Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Recipe with a "Story"

Back in August of last year, I flew back to Maryland for part of a week and helped my brother start to clean out my parents house to get it ready to sell. I had my brother store some boxes for me at his house and when we were just in Maryland around the holidays, we put them in the back of our van and brought them back to Michigan. One of the boxes contained two of my mother's recipe boxes. Shortly after the new year, I took a quick look through the boxes and then didn't look through them again until a few days ago. Oh my, I found a  recipe card for a cookie that I thought I had in my "collection," but didn't. Growing up, there was a couple that lived next door to my family that had no children. Their names were Mary Ann and Harold. Even though we weren't related, they were like family to us.  Finding Mary Ann's recipe for "Mom D's Cinnamon Crisps," was like hitting the jackpot!!! I have been looking for this cookie recipe for years and thought it was gone forever. It was written in my handwriting on a pink recipe card. I am pretty sure "Mom D." was Mary Ann's mom. When I was in eighth grade and taking a Home Economics class, I brought this recipe to school and we made these cookies in the classroom! Mary Ann and Harold moved to Iowa after Harold retired. I was lucky enough to visit them a few times in Iowa. They both have been gone a long time, more years than I care to remember, but I still think about them frequently. This is one of the few pictures I have of Mary Ann and I.


Below is the recipe for "Mom D's Cinnamon Crisps," if you would like to make them.They are really yummy!

Ingredients:

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sifted flour

2 tablespoons white sugar (reserved)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (reserved)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and put a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Set aside. In a  large bowl, put the cream cheese, butter, shortening and sugar.  Cream by hand with a large spoon or with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the flour a half a cup at a time until well combined.  Roll into 36 equal-sized balls and place a dozen at a time on the cookie sheet.  In a small bowl, put the reserved tablespoons of white sugar and cinnamon and mix with a small spoon until well combined. Using the bottom of a small drinking glass, press first in the sugar/cinnamon mixture and then press down gently on the cookie. Bake for about 12 minutes or until slightly brown and then remove from oven. Let them sit five minutes before removing to a wire rack to continue cooling.

I like what I wrote on the back of the recipe card, "these are terrific and melt in your mouth!" Well they do!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Maintaining a "Connection"



Lauren starts her second semester of her junior year of college this coming Monday! Good grief. That went by SO fast. In the "olden," days (when I was 20), there was no such thing as texting and Skyping to keep connected with family and friends. The "twenty-somethings," of today rely on texting, Snapchatting, etc. I think one of the happiest days of Lauren's life was when I FINALLY decided to ditch my TracFone!!! Yes, I now use an iPhone. Anyways, her winter break has been long and with the hubby and Dominic both going back to work and school today, respectfully, we decided to head out to the local outlet mall. I am so lucky that Lauren still values my opinion and I can be truthful with her. We hit three or four different stores and since the holidays are over, the parking lot/stores were pretty much empty. We got some really, really great deals. Lauren wants to go to law school after she graduates in 2018, so we were over the moon when we found a designer dress that was 60% off! She wants to "intern," and we are working on building a wardrobe full of professional clothes. I think my favorite conversations with Lauren today were on the 1/2 hour drive to and from the outlet mall. We rarely have "alone," time and I really miss that.  I treasure those moments when I have her all to myself, because they are so rare. Thanks my sweet girl for an awesome afternoon! 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Report Cards


 
Dominic has been in a special education classroom since he was three years old. Just in the past couple of years, he has been getting report cards with a "letter" grade. For a lot of children, paying them for good grades is a big motivator.  Dominic is motivated by positive praise. Always has been and probably always will be. During the day at school, he doesn't have a "typical" class schedule. Most of his time is spent in his classroom. Dominic does get "mainstreamed," into a few classes, like Choir, so it's like he is getting the best of both worlds. I have said this before and I'll say it again, when Dominic was first diagnosed with Autism at age 2 1/2, I had very low expectations for him. I knew absolutely no one at the time that had a child with Autism and I had so many doubts as to what he could achieve. How would I parent him? would it be similar to raising Lauren? For example, teaching Lauren to take a shower was relatively simple, Dominic is absolutely terrified of the shower, so he continues to take a bath.  Oh, my - clipping his fingernails and toenails can't be done at the same time, he will literally run out of his bedroom. I have to put it on his daily schedule or he will refuse to let me assist him. When Dominic asked to go to the barber in the Summer of 2015, that was a huge step forward on the life skills "road." Dominic's class from time-to-time will go to the movies and he gets to order his own popcorn and pop.  Since he was four, he has been on ADHD medication. I used to have to sneak it into foods, but for several years, he has been able to take it himself. He even takes a dose in the school office during the school day! He willingly takes his anti-seizure medication and will remind me if I forget. Dominic puts his dirty clothes in the basket in our bedroom and he sets and helps clear the dinner dishes each day. He dresses himself each morning, though he needs verbal reminders to move it along so he doesn't miss the bus. Brushing his teeth continues to be a struggle, but we work on it. Last week in the mail, we got Dominic's report card. My eyes went immediately to the comments section, specifically the comments about his life skills. It said, "life skills participation grade - excellent participation/effort." He had an A+ too, which was just the icing on the cake. Receiving that type of positive affirmation as a parent of a child with Autism, just energizes me even more to continue to work on those life skills every single day! I have great hope that he can live on his own one day. It is something I think about A LOT. Time will tell.

Friday, November 11, 2016

How an Entire School Choir Has Embraced Dominic


When Dominic started seventh grade back in August, one of the electives he picked was Choir. I liked that he wanted to do Choir, because it meant that he would be with many of the same kids he has been with for the past couple of years. At the concerts, about 75% of the time he doesn’t sing, but stands there. He always gets assistance from one of the guys or gals to help him know where to stand and when to follow the choir when they go on and off the stage. No one seems to care that he isn’t singing, I’m just happy that he can stand there for long amounts of time and not fidget too much. That in itself is an accomplishment for a child with Autism, ADHD and Epilepsy. Last month, after his Fall concert was over and the hubby and I were sitting in our seats and packing up our stuff, one of the girls in the choir came over and kissed Dominic on the cheek, it was very sweet. As we were leaving the auditorium, a bunch of his choir “mates,” were telling him what a good job he had done and were shaking his hand. I didn’t think that anything could top that experience. Well, I was wrong. Wednesday, I got a message from his teacher that I had to send Dominic into school on Thursday wearing his choir “clothes.” The school choir would be singing in a Veteran’s Day assembly in the morning.  Yesterday afternoon, Dominic’s teacher sent me a message that he had done a great job at the assembly. Cool. It’s always good to hear that! Thursday evening, my cell phone rang. On the other end of the phone was one of the paraprofessionals that works in Dominic’s classroom. She said something along the lines of, “I was going to text you, but I decided I wanted to tell you this over the phone.” She went on to tell me that during his Choir class that he has at the end of his school day, the kids spent the bulk of the time writing letters to Veterans. She remarked that the 50 or 60 kids were all talking, so the noise level in the room was pretty loud. Towards the end of the class time, Dominic walked over to the piano in the room where one of the girls in his class was softly playing. Once she noticed Dominic was waiting, she got up and let him sit down. He knows several songs to play on the piano, but he picked the Star Spangled Banner. She said as he played, the entire class got quiet and the kids were all watching and listening to him play. When he was finished, the entire class clapped for him! She told me that the kids all love him and he loves them. Wow, just wow. These kids could choose to ignore Dominic or bully him because he is “different.” Instead, they have made the choice to embrace him!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Everything is Mad with You

Back a few weeks ago, I "snapped," at Dominic. Lauren used to call it "barks." I typically reserve my louder, "bark-like," voice for when I think the situation calls for it.  Dominic didn't really do anything, I was stressed because I was running late and he kept repeating the same thing over and over. You could say, I lost my patience. Anyways, he got upset. After I calmed down a little I said, "I'm sorry, do you forgive me?" He said, "no." I was like, "excuse me?"  I repeated my apology again and he said, "no." This went on a few more times and then I let about 30-40 minutes go by before I repeated my apology again. This time, he accepted my apology. When I retold that story to my dad, he said, "does Dominic understand the concept of accepting an apology?" I was like, "yes, he most certainly does!" This past Sunday afternoon, I was resting on the couch in our living room. I have told Dominic he is too heavy to be sitting on me numerous times and half the time he listens to me and the other half of the time he doesn't.  Well, this particular time, he came and stood next to me, jumped up in the air and sat squarely on my stomach. It hurt and I said, "ow!" He immediately jumped off. I told him that he had hurt me and he got flustered and then proceeded to have a half- hour "meltdown." When he had composed himself, I said, "you hurt mommy, please don't do that again." He seemed to understand and the rest of the evening was uneventful.  Monday, Tuesday and today, he told me, "everything is mad with you." I think what he has been trying to tell me is, "everyBODY is mad with you." When he said it today (right as he was getting off the bus after school), I said, "are you still thinking about that??" He said, "yes, mommy." I said, "how did that make mommy feel when you sat on my stomach??" His response, "sad." I told him it did make me sad. Wow, for Dominic to be able to express how he felt (thinking everybody was mad at him) and how it made me feel is DOUBLY HUGE for a child with Autism!  Hopefully, the next time he is able to recognize his own feelings and mine, my stomach won't be involved! He is five feet tall and almost 150 pounds!!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Why I Celebrate Every Seizure Free Day

How many of you have ever seen someone, adult or child, have a grand mal seizure? It is pretty darn horrifying. Yep, that is about the best word I have to describe it. Never in a million years did I ever think Dominic would have Epilepsy. I thought I had a pretty good "handle," on the Autism thing until the grand mal seizure Dominic had in June of 2015. I was hoping and praying that he would just have the one and that would be it.  Little did I know, there would be four more seizures (not grand mal), the most recent at the end of June of 2016. Do I ever fully relax when Dominic is at school, even though they have an emergency plan for him? Nope. Do I let him stay with a babysitter? Nope. I am in constant "high alert," status when he is not with me. It's really, really hard not to be, believe me I've tried. The only thing I knew about Epilepsy prior to Dominic's first seizure was that you have to put the person on their side. I had presence of mind that day in June of 2015 to at least do that. I wish I could go back and thank the 911 operator I talked to. I was so stressed out because a few times I didn't think Dominic was breathing. She told me to count in between his breaths until the ambulance got to our house. The paramedics and the EMT's were so great with him and with the hubby and I. I admire them, I know I couldn't do that job! I had no clue that many times, Epilepsy and Autism go together. Who knew? I wonder into the future, will he be able to get his Driver's License? I have asked Dominic and he says he wants to learn how to drive. Do I tell him no? Is it possible? Will having Epilepsy prevent that? He is on a pretty strong dose of anti-seizure medication. This morning, in the rush to get both Dominic and the hubby out the door, I forgot to give Dominic his anti-seizure medication. Ugh. That is like the second or third time I have done that since this new school year started! Each time, I toy with the idea of just letting him skip it, but my anxiety won't let that happen.  I sent a message to Dominic's teacher as soon as I realized that I hadn't given him the medication, then I drove down to the school and met Dominic and his teacher near the office. Luckily, he doesn't get stressed out when he sees me (he actually gave me a kiss), he just washes the medication down with a cup of water and says, "bye Mommy!" This past Wednesday was 100 days since Dominic's fifth seizure.
 


We go for a check up with his pediatric neurologist in about two weeks. I am so grateful that he is on a medication that stops the seizures. I feel for those parents that are still searching for a solution. I can't tell them I understand, because I can't even imagine the stress they are under.  I sometimes wonder if I have post-traumatic stress disorder. That day in June of 2015 was like a 100 on a scale of 1-10.  The only time that comes close to that level of stress was back in January of 2011, when I had to rush Lauren to the hospital with severe abdominal pain and my mother-in-law passed away in hospice care on the same day. I'm already on two anti-anxiety medications. Those medications keep me balanced and I'm glad that I am on them. I have had more than one person tell me their child "outgrew," their seizures, I'm hoping that Dominic will one day be in that category. Until then, I will continue to celebrate every seizure free day.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Puberty, I'm So Not Ready for You!



Okay, Dominic is still my "baby," isn't he?!?!?! He likes to sit on my lap and snuggle. Hmm, considering that he is almost as tall as me and will be 13 next July, that probably won't be for too much longer. I have a little bit of experience with puberty with a boy since I've known my stepson since he was six, but our relationship is like that of a really good friend, it's always been that way. If he had any questions about anything private, he didn't ask me.  Lauren's transition in and out of puberty I could understand, since we are both women. Dominic, so far, is totally unlike anything I've ever experienced before. With the Autism, developmentally, he is behind those of his "typically-developing," peers, but I can tell you from the physical and emotional standpoint, he is right on "track." Shortly after he turned 11 last year, Lauren was telling me that she could "smell" Dominic. That's not a good thing. I can still remember the smell of  "body odor," from the boys when I was in junior high. Ugh. I went to the Kroger right away and picked up some Old Spice deodorant. It took a handful of times for me to show him what to do, but he can do it pretty well by himself now.  It took many, many years to get Dominic potty-trained and at home we have had to teach him to close the bathroom door for "privacy," when he needs to do his toileting. So far, so good on the acne front. He gets a few pimples here and there, but I have explained to him what they are and seems pretty nonplussed about it. In the past month, hair has started to crop up in places there hasn't been previously. I won't go into details, but you get the "picture." I keep telling the hubby that he needs to have a talk about the "birds and the bees," with our son, but with a special needs child, it isn't quite as easy as sitting them down and telling them. They did have some talks about puberty in school and he received some handouts, but I don't think he fully understood. He definitely knows that someone touching him in a certain way or a certain place is not appropriate, thank goodness. I still take Dominic into the ladies restroom with me when we are out in public and he is always in the stall next to me. I don't foresee that changing ever, unless he is with the hubby or another male family member/friend. He is way too trusting and outgoing to go "solo," into the men's restroom. The emotional component of puberty has been "challenging." Yesterday morning, he got mad at me about something shortly before he went to school and he took the palm of his hand and hit the basement door. I was like, "I don't think so." I reserve a certain "tone," of my voice to use for when I have to reprimand him and I used it yesterday. He knew I was not happy. In the past, I've had to send him to his bedroom to let him "cool," down. Dominic is not a big fan of that, so I try to save it for when he really deserves it. He's slammed the door in my face more times than I care to remember. Lauren has said, "even I didn't do that!" Just like I wish there was a "manual," for raising a child with Autism, this is a time when I wish I had a "manual," for boys with Autism going through puberty. I'm so not ready for all of this, but I guess I better be!