This is MAGICAL ✨

We are currently Celebrating Jessa’s 9th Birthday at her favorite place!! 

This video captures a portion of who Jessa is.

She’s a sweet little girl who wants to play, have dance parties, and wear cute clothes.

She brings so much JOY to us and all those we meet!!




Yup, she still is dressing herself and I just let her be! I got tired of fighting with her to dress what society wants to see. I decided to let her have fun with it and if someone wants to stare, comment or laugh, just let them.

So here she is with a warm fleece set on the bottom with a snug Moana dress on top. The hoodie is out, sleeves and legs are rolled up and she’s sporting her one and only Pink Crocs!!

Mind you it’s 28 degrees so maybe she’s just trying to feel warm with the Moana vibes.

This girl right here has been ON FIRE!!!

In a Good Way!!

She has been doing so well at school. We have our moments because she prefers Birthday Parties and Recess at Hippo School but we redirect and try to stay positive by saying “You’re going to have so much FUN, Jessa.”

Jessa has been enjoying getting invited to Friend’s Birthday Parties and Playdates, this is new to us since she never had a desire to play with other peers. It’s sweet to see her interact with her new friends.

Since starting public school, Jessa now rides the SCHOOL BUS HOME!!! Yes, I am screaming, I would never have thought and trusted her on a bus years prior. This is HUGE for us! Except we had a little hiccup a couple of weeks ago because our Little Party Girl thought that she’d take advantage of the substitute bus driver and start her Party Bus!!! Yup, my non-verbal, ID, Autistic Daughter independently took her seat belt off, and started Rowling everyone else up by running up and down the aisle Yelling,” Whoo HOO Party Bus!!! PARTY PARTY PARTY!!” Needless to say, they all got special seat belts on Monday and the Party Bus came to a complete halt fast!!

We are still working on how to accept no, and not be so demanding but I honestly think that’s just her personality. Not sure where she picked that up from??

Jessa is still working hard on communication and life skills but she sure can figure out ways to let us know what she needs and wants. Sometimes it’s not all necessary, for example, she didn’t NEED 10 dolls last week BUT when she is determined to get “Many Toys” and not just one this Momma gave in. I mean how can I not, she said Please. So getting what she wants is defínetly not a challenge for her.

We are so grateful that we have found an amazing team for Jessa and that we have such supportive family, friends, and community.

Every day we are learning new and different ways to help Jessa live the life she deserves. It’s not always easy but as a parent, you take any sacrifice so your child feels included and loved.

Jessa has made me so proud these past 6 months, I never once doubted her but others have and she is proving them wrong!!


Meet Dr. Lisa Peña the voice of The MOCHA Diaries, which I’m proud to say is a native from South Texas. Which is where I call “Home.”

Not only is Lisa a Full-Time Pharmacist, but she is also a Proud Coach’s Wife, and coincidentally for my Alma Mater. GO FALCONS!!

She is also a Mom of 3 Beautiful Children.

Lisa has generously worn so many hats as a Special Needs Mom, Advocate, and Friend which she wears with so much grace, love, and compassion.

She is the author of “WAITING FOR THE LIGHT BULB: the ramblings of a crazy, gritty Mom.” A memoir about the first ten years of her daughter’s life so her other children have a piece of their family history.

This book personally had me in tears the whole way through, I related so much to her and her daughter. I felt like she was telling my story from her perspective and guiding me while holding my hand.

It was crazy how I connected so much with a person all through her book, at that moment I knew God had put her in my life for a reason.

I then began to follow Lisa on Facebook and started hearing all of her blogs. Her voice and storytelling just ease my soul. Anytime we are having a rough day in the Reyes’ Residence I listen to one of Lisa’s stories and it helps me get through the hard times.

She was the first person from the Rio Grande Valley that I found that was advocating for the Special Needs Community and she inspired me to do the same within the Latino community. This is huge for our community. We need more voices!!

Like I mentioned Lisa is a Blogger, but she’s one of a kind. She also records herself as she tells her story and that’s hard to do. Being vulnerable when you write is already difficult but try speaking about it, it just makes it that more real.

Lisa is also a motivational speaker for the Special Needs Community and has been featured on @Today Show for International Women’s Day (I told you she’s a Wonderful Woman.)

She is also the Co-Founder for non-profit Labeled and Loved where she serves as the VP, executive producer of the podcast, website designer and content creator, and blog editor. Not to mention plans a fun weekend for Special Needs Moms to be able to enjoy each other’s company, make lifelong friends and just make us feel wanted and appreciated.

Lisa also started a series of stories The M.O.C.H.A. Diaries- MOMS OF CHILDREN THAT HAVE AUTISM.

Lisa has given other Mom’s the opportunity to share their personal story without feeling guilty, shameful, or without anyone even knowing it’s your story. Lisa interviews these mamas and then in her own words tells this beautiful story about their Journey.

It’s amazing to hear everyone’s different perspectives, struggles, and wins.

Everyone has something, no two stories will ever be the same. All of our children are unique and amazing in their special way.

Lisa has given me the privilege and honor to be a M.O.C.H.A. our story still hasn’t been published yet but keep an ear out. I challenge you to listen to these stories and see if you can tell which M.O.C.H.A. I am.

Lisa is one of the first people that made me realize our Journey was special and that people needed to hear our story. She’s such a JOY to talk to and knows how to make a girl feel LOVED.

When Lisa interviewed me I felt like I had known her for years!! We just had so much in common. Since we both grew up in South Texas we share a lot of the same beliefs and culture. Lisa and I are also the same age so we can relate to so many things in our generation as a Latina.

The main thing I admire about Lisa is that she is a Breast Cancer Survivor. After losing my best friend to Breast Cancer I know how difficult the battle can be and how it affects your whole world. Even though Lisa was battling for her life she still took the time to give back to others and was a loving wife and mother.

Her strength, faith, and resilience are not to be reckoned with, SHE IS A SURVIVOR.

She’s a WONDERFUL WOMAN “Building Radical Empathy One Story at a Time.”

Thank you, Lisa, for everything you have done for our community and hopefully, I can finally meet you in person at the Labeled and Loved Retreat.

Elementor #1424


My Mom has to be by far the MOST WONDERFUL WOMAN in my life.

I would give her the Title WONDER WOMAN. 

She somehow managed to ALWAYS provide for my brother and me. I still wonder how the heck she kept it together and still gave us support, love, which taught us confidence and independence.

When I was little, she helped me learn to get dressed, brush my hair, and was the person who came running when I shouted for help. 

She sacrificed so much for us and never once made us feel like we were left empty-handed. Our bellies and hearts were full, and we had AC; in Texas, that’s a necessity. So I can say my Mom was WINNING!!

She has always helped me throughout the good and the bad in my life. Even though we have had our fair share of disagreements and hardships, she was still my Mom and has been by my side through it all, and now she is my BFF, and we talk at least once a day.

When things went wrong in my life, and I pushed everyone away, she still protected my oldest daughter and me. You were a dispenser of unconditional love to her and me.

Not only did my Mom help me raise my oldest daughter Nichole, but she also instilled respect, honesty, and cleanliness (if you don’t know, I HATE cleaning) into her. Nichole is the young lady she has become because she has such an AMAZING Role Model.

She protected me enough to learn how to grow strong and tough like she has ALWAYS been and reminded me that my Daughter is who I needed to be a better person for. 

She is the reason I’m a fighter and advocate for my daughters, a forgiver, and the voice of my value.

I am a strong woman because a strong woman raised me.

She is by far the most thoughtful Grandmother you could hope for. She has always taken all of her Grandchildren out shopping and to the restaurant of their choice for their Birthdays. Plus will still get them a present for the party. I won’t even get started on what she does for Holidays.

My mom is Jessa’s person.

If you didn’t know, Jessa is on the Autism Spectrum Disorder and is considered Nonverbal. It can be hard and emotional to be around Jessa, but my Mom has never let us feel that way. 

Jessa LOVES her Grandma. Their relationship is one of a kind.

Jessa doesn’t interact with many people or spend days with them, but there’s something about GRANDMA that Jessa gravitates to. It’s not something that we can teach others—Jessa bonds with her people.

We are BLESSED that my Mom is near us now, since “home” is 6 hours away. 

I want to THANK my MOM for ALWAYS being my WONDER WOMEN!! 

You are indeed a Blessing and are so JOYFUL that you are on this Journey with us. 


The Joy of Jessa Singing

Jessa is considered Non-verbal. She was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the young age of 3.

One of her first signs of Autism was that she had no words, no language. It was a guessing game.

I used to cry and wish that I could hear my sweet daughter talk, say, I Love You, call me Mom.

I learned to accept that this may never happen, and I learned to LOVE the slight humming that she does to stim and soak up that contagious giggle.

Jessa has ALWAYS loved to listen to music, watch videos, and SING!!

Singing brings Jessa so much JOY!!

Do you ask how she can sing but be considered nonverbal?

Well, that’s because Jessa can’t communicate on-demand, and she will only talk to certain people and usually after being prompted.

Jessa gets shy and sometimes stops when I try to record her, but when she’s in her comfort zone, she puts on a show!!

When Jessa sings, she puts so much emotion, articulates her words, and truly brings out her personality.

I cry happy tears now because I never thought I would hear her talk more or less sing!! Her voice and confidence bring me so much JOY!

Keep SINGING, Jessa; I know you will bring JOY to so many people with your talent and charm!!

#autismgirl #autism #autismo #joyofjessa #jessamonique #thisgirlcan #nonverbal #ASD #autismfamily

Princess day at the Ballpark

Jessa did AMAZING yesterday at Princess Day at the Ballpark!! We got to meet Anna & Elsa, Jasmine, Tiana and saw Ariel singing!!

Depending on what day Jessa is having, we can enjoy the local baseball team Round Rock Express!! At times it can be overwhelming and loud for her, but she’s learning how to adapt. Luckily, this Ballpark is very family-friendly. It has a lawn area which I highly recommend for kiddos, and a playscape area. The $1 hot dogs and drinks were the icings on the cake!

We’ve tried taking her to things like this years before, but it was not as successful. She would have a hard time waiting in line. Yesterday we had to wait in line, but Jessa did great with having a calm body, waiting her turn, and smiling for her pictures!!

Don’t give up hope on being able to accomplish this with your child.

They will come around on their time!!

joyofjessa #autism #autismfamily #roundrockexpress #jessamonique #disneyprincess

Autism Acceptance/Awareness/Appreciation Month

This April is our 4th year that we Celebrate this month!!

Our sweet Jessa was diagnosed on April 1, 2017, at the young age of 3 ½, and yes, I was hoping the Neurologist would have said April Fools after the diagnosis. 

The first year of diagnosis was full of trials and tribulations, research, and countless evaluations to get the help we needed. It was EXHAUSTING so many phone calls, having to repeat yourself over and over and be reminded every phone call that your daughter’s just been diagnosed with Autism. I think that year I must’ve cried enough to fill the lake from the terrible drought we had that year!!

At the same time, here we have a nonverbal child trapped in her little body trying to communicate her needs and wants, but we as parents have no idea what they can be. Talk about feeling helpless. As a parent, you feel like you’re failing your child. 

The first year after the diagnosis was not for the weak. I didn’t think there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Luckily I have a husband who’s an amazing father and a sweet 15-year old (at the time) that loves her Sissy dearly, and as a family, we started this Journey.

The second-year was full of Acceptance. 

It was accepting the diagnosis and all the therapies that come with it. 

We accept that our daughter wouldn’t ever be in that spelling bee or student of the month. 

Accepting that sometimes we would have to separate as a family, Jessa and Joel would stay home while I kept up with the busy teenager. 

Having to take Jessa to therapies, Nichole to all of her activities, and work was a juggling act I don’t recommend. 

One thing that I was NOT able to accept is the sleepless nights that are still unknown, but we survived with the help of coffee and some happy hours. I would always joke around, saying, boy do I wish I could go back and take those naps that I hated as a kid. 

Year three was 2019, and it was full of Awareness from spreading it to living it. 

Everyone around was fully Aware that our child has Autism.

Jessa flapped her arms, loved to spin in circles, she had no personal bubble, she was in the process of being potty trained, covered her ears when things got too loud, she had this unbearable scream, she dropped to the floor, you name it we lived it!! 

These characteristics and behaviors were not easy to deal with but let me tell you, it sure brought Awareness, and I was constantly apologizing for my daughter. Now looking back, I shouldn’t have been apologizing. We were living our life. 

So even though we got a lot of stares and finger-pointing, I made sure that people were AWARE that this was AUTISM. 

We also started doing fun, positive Awareness activities in the community and within our family and friends. 

That year we had our biggest “Team Jessa” for the Annual Autism walk we began to participate in. 

We put Jessa in a local Special Needs Cheer Team; Jessa was the youngest on the team and was their mascot; her group participation wasn’t her best. 

Now that this is our 4th year of AUTISM ACCEPTANCE/AWARENESS MONTH, I can happily say I Appreciate Autism. 

I’m a better person because of this; I have learned strength, perseverance, agility, compassion, and most importantly of all that LOVE NEEDS NO WORDS.

I know the future will still have obstacles, trials and tribulations, dark days, and happy days but I can’t wait to learn more about Autism, see Jessa’s accomplishments, and continue to cheer her on in all she does.

I know I’m still not done growing and learning as a Special Needs Mom. I’m hopeful that I continue to tell our story, educate others about Autism, and share our Joy!!

I appreciate the Joy we’ve uncovered in our Journey.

So even though it’s not always easy, I’m very Accepting, Aware, and an Appreciative AUTISM MOM.

Unsung Heroes

Our ABA Center has truly been a blessing in disguise, they’re our unsung heroes. From the diagnostic Dr., the Clinical Directors, BCBA’s, RBT’s, ST’s, OT’s that have ALL made a tremendous impact on Jessa’s Journey and have paved the way for her future.

We truly can’t thank thank y’all enough you all are HEROES in our and Jessa’s eyes!!

Jessa has officially been attending Action Behavior Centers – ABA Therapy for Autism for 3 years this month of April!!

It’s fitting since it’s also Autism Acceptance/Awareness Month.

It’s been Life-changing for all of us as a family.

When Jessa first started ABA at the age of 4 she was eloping, she was completely nonverbal, she had at least 4-5, 45 minutes or longer meltdowns a day, she was aggressive, she wasn’t potty trained, she couldn’t sit at a table for longer than 4 seconds, she didn’t answer to her name, and she hated artwork.


Jessa can now walk places with or without holding our hands. We are always on standby though because she’s sneaky and the fastest little girl I’ve ever known.

Jessa is still considered nonverbal since she can’t communicate on demand. She can tell us what she does want now like foods, places, and people. She makes it very well known what she DOESN’T wants and is very loud and clear about it.

Jessa still has meltdowns but they now last 1-2 minutes and maybe 1-2 a day!! A HUGE difference from 3 years ago, this to me has saved our sanity. Those screeches are intense.

Jessa has learned to control her aggression and behaviors a little more but this is hard to do when you can’t communicate your emotions, feelings, and wants. She’s learned to no longer bite, and attack others. Unfortunately, it’s led to more self-injurious behavior but we are currently fighting through this.

Potty training was a difficult task that I have to give full credit to ABA. We followed through at home and on the weekend but they worked for almost a full year until Jessa mastered it!! Jessa was fully potty trained with no more accidents at 5 ½, definitely later than others her age but again this is hard when you can’t communicate and when you have sensory processing disorder.

Jessa can now at age 7 sit at a table for 5 minutes or longer depending on if it’s a preferred activity or not. She now loves to paint, color, do arts and crafts, and do kindergarten-level table work. I honestly never thought she would like crafts but this Mommy is over the moon excited since that’s my ultimate favorite hobby!

We’re extremely proud of how far you’ve come
Jessa Monique
and we will continue to guide you to be the best version of yourself that you were destined to be!

You’re truly a JOY in our life!!

Thank you ABC for everything!!

#unsungheroes #fvcblogsquad #autismawarenessmonth #aba #autismgirl #autismfamily #autismmom #sensoryprocessingdisorder #jessamonique #austinmoms #specialneedsmom