Monday, October 5, 2015

DIY Light Box

So this was an awesome Pinterest find that I was able to put together in less than 15 minutes!

I happened to have all the supplies already which made it all the more awesome!

1 Clear storage container (the lid for mine was white, so I simply turned the container upside down.)
1 string of twinkle lights (I used white, but different colors would create cool different effects)
A strip of wax paper the length of the container (this makes the surface opaque, which diffuses the light more evenly)
White duct tape ( any color would do, I just like the cleaner look of the white.)

Use small strips of tape to secure the twinkle lights evenly arranged on the bottom of the container, or in my case to the lid, since that was going to be the bottom of our light box. Leave the length of wire with the plug loose and make sure you have arranged the lights so as to have the plug where you will have ease of access to an outlet.

Secure the lid onto the container, be sure not to trap any bulbs between the lid and container as this could break the bulbs. The wire may easily fit between the lid and container, as it did in ours, but if you container has a more snug seal, you may want to cut a hole through the container large enough for the plug to fit through.

Lay the wax paper on top of the container and secure edges all around with white tape. This prevents tears along the edges. ( I know that we will have to periodically replace the wax paper on ours as it accidentally, or purposely, gets nicked and ripped.)

Plug in and enjoy!!

Kit loved putting together her gear set on top of the table and watching them spin over the glowing light.

Then Zak joined in and they used the Blockus pieces to create cool patterns on the surface, and then put on the crazy glasses from our Googley Eyes game to make some kaleidoscope like effects.

All in all, it was a quick, easy, and fun indoor activity. We used it a lot this summer when it was just too hot to play outside. But now that fall is here and winter soon to follow, this would make a great play station on those frigid days as well.

It also makes a lovely night light!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Taking Their Time

I may have seemed cool, calm, and collected, but inside I was writhing with anxiety.

What if...what if...what if...

Four years old...five...six. Still in Velcro or zip-up shoes. 

Other kids are supposed to know this by now! 

Other kids DO know this by now!!

We are falling behind! So what if he can read and do second grade math! He can't tie his shoes! I can't even get him interested!

Seven years old. Another mom expresses concern about her own son's lack of interest and asks if it's something we are going to focus on. 

"I'm not too worried. When he is ready he'll let me know. He won't be twenty and still not know how to tie his shoes." I was reassuring myself as much as her.

Eight years old. "Mom, can I have some tie shoes?" 

YES!! Imaginary fist pumps in the air!

"Of course you can." 

Like many things, he only needed me to show him a couple of times, and boom, he got it.

Let's just say I worried a lot less by the time Grace was approaching seven and still not interested in tying her shoes. (She took an interest somewhere in year seven, and now whips out a bow like a pro.)

I learned a lesson I have had to repeat numerous times as a mom: 

Chill, Mama! Everything comes in time. Their time.

Not a single one of my children has been what I expected. They have been so much richer, more vibrant, creative, funny, and amazing than it was possible for me to imagine.

They are already each a unique and beautiful flower. As if I were handed a pot of soil each with a surprise seed or bulb nestled below the the surface. I don't set the pace at which they grow or blossom. I get to water, fertilize, protect, and make sure they have enough sunlight and room to grow. 

Some burst open right away and shine their brilliant colors for all the world to see! Others take more time, start out small but gradually grow fuller and fuller and more and more aromatic until you are simply awed by their majesty. Some need to climb! Others need deep roots. Some need more pruning than others.

They are not here for me to make into people. They are already people, with distinct personalities, and nearly unlimited potential. They are here for me to protect, love, guide, and teach so that they can hone their abilities and strengths, overcome or work around their weaknesses, and make their own special contributions to the world. 

Best of all, I get to enjoy them at every stage! 

What a privilege to tend these amazing creatures. 

These whole persons who share my life.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book Review! And Giveaway!!

Axel and Theo - Blog Tour Button

Mother Daughter Book Reviews is pleased to be coordinating a Blog Tour for the lower middle grade book "Axel & Theo: My Dog is The Emperor of a Faraway Galaxy" by Amberly Kristen Clowe from June 22 to 28, 2015. This one is a great choice for reluctant readers!


About the Book

Axel and Theo: My Dog is the Emperor of a Faraway Galaxy 

  Title: Axel & Theo: My Dog is the Emperor of a Faraway Galaxy | Author: Amberly Kristen Clowe | Publication Date: November 15, 2014 | Publisher: Smooth Sailing Press | Pages: 44 | Recommended Ages: 6to 10 Summary: Theodore Howard wants a white flag. The kind of white flag that will show Riverwood Elementary’s biggest bully, Theo’s given up on ever surviving the fourth grade, and achieving his dream of becoming a real-life astronaut. But, Theo’s seemingly pathetic future gets a glimmer of hope in the form of a very talkative weenie dog named Axel. Theo learns that his best friend on four legs, is actually an alien from the planet Doglin, and just when he begins warming up to the idea of having an alien for a best friend, Axel is kidnapped by two cats from the planet Catlat. Theo chases after Axel and his kidnappers, embarking on an adventure he could have never imagined.

Amazon * Goodreads

Book Preview


 My Thoughts:

I was pretty excited when I was offered the opportunity to review Axel and Theo. A boy who finds out his dog is actually intergalactic royalty was a plot too good to turn down!

It did not disappoint. This novel for young readers is an action packed, swift moving story, that is engaging, yet still easy to follow for young or reluctant readers. The author did a nice job of making the story line and details vivid and logical, with plenty of surprises, but still held her readers in high regard and capable of understanding common references and vocabulary. 

I think a fairly vast age range would find this book enjoyable and could even be one of those books that makes a kid really learn to enjoy reading! An excellent story to have your young reader read aloud to you or another reading buddy (especially of the canine variety!). My creative juices started flowing thinking of all the cool projects that can be done in conjunction with this story, like making intergalactic goo and a pancake tasting, great for homeschool or classroom kiddos alike!

The only thing I would suggest is that the author add a silly checklist game so readers can find out if their dog or cat are earth natives, or alien visitors!

More Buzz About the Book

"When I saw the subheading of this book — My dog is the Emperor of a faraway galaxy, I knew I had to read it. After all, how often do you see a sci-fi kid’s book? Being the sci-fi nut that I am, I couldn't pass this one up. I was not disappointed."~ Shari T., Amazon
"Fun book!! The story is imaginative but told with enough familiar themes to make young ones think, "I can see how this could happen!!" And in a world jam-packed with princesses and girl power, it's nice to see fun stuff for boys, too." ~ Valerie S., Amazon

"What a nice story! Got this for my son and he chuckled through it all. He loved the characters and their adventure. He is looking forward to the next one." ~ Nathalia G., Amazon

"It is a great book! My kids loved it (as did I). I can't wait for the second adventure!" ~ John, Amazon

About the Author: Amberly Kristen Clowe


An avid story writer since elementary school, Amberly Kristen (Krissy) Clowe truly discovered her passion for writing after enrolling in a college, children's literature class, where they read and analyzed children's books. After completing her BA in early childhood education she began her teaching career. "After my first year of teaching second grade, I had so many ideas swirling around in my head, I had to write. I might have gone crazy if I didn't!" Clowe tells. Axel & Theo is the first chapter book series written by Clowe, though she already has two other children's picture books in print, and another due for publication in 2015. Today, her children provide the inspiration to her many stories, along with everything else she loves in life.

Website | Facebook | Goodreads


Axel & Theo Blog Tour Schedule

June 22

June 23
June 24
June 25
June 26
June 27
June 28

* Blog Tour Giveaway *

Prize: One winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card or $25 PayPal cash prize, winner's choice Giveaway ends: July 5, 11:59 pm, 2015 Open to: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the publisher, SmoothSailing Press and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

MDBR Book Promotion Services

Friday, June 5, 2015

Summer Reading!

A little over a month ago we instituted a reading reward program here at home.

We've always been avid readers here. The kids were not highly motivated however to choose many books outside their preferred favorites.

"What is something that you really want?" I asked Grace.

She answered without hesitation.
"Roller skates!"

"Ok, how many books do you think you can read to get roller skates?"

"Um...I don't know, twenty maybe?"

"Hmm...roller skates is a pretty big prize and you are a pretty fast reader. How about, forty books."

"Forty! That's a lot!"

"Yes. But...every ten books I'll give you a smaller prize. And six of each set of ten can be comic or graphic novels like Big Nate."

She thought those were acceptable terms.

Zak, also thought so. His desired prize being a remote controlled drone. Also, his limit for comic or graphic novels is only four for every ten.

Zak has already reached his goal. He is loving his drone!

Grace is still working on hers, she has read twenty-five so far!! And since Zak reached his so fast, I think I am going to surprise her with her reward at thirty instead. 

What this mostly told me is:

1.) Zak needs a much more challenging goal.

2.) I am completely fine with bribing my kids to read. I mean, rewarding them abundantly for something they already enjoy!

3.) They are wholy invested and reading all the time, which is amazing because I thought they read a lot before!

4.) My kids are awesome! (I knew this already, but I love when I get to tell others about it too.)

I have arranged for a book swap with some friends. We have quite a lot of books that the kids are done with and are not treasures stories, so we will trade them in for some new to us books. Its all free and everyone wins!

At the library last week, they were getting set up for the Summer Reading Program. We signed up. Since they are already reading, I figured they may as well get some bonus prizes!

