Menarche or First Moon

Today my sweet little 10 year old started her period!

I am still in shock, but knew it was coming. She is so young still. I asked her if I should write in the blog about her Menarche, or post it to Facebook, and she said, “Of course mum, do both, it is exciting! I am glad I got it.”

We have had a great outlook on periods in our house. I never complain about getting it and I am happy each time. When I get cramps, I can feel them coming and usually can take my medication before they get too bad. Some days I miss that window and I have to lay down as I get really ill, but I never complain just state what is happening.

She has seen how the process goes through me, we are all very open about it as it is a natural body process. This was all modelling as I wanted her to be excited about getting it as it really is a miracle how our bodies work. I pray she does not get the pain, cold sweats, nausea and sickness like I use to as a teen. My early period days were horrible. Endometriosis is common in my family.

We have had some great conversations about menstruation and the body so it is no wonder that she was looking forward to getting her first moon. I am due tomorrow, so we are in sync as well, which does help.

Brent is amazingly supportive, and always buys my menstrual products and never makes a fuss. He even brings a big block of dark chocolate whenever I ask him to buy them. He also spoils me rotten and sometimes he brings me Baileys ice cream too. I am sure he will spoil Soph as well.

Sophia’s moods lately have been all over the show, but the past two days, she has been super sweet and cuddly and having food cravings like pancakes, so I made them for breakfast. She was stoked when she woke up because of the smell of them cooking.

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I had spoken to her Aunties and cousin in the states, about getting her gifts and a card for her first moon celebration and they mailed them this week, so that is perfect timing. I have told her Nana here in NZ as well, so she will be at the party.

I had a very old Capricorn necklace that was her great grandmother’s that I have been keeping for her for this day, so I gave that to her today, rather than waiting for the party. I know she won’t wear it, she does not like anything around her neck but she tried it on and has put it in her special box for keepsakes. I wanted her to have something today from her Ancestors.

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Brent will take her to lunch this weekend and get her something special, a bracelet or something from him. This is a tradition in my family. My Papa took me to buy a dress when I started, and my step-dad and mother took me for pizza and dancing to the jukebox to celebrate. Both are lovely memories that I cherish.

We will wrap all the gifts when they arrive as well as ours and get or bake a cake, and she wants pizza, so that is very cool. It will just be a small gathering for family.

I will also have a ceremony for her in our Red & Magenta Tent to celebrate her Menarche and welcome her to the Women’s circle.

I will also be letting her join me in the Womb Blessing ceremonies and give her this card. She has been wanting to do them with me for over a year.

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We have been preparing for a while for this day as I started mine at age 11, and her aunties and cousins were all about a similar age or younger, so we knew it could come at a young age for her as well.

She rang daddy and told him and he congratulated her and teased her a bit. Then she told Max when he got home and he ran in his room, then came back out and congratulated her. He had brought her home a slice of apple crumble from cooking class he had made so that was a nice synchronicity. She loved their reactions and giggled at their antics.

Brent will bring home a box of chocolates for her. We already had her products and I have showed her what to do. He is also bring a booklet by Miranda Gray called Let’s Go Menstrual which is a great resource for her. You can get it here by signing up for her newsletter.

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I have also added Period Tracker App to her phone and will show her how to use it after it is finished charging up. This is a valuable tool in tracking your cycles, symptoms and moods. The logo is a pink flower if you decide to get it. I use it and it is very accurate for me.

So here we are in the next phase of her development already.

She sure is growing up quickly but she will always be my baby.

 

 

 

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Day one of our Adventure weekend

We all got up early, had breakfast and jumped in the car for our fabulous adventure weekend.

We left the house at 9:30 and knew it would be a long drive, but wanted to take our time and enjoy the sights along the way.

Our first official stop was in Taihape at 11:15 to see the giant gumboot.

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This was pretty epic, but way to cold for a longer visit than eating our picnic lunch.

We carried on to Desert Road / State Hwy 1. At about 11:55, we had a great view of Mt Ruapehu.

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We then headed on to Turangi and stopped at 1:15 for a treat and to let the kids play a quick game of connect four at the Cadillac Cafe.

I had something new and different; it was called a Cruffin and was like a croissant but made in a muffin tin with filling. I had the chai tea one, and it was delicious!

Next we stopped off at 3:30 in Putaruru at the Over The Moon Artesan Cheese Deli. We had been told to check this store out on our trip, so we did. It is a lovely little shop with some great choices. I got some smoked Gouda and the kids grabbed some light snacks.

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Then we headed on towards Tirau to see the corrugated steel dog shed and other amazing works of art. Arriving at 3:55 we were pleasantly surprised that there are also sheep buildings! We spotted a few corrugated works, but didn’t remember to take pictures, they were a pukeko and poppies on some businesses, a good shepherd at the church and a bus full of animals on the school fence. This is pretty epic craftsmanship.

We then headed straight into Matamata and checked in to our hotel at 4:30. It was a nice place, old but clean. Pretty cool layout too.

By this time we were all pretty tired and the kids did some catching up on computers before we headed to look for a place for dinner.

A couple goes around town and we couldn’t decide on what to eat, so we just went to Subway. We don’t eat there very often and the kids love it so it was perfect.

When we got back to the room, Max and Sophia played on my computer a bit more, then Soph read before bed.

Brent and I watched Hitman. It was super cheeserrific and we turned in when it was over.

Even Lamby was tired from our long journey.

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Day one was amazing and we are all ready for sleep and tomorrow we to go to Hobbiton!! I may burst, I am so excited.

Te Papa Museum – Day 2 (ihc Take A Break)

This is the second day of our ihc Take A Break getaway. You can read more about this getaway in the post about day one; Wellington Zoo.

We slept so well in the hotel. All of us had a great night’s rest and we were up and ready for the day. Brent and Max wandered up the street for some butter and jam for the crumpets we had brought with us for breakfast. Brent and Max also gave some money to another homeless man by the store.

While they were gone, Sophia showered while I wrote out Nana’s postcard and packed up the room. She loved the shower in the en-suite and they had a blow dryer which was great as I had forgotten ours. I didn’t want her going out in the cold, windy weather with her gorgeous mane of hair wet.

