Thankful. ✨

“Thankful,” as cliche as it is with the upcoming of the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow is something I am feeling so strongly every day.

Our days have been harder, more stressful, emotional and most of the time I just don’t understand. I sit back in the evenings, once Haidyn has taken the time to wind down and I scroll through Facebook, looking at everyone’s families, children and life events. It is hard to see dear friends and family getting together for regular play dates that aren’t so simple for us anymore. It is also hard to see people in a stage of life that you hope and dream so deeply to be in. You see, we have this routine, that we do try to break at times to help Haidyn cope but other days it is just not worth breaking, for her sanity and mine.

Therapies, school, doctor appointments and every day struggles/anxieties can become consuming and my brain and heart feel like they may drown from the pressure. We are always tired, here. Every day is a new day with an unforeseen future of if it will go as planned. I am so happy to see all of my friend’s children growing and thriving just as they should. Why do they have to grow up SO FAST? They are not babies anymore and it’s extremely bittersweet. I love watching your journeys but I would be lying if I said I didn’t ever feel a little sad or even envious that we aren’t on the same path. Although Haidyn is almost five, mentally she is still about where a two year old may be.

She isn’t potty trained, even the smallest transition can throw off her entire day and speech, understanding and expression of feelings are difficult. Then throw all of the other autism and sensory processing disorder characteristics curveball in there and it gets wild!

Even though I find myself wishing it were easier at times and trying to trust God’s plan for our life, I am completely overwhelmed with a thankfulness and humbleness that I’m not sure I was capable of until she changed our lives. Don’t get me wrong, Autism is not beautiful, it sucks and it is crippling in many ways but it does have it’s beauty and sunshine too.

When Haidyn says a new, multi-syllable word we are so proud. When she puts three or more words together into a complete sentence, even if it’s demanding, my face gleams with the biggest smile. When she plays on a new playground without fear or explosive poop from nerves, I am thrilled. When she participates in therapy activities willingly and shows progress, I am in awe. When she walks with her heels down for the majority of the day and finds even the tiniest bit of focus, my heart is amazed. When she finds little ways to express to me that she is hurting or doesn’t like something, I feel relief. When we walk into Walmart, shop at Walmart, check out at Walmart and make it back to the car without a single meltdown or change in behavior, I feel peace. When I see her face light up to see her daddy, her grandparents, her sissy and her puppies, it justifies that she does have a beautiful heart that loves so deeply even when it’s hard. When she sleeps through the night and wakes up happy, I know we have a great chance at having a really good day.

I am always watching my families interaction and love for her. She has the BEST big sister that is my saving grace most days. I couldn’t do it without her. She plays with Haidyn, helps keep an eye on her (because if we leave her alone for one second she could burn the entire house down) when I need to do a couple of things around the house, and she is accepting and understanding of her special needs. To watch Braelynne’s excitement for Haidyn’s small achievements and successes makes me feel as if I’m doing something right. Braelynne has always had the biggest heart for others and I love seeing it grow even bigger with the things her sister is teaching all of us. She also continues to amaze me with her love for school, her determination in any goal she reaches for and the fact that she is obviously way smarter than her mama.

I am incredibly thankful for my husband, Caleb. I don’t say it enough but I pray every single day that our marriage continues to grow and only strengthen throughout our life time because not only is he the best daddy to our girls but he is the best husband and partner I could’ve ever dreamed of having. He helps pick up my slack when I’m struggling and he is always understanding to his girls needs. He shows me the definition of unconditional love at all times and even on my ugliest days. He is selfless in more ways than one and will do anything for anyone he loves without question. I watch him tire himself out just to ensure all those that need help are taken care of and don’t have to do more than absolutely necessary without his help. He may have a grumpy face most of the time but his heart shows otherwise.

I am thankful for our families. We have more support than we deserve and we could never repay or give enough to show our gratitude. We couldn’t do it without y’all and we love y’all. Caleb and I both come from parents with beautiful marriages and so much love to give to their children and grandchildren. I hope to be even half of the beautiful parents/grandparents that they are and if I am, I’ll say I’m doing okay in this life.

Through all of Haidyn’s struggles and hardest days I continue to find it shining a brighter light on even the smallest positives and progress we see with time. I’ve found myself empathizing with others and their lives more so than ever before. I no longer feel the need to judge another if I’ve never been in their shoes. Almost everyone has a reason behind the way that they are – yes, even the ugliest of people. I suffer with anxiety and depression and most would never know if you ran into me in public. My daughter has severe autism and yet so many people that are around her on her best days or in her “safe places,” will never see the true struggles that lie underneath the surface of her skin.

Autism Spectrum Disorder and spending time at therapy, meeting other moms and learning about their children with all kinds of different disabilities and struggles has brought me an abundance of humbleness and gratitude. It could ALWAYS be worse. Life isn’t fair to any of us but we all have the ability to embrace our hardships and find the beauty in them. The whole “glass half full” perspective has a brand new meaning to me and as we continue to feel lost in our daughter’s diagnosis, we will continue to be incredibly thankful, honest and pure to others about our lives, hopes and dreams.

Life isn’t what I pictured in my head but it never has been. I’ve always struggled with leaving MY PLANS in God’s hands and trusting His plans for my life. I believe He has a funny way of teaching us that His plans are so much greater than ours and I’m okay with that. We have everything we need and beautiful friends and family beside us to walk along this journey of life.

No matter what life continues to throw at us with a force, I will continue to cry when I need to, pray through it all and at the end of every night find thankfulness and the shining light at the end of the tunnel for right where we are in this moment. Life is beautiful if you choose the light instead of the darkness. 💡

Love,

A mama/wife of one super-smart, big-hearted, gifted, neuro-typical daughter and another baby girl, with autism and more affection than she knows how to give in any other form than extreme, and an amazing, supportive husband that is my very, best friend.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families and I hope that through the darkness you see the grace God continues to shine upon your life. ✨

To our friends & family

Yesterday, I sat down and searched through my email to find the attached copy of Haidyn’s autism diagnosis from almost a year ago as of this month.

I’m not sure why but reading through the twenty page report hurt my heart even more now, a year later, than it did when I read it for the first time. Maybe it’s because I understand more of the terminology and the reasoning behind many of the behaviors and characteristics that the psychologist saw and we didn’t understand at the time. Maybe it’s because I have spent hours over the last couple of months reading books and blogs, watching movies and listening to podcasts all based on enlightening what autism is and how it works. At least, the little information that is out there about autism.

I read over the diagnostic testing and charts explaining where she fell on all of these scales as a child with autism at least ten times and then I just cried.

To say that the last three months have been easy would be a blatant lie. Her behaviors and autism “quirks” have become very aggressive, very intense and very overwhelming. Not only for her but for us as well. Melt downs were a periodic thing and I usually knew when to expect it because I knew some of her triggers. Over the last few months they have become almost a daily to multiple times a day occurrence and 90% of the time I am in a complete loss as to what the trigger may be. When she was diagnosed I didn’t see a lot of these things. I also believe I tossed a lot of “quirks” into the “that’s just a toddler thing,” category. I was wrong. She was three then and she is almost five now and as she ages these “quirks” make themselves more noticeable and less, “normal.” Also, with age the meltdowns have become more severe and far more aggressive. I now 100% understand her diagnosis, her being placed on basically a severe level of the spectrum, and being told that she would need a substantial amount of help to adjust and blossom in this world.

Haidyn has made so much progress in therapy and I am forever thankful for all of her wonderful therapists but aside from that, everything in our daily lives outside of therapy has become far more difficult than it was a year ago. I know she thrives on routine but even our routine is a constant battle.

I am not writing all of this to complain. I am writing this for our friends and family to read. I am asking for patience, love and understanding. If you pray, I am asking for your prayers. If you send vibes, I am asking for good ones.

As of right now, every day, every situation, every new place, and every get together are completely unstable for her. I used to be able to say, “oh yeah, she loves that and she will do fine.” Right now, I cannot guarantee that. Something in her brain and her little body can change so quickly for the worst and I can’t predict it.

Bare with us. We love our friends and family dearly. We still want to be invited to all of your outings, birthday parties and events. We wish to be a part of all the things that are just simple and fun for most and we enjoy it more than you know when we are able to make it work.

We may miss holiday gatherings and birthday parties. We might not do dinner as often or “parent’s night out,” but we want to. We may not make it to every church gathering or weekend vacation but we are definitely sad to miss it. Also, IF we do make it, please be patient when we have to leave sooner than expected because something changed and an exit strategy became priority.

We will always try our best to push Haidyn out of her comfort zone as much as possible to help her learn to cope and adjust to this crazy world around her but some days it is genuinely not worth the battle for her or for us. Even a simple run to the grocery store lately has ended within minutes from entering the store and sometimes just trying to bathe her at home can be a nightmare.

We love you and we miss you all. We wish we could be a part of everything and more. I know that with time she will hopefully adjust and we will also learn new ways to understand her needs and what’s going on inside of her little brain but for now we are hyper vigilant, we are tired, we are on edge and we are trying to protect her. Nothing is worth watching it physically and mentally hurt my baby in ways that I cannot fathom and without a quick fix.

So, to those that love her for exactly who she is and those that support us whole heartedly, thank you. Friends and family like you are what helps us on even the hardest days. To those that think we don’t reach out or don’t try, you’re right. We don’t but not because we don’t care. Only because in this moment our life is kind of up in the air and we are taking it day by day.

I hope and pray every single day that with time, therapy, love and a lot of patience, Haidyn and I both grow from all of this. My hope is that one day she can live a “normal” life but for now, we will take each day slowly and embrace the mess. She has humbled me in more ways than I could ever express and even though our days can be long and hard they also fill my heart with more love than you can imagine. Loving someone that is wired differently and sees/handles life on a completely different wave than you can teach you amazing things about embracing the differences, having patience with strangers and just loving others despite their flaws.

I’m not sure why God thought I was fit to be her and her sister’s Mama or why he thought I was the person to take on all that comes with Haidyn’s diagnosis but I’d like to think he’s teaching me to be a better human.

… and I’m here for it. ✨♥️

Anxiety & Depression are my demons 🔥

To anyone suffering from anxiety, depression or many other mental illnesses, I love you and I see you.

You are a warrior because there is nothing more terrifying than fighting a battle with your own mind.

I haven’t ever touched on extreme details of my anxiety and depression before and that is mainly due to the lack of words and metaphors to describe what I feel like on the inside. I was diagnosed with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) and depression several years ago. That was a total shock by the way.

Anxiety and depression had taken over every second of my every day life at that point. I am super fortunate to have a husband that unconditionally loves me, supports me and never makes me feel less, even during my mental struggles but my anxiety and depression had become so terrible that he told me, “I love you and I am always here for you but I can’t fix this.” Therefore, I ended up at the doctor to talk about my issues, do some labs and bloodwork and ultimately leave with a prescription for lexapro.

I took lexapro for about six months. The first month or two, after you get through the beginning phase of new medication hell, were amazing! I felt better than I had felt in months. I could laugh, I could smile genuinely, I was productive and felt like my brain functioned properly. As time passed, I started to become a zombie. Not out of it but just cool with it. Cool with it as in not too happy but not too upset either. Just cool.

I began to be so relaxed to where I felt fine with not doing housework because it can be done later. I could pay the bills tomorrow and it’ll be fine. The house might burn down but it’ll be fine. Everything was fine. I was fine. We were all fine. Except for my husband. Poor guy, he has so much craziness to love through in our household. He pointed out my fine like feelings and after opening my eyes to it, I came off of lexapro per my doctors instructions.

Overall, the medication did what I hoped it would do for my body and it seemed to have leveled out some of the chemical imbalances in my brain for a while. Over the last year, anxiety and depression have slowly crept their way back into my day to day life.

Honestly, the last few weeks have been overwhelming and for no reason. My life is still the same. I love my life. We have typical struggles as does everyone else on this planet but overall we are extremely blessed to be where we are today and to have the family and friends that we do.

Nonetheless, anxiety and depression have a mind of their own and it unfortunately tends to be mine. For me, anxiety typically creeps its way in little by little. It starts with feeling like I can’t catch my breath. I inhale with force just to feel the air fill my lungs but I still feel as if they are only half full. It grows into feeling as if there is a cinder block sitting on my chest and my throat wants to close up. I find myself hardly able to eat or trying to eat the anxiety out of my body.

