March 30, 2017

Put a Smile On Your Face #lifewithautism

After the ordeal, we stood up and noticed the plaque that stood across from the bench honoring a former volunteer.


How fitting. Looking back at that bench, at us, at the boys laughing good-naturedly, would anyone ever know our struggle here?


Let me set the scene here: A morning at the Phoenix zoo. When loading up the car, we had remembered to bring plenty of snacks and a cooler filled with cold drinks, but, alas, we left the stroller behind. It was a warm day, but we stayed cool with our drinks and made sure to take breaks in the shade. I carried Perry in my arms for awhile when his legs were getting tired. About an hour into our zoo visit, we were watching the Orangutans. They were just a few feet away from us and putting on quite a show--swinging from the ropes, climbing down, and we even saw a waterfall when one of them used the bathroom from her perch up high.

Then came the trigger: We had all been watching the orangutans with interest for a good long time. So Kacin politely asked, "Are you guys ready to go to the next animal?"

Nobody had planned for the aftermath: Apparently, that question didn't sit right with Perry. He walked right up to Kacin and got into his face and asked, "Do you want me to kill you?" I quickly moved my body to block his fist and redirect him back to the orangutans, reassuring him we could stay awhile longer if he wanted to. He moved away from Kacin, but continued to shout that Kacin was a bad guy. He still had a glare on his face, but a minute later he walked off on his own, still mumbling mean things about Kacin. Eric took the other kids down a different path out of the exhibit as I worked hard at distracting Perry with talk of animals and offerings of juice and snacks.

We made our way to a nearby bench in the outdoor courtyard between both sides of the orangutan exhibit. We found a bench to sit on and I deliberately positioned Perry right next to me on my left with Kyler and then Kacin on my right. Layla and Eric sat across from us. I passed out juice boxes and sandwiches to everyone. It seemed as though Perry had moved on and was feeling better.

Suddenly, he held up his juice box and threatened to squirt it at Kacin. When I didn't allow that one, he quickly began to squirt it into a puddle on the ground near his feet. I took the juice box away from him and offered him his cheeze-its and other snacks. That's when he began to point at Kacin and then gesture to the juice puddle while demanding that Kacin go get into that puddle (clearly as punishment for his wrongdoing).    

Kacin has a sense of humor and enjoys being a little bit snarky so he laughed and jumped up to dance in the puddle. I shooed Kacin back to his seat and while Perry still mumbled death threats and punch in the eyeball threats at Kacin, I tried to get everyone back to focusing on their lunch. I passed out go-gurts to everyone. Perry seemed a bit calmer, but when I went to give him his go-gurt he told me he was going to squirt it on Kacin. Well, I told him if that was the case he did not get a go-gurt. With a mischievous grin he told me he wouldn't, "I promise, mom." It's not like I believed that one, but after he pleaded a little more I conceded, as long as I was holding on to the package as he ate it. He took some yogurt into his mouth. He seemed calm and collected and I hoped he had moved on. He took more yogurt. And then I noticed he wasn't swallowing it.

All at once, before I could grab him, he jumped up and dashed to the other side of the bench where Kacin was sitting and proceeded to spit that mouthful of yogurt out aiming directly at Kacin. Luckily, he is not much of spitter, and the yogurt pretty much plopped straight down to the ground.

Enough was enough. Eric escorted Perry across the zoo to the exit while I let the other kids finish their lunch. When Perry and Eric were out of sight, Kacin and Kyler could not contain their laughter anymore. Soon we were all busting up laughing at the whole thing. "Get in the juice, Kacin! How dare you ask to see another animal!" The older boys kept cracking up about it during our entire walk back to the car.

And, of course, by the time we made it back to the car, Perry was all settled and didn't bring it up again for the rest of the day. (Though, we did make sure Kacin didn't sit in the back next to Perry.) But just as quickly as it starts, it eventually ends.

I don't know many families that have to endure death threats and attempted attacks from their sibling. But I'm so grateful that my kids have learned to have a good sense of humor, to forgive quickly, and to be understanding of their brother. It's not always an easy life for Perry and it's not easy for the rest of us, but we are Team Allred and we stick together.

So when I saw that plaque and the wise words of that dedicated volunteer, I was comforted by her words that yes, things will go wrong sometimes--unexpected and challenging things happen to all of us, especially with autism in your life--but we can put a smile on our faces because it's ok. It will be just fine.    

March 18, 2017

Wave Cave

Since all the kids are home for spring break, Eric took a day off work. We dropped Perry off at my sister's house and headed over to the Superstition Mountains.

It was a little on the warm side that day, and we left later than we planned, but other than that it was an absolutely beautiful time to be hiking in the desert. It was as a green as the desert can be and lovely wildflowers of purple, yellow, orange, and white were popping up all over the place.

Our destination was the Wave Cave. It is a trail that Eric and I had never been on before. We took this picture about 1/3 of the way from the top. 


Since we had never been there before, we had a little trouble finding the right trail to take and ended up hiking about 20 extra minutes along a different trail before we went back to find the correct path. We had to remind the whiners in the group that this was an adventure.

Eric carried Layla on his shoulders a few times, but the last half mile or so is pretty steep and so she had to get those 5 year old legs up there herself with just a little bit of help. It was not an easy hike for any of us, but she did it! Once we got to the top and into the cave we had a beautiful view looking out.

And a pretty cool view looking in.

But I would say the coolest view was looking up at everyone "riding" the wave.

Eric bowing to me. He knows his proper place. ;)
Our humorous attempt at a heart.

I'm not sure if this one is much better.

The way down was even more tricky for those little legs that kept slipping. This time we had to remind to have courage (part of our family theme this year!) and that we could do hard things. And we did it!

A hike like that always proves that we are stronger than we think we are. And a hike like that also needs to be followed by a stop at in-n-out for hamburgers and shakes.

March 14, 2017

spring break is here

On our first day of spring break, I got the valentine's decorations put away. We pulled out our spring/easter decorations, too. Now that was an accomplishment!

I was also supposed to drop off stacks of cookies I was asked to make for trek by 10am. The cookies were done and I had every intention of getting them where they needed to be around 9am. But I got started with laundry and helping kids and our "mom time" and the next thing I knew it was 10:45am. Yikes! I was embarrassed I lost track of time like that, but it worked out just fine when I brought them over an hour late.

We got a solar cover for our pool and that has made all of the difference in getting and keeping the pool up to a nice comfortable temperature. Though the outside temperature hitting 100 degrees yesterday probably helps that one.

Speaking of, isn't spring break in March way too early to turn on your ac?? I'm not ready for the heat already! We were trying to hold off until April before we turned it on, but last night when we were trying to sleep upstairs, I begged E to turn it on just to get the upstairs temperature down to 79. We turned it on and slept much better.

 Back to the pool. We all swam on saturday and had the first bbq of the season. Then the boys filled the pool yesterday with a few of their friends. And today cousins come over to swim. I think we are enjoying our backyard.


Kacin's life is baseball practice right now. He has had to miss out on some other things (mutual, family dinner with friends, etc), which I don't think he is thrilled about, but it's good to see him dedicated and working hard at something.

Eric and I kicked off spring break by seeing "Thoroughly Modern Millie" at the Hale theater over the weekend. I love our season tickets to that place.

I introduced our spring break homeschool plan to the kids on Sunday. This was the first year our oldest gave a little push back about that thing, but after I introduced it and he tried it out yesterday, I heard no complaints and it seemed to go smoothly. Well, besides the fact that it took Layla all day to work on her stuff (and she didn't even finish). She would rather sit there and watch the boys swim then get her chores done so she could swim.

Here are their charts (these are in addition to their regular chores).


They just have to write in or check off what they did for each area. They are pretty pleased that for Sports/exercise watching their sport on tv counts. Not every day, but there is value in watching the professionals sometimes. For mom time, which includes Layla this year!, we started reading "Alice in Wonderland." For reading, I have said the older boys have to finish at least one book a week (we needed that stipulation as motivation for somebody in particular). They have writing choices each day. And they have each been assigned a younger sibling for the week for sib time (yesterday, Kacin read a book to Perry while he was yelling on the stairs that he wanted to play his video game and Layla and Kyler worked on a puzzle together). The older boys have choices for their spiritual section, but I did say that by the end of break they need to have read all of the For the Strength of Youth. Field trips, we are just writing in as we make plans for the week.    


Layla and Perry's charts don't have so much detail. We are just marking off when we do something (practice letters/read Phonics book etc (reading), draw a picture/write your name/copy words etc (writing), counting objects (math) etc.

There is always a reward at the end of our homeschool plans, but this year no one has even asked what it is. I'm ok with that!

Besides these plans and a few little planned outings, we have a low key spring break ahead of us. Yay for sleeping in and staying home!

March 7, 2017

last night, and some parenting

I had a night last night.

A night in which I had some really sweet, fun moments laughing and playing outdoors with my youngest while Kacin practiced baseball on one of the fields at the park. It was a practically perfect evening. The air was cool, but not too cool. Little league boys and parents were milling around and working hard at practice. Layla rode her bike and I walked or jogged beside her. We stopped at the park and she shrieked with laughter when she went down the really big slide. She called me "Mama Llama"(and busted up laughing when she added "red Pajama") to get my attention when she climbed up the tall ladder and up the slides. She was so proud of herself for successfully riding her bike through the water when the flowing irrigation covered sections of our sidewalk. We sat on the bleachers for a few minutes watching Kacin at practice while Layla tried to get up her courage to go talk to another little boy who was riding his scooter (unfortunately, she never quite did find enough courage). We switched her bike out for her scooter and she zoomed around in circles on it.

But it was also a night in which my parenting patience was pushed to the limits when that youngest got tired and things were not going the way in which she wanted them to. There was screaming and a thrown scooter (not by me, not this time at least) and a march to sit in the car to cool off. Then there was more hitting and throwing and a drive home to go to bed.

It was a night I had.


I've seen all sorts of tantrums in my days as a mother. Some that raise eyebrows. Some that traumatize. I'm not perfect at it, and rarely do I ever give myself compliments, but I do feel as though I have become somewhat proficient, dare I say at a Master level, at staying calm and in control while handling an emotional situation, especially in public, simply because I've had so much experience and practice at doing so.

But I'm not so proficient at every parenting situation. I have so much to learn and to keep practicing.

I read the general conference address "The Righteous Judge" this afternoon. As part of his address, he has a section entitled "The parent as a Righteous Judge." As parents, we have daily opportunities to practice the principles he was teaching in his address. Elder Robbins explains, "To effectively teach a child is at the essence of good parenting, and to lovingly discipline is the very essence of being a righteous judge."

He goes on to say, President Joseph F. Smith taught, “If children are defiant and difficult to control, be patient with them until you can conquer by love, … and you can then [mold] their characters as you please.”8

It is insightful that in teaching how to discipline, the prophets seem to always refer to Christlike attributes.The Doctrine and Covenants gives us this well-known advice on discipline:
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
“By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
“Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love” (D&C 121:41–43).
This scripture teaches us to reprove “when moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” not when moved upon by anger. The Holy Ghost and anger are incompatible because “he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger” (3 Nephi 11:29)

This was a great reminder to me because:
1. It works. Believe me, I've tried both ways (anger vs. love), but love and patience and gentleness consistently yield better results.
2. I need the reminder again and again because it is easy to forget.
3. It applies in so many situations, as we discipline, lead, teach...
4. I just need the reminder again and again.

March 4, 2017

in the pool again

It took a nice long back rub to convince him, 

but ultimately they got what they wanted. He jumped in the cold water with them and they got an afternoon in the pool.

I don't know how they stayed in the water as long as they did. I think it was up to 70 degrees, but that is way too cold for me. My feet didn't even want to get into that water. The forecast for next week is temperatures up to 90 degrees. Maybe then we will get the water warmer and I'll be ready to jump in the pool.

March 3, 2017

arizona railway museum

Layla and I toured the Arizona railway museum today with a group of other moms. (Don't I deserve an award for documenting this the same day it happened?)

She insisted she bring one of our trains from home since we were going to the train yard.

We got to walk through about five cars and it was so cool to see inside and to see artifacts from long ago when travel by train was the way to go.

We finished our tour by ringing the bell in the steam engine.

Before we left this morning, Layla came upstairs to where I was getting ready and showed me her latest creation made from crayons, colored pencils, marker lids, a button and a bead, and a whole bunch of tape (and of course made while she was supposed to be getting ready--but, like I said, what can I say about that when she comes up with some pretty creative stuff all on her own). Pretty cool car/spaceship, eh?


March 2, 2017

book: the happiness project

This was a book I started for book club way back in October. I finally finished it a few weeks ago.

Image result for happiness project

I just wanted to record one thing that really resonated with me about being happy. One of her "rules to live by" was to "Be Gretchen"--to be herself. I think that's a lesson we all have to figure out on our own in life. And the sooner we do, the better. I just think I spent too much time in high school and in my 20s worrying about other people and what they thought--what was cool, what was "in", what activities to join, how I appeared to other people, was I liked, and generally comparing myself to others. I'm quite certain that is one hundred percent natural and most of us do it. And in many ways it serves us to think about this and helps us navigate social situations and make friends.

But when I want to be more deliberate about my own happiness I think it can be summed up to "be yourself". To stretch ourselves and improve ourselves. But to do it in our own way. On our own path.

For example, I really love reading. But I don't have to pretend I love reading some highly intellectual or award winning books when what I really love to read is children's lit and the classics. And notebooks and pens make me really, really happy. And I hate playing team sports but I love yoga. And I enjoy a nice long walk, but running long distances just doesn't do it for me. Or I used to try to hide it that I do not like chocolate. But really I just don't like it.

Just stuff like that. And it's just better to embrace it. To figure it out and embrace it.

I love this quote by CS Lewis. "When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret, and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am 50 I read them openly. When I became a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."

It's important to acknowledge what we enjoy, not what we wish we enjoyed. And not hold ourelves to someone else's standard.

In the book, there is also a quote by Michel de Montaigne that says, "The least strained and the most natural ways of the soul are the most beautiful; the best occupations are the least forced."

That makes me think that creating more happiness in our lives means taking our ordinary days and fitting in the things we naturally love. Being deliberate.

Sure it also means stretching ourselves and pushing ourselves out of our content little boxes.

Like William Butler Yeats said, "Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing."

But that stretching and that growth looks different for everyone. We just need to be doing something.

To quote Benjamin Franklin, "On the whole, though I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious about obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet as I was, by the endeavor, a better and happier man than I otherwise should have been had I not attempted it."


Just a few days ago, my general conference talk reading was of the address given by President Russell M. Nelson entitled "Joy and Spiritual Survival".  I thought that was very timely that I came to it next since I had just started writing my thoughts down here on this post about the Happiness Project book.

Now I still think the Happiness Project book is a great book and gets you thinking about some specifics and habits in your own life. But I also think how pretty spectacular that a prophet of God can write a pretty short article about joy--something even greater, and deeper than happiness-- and remind me of this simple yet profound truth and my spirit is touched and my mind is enlightened and the truth of it just resonates deeply through me. Happiness can be fleeting, but joy is powerful and we can feel it even when we are experiencing challenges and or bad days.

What I would add to the Happiness Project book, if I could do that little thing of adding to books myself, is this said by President Nelson:
"My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.
When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation, which President Thomas S. Monson just taught us, and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy. We feel it at Christmastime when we sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”9 And we can feel it all year round. For Latter-day Saints, Jesus Christ is joy!....
Joy is powerful, and focusing on joy brings God’s power into our lives.  ...
If we look to the world and follow its formulas for happiness,27 we will never know joy. The unrighteous may experience any number of emotions and sensations, but they will never experience joy!28 Joy is a gift for the faithful.29It is the gift that comes from intentionally trying to live a righteous life, as taught by Jesus Christ.30
He taught us how to have joy. When we choose Heavenly Father to be our God31 and when we can feel the Savior’s Atonement working in our lives, we will be filled with joy.32 Every time we nurture our spouse and guide our children, every time we forgive someone or ask for forgiveness, we can feel joy. 
Every day that you and I choose to live celestial laws, every day that we keep our covenants and help others to do the same, joy will be ours."
I want to be happy. I want to feel that deep joy. So my own happiness project is simple right now. It includes making sure I am taking time to study (gospel and other topics) each day (with my notebooks and pens!). I will be dancing in the living room with my family more. And I am making a really big effort to meet new people and participate in groups that do things I love, like book clubs and yoga at the church. And mostly, as President Nelson invites us to do, I want to do things that help make the Savior and his atonement even more real to me.

March 1, 2017

these days

We have always had a "First work, Then play" rule at our house. We get up and get our chores done first so then we can spend the rest of the day doing what we want and need to. And then along came Layla. She has not/will not conform to this way of life. I might get her to get dressed, but on the way to brush her teeth she has begun a game of puppy dog. She may start to clean her room, but when you check on her two minutes later she is making up stories and imagining with the toys she is supposed to be putting away. You may think she is putting away her hairbrush, but she has instead begun a game of "Disneyland" on the spinning chair with her dolls. And it's hard to interrupt all of her creativity and fun! Which means it takes us about two hours to get her ready in the morning. What are we going to do next year when she has to be at school at 8am?  

We have a zoo membership now and I'm trying to get the most out of it. Especially before the weather turns and I start to melt under the sun. Kacin was actually happy about an afternoon at the zoo when I let him bring two friends along. Perry was excited to be there too and see all of the animals. He likes the zoo right now. As long as we don't stay too long.

Layla has been along on many visits to the zoo. We have taken cousins, friends, and grandma on separate trips.

We had a really special afternoon when we got to take Kacin to the temple to do baptisms for the dead for the first time. There was a looong wait that day. At one point, as we sat still in the chapel, Kacin leaned over and whispered to me, "This is the quietest I have been in months." I definitely believe that one! He is a sweet boy and I'm so glad we could share that time in the temple together.

While we were watching Kyler's soccer game, Layla was so proud of herself for climbing up this fence.

Kyler has been in drumline all year long. Maybe I shouldn't admit it, but I had no clue whatsoever what drumline was. I pictured it like marching band. But really I didn't even know much about that. Kyler has talked a little bit about drumline, but not too much. I couldn't make it to his first show, but I went to his second one, and I was pleasantly surprised how much fun it was. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I was thoroughly impressed with Kyler's skills on the cymbals! Kyler is one amazing kid. I don't know how he does it all. For example, in one week he gave an inspiring talk as Deacon's quorum president at Priesthood Preview, managed his homework for all of his honors classes, played hard in two soccer games, was a rockstar big brother to his three siblings, and was part of a first place drumline competition show. Pretty impressive!

We spent some time at the park with cousin Macie.

Pretending they were on a ride at Disneyland...

In activity days, I planned a nutrition/health fun run competition. They split up into teams of two or three. They each had a question board. They answered the question and lifted the flap on their answer. If they got it right, they had a task to complete. If they got it wrong, they had a slightly harder task to complete. I think the girls had a blast running around completing all of their challenges. At least I had fun watching it all come together. And everyone was pretty tired at the end.

Perry had a rough week while Eric was out of town for the second week in a row. After some tantrumming I finally got him upstairs, but he was refusing to take his clothes off for a bath. So I said to get in with his clothes on then. And he did. A little humor goes a long way and he settled down just fine after this particular bath.

Layla finally won the medal in soccer!! Yay! Each week after the game, one child is given a medal. And it is all Layla has been talking about. And probably the only reason she has kept with soccer.

Layla found great-grandpa's hat. And pulled it over her nose to try and block the smell as we passed the dairy farm.

We went on a family hike.

Kacin had his tryouts for Little League and was drafted onto the Redsox team. He is so excited to be playing baseball again!

Our neighborhood had a big spring party and the kids had a blast with all of the bounce fun.

Perry was so excited to show us the Lego Star Wars library book he brought home from school. His sweet brothers were happy to read it to him.

My friend from WA was sorting through pictures and sent this one. I know we look big mouthed and funny, but it just made me ache to be back in WA! I miss everyone!

And this is what happens when Layla makes her own sandwich. We call her peanut butter lips.