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When the boys got back we had breakfast and finished packing. We really loved our suite, it was so cozy that it felt like our home. They had a lovely set-up for breakfast, even gluten free hot cocoa that was delicious! The kids loved that… so did I. 😉

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Brent and Max went to get the car as we did the final run through and moved everything in front of the door. He had to park up the block as they had run out of parking spaces for the hotel. Had we known sooner that we needed to book a park, we would have booked one last month when we confirmed our room.

The brochure said there was parking but not that we needed to make a separate reservation for it. It would have been nice to know that, but it worked out as Brent is such a Trooper (see what I did there?) that he always just goes with the flow. He and Max walked together and I think they liked the time alone wandering.

After we loaded the car up and checked out,  we were off to Te Papa and were very excited about our next adventure. We hit a bit of a snare with parking so Brent and Max went to park the car up the block and Sophia and I headed in to wander about the gift shop and wait for the boys to return.

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We looked around at all the amazing items in the gift shop and Max bought himself a necklace with a shark tooth shaped charm. Sophia kind of wanted an albino kiwi, but was not sure if really she wanted it, so we decided to wait until she was sure of something. She never did decide on anything in the end.

Next we went in to the Awesome Forces display. They had some great information on the Earth and sample rocks of the layers that they could touch and lift.

There were diagrams of the Earth as well as a movie that showed moving through the layers and how the movement effects the rock layers. Sophia really like this one, I think we all did.

They really like looking at the globe and learning about navigation. Brent was in his element, he is such a great teacher when it comes to science or math… well anything really.

There was a time traveler wheel. The kids really liked spinning it and imagining how long each age actually was. You could see their minds working to try and grasp the concept.

We then saw some bones and more stones. The kiwi egg inside the kiwi was really amazing. It was so busy that I started to get claustrophobic and had to stand off to the side and slow my breathing and calm myself. There was so much nose and movement.

We waited a bit for the crow to thin a bit, then headed on toward the quake simulator. While waiting in line for that, Sophia, Max and Dad tried the quake scale. unfortunately my mind was a bit foggy do I only remembered the camera at the end, but did manage to catch Brent jumping on the scale.

The Quake simulator is a tiny house and it feels so real. We all really liked that display. This is what their website says.

Visit our Earthquake House to:

  • feel a 6.6 magnitude simulation of an aftershock from the Edgecumbe earthquake of 1987
  • see some of the damage earthquakes cause
  • get a compelling reminder to quake-safe your own house
  • start a broader exploration of earthquakes and volcanic activity in our Awesome Forces exhibition.

A visit to our Earthquake House appeals to those who learn by doing and supports the following topics:

  • Disasters
  • Earth science – earthquakes and volcanoes
  • Pūrākau (storytelling)

Here is an awesome forces activity trail sheet for your kids to do while visiting.

Next we learned about volcanoes, volcanic eruptions and lava formations.

Then on to the waterways, water erosion and water disasters.

Next was wind, wind disasters, wind erosion and fossils.

Next we went to the Mountain to Sea exhibition and that was amazing. We didn’t take many photos as we were having too much fun. The amber was really neat to see with the bugs inside. We really like the tree house with the possum on the side and the natural sounds that were playing.

The colossal squid exhibition was “icky” up close (I actually gagged), but still amazing to see a creature this large. Here is a link to learn more about it’s anatomy, it is truly fascinating. It looked and felt (energy) like an alien to me.

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Next we headed over the Bridge toward Bush City, but we stopped outside to take in the view after a quick play on the giant xylophone.

The view outside was beautiful, but it was pretty windy which made it very cold.

Bush City Trail was really amazing, I loved seeing and learning about all the different plants. Also the hole that the Moa fell into with the bones was really need to see from the top (as in the picture below) and from eye level, inside the caves.

We had to skip the Fossil Dig as it was soaked, but we will go back again when it is summer and have a dig.

They had a small version of the glowworm caves too, that was very interesting. The limestone cave also had stalactites, cave wētā, and the bones of extinct flightless moa.

Then we wandered out to see the waterfall and rocks; some which date back almost 600 million years!

You can make your visit even more fun with the treasure hunt. For the Bush City Trail Scavenger Hunt form click here.

As we exited the Bush City walk we came into the courtyard of the Te Papa Cafe and decided to have a break and sit and have lunch. That was a nice little stop and recharge.

Next we went up to see the record breaking Britten V1000 Bike. Britten bikes were made in New Zealand in Christchurch before John Britten passed away from cancer. He had an amazing mind, you should read a book about his life.

We were bummed that the Fred Dagg exhibit wasn’t yet open, but we will go back again.

We carried on and went to the Blood, Earth Fire exhibit. We spent a bit of time there as there were some interactive displays.

Then we headed on to the Treaty of Waitangi: Signs of a Nation exhibit and the Passports and Immigration one. It was really interesting listening to and reading people’s immigration stories on the interactive displays.

After this we went into the Gallipoli: The Scale of our War exhibition (Field of Poppies). My camera flash wouldn’t turn off and flash is not allowed, so Brent gave me his phone to take photos. I wish I had traded him, as then I ended up with both phones and couldn’t contact him.

Although this was amazing and I loved the giant art sculptures, our clairsentient abilities went into overdrive and we had to get out. Sophia and I left the boys and tried to exit as soon as we could. I could feel all the emotions of the previous owners from the objects in the cases. All that fear, anger, feeling trapped and the sorrow was just completely overwhelming me.

It was absolutely packed to the point that you had to wait to get through each area. Half way out I had a panic attack and Sophia was so amazing. She grabbed my face and said, “Look at me mom, you are ok. Just breath deeply and take the pictures and I have your hand, I will get you out.”  So I took a few deep breaths and focused only on Sophia and taking pictures of the sculptures. I knew I had to be ok for her.

These sculptures were stunning in their detail and craftsmanship. I would recommend going just to see them. The rest of the exhibit I don’t remember much after I tuned in to a backpack, some tools and a gun, by accident. Usually I can control these when we are out together, but I was just tired and my guard was down.

