Month: July 2015

New Doors Opening For Michael and I

God is good. The Universe is good. If I stop for just a minute I always see that I am right where I need to be, whether I like it or not. Things are quieter for me now, on the work front, on the socializing front, but that is just what I have needed the last week as I got sick. First I mentally crashed badly. My husband was my sounding board one dark night and I am forever grateful to him. Then I physically got an infection and a bad allergy flare up. My body was saying enough. I am finally feeling the exhaustion of the last month and resting when I can. This is the best thing that could have happened to me. I have needed to get quiet, real quiet inside, and see what I had to fix. I was unhappy, stressed, and overloaded over the last month. The roller coaster ride started at the beginning of Michael’s summer vacation when I was realistic about what lay ahead, asking for help, and taking care of myself. But after deciding to leave a stressful job on the heels of accepting a new exciting opportunity, in addition to doing freelance writing and dealing with increasing anxiety from Michael, l was long overdue for a burnout. The good news is I saw it for what it was. It was temporary and fixable with time. I am now living in the moment again, and seeing how Michael is coping with his anxieties. Sometimes he uses good methods, sometimes not. And I see myself doing the same thing. Like mother, like son. We had a funny moment the other day when I was yelling at him over a stupidity. It was one of those things I would have said he could handle better by doing belly breathing or going to his calm corner.

“Ok Mommy. I’m sorry. Next time before yelling you should do deep breathing, or yoga. It will help you calm down.”

I had to laugh. He was learning and I was doing something right. The message was getting through to him. It was time I listened to it as well.

“You’re right Michael. Thank you for reminding me. ”

A new door is opening for me like it is for Michael. We are both learning to point out when the other one needs help, directly and indirectly. Though I am the parent and generally the teacher, there are lots of things Michael humbly teaches me whether he is aware or not. I picture GodĀ  smiling down on me and in little ways reminding me how to be patient, kind and open to myself so I could be a good example of that for Michael. I know God gave me Michael to teach me self compassion, true beauty and risk-taking in all areas of my life. I’ve always been afraid to fight for what I believed in. I hated rocking the boat. Now I openly lift that boat and overturn it just to prove to myself that being scared should not force me to live a life that I never wanted. I want Michael to learn from my mistakes, to be stronger from a young age, and to see that though parents make mistakes, we learn, we heal, we move on.

What hidden or open messages do your Exceptional Children impart to you? What strengths have they forced you to adopt for their sake? These appear as flaws or bad things at first, but you’ll see in time there is a purpose. There is a reason our Exceptional Children are here with us particularly as parents. So even if you are crying out as I have sometimes done in desperate moments saying, “Why me God? I’m not able to do this anymore,” the answer will come back, “Yes, you are. You are right where you need to be.” Just breathe, take a step forward and be in the moment. Until next time.

Michael’s Lesson To Me On Knowing My Own Limits

There have been so many times I have been proud of Michael in the last few months, even during the hard times when it’s been challenging for both of us. Yesterday morning was just one example. Michael woke up alert and calm. He looked up at me, and asked if he could stay home from camp. The groups were going to a big water park as they did last year, and he reminded me that he did not enjoy himself there last year.

“It was a long bus ride Mommy and the park was too big for me. Plus the kids were all so loud. I was nervous. Can I stay home and relax?”

Now, anyone who knows Michael intimately knows that he usually doesn’t ask to stay home unless he means it. He loves to go places. Home is boring, as he has often said to me. I knew he was telling the truth and he needed a break.

“Sure honey. But I have things to do in the house so other than going to the park later this afternoon, we’ll be home all day. What are you going to do?”

“I’ll watch videos and swing in the basement.”

And that is what he did. Later on after lunch we went to the park for a bit and on the walk back he told me how much fun he had at home relaxing, going at his own pace and not being on a strict schedule. Yup. Adults need that sometimes too.

I thought of myself. This week has been about restructuring my time too. I’d been neglecting my writing, my meditation and just plain old stopping and taking a breathing break. Getting sick forces you to look at your priorities differently. And for me, when I crash mentally and spiritually, it’s usually followed by a physical virus or infection or allergies. This month it’s been allergies and a skin infection. I am reorganizing what I put as important, and pacing myself better. What really has to get done now? What can wait? What do I need at this moment?

What eye opening moments have you had with your children? Have you ever seen yourself in them when they are asking for a break from structure and a hectic schedule? Our bodies definitively speak to us when we are not well, but I also believe that God or the Universe send us people to show us how to take care of ourselves to be the best we can. I wish you much insight in setting your own limits, so that you can be the best woman and person you are meant to be. Until next time.

Michael’s Lesson To Me On Compassion And Balance

I have developed a small skin infection that is quite painful. With antibiotics, Advil and rest, I know it will get better in time. I’m not surprised that I developed something like this as I have been under a lot of stress lately. Like a lot of Moms, I have been telling Michael to rest, eat right and relax, but until recently, have not been practicing what I preach. Michael has started listening, and as usual, he impressed with with his observations and his compassion.

“That looks so sore. I’m sorry you feel bad Mommy. I hope you feel better soon and the doctor helps with you with medicine.”

This was how he responded yesterday at breakfast when I told him I would be going to the walk-in clinic to check out a blister/burn that had me up then night before in extreme pain. I was so touched that he was so sympathetic. He had come a long way from the child who had no sense of anyone outside of himself.

“Thanks honey. I’ll be fine.”

Then of course he wanted to know where the clinic was and we talked about directions. šŸ™‚ Until he left for school we talked about taking care of ourselves, relaxing, and how important health was. Thanks Michael for the reminder to stay in balance.

What surprising lessons about balance about health have your Exceptional Children taught you, Exceptional Moms? Have you been surprised by insightful comments that got you to think twice about how you care for yourself and others? If not, the day is coming when they will surprise you, and when it happens, you will be filled with compassion for yourself and others in a whole new way. You will also remember how important your words and example are to your children and think before you speak and act. Until next time.

Creativity And My Reminder From Michael

Writing is in my blood and has been since I was a little girl. I always loved words, the way they sounded, the way they looked on a page, and the way they were sung in a song. Music was my first introduction to my love of words, and even today though I love melodies, it is the lyrics that usually draw me to a song. The joy I felt when I first learned to read, and later at age ten to devour books, was incredible. To think I could escape my every day world in a fiction novel and story and be drawn into that world still attracts me to this day, and when I’m finished a story, I’m always a little sad to say goodbye to the characters. At times of stress, exhaustion or sickness, I have sometimes gone a few days without reading and sometimes weeks without writing, but it always calls me back. I usually know I need to write when I feel this energy building up inside of me. It can be negative or positive, and my dreams at night get more vivid, intense. I even hear my characters sometimes beckoning me to come back. When I do I find my peace and place in the world.

Michael loves books and reading too and he knows how important reading and writing are to me. He never stood a chance at not liking reading as I read to him from the moment he was born holding him in my arms at night. One day on our way into the library to return some of his books, my Creative Writing Workshop teacher saw us sitting on the bench outside the library. I introduced them, and both were equally pleased to meet the other. Michael was particularly excited as he always had asked me lots of questions about this workshop which the teacher taught at our local library in the conference room. She in turn asked him about his summer plans, and if he liked writing. Michael told her he was still learning how to write his letters, but loved to tell stories and read them. We parted ways after some pleasantries and with her telling Michael maybe he would write stories like me one day.

Fast forward to three weeks later at bedtime. Michael was about to go to bed, when for some reason he brought up this chance meeting and the conversation. He asked about my writing and if he could indeed write stories.

“Sure you can honey. You’re a natural storyteller.”

“How can I write it down?”

“Well, how about you tell me the story and I’ll write it down.”

His eyes lit up immediately and he said he wanted to write a story about his favorite local shopping center and I could share the story at our first writing workshop in the fall.

What reminders do your Exceptional Children give you to stay on mental track and bring back your joy? For all of us, creativity takes many forms. I’m just glad that when I’m off track Michael reminds me how to get back on. Never forget to play Moms. Our creativity is our “inner child.” If she is not nurtured, we feel dead inside and lose out on the joy of living our true purpose in the world. And it’s only when we experience that true joy that we can pass on this message of hope to our children. Until next time.

