Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How One Person Can Make a Difference

Around the holidays I heard about how "Secret Santas" were paying layaway tabs for complete strangers at the K-Mart.  It started small and then gained momentum around the country.  I thought that was such an unselfish thing to do.  I bet that person (who I am sure wanted to remain anonymous) never thought that his/her random act of kindness would have such a huge impact. I have heard of other stories similar to that, such as going through a toll booth and paying for the person behind you or how a patron leaves a huge tip for the waitress.  Those are the kinds of stories that I like to read about. I remember one year my daughter, my dad and I took some food baskets that our church had put together and delivered them to a rent subsidized apartment complex around Thanksgiving or Christmas.   Most of the people living there had one room and everything they owned was contained in that one room.  The recipients of the food baskets were so incredibly appreciative and thanked us profusely.  We came away from that experience very humbled for what we have, realizing others have so little.  I think one of the best things we can teach our children is that one person does make a difference.  Teaching our children that there is always someone less fortunate than themselves makes them really appreciate what they have.  As we head towards 2012, what are some ways that you can find for you and your family to give back and make a difference for others?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Traditions

My two younger children have an almost 8 year age difference between them.  Trying to find something that both of them will do together for more than five minutes can be challenging!  For the past 3 or 4 years my kids have built gingerbread houses.  I buy a kit that includes the gingerbread, icing and various toppings.  This year I was my son's "assistant."  I have this habit of trying to do too much for him.  This year I let him tell me what to do.  He decided whether the line of icing would be straight or curvy.  I applied the icing, but he guided me the whole way as to where to put it, such as what shape he wanted the windows, etc.  For a kid with ADHD and Autism he sat for a good 1/2 hour with a very determined look on his face decorating his house. My daughter is much more creative than myself.  She made a snowman out of the leftover icing and used sprinkles for arms.  I would have never thought of doing that! I love to see from year to year how the houses are decorated.  Making the gingerbread houses have kind of become a "tradition" with my kids.


When we used to live back East,  I hosted Christmas dinner for a number of years.  I have to say I really miss it.  My brother, sister and I and our families live in three different parts of the country now, so it's more difficult to get together.  My hubby ordered some Slovenian sausages from Cleveland for us to have for dinner this year.  It definitely was "traditional" to eat those sausages when we would visit my in-laws.  I think for my husband it reminds him of his parents who are both no longer with us.  When my siblings and I were little my dad would read us the book, "The Night Before Christmas"  by Clement C. Moore on Christmas Eve.  My husband now reads that book to our children every Christmas Eve.  I hope that is a "tradition" that will continue for generations to come.  What are your holiday traditions this year? are they old ones or will you be creating new ones? 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cathy's Chocolate Biscotti Recipe

I have made this biscotti a ton this Christmas.  Enjoy!


3 cups white flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ cups white sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
4 large eggs (slightly beaten)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease two  cookie sheets with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda.  Set aside.

In a large bowl,  combine sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla extract.  Beat by hand or with mixer until creamy.  Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until well combined either with your hands or with a large spoon.  Chill dough in fridge one hour.

Divide dough in half.  Shape each half into a 12-inch long log.  Flatten slightly (about 2-3 inches across). Place each log onto the lightly greased cookie sheets.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Pull the cookie sheets out  and let cool for 5 minutes on wire rack.  Remove logs from cookie sheets  and cut each log into 12 equal sized slices.  Return slices to cookie sheets and place cut-sides down.  Return back to oven for another 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheets  10 minutes.  Place biscotti on wire rack to cool for  15 minutes.  Makes 2 dozen cookies.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

To Text or Not to Text??

It took me a long time to get a cell phone.  Now, my husband, daughter and I all have one.  My hubby and I use ours mostly for touching base with each other. My daughter, like most teens, uses hers for texting. When I was a teen we used a telephone to communicate, some of my friends had their own phone line  (I was SO jealous of those friends)!!  In my family growing up, there were five of us sharing one phone line.  There was no e-mail or texting or cell phones.  Some of my friends (forgetting that I don't text), will say, "well, Cathy, I sent you a text about..."  I have to gently remind them I don't text.  I've told them, "I got your text, but don't know how to text you back!"  My friends and daughter would be ecstatic if I started texting on a regular basis.  My daughter has tried to give me "lessons."  She'll say things like, "mom, all the other moms text."  My response back has been, "well, this mom doesn't!"   I am always on e-mail, I've told more than one of my friends, that I e-mail the way most people text.  I've seen people texting in their cars.  I see people do a lot of different things in their cars, but I have to say texting and driving is a pretty dangerous combination.  About a year or so,  I was in a parking lot and there was a man in the middle of the row of cars, texting away, completely oblivious to the fact I was right behind him in my car.  I couldn't go around him, he was walking  right smack in the middle! I didn't want to honk at him, I thought I would probably make him jump 10 feet in the air!  After a few minutes, he finally figured it out and looked back at me, and then moved over. I know in certain situations it would better to text than try and call. This past Saturday afternoon, I was waiting for a phone call  to pick up my daughter at school (she was riding back on a bus from a school event).  She called me from the bus and said, "we're 20 minutes away, you can leave home and come up to the school now."  When I got up there, neither she and/or the bus were anywhere around.  After I sat there a few minutes, I looked over at my phone and thought well, no time like the present to attempt it by myself.  Since my daughter had given me those "lessons"  I sort of had a general idea what to do.  I punched in a message and hit the send button, hoping I did it right.  Much to my amazement, within five minutes she texted back!!  When I asked her later what she thought of me texting, she said when she got my initial  message, she almost fell off the bus seat!  I'm not saying I'll be using texting as my main form of communication, but I think I feel confident enough to attempt more texting in the future.  Could using an ATM be next?? I have NEVER used  one.  I guess I'll have to get my husband to give me "lessons" in using one of those!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Embracing My Son's Differences

Sometimes I think what my son would be like if he didn't have Autism.  The first 2 1/2 years of his life I knew something wasn't quite right, but couldn't put my finger on it.  When my son was about 5 months old, my father-in-law became ill and my husband went back almost every weekend for 3 months to visit him and to check on his mom (they lived in Cleveland).  I stayed home to take care of my daughter and my son.  My father-in-law passed away when my son was about 8 months old.  Our family continued to go to Cleveland routinely  to visit my mother-in-law for another year and then cleaned out and sold their home.  During those days I would nurse him on my lap and be sorting papers  at the same time.  My in-laws were of the Depression Era so you can imagine the amount of stuff they had!  Some days it was all I could do to bathe my kids and feed them.  After we moved my mother-in-law closer to us and got her settled, I then began to notice how my son wasn't talking, making much eye contact and very much preferred his own company (all signs of Autism).  My husband suggested we get him tested through the county we lived in.  We had someone come to our house and evaluate him.  They found him to have "significant" speech delays. I still didn't suspect he had Autism.  When he was 2 1/2 I took him to the pediatrician who asked me a bunch of questions.  He is the one who diagnosed his Autism.  About six months later, we went to a child psychiatrist who diagnosed him with ADHD.  My son has been riding the bus and going to school since he was 3.  One of the hardest things I ever had  to do was put  him on the bus that first day, I'm pretty sure I cried.  He was fine with riding the bus, he likes the routine and predictability (still does).  My daughter told me recently that she can't imagine what it would be like if her little brother didn't have Autism.  We don't know him any other way.  We take such great pride in every word/skill  he learns. Lately,  he's been showing us yoga poses. The Autism "Spectrum" is so broad.  It's different for every child and what will work for one child might not work for another.  There are so many people that I have met through him having special needs.  Some will be lifelong friends.  I have an AMAZING group of friends and family that support my son and our entire family. We treat my son like he doesn't have Autism.  He gets timeouts if necessary and he has chores.  I really don't cut the guy too much slack.  He has started to veto my clothing choices for him, so it becomes a battle of wills between the two of us. His favorite word is still "no!"  But isn't that a favorite of a lot of kids no matter the age?   He keeps me on my toes each and every day!  I embrace his differences and am proud to call him my son.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Taking Care of Ourselves

I recently had my follow-up visit with one of the cardiologists that treated me during my "unscheduled" hospital stay in November.  Since it hasn't even been a month since my stay, I am still adjusting to the fact I have a heart condition.  As I was waiting to be seen by the doctor, I looked around at the other people in the waiting room with me.  I was the youngest by about 20+ years.  Some of the people were attached to oxygen, others had wheelchairs and walkers.   I kind of sat there scratching my head, thinking how did I end up here???  As I think back to about 6 months ago, before I ever knew I had an irregular heartbeat, I remember my feet and legs not really hurting, but definitely feeling uncomfortable if I tried to get up from the bed, chair or off the floor.  I really didn't think too much about it at the time. When I started having the shortness of breath pretty much all of a sudden during my daily walks, I still didn't think a whole lot about it.  When I started going to bed 1-2 hours earlier than normal, I figured I was just wearing myself out during the day and was extra tired.  All of these different things were pointing towards heart disease.  I just wasn't putting it all together!  There evidently is 100 or more different types of cardiomyopathy.   Since it's "non-ischemic" cardiomyopathy (meaning not related to coronary artery disease) it's unclear what caused it.  I am so thankful to the nurse at the Red Cross that caught my irregular heartbeat,  which in turn eventually led to the diagnosis of cardiomyopathy.  I have spent some time (probably too much time)  since my discharge from the hospital thinking, what if? What if it hadn't been caught early? How long would I have let it go before doing something about it?  When one of the cardiologists that I saw in the hospital  told me a heart transplant was the worst case scenario, I have to admit, it kind of shook me up!!  I'm lucky in a lot of ways that it was caught early.   I'm now playing the waiting game. I'm not very good at that game!  I'm taking a high blood pressure medication and getting another echocardiogram in February 2012.  The doctor said we'll see how the test in February turns out and then decide what to do next. I'm trying not to think what that "next" step might be.  As moms, we are so busy taking care of everyone else that sometimes we ignore the warning signs in regards to our own health.  I'm so used to being the caretaker in my house, I'm having a hard time letting my family take care of me!  I'm slowly loosening those "control" straps I have attached to my family and a lot of other things in my life.  It's hard, but I'm learning! In hindsight, I wish I would have listened to my body more and recognized the symptoms earlier as being symptoms of heart disease.  But, as the old saying goes,  hindsight is 20/20.  I just have to keep plugging along and remember to sit and rest once in a while.  That pile of laundry that's as tall as my son will just have to wait!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Labels Don't Always "Stick"

From time to time I think about a comment that one of my elementary school teachers wrote on my report card.  It said, "something is wrong with Cathy, she doesn't talk."  I really don't know why that comment has stuck with me all these years.  Through a large portion of  my school years,  I was what you would call the "quiet" kid.  At times, most definitely  "shy." Those were  the two "labels" most associated with me.  I tried to keep my nose clean and not get into trouble.  The other day, my daughter and I were watching a show called, "Toddlers and Tiaras."  It's a show on the TLC Network that's a reality show for  kids beauty pageants.  Either a judge or one of the moms (I can't remember) was talking about the contestants being "facially gifted."  That was a label I had never heard before in my life.  When my daughter was a baby/toddler,  I toyed briefly with putting her in beauty pageants.  But, once I saw how much cash was involved for dresses, entry fees, etc. I decided it probably wouldn't be a good idea.  I guess I'm one of these people that tries not to judge people by their looks. I judge people more by their actions and how they treat others.  I've always thought that it's whats inside that counts. I think parents sometimes get hung up on labeling their kids.  I  read things like, "my son is the athlete in the family"  or "my daughter is the brain."  Doesn't that put a lot of pressure on their kids to live up to that label?   When I tell my friends that I used to be quiet/shy  they can't believe it!   If only my old elementary school  teacher could see me now.  I would probably have the desk right next to her because I wouldn't stop talking!  I'm so glad my "label" didn't stick with me!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Are Moms Ever "Off-Duty?"

My son decides  from time to time that 4 a.m. is a great time to get up for the day.  Thank goodness it's rare!!  I wish I could say he takes a nap or goes to bed much earlier than his usual bedtime, but he doesn't.   A few weeks ago,  I woke up because I  heard him singing.  I looked over at the clock and it was 4 a.m.  At  4:30,  I heard him going downstairs past our bedroom.  I looked over at my husband and jokingly  told him I don't go on "duty" until 5!    It got me thinking that as moms,  are we ever "off-duty?"  Some of our many "jobs" include the following:  Job #1 -  chauffeur (driving one or more children to activities usually all beginning and ending at the same time). I haven't come up with a way to be in two places at the same time (yet).   Job #2 -  chef (trying to please one or more children and/or husband with your culinary expertise) - made even tougher with dietary restrictions (allergies, etc.).  Whenever one or more of my family members has a comment I tell them,  "I'll let the kitchen and/or management staff know."  That usually keeps any more comments at bay.   Job #3 -  nursemaid (example: trying to soothe a crying baby who is having teething issues) at 3 a.m. in the morning.   Job #4 - cleaning lady (trying to keep the mess or clutter of one or more children and/or husband from overtaking the house).  Job #5 - laundromat operation staff - (sometimes washing a certain item of clothing at 10 p.m.  that is needed by 7 a.m. the next morning).  There are lots more, but the above are all that I can think of at the moment.  If you're a single mom or taking care of extended family members the list is even longer.  I consider being a mom one of the best "jobs" that I will ever  have.  It's 24/7 and you're always on "duty", but well worth it in my opinion. Sure, it's not always peaches and cream, but most of the time the benefits are sweet!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Growing Up

My daughter is halfway to her 16th  birthday.  When she was younger, I wanted to do everything for her. I treated her like she was made of glass.  I would give the other  kids a hard time on the playground if they weren't nice to her. I'll never forget when she was in second or third grade she told me, "I'm not going to call you mommy anymore, I'm going to call you mom."  It made me a little sad, but I got over it.  I was so tied into her that when she went to preschool at age 4, I would stare at the clock, waiting for her to come home from school.  My world at the time revolved around taking care of  her.  What I wouldn't give now for a day with 25 hours in it! As she's gotten older, I've had to learn to distance myself somewhat.  It's a slippery slope, you want to help, but how much is too much?   When she had to do a project making a lighthouse in elementary school, we went to the hobby store and bought some supplies.  When I went to the school to see what all the other kids made, I was astounded by the lighthouses with running water and electrical wiring.  They most definitely were not made by the kids.  I told one of her teachers that I thought the lighthouses looked pretty good.  The teacher said quietly back to me, "well, we know which ones were made by the parents."  I am proud to say my daughter did hers all on her own.  I'm about as creative as a pin cushion, I couldn't have helped her make it look professional even if I tried!   The other day she and I were discussing something and my hubby was in the room.  He looked over at us and said, "I  really don't understand "girl talk."  He never had a sister so most of the stuff we talk about is foreign to him!  My daughter and I have a great relationship - we are not each other's best friends, but we are good  friends.  With my new found medical problems she has been a terrific source of comfort.  She is amazing with her little brother.  She and her older brother have a great relationship. I'm glad she feels comfortable enough to share things with me.  I try not to ask too many questions, sometimes she just wants a listener.  I try to dispense my motherly advice only when asked.  One of the things I tell her the most is, "this is what I would do, but you're the one that has to make the decision."   I can't sit on her shoulder and make decisions for her, she has to learn on her own.  There are lots of temptations for teenagers out there - smoking, drugs, drinking, etc.  It's downright scary.  From here on out,  all  I can do is hope that she makes the right choices as she heads towards adulthood.  Isn't that what all parents want for their children?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Some Things are Out of Our Control

I am a person who likes to be in control, I readily admit it.  Well, on  the Monday before Thanksgiving, I definitely was not in control!  I unexpectedly ended up spending the night in the hospital.  I thought I was taking good care of myself, I've been walking two miles a day/five days a week  for about 8 years or so.  I've also been trying to watch my diet more closely.  I had noticed that about the past six weeks I was getting short of breath while walking.  I  thought  maybe it's because I was trying to talk too much at the same time I was walking (I do have a big mouth sometimes)!   I also had been having some chest pain (during those six weeks), but thought it was because I am usually trying to do two or more things at the same time.  I was at the hospital that Monday morning  for a Stress Test and Echocardiogram.  I was scheduled for those tests because  towards the end of  October when I donated blood to the Red Cross and was getting the mini-exam the nurse said, "do you know that you have an irregular heartbeat?"  She and another nurse counted three irregular heartbeats in a minute.  They suggested I see my regular doctor.  About a week later, the doctor did an EKG in the office, which didn't show anything, but she highly suggested getting the Stress Test/Echocardiogram  just to make sure.  When I went for the test on Monday, within about five minutes the cardiologist found I had one abnormality, something called, "left bundle branch block."  He suggested I get a heart catheterization since I was already at the hospital.  I was lucky there was an opening at 1 p.m. I went for that test which showed I had no blockages (thank goodness), but it did show I have a heart condition called "non-ischemic cardiomyopathy."  Shortly after the catheterization, they tried a heart medication to get my blood pressure down (it was kind of high).  Within about an hour of that I started feeling faint - I buzzed for the nurse and within a minute I had three nurses and a doctor gathered around my bed injecting a different medication  into my I.V. to bring it back up. It had dropped down to a pretty dangerous level.  I remember the nurse telling another nurse, "we have a situation!"   I've been called a lot of things in my life, but never a "situation."   Another word tossed around regarding my blood pressure, was that it "tanked."  To be sure I was okay, they kept me overnight.  Before I was released on Tuesday afternoon,  I asked one of the three cardiologists that I saw, what is the worst case scenario for my two heart problems, his response was, "heart transplant."   That's not really the answer  I was looking for.  The cardiologists are hopeful  both of my conditions can be treated with medications.   One gigantic lesson I've learned from this whole experience is that I can't always be in "control" no matter how much I want to be.  Life just doesn't work that way!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Tribute

This Saturday (November 26) has a special significance for me.  My beloved cousin that passed away  in March would have been 50.  She left behind so many people that struggle with the loss.  My cousin was one of  a  twin and she also has a younger brother.   My aunt (her mom) is one of the many people that loved and adored my cousin.  I have written about my "Auntie" before.   She was married to my mom's brother.  My aunt took care of her husband and at the same time helped to take care of my 101-year old grandmother until both of them passed away.  She and I talk a lot about what it is like to be the "caregivers"  in our families.   My aunt and I  have a really tight bond and we are incredibly close.  I cherish my relationship with her.  She has been a good sounding board for me and I hope that I have been the same for her.  She has been one of my son's biggest supporters through all of his challenges.  My kids absolutely adore her and when we visit the East Coast a visit to see my Auntie is always a must!!!   I think the loss of a child, no matter how old they are, must be the hardest thing to deal with in the whole world.  I can't even fathom how my aunt manages to handle that loss on a daily basis.  I know that  Saturday will also  be a very hard day for my cousin's two siblings.  My  twin cousins and I were pretty close growing up.   I remember one time they showed me a box that they said  held  our great grandfather's glass eye inside of it!  I don't know if it really was or not, still not sure to this day!  I always looked up to them because they were a little older than me.  Being twins, I always thought that was cool, because they always had a playmate.  My cousin left behind a daughter, who I am sure struggles with the loss a lot.  I still have my mom, so I really can't imagine what it has been and what it will be like for her in the future.  I will be thinking of you, dear, sweet cousin this Saturday and will be remembering you and loving you with all of my heart.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Group Hug

We recently had my stepson  fly in to town to visit.  He is an adult and on his own, but we always welcome him  back into the "fold"  when he comes.  We would love to see him more, but he is so busy with his job that we're happy for whatever time we have him.  We were lucky this time to be able to have him with us for four days.  We never know from visit to visit when we'll see him again, so we always try to make his visits a good time.  I have known him since he was 6.  He will be 28 in January!  As the saying goes,  time really does fly by.  He wasn't in our house five minutes before I was asking him if he would like something to eat!  I had a sandwich on the kitchen table for him within 15 minutes.  I love cooking and baking for him (I always have).  He appreciates it so much and always gives me  the best compliments!  How could I not want to feed him??   We made him an early Thanksgiving dinner, complete with pumpkin pie because he will not be with us on the actual day of Thanksgiving.    His returning flight left on Saturday at 9 a.m.   We all got up and out of our house by 7:30 a.m.  No easy feat for 5 people on a Saturday morning.  We chattered away in the car on the way to the airport all of us wanting to talk!  My husband was just going to drop him at the curb and I was like "no, you're parking the car and we're all going in to say good-bye!"  I was joking to my stepson that I should have made a sign saying, "Bon Voyage!"  He told me nicely that might have been a bit much.  Instead,  as we were saying our good byes near the security entrance we started hugging him one by one.  My 7-year old started to pull us closer together so I said, "group hug!"   So, the five of us did a  group hug.  It didn't matter to me who saw us doing that.  Some people might have thought it was something unusual to see at the airport, hopefully the people that did see it thought it was cool!  My stepson was very touched, so to me that was all that mattered.  He was feeling the love from us.  I love to give and receive hugs - that's just who I am!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

There is Always Something to be Thankful For

Hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is almost here.  It kind of bums me out that the day after Halloween all the Christmas and holiday decorations start coming out full tilt!  What about Thanksgiving??  It kind of seems like the forgotten holiday because it's wedged in between Halloween and Christmas.  Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks for all that you have.  When you don't have a lot, it's sometimes hard to find something to be thankful for.  When you have a lot, it's easy to forget to be thankful for what you have.  One of the many things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving is the incredible opportunity I have been given by MomsEveryday.com.  There are so many "mom" websites out there in the Blogosphere.  I have found their website to always  be positive, encouraging and nurturing.   I am thankful for my loving family and  friends.  This will be our first Thanksgiving without my mother-in-law.  I know that it will be difficult, especially for my husband, but we will make it through just fine.   It would be easy to over focus on the fact that she is not with us.  I choose not to do that.  In our family,  we talk about the special memories of our loved ones that have passed on.  I love that I have this blog to be able to share some of the many memories I have of my mother-in-law.  As we head towards Thanksgiving take a few moments to think of one good thing you can be thankful for, I know I will be!

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Definition of a " Special Needs" Child

I looked up in the dictionary recently what the word "special" means.  The first definition I saw was, "out of the ordinary."  I was thinking, well, that certainly describes my son.  He is anything but ordinary!   Ordinary means something that is the same.  Wouldn't the world be a boring place if everyone was the same??   I had to hear that our son was "below average" several times at his recent IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting in October.  The IEP is an annual meeting with usually the child's teacher, social worker, psychologist, speech therapist and the parents to discuss the special education services your child gets through the school system.  We were getting results of the many tests that were administered to get his current "performance"  level.    I had to hear that our little guy was extremely "below average", well "below average" and  that his language impairment was "profound."  I am realistic about his abilities and came to terms with him having Autism, ADHD and speech delays a long time ago.  Even so, to hear those words (and I'm all about the words) it was tough. We have worked so hard to get him to the point he is now.   I would love to develop an additional "test" that parents would get the results of at their child's IEP.  This test would list at least ten things that your child is "above average" on.   A few examples would be giving hugs, reciting the ABC's or can wave  bye.   For some parents that would be a 11 out of 10!  My own definition of a special needs child is that they are unique, "above average" and amazing!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Think Positive!!!

One thing I have tried my hardest to be throughout my life is a positive person.  The past year and half for my family has been a roller coaster ride.  I felt at times that I was in the front seat just flying at warp speed down the tracks.  Around this time last year,  my mother-in-law, daughter and son were all in the hospital in the same week!  I knew when the nurses and doctors started to recognize us in the Emergency Room that maybe we were there a little too much.  What I am realizing as I get older is no one goes through their life without at least one serious challenge.  It's how you handle those challenge(s) and how you come out on the other side is what separates the positive people from the negative people.  You can choose to let life's challenges weigh you down or you can choose to look at the positive side and learn from those challenges.  Negative people to me are just "toxic."  Life is way too short to waste time on negativity.   It's really just wasted energy.  When I found out my son was diagnosed with Autism at age 2 1/2, I could have chosen to be extremely negative and say why us???  I feel like my son chose us to be his family.  I had pretty much given up having any more children after my daughter was born.  I had two miscarriages after she was born and thought, okay, I guess it really isn't in the cards to have any more children.  When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I was stressed out every day that I would have another miscarriage.  I feel extremely lucky that I have him and feel honored to be his mom.  He has taught me to be more spontaneous  and shows me unconditional love every day.  Whatever challenges may be in my future, and I 'm sure there will be more, I will continue to try and see the positive side. That's really the only way I know how to be!!!!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Who Does She Think She is Wearing Those Shorts??

The title of this post is what I overheard an elderly  woman say about me when I visited my mother-in-law one time in Cleveland.  There were a trio of ladies that would hang out by the lobby and watch the people go in and out of the assisted living facility my mother-in-law lived in for about a year.  Those ladies would comment on everyone coming in and out, they really didn't have much of a "filter."  I didn't get too bummed out, because I walk 2 miles, 5 days a week, so I think my legs looked okay.  Later on though, it did make me wonder, what is my fashion style? Back when I was  in high school,  the style was bell bottom pants and platform shoes.  The "Izod" shirt was popular and something that I wanted all through high school, but never got!  I just wore whatever was comfortable, not paying a whole lot of attention to the current style.   I only went to college for a handful of semesters before I started working and going to college at the same time.  I  didn't pay attention to what I wore in college, because more than half of the time I went at  night and could just wear what I had worn to work that day.  I remember my boss at one of my past jobs demand that  I wear a dress or skirt because I was the receptionist.  That actually made what I wore easy!  When I started staying home with my kids over 15 years ago, my style became whatever was clean and not too wrinkled.  A few weeks ago I saw someone wearing pajama bottoms  at the store.  I was actually envious, at least she was comfy.  The only  time I get dressed up seems to be for special occasions or holidays.  I actually have to dust off my fancy shoes, because  about 80% of the time I wear my  tennis shoes.  I've started wearing socks with athletic flip-flops, but only when I'm going out  to get my mail or newspaper or driving the kids around.  I own lots of sweatshirts, t-shirts and a few pairs of jeans/shorts/capris.   I own t-shirts that I'm sure are older than my daughter.  Just last week my hubby and I we went to see a concert and I bought a t-shirt (a vendor was selling them dirt cheap, so I couldn't pass up that)! After thinking for a while, I've come to the conclusion that my "style" is  casual, sporty and sometimes "bohemian."  When a t-shirt and shorts/jeans are just a little too casual I like to wear a shirt that's got a pop of color.  Not so outrageous that you need sunglasses because it's so blinding, though!   I guess as I head towards 50 (less than 2 years from now),   I will stick with what's worked for me so far as an adult.  When it's time for me to be in assisted living (hopefully not until I'm about 90)  I'll be the one walking around in shorts (just to shake things up a bit)!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Age is Just a Number

My husband will be 60 next year  and I will be 49.  Being parents of three children so many years apart from each other we have heard just about every comment there is.  When a couple of girls in their late teens came to our house to buy one of  our cars a few years ago they were admiring a picture of the two younger "kids" we had in the hallway.  One of the girls remarked, "are those your grandchildren?"  I started giggling until I realized that would make me "grandma!!!"  I am certainly old enough to be my son's grandmother, but not to be my daughter's grandma.  When my husband went about a month or so to an eye doctor appointment, one of the technicians asked my husband if he was "retired."  He told her, "no, I have a seven year old."  He came home and said that  had took the wind right out of his sails. My husband exercises every day, does yoga and eats very healthy.  Some of my friends have already retired from the workforce and my husband has friends who already have grandchildren.   Having a child in elementary school, one in high school and one that is an adult has been quite interesting to say the least.  In the same conversation at our house,  we could be talking about Spongebob Squarepants, colleges my daughter is thinking about, and how my stepson's  job is going!!   My husband likes to tell people that he had a child every decade.  There are 11 years separating my husband and I.  It never has been an issue except when it comes to our musical tastes.  I like groups from the 80's and 90's, my hubby likes the music of the 60's and 70's.  We have a few groups in common, we have been to see the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, to name a few.  My little man and I love Kid Rock.  My daughter likes groups I've never heard of.  My stepson is pleasantly surprised when he mentions a group and I've heard of it.  There are about 21 years separating him and I.  My husband just yesterday was telling me that someone asked him how old he was and he asked the guy, "why, how old do you think I am?"  The guy told him 39! That made his day considering he is 20 years older than that.  My husband's hair color has changed from when I first met him.   He used to have dark hair and it has gradually changed to a nice shade of silver. Our 7-year old calls him "daddy, silver fox."  To me, age is definitely just a number.  Our children are what will continue to keep my husband and I young!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bullying is Something You Never Forget

I've mentioned briefly in a previous post that I was bullied when I was in high school.  I graduated over 30 years ago, so I've had time to sit back and reflect about those times.  There is always something in the news about bullying.  It think it's a 1000 times worse now, because of the social media.  Bullying can take the forms of physical and verbal, both of which I think are equally terrible.  Two bullying  incidents in particular stand out the most in my mind from my high school days.  I remember sitting in the bleachers during gym.  One of the girls that was out on the gym floor thought I was laughing at her.  No matter how much I told her I hadn't been laughing at her, she started saying stuff like, "I'm going to beat you up later" and other things along those lines.  Some other girls observed what was going on and they said, "don't worry about her, we'll take care of it for you."  I didn't even know those other girls, but they came to my rescue and  the girl  never threatened me again.  A second, very specific incident happened when I was coming down the hallway towards a few girls.  They started saying things like, "we're not going to let you walk past us," and they physically blocked my way so I couldn't get through.  I got so upset that I started crying.  I think that's what they wanted me to do, so once I did, they laughed and moved out of my way.  I have thought about that incident more than once over the past 30 years.  This particular group of girls and I also played sports together, so unfortunately, I would have to deal with them.  They would taunt me when I played softball.  When I played soccer and was a goalie,  one of the parents of a girl on the opposing team said  "she's not very good, you can make a goal on her."  Another girl gave my brother and I a hard time once when we were on our bikes in our neighborhood.  I sometimes wonder what has happened to some of those girls.  With the Internet, it would only take a few clicks to find them.  Would it be worth it?  They have probably long since forgot the way they treated me.  Sometimes I have thought about tracking them down, just to ask the simple question, "why?"  Did you think it was cool to watch me cry?  Did you not think about what you were doing?  My own daughter has already been bullied.  I wonder about my son, being that he is "different."  People are so quick to judge.  I have tried to teach my son and daughter to be themselves and if they are being bullied know that they can come to me.  I like to think of myself as a Momma Bear and the two of them and my stepson are my "cubs."  I would do anything in the world for them.  I guess since I was bullied myself at times it has made me super sensitive about it.    If I did have a brief moment with the girls that used to torment me,  I would tell them, "you might not remember what you did to me in high school, but I do."  It  is something I have never forgot.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rushing the Season???

One of my first thoughts when I woke up this morning was that it  is exactly two months until Christmas and about a month until Thanksgiving.   It seems that the holiday season keeps getting earlier and earlier each year.  I understand that stores make a lot of their profit during that particular time of the year, but seeing a fully lit Christmas tree in one of the stores that I frequent  in the middle of September seemed a bit much.  I couldn't believe  the store had several aisles of Christmas merchandise, trees, lights and other items already out.  Back to school shopping had barely finished!!   A few years ago I remember I went to a store looking for a few items to help supplement my daughter's Halloween costume.  I was in the store on Halloween (surprisingly those aisles of the store were almost empty).  The employees were actually taking apart the displays! I felt like saying, "excuse me, but could you wait until at least the next day to take the Halloween stuff down??"   Many people  have anxiety this time of year.  There are a lot of families out there that are just barely getting by and others that have more than they need.  One of the best gifts I gave to my own extended family one year was making a donation to Heifer International on their behalf.  That particular organization uses your donation to help feed others.   The holidays are hard  for families that have lost a loved one, can't be with their families for whatever reason or don't have a family or loved ones to share the holidays with.   Sometimes one of the nicest things you can do for someone else is to hold a door open for them (especially a mom with a stroller)!  I'll never forget when my little man was not even crawling yet, I was heading towards a door with him on my hip and someone walked directly  in front of me, opened the door for himself  and let it slam in my face!  I think a lot of us get kind of caught up in our "little worlds", I'm one that is guilty of that sometimes myself.   You really never know what other people have going on in their lives and you can become quite distracted with your own life. Take a few moments as we head into the holiday season to remember others and to smile at a stranger.  It takes more muscles to frown than to smile.  Let the person behind you in the line at the grocery store go ahead of you. That type  of  "gift" doesn't require money, it requires just a few extra minutes of your time and it will make you feel good.   It's a gift you can give to someone else all year long!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Momma's Popcorn

When my beloved mother-in-law (who I affectionately called "Momma")  passed in January we had to clean out her room at the assisted living facility where she had lived for about 4 years.  My mother-in-law was always a stylish woman, she wore perfume and lipstick all the way up to the few days before she passed.  She had  tons of clothes in her closet.  When we moved her here from Cleveland, I started washing her clothes for her about once a week.  Whenever I would go over to visit her,  she always made a HUGE production out of me washing her clothes.  The caregivers and I had worked out a system so I knew which clothes were dirty and which were clean.  They would leave the buttons or snaps undone on the clothes hanging on their hangers in the closet,  so I could pull them right out of the closet and toss them into a bag to take home and wash.  There would also be a few articles of clothing in the dirty clothes basket too, but all of her clothes could easily fit into one load in our washing machine. We would go through the same  "dog and pony" show every week.  She would say stuff like, "Cathy, that's too much of a bother, don't wash those clothes!!"  I would always say back, "why, do you want to smell?"  She would kind of shake her head at me, but she would be laughing.  When we had to bring all of her clothes back to our house, I knew at some point we would have to donate them all.  I found it really hard to go through all of her clothes, because they still smelled like her and her perfume.  I let them sit in our spare bedroom for a few weeks and then my hubby started saying, "we really need to be going through these clothes and donate them."  I kept trying to explain to him I was having a really difficult time going through her clothes.  I did eventually start washing them and began to donate them to charity.  I had put a handful of the clothes aside either to keep for myself, or that had to be dry cleaned/needed special cleaning.  About a week or so ago, one of the charities that we donate to was having a pick up.  I gathered up about a loads worth and started going through the pockets of the clothing.  I reached into one of the pockets of her favorite coats and I found a bunch of popcorn.  My mother-in-law loved popcorn!  She would save the bags of popcorn from the "Popcorn Socials"  for my hubby when he would visit her. She always felt she had to "give" him something.  She also would save her desserts from her meals to give to him.  I think on some levels (she had advanced dementia),  she was still trying to entertain.   When she lived in Cleveland and we would visit her and my father-in-law she would always be a terrific hostess.  She was also one heck of a cook and baker.  I would always tell her she could make better chocolate chip cookies than me!  I'm a person who  believes that when  someone passes , you can still feel their presence, not like a ghost, but that when you are sad and missing them a lot they let you know that they are there to comfort you.  Thank you Momma for letting me know you are still around.  I still love and miss you so much.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Having a child with Autism and ADHD has been quite an interesting journey so far.  As I've mentioned before,  my little man was diagnosed with Autism at about  2 1/2 and then diagnosed with ADHD at about age 3.  Kind of a double "whammy!"  Before he talked, which was about age 3, he made very little eye contact and very much preferred his own company.  A specific incident stands out  and will probably be forever etched in my mind.  I have tried very hard to involve my son in a lot of my baking and cooking. It has taught him how to count among other skills.   One of his favorite things he likes to do (and still does)  is to  pull up a chair from the kitchen table and put it against the counter so he can watch me more closely.  On this particular day which was before he was talking, I was unpacking our dishwasher.  I had turned around to put something in the sink or to put something away, my back was turned to him for literally not even 15 seconds.  When I turned back around he had grabbed one of our steak knives out of the dishwasher silverware holder   and had put it in his mouth!  All I could see was the black handle.  A million different thoughts raced through my head, what if he tried to swallow the whole thing? what if he pulled it out too  quickly?  It was a very scary moment, I can tell you that.  I still get goosebumps even as I'm writing this.  One thing both my son and daughter can pick up on is if I'm stressed, so I tried really hard to stay cool as a cucumber as they say!  Hard to do under those extreme circumstances.   I remember saying, "give it back to me" or something like that very calmly.  I  don't remember  exactly which one of us pulled it out.  He was very lucky in that he was completely fine.  It has been a long,  slow process to try and get him to understand the consequences of his actions.  One of the first words he did learn was "no,"  and boy does he like that word!!  Don't all kids, no matter what age??   At least now, he says, "no,  thank you."   Ever since that incident,  I have really tried to keep things in perspective no matter what stress I am under  and to  not sweat the small stuff!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The "Sandwich" Generation

I had to leave my own family this week  to help my mom recover from some surgery.  This is the third time this year that I have had to leave the hubby in charge of running the household in my absence.  I am so detailed oriented that I spent  almost 2 hours typing up a single spaced 2-page  "itinerary" for him to follow before I left.  When I was typing it up before I left he was like, "we don't need that, we'll be fine!"   I have an incredible support system of friends that help take care of my husband and kids when I'm gone and make it possible for me to be able to leave.  One of my friends is making my family a meal to enjoy, another mom said, "I've got your back."  Other friends have sent e-mails, letting me know that they are thinking of me.  I've always been this person that when people have offered to help  I would always say, "no, that's okay, I have it covered."  As I've reached the ripe old age of 48, I've realized that you do need other moms to help you.  I always thought that I could do it all.  As my own parents age, I know that I will be needed more and I want to be able to help them.  They helped raise me, I want to be there to help them when they need me.  I guess this is what is called the "Sandwich Generation."   I've heard that term before.  It is kind of accurate, you're "in between" two families the way a filling is in between two pieces of bread.  I'm a mom that is raising children and also helping my parents at the same time.  I helped my hubby with his parents, he was an only child.  I watched him take care of both of his parents, I feel extremely lucky that I got to know my in-laws so well.   My father-in-law has been gone more than 6 years now and my mother-in-law just since January.  I still miss them a lot.  So many of my friends my age are part of that "sandwich."  A lot of people are living longer, my grandfather lived to over 90, my grandmother was 101!  I feel blessed that I still have both of my parents.  I am getting to know them on a totally different level than when I was growing up, though I still can't call my dad by his first name!  I thought that when I became an adult I could that.  My stepson likes to try and call his dad by his first name, even my daughter and son try.  But, he doesn't like it either :)  I know that I can't predict what the future will hold.  Nobody can.  My goal for the future  is to  try and be the best wife, mother, stepmother, daughter, sister, niece, aunt,  cousin and friend that I can be!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Night at the Airport

I am certainly not what you would call a "frequent flyer."   I have been a passenger on planes, ships and trains, but my preferred mode of transportation is definitely a car.  This year I have been on  a plane twice so far.   I always find it kind of interesting to "people watch" in an airport.  You see just about  one of everything.  Families, businessmen, businesswomen, kids, babies, senior citizens, teens, entire sports teams, etc.  Traveling by plane always seems to take such a long time, especially if you are crossing over time zones or have layovers.  Earlier this year I was flying back from the East Coast by myself and ended up at a busy Midwest airport.  I was there waiting to catch the last leg of my flight back home and the airline decided to cancel my flight completely because the weather was really bad.  After that happened , I had to wait in a huge line to get a voucher  to use towards the cost of a hotel room close by.  I remember the people behind me saying they were going to rent a car and drive to where they needed to be.  It's safe to say that  the people waiting in that line were not a bunch of happy campers.   My feeling was it's out of our control, just try to make the best of it.  I did not have access to my suitcase (not sure where that spent the night),  but luckily I did have cash on me, not a lot,  but enough, because after about 10:30 or 11 p.m. all the shops in the airport closed.  The voucher that we got really wouldn't have covered much of the expense of a hotel stay, so I decided to spend the night at the airport and catch the first plane out the next morning.  There were some other hardy souls (actually quite a few)  that decided to stick it out like me.  My initial  thought was,  do I try to sleep?  Given that I didn't have an alarm clock on me, I was going to try and stay up all night.  Haven't done that since the sleepovers of my girlhood youth.  I did have a  laptop with me and a DVD to watch.  Trying to find an available plug to use the laptop proved to be quite difficult.  I had to probably walk about a 1/2 mile (well okay, it felt that way) to find a plug.  I eventually did and started watching my movie.  One of the employees of the airport I think felt sorry for me and said, "Miss, did you know we have some cots set up around the corner?"  I thanked her for her assistance but told her I was fine.  After my movie was over I was thinking, okay, what do I do next to entertain myself.  I had already read all my magazines I had brought, so I was starting to get a little bored.  I remember walking around and finally about 2:45 a.m.  or somewhere around that time finding a set of seats to hang out in.  The next thing I knew I think I must have fallen asleep because I opened my eyes and my mouth was kind of slacked open.  I looked around, but everybody else was either dozing off, sound asleep and snoring or talking with their friends.  About 5 or 5:30 a.m. one of the only restaurants getting ready to open was McDonald's.  Even before they officially opened, there was already a line forming.  I quickly got into that line and got something to eat.  About 6:30 a.m. they started calling my flight to board.  There was no way I was going to miss that boarding call.  I'm happy to say that I made it back home safely. It was truly a one-of-a-kind experience!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Find Just the Right "Mom" Purse

Finding just the right "mom" purse has been a challenge for me for years.  Some were too small, some too big, but none were just the right size.   I kind of sound a lot like Goldilocks!!   Guys are lucky, they can just carry around their wallets in their back pockets.  When you're a new mom pretty much everything goes into the diaper bag.  As your kids get a little older, they don't require so many items, but do require snacks, etc.  So, you can get away with  them carrying a small backpack for their stuff, but there again you still need a purse.  When they get even older they still require things, "hey mom,  got a tissue in your purse?",  or "how about something to eat?"  Given that my  kids are now 15 and 7, I can't really carry around a diaper bag anymore and the only time my kids cart around backpacks on a regular basis  are for school.   So, I went on the hunt for a purse, still not knowing what exact size would be right.  I have to mention also, that I wasn't going to pay an arm and leg.  If any of you have looked for a purse lately, a halfway nice one is at least $20.00 or more. I am pretty hard on my purses,  some have completely ripped  at the stitching  because I try to shove too much into them.   I lost track of how many stores I went looking for that "just right" purse.  Some were so darn small, I couldn't even fit my wallet in it.  Those little purses are kind of cute though.   I decided I would go the route of a larger purse.  I am happy to report that  I did find one that originally was $70.00, but I got it for $7.00 (anybody that knows me well, knows I almost always use coupons), but I'm beginning to think that my purse might be a little too big.  The other day my daughter gave me her cell  phone to hang on to.  She has recently started carrying a purse in the past year or so, so most of the time she can carry her own stuff.  I guess this particular circumstance she didn't have it, so I tossed it into my purse.  When she wanted it back I couldn't find it!  After quite a bit of searching we found it,  thank goodness.  If any of you out there have a teen with their own cell phone, you know that not being able to find your phone is a major crisis!  On any given day in my purse you can find quite a potpourri of things, the other day my daughter pulled out a diaper.  She was like, "what's this doing in here?"  I wish I could say my little guy was trained in that department, but until he is,  I like to be prepared.  I also keep an emergency granola bar or some other transportable food.  I also have carted a bottled water or two in there.  We moms have to be prepared for anything!  The next time you clean out your purse (which I try to do every few weeks) take inventory and see what you'll find.  You're liable to find something you forgot was in there!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A "Special" Kind of Relationship

When I met my hubby almost 21 years ago, he brought a very special "gift" to our relationship, my stepson.  I met him for the first time when he was right around 7 years old (the age my little man is now).  I knew that he and I would get along well when we both thought something was absolutely hilarious at the zoo during one of our very first outings together. He was in our wedding when I married his father.  I hear more negative things said about stepchildren than positive and that kind of  bugs me!  A relationship of that type takes time, communication, patience and lots of love.  When he was younger,  he and I would play endless board games together.  I'm the one who taught him how to ride his bike. Now that he has gotten older,  the topics of conversation are different, but one thing I have always told him is that I support him 100% in anything that he does.  I make sure that I always have his "back."   I think I can count on one hand how many times he and I have ever disagreed on something.  I consider him to be one of my closest friends in addition to the added bonus of  being my stepson.  Since we don't live close to him at the moment, thank goodness for e-mail and Skype.  I use e-mail the way other people text!  On those occasions when we do get to see him, I love to sit back and watch him interact with his brother and sister.  He is  12 years older than his sister and close to 20 years older than his little brother.  With those big age differences it's always entertaining!   His visits seem to go by way too fast.  When he was younger he used to tell me that I should open my own "restaurant."  The last time he visited, I made him an omelet. I didn't think it was any big deal, I make them every Sunday for his dad, but to him he thought he was being served a meal in a 5 star restaurant.  I always try to make the meals when he is visiting just a little "special."  I love my stepson just as much as my other two kids and feel incredibly lucky to have such a tight bond with him.  I certainly do have a "bountiful" plate!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Halloween Observations

Since both of my kids have been trick or treating, I have been the one that stays home and hands out the candy, while the hubby takes them out.  Since my daughter is now 15,  I am left wondering,  how old is too "old" to trick or treat?  I get such a kick out of the kids that come to our door - some can barely talk and get the words out and some older ones  just stick their hand out without even saying those magic words, "trick or treat."  My feeling is,  if they're old enough to be making the effort, they deserve at least one piece of candy.  I think the funniest  costume(s) I saw were a few years ago  when  a bunch of teens jumped out of our bushes with a flash camera aimed at me and told me they were the "paparazzi."  I felt like I was a "star!"  Pretty original idea!!  I'm now on the hunt for a costume for my 7 year old.  With the different sensory issues he has, it has been challenging since he doesn't really like things on his head or face for a long period of time.  If you take a look around at the costumes out there (which where I live have been out for at least a month),  that lets out quite a few!  I readily admit, I'm not one of those super crafty moms that can sew their own child's costume.  My family knows I can do the basic sewing, like sewing a button on that fell off, but that's about where my sewing talents end!  I think one of the easiest things to do if all else fails is  to just wear a pair of  pajamas (doesn't it always seem to be chilly Halloween night??).  I am still able to find pajamas with feet in my son's size, so I may just decide to do that.  Anybody out there have any good ideas for him??   My daughter is thinking pretty seriously about going out this year and  said she will put together a costume with stuff around our house.  That ought to be interesting!!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I Love Animals, But ..........

I grew up with a dog, hamsters and gerbils, so I love animals just as much as anybody, but nobody told me when we moved into our house that it would become the neighborhood "zoo."  When we first moved in, we had squirrels that sounded like they were running laps around our family room rafters.  Once we managed to get them to "move out" then one day when we had our garage door open a bat decided to fly in.  My husband was chasing him/her around our house with a shoe until it flew out our front door.  Then, one day when my daughter was much younger, she was like, "mom, come down here we have snakes."  Sure enough, there were two snakes slithering around on the basement floor.  Since then, we have had field mice, a  baby frog, and most recently a family of raccoons that decided our fireplace was their new home.  Living in our front bushes we have a nest with a family of birds and in the back of our house we have a few woodpeckers having a contest to see who can drill the most holes.  A very frequent visitor is the chipmunk, affectionately called, "Chippy" that runs past our front door several times a day.  A few weeks ago I saw a black squirrel sitting on my chair I keep outside  by the front door. I think he actually looked back at me and laughed!!!  About a month ago I watched as a very large something (we think it was a woodchuck) crawl under our deck, not sure if he/she ever came out the other side.  The "parade"  of animals outside that we have seen are:  possum, deer, foxes, cats, dogs and a skunk.  About a month or so our smoke alarm actually was set off by the stink of a skunk! Good grief, that was one powerful smell.  It wouldn't have been so bad, but  it was 5 in the morning.  Not the kind of alarm I like waking up to!

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Power of Words

I think sometimes people need to have what I like to call a "filter."  You know those people I'm talking about, they pretty much say what they're thinking without thinking about how their words come out.   Words can be used to tell someone how great you look or they can be used to criticize how you look.  My aunt (who I absolutely 200% adore, admire and love with all of my heart) lost one of her adult children in March of this year.  It wasn't that long ago that my aunt lost her husband (my uncle) and her mother-in-law (my grandmother).  I can't even wrap my mind around what that must be like.  My aunt is one of the strongest women I know and I get a lot of my strength from her.  She told me something the other day that just about broke my heart.  My cousin (her daughter) is one of a twin.  I grew up with my twin cousins along with their younger brother.  Neither of my dad's siblings had children, so I only  have those first cousins.  They  lived in another state from me growing up, but we tried hard to get together with them for holidays and other special occasions.  I treasure my phone calls with my "Auntie."  I like to carve time out of my day (our calls are not short, the last one was over 1 1/2 hours)!!!!  She and I talk about all kinds of  things.  We were talking about her daughter that passed away and she told me that when my cousin and her  sister were little someone told her, "well, I can always tell you apart, you're the heavier one."  What a thing to tell a young girl!  Girls from a young age care so much about how they look.  That comment (which I'm pretty sure wasn't meant to be mean and hurtful)  stuck with my cousin and bothered her for quite a long time after that.  She was one of the most beautiful, amazing people inside and out. I miss her all the time.  I was able to fly back  for her funeral/memorial service. I told my aunt at the time,  I would have crawled there if I had to, there was absolutely NO WAY I was going to miss that.  My cousin left behind a daughter who is growing into a very mature young woman.  My cousin would have been  so proud of her.  I like to  hope that my blog posts and the words contained within them are always positive and caring.  Words can be so powerful, use them wisely.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

On the Menu Today at "Cathy's Kitchen" - Carrot Muffins!

Recently I went to the local  grocery store (as always looking for a great deal).  Looking around the produce section I saw that carrots were on sale for 3 pounds for a buck.  Of course, into the cart they went!  I love to bake so I had visions of looking through my cookbooks (at last count, over 100) thinking sure, I can find a good carrot muffin recipe, no problem.  Well, after looking through several  cookbooks and even getting a few more cookbooks from the library,  I couldn't find one that I thought my family and I would actually eat at "Cathy's Kitchen."  So, I decided to invent my own recipe!  Here are the ingredients:  2 large eggs (slightly beaten), 2/3 cup canola or vegetable oil, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar,  1 1/2 cups peeled and coarsely grated carrots, 1 1/4 cups all purpose white  flour, 1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal, 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Preheat oven to 375.  Use a 12 cup muffin tin and put paper liners into each.  Put all the ingredients into a large bowl.  Mix until well blended and then put about 1/2 of the mixture into each muffin tin.  Bake for about 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Remove muffins to a rack to continue cooling.  I gave one to my husband and asked him to rank it on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the worst, 10 the best).  He gave them a 9, and told me they would have been a 10 had they been bigger!  I guess I'll need to invest in a 6 cup muffin tin that makes bakery sized muffins!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's the Little Things

When you become a parent, one of the first things you hope your child does is reach those developmental milestones (crawling, walking, talking, etc.).  When you're a parent of a special needs child sometimes those milestones are reached, sometimes they take a little longer, sometimes they are not reached at all.  For my little guy, he was right on track for everything but talking.  Until he was almost 3 we could barely get any eye contact or any talking.  For someone like me, who loves to talk,  it was almost unbearable.   One thing you definitely learn with children, special needs or not is the art of patience.   I totally 100% admire those parents who have non-verbal children.  I remember reading something in a newspaper or magazine before my little guy talked about a woman who was complaining about how her child wouldn't stop talking and asking questions.  I remember thinking, wow, I would love to have that problem!!!!!!  I always hoped that one day I could have a conversation with my son.   Just remembering how  hearing him call me "mom" for the first time still brings a tear to my eye even to this day.   I was thinking this morning  that my son has come a long way since those days of not talking and no eye contact  and I know that he has a long way to go.  This morning as I was getting him ready to go to school (which he loves) I was telling him that I was going grocery shopping today.  I was like "so, would you like me to get you anything special from the store?"  He didn't miss a beat and said, "popsicles!"  A smile, a hug or even eye contact is a huge thing for a child with any type of special needs.  The next time you see a parent with a special needs child give them a smile, believe me it will make their day!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

You've Accepted the Diagnosis, Now What??

Once you have come to terms with the diagnosis that your child has special needs, now what?  I remember when I first got the diagnosis of Autism for my son,  I felt like I was drowning in information. It seemed like everyone around me had their own opinion.  It is so hard to know where to start.  My son also has ADHD which a lot of the time goes hand in hand with Autism.  If your child is less than 3, you most likely will be beginning with an early intervention program through your county/school district that you live in.  As soon as your child hits 3, he or she usually  "ages out" of the early intervention services and progresses to school.   Depending on the severity of their Autism they will most likely be in a regular classroom with possibly an aide or in a special education classroom. Even if your child is in a private school, there are still services available.  There are lots of free resources out there, you just have to know how to look for them.  I will be sharing more about those resources in future blog entries.  It's definitely been a learning process, there is no manual for parents of special needs children.  Just like there is no manual for typically developing children.   There is a document called an IEP (Individualized Educational  Program) that is used when your child needs services through the school system.  It can look overwhelming, but it is a very important part of your child's education.  It lists services that your child will get through the school system, updated once a year.  Take the time to become familiar with it.  Don't be afraid of putting a "label" of Autism on their IEP.  The more services your child can get through the school system the better! The best bit of advice I can pass along to ALL parents is to be their advocate!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hearing Those Words for the First Time

When you first hear those words, "Autism" there are so many different things that run through your mind. Will my child go to school, college, get a job, get married (the list goes on and on).  I think one of the first thoughts a lot of parents have is anger.  Why did this happen to our family??  Autism just doesn't affect the child, it affects the WHOLE family.  Parents are already completely 100% exhausted both physically and emotionally, sometimes there is very little left to give to your other children.  If you're a single parent, than it is really difficult.  Sometimes parents blame each other for their child's Autism.  One of the best things you can do when you first get that initial diagnosis is to grieve.  It's okay to scream and cry.  I spent  two weeks feeling sorry for myself and coming to terms with the diagnosis.  Other parents take longer to come to terms with the diagnosis. The most important thing is that you do come to terms with it.  Once you make it through that tough time, you are then able to put your focus back on your child and start pursuing all avenues to get  them help.  I believe one of the worst things you can do is not accept that your child has a disability.  Accept that your child is "special" and move on!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Hard to believe that it has been almost 10 years since September 11th happened.  I remember when I heard, my first thought was that it wasn't real.  I really couldn't wrap my head around it.  We were still living in the DC area. My stepson was in high school, my daughter was at elementary school, I was at home and my husband was in DC working that day.  Interestingly enough, my husband rode his bike to work that day, which turned out to be one of the few ways out of town later.  People were offering him money for his bike so they could get out of  DC!   Once he arrived home safely, we went over to my daughter's school which  was a few miles from us.  The school had decided to go into  "lock down" mode and I can remember a group of us kind of wandering around the school trying to get our kids out and the doors being locked.  The school finally released the kids after a bit and we were able to get our daughter and bring her home.  She was only 5 at the time and kind of understood what was going on.  It's a lot to explain to a kid that age.   I recall our next door neighbor at the time telling me a friend of hers was in one of the towers, in the stairwell,  but managed to get out.  I can't even imagine what that must feel like, knowing that you made it out, but so many others didn't. That's a feeling you probably carry around with you every day.  9/11 is kind of like when JFK was shot.  You will always remember what you were doing at that moment when you heard.  I was less than 6 months old when JFK was shot so I don't remember what I was doing (my mom said I was in my playpen).   As busy as everyone is these days, I think it is important to remember those who lost their lives that day even if it's just for a few moments. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mother/Daughter Relationships

My daughter who is 15 got her learner's permit this summer.  She and I have attempted more than once to go and practice.  She has to get a certain number of hours under her belt before she goes on to "Segment 2" and then to get her license.  We have practiced in parking lots which really don't give you that "real life" experience.  I learned how to drive back in the Washington, DC area which has the infamous Beltway.  If you can drive on that you can drive anywhere!  I have found that I am way too nervous to be in the car with her right now.  She went with her dad over the weekend and came back and said, "Dad is much better to go practicing with."  I was like I definitely agree with you there :)  My daughter and I are very close, but she always remembers that I am the parent.  I know that I need to ease some of my anxiety about her driving so she doesn't feel so stressed with me when I'm with her.  I was just telling my daughter pretty recently that she is not too old to have a "time out" when she does an eye roll or a similar type of teen behavior.  I did an eye roll at her the other day and she called me on it.  I told her I was disrespectful and apologized.  I believe that to have a good relationship keep those lines of communication open.  She knows that having Facebook is a privilege.  I think the best we can do for all kids no matter what age is to give them independence, but just enough that you can reel them back in when you need to.   Always remember you are the one in charge!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Early Mornings

I think anyone can relate that when you live in a house with at least one other person, it is nice once in a while to have a little time to yourself.  My special time for  a while has been Sunday mornings.  I walk 5 days a week, most of the time at 6 a.m. with a special friend who I feel so blessed to have met.  So, on the weekends, my body still thinks it's time to get up early.  I go outside, get the paper, whip up some coffee and usually go on the computer and check e-mails and yes, go on Facebook.  This morning, I was chatting with one of my hubby's buddies from Ohio.  Quite a few of his friends are on Facebook, but my hubby does not want to go on, so I talk to his friends.  His friend and I talked for a while and then he needed to go.  Granted, this was all before 7 a.m.!  I find that the early morning, especially on Sunday's help prepare you for the coming week.  My "baby" starts 10th grade this week, so I know it will be a busy week gearing up for getting her up "early" for school. Remember to always find at least a few moments to yourself every day!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ah, Telemarketers!

