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. 

Making an "Impact"

I had someone very close to me ask me this question many years ago, "why do you stay in touch with so many of Dominic's...