Category Archives: Gratitude

Autism Angel: Mary Hendricks

Once upon a time, I was a very stressed-out and scared mom. That was last week – no, I’m just kidding. I’m talking about my own personal annus horribilis. The year was 2003. We’d just received our autism diagnosis. My husband was working on a long-term assignment out of state (Kentucky). He was only able to come home every other weekend. We sold our first home and moved out of state to Maryland. I had knee surgery. And my father died. All this happened in a period of five months – I kid you not. I was a mess.

As only someone who’s had a child diagnosed with autism may know, after the shock wears off and the anti-depressants kick in, you go into search and destroy mode. I spent months doing research on the internet, calling parents and experts, going to evaluation and therapy appointments, and purging our house of casein and gluten. I was determined to do any and everything to help my son.

I found a program for Barrett that I loved at Emory University, but couldn’t afford the tuition (or the two hour round trip drive, twice a day). Then I discovered a public school system with the very same program – in Howard County Maryland, where my husband grew. When the universe sends you a message like that, you listen.

My first contact in Maryland was Mary Hendricks, who at the time was a resource teacher for early intervention services. She changed my life. We spoke on the phone many times and I cried so much that if I’d been her, I would have stopped taking my calls. I’d been looking at programs in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Florida and Georgia. I didn’t know what to do, and confessed as much. I’ll never forget what Mary said to me: “Come on up, I know we can help you and your son.” And you know what? She was right.

Mary is kind, loving, and brilliant. She has a gift and it’s evident every time she interacts with a special needs child. She’s a ray of sunshine and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her without a smile on her face. She has had helped hundreds (maybe thousands?) of families in her thirty plus years teaching. Her enormous capacity for empathy helped me when I was in a very dark place. I was so stricken with grief during my very first IEP meeting that I cried through half of it. Rich was still in Kentucky at the time and I was all alone in a new place. She walked me out to my car and gave me a hug – a really good one. It’s a memory that has never gone away.

Mary is full of innovative ideas and a fantastic resource for anything related to special education. Her son Sean was in high school when I met and hired him to hang out with the boys and help them interact with each other. I was in no condition to engage in floor time, and then came baby Audrey, so I really needed his help! Sean is now married and a speech therapist in Baltimore. Oh time!

And I will forever be grateful to Mary. I’m honored to introduce you to this Autism Angel (although her expertise with special needs goes beyond autism!):

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On one of our road trips, Mary drove down to Annapolis to meet us for lunch, so she could see the kids! Continue reading Autism Angel: Mary Hendricks

Dear Holiday Allie: Chill-lax!

A few nights ago, the husband hesitantly asked me when I was going to find my Christmas spirit. I didn’t even get mad at him – because he’s right. I don’t have the spirit. I’ve been having a really tough time this holiday season. I don’t know why. I keep blaming it on my holiday to-do list, but I certainly don’t have any more to do than other moms. And I don’t work full-time, so I should be somewhat ahead of the game. I ordered my Christmas cards in OCTOBER – and yet I was up late last night writing out the last bunch. Such poor time management. I bought all the ingredients for baking cookies, and then lost interest and turned the reigns over to Audie (although I still got stuck with clean-up duty). It took me four days to decorate the tree, even though the kids really helped this year. I’m done Christmas shopping, but only because I have no desire to buy more presents. They’ll get what they get and they’ll like it! Of course I haven’t wrapped one present for my family yet – and I LOVE wrapping presents. R just came into my office and shook his head at the pile of bags and boxes commenting, “You’re going to be all stressed out on Christmas Eve, aren’t you?” Oh, I hope not. I need to shake to Grinch off. Continue reading Dear Holiday Allie: Chill-lax!

Multiples Illuminated

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My oldest boys, Barrett and Hunter, are twins.  They’re so different that I rarely think of them as twins. They’ve never dressed alike, they don’t attend the same school, have different interests and about ten years ago, Barrett surpassed Hunter on the growth charts and never looked back. And then there’s autism, the divisive factor in their twindom and the main reason they lead very different lives.

Multiples-Illuminate-Nov-cover-revisedWhy the twin talk? My twins will be turning fifteen in a few days (more on that later this week), and I recently learned that an essay I wrote about the boys will be featured in an upcoming anthology about multiples. The book, Multiples Illuminated, is written and edited by Megan Woolsey and Alison Lee. When I first read the submission guidelines for this book, I was hesitant about writing an essay. I wasn’t certain I could come up with an appropriate topic, given our special situation. And the book focuses on the early years of being a parent of multiples. Babies and toddlers – that was a very long time ago for us. I was searching my memory archives when Audrey came to the rescue. Aud has a favorite Barrett and Hunter story that I’ve told many, many times and she urged me to start there. I’m so glad I did, because Megan and Alison liked the story enough to include it in their book.


B&H at 9 months.

Megan and Alison are the creators of the website Multiples Illuminated. You can visit their site by clicking here. They share essays written by parents of multiples, as well as parenting tips and some incredibly delicious recipes. The parmesan broccoli bites are amazing. If you’re the parent of twins or triplets, you need to sign up for their updates. They also have give-a-ways and notices of freebies and discounts for parents of multiples. I wish the site was around when I was buying diapers by the bushel.

But back to the book…

I’m super excited to be included, along with twenty other writers. There are some heavy hitters in this book, and I’m in awe. Also, the forward is written by Dr Drew’s wife, Susan Pinsky. The book will be published this spring and as soon as it’s available for pre-order, I’ll be letting you know.

Thank you so much to Megan and Alison for giving me the opportunity to have my words in print. I love books! I especially love books with my name in themJ. I feel so very fortunate. Thank you to my husband for his editorial comments (and censorship) and my friend Kristi Campbell, who’s advice I always appreciate. Finally, Audrey, thank you for helping Mommy find her twin voice.



Love, Excitement & Gratitude

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post about stuff I’m excited about or all things in my life for which I grateful. I’ve been in a funk and have a wicked head cold, so I thought this would be a good time to do so. And I’m hoping that it’ll cheer me up.


These books:

24875387[1]Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams: This book is the third in the author’s Schuyler sisters’ trilogy. This novel focuses on Pepper, who’s pregnant with the baby of her married lover (who sounds a lot like Robert Kennedy). Although Pepper is as interesting and funny as ever, Annabelle Dommerich is the character who really intrigued me. Anabelle’s story unfolds during pre-World War II Europe. Annabelle falls in love with a German Jew, but ends up married to a Nazi general. What? The story is astonishing, heartbreaking, and riveting. When Pepper meets her in 1966, Annabelle is a widow, but the reader doesn’t know which man she’s mourning. Continue reading Love, Excitement & Gratitude