Monday, December 22, 2014

Keeping Your "Cool" During the Holidays

Saturday morning, the kids and I ran into the local Target to get a few last minute items for Christmas. The store wasn't too crowded and the lines weren't long. When I got to the register, I started putting my items onto the conveyor belt. I heard one of the clerks at one of the other registers say, "this lane is now open." I saw a gal out of the corner of my eye coming with her cart behind me. I said to her, "do you have enough room to squeeze by me?" She didn't respond, but instead shoved her cart through, hitting me along the way. I looked at the clerk waiting on me and said, "that lady just hit me!" He said something like, "it's that time of year." I'm sorry, but it's never okay to ram a cart into someone. I looked right at him and said, "after you finish ringing me up, I think I'm going to go over and talk to her, don't you think I should?" The clerk said, "you probably shouldn't, how about I knock $5.00 off your total bill!?!?!?!?" I told him he didn't need to, but he did anyways :) Since Lauren had been walking Dominic around the store while I was checking out, I started to recant my story to her as we were pushing our cart back. As we approached the lines of empty carts, a young dad with a baby carrier was coming into the store. I said, "do you want our cart?"  As he put his son into the cart, Dominic said, "little baby!"  I asked the dad, "do you mind if we take a look?" He was like, "sure!" This sweet little baby was chewing away on his pacifier and I said, "Lauren used to love hers!" He smiled and we chatted for just a bit more. I have thought a few times about our trip to the Target. I could have easily chose to get into it with the woman that hit me with her cart. I think it was a much better choice that the kids saw me keep my "cool!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Would Not Change Him for the World

When Lauren left for college in August, it was hard on all of us, but I think it was the hardest for Dominic.


Ever since he was born, she has been there for him. The separation for the two of them has been difficult at times, but I have raised both of the "kids" to be strong people and they are coping as best as they can.  Lauren took a Freshman Writing class this past semester and her grade was based on her writing "portfolio," which included three writing assignments. A few months ago, she asked me if it was okay if she wrote about Dominic for one of the three assignments. I was curious what she would write and I saw a rough draft recently, but hadn't seen the finished "product." Yesterday, I read it. Anybody got a case of tissues? Wow, my sweet daughter blew me away. These particular sentences were so heartwarming to hear as a mom:

"the lessons of patience and understanding that I have learned from Dominic are invaluable, and he truly proves society’s assumptions wrong. Dominic is different from other kids his age, but he carries extraordinary importance in my life. Dominic does have autism, but that is just part of who he is. Mostly, he is just like any other typical 10-year-old little brother, and still does a lot of the mischievous behaviors that little brothers do. Although getting my little brother to where he is now has certainly been a journey, I would not change him for the world." 

Hey, I thought I was the writer in this family?!?!?!?! She definitely has a way with words, doesn't she? By the way, Lauren found out a few days ago that she got an "A" on her writing portfolio! Yahoo!

No Words Are Needed

A dear friend of mine lost her mom just a few short months ago and this past week, her father passed away. When I saw her Sunday evening, I gave her a hug. We chatted for a bit and she showed Lauren and I pictures of both of her parents. She described to us the last few days of her dads life before he passed. I could feel tears coming to my eyes, but I wanted to remain strong for my friend. She and I hugged each other about five more times. No words were needed to express my sorrow for her, she knew. When I went back in November to see my ill mother, the first thing she said to me when I saw her was, "come here and give me a hug." I love hugs, because you don't need to use words, the other person can tell how you feel. For the past few months, Dominic has been giving us "side" hugs. He will come up next to us, hug and then walk away. Yesterday, I got a hug AND an "I love you, mommy." My husband and I have been together almost 24 years.  At this point, we can just look at each other and know with almost 100% certainty what the other is thinking. When my stepson flies in or out of town to visit us, we all get pulled together (by Dominic) for a "group" hug. I think it's become our "thing" at the local airport! One of my favorite parts of going to church is when we hold hands during the Lord's Prayer. I love it when I hold hands with Lauren and she squeezes my hand three times for, I love you. I squeeze her hand back four times for, I love you too. Ever since I was a toddler, I have had a "passion" for baking.  As you can probably guess, one of my favorite presents ever was an Easy Bake Oven. Even to this day, I still find it fascinating that I used to bake things with a light bulb! LOL. I have cooked and/or baked with my stepson, Lauren and Dominic at one time or another. Can you tell by the look on Dominic's face what he thinks of the "cookies with sprinkles" that he helped make?


One of my favorite things to do is to surprise Dominic's bus driver with my "bakery." I never tell him when it's coming, Sometimes it's in the morning and sometimes it's in the afternoon. I like to keep him guessing :) No words are needed to tell me whether he likes me doing it or not - the smile on his face tells me everything I need to know!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Thank You to Dominic's "New" Friends

Dominic has been having Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings yearly, since he entered the public school system at age three.  Back at the end of October,  my husband and I attended the first IEP meeting at his new middle school. When it came time for Dominic’s teacher, Miss Elena, to speak, I knew I wanted to ask her when the new peer-to-peer program was due to start.  For children with Autism (like Dominic), knowing the appropriate social communicative skills to use with their peers is challenging and difficult. As Miss Elena started to fill us in on how he was progressing, the hubby and I were pleased to find out that he seemed to be adapting well to his new school. Before I could ask the question about the peer-to-peer program, Miss Elena started telling us that about a week or so before Dominic’s IEP meeting, she had put a sign up sheet out by the main office in the morning with space for 20-25 students to sign their names. When she went around lunchtime to see if anyone had signed up, the sheet was gone. My heart sank. The first thing that popped into my head was that someone had ripped the sheet off the wall and threw it in the trash. Well, the sheet was gone because 125 students wanted to sign up to participate!! I am rarely speechless, but at that moment, you literally could have knocked me over with a feather. The first informational meeting was held with 30 of the 125 students recently that will participate in the peer-to-peer program, aptly titled, “Friends First.”  Miss Elena remarked to me, that one of the first questions the students asked after her presentation was, “how soon can we start?” I was speechless, again, which considering my big yap is rare! My heart is full of such gratitude to those 125 children!! I wish I could write a thank you note to each and every one of them (and their parents).  In about seven to eight years, those children will be adults. What an incredible insight they will have into the special needs “world” don’t you think???


Friday, December 5, 2014

Keeping the "Closeness"

When Lauren was home from college last week, she and I went to see the Nutcracker Ballet for the sixth year in a row.


This time a year ago, Lauren was a senior in high school and she and I talked at that time, about how we weren't sure if we would be able to carry on our "tradition" of going together, since she hadn't picked a college yet. We are finding that her living just 90 miles away has been awesome. It's just far enough away, but close at the same time, if that makes any sense! Given that she is a college "gal" and I am a stay-at-home mom who is rarely home, we still manage to communicate just about every day. When I moved here to the Midwest 13 years ago, one of the hardest things for me to do was to leave my family and close friends. I had never lived anywhere but Maryland!  I know that it was really, really hard on my mom because we are close. Our relationship changed a little, given the 600 mile distance, but we have still managed to stay in touch and "keep" the closeness. When I went out of town a few weeks ago for five days, it was to fly back, by myself to visit my parents, particularly my mother. She found out at the beginning of August of this year, that she and I have identical heart "issues." Unfortunately, hers is much more severe than mine.  She has not gone a week without being in urgent care, the hospital, or at a doctor's appointment since her diagnosis.  My brother has shouldered a lot of the responsibility, given that he lives in Maryland and I owe him a debt of gratitude. He is amazing. We are in just about daily contact now, helping my dad to make some tough decisions.  It is so incredibly difficult to be so far from my mom at this time, that it's really hard to put those feelings into words. It's kind of like a part of my heart is breaking. I am so glad that I was able to fly back recently and spend those five days with my mom. I hung out in her bedroom (she is pretty much bedridden) and we exchanged all kinds of stories!! Boy, did my mom have some good ones :)  The other night on the phone, I was able to have a pretty good conversation with her. She even asked me how I was doing, which warmed my heart. Just in the past couple of weeks since I have been back home, though, her health situation has significantly declined and today she is being transferred from the hospital to a nursing facility with hospice care. I have been thinking lately of those special moments in my life when my mom has been there for me, like my wedding.





And when I turned two. She chronicled every moment of my second birthday in this note I found in my baby book today:



I am so blessed that she has gotten to know my stepson, Lauren and Dominic. She and my hubby are very fond of each other too :)  Believe me, I am holding on tight to the "closeness" I have with my mother as best I can these days. I love you mom.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dominic's "Love" for Elevators Continues

Before Dominic started expressing such a "love" for anything elevator, I never thought twice about what "brand" I was riding in.  Dominic has an amazing memory and can recite back which store, building, etc. he rode a certain "brand." I know I can't do that!! Two weeks ago, he had his yearly physical and I knew I wanted him to receive the flu vaccine.  When the doctor was finishing, he said, "okay, I'll send the nurse in to give Dominic his shot!" Hmm, I thought quick and said, "if you are good and don't make a big fuss, we'll go for an elevator ride at Younkers!" I knew that particular department store has a glass elevator. Well, Dominic had zero anxiety, didn't cry, scream or kick (which he has done in the past). After the nurse put the adhesive bandage on, he said, "elevator ride!" Cool, the Younkers was right down the street from the doctor's office and we had our "ride." Dominic informed me it was a Schindler elevator :)  As we were walking out of the store, he was completely fascinated, because being that it was a glass elevator, you could see all the inner "workings" of the elevator. I think it kind of blew his mind! Anyways, a while back, an elevator company, ThyssenKrupp Elevators, reached out to me after reading my previous elevator post on the website, http://www.autismsupportnetwork.com/ . They said they wanted to send Dominic a bunch of elevator related items. About a week or so after they contacted me, we received a very heavy, but small package. Inside was an actual elevator button that lights up along with a handwritten note. The next day, another package came with a backpack, t-shirt, pencils, stickers, buttons, bookmarks, and another handwritten note. Wow, I was overwhelmed by their generosity! I hadn't told Dominic about any of the cool things he would be getting ahead of time, because I wanted to surprise him. He loves wearing his elevator shirt to school.



I was so incredibly touched that a company took the time to read my post and then contact me! Today, I got a notification from DuFresne Manufacturing Company that they saw a picture of Dominic holding his elevator button and told me that their company made that particular part!!  The next time we are in St. Paul, Minnesota, they want us to visit them and they will show Dominic how the part was made!!! Wow, that is so awesome, don't you think?!?!? We have never been to Minnesota and it's only about 10 hours from us. Hmm, road trip?  I never knew there were so many elevator "enthusiasts" out there until Dominic developed such a "love" for them. I hope it continues, because I think it's pretty darn cool!

Monday, November 24, 2014

I Am Thankful for What I Have


Last week, Dominic and I put together a bag of food items and took them to our church. I was explaining to him that some people don't have enough to eat and that we were helping them. My father-in-law was a remarkable man. He and I had more than one discussion about what made us happy. I would always tell him the same thing - I was thankful for a roof over my head and food on the table.  I guess I have always been that way. It truly doesn't take a lot for me to be happy. I have talked about my grandmother before. She was an amazing woman and lived to be 101. This picture still cracks me up, it is from Christmas of 1988 and she and I were cooking together. I have no idea how much that turkey weighed, but I'm guessing at least 20 pounds :)

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She passed away when I was pregnant with Dominic, but Lauren and I would go visit her at her apartment in Virginia.


I used to sit on the couch and watch Lauren and my grandmother interact act with each other and just feel so incredibly thankful they could have that time together. Lauren is wearing a dress that was mine and to think that when I was little, that my grandmother might have held me on her lap the way she is holding Lauren is a pretty cool thought, don't you think? I was super duper blessed to have known all of my grandparents!  My "Auntie" is truly a one of a kind person.


We are technically "related" to her by marriage (she was married to my mom's brother), but I consider us blood related. Her "branch" of the family tree has enveloped my family with so much support and love, that at times, my heart just overflows with joy :)  I have an amazing husband who took care of Dominic for five days while I flew back to visit my ill mother recently. Wow, am I thankful for him!!! My stepson and I are close and I am so thankful that he came as part of the "package" when I married my husband.


My sweet Lauren and I are going to the Nutcracker Ballet for the sixth year in a row together this Friday. I am happy that she still wants to go with me and for the closeness she and I have. I have really missed her since she left for college, but I am incredibly thankful that she and I are in almost daily contact!



Dominic has an awesome support system and so many people that follow his progress that I feel blessed beyond belief.


In the almost 13 years that I have lived in the Midwest, I have met so many awesome people, there are just too many to name!! I also have my "branch" of the family tree back on the East Coast and when we are able to go back to visit them, I enjoy every single minute. I have reconnected with my old high school "chums" and it is like no time has gone by at all with them. When we go back to Maryland, my best friend opens her house to us and am I ever thankful for that!


Oh, one more thank you goes to everyone who takes the time to read my blog!!  Happy Thanksgiving!!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Daddy in "Charge"



I recently returned this past Monday from being out of town for five days. The hubby was left in "charge" of Dominic.  I have had to leave my family before, but Lauren has always been here to "assist." Since she is 90 miles away at college, that really wasn't an option for her to come back and help her dad (though my sweet girl did offer). Being the ultra-detailed person that I am, I left an itinerary for the hubby to adhere to in my absence.  I showed Dominic on the calendar when I was leaving and when I was returning. His teacher and the bus driver were both made aware too. I wanted to make it as little as a disruption as possible for Dominic. The only area where the hubby saw a possible "issue" was in the bathing department. Due to Dominic's sensory issues, he still takes a bath and I assist him about 99.9% of the time. The hubby is "banned" from bath time because about five years ago, when he tried to assist Dominic, he got a massive amount of water in Dominic's eyes. The night before I was due to fly out, I had the hubby "sit in" and observe how I helped him to bathe. Dominic kept looking at my husband and saying, "daddy leave, daddy leave." My husband was telling him, "well, I'm going to be helping you when mommy is gone." As it turned out, while I was gone for those five days, the hubby helped bathe him without too much fuss. I checked in with the hubby and Dominic every day that I was gone.  Monday night, when I was coming down the escalator at the airport, I saw the hubby and Dominic before they saw me. I gave them both hugs and then we tracked down my baggage. I noticed that Dominic was wearing a shirt that looked about a size too small. Before I could comment, my husband said, "Dominic is pretty much out of clean shirts!" Okay, well I DID show the hubby how to operate the washing machine before I left :) As we drove home from the airport in a blinding snowstorm, my husband told me he would get us take-out pizza for dinner. The roads were really bad, so I told him that I could make us spaghetti instead. I think about the relationship between the hubby and Dominic. My husband gets a kick out of telling people that he has a 10-year old. Most men in their early sixties, like my husband, have grandchildren that age. It warms my heart when I hear Dominic say, "daddy, blow a kiss!"  I am so glad that my "boys" did well in my absence, though I think the hubby is glad I am back in "charge" of the laundry and the bathing of Dominic!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Associating Words with Emotions

I have written in the past about how one of the most difficult things I have ever had to explain to Dominic was when my husband's mom passed away. At the time, he was just six. Since the hubby is an only child, Lauren, Dominic, my husband and I spent a lot of time at the funeral home in Cleveland when she died. Not exactly the best place for a six-year old. Since Dominic was used to seeing his grandmother frequently, it was super duper hard to figure out the best way to explain it to him. We finally decided to tell him, "Grandma was broken, and she went somewhere where they could fix her." That seemed to satisfy him at the time. As he has gotten older and is beginning to understand more about that time, we changed it to, "Grandma is in Heaven." Once in a great while, he would say that spontaneously. For the past month, though, he has been saying, "Grandma is in Heaven," just about every day, at least once a day, sometimes multiple times a day. When the hubby is bringing him back from religious education class on Sunday nights, they pass by the assisted living facility she was in for about five years. My husband told me recently that every single time they pass by, Dominic unprompted says, "Grandma is in Heaven." I asked Dominic's private speech therapist about it this past Saturday and she had an interesting theory. Like my mother-in-law, Dominic was used to seeing his sister a lot. Since Lauren is not here every day, I think he is trying to process her being gone. He will say, "I will feel sad when Lauren leaves for college," spontaneously, so I know those are the times he really, really misses her. Yesterday before school, Dominic kept saying, "Grandma is in Heaven," so I asked him, "do you want to see pictures of you with Grandma?"  He said, "yes!" We went down to the basement and brought up a poster board we had made when she passed away.  I propped it up and he sat looking at it for a while.


I said, "we used to visit Grandma in Cleveland, then we visited her at her assisted living facility, and then she would come to our house to visit."  I then said,"she died and then went to Heaven." I could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he tried to make sense of what I just told him.  I'm almost positive he understood. I think when you have to explain someone's passing to a young child there are multiple ways you can say it. When you have a child with speech and language delays like Dominic, you have to break it down very specifically. I think his private speech therapist is right, because last night and this morning Dominic said, "Lauren is in school," immediately followed by, "Grandma is in Heaven." I think it's so cool that he is beginning to associate words with his emotions. We have been waiting a long time for him to be able to do it, but it seems to be coming together for him. Yeah, finally!

Friday, November 7, 2014

My "Baby" Boy is Growing Up

Yesterday, Dominic had a doctor appointment first thing in the morning, so he didn't ride the bus like he normally does to school.  I took him in a little after nine and signed him back in through the attendance office.  Since his teacher had already told me I could bring him back to the classroom, I decided to "tag" along with him. I am still learning my way around his new school, so I kept asking Dominic which way to turn. He was so full of confidence and seemed so grown up, as he lead me through the hallways, it's hard for me to think back to the time when he was this young and actually seemed, "shy."


When we arrived at his classroom, Dominic went right to a key on the wall, unlocked his locker and put his backpack and coat away. I then said, "mommy has to leave, can you give me a hug?"  He instead looked right at me, waved, and said, "bye, mommy!" Has my little boy already gotten too big to give his mom a hug in public?" I hope not! As I walked back to my car and drove back home, I was thinking to myself, he really isn't my "baby" anymore. I was telling Lauren later that day about how Dominic didn't give me a hug in his classroom and her response back was something like, "that's a good thing, isn't it?" I have to admit, it has been pretty cool watching him mature in so many different ways. I love the expression on his face holding his ribbon and certificates after he went with his class bowling a few weeks back, he was SO proud of himself that day!


Having a child with Autism means that no two days are exactly alike. One thing that Dominic continues to teach me every day is unconditional love. It's okay if I don't always get a hug, I like when he tells me, "I love you, mommy!"

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Restaurant Behavior

This past Sunday was my husband's birthday and we went out to eat to celebrate. I told Lauren and the hubby ahead of time, that I thought it would be a good opportunity to let Dominic order his own meal.  As we walked into the restaurant, a part of me automatically went into the "stressed out" mode of wondering how Dominic would "behave" since this would be the first time he would be ordering his own drink and meal. Lately, going "out" to eat has meant getting a take-out pizza from Little Caesars and eating it at home! As we sat down, we had Dominic look over the menu.  The waitress came over and said, "so, what would everyone like to drink?" When she looked at Dominic, he said, "water." Awesome! After about another five minutes, she came back and asked everyone would they would like to eat. When she got to Dominic, he said, "chicken nuggets." Cool, so far, so good. While we were waiting, he seemed to be a little bit at loose ends, so we had him doodle on the other side of his paper menu:


We asked him to draw mommy, daddy, his big brother and his big sister :)  Anyways, the food came and we ate our meals, which were really yummy. As we were finishing, the waitress came by, looked at Dominic and said, "how was your meal, buddy?"  Dominic looked right at her and let out a big burp! Yikes. She smiled, looked at us and said, "that's okay, I've got three of them!" Guess she is used to little boys burping!! LOL. We thanked her for our meals and gave her a BIG tip! As we left the restaurant, the hubby commented that he thought Dominic did pretty well. I thought he did too (minus the burp)!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dominic and Elevators

One of Dominic's "gifts" is definitely knowing his way around a computer. He taught himself how to get into YouTube and about this time last year, he seemed to be watching a lot of videos about elevators. They all seemed to be narrated by the same person. After doing a bit of research, I discovered that the gentleman narrating them has his own website, http://www.dieselducy.com/ and several videos on YouTube. It turns out he has Asperger's Syndrome. Even now, one year later, Dominic is still super fascinated with elevators.  During this past summer, we decided to use his love for elevators to our advantage. Going to weekly Mass is very important to our family. Since Dominic was about a year old, we have been sitting in an area of our church, where you can still hear the Mass, but are behind a glass window.  For many years, both the hubby and Lauren kept encouraging me to let Dominic go inside the church. Anytime either of them even mentioned going inside, I would instantly get stressed out and give myself a headache, stomachache or both and tell them no. For a while, we didn't even take Dominic to church, which in retrospect, was really doing him a disservice. After two years of special needs religious education classes taught by an awesome, gifted and loving teacher, Dominic made his First Holy Communion this past May. Shortly after that, we decided that it was time to start making the "transition" to being inside the church.We decided to use the parenting "technique" of first this, then that. For example, your child wants to watch television or play on the computer, but has homework. You say something like, "first you do your homework, then you get to watch television or play on the computer."  Given Dominic's fascination with elevators, we decided to tell him earlier in the summer, "first you have to be good in church and then you get a ride in the elevator." It didn't take Dominic too long to understand what we were requiring from him. For a while, only the hubby was "allowed" on the elevator rides and then Lauren. Last Saturday night, it was just Dominic and I going to Mass. He did great and when we sat back down after getting Communion, he whispered to me, "so proud!"  I was like, "yep, Mommy is very proud of you!" After Mass was done, he said, "elevator ride." We got on the elevator and went all the way to the top and then down to the bottom, then back up to where we got on. I don't foresee his fascination with elevators going away anytime soon. Given Dominic is so social and he loves elevators, he would be an awesome elevator operator, like in a fancy hotel, wouldn't he be?!?!?!?!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

College Life



This coming Monday will be two months since Lauren left for college. I have had more than one person ask me how I'm doing with her being gone. I guess if I could sum up the feeling in one word, it would be, "different." The college Lauren is attending is 90 miles away. Yesterday, since my schedule was clear and Lauren has no Friday classes, I decided to hop into the car and drive over to visit her while Dominic was at school. I had a Panera gift card, and knowing how much Lauren loves their macaroni and cheese, I invited her to lunch. It was awesome to have my girl completely to myself for a few hours. After lunch, I drove her back to her dorm and dropped her off. On my drive back home, I caught myself smiling because I know that Lauren is happy.  Isn't that kind of the way it goes with your children (even if they are adults)? If they are happy, then you are happy, right? My first semester as a college freshman was much different.  In the Fall of 1981, I went away to school in Kentucky. I had really bad homesickness, fell into the "wrong" crowd and was briefly engaged. I lasted one semester and then moved back home with my parents. I really can't remember what possessed me to pick a college so far away, knowing how close I was (and still am) to my family. A few weeks ago, I hooked up with a friend of mine who also has a daughter that is a college freshman. My friend was telling me that her daughter's first roommate moved out of the dorm and dropped out of college completely within a few days because she was so "homesick." Wow, I guess that young lady was definitely not ready to be on her own!! Starting on that road to "college life" can be hard, especially if you tend to be more introverted or shy. You really have to push yourself out of your normal "comfort zone." I sometimes wonder, what if I would have stuck it out at Eastern Kentucky? Where would I be and what would I be doing now in 2014? I guess life has a way of going the way it was meant to be.  My college "career" involved mostly going to school at night and working at the same time. It took me another 13 years before I finally finished! Believe me, I have highly encouraged my one and only daughter to not take the same "path" I did!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I Accept The Nomination!

When I first started writing this blog over three years ago, I would have been overjoyed if just one or two people read it. Wow, I am totally blown away that at last count, I had over 28,000 page views!  I continue to be grateful for every single person that takes a few minutes to read my blog posts.  A close friend of mine, Julie, recently nominated me for the "One Lovely Blog Award."


This blog award is for "those newer or up-and-coming" bloggers. The goal is to help give recognition and to help the new blogger reach more viewers. It also recognizes blogs that are considered to be "lovely" by the fellow blogger who chose them. This award acknowledges bloggers who share their story or thoughts in a beautiful manner with the viewers and followers.

To "accept" the award, I have to do the following:


Thank and link back to the person who nominated you for the award.
List the rules and display the One Lovely Blog Award logo to your post and/or blog.
Share seven facts/or things about yourself.
Nominate around 15 other bloggers and let them know about the award.
Follow the blogger who nominated you (if not already)!

I accept the nomination and want to thank Julie from the bottom of my heart for nominating me! Here is a link to her amazing blog: http://aschelteredlife.com/ .  Please take a few moments to read her posts - you'll be glad you did!

Okay, now on to seven things you may or may not know about me:

1. My nickname when I played soccer was "Tuffy."
2. I used to read Tiger Beat magazine from cover to cover.
3. I went to college for one semester in Kentucky.
4. I love deep fried chicken gizzards. 
5. The most famous person I ever saw in person was Spiro Agnew.
6. One of my past jobs was taking tickets for the Washington Diplomats, a now defunct soccer team.
7. I still love to watch the Brady Bunch and the Waltons.

I would like to nominate the following bloggers:



I have had people tell me that I write the way I talk. Yep, I love to say "good grief" in person too!! LOL. I try to keep my blog positive, because I know that I don't like to read blogs that are full of negativity! I love the saying, "carpe diem" which means, "seize the day." That's kind of the way I live my life. I try to live each day to the fullest and while it is good to think about about the future, if you worry about it too much, then you miss out on the present. Have an awesome and amazing day!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Home Cooked Meals

Lauren came home briefly this past weekend from college, in part, because she missed my "home cooked meals." She has asked me for years to make chicken pot pie and since previous attempts had not ended well, I kept putting it off. It wasn't until my best friend gave me a great recipe a few months ago, did I even want to attempt to make it again. Friday night, I made a roast chicken and homemade mashed potatoes (two of Lauren's favorite foods) and since I had about two cups of chicken leftover, I made a chicken pot pie on Saturday night and told her if there was any left, she could take it back with her on Sunday afternoon.  As I was getting ready to drive her back, she was like, "did you remember my pot pie?!?!?!?"  I quickly grabbed the container out of the fridge and she took it with her. When my stepson comes to visit, I like to feed him. I've been cooking for him since I met him over twenty years ago. He has barely set foot in our house, before I'm saying, "so, do you want something to eat?" A few visits ago for lunch, I asked him if he wanted a sandwich. I always have the "fixins" for a good sandwich here! I made the sandwich to all of his specifications. He called it a "piled high sammie with all the trimmings." Now, when Lauren or the hubby want a sandwich, that's what they call it too!  Besides Lauren taking back the leftover pot pie on Sunday, since we were leaving close to lunch time, she took a "piled high sammie" for the road. LOL. My mom is a great cook. She would make meatloaf for our family, even though it was not her favorite. My dad and I LOVE meatloaf!! When I go back to visit my parents, I always try to make at least two to three home cooked meals for them. One of those meals ALWAYS involves a two-pound or more meatloaf.  I want to make sure my dad has plenty of leftovers!!!! My mom would also make my siblings and I our favorite kind of cake for our birthdays. My favorite was and still is cheesecake. Technically, is a cheesecake really a cake? I'll have to look that up sometime! A handful of years back, when a friend of ours lost his wife, we invited him to our house for dinner. He thought it was a one-time deal.  We continued to invite him over until he met a wonderful woman and got remarried. When a friend is ill, had surgery or a new baby, taking a meal to them can really brighten up their day. Trust me, I have had people bring our family home cooked meals when we have needed them and it was awesome! What are your favorite kinds of home cooked meals? I would love to hear!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Making a "Classic" Even Better!

