Monday, September 28, 2009

Little Fingers, Big Actions

As you may have already read, last night I had a big long post typed out and was still typing when POOF! My computer screen went black. My sweet little Milla had hit the reset button and I lost everything except for the title of the post. Guess that's what I get for typing on my dinosaur in the basement instead of the laptop I love.

It's probably for the best, as it was all just a random bunch of rambling, part of which could have been classified as the part about how it took four (yes, four!) employees - one of whom made a snide comment that amounted to it being my fault that it was taking so long - and nearly twenty minutes to do a simple return transaction for me at a store over the weekend. But I'm not going to get into that again because everything happens for a reason and Milla turning off my computer was obviously a reminder that I should not be complaining.

Earlier this afternoon I was on facebook and one of the groups I belong to is dedicated to parents of autism. To be more specific, it is actually the facebook homepage for Laura Shumaker's book, A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism. Occasionally, Laura poses questions to group members and her latest question is, "What is your child's most frustrating behavior/quirk?" I was reading through the responses and was comforted in knowing that many of the behaviors Reiss demonstrates are right in line with many other children with autism.

I realize that may sound strange that I am comforted by other parents experiencing what can be some really annoying behaviors in their children - and not just annoying, but some that are downright dangerous. It's not some weird sadistic streak in me - it's just that none of the autistic children I know personally exhibit many of the same behaviors as Reiss. For example, one of Reiss' dangerous behaviors is that he runs off a lot of times with no regard for his own safety. Discipline has proven ineffective in curbing this. And if it's all my bad parenting to blame, then that doesn't really explain why he continues to do it at school when his teachers discipline him for it as well. What comforted me in reading some of the responses though, was that many, many parents replied that their children do the same thing - will run off without any regard at all for anything.

If you have a facebook account, I highly encourage you to check out and join the homepage I mentioned. Even if you don't have an autistic child, there is a lot to be learned from those of us who are living it every day. I don't pay attention to the nasty looks in public near as much as I used to but if I can educate just one person about autism and how it can sometimes make children appear simply as spoiled brats, then I've done something worthwhile. Anyhoo, here is the link: A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism I'm not really sure what you'll be able to see if you don't have a facebook account....probably nothing. If that's the case, go here: Laura Shumaker Going there won't allow you to read about the daily experiences of parents of autistic children, but it is a pretty good resource for finding other websites about autism.

Welp, that about does it for my rambling for the day. I've got a meatloaf in the oven and the aroma is to die for! are napping...the wind outside is is a perfect Autumn day for comfort food and apple pie......Alas, I just began dieting again today, so no apple pie for me. Not that there is one, anyway.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It Is Obviously Bedtime......

I just had a fairly long post typed out when a certain little almost-two-year-old came and hit the "reset" button on my computer. Blogger had not autosaved anything but the title and now, needless to say, I've got nothin'.

Off to bed I go...What a way to end my day and the weekend.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Catriona's Carnival

As many of you are aware of by now, Katrina Rooney, Minister for Education has been sending her talking heads out into the province to summon up support for her 'Every School a Good School Inclusion consultation paper.

Interestingly enough, though not surprisingly, the majority of questions asked at the meeting I attended,were from teachers in special education and from parents. I don't believe mainstream teachers are aware of what is going to 'hit' them should this consultation become policy.

The meeting I attended was chaired by an ex special education teacher who had the charm of a pitbull. She spent the first hour 'explaining' the dire contents of the consultation paper, how it came to be, and then 'permitted' the audience to ask questions in the second hour.

Members of the audience who had questions were curtly advised that only one crack at the microphone would be permitted. The woman ensured that the queue of questions was maintained in scrupulous order. If she wasn't a teacher, she would definitely have a career as a sheep herder - all she needed was a whistle.

Alarm bells began to ring in my head. Controlling the room and maintaining order seemed to be paramount over and above answering or even responding to questions asked.

I only attended one of these 'roadshow' meetings. I estimate over 100 people were at this one. I do know, however, that other meetings were not as well attended so perhaps the poor woman was a bit intimidated.

Despite attempts via bad timing of the meeting, to make it as difficult as possible to attend, people continued to roll in after 4.00pm.

The chair of the meeting explained the timing of the meetings (4.00-6:00pm). She advised that it was in fact parents who displayed their preference for that time slot because a 7.00-9.00pm time slot would 'interefere with dinner and homework'.

I doubt very much the Department of Education listened to any parents regarding the timing of these meetings and for those I spoke to, the timing was universally inconvenient.

I could go on and on about the content of the meeting but you can read the document yourself. (see link to the right) One of the most salient points raised was by a teacher who asked, 'if I mis-diagnose a child, will I get sued?'. This teacher was referring to page 15 of the document which clearly states, "a move to formal assessment of a child's difficulties or disabilities will only be necessary when it has been clearly demonstrated that the IN-SCHOOL support programme has not been successful in meeting those needs."

Incredibly, the Chair's response, after consulting with her stage partner was 'no, teachers are not being asked to diagnose', but that there are 'protection' and safety nets for teachers who might be accused of misdiagnosing a child. (when you read the excerpt above you will see that teachers are going to be expected to be front line assessors of children in need and will be expected to 'flag' them up.) I foresee many children being incorrectly 'flagged' up and also ignored. What about the children who have an autistic spectrum condition, are from the Travelling Community, have recently suffered a bereavement and who are 'looked after' children? What additional need must be tackled first?

