Sunday, December 29, 2013

Paying it Forward - Holiday Style

I am one of those people that likes to have things planned out way in advance. I was already bugging the salespeople at OfficeMax during the summer when the 2014 big wall calendars would be available to buy! Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I ended up doing all of my Christmas shopping for my husband, Lauren and Dominic on December 23rd and 24th this year.  I don't remember doing it that late, EVER.  I am not a big shopper. One time, when my stepson was younger and he was visiting us, he told me he wanted to go to our local mall.  I was like, "why, did you forget something?"  He said he just wanted to walk around and not necessarily buy anything.  It kind of blew my mind. I only go shopping if I specifically need something, other than that, I don't really go out shopping unless it's for groceries.  On December 24th, I only had a few hours alone to myself to finish the shopping that didn't get done on the 23rd.  I decided to go to the Meijer, where I could get a few groceries that we needed, plus pick up a few presents.  I was anticipating people running frantically around all over the place. It wasn't anything like that at all.  It was pretty calm, we were all in the same last minute shopping "boat."  I found a line with only a few people in it.  The lady in front of me was rummaging through her cart.  She got out of line, so I moved my cart up.  About 30 seconds later, I heard a voice saying, "I didn't get the items I thought I needed, do you mind if I get back in line?" She only had about ten items, so I said, "okay, sure, go ahead."  About another 30 seconds later, I heard two ladies talking behind me.  One was at least about 80 and the other was probably her daughter, like in her 60's. The older lady was holding onto the younger gal's arm, I think for support.  They were only buying one item, so I told them to go ahead of me.  They stood there about 10 seconds and then the lady who had gotten out of line and then got back in line, let the two ladies go ahead of her.  When the two older gals left, the lady in front of me looked back at me with a knowing smile.  I smiled back. Who knows if we'll ever see those older ladies again, but I'm sure they'll remember that we let them go in front of us in the line. Now, that's what I call - paying it forward - holiday style!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Lesson Learned?

If you asked Dominic what one of his favorite things to eat is, I can tell you with almost 100% certainty that pizza is at or near the top of his list.  Earlier last week, we ordered a couple of pizzas from our local pizza place.  After Dominic ate four pieces, we told him that was enough.  He refused to listen to us and ended up eating six pieces! That was the same as what Lauren and I ate together!  I had a feeling he would probably be paying the price later.  Well, sure enough he woke up about 11:15 p.m. and was whimpering.  He was in a bit of belly pain, not surprising given that he had eaten so much pizza for dinner.  I won't go into too much detail, but let's just say he felt better after he used the bathroom.  Thank goodness,  he was able to fall back asleep and was up raring to go the next morning.  I asked him a few times if he felt better and he said, "all better."  I called his teacher after he got on the bus and gave him a heads up that he might not be eating a lot of his lunch and/or at snacktime.  When he got home that afternoon,  I mentioned the word pizza and he whimpered.  I asked him, "how did you feel after you ate too much pizza?"  He said, "sad."  Well, I know that he remembered the previous evening, but was there a lesson that he learned from eating too much pizza?  The next time we eat pizza, will he know to stop after three or four pieces? or will we have to stop him?  I told my husband that somebody won't always be around to monitor how much he's eating.  Even though he is nine and has special needs, I feel that some of the responsibility should rest with Dominic.  There are "lessons" that you learn when you are in a classroom or are homeschooled, but how about those other "life lessons" that you learn as you grow up, like learning to fail?  This morning, the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" song came on. I asked Dominic who wrote it and he said, "chosky."  I told him it was "Tchaikovsky."  Every time he said it wrong, I corrected him.  He got really frustrated and basically had a temper tantrum. After about 10 times of saying it wrong, he finally said it right!  I guess I could have told him "chosky" was right, but it wasn't.  When you play a board game with your kids, do you let them win so they will be happy? Kids need to learn that it's okay to lose, they may not always win :)  How about life is not always fair?  That is definitely one I have told Lauren more than once.  One of the most important "life lessons" I have learned to come to terms with is realizing no matter how hard I try, not everyone will like me.  Somebody who I have an enormous amount of respect for called me a "people pleaser" recently.  It's true, I want everyone to like me!  Just in the past couple of years, have I realized that doesn't always happen and I have to be able to deal with it better :) 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Feeling Like a Fish Out of Water

The hubby and I were at a dinner party last week with three other couples, when the conversation turned to cell phones.  The host of the party was saying how you could get so much information off your cell phone, like checking messages, looking at Facebook, etc.  The hubby and I kind of looked at each other, because he doesn't even know how to text!  He'll receive texts once in a while, but he has no idea how to respond back.  I only text a few people and neither my phone or my husbands has the capability to do much more than making and receiving calls and texts.  During the whole conversation about cell phones, we just kind of sat there not contributing much. We were kind of like, "fish out of water." I was SO glad when all the couples starting talking about old television shows, which I know a bit more about.  When we were all trying to remember the name of the dog that was on the show, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, one of the other women at this dinner party was able to look it up while we were sitting at the dining room table! I guess I still find it fascinating that a cell phone can do so much :)  I was having coffee with a friend recently and since both of our kids are seniors, we were talking about colleges and careers.  I was telling her how all through high school, I wanted to be a legal or medical secretary.  Well, attempting to take a shorthand class nipped that career dream in the bud. I ended up having to drop the class because it made no sense whatsoever to me.  What do you do when you "feel like a fish out of water?" If it's a social situation, I have found the best thing to do is to smile and nod your head once in a while and hope that the conversation eventually turns to something else!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Common Courtesy

I went to a large department store in my local mall last Saturday to pick up a few items for the holidays.  As I was heading in towards the double doors, I saw three people deep in conversation coming out at the same time.  I was thinking with the double doors, maybe they would all single file out through the door on their right, so it would leave the door on my right free and clear so I could go inside the store.  Well, much to my amazement, all three of them barreled through, almost knocking me down and both doors promptly slammed in my face!  There was never a break in their conversation.  It got me to thinking, during the holidays does common courtesy fall by the wayside??  If someone tries to barge in front of you at the store and pay first, even though you've been waiting longer, do you say something to them? or do you just let it slide?  When I was at the grocery store a few days ago, an older lady and I were both heading to the express lane to check out right at the exact same time.  I told her to go ahead of me.  She had more items than the limit, but I was taught to respect my elders, so I just let it go. She thanked me profusely for letting her go ahead of me. Did you know that March 21st is "National Common Courtesy Day?" I think that day should be everyday, but especially on "Black Friday," when there is probably more pushing and shoving going on than common courtesy!!  As you go about your holiday shopping this season, let's all try to remember to treat our fellow man, woman and child with kindness and respect :)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Grief Has No Timetable

While the holidays are happy and joyful for most of us, it can also be painful and hard, especially if you have lost a loved one recently. My husband has lost both of his parents and has no siblings.  This time of the year is difficult for him. Dominic was just a baby when my father-in-law passed away, but he did get to know my mother-in-law pretty well.  This past Saturday, Dominic said several times, "Grandma in heaven."  It was SO HARD not to start crying.  What's interesting is that this is around the time she became very ill three years ago.  He's a very intuitive little guy.  My mother-in-law spent about two weeks in the hospital, before being transferred to hospice where she passed away less than a week later.  Dominic and Lauren both spent almost everyday visiting her during that time frame.  I asked Dominic on Saturday, "do you still miss her?" He said, "yes."

