Wednesday, July 30, 2014

So Much Work Still to Do

I belong to a handful of Facebook pages that have to do with special needs.  Last week, a post popped up from the group, "Spread the Word to End the Word." The group's main aim is to "eliminate the demeaning use of the word "retarded." Evidently, a company who sells merchandise through were selling t-shirts with the phrase, "You're Retarded" on it. The group was asking that we contact the company and ask them to stop selling the shirt.  With no hesitation at all, I took a few minutes to send an e-mail to the company saying,

"I have a son with Autism, and the shirt you are selling with the saying, "You're Retarded" is extremely disrespectful to my son and to all other children and adults with special needs. It would be great if you wouldn't sell those type of shirts! Thanks so much :)"

Imagine my surprise, that within five minutes, I received this e-mail in response:

"Hello and thank you for your message. We apologize for the offensive item that was being offered and have since removed the listing. We appreciate your caring, effort, and understanding."

I'm glad the company decided to remove that shirt from their website, but unfortunately, there are many more companies out there that sell shirts with that saying (and much worse) on them. There is so much work still to do on educating others about how the word "retarded" can be used in an offensive and derogatory way.  I actually found a test you can take on-line called, "The Retard Test."  I literally felt sick to my stomach when I read the questions and answers. I couldn't believe it. It was so incredibly demeaning and rude. This past Sunday, we were visiting a church out of town. There was a young man that came in late with his dad, who were getting ready to sit down in the pew in front of us. He stopped right in front of Lauren and starting shaking her hand. He probably shook her hand for at least 20 seconds until his dad told him to stop. Lauren looked over at me and smiled. Both Lauren and Dominic's older brother have such a keen insight into the "world" of special needs because of Dominic.

They both love and adore him and I know they would do anything in the world for him. Wouldn't it be awesome if one day our society reached a point where we were not so judgmental based on how a person looks or acts? You truly don't know what is going on in someone else's life unless you walk a day in their shoes.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

College "Countdown"

Three weeks from tomorrow, Lauren will be moving into her dorm. She has signed up for her first year of classes, has had an orientation and met her roommate. She is extremely organized and has made a "master" list of what she needs and every time I get a coupon in the mail or on-line, we go and get it. On our last two trips to Kohl's, we saved more than we spent. I think even the salesclerk was impressed :) I have been asked how I feel about my middle "baby" bird leaving our comfy "nest." I am so blessed that Lauren and I have an awesome relationship and I know that I will miss her a lot.

I am also realistic and know that for her to keep growing and maturing, I have to let her go. The other day, her cell phone received a text. I said, "aren't you going to see who that is?" Lauren said, "you told me I couldn't text at the dinner table!" It's definitely a learning experience when you have an adult child living in the house. I lived with my parents until my late 20's. I did pay rent and was expected to help with the meals and let them know what I was doing. I didn't really have a "curfew" but still did have to respect that I was living under their roof. Lauren at one time wanted to go to college in California.  As she went through high school, she narrowed down her "search" to the Midwest area. She ultimately picked a college in-state. It is a little less than two hours from our house, so it will be easy to make the trip there and back in one day. Lauren put a "countdown" app on her phone, so she can see with a touch on the screen how many days, hours, minutes and seconds she has to go.  It is very cool to see her anticipation grow as the day gets closer. Lauren leaving for college is going to be particularly difficult on Dominic.

Since he is so visual, telling him that she will be going to college will not make a lot of sense to him. I am so glad that his new speech therapist has made it a top priority to teach Dominic how to express his feelings better through "social stories" and a "feeling" journal.  I know that all of us will be experiencing many different emotions, but I can take comfort in the fact that we have prepared our middle baby "bird" well for this next phase of her life.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Memory Lane

Earlier this week, Lauren and I were in our local World Market store and I was looking around the candy section, when I came across this sign that said "Nostalgia Treats."

According to, nostalgia means, "sentimental or wistful yearning for the happiness felt in a former place, time or situation." I took a glance around at the candy and told Lauren, "this is candy from my childhood!" I bought some candy "buttons" and Lauren and I each ate a strip.

