Monday, March 24, 2008

Kid Mania

Hope everyone had a nice Easter yesterday! We had a great day with family - church in the morning, then a nice meal together in the afternoon. Snapped a few pictures of the kiddos so I'm titling this Kid Mania because it speaks for itself. Maybe I'll find my wit soon and actually write something instead of just posting some pictures. For now, the laziness continues! Enjoy!

Click photos to enlarge....

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Spring!

It may officially be the first day of Spring today, but unfortunately, there are no new buds to photograph outdoors to prove it.

So, I will leave you with this beautiful flower instead....

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day – Celebrating the Green
St. Patrick is believed to have driven the snakes from Ireland. Once a pagan imself, St. Patrick is one of Christianity's most widely known figures. He is Ireland's patron saint, and died March 17 in AD 461.

The modern secular holiday is based on the original Christian saint's feast day also thought to be the date of the saint's death. In 1737, Irish immigrants to the United States first began observing the holiday publicly in Boston, and held the first St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City in 1766.

Today, the tradition continues with people from all walks and heritages by earing green, eating Irish food, and attending parades. St. Patrick's Day is bursting with folklore; from the shamrock to the leprechaun and to pinching those that are not wearing green.

The Leprechauns
The original Irish name for these figures of folklore is "lobaircin," meaning "small-bodied fellow."

Belief in leprechauns probably stems from Celtic belief in fairies, tiny men and women who could use their magical powers to serve good or evil. In Celtic folktales, leprechauns were cranky souls, responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies. Though only minor figures in Celtic folklore, leprechauns were known for their trickery, which they often used to protect their much-fabled treasure.

Leprechauns had nothing to do with St. Patrick or the celebration of St. Patrick's Day, a Catholic holy day. In 1959, Walt Disney released a film called Darby O'Gill & the Little People, which introduced America to a very different sort of leprechaun than the cantankerous little man of Irish folklore. This cheerful, friendly leprechaun is a purely American invention, but has quickly evolved into an easily recognizable symbol of both St. Patrick's Day and Ireland in general.

The Shamrock

The shamrock, which was also called the "seamroy" by the Celts, was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland because it symbolized the rebirth of spring. By the seventeenth century, the shamrock had become a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism. As the English began to seize Irish land and make laws against the use of the Irish language and the practice of Catholicism, many Irish began to wear the shamrock as a symbol of their pride in their heritage and their displeasure with English rule.

Population Distribution

- There are 34.7 million U.S. residents who claim Irish ancestry. This number is almost nine times the population of Ireland itself (4.2 million). Irish is the nation's second most frequently reported ancestry, trailing only those of German ancestry. (The ancestry estimates exclude people living in group quarters).

- The nation as a whole claims 12% of residents as having Irish ancestry. In Massachusetts this number doubles to 24 percent!

- In Middlesex County, Mass., 348,978 residents are of Irish ancestry. Among the 54 counties where Irish is the largest observed ancestry group, Middlesex had the highest population of Irish-Americans, with Norfolk County, Mass., second, with 203,285.

- There are three states in which Irish is the leading ancestry group: Delaware, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Irish is among the top five ancestries in every state but two (Hawaii and New Mexico).

- There are 54 counties where Irish is the largest observed ancestry group. Forty-four of these counties are in the Northeast, with 14 in New York, 11 in Massachusetts and five in New Jersey.

I suppose because my own ancestry is a good-part Irish (my given name was once O'Laughlin), I could wear one of those silly buttons that reads, "Kiss Me I'm Irish".... but I won't. What I will do though, is celebrate the holiday by making the tradtional Irish-American feast of Corned Beef and Cabbage. Or, New England Boiled Dinner is what my family called it in Boston. Although, my family prefers a smoked picnic shoulder (ham) to the cornned beef in the meal, so we use that instead. Below is my recipe!

Cook time:
Prep time15 min for peeling veggies
Yields: 6-8 servings
1 Smoked Picnic Shoulder (approx 10 lbs)
1.5 small peeled whole potatoes per person
1-2 lg cabbage heads, quartered
2 Med. whole onions, peeled
1-2 turnip (optional)
1 1/2 lbs. of carrots peeled, whole

In large stock pot, cover with water 2" above ham. Add 2 bay leaves and boil for a total of 3 hours. Turnip can cook with this since it takes the longest. Add carrots to the pot 1.5 hrs before eating. Add cabbage & potatoes to the pot 45-1 hr before eating.

Drain, cut up ham and serve on a large platter with lots of butter, mustard & vinegar on the side to taste. Some crusty french bread and Enjoy!

*Note: If your pot is not large enough to cook the vegetables & ham together, the ham can be taken out when it's done and covered for an hour with foil until ready to eat. You can then throw all your veggies in the water and cook them up. You really can't mess this up. So Simple!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Where's Spring?

Stupid groundhog. I hate that he saw his shadow last month. Spring definitely does not seem close by, so I can only blame that on Punxsutawney Phil! And another weird thing, is that St. Patty's Day and Easter are so close this year - just doesn't seem right! Way too early in the season to be celebrating the Easter holiday....

But, today was our annual neighborhood Easter egg hunt. Around these parts, March is a cold and gloomy month - much like November. Needless to say we are all very much begging for Spring to arrive sometime soon. With the holiday being so early this year, the grass wasn't greened up yet, no spring blooms popping through the soil, and definitely no sunshine for The Hunt! But we managed, with winter coats, hats, gloves and children with enough energy to keep us all warm - it was as big a hit as it usually is!

One snag we hit this year though, is our usual location in the neighborhood was too saturated from all the melted snow and rain, so we moved The Hunt - to our house, in our back yard! Everything worked out great, got the hunt in before the sprinkles started up again, and all the kids seemed happy with their loot! We ended up with about 45 children participating this year.

Here's an example of the "Spring Feeling" we had last year during the egg hunt when spring actually arrived on time... look at the lush grass, the flowers... short sleeved shirts! See what a couple more weeks of nice weather and sunshine can do?

And here's some photos I snapped at this year's hunt today.... Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More conversations with the 7 year old...

So as I mentioned the other day, we had a family dinner at my place this weekend. Carter has become fairly "Holy" over the past 6 months or so, and keeps offering to say the meal prayer. It's terribly cute, and I have to admit the very first time I heard him say one I nearly laughed out loud because of the cuteness and what he was saying. When we do bedtime prayers, he usually wants me to go first. I usually start out casually saying "Hi God, thanks for today...." etc. So I know where he's picked up the first line in his meal prayers when he begins it with "Hi God!". First he insists that we all join hands and bow our heads. He will peek up and call you out on your head bowing and eye opening if he catches you not being fully involved - and prayer time comes to a swift halt until said guilty party has fully complied. Then we heard something like this:

Carter: "Hi God! Thank you for our family and friends. Thank you for our aunties and uncles and grandparents. Thank you for making us born and growing us up. Thank you for Grammy and Grampy's birthday. Amen."

Could he be any sweeter? Just a side note, Grandpa Dunk usually finds the perfect words to use in a prayer for whatever occasion. Carter has dubbed him, The Prayer Man.... "Grandpa, you're the best prayer man!" I'm glad Carter has such good examples to follow!


This is a conversation for both sides of my family, that happened just after the prayer this weekend. The Democrats and the Republicans. We have several of both I might add.... Mom using her sense of humor to tackle the awkward silence that began to happen as everyone was passing the food around the table, began with this...

Grammy: "So Carter, what do you think about the state of the world today"
Carter: "Oh, it's fine."
Grammy: "Well that's good Carter I'm glad it's fine - do you know who might win for President?"
Carter: "Um, no Gram."
Grammy: "Well, you have Clinton, Obama and McCain to choose from, who would you like to win?"
Carter: "Oh, I think Obama will win"
Family laughter inserted here.... and chides of "He Might" and "Ugg!" echoed around the table...

A silent pause as everyone composed themselves....and Carter curiously asks...

Carter: "What's an Obama?"

See, a little humor for both sides of my family! :)


Monday, March 10, 2008

Weekend Celebrations

This weekend, we celebrated my Mom and Dad's birthday together (Mom's 2/25 Dad's 3/16) because all three of us children were in town together! My brother Jay was up from Tampa to judge a regional dance competition. The rest of us live pretty close to one another. Mom's having a little trouble saying 50-(five) because it seems like yesterday that she just left the 40's, right? Dad's celebrating his last year as a spry 50-something. Wonder if next March he'll have trouble saying sa-sa-sssa-sixty!

Here's a cute shot of my brother Jay with Carter - these two were definitely having a good time together yesterday. Carter couldn't get enough of Jay's willingness to be goofy. The two of them used the wrapping paper from my parent's gifts to wrap silly things for each other and hide them. A napkin, a fork, a matchbox car... this went on for quite a while as each pretended it was the best present they ever got once they found their surprise! This of course, was a remake of what my brothers and I used to do when we were little - we'd play "birthday" or "Christmas" and wrap items from around the house and pretend it was that occasion! Oh to be young again...

And finally, I had to capture our little princess finding her inner Diva. She is starting to show us more and more when she's not quite agreeing with what's going on. She'll glare at you with this look to protest putting on her coat, being told 'no no', not giving her food fast enough, or if she's just plain tired of you making stupid requests of her like "what does a duck say Olivia?" or "Can I have a smoochie?" So,here I present to you, her new sassy face she makes when she wants you to stop whatever it is you are doing that annoys her! Imagine the sound of a bull scratching it's hoof in the dirt, and you'll hear "oofffffff" coming from that cute pouty mouth of hers! Check out those squinty dartful eyes - love the lowered brows... too funny!


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

In the news...

I'm a month early to discuss Autism Awareness since April is it's official month to 'get the word out' so to speak. There's one recent article in particular that has me, and I'm sure parents all over the world, scratching their heads again in confusion. It is in reference to the great debate about whether or not preservatives in children's vaccinations have been contributing to the rise in diagnosing ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders). There is such a continuance of of back and forth debate between parents, medical experts, manufacturers, chemists etc., it's making our heads spin. I think particularly so, in those of us who have a child with Autism. Let me just say, that I am in no way against childhood vaccines. I think it would be foolish of us to not vaccinate our children against disease and outbreaks that we can control. However, we have become more informed parents our second time around. With Olivia, of course we still vaccinate, but we have modified our shot schedule to include no more than 2 vaccinations at one time. Sometimes we choose to have only one if it's a particular dose of something we are uncomfortable with, and we'll come back a few months later for the next one. Even though manufacturers have claimed that they can produce vaccinations that are "Thimerosal Free", if you research enough you can find dozens of articles about the process of elimination during manufacturing (they start out using it, but the chemical process they do is supposed to end up removing it all by the time it's ready for market) - but no final testing to see if it's actually free of the mercury in the end.

The CDC won't even etch in stone whether or not they believe vaccinations contribute to this medical crisis.

Our son is 7 now, and was diagnosed at around 18 months old. Thankfully, someone in his Mom's Day Out program had experience in Early Intervention and noticed some traits that Carter was displaying. It was like 20/20 hindsight once we were informed about what to look for as "signs". He had so many, but we had no idea what the subtleties were. We chalked it up to Carter just being Carter - some interesting quirks and such. She urged us to get an evaluation, and from there we started our journey through the world of Autism. He is truly remarkable, and has come such a long way from the early years when we were just starting out. We immersed ourselves into therapies 5 days a week, several hours a day, for the first couple of years. Every day, you could count on therapists from Speech, Occupational, Physical, and Developmental to arrive at the house, or for an outside appointment elsewhere. He even had a a couple of intense therapies through OT, one called Samonas (sound therapy) that supplies stimulation to the central nervous system. He had Sensory Integration Dysfunction that inhibited his ability to walk through his world without being super sensitive to his surroundings (sound, touch, taste etc.) Another was called HippoTherapy (therapeutic horseback riding, click here for a pic of him). He wore leg braces from the knee down for a couple of years (click here for a picture) to halt the constant toe walking, which was having a physical affect on his muscle tone and causing him to consistently fall and get hurt. It's been a long road, but we truly contribute his great outcome to such early and intense interventions.

He is very high functioning now and within a regular classroom environment with his peers. There will always be a continuation of social and emotional learning for him, as he has trouble reading social cues from people and understanding emotions of others, which can sometimes cause inappropriate behavior (such as, laughing or mimicking the sound of someones cry, instead of offering sympathy). He continues to have therapy for speech and occupational within the school to help him with communication skills, and his fine motor skills. His sensory issues have drastically improved over the years as well. He is a joy to be around, and anyone who has known him from the start could write pages and pages about his turn-around from then until now. Early help, early help, early help... we can't stress that enough!

We think it's imperative that kids are screened for Autism at their early well-checks. I'm past my bitterness now of being told time and again when Carter was a baby, that my Mommy Instincts were overreactions and that boys just "sometimes develop slower" etc. I'm confident now that Pediatricians are being more informed about diagnosis and what to look for in terms of signs. No, we are no longer with the Pediatricians that had their hands on the doorknob in our earlier years. It's been trial and error along the way to find someone that we trust completely. We really love the doc we have now, and we were so thrilled to know they have early intervention screening practices in place for Autism (can you believe some offices STILL do not do the proper screening?)

Anyway, back to my original reason for needing to blog about this topic today. There is a ton of information on the Internet that one can Google, and I have links on my blog on the right hand side if you're interested in the nitty gritty of the disorder. So I will spare myself the quick rise in blood pressure and raising my tone of voice about all the things that leave us scratching our heads about this epidemic - I'll wait until April!

Now, to add to the Great Debate of vaccination contribution to Autism, I present the article at hand.... the headline reads:

"Government Concedes Vaccine Autism Case in Federal Court"

Click here to read the article..... head scratching isn't it!?