Friday, September 12, 2014

"Functional" Skills

The other morning for breakfast, Dominic decided he wanted a banana. As he pulled one off the bunch, he handed it to me because he wanted me to peel it for him. I told him to do it and he looked blankly at me. I had never taught him how to peel a banana!! Well, I quickly rectified that!! When the hubby went to the "Curriculum Night" earlier this week for Dominic, he came back and told me that his new teacher said she was going to spend some time on having the kids learn "functional" skills. The kids in his class already have a bit of a head start with that, because Mr. Paul, his old teacher, taught them how to wash dishes, water plants, and rake leaves, among other skills.  Before Lauren left for college, she gave Dominic "lessons" in setting the table.  One thing I realized I hadn't taught Dominic to do, was when he is finished eating, he needs to tell the hubby or I, "may I be excused, please?" Lauren asked that question all the way up until she turned 18!  It's taking a bit of practice, but he is asking at least 50% of the time now. My goal by the end of September is for him to be doing it 100%! This past Tuesday night, I made a meatloaf and usually I have taken a slice and cut it up into bite-sized pieces for him. This time, I gave him a knife and fork and showed him what to do. He started crying, not because of frustration, but because I kept correcting him. He wanted to do it completely by himself, with NO help from me! An important area that Dominic has thrived in has been working along side me in the kitchen. Wednesday morning, before he got on the bus, I told him to think about what kind of cookie he wanted to make when he got home from school. The options for cookies were: peanut butter and chocolate, chocolate and oatmeal or sugar. The minute Dominic walked in our front door after school Wednesday afternoon, before I could even open my mouth to ask him about his cookie "selection," he said, "sugar cookies!" In eight years, Dominic will be an adult.  I am realistic and know that he may always be living with us.  I recently heard about a bakery down in Georgia called Special Kneads and Treats that employs special needs adults (one of them being the owner's son). Children with special needs become adults with special needs and many will want to have a job. Just in the seven and half years since Dominic was diagnosed with Autism, he has made so much progress. He has made his First Holy Communion and goes to church with us, has been potty trained and learned how to read. These were three major things that at one time, I never thought possible. My dream would be to one day open a bakery here in the Midwest and employ special needs adults. I've already been in touch with a local cooking school and I'm hoping to work with the owner in getting cooking classes for special needs children and adults. With the right amount of guidance, love and patience I know it can be done! The "graduates" would be my future employees. Good idea, huh?  Given that Dominic is a great-great grandson of a baker, it's in his "genetic makeup." I think it would be awesome to have my boy working in a bakery. Who could resist buying a cookie "with a few sprinkles" from him?!?!?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Baking "Therapy"

I love to cook, but I have to admit, baking is my passion. My great-grandfather worked in a bakery in Missouri, so it most definitely is in my "genes." He passed away a few months after I was born, but I would have loved to have been able to bake along side him! The past six weeks has certainly seen it's fair share of changes and challenges - Lauren leaving for college, Dominic starting middle school and my mom being diagnosed with a serious health issue at the beginning of August. I am very close to my mom and she is currently in the hospital. Being 600 miles away from her has been really, really difficult for me. For as long as I can remember, I have turned to baking as my "therapy." The hubby and I have known each other almost 24 years and when I start churning out baked goods at a rapid pace, he knows something is up! This past Friday night, Dominic and I made some of his favorite brownie "cake" with my homemade buttercream frosting. Yesterday, we made some biscuits!

I have spent the past couple of weeks looking through my old cookbooks for a "unique" dessert. In my Town Crier DeLuxe Recipe Book, I found a cookie recipe for fudge four o'clocks. This particular cookbook says on the inside, "A Practical Economical Gift - To Young Brides, Home Economics Students, and Homemakers." Is home economics even offered in schools anymore? I remember taking a home economics class and we did sewing and baked cookies. Guess who brought a recipe to school? Yep, me! Anyways, I don't have to ever worry that I bake too much. When my counter starts overflowing with my baked items, I just send them to work with the hubby. He always comes back with an empty container! Dominic ate the last biscuit this morning for breakfast.

Good grief, those biscuits lasted less than 24 hours!!  Hmm, I'm thinking I might have to make those fudge four o'clocks this afternoon. Stay tuned, you might be seeing that recipe on my food blog soon!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mom "Meltdowns"

This past Wednesday, while I was waiting for Dominic to get done with his first music therapy session with his new therapist, I watched a mom come in with her son with Down Syndrome. He looked like he was about Dominic's age and when he looked at me, I said, "hi, buddy!"  He didn't answer back, but that was okay. I watched the mom take her son around the corner, I'm guessing to a class, but they came back within a minute and sat down nearby.  A few minutes after that, a boy, who I'm assuming was his brother came over (it looked like he just had a cello lesson). The little guy with Down Syndrome started running around and then hopped on and off the elevator. The more the little guy ran around, the more the mom was getting stressed (I probably would have been too)! As they headed towards where I was sitting, the little guy with Down Syndrome deliberately pushed his brother's cello to the floor. The mom opened up the case and discovered a crack on the cello. She then said, "I don't even know what to say" to the little guy and then went up on the elevator, leaving the two boys downstairs by themselves. After a minute or two, the mom came back down, walked over to the bench where I was sitting and then had a complete "meltdown." She started crying softly and then it progressed to full blown sobbing - like for about ten minutes. I was thinking about trying to talk to this mom, but then a couple of other moms came over and tried to comfort her.  A mom came over and said, "you look like you need a hug," so she hugged her. All the while I was sitting there, not quite sure what I should be doing. When the crying mom stopped sobbing for a bit, she said, "it's been a hard week, we shouldn't have tried to push it by bringing him here." Other moms were saying, "we've all been there." This mom eventually stopped crying and left with her two boys. I wonder if she'll try to take her little guy to the music class again. I'm guessing she won't even try.  I can remember back to when Dominic was first diagnosed with Autism and I tried to take him to a class at a nature center. It was totally not geared to children with special needs and I remember getting so frustrated and upset that I left in the middle of the class, walked to the car and then cried my eyes out. I've thought about how that mom reacted to what her little guy did to the cello a few times since the incident occurred and I know I would have handled it differently. If Dominic had done that, I would have grabbed him and taken him immediately to the car and then discussed the matter privately. How many of us have seen a mom yelling at their kid in a store? It makes you wonder what lead up to that "meltdown," doesn't it?!? That's what was interesting about this mom at the music school, she never once raised her voice and/or yelled at her son. Since getting Dominic toilet trained about 1 1/2 years ago, I thought we never ever would have to worry about him having "accidents." Well, that was wishful thinking! Today, so far, he has had three accidents. I used to have "meltdowns" about it, but the only thing that achieved was getting Dominic upset. I decided the better approach was to not get all wound up about it, but instead say calmly, "that's okay, let's just try next time to not have an accident." He only has accidents at home, not really anywhere else. It's not like I can ask Dominic why that it is, he wouldn't be able to answer me. The way I look at it is, there were many, many times when I NEVER thought he would ever be trained, so if he has an accident once in awhile, it's not a big deal!!

Sunday, August 31, 2014


This past Friday night, we decided to go to Culver's, one of our favorite restaurants in town. While we were eating, a gentleman that worked there came over and said, "did you order a grilled cheese sandwich? our registers have been ringing them up, even if a customer didn't order it." I told him that we hadn't, and he handed me $2.00 (the amount of the overcharge). We had been so hungry, that I hadn't even noticed that on our receipt, there was an extra charge. How many restaurants would do that? Go out of their way to give customers money back? Since Lauren was home this weekend from college, we spent all of yesterday afternoon picking up things that she needed to take back with her. I was "armed" with many coupons (of course) and at JC Penney, I used a 20% off coupon. When the price rang up, it seemed really low, but I thought maybe it was on sale more and I hadn't noticed. After leaving the store, I took a look at my receipt and was telling Lauren the saleswoman took off $20.00 instead of 20%.  All through the next store that we stopped at, all I could think about was how dishonest I would feel going home, knowing the saleswoman rang us up wrong. I decided to go back to JC Penney and tell them. This time, I got a different saleswoman, so I explained what had happened.  She had kind of a surprised look on her face and said, "you were undercharged?" There was another gal standing there, who I am guessing was the manager. They both looked at me and said, "it's our mistake, we are not going to make you pay more, we appreciate you being honest, now pay it forward to someone else!" I plan on doing that the first chance I get!  I think it's so important to show our children (even if they are adults), that honesty is always the best "policy." If they don't learn it from us, who will they learn it from?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Summer of "Growth"

Dominic has been a busy young man this summer. He went to summer school and music therapy. He turned 10 years old in July.

We went on a car trip back to Maryland to visit his big brother and other family and friends at the end of July.

He has been going inside our church for Mass, started private speech therapy with a new speech therapist and helped move Lauren into college!

We also had to say good-bye to Miss Amber, his awesome music therapist. She taught Dominic so much and we are really going to miss her!!!

Dominic starts next Wednesday with a new music therapist, so we are happy that he will be able to continue! Dominic is heading to a new school next week, so we went back to visit Mr. Paul yesterday at his old school.  It didn't seem to confuse Dominic at all visiting his old classroom. As soon as we got there, he took off his socks and shoes and made himself at home :)  I've told Mr. Paul before that he is young enough to be my son (he is younger than my stepson), but I think of him more as a friend and peer.

I am one of these parents that believes in keeping in touch with past teachers, therapists, etc. I still go out to lunch with the librarian that used to work at his old school and I just recently reconnected with one of Lauren's old elementary school teachers! Last Friday, I got a call from the bus company that has transported Dominic back and forth to school since he was three. I am over the moon that he will have the same bus driver he had last year, Mr. E.!!!! As soon as I told Dominic, he said, "muffin!"  Yep, all last year, I would give Mr. E my homemade muffins :)  It has been awesome to watch Dominic "grow" so much this summer. Sometimes it's hard for me to remember him being this little (and both of us having such short hair). Dominic's super thick hair is kind of his "trademark!"

I think it may be time to buy Dominic some new clothes, don't you think??? If you can believe it, these clothes actually still sort of fit him at the beginning of the summer!

Sometimes, it seems like he grows overnight. I just bought a gallon of milk yesterday and half of it is gone already. This morning, for breakfast, he ate the last two leftover waffles. Around 1:30 p.m., he saw me eating one of the leftover burgers from dinner and wanted the other one. This was after the hubby had already given him some chicken tenders when I was out earlier running errands. Just now, as I finished up this blog post, he announced, "I'm hungry!" He went in to the pantry, took a bag of Chex Mix out (his favorite snack) and poured himself some in a bowl.  Good grief, do you think he's going through a growth spurt?!?!?!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Extraordinary Talents

When I heard Dominic singing the ABC's the other day, it sounded unusual. I realized after he said them a few times, that he was singing them from Z-A, not A-Z!


It totally blew my mind when he did it, so that's why I grabbed my camera and recorded him!  My brother and his family gave Dominic a 500-piece puzzle for his birthday. While that may sound like too many pieces for the average 10-year old to do by himself, Dominic has been doing puzzles with 500 pieces or more for several years.  He will sit sometimes for an hour or more while working on a puzzle, which given Dominic also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), astounds me.

Yesterday, I finally put a picture from his First Holy Communion into the awesome frame his godmother gave him and put it up on our mantelpiece.  He went over, looked at it and said, "First Holy Communion, May 3, St. John's Church, had bread, had pizza!" No where on the picture did it say the date or the location of the church.  The bread he was talking about was the communion wafer he received for the first time.  We had pizza that night to celebrate. Good grief, he was 100% right. To test him later on in the day, I asked him, "what day did we take Lauren to college?"  He responded back, "20!" Yep, that was right. I thought since the August calendar was on the wall, maybe he saw it. So, to test him further, I said, "what day are you going to school next week?" He said, "2." Yep, he goes back, September 2nd! In the afternoon, I gave him a puzzle word search for teenagers, he finished it within minutes. When I asked him to solve single digit math problems, like 8 + 6, he could tell me the right answer verbally within a few seconds, without the aid of a piece of paper and pencil. When I saw him looking at the i-Pad last night, I asked him what he was doing. He said, "Google Earth." I looked down and and saw our house on the screen.  Back last winter, Dominic got a hold of some screwdrivers, went down to the basement and started taking apart some of his toys. He would take the screws out and then put them back in again. We started calling that room his "workshop." When he started unscrewing the switch plates off the light switches, we had to "shut down" his workshop for a while!! Like any mom, I think about Dominic's future. Will he go to college? Will he get a job? Will he be self-sufficient? When you are a parent of a special needs child, those types of questions are not easily answered.  I don't think Dominic is a "savant," but he does have some "extraordinary" talents. This morning, I asked him, "what day did we take Lauren to college?" He was nowhere near the calendar and said, "20, it was a Wednesday!"   

Monday, August 25, 2014


With Lauren starting her first day of college classes today, I can't help but think back to when she was four and just starting preschool.  Since my whole life up until that time had revolved around taking care of her, I was at a loss as to what to do with myself. To say it was a hard "adjustment" would be an understatement! Yesterday afternoon about 4:00 or so, Lauren said she had some free time and asked if we could Skype. I was hoping we could chat later after dinner (when the hubby would be here), but Lauren said she was going to church, then eating dinner, playing tennis, hanging out with her new friends, etc. One thing I've already discovered about having a kid in college, you have to be available when they are to chat, not the other way around!! To me, it feels like Lauren is on a long sleepover. To her, she told me it feels like "camp." Well, she is sleeping in a bunk bed!

I was concerned (and so was Lauren) as to how Dominic would handle all of the change, but he seems to be doing just fine. He was very much a part of the process of helping her move in last Wednesday.

Little by little, the hubby, Dominic and I are "adjusting" to Lauren not being here all the time. In some ways, part of me wishes that I could be there to walk her into her classroom, like I did when she first started preschool.


But, I also recognize that isn't possible (or realistic)! Plus, she would probably be more than a little embarrassed if I did that, don't you think?!?!?! 

I'm thinking of you today, my sweet girl as you start your college classes. I know that you will do great!