Sunday, August 31, 2014


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


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.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The World Through Dominic's "Eyes"

We recently went to visit a family friend (Uncle M.) at his apartment.  This particular friend became blind as a baby and wears sunglasses and uses a walking cane. In the over 20+ years I have known him, I don't remember him ever once complaining about it or feeling sorry for himself. In fact, he is one of the most independent men I have ever met!  He is the sweetest man ever and the hubby and I think of him as a brother and the "kids" think of him as an uncle. Uncle M. has owned his own place for over 20 years, has a full-time job in Washington, DC (he takes the subway), has tons of friends, a girlfriend and can play the drums (he played at our wedding). Anyways, Dominic made himself at home and started running around in the apartment. We were telling him to stop, but it wasn't until Uncle M. told him, "be careful buddy!" that he actually did. Since we were visiting around dinner time, we were debating whether to go out or order carry-out. We opted to go out for dinner at a favorite pizza place nearby. Dominic and Uncle M. sat next to each other at the table and I was sitting across from them. I was a little concerned, because Lauren and/or I usually sit right next to Dominic, to make him feel comfortable and to kind of keep him "in line." We really didn't need to be concerned or worried. Throughout the meal, Dominic snuggled up next to Uncle M. multiple times. They both were definitely enjoying the yummy pizza. When we went back to drop off Uncle M. at his apartment, since it was late, we decided to say our good-byes in the parking lot. When Dominic gathered us all in for a "group hug" and started singing, "I love you, you love me" from Barney, I felt like I needed a tissue.  Uncle M. doesn't "see" Dominic as a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and Dominic doesn't "see" Uncle M. as a man that is blind. I think often about what it must be like to see the world through Dominic's "eyes."  I know one thing, Dominic can immediately pick up on how comfortable someone is around him. I'm guessing Uncle M. can too.  I wonder how many people have judged him, solely based on the fact that he is blind. I thought it was super duper awesome when we went to the restaurant to eat pizza, not one person stared at him (or Dominic).  Sadly, though, many in our society "see" the special needs first and then the person. Wouldn't it be awesome if it was the other way around?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Experimenting with New Recipes

Since I do about 95% of the cooking and 100% of the baking around my house, it is sometimes easy to get stuck in a "rut" and make the same things over and over again. I used to be of the mind that you to had follow a recipe EXACTLY as directed.  Since starting my food blog over 2 1/2 years ago, I have definitely become more adventurous and will "experiment" with new recipes, substituting ingredients or sometimes leaving out a certain ingredient entirely. I make tacos fairly frequently, but if you can believe it, up until a few months ago, I had never made fajitas! They are so easy to make, especially if you use a seasoning packet. Anyways, since I was planning on making steak fajitas for dinner last night, I decided that I wanted to try and make my own salsa to have as an appetizer. I pulled out our blender, chopped up some red peppers I had in our fridge and then went to the pantry and grabbed a can of both black beans and stewed tomatoes. Next, it was on to adding the spices. It took me about seven tries and Lauren's assistance to get just the right "mix." I didn't want it to be super mild, but I also didn't want to have steam coming out of my ears either! After letting it chill for an hour, it was ready to serve. When we were eating this before we had the fajitas, Lauren said she liked the homemade salsa, because it sticks to the chip and doesn't drip!!  Salsa is a bit like chili, because you can turn up the "heat" if you want. Feel free to add a few drops of your favorite hot sauce to this salsa if you would like to "experiment!"


14.5 ounce can sliced and stewed tomatoes, undrained
15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup red pepper, membrane and seeds removed, chopped
1/2 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

Put all ingredients into a blender and turn on high for 20-30 seconds (less if you want a chunkier salsa). Pour into a container or medium bowl and cover. Refrigerate for one hour. Serve with tortilla chips.  Makes three cups.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The "Art" of Apologizing

After getting back from a nine-day vacation this past Sunday evening, I knew that when I heard Dominic still talking at 12:30 a.m. yesterday morning, it would be really hard to wake him up for summer school. Sure enough, it was. When he finally came downstairs at about 7:15 a.m., he went straight to the front of the fridge where he keeps his magnetic letters. For the past several weeks, as soon as he wakes up, he will put the current month and day on the fridge. He put up the date and it said Tuesday, August 15th. I told him that it was the 5th of August and he started crying and yelling at me for probably about ten full minutes. I didn't say anything to him, because I didn't want to acknowledge how he was acting towards me. I kept right on making his lunch since his bus comes about 7:45-7:50 a.m. After about five minutes, he looked at me and said, "Sorry, mom."  I liked that he "owned up" to how he treated me and I accepted his apology. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word "apology" means, "a statement saying that you are sorry about something - an expression of regret for having done or said something wrong." Children need to be taught why they are saying the word, "sorry," so hopefully they won't do what they did again!! It's like when your child grabs a toy from another child, without asking.  You need to immediately step in and say, "you shouldn't have taken that toy from her/him, tell her/him you are sorry and please give it back." If you don't tell your child that type of behavior is unacceptable, then they will think it is acceptable. Saying you're sorry and actually meaning it can sometimes be difficult for children (and adults). We are continually working with Dominic on the "art" of apologizing. It is an important life skill that even for adults is still a "work in progress." For a large portion of my teenage years, there were some girls that loved to bully me. One group in particular seemed to enjoy making me cry.  Over the course of the past 30+ years, I wonder sometimes why they felt the need to bully me.  If any of those girls came to me now and were sincerely apologetic, I would forgive them.  What I have noticed as I go through life, is that when someone has hurt you in some way, unless you tell that person, they might not even realize that you are upset. At the ripe old age of 51, I am coming to the conclusion that I am much happier if I "clear the air," rather than keep it inside. Since I tend to internalize my feelings, that is something that I continue to strive for!

Welcome to "Holland"

Have you ever heard of the "Welcome to Holland" story? I had heard of it, but never read it until about a week ago. It is wr...