A little landscaping can go a long way

My front flower bed looks like this. Lots of weeds. Some wild daisies. A clematis with a fear of heights. And lost of cat poop.

Let’s face it, I suck at gardening. My attempt at landscaping was a little plastic fence, shoveling out the cat poop, and digging up the dandelions when they showed up. Not a pretty sight.

Enter my wonderful husband.

He came home for R&R from work and decided to sort it out. He worked all day in the sun, happily I might add. (I die in the sun, but he loves it. ) He dug up all the weeds. Removed all the cat poop. Found a trellis for my poor clematis and tamed the crazy daisies. We had a bunch of stepping stones buried all over the back yard from the previous owner’s garden design. He dug them up and hauled them to the front of the house. He arranged them and then went and got some of those lava rocks and the white sparkly rocks.  After some artful scattering and a bit of rearrangement of some driftwood that was laying around.

POOF!

 I have a very pretty front flower bed.

I don’t know what I’d do without my wonderful husband.

Donkey Basketball

Donkey Basketball. Sounds funny doesn’t it? Well, it is. It is a game involving players riding donkeys up and down a basketball court trying to get the ball in the hoop while staying on the donkey. There is no dribbling but there is passing to other teammates. If the ball goes awry then the player must get off their donkey and chase down the ball and throw it to another player then get back on their donkey.  The donkey’s wear little rubber shoes to protect them and the floor of the gym. It isn’t a fast paced game, but it is fun.The Shelby FFA kids were having a fundraiser by way of playing Donkey Basketball. They asked the Conrad FFA group to bring a team to help out. My daughter volunteered without a second thought. Her and a couple of other kids rounded up enough members for the team. They donned fake mustaches and little sombreros and called themselves the Caballos diablos. Incidentally the team was all girls with one guy. Most of them had never been on a donkey, but they had ridden horses. It was an eyeopening experience.

When they arrived they found out they would be playing against the three time running champions- the firefighters. They were very intimidated but unbelievably enough the kids won! The Shelby FFA kids were playing against the Shelby Faculty. That match was a comedy of errors because it seemed the kids weren’t quite ready for their teachers to be so game. The final match was the Shelby FFA against the Conrad FFA. Nothing like friendly competition! Was more like a free for all and the donkeys were winning.

 There have been a lot of articles about the cruelty of donkey basketball. They say it violates the donkey’s rights and subjects them to frightening circumstances. I can’t say if that is true in other places but here in Montana, it wasn’t true at all. As a matter of fact, we live with an abundance of animals here in Montana and everyone is brought up to treat them right. 

The donkeys were subjected to lots of petting during half-time, but beyond that they were treated great.

From the looks of the games, it was the donkeys that were in charge of things. Most of the time they were meandering where ever they felt like regardless of what the riders wanted and in wonderful Montana fashion, the riders just laughed and let them go where they would.  My poor daughter had picked a very sleepy donkey that spent most of its time visiting with the audience and getting its ears scratched. She even ended up in the corner at one point because the donkey decided that he was done. 

All in all it was a wonderful night and my daughter said that she was glad she did it and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The FFA raised a lot of money for the food drive and everyone went home smiling, even the donkeys.

Optimism and Autism

My son has Autism. He is eleven years old. I have learned that optimism is a trap.

Optimism: hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.

My husband and I have been married for 20 years. I think we were optimistic in the beginning. We thought that all we had to do was work hard and the world would be ours. The Universe apparently thought that was  a challenge. We’ve been through a lot of difficulties and trials. Life hasn’t always been easy, but sometimes we do alright and sometimes we don’t. Autism has taken us to a whole new level.

I was optimistic that we could handle this new complicated life together, but instead we’ve had to give a lot up including being in the same geographic location. He works away from home because that is the only way we can make enough money for me to be a stay at home mom and still afford all the bills, medical or otherwise. I tried working, but it wasn’t worth it. Child care for a special needs kiddo is hard to come by and I had to keep leaving work to take care of problems that arose with my son.

It hasn’t been easy for my daughter either. She’s had to give up a lot and she’s had to adjust to getting less attention because of her brother. Being optimistic that I could pay attention to both of my kiddos at the same time was unrealistic. I’ve learned that kind of optimism leaded to hurt feelings and overwhelming parental failure. I’ve learned that sometimes I have to find time to devote to my daughter completely even if it means that she  has to skip some school to get it.

Like Sisyphus and the boulder, we start every day at the bottom of the hill.

Day after day, we get up and try.  There are a lot of things to learn when you have a child with Autism; behavioral, medical, dietary, psychological, methods, routines, etc. They all play a crucial role in a stable life. The things that worked yesterday don’t necessarily work today. Sometimes they have the opposite effect. Teachers ask me how to handle my son and I have to say, “Well, that depends on the day.”

Friends don’t really understand why we don’t do things like they do. Most of them feel that I’m being too overprotective and honestly I’m too tired to try and explain it to them. They are always optimistic that my son will be fine. That there will be no problems. Birthday parties, concerts, fairs, we’ve been to them all. We’ve dealt with the migraines and the over stimulation meltdowns and the violence that comes from them.  I’ve pushed that boulder up that hill enough times that I know our limitations. If they want to think badly of me then so be it. 

The teachers at school ask me what my long term goals are for my son. I usually laugh and say, “To get through today.” You have to have optimism in order to have goals, and I don’t.

Optimism has never been one of my strong suits. I’m not one of those people born under a lucky star where everything went right and the world was a bright and sunny place. Things don’t just work out for me. I get by on my brains and my abundance of personality. Things happen. I  deal with them. I’m a realist.

Realist: a person who accepts a situation as it is and is prepared to deal with it accordingly.

Optimism can give you a false sense of reality and make you really unhappy because you are always struggling to meet unrealistic expectations.

I know that we are making progress, but to try and  reach a certain milestone in a certain amount of time is more stress than I can handle right now. Don’t get me wrong, I want my son to learn and blossom into a happy healthy adult, but it will have to happen in its own time. I’m just being realistic. I know that my son makes leaps forward only to backslide. That doesn’t make me try any less. I just takes away the expectations and that takes away the disappointments and the feelings of failure.  No one needs those kind of feelings in their life.

People laugh at me when they ask me, “How are you?” and I answer, “Still alive.” I see it as an affirmation that I’m still here. I’m still trying. I am living for the now taking each day as best as I can. I’ve lowered my expectations to the level of “Everyone is still breathing, so we’re doing great.”

So for those of you out there struggling to be optimistic about your children’s autism, it’s going to be all right. You don’t have to be sunny, or cheerful, or optimistic. You just have to accept your life has changed. It’s okay. All you have to do is love your kiddos. That’s the reality .Go with the Zen approach. All there is is the now. They are who they are and that’s okay. They don’t have to be anything else and neither do you.

Family Circus Outing

Took a trip to the circus with the family this past weekend. Yes, I know there is big stink going on about the treatment of animals at circuses etc, but this circus wasn’t like that. My son had been asking about going to the circus for a while now and I happened to hear on the radio that the Shriner’s were going to be bringing a circus to Great Falls. SO off we went. 

It was a wonderful circus. It was clean and all sparkly. Nothing was chipped and worn. All the workers wore matching uniforms and were all very friendly and nice. As for acts… they had it all. Dancing girls who went on to do a variety of acrobatics. Jugglers. Motorcycle riders zipping around inside of a big iron ball. Gravity defying acrobats that ran up and down poles like they were lying flat. They also had a group of acrobats that did all their amazing tricks balanced on the shoulders of one man, including riding a bicycle in a circle inside of a wheel. My hat’s off to that lady she made it look so easy!

They had six Bengal tigers, three white and three brown. They were rather playful tigers. One kept batting at the trainer’s stick like a kitten. And before you complain about abuse, let me say that these tigers were very healthy. Their coats were shiny and they were alert and active. The trainer was even giving one a hug and scratching its chest and the tiger was snuggling into him loving it. 

They had an archer that was quite amazing and left me rather unsettled as he shot arrows at his assistant’s head.  They also had kids rides on ponies, a camel, and an elephant. Once again the animals were happy. The elephant trainer never once touched his elephant with the stick and the elephant just wandered where it was supposed to. All he had to do was speak to them and they did what he asked. The camel was a bit cheeky. He was being rather stubborn and didn’t want to move without a treat first. His trainer called him a brat and  he just opened his mouth for his treat. Which he got lol.

Then of course the show ended with a bang, literally! A human cannon ball. My son was scared at first by the noise but now all he can talk about is how he wants to be shot out of a cannon.

All in all it was a great day. Whole family got to spend the day together and my son didn’t have a massive meltdown when it was done, but just a little one. I call that a win.

Parmesan Fries Recipe

Had absolutely they best potatoes last night!

The recipe I found for Parmesan Fries is a yummy discovery.

I mixed up the original recipe a bit by using regular potatoes and sweet potatoes.

 Ingredients. 

1/4 tsp. garlic salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp paprika

 1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp salt (optional. I find it is salty already without the salt but it’s up to you)

grated Parmesan cheese

potatoes

olive oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix spices together in a small bowl.

Cut the potatoes into wedges. You can peel them if you want or you can leave the skin on.

You can rinse them if you want to reduce starch, but be sure to pat them dry.

Place in a bowl and coat with olive oil.

Spread out the wedges on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the spices and cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes or until done.

Enjoy!