Thursday, February 28, 2013

Non Verbal ASD

I have to apologize for not posting anything over the last week. I had great plans. I even took fun pictures to share. I haven't had a particularly rough week or anything, but I am having a struggle with my executive functioning and communication skills right now. I've been focusing entirely on keeping things normal with family, home, and kids. Everything else has kind of fallen to the wayside.

This just happens sometimes. It can be triggered by great stress, but more often than not it's my body's kind of calm that follows the storm. We had a wonderful and exciting trip and came back to a few melodramatic dramas that we were able to calm within a couple days. It took me a few days to really recover emotionally from everything. But then, I just didn't have the energy or desire to put on the NT act.

It boils down to an executive function issue. It takes an extraordinary effort to just take that first step and START something without any kind of outside stimuli. I have to have every step planned ahead of time, to begin with. Or I'll have to climb that same huge wall every time I come to a task I hadn't planned. Getting out of bed in the morning? Where am I going once I stand up? And after that? And that? Getting dressed? I have to plan out each item before I even get out of my covers. If I face a decision in the middle of the process I have to consider all the options. That means analyzing each item for it's appropriateness for the weather, for my plans that day, for it's general comfort, and for how soon I'll need to do laundry if I pick it - based on my upcoming schedule. For every single item, so I can be sure I picked the right one. Because that's what it takes to dress like an NT (maybe, if I picked right). If I just did what I wanted, and never had to worry about outside judgement? I wouldn't even bother with clothes most of the time.

This also poses a problem with communication. To start with, I don't think in words. I think in pictures. At my very worst, I sometimes have trouble translating my thoughts into words at all. They call that Non-Verbal. I woke up like that this morning. +Jason Shepherd rolled over to tell me good morning and I just smiled. I knew I was supposed to respond, but I had no idea how. He started asking me questions and I looked like a deer in the headlights. Luckily, my gears started turning. I figured out some words. The task of turning them to speech was too overwhelming, though. Using your breath, throat, and mouth to convert a thought to sound with the proper rhythm  intonation, and volume? A single word I can maybe pull off...but a whole conversation of that?

I pulled out the laptop and started typing. I can understand him just fine this morning, but he knows it takes less effort for me to comprehend text than voice. There are less variables to consider. So, he fired up his computer, too. We sat side by side in bed, typing our morning conversations and planning our day. Then, he gathered my clothes for me and put them on the bed. We both got dressed and went about our day. Jason is aware of the game plan for the day and is the one in charge today (where it would usually be me). He'll remind everyone (including me) of what we should be doing at any time, and help out where it's needed. Days like this aren't often, but they are common. You see, I'm not angry or upset or depressed. I'm actually in a VERY pleasant mood today. My mind just doesn't have the energy to constantly translate every thought and behavior into the very complicated kind of all encompassing communication that NTs consider normal. Trying to do so would lead to some kind of panic attack or classic meltdown. I've established in previous entries that I dislike those things and chose to avoid them. Luckily, the NTs in my life don't corner me into them like most people do to their ASD friends and family members. So, this will continue to be a very pleasant day.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cora's Dreads: Week 2

Sorry this was so late. The pics were taken on Sunday. I just haven't had a chance to sit down and type much this week!

We had a grand adventure over the weekend, and stopped to take these on our way home. As you can see, her hair is quite frazzled and knotted. It's still just threatening to turn into dreads though. Every time it seems like one is forming, we find it separated into multiple curls the next day.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Heart Attack!!!

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope your's is great, whether someone else is treating you right or you're treating yourself right. =D Personally, I'm enjoying an empty house and some alone time. The kids are serving a tritip dinner at a fundraiser. +Jason Shepherd  is working. Did I mention he's moved over to swing shift? Well, he has. I'll be picking up dinner at the end of the fundraiser, and meeting Jason at work for his dinner break at 8pm. Our big celebration will be this weekend.

The excitement started last night, though. I was given a super secret covert mission. I was to keep Cora and a friend out of either house from around 7pm until whenever I was called and told it was ok to bring them back. Both girls are about to turn twelve. When they turn twelve, they will move up from Primary into the Young Women's organization at church. The teens in the Young Women's group have youth group every Wednesday night, and they wanted to welcome the girls in style. While I kept them out delivering cookies to an injured member and eventually eating pie as slowly as I could....the young women "Heart Attacked" the girls' rooms! We didn't say a thing. It was about 8:30 when I finally brought her home. She mumbled something about getting ready for bed and went straight to her room. A moment later, I heard a very confused, "Um....MOM!" Cora was stunned and very touched that they would do something like this for her.

This weekend, +Liam Shepherd is attending a huge church Valentine's Day Dance in Klamath Falls. That's about two hours away. We still need to take Cora to a special dinner to celebrate her "graduation" from 8th grade, and we had promised the kids sushi next time we visited K.Falls. Instead of trying to fit everything into one night, we decided to make a weekend of it. Rooms are cheap, so the kids will have their own. Jason took Friday off so we can spend the day exploring and pricing out the various organic markets in town. Saturday, we are registered to see a bird show (Winter Raptors), and thought we might follow it with a nature walk. A couple of the kids' friends are going to have dinner with use, then attend the dance, too. One will be left behind in our care. He'll stay in the motel with us and hang out with us Sunday until we finally make it back to our area in the evening. Sunday, the kids are excited to attend church with some of the friends they've made at these big Stake events. All in all, it sounds like a fun filled weekend!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Affordable Organics Delivered to Your Door

While I'm not opposed to trading honest reviews for cash or free products (hint hint), no one has paid me for this post. In full disclosure, if you were to find this company valuable enough to sign up for a membership, you and I would both receive a referral benefit of $10 store credit. That's only useful if we like the company and products in the first place.

So, today I'm talking about The Green PolkaDot Box. This is where we buy our organic produce. Their produce prices average out to about the same as our local cost for non-organic produce, and we order enough for free shipping. The shipping costs on smaller orders is surprisingly low, which is great for people whose houses aren't regularly infested with hungry teenagers.  It may not be useful if you live in an area with ample access to organic products, though. When we lived in Portland, for instance, there were so many competitive options that a working knowledge of local resources made a greater variety available for a lower price. I don't think I've found fresher, or higher quality produce even at farmer's markets, though. The quality is absolutely impeccable.

This is a kind of buying club. You have to pay a membership fee to join. You can buy a "trial" membership for a single order for $10. If you then decide to buy an annual membership ($50), they will deduct the $10 you spent on your trial from the annual fees. That's what we did. Their website can be a little buggy but their customer support is INCREDIBLE. So friendly and helpful and positive! They bend over backward to help us out and are earnestly thankful (even excited) to have us as customers.

We currently only buy produce from The Green PolkaDot Box. They are constantly expanding their stock, but they don't have enough low cost options for the foods we regularly eat to be the best option. We still buy our nonperishable organics using our Amazon Prime account on at this time. I would highly recommend checking out The Green PolkaDot Box's selection for yourself, though. Their deals may match up quite well with your eating habits. They seem to be making a concerted effort to cater to vegan, vegetarian, diabetic, celiac, gluten free, and other special dietary needs - in addition to a commitment to offer certified organic, non-GMO products.

In closing, if you do decide to order from The Green PolkaDot Box, I ask that you please use our links. The referral bonus we receive will reduce our household grocery costs, and every little bit helps! ( in case you have any issues with the links!) Also, if you have personal experience with The Green PolkaDot Box, please share it below in the comments. I'd love to know how this program is working out for others!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cora's Dreads: Week 1

It's been one week. Cora's excitement is palpable. Her hair is a wild mess. Each day when she wakes up, she examines it. There are always twists or clumps that seem like maybe they are going to form ropes. They change from day to day, though. It's only been a week, after all. She's mostly left it alone to grow how it will, but it seems inclined to form a big ball of knots at the base of her neck. She has me separate that a bit each morning so she won't end up with a giant ball or four inch thick dread or something in the long run.

When you wash your hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar, your scalp's oil production balances out. Over time, you find that it takes longer and longer for your hair to really need to be washed. Cora could probably get away with washing her hair about twice per week right now, but she is still washing it almost every day. Every time she washes her hair, the knots tighten up. Clean hair forms dreads faster, and this is proving to be a great motivator. She hasn't whined or complained about having to bath or wash her hair once all week!

We do have a little concern about acquaintances freaking out over her hair. People tend to get very stuck on the idea that hair brushing is directly connected to bathing and having your basic needs met. Also, everyone we've mentioned dreads to immediately makes comments about not bathing. I cannot tell you how many times I've had to explain the idea that clean hair forms dreads better and dirty oily hair just gets stringy. Stringy hair doesn't knot up well. The hair just slips out of the knots. Cora wears her hair down around the house, but we've bought her a selection of bandannas to wear when she's out and about. The local thrift shop has a wide selection of colors and patterns. She had a grand time picking them specifically to color coordinate with her outfits.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

How Zoey Joined Our Family

Our oldest pet is Zoey. We estimate she was born around the first of October, 1999. That makes her about thirteen and a half years old. She's kind of a cranky old bat a lot of the time, but you'd never guess she was over five by looking at her. She moves well for her age. She still gets on the counters at night when we're sleeping. She still runs around the house like a total nut, chasing imaginary prey, at least a few times per week. She has some trouble with arthritis, though, and won't go outside in the winter. That's not such a bad thing, because she still brings us "presents" when she goes out. Just this last fall, she brought us a quail!

We've had Zoey since she was about 4 - 5 weeks old. We have no idea who her mother was, or where she came from. The day we brought her home was a day of random chance...or fate. Saturday morning, while we were driving to the local harvest festival, we started discussing maybe getting a kitten. The harvest festival had less to offer the parents of a one year old than we had expected. They really should have called it a brew fest. We didn't stay long, and had no other plans. So, we decided to swing by the local animal shelter and ask for some information.

The gentleman on duty at the shelter that day was very unpleasant. He insisted that it was irresponsible of us to take a pet into a house with a young child and told us that our pet would just end up back at the shelter anyway so we should save our money and not bother. As he was shooing us out the door, another family was on their way in. It was a mom with two little girls, about ages five and seven. The mom was holding a tiny grey kitten. We asked if we could pet the kitten while she talked to the shelter employee. Apparently, this kitten had shown up on her doorstep the previous night. They had no idea who the mom was or where it had come from. It was all alone. They took the kitten in and brought her to the shelter for care as soon as they had a chance.

The shelter employee's mood lightened. He said he'd be happy to take the kitten. Usually they charged people for dropping off an animal, but if she'd just hand the little thing over he would gladly waive the fee. The mom was relieved and thanked him and said she was happy it would be taken care of and go to a good home. The shelter employee explained that was not the case. With growing excitement, he told her that a kitten this young couldn't possibly survive without it's mother and he would have to put the kitten to sleep. He promised that he'd do the procedure himself that very day, though.

The mom was upset. Her children were upset. I was disgusted. +Liam Shepherd was oblivious. He reached out to "pet" the kitten. At that age, he petted by grabbing a handful of fur and yanking. It always resulted in yowls, and often in being scratched or bitten. This kitten, though, just purred. Something in me clicked. I told the mom that since she hadn't signed any papers yet, the kitten was still hers to do with as she pleased. I offered to take the kitten, promising to take it straight to our vet for a professional opinion. If it did need to be put down, we would have it done, but if it could be saved we would take care of it. The shelter employee tried to convince us that the kitten belonged to the shelter as soon as she entered the building. He started yelling at me! The mom agreed to give us the kitten. Her girls told us that they had named the kitten Zoey, and the mom told them that it was our kitten now so we got to pick it's name. I leaned over and told the girls "If her name is Zoey, who am I to change it?" No one was actually sure if the kitten was male or female yet, but I intended to leave her name if she was a girl.

We had another cat in our home at that time, and a wonderful vet only a block from our apartment. I took her into the vet. They were technically closed and cleaning up for the day, but cooed over Zoey. When we told them the story, the staff was so touched that they examined her for free. She was perfectly healthy. The vet sent us home with supplies, instructions, and all the kitten formula we would need -also for free. He said it was thanks for saving Zoey from a shelter that apparently had a pretty nasty reputation. We had to bottle feed her around the clock those first weeks. Liam helped, and took great pride in caring for her when he was little They've always had a deep bond. Thirteen and a half years later, she's strong and healthy, and a happy, loving member of the family.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Honey Face Wash for soft skin with a healthy glow.

This is the simplest homemade product ever. It's honey. Just honey.

Wet your face with warm water first.
Then put a little honey on your finger tips and use it like you would soap. It turns slick when wet, not sticky at all. A little goes a long way so start small and add more if you need to.
Then, just rinse it off.

Tips and tricks;

Honey works great for acne by itself, but if you have a bad breakout just add some essential oils. Tea tree and lavender oils are both easy to come by and great for acne.

No matter what kind of shampoo or shampoo alternative you use, honey makes a great conditioner. Just massage some into your wet hair, leave it in for a few minutes, and wash it out.

Honey can by used on any part of your body, not just your face.

If you need something a little more gritty, add some baking soda to the honey. It's good for scrubbing dirty skin, and makes a nice exfoliant, too.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Liam + Freshman Psychology = A

+Liam Shepherd's scores from his first completed course are in. His overall grade in Psychology is 94%. American School uses a tough grading scale. An A is 93% or more. It was a little touchy, but Liam performs well under pressure and a perfect score on his final exam brought him back up to a solid A.

Just for fun, I thought I'd share a picture of the teenager in his natural habitat. Believe it or not, his room was "white glove" clean (really. we lift things and check for dust!) on Saturday. He cleans it EVERY Saturday, and it looks like this again by the end of the day on Monday.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

No Poo Balls: A Homemade Shampoo Alternative

There are basically two ways to grow dreadlocks. The one most people are familiar with is to put a whole lot of something into your hair. Usually wax. You force your hair into a manufactured look and have dreads immediately. Such methods often result in dread rot, mold or mildew, breakage, and the smell that has become widely expected of dreads - even if you use a product that allows for washing. The other method is to allow dreads to form naturally. Using products like wax or even common shampoos will slow down this process, maybe even prevent dreads from forming. This method can take anywhere from a couple months to a year, depending on your hair type and whether you did anything special to jump start the process.

You don't need dreads to go shampoo free. It is healthy, natural, and low cost for any hair type. It's by far the best option when forming dreads though. They will knot up so much faster if they are free from chemicals and conditioners.

There are a variety of different recipes and methods to go shampoo free. My preferred method is the baking soda method. The basic concept is to wash with baking soda and rinse with an acidic liquid. Most people use apple cider vinegar because it dries scent free, but some people prefer lemon juice. Figuring out your personal ratio is where it can get tricky. Too much baking soda makes hair dry and frizzy. Too much acid makes it oil and greasy. It's best just to experiment a little at first.

Everyone in our home uses this homemade shampoo alternative, and everyone needs different ratios. About once a week, I make up little balls of baking soda and each person can use as many as they like. This allows me to mix in some honey (makes hair soft and silky) and essential oils, too. I also make up a bottle of rinse for each person, to their specifications. I use the acid and essential oils they prefer. With minimal cost or effort, everyone in the house has healthy, beautiful smelling hair.

The recipe for No Poo Balls (we call them Shampoo Balls, but that's not truly accurate) is as follows;

1 tbsp Honey (if you're starting with raw, melt it first. It needs to be liquid)
5 tbsp Baking Soda
2 - 3 tbsp Water
5 - 10 drops Essential Oils (optional)

1) Mix the Essential Oils into the honey. The scent may be unpleasantly strong, but don't be concerned. It will be much more mild in the finished product.
2) Add 3 tbsp Baking Soda to the Honey mixture.
3) Mix in just enough water to make a creamy paste.
4) Mix in another tbsp of Baking Soda.
5) If needed, keep mixing in Baking Soda. The final consistency should be thick enough to roll the mixture into 1/2 - 1 inch balls, but not so dry that it cracks when rolled. Add a little more water, if needed, to accomplish the desired consistency.
6) Roll the mixture into balls. If you will be using these on a small child or toddler, make them approx. 1/2 inch in diameter. Adults can use multiple. Otherwise, most adults prefer balls 1 - 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
7) Set the balls on a plate to dry for 6+ hours. If they are still moist inside, they will be fragile. When dry, they are hard enough to be handled without falling apart.
8) To use, put a ball in the palm of your hand and add water. It will melt. Rub the resulting liquid into your scalp (just the scalp. The hair will come out clean in the rinse)
9) Rinse the Baking Soda mixture out with water.
10) Poor one cup of Acidic Liquid mixture over your head. Rub it into your scalp. (again, just the scalp. Trust me. It works)
11) Rinse the Acidic Liquid mixture out with water.

The Acidic Liquid mixture is super simple. In a cup, mix a little of your preferred acidic liquid with water. I recommend either lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, but feel free to experiment. You can also add a few drops of Essential Oil to this mixture, if you like.

I suggest starting with a ratio of 1 part Acidic Liquid to 4 parts Water for normal hair. 1:8 or even 1:10 for oily hair. 1:3 or even 1:2 for dry hair.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Cora's Dreads: Before

So, after much discussion and research and hemming and hawing, Cora has decided she wants to grow dreadlocks. Initially, she wanted small, thin ones that she can easily style into creative designs. After researching, though, she's decided to let them form naturally and just see what she thinks of the thickness her hair is inclined to gather in. If they grow in thick and she doesn't like the look of them, she can always separate them into smaller strands before they become too well established.

+Jason Shepherd has been making her brush her hair about every ten minutes. He says he's using up his ability to tell her to brush her hair as much as he can before it runs out. As of this afternoon, she won't be brushing anymore. If you know Cora, you know that the only time her hair looks like it's been brushed within 24 hours is when it's styled up - and has a hat over it! She had literally JUST brushed her hair for the 5th time this morning when I took these pictures. I think her hair is going to form dreads quickly and with little to no effort at all. lol

I intend to post weekly updates about her progress. In these updates, I'll explain some of the finer points of dreads in more detail, for those readers that aren't familiar with them.