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!

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...