I put the “I” in Impulse

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Being a parent puts you in a club so-to-speak with other parents.  For some it was a dream come true, for others a “gift” and depending on one’s circumstances it could be quite scary heading into the unknown waters of parenthood.  When you’ve found out you’re the parent of a special needs child you’re then put into a sub-group of parents that you never asked to join!  For some, after getting over the shock, it can be a relief to find other kindred families who may be going through similar growing pains.  To others it can be saddening or shocking.  As for me, I tend to bounce back and forth between relief of knowing why certain behaviors are happening with my child, and frustration at not being able to handle everything better.  Nevertheless, here we all are in this club.  Now, when you find yourself here, its really a sink or swim situation.  Most people become reluctant experts on their child’s particular type of disorder if they want to function.  Its almost impossible not to be.  A few years ago I just knew that something was wrong with my son.  I knew it.  I would ask family, friends, doctors and everyone said, “he’s fine, really, all kids do that”.  Yeah… I was still skeptical.  I didn’t believe it.  You know how it all those parenting books for new babies where they tell you to trust your parental instincts, well, I could just see the alarm bells going off in my mind.  There was something wrong, I didn’t care what anyone said.  I was determined to figure out what it was.  I scoured the internet for similar behaviors and asked all children’s experts that I came in contact with.  I finally got someone to take me seriously.  It was M’s first preschool teacher.  I asked her if he was doing ok in school one day before picking him up and she said “yes, he’s doing fine”.  I then saw M (through a glass window) begin squealing and running around as the children changed stations in the classroom.  (Transitions.  M still has trouble with transitions to this day.)  I pointed out that I didn’t think that behavior was normal and  without missing a beat, she offered to have him evaluated.  DH and I thought this would take a couple of days, or maybe it would happen the next week.  The very next day he was evaluated and we had a conference with the on-site social worker.  She shared her thoughts about his behavioral issues and gave us pamphlets on various occupational therapies and social therapies in our area.  Hooray!  We had a piece of information!  It wasn’t a diagnosis, but it was a place to start.  We received information about a special needs pre-kindergarten and M tested into the program.  Finally, we were going to get some help!  The program was amazing.  M was doing things that I didn’t think we were ever going to get him to do.  (Like sitting in a chair for circle time in class and learning to hold a pencil correctly.)  Towards the end of the year I asked the social worker there if she thought maybe he had ADHD or something similar.  That afternoon M came home with a stack of papers on Aspberger’s Syndrome.  (The school is not allowed to give a diagnosis of course, but this was her way of pointing us in the right direction.)  M had everything on the list.  Every single symptom.  Things began moving more rapidly after this and I found a great autism support group for parents and play group for children.  I found a behavioral pediatrician to receive a medical diagnosis.  We began private therapies and M received an IEP for kindergarten the next year.  Whew.  It was a lot – a long road and it had just begun.  I mention all this because even though I “know” so much about what is going on with him, it doesn’t always click with me right away.  For instance…. impulse control.

M has always had difficulty with self-restraint if its something he really wants.  When he was 3 it was strawberry syrup so we had to stop buying it because he would sneak into the fridge to get it.  When he was 4 it was wandering off – extremely dangerous, so we installed an alarm system and put locked gates around our house.  Now, its video games and granola bars.  While not as dangerous, its still frustrating.  The games I am working on – we have our schedule sheets that the children follow and it helps.  The granola bars…I dunno.  I may have to lock them up.  I’m not sure.  I just find it fascinating that often I can’t spot an impulse problem with M.  How can I not see it??  Is it because he is older and its just not the first thing I expect him to do?  So, my first impulse is to yell.  Its as effective as talking to brick.  I don’t recommend it.  My next step is going to be putting a meal plan on the fridge so that M knows when meals/snacks are going to happen.  I hate to feel like I’m structuring all the children’s lives around M’s issues, but it helps him, which keeps things calmer for everyone else and maybe it will help them as well.  Schedules, lists and calendars have always helped M to feel more grounded.  He can see what is coming next and its not a surprise.  This may work or it may not.  My particular brand of parenting seems to be a lot like running with your shoelaces untied.  I get a few good running strides in until I  trip and fall on my face and and then I get up and do it all over again.  Its a good thing I’m naturally tenacious.  Its a good thing M is so naturally forgiving.  Its worth repeating…impulse control is hard.   Transitions are hard.  Both may always be a problem.  Hang in there folks.

Be Fierce.  #MakeASchedule

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

So, I’m talking to my cat…

 

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I worry.

A lot.  I worry about everything.  My kids.  My family.  The new condo building going up down the street from the elementary school.  Politics.  Whether or not my children actually remember their manners when they are away from me.  (!!!)  Bless their hearts we try hard.  And sometimes I worry about myself.

I asked my cat to brush his teeth the other morning and I swear, I thought that was the end.  I was sure my mind was going.  You see, I am always trying new organizational techniques to try to find something that will help us get out the door, teach good habits and keep the children up with their chores, activities and homework.  Plus – we have 1 ASD child and one 5-year-old, just to mix it up good.  We’ve tried charts with stars, time outs (Who does this work for??  My children think its fun!), checklists and good ol’fashioned hollering.  I think I have found something that seems to work for me though (for now)…. I made the children little schedule sheets for morning, afternoon and bedtime.  They are all different according to responsibilities and age.  They change every week, so that the chores change and on days where the children have activities after school the times are more like “guidelines”.

Example:  

A’s Afternoon Schedule

4:00 PM Snack, Homework, Put away laundry,
Shower

6:00 PM Dinner

6:30 PM chore: Take Recycling Out

7:00 PM Freetime

They have to follow each sheet before any free time of any kind and I only give 1 reminder with a 10-minute time allowance to fix their chore, homework, etc.  If the timer goes off, they then choose one of two possible consequences for their infraction.  Now that I’m writing it out it sounds a  little complicated, but really its very simple and it has cut down on my shouting at the children to do every little thing.  The timer does most of the work.  It either goes off and the work is done.  Or it goes off and the child chooses their consequence.  (I don’t give a consequence if they’re working on it when the timer goes off.)  Anyway.  It was day 2 of our new chore/work system and was going pretty well and I was giving Mr. M a first reminder about brushing his teeth and I just couldn’t find him.  The children run all over the house in the morning like little chickens and I dunno, I looked and the first face that I saw at about the height where Mr. M would be was George, our cat, so I said, “Go brush your teeth!”.  George glared at me in disgust and curled up again on his chair in the kitchen.

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G was there!  It was odd.  He said, “I don’t think that’s something cats do honey”.  I thought well, that was it.  It was a nice run, but the marbles are ready to roll.  I’m a few colors short of a crayon box.  Since then, I’ve made up with George and we’ve discussed how I shouldn’t expect him to brush his teeth and he wanted to know if he could have more canned food.  I said no.  (Ok, maybe he didn’t say that – but he was thinking it.  I could tell.)  I’ve chalked my missing marbles up to a lack of coffee and not getting out of bed earlier.  A constant problem for me.  Oy vey.  I’ve even had my doctor tell me that my “disorganized brain” is due to being with several young children all day, every day and that over time, as they get older, my brain processes should return (hopefully) to normal.  There is actually a medical term for it, I can’t remember it at the moment.  (Ha!)  There really is though.  Its an inability to go completely from one thought to the next because of constant  and repetitive interruption.  I have actually gotten better, but obviously, re: my conversations with George the cat, not back to normal.  In the meantime, it helps to have an understanding pet.

Be Fierce.  Organize those children!  Holler at the babies less!  Talk to your pets!

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

 

 

 

 

 

I tried skipping my coffee… it did not go well.

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I am a tired person.  I am making soup and its cloudy and rainy outside and its just making me so drowsy! Whew.  Today is going to be a coffee in the afternoon kind of day.  I try not to caffeinate after noon, but honestly its that or sleepwalk through the rest of my day.  Miss S has been fascinated with plants lately.  It is wonderful and adorable and I love it… but its beginning to seep into my day.  For example, I sleepily got everyone into the car to go to school the other day and I’m walking out the door with my giant coffee mug and after taking a sip I find there is something papery in my mouth!  I have papers in my cup!  How did this happen?!  Oh.  Oh wait, its a leaf.  Its leaves actually.  In my cup.  Miss S says she added them for extra flavor.  Yum.  Later in the afternoon I am doing dishes when I look at my (formerly) empty flower pot on the sink and find it filled with green leaves and water.  She wanted to make sure they could still grow.

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I’m not a green thumb by any means, but we’re going to go over gardening 101 this weekend.  In the meantime, its cute.  Well, except for the leaves in my coffee.  That kind of freaked me out to be honest.

The third week of school is upon us and the kiddos have collectively turned in 2 projects.  Swimming lessons, youth group and Sunday school classes have started – we’re in full swing.  I tell you, I was on the phone the other day when I was asked what activities the children were doing this fall and I rattled off a few and then… I dunno, it felt like that wasn’t enough and the person I was talking to also seemed to feel like I was “missing” something and so began to mention how I would be saving money by not having the children in so many activities at once.  While that is true (hey, swimming lessons x 3 is not cheap) they are also doing youth group and private therapy and to be honest, I just can’t run around more right now.  We really went all out last spring and when it came time to sign up for fall activities I just couldn’t over extend myself again.  Maybe we’ll ramp up this winter with a 3rd activity.  Maybe not.  How many things do children do at a time these days?  It seems like they’re over scheduled or under scheduled.  Its difficult to strike a balance.

Be Fierce.  #AimforBalance

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

What kind of mom are you?

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I’m a worrier.  A worrywart my grandmother called it.  I worry about what others think even though I may claim not to.  Goodness knows I try not to worry about who may be judging me, but sometimes it just sneaks up on me.  A friend of mine posted a link to Facebook the other day from a blog post about different stereotypes of moms at schools.  Firstly I was just a little bit horrified because I am sure that I have been several of the moms in the blog post on at least one occasion.  Was it a joke post?  Maybe it was… I hope so!

There was the “hungry mom, pajamas mom, hippie mom, sports mom, PTO mom, perfect mom, and of course, the mom blogger”.  Did this even leave anyone out?  I mean, we can’t all be June Cleaver and if we were… wouldn’t that fall into PTO mom category?  Is that what other parents are thinking on the playground at morning drop off?  (Are you thinking that at drop off?)  I will admit we all have different styles.  There is one mom, that I see nearly every day and I don’t even know her name, but I call her “jogger mom”, because she does her daily run to the elementary school in the afternoons to pick up her child.  There is “svelte black-suit mom” that I’m guessing works in a corporate setting somewhere downtown because she looks very sleek and urban every day.  There are the SAHMs like me, who while having different styles, definitely dress more casually than the workplace moms at the school.  If we’re going to put labels on everyone, good grief, what about the exceptions!  Yes, I have dropped my children off at school still in my pajama pants.  I was also wearing a full-length heavy parka and snow boots at the time.  Its happened maybe twice in 3 years.  Do I get a pass for that one?  With a special needs child as well, some mornings … are just hard.  Most mornings are just fine and really we have a pretty good little routine down and let me tell you a happy ASD child is one with a good routine.  Sometimes though – sometimes are hard!  I think all special needs families and those with multiple children would agree that you can encounter crazy events trying to get out the door on occasion.  We woke one morning to find that my son had spread a very thin, even layer of sunscreen all over our living room rug.  Another morning he was covered in strawberry syrup (and so was the couch).  If you have one very ill child and two very healthy children and you’re trying to get out the door its a whole new host of problems and then what about the “spider”.  I’ve written about this before – when one of the children just.  Won’t.  Go.  They throw their arms and legs out like a spider so that they can’t get on the bus or in the car.  Its stressful.  I’m just saying that if you’re having one of those mornings, maybe fashion and hair styles aren’t super high on your priority list.  Maybe that pajama mom isn’t a “pajama mom” every day.  I think we ought to be a little more accepting of others’ situations before tearing them down.  Goodness knows the world is hard enough as it is.  Let’s not add to it.  Having an ASD child, I’ve been there when my child was having a very public meltdown.  Staring doesn’t help.  Silently judging doesn’t help.  Offering to hold my bag, water bottle, sippy, other child’s hand, etc, would be helpful.

I will admit that I have often wondered at the decisions of other moms that I see in passing because it doesn’t seem to be a decision that I would make, but that is also coming from my background and point of view and not theirs.  I couldn’t possibly know what its like to be in their shoes.  This is an important thing for me to keep at the front of my mind.

I’m just going to keep doing what I do.  Now what I may do, may not be what you do, or they do or he or she does, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t wholly accept the decisions that others make.  This is a really hard issue for me.  Its my “damage” really, so by me writing about it and putting my vulnerabilities out there – I’m really taking a step, but I have definitely done my share of value-searching today and I wanted to write about it.  So, my point, after all that, was if you see in me in my fleecy frog pajama pants and crocs running full-tilt across the playground with two or three children in tow, please, just pretend I was wearing lovely matching outfit in crisp fall colors.  Cross your fingers for me to not trip over a bump in the sidewalk in those crazy shoes because I was probably having one of those days already.

Be Fierce.  #WearFrogsLikeYouMeanIt.

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

The Witching Hour(s)

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You know that time between 6:00pm and 8:00pm when you’re tired, your children are tired and you’re trying to fit everything else into your day in a 2-hour time slot?  Those are my witching hours.  Traditionally I believe its between 12:00AM and 3:00AM and if you have a newborn, those indeed may be yours, but for me its right around dinner time.  During this time I’ve got to shuttle the children home, get dinner on the table, homework done if school is in session, run 1 bath and 2 showers and that’s not even what I’m talking about with “witching hours”.  That’s just normal running – everyone has something they’re doing whether its work related, personal or whatnot.  I’ve been thinking about this more and more because we’re going to have to rein in bedtime.  I don’t know about you, but we’ve really let it go for the summer with schedules letting the kiddos stay up late and sleep in.  That’s all about to change in about 2 weeks time and I need to get my act together!  The witching hours I am referring to have to do with the children’s personalities during those hours.  I think that is why I started to lovingly(!!) refer to them as mons-ners.  They’re tired, cranky, hungry and cray-cray.  They can be screaming non-sensical rhymes or become stuck in a fire engine sound loop, “weee-oooo, weeee-oooooo, weeee-oooooo”.  Here are some of my favorites:

“I need to put on my sunscreen to sleep”.

“I can’t go to sleep because Mr. Bear does not have his coat on”.

“My notebook is in the car!!”.  O.o  (Your guess is as good as mine with this one.)

Their little bodies are so exhausted they become entangled in their pajamas and end up screeching like a bird caught in a fishing net.

DSCN2730“I’m not tired!”, Miss. S says.

Anyway.  I know a handful of moms who turn to a glass of wine at this time to make it through and calm their nerves.  I won’t lie, I’ve done that too.  I usually indulge in a  handful of M & M’s.  “I deserve it!”, I think to myself.  It helps my patience.  Whatever gets you through your day, right?  I think the worst part for me is the after-mess.  You know, you’ve (finally) gotten to the children to bed and now there’s the house to deal with before bedtime.  Occasionally, I do let it go.  Sometimes I just don’t have that extra “umph” in me.  I find however, that when I do the tidying up before bed, it makes my mornings go smoother and then I can get straight on to the afternoon with a better temperament and positive outlook.  Sort of like a chain reaction.  Sometimes this is enough to make me trudge through the molasses of picking up toys, wiping the table and cleaning the kitchen one more time before bed.  Look for that silver lining!  I find that when I really don’t want to – sometimes I can trick myself into cleaning for 15 minute increments like the Flylady at flylady.net.  That tip really does work.  Wish me luck as we move our schedule around.  Good luck to you out there as well!

Be Fierce.  #WeCanMakeItThroughBedtime

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

 

Shopping Shenanigans

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Oh groceries.  How I love thee!  So much excitement over a newly opened canister of coffee!  New yogurt flavors, new applesauce containers.  Yum!!  So much fluster over those flipping plastic bags that seem to procreate on their own…  O.o  “They have babies!”, my stepsister-in-law says.  They do accumulate.  I’ve tried several “styles” of shopping lately trying to solve various obstacles I’ve found myself up against.

For a while money was my biggest obstacle with groceries.  For a couple of years we were on such a slim budget that I created an excel sheet pricing grid and kept up with sales and pricing to the penny.  It was tedious!  Also weirdly fun in a way?  As a result, I still am able to tell you where the best prices on various items are within a few miles of my home.  It helped and amazingly, we got by.  ( I never did figure out how to do some of the awesome couponing I’ve heard about.  What’s it called?  Super-couponing?  Supreme couponing?  Something like that.)

Over time, our budget somewhat smoothed out and just in time, I hit a new obstacle, my anxiety disorder.  As mentioned in previous posts, due to “life” I was off of my anxiety medication for a period of time and eventually decided I didn’t need it anymore.  (I was mistaken.)  Very very gradually, my anxiety increased to the point where I would have occasional panic attacks while out shopping with my children in tow.  It was not fun.  I one time had to leave a shopping cart full at Target and dash out of the store (once the dizziness had passed and I was able to safely leave).  Thinking back, it probably wasn’t the best time for me to be driving home, but well, there I was.  So – for this issue it was medication that solved most of my problems and I began to find stores that for whatever reason, I felt more “comfortable” in.  I began to steer clear of traditional grocery stores, but instead would hit big box stores and bulk stores.

As my children got older, it became a little harder for me to put them ALL in the cart when I was shopping and around this same time we got a diagnosis for M and we began to learn what some of his triggers were for his difficult behavior.  Some of them are: buzzing and yellow overhead lights, echoing sounds from a  warehouse-type of building and the motion and low rumble of many conversations at one time.  I learned where I could and could not shop very easily.  There are probably 2 brands of grocery stores that I simply do not take M inside of because I think it is actually rather hurtful for him.  We just don’t go there.  There are also probably 2 stores that he can handle for a short few minutes that I can bring him, and my other two children of course, in and grab a few necessities when I need to.  Honestly, this wasn’t that big of a deal for me.  Some people like red apples, some like green – whatever floats your boat.  I feel lucky that I live in an area with a variety of groceries stores to choose from.  Truly, its helpful.  But then the growing started.

Oh the growth spurts.  My stars but my children can eat.  As many of you probably know of children they will eat you out of house and home while growing and then seemingly be not so peckish for a few days off and on until they start those mad growth spurts again.  My mother-in-law had been measuring the children for clothes that she makes them and while we were visiting over the summer, we compared some of the charts.  The boys had grown almost 3 inches taller in the span of 6 months and Miss S was not far behind.  Their arms were much longer (no wonder that new shirt I got Mr A lasted only a couple of weeks).  Their feet were bigger.  They were bigger!  I digress.  So, we were flying through our groceries and I was constantly trying to figure out how to fill the pantry while managing our schedule and over-stimulated and wiggly children in the store.  And then I re-discovered Peapod.

I used Peapod briefly a very long time ago when it first was offered in our area, but now, now I felt like I really needed the assistance with getting the food into the house.  As I mentioned, I previously was shopping at some bulk grocery stores and big box stores.  (Target is a favorite.) This was lovely, but then often, I wouldn’t actually be able to get the groceries out of the truck and into the house with any timely manner and sometimes because I just couldn’t lift it.  I began to bring in the perishables and then leave the rest for when I could manage it.  It was frustrating.  It was inconvenient.  I needed to fix this weirdness.  I began ordering Peapod again and oh the happiness of being able to just open the door and have my groceries come all the way into my kitchen was amazing.  I heart grocery delivery so much I got the “pod pass”.  Did you ever hear of such a thing?  You basically pay for all of your shipping for 6 months so then you have free (or discounted shipping) for your orders.  Amaze!!  (I know, I know, I’ve been watching too many Barbie cartoons with Miss S.)  Still.  There were a few things I could not get from Peapod.  Hmmm…. Amazon?  We’ve been Amazon prime members for a while now and I highly recommend it.  Especially for the holidays.  Ok, this sort of filled that gap, but there were still a few things missing…. And then…..Amazon Prime Now.

Crazy bananas.  You just download this little app on your phone and you can order a gillion (ok, not a gillion, but a lot) items to arrive to your house in 2 hours for FREE, if you’re an Amazon Prime member.  Yeah.  I’m going to let that sink in for a minute.  ::::::::::::::::

This will change my life.  Oh!  Oh!  And…. they will take away the silly plastic bags to have them recycled!  Woot!  Save the planet – check!

:::doing the happy dance::::  Silly shopping shenanigans….I got it down.

Be Fierce.  #saneshopper

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

How did I get here?

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I have these “moments” every now and then where I seem to be hyper aware of being in the moment:  remembering the sights, sounds, smells, enjoying the present.  The first moment that I can truly recall like this was when I was hmmm… a sophomore in college.  I was driving around my little college town and breathing in what must have felt like the “freedom” of being a grown-up.  Of course I had no idea in my 19-year-old head what being an adult actually meant, but I was kind of trying it out.  Like trying on clothes.  I wanted to see what it was like, see if I could do it.  I remember that I had my windows down in my car, I remember what the wind felt like and that I was listening to a lot of Green Day at that point. It was springtime and warm outside and the air smelled sweet because the cherry blossom trees were in bloom.   I had a car phone.  (LOL!  Right?  That’s how long ago this was.  A CAR phone.)  I felt so important because I had a phone.  IN my car.  I was obviously not supposed to use it except for emergencies because it was absurdly expensive per minute, but still.  Fun to have.  I remember that I used to love checking my mail at the college post office because it was the first time I had an address that was just my own.

The next “moment” that I recall capturing was when we first moved to Chicago.  We had an adorable apartment on the north side of the city.   It had french doors opening to the dining room, a completely square kitchen and zero closet space.  I loved that apartment.  That is where DH and I really stretched our wings.  We had to “sink or swim” in the big city and we learned how to swim together.  Amidst all the other 20-somethings trying to figure out life and how to use the transit system.  We were very broke, so we spent a lot of time playing video games at home or playing rpgs (role playing games) with our friends.  I remember playing Theme Hospital on the playstation game system and feeling so content in my little apartment, 650 miles from my family.  We ate a lot of macaroni and cheese (from a box) and ramen noodles.  It was hard, really really hard, but also satisfying in the way that you might be creating  a sculpture and you’re trying to get the vision in your head worked out in tangible form.

Five apartments, 6 jobs and 2 college degrees later, my oldest son was born.  He was beautiful.  A skinny baby with long spindly legs and big blue eyes.  If I think back on it now, I can see his personality just as it is now, but emerging through his little baby gestures and sounds.  I remember the first time I cared for him by myself, completely alone after our visiting family left and DH was at work.  I had not gone back to the office yet, and there I was with this little newborn.  Had anyone even checked if this was ok?  That I had this little baby?  What was happening?  It was surreal.  I was sitting in an ugly-patterned orange wingback chair, a hand-me-down from family.  I loved that chair.  It wasn’t a rocker, but it was super comfortable, and most importantly, it fit in our tiny 2-bedroom apartment.  DS made little cooing sounds and wiggled around in my arms.  His little hat was too big and would slide around on his head like a lopsided sailor hat until I straightened it out again.  I was so astounded that I was responsible for this little life.  I had just sat down on this enormous rollercoaster of a ride without an end.  I didn’t even have time to think about whether or not I could do it, I constantly had to keep up with actually doing it:  the care, the love, the food, the diapers, stimuli, tummy time, eventually my workplace and socialization.  If I stopped to think about it anymore I would become overwhelmed, so I just looked at that little baby with the lopsided hat and green dinosaur slippers and smiled and cuddled and held on to him for dear life.  He’s 8 now.  I still love to watch him sleep.

So is this how we recall life in a series of flashbacks like this where you hit highlights and occasionally look up from all the busy-ness and see where you are before digging in again to “real life” and work and  details?  What a ride.  I wonder what’s around the next bend?

Be Fierce.  Buckle your safety belts.

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly