Thursday, November 25, 2010

My 5th Thanksgiving Birthday - Happy Thanksgiving!

Gobble, gobble, gobble, Aspierations Friends!

For those wonderful visitors from the USA, I hope that you and your loved ones had a fantastic Thanksgiving today!

At the stroke of midnight, my husband John at Life and Times of John Krejcha gave me an awesome birthday gift.  It was from the heart!  It was his November 25th birthday blog.


I was very emotionally touched and it took awhile to process.  He did tell me afterwards that everything he wrote was sincere.  I guess I was looking for the punchline or April Fool's gag somewhere!



I can get away with turning around the candles this year but not next! Bummer! :-)  

Birthdays fill me with mixed emotions.  I really enjoy OTHER people's birthdays.  It's fun to treat, spoil and surprise those I care about and love.  I enjoy writing heartfelt notes and trying to pick out a special gift that fits that person perfectly.

As for my OWN birthdays, I have a lot of ups and downs. Being adopted, I started wondering very early on (probably about 7 or so) whether or not my birthmom, birthfather and extended birthfamily ever thought about me on my birthday.  It's one of those thoughts that I continue to have to this day.

I love my parents very much.  They always did their best to provide me with special birthdays and to recognize my day.  They still treat me and are so very loving and generous.  I look forward to their cards each year because they are so heartfelt.

At age 7, I decided that I did not like opening up birthday gifts (or ANY gifts) in front of other people unless it was a one-on-one thing and even then, I had to feel REALLY comfortable with the person to actually enjoy it.  I'm not sure if this had any correlation to be having Aspergers or being somewhere along the autism spectrum but there were a lot of sensory issues with birthdays and birthday parties that I remember left me feeling overwhelmed.

I know some of the weird feelings about opening presents in front of others started at a birthday party I had.  I was opening gifts from friends and I received a game that I already had.  That wasn't the problem. It was totally fine with me. I was taught that it was the thought that counts and I would never want to hurt anyone's feelings or embarrass them.  So I told the gift giver thank you and smiled.  Well, another kid who had been to my house before knew I had the game and blurted out something to the effect like, "but you already HAVE that game!"  It was so embarrassing.  I felt so bad.

I also always feared the sounds of balloons popping.  There is a game they'd play sometimes in elementary school where you'd have to run and sit on a balloon.  Anyone play that? I HATED that game!  At least now I understand why.

A few years later, I had a birthday party where one of my friends wrapped up a gift in a box within a box within a box within a box within a box... (This actually happened to Justin on his 11th but it didn't seem to phase him, thank goodness!)  Although everyone around me thought it was hilarious and funny, I just was embarrassed because it made the gift opening process so much longer and I felt foolish.  Of course I never showed that.  I was very good at putting on a happy face at a young age.

On my 16th birthday, I had a co-ed party.  There was a guy there who I was sort of dating.  He was much more "worldly" than me if you know what I mean (if not, you soon will).  He often made fun of how shy and introverted I was when it came to things like holding hands and such.  Anyway, I was opening up gifts in front of my friends and got to his.  It was the album, "Like A Virgin" by Madonna.  Now of course Madonna was very popular back then but this gift specifically had a second "hidden" (not so much) meaning.  I was SO embarrassed.

These are a few of my experiences opening up gifts in front of others.  Ugh...  A Happy Birthday to me would start out the way today did where my kids each came in the bedroom and sang me the Happy Birthday song (Sprout version...) and where my husband who baked brownies for me last night because he knew I had a MAJOR chocolate craving also made me pancakes this morning for breakfast.  Very sweet!

To me, some of the best gifts in my life have been thoughtful gestures or random acts of kindness.  Words backed up by action mean a LOT to me because I have seen a lot of fluff in my life and I truly prefer the substance.

I was thinking earlier today back on some of my favorite or most memorable birthdays. My 5th birthday I remember playing Duck Duck Goose in my parents' family room with kids that came to my party.  I remember Blake (who is now a very successful Silicon Valley business owner and executive) was having his turn and was saying, duck, duck, duck and then when he got to me, he said "GOOSE!" and slammed his hand down on my head.  OUCH!  We played "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" later and if I had been at the age where a little revenge had crossed my mind, I think he might have gotten the tail! :-)

My 18th birthday was very special for a number of reasons and I cherish it.  I got my first really romantic gift (a special music box) from my first love and was finally old enough to hit the dance clubs in college. My 21st had lots of memories too although the ending... well... let's just say that I REALLY did not need both a Tom Collins AND a Long Island Iced Tea.  Three days later, I was still living that down... (I have never had a Tom Collins OR a Long Island Iced Tea ever since.)

My 40th birthday was incredibly special.  I honestly try to have as little fanfare on my own birthdays as possible.  Spending it with the family is cool with me and if I can sneak away for a little private time, that's just icing on the cake.  Now if you add in a bubble bath, WOO HOO!!!  Something to dream about...

For my 40th, John wanted to do something elaborate for me that was a surprise.  It bums him out that I can pretty much guess all his surprises before they happen.  (i.e. our engagement day)  I have a knack for reading certain people and he is one of them.  Guess that's why I scared off most men!  Anyway, the big surprise for my 40th was that John took me, Justin and Ryan to a beautiful 3 story beach house in Oregon that was almost right on the beach and had a great view and a hot tub.  I'd never been in a place like this but it was one of those things that I always thought would be so awesome someday if we could ever swing it.

We had two nights there.  I was so thrilled it did not rain on my birthday.  I could totally enjoy the beach and I wrote "Free at 40" in the sand, enjoyed the waves and had an amazing time with John, Justin and Ryan. That "Free at 40" that I wrote in the sand is still there.  It always will be.  I have it etched into my mind permanently.

Thanksgiving birthdays are always interesting.  This is my 5th.  The first happened in 1971, then 1982, then 1993, 1999 (the year Justin was born) and now 2010.  At first one may think they happen every 7 years but once you add in the leap year stuff, it's a different pattern.  The NEXT time my birthday will be on Thanksgiving isn't until 2021 so I wanted this one to be fun since it was my first one with the kids that they'd both have a chance to remember.

I'll write more about my actual 2010 birthday and today's Thanksgiving in my next blog.  I have some thoughts and reflections.  It was an interesting day...  For now, it's getting near the end of the night and the end of my birthday and I want to say a few prayers and have a little quiet time.

I do feel very blessed.  Thank you to all out there who remembered me in your thoughts, prayers, by email, Facebook, message board or elsewhere.  There are some family and friends that I haven't heard from in a very long time and will always keep the door open for.  I'll be thinking of you and the Aspierations crew!

Happy Thanksgiving and God's Blessings to All!
Good night!
Love,
Karen

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Our First November Snow in Vancouver, Washington - FUN

I think the Christmas music our sons have been playing since November 3rd is starting to make an impact around here.  Today we experienced our first Vancouver, Washington snow in November!

Hello Aspierations Snow Buddies!  Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!!

