Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why Having Friendships Are So Important

When I moved to this area over 13 years ago, I knew absolutely nobody. I remember going to PTO meetings at Lauren's school and literally saying, "hi, I just moved here!" Think back to high school - wasn't it REALLY important to have friends? Well, in my opinion, as we get older, I think having friends are even MORE important.  So, what does it take to make and keep friends? Honesty and loyalty are my two top criteria. I want a friend that always has my "back." They are always looking out for your best interests, will tell you if you have spinach in your two front teeth and will never hesitate to think you are an amazing baker!!

My husband's name for me is "Honest Abe," yes, like Abraham Lincoln. I can not tell a lie, that's why I don't play poker!  A good friend will always be loyal to you 100% of the time, not just sometimes or when it suits them, but ALL the time. To keep friends, we need to offer support and keep an interest in what the person has going on. If we always talked about ourselves, wouldn't that be a bit of a one-sided friendship?!?!? One thing that I recently discovered. Even if you haven't talked to a friend in a while (like several years), many times you are able to pick right up where you left off. It has been so cool to "reconnect" from my friends from my childhood. We now talk about getting older, our kids and our aging parents.  How about when a friendship "breaks up?" That happened to me a few years back and it was truly devastating. It took me months to get over it.  I finally moved on, but I no longer have a friendship at all with this particular person. It's probably better that way! When you find a good friend, consider yourself truly blessed.  I love meeting new people and am continually forming new friendships!  Can one ever have enough friends? In my opinion, no!

Friday, March 27, 2015

This Is Why I Will Never Stop Advocating

This morning, I saw a video that an Autism mom had posted on Facebook. After I watched it, I had two emotions - sad and mad. This particular mom had listened to a famous comedian on the radio who decided that it would be hilarious to make a special needs person part of his jokes. It's taken me a few hours to settle down enough to write this post. First of all, it is NEVER acceptable to make fun of special needs children or adults. Those children and adults have families and when you crack jokes, it hurts those families.  I felt physically sick this morning after hearing what this comedian had said. Second, there are many, many non-verbal children and adults out there. Back when Dominic had less language, he would sometimes say, "oh, oh," because he was trying to talk. I had someone ask me once in a sarcastic and negative tone of voice, "what does oh, oh, mean?!?!?!?!" After about 15 seconds of composing myself, I calmly looked this gentleman square in the eyes and said, "he has some speech delays." Third, this comedian's jokes were taking place in a church.  For those of us who take our special needs children and adults to a place of worship, we should be welcomed with open arms, not with disdain. I recently became the project director of a special needs ministry where I live. It will be one of my primary "jobs" to change the way we "see" others with disabilities. I want to become a "voice" for the "voiceless." I know that I am lucky, because our church has always embraced us, but there are many other families with special needs children and adults that have not been as fortunate. I plan to advocate not just for our family, but for ALL families out there, regardless of their religion. Fourth, there are still misconceptions of those with disabilities that need to be changed. I had someone who I am extremely close to, just this week ask me, "can Autistic children learn how to read?"  Dominic is in the fifth grade, but probably reads on about the third grade level. He has gone from throwing a book across the room, to asking me every night to read him a story. When I found out my local library didn't have a "storytime" for children with sensory issues or special needs, I wrote several e-mails to the person in charge of the programs, over the course of a few years, just to keep the idea out there. I am happy to say that there is now a "Sensory Storytime" program being offered. It has definitely been a "struggle" to "educate" this particular person on what children with Autism can do.

 Dominic can put together puzzles with over 500 pieces.

He can tie his shoes.

Lastly, it so incredibly disrespectful that some comedians feel its perfectly "acceptable" to make those with disabilities the "punch lines" of their jokes. Up until this morning, I was a fan of this particular comedian. Not anymore.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Well Wishes

When I was growing up, there was a couple that lived right next door to us, MaryAnn and Harold. We were not related by "blood," but by "love." This is a picture from my 18th birthday and MaryAnn and Harold are standing behind me. My little sister is to the right of me :)

The "door" to their house was always "open," and she loved to bake!!  It was a sad day when they moved to Iowa, but I did manage to visit a few times!  A few months back, I found part of a card that had a message from MaryAnn. It was from the Christmas of 1995. She had wrote a note on part of the card. I guess I'm a bit of an "antique," because even though I communicate by e-mail a lot, I still think handwritten notes are pretty cool :) That must have been why I saved this particular one!

She was telling us that she, "hoped it was one of the very best and wished she could be with us to help celebrate." MaryAnn and her husband had a very long and loving marriage. When MaryAnn was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she fought the good fight. She never, ever, let on how really sick she was. Sadly, both MaryAnn and Harold have both been gone over ten years. I so wish she could see how happy I am with my husband. This December, we will be celebrating 20 years of marriage!!



Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Trio of "Tissue" Moments

Last Saturday, Dominic had a session with his private speech therapist. We had not seen her since January, due to circumstances beyond our control. I wasn't quite sure how he would do, given it had been so long since he had seen her. He definitely didn't have very good eye contact with her, but during the session he did say, "I love you, mommy!" Okay, tissue moment #1 (for both her and I).

Getting Dominic potty trained was definitely one of the biggest parenting challenges I have ever faced. Even though he is heading towards being 11 years old, we still have to "prompt" him to use the toilet every 2-3 hours. I'm ecstatic that he will go "on command," but in the back of my mind, I know he needs to be able to recognize that "feeling" of needing to go. Well, in the past week, he has told me three separate times that he had to go! Yep, tissue moment #2.
Dominic has been to a barber shop a grand total of two times in his entire life. We decided many years ago, that I would be his personal "hairstylist." I have a business degree, not a cosmetology degree, so the haircut is not always even or thinned out enough, but I do a halfway decent job. When Dominic was smaller, I would put him in his removable booster seat and strap him in. As he has gotten older, we have "graduated" to sitting on the floor. Believe me, there have always been tears, sniffling, whining, running away (sometimes all four) involved. No matter how many times I reassured Dominic that I wasn't going to hurt him, it didn't matter. I don't use an electric trimmer, so I know it's not a noise issue. Today, since he had a scheduled day off from school, I told him that he would be getting a haircut - it was even put on the "schedule" that I write for him everyday. I had a "light bulb" moment back a few haircuts ago. I used that old parenting "trick" of "first this, then that." The "that" in this case, being a meal from Burger King. We rarely eat out, so for him, it is a very special treat. I don't normally like to reward Dominic with food, but since I only cut his hair about every 8-10 weeks and I usually have a good coupon, it makes sense. We didn't get around to the haircut until about 12:15 this afternoon. He did absolutely amazing and in no time at all, we were done. Dominic was very patient and after I brushed some of the excess hair off of him, I told him to go put on his shoes. We drove down to the Burger King and got in the drive-through line. I ordered him some nuggets and fries and then as we were pulling forward to pay, he said, "thank you mommy for cutting my hair!" He has never, ever told me that before! Tissue moment #3. Good grief, do you think maybe I need to start carrying around a BOX of tissues in my purse?!?!? 

Monday, March 16, 2015

First Year of College

Exactly one month from today, Lauren will be done with her freshman year of college classes and preparing for Finals. Good grief, didn't she just graduate from high school?!?!?!

What's that old saying? Time flies? Yikes, it's been moving at breakneck speed lately! I have to admit, it's been hard not to be able to see Lauren in person every day. I don't think, even now, in the middle of March, that I am "used" to it. I know that Dominic really misses his sister.  He said, "La-La" (his nickname for her) no less than 25 times last week. I think it's still hard for him to wrap his mind around the fact she isn't around.

Lauren and her older brother are close and on our recent trip to Jamaica, he taught her how to snorkel.

It has been awesome to watch Lauren "grow" this first year of college.  She has "bloomed" like a beautiful flower and I couldn't be more proud. Keep up the good work, my sweet girl!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Not So "Friendly" Skies

Shortly after Christmas, we decided to go on a family vacation to Jamaica during Lauren's spring break from college. We used a travel website that booked our hotel rooms as well as our airline reservations. I told my husband that he had to make sure either he or I were sitting next to Dominic for all four flights (we had connecting flights both going and coming back through Charlotte, North Carolina). Imagine my surprise, when we received our seat assignments for the airline flights and they had booked only one flight out of the four with one of us sitting next to Dominic. Maybe there are some 10-year old boys out there that would be okay being separated from their families, I knew Dominic would not be okay. I would rather not mention which airline we flew on, but I will tell you, it was not United.  The hubby said, "don't worry about it, we'll wait until the day we leave and I'm sure we can get someone to switch with us!" Um, no. I looked at him and said, "I'm not going to rely on a stranger that I don't know switching their seat." I grabbed the phone and called the toll free number for the airline.  I explained to the customer service representative that I had a child with Autism and my husband or I needed to be sitting with Dominic on all four flights. Her response was a flat out "no." The explanation given was, "well, when you book "last minute," that's what happens." Excuse me? I was like, "how is booking several weeks ahead of time, "last minute?" She said, "well, we have people that book their reservations a year in advance!" I then said calmly, "let me talk to your supervisor, please." She then put me on hold for an HOUR. One thing I've learned from having a special needs child, the "art" of patience! When the customer service representative finally got back on the phone, she told me that Dominic and I were now seated together on all four flights. She had to "bump" Lauren from her seat on one of the flights and charge us $50.00 more, but I decided not to make a big deal out of that. I said, "do I need to bring a letter from his psychiatrist explaining his Autism diagnosis?" Her response, "no."  I thanked her for her help and then hung up. After I got off the phone, I was thinking to myself, why didn't the first customer service representative just take care of it? why did it have to take a full hour to get it straightened out? Dominic has flown a few times before, so he is somewhat familiar with the boarding process, finding your seat, etc. On the flight to Jamaica from Charlotte, one of the flight attendants gave me a hard time because Dominic didn't have his seat belt on. We were not taking off, landing or experiencing turbulence and he was sitting in the middle seat. I didn't have trouble with being told that he needed to put it on, it was how the flight attendant talked to me. He was like, "didn't you hear the pilot make several announcements?!?!" I guess I hadn't. When we came home last Friday and were sitting in the waiting area in Charlotte, getting ready to board, I was chatting with a mom who was traveling with her three-year old son. She was telling me that they had been waiting for nine hours at the airport because their original flight had been cancelled. They didn't receive a food or hotel voucher either. Good grief, I can't even imagine what kind of shape Dominic would have been in, had he had to wait that long! Airports have places for charging your electronics, sending texts and some still allow smoking indoors. Flying is stressful, overwhelming and exhausting, but to travel with a special needs child or adult, those levels are heightened. How about this for an idea? I propose that all airports have playrooms with an area set aside as a "sensory room" where the families of special needs children and adults could get a break from the hustle and bustle of traveling. Now, wouldn't that be awesome?


NOTEhttp://www.disabilityscoop.com/2015/03/17/tsa-help-special-needs/20137/ . I came across this information a few days ago - wish I had known before we flew to Jamaica - hope it helps my fellow travelers that have children or adults with special needs!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Cooking for My Dad

Back in the middle of February, I flew back to Maryland by myself. Since my mom went into a skilled nursing facility this past December, my dad is now alone at home. It's been kind of hard on him, because growing up, my mom did about 99.9% of the cooking for our family. I talk to my dad every evening, but it's still not the same as being there in person. My dad and I have always been very close. He coached me in soccer and walked me down the aisle when I married my husband.

When I was going to college at night and wanted many times to give up, my dad would say,"Cathy, keep going, your college degree is something that you will always have and no one can ever take that away from you." My dad and I share a "love" for meatloaf. Whenever I tell him that I have made one for my family, he'll say, "can you put some in an envelope and mail it to me?" Of course, meatloaf  is ALWAYS on the "menu" when I come into town. It takes me just a little while to put it together, but it provides my dad with leftovers for a week! My dad is a man of simple tastes and loves to have someone make him breakfast. He is easy to please..... two scrambled eggs and a piece of toast. I loved making him his breakfast in the morning when I was there. He was so appreciative and since everything in my parent's kitchen is still where it was when I was growing up there, it's easy to maneuver around. The Sunday before I went back home, since I knew I wouldn't be there to help celebrate my dad and brother's birthdays, about an hour before my best friend, my brother and his mother-in-law were expected for dinner, I went on a secret "mission" to the Giant grocery store and picked up a cake. I had the gal in the bakery department personalize it. After dinner, I excused myself and brought in the cake, lit with candles and started singing "Happy Birthday." They both were totally surprised! It was pretty cool. When I was talking to my dad last night, I was telling him that I couldn't even imagine what it must be like for him to be separated from my mom, knowing she won't be coming home. It has to be so hard. My dad is turning 80 this coming Sunday. That, in itself is hard for me to believe.

My dad thanked me profusely for taking time out of my life to fly back and be with him in February. I told him, "you took care of me growing up, now it's my turn to take care of you."

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...