I would definitely categorize sugar cookies as a "classic" type of cookie.  Dominic calls them "sugar cookies with sprinkles," because when we make them, there are ALWAYS sprinkles involved!  I'm beginning to think I need to start buying sprinkles by the gallon :) Anyways, what's a way to make a "classic" cookie even better? How about adding chocolate?!?!?!?!?! Yep, I took my favorite sugar cookie recipe, tweaked it a little and added baking cocoa. They turned out awesome and everybody in this house liked them!! Which plate of cookies would you prefer?

No sprinkles?


Or sprinkles?


Who would like to take a guess as to which plate Dominic would prefer?!?!?!

Ingredients

3 cups white flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup margarine, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup baking cocoa

Topping:

1 tablespoon white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the one tablespoon of white sugar (for the topping) on a small plate and set aside. In large bowl, put all ingredients in the order given and mix with large spoon by hand until well combined. With the palms of your hands, roll the batter into medium-sized balls (this recipe makes four dozen) and place a dozen balls at a time onto an ungreased cookie sheet. With the bottom of a small drinking glass, dip first in the white sugar and then press down on each ball. Add sprinkles if you would like at this point. With Halloween approaching quickly, how about dipping in orange and/or black sprinkles! Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, let the cookies cool on the sheet about three minutes and then remove to wire rack to continue to cool.  Store in covered container at room temperature for up to one week.

The "Spectrum"

Before I entered the special needs "world," about eight years ago, I had never met anyone with Autism. While I certainly don't proclaim to be an expert, I definitely know a lot more now than I did when Dominic was first diagnosed. Autism Speaks (http://www.autismspeaks.org/) has an amazing website and if your child is newly diagnosed, please take the time to look at all the resources they have. Even if your child doesn't have Autism, chances are, you probably know of or know a family who does have a child with Autism.  Here is a great definition of Autism from the Autism Speaks website:
 "Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. With the May 2013 publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual, all autism disorders were merged into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD. Previously, they were recognized as distinct subtypes, including autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art. Each individual with autism is unique. Many of those on the autism spectrum have exceptional abilities in visual skills, music and academic skills. About 40 percent have average to above average intellectual abilities. Indeed, many persons on the spectrum take deserved pride in their distinctive abilities and “atypical” ways of viewing the world. Others with autism have significant disability and are unable to live independently. About 25 percent of individuals with ASD are nonverbal but can learn to communicate using other means."

I have had more than one person ask me "so, where does Dominic fall on the "Spectrum?" Since the word "spectrum" means a way of classifying something between two opposite ends, my response back is usually, "mild to moderate."  I would much rather someone ask me where he falls on the "Spectrum," versus not ask me the question at all :)  Every day with Dominic is definitely not the same, just the way it is if your child is typically developing. My hope is that through my blog posts, it gives you a deeper understanding and possibly a different perspective of what it is like raising a child on the "Spectrum." 


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Adventures with Butternut Squash

When the hubby came back from grocery shopping earlier in the week, he handed me a butternut squash and said, "this was on sale and I knew you could figure out how to use it!" Well, I think I have cooked butternut squash one time in my entire life.  We were going to make last night "leftover" night, because Dominic has music therapy from 7:15-7:45 p.m. every Wednesday and we don't get back home until about 8:00 p.m. Even though we had some great leftovers (ribs and spaghetti), I wanted to try out a new recipe in the slow cooker - pumpkin and black bean chili, which I have never made before. When I had proposed my recipe idea earlier in the week, my husband told me he WOULDN'T eat pumpkin and black bean chili, if I made it, so I figured he could eat the ribs or spaghetti! At the last minute, I decided to use the butternut squash instead of the pumpkin. Wow, it was quite an "adventure" figuring out how to peel and cube that kind of squash. Peeling the skin gave me an upper body workout.  Trying to cube it was a bit like carving a pumpkin. I learned one thing - -  we have very DULL knives here. Anyways, I finally cubed up four cups worth of butternut squash and then put a little of this and a little of that into the slow cooker and turned it on. When Dominic and I got home from his music therapy, the house smelled yummy and the hubby was anxious to try the chili. When he started eating it, he said, "it tastes a little like pumpkin!" Well, it sorta did :) If you are interested in making the chili, here is the recipe:

Ingredients

4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed, seeds removed
12 ounce package three pepper and onion blend, frozen
15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
14.5 ounce can Mexican style stewed tomatoes, undrained
15 ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon chili powder

Put all ingredients into a 2 1/2 quart slow cooker in the order given. Stir well and put the lid on. Put on high for three hours or on low for six hours. Makes 4-6 servings. This recipe could easily be doubled or even tripled, if you have a bigger slow cooker! This chili is more on the milder side, so if you want it to have a little more "kick," feel free to put a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce in. We love Frank's RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce here!


Friday, September 26, 2014

Could I Be Doing More?

Right around the time Dominic was diagnosed with Autism, I became friends with a gal who had a daughter with Autism. The more I got to know her, the more I realized she and I had very different ways of helping our children. While she was a very nice person, she was using what I considered a "controversial" therapy on her daughter. I won't go into specific details on what she was doing, but let's just say, it made me uncomfortable. Needless to say, we have lost touch with each other. When we decided to put Dominic on Ritalin after he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it was a really, really hard decision.  I had a lot of doubts about putting him on the medication, since he was not quite four years old. But, we saw such great results shortly after he started taking the Ritalin, that he still remains on it to this day.  I know that not all parents would agree with our decision to have a child on medication, but it is our choice. Sadly, even within the special needs "community" there are parents that feel the need to "judge" other parents on how they are raising their children. I have written before about my encounter with another special needs mom who challenged me after I told her what we were doing for Dominic at the time, by saying, "that's it? that's ALL you are doing for Dominic?" I was so stunned by her rudeness, that I had to walk away from her!  It would be wonderful if one therapy worked for every single child with Autism, wouldn't it? Unfortunately, that is not the case. What works for one child, might not work for another and that can make it extremely difficult to know what is the "best" therapy to try. Since Dominic is terrified of large animals, I know "hippotherapy," a therapy using horses wouldn't be a good "fit" for him. I try really, really hard to not pass judgment on what treatments other parents use for their special needs children, because I wouldn't want someone to pass judgment on me.  From time-to-time, I think of my friend who has the daughter with Autism.  Her daughter was talking, reading and potty trained well before Dominic. I think sometimes, what if I used the same therapy my friend used on her daughter for Dominic? would he be further along than he is? could I be doing more for him than I'm doing? I guess I could spend all day feeling "guilty" for not trying a certain therapy, but that would be counter productive, wouldn't it? I focus my efforts instead on what we ARE doing for him each day. I love what Dominic's private speech therapist told me at the end of his session last week. She said, "I have high expectations for Dominic." We do too.  He has already surpassed many "hurdles" since his diagnosis of Autism and I know that there will be challenges ahead on this special needs "road." I know in my heart, that when I put my head down on my pillow to go to sleep each night, I have done the best that I can for Dominic and that is enough.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Grocery "Game"