Ryan has been sick with a cold and bad cough for the past week so we didn't end up going to church today because we didn't want to risk him getting the other preschool attendees or any of the volunteers sick.  We also kept him home from Dad's weekly grocery shopping trip.  He was upset about both but perked up when John called from the store and told us to look out the window.  The first snow of the holiday season was falling!


photography courtesy of Justin


View from my office window shortly after the start of the snow. I know it isn't much but it sure was pretty to watch and very uplifting!  Guess we won't be shooting hoops tonight!


Being from the Silicon Valley in California and living there most of my life, it was extremely rare for me to EVER see snow unless I went up to Lake Tahoe, so everytime I see those beautiful flakes coming down from the sky at our home here, it is incredibly exciting.  I'm just like a little kid.  :-)

The first time I ever remember seeing snow in Mountain View was when I was in 2nd grade and home sick with a cold.  While my classmates were at school playing in the first snow they had ever experienced in our part of California, I was content (so they say) to look through my parents' bedroom sliding glass door and out into our backyard.  Oh, how I wanted to go outside and play!  Now you have to realize there really wasn't a heck of a lot of snow to play in but this kind of thing had never happened before and little did I know at the time, it wasn't going to be happening again in Mountain View during my childhood!

So here I am at home with Ryan today and he's sick and the snowflakes are coming down outside.  I just know he wants to go out and play in it... but surprisingly, he was content to pull his little yellow chair over by my desk, stand up on it and look out the window into the backyard at the snow coming down onto the trees, the grass and our outdoor furniture.  Don't tell John but I even let him open the window for a little bit (screen still attached) so he could get a little of that fresh air he and I crave.  Fun!  It was SO beautiful!

When we first moved here in July of 2007 we were told that we might get an inch or two of snowfall in an entire year.  John was okay with that.  Having grown up in Wisconsin, he totally had his fill of snow shoveling.  We didn't even own a snow shovel when we got here.  I'll have to tell you the story of how the snow shovel came into our lives in another blog!

On Christmas Day 2007, it snowed.  What made it especially cool is that my parents had come up from California to spend Christmas with us.  It was the only time they've been here so far so knowing we all got to experience a "White Christmas" together was really special.  My mom was born in Colorado and my dad in Illinois so both had certainly experienced snow on Christmas before at their homes.  Not me, Ryan or Justin... it was just awesome!

Now I suppose if we regularly got the kind of snow they get back in the midwest, I wouldn't be so animated and excited.  The novelty certainly would wear off.  Still, I think the first snowfall of the year would have to be exciting.  There's something very magical and festive about it.  Given the number of times I've listened to and seen "Frosty the Snowman" in the past month (you do know the girl's name is Karen, don't you?), it is certainly fitting for us to have our first snowfall in November.

Now if we could see snow on THANKSGIVING, that would be really awesome.  I'd love to make a snowman or play in the snow in the yard with the boys on my birthday.  I doubt it will happen based on the weather forecast but a gal can always hope!  I've read it will be snowing tomorrow so maybe...

If it doesn't happen, we can always make Magic Snow or Insta-Snow.  Have any of you out there heard of this stuff? Ryan was feeling a little better on Saturday so we braved an hour and a half trip out to what we thought was going to be this incredibly amazing and homey Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair at the Clark County Fairgrounds in Ridgefield.  It was okay but instead of homemade goodies and arts and crafts as advertised, it was mainly retailers selling gift items you could get in stores or online for less.  Being that WE are a retailer that sells gift items online, there really wasn't much of an interest in what was being sold but that was probably a good thing because we only had a little spending money anyway.

What we did purchase was some Insta-Snow which is something very sensory friendly for the boys.  It's this instant snow stuff that starts as powder and after you add water, it grows into snow.  You can literally watch the snow grow in your hand.  Fun! The stuff feels cool and very soft to the touch.  Put a gallon's worth in a plastic bin and you'll have a fun sensory sensation that both kids and adults can enjoy.

Justin and Ryan have had rice bins and bean bins before for therapeutic play but I think the snow bin will be the new inside hit for the next couple months. The Insta-Snow is non-toxic too although you wouldn't want to put it in your mouth.  Once you're done playing with the stuff, it turns back into powder so you can re-use it again.



As it turns out, we could have purchased it for less online but when you have two excited children in front of you who are really getting into playing with the stuff and you see it's calming them, you're willing to pay a extra few bucks to see those smiles and calm bodies.

The Saturday we were experiencing as a family BEFORE the fair was very stressful.  It was not a good morning for anyone.  After the Insta-Snow, we had Insta-Smiles and a better afternoon and that worked for me!

The holiday fair part wasn't super duper exciting for me or John but the good news is that Santa Claus was there and Ryan got to sit on his lap and tell him what he wanted for Christmas.  (Hint... it starts with a C and ends with an S and he has hundreds of them already!  Ryan is very easy to shop for!!)


Is it just me, or does Santa look a tad grouchy? Not getting enough Ho Hos in his diet, I suppose!


Mini Petting Zoo.  Darn, no reindeer!


Checking out the indoor helicopters that would never do any damage in our home...  HA HA!

We'll do the official Santa Claus mall trip and get an official picture with Santa a little closer to the big day. I want to make sure Justin gets in the photo as well.  This go-around he was eating popcorn and not so much in the mood but next time we'll make sure to get a picture with both boys together.

I've been looking around online to see if there are any sensory-friendly locations for a visit with Santa and the Lloyd Center in Portland, OR is having a special time with Santa for children on the autism spectrum.  We may try that or we may head back to the Vancouver Mall.  I'd rather wait until both kiddos are healthy.

Mmm....... I'm really looking forward to having turkey on Thursday.  I will totally miss being with my parents but I'm sure we'll give them a call just like the boys did today to let Gram and Grandpa know it was snowing!

Well, next week will be a busy one around here work-wise.  There is always a bonus challenge getting work done and packages shipped when the kids are home since we all are in the office together.  I do plan on taking Thursday off but while you guys and gals are out enjoying family and possibly shopping on the crazy Black Friday through Cyber Monday weekend, I'll be here at my desk working my holiday magic, running promotions for Count Your Beans and hopefully helping families get some special gifts for their family members.

My birthday and Christmas wish is to be able to put many more hours into Aspierations next year, to get the Aspierations.com website up and running and to do more writing.  I'd love to be able to get some side income going through my writing so that there isn't so much pressure on the CYB side.  I'm excited about what the end of this year and the beginning of next brings.  How about you?

I'm going to end my blog for this evening but I'll be writing again before Thanksgiving.  I wanted to talk about the results from the autism and communications research project that Ryan participated in but that's for a separate entry.

Hope you have a wonderful week ahead and do something fun and loving!  Drop me a line, leave me a blog comment, say hello if you're so inclined.  I miss hearing from my blog friends!


Gotcha!

Blessings and happiness,
Karen

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Little Bit of Catch Up but no Ketchup Please!

Hi Aspierations Friends!

Tonight was supposed to be Family Game Night at a local Lutheran church here in Vancouver.  We attended for the first time last month and the boys had a blast playing bingo, eating pizza and hanging out with new friends also traveling along the autism spectrum.  We were all looking forward to going again.

Unfortunately, Ryan has been sick pretty much all week.  The poor little guy has a cold and a nasty cough and being that he is so active, it's hard to keep him still long enough to rest and get his body to recuperate.  Instead of bouncing 100 times on the bed per hour, he's down to about 89.

Justin was a real trooper about us missing Family Game Night.  One of the friends in his SCIP class at school was attending and Justin wanted to hang out with him again.  I offered to watch Ry while John took Justin but Justin showed real empathy toward his brother and realized that it would be very difficult for Ryan to see Justin go without him.  As it was, there were a number of mini-meltdowns over the subject and the last thing we wanted was for Ry to get really worked up when he was already coughing.

Justin almost stayed home from school today as well. He is prone to getting earaches and generally they are such that he needs antibiotics.  We gave him some last night and we were very impressed that he wanted to go to school in the morning.  It was one of those things where we easily would have kept him home but he likes school and is ending his first trimester soon and doesn't want to miss out on the activities.  It's certainly great to hear that!

John's health seems to be pretty good.  He's been tired because of staying up late, getting up early and answering to the calls of Ryan in the middle of the night.  This week we've been doing a lot of shipping and business projects with Count Your Beans getting ready for what we hope and pray will be a successful next few weeks of holiday sales.  Shipping, inventory, lots of extra emails, lots of extra work all around, sick kids, family who needs you... trying to balance in spirituality, family, work and time for oneself to keep sane...  This time of year is really crazy for us.

I know he would like just one good night of sleeping in but unfortunately it won't be tomorrow because Justin volunteered to help at his old Cub Scout Pack's Rocket Derby for a couple hours in the morning.  Sorry, John!  If it makes you feel any better, I'm sure I'll be up too.  Nah... it doesn't really feel any better, does it?  SLEEP... now THAT would feel better.

One thing we have in common with many parents who have children on the autism spectrum is that sleep issues with their children continue periodically throughout childhood and even into adulthood.  We thought we might get a reprieve after the baby years.  Ha Ha!  Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't.  It's very unpredictable and rarely goes more than a one day stretch.



As such, it throws our sleep patterns off too. I have a terrible time falling asleep anymore unless I have some sort of nighttime melatonin or tylenol p.m. liquid.  Then the problem is that I have a difficult time waking if it is before 6 hours of sleep.  As I get older, I'm noticing my body craves more sleep.  It's sort of like I'm a teenager again except that my youthful curves are now more womanly and I have a heck of a lot more responsibility!

As far as my health goes, I honestly haven't been feeling good the last few days.  I hate talking about this kind of stuff because it feels like whining but I've had really bad headaches and dizzy spells over the past week. I'm not sure if it's related to my anemia, my lack of sleep, stress or something else but I'm trying to focus on family and work and when I can do that, I seem to be okay.  It's when I have a few moments to rest or sit down and then I try to stand up that I feel the vertigo.

But enough of that... you didn't come to my blog to hear a Debbie Downer...

The good news is that if the family is feeling up to it, we're going to try and attend the Clark County Holiday Gift Fair this weekend at the Fairgrounds.  We've never been to this before but we could use a little festivity and positive pick-me up feelings and SHHHH... don't tell the kiddos but Santa Claus is rumored to be there too!



That's one reason we're hoping and praying that Ryan will be healthy enough for us to go since the festivities are Saturday and Sunday only.  Ryan really wants to see Santa Claus. If not this time, we'll find other ways to entertain ourselves but after the busy week we've had, I want to get out of this house for a few hours and spend some quality time with the guys I adore!

Can you believe it's just 6 days (almost 5 now) until Thanksgiving?  GOBBLE GOBBLE!  Rather than counting my beans, I'd much rather count my blessings!

I do plan on blogging again before Turkey Day.  Yeah, yeah, it's my birthday too.  Ryan informed me that I have the "honor" of sitting at the head of the table on Thanksgiving.  It is one of the two days of the year (the other being Christmas) that we use our formal dining table in our dining room and I truly look forward to it.

We need to do our hand turkeys too!  Here are our ones from last year!






What are your Thanksgiving family traditions?  Please let me know!  I'd love to hear your comments!

If you haven't had a chance to check out my blog, Helping Those on the Autism Spectrum During The Holidays, I invite you to check it out and give me your feedback.  It has been well received so far but I always enjoy more input!

http://aspierations.blogspot.com/2010/11/helping-those-on-autism-spectrum-during.html

Best wishes for a wonderful weekend!
Karen

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Helping Those on the Autism Spectrum during the Holidays

Hello Aspierations Friends!

With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, many families will be participating in visits with family and friends. For a family that has a child, children or adult with Autism or Asperger's, this is often a very challenging time for so many reasons.  There are lots of noises, lights, possibly a trip to the mall and Santa's lap (and that beard!!)... family pressure, trying to accommodate everyone's wishes, smelling all kinds of smells, being encouraged to try all kinds of weird tastes (fruitcake anyone??)... and so many other challenges that can overload the senses. What is supposed to be the "happiest time of the year" can turn overwhelming and sour very quickly!

Although relatives and friends often mean well, without walking in our shoes and traveling our paths, there is no way to fully understand the depth and extent of what it is like to journey along the autism spectrum.  

You may catch us at our best moments, see our calmest and cutest photos, speak with us when we feel calm and in control of our environment.  To you, we're just as "normal" (whatever that word means) as you are. 


Oftentimes parents will try and put their child's best moments and anecdotes of progress out to the world because they want to hold onto and share the positive.  When people open their wallets to show pictures and brag, the pictures are generally smiling, right?  


Do you seriously want to hear junior's fecal smearing stories and the time he ran out into the street naked while the neighbors were having an outside chat?  How many meltdown in Walmart stories can you take?  We may try and use humor to deflect the pain or to try to make light of a challenging situation but behind closed doors, there are challenges that special needs parents face that only someone who has been through a similar situation can truly relate to.

You may see us having meltdowns or challenges and not understand why.  What is not a big deal to you may be a tremendous deal to us.  You may think we're intentionally misbehaving or laughing inappropriately and it really might look that way but you don't know the whole story. We may have wild mood swings and we can't just always snap out of the depression that is often a co-morbidity, although it may seem sometimes that our mood can change immediately and confusingly enough, this is true too.  We might be able to put on a good face and act out the role that you wish to see to make you feel comfortable but we would prefer that you love and accept us for the person we are without the mask.

This evening I was visiting Autism Creations Facebook page to see if there were any new cool tags to snag and I came across this post in Michelle's "Notes" section.  I could relate to much of what the author wrote.  In fact, it felt like I might have written it.  I am not sure who to give credit to for writing the letter you will find below but since I was given permission to pass it along, I am gladly doing so. If the anonymous author ever wants to contact me to chat or get credit on our blog for his/her beautiful posting, I can be reached at lettingmylightshine@gmail.com.  I think we have a lot in common!


"Dear Family and Friends:" was written for the purpose of it being sent to relatives and hosts of holiday gatherings who might need a crash course in what to expect from their guest with Autism or Asperger's.

I hope you enjoy.  Please feel free to pass along!

Dear Family and Friends:

I understand that we will be visiting each other for the holidays this year. Sometimes these visits can be very hard for me, but here is some information that might help our visit to be more successful.

As you probably know, I am challenged by a hidden disability called Autism or what some people refer to as a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). Autism/PDD is a neurological disorder which makes it hard for me to understand the environment around me. I have barriers in my brain that you can't see but which make it difficult for me to adapt to my surroundings.

Sometimes I may seem rude and abrupt, but it is only because I have to try so hard to understand people and at the same time, make myself understood. People with autism have different abilities: some may not speak, some write beautiful poetry, some can hardly hold a pencil, others are whizzes in math or have difficulty making friends. We are all different and need various degrees of support.

Sometimes when I am touched unexpectedly, it might feel painful and make me want to run away. I get easily frustrated, too. Being with lots of other people is like standing next to a moving freight train and trying to decide how and when to jump aboard. I feel frightened and confused a lot of the time, like you would if you landed on an alien planet and didn't understand how the inhabitants communicated. This is why I need to have things the same as much as possible. Once I learn how things happen, I can get by okay. But if something, anything changes, then I have to relearn the situation all over again! It is very hard.

When you try to talk to me, I often can't understand what you say because there is a lot of distraction around. I have to concentrate very hard to hear and understand one thing at a time.

You might think I am ignoring you, I am not. Rather, I am hearing everything and not knowing what is most important to respond to. Holidays are exceptionally hard because there are so many different people, places and things going on that are out of my ordinary realm. This may be fun and adventurous for most people, but for me, it's very hard work and can be extremely stressful.

I often have to get away from all the commotion to calm down. It would be great if you had a private place set up to where I could retreat. If I cannot sit at the meal table, do not think I am misbehaved or that my parents have no control over me. Sitting in one place for even 5 minutes is often impossible for me. I feel so antsy and overwhelmed by all the smells, sounds, and people--I just have to get up and move about. Please don't hold up your meal for me, go on without me and my parents will handle the situation the best way they know.

Eating in general is hard for me. If you understand that autism is a sensory processing disorder, it's no wonder eating is a problem! Think of all the senses involved with eating: sight, smell, taste, touch AND all the complicated mechanics that are involved with chewing and swallowing that a lot of people with autism have trouble with. I am not being picky. I literally cannot eat certain foods as my sensory system and/or oral motor coordination are impaired. Also, I have a hard time eating neatly, calling me "pig" just confuses me!

Don't be disappointed If mommy hasn't dressed me in starch and bows. It's because she knows how much stiff and frilly clothes can drive me buggy! I have to feel comfortable in my clothes or I will just be miserable! Temple Grandin, a very smart adult with autism, has taught people that when she had to wear stiff petticoats as a child, she felt like her skin was being rubbed with sandpaper. I often feel the same way in dressy clothes.

When I go to someone else's house, I may appear bossy and controlling. In a sense, I am being controlling because that is how I try to fit into the world around me (which is so hard for me to figure out!) Things have to be done in a way I am familiar with or else I might get confused and frustrated. It doesn't mean you have to change the way you are doing things just please be patient with me and understanding of how I have to cope...mom and dad have no control over how my autism makes me feel inside.

People with autism often have little things that they do to help themselves feel more comfortable. The grown ups call it "Self regulation," or "stimming'. I might rock, hum, flick my fingers in my face, flap my arms or any number of different things. I am not trying to be disruptive or weird. Again, I am doing what I have to do for my brain to adapt to your world.

Sometimes I cannot stop myself from talking, singing, or partaking in an activity. The grown ups call this "perseverating" which is kind of like self regulation or stimming. I do this only because I have found something to occupy myself that makes me feel comfortable, and I don't want to come out of that comfortable place and join your hard-to-figure-out-world. Perseverative behaviors are good to a certain degree because they help me calm down. Please be respectful to my mom and dad if they let me "stim" for awhile as they know me best and what helps to calm me.

Remember that my mom and dad have to watch me much more closely than the average child. This is for my own safety, preservation of your possessions, and to facilitate my integration with you. It hurts my parents' feelings to be criticized for being over protective or condemned for not watching me close enough. They are human and have been given an assignment intended for saints. My parents are good people and need your support.

Holidays are filled with sights, Sounds, and smells. The average household is turned into a busy, frantic, festive place. Remember that this may be fun for you but it's very hard work for me to conform. If I fall apart or act out in a way that you consider socially inappropriate, please remember that I don't possess the neurological system that is required to follow your rules.

I am a unique person--an interesting person. I will find my place at this celebration that is comfortable for us all as long as you'll try to view the world through my eyes!"

 ~*~ Feel free to copy and paste the above and below to share with family and friends ~*~





I had a little more that I wanted to say, Aspierations friends!  Surprised? :-)


Just because a child or adult is on the autism spectrum doesn't mean that he or she can't have a wonderful holiday season.  Your support, your love, your willingness to show patience, acceptance and humor is greatly appreciated.  The holiday season is a time for joy, happiness, selfless behavior, sharing in family traditions and creating new ones.  Accept us, engage us, don't be scared of us, don't hide from us but please don't pressure us or make us feel that your way of celebrating is the right way and that our way of celebrating is wrong.  Our ways are just different. Try and come into our world for a little bit.  Get down on the floor while we're lining up our cars, hum along with us as we're singing a tune, let us have our sensory breaks if we start to get overwhelmed and try and see us as the unique and wonderful people that we are.  









Blessings and love today, tonight and throughout the holiday season!
Let your light shine!
Karen 

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Touching Veteran's Day 2010 Adventure

Another weekend is here!  As eBay informed me when I logged in to check my account a few moments ago, there are just 43 days left until Christmas.  YIKES!  

Running an online dolls, bears and collectibles business, this is the time of year when we totally need to step up our game to compete with so many other vendors that are out there throwing out huge sales promotions to gobble up consumer dollars.  I've been spending a lot of time analyzing our business and trying to figure out how to maximize our time and effort.  At the same time, I want to make sure at home, we're not focused on commercialism and that we celebrate and teach our sons the reason for the season!

What I keep concluding business-wise is that I need to not bite off more than I can chew (there are only two of us running Count Your Beans), I need to work smarter, I need to create my own luck, I need to pray and I need to continually be prepared to expect the unexpected.  

The unexpected for some is often the expected in our household.

For example, these two distractions are fairly typical:

1) Our 4 year old is home with "the noisies" when the phone rings from a potential or current customer.  Coincidentally when the phone rings is just the moment he needs to share about an exciting development on Sprout TV or the fact that he needs toileting assistance.

