I've established the fact that I can't cook. And that when I do cook, I frequently take short cuts. So when I saw the pre-cut Nestle Toll House orange jack o' lantern cookies, I thought, “Score!” Just pop 'em out, lay them on a cookie sheet, stick 'em in the oven, cook for 10 minutes. Done.


Pumpkin Pals! So happy to be eaten!

I had volunteered to provide two dozen cookies to Willow's Fall Festival party, and I thought the little orange sugar cookies would be the perfect complement to an 18-month-old's celebration of Halloween. I imagined myself impressing all the other parents by being that mom who freshly bakes cookies for the school party. (Maybe they wouldn't have noticed the 6-foot-high Nestle display in the Publix refrigerated section.)

My mistake came when I looked at the package and saw the jolly picture on the package of the jack o' lanterns with colored eyes and mouths. According to the package, you can use decorator gels to fill in the cut-outs and then your cookies will emerge from the oven practically laughing with Halloween happiness.

Well, I don't know what decorator gels are. I did, however, have some food coloring left over from Easter. How different could it be? It says it's for coloring food.


I'll eat YOU, little girl!

I got out the food coloring and some of the kids paint brushes and started painting away. I painted some with green eyes and smiles for the boys and some for pink eyes and mouths for the girls. I missed the part on the instructions where it said, “Do not over-fill.”

10 minutes later, my cookies emerged from the oven looking like something from the horror movie Pumpkinhead. The pink-eyed jack o'lanterns appeared to be bleeding from the eyes and mouth, and the black-mouthed (because the dark green came out black) boys' cookies looked like a warning against tooth decay. Some of them looked like they had grown mold.

Billy pointed at one girl cookie and summed it up: “That pumpkin has a hurchy eye.” Indeed.

So “hurchy,” in fact, that when presented with one of these horror cookies at the Fall Festival, an 18-month-old girl started to cry.

From now on, I'm going to be that mom that impresses everyone with how efficiently she orders from the bakery.

Thanks to The SITS Girls for sponsoring our 3-day “Boo!” blog challenge, just one of the fun reasons that I love being a member of this active blogging community.

Reader Comments

Security text:*

Enter both words below, with or without a space.
The letters are not case-sensitive.
Can't read this? Try another

Hey Gurl-fren!

Well, how happy am I to find you on the interwebz? I, too, am the parent of a child with autism and a neurotypical child. I write about them in my other blog "The Adventures of Auti and Tippy". I love that you say there is so much more going on in your world than true!!! Can't wait to read more.

Welcome to my world :)

Sooooo glad to discover your blog, i love your take on life - especially about life on the spectrum - a topic close to my heart since about a year ago.

Spring Chickens are the best. Congrats on your SITS day!

Tears of laughter!

You have got me crying with laughter! You are so funny! Your mom & dad are sitting in the lving room with me howling with laughter too. I just love how you tell on yourself. Love ya Big Sis!

That made me laugh so hard. I love your ingenuity though! That comment "If you baking skills make babies cry, you're doing something right." is hysterical.

Oh em geee...this post had me laughing so hard...not at you, but WITH you!! I recently attempted to make cupcakes for my son's birthday to share with his friends at school. Nothing fancy, just Duncan Hines with icing from a big deal, right?! Apparently it WAS! NONE of them turned out well! I ended up making a detour by Kroger on the way to his party! :)

HA! I love the "hurchy" eyes! I probably would have made the same mistake or heck I would have not colored them at all because I wouldn't realize that I needed the extra stuff until too late. Ooops :)

Got an email about decorator gel...

Turns out, this is a kind of food coloring in gel form that helps prevent "hurchy eyes" on cookies by staying where it's supposed to be and not seeping out in creepy ways all over your baked jack o'lanterns. Now I know!

Total 13 comments

Today the SITS Girls are writing about being haunted by the ghosts of Halloween past. I'll admit it, I approached this Halloween haunted. By low expectations. By the memory of everything we did wrong last year with our overwhelmed and exhausted autistic child. And the year before that. Haunted by the disappointment I felt when my handsome astronaut collapsed in the living room floor, screaming for us to remove his costume, claiming to be "Itchy! Hot! Hurchy!" and any number of other negative adjectives that might or might not be recognized words in the English language.

Instead of trick-or-treating, we did this for 45 minutes on October 31, 2009:


October 2009: Epic Halloween Fail

But my, oh my, what a difference a year can make:


October 2010: Look who's wearing a HAT!

Last year, we didn't even attempt the cute NASA hat, because Billy couldn't bear to have his head touched. This year, he takes great pleasure in "Vogue-ing" in front of the mirror in his costume and hat.

He wore his costume for HOURS at the pre-K school Halloween party on Friday, while I stood back, practically agog at the unexpected success. He painted pumpkins, climbed inside the scary glow-in-the-dark cave for a Halloween story, completed two different fall crafts and even put his fingers (ever so briefly) into the unknown jar of yucky "guts" (pumpkin entrails).

Granted, he spent a good deal of time on the pre-K play porch dancing with a washcloth, but he was having a great time, and it was actually kind of an interesting dance.


Billy invents Washcloth Dancing.


Painting pumpkins


The meditating astronaut


Boo! Gotcha!


My happy astronaut


And he's off!


This Halloween, his new favorite thing is to say "Boo!" and surprise me, as you can see in the photo sequence above.

He has no idea how surprised I am.

Reader Comments


Your kiddos just shine with happiness! Love your blog and your family! Happy SITS day!

Happy Hurchy-ween!

@Lori: You're right -- his happiness on Friday and throughout the weekend was all the treat I needed. Well, that and about 400 mini-Snickers.

@Cheryl & @outoutout: Thanks for the thumbs up on the blog design. I have my creative sister to thank for the header and my hubby to thank for the general implementation and overhaul.

@Ginny Marie: THANK YOU. I take any sign of likeness between me and my kids to be a huge compliment. A lot of people say that Willow looks like Dave all the time. It's nice to think there are some of my genes in their SOMEWHERE.

@Ashley: Agree with you about the smile. It certainly is catching in THIS household :-)

@Lynn: What a very good point. It's easy to remember how well (or not well) things went at a particular holiday in previous years. Not so easy to remember we had a good or bad January 18th. I've got my fingers crossed that Audrey has the best winter carnival experience EVER this year. Hurray for progress indeed!

@Wendy: Having participated in washcloth dancing myself, I can GUARANTEE you that there is no coordination requirement :-)

Billy Embraces Halloween...Yay!

I'm glad Billy had fun on Halloween this year!

Hmmm...washcloth dancing...I should try that. Can someone with almost no coordination do it?



That is awesome! Sometimes the holidays are the best checkpoint to see where your child is one year later. I take Audrey to the same sensory-overloading winter carnival every year to see how she does, and she does better and better every year. Hurray for progress!


He has one of those absolutely contagious smiles. I'm so happy to see he had a great time!

In that second photo...

I don't know who Billy favors when you see him in person, but I can totally see you in Billy's face when he's wearing his hat!

I'm so glad he had so much fun at the party!

First of all, huge thumbs-up to your new rainbow-coloured banner! :)

And yes, what a difference a year (or two, or ten, or twenty) can make in the life of an autistic person! I'm so glad your son has gotten to the point where he can enjoy Halloween. His costume looks great!

That's Great!

How wonderful that Billy can enjoy Halloween now! What a difference! BTW, your new blog design looks great!

Total 9 comments


Are you ready to fall in love with Carter. Cause you will.

His awesome Mama, Tara from 3 Ps in a Pod, is guest-blogging this week, and yep, she's another one of my Spring Chicken Tribe from SITS. We're moms with kids whose needs are outside the box, and Tara's Carter was born prematurely at 29 weeks. He's now a happy, healthy (did I mention GORGEOUS) 10-month-old who has his own ideas about eating.

Tara blogs about her baby wearing, breast pumping, cloth diapering, dream feeding, rollercoaster riding family at Three Ps in a Pod. But this week, she's filling us in on her perspective on Halloween. If you drop in on her 3 Ps, be sure and tell her I said, "Hi!"

And by the way, I'm visiting at Four Plus an Angel today, where Jessica has kindly let me share my thoughts on neurodiversity. I think it's speaks so highly of her character that despite the fact our views on autism treatment/therapy are different, she lets me share my viewpoint with her readers.

Lots to read! Let's get started ...


The Life of Halloween


Photo by Flickr user Miala

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve never been crazy about Halloween. Well, maybe when I was a kid and at the age when trick-or-treating was still cool. But that was many years ago. However, now that I’m a mom, I’ve been thinking more and more about this holiday and it’s slowly reeling me back in. My thoughts have included the “life of Halloween” and the realization of how the activities and feelings associated with this holiday have changed so much over the years.
Halloween as a kid is such a magical time. A time full of parties, candy, and dressing up as our favorite characters! There’s nothing more fun than the thought of “What am I going to be this year?” Walking through the stores, looking at all the costumes and accessories, and knowing that you can be whatever you want to be on this one day! Shelves surround you, full of glitter, wigs, make-up, fake blood, fake teeth, masks, and everything else imaginable. Then, a couple aisles over, there’s all the candy. With that sight comes the excitement of trick-or-treating and the prospect of having mounds and mounds of candy to last for months! Oh, and don’t forget, carving pumpkins!
Then we grow older and trick-or-treating is no longer cool, but there comes a whole new excitement with this holiday. Parties! I’m not quite sure at what age I stopped trick-or-treating, but I’m sure it was a sad time. Come on, even adults like candy! But I remember going to my first Halloween party. It was in a dark garage. We played a game where we were blind folded and stuck our hand in a bowl of gooey something that ended up being slimy spaghetti noodles. Halloween music played and we had fun just talking and socializing. We also enjoyed the wonderful activity we liked to
call “toilet papering.” Now, apparently not everyone experiences this, as my husband never did. We snuck out in the dark of night to fill people’s trees with toilet paper. Oh, the memories.

Then we grow even older and graduate high school, some going off to college. Here comes a brand new meaning to Halloween - parties…of a different kind. You may also get together with friends to go to a haunted trail, haunted house, etc.

After college Halloween may bring yet another set of activities. You may purchase candy to pass out to trick-or-treating kids. Or you may attend yet another kind of Halloween party, a work party. My workplace would usually have a carry-in and do some Halloween activities that included passing out candy. Yes, candy! A little bit of the fun comes back.

Now I’m a mother and, like I said at the beginning, I sit here thinking of all the things I can’t wait to do with Carter. Some of them we will do this year even though he’s still little, like dress him up in a costume. But next year will be like a new beginning to Halloween. The magic that I felt as a child will all come rushing back, in parent form. The aisles and aisles of costumes, glitter, wigs, and masks will, again, be a part of my life. We’ll go trick-or-treating and sit on the floor sorting through the mounds of candy when we get home. We’ll start new family traditions, like going to a pumpkin
patch to pick out our pumpkins, carving the pumpkins together, and eventually we’ll have Halloween parties for Carter and all of his friends.
I feel like Halloween has come full circle, at least for me. Your journey through the life of Halloween may have not been the same as mine. Of course, we all experience different things as children and adults, and have different interests and traditions when it comes to any holiday. But I hope all of you enjoy this time of year and take a minute to think about your journey through the life of Halloween. Has the magic it had in the past come back to you?

Written by Tara from Three P’s in a Pod

Reader Comments

Happy SITS day!

Happy SITS day! What a cute blog you have!

Life with Kaishon

Congratulations on having a SITS day! That is so exciting : ) Your blog is fascinating. Your children are so adorable (in their hats and without) : )

Congrats on your SITS day. I have been really enjoying your blog this afternoon. :)

Congratulations on your SITS day

Amanda, congratulations on your big day! I loved reading your answers to the SITS girls' questions, especially the one about having more children. I can totally relate! I admire people who can so gracefully juggle the responsibilities of big families, but I know that personally, I'm not cut out for that role. My two little girls keep me plenty busy, engaged, entertained, and hovering just above the line between sane and totally squirrel-nut-zippy. I love your writing style and am definitely looking forward to reading more of your posts. It was wonderful to read about what a positive and supportive experience your Tribe has been (love the tribe name too!)

Again, congratulations! Warmest wishes, Jenn

You inspire me!

I have two little girls ages 2 & 3 (Madeline and Natalie) Madeline my 3 year old is in the beginning stages of being diagnosed with Autism. The part you wrote about joy...its so true. Some may not understand that they are not disabled but just differently abled. Congrats on your SITS day my fellow SITSta!


Congrats on your SITS day. It is so awesome to fell all of the love. I hope you get tons and tons of comments.

Happy SITS day!

Happy SITS day! :)

Total 13 comments


Slow-Poke-A-Hontas: So named for the speed with which she moves when we are trying to get anywhere quickly.

I took a vacation today. Nowhere fancy, and the stay wasn't long, but for about two hours, I took a vacation from special needs parenting.

At first, I didn't know where I was. I mean, I realized that I was at my daughter Willow's preschool for her first-ever Halloween celebration, but I missed the sign that said, “Now entering the Normal Parenting Zone. Please stop hovering.”

School volunteering is old hat. But I'm always there as “Billy's shadow.” I'm so used to running interference, making apologies, settling Billy down, explaining why he doesn't want a candy cane or anything yellow or pudding to eat, that it truly didn't hit me until 30 minutes into Willow's party that she is FINE.

And I felt then what I'm feeling a little of now: Disloyal. The disloyalty came after the overwhelming relief but it was there, surprisingly, under the surface.

I felt like I had defected to another country. In this country, parents don't keep their hands on their children at all times. They stand back against the wall with their cameras, smile at their kids' shenanigans and occasionally glance at their watches.

There were occasional tears or tantrums, but looking into the faces of the parents consoling those children with a slight upturn at the corner of their lips, I saw no sign of the panic of the special needs parent. No, these tears were normal. These tantrums age-appropriate. No one was darting scared, paranoid glances around the room, afraid to see judgment in the eyes of other adults.

Standing there among them, taking occasional snaps of my child participating in the singing and dancing, sitting with her class, eating her snacks and fighting briefly over grapes, I allowed myself to take a few deep breaths and let my heart rate decrease.

There it was. The guilt. I felt guilty that I was enjoying this party more than I had ever enjoyed Billy's school parties. Not that I don't enjoy hanging out with my son – far from it. But school parties are rarely fun for him or us. Crowds of new people, an upset in schedule, weird food, a strange set-up to the room – it can spell disaster.

I felt guilty not just for Billy's sake, but on behalf of all my friends in the special needs parenting community who would never have this experience. I don't think for a moment that they're looking at my normally developing child longingly (particularly when I have two screamers at once). But this morning I felt like I needed to call each of them up and describe the sights and sounds of this whole new world, the way you might describe your first view of the Eiffel Tower or the first time you see a McDonald's menu written in French.


Like it or not, I'm a special needs parent who happened to then have a normally developing daughter. Billy made me a parent. He molded my parenting style years before Willow completed our family circle. He taught me to be a better person and showed me that I'm stronger than I believed possible.

Because the demands of parenting my autistic child are so great, Willow rarely gets the undivided attention of either of her parents. She tags along to Billy's school parties, his therapy, most of his play dates, and they do Kindermusik together. And she loves it. There is nothing in the world she adores more than her big brother, her “Bee-dah.” But today, it was just the two of us, hanging out in Normal-town and site-seeing together. Because growing up with her unique brother means that she's just a stranger in this un-strange land too.

We haven't emigrated. At 2:30 this afternoon Willow and I will pick Billy and head to his group therapy. She will squeal with delight at the sight of him. And he will watch the videos from her Fall Festival party, with equal delight, over and over and over again.

For a couple of hours this Halloween, ever so briefly, I dressed up in the guise of Normal Parent. It was fun to wear a costume for a little while. But I know that it's not me.

Reader Comments

Oversharer over here too!

