Thursday, May 19, 2011

Quick Update & Happy 20th Engagement Anniversary to John

It has been another very busy week around here but before the evening ends, I wanted to post a very quick blog update!

On Tuesday night, we all went to an Autism Support Group meeting at the Early Childhood Center in Vancouver. It is SO nice that they provide childcare during these events as otherwise, it would be very difficult for us to attend.  We like going to meetings together and so far, we always get some valuable information and benefit from attending, whether there are just a few in attendance or a whole bunch.

On Wednesday afternoon, it was Ryan's Kindergarten Orientation!  Woo hoo!  Justin had a half day at school and wanted to come along with us. We were proud of him taking an interest in his little brother's schooling and it was kind of fun for Justin to go back and see his former elementary school.  

Although Ryan's future SCIP teacher wasn't in attendance, he got to meet a couple of the Kindergarten teachers.  While the adults were in the gymnasium listening and watching a presentation, the kids got a chance to take a tour of a couple Kindergarten classrooms and also have a recess.  Recess is always a big hit around this household!  After the kids came back and rejoined us, one of the Kindergarten teachers who John and I happen to have a personal connection with came over to us and let us know that Ryan did great and lined up very nicely.  That was super news to hear!

Today was the day we were to have the carpets in our house cleaned.  With John's Mom coming into town tomorrow night, we wanted to have the place looking guest-friendly.  Granted, there are juice stains on the carpet that will likely never come out but we have determined that they add character and besides, John's Mom is not here to visit our carpet, it's to see her grandsons and us as well.  

Ryan's 5th birthday is on Sunday so it's going to be a fun-filled weekend as I mentioned in my earlier blog, Kindergarten Open House Right Around The Corner.  I'll write more again probably early to mid next week.



Before I go, I wanted to make special note to today being the 20th Anniversary of the day that John and I got engaged.  Yes, on May 19th, 1991 at the Whale & Dolphin show at Marine World, Africa USA, John got down on bended knee and proposed.  I said yes and approximately 18 months later we were married. (John and I had only known each other a little over a month at the time he proposed so I did ask for a little engagement time so that we could plan and save up for the wedding and honeymoon!)


Engagement photo... Wow, we've aged so much they used Black & White back then!

At midnight last night, John posted a special engagement anniversary blog dedicated to that special and certainly memorable day 20 years ago.  Not everything went as planned that day but I can truly say 20 years later that I'm so happy that you asked me to marry you, John!  It's been an amazing journey with lots of happy memories and two fantastic kiddos!  I'm looking forward to our 19th wedding anniversary this year and our 20th next year.  I look forward to moving along the road less traveled into the next chapter of our lives. We know it will be a transition, but we'll be making it together.  I love you!

And on that note...

I'm exhausted and am going to try and finish up on emails and get to bed early.  Sleep is calling my name and I'm listening!

Best wishes for a super weekend!
Karen

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kindergarten Open House Right Around the Corner

This is going to be an exciting week for Ryan.  On Monday and Tuesday he goes to preschool which is always fun but on Wednesday, it's a very special day!



KINDERGARTEN OPEN HOUSE!!!

Ryan is REALLY looking forward to this!  Last Wednesday, John, Ryan and I walked over to the school and turned in his "official" Kindergarten registration paperwork.  Ryan's been in preschool for the past couple years and a birth-to-three program at our home the school year before that.  Even with all this "school" experience, there's something extra special about our "baby" starting Kindergarten and getting to be in a school with lots of big kids.  He has come so far in the past few years and John and I are incredibly proud and excited for him.  I'm already looking forward to seeing the excitement in his eyes on the very first day.

To the best of my knowledge, we never had a Kindergarten Open House at Justin's elementary school in CA. If there was one that happened before the school year, we missed it.  I do know there was a Back To School night which is a pretty typical thing in elementary school.  That was where Justin's Kindergarten teacher asked me if Justin had a photographic memory because of the way he was able to recall exact wording in the books she would read aloud in class.

