Dominic’s First Camping Trip- Adventure And Down Syndrome

Dominic just had a birthday on June 10 where he received some new gear for camping and hiking.  I wrote about that at “Happy Birthday! Dominic Adam Turns Eleven!”  The temperature had cooled off and I was finally able to take him camping for two days.

Dom and I headed to Pokagon State Park to enjoy some time camping and hiking. Dom had never been on an overnight camping trip before. He was really excited about spending the night in our tent and getting to use his brand new sleeping bag.

I have been taking Dom hiking since before he could walk. I had a papoose style carrier that I was able to carry him around with. When he got a little bigger, we also had a all terrain Radio Flyer wagon,  with chunky tires,  that I could pull him around in. It wasn’t nearly as great as being able to carry him in a papoose, but as he got heavier it was harder for me to lug him around.

Dom started walking efficiently a little later than his peers. People with Down Syndrome can have some musculoskeletal issues that need to be managed. For about three years he also wore small braces in his shoes that were supposed to correct the way that his feet pronated when he walked and provide support for his ankles. The ligaments in his ankles are very loose, a common trait in people with Down Syndrome, and he pronates inward and practically walked on his ankles.   We eventually decided that they were never going to do what they were supposed to do and switched him to inserts for his shoes instead.

Eventually, Dom was off and running just like any other child. He was able to hike short distances just like any other child. He would go until he got tired and then I would have to carry him or allow him to ride in the wagon.

People with Down Syndrome also deal with other issues such as  hypotonia (low muscle tone). There are things that “normal people” do with ease that take twice the effort with someone with Down Syndrome.  While I don’t allow him to be a lazy child, I try not to push him too hard.

Dom can usually go about five miles before he starts to get tired. Or bored. Or both. I try to keep him interested in what we are doing by getting him involved and pointing out the various things that we see around us. Generally, he gets very engaged.

We have been known to get pretty lucky with wildlife. On our first hike, we came across a female Painted Turtle that was laying eggs. We observed her briefly and then moved along. We also saw a white tail deer, a juvenile rabbit and later in the evening, we dealt with a nuisance raccoon that we decided to name “Bandit”. Bandit stole some of our stuff, hence the name.

Dominic was expected to assist me in setting up the tent. Then he helped me unload all of our gear from the car and supervised me as I organized our camp. He was eager to help and learn what to do. He takes a lot of pride in the fact that he is capable of doing these things.

I truly believe that the fact I have not allowed myself or others to treat him as though he has a disability has actually worked in his favor. That’s probably an obvious assumption but he has come a long way and has done a lot of work to get to where he’s at. I believe that over-assisting him will be a disservice.

He’s a kid so we treat him like a kid.

After we set up our camp and got everything squared away, we decided to go and complete a quick hike before dinner. My favorite trail in the park is trail #7 aka “Bluebird Hills”. You have to walk about a half mile to the trail head.  It’s a beautiful 1.8 mile loop that leads you along a wooded path to an open and rolling meadow and past the  wetland restoration. It’s so pretty.  When I visited this trail this past May, it was like stepping into a painting with the Dogwoods in bloom.

We had a great time.

We made hot dogs and fried cinnamon apples for dinner. Of course we gorged on Doritos and Root beer too. Then we just sat around and enjoyed our time. Later in the evening, the same raccoon that I dealt with during my last camping trip, arrived to scope out our goodies.

I named that raccoon “Bandit”.  Bandit has no fear of humans. At all. As I was yelling at him/her to go away, he/she calmly continued to walk up to me like a dog. I believe in keeping the wildlife wild. I attempted to redirect Bandit back into the woods by being a loud, belligerent, throwing things etc.

Bandit looked at me like “Jesus lady, what’s your problem?”

Later, after I went to bed, Bandit returned. I put our food in the car so there was no danger of it being eaten or dragged off. I left my cookware out though.  Bandit decided to steal my coffee cup and the lid to the little kettle I use to boil the water for my coffee. I found them both about 15-20 feet in the woods at the base of a tree.

I thought that was hilarious. I think it blew Dominic’s mind. He didn’t know what to think when I told him that the raccoon had taken our dishes and left them in the woods. I explained to him that was why I put our food away so the animals couldn’t get to it.

In the morning we made bacon, eggs and toast over the camp fire. Dom asked if we could visit the playground for a little while before we went hiking, so we did. We played on the playground for a little while and then played catch for a little while.

Unfortunately, bad weather was moving into our area and it forced me to cut the trip short. The weather reports out of Chicago and the surrounding area were indicating that the storms that were passing through were serious and I didn’t want to risk anything.  We had to head home.

Even though our trip was cut short, we still had a really great time. I was concerned at first at how he would do but I was reassured through experience that he would be just fine. I’ve found through the years that sometimes I have to really be careful in how I judge Dominic’s abilities. I am guilty of not giving him enough credit and I think that can rob him of some opportunities.

I have to at least give him a chance to do things. A lesson I remind myself of over and over. Part of that is just me being the protective mama bear. With that said, I am very realistic about what I should or can expect.

I at least have to let him try.

 

 

 

Secrets And Lies- Mommy Edition

My son Dominic is ten. For the past couple of years I have had to seriously monitor him when it comes to getting into the refrigerator and helping himself to juice, milk, chocolate milk and ice cream. This child will consume an entire bottle of orange juice in a short amount of time if you let him. There was a time when I thought he would prefer to live on a liquid diet.

However, he is no longer thirsty when you insist he have water.

You haven’t lived until you’ve discovered a pint of melted ice cream hidden inside another bag that was carefully hidden under the bed in your child’s bedroom. He wasn’t grasping that ice cream is frozen and it will melt.  He knows that now.

To combat this, I have a small refrigerator in the basement so that I can take part in sales when apple juice, orange juice etc go on sale without having to totally police my son and his use of the fridge.  I also have root beer and ice cream. Basically, this fridge holds three large bottles of juice I got on sale and a little carton of ice cream.

He’s allowed whatever he wants as long as it’s in moderation.  He knows that he doesn’t have to ask as long as it’s within reason. I keep fruit in a basket on our kitchen table and a very easy to use Britta filter  container of water in the refrigerator.

You can have a banana, but you can’t have four bananas.

Since he’s currently afraid of the basement and won’t go down the steps, this secret shall remain a secret until he’s older and more brave to go down there. Perhaps by then, he’ll have an understanding of self control. For now, he’s a kiddo being a kiddo.

I confess to hiding in the basement to enjoy a bowl of ice cream or a drink of root beer, undetected.  I’m allowed because I am the mommy and this is my time. Hiding in the laundry room, sitting on top of the dryer. Alone. There is no shame.

So, for Valentine’s Day, I made cupcakes and other goodies to give to his grandmother’s. He has two grandma’s and a great grandma.  My mom and his father’s mother and her mother.

I was putting the baskets together, which also included frosting the rest of the cupcakes. Dom asked if he could have one. He had already had three cupcakes by that time. I told him no and that these were for his grandma’s. He stomped off.

As soon as he was gone, I poured a half glass of milk.  I then fled to the basement to sample a freshly frosted cupcake. I laughed at myself because I think this is hilarious and I also don’t think I am the only mother who does this.

 

Secret cupcakes

Secret cupcakes

 

Secret ice cream, secret root beer, secret cupcakes. My basement is full of secrets.

Home and Family Time- The Weekend

I had a rare weekend off. I work a rotational schedule and it takes awhile for them to come back around. My son was also home this weekend, rather than being with his dad, nearly 3 hours away.

I made a heroic attempt to get the majority of the larger chores done before he got out of school for the day on Friday. Not only did a make a huge dent in the laundry, but I managed to organize and mop my basement.

I’ve been wanting to get that basement under control for quite awhile. How long? There might be years involved here. Years. At least two. I’ve lived here for three years.   It wasn’t stinky and dirty, it was mostly just unorganized. I’m not totally finished. I want to repaint the walls, the floor and get a shelving unit. Or two.

Mission mostly accomplished. I even mopped the kitchen before I left to pick him up.

We decided that morning when I dropped him off that we were going to have a date night and go to his favorite restaurant, Chik Fil A, for dinner. He actually likes to go grocery shopping and doing what I refer to as “administrative” things. ie: going to the bank, car wash etc.  So yes, grocery shopping is appropriate for date night.

My silly kiddo.

My silly kiddo. Hamming it up for the camera.

We enjoyed our dinner. Dom is a connoisseur of sauces and prefers honey mustard for his nuggets and ketchup only, for his waffle fries.  One of the employees even gave him a red balloon ( his favorite color ) after she brought us our ice cream cones. He was pretty tickled about that.

After dinner we made our trip to the grocery store.  I asked him what he wanted to have for dinner ( the next day ) and he told me that he wanted to have Tacos. We had to make sure to pick up plenty of supplies for taco making.

He also suckered me into buying a package of the mini Baybel cheese wheels. It isn’t hard to talk me into such things when you’re as cute as he is and you ask nice. He pretty much gets whatever he wants because he’s so well behaved and doesn’t ask for things very often.

We had a nice and quiet evening at home, watching movies, reading and snuggling.  It’s always nice to be able to spend time with him without interruptions, like school or visitation with his dad. Between all of these things and my work schedule, I protect this time with him.

The next morning, when we finally got up and around, we had lunch and then headed out to do a little hiking. The temperature had warmed up to 50 degrees. The majority of the snow is gone, but there’s a little bit of ice here and there. There’s also plenty of mud. Which we found a mixture of when we got out to the trail.

We hiked for awhile and headed back to the car before it started to get dark. There were tacos to be made when we got home and we were both looking forward to that!  It was a great weekend and we had a lot of fun. I was sad to drop him off at school on Monday morning.

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Check out my gallery below to see some more of ours.

 

What A Fancy Crack Head- Early Morning Adventures and Fashion Mishaps

I’m usually up by 6:30 a.m. at the latest.I have to get my son out of bed, make breakfast and get him prepared for his school day. I like to leave the house by 7:20 a.m. at the latest so that I can still fight my way through traffic to make sure he arrives on time.

I was up at 7:09 this morning.

I don’t exactly shoot out of bed when I am running late. It still took me a minute to wake up and get going.  This morning I made a breakfast that could be eaten on the go. Toast and a banana. Go me.  I tried to hurry the dogs with their business and get everything squared away.

I got my kiddo dressed and partially fed. When it came time to dress myself I chose a pair of black and red striped running pants, an older pair of Ugg boots that have a hole in one of the toes, a tank top and a fleece jacket. I didn’t bother with my hair.  I didn’t even notice nor would I have cared that I forgot to put on a bra.

We run out the door by 7:30.  I forgot my coat. I decide that I am still okay because I am wearing a zip up fleece jacket and it really wasn’t that cold. At this point, I still haven’t notice, nor did I care, that I wasn’t wearing a bra.

I fight through traffic and we somehow make it to the school on time.

I had to go into work early today. Nothing sounded better to me than a steaming hot cup of coffee from Starbucks. I deserve a treat dammit. I drove over to Starbucks and saw that the line in the drive-thru was backed up onto the service road between the strip mall.

I don’t have time to sit in a line like that this morning.

Much like every other city on the planet, we have a Starbucks within at least five miles of each other. If they aren’t a standard Starbucks store, they have shops set up in several grocery stores and super stores. ie:Target.

I decide to go to the grocery store that is across from the giant strip mall. They have a Starbucks inside the store. I park. I go in. I make my way to the side of the store where they have the Starbucks set up.  I get a disgusted look from the barista as I approach. I give the barista my order. She’s kind of looking at me funny.

Like maybe I smell.

The barista gives me the total and I hand her my Starbucks Gold Card.  She looks at the card and then she looks at me. For a second, I thought that she was going to ask me for my driver’s license to confirm my identity.

It turns out her thought was probably more like “Goodness, what a fancy crackhead.”

I’ve not considered my appearance at all until this point. I also didn’t realize how much dog hair was on my all black fleece. It was like I was wearing a cattle dog fur coat.

After I got my drink I passed the mirrored glass near the entrance of the store. I realized that I was quite the sight. Running pants resting on top of a pair of brown Ugg boots with a noticeable hole on one of them, it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t wearing a bra under my fleece. I then realized that it looked like I wasn’t wearing a shirt under the fleece.

I may also have had some mascara smeared under my eyes.  Both of them.

Things that make you go, Ugg.

Things that make you go, Ugg.

I usually call this look “Homeless Chic”. It’s the super dress down style that I prefer when I am doing stuff around the house. I get followed in stores because I am pretty sure they think I am going to steal,  but that can be helpful. I don’t have to look too far for an employee if I need some help.

There’s also “Gym Chic” where you can appear to have just come from working out but in reality you didn’t feel like dressing in anything past gym shorts or yoga pants. I like Gym Chic on days when I want to be mostly presentable, but don’t really want to try. You’re also allowed to smell bad and have your mascara smeared.

There I was this morning,  the fancy crack head with a a Starbucks Gold Card. Seriously though, who can afford crack when you’re a Starbucks Gold Card rewards member?

The lesson in all of this is that people shouldn’t judge, you can dress however you want, you should however, remember to wear a bra.

I hope everyone is having a great day!