Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Is anyone else glad Christmas is over?

I sure am! We had a pretty good time in Chicago this week, but I am so, so happy to be home. It is really hard on my family to be away from home. The kids don't sleep well and they are a bit crabby at the change in schedule. Add to that, a bunch of parties, lots of junk food and tons of commotion and you have the makings of some sensory meltdowns, temper tantrums and general grouchiness. And I'm talking about myself here.

It was so good to be home and unpack. The kids are having a lot of fun playing with the Christmas toys they hadn't had time for before we left. Also, they are sleeping so much better in their own beds. When we discipline them, we don't have my dad adding his two cents. And best of all, there is no TV blaring in the background constantly.

I have always enjoyed watching TV myself. I have never considered it an evil to be avoided. That is, until recently. We live in a rather small town and have a lot of trees and no reception. Because we are too cheap and self aware (Bil and I know we would both waste all our time in front of the TV if we had the chance) we do not have cable. Why pay for TV? I ask. It has actually been quite a blessing. We are much more productive, spending more time reading, doing crosswords, and yes, playing on the Internet. (I know that is just as much a time waster as the TV, but a girl has to have something, right?)

Another reason this has been a huge blessing is because we have noticed that TV watching has a very deleterious effect on Danny, especially if he watches more than 45 minutes at a stretch. And for some reason, TV is worse on him than videos. I suspect it is the flashing of commercials and the fast pace of it all. Anyway, we can always tell when he has watched too much because he not only gets really, really hyper, but also seriously crabby. Not a good combination.

I keep meaning to look it up on the Internet to see if there has been any research into hyperactivity and TV viewing, though I guess the research would be superfluous. I mean, we have are conducting our own research study right here in our family room and I KNOW that TV screws with Danny's system. I guess that is probably all we need to know, right? We know to limit his viewing time and when we do, all goes well (relatively speaking).

The problem is when we go to other people's houses. It is difficult for me sometimes to explain to friends that I would rather keep the TV off. I know I sound all prudish and judgmental, as if I am so above television. That really isn't the case. I just know how Danny gets and would much rather that all my friends not be witness to his misbehavior. Most people are pretty understanding and once in a while, I just let him watch. He can handle it if it is in very small doses.

We stayed with my father this week for the holidays and my dad is a complete television addict. The TV was on pretty much from the time he woke in the morning until at least 2 AM. My dad would fall asleep in front of the TV and sometime in the wee hours of the morning would wake up, turn it off and go back to sleep. This was bad in a lot of ways. First off, it was seriously depressing to me to see my dad waste his life like that. He has always been this way, but I guess I haven't stayed with him for a while, so I haven't been confronted by it. Next, it was just really, really distracting to have a conversation with him while Alex Trebeck was interviewing Jeopardy contestants. But the worst of all was how riled up and crabby it made the kids. Although it was worse for Danny, it also seemed to affect Charlotte. We just never had a moment of peace and quiet, except for the two times I managed to confiscate the remote.

I guess we learned a valuable lesson. Staying at a TV addict's home is not good for my family....Seems like a small thing, but it definitely affected us all.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

All I want for Christmas....

My brother called last week to get suggestions from me for my birthday present. Apparently, the present he wanted to get me--a "Dwight Schrute is My Sensei" t-shirt--didn't come in my size, which is too bad, because I sure would have loved that. Typically, around this time of year, I have a couple of gift ideas in my head; with having a birthday so close to Christmas, I often have family members asking me for suggestions, so it is best to be prepared. This time, however, my mind was a complete blank (which is happening more and more lately). I had such a hard time coming up with a gift that my brother could get me. Now, that is not to say that I don't have some Christmas wishes. I do. Many. They just happen to be gifts that no one is willing or able to get me. Here is a partial list:

**I would love a guarantee that within 3 months of giving birth to this child I am carrying that I will be down to a siz 10. OK, yes, I know that I was not a size 10 when I got pregnant, but this is the season of miracles, right? So, why not dream big (or I guess I should say "small.")?

**I want my kids to do every single thing I ask them to do as soon as I ask them for a whole day. No arguments or pouting. No, I want them to answer each of my requests with an enthusiastic, "Sure, mom. I would love to! Is there anything else I can do for you?"

**If my kids developed a new love for vegetables, it would be a dream come true. They wouldn't even have to love all veggies, just a few of the typical ones, like beans and carrots or corn. It doesn't matter, as long as they get vegetables from a source other than ketchup, I would be happy.

**A housecleaner who would come twice a month and who would also declutter and reorganize my entire house. And if I can get really greedy, I would love my house to actually stay clean longer than 10 minutes.

**I would like an entire day all to myself with no one at all to worry about or feed or clean up after. I am not entirely sure what I would do with myself, but I know it would include sleeping in, using the bathroom uninterrupted, reading, relaxing, meeting a friend for a movie, and not doing ANY cooking or cleaning or wiping of any small behinds.

**Speaking of friends, I want one of my close friends to come and live in my town. Or even if one of them could move within a few hours, that would be great. I have friends here, but I so miss the really close friends I have who I have really shared life experiences with--it seems to take so long now to develop those types of relationships...

**This might give me a heart attack, but I want to have my kids and husband put all their dirty clothes in the hamper all the time. No more picking up stray socks and pants in the living room, bathroom, kitchen, etc. And if they could put away their clean clothes instead of just throwing them around the room, that would just be an added bonus.

**I want Charlotte to resume her nap schedule. I need those naps in a serious way. Why do my kids always quit taking their naps right before I am about to give birth and subsequently be incredibly sleep-deprived? Just one more sign that my kids are conspiring to drive me insane.

**I know this is asking a lot, but I would love to be able to perform grooming tasks, like clipping nails, cutting hair, washing hair, combing hair on my children without them screaming like I have poured boiling oil down their backs. As if the neighbors need any more encouragement to report me to DCFS!

But here is the thing I want most, more than anything: (well, besides world peace and an end to the atrocities in the Congo, among other things) that someone come and completely potty train my two angels quickly. Seriously, this would be the best Christmas or birthday present ever. Please? Anyone?

What about you? What's on your list?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Char's shenanigans

Sunday as I prepared to dress Charlotte for church, I pulled out a couple of outfits, hoping that giving her a choice would entice her to cooperate a bit more. (Despite the cold weather, she still much prefers to be naked. I am not sure what to do about this. And typically dresses are her least favorite type of clothing. Can't really blame her there...) Completely out of the blue she informs me that she would like to wear a sparkly dress. Luckily, I remembered tucked away in the back of her closet an uber-fancy sparkly dress that a coworker of my sister's gave us back when Charlotte was born. I pulled it out to show her, convinced that there was no way on earth she would wear this dress. All the sparkles and bows made the dress really stiff and scratchy. I was sure she would prefer a nice cuddly sweater.

Well, not only did she wear the dress, but she LOVED it. When we asked if she liked it she said yes and then proclaimed, "The only thing more exciting would be if I had a pink balloon." Perhaps she will develop a taste for girly things after all.

She has also developed the habit of quoting her favorite movies. Her cartoon of choice at the moment, besides Teletubbies, is Kipper the Dog, a really cute PBS cartoon about a British dog, Kipper, and his friends. Now, here in our house, we are no strangers to quoting movies. Bil does it all the time and Danny loves quoting movies so much that at one time we were worried that it was a sign of autism. The funny thing about Charlotte is that when she quotes Kipper, she actually affects a British accent, which sounds unbearably adorable coupled with her little girl voice and her tendency to mispronounce words.

She definitely keeps life interesting here, along with her brother.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

they never cease to surprise me

I think my kids are playing mind games with me today. Even more than usual. Bil was gone this morning with the church youth group, so I decided to take the kids to the library. Last night I had bought Danny a new pair of Batman gym shoes. The pair he has been wearing don't really fit him well; they are way too big and have a tendency to fall off his feet. When he first started wearing them, I didn't realize how big they were on him and then he got really attached to them. I knew it would be a battle to get him into the new shoes, so I took the old ones last night and hid them. This morning, Danny was really upset that he couldn't find the old shoes. I told him any number of lies about the whereabouts of the shoes, none of which comforted him. He really wanted to go to the library, but did not want to cave in and put on the new shoes, which he claimed were too small for him.

He seriously cried for over half an hour about his old shoes and how he didn't want to wear the new ones. I tried not to make a big deal of it, but calmly explained that if he wanted to leave the house, he would have to wear shoes. Just as I was about to give up on getting out of the house today, Danny asked me to help him with his shoes. With a few sniffles and my help, he got his shoes on and never looked back. He wore the things all morning and never complained. I have no idea what made him finally acquiesce; in fact, I am not even sure why he resisted in the first place. Difficulty dealing with something new? Didn't like the feel of the new shoes? Who knows?

