Month: March 2016

Exceptional Rebirth and Renewal This Spring

 

So today is the last day of March, the end of the month and the rain is washing away the little snow that remains on the ground. Spring signals a new time of renewal, rebirth and moving in a new direction. This Spring I can honestly see that I am being reborn in my personal life, my career and in my spirituality. I am learning about the changes I need to make to be the best woman, mother and overall human being I can be. I am learning about how we are all connected to each other on some level, and how when one of us suffers, we all suffer. Michael, as usual, has been at the fore front teaching me this.

“Mommy, why are you talking in your mad voice? Every morning, you are using it!” He utters this in frustration one morning.

He’s right. I have been talking in my mad voice. I have been mad due to the fact that I am struggling to balance his night fears with working late after he goes to bed, and then not being able to get up as early as I want to get a head start before he gets up. Not being a morning person, I am naturally grouchy in the morning, but my poor little guy has been taking it personally. Like all children, if I am mad, it must be at him. So I answered him back as honestly as I can.

“Honey, I’m sorry. It’s hard for me to wake up in the morning and I’m a little grouchy. But I’m not mad. I just need to get organized.”
This was met with a big smile and off he went. It was so good we had this conversation. Now when he is talking to me in a grouchy or rude tone (yes, I have done the same :)) I call him on it gently. And you know what, he thanks me and cheers right up!

It’s so important that we check in with ourselves as parents. It’s important we see the “why” of our feeling and behavior. It’s important we do our best to learn from our past mistakes, teach our children to do the same, and make change a positive thing where we grow as people and help others.

Exceptional Parents, what rebirth as you striving for this Spring in yourselves? That is the first way you can be the best advocate for your child. It is also the first way to live a life of true meaning, gratitude and openness. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes. Learn from your anger, be honest about what you need, and seek ways to become a whole person this spring. You will not regret the road it will take you on, nor the effect you will have on your child who put you on that road in the first place. Until next time.

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Exceptional Bromance and Growing Up

 

Michael has a friend that has truly become special to him. They are more like brothers than friends. Some people have even told me they look alike. It’s not that surprising as they are both from a similar background. I have referred to this friend at first as Michael’s BFF, but then started calling him Michael’s soul brother, for I feel that is what he is. They think alike in many ways, have a lot of the same interests, yet even if one of them is into doing something different, the other one will switch activities to make his buddy happy. It’s been beautiful to see as Michael is maturing in understanding people’s general emotions around him, he is learning how to be an excellent friend to his buddy. And he loves this buddy.

Yesterday morning there were some behavioral issues going on, and after he finally calmed down enough to apologize for his behavior towards me, I told him he could gain back a play date with his soul brother in the pm after showing me he could listen all morning. And listen he did, beautifully. He even pointed out to me when I was becoming agitated and gently reminded me to calm my thoughts and speak in my “happy voice.” The kid is nothing if not astute, and a quick learner, I have seen. Of course he gained back the play date, had a wonderful afternoon with his friend and I with the Mom, and we even went to the park afterwards. He got to burn off even more energy and some of that spring fever!

Exceptional Parents, do your Exceptional Children have soul brothers or sisters among their friends? Are they blessed to connect with another person their age so closely? If not, don’t despair. They will find that individual in time. What I have found works is to encourage any friendships where there are common interests, laughter and similar temperaments. Often teachers can give you a good idea about the kids in your child’s class that they have a good connection to. Be gentle, encourage them to explore, and in time your child will find their soul mate in a friend. It opens up the world for them socially and intellectually, and teaches them to be the best people they can be. Michael is a wonderfully compassionate little boy who has made many friends thanks to an adapted school where he is among peers who are all exceptional in some way. And all of his friends have enhanced the goodness already in him, the kindness, the humor, the curiosity, and have opened up both his, his father’s and my world for the better. I wish the same for you and your Exceptional Child. Until next time.

 

Sensory Massages And Exceptional Love

Well, Spring Fever arrived with a bang in our house! Michael is energetic and doing his musical stimming/ exercising on his swing downstairs with the radio blaring, and using the rocking chair in his old baby room at other times. I am also performing both Qigong Massage and Wilbargher Protocol massages at bedtime and sometimes Wilbargher Protocol in the daytime even. I can see how it is helping Michael.  I literally feel the tension melting away as I massage him, and like in previous Spring seasons and at times when he has let me do the massage or massages on him, he is so loving towards me afterwards, and even more communicative! 🙂  Who wouldn’t be with a killer massage, never mind two, right? 🙂 But all jokes aside, this is so important for his system, vestibular and for the rest of it. I don’t look at warmer weather, spring temperature changes and full moons the same way anymore!