Ryan has an amazing memory for remembering geographical locations that we've been to and being able to trace on the iPad through Google Maps how to get there from our home.  He can also tell you in extensive detail about the makes, models and colors of his Hot Wheels cars and trucks as well as the vehicles in our neighborhood.  Now that he'll be advancing from preschool to Kindergarten, it will be interesting to hear what Ryan's future teachers have to say about his abilities.

The Kindergarten Open House is not just for parents but for the kids to get acclimated with the school. Fortunately we live within walking distance and we've had playtime at the playground there a couple hundred times over the past few years we've been living here in Washington. Since Justin went to the same school, Ryan has been there for Bingo nights, school carnivals and other events so he is already quite familiar with the layout.

We had a successful IEP meeting with Ryan's teacher and support staff at his preschool last month and learned that his future SCIP teacher has already met with Ryan's preschool teacher.  How nice to have that interaction take place so early on.  Although his mainstream classroom teacher has not been assigned yet, we're looking forward to meeting with her/him.  It will be a big transition and it isn't without worries but we are doing our best to proactively plan for a successful transition and when something spontaneously happens that throws us all off, well, we'll deal with that too.

I will write a blog later on in the week, probably Wednesday or Thursday to let you know how the Open House went.

The end of the week will be busy too because John's Mom is flying into town to help celebrate Ryan's 5th birthday on Sunday. It's been about 2 1/2 years or so since she's been at our home and the last time she saw the boys was in the summer of 2009 when we drove back to Wisconsin and then followed that up with an Autism Society of America conference in St. Charles, IL.  I'm sure she'll see big changes in both boys.

Justin has an overnight campout with the Scouts on Friday night and we're sure to be busy throughout the weekend so I'm not sure how much blogging time I will have.  I can guarantee you, I will have anecdotes and pictures when I return!

Since I'll soon be having some new birthday pictures to post of Ryan's 5th birthday, here are a few favorites of my fast growing guy from his 4th birthday.


We'll be seeing you again REALLY soon Chuck E. Cheese!


Ryan and Justin sharing brotherly love and bouncing at JJJump





Note the orange? Ryan's favorite color carries on!

Best wishes for a great rest of the weekend and super week ahead!
Karen

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The 12 Days Til Ryan's Birthday - Lyrics Included

Hi Aspierations Friends!

Our youngest son is INCREDIBLY excited about his fifth birthday coming up.  He can do high FIVES saying he is five and he just loves being able to hold up a full hand to show his upcoming age.

As has been tradition in our family for the past couple years with both boys, we celebrate at our local Chuck E. Cheese.  It's kind of funny because I hear lots of adult pizza connoisseurs say that they don't like the taste of the pizza there but for our selective eating kiddos, it's delicious.  Delicious is WINNING in our family when it comes to food choice and we will enjoy all the wins we can get!

Here are a couple of photos from our visit back in March.


This picture was after a LOT of running around!  At night he fell asleep early!


Teaching Justin how to play pinball was a ton of fun!

Of course our family is on the Chuck E. Cheese mailing list and wouldn't you know it, about a week ago, they sent a special coupon surprise to my husband suggesting that Chuck E. Cheese would be a fun place to take the family for Mother's Day!  We both had a good laugh with that one imagining moms around the country forgoing spa treatments, pampering, elaborate brunches and days of relaxation to spend time hanging out with Chuck.

Also a funny note about Chuck E. Cheese (if you please), we attended a fundraiser there for Ryan's school back in March and as we were entering, we noticed a sign that we had apparently missed on our previous journeys.

Was it a picture of Chuck E. Cheese? No.... A picture of happy, smiling kids? No.....

Of course, I had to take a photo...



No Firearms Allowed. Violators will be treated as trespassers.

Seriously!!!  I would really hope that this would go without saying in an establishment that caters to the 13 and under crowd.  Now a picture saying something like, "No Mousetraps Allowed" or "No Cutting the Chuck E. Cheese", I could sort of understand... 

Fortunately none of us were frisked. If we had been, I think a contraband cheeto or two (no outside food allowed) might have labeled us as trespassers!

Well, as I mentioned at the beginning of the blog, Ryan is super duper excited about his upcoming special day and personally requested that in my nightly lullaby / silly song singing that we PLEASE do a take off on "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and sing instead, "The Twelve Days 'Til Ryan's Birthday" song.

