Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My "Out With The Old, In With The New" Giveaway

Recently, I won a copy of the book Cowboy & Wills in a giveaway hosted by Chrissy over at Spectrum Hope. I am now finished reading it and have moved on to A Child's Journey Out of Autism written by Leeann Whiffen. I would love to "pay it forward" by passing Cowboy & Wills on to someone else and what better way to do so than with an "Out With The Old, In With The New" giveaway? It's kinda like I'm getting rid of the old book to make way for the new book.

To enter this giveaway, simply leave me a comment on this post regarding whatever you like. If you are not a parent of a child with autism, perhaps you could let everyone know why you want to learn more about it. Or, if you are a parent of a child with autism, maybe you could tell a little about how you came to learn of your child's diagnosis. Or you could just tell me what a fabulous blog I've got going here.

Just kidding, folks! If you wanna enter, leave me a comment about anything - assuming it is appropriate for a family-oriented blog.

January 2nd I will choose a winner at random and post the name in my blog post for that day. The winner will have until January 4th to send me a message to my email address listed at the bottom left corner of my profile page (when you scroll over "Email" on the profile page), including mailing address. Winner: Please type "Blog Giveaway" in the subject line of your email message.

Good luck!!! Have a safe and Happy New Year to ALL!!!!!!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

So Much to Blog, So Little Time...

So I better get started while there is peace and sleeping children.

Where do I begin?

Today has been a day of super highs and downright lows. It all started with me patting myself on the back for thinking ahead last night and sitting out some roast cuts on the stove for around two hours and then placing them in the garage refrigerator overnite to thaw. Actually, I'm pretty good about that planning ahead thing when it comes to dinner but roasts take a long while to thaw and even with that amount of time out of the freezer, they were still practically solid this morning. No matter, I seasoned them up and pre-browned them prior to tossing them in the crockpot with some new potatoes and baby carrots. We also have some leftover green beans and corn mixed together that need to get gone. This type of mixture is what my mom always called succotash but I have since then come to learn that true succotash is lima beans and corn....not grean beans. Dinner, done! Score! One point for Mommy!

Next up was showering. I try not to complain about it too awful much but I rarely get a shower during the day when Reiss is home and Daddy is not. Most mothers can just throw their tots in front of the tv and trot off to the bathroom for a few minutes of blissful hot water raining down on them. Not me. If you read this blog at all, you know Reiss does not watch tv. And left unsupervised.....well, that doesn't happen. Enough said. Having said all that, I decided I would go ahead and try to take a shower this morning anyway. It must have been some kind of Christmas miracle because I was able to get in the shower, lather up, rinse and get out with the house still standing. Granted, it was only three minutes but it was probably the best three minutes I've had all day. Score! Another point for Mommy!

Apparently, I must have been getting a little cocky with all my triumphs of the morning because soon thereafter, the mayhem began. We had gone out for a quick few errands and had returned home.

A little about our trip out first.....

While we were out, I saw a man turn into a cigarette and lottery ticket store and do an almost complete donut on the icy parking lot. I don't think he meant to do it, but it unnerved me just a bit because he turned into the place going way too fast. Had he spun just a few feet farther over from where he did, he would taken out at least three cars. Good job, buddy! Now go in there and buy some cigarettes so you can kill just a few more brain cells.

At one point while out, we were driving in another parking lot and I saw a girl in what had to be no less than five-inch heeled boots with an ice pick thin spike serving as the heel. All that.....walking across an icy, snowy parking lot. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or be impressed. All I know is that I was this close (visualize my thumb and forefinger coming together as close to one another as possible without actually touching) to rolling my window down and clapping. But I didn't.

One of our errands included going through a drive-thru and getting some lunch to take to James. Just as we entered the parking lot to the fast-food joint, some lady pulling away from the pickup window was either oblivious to me driving in the parking lot or simply felt she owned the place because she just started pulling out right in front of me. Luckily this parking lot wasn't icy or I'm sure I would have slid into her after having to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting her. I had to lay on the horn. Okay, maybe I didn't have to but I wanted to get her attention. And then, of course, as he always does when I beep at someone, Reiss had to ask me, "Mommy, why'd ya' beep at them?" And, of course, I wanted to say, "Because that lady had her head in her rear, sweetie." But I didn't.

Back home again, chaos ensued quite rapidly.

