Friday, August 28, 2015

Mastering Important "Life" Skills

I try to involve Dominic as much as I can when I am baking. Yesterday morning, we made pumpkin muffins. In the past, when it came time to measure the liquids or crack the eggs, I would do it. I decided that it was time for him to try it.  I showed Dominic where on the measuring cup he needed to fill it to and he did it exactly. Then, since we needed to crack four eggs, I let him do it from beginning to end. He has seen me crack probably enough eggs to circle the Earth, so he applied just the right amount of pressure and dropped all four eggs into a separate bowl,with NO shells!!  I gave him tons of verbal praise and he told me, "I did it the eggs, all by myself!" He was grinning from ear to ear and told me several times throughout the day about his egg cracking.  It may not seem like a gigantic deal to most people, but to me it was another "skill" that Dominic has mastered. Today, we had a "field trip" to the Kroger.  Long gone are the days that I would work myself up so much my stomach would hurt. It has taken many "field trips" to Kroger to get Dominic to the point he is now, where I actually enjoy taking him with me.

Dominic was totally fascinated by the metal water sprayers above all the vegetables. I told him that the veggies were getting a "shower." We went up and down pretty much every single aisle. He was very patient for the most part, though I didn't time it too well, because it was around lunchtime. When we got to the dairy section, Dominic spontaneously gave me a hug and then said, "I love you mommy, so much!" Think it might have been because we had tossed a frozen pizza into our cart for lunch?!?!?!  As we approached the checkout, there were two lanes open. I chose the lane that had my favorite bagger who has special needs.  Dominic helped take out the groceries and put them on the conveyor belt. As the last of the groceries were put into the bags, Dominic looked right at the bagger and said, "hi." The bagger said hi back to him :) As we were driving back home, I was thinking that just in the past 24 hours, he learned a handful of important "life" skills - how to crack an egg, measuring ingredients in a recipe and talking spontaneously to the bagger. Dominic has made huge strides in many different areas this summer. Asking for a haircut and getting himself to the bathroom when he needs to go are the biggest advancements for sure. In a little over a week, he will be starting sixth grade. He is no longer my shy little boy.

But rather a confident young man. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A "Sample" of My Cookbook Collection

This morning, before my husband left for work he said, "you like going through your old cookbooks, don't you?" The poor guy, I have my "collection" all over the place right now. They are next to my side of the bed, spilling out of the bookcase in the dining room and next to the computer! He's even tried to tell me I have enough cookbooks. Shame on him, right?!?!?!? He should know that after being together almost 25 years, I will NEVER have enough cookbooks!!! LOL.  Lately, I've been looking through the ones that belonged to my mother-in-law. She passed away in January of 2011 and we miss her all the time.

She worked for a number of years at the May Company in Cleveland, Ohio. One of the cookbooks I acquired from her, "Celebrate Our 1st Cookbook," I'm guessing was distributed to all of the employees around the holidays. I found some of the names of the recipes in the cookbook to be quite, ahem, different. These three kind of stood out to me - "Ham and Pickle Puffs," "Sneaky Pete Slush," and "Cranberry Velvet." Anyways, since I had no "bakery" around, I decided to make this cookie  recipe from the cookbook:

Oh, my goodness - the cookies were AMAZING! Here is the recipe if you would like to make them:
Chocolate Crispy Cookies
1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups crispy rice cereal
  (like Rice Krispies)
1 cup milk chocolate morsels
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a large cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. In a large bowl, put the flour, baking soda, salt, margarine, sugar, egg and vanilla extract. Mix well with large spoon and then add the crispy rice cereal and the milk chocolate morsels. I used my hands to mix everything together, so feel free to do that! Roll into 2 1/2 dozen equal-sized balls. Bake 15 at a time on a sheet. They do spread some, but not a ton. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the cookies are starting to turn golden brown. Remove immediately to a wire rack. Store in a covered container at room temperature.
I like to play a little game with my Facebook "peeps." I'll post a picture and then try asking everyone to guess what the "secret" or "mystery" ingredient is. On one of the food groups I am part of, someone did indeed guess the "mystery" ingredient - crispy rice cereal!  One gal guessed hard boiled eggs!  I knew that I had seen a recipe using hard boiled egg yolks recently. After just a quick look through an old Slovenian cookbook (which is part of my mother-in-law's "collection"), I found a recipe for, "Vanilla Vienna Cookies." It uses two hard cooked egg yolks among other ingredients. The first line of the directions says, "cream together for 1/2 hour, butter, sugar, hard cooked egg yolks." Hmm, okay. A half hour? That seems a bit excessive doesn't it?? I want to make those cookies, but I don't think I'll cream it together for a 1/2 hour :) I'll keep you all updated how the cookies turn out! I also found a super duper easy recipe for "Slovak Potato Soup." That is one to try when the weather gets a bit cooler. My mother-in-law was part Slovak and so am I!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Why I Gave a $5.00 Tip to the Barber

