Friday, November 8, 2013

MacGyver Goes To Support Group

After my discovery of the fact that actually I am stressed and not doing fantastic I have decided to take yet another step toward taking care of myself.  See, I read that parenting a child with ASD can lead to the parent having PTSD.  Like a soldier who went to Iraq, I could develop post traumatic stress disorder?  It was hard to believe, but then again, when you are constantly diffusing "bombs" in your family and on the lookout for the next possible explosion then maybe in some ways it is the same.  It does feel like life and death when you are in the middle of it.  For some parents, it really is life and death.  I feel like I have it pretty easy, but at the same time, it can be so hard.   I love my kids, so so much, but I decided it was time to try out the parent support group for parents with kids on the spectrum.

Last year I went to a parent support group at school a few times when I was feeling particularly frazzled.  It was clear quickly that while the people were lovely and kind, they just had no idea what I was going through.  There problems were real and true, but so different that it just made me feel more alone.   I stopped going and went back to husband,  prayer, and my bible study as my support.  My bible study group is amazing, they are the best listeners and so encouraging.  We laugh together, cry together, and best of all, pray together.   When we go on breaks I miss it, and when it's Thursday morning I put everything aside to be there. I also recognize that I needed more time to talk about parenting things and I really need people with children like mine who had been there, or were there currently, and maybe even some who were just beginning that I could help.  

Last night I went to my first meeting, and of course I can't give details but I will say that it felt so right.  They served me herbal tea and when I said how I felt they nodded along as if I was telling their own story.  When they did tell their stories it was so clear that I wasn't alone, and that there are beautiful amazing things about our children too, and we can celebrate those and laugh about the hard stuff and release it.  

Releasing things is the answer, to be there in the worst moments for my children, and then to release it when it's over.  Breath in the new and enjoy the moment I am in when I am in those good moments.  There are so many good moments that can go unseen if I'm still holding the anxiety of the last explosion.  If the bomb has been diffused then it's time to smile at the sunshine and breath deep.  
Notice MacGyver, he isn't holding on to that stress!

This group is going to do me lots of good.  I never felt I really needed it this much before but it's clear that the toxins were building and it's time to have a place outside my home to help me let them go.    

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Put Your Mask On

Earlier this year I attended a workshop in craniosacral therapy and found it to be totally amazing.  If I try to describe it then I sound like a crazy person but long story short, it rocks!  I've been wanting to take my kids in for a session every since.  Last week, after a month long waiting list, we finally got my son in.  See, I had heard it can help with SPD.  I love my boy's energy, his enthusiasm, and his amazing insights on life.  I also see his struggles and frustrations as he tries to control himself and finds that he is lacking in impulse control.  Everyone has struggles, and on this earth we are meant to struggle.  It's just that he struggles so much more than the average kid and so  I made the appointment to see if life could get a little bit easier for him. (I will update on how it worked another time.)

The session went well, I have never seen him so zen calm except when he is sleeping.  He would also have times when he would start stretching and flexing his limbs and give deep sighs, then back to total calm.  It was very interesting for me to watch and at the end of the session the CST told him that things should get a little easier.   Then he said "Mom, I think you need to get up here now."  I wasn't expecting it but I was happy for the offer.

So, pretty much instantly he said  that he needed to work on my adrenals.  Then, he asked me to drop all the things I was holding that were not serving my highest.  I don't know if he meant God, but that is how I heard it and thought, yes, why am I holding all these things?  Worries don't serve my Highest, and I realized that I was holding a lot more than I even knew.  I dropped them one by one with each breath.
I will still need to make sure I don't try to pick them back up again, I'm helpful like that.

My session was wonderful in ways I'm not really sure how to describe so again I will just say that CST rocks!   The most interesting part of my session was that word, adrenals.  When he said that my brain was like "ah ha!"  Other then meaning stress I wasn't sure what they did exactly.  Later that day I did some research.  Turns out they are affecting much more of my life then I knew.

I found an article on adrenal function or rather dysfunction that described my life pretty perfectly.
Get up, drink coffee... coffee...tired  Also, too busy for breakfast, scarf down something at 11 maybe, forget to eat again until I am starving at dinner time.    Most likely the afternoon coffee also has a high sugar item to boost me back out of zombie get the picture
What I learned was that when you are hungry your body goes into fight or flight mode, so if you already have a busy life and maybe your children spike your adrenalin multiple times a day, it really is best to avoid getting hungry.   Add to that a few cups of joe and you have a recipe for cortisol overload.

This constant state of "fight or flight" leads to a lower immune system, allergies (I've had tons recently for the first time in my life,) memory problems, and many other things.  It seems though that this is the normal and expected state of almost every american parent.

Now, I can't get rid of the stress of a meltdown from one of my children but I think I can remember to eat.  I'm actually programming my phone to remind me for the next week so I get in the habit (memory problem.)
I can  also do a better job  avoiding sugar when I'm feeling hungry or tired. I'm not giving up coffee completely but at least for now I'm going to not drink it after my morning brew.  I'm letting my body be able to feel reality, and if it's telling me go to bed at 8:30 then I probably should.  I will catch up on New Girl some other time.

So far, this not having coffee in the afternoon is leaving me yawning at soccer practice, and realizing I want to go to bed between 8:30-9:30 instead of my usual 11:30-12.  Also, because I didn't pump myself with caffeine, I get to do something about it.  I get to sleep! I don't feel like having a glass of wine to wind down, because I've been winding down since 4 o'clock.
I shared on Facebook that without my afternoon coffee I had uncovered that I was exhausted and needed to go to bed early.  I thought that if I got any reply it would be something to the tune of "way to go!" or "I need to sleep more too."  Nope!  I was met with encouragement to drink more coffee.

Why are we so against slowing down and resting?  I don't understand why we feel we must be busy and peppy to be successful mothers.  While I don't understand it, I do feel it.    There is a mom at the school who if you compared her with other parents,  looks like she is high.  I mean, not really, she doesn't have the glassy red eyes.  But she seems to be in this sleepy sort of state that after I thought about it today, I think is just what the dictionary would call RELAXED and not jacked up on caffeine.  She walks slower, talks slower, and has a presence of calm. Now what if, that mom is going at NORMAL speed and we are all racing on hyper speed.   I fear that is the case.  We need to learn from her!

Wouldn't it be great if we aimed for relaxed, balanced, healthy american, instead of super human, coffee chugging, task juggling, sick american?  What if instead of saying to that other mom how normal it is to be exhausted, what if instead we gave her tips to be less exhausted, or offered to swap childcare so we could both take a nap or get a massage?  Let's get creative and change the expectations.

Lets dare to slow down and take care of ourselves.  As the flight attendant says, "Put your mask on first and then assist your child."  We need to breath, we need to eat, we need to value our needs instead of sweeping them to the side.   If my child wanted to skip breakfast there is no way I would let that happen.  I would lecture them about how the body needs energy, the brain needs food to think, not to mention them feeling grumpy on an empty stomach.   So, why should I let myself off so easily?  Let's put our masks on, and that "oxygen" will make us better parents.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Staring at the sky

Recently I chaperoned my daughters 5th grade overnight field trip.  We hiked into a beautiful ancient forest and stayed off the grid in cabins surrounded by flowing water and 1,000 year old trees.   I had been looking forward to the trip from the moment I got word of it because in the forest is where I feel most at home.  

When we arrived we had to hike in about 3 miles, with backpacks, and 20 some children.  About 10 minutes into the hike reality hit me, this might not be the most refreshing trip for me.  Meltdowns began to happen, specifically with my child.  See, being in a tiny car for two hours, packed in the back seat with two extremely chatty girls, well that got my girl overstimulated. I figured that once she was out of the car she could calm down with the nature setting.  Nothing calms me down more than walking through the forest. However I soon discovered that if you notice every detail of every leaf, moss, mushroom, rock, dirt, and who knows what else... you can't turn it off.  It's exhausting to be walking at a fast pace through this environment.  There is so much more color and things to notice then our typical urban landscape.  She tried strategies like only staring at the backpack of the person in front of us..  They didn't work, it was too much for her.
Now, everyone is carrying their backpack and so I had it in my mind that she MUST carry her backpack too, but about half way through the hike I thought, why?  If this environment is so daunting on her senses, does she really need the physical stimulus of a backpack as well?   I decided no, that I could carry the backpack and maybe we would even enjoy ourselves a little more the rest of the way.  I was right, but one more thing.  Tony Attwood taught me that when somebody is overloaded, and you can't leave the situation the best thing to do is talk to them about their special interest, or rather let them talk to you about it.  So, I may have asked what the most interesting thing she learned from her Harry Potter secrets book was.  Sure enough, distracted  kid hiking at a good pace in record time.   

We finally got to the cabin and it was loud but I as so proud of my girl.  She found herself spaces that were more silent, she excused herself when needed, she took care of herself without my prompting.  It was awesome! I'm glad she finally feels confident enough to advocate for herself and get what she needs.   For so long I have been doing this because she had been to timid or unaware that others weren't also totally overloaded.  

There was one magical moment for us when went on a night hike with the class.  Walking into the forest with our flashlights and curiosity.  After going for awhile our guide said, "now turn off the lights and look up."  There was the amazing sky, it was glittering and full of dreams and beauty.  I felt like I could get lost in it.  My daughter came over and hugged me, and we just hugged and stared at the sky. Being that she is a sensory avoider, I don't get many hugs from her so this was a very special moment for us.    For that moment she was just my daughter, she wasn't someone I needed to look out for.  I wasn't on alert for signs of a meltdown.  I wasn't assessing the situation for triggers.  I was just holding my daughter and staring at the sky.  This both made me extremely happy and also sad.  How often am I in alert mode vs enjoying my daughter mode?   She has proven that she can advocate for herself and I think it was a realization to me that I need to turn off alert mode a lot more and have her be just my 10 year old girl, not my sensitive girl.   Awareness is fine, acceptance is great, but way less alert is a wonderful idea.  

Friday, September 6, 2013

Meet the teacher

Meet the teacher night, I used to always thought it sounded so exciting.  Like meeting Mary Poppins and stepping into a land of  glossy name tags on desks, fresh waxy crayons, the endless possibilities of blank paper.  However this year I was more like a weary burned out vet who had been told to report back to duty.

This week we went to meet the teacher night for my sons class.  I had already decided that I wasn't going to tell her about last years troubles, about the trips to the office, the depression, the complete dread of school.   I knew that my son wouldn't show this side to her right away, he would say hello happily and run off to play with his friends.  I decided that I would let her form her own opinion of what kind of kid he was and that maybe with a little luck she would somehow have whatever magic it takes to make him like school enough and not be bored out of his mind that he wouldn't get labeled a bad kid.  That was my plan, smile, say hello to the other parents, say things like "lovely to meet you," and get the heck out of there.

So, we walked in and my dear boy blasted past the teacher to tackle hug his friend. They went into some sort of puppy pack of happy boy energy and then eventually he came to say hello to the teacher.  He investigated the new charts on the wall, scarfed down some  fruit that was out on the table, and then he was out the door with some classmates tumbling on the hill.   He looked just like a happy kid who was excited for school to start.  It's kinda scary how he can turn it on and fake it so well.  Last year the school counselor couldn't believe he was depressed because he was so cheerful and pleasant when she spoke with him. He doesn't like people to know he needs help.  Just last week he tried to fool the optometrist about his vision.  The conclusion was that he needs glasses, but it took the Dr a long time and lots of tricks and tests before he could be certain.  So, last year when the counselor told me he seemed fine and that whatever I was seeing at home was "just a phase" my intuition knew there was more as I watched my son stop liking every single thing that gave him joy. He would mope and say things like "This life is so hard for someone like me."

  So as the kids were playing outside his new teacher asked me, "So, is he excited about school starting?"  Much to my surprise I heard myself saying, "No, actually he really doesn't like school.  He hated it last year and became very depressed, I know that you might not believe that a seven year old can get depressed, but they can and he did."  I went on to tell her how we looked into a Sudbury school but couldn't afford it, how we did a week trial of homeschool and that was my backup plan. I went on and on telling her exactly the opposite of everything I had planned.  Also I was spilling all of this in front of other parents who slowly backed away from the crazy woman.  It was like I could hear myself blurting out all the grimy details of last years war stories but I just couldn't stop myself, and part of me was thinking "shut up already."  However, something good did happen, she asked me questions like "what did the previous teacher do to fill his needs for movement in the classroom?" She seemed not terrified of my stories and seemed to be absorbing them with occasional questions to better understand.   I also found out she took a class on teaching boys and that she knows that school is not set up for them.  She gave me a glimmer of hope that this year could work and my stories didn't seem to shake her one bit.  She looked like somebody trying to figure out a puzzle as she listened to me and I think that is exactly what we will need to do.  Figure out my sons bag of tricks and help him to make sense of them all.

We drove home and I tried to talk up the teacher to my boy. I said things to my son about how fun it must have been to see all his buddies.  He didn't care, he still hates it, still doesn't want to go.  He is very much the apathetic teenager stuck in a 7 year old body.  He will go anyway, starting on Monday.  Maybe if he goes a week without being sent to the office he will start to trust it again to be a good place.  Perhaps if he can be given some heavy work for his busy body and some challenging quests for his buzzing brain he may even look forward to going to school.  Maybe... I can dream right?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bad ideas and scrubbing

Unlimited screen time was a terrible idea.  I couldn't have imagined just how early my son would wake up and just how much he doesn't care about doing anything else.  It makes me want to go extreme opposite and just lock up every electronic we have.  We could call it Summer Unplugged, it sounds like an awesome acoustic concert held in a big field but really it would be an horrible battle of misery and anger.   I'm not going there, but man do I want to!

In other news, my dishwasher broke.

That break in text was my moment of silence.  This summer we have had a chicken die, two fish, and now the dishwasher.  That last death just pushed me over the edge.  I do not find washing the dishes relaxing, I have tried rocking out to Black Eyed Peas and dancing around while scrubbing.  It was a little better but still hell.  Yep, I said hell.  I'm pretty sure that hell for me would be a never ending pile of dishes and no dishwasher. Maybe some spiders crawling around and milk chocolate everywhere (love chocolate, can't have milk.)
For now we aren't replacing the dishwasher, after all isn't it a fancy luxury item?  I mean I have a sink and hot running water.  I don't have to walk down to the well and pump my water and then boil it on the wood stove (My mom did this all the time when I was a kid.)  Still, I'm complaining anyway.

I considered paper plates that were from recycled paper and compostable.  Maybe plates made of corn that my chickens could eat?  Of course it would most likely be GMO corn and then my chickens would start giving me creepy mutated eggs and our whole family would grow extra limbs.  Nope, that wouldn't work.  Back to scrubbing.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Winging it

If you want to know how to get your child to sleep through the night you can buy maybe 10 different books on the topic and they all have totally different ideas on how to go about it.  Potty training- same thing.  If you have more than one kid then you know that what worked like magic for one child could have been a horrendous battle for the other child.  The truth is, we are all just winging it pretty much all the time.  Sure, we may get in a spell where something is working great but a change in the wind and suddenly our amazing method of parenting has to be tweaked yet again.

Just this summer I have had three different plans for Screen Time.  I'm still not sure which one has worked the best or if any of them really are superior to the others.  The first one was that they had to ask for it and I would approve it or not.  This turned to constant begging and pleading for more time and got to be exhausting.  Quickly I turned to little tokens in a jar that were automatically filled on Monday.  Each token was worth 1 hour of screen time and if it was past 4pm then you could spend them.  If you were out of tokens then you were done until Monday and family movie time didn't cost.  This turned into my son staring down the clock all day.  Ugging and grumping about how he was so bored and wished it could be 4:00.  Then when 4:00 came, if we were out doing anything fun at all, including swimming or going to the zoo he would suddenly realize that he was miserable and needed to go home immediately for screen time.  He would also blow through his tokens faster than his miser sister and so he would complain that he had no idea it had been three hours and he really only wanted to spend one token.   So once again I became worn down and exhausted from the 4'oclock token  method.

We have about 3 weeks of summer left and last week I read this article about The Sliver, and it seemed to make sense to part of my brain as a method for our family to try, plus a few weeks can't mess up my children too badly if they totally overdose themselves with screens right?  Today I announced that I want to do fun things like swim and go on day trips and play outside but that the new screen time rule is unlimited screen time for the rest of the summer as long as they will stop and go do those other fun things when I decide it's time for them.   I got a "YES!" and then my son quickly chugged his milk spilling it everywhere, raced to mop it up with a towel and made a mad dash for the computer.   Part of me is wondering what I have done and the other is enjoying not being nagged all morning about when 4:00 will be and why time is so slow.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Minecraft...gateway to socializing

Chances are if you have been around kids between the age of 7 and 12, then you have heard them talking about minecraft.   Creepers, zombies, pigs, and some guy named Steve seem to be the talk of the town for the under 5ft crowd.   I'm actually pretty sure that other age groups are talking about it as well but that happens to be the crew I run with, or rather drive around in my car.
What is this crazy talk about?  It's a game that is kinda like legos in that you can build anything you want, but it's also an adventure game.  You know exactly what to expect, and it sucks you into it's world and out of your own confusing real world.   It's addicting for sure.  Escaping from reality to a place that you pretty much build to your liking.   
Because of the known addiction factor I know some parents who won't allow there children to play it at all.  Perhaps they see it as a waste of time, or an anti-social behavior.   Those of you who know me personally also know that I limit screen time like a card carrying hippie (not that a hippie would carry a card, but anyway.)  I'm very pro art projects, reading, and imagination.   However, this is a game that I can get behind.   
I have a tween who until recently wasn't too into communicating with others.  That is not until this little thing called an Ipod touch entered her hands.  Now she is instant messaging kids from school, posting videos that she makes and emailing up a storm.  This virtual world is an easier way of communicating for people on the spectrum because there is no eye contact, confusing body language, or constant need for back and forth communication.  They have time to think, form there sentences, make sure there is perfection in the words, and then press send.  If you don't want to email or text back right away, you don't have to.  The communication is under your control and can be put on the shelf whenever you want. 

I met my husband on the internet, he introduced himself with an email and then we would " hang out" in a chat room for hours at a time.  He was a wonderful company, funny and clever and full of dreams and imagination.  I looked forward to our chats everyday and after "talking" to him like that for several weeks we talked on the phone.  It was very confusing.  I was certain that he was not interested in me at all.  He seemed distracted, bored, and very distant.  I started questioning everything that I had thought before and when the call ended I was almost certain that he would never talk to me again.   Then, he came into the chat room again the next day and all was normal.  I was perplexed.   11 years of marriage later and several books on aspergers read (I recommend Alone Together if you have an aspie spouse)  and I now know why our phone call went so badly.  I thank God that there was an internet or I'm not sure how we would have got to know each other.  Also, he lived several states away so really, the internet was pretty invaluable.   The window to our getaway car after our wedding actually said "Thank God for the internet" courtesy of the groomsmen.  

So it seems like I trailed off and forgot all about minecraft, but I haven't.  The face to face communicating for aspie kids (or adults)  is tricky business.   You have to plan it out and follow lots of unwritten social rules. It's a very tiring experience.   However, when you are talking about your very favorite thing ( currently MINECRAFT) you have no trouble at all knowing what to say.  You share tips, tell about adventures, discuss things you built and how to build them. It's not just the aspie kids who are playing either, that is the beauty of the game.  It's not like you need to be labeled a Star Trek nerd, or know about some unique type of anime that is in Japanese subtitles.  It's popular with all the kids and so it gives the aspie kids a gateway into conversations with kids that normally would have nothing in common with them.    The aspie kid can talk to the neurotypical kid for long amounts of time and nobody gets overwhelmed or bored.  They are both genuinely interested not only in what they are saying but what the other person has to say as well.   I know once the games popularity dwindles so may the friendship but the experience of communicating together will last and who knows maybe they will magically drift off the topic of mindcraft and discover other things they have in common. 

This past week my daughter went to a day camp with the theme being Minecraft.  They played the game together (teamwork), and played other games like hide and seek or tag but with a Minecraft twist.  She had a blast but the other thing that happened was that she started getting phone calls from the other kids in the camp and requests for playdates, to no doubt talk about and play the game.    If you have a neurotypical (non-aspie) tween girl then the phone call and playdate request are most likely not a big deal.  You may wish your tween would get off the phone but it's a rare thing in my house so I am excited about it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Don't wait for Ellen

Sadness is pretty much everywhere if you look for it, and even when you aren't looking it creeps up.  We had two pets die in past week.  Peeps was our favorite hen and she passed away on Friday and then last night we lost a goldfish.   I am sure that each of you have sadness in your life as well, and I'm not suggesting that we cover it up or try to pretend it's not there.  It's important to acknowledge it, let it have it's time but we can't stay there in it for too long. After it's had it's moment we need some cheer.  

I used to watch Ellen all the time, that woman is amazing at bringing on the cheer.  She surprises people with love and gifts and really makes life a party.  I'm not really a watcher of Oprah but I know she does the same type of thing.  Changing lives by simple acts of bringing cheer to people when they least expect it.  When they are deep in the sadness.   When I was pregnant with my son I had a severe case of morning sickness (I wish I would have known then about catnip tea.)  I watched a lot of TV, and a whole lot of Ellen.  My daughter, two and half at the time watched it with me. She would  set up her little chairs in our living room with stuffed animals and pretend to interview them.  The day LL Cool J was on she pretended to interview LLMNOP.  So cute!  She also pretended to be Michael from the office running a staff meeting.   Michael is a spreader of cheer as well! Awkward cheer, but still it is cheer.

So, what should we do when faced with a world of confusing sadness?  When things happen in our lives that we don't understand, or maybe they happen to our friends, or to people we hear about on the other side of the country or the world?  I say, we step up and be Ellen, Oprah, or even Michael Scott if you're a bit awkward.  All it takes is a need and an idea and you have got yourself a potential cheer explosion.

Now this next part I want to be clear is not a brag, it's more of an example of just how easy it can be to spread some cheer.  There is a beautiful family that goes to my church.  The mama of this family is in my bible study and let me tell you they are wonderful.
Not long ago they had been planning their first ever family vacation to Disneyland.  Then my friend discovered that there was new technology and a new therapy in Utah that could possibly allow communication with her son.  Now, Disneyland is special but obviously this was a lot bigger than Disney. The family decided to take the savings and instead use it on the therapy.  
Of course there is joy in a new tool for their son, but I know there was also sadness in having to cancel that trip.

We can't get rid of  all the sadness or stop every situation from happening, but this one seemed like maybe something could be done.   As I heard my friends story I felt led to do something, another friend of mine felt the same way.  She emailed Ellen and encouraged others to do so too.  I emailed Monkee See Monkee Do over at Momastery.  It didn't stop there though, because I know that Ellen and MSMD both have hands and inboxs that are no doubt overflowing.  This seemed like something that we could do.  The truth is that people are full of love, and people love spreading cheer.  Lots of them are just waiting for an invitation.  That is really all it took to turn a cancelled vacation into one that is happening later this month.
A couple announcements at church about the family and the fundraiser idea, a few emails, and a lot of love.
I'm happy to say that not only did my friend and I make this happen, it was actually easy to do.  Meaning, you can make things happen.  Anyone can make things happen and very simply change someones life and spread some cheer .  Everybody can be Ellen!  or Oprah! or Glennon or Choose Your Fav Philanthropist.
You don't have to be a super influential millionaire.  You just have to have an idea and the guts to put it into action.    I want to add that after we finished our fundraiser MSMD contacted me and they were so happy about what we did that they decided to chip in a Visa gift card as a bonus for their journey.   Wow!

I heard a story on NPR yesterday that actually lead me to write this blog post.  A regular woman in South Dakota was inspired by Oprah and thought she could probably do something to help too.  Through her one idea they now have a program for veterans where they can take a vacation with their family to a beautiful cabin in Black Hills, S.D. for free. When the guests arrive they don't have to spend a dime other than transportation costs. They are given coupons for free activities in the town.  The land was donated by the city, the leather furniture was donated by a couple who heard about the program and called her up, the blinds were donated by a family who lost their son in the war.  People came out of the woodwork and stepped up to help and add to her vision.  She just had to speak up, say "I have an idea..."   It can be scary to speak up, but it can do so much good.   You can listen to the story here, it's awesome.

I once heard the wise advice that if you are going to start a revolution you need one enthusiastic person and one very organized person.  If you have two enthusiastic people they will get really excited but never get anything done.  If you have two organized people they will have everything well planned but never pull the trigger on bringing it to action.   One of each and you get things going, organize them well, and set them into motion.  If you don't have a partner please don't let that stop you.  I think you can still do it and maybe a partner will step up along the way.  My friend who worked on the vacation surprise with me  was very organized.  I have maybe 1% of organizational skills in me.  I needed a partner and I'm thankful she was there.

So, what do you think...ready to spread some cheer?  It doesn't have to be a huge vacation, maybe you just want to hand somebody a candy bar when they are having a bad day.   Don't think about it too hard, most likely the idea will come to you.  It's up to you to listen and go with it.  

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bicycles and Swimming Pools

I live in a city that bikes. We have bike lanes, bike paths, and more bike stores than I can count.   Kids learn to ride almost as soon as they can stand up.  Families go on bike rides to the store, around the town, or by the river.  There are recumbent bikes where the rider sits back in a chair sort of thing, double tall bikes, unicycle riders (I am not kidding.)   It's like a bike circus out there on the streets of our town.  I am happy to say that my children can finally join the circus.

 I now have two bicycle riding kids in my house and while this may not seem like a big deal, or maybe it's coming across as braggy... I'm just really happy.  See, for the average kid who isn't dealing with sensory processing stuff and an awkward body that won't do what you want, riding a bike isn't a big deal.  You can maybe even master it when you are five.   For my kids it's a huge deal and I actually wondered several times over the past years if our family would ever be able to go on a bike ride together.  Maybe if we lived somewhere else it wouldn't be a big deal but there was always a peddling toddler whizzing by me at the park to remind me of what my kids were missing out on.  The fun of that foot powered machine and the breeze zipping across your face.  

When I was a kid I loved my bike.  I would ride it back and forth in a huge field in upstate NY and do tricks.  I watched PeeWees Big Adventure way too many times and made my parents call me PeeWeece when I would ride my bike.  NO HANDS! STANDING UP! ONE LEG OUT!   I was pretty awesome (super dorky.)  The point is, that bike brought me joy.  I lived far from other kids but I could spend my day happily speeding along without need of friends because I had my wheels.   It's kind of sad to me that kids who are socially awkward have to be bicycle awkward too.  I know they have lots of other things that bring them joy but I am happy that now my kids have bikes too.  

I taught them using a method I saw on YouTube that I would like to share.  It's very repetitive and although my girl went through every step (last year) my son this year would skip ahead on his own and I let him.  They know how many times they need to do each step so let them break the "rule" if they want.

Our next hope is for swimming... if anyone has tips for that please share.  We have tried lessons many times and almost had it but an incident happened and confidence was lost.   My plan is to hang out at the pool a lot and build that back up but I would be happy to hear if anything worked for you or your child.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

I'm hunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnngry

What if a mother decided  not to buy any processed snack food for the entire summer?  Would there be a riot? Would the children starve? Would the kids run around licking trashed Dorito bags from the dumpster? That is exactly what I did and what I am going to discover the answer to by September.

I had this thought, I live in Oregon, the best place on earth for getting fresh fruit and berries and veggies all summer long.  Why in the world am I feeding my kids processed carbs all day long?   I buy the organic "healthy" snacks.  However sugar and flour is still sugar and flour even if it's organic fair trade.

Next came my crazy idea, what if I just didn't buy it?  So I presented it to my husband and he also thought it was a good idea.  So now, this is what our pantry and kitchen has for snacks:
 (keep in mind we have been doing this for two weeks, we shall see if we make it till summer. I am hopeful.)

Every week we will go to the farm to pick out fruit and berries. I will also buy veggies and hope that the kids are starving enough to want them.  We will gather what we can from the land and our yard.

If we feel like it's time for a treat we will make it ourselves.  Today the kids helped me bake sandwich bread (with the bread machine) and donuts.  Did you know there is such thing as a donut pan?  I do now! Yumm.

If we need a non fruit/veggie snack we will make popcorn or have sunflower seeds or nuts.

Somehow we still have to get corn chips for Husbands salsa because he thought it absurd that he give that up.   I suggested he make them.... he looked at me like I'm crazy.   It's true, I am.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Countdown to Summer!

 Some parents are dreading the upcoming day when the school will no longer take their children from 8:30-2:45 each weekday.  They wake in a sweat at the impending doom of boredom and chaos. After that last bell rings it will begin. For weeks on end the children will tear through the house trashing it like little bandits and then demanding that you help them find their prized toy in the rubble.

    Call me crazy but I am looking forward to it.   It could be partly because each day my son moans and groans and protests the schools required attendance.  It could be because I dislike driving and my daily trek takes me 20 minutes across town each way.  Mostly though, it's because I love boredom and chaos.  It's the place where inventions are made, joy is found, and  people grow.

Without schedules and time we tend to squirm and get nervous. (Well, not me...but most people)   Next thing you know the kids are saying the B word (b as in bored, hopefully not the other one) and while it may make you want to scream, especially when it comes after "Mooooooooooooooom I'm sooooooo..."  I like to reply, "That is fantastic!"  People think of wonderful things when they are bored.  It means you have nothing stopping you from dreaming, no time line, no racing off to the next activity.  You can just sit, and think, and imagine!  It's really the best thing for a kid.   Now, they still groan and look at me like I have three heads when I say "fantastic," but when I walk away I usually find them engaged in something by the time I'm back in the room.
If I get several of the "I'm bored" comments then I start listing off housework.  That gets rid of them pretty fast!

This summer my plan is to not have a plan.  My kids do like schedules and I'm going to suggest they make their own schedule if comforts them to do so.  I'm just gonna roll with it.  My daughter is taking two short camps through our local ASD support place but other than that it's all water fights and deep sea adventures on the hammock at my house.  Blissful chaos!

Personally I hope to get a bit of reading in and drink a lot of iced coffee.  Iced coffee and reading really is the best thing to do for the summer.  Theme parks and long vacations are way overrated.  Plus, that was last summer... this one is the summer of boredom and I can't wait!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Be Still

"Be still and know..."  I can know, I do know.  I believe with my entire everything that God is God and He is in charge.  However, being still is really very difficult and the longer that I must do it the harder that it becomes.
I live in a society that is go go go! do do do!  It's only alright to be still in yoga for 45 minutes, three days a week and then it's time to multitask again.  Being still doesn't come natural to me anymore.
When I was a child I was fantastic at being still.  I mean, maybe I wiggled around a bit but I remember that my favorite place on earth was just sitting on a gigantic moss covered boulder and simply being still.  I didn't worry, I never tried to figure out plans or life or even what to do next.  I just sat there and enjoyed sitting.
Now I am a grownup and I feel an obligation to worry and plan and make things happen but I am pretty sure that I've got it all wrong and I was way better off sitting on my rock.

 "Then he said, "I tell all of you with certainty, unless you change and become like little children, you will never get into the kingdom from heaven." Matt 18:3

See, I had it all right to begin with and now I've gone and tried to be in charge of things and driven myself to having shoulders up to my ears and spending hours on the internet looking at cities and schools and houses for a move to somewhere that may never even happen.  It was set up to be so easy.  Let go and let God.   I see that little saying and I know that is what I want to do.  Then I go to my browser and open up craigslist house ads and obsess.  What is that drive in us to make things happen?  Sometimes even trying to force things to happen.  I also used to spend hours on adoption websites looking at children and imagining them fitting into my family.  I would get very emotional and stressed from this as well.  So badly wanting to make things happen but having it out of my control to do so.  (Husband isn't ready for our family to grow yet.)

My husband will be ending his work contract this week and I'm not fearing running out of money or becoming homeless.  I know God will provide something or if we run out of money and a home then we will have a new experience and learn something amazing. I love homeless people, maybe God wants me to love them even more?   Fear isn't driving me to search wildly on the internet for answers.  So what is it?  Why do I search?  I also search the pages of my bible and sometimes I get clarity but mostly I just get my mind off the situation.   Maybe that right there is the answer.  Don't think about it.  Be still.  A still mind that waits for something to move it instead of vibrating all around hoping something  will react to my vibrations and erupt into an answer.  I don't have conclusions, maybe that is the point of this post.  I'm simply acknowledging that I need to be still.  It won't be easy, but perhaps I can seek out a mossy boulder to rest on for awhile while I wait.   

Monday, March 4, 2013

Play in the street

Yesterday it was beautiful.  The sun was shining (winter in Oregon/rarity) and the flowers were popping up.  The weeds were popping up too and last summer I did an overhaul to take back the front yard.  I knew this was the time for waging war on the grass creeping in to my herb garden.

My children were also inspired by the presence of sunshine and dusted off bike helmets, scooters and bicycles. " Mom, can we go for a ride? Come on mom lets go".  But the yard was waiting, and the time of sun was fleeting.  Childhood is fleeting I told myself and started to take off my garden gloves and come along.  Something stopped me.  Maybe it was a distant memory of roaming my grandparents subdivision as a child.  That faint recollection of the thrill of independence and adventure.

"You can go without me"

I almost couldn't believe I said it, but at the same time I knew it was right.
My ever cautious daughter was certain I was kidding and it actually took some convincing that she and her brother would be just fine without me.  (My insides squirmed as I offered encouraging words to let her know they were ready and it would be ok.)  The truth is, I didn't know they would be ok. I don't know if my mother worried about me in the same way that I did yesterday.  Media has this whole "the world is dangerous, don't blink near your kids or they will be snatched or murdered" thing going so strong that even when I don't believe it, in the back of my head I totally believe it.  At the same time I know that this is good for kids, this taste of independence, this taste of trust. It builds them up.  Maybe they have to problem solve a bit without me, but that is what I want right?

It also wasn't as if I let them go wherever they wanted to, not yet, I am still not letting go too far.  I walked down the side street next to our home.  I went over the parameters they were free to roam, instructions on if someone gets hurt, and I was in the front yard.  If somebody yelled I would have heard it.
Then I went back and weeded, and worried,I prayed for protection and that I wasn't being an idiot by telling them to go.  I was also angry that I was worried.  I was worried what other parents would think of me.  I was worried that I made a horrible mistake and they would be hit by a car. (Sunday afternoon, families playing ball in the street, side street.)  

I grew up playing in the forest full of freedom, visiting my grandparents and being gone for hours.  Does anyone do that anymore?  Do all the children just stay tethered to parents and home?   These are questions that bounce in my brain.
 The biggest of my questions is, will I always have that whisper of worry and fear every time I let them out of adult supervision?  This is one I will be exploring and I will let you know how it turns out because even though it scares me I know it's so valuable for my kids.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Getting it ALL wrong

What if all the instincts and impulses that you had inside of you were considered socially unacceptable. Now imagine that your mind and body didn't yet have enough self control to stop you from doing them. Your neurotransmitters just couldn't send things fast enough to tell yourself to stop.   Everywhere you went people would tell you that you were doing it wrong. " Nope, not that way."  "Oh careful, not that." "SLOW DOWN!"  "Oooh you messed up AGAIN!"
How long would it be until you broke.  How many times could you hear your name in THAT tone of voice that says "you screwed up!"  before you either stopped caring or just lost your joy all together?   I fear for my little guy that we are dangerously close to this place, if not already arriving.  I have been witnessing the joy dwindle from him, first in small amounts, and now in a way that seems at times like despair has set in.

  Last week I  talked with his teacher (who is amazing and wonderfully gentle in his corrections.) I got  advice from the school counselor after having her meet with him (because when your son no longer wants to play with his Legos, you take it serious.)  Things that were suggested included a light box since we live in the northwest and the sun doesn't like to be around this time of year. Maybe a session or two with a play therapist?   It was suggested that maybe this was a stage and it would blow over.   I hoped for the latter, and we turned on our Happy Light at breakfast time for a few days.  Then I did some thinking and I tried to put myself in his shoes.  That is what the first paragraph was all about.   Constantly doing the wrong thing, not planning to do the wrong thing, not wanting to do the wrong thing.  (this kid sits and draws during choice time so he won't unknowingly do the wrong thing and get into trouble.)  It has to be crushing for him and I think his new sullen attitude is a product of this.

I googled "play therapist" to see if we had one in the area.  Then I thought about play.  I got a random idea and this is what we are trying, and I think I am seeing results of a happier kid. Long term I am not sure this is going to work but I'm taking it a day at a time.  The plan is:  Short burst of one-on-one time with my son (husband is doing this with him too) where we have fun and no matter what he does, we don't correct him.  It's a time when he can do no wrong, we just play and have fun.  He wrestles me to the ground, or we play a board game, or whatever, but NOTHING he can do gets him a correction or even a scowl for the duration of that playtime.  (My goal is 30 minutes)  The rest of life goes on as it did before except that window of fun.  

My hope is that those times will bring his joy back and we can keep working on ways he can help himself be successful at self control so that he won't have to hear as many corrections.  He wants to follow the rules, that is obvious to me, but his little body and mind are just too full of Tigger to make it happen.

 However, I kinda think that the hundred acre woods weren't as fun until Tigger moved in.
(perhaps we need to move to the woods and homeschool?)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Peace that passes understanding

Almost a year ago I found my escape world.  A place where I could go to grow stronger, and work so very hard that my body would quake like a California fault line and my mind would stop jumping and racing and simply focus on not falling over or collapsing.  It was the ballet that I loved as a child, the yoga that I found relaxation in as a collage student, and the pilates that I knew my 2 times pregnant tummy needed. Sometimes it is a place of prayer, it started with a very serious "please Lord don't let me pass out or fall over." and overtime it became deeper than that.  

     Barre3 is the place I can go where I don't feel guilty for escaping, and despite the insanely hard work, it is a break from my busy mom reality and it keeps me calm.   Recently I have been thinking more about what my children need to keep calm.  What space can we create? What things would help them reach that place.
I created a soothing sensory zone under my sons loft bed. After a trip with my Mom to the magic land of IKEA I ended up with a duvet cover and a ton of pillows to fill it with.  We decked it out with white Christmas lights overhead and more and more pillows.  Both the kids use the space (individually) when they need to find the calm.  Usually they bring a comic book in with them for the ultimate happy place.

     What else though? I'm sure that isn't enough.  How can they find peace at school? On a car ride? At a friends house?   It's great to have a physical space, or an activity that we do that brings us peace but what we really all need is to have that peace inside us.  A place we can go without leaving the room.  Sometimes I feel like I can do that.  I can take that deep breath and have that peace. People comment on it sometimes, how I am so peaceful and calm.  It's true that I am filled with a calm spirit but it's not my own.  I am happy to have it there in me.  Sometimes I have trouble finding it there when it's really crazy.  I want to show my kids how to find it when life is overwhelming (when isn't life overwhelming?)

  I think the trick might be as simple as acknowledging that that calm spirit is within you.  It may not be you, your life may not be calm at all, but that spirit, it's there breathing slowly and just waiting for you to welcome it. Your busy life and jumpy mind may push it away again, brush it off for another time, but there it is always, patient (of course) waiting for you.  

     I'm not sure I can teach my children this, telling them about it just isn't enough.  I can model it but I think they will have to seek it out, make their own discoveries of what dwells within them.  Until they find it I can provide a squishy soft lit place under the loft for them to read.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Good Family

Family, (a good, solid, loving family) takes you as you are.  They may encourage you to soar a little higher, but they don't judge. They love you even if you are sitting on the floor in the back of the room  instead of in a row of chairs next to them.  I love my church family.
Today we (myself, son, and daughter) sat on the floor in the very back of the building (church is in a middle school gym) because the sounds of our amazing worship team were too loud for one of my children.  The service has become longer for the kids so they can spend more time worshiping with our entire church family. This means that my other child needed to wiggle and be squished by climbing under my legs and behind me and all around.  Silently my child squished  into a comfortable and peaceful place.  
What I love, and am so thankful for is that I did not get one single judgmental look from anyone.
That, is a good family.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

January Fever

     Our family,( like many others this time of year) got hit by the flu.  The day before we started going down like a family of dominoes, I read about a speaker who was coming to talk to parents in our area.  Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity  Parenting would be speaking.  I had heard of some parents I know reading the book but I wasn't totally familiar so I did a google search to find out more.  I stumbled across an article that mentioned a soul fever.       This idea made sense to me, it intrigued me, and I thought I understood it. Then we got the body fever an our family had several days of  despair, and sickness to remind me just how much we hide away and rest when the flu hits.   I didn't question that what my children needed was extra love and comforting, it was obvious.  I wasn't about to push them to run to the grocery store with me or hurry up.  I let them follow their instincts of curling up, hugging mama, and sleeping.  The world outside our home could wait.
     Now we have come from the of the piles of blankets and tissues and slowly entered back into the waiting world.  Nothing was ruined by our absence, nobody horrible offended that we didn't show up for anything.  Society respects a body fever, they expect you to stay away.  Does society respect a soul fever though?  I think it surprises and puzzles them a bit.  I have had my daughter skip a party, step out, or leave early from a function and I do get looks of surprise and confusion.  I know that my girl isn't the only one who has moments when she just need to step out from the action, we all do. I dare us all, myself included to be brave and say "no" to things.  To leave when our child is melting down, and not scold them for ruining our outing but instead comfort them like we would if they suddenly had a fever of 103.
     The more of us who show this respect for the soul fever the more society will see it as normal.  We can all become more gentle and kind.  I have a feeling if this was done by all, we would see a lot less fevers popping up.