Do you love the fall? I love the fall! Maybe it is because my birthday is in September, or because I’m a big nerd and look forward to the start of school, or because I appreciate the escape from the harsh summer sun. I don’t know, but the fall is a magical time for me.
I look forward to the crisp mornings, hot coffee, and sweaters in a way that I can’t look forward to salads and swimsuits. As always, I find myself thinking about how to make memories with my children during a special and ephemeral time of year.
This year, I’m going into the fall with a plan! Well, maybe not a real plan… a guideline?
We are going to have a great time this fall! The real problem is squeezing it all in!
You all know I love my bullet journal. I might be a little obsessed. Since I’m pregnant, I got to thinking about what pregnancy related pages I could add to mine. I hit upon a few good ideas I wanted to share with you all!
And that’s all I’ve come up with so far! Shortly, I will start preparing for the hospital, and I know my bullet journal will be handy then!
A visit to the Dutchess County Fair is an annual tradition for our family, the kind of tradition like putting up a Christmas tree… you never skip it! Some of my fondest childhood memories are from my days spent enjoying the fair, and I love making similar memories with my children. It’s not all about the rides either. (In fact, I don’t like rides in the least. I get motion sickness on carousels!) There are great educational opportunities, yummy food, sunshine, and fun.
This year was fantastic. The weather was perfect with a high of 88 degrees and a gentle breeze. It did get hot, and being pregnant I feel like a human radiator, but it could have been so much hotter! We arrived at the fair early and enjoyed a few hours without large crowds or a blasting sun.
Drake has a blast. He loved walking around, the food, the animals, the antique wood chopper show, and the dock dogs. He got overstimulated a couple of times, but having him ride in the stroller instead of walking or visiting a less crowded area helps center him again. Overall, Drake is flexible and resilient in large crowds as long as we watch for clues that he needs our support or a break. We are very lucky.
Devin also had a good time taking in the sites and riding in the stroller, but he isn’t at the age yet to enjoy the fair the way he will when he’s older. His favorite part was probably the ice cream cone he ate while Drake did some rides with Damian on his own.
Damian and I always enjoy ourselves, and this year was no different. We had the best barbecue from Handsome Devil, and watching our kids have a blast is always heart-warming. By the time we left, the whole family was exhausted. Being pregnant, I was extra hot and extra tired. Damian shouldered the bulk of the stroller pushing and kid carrying which would wear anyone out, and the kids spent from a day of excitement. They both fell asleep in the car before we even left the fairground parking lot.
I can’t wait for next year!
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Kids with Autism typically struggle with pretend or imaginative play. Shortly after his second birthday, Drake began to show interest in imaginative play. He started pretending to eat things, pretending blocks were animals or trains, and making his trains say hello to each other. As with all things to do with Drake, I find that if I provide the environment and opportunities to encourage Drake in a certain direction, and if I wait long enough, he rises to the occasion. There’s no pushing it, just gentle encouragement. His pretend play is still simplistic, but we have a base to work from, and I am optimistic.
If your child struggles or doesn’t enjoy pretending, you will need to be hands on with these toys, showing them their options for pretend and enticing them by making it fun. I keep the pretending varied and unpredictable. I don’t try to teach Drake a certain way to use the toy because he tends to get locked into that one way, which really isn’t true pretend play. It only looks like pretend play.
On a final note, I have to say that despite what experts say about pretend play in kids with Autism, I have a sneaking suspicion that kids with Autism have rich imaginations. They just don’t share them with us in the ways we expect. We have to learn how they are expressing them to us.
The Back Story:
The decision to become a stay at home mom did not happen overnight even though I knew it was what I wanted most. The major objection was financial. Looking at our budget it seemed downright impossible, and so I worked part time for the first year and a half of Drake’s life. It seemed to be the only way. I told myself it was the best of both worlds. I would get more time with Drake than if I worked full time, but I’d also earn income. This held true in some ways, but while it may have offered the best of both worlds. It also offered the worst.
I didn’t like my job, and I never had enough time to get anything done. I was trying to keep too many plates spinning, and they were all crashing to the ground. Because I was “only” working part time, I thought I needed to do more on the home front to make up for the lack of income. Leaving Drake was painful, and I was stressed and tired. When Devin came, I knew that my desire to be home with my kids would be even stronger and that the duties of motherhood, home making, and work would overwhelm me.
Things came to a head after Devin’s arrival into our lives. Damian had just started his first semester of school. Our child care situation was getting complicated as Drake’s grandma made some big life changes. I had a newborn to care for, a very busy husband, and a job I didn’t care for despite it paying well and giving me benefits.
I crunched so many numbers I felt like a human calculator. Could we afford for me to stay home? No. Could we afford child care? No. Could I change my work schedule? No. Could I make anything even close to what I was making if I changed jobs? No. There was no good answer.
Then we got Drake’s Autism diagnosis. After months of wondering if Drake’s quirkiness and language struggles were Autism related, we finally had an answer. The answer was yes, and we were relieved to know. Damian and I decided that we needed to look at how to make my staying home work financially because now I had therapy to schedule and strategies for helping Drake to implement. We also believed that having the consistency of one parent at home would benefit Drake.
The Financial Changes We Made:
I went back to my numbers, calculating tax returns, and gathering resources. It turned out we could make it work if we made some serious sacrifices.
In our monthly bills, we cut cable, lowered our internet speed, dropped my cell phone data plan, went down to one car, dropped anything entertainment related like Netflix and music subscriptions, cut back our grocery budget, paid off debt, switched health insurance plans, and use our tax return to make car payments for the year.
We eliminated many annual and inconsistent expenses by getting rid of our second car and switching the kids to a different health insurance which has no copays. Damian dropped gaming subscriptions he wasn’t using because he was so busy with school. (Although we kept Amazon Prime for the kids shows and diaper savings.)
The lifestyle changes have been the most difficult. We had to stop eating out, getting coffees on the go, shopping for fun (curse you Target!), and planning vacations. This is the area of our budget that we are still struggling with. Old habits die hard, especially when life gets crazy busy or we all fall ill. We have become better over time, and I believe we will improve even more. The good news is that when we pay off our debt (1 big credit card, 1 big car loan, and student loans), this area will be more flexible. By then, we probably won’t even miss the Dunkin Donuts...maybe.
Some lifestyle changes have been easier. I cut all of our hair myself, cook from scratch, use homemade cleaners, use rags instead of paper towel most of the time, buy cheaper diapers, ditched paper plates. These things may not seem like they are saving us much money, but they add up to be significant.
Like I said, we are by no means perfect, but we are making this work because both Damian and I believe it is best for our family. We have made sacrifices, but those sacrifices are well worth the benefits to our family. It is not true for every family, but it is for ours.
A family friend passed a box of books along to us a few months back, and I didn’t realize what a special book we’d been given when I sawMachines at Work by Byron Barton amongst the well-loved collection. Both of the boys LOVE Machines at Work. They ask me to read it to them every time they see it, no matter how recently we read it, or how frequently. The simple illustrations of construction-related machines are immediately identifiable. The simple sentences describe the illustrations, which is helpful for language development. The illustrations also provide opportunity for further conversation. We talk about number of machines on each page, what the people are eating, and colors. Damian reads it with funny sound effects and the boys giggle. (Damian is clearly a very funny guy!) If you have a little truck and machine lover at home, they will love this book as much as my guys do.
I started a new morning routine three weeks ago, and it has made a huge impact on how my day goes! I am more energetic, productive, and patient. The house is cleaner, the sink is almost always empty, and I’ve been doing small artsy projects with Drake most days. My new routine tapped into a line of energy I never knew existed. I never thought how I started my morning would make such a difference to the rest of my day.
First of all, I prepare the night before. By preparing ahead, I can run on autopilot in the morning, and I am less likely to wake up the sleeping children because I am quieter.
Before I put the kids to bed, I set out the breakfast dishes, put my clothes and towels in the bathroom, and put my planner on the table. Easy enough, and it doesn't seem like much, but it makes the morning go that much more smoothly.
My Magical Morning Routine
That is how my morning goes on the good mornings. Most mornings my new routine is manageable. It’s not like I put exercise in there anywhere. The only glitch happens when the kids wake up super early. Sometimes Drake will wake up before my alarm goes off! Imagine my despair! I can usually still get all the same stuff done, but it isn’t as energizing for me as when I get to spend my morning alone and in silence.
I never thought changing my morning routine would help invigorate my day, but it has and I am happy for it!
It isn’t easy to learn how to cook, but everyone can do it! I didn’t learn to cook until I was well into my 20's. Sure, I could boil water or preheat an oven for frozen pizza as well as anyone, but real cooking was a foreign and terrifying experience to me. I didn’t know what a roux was or what it meant to cut butter into flour, and I didn’t use spices at all. Not even salt. Worst of all, I had no confidence. I didn’t know what I was doing in the kitchen, and so thought that I couldn't do anything. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If I could learn to cook, just about anybody could learn! Don't give up and keep experimenting until you're satisfied with your skills!
I LOVE my bullet journal! I started the bullet journal mid-July and have been going strong ever since. In fact, my use of my bullet journal has gotten to the point where I'm not sure I could function without it. I certainly wasn't functioning very well without it before! If you're looking for a new planner/list manager, check it out! The best place to start is with the original creator's website.
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I’m all about making do as much as possible when pregnant. It doesn’t last forever. It’s just nine months. Unless you plan on having a big family, the investment in specialty maternity items isn’t usually worth it. What you buy depends on your lifestyle and career, but overall, the recommendations I make will hold true.
Here’s what you need to avoid making big maternity purchases:
Belly Band + Hair Tie - I loop a hair tie through my buttonhole and then around the button to hold my pants closed. I put a belly band over it to smooth it out. The belly band also holds up too big maternity pants, or hides your tummy if your shirt is a smidge too short.
Dresses and Skirts - Most stretchy dresses and skirts that fit you prepregnancy will fit you while you’re pregnant. If you buy any of these while pregnant, you’re investing in your maternity wardrobe and your regular wardrobe.
Leggings- I’ve always been able to make my regular leggings work. I wear them with the skirts and dresses.
But you might have to buy…
1-2 Pairs of Maternity Pants - It depends on your job and the season you are in your last couple months.
5 Maternity Shirts - I don’t wear tight clothes, so many of my shirts will fit for most of my pregnancy, but in those last couple of months, nothing fits. The baby bump turns into a baby beach ball and there’s no avoiding the maternity shirts. Only buy enough to last you between laundry days and make use of dresses during this time.
Flip Flops, Birkenstocks, or Roomy Shoes - Did you know your feet could go up a size when you’re pregnant? Did you know sometimes the change is permanent!
Bigger Bras - This depends on how pronounced the changes are. I only needed one nice bra (I bought a nursing one), and made due with some roomier sports bras. If you intend to breastfeed, you will want to pick up enough to last you between washes.
Prenatal Gummies - Prenatals make me nauseous. These gummies, for whatever reason, never do. I’m not in love with the flavor, but at least I don’t feel sick.
Water Bottle - My doctor recommends drinking a gallon of water a day while pregnant. Carrying a water bottle around will help you remember to keep drinking.
Pantiliners - Trust me on this one.
Tylenol - Don’t take medicine unless your doctor has okayed it. When I’m gestating, I take tylenol for headaches because I’m not allowed to take my preferred ibuprofen. You never know if or when you will need to take a pain relief medicine. I keep a small bottle handy, just in case.
Maternity Pillow!!!!! - I own the Snoogle and I love this thing. It is the best. I use it even when I’m not pregnant. You could use a body pillow, but this maternity pillow was worth every penny.
Bring pregnant is a truly wonderful and crazy experience. Your body changes and things happen you'd never expect. But really, it is fairly simple. You don't need much. Just a big sense of humor and a lot of courage.
Our first Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) meeting was… well, it wasn’t horrible, but I wouldn’t say it was an amazing experience either. The meeting was to determine Drake eligibility for services and what services they would be. Since Drake has an official diagnosis of Autism, we knew he would qualify for services, and we thought he would qualify for a preschool program.
I entered the meeting hoping for an integrated preschool setting since Drake is often flexible and his ability to communicate is expanding rapidly, but I remained open to a non-integrated setting if the committee had sound reasoning for it. I just wanted him to start preschool because he was so happy to visit the school when we had the evaluations done.
Here’s what happened.
The meeting was boring and dry for the most part, and everyone seemed nice. It started with introductions and then one member of the team read the evaluations out loud for 15 minutes, rattling off scores and comments made by the evaluators. They discussed basic paperwork stuff like how long he’d been in Early Intervention (EI) and the name of his doctor. Boring.
A shift occurred at this point and they asked if I’d seen any improvements since he started EI. (Uh… YEAH!) They asked our special education instructor for his opinion about Drake progress, which mimicked my thoughts. That led into discussing the preschool program.
The committee told me Drake would do a full day, 12-month program at a specific site. They didn’t ask what I thought, what I wanted, or how Drake would handle it. This irked me. I had never heard of the program, so they told me to schedule a visit.
They sorted out how much therapy he would get without asking my opinion, and then they said that the evaluators had made goals for Drake, and they would write them in his IEP. They asked our special education instructor what the education goals should be.
At the end, we completed a short entrance survey which was plain idiotic. (Who comes up with these questions?) They asked if I had questions, and we were done. That was it.
Here’s what went wrong.
First of all, so far when discussing options with our therapists and evaluators, they only talked about two program options for him. At the meeting, the committee wanted to place Drake into a preschool that I had not heard of or researched. I was blindsided by this mysterious third option. I was prepared for the two preschools I knew about, and I had already picked the one I preferred, but I also knew I was comfortable with the other preschool. The third preschool threw me off balance and left me confused.
Second, I should have spoken up about his goals. They didn’t go over them with me at all. Luckily, I knew what they were because I’d talked about our speech goals with the speech therapist, the OT put his in his evaluation, and I listened to what the special education instructor said. I didn’t disagree with any of the goals, but my opinion should have been considered.
Third, overall the committee focused on the evaluations and what the professionals had to say. They didn’t care what I thought about Drake’s education. I might as well have not even been there. I’m not sure I want Drake in a full day, 12 month preschool program, and I’m not sure I don’t want it either, but what I wanted didn’t matter either way during the meeting.
Fourth, while this is a small thing... when the committee said what Drake was eligible for, they acted like I should have been over the moon with joy. I am thankful for the opportunity to send Drake to a preschool equipped to help him for free, but I am also an analytical person who can see the flip side of the coin. Should I be so happy to put the care of my son in the hands of the public school system? I’m not so sure. While I remain grateful, I continue to have reservations.
Here’s what I learned.
There’s no way I could have known all this before I experienced this meeting. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say, but next time I will be better prepared.
I learned that I need to speak up. If I want to talk about the goals, then I need to ask about them. If I want my opinion considered, I need to voice it immediately and enthusiastically. This is hard for me as I am shy in groups of people, but the committee isn’t going to ask my opinion. I need to give it.
I should have asked more questions about the full-day program vs the half day programs. I’m not sure it would have made a difference as I am sure the school district believes that their schools are best for him, but I could have discussed it more.
Here where I am at now.
After that meeting, I am more certain than ever that I want to homeschool our kids! Like I said, it wasn’t terrible, but to see the ownership the school district takes over the children and their goals is unsettling as a loving, overprotective mother who has only rarely been away from her babies! I’m not saying that my opinion of Drake is the only one that matters, but it deserved far more consideration.
In the end, it turned out okay. Damian and I decided that the third preschool, a small program, is a fine option for Drake’s preschool, and the committee’s recommendations were reasonable.
Edited to add: I did a vlog the day we had the meeting. For my initial reaction, you can check it out here.
I didn’t always like vegetables, and I’m not always good about eating them, but I used to be worse. I was convinced that I didn’t like most vegetables, end of story. And I was wrong! Please forgive me vegetables! It is still a struggle to get them as much as I should, but I found that this one trick doubles the amount of vegetables I eat in a week.
It is simple. Once a week, I batch cook a bunch of vegetables and keep them in my fridge to use as a side or as a part of future recipes.
You can batch cook most vegetables, and you can cook them in a variety of ways. I use fresh or frozen veggies. My go to is a combination of zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, and/or spinach. But I’ve also used green beans, cauliflower, beets, brussel sprouts… whatever you like! It’s a great way to use up any random quantities of vegetables leftover in your fridge or use anything that will go bad soon, as is often the case with fresh vegetables!
The pictured bunch of vegetables is grilled zucchini, sauteed yellow squash, and sauteed carrots. I used it as a side, a salad topper, in scrambled eggs with cheese, and in pasta (which I forgot to take a picture of darn it!). I added spinach at the last minute to the eggs and pasta for an extra boost and because I am addicted to baby spinach. Each dish was delicious and made tastier for having vegetables in it.
Why does batch cooking vegetables help me eat more?
If you’re trying to eat more vegetables, definitely give this tip a try.
I have long been searching for a go to pancake recipe. I’m not good at cooking recipes like pancakes on the fly. Baking soda is a mystery to me. I use it as directed and let it work its magic. Drake loves pancakes, and he loves helping me cook pancakes. We’ve been experimenting with different recipes, and I have finally found The One.
These banana pancakes are delicious. I didn’t even need to use syrup because they banana keeps them sweet and moist, and they are crazy fluffy. The kids and Damian were just as in love with them as I was.
I followed the recipe from Kitchen Treaty. I added five or six chocolate chips for fun, but these pancakes would be tasty with (or without) any kind of add in including cinnamon or nuts.
My only complaint is that they don’t keep well in the fridge. The leftovers do not compare to the freshly cooked pancakes, but that is pretty common with pancakes. My kids don’t mind the leftovers though, and they are the ones who eat them anyway.
I will be returning to this recipe for years to come!
Welcome to the family!
We are a laid back, fun, family of four living on a dime in 900 square feet. Life might not be perfect, but every moment of every day, it is beautiful.