Friday, December 31, 2010

A First

I had no intentions of posting any recipes in my blog. I'm not a recipe type of person so naturally this isn't really a recipe type of blog. But demands have been made, so after 124 posts I am finally posting a recipe.

Debbie's grandma used to make shortbread chocolate chip cookies and Debbie suddenly missed the cookies and wanted to try making them. They were really good and are now really gone! (At least they would have been if not for the batch she made tonight!)

So without further ado, enjoy the recipe. (And come on over if you want some of the finished product.)

Shortbread Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, then stir in the walnuts and chocolate chips.
3. Roll or scoop dough into walnut sized balls. Place them on unprepared cookie sheets 1 1/2 inches apart. Flatten cookies slightly. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove from sheets to cool on racks.

Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter (no substitutes)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate
1. Melt butter in a microwave or double boiler; stir in vanilla. Cool completely. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar; stir in butter mixture and chocolate chips (mixture will be crumbly).
2. Shape into 1-in. balls. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets; flatten slightly. Bake at 375 degrees F for 12 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool on wire racks.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Trying to Recover

First there were visions of sugarplums,
Then there was a quick message about the nativity.
Yeah, those are bows on the candies and on the vase of ornaments. We decorate just about everything around here. Then there was a flurry of paper, bows, ribbon and toys. Looking back I remember smiles and a huge mess. The presents ended up in one area while a hug pile of the leftovers were left in the corner. Months of shopping, planning, hiding, wrapping and anticipating ended in a few moments of feverish tearing and to to the cheers of, "More presents!"
Luckily for these two spoiled children the gift giving ceremonies were only getting started. They still had trip to grandma and grandpa's where they would be spoiled by aunts, uncles and cousins alike.

The end result? A home that has more toys, books, movies and clothes than spaces to hold it all! Not to mention two little boys who can't go an inch without finding something to play with, climb in, read or wear!

They've even had time to reinvent the Nativity scene.

Thanks Santa!

And everyone else for making Christmas so much fun!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

We're Back

Another pilgrimage to Disneyland is completed. This time our group was eleven members strong. That's right. We walked around Disneyland with two strollers, one electric wheelchair and eight people on feet. As you can imagine getting around as a group was an experience.
I'll spare you all the gory details of our trip and just discuss a few highlights/low lights.
Avi's tantrums are reaching epic proportions. The first few days he was so agitated at not being able to use the bathroom when he wanted (he still had major anxiety about public bathrooms) and not eating the foods he was used to. Also, it was a little bit cool there so he wasn't very comfortable. The first two nights he had major meltdowns and abruptly ended our nights. The third day Avi peed in a Disneyland potty twice. He was so much more comfortable that we were able to stay in the park as late as we wanted. Then the fourth night he used the potty the whole day. We lost count of how many times he used it! He lasted the whole night long and was so comfortable he was actually able to enjoy the parades, the rides and especially the company of his cousins. Going potty in a public bathroom opened up so many doors for Avi and we couldn't be more proud of him!

Itai wasn't interested in the potty. He was very interested in the magic of Disneyland. He loved the rides. After Pirates of the Caribbean he said he wanted to be a pirate. He loved seeing Buzz Lightyear and begged to give him a hug. Most of all he liked seeing Lightning McQueen. As he passed us on the parade route Itai's eyes lit up and a HUGE smile broke on his face. He reached for "McQueen" and wanted to hug him. It was so cute! He also loved spending time with his cousins. As we walked home one night he started saying, "More cousins! More cousins, now!"
Other than those things we had rode the rides, ate the food, wore ourselves out and had fun.
Most of these pictures were taken by our niece/cousin Amber. Thanks Amber!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

More Potty Talk

What a busy couple of weeks it has been! Aside from all of the usual appointments, classes, work and play schedule I've had to make room for an old friend who came back to visit: insomnia. I have been having trouble staying asleep lately, but I'm not alone. Either Avi or Itai are often up to help avoid any loneliness I might feel in the middle of the night.

Oh melatonin, why have you lost your power?

Aside from their new night shift the boys have been working on some pretty exciting things.

Avi was given a "social story" book from school. Social stories are very simple stories that are frequently used with children on the autism spectrum to help them know what to anticipate in new situations, overcome anxieties about difficult situations they are familiar with or to help them connect a story to something they enjoy. Avi's story was designed to help him overcome his toilet anxieties. We are meant to add pictures of "novel" toilets (toilets he doesn't use every day) to help him understand he can use the restroom in a variety of places and he can even use it to "do number 2." (You never know when a squeamish reader will stumble upon this.)

Little did the teachers know that Avi had already had success in pooping on the potty at home. Debbie put him down and told him to do it not knowing what to expect and suddenly he had done it. After that he's had more and more success. It makes him so happy and proud every time. He jumps up and down, claps for himself and draws our attention to it. He's still had a few accidents along the way but this is such a HUGE step for him...and us. I'm not kidding even a little when I say my quality of life improved a great deal with even his first success.
Other than that he continues to progress in his school program. He's working really hard and we couldn't be more pleased with his efforts. He's still happy and wiggly, but he's learning to set the energy aside until a more appropriate time.

