Monday, November 24, 2014

Being Thankful

Last week, Dominic and I put together a bag of food items and took them to our church. I was explaining to him that some people don't have enough to eat and that we were helping them. My father-in-law was a remarkable man. He and I had more than one discussion about what made us happy. I would always tell him the same thing - I was thankful for a roof over my head and food on the table.  I guess I have always been that way. It truly doesn't take a lot for me to be happy. I have talked about my grandmother before. She was an amazing woman and lived to be 101. This picture still cracks me up, it is from Christmas of 1988 and she and I were cooking together. I have no idea how much that turkey weighed, but I'm guessing at least 20 pounds :)


She passed away when I was pregnant with Dominic, but Lauren and I would go visit her at her apartment in Virginia.

I used to sit on the couch and watch Lauren and my grandmother interact act with each other and just feel so incredibly thankful they could have that time together. Lauren is wearing a dress that was mine and to think that when I was little, that my grandmother might have held me on her lap the way she is holding Lauren is a pretty cool thought, don't you think? I was super duper blessed to have known all of my grandparents!  My "Auntie" is truly a one of a kind person.

We are technically "related" to her by marriage (she was married to my mom's brother), but I consider us blood related. Her "branch" of the family tree has enveloped my family with so much support and love, that at times, my heart just overflows with joy :)  I have an amazing husband who took care of Dominic for five days while I flew back to visit my ill mother recently. Wow, am I thankful for him!!! My stepson and I are close and I am so thankful that he came as part of the "package" when I married my husband.

My sweet Lauren and I are going to the Nutcracker Ballet for the sixth year in a row together this Friday. I am happy that she still wants to go with me and for the closeness she and I have. I have really missed her since she left for college, but I am incredibly thankful that she and I are in almost daily contact!

Dominic has an awesome support system and so many people that follow his progress that I feel blessed beyond belief.

In the almost 13 years that I have lived in the Midwest, I have met so many awesome people, there are just too many to name!! I also have my "branch" of the family tree back on the East Coast and when we are able to go back to visit them, I enjoy every single minute. I have reconnected with my old high school "chums" and it is like no time has gone by at all with them. When we go back to Maryland, my best friend opens her house to us and am I ever thankful for that!

Oh, one more thank you goes to everyone who takes the time to read my blog!!  Happy Thanksgiving!!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Daddy in "Charge"

I recently returned this past Monday from being out of town for five days. The hubby was left in "charge" of Dominic.  I have had to leave my family before, but Lauren has always been here to "assist." Since she is 90 miles away at college, that really wasn't an option for her to come back and help her dad (though my sweet girl did offer). Being the ultra-detailed person that I am, I left an itinerary for the hubby to adhere to in my absence.  I showed Dominic on the calendar when I was leaving and when I was returning. His teacher and the bus driver were both made aware too. I wanted to make it as little as a disruption as possible for Dominic. The only area where the hubby saw a possible "issue" was in the bathing department. Due to Dominic's sensory issues, he still takes a bath and I assist him about 99.9% of the time. The hubby is "banned" from bath time because about five years ago, when he tried to assist Dominic, he got a massive amount of water in Dominic's eyes. The night before I was due to fly out, I had the hubby "sit in" and observe how I helped him to bathe. Dominic kept looking at my husband and saying, "daddy leave, daddy leave." My husband was telling him, "well, I'm going to be helping you when mommy is gone." As it turned out, while I was gone for those five days, the hubby helped bathe him without too much fuss. I checked in with the hubby and Dominic every day that I was gone.  Monday night, when I was coming down the escalator at the airport, I saw the hubby and Dominic before they saw me. I gave them both hugs and then we tracked down my baggage. I noticed that Dominic was wearing a shirt that looked about a size too small. Before I could comment, my husband said, "Dominic is pretty much out of clean shirts!" Okay, well I DID show the hubby how to operate the washing machine before I left :) As we drove home from the airport in a blinding snowstorm, my husband told me he would get us take-out pizza for dinner. The roads were really bad, so I told him that I could make us spaghetti instead. I think about the relationship between the hubby and Dominic. My husband gets a kick out of telling people that he has a 10-year old. Most men in their early sixties, like my husband, have grandchildren that age. It warms my heart when I hear Dominic say, "daddy, blow a kiss!"  I am so glad that my "boys" did well in my absence, though I think the hubby is glad I am back in "charge" of the laundry and the bathing of Dominic!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Associating Words with Emotions

