Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Scout Steps Up - Boy Scout Winter Challenge

Hello Aspierations Friends,

For those of you with boys on the autism spectrum, you may remember some of my previous blog postings where I recommended the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts as programs that have great opportunities and are accepting of children with special needs.

Justin has been involved with scouting since 2nd grade, about a year before we learned of his Asperger's diagnosis.  We initially looked into scouting for him because he had not had any real social experience with boys of his age and both John and I had been in scouting programs at about the same age and had positive memories associated with our experience.  We look forward to the day when Ryan can join scouting too.

Today Justin is in 6th grade and coming up on almost a year from the time when he crossed over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts.  He hopes to achieve the rank of "Second Class" by March and he has been working hard with John to fulfill his requirements.

Last weekend John and Justin took a scouting trip to do snow tubing and fun in the snow at Mt. Hood in Oregon. Although Ryan and I would have enjoyed doing some snow tubing ourselves, we stayed behind at home and had our own adventures.

On this particular trip, Justin had a lot of challenges to overcome physically, socially and emotionally. It's one thing to go to a meeting a couple hours a week and quite another thing to spend time in a cabin with about 100 other boys, most of which would mainly be considered acquaintances.  Memories of some of my own scouting overnights are coming back and I'll share some of the challenges I remember in the future.

One challenge that Justin and I share is definitely the selection of food available when not at home.  On Justin's recent trip he did end up trying pancakes (not quite Gram's or IHOPs but he gave them a shot) and as you can see below, he did get in some spaghetti.  Always a family favorite.  (Some in our family have sauce, some don't but we all enjoy the noodles.)


Spaghetti Feed

John witnessed some powerful things on this trip and wrote a special blog which shared the story of a scout who selflessly stepped up and helped Justin when he was struggling while trying to make his way up a huge icy hill with a pack on his back.

This was not a boy who knew Justin particularly well, however this was a boy with an amazing amount of inner strength and character who stepped up and embodied what scouting and being a good person is all about.  What happened as described to me by John was the kind of thing you might see in a feel good movie.  I am very proud of my son and the other scout as well.


Justin coming down the hill, avoiding a Winter Wipeout!

Here is a link to John's blog.  I hope you enjoy the story:

Boy Scout Winter Lodge Challengehttp://johnkrejcha.blogspot.com/2011/01/boy-scout-winter-lodge-challenge.html

In other house news, unfortunately Ryan is still ill and John's cough and cold has gotten worse again.  I've seen better days and Justin seems to be the one dodging the flu bullets left and right.  I'm glad for that!  Both boys have off of school tomorrow so I'm really hoping we can all catch up on our sleep this weekend!  It feels like we've all been off our routine for about 5 - 6 weeks and it's time for a change!

Speaking of change, are any of you out there following American Idol this year?  I love music and enjoy singing.  Our family has been watching this show since season 2, however in the past few seasons, it's been more like background noise while we're working.  The pizazz just seemed gone.  I knew lots of changes were coming and I was interested to tune in this year and see what the judging panel would be like with Randy, J. Lo and Steven Tyler.

I miss Simon Cowell.  Yeah, he could be a horse's patootie sometimes the way he worded things but I was interested in hearing what he had to say and he had a charm about him that kept viewers coming back. Randy... we're looking for a change this season, dawg!  John and I have a drinking game (ice water) where we drink each time Randy says the word "pitchy".  Last season we ended up having to go to the bathroom a lot.

Let's see what this season holds.  I like to give everyone a chance. Hopefully we'll hear some great talent. I like the opportunity for people from all walks of life having a chance to fulfill their dreams.

Hope all is healthy in your home!
Best wishes,
Karen

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ryan and Mom's Day at Home

Hi Everyone!

It has been a few days since I last wrote.  I had intended to do a Part 2 follow up to my last blog, "Separate does not mean Equal - Autism Schooling Part 1" but as is often the case, life stuff happens. I hope to follow up on that topic in the future.  Right now other things here at home are taking precedence.

Ryan was sick pretty much all week, the poor little guy.  It's some sort of cold and flu bug with a bad lingering cough.  He had off Monday for MLK day and then he was home sick Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  We sent him back on Friday but he still is not at 100%. 

Today John and Justin left in the early morning for a snow tubing and scouting adventure at Mt. Hood in Oregon.  Justin had been looking forward to it for quite some time.  We hadn't been snow tubing in awhile and this was to be his first winter camping trip with the Boy Scouts.  John is an Assistant Scoutmaster for the group and so he went along as well to help with Justin and with any other boys who needed guidance.

They're having an overnight at Mt. Hood and then will be back late Sunday afternoon.  Cell phone reception doesn't seem to be very good up there but I did talk with John and Justin in the middle of the afternoon and at that time both were tired from trekking up and down the snow hills (awwwww....) but were having a great time.  Apparently there were some wipeouts.  I don't know if any were akin to what we've seen lately on "Winter Wipeout" but I hope the boys are not too sore tomorrow.  

I remember when John and I went snow tubing in Alaska back in January of 1994 that he hurt his thumb on one particularly adventuresome trek down the hill.  We had a great time but remarked we weren't as young as we used to be.  January in Alaska... you'd think it would be super cold but we loved it.  Flash forward 16 years later.  Hmm...  Maybe I'll be nice and have a nice muscle soothing mineral bath and rub down waiting for John when he gets back.    I'm sure Justin will want a bubble bath too.  

Truth be known, I could use a nice soak in the tub tonight and when I'm sure Ryan falls asleep, maybe I'll head that way and bring a book with me.  Sure seems odd the nights that John and Justin are away...  I do miss them.

Ryan and I had fun today.  I knew in advance I wasn't going to get much work done so I decided to plan a quality day of fun with Ry without getting him too revved up since he's been feeling so achy. We played a variety of games together including Wii Party, Super Mario Brothers Wii and Mario Kart Wii.  

We also went to the Goldfish website... you know, the snack that smiles back until you bite it's head off?  Yeah... funny but then kind of a creepy end.  Interesting jingle...


Anyway, at the Goldfish Kids site they have a bunch of fun games for kids and one of the games is called "Operation Underpants".  Ryan thinks the game is hilarious.  With a name like "Operation Underpants", it was sure to give him the giggles.

Feel free to check it out with your own kiddos.  The website also has other stuff like Team Xtreme which encourages kids to get out and exercise each day.  When they do and log in their hours, they can enter for sweepstakes prizes and if they log 100 hours, they earn a t-shirt.  The kids in this house love eating Goldfish crackers.

All in all, we had a good day at home and finished it up with reading, devotions, me singing "The 12 months 'til Christmas" song (a knock-off on The 12 Days of Christmas with daily twists) and Ryan and I having a good night.  Hopefully he is now having sweet dreams!

We look forward to hearing about J & J's adventures tomorrow!  I'm sure John will have lots to blog about!

Thanks for stopping by!
Karen

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Separate does not mean Equal - Autism Schooling -- Part 1

Hey Aspierations Friends!

If you're on a lot of autism mailing lists like I am, you may have seen the recent online article in the New York Times talking about Governor Christie's proposal for specialized public schools for children on the autism spectrum that live in New Jersey.

Here is a link to that article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/17/nyregion/17njautism.html

This is SUCH a loaded subject and I'm sure many are divided with their feelings about the issue.  My husband John at Life and Times of John Krejcha chimed in today with his own blog response:

http://johnkrejcha.blogspot.com/2011/01/separate-is-not-equal.html  - Separate Is Not Equal

Tomorrow night I will be blogging with my thoughts on the subject, although I can tell you in advance, that many of them mirror John's.

As I posted on Facebook earlier this evening, I personally believe in well-developed educational programs that mainstream children with autism with their typically developing peers as well as with other children who may have other special needs.  I am against the concept of having a public school system make the decision to segregate all children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder such as Asperger's, Autism or PDD-NOS by having them be educated in a special school.

