Belize Missions Trip 2017

2491133513_9535811_letitia-and-family 2491132021_9546257_group-shot-at-finished-house 2491131707_9582708_final-group-shot-before-leaving-to-the-airport nailpolishedhands debbieselfieonflightDuring the early summer of 2017 I participated in a missions trip to Belize with my church, La Jolla Presbyterian church (LJPC).

We built a home for a family, ran a couple of medical clinics, and visited a home for girls. 

It was an exciting, wonderful trip, full of blessing.

I’m so glad I got to take part.

 

https://www.kizoa.com/Movie-Video-Slideshow-Maker/d125918559k6000086o2l1/belize-2017

 

 


When We didn’t have Heat…

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We installed a new furnace, ducting,

and air conditioner this February.

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Why is that significant?  Let me tell you a story…

Last November 20th I set up an appt to have our local gas & electric company, SDG&E, come and check our heater, & to light it.  We do this every other year just to make sure everything is in compliance.  This Winter we didn’t get our furnace turned on, we didn’t get any heat…instead, we got a GREAT, BIG, & UGLY, red tag smack on it, and that was that!
Our almost 50 year-old heater had a BIG hole in it.  It was unrepairable.

The tech was giving my husband the news as I returned home from dropping off the kiddo at school, and even before they told me I could tell by their faces that something wasn’t right.

RIP furnace.

 

Red Tag

The Red Tag notice, warning us NOT to use our heater.

Then, the other shoe dropped:  In a house this old, with original heater & ducting, he advised us that there was an 80+% chance that we would need to replace the ducting too…and the range he threw out for that kind of work was – - – more than we could afford!

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(The financial issues are not part of this story though, so let me only digress a little bit more to say there’s an Awesome government-run loan program called HEROI would recommend it if you need any home improvements & own a home that’s not underwater.)

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If you know us and know where we reside, which is sunny, San Diego, CA., you may think we are big babies and could live without heat.  Perhaps, but two things made that more difficult: First, Southern California (San Diego included) experienced a cold snap during December 2014 that brought temperatures in the 30’s & snow in some places.  I said SNOW, people! (it doesn’t snow in the cities.)  Remember, we are just below L.A.. When is the last time you saw snow in Hollywood? (The snow was mostly in the Temecula area, but all surrounding areas were DANG cold!!)

This is a non-related photo of the Kiddo bundled up for  the Parade of Lights, but I thought I'd use it since I don't have any of us during our no heat time.

This is a non-related photo of the Kiddo bundled up for the Parade of Lights, but I thought I’d use it since I don’t have any of us during our no heat time.

Second, my back happened.  About 6 Years ago I was diagnosed with arthritis in the lower lumbar region of my spine.  I was in my early 30’s & it is thought that it was a result of an injury I succumbed to after a fall as a teenager.  Most of the time my pain is mild & manageable, but this winter my back decided differently.  The first time since the pain that lead to the diagnosis, my back was in excruciating pain every day.  I could not move because my back seized up, and when I finally could move it would be under winces, gritted teeth, and waaay more Advil than I probably should take.  I finally got a hold of those Thermacare back wraps & would wear them all day.  Without them I couldn’t move.
Our home temperatures never rose above 62 degrees during the day, and in the 30’s, 40”s, & 50’s at night.  (It was warmer outside than in our house.)    Our son has a small space heater in his bedroom, so at least he would be relatively warm, but that’s all we had.  Money was tight enough that buying another one was a luxury.

During this time, I became very aware of others & their struggles.

I know that despite our circumstances there are many others dealing with harsher problems.  Our house may be cold, but we were not sleeping on the streets, where I could not imagine how cold the last few nights must have been.  We are also able to afford heat, when it is available, while there are households that can’t ever turn on their heat because they can’t afford it.
I recognize that I am self-centered.  Not in an egotistical, non-caring way…no, it was mostly because while dealing with my own family’s challenges that I don’t take time to notice or be concerned enough for others.  In my opinion there is far too much “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality floating around in our society.  All of us are guilty of it, including me. I’m not patting myself on the back here.
Of course, there are a few people that really make effort to think of others first.   They feed the homeless, or help refugees, or bring meals to the homebound, and many other generous acts of kindness, but the rest of us…We Don’t.  Perhaps occasionally we do these things, but then we get too busy or have some issue that needs our attention and we forget about our neighbors.  We forget we are community.   
I understand we can’t all feed the homeless at the local rescue mission, and I’m not saying we try to save the world. Not yet…

I do believe in baby steps though. I propose a challenge (for me included):

I believe we can daily (okay, weekly) think of others that could use support.  What kind of support, and who is our neighbor, you ask? For that answer I believe the story of the Good Samaritan is our best example.  (if you don’t know this Bible story, here is a link.  It is a quick & easy read: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2010:25-37)

So, who is our neighbor?

The answer is probably not whom we’d like it to be.  Are we not all human?   It’s the panhandler on the street median, begging for money; it’s the annoying UPS delivery man that ALWAYS rings the bell when your baby is napping; it’s the school bus driver; it’s your FRENEMY at church and/or work; it’s the lady who yells at your kids for walking on her grass; it’s the little league coaches & umpires; and it’s the family that attends the Islamic mosque & walks past your church on the way to prayers; and the list goes on…  I think you get the point.

Why-We-Have-to-Love-the-Crazy-Cat-Lady

How can we be a neighbor? 

There’s no secret formula or instructions, except  perhaps, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14b …Aaand, how can we love people?  We can show it.  It’s not complicated, but it does take us noticing need.  We tune out a lot.  We call it minding our own business.  But, what if we practiced being a community & neighborly?  We just have to open our eyes & listen with our ears.  Actually LOOK & LISTEN, not just go around on “cruise-control”, not paying attention.   I also prayed that God would show me opportunities where I could be a good neighbor, and had 2 opportunities within the hour where I could have made an impact.  Once you start thinking about it, you see there are an abundance of opportunities to be a neighbor.

 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galations 6:9

Perhaps you know a Single parent that needs a break and you could babysit for them; you could purchase a homeless person a burger when you order your meal from the drive-thru; or pay for the car in line behind you at Starbucks;  You could bring a new mom or a sick friend a meal; send someone a card (or a text) to encourage them after a hard day; Offer to have your friend that is unemployed over for dinner; Wash the car of the elderly lady on your street; Give your delivery man some oranges from your fruit tree that he loves to eat; Drive someone to his or her Dr.s appt; you could even just give hugs & high-fives to all the other team members on your kid’s sports team; and so many other ways. I know you can come up with ways to be a neighbor.

Take Note:

Don’t wait for the person to ask you for help.  Most of us are not going to ask for help.  Society has trained us not to.   If you wait for an invitation, you will miss many times that you could have been a neighbor.  Example: When that person at the grocery checkout line in front of you starts to put back items, tell the cashier you will pay.  (if you can.)  If the person really doesn’t want you to they will tell you so.

The result of this challenge?  I think at first people will be surprised, but then, I believe it will spread & hearts will change.  We can’t expect our community or world to be loving and neighborly by doing nothing.  At the very least, it will change you (and me).  It will soften us and give us hearts that love others.  In a world that has plenty of sharp edges we could definitely use some more soft.

As Mother Teresa once said,

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

If we all started thinking of others more, just think of the community we could build & be together.

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P.S.  BTW, we also had friends extend kindness to us during our time of no heat.  You can always count on your Stylist to come through for you (they are, after all, more like therapists).  My husband and I have had the same hair stylist for years, and when getting a haircut shared that we didn’t have heat.  Without missing a beat, we were lent their space heater for our bedroom.  It really saved my tush from freezing!

Thank you, Laura (& Shannon & Harlow).

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ilovemankind


What is Autism?

This link to autistic advocate Nick Walker’s blog is by far the best definition of autism I have ever read.  Here is the non-pathologizing description:  http://neurocosmopolitanism.com/what-is-autism/

 

What do you think?

P.S. – I’m adding a photo to this post, so I can pin it on Pinterest.  Can’t do that without a photo.

