Thursday, July 27, 2017

Special Needs Mom Pressure

Recently, I read an article about the mixed messages for "millennial" moms, which I am. Part of the article:

"Watch your kids closely and constantly. There are tricky people lurking among the aisles of Target. But not too closely. Come on helicopter mom. Calm down!"


"Babies do not spoil. Hold them. Rock them. Co-sleep. Except don't. They need to self-soothe"

Seriously, I loved that article. It so perfectly captured what I have felt as I try to parent my two children who are polar opposites.

I wanted to add on just a couple of mixed messages that special needs moms get:

  • "Do home practice for therapy! You need to be working on schoolwork, speech, fine motor, and gross motor every day. Remember: don't miss a day or your child is doomed! But don't stress! Good grief, woman, why are you so tense??Just be happy!"

  • "Advocate for your child! You should be able to get everything and anything in your child's IEP; don't take no for an answer! But don't actually say anything to make anyone upset. School workers have feelings too, you know."

  • "You need to take time for yourself! Let the housework go, and focus on meeting your own needs. Except when someone is coming over, then everything needs to be immaculate."

  • "It is great that you are so open about your child's disability! We need to be aware of these things! But not too open, my goodness do you talk about anything else??? You need to be your own person."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Power Hour

My stress level tends to be highest right around dinner time- the kids and I are all cranky and hungry, we have been playing all day, so the house is a mess, which makes me more irritable, and so on and so forth.

For several years, I had tried various ideas of keeping the house clean, with maybe a week of success, then I would start forgetting, and get nothing done again, or get really annoyed all day long with the kids for making messes and not cleaning them up.

I am still far from perfect, and there are LOTS of days when Daddy still walks into a messy house. BUT- I finally found a method that we have been using for about a year that works! We call it "Power Hour".

We do Power Hour immediately after dinner, and everyone is supposed to help clean until the house is tidy. The hardest part of Power Hour, no question, is getting the kids to help. It is so much faster and easier if I do it all, but then the kids keep making more messes and I get seriously annoyed, and they learn no responsibility.

So Power Hour started out with me doing hand over hand with Chelsea (and sometimes her brother, but he got it pretty quick), every day, putting her clothes in the laundry basket, cleaning up her toys, etc.

Last night was the most successful Power Hour we ever had, and it was very encouraging! Chelsea put all the books into the bookcase, vacuumed, put clothes into the washer, washed the table, and made her bed.

Her brother took out the trash, folded a load of laundry, and helped load the dishwasher.

No, none of their completed jobs would be professional. Yes, the books were put in horizontally rather than vertically, and the folded laundry was mostly inside out, BUT they are learning that in our family, we work together to keep the house clean! And I am very proud of each of them for it!

On top of that, I can enjoy my evenings after the kids are in bed rather than clean constantly and get really resentful.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Waiting Room Activities

As a family with a special needs child, we spend a lot of time in waiting rooms, during medical tests, during therapy, or just waiting our turn because doctors often run behind while they strive to give high quality service to each patient. Any family with children of any ability level can attest that waiting can be very difficult!

To avoid the boredom (and consequent misbehavior), I usually bring along a backpack of activities, usually for my son while we wait for Chelsea in therapy. He is one of the highest-energy kids I have ever met, so it is a handful to keep him occupied wherever we go!

I won't go into the activities that everyone already does because yall ROCK at parenting- books, little action figures/ toys, and coloring books.

1. Puzzles
Our favorite puzzles to bring are big floor puzzles, because we don't have a good spot for them at home, but the hard floors at doctor/ therapy places are perfect! We also have brought pieces for little puzzles in baggies and work on those.

2. Math Games
This is our favorite! For the first game "Dice Rolls", we use a big squishy die, and we take turns throwing it across the room. We then add the number to our score. Super easy, and lots of energy is burned by throwing the dice and catching it.

Similar to Dice Rolls is "Pass the Pigs", an actual game that I bought (okay, at a yard sale because I am cheap), but SO MUCH FUN!!! Instead of rolling dice, you roll these two tiny piggies, and how they land determines your score. We play a somewhat simplified version to accommodate kindergarten math skills.

3. Stilts/ Stairs
Remember how my son is super high energy? Sitting still in a waiting room is not a fun thing for him. So we will sometimes find stairs to climb, or bring a pair of little stilts so he can walk on around the waiting room, or even better, outside the therapy center! Pretty much any idea we can do to keep him from exploding from his zest for life. These stilts aren't the ones we use for the waiting room, but you get the idea.

4. Whatever Your Kid Loves!
One of the most popular things that I see in waiting rooms is cars. Other kids love zooming them around on the hard floors! Little man is totally indifferent to cars though. His car nut daddy may or may not be disappointed.

I've also brought playdough (and folded up wax paper because I get anxious about making a mess). But a couple little jars of playdough and a bag full of letter cookie cutters, and we practice spelling words in a fun, kinetically-learning way!

Right now, my little nerd wants to learn chess, so we play chess.

5. Mental Agility Games
My son loves to think of something and then give clues "What is a sport where girls wear leotards and flip on bars?" or "What state do we live in?" and calls the game "Guess What I'm Thinking"

We also play I spy, or hide and seek with a small toy, or one of my favorites that he is still learning- Mental Tic Tac Toe! This is a game where you both have to imagine a game and person X says, "X in middle" followed by the next "O in top left corner"

6. Building materials
I never knew how very "hands-on" boys were until I had my little man! He loves bringing his building balancing men, and legos, and magna tiles to work with. He is ever calling "Mommy, look at THIS!!! Will you remember it? Take a picture quick!"

7. Write and Illustrate A Book
We have some blank pages stapled together, and will bring one of those and some markers, and write a book and give it drawings! One of the most recent creations was all about his "Texas Grandma", and all the things he loves about her. Kinda hard to see, but this is the picture he drew for the cover:

8. Busy Bags
We have a big box full of these, and it is super easy to grab a few and toss them into the backpack on the way out the door. Some of our favorites are family name matching, Velcro craft stick building, and Build a Pizza. I blogged about different busy bag ideas HERE and HERE.

9. Magnetic Games and Water Wow
These are some products that I felt were absolutely worth the money! Chelsea's favorites are the dress up Disney princesses with all the different outfits. She has several and LOVES them!

My son really likes the Melissa and Doug Water Wow books. They come with a little paintbrush you put water into, and then they paint a scene using just water, then dries so you can use it again!

10. Lacing Boards
I'm always looking for ways to improve fine motor, and lacing boards are perfect! I often find them at local kid resale shops for a fraction of the price new, and in great condition!

11. Puppets for a show
Puppets are easy to squish into a backpack, and fun to get out and put on a play with! My son always ends up having one puppet kill all the other ones. I'm convinced it is an inherent guy thing. I never taught him that, he watches zero violent TV, and still is obsessed with fighting, even when it is adorable little animals. Go, testosterone, go!

12. Stickers (re-useable or in baggie with paper)
One of the busy bags I use a lot is super easy to stock up- just stickers and pieces of paper. I also have Melissa and Doug reusable stickers that are fun too. My little guy loves the pirate one! 

13. Portable Guess Who
Just started teaching this one to my little guy and he likes it! It used to be one of my favorites when I was younger, so it is fun to share something from my childhood with him.

A Few Tips:
  • Use a backpack! Forget bags! I hated bringing bags because I was always being asked to fill out papers and my bag would always slip down my arm and annoy me. But I am easily annoyed, so maybe that is just me

  • Yes, there were times when I am so exhausted from parenting that I will take along the iPad and have my son play some games on it while I took a 20 minute cat nap curled up in a chair. But I try and avoid screen time as much as possible- it gives Chelsea seizures and makes may little guy cranky

  • When I am trying to figure out fun portable ideas, I usually get onto pinterest and tap the minds of truly creative people. I am just a copy cat is all.

  • My mentality is that this is time for just my son, since Chelsea takes up so much time and energy at home. I usually follow his lead as to what he would like to do. He almost ALWAYS chooses Pass the Pigs

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Independent Work

When Chelsea first started at her current school, her teacher was really pushing "independent work", and at first, I was very skeptical. After my terrible experiences at previous schools, I thought that this was just a way for them to slack off during their jobs, and Chelsea would never make progress.

But her teachers proved me wrong! They loved Chelsea and encouraged her to be independent, and by doing so, she flourished! Repetition is the key for Chelsea's success, so her teachers made some independent work for her to practice at home, then graciously helped me make some more activities that Chelsea would be motivated by, to help her learn to read!

AND- Chelsea is learning to do these by herself, which is a crucial skill for job success later on down the road. So hi-five to those amazing teachers out there who stick with the psycho parents like me!

There are the typical learning activities: numbers, letters, colors, counting, and spelling her name.

Then I made some for Chelsea that I use as rewards for completing other pages. I put her favorite characters on, and have these at the bottom of the pile of worksheets she needs to do that session.

I also had some animal pages, because she LOVES animals and animal noises.

To go along with her learning to do shopping trips, I have pages of foods that Chelsea loves so she can start recognizing names.

I made a game of matching names to family members so she will recognize those names (she picked up on this one SUPER fast!)

She likes this game so much that I separated the cards into families, and we have these in busy bags to take along with us!

We also have some verbs (run, jump, fly, roll, catch, watch, read, etc)

Since my dad owns a ranch that we go visit once a month, Chelsea's amazing teacher also made pages all about ranches with ranch words on it! (goat, cow, field, hay, tractor, etc)

What I have Chelsea do is complete 5 pages (working up to 6 in a sitting, one for each year she is old) that she does correctly by herself. Her main problem is wanting to get up and show me after every page is done, and I want her to learn to show me after it is ALL done.

I typically give it to her while I am cooking or reading, so that it is easy for me to come check when she is done. She is getting a lot faster as the summer progresses and she works on a few each day! Repetition, repetition, repetition!