful Amtrak employees, we got our things where they needed to be.

Despite all that, I think the first part of the trip was easier than the trip there. Why? Shaun slept almost the entire trip. Really, I felt bad for the poor guy, missing out on all his train fun! Usually when he's sick he's still full of energy, but that was not the case here. He just couldn't seem to stay awake! On the last night of our trip, we finally saw his energy return and the trip went downhill...the little stinker had given it to mommy! It was horrible, I was sooo sore, and I didn't have the option of sleeping it off. Thankfully our train arrived early the next morning and I was loaded up with vitamin d and sinupret! Shaun and I are both feeling much better!

And so that was a bit about our trip. I feel like I left a lot out, and yet said so much. Ha! The point is, it was a great experience and again, I recommend it. We will likely being doing another trip in April and can see us traveling this way a lot in the future. If you've been thinking about it at all, give it a try, it's wonderful!!

Here is a slide show of some pictures from both trips. Enjoy! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What I'm Loving Wednesday!!!!

Coming in a little late today (after being super busy cleaning and reorganizing/decorating all day!), but it's Wednesday yet again so I thought I'd go ahead and link up with Jamie for What I'm loving Wednesday!

I am loving:

All my new (and old) Willow Tree figurines! I received two for Christmas from my mother in law- Together and Imaginative Child, and today while searching for recipe cards at Hallmark, I couldn't resist looking. I had lots of Christmas money after all. I could not believe when I picked up Angel of Prayer and saw the price sticker- 94 cents! So I couldn't pass up a deal like that. I'd been working on reorganizing my bookshelf, where I'm displaying most of my collection, and I thought I could use a few more too...so I picked up Guardian Angel and Good Health as well. I just love the simplicity of these. Anyone else a fan? Would love to hear about your collections and which one is your favorite/has the most meaning to you! I've mentioned before my absolute favorite is the Hope one. When I saw it I immediately thought of Shaun and the hope that I have for his future, autism and all.

I am loving:

The new shrimp enchilada recipe I tried tonight! Delicious, stay tuned for the recipe and more thoughts on that:)

I am loving:

Instant Star! Did anyone else watch this on The N? I have been an Alexz Johnson fan since So Weird (old school Disney Channel), and the show did not disappoint. She's a wonderful singer, and the music at the time was quite fitting to things going on in my life. Anyway, with some of my Christmas money this year I bought the entire series on DVD. I'm a dork, I know, but I still love it!

I am loving:
that Shaun's transition back to California has not been too horrible! If you know anything about autism, you know that change can be hard. We often see an increase in negative behaviors after big changes, such as our trips, like self injurious behaviors, more meltdowns, etc. He's been a little sensitive, slept a bit worse (if possible) and quite clingy...but it could definitely be worse so for that I am very thankful.

Monday, January 10, 2011

All Things Monday!!

Miscellany Monday

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters

1. We're home!

Eh, well, to our house at least. I still consider Illinois/Indiana home! I will blog about the train trip once I recover enough and get all the pictures on my computer. I will say all things considered, it was a good trip- Shaun and I were both sick though which did not make for the easiest travel, but we survived. I always have a hard time when we come back from visiting family, our house seems so empty, but I have been trying to keep busy to keep my mind off it. Thankfully, Shaun has no troubles keeping me distracted!

2. When it rains:

It pours, all over my bathroom!! Oh yes. We came home and turned the heat on, a few hours later, I walked into the bathroom to find a wet bathroom and water dripping from the vent. Oh boy! I called maintenance and they said it was a broken condensation pipe or something like that. The good news was there wasn't a lot of damage since we'd caught it so soon (thank God I had turned the heat off before we left!). The bad news, they had to call in an outside contractor to fix it and we're not sure how long before they can come. In the meantime, we're without heat, and I don't know if I've mentioned this before but I get cold VERY easily. They let us borrow these two itty bitty space heaters (all they had!), but when I tried plugging both in, we lost power in the living room. And so we just deal...and wear layers!!

3. My guest bedroom: opinions?

I came home to find the bedding I'd ordered for the guest room had arrived! And it is even more gorgeous than I'd imagined! (If I didn't think Matt would think it was a bit too girly, I'd use it in our bedroom instead.) I'd already had pink curtains and a set of red sheets so when I saw this bedding I thought it would work perfectly without having to replace either. It is still a work in progress, so I'll only post pictures of the bed at the moment to ask for opinions. I *think* I already have decided that the mirror above the bed looks best, but I have these wonderful art prints I would love to put up and the guest bedroom is the only place they'll work, perhaps put them elsewhere in the room? What do you think?
A little back story on these prints, they were given to me by my Great Great Uncle Theodore. If you follow my blog, you might remember that I recently learned he had passed, we were very close so these also have a lot of sentimental value. Not to mention historical value. They are from the 1937 National Committee for Art Appreciation! You can read about that here.

4. A giveaway!

Who doesn't love a good giveaway, and this is a great one for a Lisa Leonard gift certificate- beautiful custom jewelry, I browsed the site and fell in love with pretty much everything. So head over to lowercase letters to win!!

Meet Me on Monday!

1. Have you (only you..not a group) ever won first place in anything?
Does Grand Champion for 4H count? If so, then yes- for Creative Writing.

2. Are your toes always painted (sorry guys...this question for girls only)?
Yes! I cannot stand unpainted toenails! Right now they are blue!!

3. What color eyes do you have?

4. Look to your left....what do you see?
The afore mentioned itty bitty space heater!

5. Soft cookies or crunchy cookies?
I prefer soft, but I am not so great at cookies so mine usually end up a bit more crunchy...but as long as they taste good, right?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Top 2 Tuesday: Items of 2010 (& More!)