M_rockcollecting


Merry Christmas!  Peace, LOVE, and Joy to you and Yours.  Have a Blessed New Year!

Merry Christmas!   PEACE, LOVE, and JOY to You and  Yours.   Have a Blessed New Year!

 

 

 


No guidebook for Dying

There are tons of guidebooks and manuals for what to do and what to expect for major milestones of human life.  You have wedding planners & tip books for when you want to get married, What to Expect books for when you are pregnant, more parenting guides for once those kiddos have made their arrival, guides for college entry, and even dating advice books…but, an area lacking in guidance is for death.
Sometimes in certain societies/cultures, death is so rarely discussed that people are overwhelmed when someone they know is dying.  …Yet, it is the very thing that we SHOULD discuss.  I mean, everyone is going to die, so shouldn’t we be more familiar with how to handle it?

Yes, there IS the occasional book at the bookstore that discusses how to plan your own funeral, and many that deal with grief and how to write your will, and such, but not a plethora of guidebooks on what to expect when you’re dying.
The dying milestone is so varied that how one prepares for it must also be as varied.  One must possess a Swiss Army Knife full of skills because depending on the circumstances of the person dying you would react and feel many different ways.  If someone dies young that is a different experience than from when someone dies after a long life in his or her’s Golden Years.  Accidents verses Natural death, In their sleep verses in discomfort/pain… and the list goes on and on…  There isn’t a set way that dying takes place, so there really isn’t a set way to prepare.  It’s a in-the-moment life event.  It is as complicated as it is emotional.Rosie_O_Beirne-dying-at-home-hands-on-pink-blanket-google-624x416

Why write about dying, such an emotional and avoided subject? 

Because we NEED to talk about it.  Many feel like they are going it alone when experiencing the death of a loved one.  Even when surrounded by others it can feel lonely because our feelings are so intimate and personal, it’s difficult to believe others can relate Exactly to how we feel.   Maybe if more of us talked about our feelings or openly discussed the difficulties of dealing with this milestone it would become easier to face…

My own Grandma has been in the dying process these last few months. She probably has a few weeks left here, with us, on earth.  She is the last of my grandparents.  One grandpa passed away before my birth, a second when I was a young child, and my other grandma died when I was thirteen.  Truth? It will be awkward and sad to have that whole generation gone.  I’m not sure how else I’ll feel, but definitely it will feel like something is missing.

How we feel about a loved one’s death significantly depends on our personal beliefs and convictions about life, death, afterlife, and how those apply to the person meeting this fate.  If we are at peace and comfortable with how this individual fits into those beliefs, then we usually find it easier to grieve and let go, but if any of these areas is outside of what we think it should be, then the individual’s passing is much more uncomfortable and difficult to process.

Death, just like birth, isn’t very dignified.  It strips you of everything, especially if your dying process is a long one.  Your body loses strength, you can lose ability to control processes that were once done without even a thought.  Now they become a struggle.  For many, cognitive processes get all jumbled up as well, creating the need for a caretaker for the simplest of tasks.

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At least at birth most of us are cleaned up before being presented to the world.  Dying isn’t as considerate of a milestone.  Others will see you at your weakest, most dependent stage since infancy.
If death takes a while to come and an individual is sick, the family and friends often live life in a cautious, befuddled mode with wondering and waiting…Many dying individuals command others to “keep on living” despite the person’s condition, but it’s not an easy task for others to do: Should you travel, go on vacation?  Can the person still see and read the cards you send?  Would they recognize you if you called or would the dementia be in control that day? What if they pass away on a holiday or before a child’s birthday…how far do you take the command to do things as you normally do?  So many questions that we stumble over with uncertainty, hoping we are doing it right.   Wouldn’t it be nice if dying was clean-cut with easy to understand steps, so all we had to do was deal with the emotions…

Even that part isn’t easy though, as Paula Spencer Scott states in her post: How to say good-bye when someone you love is dying, (link here)

“Saying good-bye to a dying relative or friend—what to talk about, when, and how—doesn’t come naturally to most adults. The irony: All such conversations ask of us, ultimately, is what people appreciate hearing at any time of life: words of candor, reassurance, and love.”

