Help! My Friend has a Child with Special Needs!

There are so many rants and articles and blogs floating around today with a title like, ’20 things never to say to a new mother/single dad/parent of a large family/pitbull owner/diabetic/vaxxer/anti-vaxxer/breastfeeding mother… etc etc etc.’ And let me tell you, some of those are utterly warrented. Sometimes, especially on the internet, we engage our mouth (or keyboard) before we engage our brain. Or, to quote my dear, sweet grandmother, “That man just opens his mouth and stupid falls out!” 

Sometimes I open my mouth, and stupid falls out. Once I was introduced to a little girl and a dog at the same time. Their names were Savannah and Winter. I later addressed the little girl as Savannah… and much to my chagrin, discovered that was actually the dog’s name. (I’m all for unusual names, but c’mon, make it easy on the rest of us and give your dog a dog name. I would never have assumed the little girl’s name was “Fluffy”)

So we all have these verbal glitches, but one of the hardest things is when someone is in a situation that you yourself have never experienced. And I’m struck by the need for some friendly guidance because of the vast amount of misinformation there is on the internet and elsewhere about my child’s medical condition, so although some of these my be diabetes-specific, they really apply to any parent with a child needing above-average care. 

Don’t say: “What did you do to cause it?” or even worse, “You obviously caused it by doing ______.” 

Instead, if you must comment on cause, ask: “Do the doctors know why?”

Reason: We live, breathe, and sleep our child’s needs. It’s a 24/7 deal. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to tell somebody what’s going on. It’s NEVER nice to be blamed or guilted. Trust me, we’ve already been through anything we could have done differently in our head. 

Don’t say: “I couldn’t deal with that.”

Instead, say: “That must be so hard. Is there anything I can do to help?”

Reason: Well, duh, it’s hard. But if I don’t deal with it, (in my case, giving daily injections and/or glucose checks) my child dies. Don’t tell me you couldn’t, because if it was your kid, you would soldier through, just like me. 

Don’t say: “Your normal kids…”

There’s no “instead”. Just don’t. Seriously, my four-year-old has better manners than that. 

Don’t ask: “Can he/she do ______?”

Instead, ask: “Is there anything today that he/she shouldn’t participate in?”

Reason: We’re a little touchy about our kids. If we think someone is putting limits on them, we can get very defensive, very fast. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. We’ll try to let you know if there’s something they need to sit out, but more than anything, we and they just want to be normal. 

If you are comfortable with it, uask if the parent would like a break sometime. Offer to learn enough about the care to babysit for an hour or so. 

Offer to get together, and come to them. Especially with toddlers, disrupting the routine is even more explosive when there are higher needs involved. (Bonus points: Bring coffee)

Listen. Sometimes we are going to sound like a broken record. Sometimes that’s what our life feels like. 

Remember: They’re just kids. They need the same amount of love, respect, nurturing, and dicipline that other kids do, they just need a little more, besides. I’m not a better parent, or a worse parent, because my child needs little more attention. It just means I need a little more coffee. 

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Adventures in Bathtime

I don’t know about you, maybe yours is the kind of house where bathtime is a calming experience, the end of the day when little whirlwinds finally sit still for 10 minutes and you can sit still, too. Maybe yours is the kind of house where you put a few drops of lavender oil in the bath and the little angels settle right down in preparation for bedtime.

Mine isn’t.

First off, I can’t bathe my kids at the same time anymore, because as soon as I turn my attention to one, the other is either dumping water onto the floor or taking a bite out of the soap. 

Seriously. She ate the soap. Twice.

So what I have to do is strip and wash one before the other one realizes what’s going on, then power-dry and hope to goodness that the first one actually gets dressed like they’ve been told while I speed-wash the second one. 

Even back when I would bathe them at the same time, though, it went something like this:  
Bath is over and the water has all been sucked down the drain, much to the chagrin of my littles, and I take the Princess out of the tub, dry her off, and put a diaper on her. Then I send her into her room to find her pjs. 
Big brother is a little more adamant about staying in and shivering in the now-empty tub, so it takes a little longer to wrangle him out. Finally I’m victorious, and I proceed to dry him with what you would think was sandpaper from the howls. Pause here, and chase a squealing, buck-naked baby down the hallway. 
Finally, I get her wrestled back into her diaper, and come back to Brother, who by this time is busily caking $10-per-ounce, organic diaper cream all over his little boy parts.
I kneel down to wipe his hands, and other things, when he announces, “I went potty.” 
“Where?” 
“Right there.” and he points… right where I’m kneeling. Now the warm wetness is soaking through my favorite jeans. So much for going all day without having to change my clothes. 
I sigh, wipe him off, and put a pull-up on him. Just then, the nudist appears again, and off I run to diaper her for the third time in 10 minutes. For good measure, I find her pajamas (stuffed in between the couch cushions) and proceed to dress the little darling. Have you ever tried to dress an octopus that is still a little bit soapy? Let me tell you, Two-year-old dressing should be an Olympic sport. 

About this time, Daddy comes home. 

Remember, one child is still basically naked, one is wailing that I put the wrong pajamas on her (“I WANT THE CINDERELLY ONES!”) and there is water all over the bathroom and teeth marks in the soap. 

The man takes one look that encompasses the chaos, disheveled wife with cold urine seeping down the front of her pants, offspring in various states of undress, since Princess has decided to change her pj’s without consulting me, and house that looks like it saw a civil war, and without missing a beat he says, 

“Do you have any wine left?”

“Yes, why?”

“Oh, good. I was prepared to go back to town and get some, but I guess I don’t have to. Let’s get these kids in bed.”  

The Possibility of Polite Preschoolers

Recently my husband and I took our kids, ages 2 and 3, to lunch at a friend’s house. My children sat politely at the table, asked for what they wanted, thanked the host and hostess, and asked to be excused when they were finished. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not always like that. Sometimes they are holy terrors and I wonder what kind of precocious imps I’m raising, but on this occasion, as on many such, they behaved almost exactly the way I expected them to. 
People are frequently surprised at how polite my preschoolers are, and frankly, I’m surprised at their surprise. It really isn’t difficult to raise polite kids, it just takes a lot of determination. So here are my top tips for raising polite preschoolers:

#1: Let them know what’s expected

Kids need to know what you expect of them. Knowing their boundaries makes kids feel secure and loved. Pushing those boundaries is their way of asking how much you love them, and giving them the structure that they crave is one of the best things a parent can do. Make sure the rules are clear and simple, and the consequences of breaking them are the same each time. 

Johnny, you know that we don’t throw food on the floor. You also know that the consequence for throwing food is leaving the table, so you may be excused, now. 

(Remember, if they leave hungry once, they will probably remember it and decide it’s not worth it, next time.)

#2: Be consistent

Just as they need to know what is expected, they need to know that it is always expected. My kids, even at their young ages, know that it is always expected that they ask to be excused before leaving the table. They also know that if they don’t, I will always make them come all the way back and sit correctly in their chair and ask politely before excusing them, whether we are at home or not. 

#3: Insist they be polite and respectful

This used to be a no-brainer. Children spoke politely and respectfully to adults, and ideally, to each other. When my children are spoken to by an adult, any adult, if I’m with them they are required to answer. (Yes, we have had the ‘stranger danger’ talk, and they know that is a different situation.) We do not permit our children to hide or ignore adults when they are asked a question. I once watched a child ignore a (very resonable) request by an adult caregiver and hide her face in Mom’s leg, and to my shock, Mom excused the behavior instead of correcting it. Unfortunately, in this situation, Mom just set herself and this caregiver up to fail, because now the child thinks she can get away with rudeness and disobedience to adults and Mom doesn’t care. 
When we walk into church or the grocery store and our children are asked, “How are you, today?” they know they are supposed to answer, “Fine, thank you” if they can’t think of anything else. If they utterly refuse to be polite, they are removed from the situation, receive a reprimand or a time-out, and then are returned to the adult to try again. Don’t ever, ever let it slide.

I know that all these things are exhausting. I know that there are going to be times when we Just. Don’t. Feel. Like. It. But we’re raising little humans and it is so worth it to make them polite, productive members of society, and it absolutely must start when they are tiny, malleable humans instead of stubborn, teenage humans. 

Happy Chrismahanukwanzaaka! Why “happy holidays” isn’t a big deal

Ok, I’ve sat on this post for several years, now, but since it’s the beginning of November and the battle is already raging, I have to ask a question:

What the heck is wrong with saying “Happy Holidays”? 

The memes, the boycotting of stores who say the H word, the sermons, yes, I have heard them, all the “holiday” bashing makes me shake my head in complete and utter confusion. Ya’ll, nobody has “dibs” on December! By the way, Jesus wasn’t even born in December, but that’s neither here nor there. 

It’s called the “Holiday Season” because there are multiple holidays between October and January, and why in the world can’t I hope you enjoy all of them? There are four holidays that we as a family observe, and at least four more that we don’t. So what if they are attached to a specific religion or culture? That still doesn’t give you exclusive rights to any particular month/season. And if you’re still not convinced, let me tell you a little about the word “Holiday.” When you break it down, it’s easy to see the roots. The word literally means “holy day”. It means a break from the everyday, to celebrate something special or sacred. It was originally used for feast days throughout the year in addition to the three months we use (or condemn) it for now. 

Besides, no matter what you call it, isn’t the season all about love and, let’s face it, self-sacrifice? God sent His only Son to die for a world who ignores Him. Do you think, maybe, for a couple months, you could forget that you don’t agree with people who light menorahs? (Do you know why they light menorahs? They are remembering a miracle.) That you could show kindness instead of indignation to those who celebrate Kwanzaa? That you could, gasp, smile at Santa instead of raving at him about the consumerism of Christmas? Maybe you should try celebrating Three Kings’ Day, if you’re so upset about commercializing Jesus’ birthday. 

Now, I’m not saying “don’t say Merry Christmas.” What I’m saying is that, when the cashier who is working 65 hours a week until January 10th smiles at you and says “Happy Holidays!”, don’t scowl and stomp out the door, vowing never to return. Don’t correct them. Don’t complain, in person or on social media. 

Just smile. Reply whatever you feel like replying, but remember, it’s not a competition. Nobody gets a prize for naming their favorite holiday the most times or the most forcefully. 

Because, Charlie Brown, that’s not what Christmas is about. 

Growing in Love

This morning I was getting dressed while my husband sat at the computer in our bedroom, and I knew we had to have the conversation I had been working up to for days.
“Honey, I need to tell you something.” I could see him tense up, because those words rarely mean anything pleasant. “I love you,” at this point he turned away from the computer and looked at me warily.
“I love you deeply and devotedly, and I love that you bring me things like doughnuts and oreos and wine when you come home from work. It makes me feel very loved.” At this point he was trying to hold in his laughter as he watched me hop and dance around the room, trying to fit my behind into the jeans I bought the month after our honeymoon.
“But you have to stop,” I continued, “because my clothes don’t fit me anymore!” 
By now, there was no trying. He giggled, he snickered, he howled. I wiggled, I jumped, I danced, I squeezed. I shot him a death glare as I peeled them off and pulled stretch pants out of my drawer. 
Carbs are my weakness, and he knows it. Chocolate and wine are like kryptonite, I lose all strength and will-power when they’re around. If we’re going out as a family on Saturday morning, the first two stops are the local doughnut shop and the drive-through coffee shop. I love food. Good food. And drinks. 

*Over-Sharing Alert*

In college I spent almost a year living on as little food as I could manage. I saw hunger as a sign of self-discipline and spent hours obsessing about how little food I could eat, and congratulating myself every time my stomach growled. 
Of course, within a few months I was having trouble focusing in my classes, my skin was drying out, my hair was falling out, and my social life was suffering. 

Long story short, I got help and decided that was never going to happen to me again. So now I enjoy my food, and sometimes when my brain says “I shouldn’t eat that, think of the fat content!” my heart says “But I’ll enjoy it, and I’ll do some cardio later to make up for it.” And occasionally I actually do. (occasionally do the cardio. I always enjoy the food)

I have three beautiful sisters, none of whom have had kids yet. They all have smaller feet, smaller waists, and bigger… yeah, those things all girls want to be bigger. Even the fourteen year old. Family functions are a fiasco of self-image issues for me. 
But I’ve learned something recently about body image, and here it is: 

Little girls are born without self-image hangups. 

But if my daughter, who is in that “retaining everything, human sponge” phase, hears me say “I shouldn’t eat that, I’m too fat already” or “I just wish I could lose those last 5 (10) pounds” or “Uhg, this shirt shows off my arm flab/baby pooch/cellulite!” she is going to internalize that attitude toward her body. But if she sees her mommy living her life, loving her body, and enjoying both food AND excercise, she will internalize THAT instead, and that’s the attitude I want my little one to have. Not only that, but it’s also the attitude that I want my son to have toward women’s bodies. So the way I treat and talk about my body, excercise, and food is the way my kids will view their own and (hopefully) their spouses’ bodies, someday. 


Widened hips for perching babies,
Soft tummy for littles to lean on,
Strong legs for chasing Munchkins,
Squishy arms for comfy hugs. 

No more bikinis, but that’s ok,
My body’s for more important things
These days.

Tea, Earl Grey, Hot

Remember that Star Trek movie where the team is transported back in time, and they are running down the hall of a hospital and Bones, in exasperation with the outdated medicine, gives a woman on dialysis a pill that makes her grow a new kidney? 
That’s happening to us today.

Ok, maybe not that exactly, but pretty close.

