Oh, Trader Joe’s, How I’ve Missed You So….

May 19, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: just life 

Made my first trip to Trader Joe’s today since being back.  I have missed it so very much.  It was just as I remembered, and I even got my favorite parking space.  The one in front of the store next to it, but is still close, so I don’t have to tromp Charlie through the dangers of the parking lot to get into the store.

We didn’t get much; I was in a bit of bad mood, truth be known.  But I did get a few of my favorite things:

  • 2 Greek Honey Yogurt
  • 2 Organic Gala Apples
  • A bottle of Trader Giotto’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 bottles Italian wine
  • 2 packages Trader Joe’s Mountain Spring Water at their insanely low every day price

I think that’s it.  I wanted to get their freshly-prepared Italian stuffed chicken breasts, but they didn’t have any.  Hopefully they haven’t stopped making it.  That’s ok.  We just came home and had the turkey meatballs from yesterday in the homemade pasta sauce I made.  Can you tell I’m a bit of an afficiando Italiano?

I was so homesick while living in Iowa that I made a 9-hour round trip drive to the Trader Joe’s in Minneapolis, Minnesota one Saturday.  Des Moines has no Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or anything of the like, sadly.

The movers arrive bright and early tomorrow morning with my furniture, and more importantly, my kitchen stuff.  I can’t wait to get cooking in my new kitchen.  It is so nice.  That’s the difference between renting from a private owner and a corporate-owned apartment complex.  The quality of all the “little things.”

This place is especially nice because the owner used to actually live there and made it his home.  So now that he’s moved on and is renting this place out, I get the benefit of his good taste and better choices!

The townhome is described as a “San Francisco Style Victorian.”  I’ve been in a couple of true San Francisco Victorians, and this place really does have that feel, especially in the kitchen area.  It’s very spacious-yet-cozy and just has a great feel.  I’ll post pics once we get settled in a bit.

Charlie loves it, too.  The room that is his has a ceiling fan and they painted the walls blue with clouds all over them.  The bedrooms are on the top floor, though.  Hopefully he will stay safe on the stairs.

I guess now I’ll enjoy my last night in my sister and brother-in-law’s condo.  I will sleep well tonight, for in the morning, I unpack!

Good Morning, World!

April 28, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: just life 

I have a large-scale WordPress job I thought I would be starting today, but it turns out I won’t be getting the artwork until Wednesday.  I was so gung-ho to start on this job, because I want to finish it by the end of this week and just spend the rest of my time packing and getting ready for my move to Seattle.

I will just have to adjust and do some packing today.  I’m tempted to see if I can drum up some small jobs for a little extra money for my trip.  But the packing really needs to get done, so I guess that’s what I will do.  (If I can stop procrastinating here on my blog and get to it!)

Oh, Charlie’s tooth fell out over the weekend, and he swallowed it!  He was eating strawberries at the time.  The tooth fairy brought him two dollars.  I will take him to the dollar store to pick something out.  I’m hoping he starts to understand money this way.  Then I can start giving him a chore or two and an allowance and teach him about work and saving money.

He’s so cute with his little missing tooth!  I’ll have to post a picture later.

Or Maybe He’s Not…

February 27, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Autism, Charlie, Fragile X, just life, Motherhood 

This is my last post on the “whether” and the “why” when it comes to Charlie.  I will still write about him and our challenges and what we’re doing to work on them.  But I’m going to stop wasting time and energy on finding a label and a definitive answer.  For some, maybe there just is no specific label and set of “rules.”

Since this is my last post on the subject, it will be a semi-long post.  Feel free to skip it if it doesn’t interest you!

The reason I’ve changed my mind, yet again, is because of the parent-teacher conferences I had today with Charlie’s teachers.  When I brought up the Fragile X test and autism to Charlie’s special ed teacher, she said, “I don’t see that.”  And she is a person who has earned my very high opinion of her.  She said she does see most of the behaviors I am talking about, but the “social” portion just doesn’t fit someone who is autistic.  And that is the part I had doubts about myself.

It has been, and still is, so unbelievably frustrating trying to figure out what is afflicting my poor child and trying to help him.  So I have decided just to stop worrying about “what” it is and just put all my energy and time into treating the symptoms.  Autism, Fragile X, and “Pervasive Developmental Delay Not Otherwise Specified” are not curable, anyway.  All you can do is treat the symptoms.  So my thinking now is that I don’t need to worry about a label.  My time and energy is better spent treating his symptoms, so that is what I’m going to do.  I have a plan and a re-newed vigor and excitement about things I can do to help him, which I plan to write about in a separate post.

So, back to the parent-teacher conferences…  (He is in kindergarten in the morning, with a Special Ed helper just for him, then a PATHs class [social development], and ECSE [Early Childhood Special Education – or special ed pre-school, to put it another way] in the afternoon, along with a speech therapist, so there were lot’s of people to meet with today!)

His Special Ed pre-school teacher said that he is doing great and has met all the goals she made for him, as written, for the entire YEAR.  Everything from here on out as far as her work with him is “over and above.”  So that was really great to hear.

His speech and language specialist said that he had met his goals for this tri-mester and was on track to meet them for the year.

His PATHs (social development) teacher said that he is doing better but still struggling.  He has a hard time in his interactions with other kids and a very hard time dealing with his frustration-which leads to anger-which leads to tantrums and yelling.  He is not meeting his goals there.  She is wonderful and patient, fortunately.  I believe he will continue to progress, but his problems in this area may lead to some big problems in the next school year.  I’ll elaborate about that a bit later.

His kindergarten teacher showed me his work and had some good things to say, but this is where he is clearly way behind all the other kids.  In comparing his letters and his attempts at writing words and sentences and things, he has improved since the beginning of the year.  But he is nowhere near where the other kids are.  Nearly everything on his report card is “needs work,” though he got a few “progressing,” and a couple of “meets goal.”  And every single area was asterisked with “With help” or “With modifications.”  He doesn’t do any of his work alone and on his own.  And all the other kids do.

I know I shouldn’t compare, but just to illustrate, there were little stories on the wall that the kids in his class had written about a picture of a snowman.  Most were faily neatly-written and spelled right for the most part and had several sentences.  His was a bit scrawled, with a couple of backwards letters and was only two sentences – basically describing the snowman – saying that he was wearing a hat and was a snowman.

So anyway, he is sure to be in kindergarten again next year.  And he is a July birthday (he is now 5-1/2), so he will be the same age as many of the other kids in that class anyway.  But there is another wrinkle, and I haven’t decided just what to do about that yet.

The school he goes to now mainstreams Special Ed kids with a helper in the classroom for them.  They don’t even have facilities or a system for segregating the Special Ed kids.  So before I told them that we were returning to Seattle in June, they started priming me for the idea of sending him to another school.

They were telling me about other schools in the area with Special Ed classes that were just Special Ed kids, segregated from the rest of the students.  Due to his difficulty in progressing in the social development area, they feel he might “do better” in a different setting.

For the most part, I like his school and the teachers.  But this little bit is just b.s. to me, for two reasons.  First, they have pushed very hard for trying Ritalin for him.  Second, his kindergarten teacher.  I don’t want to say for certain, but I got the idea from the very first day that she didn’t like Special Ed kids in her class.  I feel she is against mainstreaming and doesn’t like anything that is out of the ordinary or the least bit of a challenge.  I do not get that vibe from anyone but her.  But I do get the vibe from other teachers that they get feel the same way, but can’t really say anything.

So, not to wax on about that – because it would be a waste of energy – I’m just a bit worried about the recommendation they will make for Charlie for the 2008-2009 school year.  I agree with the recommendation that he should repeat kindergarten.  But I do not necessarily agree he should be segregated.

I am going to have to think about that one a lot.  In the meantime, there is a whole ‘nother tri-mester of school left for him to make progress in, and they do recommend him for summer services, so there is that.  Then there is the plan I have to pro-actively treat his symptoms and try any and every alternative method I can to teach him, and just throw away normal thinking on how to teach a kid to develop their language and read and write and figure things out.  He needs a lot of help with emotions and with his fine-motor skills, too.  So we will work with those.

He is great at drawing and figuring things out in video games.  He does really well with visual cues.  He has great spatial ability and is extremely imaginitive.  He carries on extended conversations with imaginary friends (not just one) making up little stories to tell them, etc.  He remembers everything, even from years ago.  He has a lot of positives to work with.   He has an amazing personality, is very charming, very funny, likes to make people laugh (there’s the social stuff that does not seem autistic), and is the cutest kid ever.

Here are some of the many reasons I thought he might be autistic:

He was diagnosed with “Sensory Processing Disorder” in 2006, which is almost always seen in people with Autism (He was diagnosed and declared as “Learning Disabled” at that same time, and I was told that he is protected under the ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act)

He does “stimming” (making on-going, loud, humming-like noise to zone out after being over stimulated) for a long time a few times a day


Spinning obsessively while watching his hands

Notices every little noise and movement – and is overly-distracted by it

Obsessed with lining things up (putting all his toys in a line instead of playing with them) – he has rarely ever played with toys the way they were meant to be played with – he just uses them for props – mainly to be lined up!

Severe tantrums beyond the usual age (he still has them)

Needs routine or goes “ballistic” (changing routine results in one of the following: tantrums or an extended period lining things up – and they have to be perfect or a tantrum will still happen)

Echolalia – Saw speech as ritual to be repeated and not as communication.  He would simply repeat back to you what you just said,  “What did you do at the park?”  “The park.”  “No, what did you DO at the park?”  “DO at the park!”  That was up until about 10 months ago….

