Friday, September 26, 2014

Could I Be Doing More?

Right around the time Dominic was diagnosed with Autism, I became friends with a gal who had a daughter with Autism. The more I got to know her, the more I realized she and I had very different ways of helping our children. While she was a very nice person, she was using what I considered a "controversial" therapy on her daughter. I won't go into specific details on what she was doing, but let's just say, it made me uncomfortable. Needless to say, we have lost touch with each other. When we decided to put Dominic on Ritalin after he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it was a really, really hard decision.  I had a lot of doubts about putting him on the medication, since he was not quite four years old. But, we saw such great results shortly after he started taking the Ritalin, that he still remains on it to this day.  I know that not all parents would agree with our decision to have a child on medication, but it is our choice. Sadly, even within the special needs "community" there are parents that feel the need to "judge" other parents on how they are raising their children. I have written before about my encounter with another special needs mom who challenged me after I told her what we were doing for Dominic at the time, by saying, "that's it? that's ALL you are doing for Dominic?" I was so stunned by her rudeness, that I had to walk away from her!  It would be wonderful if one therapy worked for every single child with Autism, wouldn't it? Unfortunately, that is not the case. What works for one child, might not work for another and that can make it extremely difficult to know what is the "best" therapy to try. Since Dominic is terrified of large animals, I know "hippotherapy," a therapy using horses wouldn't be a good "fit" for him. I try really, really hard to not pass judgment on what treatments other parents use for their special needs children, because I wouldn't want someone to pass judgment on me.  From time-to-time, I think of my friend who has the daughter with Autism.  Her daughter was talking, reading and potty trained well before Dominic. I think sometimes, what if I used the same therapy my friend used on her daughter for Dominic? would he be further along than he is? could I be doing more for him than I'm doing? I guess I could spend all day feeling "guilty" for not trying a certain therapy, but that would be counter productive, wouldn't it? I focus my efforts instead on what we ARE doing for him each day. I love what Dominic's private speech therapist told me at the end of his session last week. She said, "I have high expectations for Dominic." We do too.  He has already surpassed many "hurdles" since his diagnosis of Autism and I know that there will be challenges ahead on this special needs "road." I know in my heart, that when I put my head down on my pillow to go to sleep each night, I have done the best that I can for Dominic and that is enough.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Grocery "Game"

How do you approach grocery shopping? as a chore? or as a "game?"  I like to think of it as a "game," where I am trying to see how much money I can save!! Both the hubby and I grew up with mothers who clipped coupons, so he and I share the same coupon "philosophy." He is in charge of purchasing paper products, like toilet paper and paper towels and also toiletries like razors and toothpaste from Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid (he is enrolled in the "loyalty" programs at those three stores). He also likes the Meijer and since we get almost all of our prescriptions filled there, we get pharmacy "rewards." I take four medications just for my heart, so it doesn't take long to reap the benefits! The hubby and I both loaded digital coupons in the past week worth $10.00 off your grocery bill! My favorite grocery store to shop is the Kroger. I go there once a week and I always try to go to my favorite cashier. We're like old buddies now. She's a woman of few words, but she is super duper efficient getting me in and out quickly!  I spend just one hour a week looking through our accordion file of coupons (which can fit into my purse) and at the digital coupons. The sale around here starts on Wednesday and since another Kroger in the area was being remodeled, they were having some great sales today!  I got ground meat for $1.99 a pound. I don't know about where you live, but around here, ground beef or chuck has been pretty expensive!  I go in with a list written on a piece of paper and next to the item I want to get, I put either PC (for paper coupon) or DC (for digital coupon). If I had a Smartphone, I could probably be even more efficient, but I guess I'm just a paper and pencil kind of gal. Even though Lauren is now in college, she is on the two meal a day plan. She eats breakfast in her dorm room, so when I see a good deal on granola bars or other breakfast type foods, I've been stocking up. Halloween is still several weeks away, but there was an awesome special on Halloween candy AND I had a coupon, so I bought three bags! I try not to be too "rigid" with my list, because you never know when you might see a good "closeout" deal! You know those "catalina" coupons that shoot out of the register at the end, when you're paying? Don't toss them! I used one today for $1.50 off of a pricey breakfast cereal. Today, I think I saved the most money I can remember saving- $64.02!  That was 42% of my total bill. I took a look at the bottom of my receipt just now and it says I saved $1,283.19 so far this year with my Kroger card. Cool! When I go there, I regularly save between $15.00-$30.00 between my paper and digital coupons.  I think I'm getting pretty good at this "game," don't you think?!?! Maybe I should audition for that show called, "Extreme Couponing!"

Friday, September 12, 2014

"Functional" Skills

The other morning for breakfast, Dominic decided he wanted a banana. As he pulled one off the bunch, he handed it to me because he wanted me to peel it for him. I told him to do it and he looked blankly at me. I had never taught him how to peel a banana!! Well, I quickly rectified that!! When the hubby went to the "Curriculum Night" earlier this week for Dominic, he came back and told me that his new teacher said she was going to spend some time on having the kids learn "functional" skills. The kids in his class already have a bit of a head start with that, because Mr. Paul, his old teacher, taught them how to wash dishes, water plants, and rake leaves, among other skills.  Before Lauren left for college, she gave Dominic "lessons" in setting the table.  One thing I realized I hadn't taught Dominic to do, was when he is finished eating, he needs to tell the hubby or I, "may I be excused, please?" Lauren asked that question all the way up until she turned 18!  It's taking a bit of practice, but he is asking at least 50% of the time now. My goal by the end of September is for him to be doing it 100%! This past Tuesday night, I made a meatloaf and usually I have taken a slice and cut it up into bite-sized pieces for him. This time, I gave him a knife and fork and showed him what to do. He started crying, not because of frustration, but because I kept correcting him. He wanted to do it completely by himself, with NO help from me! An important area that Dominic has thrived in has been working along side me in the kitchen. Wednesday morning, before he got on the bus, I told him to think about what kind of cookie he wanted to make when he got home from school. The options for cookies were: peanut butter and chocolate, chocolate and oatmeal or sugar. The minute Dominic walked in our front door after school Wednesday afternoon, before I could even open my mouth to ask him about his cookie "selection," he said, "sugar cookies!" In eight years, Dominic will be an adult.  I am realistic and know that he may always be living with us.  I recently heard about a bakery down in Georgia called Special Kneads and Treats that employs special needs adults (one of them being the owner's son). Children with special needs become adults with special needs and many will want to have a job. Just in the seven and half years since Dominic was diagnosed with Autism, he has made so much progress. He has made his First Holy Communion and goes to church with us, has been potty trained and learned how to read. These were three major things that at one time, I never thought possible. My dream would be to one day open a bakery here in the Midwest and employ special needs adults. I've already been in touch with a local cooking school and I'm hoping to work with the owner in getting cooking classes for special needs children and adults. With the right amount of guidance, love and patience I know it can be done! The "graduates" would be my future employees. Good idea, huh?  Given that Dominic is a great-great grandson of a baker, it's in his "genetic makeup." I think it would be awesome to have my boy working in a bakery. Who could resist buying a cookie "with a few sprinkles" from him?!?!?


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Baking "Therapy"

I love to cook, but I have to admit, baking is my passion. My great-grandfather worked in a bakery in Missouri, so it most definitely is in my "genes." He passed away a few months after I was born, but I would have loved to have been able to bake along side him! The past six weeks has certainly seen it's fair share of changes and challenges - Lauren leaving for college, Dominic starting middle school and my mom being diagnosed with a serious health issue at the beginning of August. I am very close to my mom and she is currently in the hospital. Being 600 miles away from her has been really, really difficult for me. For as long as I can remember, I have turned to baking as my "therapy." The hubby and I have known each other almost 24 years and when I start churning out baked goods at a rapid pace, he knows something is up! This past Friday night, Dominic and I made some of his favorite brownie "cake" with my homemade buttercream frosting. Yesterday, we made some biscuits!


