Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Volunteering

When Lauren was in elementary and middle school, I volunteered as much as I could in her classroom and at the school.  Now that she is in high school, the volunteer opportunities are not as plentiful as they were when she was younger, though some do exist :) Volunteering in Dominic's classroom has been very minimal since he is in a special education classroom.  He is into his routine and schedules and if I showed up (unannounced), he would automatically think something is wrong.  I have had to find other ways to give of my time at his school.  A handful of years ago, I used to be that gal that would "over volunteer" and I would be completely overextended and exhausted.  What I have discovered as I have gotten older, is that it is okay to say the word "no" when someone asks you to volunteer.  When you say that word, though, it's sometimes hard to not feel a little guilty about it!  I currently serve on a committee with a multi-year commitment at my church. There is much, much more I would love to be doing at my church, but with Lauren heading towards her senior year of high school and Dominic starting fourth grade in the Fall of 2013, I know that is not possible at this time. I have never forgotten something a fellow mom told me once.  We were discussing how children need you so much when they are young.  I couldn't picture Lauren being a teen (she was only in second or third grade at the time). I was telling my friend something like, "oh, they don't need you as much when they get to high school!!"  My friend who has three children (all older than Lauren) remarked back to me, "oh, they need you more!"  She was right :)  I would love to be able to deliver meals to the elderly and work as a volunteer for people in hospice. Now is not the right time for those things.  Lauren, Dominic and my stepson, though they are all different ages, all need me in different ways.  When the kids get a little older, there will be plenty of time for me to volunteer more and I'm okay with that.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"Faking" It????




We recently went through something with Dominic that really had me perplexed.  He was battling a stubborn stomach bug that kept him home from school on and off for about two weeks or so.  After he started feeling better, I got a few phone calls from the school that I needed to go pick him up because he was not himself (crying, complaining, whining) and it appeared he might get sick at school.  When I brought him back home, he would perk up and pretty much be back to normal.  This past Monday, he didn't even last a half hour before his teacher called.  Tuesday, he woke up, but then as soon as I mentioned the word "school" he started saying his head hurt, etc.  It was beginning to really affect the entire family. Lauren thought Dominic was "faking" his problems because as soon as the word "school" was mentioned he starting the crying and the whining.  I wasn't so sure. Dominic does get migraines, but he usually has a whole different set of symptoms attached, so I was stumped as to what was going on.  Frustrating and stressful to say the least.  I asked the teacher if anything different was going on in the classroom and he said no.  Every time I asked Dominic "why" he didn't want to go to school he couldn't answer me.  Those types of questions are still hard for him to answer.  I tried explaining to the hubby and Lauren that we had to approach what was going on with Dominic differently since he has Autism and couldn't fully verbalize what was going on.  Wednesday, he acted normally until school was mentioned and then he broke down.  I was going to be with Lauren at an appointment all morning, so I had to make the hubby come home from work to watch him. My husband was not happy with me, because when I called him, he had been at work less than a half hour.  I started to get a little suspicious of Dominic's antics when I told him that if he was really "sick" he would have to lie down on the couch (no television, etc.). He lasted less than ten minutes and then when my back was turned, he snuck into the living room and got on the computer :)  Thursday, Dominic woke up and again, as soon as I mentioned the word "school" he started the "sick" routine.  I told him that he was getting pizza for lunch and after school he would see me again.  He managed to pull himself together, got on the bus and made it through the whole day. His teacher reported back to me that he did great. Friday, he tried again to "fake" it.  I didn't give in and sent him on the bus.  Again, the teacher reported back to me that he was fine all day. Now that Dominic knows he isn't getting any sympathy from us when he's pretending to not feel well, I don't think he'll be trying to "fake" it anymore!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Going Out on a "Date"


It's been pretty busy around our house lately, so it's been a while since the hubby and I have been out on a "date." We had to wait until Lauren (our babysitter) had an opening in her schedule, so she could watch Dominic for a few hours.  As our "date" grew closer,  I decided to put on a nice sweater and apply a little makeup. This past Saturday, we headed out to a Chinese restaurant that we hadn't been to in a few years.  Guess we should have called the place beforehand, because it was all boarded up and out of business! Instead of heading back home, we tried a second Chinese restaurant that luckily was open! The restaurant was packed - I guess a lot of other people decided to go out on a Saturday night.  We didn't have a reservation, so we had to wait a little bit.  It was interesting to look around at the other people there.  I saw a lady by herself, other couples out on dates (like us), and families with kids.  Seated right next to us were two guys dressed in tuxedos.  That is certainly not something you see everyday!  Between my husband's busy and demanding job and all that the kids have going on, we don't go out (just the two of us) very often.  I love that when my husband and I were eating, we didn't make the topic of conversation about the kids.  We talked about other things (like how we need to have a "date" more often)!!   How often do you and your significant other go out on a "date?"  Once a week? once a month? once a year?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Parent/Teacher Conferences