The sculptures by Weta Workshop are 2.4 times human size and took 24,000 hours to create. It is such a powerful display and story. check out the brochure to learn more. This poster from the Te Pap site gives you an idea of the scale.

Gallipoli Poster

We got out and found a seat to wait for the guys in nice quiet corner and Sophia’s feet were hurting so I gave her a quick foot rub while we waited. It took them about 15 minutes but it was a welcomed break. After they came out we decided to go in the Earthquake Simulator one more time then head out. This was such a great visit.

After leaving Te Papa, we walked a few blocks to the Reading cinema to use our vouchers. by the time we got there it was too late to watch a movie, so we grabbed a bunch of snacks from the counter and told the kids we would rent them movies to watch in their rooms when we got home. They were pretty happy about that.

We left and drove home, Max was asleep before we hit the highway, and Soph slept for a bit as well. When we got back to town, we stopped in the movie rental place and then went next door and bought everyone their own pizza just because we could. Also, that meant lunch was sorted for the next day as we were wiped out.

What an amazing weekend!

We are so grateful to ihc, Boulcott Suites, Reading Cinemas and all the sponsors who donated to this amazing programme. We feel very blessed to have participated. Thank you so much from the Lawless Family.

I hope you all enjoyed sharing our journey with us.

Check back for our next adventure  in a couple weeks!

 

Wellington Zoo -Day 1 (ihc Take A Break)

We are so blessed to have been approved for an ‘ihc Take A Break’ getaway. We were gifted one night’s accommodation, four tickets to the zoo, movie cards worth four tickets, and $250 spending money as well as a beautiful art book!

This is day one of our adventure. Thank you to ihc and all of the sponsors for this generous gift. Be sure to apply if you qualify! I told a friend and her family also was accepted.

We drove to Wellington today to go to the Wellington Zoo! We had a great drive and arrived in time to find a spot right out front which was amazing! We had packed a lunch, so we ate that before we went in, as Sophia was hangry (hungry + angry) and we just needed to let her vent for a bit from the long drive.

She had us in stitches as she hated eating outside standing up and was just ranting about having to wear her jacket and feeling like a homeless person wearing all their clothes and eating by cars. Poor girl, we could just not stop laughing which made her more angry until she was fed then she was sweet as pie and ready to go in.

This was a crucial pause in the day to allow her to vent, eat, feel the warm suns, drink some water and re-balance before heading into another new environment. Had we not done this, it would have been a rough day.

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We had been having some pretty rough weather, but we lucked out and the sun was shining and it wasn’t too windy. You could definitely tell it is winter though… brrr.

After handing in our complimentary vouchers from ihc, we stopped in at the gift shop and looked at all the soft toys. Then we used the restroom before heading in.

The first thing we noticed was the Otter exhibit. They were so adorable and so busy. They were very cheeky as well asking for treats. Right near the Otters, were the Capybara, they are so amazing! They were getting loving scratches from a carer. She described their hair as similar to a hamster but more stiff.

Next, we headed over to see the Gibbons, they were very active and it was really interesting to watch how they move as they have such long limbs!

After the Gibbons, we went into the Kiwi and Tuatara hut. There was a one legged Kiwi, and he was not even phased by having one leg, still kicking the dirt and looking for food and hopping about. There were a few Tuatara, but the place was far too dark for me, I couldn’t see to walk out, Sophia had to guide me. Hence, we have no photos for this part.

Next we saw the Cotton Top Tamarin, Bolivian Squirrel Monkey, and Agouti. There was too much glare to get pictures of the others, but we managed a few of the Tamarins, they were my favourite, especially the babies.

We then made our way up to Conservation Corner. That was pretty amazing.

The ‘Green Zoo, Green You’ exhibit was also pretty amazing with the recycled archway and sculptures.

We then went into the Wild Theatre and listened to a talk about Tuataras. Sophia actually touched it too! When she first went up there were only a few kids, but then more came and they increasingly started pushing past her and she was getting frustrated so Daddy went and stood with her to be sure she was ok and didn’t get too angry. Max was not interested in touching it so he sat with me while they waited.

After the talk we headed up towards the Big Cats as we really wanted to see them. We stopped off at the Spider and Reptile Hut. That was interesting, Soph was cool with the Bugs and Reptiles, but did not want to see the Spiders and that was ok. Max and Brent loved it all!

We also stopped to spin the Tibetan Prayer Wheel, It was so beautiful.

We then saw the Red Pandas, Cheetahs and Lions. The Lions were asleep, so that was a bit of a bummer, but they were still magnificent! You can just see their manes showing atop of these rocks as they snooze away. The Red Panda pictures didn’t really show up, because they were in the tops of trees barely visible.

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We the headed through the African Village and saw the Ostriches, Guinea Fowl and Giraffes. I was in love with the Giraffes and didn’t want to move on, we spent quite a while there on all different sides. They are just so amazing to watch, so graceful.

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Next we saw the other Big Cats; the Serval and Caracal, and Sophia tried out the ear photo spots. They were all so beautiful, we didn’t want to leave this area.

From here, we carried on to see the Baboons and then moved on to Australian Animals exhibit. We saw a Tasmanian Devil munching away on a carcass, A bird of some sort, some Wallaby, and a Lizard.

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Then we saw the Dingos, and also saw the Nyala from the backside of the African Village exhibit. We also saw a large white Crane who was making heaps of noise at a helicopter, and a crazy and clever Emu who was trying to escape, he had a zoo worker watching him and we stopped to have a chat. The Emu was being all puffy and chesty, it was very funny.

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The man gave us an Emu feather as well. We collect feathers from as many birds as we can, we love getting them from zoos. The Emu feathers are very interesting in that they are two feathers in one. This one is very special indeed.

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Next we saw the Porcupine and Meerkats, the decided to head toward the cafe and have a snack and take a break.I loved oth of these as well. Brent had o idea Porcupines were this big, I had seen them growing up in Wisconsin, so it was nice seeing one so close and brought back some fond memories of trips to my Great Aunt Anne’s with my Grandmother.