What I really wanted to say at that juncture is that as a parent of a child with autism, I can spot another child with autism at 90 paces. I see them on the street, in the park in the shopping centres - why is there such a problem with 'flagging' children. I think most parents who have kids on the spectrum are capable of this. Our experience provides us with a built in 'radar'.

In front of many parents in the audience, (potentially the parents who would indeed sue such a teacher for neglect or misrepresentation of their children) an explanation was given to this individual teacher by the Chair as to how he will be 'protected', how there are checks and balances in place to always protect the teacher.

Incredibly, parents said nothing whilst listening to this, but of course, most of them had by now used up their one chance at the microphone. (Teacher had laid down her rules and we all abided by them.) In retrospect, I wish I had told the Chair at the start that I would not abide by her 'rules' and that I would ask as many questions as I bloody well pleased.

The format of the meeting was almost exactly the same as the Middletown 'roadshow' (farce). Questions were asked at those meetings too and the Chair of those meetings Mr Gary Cooper continued to respond with, 'that's a great question, write it down so we can look at'. That was over 7 million pounds ago. I would love to know what this consultation paper has cost so far. Despite its cost, I can only hope, for the sake of all our children, that it also goes the way of 'middletown' and is forgotten about.

No notes were taken by the Chair or her co-hort, and I doubt very much that the proceedings were recorded. Important questions were posed by parents and teachers and others. Those questions and comments, largely ignored, and with no recording of them, will disappear unless the individuals who posed them make sure to write them down and submit them to the Department. I do wonder what the Chair of these meetings is telling her department about the content of the said meetings. Really, what is the point of having meetings unless the proceedings are recorded in some way. Will the Chair go back to her department and say all was well, or nothing to report? Such a joke.

The question arose during the meeting, 'who do parents sue, should their children suffer from neglect? - the Board or the School.

Shockingly, the Chair of the meeting advised us all that the consultation document is not finished, that there are many more parts to complete before it could be submitted to departmental level.(which begs the question why it is being presented for our response, if it's not even finished.) We were told very clearly that we are being expected to comment on something when that 'something' is not complete and when the most important part of it, has not even been presented yet.

The Department of Education considers you, parents and teachers, as fools.

Those who asked the questions about guarding children's rights were informed they would have to 'trust' the school board, that there was no 'foreseeable' relinquishing of rights of children should the document become policy.

So, to all parents, all you have to do is trust your education board.

I don't see much point in delving into this consultation document any further as it is a total joke.

The fact that no one, not one person clapped or publicly thanked the Chair for her 'speech' said a lot. A deadly silence ensued once she signed off of her microphone. She knew it too as she very uncomfortably walked back to her notes. What did she expect?

Standing outside and eariwigging on the conversations of both teachers and parents, I can tell you that no one I spoke to was impressed, and many were exceptionally angry and rather stunned at it all. Following meetings such as this, at least in my experience, it's always like this -parents gather and 'complain' and teachers do as well.

This time, I was very glad to participate in the ensuing 'bitch fest'. I could hear parents and teachers talking to each other with much concern about this fiasco and comparing notes. These people may never meet up again but it is my deepest hope that all who had concerns about what they heard that day, will take the time to fill in their response booklets which can be downloaded online from the Department. One does not even have to use the downloadable form. You can email, write a letter or memo to let them know what you think and why.

(interestingly, the organisers of this consultation did not think to bring copies of the 90 odd page document for the audience, nor did they furnish us with hard copies of the response booklet). To read the document online is very difficult and in fact many of those at the meeting had not even read the document at all.

Our children are in great peril should this document become a reality. In my view, legal action is required against the Department to ensure this document never sees the light of day again.

The Department of Education is 'at it' again and still believes that they can ride roughshod over the needs of our children and the desires of their parents. The Department I believe, has every intention of just doing what IT wants to do, with no desire to consult with parents, voluntary or other sectors.

If you allow them to do this, you only have yourselves to blame. Parents standing up to School Boards in Northern Ireland, is incredibly overdue. There is no excuse for ignorance on this issue and I apologise for sounding preachy but sometimes parents are their own worst enemies.

Parents have got to stand up to the Department on this one. The only thing I wanted to say at this particular meeting was 'shove it' right back where it came from, it was an affront to me, to even have to discuss such drivel.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mmmmm.....What IS That Smell?

Yesterday began the official first day of our bathroom remodel. It was supposed to happen a few weeks ago (and would probably be done by now!) but lo and behold, our contractor's mother passed away and he was put behind schedule. Although I can be a very compassionate person, words fail me when I try to convey such a trait. So if I sound callous, I'm not. I just don't know how to word things to say what I mean. Our contractor's mother died. He got behind schedule. Those are the facts and I feel for his pain.....I just don't know how to word it to give that perception.

So anyway, yesterday, he and his workers began demolition of our bathroom. They came back today and did more of the "dirty" demolition work, as in, ripping out the shower and the toilet. The reason we are doing the bathroom remodel in the first place is because the shower was leaking into the finished part of our basement. Typically, that's not a reason to replace an entire bathroom but you haven't seen my bathroom.

We have known for awhile that we want to remodel the bathroom but we are not exactly instant gratification kind of people. More often, we do things as we have extra funds to do them and make the best of things while waiting. Our bathroom was one of those things that we had on the radar for maybe next year or the year after. Our bathroom had other plans. So rather than have workers come in and only fix the existing problem, we would prefer to have them do everything all at one time - you know, so we have our bathroom out of commission only one time instead of two times (once now and once again on down the road when we were really ready to do all of it).

Our guys arrived just as I was leaving to go get Reiss from preschool. I spoke briefly with them and then headed out with Milla to go get Reiss. We picked him up in pouring rain. That's the trade-off I get for not allowing Reiss to ride the bus: sometimes I have to get soaked in the rain or snowed on or whatever. Inclement weather is not my friend but for now, I'll take it over Reiss riding the bus. Call me over-protective but he is my first and he's only four years old and I've seen the way some of the bus drivers drive around here. After getting Reiss, we then took James lunch and hung out for awhile. James is his own boss so his boss doesn't mind too much when the office becomes a zoo/daycare on Friday afternoons.

When we arrived home again, the men were carrying bucket after bucket full of demolished bathroom walls, shower tiles, and flooring. The smell of raw sewage smacked me in the face like a dump truck. Now occasionally I have been in that bathroom and smelled a horrible smell and when I told our contractor about this on a previous occasion (when he was here doing another project), he explained the "trap" system in bathroom drains and all that and how gases (is that spelled correctly?) get built up and blah, blah, blah. Don't expect me to explain because I just went with what he was saying. Anyway, I knew there had to be more to it than that and when we began seeing the water stains on the ceiling downstairs, that was proof there really was a problem and that the smell wasn't just gas build up in the pipes.

I walked back to the bathroom and while doing so, the smell got stronger and stronger until I was on the verge of vomiting. And for good reason. One look at the demolished bathroom was all it took for me to find that it was not just raw sewage gas I was smelling all along. There was mold buildup from here to Utah in that darn shower! We knew it had been leaking but nothing could prepare me for this mess......there was mold all over the place. Horrible! Horrible! Horrible!

Even now, as I sit here with most of the demolition mess cleaned up, the crew gone, and that back bedroom closed up, our house still smells like the refreshing smell of poop raw sewage. The ceiling fans are on. Candles are lit. Thank goodness, it's getting to be Fall and cool outside, right? Oh, it's just disgusting but with the candles lit, pretty soon it will smell like blueberry muffins and raw sewage. So I guess I'm okay.

Now, the real I dare have all the moms and their kids over next Thursday for the coffee chat and playgroup I've been planning for weeks now? Or cancel? I had planned on coffee and donuts. Maybe I could still have it and just avoid buying any chocolate eclairs......

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Would A Duggar Do?

The photo above has absolutely nothing to do with my random bunch of rambling that will constitute as my post for the day. I just had to post it because it was one of those photos that was caught by sheer accident and turned out spectacular. It ranks right up there in the category of Best Reiss Photos Ever. And tomorrow is Picture Day at school. What a coincidence, huh???

As anyone who read my last post knows, I just finished the Duggars' book, The Duggars: 20 and Counting! It was one of those thought-provoking kind of books that has left me thinking about it day after day. There is absolutely nothing complicated about the Duggars or their book, so when I say it's thought-provoking, I mean it has me inspired in many ways.

One thing that struck me and just plain amazed me was the incredible dedication this family has to God. I knew this before reading the book but there is a part where Jim Bob writes about how he was bound, gagged, and robbed at gunpoint several years ago in his own home, which also housed the office to a used car lot he owned, while Michelle and a few of the children slept in another room. The criminal couple doing the robbing made off with a car from the lot but were caught a little later. Jim Bob took a Bible to the jail where the man was being held. He was going to give it to the robber himself but was not allowed in to see him.

I can only imagine any ordinary person would wish for such a criminal to sit and rot in a cell but not Jim Bob. His philosophy was and still is to do something nice for those who do wrong to us.

So, with that in mind, I have been trying to use that philosophy in my own life the last few days. Now, granted, it's not every day that I feel someone has wronged me - thank goodness, right??? But I've been thinking about this and here is an example of something I've done along the lines of Jim Bob's do-good philosophy....

My mother and I have a pretty rocky relationship. No, that's not quite right. That would imply that we argue often, however, we just don't talk much at all anymore. She lives several states away and moved there right after Reiss was born. Apparently, when her possessions got moved, so did her caring a hoot about me or my family.

While I did try to do the right thing and call and send birthday cards and gifts at Christmas and so on, my actions were never reciprocated. Now don't get me wrong - don't think I'm one of those people who only does that sort of thing to get a big ta-da out of the recipient, because I'm not.

Well, after a few years of my mother barely acknowledging me, let alone my children, I gave up. I told myself I don't have time for people who don't have time for me. I realize this may be very difficult for people who have very close relationships with their own parent or parents to understand. At the same time, please know that because of the way I was raised, it's just as difficult for me to even imagine a close relationship with a parent.

Anyway, so a few days ago it was my mother's birthday. I did not send her a card. I did not call her. But all day I thought about it being her birthday and even though she doesn't have much to do with me, I do still think about her in the days before her birthday and for much of the day on her birthday. I wasn't really feeling guilty about not doing anything for her this year but I wasn't feeling like I was doing the right thing either. And then I thought about Jim Bob and thought, "Hmmm...what would a Duggar do in this situation?"

