Yesterday’s field trip

Yesterday, Joey and I got brave and took Tony to Wal-Mart.  It has been quite a long time since we’ve taken him there on our own.  I seem to remember a time when he had an incredibly loud meltdown in the middle of Wal-Mart… it’s a vague memory. 

If I haven’t mentioned it, I have a “gift” of blocking out stressful memories — or maybe not blocking them out, but filing them away because my stress bucket gets full.  I like to think of it as a “gift”, because I’d be walking a fine line if I held on to all that stress.

I’m not a huge fan of Wal-Mart…. mostly because of their business practices and because of the harmful ingredients they market for their own line of products.  But you can’t deny their low prices on old movies, gluten free dry goods, and adult shoes with velcro.  —–    just my opinion.

We had talked about the field trip on one of our long car rides this past weekend.  I asked if he wanted to go look for shoes, since Beau had chewed his sandals and his shoes (much prevoked, I’m sure, by Tony).  So this morning he came into my office and said very quietly “Wal-Mart today?”  “New shoes?”  “I like headphones” (meaning that he could wear headphones to block out unpredictable noises).   I couldn’t say no.  He was using his manners, asking appropriate questions, and actually problem solving all at once.  Another breakthrough. 

Thank goodness for the headphones, because as we pulled up we saw major construction at the local Wal-Mart.  (heaven help me…)   We got out and chased after Tony as he ran excitedly into the store.  We found the shoes and he got a five dollar movie — Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Audrey Hepburn (his favorite classic).  I couldn’t resist.  Then he asked “Treat for Beau?”.  Again, he had me at his mercy.  I was so excited for the conversation – broken English or not. 

As we left the store he said “goodbye, friend!” to the greeter.  She smiled – obviously understanding our situation, as Tony had not one but two headsets on.  One small pair from his DVD player, and his big noise-cancelling headphones for school.  I had to laugh.  I didn’t see that as he got out of the car.  He was very prepared!

I asked Joey is anyone stared or if he was uncomfortable at all.  He said he didn’t care if anyone stared — he loves his brother.  Joey said he’d just say “My brother has autism.  What’s your problem?”   I decided that wasn’t very polite — especially for a 13 year old.  So I gave him some better words to use next time (just in case he ever needs them).  How about  “Hi.  My brother has autism.  Do you have any questions?”   Joey was okay with that. 

Another teachable moment.   For all of us. 




I was so proud of Tony this weekend!  My parent’s house was hit by straight-line winds (unconfirmed tornado) on Friday night and we spent the weekend helping them clean up the damage.  We had to drive back and forth both days (about 1 1/2 hours each direction).  We spent hours in the heat and humidity cleaning up the mess.  They still don’t have electricity.

What this means to Tony is:  CHANGE…  (and no TV, no videos or movies, and no air conditioning while the electricity is off)

Change is hard for anyone.  Change for someone with autism is extremely hard because it’s “unknown” or “unexpected” or better yet “unpredictable”.  And that causes stress.  Stress causes meltdowns.  Meltdowns can cause damage…  and the pattern continues.

He stayed occupied hanging out in the basement with a flashlight looking at old pictures and reading old books.  There was a lot of chaos.  A lot of people coming and going — and a lot of noise from the generator and the tree chopper/chipper (whatever you call it).  I was a little worried, but needed to be there to help out and to make sure my parents were coping with all their “change”.  It’s so hard to see big, old trees flattened by storms… trees with history… over 16 trees beautiful trees my Dad brought back from Ely, MN in the late 70’s — birch, northern pine, etc… and we’ve watched them grow through the years.  The good news is that no one was hurt.   The house was left untouched, except for some shingles and a twisted antenna.  The house, I’m sure, was protected by prayer.  Lots and lots of prayer.

Tony even got on the phone to talk to his Auntie Jess to tell her about it (and confirm a visit to their house – he’s been begging to go see them).  Remember, this is a new skill for him!  I was very proud of him to handle all the chaos and the incredible change it’s going to be every time we go down to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house.  I documented the storm damage in a book so he can see the changes – before and after – to help him process this permanent change to how Grandma and Grandpa’s house looks now.  

Maybe I should make one for the rest of us too.  We could all use a little help coping.   🙂


Six guidelines for living a fulfilling life

In his commencement address to St. Agnes High School’s class of 2010, teacher Fred Blonigen presented six guidelines to live by… below are excerpts from the address

1.  Be a person who knows how to say thank you, who knows how to be grateful

2.  Always realize that education is primarily and above all else a search for truth.

3.  Never lose your sense of wonder, for a childlike wonder and astonishment should be the normal human response to the world that surrounds us.

4.  Recognize the great importance of silence and take time each day to be enriched by the world of silence.

5.  Cherish the great gift of freedom, but understand what true freedom is.

6.  Do not be afraid to be religious.

(to read the entire speech, go to


One step forward, two steps back…

I have started writing this piece for over two weeks now…  let’s just say that summer is here and everything has changed.  It was a very tough transition.  Tony was doing fantastic towards the end of the school year.  We were all holding our breath and really thought that he’d end the year on a positive note.  

He attended my niece Elizabeth’s graduation party down at my parent’s house and had a fantastic weekend.  We were so proud of him!  He was very social, alert, aware and conversational.  It was a huge step forward — we were thrilled.                                                                                                          

 It was a great weekend.  

HOWEVER, when we got back home and back to school, it was another story.  He only had 4 days of school left and I kept wondering if we should just be done.  But every day was good, so we kept going… until that last day.  It was horrible.  Let’s just say that it involved the Crisis Team and unfortunately his Special Ed Teacher took the brunt of his anger.  Not the way I wanted it to end…  I felt horrible and Tony was so remorseful.  Although the remorse is a good thing, but the temper is a very bad thing that even Tony can’t control when his anxiety level is peaked.  That is the daily challenge we face – to help him learn to handle his anger and anxiety. 

So school ended and the summer began.  I’ve had to make certain that he has a schedule to follow and things to do.  I hired my niece, Kelly, to come over two days a week.  It’s been a God-send!  Kelly is so good with Tony.  He loves having her around.  It’s like he has a friend over to hang with — a peer.  It’s so fun watching them talk, and plan their day, and make homemade salsa after a trip to the farmer’s market.  Kelly works as a para during the school year, so she has a lot of experience with autism.  Plus, they grew up together.  Kelly has always been one of Tony’s favorites – and she’s always had a special way with him.   She’s fearless with him – and we love that.  It not only gives me a break, but it allows me to have time alone with Joey.  And time to build my business.  Autism or not, bills still have to be paid, right?  

The stress has been intense for both Dave and I … and Joey.   And even Tony.  He’s missing his older brother (who is living in his college town) and like all things in life, it’s a constant adjustment.  See, that’s the difference between an autistic brain and our brain.  They can’t adjust.  It’s something we all take for granted.  But for someone with autism, it’s something that has to be taught and learned and can take a lifetime to conquer. 


Simply Green Poison

Simple Green Concentrated Cleaner/ Degreaser/ Deodorizer

** In case any of you are using this cleaner… think again.  Find an alternative.  I have many I can share with you!   Read the information below from the Environmental Working Group and share this with your friends.  This should be OFF the market!

The primary ingredient in Simple Green is 2-butoxyethanol, a possible human carcinogen specifically prohibited in certified green products. When used at full strength, this product released 93 air contaminants, the second highest number released by any product tested. See below for detailed results of EWG’s air pollution test of this school cleaning supply.

Made by: Sunshine Makers / Sunshine Makers, Inc.

Green Certification: None

93 Air Contaminants Detected
1 Ingredients disclosed by manufacturer

Concerns of the chemicals detectedKey health concerns highlighted by major agencies (Study Methodology)

1 Chemicals cause asthma FORMALDEHYDE
3 Chemicals on California’s Prop 65 List for cancer and reproductive toxicity FORMALDEHYDE, ACETALDEHYDE, ALLYLANISOLE
0 Chemicals linked to reproductive toxicity  
2 Chemicals that disrupt hormones ETHYLENE GLYCOL, PHENOL
1 Chemicals toxic to the brain and nervous system PHENOL

For more information, click on this link:


A Wake-Up Story

From my family to yours…   please watch the link below:

A Wake-Up Story is a must-see video for every parent and anyone that cares about the health and development of children. Watch it. Share it. Join the movement.

Special needs teen finds his voice in music

He is a 16-year-old piano virtuoso who has autism. Even more amazing, both of his parents are deaf. Watch the video below and then read his remarkable story here:

Sounds a little close to home… my Tony has a beautiful voice.  We tried piano lessons in the past, but he was always frustrated with having to learn the “easy stuff” in the beginning and he just wouldn’t cooperate.  Maybe I should set some time aside this summer to play around on the piano…