5 Ways to Help Overloaded Exceptional Moms Handle Exceptional Stress

So last week was one of the toughest weeks of the summer for me. There have been meltdowns, aggression, anxieties, mine and Michael’s, and I thought I was handling it all fairly well. Until I didn’t. Then all hell broke loose on Friday. If there was a list of what NOT TO DO as a Mom, I did it and it showed. Both Michael and I were angry, frustrated, and when his father came home, he had to pick up the pieces. Sitting outside in the backyard decompressing after a very bad afternoon, I thought back to what I could have done differently to have turned things around with Michael last week, even a little. More importantly, I thought of what I could now do differently and learn from my mistakes as I always tell Michael he could do. We’ve all been there as Moms of any child. But with an Exceptional Child, I believe you need to have the tools near at hand to diffuse temperamental situations, both for you and your child. So without further ado, here is the list I came up with to help overloaded Exceptional Moms cope with theirs and their children’s wild emotions:

5 Ways To Help Overloaded Exceptional Moms Handle Exceptional Stress:

1) Take 10-15 minutes a day of to mediate or have quiet “you” time. I cannot stress how important this is. I haven’t been doing it, and ended up crashing quite dramatically. This means have quiet time doing nothing. It doesn’t have to be long, just enough to catch your breath. You’ll feel better knowing you’re giving this time to yourself. Read a favorite magazine, listen to music, or call a friend and have a catch up call.

2) Do something fun with your partner or friends that has nothing to do with your child. Connect with your inner adult by going out with your partner, friends or for an evening of fun at an adult style comedy or music festival.

3) Journal or write about your mistakes and victories. I’ve started doing this again, writing poetry, my thoughts, my ups and downs.

4) Make a point to spend time outside in nature once a day. Even 10-15 minutes can help. After working in the late afternoon and then having a glass of wine in the backyard or with my morning coffee after breakfast in the front, I like to have it outside. Even if I am waiting for Michael to get ready inside and on the lookout for the camp bus, this counts as “outdoor time.”

5) Ask your partner, family or friends to take over with your child at designated times of the day. If you’re lucky, make it for an hour or two, but I’ve found even having a half hour “Off Duty” from exceptional child care, makes a difference in my mental state. My wonderful husband agreed to two nights a week of taking over the bedtime routine.

Once again, I have Michael to thank for reminding me to observe the 5 points above. I haven’t been lately, as old “super Mom”Ā  habits die hard, but last week I was given a big wake-up call. And this time I’m listening God, universe, readers. I hope you are too. I would be so happy to know that other Moms could benefit from my mistakes.

How have your Exceptional Children helped you see your shortcomings and grow? It’s always important to learn from our mistakes, and to grow as human beings. In that way, we can show our children the true meaning of becoming the best people they can be. Until next time.

Getting Used To Changes And Finding Ways To Adapt

The new job I now have requires me to work one evening a week. Yesterday, was the first evening I worked. It went better than expected for Michael, even though I wasn’t able to prepare him as well as I would have liked. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, summer is a hard time for him, like for most exceptional children, and as a result it is hard for me. I’ve come to realize this week that due to it being harder on both of us, I was not asking his Dad for a break in the evenings. I was thinking he needed some sort of stability in his routine, that is, Mom putting him to bed. I was afraid to rock the boat and make change except when I had to. The trouble is that I realizedĀ  this week how exhausted I was from the tantrums, the change in routine, the anxieties and worries, and how change could be the best thing for Michael and I. Yesterday was the first time in awhile that his Dad did the whole bedtime routine, and though there were a few little blips, it went well. Michael also had a great time at his grandparentsĀ  house. They babysat him for the first part of my work shift while his Dad was still commuting home. They played with him, took him places, and gave him supper then drove him home. They are angels and I don’t know what I would do without them.

I’m beginning to realize that in the summer I really need to turn to people in my family and outside and ask for help. There is no crime in saying I am in over my head in doing it alone at any time of year, but summers, well they are a whole different ballgame. I’m scared I’m going to get to the point where I begin to hate summer and only see it as more challenges. In having a lot more on my plate this summer, Michael has once again helped me see how I need to find ways to get used to change too, change in working, change in childcare responsibilities, change in self-care. I also need to regain my strength so I can find ways to help Michael communicate his needs better. There is no summer vacation for autism, but that’s ok. It’s a part of who Michael is, and we both need to find the right tools to help him and I through the rough patches.

How are your Exceptional Children at handling change and downtime? Do they enjoy time at home or would they rather be busy? What strategies have you been able to adopt to help them navigate change? What strategies help you as an Exceptional Mom navigate change best? There are no wrong or right ways. Everyone is different. The important thing is that we use tools that can help us be strong for our kids, strong for ourselves, and resilient in the face of things we can’t always control. I’m learning every day to let Michael show me what I need to start tackling first. Until next time.

The Importance of Exercise-Michael’s Lesson To Me

I started regular exercise routine today! I was so excited to do my Zumba again. It’s been a long four months without my regular workouts, and though I am generally active and have done a few walks here and there alone and with Michael to the park, I have missed that hour that is just for me to recharge my batteries. Summers are stressful for Michael and, as a result, for me and his father too. It is hard without the set school routine, the heat, and the unpredictability of so much free time to fill up for Michael. We have scheduled as much as we can with summer camp, mother’s and father’s helpers, activities that we each do with him, but then there needs to be down time for him and us. Part of my downtime is my time to meditate, do yoga, exercise and write. When I’m not getting the right balance of those, I burn out temporarily. It varies with how quickly my patience runs out. Like Michael and most of us, when I am rested, taking care of my energy levels, and have little stress with Michael, I am at my best. But when Michael’s stress levels are up, mine go up, and I don’t have the same energy for taking care of me. That’s why yesterday was such a good start back. One workout did not erase all my stress, but it did point me in the right direction as to what I need to do to get myself back on track.

And who do I have to thank for giving me that push to exercise? Michael, of course! Last week I took him to the park after camp. There were a bunch of kids playing on the swings so Michael had to wait his turn. He was getting antsy. I suggested playing tag in the field while we waited. Michael agreed with a grin and was off like a bullet. Running after him at top speed, made me realize how good it felt to move again. Yes Joanne, you can do it! We ran for a few minutes, and when we stopped, I felt terrific. I felt like I could take on any stress the world threw at me. That was when I decided that no matter what, this week had to be the week to start exercising again.

In what ways have your Exceptional Children taught you things about yourself and helped you? If we listen carefully, our children are pointing us in the right direction to make changes. Yes, it is not always the easiest direction, but as I try and remember, they have to overcome so much to navigate the world, and we, as their Exceptional Moms, have to be at our best to help them do that. We all learn from our mistakes, and for me, I see how life is a journey of learning, growing and getting stronger for ourselves, our children and our world. Until next time.

Teaching Resilience In The Face Of Stress- Mine And Michael’s Journey

Michael is having trouble at summer camp this year. He is having problems with some of the other kids. It is an adapted camp, and it is his second year. Things went really well last year, so I figured it was a no-brainer to send him there again. But this year he is being bullied. He stayed home one day this week already, and is bargaining for staying home another day this week. There is only another week left,Ā  but for him it is a week too long. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy some of the activities.Ā  He also has two good friends attending. But the thrill of going is gone. He actually said yesterday that he had more fun at home with me yesterday. Anyone who knows Michael knows that he loves to go places and play with other kids. It’s not that he hates his house, but finds it boring at home, as he has said multiple times. I am worried. He told me about a little boy that hits him and everyone else at camp for no reason, and about kids that grab his toys. The counselors reprimand them and put them in time out, but the behavior continues. He also keeps talking about how noisy it is. A lot of the kids scream. Being an adapted camp, here are children with all types of challenges, so he definitively is exposed to a lot. Today I am going to be speaking to the people in charge and see how we can salvage this for Michael.

On the flip side, I am trying to see how maybe this experience can teach Michael and I about resilience in the face of stress, and how to cope with difficult situations in life. I am extremely grateful that Michael can talk about how he feels. Now that he has been speaking of what is happening, he has stopped hitting his head or trying to break things. He feels bad that he worries, and this morning we had a long conversation about how a lot of people worry, even adults, and what techniques we can use to feel better. Looking at Michael has been like looking at myself in a mirror as a kid. I used to worry about everything, and particularly about the future. I am sharing with Michael now what I’ve learned over the years about worrying, and how to control anxiety in a positive way. I am also telling him that talking about stress to parents and doctors, is the best way to get help and learn ways to deal with stress. I am having to model being calm myself in the face of what is happening to Michael, hoping all the while that by sending him back to try again today, I am showing him how to be strong and not causing more pain or stress.