We started out yesterday, continued today and will be singing all the way up until his special day.  It's a lot of fun doing this kind of stuff and it brings him such joy.  

In case I forget the lyrics in my later years, I figured I'd include it in my blog tonight. Perhaps you'd like to sing along?  I won't keep repeating the previous verses but you'll get the point below.

On the first day 'til Ryan's birthday, his girlfriend gave to him...
 A smile from Sweet Baby Bridgette! 

On the second day 'til Ryan's birthday, his family gave to him...
 Two gigantic hugs and a smile from Sweet Baby Bridgette!

On the third day 'til Ryan's birthday, his family gave to him...
 Three big kissies, two gigantic hugs and a smile from Sweet Baby Bridgette!

On the fourth day 'til Ryan's birthday, his family gave to him...
 Four Scooby Snacks, three big kissies, two gigantic hugs and a smile from Sweet Baby Bridgette!

On the fifth day 'til Ryan's birthday, his family gave to him...
 Five slices of PIZZA... four Scooby snacks, three big kissies, two gigantic hugs and a smile from Sweet Baby Bridgette!

On the sixth day 'til Ryan's birthsday, his family gave to him...
 Six games of GOOFBALL, (see above)

On the seventh day 'til Ryan's birthday, his family gave to him...
 Seven Cornballs, (see above)

On the eighth day 'til Ryan's birthday, his family gave to him...
 Eight Hot Wheels cars, (see above)

On the ninth day 'til Ryan's birthday, his family gave to him...
 Nine Ghirardelli chocolates, (see above)

On the tenth day 'til Ryan's birthday, his family gave to him...
 Ten Angry Birds, (see above)

On the eleventh day 'til Ryan's birthday, his family gave to him...
 Eleven games of hide and seek, (see above)

On the twelfth day 'til Ryan's birthday, his family gave to him...

 Twelve pieces of cake, eleven games of hide and seek, ten Angry Birds, nine Ghirardelli chocolates, eight Hot Wheels cars, seven cornballs, six games of Goofball, five slices of PIZZA... four Scooby Snacks, three big kissies, two gigantic hugs and a smile from Sweet Baby Bridgette!

Do you have any fun family traditions you do for birthdays in your family?  If so, please feel free to share in the comments section below.  

Of course if you have any cheesy experiences to share, that's fine too!  We love those!
Until next time,
Karen

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Is there a shortage of flowers in the USA?

Hello Aspierations Friends,

To all those Moms, Grandmas and mommy's to be, I wish you a very Happy Mother's Day on Sunday!

I will be spending the day with my boys.  We didn't have anything particular planned as an outing so I suggested this evening that maybe Sunday afternoon after we get home from church that we can watch a movie or two downstairs in the living room and break out the popcorn.  The boys (two small and one husband-sized) seemed agreeable with this.  I've asked for a gift that they all do their best to get along and each give me a big hug.

We did have a fun Saturday experience today at the Columbia Springs Fish Hatchery. Please see John's blog "To Fish or Not To Fish, That is the Question" for anecdotes and pictures.  It was a short visit but totally worth it.



When we got home, I knew I had a lot of work to do because I am hoping to take Sunday off.

I was trying to keep my spirits high after a successful fishing venture for the boys but I'll admit, I was bummed in the later part of the afternoon. Having run an online retail business at Count Your Beans Dolls & Bears for over 12 years, I have always prided myself on excellent customer service and quick turnaround.  On the rare chance there is an issue such as a lost package or broken item, we provide quick and friendly customer-oriented problem resolution.  I try to live by the adage of treating others the way you wish to be treated.

Okay... now that I've said that, can I just say that my luck with purchasing gifts and flowers online for family and friends just sucks?  Non-deliveries, broken items, missing items, wrong items, late shipments after the occasion... the number of times it has happened with gift items is CRAZY.  Seriously...

That being said, I know people and businesses make mistakes and I am a very understanding and forgiving individual. In my opinion, the way a business handles their problem resolution is a barometer for how much they really care about their customers.  I apparently have a knack for choosing companies whose customer service (at least when it comes to servicing my order) just stinks.

