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Source:  Goista.com

Turks and Caicos Islands, Mommy’s Vacation

It’s official; I have a high school student, a brand new middle schooler, and a fourth grader.  Wow.  I’m so proud of all of them.  Today is the first day of their summer vacation, and as it happens it’s the first day of summer.  Cool.

I’m having my first real weekend day of having nothing to do or worry about.  My Darling Girl is playing on my cell phone, trying to find as many promo clips as possible for “How To Train Your Dragon 2.”  The Princess is upstairs relaxing, playing Mario something or other on her DS.  Sweet Girl is at a birthday party for a good friend at school, her first one since kindergarten.

It’s quiet, as it should be on this beautifully sunny and not-too-hot day.

I might even get a nap later.

HA HA HA HA HA!

No, really, I’m aiming for a nap.  In spite of the current seeming calm, I was rudely awakened too early this morning.  Sweet Girl was upset about something her Daddy said about her skirt and washing it.  Chocolate chip pancakes fixed all that, along with a suggestion to, you know, wear a clean skirt.

A nap will help me process just how old my girls are getting.  Yeah, that’s it.

So the girls’ vacation starts today, but mine doesn’t start until August.  I can barely stand it.  I need that beach.  If I fall asleep on it, see… my children won’t wake me up while I’m on it.  I’m going on a Momcation with a few friends in a month and a half.  It’s our 40th Birthday Year celebration.  More on that later.  I’m hoping if I get a nap later, my Momcation will be in my dreams.

Of course I’d love to take the girls somewhere this summer too.  The Husband wants to go to the Cape.  I want somewhere less… boring for the girls.  This may take some research, especially since we have to keep the drive manageable.  It may end up being near the holidays, though, to give us more time to save some money.  I’d love to bring the girls back to New Hampshire after it snows and Christmas lights are up everywhere.  Maybe it’s not too late to find a place to go camping for the weekend and we can get a decent tent with a decent air mattress.  Or rent a cabin, ha ha.  That would be awesome for “camping.”  They could use a tent, and I’ll use a cabin that has electricity.

Eh, or we do the Cape.  They’ve got beaches and hotel rooms there.

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Veruca SaltWhen I got home from work I had to go have a talk with one of my neighbors because of a situation with another neighbor’s out-of-control daughter.  The girl is in 2nd grade, a year behind my daughter and in the same grade as my friend’s daughter. Veruca moved into the rental house across the street from us at the beginning of the school year, and while she was a bit abrasive in the beginning, I thought that maybe she just needed to settle into getting to know the girls on the street and in her school.  She needed a chance.

I don’t typically blame children, especially young children like this in second grade, for inappropriate behaviors when I suspect that there are parenting issues and/or surrounding family issues at home.  By inappropriate behaviors, I mean going beyond being coarse and abrasive and an overly strong personality.  I’m the mom who teaches ALL of my daughters to try to determine if someone just has a strong personality and maybe social differences as opposed to outright being a bully.  I’m the mom who listens to her daughters while gently coaching them to remain sensitive souls, but to try not to take harsh personalities and attitudes personally.  I NEVER use the words “toughen up” or “develop a thicker skin” with them because that implies something is wrong with my girls.  I don’t want them to lose their own sense of worth and I think that their sensitivity is important.  It makes them sensitive to when other children are bullied and they step in and stand up for those children.  They stand up for their own sisters.

So we gave this girl a chance, the entire time letting my youngest know that playing with this girl was entirely her choice and I would never force her.  I told her that if she chose not to play with her at any time she would be allowed to tell the girl why.  Giving Veruca the benefit of the doubt hasn’t worked, I’m sad to say.  She has gotten worse instead of better.

I’ve learned that Veruca comes from a split family, and she’s often upset that her father lives several states away seeing her rarely.  I’ve learned that Veruca dislikes her stepfather, especially now that she has a 3 year old little brother and a nearly 1 year old baby brother (both of whom she adores).  She’s jealous of the obvious love and positive attention that they get, and the lack of attention she and her older brother get.  She and her older brother are very close, and he’s protective of her, and they’re disciplined more harshly and unfairly than their younger siblings.  They are not, however, parented.  We live on a busy street and the one and three year olds are allowed outside alone.  It takes at least half an hour before she notices the three year old is gone.  Veruca’s mom relies on the hope that other families are outside and watching out for her children.  Her little ones tend to run straight for the road unless they think my friend’s children are in their pool and then they’re sent over in their bathing suits and floaties without waiting for an invitation.  These are things I’ve witnessed firsthand or things that Verucal has told me.  I’ve caught her in several lies too and called her on them.  Whenever I call her out, I’m firm but gentle… I’m parental.  :-)  I don’t play games.  And I’m teaching my daughters not to play games because I want them to be mindful of how their actions and words affect other people.  I want them to be kind, but also to know how to defend themselves and each other.

Veruca is, simply put, not nice to any of my daughters.  She says some outright mean things, things I don’t care to repeat, but they’re clearly intended to be hurtful and she knows they’re hurtful… she waits until adults aren’t around.  She waits until the adults that she knows will chastize her because she’s bullying those children.  When my eldest is outside with her sisters keeping an eye on them, Veruca sasses her and is fresh.  Again making sure that no adult is present when it happens and tries to act innocent and as if she was misunderstood when she gets caught and overheard by an adult.  She offers to let Sweet Girl ride her scooter and then shoves her off of it.  She pushes Sweet Girl off of my other daughter’s bike.  She insinuates that she thinks Sweet Girl is dumb and stupid.  She has asked me what’s wrong with Sweet Girl, why is she behaving “wrong.”  She’ll ask my youngest to come out to play or come over when she sees her, and then when my friend’s daughter comes outside she’ll just run off and leave or say, “I don’t really want to play with you.  G is outside now.”

Luckily my other daughters stick up for Sweet Girl and tell Veruca she’s out of line and it needs to stop.  If my daughters get fed up enough to tell her straight out, “You’re being mean and I don’t feel like playing with you.  If you don’t leave I’m going in the house,” or “you haven’t been treating me nicely when we play, and you’re not nice to my sister, so I’m not going to play with you,” or when she knocks on the door tell her, “No, I’m not coming outside with you.  I don’t feel like playing with you any more,” she runs home to tell her mother how mean my girls are.

AND YET not once has her mother come to my door to find out why this happens, why my daughters tell her they don’t want to play with her, or anything.  She never comes banging on my door to tell me how mean my girls are for, well, anything.  Why not? Your daughter is upset with mine, don’t you care? You wave to me every day and expect me to watch your child at the bus stop when I help my friend and watch her child at the bus stop, but you won’t come to my house to find out why your daughter is upset?

So the situation with my friend.  Since I’ve been responsible for helping her get her daughter on the bus before my own girls’ bus comes, I’ve been able to witness up close some inappropriate behavior.  I’ve witnessed her outright say rude and mean things to my friend’s daughter… just vicious things… and saw that sweet little girl’s face crumble at hearing someone who was supposed to be her friend say vile things.  Namecalling.  Commenting on her appearance and her hair.  Calling her ugly.  Commenting on whatever she thinks will land a torpedo.  I called her out immediately telling her how inappropriate and mean it was, and how hurtful she was being to my friend’s daughter.  Instead of apologizing she first said that she had NOT said anything, that I heard wrong.  I corrected that business right away.  She then said that I misunderstood and she was joking, and as an adult I should have realized she was joking.  I told her that you never say cruel things like that even as a joke.  This happened three times on separate occasions and I finally told her that if it didn’t stop I’d be telling my friend.

From then on, she has made sure not to do it in my presence but she does do it.  Yesterday all of the girls were in my friend’s pool.  When my friend briefly went in the house, Veruca told my friend’s daughter to look under the water with her goggles and then full fledged mooned her.  She also flashed her privates.  Ok, kids may be kids but my friend’s daughter was upset and told my daughter, knowing my daughter would tell me.  She’s afraid of retaliation.  I found out last night and since you don’t really text this sort of thing, I told my friend face to face after work.  I introduced it as “this is my experience” and “my daughters had the choice to play with her but a situation at your house yesterday has escalated it to my daughters no longer being allowed to be around her and here’s why.”  I told her about how just minutes earlier when I was waiting for her to come out of the house, Veruca invited my daughters into the pool to play with them, and I said no to her.  Three times.  At the same time we said, “Obviously my/your girls don’t need an invitation because it’s open invitation even when we/you aren’t home but…” the fact was that this girl made the invitation when she had no idea if it was ok and it wasn’t her pool to begin with.

I then found out that she and her husband are aware of the inappropriate behavior and they’ve witnessed a lot too.  They’ve been debating cutting off play time with their daughter but they didn’t know about the bus stop incidents I mentioned.  We compared notes and some of the things I heard… curls my toes.  Most of what we compared matched.

We witnessed some gutsy behavior right then and there.  Some of what we already discussed about both Veruca and one of her little brothers.  Later when I walked home, their mother was only just coming outside wondering where her son was not even knowing Veruca had gone to get him and put floaties on him and tried to sneak him into the pool.  We had mutual concerns as to why we let things go on so long… we each didn’t know the full extent of the ridiculousness.  I know I’m being vague, but trust me, there are some issues.

I found out bullies other kids on the bus and in school and is in constant trouble for it.  My daughters were feeling like they were being targeting specifically, not knowing that they weren’t really “special” and Veruca essentially behaves this way all the time.  In fact, she’s worse when she’s not around my girls and my friend’s daughter.  Veruca doesn’t have many, if any, friends at school because she’s known as a bully and the children are either afraid of her or don’t like her.  My friend’s daughter and until yesterday, my daughters, have been her only playmates… her longest running playmates… because our daughters and we moms felt bad for her.  We also feel bad that there aren’t more young girls on our street for them to play with.  Not any more.  My friend stated that she’s going to tell her husband, and he’s going to say it’s the last straw and they’re going to do what he wanted to do since the first month the girl’s family moved in: not allowed to play with Veruca.  I’ll be honest now… I felt within the first two meetings that this is how it would turn out and debated pulling the plug right away.  I wanted to give her a chance and teach my daughters the value of giving someone the chance, of second chances, and prayed that Veruca would take those chances.  I hoped that if she was told directly enough times, and if when she was nice the reward was being played with, she would change her behavior and attitude.

I’m really sad that didn’t happen.  I’m proud of my girls.  I’m sad that they put up with it so long, but I think we all felt trapped having her live across the street and banging on our door constantly.  And we really are the type to give everyone a chance or six and the benefit of the doubt.  Until my girls get hurt.  Until my friends’ children get hurt.  Then I feel guilty that I let it go on so long.

I love my friend and her family, and I love her daughter.  My daughters and my husband love their family and especially their daughter.  It had to be done, and I know if it were my daughters, I would need to know so I could make an informed decision.  I feel bad for Veruca because I think that there’s a lapse in parenting and discipline that tells her that her parents care. My daughters have viewed this all along as a teaching moment, thankfully, and knew that I was open to them saying they never wanted to play with Veruca ever again.  I took the burden away.  They were relieved to finally have the fallback of, “We’re not allowed to hang out with you/spend time with you/play with you.  It’s time for you to leave.”  They have scripts in place for whatever her responses may be.  I’ve told them that first time or two she comes banging on the door, I’ll handle it if they feel too nervous to handle it because after all, I’m the mom.

I think they’ve all handled themselves really well so far.  I’m raising some great little self-advocates.  And I’m sad that Veruca turns out to be Sweet Girl’s first bully and whenever it happens I’m not there.  Never again.

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Severe Autism to the merest touch of Autism ie. Broad Autism Phenotype

Severe Autism to the merest touch of Autism ie. Broad Autism Phenotype

I’ve never kept it a secret from my daughter that she has Autism.  When she cried because “her brain doesn’t work the way she wants it to” sometimes; when she started to notice that some things are easier for her sisters and cousins and friends than for her; when she started to notice that her little sister was taking on a care-taking role with her very early on and was reaching many milestones at the same time or earlier; when she noticed that not all of the children in her classes required pull out time or a paraprofessional (she prefers the term teacher’s aid)… I didn’t hide the reason why.  Even from a young age she was begging me for answers; even when she had trouble formulating sentences, she needed to know why.

I have always presented it in a very positive way for her in spite of her difficulties.  I have explained why there are certain foods she shouldn’t have (it’s easier for her to think and concentrate and makes her feelings feel better).  I have explained that her Autism helps her think differently and creatively, and that there are very wonderful ways of thinking and very wonderful ideas that she has that I never would have imagined because my brain is “only typical” compared to hers.  I let her watch the movie Temple Grandin.  She connected with it.

We have more good days than bad, lately, but I think it’s because I don’t hyperfocus on what she can’t do anymore.  I fully accept her Autism, which means I accept HER.  She used to tell me that she hated her brain and her Autism and wanted to be just like her sisters and friends but now? She wants to be herself.  I saw her the night before school at the school picnic and a gaggle of her classmates came in.  This huge group of 5th grade girls saw Gracie and they all squealed, “GRACIE! YOU’RE HERE!”  She smiled and waved and said hi to them in her sweet, gentle way and I couldn’t help but get teary eyed.  The girls surrounded her and they all took turns asking her permission for a hug, telling her they missed her.  She actually gave them all permission for hugs.  She was in her glory.

Oh fluff, I’m crying right now retelling that story.

Don’t get wrong here.  We have some really bad moments.  Thankfully some of the “bad” times are just momentary and I’m thankful.  She’s having an easier time lately getting herself under control.  I think it scares her when she can’t control it.  We have bad half days.  We have bad days.  Weeks.  Months.  But my darling girl… she accepts herself and knowing what’s going on in her own brain helps her self-correct.  She knows to accept help when I offer… and I know to back off if she refuses.  She has learned to figure out her own warning signs and ask for help in holding them off.  She asks to help satisfy her sensory diet.  I was never sure she would get to that point.

She is accepting of herself, and realizes that her Autism is part of what makes her such a special young lady.  Being autistic is just like saying her hair is blonde, her eyes are blue, she loves strawberries, and she’s lactose intolerant.  If only others were so accepting and unafraid.  When the majority of autistics are not severe, when the spectrum is so wide that the majority isn’t even noticeable enough to require diagnosis, I wonder why so many are fearful and hateful and choose to remain uneducated.

I see her and other children she’s grown up around in school that have Autism and I see little people.  Future artists and engineers and technicians and actors.  I see the gift that they are.  I don’t see brain injuries  nor a disease because they’re not injured or diseased.  They are gifts.  They are treasures.  They have a disorder because they think differently in a world where most people don’t think the same way they do.  Oh well.  We can’t make the world change for them, but we can’t expect them to change for the world either.  Instead, I choose to prepare my daughter to cope with that world without having to change who she is.

It took me a long, long time to view my daughter’s Classic Autism, high functioning as it may be for her (and let’s face it, our family unit), as a gift.  It was difficult to see an end to the days that were endless struggles over everything.  I mean… everything.  When she didn’t know what was wrong and I didn’t know how to fix it.  Then I stopped looking for “why” it happened and I stopped asking God.  His answer to me was, “Why not.”  I had to be the mother she needs, and not the mother I wanted to be.   I’m a control freak and I had to let go.  I had to accept that things can be untidy and still turn out all right.  I had to trust in “not knowing” and even though I still worry and control what I can, it’s getting a little easier to let go.

Let go and let God.  But also, let Gracie.

And then today, I stumbled on this and it made me cry.  A young woman attending college and happens to have Autism.

My name is Shaina Barnett. I am 22 years old and a student at a community college in my area with high-functioning autism. I was diagnosed when I was only a toddler, in 1994. The funny thing was, I wasn’t truly aware of being different until I started asking myself why I could not somehow click into the crowd of kids in my classes. I was about 8 years old or so when my mother gave me the talk of autism. She said it was a gift I was given from God and with it, if used correctly, I can do wonders, move mountains, maybe even change the world. Of course, at the time I did not believe her. I just wanted to be able to play with the other children and share their experiences without being ridiculed or told of my faults. Middle school was such a nightmare. Other students knew I was different, but they used it as a weapon to break me. They pulled cruel pranks on me and called me hurtful names. Being a teenager at the time is hard enough, even without having autism. My safe haven was drawing comics, writing stories and poetry, and singing. Years went by and I felt I began to grow and blossom into a young lady. But I could not have done it without my high school mentor who was also my beloved homeroom teacher. We still remain very close. Being in and out of social skills programs gave me tools to be able to talk among my peers, however, I advanced past the expected curriculum. When I attended a Jewish summer camp, it greatly build my self-esteem and helped me grow to be the adult I am. I’m proud to have such positive experiences. I thank my superhero of a mom for being my support and my rock. She was right all along. I don’t think of my autism as a curse; if anything, it is my superpower, a power that not even DC Comics or Stan Lee could come up with. I have been BLESSED.