Along the way we passed the Chimpanzees who were sitting atop the poles in there enclosure watching the world go by. I admit when I saw them, they looked ike they were plotting and scheming and I had a quick flash to the Planet of the Apes movies. We also saw more amazing birds and they were so colourful and cheerful.

We found an amazing Dragon along the way as well, and had to get some pictures.

After lunch we headed over to see the Sun Bear and Tiger. Unfortunately, we didn’t get many pictures of the Sun Bear or Tigers but they were beautiful. Both were being very noisy and the male Tiger was pacing like crazy. The female was asleep, as you see in the picture.

We carried on to the Kea hut and that was definitely entertaining. They kept fighting over a twig and squawking like crazy. A little boy, about 5 years old threw a rock at them and they took off after him squawking like they were telling him off and scared him. I don’t think he will throw rocks at birds again.

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We were very excited to find a Toyota Kiwi Guardians post. We have hidden the code as you have to find it yourself to get the medal. We will send away for ours when we get home and add it to the collection.

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We took another bathroom break and the looked at the cool interactive display of farming and sustainability artwork.

We then visited the Rabbits, Sheep and Kunekune pigs, we love pigs, especially these ones. The kids got to pet the Sheep as they were eating, but we forgot to take a picture.

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Near the Penguin enclosure, we saw this amazing sculpture of Tangaroa by Ngataiharuru Taepa.

The Penguins were not there sadly. So we went back to watch the Otters and Capybaras again for a bit on our way out. We also grabbed a postcard with a Red Panda for Nana because she always sends us postcards when she goes away.

At this point we were pretty wiped out as you can imagine, so we headed to our hotel planning to have a nice relaxing evening indoors.

Our hotel was amazing and they even advised Brent that they had upgraded us to a suite! Thank you to Village Accommodation and Boulcott Suites for your generosity. It was an amazing experience.

The hotel was located in walking distance to a food court as well as a heap of shops. we had planned to order dinner in, as we assumed Sophia was done, I know I was pretty tired after a very long day, but she was still raring to go for a walk, so we did.

We checked out the food court but nothing sounded good and no one could decide what they wanted. Besides that, it was pretty loud and too much going on, especially the mix of smells, that was pretty overwhelming which made it even harder to choose something.

After 20 minutes of wandering around in indecision, Max was really keen to try Burger Fuel. He asks every time we go on a trip if he sees one. I only wanted Hell Pizza, but we have that in Palmy, so with a promise for a future trip to Hell Pizza we were off to find Burger Fuel. Sophia was just keen to get out of the food court and she loves burgers, so it was all good. We went for a pretty good walk and found it, thanks to Brent’s amazing navigational skills (phone).

We got chicken burgers and the boys got beef and it was actually pretty good. We loved the ‘doofers’ that hold your burger together. I wish I had remembered to snap a picture. The atmosphere was nice but very small, and it was a bit chaotic as people were rushing in and out grabbing orders. Soph didn’t mind a bit, she was happy as just focusing on her food.

 

I loved walking around Wellington in the evening, it reminded me so much of Santa Cruz back in the day. I miss that atmosphere and the huge diversity in people, so many different faces, cultures and styles, I loved it.

We took our time walking back to the hotel and just enjoyed the atmosphere and all the people. The kids stopped and gave some money to the homeless and we headed back to snuggle in for the night.

The kids fell asleep straight away when they hit their pillows and I am sure we did too, after watching some Knight Rider reruns. What a long and marvelous day. Sophia did so well, I am so proud of how far she has come. Max was really good and engaged the whole time as well. It was a lovely day with family.

Tomorrow we head to TePapa Museum and we are really looking forward to it!

 

My missing Gumption and Guardians of Ga’Hoole

I have been less inclined to write as of late. Not only this blog, but also the drive to do the final edit for my poetry book is eluding me. It is all written, I only need to edit and publish, yet that drive is missing.

I imagine this is partly due to grief, and also my big push to get it done was so my mother could see it and hold it in her hands and now she never will. Though I know she is still around me and is proud, the mind is a strange beast and at times plays havoc with your thoughts and your motivation.

I hope to get it published soon, and my father and step-mother seeing it, will be my incentive.

I have been doing all sorts of fun activities and learning with Sophia, which I will be adding here as I find the time… and my gumption. lol

I have been savouring every moment I can with my family and it has been really nice. I am very grateful for them all and love sharing special moments with each of the kids and my husband. Losing so many people so close and having our step-son go through his medical emergency has really made us focus more on quality time with our little family and that is ok.

Sophia and I have started tandem reading, which is so much fun. We are currently reading the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky. Sophia is up to book seven and I am just starting book six. We are almost half way through the series.

These books have been adapted into a movie of the same name and I definitely recommend the movie, but the books are even better.

She has also read the Wolves of the Beyond series by this author. Now after reading these, I can’t wait to read those as well.

I really enjoy having discussions with Sophia about the books, characters and story lines.

We have been also working on our Japan Study and that has been great fun. I will do an update on what we have done on those days as well. This, along with her workbooks, some science projects and Khan Academy, she has been doing really well this term.

We are doing some Japan worksheets and more paper art this week. Last week, we did some paper art of the flag and decorative blossoms, made a ningyo doll, wrote some Haiku and the weeks before that, she read several books on Japan, and we had some great discussions and she did an essay.

Next week we will be focusing on art and music, then language and currency the week after. We will revisit Japan in depth in the coming years as she really loves it but for now we are just doing an overview of many areas that interest her.

I had gotten several books from the library, thinking she would read one or maybe two, but she was so fascinated that she read all of them! She has been giving the family facts on Japan for a couple weeks now, which we love as it shows she has retained the information and shares it in the  correct context.

This weekend we will take her for sushi of course and then try to make our own if we can find our sushi kit. The last time we made it… it was not so good. Fun to make, but not very yummy.

More updates coming soon, and I apologise for the delay in keeping everyone up to date.