For some children and some families, a school such as the Centers For Excellence Christie is proposing might be appropriate.  I do not agree that would ideally be the best educational option for most ASD children.  I strongly believe that if you want your child's light to shine brightest, he/she should be in an inclusive, positive environment that encourages him or her to excel, doesn't set limits and doesn't exclude because he or she has different abilities.

I will talk about this more in-depth **edited** in the future. I want to gather my thoughts together because this is an important subject and I want to make sure I choose my words to reflect my true feelings and beliefs.  I also want to do a little more research into the subject to make sure I correctly understand what is being proposed in New Jersey.

In the meantime, please check out the New York Times article and John's response.  Feel free to let us know what you think either on John's blog, mine or both.

I'll catch you again here soon!
Letting my light shine,
Karen

Monday, January 17, 2011

iPad, DadPad, JustinPad, RyPad - Mom needs a pad of her own!

It sure felt good to sleep in today.  With the boys off from school for the observance of Martin Luther King Day, our Monday was not a typical one but at least it started off with me feeling rested.

Mondays are usually our biggest shipping day of the week but since USPS was off today because of the holiday, we only had UPS to do.  Usually having the boys home while trying to do our daily email, receipts, customer service, labels and shipping routine can slow down the process but today, things went rather smoothly.

THANK YOU to the iPad!  I love, Love, LOVE it!  What a great tool!  Of course I personally rarely get to use it.  When I gave it to John for his birthday last year, I figured he would use it for personal stuff and business, the boys would use it for educational and recreational fun and when no-one else was home, I could sneak on it to check out an app or two myself.

We should call the thing the RyPad because Ryan tends to monopolize it.  I'm not complaining.  When he's using it, he is actively engaged and the learning games and activities he participates in have really helped his academic and even social growth.  Of course, he is also is a master at Google Earth so if you ever need to map any place out, Ryan's your little man to do it.

This afternoon he was sitting in our purple recliner in his HowdaHug sensory chair mesmerized. From where I sit at my desk, I can usually see over his shoulder to make sure he isn't doing anything inappropriate.  We learned our lesson that way.  Our iTunes / apps account was still logged in and Ryan was able to make a rather substantial purchase awhile back.  Sigh...  Of course I know we're not the only ones this has happened to.  

Aside from passwords and app purchases, Ryan is very interested in changing settings.  Justin is like this too and has been very curious about the inner workings of electronics and software for as long as I can remember.  Someday I'll share with you some of the anecdotes as they're pretty funny in retrospect.

Of course the last mishap with Ryan was not so funny.  There is a screen protector (a thin piece of film) that goes over the iPad to make sure it doesn't get scratched or in case someone has their crayons or markers handy, it doesn't get colored in a quick burst of artistic inspiration.  For almost 5 months the screen protector has saved John's iPad from harm however the other day, Ryan got it into his head that he should peel it off.  Although we caught him in the act, it wasn't in time to save the protector and so John had to get a new one at Best Buy the other day.  If you're following his blog at Life and Times of John Krejcha, you may have read the story.

I really would love to have my own iPad someday as there are many tools I would personally find useful for organization, business and personal productivity.  There is also personal stuff I would like to put on there without young eyes seeing.  Sharing the iPad among 4 active computer users and techno-geeks is really a challenge and I tend to defer to John and the boys.

Admittedly I do have two .99 apps of my own, Micester and BubbleShooter.  Woo Hoo! Everyone in the house plays them and they're a fun way to pass the time if you're in a waiting room somewhere and have a little time to kill.  (We brought the iPad to all of Ryan's autism research study appointments in Beaverton which is when I ended up getting a lot of my iPad time in.)

Yes, I do love the iPad.  There is SO much you can do with it!  So... if I run across any iPad sweepstakes, I'm definitely entering or in case Apple wants to send a sample to a blogger with high Aspierations that will enthusiastically promote their product, that works too!  :-)

On another subject, I'm really enjoying "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" book I'm reading. It was recommended by an Aspierations blog friend and repeat visitor.  Quite interesting!  I haven't read as much yet as I would like but I'm now in Part 2 and it's getting good. I'm sure the meaty stuff with the gal will start soon.  Thanks again for the recommendation!  Can't wait to finish it up and then see the movie.

I see John at his desk on his iPad and I'm thinking he's hoping I'll finish up my blog so we can head back to bed.  With the boys back in school tomorrow (perhaps minus one if Ryan isn't feeling any better), it's an early morning and we do have a lot of USPS shipping to do as well as UPS orders that came in today.

I didn't particularly have a topic for this blog.  It's another of my rambles but it continues my pattern of consistent blogging for the year.

Hope the rest of your week is a good one!  To my Aspierations friends out there who have been feeling not so hot, I hope you're doing better soon!  My bug finally seems to be scramming and I hope it will soon be gone for good.

Here is a question for anyone who feels like answering.  If any of you out there are iPad users, what apps have you found most interesting and useful both for you and your other family members? I'm going to do a blog soon on apps that our sons enjoy and ones I think are good to explore for those on the spectrum with autism and Asperger's. Your input is appreciated.

Best wishes,
Karen

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Letting The Light Shine... or Maybe Not?

Hey everyone!

I'm going to make this blog a quick one tonight.  I've been battling some sort of stomach / headache bug the past couple of days and sitting in front of a computer and typing isn't particularly what I'm in the mood to do.

That being said, it does keep me focused on other things like my mind racing.  I really don't like being sick (who really does) because when I lay in bed and try to rest, my mind races. I alternate between some sort of hallucinatory dream state and actual dreams which tend to be nightmarish and odd.

The good news is that I think I'm starting to feel a bit better, at least I hope so.  I didn't make it to church today but the boys did and apparently everything there went very well.  John was very helpful in watching the boys the past couple of days while I tried to rest.

To cheer me up, he shared a funny, albeit totally socially inappropriate story with me about his trip to Walmart with Ryan and Justin yesterday.



I have to say that laughing at what is likely inappropriate humor is an Aspie-ish trait that I confess to having a challenge with.  Most of the time when it happens (the laughing), I'm in the company of my family who loves me so it's not a big deal and they're likely laughing along with me anyway.  We're like that...

In public, when such a situation arises and it is DEFINITELY not appropriate to laugh, I will bite my tongue or cheek and immediately try to think of something sad.  Most of the time it works. When I was a kid, not so much...

Yesterday it would not have worked because had I actually been at the store with the boys and John shared with me the story that happened not just ONCE but TWICE, I would have certainly been laughing out loud.  I am going to give you the link to John's blog below so you can read it there.

Rather than spoil the topic, I will just comment and say that the star of this mishap times 2 was Ryan with John in a supporting role.

I will also say that I used to do EXACTLY what Ryan did when I was young and even a few years after I wasn't so young and knew better.  For some reason, it just struck me as funny.  

Most of you mature adults out there will read this and think.... that's not funny at all.  In FACT, someone did THAT to me once and it was NOT at all humorous.

To you, I apologize... sorry if you were an unintended victim.  Sometimes my humor is rather sophomoric and by that, I mean juvenile.   That's with the mask off.  With the mask on, I can show the epitome of maturity and class.  You would not know of the juvenile stuff unless I confessed it to you... or you were close with me back when I was growing up.

Here's the link.


Incidentally, I can think of a few people out there from the past who WOULD find this particular story amusing.  Wouldn't you know it?  I think they're Aspies too... or my quirky silliness rubbed off on them.

Also I DO want to say that after I laughed at the story, I did have a serious talk with my son with my very serious Mommy face and told him that his behavior was not appropriate and NOT a good choice.  I wasn't trying to be hypocritical.  I do want to be a good Mom and of course I do want Ryan to make the right choices. I know he thought what he did was funny and even though it seems to be in his genes, I'm still going to try and help redirect him to behavior that is socially appropriate.

Knowing what is right and wrong and actually following that are two different things.  We'll see what happens when Ryan is at Walmart next time...

Until we meet again!  Thanks for stopping by!
Karen

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rob vs. Russell - Redemption Island Survivor is Coming

Hi Aspierations Fans!

John and I have been watching Survivor on CBS since Season 1.  It is rare that we miss an episode.  In fact I can remember one year that Halloween was Thursday and Justin was pretty young so we hurried to get the trick-or-treating done by 8:00 p.m. so we wouldn't miss our show!

Justin has also been around for all the Survivor seasons although admittedly, he was a little young to watch in those first few years.  Now it is a family tradition for us on Wednesday or Thursday nights (depending on which day they choose) to cut off our work, step away from our play and settle in downstairs on the living room sofa / chair / floor, viewer's choice and watch our favorite reality show from 8:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Justin has gotten into it more in the past few seasons and both John and I enjoy that he wants to take time away from the computer to share the hour with us.  When he was in 5th grade, his teacher was a huge Survivor fan too so it was fun that he could talk about the episodes with her also.

Ryan isn't particularly into the show as much as he is the theme music and learning the names of the contestants as their names appear on the screen in the opening credits.  Ryan jumps, spins and dances and he and Justin hum the theme song.  O-E-O-E-O-E-Ahh Yah....

In fact, during Survivor season, we can usually count on the theme song being played at least 2 dozen times a day in our office when Justin is home.  We encourage them to not all be in a row.

On the day after the show either John, Justin or I will read aloud Jeff Probst's blog recapping his thoughts on the previous night's escapades.  We enjoy his insights and are often amused by his revelations.

I have to say, I've been pretty darn good about watching a few episodes and then predicting winners or players that would go late in the game.  I've picked final three a few times very early on.  I think after awhile it kind of irks people if I get it right, so often I keep my predictions to myself...

Last season was sort of ho-hum for me.  Usually there are a few people I really like and at least one or two that I am rooting against.  This last group just didn't have enough zing and game-playing for me.  There were quite a few people I really disliked and two people quitting.... REALLY???  That was lame!

That's why I was thrilled to learn today from my husband John at Life and Times of John Krejcha that the upcoming Survivor season of Redemption Island would not only feature the new Redemption Island twist (I knew about that from the last reunion show) BUT it would also include the return of two Survivors who have gotten a LOT of airtime for their past play, Boston Rob Mariano and Russell (the guy who always wears a hat) Hantz or as he is known in this house, "Evil Russell".

Like 'em, love 'em or hate 'em, these are people (I almost said characters... well, they are certainly that as well) that provide a lot of sound bites, some interesting one-liners and a whole lot of drama.  They make watching fun and can be polarizing and/or mesmerizing, sometimes both in the same show.


Personally of the two, I'm a Boston Rob fan hands down.  I was one of those who was disappointed when he didn't make it along farther in his original season but really enjoyed watching him in All-Stars and seeing him again in Heroes vs. Villains.  "You're either with me or you're against me" is line that we say around this house a lot when we're joking around.

Yes, I'm one of those fans who is happy that Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich found love on a reality show and got married.  Who needs The Bachelor or Bachelorette?  Their relationship has seemed to work out so far.  They've had a couple fun stints on The Amazing Race.  Rob's been on some poker show.  The marriage was on TV.  They have two beautiful children.  I say good for them!  

I know a lot people out there may be tired with their exposure but I have always enjoyed their humor. Underneath the cocky yet confident and charming exterior from Rob, he seems like a good guy who loves his wife and kids. Nothing wrong with that!  If my husband John were to play Survivor, I think he'd play like Rob.

I really don't have too much to say at this time about Russell other than to mention that I didn't particularly like some of the lies he told during his seasons.  Play the game but don't play on the tragedies of others to try and win favor.  The story he told about pretending to be a Hurricane Katrina survivor was just unnecessary.  

To his credit in the game, the guy really did great being an idol magnet and I did appreciate that he played the game hard.  Fun to watch.  I didn't care for some of the mean stuff though.  To me, he took it a little too extreme and really didn't seem to get that he did and it is what lost him votes.  To me in this game, it's okay to get dirty but there is a line morally I would not want to cross.  For each person it's different.  I am not here to pass moral judgment.

That being said, from a psychology standpoint, it was obvious to most watching at home that the social game he thought he had was never going to win votes needed at the end.  He could use a few social skills classes and I know an Aspie who could probably assist in that area!

Any of you out there Survivor fans?  If so, who are your favorite contestants and what have been your favorite seasons?  

Hoping you have a great rest of the week!
Outwit, Outplay, Outlast!
Karen

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

From One End of the Map to the Other and then Off It Completely

When our children were first diagnosed with autism and Asperger's Syndrome respectively, I wanted to get my hands on everything possible I could read. I checked out books, saw videos, visited newsgroups and websites and looked into support groups.

Later, when I became aware of my own place on the autism spectrum, that interest continued, except that in addition to looking for information on how autism impacts boys, I was playing Nancy Drew to find out answers to the mysteries of my own life. Autism / Asperger's presents quite differently in females than males and during the period I grew up (I'm 43 now), the autism spectrum as it is defined today was not nearly so broad.

If you check statistics, many more men and boys are diagnosed as being on the spectrum than women / girls.  Interestingly enough, in my initial search across the web to seek out fellow Aspies, I came across quite a few blogs written by women who were either diagnosed formally or self-diagnosed on the spectrum.  There seems to be a desire among many females on the autism spectrum to let their thoughts be known in the blogosphere.  It may partly be a female thing too.

I regularly wake up to an in-box filled with autism related emails.  Some are about upcoming events, some are about research studies, some are website newsletters, some are educational.... there's a LOT of stuff each day to try and sift through.

Some days I breeze through it handily.  Other days like today it overwhelms me.  Information overload...

Then I look at my children and I ask myself if I'm doing everything I possibly can to help them overcome obstacles, meet their needs, teach love and compassion and encourage learning and retainment of life skills. Am I being spiritual enough? Am I encouraging enough physical activity?  Am I being too lenient? Too harsh? Are we getting in enough sensory therapy?  Is our routine well-balanced?  Are we focusing our priorities correctly?

Yes, on days like this, I feel very overwhelmed inside.  I want to shut down but I can't.  Well, maybe I can, but I shouldn't.  I'm Mom, I need to provide, I need to take care of things....

I can talk about the concept of taking care of myself first in order to be able to give the best of myself to others but when I'm in the middle of my own meltdown crisis (which often looks to others on the outside as very quiet and calm... the calm before the storm...), my own advice and good intentions are replaced with less positive thoughts and perhaps at these times, I turn to the vice which has been plaguing me for years.... emotional eating.

Did I ever tell you that I was a closet binge eater?  It started in junior high, dissipated a bit in high school and then really took on a life of its own in college.  I have an unhealthy relationship with food.   I'm well aware of this.  I just don't know how to break it...  It's not like a vice you can just quit.  You have to eat to live.  My associations with food are not so pleasant...

This is something I know I need to work on.  As my children are both particular eaters, I want to make sure that they don't pick up on my own bad habits too.  Incidentally, 90% of the day I eat healthy, drink my water, take my vitamins, try to exercise and all that "crap".... BUT that 10% kills it all...

Something for me to write about in the future.  Related to autism?  Maybe... at least the compulsive component... perhaps even obsessive since I think about food way more than I would like to.

Well this blog certainly was one of my more rambling ones.  I wasn't even going to write today.  I noticed in the past week I had lost two followers and although I should not have taken it personally, it made me begin to question the quality and content of my writing.  Writing too much?  Writing too little?  Writing not enough about autism?  Writing too much about autism.

I should just go with my theme and be me.  Come As You Are, Let Your Light Shine...

I am all over the map tonight. It's just one of those emotional evenings.  I've been thinking a lot about some of the recent events in the news such as the Arizona shootings and what chain of life events would cause Jared Loughner to do what he did?  I've read a lot of speculation of course.  He's "this way" or "that way" or has "this mental affliction" or "that one", "this political affiliation" or "that one" but what do any of these reporters or speculators know factually?  The guy has been painted in many different ways and OBVIOUSLY there was something going on.

I think when tragedies like this happen, people are quick to try and paint the person as "not one of us" or "definitely one of them".  We want understanding.  We want comfort.  We want to think of these events as anomalies because it is too painful to contemplate that the kid next door who seemed friendly if not a bit quiet could grow up to be a killer.

The truth is that we really don't know the person next door as well as we think we might.  It's hard enough to know ourselves, our partners, our children and the ones we live with on a daily basis.  How observant are we as human beings.

Try naming the eye color, height and favorite sport / hobby of everyone you can think of that you come into contact on a regular basis, whether it be co-worker, neighbor, student, teacher, postal carrier, etc. What are their odd habits?  Can you imitate their mannerisms? What was the last thing that they wore? You can do it. Pretty easy, right?

No?  Well, for some maybe...

I realize this blog was all over the map but I'm trying something tonight I do pretty rarely.  Free flowing thought. No editing.  Raw.

Until next time...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The 1/1/11 When is it going to SNOW? blog

Happy 1-11-11, Aspierations Friends!

I'm a numbers kind of gal so I definitely HAD to do a blog today!  I bet a lot of other bloggers who enjoy numbers and patterns did as well.

I took a break yesterday because I was starting to feel like I was pressuring myself to write every day.  At the beginning of the year, I set a goal for myself of 5 blogs a week or 260 for the year.  Still on track!  I like to keep my commitments.

Right now there is a bit of turmoil in the household.  I don't like anyone in the house going to bed angry so we try to rectify any issues we can before we sleep or at least get things to a point where we're calm and realize that we're loved and are making progress on the issue.  I'm starting this blog now at 10:50 p.m. but since I can hear both boys still awake, I'm going to go check on them again in a few minutes and make sure things are settled and give them another goodnight kiss and hug if they are not yet asleep.

I realize that going to bed happy isn't going to happen all the time, especially in a household where meltdowns are not infrequent and calling out "it's bedtime" often gives us villain status, even if we've called out warnings multiple times earlier.  We try though and actually I would say we do a pretty awesome job.  It's something you have to commit to as an adult and certainly something to have patience with. We're all works in progress!

I do have good news about our nightly schedule. Our new routine add-on of nightly devotional readings from the children's books we got them for Christmas is working out nicely.  It's a variation on our nightly prayers and gives us a chance to share a thoughtful lesson before bed.  We alternate between Ryan and Justin's books and do two readings a night. They're short and give good food for thought.

Part of the reason there was extra stress in our family tonight is that one of our sons really feels ripped off that there has not been a snow day yet with an opportunity to miss school.  The rest of us would like a snow day so that we can build a snowman.  Snow is happening up in Seattle, it's happening around the country but here in Vancouver, where we were told we'd get snow a number of times already this month and haven't, it's beginning to tick one of the boys off.  WHEN IS IT GOING TO SNOW???

As SuperMom I can do many things and make all sorts of special things happen but I have yet to perfect a Snow Dance.  I will continue trying.

Now for me growing up in Mountain View, California, I never once had a snow day where I missed school.  Ironically, I did miss school the one day it snowed when I was in elementary school but that was only because I was sick with a cold.  (Imagine being sick the ONLY day in your childhood it ever snowed in the area you grew up.  Bummer, huh?)

John had plenty of snow where he grew up in Wisconsin but he has shared with me many times that it would take a LOT of snow to shut their schools down.  Many times he had to ride to school in the snow on his bike and had wipeouts on the ice.  Ugh.

I think my parents told me once when I was a kid that when they had snow they walked uphill to school both ways and were barefoot to boot!  They might have been exaggerating a bit.

Here in Vancouver, Washington, the people in our city are NOT used to snow so when there does actually get a bit on the ground, schools are usually shut down and so are the roads.  Such was the case a couple years ago around Christmas but since late 2008, we really haven't gotten that much snow, at least much that stuck to the ground for long.  I remember a couple years ago how fun it was sledding in the street with the kids and building a snowman on our front lawn near Christmas time. When you don't grow up with it, it really does seem kind of magical and so much fun to share with the family. I was hoping to have the chance to create some new memories here in 2011.  Time will tell...

Be right back... I want to check on the boys...

I'm back... all is great again in the Krejcha household and therefore in our boys' respective worlds.  I got hugs, kisses, tiny apologies, requests for extra weighted blankets from one and a request to turn up the fan from the other.  Good thing they don't sleep in the same room!  I love my boys!

Time to close the blog out.
It's 11:11 p.m. on 1/11/11.



What other time would I end this?
Talk with you soon!  Hopefully we'll get that snow day here shortly.

Karen

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner! Toaster Strudel Breakfast?

Greetings to my Aspierations Guests and Regulars!

I have yet another confession to make.  This one isn't as filthy as my dirty little secret blog I wrote a few days ago.  If you haven't checked that out, feel free to do so once you're done with this one!

Well, here goes!  I enjoy entering sweepstakes and contests. I have ever since I was a kid. There is something about the thrill of winning something or even the chance to win an amazing prize that appeals to me.  Apparently it appeals to millions of others as well because there are literally thousands and thousands of sweepstakes promotions each year in the United States.



Sweepstaking is a hobby I've participated in off and on for a number of years.  I get into it for awhile, then out of it for awhile, then back in again.  Before sweepstakes online became prevalent, I would do mail-in entries in my spare time. Back when we lived in California, I enjoyed entering for my husband, my parents, my kids and yes, myself too.  On average, I don't spend too much time with this hobby but over the years, there have been some nice pay-outs.

For example, when I was pregnant with Justin, John won a trip for 2 to see Grant Hill (basketball player) play courtside with the Detroit Pistons.  The game was during my second trimester so it was still safe to fly and John and I were treated to the opportunity to meet Grant, watch the game, get autographed merchandise including a baby jersey and a pair of his game shoes.  Grant was a sweetheart and so was our sweepstakes host.

Sitting courtside literally right behind the basket was AMAZING!  You really get a feel for just how BIG those guys are!  I'm 5'10" and even at 5 months preggers I felt petite!  (Okay, I felt like a beached whale but can't I pretend that I felt petite for once in my life?)  We also received a basketball shaped leather chair which is now in Ryan's room and a nice desk which Justin used for a number of years when we were in California.

Right before Ryan was born, we won a really nice changing table and a rocking bassinette.  Cool stuff.  For some reason, I liked entering a LOT of baby sweepstakes when I was pregnant.  Go figure.

For mail-ins, I get the kids involved coloring envelopes or putting on stickers.  Does it make a difference? Maybe sometimes... Does it keep them occupied and happy? Yes! Winner Winner!

Sweeping interested me as a hobby while I was away in college.  One of my first prizes while I was in school was a $200 check for me and a $200 check for a friend through Avon.  Later on when I was married to John, we participated in an instant win phone game where we each ended up winning $199.

Over the years I have won a lot of shirts, clothing items, video games, CDs, movies, beauty products, food stuff, cash, gift certificates, free product coupons and a wide variety of knick knacks and fun things like a GRREAT tiger tent, a Poop Moose that pooped out M & Ms or milk duds from his rear (so funny) and a bunch of Lifesavers rafts.



I've had some bigger wins too and of COURSE cash is always fun and appreciated. I always get a kick out of winning stuff for other people. My parents have had some interesting and fun things show up at their house over the years.  I think one of my Mom's favorites was a dozen CDs and a huge bouquet of flowers.  My dad liked the golf magazine subscription and golf balls.

Wins I can't use personally I donate or give away as gifts.  Generally, I only enter for prizes I'm interested in or know someone who would be, however many sweepstakes have multiple tiers of prizes so some interesting gizmos do end up coming my way.  I do my best to also support the sponsors and send thank you notes when I win.  I have learned about a lot of great new products through sweeping and appreciate the sponsors' generosity.

I haven't sweeped much in Washington.  Didn't really feel like it. Too busy with the family and work but on a whim right near Christmas time after we had done our rush of shipping and I had a little spare time, I got the bug again to enter for a few prizes and see I could improve the quality of life for my family while not taking away from other life priorities.  I told myself I'd primarily enter online and always keep my eye out on prizes that might be helpful for our children.

One very special prize I recently won was a Howda Hug Sensory chair for Ryan from www.SPDconnect.com, the first online directory for sensory resources recommended by sensory families. Nice!  You can learn about Howda Hug at www.howdahug.com.  They make special chairs for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders and attention deficit disorders.

Legitimate sweepstakes are free to enter and if you're a fast typist, you can actually enter quite a few sweepstakes in just 15 minutes a day.  I enter a lot of times when I'm multi-tasking. Contests take a little more time and some skill but as there are many less entrants, your chances are much better if you are skilled in the particular type of contest you're entering.

I joined a free site called SweepstakesToday.com which is run by Craig McDaniel aka Mr. Sweepy.  It's a really neat place where you can keep track of what you've entered and it's easy to use.  The Instant Win Games are fun for me because you get a chance at knowing right away if you've won something or not.  In just the past couple weeks in playing instant win games for a few minutes daily, I've won a month's supply of Toaster Strudels, two books, some fishing stuff, a $10 gift certificate for a book, a mini-backpack, a book donation, a donation of Box Tops to my son's school and I'm getting a surprise prize in the mail for our family from Metro Parent for being one of the first 10 to respond to their newsletter.  I also have my name in the pot for 100s of sweepstakes that will be closing soon or closed recently. Someone has to win and you can't win if you don't play.

I consider sweeping a frivolous sanity break for me.  When I lived in California, I'd play a bit of online poker but unfortunately that is not allowed in Washington state so sweepstaking is my gambling substitute.  In either case I always came out ahead so it's one of those hobbies that pays for itself.  Not many do!

Speaking of sanity break, I DID get some time last night to read my personal book.  Not as much time as I had hoped for but I have already been introduced to Lisbeth Salander and I can already tell she and I are going to have a bond, sort of like my bond with Abby on NCIS or Penelope on Criminal Minds.  Fun!  I am looking forward to reading more tonight.

Back to sweepstaking, I think most people enter sweepstakes or contests at one point or another.  I realize that there is a huge amount of luck with this hobby but strategy, math and statistics come into play too.

For me, winning is fun and a cheery little boost to my day.  Of course there are some big prizes out there that could really make a huge life's difference but I look at it as if it happens, it was meant to be and if not, it was fun entering. There are so many promotions out there, I never let myself get too hung up on any one although it's fun to daydream a bit about some of the prizes. (Have you seen HGTV's house giveaway this year????)  One of these days, I'd love to win an all-expenses-paid family vacation to somewhere the kids would have fun and John and I could relax... somewhere like The Atlantis in the Bahamas.  If they ever want to win favor with a devoted blogger, I'm here!  Dreaming....




Anyone else out there a sweepstaking enthusiast?  If so, feel free to share!  If not, that's cool.  You're already winners in my book just for stopping by the Aspierations blog!

Best wishes for a winning week ahead!
Karen

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hey, Wii want to Party - Great Wii Game for Autism Spectrum Kids & Teens

As I type this blog, I am watching my husband at his desk with his headphones on, swaying his head back and forth to whatever music (or political show!!!) he might be listening to.  Nice to see him relaxing...

Justin and Ryan are playing cooperatively together at Justin's desk.  They're excitedly enjoying a game that Justin made up for the two of them. It's an offline and online personally created version of Wii Party's Board Game Island.  It's based in concept on the Wii Game but Justin has created little mini-games that the boys can do here at home that are not part of the actual game itself.  It's actually quite intricate which doesn't surprise me since Justin is already skilled in gaming and program design. I am truly impressed with the creativity and teamwork they are showing.  John's contribution of seeing how many times you can get Bert the Farting Hippo (John has his own NCIS replica) to fart in one minute makes for a lot of added giggles.

With a lull in craziness in our office, I'm going to try and get through a quick blog for you.  The topic today is pretty light and focuses on cooperative play in the form of a video game.

The boys got Wii Party for Christmas and as a family, we've been enjoying it ever since.  If you know of children on the autism spectrum, this game has many terrific opportunities for promoting social skills and cooperation. Ryan, our four year old is able to play most of the activities with just a little bit of guidance. Justin who is 11 is able to show success in almost all of the games.


One thing that the whole family likes is that this game allows you to use your Mii characters.  At some point I'll have to take some actual pictures of these and add them to the blog.  It's funny how much both Ryan's and John's Mii characters resemble them.  Justin's is pretty accurate too.  Before I got my haircut, mine did a fairly decent job representing me.  "Tigress" is one cool wildcat. One shouldn't expect any less!

Speaking of Mii characters, the boys have also created characters for all their grandparents.  This way, even though the grandparents aren't with us here physically, they can enjoy knowing that at regular intervals they are flying, diving, skiing, playing baseball, hitting golf balls, swinging on tree vines and playing all kinds of games.  The boys get a real kick out of it and I have to say it's pretty fun too watching my parents' Miis show up at random times to cheer on the family in various games.  I hope they appreciate the chance to exercise!

There really are a wide variety of games to play on Wii Party.  I was surprised.  No-one has gotten bored yet because the diversity in minigames, game modes and skill levels keeps one challenged. There are plenty of activities for four players, three, two or one.  You can engage in a 30 - 45 minute game like Board Game Island or you can test your skill in various mini-games that only take a couple minutes or so to play. 

For children, teenagers and adults on the autism spectrum who are working on learning cooperative skills, we recommend playing Balance Boat.  If you go to any autism support events that encourage game-playing among the kids with Asperger's or ASDs, this game has a lot of potential.

If the child or teenager hasn't played before and can easily get flustered, it's best at first to have one understanding adult with a sense of humor show the ropes because some of the mini-games do take a little practice to get the hang of.  

Fortunately there IS a practice mode so that you can try and figure out how to play in advance. Balance Boat has two parts to it. The bigger game is the balance boat where you and a partner have to balance characters of equal or different size on a three level-boat.  To do so, you play up to 10 levels of cooperative mini-games where two players work together to try and clear a level.  Wii Party has around 80 mini-games with varying difficulty and the computer randomly chooses a different game for each level.

I'll have to admit, depending on how important it is for your children to "win", it can be challenging to play some of the games which require more skill.  Whenever John and I get involved in these kinds of games with the boys, we try to put "winning" on the back burner (in terms of domination) and focus more on having fun, learning new skills and practicing turn-taking and good sportsmanship.  Being that John and I are actually very competitive people, we can understand and relate to the kids wanting to "win". In fact when we occasionally play by ourselves after the kids go to bed, it's an all out battle.  When we're with the boys, we often downplay to an extent where everyone can feel success.  That isn't to say we throw every game or don't try but it means we give an opportunity for the boys to feel good about winning.  

With a game like Wii Party, there are lots of opportunities for success.  A lot of the games also have a lot of luck built in so unless you have really bad luck consistently, everyone should find a game where they have the chance to win.

We got some other games as gifts for Christmas too. The boys are enjoying building tracks with their new Hot Wheels racer game and John and I have realized just how silly and ridiculous we look emulating the moves to Wii's Just Dance Kids. That being said, it's GREAT exercise, clean fun and if you can laugh at yourself, it's a cute game to play with the kids.  

In Washington, we're in our rainy season so having games like this help us get exercise and have fun without realizing it.  Next up on my "to try" list is the Wii Fit.  We actually got it a year ago and yeah... it's been sitting around unused.  I figured if I could boogie to the dances on Just Dance Kids, trying Wii Fit is a natural next step to me improving my shape and fitness.

Any other Wii owners out there?  What are your favorite games both for your children and yourself?  Do any of you use the Wii to workout?  Success?  Challenges? Inquiring minds want to know!  Feel free to post anonymously if you'd like!

Well, I'm ending this blog early tonight because I'm going to give myself some special reading time. There is a book calling my name and I'm listening.  I told myself if I got a certain number of hours of work in this week, I would treat myself to reading time this evening.  So on that note, I'll bid you adieu!

Wishing you, Mii and Wii a great rest of the weekend!
Karen

Friday, January 7, 2011

Autism and Scouting - A Special Shout Out

If you didn't already know from my shameless promotion, my husband John at Life and Times of John Krejcha writes a regular blog with tales of Krejcha family life. His blog is more of a journal of our daily lives than mine is.  Although sometimes our daily topics are similar, such as when we're talking about a special occasion or a memorable event in our lives, often we go down very different paths with our writing.

Tonight John wrote a blog about his 10 favorite Scouting events that he has participated in with our oldest son, Justin.  In about a year and a half, we look forward to Ryan joining into scouting as well.  That isn't until first grade though. (Ryan is finishing up preschool this year.)

Justin joined scouting back in 2nd grade when we were still living in California.  A program had just started at the elementary school and as Justin didn't really know too many kids outside the classroom, we thought it would be a positive experience for him.

John quickly became involved as Assistant Den Leader to Justin's new Wolf den. When we moved the next summer from California to Washington, we thought we'd encourage Justin to get involved with scouting in the fall since he was new to the school and it would give him a chance to meet some other boys and hopefully make some new friends.  Socially, we were actually hoping it might help the rest of our family too.

Rather unexpectedly, after about a month into the school year, the leader for Justin's Bear Den resigned and John was asked to step up and be a leader.  Ryan was about 17 months at the time.  It was shortly before we started sensing that something might be different but it would be another 8 months or so before Ryan was diagnosed with Autism and then another 10 months before Justin diagnosed with Asperger's, an autism spectrum disorder.

At the time John was asked to step up, I was a bit nervous as to how much time his leadership position would take.  We had recently moved here and our business had been shutdown for a couple months in the summer.  We were heading into our first Christmas season and being in online retail, it's a lot of long hours.

Still, I knew this was something that was quite important because if John didn't step up, it was likely that Justin might quit scouting and we really didn't want that since we knew there was a lot of potential for him to grow and acquire life skills, friendships, understanding of teamwork and dedication to earning badges and participating in service projects.

John became the leader of Den 10 and was their leader until Justin and his denmates crossed over to Boy Scouts in Justin's last trimester of 5th grade.



John talks about autism and scouting a lot in his blog.  He (and I) are very proud of Justin and all he has accomplished.  While in Cub Scouts, he earned his Arrow of Light and Religious Emblem and of course a lot of other patches and belt loops as well.



In Boy Scouts, he spent his first full week at camp in late June, early July 2010, two nights of which he was alone without John there.  (This was a HUGE deal and the event in scouting that Justin is most proud of.)  At Camp Meriwether he earned badges for Orienteering, Soil and Water Conservation and Oceanography. Most first year scouts take on easier badges to start out with like basket weaving or Indian Lore but Justin chose a challenge and we are so proud of his rise.



Being on the autism spectrum and being a Cub Scout and Boy Scout has its challenges but there are so many growth opportunities for children to succeed.  I was a Girl Scout myself both as a Brownie and a Junior and at the time of course, I was an undiagnosed Aspie.  I have many memories I can now look back upon through Aspie colored glasses and say, "AHA".... no wonder I was so freaked out about outhouses! (Yuck! Still am!!) Selling those Girl Scout cookies was a lot of fun though!  I just loved chatting it up with the adults.

With Justin there are sensory issues, food issues and social issues that come up regularly but with the support of John as Assistant Scoutmaster and faith in himself and God, Justin is becoming more and more independent.  Justin is currently a Tenderfoot working toward Second Class.  Someday he wants to be an Eagle Scout. Will he make it there?  If he wants to, I have every reason to believe that he will.



My husband John has felt a calling to help children with ASDs (Autism, Asperger's, PDD-NOS) and other special needs find success in scouting.  He is thinking of writing a book for parents and scouts that would help introduce them to the benefits of scouting and show them just how inclusive scouting can be when there are leaders that are well-trained, parents that are motivated to partner with the leaders and a child who aspires to greater heights.

Recently John started a Facebook Group called "Autism and Scouting".  It is small but growing and open to anyone worldwide who is interested in Boy Scouting or Girl Scouting and/or has a child, relative or knows someone with an autism spectrum disorder (diagnosed or not).  Leaders, scouts, parents and prospective scouts are all encouraged to join.  In the USA, scouting is separated by gender but in many countries, the scouts are mixed together.  John's Facebook Group is inclusive and we invite you to stop by and take part in what we hope will be progressive conversation and great support.  Your input is encouraged.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=121685817883439 - 
Autism and Scouting

Thanks so much for checking it out.  Even if you don't join, you're welcome to stop by and/or refer your friends who you think might have an interest. Should you be involved with children of scouting age, we hope you will consider this great opportunity for building social skills, creating friendships, learning leadership skills and trying out new adventures.

In just a couple weeks, Justin gets to go on a snow tubing overnight adventure with his Boy Scout pack.  Then a month or so after that, he gets to go sleep in an ice cave.  How COOL is that!  I have to say, I'm a bit envious of Dad and Justin for getting to go on those adventures!  Maybe it will snow here in Vancouver and Ryan and I will make a little cave of our own.

Are you or any kids you know involved in scouting?  Please feel free to share your stories in the comments section below or at the Autism and Scouting Facebook group!

Wishing you a fantastic rest of the day!  Be Prepared!
Karen

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Let Me Share A Dirty Little Secret

If that subject header didn't arouse your interest, then I'm just not doing my job as a blogger!

Hello Aspierations Friends!

Today I'm going to tell you a dirty little secret. Don't worry, no-one in our family got caught making inappropriate texts! We'll save that drama for the male sports stars out there. (I'm looking at you, Brett Favre and Tiger Woods.)

Lest you worry that any kiddos lurking might read something inappropriate, I try to keep this a family-friendly blog. Nah, the grime and filth I have to talk about is nothing that needs to be parentally rated.  Sorry if any of you out there were disappointed.

So here it is.  Every other week, we pay to have Molly Maids come and clean our home.  I'll admit that I find it embarrassing to be at home at the same time that the ladies are silently judging my housekeeping skills, so during the two and a half or so hours that they are here, John and I usually try to head out of dodge.  Goddess of grime removal I am not...



I don't think John would mind staying home but aside from feeling guilty about my pathetic attempt as a domestic diva in training, I'll admit to something possibly more disturbing.  I don't particularly like the noise of the vacuum unless I'm the one running it and I can't stand the smell of most cleaning solutions. In fact, there are many out there that I am allergic to.  

I should get a shirt that says, "Dirty Girl... Allergic to Cleaning"... heck, I might as well just get a tattoo. (Just kidding if you're out there reading, Mom! My body is still as pure as the day I was born. Well, you know what I'm getting at. Oh, never mind...)

Speaking of tattoos and not my old Fantasy Island departed friend, Herve Villechaize, I did want to let a special blog visitor out there know that I FINALLY started the book I got for my birthday that you recommended, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo."  Granted, I didn't get very far last night before my reading time was cut to a quick close BUT I have started and once I get into a book, which shall be soon (as in this weekend), I am a quick reader. I look forward to sharing my thoughts.



Tangent over... (if you've been following my blog for any substantial amount of time, you've probably missed those tangents.  If you're new around these parts, hang on for the ride!)

Back to the Molly Maids.  When we moved to Washington, John and I decided that no matter how much extra work we would have to do to pay for it, we would get maid service (every other week) and a gardening service to make sure that our home stayed in good shape both on the inside and the outside.

With money being a challenge, I'm sure some would say that we should drop the services and do it ourselves but these are two indulgences which not only would take us a ton more time to do on our own than by the professionals and the time we save by having them do it allows us to sell more stuff and pay for their service.  To us, it's a total win-win. 

Now I have to say, if it weren't for John, our house would regularly look like the Tasmanian Devil was taking up residence.  I help and do what I can but John can get so many things done in so much less time. We have different skill sets and his doesn't include an incredibly annoying gag reflex and vivid imagination when it comes to smells and gross stuff.  (In my house, mold is a four letter word.)

We've talked about this and it makes sense for me to take on the tasks which are my forte' and for him to take on tasks which are his and to get the kids to do the rest. (Kidding... but in all seriousness, both Justin and Ryan do have age-appropriate chores as we believe it's important to teach them life skills at an early age.)

I suppose if you look at a lot of what we do, both domestically and business-wise, we have a lot of traditional role-reversal.  Does it make him any less of a man?  Not at all!  If anything, I am so especially grateful that I have a guy who enjoys cooking and doesn't mind taking care of a lot of the domestic chores. I think it's a lot more manly for a guy to help around the home than to sit with a bunch of guys drinking beer, burping, farting and waiting for his wife to serve them appetizers.

Of course, I hope John doesn't feel ripped off in the wife department. He has expressed thankfulness that I keep track of the finances and pay the bills every month, help out with the clothes shopping and gift-giving and do certain business tasks.  I may even have some other skills in there too.  You'll have to ask him...



I do bake a really awesome birthday cake!

Parenting is something we do together and even though we have different styles, we both love our kids tremendously and have no problem spontaneously or routinely problem-solving, helping with homework, calming a meltdown, singing a lullaby, playing a game or taking a family walk.

I'll admit when I started to write this blog, I felt a little ashamed about admitting that we use a maid service but I wanted to share it because I think that all parents whether they have kids with special needs or not need to prioritize their strengths and their areas for improvement.  A lot of times the days are so busy and seem so long that you just can't get to everything you had intended to do and that goes both for personal life as well as career. 

My belief is that if you want to be the best possible parent you can be for your child, you need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself.  That means spiritually, physically and emotionally.  It means relationship-wise with your partner and extended family.  Some would say that's selfish and maybe it is but not in a negative way for that kind of selfishness as long as you have balance and your priorities in alignment leads to selflessness.  In other words, when you're at your best, you have more to give to others.

The other day I wrote a blog which touched upon the concept of having a New Year's Evolution versus a New Year's Resolution.  Here's the link if you missed it or want to read it again

For me, this year I am going to focus on my journey and my path toward being the best "me" I can be so that I can be the best partner, mother, daughter, friend, blogger, autism and asperger's advocate, business owner, "insert your label here" that I can. 



That means mothers and fathers out there that it's OKAY to have maid service.  It is okay to ask for help! It is fine to have someone take care of the lawn and garden.  It is not an added expense when you pay for it with extra family time, work time and personal time.  For those who took economics, think about opportunity cost. 

I am also going to work on trying to make my life less cluttered.  I tend to be a bit of a pack rat... despite all best intentions. I plan to focus more on the people, things and priorities that matter most to me. 

So that's my dirty little secret for today, Aspierations readers!  Hope my enticing little lead-in was backed up by a blog you felt worth reading.  I invite you to come back.  Who knows what secrets I might share in the future?  

Take Care of Yourselves, my blog friends!  Do something today to treat yourself!  My vote is for a nice long warm bubble bath with nicely scented candles (flameless if you're in our household), a tasty drink, some favorite music and the company of a good book or a great partner!

Karen

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Thankful for Teachers, Aides, Bus Drivers & Administrators Who Care

Justin and Ryan have been back in school three days. Since Ryan has Wednesdays off, technically he’s been back two.  We’ve noticed they are starting to get back to their old routines, both the good (regular bedtime) and the “could use improvement” (homework time).

Since they’d only been back a short time, I was a little surprised when I received emails today from one of Justin’s teachers and one of Ryan’s.  The issues addressed were minor ones and both teachers were checking in with us to make sure we had a heads-up on what was going on. 




John and I have always made it a point to try and develop positive relationships with the boys’ teachers. After all, they spend a great deal of time with our sons and their job is certainly quite challenging.  We let the teachers know at the beginning of the year and through emails and little notes that we appreciate them and want to partner with them. I think it really helps that we build this bond because when an issue comes up, we can work together to brainstorm workable resolutions.  

We feel very blessed and thankful for our sons’ teachers.  They care about our sons and when initiative is taken as it was today to email us and keep us abreast of possible issues or IEP related progress, we make sure to respond right away and thank them.




At Christmas-time, the boys made cards for each of their teachers. Justin wrote a personalized note for each one. Ryan colored in orange and printed his name. Not only is it important for John and I to show our appreciation but it’s a great lesson to have the boys show that they are grateful too, even if learning to express thanks is an emerging skill.

We also gave small gift cards (Sees Candies for the gals, Sears for the guys) as a way of saying thanks. We had intended on having the boys handmake something or personalize something in addition to their cards but December was so crazy and hectic for us that gift cards ended up being the go-to option.  I do think they were appreciated.

I realize that many parents out there struggle to find teachers and administrators who show the kind of quality teaching and care for their children that they would like. We are so fortunate to live in the school district we are in (the Evergreen School District in Vancouver, Washington) as they are quite progressive in helping children who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  Of course funding in our state is becoming a real issue but the more we as parents. teachers, care-givers and interested parties continue to advocate and show appreciation for the positive work that is being done, the more likely that programs such as SCIP (elementary, middle & high school) and the Early Childhood Center (preschool) will continue.




I’m not a Pollyanna. There are a lot of autism related needs that are not covered by insurance or the school district.  Therapy costs are high, there are many kinds of treatment options out there and it can all get rather confusing and expensive.  There is always room for improvement but this blog is not about that.  It’s about expressing gratefulness for all that is good.

I am thankful for what IS out there and certainly with all the resources and organizations on the internet, we can look forward to the potential for continued progress.  I have the ability to be an advocate for my sons.  John has that ability.  Every one of the Aspierations blog friends has potential to help promote autism awareness, acceptance and empowerment in a positive way.

For you teachers and aides out there, thank you!  For all the people in our educational system who put in long hours and are dedicated to positively educating and improving the life of children around the world, you are appreciated.

Our sons are our treasures.  From the time they leave home in the morning to the time they get home from school in the afternoon, so many things can happen each day. Thank you teachers, aides, bus drivers and administrators for all you do to watch out for our children and all the other children as well.




A Grateful Mom and Advocate for Autism / Asperger's Awareness, Acceptance and Empowerment,

Karen Krejcha

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hot Tubbing Outside in 32 Degree Weather - Cool, yet HOT HOT HOT

I wish I had a picture to share with you today of my adventure with John.  Not of us in particular but of the place we were at.  Cool, warm and hot all at the same time!  More on that later.

You ever have those days where you don't want to get out of bed because your bed is so warm and cozy?  Yeah, me too.  I love the feeling of soft plush blankets, snuggly comforters, comfy sheets and pillowcases that stay cool so I don't have to keep flipping the pillow over to get to the cool side!

With the boys on winter break the previous two weeks, we had the luxury of sleeping in a bit.  Now that isn't to say we didn't have any middle of the night interruptions.  John, bless his heart is SO good at taking care of so many of those.  He is also very great about being willing to wake up first to get Justin off to school early.

Of course I'm willing to help out and to do this as well but between the two of us, my body tends to crave more sleep.  It's often hard for me to fall asleep but once I'm there, let it be solid!

Sleep issues are common with children and adults on the autism spectrum.  I've had a challenge with insomnia and nightmares off and on for years.  The latter I think has more to do with some incidents in my life experience.  The former happens because my mind races a lot when I lay down and it is quiet.  Justin has been having problems with this lately as well.  We have given him melatonin but as with me, it's a hit or miss sort of thing.  For me, something like a nighttime p.m. pill or Nyquil does the trick but I don't want to give that to Justin so we just stick with the melatonin on nights where he seems to be extra wound up before bedtime.

Last night I slept fairly well.  I was looking forward to this morning when John and I planned to get the kids off to school, check in on our email and then head off to Portland Tub and Tan for a relaxing noontime session in one of their hot tub suites.  I find water very relaxing and therapeutic.

The indoor room that we wanted (we call it the disco room because of all the lights) was not available.  BOO!  That's three times in a row, I think.  The bad thing about this place is that they don't take reservations.  It's silly that they don't because it's always a hit or miss game if we're going to get a room we like.  Since we're driving in from Vancouver, it's not like we're going to turn around if we don't get a choice but there are definitely some more favorable rooms than others.

