Monday, March 31, 2014

Making an Impact

Yesterday, we could actually be outside in a sweatshirt and not be cold!  I had a light jacket on Dominic and he told me the sun was too "hot." The temperature in the shade was 43 degrees :) Yes, it's been such a long winter that even 43 feels "toasty."  Anyways, the kids and I spent a few hours outside soaking up the rays and they started playing on the swing set in our backyard.  There is a set of rings and Lauren started doing back flips.  She looked at Dominic and said something like, "do you want me to teach you how to do that?" He of course said yes!  It warmed my heart to see her be so patient, but more importantly, encouraging with him, even when he fell.


It took him a handful of times, but he mastered it!!



When he did it by himself the first time, he said proudly, "I did it!" Each time he did it after that, Lauren and I clapped for him.  The two questions Lauren has heard since her senior year began has been, "where do you want to go to college?," followed by, "and what will you study?" She has known for awhile that she wants to work with kids and make an impact on their lives. With less than two months left of high school, thinking about her future has been HUGE on her mind lately.  When she got Dominic to do the back flip, she looked right at me and said, "I think I want to be a teacher." Little kids have always been drawn to her and she has some keen insight having a special needs sibling. This morning, someone asked her what she wanted to major in when she goes to college. She responded confidently, "Early Childhood Education."  I was telling her yesterday that she will do well in whatever she does in the future, she's already made such a huge impact on her little brother :)


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Acceptance

This past Thursday night, as Dominic and I were waiting for his music therapist, I noticed him displaying a "classic" sign of Autism. There were two men standing right in front of the water fountain chatting away.  Since Dominic had eaten some pretzels in the car on the way, he was thirsty. I told him to go over to the water fountain and get himself something to drink.  He walked right between the two men, it was like they didn't exist.  There are three areas that children with Autism have difficulties or impairments in - social, communication and behavioral. I did a little experiment with Dominic yesterday morning.  Usually, when he wakes up and comes downstairs, I say something like, "hey, how are you doing?"  Yesterday, I didn't say anything.  Within about 20 seconds, he said, "mommy."  That might not seem like a big deal, but it was to me.  I can be the "queen" of prompting.  By that I mean, I catch myself a lot not giving him enough time to initiate conversation - guess I get too impatient!  While Dominic is not where a "typical" almost 10-year old boy should be with language, he can string simple sentences together and let us know what he needs. I really feel for those parents of non-verbal children. They are my heroes, I can't even imagine what that must be like.  Lately, since we are pretty sure Dominic is going through a growth spurt, he has been saying, "I'm really hungry!" to the hubby, Lauren or I.  We look right at him and say, "well, go get yourself something to eat!" A favorite snack is an apple or strawberries. Dominic will go get a plate and put the apple on it.  If more time goes by and I haven't cut up the apple for him, he will say, "cut it up."  If we have strawberries in the fridge, he will go in, grab the container and put a bunch on a plate.  He will then say, "cut off the tops."  Behavior in a child with Autism is different for every child. It's not a one size fits all as far as therapies go.  A common therapy is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).  Here is a great link that explains more about that type of therapy: http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/applied-behavior-analysis-aba .  If you are a parent of a child newly diagnosed with Autism, I highly recommend the Autism Speaks website. It is a great starting point if you feel overwhelmed. Even if you don't have a child with Autism, check it out - here is the link to their website:    http://www.autismspeaks.org/ .  It tells you anything and everything you've ever wanted to know! When I found out that Dominic had Autism at about age 2 1/2, it was a difficult process towards acceptance.  Some of the feelings I felt were sadness and anger.  I spent two weeks feeling sorry for myself and then said, "enough is enough, now it's time to move on, how can I help him?" It's a process that is different for every parent and it can't be rushed. Once you make it to the other "side" of acceptance, then you can focus on what is best for your child.  Do I sometimes wish Dominic didn't have Autism? Yes, that thought does cross my mind sometimes.  Do I get a little jealous when I see kids Dominic's age being able to do much more than he can? Yes, once in a while.  Raising a special needs child is challenging, I won't lie. They are moments that are difficult, but you just have to keep moving forward (not backwards) and continue to be your child's biggest supporter!  This morning, Dominic got up at 5 a.m. again, but he showed me this Lego heart and said, "Happy Valentine's Day, dear Mommy!"  I love the added bonus of the powdered sugar on his cheek and lips from a doughnut!


