High Cotton by Debby Mayne - Reviewed

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

 About the book:

Title: High Cotton
Author: Debby Mayne
Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction
Publisher: Gilead Publishing

Some families are filled with so much love they can’t help but drive each other crazy.

Shay Henke has mixed feelings about going to her family’s next reunion. On the one hand, she’ll get to see everyone in her mama's family—folks she loves unconditionally. On the other hand, she knows there’ll be more drama than you can shake a stick at.
The days leading up to the event bring one surprise after another. First Shay must deal with her sister-in-law’s deep, dark secret. Then she has to contend with the childish ways of her business-mogul twin cousins. And when her high school crush wants to be her date to the reunion . . . well, it may have been a dream come true for Shay’s teen self, but the woman she’s become doesn’t know what to make of this.
Shay’s contentment is challenged, and she’s determined to shake things up a bit. But will she find the excitement she’s looking for, or will Shay realize she prefers her quiet and predictable life? One thing is certain: Life in the Bucklin family is never boring.

About Debby Mayne:
Debby Mayne has published more than 30 books and novellas, 400 print short stories and articles, more than 1,000 web articles, and a slew of devotions for women. She has also worked as managing editor of a national health magazine, product information writer for HSN, a creative writing instructor for Long Ridge Writers Group, and a copy editor and proofreader for several book publishers. For the past eight years, she has judged the Writers Digest Annual Competition, Short-Short Contest, and Self-Published Book Competition. Three of Debby’s books have been top ten favorites by the Heartsong Presents book club. Love Finds You in Treasure Island, Florida received 4-1/2 stars from Romantic Times Magazine, and was named a Top Pick for the month of July 2009.

My Thoughts:

It's been five long years since I've read a novel by Debby Mayne, and it was long overdue. 

When it comes to Southern Women's fiction you can expect sweet tea, sass, neighbors down the street ready to feed you at a given moment, sweet motherly figures, loads of Southern charm and drama.

Ms. Mayne's new book, High Cotton, has that and lots more. The book is told in alternating POV's of Shay, Puddin', Missy, and Sally. Within the alternating chapters we get to know these women, their back stories, and how they all fit together as a family. 

With their individual craziness of life, each of these women are real and relatable. Making it easy for readers to become invested in their lives. 

We watch as they prepare for the big event of another, notorious Bucklin family reunion, which none of them are desiring to attend, yet know that they are expected to go, and will hear about it if they don't attend.  

My Bottom Line:

High Cotton is a Southern Women's fiction drama like no other. Family has a way of driving you insane even when you love each other, and Ms. Mayne shows that up close and personal. Each of these women, and their stories tugged at my heart and kept me glued to the page. Through their individual stories, filled with conflict and tons of personality we watch these women grow and change.
I really enjoyed this novel and am looking forward to installment #2.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite Romantic Couples . . .

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Happy day after Tax Day, and aren't you glad we're done with taxes for another year?

I promise you have gone back in time. It's not a Valentine Day Top Ten Tuesday Repeat. Today's topic is a freebie, so, I looked at some of the topics from Broke and the Bookish and saw this one titled favorite romantic couple's who's romance would survive in the real world. I actually thought this would be easy, but it was harder than I thought.

Ty and Celia from Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade - When your romance starts out with "I'm in love with someone else.", you can survive anything the real world has to throw at you.

Jimmy and Collete from The Wedding Chapel

Bo and Meg from Undeniable Yours 

Karim and Hannah from The Esther Paradigm

Jonas and Tenley from The Writing Desk

Horst and Anna from The Melody of the Soul - When you fight off Nazi soldiers, nothing in the modern world will scare you!

Mac and Savannah from Not a Word - Real life is a piece of cake compared to small towns with nosy neighbors.

Ian and Sierra from Troubled Waters - A broken chopper, and a rogue wave that strands you makes modern day life look easy!

James and Isabella from Across the Blue

Wyatt and Dorothy from The Sea Before Us - Day to day life today may stink, but I think D-Day had to be worse!

Alex and Rachel from The Saturday Night Supper Club

I believe these couples, even with their difficulties could survive in our modern world. Their author's have created them so believable, and brought them through so much between the pages of their stories that day to day life shouldn't be as hard.

What favorite romantic couples of yours do you think could survive in modern day? Let me know in the comments.

Positive Ways to Write a Negative Review 101

Friday, April 13, 2018

I do not claim to be an expert of writing reviews, especially negative ones with a positive slant.
However, I have been reviewing for eleven years and in those eleven years I have seen doozies of very harsh reviews. What bothers me the most about harsh review is that the author becomes the object of the attack instead of the words on the page.

If the reviewer finished the book, what kept them reading? There had to be something positive, yet most reviews just go on and on about what was wrong.

Think about the book you are currently or just finished reading, are you or did you enjoy it, if so why? If not, why not? If you aren't enjoying it would you be able to write a review with some positives that gives the potential reader the ability to choose whether they would like to read it?

This might seem a little weird but what was your expectation about the book.
Let's say you've had a really, really bad week. Sick kids, broken down car, husband just lost his job...so you look at your shelf and see a book by one of your favorite authors, and think "hmm...this is just what I need." A Calgon take me away moment. You start the book and it grabs your attention, you continue reading because parts of it pull you in, you get about halfway through aren't totally enthused but you're committed and it's keeping your mind off of your reality so, you finish it. You close the book and think what did I just read, and why, because it just didn't give you the warm fuzzies you were expecting. Is that the book's fault or did you, the reader expect more from the book than it was intended to give?

We all read for different reasons. I read because I love it, and it gives me a place to go when I have to stay home. I also read because promoting inspirational authors is a divine calling, and I truly enjoy every minute of it. Yet, it doesn't matter how much I enjoy reading I'm going to come across a book or two that just doesn't cut the mustard for me, which bears the question how do I write a fair review without trashing the author. My answer, very, very carefully.

First things first, if you've had a rough week, similar to one I described above, let the book sit for a few days. You don't want the "troubles" of the week to influence your review. It's not fair to the book or the author.
In a paperback copy of a book I have a post it note with lines and make notes, on a kindle copy I highlight and leave notes throughout the book. Write down notes that are on your mind immediately after finishing that you can come back to after a few days.

Second, no matter how hard it may seem pull out one positive thing from the book. Maybe you liked the setting the author placed the book in, the way the MC interacted with everyone even if you didn't like certain things, it could even be that the book was real. Whatever you decide is the best positive start the review off with that.

Third, as you give the meat of your review, which should be about what you didn't care for, be kind. Think about what would be encouraging to read if you were the author.

For example, saying the book was believable, and I was surprised by the suspense thread, but I found the faith thread to be a little preachy, or nonexistent is kinder than saying . . . this book isn't even moral, or I felt like I was being smacked over the head with a Bible while reading.

In ending your review attempt to find something else positive about the book. You always want to end a negative review with something positive.

For me, if the genre is out of my normal comfort zone and I didn't care for it, I'll say "This is not a normal genre read for me, if it is something you read, give it a shot don't take my review alone."

As a reviewer it is our job to write a truthful review as kindly as we can. I don't ever want to hurt an author with my words. I want to encourage their writing and hope that my review provides some constructive criticism.

Two of my reviewer buddies have agreed to allow me to post reviews they wrote about a book they didn't care for or one that took some time getting into.

Carrie from Reading is My SuperPower wrote a review about a book neither of us cared for, If He Only Knew.

Molly from Cafinated Reads wrote a review about The Man He Never Was. It is my favorite book of James Rubart, but Molly states very kindly how difficult it was to get into.

Here is my review of Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not? by Travis Thrasher. This was the first book I reviewed that I didn't care for.

Writing honest reviews isn't easy, whether it is a book you loved or one you didn't care for. It takes thought and care. I've been told that author's have pretty tough skin, and while that might be true, I don't want to be responsible for putting a dent in that skin by my words.

I am honestly not writing a post saying "you must do this!" when it comes to writing a review. That is not my intention.
I recently read a review on Goodreads that I felt was rather harsh. So, I thought to myself why not use my blogging skill to give some hints on how to write a review for a book that a reader may not really like, yet to fulfill a blog tour requirement they need to write a review of said book. I know for me it took me a few days to write the review of Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?, mainly because I hadn't written a negative review until then.

Happy Friday!!

Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite Books I Wish I Could Read Again For the 1ST Time

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

I'm going rogue again for this week's Top Ten Tuesday. The topic is Books I loved but will never re-read. Once again I don't have a book or books that fit that topic so, I decided to do favorite books that I wish I could read again for the first time. 

I chose the books that I did because they not only introduced me to wonderful characters, took me amazing places, but the authors have become dear friends and without reading these wonderful books, I wouldn't have known either. 

There you have it! 20 books I'd love to have the opportunity to read again for the very first time. What books would you like to read again for the first time? Let me know in the comments.

First Line Friday - Spring Edition

Friday, April 6, 2018

It's Friday, one of the best days of the week! For me, Saturday is the best day of the weekend because my husband is home all day and night.

Trying to find a book with a spring or flowers in the title, or cover, wasn't easy. Thanks for the help, Meez Carrie!

About the book:

After the loss of her husband and the birth of her baby, Charlotte has had a long, hard year. But when a notorious robber believes she knows the location of a long-lost treasure, she flees to Cheyenne and opens a dressmaker's shop to lie low and make a living. When wealthy cattle baron and political hopeful Barrett Landry enters the shop to visit her best customer, Charlotte feels drawn to him.
If Barrett is to be a senator of the soon-to-be state of Wyoming, he must make a sensible match, and Miriam has all the right connections. Yet he can't shake the feeling that Charlotte holds the key to his heart and his future.

Soon the past comes to call, and Barrett's plans crumble around him. Will Charlotte and Barrett find the courage to look love in the face? Or will their fears blot out any chance for happiness?

First Line:
Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory, October 1886
It was only the wind. Charlotte Harding wrapped her arms around her waist, trying to convince herself there was no reason to tremble like a cottonwood leaf in a storm.
You can read my review here.

Are you looking for springtime where you are? So far it seems as though spring has made it's way to Idaho. It's still snowing in the mountains, but down here in the valley we're just getting rain off and on.

Leave me your first line in the comments and then go to Hoarding Books to read their springtime first line and see all of the other bloggers participating in FLF.

Have a wonderful weekend!

March Wrap UP

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

I'm a few days late on my month wrap up. With Easter being on April 1st and all the festivities I was finally able find time to sit down and get this post written.

Surprising myself, I read and reviewed seven books this month. Probably the most I've read in a month.

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

A Passionate Hope: Hannah's Story by Jill Eileen Smith

The Man He Never Was by James L. Rubart

Not a Word by Chautona Havig

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel

The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

The favorite post on my blog this month was First Line Friday featuring Magnolia Storms by Janet Ferguson. 

We saw I Can Only Imagine and the movie is both moving and powerful. I didn't care for the actors that played Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. I wish they would've been able to have the actual people in the movie.

I seriously can't choose a favored book from this month's reads. I loved every single one of them.

Coming up for review this month

High Cotton by Debby Mayne

Storm Front by Susan May Warren

The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y'Barbo

The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse

Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren

We're in spring now. Hoping for continued warm weather here and wherever you are! I trust you had a favorable March, and that you have some fun stuff to look forward to in April.
For me, I have a granddaughter turning 10, which I absolutely refuse to accept, and my baby brother is turning 50, both this month.

April is Autism Awareness Month: A Mother of sons with autism offers encouragement and reassurance

What is autism?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Even though there are so many families facing similar circumstances, many still fill isolated and alone. For those whose families aren’t directly impacted, there are many misconceptions and questions surrounding autism.

As the mother of twin sons with autism, Karla Akins, author of A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith, and Determined Parenting (Kregel Publications), hopes to help create a greater awareness and understanding of what autism is and offer encouragement and reassurance for families living with the effects of autism firsthand.

Below is an excerpt from the chapter “What is Autism?” from A Pair of Miracles by Karla Akins ©2017 by Kregel Publications.

When the doctors first diagnosed my twin boys with autism in 1998, the only thing I knew about it was the character Dustin Hoffman played in the movie Rain Man. It sounds incredible, but I honestly wasn’t aware that there was a diagnosis for people with developmental disabilities who acted as my boys did. Society was just beginning to be more aware of a growing group of behavioral characteristics called autism. Looking back on people I knew growing up, I can now understand that they may have had autism, when I thought they were intellectually disabled. I didn’t understand that, just because someone couldn’t express themselves, it didn’t mean they weren’t intelligent.

About the Author

Karla Akins is the mother of five, including twin sons with autism. She has a bachelor’s in special education from Western Governors University and a doctorate in Christian education from Kingsway Theological Seminary. She has nearly four decades of teaching experience in homeschooling, private school and public education.

Akins has also served in ministry for more than 30 years and is co-minister at Christian Fellowship Church in North Manchester, Indiana, with her husband, Eddie. She is also a popular speaker at conferences and retreats.  

In addition to A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith, and Determined Parenting, Akins is the author of four other books. Her first novel, The Pastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots, featured a homeschool mom and a child with autism.

Akins enjoys riding her motorcycle, sipping chai lattes and snuggling with her three dogs and two cats.

Akins loves hearing from her readers. Her online home is www.KarlaAkins.com, and she is also on Facebook (KarlaKAkins) and Twitter (@KarlaAkins).  

Enjoy this very informative interview with Karla Akins about her book, and her children.

An interview with Karla Akins,
Author of A Pair of Miracles

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one in 68 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although a growing number of parents face similar circumstances, many still feel isolated and alone. In A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith, and Determined Parenting (Kregel Publications), author Karla Akins, the mother of twin sons with autism, offers encouragement and reassurance.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your family. How many children do you have, and how did your family come together?

I have one step-daughter, two biological sons and two adopted sons. We had struggled with infertility and came to foster parenting because of our desire to have another child.

Prior to adopting the twins, we had two foster children who were adopted by other families. It was after a foster baby we had from birth to almost 11 months old and was given to an adoptive family (the agency we were with would not allow foster parents who already had children to adopt) that God gave us the opportunity to be foster parents to the twins.

Our social worker (who knew we wanted to adopt) called, and we had about 30 minutes to decide whether or not to say yes. I knew I’d never be able to let them go, so I sensed this decision was an adoptive decision, not just a foster-parenting decision.

The twins were preemies, and Isaiah came home from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit first. A month later Isaac came home, and the adventure began!

Q: A few months after you brought your adopted your twin sons home from the hospital, you learned they were born with Fetal Alcohol Disorder. How did they behave differently from other children, and what clued you into the fact something else might be wrong?

The twins screamed constantly and were very, very difficult to calm. They had an amazing stamina when it came to screaming and could scream for hours. They would start screaming even before they opened their eyes to wake up.

Doctors chalked this all up to the twins being premature. Because they were premature and born to a “low-functioning” mother, they didn’t really give us any other explanation. It was a given in their mind that due to their prematurity they would have unusual behaviors. At three months they were diagnosed with microcephaly (their skulls too small for their brains), and it was assumed, because of their facial features and small head circumference, it was due to fetal alcohol disorder. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) is difficult to diagnose (at least it was back then) because you need to have the mother’s admission that she drank while pregnant. We didn’t have that admission, but the twins are textbook cases of the syndrome.

When they were diagnosed with microcephaly, I was determined they wouldn’t keep that diagnosis. I laid my hands on their heads every single time I touched them and prayed their heads would grow. God answered that prayer. They have regular-sized head circumference! Truly a miracle. If they didn’t, their cognitive functioning would be much worse. 

Q: How old were the boys when they were diagnosed with autism? How much did you know about autism before their diagnosis?

The twins were four years old when they were diagnosed, but I knew something was wrong years before the official diagnosis. Not only were they a textbook case of FASD, but they are of autism as well. It’s important to remember that autism can have co-morbid diagnoses. In other words, having autism doesn’t mean you can’t have other diagnoses as well. Did the FASD cause the autism? We have no way of knowing.

When the boys received their autism diagnosis, the only thing I knew about autism was from the movie Rain Man, which means I knew nothing! Plus, autism is different in every individual.

In 1997-98, the only thing I had was a rickety old IBM computer someone had given me. It barely worked and was one of those with the green screen, but I used it to hook up to AOL. (I can still hear that dial-up sound in my ears!) Once online, I connected with an amazing crew of mamas and grandmas who also had children with autism. It was those women who led me to resources. I have to tell you, we were on the cutting edge of research in those days, but as far as early intervention was concerned, it was very difficult to get anyone to listen to us regarding what our children needed to have to succeed. It was very, very hard to get people’s attention. If it weren’t for those women, I don’t know how I’d have survived those early years. They were a lifeline.

Q: Who will benefit from reading your new book, A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith, and Determined Parenting?

I hope families and caregivers will be encouraged by reading about our journey and might gain a few ideas on how to work with their child. I also hope they will feel like they’re not alone in the struggle. I know I like to read books that validate what I’m feeling. It’s always good to know you’re not the only one in the trenches, fighting the good fight of day-to-day survival with autism.

I’ve included a generous section on how to work with your child. These include ideas that worked for us but also some evidence-based interventions proven to work for a lot of children with autism. Since I’m also a special-education teacher, I hope the book will help educators understand what families deal with. I’ve sat on both sides of the IEP table. I know the stress of advocating for what’s in the best interest of my child, but I also know how it feels to be an educator. Educators and parents need to work as a team, and the book gives great tips on how to do so.

Q: What was the doctors’ prognosis of how the boys would be able to function as they grew and matured? How did you work through the grief that followed the news?

The working title of this book was Pie in the Sky. I was told by a psychologist my hopes and dreams for them to function independently was “pie in the sky thinking” and I “better get over that right now.” I never went back to her. The boys have done much, much more than anyone thought possible.

For instance, that particular doctor told me they’d never read, be able to live independently or speak. Other doctors simply didn’t know and told me I would have to wait and see. Only one doctor I worked with was sympathetic to me, and it wasn’t anything he said, but it was how he treated me with such kindness and respect when we’d see him. I wish there were more pediatricians like that today. He never gave an opinion about the future. He just helped me get through each medical crisis and was very encouraging to me. He made me feel like I was competent.

Today the twins walk. They talk and understand everything that’s said to them. Their speech and language is a little difficult to understand at times, but they function well enough to send text messages and talk on the phone.

I worked through my grief about their diagnosis in stages. In some ways, I already knew something was wrong. Developmental pediatricians were tracking their physical development, and we could already see some things about their development weren’t right, such as the size of their heads. I also knew the way they reacted to sensory input was way off, and they weren’t meeting their developmental milestones on time, such as sitting up, walking and talking. Still, even though I knew something was wrong, I went through all the normal stages of grief — from anger to acceptance. I still do go through some of the stages. All parents with special needs kids deal with grief on a day-to-day basis. It cycles through us at various times depending on what we’re dealing with. Mostly, though, I’m so proud of my guys. They’ve worked hard to get where they are today.

Q: When the boys were young, in a meeting with your pastor, he asked, “Do you think you missed the will of God when you adopted them?” Even doctors made hurtful comments to you about your boys. How did you respond?

Well, I’d like to say the conversation doesn’t still bother me, but it does. I do realize some people just don’t “get” adoption and disability issues. I’ve forgiven the pastor and those doctors, but just thinking about those conversations makes me shake my head with incredulity. Some people don’t have filters. They just say whatever they’re thinking.

I was furious, of course, when those conversations took place. I never responded negatively or rudely to them at the time, but I did stew on what they said. I’m the type of person who when you tell me I can’t do something or can’t make something better, it fuels me to prove you wrong. I used those conversations to motivate me rather than discourage me.

Q: You talk about bargaining with God and even encourage readers to “wrestle with God” in difficult times. What were some of the questions you had for God in the early years of raising Isaac and Isaiah?

I would actually pray for forgiveness from God for wanting to adopt because I sometimes worried about what it was doing to our family. It definitely took away the tranquility in the house. I am a huge peace-lover and maker. I crave quiet spaces. I also asked my husband to forgive me for pushing for adoption, but he never once wavered or questioned our decision. That helped me a lot in the twins’ younger years when they were so, so hard to care for.

I still have a lot of questions for God where disabilities and pain in the world are concerned. However, I do know the devil hates humans and wants them to suffer because we are created in God’s image. Still, God’s ways are not our ways, and I truly believe He will use our struggles for His purpose and glory if we let Him.

Q: What have your boys taught you about God, and how has your faith grown by being their mom?

The boys have taught me more about everything in life and especially about God. I’ve never seen greater faith than theirs. I’ve never seen joy such as theirs. The twins have amazing faith. To me, they’re spiritual giants. Their faith in God inspires me every single day. Their spirits aren’t at all disabled. Their spirits are as healthy as yours and mine and probably even more so because of their childlike faith.

They are very tender-hearted toward the Lord, and they know to turn to Him for help. Just a few days ago we had a situation that made Isaac anxious. He asked if we could all pray, so we stood in a circle and prayed. He sobbed like a baby, crying out to the Lord for help. That is faith. Without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11). Their faith amazes me. I am eager to interact with them in heaven when they are completely healed and to talk to Jesus about them and how their prayers affected heaven. They are true prayer warriors. When I need prayer, I ask them to pray because of their great faith.

They’ve taught me what’s important in life. I’m not as materialistic as I might have been otherwise because autism doesn’t allow you to have breakables. Doors get kicked in. Walls get holes in them. Furniture gets mauled. They’ve taught me not to sweat the small stuff. My tolerance for imperfection is extremely broad because of them. Societal constraints don’t worry me. Our yard might not be the prettiest in the neighborhood because we’re so busy supervising the twins, but the love in our house is immeasurable. It’s far from perfect, trust me, but when I focus on the blessing these boys are to others (they love serving people), I’m deeply humbled. I wish I could be as sweet as they are.

My faith has grown as their mom because what the world said could never happen, God made happen. When doctors told me they were microcephalic, I refused to accept it. As I mentioned earlier, I constantly laid my hands on their heads and told them to grow. They have normal-sized heads now. Doctors said they’d not walk, but they walk. Doctors said they wouldn’t read or do much independently, and with God’s grace we’ve proved them wrong.

Q: You include sections with scripture to meditate on. What verses have meant the most to you throughout the years?

Psalm 139 is my favorite scripture passage because it talks so much about how God knew us before we were born and how He is always with us.

Q: What misconceptions do most people have about autism? What would you most like your readers to understand about autism?

I wish more people would understand autism is different in every person. It’s a spectrum disorder, which means there’s a wide spectrum people fall on. I have friends with children who have a severe form. Their children are grown now and still can’t toilet themselves. I have friends with children who have children who are considered high-functioning because they have high IQs, but the child can’t shower independently without guidance. It’s a neurological disorder, not a behavioral or psychological problem, and it manifests in a myriad of ways. When you’ve seen one child with autism, you’ve seen one child with autism. It will look different in another child.

Q: For parents who are walking the road of raising children with autism, what advice do you offer for becoming the best advocates for them when it comes to medical care?

Trust your God-given instincts, and don’t second-guess yourself. God gave those children to you, and He will equip you to do what is right if you seek Him for answers and wisdom.

Put everything in writing when you have a concern that isn’t being answered. Do your research to make sure any treatments you desire for your child are based on evidence and not trends.

Q: What are some of the other areas you discuss in the book for living life with autistic family members?

I really want parents to take their children out in public and de-sensitize their kids with autism to uncomfortable situations. Yes, it’s inconvenient, but you do your children no favors by hiding them away at home. Society needs to see them, and the child with autism needs to be exposed to the sights and sounds of the world so they can learn to cope.

I talk about how difficult mealtimes were. They were a nightmare when the twins were small. Food was thrown everywhere, and a lot of screaming went on. Looking back, now I can see the screaming was from anxiety, but I didn’t realize it then. We learned the twins ate better if they ate in the dining room while we ate in the kitchen. We all had to learn not to take it personally. It was just what it was. At that time, our kitchen had a cut out in the wall to the dining room. We’d put two vinyl table cloths on the floor under their high chairs and let them go at it. It was the only way we could eat and have a conversation. Every meal ended up with them painting themselves head to toe with food. They couldn’t eat solids because they had poor motor control, so I pureed everything for years.

I also discuss the need for a network of support because of how stressful it is to raise a child with autism. I learned I couldn’t care for the boys without help, and I needed to admit it.

Q: How were your other children impacted by their brothers’ autism? What recommendations do you have for parents to make sure their other children don’t feel overlooked?

If I had my kids to raise all over again, I’d have been more deliberate in scheduling one-on-one time with each of my children. I think we were too busy. I try not to second-guess myself, but it’s hard not to. What parents absolutely must not do is depend on their other children as caregivers. Yes, definitely, they can help out because that’s what families do. However, every child needs to feel they are a child and sibling, not a parent.

Q: Tell us about Isaac and Isaiah today. In what ways are they able to function independently in ways the doctors never expected? In what areas do they still need help?

They do so many things on their own! They have a golf cart they use for transportation to their part-time jobs and other places in town. Fortunately, we live in a community that allows it. They use their smartphones and iPads to communicate and read things. They attend church and help with various duties there. Isaac helps with the sound system, and Isaiah loves helping in children’s church. They are amazing helpers. They love helping people.

The twins will probably always need to live with someone who can protect them from being taken advantage of. They have a difficult time counting money, so it’s easy to cheat them. They can also be talked into doing things, as they are quite na├»ve and gullible. They have dual-diagnoses of fetal alcohol disorder and intellectual disabilities, so that makes dealing with them a bit more involved. They still need to have reminders for daily self-care and function at about the level of an 8- to 11-year-old. They still need to be prompted to do their daily chores (don’t we all?) and so forth.

Q: Can you share some of the basics teachers at church and ministry volunteers should know when working with a child who is autistic or has disabilities? What tools are offered in your book?

My book has a great appendix that answers questions about working with people with autism. I give a lot of great tips on how to respond to different behaviors and how to motivate kids with autism.

Remember all children are unique, no matter what their ability or diagnosis. Also remember a diagnosis is not who they are. They are children and people first. They just happen to have a label.

Churches can embrace families living with disabilities by providing one-on-one aides in the child’s classes so the parent can attend their own classes. This also allows the child with disabilities to attend church with children their own age too.

I offer training to the teachers and those working in the children’s department. I love giving training seminars. People can contact me through my website. I also do one-on-one online consultations as well. Folks can sign up on my scheduling page.

Learn more about A Pair of Miracles at www.KarlaAkins.com. Akins is also on Facebook (KarlaKAkins) and Twitter (@KarlaAkins). 

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