I have written in the past about how one of the most difficult things I have ever had to explain to Dominic was when my husband's mom passed away. At the time, he was just six. Since the hubby is an only child, Lauren, Dominic, my husband and I spent a lot of time at the funeral home in Cleveland when she died. Not exactly the best place for a six-year old. Since Dominic was used to seeing his grandmother frequently, it was super duper hard to figure out the best way to explain it to him. We finally decided to tell him, "Grandma was broken, and she went somewhere where they could fix her." That seemed to satisfy him at the time. As he has gotten older and is beginning to understand more about that time, we changed it to, "Grandma is in Heaven." Once in a great while, he would say that spontaneously. For the past month, though, he has been saying, "Grandma is in Heaven," just about every day, at least once a day, sometimes multiple times a day. When the hubby is bringing him back from religious education class on Sunday nights, they pass by the assisted living facility she was in for about five years. My husband told me recently that every single time they pass by, Dominic unprompted says, "Grandma is in Heaven." I asked Dominic's private speech therapist about it this past Saturday and she had an interesting theory. Like my mother-in-law, Dominic was used to seeing his sister a lot. Since Lauren is not here every day, I think he is trying to process her being gone. He will say, "I will feel sad when Lauren leaves for college," spontaneously, so I know those are the times he really, really misses her. Yesterday before school, Dominic kept saying, "Grandma is in Heaven," so I asked him, "do you want to see pictures of you with Grandma?"  He said, "yes!" We went down to the basement and brought up a poster board we had made when she passed away.  I propped it up and he sat looking at it for a while.

I said, "we used to visit Grandma in Cleveland, then we visited her at her assisted living facility, and then she would come to our house to visit."  I then said,"she died and then went to Heaven." I could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he tried to make sense of what I just told him.  I'm almost positive he understood. I think when you have to explain someone's passing to a young child there are multiple ways you can say it. When you have a child with speech and language delays like Dominic, you have to break it down very specifically. I think his private speech therapist is right, because last night and this morning Dominic said, "Lauren is in school," immediately followed by, "Grandma is in Heaven." I think it's so cool that he is beginning to associate words with his emotions. We have been waiting a long time for him to be able to do it, but it seems to be coming together for him. Yeah, finally!

Friday, November 7, 2014

My "Baby" Boy is Growing Up

Yesterday, Dominic had a doctor appointment first thing in the morning, so he didn't ride the bus like he normally does to school.  I took him in a little after nine and signed him back in through the attendance office.  Since his teacher had already told me I could bring him back to the classroom, I decided to "tag" along with him. I am still learning my way around his new school, so I kept asking Dominic which way to turn. He was so full of confidence and seemed so grown up, as he lead me through the hallways, it's hard for me to think back to the time when he was this young and actually seemed, "shy."

When we arrived at his classroom, Dominic went right to a key on the wall, unlocked his locker and put his backpack and coat away. I then said, "mommy has to leave, can you give me a hug?"  He instead looked right at me, waved, and said, "bye, mommy!" Has my little boy already gotten too big to give his mom a hug in public?" I hope not! As I walked back to my car and drove back home, I was thinking to myself, he really isn't my "baby" anymore. I was telling Lauren later that day about how Dominic didn't give me a hug in his classroom and her response back was something like, "that's a good thing, isn't it?" I have to admit, it has been pretty cool watching him mature in so many different ways. I love the expression on his face holding his ribbon and certificates after he went with his class bowling a few weeks back, he was SO proud of himself that day!

Having a child with Autism means that no two days are exactly alike. One thing that Dominic continues to teach me every day is unconditional love. It's okay if I don't always get a hug, I like when he tells me, "I love you, mommy!"

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Restaurant Behavior

This past Sunday was my husband's birthday and we went out to eat to celebrate. I told Lauren and the hubby ahead of time, that I thought it would be a good opportunity to let Dominic order his own meal.  As we walked into the restaurant, a part of me automatically went into the "stressed out" mode of wondering how Dominic would "behave" since this would be the first time he would be ordering his own drink and meal. Lately, going "out" to eat has meant getting a take-out pizza from Little Caesars and eating it at home! As we sat down, we had Dominic look over the menu.  The waitress came over and said, "so, what would everyone like to drink?" When she looked at Dominic, he said, "water." Awesome! After about another five minutes, she came back and asked everyone would they would like to eat. When she got to Dominic, he said, "chicken nuggets." Cool, so far, so good. While we were waiting, he seemed to be a little bit at loose ends, so we had him doodle on the other side of his paper menu:

We asked him to draw mommy, daddy, his big brother and his big sister :)  Anyways, the food came and we ate our meals, which were really yummy. As we were finishing, the waitress came by, looked at Dominic and said, "how was your meal, buddy?"  Dominic looked right at her and let out a big burp! Yikes. She smiled, looked at us and said, "that's okay, I've got three of them!" Guess she is used to little boys burping!! LOL. We thanked her for our meals and gave her a BIG tip! As we left the restaurant, the hubby commented that he thought Dominic did pretty well. I thought he did too (minus the burp)!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dominic and Elevators

One of Dominic's "gifts" is definitely knowing his way around a computer. He taught himself how to get into YouTube and about this time last year, he seemed to be watching a lot of videos about elevators. They all seemed to be narrated by the same person. After doing a bit of research, I discovered that the gentleman narrating them has his own website, and several videos on YouTube. It turns out he has Asperger's Syndrome. Even now, one year later, Dominic is still super fascinated with elevators.  During this past summer, we decided to use his love for elevators to our advantage. Going to weekly Mass is very important to our family. Since Dominic was about a year old, we have been sitting in an area of our church, where you can still hear the Mass, but are behind a glass window.  For many years, both the hubby and Lauren kept encouraging me to let Dominic go inside the church. Anytime either of them even mentioned going inside, I would instantly get stressed out and give myself a headache, stomachache or both and tell them no. For a while, we didn't even take Dominic to church, which in retrospect, was really doing him a disservice. After two years of special needs religious education classes taught by an awesome, gifted and loving teacher, Dominic made his First Holy Communion this past May. Shortly after that, we decided that it was time to start making the "transition" to being inside the church.We decided to use the parenting "technique" of first this, then that. For example, your child wants to watch television or play on the computer, but has homework. You say something like, "first you do your homework, then you get to watch television or play on the computer."  Given Dominic's fascination with elevators, we decided to tell him earlier in the summer, "first you have to be good in church and then you get a ride in the elevator." It didn't take Dominic too long to understand what we were requiring from him. For a while, only the hubby was "allowed" on the elevator rides and then Lauren. Last Saturday night, it was just Dominic and I going to Mass. He did great and when we sat back down after getting Communion, he whispered to me, "so proud!"  I was like, "yep, Mommy is very proud of you!" After Mass was done, he said, "elevator ride." We got on the elevator and went all the way to the top and then down to the bottom, then back up to where we got on. I don't foresee his fascination with elevators going away anytime soon. Given Dominic is so social and he loves elevators, he would be an awesome elevator operator, like in a fancy hotel, wouldn't he be?!?!?!?!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

College Life

This coming Monday will be two months since Lauren left for college. I have had more than one person ask me how I'm doing with her being gone. I guess if I could sum up the feeling in one word, it would be, "different." The college Lauren is attending is 90 miles away. Yesterday, since my schedule was clear and Lauren has no Friday classes, I decided to hop into the car and drive over to visit her while Dominic was at school. I had a Panera gift card, and knowing how much Lauren loves their macaroni and cheese, I invited her to lunch. It was awesome to have my girl completely to myself for a few hours. After lunch, I drove her back to her dorm and dropped her off. On my drive back home, I caught myself smiling because I know that Lauren is happy.  Isn't that kind of the way it goes with your children (even if they are adults)? If they are happy, then you are happy, right? My first semester as a college freshman was much different.  In the Fall of 1981, I went away to school in Kentucky. I had really bad homesickness, fell into the "wrong" crowd and was briefly engaged. I lasted one semester and then moved back home with my parents. I really can't remember what possessed me to pick a college so far away, knowing how close I was (and still am) to my family. A few weeks ago, I hooked up with a friend of mine who also has a daughter that is a college freshman. My friend was telling me that her daughter's first roommate moved out of the dorm and dropped out of college completely within a few days because she was so "homesick." Wow, I guess that young lady was definitely not ready to be on her own!! Starting on that road to "college life" can be hard, especially if you tend to be more introverted or shy. You really have to push yourself out of your normal "comfort zone." I sometimes wonder, what if I would have stuck it out at Eastern Kentucky? Where would I be and what would I be doing now in 2014? I guess life has a way of going the way it was meant to be.  My college "career" involved mostly going to school at night and working at the same time. It took me another 13 years before I finally finished! Believe me, I have highly encouraged my one and only daughter to not take the same "path" I did!!!