Wow Amanda! I love your writing style. I also love the fact that you embrace the oversharer title as I do! Hello Soul Sister!!

Congrats on a successful Halloween weekend. My heart goes out to you as a mom who shares custody with my former spouse. I am familiar with the feeling of being in one place but feeling a bit of guilt for not being in another.

Keep the stories coming!

I don't think any guilt is necessary - just enjoy the moment for what it is.
Life is filled with unique moments and special blessings - each of them different, but equally important.

this post touched me to the core. I love the way you captured the feelings of all special needs parents. No one is normal...most people's abnormalities are hidden and the Perfect Posse are just good at disguising their kinks.

Adorable! She has fantastic moves! Glad you got to have such a special day with your daughter. I'm sure you both needed it :)

How do you treat a person with a disability?

The above comment reminds me of a PSA from the '80s that said, "How do you treat a person with a disability? Like a person."

How do you treat the parent of a person with a disability? Like a parent, who's presumably doing the best he or she can. If they're obviously struggling, ask if there's some way you can assist. To those who say outsiders are not looking down on these parents, well, many aren't, but enough are to keep us on constant high alert whenever we take our children in public. If you doubt that, search "smockity frocks" AND "autism". She has since apologized, but there are millions more like her. We can never get away from them entirely. Imagine living in fear that someone would call the police and report you for child abuse every time your child ran a fever. Well, the neighbors have called the police on us because our son was having a meltdown, and meltdowns are far more common here than fevers.

How do you treat the parent of a child with a disability? Like a person.

jeanne @ inspiring ideas

What a sweet visit to "Normal Town." Although with kids, I'm not sure "normal" exists anywhere! :-)
I love the brother sister love relationship! What a lifelong bond that will be - invaluable.

This was a beautiful post. I don't have a special needs child, so this was a rare glimpse into something I know nothing about. I hope I say this right and I don't unintentionally offend anyone....

When I hear about parents with special needs children I wonder how I'm supposed to feel. Am I supposed to feel bad for the parent? For the child? Am I supposed to realize how incredibly lucky I am for having a "normal" child? If I feel lucky does that imply that a parent with special needs is not lucky?

I think this post helps clarify that "normal" is really just a relative term. And that we're all lucky, no matter what the circumstances because we have a child(ren) that we love regardless of anything.


...someone made fun of the song to which my daughter is bustin' out her Step Up 2 The Streets dance moves for. She seems oblivious to the fact that "backin' her booty up" in a song about "Jesus in the Morning, Jesus in the Noontime" is probably not appropriate. At one point, she kinda started doing karate, so I'm not sure what's going through her head.

And DJ Lance is totally awesome.

Total 21 comments


Here's a caption challenge for you: Write something to reflect what was happening 1 minute before each pumpkin patch photo was taken. I'll get us started ... "Why's Mama crying?" "I thought pumpkins could bounce ... off cars." "I'm hiding from that kid I pushed."




Reader Comments


Wendy, you have made my day :-)

Photo #1...Billy - Funny Face, Photo #4...Willow - Off to School...

One minute before the first photo was taken, Billy has stacked three pumpkins on top of each other...he's waiting to see how long they take to topple over...

One minute before the fourth photo was taken, Willow has filled her school bag with coupons and fridge magnets to distribute to her friends at day care...


I'm more interested in knowing how you got them to pose so cute like that. What did you bribe them with? lol

Thank you!

I have to admit: They look pretty scrummy in these pics. The great things about digital photography: You can take enough pictures to piece together an idyllic afternoon, eliminating any evidence of pumpkins thrown into traffic ...

Love to Rae-Bug from her cuzzes! By the way, Willow now calls one kid in her class "Bee-dah" and one little girl "Rae-Bog," as though those are the only two categories into which children may fall :-)

'Why can't I sink my teeth into this pumpkin?!?!' We love the Broadfeet! I showed these pics to Rae & she said, 'It's Biiddeee!' 'It's Woe-woe!'

What Cuties!

You have such cute children!

Total 6 comments

Subscribe to this blog!

...or grab my button! button

(Billy and I are in it.)


Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31