Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Woman Who Always Yells

There's a worker at my boys' school whom the boys refer to as "the woman who always yells."  I'm not sure if they even know her real name.

She supervises lunch and recess.  I've heard a few stories about her so far, including that it hurts Griffin's ears when she blows her whistle near him at recess.

Today Griffin got a school lunch for the first time (as opposed to taking a packed lunch).  The children have to choose their lunch first thing in the morning by selecting a colored card that corresponds to one of the three lunch choices.  Griffin calls it "voting for lunch," which makes me smile. 

So Griffin wanted to vote for lunch today.  It was an exciting event, and I was secretly nervous about how it would go.  Griffin isn't exactly known for doing well with new experiences.

After school today I excitedly asked Griffin how voting for lunch went today.  His answer was simply, "No."  I had to press for more information.

Apparently The Woman Who Always Yells yelled at him today.  Something about milk.  I had to know more.

He said he forgot to put his milk on his tray.  He said in his matter-of-fact voice, "I'm supposed to carry my tray with two hands.  I thought I should carry my milk with one hand.  I just didn't have enough hands."  So The Woman yelled at him.

Then he cried.

What happened next?  Everyone asked why he was crying.  And what did you say?  "I said I wanted you."

Griffin voted for the hot dog lunch choice today, and he chose peaches as his side.  I asked if that was enough to fill him up, and he said it was. 

In fact, The Woman Who Always Yells came over to his table after he had eaten all his food.  She said he would grow to be very big and strong because he ate all his food.  She told the other kids to eat like him. 

"And she patted my head."

I pointed out that The Woman Who Always Yells can be nice sometimes, too.

Of course, that wasn't my first reaction.

As Griffin was talking (and Nolan was adding his own commentary and impressions of The Woman Who Always Yells), I went through the following thoughts/reactions:

  1. Who is this woman?  I'm coming to school to meet her.  And have a private conversation with her.
  2. Maybe her job really is frustrating and she has to be loud to be heard over a cafeteria full of children.  But then again, yelling at the students isn't the best way to get your point across.
  3. Maybe I should talk to the principal about this notorious worker.  
  4. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to teach my kids about dealing with difficult people.  This woman is not the last crabby person they'll encounter.  They need to develop the skills required to interact with negative people.  I need to develop these skills.
And then we moved on to talk about other parts of the day, like how Griffin was the Star Student for the day.  He showed me the book his classmates made for him, where each student drew a picture of Griffin.  He named every student, many by first and last name, and told me the nice things his teacher said about him.  He carried the book around with him everywhere he went after that.

These children can be frustrating.  Some days I'm The Mom Who Always Yells.  But some days I just can't stifle my smile over the boy who was the Star Student and voted for his lunch for the first time.

Every day brings new adventures from school!


Monday, September 23, 2013

Dirty Houses Make Good Friends

I genuinely enjoy doing nice things for people.

It's actually a bit selfish because I like the way it makes me feel to bless someone else.

Then I mess it all up by adding my ridiculous expectations. 

A friend of mine just had a baby, and I really wanted to take her a meal.  I kept putting it off because I didn't have a baby gift to give to her.

Not only did I want to take her a gift, but I wanted it to be a super meaningful gift.  Something homemade and personalized.  And unique.  And useful.

Is that even possible?

When I told Jared why I hadn't taken a dinner to my friend, he made fun of me (lovingly) and brought me back to reality.

So I picked a day and told her I'd be bringing a dinner.  I let go of my "what if they don't like these foods" thoughts and just picked a recipe.  I even tried a brand new recipe for their dessert (I generally try not to try a new recipe on other people; I like to give it a test drive at home first).  This is risky business, you know.

I planned, shopped, and prepared the meal and dessert.  Last Friday morning, Nora and I set out to go see my friend, deliver the prepared food, play with her toddler son, and smell snuggle meet her new baby.  I seriously didn't want my friend to tidy her house or put on makeup or do anything extra just because we were coming over.  Afterall, I was trying to lighten her load of daily chores, not add to it.  I nearly sent her a text threatening that if her house appeared clean or if I detected mascara on her tired eyes that I wouldn't leave her dessert.  I decided to just stick to the classic "We're on our way."

She claimed her house was unvacuumed, but all I noticed were great paint colors, eye-catching decorations, and fabulous organization.  She mumbled something about her clothes and her hair being up, but I just couldn't get over wondering if she had any baby weight to lose because I couldn't find it.  She also mentioned that they had all been up since one of those times that I don't like to see on the clock unless it's followed by a "pm."  Those are hard days. 

