School Bells Ring, Are you Listening..

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Photo by Tsu Nellis

Cause here we go again folks!  The school year is upon us here in the lovely Midwest.  I realize that in a lot of places school has already started… but perhaps you can still use this lovely thought as you’re sending your child back to school this year.

Speaking of THIS year.  Its a big one for us.  My BABY is going into Kindergarten!  And I’m so excited!  And also terrified!  And probably you know, I think there are maybe one or two staff members familiar with our family who are also somewhat terrified that our baby is going into Kindergarten because they have watched her grow up with two older brothers… Each season she would toddle in and out of the school walking a little taller, spouting a few more words, pointing out a few more numbers.  This child is ready.  MORE than ready.  She’s loud and exuberant and wholly unapologetic about her ideas!  I’m half way  expecting a phone call home the first day explaining  why she had to be removed from the principal’s office because she didn’t understand why she could not be the principal that day as she was certain it was her turn.  Some of the prayers I say for these children, I tell you.  They are something.

And my oldest.  My spectrum child, M is heading into fourth grade and I cannot even believe it.  Can not.  He had such a rough year last year that really by February, I had mentally tossed all of his academic goals and just told him to focus on making it though his day every day.  “Get to the end and try not to cry.  Afterwards we’ll have snack.”  Big goals.  Thankfully, as always, M absorbs much more than we think, and he seems to be in an ok spot academically.  He maybe be a little behind, but we have worked hard this summer to catch him up.  He is set up for a great year so far.  I have created a “transition plan” for him and his teacher reached out a couple of weeks ago to set up an appointment with us for an early meeting.  He has seen and spent time in his classroom and time with his teacher.  He is on great medication to help with his ADHD.  I have LOTS of backups at the ready for homeschool co-ops, additional tutoring and learning plans to supplement his school work if necessary and I have to say, having that ready to go, has really made me feel more comfortable with him being in a regular classroom.  Maybe because I’m not afraid to pull him out if needed.  I’m not afraid to try something else if this just isn’t working.  Sometimes you just cannot put a triangle where a circle should go, you just can’t.  If you have a special needs child heading back to school and you are concerned about “where they are” academically or how they are going to do this year, remember this:

The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all. ~ Mulan

M’s first grade teacher once made an announcement to the parents of her students at the beginning of the year regarding homework and expectations, “They are young.  They have a LONG road ahead.  Please remember this.  Pick your battles.”  ~ Mrs. P, First grade teacher

And Mr. A, my middle child.  *sigh*  I’m not even sure what to say.  I never worry about him; he doesn’t need it.  He’s responsible, a self-starter, super smart, even gifted possibly.  His biggest problem actually is that he indeed IS the middle child.  He always feels that he doesn’t get enough attention, even when we go out of our way to give him extra attention. Oh, and possibly that he is sleep deprived.  He has always been sleep-deprived.  Like from birth.  M just feels that if he is awake, Mr. A should be awake too.  Its been difficult for Mr. A, although he is learning to fight back.  We’re enrolling him in additional extra-curricular activities this year to try to broaden his world a little bit.

Good luck to everyone!  We’re all in this together.  #BeFierce

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Ode To Thy Vegetable

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So I’m sitting here writing my weekly meal plan.  Using one of my daughter’s colored pencils because my boys have taken all the pens and pencils in the house and I refuse to go buy anymore.  Its lime green.  My pencil I mean.  Maybe that means we’ll eat more greens this week.  I do try.  I always have a giant box of salad (baby spinach actually) in my fridge and I put spinach in just about anything it will reasonably go into.  In any case.  I am on week 5 of this on-again-off-again cold.  I’ve started “living” with it, exercising with it, going to meetings at the school with it.  (I actually “toasted” one of the teachers with my DayQuil bottle this afternoon – no lie.)

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I think it either needs to warm up or I’m going to have to move to Arizona or something to get this cold to go away.