Shaina Barnett
Van Nuys, CA

SOURCE:  Autism: The Unexpected Journey (click here)

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Today, I’m truly grateful for…

  1. My daughters.
  2. My husband.
  3. My friends, even when it’s been a while since speaking.
  4. My family, including my in-laws.
  5. My lovely goddaughter.
  6. A roof over my head.
  7. Warm blankets.
  8. Heat in my home.
  9. Hot coffee.
  10. Cats to snuggle with.
  11. Antibiotics.
  12. Coworkers that I enjoy and respect.
  13. A job that I enjoy.
  14. Ricola.
  15. Whoever thought of body brushing.
  16. Whatever the “Plus” is in Puff’s Plus
  17. My husband having hooked up the water to the filter thingie in the refrigerator and we get cold water from the fridge by pushing a button.  Who knew a simple pleasure could make so much of a difference?
  18. The girls still enjoying their Christmas gifts and old toys alike.
  19. Being a grown-up and getting to decide what will worry me and what won’t.
  20. My android phone. How did I manage for so long without one?
  21. Icy melt.
  22. Delicious vegetarian recipes.
  23. How much better I’ve felt since eating vegetarian.
  24. My daughters’ teachers.
  25. Being able to kiss and hug my daughters every morning when they wake and every night when they go to bed.
  26. Watching my daughters play together on a snowy day.
  27. Fuzzy slippers.
  28. Door to door delivery service from the internet.
  29. Pretty nail polish.

 

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There’s a catch in my throat that won’t go away.  It’s as if my body is currently set to the default of Ready To Cry.  I laugh a little more loudly than I should at things that are funny… or are trying to be funny.  I laugh at every silly thing my daughters say and do, even if it annoyed me before Friday.  Laughter sounds and feels strange to me, right now.  It feels out of place.  It feels wrong.

Today it’s a drizzly, freezing cold day.  It actually feels like the weary world is weeping to remind us to slow down for a while.

At the same time, I know that for my children I need to keep my smile.  I can’t hide it or be stingy with it.  I can’t jealously guard my children and tuck them away from the world.  I can’t let my anxiety get the best of me.  I need to show them that even if we don’t feel especially happy right now, we can still feel joy and anticipate happiness in the near future again.  Maybe even now.  But then again, I have that luxury.  I can pick up my eldest daughter from school and get my other two daughters off the bus.  There’s no one to tell me that I can’t take them home ever again.

As a human being, Sandy Hook weighs heavily on my heart.

As a mother to a seven year old, Sandy Hook has decimated my heart.

All too easily, I can imagine being a Mother of Sandy Hook.  The children there are children of Connecticut… of the nation.  The women who gave their lives that day are heroes, every single one of them.  They gave their lives for every child that attended their school, giving them precious moments to try to get away.  Those women could easily have been my own daughters’ teachers, who show my children care and love and compassion every single day.

And so as I sit here this evening, writing this entry after a very somber work day, I watch my children watching TV with their dad.  I watch one of my daughters putting together a new game she received as a Christmas gift over the weekend.  They should all be doing homework.  I should be on top of them, nagging their butts to get going and finish so that they have the entire night after supper to relax.  To be honest, I won’t feel guilty if they don’t finish it tonight.  I’ll feel guilty if I force it by going into bitch mode.   At the Christmas party over the weekend, I didn’t make sure that they ate a good supper before filling up on cupcakes, chocolate, cookies, and chips.  For breakfast yesterday I let them have reindeer ornament “pops” that we made (look it up on Youtube or Pinterest; marshmallows, chocolate, pretzels).

Don’t worry.  The sugary part of my current parenting won’t last the week.   Okay, fine, and neither will the “not forcing the homework” part.  I’ll make sure that I half-heartedly encourage them to do it tonight.  And tomorrow.  But I won’t enjoy it.  For now, I’m going to parent irresponsibly.

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Like thousands and thousands of other parents today, I did something this morning that couldn’t be done… had to be done.  Something that I’m feeling immense guilt over.  Something that’s giving me throat-choking, gut-wrenching anxiety:

I dropped my eldest daughter off at school and allowed my two younger daughters to get on their buses.

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Empathy

Empathy (Photo credit: TonZ)

One thing we’ve had some issues with regarding Autism is the issue of empathy.  In this instance, I’m not talking about other people trying to empathize with my daughter, but my daughter empathizing with others.  It’s not only been difficult for her to understand the phrase, “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes” since it’s a saying and she just doesn’t like sayings… but it’s actually difficult for her put herself in someone else’s shoes.  She fully expects for you to try to understand her and even read her mind sometimes, but the expectation doesn’t go both ways.

It’s part of the reason that she has trouble predicting how current behavior will affect future events in books and in real life.

Yesterday morning had a slow start, but she did really well once she got involved in the routine, as has been more typical lately.  During our wait for her bus, she discovered that her older sister broke a doll belonging to her younger sister and that distressed her a lot.  She’s very upset at the thought of Anneliese being upset over this particular broken doll.  It made me choke up to see her being so compassionate and empathetic, especially predicting how her sister would react and feel at finding out disappointing/upsetting news.  It made me think that the work her teachers have been doing with her on storytelling is really sinking in.  The way we’ve been working with her at home and trying to have to her think situations through and think ahead… teaching her empathy… we’re not always sure that it’s clicking.  Yesterday was some significant proof that it is.  She’s thinking ahead to how things will affect people and that’s very, very new.  I’m very proud of her.  It’s more than in just simplistic, basic ways too.  She was explaining to me in detail why it would be upsetting to her sister and therefore to her! It was clearly difficult for her to explain to me, since when she gets upset she tends to verbally shut down.  It was therefore a huge step in two areas.

She was so emphatic about it that she was crying.  She brought me to tears over how emotional she was for her sister’s sake.  Man, I love this girl.

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Pumpkin Muffins With Streusel Topping

Pumpkin Muffins With Streusel Topping

This morning was a rough morning.  We usually stretch out the summer skirts for The Girl as long as possible since she loves wearing them so much.  This year seems cooler sooner than the last couple of years, so we’re transitioning her a little sooner into pants.  She’s not happy.  Part of the bribery process was telling her I would make something with the can of pumpkin that I bought for her a few days ago.  She kept asking for Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies but the chips have milk in them, so I kept trying to get her to choose a pumpkin recipe.  For pants? She wants chocolate.  I told her that if she can wear pants every single day this week without having a meltdown then I’ll make her a batch of Tollhouse on Saturday.

I was going to research a pumpkin recipe after the girls got home from school so that she could help me find something and expected her to ask for the Libby’s Iced Pumpkin Cookies, but I got a call from the pediatrician asking why I didn’t bring the two youngers in for their flu shots yesterday.  Oops.

If you ever read my entry from last year’s flu shot drama, you’ll understand why I enlisted help from my husband this year.  It still wasn’t pleasant but at least I had some muscle with me this time for The Girl.  The  Eldest already had hers last week at her physical, and The Youngest took hers like a champ.  It was Meltdown City for The Girl, however, and she was the Meltdown Mayor.  It still wasn’t as bad as last year.  I think it’ll be difficult to ever top last year.

When it was over, he sort of looked like a dear in the headlights.  He sat in the car, looking a little stunned to me.  I chattered on and on about how well it went and how good the girls were.  The Eldest and The Youngest commented on how that was the easiest, least dramatic year ever.  Again… stunned.

When we got home, The Girl decided on pumpkin muffins and I found the best recipe ever.  She ate three already, maybe four.  The recipe made 24, for crying out loud.  I think that’s a pretty good reward for being so good (relatively speaking).  I mean, this year I came away without any bruises from the event.  That’s a win.  No one bled profusely.  That’s a win too.  Only one child cried.  Another win.  The child that cried is still talking to me.  All around win.