In fact, those are "I don't really want to see anyone today" days.  But she let us come over anyway.  And she didn't try to vacuum, even though it was bothering her.  She didn't try to style her hair in a way she thought would be more acceptable.  She didn't change her clothes.

When I left her house, I felt honored that she let us come into her imperfect world.  It felt like she trusted me with the real her.

What a gift.

Even while I was still processing my interaction with her and thinking how thankful I am to have a friend like that, I had to switch my focus to later that day.  We had asked a friend and her kids to come eat dinner and hang out with us for the evening.  I had prepped our dinner while I was making the meal to take to my friend with the new baby.  But now I was thinking about how I hadn't cleaned my house all week. 

The problem was that we were going to be hosting a big dinner at our house the following evening, and I knew I'd be cleaning all day leading up to that dinner.  Did I really want to clean my house Friday afternoon before my friend came for a casual visit and then clean again on Saturday before our fancy dinner?  Nope.  I really didn't want to do all that work.

So I decided to try out this newfangled idea of letting a friend come into my real world.  I sent a text to my friend just before she came over for the casual Friday night dinner.  I said, "My house is filthy and I'm cleaning tomorrow.  You've been properly warned."  I hoped I didn't sound offensive or give the impression that she wasn't important enough to clean for. 

Her response put me at ease:  "Aww, thank you for not caring.  You're a true friend."

Wow.  Who would have thought?  She felt the same way about coming into my real house as I felt about going into my other friend's real house. 

I guess I've had a double standard:  I don't want other people to clean before I come over, but I always feel the need to clean before anyone comes to my house.

I want to appear to have to have it all together.  I want to pretend that my house already looked spotless and I'm unrattled by an unexpected visitor or company in the midst of my sometimes difficult world.  I want to trick people into thinking that I can do it all, and with my hair and makeup done, too.  I don't want to let on that my reality includes a husband who is out of town, three kids who woke me up three different times during the night, breakfast remnants still on the table, lunch remnants still on the counter, and I don't even know if the dishwasher is full of clean or dirty dishes (but I know the sink is full of dirty ones).  It's a little too scary to see who still likes me on those days.  But I'm starting to think that letting a friend into my dirty house (or some other ugly part of my reality) is what makes a strong friendship.

It's not that I won't ever clean for company again (I wish!).  But if a friend wants to come over and I can't get my house clean, or I plain don't want to, I apparently don't have to fake it.  Some friends really do want to spend time with people, not compare houses or see who's doing better at their housewife duties.  Some friends have the ability to see past the clutter (or lack therof) to see the real person underneath. 

I want to be one of those friends.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Less Do This

My kindergartener learned the "F" word yesterday.  The actual "F" word.

Ralphie from "A Christmas Story":  Only I didn't say "Fudge."  I said THE word, the big one, the queen mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word!

Let me clarify that Griffin didn't say the "F" word.  A boy said it to him at lunch yesterday at school.  Then he told Griffin that it's a cuss word.  Griffin had never heard this word before.

Last night while I ran to Walmart (alone!), Griffin cornered Jared and asked him what the word means by incorrectly spelling it to Jared (Griffin left out the "c").  Not to worry, Jared handled it like a pro. 

Jared told him it's a word we never say, and he managed to dodge all of Griffin's questions about the actual meaning of the word.  He talked about how there are good and bad versions of words, or at least better ways to say things.  His example was that "be quiet" is a nicer version of "shut up."  This is a discussion we have with our kids a lot:  that some words aren't necessarily bad but we can find a nicer way to say something.  The "F" word is clearly on the cuss list.

When I returned home from Walmart (both refreshed by getting out alone and exhausted from the shopping and colliding with People of Walmart), Jared told me about the "F" word incident.

I took the opportunity to have a family lecture discussion reminding the kids that they can and should always talk to me and Jared when they hear something that doesn't sound right or they don't know what it means.  Griffin was originally crushed and upset when Jared first told him that word is an awful word that we don't say.  But then Griffin was beaming when we praised him for talking to us about what he heard.  I think everyone got the message.

If learning the "F" word in kindergarten is a sign of things to come, I don't know if I can handle my kids being out in the big wide world.
_  _  _  _  _

In other school news...Nolan was promoted to Spy Leader 1 and actually started his own spy team at recess.

He keeps coming home with notes from his friends at school.  It makes me smile from my face down to my heart.

He brought home FOUR notes just today, and he helped me understand them:

To Nolan from Evan (last name removed for privacy).  You are the coolest person I know in school!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Awesome!!!!!!  Awesome
To Nolan.  We will go to the tree while the girls walk by us.  I will tell you the secret when we go to lunch.  Ok!!!!  I will just tell you now.  Ok we will chase the girls while they are by us ok!  And Ryan is going to play with us too ok.  See you at lunch.
These are play diagrams to show how the boys ("bas") will get away from the girls at recess.  The top play shows the boys pretending to run to one side and then actually running to the other side to fake out the girls.  Even Nolan couldn't figure out what was happening in the bottom diagram.

And my personal favorite:

Less do this = Let's do this

Oh, I love it!  This precious boy has told Nolan that he's awesome, explained their secret plan to fool the girls, and drawn diagrams to show how they'll pull it off.  He tops it off with one final motivational line.

Less do this.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Butternut Squash Lasagna

I have to share a recent dinner recipe that we tried and LOVED.

Jared brought home a butternut squash from the grocery store, and I had to find a way to use it.  A quick look around my Dinners board on Pinterest led me to the idea of using the squash in a lasagna.

The catch is that the squash replaces the lasagna noodles.

Of course I didn't take any pictures of my cooking process or even finished product.  But this was just so darn tasty that I had to share it, even without my own pictures.

The above pictures and the original recipe are from Health-Bent.

I altered the recipe to fit the ingredients (and time) that I had.

Here's what I did.

1 butternut squash
1 lb. ground beef (or whatever meat you'd like)
1 can (15 oz.) pizza sauce (we love Contadina brand)
2 c. shredded mozzarella

1.  Preheat oven to 400.

2.  Brown the ground beef in a skillet and drain and discard grease.

3.  Peel the squash.  Cut it in half lengthwise.  Cut each half in half (crosswise) by cutting just above the seeds.  I didn't need the bottom half of the squash (the two quarters with the seeds).   I saved those for a future dinner side dish.  Have I lost you yet?  If not, thinly slice the two squash quarters that have no seeds.  Using a mandolin would be ideal, but I don't have one (it's on my Christmas list!).  I simply stood up the squash quarter on one of it's half-circle-shaped ends.  I carefully sliced, making my cuts parallel to the flat side of the squash quarter.  Sigh--why didn't I just take pictures of this part??

4.  Spread a small amount of pizza sauce in the bottom of a 9x9 square pan (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan).

5.  Lay the squash slices over the sauce in the pan.  Try to lay them close enough to make a solid layer, but don't overlap them.  You can always trim to fit.  Plus the squash slices are all slightly different widths, so choose wisely.

6.  Sprinkle about 1/3 of the browned ground beef over the squash.

7.  Sprinkle shredded cheese over the beef.

8.  Spread some pizza sauce (not too much) over the cheese.

9.  Repeat layers:  squash, beef, cheese, pizza sauce, squash, beef, cheese, pizza sauce.  I had enough ingredients to add one more layer of squash topped with the last of the pizza sauce and the last of the cheese.

10.  Bake for 40 minutes.  I got a phone call as my oven timer went off, and I forgot to take my lasagna out.  About 10 minutes later, I remembered and panicked as I ran to the oven.  No harm done.  The cheese was brown but not burned.  We liked the crunch.

I have to say that this was amazingly tasty in my opinion.  I liked it way better than my Spaghetti Squash Lasagna.  I will definitely make this again!


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

One Year Ago Today

September 11th is a significant date for all Americans.  I don't mean to diminish that significance in any way.  However, this date now has a new significance for my family.  It's a personal anniversary of sorts.

On September 11, 2012, we took Griffin to his Easter Seals evaluation.  After months of paperwork, phone interviews, observations, discussions, and heartache, we finally reached the day when Griffin could be evaluated by multiple professionals all day long to see how he was functioning in various categories of development.

After hours of evaluation, we took Griffin out to lunch and then left him with my sister while Jared and I went back to Easter Seals alone to face the panel of professionals to hear their diagnosis.

One year ago today, Griffin was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

A lot has changed in a year.

For one thing, Asperger's is no longer an actual diagnosis.  When the American Psychiatric Association published the newest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), they changed the structuring of diagnostic criteria and naming of autism-related disorders.

Now Griffin's diagnosis falls under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).  That's about all I understand about the change for now.  Several professionals have used the term autistic to describe Griffin (and other children with Asperger's and other Autism Spectrum Disorders), so I find it easier to use that same term.

A year ago we felt overwhelmed.  We were heartbroken to have skilled professionals tell us that our child wasn't "normal."  We really didn't know what would change after Griffin had an official diagnosis.  We were filled with questions.  How would he do in school?  Would he ever make friends on his own?  Would he ever date?  Would we ever find extracurricular activities to engage him?

We needed time to work through the raw emotions.  We had to wrestle with our own questions in our own private little world.  We had been going through the whole evaluation process without really discussing it with anyone.  We needed time to grieve, process, and grow a little thicker skin before we could share this news with anyone.

We received the diagnosis on September 11, we had our follow-up meeting at Easter Seals in October, and we finally told our families in November.  It took a few more months after that before we started to discuss Griffin's diagnosis with friends and people at church.

Eventually, I learned to see Griffin's diagnosis not as something to be ashamed of but as a way to help people understand Griffin.  Most people don't really understand Asperger's or Autism Spectrum Disorder, but they are much more willing to listen and work with Griffin's challenges when they know that he has an actual diagnosis.

Having a diagnosis helps other people see that Griffin is not just an out of control kid who needs better parenting.  There's always room for improvement in our parenting (trust me).  But Griffin is just created a little differently than other kids, even the other kids in our family.  He processes the world differently.  He functions differently and responds differently.

I choose to see Griffin as a unique creation, hand-crafted by God.  In addition to being a bit challenging, Griffin is different in ways that are strengths (or will develop into strengths).  When I look at that precious boy, there is no doubt in my mind that God will accomplish great things through Griffin that He could not accomplish through other people.

Jared and I often joke that we just have to harness Griffin's powers for good rather than evil.

It's actually true.  We pray for God's wisdom in how we should parent our children.  We want to help them develop into the people God created them to be.   We want to seek God's approval of our parenting rather than the approval of the people around us.  I'm still working on that one. 

I actually can't believe that it's only been one year since the day we were given Griffin's diagnosis.  I guess I've finally embraced who Griffin is.  He is a child who shares many characteristics as other children on the Autism Spectrum.  But there's no one else in this world like him.

Griffin has overcome a lot of challenges in a year.  He has improved in his behavior, tried new things, improved his coping skills, learned a lot about relating to people, and adjusted to many life changes.

I've overcome a lot of challenges in a year.  I've improved my parenting behavior, tried new things, improved my coping skills, learned about relating to people, and adjusted to many life changes.

See?  We're all making progress.

I thought this date would always be a painful date.  I can honestly say that just one year later, it doesn't even sting anymore.  There will be harder days ahead.  They have a way of popping up every now and then. 

Today doesn't feel nearly as hard as I thought it would.

Today is a day to acknowledge and remember where we've been and everything we've overcome.  I don't dread the next September 11th because I believe we'll make even more progress by then. 

To continue my previous trend (Blogiversary, Housiversary, etc.), I'll say it:  Happy Aspergiversary! :)



Since we moved into our new house, Mondays have been my cleaning days.  After I get the boys off to school, I get busy wiping, dusting, scrubbing, sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming. 

As of this week, Mondays have a new purpose.

Monday mornings are for Nora's ballet class! 

This is the first time Nora has taken any sort of dance/gymnastics class.  I was looking for a class during the day while the boys are at school, and a friend recommended this studio to me.  The first class went really well!  There was a glass wall separating the dance studio from the parent waiting room.  I took 50 or so pictures through the glass. :)

She kept waving to me :)

It was hard to get decent pictures because of the sun shining in and reflecting off the glass wall.  That didn't stop me from using my phone to take loads of pictures and videos.  I think I smiled the entire 45 minutes of her class!

Here are some pictures I took at home before we left for class:

I told you I took lots of pictures!  This was a super fun milestone since Nora is my only girl and I can remember taking dance classes when I was little. 

Nora loved wearing her "ballet dress" but didn't love the tights.  She's still deciding how she feels about the ballet shoes.  I just hope she keeps loving the class. 

You can bet that I'll be grinning every Monday morning...especially since I won't be cleaning!


Monday, September 9, 2013

Two New Members

I would like you to meet the two newest members of my family:

Yes, they are a washer and a dryer.  They may be simple appliances, but we worked hard and waited a long time for these babies.

