Month: May 2015

Spring School Concerts and Spa Get Aways-Homages to Growth and Self-Care

Today is Michael’s Spring Concert at school. His father, myself and my parents will be attending as usual, and of course, are excited to see him perform. The class is doing two songs from The Sound of Music, and I’m sure I will be hearing Michael’s voice booming above most of his classmates’ voices. He loves to sing, even if he experiences a little bit of stage nervousness from time to time. He has come a long way from the non-verbal little boy who couldn’t say a word and wouldn’t sit still for longer than a few seconds. I look forward to his two yearly concerts every year. It reminds me how far he has come, and all the hard work he has put in to get there. And these concerts, particularly the Spring ones, remind me how much he grown in the past school year.

As of last year, I also started a new tradition with a dear friend of mine to mark my own growth. After coming home from Michael’s Spring Concert and Potluck lunch, a friend and I head to a nearby spa for an overnight stay of access to the baths, a Swedish massage, dinner, an overnight stay at their hotel, and a wonderful continental breakfast the next morning! It is my homage to myself and how far I have come in my way of looking at self-care, and of taking care of energizing and revitalizing myself to be the best woman, wife and Mom I can be. Michael and his Dad get quality father/son time, and I get quality alone time and time with a close friend. It works out for all of us, and helps restore all our energy levels. I have another dear female friend to thank for recommending this spa get away.

What traditions do you hold dear for your children and yourself? Where do you most see your children’s growth and your own at this time? And if so, what changes can you make to feel happier, healthier and in balance in your life? These are questions I ask myself every day and when I do, I find that the solutions usually present themselves in simple things, with the occasional yearly spa great escape! 🙂 Until next time.

Gardening With Children-The Flourishing of People

“Mommy, I want to have a garden in the backyard. Can we plant fruits and vegetables next week?”

“Yes, Michael. We can go and buy the plants together.”

I was so excited that Michael was interested in this. He has always loved to walk around my in-laws’ garden in their backyard, and has even helped me with planting shrubs and flowers in the front of our house in previous years, but this desire for a garden is relatively new. Last year he loved listening to a children’s CD over and over in the car when we went places. One of the songs was “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush.” It got him curious about mulberries. My friend’s patch in her yard was finished by that point, so we went to our local market before his part-time summer camp program in search of mulberries. We didn’t find any, but we bought some boysenberries, and he loved looking at all the fruits and asking how they grew. This was in August, and it was too late to plant, but I promised him next year we would plant fruits and vegetables in the back. I’m actually going to start with plants in pots, as that will be simpler for two novice planters like Michael and I. 🙂 Now, it’s only a matter of organizing and doing it!

Michael constantly surprises me, to say the least. We have fights about transitions, him not understanding if the phone rings and I need him to be quiet while I talk, not yelling hi to the person. Yet, there is this maturity here, an eagerness to learn and grow and try new things, This reminds me that the difficult moments are only part of the story with raising an exceptional child. Like with any child, there are easy and tough times, and as parents we have to remember that we are growing human beings. We have to be patient and they will flourish through the rough times with our help.

Have you ever tried planting with your children, Moms? I have read articles about the benefits of kids tending to plants and caring for them. If you haven’t, see if there is an interest and give it a shot. You never know! They may have more of a green thumb than you and teach you something, kind of like Michael has taught me to like baking. 🙂 Regardless, it will be an exercise of bonding for the two of you, show your children how to take care of a living thing, and watch their hard work flourish into something beautiful. To me, it’s kind of like us watching our children grow and flourish into beautiful human beings with our tending of them. Until next time .

Teenage – Like Testing Of Exceptional Children And What It Teaches Exceptional Moms

Michael has been progressively using more testing and rude language at home. Surprisingly, this has come hand in hand with more loving behavior too at other times. Usually it is bedtime when his fears come out and we are snuggling together and talking. The rude  or disrespectful talk happens in the day time.

“Geesh, fine. I’ll do it.” This is his favorite response said with eye rolling sarcasm when we ask him to pick up his clothes off the floor or some such reasonable thing like wash up for dinner.

“Don’t be rude Michael. There’s a nicer way to talk.”

“Ah Mommy, you sound just like my teacher when you say that!” And the telltale sigh occurs again.

This is where I almost laughed the other day. It’s good to know his wonderful teacher and I are on the same page with that kind of talk. I think it is part of growing up, his testing with this type attitude. This morning he was a handful before school. And when I told him he would miss the bus and have to go into school late with me as I had a few things to do beforehand, his response was classic.

“Mommy, you need an OT to help you. I’m calling her now.” And he proceeded to pretend phone the OT! What nerve, I thought on the inside getting angry. On the outside, I calmly responded.

“No, I don’t Michael, You need an OT. I need you to listen. You don’t speak to me that way.”

“I’m sorry Mommy.”

I was amazed that he came up with that, and had to laugh to myself. This was his way of trying to one up me. These days he’s fighting following rules of all kinds. My little James Dean or Marlon Brandon. Sigh.

“I don’t want to follow rules Mommy.”

“You have to. That’s the way the world works.”

And I proceed to repeat every day that Daddy and I follow rules, his teachers. Everyone answers to someone about conduct. This is proving to be a tough lesson for my little pre-teenager to learn. But I hold out hope that he will learn it. In the meantime, his father and I are dealing with testing and attitude, and doing our best to stay calm and show him the right way to act. His attitude is forcing us to examine our own behavior, appropriate and not to things, and to model what is expected of all of us. He is helping us grow even more. This is positive offshoot of this kind of behavior.

Are you experiencing rude and challenging verbal behavior from your exceptional children, Moms? How do you handle it? I think that it’s in us staying calm, giving reasonable consequences, as well as showing our kids we love them regardless. This will eventually turn the tide and help us raise children who can stand up for themselves as well as co-exist peacefully in society. With our children’s extra challenges that is no easy feat, but one that will happen if we take it day by day modeling appropriate behavior, consequences and showing love.  Until next time.

Scary and Proud Mommy Moments – Seeing Michael’s Maturity

This afternoon I had one of those heart attack moments they don’t tell you about once you become a mother. You know the ones I’m talking about, right ladies? Losing you kid in a store, (did that), kid falling off a change table, bed, (happened), kid getting really sick and not having energy to move (and you cursing yourself when you get mad at his energy some days when you want to relax). Well, add a new one to that list. Kid getting off school bus a few minutes before you arrive home from work, and going into the neighbor’s house while you are waiting for him in the rain on the porch. Then watch your body and brain do all kinds of funny things when said child and neighbor emerge from neighbor’s house and calmly make their way to your home!

I have to admit I was about to call the bus company as the bus was not usually this late, but I was blaming the rain for that. As it turned out, the bus had arrived  a few  minutes early.  The driver let Michael off.  Michael was banging on the front door and window while the bus driver beeped her horn. The chaos got a good neighbor who is retired to come out of her house and see that Michael was all alone. We all  know this neighbor very well. He has been in her house and she has given us countless toys her grandchildren outgrew. She also has a grandson who has autism, so understands Michael very well. God knew what he was doing when he directed us to this neighborhood!  She assured the bus driver that Michael would come with her until I came home. I was so grateful to her, a little upset that bus driver didn’t call my cell to ask where I was, but man, the stress of those few minutes when I wondered where he was. And then my guilt when I saw him coming out of the neighbor’s house. I felt so bad I was a few minutes late coming home. These things happen though. Life is unpredictable.

“Mommy, I was scared when  I didn’t see you. I was all alone. Then Jackie came to get me.”

“I’m sorry buddy. I was stuck in traffic. It won’t happen again. You’re safe now.”

“I’m so happy Jackie was there.”

“Me too Mommy. I had fun at her house.”

“Tell me all about what you did.”

What are your backup plans for life’s unexpected moments, Moms? What strengths and maturity do you see your kids embracing and how have you and they grown from their experiences of it? I think everything, good and bad, happy or scary, is there to teach us to be more open to what we and our kids can learn from the world around us. It’s important to never lose sight of that. Until next time.

Autism Speaks Walkathon and Bringing Families Together

Autism Awareness

This year we unfortunately could not participate in our local Autism Speaks Walkathon. I remember a few years ago when we attended one. The sense of community with fellow exceptional families, the sense that we were not alone, is what stayed with me. My child played in an environment where there were children like him, and I had a chance to talk to others in our situation.

Over the years the event has grown, and now includes tables where different professionals sit to offer their services and or extracurricular activities for Exceptional Children.There are the bouncy trampolines, and summer festival atmosphere, so our kids can be kids. Seeing the smiles on all their faces make it all worthwhile. We felt so proud to be part of a such an event and look forward to participating next year.

What attending Autism Speaks taught me as an Exceptional Mom, was that I was not alone, my community of parents is all around me, and I just have to reach out and join with that community to help Michael reach his full potential. Remember when we all feel a part of something, we can easily see our strengths, not our weaknesses. And that is what will help move us forward as Exceptional Moms of Exceptional Children. Until next time.

Special Olympics and the Gift Of Confidence To Us, Our Children

Yesterday Michael went with his school to participate in a Special Olympics event. In the last year or so, they have become even more involved with his adapted school and I couldn’t be happier. What better way to celebrate exceptional children than by showcasing their skills, athletic and otherwise, by an organization that plays up their strengths, and not their weaknesses. Too many times well meaning professionals and organizations do play up our exceptional kids’ weaknesses, not giving them the chance to thrive and be their best.  It is in the guise of helping them improve their weaknesses, but often it just shines the light on those weaknesses and our kids begin to see themselves in terms of what they can’t do. When our kids are at their best, we, as their Exceptional Moms, can be at our best too. As I’ve said many times, our children bring out the best in us and help us see the best in others if we are not afraid to look.

“Mommy, look at the ribbons I got from Special Olympics yesterday! It was so much fun!”

My heart swelled with pride at Michael’s confidence in himself, in his abilities. And I silently thanked his school and this wonderful organization for helping continue to instill this confidence in him. It’s very important that family and friends believe in your child first and foremost, but don’t discount an organization that mirrors back to the child all they can do by believing in themselves and their strengths, not weaknesses.

What organizations has your child participated in that have helped you see even more of their potential and yours? What organizations have made a lasting impact on your life? I can list many more for me and Michael, and I encourage all you Moms out there to reach out to these organizations that bring out our potential as exceptional parents as much as they do for our exceptional children. Until next time.

Baking, Playdough and Learning New Things About My Creativity

Yesterday afternoon Michael was in the mood to bake one of his favorite recipes, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. He got his sampling spoon out (yes, to sample each ingredient separately after putting it into the recipe bowl with a different spoon), helped me mix in the ingredients, and then enjoyed the spoils of his baking after his supper and fruit. The cleanup was left to me, of course. 🙂

I never used to like baking, and was even afraid to try it. Michael helped me see how much fun it is, and to experiment a little too, substituting ingredients sometimes and coming up with cool new versions of old recipes. As a result, I’ve become more creative in a different domain, not just with words. It’s been fun, and even on days when I am tired  I look forward to our culinary exploits together.

“Mommy, mixing this is like playing with play dough. This is fun!”

“It is Michael!” And I meant it. It was fun and therapeutic too in a way, molding the cookie dough in my hands and forming the cookies with Michael on the baking dish. It brought me back to my childhood, and baking with my maternal grandmother. I had fun with that, and am sorry that I drifted away from it. Like with so much, Michael has helped bring me back to doing something fun.

What fun things does your child remind you to do? What fun things can you do together and learn from? I guarantee if you find an activity that you both enjoy, you won’t regret the experiences you’ll both have and the closeness you’ll get from it. Knowing that I could spend this extra time with my beloved little boy, made the extra cleanup seem insignificant by any stretch. Until next time.

GROSS ALERT- New Exceptional Ways of Testing and Setting Limits

Some of the content that will be posted today is gross. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. But I just had to share this for all the Moms who are ashamed, annoyed or upset when their kids test with a new gross behavior that is so socially unacceptable we can’t believe they would even attempt it.  It happened to me and my husband last night. I would have laughed if I wasn’t so repulsed. Right before shower, Michael announced he had to do a bowel movement. I told him it was fine, and to call me when he was done so we could do shower. This always goes off without a hitch, for the most part. He’ll get silly and stall with wiping etc. but he’s pretty self sufficient now in this area, though we have to work on technique. That’s another story. But yesterday, for some unknown reason, he decided to play with the result of his bowel movement. He came out of the bathroom naked and happily prancing with two poop filled hands. It was so thick I couldn’t see skin! In a matter of seconds, I felt my anger rising on the inside as I envisioned the clean up in the bathroom, but ladies, I caught myself and did not scream. Instead, though screaming bloody murder on the inside, I calmly said;

“Michael, what did you do? You need to go back to the bathroom and clean up your poop mess. And since it will take awhile, no story tonight.”

“But I want story.”

“There’s no time.  And if you clean up fast, you’ll still have the rest of your bedtime routine.”

“OK.” The joy of a reaction from me wasn’t happening so he stopped grinning.

After we pre showered him hosing down his hands, legs, and then the shower stall, (thank God it wasn’t in the bathtub), he cleaned the toilet seat and the floor while we talked. Why did he do this? Did he see it done at school? Yes, was his response.

“And what did your teacher say?”

“She was upset and they got in red. You’re not going to tell her, are you?”

I thought. No, he seemed generally sorry for this mess. I would give him one more chance.

“No, Michael, You’re cleaning it up so I won’t tell her. But if I ever see you do this again, I have to tell her, ok?”

“OK Mommy. I’m sorry.”