Mom’s Gardenia, St Brigid’s Cross and Imbolc

Today was a different day.

Sophia has been doing really great. We did our bookwork this morning, quite quickly with no argument or struggle.

I had my tattoo appointment as well, so Sophia went to visit Nana. It is always a bit of a worry leaving her with others as she can get a bit overwhelmed in a new setting.

She did well while I was gone but was ready to come home when I got there.

I got the tattoo as an early birthday present from my husband. It is a gardenia in honour of my mother who passed away on 29 Dec 2016.

My mother and I share the same birthday, so this was my birthday gift for her as well as myself. I have a great tattooist, Eve Marie and I let her come up with a design based upon the image of my mother wearing a gardenia that we used for her memorial.

 

Se did an amazing job and I know mom would love it too. I love how she incorporated the stripes into the image.

When we got back home we learned a bit about Brigid and Imbolc. We read the following and watched the videos.

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After this we made our own Brigid’s Cross together, to hang in our home.

This was especially dear to me as this is our heritage, so she learned more about where our ancestry comes from.

A very good day all in all.

First Day of Year 6

Today we started Year 6 at Lawless Academy. Yay!!

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It started out a bit rough, just getting back into routine, but we got through it.

Sophia has a hard time writing with a pencil so she had a bit of a hard time doing her book work, but she did finish it.

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We may need to move her up to the next grade book as she is getting bored with the problems and whizzes through them verbally, but won’t write the answers in them. This is frustrating to us both because she knows the work, but we need written records.

Although, if I do the pages verbally and the tests written, that could be enough to prove she has learned the material. (Hmmm, I may qualify as her Reader-Writer because I am her teacher. I will ask Cynthia about my options.) Alternatively, I can edit the books we have, or create our own based off of them but make them all about Pokemon or her other special interests.

I may give these ideas a go and allow her to move ahead in her work to the grade/age level she is more comfortable with, so that it keeps her attention. I will discuss it with her; I am sure she will love these ideas.

I usually show her all of her workbook work at the beginning of the year and she knows when she finishes it, she is done for the year. She usually does the whole year’s work in the first two terms, due to a combination of wanting to be done with it and her ability to pick things up so quickly that she can figure most of it out on her own without needing instruction or assistance.

I will buy (and edit or use as a template) the next couple of years up in workbooks, and she can just keep going if she wants to see how far she can go, but I will only have them here if she wants to do them, but not make her do them.

She still loves doing digital art and video editing, although that has slowed a bit compared to the past two years. She is moving in different directions with her creativity, she really loves cooking, projects, painting and crafting at the moment so we will be doing more of that this year.

We will also be doing more gardening and science experiments, especially with growing things as she absolutely loves observing the process, and it gets us outdoors more and helps feed the family.

She also received some amazing books from her Aunties in the states, on Big Cats so I imagine she will be doing something with those as she loves writing about Big Cats… well any cats really.

Also she has a new emotes journals for critical thinking and exploring who she is and what she likes. Getting to know herself as her own person is awesome. She wants to start on them, this will be up to her, but it is a great tool for decoding who she really is becoming as a young woman. (Plus it helps her practice her writing. 😉 )

One activity I absolutely love, is that since daddy taught her to ride her bike, she rides everyday and it has a great calming effect when she starts to get stressed.

This is a great tool for calming her body, as she is self inspired to use it and knows she can at any time, and usually she gets straight into her work afterwards. We usually ride our bikes together as I love it too and it is great exercise as well as makes us have fun playing together.

We also will be doing Tae Bo (an exercise programme) this year as she finds kicking and punching the air good to calm, she never aims it anyone, but it had me thinking how much I loved Tae Bo as it helped me regulate my body and my emotions.

  • Total commitment to whatever you do
  • Awareness of yourself and the world
  • Excellence, the truest goal in anything you do
  • (the) Body as a force for total change
  • Obedience to your will and your true desire for change

We have already started learning about puberty and the body and we will continue to do more of this as well. I got some special information about puberty and Asperger’s sent to us from All Together Autism, and it is great material.

Sophia also plays Age of Empires (version three is her favourite) with her brother and dad and absolutely loves it. This is a huge teaching tool for history, and social studies (as well as commerce, building villages, battles, producing food, building armies, hunting, etc.) and it peaks her interests and she asks about historical figures in the game which we then research.

Soph would also like to visit Japan this term with her Passport Studies. She has some ideas of what she wants to learn and write about, and has asked to learn some of their language as well, so we will be getting some supplies from the library (and some friends).

Next term we will be re-visiting France in Passport Studies, as she wants to go more in depth into the language and culture. She has already been teaching herself french words by playing in the French server of Animal Jam. (Clever monkey.)

Mexico was the other place she wants to visit with Passport Studies, so that will be term 3; she also plays in the Spanish servers and loves to learn from Max when he comes home and tells her what he learned in Spanish.

We have not decided the destination for term 4, we will have to see what peaks her interest.

This may seem like  a lot, but for a kid whose mind is always going, anything less and she would get bored and grumpy.

Most of these areas can be tied into the Passport Studies so it is actually a nice smooth rounded way for her to learn. With learning the currency, science, historical figures, language and scriptures, and by doing some art, listening to or playing some music and sampling and cooking the foods, she gets a broader view of each country while lightly touching on all her subjects in a tangible and practical way.

We also can ‘extend our visas’ if she finds she wants to explore a country longer and push the others forward a term, or have short ‘stopovers’ if she wants to visit more. This is what is so awesome about Home educating; we can change our schedule to whatever works for her curiosity and learning.

I am really looking forward to this year and seeing what she can accomplish and how she develops. She has grown so much in so many ways the past couple of years.

She rarely has anxiety anymore and her meltdowns are less violent and pass more quickly as she is able to self regulate more easily now.

Her Tourette’s Syndrome / Tic Disorder has not yet been diagnosed, we wanted to wait to see if the tics stopped and they have not. It has been a few years now that she has had the tics.We may talk to her Autism Pediatrician this year and get the diagnosis if he feels it would help her in the future.

