Saturday, April 10, 2021

Easter, Covid Birthday Take Two and Accomplishments

We woke to a beautiful Easter morning. We had a very sweet breakfast display of treats and nibbled away at it. We ended up packing most of it up for desserts for the week. We just don't eat that much sugar around here. We then packed a picnic and headed out for Hickory (a town a little over an hour away). We were planning to visit and art museum which had told us was open on Easter Sunday. We were surprised, but headed out. Turns out it was closed when we arrived. I guess a volunteer or otherwise uninformed person had answered the phone.  But, we enjoyed the grounds and ate our lovely lunch. 
David and Grandma at the fully vaccinated table.
Since we had come all that way, we looked for an alternative and settled on a hike up Baker's mountain. We didn't put enough research into it and accidently started off on the hardest trail (we found out afterward). Grandma gave up very early in and headed back to the parking lot and some nice rocking chairs she had spotted. The rest of us forged on thinking that we were from the mountains and used to steep trails and it was only a bit over a half mile. This one was much harder, steeper then we were used too and filled with slippery rocks. It seemed like a mile straight up. Did I mention we forgot to bring water and that I had only had a few sips of liquid at lunch? Oy! 

We did make it to the top. Elijah laid down at the top and proclaimed that the view was not that stunning. We after all could have seen a more stunning view from the car on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I must admit I couldn't disagree with him. But, it was a relief to make it. We tried to spin the adventure to the top as a family challenge that we had conquered the mountain. That was mostly met with teen eye rolls. 

  The way down wasn't much easier and we were terribly thirsty and overheated. I turned beet red and became hot to the touch. My husband became alarmed that I was going into heatstroke. I must admit that I felt pretty awful and nauseous. His military training kicked in and he got us down and safely back to the car. So Easter was a true adventure and left us all grateful to be home safe and sound in the end. 

Tim had his second birthday in "quarantine" this week. We enjoyed our time outdoors playing darts for the first time. That was really fun and we will be doing it again soon. We also had barbeque and carrot cake. We enjoyed a bonfire and presents at the end. It was a lovely evening. Three of us (including grandma) are now fully vaccinated. Tim get's his second shot next week and the teens are scheduled for their first shots on Monday. 

All the Rest ~ Elijah has been earning money around the house and at Grandma's. He is strengthening skills and learning to work more steadily without breaks. Much past an hour is really a challenge for him. This week he put together some furniture, replaced outlet covers, helped lay a stick down tile floor, put allergy covers on a mattress and general cleaning. 

Rebekah continued to  plug away at school and work, applied for another scholarship and worked on her Depop  store. She was also asked if she could work more hours at the consignment shop after another employee quit on the spot. Since she only has two subjects left, she increased her hours to 25 hours a week for now.  Her boss is grateful and she is grateful to be able to sock more money into savings. 

Spring is here. I hope you all have a blessed week.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Taking Care of Myself

In the past two weeks, I have been feeling more sad and gloomy than usual. I am a pretty positive person and generally bounce back from gloomy moods pretty quickly (like within hours), but that hasn't been the case recently. I am not sure if I was run down or just struggling with all the changes I see ahead. However, it was time to get me back to a healthy mental state. Thus, we started operation Get Mom Back on Track this week. We started the week off with a beautiful Sunday picnic and walk along the river. Rebekah Anne went all out and packed our "picnic" china dishes. My husband stopped and picked up dessert at our favorite bakery. It was lovely.

We walked our city's labyrinth twice this week. I used to take my littles to walk this same labyrinth when they were really out of sorts. It worked well to help balance them. You are forced to walk slower and just follow the pattern which tends to bring one's breathing and blood pressure down. I also prioritized taking my two mile walks everyday. I always feel better when I get a good walk.

Instead of the more serious books I tend to read, I picked a children's chapter book to read this week, because I just needed a bit of fun and whimsy. I also made it a priority to get into bed by 10 pm and actually made it most nights. Lastly, I added back in my supplement, Holy Basil, which has always helped my mood. I had taken a few weeks off from taking it. I am feeling much more myself this Saturday morning. I will have to keep up the good work of taking care of myself. 

I have started formulating a plan to help Elijah break down the growing up process. We told him that for the next short while, he has to work two hours a day on career exploration, working for Grandma at $11 an hour and working on getting his learner's permit or exploring the bus system. He is also welcome to apply for jobs that we/he finds that might be a good fit. My hope is that adding in a bit of money to his life will help him get used to using his debit card, knowing how much money he has, managing and maybe even saving his money a bit more. I also want him to go back to having a daily routine and doing work that he may not love, but brings him some value (money, self worth). I am not sure how long we are going to do this plan, but we will do it at least until he gets vaccinated. If it goes on for more than a handful of weeks, we will have to increase the hours per day and get him used to more sustained work. 

He did apply for a job at Starbucks this week and has not heard from them. I am biding my time waiting for his standards to come down. I have been told by others that our local chain grocery store is always hiring and really does hire young people with no experience all the time and treats them well. Employees are also able to set their own hours within reason. We rarely shop in the chain store because it is more expensive and has less organics than the other three stores I shop at. He has resisted this store because his estranged sister (Katie) works in the one we frequent most often, plus it is downtown and has an urban gangster vibe. Next week we will be visiting some of the ones out in the suburbs so he can see that many of the stores are newer and nicer. I also saw that two other grocery stores in our area were hiring, and I had heard really nice things about one of them. We visited both of those this week. Elijah liked both of them and was surprised how clean and nice the one was despite it also being downtown. He also appreciated that everyone was wearing their masks properly. He is a real mask stickler and gets very upset when he sees people not following the rules. We have two major industries here, medical and tourism. I pointed out that both stores were on the "rich" side of town and that I had really noticed that the more educated and richer folks in our city who tend to be in the medical world were generally much more compliant with mask wearing. Actually, most of the residents in our city are doing very well with mask compliance. It is mostly the tourists who come in and just don't want to follow the rules.

We treated ourselves to this tart at one of the grocery stores. I realized that we rarely grocery shop as a family, and I wanted Elijah to get a more personal experience with some of the departments. Grocery stores have so many different jobs in them. 

April is almost here. I am ready to say good-bye to March. I always find it one of the dreariest months of the year. 

Lastly, Tim got his first Covid vaccine this week, and I can sign Elijah and Rebekah up on the waitlist on the 31st of March. The waitlist is getting faster now and only seems to take two to three weeks. We are making progress!

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Thoughts of a Mom about Her Special Needs Teen

This post may be a bit of a jumble, because my thoughts are a jumble right now. In fact, I think I will just put my thoughts into bullet points and leave it at that. 

  • Living with a household of people who have executive functioning delays is exhausting (my two sons and a bit from other family members who are just developing or overwhelmed with their lives and need support).
  • Executive functioning skill deficits are especially evident when you are trying to make changes.
  • I feel that I am sharing my brain with three or four other people much of the time. 
  • Many people with FASD have average or above average intellectual abilities, as is true with my son, but still struggle with executive skills, social communication, self-regulation and adaptive skills.
  • All of these qualities are important for adulting and my son struggles a great deal with all of them. 
  • I wish there was a really good online or in-person support group. Even the FASD Facebook support group is mostly a whine fest. There just isn't much useful information on it most of the time.
  • I wish my son could accept FASD as part of his being, so we could openly talk about it without it becoming a shouting match if his special needs are brought up.
  • I wish he could accept outside support in a constructive way.
  • I fiercely love my son and see so many wonderful qualities in him! I wish he could feel and absorb how wonderful he is instead of dwelling on his deficits (yet not admitting that there is a reason for those deficits and that something could be done about it...instead, calling himself stupid or a jerk, which gets us nowhere).
  • How do you help someone manage their deficits without always pointing them out which just lowers their self-esteem and doesn't improve their deficits anyway?
  • Vocational Rehabilitation failed us and I am still mourning that fact. I will get over it soon.
  • Some research for FASD says to take 4 to 7 years off a person's age to get a more appropriate developmental age. 
  • That would place my son at 11 to 14 years old.
  • You certainly wouldn't expect an 11 to 14 year old to work an adult job.
  • However, you would expect an 11 to 14 year old to have constructive days that lead to development.
  • Maybe I should review the development of an 11 to 14 year old boy. 
  • I feel like we have been on a summer break for a year with both of my sons. There has been limited growth and yet...
  • In some ways they have grown a great deal. I see subtle improvements and growth in attitude, work ethic and relationships. But they are small and might not be noticeable to those who do not live with them.
  • Are my current goals for Elijah too big? Do I need to cut them down into smaller bites? 
  • I need to worry less about what the world expects and have more confidence myself.
Like I said, there is a lot jumbling around in my brain. So far, Elijah hasn't gotten past applying for jobs on the Internet and being rejected for unknown reasons. I think the market is flooded with much more experienced people and that he is striving for jobs in companies that are too glamorous or desirable because of their pay and environment. The process is stressing him out so much that it is very debilitating and takes over the day, even when we only spend an hour or two looking for jobs.