By being scared to talk about dying we enter into a “conspiracy of silence” between the generations.  Elderly parents don’t want to worry their children, and the children are worried to bring up such an intimate subject; they worry that their parents will think that they are waiting for them to die.

“We often comfort ourselves with the notion that doctors are “in charge” and will make the right decisions. And we all think it’s too soon to speak of death. Until it’s too late.”

When is the right time?  Well, it’s never too soon.  “The first place for the talk is not the doctor’s office and certainly not the emergency room. It’s at the kitchen table long before a medical crisis. If you’re the parent, begin by having the conversation in your head, because talking it out with yourself will make it easier to approach your children.”

Peter Saul, Senior Intensive Care specialist in the adult and pediatric ICU at John Hunter Hospital, and Director of Intensive Care at Newcastle Private Hospital in Australia, has a wonderful TED talk that discusses the subject of dying and how to open a dialogue about it:  http://on.ted.com/Saul  

These conversations produce rich moments of emotional connection. They bring us closer together. What’s more, people who have had them tend to choose less aggressive care and leave their survivors less regretful and depressed. What a gift!

ashes_to_ashes__dust_to_dust__by_cheesysteele-d3nfklw_large

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

**************** Genesis 3:19 “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

Ecclesiastes 3:20 “All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.”

 


Time for school again…

preschoolphoto4blog

“Likes” for how cute & excited he is.  :)

 

If you want to make your own 1st day of school pics like this one, you can use the free photo editing website PicMonkey: http://www.picmonkey.com/

There are many edits you can do for free, and if you want to, you can upgrade your account and get all the features.  It’s super-easy to use.

 


Hooray for Pictures!!!

My hubby fixed my site & I finally can upload pictures again!  I won’t complain that it took like 3+ years to get it done because I am happy that I can now post pictures again!  Yippee!!!

Thank you, Sweetie.    brightside


Born to Heaven

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About a month ago, on May 20th, 2013 I shared the following words on my Facebook page.
 I posted how I was feeling about the miscarriage of our baby at 14 weeks pregnant that happened on Thanksgiving day. 
May 20th was my EDD, and I was feeling the loss intensely that day. 
My words were just my feelings, not meant to be a poem,
but many remarked about their poetic quality.
I decided I would post them here also, just-in-case, by reading them
they might help another that is grieving the loss of their baby. 

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Emotional Day.

My heart feels heavy with sadness today.
9 months have finally passed…but you are not here.

I held you once…so small – you fit perfectly in one hand, in your momma’s hand.
Heaven sent…and then to return 
Before we had a chance to say hello, good-byes were said instead.
I miss you so much today.

Every time I see a newborn baby, I’m reminded of all the late nights we won’t have trying to rock you to sleep.
No shushing your cries; no kisses to your forehead.

Time does dull the pain, but not how much I miss you.
The tears still flow when I think of you.
But… I know one day the sorrow will cease – on that day, in heaven’s light, we will meet & I will hug you tight. 

‘Till that day – I miss you.

Love, Mom

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Celebrating…AUTISM? That’s Right. I didn’t misspeak.

RunWithJOYMy kid has two families and I’m not a part of both.  No, this isn’t a story about adoption, not in the traditional sense of family & adoption. But, it is about belonging.
You see, this month is April.  Annnnd… April is Autism Awareness month around the world.  Why am I doing a blog post on family & autism?  Because my son is autistic.  I am not upset or ashamed of that…actually, I’m proud of him.  Though only 3.5 years old (on April 8th), I think he’s an Amazing kid.  Most of the autistic people I have met are also pretty cool, so I think he’s in good company.  They are minorities in our social societies (stats say 1-2% of individuals are autistic), and they have to struggle with our confounded, rigid, & biased social rules that not only make everyday living challenging, but many times painful for them.   Despite all that, they persevere and do a better job at this “living thing” than, dare I say, most of the rest of us.

