Posted in family, parenting, Uncategorized

Handling Missing a Parent

My husband is currently on his second deployment with the military. The first time around Eli was only 18 months old and didn’t really notice dad wasn’t there. Even at that young of an age I expected some tantrums but we had moved back home by my family so he was surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and I think having the added family around blurred out the fact that dad was gone. Now just because Eli wasn’t screaming for his dad (he didn’t even talk at this age anyway), doesn’t go to say that there weren’t other behaviors relating to the deployment.

Then and now Eli likes to push the limits with me; from what I gather this is very common with children who have a parent that may be gone for certain lengths of time (military, general long work shifts, truck driving, travel/training, prison, etc). I don’t have the same amount as authority as my husband does. I’m not sure why but I think, and this may come across as sexist here (sorry feminists), men are the heads of the household.  Sure, some may not work as hard as their spouse, make as much money, spend as much time with the children; however, men are usually bigger than their wives and usually have deeper more demanding voices. I could yell in my ‘mean voice’ for Eli to “STOP JUMPING ON THE COUCH” and see no reaction, but my husband can walk in the room and start with “HEY…” and not even have to finish his sentence because my son already sat on his butt and gave him a sorry expression. There’s no denying that my husband has a lot more authority than me, it is what it is. So, during these deployments Eli feels as though he can get away with a lot more because his dad is gone. He’s not completely wrong, especially because this time I’m pregnant and don’t have enough energy to yell. Most of the time I’m so exhausted that it’s easier to let him make a big mess and clean it up by myself later than to go with him hand over hand making him pick up the entire basement. I mean honestly, I get breathless walking up the stairs. Once we start therapy though I will have a second disciplinarian in the house to help back me up.

This time around Eli has obviously noticed that his dad is not around. I have stressed from the beginning that daddy is at work. He understands this and says that daddy is at work back at mommy’s house (San Diego, close enough). In the beginning, he never really wanted to video chat with his dad; he would tell me “no, daddy is busy. He’s at work…” I would say “Hey Eli, your dad says he loves you!” Eli would answer, “no, daddy is at work.” To me it appears he thought, ‘daddy isn’t here so he doesn’t love me anymore’ or ‘daddy is too busy for me.’ Of course, he was only 3-4 years old and maybe I’m just reading too much into it, but nevertheless, it made me very sad to hear him say things like that.

So where do we go from here? How do we bridge this gap between father and son when they are many time zones apart? There are many books, articles, blogs on how to help your children during deployments, but there isn’t a one size fits all for children. Children may not be feeling the same way or may not respond to techniques that another child responded to. My best advice is to try out anything and everything.

  1. Phone calls, video calls
    1. If your spouse can communicate while they’re away this is usually the best way to keep them connected with children. We do this occasionally but Eli generally doesn’t have much of an attention span for video calls. I usually have to close the bedroom door and just let him play while dad talks a big. Eli will acknowledge him sometimes, answer his questions, and show him certain things then it loses its luster and he ignores both of us completely.
  2. Daddy Dolls
    1. I’ve seen a lot of these in the military community. They are little fabric dolls with a parent’s full body picture printed on. I’ve also seen necklaces, picture frames, etc that the child can take around with them and when they are feeling sad they can hold onto their parent and talk to them.

daddy-dolls-inc1

  1. Deployment wall
    1. This one (in my opinion) was a little too advanced for Eli to appreciate, but it is a visual aid for the kids to understand more about where daddy is. Include a map with pinned areas, clocks so they can see what time it is there, a mail station to send out their letters to dad, etc.

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  1. Texting
    1. One thing Eli has been really into lately is texting his dad. Of course, he can’t read and the only thing he can spell/write is his own name. He mostly uses it for the emoji’s. He likes taking his time and selecting just the right emoji to send to his dad and gets a kick out of what emoji’s dad will send back to us.
  1. Bedtime books
    1. There is a lot of literature out there on helping children deal with a deployed parent. I got lucky at Barnes and Noble and found one in the clearance rack. It’s not exactly a deployment book but it is about a parent leaving and how the child can stay connected with them. I got extra lucky because Eli really likes reading this book at night!