I didn't sign up for the adult program, but I did decide to challenge myself to some summer reading as well.

A couple years ago, I found nearly a dozen Reader's Digest Condensed Books at a thrift shop for twenty-five cents each! I have yet to crack them open, though I love looking at them on my shelves. My goal this summer is to read at least one!

I don't know if I will reward myself, as just getting to read for pleasure is definitely a reward all in itself for me these days.

What will you be reading? Any goals or programs you will be aiming for?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Winston the Service Doodle!

Hello friends!

Meet Winston Uppercut Charlesworth III!

He is Kit's new Autism Service Dog.

He is a Goldendoodle, which, for those who may not know, is a golden retriever and poodle hybrid. They often inherit the poodle's non-shedding attribute, or at least shed much less than most breeds.

He is four months old. He's still in training, but he has had a fantastic start thanks to the trainers at Puppy Steps Training who did a top notch job with his early socialization, desensitization, house training, leash training, and basic obedience and manners. They took a great dog, and helped him develop into an absolutely awesome doggie citizen!

To do on our own, the kind of training they have done with a puppy, would have been insanely stressful and probably not even close to this successful just because of where we are at in this season of life and the many variables involved. Their trainers and training program have given all of us the best possible start down this journey together. I have many more complementary things to say about this program, but I will have to do so in a future post as this one is to introduce Winston!

He arrived yesterday evening, and we are all still adjusting. But he has completely blown us away by how amazing he is!! He is the gentlest dog I have ever met. And he just accepted us immediately, willing to do whatever we asked and eager to please! And just loves to be with us and lay near us! And when it was time for bed, he did whine a bit in his crate when I left the room, but then he just settled down and went to sleep. He even got to wear his Service Vest on his first outing today! He enjoyed PetCo. Such a good boy!

So then, we have a very busy year ahead of us! Besides immediately falling in love!

First, we must keep up the excellent training he has already received and continue building on that foundation. So everyday, we must practice, practice, practice!

Second, we have more socialization to do. We need to expose and get Winston comfortable with as many possible situations, places, and people of all kinds as possible. When he is comfortable, then we will gradually keep working on performance in those situations, continuing to practice until he can excellently work under all conditions in all places. This process is slow and ongoing, spanning for well into the next year of his life, and only at a pace that he is able to maintain confidence in his skills. We don't ever want to push him past his limit and make him begin to resist working for us. We want him to enjoy his job!

Third, but in conjunction with socialization, is ongoing training. Winston knows over a dozen commands already, thanks to his early training. In addition to those he will be learning roughly fifteen more specifically pertaining to helping Kit, including learning how to give her deep pressure on her legs, several different responses to certain emotional or sensory behaviors from Kit, such as giving her kisses to help divert her away from a meltdown or pull her out of one, and acting as a physical barrier when she feels her personal space is being encroached upon and she is anxious about being touched.

He has a lot to learn still, as do we! Some of these new skills will likely come to him very quickly as he is very smart and in tune with his people. 

To help facilitate a strong bond between Winston and Kit, we will be trying to set up as many interactions together to be very positive for both of them. Kit is my official helper at his mealtimes, and they will spend some time together each day snuggling while she watches her favorite shows on the tablet and I periodically give her treats to reward him with for keeping her company. Soon she will help with brushing him, and accompanying us on his walks as well. She has already expressed a strong desire to go with him where he goes and snuggle with him, so hopefully that is a good sign of things to come!

"This is my Kitty!"

Kitty is not so sure about our newest family member, he went to hide.

Having some playtime with Winston's favorite toy.

They are already good pals. They both cried when I had to put him in the crate so I could shower today, and again at bedtime. They didn't want to be apart. Or Kit didn't want to be apart at least, Winston most likely wanted to be wherever the action was. She is very clear about "he is my Service Dog!", which of course she doesn't fully know what this means. She does know however that he is here to help her when she is sad and "to help me not get mad", in her own words. And indeed, he is already doing that with his sweet kisses! 

The big kids do get to have some snuggle time with him too. However, we have talked with them a lot about the fact that Winston is not our family pet. He is here to learn to help Kit, and that is an important job that he needs to learn to take seriously, so fostering the bond between the two of them is of highest priority. The big kids still get to play, pet, and eventually assist as I teach him new commands and concepts though.

No one can work all the time however, so he gets plenty of downtime and will still get to be a normal dog. We are still learning what he enjoys playing, but we are loving his sweet nature and soft soft shaggy coat!

This new adventure is both exciting and a little overwhelming. But we will all try to imitate Winston's natural positive spirit and take life one treat at a time!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Caterpillar Shoes - Book Blast and Giveaway!

Hi friends! Wanted to share with you what looks to be a fun new book! Check it out and don't forget to sign up for the Giveaway!

Caterpillar Shoes

About the Book

Title: Caterpillar Shoes | Author: Angela Muse | Illustrator: Ewa Podles | Publication Date: March 26, 2015 | Publisher: 4EYESBOOKS | Pages: 28 | Recommended Ages: 0 to 8 Summary: Patches is an energetic caterpillar who is trying to decide what activities to do. In the end, she doesn't put any limits on herself and lives her life to the full.

Amazon * Goodreads


About the Author: Angela Muse

Angela Muse

Angela was born in California to a military family. This meant that she got used to being the "new kid" in school every couple of years. It was hard trying to make new friends, but Angela discovered she had a knack for writing. In high school Angela began writing poetry and song lyrics. Expressing herself through writing seemed very natural. After becoming a Mom in 2003, Angela continued her storytelling to her own children. In 2009 she wrote and published her first rhyming children's book aimed at toddlers. Since then she has released several more children's picture books and released her first young adult romance series, The Alpha Girls, in 2012. Angela's husband, Ben Muse writes suspense/thriller books that can also be found on Amazon. Check out what else she's working on by visiting

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


* $50 Book Blast Giveaway *

Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice) Contest ends: May 6, 11:59 pm, 2015 Open: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Angela Muse and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com. 

MDBR Book Promotion Services

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Explaining Death to My Autistic Concrete Thinking Preschooler

Kit does not do well with abstract ideas.

She never has.

This lack of abstract thinking is not limited only to Autistic minds. The concept of time is a good example. Toddlers and preschoolers in general have a very limited understanding of time, and that is part of what makes waiting so hard. Waiting is scary when you can't tell the difference between five minutes and forty, so everything feels like forty!

But what about an even scarier abstract concept? One where people go away and never come back no matter how long you wait?

You might not think death to be an abstract concept. To most adults the concept seems quite factual and concrete, at least the understanding that the person is no longer there with us and that they are not going to be back. But to young children, it might just be the most abstract concept they have ever encountered.

To many young kids, death can seem scary. To some, their only exposure to the concept is in terms of technology. Our cell phone "died", we need to plug it in and voila! It works again. This can make death even more confusing. To a child on the autism spectrum, who thinks very firmly in black and white, yes and no, concrete ideas, it can be frustratingly difficult to grasp.

Thankfully, in our case, we had some prior experiences with death on a less intense level (two of our parakeets in fact) that opened up the way a little for Kit to be better prepared to receive the news that Grandpa had died. As in knowing that when a living creature dies, it no longer breaths, moves, nor comes back after leaving.

Without trying to sound morbid, it actually was a subject I had given real thought to multiple times over the past year precisely because I wanted to be better prepared to help her understand.

* * *

Grandpa's death was sudden and unexpected. We took him to the hospital thinking he would get much needed fluids, possibly medicine, and some rest. But we were expecting that he would stabilize and we could bring him home. That was not to be. He passed away peacefully in his sleep in the middle of that night.

The following morning, while Victor was at the hospital taking care of things, I told each of the big kids separately and stayed with them and listened while they talked through their reactions. Sadly, this was not their first experience loosing a loved one, but thankfully it was much easier to adjust to and wrap the mind around and far less painful than the first one. They handled it very well, in part because they both were glad that he wouldn't have to go live in a nursing home now, that he was able to finish out his life in our home with people who loved him.

I did make a request of each of them when they were ready to move forward with the day. I asked them not to talk about it in front of Kit, and to especially not mention that he fell asleep and did not wake back up as that could truly frighten her. They agreed.

As odd as it might sound, we did not have a funeral service. He had not wanted one. All of the immediate family said goodbye in their own way, and the rest of his family were too far away and many are suffering from health problems of their own.

By not having to deal with the pressures of a funeral it made the sudden absence easier for Kit to handle because things here at home remained fairly calm. We decided to wait a little while to explain to her that he in fact had died. To introduce his sudden absence we told her that Daddy had to take him to the hospital because he had gotten sick, and that he was not going to live with us anymore.

This was a lot for her to process, and she asked me to tell her again multiple times over the next couple of weeks. I felt it especially important that she become accustomed to his absence first, instead of spending those first few tender weeks uttering the words "Grandpa died" on echolalic repeat as she processed this huge change.

I think that was a good decision. For us. That may not be feasible for larger families whose loved one was also deeply rooted in an extended family and community, and a funeral is a way for all to come together to support one another while grieving.

But for us, and for Kit, waiting helped. She struggled with the sudden change. We saw rapid behavioral changes, and more difficulty all around in generally being able to cope with life. We didn't think burdening her with the concept of death would have been good for her right then. Especially not when over the course of the following weeks more household changes occurred.