I have spent the past couple of weeks looking through my old cookbooks for a "unique" dessert. In my Town Crier DeLuxe Recipe Book, I found a cookie recipe for fudge four o'clocks. This particular cookbook says on the inside, "A Practical Economical Gift - To Young Brides, Home Economics Students, and Homemakers." Is home economics even offered in schools anymore? I remember taking a home economics class and we did sewing and baked cookies. Guess who brought a recipe to school? Yep, me! Anyways, I don't have to ever worry that I bake too much. When my counter starts overflowing with my baked items, I just send them to work with the hubby. He always comes back with an empty container! Dominic ate the last biscuit this morning for breakfast.


Good grief, those biscuits lasted less than 24 hours!!  Hmm, I'm thinking I might have to make those fudge four o'clocks this afternoon. Stay tuned, you might be seeing that recipe on my food blog soon!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mom "Meltdowns"

This past Wednesday, while I was waiting for Dominic to get done with his first music therapy session with his new therapist, I watched a mom come in with her son with Down Syndrome. He looked like he was about Dominic's age and when he looked at me, I said, "hi, buddy!"  He didn't answer back, but that was okay. I watched the mom take her son around the corner, I'm guessing to a class, but they came back within a minute and sat down nearby.  A few minutes after that, a boy, who I'm assuming was his brother came over (it looked like he just had a cello lesson). The little guy with Down Syndrome started running around and then hopped on and off the elevator. The more the little guy ran around, the more the mom was getting stressed (I probably would have been too)! As they headed towards where I was sitting, the little guy with Down Syndrome deliberately pushed his brother's cello to the floor. The mom opened up the case and discovered a crack on the cello. She then said, "I don't even know what to say" to the little guy and then went up on the elevator, leaving the two boys downstairs by themselves. After a minute or two, the mom came back down, walked over to the bench where I was sitting and then had a complete "meltdown." She started crying softly and then it progressed to full blown sobbing - like for about ten minutes. I was thinking about trying to talk to this mom, but then a couple of other moms came over and tried to comfort her.  A mom came over and said, "you look like you need a hug," so she hugged her. All the while I was sitting there, not quite sure what I should be doing. When the crying mom stopped sobbing for a bit, she said, "it's been a hard week, we shouldn't have tried to push it by bringing him here." Other moms were saying, "we've all been there." This mom eventually stopped crying and left with her two boys. I wonder if she'll try to take her little guy to the music class again. I'm guessing she won't even try.  I can remember back to when Dominic was first diagnosed with Autism and I tried to take him to a class at a nature center. It was totally not geared to children with special needs and I remember getting so frustrated and upset that I left in the middle of the class, walked to the car and then cried my eyes out. I've thought about how that mom reacted to what her little guy did to the cello a few times since the incident occurred and I know I would have handled it differently. If Dominic had done that, I would have grabbed him and taken him immediately to the car and then discussed the matter privately. How many of us have seen a mom yelling at their kid in a store? It makes you wonder what lead up to that "meltdown," doesn't it?!? That's what was interesting about this mom at the music school, she never once raised her voice and/or yelled at her son. Since getting Dominic toilet trained about 1 1/2 years ago, I thought we never ever would have to worry about him having "accidents." Well, that was wishful thinking! Today, so far, he has had three accidents. I used to have "meltdowns" about it, but the only thing that achieved was getting Dominic upset. I decided the better approach was to not get all wound up about it, but instead say calmly, "that's okay, let's just try next time to not have an accident." He only has accidents at home, not really anywhere else. It's not like I can ask Dominic why that it is, he wouldn't be able to answer me. The way I look at it is, there were many, many times when I NEVER thought he would ever be trained, so if he has an accident once in awhile, it's not a big deal!!