Picnic at the Park

Fun Picnic at the Park with our Best Friends.

I’ve always wanted to do this with Jessa since she was a toddler but unfortunately, until recently, Autism prevented that. 

Since Jessa also has a Sensory Processing Disorder the Joy of being able to go to the Park can be very overwhelming for her. 

The loud noises of first responder sirens, people’s music, infants crying, a dog barking, the laughter you name it Jessa was affected by it. 

I’m slowly learning how to help her overcome this anxiety and fear that comes with Autism.

I started hinting at the idea yesterday to see what her response would be. She instantly said “yes please” and giggled with JOY. 

This morning I checked the weather with excitement and made sure to pack some yummy snacks, a blanket, and of course the hand sanitizer. 

While getting dressed she could hardly keep still because she was excited about her picnic with friends. 

She even asked to take her favorite activity. Which is a water painting doodle mat that she received for her birthday. That was back in October, and she’s still enjoying it.

We picked our spot on the grass and enJOYed the beautiful, sunny 60-degree weather and company of our Friends. 

After eating our snacks, playing, and running in circles Jessa requested to go on a walk. 

So Jessa, her BFF, and I took a little stroll and we soaked it all in. 

The dogs, ducks, bicycles, leaves, rocks and even some Horses!! 

Remember we’re from Texas they can pop up at any time. 

Oh and I can’t forget about the lesson on Stevie Ray Vaughn, we stopped and got some advice from the Guitar Guru. 

I take for granted that we live in a suburb of such a Beautiful City, I’m going to make more of an effort to enJOY Austin. 

Today was a day that I didn’t think Jessa would ever ask for. 

Don’t give up on your children, they’ll come around on their own time.

Fashionista Friyay

 💕 FASHIONISTA FRIYAY 💕

Today was Day 21 of being in Quarantine, we are counting our Blessings and are happy to say it’s OVER!!  

Jessa and I NEEDED to get out and when I asked her where she would like to go she squealed “Popcorn Store” aka Target. 

I didn’t even think twice, who doesn’t love Target. 

I picked out the jeans and shirt but I guess it wasn’t good enough for my little lady. 

While I got dressed, Jessa took it upon herself to accessorize. 

Of course with all my stuff because what little girl doesn’t want to play with their Mom’s stuff. 

She is Rockin’ my favorite pink baseball hat. 

She’s wearing the belt from my robe to use as a scarf.

One of my black snow gloves, in case it snows again. Which it won’t, we live in TX. 

She finished the look with my pink wrist wrap as a bangle bracelet. 

Oh and she can’t forget the Crocs, the girl lives in them!! Every color and style. 

This brings so much JOY to my heart. 

Even though it may look silly to others, Jessa put this together all on her own, and to me it’s the BEST OOTD (Outfit of the Day).

A year ago Jessa didn’t have any desire or cared how we dressed her. 

So to see her personality and character Shine today just brought me tears of JOY and Happiness. 

So off we went to the Popcorn Store dressed to impress! 

I think Jessa got overwhelmed with excitement because we live 7 minutes away from Target and she didn’t make it. 

I didn’t have the heart to not take her so I let her nap in the car while I clipped my coupons.

Unfortunately, Popcorn isn’t being sold right now because our county is still at stage 5 due to Covid so no food or drinks are being sold. 

Except for Starbucks, luckily if not I would’ve had a meltdown. 

I was shocked and relieved that Jessa did NOT have any problems with accepting the fact that there was no popcorn. 

So we walked Target aisle per aisle and enJOYed our Fashionista Friyay!! 

Mommy Hugs

This is currently my FAVORITE 2 word phrase. 

Especially because it’s coming from my loving (when she wants), sweet (when she wants) but Always cute little Jessa. This is how she asks for cuddles, I know it’s Adorable.

This is her way of communicating her needs, whether it’s emotional or physical or both because of Autism. I’m still trying to figure it out. but for the moment I’m just enjoying the request. 

It honestly brings tears to my eyes when she asks for hugs. 

Jessa is 7, she’s never once voluntarily told me she loves me or anyone for that matter. We just know and feel that she does. So when she asks for Mommy Hugs you’re darn right I jump to command!! 

Jessa is considered Non Verbal, because she will not communicate with you upon asking or demand. 