And scene!
I mean, sinus infection!  *headdesk*  I finally broke down and went to the doctor.  It seems I have had a sinus infection.  I just can’t feel sick and take gigantic antibiotics that make me have wonky issues AND also be “dieting” or whatever.  I am not even sure I’m a dieting person.  I think I might just have to figure out how to maximize my cardio because I (apparently) like to eat.  Why are women always trying to be so thin anyway??  Isn’t there any way I can just be so excited that I’ve “got game” in my super-hard kickboxing class and be proud of that? Or enjoy the fact that I paddle-kicked up and down the lanes of the pool for an hour on Saturday?  What about that?  I think that should count.  I like to exercise most of the time, I really do.  Its the food stuff that I have trouble with.  So when I was at the doctor, he mentioned fresh foods of course and less processed etc etc which all means I need to try to at least put my toe back into the WHOLE 30 thing again.  Now, I’m not going all bonkers because I am a southern girl and refuse to give up biscuits completely, but yes, I agree the processed foods should be cut back.  Here’s more info on Whole 30 if you just made a face like, “wha?”.  Whole 30
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So, as I finish up my meal plan I’m trying to add more fresh veggies and less breads and more fruits and less things that come in a box (except my salad of course).  Its easier to plan with a list of ingredients for specific meals than to just have ingredients that I am not familiar with and then try to “create” meals.  That never works well for me.  That would turn out to be a scary Frankenstein meal.  Or we would just have raw vegetables.  Ok fierce people.  Battle those germs!  Eat those veggies! (or maybe just my salad!)
Be Fierce!  #EatClean
#IamAFierceMom
Kelly

Its Nice to Make Your Acquaintance

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I’m sure I mention on here a lot that my DH travels for work quite a bit.  Generally, I really don’t mind being in my “bubble” as I fondly call it.  (I generally don’t leave my little 3-mile radius bubble too often.  Especially during the school week.)  However, on occasion it can feel a little isolated or just like I might need a change of scenery.  Over the years I have built in different little fail-safes for when things like this happen.  For example:  If I need some time “away” from the kiddos, I find that PTA meetings or parent groups (with childcare provided) generally provide some socialization and give me something else to focus on outside of the home.  Similarly, going to the gym provides me with 1) a workout 2) socialization if going with a friend and 3) two-hours of free childcare.  I have noticed though, that if anything happens to change our schedule, an illness coupled with icy weather for example, and we’re often hunkered down at home for days with very little outside contact except for hired help.  This one I have had to learn…. that its ok to hire help when you need it!  It really is.  So if no one has every told you that before, I’m telling you now.  When you’re not at your best, its ok to hire someone to help you!

It can feel strange to talk about feeling isolated when you have 3 children, but its really just a lack of adult interaction.  I do not have the time to keep up with many friends.  (sorry friends!!  See you in about 10 years!)  Unless of course the friends have children who are actively involved with my own children.  The result is that I now have quite a few acquaintances.  Remember “acquaintances”?  Like you see in movies or read about in books?  Its like that.  And really, its kind of nice!  I have acquaintances that I see every morning when dropping my children off at school.  (Some neighbors even before that while we’re waiting on my daughter’s bus.)  Some I see at church activities.  Some folks I see literally every afternoon on the playground.  I would not call us friends.  We don’t go out socially.  We only talk about the weather or school events.  It has taken me a while to get used to not having “close” friends any more, but I have come to the conclusion that this is just where we are in our lives right now.  I know that not everyone of my age group is like this.  My cousins for example are constantly running around with their BFFs.  Maybe the BFF crowd just isn’t for all of us.

Be Fierce.  Embrace your acquaintances.

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

A little spark of goodness

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I’ve had a little spark of goodness shining in the dark.  I have been trying to make myself get back to my gym schedule lately.  When I’m on a schedule, I don’t think much about it and its really just something I check off my to-do list.  Sometimes I just walk the treadmill for 20 minutes and leave, sometimes I do a full kickboxing class, but whichever – at least I did *something*.  Last Tuesday I did a Zumba class which I had nearly forgotten that I love.  It was so fun and really lifted my spirits to go.  Afterwards I went to the gym for about 20 minutes or so to finish my workout and then I gathered my things and went home.  By the end of the night I was very tired.  It was maybe 9:30pm when I got home.  I put my “stuff” away, cleaned up the kitchen, picked up toys etc and hit the hay for the evening.  The next morning I was rushing out the door (of course) to take the boys to school and I couldn’t find my purse!  Oh no!  Argh!!  So frustrating.  Eventually I just took them anyway, no license or anything on me.  Later in the day I combed my house – no sign of my purse.  I went through the car – not there.  I started to call around to everywhere I had been the evening before.  Nope.  I was so frustrated with myself!  Why am I always putting things in random places?  Can I not just put things away when I get home?  I swear I try so very hard to do that.  I was literally kicking myself on the inside.  The next day, I started calling credit card companies and I put a temporary alert on my credit.  I learned that one of my credit cards had been used for a very small amount at a corner store.  *sigh*  Ok.  It was swiped.  Mostly I was bummed about losing my wallet.  I love my purses and wallets and bags.  I collect them really.  I am very attached.  It felt very uncomfortable to think that someone had gone through my purse and used my card and ugh, it just nearly made me queasy.

I worked all afternoon on convincing myself that its just “stuff” and I can replace it and there wasn’t much damage done thankfully and I had taken precautions just in case.  I tried to focus on the healing part of the ordeal.   It had then been 2 days after the loss, I probably wasn’t going to get it back.  That evening I got an e-mail.  My purse had been found!  Oh hallelujah!  It was found at the gym!  I was super super excited!  But then almost immediately so nervous.  Was my wallet in there?  (That particular wallet cost about 3 times what the purse did.  I know, I know, hold the judgements please.  Its my favorite.)  What about my ID?  I was on pins and needles.  G and I rushed out to the gym as soon as a babysitter arrived and it was there.  Purse, wallet, cards, CASH and ID.  Ok, some of the cash was missing… but not all of it!! I could not believe it!  Its a Christmas miracle!  LOL!  There are good people in the world!  Maybe someone was just super hungry or super conflicted or having a really bad day and then they saw the handwritten notes that I keep in my purse from my kids?  Maybe that is too sentimental.  Maybe they just made a bad choice and wanted to make it right.  Whatever happened.  How ever it happened.  I am so very thankful and I have just a bit more faith that most of the time people will do the right thing when then can.
#Itsthelittlethings  #BeFierce
#IamAFierceMom
Kelly

I can admit it, I’m sensitive

Evolution

We recently went on our “big summer” trip.  We traveled south for about 5 weeks visiting family, Disney World and the beach.  For much of that time, DH was with me, but for about the last 2 weeks of it, it was just me with the kiddos.  We were often around other family, because obviously, that was the point of the trip, but ultimately, it was just us.  It was work.  I mean, awesome, yes.  I got to sit on the beach and by the pool every day, but its not as relaxing as you might imagine when I’m  trying to make sure that I don’t 1) lose my 4 year old or ASD child and 2) that no one drowned, got sunburned or dehydrated.  And then… I wanted them to have fun!  (and also keep up on summer reading!!)

At one point we were visiting with some family and someone mentioned (to my children no less) how most parents worked and it was “hard” to fit everything in to your daily routine when you had a “job” and I swear I could not have been more offended.  So…. when you leave your child with a nanny or a daycare, those people at the daycare facility aren’t working?  Hmmm…. then why do you pay them?  How about babysitters?  Are they free?  Ours aren’t.  They’re about $15/hour.  Do all the childcare workers just care for your children, entertain them and keep them safe and engaged out of the goodness of their hearts?  Probably not.  This is a social problem.  Somehow it has been engrained in our society over the past couple of decades that if you’re not working for someone else, you’re not working.  If you’re not paying someone else to raise your children while you’re in an office you’re doing it wrong.   I would include independent contractors and those who are self-employed in this as well.  This is offensive.  I know every family has their own personality and “path” and not all parents have the ability or desire to stay home with their children and I respect that.  You do what is right for your family at the moment and this may change over time.  However, I expect to be respected for my choices in return.  There is more than one way to skin a cat folks.  When I was a working mom (I’ve done both), I had someone say to me that they put their son in daycare because they didn’t want him watching TV all day.  What?  Who in the world was letting him watch TV all day?  Why weren’t they doing their job of entertaining, teaching and engaging the child?  Oh, that’s right.  Its work.

Raising children is a job people.  Its a hard, rewarding, exhausting, amazing, soul bearing job.  I recently took the children to our museum’s Members’ Night in Chicago by myself.  Don’t tell me that wasn’t work.  Incredible, yes.  Am I proud?  Certainly!  But it was work.  And actually, I ended up feeling 2 parts proud, 1 part shame.  I was so impressed at how the children stayed together, enjoyed the exhibits, waited patiently in line for their turn, etc, but when we were in the car on the way home, Mr. M was very tired and had lost his composure, and decided he hated his museum gift bag and souvenir.  I just lost it.  I was tired too.  I know that he has difficulty understanding certain concepts and that he was tired, but I was tired too.  I probably lectured most of the way home about gratefulness and manners.  I was so hurt.  I felt that I had done this amazing thing by being able to handle all 3 of them in such a tumultuous atmosphere, and he was complaining about souvenirs.  Anyway, we got home, I calmed down, he calmed down, we talked it over.  Its work.  Even in our daily routine, I don’t just “sit around” all day.  I manage play dates, lessons and doctors’ appointments, we’re out at the park, we’re picnicking, we’re swimming, playing board games or baking cookies (well, today its muffins).  I usually have at least my 3 children if not 1 more in tow.  We’re doing science experiments with our at home kits to see how long it takes bread to mold – icky!!  We’re blowing bubbles and painting our homemade stuffed animal houses.  We’re practicing writing our  letters.  We’re learning how to to have good manners, share, take turns and apologize when necessary.

Whomever is doing this with children is working whether it is the parent or a childcare provider.  So yes, I am a bit sensitive.

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly