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I have a confession to make.
This confession may shock some of you. It will possibly horrify others. I have no idea. Maybe you won't think it's a big deal. I don't know. It's kind of a big deal here, and I spend way too much time thinking about this.
So here's my confession.
Our house only has one bathroom.
I'll let you take a moment to let that sink in.
One bathroom. 6 bums. You do the math.
Granted, it's a big bathroom. When I post bubble bath
pictures of the kids in the jacuzzi, it always creates a small "bathroom envy" riot. When those comments start rolling in, I always whisper to myself, "You have no idea". It is so frustrating at times to only have the one bathroom. I would trade that tub in a heartbeat to be able to have two toilets.
Here's the truth. We bought the house long before we had any kids (or were even thinking of having kids). We (I) LOVED the fabulous bathroom and it really was a dream for young and married with no kids.
We added one kid and it was still the dream (Addison took forever to potty train so it just wasn't an issue). Added two kids and it wasn't bad. It is a huge bathroom with two sinks, a separate shower and bath, and the space was easily shared.
When that third child became potty trained...it was a stretch but not too bad...but then Addison finally decided to join the party and holy fighting over the toilet
I will spare you the details (I started typing out a specific story and then decided no....just NO...you're welcome), but this has caused me quite a bit of angst. (Especially since the boys have decided to become competitive poopers. Side note and totally unrelated: when I grow up I have decided not to have any kids.)
Not to mention that Addison needs a bit more time than the average 7-year-old and cannot "hold it and wait" (learned this the hard way).
I have been obsessing over this all week, and it just won't let me go. For three reasons.
1. We just had a contractor come over and give us a quote for splitting the one bathroom into two. (I would miss that kidney.)
2. I just posted a bubble bath
picture of the kids which generated a lot of new comments about my bathroom. (the issue already fresh on my mind)
3. Morgan is (and has been for a while) ready to start taking her turn on the toilet
. (the nerve of that child!!!!) (-;
Now if you will remember correctly (I hope you don't remember this too specifically), when Morgan was a baby, we took a stab at selling our house
. Lots of lessons learned...lots of prep work done....it just wasn't to be at that time for a million reasons.
Now we are at the point where we are thinking of trying this again because in addition to the toilet needs...there are also space needs (I run my music teaching studio out of the house). BUT this is possibly a year(ish) out and that's why we had the contractor come by. However because of the price of doing this, it would tie us to this house for a lot longer than perhaps would work for us. The bathroom situation would be solved...but not the space problem...and we couldn't move in such a short time frame without losing 90% of the money we just put into a fresh new bathroom.
Long story short, this has left me stewing all week about our bathroom situation.
It is ridiculous. It is impossible. And I'm not sure where I went wrong that left me in this tangled situation? We lose if we put in the new bathroom. We lose if we don't. (Adulthood is fun.)
This super mature pity party led me to a seasonally-themed thought that made me quite uncomfortable.Contentment.
Can I be content with one bathroom? Even though we are working on changing this situation, this is where God has us right now...today. This has been my inner dialogue pretty much all week:
Well, I don't have to be content because it's not working for what our family needs.Isn't it?
Everyone else has two bathrooms plus.Do they? And why does this matter?
Pinterest says---Pinterest lies
The pictures on Instagram--Don't care.
I NEED this RIGHT NOW...Do you? Do you really? Have you ever gone without?
Well...no....but...Has God ever failed to supply for every one of your needs?
No...but...Is God a good God?
Of course...but...No buts. This is where he has you today. Not forever. But for today. Can you be content with that?
Well I....No excuses. Can you? Can you find contentment right where he has placed you?
BUT I HAVE FOUR KIDS AND I NEED TWO TOILETS
!How many people would love to have just one? How many people would give anything for running water? You have two sinks...a shower...a bathtub that the kids love. Stop it. You are being ungrateful.
Because isn't that so true of the lack of contentment? It really goes back to gratitude for what we have? Not what we think we should have or what we think we deserve or what we think would work better for us.
Right here. Right now. Walking into the one bathroom that clearly has been written into today's plan for my life....and being grateful.
Can I do this?But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. I Tim 6:6-7
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:10
Not that I speak in respect to want, for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Phil. 4:11
I went to look up verses on contentment, and I found a lot of verses on Paul being beaten and shipwrecked and flogged and persecuted....and content.
The more I read, the more I realized...having "only" one bathroom is not a problem.
Not even a little bit.
Remembering this, I look around my bathroom and see not a lack. Healthy and free to live my life, surrounded by healthy, vibrant children...I see a room that serves us well. I see the running water that liberally flows whenever I turn a knob. And as hot as I want it...as often as I want it. The toilet...the most unglamorous job that ever was...that works so well (as long as we keep children from stuffing wipes down it). The shower that has ended a thousand of my days. The tub
that keeps my children clean. Even a nice wide open floor for all the dirty laundry that gets tossed there.
As I remember to look at what IS and not what I think SHOULD be...I am grateful.
And this gratitude is the soap
that I pour into the kids' bath that quickly bubbles up into large, frothy bubbles of contentment.
Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends. Being thankful takes so many shapes and sizes. For me this year....it is about the bathroom dilemma. But really...it's always something. I am thankful for lessons learned along the way, and for what IS. This year I am thankful for...one bathroom. So grateful.
May your day be perfectly imperfect....stuffed with gratitude...slathered with contentment....shared with those that you love.
Thanks for traveling this crazy thing called life with us.
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I've found that Christmas with kids can sometimes be more stressful than it is magical. (FYI, cranky newborns don't all of a sudden sleep the night just because it's a holiday. Also-- skipping naps for parties or meals or a service is FUN!)
BUT as my kids get older, the magic is starting to really appear. I love how into Christmas they are getting. As they are emerging into holiday-loving people, I've spent a lot of time thinking through what I want our traditions to be. (Up until now, our traditions have included mostly just surviving. I highly recommend.)
I haven't settled on everything, but I wanted to share with you 4 kid Christmas things that I am currently loving.1. Felt Christmas Tree
to hang on the wall
I just ordered this last week, and it came in on Friday. Now the price is lower (AGH!) and the shipping is different. (Don't you love it when they do that?) BUT, I am so pleased with how thick and sturdy the felt is since I see it getting a LOT of handling. As the kids have the week off of school, I think tomorrow we will decorate this...and I know it will get redecorated a hundred times between now and Christmas. I figured if they have this, maybe they will leave the actual tree alone? A girl can hope. (-;
You will be seeing lot of action on this bad boy via IG. Brace yourselves! (-;2. Ann Voskamp advent book: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas
We got this the year it came out and it is EXCELLENT. I'm so glad I sat down to write this list because it's reminding me to dig this book out so we don't start out behind on our advent reading. (FYI it is currently $6 off.)"Person by person, story by story, retrace the lineage of Jesus. Fall in love with Him all over again as you experience God's plan of salvation for us--from the Garden of Eden to the manger and beyond."3. Children Manger Set
This is the closest link I could find to the one I have. My mom ordered it as a gift to the kids a few years ago, and they LOVE being able to play with their own set. I'm looking forward to teaching with this again this year!4. Picture Calendars
Heads up, right now you can get a FREE wall calendar from Shutterfly with the code MYGIFT (ends tomorrow)
I make a calendar every year bursting with pictures of my kids and give them as Christmas gifts to the parents and grandparents. AND I keep one for myself. I currently have an entire wall covered with Shutterfly calendars detailing the last seven years in month-to-month detail. This is just my favorite. Also, it's funny how those years when I was thinking "JUST SURVIVE!" look so cute and put together up on my wall via the calendars.
In the past I have paid for these with diaper/pull up Pampers rewards points (this bought me SO many free calendars), free codes I can find online (such as MYGIFT), and random mailed flyers with $10 off.
My only problem this year...is finding the time to make my calendar! I predict an entirely copied off of IG calendar this year. Ha!
Okay your turn. What kid Christmas stuff are you excited about this year????
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I just finished Addison's IEP.
When I started doing IEPs as a parent, I would leave feeling kind of depressed. I was sitting in this tiny chair that truly fit only one bum cheek (real life, people. real life.), talking for an hour and a half about everything that she wasn't doing or couldn't achieve and the NOTs.
Today...honestly...I left feeling super encouraged. And a little bit guilty. Okay lot guilty. To hear them explain everything that she's working on and achieving at school makes me feel like I'm not doing enough with her at home.
Also, I told the story to her speech therapist about how Addison said, "You are the worst mommy. That is unkind."
I was trying to say THANK YOU for helping Addison learn to express how she feels. It is HUGE! But then the speech therapist was apologizing and trying not to take the blame for a child telling her mother that "she is the worst". It got awkward there for a minute. Did not think that through. I guess "thank you" cards come in all shapes and sizes.
"THANK YOU FOR TEACHING MY CHILD TO SAY THAT I AM THE WORST" lacks a certain kind of ring, but I give it points for creativity. (Get on that, Hallmark
Today the biggest change for Addison is that she's doing so well that they want to give her some small independent slots of the day where SHE DOESN'T HAVE AN AIDE.
I'll admit, at first I was torn on this. Were they just getting cheap? Or was she really doing so well that this is the legit next step?
After thinking it through and listening to Addison's SPED's well articulated thoughts on this, I really do think that Addison is ready for this. She is participating so well in each class that for certain classes an aide shadowing her is just not necessary. (Such as music class). She has become so fiercely independent even at lunchtime she doesn't need help anymore.
My only concern was that if something happened during these times (for example a few weeks back Addison came home with marker
drawn on her pants in a private area and I wanted to hear the story to make sure that she did that to herself)...how would I know what happened? So we compromised with her being in a small group para situation for lunch and recess...no aide for a specific 20 minutes a day plus music class....and then full time aide for the rest of the day.
My baby is growing up.
As I reflect on our IEP, I am just so grateful. Addison has an incredible team that fights for her. I really don't need to do any fighting in our current IEP situation. They present their thoughts...listen respectfully as I add mine...and they graciously consider all points of view as the final decision rests on what is best for Addison.
This is my long way of saying that I no longer leave discouraged. I don't see this as a meeting to discuss the "can't"s and the negatives. This is an opportunity to get an insight into Addison's days. This is a chance to focus on specific ways I can support her school time at home. This is a meeting of the minds to help Addison achieve her best in every possible way. This is a time to watch her teachers' faces light up as they talk about her. (And to laugh to hear them say that she can be a brilliant manipulator when she wants something. They're on to her!!!)
IEPs are a chance to be heard. To listen. To know that Addison is being pushed and yet accommodated (this is a tricky tricky balancing act and they do this brilliantly). To say thank you.
Speaking of which, I took my thank you gifts today. I appreciate everyone on my facebook page who had thoughts on this. I took each idea...divided it by the amount of time I had....multiplied it by how much I wanted to say thank you...and subtracted energy I had available to spend.
After tallying these numbers, today I took...(drum roll please) Dunkin Donuts
gift cards. (I stayed up all night crafting these.)
But seriously, I am in such awe of Addison's team. She has her classroom teacher, her SPED, her speech therapist, a physical therapist, and OT...not to mention her music teacher and art teacher and PE teacher...and they all focus on their area of expertise in equipping Addison. I can't say enough good about every single person on her team.
I am extremely grateful for our district and for Addison's school.
So today I left her IEP encouraged. I never would have dreamed that Addison would be accomplishing all of this by the time she was 7. I never would have thought she would have a whole table of professionals smiling that they thought her dream job was to be a teacher and that she could already command control of her classroom.
I no longer wince whey they use words like "modified comprehension questions" and hear how some of her assignments are simplified to help her find success. She is in a mainstream, second grade classroom, has so many kind friends, and she comes home excited about learning and making progress in reading and math and science and ALL THE THINGS every single day. She is finding success! Modify away. The smile on her face as she grasps new concepts is worth it.
Using the IEP, they have created the perfect learning environment for Addison. As a result, she is thriving. IEP-- greenhouse specs. Addison-- blooming flowers.
I am overwhelmed with the amount of things that I am reminded of that I should be working with her as well. I am also aware that this might not always be such a rosy experience as she grows past second grade. BUT I am encouraged. Because what I used to see as the cup half empty (focusing on the "nots") I now see as the cup half full....she is getting there. With 100% accuracy. (-;
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I will never forget the day that I sat sobbing in my car at school pickup.
It was Addison's birthday, and I was hugely pregnant with Morgan. The entire house was blown to bits for the kitchen renovation and my world was in sawdusty, broken pieces. The one good thing that I thought I had gotten right that day...turns out...was all wrong.
I let Addison down, and I could never forgive myself.
Earlier that day, after dropping three kids off at three different schools, I raced to the grocery store. (Okay fine, I was 9 months pregnant...I waddled to the grocery store.) I had promised Addison that I would get her some chocolate cupcakes
to take to class to celebrate her birthday. I had no kitchen at home in which to bake them, but I figured with allergies etc, it would be better anyway to buy something with a specific ingredient label.
I was exhausted and overwhelmed and did I mention exhausted? I didn't have time or energy for an extra stop, but I HAD to do it because I had it all pictured in my head....
Addison would pass out cupcakes to each of her classmates, beaming with happiness. They would all sing "Happy birthday" and smile at her. She would dance around a center of a circle while they all ate their chocolate cupcakes in her honor. Happiness fireworks would explode around the classroom. The lights would shine brighter. The air would be clearer. Each face would hold a huge, chocolatey smile as they celebrated the day Addison was born.
By bringing chocolate cupcakes
, I would make her birthday a happy one. I would make her happy. I could picture the glow on her face. (And the chocolate smudge around her mouth.) It would be a perfect school birthday moment in which she would share something she loves with the people that she loves.
In all my masterful planning and imaginings, I forgot to take one thing into consideration.
At the beginning of the school year (August), a memo went out stating that no food items were to be brought in for birthdays. It was now February. I had lost a lot of brain cells between August and February (pregnant with fourth child). I had forgotten that I ever read those words.
I had so completely forgotten about it that when I went to meet Addison at the end of the day, smiling with the picture still in my head of how her day went, I looked down, saw the entire bag full of untouched cupcakes, and I couldn't breathe.
Why didn't they pass out her cupcakes
? They were nut free! And labeled! They lined up with all the school food rules. What did I do wrong? I couldn't figure it out.
All I could picture was Addison, sitting in the middle of her birthday circle, but because her mom brought the wrong ingredients, she was DENIED birthday time. I pictured fat tears falling furiously down her cheeks. I pictured her sweet mouth slightly open, wanting cupcakes, not allowed cupcakes. I pictured sadness.
I pictured a ruined birthday. A ruined birthday by a child who couldn't communicate such emotions. A ruined birthday for a girl with delays and did she understand why she didn't have cupcakes? Was she crushed? Did she sit huddled in the corner, cupcakeless, joyless, crushed soul?
And so after I buckled Addison into her carseat, knowing that Addison couldn't answer any of these questions for me (and I was far too embarrassed to call and ask)...I put a bag full of cupcakes on the seat next to me. I lumbered up into the driver's seat...buckled myself in...turned the car on....
...and I lost it.
Tears streamed down my face, dripping onto my swollen belly. My shoulders shook (I really want to say slender shoulders but I cannot tell a lie). I couldn't get this picture out of my head, and it broke me. I couldn't drive for several minutes because I was crying so hard.
Worst, cupcake-less birthday ever. And it was all my fault. Clearly, I somehow broke an allergy rule. (Still hadn't remembered the no food memo.)
Fast forward an entire year.
I went into a parent teacher conference, not even remembering this moment.
And I heard what actually happened. Her new teacher brought it up totally unprompted because it had made such an impact on him.
On that birthday, Addison didn't expect cupcakes because no one in class ever brings birthday cupcakes.
Instead, there is this special dance and ceremony and hand clap celebration that they do for every student. It's a rather complicated dance and everyone's mouths dropped when Addison jumped up for HER BIRTHDAY and with a world-brightening smile and rolling giggles, she performed EVERY step of this ceremony and dance and hand clap PERFECTLY.
She had memorized it, watching everyone else in the class who had birthdays before her and had been anxiously been awaiting her day.
The scene that was described to me included the happiness fireworks and clearer air and brightened spirits. The teacher's face was beaming as he recalled this day almost a year after it actually happened. He hadn't forgotten a single detail.
The look on Addison's face. Her laugh. The class' response. Her epic dance moves. The moment so full of awesome and perfection that people ran in from the hallway to witness it.
My mouth dropped open. I remembered that day, sobbing in my car, feeling like the worst mother ever.
Turns out the picture in my head was completely wrong. Completely.
Cupcakes were not needed for her celebration to be amazing. And yet, the picture in my head had convinced me that they were. I remember that specific feeling of failure as a mom. I remember those tears. I even remember thinking that I would never get this right. That Addison deserved a much better mom.
And yet the reality was...the day was a huge success. All I had to do was have her there...clothed...fed...ready to do school. I did all of that. I didn't fail at all.
(Also...lesson learned...now for birthdays I remember to send a non-food item...stickers
I've thought a lot about this since. Almost two years later. I can't let go of the concept of how the picture in my head....wasn't even close to reality.
And how that's okay.
In fact, I would venture to say that reality is way better. It just looks different. (Addison spent that entire weekend eating cupcakes. She got the best of both worlds.)
This reminds me a lot of the crying I did after the 20 week ultrasound that revealed something "wrong" with my first baby. I did a lot of crying in those weeks of our diagnosis revelation. Not because anything was "wrong" with Addison, but because of the picture I had built up in my head that told me what having a child with Down syndrome would look like.
My picture was wrong. So, so wrong.
The reality of having a child with Down syndrome is nothing like that picture that made me cry bitter tears. The reality leaves me with gratitude and happiness for the little girl who blesses us on a daily basis.
I'm learning to lose the idealized picture of motherhood in my head and instead, embrace what is
. Loving what is right in front of me.
The mess. The sticky. The hugs. The love.
Erasing what I think my kids' personalities should
be...and accepting and delighting in who they are
Pushing aside the perfect vision of how each day should go, and finding the beauty in the imperfections that play out in front of me.
The picture in my head, turns out, is quite the drama queen (in case you didn't get that already). I am learning to abandon expectations at the door...walk into my house...and find joy in the moment that greets me there.
Four kids fling themselves at me. They probably will be slightly sticky. They will probably fight over who gets to hug me first. I will have dirty dishes in the sink. And a pile of laundry on the floor in the bathroom. I will probably get sticky kisses. I will get warm hugs. I will hear repeated, "Mommy!!!"
This moment is perfection.
Whenever I'm tempted to lose it over broken parenting expectations. I remember the cupcakes
I remember that the only reason I'm upset is because of my expectations
. I'm upset over things that DIDN'T EVEN HAPPEN. Or didn't even need to happen in order for happiness to be found. Or are just plain WRONG. They are only the picture in my head. If I erase my expectations, I can erase disappointment and find joy in whatever the day may bring.
Even the sticky, messy, cupcake-less days. There is so much beauty there, and I don't want to miss it.
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I have a secret to tell you.
There is no "secret" to being a special needs mom. To rolling one day into the next. To staying upright when you don't think you can. To keep on keeping on.
To sum up, the secret is...there is no secret. (Clear as mud, right?!)
We all have different methods of doing life. There isn't one "fix-it" for everyone. Realizing this often leads me to being quiet about what works for me because why bother?
But then I stopped and realized...
1. I adore learning new tricks of the trade from other blogs
2. I keep getting asked about the same "tricks" over and over so it might be helpful for me to put them all in one place just for point of reference
I am publishing this post so that you can do the same as I enjoy doing. Pursue different ideas, take and try new things, discard what wouldn't work for you, and maybe walk away with some new "keeping on" secrets. Who knows?
BUT I'm going to warn you. This list is random. Random like the multi-colored duct tape that is currently holding me together.
So let's dig in.
The first one on my list is not new info. I only share it because...duh. It would be a crime to write a post about the things keeping me sane and not include coffee. I know that I make a lot of coffee jokes, but you should know that Addison oftentimes will wake up at 1 am...just because. And consistently...around 5am. Trying to keep up with this means that I am almost always tired and my days are packed full, requiring an alert, awake mind. So...
