Friday, May 29, 2015


I was on the receiving end of a random act of kindness.  My friend signed me up to receive a "care package".   It showed up in my mailbox yesterday.  

A gratitude journal was in the package as was this message:

You are awesome, kind and loving.  
Life can be challenging at times. 
One single act of kindness 
is all it takes to turn things around. 

I have to agree.  Yesterday was a long day.  I was on the go, go, go  I hadn't stopped to appreciate anything as I darted in and out of stores while trying to cram as many errands as I could in a short amount of time.  When I got home, the kids, the laudry, and another round of chores demanded my attention.  When I finally slowed down long enough, I remembered that I hadn't opened the mail yet.  When I finally opened it, I was left speechless.  

I stared at the journal cover and couldn't look away.  Each quote reminded me of someone I love or of some event in my life that has taught me a lesson.  

I love every single thing that is written on that cover.  


Do What You Love. 

Dream Big.  

Never Give Up.

All of that.  Every day.   All day long.  Amen.  

xo, Cat

Thursday, May 28, 2015


As withdrawn as Ronan is, the children who know us well have gotten to know Ronan pretty well, too.  They understand that he’s developing differently than they are.   They’ve heard about his limitations.  But they can see that while he can’t do some things, he is capable of many other things.

When I’ve had to pop into my typical children's school, more often than not, Ronan is with me.  The students who see us belt out, HI, MRS. JAMESON!!! HI, RONAN!  They hold the door open for us.  They make way for us.  They offer a huge smile, a helping hand, and always a kind word.  

When I’ve had the chance to sit down with some of those students, they ask me about Ronan.  Some topics we've talked about are Ronan's lack of speech and his slow and awkward gait.   With the older students, we've had more intense conversations.  We've talked about Ronan's behavior, his frustrations, and have touched on the vaccine-autism connection.  These children have questions - good questions.  I’m so glad that I can offer them helpful answers.  

Something else that I'm glad about is that I know that some of the kids' parents have talked to them about Ronan, too.  Those may not have been easy conversations to have, but I want to thank the parents being honest in their responses.  The values they've instilled at home have spilled over into the real world.  Happily, I get to see those values in action when Ronan and I are at the school.  

Ronan isn't part of their every-day world, but when he shows up at school with me to drop off a sibling's forgotten lunch, to sit through an awards ceremony, or to enjoy some school events that he never used to tolerate but that we're now able to add to our schedule, the typical kids we see never judge or belittle Ronan; they embrace him.  They show him love.  But more importantly, they show him respect.  

Even though Ronan has physical limitations that can clearly be seen, they choose to see that Ronan is just a kid like they are.  He’s not a statistic.  He’s not a burden.  He’s not weird.  He’s just Ronan. 

Despite the major differences, or maybe because of those differences, the typical children I encounter with Ronan are helpful.  They are kind.  And they are always respectful.  To those children who show Ronan the respect he deserves, thank you.  You are helping make the world a better place. 

xo, Cat

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

5 Must See Documentaries

I love documentaries.  I've watched quite a few thanks to Netflix.  I've found all sorts of films to watch in their documentary section.  Some of the films I'm recommending are not on Netflix (yet).  Click on the film titles below to be taken to their website and to find out how to view the film.  Some require a download or a purchase.  Others may still be available for screening in a local theatre.  

Happy watching...and learning! 

5 films that I have been recommending to friends and family:

   Watch the trailer.  

Trace Amounts 

I had the opportunity to meet Eric a few times.  The latest meet up was in D.C. for the Trace Amounts Capitol Hill event.  You can read about that event and my interview with Eric and Shiloh here.   

I got to meet Leslie in 2013 at the AutismOne conference in Chicago.  Leslie carved out quite a bit of time to talk to The Thinking Moms.  You can watch that talk here.  

Watch the trailer.

I saw this documentary soon after the mainstream news hyped up the Disney measles frenzy.  That unwarranted frenzy lead to quite a few state-sponsored vaccine bills that would remove parents' rights and mandate vaccines.  Vaccines come with risk.  They are also a big business.  This film discusses that. It can be viewed for free for a limited time.   

After watching this film (and the follow-up, More Business of Being Born), I wanted a re-do x 5.  Since I can't go back in time, I will go forward gently reminding the younger women in my life to read, learn, listen, and to always, always research what they're being told about their pregnancy and their birthing options.  

Watch the trailer

This was an eye-opening film about nutrition, disease, and healthy living.  We changed some of our eating habits after watching it and after doing some further research on the benefits of whole foods and a plant-based diet.  

5 more documentaries that I've yet to see but will be making time to watch soon:

" a story unique in documentary history and one that can change your mind" 

"a brand new documentary about the sick normality of vaccination"

"the untold story of Lyme disease"

"it's time to get real about food"

"documenting a gentle approach to overcoming fertility challenges"


Do you have a list of "must see" films?  Feel free to share that list in the comments below.  
xo, Cat

*all images were found from a Google image search; the video clip is from a youtube search

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pickles, Pretzels, and Pop Tarts

Ronan continues to be on a modified school schedule.  Lacking energy to sustain a full academic day, he only attends a few hours of school each week.  Since starting the modified schedule, I’ve had to do a lot of juggling.  Finding someone to watch Ronan during the day doesn’t always work out, so he ends up accompanying me wherever I need to go. Errands are harder.  Getting to appointments and meetings takes careful planning.  

Since we’re always hoping Ronan will gain more independence, I welcome the opportunity to bring him with me.  Most of the time, it works out well having Ronan tagalong with me to places he normally wouldn't go.  He gets to see his community during regular business hours.  He gets to learn and master new skills.  He gets to interact with people and they with him.  

As much as I’d rather he could have the energy to be at school learning, he’s been able to learn valuable lessons when we go out.  Some simple things he’s had to learn over the last year include:

✓ Learning how to walk calmly to the car when prompted (instead of acting out because he wanted to stay home and watch more Youtube videos).

✓ Staying buckled in the car seat (instead of attempting to wiggle out because we didn’t get more French fries).

 Keeping shoes (and clothes) on while we shop (instead of taking them off when things didn’t go as planned).

 Keeping shoes on while we’re in the car (instead of throwing them at Mommy while she’s driving).

✓ Resisting a meltdown and remaining calm (instead of thrashing about on the floor as has happened previously). 

 Using appropriate communication (instead of pulling Mommy’s hair when we went down the “wrong” grocery store aisle).

Being able to learn those simple things has helped when we go out and about, but Ronan still has lots yet to learn.  I do too.  I need to plan my time better so that I’m not rushing Ronan into situations he’s not comfortable.  I need to prepare the environment better as well as prepare those who will interact with Ronan.  For instance, when Ronan must accompany me to a doctor’s appointment that I’ve scheduled for myself, I should remember to Ronan a picture of where we’re going or at least drive by the place at least one time before we actually need to go in it.  I should also let the provider know that my visit it may take a few minutes longer than usual.  That’s because Ronan’s curiosity, as well as his anxiety and his sensory issues, can prevent a smooth transition into (or out of) the parking lot, the waiting room, the exam room or meeting room that we’re going into.  I need to remember that sometimes things will take longer.  That things won't go as planned. That we are that try, try, try, try one more time family.  I need to remember one more thing.  Ronan’s come a long way. 

When he was much younger, as Ronan was tumbling onto the spectrum, he preferred that we drive out of the neighborhood a certain way.  Not being able to communicate that very well due to the fact that he lost his speech, Ronan would let me know I was going the “wrong” way by screaming and crying and by thrashing about in his car seat.  

Back then, tear-stained cheeks and massive meltdowns were the norm.  Meltdowns haven’t been completely resolved, but with brainstorming, juggling, rethinking, planning, assessing, and reassessing situations as we face them have helped reduce the number of meltdowns Ronan has.  Just last week, when Ronan accompanied me to the grocery store, it took quick thinking to keep him calm and to understand what he wanted.  Ronan wanted something.  I couldn’t figure it out.  It was a simple request really, but because of the lack of speech and language, that simple request turned into a 15-minute standoff.  Here's what happened.  

The health food section of the grocery store has a granola “bar” – there’s all sorts of granolas to make your own trail mix.  There’s also a few dried fruits and chocolates in the containers, too.  We never go in this area, but I misjudged the aisle I needed and ended up face-to-face with open containers of tasty goodness.  Ronan thought he could just scoop the food out with his bare hands.  I said, "Wait, let me help,” and quickly grabbed the scoop and a small container.  But Mr. Independent didn’t want my help.  Nor did he want the scoop of granola that I thought he was eyeing.  He wanted something else and pushed my hand away.  I said, "Hold on, Buddy.  Let me help you." Frustrated, Ronan shut down.  Then he sat down on the floor and tossed his headphones at me.  He was just about to take off his shoes, but with quick thinking, I remembered that I brought Ronan’s iPad with us.  

I showed Ronan the iPad and said, "Look.  Spell what you want."  Ronan cannot resist spelling, so he immediately got up and walked over to me.  Back and forth we went for five minutes, he typing and I fingerspelling.  It wasn't easy, but Ronan was finally able to tell me what he wanted.  Feeling successful, Ronan smiled.  I did too.

What do you want, Ronan?

Mom I want food.

I said, “You do?” 

He typed You.

I said, “Good job for asking!” 

He typed Good.

I asked, “Do you want candy?” (because there was a container of M & Ms next to the granola – maybe he wanted that?)

Ronan typed I Candy no.

"Oh! You don’t want candy," I replied.

This is where that brainstorming, assessing, and reassessing came into play.  Scanning the items in the granola bar one more time, I asked, “Can you please show me what you want?” 

Ronan typed Please…but he also carefully pointed to another container, one with chocolate in it.

“Oh!  You want chocolate.  Do you know how to spell chocolate?"  I asked.  

He signed No.

I finger spelled and Ronan typed Chocolate.  He then added yes.

Yes!  Problem solved!  Crisis averted!  We could move on!  But before we did, Ronan typed one more thing.  He typed the name of the movie he wanted to see when we got home:  See and Learn Colors.

By the end of the shopping trip, things were much, much better.  Frustration levels were low, and our shopping cart was full.  In fact, three extra items made their way into the cart because Ronan continued to be successful in communicating a desire for those three products.  We walked out of the store with a jar of pickles, a box of pretzels and a box of pop tarts.  Now, he won’t be eating those pretzels (they’re not gluten-free), but he had the pickles for breakfast the next morning (because he asked for them), and he’ll bring a pop tart to school this week.
Pickles, pretzels, and pop tarts.  That could be a totally random list, but it’s got a lot of meaning for Ronan.  That list includes independence.  It shows proper communication.  And it gives me a little bit of hope.  I love it when I find a little bit of hope. 

xo, Cat

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Non-Edible School Birthday Treat Ideas

The Littlest Pickle turns seven today.  SEVEN!  How did she get that old already?  While I'm in denial that my "baby" is growing, she's been counting down to the big day for over a month.  

34 more days!

22 more days!

8 more days!

2 more days!

1 more day!

Well...guess what?


I'm very excited to celebrate that little bundle of love.  We had a few scares during my pregnancy where I thought I was going to lose her.  When she finally arrived, I remember staring at her thinking she's here.  She's here!  She's really, really here.  Not only is she really, really here, but her birthday is finally here, too!    

Since the Littlest Pickle will be in school on her birthday, she asked if she could bring in some treats, like cupcakes or muffins, to celebrate.  Her classmates have brought in treats during the year, but I'm not a big fan of edible treats in school.  With the array of food allergies and the precautions parents and school staff must make, I do not want cause any extra work, confusion, discomfort, or be the one whose cupcakes trigger an allergic reaction.  

Non-edible school birthday treats may not be as exciting as frosted-covered cupcakes, but they can be just as fun to receive.  So, without completely squashing the Littlest Pickle's birthday treat idea, we thought about some other fun things she could bring to school.    

First on the list...bubbles!

I LOVE BUBBLES.  So does the Littlest Pickle :)

I think her classmates will like them, too. Luckily, they're cheap!  I went to local dollar store and picked up a few bottles.  What a steal!  They were 3/$1. 

Bubbles can be more than just be something fun to play with; they can also help build skills.  Blowing bubbles can encourage eye-hand coordination, motor planning and oral-motor skills as well as encourage sustained attention.  If used outside, bubble play can help a child work on other skills like running (when they chase a bubble), jumping (as they reach up to pop a bubble), turn taking and collaborative play (when they play with a classmate).  Bubbles may be a little bit messy, but they can make some kids and some teachers really, really happy.  

Another fun thing I found at the dollar store were bouncy balls.  Warning: even though these are SUPER fun to play with, they have the potential to be lost rather quickly.  But if the kids get to take the bouncy balls out at recess, at 5/$1, you're not breaking the bank if the bouncy balls don't make it back into the classroom.  (I'd suggest sending in an extra packet or two for the kids who do lose their bouncy ball.)  
Third on the list of alternative birthday treat ideas: jump ropes.  Kids can use them for several games - traditional jump rope, Helicopter, or double dutch for experienced jump roping kiddos.  You'll catch a good deal if your dollar store sells them in bundles of two for a dollar.  

My kids love to be outside.  Those first three ideas can be used both inside and outside and will promote playing, moving, and exercising.  

The next idea isn't going to get the kids moving and grooving, but it can spark their imagination.  And get them writing - that's a good thing!

The next alternative birthday treat idea:  pads of paper and pencils.  Pads were priced at 3/$1, and pencils were 12/$1.  Score!

Eons ago, back when I was still teaching 2nd grade, I went to a conference for 2nd grade teachers.  One of the workshops I went to was all about getting kids to write.  The presenter said that if we wanted to get our students to write, we should give them paper that was not 8.5" x 11".  Anything but a piece of loose leaf paper or one that looked like a worksheet.  She added that we should also give them anything but a traditional yellow #2 pencil--let them use multi-colored pencils, pens, and markers.  And a stapler.  Kids love to staple paper together.  Sure enough.  She was right.  My 2nd graders loved to use fun-sized notepads, zebra-striped pencils, pens with green ink, purple ink, orange ink.  They stapled papers together to make books.  Then they wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote in those books.  Their imagination was sparked, and they kept themselves motivated.  

The dollar store has oodles of pens, pencils, and different-sized note pads that can be used in place of an edible birthday treat at school.  Oh, and stickers.  With younger kiddos, you can't go wrong with stickers.  You can find them 2- or 4-sheets/$1. 

Those are some easy and inexpensive alternative birthday treat ideas that would be ideal for the early grades.  Other inexpensive non-edible birthday treat ideas that can cross over to the older grades are:

* sending in a bucket of sidewalk chalk and asking you child's classmates write a birthday message on the blacktop
* sending in art supplies like stickers, construction paper, and glue sticks for future art activities
* replacing recess toys that are starting to see wear and tear
* donating a book in your child's name to the school library 
* donating a board game that can be used during indoor recess

Parents of food-sensitive kiddos, like me, would prefer non-edible school birthday treats.  The best part about non-edible birthday treats?  Students, teachers and parents don't have to worry about hyperactivity from food coloring, tummy aches from food intolerances, or dangerous nut, dairy, gluten, or soy allergies.  

The last non-edible school birthday treat idea is for the parents.  I know a lot of parents love to be at school to spend part of the school day with their child on their birthday.  The parent might ask to volunteer in the classroom or in the cafeteria.  They may want to be the playground monitor that day.  They may come to visit after recess and read their child's favorite story to the class.  Those are all things I would love to do with each of my children on their birthdays.  But because of Ronan's health issues, I don't have the chance to volunteer very much.  My kids wished I did.  I wished I did.  If I had the time, I'd make it a point to volunteer on their birthdays, including on the Littlest Pickle's birthday today.  

Fortunately, the Littlest Pickle is aware that Mommy can't always be there for the fun stuff.  She knows she'll have a great day today with her friends even if I'm not there.  And I know she'll also have a great time with the bubbles, too.  Bubbles, bubbles everywhere.  That's the non-edible birthday treat she decided to bring in today.  I can't wait to hear all about it!

xo, Cat