Please Cancel My Subscription, I don’t Need Your Issues

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Hello all.

Oh the playground drama.  ::::deep breath:::: Heavens.  Just gives new meaning to the phrase “Bless Your Heart”. I have this fear that someone else’s playground drama is going to leech out and attach itself to me or my children and then I will be involved in the drama and it will follow me around and cause me nervousness and make me an anxiety-ridden deer-in-headlights.  Did I start in the middle again?  Do you know what “playground drama”is?  Playground drama:  When the values of 100+ families who pick their children up from school (on the playground) clash, causing adults to argue with other adults or children alike, eventually resulting in angry Facebook posts, calls to the school and telephone-like rumors involving wildly outrageous tales and fire-breathing dragons.  I avoid it when at all possible.

I am overly sensitive about getting into rows with other parents because of my special needs child.  Its so difficult to find out anything that actually happened when an incident occurs.  In my experience, most parents of typically developed children begin on the defensive unless they know me personally, instead of relaying facts.  This makes it incredibly difficult when you have a child who can’t actually tell you what happened to them from their point of view.   You can see why I would be a bit jumpy around the drama.

I recently saw someone else having drama which was in our friend-group and I have since started taking my children to the other playground just to avoid the possibility of drama-contagion.  It wasn’t even happening to me, but it was close by.  Too close!  Also, it must be said, I believe that some of this may have to do with stress levels being unusually high with the end of the school-year approaching.  I seem to remember this happening the last couple of years as the end of school year got closer.  You’d think everyone would be too tired to argue, wouldn’t you?  I know I certainly am.  Soccer games, birthday parties, travel plans, extra-curricular classes, school projects and clubs.  I’m DONE.  Bring on the beach!!  Maybe my approach is too extreme.  I dunno, I generally do what I have to do to get through my day with the least amount of stress possible. If that involves switching playground sides, so be it.

*Oh no!  Is this in contrast to being fierce??  Oh, I dunno.  This marathon I run, its really about stamina.  That’s pretty fierce.

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

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Careful casting that first stone…

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I was reading up on other mom-blogs, like I do occasionally to see what everyone else is doing, look for trends, be inspired and so forth and I came across a troubling guest post from someone who has written a book basically saying how much she wished she had Bounce™ sheets for her towels when she was growing up.  Ok, I exaggerate.  But still.  It was that ridiculous.  I am not going to “call her out” or link to the article and start some kind of a “posting war”, but truly, it warrants a response. To be fair, I am sensitive to others criticizing their parents’ skills while raising them.  I am constantly worrying that I am not good enough, strong enough, loving enough, smart enough, energetic enough (you get the picture) for my children.  I think *most* parents do the best they can with what they have.  Often adults and their children have personality clashes and it makes things difficult.  This is life people.  Hopefully, hopefully, by the time you’re 25 or so, you’ve figured this out.  Also, everyone’s “love language” is a little different.  G shows his love through technology.  Are you laughing?  I nearly do every time I think of it, but its true.  For my birthday last year I got a car stereo.  For Mother’s Day this year I got a new computer.  When I went to visit my dad who has been in the hospital, G uploaded all the latest and greatest travel apps on my phone complete with logins and passwords.  Its his way of caring.  Some show love through spending time together, through words, through acts of kindness or generosity, through gifts.  It really varies depending on the person.  So, back to my story… the author was promoting her new book and giving new tips about ways to show love to your children without “spoiling” them.  Her first tip involved giving her son (he was 4) a $10 balloon because he was brave during a doctor appointment, after she had first promised him an ice cream.  I love my kids.  More than life, I love my children.  They cannot have a $10 balloon for good behavior.  If you live within a socio-economic scale where that is the norm, than that is one thing.  I don’t.  A sticker definitely, an ice cream possibly if there were shots for vaccinations or other medical procedures involved.  Ten dollar gifts, no.  Her thought process was that even though the balloon cost so much more than a $2 ice cream, she wanted him to know he was worth it.  Do your children know the value of ten dollars at 4 years old?  Mine didn’t/don’t.  I want my children to remember that they are worth my time, my effort and my energy.  Money is fleeting.  It comes, it goes.  Sometimes we have more than others and I’m happy to spend more of it when its available.  (Right?  LOL!) Sometimes we don’t have a lot of expendable income and so I want my children to know that even then, they are loved.  They are valued, we’re still together and that is what matters.  I digress.  So the author went on to describe how her family did not have a lot of money and so she felt very deprived and like she was not valued by her family.  One of her examples was that her mother dried their towels and clothes on a line to save money on their electric bill.  (My mother did that because she loved the smell of fresh air in her clothes and linens.  Anyway.)  She vowed that when she had a family she would have Bounce™ sheets and use the dryer.  Now everyone has little things from their childhood that they “vow” they’re never going to do with their children and I get that.  Personally, mine involved not forcing my child to eat coleslaw.  Ewwww.  However, she was on a rant about how devalued she felt because of her family’s income and her upbringing, but it all seemed to be based around money.  Her parents provided for her, but they were not wealthy.  Some families just aren’t.  She seems to have turned out ok.  She’s here.  She’s an author of some sort.  She’s a mother.  What I’m trying to get at is, “Could she have done a better job with what her parents had in their situation?”.  Because again, *most* parents really do the best they can with what they have.  Parents are human too.  We make mistakes.  Maybe forgiveness comes with time.