How can I be too upset with him about getting up so early, when he shows me so much love? 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Mystery

In the past week, Dominic has woke up at 5:00 a.m. about four times.  He normally wakes up between 7-7:30 a.m. It would be great if he would go back to bed for an hour or two, but instead he goes downstairs to the family room.  He has been going to bed about the same time, so it's a bit of a mystery as to what is going on.  When he has woke up early in the past, it's usually because he is going through a growth spurt.  I'm not 100% sure that is the case now, since he has also been having some behavior issues at school.  A while back, he ran out of the cafeteria during lunch and one of the aides had to chase him down.  It wouldn't have been so bad, but he had a mouthful of food!  His teacher and I have been in close contact to see if there is any kind of pattern, since Dominic has been on the same dosage of Ritalin for a few years.  I sometimes think that his ADHD is the bigger issue than his Autism.  Since he does take medication, we see his psychiatrist every three months, so it's closely monitored. When Lauren doesn't sleep well, or gets up way earlier than normal, it's because she has something on her mind.  She and I are close and usually she will let me know what's bothering her and then she and I can discuss it.  With Dominic, it doesn't quite work that way.  We have to try and guess.  When I ask him how school went each day when he gets home, it's always the same answer, "good."  That doesn't really help me too much!  Thank goodness his teacher sends a written report home each day. He is pretty in tune to Dominic and notices if he seems "off." I'm hoping that we get to the bottom of what's going on soon. The only good thing I can think of about getting up so early is watching the amazing sunrise:


Saturday, March 22, 2014

"Surprise" Savings

Last Sunday afternoon, while Dominic was at his religious education class, I headed over to my local Sears to pass the time until his class was done.  I am on the hunt for dress pants with an elastic band in a boys size 8-10 for his Holy Communion, so if anybody knows where I can find a pair let me know! Anyways, after I looked around and didn't find any, I did notice that all of their winter clothes were marked down.  Since I had a 15% off coupon, I figured I could probably get some good deals.  I found a sweater for myself that had been marked down to $7.99 and a long sleeve shirt for Dominic that was $3.99.  I figured with my coupon, I would pay about $10.00 for both. As I headed towards the register, the gal said, "do you have a Shop Your Way Rewards card?"  I told her yes.  Those cards are free and it keeps track of any "points" you may have.  I told her I thought I had about a $1.00 or so on the card.  She looked up my account and told me I had $10.00 in "surprise" points!!!  Wow, I didn't even know. I already had out my credit card and was going to pay with that.  Well, the final total was 18 cents after using my 15% off coupon.  Yep, you heard me!  I shoved the credit card back in my wallet and pulled out a quarter instead.


I looked up my Shop Your Way Rewards card balance on-line a few days ago and guess what? I have "surprise" points worth $5.00 to spend and they expire this coming Tuesday.  Since Dominic has another religious education class tomorrow afternoon, take a guess where I'll be!!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Big Steps Forward

Today, because of parent/teacher conferences, Dominic had the day off from school.  Last night, he was asking me what we were going to be doing today.  I told him that we had a "field trip" to Kroger in the morning and then after Lauren got done with her day at school, we would meet up with her at Culver's to have lunch.  After Dominic had a waffle, pumpkin muffin and milk, we hopped into the car and headed to Kroger.  To the other shoppers, they probably figured it was a mom and her little boy out grocery shopping and didn't think twice about it.  To me, I used the trip to Kroger as a continuing learning experience for him.  The past couple of times I have taken him grocery shopping, he has preferred sitting in a cart that has a car attached to the front and read a book, occasionally assisting me. Since he hit a growth spurt, he can longer squeeze himself into that type of cart. Well, he probably could, but he might not be able to get back out :)  I let Dominic pick out a cart and we headed into the store towards the produce area.  Since I go to the same Kroger every Tuesday, I see the same clerks. One of them tried to greet Dominic and he covered his ears.  That particular clerk has asked me about Dominic before and I told him that he has Autism, so he was cool. He's doubly cool because he calls me "young lady."  Anyways, I told Dominic as we went through the store what I needed and he would put it in the cart. He and I shared cart pushing "duties." As we continued throughout the store, I kept telling him how proud I was of him and slapping him high-fives.  When I told him we didn't need the Oxi-Clean,  he put it back without any fuss.
 

When we hit the yogurt/cheese aisle, he started getting a little restless and ran around in circles for about 15 seconds - my husband calls it "the ants in your pants dance." We headed towards the checkout and he started putting things on the conveyor belt.  When I handed him a five pound bag of flour and he tossed it into the air and it hit the belt with a "plop," I reminded him that he had to be "gentle." We headed to the car and he helped put the groceries in (he started taking the items out one by one, until I told him the whole bag needed to go in the car) and then he put the cart back. He helped me unload all the bags once we got home and then said, "I'm really hungry." It was lunchtime by then.  I told him we were eating with Lauren and were waiting for her to text us when she was done at school. He and I split an apple for a snack.   About 15 minutes later, Lauren sent us a text and we drove over to Culver's to meet her. I was hoping he would order his own meal, but he covered his ears, so I did it for him. We did let him work the pop dispenser and he did great!



