Autism is… difficult.

Haidyn was diagnosed with Autism (moderate to severe) at age 3. We knew absolutely nothing about the autism spectrum or how it was about to change our world. 🌍

I’ll be honest, when I titled this blog I was trying to think of some sweet, cliche, autism quote that would be fitting. Instead, I chose to just be honest and raw with y’all. Over the last year and especially the last six months, autism in our home has been harder than I had pictured it would be in my head. One of the main reasons I started this blog was to help raise awareness for autism and to soften the hearts of others towards the special needs community because hey, we out here! We are everywhere! 👋🏻 … BUT it is so extremely difficult for me to form words from my emotions and thoughts on our experience with autism thus far.

Our little Haidyn was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder (SPD) and what was considered, “level 2,” (moderate to severe) on the autism spectrum at the age of 3. She is now 4.5 years old and let me just tell you…. I knew absolutely nothing almost a year ago when she was diagnosed. Guess what, though? I still know nothing. I honestly think I feel more lost now, in this whole world of autism, than I did when I had zero education on it. See? Confusing, I know.

We had her tested by a psychologist that involved a series of appointments, testing one on one with her, with us as parents, questions, questionnaires and then finally, a follow up with a diagnosis. Her psychologist was AMAZING, thorough, patient and super informative. If you’d like her info, I’d be happy to share! When her pediatrician initially mentioned autism at a developmental assessment we had prior to her diagnosis, we assumed that IF Haidyn was diagnosed, she would be VERY mild. She was verbal, she understood what we were saying, she played with her friends and she was just a little nervous about a few things. When they say that every autistic child is unique, they are being real. The spectrum is so broad and the quirks, so wide. We just didn’t know… but we are learning with each new day.

Y’all, I laugh at myself now. I laugh and I cry. I laugh because I thought it was so simple and I cry because how did I not see it? It was all there. Almost a year later and I feel like the autism flows equally with the blood in her veins…. but the hard part is helping others see it. Yes, she is verbal and she can talk but does she truly understand you? Sometimes but more often than not, no. Haidyn speaks and communicates everything she knows from repetition. The lullabies she sings are from watching the same YouTube kids channels over and over again. Does she play with toys? Yes… but she is OBSESSED with baby dolls. Normal for a girl, right? No. You don’t understand when I say OBSESSED. I mean it. Does she play with other kids? Yes, absolutely yes. She loves other children. The fine line is when it comes to pretend play. If all of the kids are running in a circle, Haidyn will be right there with them, but if they are playing something that involves pretending, she just can’t grasp that concept and prefers to play in her own world. Her attention span is also about 0.000999 seconds long and she probably wouldn’t run in a full circle before getting distracted.

I didn’t realize that autism would affect every aspect of our lives. That it did, it was and it will continue to do so. She is autistic and there is no changing that. Instead of teaching my daughter about the world (which I am still doing), I am also having to teach the world about my daughter. I love advocating for autism and I find true passion in it but sometimes it is mentally and physically exhausting. Others just do not truly understand the needs of autistics and all other special needs humans on this earth unless they deal with it on a personal level. I don’t say that to judge, I say that because I was that person too. I didn’t know that our days would be filled with meltdowns, poop (A LOT OF POOP), so many broken household items and toys, stimming, hitting, clapping, escaping, fears and the never ending hunger. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t know how to fix it all.

Nothing is simple, or fast, or on time, or a quick fix around here. Life isn’t dull but it dang sure isn’t all sunshine and rainbows either. Life with Haidyn is a lot of work and even though it isn’t all easy, it’s all worth it. She has humbled me in ways I never knew possible. I find myself on my knees almost daily, praying to God, to show me grace and mercy, to allow me patience and tenderness, understanding and opened arms, and that Haidyn will live the best life meant for her. I’m not sure why he thought I was meant to be an autism mama because I’m pretty sure I fail, daily.

I hope Haidyn never sees that she’s different and IF she must, she sees it in the most positive of lights. She is my light and she is my hero. To see her fight so hard to understand the world going crazy around her…. ugh, I wish I could see inside her little brain. I wish so deeply that I knew what she was thinking, feeling, fearing and loving… but I do know she loves me and her daddy. She thinks sissy is the funniest person ever and she loves her puppies every day. I wish others could see her how we do.

So, if you’re that person in Walmart that smiles at me. Thank you. I appreciate it more than you will ever know. What you don’t know, is how I mentally prepare myself every single time before we leave the house. Is Haidyn’s bag packed with all necessities? Speaking of necessities, pull-ups, because no, we aren’t potty trained and public restrooms SUCK. Hello world, let’s make it a sanitary place for the special needs community too!!! I am constantly preparing for what can go wrong. Are we going to have a meltdown? Are we going to pitch a fit because mama said, “no” but then get so mad that said tantrum flows into a meltdown and all control is lost? Will we survive Walmart?! Somewhere new? That could be bad. Am I prepared for all of the awkward stares and attention when my child is hollering, slapping me and losing her mind? Am I ready for one more lady to look at me like I sexually assault my child as she yells, “don’t hurt me” while I change her in a public restroom because her senses are on overload? Am I ready for the odd stares when someone asks me how old she is, I tell them 4 and then they seem confused based on her speech and actions? Am I ready to constantly remind her to keep her hands to herself, not wreck the store, sit down, quit licking the buggy and to not slap mommy one more time because IT FREAKING HURTS?

It is mentally exhausting to always be so hyper alert to everything that can happen, will happen and that will never go as planned. Life is a mystery with Haidyn Grace. I originally thought her autism was getting “worse” but as I learn, I think that she is just growing but has no idea on why or how this world keeps changing and her little body is overwhelmed.

So, thank you to her therapists who always show me how much progress she is making. Thank you to all of my mama friends at therapy, that do autism too, and have taught me so much. Y’all, you just get me. Thank you to the lady that hugged me in McDonald’s when I wanted to cry after a huge meltdown. Thank you to the lady at the nail salon that interacted with my baby after she smacked your butt multiple times (dang sensory seeking), and thank you to everyone that just smiles. Just accepts. Just loves.

I feel as if I’m mostly complaining but I promise you I am not. I am learning. I am grieving about what I THOUGHT life would be and quickly learning that autism will change that. I am adjusting and so is our entire family. There is so much more I could say, and so many more topics related to autism, but we will cover those with time. Just know, special needs mamas, I feel you and I see you! I am proud of you!

& if you’re that person that just smiles, i freaking love your face. 🖤

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GROWTH 🌻

(Noun): The process of developing mentally or physically.

I’m not even sure where to begin but I do know that growth is such a beautiful thing. I witness it every day within myself and even some of the people closest to my heart.

In my 29 years of life, I feel as if I have lived, a lot. I have hurt, a lot. I have cried, a lot. I have failed, a lot. I have rejoiced, a lot. I have laughed, a lot. I have smiled, a lot. I have learned, a lot. Above all, I have grown, a whole lot.

I had my oldest at barely 18 years old. I had her on a Sunday morning of May 18, 2008. I went to pick up my high school diploma from graduation the following Saturday morning. Craziness. I obviously did not walk with my graduating class considering I had just birthed a baby days before, but I was there. I was so thankful my parents never let me throw in that towel. So, yes, I walked around my senior year of high school, pregnant as everything, until I gave birth… but I had a brand new baby girl and graduated high school in the same week! Pretty exciting and scary stuff!

Speaking of scary. Babies are scary. Especially, when you are a baby with a baby. I believe I slept on the couch, with my baby in her bassinet, downstairs in the living room, right outside of my parents room, for about three months. I still am not entirely sure what I was so terrified of, other than just, HER. She was so tiny and God seriously must have lost his marbles to think that I knew what to do with her. I am thankful every day for my parents love, acceptance, forgiveness, patience and help because with them, her and I, we grew together. We had a chance and we were going to be fine! My parents could’ve let me completely suffer the consequences of my choices, alone, scared and without any help… but they didn’t. They knew I was young, I was dumb and I wasn’t always making the best choices. They chose to show me grace, despite what some other parents or adults might have thought was the right thing to do, and they loved me through it. They were also pretty wrapped around my baby girl’s little fingers… and still are.

I could have made it without their help but I’m forever grateful that I never had to know what that was like. I hope to be as supportive to my babies as they have always been to me. They took on a lot of judgement and criticism as my parents, due to MY choices. Read that again, MY CHOICES. Not theirs. I chose to defy them, lie to them, hurt them, and do life my own way. No matter how much they tried to stop me. So, if you have a judgy opinion of my parents, you can shove that 💩 where the ☀️ doesn’t shine. Ok? Thank you.

Ok, so baby with a baby. On and off with baby’s daddy. A few relationships in the years between. Marriage and divorce to baby’s daddy. A lot of men hurt me. I hurt men. I hurt friends. I hurt family. There was depression. There was insecurity. Selfishness and disrespect. I was immature, with a baby, and trying to figure out this whole life thing. Life is super hard if you haven’t noticed by now. Life doesn’t care about you. You have to care about you. There was a time span of about six years where I wanted to be this good person and I wanted this happy little family, some way, some how, but I made a ton of stupid decisions. Whether it was me hurting others or allowing others to continue to hurt me but it was all, stupid, choices. I deserved to feel as wrecked as did when I finally hit rock bottom.

I remember to this day, my best friend telling me to, “WAKE UP, you are miserable and you are coming up with all of these excuses to try to find a reason to be happy. This isn’t love or happiness. This is control and a comfort zone. That’s it.” That night, I prayed and it was simple. I’m pretty sure all I said was, “God, give me a sign. I’m so tired.”

Well, within just a couple days I felt as if I were hit in the face with said sign and that was it. I was done with tolerating crap. I was done with treating people like crap. I wanted to receive respect and I wanted to give respect. A little light finally shined and it clicked! I knew it was OKAY to no longer tolerate anything that wasn’t serving me. Don’t underestimate the transformation though. Growth can feel like you are breaking, at first. It can feel like life is ripping you a part at the seams and everything you knew will never be as it was… or even remotely close.

That’s the thing about growth, sometimes it shakes your whole being. Growth will cost you friendships, relationships, and anything unhealthy to your mindset and your heart. As you are evolving, people will judge you for your past and they may call you a liar or a hypocrite… but just because you were someone different in your past doesn’t mean that you can’t advocate against those very things you did, in your future. Hello, I had a baby at barely 18, but if you asked me if I recommended it, I would tell you this… HELL NO. I wouldn’t change what it taught me, the love it brought me and the beautiful baby girl that I get to grow with but it was way harder that it had to be or ever should have been. She deserved more. Don’t let someone use your past to alter your mindset. Embrace the change and the growth in your mind, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Don’t be scared to apologize for the person you were either. They don’t have to forgive you but you need to forgive yourself to be the best you, that you can be. It really does feel like a weight lifted off your shoulders when you own it, forgive it, and keep on moving forward. You can always do better.

The world teaches us that we have to be one type of person. We have to be perfect. Whatever that is. Or, they simply classify you as one person because let’s be honest, that is way easier than trying to understand someone that has a little bit of everything beneath the surface. I love people that are a little bit of everything. I LOVE and I mean GENUINELY LOVE when others can be free and own everything that they have been, continue to be and hope to transform to.

I’ve had others tell me, I’m too nice, I’m too hard hearted, I’m too open about things, I’m too forgiving, I’m too stubborn… we could go on. All of those confuse me sometimes because depending on who you talk to, you may get a different story. That’s growth. Growth taught me that it’s ok to always strive for more and be humble at the same time. I have learned to forgive others and love them through their wrong doings but to also keep them at a distance if it threatens my inner peace. I love helping people even when they may not always deserve it. That’s what Jesus would do, right? I will try to hear you out, not judge you for your mistakes and understand why you are the way you are… but I will also punch you in the face if you hurt me or mine! Believe that. See, still not perfect… Jesus wouldn’t punch you in the face… but I still might. 🤔🙋🏻‍♀️

I’ve learned that no one is perfect, no matter how perfect they pretend to be and I try to find the sympathy in it. I’m an open book about my past because all the bad choices and hardships allowed me this growth and this growth is what brought me to, today. I thank God every morning and every night for where He has allowed my heart to flow gently and open minded into each new day. I’m so thankful he opened my eyes to more love, more happiness and more life.

As I said earlier, growth is hard. You may often feel misunderstood and even judged in the worst way.. but be patient. The right people for you can only find you if you are true to yourself. Being yourself is far more brave and courageous than being perfect, day in and day out! Surround yourself with the same. Growth will show you parts of you that you have yet to discover, love that you have yet to find and feel, experiences beyond your imagination and a whole world waiting for you to explore it and its diversity!

God doesn’t make mistakes. He knew you were going to fail. Use your story to show others that it’s ok to be imperfect, own it, and turn it all around for the beauty it can bring into your life and others that surround you. As my friend Cavino said to me, “People are just scared to use their imperfections for good. Instead, they hide them.”

Grow. Don’t be someone you’re not, forever. Forever is a very, long time, to be miserable. Be YOU. ✨

Thank you, Braelynne Alexandria Hotchkiss, for teaching me to grow.
I hope you grow to be better than I can ever fathom being.
God knew my heart needed you to save me. 🖤
Then, He graced us with your sister, to humble us. 😅🥰💕

A REAL Mom 👑

Tonight, as I walked into the gym with Braelynne (my oldest) for routine, Thursday evening, tumbling practice, I couldn’t help but to notice the same stares I get every week.

It’s the stare that makes me want to say, “boo!”, right as I pass your face. You know the stare I’m talking about. The extra judgy stare from one mom to another.. but instead I always smile, sometimes say hi, and keep moving along. I mean, I don’t like your blouse either Karen, but if it makes you happy, do you girlfriend.

Listen ladies, I have tattoos. A lot of them. “Scary” ones and sweet ones. Big ones and small ones. Some have meaning and some were a spur of the moment idea. Guess what? They make me, ME & I love them! 👏🏻 I also have an unhealthy obsession with crop tops. Partially due to the fact that it is disrespectfully HOT outside! I sure am glad to know Jesus is saving me a spot in Heaven because if it’s hotter than this in hell, me and Satan just ain’t gonna be able to make that work! 🥵 Plus, I know some sweet, little, ladies think I look like a “scary, biker chick” with these tattoos but I assure you, I am not. I’m a sweet, little, lady, just like you. Yes, even you Karen.

Back to the crop tops – little do you know, a year ago and all of the years leading up to this point, I would have NEVER been caught dead in a crop top. Over the past year I have put in the hardest work of my life to rebuild myself mentally and physically. I am in the best shape I have ever been in and at 29 years old, I’m rockin’ whatever clothing makes me feel good! I’m a mom, you say, and you are right. I’m an awesome mom, that loves my body, works hard for my health and overall wellness and I am freaking proud. If anything, I am showing my daughters to do the same!

Honestly, I am used to the stares and comments about my tattoos and at this point in my life they just make me giggle. This had me thinking though – WHY do we as moms feel that there is only one good way to be a mom? News flash! There’s not!

Being a mom isn’t about dressing “like a mom” or driving a minivan. It’s not about perfect, untouched, skin and your baptism water you sprinkle on your children every morning before school. It’s not about gluten free diets and folding a fitted sheet without a single wrinkle left behind. Seriously, fitted sheets just piss me off. If you need one while at my house, it’s in a ball, in the linen closet…. wrinkled. It’s not about breast is best or being a SAHM is the only way. Working is selfish and so is FEEDING your child formula. Annoying. It’s not about being the best chef or raising PERFECT children that never make mistakes. I mean, my sister was pretty close to a perfect child compared to me but I think God felt the need to show my parents a little mercy after he blessed them with my stubborn butt. 🙋🏻‍♀️

Being a mom isn’t about what you wear, how successful you are, what you drive or where you live. Being a mom is unconditional love, raw emotion and forgiveness for yourself and your babies, over and over, every day.

I had my oldest at 18. We’ve been doing this whole growing up thing together for a solid 11 years now. Insane! How am I an adult and why did Jesus see me fit to be her mama? Who knew jamming out to “Country Grammar” by Nelly & “Ice Cream Paint Job” by Dorrough, on the way home from tumbling, with my kid, would be the BEST thing ever? Role modelish? Maybe not. Bonding? YES. She dances with me, she laughs with me, she raps with me, she cries with me and she knows ME for ME. I don’t sugar coat anything. The world is hard out there and she’s going to make it! If there is anything I have instilled in her it’s that SHE can be ANYTHING she wants to be and that she is her mother’s daughter. I will ALWAYS be beside her to hold her hand, behind her to guard her back and a step ahead of her to help guide the way. Nonetheless, be YOU, babygirl.

I am her mama. Braelynne & Haidyn’s mama. That is the BEST title I will ever hold and I don’t care about anyone’s opinion on me as a mother. I know how much I love those babies and how much I feel their love for me, so filling, that it warms my heart with enough satisfaction to say that I’m doing a pretty good job as mama.

All of this to say, being a REAL mom is about loving without conditions, always putting someone else’s well being ahead of your own, holding your ground when they’re wrong and you just want to hug them instead, trying to always do the right thing even when you have no idea what the right thing is, successfully whispering, “are you effing kidding me?” under your breath, without anyone hearing you or repeating after you, cooking a dinner no one likes or even eats, and being able to forgive yourself for losing your 💩 day in and day out.

Mamas we are supposed to be a team! We don’t have to agree but we definitely don’t have to tear each other a part. Working is hard. Staying home is hard. Momming children is freaking hard. None of us are truly sane, after having kids. Don’t lie, you know you’re crazy too.

You don’t have to be perfect, to be a real mom. 🖤

Just love your kids and love your freaking self. 🌻

– Tattooed Mama Bear 🐻

Showered in Grace ✨

It’s been a long day of cooking, cleaning, school drop offs and pick ups, tumbling practice, therapy and taking the dogs for a walk after the gym. You’re tired, your feet hurt, and you probably smell because it’s as hot as Satan’s rear end these days in this Georgia heat. Everyone is settled for the night and you finally step into that shower where you can rinse off all of the dirt, the stress, the exhaustion and life’s craziness from the day before you face plant onto your bed. Well, there’s this sweet little thing called, GRACE, that showers us with Jesus’ love just like that. It’s that simple when we ask Him for forgiveness. The best part you ask? It’s that He never denies us that forgiveness, no matter what we do. So, why do we have so much trouble showering others with the same abundance of grace as Jesus does?

I don’t know about you but I do know for a fact that I am thankful for His grace upon my life, every single day. I am flawed in so many ways that I’m not sure I can even keep count. I’m a mom and a wife and I lose my temper with my children and my husband almost daily. Seriously, how hard is it to clean up after yourselves? Do I look like a maid? And if I step on one more Honey Nut Cheerio and crush it beneath my feet (because children are incapable of getting every bite into their mouths) after I just vacuumed for the 5th time, I may scream. 🤪

My oldest likes to play this game called, “Justification.” Ya know, it’s not arguing, it’s justifying that her point is indeed worth taking to heart. Even after I said, “NO,” until I’m blue in the face. I get it, I know those little, ugly, checkered Vans are what’s in, but no. I still went back and bought them weeks later because I like my kid a little bit. You’re welcome, Mom. Payback is a real witch sometimes and I apologize deeply for every time I cried at the mall when you wouldn’t buy me $183,000 worth of clothing from Hollister.

