26 Aug

First Day of School Success

First Day (1)

Happy First Day of School!

Woo-Hoo! We were thrilled on the first day. Not only for the kids to get out of the house continue their learning, but also for our fourth grade son’s successful morning. See, last year, it took eight long weeks for him to cooperatively complete his morning routine and agreeably go to the bus stop. Too many of those days started with crying and screaming.

And that was just me. HA! NOT!

In a few words: it sucked.

This year, we prepared in May to keep his morning routine in place all summer. We didn’t drag him out of bed at 6:30 am every day. He would sleep until about 7:30 am on his own, and then we’d just keep the morning routine in place: eat breakfast, take meds, get dressed, and brush teeth. Last summer, there was no timetable for these steps. This summer, we kept it to one hour, similar to school mornings.  He didn’t love it and reminded us many times that it was “summer, not school.” We’d agree and keep going. We were determined to have a better fall than last year.

The week before school, I pulled a stunt that really ticked the little guy off. He was used to having his iPad to watch his Netflix in the morning. It was a distraction that slowed him down in the morning. I put his iPad away. He could still watch TV or Netflix on the living room television. But, to get his iPad Mini, he would have to complete his four morning “chores.” While he gnashed his teeth and spun his head, we remained calm. He may hate this rule, but he follows it cooperatively!

Another amazing thing that happened over the summer: our house became the neighborhood hangout for kids and we LOVED it. There’s about 5 kids that live on our street ages third grade to seventh grade. They’re ALL GIRLS and they all love Minecraft, playing outside, using their imagination in our game room/basement, and battling Pokemon. It was amazing! Now, it wasn’t Nirvana. They are kids with kid drama. Many days, though, there were kids playing here for 4-5 hours. They are good kids.

Lastly, see the jean-wearing kid in the picture? Yeah, him. For the first time in EVER. He picked out jeans while we were school shopping. (Sweat and athletic pants have been it since he was three.) He actually picked out four pair of jeans. He wanted to try them on. He picked out the jean jacket and wore it home. He’s 9 going on 19 and this is the stuff that makes me get a little teary-eyed. But then I dry ‘em up when he’s SO LOUD in the house. And I’m thankful he’s getting on the bus, happily going to school with his neighborhood friends.

Take care of yourself and each other,





PS Should I just call my family by their real names? I can’t remember made up names, and the whole DD, DS and DH can get annoying to read. Leave me a comment with your vote!

18 Aug

Stigma Fighters: My Story

I wrote this post about living my life with a mental illness. My hope is to reach others who are living with this disease, so they do not believe the lie depression tells.

You are NOT alone.

It was previously published on the site Stigma Fighters. Stigma Fighters is a blog series about real people living with mental illness. My blogging friend Sarah (Old School/New School Mom) runs Stigma Fighters. 

My first suicidal plan occurred in college when I was a freshman. I’d had a break up, self-medicated with alcohol for 1 ½ semesters, done poorly in my classes, and felt like a complete failure. I wanted to jump out the window of my dorm room. At least by ending my life, my roommate would get an automatic 4.0 for the semester, and that was the least I could do for her. She was my best friend. . .

Click HERE to continue reading this post.

Click HERE to read more about how I live with a mental illness.

Take care of yourselves and each other,

02 Aug

Summer Family “Ussie”

Apparently, there’s a name for group selfies…any guesses? USSIE. It’s the inspiration for the Ketchup With Us(sie) Link Up this week. I got that shizzle covered.


We visited Punta Cana this summer. It was our first visit to the Dominican Republic. As a family we absolutely loved it! We will certainly return annually. Here’s a pic of our pool:

It was even more beautiful than this picture!

It was even more beautiful than this picture!


Our silly USSIE taken at the tram stop between dinner and that night’s entertainment. Aparently, the DS considered himself the entertainment.


Yep. That's all 5 of us. Happy.

Yep. That’s all 5 of us. Happy. Cooperating.


How about you? Did you take an “ussie” lately? Include your family or friends? If you’ve got one that you’d like to share, click here- Ketchup With Us.

It's a Link-Up!

It’s a Link-Up!


Hope to see you soon!

02 Jun

Three Visual Summer Routines for Kids



Our last day of the school year is this Friday, and it’s not even a full school day. It’s called a turn-around day. Seriously. The buses come and pick up the high school kids and drop them off at the high school. Then they go around and pick up the elementary kids and drop them off at their school. Then the high school kids go home. Lastly, the little kids go home. While in the building, they all get handed their report cards. The whole process starts around 7:10 and ends around 8:45. My son is gone about an hour. Then let the chaos that is summer break begin!


