Monday, January 17, 2011

Peace Through Understanding?

Tough mornings are nothing new in our house. To say that I'm not a morning person is an understatement of epic proportions. As one parent I recently spoke with at my son's daycare said, "Oh, you're a two-cupper." Meaning, I need two cups of coffee before I can function at a somewhat "normal" level. But when is enough, enough?

Abby has been really angry lately. It seems like it's just come about in these last couple of months, but when we're really honest with ourselves, she's always been angry. It's tough to see sometimes, because when she's happy, she's really, really happy. But man oh man... if she's not in the mood to cooperate or she's just plain pissed off... watch out!

She probably needs to get to sleep earlier. Her bedtime is 8 o'clock, but it's always closer to 9 by the time she actually falls asleep. She's like her mama. She likes to read in bed and I can't say I blame her. It's hard for me to enforce rules against something I've done my whole life. Even when I know it's the best thing for her.

My Facebook status today in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is,

"Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek,
but a means by which we arrive at that goal."

I chose that quote, because I believe in it. It's the method by which I try to live my life. And the method that I attempt to parent my children. But I find that most days I fail miserably. (I hope I'm just not giving myself enough credit.) I try so hard to keep my cool and to be peaceful while I'm helping Abby with tasks. From homework to dinnertime to getting dressed. And yet I seem to have a threshold that I just can't extend. There are only so many times that I can calmly say,

"You have to pull from the bottom too, Honey, like this. You have to use your hands, Abby. Your pants won't pull themselves up. Abby you have to use your hands. Now pull from the bottom, too. Honey, like this. See pull from the bottom over your feet, then you can pull the rest up from the top. No, don't lose your temper... you just have to use your hands to pull from the bottom."

After another minute of so of dialogue similar to above, she's pissed off, because she hates using her fingers/hands to do anything, and oddly enough, pants don't magically pull onto your body without those magic appendages. And now I'm pissed off, because my job is to teach my 5 year old to dress herself, because her teachers aren't going to dress her and I don't want to have a 13 year old that I'm still freaking dressing! So now the dialogue turns into something like this,

"Well if you would use your freaking hands like I've said ten times and actually reach down and pull your damn pants over your flippin' feet, it would be easier to put on your damn pants! Now pull them up! Quit freaking out! For the love of God! We're just putting on pants!"

Not very peaceful.

I imagine that trying to change the hearts and minds of ignorant racists might be as difficult as teaching an Autistic 5 year old to get dressed. Both are irrational, over emotional, angry human beings. And it really breaks my heart that I'm drawing a direct line of comparison between my daughter and racists. But it seems impossible some days and yet I continuously push forward for change. I cling to the memories of the progress we've made and it does give me hope. And yet, I can't help but let my mind wander to thoughts of a darker nature.

At Christmas dinner, when I was pleading with her to watch her temper and just eat her food without screaming and throwing a tantrum, (which really would have a Christmas miracle), she turned to me with fury in her eyes, and hissed,

"I'm going to peel you!"

When I asked her in my stern mommy voice,

"What did you just say to me?!" she tried turning it into something cute and said with a giggly smile,

"I'm going to peel you like a banana."

At the time I laughed it off, but I can't shake that moment. I was disturbed by her threat and then her ability to turn right around and make it into something it wasn't... cute little kid banter. The fact is she says things like that quite often. I'm concerned for my little girls emotional well-being. How much of this anger is related to her Autism and how do we help her deal with it?

We are not an angry household. My husband and I rarely raise our voices to each other. That is not to say we don't get angry with each other, but we don't scream and call each other names or make empty threats. We don't scream at our kids, though we certainly get angry and let them know it. But there have been times when we've both lost our cool... a person can only take being screamed at by a child for so many hours in a day, before they push back. And this... THIS is what I fear... that I'm not successfully achieving Peace through Peace. That I'm exacerbating the problem, by giving into the stress, even when I was successful for the greater part of the day. It's those moment of anger that are staying with her, burrowing into her psyche.

And when do peaceful words and actions become complacence? Because sometimes I just give up. I merely move through situations quiet and numb, all in the name of "keeping the peace." I feel in some ways like we're back to the beginning. When she was 2 years old and spent much of her days in time-out, because if the doctor's are right and she's "just fine", then I need to discipline this behavior away. When and how do I discipline "bad" behavior, when I'm not sure she fully grasps how damaging her behavior is? Since the day we finally heard the words "Autism" come of the mouth of a professional, we've changed the ways we discipline Abby. She hardly ever takes a time out and generally the mere mention of it is enough to TEMPORARILY get her to change course, but are we doing enough? I have so many questions and not enough answers. Everyday it seems we make great strides, only to find ourselves back to square one in other areas. It's exhausting.

It's been a long time since I've sat down to write here and I'm afraid this is mostly rambling nonsense, but I think I need to do this more often. It helps to get it all out of my head where it just rolls around and morphs into thoughts like,

"Well, if you had more patience, maybe she would, too."

"If only you said the right words, she might understand."

"If you would focus more on her and less on school and work, maybe she would make more progress."

"If you were a better mom, a better wife, a better student, a better employee, a better sister, a better daughter, a better friend..."

"If you were more..."

I know in my heart that I'm a good person and a good mom, but this hand I've been dealt sucks and I don't know what move to make next. I don't have the tools or the knowledge I need and there aren't enough hours in the day to learn them all. When I focus on my family, I start to slip in school and at work. And while my family is my first focus, always and forever, it's important that I do well at school so I can keep my job, and it's important that I do well in my job, so I can keep my health care and my husband can have the freedom to pursue his career goals. And mostly so I can feel good at something again. Because even though I have great kids and we're really doing "ok", I never felt successful when I was a stay-at-home mom. The laundry was never done, the dishes were always dirty, and the kids still threw temper tantrums. At least at work, I can see things crossed off the to-do list. I can teach someone something and they thank me. I can make life easier for someone... and that's what I want to do at home, too. It just doesn't feel like I'm doing a very good job of it.

All I want is for my daughter's mind to peaceful and for her heart to be full of love. And I can't force it. I can only lead by example. And while my heart is full of love, my mind is not peaceful.

I'm trying, I really am. Maybe she is, too.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Forget

Sometimes I forget.

Her sentences roll off her tongue like water.

She looks deep into my eyes and smiles and laughs.

Maybe They are wrong

Maybe we’re all overreacting.

Then I read some list.

In some magazine or book.

Telling me what she should do.

Who she should be.

Its intent is to educate.

But to me, it’s a prison sentence.

I hear two children playing pretend.

I’m the mommy and you’re the daddy,

While she screams.

Because she is too literal, too precise.

She is wrapped up in her own logic.

I am not the mommy and you are not the daddy.

She screams when the vacuum leaves its cave.

Or when the broom sweeps away her crumbs.

She screams while the water rushes.

When the wind howls.

She screams and she screams and she screams.

I am forced to remember.

She wont hit those milestones on that list

When They say she should.

She’s not like those children playing pretend.

I am the mommy and you are the daddy.

She is Not Otherwise Specified.

This is not how I imagined.

There are no tea parties.

No playing house.

I am not the mommy and you are not the daddy.

There are no dance recitals in pink tutus

With video recorders and rounds of applause.

Sometimes it makes me cry.

And he cries, too.

And after the pity party

We remember.

I remember.

She is ours.

She is just as He intended.

She is who she is and she is ours.

She can do this.

We can do this.

We’ve only just begun.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Taking the Time to Listen

We put up a small greenhouse in our backyard, growing flowers, shrubs, and vegetables. We're also tending a small garden and cut out 6 large flowerbeds throughout the yard. Abby now thinks we live on a farm. She says we need a barn and ponies. We can't give her the pony, but we are planning to build a new shed, so we might have to paint it barn red just for my little Ab. I find myself in front of a computer the majority of most days, so it's been a great release for me to get outside working with nature and doing some hard physical labor. Since we drive a small tractor as we haul sod and rocks and mulch, Bean now pretends he's driving a tractor quite often. The tractor noise he makes as he pushes around his "tractor" is pretty good and seriously cute.

We have a rule at our house that the kids aren't allowed to play in the front yard without adults present. So one day, a couple of weeks ago, when we were working out back, we told Abby that she needed to come with us to the back yard. She said something to us about "going to visit Joey", a friend of her's from school, but we kind of brushed her off and said something like, "Well someday we can, but right now it's time to go to the backyard and play." We left it at that and went to the backyard, figuring that Abby would make her way back in her usual distracted, pokey-puppy manner.
My husband went inside to change Bean's diaper and after no more than 5 minutes later asked me, "Where's Abby?"
"In the front yard." I answered.
"No, she's not." he said, clearly concerned.
We all started searching and calling for her. No answer. She was no where on our property or in the house. We live fairly close to a small body of water, so we immediately dispersed to make sure she didn't walk to the water. My husband and brother-in-law found her walking in the opposite direction of the water (thankfully!) down the side of our cross-street. She told us she was walking to Joey's house. It was really scary, but we stayed pretty calm and talked about why she couldn't leave the house without us. I couldn't help crying and I could tell she felt really bad, though that was not my intention. I was pretty shaken up. Later that night, at bedtime, she brought it up again and then stopped talking suddenly, simply saying, "I'm sorry, Mom." It was a pretty scary and heart wrenching experience.

I learned a pretty important lesson from it though. She told me she was going to go to Joey's house. I didn't take her seriously. I didn't really listen. While not excusing my actions, I think I had grown used to having her not communicate with us verbally. I'm still catching up to her new-found communication skills. She talks a lot. It's really wonderful and I was letting so much of it slip right past me. Since her big adventure, I've really been trying to make an effort to sit and talk with her more often. Ask her questions and just listen to her answers. Sometimes they are way off topic and sometimes it's kind of hard to follow, but more and more often, she shows me the amazing strides she's made this past year and half that she's been in ECSE (Early Childhood Special Education). She's has the sweetest voice and it's in those quiet times that she shows the greatest parts of her personality. She's not just the child who is often on sensory overload, screaming and whining and dancing around the room with her ever present string twirling obsessively between her fingers. She tells great stories and has great ideas. She even encourages me with, "Oh, that's a great idea!" when I offer up a suggestion to build on one of her stories.

I'm so thankful she was found safely that day, and while I'm sorry I had to learn the lesson through such a frightening experience, I'm so very thankful that I figured out what I was missing when I didn't take the time to really stop and listen.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Where Does It Go?

Time just seems to be flying by.
Now that I'm working full-time & going to school,
I barely have time to breathe.
I work all day, water the plants in our new greenhouse (!!!),
I push the kids on the swings for 10 minutes and call that playtime,
because now it's time to make dinner, give baths, clean the kitchen,
brush teeth, read books, turn out lights,
head downstairs to put away some laundry, make a card, and do some homework.
Next thing I know it's midnight and I have to get to bed to start all over again.
I know this is nothing new.
I'm one of millions making the same observation.
Notice I didn't call it a complaint.
Because I'm not complaining.
I'm so blessed.
We're so blessed.
But you know I do miss something.
I miss writing, reading, browsing.
I miss all of you who live all over this world and have enriched my life so much.
I really, really do.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Abby's Quotes of the Week

Abby's language skills continue to progress beautifully.
Here's a few Abby quotes that made me crack up!

I'm sitting at the dining table working on the computer as usual, and I look over at Abby who is playing with a plastic Easter egg in the living room. She is smiling with one half of the egg in each hand, scratching the inside with her fingers. I smiled back at her and asked, "Are you playing a little song?" She answered excitedly, "These are my turntables!" Really? Her turntables? I know I listen to hip-hop quite often, but how in the world does she know what turntables are. I'd be willing to bet D.J. Lance from Yo-Gabba-Gabba has something to do with it.

Abby's second quote of the week came about while I was changing Bean's diaper today. I made some psychedelic cupcakes (inspired by Kotori) for their Uncle Erik's birthday. (I took pics of the process and might get around to posting them by his birthday next year) The kids ate the last of them yesterday and the food coloring made for some interesting diapers from Bean. So today as I was changing a particularly colorful diaper, Abby said, "Bean's poop is chartreuse." And she was spot on! It was totally chartreuse. Here's some cool examples I found of chartreuse for your viewing pleasure. I left the image of Bean's diaper to your imagination. You're welcome!

I broke the cardinal rule of blogging, by forgetting to give you the source for these photos.
I apologize and if you know, please let me know, so I can give credit where credit is due.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

98... 99...


(#100 is blank inside and 3 different cards were used to make it)

(#99 was made using 3 different cards and
it took some time and precision to cut those snowflakes out)

I'm exhausted, but I've really been enjoying making these. It's such a release at the end of my day. My goal is to make one a day and every now and again, I'll bust out 4 or 5. Each card takes anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes to make.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Being Happy

I promise I'll post more soon.
I've been busy looking beyond the imperfections.

I found this here
and she found it here

Mama's Got a New Job.

I'm sorry I've been so quiet. I started a new job at the beginning of the month working full-time for the National Park Service as an IT Specialist, coordinating customer support issues. I'm absolutely thrilled, but it's certainly been a life altering event. Working full-time, going to school, being a wife and mother, and trying to make at least one holiday card per day, makes for a very busy day. I'm really going to have start scheduling time to blog.

All of these photos are from my D.C. trip

I spent a full week in Washington D.C. training for my new job and it was a really fun week, except that I missed my family terribly. I left on a Sunday night and on that following Tuesday night when I was talking to Keenan he said, "Good night! See you tomorrow." And it broke my heart! Staying true to form, Abby refused to talk to me on the phone at all. She really does not like talking on the phone. She will Skype though, so at least we can do that with her grandparents, uncles, aunts & cousins sometimes. It was really great coming home and seeing the excitement on my sweet children's faces when they first saw me. I got plenty of snuggles that night.

Oh! Speaking of Skype... Dani, maybe we should set up a Skype playdate for Abby & your Little Bird. What do you think?

Abby told her speech therapist that I was "... in Washington at Brock Omama's house." She said she didn't have any reason NOT to believe Abby, because she was the only one of her student's who had told her the President's name that day. Haha! I brought the kids a really cool book of all the President's. It's a fan that folds open and has a photo or painting of each President's face at the top and a brief description of their life & presidency. I'm kicking myself for not buying the First Ladies book, too.

My new hair! I had it done before my trip to D.C.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Abby is just over halfway through her second tumbling class this year. She looks forward to it all week and is all smiles! Here are some photos from family night.

Sorry so many of them are blurry. I still haven't really figured out the right setting on my camera for action shots... because apparently it's not the "action" setting. Maybe I should read that book they send along with most technology purchases. I think they call it a manual.

Abby ADORES her teacher and often brings pictures that she's colored for her as gifts.

Getting some help from the helper.

Getting a little push from her Dad.

This is Abby's Grandpa. She adores her Grandpa.

On the balance beam.

This is Joey. He's in her class at school AND in her tumbling class.

They are buddies and were soooo excited to see each other that night.
Too cute!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Etsy Goodness!

I've mentioned her before, but my good friend, Jenifer Rank, has a lovely Etsy shop where not only does she sell the items she lovingly knits, but also donates a portion of her profits to various charities. For this very reason, she has been invited to participate as a vendor in Portland State University's (Oregon) Earth Day celebration. They select local artisans who's philosophies and business practices mirror the "Earth Day Spirit." It really is an honor. Congrats, Jen!

One problem.

She needs to sell some of her inventory on Etsy in order to raise money for the entry fee. So let's help a sister out and order something fun for yourself, your kids, your mom, maybe your neighbor. Go for it!

(love these coffee sleeves... especially the one with hiking boots... CUTE!)

Be sure to take a peek at her Abby Collection. It's inspired by my little Abby J and she will donate a portion of those proceeds to Autism Speaks.

That Jen is a keeper, I tell you. Love that woman!