As time passes I am in a constant state of barely able to breath, add in nausea, a dash of trembly limbs and a heaping spoonful of hardly being able to speak words. My mind races and my heart feels like it may explode out of my chest. Everything around me overwhelms my senses to the point that I burst into tears or become ridiculously agitated with it all. Let’s not forget the paranoia that makes you feel like a psychopath and can place you in a panic attack within minutes if you lose your control over your mind.

I find myself while driving, picking up kids, grocery shopping, cooking dinner or even sitting down, repeating to myself, “I am okay. I am okay. I am okay.” Of course, that never seems to work for me and all I can look forward to is sleep because at least when I can fall asleep, I can’t feel. If I can’t feel, I can’t panic over senseless things. As the anxiety and depression grows daily, the sleeping at night turns into closing my eyes at any given moment during the day or I am barely able to keep my eyes open. I’m not sure about you but when my anxiety and depression are running full throttle I can feel all the pressure of it in my eyes. The fatigue is so intense and that results in absolutely zero motivation for day to day tasks.

As I said earlier, I am forever thankful for my husband. He has learned to read my physical signs and can pick up on it almost instantly. He doesn’t force me to talk through it or tell me to, “suck it up.” He doesn’t pity me or make me feel sorry for myself. He just loves me. He gives me space when I need it. He helps with tasks around the house when I’m struggling mentally and can’t keep up. I will kill him if he ever leaves me because I don’t know what I would do without him some days. He is my safe place.

Anxiety and depression are two of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses in the world. So many of us struggle with a multitude of the destructive symptoms I mentioned above and also many more.

I see you when you say you are busy but I know you’re at home crying into your coffee cup while the kids are at school. I hear you trying to inhale deeper to catch your breath. I feel you when you need to step outside to let the fresh air embrace you and see if it awakens any endorphins in your body. I understand your silence when you are trying to calm your racing heart. I resonate with you when you look at your phone while it’s ringing and don’t answer or open a text with no intent to respond. I am also busy telling myself that I am okay.

If this is your busy, that’s okay. Mental health problems are real and they are hard but I am always here for you. I am always a phone call, text message, email, show up at my door, or mail a letter away.

On the worst days it is unbearable trying to pull yourself out of a dark place. If this is you – I am so proud of you. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are worthy.

“Just because I can’t explain the feelings causing my anxiety, doesn’t make them less valid.” – Lauren Elizabeth

In conclusion, be mindful, be kind, be humble, and just love others. We are all fighting a battle of our own. ♥️

Anxiety and depression are my demons but Jesus, self care and acceptance are my light. ✨

I’m chaotic & that’s okay. 🔥

I know that I’m different and I know that Jesus loves me through it all – and my husband tolerates me through it all. 🤪❤️

I get distracted almost always before finishing a task I began, ten tasks ago.

Inappropriate memes and jokes make me laugh harder than they should. Oops.

I love my dogs more than 99% of the human population and sometimes they hold a tight race to the kids.

I rewash my laundry more often than not.

Also, I do not iron but I will straighten out a good wrinkle with my hair straightener if I’m in a pinch.

When I am annoyed I make sure everyone in my household knows it and I always call my mama to vent.

I love a good book/movie/tv show – when I can actually make myself sit – and I am that person that pauses to tell you all about it, during the middle of it. Annoying, I know. 🙃

I am unapologetically loud and I am rarely serious.

I am “handsy” when I talk and I have sound effects for all of my daily activities. My oldest has inherited this weirdness as well.

When I am serious though, you’ll know.

I laugh at myself more than anyone else in the room but I can also cry tears of pure anger.

It takes a lot to anger me but once I’m there, there is no turning back for quite a while and I am not afraid to let you know what exactly is on my mind.

I savvy myself on being pretty good at forgiveness and understanding but forgiving doesn’t mean I’ll ever let you back in. A lot of times, that forgiveness is for my heart, not yours.

I am a simple girl that typically never wears makeup but best believe I love my hair extensions and fake nails.

Music is my kryptonite. All types of music. When I’m moody I’ll blare some Eminem and when I’m feeling lovey me and Thomas Rhett are best buds… but most days when the kids are at school I’m rapping to some Cardi B and proud of it. 🤘🏻

I like food. I like to go out to eat. I despise cooking and I will totally pout about being nice and eating something I don’t like at a family gathering. My husband gets to hear all about food I don’t enjoy.

I am sporadic. Routine stresses me more than a free for all.

