Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My "Sous Chef" in Training

This past Monday afternoon, as I was putting the ingredients into a large bowl to make some homemade pumpkin muffins, Dominic came over and spontaneously said, "what's next in the mixer?" He helped me finish making the muffins and they were especially delicious :) He and I love to make our favorite waffle recipe out of this cookbook:
 

He LOVES to read me the recipe and pour the ingredients into the bowl:


It has been awesome to watch him blossom and become so confident in both his reading and his cooking and baking skills.  He also thinks it's funny to pretend to eat a tomato:

 

And then toss it up into the air (well, he does need to practice for baseball season).  He did catch it when it came back down, thank goodness!!
 

I want him to know that it's okay to have fun in the kitchen, it doesn't have to be serious!  There is one very important thing I am teaching Dominic. It's okay to make mistakes!  He is my "sous chef" in training and currently "enrolled" in my class "Breaking an Egg Correctly into a Bowl 101."



I think he might be in that class for a while!  I reassured him that it was fine and that we had plenty of eggs :)  There are so many things that you can teach your kids when they help you cook.  How to follow directions, waiting your turn, reading, and math skills, just to name a few. Another favorite recipe is sugar cookies with "sprinkles."


He helped make the dough and press them down:





I think we know what Dominic thought of the finished product!


For years, I have talked about writing a cookbook. Even my husband would ask me, "so how is the cookbook coming along?"  He stopped asking me a while back. I would get started and then something would come up and my cookbook project would get "shelved." When I was at the library yesterday, I headed over to the cookbook section.  While there are cookbooks that teach kids how to cook and bake, I didn't see one that teaches special needs kids how to cook and bake. Many kids with special needs (especially non-verbal ones) are very visual.   A special needs cookbook would have to have a lot of pictures and the tasks broken down for each recipe. It could also be in Braille. I think there is a real need for that kind of cookbook don't you think? I wouldn't have to worry about hiring a kid to model and help make the recipes - I already have Dominic! He likes to be "paid" in kisses and hugs, though you wouldn't think so from his expression :)


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Making Homemade Granola

A few months ago, I bought a box of Quaker Warm & Crunchy Granola (I think because it was on sale and I had a coupon). That's usually the only way I'll try something new - yes, I know, I'm kind of set in my ways :)


Anyways, I've had a few of these packages for breakfast and they are pretty tasty. But, I've been thinking of trying my hand at making some homemade granola, especially after I looked at the ingredient list on the side of the Quaker Warm & Crunchy Granola package. Guess how many items were listed? Would you believe 22? Yikes. That is one reason why I like to bake and cook so much. I can control the ingredients!  I found several recipes for something called "overnight" granola, but more than a few used a ton of cinnamon (like at least one tablespoon).  As much as I am a cinnamon "gal," even that sounded a bit extreme!  I came up with my own recipe instead. Granola is pretty versatile. I put some into a bowl Sunday morning, added milk and sliced an entire banana on top. I wasn't hungry for lunch for a LONG time :) You can put some in with yogurt and make a "parfait."  I am totally addicted to Greek yogurt right now, so that's what I used for mine Monday morning:



If you are headed out to work, school, the gym, running errands, etc.,  put some in a plastic container or a zippered sandwich bag - it's an awesome snack. Toss some almonds or raisins in (my sister's idea) - thanks sis!  For an after dinner treat - how about a scoop of vanilla ice cream with some granola sprinkled on top?? What's cool about this "overnight" granola recipe is that you do the prep work the night before and it's ready to eat in the morning!!! It doesn't get much easier than that, does it?!?!?!?!?!
 


Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 1/2 cups quick oats
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In small saucepan, melt butter slowly. When butter is completely melted, remove from heat and add honey, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Stir with large spoon until smooth.  In large bowl, put the quick oats, old fashioned oats and walnuts.  Pour the butter mixture over the oats and walnuts and with large spoon stir until it is completely covered. In a non-stick jelly roll pan (11 x 17 inches), spread the granola evenly with a spoon or knife.  Bake for 10 minutes and then turn oven off. Wait at least ten hours to open oven.  When ready to eat, pull the pan out and break up into clumps with your hands!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Stay in Pajamas All Day


Earlier in the week, Dominic had a slight cough, but no other symptoms. I figured it might be allergies or our weather changing back and forth. I sent him to school yesterday, because he seemed to be doing okay and not coughing a lot. Well, later in the afternoon, Mr. P sent me an e-mail that said, "I think I might have some unfortunate news, it seems Dominic is coming down with something. In addition to his cough, he has lost his voice and for most of the afternoon he laid with his head down on the table. I let him take a break, because I could tell by his face he wasn't feeling too well. I hope he isn't sick all weekend." When Dominic got off the bus, he wasn't his usual bubbly self, so I knew it wasn't good. He ate all of his dinner and I kept him up until close to his usual bedtime.  About 4:30 a.m. this morning, I heard a voice saying, "hi Mommy!" and then footsteps going downstairs. I waited about 10 minutes to go down and investigate, hoping he would be asleep on the couch in the family room. Instead, he was wide awake.  I told him, "it's very early, you need to go back to sleep for a while." His response back was, "I don't like that!"  Well, too bad Dominic, mommy wanted more sleep! I followed him back upstairs and tucked him back in and then I went to bed.  Dominic slept this morning until about 8:30 or so, but has been coughing and sneezing and just kind of resting on the couch a lot today. He even told me, "I'm tired." He doesn't have the chills or a fever or any other symptoms.  


 
That is definitely not "typical" Dominic. He is usually chattering away and having tons of energy.  He has told me a few times, "stay in pajamas all day." It is a beautiful sunny day here today, a bit cool, but not cold. I've asked him a handful of times if he wanted to get out of his pajamas and he keeps telling me no.  I guess I will let him keep his pajamas on all day, though tonight, he will need to put on a fresh pair of pj's!  Feel better soon, my sweet Dominic :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Chapter is Ending



In 25 days, Lauren will graduate from high school.  We ordered graduation announcements and they will be going out this week.  Last weekend, we got an awesome deal on a beautiful dress for the prom. Monday morning, we found two dresses and shoes that she needs for four different graduation events. We recently booked a plane ticket for my stepson and we are so excited he can fly in to watch his one and only sister graduate from high school.  After visiting five colleges and applying to four, she came to a college decision on Monday night and we paid the registration and housing fees!  Eleven days after Lauren graduates, she turns 18.  She will legally be an adult and be responsible for making her own decisions.  This whole senior year, she has driven herself back and forth to school everyday, so she has gotten a "taste" of what it's like to be independent of mom and dad.  Her car needed some repairs and spent the long Easter weekend at the shop. Yesterday, the hubby had to drive her to school and I picked her up. The first thing she said to me when we got home was, "when will my car be ready!?!?!"  We got it back last night :) Life is like chapters of a book.  The first chapter is when you are born. The next is when you are an infant, then a toddler and so on and so forth. Finishing up high school and graduating will mark the end of one chapter of Lauren's life, but the beginning of a brand new and exciting chapter.  Turning 18 in late May and heading off to college in August will be an adjustment for all of us and I'm sure some tears will be shed, but Lauren can be rest assured that she will always have the love and support of her family.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Full Heart

I had the opportunity to take Dominic to visit my Aunt Penny ("Auntie") earlier in April. I have known my Auntie since I was born.  She was married to my mom's brother until his passing a handful of years back. I admire my Aunt Penny so much, she is an amazing and beautiful woman inside and out. Dominic and I had an awesome visit and the three of us had a wonderful time having lunch and catching up. There were definitely two highlights of the afternoon.  The first was when Dominic hopped on my Auntie's lap and she started tickling him.


I love, love, love this picture of them. He just has the look of pure joy and happiness.  They both were laughing really hard.  The second highlight was when I grabbed a book I had brought and Dominic squeezed in next to her and they read it together.


My Auntie is one of Dominic's biggest supporters and the two of them definitely have a close and special relationship.  I thought I was the one that had a way with words, but she wrote something to me recently about that special time with Dominic.  She said, "my heart was so full when he jumped into my lap, and then he let me read a long book to him. Joy, Joy, Joy!!!!" Her heart wasn't the only one that was joyful and full that day :) I think Dominic misses his "great-Auntie" already.  Since we've been back home, he has told me a few times, "Aunt Penny in Virginia!" What a blessing she is to our entire family - we are not bonded by blood, but by love!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spontaneous Speech

Yesterday morning, Dominic said two sentences spontaneously.  When he came downstairs for breakfast, he told me, "It's snowing!"


Then, shortly before he got on the bus, he looked out the back window, saw a bunny hiding behind one of the trees in the backyard and said, "bunny in the snow!"

 
That might not seem like a huge deal, but to me, I was ready to have a party!  For children with speech delays (like Dominic), getting him to describe what's going on and initiating conversation is a constant challenge.  At his parent/teacher conference in March, I talked briefly to Dominic's current speech therapist. He has been blessed to have had some amazing speech therapists that have worked with him since he started school. The speech therapist filled me in on how he was doing at the conference.  She gave me some great suggestions on how to elicit more spontaneous speech, like cover the words in a story and make him describe the picture or get him to identify features such as what a character has or is doing.  Dominic also has been working on using verbs correctly. When he said, "it's snowing" it was awesome because he could have said, "snow" or "snow outside." I was super duper proud of him!! This morning while Dominic was getting ready for school, he spontaneously said, "Hi, Mommy, blow a kiss!"  Does it get any better than that?!?!?!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Morning in the Park


GETTING READY


GETTING SET



AND GO!!!!


I took Dominic to a park recently on a perfect April morning. The sun was shining and more importantly, we were the only ones on the playground which Dominic thought was pretty cool. No waiting and he could play on whatever he wanted for as long as he wanted. A nine-year old boy's dream! His favorite piece of play equipment was definitely this one because he could spin around.

 
We played for a while and then headed towards the lake.

 

We ran into a few geese and continued around the lake and over the stone bridge.



We ended up back by the playground equipment again and I let him play a bit longer:



Then, we took a look at these magnificent daffodils:



Our everyday lives are so busy and hectic that I sometimes feel like I'm on a treadmill trying to catch up! It was nice to take a little break to slow down and hang out at the park all morning.  I think my boy might be a little too big for the plane, don't you think?!?!? 

 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Expecting Too Much?

Dominic's teacher (Mr. P) and I have spent this week trying to determine the cause of some of Dominic's recent avoidance behaviors.  I was beginning to feel like Sherlock Holmes trying to solve a big mystery. I was wondering if it had something to do with Ritalin, so I asked Mr. P to track his behavior and see if there was any correlation. There really didn't seem to be. When you have a special needs child, they are constantly a "work in progress."  All children kind of are, aren't they? Do we ever reach a point with our kids when we say, "okay, I'm done!" Not really :) We've certainly had our ups and downs with the potty training, but Dominic seems to be doing awesome in that area recently, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!  It's good to push Dominic, but at the same time I was wondering if maybe we were expecting too much from him.  Mr. P and I exchanged e-mails and had some conversations on the phone.  One of my questions was if any new things had been added or changed in his routine.  This is what he told me:

  • having him participate in longer peer-to-peer sessions
  • not allowing him to use items non-functionally during choice time (ex. if he gets out the Legos he would stack two or three on top of one another and let them fall for the entire time. I do not allow him to do this, rather, we work on using the toy for their true purposes)
  • increasing the amount of participation I ask of him during group activities (such as answering more questions about our topic, remaining seated longer to complete more assignments)
  • extending the amount of time we are at work centers
  • have him sit on the toilet to try a BM during bathroom trips
  • increasing time he spends in 4th grade class
Wow, that's quite a list, isn't it?  After I saw this, it really got me to thinking that he was probably feeling overwhelmed.  It's not like Dominic can say, "hey, it's too much, I'm really overwhelmed!" We still rely heavily on how he acts.  When he is under or overwhelmed a telling sign is that he starts talking to himself more and will get more isolated from us. Mr. P suggested that too much was being expected of him in a smaller amount of time and that possibly spreading the changes out over a longer amount of time might be the answer. The hubby and I discussed it over the weekend and I called Mr. P on Monday. I told him that even though we are Dominic's parents, he is the teacher and we will defer to his judgment. This week, the notes home from Mr. P were, "more cooperative, awesome day, did not engage in avoidance behaviors." Yesterday I asked Mr. P if he thought the mystery was solved.  He told me that it's too soon to tell and we need to keep expecting great things, but at the same time not push too hard.  One area that Dominic has been doing awesome in has been his reading. I will continue to push a bit in that area, because we are all big readers in this house!  I got out some of the Mr. Putter and Tabby books from our library and he LOVES them.  He especially liked the word "trifle" that was in the book. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Finding Support

Before Lauren was born, the only experience I had with babies was with my younger siblings or babysitting.  I worked right up until a few days before she arrived and then the hubby and I decided that I would be a stay-at-home mom.  Economically, it made sense, since almost all of my salary would have gone to daycare. Those first couple of months were kind of a blur, as it is with newborns.  Once she got a little older, I knew she and I both needed some outside stimulation.  I decided to take a parenting class close by hoping to meet new moms like myself.  Luckily, I did. I met a handful of moms and we all had babies pretty close in age to each other.  We started a playgroup that met at least once a week until the kids starting going to preschool. I lost touch briefly with those moms, but Facebook brought us back together again.  Now, instead of talking about diapers, we talk about what colleges our "babies" will be going to! I can remember back to when I had my first miscarriage.  I was devastated, upset and felt very much alone.  I found out about a support group a woman was running nearby and called her to get more information.  I chatted a little while and then realized the group probably wasn't a good fit for me. I instead talked a lot about it to a friend of mine at the time who had also had a miscarriage. I think she got tired of me talking about it all the time, because one day, out of the blue, she said something like, "it's a sad thing, but you really need to try and move on!!" When I had my second miscarriage, I dealt with it slightly better, but I wished I would have had a group to turn to that knew exactly what I was going through. With the explosion of social media, there are many ways that you can find support. I have found some amazing blogs written by parents of special needs. I tend to be drawn to the blogs that are inspirational and focus on the positives.  I comment on their posts from time-to-time, but mostly I just like to read them.  The first definition of support that pops up on dictionary.com is "to bear or hold up." When my uncle who lived on the East Coast was very ill, I would post updates on Facebook.  When he passed away at the beginning of February, and I was unable to attend his funeral because of the bad weather and my flight being cancelled, I was completely devastated.  Many of my online "buddies" comforted me and "held me up" through that difficult time and it brought me an enormous amount of peace. Sometimes, when I post something new Dominic is doing, I wonder if my friends and family think it's too much - I don't want to clog up their "Newsfeeds!!"  I hope when you need support for whatever is going on in your life, you are able to "find" it.  If have already "found" it, then you know how awesome it can be!