Be fierce.  Forgive and move on.

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

If Nothing Ever Changed, There Would be No Butterflies

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The seasons change.  Politics change.  Caterpillars change.  Its hard, all this change.  You never know what is coming next.  Hmm…. what else changes… oh, that’s right.  Our children change.  By the minute.  They grow and mature and learn and explore and every day they wake up and are new people.   Occasionally I come downstairs in the morning and see these two gangly, long-legged boys in my kitchen and I think, #@&*#$, they have grown up while I have slept!!  Honestly, I was at the playground looking for my daughter the other day, staring almost right at her and didn’t recognize her immediately because I was “looking” for a shorter, rounder, wobblier, toddler with two floppy pigtails.  What I found was a taller, slimmer, adventurous little girl with two pony tails bouncing around as she swung on the monkey bars.  My idea of who my daughter is and the reality of who she is growing into were conflicted for a moment.  Its enough to throw a parental brain for a loop whist trying to manage calendars full of field trips, play dates, sports games, family events and various lessons.  Do you know what else is hard?  Big transitions.  Transitions from pre-Kindergarten to Kindergarten can be hard for any parent.  For a parent of a special needs child it can be especially nerve-racking.  My oldest son went to a special needs pre-Kindergarten where the teachers were all special education qualified educators, there were multiple aides in each classroom.  Every child had various support aids to use in the classroom such as seat cushions to help with sitting still, weighted vests, hug vests, head phones etc.  Children received special services for speech, social skills, and occupational therapy.  It was a cocoon of warmth and gentle learning for these unique children who may require non-traditional support to begin their formal education.  The very idea that I was going to take my 5-year-old autistic child and drop him off at an elementary school where he would walk into the building by himself and somehow find a classroom was just terrifying.  Absurd really.  Firstly, M was, well, still is I guess, a wanderer.  I was horrified that he might get lost at school and end up wandering down the street following a cute dog he saw out the window or something similar.  We’ve lost him before so this was not far fetched in my mind.   We sent him to camp and they lost him on the first day.  And then again on the second day.  We lost him on vacation once within our hotel resort for 3 hours and I have never properly recovered from that.  (I’m not sure that he even noticed.)  We even lost him at home one time in the yard which is why my property is gated like Fort Knox.  Its to keep the children in, not necessarily to keep others out.  In any case, this transition takes preparation on the parents’ part, on the part of the school, and some practice for the child.  Here are some of my top suggestions:

*Make preparations for your child to meet their classroom teacher beforehand, and also the special education teacher if possible.

*If your child is entering with an IEP, they will probably have a plan in place and support notes, but in my experience it is a good idea to bring a (small) note with any special supports your child may need in the classroom such as headphones, vests or toileting instructions/ directions.  For example:  Some ASD children cannot handle the loudness of the flushing toilet in an echoing restroom stall.

*Ask to speak to the school nurse about your child just to get to know them, possibly send an e-mail to be kept on file for any school incidents that may occur.  For example:  My son cannot handle being dirty and it causes him to stem.  If he fell and were covered with dirt and possibly some blood from a  skinned knee outside, this would cause him to stem and it might be unnerving to someone who is not familiar with stemming.  I know what you’re thinking!  They’re a nurse!  Surely they are aware of the special needs students in the school.  In my experience, not necessarily.  There are a lot of students at an elementary school.  Trust me, its worth your five minutes.

*Label everything on the inside and out if possible.  I put luggage tags on my children’s lunch boxes and backpacks.  I also suggest Mabels Labels for coats, gloves and sweaters and shoes.  Glove clips are also a godsend.  I got mine from Classy Paci on Etsy.  (This vendor does pacifier clips and glove clips.)

*Be “Loud and Proud”!  Don’t be nervous about your special needs child playing on the playground with neurotypical or developmentally typical children.  This isn’t the 80’s.  Children are consistently in integrated classrooms as much as possible.  They are used to seeing and being around children who may be physically different or who may have varying behaviors.  Its wonderful social skill practice for everyone.  Adults included.  Don’t be shy about play dates or attending school events.  School and socializing are for everyone.  If your child needs support for a school-sponsored PTA event, be sure to ask for it beforehand.

*As the school year progresses allow your child to show off their talents or special interests to their classmates.  This may include bringing in a book to describe themselves:  All Cats Have Aspberger’s comes to mind, showing off fancy tech skills (autistic techies anyone?) for a class presentation with a self-made video or musical piece.  Is your child a math whiz?  Do they know a LOT about a certain animal?  Have a love for patterns?  Help them find a way to show it off for a Show-And-Tell Day or other special class event.  (Usually there are several of these in Kindergarten.)

Take a deep breath.  You can do this.  Your child can do this.

Be Fierce.

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

Today is a gift. That is why we call it the present.

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There are days I wish that my ASD child could keep up with the other children his age in sports.  There are days when I wish that I didn’t have to push so hard to get him to do every little thing.  There are days when I feel that I can’t possibly continue on with this amount of energy spent just trying to get him through his daily schedule.  But then… and yes, usually when I have just about given up… he gets it.  He was speech delayed as a baby…. and then began to talk all at once.  Not a single word and then another, but a word and then a sentence.  He was delayed with walking, but then toddled and began to run.  Reading.  Heaven help me the reading.  He could read, but would not read out loud if he thought anyone could hear him.  Then he seemed to regress for quite a period of time.  Obviously, I don’t know what it felt like to him, but from the outside he appeared to comprehend and then translate the words.  I know from his speech testing that he has a delay with language processing so that when anyone speaks to him, there is a few seconds where he has to hear the words, understand them and then put them in the right order before responding.  This is common with ASD children as you may know.  It has gotten better over time, but it is still there and I know (and have to remind myself) that he words hard just to be able communicate in a social setting.  Maybe there was some of this that affected his delay with reading?  Figuring out the letters and sounds, putting them in the right order, comprehending, putting the words in the right order and then getting the full meaning of what he read.  With delays, that is a lot.  Words are still not his thing.  Nevertheless, he is a pretty decent little reader now!  Whew!  We made it over that hurdle!  And that is my point.  With a special needs child, every little thing that they learn is a cause for celebration!  We celebrate all the little things with M.  He and Mr. A lost their soccer game on Sunday, but you know what, I was the loudest, happiest, biggest cheering mom on that field because both of my boys, but particularly M, were both trying hard, playing hard, improving so much!  He was IN the game, finding his focus, eyeing the ball, working at dribbling and passing and he had a very impressive goal defense, ASD or no.  The way G and I were carrying on you would never had known our boys did not win.  We went out for ice cream afterwards!  We have learned that when he has projects in school, we encourage him to choose an electronic medium for presentations (YouTube videos or Power Point) instead of written papers or poster boards which would require more fine motor skill frustration than is really necessary to get the work done.  While mostly supported by the school, we have run into some technophobes who require constant assurance that yes, the special needs child in your class with the aide can indeed set up his own technological equipment (computer/tablet, cables and speakers) and run his presentation with no assistance.  Its sitting still and writing words with a pencil that is difficult.  Math, typing words, and electrical devices are easy.  And I celebrate that too.  And every time I want to collapse into a puddle because M can’t do things the way that I did them growing up, I realize that he doesn’t have to.  He CAN do things his own way, in his own time.

