Bulldozer is Baptized a Member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

I've been thinking a lot about Bulldozer and his baptism lately.  Since moving to VA this boy has blossomed in so many ways.  Bulldozer absolutely loves church and shows a sincere desire to attend each week.  He's started participating in the cub scout program.  Each week he talks about his friends and loves to spend time with them.  I couldn't be happier.

There have been some hiccups along the way, and currently we're trying to help him through some difficult transitions, but when I look at how far he's come, I'm amazed.  This is the kid that wouldn't participate in primary until he was seven years old and that was only with a parent.  

Bulldozer was petrified of baptism and showed no desire until three months before his 8th birthday when he decided it was okay to put his head under water.

As I've been reflecting on Bulldozer's special baptism day, I realized I didn't ever share it with you.  There were some complications with pictures, and so only tonight did I finish editing them all.  It only took me a year.  Lol.  The pictures aren't perfect, but you see the joy and happiness in Bulldozer's eyes in almost every one.  He truly shined that day.  It was perfect!

Here are memories from when Bulldozer was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

I realized right before Dinomite's baptism that it would be wise to hire a photographer for the special occasion.  Sure I could take photos, but I wanted to be there for my son, and didn't want to miss a single precious moment.

Dinomite being my first, I wasn't really sure what types of pictures I wanted so the few that were taken worked, but I knew for Bulldozer's baptism, I wanted more.  I wanted to capture the day in as many ways as I could.

Note: All photos were taken before and after the baptism and confirmation, NOT during.
We were really hesitant about moving forward with Bulldozer's baptism.  Due to his autism, ADHD, and history in primary, we wanted to make sure he understood what he was doing and that we had other eyes and ears on him to confirm that in fact he was ready.

As part of this process we had the missionaries over on several occasions to teach him the discussions.  Bulldozer loved to have them come over and developed such a great relationship with them.  I feel this helped so much as we grew closer to his special day.
My husband Jason performed the baptism.  Bulldozer was so proud of himself for enjoying the process.  Like I mentioned earlier, it was only three short months before his special day that he decided it was okay to put his head under water.
At Dinomite's baptism, I didn't realize until afterward that not one photo of him and I was taken. Though I'm not a fan of being in pictures, I wanted to be sure I had one this time around.  Looking at Bulldozer's genuine smile, the photo was so worth it!
Dinomite with his younger cousin Cam.
The baptism was conducted by a member of the bishopric. Bulldozer chose the opening hymn/song.  An opening prayer was said and then Dinomite gave a talk on baptism, per Bulldozer's request.  Somehow I missed getting a photo of the two brothers together this time around, but the one above will work as it's my favorite picture of Dinomite from the day.
After the baptism while Jason and Bulldozer were getting dressed, two of Bulldozer's friends played beautiful music.  Bulldozer had specifically asked that they play at his baptism.  He loves these girls and their music!
Once Bulldozer was back from dressing, a talk was given on the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Bulldozer asked the mother of his two favorite girls to speak.  She gave an amazing talk relating the gift of the Holy Ghost to Star Wars and the "Power of the Force."  Everyone knows Bulldozer is obsessed with Star Wars.  He loved it!
My husband confirmed Bulldozer a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Bulldozer specifically asked all of the men in this picture to stand in his confirmation circle.
After Bulldozer was confirmed, the Primary President of our ward was the first to welcome him as an official baptized and confirmed member.  She gave a beautiful talk that included a bag of chocolate which Bulldozer LOVED.
Before the reception, we gathered everyone who was in attendance for a picture.  Due to Bulldozer's anxieties this was an invitation only baptism.  We so loved all those who came for his special day!
All of the kids did very well before, during, and after the baptism. I was one proud Mama!
Bulldozer could not imagine the day without his favorite buddy PJ, his mentor from a one-to-one program in our community.
When asked what Bulldozer wanted served after his baptism, he requested a dessert bar.  Several of the sisters from our ward made all types of delicious chocolatey treats.  Bulldozer was in heaven.
We were so excited that three sets of grandparents, an aunt, and a cousin were all able to be in attendance for Bulldozer's special day.  Some drove over two hours to be there.
All four kids with their Grandma Rose
Whenever grandparents are around we try to capture some fun photos. Knowing the kids were pretty burned out at this point, we told them they could make any face they wanted.  Here's the results!
All four kids with Grandma Toni and Grandpa  Ron
I love all of the expressions on their faces.
All four kids with Grandpa Rob and Grandma Jackie
I can not think of a more perfect baptism day than the one Bulldozer had.  He just radiated with the spirit and soaked up so much attention from all of those that love him.

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Giving Family Experiences-Our New Christmas Tradition

What do you do when you don't have space for anything else in your home and the holiday season is approaching and you're already freaking out about all of the kids' triggers related to the holiday season?

Since our move in June, we are slowly working on making our house a home, painting and furnishing it room by room.  But until that process is finished we have piles of stuff everywhere.

All of the kids clothes AND our clothes are piled high in the master bedroom.  Rows and rows of shoes line the floor in the front entryway.  Stacks of books lean against the wall and floor in several rooms of the house.  Toys are in plastic bins in any place that there is a space.  Paperwork is collected in bags or left on the computer desk.

We do not need or want anymore stuff.  Just the thought of more toys, books, and other miscellaneous items makes me anxious.

So, we're doing something else this year for Christmas.  Instead of giving the children gifts this year, we're giving them family experiences.  It's our new Christmas tradition!
Giving Family Experiences-Our New Christmas Tradition
This post contains affiliate links.

Giving family experiences for Christmas will also help with managing anxieties, PSTD triggers, autism struggles, and behaviors related to Reactive Attachment Disorder.  It's amazing how the process of giving and receiving gifts affects a child's ability to function in different ways.  

If you're not familiar with our story or your family is struggling during the holiday season as well, be sure to check out our book, Holidays and PTSD: A Parent's Guide to Survival.

I am so excited about this alternative with so many fewer triggers for everyone!

Our Plans

Here's how we've worked it out.  Grandparents are giving specific experiences aka family passes to some of our favorite places.  We as parents will be giving the kids a vacation where we will use a majority of the passes.

We will also be spoiling the kids with the luxuries a vacation can bring such as eating at their favorite restaurants, staying in a hotel, participating in special activities we wouldn't normally do.

And just in case you're wondering if the kids are on board, or if we made this decision ourselves, we let the kids decide.  Yep! That's right! They chose vacation over presents.  I'm smiling from ear to ear just thinking about.

Goodbye holiday stress!

Hello fun and relaxation!

Now before you get all worried that my children will not receive any gifts for Christmas, know the agreement is that each person in the family will buy one small gift for everyone else, which will be opened on Christmas morning.

Each person will also receive their stocking filled with fun goodies which seems to be what was most important to each kiddo.

Our Christmas vacation will take place the first week in December when my husband is able to take time off and when it's least busy with kids and college students still in school.  This will hopefully make up for the fact that Daddy has to work every holiday until the end of the year.

How to Come Up with Family Experience Ideas

Though your family may not live where we do, we hope that these family experience gift ideas will provide inspiration for you. Consider the following questions when coming up with family experience ideas.


  • Where would your family go if you could pick a mini vacation destination?
  • Are there special places of interest close to doctors, specialists, and/or therapist offices?
  • What are your children interested in currently in regards to history and science?
  • What places have age appropriate activities where your children will feel comfortable?


When asked where they wanted to go for our Christmas vacation, the kids decided unanimously voted to return to Williamsburg, VA.  It's only three hours from our home.  We have friends in Richmond that we visit along the way.

All of our children's specialists are located in Charlottesville, VA so we go there often.  Natural Bridge is located only minutes from our home.

This year in school we're studying American History because the kids have begged and pleaded to learn more about it.  Anything related to American History is the "cool" thing right now.  We have the musical Hamilton to thank for this.  I'm enjoying every moment of our studies!

All of my kids love science, and show a particular interest in zoology, botany, and astronomy.  There is no better place for them to learn about these particular topics than some of the experiences we've listed below.

With the children ranging between the ages of almost six and almost eleven in age, we work hard to find places where both the oldest and the youngest can enjoy themselves.  All of the experiences below are sure to be a hit for all.

Important Reminders!

When purchasing tickets and passes, it's important to remember the ages of the children.  Sunshine will be six years old in November.  Dinomite is turning eleven in January.

Be aware of varying prices for in state versus out of state residents.  At some places being a resident of the city or county can provide opportunities for huge discounts.

Consider a special experience within an experience.  Most places offer an initial price for entrance but also offer other unique opportunities that must be paid for.  There are so many ways to make an experience extra special!

Family Experience Gift Ideas

We have come up with five different types of family experiences that meet the needs of our own family and are realistic in regards to where we live.  If we still lived in the city, movie theater passes, a gift card to the bowling alley, concert or show tickets, and a few other items may have made our list.  Unfortunately those aren't really practical or possible here.

Here is our family experience wish list this year!  I'm sharing it on the blog for a few reasons.
 I hope you are inspired!

Historical Sites & Museums


1. Annual Passes for Colonial Williamsburg
The kids love Colonial Williamsburg.  We've been there twice before.  During our last trip they all begged to ride in one of the carriages.  They also expressed interest in renting clothes to wear for the day so they could look like colonists from the time period.  Both of the experiences mentioned above are not included in the annual pass.

2. Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown Virginia Residents American Heritage Annual Passes
We visited Jamestown and Yorktown during our last visit to Williamsburg and the kids had such an amazing time.  They have all asked to return to one or the other or both.  All four of the kiddos can't wait to come with a little spending money to use at the gift shops.

3. Monticello Annual Family Pass
This historical site has so much to offer and explore during every season.  The gardens are of particular interest to Sunshine who is the botanist of the family.  The older three children love learning more about Thomas Jefferson.  He's one of the main characters in the musical Hamilton.

4.  George Washington's Mount Vernon Family Membership
George Washington has been an adored hero in our home for quite some time.  This can be attributed to the kids' love for the musical Hamilton as well, but also their following of the last Presidential Election.  It is amazing how visiting the actual places where our Founding Fathers lived brings history alive and help the kids make connections they wouldn't otherwise make.

5. Nauticus Family Plus Membership
The boys are so excited to visit Nauticus.  They are quite obsessed with war and battles right now and have been asking to visit a place like this for a long time.  I love that it offers excitement and adventure for both the girls and boys.

6. Science Museum of Virginia Supernova Membership
All four kiddos love science, particularly astronomy.  This science museum is the perfect place for them to explore, learn and have fun!  It's also in Richmond which is on the way to Williamsburg.

Amusement Parks

All of the kiddos are excited about returning to an amusement park as it's one of their favorite places to go.  This park in particular holds a special place in their hearts because it's Peanuts Character themed and age appropriate for everyone. 

For those who don't know both boys have read through all of the Peanuts comics.  All four kiddos love the Peanuts movies, and Sunshine specifically loves all things Peanuts related to holidays.

Hotel Packages

We took the kids to Great Wolf Lodge during our last stay in Williamsburg. They didn't want to leave.  Whether the gift card is used towards a night's stay in one of their Kid Cabins, or used for the arcade, bowling alley, or breakfast buffet, you can be sure the kids will love every minute of their time there.

Zoos & Safaris

All of the kids miss visiting the zoo on a regular basis, since we moved from NY.  This zoo has so much to offer. Dinomite is begging to know when we can go.  There are so many fabulous animals to see here and they can feed them (extra cost), which is an added bonus.

The kids have visited the Virginia Safari Park twice and each time they beg to go back.  They love all of the animals there and jump at the chance to feed them (extra cost).  There's nothing quite like the up close and personal experience you get with animals here.  It may mean going through the car wash afterwards, but it's so worth it!

Restaurant Gift Cards

Buffets are the ultimate happy dining experience for us. The kids LOVE them.  When asked which buffet is their favorite, the answer is always the same:  Golden Corral.  It just so happens that a Golden Corral restaurant is literally two doors down from our favorite hotel in Williamsburg.  We eat there every time we visit.  I love that it has something for everyone.

There are very few restaurants in the world where everyone in our family can eat with food allergies considered.  KFC is the kids' favorite fast food place.  Whenever we go on vacation, KFC is almost always involved.

Chili's is a favorite restaurant from NY that the kids miss dearly.  During our last vacation in Williamsburg, we discovered that they have one there.  The kids were delighted and can't wait to go next time we're in town.

We are all so excited about our Christmas plans this year.  It's our hope that the kids will enjoy the experiences so much that this can be a tradition that continues over the years providing great opportunities to travel all over the United States and beyond!

I'd love to hear about family gift experience ideas that you have!

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy the posts below.
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Our New Christmas Tradition-Giving Family Experiences

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What Is Going On?

I feel I owe you an explanation.

For the last six months I have barely written a post a month.  There may have been one printable pack created and shared during this time.

A couple of times I thought I was back and even announced it in a newsletter, but then I disappear again.  If you subscribed to my newsletter at any time during the last six months, you may have received one or two newsletters from me.

My social media presence is sporadic at best.

So, you may be wondering...

What is going on?

What is going on?

Big changes!!!

On April 1, 2017, we had no reason to believe or lives would be changing in any way.  Yes, we felt stuck.  Things weren't the greatest.  But, we were keeping our heads above water.

On April 30, 2017, our home was put on the market.  Did I mention that before this occurred we did an entire kitchen renovation in less than two weeks?

We felt inspired to move.  The move wasn't to a new street or new town.  It was to a new state.  Our family was moving from NY to VA.

In June, 2017 an offer was put on our house in NY.

To pay for the move (and because our new home was about half of the size of our old one) we sold almost everything we had.

We moved on June 23, 2017.

During the month of September the exterior of our home was being painted.

A new job!

My husband started work on June 26, 2017.

This was a HUGE time of transition for our family.  Not only did we move from NY to VA, but we moved from the city to the country.  Our new home was half the size and had nothing in it except for mattresses with bedding on the floor.  My husband went from working with me full time at home to working full time out of the home.

I love change.  I love a challenge.  But I must say all of these transitions paired with having to help my children work through these transitions was just a tad rough.  I may have cried on a daily basis for a few weeks.

Jason's training for work lasted two months.  He worked five days a week 9 AM-5 PM while I spent my time caring for all four kiddos on my own, in a home with no furniture, no vehicle (we only needed one in NY), out in the middle of nowhere.  Did I mention the kids were trying to adjust to all of the changes too?  Just imagine all sorts of "fun" behaviors.

I finally figured out new routines and schedules, when on September 1, 2017 my husband was switched to the night shift working 6:30 PM to 5:00 AM, Monday through Thursday.

Yeah... I was not happy.

For those who don't know my husband is an emergency services counselor.  He is called in emergency mental health situations when a person is considered a threat to themselves or others and is involuntarily brought to the hospital for a mental health evaluation.  At times he also goes to evaluate someone at the local jail.  If a person needs to be hospitalized or receive other help, Jason arranges this.

In all fairness there are some perks to the night shift. If there is no emergency, my husband remains home.  It's only if he receives a call that he goes out.  However, on average, about twice a week he's gone all night long and needs to sleep as much as he can during the day.

The adjustment to Jason's new schedule has been slow for all of us.

On September 11, 2017 our house closed in NY FINALLY!  Paying for two homes for any length of time is stressful and not fun.

The beginning of September our first large piece of furniture arrived.  We now have a dining room table with benches!!!  (I'd been working on smaller pieces up to that point.)

The start of a new school year!

The beginning of September we started our new school year at home.  Before this we worked feverishly to create a new classroom with workspace for everyone.

Homeschooling regulations are very different in VA than they are in NY.  This is something we're still getting used to.

All four kids are working in the same space now with the same shelves.

Though our start has been slow and I have yet to share any of it, I promise it's coming.

We've been running into technical difficulties that have frustrated the process immensely.

Due to technical difficulties...

In NY we had the fastest internet available.  Here in the mountains of VA, we don't.  Sometimes the internet works.  Sometimes it doesn't.  When it does work, what used to take me five minutes, takes me thirty minutes.  This has been extremely frustrating and has caused me to evaluate what I do and really streamline my process A LOT.  

Somehow between NY and VA we lost the paper holder to my printer and therefore could not print anything.  Finally after a month of unpacking I surrendered and bought a new one.

This month the printer is leaving huge streaks of ink through every paper I print.  We've put one call in to have it repaired, but know another is coming.  Without a printer, I can't print materials for learning time or share our journey with you.

Oh did I mention my laptop battery also died and so I was waiting for a week for that to arrive?

So what now?

I am not one who functions well when my house is not in order.  Seeing as we only have beds and a dining room table, besides the learning space we've created, I'm not at my best.  Jason and I are working as quickly as we can to paint and furnish each room in our new home, but it definitely takes time, especially when you're trying to keep four special needs children on routines and schedules.

We are also trying to ensure that the kids stay on schedule when it comes to learning and homeschooling.  Their education is a top priority.  As we've had to adjust to Jason working outside of the home there is so much less time to create materials and blog about them.  Add in sleepless nights and behaviors...  We're doing our very best, but I just can't seem to keep up like I used to.

I literally have at least twenty posts to write that include new printables, activities, Montessori home inspiration ideas for families with special needs, and all the fun things we've been up to.  It's just finding the time to write the posts, when the internet is working that's been the challenge.  I'm constantly choosing between painting and blogging.

Our family only has one transition left to go through in regards to schedule changes.  Jason takes on weekend shifts starting in October twice a month where he will work Friday evenings through Saturday evenings on top of his regular weekday shifts.  

In the meantime I will be trying my very best to write when I can.  Please don't give up on us. We have so much to share and give.  This is a temporary situation that will resolve itself with time (and furniture).  

Over the past three months I have thought so much about the direction of this blog and where I want to take things.  I have so many amazing things planned that I think you will absolutely love.

Thank you so much for your love, patience and support!  I miss you so very much.  As we've gone through so many transitions lately, I can't believe how much I miss connecting with you.  It is such an honor to be a part of your life!  We can't wait to be part of it again soon!

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