Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sharing your Love

"Love is the simplest thing in the world. Yet we often make it the most complicated." - Anne When we get too busy, we forget that love is a givt and that we are not in charge no matter what we do. Love is an energy flow. It can't be held. It can't be controlled.

How true are these words? I have found myself all choked up time and time again this past week with over things stories I have heard or seen on tv, from words that people have said to each other and to me, from gifts of thanks and from observing the amazing improvements that are taking place with the children and families I work with. The common theme running through all of these times is that they all revolve around the gift of love.

It is truly the simplest and greatest gift there is. You cannot help who you love. It is the only gift that is free and continues to replenish itself so go on and give it away.

To all of you who have touched my life with love this year, thank you!

I wish you the happiest of holidays!

Talk to you soon,
Erin

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Year is Coming to an End

It’s already the middle of December, which means that 2007 will soon be history. Where does the time go? While the weeks before Christmas are usually a blur to me, I always look forward to the slower pace of the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Our office is closed that week and is one of the few times each year that I really slow down, enjoy time with my family, and don’t worry about anything else. The slower pace allows time for reflection, and I often find myself thinking back on the year and reviewing it in my mind. As a family we spend some time talking about our favorite events and experiences from the year.

Anticipating the new year to come also provides opportunities for thinking about events and experiences that will be enjoyed in the next twelve months. I’ve never been one for making resolutions, but I do think about goals I have for myself. As a family we think about plans we have or things we hope to accomplish together in the next year.

Maybe the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is slower paced for you as well. I invite you to spend some time alone and together as a family thinking about all the things that have happened in 2007. As parents, spend some time celebrating all the big and little achievements you have had with your child this year. You can also think about things you are anticipating in 2008, and talk about goals together. It might even be a nice time to review the mission previews you wrote if you haven’t looked at them in a while. However you spend your holidays – I wish you many wonderful moments with your children. See you in the New Year!

Until 2008,
Nicole

Monday, December 17, 2007

Holiday Memories

Reading through Michelle's posting last week regarding memories that make the holiday season meaningful made me think about the moments that I will be sharing with my family this year. I thought about the events that will be coming over the next few weeks and realized that the holidays are not about the hustle and bustle of the season, which many of us tend to get lost in, but about the quality time you spend with your family and friends. This year, my holiday traditions will be changing a little. My fiance and I are going to start our own family traditions and I am eager for the holidays to come. We will both be bringing our own family traditions and memories together and merging them into our own. I am very eager for the moments being home together and the memories we will make during our first holiday season.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season full of fond memories and special moments for you and your family. Happy Holidays!

Courtney

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lunchtime at Horizons

This is a very interesting time of day here at Horizons. The staff usually spends their lunch eating in the staff lounge while our instructional students eat around the kitchen table which is in the room next door.

Part of the instructional program is to work on preparing lunch, table manners, and then cleaning up. We have one staff member who works with these students during lunch but the rest of us have the opportunity just to sit and enjoy our lunch in the other room. We love to listen to what's going on and can only imagine to what is actually going on. We will periodically go in and out to engage with the lunchtime fun. We sometimes leave them on their own to see what they are able to accomplish together - like doing dishes together - it's quite interesting. Another fun thing that happens during lunchtime are polls taken on our dry-erase board on the fridge. We have many interesting questions pop up on there and we all love to give our opinions. The boys love to see our answers too!


Here are our lunchtime friends:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Living Life

Tagging along with Nicole's blog from this week about reaping what you sow I read something recently about living life. The information I read posed the question - "when my life is over will I feel that I have lived it or just gotten through it?"

A family friend's brother passed away last week and I attended a "celebration of life" for him on Saturday which started me thinking about life in general. I tend to spend time reflecting back on the passing of my father when I attend visitations, funerals or hear about someone I know losing a loved one. After leaving this particular celebration of life I thought about how nice this was to have all of your friends and family gather just to talk about all of the memories they have of you. What better way to show that you lived your life and didn't just get through it.

At this time of year when I am really in need of a break I tend to find myself just getting through life rather than really "living" it. Why is this when this is the time of year when I should truly being living life and taking in all of the experiences associated with the holidays which starts to happen around December 22nd. I should be doing this all year long. I think for the most part I do "live my life", but I do know that there are times when I "just get through it." One of my resolutions for this coming year is to be conscious of those times when I am just getting through and make an effort to change.

There is so much life to miss when we are just getting through. Life is short and what you make of it. So reap what you sow and live your life to the fullest don't just get through it.

Talk to you soon,
Erin

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Encoding Holiday Memories

The answers so far to the holiday poll have intrigued me. As I put the options together I figured that things like Santa and opening gifts would be a popular answer. Isn't this what ends up being spotlighted as "important" while we are kids? I often hear people say "I'm going to let my kids believe in Santa and have a good time with filling stockings. Isn't that what makes Christmas fun?" According to the answers in the poll, I'm noticing that the gifts and Santa are not what people are seeing as important and triggering the best memories. Instead, I've noticed that things that produce good quality family time is topping the list - making food together, the food we ate together, the things we picked out together, getting snowed in together. Interesting... What are you going to do this holiday season to instill good family memories? If you haven't voted yet, be sure to do so!

Reaping What We Sow

A farmer walked into the local supply store to buy corn seeds for the upcoming planting season. He wanted to grow the best corn crop he possibly could and he wanted them to come up quickly. The owner of the store directed him to the variety of available options and helped the farmer determine exactly the types of seeds he should buy and how many. Before the farmer left the store the owner made sure he had given him directions and tips on how to properly plant and care for the seeds. The farmer left with bags of seed, fertilizer, and detailed instructions. He was feeling excited about the possibilities for the growing season ahead. He just knew this was going to be the best corn crop he ever planted.

By the time the farmer got home from the supply store it was dinnertime and he was hungry and tired. He carefully unloaded the bags of seed and his other purchases and set them down inside the barn. He had every intention of beginning to plant them the next day. The farmer went inside, had dinner, and went to bed.

The next morning the farmer woke up and the sky was a bit overcast. It looked like it might rain and he decided it wasn’t the best day to plant the seeds he had purchased the day before. After all, if this was going to be the best crop he ever planted he needed to make sure everything was just right. That day came and went and the seeds remained in the barn.

The next day came and the farmer had a huge list of things to tend to on the farm. There was broken equipment that needed to be fixed and some animals that needed tending to. He thought about his seeds many times, but decided they would just have to wait. That day came and went and the seeds remained in the barn.

The days continued to come and go, and the seeds remained in the barn. It seemed that something else more important or pressing always came up, or he was really tired from all his hard work, and it was never the right time to plant those seeds.

Finally one day the farmer woke up thinking about those seeds and realized he had to get them planted or he was going to miss the planting season entirely. He raced outside, grabbed the bags of seed and fertilizer, and started throwing the seeds all over his fields. By the end of the day he had all the seeds planted and he went to bed that night feeling pretty good about himself. He hadn’t followed the guidance provided to him when he first bought the seeds, but he was sure something good would come of his efforts that day to get those seeds in the ground.

The growing season continued on and the farmer periodically tended to his crops – watering them when they got really dry and dumping some fertilizer on them every once in a while. As the season reached it’s peak the farmer began to get frustrated at what he saw when he looked out on his fields. The plants that were coming up seemed small and fragile and they weren’t producing much. All he could see was a few pieces of corn here and there attached to spindly dry stalks. Where were the lush green stalks he was supposed to get from those seeds? Where was all the corn that was supposed to be growing on those stalks?

As the days wore on the farmer’s frustration grew and grew, and he began to get angry. This wasn’t how the growing season was supposed to work out! After all, he had bought the best seeds, the best fertilizer, and had a great vision for what the outcome would look like. One day, at the height of his frustration and anger he grabbed a corn stalk out of the ground, threw it in his truck, and sped down to the supply store where he had purchased the seeds many months before. He was going to look that store owner in the eye and give him a piece of his mind.

When he got to the store he was glad to see the owner just inside the door. He stomped inside, held out the pathetic stalk of corn, and demanded to know why the man had sold him such terrible seeds when he specifically told him he wanted the best that were available. The store owner looked at the corn, and then at the farmer, and asked him if he had followed the instructions and tips he had given when the seeds were first purchased. The farmer told him that indeed he had planted the seeds, used the fertilizer, watered them and this was the result. At first the owner was baffled as to why this farmer’s corn looked the way it did. As the conversation wore on, however, it became clear that the directions had not been followed and that hasty last-ditch efforts had been substituted for the carefully planned and well-tended care required to grow the best crops. The store owner shook his head and told the farmer that he’d be glad to help him select seeds again the next year, and would offer him advice, but that it was up to the farmer to follow through.

The farmer left the store feeling a mix of anger (that stupid store owner), resentment (who does that guy think he is anyway), guilt (I should have done a better job following those directions), fear (what’s going to come from this terrible crop and what if I try again next year and it comes out just as bad), and shame (I’m a bad farmer and should have known better, and now I’m trying to blame my failures on someone else). He went to bed that night tossing and turning.