On the bright side -- My husband was struggling to put up crown molding in our hallway which was only partly done when we moved in years ago. I suggested that we have Elijah give it a try, since he has remarkable visual spatial skills. Sure enough, he had the crown molding up in a matter of hours. It isn't perfect or professional, but with a bit of caulking and paint, it will be more than good enough for me. We are paying him 11 dollars an hour for the job and looking at others that he can do.

Salem was very eager to help. She is such a curious kitten.

I got my first Pfizer vaccine this week, because I am a caregiver of a medically-fragile adult. That is a huge relief. I get the second shot on Tim's birthday. Tim is now on the county's waitlist. I hope they will call soon. Now I need to get the rest of my family signed up as soon as they are allowed. We might just have a vacation this summer after all.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, March 13, 2021

One Year Later ...

If you had told me on March 13, 2020, what the next year would hold, I probably wouldn't have believed you. Yes, I was aware that there was a pandemic brewing, and I was actively stockpiling food and toilet paper along with the rest of America. But I never would have predicted that it would change our lives so much. I had never heard of Zoom anything. I never thought that my adult son's brain injury day program would be closed for most of a year or that my daughter would spend hours and hours taking dance classes on Zoom in our small 9 foot by 8.5 foot guest bedroom. She has very long legs and I can't tell you how often she kicks the That my sons' medieval sword play group would be cancelled for a year. It is held outside, so I thought it would be back in session quickly; but it still hasn't officially returned. (One parent started a small group outside last weekend with mandatory mask wearing at all times. We were there and my guys loved every minute of it.) Oh, and the physical separation from friends -- I so miss the sound of teenager laughter ringing through my home. However, it truly hasn't been all bad. Life is a journey and there are different chapters in it. This chapter has been quieter and centered around home.

We have learned so much from this experience. My family is resilient, more flexible than I thought, and strongly bonded. We have a pretty good time all on our own. We renewed our enjoyment of nature and hiking. We instituted family movie night on Fridays with takeout dinner most of those nights. It is anticipated all week and will probably continue even when the pandemic ends. We took up new hobbies and the adults read more books. We binge watched National Geographic shows, The Crown, any and all British murder mysteries and Call the Midwife. We got projects done, reduced our belongings dramatically (and are still working on this one) and started gardening. We adopted two cats, bringing our tiny clowder to THREE. We certainly didn't waste our time whining that life wasn't the way we had planned it would be. We adjusted and thrived. 

With the vaccines starting to roll out with some real speed, the world is starting to open back up. We are not ready to rush out into the streets just yet. We have worked way too hard to stay safe all this time to take unnecessary risks in the eleventh hour. But the end is in sight. My mother and stepmother got their vaccines this week. My husband has been fully vaccinated for more than a month. I am on the list for level 3 (because I am caregiver of a medically fragile adult), which is being processed now. Hopefully, I will have my shot in the next few weeks. Tim is level 4 and the rest of my crew is level 5. It is possible that we will all be vaccinated by the beginning of June. I can't wait!

This week, Tim and Elijah held a Zoom class at Tim's brain injury program. They taught everyone about medieval sword play and did lots of demonstrations. I was struck again by the realization that Elijah is a natural born teacher. He instantly figured out how to reach everyone through Zoom, answer their questions, explain everything on the appropriate level and make them feel included. It was a lovely thing to watch. I do hope in the coming years That he finds his place in the world. I know he will; it just is going to take lots of time, faith and a lot of pushing guidance.

Elijah has applied for a few jobs in the last two weeks. He is concentrating on high-end grocery stores right now (because he wants to work where masks are highly respected). He was rejected by a few, but one of his applications hasn't been kicked back yet. He is also working more for Grandma. She has lots of yard work for him to do. Lastly, he is starting to think about learning to drive. I am not sure he is there yet, but his mind is starting to think about it on a routine basis. I need to constantly remind myself that we do not have to follow the world's timeframe and expectations. I see so many sad stories about FASD young adults whose lives unravel into nightmares. I think so much of it happens because they and their families give in to the world's demands to grow up in a certain amount of time. Slow and steady, we will get him to adulthood and in one piece.

The bottom pictures are from a few months ago, but I don't think I ever posted them. This was a fun photo shoot in the River Arts District. There is a bit too much going on in the background, but it was an interesting location. 

I am going to reveal my daughter's first name today, since I need to start working on her transcript on my blog. I like to have their real names in those posts. Her name is Rebekah Anne.

Rebekah Anne is enjoying her college course (Art Appreciation). It is a bit more heavy in reading than she expected and she is a slow reader, but she is pulling an A in this online course. She is signing up for another online course this summer. She finishes her high school Sign Language on Tuesday, and her Latin and English IV courses are well on their way to completion.  

I can't believe my baby girl graduates at the end of May. What an incredible journey it has been. 

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, February 26, 2021

A Wee Break

I am taking a wee break. I may not be able to post for a few weeks, since I am giving my computer to our adult daughter, Katie. She needs a computer for college, and we have been thinking about moving from a desktop to a laptop for some time. This seems like the appropriate moment. We are glad she loves learning and is trying to work her way through college, even though it is a huge struggle for her. We are also so grateful that she is reaching out and sharing her feelings, dreams and struggles with us.

I do plan to use my phone or a Chromebook to read blogs and do other things for a while, but I am not sure I will be able to load pictures and such. Anyway, I will be back very soon.

We had a typical week here. Nothing amazing to report. School and college classes are going well. We closed Elijah's case with Vocational Rehabilitation, and we feel relieved and nervous simultaneously  about going it alone. However, I have faith that what is supposed to come to pass will. Everything always works out.

We enjoyed the spring weather and sunshine while it lasted. 

We are abundantly blessed. 

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Chocolate, Tunnels and Presidents...Oh My!

February is one of those months where the holidays get all mashed up together and I have to pick which ones to celebrate. This year, we skipped Mardi Gras and concentrated on Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day. 

We had a family chocolate tasting for Valentine's Day. The winners were Whitman's and Godiva. The coconut chocolate from Whitman's was as good as I remember, but we all agreed that we preferred our favorite organic free trade chocolate brands to any of these. It was a family hit nonetheless.

We also enjoyed a family hike on Sunday to a state park in Virginia we have never visited. It is called Tunnel State Park and it was wonderful. We arrived to a completely empty parking lot and had the park completely to ourselves. It was a crisp, drizzly, grey day and I guess no one decided to come out. We left Tim at home so he could have peace and quiet for an "alone day," which he really enjoyed. 

The park was stunning and my photos do not truly do it justice. The water was truly blue in places where the beach was limestone. We spent a good hour skipping rocks, collecting pieces of coal that had fallen off the trains that pass through daily and just enjoying the nature around us. 

Our kids have become so used to masks that they wear them even when it isn't necessary. They said that the masks keep them warm. My dear mountain goat children wore them the entire time, even when we were climbing back up the steep mountainside that had benches at every switchback turn. 

While we were enjoying the stream, a train came through. Unfortunately, my phone had died by then. The train was awesome. The engineer waved to us and its length went by for at least five minutes. I love the clickety-clack of trains on tracks. We also hiked to Carter's cabin, which is the oldest structure in Scott's County, Virginia. On our trek home, we stopped in Johnson City, Tennessee, for dinner. We got takeout from Panera Bread and enjoyed it in the parking lot. It was an all-around lovely day.

We upgraded our Universal Yum Box to the Yum, Yum level. It comes with lots more snacks. This month was Ukraine. They all had super strong flavors -- overpowering to say the least. It wasn't our favorite box, but we had a great time laughing at everyone's expressions as they tried things. 

Has anyone else noticed that they end up doing chores around their pets? I was trying to change the sheets and left the room to get fresh ones. I got distracted for 10 minutes and returned to this. 