 

I have also been noticing how being organized with social stories, keeping physically busy, and seeing friends is helping me as well. My maternal grandmother used to quote that famous saying, “idleness is the devil’s work.” Thanks to her and Michael, I am now living it, keeping busy at home, with Michael, with my job, and in general staying active on all fronts. Lord knows there are always things to do in a house as most families would agree.

Michael, as usual, is showing me the pace to take for my spring season. He is helping me get back into long walks, exercising, connecting with friends that we sometimes don’t see in the cold winter months and massages. He is reminding me that I need to book myself one soon and hopefully plan another ladies getaway to a spa later in the spring. 🙂

Exceptional Parents, how do your Exceptional Children handle the Spring time? Are they active when the weather warms up, and if so, what kind of activities do they enjoy? Does this help you be more active with and without them? Remember, a healthy mind begins with a healthy body. Take care, get out there and enjoy moving, socializing and living each moment of your life. Until next time.

Testing And Regulating-Exceptional Growth

I have been watching Michael for awhile and so have many close family and friends. What I keep hearing from all of them, and what I have been thinking, is what a mature little man Michael is turning into. Despite and in spite of the difficulties, I have seen him rise to the occasion more than once with some wonderful detail and observation on someone else’s difficult time or how they could have handled a situation better.

A few times he has pointed out to me when I have been short tempered unnecessarily and overreacted to things he has said or done or other people have done. He has been right ninety-nine percent of the time! And he is helping me see what I can improve in my life. I also saw him comment on a little boy’s behavior in church which was not appropriate and speak of what he needed to do and how he needed to act. This made me proud that he was observing and learning from his own mistakes.

Then of course there are the times he is testing with challenging behavior to see how far he can push me or his father to get his own way. I admire his chutzpah, his courage in testing his boundaries and just how far he can push us. I’ve also learned how to push back though, and show him how far is far enough. By far, last week was a challenging week for us, but Easter went surprisingly smoothly. I think it was due to our prep work, Michael seeing how far he could go good and bad, and Michael’s own maturity. I was very proud of my little guy and continue to be proud of his progress. He is helping me to progress every day. We are both growing.

In what ways have your exceptional children helped you grow by testing your boundaries and their own? Look for the little ways, even through the challenges that they are growing and making you grow. You will be surprised and amazed at the beauty you will see and you will see them and yourself change for the better. Until next time .

Easter Celebrations- A Time of Rebirth

So it’s Easter weekend. We decorated the house, are planning to take Michael to the animal petting zoo this afternoon, (a family favorite since he was two years old), and will be coloring our Easter Eggs on Saturday morning with the colorful food dye before our first round of celebrations with one side of the family followed by round two on Sunday afternoon after church and a traditional Easter Egg Hunt. It doesn’t feel like Easter outside though. We had snow and freezing rain the last two days. They are calling for nice warmer sunny weather on Saturday and Sunday though. I’m glad as Michael has been asking about going to parks, and we are hoping to try out his new scooter that his paternal grandparents got him either on Saturday or Sunday.

Exceptional Parents, what do you do to celebrate Easter and Spring? How do you and your family embrace the season? What challenges do you face? Remember one thing, even with the hard times of winter in your child’s and your life, Spring will come, joy will bloom, and life will begin again. Happy Spring and Happy Easter everyone! Until next time.

Rosary And Dream Catchers-Exceptional Stress Protectors

 

With all this nighttime anxiety lately I am happy to see a positive spiritual development occurring. Michael has become quite attached to the rosary he got at his last catechism workshop. He is using it as a sort of talisman against the monsters that are in his room at night. He also has taken a renewed interest in the dream catcher I had hanging by his bedside. I am trying to have him use both as talismans against the things he fears. We also read a good “Monster Social Story” every night, written by his Psycho Educator. In it, we go over his strategies to deal with the monsters, monster spray, the picture on the wall (a picture of him with his Dad and I) centered on construction paper. What is written on the paper is “Monsters Keep Out.” And of course, he has his assortment of pillows, figurines, a little lantern that sheds some light in the room and Barney, his go to when life gets challenging. I know with time, and as his confidence gets stronger in himself, he will see that he can conquer the monsters. This is hard for any child, but a lot of exceptional children have particular challenges in the sleep arena, Michael being the norm here.

Self-regulating is hard, that is, controlling how we handle stress in our lives, daily and nightly. It is hard for most adults to do. I used to be one of those adults, but over the years I have found ways to deal with stress naturally and how to turn off my brain at night. Not always an easy thing to do. Seeing Michael struggle with regulating his daytime and nighttime stress was also eye opening for me. I learned that by helping myself, I could slowly help my little boy get a handle on how he deals with stress in his life, even if it is only one day at a time. This is a tough problem to deal with, and one that many people struggle with all their lives. I hope I can help Michael find a way to calm himself before he reaches adulthood.

Exceptional Parents, what talismans and help do you use to quiet the minds of your Exceptional Children? It’s tough when there is so much anxiety involved, but we also can’t keep rescuing them from their demons. Being there for them to hold and comfort is one thing, but strong boundaries are also important and help to show them what they need to grow up and into themselves. Seek support, remember to stay as calm as you can when they rage, pray for patience, and know that as they begin to weather the small storms of life they will be able to tackle the bigger issues of their life. Until next time.

 

 

Seeking Control and Nightime Anxiety

Last night was not a good night, to say the least. Our family has struggled with Michael’s sleep issues since he was a baby. I am still trying to figure out triggers for his fears at night. Some of them I know, some I think are created by him in his mind, and some are about control, controlling what he can which is listening or not listening to his parents during the sleep routine. A simple request went unmet yesterday, but late last night when we both finally went to bed I think I figured out why it went unmet. There was resentment and anger. Our Psycho Educator came over yesterday and Michael did not like what she had to say. I think he felt decisions were being made without consulting him, and, of course, we were talking about him in front of him, something most children do not like, especially those on the spectrum. We agreed that in future unless Michael would be actively participating in the meetings, I would see her when he was at school. I think that was strike one. Mom was also not home last night to do the sleep routine as it was one of my writer’s meeting nights. I suspect Dad does the routine a little differently, and given his already high level of stress due to the changes in the sleep program (though I gave him some choice in which two options he could choose), combined with me going out did not mesh well. Suffice it to say, he would not wait by himself in bed while I did a few things before coming to lie down with him. We are doing a gradual phasing out of me leaving for longer and longer periods of time. He not only refused to stay alone, but refused to stay quiet. It was a disaster for both of us and Dad too.

I was also not proud of myself as a Mom last night. I lost my temper, yelled and it was only by praying, literally for patience from God, that I was able to see things through calmly at the end. I learned I was at my wit’s end the hard way, but today, as they say, is another day. A chance to start fresh, learn from yesterday’s mistakes, both mine and Michael’s, and handle stress and control better. That is what is at stake, Michael’s issues of control over his life and his feelings of powerlessness. As I find ways to help me feel more in control over strategies to help him, I know I will be able to give Michael tools to help himself.

Exceptional Parents, when was the last time your child used manipulation with you due to feelings of powerlessness and lack of control? How did you react, for better or worse? Did you learn from your mistakes? Did you teach them to learn from theirs? If not, don’t worry. Every day is another chance to start over. Remember to look for clues, and don’t be afraid to sit down when it’s all done and look at where to go from there. Always think positive. It will get better. Until next time.

Exceptional Communicating About Love and Family

The past two days Michael has been even more expressive than usual. What he has been talking about more than ever has been love and family. He has been expressing all the love he feels for “Snail” his pretend wife that he married at his Gym and Swim class. He has been telling me that one day he really will marry her, and I quote him:

“I will spend every night hugging her Mommy because I love her.”

At moments like this his beauty and innocence fill me with such an intense love for him I feel like I will burst with joy. Ah, there is nothing that makes me feel more proud.

Lately Michael has also been asking a lot of questions about his maternal great-grandfather. He is a lot like him, I have started realizing. Both have the same jovial character and quirky sense of humor. His favorite stories about this great-grandfather are the ones I tell him about how I used to play dress up with him. He let me put dolls hats and makeup on him. We had tea parties, and when I was a baby he would take me in my stroller around the neighborhood. I have fuzzy memories of him as he died of brain cancer when I was four years old. But my Mom told me stories of him and we have some pictures too. She told me of his love for me and how at the end of his life the only word he could say was his nickname for me, Nounia, which in Ukrainian was an endearment of sorts. That’s how much he loved me.

What I do remember of him is his deep belly laugh, his kind brown eyes, and round belly that jiggled when he laughed. He had quite the sense of humor. He loved slap stick and more witty jokes, was a big sports fan, and he and my Dad would often laugh together like two co-conspirators. Michael is fascinated by this man and can’t get enough of him. He loves the stories about his two great grandmothers and is curious about his very religious other great grandfather, but Vasyl is someone he talks about a lot, probably due to the fact that he was my play mate as a child before my younger brother was able to fill that role and play with me.

Lately due to increasing anxiety with the Spring coming, our sleep training to get him more independent at night, and working hard at academics, I think there is more stress in his life and more fears. How he is combating all of that is  by hugging a lot more, talking about family, and asking questions about the past, the present and the future. As always, Michael keeps me on my toes about the way I see my own life and how love and family have shaped it. He is helping me see my own strengths  and I am careful in how I answer my little boy. I love our conversations  which are spontaenous, genuine and show me how far he has come, how much he is maturing and growing, and how he is able to shine in the world in his own unique way.

Exceptional Parents, how does your Exceptional Child shine in the world? Who are their favorite people, objects, things that they treasure, and how does it make them uniquely them? This is where their strengths lie, and the gift that they bring to the world. Help them nurture it, and you will help them reach their full potential and do what they are meant to do. This will also help you see what you are here to do. Remember, we are all part of a bigger plan, an exceptional plan. Until next time.

Exceptional Team Update

 

It just struck me the other day that in spite of some rough moments, our family is doing very well. I promised to keep you all updated on our Exceptional Team and who we would add to it due to the challenges we had in the fall and early winter. Well, good news. So far, it seems that the changes we’ve made in our family life itself with our existing team of school therapists, psychologist, and home Psycho Educator seems to be enough. Dare I say it and jinx us. I’ll take the chance. What has also changed in the dynamic is that I am being more honest with myself and where I am in my parenthood journey. I am noticing when self-care has not been strong and am fixing it. And, despite some minor blips, Michael’s Dad and I are communicating better at parenting him. We have our ups and downs, and it’s been awhile again that we sat down and compared notes as I call it. There was an incident recently that occurred between Michael and his Dad, because of our lack of communicating that we were on the same page with Michael. It’s important to touch base as parents. This is so important for all parents, but especially if you are parents of a special needs child.

A lovely parishioner today who is a young Mom with two children, made me smile when she spoke of the patience Michael’s Dad and I have with him and how we deal with all issues, good and bad. She spoke that as someone in the health care field herself, she saw burnout every day and how important it was that we find that patience in us to carry on. She also spoke about how kids pick up when we are not calm. I wholeheartedly agreed with her on that one. I think in the end, it’s about giving ourselves a break when things are tough and giving space to those other adults around us.

 

Michael has sometimes reminded me of patience too, and showed me how to slow down. Ironically, he has helped me learn to relax more, in order to show him a good example on taking time to live in the moment. Our children really do make us into better people, I think.

Exceptional Parents, who is on your team? There are more than professionals on it, I’m sure. Family, friends, people you meet at public places who rally in your corner, like the lady at church, and your child too, of course. All of these individuals are your team for your child. Always remember that when you despair that you are alone, know that you and your child are on a journey together, a journey of growth, beauty and joy. It will get better. It always does. Until next time.

 

Exceptional Spring Fever and This Mom’s Growth

 

This week has been quite the week with the hour change. It’s felt like that period of the full moon back in December. I’ve experienced Michael as extremely silly, other times anxious, and still at other times he’s been testing those boundaries again with pushing for more time to play, more portions of food, or more control over a situation. Most of the week though, other than at bedtime when he’s been a little clingier than usual (I blame the hour change), I’ve been noticing that extra burst of energy, the even extra bounce in his step. Spring is indeed in the air! He has been talking about bike riding, playing soccer, summer camp. We’ve had conversations about how he can’t wait to go to parks, swim outside and ride his bike. And the walks, oh yes, he is looking forward to going on walks all over the neighborhood with his father and I. His favorite haunts are walking to the various parks around our home, and of course, his favorite local shopping center. 🙂 He also loves when we take his favorite busy stretch of street due to all the traffic. This kid loves traffic.

I’m feeling an excitement too with Spring in the air. Spring traditionally has been the time of rebirth. The earth, the plants, the trees everything is coming back to life after the winter rest and it is kind of a chance to start over, renew, grow again. I, like everyone else, am looking forward to doing more fun things outside, walking, swimming, biking, going to the beach, and just in general, enjoying feeling physically and psychologically lighter. As Michael has gotten older and I have learned more about self-care, I enjoy keeping busier with him than ever before. I know my limits, and I know his. I know when it’s time we chill out at home, (though with Michael the rest is usually brief due to his high energy level :)) and I like exploring new things to do with him, new places, activities and meeting new people. I used to be so shy. It is still natural for me to be in the corner of a room during a party instead of center stage like my son. But Michael is not giving up in converting me to be a more social person, from all the people he knows everywhere we go who come up to us to say hi, to teachers and friends who tell me what a joy he is to teach and interact with, to Michael himself that dares me to go on adventures with him, take this new way around the world and be myself.

Exceptional Parents, do your Exceptional Children have Spring Fever? Do you take you on cool adventures around your neighborhood? Do they help you see the world in a different and unique way? I’m sure they do. All of our children are unique, have a way of seeing the world that is special, and if we are lucky as their parents, they invite us in to explore with them. Wishing you all a wonderful Spring and happy exploring! Until next time.