2. Door Alarms
(<-this and="" as="" being="" exact="" for="" have="" is="" lasted="" linked="" longer="" made="" most="" no="" ours="" p="" several="" the="" to="" updated="" version="" years="">I get asked about these ALL the time. Because of Addison's bolting tendencies (and her 1am wake up times), I absolutely need to know if she wakes up in the middle of the night and decides to leave the house (this has happened before). Or if I'm working in the kitchen, I need to know if she decides to slip out of the front door for a joy walk. These door alarms have been AMAZING. They are pretty cheap and easy to install on both doors and windows. I can sleep peacefully at night knowing that if she tries to escape...I WILL hear it. Those of you who ask me about bolting kiddos and tricks to help especially at night...this is my go-to.
3. Kids Probiotics
I'm only a few months into this one, but I'm already a huge fan. Last winter, we got a virus that kept passing itself around the family for a solid two months. I thought I would LOSE MY MIND (you'll see that not a lot of blogging happened during that time). As a result, this year I'm working to be much more proactive about supplements for the kids. This probiotic has been amazing, and the kids love it so much they don't let me forget a night. Not sure if it will solve our wintertime crisis, but I'm praying it helps at least cut down the time frame if we were to get sick again. So far so good (knock on all the wood in the world.) Addison's immune system is especially weak, so however I can keep people healthy around her...it's worth the extra cost to me. I'm a bit sheepish to admit that it took me 7 years of parenting to start on something like this.
4. Triple Wagon
This next one I get asked about constantly. Our triple wagon has been the best. Addison still needs something when we do errands out and about, but she is too big for a stroller. These wagons have buckles and cup holders and they all get a bit of space from each other (to cut down on the "SHE TOUCHED ME!!!" screams). I will say that these distribute weight very poorly, so it's best to put the heaviest kids toward the back. Oh and this is also pretty rough on steep/downhill surfaces. So you know that with those disclaimers...if I still love it...it's because it has saved my sanity on probably hundreds of times. This is not an exaggeration. Plus, you instantly make new friends as you pull this colorful train around town. (-;
Every week I try to read at least one book. Some weeks I read three. Others I read zero. This is the one
I plan to tackle this week and WOW. Here is the first part of the intro:
"You are not 'just' a mom. My mission in writing this book is to show motherhood is part of the mission of God, thereby banishing once and for all, the insipid notion that mothering is insignificant. There is no such thing as 'just a mom,' because there is no mere 'just' in the calling of motherhood."
At least once a week I try to take an epsom salts soak in the tub. This is a total luxury for me, but I work to make time for it. Light some candles, grab that week's book, throw in a ridiculous amount of bubbles, and without apology grab some me time. Taking deep breaths, relaxing, allowing myself a break...this is an important part of holding onto my sanity. (also, I included the best link I could find, but you can get a better price on this at the grocery store!) I will also use the lavendar one in the kids' bath from time to time. They love it. Eli calls it "bath pepper" (-;
These are often my go-to food grab for myself if I don't have time to sit down and eat, but I know I need something. Or "dessert" at night if I want something sweet, but don't want to commit to a million calories. These bars have saved me more than once as I am driving around for pickups or dropoffs and SO hungry but had no time to eat before leaving home. Also, these are chocolate and packed full of protein, so I always give them to Addison to try to trick her into better nutrition while she is getting her chocolate fix. She LOVES these.
8. Stainless Steel Plates
I get asked about these so often on Instagram! These are just the best. They have been used every single day for over two years and still look brand new. They have been dropped and beaten up on a ton and not one plate has even come close to breaking. I love feeding the kids off of something that isn't plastic. They are an investment, so I put them in Easter baskets one year instead of a lot of candy. Worth it!
9. Protein Powder
This has been huge for my energy level as I chase little people, work, write, run a household, and everything in-between. I started taking protein powder this summer, drinking one shake at night right before bed. I have tried several different ones, and this is my favorite so far. (It's the first one that I ordered a second round of instead of searching out a new brand). At night I mix it with this
. And in the morning....wait for it...I mix it into at least one cup of coffee. it changes the taste slightly but has helped me power through more than one difficult day. I would say it's slightly "earthy" tasting, but I don't mind it. It has rather grown on me. (-;
Finding an online community has been so huge for me as I travel this road of motherhood. It is so helpful for me to write things out as I process them, and the fact that you consistently show up, listen thoughtfully, and often add your own voice into the discussion...this means the world to me. Thank you.
So there you have it. 10 Things Currently Keeping Me Sane As A Special Needs Mom.
What would be on your list?