I'm linking up with The Undomestic Momma again for Top 2 Tuesday! This weeks theme is the top two items of 2010.

1. Kitchenaid! I've mentioned before that this was my birthday gift from my husband and I could not ask for a better gift. I worried once I got it that it would sit and not be used, but I have found more and more ways to use it and it has made me venture outside of my comfort zone a bit with baking. It's inspired me to start making cakes, rolls, breads, etc from scratch and while there have been a few that did not turn out the best, I have found a few new favorites!! I cannot thank my husband enough for this. (Though the homemade bread seemed to be thanks enough for him!)

2. Scentsy! Seriously, if you have not tried Scentsy you should! It is very popular in my area and so I finally gave in to see what the hype was about and I love it. I'll be honest, I have this paranoia that my house will smell funny to other people. You know you get so used to the things you smell every day and don't notice it. So I was always spraying Glade/Febreze/etc and lighting candles when we were going to have company- just in case. (And of course who doesn't love a great smelling house anyway!?) But with an adventurous toddler who likes to climb, well, everything and a mommy who tends to be a bit forgetful...candles are just asking for disaster, right? That's what I love about Scentsy, no candles to worry about, I can burn them 24/7 if I wish and the wax doesn't get scolding hot in case the little man would (and he has) get into it. And there are so many great warmers and scents to choose from. Some of my favorites: Cranberry Mango, Pumpkin Pie, Christmas Cottage, Paradise Punch, Sugar Cookie, Hazelnut Latte, Lucky in Love (but only in the bathroom or truck, it smells just like Love Spell from Victoria's Secret, my favorite!) and so many more!

It was a hard choice to narrow it down to my top 2! There was one more item that was a favorite in 2010 that deserves mention, so as a bonus:

3. Pioneer Woman Cookbook! My most used cookbook of 2010! I absolutely love it and recommend it to everyone. You can check out my reviews of some of the recipes here and here. I've tried several other recipes not mentioned on here as well and everything has been wonderful!

I'm also linking up with Night Owl Crafting for Hoo Are You!?.


1. Did you make any New Year's Revolutions?
Yes, I did! You can read about my Top 2 Resolutions here. I have several other resolutions in mind as well though- getting more creative with Shaun's school lunches, stress less, read more, be a better blogger, etc.

2. What are some goals you have for 2011?
I guess that kind of goes with my resolutions, but a big goal we have is definitely to save money!! The end of 2010 brought a good start so we will continue working on that.

3. What is something that you got for Christmas?
I got so many great things for Christmas this year! A little bit of all of my favorite things! Kitchen things (food chopper, kitchen time, potholders and towels that I love), aprons (including an autism awareness one my sister in law made for me), willow tree figurines, home decor...I'm sure I missed some! The only thing on my list I did not get this year was Scentsy, and I got cash to take care of that!

4. Did you see any good movies over the holiday season?
I watched 'Eat, Pray, Love' with my mom over the holidays! We both really liked it. At first I thought it reminded me a bit of one of my favorites, 'Under The Tuscan Sun', but that quickly changed. Really good!!
I also really enjoyed ABC Family's 'Christmas Cupid'. It was kind of cheesy, but fun!

5. Do you do your own taxes or have someone do them for you?
Have someone else do them!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Miscellany Monday

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters

1.♥ Today is my 4 year wedding anniversary, which I already mentioned here. I love this man and cannot wait to spend many more years together.

2. Back To Reality. Our visit home for the holidays is coming to an end, in a few short days we will be back on the train headed for California (and I promise I will write about our train rides when both are done!) I have enjoyed this time with family and friends and am not ready to go back just yet, but I know Shaun will be happy to be back in school again. Oh the things we do for our children...

3. TV. I am so excited about the premiere of Pretty Little Liars today! I'm not sure I'll get to watch it today, but my DVR is set. Happy Anniversary gift to me!!!

4. On a serious note: On the 1st I found out that my Great Great Uncle passed away a few months ago and our family was not told. He was not close to most of our family, really only my mom and myself I think, but me more than anyone. He was one of my greatest heroes. I have been having a hard time with it. But I know he lived a long and full life- he was a WWII Navy Veteran and an engineer working on the space shuttle- and I know he is in a better place now.

5. Prayers for Olivia. As many of you know I was recently featured on Simply Sunshine and Daisys, a wonderful blog by an amazing woman, Liv. She has been battling Ovarian Cancer and could use everyone's prayers during this time. You can follow her at the link above or visit the Facebook page here.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

January 3rd, 2007

I married my best friend. It has been a crazy 4 years, but I love him more and more every day. I cannot imagine my life without him and cannot wait until he is home and we can celebrate together!

Our Song

"Feels Like Home" by Chantal Kreviazuk

Somethin' in your eyes, makes me wanna lose myself
Makes me wanna lose myself, in your arms
There's somethin' in your voice, makes my heart beat fast
Hope this feeling lasts, the rest of my life

If you knew how lonely my life has been
And how long I've been so alone
And if you knew how I wanted someone to come along
And change my life the way you've done

It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I'm all the way back where I come from
It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I'm all the way back where I belong

A window breaks, down a long, dark street
And a siren wails in the night
But I'm alright, 'cause I have you here with me
And I can almost see, through the dark there is light

Well, if you knew how much this moment means to me
And how long I've waited for your touch
And if you knew how happy you are making me
I never thought that I'd love anyone so much

It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I'm all the way the back where I come from
It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I'm all the way back where I belong
It feels like I'm all the way back where I belong

I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life. ~Rita Rudner

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. ~Mignon McLaughlin

Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly. -Rose Franken

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

For, you see, each day I love you more, Today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow. -Rosemonde Gerard