Having a child that requires so much effort and support has taught me a lot.  I don’t sweat the little things… as much.  I had an acquaintance confide to me that she was concerned that her daughter couldn’t work a buckle on her clothes.  She’s four.  My 8-year-old still can’t do that.  It is probably the absolute least of my worries.  Mr. A’s teacher brought up some concerns about him (looking back, it seems it was a phase) and I had to hold myself back from rolling my eyes.  I know what behavioral challenges and/or delays look like.  That child was BORED.  A week without games and playdates and he found that attention span in school.  There is a difference between choosing a behavior, and NOT being able to STOP your behavior.  All parents have to decode their children’s behavior.  Choose your battles wisely.  Buckles = not necessary.  Reading = necessary.

Anyway, I am off to celebrate Miss S’s wonderful singing concert this morning with a playdate for her.   Go be fierce and celebrate something small!

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

Calm Before the Storm

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Can I just say that I love love spring?  I just love all the little flowers that pop up everywhere.  I love the beautiful smells in the air.  I have an enormous lilac tree (it would be a bush, but its just huge) in my backyard and it just smells heavenly.  Especially when its humid or after a rain.  I just feel my blood pressure drop when I go outside and fill my lungs with that sweet air.  I do that sometimes.  I just walk outside and breathe.  Its not like I don’t have air in my house, but often I feel like I can’t breathe enough of it IN without going outside.  Maybe its a side effect of being cooped up for much of the winter?  I know that I should be in spring cleaning mode dashing around opening up the house, scooting the dust bunnies out… but I dunno….  a nap would be nice too.  G and I have been so drowsy on the weekends (as much as we can be going to and from soccer practices and this weekend, an arts festival), its hard to purposefully add things on to our to-do list.  Think about it.  Its warm out, the windows are open, the flowers are blooming and there is a soft breeze… it just screams NAP!!  Not DUST!!  Right??  I mean, by nap, I mean probably a few minutes of quiet if I can get it squeezed in, but still, its nice.  Today for example the children were finally playing on their own, G and I were relaxing or rather, decompressing from the past week and suddenly, Miss S runs up to me with her hands clamped over her mouth and muffles something about water.  There is a puff of air freshener when she talks.  Confused I followed her into the kitchen and demanded that she spit out whatever was in her mouth.  It wasn’t much as it turns out, but there was the air freshener smell again.  Oh no.  “Miss S!!  Did you EAT the air freshener (one of those oil fresheners that plugs into the wall)?”  Silence.  “Did you??”  Now I was panicking.  I couldn’t get her to explain without spitting on the floor, so I found the air freshener pulled apart, wick out of the holder and oil spilled.  I called poison control.  I have them programmed into my phone of course.  (This isn’t my first rodeo folks).  Anyway, after 30 seconds of explaining my situation, the poison control operator determined that although she may end up with an upset stomach, she didn’t need to go to the ER, and also told me what to keep an eye out for, just in case.  ::::collapse::::  I burst out in tears.  It was the tension.  We’d already been to the ER with Mr A this week, I didn’t think I could do another trip right now.  “Why is it so hard to keep them alive?”  I wailed.  After I calmed down, Miss S and I had a serious talk about how we only put food in our mouths and how other things MAY be harmful and that she should ask FIRST.  Turns out, she thought it would sound like a whistle and she wasn’t actually trying to eat it, but play with it.  Oy.  I swear I got 5 new gray hairs today.  So yes, a few minutes of relaxation and a few minutes of mayhem.  This is why I do not seek adventure or excitement.  It finds me.  Always.

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

Personal Madness

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

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Image from Sir John Tenniel.

Good heavens.  And then the crazies came.  I noticed something hmmm….. maybe a year ago.  I would go through periods of time where I swear I just felt out of control.  Like I was losing my mind.  I had no patience for my children, or anyone else for that matter.  I once just lost it at one of M’s teachers at the school (sorry about that!), and I even put a policeman in his place (on two separate occasions!) while running errands, but poor G probably bears the brunt of this seemingly random madness.  Eventually over time I noticed other things too.  Sometimes I would get very very cold.  For days I would be just so very cold.  Often I felt like I had the flu, yet I was just starving.  I got headaches.  I was actually so concerned at one point I went to the doctor!  Yeah, I had PMS.  The thing is, I just had never had ANY of these kinds of symptoms before, especially all at once and certainly not this severe, ever.  Whatever hormonal changes I went through after having my third child, it was certainly a doozie.   So, now, I have my “normal” madness riddled with anxiety and whatever else and then my “extra-madness” that I’ve had to literally put on a calendar so I don’t think I’m losing my mind every 4 weeks.  Somehow I sort of forget about this madness, until I remember, if that makes sense.  I am *fantastic* at forgetting unpleasant events, people, places, etc.  I just literally somehow wipe it from my mind and will literally be unable to recall certain people or events.  Now from what I understand from my therapist, the memories of the unpleasant things are not actually gone, just buried.  Which is where my anxiety stems from.  More than anything, this is all just a nuisance.  I’ll be going along trying to deal with all of my regular stresses such as getting the children through their school projects, to and from play dates and dinner and chores done again and again, only being extremely grumpy and chilly and achey.  Yay!  O.O  I will say that the calendar thing has helped.  Drinking water helps.  Having blankets close by helps.  Exercise helps.  Sending G out for chocolate with no questions asked helps.  He has sworn not to ask for fear of losing an eyeball.  Not two eyeballs though, because then he could not help with the mons-ners.  (Entirely his fear, not my threat, pinky swear!)  Oh, where was I?  Yes, the doctor.  So I did go to the doctor and he actually gave me a medication to take when I felt like I was… um, off center?  I actually laughed in the office, but he assured me that it was better to take something for it than to go around feeling all out of control, especially when I have a lot on my plate.  Its just not safe.  I know there are so many people out there who are anti-medication and aside from vaccinations (my word, the insanity – different post), I respect that.  Maybe its not for everyone, but certainly, if there is something that is going to make *me* feel better, I want it!  One of my favorite bloggers, Glennon Melton, who I refer to often, has this to say about taking your doctor-prescribed meds, “Jesus loves me this I know, for He gave me Lexapro”.  She is a wonderful faith-loving, people-positive writer and is such an inspiration to me.  Her blog and her charity are all about spreading the love around our communities and that is what I try to focus on too.  “Do your circle”.  Remember that post?  Love your community!  Love your family!  I digress….  So, yes, my meds do help me to feel more sane when I am off-center and then even when I am more (heaven help me) off-center.  I figure this.  Everyone probably has some madness in their lives, they just don’t go around showing it all off all the time.  Now sometimes, sometimes you can’t help it when your madness is showing and you just have to shrug and say, “hey, its just me”.  I’m not saying we all have to go out and be all buddies with the mad mad people of the world, I’m just voting for understanding and forgiveness.  Maybe their madness is showing a little?

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel…

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Its dim, but its there.  The end of the school year is upon us.  The end of soccer season is nigh.  The end of (seemingly endless) swimming lessons is imminent!!  *pant*pant*  I’m going to finish this marathon of a school year.  I’m not going to let it beat me!  *shakes my fist*  “Get offa my lawn you school year!!!”  I am d-o-n-e, can you tell?  And I have a lot of soapboxes right now and I’ve been trying to organize them in chronological order, but you know, the one I’m fighting with right now is this, “Why is it that we have Teacher Appreciation Week during the last month of the school year?”  We are all exhausted.  Our children are exhausted.  The teachers and staff are exhausted.  I mean, we as a community, are just pooped.  I really think maybe just a few weeks earlier would be helpful, however no one has asked my opinion about this.  I’ve been doing my morning drop-offs every day and then running to and fro to pick up gifts for the resource teachers and firstly, I am happy to do it.  I volunteer to take on an extra resource teacher every year who otherwise wouldn’t get “little gifts” every day because they don’t have a classroom.  This year I adopted 2 teachers.  The amount of work they do is tremendous and I am acutely aware of how much time and effort they put in since M uses them. Its also somewhat selfish, I like to be able to be the one to give them the gifts because I feel like part of the community, part of a group.  That’s my “damage”.  I’m just terrified of feeling left out.  I actually enjoy popping into the school for little things often (bonkers, I know).  And, I am coming to realize in my “old age”, I think I enjoy complaining about it in a warm-hearted manner.  I really do enjoy it, otherwise I wouldn’t do it, but I also seem to have a need to nervously cover up what I enjoy for some reason.  Lack of confidence I suppose.  So frustrating.  Here is a perfect example:  I wore a Muppet shirt today with Miss. Piggy and Kermit on it and made no fewer than 3 excuses to friends as to why I was wearing a Muppet shirt.  So ridiculous.  No need for that.  In any case, Friday is the last day of this week’s marathon!  We can do it!!  And don’t go around making excuses for your awesome t-shirt like me.  You just wear that shirt and smile big!

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly