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Conscious Un-Halloweening

How early did your son or daughter start talking about Halloween costumes this year? How many times did she change characters or ideas?

Some autistic kids are fine with this holiday, but my kids…

Well, they HATE Halloween.

My kiddos will happily support the pumpkin patch, corn mazes, orange lights, falling leaves, free candy, and spooky decorations, but they despise October 31st. Wear costumes? No, thanks. Trick-or-treating is out of the question. These are aversions that I had to pause to wrap my head around—because what kid doesn’t love dressing like a superhero and collecting free candy? I had visions of my adorable children dressing up, turning our Radio Flyer into the Batmobile, and joining a neighborhood trick-or-treating posse. Every October, I start concocting costumes for the whole family. And every Halloween, without fail, my kids have meltdowns. If Gwyneth can coin the phrase, “conscious uncoupling,” then my family is hereby consciously uncoupling with Halloween. It’s conscious un-Halloweening.

There are a few things we’ve done over the years to soften the blow of costumes and candy. Autism Speaks provides good Halloween prep and tips for kids on the spectrum, including:

  • Create a visual story of what Halloween may be like for your child.
  • Try on costumes before Halloween; and if your child does not like his costume, don’t make him wear it.
  • Speaking of costumes, consider a Halloween costume that fits over your child’s regular clothes, such as butterfly wings or capes.
  • Practice going to a neighbor’s door, ringing the bell or knocking on the door and receiving candy before the big day.
  • Know your child’s limits and do only what he or she can handle.
  • Take your child to an activity in the community, such as a school festival or a neighborhood party where the child is already comfortable and knows people. Also partner with family and friends that your child likes.
  • If you are giving out candy at your home, give your child the option to give a piece of candy. During the day, practice greeting people and giving out candy.

The Easter Seals also provide ideas for sensory-friendly Halloween alternatives here.

We usually trick-or-treat at one house (Thing 2’s godparents who live around the corner), and head home. Several years ago, we were delusional overachievers and attempted to trick-or-treat down our entire cul-de-sac. My nonverbal oldest son carried a business card like this that year:

AutismHalloween

He was in tears after ringing the second doorbell and had to be carried home. Our neighbors were all nice and patient, but Thing 1 wanted to be home, on the couch, and naked. Wearing layers, let alone a costume, is not his idea of fun. Our kids’ costumes over the years have been basic one-pieces or Melissa & Doug dress-up items, and I still feel like I am torturing the boys.

This year, we are liberating ourselves and not stressing out our kids. Instead, the boys and I decorated our front porch with a straw bale, mums, pumpkins, and a light-up ghost. Thing 2 picked out the ghost and declared it, “REALLY SPOOKY!” Thing 1 felt strongly about buying yellow mums. Thing 3 chose decorative metal stakes for the yard, including a dancing spider. We had fun, the porch looks amazing, and no costumes, children, or parents were injured in the process. At only 18-months old, Thing 3 doesn’t care or feel left out (yet), so this Saturday we are taking the big boys to a football game and not worrying about ghosts, goblins, and Yoda’s that come knocking. In the grand scheme of things, costumes and trick-or-treating are not life skills my kids need to survive or thrive. I complain when other people try to force my square pegs into round holes, so why should I treat them that way every Halloween? Nope, not anymore.

Only took me a few years to get there.

Halloween

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My Fantastic Mr. Fox

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He is so stinking cute.

Thing 1’s affection for Roald Dahl’s Mr. Fox knows no limits, and I’m not even talking about the movie. Fantastic Mr. Fox was the first big-boy chapter book we read together, and it holds a special place in our hearts. When I saw Mini Boden was also loving on Mr. Fox this fall, I knew my kiddo needed this shirt. I love all things Boden. Their top quality and cheeky prints make me happy. Their shirts and pants are also autism-friendly without itchy tags or seams. When the clothing lasts through three rough-and-tumble boys, it’s even better.

MiniBoden_MrFox

All parents know (or SHOULD know) how important it is to read to their kids. Having a teacher and chemist for parents…well, our boys have a lot of books. The best part about reading children’s books is revisiting characters from your childhood and watching your kids become part of those favorite stories. There are a few books that I’ve bought more than once because they are so well read, loved, and even eaten in our house. What is it about chewing on board books that is so appealing? It’s gross. But I digress…

My kids excel at phonics and can tell you all the letters and their sounds, but literacy–recognizing sight words and putting letter sounds together–is a challenge. I blame that on autism because it’s related to clear processing and comprehension delays for both Things 1 and 2. But our boys enjoy being read to, so we keep reading. Thing 2 has memorized a lot of books and can “read” them to us. His favorites are Roly Poly Pangolin and Llama Llama books by Anna Dewdney, anything by Bill Martin, Jr., the Pete the Cat series by Eric Litwin, and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. Thing 2 tells me frequently that he speaks for trees. Some days he tells me he speaks for trees repeatedly at 3:00 a.m. Thing 1 is a fan of the Step into Reading leveled readers, and he loves We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen.

When Thing 1 started first grade, though, I tried to move him beyond the rhyme-time books, and in walked Roald Dahl and Fantastic Mr. Fox. We read three of the short chapters every night, and he was captivated. He loved the story, the illustrations, and the cleverness. He smiled as Mr. Fox outsmarted Boggis, Bunce, and Bean again and again. When we finished the book, Thing 1 quietly sat in his bed and stared at the cover for a while. Dahl was a hit, so I hit Barnes and Noble for more books the next week.

Thing1_MrFox

We gave The Twits a try, but Mr. Dahl’s opinion on beards halted us: “When a man grows hair all over his face it is impossible to tell what he really looks like. Perhaps that’s why he does it. He’d rather you didn’t know.”  My baby-daddy is one of those bearded men. As clean as he is, let’s just say it got awkward. Thing 1 kept taking the book away and handing me Mr. Fox instead. We then started James and the Giant Peach but did not make it past the first 20 pages. Reading about those nasty aunts tormenting James, Thing 1 grabbed the book and shouted, “NO!” I promised it would get better, but he didn’t believe me. He would not tolerate the sadness of James’s tears, threw the book across the room, and pulled Mr. Fox out of his book basket.

Thing 1 and I are about to start our third reading of Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Mini Boden is the bees knees for making a Mr. Fox shirt for my clever-as-a-fox son. Like the protagonist, Thing 1 shows us plenty of perseverance, love for family, and ingenuity every day. Maybe that’s why he finds this book so endearing. Guess what he’s wearing for school picture day this year.

Thing1_MrFox

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Neurology…

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(Image source: www.henrycalasmd.com)

Another morning spent with a neurologist…another waste of time.

When we saw a sharp spike in Thing 1’s self-injurious behavior (SIB’s) last fall, our pediatrician recommended he be evaluated for seizures. These episodes with Thing 1 were frightening because they started with a zoned-out blank stare, then his eyes dilated and he repetitively hit himself in the shoulders, sides, and head. A couple neurology visits, blood draws, one EEG, and one MRI later, there was no evidence of seizure activity. Around the same time, we consulted with a developmental pediatrician who prescribed a strong probiotic and several other supplements. Low and behold, after getting his gut cleaned up, Thing 1 was a calmer child. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest autism symptoms are exacerbated by gastrointestinal problems, and I believe this was the problem for Thing 1.

With Thing 2’s increasingly erratic behavior and lack of sleep, our pediatrician again sent us for a neurology consult. What is neurology exactly? These doctors deal with nerves and the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and our sensory receptors. Today we saw a different pediatric neurologist (not the doctor who treated Thing 1), one with an added interest in sleep disorders. I woke up thinking, “YES! Today is the day for answers and a plan!”

Not so much…

Within the first 10 minutes, this neurologist was talking in circles. I detailed our background, what led to this appointment, and he appeared confused. Why were we seeing a neurologist and not a developmental pediatrician? Good question, doc. Maybe because there is a 7-month wait list for appointments, and I cannot get our regular pediatrician to pull any strings in that department. So round and round we went. I explained that Thing 2 is generally a high-strung, excitable, easily agitated kid; that he takes power-naps between 10:00 and midnight; and that when he is asleep, he is still constantly moving and fidgeting. This neurologist’s response: “There is not a medicine to help his problem.” Then the doctor drew me a picture of a clock and explained how the circadian rhythm works. Our prescription–keep Thing 2 awake until midnight, power-nap from midnight until 2:00 a.m., and eventually sleep deprive him until he cracks. I felt like a broken record, but I kept saying that sleep was symptomatic of a larger problem for Thing 2, whether that be anxiety, or neurological misfires, or whatever. But he kept drawing me more pictures of clocks. Not that I was begging for drugs, but I couldn’t get anything out of this guy. Complete blood count, metabolic panel, thyroid check…nothing.  An hour later, Thing 2 and I left the office, I looked down at him and asked, “What the hell just happened in there?” Thing 2 answered with, “Doughnut, please.”

Another speciality visit, another $50 copay, and no answers.

I guess we’ll go for the sleep deprivation and see who cracks first: us or him.

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What’s Wrong with THAT Kid?

Let’s talk about sleep.

In our case, it would be no sleep.

Thing 1 goes through phases of (thankfully short-lived) poor sleep. Usually he quietly sneaks downstairs, steals the iPad, and falls back to sleep watching Thomas videos on YouTube. On the other hand, Thing 2 (our middle child and second son diagnosed with ASD) has survived on very little sleep for years. He is only 5.

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(Image source: http://dailycaller.com/)

According to WebMD, “Researchers estimate that between 40% and 80% of children with autism have difficulty sleeping. The biggest sleep problems among these children include: difficulty falling asleep; inconsistent sleep routines; restlessness or poor sleep quality; waking early and waking frequently.” Thing 2 has all those symptoms. The alleged culprits behind poor sleep for autistic children include low tryptophan and melatonin levels, gut problems, sensory disorders, anxiety, mast cell activation, and Lord knows what else.

We describe Thing 2 as an anxious child. Changes to his routine and transitions are tough. He has always exhibited separation anxiety. He grinds his teeth constantly and makes aggressive (loud and long) vocalizations. He is like the Energizer Bunny and keeps going and going and going… We’ve battled poor sleep for a while, and adding melatonin at bedtime was our first intervention. While it made falling asleep peaceful, it never kept him asleep. At some point between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m., Thing 2 could be heard crying in his room or the hallway. We tucked him back in bed and told him to go to sleep. Sometimes that was enough; more often it was not. To protect the sleep of our other children on noisier nights, my husband or myself head back to bed with Thing 2 or let him sleep with us. At least we are kind of sleeping then, with a spastically flopping and whimpering kid by our side.

Thing2_sleep

Thing 2 slept through the night a couple times this winter. Then we had constant night waking through spring and summer until August 1–the last time he slept through the night. He typically sleeps from 10:00 until midnight, then he is awake on/off and may sleep in bursts of 30 minutes to a couple hours. When our alarms buzz and it’s time to get ready for the day, Thing 2 has an epic meltdown because he is too tired to move. Mornings are miserable. Whether it’s lack of sleep or anxiety or something else, I don’t know, but he also no longer enjoys activities that made him happy. Now swimming and playgrounds and so many things lead to meltdowns.

You name it, we tried it. We maintain a bedtime routine, limit screen-time and noise, increased melatonin and switched to an extended release, supplemented l-theanine (for relaxation) and 5-HTP (to boost serotonin levels). Nothing made a difference. At his 5-year check-up this summer, I explained how sleep went from bad to worse and asked that Thing 2 be evaluated for ADHD or a sleep disorder or an anxiety disorder or all of the above. None of those would/could be done by our regular pediatrician, so she recommended we see the psychologist who performed the autism assessment. In the meantime, we gave clonidine a try. I hoped clonidine would be the answer to our prayers for more peaceful nights because many friends recommended it, saying it improved ADHD symptoms and sleep for their autistic children. The choice to medicate is difficult, even when it comes to supplements. I worry about the long-term or side effects of medications, but at some point it has to be an option on the table.

I called our psychologist’s office and was told she only does autism assessments, not ADHD or anxiety. I reached out to Thing 2’s teacher and BCBA for suggestions and got articles about sleep studies. I called a local special needs pediatrician and was told she was booked through March and there is a WAIT LIST for April appointments.

It’s September. And clonidine only made things worse.

At the end of my rope, I called our pediatrician and left a message that clonidine was ineffective, did we have other options, and could she pull any strings with that ridiculous wait list for the developmental pediatrician. The voicemail I got back: “This is as far as we go as pediatricians.”

That was the precise moment I snapped, and it was ugly. The floodgates that are my tear ducts opened, I called the office back and demanded to speak to our doctor because her message was unacceptable. I explained to her that we are in crisis mode, that Thing 2’s erratic behavior affects all parts of his day, and I am becoming the parent I never wanted to be: cranky, mean, yelling, impatient, and exhausted.

She’s getting us an appointment with a neurologist as soon as possible. For Thing 2, not me. But maybe I should also have my head examined.

It’s one thing to deal with autism every day and the ways that neurological disorder manifests itself. I realize it’s a journey with peaks and valleys, and that is fine. What deflates me is the lack of understanding we get from medical professionals. Autism is complex, and our kids are sick–some chronically. Whether they battle gastrointestinal problems, inflammation, seizures, feeding disorders, anxiety…couple that with learning disabilities, speech delays, processing and auditory disorders, and sensory sensitivity. My kids do not have the communication abilities to tell me what hurts, so we need real partnerships with doctors who can flush out these symptoms and bring peace to their little bodies. It’s time for the medical field and insurance companies to stop dismissing and disrespecting our problems as “that’s autism,” as if it’s an educational problem to tackle, and spend the time necessary to HELP our kids live healthy, happy lives. And these wait lists everywhere? Give me a break!

Thing2_sleep

This kid is tired.  So are his parents.

In other news, I’m breaking up with our pediatrician. And Thing 2 slept last night after a dose of hydroxyzine before bed. Hallelujah!! But me? I woke up every hour thinking, “Why isn’t he awake? What’s wrong? Is he still breathing? What’s happening?” It’s bedtime PTSD.

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Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

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World Breastfeeding Week 2015 is August 1-7.  As someone who had breastfeeding successes (Things 2 and 3) and epic failure (Thing 1), I fully support a woman’s right to feed her baby–however that works for her. But why is breastfeeding awesome? Well, breast milk provides ideal nutrition for infants with all the protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and antibodies a baby needs. Breast milk is easily digested. It’s linked to lower occurrences of asthma, ear infections, SIDS, diabetes, and obesity. Besides the obvious bonding that happens, breastfeeding also burns extra calories, releases the euphoric hormone oxytocin, and lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers for mothers.

When it works for mother and child, it’s awesome. When it doesn’t go so smoothly, there’s always formula…and there’s no shame in that.

Even though I am no longer nursing, I am interested in World Breastfeeding Week because of the focus on breastfeeding and the working mother. As a pumping mom, it shocks me how little protection and time new mothers have to express their milk at work. As a teacher, I had difficulty carving time out of a busy day to relax for 30 minutes for a productive pumping session. There were always meetings and conferences to attend, papers to grade, e-mails to compose, lessons to plan, and not enough hours in the day. Thankfully, the great Commonwealth of Virginia is doing more to protect those rights.  Our current state laws include:

  • Va. Code § 2.2-1147.1 (2002, 2015) guarantees a woman the right to breastfeed her child on in any place where the mother is lawfully present, including any location where she would otherwise be allowed on property that is owned, leased or controlled by the state. The bill also stipulates that childbirth and related medical conditions specified in the Virginia Human Rights Act include activities of lactation, including breastfeeding and expression of milk by a mother for her child.
  • Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-341.1 (2005) provides that a mother who is breastfeeding a child may be exempted from jury duty upon her request.
  • Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-387 (1994) exempts mothers engaged in breastfeeding from indecent exposure laws.
  • Va. House Joint Resolution 145 (2002) encourages employers to recognize the benefits of breastfeeding and to provide unpaid break time and appropriate space for employees to breastfeed or express milk.

The only two times I’ve been called for jury duty, I was breastfeeding. Guess who didn’t have to go to court? Score for the boob juice.

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I searched for coupon codes, freebies, and giveaways. If you know a soon-to-be mom, consider passing these gifts along, and I’ll update the list as I find more offers.

Finally, here’s a quick round up of my favorite breastfeeding products and resources:

  • Latched Mama: Designed by a local RVA entrepreneur, here you’ll find stylish and functional clothing for nursing mothers. Get free shipping on orders $75+. Love the side-access styles.
  • The Leaky Boob: Blog, reviews, honest advice.
  • La Leche League International
  • Ergobaby 360: I nursed Thing 3 in this many times, and it continues to be one of his favorite modes of transportation at 15-months old. Worth every penny.
  • Motherlove Nipple Cream: For obvious reasons.
  • And if you still want more, here’s my Pinterest board all about babies and boobies.
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Diagnosis Day… Now What?

Recently a mom contacted me the day her 3-year-old son was diagnosed with autism. She needed an outlet, a virtual shoulder to cry on maybe, and someone to explain where to go next. Talking with this mom put me right back in our own diagnosis day for Thing 1. Honestly, it was difficult to confront those feelings again–stunned at missing red flags sooner; confusion over what services are needed, where to find them, how to afford them; guilt because it must have been something I did or didn’t do that caused this; frustration trying to understand the spectrum; relief to finally have a diagnosis; fear for my children growing up in a cruel world not made for their sensory and communication needs; and anger. Anger at everyone and everything.

So…your child is diagnosed with autism. Now what? Here are my observations and suggestions on your next steps.

First, there is a grieving process, so give yourself time to wrap your head about what ASD means for your child. Talk to your spouse. Talk to your pastor. Find another parent to vent to. Whatever you do, do not wallow and stew in your anger, fear, and sadness. I could not tell anyone about the diagnosis without crying. I made other people cry with my crying, and then I felt guilty for that! But it’s okay to cry. You will go through the range of emotions, and then you’ll pick yourself up and prepare to kick ass.

Second, know your insurance plan inside and out. Figure out what therapies are covered and the coverage amounts. Learn about the autism insurance mandate in your state. Make sure you are taking advantage of all available coverage. Having mandated coverage in our state was a game-changer for our family because it afforded us significantly better services than our county’s early intervention or early childhood special education programs.

Third, learn about Medicaid waivers. In Virginia, we have EDCD and ID/DD waivers. Regardless of where you live, qualifying for waiver services requires tedious screenings (and, more frequently and unfortunately, appeals and more screenings). Your local Autism Society of America chapter is the go-to source for understanding waivers. Most offer workshops and many other resources. A couple weeks after Thing 1’s diagnosis, I called the Autism Society of Central Virginia and left a message asking about waiver workshops. Since I just missed their last one, the ASCV president called back and spent almost two hours with me on the phone, telling me everything I needed to know. That was a huge breakthrough because after that conversation, I had a plan.

Fourth and finally, join a support network. You can find this in a Facebook group, joining the Autism Society, going to a TACA coffee talk. Commiserate with other parents, ask questions, share recommendations, stay connected. Me, I started following blogs, and some of my favorites are:

Our diagnosis and psychological report for Thing 1 came with a massive to-do list. The psychologist recommended we consult with a geneticist, neurologist, and gastrointestinal specialist; increase the frequency of Thing 1’s speech and occupational therapy; and get our son intensive ABA services. We spent time lingering on wait lists, and it took 3 months to increase speech therapy, 10 months to start in-home ABA, and years to visit all the medical specialists. Sometimes it is difficult to see the forest through the trees, but we have much to be grateful for five years into this autism journey, especially the ways our family is loved and accepted.  Yesterday we threw a big birthday party for our older boys, and eleven little kids and their families showed up to party with us.  It was heartwarming to see all these neurotypical kids play with our boys and sing “Happy Birthday.” And that’s what it’s all about, right? Kids enjoying their childhood, making friends, learning, growing, and having fun. It’s difficult to see that light and feel hopeful on diagnosis day, but I promise you will get there. Water_Birthday Find additional resources here:

First 100 Days Kit–Autism Speaks

Handy Handouts

Introduction to Autism–TACA

The Out-of-Sync Child: Great book!

Wrightslaw Special Education Law & Advocacy

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Prayers of the People

Confession: I am irritable this week.

Summer tends to be a tough time in our household.  Some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder in the winter, but my Thing 1 gets hot-tempered in summer.  He is up, he is down, he can be destructive.  In the last two weeks, he ripped apart two books and shattered a glass candle container.  Combine that with Thing 2’s sheer loudness at all times, and I’m about to lose my mind.  I snapped at the grocery store cashier yesterday.  I rolled my eyes and completely disregarded pick-up procedures at Thing 2’s school.  I’ve been overly snarky with my husband.

Last week I also attended a meeting with my son’s teacher, principal, and occupational therapist.  At his spring IEP meeting, I asked for a full OT evaluation.  That evaluation was complete, so it was time for our meeting and amendment.  Sitting across from the principal, though… Oy.  I do not like that woman.  She followed me outside in an attempt to shake a name out of me.  Who told me Thing 1’s self-contained autism class spent days watching Disney movies?  The subject came up in the spring, and this woman is hell-bent on getting a name from me.

I ain’t no snitch.

I came across this prayer today, and it spoke to my feelings over the past couple weeks.  Both Hands and a Flashlight is written by an autism dad, and his was the first blog I started following after Thing 1 was diagnosed.  Whether you’re on the special needs path or not, I think it speaks to all parents doing their best and fighting the good fight.

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Prayers of the People:

Dear Lord,
You who watch over the lilies of the field,
Help us just to not suck today.

Help us to put our clothes on right,
Or to at least meet the minimums of decency.
Help us to put toothpaste on our brushes instead of diaper cream,
And to not look too much like a raving lunatic in public.
Or at least grant us shelter us from arrest.

Help us when we yell at someone in a store
that we might not hurt our voices.
Guide our feet as we kick ass,
And lead us not into more expletives than are necessary,
But make them the right ones,
In thy mercy.

For those who do not believe in our kids,
For those who judge our parenting and our kids’ behavior,
For those too quick to speak and too slow to listen,
For those whose hearts have hardened,
We pray.

For those who cannot fathom how to pay their bills,
For those who hold their heads in despair,
For those who don’t know if it will ever get better,
For those getting up off the ground to fight once more,
For those who refuse to give up,
For those who choose love over fear,
We pray.

And may our coffee pots brew well and our grounds be plentiful.
Amen.

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You Know You’re an Autism Parent When…

Earlier this month, my husband shared a list with me from The Mighty called, “You Know You’re a Special Needs Parent When…”  Check out the original post with some pretty funny e-cards here.  Now that we have a week of summer break under our belts and I spend all day with my kiddos (when I’m not pawning them off on Nana while I day drink with friends), this list comes into my mind over and over again throughout the day.

You have to understand that my children are spastic during the summer, and no amount of time in the pool, sun, or any activity tires them.  They are high on life one minute, then screaming “DINOSAURS” and throwing shit the next.  It’s a Jekyll and Hyde routine stuck on repeat.  Maybe it’s the heat or humidity or change in routine, but it leaves the husband and I wondering what alternate universe we entered.  Hence, the day drinking.

So tonight I offer you some examples of what The Mighty and I know about autism parenting this week…

“You’re a walking medical dictionary.”  I just schooled my husband in mast cell activation disorder regarding Thing 1, and the benefits of a low-phenol diet for Thing 2.  It was an out-of-body experience.  Tonight at Whole Foods, I actually said to him, “I can’t remember what is lower in phenol–green or red grapes.”  Who am I?

“When putting your child’s socks on is a task that takes at least 15 minutes.”  I needed to make a quick trip to the grocery store when the baby woke up from his nap yesterday.  It took 10 minutes for Thing 1 to find his shoes.  When he finally found his Crocs, he stared at them.  It was a staring contest with ugly shoes.  By the time everyone got buckled into the van, I realized no green beans are worth this amount of effort.

“You’re constantly surprised by your own courage, and by your child’s courage” and “You are capable of more love and strength than you ever thought possible.”  One line I hate hearing is, “I don’t know how you do it.”  Why wouldn’t you do your best?  Or at least try?  What’s the alternative? Some days you batten down the hatches and ride the waves.  Some days you have to tell someone off.  Some days you’re the beauty, and other days you’re the beast.

“You’ve learned to celebrate the little victories.”  You pooped in the potty?  YAY!!

Thing 2 blew me away today at the pool.  After swim team practice, he wanted to stay and play.  There were other boys from the team throwing balls, diving, and being neurotypical boys on a summer day.  Thing 2 watched them as he swam along with perimeter of the pool.  Then he took someone’s Lightning McQueen, threw it, and dove for it.  He bobbed back up with McQueen and a big smile.  He did that a few times among the kids, not on the perimeter, and that took a ton of courage from my little boy.  He was initiating play with other kids, and that is a big victory, my friends.

“You’ve (almost) learned how to forgive yourself for not being perfect” and “You’ve (almost) become immune to the looks others give you in public.”  I yelled and cursed trying to get the kids to the grocery store yesterday.  Then Thing 2 tried to hold Thing 1’s hand in the parking lot, and that set Thing 1 off.  I lost it.  I horse-collared Thing 1 and told him to stop being a butthead.  An old lady gave me a nasty look.  I’m not perfect, neither are my kids, and we do not pretend to be.

“You will never take your child’s health for granted.”  As stressful as some trips to the grocery store can be, I am grateful to have these little boogers.  I know several friends and family members who lost children to sickness or birth defects.  Being able to fuss at my kids, love on them, and smother them with kisses before bed is a gift.

“You always know when to trust your instincts.”  This is a big reason why we’re getting Thing 1 out of his current school placement.

“No matter how much you go without it, you’ll never get used to the lack of sleep.”  TRUTH.  Sleeping in and taking naps, when they happen, are the most magical things ever.  As magical as unicorns galloping along rainbows, because I never see them.  Our typical night starts with Melatonin for the big kids at 8:00.  Then the husband lays with Thing 2 until he falls asleep. The adults go to bed around 11:00.  Thing 2 is awake again anywhere between 12:30-2:30 a.m., screaming bloody murder and repeating, “Come here!” and “Go to bed!”  We let him cry it out, even when he wakes up his brothers.  Thing 1 is up and will rummage the house for iPads and food starting at 5:00 a.m., sometimes earlier.  When I do snap at my kids, it’s because I’m so damn tired!

“Any day your child keeps his pants on is a good day.”  A better name for Thing 1 is “White Lightning.”  He is a habitual streaker, and we catch him outside daily, jumping on the trampoline or swinging high in the swing, butt naked.  My husband was laying on the couch last weekend when Thing 2 came into the family room and threw his shorts and underwear in daddy’s face.  That’s pretty bold.

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(Image source: http://www.quickmeme.com/)

“The neighbors begin to wonder why so many therapists are coming and going from your house all week.”  It’s called ABA, bitches.  Now get back to your post about how gifted and perfect you want Fakebook world to think your child is.

Okay, that last one sounded a little bitter.  My bad.

Here’s to summer survival.

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Milestones!

We recently celebrated Thing 3’s FIRST birthday!  Little kids and birthday parties are so much fun, although Thing 3 was slightly overwhelmed by all the attention.  He arrived like a freight train eight days before his due date.  About two weeks before, he wriggled into a frank breech position.  After researching the version procedure proposed by my doctor, I opted for a c-section and got on the hospital’s schedule.  The weekend before, Thing 3 decided he did not want to wait for that appointment.  We arrived at the hospital just in time.  Within 30 minutes of getting to the hospital, I was already 7 centimeters dilated and prepped for surgery.

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Thing 3 is the big 1!We had a low-key party with family and a few friends.  We grilled burgers and hot dogs and inhaled cupcakes.  Thing 3 played hard, but kept his stone-cold-sober party face on.  He did not want to crack a smile, but he loved his cupcake and playing with his cousin.

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cupcake

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This baby is such a good boy!  He loves to play peek-a-boo and patty cake.  He blows kisses and greets everyone by waving when they come through the door.  He turns every small toy into a phone, holds it up to the back of his head, and asks, “Hiya?”  He gives these ridiculous open-mouth slobbery kisses.  He is becoming more opinionated and independent (and antagonistic towards his big brothers).  He is speed-demon crawler and champion cruiser…but has not started walking alone quite yet.  He looks so adorable when he cuddles with his favorite blanket.  He points at Cheerios and Goldfish when he wants his favorite snacks, although he loves all food.  He wakes up happy almost every morning and laughs at his Daddy’s funny faces.

Happy birthday, Thing 3!

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Udder Nonsense

WARNING: This post talks about boobs.  Divert your eyes if that makes you queasy.

Milk MeLast night I thawed the last three bags of frozen breastmilk for bottles and packed away my breast pump.  I was kind of surprised at the emotions that came with putting that pump away.  On one hand, I was happy to give the pump the official F-OFF because I seriously hate that machine.  What do I hate most?  Pumping at work while trying to reply to e-mails, grade papers, and attend meetings and conferences; the noise of the machine; cleaning flanges and valves; the expense of special freezer bags; people interrupting me.  And by interrupt, I mean unlocking my door and walking in as if they are invited to the party.

That happened to me twice–by custodial staff and a parent volunteer.  Yep, someone gave a parent a master key in the front office, and she let herself into my classroom.  Never mind the safety concerns there or the sign on the door that clearly said, “DO NOT DISTURB.”  But I digress…

On the other hand, it means Thing 3 is one more step away from babyhood, and that makes me sad.  At 11-months old, he has 10 teeth, including two molars, and I followed his cues to wean.  He’s my last baby (okay, maybe I’m still in denial about that), and we’ll never have those special moments again.  Waaahhhh…

Thing 3In honor of the occasion, I offer this poem to honor the hard work of those mammary glands and my pump.

Boobs being macerated by tiny teeth.

Relax and just let it flow.

Engorged?  Not anymore!

Adding to my

Supply

To keep my baby full.  Meanwhile,

Pulling and pinching my

Udders, I try to ignore.  Now

My lactation has come to a close, and that means it’s time for more

Pinot.

Lame and dorky, I know.

As a side note–I discovered Latched Mama nursing apparel with this kiddo.  Her hoodies are amazing, and she’s a local RVA designer. Check her out!

We will be celebrating Thing 3’s first birthday in less than four weeks!  I cannot believe how fast the year has passed, and he is turning into such a playful, opinionated little boy.

Thing 3 Pantry

“Feed me now!” he says.