2) Trying to work with J's Christmas carol playlist (of very few songs) running in the background over and over and over.  We've been enjoying the spirit since November 3rd...  Now don't get me wrong, I really enjoy Christmas music.  I just enjoy it more after Thanksgiving.  It could be worse.  It could be heavy metal!



This is the time of year we all need to stay healthy to be productive and happy so when Ryan came down with a cold earlier this week, I worried that the cold and flu cycle would start cycling around our house like it has the past couple of years.  I'm feeling a little under the weather right now and have been having headaches for days.  Hopefully it will pass without getting worse or passing around to Justin or John.

This school year has actually been very good for us as far as the boys (all three) staying healthy.  Usually September, October and November include at least a couple absences for colds or flu but so far we're having a record year for attendance.  Ryan was off today and man, was he miffed we didn't send him to school.  The ickier one feels in this house, the larger the scale of the meltdown.  Today Ryan had a very icky day.

We chose to pass up getting the flu shot this school year as last year after we all got the shot, we were sick for weeks afterwards. Yeah, yeah, I know... you're not supposed to be able to get the flu from the flu SHOT.  All I know is that in the years that we've had the shot, we've shortly thereafter gotten the flu... and not a quick version either.  Maybe it's a coincidence.  Maybe it's a conspiracy. (Kidding!) I'm not going to go down that road right now because I have a special story I wanted to share with you.



Yesterday Veteran's Day was celebrated here in the USA.  I made reference to it in my November 10th blog, Ryan's Research Study Comes To A Close.  My husband is a veteran of the US Navy and my dad is a veteran of the US Air Force. There are other relatives in the extended family who have served or are serving as well.  To those who have served our country with honor, it was a day to give thanks and appreciation.

I would have blogged yesterday but I knew that it would be important for John to blog about his thoughts and experiences and I wanted to show respect to him and let him share his version of the story first.  If you have time, feel free to check out his Veteran's Day 2010 blog post:


Justin was part of a group of 8 local Boy Scouts who volunteered to participate in a special Veteran's Day flag ceremony at an Independent and Assisted Living Facility called Merrill Gardens at the Orchard Village in Vancouver, Washington.


We almost didn't make it there in time (or so we thought).  The thing about using a GPS in our vehicle is that we're supposed to upgrade the software every couple years or so.  This cost money obviously and we figured since we got our Honda Odyssey in 2008 that we could still go awhile without having to fork out extra cash.

John had the address written on a piece of paper and I tried plugging it into the GPS system.  The address was on 18th Avenue but the GPS only had one option and that was simply 18th.

One thing about living here in Washington that personally I find confusing is that a lot of the streets and avenues are numbers instead of names. (i.e. 18th Avenue versus Grant Avenue) Streets run one way, avenues run another.  You may be on a certain numbered street and it will stop only to pick up again at another part in the city.  Don't get me started on the NW, NE, SW, SE options!

Ask me to give you street names for the city I grew up in and I can go quite far from my childhood home.  Ask me to give you street names around the home we live in now and it's much more difficult for me because most of them are numbered circles, courts, avenues and streets that are similar to one another and often are not logical.  Although I enjoy numbers and appreciate patterns, something just isn't clicking with me for memorizing the numbered streets in my area.  Fortunately I have my four year old son whose visual memory is incredible and whose favorite iPad app is Google maps.  He knows our area very well!

But I digress...

I tried entering the number for the 18th Avenue address into the GPS and it wasn't taking the whole thing. My first thought (sorry John) was that maybe John had written the number down incorrectly so we entered something close and figured if we were on the right street, we'd be able to find it.

We were already running late at this point.  The ceremony was at 10:30 a.m. but the boys were expected at 10:00 a.m. to practice.  It was about 9:40 a.m. and our GPS was showing us that the location was 21 minutes away.  Vancouver is a very spread out city.

John followed the directions and eventually we hit the area that the GPS indicated we should be in.  Unfortunately, that was in a very large field near somebody's home.  Assuming that the community we were going to was indeed visible to the human eye, we knew something was wrong.  Amazingly, there was little edginess in our vehicle.  Getting lost isn't usually a crowd pleaser in the Krejcha household.  Just ask John about trying to find Yellowstone in 2008...

John didn't have the phone number of the person coordinating the event or the name of the place we were going to.  He just had the address.  Fortunately, he did have a couple scouting contacts listed in his iPad. We had brought the iPad to keep Ryan entertained and calm during the Veteran's Day ceremony.  As it turned out, it was a very good thing we did because after a couple of calls, John was able to get the information we needed and we were back on our way.  Yippee!

Of course at this point, it was about 10:16 a.m. and we were missing practice and the ceremony was due to start so there was a little tension in the car since we don't like being late.  At about 10:22 a.m. we pulled into the parking lot, got out and hurriedly entered the main building.  By the way, I'm pretty sure the reason that 18th Avenue was not in our GPS was that it appeared to be created for this community and the community was fairly new.

So we went into the lobby area and didn't see any other scouts.  Hmm...  well, maybe they were in another room practicing... even though the flag was outside... 

We smiled at a few of the seniors hanging out in one of the commons areas and John and Justin started to head toward what looked like a reception area.  As they walked that way, another lady who I believe was the Activity Coordinator at the site and a mother of 3 Boy Scouts came toward John and gave him a quizzical look. 

"You're early!" (Early???)

"The ceremony isn't until 11:30 a.m. and the boys aren't supposed to be here until 11:00 a.m." (Oh...)

"You'll need to leave and come back."

Well, didn't we feel a bit silly.  But hey, it's MUCH better to be early than late.  We left and drove around a little bit to see if we could find a place that had a winter coat for Ryan since his other one was too small and the temperatures here are starting to drop.  We took care of that fairly quickly and then headed back.  This time when we got there, a few scouts were ahead of us.  John and Justin did their thing and Ryan and I hung out together in the lobby playing with the iPad.  

Shortly thereafter, the boys all headed outside to practice and Ryan and I joined them and sat on a nearby bench.  Ryan spied Full Bites in my purse, a tasty snack that has protein and is gluten-free (good for him, good for me) and so he began munching while I alternated between watching Justin and making sure Ryan was doing well.

At a little before 11:30 a.m., many residents of the community started coming outside to prepare for the ceremony.  Some were in wheelchairs and some were in uniform.  Even though it was relatively small in scale, the ceremony was huge in heart.  I felt tears well up and I was so proud of Justin for participating and so proud of John for his service to our country.  I was also proud that Ryan had a calm body during the ceremony.  He was a little antsy but there was no rushing into the middle of the ceremony and trying to upstage the scouts so all was very good! (He had done something similar before at a Blue & Gold Ceremony not just once but twice!)

Here are a few pictures I wanted to share.







The ceremony went very well and I think it was enjoyed by all who attended.  Afterwards, the boys were invited inside to mingle with the veterans, families and ceremony attendees while they had their lunch.

It was only to be for a few minutes but Justin got very scared.  It quickly turned into a meltdown moment with Justin, John, Ryan and I together in the lobby while the other scouts were inside the eating area.  Having Asperger's, Justin often has a challenge with social skills and he was very nervous about having to participate in this part of the activity.  He went into a mode where he felt blocked and although I can usually melt the block away, my Supermom powers just weren't performing.  He sat on my lap.  I offered to hold his hand, I offered to walk with him and be by his side but there just wasn't anything I could say or do that worked.  I could tell that John was getting frustrated and embarrassed.

The thing is that having Asperger's myself, I could totally get where Justin was coming from.  I felt for him. I wanted to make things right but I understood his anxiety and how hard it can be to break down that block when it occurs. His heart was in the right place in wanting to show honor to the veterans but he was frozen inside his own little world and no ice pick was going to set him free.  Only he had the magic melting key inside.

It was a sad moment because we realized that we were going to have to leave.  Justin had done so well in the flag ceremony.  We didn't want the experience to end on a sour note.  After some wiped tears and a big hug telling him I loved him, Justin got up and we started to exit.

It was at that moment I believe God stepped in.  A lady in her early 70's named Maridel who had been at the ceremony and who was wearing a flag shirt caught my eye, smiled and made a motion with her hand asking if it was okay for her to come over.  She asked me if it was okay if she asked Justin a favor.  Justin stood up straight and looked her in the eye as she told her story.

Her husband Warren was a veteran of the US Air Force.  Unfortunately, he was too sick to be able to leave his bed and attend the day's service.  Maridel had been praying to God that one of the scouts would be able to come up to her room and say Happy Veteran's Day to her husband.  All of the other scouts were in the dining room and she was nervous on how to approach them.  She saw Justin and thought that he would be the perfect choice to pay a visit to Warren.  She asked him if it was okay with his parents (which it was) if he and we went up to their apartment and Justin spent a few minutes with Warren.  Justin enthusiastically said that he would.  The ice block was instantly melted and our caring thoughtful son was back again.

As we rode up in the elevator, Maridel told us a little about her husband.  He had been in the Air Force during the Korean War and had flown planes that added fuel to other planes and also blocked enemy radar.  It was a dangerous job and certainly this man was to be honored.

When we got into the apartment, John, Ryan and I stood back in the kitchen area while Maridel took Justin into the bedroom to see Warren.  Justin saluted him and wished him a Happy Veteran's Day.  He stood and listened a few minutes while Maridel spoke to both of them, narrating a bit about the earlier flag ceremony and sharing with Justin what Warren's role was in the Air Force.

I could hear everything from where I was standing and it brought tears to my eyes.  It was so touching that Justin could be a part of this and I think it will remain in Justin's memory for a long time as a good turn that he did for someone else.  You see, as Maridel walked us down the hall afterwards back to the elevator and down to the lobby, she told me that her husband was sick and had both Parkinson's and another condition which made it very difficult for him to communicate and be social.  She said she had been praying to God that he would bring someone today that could visit with her husband and show him Veteran's Day respect.

I shared with her that our son was on the autism spectrum with Asperger's and that it was often difficult for him to communicate as well.  On this day, God worked his magic and through a series of what could have been misfortunes, something magnificent happened as a result and the Veteran's Day flag ceremony ended on a higher note than we ever imagined.

Incidentally, John and I learned later that one of the reasons that Justin was afraid to go into the dining area was that he was under the impression he was going to have to eat with the veterans and was afraid there wouldn't be anything he liked to eat and didn't want to embarrass himself.  It was a key component in the puzzle we were missing because had we known about this fear, we would have let him know the boys weren't there to eat, just mingle and he might have ended up going in after all.  As it turns out, everything fit into place just perfectly.  Justin was where he needed to be at just the right time.

Thank you to Maridel and to Warren for making a special connection that will be with me for a very long time and now through this blog will be shared with the world as well.



Congratulations to Justin for letting his light shine!
Best wishes for a wonderful weekend,
Karen

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ryan's Autism Research Study Comes to a Close

Hello Aspierations Blog Pals!


Our youngest son has been participating in a communication study at the Center for Spoken Language Understanding at the Oregon Health & Science University in Beaverton, OR for the past few months.  Almost every Wednesday and occasionally an odd day here and there, our family made the drive from Vancouver, WA to Beaverton, OR for Ryan to participate in various games, testing and interviewing.

Today was Ryan's final session and although it will be nice to have four hours of our Wednesdays back, I am sort of going to miss the travel.  The drive usually took between 45 minutes and an hour, depending on traffic and it gave me, John and Ryan (and sometimes Justin when he was out of school) the chance to talk about a variety of things without the interruption of the phone, the computers, the TV and the inevitable daily noise that tends to invade our office.

Of course I enjoy the opportunity to chat during family walks but lately, with the weather and everyone's varying schedules, it has been a little difficult to get the family together for more than 2 or 3 times a week and when we do, there isn't always a lot of talking going on but I enjoy the company nonetheless.

At any rate, before I digress too far away, I wanted to write a little more about the research.  The study includes children from ages 4 - 8 and includes both typically developing students as well as those on the autism spectrum.  Ryan was the youngest child invited to partake in the study so far and although his young age and some of his communication challenges meant he attended more sessions than older children, we definitely thought it was worth the time for him to participate in this research.

Within the next few days, we should be mailed a packet of information which contains the results of almost all of Ryan's testing and there should be some analysis along with it.  John and I have an appointment next week back in Beaverton when Ryan is in school to meet with most of the doctors and research assistants who worked with him.  It is our opportunity to go over the results in further detail, ask questions and get suggestions on how to help him become more successful.  In talking with a number of the ladies, we would hear consistently what a delight and charming little boy Ryan is and that he has a very good visual memory but that many of his challenges involve being able to sit still, stay engaged and focus.  I know that can be a challenge for any 4 year old but when I was invited in a couple times to assist with helping Ryan regain a "calm body", I saw things that I did not normally see at home.

For example, Ryan often had a very hard time making and keeping eye contact with the researchers. This is actually fairly common with many spectrum children but I hadn't noticed it so much with Ry because at home he has developed very good eye contact with those in our family. When he gets into a different setting with people he does not know, that changes quite a bit as does his fidgeting.

I noticed in the brief time I was allowed in the testing rooms that Ryan had a very difficult time staying seated in his chair during various tasks.  He could still answer questions but oftentimes it was more of a matter of if he would choose to answer them.  Ryan tends to get what his preschool teacher calls "the sillies" and when Ryan is in this mode, even if he knows the answer to a question, he's going to respond with something silly or charming and completely off-topic. This is also unfortunately when he tends to throw out names of various body parts, his favorite being "boobies" and that word that we try to casually brush off in public places as "peanuts".  (Move along folks... there's nothing offensive here to hear!)