Exceptional Moms, how do you handle adversity in your lives? How do you teach your Exceptional Children to handle it? Can they communicate their feelings to you in verbal or nonverbal ways? It’s such a challenges being a parent, and being an Exceptional Parent is like running a marathon. You need extra fuel for that long journey, so you can show your kids how to be open, loving, honest and deal with pain and frustration along the way. It’s important to keep in mind yourself that by being open, honest, and recharging your own batteries, you can show them resilience in the best possible way. Until next time.

Appropriate Displays of Affection And Clearing Up Misunderstandings

Michael is a very social exceptional boy. The only problem with this is that he sometimes misunderstands social cues and how to be social in the appropriate way. He loves to spontaneously kiss and hug strangers in public, and this is a problem. We are in the process of trying to teach him “stranger danger,” but with limited success. The thing is that these strangers, usually elderly ladies, men or young mothers, find him cute and smile, so Michael sees nothing wrong with this behavior. I was happy he stopped squeezing hands, but hugging and kissing is not good either. Yesterday at his summer camp, he got reprimanded for kissing a stranger in a restaurant when his group went out for lunch. So now for the first time this behavior is crossing over with people besides his father and I. This is all part of the difficulty that kids like Michael have understanding facial expressions and social cues. So now, we are having to find a way to teach him these skills.

But something funny happened the other night. It made me stop and think, because it was then me who was misunderstanding Michael’s social cues. Michael was kissing me good night in bed. He has this little thing where he does several kisses on each cheek. It had been a long day and sleep routine. I was tired, he was tired, and I was a little abrupt with the good night kisses telling him that’s enough kisses, I love him and now it’s time for sleep.Ā  He told me that I offended him. It made me think that sometimes even us neuro typical people get those signals crossed, that is, the social signals that make comprehending human behavior so complex at times. It was food for thought, for sure.

Do your Exceptional Children get those social cues mixed up, Exceptional Moms? How do you handle it? It’s not easy, and it’s a daily learning process for the whole family. I think the important thing is to model appropriate behavior, read them stories, both regular and “social stories” that describe this process, and be there to remind your children that you are there to guide and teach them as they are for you. Until next time.

Balancing Planning With Spontaneity

Life with Michael has to be planned in many ways. Like all of us, Exceptional Children need routine and structure, but it is usually more so. This decreases some of the anxiety around the unknown and what is happening. It helps, but then it is not a perfect system. There are still ups and downs to navigate with him.

Then there are theĀ  times when unexpected things happen and we have to adjust to them. Yesterday morning, our family woke up to some water in our basement. It was totally unexpected, and the whole morning had to be altered. This was challenging for Michael at first, though he took it in stride that we couldn’t go to church and that his visit to his favorite local mall had to be postponed until later in the morning. The result was that he and I had a fun walk andĀ  later car ride to the center before I went to work, while his Dad and grandfather found a hole in the outside foundation which had caused the leak in the basement. The leak was fixed and the water cleaned up, and Michael and I had some extra time together in the morning alone.Ā  In the end, it worked out on all fronts.

As an Exceptional Family, we are trying in general to be more spontaneous in what we do with Michael. I have introduced a little bit of “let’s see what we will feel like doing” when we look ahead to our day. Sometimes it works well, other times less so, but at least we are exposing him to it. It’s a start. Michael is gradually showing and talking more about what really worries him, what he has trouble with, and his father and I are trying to find creative ways to help him with this. As usual too, he is showing me where I need to plan more in my life, and where I can afford to be more spontaneous and let the winds carry me. I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise that I am not a very spontaneous person, and that my agenda pretty much rules my life. šŸ™‚ Michael is showing me how to learn to relax more, and to stop and smell the roses.

Exceptional Moms, how do you balance planning and spontaneous moments with your children? How do you navigate that sometimes slippery slope? If it’s through trial and error like me, don’t worry about it. The important thing is that you are showing your child that life does not always unfold as expected, and that their world does not have to come apart when it does. With time, you and they will learn how to go with the flow, and maybe even have a few adventures along the way. Until next time.