Grief has no timetable, you can't say to yourself, "okay, now I'm done grieving this person."  Grieving a loss is not something you get "over."  I've always thought of it more like finding a way to cope.  My cousin passed away unexpectedly in March of 2011.  She was someone that I grew up with and we were less than two years apart in age.  She left behind many, many family members (including a daughter) and several friends. What would have been her 52nd birthday was just a few weeks ago and I thought about her the whole day. I still miss her very much.  I've probably mentioned this before in previous blog posts, but the only way that I have found to handle the losses in my life has been to pray for them. Losing a parent or grandparent when you are young is very difficult.  When my father-in-law passed away, given that he was in the Army, they played Taps at his viewing. I felt so sorry for Lauren, as soon as she heard it, she just started crying really hard.  She was very close to him and was devastated when he passed away.  From time to time she still cries about him.  I feel helpless in comforting her, so I give her lots of hugs. If you know someone that has lost a loved one (even if it hasn't been recently), give them a call, send a text, tweet, Facebook message or a note with this simple message, "thinking of you." I guarantee it will mean everything in the world to the recipient that even though their loved one is gone, they have not been forgotten.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Things People Do in Their Cars

Most of us spend a lot of time in our cars, going to work, taking the kids different places, etc. The following are things that I have observed the most that people do in their cars:  read a book/newspaper, smoke, put on make-up, eat, drink, talk on the phone, sleep, pick and/or blow their nose, change a dirty diaper and text.  The most unusual thing I have ever seen someone do in their car was in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart.  I watched a lady sit in the driver's seat, with the door open, brush her teeth, take a swig of water and then spit that water into the parking lot. It was kind of disgusting and someone else saw her do it and starting yelling at her. Since she was only parked about 50 feet from the main entrance, I couldn't figure out why she didn't just go and use the restroom inside the store.  My dad had an ironclad rule about no eating or drinking in the car growing up. Sometimes I wish I had that rule, especially when we bought our van over 12 years ago.  I opened up a pop in the car which promptly spilled all over the space between the two front seats shortly after we bought it! That stain is still there, impossible to get out.  I see way too many people texting and driving, which is so incredibly dangerous to be doing at the same time.  Is a text message that important that you need to take your eyes off the road even for a second or two?  Accidents can happen so fast, it's just not worth the risk. I watched a woman text as she was driving past the Kroger a few days ago.   People were coming in and out of the store and her attention was definitely not on them, it was on her phone.  A few weeks ago, when I had parked my car in the parking lot of another grocery store here in town, I looked over at the car next to me and saw a young woman sound asleep in the front seat of the car.  I was thinking if she was still there when I came back out, I might just tap on the window and make sure she was okay.  I was only in the store a few minutes and the car was gone when I came back out.  She looked like a college student, so maybe she was catching a quick nap between classes!  A little McDonalds's trivia. When did the first drive-thru originate? Take a guess - in 1975! Another interesting fact - 70% of their sales come from the drive-thru.  Wow, that is a staggering amount!! Here is a sampling of things you can do without getting out of your car - pick up and drop off prescriptions, get married (in Las Vegas), conduct bank business, grab a quick cup of coffee and mail a letter.  I read in my local paper this morning that for $5.00 your kids can have their picture taken with Santa without even leaving your car!  A drive-thru Santa?  Hmm, sounds pretty efficient, but I guess I'm old-fashioned because I think kids should still sit on his lap!! 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The "Blame" Game

Earlier this year, the hubby showed me an article that he had read stating that there was a link between older fathers and their children having Autism.  My husband was genuinely upset and sad when he read this. He said something to me like, "I'm sorry if I caused Dominic's Autism." If you Google "causes of Autism" there are many things that will pop up such as genetic, environmental, and maternal age, just to name a few.  For many years, Autism was said to be blamed on "refrigerator moms."  The thinking was that if the mom was "cold" like a refrigerator, and lacked maternal "warmth," then that's why her child had Autism.  So sad for all of those moms that thought that. When you have a child with special needs it just doesn't affect the child, it affects everyone in the family.  Parents sometimes blame each other for their child's special needs.  I read something that said parents of special needs children have a higher rate of divorce.  Difficult and stressful situations will either pull you apart or bring you closer together. In our case, it's the latter.  I play the "blame" game once in a great while, thinking drinking too many diet colas when I was pregnant or not talking or playing with Dominic enough when he was an infant "caused" his Autism. What if I spent my days feeling sorry for myself or for our family, wouldn't that be counterproductive? I instead embrace the closeness and the love that the five of us have for each other. Isn't that a much better use of my time???

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Testing Out New Cookie Recipes

From year to year, I tend to make the same cookies over and over every holiday season.  Guess you call that a cookie "rut."  I wanted to be different this year and "test" out some new cookie recipes.  Every year, the hubby has a cookie exchange at work right before Christmas and he always "volunteers" me to bake a few dozen. Some of the cookies that he brings back home from the cookie exchange are pretty darn amazing and unique. Since butter has been on sale, I decided to make shortbread.  My first attempt last week was okay, but not quite right.  I made some adjustments and tried again. I baked three dozen shortbread stick cookies right before Dominic came home from school this afternoon and the little stinker ate a bunch when my back was turned!! He's pretty sneaky :) There certainly is no shortage of taste testers in this house!!  I found a good recipe for chocolate pinwheels Monday night in the pile of old recipes that belonged to my mother-in-law, so I think that will be the next cookie I "test" out.  When the hubby takes a few dozen cookies for the cookie exchange this year, I want his co-workers to be oohing and aahing about my cookies!!


1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In large bowl, put the butter and white sugar and mix with large spoon until smooth.  Add the white flour and the vanilla extract and combine until the batter is well mixed.   Roll out dough on a flat surface (like a kitchen counter), to 8 inches wide x 12 inches long. With a knife, slice into 18 rows from top to bottom and then cut in half from left to right, so you have a total of 36 rectangular slices.   Put a dozen slices at a time on an ungreased cookie sheet and then prick with the tines of a fork three or four times on the top of each slice. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until they are just starting to turn brown.  Cool for five minutes before carefully removing to wire rack.  These shortbread stick cookies are kind of fragile, but boy are they good! Store in covered container at room temperature. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Defining "Beauty"

How many times have you heard that saying, "beauty is only skin deep?" What exactly does that mean?  I watched the most amazing video that a friend had posted on her Facebook page back in June. It was about a fashion photographer who decided 15 years ago that he would start taking pictures of children and adults with genetic disorders. How many of us pass by someone that looks "different" from us and either look down, turn away or stare?  I asked Lauren recently to name a celebrity that she considered beautiful.  She said Jennifer Lawrence. She is an actress who is secure in herself and mature, both at the same time.  Who decides what makes someone beautiful, attractive or pretty? the media? Hollywood???  Many times, those pictures in magazines, on the Internet or in newspapers have been airbrushed or altered to barely resemble the original person.  Unfortunately, I have personally known more than one person that has struggled with anorexia and bulimia.  It's not just a disorder that affects young girls, it can affect young men and adult women and men. It still shocks me, but more makes me sad, when I hear of a young teenager that has cosmetic surgery not based on a medical reason, but more because they didn't feel they were "pretty" enough or felt they looked "abnormal."  How many of us remember Susan Boyle? She became a singing sensation when she appeared on Great Britain's version of America's Got Talent in 2009.  We are such a judgmental society sometimes.  Many people watching that show that night took one look at her and assumed based on her looks that she had no singing ability at all.  She has an AMAZING voice!!!  I love the old saying, "you can't judge a book by it's cover."  How many of us do that?  Already judging someone by their outward appearance?  Maybe the mom you saw at the grocery store that looks exhausted and disheveled just spent a few days at the hospital with a sick child.  I was that mom back in 2011 when I spent three days in the hospital with Lauren.  Believe me, how I looked was certainly not my top priority!!  I judge people more by their actions.  A beautiful person to me is someone whose beauty radiates from the inside out.  How about you?  How do you define "beauty?"

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Living in the Moment

Last night, Lauren and I went for the fifth year in a row to see The Nutcracker.  It is put on by a local ballet company and since they change things from year to year, it's never the same.  I was remarking to her that next year hopefully we would be able to go together, but it's a possibly she might be spending Thanksgiving of 2014 with new friends from college.  Especially, since the furthest school she has been accepted to is over five hours away :)  I told her something like, "I have you now, so let's enjoy it." I spend time (more than I should) worrying about what the future holds. The realization that I have finally came to at the ripe old age of 50, is that when I do that, I kind of lose that precious time of  "living in the moment."  After multiple eye tests over the past few months, it's been pretty much determined that I have glaucoma.  That type of eye disease is a sneaky one, you basically don't know that you have it until you have lost permanent vision.  I could spend time worrying about losing my vision, or I can make sure I take the eye drops that the eye specialist prescribed. To me it's a no brainer.  It takes all of 15 seconds to do my drops and that little bit of time is well worth the results.  Back in 2006,  I started having pain in my left knee.  After some testing, it was determined I needed surgery.  I remember very distinctly what the surgeon said.  He said, "you can live in pain or have the surgery."  Hmm, it took me all of a minute to decide to have the surgery.  I said, "I have two kids and I want to be able to sit on the floor and play with them!" I think it blew my mother-in-law's mind at the time when I had the surgery, because from the diagnosis until the surgery was less than two weeks!  I was like, "if I can do something to fix it, why won't I do it?" We all have things that we worry about. Nobody is immune from that.  We worry about our spouses/significant others, our kids, jobs, aging parents. The list goes on and on.  The trick is not letting all of that worrying consume our day-to-day lives. Life is short and everyday is a new one.  There is no rewind button, you can't go back in time.  All you can do is keep going forward.  Focus on what you have, not on what you don't.  As we head into the holidays, how will you "live in the moment?"

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mainstreaming and Inclusion

The hubby and I were discussing the other day how special education students were treated back when he and I were in school.  He remarked to me that in his time, they were "hidden away" from the rest of the students.  When I was in elementary school, I can remember seeing the kids in those classrooms pass by us in the hallway.  I don't ever recall seeing them in the lunchroom or playground.  I'm so glad that times have changed.  Even though Dominic is in a "self-contained" special education classroom, he does get to go to the art, gym and music classrooms.  He also gets to eat lunch in the school cafeteria.  He loves hot lunch on Thursday - pizza!! Given Dominic's abilities, he is able to be "mainstreamed" into the general education classroom for small amounts of time.  Every moment he is able to do that gives me so much hope for his future.  I absolutely love what Dominic's current teacher is doing.  He has started a peer-to-peer program that has kids from the general education classrooms come to Dominic's classroom for structured activities. On Monday, his teacher told me he had a peer-to-peer interaction that lasted 14 minutes!!  While that might not seem like a huge amount of time, it is for Dominic.  It's sometimes hard for me to think back to those times that he didn't talk or make much eye contact.   We were told at his IEP meeting in October that he is right on the cusp of reading on a third grade level. Pretty awesome considering he is in fourth grade :)  Dominic has been reading books to me lately, his favorite one right now is Lady and the Tramp.  Before he learned to read, he would take a book, slam it shut and then throw it across the room because he had zero interest in even looking at the pictures!  I think once in a while, what if Dominic was born the year I was (1963). Would the diagnosis of Autism automatically have meant living in an institution? Hard to say.  So much more is known now that wasn't known then. As a mom, it is the best feeling in the world knowing that my child is "included" in so much at school. I am so thankful this year for how much progress he has made (especially the potty training)!  There are so many people that support and love Dominic and celebrate even his smallest accomplishments. I hope through my blog posts, you get a small glimpse into our day-to-day lives raising a child with special needs.  Dominic is a very important part of our family and we couldn't imagine our lives without him!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Motherhood "Appraisals"

Dominic spelled this out (with no prompting from me) with his magnetic letters the other day on our fridge:

When I saw this sentence, it got me to thinking, how do you know if you're doing a good "job" at being a mom?  Motherhood is an unpaid job, you don't get $5.00 from your family every time you complete a load of laundry, or wash a bunch of dirty dishes, do you?? If you make a terrific dinner, does your family leave a "tip" on the table? Probably not!  When you are a mom, you're basically "on-call" 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. When you work for monetary compensation, unless you're the big boss, you most likely have a performance appraisal at a minimum, once a year.  This is where you're told what areas you're doing well in and areas that you may need to improve on.  There are plenty of people out there that like to dispense their own "appraisal" on how you're doing as a mom,  like the woman that told me once that she would have never let her children act the way Dominic did in public or when another mom asked me when Lauren was about 2 1/2 or so, whether she was going to be going away to college with her pacifier, because she felt Lauren was too old to be using one.  I know that I have certain "areas" that need improvement (like keeping up with the laundry better and not keeping our kitchen counter so cluttered), but nobody's perfect, right?  If your kids, hubby or significant other had to give you a motherhood "appraisal" how would you do? what would your goals be? strengths? weaknesses? would you get all "excellent" ratings? or would you have areas that needed improvement?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Going "Unplugged"

Before Lauren left for school today, she handed me a permission slip I needed to fill out for a school-related trip she is going on shortly before Thanksgiving.  One of the "rules" is that no electronic devices (such as an i-Pod, i-Pad, cell phone, etc.) are allowed.  Lauren was telling me that she is "plugged" in from the time she wakes up until the time she goes to bed.  The hubby and I both like our television shows.  He loves watching sports, I could watch the Food Network all day.  Dominic plays educational games on the i-Pad.  It got me to wondering, is our family just a little too plugged in? Could we actually go an entire day without using the computer? a cell phone? the television? other electronic devices??  I think social media is especially hard on today's tweens and teens.  If you're not tweeting, texting or posting your status updates, you feel like you're out of the "loop."  I like Twitter, but I mostly read other people's "tweets."  Most of my buddies are on Facebook and since many members of my family and extended family and other close friends live several hundred miles from us, I have found it's the best way for me to keep in touch with them.  I joined Pinterest and Tumblr, but I truly have no clue what I'm doing!!  This past Tuesday afternoon, instead of me flipping on a cooking show on the television or Dominic playing on the i-Pad, he sat curled up next to me and read me books for a whole 30 minutes :) Guess that's at least a start to becoming less attached to our electronics, right??  How about you and your family? could you go "unplugged" for any length of time? or would it be hard???

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Chocolate Candy Bark

Are you getting tired yet of looking at all the Halloween candy your kids got when they went out trick or treating?? Are you looking for a way to "recycle" it?? Well, look no further! The only thing additional you need to make this delicious chocolate candy bark is a bag of milk chocolate morsels to use as the base.  Yep, that's it!

This was super duper easy to make. Here is all you have to do.  Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan with aluminum foil and lightly spray with non-stick spray.  Set aside.  Using whatever "snack" size candy bars you have on hand, chop into small pieces with a sharp knife on a cutting board or plate.  I used nine snack sized candy bars, plus a couple handfuls of mini M&M's I happened to have in my pantry.  Feel free to use as many or as few candy bars as you want. Set aside the chopped candy.  Melt a 11.5 ounce package of milk chocolate morsels (any brand) either in a small bowl in the microwave or in a small saucepan slowly on the stove.  Spread evenly on the bottom of the pan with a spoon or knife. Sprinkle the chopped candy on top of the melted chocolate morsels and press the candy down gently with the back of the spoon or knife. Put in fridge for at least one hour.  When ready to eat, break off pieces however big or small you want.  The chocolate candy bark should come up relatively easily from the foil, since you used the non-stick spray.  This can be stored covered in the fridge or at room temperature.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Celebrating the Small Victories

When you have a child that has special needs, even the smallest amount of progress they make can seem monumental.  On Sunday morning, Dominic put this message on our fridge.

The money I invested in these plastic magnetic letters have more than paid for themselves many, many times.  I told Dominic the "menu" options and he decided he wanted two waffles.  I told him where they were and he got himself his own breakfast, even pouring the syrup!  Dominic literally was eating the entire day - he must be going through a growth spurt. He goes to religious education class on Sunday nights and as we were heading out the door, he said, "thirsty." I knew it would be a while until he could get a drink, so we turned around and he drank a quick glass of water.  We were a few minutes late to his class, but his teacher is very understanding, so it wasn't an issue.  Dominic has a favorite pair of pajamas that he wanted to wear to bed Sunday night.  As I saw him searching through his dresser for them, I explained to him they were in the dirty clothes.  He looked at me and said, "washing machine."  I was so happy that he told me that.  For him to put that kind of a complex thought together - knowing that something dirty needed to be cleaned in the washing machine, might not seem like a big deal, but for Dominic it was a small victory!!  I promised him that the laundry "staff" would take care of it as soon as possible.  As Lauren, the hubby and I were giving him his good night kisses, he said "bellyache." That didn't surprise me at all, given the amount of food the boy consumed during the day!!! Even though I felt a little sad that his belly hurt, for him to tell us how he felt, which is a very hard thing for children with Autism to do was HUGE!!  Monday morning, Dominic decided it would be funny to pull the sheets off his bed. He's been thinking it's hilarious for several months and I usually just make the bed back up when he does that.  Lauren has been saying, "make him do it!" Monday night, when it was time for him to go to bed, I told him to make his own bed.  I left him alone and when the three of us came in to give him his kisses, he had made it up himself!  Lauren said, "he did his sheet inside out."  I told her that was fine, at least he did it!!  Since Dominic had a day off from school today, we went on a "field trip" to Target and Kroger. This is what he wrote on the fridge when I told him we were going to Kroger. We were out of milk too!!


There was a time back when he was younger that the thought of going to one store, let alone two would give me an instant headache/stomachache from anxiety because of his sensory issues.  Dominic was great at both stores and even helped me load the groceries into the car and helped me unload them at home.  He remarked, "heavy" when he carried one of the bags in.  It kind of was :)  Celebrate those small victories with your children whether they have special needs or not and no matter what the age. We certainly do in this house!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The College Application

Lauren just completed her first quarter of her senior year of high school.  She has known from a young age that she has wanted to go to college.  At one time, she wanted to go to a school in California, but has since decided that she doesn't want to be more than five hours away (one-way) from us.  Narrowing down the schools she wanted to apply to took a while. Once Lauren came up with her three top schools, then it was time to start working on the applications.  There is an application called "The Common Application" (Common App for short) that is used by several hundred colleges and universities.  Basically, you fill out all the information once and it is used in addition to the individual college's requirements. Two of the colleges Lauren wanted to apply to didn't use the Common App, but the third school did. When it came time to start filling out the applications, we did the easiest application first and went ahead and sent it to the school. We found out about a week ago that she was admitted and they have offered some scholarship money.  The second school's application was a little more time consuming, but that one has also already been sent.  I thought since the third school accepted the Common App, it would be a relatively easy process.  Boy, was I wrong. They required quite a bit of supplemental materials, one of which was to submit two essays.  I won't go into any details, but let's just say getting those essays done was a test of patience. The Common App itself is pretty involved - there are several sections to it and it is very detailed.  A bit of advice, start working on it earlier, rather than later, it is time consuming. All three colleges she applied to had application fees and two of the colleges needed the ACT scores sent to them, which also had a fee attached.  When we got that third application done, I thought we could rest for a little bit. Nope, Lauren said since we spent so much time on the Common App, she wants to apply to a couple more colleges!!  I think I need to hold on tight, I have a feeling I'm going to be on this college application "road" for a while!

Friday, October 25, 2013

An Important Milestone Achieved

Even though Dominic is over nine years old, he just recently got 100% potty trained. What a long, difficult and stressful road that was for all of us in this house.  How many of you out there with typically developing children had a difficult time with the potty training? Did it take a few days, weeks, months? When you have a child with Autism, it can be a totally different experience and may take much, much longer. Dominic doesn't have any physical disabilities that would prevent him from being trained, so we knew he was capable of it.  In the past, whenever I would ask Dominic about using the potty, his response was always a resounding, "no!"   He was perfectly content to be sitting in a soiled diaper or a Pull-Up for hours.  Believe me, I got out tons of books from the library, spent hours on the computer researching the subject and asked parents of special needs children how they accomplished the toileting - nothing was helping.  I knew that him being able to use the potty independently was an important milestone he really need to achieve.  Shortly after Dominic started third grade, it was made a goal that he would be fully independent using the bathroom by the time he started middle school (which will be September 2014).  We started the whole process in early 2013.  A picture schedule, positive praise and a reward system was key with him.  His teacher and everyone else that interacts with him on a daily basis at school were really, really patient.  We finally got him fully trained after months of trying and then in May, he got a horrendous migraine and regressed.  Anytime we tried after that it, it was met with tons of resistance and anxiety. The hubby and I had many an argument about the potty training, mostly because the hubby knew Dominic was capable of it but wasn't doing it.  I was more laid back about it and knew he would be able to get there, but we couldn't push too hard.   Shortly after he started fourth grade, it was highly suggested that we get him fully trained again.  We restarted the potty training program and again it was met with resistance.   Dominic is a smart cookie, he would wear undies to school and be dry, but when he got home I made it too easy for him by putting a Pull-Up on him. After a while of him doing the #1 and #2 in his Pull-Up, I realized it was never going to be a success unless we also had him wear undies at home.  I still let him wear a Pull-Up to bed just in case he had an accident in the middle of the night.   A few weeks ago, I stopped letting him do that too.  We still have to "prompt" him to go every 3 or 4 hours, but he is doing great!!!!  We are so proud of him!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cooking with the "Kids"

One thing that I have tried to do with all three "kids" is to have them cook with me.  It's been a great way to connect with them individually and make something delicious at the same time!  Take a look at this old picture I found of my stepson and I making stuffed shells at my parent's house back in 1992! I'm surprised no feathers from the parakeet landed in our food :)

Lauren is the master decorator for cakes - she decorated this yummy cake back in 2010:

Dominic is a big help, especially now that he can read me the list of ingredients! I love the look of concentration on his face.

My stepson came for a visit last weekend and since the hubby's birthday is coming up in early November, we decided to celebrate a little early. I asked the "kids" if they wanted to make a cake for their dad. All three of them said yes. When I told the hubby of our cake making plans, he remarked a few times, "oh, they don't have to!"  Even though he said that, I know he was really touched all three kids wanted to help. Dominic helped put in some of the ingredients and so did Lauren. My stepson and Lauren frosted and decorated the cake together.

I think the "kids" did a pretty good job making a cake for their dad, don't you think?  One thing was for sure, it was baked with a lot of "love!"

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Green" Challenge Update

At the very beginning of September, I gave myself and the rest of our family the challenge of becoming more "green." I'm happy to report that all members of our household are on board as far as recycling more.  We now fill the recycling container up to the top!  The hubby takes a yogurt every day to work and he now rinses out the container and brings it back home.  Instead of throwing out my "junk" mail that we get, I use the back of the envelopes to write my grocery shopping list.  Lauren used to take a bottled water in her lunch every day and even though we recycled the plastic, I knew there had to be an easier and more "green" way.  I bought a re-usable plastic cup on sale around the time she started school and she now fills that up with water here at home before she goes to school every morning. At Old Navy, of all places, I found the best re-usable salad container.  It was less than $5.00, and it has more than paid for itself, since Lauren likes taking a salad for lunch.  When I make lunches for the "kids" and the hubby every morning, I use plastic containers whenever possible. Wait for a good sale and/or coupon and stock up when you can.  That's what I did!!  I've got a good collection of all different sizes.  I've also seen name brand plastic containers at my local dollar store.  Become familiar with the recycling rules where you live.  For some reason, I had it stuck in my head that the company we use for recycling only took certain things.  I called them up back when I started my "challenge" and they clarified what they took and didn't take.  All I can say is, I should have made that call a while back!  So many of the things I was tossing in the garbage they take!!   If you haven't already, do a little de-cluttering and see what you might be able to donate to others.  Do your kids have games they don't play with or books they don't read anymore? Check around to see if a homeless shelter that houses children can use them.  Before you toss a magazine into the trash after you read it, maybe the retirement home near you accepts them.  Just remember to remove your address label first.  My goal for next summer is to get my garden going again!!  There's nothing like a home grown tomato!!  How about you? What have you done today to be more "green?" 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Mommy "Wars"

When you become a mom, don't you think it would be a great idea if you could also strap on a suit of armour to help you fight the Mommy "Wars?"  You know the "Wars" I'm talking about, the working moms vs. stay-at-home moms, the breastfeeding moms vs. the bottlefeeding moms.  A popular parenting magazine (Parents) put a question on their Facebook page this past Saturday asking for advice for a mom who had recently become a stay-at-home mom.  She was asking how stay-at-home moms get everything done. There were over 400 comments posted and while I didn't read every single one, I read enough to know there is still a very sharp divide between the two groups of women.  Several of the comments were pretty downright nasty and judgmental (on both sides).  In my over 17 years of being a stay-at-home mom, I've known working moms that would rather be home and stay-at-home moms that would rather be working!  As far as the breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding debate, I have been on both sides of that one, since I bottlefed Lauren and breastfed Dominic. Believe me, I have heard it all. That's why I'm saying we need the suit of armour, to help deflect those not so nice things that are said to us sometimes!  Here's an idea - let's instead RESPECT and SUPPORT each other!!! What I have learned in my many years of being a stepmom/mom is that you truly don't know what other moms have going on in their lives sometimes.  Do you walk in another mom's shoes? No, you only walk in your own.  Then, who are we to judge another mom's decision about whether to be a working mom or a stay-at-home mom? or to breastfeed or bottlefeed??? How about if we raise the white flag and call it even???

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Different Set of "Wheels"

This was Lauren's first set of "wheels." I'm pretty sure it was a birthday present for her when she turned one.  If you can believe it, it is still almost good as new and Dominic now enjoys riding it!!  Wish I could say the road to Lauren getting her license to drive a different set of "wheels" was a smooth "ride."  Lauren got her learner's license pretty much as soon as she could where we live.  It took her over another two years to acquire her driver's license. I admit, about 90% of that had to do with me.  I was a bundle of anxiety right from the get go and I think I really stressed her out. I don't think she liked me gripping the side of the car or barking at her that she was too close to the curb.  Who would??  Early on, the hubby started taking her out and practicing with her. Some parents want their teens to get their driver's license, so they can help with getting their siblings around or getting themselves to school, etc.  There was really no rush for Lauren, because the hubby works close to her high school and Dominic takes a bus.  For the past year and half or so, Lauren and her best friend did a school sport together and her friend's mom and I had a really awesome carpool going.  Anyone that has a junior in high school now or had a junior in high school at some point knows that it is an insane year.  So much was going on, that getting the license wasn't her top priority.  Well, our carpooling "buddy" moved away, so that wasn't an option anymore.  Almost every one of Lauren's friends, including those in the grade below her already had their licenses and I think she was getting a bit tired of having her mom/dad cart her around. We scheduled the driving test at the beginning of the summer.  Where we live, a parent or guardian has to be in the car (in the backseat) during the entire driving portion of the test. I elected the hubby.  Knowing me and my rather large yap, if I went with Lauren, I'm sure I would say something and that would 100% ensure she would flunk.  Lauren passed her test on the first try, yeah!  Later on that day, she drove herself down to the Wal-Mart. She texted me when she got there and when she was on her way back.  She did the texting thing for the first couple of days after she got her license when she was going somewhere and then asked, "mom, do I need to keep doing that?"  I told her that she didn't.  She always has her cell phone with her and a GPS.  I was really glad this past Monday a week ago that she had her license because the hubby was out of town for a conference, she had a full day of school, then went to a sports practice 20 minutes away from the school, came back to the school and co-coached a sports team and then since she is in the National Honor Society, she had to attend a ceremony to help induct all the new kids.  Whew, it makes me tired just thinking of her schedule that day!!!  I do worry some, when she drives to a new place or is driving later at night, but the more I run my yap, the more stressed she gets. At times, it was a little bit of a "bumpy" road to getting her license, but I know that she is really glad that she has it!!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fall Foods

Fall is definitely my favorite season of the year where we live here in the Midwest.  It's not too cool and not too warm. You don't have to use the "air" either in the car or in the house and you don't have to worry about shoveling snow.  My favorite grocery store currently has their canned pumpkin on sale, so I'm stocking up, since I make my pumpkin muffins, year round (it's still Lauren's #1 favorite)! Last night at Dominic's music therapy session, I gave his teacher a few pumpkin muffins.  Later on, she told me they were "delicious" - I think she liked them :)  Maybe they'll become her favorite kind of muffin too!

Fall also signals the beginning of apple picking season.  Apples are such a versatile fruit.  You can eat it as is, make into cobblers, pies, cakes, caramel apples - the ideas are endless.  Hmm, caramel apples ..... They are good, but boy are they messy!  How about if you took some caramels and some apples and baked them into a muffin??

These are super duper yummy - with none of the sticky mess! I gave a few to Dominic's bus driver on Tuesday afternoon and a dozen to Dominic's classroom yesterday. Let's just say, they were very popular!!  I usually use paper liners for muffins, but for this particular type of muffin, a foil liner is better.  Keep in mind, this recipe will make 18 muffins.  The best couple of bucks I spent a few years back was to get a second 12-cup muffin tin.  I have especially liked it when I have been making muffins or cupcakes late at night for some event the next day!!


1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup apple, peeled and shredded  (I used McIntosh)
12 caramels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and fill the muffin tins with foil liners.  Set aside.  In large bowl, put all the ingredients in the order given, except the caramels.  Using a large spoon, combine until just moistened.   Cut each caramel into four equal sized pieces with a sharp knife and "fold" into the batter.   Distribute batter evenly and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool for five minutes and then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.  Makes 18 muffins.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Understanding Autism

Before Dominic was ever diagnosed with Autism, the movie Rainman was one of my favorites. I found it fascinating that Dustin Hoffman's character (Raymond) had superior math and memory skills.  There is a scene in the movie Rainman when Tom Cruise's character (Charlie)  takes Dustin Hoffman's character (Raymond)  to see a doctor. When the nurse comes out she says, "he's artistic?"  Charlie says no, "he's Autistic."  When they go in to see the doctor he asks Raymond a bunch of questions, one of which is to solve some very complicated math problems.  He is able to answer them very easily. He then asks him how much a candy bar costs.  Raymond says $100.00. The doctor then asks him how much a car costs and he says $100.00.  One of the last questions the doctor asks Raymond is if he thinks he has Autism. He says, "I don't think so, definitely not!"  I watch Rainman from time-to-time and some of the behaviors that Raymond possesses Dominic does too.  Case in point, last week we took him to a football game where there were tons of people and it was very loud.  Dominic started humming to himself and covering his ears.  I had to keep reassuring him that everything was okay.  The other day, I asked Dominic if he thought he had Autism.  He at first said, "baptism?"  I was like no, "Autism."  He answered "yes." I don't know if he truly understands all that means.  Dominic, as far as I know has never been teased or bullied because of his special needs. While people have stared at us, I can only think of one time where someone actually said something to me. They told me, "I would never allow my child to act like that!"  It bugged me for a while (it was around the time of Dominic's diagnosis of Autism), so I was ultra-sensitive. It's unfortunate that the bullying of special needs children (and adults) does go on and it breaks my heart when I hear of those types of stories.   A few weeks ago we went out of town.  When Dominic was little, taking him to any public place would give me so much anxiety.  This particular trip involved a round trip ferry ride.  It was loud, crowded and there were dogs on the ferry both coming and going.  Dominic has issues with cats and dogs, I think because they are not predictable.  Anyways, he did great and I was so proud of him.  We kept reassuring him that he was fine, so he was.  On our way back home, we stopped at a historical museum/fort.   During part of our time there, we went into a part where one of the ladies who worked there started talking to Dominic.  He immediately started covering his ears and humming.  She was looking at me, not disapprovingly, but more questioningly.  I said, "he has Autism."  She was like, "okay, if you decide you want to come back, please do!"  I rarely use Autism as an "excuse," only if I feel the situation warrants it.  I'm so glad that much more is understood about Autism now, though there is still much more to learn. I think sometimes that if Dominic was born even 20 years ago, we probably would have been told to put him in an institution. Lauren and I talk about how we don't know Dominic any other way but having Autism. He is such a sweet little guy (lately he has been telling me "I love you" multiple times a day). He definitely does have his "moments" though. Yesterday, he was squawking about something and after he was done getting upset he came into the kitchen and said, "feeling sorry for myself!"  Yep, he kind of was.  I have said it before and I'll say it again, our family is truly lucky and blessed that we have so many people that accept Dominic as he is.  This morning as he was eating his waffle and getting ready for school, he was providing some musical entertainment. One of Dominic's "gifts" is his amazing memory.   Life in this house is never dull!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Paper Coupons, A Thing of the Past???

My hubby recently told me about a story he saw on his favorite morning news show.  It was about how paper coupons will become a thing of the past.  Excuse me??  I definitely 100% disagree with that!!  First of all, not everyone in this world wants to do digital coupons! I'm what you would call, ahem, STUBBORN, and I have unwillingly had to start doing some digital coupons, just because sometimes the deals are so good. Especially like these three items I got today at Kroger (they were Friday only downloads)! If I had to pay full price it would have cost me $8.08.  I have never bought these three items before, but since they were free, I'm giving them a "test" run!

Second of all, take a look at the coupons below that I got recently in the mail.  The first two coupons I got because I found a small peanut shell in a jar of peanut butter and I called the company to tell them about it.  Just taking a few minutes on the phone with the company yielded me $8.00 worth of coupons.  The third coupon was because I bought a six-pack of applesauce that had already expired and I didn't notice it until I got home that day from the grocery store.

I have to acknowledge my Aunt "M." She was the one that told me a long time ago to take a few moments to call a company or business to let them know about a product or service - good or bad!  Third, I have saved tons of cash by using paper coupons not only at the grocery store, but also at restaurants, department stores and other stores where I shop!  I went out to lunch with one of my good friends recently and it was a buy one, get one type of deal.  It was her turn to treat me and she had no hesitation in using my coupon!!  Fourth, not everyone is a fan of Facebook, but there are many free websites out there that will do the work of finding great coupons or free things for you. That's how I found out about the booklet below.  I don't know about you, but I definitely like "finding" $13.00!  I got this sent to me FREE!

How can you not want to use coupons to save money???  Finally, if you don't get a regular subscription to a newspaper, then buy it only on Sunday.  It's definitely well worth the investment!  I'm not what you would call an "extreme" couponer, but I probably spend about one hour a week, clipping and sorting the paper coupons we get in our Sunday paper.  One hour a week is a small price to pay to reap many financial benefits, wouldn't you say???

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Feeling the Need to Comment

This past Thursday afternoon, I was at a local restaurant with a close friend of mine.  We were kind of standing off to the side trying to look at the menu and decide what we wanted to order.  I was talking to my friend and rattling off some sandwiches that sounded good.  As I mentioned one in particular, a sourdough melt, I had a guy walk right past us and say something like, "that one is really good!"  I said, "okay, thanks!"  I then said to my friend, "I guess I must have been talking kind of loud, if that guy commented!"  I did end up ordering that sandwich and it was really good, so I guess that dude was right!  It got me to thinking, how many times have I overheard a person's conversation and felt the need to comment? Probably more times than I should have!  About three weeks ago, I was in my favorite grocery store and I overheard an older woman (I'm assuming she was the grandma) talking to the two little kids that she was pushing in the cart.  I guess it had been a rough day because I heard her say, "you better stop doing that, or you are going to go sit in the car, ALONE!" Yikes, I wanted so bad to say something to the grandma, but didn't.  Just last week, I was at a grocery store I don't go to very often and I was listening to the gal and the clerk talking to each other in front of me.  The clerk said, "did you get the special loaded to your account?"  This particular store has recently put many digital "specials" on-line and you have to load them to your account.  The two women were discussing the special in great depth.  When it was my turn to check out I asked the clerk, "hey, I didn't load the special to my card either!"  Turns out you had to spend a certain amount to get a percentage off and I didn't come anywhere close to that amount, so I didn't feel too bad. I felt bad for the gal in front of me, because she qualified for the percentage off, but hadn't loaded it to her account.  When you're waiting in line, it's kind of hard not to listen to the conversations swirling around you, especially if you're by yourself! How about you? Do you ever comment on a conversation you have overheard? or would it be too awkward??

Friday, September 20, 2013

Shopping Cart "Etiquette"

I have written posts about library etiquette, parking lot etiquette and manners in general, but I feel that a post about shopping cart "etiquette" is something that also needs to be discussed!  Hold on tight, I'm hopping on top of the old soapbox.  First of all, if you take a shopping cart out of the store and into the parking lot, please return the cart to either the store or to the cart "corral." When you leave the cart in the parking lot, it creates havoc for others trying to park their cars in the lot, especially on a windy day, when the carts start having a mind of their own! If that is not possible, then please try and put it somewhere out of the way.  Second, if carts are at a premium, please don't take one that has a stroller attached.  There are lots of moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, etc. that bring children with them when they shop and they should get top priority for those type of carts.  Third, when you are shopping, especially in a grocery store, please put your cart either to the right or the left of the aisle.  Please don't leave the cart in the middle, it makes it difficult for people to get around you.  Fourth, if you are coming out of an aisle, please slow down just a little, to make sure there isn't someone coming from the right or to the left.  About a week ago, when I was at the grocery store, I assumed that a man was going to stop when he hit the end of the aisle, WRONG!! He kept right on going and almost crashed into my cart as I was passing by.  Lastly, if you see an empty cart, look around first and make sure that someone isn't using it!  Okay, I'm getting off my soapbox now.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Compassion and Tolerance

Back in late August, I heard of a story involving a child with special needs. It was about an anonymous note that was sent from "one pissed off mother" to a family who has a child with Autism.  The letter was filled with words that were offensive, hurtful and just plain mean.  Parts of it read, "I HATE people like you who believe, just because you have a special needs kid, you are entitled to special treatment!"  Another line, "go live in a trailer in the woods or something with your wild animal kid."  Wow, when I read that, it made me really sad, first of all that a mom could have that much disdain for a child (and his family) and secondly, to take the time to write all that nasty stuff down and then send it?  I find it even more sad to think that this is what the "pissed off mother" is teaching her own children - that it's okay to not have tolerance for others just because they look or act different. Well, I have a news flash for the "pissed off mother" - the world isn't like that!!  Wouldn't it be a really boring world if it was???  The mom who got that anonymous letter was shaken and upset and rightfully so.   She responded to the hate filled letter on a really great special needs blog - here is the link to it - . In early September, I heard about another anonymous note that was left for a family whose son has epilepsy and has had three major brain surgeries.  The family had gone out to eat and as they were waiting for their meal, their son started to get loud. The mom was getting concerned that the other diners might start getting upset.  Instead, the waitress came over and said that a mystery diner had paid for their meal and had written on their bill, "God only gives special children to special people."  There is just one word that comes to mind when I read that sentence - compassion!  Wow, I think this mystery diner could teach the "pissed off mother" a thing or two, don't you think???

Friday, September 13, 2013

Too Much Information

Earlier this week I was at my favorite grocery store going up and down the aisles, looking for good deals, and getting the items on my list. The time I usually go shopping is in the morning, during the week, so most of the other customers are stay-at-home moms like myself or senior citizens.  Well, this particular time, I noticed an elderly man in a motorized wheelchair trying to reach for something on a high shelf.  I went over and said, "sir, do you want me to get something off the shelf for you?"  He said, "no, I just had bariatric surgery and I have to do it myself!" Hmm, I don't know if I wanted to know quite that much about him, considering I had never met him before. I remember hesitating about 10 seconds and then I think I said, "cool!"  Looking back, maybe that wasn't the best response.   I almost was going to ask him how much weight he lost, but that didn't seem to be appropriate.  Maybe I should have said, "good for you or good luck!" I really wish I could think quicker on my feet sometimes!!  One thing about my personality is that I sometimes have a tendency to share a little too much about myself. I can usually size someone up pretty quickly when I first meet them and determine if I can share really personal things with them.  My mother-in-law was really, really private, but I could always be myself with her. I think she definitely thought I shared way too information with people, but we still managed to have a pretty good relationship!!  How do you handle it if a friend divulges way too much information about themselves, their relationships, marriage or their kids?  Don't you wish life came with an instruction manual sometimes???

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny

A few weeks before Easter of this year, I asked Lauren if she wanted a basket from the Easter Bunny.  She said that she did.  Even though I know she doesn't believe in him anymore, I think she likes getting the candy :)  When Dominic has lost teeth at school, his teacher sends them home in a baggie. I have never started the Tooth Fairy thing with him and probably won't at this point, given that he has already lost a bunch of teeth.  I read an article in the newspaper recently that said the average amount a kid gets for a lost tooth is $3.70!  If you can believe it, there is even a Tooth Fairy Calculator "app" that will give you an idea how much to give your child based on your age, income bracket and education level.  I find that fascinating.  Back in my day of losing teeth, I seem to recall getting a quarter or two.  My hubby told me that back when he was in second grade, one of the teachers told the entire class that there was no such thing as Santa Claus.  He can't remember if he cried or not when he heard that, but he did say that some of the kids were crying. To me, I think that was kind of mean of the teacher to do that!!!  I don't know that there is any set age for a kid to find out, I think it's better if you tell them the truth if they directly ask you.  I can remember when Lauren asked me if Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny were real. I never lie and the fact that I lied to her for a number of years about their existence was kind of hard for Lauren to wrap her mind around.  Dominic having special needs, I think with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, I'm going to keep that going for the foreseeable future.  How about you? Have your kids come to you yet and asked if Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny are real? How old were you when you found out they weren't? or do you "still believe so you will receive???"

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Autism and Echolalia

If you have a child with Autism, you most likely have heard of the term "echolalia." For those of you who don't know the meaning of that word, according to the Autism Speaks website, it is the "repetition of words, phrases and intonations, or sounds of the speech of others."  Out of the many, many Autism websites out there, I have found theirs to be one of the best. Here is the link: . When Dominic was just learning to talk he was the "king" of echolalia.  If we asked him a question like, "what do you want to drink - water or milk?" he would either repeat back part of the sentence or the last word in the sentence.  That is called "immediate echolalia."  Dominic has a remarkable memory.  He can recite entire passages of a book, movie or video that he has seen in it's entirety.  That is called "delayed echolalia" or "scripting" because he is repeating back something that he heard a minute ago, hours ago, a day ago, or longer.  Since about the beginning of the summer, he has been saying a phrase that we don't like.  We have tried everything to stop him from saying it, but it's really not doing any good.  When he has been saying it to me I've been telling him, "do you kiss your mother with that mouth??"  Now, for the past week or so he'll say the phrase we don't like, immediately followed by, "mother with that mouth!"  He's a real comedian :) Dominic used to think taking the things to be recycled out to the bin we have out in the garage was the most coolest thing ever.  Lately, he hasn't thought it's that great (or cool) anymore.  When he stopped liking to do it, I asked him, "is it because it's lost its magic?" He didn't really respond to that, but the next time after that when I asked him to toss something into the bin, he said, "lost it's magic!" Again, he's a real comedian!! Dominic has had the most amazing social worker since he started school when he was 3.  She just retired at the end of this past school year and we will really, really miss her. She told me something once that I have never forgotten. When Dominic would start "scripting" at school she would tell him, "stop the movie!" We tell him the same thing at home now. Great advice from a very wise woman.  A few years back, Dominic started talking about "laris" incessantly. My hubby even starting asking him if it was an imaginary friend.  After many months, it was determined that "laris" was actually his word for hilarious because I guess when he did something funny once we told him he was "hilarious." One thing that is different now since he is older is that when he is "scripting" we can ask him where he heard a particular sentence, etc. and he can tell us where he heard it.  He doesn't do the intense "scripting" so much these days, so when he launches into it big time, I know something is not quite right.  It is usually when he is overstimulated or under stimulated.  Dominic does the "scripting" as a way of soothing himself.  Has anyone else had children that did a lot of echolalia?  I would be curious to hear from other parents who have had similar experiences like our family has had.   Please feel free to comment!!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A "Green" Challenge

Shortly before school started for Lauren, she and I spent an entire weekend doing a "deep" clean of her bedroom.  By the time we were done, we had filled up six bags to throw away.  Yikes!! I thought we were pretty good at recycling and not throwing so much trash away, but I guess I was wrong!!! The hubby even asked me yesterday as I was bagging up our kitchen trash, "didn't we just empty that recently??" I told him yes :(  My challenge for the month of September is to make our family  more "green."  Lauren is taking an art class this semester and if she donates some art items she'll get extra credit points.  To me that's a win-win.  A local charity comes through our neighborhood about once a month or so. They are scheduled to be in our neighborhood tomorrow, so I am spending the better part of today going through the kid's clothes and getting some boxes ready to donate.  If we have clothes that are full of holes and/or stains, they become rags to use around the house or to dry off the cars when we wash them. I want to see if I can donate our gently used toys to a local homeless shelter.  I got a few books out from the library this week about composting and living the "zero waste" lifestyle that I plan on gleaning information from!!  At the grocery store, I'm going to start asking for the clerk to bag my groceries in brown paper bags, not plastic. I have been taking my used printer ribbons from our printer to Office Max for a long time and they recycle them for me and give me credit.  For the past couple of years, I have had Dominic's school signed up with an organization called TerraCycle - here is the link: .  You will be absolutely amazed what you can send to them! I currently send the Capri Sun drink pouches. They pay for the postage - all you need is your own box or shipping envelope. When you accumulate enough points, you can donate them to the charity of your choice. I have also been the coordinator for both the Box Tops for Education Program and the Campbell's Labels for Education Program at his school for several years.  It takes just a few moments to clip those box tops or labels.  If you have kids, see if their school has either of those programs. If they don't, start it - it's a great way to volunteer! If you don't have kids, see if you can donate your box tops or labels to your local school.  Do you drink beverages with those pop tabs? We have been donating our pop tabs to the Ronald McDonald House for ill children around where we live for several years. I would love to hear from others who recycle and/or are more "green" than our family.  I'm sure I could learn a thing or two! Anyone up for taking the September "challenge" with me???

Monday, August 26, 2013

Mastering Twitter

Back when I was a teenager, I had a major crush on the actor Parker Stevenson.  I had pictures of him all over my bedroom wall. I'm guessing that most of my pictures were clipped out of Tiger Beat!! Is that magazine even around anymore???  I can even remember writing a fan letter to Parker Stevenson and hoping so much that he would write me back or better yet show up at my house!  I think I must have watched that Brady Bunch episode too many times where Davy Jones of the Monkees showed up unannounced to see Marcia!!!

These days so many celebrities have Twitter.  Some have over a million followers.  When I first got Twitter a few years back, I didn't understand how it worked, so I de-activated my account.  I re-activated my account a few weeks ago and figured it was time to give it another try, given that several people close to me think it's the best thing since sliced bread.  Three words - I LOVE TWITTER!!!!!!!!!  I really feel like I have entered another world.   Being the "foodie" that I am, there are tons of food groups and personalities on there. Yesterday, I "tweeted" a celebrity food personality and within about 20 minutes she "tweeted" me back. She even "retweeted" my original "tweet." So cool, it really made my day.  Twitter makes a celebrity seem more attainable, but not in a strange or creepy way. I wonder if Parker Stevenson is on Twitter??  It doesn't really matter anymore,  my crush on him ended after he never wrote me back!!!  Now, if I could just figure out what a "hashtag" is and how to use it!?!?!?!?!?!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Spreading Those Wings

I like to think of our household as our "nest." I have a tendency though, to want to be the "bird" in charge.  I have been working very hard, this summer in particular, in giving both of my baby "birds" more independence. For about the past week, I have been standing at the top of our driveway and letting Dominic go down and pick up the mail out of the mailbox.  It might not seem like a huge deal, but it is.  There was a time when he was younger, that he would run into the street full blast and not think anything of it! Yikes, that is certainly something I don't miss. Today, Dominic was telling me that he wanted to stay in his pajamas all day.  I told him I didn't think that was an option.  His "favorite" red shirt was in our bedroom with the rest of the clean laundry, so I told him to go up and find it.  I figured he would come down with the red shirt on, but pajama bottoms on the bottom.  Nope, he had found a pair of black shorts that actually matched the shirt.  I told him several times throughout the day that I was proud of him.  About four or five months ago, when had the worst migraine he has ever had in his life, he regressed with the potty training.  It has been hit or miss with that throughout this summer, so he is back in training pants for the time being.  I have been trying to not make a huge deal out of it, because all it does is get him super stressed out and creates tension in the entire household. We know that he is capable of being full trained, because he was before the bad migraine.  We just have to keep working on it and be patient.  I have been quizzing Dominic every few days to make sure he still knows our phone number. Yesterday, we met Dominic's new bus driver for the coming school year. As I stood outside by our front door, I kept gently encouraging him to come out and meet the driver.  At first Dominic didn't want to meet him.  He then came outside and said hi to him - about 15 seconds later, he gave him a hug :)  He did both of those things on his own, unprompted by me.  Dominic has known for a while how to pour his own drinks and retrieve food out of the pantry if he's hungry.  I still have to help him pour cereal, etc., but today, I was showing him how to do it.  He has known for years how to turn on the computer and manipulate his way around.  The other day on the i-Pad, he found some pictures he had taken and then set it to music, like a slideshow. I don't even know how to do that!!   One of the last times Dominic came with me to the grocery store, I let him push the cart, get things off the shelf, put them into the cart and then, when we were checking out, put our items on the conveyor belt. When we were leaving, he wanted to push the cart out of the store.  Every time I kept trying to help push the cart, he would push my hand away and want to do it himself.  I let him push the cart to the car and he helped me load the bags in.  The next time we go out to eat, I think I'm going to let him order his own meal.  As he gets ready to start the fourth grade in less than two weeks, I am confident that he will continue to make progress in many areas.  It's hard for me to imagine that this time next year, he will be preparing to enter middle school.  My littlest "baby" bird is slowly spreading his "wings" and I can't wait to see how high he will soar!

Friday, August 16, 2013

My Friend Bonnie

Bonnie was an older woman that I was friends with back when I lived on the East Coast. She had some eating disorders and was very, very thin.  Many of the other neighbors on our street really didn't talk to her because of the way she looked and acted.  She was extremely introverted. Bonnie didn't have a husband/significant other or any children. She had few friends on our street, basically myself and a neighbor I'll call "T."  Bonnie and I used to walk at a park near our neighborhood.  We walked for a few years and got to know each other pretty well and shared quite a bit.  One day when we were supposed to be getting together, she didn't show up.  I noticed that the windows were open at her house and given that she was so private, I decided to ask her through her window if everything was okay. She answered back that she was fine, so I took her at her word.  When another day or two went by and I still hadn't seen or heard from her, I alerted her neighbor "T" and told him that we should investigate to make sure she was okay.  We decided since we didn't 100% know for sure what was going on, he and I decided to call the police.  They came and went into her townhouse for a bit and then came back out.  When they came out, I asked them if she was in there.  They responded, "yes."  I then asked, "is she okay?"  They responded back with "no, she isn't."  Sadly, she had taken her own life. I was stunned.  I had absolutely no idea, talk about the guilt.  The policemen wanted to talk to both "T" and I since we were the last ones to see her before she passed away.  I remember taking Lauren to another neighbor's house, because she was very young and didn't really need to hear all that the policeman and I were going to be talking about. A week or so later after she died, her family came to town to clean out her house and get it ready to sell.  One evening, they showed up at my front door and wanted to talk to me.  It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.  They kept asking me if I had any indication that she would do something like she did.  It was so sad.  I was unable to attend her services because they were not local. Even to this day, a part of me still feels guilty. How could I have not known? how come I didn't do more?  It is something I don't think I will ever get over. I think about Bonnie's family and how they are doing. The only way I have found to cope with the guilt has been to say a special prayer for her every week in church. My dear sweet friend Bonnie. You are gone, but not forgotten.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Too Young to Babysit??

