Tuesday, February 22, 2011

An Autism Society of SW WA meeting & Miscellaneous thoughts

Hi Aspierations Friends,

Last Tuesday our family attended a meeting of the Autism Society of Washington, Southwest Washington (Clark County) chapter. This was their annual meeting where they held an election of officers and discussed possible events for later in 2011.

The people that showed up at the meeting all seemed quite friendly, dedicated and professional, however the turn-out was much smaller than what I had anticipated.  I had thought there would be upwards of 50 and it was actually closer to about a dozen.

The evening started off with a bit of a snafu.  There was supposed to be childcare available and when we arrived at the location that the event was held, it turns out that there must have been some sort of miscommunication between the society and Innovative Services Northwest because no-one was available to watch the boys.

Bringing the kids along to the meeting to begin with was not a preferred choice but we don't have regular respite care and it's hard to get a babysitter on school nights.  We thought we'd be prepared by asking Justin to bring along a few books and since Ryan is pretty easily entertained, we figured he'd run around and play with the toys and equipment they had at the facility.

Certainly we didn't expect the boys to have to sit in a meeting room at a table with us for about an hour and fifteen minutes.  Fortunately we had some paper for Ryan to draw on and along with a pen from Mom and a red marker borrowed from another attendee, he kept himself fairly occupied.  Granted that red marker ended up on the paper, the table, a book, Ryan's legs, pants and one of the meeting room walls (oopsie!!!) but there are so many worse things that could have happened.

When Ryan needed a sensory break, he'd just get up and go outside of the room with John and head down the hall entertaining the rest of us in the room with his melodic chirps of excitement.  The boys' behavior overall was awesome and although I'd love to attribute it to my amazing parent skills, I'll give the boys their credit and God his credit too.  Once I found out there was no childcare, I did a lot of quick praying that all would work out well with no wildly embarrassing situations.  Mild I can handle...

We had gotten a number of emails in advance about this meeting and although we knew that there was another support group meeting in Vancouver that was running the same night, we thought since this was an annual meeting and had a link to the national Autism Society (one of the items of concern discussed), it was the more important of the two to attend.

We had attended the ASW SW summer picnic in July, a back to school meeting in late August and also their holiday party in December. All three events had pretty decent attendance, so why when there was something as important as an annual meeting did very few show up?

The truth is that if other autism families are similar to ours, it's hard to get out on school nights and even if you do have childcare, you risk throwing your kids off their routine. For self-employed parents like me, long hours are the norm.  Many days are physically exhausting.  I realize in the area in which I live, a lot of families are blessed to only have one parent working (by choice) but when John and I moved here four years ago we came in at the peak of the real estate market and the peak of our own personal business.  Now we seem to be near the bottom of both, although I faith things will turn around.  I keep treading water and finding a way and pray each day...

I believe the reason other events were so well attended was because the attendees saw personal value and benefit. I remember a long time ago when I was working in sales in the Silicon Valley, I attended a seminar that presented a variety of techniques to help one become a stronger sales professional and a more successful person in daily life.  It revolved around the concept of WIIFM (pronounced Whif-Im) or "What's In It For Me?"

Simply put, if you're going to try and market, sell or persuade someone to take action or respond positively to something you are presenting, whether it be in business or even personal life, you will be much more likely to achieve your goals if you practice asking relevant questions, engaging in active listening and showing the person you are trying to sell what is in it for them.

This holds true when you're trying to sell, ask someone for a date or recruit volunteers to donate their time to a project or committee.

The reason I mention this is that the Autism Society of Southwest Washington is looking for volunteers to help out.  Perhaps their board meeting was sparsely attended because people were afraid they'd be given a sales pitch to join a committee, take a leadership role or give up some of their time.  No-one likes to feel pressured into doing this kind of stuff.

When I was in the meeting, I asked about the demographics of the group.  I was willing to try and assist in recruiting new members or helping to promote their events online through my blog or Facebook or social media, however in order to do so, I wanted to know what their objective was, who was their target base and what would be the value to becoming a part of this organization.  There are a number of different autism support groups in the Vancouver / Portland area and I was curious what set this one apart.  At this point, I need to do further research because sitting in on just this one meeting did not provide the answers I was seeking.

I can say that the people serving all seem like dedicated, caring individuals. Most were parents of a spectrum child or adult, a couple like myself were also spectrum travelers. A few were involved from the teaching side and wanted to know how to better serve the children and parents in their schools.  It seemed like quite a few were involved in a variety of different volunteer projects.

