Category: Holiday tips

How To Plan Out Your Exceptional Family’s First Overnight Trip Together

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Alright wish us luck. We will be going soon for our very first overnight family outing together. In a hotel. The three of us. With Michael’s sleep routine being slightly altered, and all of us sleeping in the same room. I hope it works out, but I am optimistic like never before. We have been talking about it. We will be planning out the two days, one night trip as much as possible in advance, and we will, as always, be bringing Michael’s tools to help him: sensory brush, squeeze or fidget toys, offering him breaks, and using our beloved token system for a reward offered at the end of the day before bedtime. I will also be crossing toes, fingers and any other body part that it all works out.

A friend of mine told me a while ago, “when Mom is ready, the child is ready.” Most of my Mom friends of Exceptional Children have all taken family trips overnight, in an airplane or car, and did what other families did. Not us. Dad and I were not ready. Now we are. I also feel that Michael is ready. He is nervous/excited but older, able to tell us his needs and wants more clearly, and even when we fight or have a rough time, all us have strategies, better strategies to cope. This wasn’t the case a year, two and more ago. Maybe I had strategies, or Dad or Michael, but not all of us had our strategies intact. On that note, here are some ways that are helping our family best prepare for our first overnight trip out of town:

  1. Pack bags in advance with clothes, toys and portable sensory equipment : This is a no-brainer, but really do it as much in advance as possible. And bring clothes, snacks, games, fidget toys, and other tools that will keep your child calm and regulated. Trust your instincts and leave nothing behind.
  2. Bring snacks, water, Lysol and baby wipes IN DROVES: This is important as well. I learned the lesson a hard way a few years ago when we were stuck on a beach and his hands were dirty and I did not have enough of the above wipes to sanitize. Good we were with a friend who gave us some of hers.
  3. Bring jackets, rain gear in case of unpredictable weather: This goes without saying, but bring for everyone. You don’t want to get stuck in a storm and get drenched.
  4. Make sure to have emergency cash and small change: This comes in handy so you can allow the occasional treat for your child or yourself.
  5. Take child’s comfort toys books for bed: Make sure they have what they need to be comfy for as similar a nighttime routine as you can get.
  6. Write out social story and plan out as much as you can in advance: This is important if it is your first time. We are writing out a general plan and allowing for modifications. Michael will make some, we will make some, and we will remind him of unpredictable things that could happen and what he can use as his tools to cope.

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The most important thing to do is be as organized in your bags and as concrete in your plans as possible. Children, all children, gravitate to a steady plan and a steady hand. Mom and Dad need to be on the same page all the time, or do their best to get back there if they veer off. We all do, and there is no shame. Do your best.

Exceptional Parents, how did you handle your first away trip or are you still contemplating whether the family is ready? Whatever you do and wherever you are, remember. You know your child and family best. You know when all of you are ready for the next adventure. Always trust that feeling and adjust as you go along. Until next time.

Are you having a tough anxious summer in your family? Looking for new tools and strategies to handle anxiety, yours or your child’s? Download my FREE EBOOK on 5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

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Nature Walks and How to Make Your Child’s So Called Obsession Work for Your Family

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Michael loves directions. I have blogged about this countless times already, due to several factors: It sometimes drives me crazy and I need to vent. It is a new skill we are proud of encouraging. AND in today’s blog post, it is something Dad and I are incorporating into our family vacation this year. Yes, you heard me right. We are using Michael’s love of directions to get him to do a longer nature walk with us in one of our favorite parks near our home. Michael loves to walk around our area, and likes to point out the various streets and intersections. Why not combine this skill with the whole family having a nice morning walk in the fresh air followed by a picnic outside later on? So this is what we are trying. And this year, Michael is excited about it like never before. He wants to walk and navigate, and I’m happy to say, he may even develop a love of nature along with it. This is an example of a simple day trip we are doing to keep things fun.

How many parents don’t acknowledge their kids’ obsessions or run from them? It’s a stretch, but there are sometimes ways to incorporate what they love and embrace family activities at the same time. For example, do you have a budding chef? So if you can take him to one of those restaurants where they cook the food right in front of you. Do you have a child who is obsessesed with blocks? A trip to a Lego museum or an architectural exhibit where building is discussed could pique their interest. A kid who is obsessed with history, planets, water, sea creatures? There are aquariums, zoos and tour. Yes, that is something else we are looking into for Michael. Doing a walking tour. The only problem I worry about is Michael trying to take the microphone away from the tour guide and take over, but I digress.:)

Exceptional Parents, do you often hear from professionals who discourage you from attending to your child’s obsessions? Does it make you feel sad as that is a connection you can bridge with your child and you feel like you aren’t taking advantage? I agree with that line of thinking. And by obsessions I don’t mean anything dangerous or violent, but I think that any co-called obsession can be turned into a passion and used to connect kids to caregivers and the outside world. Once that happens, everyone benefits and the child can truly show his/her intelligence and exceptional abilities to the world. Try it. I’m sure it will only yield to positive things once you and your child meet at their area of interest. Until next time.

 

How To Plan For Success On Exceptional Vacations

 

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We have been doing family stay cations for years, probably as long as we have been taking Michael places.  I have finally come to the point where I now expect the unexpected from Michael and spin it for a whole new day. Dad has experienced the same thing. And you know what? Sometimes things end up being more fun as a result of this.  We have had some struggles in the past when we first started going away. Michael would need mini breaks for the people and noise which we had not anticipated. He would get overwhelmed and we would have to go. His Dad and I had a hard time at first  dealing with outbursts and things out of his control. We eventually learned to anticipate what set him off and that helped tremendously.

As Michael matured, so did Dad and I. Now we know how to go with flow more where Michael is concerned. As with everything else, Michael is raising us and exposing us to different things and ways of experiencing how to have a good vacation, or at the very least, one that has no dull moments. We are doing our usual series of things, thrown in with some new adventures for good measure. Michael likes his predictable places, and is excited to try new things and drive to new places. We have mapped everything out on our dry erase board, and Michael purchased a notebook where he is writing down all our activities too. Like me with my phone calendar, this way of keeping track, Michael’s calendar if you will, helps keep Michael calm and organized. Whenever he is stressed, I direct him to the dry erase board to see what will be happening. If we need to make an adjustment, that is where we go too together to do it.

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The most important thing I remember every year, is to make the week simple, fun, and memorable for Michael and us. We do a variety of the old and new, and we make sure not to do things that are out of our budget. You don’t need to spend tons of money to have fun. Kids like the simple things and time they have with Mom and Dad. For Michael, going to our local Santa’s Village and having pizza for dinner is a dream come true. For Mom and Dad too. Who wants to come home from a long drive and a fun day on our feet and cook. 🙂 We create memories of fun times together, that I hope one day Michael will enjoy remembering and telling friends and maybe a partner and children of his own. 🙂

Exceptional Parents, what activities do you like to do on family vacations? Do you do stay cations or vacations going away out of town? Do you take a vacation alone or with the kids? For some parents, it is too hard to go with kids out of town due to sensory issues, behavior issues, or medical ones, so they do activities in town and then go off on their own for a night or two. Some stay home with kids and just do a stay cation if that works better with their family and financial situation. The most important thing to remember is to do what is good for your family and child. There are so many fun things you can do if you use your imagination. Whatever you do, just stay true to your family. Always do what works for everyone in your immediate circle. Until next time.

 

Keeping Busy and Learning To Be Calm The Exceptional Way

 

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What is busy? For every Mom of every child with special needs it means a different thing. Every kid with autism is different and has various interests. For Michael, keeping busy means constant motion pretty much all day. It means going places, to parks, pools, friend’s houses, and stores. This is AFTER a full day of camp. This is a challenge for his Dad and I, especially as we get older, but we are learning to structure his activity with time when he is home, and has to keep himself occupied. This is tough for him to do, but he is learning. We also have to find the fine balance between busy and overstimulated. The last two days I crossed the line with Michael, and we had two bad meltdowns and some aggression. The heat doesn’t help, and the fact that Michael is learning that he can’t control everything and everyone around him. It is exhausting and frustrating for all of us.

Still, as with all moments with Michael, there are funny and wonderful moments too. One of these was playing games with Michael in our local pool yesterday afternoon. We were sitting side by side with him in a lawn chair drying off in the sun. Michael said;

“This is nice and relaxing Mommy. I like sitting in the sun. As long as I have sunscreen on it is ok, right?”

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He made me smile. I also thought good, he is learning to relax sometimes. He was finally tired after his busy day of camp, playing in the park, then the pool. He watched some videos after he came home and chilled out. That was nice too. I find that as an Exceptional Parent, each summer, each day really, I am going back to the drawing boardhaving to readjust things so that he is in balance. I find new strategies to help him remain calm, remind him of  his old strategies, and  teach him that it is ok to not always be in control. That is a hard one. I have only recently learned that, and at times, like most adults, still have issues with that one. What I do now, is make sure I am surrounded by family and friends who can understand me and Michael and what we live on a daily basis. I make sure Michael and I have respite from each other on occasion, and that we never go to bed angry with one another. I tell Michael that we all learn from our mistakes, me included. Michael and I both talk about how we need to use strategies to stay calm, and if we don’t, we need to remember to use them the next time we get upset.

Exceptional Parents, how do you juggle the busy and quiet side of your Exceptional child? How do you handle the rough moments during and after they occur? Do you remember to cut yourself some slack and learn from them? Retrace your steps, see what you could do differently next time, and teach your child to do the same. Yes, there will be new battles to face, but you and your child will be able to handle it together as long as you show your child you will never give up on him/her. Until next time.

 

 

Staying Calm In The Storm-Exceptional Mom Lessons

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So our second long family holiday weekend had its ups and its downs. It was a great learning experience for all of us, as that is how I now look at the downs. As for the ups, well, they are what keep me going in this journey called life and motherhood to an exceptional son. I know deep down inside that summer is a hard time of year for exceptional families or families that have special needs children. It is all about adjusting to new schedules, expectations, the weather etc. As Moms and Dads we try to be everything for our kids, our spouses, our extended family and friends, but if we don’t take care of us, the ending is not pretty. I know this. I speak of it. I have the tools all ready as a Mom. I  even tell other parents what to do so well,  yet I forgot about one important tool, preparing myself mentally, physically and spiritually for what I needed to do to get in the head space of summer vacation. I can happily say I have finally learned what to do for next year. 🙂

The week started off normal hectic as Michael and I adjusted to being home. I worked my writing and coaching duties around him, and camp started mid-week. It all went well, but I was busy with work, Dad has been extremely busy on his end with work and personal commitments, and there seems to be an unending list of summer chores to do. I did not listen to the little voice inside my head that was telling me I was feeling exhausted and needed to take a break. Hormones due to my period coming mixed with utter mental, physical and spiritual exhaustion, and I crashed spectacularly from the high I had been on. I was being supermom, afraid to admit that she needed some help and some down time for herself. When I found myself losing patience, yelling, and then breaking down and crying at how I just wanted to be left alone without having to put fires out, it was then I realized that I had never sounded the alarm in the first place asking for help and time. I kept going and not refueling me. I had a dreadful moment mid weekend when I thought, “Oh God. I feel so alone. I am so tired.”

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After letting off steam, the first person I apologized to was me. I forgot to advocate for myself. I can’t expect my son and partner to know anything is wrong unless I tell them, right?  Then I apologized to Michael and his Dad that I was being superwoman again. I am not her nor do I want to be her. I am me-a regular Mom who has strengths and weaknesses, and who uses tools and strategies to make life run as smoothly as it can for everyone.  And when she forgets, she admits it, takes a deep breath, and moves forward, stronger for the struggle. That is where I am now. I am coming up for air, and proud to say that after my heart to heart with Michael the other day about how NOT to handle mounting stress and anxiety, my little guy woke up this morning after some very difficult moments of anxiety for him this weekend and said, “Mommy, I need to plan out the week on my dry erase board.” Just when I thought I had failed as a Mom, I see my victory in Michael. We have both learned something.

Exceptional Parents, how often have you pushed down your feelings to be “ALL” for your family? We are all only human, and we need to acknowledge in small ways when we need a break to relax and recharge from real challenges as parents. So don’t be a martyr. Don’t be a superhero. Be better. Be an Exceptional Parent who sets the example for your child and family of how each member needs time alone and together to be the best they can be.  Until next time.

 

Celebrating Canada Day The Exceptional Way

 

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As I’m mentioned in previous blogs, our ways of celebrating certain holidays and events has changed over the years. I’m sure it is the same for all families, but for us, it has been Michael’s understanding of the holiday that has shaped how we celebrate and what we do. As he has gotten older, he has begun to understand geography little more. He is still trying to understand about cities and countries, and enjoys celebrating a day like Canada Day with flags and a bit of fanfare. It doesn’t hurt that we usually take him to local family fair type events with bouncy rides, face painting and cotton candy as well. 🙂 Still, every year I look to how far he has come in understanding things and events. This fills me with a lot of hope for him, for his Dad and I, and for the human spirit as well.

When he was a baby it was like any other day. I had to have it that way as I was scared to take him to any event where unpredictable events happened and he was, well, unpredictable. It would have been ruined for all of us. Then, I was so busy with therapy, with working with him at home, that everything else took a back seat to fun. I started getting away from fun and was in danger of having it disappear from Michael’s life and ours. Fortunately with time and a group of great teachers that Michael had at that time, they reminded me that fun is what Michael needed to thrive, alongside what he was learning in preschool and therapy. I took the daring step to start having fun with my son again, to enjoying him as I would any child. A miraculous thing happened. I started to have fun myself. Michael helped me learn how to have fun again.

When we go to these family fairs I have just as much fun as Michael does watching him bounce on the inflatables, anticipating in the face painting line what design he will have on his face and watching him patiently wait in said line for over twenty minutes to get it done! You see, I used to be the one who would “show” him how to jump, act, what to do when he was confused what to do next. But, as I have learned recently, he was also showing me how to have fun and be a kid again at the same time. Even though now he does not need me to imitate the sounds other kids make in glee when they are running, jumping, moving, I silently make them. Even though he does not need me to play with him at these events I still silently play alongside him. In splash parks and pools I am occasionally still needed as a playmate if there is no friend, but all in all, my little guy is a happy participant in life and showing me, the spectator, how to channel my inner child. Thank you, Michael.

Exceptional Parents, how have celebrations like Canada Day changed for your family over the years? How has your Exceptional Child helped you see this and other holidays in a different way? Remember, while you are showing them things, they are also showing you how to live a life that is more open, more patient, more accepting of differences of thinking and being. Wishing all families a very Happy Canada Day! Until next time.

 

Long Weekend Fun and 8 Ways to Beat The Summer Heat!

 

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Here in Montreal, Quebec it is the first long weekend of summer, Jean-Baptiste or National Day. School is officially over, most people are home, and this weekend the weather will be cooperating beautifully, hot and sunny! It’s also going to be on the humid and sticky side though, which is not everyone’s cup of tea, especially a lot of “Exceptional Children’s”. I’m fortunate that Michael has gotten better over the years at handling heat and staying outside, after all, summer is so short.  What has also helped is learning how to keep cool as an “Exceptional Family,” metaphorically and literally.. Here are 8 Ways that our family has learned to beat the heat on the first long weekend of summer:

  1. Splash Pads at local parks: This is the greatest invention of humankind, and perfect for the child who is not a terrific swimmer or is a little water shy. Also, it’s FREE, and you can usually bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it as most are usually attached to parks where kids could play while the adults talk. 🙂
  2. Public swimming pool: We are lucky to live in the suburbs where we have our choice of which public swimming pool to attend. And, if cost is an issue, or you feel as if you may not be going enough times to make it worth it, try paying as you go. Most offer that for $5.00 a person.  Here Michael can shout, do silly things, and hey, he’s just a kid like the others. Your child can be themselves and you can relax.
  3. Sprinkler : Michael still likes to go in the sprinkler. These days you can buy all types which make the water a more friendly premise for the kiddies. I adjusted the height so he was not intimidated to go in. Try writing a social story for kids with more water fear.
  4. Baby Pool: This is great when they are little, (as long as you are always nearby, of course), and what I did was throw in many of Michael’s toys and figurines, squeeze toys, whatever helped him feel comfortable.
  5. Water guns or water balloons: This depends how you feel as a parent about them, but this could be a gentle way to cool off and introduce your child to fun water activity. It’s turn taking, refreshing when you get a squirt or splash, and then you could move up to one of the bigger water activities above.
  6. Going to the beach: When and if kids would rather play on the sand, they have that option while staying cool enough with the breeze. Sand also is a great tool for meeting sensory needs.
  7. Amusement parks with water slides :  This costs a lot more, but your kids can go on rides, and then as an afterthought, go in the water parks, no pressure if they are a little nervous. There are passes you could get that state your child has Autism which would get you to the front of the line. Usually all they require is proof of diagnosis.
  8. Water parks: Finally, for those Exceptional Kids who are little fish (like mine), a full blown water park may be your best bet. But check out exactly how big it is. We did not do this, and afterwards realized that it was too big for Michael at the time.

 

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Exceptional Parents, how do you keep cool with your Exceptional Children? I would love to hear what your tips are. Just remember, like with everything else, go with the flow of your child, make it fun, and you will all have a blast. Until next time.

Exceptional Long Weekend And Mommy Spa Get Away!

 

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So it’s the first long weekend of the summer, and our family is excited. Other than a sore back due to some over exuberant Zumba, I am feeling tip top and ready to go. Michael’s holiday weekend starts today with a PED DAY that we have planned out in advance. After his summer haircut it’s back home for some chores, lunch and a play date with a good friend in the afternoon. I am SO happy that they are calling for nice weather today and the rest of the weekend. It will help with moods.

Saturday (if the old back cooperates), it’s planting, lawn mowing and first BBQ of the Season Day along with a Date Night with Michael’s Dad. We are SO OVERDUE. Michael is excited to help with planting and some yard work and will love to see his sitter.

Sunday after church and some last minute packing, I am off after our family lunch, with a good friend for our annual ladies spa getaway, year three! And with a sore back this year, I definitively timed the getaway well. 🙂  This tradition started two years ago when I was starting my depression/burnout recovery, and a good friend of my husband’s recommended a nearby spa to start my healing process. My friend in question needed to get away too that year, (and really Moms and Dads, do we need an excuse for a spa night away? I didn’t think so.). Looking at their spa pictures alone, make me relax and I can’t wait to be there.  It’s one of those package deals of a one night stay, a 60 minute massage along with access to the baths. Recharging your parenting batteries is SO important. Michael has started understanding why we need our downtime to exercise, be with friends, or date nights.

Exceptional Parents, What are your long weekend plans? Are you going away as a family? Are you chilling in town, or doing a combination of both? Whatever you do, make sure to make it easy on your child with planning it out either on paper, talking about strategies to cope with the downtime, and make sure you have their sensory bag nearby if needed. Remember also to recharge your batteries. Long weekends need to have some downtime built in so don’t overdo it. Have a great one! 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.