I am very interested in the opinions of the people who tested Ryan and will be sure to blog about it next week after we have our meeting.  Apparently the testing that he participated in would have cost us many thousands of dollars if we had to pay for it ourselves. Just the neuropsych portion alone would have set us back quite a bit.  I truly do believe it's worth it to be able to help our son.  The thing about autism... well, one thing at least... is that there are SO many different avenues one can go to try and treat some of the daily life challenges and co-morbidities that autism brings.  Parents out there with spectrum kiddos can probably agree with me that all the options can often be overwhelming.  Gluten-free diet? Dietary supplements and / or medication? Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy? OT? PT?  Parents can and do spend a life's savings on this stuff not knowing if any of it will work.

I believe that when considering a therapy, we look at the least invasive option that will provide Ryan or Justin with maximum benefit.  Teaching social and safety skills, learning different physical therapies we can do at home to help with self-regulation (i.e. brushing, joint compressions, dots and squeezies) and addressing individual issues or needs as they come up while trying to prevent other issues is part of our daily plan.  We keep our options open because we want to remove obstacles and help our children be as healthy as they can be.  It is often overwhelming.

With the study that Ryan participated in, it only cost us our time and our gasoline.  Ryan was treated very well and all the researchers were so friendly.  It was such a relief not to have to pay out of pocket.  (This isn't the kind of stuff that Kaiser covers.)

I definitely will follow up with my blog friends regarding the study results.  If there is information that is useful as it relates to my son, it may be useful for your child(ren) as well.

And on another note...


Both boys are off of school tomorrow for Veteran's Day.  Ryan is doing a sleepover in Justin's room tonight although from the noise I currently hear, there isn't much sleeping going on yet!

Justin is going to participate in a special flag ceremony at a local nursing home with the Boy Scouts. I am very proud of him for volunteering for this service. John, Ryan and I are going to attend as well. I'll make sure to take pictures if that is allowed and will tell you more about that event the next time I get a chance to blog.



Happy Veteran's Day on Thursday to all those who have served our great country with honor!  In my family that includes John (Navy) and my Dad (Air Force) and on John's side, it includes his father (Navy), step-father and at least one or two cousins, nieces and nephews.  Thank you to all who served.  John put something on his Facebook status today that I thought was appropriate to pass along.


A United States Veteran is someone, who at one point in their life, wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, their life. That is beyond honor. There are too many people in this country who no longer remember that fact.




Thank you for letting your light shine!
Karen

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wish Upon A Hero and Pay It Forward -- A Couple Thoughts

Although Thanksgiving is still over two weeks away, I was thinking about my life today and how much I have to be thankful for.  One of those things I am grateful for is the ability to blog and reach out to my Aspierations friends!

We are all faced with challenges and adversity but our attitude makes a huge difference in how we handle the various curve balls that life throws our way.  We may not be able to control the actions of others but we do have a choice on how we can look at things.  

Often when I start thinking about my own life challenges, I realize how much worse so many people have it.  When people face struggles and needs such as unemployment, health issues, financial issues and relationship problems here in our own country, it is often easy to push aside the painful thought of how many millions are in far greater need than we are.  

Do you ever want to help but are so caught up in your own life drama that you're not sure how to share your gifts or how to help?  

I came across a really neat website a couple years ago.  It's called Wish Upon A Hero. The idea for Wish Upon A Hero was conceived by Dave Girgenti, shortly after the September 11th attacks on New York City and the USA. The website he founded, www.wishuponahero.com came online in September 2007.  The site is an online community that allows people to help people.  Their mantra is "no wish too large, no hero too small".



It is a free site for people to use.  Everyone who registers can make up to three wishes at one time and they can grant an unlimited number of wishes.  Some wishes are huge... organ donation, mortgage payments, hefty financial needs.  Some wishes are for things like coupons or greeting cards.  Some wishes are for prayers.  

If you want to grant a wish, it's simple to do and one cool feature of the site is that you can choose to help people anonymously.  It's a great place to get the kids involved as well because a lot of people ask for cards and little pick me-ups and the handmade artwork of a child is often just what the doctor ordered.  

Here is a link to their website: http://www.wishuponahero.com/

I was going to write more tonight but it got very noisy in here about an hour ago and I haven't been able to concentrate as well as I hoped so I'll dash off this quick blog and then catch up with you guys and gals again later. 

Oh before I go, I wanted to share something else. I have a great movie suggestion for my Aspierations blog friends.  I suggest renting "Pay It Forward" from 2000 with Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment.  It is a story about a young student who gets an assignment from his social studies teacher to come up with an idea to change the world and put it into action.  His idea and the theme of the movie involves what would happen if three people were given a favor and then instead of paying it back, they paid it forward?




If you see the movie or if you've already seen it, please let me know in the comments section what you think!  What do you think of the concept of "pay it forward"?  Have you tried it in your own life?  What were the results?  Personally, I find it very spiritually uplifting, encouraging and motivating. We all have gifts to give.

Thanks for visiting, Aspierations Friends!
Look forward to hearing from you soon... and hearing how you let your light shine!
Yes... even you lurkers!  I know you're out there!  Miss ya!

Karen

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Look Back at the Previous Week and a Look Ahead

Where has the week gone, Aspierations Friends?

I suppose it has gone into the past like every other week goes.  Before I let this one get completely away, I thought I'd do a Saturday evening blog and give you a recap of what has been going on around here.  

I never did talk about Halloween evening like I was planning to so that is a good place to start.  The boys and I went out trick-or-treating and had a great time while John took charge of handing out candy and sharing the fun of our Halloween decorations with the neighborhood.  

Earlier in the afternoon, it was time for pumpkin carving!  Here are the boys' results!


Ryan's personal design. Four nostrils makes it easier to breathe!


Justin carved almost entirely by himself this year!


Oooh.... Spooky!

John and I usually dress up for Halloween but "stuff" happened this year. Next year we'll be better and we'll come back in full force!  

I have to say we do have two amazingly cute boys!  


Ryan the Lion and Justin the Skeleton (Dry Bones to you Super Mario Fans out there!)


Which is the treat and which is the trick?


If Mom would hurry up and stop taking pictures, we'd score more loot!


The boys "Booed" this house with a Boo bag the previous night. Fortunately they went unrecognized!


While Dry Bones checks his loot, my "mane" lion lost his furry head!

The boys really made out well this year.  The forecast had originally been for rain but we only felt a couple sprinkles the entire time we were out.  The boys covered much more ground this year than in previous years and even had to stop by home to dump out their bucket and bag and restart!  The funny thing is that the boys really don't eat much candy but they had fun hunting for Kit Kats and M & M's. 


Not only did he get two bags full but also a bag from the Halloween party the day before!


Kit Kats for a wild lion!


Ryan was more excited about the bag of Lay's potato chips than most of the candy!

This year was the first year we could tell Ryan was really into trick-or-treating.  Last year he dressed as Scooby Doo and wore his doggy backpack (harness) so that he wouldn't bolt.  The year before he dressed as Elmo.  I was Cookie Monster, John was Oscar the Grouch and Justin was Sesame "Street".  Although words were few and far between, he did use signing for "please", "more" and "thank you".  It was the first Halloween after his autism diagnosis.

