Friday, January 29, 2010

Teenage Babysitters for Special Needs Children? Can it Work?

My friend Penny recently wrote an info-packed blog post about the interventions she has tried to make homework successful. I totally know how she feels. We have the same issues here. When do you do homework? Where do you do it? Where does he sit? How do you handle fine motor work? How do you do it without losing your mind?

The answers to these questions are still a work in progress with Logan but we have the added complication of our second special needs child, Spencer, who is now 3.

He just won't leave us alone. He says he wants to do homework too but won't do it once I give him some "homework" to do. Then I'll bring him back down to the floor and then soon he is climbing on top of me or doing something else disruptive. This is not good for our already distractable Logan. Thus for months, we did homework at night while my husband was home to play with Spencer but I realized that night-time was the worst time for Logan to do work. The lateness of the hour gives you little choice for the when-you-finish-your-work-incentives since he has to go to bed and also like Penny's Luke, the meds wear off by then so you get less done at that hour.

For us, we decided to do two things. First, I moved homework time to the hour that I have when Logan is home alone with me before Spencer comes home from his baby preschool. This is tough because no one wants to do homework as soon as they come home but the incentive for Logan is that he can play with Spencer without having to do any homework as soon as Spencer arrives. So far, the plan is working.

However this is not enough for me. I want Logan to do more than 45 minutes worth of homework especially during the colder months when we can't go outside. Call me crazy for wanting more from an ADHD kid but I do. I want to work on the many activities suggested to us from his teachers and therapists and sometimes that requires quiet one-on-one time but again, Spencer is in the picture too so what to do?

Ever since Logan was four, I have tried to hire teenage babysitters to help out in our home. It has always been disastrous. The ones I hired were too young and I also didn't know any better and wasn't willing to spend hardly any money. These youngsters did not know how to handle Logan and Spencer was so little then, that he refused to be with anyone but me. However, in my two-year quest to find inexpensive and more energetic help for my kids, I managed to meet a nice young high school junior in my building elevator. She said hello to Spencer which piqued my attention because teens don't usually talk to toddlers. I immediately asked her if she babysat. She said no but that she wanted to and soon I found out that she volunteered at the local Catholic school twice a week with preschool children.

Uh, okay, you're hired.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Why Waking Up at 3:30 AM is Good

This past month has been real madness. With a broken finger, I managed to bake 18 cupcakes and make homemade frosting. The next day I had surgery and hours after that I served those cupcakes to Logan's friends in school. Then a few days later I threw an ice skating birthday party for him while still groggy from vicodin. People said I was a super mom but really, these were just things on a schedule I couldn't change.

Right after the birthday party I came down with serious migraines (probably from the vicodin) and just as the migraines went away, I found out that my finger had become infected. So then I had to go on constipation-causing antibiotics which also sent me back to migraine country. I don't know anyone who gets migraines because of digestion issues but I do.

The only person who helped me feel better was my acupuncturist. I could find no relief through any medication. I don't know what she does but I really wish I had enough money to see her every week just to keep my body in balance. I have a feeling she could even help Logan too.

I definitely know I am better because I am back to waking up at 4 AM again. I used to hate waking up at this hour. Most of the time, it was caused by Spencer waking up and not going back to sleep. I would try to play with him and keep him safe and entertained while I stole minutes of sleep here and there. It was hell.

But now waking up at 4 AM all on my own is a totally wonderful experience. I am basically doing the things I would be doing after they fall asleep except I have tons more energy because I have already slept a few hours. Even though I have a couple of hours everyday while both children are at school, that time is reserved for grocery shopping, eating lunch and dawdling, making dinner, and/or running errands, and feeling sorry for myself because my finger is broken. I hardly feel good about myself during this time. I also never exercise during this time because I feel bad exercising when I could be using the time to make dinner and run errands. I always find excuses not to exercise.

However, when you go to sleep early and wake up at 3 or 4 am, everything is different. The fatigue you have goes away quickly and all you want to do is lie down and stretch your body. This is hardly something I want to do at night or in the middle of the day when the kids are at school. But early in the morning, stretching exercises and possibly even yoga (in the future) make sense to me.

I also get a chance to tidy up the house a bit, pack Logan's lunch without hurrying, choose and pre-prepare his breakfast, eat my own breakfast, and look at my to-do list for the day or make one if I haven't already. I drink coffee while I'm sitting and finish the cup while the coffee is still hot which rarely ever happens. I also may start writing a post in this blog and catch up on emails.

I also like it because there is a deadline. I still think I have ADHD because I love deadlines. My deadline in the morning is when I have to wake Logan for school. Until then, I do as much as I can and I work faster because I feel the pressure. If I were to attempt the same things at night after the kids went to bed, I would likely feel overwhelmed with fatigue and not do as much but stay up late anyway because I never go to sleep at the same time.

I have also found that I want to eat a smaller breakfast at this time because it is still so dark and I become very sleepy on a full stomach. Thus for the sake of being more productive (and thin), I end up having a small breakfast, peacefully and mindfully.

I am not sure if I'm playing mindgames with myself but there is also something to be said for trying to get things done while everyone is asleep. I think I find comfort knowing that everyone I love is at home and yet not needing anything from me. This is "me time."

I used to do my homework at 11 PM when I was in high school for the same reason. I was not alone but I had silence and no distractions. This reminds me of another plus for going to sleep early and waking up early. You must be quiet. That means that I can not do loud things like cook, empty the dishwasher, or call anyone (because no one is up) and so this usually means I can only do things for myself like read, write, stretch, eat, and watch dramas online.

I don't know how long I'll keep up this practice but I hope I can carry it out for a long time. I am not sure why but starting the day on my own terms instead of waking up when my kids wake up really helps me find the calm I need to have a good morning.

Picture 1: Two birthdays in one month meant three batches of cupcakes and two batches of icing. Here is Spencer filling cupcake liners with gluten-free batter. His ABA therapist Christa (pictured) helps and encourages him. Unfortunately, that batch (not Spencer's fault) came out so bad. I had to use a mix from Cherrybrook Kitchen.

Picture 2: There is something good that can come out of breaking your bones. The cool pictures are very educational for the kids. Still, it is really hard to recover from a break when you have children who are hyper. They have knocked into my broken finger almost daily.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Skating Parties: Perfect for Special Needs Kids

Early in the new year, this family achieved a major "first."

We recently threw the first birthday party that Logan has ever had since he turned one. I don't know when it was but perhaps around the time he turned three, we realized that he didn't have many friends. Additionally, whatever parties he attended before then, he appeared to want to leave and didn't want to do the activities like the other children. As he got older, less and less people asked us to meet for playdates and worse, we moved when he was 2.5 yrs old and we didn't get to know my neighboring families until the following year after I quit my job to take care of the kids.

Still even though we became more social as a family, Logan still had a hard time making friends and parents sometimes looked worried when their child was near him in the playground. I remember there was a mom who was attending a birthday party of a child who lived my building. We all knew each other and she immediately assumed we were invited but I had no idea that there even was a party. She asked me what apartment number was the birthday boy's apartment was and I pointed to the family's buzzer. I saw the presents in the back of her stroller and I realized what was going on. During the year prior around that time, we were invited to that boy's party but this time we had no such luck. I was sad but I couldn't blame her. A party is stressful in and of itself. Why invite a child who you think will definitely misbehave? The kids rarely played together anyway so that could have also been a reason to not invite him.

I think I chose this year to throw a party since Logan started attending his current school where they really foster a community spirit between the students as well as the parents. Now I felt confident that if he were to have a birthday party, someone may actually show up.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Advocating for Yourself to Your Own Family

Since I broke my finger on Christmas Eve, things have been a little tough. However, things really changed when I went to the hand specialist's office last week and he told me that I had to have surgery right away because my nail bed had become damaged on top of already having a broken finger. If I didn't have the surgery, I could grow back two nails on that one finger or possibly none! YUCKKKKKK! Why? It was such a tiny break! How did I even get here?

It's been a journey and although I have a broken finger, I have been able to write but somehow I couldn't find the right words to say anything that was on my mind and thus the silence on this blog for the past two weeks. I guess I was feeling one thing one day and another the next day and then after my surgery last week, I fell sick from the side effects of the painkillers so I couldn't write at all. That was when I hit rock-bottom with illness and as I remove myself from a digestion hell laced with eye-shutting migraines, I can see a bit more clearly now and things have certainly been interesting.

The first interesting tidbit is why I even went to see a hand specialist in the first place. The urgent care center told me that I didn't need one but I wanted to go just for safe measure. However, it was very difficult to find a surgeon willing to see me on such short notice between Christmas and New Year's so I spent much of the day on the phone calling different offices. My husband was probably already annoyed with me because he had taken some days off of work to "help me" during the kids' vacation from school but never expected to do so much of the work since I had a broken finger. However, the hours I spent of the phone got him really angry because he thought I was making something out of nothing and called me a hypochondriac.