For my birthday...

I've written about Aubrey before -- many times, in fact. She's my niece and she's cute. But this is more so about my sister. My baby sister.

(Photo by Aubrey's Aunt Shaila.)
Taryn, my sister, isn't so much a baby anymore. Nope, she has a family of her own and she's a tremendous, HEAR ME, a tremendous Mom. There are just some women out there who were born to be nurturing and calm and patient and well... good Moms. Taryn's one of them.

Photo by Aubrey's Aunt Shaila.

Taryn is Aubrey's advocate. Aubrey is adorable and sweet and incredibly intelligent and she just happens to be touched by autism. She started kindergarten yesterday in different circumstances than what Taryn could have ever expected five years ago when Aubrey became a permanent part of our hearts. You see, it's so easy for many of us to take for granted the health of our children. They're born healthy, they grow, they reach milestones, they go to preschool and then kindergarten, right? Well, things are different for Aubrey. Kindergarten isn't in a mainstream classroom; instead it's in a just-right-for-Aubrey environment.

When I was reading Bloom by Kelle Hampton (book review to come), she spoke of a written piece called, "Welcome to Holland." Kelle writes:

"It's a well-known piece for special-needs parents that compares the experience of having a child with special needs to boarding a plane for Italy and finding out when you land, you've arrived in Holland. It goes on to say that Holland is beautiful too -- different, but beautiful. There's a line at the end that says even though Holland is good, the pain of missing out on Italy will never, ever, ever go away. And yes, there's one never and three evers. That's pain times four."

My sister is in Holland.

My sister, my hero, went big this year. She decided to be team leader for a Walk for Autism Speaks in Springfield, Missouri. The walk takes place on Saturday, September 8. This is a big deal for someone who nearly two years ago couldn't bear to even use the "A" word in public or even with our extended family. Today, my sister has a team of 19 walking together with a goal to raise $1,500 for autism research.

She hand-addressed and mailed out flyers to friends and family asking them to support her in whatever means possible to join with her and raise funds for research and services for individuals and families who are touched by autism.

The letters were signed, sealed and delivered... and then she called me.

I remember where I was standing when she started telling me about the donations.

First it was $100.
Then someone donated $200.
Then a family member donated another $100.
And so on...

And my sister, with tears in her eyes and a waver in her voice over the long-distance phone call said to me, "Kylee, I know the money will not touch Aubrey directly... but knowing that people care... knowing that people care... it makes me so happy."

Friends, just a few days earlier I was talking with Taryn and she was feeling so alone. And this kills me as her big sister. I love her, I want to protect her -- and I can't. This is a road that just she can travel. NO ONE understands what she, or other parents of children with special needs, deals with on a daily basis. Especially when they're parents to other children, too. (Aubrey has a little brother, Eli. He's two weeks younger than Vivi. He's 1.5 and uber-sweet.)

Truthfully, Taryn has grieved Aubrey's future. She's grieved her future. Not because she's a Negative Nancy, but because she's a human being and Aubrey's autism has changed Taryn's focus and the trajectory of her life.

"...but knowing that people care... knowing that people care... it makes me so happy..."

I cry thinking of my baby sister saying those words to me.

Sweet Taryn, people think of you. We think of you. We love you. We support you. And we love Aubrey, too. We expect big things for her.

Beautiful Aubrey, as photographed by her Aunt Shaila

So that $1500 team goal for Taryn's walk? Blown.out.of.the.water.

The team is currently at $2,780.00 -- that's $1,280.00 more than Taryn could have ever anticipated. And Taryn, Aubrey & Eli have raised $1,405.00 of that.

People care.

So, today. On my birthday. I'm asking you to care. Every 11 minutes, another family receives the life-altering news that their child has an autism spectrum disorder.

If you can find it in your budget or your heart - I ask that you give Aubrey your Starbucks order for the week. Even $1 makes a difference, dear friends. Just consider it.

Whether you made it to Italy, or whether you're surprisingly in Holland -- please know that here on this blog, you're appreciated.

To donate to Taryn Johnson - click here.

To see how Taryn's team is doing (Team M.O.C.H.A) - click here.

P.S. I absolutely got Taryn's permission before publishing this post. In no way, shape or form is this post intended to do anything more than to spread awareness.



  1. First of all, happy birthday my internetty friend. Second of all, this is awesome. So awesome. You're a super sister, a super aunt and a super duper advocate for your super cute niece! Yay! :)

  2. I can't believe it's one in every 11 minutes. Tell your sister she is not alone! That's great you've all raised that much money.

    Happy Birthday to you!

  3. This is such a great post. You are such a wonderful person.

    Happy Birthday.

  4. This is a wonderful post and you have such an amazing sister and she has such a beautiful and amazing daughter.

    Truly inspirational.


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