If you want to learn more about the Autism Society of Southwest Washington, here is a link to their website below:

http://www.autismsocietyofwa.org/asw-southwest/


If you are in the Clark County area, there is also a good link to local resources for families who have children with autism.

http://www.autismsocietyofwa.org/asw-southwest/?page_id=5

I have been pondering over the past couple of months what would be the best use of my time in promoting advocacy and empowerment for those on the autism spectrum and the families, friends, educators and caregivers who support them.

I have a tendency to want to do so many different things... but then daily life with the kids and lots of work happens.  Stuff happens.  Business challenges present themselves.  Health challenges pop up.  Relationship challenges surface.   I end up finding myself doing my best on some days just to tread water and keep my head above the surface.

Aspierations readers, are you involved in any way with autism advocacy or do you volunteer at school, in church groups or local organizations?

I find myself wanting to do all these things... but then realization hits that I don't have enough time in the day and adding more to my plate just overstuffs me.  I am a full-time mom of two children on the autism spectrum, I own a business which is more than full-time hours, I am on the spectrum myself with my own health issues and I am currently struggling with financial and family issues.  Yet, I feel that God is calling me to do more...  and I'm embarrassed and ashamed that I just haven't found a way yet to manage it all better.

If you're a superwoman or superman, supermom, superdad, supergrandparent, superteacher or supervolunteer, how do you balance your time?  What are your tricks?  How do you find life balance? I'm curious to know... and I'm sure that other blog visitors would be too.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.  I realize it wasn't as well-directed as many of my others but it's just one of those nights when I'm doing freeflow writing and letting what comes out of my head be what I publish.

Best wishes in your daily journey,
Karen

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day 2011 - Romance, Good Food, Great Company

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY Aspierations Amigos!

I hope your day was filled with love, laughter and the company of someone special. (Hey, you're someone special so that definitely counts!)

I'll admit it. I'm a hopeful (sometimes hopeless) romantic and I do get into Valentine's Day.  I won't say that was always the case. It's a lot easier to be "into" a holiday of romance when one has a husband, boyfriend or significant other.

It's even easier when that partner has a flair of romance or at least has been well-trained! 

I'm blessed to have a husband with a fun and playful side who over the years has become stronger and more skilled in sharing his emotions in a meaningful way. We both enjoy writing so when we give cards to each other, taking the time to add a personal thoughtful touch goes a long way.

Today or I guess really last night at around 11:30 p.m., John took me downstairs under the pretense of getting a late night snack of a bagel and cream cheese before we went back upstairs to snuggle and watch our nightly dose of mystery, drama and suspense.  As an aside, right now we're hooked on "Dexter".  If you're not familiar with the show, I'll talk about it later. For now I will say that although it is captivating, well-written and has intriguing characters, it can also be very dark and some of the things that happen in the show are not visually pleasing nor appealing if one is thinking of having a romantic evening.

No DEXTER on Valentine's night!  Just saying...

Tangent train, choo choo.

So John took me downstairs and there on the kitchen table was a vase with beautifully hand-arranged (by John) white and red roses, 24 in all!  I LOVE getting flowers.  Roses on Valentine's Day is pretty traditional but this is the first time John had ever mixed the red and white and the result was truly gorgeous.  They were also the kind of roses that smelled good too.  One of my pet peeves is having flowers, going to sniff them and then there is no real smell.  I have the nose of a bloodhound (something which strangely developed later in life) and I think part of the enjoyment of having flowers is that they have a pretty smell.



Also on the table was a box of heart shaped Dove candy, an XO XO from Hershey's, a lovely card which I saved for today and a sweet heart pillow and soft cozy blanket.

John told me it was important that I knew this year how much he cared for and appreciated me.  (Going for the husband points is never a bad idea.  You never know when you might need some in reserve.)  He also wanted to point out that he was not going out to the local drug store first thing in the morning on Valentine's Day and coming back with whatever was not picked over, half-eaten and stale.  (With age and 18 years of marriage apparently comes some wisdom too!)

It was a great start to what would end up being a wonderful Valentine's Day and as we settled into bed to cuddle, relax and watch our nightly show last night, he left the bed at midnight saying he'd be right back.

It turns out he left the bedroom to sneak into the office and post a romantic Valentine's Day blog.  It was lovely and fun.  You can read it if you like.

http://johnkrejcha.blogspot.com/2011/02/happy-valentines-day-my-kayleigh.html

Of course there are parts that are a bit personal so if you want to take a pass, I totally understand. The kinds of mushy, sappy and fun stuff which is cute between couples can seem extremely sappy and annoying to others, I know!  What's the term? Oh yes, public displays of affection.  I know that is supposed to refer to things like kissing in public but I suppose blogging a romantic poem can be PDA too and in some cases, too much information or as my son says, TMI!

We knew we'd have to work today during the day and we also knew that Justin and John had an important scouting meeting to attend tonight so John decided to take me on a lunch date to a local seafood / steak restaurant called McGrath's.  YUM!



It was SO NICE to get away from work for a bit, to feel pretty good healthwise and to know we could have a leisurely lunch while both boys were in school.  We went at 1:30 p.m. when we knew it wouldn't be as crowded and the food was excellent.


Steak, prawns and my handsome husband in the middle!  Love you!

By the time we got home it was a little before 3 p.m., just before Justin gets home from school with Ryan arriving shortly thereafter.  We all had a pleasant afternoon together and a nice talk on the phone with Gram and Grandpa on the phone right before they enjoyed a pizza together. 


Homemade Valentine's Day cards from the boys beat Hallmark ANY DAY!






Ryan had a Valentine's Day party at school and had a great time.  He is in love with a girl named Bridget and he made a VERY special valentine for her. I will tell you about this special young lady in a separate blog because the story is a sweet one.


While John and Justin were out at their scout meeting, Ryan and I played Globe Trot on Wii Party and entered a few sweepstakes instant win games online.  Our lucky streak is continuing.  

It is about time to head to bed but I wanted to get this Valentine's blog out into the blogosphere and give a special thanks to John for making my day so special.  Between work and kids and lots of life stuff, it was really nice to know that there could still be some romance out there too!

John still has one surprise yet to receive.  That is a story in and of itself... perhaps for my next blog?

How did you spend Valentine's Day?  Let me know!

Time for bed here... no DEXTER tonight...

Love, hugs and happiness,
Karen

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Friday Family Night BINGO - Winner, Winner, Pizza Dinner

BINGO!!!



I will preface this blog by saying that my husband, John at Life and Times of John Krejcha already wrote a blog today about the topic I am going to write about.  He beat me to the submit button fair and square. So if I look like a copycat, then MEOW, perhaps I am a bit!

In the Krejcha household, we have a long standing tradition of having family time together on Friday nights. Usually this consists of playing games together.  Sometimes it includes dinner from Old Spaghetti Factory. Occasionally we watch a movie at home. 

When Justin was in elementary school, two or three times a year, his school would have a Bingo night where the whole family would go to the school on a Friday night and enjoy pizza, drinks, popcorn and other snacks, usually consisting of sugar-laden candy bars.  The food was never particularly healthy but it was a treat for the boys and since we live close enough to the school to walk back and forth, we got a little exercise in as well to work off some of those calories that tend to go straight to my tush.  These occasional Friday night bingo events were ones we looked forward to. I think we only missed one in three school years.

This year Justin is at middle school and Ryan is at preschool, however when John saw on the local elementary school sign that Friday, February 11th was Bingo Night, he knew the four of us would want to go.  

I have to say, our family does have a bit of a lucky streak with bingo and sweepstakes too.  Either Justin, Ryan, John or I have won a bingo prize in every bingo night we attended except one.  A couple times we have won the end of the night blackout grand prize. There is one child bingo winner and one adult bingo winner for each game so the odds are not particularly high.  

As an aside, the monthly family game night we have gone to a couple of times this school year specifically for children on the autism spectrum has bingo too. In this case though, every kid up ends a winner with either 1 or 2 bingo prizes.  As such, both Ryan and Justin were accustomed to winning and I wasn't sure what would happen emotionally if the streak did not continue.  Going from about 8 kids where everyone wins to around 100 kids where about 10% win is a big change.  Ryan has recently been in a "I have to win" stage so... I had some of my mommy tricks up my sleeve ready to appease just in case the outcome was not as he desired. In Ryan's mind, there was no chance that we were possibly going to lose.

We went into Bingo night with optimism, empty stomachs, our iPad (for waiting time) and my book, "The Girl Who Played With Fire." (No, I'm not into arson or arsonists!) 

The book has significance because a friend here at Aspierations suggested last year that I read "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo". GREAT recommendation, thanks!  Leisure reading time around here has been at a premium but I finished the first book and found it to be a mesmerizing and outstanding read.  Now I am on the second book in the series of three and when I complete all three books, I'm going to watch the movies.

Back to bingo...  Well, it turns out that in two hours, they only played FIVE games.  Uh-oh.  What are the odds we would win?  Statistically improbable, right?

Our family has always gone against the grain.  Improbable statistics do not phase us.

Justin ended up winning TWO of the five games.  WOO HOO!  YIPPEE!  (The ONE time I didn't bring the camera!)  His prizes were a Sonic gift card for each game, a poster and a fidget toy that looks like a see-through egg with a yolk in it and is all squishy and soft. When you touch it, it feels sticky but when you take it out of your hand, there is no residue. It's pretty weird but Justin loved it and being the awesome big brother that he is, he gave his second prize to Ryan.

This was actually a very good thing because in Ryan's mind, he had ALSO won Bingo. (Although Ryan did get a bingo on his card, it was during a game that was picture frame bingo. To Ryan, bingo is 5 in a row so when he got five in a row, he called BINGO and was anticipating a prize.  Justin, some good luck, some kindness and some help from above helped get Ryan his prize and no meltdown occurred.)  

It was a good night for our family.  I haven't been blogging much recently because we've had a lot of emotional and business stuff going on.  I've missed blogging and am glad to be writing this to you.  I hope to catch you up on what has been happening in our life very soon.

Hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day!


Thanks for stopping by!
Karen

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pick a Pack of Cheesy Packers - Super Bowl Party Time

Hello Aspierations Friends!

Well, tomorrow is the SUPER BOWL and in Casa de la Krejcha, that means there is going to be a lot of cheesy snacks served.

The line has been drawn.  Green Bay Packers or Pittsburgh Steelers?  Master bedroom, guest bedroom or perhaps sleeping outside?  It all hangs in the balance...


Back in 2009 he went with the "Pack" 
In 2011 will he go back or will the Steelers steal his loyalty?

My husband John is from Wisconsin and grew up watching the Green Bay Packers.  Many in his family are Green Bay Packer fanatics and even though John now cheers for the Seattle Seahawks and rooted for the San Francisco 49ers when we lived in California, tomorrow he goes back to his roots.  

To not do so would mean he would risk his family disowning him.  Seriously!  Nah, just kidding... or am I? I have an excuse having grown up in California not being a Packers fan.  The San Francisco 49ers were my favorite team with the Oakland Raiders close behind.  Now that we've been in Washington, I root for the Seattle Seahawks, although truthfully our family doesn't watch many football games.  We like baseball (San Francisco Giants) and hockey (San Jose Sharks) better.

My dad sent me an email today letting me know that he would be rooting for the Packers tomorrow.  He thought John would appreciate the support.  What my dad doesn't yet know is that our family is sort of split down the line.  Ryan and John are going Packers and Justin and I are sort of going Steelers.  I don't think Justin and I really care that much one way or another but Justin's teacher is a HUGE Steelers fan and I'm sure that's influencing his opinion. 

As for me, my only reason to really root for the Steelers is that their black and gold colors are the same as mine in high school.  Good reason?  Not really... but I do like black and gold together better than green and gold.  

Of course, the BIG reason to root for the Packers other than the fact I love my husband is that there is some really good cheese in Wisconsin.  Granted there was great cheese in California too.  

Speaking of Wisconsin cheese, the year that John and I got engaged, he and I flew back to Wisconsin for Christmas to meet his family. While there we picked up a cheese in the shape of a cow and brought it home for my mom.  That was 1991.  To this day, that cheese is still in my parents' refrigerator preserved well of course.  December will be the 20th anniversary of that aged cheese cow.  


Junior Cheeseheads in training?  (When in Wisconsin, do as the Wisconsonians do...)

So maybe I'll root for the Packers after all.  BUT if I see a CHEESEHEAD on any adults in this house tomorrow, I will definitely be a "STEELER" and take it! 


Blackmail baby...  at least your face isn't half green, half gold!


Ryan practices being a cheesehead while Mom wonders what happened to Ryan's shoe.


Gramma Jan LOVES the Packers and we love Gramma Jan!

The kids are looking forward to our cheesy themed Super Bowl Party.  Cheese Pizza, cheetos, cheez-its, string cheese, cheese spread, cream cheese... you name it.  I asked John for cheese fondue but I'll probably be taking a raincheck on that.  Melting Pot anyone?



No matter which team wins, we'll always be a cheesy family!

I do hope there are some clever commercials tomorrow.  I would love to see the return of the BUD - WEIS - ERRRRRRR frogs!  Anyone remember those commercials?

Have a SUPER Sunday everyone and if you watch the game, HAVE FUN!
Karen