Thursday, February 28, 2013

Snow Days

A snow day when you're a kid means something much different when you become a parent. When you are little, a snow day means staying in your pajamas later than normal, playing board games, building a snowman, relaxing and drinking hot chocolate. Back when I was growing up in Maryland, an inch or two of snow would either shut the schools down or delay the opening of school by an hour or two.  I can distinctly remember when I missed an entire week of school because of a big snowstorm :)  When I first moved to the Midwest over 11 years ago, it took me a little time to adjust to the fact that things don't come to a grinding halt with the first flake of snow. Yesterday, both Dominic's elementary school and Lauren's high school were both closed because of the snow and ice.  Lauren and I both had morning appointments scheduled (orthodontist for her, cardiologist for me) and the hubby was taking our minivan in to the shop to get the oil changed and then was going to work.  Lauren wasn't too pleased she couldn't sleep in, but her 9 a.m. appointment was scheduled before I ever knew she would have a snow day.  I helped Dominic get dressed, got Lauren up and moving and we ventured out to her orthodontist appointment, which luckily is only about 5 minutes away. When it came time for my appointment, which was on the other side of town,  Lauren stayed home with Dominic and watched him so I could see my cardiologist by myself.   After I got done with my appointment, I swung by my husband's office, picked him up and dropped him off at the car shop so he could have the minivan to drive back home after work.  On my way back home from dropping him off, I stopped at Burger King (which I rarely do) and got the kids some lunch.  I think they appreciated the special "treat."  After resting a bit, it was out again to go to Payless.  Lauren has been wanting a pair of boots and I had a great 25% off coupon, good for one day only (which of course was Wednesday).  Besides the boots being on sale, my coupon took off almost another $10.00!  When we got home, I was telling Lauren I had been thinking of making snickerdoodles, but since I'm in charge of the Box Tops for Education Program at Dominic's school and the deadline is March 1, I needed to count some last minute box tops.  Between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon I counted  close to 1,100 box tops :)  As I got done counting the last 50 or so box tops, I heard Lauren calling from her room, "mom, are you still planning on making the snickerdoodles? if you are, I want to help!"  It's been a long time since Lauren and I have made cookies together, just the two of us, so I told her to give me a few minutes and I would be ready.  We whipped up a couple dozen and then she went back up to her room to do some homework. Next, I spent a little time with Dominic on the couch just hanging out, tickling him and reading books with him.  Then, it was time to make dinner.  It was a toss up between meatloaf or lasagna.  I let Dominic decide, his vote was for lasagna.  I quickly boiled the water for the noodles and browned up some meat, put it together and popped it into the oven.  In between everything that was going on this unexpected snow day, I also did three loads of laundry.  When the hubby arrived home from work (which was about an hour earlier than normal), he remarked that the laundry "staff" had been busy.  He's a real laugh riot sometimes :) After dinner, I folded up and sorted all the laundry.  After putting Dominic to bed, I spent some time with the hubby and was wondering why I felt a little tired. I guess it's because not too much "relaxing" had gone on during the day.  That's okay, I wouldn't have my life any other way. Enjoy those unexpected  "snow days" when you can with your kids, they grow up in a blink of an eye.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Social Media

I thought I was so cool when I finally learned to text with some confidence.  Now, the "in" thing seems to be Twitter. I read in my local paper recently about a company that is hiring people based solely on how they respond to Twitter "tweets." Instead of a traditional face-to-face interview, it's called a "Twitterview."  Pinterest and Instagram are pretty popular too.  Digital cameras make it so easy to take pictures and see it instantly. I'm sure many of my friends around my age can remember taking the film out of a camera and having to mail it away in an envelope and then having to wait at least one week for the pictures to come back.  I thought I had mastered our digital camera, but a few months ago Lauren said, "do you know you have the setting on wide angle?" Social media has definitely changed the way we communicate with each other.  Back when I was Lauren's age, I called my friends on the telephone. I used to envy friends that had their own phone "line."  How about pen pals?  Did anyone else have those growing up, besides me?? These days, teens talk by "texting" or "tweeting."  If you have a teenager, ask them the last time they talked on the phone to their friends.  I know I can't remember the last time Lauren chatted on the phone with her friends - it probably was around the time she got a cell phone! I guess I'm either stubborn or a "dinosaur" because my preferred way to talk to my friends is still on the phone.  E-mail and Facebook are a close second and third, respectively. What is Tumblr?? and Digg? I've heard of them, but I'm not quite sure what they are. How about you? have you kept up with all the different kinds of social media?  I think I'm still a work in progress!!!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

If That's the Worst Thing that Happens

Last Tuesday started out like a relatively normal day, with the exception of having Lauren home from school recovering from a stomach bug.  I had several errands to run and told Lauren I would have my cell phone on in case she needed me for any reason.  My first errand was going to the library.  I needed to run to the restroom quickly while I was there because I had four other errands to run before going back home.  I entered the restroom and I'm pretty sure there was a little kid next to me in the stall.  Just as I got into my stall and locked the door, they ran out of the restroom and turned off the lights! The restroom was pitch black and even though I knew where the exit door was, I couldn't seem to find the handle or the light switch.  After about 30 seconds, I was able to find the door.  I get claustrophobic sometimes, so those 30 seconds felt like 30 hours.  I pulled myself together and checked out some books and left.  My next three errands were uneventful and then it was on to Kroger.  I had pulled out my phone to check messages and dropped it, not once, but twice.  Both times the battery flew out.  I tried to reinstall it, but it wouldn't go back in.  I got kind of stressed, because I had Lauren at home, recovering from her stomach problems and was worried Dominic might get what she had because he drank out of her cup of water on Monday.  I half expected a call from his teacher saying he was sick too!  I couldn't call Lauren because my phone wasn't working.  I was about a half hour late coming back home and when I got back home she told me everything was fine, but she was getting ready to call me since I was late.  I made her and I some lunch and ran another quick errand up to our church and then came back home because I had to take Lauren to a sports practice.  I took the freeway to practice and had a woman cut me off as I was trying to merge into traffic.  I got kind of ticked and Lauren said something like, "well, if that's the worst thing that happens to you today, you're doing okay!"  I told her being in the restroom in the dark was the worst thing until the lady cut me off.  After I dropped Lauren off, I had a small pocket of time to toss our dinner into the crockpot before Dominic got home on his bus.  I was still putting on my shoes when the bus pulled up.  I got Dominic off the bus and into the house.  In the process of getting him inside, I tripped over a pair of my shoes by the front door and fell down on the carpet in the living room!  I twisted my ankle, but not real bad.  Dominic said, "uh-oh, mommy fell!"   I told him I was fine because I didn't want to get him upset. I picked myself up, dusted myself off and went about my business. The rest of the evening was smooth sailing.  I think when you have a day where everything seems to be going wrong, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You think in your head, "well, bad things keep happening, it's going to be a bad day."  In the great scheme of life, the events of the day weren't all that bad.  As hard as it was for me on Tuesday, I kept trying to remain upbeat.  I'm happy to report Wednesday was much better!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sharing the Love

A common characteristic among autistic children and adults is impaired social interaction.  Back in August of last year, I wrote about Dominic saying "I love you" to me for the first time ever.  It has taken him this long to say it again.  This past weekend, he wrote this:


An hour or so later he said, "I love mommy!"  Wow, it was all I could do to stop myself from crying tears of joy.  Some autistic children and adults never talk, much less show such affection.  We are still so happy for every new word and/or sentence that he says.  Dominic is an affectionate guy - he loves to give hugs and kisses. No one is a stranger to Dominic!  There was a little girl in his class for a few years that has since moved away.  He STILL talks about her.  I think she was Dominic's first "girlfriend."  I asked him if he was talking and thinking about her more because it was close to Valentine's Day and he said, "yes."  I guess they share a special connection.  I love that Dominic still calls me mommy and wants to snuggle close to me.  He shares a special sibling love with Lauren and my stepson.  My hubby and Dominic have a very close bond.  Dominic is very lucky to have many people in his life that accept him and love him for who he is.  He does have some impaired social interaction, but I'm glad that sharing his love with us is not one of those things. I feel blessed that we were chosen to be his family, we are truly the lucky ones :)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Following the "Rules"

I am a big "rule" person, always have been.  I feel that rules are there for a reason.  Back when I would pick up Lauren at her elementary school, I would watch the same mom pull past everyone else (including me) and park about two feet from the stop sign that was right in front of the entrance to the school.  I would always just kind of scratch my head and wonder why she didn't think the rules applied to her. Everyone else waited along the curb in the line of cars, why shouldn't she?? For some reason, did she feel "entitled" to getting that parking spot? To me, I just thought it was rude!! While watching Lance Armstrong admit to taking certain drugs to help him be a better cyclist, it made me think about that mom at Lauren's school.  They both kind of felt that the rules didn't apply to them. How about when people park in a handicapped parking spot, just because it's closer to a building? and they are not disabled? I personally believe that learning to follow rules starts very young and begins at home.  If you choose to send your kids to school and not homeschool, then there are many rules that they follow at school, such as no yelling or running in the hallways.  There has to be rules in sports, what if there wasn't?  It would be total chaos!  A really good rule when you have kids is having a regular bedtime. What about "unspoken" rules? like removing your hat when you are in a restaurant? or giving up your seat to a mom with small children on a crowded bus or subway car? I know that I personally have more respect for people that follow the "rules." To me, rules and respect go hand-in-hand!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Food and Expiration Dates

When we were cleaning out the in-laws house in Cleveland several years ago, we came across a lot of food in their basement.  They didn't have a lot of storage room in their kitchen, so a corner of their basement was the surplus area for food.  My father-in-law called it the "fruit bin." The hubby and I are of two different minds about food and expiration dates.  He thought since there were no expiration dates on a lot of the cans and boxes of food that it was fine.  I tried explaining to him that if it didn't have expiration dates, then it's because it was made so long ago they didn't put a date on!!  To make him happy, I called a few of the manufacturers and gave them the codes on the cans or boxes.  Most of the customer service reps I talked to said something like, "we don't suggest you eat that."  That was after they kind of giggled at me!!  I recently read an article in Cook's Illustrated magazine about canned food's "real" shelf life.  They were saying in theory, cans that are in good shape (not punctured or bulging) and have been stored at the correct temperature should remain safe to eat indefinitely.  They went on to say a study conducted by the National Food Processor's Association said 100-year old canned food was found to be well preserved.  I don't know about you, but I don't think I would want to eat canned anything that was 100 years old!!  A few years ago, I was looking through a box of some old things of mine and found a piece of Easter candy from one of my first Easter baskets.  I thought that was old until I read a story around the holidays, about a fruitcake that had been in someone's family for 134 years.  It was baked on November 28, 1878!! It has been passed down from generation to generation and has become a family heirloom. That's a pretty old fruitcake. When I go to the store, I like to buy reduced meat that is getting ready to expire in a day or two.  All you have to do is toss it into the freezer.  Just be careful with the "sell by" and "use by" dates.  I cook like we are a much larger family than we are, so we almost always have leftovers.  Dominic and I are big fans of cold meatloaf, so that doesn't last too long around here! On average, we have a leftover night at least three times a month. I actually have found some foods get better with a day or two in the fridge, like lasagna.  One week is our limit with a leftover, though :) I like to do a thorough cleaning out of the contents of my fridge weekly and the freezer about once a month.  The pantry also gets reorganized about every three months. Sometimes the older stuff tends to get pushed to the back. How often do you clean out your fridge/freezer/pantry? What's the oldest food item you've ever found?  My philosophy is "when in doubt, throw it out!"

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Wake Up Call

Since February is National Heart Month, this particular post seems appropriate. For the most part (about 95%), I have accepted the fact that I have a heart condition. Five percent is still in denial.  In early December of 2012, I started experiencing some chest pain, shortness of breath and extreme fatigue.  This went on for about a week before I decided I better call the cardiologist's office and get advice. When I did finally make the call, they gave me an appointment within a few hours and also ordered an echocardiogram.  The doctor adjusted one of my medications permanently and another one temporarily. Once he did that, I lost ten pounds in one day - that's how much extra fluid I had in my system!! Yikes, no wonder I didn't feel well. It was a wake up call on several levels.  First of all, if something doesn't feel quite right, I need to call my doctor right away (not wait an entire week).  The cardiologist's nurse strongly recommended I do that in the future :) Second, yes, I do have this heart condition and I need to 100% accept that fact.  Finally, I want to be around for a long time for my family and friends and I am responsible for keeping on top of my own health!!  The cardiologist has never determined what caused my non-ischemic cardiomyopathy.  Since that type of heart problem is not caused by coronary artery disease, it's still a mystery what caused it. I personally think it was caused by stress.  There were several stressful events that occurred throughout 2011 and even though I let a lot of my stress out, I also internalized a lot during that year.  I have been working on managing my stress better and making sure I take a little time for myself everyday.  A lot of times, women have so much on their plates - taking care of their husbands, significant others, kids, aging parents, etc. that sometimes the signs of health problems are ignored or put off. I'm a prime example!! I was so busy taking care of everyone else, that I wasn't paying enough attention to my own health, both back in 2011 and also just recently.  My advice to other women is this, if something doesn't feel right, get it checked out immediately or as soon as you can.  Just remember, if mom isn't happy and healthy, then nobody's happy!!

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...