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!

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...