Are We Being Watched?

This morning, while I was in the kitchen making coffee, I saw this contraption on the counter. Kylin is really into things related to security. Not the personal security of his place in life, but security cameras, security guards, security alarms, and so on. Recently, he found a black & white disposable camera from probably 8 years ago (it had pictures from a coast trip that I hadn’t developed) and he taped it to the wall above the window over our kitchen sink. It stayed there for about 2 weeks, until I came downstairs one morning, and I noticed that it was gone. I looked all over for it and couldn’t find it. So I thought that perhaps, he had finally taken it down. I found it, about a half an hour later, in the sink, in a container full of water. I guess I won’t be developing those pictures.
So this morning, I noticed a replacement camera, with a paperclip hanger, secured with my freezer tape. I guess he felt that the last camera was a fail as it didn’t stay up. So now, we may be seeing this camera staring us down when we walk through the kitchen. If this one doesn’t work, maybe we should hide the video camera and whatever he thinks he needs to hang it up! ūüôā



I Took A “Baking” Day

After a few busy weeks(family from out of town visiting, and resting from an ankle sprain), I decided to have a “Baking” day.¬† Some folks take a “Personal Day” or a “Mental Health Day”, mine was devoted to baking a few things to have on hand for the freezer.

My son had reminded me that we were out of baked oatmeal for “Oatmeal” day. (We have “oatmeal” day because my son isn’t fond of oatmeal, even though it’s good for him. So if I give it a specific day during the week, he can prepare himself for it ahead of time. Having it scheduled greatly lowers the risk of a meltdown or a half hour question and answer period of “Mom, why did you decide that we were going to have oatmeal today?” It’s just as much for my sanity as it is for his, I’m sure).

So yesterday, I was going to make some baked pumpkin/chocolate chip oatmeal (see recipe here However, I was out of pumpkin, and I really didn’t feel like going out. So I made pancakes and waffles, and filled them with chocolate chips. IMG_3896
I still need to make the baked oatmeal.
But I have until Wednesday ūüôā


We Choose Virtues….With Special Needs

My long-time, close friend, Heather McMillan (and her husband Elton), founded a curriculum company a few years ago, that teaches and helps instill the good, basic character qualities, that will help children learn in the classroom and succeed in life once they reach adulthood.  That company is We Choose Virtues (which can be found at this web address

Just so you know, I’m not being paid to promote this product and she didn’t ask me to.¬†¬† However, she has brought it to my attention that there are parents of children with special needs, usually Autism, who have asked her if and how the Virtues can work in their particular situations.¬†¬†¬† My son is on the Autism Spectrum (PDD-NOS) and my husband and I have found plenty of opportunities to apply the Virtues in his life.

Before We Choose Virtues came on the market, Heather had an original list of character qualities for her own kids, and gave copies to several mothers in the MOPS group that I was attending.¬† I made copies of them and put them on the walls of my children’s rooms and went over that list with them.¬†¬† My son was a lot younger and it didn’t appear that he was listening or paying attention to that list at all.¬† Then about two years later, out of the blue, he didn’t have a meltdown when something in the routine had changed.¬† I complimented him on controlling himself and he said, “That’s being flexible”.¬† So I knew then, that he was figuring it out.¬† I’ve noticed with my son, that if we just keep exposing him to things or situations, that he initially doesn’t like, that eventually, he accepts them and they become part of his routine.¬†¬† That’s how we went from him not wanting to go to church at all, to where he is now, in that he loves it.¬† He used to sit in his seat during the worship service, not always wanting to be there (there was one night at church,¬†where Elton came up and shook¬†my son’s ¬†hand, asking him how it was going.¬† My son, answered in a not-so-happy tone, “I’m flexible!”¬† Yes, I did laugh).

Once the We Choose Virtues curriculum became available for purchase, I bought the poster and the flashcards.¬† Since May’s designated Virtue is “Gentle”, I put it up at the eye level of my almost 15 year old.


I can find all sorts of areas to remind him to be “Gentle” because his initial response to life is anything but that.¬† If he is having issues because he didn’t like to be reminded to wash the dishes, he can be rather rough in his haste to get them done.¬† Or if he impulsively wants to hold a cat (who doesn’t want to be held), he can be a little rough in “loving” that pet.¬† If he’s trying to get past someone in a crowded mall, he might slam or shove a few people in his quest from getting from point A to Point B!¬† So the card is out where he can see it.¬† If you have more than one set of cards, or even the posters,¬†you can put that month’s Virtue in various places all over the house (I would recommend laminating anything that might be tacked to the bathroom mirror, just so the steamy showers won’t wilt your paper).



IMG_3783For my son, who is high functioning, ¬†I find this program to be very helpful.¬† The definitions are short and catchy for those who have a shorter attention span and aren’t cut out for lectures.¬† However, for us, it does generate a lot of conversations.¬† Mostly hypothetical questions about situations that aren’t realistic, but are focused on the attitudes of people “involved”.








IMG_3776¬†When I started with my son, I chose what I felt were the top 3 issues that needed work.¬† “Self-Controlled” came into play because when things didn’t go as expected or the routine changed without warning, he needed to learn to be flexible and control his urge to have a fit.¬† Another issues was learning to be patient.¬† If he knew something was supposed to happen at 10:00 and it wasn’t happening at that very moment, he needed to work on being flexible with his time and patient until the event did happen……… 10:03.¬† Perseverant is helpful when he can’t find something (Diligence is helpful in this area too.¬† They do go hand in hand).¬† My son used to just look at a room, looking for something, but not looking under or around anything, and say, “I can’t find it”.¬†¬† We’ve been working on him quite a bit, encouraging him to keep looking, without melting down, and to be patient with himself if he can’t find the item right away.¬† Now, once he finds the item, he’s as pleased as punch with himself and is all giddy and tells me, “I was perseverant and I found it!”.

So that’s just an example of how I approach it with my older, high-functioning Autistic son.¬†¬† Thankfully, he’s also very verbal, so there are many opportunities to reiterate what the Virtues are, which ones need work and which ones we’re seeing him choose (and we do impress upon him that he is in charge of whether or not he applies those Virtues.¬† It’s not the circumstances that are choosing them for him, hence, self-control).

Investing the money, time and energy is definitely worth it.¬† I don’t know how many times I’ve been complimented on my teenagers’ behavior and also how my special needs son behaves, and I think that using this program has been a contributor to that.

Here’s the link again, in case you don’t feel like scrolling up

Have a great day!

Elizabeth ūüôā

He’s Nearly 15!

DSC00093Originally, I was going to write several blog posts of our experiences for Autism Awareness month, but, I’ve been a busy mama (and not all of that time was spent playing Farmville 2).

So here’s our young man

He used to look like this, a little boy………


IMG_3650and now he’s this tall, young man with a more mature voice.






IMG_3692A young man who still likes to play with tub toys, and bring them to the beach.

(Beware, the “fierce” rubber shark!)


IMG_3754When he was little, he liked to bring sticks into the house and carry them around as “whips”.¬† One day, my husband became really tired of seeing sticks collecting in the house, so he helped our son find a new form of “whip”.¬† He bought Kylin a bag of zip-ties, which were the perfect replacement (and good for us if we ever needed to fasten anything to something else!)¬† Eventually, Kylin discovered that the “whip” could reach a longer distance, if something was taped to it, like a silly straw (he’s a big fan of tape too, so we buy him a roll of painter’s tape for those “gift-giving” occasions.¬† To him, it’s gold!).



IMG_3758Before he became a teenager, Kevin found this book for me on Amazon.¬† “Mixed Blessings” was written by William and Barbara Christopher, about their experience raising their autistic son¬†(those who are fans of the show “M*A*S*H” will know William as “Father Mulcahy”).¬† I’m glad that I read it before my son hit puberty, as they described how their son became more agitated and aggressive once it hit.¬† So I had some idea of what to expect.¬† Fortunately, with Kylin, the hard work that we’ve all put in to help him control his emotions at times when things don’t go his way, seem to have helped, so far.

This book is out of print, however it may still be found on Amazon.

Turning 15 for Kylin will be a bit different than it was for Heather.¬† He isn’t ready to learn to drive, and time will tell if he ever will be.¬† The plan is to take him to the DMV and get him an ID card, and then help him open up a bank account, so he can learn more about saving money and gaining interest.

He’s also wishing that he had someone to play with his cars “nicely” (meaning, “play how I want to play, and don’t take the cars out of my room unless I say it’s ok”).¬† This is kind of a big deal, because, in the past, he didn’t want any outside “involvement” when he played.

We’ve also noticed more clarity in his thinking when he writes down his thoughts than when he¬†speaks them.¬†¬† He’s posting more on Facebook and has been making more of an effort to talk about “real” and appropriate things.¬†¬† “inappropriate” would¬†be¬†pictures of him being a dictator¬†wanting to go to war.¬† We did tell him what usually happens to dictators and we didn’t feel that was a worthy career choice for him!¬†¬†When the “dictator” talk or pictures start happening, that’s his way of saying that he’s in a situation that he has no control over and he doesn’t like that.

We have finally started letting him watch movies with some action in them.¬† In the past, he couldn’t even watch “Finding Nemo” without getting overly charged and aggressive.¬†¬† Now he just sits through an action movie rather calmly, and then makes a comment afterwards.¬† When we watched “Jurassic Park”, he was fairly quiet.¬† Then at the end, when the cast is bloody, exhausted and limping to the helicopter, Kylin’s matter-of-fact comment was, “They’re going to need to take a shower when they get home”.¬†¬† Ummm, yeah, I’m sure they are. ūüôā

It should be interesting to see what changes and what stays the same over the next year.

IMG_3594¬†Changes that don’t necessarily include gaining more inches in height over his big sister!

Elizabeth ūüôā

The Novice Budgeter

This morning, I started a new plan with the boy.  We started a budget.
Until now, whenever he has acquired money, he has wanted to go to the store right away and look for toys (namely, characters from the “CARS” movies). He’s old enough now that we felt that it was time that he should start choosing and buying gifts to give for birthdays/holidays, and to start setting aside some of that money, so that he can do so.

When I told him of my new idea, I think that he thought that I would be taking his money away because I heard, “It’s the end of the world” (he can get a bit dramatic). Well, maybe the end of the world where all of his money is earmarked for “CARS” toys.

So as the picture above shows, we are starting with 3 categories. Hopefully, it won’t be long before he sees the benefits of budgeting that money.

Now, we just have to convince him that when he’s offered a paying job (that he’s capable of doing), that he should take it.


After The Rain……..

When the rain has passed, a young man’s thoughts turn to…..

The outdoors!

Photo by Elizabeth Cully







and CARS!

Photo by Elizabeth Cully









Photo by Elizabeth Cully

Complete with detailed descriptions, and loud sound effects!








Photo by Elizabeth Cully

I wonder what the neighbors think about the noise in our back yard?

Nothing to see here.  Just a young man with his CARS collection.

“Mom, why are you still here?¬† I’m playing”


Orange Juice

My son is currently in a phase where his drink of choice, is orange juice.

If he runs out, and I don’t have any more of it in the freezer, I hear, “Well, you should have bought more” followed by endless questioning of “When will you be going to the store for more juice?” and reminders such as, “Don’t forget that you need more juice………..because sometimes you’re forgettable”.


He won’t drink milk, at least not since he heard that it can be a phlegm producer when one has a cold.¬† He’s taking preventive measures against excess phlegm production, by avoiding the milk when he doesn’t have a cold.


He’s a “plan ahead” guy.



What Curriculum Do You Use?

Since my recent post about Autism awareness, I’ve been asked about some of my curriculum choices¬† for my son, as I homeschool him.

So, I’ll share the journey of how we started with him, and the curriculum that didn’t work and what seems to be working now.

Fortunately, I have a VERY verbal son.¬† I have encountered parents with children on the spectrum, who have told me that their autistic teenager still doesn’t speak or has a vocabulary of very few words.¬† A cashier at Walmart once told me that she had yet to hear her 15 year old call her “Mom”.¬† I still tear up when I think about that.¬† I love hearing my kids call me “Mom”!¬†¬†¬† A lot of kids on the spectrum don’t connect with other people (unless those people are invading their space, then you have a connection that you don’t want, meaning possible meltdown).

When I started homeschooling my daughter (she’s fine and not on the spectrum at all), she was ready to read at age 4.¬†¬† I figured that out after weeks of answering the question “What does that sign say?” while in the car running errands.¬†¬† So I used “Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons”.¬†¬† This program was actually the one used in my class when I was in the 1st grade.¬†¬† It’s completely phonics-based.¬†¬† So in a short time, our daughter was reading her books to herself (which gave us a little break from reading “Go Dog Go” repeatedly.¬† Don’t get me wrong, I loved to read to her, but I was hoping for some variety.¬†¬† To this day, I can recite some of her books almost verbatim).¬†¬†¬† My son, was never interested in sitting down and having books read to him.¬† He was still in “examination” mode.¬†¬† If you gave him a book to look at, he would examine it from every angle and then eventually toss it and move on to something else.¬† If I read a story, he wanted to be doing something.¬†¬† Also, he didn’t start talking until he was nearly 3, so his vocabulary was limited and it only expanded about every 6 months.¬†¬†¬† So when it was time for him to learn to read, he wasn’t really ready until he was about 9.¬† I used the same program that I did with my daughter, and he caught on a lot quicker than he would have if I tried to force it at age 6 or 7.

For Math, I started with Saxon.¬†¬† From level K through Grade 3, we did really well.¬† It was easy to teach and learn.¬† After that, the curriculum switches¬† to a text book and the teachers manual didn’t help me explain certain principals.¬† It just gave the answers.¬† Since then, I’ve checked out other math products and finally, found MATH-U-SEE, and now my daughter no longer dreads Math, and neither do I.¬†¬† With our son, he grasped the concepts of adding and subtracting single digits, but multiple digits throw him off.¬†¬† As far as multiplication and division go, he is totally thrown off.¬† He knows the answers to a few multiplication problems (anything multiplied by 0,1,2, 10, and some of the 5’s).

For History and Science, consumable workbooks and textbooks¬† don’t seem to work for my son.¬† So what I have been doing is checking out books and DVD’s from the library.¬†¬† I’ve read to him (yes, NOW he’ll sit still and listen while I read) about various historical figures (when I told him that I was going to read about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, he asked, “They took the subway?”).¬† “Bill Nye The Science Guy” DVDs cover all sorts of scientific topics.¬†¬† We’ve checked out DVD’s covering presidents, families in other countries, the United States, etc.¬† He grasps that information better in that medium.

Now as far as helping him overcome his learning obstacles, a friend had told me about a learning service in the next town who had helped her son.¬† So, I went there and had my son tested for what is called SOI (Structure of Intellect).¬† This basically told us where his strengths and weaknesses were as far as how his brain functions.¬†¬† From that information, the company put together a workbook specifically for my son, full of worksheets to help his thinking and problem solving skills.¬† Some pages are easier than others for him, and I always need to make sure that he read the directions and didn’t just look at the page and “figure” out what was being asked of him (and he doesn’t like to go back and correct things, but then again, who really does?).¬†¬†¬† The SOI Systems website is here at

Another great resource is  Dr. Daniel G. Amen MD (yes, that is really his last name) who heads up the Amen Clinics.   He has spent years studying the brain and how nutrition and whatever else we put into our bodies affect brain function.   Occasionally, his seminars are featured on PBS and are really fascinating.   His website is WWW.AMENCLINICS.COM

My son is also taking part in a health study for a supplement called Juice Plus.  These are capsules that he takes every day and each capsule consists of whole fruits and vegetables.  Feeding the brain basically.   Their website is

I have also been advised to take my son to see an optometric doctor who specializes in therapies for developmentally delayed children.¬†¬† A few years ago, I did have my son wearing Irlen lenses ( .¬†¬† However, we’re holding off in putting him back into those until he’s seen the new eye doctor.

There are also daily exercises that he needs to do in order to help some things connect in his brain that will help him grasp what he learns.

Some other websites that have been recommended to me:

Future Horizons and    (for writing)            (helps with motor planning and sequencing related to poor rhythm and timing)  (Brainy toys for kids of all ages).

And, at least to me, one of the best programs in character building (and I’m not biased because my friend owns the company.¬† This is an excellent program)¬†

Also the book, “Reflexes, Learning, and Behavior” by Sally Goddard has been recommended.

So that’s where we’re at now.¬†¬†¬† This year, progress with the SOI program and schooling has been slow as the last two years have been a bit chaotic for our family (a move last year followed by a political campaign this year.)


I’m Very Aware!

April is Autism Awareness month.¬† As one mother of an autistic daughter wrote in our local paper, “Every month” is that month

Those of us who have been blessed with these unique children are aware every day, every hour, every minute and every second that Autism is a reality.

The mother mentioned above also wrote of instances where she would be out in public with her child and others around them would think that her child was undisciplined.¬†¬† Those folks have no idea, that it could be worse.¬† Instead of a child who may not be patiently waiting in line and running around at a store or restaurant, they could be witnessing a child having a meltdown which could be viewed by others at a tantrum.¬†¬† One day, I was in a grocery store and saw a mother with two preteen daughters walking with her while her preteen son was sitting in the shopping cart, wailing loudly.¬† I’m sure that this mother was getting some critical looks from others for how her son was acting.¬† When I passed her, I tried to give an understanding smile, because I was pretty sure I knew what she was dealing with.

Having a child on the spectrum has been an interesting journey.¬† We’ve had to change some of our thinking in how we parent him.

For example: There was a 3 year period where our son would not eat anything except peanut butter sandwiches.¬† Anytime we went to a restaurant, I had a baggie with a PB sandwich in my purse (sometimes a little squished, and he didn’t like squished) for him.¬† I always felt that I was being viewed as playing favorites with my kids because we would order from the menu for our daughter and then pull out this squished sandwich for out son.

Another example is when we would go to a store or restaurant that, for some reason, he didn’t like.¬†¬† When our son was little, there was a particular grocery store that he didn’t like (but I needed to shop there, in order to save money).¬† Every time, I would turn onto the freeway to go to that store, he’d let out a loud scream in the car.¬†¬† It happened every time, for months.¬†¬† Then one day, he stopped doing that.


When he was a toddler, he was suddenly freaked out about taking a bath.   For 6 months, I bathed a screaming kid, and then as suddenly as it started, he was back to being fine and happy with bathes.

He was also prone to suddenly scream.¬† Just a shriek. ¬† He did that in front of a friend once and she immediately said, “Um, I wouldn’t let him do that”.¬†¬† I really wanted to say, “Well gee, I’m sorry, he didn’t give me an itinerary as to when the screams were scheduled!”.¬† All I could really say was that I don’t “let” it happen, but I do handle them when they do happen.¬† For as much as he loves a predictable life, he himself can be unpredictable.¬† Finally one day, I decided that I was no longer going to accept embarrassment or criticism for his behaviour or how we handled him because those critics were not dealing with what we were dealing with and in some cases, refused to educate themselves about autism.

He’s a teenager now.¬† He can handle his meltdowns much better and we can tell when one is coming.¬† Usually, if we can catch it early enough, a long hug from one of us, and talking him through it helps to keep it from escalating to something more difficult to handle.

He may be taller than me now, but he still loves Disney cartoons and seeing “Mater” from “Cars” is like seeing a real celebrity.


When you ask him to smile, and it’s not in his nature to smile for a camera so the one he gives is more intense

When he draws detailed maps, hand-copied from our local phone book.

He has a different view on how things should be, such as “It should be illegal to drive when you’re a zombie” (or when you’re asleep).

He reminds us of “Sheldon Cooper” from “The Big Bang Theory” tv show in that he feels a need to have things a certain way (such as a particular spot on the couch when where are plenty of other places to sit).


We can remind him to do the dishes or sort his laundry and we receive the same line of questioning: “Will I have to do this for the rest of my life?”, “Is this a daily chore or a once a week chore?”, “Are you mad or just sounding firm?”

The kid entertains us and fascinates us daily, even when he looks at his older sister and randomly asks, “Are you glad that I’m not a boat?”.



My Son’s 911 Incident

(Originally posted on my old blog on June 3, 2009)

Here’s something funny that happened today. Kylin didn’t want to go to church tonight. In the past, if he doesn’t want to do something, he’ll threaten to call the police or call 911 (and we have told him every time that cops aren’t going to come and let him skip school, or make his sister do what he wants etc). So today, he dialed 911 on his cell phones, that have no service. He didn’t know that even cell phones with no service can still call 911 (and I didn’t realize that he was doing so). So a little after 5:00 this evening, a Lane County Sheriff’s deputy showed up at our door investigating 8 incomplete 911 calls coming from our house. I called Kylin to the door and asked if he had called 911. He said that he did so the car would be towed and then we wouldn’t be able to go to church. Having a cop show up at the door sort of scared him I think. The officer told him that calling 911 when it wasn’t an emergency was a crime. Kylin was a bit shaken up after that (a real cop showed up at the house and seriously spoke to him!) and he was very mellow and cooperative the rest of the night!. And we did go to church. He is embarrassed about it now and doesn’t want us talking about it. I told Kevin about it when he came home this evening and he thought it was really funny. I had to fight off the giggles in the car driving to church!