In the past, our family has just done the “go with the flow” thing. When DS was little, and had a wrap-around (TSS), he did have some things that were scheduled. He met three to four days with the TSS for 60 minutes/afternoon. He also attended our school’s ESY (Extended School Year) for five half-days per week for the month of July. He attended ESY to maintain his academics and social skills over the long break.


Last summer, though, I made the judgment call for DS not to attend ESY. I thought it would be great to have flexibility in our summer with no ESY obligations. I believed that he had made great strides and I wanted him to “graduate” from those services. I was right in one way. We did whatever we wanted: Slept in, went swimming, played on technology, played outside, played with a couple of friends, etc. The summer was very relaxing.


But I was so very wrong in another way. My poor DS, even after practicing the whole week before, could not get back into the school morning routine without suffering meltdown after meltdown. He flat-out refused to get ready or go cooperatively. He cried, kicked, screamed, hid under the dining room table, pushed away, wouldn’t eat, take his meds, get dressed, or brush his teeth. It was mentally and physically exhausting EVERY MORNING for the months of SEPTEMBER and OCTOBER. I’m not exaggerating or kidding. It was one of the top 5 worst phases we’ve been through with our kids. Potty training him at 4 ½ was a snap compared to those two months. Then, he woke up one day in early November and cooperated. It was a huge relief.


This summer, I’m not messing around. He is signed up for ESY, and it is four half-days per week for five weeks. I’m thrilled! Also, we applied for and received an Autism Grant from the state that will pay for a day camp in August to continue the morning routine. It will also give him more time to hang out with other kids his age in a social setting. The summer camp ends August 19th. The remaining week of summer is all on us here on the home front. We MUST stick to the school morning routine ALL SUMMER. To help with that, I’ve come up with some ways to follow a daily routine.


I like a good list. Do you? Here’s a few ways you can create a visual summer routine for your family.


Three Visual Summer Routines

1. Use a reminder APP on your technology with sounds as alerts.

We used this last November on an iPad for his school morning routine.

We used this last November on an iPad for his school morning routine.


2. Use a paper list, put it in a cheap frame, and use a dry-erase marker to check off as you go. This one is from another blogger-mom, Jen, from I Heart Organizing.


Jen hung hers in a frame on the fridge.


3. Make magnetic tags that stick to the fridge to rearrange daily. I made these all by myself! I should do a Pinterest lesson, huh?


These are made from craft sticks with button magnets glue-gunned to the backs.

These are made from craft sticks with button magnets glue-gunned to the backs.


DS saw the sticks up last night and tried to dispose of the chores magnet! Nice try, buddy!


I’m hoping this system of daily routine keeps us as close to on track as possible. However, I’m not shooting for perfection. Average would be great.


Let me know what you think! Do you use a daily routine with your kids over the summer? How long do you practice school mornings before the first day? Should I add anything to my sticks? I’d love to hear from you!


By the way – if you hover or tap on any of the images in my post, you can pin them on Pinterest! Pretty neat!


Take care!

29 May

Weekend Chores With Kids

What a beautiful holiday weekend we had here in SW PA! My dad is a Vietnam Vet, so we always appreciate those who were lost in combat. We try to use some of the weekend to perk up the inside and outside of the house. To start it all off, we came up with a plan of attack: The To-Do List.  As the secretary of our administration, of course, I took notes. Kids seem to cooperate with the work when they have a say. Somewhere along the way, though, I got ambushed!



How did “scrub your butt” make the list?


My big job was finding the kitchen counter and dining room table. Those are the nasty landing zones that catch-all of the paper and crap. Mostly crap. I hope it stays this way until my in-laws visit in three weeks.


Here’s the finished product:

Yes. That is a dog butt. I'm not sure it got scrubbed.

Yes. That is a dog butt. I’m not sure it got scrubbed.


See the GIANT window over on the right? That’s 1/3 of the front window-wall. It’s a bear to keep clean, so I used to throw up my hands and give up. Not anymore! I found this great product called a window squeegee. I know, not a new thing. We got an eight foot extendable handle, slapped the squeegee on it, and the girls went to town! The sun actually shines through the glass. Kinda bright in here. Ow.


It was a fun day with all wecrashedkid accomplished. At the end of the day, we had a small bonfire. Extended family came over to roast s’mores, drink coffee and have a great visit. The three boy cousins ran around for about three hours playing some kind of combat game. My little guy crashed hard before we could even get him to bed.


*FQT = Family Quality Time – Coined by us in the ’80′s


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Take care and love each other,

18 May

Limiting Kids’ Technology Time

Our kids have way more technology options than we ever had. Our game systems weren’t as fancy or flashy, and playing Asteroids on the Atari, was nothing like multi-player Minecraft on the computer. For kids on the Spectrum, computer or iPad games offer stimulation, puzzle and problem solving, academic reinforcement, and can offer social interaction.


The struggle in many homes, including ours, is striking a balance between tech-time and life. I recently reached out to you for technology management ideas. We had a fabulous brainstorm session! I found that we came up with five main themes.


  1. Play around to earn the tech time – By doing a non-tech activity (reading, playing outside, Legos, crafting) for 20 minutes, he could earn 10 minutes of tech time (up to 60 minutes).
  2. Complete household chores to earn computer time – By doing chores that are above and beyond his normal routine, he can earn 15 minutes of tech time for each chore (up to 60 minutes).
  3. Complete regular chores/tasks before tech use – By completing his regular chores, he may use his technology for one hour per day.
  4. Weekly punch card – Hand him an index card with 14 spaces around the edge that equal 30 minute tech-time increments. Can use 1 or 2 spaces per day. No carrying over to the next week.
  5. Weekly coupons – Hand him 14 coupons that are worth 30 minutes of tech-time each. He may use 1-2 coupons per day. No carrying over to the next week.


My son’s strongest addiction is with Multi-player Minecraft. So we are implementing plan number 4. By using this punch system, he will have a concrete visual reminder that Minecraft time is DONE for the day. After a week or two of using this system, DH and I are going to require ALL daily tasks be completed before playing technology.


Here’s the one I made on Picmonkey-


Minecraft Time Punch Card

Minecraft Time Punch Card


We implemented it today. He hates it, but that’s to be expected. His attitude won’t sway us. We’ve encouraged him to get out cards and games. Some he’s played alone and some with us. As he sees that we are not budging on this rule, his behavior will get worse before it gets better. (He’s already threatened to live in the bathroom with the door locked.)


The second issue to address was the getting-off transition. Number one works for the laptop. The second (link) is a list of Apps for Apple products.


  1. Setting a timer and placing it near him. Build in a 5 minute warning.
  2. Apps to help set limits on iThings


For those of you with kids with special needs: Consider implementing new rules on the weekend during the day. This is especially important for us because DS’s ADHD medication wears off by 3:30/4:00. After that, he is less cooperative and less able to process stress appropriately.


Thank you again for all your input. What do you think of our ideas? Do you have another plan that works in your family? Will you adapt your rules when school lets out or do they stay the same?





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15 May

Blogging For Mental Health Month- A Follow Up


Thank you for your words of encouragement.

A Follow Up – Strive to Change It

Yesterday, I bared my soul and shared my personal struggles. My point was not to sound whiny or complaining. Instead, I hoped to develop a community that can be there and support one another. Depression thrives on isolation. It feeds on the darkness one feels in the hole of despair. 

When I exposed my situation yesterday, my feelings of being overwhelmed lightened. As a community online, you offered your support. Then, your comments came in with a variety of suggestions. Comments on my blog post and on Facebook refilled my “fighter-tank”. I appreciate all of the feedback; especially suggestions for taming the technology monster with my DS on the spectrum.

Slap Dash Mom pointed out,

It’s good to admit the struggle, and strive to change it.

That’s sound speaking right there.

With my spirits lifted, and my big-girl panties in place, I worked to change my challenges into victories.

  • Showered and dressed? Check.
  • Meal plans and grocery list? Check.
  • Grocery shop at Wally World? Check.
  • Strategies for managing technology use? Developing a plan!

I couldn’t forget to plan something fun. What’s better than laughter? So, DH and I are going to see comedienne Kathy Madigan LIVE tomorrow evening. We love her! Time to laugh and be with my main man. It’s a two-for-one!

You shared your suggestions and struggles with me yesterday. Did sharing these thoughts bring light to your spirit, too? Has today improved for you? Remember, we’re not looking for perfection. Any feelings of improvement are a start!





14 May

Blogging For Mental Health Month – My Top Seven Mom Struggles

I’m struggling today. Are you?

I have been raising my children for nearly 19 years. The three of them are (almost) 19, 17 and 9. I’ve worn the hat of a new mom, a depressed mom, a single mom, an older new mom, mom to teen girls, and a mom to a mildly autistic son. I’m realistic. I know that life is like a roller coaster with ups and downs. However, I’m really struggling lately. On a crisis scale of one to ten (ten is pack a bag for the hospital), I’m at an uncomfortable 2.5. As part of Mental Health Awareness Month (May), I’m putting my struggles here to have a conversation with all of you out there in a similar boat. And by putting this all on the table, I’m sharing with all of my readers: family, friends, local acquaintances, Facebook friends, and twitter followers. My message is WE ARE NOT ALONE IN OUR MENTAL HEALTH STRUGGLES. I’m reaching out for your suggestions and fellow challenges. 

