Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Holy Week & The Rosary

If the title of this post led you to believe I might be sharing some in depth thoughts on holiness, holiness as a family or how to achieve a beautiful Holy Week, I'm sorry because I'm just...we are just...
well, we have our focus fully on our son leaving and it has eclipsed pretty much everything else the last two weeks.
Our Lent was eclipsed by Benjamin beginning school.  
Lent has been eclipsed by trying to complete quarter tests for homeschool....
 and well, life has been going at full throttle despite my New Years Resolutions about slowing down etc..etc.. 
 I don't seem to know how to do it..
and that has tainted our Lenten walk...
which eclipsed are spiritual journey and spiritual health as a family.

On Saturday our family was asked to lead the Rosary for our Parish.
We've done this before.
We love participating in this prayer with our church family and we do so every week, but we lead it only every once in a while.
Our 'flying by the seat of our pants' lack of direction this Lent came to a full and screeching crescendo as we completely and utterly bombed the Rosary on Saturday.

I can't believe our Parish puts up with us sometimes because we can be loud, boisterous, full of energy and that is not even factoring in Autism.  
(I fervently prayed the prayer for Humility sometime back in the 90's and I've been given LOTS of opportunities to learn it ever since) (I was probably given opportunities before but in my young adult bliss of knowing everything, I didn't recognize it)

So as I left for the church at 3:20 so that we could arrive at 3:30 allowing a few of them time to have completed confession, in order to participate at the beginning of the Rosary which began at 3:45 I should have known we were jumping the shark, this was going to be a ride so buckle up.
At 3:20, not everyone was ready...so I loaded up the ones I could and off we went.
Once arriving at church the confession line was long...very long, unusually long.  

3:45 came and I began the Rosary with Ben, Faith and Linus in the pew with me.  
Which means that throughout the mysteries, as different children completed confession, they came into our pew and the seat shuffle would begin, again, and again, and again.
Linus wanted very much to help with the decades, so on the 2nd I nodded to him that he could take it.  He got stage fright, I tried to help him but we both stumbled, and fell... and got off on how many Hail Mary's, but luckily the dear lady who leads it most often helped us out...
*deep sigh, and thank you*

Then, a few more of us arrive at the church and begin to filter in the pew...while I'm praying the 3rd decade.
Benjamin gets disrupted and a big brother mistakenly thinks this would be a good time to distract the little ones with getting to light candles...
While We Are Leading The Rosary As A Family....which means we have 3 little ones jumping up wanting to light candles, asking for dollars, and a Benjamin unnerved by the commotion plus now completely fixated on lighting candles.

So, I got off on the 3rd decade too.

Isaac rescues me by praying the 4th decade...and I'm feeling every ounce of the sorrowful mystery of "Jesus picks up his cross" because I'm feeling like WE, we are His Cross right now.

Because it isn't that I really care that we show our failures and weaknesses right out there for everyone to see...
I care that I 'see' what God see's in this moment and it is a family that had this opportunity to lean on Him during this stress filled/worry filled time but instead we sort gripped our hands and soldiered through it on our own....

and that is not how Lent is done.

So the 5th decade came and the last of our family arrives and starts filing into the pew (which has now got Ben asking me questions and pulling my shirt as I focus on the prayer, not answering him immediately...which means there is going to be a back lash...
 and I can't even make it through the end, 
but luckily the chorus of voices praying with us take over and help us end the Rosary as a parish and on a note more suitable to the Rosary.

Lent is supposed to be  a time to lean more fully on Him and to sacrifice, so that when you reach Holy Week...when you reach Easter, there is great rejoicing, not some bedraggled, frustrated family patching together a disordered Easter.

How could I have better prepared, how could I have made this different?

I couldn't, at least not in a temporal sense. 

 I did all the things a mother does to make leading the Rosary successful.  Sometimes things just don't go as planned... and that's okay.

It is also okay to understand that when you plan everything accordingly, but don't prepare yourself spiritually, everything is likely to fall apart.