Zak moved into Grandpa's old room after about two weeks. We were able to begin attending both our weekly meetings at the Kingdom Hall all together as a family for the first time in close to a year. My practice sessions for the orchesta of which I am a member began rehearsing more often building up to once a week, which means on most Monday evenings I am gone from late afternoon until well past bedtime. And the big kids started with a music program two days a week right about then as well. That is tons of change for someone who doesn't like change.

* * *

After about a month, she was beginning to settle and I was sort of waiting for a natural opportunity to arise to be able to address it with Kit. All that time gave me plenty of practice at what I thought best to tell her.

It arrived via a casual conversation with Grace which I knew Kit was half listening to (she is always listening even though she doesn't seem like she is). Grace asked a question which required a time reference related to Grandpa's dying. So I answered and included for reference "before Grandpa died".

"Grandpa died?!" Kit was now fully engaged in the conversation.

"Yes, Grandpa died."

She asked the same question several more times, but I could tell she was searching for more, for words she has trouble finding because they are abstract to her. Why and How and What happened?

So I knew it was time to explain further.

I explained that Grandpa's heart stopped beating and that he stopped breathing, and that means that he died. He was not alive like we are anymore. I said his heart was not strong like hers, and his body was not strong like hers and mine and that they stopped working.

She repeated everything back to me as I said it. I had to repeat several parts. And then she got distracted by a toy and ran off.

It has now been two months since he died. She hasn't asked about him again since that last conversation. Until this week.

She asked Victor while they were getting ready to read her bedtime story, "Where's Grandpa?"

He said it took him my surprise, but then he told her, "Grandpa died."

"Grandpa died?!"

"Yes, he died. Daddy had to take him to the hospital because he got very sick and he died. So that is why he is not here any more. But we will see him again in Paradise."

"Oh, okay." And she was ready for her story.

Her behavior has shown great improvement. I take this as a sign that to whatever degree she is capable, she has worked through the change, and has replaced what could have been scary and incomprehensible into tangible facts that she can comprehend and digest.

* * *

I don't think there is one right way to explain death to any child, especially an autistic one when they are very young. I do think there are some very important Dos and Don'ts.

DON'T tell your concrete thinker that death is like sleep. That can terrify them and create sleep issues.

DON'T lie. Waiting is ok. Easing into the subject is fine. Giving them small doses of information and letting them absorb it slowly is perfectly acceptable. But don't lie. When they find out the truth it will damage their trust in you.

DON'T automatically assume that because they do not react that they do not understand. It can take a long time to process, but they will, and they will need you to be there to answer questions when they are ready.

DON'T assume that because they do not cry or seem to mourn that they are not feeling sad or grieving. Behavior is communication. Watch their behavior closely to give you clues into some of their inner process. Provide opportunities for them to find comfort, such as from home videos or photo albums, doing things that the loved one enjoyed doing and telling your child it is a way for you to remember the happy even though you are also feeling sad.

DO give your child some slack. For some kids on the spectrum it may seem like they only experience one feeling at a time. This is not exactly true, they may be feeling many at one time, but one may feel much stronger at times and cause unpredictable behavior. They may even feel so overwhelmed that they try to turn their feelings "off". This is a coping mechanism, but it is critical that parents recognize that it is a temporary dam and that the floodgates, when they burst, can be as surprising and scary to your child as they are to you. So, tread softly, and try to be even more patient than usual.

DO acknowledge that anger is a real and legitimate emotion to experience when a loved one dies. Perhaps especially for an individual on the autism spectrum. It's ok for them to feel angry at this person for leaving them, for not giving them any warning, without saying goodbye. It's ok for them to feel angry at other caregivers or family members for not being able to stop it. Remember, at times their thinking is concrete and either/or. This means they cannot necessarily understand the limitations imposed on those caring for a sick or aging loved one. Allow, and even encourage them to feel this huge emotion and let them know that others feels the same. Help him find an outlet for his anger. Perhaps by drawing how he feels, writing a letter to their loved one telling them how they feel or what they wanted to be able to say, or throwing beanbags into a hamper or rocks into a lake or punching pillows. Anger can be scary for the child and parents, but it can give way to tears, and crying is restorative, it acts as a pressure relief valve and helps drain some of those huge emotions so that healthier ones can begin to take their place.

DO reassure them that they are safe and alive and that you are too. Use whatever helps them to feel safe, no matter if it means answering the same questions hundreds of times, familiar scripts that help them work through the process, or comfort objects that remind them of the loved one.

DO explain to older autistic kids, that some things that might make them feel better, like scripting facts related to the person's dying, might make others who are sad more sad because it is such a direct reminder of their loss. Many autistic individuals, including kids really do care about others feelings, often though they may feel confused as to how to proceed. Autistic individuals may not be able to stop themselves from certain behaviors and that is ok, they need their coping mechanisms, but some will be able to refrain. If they are refraining from these kind of scripts, it is essential that parents realize what a sacrifice that is, and they should praise and encourage the child! Practicing with your child a substitute script that still feels good to them but that they can use to engage with other grieving loved ones may be possible. Helping kids practice phrases such as, "I miss Grandma. I liked playing cards with her. What was your favorite thing to do with her?" might gradually help them see that others miss the loved one too, and that they can make others smile with a good memory. This may not be a possibility for some kids on the spectrum, and that is ok, they need to be able to cope. As parents we can help be the social salve. Support and console your child first, then remind others that this was a huge emotional blow for everyone and that she is trying to process this in the only way she knows how right now, then offer your love and support to your relative or friend as well. You don't need to apologize unless your child has said or done something truly innapropriate.

Whew! I know some of those were long, but they are soooooo important!

I am sure we will be having more conversations about Grandpa with Kit as time goes on. The subject is too big and abstract for her to have a tight grasp on right now. But that's ok. She can take all the time she needs.

In the meantime, while I hope none of you find yourself in the position of having to use this information, if you do, I sincerely hope it helps.

Monday, March 16, 2015


The problem with a long absence is trying to figure where to pick back up and what needs caught up.

It's far too overwhelming to go into detail the events of the past few months, so I will fill in the most important gaps. 

First off, Victor's dad passed away at the beginning of February. It was sudden and unexpected, but peaceful, for which we were grateful. 

Obviously, adjusting was an interesting process. As was how to go about explaining the concept to Kit. I will write a separate post on that. 

While it was sad, there is also a relief that comes when you know a person is not going to continue to deteriorate in health, body and especially in Grandpa's case, mind. 

Kit struggled for a long while with the change that comes when a person who was in her life every day is suddenly not there any more. She was not especially close to Grandpa, they sort of lived around each other in the same house rather than together. He was a constant presence nonetheless, and some of his activities were predictable and part of the fabric of her routines. So when that change came abruptly and without any time to prepare her, I suspect she just felt quite confused. She had a very hard time with transitions, and any thing that made her feel out of control usually brought on yelling or tears. It was very tough for a while but she seems to be mellowing over the last couple of weeks.

The next big thing is much more recent. I am currently sleeping on the recently vacated (Zak has his own room now) bottom bunk as Kit and I have said goodbye to nursing, and to help avoid nighttime battles that might occur as a result. Both her and my sleep has been of particularly poor quality and duration for a long time now. 

When she wakes at night she wants to nurse and would often cry until this was able to happen. As long as I was in the house, she would cry, at times nearly making herself hysterical. If I was gone from the house however, or when she would go spend the night with Auntie or Nana, she would manage just fine without nursing. 

Victor and I have talked about it many times, but we finally felt that we had the time and energy necessary to dedicate to helping her adjust to such a major change.

We told her several days in advance what would be happening. And we made sure the evening before to let her know that the next morning was going to be her last nursing session. And you can be sure, she remembered when morning came. 

In fact she was nursing while I was still quite sleepy and I wanted her to stop for a while so I could get just a few more minutes of sleep, so I detached her and moved her away. She thought that was the end, and she broke down since she wasn't ready and hadn't quite finished to her satisfaction. So I grumbled at myself, then sat up to wake myself up. I asked her if she wanted to finish, and she nodded with tear stains on her cheeks.

She cuddled in and nursed for about another 10 minutes. She sighed a big sigh, let go, and then said, "That's it? No more nursing?" 

"That's right. No more nursing."

She looked like she was about to cry, but sat up and asked me to hold her. We snuggled for another few minutes, and then she asked to play the tablet.

She has been remarkably ok. She cried that first night that I wasn't in the bed, but she calmed down and was ok with Daddy being there. Again we had reminded her that I was going to sleep in the other room and that there would be no more nursing at night or in the morning. 

She has come into the room and crawled into bed with me and asked to nurse each morning since, but she has managed well when I tell her we are not doing that anymore. Once I had to get up and leave the bed because she was getting upset, and then she calmed down and accepted redirecton when I suggested we go get some breakfast in the kitchen. And once, she got so upset that Daddy had to take her to have a quick reminder talk, but then she came back and just snuggled.

It was hard to take away something that has always meant so much to her as well as has been one of our strongest emotional connections and ways to bond. But sleep for both of us is so so important and we desperately needed to be able to sleep better. It was time. 