Nobody wants to have a parent gone, no matter what the reason, but there are a lot of ways to keep the family connected. Every family and child is unique so finding what works for you is the key.

Posted in family, parenting, Uncategorized

Growing Our Family

As most of my family and friends know, we are expecting our second child.

Since the day I had Eli, I always wanted another baby. My husband was determined to wait as long as possible, until he finally caved. Looking back, I am grateful for him making us wait this long; this is truly the right time for us, for many reasons.

Eli has needed so much of my attention; he has been in therapy since he was 18 months old. Sure, I could absolutely have another child while my first child is in therapy, I see plenty of mothers in the waiting room with their other children. However, for me, giving Eli my full attention was necessary. There were times he needed me back in his therapy rooms during a meltdown, how could I give him my full attention with a brother or sister attached to my hip? I wanted to be able to give him all I had while he needed it. This time for him before kindergarten is the most critical and intense for his therapy regimen. Everyone wants to get as many hours as they can so he can be school ready. Life is busy enough chauffeuring him all over San Diego to different appointments, throwing in a nursing newborn would have drained me even more.

Aside from Eli deserving my attention, we also needed to consider his emotions in having a second child. Would he have accepted a sibling a year or two ago? He needed so much of our attention because he didn’t talk until he was 3 ½. He needed us to be able to hear him even when he couldn’t say anything. How could he get across to me what he needed while I was occupied with another tiny human? He was already having so many tantrums back then from not being able to communicate, what would his tantrums be like if I was too busy to help him? He has loved his cousin since she was born, but she didn’t live with us and didn’t take up all my time. Yes, a child should learn to wait their turn, but that is a lot easier said than done with Eli. He’s better now, but back then waiting wasn’t really an option (without a tantrum in tow).

 

Now that we have a second baby in the making, I wanted to make sure Eli knew what happening so there were no surprises. He went with me to my first doctor appointment and he saw the baby on the ultrasound. Everything was pointed out to him, I told him where the baby was growing. He told everyone there was a baby in mommy’s tummy. When asked If the baby was a boy or a girl he would always answer It’s a boy. When we finally found out that the baby is in fact a girl, he didn’t take the news that well. No tantrums, but he still insisted it’s a boy. The doctor must be wrong… He is finally coming around to the idea of having a sister. All this interacting and interest with my pregnancy shows me that Eli was ready for this. He is old enough to understand what’s happening. He is also quite fond of my newest niece and loves babysitting. He likes to be near her and help take care of her. He will ask to hold her and if she is upset he will lean down and try to cheer her up with silly faces.

As far as our busy schedule goes, it will still be pretty busy for me. We both know what to expect when we make our move back to San Diego though and hopefully it won’t be too hard to fall back in to our old schedules. Plus, there’s only a short amount of time until Eli will start Kindergarten (stop, I’m not even ready to think about that yet). Another thought that crossed my mind is- what if this baby has delays like Eli’s? What if she is diagnosed with autism too? I don’t really have any fears about it. So, what if she does? I am more prepared and experienced that a lot of other people out there. I know exactly what to look for, I know what resources to get, I know exactly what my insurance will pay for, and all the hoops I will need to jump through. I’m already bringing one child to therapy all week, might as well just throw them both in there at the same time!

 

We couldn’t be more excited to bring another bundle into the world and for our little family the time is just right!

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Spring is here…. finally!

Spring is finally here. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and my son can finally play outside. After 3 months of being cooped up indoors with a hyper 4 year old I am beyond excited to throw some shoes on him and shove him in the backyard so I can watch the new keeping up with the kardashians in peace. 
With the new season comes a lot of new changes for us. Our schedules are becoming fuller by the week. I had to buy a new dry erase calendar just to keep myself organized. Aside from our normal speech/OT sessions I started part time work and Eli picked up 2 days of daycare a week. I also signed Eli up for soccer this summer. I am so nervous yet excited to see how Eli handles himself in a group sport. I figured soccer was our safest best. T-ball is too much standing around for a boy who’s constantly on the move. I think that getting him involved with as many kids as possible this summer is going to be so great for him. Like his mom and dad, Eli is a bit uncomfortable around people he doesn’t know and it does take him a bit to feel comfortable. (That’s what he gets for having introverts as parents!)

Our biggest change in schedule, however, is starting ABA therapy again. We had our initial evaluation a couple days ago and she would like to have Eli in 25 hours of (in home) therapy. Holy moley. Now that’s not set in stone yet because our insurance is the one who ultimately decides how many hours he can get. But having someone there working with Eli 5 days a week again is going to be great. I have our work station ready and waiting for our new therapist to arrive. 

Aside from our busy schedules, the spring season opens up so many more adventures and activities we can do. For Eli’s birthday we got a whole new batch of outdoor toys for him to use (soccer ball and net, water table, scooter, golf clubs, tball set). There is also a lot of places to go now that the cold and snow are gone. 

-Grandpa’s cabin on the lake


Tahquamenon Falls


Kitchitikipi


Mackinac Island


-camping


-Lake Superior/ Sand Dunes


The goal for the summer is to stay balanced. We have a lot of work on the schedule, but for every day of work, we reward ourselves with a day of play. I say this every year but, this may be our last summer here for a while so we might as well do as much as we can! 

Posted in family, Uncategorized

You have failed as a parent


I saw this photo on Facebook a few weeks back and it took a lot not to comment on it (I actually deleted the person who shared it so I didn’t have to see that negativity again). Saying that someone has failed as a parent for something so trivial as letting your child watch Mickey Mouse clubhouse at the dinner table is a far stretch. And often enough the people who are so quick to throw stones at others are ones who aren’t perfect themselves. So why do people feel the need to shame other parents for the way they raise their kids? Though it’s a flawed quality, everyone at some point is guilty of passing judgement; but having a thought/opinion about someone is a few steps short of publicly shaming someone/group of people. 
There are so many parenting topics that constantly come down to two groups shaming the other group for their choices. To be more specific, hot topics I see too often are: proper car seat installation, vaccination, breast/formula feeding, and so many more. I’m not here to give my opinion on each topic (although I’d be more than happy too!) I’m more concerned with how far some people go to get people to their side. In my experience people are usually set in their ways and opinions, starting a Facebook argument will not make them change their minds. But in the social media era where everything is put online to be judged, shared, disputed, or made fun of, it’s hard not to see daily Facebook arguments. (Ok, fine just one opinion. vaccines don’t cause autism and even if they do, as a parent of an ASD child, i would take autism over polio or measles any day of the week. That’s my only one!)

To get to the actual picture that sparked the interest in this post… I’m not sure if the person who created this means parents who let their children in front of tv/games/iPads/etc all day every day or if this just means if you have ever let your child take an iPad to the table you suck. I do believe children should be limited to amount of electronic time they’re given, but I also am I fan of electronics and believe they do help my son. He can sit on the computer and play abc mouse as long as he wants for all I care (he’ll lose interest before it becomes an issue anyway) but I’d rather have him playing educational games than play something that doesn’t help him in any way. Playing Mario kart helped Eli with his hand eye coordination, abc mouse website helped him with colors, his iPad has educational apps. Aside from what electronics do for him educationally, it keeps him occupied. Eli has a lot of issues eating and mealtimes can be a hassle. If I need to bring out an iPad to keep him at the table long enough to finish a plate of food, you bet your sweet ass I am. And when it comes to restaurants, a parent can’t win. If our children are hyper, running around, or throwing a tantrum we’re judged and stared at or even asked to leave. But according to this meme if we occupy our children with iPads so they are well behaved, we are crap parents who have failed at life. Not many children are perfect angels 100% of the time and can sit still, follow directions, and eat their meals silently. Most of the time my child refuses to eat and sneaks goldfish or dry cereal in lieu of a meal. I will use whatever means necessary to get my child to do certain tasks, as a parent sometimes you just gotta do what you have to do and that does NOT make you a bad parent. Between 3 types of therapies, constantly talking with companies and insurances, getting into schools and sports, attending IEP meetings, and personally getting my son to the same level as his peers, letting him watch Netflix while he eats white rice at the kitchen table doesn’t have an affect on my parenting. I have far from failed as a parent and whoever created that meme can kiss my imperfect behind. 💁🏼

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4 year check in 

Eli had his 4th birthday on Sunday. We did a party on Saturday and to keep it comfortable for him we just did a small lego themed party in the basement. Decided to keep it simple and let the kids play with whatever they wanted in leu of organized games (mainly because Eli, and I’m sure most of the kids there, has a short attention span for group games). The only activity we did was a piñata which was such a big hit I’m thinking of just getting some to tie to a tree branch this summer and send Eli loose on it. 
Since the party I’ve been reflecting on where Eli stands as a big and bad 4 year old. He’s still behind in some areas but in others he’s both in line with where he should be and ahead. At the moment the area I feel he needs a lot of work on is his attention span/hyperactivity. I am hesitant to get him into sports because I’m worried he won’t be able to wait his turn, sit still, follow rules, or listen to the coach. You don’t know until you try, but boy am I scared to try. When it comes to learning, he can play a game on his iPad for 30 minutes straight but getting him to sit down and work on flash cards or practice writing (with me) is next to impossible. I say with me because in preschool and even with his therapists he’s more inclined to do these things;but at home with just me he can’t concentrate. I’m sure some of that is maybe a disciple/authority issue. He will act out infront of mom more than he would a stranger or teacher. 


Despite not concentrating on sit down tasks, he is learning at an incredible rate. He knows all his colors, can count to 20, knows the alphabet and can speak in complete sentences. Eli is such a sponge. Once he broke that barrier of learning and talking he just took off. We’re reading educational books at bedtime, he’s playing learning games on his iPad, we’re doing more play dates to work on social skills. Although he’s been on a 3 month hiatus from ABA, the progress hasn’t slowed. 

​​​When we do finally get ABA started I would also like to work on Eli’s tantrums and potty training. Currently Eli pees on the potty (not on his own, only when I make him) but only poops in his diaper. Although his tantrums went way down after he started talking, they are still quite present. Whenever he is told no or to stop doing something, when he has to leave somewhere/someone leaves our house, and when he is frustrated, a tantrum arises. When we are home during a tantrum he runs screaming to his room and slams the door, if we are at a friends house he will fall on the floor crying and sometimes hit himself or other things. Once after a speech appointment he ran into the hallway crying and got on the elevator and told me that he was upset and leaving me there. 


It’s such a fun thing to watch your child transition from toddler to child. His personality is really shining. It’s so much more than just his likes and dislikes. Watching him do imaginative play, seeing his sense of humor, seeing his eyes light up when he is super excited. Eli is very happy, loud, and hyper but he balances it out by being very sensitive and loving. 


​There’s not a doubt in my that by Elis 5th birthday he will be ready for kindergarten and be able to function the same as all the other kids. 

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Social anxiety

Many of Eli’s behaviors are foreign to me, but there is one in particular that him and I have in common- social anxiety. Since starting ABA therapy, social interaction was one of the main areas of improvement. In this past year he has improved tremendously. He now calls everyone by their names, looks at those who are speaking, interacts well with others. Of course he doesn’t hit those on the head every single time- I’m sure no child is perfect with those at this age. But Eli has done amazing. The other day we went to a friends birthday party. Eli was asking about it for weeks because he was so excited. The whole drive to the party he wouldn’t stop talking about it, until we got to the party. He refused to go inside. There were between maybe 20-30 people inside (children and adults) and he sat in the hallway and wouldn’t go in. We had to bribe him with balloons. Once inside he didn’t want to participate in any games with the kids (except for the pinata) and chose to spend most of the party in the corner playing with balloons by himself. He loosened up a bit at the end but still mostly kept to himself. 
At first I thought- wow we need to start working on this when we get ABA back up and running to get him out of his shell. But then I thought to myself, what would I do if I walked up to a party where I only knew 1 person? I’m not an extrovert. I don’t enjoy conversations or games with people I don’t know. First day of class when you have to introduce yourself to the class would make me cringe through my skin. I tend to stick to myself. Not all of Elis insecurities may be related to his diagnosis, I’m sure a lot of them get passed down from his father and me. Not every issue with Eli is something we need to address in therapy. Each kid is built their own way and we shouldn’t try to change everything about them.  
Of course it would be great if Eli was able to be more outgoing and go with the flow. I know a lot of kids that are. It would be great if instead of seeing 20 strangers he just sees his one friend and a bunch of other kids having a great time and him wanting to join in. I’m hoping once he’s back in school he will become more outgoing. We may get there someday. But for now I’m fine with my shy boy who plays with balloons. 

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Losing structure

Eli really responds to structure. In his preschool class the whole day was planned out with picture schedules. He had in home therapy 4 days a week and center based therapy 2 days a week. He got up at the same time every morning, took a nap at the same time everyday, and went to bed around the same time every night. Keeping a schedule reduces tantrums with him because he can look at the picture schedule and know what’s coming next. If there is free time he can select what activity he wants to do. With this move I knew there would be a break in Elis therapies. Little did I know it was going to be a long break not just for therapy but for structure as well. Since moving back home I’ve been in vacation mode. Wake up when we want, be lazy, do whatever we feel like doing whenever we feel like doing it. Although this break hasn’t dampened his progress with speech and some areas of learning, it has brought up other issues. 


Eli has always been an emotional kid, he is very dramatic. He can give you the highest of highs and lowest of lows. One behavior I noticed that has started since moving back is wanting to hug when he senses he is in trouble. When asked to pick something up, stop doing something, get down, get up, use the bathroom- he immediately asks for a hug as if that will cancel out whatever he was supposed to do. When I reject his hug he turns the tables on me with a “how dare you not hug your son” tantrum. He’s good. 


Eli has always been very active but moving from a warm state to a cold state is a hard transition. Eli loves snow just as much as he loves the beach but there’s more work involved when wanting to play outside in the snow so we don’t do it a whole lot. Which leaves us indoors. Cabin fever does not look good on Eli. By the end of the day he is bouncing off the walls and I am just itching for spring so I can just throw his behind out in the backyard all day. But because of all this pent up energy, his listening skills are next to nothing. He does follow instructions when in a good mood. When he is too hyper or emotional it is nearly impossible to follow commands. This can be said for any child during the winter months I’m sure. But I like when Eli is in therapy because even when he is hyper, his therapists have their ways of making him listen. 


It’s not always his energy levels that causes his listening skills to diminish. It’s my authority. Because dad is gone, Eli (as all military children do, I assume) feels as though he can get away with more because mom is in charge. Dad yells deeper than mom, he spanks harder than mom, and is less likely to cave than mom. Mom is just a big old softy who lets me do whatever I want! He’s not completely wrong. Anybody got tips for this one?
Once we can get Aba up and running I feel like we will start to be like our old selves again. Especially because spring is just around the corner! But all this being said Eli is still one of the sweetest kids you’ll ever meet. He plays great with others, behaves (for the most part) around company, and his happiness is infectious.