Pete and I had a long, long deep talk afterwards about re calibrating our expectations of one another, of our children, and of Benjamin.  We also feel God pulling us to Him and using this opportunity to reach our hearts and let us know He is there for us always, to remember and turn to Him instead of soldiering through, that is not how our Faith is done either.

So Lent has been a wash, but in the end I realize that despite not having a Holy, deliberate Lent like I envisioned, we learned a lot after all, and the message came loud and clear through the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.  Blessed be to God! 

*I will be joining up with the Blessed Is She #BISsisterhood link up - Crosses on Thursday.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Refreshing White Cake with Lime Curd & Whipped Cream Frosting

Jonah will not be here for his birthday, so we celebrated with a surprise party while he has been home during his pre-deployment leave.  Jonah LOVES key-lime pie. I knew that making enough key-lime pie's for everyone to enjoy would be a tall order and I wanted to bake him a birthday cake.  So, I started thinking about ways to incorporate the two.  This cake is what I came up with, I'm going to share exactly what I did but also how I would tweak it for the next time I make it...and I will make it again, it was delicious!

When baking a cake from scratch, always prepare the pans by spraying with a non-stick cooking spray (or liberally grease with shortening) then flour the pan as well.  I just spray it, then add about 1/4 cup flour and shake it until the bottom and sides are coated well.  I do this over the sink so that all the extra flour doesn't end up all over the floor.

You whip the butter, shortening, sugar and eggs for a VERY long time (using a stand mixer) before adding the rest of the ingredients.  This imparts a very creamy whipped batter that helps the cake rise well while baking.

Kitchen helpers and pranksters are an important part of this cake.
I follow this model of 2, 9 x 13 inch cakes whenever I'm baking a birthday cake for a crowd.  

Next time I will bake the cakes the day before the event.  The cakes were still warm when I spread the lime curd over the tops and in the middle.  I would have more between the two layers + whipped cream between the layers but due to the heat from the cakes, I couldn't pull this off. 

*we didn't have 21 candles*
*Jonah wants me to point out that it is not his glass of wine*

Less than 24 hours later - there wasn't a crumb left.  Yum!

Whipped Topping - Can be found here.

Lime Curd - 
4 limes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick butter (no substitutes)
5 - eggs at room temperature (4 if using extra large)
dash of salt
Zest one of the limes all over and let that sit in the sauce pan - I zest over the saucepan.
Juice the limes making sure you have at least 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
I cut the butter into cubes and add that to the sauce pan along with all the other ingredients.
Cook on low allowing all the ingredients to melt and blend.
Cook below a simmer for about 10 to 20 minutes until it begins to thicken. Stir constantly.
 It will thicken more as it cools.
I did this twice for enough curd for the cake size I made.

*Once the first cake was turned over (because it was still warm) I poked holes in the cake and poured the hot curd over it.  This allowed some of it to seep down into the cake. 
I repeated this for the second cake.
Next time I will allow the curd to cool and just put a thick layer between the cakes OR I'll do it the same way but because I will have cooled cakes I would add a liberal amount of whipped cream between the layers.  

White Cake - 
2 sticks butter - softened
1/2 cup butter flavor Crisco
3 cups sugar
5 eggs (room temperature)
3 cups all purpose flour (I was out of cake flour)
3 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 and prepare your pans.
Cream together the butter,shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy.
 I use my stand mixer and the whisk attachment.
Add eggs one at a time, making sure each one is well incorporated before adding the next.
Now, let the mixer keep beating at a low speed while you get the dry ingredients ready.
Sift together:  flour, baking powder, salt. (using a different bowl)
Mix together:  (in a separate dish) milk, buttermilk, and vanilla
Alternating between the two add dry ingredients then wet ingredients.  Once mixed together well (do not over mix) spread into pan.

* I did not double this, I made up two separate batches, one for each 9 x 13 inch pan.

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, then bake for additional 10 minutes until done but watch closely.  The cake is dense and can be tricky to figure out if it is ready.  Be sure to test it with a tooth pick (or I use a skewer) to see if it is baked through before removing from oven.  What is nice about a dense but tasty cake is that it holds up well when stacked AND it pairs well with the tart lime and whipped cream.