After he apologized to his father too as this washroom is an ensuite in our bedroom and required MAJOR fumigation to clean the air, we were all good. The bedtime routine went smoothly, he fell asleep on time, and I was left to think about what had happened. I came to the conclusion that kids up the ante with testing when they want to see how far they can push their parents for a reaction. We have been reacting less and less to purposeful testing behavior, so he challenged us further. I’m proud that we handled it well,  and that he had consequences for his behavior.

So Moms, what testing behavior is driving you nuts? What is your child trying to tell you? How do you react and what do you wish you did differently? We’ve all made mistakes, but the best thing is to learn from them, own your mistakes to yourself and your child if they ask, and come out with appropriate consequences so you both can learn from the experience. Stay strong and positive. Tomorrow is another day. Until next time.

Picnic Lunches and Family Time-Sacred Summer Traditions

“Can we have a picnic lunch outside in the yard Mommy? I’ll get the picnic blanket and help you bring out the food.”

These words were a dream come true for me! As a baby, Michael did not like spending time in our yard. I don’t know if he was bored as there were no other children around to play with, or nature overwhelmed him at that time, but he would always opt for being inside rather than out, unless we were going to a park or friend’s house. In the last few years though, and with the addition of a sandbox with toys and two toy slides, the yard has become more interesting. He also has taken great delight, particularly during the last two summers, in family picnics or  eating BBQ’s  al fresco in the yard. Yesterday’s impromptu dining literally was on a picnic blanket with paper plates, as our patio table still needs to be cleaned and we need to get a new umbrella for the table. It broke last summer. I also enjoyed eating Sunday night’s leftovers as I didn’t have to cook and much to clean up afterwards, but I digress. 🙂

What I enjoyed most of all about our outdoor lunch, was that Michael wants to be outside in the yard with us now, dining, playing. Prior to last year, he even liked to go in his baby pool with his toys and splash around. Now it is more about playing hide and seek, soccer, and general running around. Sometimes after I pick him up from daycare he asks to go outside in the back to unwind and I happily agree. Michael has begun to see the benefits of fresh air, quality family time, and playing simple games in the comfort of his own home. It has helped me remember how it’s the simple things and times you spend with family that matter the most in building quality relationships.

What family summer traditions are you looking forward to taking up again, Moms? What helps your children bond with you and other family members? I would love to hear from you about them! And remember, it’s never too late to start family traditions if you haven’t been able to up until now. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, as they say. Time is something you never get back. Spend it doing the things you love with the people you love. Until next time.

Michael’s First Communion And Further Step Into Growing Family Traditions

Michael Communion 1 Yesterday was Michael’s First Communion celebration at our church. He made his sacrament with many of his classmates from catechism class, some celebrating on Saturday. It all went off without a hitch, you could say. We had our handy tools to help us, headphones for absorbing some of the noises around him, his chewie to help as a mouth fidget, and his clinking, a little strap he likes to wave back and forth near his waist. It helps him focus. Also, before leaving the house, I had performed most of the Wilbarger Protocol, or at least most of what he would let me do with a three piece suit on. “Compressions on the fingers only Mommy,” he said, “no shoulder compressions please.” But he sat quietly, following along in his ‘church book’, the book of adapted pictograms that describe the typical Catholic mass which he uses every week at church. The mass was nothing new, as he goes weekly to church with me and his father, but we were worried about how he would do at the altar with us when he had to take the host, the communion, for the first time. He had practiced this in catechism classes, of course, but you never know what to expect with exceptional children, right Moms?

So there we were at the altar with the other families, and when our moment came to take communion, the priest ceremoniously said, “The body of Christ.” Michael cupped his hands automatically in the way he had been shown in class and had seen his father and I doing many times since he was a year and a half,  and said in a quiet voice, “Amen.” My eyes filled with tears. I hadn’t realized I had been holding my breath for the past year waiting and worrying. Were we pushing him into this too soon? Was he ready? As always, Michael showed me by his actions that he was ready, willing and able. The priest congratulated him and turned to us saying, “Congratulations to both of you too.” He smiled. I smiled at the priest through my tears. I was so proud of my little boy for crossing yet another barrier some in society would have said he would never cross. I now am seeing there is no barrier that he will not cross if he wants it bad enough.

I learned from Michael yesterday about perseverance, hard work and family traditions, and how all of these are as important to him as they are to any child, exceptional or not. Yes, there are extra challenges to go through, there are adaptations to take into consideration, but he will thrive if society mirrors back to him his potential which our wonderful family, friends and church community does every day. What traditions are important to you and your exceptional children, Moms? What does your family believe strongly in? Never discount your child’s ability to participate fully in whatever the family is doing, even if adaptations and changes have to made and there are rough patches. You and your child will grow and be the better for it. Until next time.