Severe speech delay – resulting from – what?  That is the biggest mystery.  Is it the echolalia?  The impaired sensory processing?  He could not communicate conversationally until about 10 months ago.  And has only really recently started having what I would call a semi-complete, satisfying short conversation.

Many other developmental delays and all the “red flag” hallmarks of autism, including hand-flapping; extreme fascination with ceiling fans, door latches and hinges, light switches, etc.; not able to pedal a tricycle until about 9 months ago; extremely poor fine and gross motor skills; avoidant eye contact when much younger….

The list goes on, but it was significant.  And I wouldn’t even care about all those little quirks, which I consider endearing, actually, if there hadn’t been the significant delays behind them that made me concerned that he would never fully develop speech and be able to learn new things.

The speech and language-comprehension delay causes SO many problems.  He was still in diapers at the beginning of this school year.  He only became fully potty-trained about 2 months ago.  It has prevented, or created a huge challenge with, my teaching him anything new at all.

But now that the speech has kicked in, and is actually developing, I am encouraged quite a bit.

So, no matter whether it is autism or PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Delay-Not Otherwise Specified, which is what they call someone with a lot of autistic traits and developmental delay who does not meet all the criteria for autism), it really doesn’t matter to me anymore.

He is his own little unique Charlie, and he has his own special challenges.  And that’s all there is to the “whether and the why.”

End of that chapter!

It’s Cheaper* to Live in Iowa**

February 19, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Iowa, just life, Rants, Weather 

I moved to West Des Moines, Iowa, from Redmond, Washington one year ago and have not found it to be a less expensive place to live than where I came from.

Therefore there is no trade-off for the horrificly hot summer last year and un-ending hell of a winter that we’re going through now, or the fact that there is virtually no natural beauty and almost nothing to do outside of the pedestrian.

* Not including hats, gloves, mittens for the kids, winter coats, snowpants for the kids (required for school), boots for the kids (required for school), boots or sturdy shoes with traction for adults, huge heating bills, extra money for gas for letting your car warm up in the winter, special windshield wiper fluid that won’t freeze on the windows, ice scrapers, opportunity hours lost scraping ice and otherwise dealing with snow and ice, salt, snow shovel, wear and tear on your car, house prices that don’t go up so you actually lose money on your home any time you have to replace something like a water heater, etc. – thus you don’t get back your investment, rent in a comparable neighborhood is no cheaper than in the Seattle Metro area, state Income tax (the state I moved from had none), quality food like decent cheeses and wines cost nearly double here, and common food is marginally cheaper but health and beauty products are just high or higher so it evens out (and explains a few things)

 ** By “Iowa” I am referring to my experience in Iowa in the Des Moines Metro area.

Not Much of a Storm, I Dare Say…

February 17, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: blogging, Iowa, just life, Weather 

If you’ve been following my video blogging of “the big blizzard” of February 17, 2008 here in West Des Moines, Iowa, I’ll just wrap up the day with this rather anti-climactic post.

The snow stopped, the wind never did pick up very much, and the temperature reached 34 degrees and melted a lot of our snow!  Not much of a blizzard, then, I guess.  Here is the final video installment:

Wind Gusts February 17 2008 Blizzard West Des Moines Iowa

February 17, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: blogging, Iowa, just life, Weather 

I took this at approximately 1:20 p.m.  It’s not snowing anymore, but the wind is definitely picking up.  I would say the gusts are hitting about 20 miles per hour, with sustained winds of about 10 to 15 miles per hour.  Watch the dark trees for contrast to see the blowing snow flying around.  I most definitely need a better camera for video blogging!

West Des Moines, Iowa: Blizzard Intensifies Only Slightly by 11:27 am February 27 2008

February 17, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: blogging, Iowa, just life, Weather 

As you can see in the video, there is a little bit more snow coming down, and we are seeing a few wind gusts, but those are the only real changes since the video I posted this morning that was taken at 9:16 a.m.

They’re saying the snow may taper off soon, and the wind will start picking up later this afternoon.  I hope there is still enough light to capture it if we get some of those 50 mph gusts they are predicting.  It’s also clear from these videos that I need to get a better video camera if I’m going to continue video blogging!

Charlie & Mommy Being Silly

February 17, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: blogging, Charlie, just life 

This started out to be a video to send to my friend Lori, but it turned into kind of a fun little peek into our world, so I thought I would blogify it, and share it with the world for the sake of posterity!

Workaholic and Insomniac is Not a Good Combination

February 11, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Art, Bizarre, blogging, just life, Web Design, Word Press 

Waiting to hear back from fellow bloggers – and it’s after 1o p.m. central.  Any NORMAL person would realize that work has stopped for the day and no answer will be forthcoming until TOMORROW.  But not me….

 I don’t stop.  Someday, sometime, maybe I’ll take a vacation.  But not now… there is too much going on!  Some of my sites:

 High-Fructrose High.com

Criminal Justice Society

Sherry Dedman Design Services

Fluffy Net

Firenze of Tuscany


and many more

See SherryDedman.com for my portfolio of designed sites for other people.

 Or see my Content Producer’s Page on Associated Content for copy writing, articles, research papers, commentary, etc.

No, as a matter of fact, I don’t sleep……

Autism or Fragile X? A Rare Emotional Post

February 5, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Autism, Charlie, Fragile X, just life 

Lately I don’t “diary” much anymore.  Mainly I blog and sometimes I journal.  Today I want to “diary” though, just to vent a little bit of frustration and sadness.

Charlie BlankieToday the doctor called and told me she was finally able to find a lab that could draw (blood) for a test for Fragile X Syndrome.  So the order is at the doctor and we just have to pick it up and take it to the lab.  I am not looking forward the scene where Charlie gets his blood drawn for this.  I can’t imagine he will sit still for it, and I’m sure it will be traumatic.  But I don’t want to dwell on that.  If the roads are clear tomorrow, we will go get that test and get it going as soon as possible.  It takes 2 to 4 weeks to get back.

Anyway, if he does have Fragile X, it would explain a lot.  The autistic behaviors, the language delay, the persistent developmental and learning delays, etc.  If the result of the test is “negative” then obviously good that he does not have Fragile X.  But it would still leave the question of what is truly wrong with him.  He is autistic, it seems, but not to the extreme that most expect when they picture someone with autism.

If the result of the test is “positive” then obviously I will be sad that my child has this chromosomal disorder.  But it would explain so much.  Fragile X can cause autistic-like behaviors, mild to severe retardation, and obviously developmental and speech delays, and more.

If you don’t know what Fragile X is, here is a short explanation.  It is a genetic mutation of the X chromosome in one’s DNA.  Boys have an X and a Y chromosome and girls have two X chromosomes.

In this particular mutation, a string of DNA along the X chromosome is either missing or is not there to the extent that it should be, creating a “fragile” appearance to the structure of the X, thus its name, “Fragile X Syndrome.”  This mutation causes an overproduction in the body of something called “mGluR5” which causes all kinds of problems.

Because it is chromosomal, it manifests not just in developmental/inward problems, but in physical appearance as well.  In addition to the autistic behaviors and delays I’ve already described, it also can cause:

  • Long or pointy ears
  • Long face
  • Large head circumference
  • Strabismus (being cross-eyed)
  • A symian line on one or both hands (this is a single line all the way across your palm, instead of two lines that curve to miss each other)

And a few other things I can remember just at the moment.

Charlie CutieCharlie has several of these features.  Long face, pointy ears, large head circumference and mild strabismus.  Oh, and he is in the 98th percentile for height, which is also a feature of Fragile X.

Here is the kicker.  Fragile X can occur in both boys and girls, but it almost never shows up very obviously in girls because they have TWO x chromosomes, which makes up for the deficit in the structure of the X.

And since it is genetic, if Charlie has it, I probably have it – or gave it him, rather.

SherrynessAnd I have several of the physical features as well.  I have the symian line on my left hand, long face, very long ears and a big head.  I also have some of the behavior symptoms that show up most often in girls.  Such as extreme shyness (especially when younger) and typically being really bad at math, to the point where just intermediate math is really hard (that’s me!).  I’ve also always been pretty day-dreamy and ADD (not hyper, just have difficulty concentrating and am easily distracted).

I also communicate MUCH better via the written word than the spoken word.  So much so that I often finish a phone conversation and jump on the computer to flesh out what I was trying say to someone in e-mail.  This is a feature that is coming out in a lot of autistic people who can’t communicate by speaking at all, or very little, but who can write out communication on a typewriter as if they had a degree in literature.  It’s kind of wild.

So anyway, if you ever interacted with me and said, “That girl just ain’t right” – It’s quite possible that you were dead on the money, provable by blood test.  LOL

Anyway, if I’m wrong, I guess at least I know a lot about an interesting subject.  And just move on to the next step of trying to help him.

If I’m right, then it’s on to figure out just how to treat him.  He would need to be seen by dysmorphologists, specialists, and see what else is available to help him.  I guess I will cross that bridge when I get to it (in 2 to 4 weeks).

In the meantime, I did not mean to write this big, long post.  I simply came on here wanting to say that my Bubbee has a hiccup in his brain, and I don’t know how to help him, and I feel sad.  I really hate seeing him struggle.

Here are a couple of pictures of his cute, pointy ears:

Charlie 01Charlie 02

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