Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of the Year Gratitude


















I haven't done this in a long time but it seems fitting to do this now since it is the end of the year. The truth is despite all the crazy things that have happened like my finger breaking, I am doing better now than when I started this blog a year ago in December.

Twelve months ago, I wondered if happiness came in a pill. I wondered if I could survive without them at all. When they worked, I thought everyone around me should have one too. It is silly but what I do know is that the pills are helping me parent my children, be a better partner to my husband, and most importantly help me center myself so that I can accomplish whatever I need to do. However, to be sure, happiness does not come in a pill or in a glass of red but it can help you get through a tough day.

Anyway, here is my gratitude list. I am ashamed to have not done it in so long. I want to bring good fortune to my family and friends for many years to come and the best way that I know how is to be grateful for what I have now.

1. I am grateful that I started Logan on medication. It is not perfect. It gives him a bad temper sometimes but still I see him more at peace than ever before. He is able to participate more in his own life now and while he is so young, everyday counts so I am happy we've started this process.

2. I am grateful that Logan is in a wonderful school. I know a lot of children with ADHD go to school in a general education setting but this wasn't appropriate for him this year. Maybe he has super-ADHD? Is that possible? Anyway, this school is loving and at the same time extremely competent. We were lucky that they accepted him. I say "we" and not just Logan because a good school for him benefits our whole family.

3. When Logan was born, I looked at his face and couldn't believe that I could love another child as much as him but then we had Spencer and he just brings so much joy into our lives. (he is still a royal pain in many ways, don't get me wrong). This year, I am grateful that Spencer is making his own sentences and that he has a competent enough therapist to work on his issues so we can understand what the heck he is trying to say.

4. I am also grateful that Spencer is doing better the second time around for potty training. He still shows signs of anxiety but he actually peed in a toilet other than at school or at home yesterday and that was a huge accomplishment.

5. Let me not forget my life partner in this list. I frequently make this mistake of forgetting to be grateful for him first. He is my opposite which I'm happy about but still it makes us argue and yet, he does listen to me and supports me for those really important things that require us to have a little faith and hope. When I try to convince Kai that we need to do something, I can never guarantee that it will work, like the DAN! protocol, osteomanipulative medicine, non-stimulants, stimulants, swimming... but when we decide to do it, we decide together.

6. This year I have accepted that I am forgetful and disorganized and it has led me to make decisions that have improved my functionality. I bought a blackberry that has really made me so much more efficient. I even bought a different type of birth control (once-monthly) because it was so obvious that I could not remember to take those little pills everyday even though they are the cheapest option.

7. I am grateful this year for my friends both new and old. I couldn't believe how many well-wishes I received about my broken finger. I am especially grateful this year for the friends that I have made in my neighborhood and in Logan's school. My friendships breathes life into a part of me that is neglected and not growing on its own sometimes. They help me cultivate my identity beyond my role as a mother.

8. I am grateful for my parents and father-in-law for still being alive and helping us in whatever way they can. My mom works a lot and can not come visit often but sends me food in a cab from her restaurant whenever I know I'm going to have a tough week. Additionally, my dad who is the epitome of the old school Korean man babysits Spencer for me all the time and washes the dishes, makes rice, and even changes Spencer's diaper. People do change.

9. I am especially grateful for my brother and new sister-in-law. They have given a new sense of family to my children. My children feel that they are loved by them and look forward to seeing them whenever possible.

10. I am grateful for all the programs that help children like ours afford things that they need. This year, I have been crazy about applying for aid and so far have received almost $1,500 for goods and services for Spencer. It is fair to note that Logan's diagnosis of ADHD qualifies for nothing which is sad but still that $1500 has paid for Spencer's swim lessons, weighted blankets, toys for pretend play, and other great things.

11. While Spencer has wonderful therapists that come to our home (and I'm so grateful for them), I am grateful that he started attending a short session preschool this fall. It was really hard to let go but I'm so glad I did. The different people and different environment really gave a new perspective on his abilities and the things that still challenge him. I'm also grateful for his swim instructor, Michael Jackson (Logan's too). He's the first teacher from the general community that has made any progress with my children.

12. Lastly, I am happy for this blog. I am surprised that I have kept it going this long but there is always something to say and I'm incredibly grateful for the people who have been listening. Thank you for validating my thoughts and ideas whether you agreed with them or not. One of my primal wishes is just to be heard and to be able to share and you have allowed me to do that.

I wish everyone in the coming new year, lots of happiness and money, therapeutic and educational advancement, weight loss or gain- whichever you prefer, and good physical and mental health overall.

photo: Here are four things I'm grateful for. The first three are obvious but this pool and gym center we attend has been extremely wonderful to our family. The administrator is great with getting us receipts to help us with reimbursement and he also gives us a separate locker room to change to help keep our boys safe. Their swim instructor is amazing with disabled children and we are not charged a penny more for our extra needs. If anything, we have only received more love and compassion because of them.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Urgent Care Center Saves My Family's Christmas

















I do not know how I ended up as one of those many people that get into accidents during the holidays. Did I take too much Klonopin? Was I doing too much at once?

Since the kids were being good, I thought it was a good time to do the laundry since it was stacked so high. So I took my kids downstairs to the laundry room and we all had a job filling the washers and dryers. I was proud of myself for incorporating them into my chores like the therapists always tell me to do.

As we rode up in the elevator back to our apartment, I carried one load in and left the other load behind thinking that Spencer would follow right behind me and that Logan would just hold the elevator door like he always does. However,, this time, he tried to pull out the load himself (he's such a good kid) and I put my hand on what I thought was the door to keep it open and tried to tell him to stop and to wait for Mommy but then I felt the door close on my middle finger and even heard a distinct crunch. My hand was not on the door, my hand was in between where the door closes (hinge side). It's the kind of accident that you fear for babies and toddlers, not grown-ups.

Right away there was blood and extreme pain.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Looking at Life with a New Set of Eyes

















At November of each year, my husband and I debate whether or not we should get vision insurance. Even though it is a good plan, it is not cheap, it requires my husband to participate in it too because he is the primary insured (I'm not working) but he doesn't really need new glasses so it's sort of a waste. On top of that, even with the insurance, my glasses still cost money because my eyes are so bad that I need to compress my lenses or else I will have the coke bottles.

So I thought about it, and in the long run, I realized that I might save some money, time, and definitely reduce stress if I had LASIK surgery. My eyes are not good. If I lose my glasses then I can not see much of anything. And that is the scary part.

My kids have broken my glasses before.
I had a spare pair that I didn't "hide" and so one morning, I woke up and I found them on the floor broken in half. That pair had the attachable shades for them ($100 extra) so the shades were out of commission too.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My 5-Year-Old On Speed



















I have been avoiding writing this post. But to many mothers of special needs children, this act is an important and eventful one. Once you start, it's like you are making a pot of soup that never tastes right. You keep adding salt, water, pepper and still it's not complete. Sometimes you throw everything out and start from scratch.

Two months ago, I started giving stimulants to my five year old child. He weighs less than 45 pounds. We had tried the non-stimulant kind last Spring. They didn't work.

Stimulants are essentially amphetamines, a.k.a. speed. How can I give speed to my five year old and still call myself a mother? Moreover, how does speed help a hyperactive child? It doesn't make any sense.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When Happiness Is An Option






















Recently, my friend told me that she had a wish list on Amazon.com and I thought that maybe I should make one too. So I tried to make one for Logan, Spencer, and myself. For Logan, it was really easy since there are tons of things that I want for him. My list is a little too therapeutic and educational but I did try to put "fun" stuff on it like a set of Hot Wheels cars. I haven't finished Spencer's list but it'll be similar.

I did however, have a lot of trouble making my own list. I basically could not find anything to put in it. Could I possibly not want anything? No books, no CDs, no DVDs? No perfume, makeup, a new jacket, or some jewelry? nothing? What should I make of that? What does this say about me? Am I a loser? Am I that boring?

I literally spent hours poring through the Amazon website and all I could find was a pair of Crocs that I wanted and it's not even summer! What's even more insipid is the fact that I own this pair already but they are just worn out. The other thing could be also interpreted as pathetic. I put a Time Timer and some random candle on my wish list. Is this sad? Could I be labeled a loser because I couldn't put anything on my list when Amazon sells practically everything in the world?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Getting Our Priorities Straight

















I recently had parent teacher conferences at Logan's school. I guess this is sort of my first real one since he's in kindergarten now. It feels a little weird. You sit in a room and someone is there to tell you about your child and you find yourself surprised and you realize that now you don't know everything about him anymore. He has a whole new life complete with complexities and details and relationships.

I actually went online right before the conference and looked up how to make the most of out of a parent-teacher conference. Yes, I'm a geek. Luckily, at Logan's school, they were so well-prepared that I barely had any questions to ask. I guess they are good at anticipating parents' questions. Maybe all parents ask the same questions. What are my child's strengths? How does he get along with the other children? What can I do at home to reinforce what he's learning at school?

However, I didn't expect answers to that last question to throw me off but they really did. I met with four people: teacher, speech therapist, occupational therapist, and psychologist. They all had suggestions for Logan that surprised me and I realized that I was going in the wrong direction on a lot of things at home. Ugh. I felt so stupid especially because I've been trying so hard at doing all the wrong things.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Can Art Co-exist with ADHD Boys?

















A few weeks ago, Logan and I were invited to a playdate at a new friend's house.

The minute I walked in, I felt small. It wasn't because the friend's place was huge. Rather, the home was so well decorated. Every piece of art or furniture seemed to be in a perfect place. There wasn't a trace of junk anywhere.

When you walk into my place, junk is everywhere. Next to our front door, on top of our shoe drawer, we put anything from caps, coins, keys, diapers, disinfectant wipes, cell phones, etc. At the right, is the dining table which has become my desk and where Logan does his homework. Spencer's ABA therapist also leave her charts there. My laptop is there too. It's quite a sight.

Our living room is no better. However, after seeing Logan's friend's home, I started to feel bad about how I was keeping my own home. There was hardly any artwork in the house except for two paintings that no one notices anymore. There were no empty spaces on any of my shelves. There was a little piece of something everywhere. While my home wasn't necessarily messy, it certainly didn't give me any feeling of peace or beauty.

A few months ago, our family visited my brother in his loft apartment in Pennsylvannia. The home also had that aesthetic minimalist feel. After we left, I found out that Logan really valued that type of environment. He said it was "neat." I never knew he cared for neat since he never cleans up.

Last week, I decided to bring art back into our home. It has been five years since some of our Koryo celadon vases ( expensive fakes) have seen the light of day. After Logan was born, we had childproofed our home and we never changed it back because it was so clear that his climbing habits and running habits would surely break something. The situation only worsened as Spencer learned to run and climb. I'm considering buying them exercise equipment even though they don't have to lose any weight, but of course, I have no more money.

Either way, I decided to just commit to teaching them to respect art and not climb the shelves especially where there was artwork. For Logan, it was much easier to teach him. I also let him have one of the shelves to put his own artwork there. In fact, when he brings home 3-dimensional artwork from school, I have decided that I will remove one of my vases and put his work there for a couple of weeks. I think it has successfully instilled a certain amount of respect for "Mommy's art."

For Spencer, it's still a challenge but I'm willing to keep trying. He's already broken a Ch'ing Dynasty vase that I bought in a silent auction. I have no idea if it's worth any money but now I don't want to know. However, I think Spencer did learn something from breaking it and I will surely use pictures of the vase Spencer broke to remind both of them to be careful.

Either way, I find that the presence of artwork in my home does a lot more for me than I imagined. First, I am so happy to see my artwork again. They are beautiful and it was a shame they were buried in boxes all this time. The other great effect that art has had in our home is the willingness to keep our home clean and free of clutter. If there is artwork on a shelf where we used to keep pieces of paper and change, now we are careful not to leave anything there because even little pieces of junk next to a vase is a true eyesore.

While my home is not yet as beautiful and organized as I want it to be, I truly believe that not only will I be helping myself but it should also have a calming effect on the boys. I think the boys do want to feel that everything has its own place. It just up to me to decide where it is and to enforce it once I do decide where things belong. This also requires that I throw some stuff out. Ugh, I hate that part. I love to keep everything but I have decided to save things that can fit into a shoebox only and if it's really great artwork that they made then I will take a picture and leave it in our family photo album. That's a trick I learned from Oprah.


















Photo 1: My Ch'ing Dynasty vase. The Ch'ing Dynasty ended in the 20th century so it's no biggie but still, who knows what it was worth? To me, if it teaches Spencer not to break anymore art, then it's priceless. So far, it's been four weeks and nothing else has been broken.

Photo 2: My Korean shelf-cabinets. I leave my vases here and so no junk goes near them. I let Logan take the top shelf sometimes for his art projects.

Photo 3: My next project. This is where I do my writing. I have two laptops there because I am borrowing my husband's since my laptop isn't working well. Logan had spilled milk on it. Don't you just love when stuff like that happens?

Favorite Art Link: http://myazul.blogspot.com/ I see a lot of beautiful photos here. It brings me a little peace.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Being Inventive and Standing Firm: Transitions-Made-Easy Winner Announced
















Congratulations to Lily from Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada, the winner of the Transitions-Made-Easy Advice Contest. Lily's prize is the Choiceworks Visual Support System donated by our judge, Julie Azuma, founder of Different Roads to Learning. Here are a few words from Julie:

Dear Jenn,

I want to thank you and your readers for the wonderful insights in how we all deal with transitions. It is just mind boggling to think of all of the ways mothers use to get their kids ready for transitions. I love how each mother uses time differently to get their children to move through the day. The "lightbulb" went on in my head on why we sell so many timers.

My first choice for the contest is Lily. I admire Lily because she uses very accessible objects (post-its and her cell phone) in an inventive way to teach transitions. Most importantly, Lily is able to stand firm on the transitions. (Standing firm is one of my own issues so I'm in awe of moms who can do it). She's able to weather and acknowledge the source of the behaviors and still move forward into the day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Can You Be Thankful When You're Depressed and Stressed?

















Now that 'tis the season to give thanks, I ask myself how thankful should I be?

This morning, I couldn't breathe again. It wasn't particularly stressful but there I go, feeling uncomfortable even though no one is bothering me. Either way, I'm not thankful for this feeling this morning.

Should I be thankful that I'm tired all the time? Should I be thankful that I hate myself sometimes for losing my temper with Logan and that don't spend enough time teaching Spencer anything? Should I be thankful that I'm on the phone half the time dealing with something for them rather than spending time with them when they need and want my attention.

Well, in a crazy way, I guess I can be thankful for some of these things and more.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Giving Them Chances to Succeed and Not Succeed


I've already written about my nightmares in searching for Logan's extracurricular activities for him. Music class, soccer class, Tae Kwon Do... just did not work for us. However, I had recently found some agencies that might even pay for a music or gymnastics class for Spencer. He is eligible because he has the PDD diagnosis. I wanted to use the much of the funds on classes since I felt that I wasn't being fair to Spencer because we had barely ever tried to put him in a class with typical children his age. Our disasters with music and soccer class with Logan sort of scarred us.

But free classes! A place to go when the weather is freezing! Isn't it a dream come true?

Well, not quite...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

From $200 to $2 Million: A Mom Finds Success in Serving Children with Autism

Win Choiceworks Visual Support System!
(See Below)











Whenever you are feeling like the world is against you, read this post about one extraordinary mom named Julie Azuma. I have to say that I'm ashamed to have sat next to her at meetings for years and hadn't the slightest clue how accomplished she was. This is before I had children and barely knew anything about autism or any other special needs.

Luckily our paths crossed again just a few months ago when Spencer's ABA therapist told me to visit a website called Different Roads to Learning (www.difflearn.com) to find tools to help my older son Logan (ADHD, SPD) who wasn't receiving ABA therapy. Soon I realized that this was Julie's company and was floored to find out what a tremendous figure she was in the world of special needs children. In 2006, Inc. Magazine even honored her alongside the likes of Martha Stewart and Michael Dell (Dell Computers) in their 26 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs issue.

Julie's Story
Fourteen years ago, not long after her adopted daughter Miranda was diagnosed with autism, Julie decided to create a store that offered tools to help children with special needs. Her main motivation came from having experienced the frustration of not being able to find toys and other tools that were suitable for teaching her child.

Julie soon found out that it would cost her over $200,000 to open a store and while the idea was very new to many back then, Julie decided to open an online store instead. In the first year, she earned just $200 dollars and was very happy. At the time, the store was more of a hobby for this former high-powered apparel executive.

As the store grew larger, she developed Different Roads to Learning to become a resource for ABA therapy. Julie had found that ABA worked best on her daughter whose speech consisted of one word sentences when she started the therapy. "Within 6 weeks of ABA, she could say, 'I want juice please.'" While Julie says that Miranda's speech has not gone much beyond that point, she does respond better now and she credits ABA for much of her child's progress. "We really believe that the data on Applied Behavior Analysis indicates that that's the best intervention," said Julie.










Soon her "hobby" of providing appropriate toys and tools for families of children with special needs began to grow. Last year, she netted sales nearing $2 million dollars. This is amazing and yet it doesn't surprise me. Even though many schools and clinics order from Different Roads to Learning, as a parent, I think the store is really easy to navigate so I can quickly choose what I need. Many online stores sort of overwhelm me and leave me feeling that the site is geared towards professionals.

The site is indeed consumer-friendly and stocked with what I can best describe as "really good stuff." However, I think the greatest key to Julie's success is quite simple. That is, she gets it. She gets mothers of special needs children and the needs of their whole family. If we had a checklist of common crappy experiences of special needs families starting with the hurtful comments from ignorant family members to getting the run-around by the "best" medical experts, Julie could check every box on that list along with the rest of us.

She has even dealt with possibly the worst of all special needs scenarios: Julie was running an errand at a bank when her daughter Miranda had a terrible tantrum and so she had to restrain her. (Raise your hand if you've been there. Mine is raised.) A bystander, who didn't recognize that Miranda had autism, notified the bank guard and that's when the real trouble began.

"We told the security guard at the bank that Miranda had autism and they let us go but the guy had even called the police on us. I explained to the guy that she's autistic and she has these behaviors and he said, 'Well, I've never seen that before!'"

Julie understands how parents feel. She understands how frustrated and difficult their lives are. "We know they are not sleeping... Just making a call to us is taking a lot out of them." I couldn't have liked her more when she said that. There are so many times when I'm on the phone trying to get them more help but they are clawing at me and being so loud. I am always asked if there is a better time to talk and the answer is always the same: NO.

As I write about finding calm as a special needs mom, I admire how Julie took the circumstances of her life and turned it into a wonderful opportunity by helping others. I am hoping that this blog can become more than what it currently is but I don't know if I have what it takes to go beyond these boundaries. Having said that, Julie's story sure inspires me.

I asked Julie what advice does she have for us moms who are looking to be as successful as she is and she said she didn't really have advice to give except to say that the common denominator she sees in successful moms (in the special needs world) is solely this: drive. "They are driven and they know where there's a need," affirms Julie. She described that the passion that they have carries them beyond their own children and that those in the special needs world succeed because they want to help everyone. "I wouldn't want a parent to have gone through what I went through," said Julie.

Thanks to Julie, more people have access to better tools to help their children succeed. If only Julie could develop a tool to prevent ridiculous people from calling the police on us when we are just trying to keep our children safe from hurting anyone including themselves. Surely, that would be a bestseller.

The Transitions-Made-Easy Contest - (now closed)
Pictured above is Choiceworks, a kit that uses visuals to help children with social skills, develop appropriate responses and improve self-control. I think this product helps children with a variety of challenges including ADHD, Autism, and Anxiety. (Click here to learn more.) I love it for Logan because it helps him with transitions which is a huge issue for him. It also helps me get less frustrated with him. Lucky for us, Julie would like to give away a free kit ($80 value) to a reader that can best answer this question:

What do you do to help your child better handle transitions?

Please write your submission in the comments box on this post and keep it under 150 words. Include your email address with your answer so that we can find you. If you do not wish to leave your email with your submission, send me an email immediately after you submit your answer (with a detail or two) so that I know that it's yours. This post will be included in the "Readers Give Advice" section on this right side of this blog, so your contributions will always be there for anyone looking for tips. Deadline is Sunday, November 29, 2009 11:59 pm. Julie will be choosing the winner. Good luck and thanks for submitting your ideas.

Above photo: Julie and her daughters Miranda (bottom) and Sophie (left) at an outing a couple of year ago. Miranda is now 21.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Flattening Breasts Can Be Empowering
















Do you think about your accomplishments at the end of the year? Sometimes I do but this time, it is strangely all in the perspective of how I'm taking care of myself. When I was working, it was about how much I made, what promotions I got, where I want to be next year... now, I've set my measurement goals differently, like how many panic attacks I've had this month vs. last month.

Things I've done recently that make me feel like I'm a responsible grown-up:

1. I finally went to my regular check-ups -- Internist and Gyno! It only took a vaginal pimple to scare me into getting up-to-date with my regular exams! I even got myself new birth control because I had to make an admission to myself that I am not going to remember to take a pill every day. (I still don't know if I have ADHD) Even with my anti-anxiety pills that I really depend on, I sometimes forget to take those as well. This time I decided to go with a brand name because these once-a-month things are never generic, however I did save money by going to my insurance company's pharmacy.

2. I got my first mammogram! I didn't even know I was supposed to get one but some doctors want you to get one between 35 and 40. I was a little worried because I didn't know where to go but I got a referral from a friend to a good place called Doshi Diagnostic and luckily I was familiar with the company because they have been philanthropic to causes that I've cared about and I even had an old drinking buddy working there. When I got there, I wasn't scared until I walked into the room and saw the squeezer-machine and then I started to get really anxious. However, it went really well, the technician treated me delicately and the exam didn't hurt. Now that I've had a mammogram, I kind of feel grown-up but I'm really not looking forward to my future colonoscopy. I've actually seen one performed. It's cool and not cool.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Flowers Grow on a Bed of Tragic Family Loss

















When I was in high school and college, almost all of my friends were Korean American. High school was an especially painful time for me and I got through it because I found some friends with whom I could relate.

I didn't have to sheepishly ask them to take off their shoes when they came into my house. I could open the fridge and feed them whatever Korean food I had to reheat and I didn't have to explain what it was and if it was spicy. I also could freely talk about my feelings on race and culture and never felt the need to be politically correct. Everything was understood.

I guess we all go through these new definitions of self-identity and it's always a blessing to find a kindred spirit with whom to cry and laugh. This happened to me not just in high school but also when I became a mom and then again when I became a mom of special needs children.

However, some unexpected things happened to me when I started this blog. Other mom bloggers contacted me and we quickly became friends. In my neighborhood, strangers came up to me and started chatting with me about holding it together as we try to be good moms. The next thing you know, I have more friends than I ever did and they weren't necessarily mothers of special needs kids like mine.

I write this today because I want to talk about a very special person I know who started a blog recently. Samantha recently lost her husband to suicide and he left behind one teenage child and two young children. Moreover, her husband was the breadwinner in the family.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Homework Paired with a Medium-Bodied Merlot






















When I was in the second grade, it was also my second year in this country. I was conversational by then but I couldn't read my homework assignment and no one in my family could help me. My older brother who barely knew more English than I did and my mother who knew even less would spend hours together trying to figure out one problem which probably went something like:

Jane has two apples. Sharon has three apples and gave them to Jane. How many apples does Jane have? No one in my family could do this.

We all cried. I wanted to just die. It was important to all of us that I complete my homework despite my language barrier. We were given no assistance either. I was just left to hand in incomplete and incorrect homework for a couple of years. There was a lot of shame.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Weighted Blankets From Santa

















One day, after receiving a whole bunch of toys and clothes for my boys from my brother, I got up the nerve to tell him, "If you are really going to spend all this money, can you get Logan a weighted blanket next time?"

Normally, I would never say such a thing but if I was my brother then I would want to know that my sister would rather have a weighted blanket than a really cute outfit. I had been eyeing it for months and months online but never felt like I could buy it. Within one month of me blurting out my needs, Logan got himself a weighted blanket. He sleeps with it every night.

As the holiday season approaches, I sincerely hope that all your family members think of you and your child's special needs before buying gifts this year. We need different things that can not always be found in Target and Toys 'R Us. I know it is hard but I think being direct might be the easiest way to do it.

My List of Things I Can't Live Without or Want Really Badly:

1. A Good Timer: I don't know what I'd do without my timer which is just an egg timer right now but I am upgrading to the Time Timer since Logan will be able to see just how long he has before the bell goes up. I have so many uses for it: time outs, prevent languishing at dinner, quiet time (go do your own thing), and computer time(when the bell rings, it's over). Timers also keep me from burning pots.

2. Maxemail (Fax) and My Copier/Scanner: It is almost cruel how parents of special needs children need to do so much copying and sending documents. To save time and money, I got these things so that I could get send paperwork whenever I want, but from the comfort of my own home. I create files with an old Adobe PDF maker and it makes my life so much easier. More importantly, when dealing with certain agencies, you must back yourself up with fax confirmation receipts. Otherwise, you can not claim that they received it and that could backfire on you. Click here for the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Professional.

3. Wine: Yes, it's expensive and buying those big bottles doesn't really save you money because you can't drink it all before it goes bad. Sometimes all you need is one glass to deal with the afternoon as you pray they will play nicely and not hurt each other while you make dinner. We parents have to be good models, control our tempers, and praise, praise, praise them but how can you do this if you are not relaxed? Wine, in moderation, helps me for sure.

Monday, November 2, 2009

89 Ways to Say "Very Good"

















Not long ago, we decided to not put Logan into the social skills group for which I had searched far and wide. I was sad not to send him but after speaking with his therapist at school, we decided that it would not be ideal for him this year.

I tried and tried to find him other classes but everything was too far or too hard or too expensive. I did find a martial arts class in my neighborhood and we tried it out. And in the first ten minutes, I was feeling really encouraged because they were doing drills and he followed along with each step.

Then came the wait-in-line-to-kick-something drill and we lost him. On top of that, the other boys were mean to him. The teacher even asked him to leave early and come back tomorrow for another free trial class but of course, we never went back.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

No More Emergency Room for Me!



















One year ago, my husband came home from work and I quietly told him that I couldn't breathe and that I had chest pains. My doctor called me to go to the ER and soon I left my house and didn't come home until 5 AM the next day.

It was an unpleasant experience. I was under 40 so thus atypical for a woman having a heartattack so I had to beg and beg to be seen because I just couldn't breathe! Finally, I was seen by a doctor but the experience was no better. Nothing they did helped me.

Also, like an idiot, I went to a public hospital and the person next to me behind the curtain was handcuffed to his bed. A row of correction officers lined up around him so that they were facing my bed directly. I tried to sleep but the inmate was snoring like crazy and then when he woke up the officers wouldn't stop chatting. I was in hell and the medication they gave me to help with the breathing didn't do a thing.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Why New People Are Good For My Kids


This family has been through lots of changes this fall. Both of the boys have started new schools and have been assigned new therapists. Whenever routines are broken, at least one of us breaks down and many times, that person is me. It's been hard on all of us but in the end it's such a good thing.

What I've learned is that change is the only way you can see how well your child is generalizing their skills. I think kids with neuro-challenges really have a hard time doing that. For example, Spencer would say certain words with one therapist and in that same day, with the same toy, he'll say different words or will not perform the skill at all because he's not "generalizing across people," the therapists told me.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Taming the Homework Monster


















Before I was married, I didn't believe I would be anything other than a No-Shit Mom.

Okay, this is the second time I used an inappropriate word on my blog and so I apologize if anyone is offended but some words just say it all.

My kid was going to study, I told myself up until he was born. He would not be spoiled. And he would be able to speak at least three languages, one of them being Mandarin Chinese. (By the way, I am not Chinese American)

Even when you have typical children, I'm sure parents laugh at themselves when they compare their pre-baby goals to their actual goals after birth. Gosh, now my goals are not even anywhere close to him being multilingual! My goals are more like: Logan will stay in his seat for five minutes without being told to do so. and Logan will make one non-school friend by the end of 2009. Of course, now I must share my personal goal which of course is: Jenn will no longer need anti-anxiety medication after 2010 and/or lose 20 pounds.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Dislike My Husband Most When I Am Sick. True or False?

















For the past two weeks, illness has visited almost everyone in my house. It started with me, and then Spencer, and then Logan. They were all different viruses, believe it or not. I am so tired.

As we all know, moms do not get a sick day. We have to show up to work irregardless unless we are so sick that we can't even stand up. Even then, there are still things we have to do. If my husband was helping me then I would at least attempt to tell him what to feed the kids, what time the school bus comes and drops off each child, and which therapists come at which time.

The thing that really irked me the most was my non-sick husband. I must have felt every emotion there is to feel toward someone this week, such as:

1. Self-righteousness: As soon as I felt even a bit of guilt, I turned around and said, no, he will have to pitch in so that I can recover. Thus, I didn't ASK for anything and instead TOLD him to watch the kids, do the dishes, give the kids a bath.... etc. This attitude met little sympathy or respect .

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Brain Cyst or Vaginal Pimple? Which Has Greater Impact?

















After I gave up on my 2nd psychiatrist, I consulted a neurologist that supposedly specialized in anxiety and ADHD. I figured I would try him out since I was able to just get away with paying a co-pay and after our first meeting, he ordered a routine MRI and EEG. I was annoyed because that meant more babysitting bills but otherwise, I thought nothing of it until the results came back that I had a tiny cyst somewhere inside my brain.

Yes. I have something in my brain that doesn't belong there. But after getting another MRI, I expected that my neurologist would tell me it's nothing to worry about as according to him, women develop cysts everywhere and they may never know about it throughout their whole lives.

However, when I got my results back, he told me to see a neurosurgeon because it was pushing against a sensitive spot. Great.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Standing Up to My Number One Critic

















I wish I had a machine that lit up every time my husband and I disagreed but I was really in the right. Then I would know that I should pursue it and that my idea will prevail. Alas, I have no such machine and if I "put my foot down," I'd do it with trepidation, knowing that if the outcome was negative, he would likely throw it all back in my face with an "I told you so." Sometimes, he'll complain about something that happened when he never voiced any opposition to the idea in the first place. To him, not voicing consent is passive disapproval. To me, it's just plain irritating.

My husband is a good guy but like me, he's not perfect. Of his notable imperfections is his tendency to be conservative. Let it be said that it is also a gift and one that compliments my greedy a.k.a. ambitious nature. However these days, I have been pushing back his criticisms more often. Could I possibly be more comfortable with myself? Now, that's quite a fantasy.

Either way, I'm living on some sort of dream because lately, I have been obsessed with finding a setting for Logan to improve his social skills and have fun afterschool. I live in New York and so in the late fall and winter, it will be very cold. I am concerned for my own sanity because I just know the ADHD brothers will need some place to let off steam. I searched far and wide and called dozens of places but nothing seemed to work. Why?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ignore the Behavior, Not the Child






















At Spencer's monthly meetings with his therapists, sometimes I end up feeling really ashamed and embarrassed because I just can not hide any of my flaws from these guys. They know everything and if I am failing to do something, it will eventually come out and be addressed. This month, we focused on Spencer's behavior which had been growing significantly worse and I was feeling powerless.

Talk to me about a four year old who doesn't listen and I'll give you some ideas on what to do because I have some experience now that Logan is five. However, if you ask me about a two-year old who won't listen then I can't help you.

That is because when Logan was acting "crazy" when he was two, I was still in my helpless mode. I was in denial that something was wrong and the professionals around me did nothing but blame me for his behavior. We then just sort of rode out the terrible twos which never really stopped even after he turned three. Thus, to this day, I still don't know what to do with a special needs toddler. Even though I have read books like 1-2-3 Magic and Toddler Taming, I do not believe it can apply to my toddler, not yet at least. If I recall correctly, even in 1-2-3 Magic, there is a part that says something to the effect like... if this method doesn't work for you, seek professional help...

So what to do? Well, how about ABA to the rescue? Again...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

ADHD Awareness Week - What Does It Do?

















I am wondering if ADHD Awareness Week is helpful.

The story of my judgmental neighbor sort of kicked off my own little awareness campaign. As a result of my yammering, I had at least one person write to me about how she suspects ADHD in her child. Like her, she keeps getting the "he'll be fine.. all kids are like that..." run around by "experts" who don't know anything or don't care.

I am happy to hear that any parent is willing to at least seriously question the possibility that their child may be different. However, so many people still misunderstand ADHD and unfortunately, those people have a powerful place in our lives such as our bosses, educators, journalists, spouses, parents, in-laws (ugh!), and government purse-string holders.

I have an ADHD child and I need help and understanding, not a cold shoulder or worse, misunderstanding. I am not alone. People have asked where to find simple information about ADHD and I found a page in ADDitude magazine' website with a bunch of links to help with awareness-raising.

However, for me, there is still a dilemma. To spread ADHD Awareness, there needs to be a clear message. This is where my public relations mind steps in: I will first ask when deciding on a campaign: Just what exactly are we trying to say? What's the message?

Thinking aloud---- These are the people I want to educate:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Can A Special Needs Family Be Good Neighbors?
















How would you feel if you received the following email from your downstairs neighbors (in an apartment building).? To be sure, I have pads, rugs, and carpets in my home as the rules of my apartment building requires but they do run around and wake up as early as 5:00 AM. I do try to curb their running and jumping but it's not always possible because that is the way a 2 year old with PDD and a 5 year old with ADHD moves about in their abode. I've told my downstairs neighbors that they have neurological disorders but noise is still noise. Take a read and if you have any advice, feel free to send me an email or leave a comment.

Jenn,
The past couple of months have been rough in regard to the noise. It is not fair to have to keep a broomstick nearby just to have peace and quiet. I'm not sure what to do from here as I've been continuously woken up before my morning alarm and whenever I try to take naps. Not to mention the embarrassment we feel when company comes over.

To say the least, the noise level is by far the worst it has ever been. We are not sure what has changed but it's become pretty intolerable. This has influenced mine and CCC's* decision to move out when our lease is up. We both feel we have been fair and tolerant neighbors. We've never complained to management and always come to you first.

We are aware that you have 'no-running' rules for the kids to follow, but rules with kids do not mean anything if they are not constantly reinforced. It is not your fault that the walls are thin but please be respectful of us. We don't know who your new neighbors will be but for the past 4 years you've been lucky to have twenty-somethings like AAAA and BBBB, and CCC and I. Please do something about the noise.

Thanks,

CCC & DDD


* AAA and BBB are the masks of real names of former roommates. CCC and DDD are the current tenants downstairs. Also, the email did come in bold print.

** I think the person needs to take "naps" because she works at night.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is There An ADHD Awareness Day?






















I have never heard of it but in any case, I declare today ADHD Kid Education Day. Could we all take a moment in our lives to figure out what a child with ADHD needs in school and give it to him or her? This includes parents, teachers, school districts, and soccer classes that charge outrageous amounts of money for "special needs classes."

I say this because I've had many enlightening moments today.

1. My son started school today and it was the most amazing school ever!!! He is in a class with other kids with varying special needs and strengths. He can learn from their skills and they can learn from his. Logan has an opportunity to be proud of himself. I feel truly blessed.

2. A mother of an ADHD child I know is not recognizing her child's needs and she is resistant to release her denial. I feel for her and her child. I wish things could be better for them. Even if she did acknowledge her child's disability, getting her the help that she needs is so hard. You are fighting for your child almost every day.

3. A report came out recently about how PET scans show signs that ADHD brains do not process motivation and rewards like non-ADHD brains do. These results support medication and encourages alternative methods to motivating ADHD youngsters. I had to read the article twice to figure out how this new report could be helpful to me and was really frustrated. Then, I watched a great news program and it helped me see it more clearly. Yes, using PET scans might be news but how can I apply this to my life? More importantly, as our children start school this week, can any of these mounds of research be used to improve the education of children with ADHD? How about an ounce of sympathy and maybe an educational dollar or two for a child who doesn't think a happy face sticker is worth his effort?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Can Mom Be Awake? Summer is Over

















I can't believe how lazy I've been. It's crazy that I only had four posts in August! Where have I been? Have I relaxed myself to the point where I can no longer stand up? Is that what I was? Relaxed? I had to think about this for a while and here is what I came up with:

Reason #1:
I am more calm these days. Since checking myself into the ER with a panic attack 11 months ago, I think I may have finally found a medication that helps me stay calm. It's not perfect but it helps a lot and while it does have some side effects, I think I can live with them for now. It definitely beats not breathing well. No more big psychiatry bills! (At least for now... knock on wood)

Reason #2:
I went back to acupuncture. Why do I discontinue the things that help me? Why do I feel guilty about spending money on myself? It's ridiculous I know. My acupuncturist doesn't even charge that much but when I'm not feeling so great, I now don't hesitate so much to see her. I even brought Logan with me one day. She was so incredibly nice to him even though he's such a busy person.

Reason #3:
I am trying harder to accept the things that I can not control. I think when I started the GFCF diet and started looking for schools for Logan and Spencer, I was worried about two things:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Good Friends Are Hard to Find

















This summer, I was on a mission. At least I started out that way and like some of my "missions," it sort of fizzled into almost nothing but as the summer fades, my laziness goes with it and I'm reviving some of my goals.

One of them was to make friends for my kids. I really feel the need to make more socialization opportunities for Logan and Spencer. After all, that was one of the reasons I quit my job. When I was working, getting playdates for Logan was a lost cause. I think there were many reasons behind it. Some parents didn't want nannies to have playdates. Some parents didn't want other people's children in their homes when they weren't there. Moreover, no mom wanted to have a playdate with a nanny. The only time it was possible for me to have a playdate for Logan was during the weekend and of course, those were always spur-of-the-moment and skills could not be practiced on a consistent basis.

I quit my job when my kids entered the world of special needs services but unfortunately, it was still hard to get playdates for my kids. It was great to have special services for the kids but therapy takes time and keeps you locked up at home or a clinic. Moreover, Logan (and soon Spencer) goes to a special ed school and so he is not able to go to school with kids in the neighborhood. Furthermore, time spent on the bus, something neighborhood kids don't do, means less time in the neighborhood playground where he could be making and keeping friendships.

It feels so awkward to me to help my child "make friends," but it has to be done. I had already disturbed the "natural" order of things by putting them in tons of therapy and special needs schools away from our neighborhood. I have to intervene to make up for this disadvantage.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

De-Generalizing Anxiety and SPD

















This week, I witnessed something more miraculous than my child's first steps.

This week, my Spencer, 2 yrs. old, went under the sprinklers for the first time in his life.

If you have read about Spencer's sensory issues in this blog, then you would know that he abhors water being sprayed in his face. Over a hundred people have seen the video of him screaming as I tried to gently spray him with my bathroom showerhead. I felt like I was torturing him.

However, this week, I learned how valuable sensory therapy can be and how anxiety is so intertwined with sensory processing disorder that it is very difficult to tell which is the bigger problem. I guess that is always the hugest question for me when it comes to my kids. Is it sensory or is it behavior?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Need A Break from Summer Break


This summer is really bringing out the worst in me. I am working on some stories that I plan on posting soon but I wanted to leave a note that I've been taking a short break for those of you who have noticed.

I hope everyone is enjoying the summer. I don't mean to sound ungrateful but I'm having a hard time. The heat is so terrible these days that I have a small rash above my upper lip from constantly wiping sweat. Except for when I'm working out, I really hate sweating. Maybe it's a sensory issue. I know I have some. I also really hate when hair is in my face.

Additionally, now that my oldest, Logan, has a break, I have absolutely no time to have even a small thought in my head. My biggest job is to keep him occupied while Spencer is receiving therapy all morning long. It's a constant battle and probably quite tortuous for an ADHD five year old as it must look like a string of people come in just to "play" with Spencer while he is stuck with Mom who is has half her attention on something else always. How can the most impulsive boy in New York not want to barge in?

Friday, August 7, 2009

ABA vs. ADHD






















I remember the day I had a psychologist come to my house to evaluate Spencer. At the time, he was about 20 months old and wasn't getting much out of speech therapy because he was too distracted to follow any directions. His speech therapist had an ABA therapist come to observe Spencer and the therapist said that ABA would benefit him.

Everyone thought he would have a hard time getting the ABA therapy because kids without an autism or PDD diagnosis do not usually get it here in New York. However, the psychologist that came to my house that day to test him, asked me a series of questions and within an hour she told me that Spencer had PDD-NOS, shut her laptop computer, and walked out of my apartment. I felt like I was hit by an truck. Doesn't she know that you just can't talk to people like that?

I went to the bathroom and wept.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Can Two Hyper Boys Share a Room?























I often hear about friends who have put their 2nd child in their older child's bedroom while they were still infants! For me, I just couldn't imagine Spencer sleeping in anyone's room but mine. It's not because I didn't believe Spencer could sleep in a room without me. Rather, because we only had 2 bedrooms and Spencer often woke up in the middle of the night, I didn't want Logan to be disturbed. I imagined having two boys up at 2 AM, laughing or yelling at each other and me spending the entire night trying to get them back to sleep.

Spencer is now 2 1/2 years old and so I thought it was about time he moved out despite my fears. Additionally, I was like a homeless person in my own home. Depending on whoever needed me or if a mosquito was in a particular room, I would either sleep in Logan's bed or on the living room couch or on own bed. I spent the least amount of time in my own room because I knew that if Spencer woke up in the middle of the night, he was more likely to fall asleep faster if I was nowhere to be seen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Taking a Vow of "Near-Silence"


I think I should go on vacation more often because it seems I am quite terrible at getting back to life after I return. Since my last post where I was clearly at an all-time low, I have slowly been returning to some semblance of normalcy. To my great fortune, I have had some comments and emails from kind souls trying to help pull me back to the surface. Thank you to everyone for your well wishes. . I must have sounded pretty down. I hate to send out such negative energy and I apologize for that.

It hasn't been easy, but I do feel like I'm moving forward. My first step was to improve my health. That horrible medicine gave me major gastro-distress and migraines that lasted days after taking that one and only pill. Whenever I feel like this, pill or not pill-related, I pay a visit to my acupuncturist because I feel like my chi (energy) is blocked. I used to go to her at least once a week and stopped doing so only because I decided to direct more of my time and limited funds to treating my anxiety-related breathing problems. It's funny that I'm back to her to treat me for my attempts to get better without her.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Don't Worry - Be Happy? I Wish

















These days, I have felt extremely burdened. I feel like things are just holding me down including my health, my actual body weight, things I need to do for my children.... There are so many things to do and yet the summer makes me so lazy and so tired. I wonder if I'm no different from an animal in the park who is only really appreciating his life when he's busily preparing for the cold season.

I actually shouldn't be complaining. I just came back from a beautifully-spent five days in Mexico. My brother had his wedding in a newly built luxury resort an hour away from Cancun. I didn't have to cook or clean. I sat in a poolside bar drinking pina coladas for four days while my children played to their hearts content. I watched my brother get married to a woman to whom I would comfortably give my children if something were to happen to me and Kai. I also watched my son Logan be the best ringbearer in the world! Thank you YouTube!!!! I have nothing to complain about and yet I feel like nothing is going right.




Before I left, I was even more convinced that I needed medication to work on my anxiety. Two days before my flight, I finally took the EEG that my new neurologist told me to take and I was blown away by my own reaction. I don't know the EEG results yet but lying on a table for twenty minutes with my eyes closed and having to lay perfectly still was just too much to bear. I was so uncomfortable that I needed to squeeze my hands so tight so that I could focus on staying still. Why can't I relax? Am I really that anxious? It felt so bad to the point that I have convinced myself that I really am "clinically" anxious.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Finally Announcing Book Contest Winner! Lisa!





















After the posting of the Barbara Levine's book review, Married With Special Needs Children: A Couples’ Guide to Keeping Connected, one of the authors, Dr. Laura E. Marshak, (pictured above) graciously chose a winner of our second book giveaway contest. Here are her words:

It truly was really difficult to choose a winner because each contributor highlighted a strategy that is useful in making marriages work which raising children with disabilities and/or illnesses. Judging took a bit longer that I expected because I would initially pick a favorite…write my rationale for choosing it…and then pick a new favorite. This is more a testimony to your fine responses than my indecisiveness (few people call me wishy-washy!). I liked all of the strategies suggested for different reasons. For example, I was taken with the couple who celebrated their marriage each year with an “alone getaway” to remind themselves of why they married each other. I also agreed with the importance of respite time and the need for individual activities. But because I need to pick just one, I will pick the strategies suggested by Lisa.

I thought she made many wonderful points although I will only highlight a few of them. I really liked what she wrote about the importance of being a team and that neither parent’s contributions are more important than the other’s. Another one of my favorite parts of her reply was her comments about putting aside their own issues in order to support and enjoy each other. It reminded me of a quote (we ended our book with) from a couple who have three children with Fragile X syndrome. Comparing a marriage to a boat they wrote, “Don’t hack at your boat in a storm.” Lisa’s response contained this same wisdom.

In addition to taking care of our children, we need to take care of our marriage, ourselves and our partners. Lisa also demonstrated a lovely ability to work creatively within life’s limits. To me this contained some of the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer. She accepted that their lifestyle did not permit date nights and romantic getaways but was active about making life enjoyable. I also really liked her advice about making sure both partners had a little time to restore themselves through rest, hobbies etc. This underscores the fact that everyone’s life in the family matters. Furthermore, a little down time and self-care, makes us better able to be good parents and partners.

Here is Lisa's entry:




















My husband and I simply do not have anyone to watch our son for date night, let alone an overnight trip.

At some point when our son regressed and we waded through the emotional fallout of the diagnosis, we both sort of looked at each other and said something like this: "Well, he NEEDS us both. Neither one of us would ever hurt him or give up on him. It will take BOTH of us to go ahead with biomed/recovery protocol. So since neither one of us will ever leave HIM, let's put OUR crap aside and face that we are in this TOGETHER and the three of us pretty much are in it on our own. Family isn't going to help, friends have run for the hills. So if we w/o a doubt, not getting out, stuck with each other, we may as well support each other and make this as pleasant as possible."

More so than romantic couple time, we go to our base of friendship and try to support/help each other survive/stay sane/still have a LIFE. We do a lot of family things and make sure the other has time to nap, read, pursue hobbies, have downtime. That is the only way we can show that we care right now, and what we each need more than anything else.
---------end---------

Thank you Lisa and other readers for pitching in their two cents. Also, I'd like to say thanks to Barb for sharing her insights on this book and to Dr. Marshak for writing a book that speaks to our families. We are very blessed to have such great people on our side.

Picture 1: Laura E. Marshak, PhD, (pictured) told me that she and co-author Fran Pollock Prezant CCC-SLP decided to write this book because couples often make the mistake of feeling it is not possible to meet their children’s many needs and have a fulfilling marriage under stressful circumstances.

Picture 2: Lisa and Steve from Pennsylvannia pictured here with their son Ethan, 6, who is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Can YouTube Prevent Anxiety in Children?


One of my biggest parenting faults is that I do not prepare my children enough for things to come. It's funny that I do that because I have a fear of the unknown and planning ahead definitely reduces my anxiety. Unfortunately, I frequently fail to remember that my children are no different from me in that respect and thus I forget to meet this very important need. This can result in unwanted behavior ranging from locking their legs around my hips while trembling to a display of hyperactivity that is so bad, I can only describe it as human racquetball.

Soon we will be flying to Mexico for my brother's wedding which will be our one chance of having anything close to a real vacation. I am so excited to go even though there is no vacation from my job as Mom. For me, a few days of no cooking and no dishwashing is a big enough deal to celebrate. Additionally, it will be a trip of "family firsts" in many ways: First airplane ride for Spencer, First family trip for the four of us, First wedding that we attend as a family, First time in Mexico for any of us, First time being a Ringbearer, First time being in a hotel for Spencer, First time going to a place where we'll be going to the beach everyday.... etc.

But "firsts" for my children don't always go so well so I have been trying to find ways to prepare them. My goal is to reduce their anxiety so they can enjoy themselves more. I am especially working on preparing Spencer because he seems to get scared in new environments sometimes (he's the leg-locker). I still don't quite understand what all the unwanted elements are that cause him to tremble with fear. Additionally, I know that he doesn't like sand which is problematic since we'll want to go to the beach everyday.

The boys are also supposed to be ringbearers at the wedding! I looked at my sister-in-law in disbelief when she told me that that was what she wanted. I was grateful but for her sake, I told her that it might not go as well as we want. She still wanted it and so I found a pillow in my house and sewed a ribbon with rings onto it to have the kids practice before we get to Mexico. They seem to do okay but I know for sure that Logan has a hard time performing for a crowd so I'm crossing my fingers.

I want them to have the best vacation ever but I know it won't be so easy. All I can do is prepare them, right? The rest is up to them. In my search to find ways to better prepare them, I have found YouTube to be very helpful.

Type in "kids play sand beach" and BOOM - scores of videos of young children playing and laughing in the beach are available with just a click. They are almost always short and some even have been edited with music which makes the video even more appealing to our little Spencer. What's more crazy is that you can scan the videos in advance and create a playlist so that you have your "lesson plan" all ready to go when they watch. This way, I don't lose their attention to an unexpectedly boring video.

An added plus is that these videos are all videos of typical children doing typical things and that's actually more educational for me. For the ringbearer videos, I saw a few blunders that were refreshing to watch because I'm not able to see typical children's behavior in settings other than the neighborhood playground. Thus, if Logan and Spencer create a mini-disaster down the aisle, I will likely not feel so bad after seeing the blunder videos on YouTube. On the flip-side, these videos are another way that my children are able to learn from typical children which is great since their opportunities to be with them are limited.

Recently, Logan who has been practicing walking slowly with a pillow, saw a video of a ringbearer walking down the aisle in a crowded church. Within seconds of starting the video, he started to speak jibberish and squirm which is something he does when he feels overstimulated or anxious. I could tell that he now understood what his role was and I'm glad he got a chance to feel the tension before the big day. Hopefully, it has helped prepare him for his own walk.

To be sure, YouTube does not replace real-live experiences but I believe it can be effective in helping me to prepare my children for challenging situations when I can't always give them a "walk-through" in advance ie. plane rides. The children in these videos can serve as models but even in a sensory processing perspective, these videos are hard to beat. How else would they hear audio like the sounds of waves crashing and noisy airplane engines? With just one click, we get all those sounds combined with moving visuals and appropriate models- all FOR FREE in my own home! YouTube, you are my new best friend!

Video: For this post, I chose this video of Spencer and I practicing turn-taking because it was short and sweet. However, I found another asset of videos for this family: measuring short-term progress. This video was only taken three months ago but I can see now that his speech has improved because I know that if we did the same exercise today, he would definitely be talking through it. His favorite phrase these days is "My turn!"

Monday, July 13, 2009

Discipline for Mom: A Diet for Parents




















Before I got pregnant with Spencer, I used to have these feelings of shakiness and nervousness and I had no idea what they were. I had lived with them on and off for years but there was a period when it was happening to me every single day. I thought it was my coffee so I switched to having decaf with my bagel every morning but sure enough before it was noon, I would feel so sick that the only thing that made me feel better was to eat my lunch.

Luckily, I worked in a hospital and finally thought to ask an endocrinologist about my problem and she told me that it wasn't my coffee making me shaky. It was my bagel. A bagel has 45 grams of carbohydrates which is huge. I obviously was having trouble metabolizing it and so I sought help. My endocrinologist said that I was likely experiencing something called reactive hypoglycemia and that I should cut down or cut out carbs from my diet.

Can you tell a 2nd generation Korean American not to eat rice? A sociologist once told me that compared to other Asian American groups, Korean Americans are more likely to cling their parents' foods. It could be that we are addicted to spice. I don't know. All I knew was that I had tried a low-carb diet before and I failed to lose any weight because I love my dear friend Kimchi (pickled cabbage) and wherever you find Kimchi, you will likely find his partner-for-life, White Rice.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Armor is Stuck to My Body

















I had a long chat with a good friend that I hadn't spoken to in a while. As I updated her on my life, I realized that I've been having a tough time trying to phase out of a battle-station mode. I think it's because I am always advocating for my children and anxiously seeking new ways to help them. Unfortunately, the advocacy can be quite tough sometimes but I've been given a little bit of a break in various ways this summer.

I certainly need more breaks but I don't know how to use them. Hartley, a special mom with a special needs child, recently made a comment on a previous blog post saying that we go through such a long grieving process . I think she's right. I have yet to find normalcy in my somewhat abnormal situation. For example, when Logan's preschool sent an invitation to his graduation ceremony, I RSVP'd for only me, not even bothering to tell my husband. He had taken so many vacation days off for doctor's and other special needs-related appointments that I didn't think he should go if he wasn't "needed." How crazy am I? Who thinks like this?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Do I Have Adult ADHD?






















When I first learned about ADHD, I immediately became very interested because I thought I saw those traits in members of my family. I pretty much believed that it didn't it describe me but I did suspect it just a bit.

However, this journey to find calm is regrettably still going on and so I'm considering everything. Thus, I've been looking at my younger years to see if I had moments of impulsivity, inattentiveness, and hyperactivity that were so bad that it interfered with my progress academically, socially, and emotionally.

When I look back to my childhood, I see a girl who did a good job at hiding her problems. It was easier to do this because I grew up with an older brother who always out shined me in everything. When we were kids, there was never any question that he was smarter, more popular, more talented, and always, always got into so much more trouble than me. Perhaps this might be why I felt like my problems weren't too big because he always had a bigger load. But does that mean, I didn't have any issues including ADHD? Now I'm thinking no especially since I am learning now that ADHD could be a bit different in girls and women.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Vacation Is When Moms Go Back to School
















If you have been following this blog then you will know how I feel about school vacations. I kind of dread them. When it is over, I feel great relief. I know it's horrible to say but there is a lot of truth to it.

The vacations are hard because we are basically going out of routine and doing something new. With new things, the therapists in my children's lives say two things that sort of drive me crazy:

1- They can not stay in routine all the time. That is not life. You have to give them a chance to experience new things.

2- They become overstimulated very easily. You have to ease them into things. Talk to them about what will happen (days before if possible) and this will reduce anxiety and negative responses.

I have my screw-ups somewhere between 1 and 2.

We are only halfway into this vacation (Summer school for Logan starts next week) but already I've done a good deal of sweating and stressing.

1. On the day of Logan's last day of school, Spencer had no morning therapy sessions and so we went out for a walk. I had only my wallet and phone, no diapers, food.... nothing. I spontaneously called a friend nearby to see if she could do a playdate and she said yes! Hooray! I then tried to hop on the subway but Spencer started to panic. He clung to me the whole entire way there. I had to carry him up the stairs, hold him in the train, carry him from the train station to my friends house and aside from my friend's apartment, his feet did not touch the pavement until we were three blocks from my apartment. What in the world is this child afraid of? He had been on the subway before but he was always in a stroller. Would it have helped if I said, "Spencer, we are going to my friend's house and we are getting on the subway," one minute before we walked up the stairs to the subway? How can we be spontaneous without panic and dismay?

2. I was invited to a playdate with other children on a small trip to an animal/environmental center with both of my kids. I never go to any museum or center or any place without my husband. We each take one child and we always avoid sessions where teachers are asking children to sit and listen but since the petting of animals was involved, I figured I should give my kids the chance but boy WAS THAT HARD. Seriously, Spencer and Logan ARE the ADHD Brothers! It's not a joke anymore. If the boys were not actively engaged in touching an animal, they would just get up and walk away and look for something to touch or play with. Meanwhile I have to listen to others saying, "Please don't let him touch that," or "Oh no, stay here, don't leave the room."

3. I also took them to a park with the group and as soon as we got there, the group sat down to eat lunch. My kids went straight to the playground. They were not interested in food and Spencer was not keen on hanging out on the grass anyway. Okay, fine, don't eat... whatever... But then, there it was, the evil monster named Overstimulation, came and started dancing circles around me and my kids. Logan became more hyper than usual and would barely follow any adult direction. I could feel my face crinkling more and more as I tried to give my kids a chance to step out of routine and play in an unfamiliar but fun playground. Wasn't this the "good mom" thing to do?

And then it happened: while Spencer was trying to climb a water fountain (I was standing right next to him), I started yelling, "Logan, don't kick the ball that way. (at other children- not maliciously- but still) Bring back the ball...." And I turned around and saw Spencer's head diving straight to the ground. He was straddling the water fountain, lost his balance, and then fell, head first, pretty much in a complete vertical line. I almost died. I had an ice pack and started pressing it on to the bump on his head while he was screaming. And just to pour salt into my wounds, someone came up to me while Spencer was still crying his eyes out and told me that Logan had broken another child's toy. Oh NOOOOOO!!!!!!! I found the child's mom, apologized, and abruptly left my group.

I take full responsibility for what happened. I know I was supposed to have a little help with Logan at the group outing but still, I should have listened to my gut and my gut told me that I should not go to that park because I might not be able to keep both of them safe or at least in-line. I could have gone straight home after the animal-petting experience but I told myself that I should stop being such a party-pooper. But I should have been the pooper. Then I wouldn't worry the whole day about Spencer having a concussion.

Believe it or not, something good came out of the horrid park experience. When we left the park, I was a little surprised to hear Logan say, "Mom, I'm glad we are going home." So there it was... he knew the Overstimulation Monster was there too. He just doesn't know how to recognize it like I do. I told one of Spencer's therapists what Logan had said and she gave me a great piece of advice. She said I should talk to Logan about having felt this way and give the feeling a name. That way, when he's overstimulated again, he can recognize it, vocalize it, and get help before he gets to a point where we lose him and need leave the scene to bring him back to earth. I love this idea! I hope we can pull it off.

With all these little disasters that happen along the way, I guess there is a lot for me to learn during school vacations. I won't list them all except for my favorite one: My kids may be afraid of automatic toilets and water sprinklers but will have no problem sticking their naked little fingers in cages of birds and bunnies and even lay down next to a garden snake and have some fun. (pictured above with Spencer) They seriously like animals and have no fear at all. The ADHD Brothers are something else.