Saturday, May 31, 2014

Playing with the "Kids"

When my stepson was younger, we would play endless games of Monopoly and Trouble. Now, when he comes to visit us, we play at least one game of the Who Wants to be a Millionaire board game.  It's become a family "tradition." Lauren and I like to play card games, a favorite is War.  Last weekend, summer arrived here in the Midwest, so we took out our sprinkler and hooked it up.

Since it was so toasty, I decided to join the "kids" in the sprinkler! I have also been known to do the Slip 'N Slide, but I'll spare you those pictures!!

That water was COLD, but refreshing! When Lauren was born, for some reason, I thought I had to keep an immaculate house. One day, when she was a toddler, I had a "light bulb" moment and thought ahead to when she would be an adult. What would she remember? would she remember a mom who was always cleaning the house? or would she remember a mom that played with her?? When she graduated from high school almost two weeks ago, I wrote this on our driveway:

Yes, I still like to play with sidewalk chalk! Even now, when Lauren asks me to draw something, "she'll say, anything but a flower!" Well, a flower is about all I can draw!  I think one of the best "gifts" you can give your kids is to play with them, even if it's just for a little bit each day. My dad coached me in soccer when I was younger and I still have very fond memories of those times.  I love this picture of the hubby with the older "kids." I think Lauren is "schooling" the two of them in the finer points of basketball!

Dominic just went to his first practice of his special needs baseball yesterday.

The hubby played baseball when he was younger (I actually found his old glove in the garage this morning) and it was cool watching him by third base yesterday "coaching" Dominic.  My hubby just had someone ask him the other day if he was "retired." Well, he could be, he'll be 70 when Dominic graduates from high school! Since Lauren just turned 18 a mere 48 hours ago, my hope is that the memories of her childhood will be of a mom that loved to play with her "kids!"

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Tissue" Moments

My definition of a "tissue" moment is when you get overcome with emotion, but not in a sad way, like when the hubby and I were married.

I guess since Dominic is in the final two weeks of elementary school, I was thinking the other day about one of the kids in Dominic's class. This little guy is not as verbal as Dominic and I can recall a handful of years back when I was in the classroom and Miss Laura, his teacher at the time, called me over.  Dominic's classmate recited the alphabet!  Just thinking of it now, as I'm writing this post, makes me very emotional. I will definitely remember May as being a month of "tissue" moments. When Dominic made his First Holy Communion on May 3, I was so proud of him.

I held it together when he did it, but when the last of the kids in his class made their First Holy Communion, I caught myself sniffling! A week ago today, Lauren graduated from high school. My stepson is so incredibly busy with his job right now, but he took a few days off and flew in to help her celebrate the big day!

Even with the big age differences between them, you can tell the "kids" adore each other.

Since I am the "queen" of prompting Dominic to do things, I felt a real tug in my heart, when shortly after my stepson got here, he went over and gave his big brother a hug unprompted! My stepson and I share an incredibly close bond with each other. I dug way back in my picture "archives" for this picture :)

He has a mom who has done a wonderful job of raising him, so I have tried really hard to never take her place. Since he and I weren't together for Mother's Day this year, he gave me a card when he visited. He wrote a message inside the card that said, "thank you for being such a wonderful step-mom." I gave him a big hug and told him I loved him :) I can't believe he is 30!  I felt so blessed this Mother's Day that's for sure!  Dominic made me this at school:

 Lauren made me this ten years ago, and I still love it:

Yesterday morning, Dominic was saying, "love you" to Lauren. She said, "who do you love?" He said back, "La-La!"  The day after tomorrow, the hubby, Lauren and I are getting a "tour" of the middle school Dominic will start attending in the Fall of 2014. Two days after that my baby girl  Lauren turns 18!!!!!!!!!!!

Do you think I'll need a case of tissues by the end of this week?!?!?!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Books, Books and More Books

If you went to any room in our house right now, you would probably find books. We are all big readers in our family.  I have loved to read from a young age and one of my favorite series of books to read were the ones by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I think I own pretty much the whole series.  With my stepson visiting us this weekend for Lauren's high school graduation, I found a book that he loved to read when he was little, "The Monster at the End of this Book."  Last night, I had my stepson on one side of me and Lauren on the other side. I read the two of them the book and they both remember this book from when they were younger. This morning, Dominic and I snuggled up on the couch and he and I read "The Monster at the End of this Book."

It is pretty cool that now Dominic can enjoy the book too.  Certain books to me are timeless, like the Dr. Seuss books and Curious George.  My favorite author for a long, long time has been Danielle Steel. Lauren likes to tells me, "her books are all basically the same." I like that though. To me, it brings me comfort, because I kind of know what to expect. My real life is very unpredictable.  My stepson owns a Kindle and Lauren has read books on an i-Pad. The hubby and I still prefer what he calls the "printed page."  Here are some books that belong to the five of us. Can anybody guess which book belongs to who???

One of the happiest days of my life was when Dominic got his own library card. He has kind of come "full circle" from throwing a book across the room to being able to check out his own books.  For several months, I have been bugging my local library to start having a special needs story time.  Back at the beginning of April, I got an e-mail from the "youth services specialist" for the library system. They have trained some employees to work with special needs children and hope to have a story time for the Fall of 2014!  I was super excited to get that e-mail. We have been going to our local library for just about as long as we have lived here. Lauren and I even got our picture in the local paper a LONG time ago!

We love our local library, I'm in there at least once a week :)  I can't wait to see what books they will pick for the story time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Will the "Mommy Wars" Ever End???

I recently read an article that was talking about the "Millennial" generation. These are moms between the ages of 18-34.  Even though I don't fall into that age category (I could easily be a mother to these women), I found the article fascinating.  The article quoted one mom as saying in regards to child rearing, "I don't know how mothers did this without their smartphones, I have an app for everything." Interesting. I don't have a smartphone, I have a TracFone! I don't even know how to download an app :) Does that make me a dinosaur or stubborn?  My mom has told me that when I was born in 1963, that she had me in one arm and Dr. Spock's parenting book in the other!   When I had Lauren in 1996, I had her in one arm and Dr. T. Berry Brazelton's book in the other! How many moms my age read any of his books??  I guess every generation has their own parenting "expert."  This article also talked about a report that surveyed over 2,000 "Millennial" moms. It showed a "predisposition towards alternative sources of information suggests that this might be the generation that ends the "mommy wars" the battle between the moms - to achieve the right way to mother." Is there a "right" way to mother?  Why are were still talking about the "mommy wars?"  I get so tired of hearing that moms "battle." I think it is so ridiculous. Why do we feel like we have to "compare" ourselves to other moms? It is certainly not up to me to judge another mom, because I wouldn't want another mom to judge me. Believe me, there is "comparing" even in the special needs world. I encountered it first hand a few years back.  I was telling another mom of a special needs child all the different things we were doing with Dominic.  Her response back was something like, "that's it? that's ALL you are doing?"  I was so flabbergasted I had to walk away from that mom!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What I have definitely learned if nothing else, from having a special needs child, is not all therapies work for every child.  You have to find what works for your child, you know your child the best.  Even if you don't have a special needs child, not every two children are the same, are they? Your parenting style that worked for one child, might not necessarily work for another child, your technique might need to be "adjusted" to fit your child's needs and personality.  Money was a good motivator for my stepson and Lauren, for Dominic it's not a motivator at all. I think all moms can learn from other moms no matter what the age. I am still learning things from my own mom, she showed me how to debone a chicken recently!  As I head towards being a stay-at-home mom for almost 18 years, I can only remember one mom that gave me a hard time about it and decided from the start she wouldn't like me based solely on the fact that I was a stay-at-home mom. Oh, well. I try very hard to support other moms and I find I get that support right back when I need it. I think it's time to put an end to the "mommy wars" once and for all, who's with me?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

An Incredible Memory

What we have always thought about Dominic and the way he processes information is that he hears everything, he just filters certain things out and then files other information away for use at a later time.  For many years, until my in-laws passed away, we would always travel to Cleveland for Easter. Dominic doesn't remember my father-in-law, because he was just a baby when he passed away.  He did, however, spend a lot of time with my mother-in-law.


Out of respect for my mother-in-law, we let her stay in Cleveland for one year after the passing of my father-in-law.

Then, we moved her to an assisted living facility near us where she lived for another four years or so.  We visited her several times in Cleveland and when she moved near us, we saw her just about every week. Those last few months before her passing were hard on all of us, but especially for the three grandkids.


The final two weeks of her life she was not able to communicate at all with us.  When we had her funeral, since my husband is an only child, we spent a lot of time at the funeral home.  Dominic didn't really understand the funeral mass, viewing, etc. and I struggled for a way to explain it to him at the time. We decided to tell him, "Grandma is in heaven." We told him what heaven was and he seemed to understand. The week after Easter of this year, Dominic told me out of the blue, "Grandma in heaven."  He said it a few mornings in a row, so I know it wasn't a one time thing. I even asked him to point to a picture of my mother-in-law that we have on our mantelpiece and he was able to point to her. I think he heard us talking about how we used to go to Cleveland for Easter or how we would have my mother-in-law visit us.  My husband hasn't been allowed to give Dominic a bath any more, because one time several years ago the hubby got a bunch of soap in his eyes. Dominic has never forgotten that incident and will literally have a full blown tantrum if my husband even attempts it.  A few weeks ago, after Dominic had his bath, when I was clipping his toenails, I cut one of them a little too short.  It didn't bleed or anything like that, it didn't even require a Band-Aid. Every time since then, after his bath, he's told me, "cut too short." If I ask him to show me which toe it was, he will!  Talk about mom guilt!! This past Saturday night, we ordered Dominic's favorite food, pizza!  Whenever we have pizza, he remembers about six months ago when he ate six pieces and had a bad stomachache.  He tells me, "ate too much pizza, (did something in his pants - I'll spare you the specifics), didn't like it!"  Even though I don't like that his tummy hurt, I do like the fact that he remembered when he ate too much it didn't make him feel good - lesson learned! 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Journey of Faith

At one time, having Dominic make his First Holy Communion was something that I could only dream about. On May the third, it became a reality. 

Every few months, since Dominic was three, the hubby would ask me, "so, when are we going to sign Dominic up for religious education classes?" I kept putting it off, because at the back of my mind, I knew that a class geared towards children with special needs would be a better "fit' for Dominic. I was able to put the hubby off until about the middle of 2012.  After talking with the director of religious education at our church, we registered Dominic for a class, so he could begin the process of making his First Holy Communion.  As the day of the first class loomed closer, my anxiety was off the charts.  I knew in my heart of hearts that Dominic really need to get started with classes, but I also knew that a class with more than five kids would be overwhelming for him. About a week before that class was to start, I received an e-mail about a special needs religious education class starting up in a neighboring parish. The Saturday before the class at our church was supposed to start, I got an e-mail from the amazing woman that would be Dominic's teacher. She told me the class would only have five kids and it would be two years of preparation and then they would make their First Holy Communion.  His first class was at the very end of September where all the children and parents got to know each other.  A lot of preparation went into getting all the children ready for their First Holy Communion.  Just putting together a nice outfit for Dominic to wear was a challenge in itself  :) My husband and another dad each did a reading and the mom to two little girls in the class did the prayer petitions. I loved that each family could contribute special prayers. Dominic and his classmates brought the gifts up to the altar. He was responsible for handing a special cloth to Father L. Since we hadn't practiced that with Dominic, he tossed it to Father L. and said, "here you go!" Father L. caught the cloth, said, "oh, thank you" and continued on without missing a beat!  Dominic was the first of his classmates to receive Communion and we went up with him. We were so proud of him, he knew exactly what to do:

After he was done, each child went up individually with their family members surrounding them.  It was an incredibly moving experience.  I'm sure Lauren and I weren't the only ones holding back tears.  Here is the hubby congratulating Dominic on a job well done!

Later, we had some delicious cupcakes that his teacher had made - they were really yummy!

So much credit goes to his teacher and her assistants. Mrs. W. is so loving, patient and kind.  She truly has a "gift" for teaching!

I recently joined a group called, "Our Lady of Grace Special Families Ministry." Many parents (including me) feel that it can be very overwhelming to take a child or adult with special challenges to a place of worship. A major thing on the agenda is having a once-a-month Mass for children and adults with special needs.  I feel that it can be done - I have faith!

My New "Relationship" with the Sun

Long gone are the days that I would sit on the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean for HOURS at a time with just baby oil on my skin for prote...