When I graduated from high school in 1981, I lost touch with pretty much every single one of my childhood friends. I truly didn't think that I would ever see or talk to them ever again. Well, thanks to social media, I was able to put together a "mini-reunion" of sorts at my parents house last year when the hubby, the kids and I were in town.  A handful of my old friends showed up and it was an awesome afternoon, catching up!!

This past Tuesday, I accompanied Lauren to a clothing store called, Forever 21.  She was looking for some new "college" clothes. As I looked around, I knew within about one minute that I was a little too old for the styles in there. I told Lauren, "I wish this store was called, Forever 51!"  Imagine my surprise though, when hanging on a rack were bodysuits!  I so remember wearing those. Lauren said, "oh, that's a onesie!"  I explained to her the advantages of a bodysuit aka "onesie," like not having to worry about your shirt ever getting untucked, but she didn't end up getting one. Since the hubby and I didn't meet until I was 27, whenever I start talking about the past (before he came into it),  he'll say, "are you taking a little trip down memory lane?" I think it's perfectly fine from time-to-time to remember back to when things were simpler and sometimes much easier. Who out there remembers those candy cigarettes? I used to think I was so cool pretending to smoke!  I have been having a craving lately for Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets (I used to eat those a lot as a "treat" after church). I e-mailed the company and asked them if they carry them in the stores where I live. They wrote me back this afternoon and said that they didn't!  Oh well, the next time I'm back in Maryland, I think I'm going to stock up, so anytime I want to take a little trip down memory lane, I'll be all set!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Steady Progress

Last week, I gave Dominic a word search of the United States to work on.  He knows about 30-35 of the capitals, so when I asked him what the capital of Missouri was and he didn't know, he went into his pile of puzzles (on his own), fished a puzzle of the United States out and said, "Jefferson City!"  This may not sound like a big deal, but I was so excited.  Dominic didn't ask me to give him the answer, but rather found the answer himself!  With Lauren heading to college in about a month, she has been "training" Dominic to take over her dinner "duties." She has set the table and helped me get the plates to the dinner table for as far back as I can remember. When we used to serve Dominic first, he would start digging in and be almost done by the time I sat down to eat.  Since he started helping me about a month ago, he takes his plate to the dinner table last. We are still teaching him how to keep the plate level, because last week when we had spaghetti, some of it almost landed on the kitchen floor. Well, spaghetti noodles are a bit slippery! A few days ago, Dominic brought over his toy telephone and said, "looks like a Wheel of Fortune."

He was pretending that the dial was the spinning wheel, like on the show, Wheel of Fortune (which he watches pretty much every night).  It was pretty awesome that he did this, because this type of "pretend" play has been and continues to be challenging for him.  Since Dominic made his First Holy Communion at the beginning of May, we have worked with him on how to behave inside the church. Each week, we see slow, but steady progress. This past Saturday afternoon, about a 1/2 hour or so before we left to go to Mass, I saw Dominic go into my purse, pull out his "Mass Book" and then sit down and review the prayers before we left.

He did AMAZING at Mass and we continue to be so proud of him. This evening, Dominic and I met with a new speech therapist. She comes extremely highly recommended and I can see why - she was great! She is going to start the first week in August giving him private speech therapy with the hopes of integrating him eventually into one of her "social skills" groups. I am super duper excited about this opportunity for Dominic! Stay tuned for updates :) 

Sunday, July 13, 2014


I had a boss from a former job one time tell me, "Cathy, you are too sensitive!" I can recall being more than a little taken aback. Both Lauren and Dominic have inherited the "sensitivity" gene from me, that's for sure. When Lauren was younger and I got upset with her, I would raise my voice just a little to get my point across. I guess to her it sounded like I was "barking" at her. She would say, "get rid of those barks!" One day last week,  Dominic was doing something that I didn't want him to do, I gave him a few warnings and he still didn't stop. He instead was laughing at me, so I "barked" at him!  His face went from laughing to his bottom lip quivering and his eyes welling up with tears within about five seconds. The next day, I said something like, 'was mommy happy or mad at you last night?"  He said, "mad." Yep, I think he got the message.  I try not to trot out my "barks" unless I have a good reason to. Last night we were watching television and a local commercial came on. There is something about the music that plays in the background that really seems to bother him. He was on the verge of tears by the time the commercial was over. He then said to us, "commercial makes you sad." He still is having issues with the pronouns, so I think he was trying to tell us the commercial was making HIM sad.  Poor guy, we were all trying to comfort him and he did eventually calm down.  Many children with Autism have a really hard time communicating their feelings to others, so this was HUGE for Dominic to be able to verbalize how he felt.   From time to time Dominic will pull out Lauren's old dolls and play with them. He'll sometimes pretend to give a doll a bottle.

He'll even put a few dollies down on the floor with a blanket, so they can all take a "nap." We like to tell him he is being a "good poppa." If Dominic sees Lauren or I getting upset or even cry, he will come over and try to comfort us. I asked him this afternoon about an incident that happened back in April when he accidentally slammed my hand in the car door. I said to him, "do you remember when that happened?" He looked at me solemnly and said, "hurt, cry, sad."  If we are somewhere and he hears a baby cry, he will say, "baby is sad." I think it is very cool that he is so sensitive to others feelings, since lacking empathy is such a common characteristic of children with Autism. When I was a teenager, I worked a couple summers as a Red Cross volunteer in a nursing home because I thought at the time I might want to be a nurse.  At the end of my second and final summer before I started college, I told some of the residents that I was leaving and probably wouldn't ever see them again. They were crying and I was crying! I came to the conclusion that I am way too sensitive (and emotional) to ever be a nurse! I have a handful of friends who are nurses and I totally 100% admire them for what they do, because I know I couldn't do it :)  I'm so glad I didn't change way back when my old boss told me that I was too "sensitive." I like myself just the way I am!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Autism and "Stimming"

How many of you out there have ever heard of the word, "stim?" I never had, until Dominic was diagnosed with Autism. Stimming is another word for "self-stimulating" behavior. Two examples of that type of behavior are head banging and spinning around in circles.  Dominic did some head banging when he was a lot littler, but thankfully, it didn't last too long. If you sometimes see a little girl or boy who has Autism wearing a helmet, they most likely are a head banger. Believe me, it's for their own protection. Dominic also likes to turn around in circles and telling him he'll get dizzy is useless. He rarely does that now. There is also verbal "stimming" which is also known as "scripting."  That is the repetition of sentences or phrases. It can be a sentence or phrase heard from a teacher, parent, sibling, friend or possibly even the television or a movie. It could have been something heard yesterday or five years ago.  This is definitely the most frequent "stimming" behavior we observe in Dominic. He will resort to this particular behavior when he is overstimulated or understimulated.   An awesome DVD that my little sister recommended to me at least five years ago is called Baby Babble. I would highly recommend it, even if your child doesn't have speech delays or special needs. Here is the link to the website: . Anyways, Dominic watched the Baby Babble DVD so much when he was younger, that he memorized several parts of it. What's good about his scripting now, is that when I ask him what show or movie he is talking about, he can tell me.  The other day, he was saying something like, "speech and language development, your child should begin to babble."  When I asked where he had heard that phrase, he said, "Baby Babble!"  For the past week, he has been saying, "another one, I told your little friend I wouldn't pay for that!" I recognize that phrase as coming from an episode of Spongebob.  Dominic's last day of elementary school was great, but it certainly wasn't his usual routine. After waiting through a long assembly to receive his certificate, he then hopped onto my lap.

We next went down to his classroom and then told him that he would ride the bus home. Since it was the last day of school, he had a half-day, so he was home about four or so hours earlier than normal. After he had some lunch, he didn't know quite what do with himself.  For most of the afternoon and into the early evening, he resorted back to his "scripting." It's okay for a while, but if Dominic starts traveling a little too far down that "road" we say, "stop the movie!" That usually snaps him out of it. It's a phrase that his former social worker, Miss Celeste, told us to use many years ago. It still works too!! We really miss her, she was awesome!! I still keep in touch with her and plan to for a very long time - we love her! Once in a great while, he will be so into his "movie" that he will act like he can't hear us and he will go all the way to the end of his "script" before he will acknowledge us.  Dominic does scripting on and off throughout the day and we are so used to it, that we barely notice it anymore. We have come to accept that it is just what makes Dominic who he is - an integral part of our family!!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Family Pictures

Whenever my stepson comes to visit us, we always try and get some family pictures.  It usually becomes the picture that we put in our Christmas cards.  We put Lauren's camera on a tripod, set the timer and hope for the best! We have taken pictures inside.

We have taken pictures outside.

We have had to do it this way since Dominic was a baby because he will only sit still for 5-10 seconds and then he takes off running, screaming, crying or a combination of all three.  How many of you can remember back to when you had to take a roll of film out of a camera and then mail it away somewhere? I sure can! It seemed like it took FOREVER to get the pictures back. My mom was really good about taking pictures and putting them into albums. I love showing Lauren those old photo albums when we go back to visit my parents. It's like taking a trip down memory lane!  When we cleaned out my in-law's house in Cleveland, I made sure that I took every single picture I could find - they were everywhere!  It filled up about four large plastic containers. Unfortunately, many of the pictures didn't have names or dates on the backs. Since the hubby is an only child and both of his parents are now gone, we have no idea who a lot of the people are in the pictures.  I do however, know who every person in this family picture is.

My father-in-law is on the far right, next to his dad whose name was Dominic. Yep, that's who our Dominic is named after! Here is a picture of my dad's parents when they were married. I was lucky to have them both around for a long time!

I love when I go to visit my "Auntie." She has an entire wall in her kitchen covered with pictures. It is so awesome! I knew the last time we visited her a few months ago, I had to get a picture of Dominic sitting on her lap. The way he has been growing lately, I don't know how much longer he'll be able to fit!!

I have gone from not even knowing how to use a digital camera, to always having it on the kitchen counter or my desk! Life in this family is never dull and I always like to be ready for that next photo opportunity, like the other day when Dominic told me he had "cleaned" up his stuffed animals!!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Taking a Little "Break"

When we signed Dominic up for baseball through a special needs sports league, we had high hopes that it would be a good "fit."


Well, he did fine the first game, but the second game he cried through most it.  I mostly attributed it to him having been up since 4:30 a.m. that morning and having seen a few gnats and mosquitoes (he is terrified of any kind of "bug").  The week prior to the third game, he kept telling me, "take a little break from baseball" at least once a day. Think he was trying to tell me something?!?!?!  I told him before we drove to the field, that we would try it one more time and if he really wasn't enjoying himself, he didn't have to go anymore.  Shortly after we got to the field, he saw a mosquito.  Well, that was it.  He walked off the field and started crying. We encouraged him to take his turn at bat and in the field. Lauren even went out to the field with him and so did his "buddy" (who was extremely patient with him). After an inning and a half, he really wanted to leave, so we did.  It was kind of disappointing, but the hubby, Lauren and I agreed that we really needed to go. He was having absolutely no fun and we didn't want him to ruin it for the rest of the players.  After discussing it with Dominic, we decided that he did indeed need a little "break" from baseball, so I e-mailed the coach and let her knew what was going on. Oh, well, maybe it's time to try an INSIDE sport, like floor hockey or basketball :) This past Sunday, we got some free tickets to the local zoo, so we decided to give that a try.

He did fine for a little while, but then he saw some type of "bug" and took off ahead of us (walking really fast), saying he wanted to go home.  It wouldn't have been that big of a deal, but he had both hands over his ears and wasn't listening to us! I was afraid he might run into the street or knock somebody down. That night, when I was helping him take a bath, I asked him why he didn't like the zoo.  He said, "I don't like bugs." Well, glad that's cleared up! Getting Dominic potty trained has definitely been a really long (and continuing)  process.  For the two weeks prior to the end of the school year, Dominic started having accidents at home. He would be fine out and about, but at home he wasn't getting to the bathroom in time. He was having an average of three accidents a day. When I tried asking him why he didn't want to go to the potty at home, he kept saying, "take a break." Lauren and I asked him what he wanted to take a break from. Dominic responded back, "the potty!"  I attempted to explain to Dominic that using the potty was something he was going to have to do for the rest of his life.  He put a hand over one of his ears and started humming. That's what he does when I'm telling him something he doesn't want to hear.  I decided a different approach was to not make a big deal about it and just keep giving him positive encouragement. Yesterday, Lauren and I were slapping him high-fives and making a HUGE deal out of the fact that he stayed dry all day!!! That seemed to work, he didn't really have any accidents!  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Dominic taking a little "break" from being fully potty trained at home doesn't last too long. Wish us luck!!

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...