Fragile or Strong?

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Everyone says that having challenges makes you strong in the end.  I can’t figure out if facing my challenges lately is making me strong…. or fragile.  It kind of feels like fragile except that I haven’t broken yet.   I took all of my mons-ners to M’s parent teacher conference and had them sit in the hallway playing games on their tablets while I was in the meeting.  It was a stressful meeting.  I have been nervous about it for 2 weeks.  I couldn’t find anyone appropriately knowledgeable on special needs children to go with me (ie. friends with spec. ed children, support group peers, spouse) without totally disrupting their very busy schedules.  Also – I was a little more than embarrassed that I felt I couldn’t do “my job” that day.  So, I thought of this line from a movie I once saw about getting through something tough, “you can either white-knuckle your way through it or you can ask for help”.  In this case, I was going to just white-knuckle my way through it. Originally I did have childcare help set up for this meeting.  Twice actually, but it fell through.  Sometimes you ask for help and it just doesn’t work out for whatever reason.  Well, that was this time.  I was high-strung, very nervous.  My phone was ringing while I was waiting to go in and for quite a while and I didn’t register that it was my phone that was making that sound!  I did the meeting. It lasted an hour and half all together.  (4 teachers/therapists total) We all came to the conclusion that M has a lot of trouble with focus.  Duh.  Autism.  Its either too much focus or too little.  Hard to get just the right amount.  I mentioned to his team that we’re looking into medication for M and he started social communication therapy this week.  By the time the meeting was winding down,  Miss S was beside herself with exhaustion and was having a meltdown.  She had emptied two of the classroom prize jars and had taken over several classroom toys.  I spent equal parts of time trying to pay attention to the important information being given to me and craning my neck to see what Miss S was into now.  It was time to go.  Bedtime was an hour and a half late.  Needless to say the kitchen did not get cleaned and the dishes did not get done.  The next morning I did get everyone out the door on time, but I was still very shaken.  Had I said the wrong things at the meeting?  Did they think I was a mental case?  Had I advocated enough for M?  Did I seem confident or like I didn’t care enough?  After dropping the boys off at school, I went to Target, stopped at the Starbucks there and got a coffee (I was out at home) and proceeded with some minor retail therapy.  I wandered around the aisles for about an hour and then headed home.  Nevermind that I was in my jammies.  Nevermind that I was in my slippers.  Nevermind that I ran into someone I knew at the check-out (of course).  My mind relaxed and then eventually I relaxed.  Normally, I’m not a proponent of retail therapy, but I tell you, sometimes it works.  Especially if you’re in a place where you’re familiar with the layout and the merchandise and you can just browse and let your mind wander.  I breezed through all the laundry scents and smelled the candles.  I glossed over my favorite magazines and looked for new books.  I did steer clear of the new holiday section going in.  (Again?!  Already?!!)  My point is it helped.  I felt better that same afternoon.  Overall, it took me about 2 days, but after a while, I felt even more like myself.  I could move my neck again and I stopped being so tired and nauseas.  Stress can really take a toll on your body!  That’s something that I remember, but also forget so easily until its happening to me.  Stress is not our friend folks!  I think next time I’m going to schedule school meetings with a massage afterwards!

#BeFierce  #StressBeGone

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

That really rare, really little, mom-fashion post

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I’ll admit it.  I have almost no fashion sense.  I have pretty much dressed the same since I was in high school.  Recently I sat staring with wonder when I heard a friend declare that she’s so upset that she missed the shoe sale because now she’s going to have to pay full price for her winter season boots and she feels so stupid.  :::Enter doe in headlights look here::::

I just have no response to that.  Oh.  Ok, sorry.  *shrugs*  Anyway.  Since I have been a SAHM, I have noticed there are varying types of fashion on the school grounds…..  there is the “work out mom” who is either on her way to or from a workout and so therefore in workout clothes, the “granola mom” with crunchy-nature-esque printed clothes often flowing and possibly made with 100 percent plant dye, the “all in black” mom who literally wears almost all black every day with hair sleeked back in a ponytail, “fashionista mom” dressed up in full makeup maybe for work, but maybe not, “office mom” obviously going to a corporate workplace and then a handful of us “jeans moms” who are sort of sweater and jeans types pretty much all the time.    I feel like I need one of those shows where they force you to throw out all of your clothes and make you go shopping.  Every now and then I have a cute picture of me in something, but most of the time, I see myself in pictures and think, ugh!  I have got to get rid of that piece of clothing!”.  I’m just not sure where I fall as far as fashion goes.  Occasionally when I get on a really big workout kick I fall into the “work out mom” slot……  otherwise I don’t really have a fashion type other than the sweater-jeans combo.  While I do wear make-up, I really have to be reminded to get my hair cut.  Plus, I have hair-cut phobia.  Is that a thing?  I think it might be.