Okay, so I’m going off-track.  Back to my point.  April is Autism Awareness month, but that’s mostly to raise money for the research organizations & other “support” organizations that supposedly help autistics fit into our society – except that most of them don’t.  Oh yes, money goes towards research, but many times for negative, degrading research on how to “cure” all these individuals that, God forbid, have different brain wiring than most of us. That is like us researching how to “cure” left-handed people because there must be something wrong if one doesn’t use their right hand as their dominate hand.  (oh wait!  We did do lame-brained stuff like that back in the day.)
So, a lot of the focus for the month of April is about pity, and about how depressing it is to be autistic, & how we must help pull them out of their misery and be like us “typical” folk.    This, of course, upsets me.  I am tired of this outlook.  I’m tired of the Google search results for autism always showing negative topic results.
I look forward to the day when April as Autism month is a celebration of the diversity and uniqueness that autistic individuals bring to our society, like when we celebrate Black or Asian History month.

Though other autistic individuals do not share a blood line or genetics with my son they do have a connection and an understanding that is different than the one I share with him, and it is special in that way.  I don’t have any proof (other than circumstantial evidence), but I swear there’s an emotional sixth-sense that many autistics (especially children) have where they are able to sense each other, and they are drawn to each other, like magnets with radar. No matter where we go Micah will discover and connect with other people on the Spectrum.   Doesn’t matter their age either.  I’ve witnessed the connection thing happen with 2-year olds on up to young adults.  I know that not every autistic person is going to have a connection with another, and I know it’s not some FORCE-like connection, but I don’t worry that he’ll find a community where he feels comfortable wherever he goes.  (most of the time.)

At this point Micah knows nothing about autism, or differences, or anything like that.  He’s only 3, and is barely just realizing that some people have different features than he does, like skin color.  But, when he’s aware of such things, in the next couple years, we will definitely explain autism to him and introduce him to his Great, Big, Autism Family.  I want him to be happy & proud of his autism, to not think of himself as an oddity or defective, cause he’s not!  Rather, I just want him to be accepting of this part of who he is as easy as it is for him to accept his eye color.  I hope to introduce him to the online advocates/bloggers that I know or know of, to the local community & groups, and eventually have an autistic mentor for him.  Hopefully it will still be as easy for him to make connections as it has been in the past.  Maybe he’ll decide to be a blogger or an advocate himself, maybe not…. but, whatever he decides he’ll know that’s he’s part of a worldwide family of individuals that understand him, relate to his challenges, and celebrate with him in all of the Hand-flappiness/Spinniness that they can muster.  And maybe by then Autism Awareness will be Autism Celebration month.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Sometimes you have to wander around until you find where you really belong. And sometimes it’s right where you started.”
~ Rachel Gibson, True Confessions

A few Cool things about Autism :

Working Memory – the system that holds information active in the mind, keeping it available for further processing. The capacity of working memory is limited: for numbers, for example, most people can hold seven digits at a time on average.  It is also the ability to hold and process quantities of information, both verbal and non-verbal — such as, say, memorizing a musical score and rewriting it in your head.  Many autistics can store huge lists of items in their minds, for extended periods, and repeat them accurately.

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Attention to detail -  some individuals with autism have the ability to maintain intense focus for longer period of time & will score higher on this trait than the average person.  Many think in details that fall into certain categories:   Visual thinkers think in photographically specific images.  Music and math thinkers think in patterns.  Verbal logic thinkers think in word details.

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Empathy (yes, I said empathy.)  – Autistic people are extremely capable of feeling and expressing love, though sometimes in idiosyncratic ways! What’s more, many autistic people are far more empathetic than the average person, though they may express their empathy in unusual ways.

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Visual-Spatial – People with autism often perform well in tests that involve visual-spatial abilities, such as fixing jigsaw puzzles, or matching shapes.

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Sensory Perception – Autistic brains have been found to be larger than average, and they contain an incredible amount of electrical discharges in the hearing regions. The cortical columns of the brain contain a much higher amount of cells than the norm, and also make extra connections between neurons.

(Don’t get your panties in a twist if these don’t apply to the autistic person you know.  Not everyone with autism is the same; I know that.)

What do you find cool about autism?  (Don’t be a Downer.  There are cool things to be found in autism.)


8 letters, 3 Words = Best Day EVER.

My heart is Super-Happy Want to know why?  A magical thing happened this morning.
I was so tired I almost missed it, but I am Sooo glad I didn’t.     :)

The set-up for this scenario isn’t spectacular, but what took place is beyond Awesome!

It was early.  Only Micah and I were awake and up, and I had tried to escape to the computer for a few minutes when he came to find me.  He had asked me to come with him (as he always does) and I told him to practice waiting, so I could finish typing.  He paused for a second, and I thought he was going to request me to come with him again, like he usually does when I don’t comply, but, this time he did something different…he leaned on me, looked up, and said to me, “Mom, I love you.”  Simple as that.   I thought my heart would stop.  I have waited so long to hear those words from my 3-year old child.
You may not understand why this moment meant so much, I mean, after all, if my son is 3 years old, why haven’t I heard this sentence from him before?   Well, let me explain why this moment is so special that I could deem it to be the     Best.    Day.   Ever!

In terms of talking, Micah did fine with it with it in the beginning.  He learned sign language really quick during the first couple months of his life, and his first spoken word, ‘nana (short for banana) came before the age of one.  (Yes, he really did say ‘nana before mom and dad.  What can I say, my kid used to LOVE bananas! lol)
I was one of those freaky moms that tracked all of my kid’s language milestones, so by his 18-month Wellness exam I was able to present a list of words and phrases that Micah knew to his pediatrician.  He had: 25 spoken words, 15 signed words, and 3 phrases.  (No, I do not do this anymore.  I have outgrown my anal, crazy, obsessive-compulsiveness.)    The doc was impressed and told us that was excellent, and at the higher end of the communication milestone for age-appropriate development.  Yippee!  We have a talker.  I am one myself, so I was excited.

For all it’s analness, there was another plus to my crazy, language-tracking.  That was that it made it super-easy to spot when things took a turn-for-worse, and something was off with Micah’s language development.
By 20 months of age, things had completely changed.  Micah no longer spoke (“oh-no” & “go” were all he said.) and no longer signed anything either.  He had lost his ability to communicate.  Long story, short – Micah was diagnosed (after SEVERAL months) with Regression-onset autism.  He lost some developmental skills along with his language, and it felt like a HUGE set back!

I remember at Regional Center, when he was being evaluated for at-risk of a developmental disorder when he was 21-months old, that they said not to be too anxious about his regaining his speech because it would take a LOOONG time.  They said we might expect a few words by next year, but he would NOT be speaking in sentences a year from that date.
That was 1 year ago.  Micah  does now speak in small phrases, some spontaneous, some scripted, some prompted.  He does a lot of echolalia.  He also picks up new words all the time.  He has relearned all of the spoken language he lost & he does some of the sign language; his favorite sign is still “more”.    He has been picking up language easily for the time being (but, if you know about autism you will understand that they learn in leaps of huge progress and then there can be periods of nothing).  Sometimes he only needs one time to learn a new word (which, was the case for a bad word that he now says), but the ONE phrase I could NEVER get Micah to say or even echo was, “I Love You.”  I tried, he just never seem interested.  I  still made sure that I told him all the time, but nothing.  
Now, I know Micah loves us, but I just wanted to hear it.  Call me selfish because there are many parents out there who will never hear these words from their child, but once Micah started talking again and I knew this could be an option for him, it became a strong desire for me to hear these words, even if it was just once.   Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t love my kid any more (or less)  just based off of what he can or can’t do, but  when milestones come with a great deal of work & struggle it sure is refreshing to get achievements, no matter how small they may be.

So…this morning, when those words came in a pure, unprompted, simple, loving manner, that was just the encouragement this momma needed.  …And, that is why my heart is Super-Happy.
God smiled on me through my child’s simple expression of love and let me know He’s aware that it’s one year later, and He’s still walking with us through our path in life, with all it’s ups and downs.
Will I have another Best. Day. Ever. sometime in the future?  Sure…but, for today this is it and that’s enough.    :)