Ryan has come a long way!  This year, it was everything I could do to keep up with my little ball of energy. He did really well saying, "Trick or Treat" and said "thank you" or "Happy Halloween" most times after getting his treat.  Always the source of entertainment, he also told a couple neighbors, "I'll be back!" (after particularly good candy) and "Good luck!"  There were a couple times he tried to go back to houses and a couple times he got really irked when no-one answered the door but overall, things went great!

This year we went without the doggy backpack / harness and although he did do quite a bit of sprinting, it was excited and directed sprinting from one house to another versus random running into the street.  Safety issues are still a major concern but he is making progress.  He still needs to be prompted most of the time to hold hands or look when crossing the street.  Sometimes he does really well but other times he is very nonchalant or defiant about it.  Fortunately on Halloween night there was a lot of incentive to follow directions and I was very proud of both him and Justin who did a great job keeping up with him as they would dash from house to house.

I am happy to say that although autism and Asperger's are obviously part of the boys' life and mine, our Halloween evening was not adversely impacted as it easily could have been given all the sensory issues and noise.  We all had a wonderful time.  As we walked down the street with our flashlights and candy buckets, I enjoyed letting our light shine!

We were out from about 6:15 until a little past 7:30 p.m.  They had pretty much been going full tilt and after completing our neighborhood circle as well as the next one over, both agreed that they had enough candy and wanted to go home, relax, hang out with Dad and watch "The Amazing Race" and "Undercover Boss".  

When we got home, John said there had been about 200 kids that had come by.  Good thing we bought lots of candy!  I was truly happy to get rid of it because it is such a temptation for me when I feel stressed or depressed.  Both Justin and Ryan took turns handing out candy to kids who came by after we got home.  They had fun doing it and it gave John a well-deserved break.  

John does enjoy handing out the candy though because our house is always decked out for Halloween and John likes chatting with the neighbors and children who enjoy our decorations.  I know it may seem like something simple but the decorating is fun and gives a smile to so many people.  We love doing it and as I type right now, our outside Halloween decorations are gone but we have our blow up inflatable turkey in a ball sitting on the porch gobbling to anyone who chooses to greet him.  I don't have a picture yet but Ryan liked this inflatable turkey photo so I thought I'd include it just for fun.

Our turkey is cuter!

Christmas decorating will start after Thanksgiving and we all have fun with that.  The boys are already getting into early holiday spirit by playing Christmas and holiday songs over and over again on the computer.  I have to say that's it's sweet the first few times but after awhile... there is only so much "Feliz Navidad" and "Frosty the Snowman" one can take before the first week of NOVEMBER has passed!  I need to find some alternate music soon!!!

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I apologize for not blogging the past few days.  I've been focused on getting a new Silent Auction up for Count Your Beans.  If you or any of your friends are looking for some unique holiday gifts, we have 25 dolls that are Artist Proof, Low Certificate of Authenticity # or First Production Sample dolls currently in auction through our Count Your Beans blog.  The auction closes next Saturday, November 13th.  


I've also been doing a lot of listing at eBay and Amazon and am contemplating what to do with our website for the holidays.  Do I have time to do a rehaul like I would like to or do I focus my work time on additional marketing and sales promotions and create a new site or improved mirror site for next year?  

If you have daughters or granddaughters who enjoy dolls, we just added a new line of cute quality dolls to our offerings, Adora Dolls.  They are an established line that specializes in play and display collectible vinyl baby dolls.  Prices range from around $65 - $250.  Very cute and giftable.  Little Scottie is below. 



Okay, Count Your Beans business plug over!  :-)  Every once in awhile I need to throw that in here but don't worry, it's not very often.  You can always check out www.countyourbeans.com if interested in our dolls, bears and collectibles offerings.  Great holiday shopping deals!

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John wrote a blog tonight about the Veteran's Day parade that he, Justin and Ryan marched in today with the Boy Scouts.  John served our country in the Navy during the time of Desert Storm and is very proud to be a veteran.  He was still in the Navy at Moffett Field when we met back in 1991.  Although he got out in 1992 after a previous tour overseas in Japan, he is very proud of his service.  

Every year in Vancouver, WA there is a Veteran's Day weekend parade that he and the Cub Scouts / Boy Scouts march in.  This was the first year it didn't rain, rain and rain some more so it was much more comfortable for marching.  This year was the first year that Ryan took part as well.  Check out John's blog for the story and additional pictures of the boys marching proudly with their American flags.  God bless the USA! Thank you to our veterans which includes John, my Dad, John's dad and so many more patriotic and proud men and women.  :-)




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Although fall in Washington is beautiful and I've truly enjoyed the leaves changing color and the beauty that autumn brings, I have been feeling homesick for California lately.  Since we moved from California to Washington in July 2007, we have only been back three times, once each in the summers of 2008, 2009 and 2010.  

I miss my parents and I miss my holidays spent with them. Mom and Dad came up to spend Christmas with us in late 2007 and it was a very special trip.  It's the only time they've been up here and I'm sad and afraid to say that it may be the only time they make the journey here, at least in fall or winter time.  We're pulling for them to fly up for my mom's 80th birthday in April but at this point things are up in the air.

We've invited them of course to come whenever they'd like but due to a variety of reasons, traveling is stressful and a challenge for them.  As such, Thanksgiving and Christmas eating and celebrating traditions have certainly changed for our family.  Although it's wonderful to form our own traditions with the boys, I do appreciate the old.  Up until 2008, the only time I had not spent Christmas day with my parents was the year that John and I got engaged in 1991 and flew back to Wisconsin.  I only recall missing a couple Thanksgivings. 

Our Thanksgivings have always been pretty small in terms of people at the table.  Since coming to Washington, it has been just the 4 of us.  I think the biggest it ever got at my parents house was when they'd invite a few neighbors and friends over and maybe it got up to 10 or 12.  Personally, I prefer smaller gatherings because there is less social angst involved and I can have quality conversations one-on-one with people rather than feeling I have to make small talk.  I think my parents prefer it that way too.



Is Thanksgiving big around your home?  How many people do you usually have?  What do you eat? Is it just your immediate family or do you invite extended family, neighbors and friends?  Do you do the cooking?  For the past few years, we have ordered a really great turkey dinner from our local QFC.  We cook the turkey and then the meal also comes with stuffing, rolls and mashed potatoes that you heat up.  John always feasts on the pumpkin pie.  I suppose in many families (like with my mom and dad), homemade is the way to go and admittedly, I truly miss my mom's cooking and baking!  She still sends snickerdoodle cookies and brownies to us on special occasions.  I contemplated baking my own cookies and sending them back.  Certainly it would give them a good laugh!

I look forward to hearing about your Thanksgiving traditions!  Drop me a line or leave a message in the Comments Section below!

Hope you have a great weekend and let your light shine!

Karen