She listens and understands what you’re saying but you’re in her world and she’s not ready to answer you. 

She can now say what she wants and needs which is a HUGE, because when she couldn’t it was HARD.

I’m sure Joel feels the same way when she asks for Daddy Hugs too. She may or may not say this twice as much or said it first but that’s not what matters here Lol

You can imagine the JOY, LOVE, and HAPPINESS we feel when those 2 words are said by Jessa. There was a time we thought we’d never be able to hear her talk, so we’re Blessed to be able to hear that Little Minnie Mouse Voice of hers. 

So even though Jessa can’t voluntarily say “I Love you Mommy” now, which I know she will one day, I’m just going to enJOY  “Mommy Hugs” 🙂

Who knows how long this will last, gotta get my hugs in before those Teenage years.

7th Birthday

Today is normally a hard day for me.

My sweet Jessa came into this world at 7:56 AM bright eyed and bushy tailed!! From the moment she was born I knew she would be my Princess.

She would start ballet as soon as she walked.

She would love mani and pedi Saturday’s with Mommy & Sissy.

She would start talking about her Birthday a month in advance (because birthday months exist in our house).

She’d smile and be full of love while we sang her Happy Birthday.

Over the years none of these dreams became a reality, it was hard to accept but I’ve learned-to be Grateful for what I do have!!

I know one day she will LOVE all these things but just on JESSA’S time and I’ll cry even HARDER than I would’ve of “normally.”

Today I celebrate Jessa’s Life, she’s taught me so much that I didn’t know existed and I’m so Blessed that I get to be her Mom.

She’s come such a long way on her journey!!

This is the first year:

1. She’s picked a theme by her pointing to a picture while I gave her options .

2. She’s been excited about her gifts and cards she’s received.

3. She’s asked for a BIRTHDAY PARTY all week!!

4. She’s asked that she wants Friends to come.

5. She “walked” next to me while we got party supplies from Party City.

6. She wants to put on her Poppy Costume I bought her for her party.

7. She said Thank You and gave me a HUGE HUG this morning when I wished her a Happy Birthday!!

So I say this 7th Birthday is by far the best!! Let’s just hope the rest of the weekend goes this smooth.

** As soon as I finished writing this here BCBA sent me these pictures and video **

drive.google.com/file/d/1uWZ4Td308uuSx__5WW58ZxolGPQr7vlA/view

BEST DAY EVER

Pictures went AMAZING yesterday!!

I’m not sure what we look like but I honestly don’t even care all I know is Jessa looked adorable.

It was a wonderful, sunny, a little windy 70 degree day. 

The weather was perfect and the vibe was just right!!

There were no meltdowns, no eloping, and no crying. 

Is this real life?! 

We did get a blister, rolled up sleeves, a bug bite, and a “all done with pictures” after the first shot but WE DID IT!! 

Mini sessions are where it’s at!! One 15-30 minute session with a walk through the park, it was a win for us, Jessa and photographer. 

Jessa LOVES water so I had mentally and physically (I changed from the uncomfortable, cute outfit and shoes to ones that I could sprint in, if needed) prepared myself to do a triathlon to keep Jess out of the water!! 

Jessa only asked twice “water please.” 

We were only 3 shots in so I immediately told myself “that’s it the shoot is over.”

Y’all she only put her hands in the water twice and then went about the shoot!!

WHO IS THIS CHILD??!! 

It was unbelievable, Joel and I were so grateful and in the moment. We just took it all in and even got a couple shots of Jessa holding up Sissy’s Fat Head since she’s off to college. 

It’s very rare we get the WHOLE DAY to be that AWESOME and “normal”  but yesterday was just one for the books!!

We took the advantage and ran with it, we had a delicious brunch and got to visit our favorite distillery!! Treaty Oak Distillery is outside so Jessa had a blast running up and down the fields and bossing kids around on the playground. 

So just plan the photo shoot, don’t worry so much and HAVE FUN & FIND THE JOY 💕💙 Life’s too short not to!!

Gratitude

I’m GRATEFUL for AUTISM.

I probably would’ve said some unkind words, cried and laughed in your face if you would’ve told me 3-4 years ago that I’d be GRATEFUL for Autism.

There were days I cried AND screamed:

Why my baby girl?

Why my family?

Why my marriage?

Why me?