Stars make me tear up with joy but I still run like a baby in the dark.

I am drawn to misfit things. Misfit people. Misfit animals. Misfit tattoos. Misfit situations. I’ve found that some of the “scariest” humans and animals have the biggest of hearts and the best of life’s stories.

Passive aggressiveness makes me MAD. Say what you feel and be honest or don’t say it at all. I have so much more respect for debatable conversation verses passive judgment.

I love being a mama and a wife but I do not find most mom/wife duties to be enjoyable. I love my family of four and would rather spend every minute with them making a mess, eating fast food and playing outside… but then the house is a wreck and I get flustered and ridden with anxiety. Therefore, sometimes I have to play the role of housewife.

I pray about any and everything, all day, every day. Sometimes, I wonder if Jesus is like, “girl, chill. I got this.” • but I also let out a few cuss words every now and again.

I live to please and help others and I thrive off of others loving me • but try and change who I am & I will run 100 miles the other way.

I am thankful for all the love and support in my life but I prefer to be independent and it eats me up when I can’t handle everything on my own.

I am stubborn and I have a serious issue with authority/control. I absolutely do not do control. Ask my daddy. 💁🏻‍♀️

I can crack a joke at any moment and I will laugh at just about anything but I do have feelings. I portray this insensitive woman but I do hurt and I do allow certain things to pass through the surface of my skin.

I am more sexual than I am emotionally dependent. Don’t preach to me cheesy little words. Show me your inner feelings.

I don’t trust words. I am always paying attention to your actions.

I am anxious. About everything. I am a paranoid individual and a slight hypochondriac. I’ve made my husband go to the doctor more times than not just so I can feel safe that he isn’t going to die. He loves it.

I love you. The authentic you. Your race, your religion, whether you are straight, bisexual or gay, whether you love Jesus as much as me, whether you’re wild or calm, and so much more. I love realistic people that so kindly accept others for who they are without judgment. Those are my people.

I am not confrontational yet I’m never scared to get in your face.

I am loving and I am bitter too.

I preach self love and continue pick myself apart in a mirror. Having the perfect body doesn’t make you confident.

Stagnation and boredom will be the death of me. I love mystery, a challenge and being spontaneous.

I’m a spender who is learning to be a saver.

I’d rather live a life full of adventure and memories than be rich.

Speaking of spontaneous – it gives me anxiety but I’m gonna do it even if I cry.

I am always late. I am always a mess. I barely ever know what day it is but I remembered mine and the kids birthdates at the doctor last time we went – so that’s a win.

I am strong willed. I am weak to my fears. I am secure in demanding my respect but insecure in my flaws.

I have new ideas 💡 each day and I put my whole heart into each one. I am also bad about not following through the whole idea. I am a procrastinator at its best and bless my husband for always allowing me to try new things – even when they don’t last!

I say I won’t get my hopes up but I always do. I say I won’t be down when things don’t go as planned and sometimes I laugh it off… yet, sometimes I cry.

Anything slow irritates the heavens out of me. Slow computers, slow drivers, my daughter getting distracted on the way out the door. I have so much patience for other aspects of life but not slow.

I am passionate. I love hard. I trust hard. I respect hard. I appreciate hard. I fall hard. I fight hard. I leave hard. I move on hard.

I am chaotic and I am not for everyone. That’s okay. I believe in being authentically you and if you’re not authentically you, you can’t find your people.

Don’t dim your light for the approval of others.

Let your chaotic, flashy light shine all over and embrace your differences. After all, God never intended on us all living an identical life with the same paths to walk. He made us each in our own way.

It breaks my heart watching so many beautiful humans conform to what others expect them to be, just to receive love and acceptance. The right people will love the true you, all of you.

I refuse to be anything else in this world but me. I don’t sugarcoat the truth for my kids on who I am as their mother. They see the imperfect, flawed, realistic mama, 100% of the time.

Find the grace in your mess. Show yourself some grace when it comes to your imperfections. Be you.

I tell my daughters every day that I will always love them for EVERYTHING THAT THEY ARE AND CONTINUE TO GROW INTO. I may not always agree or understand but I will always accept them and love them without conditions.

I am too much for a lot of you… but I am enough for me and my little tribe & that’s okay. 🔥

We do chaos. 📸

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. 🖤

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 🐻