Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Great Idea For Your Child's Next Birthday!

Last year, my son went through a duck phase.  As in, one day, he walked up to me in all seriousness and said, "I think it's time we got a duck."  Like it's been on his to-do list for ages and he had put it off for far too long.

"Baby, where are we going to put a duck? A duck needs water.  We don't live close to water."

He scrunched his nose at me in the way that he does that makes him look slightly like a shar pei and said, "he can live in the bathtub, right?"

I took a deep breathe and thought for a moment.  There was no way I was going to let him have a duck.  Uh-uh. We already have a dog, two cats, a guinea pig, two hermit crabs and a fish.  But I didn't want to crush his spirit either.  "Honey, we have to think about what's best for a duck and he wouldn't be happy living in a tiny, little bath tub."

Then I deflected.  "But lets go downstairs and see how much bread we have and we'll go feed the ducks at the park!" He ran down the stairs and I rubbed my forehead and thought, "whew, dodged that bullet!"

A few weeks later, after his morning constitution, he came out of the bathroom holding a World Vision catalog.  "I know what I want to do for my giving birthday!"

We have a tradition in our family, when each of our children turns 7 years old, we have a giving birthday where we have a party but they forgo gifts from friends and instead collect items for someone else.  Our oldest daughter collected items for a homeless shelter.  My son had a completely different idea.

"I want people to buy ducks as my gifts!" he said.

Through World Vision, people can buy ducks and give them to poor and starving families around the world, mostly those who live in flood prone areas. Hey, you can buy a goat but a goat won't float!  These ducks help in many ways.  Their eggs provide protein for the families; the down can be used as thermal insulation and padding and extra eggs can be sold to buy clothes, medicine and even send children to school. One duck can be life changing for a family and even a community!

After checking to make sure that he understood these ducks were not going to be showing up at our doorstep and he would not in fact be the proud new owner of a gaggle, I hugged him and told him how very proud I was of his generosity.

His party was at a science center and all of his friends came with cards that said, "three (or five) ducks have been donated in your name." In all, he gave almost 30 ducks to needy families.  He still has the collection of cards.  In a way, he got his ducks after all and he will always have them.

 Setting aside one birthday to give to others teaches a huge lesson in sacrifice and generosity.  It also helps distinguish between wants and needs.  We still give our children one gift from us and they enjoy the party and their friends.  The cost of donating ducks was only $18 and nobody that donated thought it was too much.  Inn fact, they commented on  how reasonable the price was and how they actually spent less than they would have buying a regular gift!

You can give all kinds of animals, clothes, clean water, shelter, education and medicine.  All for less than what it would cost you to buy a large box of leggos. It's a win-win.  Your children as well as children around the world, get something valuable out of the whole experience!

I have found that when I plant this idea as a seed in my children's minds, they come up with the most creative, amazing ideas! Ideas I would have never considered.  So the next time a birthday rolls around, inquire of your children's thoughts.  Chances are, they'll surprise you!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Sour Taste Of Humble Pie

Sometimes as parents we are shining examples of how to behave.  We are patient and kind and never act out of anger, frustration or exhaustion.

But most of the time, we're not. This was the case today when instead of teaching my daughter how to act in compassion and love, I showed her what a google image search of "out of control mother" looks like.

I'm happy to report that I've made it all summer being home with these kids without losing my cool but today was just too much. They are going back to school in exactly one day and apparently, that was one day too long because one finally grabbed a hold of the steering wheel and drove me right into crazy town.

I hate it when that happens.  It makes me feel like a horrible parent.

My youngest daughter took my phone...for the gazillionth time. She loves to pretend that she's "texting" on it by sending messages to either me or my husband.  Turns out that a 5 year old's writing skills translate well to texts.  So when she writes, "can I wtch tv latr ples", we totally get what she's saying.

The borrowing of the phone in of itself wasn't an issue.  It was that she lost it...for the gazillionth time.  The girl can't remember where she left her shadow much less anything that isn't permanently attached to her body.  Then she had the audacity to give me a diva punk face when I told her that it was her responsibility to find it.

Up until that point, my anger had been a contained fire, simmering safely behind my self-control.  But that diva punk face was the equivalent of throwing a bucket of pig fat and a gallon of lighter fluid on it at the same time.

I yelled and carried on in ways that every parent reading this has done when that switch flips and the only reasonable thing to do is pull your hair out in fistfulls.

It wasn't pretty. I believe her exact words were, "you guys are the worst parents in the whole world!" Imagine a gorilla screaming that while flinging feces and pounding it's chest and you'll get the picture.
I'm not a bad parent but at that moment she totally called me out on my crap and she was absolutely right! It wasn't my finest hour.

After we both marched into our respective bedrooms and slammed our doors (oooh menopause and the teen years are going to be a BLAST!), I had some time to think. And I felt awful.  I had really over-reacted and messed things up.  Instead of being an example of how to handle a stressful situation, I showed her how to let her anger get the better of her.

But all was not lost.

I still had a choice. I could still be mad and refuse to back down; after all, she had been the one who started the whole thing!  Or...I could redeem myself as a good parent and set an example that even though we all mess up, what's most important is that we acknowledge our mistakes, take responsibility for them and apologize.

And that's exactly what I did. I tucked my tail between my legs, marched into her bedroom, sat down on the floor and said, "Mommy really handled that badly! I'm so sorry!" She ran into my arms and immediately apologized too.

My mom never, ever, once honestly apologized for all of her mistakes and it drove me crazy that she heaped that responsibility and guilt on me.  Her inability to apologize permanently stymied our relationship.  It made me stubborn and set me up to struggle with being humble in my mistakes. I don't want that for my kids.

I think it's fantastic when we do all the right things as parents. A good example is a powerful thing.  But it's just as powerful to show your kids that we aren't perfect, that we make HUGE mistakes, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and own up to them.  My daughter is guaranteed to make bad choices in life but hopefully after today, she's learned  a little bit about how to recover from them.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Special Blessings For Parents of Special Needs Kids

I recently had a conversation with a woman who has a son with autism.  He was diagnosed late and struggles with many issues she believes would not have been such a burden for him had he been diagnosed sooner.

He is rigid, has no sense of others and can be violent.

She was telling me of a recent trip of theirs to Hershey Park.  They stopped to have some burgers and fries at one of the food booths and without provocation, her son took it upon himself to bring french fries and ketchup for everyone at the table.

She choked up as she said this because while it may seem like such an insignificant thing to many, to her, it meant the world because he'd never done anything like that before.  "He actually thought outside of himself," she said with a smile.  "I started crying right there in the middle of the amusement park!"

I can relate to this in such a big way.  I too have felt that overwhelming feeling of joy when a child you love so much, does something that you never knew if they'd ever do.  When you live in a world of special needs, you learn not to take anything for granted.  You pretty much keep your eyes fixed on the prize, nose centered perfectly on the grindstone, teeth gritted and knuckles bleached.

So when they look you in the eye or get the butt of a joke or learn something you thought impossible, it takes a moment to realize what just happened but then you stumble over it, take a second look and realize that you aren't dreaming. That just happened.  All of those hundreds of hours of effort have meant something.  And somehow, even if it's something's as simple as a gleam in their eye or a word spoken, it's all worth it.

It's easy to feel sorry for yourself when you have a child with special needs because you look around and wish that your child could do the simple things their peers can do.  How great would it be to be able to go to the supermarket without worrying that the lights or sounds or air would be too overwhelming?  How wonderful would it be to go somewhere without a medical bag or medication?  How amazing to be able to be free of specialists and doctors and diagnosis?

But those are things that many of us can only dream about.  The reality is that we do have children with special needs and while some think it to be an impossible task, we parent them with love and fierce advocation.  And as terrific as it would be to be a parent with a "normal" child, we are blessed to be parents of children with special needs.

While all parents rejoice at their children's accomplishments, it's sweeter for us.  There is so much more to savor; each moment, each expression, each word is a triumph of epic proportions.  So much of what we enjoy as life-changing moments of joy, many parents overlook.  It's not because they don't care, it's because they have never spent months wringing their hands wondering if their child would ever look them in the eye.  Or be alive.

It's not something you can understand unless you've experienced it.  So yes, our jobs are in many ways harder! We struggle with much more than others have to but our rewards are that much greater. That feeling of relief, amazement, happiness, giddiness and redemption is so much sweeter. With each milestone being that much harder to achieve, we get to savor them individually and with great fervor.

So yes, we may seem a little strange as we jump up and down, scream and cry in the middle of an amusement park.  But our son just brought us french fries.  And as far as we're concerned, we just won the lottery.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Strong Finish

A few of you have asked so I wanted to let you guys know that while I had some concerns, my daughter did fantastic on her triathlon on Sunday.

She woke up raring to go and was super excited.  Part of this was because she was confident.  The other part of this was because we promised her that we'd buy her a Katy Perry app for the iphone if she promised not to throw a fit in the middle of the competition.

I'm not above bribery.  There, I said it.

She was the last to finish the swimming portion but she wasn't too far behind her group and she didn't quit.  Her transition was smooth and she headed out on the 2 mile bike ride without a problem.  It had rained that morning but thankfully, while many a couple of children took nasty falls down a hill when they hit some mud, she took her time, was extra careful and made it out unscathed.

It wasn't the Olympics.  It wasn't even a serious competition but I have to admit, it was crazy fun and exciting to cheer her on from the sidelines!  We whooped, we hollered, we clapped and screamed "you can do it!"

The bike race wiped her out and she wasn't too excited to do the run but thankfully, a volunteer ran beside her the entire final leg.  She cheered her on and motivated her the entire way.  I was so grateful for this woman because I don't know if she could have finished without her.  She came across the finish line strong; sweaty but strong :)

The best part? She felt like a rock star! I was so proud of her! That sounds like such a simple statement for a feeling that felt so big.  She did it.  I'm the mother of a triathlete :)

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Gateway Drug Of The Internet

Unbeknownst to our children, my husband and I routinely sync our apple devices (phones, ipads, touch) so that we can share downloads and calendars.  What this does, in essence, is give us a big brother view of everything our kids are doing on the electronic devices because they often use our phones and ipads.

They're not old enough to understand this so when we question them about a game they were trying to play on the down low they look at us with mouth agape and say, "how did you know that?"

Instead of explaining we say, "because we know everything.  We have eyes everywhere and they're always watching you!"

Someday when they're grown up and struggling with uncontrolled paranoia and searching for answers via the internet, they are going to stumble across this blog and it will suddenly all make sense.

So after a recent sync up, we got notified that our daughter had downloaded an app called "Plumber Crack."  If you haven't had the pleasure of hearing about this before, it's a game where an animated plumber is crouched under a sink and his giant butt crack is showing out of his pants.  The object of the game is to chuck an ice cube into his moving and sorry to say, hairy crack.

If you succeed, you get points and the man wiggles his butt in an ( I'll admit) pretty hysterical way.  Anyway, my husband sees that she downloaded the app, elbows me in the ribs and says, "Do you see what YOUR daughter just downloaded?"

After he and I played the game for a few minutes and laughed uncontrollably *cough*, we realized that apps such as these are like what the marijuana of the drug world is to the porn of the internet world.  They are a gateway to the seedy underbelly of the internet, a one track course to the disastrous destruction of our children's innocence.

Okay, so maybe I'm getting a little carried away and overly suspicious.  It's just a stupid butt crack game after all, I know that but the point is because it seems so seemingly innocent, it blurs the lines of appropriateness.  If we say it's okay for her to download a game like this then we open the door to the kids pushing the envelope even further and before we know it, we end up in a predicament.

Technology is making it virtually impossible for parents to draw the line.  It used to be simple: no television in the bedroom, no computer in the bedroom, no cell phones.  But then comes along something like the Nintendo DS that make it easy for kids to (and we didn't know this when we bought it) chat wirelessly or browse the internet.   Now they know what's out there and before you know it, they're making videos and sharing them with friends.

After we got our ipads, the struggle got even worse.  Lets face it, an ipad is virtually irresistible to a kid with all of the great, amazing education apps out there we were happy to let them use it.  Problem is, all it takes is a quick browse of the app store and they are finding a plethora of things that raise the hairs on the back of our necks.

It's clear that we can't keep them away from technology.  Banning such things isn't going to teach them how to be responsible. In effect, that would only make them even more attractive.  I suppose the only answers are to stay on top of every single thing they do (talk about a big job) and educate, educate, educate.

While we've always taught them about being safe online, it's becoming increasingly important to stay on that topic.  With so many new things available for curious little eyes, it's important to not only keep informed but to have a firm grasp on what we will and won't consider acceptable in our family. Problem is, we don't always have the right answers to what is and isn't acceptable.

Boy, it was so much easier for my parents when I was growing up.  Carpal tunnel syndrome was the biggest danger I was in from playing Pac Man on my Atari 2600. Oh and maybe picking up the phone to call a friend and hearing something inappropriate on our party line!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Growing Pains

I'm not going to lie to you.  I totally don't miss things like wiping poopy butts, zipping and unzipping of pants or tying shoes.  Sure, those are the delights of having a child but when you have three (or more) children, those little delights turn out to be tiny little speed bumps set right in your way so that you trip over them and land smack on your face almost every single second of the day.

And what used to be cute and sweet just gives you occasion to roll your eyes into the back of your head where you see a little man screaming and pulling out his hair saying, "for goodness sake, why didn't you just freaking buy the velcro sneakers for crying out LOUD!"

When my kids got old enough to buckle themselves into the car or dress themselves in a mostly acceptable way, I breathed a sigh of relief.  And suddenly the tiny little speed bumps started to be spaced further and further apart until one morning after waking up late (and by late I mean a quarter to seven), I walked downstairs to find my oldest standing at the stove slinging eggs which when finished, she plated with a side of cinnamon toast and a smiley face made out of ketchup. The youngest two sat quietly at the kitchen table, swinging their dangling feet and waiting patiently for their breakfast.

People, she had already made my coffee and I was just about to sing "good golly hallelujia" when I suddenly started to feel obsolete and unnecessary.  It took a minute of me sitting and blowing on my hot, freshly made coffee to talk myself down from that ledge.

"They still need you.  They still need you.  Who is going to wash their clothes? Without you they'd be crusty and stinky in less than 36 hours.  You're still needed."

Of course, they need me for more than just laundry.  I still get to kiss boo boos and scare away monsters that cause middle of the night nightmares.  I'm still very much a necessary and relevant part of their lives.  I always will be but things are definitely changing.  That neat arrangement we once had where I did everything and made decisions without question is now under construction.  We now have to accommodate a variety of personal preferences and political beliefs (my youngest is vehemently opposed to any child labor that involves picking up toys or clothes.) I have to handle their growing independence and by extension, my growing fears towards said independence.

I have to keep reminding myself that if my mom were alive today, I would still need her, now more than ever and my kids will always need me too.  Our relationship will undoubtedly evolve over time and while that will take some adjusting, it will prove to be rewarding to watch them grow up into capable, independent individuals.

For now, though; I'm going to savor every orange they can't peel, every wrapper they can't open and every problem that requires a desperate cry for "Mom!"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Beds and Meds

So, what have I been up to this week, you ask?  Well, mainly two things: re-decorating my oldest daughter's bedroom and weathering the storm of her taking adhd meds for the first time.

Both have been equally exhausting.

Last Sunday, I made the mistake of pointing out that someone was selling a cheap and in very fine condition bunk bed that would look perfect in her bedroom.  The idea of it was about as irresistible to her as a spotlight is to a Kardashian.

And so began the torturous process of cleaning her room that looked less like a place for sleeping and more like a place for dumping nuclear waste. The trash in there was epic! The smell coming off the dirty clothes that were stuffed into nooks and crannies was noxious.  On the plus side, I found 40% of the dishes that had gone missing from my kitchen.  Spoons and cups and bowls littered the underside of her bed, her closet, the space between her dresser and the wall.

It took an entire day of 5 people working round the clock to clean, sort and empty her room.  After the walls and baseboards were scrubbed and her carpet shampooed we finally had a blank slate but then began the arduous task of piecing everything back together again.  On the plus side, because it was 99 degrees outside and the humidity was enough to choke the life from our lungs, we were happy to have something to do inside.

And like I mentioned, she finally began that course of adhd meds.  We had a delay due to our incompetent mail pharmacy but she finally started.  Day one was a dream come true.  Day 2, 3 and 4, not so much.  While she is super focused, she is also super hyper.  Imagine flinging a small rubber ball in a room made of concrete and that's what she's been like.

She was never like this before.  Sure, she was inable to concentrate but this- this is out of control.  On the plus side, she doesn't have the side effects I was afraid of (insomnia, stomach problems, anxiety).  The meds work really well for a few hours and then the hyper comes on in full force.  It's like the meds cap her adhd much like you would a bottle of soda and then shake it up a bit. When they wear off, the bottle un-corks and everything comes spewing out and it's a giant, explosive mess.

The doctor's recommendation? Up the dose.  Say wah?

They reassure me that this is all natural.  These things take trial and error and I do believe them.  I know that right now really sucks but that things will get better and when I look back, I'll say, "wasn't that the pits but I'm glad I pushed through."  This reminds me of those last few hours of labor when the pain is so intense that you think you'll never make it and you still have to push.  It seems impossible.  You're already spent and you haven't even reached the hard part yet.  I know there is reward in the end and I'm trying to focus on that, trying to reassure myself that I need to remain calm; not panic, not worry.

If I had the unwavering conviction of someone who is adamantly for the drugs this would be easier.  The only thing keeping me going right now is the hope that one day in the not so distant future, she is going to turn to me and say, "my life is so much better now."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Fun

I'm so enjoying my summer, people.  I never want it to end.  Seriously...having my kids home all day, relaxing, going to the beach, picking fresh berries, spending countless carefree hours with friends.  What's not to love.

I might have to go into a seasonal depression when September arrives.  It will be the only way I can express my true grief over the end of the summer.  I haven't always been a summer lover.  Mostly because it meant hauling around three sticky, sweaty, grouchy kids in the heat and humidity of summer.  But now, they are at that perfect age...the age where they can find their own flip flops and take a dip in the ocean while I watch from a close distance and sip a frozen margarita.

Interestingly enough, we didn't spend any big bucks on vacation or summer camps this year and yet, it's been the most fun ever!  We've had campouts and cookouts and playdates.  There have been sleepovers and day trips, fireworks and family.  We've laid on the shore and "hiked" to the the highest point between Florida and Maine and summer is only half way over.  Most of our outings have cost zero dollars and it just goes to show that you don't need a fancy, expensive vacation to have fun!

What have you done this summer that was super fun yet didn't cost a thing?  Please share and give us some ideas!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It's So Hard To Medicate Your Child

A couple of summers ago, my oldest daughter was diagnosed with ADHD.  Nobody wants to hear their child has anything wrong with them but for us, it gave us a sigh of relief because it confirmed that there really was something going on with her.

Up until that point, ADHD had proven an elusive thing, like a ghost haunting us that we could sense but not see.  The diagnosis meant we could deal with the issue in a productive way.  It was a blessing because the tension in our household, the parenting struggles and even the problems in school significantly decreased once we knew what we needed to do.

Don't get me wrong, it's not easy.  Parenting itself is difficult but adding something like ADHD just adds extra complications that make parenting a marathon of endurance and patience.  This is why I cut myself so much slack when I'm judged as a parent.  I do lots of things wrong but I'm dealing with a lot more than most people (adhd, anxiety disorder, autism).  And the fact that I have any desire to put one foot in front of the other with a positive attitude is a huge accomplishment in of itself.

This summer we've made a big decision, one that has my stomach turning with stress: we've decided to medicate our daughter.  It was suggested to us when she was diagnosed that the challenges of middle school would be greatly eased by medication.  I figured we'd cross that bridge when we came to it and here it is.  The creaky, rusty bridge looms directly ahead in the form of 5th grade.

The anxiety is already heightened for both of us.  I know that she'll get by without the meds but it will be a daily struggle.  So, what's the right thing to do?  In a way, we are lucky that my husband has adult ADD.  He can see the problem from a totally different perspective and his recommendation? Do the meds.

He has seen how his life has dramatically changed for the better since taking medication and he knows that he would have never struggled so much through school if he'd had a little help.  He wants something different for our daughter.  He wants her to have some sense of normalcy.

I took her to the doctor and got a script.  It's still sitting in my pocket book because it's terrifying to give your child a controlled substance.  I'm scared of what it will do to her and feel  a cauldron of emotion is stirring up inside of me.  This could be the best thing for her but I could also be giving her something that causes her stomach aches, hallucinations, sleep deprivation and anxiety.

Obviously, I would immediately stop the meds if she had those side effects and the summer is the best time to try to find the right drug for her so I need to get this show on the road but damned if it's not hard to hand her that first little pill.  I'll be keeping a journal to see what changes (good I hope) that happen and pray for the best.  It's times like these when we have to put our faith in God and say, this is something that I cannot control.  This is bigger than me and only God can handle it.  I know he will.  He knows the plan even if I don't and I trust that everything will turn out the way it's supposed to.  It's at this time I need to let go of the rope, close my eyes and wait for him to fly me there.

If you are a believer, we could really use some prayers now.  Pray that God give us the wisdom and discernment to make the right choices for her, that the medication is able to help her concentrate and be less impulsive without stealing the fire from inside of her and that she will not experience terrible and debilitating side effects.

Thank you so much!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Learning to say "No"

My kids get out of school tomorrow and I am SO excited! This year has really kicked me in the butt and I'm so ready for rest and relaxation.  Plus, I miss my kids.  They are gone all day at school.

I'm guessing they will be driving me crazy after a week but it's still going to be great to have them around fighting and touching each other, running in the house and not asking permission to use each other's toys.  No really.  It's going to be great because at least there won't be an alarm clock nagging at me and lunch boxes hungry to be stuffed and backpacks waiting to be checked.

Nobody will be searching for a sock at half past a second before the bus comes.  We can sleep in and when the kids wake up, they can pile in my bed and watch cartoons before breakfast. It'll be nice to have nowhere to be and nothing to do because I'm running on empty and I need a break.

I need to be better at balancing my life, at helping out where I can but not over-involving myself in things that take time away from me and my family. This last year I was an epic fail in that department. I was room mom for two kids, did PTO fundraisers, helped run a daisy girl scout troop and shuttled kids around to seemingly endless activities. All of those things are pretty normal kinds of mom things but I always end on taking more than what is necessary.

My husband had work and boy scouts and golf and meetings and travel and so many times we couldn't even have a basic family dinner because one of us has to be somewhere by 6pm.  It was all a misappropriation of our priorities if you as me.

I need to be better at this and set an example for my kids. 

Meetings that interfere with family dinners should be banned.  Sleepovers that interfere with church? Outlawed!  Anything, and I mean anything short of emergency surgery or sudden death, that interferes with date night, should be shot, stuffed and hung on a wall as a display of our victory over inconsequential distractions.

When I imagine myself on my death bed (I don't do that often, that would be creepy- but for the purposes of this blog lets pretend I do), I don't imagine myself saying:

"If only I had devoted more time to PTO meetings.  If only I had let my kids take more swimming lessons."

No, first off, I don't want to have any regrets when I die but if I do have any, I would bet that they would revolve around not spending enough time being in the present or spending too much time doing useless stuff or spending too much time being angry.

I want to give myself the permission to not only say "no" but not feel guilty about it. Can I hear an "Amen!"

Honestly, this is not without sacrifice.  We are going to have to let some things go.  It might be painful.  There might be temper tantrums and crying and bargaining going on.  And don't even get me started on what the kids will be doing!

Monday, June 4, 2012

3 Year Old Asked Kicked Off Airplane For Refusing To Wear Seatbelt

Did you guys see the recent story about a 3 year old boy who was booted off of an Alaskan Airlines plane for refusing to wear his seat belt?

The Daily News reported that the child's father had been asked a few times to fasten his son's seat belt but the boy was fussy, didn't want to wear it and wanted to be closer to his father during take-off.  After several attempts by the flight staff  to convince the father to buckle the boy up, the pilot taxied the plane back to the airport and the family was asked to get off of the plane.

In an interview, the mother said they were treated like "criminals" and the dad said his family's plane exit was "embarrassing." Undoubtedly it was.

When our kids were younger, my husband and I avoided plane rides like the plague.  This was because:

A. We have three kids which means we are grossly  outnumbered.
B. We know our children and while they are good kids, 2 and 3 year olds do have a propensity towards being unpredictable and mind numbingly difficult.  That was something we just really didn't want to have to deal with.  We didn't want to put ourselves or anyone else in that situation.

Still, it's not realistic to completely avoid air travel when you have little kids.  Situations arise when you simply must travel.  When my mom died we flew from Connecticut to Colorado for her funeral.  We tried our best to plan well, fly during times when the kids would be well rested and fed. Our trip out was fine.  The older kids (ages 5 and 3 at the time) sat nicely and watched a movie. We brought many snacks and they had fun with the novelty of the whole thing.

But the trip home was the stuff of nightmares.  The airline delayed our flight by 8 hours which meant that we sat in the airport for nearly 9 1/2 hours waiting and trying desperately to keep three kids under the age of 6, occupied.  They were exhausted and hungry, uncomfortable and cranky.

They all caught a stomach bug and shortly after we boarded the plane, all three of them were vomiting. Because of federal safety restrictions, they wouldn't allow me to bring milk on the plane and they only had 2 small cartons of milk for a 6 hour flight.  Our youngest (1 at the time) was desperate for her milk.  She cried for nearly 5 hours straight. The other two cried too and rarely were in their seats because they were always in the lavatory, trying to vomit out their livers.

I felt terrible for the kids, for ourselves and for everyone else on the plane.  It was a miserable situation to be had by all. We had no choice but to fly on that trip.  I couldn't skip my mother's funeral and we needed to get there in a timely fashion but after that horrific experience,  we decided to never (barring emergencies) fly again with the kids.  Its a lot of work to fly with kids and we didn't want to take the chance that they'd get sick or be unable to make the trip.  For our family, it worked best to wait until we knew they could handle being on a plane.

There's no question as to whether safety rules should be followed.  Kids should remain seated, wearing their seat belts and be properly behaved (within reason).  It is the parents responsibility to set an example and make sure the kids follow all of the rules.   If the parents cannot do so, it makes sense that an airline would have no other choice but to ask them to de-board the plane.

Honestly, I think it depends on your kids.  If you have extremely easy going, can sleep anywhere, always follow the rules and never throw a temper tantrum kind of kids, first of all you have been blessed in spades and second of all, by all means, book your ticket because flying with them will be a joy.

But if your kids still need a nap, have trouble sleeping outside of their beds, don't like to be restricted for large chunks of time and can be unpredictable, think again.  Short flights aren't bad.  Most kids can be entertained for an hour or two but those long flights?

Think twice and if you decide to fly anyway, vaya con dios!

What do you think? Do you think that parents should be responsible for making their children behave and follow safety restrictions on a plane? Do you think the airline did the right thing in booting this family?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When The Toothfairy Drops The Ball

We went to the Memorial Day parade this past weekend.  We enjoyed the sights and sounds, especially the Shriners.  For a group of older gentlemen, they sure have a lot of spunk! My girls got buckets full of candy while my son and husband marched with the scouts.

After the parade, the girls and I drove to the Town Hall, our designated meetings spot.  As we waited for the men of the family, the girls went through their candy.  My oldest started chewing on a pixie stick. 
"There's something stuck between my teeth," she said.

She reached into her mouth and started feeling around.  I expected her to pull out a piece of wadded paper, chewed and wedged between her teeth in her desperate attempt to get to the powdery pixie goodness within.

"I got it," she said.  "Here."  She handed me something that I assumed would be trash.  But no, it was one of her teeth; a lower canine that once had a cavity and was wrapped in silver. She plucked it out without  pomp or circumstance.

This was a dramatic difference from her previous experiences that required tugging, yanking, crying and hours of her begging us to please pull it out but no, don't actually touch it, take it out with your mind powers!!

This morning she came downstairs with her face contorted in displeasure.

"I'm going to put my tooth under my pillow again because the tooth fairy must not have found it the first time."

Ruh roh.  The tooth fairy totally dropped the ball and forgot to leave the cold, hard cash in the designated space under the pillow. 

"Do you want me to give it to you Mom," she asked, one eyebrow raises and her voice laced with suspicion.
"Me? Why would you give it to me? Nah.  The tooth fairy was probably out of town for the Memorial Day weekend.  Maybe she went to the beach with her family for a barbeque and to work on her tan.  Yeah, I'm sure that's it.  Plus, you know...our last name starts with the letter "Y" which means that when she gets her working orders, we are at the bottom of her list so you have to be patient."

She stared at me and blinked because she is ten years old and totally on the brink of not believing in such things.  I could almost hear the thoughts in her head; a mix of confusion, hope and maybe even a little fear that if the story is not true after all, this mother she loves so much might need to be committed to a state mental institution.

I was talking to some friends and apparently I'm not the only one to make tooth fairy excuses.  I heard some great ones.

1. Your money is late because girls get their money first.
2.  You lost your tooth after 5pm which means you won't get your cash until the following business day.
3.  The tooth fairy vacations for the whole month of March.  Everyone knows that. 

Do your kids believe in the tooth fairy? Have you ever had to make excuses for the tooth fairy's failure to deliver? What's the best excuse you've ever made?

Monday, May 28, 2012

I Need Some Help

My son gets easily frustrated.  I'm sure part of this has to do with his being seven years old. Being in the world at seven years old is like being in a candy store of possibility and being told that you can't have any.  It's undoubtedly infuriating.

His autism also plays a part.  He doesn't always know how to cope or self-motivate so when his pants won't come unbuttoned fast enough when he has to pee or he can't find a toy, his go-to response is pure frustration.

He'll grunt and frown, sometimes he'll scream.  The other day when he was in the shower, some water had the audacity to touch his body.  He screamed like he was being eaten alive by a gang of hungry crocodiles.

He is getting better.  He's learning to ask for help.  "What do we say", I remind him when I hear the screams.

"I need some help, please!"  He'll shout.  He's got a 50-50 record of doing the right thing and asking for some assistance before he melts.

Sometimes I get frustrated at his frustration.  "Why can't he just ask for help and stop trying to do it by himself", I think. But here's a depressing bit of truth.  I am often the exact same way.

I know in my mind and heart that if I shout, God will come running from whatever room he's in and he'll kneel down and pat my back and help me get through anything.  He would do the same thing I do for my son.  But just like Carter, I try to do it myself and end up kicking and screaming in a fit of rage.

It's hard for me to ask for help.  I want to do it all on my own.  I don't want to bother God, he's got plenty going on, what with all the earthquakes and hurricanes.  Surely he doesn't have time to worry about silly ol' me.  I try to think of him through my eyes.  I'm busy cooking dinner and mopping the floor so yes, I sometimes do get annoyed when the kids can't find their shoes or can't buckle their pants.

But that's me; flawed, selfish, misguided me.  That's not God.  God is the opposite of me. He's perfect, selfless and full of wisdom and will be there even when I don't call for him.  He will stand over me, watching me try to stuff my square peg into a round hole and shake his head at my ridiculousness. Sometimes he'll even remind me, "what do we say, Licha?"  But I ignore him.  He'll help me even when I don't ask for the help and if I don't try to swat his hands away, he'll even fix my problems.

If only I would stop shouting in frustration and say, "I need some help, please!"

Do Taller Kids Face Higher Expectations?

My husband is 6'3".  If you were to ask him, he'd lie and say he's 6'4" because at one time (in his 20's) he really was that tall and he's having trouble accepting that as we age, we tend to shrink.  Mother nature is a cruel, cruel mistress!

I am 5'5".  Not exactly amazonian but well beyond the 5'3" national average height for women.  What this means of course, is that we have some very tall children.

My youngest daughter, who is five years old and in Kindergarten, is as tall as many of her first and second grade counter parts!  I probably have a year tops before my ten year old is looking down at me and my son? Forget about it!  He's been above the 95th percentile since he popped out of me with his giant head.  According to his doctor, he is on part to be taller than my husband! By the time he's 18 he will most likely be using my head as an arm rest.

I love their height but it does come with it's disadvantages.  Because they look older than what they are, people often have high expectations for them.  When we got to the playground and my 10 year old wants to play on the playscape with her stuffed animals, mothers will tell me that I "shouldn't let my teenager on the equipment. And I think she took someone's stuffed animal."  We also get looks of suspicion when we buy her a child ticket at the movies.  Likewise, if we are out in public and our 5 year old is over-tired and getting fussy we get looks that say, "your kid is way too old to be behaving like that!

It doesn't really matter to me what people think but I do worry that the expectations placed on them are unfairly high.  It's hard enough to be a kids these days without adding on extra presumptions. It also worries me that as my girls get older, they will draw unwelcome attention from boys that are much older.

The best thing I can do in this situation is to boost their self confidence.  There are many pros to being tall.  As Julia Child said, "Being tall is an advantage, especially in business. People will always remember you. And if you're in a crowd, you'll always have some clean air to breathe."  Here are a few more:

1.  Advantages playing sports
2.  Always having the best view in a crowd.
3.  Statistically, taller people have higher IQs.
4.  (For when they are older) Girls tend to like taller guys and guys tend to like girls with long legs.
5.  They will never have to ask anyone to reach something for them.

It's all about teaching our kids to be comfortable in their own skin regardless of their height.  There are advantages and disadvantages on either side.  The most important thing is to appreciate what you have and make the best out of it.

Do you have tall children? Do you feel that they have higher expectations placed on them because of it?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Doing Your Child's Homework

The number of times my parents helped me with my homework is pretty low.  In fact it's a big, fat ZERO! My mom never corrected my homework or helped with a school project.  The most help she would give was going over test questions to help me study for a test.  That and provide me with the resources I needed to complete said school projects.

The result? I learned to take responsibility for my own successes and failures.  She expected good grades and she showed me how to study and encouraged me but the work was mine and mine alone. And so was the incredible feeling of accomplishment when I worked hard and earned a good grade.

My how things have changed in twenty five years!  Nowadays, it seems like parents are expected to immerse themselves in their child's education to the point of doing the work for them!  Of course it's a good thing to help our children.  We should encourage their learning and provide resources but I believe that doing the homework is crossing the line.

My husband and I read to our children every night.  We check homework, play learning games and review test questions but homework is their responsibility.  We remind them to do it and if they don't? Too bad...they get to face the consequences for that decision and stay in for recess or get a bad grade.

Teachers aren't always supportive of our policy.  Just last week I got a call from the school telling me that my fourth grader forgot her binder with her homework.  I looked over at the table and sure enough, there it was, still drizzled with pancake syrup.

"Can you bring her binder in, please?"
"Can I? Sure.  Will I, no way!"

There was a gasp on the other end of the phone and then silence. You could cut the awkwardness with a chainsaw.

"Listen, I reminded her to pack her things.  She didn't do it and that was her choice.  If she has to stay in for recess because she forgot her homework then so be it.  She needs to take responsibility for her actions or lack thereof."

The woman cleared her throat and said, "okay."

I felt the pangs of guilt, those pains that come when you have to make a decision that allows your children to fall on their face for the sake of it being good for them.

I recently read an article promoting a parent's hand off approach to homework and one woman wrote:

"What would happen if we stopped helping our kids with homework? The kids would get punished at school for their incomplete homework. Then they would become anxious and depressed.  Let’s find a way of going about it that doesn’t hurt our kids."

Punished at school? C'mon. It's not like they shackle the kids to a wall of shame and hit them with a switch.  The worst that could happen is the kid loses a privilege like recess or gets a bad grade.  And really? The kids are going to get depressed and anxious because they got a bad grade?

If you're going for the approach of never holding your children accountable for their homework then you better be prepared for the long haul.  You might still be helping in high school and college.  Your kid may even call you when they are 28 and have a presentation to do for work.  I'm thinking it might make your child a little anxious and depressed if he can't keep a job because he doesn't know the value of handling responsibility, managing time and having good work habits.

It's a given that parents should support  and encourage their kids in academics but do you think it's okay for a parent to do a child's homework for them?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Storing Seasonal Clothes

There are few domestic things more painful then going through all of your children's clothes at the beginning of each season.  I've been putting it off so far but this morning my son dressed himself in a thick, long-sleeved shirt and sweat pants for his field trip.  The weather is confusing.  If you look outside, you notice that it's overcast and rainy which gives the impression that it's cold.  Problem is, it's actually in the 70's with high humidity.  The kind of humidity that when you open your windows for some fresh air, all of the paper in your house immediately goes limp.  And don't even get me started on what it does to your hair!

 If I would have let him go to school like that he would have melted like those guys at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie.  Melted flesh, dripping into puddles.

I don't like to pick the kids' outfits in the morning.  This means two things for me:
1) They get dressed on their own, score one for mommy who now has time to drink a cup of coffee.
2) They always leave the house looking horrific. What's that bitter taste in my coffee? Oh yeah, it's guilt.

I once tried a system where I laid out their clothes every weekend and they still picked what they wanted so I gave up.  That's not a battle I'm willing to forge. And since I'm unwilling to dress them each morning, my best line of defense is to make sure their closets are stocked with acceptable clothes.  This way, they can mix and match all they want but at least they are wearing clothes that are clean, fit, and aren't covered with holes.

The way I know it's time to switch seasonal clothes? All three of them are wearing stained, ripped, dirty sweatpants (in July) that are two sizes too small.

This little endeavor of switching closets can take me hours, days even.  I just went through the girls' closets and I'm now seriously thinking about taking a nap.  Blame it on the rainy day.  I still need to go through the mother of all messes in my son's room. And it just occurred to me that I should do the same in my closet seeing as how there aren't any hangers for my tank tops since my sweatshirts are hogging the space.

Shoot me now.

Can you imagine what it's like to store seasonal clothes in the Duggar house? Holy cow! I can't imagine how much time and effort it takes to go through the clothes of NINETEEN kids (or how ever many are home these days)!  When I think of it like that, my four measly closets don't seem so bad after all!

Friday, May 18, 2012

He Died For Me!

I love the dollar store.  It's one stop shopping for $1 gift bags, toothpaste and aluminum foil.   It also carries an assortment of religious stuff for kids.  We once bought a deck of Go Fish cards with bible characters. "Do you have a Jonah? How bout a Golliath? Nope. Go Fish! They also sell huge biblical coloring books and stories with accompanying DVDs.

I bought a Jesus DVD the other day because the cover said it included "wonderful stories and songs."  I figured it's better to have that playing in the car than take the risk the kids will learn the lyrics to "I smell sex and candy" over the radio.

I put it in and they were riveted.  The stories were perfectly child-centered and the songs were the kind that stick in your brain like a house guest who has overstayed their welcome.  After a few minutes, however;  I realized that my daughter (a kindergartner) was crying.  At first they were small sniffles but they quickly escalated into hysterical sobs.

I looked over my shoulder fully expecting to see her brother giving her an indian burn with a sadistic look on his face but he was lost in the movie.

"What's wrong, baby? Are you okay?" I asked.

Her breath shook as she wiped her face and said, "He died. He died for me!"  She threw her head back against the headrest, contorted her face into a grimace and let out a guttural scream.

"But he came back to life, Maryn," said Carter, trying to offer a bit of comfort to his baby sister.


In that moment she got it.  Her teeny little body and soul were absorbing that unimaginable truth that it wasn't just a story and Jesus didn't just die for everyone.  He died for her.  She was overcome by the enormity of it and of course that made me cry too.

I can relate to that feeling, when the spirit overwhelms you with pure love and the knowledge that you've done nothing to deserve it.  It truly is amazing grace and at that moment of realization, the power of that truth fractures us and brings us to our knees where we land at the feet of God, drenched from our weeping.

I wanted to bottle up that moment and put it on a shelf where I could look at it every single day.   And then I realized, I can see it everyday.  I get to watch her love God for the rest of her life.  What an honor and delicious pleasure that is!

Monday, May 14, 2012

What Parents Of Special Needs Kids Should Know When Dealing With Schools

I have two kids with special needs.  My daughter was diagnosed with ADHD when she was in second grade and my son with PDDNOS (autism) when he was 3.  So, I've had my share of dealings with schools, teachers, principals, counselors and specialists.  I could wallpaper three quarters of my house with all of the copies of the Connecticut parental rights brochures I've received over the years.

And during that time, I've learned a few things.  If you're a new parent with a child who has been recently diagnosed and you want to know what you can expect when you start dealing with the school,  I will tell you the same thing your gynecologist probably told you when you asked what was going to happen during the birthing process: anything can happen.  The process is about the same for all of us but we have to be ready for surprises.  That being said, here are few nuggets of wisdom that might help you on your way.

1.  Be prepared
I know that sounds pretty obvious but you'd be surprised how many parents go into their first PPT meeting not knowing the process or their rights.  Taking that route is like going into a conflict where your opponent is brandishing heavy artillery and your only line of defense is a plastic sword.  You might never have to go into battle but if you do, you better be packing more heat.  Knowledge is your friend in this situation!  I promise you that the research required will make your brain scramble into tiny bits but take it a little bit at a time and invest in educating yourself about the process.  You are your child's most important advocate. You owe it to them to have the right information so that you can made educated decisions about their school experience. You know your child best so you can go into your PPT full of information that will be useful to your child's teachers and then work in conjunction with them to make their experience the best it can be.

2. Be nice
Remember that old saying, "you get more flies with honey than with vinegar?"  This definitely applies here.  You are going to run into people who disagree with you or might not take your advice but you have to be able to control your emotions and work with them.  There were times when I wanted to strangle my child's principal because I felt like she was suggesting things that I knew wouldn't work for my son and she wasn't willing to listen when I offered alternatives.  Also, she was used to many parents coming in and pointing their guns at her so she was kind of on the defensive and she wasn't nice about it. It was excruciating but I worked hard to keep her as my ally.  I thanked her and maybe even went over the top with personal emails expressing my gratitude for all those things she WAS doing for my son. Ultimately I won her to my side because she recognized my commitment and also, it's really hard not to like someone who is telling you how much they love you. The next time we met up for the PPT she was relaxed, eager to listen and very helpful.

If you get angry and make a fuss, people will shut down and it's really hard for them to want to work with you.  Please don't make this mistake. It will do you no good. Pick your battles.  You will probably run into situations that make you want to scream but remember that even though you're trying to fight for your child, the screaming will only get you less of what you want.  Be persistent but calm and friendly.

3. Practice teamwork
In order for your child to get the best possible experience out of school you have to be willing to lock arm and arm with your school and go the distance.  Your child will most likely have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for school but you need to do your support to follow that plan.  In our case, our son does really well with repetition.  This works well if he's getting the same information both at home and at school. Where the teachers leave off at the end of the day, I pick up at home.  I reinforce and reiterate.  I sit down every night and do his lessons again.

It's important to keep the lines of communication open.  If the teacher doesn't call you, call her.  Email daily so that you are always up to date with the latest information.  What kind of day did he/she have, what do you need to focus most on when it comes to homework, are there any concerns? Are there any achievements that you can celebrate?  They can't do it without you and vice versa.  Become friends with your child's teacher so that it's easier to talk and share.  If you are working with them in a friendly manner, they will be your biggest supporter!

4.  Don't take it personal
There are going to be times when your child is going to have a bad day.  Maybe they'll have an outburst, maybe they'll do bad on a test.  At these times the teacher, counselor or principal will call you and keep you informed.  Remember to keep your cool and take in the information in a emotionless and useful way.  This is a hard lesson to learn.  When teachers seemed to call everyday with their open communication but the communication was always negative, I often felt judged and frustrated and sometimes I would shut down.  This did nothing to help my child.  I had to put my feelings of parental inadequacy aside and focus on what needed done.  You can't make good decisions or solve any problems if you're too busy being angry. I had to learn to separate myself from my emotions when it came to my son's education.  I am his mom, coach, teacher and greatest supporter but ultimately his failures and successes are about him, not me so I can't make it about me.

5.  Get support
In the world of special education, it's easy to feel overwhelmed.  Surround yourself with other parents who are going through the same thing.  There are groups and communities where you can share the newest learning techniques, keep up to date on the latest issues or borrow a friendly ear.  All of those things are terrific resources to have but remember that everyone will have a different experience so while you should listen and keep the experiences in mind, don't let them jade your feelings.  It's easy to hear a story about a person who had a terrible experience at your school and then go in to your next PPT waving a sword.  Resist the temptation.  You will end up at a stale mate with the very people who are supposed to help you.

Also, don't go into a PPT alone.  My husband and I go together each time because there are so many people that will come at you with a host of information and it's nice to have someone there to lean on for support.

I know these tips only talk about the tip of the special education iceberg.  There are lots of things to learn.  Most will come from trial and error.  These are just a few of the things that have worked for us.  As crazy as it sounds, I've found the most important thing to do was to separate myself from the situation.  I had to work the problem without feeling any of the emotions because my feelings are unreliable and prone to making bad decisions.  That's a really hard thing to do when it comes to your kids and many times I have failed but I have noticed that when I make decisions from my head rather than from my heart, things tend to turn out much better for my child.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Our Spring Vacation

My kids were home from school last week and I'm just now recovering from the exhaustion.  We had a good time though.  We went to museums, visited the Dr. Seuss memorial garden in Springfield, Mass, went hiking, swimming at an indoor water resort, watched movies, played at the library, visited a rescue farm, rode ponies and met a zonkey (half zebra, half donkey) whose name was "Fancy Pants." If that doesn't spell excitement, I don't know what does.

It's taken me a whole week to recover and get my house back in order and while I miss them, I must's so nice to have the house to myself this week. We were all starting to get a little snarly with each other there at the end which reminds me, I really need to get started on those camp applications! They never go all summer but we do need some time apart every once in a while so that we don't start gnawing on each others extremities. 

I want to share a picture with you. It's the holy grail of all pictures.  I took it at the farm we visited and it's of a llama.  There is something British looking about llamas.  They look sophisticated and haughty and like they'd pronounce the word "half" like "hof".  This llama walked slowly and looked at me as if to say, "pray tell, young woman, what is so important that you insist on interrupting my afternoon tea?"

She complimented me on my shade of lip gloss and when she asked if she could have some I said, "No!" That's when I found out that she was not sophisticated at all.  She wailed and cried and then threw herself on the ground and told me that "I was a meanie and life was not fair and there was no point in living anymore."

Oh wait, it wasn't the llama who was acting that way, it was my 9 year old.  I get so easily confused these days but anyway, here is an awesome picture of a yawning llama.  Clearly she is British. I mean, look at those teeth! ;)

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's Showtime

This past weekend, my oldest daughter performed in a theater production for the first time.  She is in a group of a bunch of 4th and 5th graders and these kids, wow, these kids did an amazing job.  They were funny and engaging and carried the whole story with ease.

I have to admit, I was a little worried about them.  Last week, I dropped by one of their rehearsals and to say they were nervous, was an understatement.  They were all "dropping lines" as my daughter says.  I asked what that means and she said it's "what we in the business call it when you forget your lines."  Because, you know...she's "in the business."

That night I found her crying in her room because she was so nervous.  "I've got butterflies!" she said.  She considered dropping out entirely because the idea of performing in front of a group of people seemed like a terrifying prospect.  I tried to comfort her and soothe her and tell her how she knows all her lines and how she should just be in the moment and act as if nobody was there watching.  This didn't work.  Finally, I told her what my 7th grade band teacher said to me when I was about to perform a solo and thought I was going to crap my pants.  "Just pretend they are all in their underwear.  That old man over there, he's wearing superman underpants."

This seemed to help but I was worried that she'd crack under the pressure.  No such thing happened.  The day of the show, I walked past the bathroom where she was standing in front of the mirror combing her hair.  She looked at herself as she made jazz hands and said, "it's SHOWTIME!"  That's when I knew she'd be just fine.

And she was.  Better than fine.