Gretchen Schock shares her love of recipes, crafts and frugal living. She also speaks very opening about the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. After a breast cancer scare in 2012, she decided to say goodbye to her nightly glasses of Chardonnay. It was time to get sober and live life with eyes wide open! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.


Special Needs Brother

My wife recently remarked to me that she doesn't feel like our kids get excited about anything, that they don't show their excitement like other kids do. Her comment stuck with me for a few days. As I've been thinking about it and churning it around in my mind, I honestly had to agree with her. There have been several times, just in the last year, when I've been disappointed by their reaction to something. For example this past Christmas we surprised the boys with tickets to Legoland, Florida. We live in Maryland so this was a big gift that involved airfare and such. Both boys had been begging to go to Legoland for months, basically every time the Lego "magazine" arrived in our mailbox. (I use that term in quotes because if you've ever seen this so called literature that the company mails to my children for free...then you know that it is basically a glorified toy catalog.) 

I set up the iPhone on the bookshelf to secretly record their faces once they opened the package with the Legoland tickets and park map, hoping that their reaction would be as over the top happy as some of the videos I've seen on YouTube. They both barely cracked a smile. Instead they were full of questions about when we are going, for how long and then once the day arrived they were both happy to be there. Excited? Well let's just say that their "excited" isn't anywhere close to other children's excited.

And after further thought on my wife's recent remark to me about it, I've come to the conclusion that my youngest son has been looking up to his brother for the way in which to conduct himself emotionally. Almost all children do this, younger siblings look to the older sibling to interpret if something is a good idea, safe etc. Well my oldest son, Logan, is on the Autism Spectrum. And children on the Autism Spectrum have a great deal of difficulty appropriately expressing their emotions.

When Logan was around three years old I use to hold up flash cards at the dinner table that had pictures of various people expressing emotions. These were stock images that showed him what crying looked like, surprise, happy, thoughtful etc. Children on the Autism Spectrum don't naturally understand emotional facial reactions, it often times has to be learned.

So it shouldn't come to a surprise that those children then don't always express their own emotions as you or I would. Logan's "really happy" looks like a very toned down version of a nuerotypical child's "really happy". His emotional reactions aren't as extreme or as identifiable. And now I've realized that my younger son's emotional reactions are simply him imitating his autistic brother, not on purpose of course, it has just happened the way these things do within a family. Could this be a study for future research scientists? I think so. I wonder what else my younger son has learned how to do by watching his older brother and though he is not on the Autism Spectrum he might unintentionally act as though he is.
Have you ever encountered this between siblings where one child is special-needs and the other is not? What did you observe?


Raising a Compassionate Child

The guidance councilor at my boy's school pulled me aside and asked if my younger son, Zane, could participate in "Lunch Bunch" with one of his classmates. Lunch Bunch is for kids who have social goals on their IEP, Individualized Education Plan. The special-needs child and a few classmates can have lunch in one of the teacher's offices, typically the special education teacher's office or the guidance councilor's office to work on whatever the social goals might be for that child. It’s a relaxed environment for the special-needs child to learn how to have a conversation, take turns etc. My oldest son, Logan, who is on the Autism Spectrum, has been enjoying Lunch Bunch for two years now and I think it's been a wonderful tool to aide in the development of cultivating friendships for him. Every kid in his class wants to be chosen to have the special lunch and play with special toys while everyone else sits in the cafeteria.

I was honored that Zane was chosen and not the least bit surprised. He naturally gravitates towards other children on the Spectrum because, I think, they remind him of his brother. But I wanted Zane to choose whether or not he wanted to participate in Lunch Bunch. He lives and breathes life under the Autism umbrella and I didn’t want to force this on him.

While on a dog walk I decided to bring it up and ask him what he thought about participating in Lunch Bunch with this child from his class, Sam*. He seemed curious but wanted to know if he could invite some friends as well. I explained to him how Logan is the key kid for Lunch Bunch in his class and he gets to be the one who invites other kids and Sam is the key kid in his class. I went on to further explain that the good news is that Sam picked him to participate and that it's a special opportunity.

Zane was walking next to me and became silent; I could tell he was analyzing it in his mind. Trying to the change the subject I asked him who sat at his group of desks. He went through the names of all the kids telling little stories about each one. Sam was one of them. So I asked Zane, "How is Sam doing in school this year?"

"Not good. Yesterday he left early because he wouldn't get off the floor."

"What does the teacher do when Sam lays on the floor?"

"She taps him on the shoulder and then Sam grunted at her like this..." (He grunted softly to demonstrate)

"Oh, that's too bad. Did you know that Sam has a different kind of brain?"
"Like Logan?", he asked.

"Yeah, like Logan."
"That’s what I thought. But no one is there to help Sam like Ms. Drew does for Logan."
(Ms. Drew is Logan’s dedicated aide)
We walked for a bit longer in silence and then Zane said, "Do you think Sam would want to be my friend?"
"I think he would. He seems like a pretty cool kid. And I bet you guys have a lot in common."
"He just ignores me though."
"I think he's just processing everything that is going on, I’m sure he doesn't mean to ignore you."
"Just like Logan does sometimes."
"Yup, like Logan does."

I'm instantly reminded of what a compassionate child Zane is and how living under the Autism umbrella can be a pretty good thing after all. 

(* name of the child has been changed)


Do your kids hate working in a group? Show them this!

In my children's yoga classes I have a handful of kids who never want to work in a group; they prefer to work alone, to be the boss and to make all the decisions. We need kids like this in the world, natural born leaders, and it's a quality that will definitely come in handy when they grow up. But those natural born leaders also need to experience working in a group and listening to other people's opinions.

This video from a dance competition is a wonderful example of how magical working in a group can be. The choreography wouldn't be as impressive if there was just one dancer on the stage, try to single out one dancer and watch. What makes this dance combination spectacular is the group dynamic, seeing that many people on one stage that are perfectly in sync is what makes this group a winner.

I highly recommend showing this video to your child, whether they are a natural born leader or a kid who prefers to be a part of the pack. The dancers are amazing to watch as a group and it proves what hard work and practice can accomplish. Plus- I love the diversity of the group, that there are several different ethnicity and body shapes!



I want more summer nights to look like this…friends and family around the fire pit eating s'mores. 


Managing Your Time is Easy

Is your inbox overflowing with emails that you haven't read? Or do you find yourself spending time everyday deleting emails from companies that you've shopped at once or haven't purchased anything from in the last 6 months?
Take 5 minutes today to unsubscribe to email newsletters that you don't read. Having an inbox filled with emails that you won't get around to reading does not serve you, instead create a Pinterest board with pins from the companies you plan to shop at in the future or blogs that you plan to read..someday.
Managing your life and streamlining your inbox means you have more time for the people you love!


Friendships come and go...

Is there someone you have lost sight of recently? How could you reconnect?
Facebook has been a wonderful way to reconnect with long lost friends for me. Take the Facebook emails a step further and meet in person. Look the friend in the eye and truly listen to the story of her life. Be present and open your heart to forgiveness. Don't allow past arguments, hurt feelings or time to ruin the possibility of your future relationship. 

But it's also okay if there isn't a future relationship and you remain "Facebook friends". People come in and out of our lives for a reason. I believe that the Universe puts people in our lives at that exact moment for a purpose. Maybe we needed the support at that time in our lives; raising children, a job, divorce. Or maybe we both needed a friend while we experienced something great in our lives; a marathon, college, summer camp. That person is a part of our memories. 

"Instead of dwelling on the pain of saying goodbye to a friendship, look at it as a chapter that was filled with many memories and now lessons that will forever live with you. Sometimes we are welcomed by friendships that aren’t meant to last forever, but are meant to teach us and help us grow on our beautiful journeys." 
-Joey Parker is Editor-In-Chief of The Joey Parker Movement

If you choose to meet face-to-face remember that we all have grown up and changed. You are a different person than you were in college and so is the person sitting across from you. Be open, be present and honor your spirit.


Saying Goodbye to Childhood Mementos

I keep telling is just a bowl. But here I am with tears running down my face after discovering the huge crack on the bowl's side as I fished it from the bottom of the sink overflowing of dirty dishes.

It is just a bowl. A physical object that just so happens to hold a lot of memories. I'm not the type of person that holds on to a lot of items. I love to purge, clearing out the closets and attic several times a year. Each of my children has one small box of mementos from birth, that I continue to add to periodically. I live by a strict rule: if you don't use it/play with it, it goes out of the house. This mindset has enabled me to live in small spaces, to travel lightly and move from place to place with ease. It has also encouraged me to surround myself with the things I really love and care about. There is no question about what I hold sacred in my life.

It is just a bowl.

This bowl is from my childhood. A small plastic bowl with Mickey Mouse's face on the bottom. My sister and I would fight over who would get to eat breakfast cereal out of it, in our childhood minds it was comforting to see his face smiling at you at the start of each day. I don't know how I was lucky enough to be the one to leave my parent's house with it but I've carried this bowl with me throughout college, five years in New York, cross country to Seattle and back again to Maryland. It's made it through several cut throat purge sessions and reorganizing.

It is just a bowl.

Now my children have been using it. My youngest son uses it each night for his before bedtime snack when he claims he's starving. I don't know if he'll notice that it's gone, if he has fond memories of it yet. Maybe when he's older and sees it on a shelf of an antique store, he'll smile to himself and insist on buying it because it is more than just a bowl. It is a memory. It is comfort. It is home.
I'm going to miss you Mickey.




Let go of who you think you are suppose to be, dig deep and find the strength within yourself to be who you are meant to be.



"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand."
-Henri Nouwen


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