The Best Pumpkin Muffin Recipe EverPumpkin Muffins with Streusel Topping

Submitted By: BRETTNSHARA
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Ready In: 55 Minutes
Servings: 18 (actually it’s 24)
“Moist and hearty pumpkin-oat muffins are topped with a brown sugar and oat streusel perfect for a quick breakfast or a holiday brunch.”
INGREDIENTS:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil (replaced with 10 tsp melted butter with excellent results)
1/2 cup applesauce
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup raisins (optional)

Topping (double this or you’ll be short):
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons rolled oats
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease or line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.
2. Combine 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup oats, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Whisk pumpkin puree, 1 cup brown sugar, white sugar, vegetable oil, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla extract together in a separate large bowl. Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture; mix well. Fold in raisins.
3. Beat 1/4 cup brown sugar with butter in a bowl until creamy and smooth. Whisk 2 tablespoons oats and 2 tablespoons flour, using a fork, into sugar-butter mixture until streusel topping is crumbly.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Sprinkle each muffin with streusel topping.
5. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2012 Allrecipes.com Printed from Allrecipes.com 10/9/2012

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From left to right: Apple, Kiwi, Lemon, Banana...

Apple, Kiwi, Lemon, Bananas, Annoying Orange, and Pear. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was driving with Anneliese (7 years old) and Gracie in the car after dropping the eldest girl off at middle school and were on the way back home to get them onto the bus.  Out of nowhere, Anneliese deadpans:

“Sometimes people are just too nice.  It’s so annoying.”

“What do you mean?”

“Nice people annoy me.  You know, when people are ‘tooooooo niiiiice?’ That’s annoying.  It makes me want to slap them and then walk away.” *~*

“Why would you say that?”

“Boys.  All the boys that like me are SO NICE TO ME it’s annoying.  They’re mean and rude and silly until they decide they’re in love with me and then they’re so nice it’s annoying.”

::after picking my jaw up from the floor in my head:: “Would you rather they pull your hair? ‘Oh hey, I like you so I’m going to punch you in the face and get your attention that way! Maybe you’ll punch me in the stomach and that’ll mean you like me too!’ Is that what you want? Or is this better… ‘Oh Anna, I love you so I’m going to stop trying to yank your skirt and give you chocolate instead! I won’t hurt you anymore, I’ll just try to make your butt fat! But that’s okay, I’ll love you whether you’re fat or skinny!”

She collapsed into giggles, and kept asking me to play both sides of the annoying-nice/loving-nice fence.  I foresee very bad teen and college dating years.  She’s going to go after the bad boys, isn’t she?

 

 

*~*DISCLAIMER: The Mister and I do not go around slapping people, each other, or our children.  We don’t go around saying people are “too nice” and emphasize that people should be nice to each other and discourage violence.  Just sayin’.  ;-)

 

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EEG of brain; via childrenshospitalblog.org

This could be the Mama Bear coming out in me (gosh, it really must be because I HATE the term Mama Bear), but this so-called experiment and drug GRN-529 (article pressed below with link) that supposedly reduces autistic symptoms in mice rubs me completely the wrong way. The article is very careful to refrain from calling  GRN-529  a cure and to state that it’s treating…  no wait… REVERSING symptoms of autism, such as making the mice more sociable and minimizing obsessive-compulsive behaviors.  But tagging it as a drug that specifically reduces ASD symptoms… especially when those qualities are present in so many other different disorders and are so often simply personality quirks in people… it bothers me as a whole.

Of course there’s the whole “messing with the synapses and neurotransmitters of the brain” thing.  Considering these mice weren’t actually given autism, since that’s impossible, but that they were manually given symptoms that’s one of my reservations with this experiment.  I also have issues with the mice being inbred on top of their manufactured “symptoms.”  Maybe that’s a mountain out of a molehill, and I can’t quite articulate right now why that one bothers me so very much, but it does.  I think it’s also a bit disingenuous to claim that it’s not trying to cure ASD when it’s attempting to target the neurotransmitters the way that they would.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not against medications when they’re warranted.  I’m not against researching Autism Spectrum Disorders and all of the surrounding issues.  I think part of what’s bothering me is that the more I learn, the more it seems to me that ASD is a collection of neurological differences and disorders.  I believe that at its core, ASD is genetically based and ASD’s affect a wide array of neurological issues.