Since Lauren is now in high school, we only need to go to her parent/teacher conferences if we have a specific "issue" that needs to be discussed.  I am able to look at her grades and progress through an on-line grading system, so I have a pretty good handle on what's going on with her.  The hubby and I went to Dominic's parent/teacher conference last week.  When he comes home from school every day, I'll ask him how his day went.  He usually says, "good!"  He can recite back to me his entire schedule for the day (like whether he had gym, art or library), but there isn't usually a lot of detail involved. At Dominic's conference we discussed his progress.  At school, they work a lot with him on social interaction.  We heard something pretty cool that he did recently.  They are learning about the United States and where each state is located on the map.  One of Dominic's classmates was struggling and didn't know where one of the states was located.  Dominic evidently gave the classmate a "hint" and then told him that he did a good job!  When I heard that, it made me super proud.  We also had his social worker and speech therapist at the conference.  Since Dominic is in an inclusive special education classroom, one thing they work on is "mainstreaming" him into a general education classroom with other third graders at his school.  He has been able to be in there for up to an hour at a time (a major accomplishment).  The social worker,who accompanies him, was telling us that when he goes to the general education classroom and is asked to do something that he doesn't want to do he says, "no, thank you." I'm glad he's polite, but Dominic has to learn that just because he says that, he may have to do it anyways!!  The speech therapist gave us some good tips on how to encourage him to read even more than he does.  Teachers do an important job every day in teaching our children, especially those teachers that teach in special education classrooms.  I've always thought it takes a "special" person to teach a special education classroom :) I look forward to Dominic's parent/teacher conferences.  Do you still go to parent/teacher conferences for your kids?  I would love to hear!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Reteaching Phone Manners

I know that I just wrote a post about manners about a week ago, but I neglected to include phone "manners." Get ready, I'm hopping up on the old "soapbox!!"  A couple of years ago, Lauren started getting phone calls on her cell phone from a bill collector.  The calls got more and more nasty and threatening.  They were trying to reach the person that had Lauren's cell phone number before her.  They would say things about being immature, etc.  I thought the bill collector would get the message that by not returning the phone calls that they had the wrong number. I finally had to call this company and explain to them they were calling a teenager's cell phone!!  The calls ceased after that :) About six months or so ago, the phone rang and Lauren answered it.  I have taught her that if someone on the phone asks for the hubby or I (and we are not at home or can't come to the phone), to tell them we are unavailable and that she can take a message.  Lauren was trying to tell the guy that I was unavailable (I was in the bathroom).  The guy was very persistent, so Lauren then told him that I was at home, but not available.  He got really rude and said, "well, which one is it? is she unavailable or is she there?"  He got her so rattled and upset that she brought the phone to me.  I finally had to tell the guy, "hey, I'm in the bathroom and that's why I couldn't answer the phone."  This guy said something to me like, "I don't really care where you were!" and then proceeded to hang up on me.  About a month or so ago, we kept getting calls from a certain number over and over again for weeks.  I didn't recognize the number and they wouldn't leave a message. I finally decided to answer the phone.  They asked for Lauren, because evidently she signed up for tutoring (I don't think she did).  I told the person that Lauren wasn't available. The guy on the other end of the phone laughed at me and then hung up.  He kept calling until one time my husband was here.  He talked to the guy and told him that Lauren wasn't interested at this time.  I donate a few times a year to my old college. The most recent time they called (a few weeks ago), the guy was telling me most people donate more than I usually give.  I told him that I wanted to donate a smaller amount.  He said, "most people give with their credit card, do you have that number handy? or would you like me to hold on while you go find it?"  I was caught kind of off-guard and said, "I don't feel comfortable giving my credit card number over the phone, could you please send me the pledge card in the mail?"  After I got off the phone, I had a bad taste in my mouth about the way the guy presumed I would just rattle off my number to him.  I sent an e-mail to my old college and told them about the incident.  They apologized and said they would investigate.  There is so much identity theft out there, that I never give my credit card number or social security number over the phone. My husband and I were always nervous when my mother-in-law would get calls at her assisted living facility that she might give out her social security number to a stranger on the phone.  As her dementia got worse, we got more nervous!!  It makes me sick to think that there are people out there that prey on the elderly like that.  Unfortunately, it happens.  Last week, the phone rang and I picked it up.  This voice said, "is your husband there?"  I automatically said, "no, he isn't, but may I take a message?" I should have said he's unavailable.  I need to be more careful of that when I'm here by myself.  After I told the guy my husband wasn't here, he said, "are you his wife?"  I was like, "yes."  He was someone that wanted my hubby to do a favor for him. I told the guy I would pass the message along to my husband. When I make calls, I always identify myself first.  It kind of bugged me that this dude never identified himself until partway into the conversation with me.  How about when the phone is ringing, you race to grab it and there is no one there on the other end??  I LOVE our new phone that we just got a few months ago.  A computerized voice will say either the number that is calling or the person or company name that is calling.  It's good for when I'm bathing Dominic or otherwise indisposed.  I truly think that some people really need to be "retaught" good phone manners. Okay, I'm done and I'm hopping off my "soapbox" now :)  What do you think? does it bug you when someone is rude or has bad manners on the phone? I would love to hear!!!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

College Tours

It seems like whenever I run into any of my friends who also have juniors in high school, within five minutes, the talk turns to college.  Now that Lauren is past the halfway point of her junior year, it was about time to get some college tours set up.  I have several friends that have kids in college already and my stepson has gone through college and graduate school, so I have some idea what it's like having a kid heading to college.  Lauren wants to visit two colleges over the upcoming spring break.  Getting the tours scheduled was pretty easy - it was completely done on-line. Yesterday, I bumped into a friend of mine at the grocery store who has a son that is also a junior.  Of course, within less than five minutes we were talking about colleges :) I got the impression that her son prefers a smaller college, Lauren is thinking of a big school.  That's the great thing about colleges.  They come in all different sizes. Kind of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears story.  Some are too small, some are too big and one will be just right! One of the tours Lauren is going on includes the parents.  The other one is all day (with no parents) and you "shadow" a current student.  You get to eat in the dining hall, sit in on a class, etc.  I can only remember going on one college tour to York College of Pennsylvania. Even though I never went on a college tour to Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky, I ended up going there, but I only lasted one semester.  I was way too homesick and came back home!!  I ended up going to the local community college and then to the night school at the University of Maryland.   I'm excited for Lauren as she embarks on this new stage in her life. I'm confident that she will know which college will be the best "fit" for her. 


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

All Kinds of "Junk"

What exactly is "junk?" A common definition - old, broken and useless things.  I remember when we were cleaning out the in-laws house.  We had a dumpster and were throwing what we considered "junk" into it.  Since it was just my hubby, Lauren and I cleaning out a three-story house, with a basement and a two-car garage, we called a company that cleaned out houses of its contents.  A man and woman showed up. They weren't interested in the inside of my in-laws house (like I had hoped).  Instead, they jumped into the dumpster and started fishing around in there. They were pulling all kinds of things back out of the dumpster and wanting to pay us for it.  I don't think they thought any of the stuff in there was old, broken or useless :) Okay, how many of you out there have a "junk" drawer?? That's the drawer (usually in your kitchen) that seems to be a catch-all for items that don't have anywhere else to go. The drawer under where we keep our phone is our "junk" drawer.  I have been meaning to clean that drawer out for a while, so earlier this week, I took it in to the family room, dumped the items out onto the floor and started sorting through it.  I found 32 pens, 5 markers, 15 colored pencils, 32 pencils, 12 Crayola Twistables, and 11 crayons. Added all together that makes 107 items!!!!!!!! Good grief, that's ridiculous :) I think half of the pens don't work and a lot of the pencils have no erasers.  I also counted four handheld calculators - two from what looks like the dollar store, one that was my in-laws and one that I don't know where it came from.  I also found three packs of staples and parts of five decks of cards.  I found lots more items, but I'll spare you any more of the details.  How about "junk" jewelry?  A lot of that type of jewelry is really beautiful. What about "junk" mail? We get at least a few pieces of that kind of mail everyday.  Oh, I can't leave out "junk" food!  That's all the kinds of food that are bad for you, but taste good!! One of my favorite shows on cable is American Pickers.  If you've never heard of it or watched it, it's a show about two guys who sift through people's "junk."  They buy items, repair them and resell the items at their shops. I find that show fascinating.  I'm still astounded that people will put perfectly good things out on trash day in my neighborhood.  Even if you think the item isn't usable, there might be someone out there that can use it.  We donate items to the Volunteers of America.  Goodwill and the Salvation Army collect items too.  There is a company called 1-800-GOT-JUNK.  According to their website, since 1989 they have saved over 1.5 billion pounds of "junk" from landfills. Wow, that is a lot!!  I signed up Dominic's school with a program called www.terracycle.com. You can even print a mailing label, so there are minimal shipping costs (just the cost of a padded envelope or box). Right now, I send them used Capri Sun pouches.  The next time you think about throwing something out because you think it's "junk" take a few extra minutes to determine if it really can't be recycled or reused.  You just might be doing something good for the environment!!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Teaching Good Manners

Lauren loved Barney when she was little and Dominic is currently going through a phase where he loves watching one of the Barney videos about Christmas (in Dominic's world, Christmas would be every day!). One of my favorite songs that Barney used to sing was, "Please and Thank You." Say what you will about Barney, but he did have good manners :)  About six months ago, when I let out a big sneeze, Dominic said, "bless you!"  Wow, I think that was the first time he said that at the appropriate time.  I have been working for several months with him on knowing when to say "thank you" and "you're welcome" when you're supposed to.  He has known how to say it for several years, but he didn't always recognize when he "needed" to say it. Now, if we don't say you're welcome when he says thank you quick enough, he'll say, "what do you say?" or one time he told me, "say you're welcome, Mommy!!"  Guess he told me!!  Last week, when I was at one of the local grocery stores and I was checking out, the clerk said, "so, how's your day going, Miss?"  I kind of liked that I was called a "Miss" and not a "Ma'am" especially since I am approaching the half-century mark in July! The last time I was at the library, there was an elderly woman and man also approaching the entrance at the same time.  The elderly woman was using crutches. I held the door open for the both of them and they both thanked me.  I told the elderly woman, "you're welcome" and to the gentleman, I said, "you're welcome, sir."  I don't remember growing up calling men older than myself, "sir."  I actually only think I've been saying it for about five or so years.  Good manners and etiquette is something that is really important to me. I taught Lauren at a young age that when an adult asks her, "so, how are you doing?", the proper response back is, "fine, and how are you?" I have noticed more than one adult have a pleasantly surprised look on their face when Lauren has done that.  I need to work on getting Dominic to do that too.  He's kind of a "work in progress." Sometimes, I bust the hubby's chops a little when he'll ask me to do something, but doesn't say "please."  I'll say, "what's the "magic" word?" It gets my message across :)  I was looking at a poll recently on-line.  The question was, "what type of etiquette is the most important to teach children?"  The choices - good table manners, respect for teachers/elders, treating peers with respect, prompt thank you notes, and other.  Over 13,000 votes were cast for the poll. The choice that got the most votes - respect for teachers/elders - 65%.  That is great!!  I guess I'm not the only one that feels showing respect for an older person is really important. How young were your kids when you started teaching them good manners? To me, it's never too early to start!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Meatless Fridays

The hubby and I try all year long to not eat meat on Fridays.  Lately, it seemed like I was rotating the same things every three weeks or so for dinner - seafood soup, shrimp stir-fry, and baked fish.  Guess you could say I've been in a Friday night dinner "rut." When I have made chili in the past, I have used ground meat or ground turkey.  On Friday, I was at one of the local grocery stores and they had a great deal on bags of peppers (green, yellow, orange and red). As one who can't pass up a bargain, I scooped up a bagful thinking I would figure out how to use them later :)  Last Wednesday, I had a routine appointment with my cardiologist.  He was impressed with how well I was feeling and said basically, as long as I take my medications and continue the way I am, he doesn't want to see me for an entire year!!  What I have noticed is that if I have too much sodium in a day, even though I take a medication to reduce the sodium (Lasix), I have extra swelling in my hands and feet.  So many foods have extra sodium out there - take a look at the side of a can of clam chowder sometime :(  I'm going to be even more careful than I have been when I am cooking and baking. As much as I like my cardiologist, I would prefer to just see him once a year :)  What I've noticed is that more and more companies are making "low sodium" foods available.  The chili seasoning mix I used was 30% lower sodium.  I also drained and rinsed the two different kinds of beans. My husband likes to put elbow macaroni in the bowl first, then a few spoonfuls of the chili, a heaping teaspoon of cheddar cheese and then crushed saltine crackers.  I had never heard of eating chili that way before I met him.  Could it be a Cleveland thing?? I personally like just a little cheddar cheese on top of my chili :) I made this in my crockpot Friday night, because I didn't start putting this together until around the time Dominic was coming home from school.  He had a music therapy class at 6:15, so I wanted the chili to be ready by the time I got back home.  I am definitely making this again - it was so yummy, I didn't even miss the meat!!



Ingredients:

1 cup orange peppers, membranes and seeds removed, chopped
1 cup red peppers, membranes and seeds removed, chopped
1 cup onions, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons margarine
2 cups water
1.25 ounce package Chili Seasoning Mix (any brand)
15.5 ounce can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed (any brand)
15.5 ounce can Dark Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed (any brand)
14.5 ounce can Fire Roasted Tomatoes, diced, undrained (any brand)

In large stockpot, melt the 2 1/2 tablespoons of margarine, slowly and until the bottom of the stockpot is covered, add the peppers and onions and saute until just soft.  Set aside.  In a 2 1/2 quart slow cooker/crockpot, put the remaining ingredients in.  Add the peppers and stir with large spoon until well combined. Cook 2 hours on high or 4 hours on low.  Serves 4-6.