On the way home, Milla fell asleep in the truck so once we arrived home, I took her out and brought her into the living room and laid her down in a chair. Reiss was playing in the garage. Milla was snoozing with sweet little toddler snores barely audible over the heating ducts spewing out warm air since I had cranked the heat up immediately upon entering the house . I had turned the heat all the way down to 66 when we left and it must not have taken long for it to get that cold in here with the arctic temps outside because it was all the way down to that temperature and we were not gone long at all. So all was well in my world and then some psychotic battery-operated vtech bug toy decided to go off all on its own and make a musical wakeup call to Milla. Score! Psychotic toy, one point!

Reiss came in from playing in the garage and told me he had to poop so we went to the master bathroom and we both sat in there doing our business. Reiss on the toddler potty and me on the regular toilet. I was done before Reiss and got up and flushed. The toilet seemed to be taking longer than usual to refill the tank but I didn't think anything of it and next thing I knew water was spilling over the edges all over the place. Good thing Reiss had finished up because I needed to get him up to clean up the flood. Amidst that disaster, the shirt Reiss had taken off and placed at his feet had gotten soaked. As I tried to contain the flood, Reiss treated me to an extended length tantrum, extolling the extreme grief I caused him by not allowing him to wear the "pee shirt." Bad Mommy! I am just so mean.

Score! Psychotic toilet, one point!

Next up we went to the basement to see if there were any visible traces of the great flood of December '09. I didn't see anything and was glad of that because maybe it means that our contractor actually got something else right and the floor really is water-proofed.

While we were in the basement Reiss and Milla played with some toys that we just recently banished to the downstairs play area to make room for the Christmas toy explosion. Reiss was pushing around some robot toy and somehow landed flat on his face. The first time he did it, he laughed and got right back up. A few minutes later, I heard him pushing around the robot again, a cracking noise, a falling noise, and then Reiss crying. I went into the hallway and quickly picked him up to find blood pouring out of his nose. I'm not entirely certain what happened, as I couldn't get Reiss to answer my questions very well but I think he was pushing the toy around with his head down and ran into the door jam. Score! House, one point!

Finally, it was naptime and that leads us up to now.

I swear, the adventures of my daily life often read like a manuscript for a movie entitled "Manic Mommy" or some other hysterical comedy at which I am usually the only one not laughing but it doesn't get much better than this. There is peace and sleeping children, a fully cooked meal in the crockpot, and a husband who made it home safely and is crashing Bigfoot trucks all over the place on our new Wii.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The No Nonsense Zone

I will be the first to admit that sometimes my mouth gets me in trouble. Sometimes I say things that just don't need to be said and other times I say things that probably don't need to be said but, at the same time, some people need to hear. My no nonsense approach may have been handed down to me from my mother. Maybe it was acquired when I was in the military. Or perhaps it may just be a side-effect of my own concrete way of thinking. I don't know how I got to be this way but this is me and this is a No Nonsense Zone.

Just this evening was a good example of one of those times when I opened my mouth and said something I think some of the people needed to hear. Unfortunately, I don't think what I was really trying to say is what was heard by those who really needed to hear it.

Off and on today whenever I was on my computer and scrolling through my "live feed" on facebook, one message kept appearing. Several of my facebook friends said it. They all used a different way to say it, but it was the same message all the same: I want Christmas Break - or to be more politically correct, Holiday Break - to be over and I want my kids back in school.

I shot back with a comment of my own on my profile stating:
"(My full name).....thinks it's interesting how people will brag on how cool their kids are during regular school scheduling (when they are away all day) and then, a break comes along and every other comment on my fb feed is how they want their kids to go back to school. Let the flinging begin! If I can handle one w/autism & another w/dev... delays, I think I can handle the backlash this one might cause."

Depending on where you live in the country if you are in the United States, it's likely that today, December 21st, is the first day of a two-week (or more for some) break from school. When I see people complaining about wanting their kids gone and back in school on the very first day of a holiday break, I can't help but wonder what is so bad that they are looking forward to having their kids gone after such a short period of time. Worse yet, I wonder how their children feel. Seriously, that kind of attitude must radiate outwardly - and not only in the form of a facebook update for all to see.

Some people may think I'm judging and maybe I am. I don't think so. When a person comes right out and says that they want their child back in school, after only having them around for a little while...well, honestly, I think it is really sad and it pains me to wonder what kind of parental image the child involved has of their parents.

My husband and I deal with a lot of stress and a lot of challenges on a daily basis facing what we do with one child with autism and one with developmental delays. And yes, there are days when I need a break and the only break I am afforded is the three hours that Reiss is in preschool. So I'm not saying I never want a break and that I have to have my kids around me all the time (For the record though, while Reiss is at preschool I still have Milla so it's not much of a break.). Really, I am normal. I want a break now and then just as much as anyone.

