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

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“You know you’ve sworn off BAKERIES for lesser offenses..”

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This was what my husband said to me after tiring of hearing about all of our church drama.  I just stopped mid-sentence.  Um, yeah, but its a church, not a doughnut.  I do really really love gourmet doughnuts.  You may recall my post here where I just “lost it” while waiting in line at Bennison’s, a local bakery here.  Quick recap:  I have 3 children plus DH and myself, I spend a minimum of $18 walking into a bakery and usually its more if we get loaves of bread or rolls, etc.  Its hard for me to get there to begin with, what with all the wiggly ASDness and whatnot, and its usually a “treat” for my children.  I don’t expect special treatment, but I do expect to get my “turn” in line after I’ve been waiting there for ages.  In any case, I know what he meant.  “Leave the drama alone”.  Per our difficulty with our special needs child at church and other religious education goals not lining up, we have officially left our church and the notification e-mails have been sent and phone calls made.  Here was my original post about that.  I am more upset than I thought I would be, but I do think it was the right decision in the long term.  I am most sorry that I have lost a couple of new, but good friends from the congregation due to just…. drama I guess.  I’m not even sure what happened.  Here are the reasons we left the church:

  1. Our spiritual journey is not aligned with that of the church and we can’t in good conscience continue along this path of religious education for our children.
  2. Our children are getting older and moving into the “big kid” classes.  It is important to us to have a more structured environment for their religious education.  At this time the staff, model and  structure for caring for our ASD child does not meet our needs.
  3. We have felt that the church is becoming more and more committed to social outreach causes instead of nourishing the body and spirituality within the church.
  4. Along with ministering to those with regards to racial diversification, economic inequality and immigration reform, ministering to individuals with special needs and the families who care for them can indeed be its own method of “outreach” into the community and we would like to be in a place where this is more of a priority.

I was also especially hurt because our “spiritual journey” is pushing us in more of a conservative direction right now and its just not something that I ever thought I would be judged for.  We don’t all take the same path.

Anyway, I’m off to Hewn.  They have amazing croissants.  😉

Be Fierce.  #Dropthatdoughnut

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

Closing one door, opening another…

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We have dealt with all manner of surprising situations since being blessed with our special needs child. Regularly and often we get to see just how strong and or talented or smart we actually are.  Our convictions and morals are put to the test on such a regular basis that we really don’t have the time to be “wishy-washy” on many issues.  We have to pick a side and just stick to it!  Sometimes of course, we make a bad decision or one that just wasn’t too smart.  We learn fast, pick up and keep going.  We are in the process of making the difficult decision of whether to stay with our current church or pull our family out due to lack of support for Mr. M in Sunday school classes.  We have not had good “long term” church-going experiences.  When we lived “in the city” we found a church close to our home that we loved and could walk to.  We loved the pastor, we loved the people, the location.  It was amazing!  Then we had a baby.  (dun dun dunnn)  Then the pastor left.  Then the personality of the church began to shift and many of our friends left.  Then we had a second baby.  (dun dun dunnn) The baptism of our second child there was so bad we still issue heartfelt apologies for it whenever it is brought up within our family.  He’s 7.  (wah wahh)  Then we moved.  We “church shopped” and found a church in our town that seemed to fit well with our values and our family needs.  We love the pastor and his family, the church is adorable and their children’s programming for little ones is lovely!  The problem is that for older children, the religious education is much more… fluid.  It isn’t a big program because the church doesn’t have a lot of families.  It is a very lean program and while they are willing to support Mr. M to some extent in his class, the special needs families are expected to do much of the heavy lifting with respect to teaching, classroom support and communication within the children’s program.  I hate to be the person that’s all, “this is too hard, I can’t do it”.  But… this really is too hard, and I can’t do it.  I understand that many people do not see all that I do within a school year or even over the summer, but I do a lot and I cannot take on any more responsibilities.  I just can’t.  So.  It is looking like we are going to be changing churches again.  I am upset.  I am upset for the children.  I am upset for me.  I am upset for DH because he finally found a church where he felt at “home”.  For the next 14 years however, its not just about DH and I, its about the 5 of us and what works for the 5 of us as a group.  I am constantly reminding my family (my own family mind you) of this when we come to visit for an extended stay in the summers.  My warnings go like this:  “Don’t forget that Mr. M can wander and he is sometimes difficult in large groups because of the sound.  You may have to repeat instructions to him umpteen times and still, we may not be able to do all the activities that your group does.  Miss. S is still a toddler and pretty much talks continuously unless she is asleep.  Mr. A can be very loud and hyper-active.  There are 5 of us!  That’s a lot of people in your house!”  This is my life.  This is my group.  We go as a package or we don’t go at all.  So… we’re looking at possibilities for our family to join a new church.  There is a church we have been “supplementing” our children’s RE programming with because they are a large church and have a much larger children’s program, so we will most likely end up there. They have more staff, more support and many many families.  They are used to children and they welcome them.  They have a school-age  mid-week “club” for kids and one for younger toddlers too.  They even offer a couple of camps per year.  The downside is that I don’t know that DH and I will fit in there as well as we do at our current church.  Oh well.  See?  This is where I get to test my convictions.  Do I really act as I say I do?  Well, yes, I do.  Or at least I try to.  I know in my heart this is the right decision for our family and well, at least we’ll have a common thread at the new church.  Its a start.  A new start.

Be Fierce.  #OpenANewDoor

#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

Do Your Circle

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Just your circle, no one else’s.  That’s what I have been concentrating on lately.  DH has been a big proponenet of this for a while and I’m not sure, but maybe I just needed some context for what it really meant, but I really got it last week.  Big lightbulb moment for me.  I coordinate the mom’s group, The LS Chatterbox Cafe’,  at my church where we meet once a month and I was, as I always am, hurriedly dashing into the gathering and making sure that everyone “saw” where we were just in case they wanted to join.  So, we were talking about how Facebook has changed how we interact with our friends, relatives and pretty much everyone we’ve ever met.  Its so different from 10 or 15 years ago when you closed a chapter of your life and then it was well, closed.  You didn’t have to revisit those memories, people, experiences again, unless you wanted to and actually sought it out.  Now, it pretty much hunts you down.  I’m friends on Facebook with people that I went to high school with who remember me vividly, but I have no memory of them.  Its odd.  Also though, we’re bombarded with hardships and illness of friends of friends of friends and long lost relatives.  Its overwhelming.  As humans, we’re not wired to process those kinds of hardships and obstacles on that scale without feeling like there is imminent doom.  As an example, my anxiety occasionally gets kicked into high gear just from watching the news and reading Facebook.  We have a 24-hour news cycle now and can connect instantaneously with others all over the globe.  Wonderful, yes?  Yes.  But also difficult for some people, like me, to process.  I can’t help my friend’s friend’s cousin’s brother who is dealing with chemotherapy, except to perhaps send a Facebook note.  What I can do however is do MY circle.  I can send a home cooked meal from TakeThemAMeal.com to a woman going through chemotherapy in my Thursday Mom’s Group so that her family won’t have to worry about dinner for that night.  (I know, I know, I have several moms’ groups.  Ha!)  I can drop off charitable items for a local charity that then resells (or gifts) the items to community families.  I can attend my local alderman’s meeting to vote about changes to our neighborhood and voice my concerns.  If everyone does their circle, then good works get done, people are cared for, voices are heard and communities are built.

So, instead of sticking your head in the sand the next time you feel overwhelmed on Facebook and declaring that you can’t do anything to help all the “bad” in the world, so you shouldn’t do anything at all.  Reach out to your circle and just do that.  Do your circle.  It will help.  It really will and you’ll be able to see it.  Think of it like little baby steps.  Do baby steps.

In case you may not know where to get started (say you’re in a new community or your life situation has recently changed), try some of these things.

  • Attend a PTA or other school meeting and get involved!  If you have an activity that you want to see for your child at school, get involved and make it happen.  If you have a special needs child and the program at your school isn’t cutting it, get involved and make those changes.  You’d be surprised how much power parents have.
  • Attend your neighborhood or Alderman’s meeting.  Investing in your community makes it safer.  Get to know your neighbors.  Make playdates with kids close by.
  • Join a play group or specialized support group if appropriate.  (Austism, special needs, etc)  The best advice you’ll get is from others who have been in your situation.
  • Find a church.  Really research them.  Find one that fits your family.  Not feeling religious?  What about spiritual?  Try a Unitarian Universalist congregation.
  • Are you a stay-at-home parent?  May I suggest joining a parent group?  You would be surprised at how much free information and assistance you can get just by being part of a group.  Babysitting swaps, doctor references, a helping hand at home when you’re sick.  Be a friend, make a friend.
  • Get to know your neighbors.  I said it before, I’m saying it again.  Who are the people next door?  Do they have kids?  A dog?  What is the dog’s name?  Do you know the people in your condo building?  Where are they from?  What holidays do they celebrate?  What can you give without really giving…. that would create neighborly bonds (maybe not quite friendships?) in your area.  Its kind of a selfish thing really.  We once let some neighbors park in our driveway for a couple of weeks (!!) because they were waiting on some documentation for their vehicle to make it legal for them to park on the street.  Firstly, you have to know that we don’t use our driveway, almost ever.  We literally did almost nothing, but it helped them out so much.  But, we know them.  We know they kind of “keep an eye out” for things going on around the back-side of our house that we can’t see.  They once sat in their vehicle for an hour in front of our garage because they saw that I forgot to close our garage door and they didn’t want anyone to steal anything from our garage!  We borrow tools from one another and our kids occasionally play games in the park together.  If you have a porch, sit out front occasionally and get to know who walks by.  Its worth it.  Its valuable.

#BeFierce.  #DoYourCircle

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

Its the little things

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I’ve been thinking a lot about “little things” lately.  This is a picture of one of the stained glass windows at my church.  Its not a great picture.  I took it with my phone, while I was in a hurry and dragging my children through the church hall.  What is significant about it is that is what I saw through it.  It was beginning to snow and you could see fluffy white snowflakes floating down through the colored glass.  It was so pretty, it literally pulled me out of my hustle and bustle to take just a few seconds to appreciate the beauty.  My MIL mentioned on the phone the other day about how raising children “goes so fast” and suddenly they’ve moved out and you’re left with an empty nest.  When you’re IN the hustle and bustle, it can seem like an eternity.  There are concrete moments for me that are lasting – something that really stood out, caught my attention, or made me slow down to really think about what was happening, but for the most part, in order to keep up with “life” it takes some serious movement.  Alarm clocks and cereal bowls, jumping in the car to go hither and yon, spelling tests and daily homework, chore charts and Sunday school readings, prepping for the holidays to teach tradition and culture.  And outside activities.  Just soccer by itself is a lot.  Its a lot of busy-ness and upkeep and energy.  I know that some families tout the “be humble” and “slow down” mindset, and while I know this may work for some families, I don’t know that it would work for ours.  The humbleness yes – I think most people hope that their children grow up to be somewhat humble and grateful people.  I also want my children to do all the “things” (swimming lessons, classes and trips etc.) that I did and to be able to share so many acitivites and celebrations with them and that takes a lot of movement!  Right now for example, we have just ended Halloween season (if it lasts more than 2 weeks in my opinion, its a season), and have started Thanksgiving season.  We went to our first Thanksgiving celebration dinner at church (our family was in charge of the “thankfulness activity”) and next up we have  Friendsgiving (where we’ll bring a dish to share for a potluck) and then actual Thankgiving Day.  Both of those acitivites (the thankfulness acitivty and the participation in potluck) in my mind are setting an example for my children that this is what we do for this holiday, we celebrate in our community and help out in church, we pitch in and celebrate with friends and family.  Its important.  And its important that its not just once in a while, that its every year so that the tradition sticks with them.  I feel the same way about our family vacations.  For us, its every year at the same time in the same place.  For many families this would not be ideal, but for us we have found so many benefits to this routine.  In the meantime, I have planned Miss S’s 4th birthday for the beginning of January and I’m beginning to work on Christmas.  I guess what I’m saying is that its a lot of puttering around, but the end result is always so worth it.  My favorite analogy right now is that of a Monet.  Up close, you can’t really see what the picture is or it can look messy, but from far away, it all comes together and looks very pretty and well thought out.  And for me, those moments when I can take a breath in the midst of the busyness to appreciate the beauty, the circumstance that I am in, the surroundings, those are amazing and they really stick with me.  The snow falling outside during our hustle through church was one of those moments.  It reminded me that I am doing what I think is best for my children. It reminded me that I am making a beautiful painting and one day all those little brushstrokes of activities and culture and education and love  – they will come together in what I hope will be a beautiful life.

Be Fierce.  Make a painting.

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly

The Man Burns in 5 Days…. and its the First Day of School

Like my title?  Worlds colliding!  *crash!!*  Ahem.  Anyway.  Um, so….. yeah, lots and lots and LOTS of people (approx. 35K) are on the way to Burning Man.  If that’s you, you can get traffic updates on Highway 447 and wait times at the gate from 94.5 FM BMIR.  Right now the wait time at the gate is 27 MILES long.  (as of 1 AM Central time) Yah.  Alrighty then.  That crowd includes a nice handful of my friends and dear Hubby of course.  Dear Hubby is on the way and should arrive early early Monday morning.  He called this evening because he may lose reception before he gets too far.  So, its just me then!

First Day of School for my kiddos and everyone around here is tomorrow!  (woo-HOO!!)  Except for Miss. S who starts in about a week and a half – preschool has a bit of a different schedule.  I’ve got bags of school supplies, backpacks and lunch bags ready to go!  My new home schedule is printed out and waiting for me.  I’ve got the coffee maker ready to go in the AM.  Now, if I could just get my attitude adjusted we’d be all set.  I’ve just, I don’t know, had a hard time getting over the fact that I feel so dissed by the help that I was supposed to have over this period of time, so when its gotten really hard (like this weekend  :::deep breath:::), that’s where my mind goes.  Beating that dead horse.  I know.  I do.  Still, I have felt so very alone and I have to remind myself that my feelings are valid.  Its so easy for someone “looking in” from the outside to just casually mention that I should get over it and that I should be “just fine” at handling all of this.  Its much different when you’re IN it.  My first thought is “really?  Can you do this?  I doubt that”. Its OK to feel how I feel, this is very hard.  By feeling alone, I don’t mean that I don’t have friends, or truly a great support network here – that’s what has kept the anxiety monster at bay for the most part and kept me afloat.   I just mean, that the responsibility is all mine, its a lot of hours of no adult conversation or interaction except with the mons-ners, which are lovely, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I do hit my limit on talking about the finer points of ponies and fart jokes.

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School supplies!!  SHARPENED pencils!! 80 of them!!  I have the blisters to prove it!! 

 

Today was the first time I had ever taken the children to church by myself.  I wasn’t too concerned because they’re used to going there, used to the people, it feels comfortable, etc.  Except all the change that is about to happen this week.  Its like the mons-ners are all jittery and nervous on the inside and its just seeping out.  (the Sunday school teacher actually pulled me out of the sanctuary today to “speak” to me about M’s behavior.  Dammit.  Really??  Right now??  THIS week?  To his credit, this has actually never happened before.  (and his aide wasn’t there.  He usually has an aide in church, isn’t that nice??)

M has such a hard time with transitions.  I swear you don’t even have to tell him its coming, he can smell it, or sense it, something.  He knows.  And its when he gets in his little “autistic funks” that I can sometimes really get a glimpse into how his brain sorts things.  He IS smart, its just organized differently.  During a particularly disfunctional moment Saturday I was asking him if he remembered his teacher’s name, the door he should use, etc.  “Yes, yes, but mom, what is my room number?”  Um, yeah, I don’t have any idea.  #momfail.  But I will find out!  And write it on his hand.  During one of more hysterical moments this weekend involving a gigantic container of peanuts (don’t ask), M came up and calmly offered to help me find the lid and put everything away, just as if I wasn’t shrieking at the top of my lungs and dashing about like a looney toons character.  Yup.  He just doesn’t see/feel the emotion of that.  He sees that its a problem and I am upset and instead of shrinking back like my 2 other neurotypical children who were probably sure that mommy had actually lost it time, he just offered to help me and he did and then went on about his business just like I was as normal as ever.  This isn’t the first time he has done this when I am losing it, but it is the first time in a while.  Its almost comforting.  

Speaking of comfort, this weekend was particularly hard since I haven’t felt too well on top of everything and then I fell (I know, I know!) and hurt my foot pretty good, so I have just been focused on getting tasks done ie. laundry, dishes, school prep, and trying to give some myself some easy comforts like easy meals to get through this part.  Hopefully as of tomorrow I can really get back to the shopping for real meals and cooking.

I apologize for the whiney post.  I’m working on the attitude thing.  Maybe my exercise class tomorrow AM will help to change my perspective.  

Anyway.  Get out there and get your kiddos to school!  Find those room numbers!!  Let’s get coffee!!

Be fierce.  

:::::omg with the bagpipes on BMIR right now.  Woah.::::

#IamAFierceMom