She still has some of the old tics and some new ones, but they are waxing and waning. Some are barely noticeable unless you know her and some are pretty obvious. If is she is tired or stressed they appear to increase or become more obvious. Max also has tics, as do I. This is another reason home educating is good for us as she will not get bullied for her tics like her brother has at school. (As did I.)

Here is a great video I found, on Tics to help get a better understanding of some of they ways that they present. The boy in this video gave a great description, and I feel the same way – it feels like a build up in your muscles and joints, and you have to make the movements or sounds for relief. It overrides and worry of social stigma for the moment.

Thank you for stopping by to read about our home education journey.

Feel free to leave any comments or questions and like our posts.

It will be a good year.

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Interview with Author Samantha Craft of EVERYDAY ASPERGERS

My interview with Author Samantha Craft of EVERYDAY ASPERGERS

By Maria Lawless of Awesome Aut[odidactic]ism Blog

 

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Good morning Samantha! Thank you so much for taking the time do this interview, we appreciate it very much.  You have so many interesting things to offer with your new book EVERYDAY ASPERGERS, your EVERYDAY ASPERGERS Blog and Community, as well as a wealth of information on Education and Advocacy with regard to Autism -especially in women and girls on your website MY SPECTRUM SUITE. Your personal experiences in Home Education are what I would like to focus on today.  As I mentioned previously, I have decide to ask about homeschooling as I know there are many mothers who are choosing homeschool our Autistic children, myself included and many who are themselves Autistic. So I will just go over a few questions, based upon the most common I have had from parents that are considering, or just starting out homeschooling.

Let’s get started.

We found our child was actually regressing -physically, emotionally, mentally and in coping skills, and being held back by the school system and that was what made me begin to research homeschool. What was the driving force behind your decision to home educate?

Thank you for setting aside time for this interview and thank you for your kind words. I can relate to what you are saying. I have three sons. I home schooled my middle son two different times, at the start of third grade until sixth grade, and again at the start of seventh grade. He is now 17 and entering junior college as part of his high school completion. As a former schoolteacher of pre-kindergarten, elementary, and middle school, I have some insight into the educational system that the traditional parent might not have. I have sat on both sides of an IEP (Individual Education Plan), as a teacher and as a parent. I was fortunate to be aware of my child’s rights and to have studied the disability laws, as well as No Child Left Behind Act, at that time.

When my son first started school, over 12 years ago, I advocated for my son and other children with special needs. This included meeting regularly with the assistant superintendent. I even founded a small support group for parents of special needs children. My son managed to do fairly well in traditional kindergarten, because he was in a structured environment, where he could move about freely and only attended half-day with the other students. By first grade he required a fulltime paid assistant. Much needed assistance that I fought hard for him to receive. I believe he was one of the first children with ASD to receive a full-time, one-to-one paid helper. He did well with his assistant in first and second grade. The assistant was brought on to give my son direction, modify his assignments, and protect him from self-harm. (He had attempted to climb trees, run off campus, stack chairs on desks and stand on them, prior to having an assistant.) I had to go to the school and document all of my son’s behaviors to get him the assistance he needed. The school district, at first, wanted to place him in a special education class with children with severe emotional challenges. I adamantly refused and cited laws to make our case.

He is lucky to have you as his mother and advocate.

One morning my daughter looked at me and begged through tears for me to homeschool her. I looked at the dark circles under her eyes (she had been up all night worrying about school the next day) and the scratches she had from clawing herself, and how she was cupping her hands up over her sore tummy, and I decided, no more school. I had been researching it for almost two years and I had already started filling out the forms, I just knew I had to pull her out that day. I took her to her Doctor, and upon seeing her stress levels and hearing our story, he gave me a 3 week medical certificate to keep her home while the exemption application was processed. It only took 9 days to be approved, I was elated. Was there one incident or one day that it clicked for you, and you decided, that is enough?

I am so glad that decision worked out for you. It sounds like you took a lot of time to plan and consider. For us, it was more sudden.

In one instance, in sixth grade, we placed him in an accelerated program at the traditional public middle school. Within a few months, he was extremely depressed, had suicidal thoughts, and hated school. The last straw was when a cluster of his peers waited for him to sit down at the lunch table, and then together, as a large group, stood up all at once, and left him alone, as they walked to another table, shunning him. No child should have to endure that. I homeschooled my son from that point onward, without pause. At that time, until now, he joined a local, homeschool charter school and attended part-time courses and we did the rest of the schoolwork at home. Now, in eleventh grade, he has joined a program where he can complete high school at a junior college. His anxiety is very low now and he functions at a very independent level. He is even going to take the transit city bus to school!

It sounds like he had a hard road, you must be so proud of his progress. I has planned on doing it sooner, but due to falling down my stairs and getting a concussion and then Post Concussive Syndrome that held me off. My brain was in a scramble for a year, so unfortunately the home education had to wait as I was not in any shape to guide her.

For us, it got to the point of no longer being and ‘if’ we home educate, but rather we ‘must’ do it now, to help our child thrive. We had several reasons, but mostly she was not getting the support she needed. What issues or problems were you facing within the school system?

In addition to not initially finding the support my son needed and having to literally save my son from harm’s way, the biggest problem was the student bullying and one of the teacher’s behaviors. My son did okay in first and second grade, producing standard work. At that age, having a full-time assistant was acceptable. The other children were still young and didn’t take particular note of my son’s helper. In third grade, with the change of a grade and teacher, he was no longer being serviced as needed and faced ridicule from his peers. The teacher assigned his one-to-one personal assistant to do general classroom work for her, such as instructing small groups of children and making photocopies of worksheets in the workroom. At that point, I was too tried to keep fighting for his needs at the public school. Plus, the children were older, and began bullying my son in the lunchroom. After a few meetings, and a few meltdowns at home, on my son’s part, as he could only hold it together for so long, I made the decision to homeschool. I’d felt I had done as much as I could, up to that point, to try to make the public school system work. Following the start of third grade, I homeschooled my son for three years, and then, when we moved out of state, I had him repeat grade five at the new, local school. I reasoned, it was a new group of children, my son was older, and repeating a grade would give him a heads up academically and socially. He did all right, as he attended school with his new friend, our neighbor, and the school was only a block away from our house. No modifications or assistance was needed.  However, there were a few instances where he struggled socially and where the teacher sent home letters of concern; by the end of the year he disliked going to school.

Well it sounds like you made the right decision. It is amazing how much we struggle to make the school system work for our kids. The sad part is, it is largely due to a lack of funding and thus training, and that is a shame.

Now, when I notified the principal, he said, “I think you are making a very bad decision. I also think she is more influenced by learned behaviour, and blaming Asperger’s for all of her issues is a very dangerous road to take.” All that did was give me more resolve to prove him wrong. Did you face any opposition from the school principal or his teachers regarding pulling your son/s out?

It’s hard when professionals force their strong (often bias) opinions on parents. It’s always better to consider all sides of a situation.

My son’s therapist was the one that suggested I not over-protect my son and said I should not pull him out of school and that he needed to “toughen up.” That was when he was being bullied in sixth grade (the lunchroom table incident). Fortunately, I knew a depressed child with ASD did not need to be exposed to social situations with hormonal teenagers to toughen up. No child should have to endure humiliation. I remembered some books I’d read in the past; I believe even a quote by Attwood, that stated the problem wasn’t my child but the other children. I would have done anything at that time to assist my child. Going against the wishes of a “professional” wasn’t difficult. I knew my son best and I had an educational background. I’d been through enough with the school district in the previous state we lived in already, that I wasn’t deterred by conflict of opinion.

Yes, that is what I felt as well. I just knew I was doing the right thing. His dissent only strengthened my resolve.

We are very blessed to have full support in our decision from friends and family and even from her Doctors. Did you get support from your friends and family in your decision to home educate?

I didn’t get support but I didn’t get the opposite either. I think my extended family trusted my expertise and choices. Plus, they knew my son and some of the challenges he faced.

I think we are blessed in that regard, many people face opposition from family, friends and professionals.

We found a hug improvement in the family when the stress of school was taken out of the picture. The whole house dynamic shifted to a more peaceful one, but most noticeably the children get along much better now. Do you think home educating made an improvement in your home and family life and the relationship between your sons?

That makes sense. Yes, homeschooling made a 99% difference. I’d say 100%, but like to leave a 1% margin of error. He changed overnight; literally, into an anxiety-free child. I’d say his anxiety decreased ten-fold. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my family. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. My son never had another meltdown again and absorbed the learning materials, for the most part, with eagerness. He didn’t like learning, per say, but he appreciated not having to go to an environment where he was ostracized and had to excerpt a great amount of energy in order to try to fit in. He also was tired of his teachers not truly getting him or misinterpreting his words or actions. My life changed from one of constant worry to complete freedom. I was fortunate to already be a homemaker. I think if we’d had to take a financial blow to homeschool that would have added other stresses. But still, the rewards would have out weighed the sacrifice.

That is so great, I could see the improvement in my daughter right away as well. The reduction in her anxiety was amazing.

For myself, I see how my daughter blossomed by being able to move at her own pace and do things she was passionate about, video editing, art and music. Did you find that your son/s found some of his passions through being homeschooled?

I think so. We had a more structured curriculum then it sounds like your family incorporated.  My son discovered what books interested him and what subject matter he preferred to spend more time doing. One year he was struggling in writing; so we took most of the year off writing and he read and read. After a year of focused reading and a year of maturing physically, writing came much more naturally to him. Now, I am comfortable saying he is a better writer than I am, and out-writes any college student I’ve ever come across. My son also enjoys history and philosophy, and subjects with higher-level thinking. We were able to focus on aspects of society, such as slavery, the Native Americans, the equal rights movement, which broadened his ability to understand the world and apply empathy.

I think part of Sophia’s issue with school is that she was bored. She started doing sign language at 6 months old, and went to school knowing her alphabet, colours, animals, how to write her name and several words, how to read and loved drawing and creating so she was always advanced in her work.

We do a mix of Eclectic, Unit Study and Unschooling, in that our daughter directs the learning based upon her learning interests, but I make sure to provide materials and activities which cover a scope of educational areas within that interest. We also have curriculum workbooks for the required work, which she gets out and does herself. What type of homeschooling did you do? Did you use a combination or just develop your own style? (Traditional, Classical, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf, Unschooling (Interest led), Topic Study, Eclectic, etc.)

I actually made homeschooling my special interest, and ended up building a 100-page website about homeschooling in six weeks time! I traded in a bunch of books my dad owned and stocked up on used books. There was not much information online about homeschooling at the time and not many resources gathered in one place. Typically you had to search multiple places or order a book to get information. I wanted to provide a free service. My website served to help others for several years. I explored different homeschool methods, discussed learning styles, and provided curriculum ideas. I focused on a combination of traditional and classical. As a former teacher, it was easy for me to incorporate lesson designs and my son strived from having exact lessons, check off lists, and goals. At home, I taught different subjects using a variety of tools and resources. We also partook in daytrips, watched documentaries, and incorporated art.

Is that website still active? I would love to see it! We are so lucky to live in this digital age and have all the information literally at our fingertips. We also an extensive home library and we go to the library regularly. My husband and I love reading too so that helps.

I think choosing to home educate was definitely the best decision I have made. Seeing the improvement in my child’s health, confidence, and social and coping skills is the most rewarding aspect for me. What are a couple of areas that you saw major improvements in, with your son/s?

As I mentioned earlier, his anxiety lowered immensely. Other areas of improvement were writing and comprehension. He historically stored very high on state testing, and remained above many of his peers academically. I loved that he got a chance to expand on an assignment if he wished, or shorten another, depending. I’d say it was a very wise decision on my part. But I tend to make wise decisions in general. lol.

Very good, yes I agree watching them expand on their work is so refreshing. That aspect is such a bonus as they can fully immerse themselves in the topic to the extent they feel they need to, in order to understand it.

What advice would you give to Spectrum Mums, who are also on the spectrum who may be thinking about homeschooling?

Follow you heart. Get support. Seek out alternatives. There are charter schools, homeschool organizations, and many families with experience homeschooling. You can get an inner-district transfer; some parents even move cities or states to get the support they need. Don’t let obstacles deter you. You know what’s best for your child. Seek out information. I strongly believe where there is a will there is a way. If you choose the public school route, which was wonderful for my oldest son, then know the laws. Visit Wrights Laws on line. Check out books from the library. Find a free advocate. Write a letter to the school district asking for a professional evaluation of your child and get a formalized plan started. Don’t go to meetings alone. Document everything. Be your child’s advocate. It does get easier. And time does heal wounds.

That is excellent advice! I have sent a few family and friends in the USA to the Wrights Law website and facebook page for help.

What drove you to write your book EVERYDAY ASPERGERS?

That’s a huge question. In brief, I was called to write and felt I had to share my story. The book was a combination of stories from my life I wrote over ten years ago and from excerpts of my extensive blog by the same name.

I love your book. I enjoyed the way it was written, in small excerpts and blips of your life. It was so relatable to my own life. You definitely need a box of tissues nearby from both tears of sadness and of laughter. It is defintely a labour of love. Thank you for sharing your story.

Can you give us a brief overview of SPECTRUM SUITE?

I wanted to start a company that supported my book and gatherings and also gave a voice to autistic literature and art. It’s a small company that works toward celebrating neurodiversity through the arts and literature. I interview authors and artists and host free gatherings. I also provide interviews and guest speaking. You can find us at myspectrumsuite.com. I’d also like to mention the company that I work for, ULTRA Testing. We employ adults on the autism spectrum to work from home in the USA, as software testers. You can find us at ultratesting.us.

Your website is great. It really is an extensive resource. Yes, thank you I meant to mention them as well, what a great company.

Thank you again for taking the time to answer our questions. It was so great getting to know more about you. Most of all, thank you for being the voice for so many of us who are still finding ours.

You are most welcome. This was an interesting change to what I normally discuss. I enjoyed the process. All the best to you.

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For more information on Samantha Craft and her wonderful book, website and Facebook community, please see below.

My Spectrum Suite Website

Everyday Aspergers Facebook page

Everyday Aspergers Blog

Sam’s New Blog Everyday Aspie

EVERYDAY ASPERGERS Softcover Book:

EVERYDAY ASPERGERS E-Book:

 

I will add these links to the Resources page as well.

Thank you for stopping by.

 

The tree, Archery, Swimming and cuddles

My darling girl helped me put up the our Christmas tree yesterday before our trip to the lake.

Later in the afternoon, we had her friend Kaya come to spend the night. They played with the Archery set and the hula hoop before dinner. Then played together on their computers.

Sophia gave Kaya her old laptop because she got mine when I upgraded. She wanted her friend to have her very own laptop, so we wiped it and set it all up for her. Kaya was a very happy girl. 🙂 I love that Sophia wanted to give it to her friend rather than sell it, it was very kind of her.

Brent and I did two hours worth of gardening while they played some games and talked about girl stuff.

In the morning Kaya read for a bit, while Sophia cooked them breakfast. I helped flip the eggs, but she cracked the eggs like a pro and cooked a lovely mean. She is getting really good at making scrambled eggs and toast. They had a nice chat while they had breakfast.

Next they explored outside and looked through the microscope. They were really fascinated with the erosion happening in our driveway! They had all kinds of theories about why the top layer was pulling away and cracking. I loved hearing them discuss their ideas.

After snack time, we went swimming. The kids area was closed down, but they got to go in the lanes after about a twenty minute wait. That was a bit rough for Sophia as it broke routine, but we worked through it. They had a great time and Kaya even showed Sophia some tips for swimming faster.

Then we visited Kaya’s mom and little brother for a bit and of course the animals. Honey is one of Sophia’s all time favourite feline friends. I am sure you can guess why.

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We did some book work when we came home from Kaya’s.

She and Max played their game together after he got home.

What a great couple of days with good friends and family.

Ice cream, Flowers, Rock hunting and a long walk with Friends

We went rock hunting today!

First we went and collected a box of rocks from a lovely lady who was giving them away to people who wanted to be involved with #Whanganui Rocks.

This is where we paint rocks, write #Whanganui Rocks on the bottom, seal or clear coat them, then hide them all over town in safe places for other kids to find. We then look for rocks and can either keep or re-hide them. It is just taking off and it is so much fun.

I got a hold of my good friend, fellow Author and Spectrum Mom, Joleen Scott and we took our kids for a day of fun.

We let them play at the playground first, then headed off to find some rocks.

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We found the ice cream counter too! Time for a short break to cool off. Tommy kept looking as he really wanted to find a rock!

We found the smaller children’s play area and had a play and after we looked for rocks. Still no luck, I was starting to think we had come on the wrong a day.

We decided to explore the The Winter Gardens, we looked the the flowers, ran through the tunnel and saw the koi fish, and Tommy stopped to make a wish. The we headed to the Art Garden, we all love this space with the garden art and sculptures.

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Leaving the Art Garden we found a rock… it was painted… by the paint dripping off the wall when it was last painted. We decided to count it as it was the only one we found. We decided to bring it home to repaint it, and turn it into a bug of some sort, then put it back.

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Then we went down by the lake and admired the swans and ducks while Joleen gave us a quick lesson about the native birds and what they are called. Then we searched the walkways and headed back around our loop.

Then lo and behold… a real painted rock. Thanks to Joleen for spotting this one, it made the day complete. 🙂

Sophia got it down for Tommy and they both had a good inspection of it and decided to re-hide it for the next kids who are searching.

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We had to get home to get Max, so Joleen carried on to the Aviary with Tommy and we thanked them for an awesome day.

Sophia and I can’t wait to go again, what a great day.

There is something very special about spending time with people whose lives parallel yours. People who allow for the odd little quirks, and celebrate in the way our child’s brain operates, without judgement and with pure joy in allowing our kids to live life in their own way.

Joleen and Tommy are those kind of friends and we feel very blessed to have them in our lives.