Blogging for Mental Health

Blogging for Mental Health

Top seven ways I’m struggling as a mom. (Today)

1. My son is showing behaviors at home that will require TSS (wrap-around services) again. And while we’re fortunate to live in a state that provides specific insurance coverage for kids like our son, I’m sad that we have to go this route again. I know. Stop whining and be grateful.

2. DD1 is not finding college as her niche. It breaks my heart to see her grapple with her future plans, when the “college years” should be a time of growth, learning, and enjoyment.

3. I am neither meal planning, nor shopping ahead for those unplanned meals. I don’t have it in me to go to the store.

4. I’ve bummed around in bed or on the couch last 3 days. In jammies. Monday- I was really ill. Tuesday- on the mend, but tired. Today- no excuse. DS was in school, so…yeah.

5. I’m losing the battle of ME vs. CLUTTER. I have too many landing zones for mail, legos, school papers, water bottles, recycling (that’s currently on the counter cause the can is full…).

6. DS’s technology addiction is such a battle. From the time he gets home to the cutoff time of 8:00 pm. As a kid on the spectrum and full-blown ADHD, his iPad and laptop are sources of pleasure and solace. Unless they glitch, they are his buddies. So limiting the time on these interactive, bodiless creatures, is like taking him away from a real-life playmate (in his mind).  I’m open to suggestions on managing/limiting his time.

7. I REALLY miss my DH this week. He took care of me on Monday before he left. He’s but a phone call away, but his presence is so missed. This, though, is temporary. He will return Thursday and we will pick right up where we left off as a team in this parenting thing.

Now this is where you all come in. I NEED you.

Do you have some suggestions? Are you in the same boat as I am? It makes no difference if you’re a parent or not. We all have our days, weeks, months…

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27 Apr

What I Meant To Say

Many years ago, within weeks of meeting, I shared the following joke with my best friend. (Read this in a southern drawl. You must.)


Two southern ladies are sitting at the country club by the pool. The first southern lady says, “When I had my first child, my husband bought me a diamond ring.” The second lady says, “That’s nice.”

The first lady says, “When my second child was born, my husband took me on a cruise.” The second lady says, “That’s nice.”

The first lady continues, “When my third child was born, my husband took me on a trip around the world.” And the second lady says, once again, “That’s nice.”

The first lady asks, “Well, what did your husband get you when your first child was born?” The second lady replies, “My husband sent me to a therapist.” The first lady asks, “Why did he do that?” And the second lady says, “I used to have the nasty habit of saying ‘F%@# you, but now I say THAT’S NICE.”

And since that instant, we can say “that’s nice” in anyone’s company and know exactly what the other means.

I know that I’ve got some code speak for my family, too. Here’s a peek of my most common phrases with DH and the kiddos:

Can you pick up what I'm laying down?

Can you pick up what I’m laying down?

20 Apr

Middle School Memories – Lunchtime


I love to reminisce, it’s my favorite. It seems to come easier to me than trying to remember anything about yesterday or last Tuesday. When I reminisce, I think about the event and the feelings that surrounded it. Smells, sights or sounds can all start this thoughtful process.

Recently DD2 had her wisdom teeth removed. To prevent infection, the doctor prescribed basic penicillin in a white oval pill. As I removed one from the bottle for her to take, I felt a wave of nostalgia take me back to middle school.

I seemed to get many throat infections back then. Just not enough of them, though, to have my tonsils removed. The treatment for a 5th grader was to take that white penicillin pill three times a day for ten days.

I was 11 years old and typically packed my lunch in a Dukes of Hazard metal lunch box. My bologna sandwich with Miracle Whip would be wrapped up in wax paper. A baggie of green grapes and another baggie of little pretzel sticks accompanied my sandwich. For dessert my mom would pack vanilla wafers or Oreos. I’d have a quarter in my change purse to buy my chocolate milk. All during lunch, our science teacher walked around the cafeteria, making sure we had a napkin on our laps.

When I was well enough to return to school, but had penicillin to take, my mom, the RN, would fold my lunchtime dose up into a sturdy two-inch square of aluminum foil. (This was back in 1983, when kids could bring medicine to school and not get arrested.) I’d eat my bologna lunch, then take my pill with my milk.

Remembering simpler times, and how we used to “do it” is a fun way to pass the time. Do you have any fond lunch-time memories?