The room we ended up getting was an outdoor suite that we had once before back in August.  It was around 32 degrees outside so you can imagine the contrast between body heat, outside temperature and hot tub water.  I wasn't sure exactly how I would respond but after an initial shock which John always tends to find wildly amusing, I found it very refreshing and invigorating going in and out of the water and feeling the contrast between hot and cold.  At one point as I was laying back in the tub, I could simultaneously see steam coming off my legs (I know there is a joke in there somewhere) and my cold breath puffing in the air as I exhaled.  Funny... fascinating... cool...  I recommend you give it a try at least once in your life.  Imagine if it were snowing.  Fun, huh?  

At this place, there is an outdoor waterfall, fireplace, cool asian decor and huge plasma TV. There is a place you can play pre-set music and inside there is a private room with a dual shower, bench to lay down (presumably for a massage but it's hard as a rock so really, how comfy is that?) and a separate bathroom.

If I can get my mind and body to relax, it's a really nice mini-getaway for 90 minutes.  John can get into the relaxing part in about 90 seconds.  For me, I need to acclimate...  I need at least 10 minutes unless of course there is a good song playing.

We had fun and it went well.  The inside room could have been warmer when we got out of the tub but someone in our party of two decided to turn off the showers and inside heat thinking it would be too hot when we went to change.  That was a decision which will not be repeated in the future.  The last sensation I remember in the inside room was of feeling I had just visited the ice cold tundra and wasn't quite prepared clothes-wise...  TMI?  I'm trying to stay family-friendly here.

By the time we got home, I don't think either of us were particularly in a mood to work too hard so I answered emails, did a couple blog press releases for the business and played Wii Party with Ryan when he got home from school.

I can't say that my day was particularly productive workwise but sometimes, especially after a string of stress-filled days, one needs a breather.  It's okay to give permission to myself to take it easy for a day. If I can take care of myself, I can be a better mom, better wife, better self, better entrepreneur, better advocate.

Ideally tonight would be a great night to start into a new book but John and I have been playing 1 a.m. catch up on episodes of Castle (GREAT show, love the dynamics and chemistry between Castle & Beckett) so I don't know if that will happen tonight.  He tends to turn the light off on me when I'm reading... to which I eventually respond in turn by turning the light off on him when he's in the shower.  (Nah... I'd never do that.)

I guess I don't have anything heavy, deep and real for today's blog.  Sometimes my blogs are just about me coming as I am and letting out whatever is in my head.  I would say uncensored and edit-free but I tend to be a bit anal about using the edit button.  I've gotten a lot better.

I invite you to come back for future entries as I like variety in my blogging.  I have a lot of different topics I want to delve into in relation to family life with children who have autism but I haven't organized in my head yet how I want it to all come into play.  Spontaneity may end up being the best choice!

Hope you have a great day / afternoon / evening!
Thanks for stopping by!
Karen

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Kids Are Back In School -- PARTY TIME!

I suppose I should feel a little bit guilty that I enjoyed the boys heading back to school today after Winter Break...  NAH!!  ;-)  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

Happy January 3rd, Aspierations Friends!

Today Justin and Ryan went back to middle school and preschool after a short (to them) and long (to us) winter holiday break.  Ryan was pretty excited.  He always enjoys the fact that the school bus picks him up in front of our house and of course he couldn't wait to tell his teacher all about getting a new BIG BOY bike from Gram and Grandpa for Christmas.


Can life get any better than a trike AND a big boy bike?

Justin was considerably less impressed about his return to 6th grade, however I think the jolting 7:00 a.m. wake-up call by Dad and subsequent, "you really need to get up now" revisit at 7:25 a.m. had something to do with it. (Justin needs to leave our house for the bus stop by 7:37 a.m. At 7:38 he's late. I'm sure on days like these, he also wishes the bus would stop in front of our house to pick him up!)

At 11:40 a.m. I wondered for a moment if something in our home was terribly wrong.  It was silent.  Then I realized that both boys were at school and I did a jig (mentally...)!  Almost 3 1/2 hours of being able to do what I wanted? Shower? Bubble Bath? Exercise? Noon-time date with the hubby? I could hardly contain myself!

So I power-worked...  Not quite the picture of romantic glee you might have been envisioning but it was satisfying nonetheless to get caught up on stuff that took 1/3 the time to do as it would have if the kids had been in the office with me.  I love them bunches but it was nice to have the office back for a few hours at least!

Now TOMORROW... I still have work to do (when do I not?) BUT John and I promised ourselves a 2 hour day date in the hot tub suite at Portland Tub & Tan.  We even have a gift certificate (courtesy of Santa) and I definitely could use a relax and recharge!  I do hope it will all work out.  If not Tuesday, then Thursday for sure. 



Well, I have to say that I feel really good about blogging 4 days in a row.  I know I did really well for a number of months last year but November and December were a bit light.  I'm eagerly looking forward to sharing substance and humor, drama and situational comedy and more about my journey as a married adult mom with Asperger's raising two sons on the spectrum.

At Facebook the other day, I posted that my goal for 2011 was blogging 260 times at Aspierations (5 times a week) and 100 times at my Count Your Beans business blog.  I realize those are not wimpy goals and I include them here as well because I want you to know that I am holding myself accountable to reaching and even surpassing those goals. Last year I blogged here 143 times. I'm pretty proud of that and in those blogs I shared a lot about myself, my family, my successes, my failures and my aspirations for Aspierations.

I was very touched to see some of my faithful Aspierations blog readers come back to visit and comment on my most recent blogs.  I realize it had been awhile and I know some of you had been checking in here periodically. I thank you for your friendship and support and will always try to respond to your blog comments.  If I don't, it may be that I didn't see them and of course, I take full responsibility for that. Just drop me a line at lettingmylightshine@gmail.com and say, "what's up?" and I'll be sure to get back with you!

I received an email today which led me to a blog post at the BraveHeart Women website.  If you're a gal and you're unfamiliar with BraveHeart women, I invite you to check them out.  It's a group of strong, motivated, kick butt kinda women. Their slogan is BraveHeart Women... for women who choose to be Inspiration in Action.  I found them last year when I was looking for a motivational pick-me-up.

Anyway, the email and subsequent visit to the blog led me to a post asking, "Do You Have a 2011 Evolution?" Not a resolution... those are EASY to make... but an evolution?  The blogger postulates that a resolution (such as the ones we make New Year's Eve) is a mechanical commitment you've got to keep, whereas evolution is a visceral commitment that keeps you.

Examples given of resolutions were:
- I'm going to lose weight.
- I'm going to make more money.
- I'm going to have less stress.

Examples given of evolution commitments were:
- I'm respecting my body.
- I'm leading with my self-worth.
- I'm trusting the process.

I found it to be excellent food for thought.  Resolutions tend to be things that we have good intentions to keep and sometimes we even do... but they can come with a price-tag such as guilt or resentment or lowered self-esteem if one fails to keep their resolution.  Sometimes overcoming one vice just leads to another.

On the other hand, making a commitment or as I would say here an "aspieration" to empower myself, to treat myself with dignity and respect and to have faith in God along the way... those things are more evolutionary.  I'm not sure how to quantify them and being an analytical sort, that may prove to be a challenge but it's something I'm willing to think through.  Although many might think of goal-setting as a natural part of successfully achieving a New Year's resolution, I think that there is a place for goal-setting with evolutionary thinking as well.

So what do you think?  Do you set New Year's Resolutions each year?  If so, what is your track record in achieving them?  What do you think about this concept of a New Year's Evolution?

When you are looking to make positive transformation in your life or to help in the lives of your children, your spouse, a friend or loved one, what sources do you go to for enrichment and empowerment?  What makes you accountable?  I'm interested to know if you're willing to share!

Wishing you a terrific rest of the week!  I'll be back again soon! Hope you will be as well!
Come As You Are --- Let Your Light Shine!
Karen