*Once assembled frost it with whipped cream.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Seven Quick Takes

1.  I absolutely love this article, 'What Would My Mom Do? {Drink Tab and Lock us Outside}'  My Mom might have enjoyed Tab, and occasionally she and my Aunts might have enjoyed some Margaritas or Bloody Mary's (my Dad and Uncles would have been drinking Schlitz).  Way back in the late 70's early 80's when we asked to get a drink, we were told "there is a water hose" and I love this article for affirming THAT WAS OKAY!  This article pays homage to the non-helicopter parenting ways of the past and I love it for that and I love that I got to grow up in a time when the worst thing that could happen is if  you said "Go To He**" to your neighbor.... because you didn't know that was wrong......and maybe you'd heard it before (on a few occasions, ahem).....(and you thought you were being funny)....but realized a spanking later that, it is not actually funny At. All.
And this was not abuse, but parenting by people who love you - THE MOST!

2.  I just spent the last hour being lectured to about courage and bravery by my Marine son.....hmmmmm.  Sometimes the most courage and bravery is utilized when  being silent and letting someone else Roar.  

3.   I'm writing a post on not judging a book by its cover.  I have to fine tune it because I want it to convey less snark and more love.  I once found a note on my van that read "Jesus carried his cross to Calvary for you, but YOU cannot even walk across the street for Him"   The short story is:  I parked next to the church in rainy weather to deliver soup for Lenton Soup Nights while I had 9 children in my care, under the age of 12...the long story will be the post.
 Ouch, those words stung and the person who left them had no idea what I was battling.  
It is a lesson, and a big one but I love the anonymous person who left this message and I know they feel bad for having left it once they understood the circumstances.
So my post needs to be handled with care. 

4.  This Ted Talk:  I am Jake has my wheels spinning.  You see Ben is really high functioning.....until he isn't. 
 I love this, and I love that by Jake sharing he helps me view things differently.  Benjamin will not and absolutely refuses to do math problems unless they are side by side - not up and down.  I love the idea of thinking vs. learning.  So much to think about here.

5.  My love of Nacho Cheese Doritos has been used against me.  Son #6 brought some home for work and offered that if I would make Tator Tot Casserole again, he would bring home Nacho Cheese Doritos.  I think we are on to something here....I'm not above a little bribery.

6.  Rachel left a comment on my {PHFR} post this week and I went back to check out her own blog....color me in love, just wow.  I am a sucker for a Marine Wife for obvious reasons, but other than that, she has such cute kids and a great blog...go check her out, so cute!

7.  This has been my first 7 Quick takes in forever, I really REALLY love Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum...so I'll probably be a regular participant in this link up.

Please join Kelly at This at The Lyceum for this weeks 7QuickTakes!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

{Pretty, Happy, Funny Real}

~Capturing the context of contentment in every day life~

~Every Thursday, at Like Mother Like Daughter~


Fishing on a grey day, it was actually really beautiful in its own way.


I don't know who was happier, Pete or Faith.  She went again yesterday with Jonah and caught two more.  I think we will be spending a lot of hours fishing the coming Spring/Summer.

No, I do not ever want to make fun of being homeless...ever.  
Yet, I've had enough camping disasters to drag ourselves home bedraggled, starving, wet, and tired into the very depths of my bones.  
I am reminded in those moment that I  am so SO blessed to have a home to come HOME too. 
 I still thought this was funny, as we plan our next camping adventure.  


This is us on a typical Friday night (only this was a Saturday).  
Wiped out, enjoying a movie and one another's company.  
Samwise fits right in and settles down too, he is definitely one of us.

Please join Rosie in this week's link up over at LMLD for this week's PHFR.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

~March Daybook~

Outside my window - Gorgeous, just gorgeous.  We hit 80 degrees and in our excitement we decided to pretend it was 90 degrees and time for swimsuits, backyard water hose fun, and ice cream,...
in March...
because after a week of wet weather, and the week prior was a long trip driving, and the week before that was an ice and snow...well, you get a little heady when the weather is warm, sunny and perfect.
So out comes the swim suits and on goes the water works. 
Plus,  nothing says good weather like a cup of Blue Bell ice cream either, it just feels like Summer.

