Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holiday Blogtastic Shout Out!

I have been blogging for over three years now, and in that time, I have discovered many talented bloggers. Some have given me some great insight into raising kids with autism or SPD, along with validation . Some blogs have given me hope, while others have provided me with much needed humor.

Surprisingly, I have even made some friends through the blogs I read. I never anticipated that years ago when starting out.

Outnumbered Two to One was one of the first blogs I discovered. I religiously checked Mrs. Bear's site to see if there was a new post because I couldn't get enough of her writing. She is the type of writer who can make anything interesting, even things like Algebra 2, T-shirts, and garden gnomes. Every post I read made me laugh; I could relate to so many things she wrote about like kids who embarrass you in public, clutter, and writer's block.

Between her great sense of humor and her way with words--I mean, really, isn't this sentence wonderful: "Because clearly that cockroach had developed a taste for human flesh and my face meat was on the menu"--I had become a huge fan of Outnumbered Two to One. More than that, I was kind of envious.

So many times, after reading her posts, I thought, "I so wish I could write like Mrs. Bear. I love the way she puts things. Her imagery is fantastic."

She was a blogger I admired from afar with a touch of awe. Kind of like the popular kids in high school, the ones who were so talented/good-looking/athletic you didn't think you could ever have anything in common with them because they were so cool, and you were so not cool. Know what I mean?

No? Well, just humor me, here.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered I was wrong; we actually have quite a bit in common. Things like a mutual dislike for the Twilight series, our taste in books, our desire to become published writers, and our propensity to get writer's block often probably fueled by our insecurities as writers.

I also discovered that not only is Mrs. Bear super cool, she is waaaaay nicer than the girls in high school who mocked me. And apparently, though I am so not cool enough, we have developed a cyber friendship, one that I really appreciate.

I wish I lived anywhere near her, though she might not appreciate me dropping by her house every single day. Because I so would, if she weren't a 3-day drive away from me. Luckily, reading her blog feels like you're hanging at the beach with her.

So, go check out Mrs. Bear at Outnumbered Two to One. You won't regret it, and you can thank me later. And after you discover the beauty that is Mrs. Bear, click over here to see her other blog.

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For more Blogtastic Shout Outs, check out Recommended Daily Dose, where Kate is organizing a bloggy Secret Santa, but instead of soap on a rope, bloggers are giving out praise.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saving your sanity during bad weather

I'm over at Hartley's today with a post about indoor activities to keep your kids busy during the winter. After having three snow days this week, this post couldn't have come at a better time. I know I wrote it, but I sure needed to be reminded of some activities I could do with the kids to help get their energy out, and to help me stay sane.

Methinks we might be having an indoor snowball fight and skating party today....


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Whole Family Entertainment isn't just a trick that only Pixar can pull off


Ten Eleven Reasons why We love “Original Friend” by Lunch Money

It probably comes as no surprise that Bil and I love the kids' band Lunch Money. We have been enjoying their music for well over a year after we discovered their CD "Dizzy," and we have been anticipating the release of their third album for about that long, too. So, here are some of the reasons the Pancake clan highly recommend this CD.

1. It sounds Gorgeous with capital G. I was all ready for their sound to be a glossier-sounding form of cuddle-core, but Tor Hyams’ production instantly had me wondering if I put the Wilco CD in by mistake.

The collaboration results in a tasteful (even luscious) sheen that casts light on the creation, rather than obscuring it by lathering effects and guitars on top like so much corn syrup—the album even boasts some instrumental passages that are reminiscent of some of my favorite late 60’s/early 70’s records, when synthesizers sounded fresh. A lot of what makes the predecessor “Dizzy” so great is that the songs are so energetic and witty, they really didn’t need much adornment, and the lyrics took center stage…and now 2--

Original Friend2. The words are faithfully, still really silly, witty and well-written. With Lunch Money’s already catchy songwriting, it’s a one-two punch. This is where singer/songwriter Molly Ledford stands out in the world of Kid’s Indie Rock (‘Kindie’ Rock)-- her word-smithery is on par with the late director Preston Sturges, who once said “I spritz dialogue like Seltzer water once I know where I'm going.” It doesn’t cost any extra to write memorable lyrics, so why not?

It’s a subtle practice, however, as Molly doesn’t just throw some big words out there to digest—she chooses her words and images thoughtfully, with humor and purpose, then leaves them lying around for you to discover over time, as your familiarity plunges you deeper into their meaning. When you find them, it’s like finding a forgotten Hershey’s Kiss in the cabinet or a dollar in your pants on laundry day.

It’s just a matter of time before you too will find the line “--snacks walk the plank in the vending machine” and smile knowingly.


3. Your kids will want you to play the record at least a hundred times, and it’s not just that you won’t mind, but sometimes you’ll be the instigator. Take it from two parents who know.


4. Like the title suggests, the record is all about friendship. From the goofy things that you did and the funny perceptions you had growing up, to the disagreement that you are ready to forget about since you can’t remember how it started—you’re just ready to get back to being friends. Friendships and fun are the currency of childhood, and this record is a celebration of them.

Original Friend5. One of the highlight songs “Come over to my Dollhouse” has fun with an old taboo…you boys who claim you don’t play with dolls should consider this when thumbing your collective noses at your sister’s My Little Pony or Strawberry shortcake…

GI-Joe? Transformers? He-Man? Spiderman? --All dolls.

Castle Greyskull? CyberTron? Death Star? --Dollhouses. Yep.

Don’t pout, now that we’ve got that out of the way, you and Chewbacca are invited to the barbecue at the Weeble Village. Bring your swimming suit, a light saber, and a side-dish!

6. Whoever had the idea to have other ‘Kindie’ Rock stars show up and lend guest vocals to the record, *that* was a really good move. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, a family-friendly hip hop artist, brings a great rap flow to “Dollhouse” and gives it just the right party vibe it needs.


7. Like with a great Pixar movie, what’s better than being able to share the same entertainment preferences as your kids? My kids like Wilco, and Arcade Fire (sorta), and I like Lunch Money (lotsa). I far prefer that to being at aural odds with most of the doggerel that gets foisted on them in the name of family entertainment.

That’s why the tag “Indie Music for the Whole Family” makes a lot of sense.


8. Lunch Money has a message for kids and parents, between the lines, that refrains in the themes of their records and pretty much everything they do, and it’s this:

“Make your own fun, and it will make all the difference, whether you are a parent or a child.”


9. Contagious smiles. You know how you can hear someone smiling by the change in their voice over the telephone? Whatever it is that makes that sound unique, you can hear it all over the vocals on the record. But then you’d be smiling too, if your chosen profession was this much fun.

Original Friend

10. The artwork! The liner notes!



11. The Title Track to “Original Friend” is free for all to sample, like a yummy donut. You can find it here. Delicious!




Update 6/25:  The whole album can be streamed from Bandcamp!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

our reindeer games


Winter has finally arrived here in our town. Much to Danny's delight, and my relief, we got some snow today, and it wasn't a moment too soon. Danny has been adamantly insisting that since it is now winter, it should snow. Now. There was no convincing him that, though winter temps have definitely hit, snow is not always a given. And the lack of snow has caused some sour moods here, ones that I was frankly, getting just a little tired of.

The interesting thing is Danny is somewhat fickle when it comes to snow. It seems that, as for many of us, the idea of snow is much more enticing and enjoyable than the actual reality. Dan has been detailing all the winter fun he will have once it finally snows; snowball fights, snow angels, snowmen were all part of his winter wonderland plans. There was even some talk of skiing, though I am not entirely sure he knows what skiing is.

So, imagine his delight this morning when I opened Danny's blinds and directed him to gaze at the fluffy white stuff just barely covering our grass. Danny could barely drag himself from his window; we had to force him to come to the kitchen for breakfast.

After church, the weather seemed to get colder. It was very blustery and frigid--definitely not weather I wanted to brave, so Bil agreed to take the kids outside. Between finding snowsuits and both boots for each kid, it took quite a while to get dressed for play. After about 20 minutes of dressing, and then waiting for Bil to get dressed, the kids finally ventured outside to fulfill their hearts' desire.

I put some water on the stove to simmer for hot chocolate and sat down to enjoy a meal in peace. I anticipated having some time to read in quiet, when I heard frantic knocking at the door.

The kids played outside for all of 6 minutes before coming in, soaking my floor with slushy ice, and littering the living room and all surrounding rooms with gloves, hats, scarves, sodden socks and boots.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This year, in an attempt to help the kids understand the concept of giving, rather than just receiving, we decided to take them Christmas shopping. Danny chose to accompany me and we headed to Wal-mart to purchase gifts for Charlotte, Tommy and Bil. I knew that teaching Danny about giving would be more challenging than for Charlotte. She seems to understand that when giving a gift, you give something that the person wants, not what you want.

Danny, on the other hand, struggles with this just a bit. He has only just recently realized that Legos would not be the ideal gift for Charlotte, though he's still baffled by that concept. When I told him that not everyone loves Legos, he pondered for a minute, and then replied, "No, mom. You're wrong. Everyone loves Legos!"

I knew it would be tricky keeping Danny focused on our mission. After all, Wal-mart is a sensory land mine even for those not on the spectrum, and Danny's attention span can at times be extremely limited.


We found our way to the toy section and I directed Danny to the play-doh/moon sand aisle. Though I was allowing Danny to choose the gift, I decided to give him some options, some ideas that I knew Charlotte would love. I pointed out several packages with cool play-doh tools and multi-packs of the stuff. But Danny was in a daze. Within seconds of arriving in the toy section, Danny had zeroed in on the Lego clocks and a Lego head organizer that was down the aisle.

No amount of re-direction or prompting could get Danny to look at the play-doh for more than a dozen seconds. As if pulled by an invisible force, he kept returning to the Yoda Lego clock, repeating, "Wow, look at this clock! I wish I had a Lego clock! Why can't I buy me a present?" I can't be sure, but at one point, I think I saw drool glistening on his chin.

After what seemed like hours of this, I chose a gift myself and convinced Danny of its merits forced Danny to pick a gift.

I was sure Bil was bound to have an easier time with Charlotte the next day, but I was wrong. Though Charlotte was a bit more focused on the task at hand for a while, the allure of toys proved to be too great for her, as well.

First off, Charlotte was on a mission to find me the perfect gift. Well, at least her idea of the perfect gift.

She has recently developed a deep and abiding love for Pillow Pets. Much to her absolute delight, my mother gave her a lady bug Pillow Pet for her birthday a few weeks ago. Charlotte drags that cuddly pet with her everywhere and incessantly talks about how wonderful it is. She also asks any people within earshot if they would like their own pillow pet and which one is their favorite.

Well, I didn't think much of it at the time, but I told Charlotte I liked the panda pet the best. She has not forgotten, and discusses my love for the panda at all times. So, of course, while on her shopping excursion with dad, she insisted on buying me a panda Pillow Pet.

Thankfully, the last panda had been bought up, but Charlotte was heartbroken, sure that my Christmas hopes had been dashed.

Luckily, she got distracted by a Water art kit thingy that she just had to have, and I was soon forgotten. In fact, she also forgot all about getting a present for Danny, as she intoned, "I want the water art kit thingy! Please, please, please!"

We apparently have much work to do in teaching the concept of thinking of others when gift giving.

Before any of us ever went shopping, I spoke to the kids about keeping the gifts a secret. I knew this would probably prove to be very difficult for them, but we would hope for the best.

As it turns out, I am not entirely sure Danny remembers what present we actually bought for Charlotte, so fixated was he on the Lego head organizer and the Yoda clock. One way his lack of focus can be an advantage, I suppose.

Charlotte, on the other hand, was acutely aware of what she had chosen for Danny. Despite Bil's reminders to not tell anyone what they had bought, the very minute Charlotte entered the house, she exclaimed, "Danny, we bought you the Lego head!!!!"

Sensing my advantage, I probed her to get hints about my presents, but Bil had recovered (from laughter) and commanded Charlotte to keep quiet. The poor girl looked stricken as she glanced from one to the other of us, clearly conflicted about what she should do. She finally growled, "I'm not telling you!" and then beamed proudly at Bil.

The next day, however, she spilled the beans, with no prodding from me whatsoever. I have to say, it was a little anticlimactic. One of my favorite holiday pastimes is alternately trying to trick Bil into giving away a hint and wheedling and whining in an attempt to break him down. I knew Charlotte would prove a much easier opponent to break than Bil, but this was pathetic.

Thank goodness she possesses no knowledge of secrets of state or wartime strategies, or the U.S. would be sunk.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

SPD Awareness Calendar

Hope & Help
Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness
Calendar 2011
is NOW AVAILABLE!



All of the proceeds are a fundraiser for two amazing charities – the SPD Foundation and Children’s Institute for Learning Differences (a WA state school that funded production of the calendar $5000, and serves children JUST LIKE OURS).

Click here for more information.


Monday, December 6, 2010

'Twas the Night Before an SPD Christmas

I'm over at Hartley's today and it's a really cool post, if I do say so myself. Of course, Bil wrote a major portion of the poem and Hartley contributed a lot too. It was definitely a group effort, of which I was only a small part. Still, I'm proud of our little poem.

In fact, the SPD Foundation is actually going to share this poem on their blog later in the month!

So, go check out my husband's amazing talent for iambic pentameter! Just click here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Only December 1st, and already trauma over Santa


The last few days have been rocky. All the kids have been a touch on the crabby side, and Danny especially has been emotional. Yesterday afternoon, he cried no less than 5 times over really strange things like the fact that he didn't get to go grocery shopping with me today.

I have decided that this can all be chalked up to Thanksgiving aftershock. The kids are tired from being out of their routine for a long weekend of traveling and family parties, and they need to get back to normal.

I think because Danny is doing so well lately, I forget that he still needs his routines and some down time. Actually, all of us do, but I still seem to have difficulty remembering this.

Anyway, so the point of all that was to illustrate that Danny's been a bit out of sorts this week. Today was no exception. I was on the phone briefly when Charlotte came running into the room screaming. Not an event that is all that unusual around here, as Charlotte has a tendency to be a tad melodramatic at times, so I wasn't too concerned.

Until she showed me a blue bruise where Danny had bitten her.

Yes, he bit her!

I was shocked, appalled and not a little annoyed. What the heck is going on with these kids, anyway?

Danny was punished and we had a little talk about appropriate ways to express anger and frustration--a talk I should probably have given more heed to myself. We set about doing homework, eating dinner, and doing listening therapy.

Then I did something very unwise and cruel. I honestly do not know what possessed me. Can I somehow blame the penicillin shot the doctor gave me for strep this week?

[First, let me just say that I try to avoid holding Santa over the kids' heads in order to get them to behave. I have nothing against Santa. In fact, I have really great memories of him bringing me the Gymnastics Barbie set I wanted one year. What I don't feel comfortable with is using him to bribe motivate the kids to behave like civilized humans. I'd rather my kids develop a desire to behave well because it's the nice thing to do, not just out of fear of being denied Christmas gifts. Plus, let's face it, no matter how bad the kid is, does any parent ever really give coal?]

OK, so here's what happened. I was talking with Danny in the kitchen when he mentioned Santa. Which is when an evil spirit took possession of my tongue and I heard myself say the following: "Danny, how do you think Santa feels about you biting your sister?"

And you know what Danny did?

He cried. A full-on, brokenhearted cry. One that would make my mother cringe, as she has no tolerance for hearing one of her grandchildren cry. Or whimper. Or even sigh sadly.

Which is when I had to backpedal and tell him that Santa understands we make mistakes and that as long as Danny is sorry and tries to be better, it will be OK. I almost panicked and promised Danny the $100 Space Police Lego set he's been coveting just to silence the sobs wracking his body.

I felt like the worst mother on the planet.

So, why is it that my mother could give a mean guilt trip in her sleep, she was that good, but when I try, I end up feeling guiltier than my kid does?

On a side note, Danny did behave beautifully the rest of the night......

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Putting the Fun in Dysfunctional

Last month, on the way home from my nephew’s baptism party, my husband said, in a shocked tone, “That was the best family party we have ever been to.The kids were amazing and had so much fun! I wasn’t even stressed out or worried about the kids getting over stimulated. What just happened?”

Throughout the rest of our 3-hour car drive home, we discussed what had made this particular party so much fun. We also compared it to other parties that were not nearly so pleasant. Parties that ended in tears and meltdowns, parties that we had to leave because one of our kids was just too over stimulated to handle.Parties that I swore would be the last I attended because things had gone so poorly for Danny and/or Charlotte.

We realized this particular party in September had been so successful because we have some family members who are 100% committed to making family gatherings pleasant for my two SPD kids.

I'm over at Hartley's blog today, so click here to read more......

And if you are interested in reading my post about scooter board activities, click here.



Thursday, November 18, 2010

Zumba, bacon and hubris



You've probably all heard of Zumba, the fitness craze that is sweeping the nation, somewhat like Jazzercize did back in the day. When I discovered that there are a number of Zumba classes offered in my smallish, rural-ish town, I thought, "Hey, maybe I should 'Join the Party,' as Zumba fanatics apparently say.

Actually, my first thought was, "What? This town is actually hip enough to have Zumba classes? Wow." I mean, not to belittle my town, but we don't even have a Target. Seriously. But I digress.

I went to the class for the first time last week and I attended another one this evening, and I have to say, I really like it. For those of you not in the know, Zumba is basically a dance aerobics class with really great music. The moves are a combination of Latin and, well, I don't know. But they are fun.

One caveat, though: if you are thinking of attending a class, you might not want to make bacon that evening for your kids. Because then, you would come to class reeking of the stuff, even though, you very conscientiously changed clothes before venturing out. Apparently, the stench got in your hair and possibly your blood system, so that when you sweat (and you WILL sweat, let me assure you) you will emit bacon fumes that will make concentrating on the moves extremely difficult. Not to mention how hungry you will be for a good BLT.

I wouldn't be surprised if women leaving the class headed over to Denny's for pancakes and extra bacon tonight.

I didn't seem to have too difficult of a time picking up the steps tonight. I think I really have a knack. I was doing all the cha cha cha, salsa and cumbia moves with no problem, smugly noticing the women around me who weren't catching on as quickly. I had found my groove. This Zumba stuff was for me! I was good.

I wasn't surprised really. I grew up on the south side of Chicago. I was the only white girl at many a quinceanara in high school and later my Latino ESL students taught me lots of great moves. I love Latin dancing.

So, I shimmied and danced and was sure that the teacher had noticed how great I was. I knew she must be wondering who I was and where I had come from. Where in the world had I learned those moves? she mused. What a natural, she thought. I was convinced she would pull me aside after class and insist that I take over for her, no training required.

I was that good.

Then, roused from my reverie, I looked around and realized that I was doing the totally wrong moves, and unfortunately, I caught a fleeting glimpse of myself in the thankfully small mirror. Let's just say I looked as if I had been possessed by an epileptic spirit who loves to gyrate her hips.

It's not actually a very attractive sight. Take my word.

This is why, what I am most grateful for, this Thanksgiving season, is that the lights in Zumba class are kept off. Oh, and that I never tried out for "So You Think You Can Dance."

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Check out the Spin Cycle for some great posts about gratitude

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Experts

A few months back, I received an email from Hartley Steiner. Hartley from Hartley's Life with 3 Boys. You know, Hartley, who is the award winning author of This is Gabriel Making Sense of School and who has dedicated her blog to SPD and autism awareness and supporting other special needs parents. Yes, this is Hartley, whose blog I have loved since the moment I discovered it. So, I was super excited to be receiving mail from her.

Imagine my surprise when she asked me to be a contributor to her blog. I was really touched and not a little worried that perhaps she had made a mistake. This worry only intensified when I discovered who her other contributors would be. Alysia from Defying Gravity, Caitlin from Welcome to Normal and Michelle from She's Always Write are all bloggers who I admire and respect.

Luckily, Hartley hasn't come to her senses and decided that I don't fit in with these super talented and intelligent women, because I love contributing to her blog!

Today is my first post over at HLW3B. You can check it out here:

Hartley's Life with 3 Boys

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What I want to be when I grow up


Whenever I deliver Meals on Wheels I can't help but wonder what I will be like when I am elderly. I know some things are inevitable; no matter how well I care for myself, I am likely to suffer from some ill health when I age. Most of the people on my route are unable to drive anymore, and some of them cannot even walk. Others suffer from hearing loss, diabetes, and general decline in health.

I would like to think that I will not have these problems when I get older, but in all likelihood, my physical health will not be at the same level it is now, not even close. My mobility will probably decline and my worst fear about aging may come true: my vision may deteriorate so that I will no longer be able to read.

I know these things, but I still cling to the notion that aging doesn't have to be a miserable experience. I can be an upbeat, happy older person, if I want to, right? Well, I definitely have some great examples to emulate on my route.

There's Edith, who is very hard of hearing and is over 80 years old. She has some difficulty getting around, but she is always delighted to see my children. Edith greets us with a big smile and immediately heads to her pantry to retrieve several packets of McDonald's cookies for the kids. I'm disappointed on the days that Edith is not at home, because speaking with her always lifts my mood. She's got a fun, spunky, upbeat attitude that makes me wish I could pull up a chair and spend the morning with her.

I talked at length with a new woman on the route who reminded me of all I have to be grateful for. She, like most of the MOW people, has had a rough life. She can no longer walk and is missing at least one finger. She just lost her husband of 50 years last Spring, and wasn't even able to say goodbye to him, because she was in the hospital when he unexpectedly passed away. Still, rather than complain about her struggles and grief, she told me how grateful she was to have been married to a man whom she loved so much.

Another woman watched from her armchair as Charlotte did a little jig in her apartment. The woman commented on how now that she is older she can no longer dance. Instead of being wistful, though, she said how grateful she was that she used to be able to dance and how nice it was to be reminded of that time.

At each of these women's homes, I came away thinking, "That's how I want to be when I get older! I know it isn't easy, but they have all maintained a really positive attitude, and that is how I want to be when I get to be their age."

And that's when it hit me: if I want to be like these marvelous women when I am older, I need to emulate them now. It's not like the minute I am eligible for the senior's discount at McDonald's my personality will suddenly morph into that of a positive, grateful, pleasant person. If only that were the case.

If I can't be grateful now when my blessings in life are so abundantly clear, I probably don't stand a chance when I age; I'm totally going to be a crusty old woman who yells at cute little kids and kicks puppies.

Unless I change.

So, here's to me working to become more like Edith and the other fantastic women on my Meals on Wheels route. It'll be hard work, but the puppies will thank me.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Lies I have told my kids

I'm reading this hilarious book called Such a Pretty Fat and in it Jen Lancaster, the author relays a conversation she is having with her stay-at-home mom friend Stacey.

Stacey is telling Jen that Jen doesn't look like she has gained weight and this is what Jen thinks: "Of course, Stacey is a mom and routinely lies all day--for example, That fluffy bunny on the side of the road is covered in delicious raspberry jam! And he's napping; shhh! Don't wake him!--so I am not quick to believe her."

This got me to thinking about the lies I tell my kids. The lies that I swore I would never tell. Here are a few:

"I'll be there in one minute."/ "I'll be off the phone in a second."

"This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you."

"Broccoli is just as yummy as chips, even better."/ "No, there are no onions in this."

"We are all out of the ice cream." / "McDonald's is all out of soda/french fries."

"The bubble gum machine/VCR/vending machine/Snoopy Sno-Cone machine is broken."

"I wish I could play Thomas the Train with you right now (for the 75,000th time this week) but I really have to work on the computer."

"I don't have a quarter for the gumball machine."

"We can't afford that toy right now." OR "I don't have money with me." (I was busted on this one. Danny reached into my purse and pulled out a wad of cash from my wallet and said, "Here's some money, mommy. Now you can buy me that toy.")

"If you don't get in the car this instant, I will leave you home alone!" I know, I really need to quit using this one. Someday, Charlotte is going to call my bluff.

"Mommy and Daddy are just wrestling."

"Sorry, we can't take in that stray cat, because it's kitty mommy and daddy would miss it too much and they'd be sad."

"Wendy's isn't open today."

Does this reveal what a horrible mom I am? Probably.

So, what about you? What lies have you told your kids?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Check me out!

Today, I'm over at Hartley's Life with Three Boys, which if you have never read it, is a treasure trove of information about Sensory Processing Disorder. It's an amazing resource for parents with kids with special needs, so check it out.

And I'm not just saying that because Hartley asked me to write for her blog today!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

that was then, this is now


The other day after Tommy had made no less than 87 messes in 60 minutes--this includes him banging on my laptop keyboard and losing the covering for the "a" key, so if I miss any "a's" in this post, you'll know why--I couldn't help thinking back to the days when I was unencumbered by children.

You know, those glorious days when you were never accompanied in the shower--unless you wanted the company, of course.

THEN:
I used to be able to go to the bathroom with no visitors. And when I sat down to eat, I could do so in peace with no interruptions whatsoever.

NOW:
I don't even bother to close the bathroom door anymore. It's easier to just let the kids come and go while I take care of my business, since it is very unsettling and distracting to listen to kids screeching, "Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, let me INNNNNNNN!" outside the door.

This, all so I can take care of dire emergencies that couldn't possibly wait the 3.7 minutes it would take me to wrap things up. You know, emergencies like having a granola bar that Charlotte can't unwrap; those sorts of crises need immediate attention, you know.

THEN:
Errands were infinitely easier to run. I saw a man coming out of the grocery store the other day with just a box of popsicles. I couldn't help but think how crazy it was to run to the store for one item. That was when I remembered back when I could run into a store and be done faster than you can unbuckle a car seat.

NOW:
It takes 15 minutes just to rustle everyone into the car fully clothed and shod. Never mind having to remember to grab Tommy's blanket and bring a sippy cup of "ice cold water, mommy" for Charlotte.

And then I have to contend with kids bickering and begging for treats. "Please, mommy, we need TWO bags of Cheetos. Please, please, please. I will die if you don't buy them for me. Aahaaahhhhhh!" I think you know of which I speak.

THEN:
Back then, in my life before kids, Bil and I actually went on dates. Even after we were married. Shocking, I know, but true. We rode our bikes all over Chicago and went to movies when the mood struck us. We even ate at restaurants that did not have play lands or kids' meals.

NOW:
Going on a date takes herculean effort and advance planning, not to mention expense. By the time I have hunted down a babysitter and then cleaned the house so the sitter won't report to her mom how slovenly we are, prepared dinner, gotten the kids ready for bed, and hunted down all three of their blankets, I don't have the energy to go out anymore.

THEN:
I could exercise without getting up before dawn. Not that I did it all that often, but still. I could have, if I had wanted to.

NOW:
If I don't get up at 5:30 to exercise, it becomes next to impossible to get a full workout in. Charlotte always decides to join me in my aerobicizing, so I spend much of the workout pleading with her to take her Care Bears and clear out of my way or one of us is going to end up with a sprained ankle. And when I do any toning, I invariably have Tommy interfering. Either he comes super close to getting brained by my weights or kettlebell or he is climbing all over me while I am doing ab work, laughing all the way.

THEN:
I could leave my belongings wherever I wanted and feel confident they would still be there when I came back to retrieve them.

NOW:
If I leave my purse on a chair--which I unwisely did a few weeks back--I will most likely come back to find a certain mischievous toddler--and much of my house--covered in my brand new lipstick.

And if leave the bathroom door open there's a good chance that the unnamed toddler will end up using my toothbrush to play in the toilet.

THEN:
I had a job, one that I was pretty good at. One that actually paid me money to do. One where I received good reviews and had a bit of respect.

NOW:
Charlotte informed me the other day that I was not the boss. Danny is.

And I get no money. The closest thing to a bonus I get are the hugs and kisses my kids bestow upon me throughout the day, which come to think of it, are much sweeter than a benefits package.

And instead of reviews from my principal or fellow teachers, I have kids who run to meet me when I have been gone for a few hours squealing about how happy they are to see me. I get the occasional compliment, like when Danny informed me the other day that I was "the best cooker in the whole world!" And I have kids who beg me to play with them, who want to spend time with me more than anyone else in the world, and who love to crawl into bed with me in the morning.

THEN:
I knew nothing about being a special needs parent; I knew nothing about IEPs, SPD, OT, ST and ABA. The only things I knew about autism were from watching The Boy Who Could Fly and Rainman.

NOW:
I know the heartache and loneliness that comes when you discover your kid is different. I know the sleepless nights spent worrying about my kid's future. I am well acquainted with many forms of treatment and therapy for SPD and autism. I am my kids' advocate.

I am now pretty good at calming any child down--I have become quite expert at distracting kids by rolling them in a blanket to play the "hot dog game," having them help me push on the walls to "make the room bigger," and finger painting with pudding.

I don't take things for granted like I used to. Now, when one of my children learns a new skill, I celebrate. I appreciate how much hard work it takes for Danny and Charlotte to function in spite of their sensory issues, and I notice their strengths and talents more than I might have had they not had these struggles.

And when Danny's report card came home the other day and the teacher wrote these simple, seemingly insignificant phrases: "Danny is a good example for others. He is kind, polite, well-mannered" I reread the words multiple times always with tears in my eyes.

You can probably guess that I wouldn't trade now for all the dates and mornings sleeping in for the world.

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Visit the Spin Cycle and check out some other bloggers' take on the theme of "Then and Now."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sensational Book


In honor of SPD Awareness Month, I thought I would write a review of a relatively new SPD book. I happened to win this book in a contest months ago when it was first published. This is Gabriel Making Sense of School is by Hartley Steiner (who also has a blog called Hartley's Life with 3 Boys) and her son Gabriel.

I have been meaning to write this review for months. Heck, I have been meaning to read this book for months. But don't misunderstand. The only reason I have been unable to read This is Gabriel Making Sense of School is because the minute it arrived in the mail, Danny absconded with the book and wouldn't allow anyone to peruse it. He read it and admired the pictures endlessly. Then, he must have hidden the book, because I could never find it.

Every once in a while, it would resurface, but Danny would again guard it jealously, and I was never allowed close enough to even turn a page, let alone read it.

This is quite an endorsement. Danny has never taken to a book in quite this way before. He loves books, don't get me wrong, but he has never been so possessive with one. Danny told me that he really likes the book and loves the pictures.

And I have to agree. This book is great. Though it is marketed as a kids' book, it is a perfect introduction to SPD for adults, as well. This is Gabriel Making Sense of School is about exactly what the title implies; the book outlines what SPD is and how it might manifest itself at school. Hartley explains very simply and accurately what types of challenges an SPD kid faces everyday at school.

It is easy to read, and Hartley gives such great examples of potential sensory land mines that I think are often overlooked, like the smells in the cafeteria and how distracting and possibly disturbing they can be.

I highly recommend this book. It is perfect for families with SPD kids, but it is also great for teachers, extended family members and anyone who you would like to educate on SPD.

Check it out! I think you'll love it.

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Disclaimer: I won the book in a contest. I was not required to write a review to win the book. I chose to review the book on my own, because I think it is a valuable resource.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

that time of year again

As many of you may already know, October is Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness Month. In honor of this, Hartley at Hartley's Life with Three Boys is hosting a month-long event to raise awareness and money for the SPD Foundation. She is highlighting an SPD family every day for the entire month of October.

And she is having amazing giveaways! So, go check out her blog and read the terrific posts of so many amazing people who deal with SPD on a daily basis. You won't regret it!

Friday, October 1, 2010

cinnamon rolls: a legacy of love


I just whipped up a batch of cinnamon roll dough with the kids. As I gave them each a pinch of dough to enjoy, I remembered my Great Grandma. She died when I was quite young--I am not even actually sure when--so, I don't have very many memories of her.

The only memories I have involve her cinnamon rolls (or "sweet rolls", as she called them). She was famous for them, and I specifically remember her making them for us whenever she visited from Minnesota. She always let us kids eat some dough and often gave us scraps to play with.

It seemed like an interminable wait until the dough had risen and the rolls had cooked, icing had been whipped up and they were finally ready to eat.

But they were always well worth the wait.

I wish Grandma Anderson were here to guide me as I make these cinnamon rolls, to give me pointers, and to see that I am passing along her tradition to my kids. She probably thought nothing of baking for us, her great grandchildren, but it has stuck with me and made an imprint, and I want her to know that.

For a while now, I have been wishing I could do more, make more of an impact on the world. I see other women who do such amazing things, all while also raising children, and I wonder why I can't do more. Why can't I handle getting a job or volunteering more? And I guess I just want to feel like my contribution to the world is significant.

I wish I could do some great big thing that affects my community, start some amazing movement to galvanize people for change. I wish I could do something big to help.

The longer I think about it, however, the more I realize that right now in my life, I can only handle small acts of service: taking a meal to someone sick, delivering Meals on Wheels once a month, typing up the PTO newsletter, babysitting for a friend. Though I long to do more, like teach some classes at the community college or be a literacy volunteer, I feel that my family would suffer if I took on a major commitment at this point in my life.

As I ponder the cinnamon rolls that are rising right now, I realize that it is often the small, seemingly insignificant moments and actions that influence a person. It doesn't always take grand gestures or large sacrifices to make an imprint on a person. Most of the things I remember about my family members are not big trips or expensive presents, but the small kindnesses.

Like Great Grandma and her sweet rolls.

Recently, my Aunt S. celebrated her 70th birthday and in her honor, I picked people's brains and came up with 70 reasons we love her. In the process, we remembered so many small moments that meant a lot to us, like the many sleepovers she hosted and the fun crafts with recycled Christmas cards she helped us make. I still have some of those ornaments that I hang on my Christmas tree every year.

The thing is, Aunt S. was surprised at all the great memories we had with her. She told my mom that it was nice to learn that she had made a difference in our lives. I can't believe she wouldn't know what an influence she was, but, in a way, I understand. She didn't work outside the home, she didn't spearhead some great big movement for social change. Yet, she did change the lives of those around her, and she continues to do so, typically by small and simple daily kindnesses.

And, you know, I think the same can be said for all of us.


Friday, September 24, 2010

sensational siblings

Several years ago, I read an article in which the author suggested it might be better for SPD kids to be only children. The author claimed that it is often difficult for kids with sensory problems to deal with siblings and the sensory stimuli that kids add to life.

Let's face it, kids are overwhelming. Anyone who has attended a birthday party for kindergartners knows this. Surround yourself with other kids and you are just begging to be bombarded with sensory stimuli, especially of the noise variety.

And Danny has never done noise particularly well.

Charlotte had already been born when I read this article, so it was too late for me to follow such advice, though I could see the wisdom in it.

It is very difficult to control the sensory atmosphere in a home when there is more than one child involved. Also, it is difficult to give a kid with special needs your undivided attention when it is....well, divided.

It was only two months before Charlotte was born that Danny was diagnosed with SPD. While I was dealing with night feedings and a major sleep shortage, I was also desperately trying to locate an Occupational Therapist who could help us. During that time, I attempted to start a sensory diet while also trying to determine out what was triggering Danny's meltdowns.

It was not easy.

So I can see how having only one child--especially when that child has SPD--would make life easier, both for the child and for the parents. Were Danny an only child, I could devote much more time to taking him to various therapists and actually doing the assignments they give us. I might even have the time and ambition to start a social skills group.

As it was, the first year of Charlotte's life is a complete blur of meltdowns (both Danny's and mine), therapy exercises and fatigue. More often than not, in those first months of Char's life, one of the three of us was crying about something.

So, it is perhaps surprising that we went ahead and had yet another child, who is now 18 months old.

It was a difficult decision, not one I took lightly. I worried that I was somehow cheating Danny and Charlotte of my attention, patience and time. I worried I wouldn't be able to handle it, that the stress would lead to a breakdown of some sort. I fretted that the extra sensory stimulation that came with an additional child in the house would be too much for Danny's system to handle.

And through it all, I worried that the author of that article was right. Was I just adding that much more chaos and sensory stimulation to Danny's life by having another baby? Would Danny's life be easier if he were an only child?

Well, yes and no.

Without a doubt, there would be less noise in the house, fewer people to disrupt our routines, and more time and attention for Danny. We'd be able to control the atmosphere in the house more easily, and we would probably have more money for his many therapy services, including speech, occupational, and even feeding therapy.

The thing is, though, despite all that, I think out of everything, out of all the interventions, IEPs, special groups and therapies, it has been Danny's interaction with his siblings that has helped him the most. He has learned far more from his younger sister and brother than I could have ever taught him myself.

While adding to our family was not easy, it has had the most unexpected rewards.

Because we aren't always able to control the kids, the noise levels and the sensory stimulation, Danny has learned to cope and adapt. He has to cope with other children; there is no choice. He is now learning that if he needs extra space and quiet, he should go to his room and ask to be left alone.

He has learned that we cannot always control the environment around us; we cannot always make other people quiet down or quit touching him. We are not able to cushion him against all the craziness in the world. So, he is learning to make his needs known, to be his own voice, and to be a bit more flexible. He has learned this from his siblings, who love him and do not judge him.

He has also learned compassion and empathy by watching his younger siblings and how they react to the world around him. There have been countless learning opportunities when Danny has witnessed Charlotte's sadness or watched how gentle you need to be to babies.

There have been times when Charlotte has been crying inconsolably and Danny has gone up to give her a hug. He has even suggested we pray so Tommy would feel better when he was sick. Would he have learned this type of empathy had he not had siblings? I am not sure. I do know, though, that this is not the kind of thing that I could sit down and teach him from a book.

Danny is learning how to share and compromise and play with others, just as he is teaching those same skills to Charlotte and Tommy.

So after all these years, I realize that there may be another side that the article did not cover. Sure, it is easier for kids with SPD to have fewer people in the house, but on the other hand, learning how to deal with unpredictable sensory stimuli is much easier to do when surrounded by those who love them.

And if there is one thing I can say unequivocally, it is that Charlotte and Tommy adore their big brother. And the feeling is mutual.

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For more posts on SPD and Sensational siblings, please visit Hartley's Life with 3 Boys, where she is hosting an SPD blog carnival. Check it out!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

what's worse than having two kids with SPD? Let me fill you in.

Charlotte has officially been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder.

It wasn't much of a surprise to me, and the evaluation went quite well. The therapist is confident that Charlotte will respond quickly to therapy. Still, I feel a bit overwhelmed by what this means for all of us, especially all the extra work I will now have to do.

Interestingly, the hardest part of this diagnosis has not been my worry for Charlotte or my stress over getting her therapy done, along with Danny's. It's not even my frustration at feeling like I am totally starting from scratch on this SPD journey; Char's symptoms are so different from Danny's it almost feels like a completely different disorder.

No, what has been the most frustrating thing about this experience is the reaction of a very small number of people who have expressed disbelief in the fact that Charlotte might have SPD. I have acquaintances and possibly even one or two family members who think I blow things way out of proportion when it comes to autism, SPD and my kids. People who think the kids will just grow out of their difficulties, that I should quit worrying already. People who think I might possibly just be imagining that my kids are a touch different.

One family member highlighted this when she asked, "Are you sure Charlotte has SPD and isn't just imitating Danny?", which might have been a valid question if Char's symptoms resembled Danny's in any way at all. But they don't.

I understand that people's disbelief is just proof of their lack of understanding of SPD. And at times it stems from their lack of familiarity with my kids. I also know most of the time it does not indicate lack of caring for me and my family.

Still, it bothers me.

The reason people are shocked that Char has SPD is that her symptoms are quite different than Danny's. When Danny gets overstimulated, he gets a bit hyper, unfocused and sometimes even angry and aggressive. Danny will start running into people and objects and throwing himself to the floor. Other times, he might get really upset at someone for being too loud or for touching him, and Danny will yell.

When Char is overwhelmed, she doesn't lash out at other people. Instead she cries. A lot. And she will blow things way, way, way out of proportion. She gets hypersensitive over the smallest of things and she becomes quite unreasonable. I think many people just chalk this behavior up to being a girl, but I know different, because I know how reasonable, calm and focused she is when she's not over stimulated.

As long as she isn't causing trouble like disrupting her Sunday school class or knocking someone over, people tend to assume she is fine.

What they don't see are the sensory meltdowns when nothing can console her, and she keens for 45 minutes or longer.

They don't see that when we are in a bathroom, she begs me plaintively not to flush the toilet, because it hurts her ears so much. And if someone thoughtlessly activates the automatic hand dryer, Char will run away screaming.

These people who are judging me, thinking I am overreacting, don't see how Charlotte seems to almost leave her body when she is overwhelmed and she cannot focus on the simplest task. She zones out so completely, it scares me sometimes.

And they didn't see when she collapsed on the way into the grocery store last week, saying, "Mommy, I can't walk!" The don't know how weak her muscles are, how she will collapse in a puddle at my feet when she can't take any more.

I suppose this just proves to me that there is so much work to be done in educating people on SPD. It's not like the disorder is so well-known that I should be offended at people's ignorance.

Yet, I am offended, not at their ignorance so much, but at their doubt in my judgment as a parent. Sure, they may not know much about SPD, but don't they know me? Don't they trust that I am doing my very best for my kids, that I don't just randomly diagnose them with disorders whenever they misbehave?

I have studied SPD for 7 years now. I have read every book, article and website I can find about the disorder. I have attended seminars and spoken and consulted with dozens of therapists and doctors.

More importantly, though, I have lived with this disorder on a daily basis. I have helped navigate this sensory land mine that is Danny's life and we have had so many successes. I have a little experience with this, so why all the doubt? Why do people assume I have no clue?

I suppose the real question here should be why do I care? Why does it bother me when people doubt me or question my judgment as a parent? What difference does it make if someone thinks I am crazy? If I am confident in my judgment, those other people's doubts don't matter, right?

I'm sure it stems from my insecurity as a mom. Though I do not for a minute doubt Charlotte's diagnosis, I often doubt myself, my abilities to help my kids and my general performance as a mom. But judging from my many conversations with friends and from several of the blogs that I read, this insecurity can't be that unusual, can it?

I think we all feel this way at one time or another, right? And maybe it's not so bad to be insecure sometimes. I mean, when you are doing the most important job in the world, you are bound to worry about performance, especially considering the learning curve involved with parenthood.

Or am I just kidding myself?

Please tell me that I am not the only mom out there who sometimes lies awake at night obsessing over all the times I have screwed up with my kids. Tell me you doubt yourselves sometimes.

Please say I am not alone in this insecurity.

Please.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

R-E-S-P-E-C-T find out what it means to me!

After getting my Master's degree in Education, I had planned on finding some cush job at a community college teaching adults. Turns out, most colleges only hire adjunct faculty, which means part-time work and no benefits. After over a year of cobbling together a decent salary between three separate schools, I applied for a job teaching high school.

I had never planned on teaching kids. It never really appealed to me. But somehow, it felt right, even though the job I was offered was in a seriously scary neighborhood in Chicago. The school was 'alternative' which means all the students had either dropped out or had been kicked out of their 'regular' high school.

I'm not sure why I thought I was equipped for this job, since grad school never dealt with any practical issues like classroom management. Still, I accepted the job.

And my students took bets on how long I would last.

I struggled the first semester. I was too lax and then I overcompensated and got unreasonably strict and the students knew they had the upper hand. After much advice from my principal and a lot of trial and error, I began to set boundaries and consequences without being a dictator. I had to find a style that I felt comfortable with. Things eventually got better.

It was while teaching at this school that I learned perhaps the greatest lesson on respect.

I had a student named Ryan who was quite loud. She loved to talk and saw nothing wrong with completely disrupting my class. She had a bit of a cocky attitude and didn't much appreciate being told to do, which was fairly common among my students.

One day in class, Ryan was being especially talkative. As she laughed and chatted with her neighbor, I stewed, but tried to calmly redirect Ryan. My attempts proved to to be unsuccessful. Ryan paid me absolutely no attention, until I snapped. Yeah, I totally and completely snapped at the girl in front of all her friends, and I was not particularly professional about it, either.

Knowing that the situation had gotten out of control, I asked Ryan to step outside the class which only served to anger her further. Usually, talking to a kid outside class meant they were in trouble and would possibly be sent to the Dean.

Out in the hall, she slouched against the wall glaring at the floor. She would not look at me and she was seething.

That's when I made a choice that changed my relationship with Ryan forever.

I apologized to her.

I told Ryan that I was wrong for snapping like I did in front of everyone and I was sorry. I explained that I was frustrated but that this did not excuse my behavior, and I was sincere.

I then explained that I needed her to start listening to me in class, to stop talking so much, to help me teach my class.

And you know what Ryan did?

After she recovered from her shock, she apologized too. She admitted that she was wrong to talk so much and be so disrespectful and she promised me she would try to be quieter in class.

And that is exactly what she did. I had Ryan in several classes over the next few years and she was totally respectful to me. She was still the class clown and very expressive--traits which we were able to put to good use in my drama classes--but usually all I had to do was give her a look and she would nod her head and quiet down. In fact, often when students had gotten out of control and I was trying to talk, Ryan would use her large voice to good effect, gaining everyone's attention and telling them to, "Shut the &%ll up!"

I didn't know it at the time, but when I apologized to Ryan, I had earned her loyalty, her trust and her respect.

I had often been taught by example that apologizing or admitting your mistakes is a sign of weakness. In all of my 30+ years, my father has never, ever admitted he was wrong about anything, even insignificant things like accusing the wrong kid of leaving a towel on the floor. And he never apologized when he hurt anyone's feelings. I am not sure why, but I always got the impression that he saw it as a sign of weakness. He was pretty big on claiming being emotional was tantamount to being a big, fat wuss.

And he's not the only one, either. There were many colleagues of mine in that high school who would have rather had their toenails removed with pliers than to ever apologize to a student, even when they were clearly wrong. They thought that admitting their mistakes would somehow weaken their standing and their control over the class. I think they even may have thought it would make the kids disrespect them. And I think a lot of people feel that way.

But I disagree. I think to get respect, you have to be respectful of others. And I believe apologizing when you have hurt others is a way of showing them respect.

I didn't apologize to manipulate Ryan. I didn't do it to diffuse the situation or to gain Ryan's respect, but that is exactly what occurred.

What I realized is that admitting I am wrong does not mean I am weak. In fact, maybe, just maybe, it's a sign of strength and courage, which garners others' respect.

Now, if only I could remember this in my marriage, I know Bil would sure appreciate it!
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For more posts on RESPECT, check out the Spin Cycle.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

"You are entering a world of pain"

The Big Lebowski



Please excuse me if I am a bit fuzzy or incoherent in this post. I think I am suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which according to wikipedia, is defined as "a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma."

Oh yes, there was definite psychological trauma today.

It all began a week or more ago when I got an invitation via Facebook for an Autism Family Bowling Adventure.

Though I am well aware of the heightened noise levels at bowling alleys and the scuzzy shoes one is required to don, though I know there are many flashing lights and annoying little tunes emanating from the little arcade, and though I am cognizant that my kids are not the only members of the Pancake clan to have serious sensory issues, I readily accepted the invitation on behalf of my entire family. I really don't know what came over me.

Everything else is a big blur.

I vaguely remember Danny crying about having to wear shoes other than his own, and Danny whining about having to wait so long for his turn, and Danny sniffling because there was no pizza as I said there would be. And Charlotte, not to be outdone by her brother, joined in and cried because....well, I am not sure why. Maybe to show solidarity?

The rest is a hazy kaleidoscope of bowling balls stuck in the lane and nacho cheese spilled in my purse and overstimulated kids running all over the place.

They promised us adventure, and we got no less.
If by adventure you mean levels of stress and sensory stimuli the likes of which would likely stupefy a Navy Seal.

Finally, Bil snapped out of his shell shock and realized that we could leave whenever we wanted. We were not, in fact, prisoners of war, though I was *this close* to curling up under the plastic seats in the fetal position and begging for my Mama.

Without much fanfare, we recovered our shoes and went AWOL, hightailing it to the nearest Subway, where we mostly recovered.

I, however, am still twitching.

Friday, August 27, 2010

dreams

I just read an article about pursuing one's dreams as a mom. The author claims that taking the time to go after one's passions gives one more energy, more verve for life.

That's exactly what I need right now. More energy. More verve. More purpose. I feel adrift and definitely lacking in motivation. While I believe staying at home with my kids is a very important job, one that I alone can do better than anyone else, I still wish I could make more of an impact, more of a difference in the world. I wish I had more to do some days than just laundry, cooking and cleaning along with frequent games of Candyland.

So, I read this article with interest. Yes, I do need to add more zest to my life. I need to pursue those dreams that I have always held close. I need to make time for my interests, the things that get me totally energized and excited.

But here's the problem that these kinds of articles never really address: what if you don't entirely know what your dreams are? Or, what if the things you would most like to pursue are completely unreasonable for this season in your life?

One suggestion I have read is that you go back to childhood and think about the dreams you had then.

That has not proven to be very useful; my biggest dream was to score the role of Little Orphan Annie on Broadway. Never mind the fact that I couldn't act or sing to save my life. I memorized every lyric of every song on my cassette tape and acted out each scene with my sister and friend. Alas, I have never been called upon to sing, "It's a Hard Knock Life" or "Tomorrow" for any audiences, on or off-Broadway. And I doubt this is likely to happen any time soon, seeing as I am waaaaay beyond pre-teenhood.

Other more recent dreams are more likely pipe dreams; they are completely unattainable right now. I am very interested in Occupational Therapy and working with kids with Sensory Processing Disorder and autism, but the nearest school with an OT program is 3 hours away. I just don't see how that could be an option right now.

And I really, really miss teaching, but though I scour the Internet, I have not found any part-time openings at any nearby community colleges, and unfortunately, Bil has forbidden me from applying at the many correctional centers in the area. Why he thinks teaching at a jail is any more dangerous than in the Chicago inner-city high school I taught at is beyond me. The year before I started, the principal and another teacher's cars were shot in a gang battle. At least the jail has armed guards.

And as for hobbies, I feel like I need something new. I love to read, but that doesn't really make a difference in the world. And volunteering is limited, seeing as I still have two kids at home. I am able to take them on my Meals on Wheels route once a month, but it would be pretty impractical for them to accompany me were I to volunteer as a literacy tutor, for example.

So, what should I do? What do YOU do? What sorts of passions are you pursuing? Dreams you are making time for? Any advice for a clueless stay-at-home mom? I could sure use it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Balloon Fest


Charlotte's favorite balloon by far


Tommy checking out Catfish Pond
I think he was the most excited when the balloons were finally inflated. He kept pointing and mumbling excitedly.



Lemon Shake-up and Funnel Cake:
$10

Admission to Balloon Fest and parking:
$9

Two balloons for Charlotte (because she let go of the first one within 1.7 minutes of purchase):
$6

A crazy gun for Danny that lights up and makes noise (because I am a total pushover):
$8

The smile that lit up Danny's face as he ran around for nearly 2 hours with a group of boys that asked him to join them in their shoot em up/space alien/Star Wars games:
Priceless





Here's Danny with his crazy gun


The great thing about this festival is that the balloons are blown up and assembled in the midst of all the fest goers. Everywhere you look there are hot air balloons.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oprah, Bumble Berries and Bras

I have a thing for magazines. I don't know if it is the allure of reading pure fluff or if it is that articles are so short and can often be finished in one sitting, but it's definitely a form of escapism for me. I rarely glean any important information from these magazines, but it's one of those guilty pleasures I indulge in once in a while.

When I opened this month's O Magazine I was unimpressed. This month's all about makeovers, and I am just not all that interested.

I guess I really shouldn't be surprised that a magazine by Oprah Winfrey would fail to inspire me. After all, the only things I have in common with the Queen of talk shows is prior residency in Chicago and a deep and abiding love for food.

Other than that, nothing. We got nothing. So, it shouldn't really be a shocker when I open O Magazine and the themes don't exactly resonate with me.

Still, I learned a lot by reading this magazine:
I have discovered that *gasp* I own none of Fall's essential wardrobe pieces. Also, the editors at O Magazine have a vastly different definition of the word "affordable" than do I. But the most important piece of information? Apparently, a properly fitting bra has the power to transform my life. Who knew?

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Danny's first day of school was today. He got home at lunchtime and Charlotte was so happy to see him. I think she is having a tough adjustment to him not being home. She couldn't wait to pick him up this afternoon.

The kids played happily together for an hour or two.

The peace quickly dissolved, however, and fighting commenced, as usual. Charlotte's wailing was loud enough to wake the dead. The reason for Charlotte's misery was apparently, Danny had eaten all the Bumble Berries that she had planned on feeding to her kitten.

"NOW THERE ARE NO MORE BUMBLE BERRIES FOR KITTEN!!!!!!! Wahhhhhhhhh!"

The fact that the Bumble Berries were entirely imaginary and that her kitten is a stuffed animal did nothing to quell Charlotte's agony or quiet her sobs. (In case you are wondering, Bumble Berries are all the rage in Care-A-Lot, the commune of Care Bears located on a very pastel colored cloud filled with rainbows and hearts and suns.)

I actually had to pretend to make Charlotte more Bumble Berries and let her kitten (whose name is Snickels, by the way) eat them out of my hand in order to pacify her. If Danny came anywhere near me or made a move to eat the berries, more lamentation would ensue.

If the editors at O were witness to my afternoon, I am sure they would conclude that I have much bigger problems than whether my handbag (Ha!) matches my shoes (double Ha!).

Clearly, I have bigger fish to fry than finding the newest, latest streamlined peacoat on the market. I'm thinking even they would admit that I might need something more than a well-fitting undergarment to change my life.

Which is why I am saving my money for a new Bumble Berry Machine. I am hoping to find one that can keep Snickels well-fed while also producing enough to leave Danny satisfied. Then peace will reign forevermore, right?

Fingers crossed that ebay has a used one.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Obsessive? Who? Me?


If you have ever read my blog at all, you know my son, Danny, has Sensory Processing Disorder and high-functioning autism.

What you probably don't know is that we highly suspect that Charlotte (Danny's younger sister) also has SPD. A different form than Danny's, definitely, but sensory processing issues up the wazoo.

So, yeah. Great news, huh?

We'll know for sure after her eval in September, but Danny's OT agrees that it is highly likely that the girl has SPD.

So, obviously, SPD and autism and other special needs are typically in the forefront of my mind.

Always there, lurking.

Always.

Maybe even more often than that.

Sometimes I get really sick of it, of the obsessing, and so I try to distract myself. At times this works. Other times, not so much.

It seems pretty futile to me, because you know, these issues are part of our lives and probably always will be. So it makes sense that I think about it a lot, right?

Right?

OK, well maybe there is a limit. Perhaps there is a point when it goes too far, when it becomes a bit of an obsession. When someone, say me, for example, possibly needs an intervention. Someone to tell her to get a grip and let. it. go.

When perhaps, just maybe, it is conceivable that this person is quite possibly thinking about special needs issues too much.


You know, hypothetically speaking, of course.

And I suppose if that were to be the case, there might be some indications, some signs, like say, when this person starts not just diagnosing kids she knows, but actually moves on to characters in books.

Yeah, that would be crazy, wouldn't it?
Or would it?
Tell me you have not read Amelia Bedelia and just KNOWN that woman has Asperger's Syndrome.


And David? Oh, c'mon! He totally has ADHD and possibly SPD with maybe some poor impulse control thrown in for good measure.



Fancy Nancy? Well she does walk on her toes quite a bit.





And really, don't you think that Curious George is just a touch overactive, even for a monkey?

Max from Where the Wild Things Are? Oh, yeah, Oppositional Defiance Disorder all the way, people. All the way.

So, I don't know. You tell me. Do I have a problem?