It hasn’t always been the brightest of days but I’m now GRATEFUL for that. As a person I have learned strength, perseverance, agility, compassion and most importantly of all that LOVE NEEDS NO WORDS.

I’m GRATEFUL for AUTISM and here’s why:

Jessa

In between having my oldest daughter Nichole and Jessa I did have a couple rainbow babies so after 12 YEARS I was GRATEFUL to be holding another Beautiful Baby Girl.

Jessa automatically filled a void in my life that I didn’t know I needed. She was such a precious little, angel looking baby.

If Jessa could write down things that she’s taught me it would be these:

• AUTISM IS JUST ONE MY CHARACTERISTICS IT DOESN’T DEFINE ME.
• I’M SPECIAL IN MY OWN WAY.
• FOCUS ON WHAT I CAN DO AND NOT WHAT I CAN’T DO.
• BE PATIENT & CONSISTENT.
• I DO WHAT I WANT WITHOUT FEAR OR JUDGEMENT.
• I LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY.
• DON’T GIVE UP.

Jessa is my Blessing in Disguise from God, I’ve learned so much from her and I’m a better person than I was 7 years ago and it’s all because of Autism.

How could I NOT be GRATEFUL for Jessa, I mean look at how stinking cute she is.

NICHOLE

Of course I’m GRATEFUL to have Nichole as my daughter, she’s smart, sweet and full of love. I never imagined Nichole to be the AMAZING Autism Sister that she is,I mean I knew she was going to be a Great Big Sister but Autism Sister is a totally different title, love, and understanding. Nichole instantly became Jessa’s second mom, she just has a natural mother’s instinct when it comes to children. She understood Jessa and took her time to get to know what she needed/wanted.

I’m EXTREMELY GRATEFUL I have Nichole with me on this journey. She reminds me that I needed to be patient with Jessa, that Jessa requires a different type of love, and that we ARE Jessa’s voice!!

Nichole is always so nurturing, loving and understanding with Jessa’s disabilities. She’s also always reminded me to look at all the positive and joy on this journey! I couldn’t have prayed for a better “Sissy” for Jessa, Nichole you’re one of a kind!!

JOEL

I was blessed with an angel from above when I met this man, he helped me dig myself out of a black hole I’d been living under. He automatically became a father to Nichole without even thinking about it, he just did it!

Men/Partners like Joel are hard to come by and I’m so GRATEFUL I get to call him mine.

I’m even MORE GRATEFUL that he’s Jessa’s Daddy. God knew that I needed him on this journey and that Jessa needed someone that LOVES HARD.

Joel goes above and beyond being a provider for us financially, even though he works 60-70 hours a week he’s still here for us emotionally, mentally, and not once complains about it.

Thanks to Joel for being so loving with Jessa we now own around 3,000 toys, 5 tablets, 100+ shoes, 3 trips to Disney, a couple of crazy eBay bids, countless Happy Meals and Extra Most Bestest Pepperoni Pizzas and now Jessa’s favorite: The Pizza Restaurant trips!!

Thank you Joel for being the Best Daddy Jessa could have, I guess I’ll admit you’re her FAVORITE!! She LOVES her DADDY.

ABA -(Applied Behavior Analysis)

When we first started this journey, I immediately told myself I wouldn’t in a million years put Jessa in ABA. At the time I was given wrong information and didn’t know how far this therapy had come along.

After having Jessa in ABA for almost 3 years I HIGHLY recommend it to all that I meet that are just now starting their journey. Jessa has come so far on her journey but it’s because of all the ABA therapy she’s had. She goes Monday-Friday from 9-5, it’s more hours than the average adult works but it’s so worth the results!!

I’m TRULY GRATEFUL for ABA if it wasn’t for the hard work of ALL the therapists she’s had these past 3 years I honestly don’t think I’d even have the time to write this right now. Before ABA, and After ABA is how I describe our journey in a lot that we’ve accomplished.

Before ABA:

Hours and hours of meltdowns a day.
Spoke absolutely no words, she just pointed and grunted.
No eye contact.
No life skills.
Poor motor skills.
No social contact.

This list goes on.

After 3 years of ABA:


1 to 2 10-20 minute meltdowns, some days 0.
Non-Verbal because she doesn’t communicate on demand but she can tell you what she does and doesn’t want with a polite “Please or Thank you”
She’s potty trained.
LOVES playing with friends.
Motor skills have improved tremendously.
Eye contact is better but still needs improvement.
Shows emotions.

To say I’m GRATEFUL for ABA is an understatement, it’s been life changing for Jessa, and our family. We’re very GRATEFUL for all her BCBA’s and Therapists that have helped us these past 3 years!! Y’all are angels in our eyes!!

THE FUTURE

I know the future will still have obstacles, trials and tribulations, dark days, and happy days.
I can’t wait to learn more about Autism, see Jessa’s accomplishments, cheer her on in all she does.
I know I’m still not done growing and learning as a Special Needs Mom. I’m hopeful that in the future I get to be able to tell our story, educate others about Autism, and share our Joy!!
I’m GRATEFUL for the future of Autism and the Joy we’re going to find in our Journey.

Communication is Key

Communication is Key

I’ve always been a strong believer in this, probably because my parents instilled this in me at a young age. If you think about it in order to succeed in your life you need to be able to let others know: how you feel, your ideas, your wants/needs, and emotions through communication. Unfortunately for Jessa and us we had to go through several obstacles to get to where we are now! It hasn’t been easy but WE are doing the best that we can. Our journey to be able to communicate has been a long one but so worth it!

Since Jessa was about 8-10 months she would babble a lot but for the most part was always very quiet and didn’t show much emotion. At first I thought maybe she just has a strong personality like her mom and hides her emotions like her dad. When she turned one there were still no words, she could care less to walk, and she still wasn’t responding to her name. Hmm, that’s definitely a red flag but we were told she’s just “slower” than others.

As time went on we got her ears checked because I thought, maybe she’s deaf? We took her to the local children’s hospital and as I sat there I remember thinking well if she is deaf that’s something we can learn and she’ll just pick up sign language fast. As I looked around I realized that our current situation wasn’t as difficult like other families around us. I then held Jessa tight and prayed for the best.

The hearing tests were passed with flying colors, she definitely could hear just fine. As I heard this great news I was quickly saddened because I realized then there’s something bigger that we’re going to have to overcome. I knew at that moment that we were dealing with something that I wasn’t ready to accept.

The months went by and we got an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis which led us to start with ECI (early childhood intervention). We started speech, occupational and social therapies. Jessa was about 2 1/2 when we finally started these services.

We had therapists come into our home at first, and that wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. Jessa immediately shut down and didn’t cooperate as I would’ve liked. This is when aggression started, at first I didn’t understand why but as years have gone by I totally get it now (well at least that’s what I keep telling myself).

At first we tried signing, and this is when I noticed she was having a really hard time accepting strangers in our home. I assumed she felt like these “strangers” are coming into MY territory and I’m going to protect my space. Jessa then started biting, and hitting the therapists as well causing some SIB (self injury behaviors). She also started eloping from tasks or demands she wasn’t wanting to do.

We then tried PECS (picture exchange communication system) but that lasted shortly since Jessa tore up the cards into pieces before even getting started on instructions. My heart was broken, how was she ever going to be able to communicate with us?

Within a couple of months we switched to a therapy center where she was one on one with a therapist for 30 – 45 minutes once a week. She did better with these sessions but with insurance only approving 2 days a week for 30 minutes I just felt it wasn’t enough. Then I had to remind myself she’s only a few months short of 3.

Jessa started pulling us to get our attention to help her with getting food out of the pantry or a drink out of the refrigerator. If you didn’t move on her command she let you know that she was upset and wasn’t happy about you not jumping up to her command. There’d be times when she would pull us and we wouldn’t move she would say, “This is heavy” I don’t know if I got up quickly after that because I was offended or at the fact that she could put those two things in context. Once she got us to her desired location she would then point in the general direction of what she needed/wanted.

We as parents were always playing a guessing game of what it could be that she requested. There were definitely a lot of upsets and emotional hard ridden days. I remember crying and thinking I’m never going to be able to understand what my daughter needs. One thing I do remember being grateful for was that Jessa still showed us love in her own way. She would always give us hugs, kisses and position us to where we were “forced” to hug her (definitely not forced but for sure only when Jessa said so.)

Luckily I have a lot of faith in Jessa and ourselves as parents that I knew we wouldn’t give up on finding a way to help Jessa communicate.

To be continued…