How do you approach grocery shopping? as a chore? or as a "game?"  I like to think of it as a "game," where I am trying to see how much money I can save!! Both the hubby and I grew up with mothers who clipped coupons, so he and I share the same coupon "philosophy." He is in charge of purchasing paper products, like toilet paper and paper towels and also toiletries like razors and toothpaste from Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid (he is enrolled in the "loyalty" programs at those three stores). He also likes the Meijer and since we get almost all of our prescriptions filled there, we get pharmacy "rewards." I take four medications just for my heart, so it doesn't take long to reap the benefits! The hubby and I both loaded digital coupons in the past week worth $10.00 off your grocery bill! My favorite grocery store to shop is the Kroger. I go there once a week and I always try to go to my favorite cashier. We're like old buddies now. She's a woman of few words, but she is super duper efficient getting me in and out quickly!  I spend just one hour a week looking through our accordion file of coupons (which can fit into my purse) and at the digital coupons. The sale around here starts on Wednesday and since another Kroger in the area was being remodeled, they were having some great sales today!  I got ground meat for $1.99 a pound. I don't know about where you live, but around here, ground beef or chuck has been pretty expensive!  I go in with a list written on a piece of paper and next to the item I want to get, I put either PC (for paper coupon) or DC (for digital coupon). If I had a Smartphone, I could probably be even more efficient, but I guess I'm just a paper and pencil kind of gal. Even though Lauren is now in college, she is on the two meal a day plan. She eats breakfast in her dorm room, so when I see a good deal on granola bars or other breakfast type foods, I've been stocking up. Halloween is still several weeks away, but there was an awesome special on Halloween candy AND I had a coupon, so I bought three bags! I try not to be too "rigid" with my list, because you never know when you might see a good "closeout" deal! You know those "catalina" coupons that shoot out of the register at the end, when you're paying? Don't toss them! I used one today for $1.50 off of a pricey breakfast cereal. Today, I think I saved the most money I can remember saving- $64.02!  That was 42% of my total bill. I took a look at the bottom of my receipt just now and it says I saved $1,283.19 so far this year with my Kroger card. Cool! When I go there, I regularly save between $15.00-$30.00 between my paper and digital coupons.  I think I'm getting pretty good at this "game," don't you think?!?! Maybe I should audition for that show called, "Extreme Couponing!"

Friday, September 12, 2014

"Functional" Skills

The other morning for breakfast, Dominic decided he wanted a banana. As he pulled one off the bunch, he handed it to me because he wanted me to peel it for him. I told him to do it and he looked blankly at me. I had never taught him how to peel a banana!! Well, I quickly rectified that!! When the hubby went to the "Curriculum Night" earlier this week for Dominic, he came back and told me that his new teacher said she was going to spend some time on having the kids learn "functional" skills. The kids in his class already have a bit of a head start with that, because Mr. Paul, his old teacher, taught them how to wash dishes, water plants, and rake leaves, among other skills.  Before Lauren left for college, she gave Dominic "lessons" in setting the table.  One thing I realized I hadn't taught Dominic to do, was when he is finished eating, he needs to tell the hubby or I, "may I be excused, please?" Lauren asked that question all the way up until she turned 18!  It's taking a bit of practice, but he is asking at least 50% of the time now. My goal by the end of September is for him to be doing it 100%! This past Tuesday night, I made a meatloaf and usually I have taken a slice and cut it up into bite-sized pieces for him. This time, I gave him a knife and fork and showed him what to do. He started crying, not because of frustration, but because I kept correcting him. He wanted to do it completely by himself, with NO help from me! An important area that Dominic has thrived in has been working along side me in the kitchen. Wednesday morning, before he got on the bus, I told him to think about what kind of cookie he wanted to make when he got home from school. The options for cookies were: peanut butter and chocolate, chocolate and oatmeal or sugar. The minute Dominic walked in our front door after school Wednesday afternoon, before I could even open my mouth to ask him about his cookie "selection," he said, "sugar cookies!" In eight years, Dominic will be an adult.  I am realistic and know that he may always be living with us.  I recently heard about a bakery down in Georgia called Special Kneads and Treats that employs special needs adults (one of them being the owner's son). Children with special needs become adults with special needs and many will want to have a job. Just in the seven and half years since Dominic was diagnosed with Autism, he has made so much progress. He has made his First Holy Communion and goes to church with us, has been potty trained and learned how to read. These were three major things that at one time, I never thought possible. My dream would be to one day open a bakery here in the Midwest and employ special needs adults. I've already been in touch with a local cooking school and I'm hoping to work with the owner in getting cooking classes for special needs children and adults. With the right amount of guidance, love and patience I know it can be done! The "graduates" would be my future employees. Good idea, huh?  Given that Dominic is a great-great grandson of a baker, it's in his "genetic makeup." I think it would be awesome to have my boy working in a bakery. Who could resist buying a cookie "with a few sprinkles" from him?!?!?


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Baking "Therapy"

I love to cook, but I have to admit, baking is my passion. My great-grandfather worked in a bakery in Missouri, so it most definitely is in my "genes." He passed away a few months after I was born, but I would have loved to have been able to bake along side him! The past six weeks has certainly seen it's fair share of changes and challenges - Lauren leaving for college, Dominic starting middle school and my mom being diagnosed with a serious health issue at the beginning of August. I am very close to my mom and she is currently in the hospital. Being 600 miles away from her has been really, really difficult for me. For as long as I can remember, I have turned to baking as my "therapy." The hubby and I have known each other almost 24 years and when I start churning out baked goods at a rapid pace, he knows something is up! This past Friday night, Dominic and I made some of his favorite brownie "cake" with my homemade buttercream frosting. Yesterday, we made some biscuits!