Itai, not to be outdone is having his own potty success. Last week as we left church I carried him past the restroom. He insisted that I take him to the potty. As soon as he got to the potty he was peeing. He's doing great at it. His biggest obstacle is his stubbornness. He loves using the potty as long as it's his idea. If we suggest it he can get quite irritable about it.

He's also quite the little talker. This week he's learned some new works and phrases. His newest one is, "I don't know." He also introduced, "Give pencil back!" "Avi did it!" and "Not ____" He fills the blank in with whatever he wants to argue about. Right now he's arguing that one of his race cars is not a race car, just a car. Ok. It's just a car with a cockpit for one, aerodynamic design, racing stripes and a huge spoiler.
Itai has also decided that following Avi's every footstep is the greatest pastime ever. Avi really hates it, but he's found a new activity. Toys! He is finally looking with and playing (kind of appropriately) with age appropriate toys.

What cool kids!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Life on this Side

On the recommendation of a friend I finally got around to reading "Just This Side of Normal: Glimpses into Life with Autism" by Elizabeth King Gerlach. This book is a brief description of life with her son, Nicky. At just over 140 pages with large print it is a very easy read. The read becomes even easier thanks to her straight forward and heartfelt writing style.

From the very beginning of the book I was in. I love her constant desire to find a connection between autism and everyday life. Her son loves to spin and she describes the looks of derision that result from his constant twirling, but she says she finds comfort in the thought that the whole world is spinning. The spinning of the Earth means that everything we do, we do spinning.

I feel very strongly about the narrative of autism that is being created in the media. Books in large measure are written to describe one extreme or the other. People with autism are being portrayed as either "savants" or "savages." These descriptions only serve to further the stigma of autism. Instead of humanizing people with autism they alienate them. This isn't to minimize the savant or their experience, but I think it is important that every aspect of the person should be explored, not only the extraordinary, but the mundane as well. This book does a great job of striking a balance between her son's savant-like abilities, his extreme rigidity and yes, even his "typical" characteristics.

I was pleasantly surprised to find many of the author's thoughts so closely reflected my own. One quote in particular made me want to stand and shout, "Amen!" Describing reactions to her son's disability she says, "Society views disability as a 'tragedy.' In fact, the greater tragedy is society's larger and erroneous view that their is such a state as 'normal.' This view, in itself, sometimes feels like a greater burden than the disability." Beautiful. Simple. Absolutely how I feel.

This book meanders and wanders from story to story, experience to experience leaving you, at times, to wonder if it getting anywhere. In this it is truly a "glimpse into life with autism." Life with autism frequently seems to go from one experience to another leaving you to wonder if you are getting anywhere.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It is a very honest and simple look at life with autism, with no agendas or hook. Please, borrow this book from me. No, seriously read this one!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat!

Halloween may have come and gone (even if it is still Halloween), but the requests for candy may never end. The pumpkin candy buckets are still being carried around and Itai is still sporting his wings around saying, "Fly!"

Somehow Halloween stretched to three days of celebration. First, we decided to carve our pumpkins. I knew that the inside of the pumpkin would be an unwelcome sensation for Avi, but I thought we could just try. It turns out that Itai and I didn't like it that much either. Why don't I ever think about these things? Oh well, next year we'll have paint available. Either way, Debbie wasn't interested in carving so it was just the manly men and the pumpkins. Avi decided quickly that he too did not want to do it. He came back every once in a while to chew on the pumpkin guts (yuck!) and to poke at the pumpkin with the little tool we bought. Itai stayed to use the shovel to scoop out the insides and to put the lids on and off over and over. All I can say is that I'm glad that's over with! :)
Next up was Avi's school's "Fall Parade." Why can't they call it Halloween? Who knows? Anyway, Avi got to wear his costume, parade around in the gym and then go back to his class for a party. I was lucky enough to volunteer at his school that day so I got to help the kids get ready for the party. They were definitely ready for the party. The energy in the room was very high and when they finally got to put their costumes on everyone was ready to show them off. Avi's class had a Thomas the Tank Engine, a Raggedy Andy, one very excited Ironman complete with a light up chest, Batman, a doctor, Frankenstein, a vampire and of course, Woody.
The parade was a sensory filled experience with really loud music, extra clothes, a gym full of people taking pictures and of course, the constant promise of candy. Luckily for the kids, the parade ended quickly and the parties began after a quick trick or treating tour.

The kids played games and did crafts then they got to the best part: eating!

Itai's Fall parade was much shorter. They got dressed up, had a parade combined with trick or treating and that was it. Itai realized very quickly that he liked this very much. He extended his baggie to anyone who he suspected of being in possession of candy.

Saturday we hit the road to do a trunk or treat at with Aileah, her parents and Aunt Sheri. Because of the rain we were moved into a very crowded gym. Itai's wings bumped every child in his path and Avi was bumped around by the throngs of children eager to fill their bags.

