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 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: 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.