Monday, May 23, 2016

We Go Forth Together

If anyone was keeping score on how this morning went, here are the stats:

Autism 1
Cat 0
Fiona for the win for turning my frown upside down!
It was a sucky, sucky morning, but this afternoon's mail totally brightening my day.  I'm so proud of my brave girl!  If she could take Ronan's vaccine injury away, she would in a heartbeat.  But she can't.  So Fiona speaks up and tells his story hoping that other children are spared what Ronan was not.  

Because of what happened to Ronan, she's learned more about health, autism, and advocating than I ever imagined she'd have to.  In learning all that she's learned, Fiona's a thousand steps ahead of her peers and many adults out there.  Right now, she has no intention of stopping. Like her tired, broken-hearted mama, Fiona's going to keep marching forward.  Ronan needs her to.  I need her to.  

With her positive attitude, Fiona will get through the obstacles and the naysayers and through the bad days that creep in.  The best part is that she and I get to march forward together.  

xo, Cat


Fiona's latest article can be found in the Holistic Parenting magazine, No. 15 May - June 2016.  She has been featured in The Autism File Magazine and has had a chance to contribute articles to Age of Autism.  Fiona loves to bake, play volleyball, and take pictures.  Her gallery can viewed here:  Photos by Fiona.  

Saturday, May 21, 2016


We had a busy day today.  Getting the kids up and out the door on time was my top priority.  Making sure Ronan got as much sleep as possible before our big day out, I waited to get him ready last...   

With how tired Ronan's been during the week, the last thing I want to do was wake him up early on a Saturday.  Saturdays are usually alarm-clock free days.  But today, we have somewhere to be.  

Fiona has a race today. She's already there warming up and getting ready to compete.  I don't want to miss seeing her shine.  But we may have to.  Ronan is still sleeping.  

The younger siblings are doing a great job keeping quiet until he wakes up, but the temptation to be the happy, typical, and sometimes loud kids that they are is overwhelming them.  I offer them gentle reminders to use quiet voices and their tip toe feet, and to find something to do until it's time to go, but they are energized and excited to see big sister.  I'm excited, too.  It's Fiona's last race of the season, and we want to be there for it. 

I peek in on Ronan twice.  Both times he's been snuggled deep under the covers.

I text my husband:  
Ronan's still asleep.  We may not make it L  

He texts me back:
No rush.  Nothing has started yet.  

I peek in on Ronan once more.  He stirs but then rolls over. 

I walk backwards out of Ronan's bedroom and try to keep busy.  Everything is already ready though – Ronan's backpack is restocked, the snack bag is full, extra water bottles are already in the car, and the iPad and the iPhone are charged in case we need them.  All that's left is for Ronan to wake up.  

He's still sleeping.  

So we continue to tip toe.  

For big events like today, I should've thought to have someone stay home with Ronan.  But I didn't ask anyone to watch him.  Easily, I could wake him and get us in the car and go.  But for him to have the energy and the desire to want to stay for the race once we get to the stadium, Ronan needs to ease into this day, not be jolted into it.  So we wait. 

We wait for Ronan a lot.  We're used to it and are well aware that his pace is slower than the siblings. They'd like for him to catch up.  I'd love nothing more than for that to happen, too.  But pushing him isn't the answer.  

Since he's regressed, we've been waiting for Ronan to talk again, to interact with us again, and to catch up with skills that he lost that used to be so easy for him.  Waiting isn't easy, but our family's gotten used to it.  The kids are more than able to handle some of the waiting, but they are as anxious as I am to see Ronan someday catch up.  They think he will.  I hope with all of my heart that he will as well. Ronan has surprised us over the years when he regains a lost skill, so we stay positive he will regain more.  

Ronan just surprised me!  He's awake.  He's happy.  I tell him that we're happy too.  We're happy to see him.  I tell Ronan that we've got some place to be –  to see sister's race.  Fiona's got a big day and we want Ronan to be there.  He indicates that he wants to go.  


Fiona did SO well!  She added two new personal records today.  Her efforts have paid off, and I'm so proud of her for trying a new sport and sticking with it.  I'm so proud of Ronan, too. 

Ronan stayed for the entire event.  I had a back-up plan (leave early and go home), but I never had to use it.  Even though it was a l-o-n-g day and a hot day, two factors that can result have previously resulted in a disastrous outcome, but today, Ronan overcame both.  I was thrilled.  Fiona was as well. She was happy to see Ronan be part of our family outing, and I know he was happy to see her when she was able to sit with us in the stands for a few minutes.  

I love it when our family is able to do things together.  With Ronan's struggles and health issues, those opportunities are few and far between.  We take the good days when we can and enjoy every single minute of them.  

Today was one of those days.  

I had trepidations, especially when the weather changed later in the afternoon, but I didn't have to worry.  Ronan remained happy, able and content to be with us and out of the house.   

My hope today was for a few things to happen.  It was for us to be together as a family.  It was for Ronan to actively include himself in our family outing.  It was for the weather to hold off long enough for Fiona to run her races (and kick some butt!).  I got to check each of those expectations off my list:

Spend the day together as a family  
See Ronan stay engaged and happy  
Enjoy the first sun shiny day we've had in over a week  ✓ 

The sun stuck around for most of the day, but as a storm got closer, I thought our day out would be a bust.  It wasn't.  Staying until the last possible minute in the stadium, we made our way quickly to the car as the skies darkened.  Raindrops fell as we buckled up.  Wind whipped up once we got on the road. Torrential rain quickly followed and stuck around longer than we anticipated.  But we made it.  

Ronan made it.  

The kids made it.  

And we were elated.  

As we made our way home, the wind picked up again.  Sheets of rain poured down.  My windshield wipers were on high for the majority of the drive home.  I didn't let the dreariness cloud my thoughts. It was a great day.  It was one of the best days we've had as a family in a really long time.  

Once we were back home and after dinner chores were done, I found time to sit and relax.  Sitting on the couch, I peeked out the living room window.  I couldn't believe it.  The dismal, dark gray sky we were under was starting to clear up!  It was now barely sprinkling, and against a blue sky off in the distance, I could see saw sunshine.  I called for the kids.  Ronan's younger brother and two little sisters came running.

"Hey, kids!  Look!  It's sprinkling a little, but look at the sky – it's blue!  You know what that means, right?

Three voices squealed in unison, "Rainbows!"

Scurrying to get their shoes on, Ronan's siblings scampered outside to look for a rainbow.  They didn't see one, but they imagined how beautiful and perfect it would look.  
Today was a beautiful and wonderful day.  With how everything worked out, I dare say it was pretty close to being a perfect day.  Not every day turns out to be perfect, so I'm going to cherish this day and the time I had with my family.  I hope that we are blessed with another day just like it again soon.  I hope you and your family are, too. 

xo, Cat


Sunday, May 15, 2016

3-D Plant Cell Model

Besides being a "Proud Mom Moment", I wanted to write this post in case a science-minded kiddo was curious about what a model of a plant cell looks like.  


Fiona came home excited about a school assignment a week or so ago.  A biology project, she had to create a 3-D model of a cell.  After doing some brainstorming, she decided that she wanted it to be a baking project.  Fiona loves to bake, and she's become very interested in science, so I was really looking forward to seeing what she'd come up with.  

Because it's been years since I looked at a plant cell (and because it was her project and not mine), the only role I had was to remind my daughter to give herself enough time to complete it.  After doing that, I watched Fiona work her magic from a distance.  

Deciding to create a plant cell, Fiona made a list of the cell parts she needed to include.  Then, she made a list of the ingredients and supplies she would need and got to work.  Once the gluten-free baking and 3-D model creating were complete, Fiona added a written report.  The information about the cell parts and their functions came from Fiona's biology textbook and from 

o   Nucleus: green Jello

·         Function: contains the genetic material, in the form of multiple linear DNA molecules organized into structures called chromosomes

o   Nucleolus: pink Starburst

·         Function:  involved with ribosomal RNA synthesis and formation of ribosomes in eukaryotes

o   Cell Membrane: Airheads Stripe Strips

·         Function:  protective barrier between the cytoplasm and the outside of the cell

o   Cell Wall: orange icing

·         Function:  very essential in plants as it helps resist osmotic pressure

o   Cytoplasm: green frosting

·         Function:  where the functions for cell 
expansion, growthmetabolism, and replication are carried out

o   Vacuole: blue Jello

·         Function: includes intracellular secretionexcretionstorage, and digestion

o   Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum: Twizzlers with sprinkles

·         Function: synthesize membrane-bound proteins destined for sorting

o   Smooth Endoplasmic Reticulum: Mike and Ike

·         Function:lipid synthesis, carbohydrate metabolism, calcium concentration, drug detoxification, and attachment of receptors on cell membrane proteins

o   Ribosomes: sprinkles

·         Function: free ribosomes are involved in the synthesis of proteins that will function in the cytosol while bound ribosomes in the synthesis of proteins that are to be exported or used within the cell membrane

o   Golgi Apparatus: yellow icing

·         Function: involved in glycosylation (i.e. adding carbohydrate to a protein), packaging of molecules like proteins into vesicles for secretion, transport of lipids around the cell, and the creation of lysosomes

o   Mitochondria: red Airheads Soft Filled and Twizzlers

·         Function: They produce large amounts of energy through oxidative phosphorylation of organic molecules during cellular respiration

o   Chloroplasts: green Airheads Soft Filled with green frosting

·         Function: consists of disk-shaped structures called thylakoids that function in photosynthesis

I think the finished project looked great!  

Fiona gave herself more than enough time to complete the project and was actually able to turn in her work ahead of time.  I'm so proud of her academic skills as well as how much she is learning.  

Fiona reads a lot.  She always has.  Whenever she comes across anything remotely related to Ronan (See that mitochondria up there?  Yeah, she knows a thing or two about those in a human cell...), she reads and reads and reads all that she can about it.  The more reading she does, the more curious she gets.  I love that she is curious about science and that science is exciting to her.  Once I was done with school, I had no desire to continue to study science.  I know Fiona has a different outlook on the subject, and I have a feeling that she'll remain excited to learn more about it.  

Fiona's a great kid, a good student, a fantastic sister, and a pretty amazing daughter.  Not every day is easy (thank you, teenage years!), but she's happily teaching me a thing or two about life, including reminding me of what a plant cell looks like.  

xo, Cat

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Blessed Are You

I'm not a big Bible reader.  I never really have been.  Most of the time when I find myself reflecting on Scripture, it's because I've heard it read at Mass.  A few Sundays ago, I heard this verse.  I don't ever recall hearing it before, but it made me pause.  It also made me a little bit sad.  

Blessed are the barren,
the wombs that never bore
and the breasts that never nursed.       Luke 23:29

Hearing that made me think about friends of mine who have not yet conceived.  Aching to feel the pangs of pregnancy, the dream of bringing a child into the world naturally has not yet become a reality. For some, they may never bear children.  That hasn't stopped them from being parents though.  Many have fulfilled their desire to parent and care for a child in other ways.  

A few have adopted.  

Others have become foster parents.  

Some have devoted their professional careers to working with children.  

They've opened their hearts and homes so quickly and have found many ways to share their love and service to one of the most vulnerable populations - children.  The constant selfless acts of love these friends have shared are felt by those closest to them, including by a humble bystander like me.  

When I think about my friends who adopt, who foster care, and who will spend their entire lives devoted to bettering the lives of children, I'm not sad anymore.  I'm grateful.  I can't think of anyone better to care for God's tender mercies.  To those who give their lives to others, especially to the children, may you be filled with peace, with hope, and always with love. 

xo, Cat

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Mom to Mom

Even though I know that the best place for me to be right now is for me to be home with the kids (with Ronan especially), some days I want so badly to be out there in the real world doing grown up stuff.  I miss teaching.  I miss creating curriculum.  I miss school and the predictable routine the school year offered.  Besides missing using the skills and gifts that came so naturally to me, I also miss the chance for adult interaction.  God bless the first adult I run into when I do finally get out of the house. I turn into a Chatty Cathy when given the opportunity to talk to other humans uninterrupted!

Anyway, after the tough morning Ronan had today, today was one of those sad days where I found myself concentrating on what I don't get to do when I got a private message that another mom was in need of help.  Can I offer some words of wisdom to this mom?  You bet I can, and you know I will!  

Since I knew the particular problem that the mom is facing, I went one step further. 

I started looking for answers.  

I made some calls.  

I jotted down some notes. 

I added a few tips that have helped me in the past.  

I couldn't have done all of that unless I was home.  Home is where I find myself a lot these days.  It's where I am and for now, I'm reminding myself that it's exactly where I need to be.  

I'll wait patiently for the other mom to call me so I can share what I discovered.  The other mom is like me - has a child with special needs, is feeling lost and confused, and is frustrated with "the system".  This mom needs guidance, assurance and a friend.  I can help with all of that.  

I don't always get to do what I want to these days, but I'd rank being able to help other mamas as some of the most important work I've ever gotten to do.  I'm hoping that the quick work I just did will calm this new mama's nerves, will get her on the right path and will give her the chance to breathe.  Life's a lot easier when we remember to take a second to breathe.  I'm going to remind myself to remember to do just that.  

xo, Cat