Monday, June 23, 2014

Conductor Jon Jon Becomes An Engineer

My family and I were so very fortunate this morning to be able to take Jonathan Dockins and his Dad, Jamey, over to the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola, California.

The little boy, known as Conductor Jon Jon (from his recent Make A Wish run over the Donner Pass as the railroad conductor), can now be called Engineer Jon Jon!

He ran the Southern Pacific 2873 GP9 road freight engine which is part of the "Run A Locomotive" program at the museum. My hubby was his instructor and his dad, my son, and I were his passengers. Jon's dad and I took a ton of pictures.

After his experience as conductor running over the Donner Pass and all of his other train-related activities over the last few days, he didn't need a whole lot of  He learned very quickly and didn't need reminded very much at all like so many people do when they are learning to run the locomotives.

It was an absolute joy having the chance to extend this opportunity to this wonderful family. Little Jon and the whole experience sure has left a lasting impression on me. Here are just a few more of the many pictures I took today. Enjoy!

He is definitely a natural!

Toot that horn.

This was one of the few times he drove by his dad and me in order for us to get some pictures from the outside.

If you look closely, you can see him in the window to the left.

Waving as he goes on by...

The men after a successful run! ~ Dad and Jon along with my hubby and "Buddy"

We then explored more of the museum for a little bit before we had to leave. It was a lot of fun and the boys got along really well. It was especially great to see them bond on the way to and from Portola. We just met for a short while, but I will never forget them.

Some of my favorite snapshots of "Buddy" and Jon's time together.

If you missed my earlier post about Jon's Make A Wish dream come true and his arrival in Reno, you can check it out here.

You can also check out My Experience Running A Locomotive.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Conductor Jon Jon Arrives in Reno ~ Make A Wish Dream Come True

This adorable, little one is not in our family, but was
also there to greet Jon Jon and had a great sign! 
Our family had the privilege of being part of the welcoming party for eight-year-old Conductor Jonathan Dockins when he arrived at the Reno Amtrak Station yesterday, June 20, 2014.

Hubby found out about it two days before and got right to work to help make Conductor Jon Jon's day even better. He worked with our state governor's office to get a proclamation and Jon Jon's big day to be in his honor in the state of Nevada. You can see a copy of the official proclamation by Governor Brian Sandoval here.

He also got some great goodies from his work place, Union Pacific Railroad, and from the Western Pacific Railroad Museum, where we are members and volunteer regularly.

It was an amazing experience! We thoroughly enjoyed being involved with even just the little part that we were privileged to a part of.

If you want to know more about Jonathan's story and his dream to drive a train through the Donner Pass, you can read more about it here.

Waiting for Conductor Jon Jon's Arrival at the Reno Amtrak Station

The crowd starts to gather in the Reno trench.

"Buddy" and Bruno from the Reno Bighorns pose together
while waiting for Jon Jon's arrival.

"Buddy" and several area teen pageant winners ~ He was a happy 13 year old boy!   ;)

They decided to have a goofy picture, too...

Bruno photobombed!

Archie photobombed Bruno's photobomb

Conductor Jon Jon's Arrival at the Reno Amtrak Station

Here comes Conductor Jon Jon!

Stepping out of the engine at the Reno Station.

Standing tall and looking proud.

Jon Jon getting some great goodies from Archie and the Reno Aces.

Getting a basketball and other goodies from Bruno and the Reno Bighorns.

Getting ready to have his picture taken with the area pageant winners. He was all smiles, too.  ;)

Jon Jon, his parents, and my hubby as he was introducing himself as the local union chairman,
gave him his card, and said something like that now that he is a conductor... if he has any concerns
about railroad safety, he knows who he can call.... It was really cute, but done in a professional way.

This was when Jon Jon and his parents found out about the Proclamation
from Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.

Jon Jon showing off his Proclamation with my hubby and BLET Chairman, Matthew Parker.
Matt Klink (Jon Jon's engineer for his trip to Reno) is seen in the back left in the red shirt and overalls.

Looking in his bags of goodies from the Union Pacific Railroad and the
Western Pacific Railroad Museum.

This was a fun time afterward when the news lady was getting a little more footage. Jon Jon then
signed a few autographs on some pictures.  By the way, if anyone knows if any part of this ever showed up
on the local news, please post a link in the comments. I cannot find it anywhere. Thanks!

This was an amazing experience and not one I will ever forget! It was actually a fluke that "Buddy" and I were even able to be in town for this event, because we were supposed to be volunteering at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum all day. It was only because we changed things around a few weeks earlier just so that Buddy could join his special needs cheer team with Reno Elite All-Stars (you can read about them here) when they all went to the Reno Aces game last night. I just keep thinking about how wonderful it is that all of this just fell into place so wonderfully! 


We actually had the opportunity to take Jon and his dad to the Western Pacific Railroad Museum where we very frequently volunteer in order for Jon to run the Southern Pacific 2873 road freight engine.... so now he is an ENGINEER!  Read about it here!

Monday, June 16, 2014

"Happy" From Our Family To Yours!

I just found this crazy fun toy! Enjoy this little video I made by adding our family pictures to Pharrell Williams' "Happy".

Personalize funny videos and birthday
at JibJab!

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my disclosure policy.

JibJab eCards

Monday, June 9, 2014

Named One of "The 15 Best Parkinson's Blogs of 2014"

I came back from vacation and found this wonderful surprise in my box! I have been named as one of "The top 15 Best Parkinson's Blogs of 2014" by Healthline. That makes two years in a row! I didn't even know that I was on anybody's radar before last year's notification.

I am on slide 14 of the slideshow. I already read a few of the other blogs included, but there are several others on there that I will be checking out shortly! 

If you are new to The Journey, you might want to check out some of my popular posts related to my Parkinson's and Chronic Illness under the tab named as such near the top of this page or check out some of the links below:

Be sure to subscribe to The Journey via your favorite blog reader and follow me on all of your favorite social venues. I am especially busy on Pinterest and Twitter. There are several handy links over to the right on this page. 

Welcome to The Journey!

Co-Ed Special Needs Cheer Team in Reno!

"Buddy" has joined this wonderful Cheer Team and is totally LOVING it! He loves his coach and new teammates/friends so much that he actually looks forward to getting up early on Saturday just to go to practice. Before we started, the early time on a weekend was a tough sale for him, but they chose this time in order to have the gym quiet and calm especially for those who may have issues with over-stimulation, etc. He also works out for his coach willingly and will try things that I could never get him to attempt. Just about anything for his Coach.  ;)

We have been involved for just three weeks so far, but it is most definitely already becoming an extended family and we absolutely love it. There is still time to join the team for this season and Buddy became the first boy on the team and word is that another boy is planning to join in the next week or two! I may be a bit biased... *wink*  ...but they are already looking pretty sharp! They were doing some stunts this last Saturday and us moms were like the paparazzi....from a distance and without disturbing practice, or

If you are anywhere near the Reno area and have a kiddo with any special need be sure to check this out! I have even seen amazing routines with children in wheelchairs. This is Buddy's first team and it is already becoming an unbelievable experience and helping him in SO many ways! Be sure to come join us!

Friday, April 4, 2014

2014 Ultimate Blog Party

Hello everyone! I'm taking part in the 2014 Ultimate Blog Party. I joined up a couple of years ago and had a blast! If you have your own blog, I highly recommend that you join

If you are new to my blog, welcome to The Journey!

I am a Christian stay-at-home-mom in Nevada and homeschool our 13 year old son whom has Asperger's Syndrome. This is a high-functioning part of the Autism Spectrum.

I was officially diagnosed with Early-Onset Parkinson's about three years ago after having major symptoms for more than three years. It took awhile to diagnose...mainly due to the fact that I was only 39 when this all started. 

I blog about our adventures as we homeschool, travel, and explore our way through life... which has been made more interesting by the additions of Asperger's, Parkinson's, and gluten intolerance.

I also have a series of posts called Music Adventures. These are short, user-friendly music lessons to use with your children. These lessons do not require the parent/teacher to have ANY musical experience to be successful and they are FREE!

Here are a few of my popular posts that may interest you:

Great Quotes for Asperger's and Autism
Breaded Pork Chops w/ Homemade Marinara and Cauliflower Rice ~Gluten Free
Introduction to the String Family Part 1 - Violin, Viola, and String Basics
Do Not Assume
Friday Finds for Homeschool
Chunky Chili ~ Slow Cooker and Gluten Free
Quotes for Dealing with Parkinson's and Other Chronic Illnesses

Be sure to connect with me on other social venues, too! 

You can find me on PinterestTwitter, Google+, and Facebook

I am so glad that you stopped by. I will attempt to check out as many of the blogs as possible at the Party. But as you know, the list is extremely long. SO, if you leave me a comment below, I will definitely make sure that I check out your blog. 

Party on!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Country-Style Potato Casserole ~ Gluten Free or Traditional

{This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please see my disclosure policy.} 

I have been making this delicious casserole for around fourteen years. I am often requested to bring this dish to potlucks and it always disappears quickly!

I got this recipe from my sister-in-love shortly after I married her brother.

I have only been making this gluten free since late 2012. It tastes super yummy either way! It is extremely easy to make this gluten free by using the correct (gluten free) brands.

We have also discovered, quite by accident, that this tastes even better when it is a bit over-cooked, so my sis-in-love and I usually do it on purpose now.  ;)

Country-Style Potato Casserole ~ Gluten Free or Traditional


2 lbs shredded hashbrowns, thawed ~ GF if needed ~ I use Ore-Ida
4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded ~ GF if needed ~ I use Kraft
1 can cream of chicken soup ~ GF if needed ~ I use Health Valley Organic
1 pint sour cream
1 medium red onion, chopped fine
1 stick butter
Salt, pepper, granulated garlic (or powder)


Sauté onions in butter in a large skillet on low heat until soft. Add chicken soup; stir. Add sour cream and cheese. Cook until cheese is melted. Add salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. Mix in the hashbrowns. Spray cooking spray in 9x13 casserole dish. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 325 degrees. (Like I mentioned above... I usually cook it longer and/or reheat in the oven to make it more golden and crispy around the edges.)