I have spent the past couple of weeks looking through my old cookbooks for a "unique" dessert. In my Town Crier DeLuxe Recipe Book, I found a cookie recipe for fudge four o'clocks. This particular cookbook says on the inside, "A Practical Economical Gift - To Young Brides, Home Economics Students, and Homemakers." Is home economics even offered in schools anymore? I remember taking a home economics class and we did sewing and baked cookies. Guess who brought a recipe to school? Yep, me! Anyways, I don't have to ever worry that I bake too much. When my counter starts overflowing with my baked items, I just send them to work with the hubby. He always comes back with an empty container! Dominic ate the last biscuit this morning for breakfast.


Good grief, those biscuits lasted less than 24 hours!!  Hmm, I'm thinking I might have to make those fudge four o'clocks this afternoon. Stay tuned, you might be seeing that recipe on my food blog soon!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mom "Meltdowns"

This past Wednesday, while I was waiting for Dominic to get done with his first music therapy session with his new therapist, I watched a mom come in with her son with Down Syndrome. He looked like he was about Dominic's age and when he looked at me, I said, "hi, buddy!"  He didn't answer back, but that was okay. I watched the mom take her son around the corner, I'm guessing to a class, but they came back within a minute and sat down nearby.  A few minutes after that, a boy, who I'm assuming was his brother came over (it looked like he just had a cello lesson). The little guy with Down Syndrome started running around and then hopped on and off the elevator. The more the little guy ran around, the more the mom was getting stressed (I probably would have been too)! As they headed towards where I was sitting, the little guy with Down Syndrome deliberately pushed his brother's cello to the floor. The mom opened up the case and discovered a crack on the cello. She then said, "I don't even know what to say" to the little guy and then went up on the elevator, leaving the two boys downstairs by themselves. After a minute or two, the mom came back down, walked over to the bench where I was sitting and then had a complete "meltdown." She started crying softly and then it progressed to full blown sobbing - like for about ten minutes. I was thinking about trying to talk to this mom, but then a couple of other moms came over and tried to comfort her.  A mom came over and said, "you look like you need a hug," so she hugged her. All the while I was sitting there, not quite sure what I should be doing. When the crying mom stopped sobbing for a bit, she said, "it's been a hard week, we shouldn't have tried to push it by bringing him here." Other moms were saying, "we've all been there." This mom eventually stopped crying and left with her two boys. I wonder if she'll try to take her little guy to the music class again. I'm guessing she won't even try.  I can remember back to when Dominic was first diagnosed with Autism and I tried to take him to a class at a nature center. It was totally not geared to children with special needs and I remember getting so frustrated and upset that I left in the middle of the class, walked to the car and then cried my eyes out. I've thought about how that mom reacted to what her little guy did to the cello a few times since the incident occurred and I know I would have handled it differently. If Dominic had done that, I would have grabbed him and taken him immediately to the car and then discussed the matter privately. How many of us have seen a mom yelling at their kid in a store? It makes you wonder what lead up to that "meltdown," doesn't it?!? That's what was interesting about this mom at the music school, she never once raised her voice and/or yelled at her son. Since getting Dominic toilet trained about 1 1/2 years ago, I thought we never ever would have to worry about him having "accidents." Well, that was wishful thinking! Today, so far, he has had three accidents. I used to have "meltdowns" about it, but the only thing that achieved was getting Dominic upset. I decided the better approach was to not get all wound up about it, but instead say calmly, "that's okay, let's just try next time to not have an accident." He only has accidents at home, not really anywhere else. It's not like I can ask Dominic why that it is, he wouldn't be able to answer me. The way I look at it is, there were many, many times when I NEVER thought he would ever be trained, so if he has an accident once in awhile, it's not a big deal!!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Honesty

This past Friday night, we decided to go to Culver's, one of our favorite restaurants in town. While we were eating, a gentleman that worked there came over and said, "did you order a grilled cheese sandwich? our registers have been ringing them up, even if a customer didn't order it." I told him that we hadn't, and he handed me $2.00 (the amount of the overcharge). We had been so hungry, that I hadn't even noticed that on our receipt, there was an extra charge. How many restaurants would do that? Go out of their way to give customers money back? Since Lauren was home this weekend from college, we spent all of yesterday afternoon picking up things that she needed to take back with her. I was "armed" with many coupons (of course) and at JC Penney, I used a 20% off coupon. When the price rang up, it seemed really low, but I thought maybe it was on sale more and I hadn't noticed. After leaving the store, I took a look at my receipt and was telling Lauren the saleswoman took off $20.00 instead of 20%.  All through the next store that we stopped at, all I could think about was how dishonest I would feel going home, knowing the saleswoman rang us up wrong. I decided to go back to JC Penney and tell them. This time, I got a different saleswoman, so I explained what had happened.  She had kind of a surprised look on her face and said, "you were undercharged?" There was another gal standing there, who I am guessing was the manager. They both looked at me and said, "it's our mistake, we are not going to make you pay more, we appreciate you being honest, now pay it forward to someone else!" I plan on doing that the first chance I get!  I think it's so important to show our children (even if they are adults), that honesty is always the best "policy." If they don't learn it from us, who will they learn it from?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Summer of "Growth"

Dominic has been a busy young man this summer. He went to summer school and music therapy. He turned 10 years old in July.


We went on a car trip back to Maryland to visit his big brother and other family and friends at the end of July.


He has been going inside our church for Mass, started private speech therapy with a new speech therapist and helped move Lauren into college!


We also had to say good-bye to Miss Amber, his awesome music therapist. She taught Dominic so much and we are really going to miss her!!!


Dominic starts next Wednesday with a new music therapist, so we are happy that he will be able to continue! Dominic is heading to a new school next week, so we went back to visit Mr. Paul yesterday at his old school.  It didn't seem to confuse Dominic at all visiting his old classroom. As soon as we got there, he took off his socks and shoes and made himself at home :)  I've told Mr. Paul before that he is young enough to be my son (he is younger than my stepson), but I think of him more as a friend and peer.


I am one of these parents that believes in keeping in touch with past teachers, therapists, etc. I still go out to lunch with the librarian that used to work at his old school and I just recently reconnected with one of Lauren's old elementary school teachers! Last Friday, I got a call from the bus company that has transported Dominic back and forth to school since he was three. I am over the moon that he will have the same bus driver he had last year, Mr. E.!!!! As soon as I told Dominic, he said, "muffin!"  Yep, all last year, I would give Mr. E my homemade muffins :)  It has been awesome to watch Dominic "grow" so much this summer. Sometimes it's hard for me to remember him being this little (and both of us having such short hair). Dominic's super thick hair is kind of his "trademark!"


I think it may be time to buy Dominic some new clothes, don't you think??? If you can believe it, these clothes actually still sort of fit him at the beginning of the summer!


Sometimes, it seems like he grows overnight. I just bought a gallon of milk yesterday and half of it is gone already. This morning, for breakfast, he ate the last two leftover waffles. Around 1:30 p.m., he saw me eating one of the leftover burgers from dinner and wanted the other one. This was after the hubby had already given him some chicken tenders when I was out earlier running errands. Just now, as I finished up this blog post, he announced, "I'm hungry!" He went in to the pantry, took a bag of Chex Mix out (his favorite snack) and poured himself some in a bowl.  Good grief, do you think he's going through a growth spurt?!?!?!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Extraordinary Talents

When I heard Dominic singing the ABC's the other day, it sounded unusual. I realized after he said them a few times, that he was singing them from Z-A, not A-Z!


It totally blew my mind when he did it, so that's why I grabbed my camera and recorded him!  My brother and his family gave Dominic a 500-piece puzzle for his birthday. While that may sound like too many pieces for the average 10-year old to do by himself, Dominic has been doing puzzles with 500 pieces or more for several years.  He will sit sometimes for an hour or more while working on a puzzle, which given Dominic also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), astounds me.


Yesterday, I finally put a picture from his First Holy Communion into the awesome frame his godmother gave him and put it up on our mantelpiece.  He went over, looked at it and said, "First Holy Communion, May 3, St. John's Church, had bread, had pizza!" No where on the picture did it say the date or the location of the church.  The bread he was talking about was the communion wafer he received for the first time.  We had pizza that night to celebrate. Good grief, he was 100% right. To test him later on in the day, I asked him, "what day did we take Lauren to college?"  He responded back, "20!" Yep, that was right. I thought since the August calendar was on the wall, maybe he saw it. So, to test him further, I said, "what day are you going to school next week?" He said, "2." Yep, he goes back, September 2nd! In the afternoon, I gave him a puzzle word search for teenagers, he finished it within minutes. When I asked him to solve single digit math problems, like 8 + 6, he could tell me the right answer verbally within a few seconds, without the aid of a piece of paper and pencil. When I saw him looking at the i-Pad last night, I asked him what he was doing. He said, "Google Earth." I looked down and and saw our house on the screen.  Back last winter, Dominic got a hold of some screwdrivers, went down to the basement and started taking apart some of his toys. He would take the screws out and then put them back in again. We started calling that room his "workshop." When he started unscrewing the switch plates off the light switches, we had to "shut down" his workshop for a while!! Like any mom, I think about Dominic's future. Will he go to college? Will he get a job? Will he be self-sufficient? When you are a parent of a special needs child, those types of questions are not easily answered.  I don't think Dominic is a "savant," but he does have some "extraordinary" talents. This morning, I asked him, "what day did we take Lauren to college?" He was nowhere near the calendar and said, "20, it was a Wednesday!"   

Monday, August 25, 2014

Adjusting

With Lauren starting her first day of college classes today, I can't help but think back to when she was four and just starting preschool.  Since my whole life up until that time had revolved around taking care of her, I was at a loss as to what to do with myself. To say it was a hard "adjustment" would be an understatement! Yesterday afternoon about 4:00 or so, Lauren said she had some free time and asked if we could Skype. I was hoping we could chat later after dinner (when the hubby would be here), but Lauren said she was going to church, then eating dinner, playing tennis, hanging out with her new friends, etc. One thing I've already discovered about having a kid in college, you have to be available when they are to chat, not the other way around!! To me, it feels like Lauren is on a long sleepover. To her, she told me it feels like "camp." Well, she is sleeping in a bunk bed!


I was concerned (and so was Lauren) as to how Dominic would handle all of the change, but he seems to be doing just fine. He was very much a part of the process of helping her move in last Wednesday.


Little by little, the hubby, Dominic and I are "adjusting" to Lauren not being here all the time. In some ways, part of me wishes that I could be there to walk her into her classroom, like I did when she first started preschool.

  

But, I also recognize that isn't possible (or realistic)! Plus, she would probably be more than a little embarrassed if I did that, don't you think?!?!?! 


I'm thinking of you today, my sweet girl as you start your college classes. I know that you will do great!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The First 24 Hours


Well, it's been 24 hours since we dropped our one and only daughter off at college. When I was touching base with her this morning and was asking Dominic if he wanted to tell her anything, his response was, "tell Lauren to get up!" He was her "back-up" alarm clock when she would oversleep :)  I have asked him a handful of times throughout the day where she is and he keeps telling me, "Lauren's room!"  When we were eating lunch with Lauren yesterday, I pulled out a piece of paper and a pen and helped Dominic compose a note to her. Somehow, I forgot to give it to her before we left.


When we were saying good-bye to Lauren in her room, the hubby said, "group hug!'  He has asked me a handful of times since yesterday, "I wonder how she is doing?"


Today, after lunch, I fell asleep and took a nap. I think it was a delayed reaction to all the moving yesterday. Lauren lives on the fourth floor of her dorm and there is no elevator. I don't think she'll need to join the gym, she'll get plenty of exercise going up and down those stairs! I am already starting a box of things for her to take back to school when she comes home for Labor Day weekend, starting with a new lamp. Evidently, she and I put the wrong wattage in the lamp she brought to college, because it "melted." Yikes! Just a few minutes ago, Dominic unprompted said, "La-La." I said, "where is she?" He said, "college." I know that it is going to be hard for Lauren and Dominic to be separated.  Tuesday night, I made her one of her favorite meals and Dominic helped me make, "frosting with cake" as he called it!  LOL.


It is going to be an adjustment for all of us, but we are a "tight-knit" bunch, so I know we'll be just fine!


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Good-Bye, Lauren

Dominic had his first private speech therapy session this past Monday with Miss M. She has started working with him on being able to express his feelings better and gave us a picture chart that shows the following:  happy, sad, mad, sick, tired and scared. Each day, I have to "capture" how he is feeling and record it in a notebook. Miss M. will ultimately use the information to help Dominic verbalize why he feels a certain emotion. Yesterday, I asked him, "where is Lauren going next week?" He said, "college." Lauren then asked him, "do you want me to stay here or go to college?" Dominic's response was, "stay here!!" Lauren was just eight years old when Dominic was born, so she has always been around to help "carry" him through the past ten years.



This summer, in particular, I have seen their relationship get even closer.


This morning, as Dominic was getting ready for his last day of summer school, he said, "good-bye, Lauren." I asked him why he was saying that, since she was sound asleep upstairs. He said, "college." The hubby was asking me last night if Dominic was going with us next week for the "move-in" or if he was going to stay here with a babysitter. I told him Dominic is definitely going to be part of the whole experience to help him adjust to all of the changes about to happen.  This afternoon, Lauren was asking Dominic if he would help her sort and organize all the dorm items stacking up in the spare bedroom. When he came downstairs to hand me a sales receipt, I told him, "you should have Lauren pay you for your services." He went back upstairs and told her, "pay for my services." She asked him how much his services were and he said, "five dollars!"  She said, "I won't give you $5.00, but I'll give you $2.00!" That's the kind of interchange I think I'll miss the most between them. Now that it's only six days away before the big "move-in," it's the end of one chapter and the beginning of another as we say good-bye to Lauren.