We Don’t Take Anything for Granted

One thing this journey has taught me is to never take anything for granted. We celebrate and appreciate things as parents that most people probably take for granted. We cherish every moment and every milestone knowing that one day these things will all be gone and will only be distant memories. Everything that Carter has accomplished that we were told would be hard for him, we celebrate them all.

I noticed Carter getting a permanent tooth coming in the top front a few weeks ago, and it made me tear up thinking this snaggletooth stage will soon be over.

I love the beauty that is simply my Carter. There are some people that don’t get him and may not understand him, but there are way more people who do love him just the way he is. He is my heart and the greatest blessing I’ve ever received.

My phone made this video of sweet memories from 2019. It made me cry because it reminded me that God’s hand is still at work even when I don’t always see it. I shared it with some people but thought I’d share it on my blog too. You will see how happy he was to get a fan for his birthday last January to the joy of him watching a video of a garage door close to to the excitement of arriving at Lowe’s to him playing with the many settings on the water hose while watering the shrubs and everything in between that is my sweet and happy Carter. Happy New Year!

7 years ago…

So do you ever have one of those days where you’re just feeling kind of blah and then something just comes along to make you smile? Well today was one of those days for me. I was checking my email, and I had this email from Shutterfly showing me a memory from 7 years ago of a picture I had uploaded. This is the picture.

I don’t have social media, so I don’t get these random memories pop up all the time. Shutterfly will send emails sometimes of your photos from a year ago or 2 years ago or 5 years ago etc. But lately it’s all been memories from 7 years ago. Like this one too.

And these…

I feel like God is telling me something by me seeing these repeated memories from 7 years ago. Biblically the number 7 means completeness. I finally shared my testimony a few weeks ago at our church, and it’s been 7 years since I gave my life back to God. My testimony is one of Jesus’s love, forgiveness, and restoration in my life. Jesus turned my life around, and I wanted to become the best wife and mother to my husband and my little boy. I think by me seeing these pictures lately, I can look at them, and I have finally forgiven myself for what happened during this time.

I also look at these pictures, and I see my sweet and happy baby Carter. I can’t believe 7 years have already gone by. I never would have imagined the path my life was about to take a few years after these pictures were taken, but I’m so thankful I made Jesus my foundation and my rock 7 years ago to get me through this journey. I don’t think I would have survived without Him. This journey has strengthened my faith, and I have so much love for others. All the progress that Carter has made gives me the faith and the hope to keep believing for more.

Writing a Letter to Crowder

I shared in my last post Giving Your Child the World about Carter wanting to write his 2 favorite music artists a letter. He wrote Ledger a letter Saturday, so tonight he wanted to write Crowder a letter. This Mama is going to try really hard to get these letters to Crowder and Ledger.

He kept this one short and sweet too. 😍 He has loved Crowder for a while now. Crowder is all he wants to listen to in his Daddy’s truck because his Daddy bought him the CD. A Crowder song called “Come As You Are” was one of the first songs he sang when he was 5 years old. This was when we realized he not only loved music but loved to sing and knew the words to most songs as well.

I found this video of him singing that song on his 5th birthday trip to Pigeon Forge. Yes we carried his toy microphone along on this trip with us. 😂

It is amazing to see the work God is doing in our sweet little boy. I love his sweet heart and the joy he brings to people. 😊

Giving Your Child the World

As a mom (and dad), you want to give your child the world. I’ve never let autism define my child or set limits on what Carter can or cannot do. When Carter said last year he wanted to be a doctor, I told him he could be a doctor or whatever he wanted to be when he grows up. When he said he wanted to be a teacher, I told him to go for it. He loves music, and he sings at church. He knows about every Christian artist we listen to on the radio, so he asked me a few weeks ago if he could be a radio announcer. I told him he would be great at that too. He then said “Mama, I think I’m ready for that now. Can you take me to do that now?!” 😂

Well, a week ago he told me he wanted to write his 2 favorite singers a letter…Ledger and Crowder. So tonight he sat down and wrote Ledger a letter. He was giggling and so excited to write her a letter. I left him alone to write the letter. I went and got Jeremy, and we sat on the stairs watching him write. I had tears in my eyes watching him. I love his heart. We both said how blessed we are to have him as our son. I can’t believe his independence now. Here is his letter. He kept it short and sweet…

He spelled every word by himself, and I was so impressed by his handwriting too!

This Mama is going to try to find a way to get this short and simple letter to Ledger. This is part of giving my baby the world, and if he wants to send his favorite music artist a letter, I’m going to make it happen. I say dream big. She may never respond back to him, but I’m not going to tell him he can’t writer her a letter or that she may never get it. Who knows, she may read it and write back to him. 😊

Conversations with Carter

Things have been really busy here lately, but the thing that has been on my heart the past few weeks is how grateful I am to have conversations with my sweet Carter. When he was 2 years old, I just wanted to hear my sweet boy say the word “Mama” and say it all the time. I think he had said it once prior to his diagnosis, but for whatever reason, he never said it again. Once he started saying “Mama” all the time, I wanted to hear him say the words “Mama I love you.” Such simple words, but they mean so much. I would see little children having conversations with their parents, and my heart would ache thinking will I ever get to have conversations with my little boy?

It didn’t happen overnight, but I saw Carter go from saying one word to 2-3 word sentences to complete sentences. Although he had a lot of echolalia at first, I didn’t mind because I was so thankful to hear my baby talk and a lot of it was meaningful to what we were talking about.

Today I’m able to have normal conversations with Carter. Now that he is back in school, I ask him about his day every afternoon. Yesterday I was asking him about what he did in math and if he read an AR book in class and took a test on it and different things about his day. He answered my questions, and then he said “Hey Mama, guess what?!” I’m thinking this must be pretty exciting because he seems excited about something. He then tells me he went to use the restroom at school, and there was water all over the floor. I told him the toilet probably got stopped up and it overflowed, and someone would have to come fix it. He then says “No Mama, Mrs. Pannell said there was a crack in the back of the toilet, and that’s what did it.” I was thinking well his new teacher probably met the inquisitive Carter today (see my blog post Carter’s Inquisitive Mind) and all the “why,” “how,” and “what” questions and her trying to explain the reason there was water all over the bathroom floor. I guess she will get used to my Carter. 😆 Carter then asked me “Did Mrs. Pannell tell you about the water on the bathroom floor?” I had to kind of giggle at this question as I told him “No, she didn’t tell me about that.”

It’s amazing to me the things that fascinate him. This is what makes him so special though. Sometimes life gets so busy, and Carter will keep asking those same questions for the hundredth time it seems. I find myself hurried and not wanting to answer him again and again, but I try to keep answering those questions anyway because I don’t want to ever take for granted the voice God gave my little boy. God answered my prayer on this and gave Carter his words, and I’m able to have conversations with him. And I get to hear those simple words “Mama, I love you.”

Carter’s Inquisitive Mind

We have this picture hung up in our house of Carter when he was 9 months old. I love this picture of him. The photographer captured him being fascinated by a leaf he had picked up off the ground. I walked by this picture the other day, and it made me smile. He wasn’t smiling in this picture like he was in this one …but just taking in something new. This was the first time he had seen a leaf. I was struck by how his mind has always been this inquisitive. He wants to know how everything works and is curious about everything.

Even before he could talk, he was always checking out things. Checking out the doors and how they closed. Checking out what made toys worked instead of really “playing” with them. The “why” and “how” and “what” questions started a few years ago when he really started communicating better. But I love his questions and the way his mind works and thinks about things.

I had surgery a week ago, and Carter was asking me a few days ago what they cut out and what kind of tools they used and why I have wounds on my belly. I answered his questions the best way I could. Then he wanted me to show him the tools they used, so I thought hey you can YouTube anything right? I pulled up the type of surgery I had done on YouTube, and I let him watch it so he could see the tools that were used and everything involved and why I have the incisions on my belly. He was fascinated by this.

My mind doesn’t work like his, but I’m always amazed at how his mind works and the questions he asks. God makes every one of us uniquely special. I am so blessed by the people in our lives who love Carter. He is so loving, caring, and inquisitive. God made him extra special. 😊

5 Years Ago

Five years ago today I sat at Vanderbilt and received what I thought was the worst news of my life. My sweet 2 1/2 year old Carter was diagnosed with autism. I remember thinking the lady giving us the diagnosis seemed so cold and nonchalant about giving us the news, but I had to remind myself she was just doing her job and probably had to do this on a daily basis. I remember being unable to stop the tears from flowing as I sat there listening to everything my child would need from special education services to therapy services and all the stuff I would need to do at home. I cried the whole way home and the whole rest of the day. I was angry and grieving that God would allow this to happen to my baby and to us. I woke up the next day hoping this was a nightmare but was met with the reality that I needed to face this, and we had therapy already scheduled for the week.

After his speech therapy session a couple of days after his diagnosis, Carter was laughing in the car. I took this picture of him that day. God showed me right then that an autism diagnosis didn’t change my little boy. He was still the same happy and joyful baby He had blessed me with. He also spoke to me and said this would be a journey I would have to take for a little while, but He would never leave me.

I call these last 5 years “the blessing of a broken heart.” God has shown me what real love looks like through my child. I know God makes no mistakes, and He didn’t make a mistake with my Carter. Carter has shown me how to have such love, joy, patience, and kindness through Jesus.

I want to encourage you to never give up hope. My child was practically nonverbal 5 years ago today, and now he sings on the praise team at church. He’s not afraid to lift his little hands and dance for our Lord when he’s on stage either! God continues to do stuff right in front of our eyes. I’m amazed as I watch him at what God is doing in his life. God’s not done with him either!

God took my broken heart from 5 years ago and healed it. He showed me what a blessing this journey has been. Some days are still hard, but God will never leave us or forsake us.