Yesterday, I got kind of an odd phone call.  I picked up the phone and a voice asked to speak with me.  She said, "I'm calling to follow up on an inquiry you made about continuing your education."  I was thinking to myself if I did ask for info, it must have been some time ago.  This woman kept persisting for more and more information and then said, "let me put you on hold and you can talk to one of our representatives."  I said, "look, even if I did go back to school for an MBA, it wouldn't be for a while."  I finally had to hang up on the chick.  They really don't take no for an answer.  I remember my husband being very concerned about his mom living at her assisted living facility and telemarketers calling and trying to get info out of her, like a social security number.  Having the internet full of your information for any random person to look at is kind of scary.  My 7 year old is on there because he won a "Diaper Derby" event in Cleveland when he was a baby!!  It's good to be hesitant about giving out info.  I'll never forget my mom telling me the story of how a photography studio  was always bugging her about getting our family to come in for a session until one day they asked my mom how many kids she had and she said something like, "12" even though there was only 3 of us.  I don't think they ever called again!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

High School Memories

My 30th  high school reunion was this past weekend and living 10 hours away I had toyed with the idea of going to it, but decided it would just be too expensive and hard to work out.  I had lots of mixed feelings being that I didn't have the best experience in high school.  I think others out there can relate.  I was bullied at times by other girls, and actually couldn't wait for high school to be done so I  could graduate and move on with my life.  I have wondered sometimes what my high school friends were doing.  When I decided to join Facebook I hooked up with some of my old "peeps" and compared notes on our lives. My daughter is going into 10th grade and to her high school of course is the biggest thing in her life right now.  She is building much better memories than I had.   I have told her more than once that high school is just part of your life.  More things are waiting in the future - graduating high school, graduating college, getting married, having children.  Looking back and reflecting on the 30 years since high school I realized that high school was part of my life, but that my life really began when I met my husband and started my family.  My hubby brought a son to our marriage and he and I have always got along even from the first time we met.  My relationship with my stepson is one I feel very lucky to have!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Life's Blessings

I had my son when I was over 40 years old and my hubby was over 50 years old.  I guess you could say our little guy was kind of a "surprise."  When he was little he cried more than the average baby.  I was kind of out of practice because my daughter was 8 when he was born so it had been a while since diapers and all-nighters.  Around the time of his birth things were very chaotic, we were traveling back and forth to Cleveland because my hubby's dad was ill.  After his dad passed we then cleaned out their house which was packed with stuff.  We made lots of trips back and forth to Cleveland, being my husband is an only child and at the time his mom was still in Cleveland in an assisted living facility.  I didn't notice that my son wasn't really talking or communicating.  As we soon came to find out he had Autism.  Being such a proactive person once I found that out I have done tons of research.  So many people along the way on this journey with him have been wonderful.  He had two amazing teachers at school.  To teach children with special needs you have to be a "special" kind of teacher.  I remember when he was just starting school I was feeling kind of sorry for myself about him having Autism.  His teacher said, "focus on what he can do, not what he can't."  That has been such good advice.  Autism is different for every child, which makes it hard to know what intervention is the best.  We got him diagnosed about 2 1/2 and about 6 months or so later, we found out he also has ADHD.  Even with all of my son's challenges I consider him a precious gift.  He has brought such joy to our family and just makes our life even more richer by being part of it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Too Many Bananas!



When I go to the grocery store I always seem to pick up bananas.  Even though 2 out of the 4 of us in our house really don't eat them, I still buy them.  My hubby will say, "why do you keep buying them if nobody eats them?"  I keep meaning to put them in his lunch and then get caught up just trying to get his lunch made before he leaves for work and  I end up just giving him some other kind of fruit.  So, I end up making banana bread or muffins every week.  My go to recipe for banana bread/muffins came from an old cookbook given to me by an old office mate at least  15 years ago.  I have adapted it several times, but this I have found to be the best recipe:  3 medium sized bananas, 1 3/4 cups white  flour, 1/2 cup white sugar, 2  large eggs, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 6 tablespoons margarine or butter.   Mash bananas in separate bowl with fork.  Soften margarine/butter for about an hour on your counter top or put in microwaveable dish and put in your microwave about 10-15 seconds.  Put bananas and butter/margarine in a larger bowl and add the rest of the ingredients to it.  Mix by hand until well mixed or I use a hand mixer.  Mix until smooth, there will probably still be a few lumps of bananas but that's okay.  Preheat your oven to 375 and use a 12-muffin baking tin.  I use paper liners (the kind you use for cupcakes).  Fill the liners with about 3/4 of the mixture.  If you're feeling like you want to try a variation of this muffin, you can add 1/2 - 1 cup of walnuts, pecans or chocolate chips to the mixture before you put it in the liners.  Bake about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the muffins comes out clean.  Cool about 10 minutes and then put on a baking rack to finish cooling.  I used to make banana bread a lot that always seemed to come out kind of a little too moist.  I have found the above recipe is not too moist and not too dry.  Enjoy the day!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

When you lose someone special

One thing that I have discovered (especially this past year) is that when you lose someone special to you there are two ways to view it.  One is positively and one is negatively.  I choose to view it in a positive way.  My daughter was very close to her grandfather (my husband's father) and he passed away back in 2005.  Just this past January we lost my mother-in-law (my husband's mother).  My daughter had gotten particularly close to her because her other grandmother lives back in Maryland.  When she passed away it was really hard on my daughter.  She is still actively mourning her grandfather and it's been difficult to comfort her and know just the right words to say.  One thing I heard recently is that when someone passes away one of the worst things you can say is, "I know how you feel."  Unless you have been in someone's shoes you really don't know.  The best words that I have found to comfort her and others that I know that are grieving a loved one is to say, "I feel blessed to have known her/him."  I have told that to more than one person that has lost someone special and I like to hope at least that I have brought them some comfort even if it is just a little. I have told my husband more than once that I feel blessed to have known his mom.  I know that he misses her too.  He doesn't really talk about it very much, but I know that he does.  When I am really missing a loved one I even tell myself that I feel blessed to have known them.  Life brings us many things happy and sad, choose to look at the brighter side, even when it seems there isn't one and remember there is always tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

If at first you don't succeed

I have been baking and cooking since I was very young.  It really is a true passion of mine.  I love to cook and bake for my family and friends.  When I was about 12 or so I had just took a cake out of the oven and had set it on the counter to let it cool.  I guess I got a little impatient (well, okay, a lot impatient) and tried to remove the cake from the pan before it had cooled enough.  It would have been okay, except I tried to do it over the sink where there was a bowl of soapy water.  You guessed it, it landed right in the soapy water!  I remember being so upset about it.  I was telling my daughter the other day that if I had let that stop me from ever trying to cook or bake again just because I failed, it would have been terrible and my own family would never have enjoyed the benefits of my cooking and baking.  Don't be afraid to try again even if you make mistakes.  I promise you, you will be much better for it!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Memories

Being a stay-at-home for 15 years (hard to believe it's been that long) the weekends seem just like another day of the week.  Saturdays we usually go to Mass, hang out as a family and kind of goof off.  Sundays are reserved for washing clothes, getting ready for the week ahead and used to be when we would have my mother-in-law over for dinner.  My husband was an only child and my mother-in-law was very close to him.  As my mother-in-law got older and I got to know her better, I feel like she was one of my best friends.  I would wash her clothes and try to visit her as much as I could.  Starting with this time last year she started having a lot of memory problems.  Around the Christmas of 2010, she was admitted to the hospital because she wasn't eating.  As we soon discovered she had advanced dementia.  While the kids were at school my husband and I would go to the hospital and sit by her bedside.  She was really not able to communicate very well with us.  It was heartbreaking to watch my husband sit by her side and her not be able to talk.  About a week or so before she passed she had a few moments of clarity.  I wrote them down on a slip of paper and keep that piece of paper with me to look at when I am missing her a lot.  My mother-in-law had a lot of siblings and she was the last of her siblings to pass away.  I used to tell her a lot that I thought she was very strong.  I feel like I learned a lot from her and feel so blessed to have known her.  I really miss her (it's been almost 6 months since she passed).  What I wouldn't give to have her over again for Sunday dinner :)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Beginnings

This is my first entry on my blog.  I have thought about doing this for some time and decided to just jump right in! I want this blog to be open to anyone!  A little about myself - I was born and raised in the Washington, DC area. We moved to the Midwest shortly after 9/11 and have now been here over 9 years.   I feel like I have experienced quite a lot in my 48 years on this earth.  I have challenges just like everyone else, but food has always been a passion of mine.  I cook and/or bake every day.  I guess you could call it a hobby :)  I plan on using this blog to connect with others out there that have challenging lives and just want to talk, be it about food or just about the kind of day you've had.   I have an amazing stepson, so I have experience with that.  I have a son with Autism, so I can speak to that.  I have experienced the loss of both of my in-laws, so I can speak to that.  I have aging parents, so I can speak to that.  I have a teenage daughter, so I have experience with that.   Through all of my life experiences, and believe me there are more, I have always found that I am happiest in the kitchen, preparing foods for the ones I love and care about.  I will post some of my favorite recipes on this blog and I promise you they are not complicated!  I feel that I am blessed to wake up each morning renewed and energized for what the day will bring.  I hope you will come back and visit my blog again!