Puzzle Maniacs

A few of months ago, during Christmas time, someone in the family had this great gift idea: puzzles. Little did we know this simple detail was gonna turn my husband and I and then my sister and her family into puzzle maniacs.

Since, every family member is in danger of being the recipient of a puzzle or two for their birthday or any occasion. My brother doesn’t want one. Bahahahaha!

When a puzzle is completed our fingers get weirdly tingly. “We need another puzzle” is a phrase that pops out of our mouths almost involuntary. 🙊

Years of parenting autism has taught us not every activity we want to plunge into is necessarily autism friendly, but we have also learned we need to consider all family members’ interests and just help our special needs child cope with it, somehow.

Now a teenager, our son has a lot more patience and tolerance with us. We also try to include him even when he doesn’t show interest.

During our initial stages of puzzle mania syndrome, I tried several times to attract my son to the puzzle activity. It didn’t interest him one bit. Only one kind of puzzle ever got his attention a little, Star Wars. He is a big fan.

So I began to find pieces with obvious patterns and leave them on the outside of the edge close to the area where they belonged. I would then ask my son to help me with those pieces because I didn’t know where they went. He would put those pieces in and then leave.

Ok, that was something, but I didn’t want to be pushy so I gave him space.

My husband and I tease each other a lot. So we played this possessive game with our puzzles. “That’s my puzzle.” “Help me with my puzzle.” “I’m not helping you with your puzzle. You’re on your own pal.” “Don’t put pieces on my puzzle without me knowing.” We’ve had a lot of fun with that.

The last puzzle was my husband’s birthday gift from my sister and family (I told you, we’ve all turned into enablers). It sat unopened for some time because we were recovering from puzzle fatigue. One day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I opened his puzzle and began to assemble it. I know, I’m horrible.

He jumped right in at one point and between the two of us we got it mostly done.

The other morning, I sat on the couch with my cup of tea, and looked at the coffee table where we have assembled at least six different puzzles since the holidays. The puzzle was completed!

I messaged my husband, “I see you finished your puzzle.”

He replied, “are you teasing me? There were two pieces that I couldn’t fit last night. They would not fit in either one of the two open spots.”

Then he accused me, “you are messing with me. You finished it!”

I could not believe what puzzle mania had done to him! The nerve of him! Then it dawned on me.

So I again messaged him, “I believe I know who fit those last two pieces you failed to put in.” Yes I had to jab at him. It’s fun. Although we both kept doubting each other. Is he pulling my leg? I thought to myself.

Well, we asked our son and he confirmed he done it! And we were both so pleasantly surprised that our son decided to put those pieces in.

Puzzle mania has given us yet another fun memory and another sign of our son’s progress in his thought process. It is interesting, puzzle pieces have long been used as a symbol of autism. And this is exactly how his mind works. He is constantly putting pieces together in his quiet thought process. Sometimes we forget that’s how he works. And then he surprises us when he makes unexpected comments, writes some random thought on his white board, or completes an uncompleted puzzle on the coffee table.

And life continues to be sweet. ❤

When Joy is Not Dependent on Happy

We all go through low valleys and high mountains in different stages of our lives. Traveling the high mountains, where the sun is bright and the air is crisp and clean, usually means we are in the happy times, highlighted by successes and accomplishments. Traveling the low valleys, dark and damp, usually means we are experiencing tragic things, like the loss of a loved one or a rough financial season, etc. For most people the high mountains are happy times and the low valleys are unhappy times. But is it possible to have a joy in our hearts which cannot be dissipated even in the low, dark valleys? I say yes, we just need to know why.

In my life trajectory, I experienced a handful of dark valleys with potential of throwing me off a cliff into an abyss of depression with possibly no return. One specific dark valley I traversed was both unexpected and painful beyond anything I ever experienced. I hung onto the edge of the cliff for dear life, but I did get tired and I did get tempted to let go and be done with it all. However, I had a Hope inside of me. And this Hope made me hold onto Faith. And this Faith gave me Joy in the midst of pitch blackness. I was not happy about the situation and will never derive any happiness from looking back and thinking about the events that unfolded. But I had, and still have, within me the unspeakable joy of 1 Peter 1:8,

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,”

There is absolutely nothing on this earth or in heaven that can fill your heart even on the darkest of days like God Himself can. I think it helps He is our Maker. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that He made everything beautiful in its time and that He put eternity in man’s heart. We have come from Him and will go to Him when we are done with our travels on this amazing place we call earth.

So, considering the bigger picture, my dark valleys are no comparison to the eternity that I hold inside. I will not let the dark valleys that surround me dim the light of this planted eternity within me.

Hold on to the Hope which is holding to the Faith which is in turn being pulled up by this Joy unspeakable, because you still have eternity within you to display to the world around you. In heaven no tear ever goes unnoticed.

“He will wipe away every tear…” Revelation 21:4



As the mother of three beautiful children I can honestly and freely say I love each one of them, their uniqueness and personalities, the same. They’re each cuddled up in their own special corner in my heart.

My youngest, diagnosed with autism at age 3, is no different to me than the other two, my love and care for him is the same. However, he has required much more hands on parenting. When my older were preschool-age, I could teach them to say “Good morning Mrs. Peterson!” One, two, three and they got it. They would say it automatically. Most of the things I wanted them to learn, I taught them casually and it stuck, for the most part.  Parenting autism requires more attention, more repetition, constant prompting and it is exhausting.

That said, I hope you will understand my overly crazy excitement about what I’m sharing next. My husband and I have spent years, prompting and leading our son to say good morning, to wait his turn, to bring his plate over to the sink when done eating, to not scream in church or any other public place, to put on his clothes and stop running down the hallway naked (after a certain age this ceases to be cute), to not open the door on his sister and brother when they’re in the bathroom or in their bedrooms. His siblings will tell you we still have work to do with the last one.

The skill of verbal communication has required very intense and intentional participation on our part as well. It still does. All this time I’ve been saying to my son, I love you. When he doesn’t respond I prompt him to say, I love you too mommy. And I’ve had to be happy with that prompted, non-original version of his expression of love for me. Until this morning.

We were waiting for his school bus and did our usual routine of talk and interaction. Suddenly he stopped himself and purposely, making eye contact with me, said, I love you. Can you even guess what happened to me at that moment in time? I never in a million years thought he would ever say that to me without being prompted to say it. I’ve never doubted he loves me but we all know when those words are said to us it’s like getting them tattooed in our hearts. So there! My son gave me a heart tattoo today and I’m so elated I could not keep it to myself.

Thank you for reading and sharing in on my joy!

3/7/14 journal entry, my son was 6 years old.

Why do it? Why not?

Hello my name is Carmen and I’m embarking on a writing adventure. I don’t know what’s ahead, but that’s ok. I packed some of my experiences to tell, a lot of enthusiasm and some fun.

Here’s the thing: I’m a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a writer, an artist, a bookkeeper, and probably many more things to other people who may or may not like me much. I can’t control that.

For some reason I have developed this itch to write. I am here to explore and have fun with something I have not done before, at least not publicly. I have always enjoyed writing about anything and everything, since the age of 12. This time, still enjoying, I’m hoping to engage all those interested in what I have to say, oh I don’t know, about life and its craziness. I’m aiming to:

  • amuse, entertain, move to laughter or to tears; and
  • connect with anyone and everyone who identifies with any of the stories I will share.

Why? Because we all need, occasionally or regularly, to know we are not alone. I have read so many blogs and several books that have encouraged me to go forward in life. I have encountered through my reading and searching so many who like me have the same struggles and have given me so many ideas how to resolve my own bumps on the road of this journey we call life. Today, I feel like maybe I can give back a little too.

I have a particularly soft spot for families who have autism in their lives. My youngest of three is in the spectrum and I identify with the struggles and the hard-earned triumphs of the autism world. I have kept a journal of many of those struggles and triumphs and I have learned my way navigating these choppy waters. I believe I have something to contribute to many exhausted parents out there. I hope to convey the following things:

  • You are not alone;
  • It gets better; and
  • many more things to encourage you, make you laugh and make you cry-its ok, crying is also good for the soul.

I thank you in advance for stopping by, reading, and if you’d like, sharing. I am excited about this journey; and even though I’m also a bit scared of the unknown, I’m not letting it stop me. My best wishes to you and yours!