On the not great side, she has been chewing her hand more and biting at me a lot. Most of the time, I sense it coming and can manuver myself or her out of the way in time and then redirect her to bite something else, a blanket or stuffed animal. She got in two real bites last week, not out of meanness or anger, it was completely sensory seeking. The second one left a sizeable and tender bruise. So her oral seeking needs are clearly still a driving force and nursing was indeed helping. But we will just have to step up her sensory diet in that department and we will all have to just learn to manage without that source of sensory regulation.

In upcoming events, you can look forward to being inundated with information about autism service dogs, as we are seriously considering, and her Nurse Practitioner agreed that a service dog may well be the constant "aide" that she needs. We think it could be a big help by being:

-A loyal companion to help her not feel alone when it comes time to move her to her new permanent bed in the room with her sister, a presence that she right now needs either myself or Daddy to fill. 

-A calming effect when she is upset by change or unpleasant transitions or unwanted situations. 

-A soft and sturdy buddy who doesn't mind her rubbing her face in his fur or hugs that are too rough for the kitty to handle. 

-A safety when she wants to walk without holding hands, but still tries to run when she sees something she likes or is overwhelmed by the situation or siblings. 

-And hopefully a friend and conversation starter to help her feel more comfortable talking to others in social situations instead of running away, yelling, or crossing her arms and avoiding.

I will write about all of this in more detail later. Just wanted to catch everyone up with what's been pretty much all consuming around here for the last few months.

I wish everyone a fabulous week!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Busy Bag: Clothespin Counting

It's been a while since I made a new busy bag. But I have several ideas still swimming around in my head that I've just not had the time and/or energy to sit down and make. However, Thursday Kit was sick, and had moments of the day where she was feeling more mellow, so I took advantage of one of those interludes to put this Busy Bag together.

I call it Clothespin Counting, but there is a lot more happening in this little bag than just counting.

First, I outlined some shapes on construction paper and cut them out. Next, i used a permanent marker to write numbers, starting with one in one corner and then progressing clockwise. On the back, I wrote the name of each shape. On the circle, I numbered it like a clock. Then I laminated the shapes.

Next, I selected 12 clothespins and wrote a number on each one, 1-12.

When we sat down to play with them together, we first talked about the shapes, and identified each one. Then I showed Kit how each number matched up with the numbers on the shapes.

She pretty much took it from there... 

She loves it. I love it. Win, win!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Conversation Vacation

Scene: Kit insists on accompanying me to the bathroom. She walks by the toilet, balancing the tablet precariously in one hand uncomfortably close to said toilet.

Me: Sweetie, please move the tablet away from the toilet. I really don't want it to fall in.

Kit: Will it drown?

Me: Yes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Le Petite Chef: Egg Salad

Grace loves egg salad.

Really loves it, as in she would eat it every day most likely.

So it was no real surprise that one of the things she wanted to learn to make during our cooking sessions together was egg salad.

So that is what we did.

There are about as many ways to do egg salad as there are condiments and spices and herbs in the world. So there is endless variety when it comes to flavor, which I happen to think is awesome.

This is our basic recipe.


  • Eggs
  • Mayo
  • Mustard
Step One: Grace filled a saucepan a little over halfway with water and then gently set the eggs in the pan. Make sure there is enough water to cover the eggs with a little room to spare. Put the pan on High heat, we want the water to boil. When the water reaches a boil, turn off burner. Let eggs sit in the hot water for 8-10 minutes.

Step two: While the eggs rest in the hot water, fill a medium bowl with ice and just enough water to come to the top layer of ice. (We used a large bowl because it was clean and within reach.)

Step Three: An adult should drain the hot water from the pan. 

Step Four: Grace used tongs to transfer the hot eggs into the ice bath. Then allow eggs to rest in ice bath for 10 minutes. This makes the eggs cool enough to be handled by little hands, keeps the yolk from turning green, and helps make the eggs easier to peel.

Step Five: Drain the water from ice bath. We set the eggs on a towel for simplicty of work space.

Step Six: Peel eggs. (Note: Fresh eggs are actually kind of a pain to peel. To learn why check out this cool post!)

Step Seven: Cut eggs into pieces. We don't have a potato masher, which is how I did it as a kid, so we just use a fork and a knife, which is great motor and utensil practice anyway.

Step Eight: Add desired amount of mayo. We don't really measure it, but it probably is about half a cup for eight eggs.

Step Nine: Add mustard. Again, we don't measure, we add and taste. But we probably use about 1/8 cup for eight eggs.

Step Ten: Add any other desired herbs, spices and ingredients. This time we didn't add anymore. We were out of both sweet and dill relish, which we usually add one to the eggs depending on our moods that day. 

Step Eleven: Devour! Spread on bread for sandwiches. Serve on crackers. Or grab a spoon and eat as is, which is one of Grace's favorite ways to chow down on this dish!