I kept Presidents' Day real simple this year. We looked up the Presidents' favorite food items and then checked our pantry for supplies. We picked our presidents based on what food we had and what would go well together. We decided on hoe cakes (George Washington), blueberries (John Quincy Adams), bacon (Abraham Lincoln), corn bread (John Polk), apple cider (John Adams ~ although he preferred hard cider), and cabbage (James Buchanan). We pulled out the appropriate pewter presidents from my husband's collection and made up the dishes. It was a lovely feast and our second successful themed dinner for 2021.

I hope you all are safe with the deep freeze and crazy ice that is gripping the country. We really were left unscathed here in WNC. We just had lots of rain and a bit of sleet. I'll take it.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, February 13, 2021

An Adventurous Week

First, I want to say that January was rough around here. We had a real increase in tense days. I think it was the worst month since the pandemic started. Mostly, I think it is just the longevity of the situation. Over the past year, most days have been positive, but the overall picture is just draining and endless. My introverts want to be left completely alone and my extroverts want more and more attention from whoever can give it to them...which in this case is the introverts in the family. We as a family need a break from each other. However, that isn't possible for an extended period of time. I am trying a few things to reduce stress.

I encouraged Tim (who is suffering the most and is an introvert) to skip family time when he isn't interested or just needs a break. I also am encouraging him to join the Zoom classes with his day program for brain-injured adults. He was resistant before because he didn't want to deal with even more people, but I thought a change in personalities might help. The program said he could join them via Zoom whenever and for as long or short a period as he wished. He tried it this week for about 20 minutes and said he will do it a few times a week in the future.

I am changing family time activities around to include more car rides for a special drink and to see sunsets, more relaxed or junior games that will be easier for my brain-injured son and just remind us all of childhood unity, more themed family meals which always hold people at the table longer and are higher quality. Basically, I am trying to make the moments together higher quality so that people will be more filled up and there will hopefully be a more natural break during downtimes for the introverts. 

We also are planning a few field trips. Some will be for all of us while others will give Tim the opportunity to stay home, so he will be able to have six to eight hours of alone time. 

My hardest challenge is figuring out what to do for Elijah. He is my extreme extrovert. He is also my child that has always been most frightened of the world, the biggest homebody and has the least amount of friends. He doesn't want to leave the house and isn't adjusting well to all of the new platforms to interact with friends such as Zoom and outdoor meetups. He is so lonely. He is resistant to getting a job because of the pandemic, although recently he has become a little bit willing to look at possibilities. Basically, he has been "sitting on a shelf," waiting for this experience to be over, but it is evident that the pandemic has been taking too long and he will have to stretch way out of his comfort zone. 

So we did have lots of positive moments this week, but we also had our fair share of hard moments. We don't take pictures of the tears, so I am sure to some it looks like everything is always great. It isn't, but we are working to make as much of our lives joyful as possible. 

Chinese New Year ~ Themed dinner number one. I am so pleased with how the table came out. Everything was pulled together from around the house and the food was all from Trader Joe's. My themed dinner worked and everyone stayed at the table for an extra 20 minutes. We had really good conversation, too. 

Against my better judgement, we pulled out Monopoly and played it with new rules (that made it faster). Sure enough, there was lots of conflict in understanding the new rules. It became obvious early in the game who the winner would be, yet the game went on for more than an additional hour. I put it away and claimed that we have to work our way through the 50+ games we own with less repeats. We can get rid of games that we don't LOVE and people won't get as bored or stressed by certain games that show up often in our rotation.

We had a glorious snow morning. I say snow morning because snow seldom lasts more than 12 hours here. My husband and I had a lovely early morning walk in the stillness. We are missing alone time, too.  I love how quiet the world is after a fresh snow. 

We had a marvelous field trip to the zoo. The weather was cold and grey. We hoped that the gloomy conditions would make the zoo uninhabited by humans (as Elijah put it). We were right and had the zoo almost to ourselves. The animals were delighted to see us and many came to the edge of their enclosures to interact with us. The gibbon and tiger were especially interested in Elijah. They adored him! We spent more than 15 minutes with each of them and they interacted with Elijah the entire time. 

My favorite picture

It was truly a blessed day and truly filled Elijah up with joy. I got so many hugs and thanks from him that evening. 

Blessings, Dawn