That said, even as stressful as things get to be sometimes around here and as exhausted and rundown as I get, I still don't wish for my kids to be gone. I look forward to getting mommy breaks just as much as the next mommy. But I don't tire of their behaviors so easily that I wish for them to be gone for forty or more hours per week, as in, wanting them back in school after only a few hours of the first day of break.

I know some people will read this and still think I am judging. Or they will think that I'm saying my situation is worse. I'm not saying that at all. What I am saying is that I think we all - myself included at times - so easily forget how good we really have it.

From around November of last year to around June of this year, I experienced a seemingly insurmountable level of stress and depression. This is actually very common for parents who find out their child has autism. It is a time of an almost-mourning type of behavior as the parent adjusts to the diagnosis of their child, the challenges it presents, and the emotional loss of what may have been for their child. Or, at least, what they - the parents - envisioned as what may have been.

During those months of depression, I was mad at the world. In some ways, I still am. I am mad because my husband and I waited until we felt we were mature enough as adults to have children. We waited until we were financially and emotionally stable. We tried for years to get pregnant, facing three years of infertility. Then we were finally blessed with that little positive sign on the pregnancy test. We prepared for years for everything regarding having children.

Except for autism. We didn't prepare for that.

And I was mad because so many irresponsible people in the world who don't possess even an inkling of foresight or the ability to plan - people who should be poster children for birth control - were out there having kids. And not just having kids - having healthy, typical kids.

Having a child develop autism was like a punch in the face to us.

Anyway, getting off track here but not really because I'm trying to make a point of how we planned and prepared for everything and it all got thrown off-course. It wasn't fair to me and I was mad. I kept doing all the reading I could about autism and treatments and anything written by parents who have gone down this road. Actually, I still do. Right now I'm reading Cowboy & Wills by Monica Holloway.

With all that reading, I began to hear what needed to be said...We are very fortunate for what we have, even given the many challenges we have been given. We should always be thankful for our children and what they bring into our lives.

We love Reiss - autism and all - more than life itself. I can't imagine a life without him. I always wanted to homeschool any children James and I had and I would still love to homeschool. Right now, I don't feel I have what it takes for homeschooling a child with autism. Maybe someday, but as it it right now, it's just another dream fading away. When I think of how much I cherish Reiss and how much I would love to have him home, one can only imagine how I feel when I read of another parent wishing their child away at school and away from them.

I don't know if I've articulated my true feelings here. After all this, I know some people will still walk away thinking I beg for pity for our situation and that I think we have it worse than others. I don't want pity from anyone, and especially not from anyone who refuses to be thankful for what they have been given. I just wish for other children that their parents desired the company of their children as much as the children desire the parents' love and attention. And isn't that really all children are trying for when they carry on and try to drive us over the edge?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Masters of Disasters

Last Wednesday Reiss' class made gingerbread men. Because our family eats gluten and casein free, Reiss obviously cannot have the traditional gingerbread cookie dough, so I made a really great GFCF version of it and sent some of it to school with him. What was left of it was dealt with on Saturday evening.

A little bit of tapioca flour for dusting down the table and making sure the dough didn't stick when rolling.....

Reiss eating a bunch of icing. YUM! And we have one shirt off....

If it looks like fun, I can tell you it really was a good time. I don't think I remember the last time Reiss and Milla stayed occupied for so long with one activity. It was nice to be able to just sit and relax without having to entertain them or worry what they were getting into...who cares that they made a ginormous mess. They had fun and the mess was cleaned up in about ten minutes - a nice trade-off for about twenty minutes of breathing time for me.

And no, you are not imagining things. Yes, they were eating the gingerbread cookie dough raw and although I am not one to worry about salmonella in raw cookie dough, I definitely didn't need to worry about it with this dough because the recipe is free of gluten, casein, and is egg-free as well. You can find the recipe HERE. It is Lisa Lewis' recipe for Gingerbread People from her book, Special Diets for Special Kids.

Moving on to other messes....

Our new two-person, open-concept shower.....

The extra-wide, extra-deep spa tub and glass block window....

The granite countertop we had made for a miraculously inexpensive price by purchasing a remnant.

And finally, what happens when someone (not me!) adds "a little bit" of shower gel to a spa tub with the jets turned on......

I am still left wondering how much constitutes "a little bit."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

If You Don't Like Our Pancake Recipe.....

Blame Living Without magazine!