After the library, I took the kids through the Wendy's drive-thru since we had no food in the house. For some reason, Charlotte was not eating her chicken nuggets, so when the time came to share the Frosty with the kids, she couldn't have any. She wailed and protested that she wanted her ice cream. I repeatedly told her she had to eat her nuggets first (because I am sure those deep-fried chicken pieces are so much healthier than the Frosty, but whatever), but she just screamed and screamed. I kept having to move the Frosty to all sorts of places to get it out of her reach. The screaming started riling up Danny, so finally after what felt like hours of her wails, I relocated her to her bedroom so we could enjoy our Frosty in peace.

Charlotte stayed in her room less than 2 minutes, but when she exited, she calmly returned to the table and ate all the rest of her lunch with absolutely no protests.

Again, I have no idea what precipitated this change of heart. I think my kids just want to remind me that I have no clue as to what is going on in their heads. This is their way of maintaining control, I think, because even though I managed to get them to do what I wanted them to do, I don't know how it happened. And I have no idea if it will ever happen again.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

what is up with Illinois political corruption????

I don't know if any of you are following all the craziness surrounding Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, but wow, is it fascinating to me. Having grown up in Chicago (Cook County, no less, which has a really bad rep for unethical leaders) I am not unused to political corruption; in fact, it is almost a joke in Chicago, especially when elections come around. Older people will reminisce about the days where it was actually a bit dangerous to go to the voting polls, especially if you were Republican. They had pollsters who were very, shall we say, persuasive.

Still, when I found out that our governor had been arrested Tuesday morning for allegedly trying to sell the Senate seat that Obama has left vacant (and a whole bunch of other offenses, as well), I was flabbergasted for several reasons. First off, obviously this is serious corruption, but what really amazed me was that Blagojevich had made the incriminating phone calls from his HOME phone. Has he never watched a spy movie? Does he not know that if one wants to make criminally incriminating phone calls, one should never use a landline phone, especially not his own line? I mean, really, if he wants to get away with criminal activity, he should really be a lot smarter. Then, on top of all that, everyone here knows that Blagojevich has been under investigation for at least a year or more for some other criminal activity. If I knew they were keeping an eye on him, how did he not know? And why did he not curtail his crime spree a bit at least until things died down?

Sadly, this is the second Illinois governor in a row who will probably serve jail time. Our previous governor, George Ryan was convicted in a big illegal license scheme where unlicensed truck drivers obtained licenses through bribes. One of those unlicensed truck drivers was involved in an accident that killed a family's six chileren. Not only that, but he is the fourth of the last 7 governors who has been arrested. What is happening here?

This quote about sums it up: “Government in Illinois isn’t about political ideology or helping people,” said Christopher Mooney, who teaches political science at the University of Illinois-Springfield. “It’s about which idiot brother-in-law are you going to get a job on a road crew because he helped you get into office.” That is actually really pretty accurate. And sad. Not to mention embarrassing.

Monday, December 8, 2008

speaking of heartwarming holiday traditions....

Charlotte has yet again managed to keep alive one of our most consistent holiday tradition. I heard a crash in the living room and then frantic screaming. Charlotte had pulled the Christmas tree down on herself.

She was writhing beneath a pile of tree branches and broken ornaments.

I am pretty sure this has happened every year since we have lived in this house. I know for sure Danny pulled the tree down the year Charlotte was born. Actually, he did it the very day Char was born. We often blame that (along with all the other stress he brought on) for Charlotte's very early arrival. I also have pictures of Charlotte with the small tree at her feet when she was one year old. This is actually already the second time our tree has toppled this year. The first time was our small 3-foot tree and Danny brought that one crashing down. In his defense, the tree was very unstable and toppled easily. This time, Charlotte was after the candy canes I just hung on the tree today.

Note to self: do not put candy canes on tree and do not allow Charlotte within a 10-foot radius of tree. Can I get a restraining order out on her?

So, now I get to redecorate the tree for the THIRD time this year and it isn't even the middle of the month. Sigh. I am beginning to feel my Christmas spirit seeping away.

Holiday pressure

Is it just me or do women, generally speaking, put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect? Or at least to measure up in some small way? I have given up on perfection; I know it is a completely lost cause in my case, yet I still find myself comparing my housekeeping or parenting skills or organizational abilities or hair or thighs to someone close to me. Of course, I always compare myself to someone who seems to achieve standards that defy the laws of probability.

Lately, I have been hearing from many, many friends (and reading on many blogs) how depressing and stressful the holidays are for them. And the common theme seems to be the pressure to make it a perfectly idyllic holiday for their families.
I recently attended a MOPS meeting and the speaker talked all about teaching our kids the true meaning of Christmas and keeping balance, etc. She was an excellent speaker, yet at times I began to feel the defensive feeling I usually get when I sense that yet again I am not measuring up. The speaker stressed that if we didn't make the decision as mothers to teach our kids the true meaning of Christmas, our kids would never learn it. She spoke about her Christmas traditions and how she has eliminated some of the extras that weren't important; she spoke about the importance of balance.

Yet, ironically, I still felt this enormous pressure to begin these amazing traditions that would instill all the most important values (compassion, love for God, selflessness, etc) in my kids' hearts. I started calculating how I would integrate all the traditions she spoke about and I almost broke out in a cold sweat. After pausing and thinking about it, I realized I couldn't make those traditions work. She has her kids memorize Luke 2, for example, and I am just not that interested in quizzing my children throughout the Christmas season. Sounds way too much like homework to me.

Anyway, that is when I realized that I needed my own traditions, ones I choose for myself, not because someone else does them, but because they work for my family. I also realized I am teaching my kids good values yearlong, not just the month before Christmas. This took a lot of the pressure off.

What is it about the holidays that makes us feel this pressure to measure up? Why do I expect my house to look like a BH&G spread? It never does, so why would it now? Why do I think if I find the exact right gift for my mother or husband or child that everything will be right in the world? Why do I even worry about what I get my brother? He is next to impossible to shop for so why do I worry? Why not just try my best and let it go? What do I really think I will accomplish if I find the most delectable dessert to make for Christmas? (I am always in charge of the desserts for my sister's house and I start planning and leafing through recipes in October. I am seriously deranged!)

What about you? Are there parts of the Christmas season or traditions that really stress you out? What have you done about it? Have any of you simplified in order to bring back the joy of Christmas? I have decided to let a lot of things go over the last couple of years, and this year I have let go of even more. I am learning that the more I simplify, the happier I am, which directly translates into how happy the rest of my family is. Forget about the annual bakefest, where in a storm of flour and sugar, I bake and bake and bake so that I can give cookies and candies to every last person I know. We aren't going overboard in our decorating this year (though, truly, we never really have. Bil just isn't all that enthusiastic about stringing lights on every surface inside and outside our house. And I am ok with that.) Instead, we are doing the simple, but fun things that the kids love: driving around town to see all the lights, decorating gingerbread houses (thanks to my MIL who sends us a Wilton kit every year. She is brilliant!), and sitting on the couch with only the Christmas lights on and admiring our haphazardly decorated tree.
Maybe that is why my Christmas spirit is stronger this year than ever before. That and I have been avoiding Wal-mart!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas letters

If you haven't already noticed, my husband and I are pretty geeky. We love crossword puzzles and regularly debate whether we are using a word correctly. We actually consult a dictionary on a semi-regular basis. We like puns and laugh at dumb things. This is apparent in our annual Christmas letters. See, my philosophy on Christmas cards is I like to hear a little bit about what is going on in the sender's life. Just a picture is not enough for me. I like some information. That said, I have my limits. I think, like resumes, Christmas letters should be one page, if possible, and should be to the point. If they are funny, all the better. I don't appreciate the letters that are braggy, but prefer more down-to-earth letters.

Sometimes, though, I have difficulty writing these letters, because I don't feel like when we get to my paragraph, I have anything very interesting to say. I mean, who wants to hear how many poopy messes I cleaned up or how often I had to separate my squabbling children? On the other hand, I don't want to downplay my contribution to the family. It may be really, really mundane and menial stuff I do, for the most part, but someone's got to do it. And it does take a certain amount of panache and creativity to manage the job of motherhood, in my humble opinion.

So, last year, I was determined to not be self-deprecatory; I was going to celebrate each of our accomplishments. What resulted was we pretended to be a family of superheroes. Charlotte was Streaker because she is constantly getting naked. I was the Juggler because of my marvelous multi-tasking skills, Danny was the Whirling Dervish, because of his amazing energy and Bil was Captain Conniption because he cheered up the kids just by walking in the door each night. You get the point. Well, personally, I thought it was pretty amusing. Definitely nerdy, but fun.

Last night, I found out that my sister doesn't enjoy our Christmas letters. She said she would prefer to just get the picture, because she doesn't have the time or patience to wade through what she referred to as my "fluff." She was mostly joking, but it still hurt my feelings. This apparently is also why she never reads my blog. I am just too long-winded. She also implied the only reason I write this stuff is because I am lonely. It's true. I am a bit lonely sometimes, (who isn't?) but that really isn't the reason I write. I just like it, which is probably why I majored in English in college and taught writing afterwards. It is cathartic to me, it helps me work through my problems and laugh at the ridiculous in my life. It is also nice to use my brain for a bit.

Now I am second-guessing myself and this year's letter, which we are almost done writing. Maybe I should just forget about the stupid letters and order those picture cards from Walgreens. Are we totally annoying everyone who gets them? Surely, there are other people out there who wouldn't mind a small glimpse into our family life. People who get a small smile, as I do, after reading about the adventures of their friend's family.

Would it just be better to spare the energy and time? The thing is, Bil and I usually have a lot of fun writing the letters. We sit together in front of the computer and brainstorm and laugh at our goofiness. It is a creative outlet for me, something silly and fun to think about, but also something for Bil and I to bond over that is not stressful.

I don't know. I think I will just take my sister off our Christmas letter list and send them to everyone else. I mean, if someone really would prefer not to take the 5 minutes it would take to read it, that is their prerogative, right? This is a tradition we enjoy, so why should I let someone else's opinion ruin that?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Care Bear Cake

Just thought I would share a picture of the cake that Bil made for Charlotte's birthday. Since we moved here, Bil has semi-jokingly said that we should open up a bakery, since this town doesn't really have one. I would make the baked goods and he could decorate any cakes. The idea doesn't really appeal to me. Besides, I think the real reason he wants to open one is because he has what he considers a great idea for a name: Muffin's Gonna Change My World. (He's big on puns AND the Beatles....)

I forgot to take my happy pill today

I am in a bad mood. Actually, a mood that feels a lot like the mood I get in when I am PMSing. Is it possible that along with the pregnancy weight gain, sciatica problems and heartburn, I am still to be subjected to my PMS rages? Doesn't seem fair at all. On the way home from the grocery shopping trip from hell, I was composing this post in my head; it was full of vitriol and anger and wasn't pretty.

When I got home, though, I changed my mind. I remembered the post I wrote about being grateful and not blowing things out of proportion and thought this would be a good time to practice what I preach. So what that the checkout lady at Wal-Mart seemed to deliberately slow down once I got to the front of the line and once she noticed my little girl acting like a demon? Big deal that the woman in front of us in the checkout lane stopped her cart with her son in it and seriously stared at me while I ran to retrieve my daughter from the optical department? And she kept staring as I dragged my daughter back to the checkout lane. I am sure she had a fabulous reason, like I don't know, maybe she used this as a teaching moment for her small son. I can hear her saying, "Now, Jimmy, that is exactly how you shouldn't act in public. That little girl is obviously a wild animal and we should feel sorry for her that her mommy has absolutely no control over her. See how lucky you are that you don't have a mommy like that?" It's not the end of the world that Charlotte kept running away from me at both stores we visited, right?

OK, enough of my bitterness. Instead, I am going to write about all the wonderful moments I had with my family this holiday weekend. So, here are a few in no particular order. Hopefully, this, along with the copious amounts of chocolate I bought after our escapades in Wal-Mart, should cheer me up.

** Sunday morning, I was awakened to the most excited little boy ever. Danny was thrilled to wake up to find that it had snowed the night before. He said, "Mommy, mommy, wake up! It snowed! There is snow on the ground." He climbed into bed with me and Bil, snuggled under the covers and we looked out the window at all the pretty snow. It really touched me that the first person he wanted to share his excitement with was me. And talk about turning something that could be construed as an inconvenience into something magical!

** Charlotte's third birthday was Sunday, but we decided to celebrate it on Saturday. One of our birthday traditions is we buy the kids a bunch of balloons--at least 10 helium balloons and we blow up a bunch for the floor. Then, while they are sleeping, we fill the kids' room with balloons. It never fails to delight them when they wake up to find balloons everywhere. Charlotte kept squealing, "Balloons! Balloons! Yay!" She definitely spent more time playing with her balloons than with her birthday presents.

** Watching Danny play with the new kitchen set we bought Charlotte was really fun. Once the shopping cart was put together, he asked me to join him on his shopping spree and we wandered through the house with a cart full of fake food. Then, he insisted that he needed money for his shopping and he filled Char's new purse with Monopoly money and some loose change.

** When Charlotte finally got hold of her new purse (which Bil bought and is denim and glittery with a butterfly and flower on it--exactly the type of purse Charlotte would love) she emptied out all the money so she could put her stuffed kitty cats in it. Then, she emptied out the cart and filled it with her three Care Bears, and happily carted them throughout the house.

** Several times this weekend, Charlotte and Danny engaged in one of their newest favorite games. The concept is simple. They chase each other throughout the house laughing hysterically. This game has kept them busy for upwards of an hour. You can't help but laugh along while you listen to their amusement. Plus, it was nice to know they were wearing themselves out.

** Seeing the kids' delight and excitement when we brought out Char's birthday cake was wonderful. My ever talented husband made Charlotte a Grumpy Bear cake. He drew the bear on the cake all by himself. I just made the frosting for him. And it turned out great. The kids loved it.

** Charlotte said to Danny, "I love you very much, Danny!" in her sweet little girl voice. And then, to cheer him up (he had just woken up and was a bit grumpy) she shared her precious kitty cat with him.

** Watching the kids decorate the enormous Wilton snowman cookies with the kit that their grandma sent them was so fun. Danny was so excited that when we called grandma to thank her, he grabbed the phone out of Bil's hand and said clearly and with no prompting, "Grandma, thank you for the snowman cookies. I love them! Talk to you later." Charlotte was too busy eating spoonfuls of frosting to say much on the phone, but my mother-in-law was touched nonetheless.

** We made a gratitude tree last week to teach the kids about the meaning of Thanksgiving. The answers they gave me when I asked them what they were thankful for were a combination of sweet and silly. Charlotte was grateful for Teletubbies, Care Bears and grandma. Danny said he was thankful for friends, maple syrup and Jesus. How sweet is that? (Though maybe I should add that neither of them said they were thankful for me or Bil until I prompted them, but still...)

** Bil made me take a nap while he slaved over dinner: a gourmet pizza with turkey, pine nuts, goat cheese and pesto, along with a homemade whole wheat crust. Heavenly.

** We decorated our Christmas tree. Again. When I discovered that we had no tree this year, Danny and I decorated a little 3 foot tree I had. I had thought to save money and just use that little tree, but when I discovered a tree on sale at Wal-mart for $25, Bil ventured out on Black Friday and bought it for us. So, after dismantling the little tree, we put up and decorated the big tree. Danny was delighted, and kept pointing out to me that we had already decorated "yesterday" and that we were doing it again. How nice that it wasn't a chore to decorate twice.

There. I actually do feel a lot better, and I didn't even finish all the chocolate. I guess being grateful really does make me happy. Who knew?

Monday, December 1, 2008

musical nightmares?

Charlotte has been having a lot of nightmares lately. At least, I am assuming they are nightmares. She wakes up screaming and seems really scared. The other night, I ran to comfort her and she kept repeating in a semi-hysterical tone, "I bonked my music. Mommy, I bonked my music!!" Later in the day after she had fully recovered from the nightmare, I asked her why she was crying when she woke up and she just repeated the line about bonking her music. I have no idea what that means.

Two days later, she yet again woke up at about 4AM yelling hysterically. This time I heard her repeating, "Sing with me! Sing with me!"

It makes me wonder what she could possibly be dreaming about. Is Barney holding her hostage and making her sing to him? Maybe she is dreaming about her Sesame Street Sing-along DVD? Elmo is holding her Care Bears hostage if she won't sing along? That would give me nightmares, that's for sure.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thank you!!! And our impromptu dance club....

Wow, I have been seriously awed by the supportive words and encouragement I have received from you all. When I first started this blog, I figured it would be more like a journal. I never imagined I would meet so many wonderful people who give me the pep talks and support I need. Thank you so much. And I agree with you all about the ASD diagnosis. After getting it off my chest and reading your wonderful comments, I feel so peaceful, so thank you!

On a lighter note, we had such a fun time in our little house last night. My kids' room was turned into an impromptu discotech and it was hysterical. It all started when my husband bought the latest Killers album "Day and Age" off of itunes. We are both Killers fans, mostly because we love their music, but also because my husband knows the drummer. They used to record music together back in Vegas before Ronnie joined the Killers and my husband gave up his dream of being a rock star in favor of going to college and becoming an engineer.

Anyway, I had listened to a bit of the new cd earlier in the day and Charlotte seriously rocked to it. I have over 5 minutes of footage of her shaking her booty and it is so cute; she has some pretty crazy moves. When Bil got home I wanted to show him her reaction, so we popped in the cd. It was like magic. The music completely took hold of the kids and they danced their little hearts out. For seriously 7 songs. They kept entreating me to join them, but I had to take many breaks--bouncing makes me need to pee and feels uncomfortable depending on how the baby is lying.

Anyway, I felt like I was back in the 80s at the mixers we had in high school, sans the big hair, leg warmers, and the odor of Draakar cologne. Charlotte was doing the pogo dance, where you hop up and down incessantly and Danny was slam dancing, only instead of slamming into people, he was thankfully throwing himself from the bed onto the floor. Every time a new track would start, Charlotte would yell, "Hooray! Another song!" Both the kids danced themselves into the ground and were wiped out by bedtime. The really exciting part? Danny did not get overstimulated at all. He was really excited, but danced completely appropriately, meaning he never crashed into someone or started screeching or anything.

It made me wish we could take the kids to the Killers concert we will be attending in January in Chicago. They would love it, though I would never subject their tiny ears to that sort of abuse. And yes, I will be 6 months pregnant at a rock concert. Actually, the last Killers concert we went to, I was pregnant with Charlotte, so maybe this is becoming a tradition.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

parent teacher conference and people's advice/opinions

Last Friday was Parent/Teacher Conference with Danny's teacher and it went pretty well. There were no real surprises. I knew he was excelling in the academic areas; he has known his shapes, letters, and colors since before he ever started preschool. In fact, I just realized that Charlotte who will be three this week still hasn't mastered her letters and even some of her letters, but by this age, Danny had.

I knew that he does well with routines and has been following the rules. I was worried when he entered a regular class, with many more students than in his special ed. class, that he would be prone to overstimulation. Overstimulation for Danny often leads him to yell, push kids and run into others and become really crabby and hard to calm. Also, he tends to have difficulty focusing. So far, these behaviors are not manifesting themselves, at least not in the classroom. Home is another story, but I won't get into that here.

The one major concern Miss A. has is his social interactions. Apparently, at school Danny will initiate play with other kids only on the playground. In the class, he tends to do more parallel play and rarely initiates play with other kids, but if another kid initiates it, he does join in. I have noticed during playdates with one or two kids, he does sometimes initiate play, so I am wondering if he is just a bit shy/reserved/overwhelmed with all the kids in his class. Am I just making excuses? I don't know.

I did ask Miss A. if she thought he would improve in this area, since I can't seem to help myself from seeking reassurance from the "experts." She wouldn't offer it; instead she was noncommittal and said she couldn't make me any promises. I can see where she is coming from, but it also annoyed me. What exactly did she mean by that? I don't know, but since he seems to do well with small groups, I have decided not to worry about it. He has made such amazing strides in the last few years, it stands to reason that he will continue to do so. He has never regressed, but has just progressed at a different pace than the average kid.

I suspect my sister thinks Danny has autism, even though he has been tested for it and was found not to be on the spectrum. She has made a few remarks to me and others which leads me to believe that she disagrees with the diagnosis. A couple of people (always people who are virtual strangers to us and who have only seen Danny once, and who are not in any way qualified or even knowledgable on the subject) have remarked that they think he is autistic. It makes me wonder if I am missing something. Am I fooling myself into believing he isn't on the spectrum? The doctor we took him to came highly recommended and she really seemed to understand Danny. Could she have been wrong? Does it even matter? Even if he were found to have autism, his therapy and treatments would mostly remain the same, so does he need to be labeled?

I know I said just a minute ago that I wasn't going to worry about it and here I am worrying. Sorry about that. I just have so many questions and so much confusion. I worry that Danny isn't getting sufficient therapy even though his OT says he is doing great. We work really hard with him and he is making tremendous strides. We regularly get him to do exercises at home that he refuses to do for his OT, so something is working, right? Last night, I talked to my good friend from MyShore about my financial worries and she gave me some great advice about gaining perspective. That is probably what I need to do about Danny right now. I am just not sure how to gain that perspective. And I worry that if I am not vigilant, I will miss something critical. Does any of this make sense?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree!

When we first moved to the town we are living in, my mother gave us her old artificial Christmas tree. This was the tree that I grew up with, so it was old and pretty beat up and out of shape, but we were grateful to save the money on a new tree. So what that the branches were bent up, right? Plus, there was a lot of sentimental value in that old tree.

Our first Christmas here, we got down the tree and decorations and lights and were eagerly anticipating decorating our new home. Imagine our dismay when the top to the tree was nowhere to be found. Apparently, we had left it in my parents' attic in Chicago. There was no way to get the top in time for Christmas, so we improvised. I bent all the branches upwards to camouflage the missing top. The result? A really squat and short Christmas tree, but definitely one with character. See above picture.

This year, Danny has been begging me to decorate for Christmas since early October. I had planned on waiting until the day after Thanksgiving, since I feel like that is a sorely neglected holiday. But, today Danny was being so agreeable and I was looking for something to do with the kids while Bil was away all afternoon and evening for Church meetings. So, I thought, "What the heck?"

While Charlotte napped, Danny and I climbed the attic stairs numerous times and retrieved all my Christmas decorations. We had so much fun delving into the boxes and rediscovering all the treasures buried therein. I put out all my Christmas teapots and the stockings and smiled when I found the reindeer wall hanging that I sewed myself before I had kids. Danny played with the beads for the tree and tore apart much of the styrofoam that protected the breakables. We laughed and smiled.

Then, we realized that something important was missing. The Christmas tree. I found all my ornaments and doodads and lights, but no tree. Puzzled, I sat and thought and suddenly I had a hazy vision of me loading the tree into my car to take to Catholic Charities last year. I totally forgot that I had decided to get rid of the tree and buy a new one. It was practically falling apart, so I figured the time had come. Of course, I missed the sales last year, so I planned on buying one this year. The thing is, I had forgotten. Totally slipped my mind. I think I have a little problem with my memory and Christmas trees. Kind of weird, but I suppose it is better than having a penchant for forgetting really important things, like say, feeding my kids.

So, here we are with all our cool ornaments and no tree for Danny to decorate. Luckily, by this point, after all the lugging, dragging and unpacking of boxes, Danny was worn out. He laid on the couch and vegged and didn't seem that upset when we realized we would have to buy a new tree. It's always nice when he responds well to disappointments.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

potty training progress...or the lack thereof

So, it has been Potty Bootcamp at my house the last couple of weeks. Charlotte has spent a fair amount of time on the toilet and no luck yet. The other day, she watched an entire Kipper video, which lasted about an hour, all while sitting on the toilet. But she did not pee. That is, until about 10 minutes after getting off the toilet. She peed on the kitchen floor, and there was a lot of pee, so she had to be holding it.

In an attempt to turn this into a teachable moment, I said to Charlotte, "Do we pee on the kitchen floor?"

Char said, "No."

I said, "Charlotte, where do we go pee-pee?"

She said, brightly, "Under the chair."

Not much progress happening here. And yet another person told me yesterday, "Wow, I can't believe you are having such difficulty with potty training Charlotte. Girls are so easy to train usually."

Thanks. Thanks for that.


I had to give a talk in church last week on gratitude and I found the most wonderful quote. It's simple, but it really spoke to me. "Hold fast to the blessings which God has provided for you. Yours is not the task to gain them, they are here; yours is the part of cherishing them” (J. Reuben Clark). Rather than focusing on what blessings I would like to have (you know, skinny thighs, obedient children, enough money to buy Pop Tarts without thinking twice), I should cherish the ones I already do have, which are really too many to mention.

I have never been a completely positive person. On the other hand, I don't think I am totally negative either, though I suppose my last several posts might say something different about me. I don't buy into a Pollyanna mentality; some things that happen to us just defy a positive attitude. However, what I am noticing is that often what I am most negative about are things that are relatively trivial. So, my goal, at least for this month is to look at life more positively. To see the abundant blessings that I am in possession of, because as Thomas S. Monson said, “Think to thank. In these three words is the finest capsule course for a happy marriage, a formula for enduring friendship, and a pattern for personal happiness.”

We'll see how this goes.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The whinefest of an overeducated, underappreciated char-woman

A while back, Elizabeth from Three Channels referred to herself as an overeducated char-woman and the term stuck with me. I liked it, because it was such an apt description of what I feel like most days. I went to college and studied English. After college, I worked in a legal publishing company and then decided to go to graduate school. While pursuing my Master's degree in Education, I taught English as a Second Language at a community college. After getting my degree I taught English at an inner-city, alternative high school, a university and a couple of community college. In all that time, I don't ever remember being called upon to clean up poop. Once, a high school student who was pregnant puked in my class after eating a breakfast of Red Hot Cheetos, but the dean came and cleaned it up.

I don't just feel like a char-woman because of the messes I regularly clean up, but also because sometimes I feel like I am completely sapped dry by the needs of my kids and others. Here's an example. At church, I am one of the women in charge of the children, so every Sunday, I spend most of my time with other people's kids, while trying to get my kids to behave at the same time. This Sunday was an exception. They were having a special program for the women, so the men substituted for us with the kids. I am a bit embarrassed at how excited I was at the prospect of hanging out with some women and no kids. I couldn't wait.

Then, comes Sunday and Danny was beside himself with crying when he found out I wasn't going to Primary with him. I stood in the hall for at least 30 minutes trying to coerce/bribe him into going with the other kids. I even offered him the option of coming with me and hanging with the women, but he wasn't biting. He just wanted to sit in the hall. With me. In his defense, I think he was a bit overstimulated. Church is the one place where he regularly has difficulty--it isn't really set up for kids like him, and the changes I have tried to institute have been met with some resistance.

Anyway, as I stood with him in the hallway, watching the minutes tick by, the precious minutes during which I could have been sitting with the other women, I actually started to cry. I know, I know, you will probably say my pregnancy hormones are to blame, but I was completely disappointed to miss this opportunity to be childless for an hour or so. And not just childless, but childless while having the pleasure of other adults' company and conversation. Bil finally did manage to convince Danny to go to nursery. He is too young for nursery, technically, but at that point I didn't care.

And now here I type while my two kids and their two friends laugh and play in the family room and my husband naps. And naps. And naps. I can't really complain; he was up really late last night working on a project to help me. But still. Here I am alone with kids. Again. I know this is a recurring theme with me and I shouldn't be so ungrateful. I should enjoy the time with my kids and not ---- OK, I just had to run into the family room and give all the kids a timeout for fighting and throwing toys all over my heretofore previously clean family room. So much for enjoyment.

I need to get out. I need to get out with some friends. I need to make more friends. I need a cleaning service, because I am so totally done with cleaning up endless messes and never having any of my work staying done for more than an hour. Sigh.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

thoughts on immigration

Last night Bil and I watched the movie The Visitor, which I recommend. The movie is about a man who has lost his wife and really isn't living his life anymore. He goes to New York for a conference and discovers that there is a couple living in his apartment there. He lives in Connecticut, but keeps an apartment in the city, and apparently some unknown man has been illegally renting out the man's apartment and collecting the money for himself. The couple are both illegal immigrants and have nowhere to go, so the man allows them to stay. The rest of the movie is about his relationship with them and also deals with immigration issues. I don't want to give the entire plot away; it is a really good movie.

What I like the most about it is that it sheds some light on illegal immigrants and their plight. With all the election hoopla, I received a lot of anti-immigration emails from family and friends, which I read with mixed feelings. I can see that it might be a good thing to have restrictions on immigration, but on the other hand, I sympathize with the people who come here looking for a better life. First off, my own grandfather came here illegally back in the 1940s from Austria. He got into some trouble in Europe (apparently, he was a bit of a hothead) and he fled to America. He lived here for a few years and then met my grandmother. After he married her, he left the States and reentered through Canada, this time legally because he was married. Those emails lambasting illegal immigrants would definitely have applied to my grandfather, and if he had never come here, would I even exist now?

Also, I taught English as a Second Language for over three years in Chicago and I got to know so many wonderful people who had come to the States, some legally and other illegally. While teaching these adults, they shared a lot of personal information with me. Some of them had advanced degrees in their countries, but were working here in factories or as maids. They didn't complain, though. They felt lucky to have even these menial jobs because they had so few opportunities to make a living in their countries. Most of the students worked 12 or more hours a day so that they could earn enough to send money home to their families. Many had spouses and children here, but still sent money home--it was very difficult for them to make ends meet. Also, they were exhausted; after working grueling hours, they then came to school to learn English. After spending a bit of time with their children, they had just enough time to maybe get 4 hours of sleep.

I will never forget these students of mine: Joel, Jose, Juan, Margarita, Maria, Gabriella, all of whom were so grateful for the opportunity to learn English and to live here. After meeting them, I can never look at immigration issues the same way again. I know I don't know all the political and socio-economic issues involved, but I do know that these students of mine came here because they were desperate. Desperate for a chance at doing more than just surviving. Desperate to help their families. Some of them, desperate to live somewhere where they would have freedom.

We are really lucky, those of us who live in countries where we have freedom and the opportunity to earn a living and take care of ourselves and our families. But, what did we do differently than those students of mine? We just got lucky and it seems unfair to me that because they were born somewhere else, they don't get the chances we do.

The thing I liked most about this movis is it shows a more personal side to immigration. It is pretty one-sided; there is no question where the director stands on the issues, but I would still recommend the movie.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Anybody have the Super Nanny's phone number?

I am wondering if I could hire her to potty train my kids. Yes, both kids. Apparently, one area of parenting in which I am seriously lacking is the potty training arena. Neither of my kids is totally potty training and I am going to have a newborn on my hands in about 4 months. Panic is setting in.

Danny has been partially potty trained for well over a year. The problem is, he will not poop on the toilet. I am embarrassed to admit this, but have I mentioned that the kid is 5 years old? Yes, 5! Please don't judge me on this. It is not for a lack of trying, nor is it due to poor discipline. At least I don't think so. He tries really, really hard to do it, but it never happens. Then, when he falls asleep or is relaxed, he goes in his pants.

We have tried just about everything and nothing works. I am convinced this is a sensory issue, so when I see Danny's occupational therapist this week, this issue will be on the top of my list. I know his teacher is concerned about his handwriting grip, but as far as I am concerned, I just want the kid to go number 2 on the toilet. I am so incredibly sick of cleaning his gross underwear.

So, due to lack of success with Danny, I decided to concentrate on potty training Charlotte, who after all, is almost 3 and is a girl, which according to everyone I have talked to, is supposed to make a difference. "Girls are so much easier to potty train," they exclaim. "Girls practically potty train themselves," they promise. Well, not this little girl. For the last 2 weeks we have sat on the toilet several times throughout the day, and I never, ever get the timing right. We talk about it, read books about it, but again, nothing is working.

Why is this so hard for me? I just don't get it. What am I doing wrong? It has to be something I am doing wrong, but I can't figure it out. And the thought of having to deal with three kids' poopy diapers/underwear is just about more than I can handle right now. Especially considering none of these kids are twins.

Yikes, what if I find out I am actually carrying twins right now? That would mean 4 kids' worth of excrement. I think I am going to hyperventilate. I need to get a grip.

Anyway, does anyone have any experience with this: resistance to pooping on the toilet? I would love to hear what you did about it. And how do I potty train Charlotte, who supposedly doesn't have SPD (though I do really think she has some sensory issues)?

Is anyone willing to come potty train my kids for me? I would be willing to pay. A lot. I'm not kidding.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

my blue funk

For some reason, this week I am in a bit of a blue funk. And chocolate is not even really helping, though that hasn't stopped me from trying.

I think it is a combination of things; I am a bit bored and lonely, and I got a really judgmental email from someone that both angered me and hurt my feelings. I had a really hard time knowing how I should respond to the email, since I am not at all typically good with confrontation. Often, I end up talking to everyone else, besides the person who has offended me. Then, I just stew and get more and more angry at that person, but never give them the opportunity to address the offense.

I wondered what I should do. I mean, I want to be kind to others, but at the same time, I don't think we are expected to let people talk disrespectfully to us, are we? I was torn. I didn't want to offend this woman, who I see regularly at church, but on the other hand, she is known for being extremely judgmental and sometimes offensive. So, do I have a responsibility to explain to her how her email made me feel, so she could perhaps be more careful in the future? I don't know.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that she made me so angry because she had judged me as a parent, which always makes me defensive. She was wrong about her judgments, though, and I knew it, so why was it bothering me so much? For some reason, other people's opinions of me have always been important, even when I don't like or agree with the person. Is that crazy or what? Lately, I think I have been overcoming this, though, because in this case, once I wrote a pretty mature and calm response to her email (OK, the first response I wrote was angry, but I didn't send it), I felt a lot better. I realized that I am doing the very best for my child and that this woman really doesn't even know the whole story. Also, I don't agree with her parenting theories or philosophies, so it shouldn't bother me that she disagrees with me. Obviously, she is going to disagree with me.

It just makes me wonder, why do I always second guess myself when it comes to my parenting? Why do I assume that others are right and I am wrong, in every situation, including those situations in which they are not at all knowledgeable? Why do I care if someone thinks I am a lousy parent? Why do I care when someone is disagrees with what I know is right for my kid or my family? Maybe I need to go back to therapy to keep working on these issues....

Sunday, November 2, 2008

And the winners are....

We finally have our winners selected. Thanks to my husband for making the final decisions. Also, thanks to everyone who participated; you gave my husband and I some much needed entertainment in the evenings once we finally got the kids to bed. And it helped us appreciate our son's quirks a bit more. Bil said at one point, "Danny chews on everything, but at least he doesn't lick the inside of shoes.." Too true.

And a special thank you to anyone who posted about SPD in October or in any other way spread the word. It seems like a lot of information was shared this month, and that's a good thing. So, if the following people could be sure to send me their addresses, I will try to mail out the packages this week. My email address is patty.porch@juno.com.

The grand prize winner is:
Her prize will include a Willbarger's brush, some theraputty and some girly stuff to pamper herself with.

The runners-up are:




Sorry to those of you who didn't win. It was really a tough decision. I was tempted to go and order more brushes so everyone could win, but I just don't have that kind of dough.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

political mudslinging

First off, I promise to post the winners of the giveaway soon. Sorry about the delay. My husband was not feeling well last night, and as I am having him make the final decision, it will have to wait until tonight.

Until then, I have something I want to vent about. First off, let me say that I am not all that thrilled with either presidential candidate. I have problems with both McCain and Obama and even Palin and Biden. There is not one single candidate in the Democratic or Republican Parties with whom I agree wholeheartedly.

That said, I am really annoyed with all the anti-Obama emails I keep getting. If these emails and websites focused on the issues and were truthful, I wouldn't have a problem with them. But, this couldn't be further from the truth. Obama is NOT a terrorist, or even a Muslim (though I do take issue with people equating terrorists and Muslims, as if they were the same thing). Why do people have to make up lies about the candidates? Can't we let their stances on the major issues speak for themselves and guide our choices?

These anti-Obama people must be getting pretty desperate, because my cousin just sent me yet another email that was ludicrous in its accusations. On one page of the slide show, they have Obama's name with a bunch of images, including an image of a peace sign (how that is insulting, I have no clue) and an image of a marijuana leaf (I am not sure what they are getting at with this one), along with a Union Yes sign (I didn't realize that unions were all evil now. Good thing I no longer belong to the teachers' union...).

The next page actually asserts that Obama (and the Democratic Party, in general) is to blame for the economic crisis we are now in. This is insulting to me. Do they really think I will believe that some Senator or even an entire party has control over the economy? I don't even think we could accurately put all the blame on the President's head, and he has way more power than some lowly Senator. Please. What bugs me about this is that the economic problems we are now facing have been years in the making, and many, many people have contributed to the problem. I don't think we can solely blame the government for this. In fact, I think we should look at what we as American citizens have done to contribute, or at least what we can do to help with the problem. I mean, would we really have this foreclosure crisis if people didn't take out mortgage loans that they really couldn't afford? Sure, the banks had no business giving out those loans, in my opinion, but it isn't as if they were forcing people to take them.

I am obviously not an economist or an expert on politics, but it is hard for me to believe that some politicians rigged the economy so that there would be a crisis just a month before the election, which is also what this website implies. Do they really think there is some conspiracy going on and that these Democrats are that smart that they know how to manipulate the economy to do exactly as they want? It doesn't make sense and I don't see how the Democrats will benefit. This crisis is affecting everyone, even other countries.

It should probably have raised a red flag that this website gives no sources for its outlandish claims (including a claim that if Obama wins, Islam will be the fastest growing religion in America. I wonder how Obama plans to do that.) It doesn't even say who is responsible for the website, another red flag.

Well, I will quit ranting and just say that it irks me that people would just blindly believe this garbage without even researching it. I have friends and family who believe this just because Obama scares them. It's fine if his stances on abortion or health care or the economy don't jibe with your beliefs. Then don't vote for him, but why do people have to make things up and drag his name through the mud? As I said before, why can't we stay focused on the issues? Aren't those important enough on which to base our decisions?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween and other stuff

These are some cupcakes I made for Danny's class party today. Actually, this is a picture I found on google, but they look exactly like the ones I made. Bil taught me how to download pictures from the camera onto the computer, but I can't remember how. I know, pathetic. I have also forgotten how to burn a cd. I think the problem is deep down, I know Bil will always do these technical tasks for me, so maybe I don't really attend to his lessons. Terrible, I know, but not much different than he is about domestic chores and keeping track of the kids' doctors, shoe size, etc., right? I like to think of it as job security or maintaining our symbiotic relationship. Whatever.

Anyway, I will have the winners from my giveaway posted tonight or tomorrow. Bil is helping me make my final choices. There were so many good entries, I am having a hard time deciding, which is nothing new for me. I have, however, decided to choose more than one winner. The grand prize winner will receive a brush, along with some other goodies, while the runners-up will get a smaller prize, but one that will definitely include one of those brushes. Thanks to everyone who posted a comment. I guess the way to get more comments and readers is to give stuff away.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

word to the wise

A while back Charlotte was in the bathtub and kept pointing to body parts and naming them. She pointed to her privates and said, "This is my booty, mommy." For some reason, I decided to be pedantic and told her the real name of her privates, not thinking of the possible implications for me. First, she started going around the house, telling anyone who would listen, "This is my vagina." I thought smugly of how precocious and smart she is and patted myself on the back for not being embarrassed to give things their proper names. Then, she started randomly inserting the word "vagina" into sentences, such as, "Look, I have a vagina car."

Somewhere along the line, she also learned the word "penis," so now she can point to and label everyone's privates in the family. Just yesterday, as I was using the facilities, Charlotte ran up to me, bent down and peered between my legs and proudly announced, "Mommy, that is your vagina!"

Anyway, it has gotten a bit more complicated now that she is not afraid to say these words in public. The other day, in the public bathroom of a store, she said, "Mommy, you are going poop" (which I WASN'T!!!) and "Look, there is your vagina."

I am getting a bit worried because yesterday after a particularly wet diaper, I blew on her to dry her off and she said really loudly, " Mommy, don't pinch my vagina" repeatedly. Of course her pronunciation is impeccable, so if anyone were to hear her, they would have no doubt as to what she is saying. Thank goodness the windows weren't open or I would have been reported to DCFS...

So, a word to the wise: be careful what words you teach your child. If they happen to have any potential to be embarrassing to you, as the mother, then really think twice about teaching them.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Contact lens wearers, beware!

I am so angry, I could scream. I called a couple of weeks ago to order my new supply of contact lenses. I have been wearing contacts since junior high. When I lived in Chicago, all I had to do was call my doctor every year and he would order new ones for me. Every 5 years or so, they would require that I come in for a check-up before ordering new ones. Seemed entirely reasonable to me.

Not so anymore. Apparently, a new law has been passed this year which requires contact lens wearers to get a check-up every single year before getting their prescription renewed. I was furious. I do not need a check-up that often--if you wear glasses you only need to go every two years. Why the discrepancy? Accoring to my family doctor and articles I have read, you really only need eye screenings (for glaucoma, etc.) every 5 years. Plus, I happen to be pregnant which is exactly when you don't want to be changing your prescription. All those hormones can actually affect your vision for the better, but it doesn't always stay that way, so experts advise not changing your prescription until all the hormones have gone back to normal.

I thought I could get around this ridiculous law by ordering my contacts online, but the greedy doctors have even covered that avenue. Before you can order your contacts, the website has to contact your doctor to make sure your prescription has not expired. So, the only way I am going to get new contacts is to give in and spend $100 for a check-up that I do not need.

I am irate. I just don't think the health field should be allowed to gouge patients this way. The doctors are only forcing you to spend more money and it is so unfair. It has nothing to do with our health, but everything to do with the money they want to make. As if they don't make enough with their overpriced check-ups and glasses frames. I think I am going to start writing letters to politicians or something.

I am definitely considering switching to glasses, since I don't have to pay anything at all for that. I just am not that thrilled with how I look in them. On the other hand, they do seem to mask the crow's feet I am developing, so there is that....

Another SPD giveaway!

There is another SPD giveaway in the works and it is even better than mine (but, still enter mine, please!) Kia, from Good Enough Mothering. She is giving away 5 copies of the book Megan's World which is by a mother and her daughter who has SPD. So, go check it out and enter the giveaway. Now. Both my giveaway and Kia's end next week (mine on Thursday, Kia's on Halloween).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


As the month starts wearing down, I just want to remind you about the SPD giveaway that I posted last week. Please feel free to enter the giveaway at the above link and tell your friends about it too. Also, if you have not yet read my previous guest post by Erin, please do so. Her story is really interesting, even though we did need to condense it a bit. I think her words are very helpful to parents of children with SPD. She can tell us a bit about what they might be going through.

I think this may be the end of my SPD posts. I may do one more with some book reviews, but I am running out of ideas. Thanks to everyone who posted about SPD on their blogs and to those who visited mine. I think at least a few more people have learned about SPD this month. And that's a good thing! I will post the winner of the giveaway on Halloween.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Yikes, magic!"

I need a break from all things SPD and this topic has been on my mind since Thursday when I received an odd email. First of all, let me please give this disclaimer: I am not poking fun at anyone's religion. I staunchly believe people should be allowed to worship as they see fit.

OK, so onto the email. I belong to MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) which gets together twice a month to socialize and ostensibly to offer support to mothers of small children. It is supposed to be a non-denominational group that promotes Christian values. Well, the group had planned a "Fall Ball" for Saturday for the whole family to attend. They had food planned and hay rides, etc. and it promised to be fun for all.

On Thursday I got an email elaborating on the magician that was supposed to be coming to the Fall Ball. In the email, D said when she heard there was going to be a magician, she thought, "Yikes, magic!" and assumed many others felt the same way. She then put everyone's fears to rest by assuring us that the magician was a Christian and that he would start his act by informing the kids that there is no such thing as magic. He would talk about God's miracles and then end the show with a discussion of the Plan of Salvation, which I assume means he would talk about Jesus coming to save the world. She concluded by saying that they wouldn't be exposing the kids to any voodoo.

I was baffled by so many aspects of this email. And please, anyone reading this who can shed some light on my questions, let me know. First off, are there really people out there who think "Yikes!" when the hear the word "magic"? What could possibly be so scary about a magician performing for kids? I believe in God quite fervently. I pray, go to Church, etc. but I have no problem with my children believing in magic. To me, it is the same as kids believing in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. What is so dangerous about a couple of card tricks and pulling a bunny out of a hat? I don't see at all how this could undermine a child's belief in God or Jesus. What am I missing here?

To be honest, I wasn't quite sure how I felt about some stranger (whether Christian or not) informing my child that magic doesn't exist. Isn't magic what childhood is all about? I love to see the looks of wonder on my kids' faces when they see something unexplainable. Why would I want someone to come along and squash that in my kid at the age of 5? It won't be long before he starts to feel disillusioned about so many things, why force it sooner?

Another problem I had was that the author of the email (and presumably other leaders of my MOPS group) equate magic with voodoo. Why would anyone assume that magic and voodoo are the same thing? I just don't understand.
Maybe there really is dark magic out there and voodoo, maybe I am just naive because I have never encountered it myself. But, I guess I am more worried about real evils that I hear about on the news: child pornography, child molestation, rapes, etc. This magic thing seems like a distraction from the real evils out there. I am more worried that the magician performing at a party is a pedophile than I am about my kids believing in magic.

Like I said before, I don't mean to belittle anyone's beliefs. I have just never encountered anyone who was so freaked out about magic before. Since moving to this smallish town 5 years ago, there are just so many religious issues that I have come into contact with that baffle me. Another one is the crazy controversy over Harry Potter. But, I suppose that is fodder for another long rant/post.

Living with SPD--Erin's Story

This is a guest post from Erin, who is an adult sufferer of SPD. She was gracious enough to tell us her story and how treatment has helped her. Thank you, Erin!

Going back into early childhood I always knew there was something different about me, but I never could put my finger on exactly what it was. As a child I was completely content to spend two or three hours in the pool bobbing up and down, up one end of the pool and back. I didn’t know anybody else who felt compelled to eat erasers, and long past when everyone had learned to sit in their seats I was still tipping mine back. I will never forget the time I took it too far in third grade and there I lay, sprawled on the floor in my chair with the desk and the contents of the desk digging into my stomach looking up at my teacher who was looking down at me with her hands on her hips shaking her finger and saying “I told you that would happen one day Erin and I hope you have learned.” I was mortified, but not enough to quell the urge to tip back my desk, and the next week I tipped it again.

I felt compelled to do these things and though I hated the chastisement and knew that I should be listening to what I was told, I couldn’t stop myself. I was labeled as a behavior problem and treated with disdain. This was a major contributing factor to my low self-esteem and depression starting in 3rd grade when I was around 9 years old.

I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in 3rd grade, and while I still carry the diagnosis, and take medication for it daily, my ADHD is a co morbid disorder my SPD, and only a piece to the puzzle. The difference between ADHD and SPD is when an SPD child gets the input they crave, they feel more modulated and quit seeking it. In ADHD it is more about impulse control and these children tend to do it because they don’t have the restraint to stop. I have pieces of both; lack of impulse control and sensory seeking.

Finally when I was 22 and still hadn’t outgrown completely many of the concerning behaviors someone noticed that there was more going on than the ADHD alone, and I was diagnosed by an OT with SPD. I received 6 weeks of OT with a therapist who had no clue about the nuances in the differences in treating an adult versus a child. Since SPD is considered primarily a childhood disorder many of the OT’s trained for Sensory Integration Therapy do not have the training to adjust the therapy to meet the different neurological systems, sensory needs and preferences of adults. I was dissatisfied because I learned very little about myself or how to deal with SPD, made very little progress in establishing a baseline, and virtually no progress in making and reaching therapy goals. In fact I didn’t even know what my goals should be. I was quite discouraged and disgusted with my treatment and resigned myself to the fact that “this is as good as it gets.”

Then when I was 24 I decided to take a plunge which would change my entire sensory related future. I entered college with the goal of attaining my Bachelor’s as a Registered Nurse. I quickly realized that to be as successful as I had the potential for I would have to seek more treatment for my sensory symptoms in the classroom. With the fluorescent lights, the ticking clocks and my need to keep moving, I could barely focus on what was going on with my instructors. I was in the beginning of school taking some very easy introduction courses. There was no way I was going to make it through some of my specialized classes if I didn’t do something.

I began calling around to OT’s in my area to find some meaningful therapy that could make a difference in my life and allow me to be successful in school. After calling around to many local clinics and hospitals I finally reached a receptionist who informed me that the hospital might have an OT who would be willing to treat an adult with SPD. I waited for a call back from a woman named Denise and wondered if it was to be another dead end. It was a long wait. But she did call back, and what’s more, she told me she was comfortable treating an adult! I was in!
I showed up for my first appointment on a Monday afternoon in February. I was one and half hours early, even though the hospital is only about 10 minutes from where I lived at the time. I knew that I got lost easily, couldn’t really read a map, and I wanted a chance to feel out the place before I threw myself in (all common adult sensory symptoms). After sitting in the horrible waiting room for 1 ½ hours I was already feeling “fried” (my Pre-OT word for dismodulated or overstimulated), and I was a bit anxious not knowing what to expect of and from my first appointment with Denise.

My intake was awful. I had no tools to deal with the overstimulation that I was experiencing, or even a clue that it was not normal to feel the need to burst into tears or go to sleep. I had only a vague understanding of what SPD did to my body at the time.

At the end of the intake she told me that I qualified for services. I was now scheduled to start therapy on Mondays at one every week. It was very difficult for me in the beginning. I began most sessions on the swing and then moved onto my Sensory Diet. I left almost every session with a sense of peace and calm that I had never felt before despite how hard I had worked in my session. I remember wondering at one point if the peace and calm were what it felt like to live without SPD.

Progress came quickly and in leaps in bounds. The first difference that I really noticed was when I was horseback riding. One day I realized that I felt secure in the saddle and not like I was going to fall off the horse at any given moment. I gained confidence, and as I rode harder I was able to get more sensory input riding as well. Then I noticed that I was sleeping better, and I felt rested when I woke up. My horrible nightmares had slowed down and I was rarely waking up in a complete panic unable to function. I was falling asleep in 10-15 minutes instead of 3-4 hours and sleeping through the night. I had more energy and I was more focused and organized in my life. School was becoming easier to handle by the day, and I was really enjoying some of my more difficult classes, and making it through 4 hour classes! I was gaining core muscle strength and had moved up to 5 lb weights for my arms. I was walking around 5 miles a day with weights on my ankles and wrists and I was enjoying the input. I followed my sensory schedule, and I spent a lot of personal time accentuating what I had learned to add to my repertoire of skills.

I am now enjoying my days again. I spend much of my day working on my Sensory Diet, but the time put into it doesn’t seem to hinder my progress in other areas of my life. I am going to school full time and I am very involved in the online SPD community. I am moderating on two different forums for others out there seeking information and treatment for SPD. I have time for my family and friends and I enjoy and anticipate time spent with them. My horseback riding is going well, and I have been told several times what an “amazing rider” I am.

It sure feels amazing… all of it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

SPD Awareness Month Giveaway!

I have been brainstorming ideas for the rest of October to get the word out about SPD and I came up with the idea of a giveaway. It helps that I just recently received a package from Southpaw and in it were 12 of these:

It is a Wilbarger brush which you can use to administer the Wilbarger Brushing Technique. Have any of you tried this? Well, my sister swears by it, so I ordered the brushes not realizing just how many brushes come in a package. So, I am going to share my bounty with one lucky reader. And if you don't do the brushing technique, never fear: these brushes would be great for just some fun tactile activities.

I am also going to include a small container of Theraputty and some other fun sensory toys. And never one to neglect the champions of these SPD kids, I will include goodies for an overworked mother (some peppermint foot rub, anyone?).

So, here are the rules. All you have to do is reply to this email by Thursday, October 30. The winner will be announced on Halloween. In the reply I would love it if you would share the weirdest activity your kids like to participate in that is sensory-related. For example, if it were me, I would tell you how my kids love to strip down naked and have me spray my yoga mat (which incidentally, is never used for yoga anymore) with shaving cream. They then proceed to slip and slide and roll around in it to the point where the kids are literally covered up to their necks with shaving cream. They look like they are wearing wet suits.

Or you could also share the wackiest mess your child has made. C'mon, I need a good laugh and I need to know I am not the only one out there who went through a phase where her kid smeared Butt Paste on his face repeatedly. Seriously, I got to the point where I could smell Butt Paste through closed doors and I would know that Danny had somehow managed to sniff out our hiding places for the stuff. And that stuff ain't cheap! Did get some great pictures, though.

I will have my husband help me choose the lucky winner, who will then need to send me his/her address. Please spread the word. I would love to see a lot of comments for this SPD Awareness Month giveaway. Thanks! Who knows, if I get a lot of responses, maybe I will give away more than one prize.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What I wish people knew about SPD, part 2

Thanks for all the great comments on our previous posts. And thanks to my guest bloggers, too. It seems like there are a lot of people posting about SPD this month, which is really exciting. I hope you guys aren't sick of hearing of SPD yet. I still have a couple more posts in the works. But, I promise to go back to regularly scheduled programming (which is mostly me whining about life, really) next month.

6. There are a lot of great sensory activities that are good for all kids, whether they have sensory problems or not.
The more I learn about SPD, the more I wish I had known this all sooner. Not just for Danny's sake, but for the sake of my high school students. I wish I had known how important movement is to learning, how it helps people, not just kids, to focus on difficult concepts. Also, adding a multisensory approach to teaching kids of all ages can help you reach kids who may learn a bit differently than the "average" kid (which, in my experience, includes many, many kids, not just those with special needs. These are the kids who learn better with hands-on experience or who are more visual learners, for example.) Anyway, I am hoping to have a post that specifically addresses this issue and that gives lots of great activities to do with kids. I have asked a couple of people to contribute, so stay tuned for that post.

7. Look for their strengths, not just their weaknesses.
This is something I often forget to do. Some days I am so focused on what is going wrong that I forget to look at how far Danny has come. And because he has difficulty in many areas, such as communication, it is easy to overlook his many strengths, like his amazing visual memory, his exuberance and love of life, his sense of humor, and how he protects and looks out for his little sister.

8. Ask questions.
I know you may feel awkward, but please ask questions. I have a friend at church whose daughter has been a bit scared of Danny. She is a rather timid little girl and an only child. She is not used to roughhousing of any kind and Danny makes her nervous. Sometimes he is a bit rough. Other times, it is not that he is being rough with her, but just that he is running and playing so hard she worries that he might run into her. Anyway, her mother asked me some questions so that she could better explain to her daughter why Danny did some of the things he did. She also asked me for tips to make her daughter feel more comfortable. It actually made me feel really good that L could ask me these questions. To me, it showed that she wanted to help her daughter understand Danny and help their friendship grow. It proved that she cared about us and wasn't going to avoid us just because they had a rocky start. Plus, I could tell she was not at all judgmental.

9. Give the kid space.
This one is so important, I should have put it first. Also, I think this probably applies to most kids. When Danny is upset, the last thing he wants is someone in his face trying to talk him out of his feelings. It makes sense. How would you feel if you were really crabby and your husband, who understood nothing of what had happened, just told you to get a grip and get over it? Sometimes kids just need some time and space to deal with their feelings of frustration and disappointment. A well-meaning man at Church is constantly lecturing Danny when he is struggling. This man typically has no idea what precipitated the problems for Danny, but that doesn't stop him from basically arguing with my son about why he should obey me.
The other side of this is many kids need literal space. Danny doesn't like people touching him a lot, especially strangers and especially if they haven't asked him first. This he gets completely from me. He doesn't like to be in a crowd with people pushing up against him; another trait he inherited from me. So if a child bristles at your touch, be sensitive to the fact that he/she may need some space.

10. Respect the kid and his boundaries.
The longer I am a mother, the more I realize that we expect some pretty crazy things from our kids sometimes. I have often been amazed at how often a parent will expect their child to do something they themselves would never do. A prime example of this is kissing. How many times will a parent practically force their kid to kiss a relative or friend, often someone the kid doesn't really feel comfortable with? I have done this myself and I really regret it. I would be livid if someone tried to force or guilt me into kissing someone with whom I was uncomfortable. There are many examples of this, but I won't go into it here. I guess my point is, let's show the kids some respect. It goes a long way towards helping them cope with life and learn how to respect others.

Thanks for indulging me here. Please feel free to share what you wish people understood about kids, those with special needs or not.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Father's Take on SPD

Hi, this is Bil (Patty's dh)-- honored to be a part of this guest blog on Pancakes Gone Awry..."to those who would suck the marrow from life, come and partake..."

I think what I need to talk about here is how my son's SPD has affected me.

I think Patty has already explained about how she 'figured it all out', and it may not surprise you that she was much more accepting of the diagnosis than I was initially. We would debate it frequently and I kept reverting back to anecdotal information I had heard about children who later became normal functional adults, but just didn't speak right away. You see, the biggest indication to us that Danny had a problem was that he wasn't speaking. At all. An old supervisor of mine at the University of Chicago, was one such example...he didn't speak until about age 4.

My attitude was that we should never expect children's mental/physical development to fit into a 'linearly progressive' model, the same way some doctors try to fit childbirth into a linearly progressive model. (It just doesn't work that way, you don't dilate to a 3 at 3am, 4 at 4 am...it's more like all of a sudden after 25 hours of no progress, you go from a 3 to a 10 in 60 minutes and it's time to push. It's totally unpredictable.)

I admit, there's something very male about having unreasonable expectations for my first-born son...not as unreasonable as expecting him to master Calculus at age 6 (like John Von Neumann), but I admit I just never expected him to have problems. I think after my initial doubts, what convinced me was meeting and speaking directly with Danny's OT. At the time of the visit, I had my mind open to the possibility of SPD, but somewhere I was still fully armed with mental reservations. If I wasn't convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, I would have to politely refute the claim... it is an unwritten law that I get to default to the "Bad Cop" role when there is an insistent telemarketer or door-to-door salesperson; Patty is sometimes too nice or reluctant to deliver the graceful blow, whereas I sometimes relish the opportunity to do so for an especially pushy specimen.

I was very hopeful that Linda would not make a strong case for Danny having some dysfunction... I would convince Patty of the holes in her theory, and we could go on with our lives and difficulties. Fortunately, Linda didn't even have to make a case: what convinced me was she had such a grasp of the condition, that she could tell us things about Danny, detailing difficulties that we faced daily that no one else would have known about so intimately; she even was able to put her finger on other difficulties that we couldn't even describe in words. To say the least, it was both enlightening and scary; we now had a new dimension of Danny's world to consider that was completely hidden to us before. While it was difficult to accept, I think finally embracing his condition was very liberating, in that Danny's behavior could be understood and we could use this new knowledge to help and empathize with him.

Patty is Danny's champion empathizer. It amazes me how much in tune she is with what Danny needs, additionally evidenced by how he trusts her so much in return. Her ability to calm his shattered nerves, and bring peace to our home in difficult times...Patty is a real blessing and inspiration to me.

So what do I bring to the family? Usually, I bring the Bad--er.. the 'Dad' Cop. The Dad Cop helps keep the balance between Good and Evil, Order and Chaos, Mania and Exhaustion.

1. At a family get-together, the Dad Cop says "Danny has had it, and we need to go home now."

2. Dad Cop says, "We've loved having you all over, but now we need to play with our kids before bed... (Please disperse, nothing to see here...)"

3. He says, "No, you have to eat some real food before we eat Popsicles."

4. He says, "You're acting out of control, you need to stay in your room until you are ready to stop pushing other kids."

5. After Danny has paid his time-out debt to society, Dad Cop calmly (usually) explains to him how society expects him to behave if he wishes to remain a free citizen.

6. During OT Therapy in the home, he helps to push the envelope a little bit at a time-- "Come on, I know it's hard, but I also know you can do it."

7. He initiates some serious 'roughhousing' and impromptu wrestling rematches on the master bed -- duck for flying pillows! Avast Ye! Ooof!

8. Sometimes he has to use tickle torture (to get information) but not too much...

9. Dad Cop has to be a good example of serving the public trust; he has to do a 'time-out' when he gets out of line (maybe too much tickle torture) and has to apologize later.

10. Dad Cop always needs to back up his partner. He jokes, "Honey, you look totally guilty of enfrazzlement. I hereby sentence you to the comfy chair while I finish sweeping/cooking/the dishes/disciplining/insert chore here."

Thanks for indulging me and my little list-- I know... I am a real dork, but I think that's why my family keeps me around. At home, you get us all together and we are a buzz of non sequitur mayhem, and the kids love it, especially Danny. We are so much alike, he and I, we both like to talk in funny voices, we act out movie dialogues, (I catch nearly all of his obscure 'references' and inside jokes, and 'translate' for Patty,) we hate shopping for clothes, and we LOVE putting excessive condiments on our food. As tempting as it might be for me to wish away his problems and difficulties, there's no part of me that could bear to take away any component of him for fear he would wind up any less of the wonderful person that he is... I love how empathetic, protective and kind he can be with his sister and his friends. Danny has demonstrated his sharpness and cleverness, has a near photographic memory, and he outsmarts me to shame continually...I only wish that I could know his thoughts, and know best how to communicate with him at his level. (I'm always trying to reason with him the same way I do with an adult, and it really taxes his patience.)

In closing, I want to let Patty know how glad I am that she trusted her instincts and got help from an OT when she felt something was wrong. I don't think I ever would have come to the same conclusion, or conceded that we needed help with Danny. There's just no telling how our lives would have been had we not taken the path to understand our son's condition better. There's no substitute for good, timely information--Parents everywhere need to be informed about SPD today! C'mon, we could make T-Shirts to commemorate the month! ("ASK ME ABOUT S.P.D." might sound a bit more inviting than "PROUD PARENT OF A CHILD WITH S.P.D." but I'm not picky.)

With your help, dear reader, who knows--maybe SPD could be the household word that ADHD once was; only this time, parents would be running out to buy shaving cream, trapeze swings and Moon Sand(TM) rather than Ritalin. What a wonderful, fun-filled world that would be.