My heart hurts

I feel such a deep sadness in my soul on a regular basis over Jack’s possible autism.  I carry around guilt that I somehow made it happen.  I worry, I obsess, I cry, I don’t eat, I grind my teeth.  I’ve been in a state of loneliness in a way.  I’ve tried to shut it out.  I’ve tried to shut down from my life in a way and escape.  I can feel myself hiding from it all.  I hide for a little while.  I shut it all out… then I’m more alone but nothing has changed.  Things are still the same.

Fighting back tears I’m going to be completely honest.

-When I ask Jack what he wants for Christmas and his reply is, “nothing,” my heart breaks.
-When he plays the same thing over and over again, never deviating from the play or adding to it…I feel anxious.
-When he has to cover his ears to say a simple hello to someone his own age– I beg for him to just “stop it” on the inside.
-Every time I make an excuse for him, telling others that he is “shy.” I feel guilty.
-I feel like… somehow, I am less than, because I am convinced I did this to him.
-I spend moments of each day thinking this can’t possibly be real.  I analyze every moment in the past 4 years.
-I feel immense guilt that I would ever feel let down by him or disappointed.  That I would hate autism so much when it could very likely be a major part of his life.
-What hurts the most is not being able to fix it for him.  I fix things, it is what I do.  I can’t fix this and it makes me feel like a failure.

I really needed to say those things.  Maybe saying them has changed your entire perception of me.  Maybe you think I’m a terrible mother and person.  I spend a lot of each day thinking the same thing.  I feel like it is important to say my truths though.  I feel like it is important to say that this is NOT easy, that I am SCARED and I am SAD and I am aching in several moments of every single day.  I am angry.  There were no signs of anything like this.  He was a typical baby.  I’m also mad because I was reassured time and time again by everyone that this was not autism.  His pediatrician felt like I was crazy for even thinking it.  Autism hurts.

Now that I’ve said these things you must know a few other things.

-My son is hilarious. He made his first pun at 2 years old.
-My son learned to tie is shoe at 4 years old and now goes around the classroom helping his peers tie their shoes.
-My son leaned over and whispered, “Good morning Claire” to his sister this morning and then kissed her on the lips.
-My son tells me often and out of nowhere that he loves me.
-My baby hugs me.
-My son is happy I am his mother and comforted in my arms.
-Every single day, despite the heartache that this possible diagnosis has brought, I feel SO blessed that I was chosen to be his mom.  I want him EXACTLY the way he is. (However, if I could take away some of his anxiety I would in a heartbeat.)

I have learned a multitude of things in the past 2 years.  I have grown, I have come to terms with a lot and I’ve realized that things rarely turn out the way you think or hope that they will.  I’m learning to go with the flow.

This will never be easy, but nothing worth something ever is.  He is everything, so the ups will feel much higher and the downs will feel heart wrenching…but he is worth it.  He is perfect.

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Let him be three.

Parenting is hard.  I think I’ve written that sentence more in this blog than any other sentence… but its true.  Kids are wild, they get sick, they are demanding, they don’t sleep, they throw tantrums, etc etc.  They’re tiny little terrors and completely worth every bit of crazy they put you through.  I love my own kids so much I can’t even attempt to describe it here.  They are my life.  However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that parenting them is difficult.  At my best, I feel like I’m only doing an okay job.  That feeling is worse when you’re approached by an outsider about their behavior.

Recently my son started his second year of preschool.  He was so excited to go back.  He loves school.  He comes home and tells us about his day and sings the song they teach him. Being that he enjoys it so much, I was pretty shocked when his teacher approached me one afternoon and asked, “does he always flap his hands?”  I was caught off guard and said “well, yeah.  He always has.  He mostly does it when he’s excited or running.”  She then continued on to ask me “does he have any other obsessive behaviors?”  I was becoming pretty irritated at this point.  She was asking me a ton of questions, in the presence of my child, with no context. Long story short, after only having my son in her class for one week… she had determined that something was wrong with him.  She was concerned about his “parallel playing, hand flapping, obsessive behavior of closing the bathroom door when other children were in there, not listening, etc.”  She recommended having a specialist come in to observe his behavior.

Being the overly paranoid, OCD, stress-case of a mother that I am, I cried all weekend.  I’d only ever seen my son as the perfect little 3 year old that he is.  His hand flapping, which I had noticed over the years, seemed pretty normal to me.  He is growing and learning so much every single day and absorbing everything.  Its a coping mechanism.  I equated it to my obsessive need to lick my lips the ENTIRE time I am shopping at Target.  I don’t know why it happens, but I know that it makes me feel better about being in a crowded store.  I’d noticed that my son is cautious.  I know that he takes a while to warm up.  He will talk to a kid after he gets to know them, in an environment that he feels comfortable.  No, I didn’t know that he slams the door every time a child goes to the bathroom… but I do know that we close the door when we go to relieve ourselves and well… most people do.  And of course he doesn’t listen.  He’s 3 years old.  He has been on this Earth for 3 years.  There is a whole lot left to learn.  He is a CHILD.

Despite knowing these things — I still found myself telling my son to put his hands by his side.  I told him not to flap his hands.  I tried to MAKE him talk to children… almost feeling depressed/irritated when he wouldn’t.  I wanted to scream.  In a few ignorant statements, this teacher caused me to go from seeing my son as a bright, beautiful, perfect little 3 year old to a child that was flawed, socially challenged, with a possible real problem.  I am not perfect.  I had a few moments of confusion and panic, but eventually I realized that I didn’t like the way I felt around my son anymore.  I was seeing his personality as a flaw rather than how I’d seen it just days before– which was unique and beautiful.  Nothing had changed with him.  His mannerisms and behaviors were still the same.  So why did I feel this way?  I was allowing someone’s  quick judgments to cloud my own judgment and perception.  I was allowing the joy I felt about and with my child to be taken.  I wasn’t going to allow it anymore.

Next week we will have a screening done for my son.   He will go to a “special school” to play and professionals will watch and judge him.  I will listen to what they have to say but I won’t take it to heart.  I know my child.  I know his personality.  I know he is cautious, a bit anxious, incredibly smart, hilarious, sweet and wild haha.  I know he has a one-track mind like his dad did at his age.  I know he has trouble approaching groups like I did.  I know that no matter what, I will help him, love him and cherish him every step of the way.

As for his teacher, and everyone else for that matter– I think its important to remember that kids should be kids. A 3 year old should be a 3 year old.  If they slam a door to get a reaction, this shouldn’t be immediately considered an obsessive behavior.  I encourage everyone to stop finding fault in others. I am not naïve to the fact that there are potential disorders that kids could have that need special attention.  However, there are also quirks and behaviors that are typical for a 3 year old.  We need to have common sense.  As for my child, no teacher should have determined that my son had special needs after only knowing him and having him in a classroom for 1 week.  If it turns out that he needs special attention, that’s fine.  But for now, he needs to be 3.  He needs to play, learn social norms, learn how to approach and talk to others.  He deserves the time and our patience to figure this world out.

(I wrote this 6 months ago.  My goal is to incorporate more posts from my previous blog into the blog I have now… –Now that I am coming to terms with many things involving my children and am willing to share them with those I know, and those I don’t.  I read this tonight and still stand by it 100 percent. 6 months later my son is still as wonderful and amazing as he was then.  He struggles with things… but don’t we all?  Also, I hear his teacher has retired- and future toddlers are better because of it. ha!)

Quick Tip Tuesday: Keep it real

My tip this (almost) Thursday… is to keep it real.  Weird right?  This isn’t really a tip is it?  Well, I’m not really in the mood for a tip.  Lately, I’ve been tired.  I’ve been really beaten down by life and things have just been hard.  I sat around tonight wondering what my tip could be this week and all I could really think about is how I’m feeling right now.  Specifically, how there is no tip that anyone can give me to make things easier necessarily.  So… I decided to just come to the blog with how I feel.  So… my tip is keeping it real.

If I’m being very real… rather than post a tip, I wanted to come here and tell you guys that I’m extra exhausted right now but I can’t do anything but obsessively clean my house.  (Wow! What a work in progress that is… I could work for a year and not be done most likely)  All I can think about is how I want to organize things or what needs to be cleaned next.  I don’t know why …but its the only thing I feel like I have control of at the moment.  I’m also sad for my husband… who is sad, obviously.  I’m sad when my son realizes each day that granddaddy is indeed still in heaven.  I’m stressed beyond belief… and I’m having trouble managing it.

Tonight, I texted my doctor to tell her that I couldn’t remember if I’d taken my medication, and feared I may have taken it twice.  Though I knew this would not be a problem, I compulsively had to text her.  And call the pharmacist.  And my mom.  And my husband.  This panic and paranoia landed me a 9 am trip to her office tomorrow morning.  When things feel out of control I start to spin out of control.  It is my reality.  I have dealt with it for many, many years.  Thankfully, I have amazing healthcare providers that can see it and know when to step in and check on things.

Overall, I think we’re doing a pretty damn good job of handling the absolute insanity that has come our way this year.  My kids are happy.  I get out of bed every morning.  We sometimes make it to story time.  We drive around… we talk, we play and we laugh.  So, even though I have very hard moments, I’m still happy and I’m still blessed.  And I’m not just writing that so that this happy mommy blog post has a happy little ending.  I mean it.  I’m lucky to have my kids, my husband, our home and so much love.

Maybe next week I’ll come at you with a new tip… a real one.  But for now, this is all I’ve got.  <3.

5 Fun Father’s Day gift ideas!


Father’s Day is coming up and that is a pretty important holiday in our house.  Let me tell you why– it is simple really.. my kids have the best dad!  They’re pretty lucky 🙂  I really want to make this Father’s Day special for him so I will have to get creative. I’ve kind of set the bar pretty high in years past.  I don’t know how to top some of our previous gifts.   This year, my husband has requested sleeping in- and I wholeheartedly believe he wants this more than anything ha … so maybe we’ll honor that and come up with something else too.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, here are 5 Father’s Day gift ideas my son and I worked on a few years back.  We were pretty proud of ourselves!  They were cute, cheap, creative and fun.  My husband loved them!  Share your own ideas in the comments, or if you use any of these ideas- share your photos!

Photo Shoot In Daddy’s Clothes

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I’m being told constantly that my son is a mini me of his dad.  I mean, he does look exactly like him.  I decided that for Father’s Day I would dress my son up in my husband’s clothes and do a quick photo shoot!  My son thought it was hilarious to wear daddy’s clothes and my husband loved the pictures!  He framed them and put them in his office.

Photo Collage

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My son and I ventured outside for some more photos but this time we used letter cutouts and made a picture collage for my husband!  Jack had so much fun posing with the letters and when put together they spelled daddy!  We got a cute frame for the photos and my husband still cherishes this sweet gift!

Shirt and Tie Cake

My son, Jack, loves any excuse for cake, so I believe this part of our project was his absolute favorite.  We baked a chocolate cake and decorated it with vanilla frosting!  We baked it in a rectangle pan so it would look like a shirt. (Thanks Pinterest!) We used m&m’s to make it look like the shirt had suspenders and a bow tie!  We got a little extra and used m&m’s with Jack’s face etched on them for the bow tie.  It added a personal touch and turned out SO cute.  To get your own personalized M&M’s you can visit the web site here: m&ms.  (Please excuse the poor quality of the photos! When I took the pics I didn’t know I’d be blogging about it 2 years later! hahah)

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Father’s Day Shirt

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This one was just for fun.  I took one of Jack’s shirts and wrote a message to my husband!  I then let him sit down at his art table and draw a picture for his dad while wearing the shirt.  It was cute and funny to see Jack making art for his dad while wearing a shirt wishing daddy a happy Father’s day!  My husband had a lot of photos from our Father’s Day Celebration!

Father’s Day ART/Coffee Mug

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Before I figured out that art isn’t really my son’s thing, we spent a lot of time doing it! ha.  I loved doing art projects with my little one.  Maybe one day he’ll grow to love it again, or maybe he’ll love other things more.  Thankfully, he had the patience to complete a few projects for his daddy!  The first thing we did was decorate a coffee mug.  My husband loves coffee!! We got this white mug on clearance at Target and got oil based sharpie markers! I applied “DAD” in tape to the mug and then let my son have at it!  When he was finished we put the mug in a COOL oven and let it heat up with the oven.  350 degrees for 30 minutes.   Let the mug stay in the oven for the entire process.  (Heating up and cooling down).  After a few hours apply acrylic sealing spray.  Even with the sealing spray I would still only hand wash your creation!  My husband really cherished this gift! He absolutely loved having a creation made just for him by our little one.

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If you have a lot of photos leftover and are looking for something to do with them, you can always create a photo collage as well.  This one kind of sat around the house for a while as we threw it together last minute– but it was fun to do.  With extra time and patience, we could have crafted it a bit better (ha!) but with a 2 year old, you take what you can get!  This could be fun for older kids that can write their own father’s day poem or cut out magazine images.  We used photos and scrapbook clippings.

I hope you got some fun ideas from our list.  Our Father’s Day a few years back was pretty epic.  We had a lot of fun with it.  Whether we decide to top this one this year, or just let daddy sleep in and give him extra cuddles, the important thing is acknowledging these holidays!  I think it can be easy to overlook these “hallmark” holidays, especially when life gets really busy… but I think they’re really important.  Like I said, my kids are so lucky to have the daddy they have!  He is so loving, funny, smart, sweet and he cherishes us.  We are so blessed.  This will be his first Father’s Day without his own father… and realizing that has made me appreciate these days more.  I wish we’d made bigger deals out of them in the past.  However you choose to celebrate your father will be perfect, as long as you choose to celebrate!

Happy Father’s Day everyone 🙂

 

Repost: 8 things to consider about preschool

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Recently I went through the difficult process of withdrawing my son from preschool.  There had been red flags all along but I told myself that I was being neurotic, over-protective and crazy.  I went against my gut.  I think that because I was a first time mom I didn’t trust myself.  Now, a year and a half after he started he is out of that awful preschool and I have gained a good bit of knowledge about the whole process.  I would like to share these *red flags* that you may notice with your own children.

Potty Training
Perhaps one of the first situations I found to be very strange was this preschool’s potty training policy.  When signing my son up for school I was told that the preschool would work with my son on potty training and that most kids were potty trained within a few months!  I was excited about this.  As the months went by he was no closer to our potty training goal, in fact, he was more removed from it.  It was concerning.  I decided to try to send him to school in underwear since Pull-ups were confusing (they are just diapers) and he was actually allergic.  I was told that he couldn’t come to school in underwear because it was a health hazard.  A health hazard?  I’m not sending him to school with violent diarrhea.  He wasn’t going to go poop on people.  Sigh.  I strongly believe that his hiccups with potty training (at almost 4 years old) are in large part due to the way potty training was handled at preschool.  Make sure the potty training policy is clear at the school that you choose.  Make sure the teachers and staff are willing to work with you and your son or daughter.   Make sure they are encouraging as potty training can be a very difficult time!

Closed for every (no good) reason.
I believe my son was not in school more than he was in it.  Every time I turned around the school was closed for some reason.  Mostly this was due to weather.  This is understandable… however, they would drag it out as much as possible.  They wanted to go by the local school system, which is generally a pretty good rule, except public school students HAVE to go to school and they live all over the county.  We pay for preschool.  Even this I can get behind I guess… but the early dismissals.  If the school system dismissed early (even for just an hour!) …preschool would close at lunch.  Same with delayed openings.  They didn’t even start until 9:45!  If the local school system delayed (they start at 7:30/8), preschool would delay the same amount of time.  I’m sorry but your start time IS a delay!! Who starts at 9:45?!  ::eye roll::  Make sure, when looking for a school, that the school wants to be open!  The staff should love what they do, and shouldn’t look for excuses to shut down for the day.

Won’t let you observe
Listen to me.  If you get nothing else from this, please understand that if a preschool denies your request to observe… or just ignores it- as if you didn’t even ask… GET OUT.  There is a reason they don’t want you in the school.  You should ALWAYS be able to observe your own child, especially if there are problems.

Change in behavior
If there is a change in behavior in your child the preschool could be to blame.  Sure, kids grow and change and they go through different spells and tantrums, but if things get worse and the teachers seem discouraged or even mean… there could be more going on than is easily noticed.  For my son, he was a great kid the first year.  I always got a great report.  When he went to the next class with a different teacher, he was criticized from the very beginning.  Each day resulted in more troubling behavior from both my son and the teacher.  Our little ones don’t always know how to tell us something is going on… sometimes we just have to read between the lines.

What your kids DO tell you
Every once in a while your kid will pop up with a statement that makes total sense.  I hear my son tell me all sorts of stuff in a day.  “Preschool was fine and good.”  “Gigi’s house is far away.”  “I’m going to poop out of my head.”  “My paci’s name is Harold.”  Some things make sense, others don’t make a whole lot of sense and its easy to just say “oh okay… great… sure… that’s awesome,” at the ramblings and go about your day.  However, every once in a while if you really talk to your kid and listen, they’ll say something that you can’t just ignore.  I asked my son, for example, if he liked his teacher and he told me that he did.  I asked if his teacher ever got mad at him and he said that she did… when I asked him why… he replied, “Because she is pissed.”  I don’t know if she said those words to him or not… but I know that he felt that anger and disappointment and that was enough for me.  If you ask your child a question and they reply with “things are fine,” “it is good,” “I like it,” — dig a little deeper.  See if you can ask your questions in a different way.  Sometimes the answers are worth the extra work.

Discipline
The way a school handles misbehavior is very telling.  The first time my son was scolded at school he was removed from the playground and had to spend the remainder of play time in the director’s office.  He was 2 years old.  He ran out of the gate during recess and wouldn’t come back after being asked to.  I found out later that he was taken into the director’s office where they shut the door and had a conversation with him.  I spoke up at the time and have no regrets about the fact that I informed them that they would NO longer be having any closed-door conversations with my 2 year old.  It is always inappropriate.  As time went on my son was removed from more activities.  He was taken out of chapel, music class.  Eventually he quit making art.  I was paying for him to be removed from situations constantly, rather than redirected.  When searching for a preschool, please pay attention to how the school handles discipline.

Too Chatty
When taking my son to school I would chat with the teachers in the mornings.  Usually this was harmless chit chat.  Other times, I was shocked at how much his teachers were willing to share.  I was told in casual conversation about a child’s custody situation.  I was told that his mother had problems, he had behavior problems and he lived with his grandparents.  I was told about several children’s specific situations.  I always thought this was a bit odd as it was not my business…but then I realized that my son was not immune to this gossip.  As I dropped my son off in the mornings I wondered what the parents knew about us.  I wondered if they knew that my son had been struggling in school… or that I struggled with mental illness issues.  I was horrified.  Things I’d told to them in confidence were possibly on display for the whole school to know.  A child or family’s personal business should be just that.. their personal business.  I am sad that these teachers treated these matters as gossip.

Sick kid policy
When taking my son to preschool I was terrified of all of the illnesses he would be exposed to.  I knew this was inevitable and trusted that the school would take proper precautions to make sure illnesses were contained to the best of their ability.  Of course, without fail, my son picked up many illnesses his first year.  He got throat infections, URI’s, stomach bugs, and even mono.  It seemed he was ALWAYS out with something.  It started to become unbelievable.  I got to where I panicked when I saw a kid with a runny nose.  I was very cautious with my son.  I kept him home extra days just to make sure that he was recovering well and not a threat to other children.  I felt guilty thinking that I could send him to school with an illness that could spread to other children and their little siblings! I realized that I was seeing more and more children at school with very runny noses that were lethargic with hacking coughs.  I wondered if the school was abiding by its own stated rules in the handbook.  One child seemed very ill and he was allowed to stay.  Sickness in preschool is inevitable, but there are proper precautions that a school can take. If the school isn’t following their own policies, call them out on it.

Of course there are more things to consider when thinking of taking your child out of a school or choosing the right school for them.  I think the most important thing that I wish I had done was trust my gut.  I knew early on that my son’s preschool was perhaps not the best fit… but I ignored it.  I told myself that I was paranoid and that no school would be the perfect fit.   I should have listened to myself.  Turns out, a “mother’s gut feeling,” is a real thing.  I think it is a God given gift to make sure your babies are safe, happy and healthy.  I pray that I can listen to it more and doubt myself less.

Previously posted on The Glimmer.