For example... this year for Mother's Day, I ordered 3 bouquets of flowers for my mom, birthmom and mother-in-law.  I ordered from two different nationally known companies.  I ordered early just in case there would be a problem.  Well, my mom's bouquet arrived on Friday via Fed-Ex and the vase was shattered.

My mom had other vases so it wasn't a big deal to her.  Originally she didn't want to tell me because she didn't want me to think she was disappointed but she thought I should know so that I could let the floral company know.  I did and they were excellent about the whole situation, responded via email within an hour and offered to refund my order in full.  (I had only asked for a refund of their shipping / handling fee so this was a pleasant surprise.  Hooray for ProFlowers as you now have my business again.)

The other two bouquets I ordered through TeleFlora via Haute Look with a guaranteed personal delivery of Saturday, May 7th.  As I did not hear from my birthmother or mother-in-law saying anything had arrived, I went online to look up my order and found the order #s but no confirmation of delivery.  In fact, the May 7th delivery date was rescheduled to May 12th for both orders.  Not May 8th (Mother's Day), not even the day after (which is not cool in my book) but May TWELFTH!  Seriously?  Are there no more flowers in the Orlando, Florida and the Sacramento area of CA?

So I went to my email and noticed an "update" on my order that came in at almost 3:00 p.m. I received an email saying that my order (no order number, no reference name to which order...) could not be delivered because they could not find a florist to fulfill my order and that it was cancelled and a refund would be issued to my card.  Hmm... nothing like waiting until mid-afternoon on the day the order is to be delivered to let me know... Why not the day before?  Better yet, don't LURE customers in with GUARANTEED delivery dates for what is obviously a special holiday occasion and then leave them hanging at the last second.

I am not sure now whether one or both orders were cancelled because of the major flower shortage that must be taking place in Florida and California but of course I immediately responded and unfortunately have heard nothing back as of yet.  Ugh...  Sorry to the Moms... we really did want you to have a special bouquet! I take full responsibility and hope you will forgive us!  We do love you!

Speaking of bad floral experiences, for Valentine's Day this year I wanted to surprise John with a fun bouquet.  It was to have balloons, a chocolate bar, a monkey and a rose.  It was supposed to be delivered the day before on Sunday, February 13th.  This order was placed with FromYouFlowers.com.  The order didn't end up being delivered until Wednesday night, February 16th...  despite promises of delivery on the 13th, 14th and even the 15th.  Seriously... They also promised a partial refund which never occurred.

Well darn, this blog wasn't supposed to be me ranting about my bad floral buying experiences.  Sorry about that!  I'm just sad because even though I tried to create fun and special surprises for those I love for special occasions, something happened beyond my control and the loved ones didn't get their surprise as it should have been.  I'm sorry for the disappointment.

Have you had any similar experiences?

Still, I do love to shop online and will continue to do so.  I know that most vendors out there are reputable and do a good job!  I think though for the next "holiday" occasion I want to send flowers, I'll pick them myself and drive them directly to the recipient's location.  Better yet, I'll have the kids hand make some with pipe cleaners and tissue paper.  They'll be cuter and they'll last longer!

Hope you have a great rest of the weekend!  I'm looking forward to a hopefully relaxing day tomorrow, lots of fun time with the kids and a delicious spaghetti dinner cooked by John.  If I'm REALLY lucky, I'll get to sleep in and not have to do work emails until the kids are in bed.



Thanks for stopping by!
Karen

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Evil in the World - Protecting our children from harm

I've taken a break from blogging for the past couple of days, although there certainly has been plenty to blog about, especially if I wanted to comment on world events.

In USA and world news, the biggest story is the death of al Quaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the NAVY Seals operation which resulted in his death.  Questions abound left and right about the operation, the intelligence, the timing, the subsequent burial of his body at sea and what specific details (such as pictures or DNA evidence) that the government is going to release to the public. Already there has been conflicting information put out there regarding the timeline of the raid, who was involved, who was killed, etc.  This bothers me.  I'd rather have them come out with facts later than sooner and have them be accurate than to rush out with news for the sake of a sound bite and then have the information turn out to be significantly different.  We are a nation that prides ourselves on strength, intelligence and a progressive use of technology.

