Thursday, May 30, 2013


One thing that kids teach you is patience.  When they are babies and cry, you have to try and figure out why they are crying.  Since babies can't tell you why they are crying, you have to try and guess. Are they wet, need a hug, want a bottle, to be nursed?  A lot of times you can tell by the type of cry what they want.  As they get older and learn to walk, you have to be patient as they toddle, then fall, toddle then fall, until one day they walk or run right towards you.  As they get even older (tweens and teens), if you ask them how their day went and they say, "fine" you have to be patient and hopefully they will REALLY tell you what happened in their day.  When you are a parent of a special needs child, you really learn the meaning of the word "patient."  Milestones are much, much harder to achieve and sometimes they never are. Right now, we are dealing with an issue with Dominic that is really testing our patience. After months of really hard work, we finally had him fully potty trained.  He was doing great!  Then, he got the worst migraine he has ever had in his life and has regressed back almost to square one.  When Dominic gets a migraine, he gets very sick and it usually takes a few days for his tummy to get back to eating "full strength." When he started feeling better, we tried to encourage him to start using the potty again and the more we pushed, the more he resisted. Potty training is all about the control.  This is when Dominic having Autism really stinks.  We have asked him many times why he doesn't want to do it and he can't answer us.  It is frustrating with a capital "F."  We know he can do it because he was before he got the migraine.  When my husband comes home from work, it's almost the first thing out of his mouth that he's asking me about.  It's become pretty much the main topic of conversation.  We are trying really hard to not let Dominic know we are really frustrated with him, but he is very in tune to us and I know he thinks we are. Everyone at his school are being really patient with him too, but I'm sure it's tough for them because they worked so hard to get him fully trained.  I keep trying to tell the hubby that using the bathroom is a lifelong social skill and that we can't create so much anxiety for him.  We are confident that Dominic will get back to being fully trained, we just have to be patient!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Initiating Communication

One of the characteristics of Autism is the difficulty in social interaction. A constant challenge for Dominic is initiating communication from others. He still has difficulty with the back and forth of a conversation.  I love when the hubby comes home from work and I hear Dominic spontaneously say, "hello, daddy!" It's a HUGE thing that he does that.  For the past couple of days, Dominic has been initiating communication from me.  Even though he is way past the age an almost 9-year old would want to play with a baby toy, Dominic really loves this set of Fisher Price rings:

What he's been doing, is to put the blue one on the bottom and then he'll take the very top one and put that one on next, even though he knows that's not right.  He'll then look at me and wait for me to say or do something.  I say, "no, no, no, that doesn't go there!" and he'll start laughing like it's the absolute funniest thing he has even heard.  It is very cool, first of all to hear him laugh so hard, but more importantly, he is looking for a response from me!  Sometimes, I wish he communicated more (like, so he could tell us why he is so terrified of bugs), but I thank my lucky stars all the time for how much progress he has made. For parents who have children that can't communicate at all, I can somewhat relate. The first three years of Dominic's life he was in his own world quite often and didn't "let us in" except for very brief moments.  It was really, really hard, especially with someone with as big of a mouth as I have.  Just as I was finishing writing this post he said, "hello, mommy!" as he ran into the other room.  I told him hi back.  If you have children that communicate with you freely, be grateful and don't take it for granted, not even for a minute!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Would You Have Done??

A handful of months ago, someone found a check of mine in a parking lot and took the time to put it in an envelope and mail it back to me. I was sincerely touched. Well, a few weeks ago when I was coming out of the grocery store, I noticed there was something under the windshield wiper of my car. Upon closer inspection, I noticed it was a utility bill in an envelope.  I think what happened is, somebody found it on the ground, near my car and assumed it was mine, so they tucked it under the wiper.  The bill looked ready to go, it was addressed, had a return address, was sealed up and had an uncancelled stamp on it.  Since the grocery store and the post office are pretty close to each other, I zipped over and put it in the mail box. I guess I could have tossed the envelope on the ground, but that's not my style.  I felt since someone a few months back took the time to mail me back my check, I needed to take the time to mail this bill that was under my wiper.  I really couldn't live with myself if I hadn't mailed it. It could have been an elderly person who is on a fixed income or a single mom on a limited income. Maybe if they didn't pay this particular bill their electricity might be shut off.  I have no way of knowing, I just knew that I had to mail it.  When I relayed the story to my husband, he said he would have mailed the bill too.  How about you? What would you have done? Would you have taken the time to do something like this for someone you didn't know??

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Mystery of the Missing Sock

I do all the laundry here at our house.  I jokingly call myself the "laundry staff."  For the past two or three weeks, my husband has been bugging me about a sock.  He generally replaces his socks when they get huge holes. This one particular sock he was looking for was part of a pair that he recently bought.  At the beginning of the week,  he started asking me again in earnest about the sock.  I decided I really needed to find it. The hubby was kind of becoming like a dog with a bone - he wouldn't let it go!!!!! This past Thursday morning, before he left for work, I told him that I would try my absolute hardest to find the missing sock.  First, I emptied out the two baskets of dirty clothes. I actually looked through both baskets twice.  Nope, didn't find it in there.  Second, I went through all of Dominic's clothes.  I had begun sorting the clothes that didn't fit him a few weeks ago and had it on piles on a couch in his room.  But, his latest thing to do is to go up there and toss all the clothes on the floor so he can lie down on the couch.  I finally finished the sorting and made a pile to donate and put the rest in his dresser. Still no sock. Next, I looked under the family room couch, thinking maybe the hubby had took his shoes and socks off and one went under the couch.  Nope, still didn't find it. After taking a little break, I found a flashlight and jumped up on top of the dryer and looked behind thinking it might have fallen back there.  Do you think it was back there? no, that would be too easy!  By this time, I was starting to get a tad frustrated.  Even though I do all the laundry and fold it, I make the others in my household put their own clothes away.  I was thinking that possibly, the hubby's sock could have landed in Lauren's room. She has a pair of knee socks that are a similar pattern to my husband's new socks. Sure enough, when I opened up her dresser drawer where she keeps her socks, there it was!  Of course, it was the very LAST place I looked.  When I was telling Lauren about the day's events after school, she said, "oh, I knew it was in my drawer, I just forgot to tell you!" Hmm, guess I should have asked her first, before I decided to try and be Sherlock Holmes. Oh well, at least the mystery of the missing sock is solved!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Please Don't Judge

I rarely watch afternoon talk shows past 2:30 p.m., usually because I'm shuttling the kids around somewhere.  I happened to be watching Anderson Cooper's talk show this past Tuesday and they had a panel of people on talking about moms who need medication for anxiety or depression to help them care for their children.  I found it kind of fascinating, because they had two moms sitting side-by-side.  One mom has been taking medication on and off for several years (since before she had children) and the other mom was totally against medication.   On Anderson Cooper's show, people were tweeting in and giving their opinions.  Wow, one person tweeted something along the lines of, "if you need medication to help with your kids, you aren't a very good mom." How incredibly judgmental.  I read Brooke Shields book called, Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression, shortly after it came out. The actor Tom Cruise went on the Today Show around the same time and basically said there was no such thing as postpartum depression.  Excuse me, but has he ever given birth?? Does he understand the hormones and everything else birth entails?  I don't think so.  He said that she could be helped without medication by exercising and taking vitamins.  Pardon me, is he a doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist? Last time I checked, I don't think he is.  For some moms, they need to take medication or get therapy to help them cope.  I don't think it's up to others to judge. It's a good mom that reaches out to her friends, partner, husband or doctor with her concerns if something doesn't feel quite right (even if your kids are older).  Don't be ashamed or embarrassed for asking questions or getting a referral to see a psychologist or psychiatrist. It's okay to ask for help from others.  Please, please don't judge other moms unless you have walked in their shoes. Instead, let's support each other.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Determination and Independence

Ever since Dominic went to a playground a few weeks ago and was able to do the monkey bars, he has been trying to do the same thing on our swing set.  Lauren has been spending some of her free time going outside and encouraging him. I didn't ask her to do that, she did it on her own. She's such a great sister :)  Dominic knows he can do it, but if Lauren even lets go for a second, he starts saying "la-la, la-la."  That's his nickname for her.  She has been giving him a lot of positive praise, but he wants to be able to do it for himself.  Dominic is very determined!!!

We keep magnetic letters on the fridge.  Dominic requested spaghetti recently, so I asked him to spell it on the fridge for me. I told him the correct spelling and then he did it.  Over the weekend, he tried to spell it himself without me telling him and he spelled it wrong.  I told him so and then I proceeded to use the magnetic letters and spell it correctly. Dominic was not pleased! HE wanted to be the one to do it :) Dominic really loves milk.  It felt like I was pouring a glass for him every five minutes.  About a month ago, I was thinking that he needed to be able to pour drinks for himself.  I took down a cup from the shelf and told him to get the milk out of the fridge.  I told him how full to fill it up and he did it perfectly the first time!  Dominic was so pleased with himself.  He had the biggest smile on his face.  Now, when he asks for milk, my response back is, "I'll get you a cup, you go get it yourself and do it!"   One of the hardest parenting moments for me as Dominic's mom was putting him on the bus for school when he was just three years old.  He still seemed like such a baby.  Deep down, I knew him going on the bus and to school was the best thing to give him independence, but it was still hard for me!