We got our meal a short time later and started eating. The lunch was yummy and hit the spot!  Lauren and Dominic have been talking for a while about buying the Frozen DVD and since it came out today and Dominic had a $15.00 gift card from Christmas, he decided he wanted to use the gift card to purchase the DVD. 


We had a few other things to get, so we let him sit in the cart the rest of the time.




Except for putting a french fry up his nose and burping loudly a few times at the Culver's (two things a typical nine and half year old boy might do), I think he did awesome today.  I'm very realistic about his future and know he may always live with us.  But, when he has a day like today, when he has some "big steps forward," it also gives me hope that one day he may be able to leave our "nest" and live independently. He is growing up so fast, that's it hard to believe in a few short months, my littlest baby "bird" will be 10!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Not the Day I Expected

When I went to bed Tuesday night, the temperature was 40 degrees.  The most exciting thing that I was "expecting" to do on Wednesday after the kids went to school and the hubby went to work was to attempt to catch up on my laundry (is it ever really caught up)??!?! Anyways, instead, Wednesday morning at about 5:45 a.m. the phone started ringing.  My first thought was that there was a family emergency.  Instead, it was an automated message from Dominic's school saying it was cancelled for the day.  I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.  At 6:15 a.m., the phone rang again. This time it was Lauren's school leaving an automated message that they were closed too.  I rolled over and did fall back asleep until about 7:30 a.m. when Dominic came barreling down the hallway from his room.  Since the temperature was so warm Tuuesday night, I figured there must be ice on the roads. Well, when I looked at the window, it wasn't ice, but snow!



Okay, I was a little shocked, because the day before I had gotten Dominic off his bus not even wearing a coat!  The poor hubby was outside shoveling the snow and when he came in the entire back of his coat was wet and he left a trail of water from the mud room into the kitchen.  I let him take my van to work, since I assumed I would be in the house all day. Well, once I got Dominic some breakfast, I tested out a new recipe I found in an old cookbook for my food blog - peanut butter biscuits! Which, by the way are yummy with grape jelly or honey :)


Even though Dominic got up close to his normal time, Lauren got some well deserved extra sleep.  I let Dominic watch one video and then he and I (and Lauren when she woke up) all read some books.  When it came time for lunch, I told Lauren if she made us pizza, I would make her a smoothie of her choice later. 


Wow, it was super yummy and there was barely any left over!  I then cleaned up the kitchen and prepared a roast with potatoes and carrots for the crock pot for dinner.  Dominic wanted to play with his Legos and Lauren and I played a game of Monopoly.  Lauren royally beat me (I tried a new strategy that clearly DIDN'T work) and our game was over in less than an hour and a half.  Since it had snowed a bunch after the hubby went to work, I told the kids we needed to clean the driveway and sidewalks.  The kids played together for a while.
 

  Yes, Dominic is sitting in front of Lauren on the sled -


 Then it was time to put them to work:



When we came in, Lauren said, "so, when are you making that smoothie?"  I pulled out the blender (by this time, the crock pot was going hard and our dinner was smelling amazing) and whipped up a smoothie for Lauren and put some in the fridge for later.


Since the hubby wasn't home from work yet, the kids decided to play a game of Twister.  As soon as he rolled in, it was time to eat - finally - I was hungry! When we sat down to eat he said, "this is one of my favorite meals!"  Cool.  There were no leftovers :) He then said, "did you have any of that smoothie left over?"  I told him yes and again, no leftovers! We watched the show Jeopardy (it's a family favorite) and then it was a bath for Dominic, homework for Lauren and more work for the hubby.  After the kids fell asleep, I plopped down in front of the television and watched CSI (one of my favorite shows).  Well, I did manage to get a few loads of laundry done throughout the day, but it was by no means the most exciting thing I did!! It's good once in a while to have a day that doesn't end up being what you expected. Isn't that what keeps life interesting??

 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Hurry Up and Wait

Doesn't it seem like whenever you're running late, you either get stuck in a traffic jam, at a railroad crossing or hit multiple red lights? When you're not in a rush none of those things happen, right? Yesterday, I had an appointment to get a routine echocardiogram (echo) of my heart at my cardiologist's office that started at 10:45 a.m. I left my house at 10:25 a.m. thinking that would be plenty of time with about a five minute "cushion." Well, I managed to hit at least five red lights in a row! I pulled into the parking lot and rushed quickly into the building. The receptionist gave me a sheet on a clipboard, which I hurriedly filled out thinking I would be going in soon - they typically run pretty close to being on time. Well, they were running a full 30 minutes behind. When I got called into the exam room, the nurse took my blood pressure and said something like, "is your blood pressure normally this low??" Hmm, not usually, guess I relaxed a little too much in the waiting room!  Since she was having issues getting some images of the left part of my heart, it took a little longer than normal.  At one point, she even remarked, "don't worry, I'm not going to call the doctor in!" Okay, that was good to hear :) After I was done, it was on to another "to do" thing on my list.  I headed to Meijer next to pay my credit card bill.  Since there was only one person in front of me in line at the customer service, I figured I would be done in no time. Nope, there was only one clerk and he was having some issues with a transaction he was doing for the person at the counter.  Eventually, another clerk came over and the dude in front of me went up to the counter.  After ringing up his order, he realized he didn't have the money to pay for it, so he left.  It was my turn then and I got done in less than 60 seconds.  The hubby had told me about a great deal on strawberries, so I grabbed three packs and a few other items I needed and headed towards the registers. I was hoping the "express lane" was open because I only had about 8-10 items.  Nope, no express lane was open.  I did a quick survey of the lanes and how long the lines were and got into a line that had one person. Since the lady already had all of her items on the conveyer belt, I figured it would be quick, so I unloaded my items onto the belt.  Nope, the gal in front of  me was purchasing about 15 gift cards in addition to her groceries. I could have gotten out of the line, but somebody got behind me and started unloading her items.  After what seemed like forever, the lady in front of me was finally done.  Once I hit the register, I was done in about three minutes.  Next and final stop before going home for lunch was the bank.  I got behind a car in line thinking he was almost done. Nope, he took about five minutes horsing around in his car before finally putting the tube in the chute and sending it to the teller!  When I finally pulled up, the teller said, "it will be just a minute!" She apologized about three times for how long I had to wait and when she sent the tube back, she said, "oh, I gave you some Hershey Kisses candy, just because!" Cool.  The next few hours were spent doing laundry - another "hurry up and wait" type item. Since I had a meeting at my church that started at 6:30 p.m., I wanted to get dinner prepared a head of time and gave the hubby and Lauren instructions about what time to put things in the oven, etc.  I guess the clocks in our house are slow, because I was thinking it was 6:20 p.m. when I was leaving my house, instead it was 6:25 p.m.! I didn't rush because the way I take to our church sometimes has deer that like to hop across the road, that would have been all I needed was to hit a deer! Anyways, I pulled into the parking lot and ran inside to my meeting. It was about 6:32 p.m., and these meetings usually start right on time.  Whew, I wasn't the last one to arrive (thank goodness) and the meeting didn't get started until another ten minutes later. This was the only time out of my whole day I was actually glad I had to wait :) The meeting couldn't start without me anyways, I take the notes! 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Winter Visitors

Before I moved to the Midwest, over 12 years ago, I would see deer once in a while in my old neighborhood, mostly because we lived down the street from a large park in Maryland.  Well, that is certainly not the case in our yard here. This winter has been so cold and harsh, that within an hour of tossing out some old bread scraps this past Wednesday morning, these guys or gals, (who frequent our yard often - you can tell by their tracks in the snow) showed up to pay me a "visit."
 

This one looked sad and was shivering so much, that I felt like inviting it inside to keep warm while I waited for some muffins to get done baking :) Perhaps the smell of cinnamon was luring my friend close to the window??



A few seconds before I snapped this picture, the poor deer had stuck it's nose in our bird feeder hoping for some water.  I can only imagine how thirsty he or she must be. A few weeks ago, while sitting at our kitchen table, I saw something white go past our back deck out of the corner of my eye.  Upon closer investigation, I determined it was a possum.  I called Lauren and Dominic over to the sliding back door to take a look. When I asked Dominic what kind of animal he thought it was, he said, "cat."  Not quite, but I guess it looked like one to him!!!!! Well, winter can't go on forever, right?? Spring is just a few weeks away (bringing with it warmer weather hopefully). I'm sure my deer "buddies" will be glad to hear that!!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dressing Room "Bouncer"

Lauren and I are both bargain hunters when it comes to clothes shopping, so we decided this past Sunday night to take a quick trip to one of the major department stores here in town.  We went about an hour before the store closed, so we figured it would be pretty empty.  I can count on one hand how many cars were in the parking lot when we pulled in.  There were many great deals to be had (some clothes were 90% off), so Lauren and I grabbed several things for her to try on and we headed to the closest dressing room area.  I told Lauren that I wanted to take a quick look at the clothes right outside the dressing room area and I would join her in a minute or two.  When I walked in to rejoin Lauren, imagine my surprise when I found an adult man waiting right outside of one of the dressing room stalls.  This dude was at least a foot taller and about 50 pounds heavier than me and he kept standing on his tippy toes and peering over the top of the dressing room stall next to Lauren.  I looked at him for about 15-30 seconds and then said, "excuse me, but this is a women's dressing room."  He looked right at me and said, "oh, I know, I'm just here with my wife!"  I wouldn't have had a problem if he was outside the dressing room area, but Lauren was in the dressing room stall right next to the guy's wife and she wasn't fully dressed.  I kept looking at him, not giving him a dirty look really, but after a minute or so he finally picked up on my "body language" and left. Yikes.  I told Lauren I felt like a dressing room "bouncer." I have brought Dominic in with me to dressing room stalls, but he's a little guy. A grown man in a women's dressing room area didn't seem quite right to me.  Most stores will have a clerk either in the dressing room area or near it to monitor what's going on.  Since it was so close to the store closing for the night, the clerks were kind of scattered throughout the whole store.  I think this guy truly didn't think there was anything wrong with him being in the women's dressing room with his wife. Maybe if there wasn't anybody else in the dressing room area, it might have been okay, but it certainly wasn't since my teenage daughter was in there!!!  How about you? have you ever had to "enforce" the unwritten rules of dressing room "etiquette?"

Monday, March 3, 2014

It's All in the Presentation

My hubby has a very busy and demanding job, but he does have the option of working at home one or two days a week. Monday has been his "work at home" day for at least a decade.  With the sun actually shining today, I guess I was thinking of the summertime and how great it would be to be able to have a big bowl of fresh fruit. Since winter shows no sign of slowing down (the temperature was below zero this morning and we got another 4-5 inches of snow over the weekend), I did the next best thing and used some frozen strawberries and blueberries I had in the freezer and made a smoothie!  Since I've never made a smoothie before I told my husband he was my "guinea pig" tester today.  I put it in a glass and when I handed it to him to "sample" he said, "oh, you put it in a "fancy" glass!!!"  It's all in the presentation, my friends!!  Guess it beats the old Garfield glass I was going to put it in :)


Ingredients

1 cup cranberry/raspberry juice
1 cup strawberries, frozen
1 cup blueberries, frozen
2 6-ounce containers blueberry yogurt

Put all ingredients into a blender in the order given and blend together until all the fruit is well incorporated and reaches the desired thickness you like. Makes four cups.  Store any leftovers in the fridge.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The "Why" Questions

We are super blessed that Dominic is talking and even though he is behind with his speech, 95% of the time he can communicate to us what he wants and needs.  Being able to answer the "why" questions still present a huge challenge for him.  While most of the time I have tons of patience with Dominic, I sometimes have those times when I hit my limit.  About six weeks or so ago, after being fully trained with the potty training for several months, he decided that he was all done.  He started having accidents and lots of anxiety.  I have been down this road with him before, but it was after he had a migraine. That was not the case this time, so I was more than a little perplexed. The more I pushed, the more he resisted.  Potty training is all about the control, right??  It reached the point that I was almost ready to put him back in diapers (yes, I was THAT frustrated).  I relayed my concerns to Dominic's teacher at school and he made a picture schedule that helped.  Last week, when I was having lunch with a close friend, I was telling her about how frustrated I was with Dominic that he couldn't tell me "why" he was resisting the potty training so much. She looked right at me and said, "he probably doesn't know."  Hmm, that sure put things back into perspective for me!  What a wise friend I have :) The whole potty training "road" we have been on with Dominic has definitely been a long and bumpy one. I think the first time we introduced the concept to him was when he was around three years old.  He is now over 9 1/2.  When a typically developing child masters potty training, it's done and you move on.  With Dominic, I liken it to a roller coaster ride, it's been up, down and round and round, with seemingly no end.  I finally came to the conclusion that if I didn't make a big deal out of it, he had less anxiety. I was like, "okay, whatever, do it or don't do it."  The "reverse psychology" approach seems to be working (at least for now). Once he lets us know "why" he has such issues with the toilet training, my next question for Dominic is "why" does he have such a fascination with his nose?!?!?!!