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.

12/17/2014

Autism Accomplishments



Hey Village! It's time to celebrate again! 
Often times when you have a kid on the Autism Spectrum there are accomplishments that take place that no one really understands, except the people closest to you. They are small accomplishments that as the parent make you want to rent the party room, pull out the streamers, blow some party balloons and hire the clown. And in a way…I guess that's what I'm doing by writing this post.

Logan, my oldest son, is eleven years old and on the Autism Spectrum. I recently wrote about his accomplishment of being able to tolerate large groups which was HUGE for our family. It's opened doors to opportunities that we weren't able to experience before.
Well now I am here to celebrate jeans.
Jeans?, you might wonder.
Yes, it is that simple…jeans.

There was an entire year when Logan refused to wear anything but superhero long sleeved pajamas. As you can see in the first picture where his brother is wearing seasonally appropriate clothes for July in Washington DC, Logan stood his ground and wore his pajamas everywhere. You might wonder why I didn't "make" him wear other clothes. Yes, of course I tried. But until you've experienced a meltdown from a child on the Autism Spectrum please do not judge. It's beyond anything you've ever experienced. The look of pain in my son's eyes as I wrestled him into shorts and a t-shirt was as if I was lighting his skin on fire. The screaming would reach an all new octave, the tears would cover his entire red face while gasping for air all because of a cotton t-shirt and elastic waist shorts. This was the start of our day for several weeks. The meltdown would last over an hour. The pain in his eyes, that's what broke me.
I couldn't handle it.
I gave up.
I bought every pair of superhero pajamas I could find in his size. It was summer and finding long sleeve pajamas was nearly impossible. Short sleeved and short sets would not placate him. It had to be long sleeved, he insisted that his skin had to be covered in the 90 degree humid heat of DC. I found two Superman sets on clearance at Target and it felt like I hit the lottery. I called my mom in tears, having my own meltdown over pajamas, and because she has witnessed Logan's getting dressed meltdowns first hand she understood my immediate need for her to go to her local Target and buy clearance superhero pajama sets as well. Between the two of us we were able to secure a weeks worth of long sleeved pajamas. And it felt like my life became normal. Except for the fact that I got stares and comments from strangers everywhere we went, we were a magnet for parenting advice.
"How could you allow your son to wear long sleeves in this heat?"
You have no idea.

Logan outgrew the pajama phase, it led to t-shirts and elastic waist athletic pants which has been a staple in his wardrobe for the past several years. And then today he came downstairs ready for school wearing jeans! I'm not sure if the jeans were a gift or something his father bought that Logan has refused to wear and it has been living at the bottom of the drawer. I don't remember how they came to appear in our house but on laundry day when all the other athletic pants were dirty his choice was simple…jeans. And he didn't have a meltdown, he wore them proudly. I made such a huge deal about it, complementing him on how grown up he looks. Taking pictures of his outfit. In my mind I knew instantly that this would be scrapbooked in our family photo book.
My mom came over that night and fussed over him on handsome he was in jeans. I'm so glad she got to see him, that she too got to celebrate this accomplishment since she lived through the pajama phase with me. Like I said this was a big deal, a major accomplishment.
Jeans today….I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

   

12/12/2014

Handprint Holiday Wreath



Adorn your front door with a wreath made out of your child's handprints this holiday season. This holiday handprint wreath is a wonderful, easy craft that you can make with your child in an afternoon. Simply have your child trace their handprint on various pieces of scrapbook paper and with care cut them out. Then take a paper plate and cut out a huge inner circle, staple each handprint to the paper plate. To cover each staple, glue various colored pom-poms to each staple using regular school glue. Hole punch the top and thread a ribbon through it to hang on your front door.

12/10/2014

Bird Feeder Using Recycled Materials



The Bee Yoga Fusion Yoga Kids LOVE being outside. We got a break from the winter jackets and decided to make winter bird feeders for our feathered friends.
This activity is great to do with a wide range of elementary aged children.
You'll need:
a paper plate and large craft stick for each child
toilet paper tubes
creamy peanut butter
wild bird seed

With our craft sticks we smeared peanut butter on the toilet paper tubes and then rolled the tubes in a plate filled with wild bird seed. When the kids were done smearing and rolling we put hold punches at one end of the tube and used yarn to hang the bird feeders from random trees near our playground.

Try this easy craft with your children and help feed our feathered friends this winter.

12/03/2014

Great Gift Idea for Elementary Aged Boys



Are you searching for a creative gift to give a boy that won't be discarded like a pair of socks once he unwraps it? Something that isn't electronic and yet will hold his interest?
Order this book today and give it to every little boy on your Christmas list.
(I get nothing for promoting this book, we just love it in our house!)


Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes


Pages and pages of easy to follow directions to create really impressive paper airplanes that every boy will love. Pair this book with a ream of white office paper and get ready to have some FUN!

11/28/2014

Creating Special Time with Each Child- MOMMY DATE

My oldest son, Logan, is on the Autism Spectrum, though he has grown and matured and is now more adaptable to various settings. We still feel as though we are sometimes limited on what environments he will tolerate or for how long. I have often talked about my internal struggle with guilt that my younger son, Zane, has to live under the "Autism Umbrella".  Thankfully he doesn't know any different though, this is his "normal". Watching his brother go to various therapy appointments or special camps where he goes on various field trips to learn social skills has sparked a bit of jealousy from time to time.

To offset that jealousy I like to have a special day with my younger son that we call a Mommy Date. I give him a few choices of things that we can do, often times choosing things that I know Logan wouldn't tolerate. Recently we went to a paint your own pottery type of place and enjoyed talking while painting our pieces of pottery. I chose to do a large mug and I traced Zane's hand on it so now I have a special mug that I can use with my morning coffee to remind me of our special Mommy Date.

Carve out some time for each of your kids, you don't have to spend money or go somewhere new. Take a walk around the block, or lay in the hammock together. The important thing is to talk, to truly listen to just that child and offer them your undivided attention. Turn off the phone and other distractions and tune into that sweet child.
  

11/21/2014

Catapult Craft




Kids love to throw things, they love to see objects fly through the air. I took their love of flight and combined it with a craft, making a catapult! 

Here is what you will need:
craft sticks, rubber bands, plastic spoons and craft pom poms. 

First we stacked 10 large craft sticks on top of each other and secured them together using rubber bands on each end. Then we put a craft stick on the bottom and on the top in the shape of a V and secured with a rubber band at the tip. Then in the center of the stick making an X with the rubber bands, attaching it to the 10 craft sticks. The final step is using a rubber band to secure the spoon to one of the V shaped sticks. As you can see the kids colored the sticks with markers making each catapult unique. 

We set up targets; a paper plate, a bowl and a plastic cup. Then we tested various heights using yoga blocks. First predicting the outcome and then determining what we can do differently to get the outcome that we wanted. It was a lot of fun and just a wee bit educational…but the kids barely noticed that!
  

11/19/2014

25 Gift Ideas For Kids (That Don't Involve Bringing More Plastic Crap into Your House!)

Yes, kids love to open gift on Christmas day but as a family who has often lived in small spaces, we have had to invite other ideas for gifts that grandparents, aunts and uncles could send the boys. Gifts that don't take up any room in our house. Gifts that were more experience driven rather than consumerism of stuff.
Here is a list of ideas that we have enjoyed in our house.

  1. Membership to a children's museum. For several years this was our #1 gift request because when we would visit the grandparent in their state we used the affiliate program and was able to go for free. We would often also go to a children's museum while traveling or on vacation. We got a lot of bang out of that buck!
  2. Aquarium membership. 
  3. Subscription to a children's theatre. 
  4. Spring break camp (we don't normally do spring break camps so this is special in our house).
  5. Season pass to minor league baseball games.
  6. Season tickets to college women's basketball games, we are close to the University of Maryland and the women's basketball games aren't as crowded as the mens' games which works well for our family. And the tickets are less expensive.
  7. Night at Great Wolf Lodge.
  8. Adopt an animal at the zoo, http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Support/AdoptSpecies/
  9. Tickets to an amusement park.
  10. Movie tickets.
  11. Gift card to a place where we wouldn't normally go that is an experience, for example a Pump It Up or a trampoline gym or a climbing wall facility.
  12. Magazine subscriptions. When the boys have finished reading them I take them to their school to use in their positive behavior school store.
  13. Online video game coding program, my youngest has really enjoyed this one. Learning how to make his own video game has taught him to look at all video games differently. http://www.tynker.com
  14. Online video game like https://minecraft.net
  15. Minecraft Homeschooling game, we haven't tried this yet but it's on our wish list for this year. 
  16. Gift card to an arcade.
  17. DVDs.
  18. CDs.
  19. Video game.
  20. Gift card to purchase Apps for iPhone/Ipad.
  21. Art classes.
  22. Cooking class.
  23. Paint your own pottery type of experience.
  24. Subscription service  that comes in the mail: http://www.greenkidcrafts.com/join/ delivers STEM and creative projects for the child to do at home.
  25. Gift card to book store or comic book store, I would personally rather be overrun by books than plastic crap any day of the week!

11/14/2014

Indoor Party Game for Kids


Cooler weather means kids are cooped up indoors and so is their energy, which may be driving you a bit wacky. This is a fun and quick game that can be used for kids of various ages whether it's a rainy day indoors, a snow day home from school or an inexpensive party game to play at your child's birthday party.

Purchase a large bag of various colored craft pom poms, I like to use the kind that are about a half inch in diameter or smaller. Throw them in the center of the floor and have the kids try and pick up a particular color for one minute only using their feet. The person who gets the most balls of one color in a pile is the winner.

Not only is this game quick, easy and great for all ages but it also builds the muscles in the child's feet which will help their yoga practice, dance technique and soccer skills.

11/12/2014

Monogramed Initial Sticks



My yoga kids love nature and what better craft activity to complement a walk in the woods than making a monogrammed initial out of sticks that we found on our nature walk. I let the kids pick out embroidery floss in their favorite colors and each child sat and concentrated on making their initial.

Try this craft with your kids. Take a walk through the neighborhood or in the woods and pick up sticks that you find along the way. Then find a quiet spot to wrap string or yarn around the joints to hold the initial in place. For the younger kids I used twist ties to hold the sticks in place so that they could manipulate the embroidery floss around the sticks without the letter completely falling apart.

Enjoy the quiet moments with your children. While they are working ask questions about their day at school, their friends etc. Sit and listen. Don't comment as you normally would and instead try and listen and observe. Keeping an open mind and an open heart.



11/07/2014

Simple Candy Corn Painting




Need a quick and easy craft that will keep the kids occupied for a little while? This is it! Great for kindergarten through fourth grade students. The supplies are minimal so it's great for a classroom project.

All you will need is:

  • white construction paper or white card stock
  • orange and yellow paint
  • clothes pins
  • craft pom pom balls
Cut the paper in the shape of a large candy corn, you can do this or have the kids do it if they are comfortable with scissors. Then place orange and yellow paints on paper plates in the center of the group for everyone to share. With the clothes pins grasp a pom pom, I chose to use coordinating colors so that no one would mix the clothespins in the wrong paint. 
yellow pom pom = yellow paint
Have the children dip their pom pom in the paint and dab on the paper repeatedly creating a candy corn design. Hang and let dry.
This craft is perfect for the fall and Halloween time, especially for the kids who might be a little scared of Halloween themed crafts that involve ghosts and skeletons.  

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