Having cleaned out the gym we hit the streets. Five houses into our trip the rain came back with a vengeance ending this year's candy hunt. Look out next year! Itai has a taste for Halloween and he will be back! :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Say What?

Having gotten fairly accustomed to having a child who is nearly nonverbal I never really thought I'd have on of these posts, but what do you know, he spoke! Itai is talking nearly nonstop now, so he's bound to say things to make me laugh. Oh and Debbie, she's said a thing or two as well.

So what did Avi say?

Well, after his surgery when he finally started eating again he bellied up to the table to enjoy some chocolate ice cream. He slowly started eating his ice cream. He was in obvious pain and discomfort. After eating a bit he suddenly said in a deep and scratchy voice, "Disneyland?" We promised him that we would go, but first he had to get better.

Of course, Itai has to have everything Avi has so we got Itai a bowl too. Itai climbed into his chair, looked into his bowl and said, "No." We asked what was wrong and he said, "Poopoo!" At first we thought he had a dirty diaper, nope. He pushed his bowl away and said, "No! Poopoo!" Eventually we were able to convince him it was ice cream, but he still didn't seem to want it.

Now it's Debbie's turn. There is a little boy in Avi's class who calls me daddy every time I go volunteer. One of the teachers could tell that I wasn't exactly comfortable with this so she helped him repeat my name several times. He still calls me daddy the first time he sees me, but then I ask him what my real name is. "Jared!" We saw him at the fun fair with his parents. His dad is about my height and his head is shaved. Debbie saw him, turned to me and said, "No wonder he calls you daddy; you look just like him!" Zing! Clearly his dad is extremely handsome.

Today Itai was playing downstairs while I was upstairs putting the laundry away. I had barely gotten to the top of the stairs when I heard him screaming at the top of his lungs. I came running down to find out what happened. He scrambled up into my arms and said, "Truck!" I asked if he hit his head on a truck. He said, "No! "Fraid! Fraid! Truck!" It seems the garbage truck made a loud banging sound when it picked up the dumpster. Itai wouldn't let go until he had seen the garbage truck and realized it wasn't crashing into the garage.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fun Fair!

Avi's school sent us a flyer announcing this year's Fun Fair. We weren't really sold on it until we saw these words, "Bounce Houses." Let me translate that for you, "Avi's Heaven on Earth." Ok, we had to go. There's nothing like adding extra fun to a really busy weekend, but a bounce house is something we couldn't forgive ourselves for missing.

We packed up and headed off to the fair. Other than Avi suddenly singing, "Saba, Saba" (Grandpa in Hebrew) when he thought we were heading there it was an uneventful ride. Who would have imagined the chaos that would ensue after this peaceful start?
When got to the school and didn't see any fair. We wondered if we weren't in the wrong place so Debbie went in to investigate. I parked the car and started to get the boys out. I had gotten both kids out when Debbie made her way back. She asked if I had locked the doors and I said no. I wondered to myself, "What was the reason I didn't lock the doors?" Oh well, on to the party!
Avi was in love! The school had rented out three huge bounce houses. Avi started in the dragon house. Itai saw it and said, "Dinosaur" and didn't want to climb in at all. We got to talk with one of Avi's teachers for a while. We found out that her nephew has autism and she'd volunteered at the school with him before he left the school. Now she's working there and she told us, "It's hard, but I go home rewarded every single day." It's truly nice to know the people to whom we've entrusted our son are good, kind people who really do care about him.

After Avi saw the inflatable slide he moved away from the dragon. Itai wanted to slide too, but the stairs were so steep that he couldn't manage. So the unfortunate slide had to deal with me pounding it as I climbed up the stairs and then went flying down the slide after Itai.

I would have liked to have had more pictures, but I was kinda busy going up and down with the other. . . er, with the children. But I was lucky enough not to have to pay to use the slide. A boy at the top was demanding money from each child to use the slide. When he asked me i told him I didn't have any. He said, "I'm the manager, but it's only pretend money." I told him I didn't have any money, but I was a pretend police officer. After that Itai and I had a free pass every time.

I was pretty tired from climbing and sliding over and over (Avi and Itai were not) so we decided to break for lunch. Itai was happily drinking his water, but Avi wanted his juice so we needed to get it from the car. That's when it dawned on me. The reason I hadn't locked the car was because the keys were still in there. Oops!
Can you see them there? It's kinda hard to see, but there they were taunting me.
I'll glaze over the horrible locksmith story and just say it's a really good thing that Avi's school has a great playground. Our little guys were so patient while we waited and waited.
Avi takes his play very seriously.Itai too. I guess they were all smiled out.
Finally the doors were open, we were in the car and on the road.

P.S. Avi had an appointment with a photographer today. She's doing an exhibit to raise awareness of autism. Keep posted for an update on when and where the exhibition will take place. Just don't hold your breath, it might be a year or so.
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