While Dominic goes to his music therapy class there is an area where you can wait that has a few tables and chairs and is where I hang out.  A few weeks ago, I noticed there were four small children by themselves in that area.  At first, I thought they were with an older woman who was also sitting in that area.  Nope, they weren't with her.  The kids were pretty well behaved for a while and then they starting getting really loud.  When the littlest one fell on the ground and started crying, I asked the oldest child (she looked about Dominic's age, like 9 or so) where their parents were.  She said, "oh, my mom is upstairs."   The older woman and I were kind of watching this little girl take care of her three siblings.  She was entertaining them, taking them to the potty, etc.  The entire time that I was there, I never once saw a mom or dad come down to check on them.  I was thinking that it would probably be okay if she was watching her siblings at home by herself, but to be in a public place, seemed I don't know, dangerous?  The front door to the building where this waiting area was is close to the front door.  There is a receptionist area you have to pass by, but still, something about the whole thing seemed wrong to me.  The older woman that was watching these four kids told the oldest child, "you're a really good babysitter."  She definitely was - she was extremely mature. It seemed like an awful lot of responsibility for a young girl to be watching three younger children in a public place.  When Dominic was born, Lauren was about 8.  I would make her keep an eye on him when I took a quick shower, but that would be about 15 minutes or so and we were in our own house.  In hindsight, I wished I would have said something to the receptionist. I'm curious as to what other moms (and dads)  think of such a young child babysitting that many other kids in a public place.  Let me know your thoughts!

Friday, August 9, 2013

What Would You Have Done?

Two different "what would you have done" moments happened this week.  The first was while I was in the produce section of my favorite grocery store this past Tuesday.  I heard a man tell one of the clerks, "hey, I made a mess that needs to be cleaned up!"  Being the "Curious Georgette" that I am, I had to go investigate.  An older gentleman had spilled about 50 grape tomatoes all over the floor, covering about 6-8 feet in all directions.  The clerk looked over and said, "okay, I'll take care of it."  The man kept waiting for the clerk to come over and clean it up. When the clerk didn't immediately come over, he then squatted down and started picking up the tomatoes himself.  I think maybe he was afraid someone might step and/or slip on them.  I watched the man start picking them up and at first I wasn't going to do anything. I went over and said, "uh-oh" which I don't think he found very helpful. Then, I thought, if I spilled a bunch of tomatoes all over the floor, I would hope that someone would take a few moments to help me.  I went over and helped the guy (it took all of 20-30 seconds). Over the course of those 20-30 seconds, he probably thanked me about three times.  I wasn't doing it to be thanked, it just felt like it was the right thing to do.  The second thing happened while I was on the way home from running errands with Lauren on Thursday morning.  We were on a local road a little less than three miles from home.  There were two cars in front of me and I didn't take much notice, until the second of the two cars slammed into the back end of the car in front of it! I was keeping a safe distance from both vehicles, so there wasn't any chance at all that we were going to be involved in the accident.  Since it happened right in front of us, my first instinct was for me to stop, especially when I saw a little smoke coming from one of the cars.  I think at first the two drivers were startled and then within 10-15 seconds they both were out of their cars.  The driver of the second car opened his door and then lay down a few times on the road, then got up. I thought maybe he was hurt, but then figured out he was looking under the car to see how much damage there was.  The driver of the first car was standing by her car on her cell phone.  I kept thinking to myself, should I get out? should I call 911? should I keep going past the accident since I had to get Lauren home?  I asked Lauren about 3-4 times what to do and she said she wasn't sure what to do either.  I decided to hop out of my car.  I then asked the two people, "hey, are you both okay?"  The driver of the first car looked at me and said, "should I call 911?"  I told her yes.  They didn't appear to be injured at all, so I hopped back in my car and then wondered if I should stick around since I had just witnessed an accident. I made the decision since it wasn't a hit and run, no one was injured and they were calling for assistance, that I wasn't really needed.  I drove Lauren home and we decompressed a little.  Both of us were a little shook up.  Even though we weren't involved in the accident, it still was a bit disconcerting.  Lauren just got her driver's license about two weeks ago and she was getting ready to drive herself to a sports practice. Both the tomato incident and witnessing an accident right in front of me made me realize that I guess it's in my nature to want to help others.  That's what I hope I'm instilling in my children.  That we shouldn't be so focused on ourselves and to always be aware if someone needs our help. What would you have done in both circumstances? would you have helped? why or why not?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Guess I Don't Know Everything!

This December it will be 23 years that I have known my husband and 18 years that we have been married. 

Wouldn't you think I would know everything that there is to know about him by now?? Well, when I asked the hubby the other day if he liked blueberry pancakes, he told me they were his favorite!  I never knew that about him.  Since I can't recall EVER making that particular kind of pancake for him, I decided to put them on the "menu" this past Sunday for breakfast. I asked the hubby to rate these on a scale of 1 to 10.  He said they were a 10!!  I guess he liked them, because he ate three both Sunday and Monday morning.  I love the way the blueberries kind of come up through the top.

If you are interested in making these pancakes, the recipe is below. They are so yummy, you almost don't need syrup!!

3 cups white flour
1/4 cup white sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups blueberries, rinsed

In large bowl, put all the ingredients in the order given, except the blueberries.  Using a large spoon or whisk, blend together until smooth. It's okay if there are still a few lumps.  Fold in the blueberries gently until well combined.  Makes 20-22 5-inch pancakes.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Give Them Wings, So They Can Fly

Lauren flew on an airplane recently to visit her best friend. She has flown before with the hubby and/or I several times, but she has never flown completely by herself.  Her very first plane trip was to Iowa to visit some of my friends just before she turned two.

This most recent trip comes ten months before she turns 18.  The best deal I could find for her was a non-stop flight that required us to wake up at 3:00 a.m. and get to the airport by about 5:00 a.m. When I booked the flight, given that she is now 17, meant that she could fly alone without paying an additional fee to have someone "escort" her to and from the departing and arriving airports.  I thought that I would be able to go all the way to the gate with her.  I asked two people at security about it and they told me to go back to the airline counter and get a gate "pass."  I was told I had to wait in a huge line, which I did for about 30-40 minutes.  Since Lauren had already gone through security, she was waiting for me at the gate and sent me several texts asking when I would join her.  I kept texting back that I was still in a very long line.  When I did finally make it to the counter, they flat out refused to issue me a gate pass.  I tried to explain that my daughter was already at the gate waiting for me and I hadn't even gotten a chance to hug her goodbye!  I was kind of bummed, but didn't want to create a scene. I had already witnessed a man get verbally abusive and two security guards coming to talk to him.  Guess I wasn't the only one upset with the airline!!  At least I had a little bit of entertainment while I waited in the long line.  Since I couldn't join Lauren,  I called her and told her what was going on.  The only way I would have been able to hug and kiss her goodbye would be for her to come back out of the security area, but then she would have to go back through again.  It was getting too close to when her flight was going to leave and I didn't want her to chance missing her plane.  Plus, the hubby was back at home waiting for me to come back so he could go to work (Dominic was sleeping).  It was difficult for me, given that I could see her on the other side of the security area, but I wasn't able to give her a hug and kiss goodbye.  She said she was okay with it all, so I had to be too :)  Lauren has been so excited to travel to see her friend and I didn't want what happened with me trying to get my "pass" to put a damper on her trip.  I called her when I was heading back home and told her to text me when the flight left. Her plane eventually left (an hour and a half late) and she made it safely to her destination.  I would have never let her go on that very first plane ride by herself, but I had absolutely no hesitation in letting her do it now.  Lauren and I have a super close relationship (which I treasure), but we are also independent of each other. It's a fine line of how much to "micro-manage" your teen as they head towards adulthood.   I have a tendency to want to help Lauren more than she needs to be helped.  Recently, more often than not, she has told me in a nice way to let her handle things more.  Lauren is starting her senior year in a few short weeks.  It will be a year of changes and transitions. She is planning on going to college, but wants to live at least one hour from us.   This time next year Lauren will be preparing to leave our "nest."  I'm confident that we have given her the "wings," so she can fly! 

My New "Relationship" with the Sun

Long gone are the days that I would sit on the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean for HOURS at a time with just baby oil on my skin for prote...