I believe it's important for our government to show our citizens and allies as a responsible world power that when information is shared in a press conference about an operation that was quite awhile in the making that the dissemination of that information that is chosen as safe to be shared is well thought out, carefully worded and factually correct.  Anything less and I personally believe it brings rise to doubt, conspiracy theories and reactions that could then cause our nation more harm than good.

I look at my oldest son who wasn't even two when the horrific events of 9/11/2001 took place.  Being his mom, it's natural to want to protect my son and not have him see such terrible things, especially at such a young age.  We teach our children by example to be trusting, honest and open and so often when one is a child, his or her viewpoint is more idealistic then realistic because they still have a childlike innocence that hasn't been tainted by knowledge of some of the atrocities in this world.

Now that my oldest son is in middle school, I wonder what he will hear about recent world events and how it will shape his view of the world.  I have told him if he has any questions about what he hears to feel free to come talk with me about it.  Wanting to protect him, I sort of just hope this flies over his head for the time being.  I certainly don't want him to be ignorant of world events, I just don't want to see him get really emotionally wrapped up in them at this age as he is very visual and pictures events very graphically.  I don't want his nighttime thoughts to be caught up in gruesome imagery. Let him be a child while he is a child...

I remember when I was young that I was aware of bad people (people who hurt kids or adults, killers, people who went to jail for doing wrong things) but I didn't remotely process the significance of how much evil one could perpetrate until I experienced it personally and even then, it has taken me years to still try and work through the logic, emotion and understanding behind what happened to me, why I couldn't predict it would happen and why I couldn't stop it.

Today was a hard day for me emotionally because even though I see great progress that my sons are making, sometimes the things they do scare me or make me wonder if they are regressing.  We have been working SO hard the past couple of years with our youngest to make sure that he will walk with us and not bolt away.  He has made tremendous strides and most days he does an excellent job following the safety rules.  But it only takes one day, one time to impulsively bolt and run and there to be an oncoming car or other danger and then our little boy will be hurt or much worse...

Today, Ryan bolted.  He knew when we asked him afterwards that he should have stayed with us.  He knew that was the rule.  But his impulsive need or feeling that he needed to leave the group and run fast and far ahead superseded "rules" and the deterrent of getting in trouble and losing a privilege didn't register.  The deterrent of possibly getting hurt didn't register.  Ryan bolting or one day just deciding to wander off is something that keeps me up at night...

The other thing I noticed with my other son is that he seems to be stimming more and in a louder and more noticeable way as he is getting older.  Although so far, he still seems to be accepted among his peers and scouts and will always be accepted here at home, I do worry that people who do not know him and see some of this behavior may try to embarrass or bully him.  I just don't want to see that happen.  I know our sons require their sensory breaks and each has their own things that they do to help self-regulate.  When we're in certain inclusive settings such as a special needs event and other parents see our kids stim and we see their kids stim, there are likely to be knowing glances exchanged but with love, acceptance and understanding.

When people who are not used to being around a child with autism or Asperger's suddenly sees what "looks" to them to be a typical kiddo suddenly start spinning or flicking his fingers and making humming or loud video game type noises, it's pretty natural to assume they're going to look out of curiosity and wonder what might be motivating that kid or teen to be doing what he/she is doing.

When stimming gets disruptive in a public situation, we try to use redirection by suddenly asking our son a question about something we know he is interested in, distracting him or using some sort of other self-regulation tool in exchange.

Well, I started out talking about world news and I ended up with personal sharing and reflection.  I think if I were to tie the thoughts together I would say that I have been thinking a lot lately about how to protect my children from the danger and evil in the world while letting them enjoy life, pursue their passions, be safe and be protected and not be too naive so that they put themselves into harm's way.

I will reflect upon this some more.  If you have any thoughts on protecting your children both physically and emotionally from danger and harm, please feel free to share!  What do your children know about world events today?  Do you discuss them as a family?  I'm curious!

Thanks for stopping by,
Karen