I am thinking - I'm thinking a lot about Jonah's deployment to the Middle East.  
I am grappling with the fact that Benjamin came off the bus screaming bloody murder yesterday that it was "THE WORST DAY EVER"!
Once he settled down, we learned he just really REALLY needed to go to the bathroom.
Once his bladder was better he instantly forgot it was the worst day ever in order to show me the newspaper.  He was absolutely over the moon excited to see this, his teacher gave it to him:

I had not told him I submitted it to the newspaper's photo contest so he was very eager to know "how they got the photo" "why is Faith in the paper" and most important "where is my picture". 

I am wearing - Sparkly shoes (because I love them), boyfriend jeans (with sparkles too, on the pockets - it's Texas ya'll) and a black knit top.  We had lunch at Ben's school today and then we took Samwise on a walk at the park so I needed something to accommodate everything. 

I am creating - I'm still working on the cross stitch and I'm also working on a little Easter crafting...

I am going - I am going to plan a birthday party for Benjamin, just working out the dates right now before I send out invitations. 
 I am going to have a hard time saying goodbye to Jonah when he leaves all too soon. 
I am going on a nice weekend get away with our whole crew, still living at home, and Samwise.  I cannot wait for that.
*he is just the best dog ever*

I am wondering - Why this book was not shoved in my hands the moment Benjamin was diagnosed:

*affiliate link*
Carrie Cariello has been an amazing find for me, I first learned of her writing when the blog post:  'I Know What Causes Autism"  came through my facebook feed.
While Jack and Benjamin are not exactly alike, there is enough alike for me to nod my head and make Pete sit and listen while I read another chapter out loud.  It helps us being  new to this diagnosis (not new to Benjamin) understand and relate, it has been a balm and the best book I've read on Autism.  
I should state that I have not wasted my time trying to figure out what caused this, I spent so many years feeling guilty over the traumatic brain injury that I just don't have the emotional stamina to go through that again.  
I also love who Ben is, and I'd rather spend my time trying better to understand him and help him navigate the world (and the world navigate Benjamin).  
So, I've not spent any time educating myself on the causes.  I read one article that resonated with me and I've left it at that.  Something about toxemia/pre-eclampsia and an Autism link, if there is one so be it and if there isn't so be it... but the link was enough for me to be satisfied that I need not look farther..the end 
(and yes I had extreme Toxemia/Pre-Eclampsia, help syndrome and all the other scary words within Ben's pregnancy so I'm just happy he and I are both here today).  
Ben is how God made him and we are lucky that he is ours.

I am hoping - Everything works out okay regarding school next year.  We are thinking about a lot with regards to our homeschoolers.  More on that later.

I am learning - To exhale, I'm not very good at it.

I am pondering - Lent.  This has been an absolute wipe out and a real pointing out of just how terrible I am at sacrifices that I set.
...... and I'm not so great at sacrifices life throws at me either but when I have to do it, I am better at rallying. 
 We've never, not in many years missed Stations of the Cross...but we have this year and every single Friday so far. 
 It isn't because we've forgotten, but we've not allowed life to slow down enough to really submerge ourselves into this meditation and discipline.  
I'm shaking my head at what bad examples we've been to our children and am already considering how to address this for next year.  
This year has been a fail, it is good to know God loves us anyway.  I still want to try harder...because I love Him enough to make the effort.

In my kitchen:  They strong armed me into making the Tator Tot Casserole.  Ugh!  
They love this so much and it is one of the recipes my mother - n- law passed on to me because my husband loved it so much growing up.  
I used to beam with pride when I made it for everyone and loved watching them scarf it down.  Then I got educated about healthy eating and my shame was the Tator Tot Casserole I had so lovingly prepared all those years. 
 I tried to make a healthier version, I tried to just quit making it all together...but no they were not having it.
My family LOVES this dish and the combination of Jonah being home coupled with "I'm going to the Middle East Mom" was enough to bring this dish to our table, just the way they love it.  
They are still trying to manipulate me into making Tuna Ring too.... which is an entire post for another day...what a colossal fail that was.
*recipe at bottom of post*

A favorite quote for today -
*or better yet, don't insult anyone at all*

My husband recently had an experience where someone described a person as having "The Autism" in a derogatory way.  It was stunning to him, so this quote means a lot to us right now.

A peek into my day - 

We are playing Catholic Trivia, all the time now.  We don't even use the game board.  I am so happy Jessica shared these because the whole family loves them and we are all learning a lot.

One of my favorite things - 

See that smile on Linus's face, total love towards Jonah.  He came to share with the cub scout troop and let them ask questions.  It meant so much to Linus and just made my heart swell.  Jonah has being a big brother wrapped up. It is also a testimony to Marine training, Marines give back.

Tator Tot Casserole:
Brown 2 lbs ground beef with one yellow onion.  Put in 9 x 13 casserole

On top of this spread out 2 cans (sometime 3) of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup.  
Don't preach to me about this soup.
 I've made my peace with it.
 There is nothing better in this recipe.

because let's be honest, the very making of Tator Tot Casserole means you've stepped off the healthy menu for the main course, so just go with it...your kids will thank you and sing your praises.
 I have 3 adult children who have not had any bad thing happen to them because of this casserole or
Cream of Mushrooom Soup
 the fact that I used twizzlers liberally to keep them happy and quiet in the grocery store 
*think about it, 6 small boys and a pregnant Mommy, twizzler were my bff*
They are all fine, and healthy, and love twizzlers and tator tot casserole.
I'm so grateful that the scary news media about all the ways parents mess up their kids with food came out after many of my kids were over the age of 15.  
New parents have enough anxiety as it is.  
I do support 'real' food for children, but every once in a while this kind of meal is fine!

About 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese or cheese blend

Then layer the Tator Tots and be generous with them.

Another cup of shredded cheese over top and then bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.


and beware, they will manipulate you into making it over, and over, and over again...so turn it on them...promise it when...
they come back from the Middle East
they get their bedroom clean
they make straight A's

work it Mama!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

St. Patrick's Day

Sugar Cookie Recipe can be found here:  Best Sugar Cookies

We are not Irish, Pete can claim a little, but our combined heritage is definitely German.  Does that keep us from celebrating St. Patrick's Day - no way...we are good Catholics after all!

The way I prepare Corned Beef and Cabbage for my large family is by using my roaster as if it was a crock pot.

Corned Beef and Cabbage:

2 large marinated corned beef cuts from Sams
2 large green cabbages
10 yukon gold potatoes cut in half length wise
2 large yellow onions chopped up in chunks
2 long neck beers - preferably a stout beer and of course Guiness if you have it.

I place all in the roaster, pour the beer over top and place the heat at 250 and let it cook all day.  I check it on and off to turn the cabbage if it is drying out.  One hour prior to eating, I turn the heat up to 350.
This imparts the most tender corned beef ever, it practically falls apart.

Next day...

Reuben Sandwiches:

leftover corned beef sliced thin
Swiss cheese slices
Thousand Island dressing
Bubbies Saurkraut
Rye Bread

I heat the corned beef slices up by sauteing them in a pan with a little butter.  Once heated up, I cook the Reuben's they way you might make grilled cheese:

butter the rye bread, place it on the skillet
add corned beef
add sauerkraut
1 tbs of Thousand Island dressing
add Swiss cheese
place buttered rye bread on top
cook both sides until evenly browned

Serve with chips and enjoy!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The First Week

It was a good start.  The first day of school, Benjamin hopped out of bed around midnight ready to go...then again around 5:00 am, ready to go.  He was ecstatic.  Lunch box in hand, brand new Minion back pack from Grandma Truby and he was set.

Each day I read his behavior journal and each day there were smiley faces.  Happy as I was to see he was doing well, I also knew that this was new and we were in the honeymoon phase.

Friday is when the weeks worth of excitement, newness, and schedule took its toll and when I met him at the bus even the aid and bus driver were concerned.  His mood was very somber and brooding.  
The full melt down didn't happen for about an hour though, we all new he was over done, all wires fried and that it was looming so we circled the wagons and as a family did our best to head it off.

Jonah also arrived home on Friday, and it amazes me that despite his no longer living at home and being near Ben he immediately jumps back into 'what works for Benjamin' however;  The energy in this house was electric, friends were coming by and the joy of having Jonah here was fun, bubbling and..... a disaster zone for Benjamin.  Too much, too much, too much.  We are a loud, bawdy, fun loving family and Ben fits right into that, but learning to acknowledge his limits has helped us know when to remove Ben and when to help him cope with the reality of the people who love him most.

Stimming (flapping his hands and twisting his fingers, also the blinking...he blinks a lot when he gets spun up) had started and chewing his shirt.  Pete and I decided to remove him so we left the young adult fun behind and took Benjamin over to Grandma and Grandpa's where there was quiet, his favorite Minion game and a buffering zone.  He settled down and we enjoyed being there for a good long while.  By the time we arrived back at our house the excitement had settled down as well.

So week one down, week two has begun and Benjamin's adventure continues.  

*The reception from my Parish Heroes post has been so wonderful and I appreciate all the kind comments and touching emails.  When we arrived at church on Saturday for our usual Confession, Rosary and Mass one of our favorite friends who sits near us every Saturday came over with a cushion lego piece for 'stress' squeezing during Mass.  She had read my blog post and works at a behavior therapy clinic (I didn't even know this).  I appreciated her kindness so much and Benjamin is still squeezing that little lego, what a great gift.  God really is so good and has opened so many doors of that goodness for us.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

~Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life~

~Every Thursday, at Like Mother Like Daughter~


The trees in Sarasota, Florida are just beautiful.  We found this park and enjoyed picnics here and letting the kids explore.  Such a beautiful area, and amazing trees.


I can't help but share one more photo of Pete at his birthday.  This one has better clarity and it makes me happy to see all those kids who we love so much!

We met Sister C while visiting at Noah's parish in Sarasota, St. Martha's.  I have never met anyone full of so much joy, her happiness was infectious in the best way.  We instantly loved her.  She is working hard on a ministry for the Holy Family Missionaries of Mercy.  We just love her.  

We also were very inspired at St. Martha's.  As coincidence would have it (and I don't believe in coincidence, all things happen for a reason) we were there on the Sunday that a speaker came to share about Dreams Are Free Catholic School.  It made me happy to find out that there exists a Catholic School designed specifically for Special Needs children.  


This manatee made our day.  He was hysterical.  He kept swimming up to the glass and giving it a big smooch while the kids stood there.  We had a such a great time at the Mote Marine Laboratory and learned a great deal.  It is more than just an aquarium, but a marine hospital for injured sea life.  

Vacations can wipe us out.  They are wonderful, fun and full of new experiences.  When you have a child on the spectrum there is an extra vigilance that goes along with a new routine or no routine, a new place and new smells and sounds.  It is worth it though, absolutely worth it (I can say that now that I've had a few nights sleep).

 Florida Studio Theatre is wonderful.  Noah has learned so much and gained an experience he values. It will add to his resume in a powerful way.  As theater lovers we also enjoyed seeing how things are done at this Theatre.  I am so glad he is getting this experience, it is outstanding and so good for him!
Oh yes we did!  No way we are driving through Monroe, Louisiana and not making the obligatory stop at Duck Commander Buck Commander.

Everyone now has a coffee mug in honor of this pit stop, and I have Miss Kay's cookbook, so yes we are:

Please join Leila for this weeks {PHFR} at LMLD.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Parish Heroes

In our married life together, Pete and I have been a part of some truly wonderful church families.  We started out our lives together attending a small chapel on a Naval Base in Florida.  We then attended Our Lady Star of the Sea in Bremerton, WA.  We had a brief pit stop back in Texas at St. Mary's and then got 12 beautiful and growth filled years at St. John the Baptist in Front Royal, Va.

It seems appropriate that God would bring us back to St. Mary's for the years we would need our family and our parish family the most.  This is where we started, where we married, baptized our first child and where one of our children in a time when he was delirious, took himself somehow, someway to this place because it is our home, our safe place.

Our church has grown and we now have Sunday Mass at St. Anne's, this beautiful building located right across the street from St. Mary's.   Perhaps it is the name of our patrons that evokes so much mothering and care towards our family, and I know other families have experienced this too.  Or perhaps it is just the way of Catholics because really, no matter where you go Catholics love to meet other Catholics, I mean when you see someone you didn't know was Catholic with ashes on their forehead on Ash Wednesday, it is like a solidarity bonds you when they see yours too - a secret handshake. 
We Catholics really do take care of one another.

A few years ago the business that Pete worked at closed its doors, without warning, without a pay check, without a thought towards their employees.
 It was like having the rug pulled right out from under us at a time we were already trying to get back on our feet from the economic downward spiral we had just been through.
 We had planned for our children to attend the parish school, but withdrew our application knowing that we could never afford it now.  When this news spread, we got a phone call and a scholarship application which we never expected. It worked out for us to attend - our pastor reached out to us and together we figured out a plan to allow our children to attend the school.
We didn't expect this, not at all.  It was a warm hug in a hard time.
I went to work, the school secretary, Karen worked with me to figure out all the details for after care for my children.
It was also in this time that Benjamin's uniqueness started to present itself more fully.  We knew he had a traumatic brain injury resulting from birth.  We had always known there was something a little different, a little scary...but I was in a deep, deep denial.
I truly believed that he just needed more time.
Karen was gentle with me and my mothers heart. She helped guide me into asking the right questions to find some answers.  I will always, always love her for being like a Mom to me, so much more than a school secretary, so much more than a high school friend's mother.  She took me into her heart and cared for Benjamin in such a way, I could tell she looked at him through my eyes - not as a pain, not as a problem, but as a child that needed more....but more of what we didn't know.

Benjamin had long days at school, and then after care.  He was so young for all this change.  I blamed a lot of his acting out on this.  Our family had never operated with my working and then Pete was gone, the job he began took him out of State full time.  During this Miss Tanya, Miss Virginia and Millie wrapped their hearts around my different child and helped buffer him from himself and from the hard edges of his reality.  I cannot even imagine how he could have gotten through this without all these Mama's.

Tony.  I could write a whole series of blog posts about Tony.  (we kind of love him)
The first time we met him, Ben was having a rough time in Mass, he was also not a baby - so taking him out and sitting in the Narthex (lobby) was sort of like a walk of shame for me - every.single.time.  
Tony came over to us and I could just feel that he was going to tell me I needed to go back into Mass but he didn't, he presented Ben with a little lamb beanie baby.  Ben who was very near a complete and total melt down, accepted this little gift and it calmed the storm for a bit.  Tony smiled at me and walked away.  I think he accepted 'something' was going on here.  Thank you Tony.

The next time we met him I was making the mistake of thinking I could visit after Mass.  Ben is ready to leave after Mass and we had not made room for this reality.  I'm social, I enjoy seeing my friends and catching up.  So there I was trying to keep a grip on Ben's hand and ignore the necessity of leaving.  Ben got away from me for a moment, and before I could blink my eye he was trying to climb up one of the pillars. 

Let me die now.

Tony came over before I could even say "stop" and told Benjamin to 'Get Down" and he meant it.  A very forthright, but kind approach.  It startled Ben and he got down.  He told Ben why he couldn't climb the pillars and when he sensed Ben was not 'there', he explained to me.  I was embarrassed, but Tony was kind.

The next week Ben went straight for the pillars as soon as we came in the door.  I was on him quickly and saw Tony coming our way.  When Tony caught on that I was teaching Ben not to climb them, he gave me a nod and a warm smile.

Week after week Tony would find Ben and I in the Narthex during Mass and week after week he would offer some form of kindness, even gave Ben a board book once.  

I eventually changed strategies on getting Ben to stay in Mass.  We began 1 hour before Mass by attending Confession, then the Rosary first.  We also situated ourselves in an area of the sanctuary that was less busy and near Mattie, his most favorite person in the world (and his cousin). 
 We started having success.  

Tony began high fiving Ben, saying "Good job Mom" to me and really cheered us on.  
It meant the world.

I do think the Holy Spirit led us to where we began sitting.  
Behind us sat Rudy.  A man who looks younger than his 90 + years.  He broke through Ben's barriers of  don't touch me, by tapping him on the shoulder or saying something to Ben about his hair, or glasses or anything - didn't matter, 
Rudy noticed Ben and showed it with a heaping helping of humor and genuine kindness.

Mary had met Ben at Vacation Bible School and had immediately taken to him.  While I fumbled at trying to explain he has some concerning behaviors, Mary just saw a little boy and she sincerely loved his uniqueness.

Mary and Rudy would often sit together, behind us and Mary would pass Ben her offering to put in the basket.  Sometimes Mary would give Ben a pen and paper to write on.  If she saw Ben starting to melt down, she would help distract him away by getting him to notice something else.  She prayed for us and with us.  Mary and Rudy were a team and my absolute saviors on many occasions when Mass would have just been too much.   
I was tired from working, going it alone while Pete was in another state (it wasn't easy for him either).  Pete and I were trying to figure out a lot, it was stressful time.  Our life looked nothing like it had a short year before and in the midst of this, the reality that our family could no longer absorb Ben's quirks and difficulties was becoming very VERY hard.  
Mary and Rudy helped absorb them during all those many services.

Mrs. D, our church pianist and organist, is a special kind of Saint. 
 Ben loves music, and will sit long periods of time at his Grandma Barbara's piano plucking out tunes.  When we approached Mrs. D about his possibly taking lessons I tried to explain him, which was difficult.  
She took him on despite his sometimes finger twisting, hand shaking, rocking and chewing his shirt ways.  
She just worked around his challenges and gave him the gift of music.  She also gets his attention during Mass and her patience knows no end.  At almost every Mass, while in the line for Communion he pulls her shirt or taps her on the back to let her know he is there, he says hi.  

She has never not once put him off.  

Her son directs the choir, we sit very near them.  So Ben also directs the choir, matching James in his hand and arm motions.  Luckily, Ben does not and has never tried to stand with James.  He just sits in his regular spot (because consistency matters a lot to Ben) and he directs away.  I've learned to just roll with this, he doesn't do it every time but he does it enough. 

James's wife is Anne.  Anne is the person I knew would help me create the sign.

The Scheibmeir family goes way back with their family and the friendship is deep and lasting. 
 Anne and I only got to know one another after we moved back to the area in 2010.  
Making this sign for me and really working hard at finding a way to make it affordable and paying attention to the details that mattered to me, has been an amazing gift of friendship.  I cannot thank her enough!

All of these people reached out before we had a diagnosis that would explain Benjamin, before the word Autism became a part of our reality. 

There are many more names I could mention and more stories than I could ever fit into a reasonable blog post.  Like the time Paula held Benjamin in the exact position he fell asleep in so that I could slip out of the pew and go up for the Eucharist or the countless times her husband Matt worked out a ride so that Simon could attend a basketball game that I couldn't bring Ben to because we were having a day that the noise would have been too much for him.  All the ushers who make sure Ben gets his bulletin. (this is Ben's most favorite moment of going to Mass, getting that Bulletin...it's a big deal)
I could go on and on, our parish is full of heroes. 
 People who recognized a need and instead of distancing themselves they came near and found ways to help us, smoothing out the difficulties as best they could.  We became enveloped in their deep care and love.  

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I agree.

It takes a Parish to raise a family.  A parish can be a loving and powerful presence that transforms a church into more than a place of worship, but a safe haven, a home.  

Our family appreciates all the heroes, our family appreciates our parish and home.

*trust may not be mentioned within the context of this post, but it has everything to do with the trust we have in our parish community, so I'm joining it to the Blessed Is She Link up on Trust*
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