At around 9:30 that evening, I got on my facebook account and posted "Happy Birthday!" to my mother's facebook "wall." No, I'm fairly certain that's not exactly what a Duggar would have done but I felt pretty good doing it and I even got a "Thank You!" out of it. Again, I didn't need the "thank you" but I felt good in knowing that what I had done was the right thing to do and that it was recognized and maybe just that little bit of do-good attitude will result in my mother doing something good for someone else. It's kinda like those commercials for some insurance company where the people watch others doing good deeds and then they do something nice for someone else and then that person does something nice and so on and so on....

I believe in God and I believe in doing right simply because it's the right thing to do. It's sad that I sometimes have to remind myself of this. Shouldn't I be doing right anyway?? Just because???? It's kinda pathetic that I need to read a book that's not even religious in nature to remind me of this and if I'm this way, I know I can't be alone. Hey, I know I can be an oddball...but....BUT.......

Anyway, here's a challenge for anyone reading this (Is anyone reading this??): The next time you feel someone has wronged you or hurt your feelings, ask yourself "What would a Duggar do?"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Easy Readin'

You know how you get those flyers in the mail asking you to join this book club or that?

No? Well, I do, and they seem to come almost weekly. Back in the day - that is, before I became so frugal that I rarely purchase books - I used to take these companies up on their offers.

Not anymore. No, I got smart and now whenever I receive one of those flyers I mark the pages with all the books I'd like to read. I then set it aside and place it on my to-do list for me to log on to my library account and put holds on the books that sound interesting to me.

On Thursday, my number came up for two of the books I had placed holds:
The Duggars: 20 and Counting! by Michelle & Jim Bob Duggar
Hungry Girl by Lisa Lillien

After taking lunch to Daddy's work on Friday, the kids and I headed to the library to pick up the books. Anything Duggar-related always gets me a little excited so I was eager to get my hands on this book.

Did I mention we have a Duggar dance in our house? Yes....It's a bit hard to visualize but it basically consists of waving both arms above our heads in a strange fashion while half-yelling "Duggar! Duggar! Duggar......" over and over. We do this on Tuesday evenings just before 18 Kids and Counting airs on TLC. Call us weird. I know and I don't mind.

I finished reading the Duggars' book yesterday. This is unheard of for me A.C. (after children). During my B.C. years, depending on the book, I could breeze through most books in less than 24 hours. A.C. I am lucky if I finish most books in 24 weeks. Sad. I miss reading but what can ya' do?

The Duggar book is a very easy read and flows nicely in an almost-conversational tone. Here are some of the things I liked, disliked, and couldn't get enough of...

While I have been a Duggar fan for quite some time and knew a lot of the information surrounding how the Duggars became self-sufficient and debt-free, it did not make me enjoy it any less reading the minute details of each investment and sale the couple went through to get to where they are now. I really wish more of the public would pay attention to this amazing story not only because so many people seem to think this family must be destitute with that many children, but also because I think a good percentage of Americans could learn a lot from people who truly live debt-free lives such as the Duggars do.

In the book, Michelle not only provides organizational tips for how she keeps it all in order but the names of the resources from which she borrowed the ideas and customized to fit her family's needs. There is an awesome resource list in the back of the book that I actually plan on having James make a copy of at work (he owns the business - we're not stealing office supplies from someone else).

The book answers many of the most frequently asked questions the Duggars receive via email. And although many of the questions were very good ones, I was still left wondering some things.

For instance, Michelle discusses "correction" which is Duggar-ese for disciplining bad behavior. She also described "blanket time" (which I may even begin training Milla on) for infants and toddlers in order to keep them occupied. But many times when Reiss is misbehaving I ask myself how Michelle Duggar would handle such a situation when timeouts and taking toys from Reiss is not effective. Michelle doesn't have any autistic children (that I'm aware of!) and has probably not been in a situation where she's had to handle a child who is wired so differently than typical children but I can't help but think whatever she would do would be done in a very peaceful manner.....which can prove very difficult for me when Reiss continues to say, scream at the top of his lungs in the car even after having a timeout, after having whatever toy he has with him taken away, and still even after we have given up and decided to go home from wherever we were going.

Sometimes nothing seems to work. It's hard to stay ahead of the game when even the professionals working in the field of autism and teachers of special needs children tell me they have to switch things up often because many times disciplinary methods become ineffective after a period of time with autistic children. Just the other day, Reiss' teacher was telling me how they sometimes have to switch their disciplinary method two, three, or four times throughout the school year. Right now they use a stick system (where the child starts the day with three popsicle sticks in their wall pocket) but she said she is usually surprised if they make it to Christmas without the children making every day a challenge against the system.

Getting off-track here, as usual. Seriously....sometimes I don't see how you guys can even stick with me through to the end the way I so often get off-topic.

Long story short, regarding discipline, I was left wondering if there are never any serious disciplinary issues in the Duggar household or if they were simply not discussed.

I wish Jim Bob and Michelle would have gone further in-depth on things like how they handle going places with all the kids. Do they try to stick to naptimes? Or do they just go and if the kids take a nap, great, if not, whatever? How often do they leave the house? With that many children, even with older ones to help out, it seems like leaving very often would sometimes be more pain than it's worth. What about family planning? Do they really try or not? I was aware prior to reading the book that they do not use birth control because of the miscarriage years ago that their doctor felt happened because they conceived while Michelle was on the pill. Michelle briefly discussed their views on birth control and some things mentioned in the Bible but she never came out and said one way or another if they actively try to conceive or if babies just seem to happen easily for them.

Moving on to the topic of the Duggar mansion....I don't know that I would call this house a mansion like many people do. There is a floor plan of it in the book and yes, it's a large house but when I hear the word "mansion" I tend to think of a grand estate with lavish furnishings - something the Duggar house is anything but. Their house is very child-friendly, as anyone would imagine it to be.

Would I love to have their house? Honestly, I don't know. It has many features I would love such as the industrial size and equipped kitchen, the huge laundry room and amenities, and the indoor playground that is comparable to some businesses where outlandish admission fees are charged for children to spend an afternoon, but beyond that, it is missing some other things I would love to have if I had a house that large. I mean, if I'm going to have a 7000 square-foot house, it had better at least have a larger master bedroom than the Duggars made theirs. And I would want a library. And a media room. Yes, I know the Duggars don't watch a lot of television (and neither do we, for that matter) but now we're talking about MY 7000 square-foot house now, not theirs. Or, at least, the one it would be if I had one.

And oh yeah, I forgot, I'd want it to be somewhere other than Arkansas. Hey, I'm just sayin'......

Saturday, September 19, 2009

SEN & Inclusion Roadshow begins - Bring in the Clowns

The Consultation on Every School A Good School: The Way Forward for Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Inclusion will be brought to you via a province wide road show. You can see the dates and venues below. Go here: ( to the consultation document as well as the response document which all parents should make time to respond to.

I have already spoken at length about this document and every time I read it, it is more and more appalling. I personally cannot wait to scrutinise the civil servants who will be trying to present this abomination to parents and teachers during their upcoming road show. Should be a good laugh. I hope these individuals were picked for having thick skins because they are going to need them. I predict a no holds barred verbal assault from audiences province wide. If this does not happen, there is something terribly wrong. No parent, whether they have a child with special needs or not, could be happy about this document.

Particularly, parents of children with autism and other difficulties have to remember that the special needs budget is not and never should be culled from or included in any other pool of money. The budget for our children's education is and should always remain separate. What does a child with autism have in common with a child who is from the Travelling Community or a recently bereaved child or a looked after child?

My child's diagnosis is autism and is not a result of his culture (Travelling culture or any other culture) and will remain with him whether I am alive or dead. (Mind you, AutismNI/Autism Ulster are trying to prove the exact opposite right now, with their own roadshow 'Trauma of Autism' and psychotherapist Rosie Burrows is going around the province trying to drum up business for a nice little earner of a research project to prove that culture, the trauma of the Troubles, caused your child's autism - argggh - more on that later, much more!)

The consultation is ludicrous and an exercise in brinkmanship - let's see just how far we can push society before they revolt. The day Katrina Rooney leaves her post (or is unceremoniously pushed from it, will be a 'whoo peeeee' day for me and my child.) My son already has his pet name for her and its not because he has a lisp that he pronounces her last name with an L.

Please take time to read this document and the plans that the department of education has for your child. Take time to tell your child's teachers about the document because some of the teachers I have spoken to have not been informed about it. If you are a teacher, your union needs to be on board with this one because teachers are central to this plan, and will also be the 'fall guys' when it inevitably falls apart. Place notices up in your schools about it to make sure everyone knows.

I am not aware that the 'roadshow' meetings below will be accommadating persons with special needs so you will have to contact them and ask first. You can phone the Department of Education at: 028 9127 9279.

All meetings below take place between 4.00pm and 6.00pm.

The meetings are very inconveniently timed and in fact many teachers may or may not have time to attend and parents who are waiting on their children's buses and other forms of transport may have to take their children along to the meeting, if they can attend at all. Spouses will not be home from work by 4.00pm and for many, there will be no dinner on the table, and many of you will have to arrange care/babysitting and your own transport. If you live in Glengormley, for example, a taxi ride to Dunmurry, will be rather pricey.

Whoever decided 4-6.00pm was a good time for a meeting should have thought about the audience to whom these meetings would apply. Maybe that's just the point, maybe they thought long and hard about who might be coming and did their best to make it difficult to attend? Nothing in this consultation is about our children so why should the 'roadshow' be about accommodating parents?

For you in Belfast, the meeting in 'Belfast' on Thursday 24 September 2009 is not actually in Belfast, it's in Lisburn (Dunmurry) so if you who want to make your voices heard, if you live in the North or East of the city, please leave enough time to get to the Dunmurry location. Again, the rationale for holding a Belfast meeting in Lisburn when there already was a meeting in Lisburn last week, is not known. There is a plethora of conference and meeting venues in Belfast which could have been booked for this meeting negating the need to place it outside of the city. When you attend you will have an opportunity to ask why this has happened.

If you are a parent and if you think 'someone else' is going to take care of this for you, think again. Please read the document and attend these meetings. If you cannot attend because of inconvenience, please let the Department know why by contacting them.


Leighinmohr House Hotel, Ballymena 22 Sep (Tuesday)

The Strule Arts Centre, Townhall Square, Omagh 23 Sep (Wednesday)

Beechlawn House Hotel,Dunmurry, Belfast 24 Sep (Thursday)

The Lodge Hotel, Coleraine 28 Sep (Monday)

The Canal Court Hotel, Newry 29 Sep (Tuesday)

The Armagh City Hotel, Armagh 30 Sep (Thursday)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Petition 4 Starbucks to Bring Back GF Cake

As if eating a gluten-free diet is not difficult enough, add dining out into the equation and it can be next to impossible to find anything to eat other than a salad or plain, unseasoned meat at many eateries. It was only in recent months that I heard that Starbucks offers a gluten-free option* on their menu - a moist, gluten-free orange cake. Fast-forward to today - before I've even had an opportunity to taste test said cake - and I read HERE that Starbucks has gotten rid of this product.

Now, having not been in a Starbucks and ordered this cake myself, I cannot speak from experience but have read on several blogs I frequent that these cakes were pre-packaged items being kept in a drawer behind the counter and were not offered on the menu boards themselves. So basically, and I'm making an assumption here, if you didn't know about the product by hearing from a friend or in my case, reading a blog, you certainly wouldn't know Starbucks carries a gluten-free option simply by looking at the menu. Hmmm. And I wonder why they are discontinuing it....??? It doesn't take a genius and this ain't rocket-science to figure out that they are probably throwing away a lot of expired unsold cakes. I could be wrong though. I have been wrong before and I am sure there will be more times in the future.

At any rate, if you would like to join in on a petitioning process to persuade Starbucks to return this product to their menu, check this out:

Petition to Starbucks:
Bring Back the Gluten-Free Cake!

I do not know if this product is free of gluten and casein, or just gluten.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blah Day

Today has not been the best day I've had in recent weeks. Yesterday, I posted to my Twitter and facebook pages "Today is one of those days where I can't help but wonder where I'd be without Spray~N~Wash and the "Rinse & Spin" cycle on my washer."

While I did have poopy messes to clean yesterday as well, it was nothing compared to today. So far today, Reiss has had three showers and the rinse & spin cycle has been run four times on the washer. God bless him...I know the little guy can't help it but I wish my little every-night prayer for some poop in the potty would get answered just one time. I nearly cried this afternoon after the second poopy mess. I didn't but maybe I should have because my sinuses feel like they're stuffed with cotton.

I truly wish I could keep my head lifted and stay more positive all the time or even more than I do. I know I'm getting there but I have a long way to go. My addiction to Della's blog seems to be therapeutic for me and keeps things in perspective and although she does not have any autistic children, I figure if she can do it with the trials that come with sixteen kids while still holding her head high, then surely I can do it with two children, one of whom has autism and the other with developmental delays (hopefully, NOT autism!).

Waaaa, waaaa, waaaa....I'm done crying and it feels good to get it out even if others do think I'm whining. What can I say? They haven't walked in my shoes, nor I in theirs.

This morning, I went walking at the mall with my friend, Carol. Before going, and after dropping Reiss off at preschool, I went to a drive-thru and got an order of a biscuit and gravy (for $.99 with coupon!) for myself and a little sack of tater coins for Milla. It still makes me laugh to call them tater coins.

I learned that term when I was attending and working at a local college years ago. A guy who worked with me always called the circular hash browns served in fast food restaurants "tater coins." It stuck and that's what we call them too. Anyway, where I was going with this is the fact that I sabotaged my workout before even going to do it, which I found pretty humorous, as did my friend. It was about a mile into our walk that she revealed to me that she wasn't quite an angel at breakfast herself. Yeah, she had eggs for breakfast, providing her with some valuable protein....but she also had a piece of blackberry pie with ice cream. We both got a pretty good laugh out of how pathetically we have stuck to eating healthy this week.

By the way, did I mention the bag of candy I got at CVS before going walking? I've been eating on it this afternoon too. I cannot believe how little willpower I have lately at not only not sticking to gluten and casein-free foods, but also how unhealthy, in general, I have been eating. An outsider would probably assume I'm pregnant.

I'm not.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Random Ramblings

Yesterday morning........
I'm pretty certain I have mentioned on here a time or two (or three or thirty-three) that Reiss does not watch television. He cannot and will not sit still for it. While having a child who is not a couch potato would be a relief for many parents, and overall it is for me too, it can also be annoying since I rarely get a break where I can just plop him and Milla in front of the tv to pay a bill or make a phone call or gather my thoughts or whatever.

Although Reiss does not watch tv, he is generally pretty awesome at pretend play and that is another area of real progress he has made. Pretend play is not something he has always done and for quite a long time I don't think he even understood the concept.

When we are driving in "the Daddy truck" (*see below) Reiss has a steering wheel that went to some video game that we don't even have but that he uses to help Daddy drive. Yesterday, as we were clearing out some toys in his room, I found the steering wheel pictured above and we got it out to put in James' truck for Milla so that she and Reiss can both "drive" while in the Daddy truck. In the meantime, they had some fun with it by pulling up chairs to the table and driving in the kitchen.

I posted this one on my facebook page and a friend made a comment that it looks like Milla is bracing for impact, which I thought was pretty funny. That hadn't even crossed my mind and that, in itself, reminded me how differently one person can perceive something when looking at the same thing as another person. Often times I have to remind myself of this, but that's an entirely different post....

This is one of those pictures that turned out great and totally by accident. I was moving around and accidentally hit the "take picture" (what is that thing called, anyway??) button. I only wish Reiss' head hadn't gotten cut off because it looks like he may have actually been facing the camera.

Milla waving "Bye!" to everyone as she and Reiss prepare to leave on their trip. She is driving and Reiss is looking unsure of whether or not that's a good idea. (I have to agree. She's a little flighty sometimes...I'd worry about her driving too!)

This morning........
"Hello...I'm trying to work here!"

"Okay, I suppose I can take a break for a moment to pose."

While Reiss was at school - or work, as he prefers to call it - this morning, I was on and off the computer and phone all morning trying to get some things done and necessary calls made. Milla gathered up all this stuff and yes, she had a little help organizing it but otherwise, all items were gathered and placed on the table all on her own. She has her personal phonebook, laptop, cell phone, and snack (salted pecans in a ramekin). She just sat and worked and getting my phonebook to look like a preschool scribble pad.

*My husband drives a Ford F-150 that has an extended cab with a backseat that is suitable size for placing safety carseats.....Just wanted to point this out, as I know many people can be very vocal about putting young children in trucks.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Review: Smuckers Low Sugar Concord Grape Jelly

(No corporate compensation was made for purchase of this product or review of it. This review has been written solely for the purpose of giving a "shout out" to Smuckers for a great product!)

In an effort to find a reasonably priced grape jelly void of artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), I came across Smuckers Low Sugar Concord Grape Jelly. While it does contain regular sugar that I'm assuming is yucky refined white sugar, I'll take that over HFCS or artificial sweeteners any day.

Prior to finding this product in the grocery store, I looked for sugar-free versions of grape jelly or jam only to find organic products that cost a fortune at the health-food store or products in the regular grocery that contained Splenda, which we no longer allow in our house. Although most of what we eat is organic, there are some items where I make exceptions for this reason or that - expense or whatever.

The organic grape jellies I was finding were very small jars and cost more than $5 per jar in the health food store. The regular grocery store options included products that fit one of the three categories: a)contained Splenda b)were sugar-free and sweetened only with fruit juice but were not offered in grape (DS wants grape!!!) OR c)contained HFCS.

Given the above options, I grabbed a jar of the "low sugar" product for inspection of its ingredients and found it met my criteria.

I purchased the jar of Smuckers and found - much to our surprise at one recent breakfast - that it is one of the best grape jellies I've ever tasted. It has such a "grape-y" flavor to it with much of the crap missing from it that it makes one wonder why manufacturers feel a need to add so much HFCS to begin with.

Conclusion: A definite keeper and a double thumbs-up. We enjoyed this as well as our son who was the real judge. And at a little over a dollar (sale and a coupon combined!) this was a major bargain find.....especially when one compares it to its $5 organic counterpart!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Child Labor Laws.....Whatever!

Reiss working hard to get the lawn-mowing out of the way for the week.
Notice the ear protection? Hey, safety first, ya' know!

"Better make sure the boss doesn't see me taking a break."

Photo op in the shade while Daddy works hard with the big lawnmower.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

GFCF Curried Roasted Veggie Soup

Aren't they beautiful? I love all the color but my photographic skills could use some work!

Everything all sliced and ready to go into the pool oven.

After hanging out in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes...Notice the steam?

The end result! Okay, I'm not saying what this looks like but anyone who has ever changed a diaper on an infant......Hey, I'm just sayin'!

Mmm, Mmmm Good! Campbell's ain't got nothin' on this!

Curried Roasted Veggie Soup
Gluten-free, Casein-free (GFCF)

(For best results, you will need a stick blender, traditional blender, or food processor for this recipe.)

A bunch of veggies of your choice.
This particular time I used eggplant, japanese eggplant, red and yellow bell peppers, banana pepper, zucchini, red onion, and tomato.
Some other good choices I have used are yams or sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, cauliflower - shoot, anything you can roast!

kosher salt to sprinkle and olive oil to drizzle on the veggies prior to roasting
1 14-ounce can coconut milk (NOT cream of coconut)
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (be sure your broth is GF if you need to eat GF)
2 cloves garlic or equivalent amount of dried garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar (or alternative sweetener if you do not use refined sugars)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice your veggies and sprinkle them with kosher salt and olive oil. Roast the veggies in a 400 degree oven until they begin to brown and get pitiful looking. I don't know how else to describe it - you will know when they are ready by giving an occasional peek into the oven. Generally, it takes about 30-40 minutes in my oven. Potatoes may take a bit longer, depending on the size of the cut.

While veggies are roasting, mix up remaining ingredients in a soup pot on the stove top over low heat.

Once veggies are done roasting, throw them in with the other ingredients and blend with your stick blender.

Test for taste and add any needed salt or pepper.

Presto! You have soup!

Here is what the monkeys were up to while I was getting all the veggies ready.....

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lazy Labor Day Weekend

I almost titled this post "Labor-free Labor Day Weekend" but there is never a labor-free day in our household. If it's not the dishes piling up from having to eat almost every meal at home (that's what a restrictive diet will do for ya'), it's keeping up with the laundry since I refuse to let it get out of hand. If not one of those things, it's this or that, or whatever. And I won't even mention all the paper trails that wind up on my kitchen counters and need controlling, lest they takeover over the place.

On Saturday we got our usual Chinese lunch from the same place we go to every Saturday and then it was off to the apple orchard with the kids.

I'm going to tell a little about this orchard and I promise I will try not to bore anyone but I can't help but be amazed by this business and the entrepreneurial spirit of its owners. The business is called The Apple Works and I was introduced to it fairly early in its existence - the mid-1990's. My husband's mother and father had purchased land in Brown County, not far from the orchard, on which they planned to build a home.

While clearing the land for my in-laws' home, my husband and I made frequent trips down to the property to work for the day. The apple orchard was on the way and it didn't take long before I discovered they made the most incredible caramel apple I had ever eaten.

During this time, the business was so small, they didn't even have regular hours. One might stop by one day and they were open and then not on the next. One evening, when making our way home from the in-laws' property, James and I decided to stop in for a bag of apples and a caramel apple. I went inside the very small (at the time) store area to find no one was there. I called out and got no answer. I peeked into the back area where customers aren't supposed to go....still no one in sight.

My husband and I looked briefly around the outside area and could not find anyone, yet we heard strange noises coming from one of the fields far back away from the backside of the barn that houses the store area. We still couldn't find anyone and thought it was quite odd that the store - with the cash register and all the merchandise right there - was totally un-manned. All I wanted was a caramel apple and maybe some apples. To purchase apples, they do not have them pre-bagged, they bag them for customers on the spot so getting a bag of apples was out of the question but I really wanted one of those apples......employee or no employee there. So I picked up one with plans to leave money for it and a note by the register price tag. I went ahead and left a note and maybe $2. I don't remember. It was a long time ago. All I remember was that we left our phone number on the note and the woman called us later that evening and thanked us for being honest.

After we left the orchard, James remembered there was a house up the road that always had a sheriff's car in the drive so we drove there and told them what we had just experienced. The sheriff's deputy who lived there told us the woman who runs the orchard was always leaving the store wide open to go out into the orchard and work. I was shocked.....even having grown up out in the country, I had forgotten that some people still lived this way, so trustingly "knowing" everything was okay.

This whole apple incident was so long ago there wasn't really anything there but apple trees, a barn, and apples. Now there is a petting zoo, trails to walk through the surrounding woods, an annual festival in the Fall that is one of the largest around, a train for families to ride - to which they have added a "covered bridge" (really just a bridge on land but the train goes through it and it's cool for the kids), weekly entertainment under the patio area with picnic tables, and the list goes on and on....

It's just amazing how we have watched this tiny fledgling business go from practically nothing to being one of the "it" places for families to go for an outing. James and I almost laugh when we hear people talk about this place and how they just found it and we've known about it and been going forever.....and watching it grow bigger by the year. that's what we did on Saturday. We went to the apple orchard and played around for a bit. Reiss fed some goats.....

In this photo, Reiss is looking up at the goats walking around on the ledges up high. They have planks for the goats to walk around about fifteen feet off the ground and in some places, right over the heads of people visiting.

Reiss petting a donkey......

James, Reiss, and Milla going down the slide. Yes, all at the same time.

The kids love this slide. James says it hurts when you get to the bottom. Just about every person who goes down the slide yells "Ouch!" when they get towards the bottom. I wonder if the owners know........???

Reiss and Milla in a built-from-scratch tractor for children to play on...

Behind the tractor, there are ponies to ride. James gave the man the $3 for Reiss to ride. Reiss got on and started screaming so we got our $3 back. Hey, he tried and that is progress! Farther back behind the ponies, you can see the barn where the slide is built. The slide is made from industrial size water fittings.....or whatever you call them. Behind the slide barn is the "covered bridge." The barn is red with a green roof. The bridge is orangey-tan.

On the train - They look like they are simply overcome with joy....or not.

The first train photo was just bad. They didn't want to smile for the camera but they really did love the train, as seen by the look on Reiss' face in these photos......

Reiss just sat and giggled for almost the entire ride......

Friday, September 4, 2009

Go, Kim, Go!!!

Seeing that I've done a lot of blog reading and not a lot of blog writing in the last several days, I thought I would share something I came across this evening. Actually, to avoid confusion, I get on the Age of Autism website every few days. To refer to this as "something I came across" sounds as though I stumbled onto it by accident, which isn't the case. Either way, I found it of interest and wanted to link directly to it......

Kim Stagliano (of Age of Autism)
Speaks at Town Hall Meeting

I think the point that stood out to me most was when Kim mentioned the shock this Congressman had at hearing of the financial devastation so many families of children with autism face. These guys are so high in the clouds, they need to be brought down several notches into the reality the rest of us are living in. Seriously......

When we first began this journey ourselves, I came across a figure that estimated 80% of families with at least one child with autism will claim bankruptcy at some point. Unfortunately, I found this tidbit of information at a time when I felt very lost and overwhelmed in a sea of information and therefore, do not have a source to cite.

Regardless of the lack of a source, knowing how our own medical bills have progressively mounted over the last year or so, it does not surprise me if the estimation is accurate. We have gone from "pretty comfortable" to financially planning for the unexpected-and-possibly-thousands-of-dollars-out-of-pocket (many autism-related treatments are not even covered by health insurance) worth of medical bills that seem to pop up for us every few months. Reiss' seizure back in June being the most recent.

Having said that, if this is our own situation, I can't help but think how devastating it must be for families who are in much less cushy - for lack of a better word - financial situations than our own. So very sad, yet something these politicians need to understand. They need to hear it again and again and again and...............

We are not going away and we will not back down.