I don’t fall into the “just had a baby” group anymore, but I do fall into the “omg, I’m so tired and/or busy I can’t get dressed” group.  Recently I’ve discovered getting through goals in 15-minute increments from the Fly Lady (online home care guru).  She claims that you can do almost anything in 15-minute increments and she’s kind of right.  So, after doing a little research here is what I have come up with for the spring.  If I can pull together a couple of outfits once a week – for 15 minutes, and mark it off my to-do list, hopefully this will help me feel like I’m more put together.  I’m not sure what I will look like, but if I feel better about myself I think that is the most important thing.  Sort of like little fashion goals. (oh no!  I need Fashion For Dummies!!  Do they have that??)

1) pull-on dresses – 1 piece and go!  I should be able to do this.

2) flat-front, higher-waisted, fitted jeans *no showing cracks or undies when bending over, *no “mom-jean”, pouffy fit + v-neck shirt.

3)  swapping out my sweatshirt/hoodie for a more structured light   jacket.  Maybe black, maybe navy.

And accessorize!  Honestly my sunglasses and winter coat can do a lot all by themselves.  Anyway, those are my fashion goals for the foreseeable future.  Not lofty, right?  Maybe I can keep from looking too tired and thrown together?  Do you have solutions for me??  Let me know!

 

#BeFierce  #MakeaFashionChange

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

Break Glass

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Had a little car trouble this morning and it occurred to me that I’ve been through this problem by myself a few times now and I’m getting better at it!  Its not nearly as frightening as it used to be.  I have to do something to learn it.  Gosh it makes life hard, but I usually don’t forget something after I’ve been through the troubled waters and learned how to get out again.  My poor middle child, Ash, learns this way as well.  When he was two he saw a carton of white balls sitting on the counter and was so excited to pick one up and throw it on the floor to watch it bounce.  The look of shock on his face when that egg did not bounce.  I couldn’t even be mad at him – he really did think that egg was going to bounce and just was dumbfounded to see it splattered all over the kitchen floor.  I get it, I really do.

So, in a previous blog post, see Doing What Works, I mentioned various little bumps in the road that occur due to our work / home arrangement and the whole Monday through Thursday “Married Single Mom” situation, and how I am learning to put fail-safes in place for myself for minor emergencies etc.  I also have had to learn to build up support with the people around me so that when I do need support, I’m not floundering about where to turn.  This whole idea of community support that was not family, was really foreign to me.  It was difficult.  I was home, DH was traveling all week and there I was, by myself with 3 littles at home.  To top it off, I have an anxiety disorder that is mostly under control, but does flare up occasionally.  I remember when one of Miss S’s  baby class teachers asked me about support when I first began being a SAHM.  I had nothing in place.  Literally nothing.  I had no glass to break in case of emergency!!  Where was my glass?!  Our “emergency contacts” were friends who lived close to an hour away from us!  Still, it was a place to start.  I knew if my children (or me) were to find ourselves in a dire situation, our good friends would do whatever they could to help and would indeed drive in to pick up our children from school if there was just no other way.  This was my step 1.  My starting point four years ago.  I was worried about trying to build a support network for myself.  I had never done anything like that before and I am not good at asking friends for help.  To make it worse, some of my personal “baggage” is that I always worry that no one will like me, even my friends.  This problem sat at the back of my mind, simmering, and I very gradually began to work on it and sort through friends and acquaintances.  Eventually I began to actually talk to neighbors about my situation to just “let them know” that often it would just be me with the kiddos in case I got myself into a pickle and needed some assistance (ie. I’m sick, the car won’t start, I need a babysitter for 15 minutes right NOW, running to the ER with a sick child or I’ve been locked out of my home or car).  This was my step 2.  To be honest, some of them were maybe a little concerned that I was talking to them about helping me.  I believe in “modern” society, we just don’t see ourselves as a village, helping one another as often as maybe we used to a few decades ago.  Nevertheless, I’m staging a comeback for the “village” idea because I need it.  Once folks around me got over the shock, most of my friends and neighbors were very open to being an emergency contact, responding to help when I asked, and checking in now and again or just checking to see how I am doing.  I try to ask for help when I need it which is not an easy task for me, but I find that if I ask in advance of a difficult situation, it makes everything go much more smoothly.  My step 3 was getting myself organized in advance of a hairy situation.  Here are some things that work for me for SAHM and/or anxiety crisis management:

1) sticking to my schedule.  I literally have a binder with printed schedules in it and an electronic version on my phone.

2) professional (ie. paid) services listed and ready in my phone in case friends aren’t available to help.  Nanny services, AAA, cab service, therapist, town play group (yes, this is a paid group and I believe its worth it, but that is another post!) and a few unpaid but invaluable supports:  mom support group, autism support group, my church.

3)  being honest about who my friends are.  I know that I’m a bit hard to categorize and maybe I don’t really fit a mold.  I wear frog hats and have young-ish(?) type hair-dos.  I have a very dry sense of humor and I like bad tv.  I digress.  It helps me to have a list of people to call in an emergency (or panic attack) on my phone.  When you can’t think straight – you certainly aren’t going to be able to decide who to call to help you!

4) when anxiety or life turbulence hits, follow schedule very closely and try to do “normal” activities.  Even brushing my teeth helps or watching a tv show (that I’ve seen before).  Anything to slow down and take a breath.

5) playing Tetris.  I think I have mentioned this before, but did you know that you can’t have an anxiety attack and play Tetris at the same time because the area of your brain that is required to play the game can’t process the memory of anxiety and play the game at the same time.  Yup.  Its on my phone, iPad, and computer.

Anyway, that is just what works for me.  Your mileage may vary.

#BeFierce  #AnxietyBeGone

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

Quiet!! I’m trying to have a moment over here!!

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Its cold.  They predicted 8 inches of snow.  We got 18.  We’ve all got cabin fever.  DH can’t get on the road to travel for work, the mons-ners can’t get to school.  We’ve ALL had our fill of screen-time.

 “We’re all mad here…”, comes to mind.

 It occurred to me yesterday as I was looking at myself in the mirror that I could not believe my age, I could not believe my children’s ages, without slowing down, it was going to be gone in a flash.  I don’t wish for my children to be younger again or for just “one more” baby, or to relive those moments.  I did it.  Three times, and I loved it.  I love love love babies.  I also love watching my daughter play with her pony action figures and the fact that I no longer have a diaper genie in my home.  In any case, I was purposefully trying to relax while cooking breakfast, so I turned on some music.  As I’m standing there bleary-eyed over the stove stirring oatmeal, I began to try to will myself to be thankful. This is very hard for me to do when faced with frustration.  I read several “mom blogs” and they make it all seem so easy to be thankful for things we take for granted every day.  I, on the other hand, have to work at it.  Its not that I’m not thankful, I think I just forget temporarily.  I consider myself hyper-emotional.  You can imagine how this brightly clashes with an autistic child.  So, I’m stirring the oatmeal and listening to the music and I begin to think, “make this a moment”.  I stir in craisins trying to ignore the sugar content and begin breaking up the walnuts, again, “make this a moment”.  Soon breakfast is on the table and DH has come in from shoveling mountains of snow and the kids are bouncy and itchy to go somewhere and we eat breakfast.  Its not idyllic, we’re all a bit grouchy, M, my spectrum child, is just dying for more screen time.  After breakfast DH has put down the “law” that there is no more screen time.  The table is cleared and the legos come out.  The janga blocks come out (my kids use these for building blocks, almost never actual janga).  The My Little Ponies and tiny doll action figures come out and imagination begins.  Make this a moment.  And it is a moment. Soon though attention spans begin to wander and it is time for a new activity.  We pull out a science experiment box, one of those Magic School Bus activity sets.  Unfortunately, this only takes about 10 minutes and then it has to sit for 3 days.  Oy.  Next activity.  Spectrum child has already turned on two electronic devices before being reprimanded.  Keep calm, keep calm, keep calm, make this a moment.  As soon as I’ve almost gotten upset my daughter has pulled out her Duplo Legos and the next activity has begun.  Three minutes in and they’re now playing with M’s school project which is due on Wednesday.  “NOOOO!!!!”, I silently scream in my head.  I urge the mons-ners away from our weekend-long work on the project and onto other building activities.  And….. a deep breath.  Everyone is building blocks and playing legos and enjoying themselves for now. This is a moment.  I just need a few seconds to drink in the sounds and sights to really remember what it looks and feels and sounds like so that in a few years when legos are no longer played with and blocks have fallen by the wayside, I can remember this moment and enjoy the next moment.

#BeFierce  #MakeThisAMoment

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

Do they really need that?

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Quick jaunt to the specialized box store to locate a proper container for M’s school project…. like ya do….  Or, you know, not.  Firstly, I was so irritated he even needed a fancy $5.00 box for a school project.  Students in his class were able to purchase their boxes for 15 “student points” (for good in-school behavior).  This would have been nigh impossible for M given the time constraints and because he is a special needs student with a modified behavioral education plan.  Really?  He has to EARN the supplies for a school project based on behavior when he has a modified education plan for behavior?  What?  Other students, I am guessing, just didn’t get a box at all.  We didn’t, so off we went to the store.  My children just don’t “do” stores well.  I’m not sure what it is.  Maybe its me.  Maybe we’re not disciplined enough, maybe we don’t go to enough stores, I don’t really know.  After 15 minutes in the store, 2 potty stops and constant “don’t touch, don’t touch, don’t touch”, followed by my middle child launching the shopping cart down the aisle of the store twice, DH and I were done.  After getting back into the car and recovering from the stress while heading home we went over how we just weren’t sure why our children still didn’t behave in stores.  As I’m trying to figure out how to make yet another behavior learning chart for the boys, DH asks, “do they actually need to know how to do that?”.  That just hangs in the air doesn’t it?  Do you need the skill of being able to navigate a department store?  Let’s keep in mind:   1) senses – bright lighting, muzak over speakers, carts and other cart movement around the floor, chatter among people, the echoes.  Oh, the echoes.  2) social behaviors involved when scooting past someone in an aisle or while standing in lines, checking out with kind words and pleasantries or asking any questions with regard to purchases and 3) the arduous task of getting to the store – everyone in the car, strapped in with tight seat belts, driving through traffic to a particular location keeping in mind car behaviors of keeping hands to self, quiet voices, safe behaviors.  While most of us may not need to filter through all the nuances of every behavior involved in a simple department store run, to an autistic child, this is a skill.  It can be exhausting and hard.  Even for our other children, its kind of torturous really, going through the grocery store, but they do make it.  Sort of.  For M, we have so many of these life skills we have to teach him literally with charts (going to church comes to mind), that if he doesn’t actually need the skill, we don’t have the time to mess with it.  I’m not trying to make excuses for difficult parenting moments, goodness knows we have those in spades, I’m simply trying to pick my battles.  DH mentioned hearing on NPR the other day about a mattress store that has zero employees.  Zero.  Not one.  The HassleLess Mattress Store.  The store is unlocked via remote and there are kiosks to answer questions or place orders.  There are large signs with a phone number on it where you can call someone to ask them a question or you can just place your order and ask any queries from your computer at home.  Amazon is now testing drones to deliver packages.  That’s right flying drones with Amazon Prime Air. There are many grocery delivery services of which probably the biggest is Peapod.  Another local one that we have used before is Irv and Shelly’s (its lovely – organic, locally grown when available, etc).  I digress.

We’ve always known that M’s path would probably lead him to an unconventional (which is actually becoming conventional) workplace where he will most likely work from home or virtually from where ever he happens to be, much like DH.  We’re actually putting M in coding/tech camp this summer.  If he is going to be hyper-focused about technology, he might as well get paid for it eventually.  So, does he really need the skills of going into a cavernous-type of busy, loud department store?

I have a friend whose children have never been to a grocery store.  They’ve just simply never had to go.  They have been to other types of department stores etc, but just not grocery stores. It would definitely be taking it to the next level to just write out all big box type of stores period, but I really think it could be done.  Maybe the 70’s and 80’s era of dragging screaming children through stores for ages on end until the behavior sinks in is finally unnecessary.  Similar to riding in a car for lengthy periods (think road trips), navigating a store is a skill.  Maybe this is one that can be put by the wayside.  No behavior chart needed.

#BeFierce  #PickYourBattles

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly