Category Archives: moms

Breakthrough Moments

Standard

P1030753Our oldest is adopted and is honestly one of the most beautiful human beings I have been privileged to know.  He’s kind, sincere, thoughtful, empathetic, funny, giving, smart, hard working,creative, introspective, and just a cool person to know.
But he’s also severely misunderstood.  He’s often socially awkward and sometimes kind of moody.  He’s super sensitive.  He cries and says hateful things when asked to do homework or if overstimulated.

He has struggled with school since the first day he stepped in to that kinder classroom.  By the end of first grade we were confident that he had some sort of learning disorder.  A few specialists later and he was seeing the OT each week for Sensory Integration Disorder, the PT for muscle strengthening, a speech therapist for his spelling delays, and a psychiatrist for ADHD.  While many of these services were really helping him to “perform” more appropriately in the classroom setting they were not getting to the root of his non-specified learning disorder nor were they helping him relate to his peers or manage in loud, busy settings.  As J got older and his peers got older the disparity between them became more and more obvious.  His peers were reading Harry Potter at the bus stop while J was still looking at pictures in board books.  His peers were running around playing competitive sports while J would play quietly alone in the sandbox.  His peers would breezeP1050131 through their sheet of homework each evening while J would take one to two hours to complete a simple homework assignment.  His peers played and joked with other kids of the same age while J would gravitate toward younger kids.  His peers would watch movies with more mature themes while J was still covering his ears and eyes during Winnie the Pooh.  His peers were helping their moms with grocery lists in the store while J would lean against the shelves, climb in to the small space under the cart, or simply lie down on the grocery store floor.

This is still the story of J.  A bright kid with a lot of great to offer the world but a kid who is beginning to see the disparities, who is beginning to hear and understand the harsh teasings of others, a kid who is invited to playdates mostly with kids who are 2 to 3 years his junior.  J, the kid who still cries every time a piece of homework is set in front of him and the kid who is slowly beginning to believe that he might actually be stupid.

Because of these struggles I have fought hard to get him the therapies and specialists and support that he needs.  I’ve fought to put the right people in place to help him be the best J that he can be.  It’s not that I need him to be any different.  Because I don’t.  I truly love him just as he is.   Instead I fight for these services because I believe that for the sake of J’s self worth and for the sake of his happiness, he deserves answers and resolutions to the root issue(s) of his struggles.

As any parent of a special needs child knows, finding that root cause, unfortunately, is not a simple task nor is it for the faint of heart. Over the years we have spent more hours in doctor’s offices than I care to admit.  We’ve invested in so many aids and tools to make his life more manageable.  We’ve fought the school district(s) for IEPs and special services.  We have researched schools and moved to Portland over Seattle because a slot at the perfect charter school for J became available.   And once we moved to Portland I immediately got my two special needs boys on the schedule at the children’s neurodevelopment center.  Something I had attempted in Tucson but ran in to dead end after dead end.  Six months after our move to Portland we were scheduled up the wahoo with testing and therapies.  At one point it was so overwhelming and taxing on me and J that I was ready to throw in the towel, move to Costa Rica, homeschool him and just let J manage his life going forward with the current coping skills he’s obtained.   But something in me told me to hold on.  A quietness in my being assured me that I was on the right path and that I needed to keep fighting.  Keep being the voice that he needs.  Fight the fight for him because he is not able.

In the past few weeks, hope finally found us.  And, my goodness, is she beautiful!  P1050333

One gift we were given this summer was the gift of his OT.  She has a great skill for explaining things to me in a way that helps me really connect with J.  A way in explaining things that makes me not only understand his struggles but allows me to completely empathize with where he’s at.  Her explanations have allowed me to stop being annoyed at things that he does that I don’t fully understand.  Instead of being irritated I see a boy who is working so hard and his brain is working over time for him to just keep him functioning.  This is the way that she explained his Sensory Integration issue:

Amy, imagine it’s around 5pm and you are cooking dinner in your kitchen under a disco light with your radio blasting and while you are cooking dinner the smoke alarm starts to go off because the stove is smoking and three of your kids are screaming and the mailman is ringing the doorbell, and you are trying to talk with the Dr. on the phone, and the dog is barking at the sirens of the fire engine driving by and the neighbor’s car alarm is going off and you are just trying to not go out of your mind.  J’s life is like that every waking hour of his day.  His brain cannot process all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches the way a healthy brain can.  Our brains naturally filter out what is not important to us at the moment.  His brain doesn’t have that filter.  Can you imagine how exhausting that must be?  It’s no question that he is always leaning on you for support.  It’s no question why he’s covering his ears.  It’s no question why he seeks solitude.  When he lies on the floor randomly or leans up against a wall or person, he is trying to ground himself.  To get some sort of footing in a world that is loud and out of control. IMG_0058

Wow!  That is a powerful way to describe his struggle and ding ding ding it all makes sense.  In fact I have changed my attitude so much since she gifted me these words because all I see when I see my son now is a boy who is so beautiful and is so beautiful in spite of how difficult every moment is for him.  So those who don’t know my son may think that my 10 year old is rude because he’s always touching you or because when there’s too much stimulation he stops responding or doesn’t look you in the eye.  You may judge me that I haven’t taught him manners because he’s always chewing gum to calm his anxiety or because I let him sleep where he needs to sleep (even if that place is my bed).  But I, on the other hand, see nothing more than a boy who needs me to go to bat for him, needs me to find the best tools to calm him, and needs me to educate those in his circles who are unaware of his circumstances.  That is the gift of my job.  My job as his mom is to be more than his cheerleader.  It’s to be his voice when he can’t find his.

IMG_0530Enter the second moment of hope.  Last week and this morning J saw a behavioral optometrist to test his vision and to see how his brain is communicating with his eyes.  An hour in to last week’s test the optometrist pulled me in to his office and said that without a doubt J’s learning disorder has to do with the fact that his eyes are not tracking as they should.  He told me what a smart kid he was but that while his vision is perfect there is a breakdown in communication between the eyes and the brain which would make reading and writing extremely difficult and exhausting.  Difficult enough to make a full grown adult quit trying.

At those words I just began to cry (as I am now).  I began to cry because we’ve been searching for answers for years now and we finally had some.  With answers comes hope.   And direction.  Not aimless ticking off of boxes in search of something.
This morning he continued his testing to pinpoint exactly what eye therapies he would be needing.  They tested his eyes on all sorts of cools machines and computers.  They tested his reading ability and I could watch on a computer screen to see how often his eyes lost their place or tracked back over words.  They tested for dyslexia as well.  With every test I got a better understanding and a deeper empathy of this wonderful child that I have been gifted to raise.  The therapist left me with,

There’s absolutely no doubt that J is going to benefit from therapy.  12 weeks of training those brain and eye muscles to communicate and he should jump grade levels ahead in his reading and writing skills.  In 2 to 3 weeks I’ll send you a detailed report of our findings and a therapy schedule.  He’s going to be a whole new kid.

Once more I cried.  Again not because I need him to be different but because we were now on a clear path to making life easier for him.  J asked me why I was crying and I told him that all this testing paid off.  All his hard work had led to this answer.  He smiled real big, put his hand in mine and replied,

I knew I wasn’t dumb, Mom.  I knew it.  I was starting to think that I was but I’m so happy to know that I’m not and that I wasn’t lying to myself because I always believed I was working hard even when people told me I was lazy.  Today’s a good day, Mom.  Thank you for taking me to these appointments.  I’m kind of excited.  P1050163

Heart melted.  Yeah, every moment has been worth hearing those words.  Every painful moment has been worth gaining the deep level of respect and empathy I have for this child.  I will never EVER stop helping him to reach his greatest potential.  And he will never stop teaching me to see the beauty in each and every human being.

Thank you, J, for the gift that you give me each day.  I am forever grateful and I am super excited to see you take this next journey.  Maybe soon you’ll be reading this blog without any difficulty and maybe soon after that you’ll even want to write an entry!  I am hopeful for the first time in so many years and I know you are too.

Journey on, Readers.  Journey on.

When You Give a Mom a Special Needs Child

Standard

Have you ever read that wonderful children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?  That’s how I’m feeling about my life.  My story goes a little something like this and you have to read it twice since I have two special needs kids.

If You Give a Mom a Special Needs Child

If you give a mom a special needs child, she’s going to do everything in her power to help her child thrive.

And when she starts to help her child, she’ll realize she needs the support of specialists.

And when she realizes she needs specialists, she’ll call and set up an appointment with their PCP.

When they see the PCP, they will be directed to make an appointment with the neurodevelopment center.

When she makes the appointment with the neurodevelopment center, she’ll wait six months and fill out hours of paperwork before she even sets foot in the facility.

When the appointment day finally arrives, she’ll see the physician, fill out more paperwork, and feel encouraged that help is on the way.

When she leaves the appointment, the physician tells her to schedule an appointment with the physical therapist.

When she and her child see the physical therapist, the therapist will tell her to schedule an appointment with the occupational therapist.

When they see the occupational therapist, she’ll tell them to come back every week and to schedule an appointment with the speech therapist.

When they see the speech therapist, he will tell them to come back every week and to schedule an appointment with the psychologist.

When they see the psychologist, he will give her a book to read, 2 hours of videos to watch, more paperwork, and will tell them to come back every week.  He also advises them to schedule an appointment with the psychiatrist.

When they see the psychiatrist, she will tell them to come back every month and to schedule a Behavioral Optometrist.

When they see the Behavioral Optometrist, he will tell them to follow up with the neuro specialist.  

When she sees the neuro specialist again, he will tell her make an appointment with another psychologist, with a pediatric audiologist, with a parent support group, with a cultural support group, with a pediatric audiologist, to start planning IEP meetings for next school year, to look for a tutor, and to follow the advice of all the specialists they’ve seen.

She schedules all the appointments she’s been asked to schedule and then they see the audiologist.

When they see the audiologist, they are told to schedule an appointment with the PCP so that her child’s ears can be irrigated.

And when they get to the PCP, she will be reminded that this is where their journey began and she’ll likely remember…

That when you give a mom a special needs child, she’s going to do everything in her power to help her child thrive.  

From the Mouths of Babes

Standard

Boy 4 (age 6, G):

I volunteered in G’s classroom the other day and one classmate is a vocal know it all.  I must’ve heard her say “I already knew that.  I know that.  I knew that before you.” no less than 10x over my two hours.  And while there are many funny responses, this one came from my child.

They were walking down the hall and she (let’s call her X) says, 

X: I know so much because have a library in my house.  My very own library.  Full of books and so I know most everything

G: Well I know a lot too and I don’t even need a library to know a lot

X: My library is so great that it lets me study so I can know more than you

G: Well I know so much that I don’t even need to study

Then G looks up and pulls my head near him as he whispers,

“Mom, what does study mean?  I don’t even know what I’m saying to this girl!”  And then he laughs.

Gotta love this kid!

Boy #2 (age 6, P):

Lying in bed reading a Cat in the Hat book together and the two kids in the book were left home alone to shovel snow out of the driveway…

P: Where’s their mom?

M: Well she maybe had to run an errand or maybe she works.

P: And she left them home alone to work outside in the cold snow?

M: Yes, it appears that way.

P: What a bad mom.  You would never do that to us.  So glad you are my mom.

M: Yes, aren’t we lucky that if we had to shovel snow we would do it together.  Some people just don’t have that option.  

P: We are lucky.

Ahhhhhh…pulls on the mommy heartstrings 🙂

Boy #3 (age 6, S):

Said at breakfast this morning:

Mom, I just wanted to let  you know that I get milk at school every day with my lunch and I always pick the one that says “fat free” so it doesn’t cost you any money.

Love this!  So damn funny.

Every Win is Deserving

Standard

As parents I think it’s very important to celebrate the tiniest of successes.  We too often spend our quiet moments rehashing all the ways we’ve failed our kids or the many ways our kids are not measuring up. We find ourselves in the negative space of mommy guilt that is lightyears from a truthful voice of reason.  It’s time we reject the adverse voices and instead beat the drums of triumphs. Even if that drum is mouse-sized and hardly audible.

In the spirit of finding my positive zen, I am letting go of misplaced mommy guilt.  I am a damn good mom even if every moment is not fairytales and roses.  Even if some days are epic fails.  Even if I can’t always see that truth through the messy house, the fighting kids, the crapping dog, the unemployed husband and my own crazy madness.

But today I can see.  The successes are always there.  Whether or not they are elevated is my choice.

Drums to Beat:

Boy #1:
Yesterday was the agonizing IEP meeting and with new teachers, a new school, and even new state requirements I have to admit I was more than dreading this appointment.  When you raise special needs children you deal with a lot of disappointments and you have to fight to get your child’s needs met way too often.  There’s a lot of dead end roads.  So even though this triumph cannot be owned by him it is very positive progress and definitely a win.  In this case we celebrate the fantastic staff who see my son for all of his possibilities instead of all of his downfalls.  We celebrate the fact that there are people who are already working with him and developing plans to help him succeed.  We celebrate the awesomeness of our new state and the fact that they are providing all of the tools he needs (no out of pocket expense to us!).  Every headphone, ball chair, fidget, pencil…Covered!  And they were already on top of his state testing so he has one-on-one testing next week and can use all his manipulatives (including calculator) for the math section of his test.  So while the success was not by his own doing we still celebrate because he has a team of people leading him to a plethora of future successes!

IMG_0908

Boy #2:

This child is a math whiz.  It’s insane the way he can manipulate numbers and make sense of anything numerical.  But reading has been another story (haha see what I did there?). It has been a struggle and this is not a child who appreciates a struggle.  Enter a move to a new reading class and 3 weeks later we are celebrating the click.  Reading finally clicked!  He is now devouring books and has a whole new confidence.  Woot Woot!!!!

IMG_0675

Boy #3:

His successes are harder to measure.  By the world’s standard he’s highly successful.  He’s smart, reading is easy, math makes sense, he’s athletic, people like him, yada yada.  But I don’t want to measure success that way.  What makes us successful is so much deeper than what can be measured.  I want to celebrate the moments that he lets me in to that closed up world of his.  So this week I’m screaming YAHOO at this picture taken while sledding over the weekend.  I know he let his guard down a little bit when he posed for this shot and that is worth millions more than any success proved by a piece of paper or standard.

IMG_0141

Boy #4:

Another one of our boys very close to needing the services of a special-ed team.  Kinder started off pretty rough and he had a hard time adjusting to a full day of working on the ABCs, numbers, friendships, art…you know, all the expectations of being 6!  Mad amounts of praise for him as he hasn’t given up and this week he actually made huge progress with the recognition of alphabetical sounds and his snap words!  Way to go!

IMG_0847

We are far from perfect but perfect would be uninteresting and pointless and leave us nothing worth celebrating. So here’s to the failures and successes that make each of us and each of our triumphs mad props worthy!

Give me a job. Any job.

Standard

I sat thinking today that I might be able to get hired anywhere I please.  I have clearly qualified myself with hands on experience.  So below is my list of jobs I might just be experienced enough to take on.

Nanny:  With four boys I think this one needs no explanation.

Police Officer: Example of how diaper changing goes down: Speaking to the three two year old boys: “Line ’em up.  Spread ’em.  Do any of you have something in your pants that I should be aware of?  Tell me now.  Oh My!  You should’ve warned me about that.  Let’s clean it up. ”
I also have experience in weeding out the lies, finding evidence, maintaining the peace, controlling traffic and defending myself.

Actress: I die and raise from the dead daily.  I have been shot, kung fu panda’d, beamed from aliens and received the kiss of death.  I have played parts of alien, train conductor, tractor driver, grocery store clerk, magician, big bad monster, big bad wold, a baby, a dog, a doctor, and many other characters.
Oh and I can play the part of sympathetic mom and my boys really believe me.  It’s Oscar worthy.

Plumber: I have experience unclogging terrible things from the toilets and drains.

Artist: Experience in face painting, finger painting, coloring and holiday decorating.

Doctor: I have diagnosed, medicated, bandaged, and magically kissed away a number of illnesses and injuries.

Maid: From floor to ceilings I have cleaned it.

HazMat Crew: Have you peaked in my trash can?

Exterminator: Everything from scorpions, centipedes and pack rats have sadly been exterminated by my hands.

Stylist: Now I wouldn’t hire me for this but I have cut the boys’ hair and the dog’s.  One of the five was successful.

Cook: Three meals and two snacks a day.

Photographer: See albums and videos.

Personal Shopper: I happily purchase all items needed for 5 men, 1 woman, 7 pets, and one lovely home.

Call Girl: I have been married to Mark for 14 years.  For all who know him no further explanation is needed.

Life Coach: Funny to follow Call Girl with Life Coach.  I volunteer with my boys, teach them about giving and instill morals daily.

Chauffeur: I can get you anywhere and almost always on time. Clean driving record.  I just don’t promise a clean car.

Engineer:  Have you seen the three story train track I have built?  Or the robots?  Or the recycled clubhouse?

Nature Guide: My favorite.  I lead long walks while pointing out wildlife, tracks, wildlife waste, plants and anything else of interest.  I also lead star gazing tours.

I’m sure the list could go on and on but I actually am wearing myself out writing it.  So I will leave this exhaustive list of qualifications and job of author to tend to my other jobs.

Amy also a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, athlete and aspiring naptaker.