Seriously, I know the recipe we use is not for everyone and if it's not your cup of tea, you might try Ginger Lemon Girl's recipe for pancakes that she recently posted. The recipe is gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free, and vegan. Judging by the photo, the pancakes this recipe makes look very tasty....BUT beware if you or a member of your family cannot eat yeast.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Breakfast with Santa Claus

Reiss, Milla, and Daddy at one of the craft tables. They made little reindeer ornaments with popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, and googley eyes.

Reiss getting ready to tell Santa Claus to bring him a Colts shirt, please - with buttons! We're still trying to figure that one out.

Reiss surprised us with his willingness to sit on Santa's lap. Milla wasn't having any of it!

Another surprise.....Reiss not only did not throw a fit about the horse, he was very willing to check him out and even give him a little pat. If I sound pessimistic, I don't mean to. I'm just going by most of our experiences with animals. Reiss and Milla are both terrified of most animals - even Grandma's chihuahua. In their defense though, Grandma's chihuahua is yippity-yappy and more hyper than Reiss doped up on candy bars.

Dancer and his merry red-painted hooves. This was the last photo I took before we all went on a very, very chilly carriage ride.

Yesterday was our breakfast with Santa Claus. The event was held at a church not far from our house and was sponsored by our county's autism support group. Although we had to take our own food in order to be able to stick to eating GFCF, it was nice to be around others who "get it."

No one around to point, stare, and whisper if our children began having an all-out meltdown over something as trivial as a drop of water getting on their shirt or having to have the food wiped from their faces (as was the case with us). Really, I'm not prejudiced against people who only have typical children but I do get tired of the looks we receive. If pointing and staring at children like mine is the example these parents are setting for their own children, it's no wonder why their kids grow up to be the ones who bully kids like mine once they are in school.

I will not go off on that tangent though. This is supposed to be a positive post!

Reiss and Milla got to eat breakfast at a table decorated with Christmas decor and marshmallows for snow, work on crafts, see Santa Claus, use bathrooms away from home (which is the whole reason we went there, right?), and take a carriage ride. It was incredibly cold yesterday but fun was had by all. Other than the mouth-wiping incident, I would say it was one of our best outings in quite some time.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Company Who Wants to Pay Me to Potty Train!!!!

Okay, not really.

But I did learn about a company who will ease the burden of the expense of buying disposable training pants. Considering the fact that we have been potty-training (the same child no less!) for going on three years, there's no telling how long we will be purchasing poop pants.

Thank you to Jen over at A MOMMY ON A MISSION for her mention of The Caregivers Marketplace, an organization that "provides cash back on eligible products used every day to provide care."

Even if you are not potty-training, it's worth it to take a peek at The Caregivers' list of eligible products, as it also contains pain relievers, supplements, and many other products.

I'm all giddy just thinking about getting money back on our Huggies Pull-Ups, Huggies diapers, and Cottonelle Fresh Wipes - products that I already save on by redeeming coupons and buying only when they are on sale. Who knew I could get such excitement out of thinking about products that will eventually have poop on them.

Things Are Better Than I Make Them Sound

First things, first.

Celeste Jean, if you are reading, I have emailed you to request your mailing address for your Betty Crocker prize pack to be sent to you. If you're like me, you may get a lotta, lot of email and perhaps did not see my message, so I wanted to bring it to your attention on here.

We did not get to do the adorable marshmallow craft pictured below this morning because I am a slacker mommy. I was going to go to the craft store last night to get the styrofoam ring to make it and noticed that I didn't have any marshmallows either. I could have just sworn I had a bag of the large kind in the pantry but alas, none, and I didn't want to make two separate stops last night. So, going to the craft store and getting marshmallows at the grocery are both on the list of to-do errands this weekend. Maybe we can save this project for a craft-time activity for Monday.

This week has been a challenging week. Dealing with this autism thing day in and day out, one would think I would get used to some of the more annoying behaviors and just let them roll off - and really, sometimes I do.

However, this week and over the past two or three weeks now I have heard the question "What's gonna happen if I close the gate while I'm on the brown?" probably no less than 422,000 times. See, Reiss knows how to open the gate at the top of the stairs but we keep it there so that Milla doesn't fall down the stairs. Reiss is welcome to let himself through the gate and to the stairs going to the basement whenever he wants. Too often though, he will open the gate, stand on the top step (which is brown, hence, "the brown") and try to close the gate behind him, all while asking that question....the question that I am just certain if I hear it one more time, steam will come barreling out of my ears or nose or mouth or all three combined.

When I tried to express my frustration on facebook about this, I got the typical phrase all parents of children with autism just love to hear: "Oh, that's normal. All kids do that." Well, that wasn't exactly what was told to me but that was the jist of it and any parent in this position knows that this kind of behavior is not normal. If I had a dime for every time I've heard the "All kids do that....blah, blah, blah." Whatever....come walk in my shoes for a day and you will know what I'm talking about.

Yes, all typical kids will ask questions over and over. For example, "Can I have ________, please? Pleeeeeaaaase? I promise, promise, promise I'll be good." And that's what the parent may hear several times in one day. If you're one of these people, seriously, tell me, when was the last time your typical child asked you the same question three-hundred, four-hundred, or even more times in one day? And yes, I am being literal. Those numbers are no exaggeration.

If I sound like I'm complaining, well, maybe I am and this is my blog so I'll do what I want. Call it what you will but I have the right just like anyone else to vent now and then. And don't even get me started on the petty little complaints on some of my facebook friends' pages to the likes of "Oh, poor me. I'm so tired. I need a nap." from people who don't even have kids, much less a kid with autism. I really just want to tell them to suck it up and that they don't know the first thing about exhaustion. Ask any parent about exhaustion and I bet close to 100% will say they never knew the true meaning of exhaustion until they had kids. And that's saying a lot coming from me, someone who was in the military, someone who knows what it's like to get up at 4am, go to PT and then train all day long for an eighteen to twenty hour day.

Blah, blah, blah.....blah.....blah, blah, blah!!!

Yes, I am very frustrated this week.

Guess what Milla's thing is right now? She likes to take her pull-up off and get a new one every few minutes. By 11 am this morning, she had changed her pull-up no less than fifteen times. Keep in mind, that is only about two hours that she had time to do it too, because she woke up a little before 8am and her speech therapist was here for an hour. She did not pull off her pull-up any while the ST was here so that only leaves about two hours - or an average of a new pull-up about every eight minutes. Good times.......

On a more positive note, we are going to have breakfast with Santa this weekend. We have to take our own food, because although it is sponsored by an autism support group, many of the parents do not use any special diets for treating their child's autism and the food there will be traditional fare, almost certain to contain all kinds of gluten and casein. I am happy to have friends who also eat gluten-free and casein-free who will be in attendance. There's nothing I hate more than being the freaks wherever we go because we don't eat things others do. I'm starting to think this must be how people feel who eat a raw diet or vegan or both.

It will also be interesting to see the kids' reactions to Santa and if they will go near him. Hopefully, I will not forget the camera. Let's hope I have something pleasant to photograph.

And another positive....Reiss pooped on the potty last night!!! Something that has not happened much as of late. Just when we think we have his "currency" figured out to bribe him to poop on the potty, he switches things up on us and his currency turns to something else that we can't figure out and the old currency is worthless. Right now, chocolate candy bars are out. "Bugs" are in. Bugs are gummy fruit snacks, such as the Betty Crocker Create-a-Bug snacks I recently reviewed. We also buy the Annie's bunnies, but wow, are they expensive!

Well, I'm sure no one came here to read me complain about everything under the sun and since I'm not having the greatest week or looking at things with the best perspective....Toodles!

Until next time...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Cute Craft Idea and a Plug

Thank you to JenJen over at tatertots & jello for this oh-so-cute Christmas craft idea!

Yes, I said it - Christmas!!! And any of you Best Buy fans out there can just leave the room now if you don't like it. Hey, I have nothing against other religions but if you're not gonna say "Merry Christmas" in your ads, then you definitely shouldn't be saying "Happy Eid al-Adha!" Or, at least, not in the United States!

Back on track here....

Typically, the first Friday of each month the staff where Reiss goes to developmental preschool have some form of training, making it so the children do not attend class. This month is CPR training. Thank goodness for that, right???

Friday mornings are also when Milla has speech therapy so on those Fridays when Reiss does not go to school, it is nice to have something to keep him occupied and not disturbing Milla's therapist or their hour of therapy.

After finding this cute idea for a holiday wreath, I thought it would be the perfect activity to keep Reiss busy for at least a few minutes. I'm not terribly sure whether the gumdrops are gluten and casein free but if not, we'll find something that makes a suitable replacement. Who knows, we may end up with a marshmallow and Swedish fish wreath.

So what if Reiss has marshmallows and candy for breakfast that day....what kid wouldn't love that? The important thing is he will be a busy little bee. And probably really busy for the rest of the day too, while riding on his sugar high.

And the Betty Crocker Contest Winner Is......

Celeste Jean

My apologies for not posting the winner sooner! A tip for anyone interested in participating in future contests on this site: Celeste Jean won by default. As in, although there were three people who left comments as contest entries on the Betty Crocker contest post, she was the only one who left her comment before the deadline.

Congratulations, Celeste Jean!