Dominic has been to a barber shop exactly twice. The first time, my husband and I took him to the local Meijer barber shop and he gagged and cried so much, we had to leave. The second time, he bolted out of the barber shop and almost ran into the road. I have been cutting his hair ever since. I would have to get myself mentally "geared up" to give him his haircuts, because it would be so upsetting for the both of us. When he was small enough, I could put him in his booster seat, strap him in and cut away. Given that he is now over 120 pounds those days are LONG gone. This past Saturday, Dominic out of the blue started saying, "haircut, barber shop, socks and shoes, car." He probably repeated it at least half a dozen times. Every time he would say it, my response back was, "are you sure?" I tried to explain to him that once the barber started, he would have to finish. He was EXTREMELY persistent about wanting to go. He wore me down until I finally said, "okay, fine, let's go to the barber shop." We actually went back to the second barber shop we had tried about nine years ago. I parked the car behind the barber shop and we walked around to the entrance. I looked inside and there was at least eight people sitting there. I told Dominic, "okay, they are way too busy, we are going to have to come back another time."  I turned around and we started walking back towards our car. As we went past the side door of the barber shop, one of the barbers came out and approached us. I explained to him that Dominic had Autism and that he had been requesting a haircut all morning. I told him, "we can just come back another time, you look really busy." The barber then said, "come back in, most of the people are waiting for a certain barber to cut their hair." We came back in and Dominic and I sat down. It was quite warm in the barber shop and the longer we waited, the more anxious and sweaty I got. I was really starting to get concerned, because of all the noise inside the barber shop and the fact that we would have to wait.  Dominic was playing with his Nintendo DS that he recently got for his birthday and he was "chill." I was the one that was a nervous wreck! After about 15 minutes, the barber said, "Dominic, are you ready?" We both walked over to the chair and he started using scissors on his hair. I said, "let's try an electric pair if they aren't too loud."

The barber took the extra time to explain everything to Dominic during the entire haircut and Dominic trusted him 100%.  I found out after the haircut that the barber had previous experience with children with special needs.  As the barber rang us up at the register, I pulled out an extra $5.00 for a tip. I really wish I would have more one dollar bills on me! He did such a great job, don't you think? I think the smile on Dominic's face says it all.

I have had so many people tell me that Dominic's thick hair is his "trademark." Most people don't realize that I have always wanted him to have short hair, but since I've been cutting it and he would only sit still for a short amount of time, that has been impossible. On the way out of the shop, the barber handed me his card. I tucked it away into my purse and didn't pull it out again until a few days ago. The barber that cut Dominic's hair is the owner! Awesome. We certainly won't be waiting another nine years until we come back!!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

What I Learned From Lauren's First Year of College

Lauren moves into her on-campus apartment in a little less than three weeks. We have bought her textbooks, school supplies and the parking permit for her car. This time last year, we were cross referencing lists, buying last minute things for her dorm room and figuring out how to pack everything into our van for the 90-mile drive to her college campus.

I remember thinking to myself at the time, how in the world would I get used to not seeing her everyday? How would we all adjust? During Lauren's freshman year of college, I learned the following:
  1. It was completely fine if we didn't e-mail, talk, Facebook or text EVERY day. The world would continue to revolve.
  2. Skype is a wonderful thing - we even did three-way conversations with my stepson!
  3. It wasn't that big of a deal having Lauren save up all of her dirty laundry for me for two weeks at a time.
  4. I learned about muscles I didn't know existed when going up and down the four flights of steps to Lauren's dorm room.
  5. It's not necessary to always dispense advice, sometimes it's good to shut my yap once in a while.
  6. I am her mom, but also her friend.
As I wait for the move-in day to arrive, I can't help but feel excited for her. I only lasted one semester away at college because I was way too "homesick," and fell into the wrong "crowd." My husband and I have raised Lauren to be a mature and responsible young woman and to know right from wrong.   Good luck, my sweet girl, as you embark on your second year of college! We will miss you very much, but we are also immensely proud of you. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Beautiful "Butterfly"

This past Sunday, the disability ministry that I am blessed to be the program director for had a picnic that started about 11:30 a.m. We had a handful of firemen and a policewoman there who brought two big fire trucks and a police car to look at. We also had face painting, a petting zoo, lots of games and yummy food. About 2 p.m., a van pulled into the parking lot. The doors opened and five disabled residents from a group home got out. I went over to welcome them to our picnic and directed them to one of the tables. I then sat down between two of the women. The lady to the left of me immediately fell asleep in her wheelchair. The gal to the right of me who looked to be in her mid-70's was looking straight ahead with a big scowl on her face. She looked incredibly ticked off and mad, like the last place in the world she wanted to be was at a picnic talking to someone she had never met before (me).  I asked her a bunch of times if she wanted to color in one of the coloring books we had and she said no. I tried asking her questions and she didn't answer me.  I was beginning to think she was deaf and/or non-verbal. I was going to keep sitting there just to keep her company, even if she didn't utter a word.  One of the volunteers that had come to help at our picnic, was handing out free harmonicas and my new "friend," was holding one on her lap. After a bit of coaxing, she took the harmonica out of the box. Her hands were gnarled, but she was still able to hold it herself after I showed her where to place her hands. I then told her where to blow into it.  Lo and behold, she proceeded to play a handful of songs!!!  After she got done with her "mini concert," she started to talk to me!! She had the most beautiful voice and we chatted for a while. After me asking her multiple times if she wanted to get her face "painted," when one of our face painting volunteers came over and asked her, she said yes! She was wheeled over in her wheelchair to the face painting "area," and I chatted with some of the other disabled residents at the table. When my "buddy" came back, she didn't have her face painted, but rather on her knee was a butterfly!  She kept pointing to her knee and telling me, "butterfly." Around 4 p.m., the residents had to go back to their group home. My awesome face painting volunteer and I assisted the two caretakers in getting everyone loaded back into the van. I gave my new friend a hug and when she was settled into her seat, I looked over one last time at her. She was looking straight ahead, but now had a big smile on her face.  Good-bye, my sweet beautiful "butterfly," I'm sure our "paths" will cross again soon.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

To the Mom at the Music School

I know that you felt uncomfortable in the music school waiting room last Wednesday night. I saw you shifting in your seat, like you would rather have been anywhere else in the world, but where you were.  When I started talking to my friend in the wheelchair, I could see you staring at me. When the two young women with special needs starting chatting with each other, I watched you look at them and then turn away. I'm guessing you felt out of place when the three moms of the adult children with special needs started chatting happily amongst themselves at the table next to you. When I was waiting for Dominic's teacher to come and take him back for music therapy, I could tell by your expression that you were trying to guess what his "disability" was. When I saw your son coming down the hallway from his music lesson, I watched you bolt of your chair and rush your son out the door. When Dominic and I were walking to our car and you and your son were getting on your bikes to ride home, I tried to make eye contact with you, but you kept looking down. I really wish you would have looked up, so Dominic and I could have said hi to you.  I hope to see you again at the music school. I could tell you that we are not so different, you and I. We are the same. We both have sons that play music.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Sister and Brother Summer "Bucket" List

Back at the beginning of the summer, Lauren decided that she would start a "bucket" list of activities that she wanted to do alone with Dominic. Given that she has her own car and license, I am not required to be a "chauffeur." This was an idea that she thought up on her own - I had no hand in it whatsoever. She told me recently, "it's fun to do "sibling" things with Dominic!!" In all ways, they are "typical" siblings. So far, they have watched a movie in a movie theater:

visited the library, played tennis and went for Slurpee's at the 7-Eleven!

This summer has been a bit of an adjustment for both "kids," because Lauren has a summer job and she is working long and late hours. When Dominic hears her car pull up in the driveway, he will come to the front door as she comes in and say, "surprise, welcome home La-La!" It definitely puts a big smile on her face (and mine). Lauren told me recently that she and Dominic have three more items on their "bucket" list - going to Dick's Sporting Goods at the local mall, bowling and ice skating. There are only six more weeks left before Lauren leaves for her sophomore year of college. They better get moving!