He has come so far since those early days.  Just this afternoon, within a few minutes of coming home from school, he ran down to the basement.  When I went to investigate, he had turned on the computer down there and was getting ready to play an old CD of Lauren's. The only thing he told me was to go back upstairs!!  My two goals for Dominic this summer is to teach him to tie his shoes and ride his bike without the training wheels.  Both require determination, but they are also skills that he will use throughout his lifetime. The more I teach him, the less he becomes dependent. My ultimate goal for Dominic is when he becomes an adult, he is able to live independent from us, whether at college or having an apartment and a job. Stay tuned for updates!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Page of Love

A few months ago, I was asked to contribute a page to a book.  The author is writing a book about moms from all over the world and all walks of life. He wanted me to write a page to my children sharing my deepest and truest thoughts about being a mom.  How is it possible to only write one page?  I could write much, much more than that :) The words flowed easily, but it was hard to condense all that I wanted to say into a short amount of space!  Below is the page of "love" that I submitted.  How about you?  If you were asked to submit a page about your children, what would it say?

To my stepson:

From the very first time that you and I met over 22 years ago, I knew that I wanted to be your stepmom. One of the happiest days of my life was when I married your dad and I “officially” became your stepmother. I have watched you graduate from high school, college and graduate school. You have worked hard at your career and I am super proud of you.  I hear of stepchildren and stepmothers not getting along.  I’m so glad that you and I don’t fit into that category!!  Our closeness and love for each other is greatly treasured by me and I don’t ever take it for granted. I feel blessed that you came as part of the “package” when I married your dad.  I’m honored to be called your stepmom.  I have and always will support you.  All my love, Cathy

To my daughter:

My dear, sweet (and only) daughter.  I can remember when you first went to preschool over 12 years ago.  It was one of the hardest things for me because I knew it was just the beginning of you starting on that road to independence. When you were in second or third grade and you told me you weren’t going to call me “mommy” anymore, I knew you were taking another step towards independence.  I was so happy and proud when you read your speech at your eighth grade graduation, knowing that high school was just around the corner. When you got behind the wheel of the car for the first time, I knew it was another step on that “road” to independence.  Now, as your senior year of high school looms in the very near future, I know that our relationship will continue to change and I am okay with that.  You have matured into a beautiful young woman inside and out and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.  All my love, Mom

To my son:

When I found out that I was pregnant at age 40 with you, I knew even before the doctor told me that you were a boy.  Finding out that you had Autism at age 2 ½ was unexpected.  You have had more challenges than other kids, but you continue to amaze us with how much you learn every day. I know in my heart of hearts that you were given to us for a reason. You teach me and everyone else that knows you, what unconditional love really is.  My hope for your future is that you will graduate from high school and college and one day have a family of your own.  For now, I am grateful that you are still small enough to fit onto my lap and give me hugs and kisses.  Love, Mommy 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Reflections on a Half-Century

Two months from tomorrow I turn 50.  I have spent some time this week reflecting on that.  Down in our basement, I found my baby book that my mom made.  Given that I am the firstborn, she wrote down in great detail, the first two years of my life.  On the "favorites" page of the baby book, she said my favorite first toy was one of her gravy mixers. Somehow that doesn't surprise me, given how much I love to bake and cook. 
I didn't find any pictures from my first birthday party, but I did find these pictures from when I turned two.

I love the picture on the bottom right, I'm in the background already eating my cake, while my guests had to stand in front of the table and wait! Well, I was the birthday girl after all :) Inside the baby book, I found two pages of notes that my mom had typed up on my "progress" at the end of my second year. Two sentences in particular caught my eye. The first one was, "her negative opinions became quite strong, but if approached gently, she would usually go along with what was asked." That is still pretty much true today, except sometimes even if I am approached gently, I don't always go along with what is asked.  The second sentence, "Cathy is a very cheerful little girl, each night when asked are you happy, she responded, "habby." That also is true today, I try my hardest to be happy for everything I have. One thing I have always known from a young age, was that I wanted to get married and have children.  It took me a long time to find my hubby, but it was well worth the wait.  I am super blessed to have my stepson, Lauren and Dominic. As I sit here and think about the past almost 50 years of my life, in some ways it seems like it's gone by fast.  It's been almost 32 years that I've been out of high school. Yikes, it definitely doesn't feel like it's been that long! I have reconnected with childhood friends on Facebook that I thought I would never hear from again. I have friends that I think of as family. I have many people in my life that support me and my family on a daily basis. I still have both my parents and my siblings.  Unfortunately, I have also lost other special family and friends.  My heart still aches so much for my cousin, who unexpectedly passed a little over two years ago.  We grew up together and I still mourn that loss. Even when there are trying and tough times, I try very hard to be as positive of a person as I can. I try to treat others as I would expect to be treated.  Life is full of different experiences, and I try to learn something from each one. When I look out my window and see a glorious sunrise like this, how can it not make me feel grateful and appreciative for everything that I have??  Every day is a beautiful "gift" that we are given.  I can't wait to see what the next 50 years has in store for me!!

Welcome to "Holland"

Have you ever heard of the "Welcome to Holland" story? I had heard of it, but never read it until about a week ago. It is wr...