The next morning the farmer felt slightly revived by his night of fitful sleep, and went out to look at his corn crop. He noticed that the ground was drier than usual so he carefully watered the plants and staked a few that were particularly droopy. He went to bed that night feeling somewhat better that the plants would look decent in the morning.

When he woke up and looked out upon his crops the next morning, however, they looked just as bad as the day before. The plants he had staked were still standing, but now there were others that had fallen over in the night. The farmer became enraged at the corn. He began running up and down the field yelling and kicking the corn stalks – blaming them for refusing to grow right despite his efforts. This went on for a little while until the farmer finally came to his senses and realized that he could be angry and scream at the corn all day long and it wasn’t going to make the corn grow any faster or better. He walked back to the barn feeling a mixture of anger (stupid crops that won’t grow-look at all the money I wasted), resentment (this corn just won’t grow right no matter what I do and I didn't ask for this difficult corn in the first place; this isn't what I thought I was getting), guilt (I should keep trying to do what I can for this crop since it’s all I’ve got right now), fear (what’s going to happen to these crops if I can’t get them to grow; what if I keep trying and they still don’t produce anything), and shame (here I am blaming the corn plants when it’s my own fault they aren’t growing).

The rest of the story is for you the reader to determine. How does the story end in your mind? Does the farmer give up? Does he get his act together and do what he can from that point on? Does he move on and find another supply store owner to assist him? However you end the story, think about this question:

What did the farmer sow and what did he reap?

Each of us has an area in our lives where we are the farmer and someone or something is the corn. It’s easy to sow poorly or half-heartedly and then blame other people or things for the failures we reap. We feel that mixture of anger, resentment, guilt, fear, and shame and we have to decide what to do with it. Do we just let those feelings continue to fester without taking any action? Do we give up? Do we move on to find the thing we are sure will work? Do we shape up and get our act together? It’s easy to blame others for our failures, but much harder to look at ourselves and point the finger.

My questions for you to reflect on this week are in relation to your children with autism and your remediation efforts: What are you sowing? What are you reaping? How does your story end?

Until next week,
Nicole

Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday Hustle



The malls are all dressed in their holiday best. Shoppers are out and about. Even though the holidays can be a busy time of year it is important to continue to work on remediation with cheer. Remember, it is not the quantity of time, but the quality of time.
Happy Monday!


Courtney

Friday, December 7, 2007

A New Member of Horizons

Introducing a new member to Horizons and saying "Goodbye" to a trusty old friend.

"Old Friend"

After many years of hard work and dedication our trusty old copy machine decided to take a puke on us. It has served Horizons well. Nicole and Michelle were telling me the story of when they decided to purchase this copy machine and what a big deal it was to them - they were so excited to get a copy machine and Nicole was so nervous to spend the $300 on such a large piece of office equipment. That was almost 5 years ago. Well, it wasn't worth it to fix it so on to new and better things for the ever growing Horizons.

"New Friend"

This new purchase made me so excited. This is something I have been asking for for quite some time. My old friend took up quite a lot of space on my desk top and I new if we ever upgraded that we'd get something that would be off my desktop - so needless to say when my old friend took a puke I was a little joyful. I was threatened with not being paid for weeks so that we could purchase a new one, but we found a new friend that would work well for our growing business and would allow me to get paid - whew!!! So, one day I was out getting lunch and arrived back and to my surprise found a new friend waiting for me. I gave it a big hug - seriously! It does so many neat things that my old friend never did - double side without having to open the bottom tray and flipping the paper around, collates, staples, and the best feature of all it's off my desk and out of my office! I was told this is my gift for Christmas, my anniversary, my birthday, for the next 2 years so I better be good. Thank you so much to Horizons for getting this wonderful piece of office equipment - it's awesome! Who knew that something like this could make someone so happy!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Self Care

It is that time of year again when we find ourselves busier than usual at least I do with the preparations for the holiday and all of the extra events that seem to crop up. All the more reason to make sure we are taking care of ourselves.

I found this quote "Taking care of ourselves sets a good example for our children. When we think about the legacies we can give our children, self-care may be one of the greatest models we can give."

How fitting is this during this time of giving. Our children deserve to see that we value ourselves and that it is okay to take time for ourselves. I was talking to some parents today about their family schedule and this topic came up. The mom feels like she can take time for herself and doesn't feel guilty about it. The dad on the other hand doesn't feel like he can do this and when he does he feels guilty about it. We had a nice discussion about why taking time for himself is really important and I think was affirming to him to hear his wife say she is happy to let him take time for himself.

Even I am guilty of not taking good care of myself all the time and will readily admit that there are times when I am doing things for myself and feel guilty about it. This past weekend for example I went to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra and as I sat waiting for the concert to begin I was thinking of all of the things I should be working on, but as the music began I stopped feeling guilty and just enjoyed myself. I am thankful that my sister talked me into going and I took the time for myself because it rejuvinated me and I was able to be really productive on Sunday. By the way this was the best concert I have ever been to hands down and I highly recommend that if it comes to a venue near you to get tickets and take some time for yourself.

So during this crazy time of year try to find just a little time for yourself. What kind of legacy will you leave your children?

Talk to you soon,
Erin

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Poll Results

The results to last weeks poll are in. Thanks to all who voted! Here are the results:
I overcompensate and do too much for my child.
4 (36%)
I under compensate and expect too much of my child.
1 (9%)
I've found a nice balance.
6 (54%)

Hopefully after thinking about this a bit, you have thought about ways to change how you paretn if you over or under compensate.

For this weeks poll I wanted to continue the thoughts of episodic memory that Nicole started yesterday. This week I'd like you to think about what things trigger the best memories of the holidays for you. I look forward to seeing what this is for most people so I can use these ideas with my kids! Please comment if you have more to add. I'll update the poll as I receive more ideas. Let's see how much we can generate between now and the end of the year!

Michelle

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Holiday Episodic Memories

We started getting into the holiday spirit at our house this weekend by decorating and putting up our Christmas tree. My kids love going through the totes of decorations and reminding themselves about all the stuff they haven’t seen for the past year. Decorating the tree is a great time because each of the kids has their own ornament box with their special ornaments in it. My husband and I decided to carry on a tradition in my family where we buy each child an ornament each year so by the time they grow up and leave home they have a collection of meaningful ornaments for their own tree. Some of their ornaments are gifts they have received from other people or decorations they have made in school. One of my favorite moments of the year is sitting in the living room with holiday music on and opening up those boxes. The kids excitedly open each one and talk about where they got or who gave it to them, and then find a special spot for it on the tree.

Every year at Christmastime I am reminded of the power and magic of episodic memories. There are so many elements of the season that trigger memories of the past – the taste of Christmas cookies, the smell of fresh pine, the decorations, the sounds of holiday music. All of those things bring floods of memories of holidays past, of the people who are dear to us, and the special moments and traditions that bind us together as families. Here are a few ideas for making memories this holiday season:
• Purchase or make an ornament together for your tree (or a decoration for your home). At the end of the season pack it away with a little note about when and where you got it / made it. Then when you get ready to decorate next year you can review the memory of your experience together.
• Make some cookies together and take time decorating them. Take pictures of your favorite ones for a scrapbook page, or review the experience when eating them over the next few days.
• Build anticipation by making a Count-down Chain. Make a paper chain with the number of links equal to the number of days left until Christmas day, New Year’s day, or whatever day is important for you. Each day you can take a moment to tear off one of the links together and share your anticipation of the special day getting closer.
• One of my favorite Christmas books is called The Sweet Smell of Christmas, by Patricia Scarry. We had this book while I was growing up and we would read it all the time during the holiday season. The book has scratch-and-sniff stickers throughout so you can smell different things on each page while you read the text. I had forgotten about that book until a couple of years ago I found it at a small bookstore in the area. When I opened it up and began smelling the stickers I was immediately brought back to my childhood – the scents were amazingly familiar and it brought back all kinds of warm memories of the holidays with my family. I know read this book with my own children and it has created all kinds of great memories for them as well. If you can find this book somewhere I highly recommend it!

I hope these ideas get you thinking about ways to encode meaningful memories this holiday season. If you have some memory-making ideas or stories you’d like to share please leave a comment – we want to hear from you!

Happy memory making,
Nicole

Monday, December 3, 2007

The New Operating System (OS)

Happy Monday everyone! I just returned from an exciting week of training in Houston for my RDI certification. We spent a lot of time familiarizing ourselves with the new Operating System and I have to say that I am very excited about! Some of you may feel a little overwhelmed with all of the computer and internet options, but I must say that once you spend some time working with the new OS, it is very user friendly. I am amazed by all of the exciting features the OS has to offer. Dr. Gutstein introduced us to a new inexpensive piece of equipment that is easily compatible with the OS. It is called a Flip camera, which you can buy at Target, Walmart, and other local technology stores. The camera will film up to 60 mins and has zoom in/out features. It is small and can be carried in a purse or pocket. The best part is that the USB jack is built into the camera! When you want to upload a clip to your consultant, all you need to do is plug the camera into your computer and Squish it in the OS. It is a really neat piece of equipment and a nice alternative to the larger video cameras. Please check it out by clicking on the title of this post. Have a great week!

Courtney