The behaviors can be so very difficult to deal with as a family, as a parent, and especially the child who becomes a teen and later an adult.  The destructive behaviors in high functioning individuals should be approached on an individual basis.  I worry, I think, that a drug like GRN-529 might end up being something that is “pushed” much the way ADHD medications are pushed for highly active and spirited children that aren’t actually ADHD.  Don’t like the symptom? Drug it up even if it’s not therapeutic.  Let’s make everyone else’s lives easier.  That might sound contradictory coming from me, since we have Gracie (my darling 3rd grader who has Autism) on a low dose of an ADD medication along with her seizure medication.  She’s able to concentrate and work at school.  She’s been better able to follow directions.  In her own way she has commented on her improved ability to focus, and that she likes that feeling.  She has less anxiety while at school because of it.  She has less anxiety about bed time than she used to (granted it’s still there, but not like before).  We’re also in the decision-making process for our eldest daughter regarding her ADHD.  It’s not easy making these decisions and figuring out if what we’re considering tips the scales in “we’re doing this for her and not for us” favor.

This particular bit of mouse research feels a bit misdirected.  I know that the research itself is much more complicated than the article is laying it out to be, but ASD is so much  more than that area of the brain.  It’s so much more than OCD and social awkwardness.  So maybe my feeling is that this bit of research is missing the point more than anything else.

Or maybe I’m over-reacting or misunderstanding or being overly critical or (gasp) all three.

Experimental drug reduces autism symptoms in mice, gov’t study shows – HealthPop – CBS News.

April 26, 2012 1:13 PM
Experimental drug reduces autism symptoms in mice, gov’t study shows

(CBS News) Autism affects one out of every 88 American children and while there are available treatments for early intervention, there is no cure. A new government-funded study has found an experimental treatment is effective at reversing symptoms of autism in mice.

For the study, published in the April 25 issue of Science and Translational Medicine, researchers from the National Institutes of Health bred a strain of mice to display autism-like behaviors. Similar to how children with autism have social deficits and engage in repetitive behaviors, these mice did not interact and communicate with each other and spent an inordinate amount of time engaging in repetitive behavior – in this case self-grooming.

Cue the experimental drug called GRN-529. The drug was designed to inhibit a type of brain cell receptor that receives the neurotransmitter glutamate. Glutamate is typically involved in learning and memory processes and stimulates other areas of the brain and nervous system.

When mice with the autism-like behaviors were injected with the experimental compound, they reduced the frequency of their repetitive self-grooming and spent more time around strange mice, even sniffing them nose to nose. When tested on a different strain of mice, the experimental compound stopped all repetitive jumping behavior.

“These new results in mice support NIMH-funded research in humans to create treatments for the core symptoms of autism,” Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said in a statement. “While autism has been often considered only as a disability in need of rehabilitation, we can now address autism as a disorder responding to biomedical treatments.”

The researchers said although most mouse brain findings often don’t translate to humans, the fact that these compounds are already being tested for an overlapping condition strengthens the case for the drug’s effectiveness. This class of compounds is currently being studied in patients with the genetic disease Fragile X syndrome, the most common inherited form of intellectual disability. About one third of patients with Fragile X syndrome also meet criteria for autism.

“These inbred strains of mice are similar, behaviorally, to individuals with autism for whom the responsible genetic factors are unknown, which accounts for about three fourths of people with the disorders,” noted study author Dr. Jacqueline Crawley of the NIMH. “Given the high costs – monetary and emotional – to families, schools, and health care systems, we are hopeful that this line of studies may help meet the need for medications that treat core symptoms.”

Some experts exercised caution with the new findings. In an accompanying editorial in the same journal issue, Baltazar Gomez-Mancilla, executive director of translational medicine neuroscience at Novartis, wrote, “It is too early to speculate as to whether or not autism spectrum disorders can be reversed by small molecules.”

Dr. Uta Frith, a professor of cognitive development at University College London, told BBC News that neurotransmitter problems have long been suspected as an origin of autism, “However, it will be a long time until these findings can be translated for human patients. Tampering with the synapse may well result in undesirable side effects,” he said.

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