All of these things hold a special place in each of our daily routines. Some days, I wake up and I tear myself to pieces from the time my feet hit the ground. It begins with, “oh, I feel fat.. and I don’t like anything I clothe myself in today.” In case you’re wondering, I live in yoga pants and t-shirts so I’m not entirely sure on why some days the same outfit that I put on repeat, makes me feel uglier. Then it escalates to, “I am so tired of cooking and cleaning day in and day out. Can’t a girl get some help around here?” Then, before you know it, it flows into, “I’m tired, I don’t like any of you and I’m just going to be a grump all day.”

After some time passes or some cute little scheme that one of my kids or husband plots to makes me laugh, I humble myself and realize, this is who I am. Jesus saw fit for me to be a mom and a wife. I don’t always understand His full plan for my life or why He has laid many of the things on our plates that He has, but nonetheless, He did and I am thankful for these three humans in my life. Even when they make me lose my marbles. I look at my children, who love me unconditionally, even on my worst days and my heart fills with joy knowing that I am, “Mama” and they trust me, they depend on me and they think I hung the moon. They show me grace no matter how many times I get frustrated with them. Just as Jesus shows us grace every time we sin. I’ve hurt many people out of my 29 years of life due to my own actions. That whole chapter of my life is a story for another time… it’s long and messy but I believe Grace works best on messy people. Most of that pertains back to when I was in the unhappiest of places in my life. Hurt people, hurt people. When you learn to spin that hurt around and funnel it into a love for Jesus and yourself, He will teach you grace.

We have all been that person judging another person in the room. Most of us do it so naturally that you don’t even realize until it’s too late. What IF we chose to try to stop our minds before we judge too viscously and say a prayer for them? What IF we see another mom struggling in the grocery store with her screaming child and we choose to walk over and offer help? What IF we tell each other we are thankful for our differences and try to understand why we see things in another light? What IF instead of judging someone for being strung out on drugs, we offer to help find them a safe place to get sober? What IF we just walked away if we have nothing nice to say, instead of tearing each other down? What IF we showed the world the same grace that innocent children and Jesus show us each day? I am convicted of this daily but ultimately I am thankful for fresh grace each morning when I wake up • I know I will continue to need 100% of ALL the grace for the rest of my life. Will you?

Jesus has loved me in my darkest of moments in this thing called life. He is the one that never allowed the sun to stop shining on me, even if it was just a small glimmer through the clouds. I’ve tried to do anything and everything MY way and without Him multiple times. Let me tell you, you can hustle all you want but grace can take you where hustling can never reach. I don’t know about you, but I’m not always the girl I need to be, I don’t think I’ll ever be… but Jesus is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, the man I need Him to be.

In the words of my Dad, “Don’t wait as long as I did to let Him lead you in this life.” ✨

Let grace wash the dirt off of you and watch the abundance of happiness it will bring to your life when you allow that same grace to flow from your heart. 🖤

About Me

Hey Y’all!

My name is Carrie and I fill the role of many titles. Some of my favorites include • Mama, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Fitness Fanatic, Autism Mama, Pup Mama & of course you know I’m a Jesus Lover. I’m the wife to an amazing, selfless, husband that I thank Jesus for every, single, day. I am the Mama of two, beautiful daughters – my oldest being a neurotypical (so they say 🤪 ) child and my youngest is autistic. We are living the best of both worlds… or should I say, brains? 

I was blessed to grow up in the beautiful state of Georgia ( 🍑’s do it best), where I still reside, and belong to the most unconditionally, overwhelmingly, close-knit, loving family.. and for that, I am thankful. I hope you’re here to enjoy my love for writing on a few topics I’m passionate about. All things autism, mom life, self love, God’s Grace, fitness and of course, some food 🥰😋.

“The light shines in the darkness.” – John 1:5