Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cheez-Its, anyone?

After the last two posts, I think I need to lighten the mood a bit, so I am going to share a story here.

Saturday, after doing many chores around the house, we decided to take the kids to the pool. So, we skipped Charlotte's usual nap and swam instead.

The kids had a great time and came away from the pool tired and hungry. On the way home, I realized I needed an item or two from the store, so I dropped Bil off to run in, and I drove around for a few minutes.

I happened to look in my rearview mirror and had the best laugh.
Charlotte was asleep in the back seat with her face in the box of Cheez-Its she had carried from the pool.

Unfortunately, as I own no cell phone, let alone one that takes pictures (hint, hint, Bil) I have no photographic evidence of this little story. Still, it makes me laugh every time I remember the sight of Char's face completely submerged in a box of crackers.

Monday, July 27, 2009

just when I thought my sanity was returning....

Bil came home this evening with some bad news. As of next week, he is forced to work B shift indefinitely. This means he will leave for work around 2 pm and return around 1 am. Forevermore.

You may remember how well I handled the month of Bil working nights after Tommy was born.

Yeah, it wasn't pretty.

But at least then I knew it was temporary. Now, I don't have that solace.

This is going to wreak havoc on so many things: my ability to get out at night once in a while, Bil's availability to help me get the kids ready for bed, our sleep schedule. It will make it really hard to fulfill my church responsibilities, but most of all, it will mean that Danny will rarely see his dad during the week once school starts.

This is not good. Not good at all.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

it's 2:59 AM. do you know where your sanity is?

I don't. I think I lost mine somewhere around 1 AM after waking to feed Tommy. What's the big deal about getting up to feed my baby? you may ask. Typically, not much. But, tonight, as on many nights lately, it was about the fifth time I had woken up. Bil's snoring has gotten out of control and I just can't sleep through it anymore.

It seems so ironic to me. I know a few friends who suffer from insomnia. For whatever reason (perhaps stress?) they are unable to shut off their minds and, as a consequence, struggle to fall asleep. Me, on the other hand, I typically have no trouble at all falling asleep. I can fall asleep while watching a movie, reading a book, praying. In fact, I have more trouble keeping awake at times than anything.

But, lately the snoring has been waking me up. Tonight, I finally retreated to the couch, which was a fine solution until I woke again to feed Tommy. After getting up and making a bottle, I was unable to fall back asleep. This is partly to do with the fact that, though I am in my living room, I could still hear the snoring until I finally closed our bedroom door.

The other reason I can't fall asleep? I guess it would be stress and not being able to turn my mind off. I have a lot on it lately and don't know exactly what to do about that.

I'm worried about so many things right now, some of which I can't really go into here. But, of course, I am worried about Danny, as usual, and whether he is getting the services he needs. I know this seems to be a constant theme of this blog, but it is a problem that has no easy solution. As I have mentioned before, we go to an OT in Chicago who gives us a bevy of exercises to do with Danny. Then, ostensibly, we come home and do those exercises in various forms a couple of times a week.

So much easier said than done.

We have been struggling for some time to actually get the therapy done. I have a really difficult time doing it on my own, but Bil's time is pretty limited and we often forget or put off doing the therapy. I have recently recommitted us to getting back on track, but still, I worry that it is not enough.

I need to get in to see the OT more often, but that has been so difficult with the new baby, the long drive and the fact that my OT is pretty hard to schedule. Not to mention the cost of gas and the aggravation of taking a road trip with three small kids.

I am just so overwhelmed with many issues right now. Bil and I have been fighting a lot, probably mostly due to stress and how poorly I handle it, but also in part because we are not completely on the same page as to how best to discipline. Actually, it probably wouldn't even take much for us to get on the same page, if we just ever had 15 minutes of uninterrupted time to figure it all out. I find myself snapping at him all the time, even in front of the kids, and I can't seem to get a grip. I often wonder if I need some medication, but I know deep down that there are a lot of other issues at play here and medicine would just be a band-aid, not a cure.

A full night's sleep would sure help, but that seems like a pipe dream right now.

So, here I am unable to sleep, wondering what we are going to do about everything. Should we move to be closer to services, especially if we find out Danny is autistic? If we were to move, how would we afford moving costs? How would we ever manage to get the house ready for sale? How would we be able to find a place we could afford to live without me working? How can I manage my time better so I am not so stressed out? Am I giving enough attention to all the kids? Will I ever again sleep through the night?

I just feel like I am dropping the ball in every area of my life. I am not really focused on my responsibilities at church. I haven't returned calls from my sister-in-law in weeks; nor have I been able to find the time to send her kids anything for their birthdays. My house can never stay clean. I can rarely even finish a thought, let alone any sort of home improvement project around the house. And let me tell you, there are projects aplenty at the Pancake house. I feel like I have no energy or desire left over to devote to Bil; heck, I can barely manage a civil word to him much less take care of his emotional or physical needs.

I'm just so wiped out, exhausted and I see no light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps that is because it is now 3:27 and I am still not asleep. Maybe this will all seem much less overwhelming tomorrow morning. Or maybe I will be a raving lunatic mom again, because I am so tired AND I have to substitute teach the eight-year-old Sunday School class. Add that to all the normal Sunday morning stress and I just don't see how the morning will make anything look more rosy to me.

And a Sunday afternoon nap is probably out of the question, since yesterday's nap made it difficult for me to sleep last night.

Well, that, and the snoring. Ah, yes, the ubiquitous snoring. The snoring that seems to defy all attempts at fixing.

Dang, and now I'm hungry.

I just reread this post, and I have decided that blogging at 3:36 AM is probably not the best idea......

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

do I need a second opinion?

After a very busy, and sometimes stressful family reunion trip, I have been wondering again whether Danny has autism. We had him evaluated two years ago and at that point, the doctor said that no, he is not on the spectrum. That his difficulties are caused by a global developmental delay. She assured us that his worrisome behaviors were part and parcel of this delay, not autism.

And I totally believed her. Completely.

Now? Now, I am just worried. I still believe Dr. R, but I wonder what if it was too early to tell?

I don't know.

Still, there are behaviors that are troubling to me. Sort of. The fact is, I don't know if the behaviors should be troubling or not. For example, Danny is still really into Baby Einstein videos, especially Baby Bach. Pretty regularly, Danny will sing the songs on the video. There aren't words to the songs, but Danny hums and sings the parts and imitates the sounds found in the video.

This seems odd to me. But, I'm not sure if it is a bad sign. After all, he doesn't get upset if you interrupt him and he doesn't seem to do it for soothing purposes. In fact, typically, he sings when he is writing or doing some other activity that is quiet. The other day, I asked him why he sings these songs and his little face lit up with a broad smile as he said, "Because it's fun!" This behavior probably wouldn't bother me if he were singing a song with words (which he has started to do now that we own the Dizzy cd) so is it really that big of a deal? I don't know.

He still quotes movies quite a bit, but typically it is with Charlotte when they are playing. They often adapt the dialogue from a favorite cartoon (lately, Franklin) to whatever game they are playing. Again, this does not seem to be stimming behavior. Rather, he is using the quotes in his imaginative play.

Another behavior that I am not sure about is that he has taken to writing. A lot. This has been good, because his writing and grip have improved immeasurably. The thing is, he will write for a good 10-15 minutes and usually what he writes is all the names of his favorite videos, which include all the Baby Einstein movies (including all the many he hasn't seen) Bolt, Franklin, etc. While the other behaviors don't seem to be ones that help him calm down, writing definitely does. Every so often, when he has had enough of sensory stimulation, he will sit down and practice his writing. And he is always so proud of what he has written.

Other than that, the only other area that worries me still is his social development. He continues to lag behind kids his age in this area. He prefers to spend time with kids he already knows, but he will sometimes try to play with others at the pool or park. The thing is, he doesn't seem to know how to go about getting kids to play with him. I can tell sometimes that he wants so much to be included, but doesn't know what to do. I have tried coaching him with minimal success, but I am sure things like this take time. He is developmentally immature for his age, but also he has had a lot of speech delays, which I know affects social development.

Sorry, I know I am just rambling here, but it helps me sort through my concerns.

I just don't know if I should pursue getting a second opinion or not. My sister, of course, says I should because she claims Danny will get more services. I am not convinced this is true, however, because he already gets speech therapy and help from a special ed teacher. I don't think he would get more services because he is not having problems at school.

I suppose getting another evaluation wouldn't hurt, but I am hesitant because I have heard stories about doctors who observe a kid for 15 minutes and hand down a diagnosis. I cannot see how this could be accurate. After all, my kid (and I am sure this applies to most kids) behave differently in many different situations. If Danny is diagnosed with autism, I want to make darn sure the person doing the diagnosis knows what he/she is doing. Because I don't want to be blogging this time next year about my doubts regarding his diagnosis.

What would you do?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

our own little world

I just realized the other day that since summer started, I have been really lax about keeping up with what is going on in the world. I have never been the most knowledgeable, especially when it comes to politics, but thanks to NPR, I know at least a bit about current events. But now? Not so much. In fact, I wouldn't have even known that Michael Jackson had died if I didn't visit Facebook on a semi-regular basis.

And though I know it is important to pay attention to happenings in the world, it has actually been kind of nice not to hear about the latest murders in Iran or about the rise in unemployment. Instead, I have been focusing things that are far more innocent and pure: my kids and their antics, such as the following:

** The kids' wonderment at seeing our garden produce fruit and vegetables has been really fun to witness (and in truth, I am just as delighted as they are). In a fit of gardening mania, I decided to plant watermelons. I know they require a lot of space, but I had no idea how much, and I foolishly bought two plants. The vines are taking over the garden, and we can see tiny little watermelons dotting the vines. We even have 3 softball size melons and almost every day Danny begs me to let him pick them or one of our thousands of tomatoes. (Yeah, I wasn't kidding when I said I was hit with gardening mania this spring! I think I have 12 tomato plants.)

** Just about every day, Danny finds a new way to make Tommy laugh and it is really touching to watch. I will often walk into a room to hear Danny repeating something to Tommy that I say to him. He really is a doting big brother, which was something of a surprise to us, since I have never seen this side of him. And Tommy's belly laughs are a total treat--I can't even describe how it makes me feel.

** We recently ordered a new kids' cd called "Dizzy" by the band "Lunch Money" and I actually love it. I have even listened to it when the kids weren't in the car, it is so good. The lyrics are whimsical and charming and the rhythms are very catchy.

I knew the kids were enjoying the cd, because Danny would request it when we got into the car, which had never happened before. Still, I didn't realize just how much Danny liked the songs until last night when he spontaneously started singing a bluesy tune called, "I Ate Too Much of My Favorite Food." I had no idea he knew any of the lyrics, so it was fun to watch him perform, and we ended up with an impromptu family dance party.

With Danny's SPD, he is pretty sensitive to auditory stimulus, and music, in the past, has had the tendency of overstimulating him or just really bugging him. So despite the fact that Bil is really into music (he has been in several bands) we rarely listen to much in our house. Most of the time when I put in a cd, Danny turns it off, so when he shows interest in listening to music, it just makes my day.

** One of Danny and Charlotte's favorite pastimes this summer has been catching fireflies (or lightning bugs, as we call them in the Midwest). Though Char has difficulty actually catching one, she runs around the yard squealing in delight at all the bugs.

** We had 5 trees cut down on our property and have been spending quite a bit of time clearing the debris. There is a couple in our branch at church who is helping us, because we are giving them all the wood to use this winter in their wood burning stove. Whenever they come over with their trailer to pick up a load of wood, Danny and Charlotte hurry outside to help. After many trips from the backyard to the truck, Danny came up with the brilliant idea of using his bike to help. He has a really cool tricycle that has a small wagon on the back. So, he loads up sticks on his wagon and rides his bike to the truck to unload.

Charlotte also loves to help and it is comical to watch her since she can't really reach the truck. Still, she never gives up. She'll bring a small branch to the truck and grunt and graon in her attempts to lift it, and after someone finally helps her, she proudly announces, "I did it! I like helping!"

Intermingled in all this, we have had more than our fair share of bickering and sibling rivalry, but on the whole, the kids have reminded me (as cliche as it sounds) to stop and smell the roses (or in our case, watermelon plants). Though I do admit to counting down the weeks until school starts, I am enjoying our summer vacation. The next month and a half bring a lot of activity and trips, so we will definitely be ending summer with a bang.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Monday Mumbers--Happy Independence Day


3 Number of baby raccoons we found in our garbage can.
I may have mentioned before that I grew up in Chicago. Not the suburbs, but the actual city. The south side of Chicago to be exact. The wildlife I saw was limited to squirrels, the occasional mouse or rat, scary German Shepherds the neighbors owned, and the gangbangers near the school where I taught.

So whenever I see bunnies or raccoons running through my yard, I get excited and point them out to whomever I am with. And when the person I am with is an adult who grew up somewhere other than Chicago, I get a really weird look. I guess I am just not a country gal, because I don't think I will ever get used to seeing Cardinals and chipmunks roaming in my yard.

2 Number of extra kids we had visiting this weekend.

150 Number of kids we felt like we had visiting this weekend. My sister and her husband came with my niece and nephew for the weekend, and while the kids were really fun, I think at one point Danny and my nephew broke the sound barrier. It rained all day on the 4th and the kids were getting stir crazy. After waking Tommy up for the 17th time, I kicked them all out of the house. My nephew looked at me imploringly and said, "But, Pat-Pat, it's raining outside."

To which I gently and kindly replied, "I don't care. Get out of my house."

Oh, c'mon, it was only sprinkling and all the adults in the house approved of my decision.

8,090 Times one of the kids shrieked during the fireworks display. We can see the local fireworks display from our front yard. Some of the trees block a few of the lower fireworks, but it is so nice not to have to travel to see the display. Add to that the low cloud cover we were experiencing this weekend and you get a rather weak fireworks show. Despite the fact that often all we could see was a green or red aura, the kids squealed and shrieked with abandon. It was great fun.

3 The number of hours Danny and Charlotte have been napping this afternoon, which is the only reason I have been able to blog today. Apparently, the hours of swimming and playing with their cousins have caught up to them. They are plumb tuckered out.

So, am I, but I am not wasting this precious free time by sleeping, that's for sure!

167 Number of bug spray applications made on all the kids visiting.

34 Number of times I somehow got bug spray in my mouth. Every time I sprayed it on the kids, I advised them to close their mouths and eyes. You would think I could take my own advice.

I wonder how many Weight Watchers POINTS are in OFF bug spray....

1 The number of near sensory meltdowns we had this weekend. Even though we had a house full of guests for the entire weekend, Danny totally held it together. It was amazing. Also, he only had a couple of timeouts which is ridiculously low for him. Typically when we have visitors, he has multiple meltdowns and timeouts within just a few short hours. And the one meltdown he almost had? Well, turns out he was exhausted. He took a nice long nap that afternoon and was fine after that.

I took much of the advice you guys gave me and it WORKED. Hooray!! What a joy to have a relatively calm and regulated boy in my house despite the major upheaval and disruption in schedule. This gives me great reason to hope for further progress.

Hope you had a great 4th of July!