How do you like your egg salad? Share with us and we'll try out your recipes!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Looking Back: Part One

I have multiple things I'm working on and attempting to get out of my head and into posts, but this is slow going and often interrupted.

I am deep in the midst of Burnout. Have been, to a greater or lesser degree, for the last two years in fact, but this time feels worse than the others. It's much slower digging out, and the hole feels much deeper this time, but I'm slogging away at it nevertheless.

One of the things I have been wanting to do is to re-post some of my older posts. I know not everyone has the time, energy, or desire to read through two years of archive posts. So I will, over the next few weeks, re-share some of my favorites. Reading back over these, it's amazing both how close and far away these days feel. We've made much progress in so many areas. Others were better back then, but prove challenging right now. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me.

The following piece was originally posted September 30, 2013, while we were still primarily using ASL to communicate with Kit, and when sleep issues still dominated our days and nights. I will forever appreciate Victor for taking over bedtime when I simply could not function anymore. But I think the bond he and Kit have as a result is way beyond priceless, and I'm so glad they still share a unique bedtime routine, even if it doesn't need to happen in sign language anymore.

Once Upon A Bedtime Story...

Ever since our youngest was born, sleep has been one of our biggest challenges. After months and months of two steps forward one step back, and trial and error (oy, lots of error!), we can finally say we are making some progress.

Baby and Daddy still sleep on the couch.

Every night though, for about a month, Daddy gets her corner ready just how she likes it. Then she cries because she doesn't want to be apart from Mommy. But then he says its time for a story...

She quiets down, settles in and waits.

Then, every night, Daddy tells her a story using signs. They are usually about a baby, and a daddy, and going outside. And when Daddy forgets a sign or doesn't know one, he asks her...and she always knows, and shows him.

She listens, she smiles, and she signs along.

When they finish, Daddy says a prayer with her, lays her down, and covers her with her weighted blanket.

And for the first time in her life, she falls asleep by herself, without nursing, being held or rocked, or even touching one of us.

She amazes us everyday.

And I...have fallen in love with her Daddy all over again!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Indoor S'mores

Hi everyone. Sorry about just sort of dropping out of the blogosphere for a while there.

I don't want to go into the details of the last month, suffice it to say I've been bled of all energy and the demands for it have only multiplied. Blegh!

So I had to let things go in order to better focus my energies on the things of highest priority, my family. That included blogging for a while. I hope to get back to it it more regularly soon, but for today, here is a recipe that I originally found on Pinterest, but tweaked, and I think improved.

We call them Indoor S'mores, and they are amazing!

Here are the ingredients:

  • Non-stick Muffin Tin
  • Ready to bake Sugar or Snickerdoodle cookies. We prefer the Snickerdoodle. A package of these contains 24 cookies, so you could either make just a few, or the whole batch if desired.
  • Nutella
  • Marshmallows, little or regular size both work. I've used both and I prefer the large ones as they stay in the middle of the cookie better, making it easier to remove from the muffin tin.
  • Crushed graham crackers (optional), we made ours by putting a couple crackers in a zipper bag and crushing with a coffee cup.
  • Chocolate - bars, chips, kisses, of whatever variety you choose all work, though I didn't like the chips as they didn't stick well to the marshmallow. We've tried various kinds, Krackle, Butterfinger Bites, Andes Mints, and regular milk chocolate Hershey's. The original Hershey's tends to be the favorite, though I really like the Andes mints with them, but I am a mint person. I would still like to try AlmondJoy, Mounds, and peanut butter cups with these.

Step one: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step two: While the oven is heating up. Place one cookie in each muffin cup according to the number you want to make. If you are making less than six, the cooking times might need to be adjusted down by a few minutes, so check on them frequently so they do not overcook.

Step three: When oven is ready, bake cookies in muffin tin for approximately 11 minutes. Then remove from oven and set on a heat resistant surface. The cookies will not be completely cooked. Do not remove from muffin tin.

Step four: If using graham cracker crumbs, pour 1/4 teaspoon onto each cookie and spread gently.

Step five: Add a dollop of Nutella, about 1 teaspoon, on each cookie on top of the graham cracker crumbs.

Step six: Press five mini marshmallows or half of one large one into the Nutella in center of cookie.

Step seven: Put back in oven and let cook for 3 minutes more. Then remove from heat and turn off oven.

Step eight: Place once piece of chocolate of choice on top of each marshmallow (or group of mini marshmallows). Allow to cool for at least ten minutes (but we like to let them sit longer, at least 30 or more).

Step nine: Devour, and delight in chocolaty marshmallow cookie goodness!! Faces and fingers may get quite sticky, but these are sure to bring a smile to little faces and make a great-just-in-from-the-cold kind of snack.

Keep cozy, everyone!