We were in the house one month before these appliances were finally delivered.  We had ordered them before we closed on the house.  When our closing date was moved up, we knew we would have a short period of time without a washer, dryer, and refrigerator.  However, the company through which we ordered the appliances kept changing the shipping date and stringing us along.  Suffice it to say it's been a very frustrating process.

We had to make weekly trips to the laundromat.  It wasn't terrible until the day that I was folding our clean laundry and found someone else's dog hair.

I saved up our dirty laundry from that point forward until we got our own washer and dryer.

So, this may be the only time that I've ever felt really excited about laundry.   

After Jared got the new appliances properly hooked up, I nervously started the first load of laundry.  I started with some towels, just in case something went wrong.

Everything worked perfectly!

After the towels were safely cleaned and dried, I was able to start tackling all the stockpiled dirty laundry. 

The excitement wore off somewhere around the fourth load of laundry.

So now laundry is just laundry again.  But I'm reminded to be thankful for small luxuries like being able to give my kids clean clothes...without other people's pet hair.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Spy Leader 2

Kindergarten was a rough adjustment for Nolan (and me).  First grade was much better, but I'd say Nolan tolerated school.  He behaved well and thrived academically, but he didn't love school.

This year Nolan is in second grade, and he is attending a new school.  I wasn't sure how this would go.

Wanna know Nolan's word to describe school this year?  "Awesome."  As his mom, I think that's pretty awesome.

Nolan has a super fantastic teacher.  We love the principal at the new school.  And Nolan quickly started making friends.  All of these things are humongous answers to our desperate prayers.

I absolutely love hearing the boys tell me about their day at school, and I especially love when they talk about the new friends they're making. 

Last week Nolan emptied his backpack after school and handed me the usual stack of graded homework and papers from the teacher.

Then he handed me another paper.  It was something a new friend had made him.

Nolan and this boy have nicknamed themselves Spy Leader 1 and Spy Leader 2.  They make up adventures during recess.  And Spy Leader 1 has pledged to always be Nolan's friend.

That, my friends, is pretty awesome.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How Moms Have Fun

Today was the first day of TLC, the Wednesday morning church preschool program that Nora attends.

She really didn't want to take any pictures, but I managed a couple.

Today's TLC session was a little shorter than usual, but I still had about 2.5 hours to myself.  Two and a half hours to myself!

I decided to do a little shopping.

First, I browsed for clothes at Kohl's.  Clothes for me.  It was Jared's idea, and I didn't have much trouble going along with it.

Since I lost 55 pounds, I got rid of lots of my old clothes.  However, I still try to make due with some of the shirts that are only a size or so too big.  Then I have a couple of cheap shirts that I picked up at Walmart and Kmart on the days when I just couldn't stand wearing ill-fitting shirts anymore.

Today, I wanted something pretty.  I don't keep up with fashion very well, but I have heard repeatedly that emerald green is the "it" color for fall.  While I may not know exactly what shade of green that is, I hit the racks at Kohl's looking for something green.

I found this shirt on clearance:

I loved the color and shape.  The fabric is super soft.  I like the little bit of detailing on the sleeves and seam on the back.  I did not like the beading on the front.

This is where is pays to have basic sewing tools.  Plus I'm not afraid to make alterations to my clothing.

I simply used my seam ripper to cut and remove the threads holding the beads.  I worked slowly and carefully so I wouldn't cut anything other than the threads that held the beads.

After I removed all of the beads, there were still rows of stitching in that triangle on the shirt.  They were machine stitched on the shirt under the area where the beads were attached with different threads.  I thought they added a little interest, so I left them.

I considered adding a different embellishment (lace?) in lieu of the beads, but I'm just gonna leave it as is for now.  Here's my new shirt:

Now I have some random beads.  The craft hoarder in me doesn't want to throw them away.  The rational person in me doesn't know what to make with them.

After my shopping adventure was over, I had enough time to run over to the nearby Ulta.  I recently went to Ulta for the first time with some girlfriends, and now I'm addicted.

I saw some beautiful navy blue nail polish on Pinterest the other day, so I wanted to see what I could find.  Remember, I'm trying to find a couple small ways to be the slightest bit stylish.  A new nail color is easy and low commitment.

After inspecting every bottle of blue nail polish (did you know there are lots?), I decided on "Yoga-ta Get This Blue" by OPI.

I also picked up some matte top coat (also OPI).

Here's what the navy blue nail polish looked like by itself (2 coats):

And here's what it looks like with the matte topcoat:

A new green top and navy blue nails:  that's how this mom finds a little fun in life.

I wonder what I'll do next Wednesday!