Today, Brother is getting fitted with his new insulin pump. In two weeks, he’ll be fitted with a CGM, that’s Continual Glucose Monitor, that talks to the pump. After over a year of injections 3-6 times a day, my 3-year-old is getting what is basically an artificial pancreas. If his blood sugar gets too low overnight, the sensor will tell the pump to turn itself off. If it gets too high, it will signal me that something may be wrong with the tubing. 

I feel like the universe has opened up in front of me; my continuing mission: to boldly go where no mom has gone before. 

Ok, lots of moms have gone there, I guess, but it’s all brand-new to me. 

For us, this means not being afraid of church or birthday parties, eating when we want, not always on a strict schedule, fewer dosing errors, less stress, more sleep…
In short, this little piece of cutting edge technology allows our whole family to 

Live Long and Prosper.

Family Pressure

As the baby explosion on my Facebook feed reaches epidemic proportions, I can’t help but wonder what was going on nine months ago. Then I remember the unexpected January/February snowstorms we had and, like a teenage boy, I have to snicker to myself a little. 
But all these newborn pictures make me a little reminicent, they make me sniffle a little at how big my own babies are getting. 
Then I think about those first few months, and I smile to myself because this summer my baby stopped wearing diapers. We also took our first vacation without baby gates, pack ‘n plays, sippy cups, or enough baby wipes to pave I-5. Hubby was so amazed at how “empty” the truck was, he thought I had forgotten something. 
Some days I wonder if the kids are to the point where it would be easier to have another baby. I think they lull me into complacency to make the ambush all that more memorable. Maybe they’ve been taking pointers from Honest Toddler, because yesterday they definitely did all they could to prevent ISD: Infant Sibling Disease. In fact, instead of considering a new baby, now I’m considering finding a new grocery store. Maybe in a different town. 
I guess I carry a little bit of guilt because, having four siblings myself and being surrounded by large families all my life, I feel like maybe I copped out a little bit by only having two kids. Like maybe I took the easier, “fewer blessings” route. I know multiple people who have “Duggar-esque” experiences and viewpoints, and maybe I feel a little bit inadequate and, dare I say, shallow for only having two kids to pick up from Sunday School, only two carseats, only two booster seats at the table. In short, I think I feel like I cheated by stopping at as many kids as I have arms, or even by stopping before my OB told me I had to. And I have to wonder how many others from large families and/or conservative backgrounds carry that kind of guilt? Or maybe it’s just me. But I think that there is a lot of societal pressure to have a certain type of family, and the pressure to have a large family can be as overwhelming as the pressure to have a small one. 
Perhaps the lesson here is just to feel comfortable in my own skin, or family, because there’s always going to be someone with different ideas and their opinions can’t dictate how I view my kids, family, marriage, or decisions. Whether I’m actually being judged or not is unimportant, because no one is responsible for my kids or marriage except me (and Hubby, of course, but hopefully those decisions are made jointly). 
Guilt is a powerful motivator, but self-confidence is better. So if you’re feeling pressure to have more kids (or kids, period) use my three-step plan for instant family satisfaction:  

Step 1: Recognize my misplaced guilt
Step 2: Let go of the expectations I feel others put on me (founded or unfounded)
Step 3: Enjoy my family exactly the way it is, embarrassing grocery store incidents not-withstanding

Recharge Challenge

Remember how I talked about having nice nails a while back? Or rather, not having nice nails? Well, after talking to Hubby about it, I decided to find a style and salon that worked for me, and keep fake nails.
Let me be clear, I view well-kept-up false nails as an extravagance, and we do not live extravagantly. That said, though, I’m learning that if I completely ignore my own needs I end up frustrated, irritable, and absolutely no fun to be around. On the flip side, just a simple thing like nice nails that don’t break or chip has made such a big difference in the way I feel about myself, I’m more relaxed, which makes me a better mom and wife.
It’s so easy to get burnt out in what we do, especially if we do the same thing over and over again, both individually and as a couple. Finding something to treat ourselves to can be the best way to break up the monotony of the daily grind. For me, I take an hour and a half every few weeks and get pretty nails. That break from the kids, and boost to my appearance is exactly what I need to recharge and reenter the fray with renewed endurance.

So here’s the challenge I have for you:

Find something that you can do for yourself that will help you be more refreshed and ready to fulfill the job God has you in right this minute. And I know some of you are saying, “Well you won’t catch me wasting money on vanity like false nails!” Awesome! If you don’t think there’s merit in it, find something that does have merit. Take a class, get a hobby, commit to reading one book a month, whatever it is that recharges you, do it! Take into account your budget, your childcare needs, and your spouse and their feelings. Perhaps you can ask your spouse for ideas, maybe there’s something you could do together, like joining a gym. I’m an introvert and I spend 90% of my time doing things for and/or with my family (not a complaint, just a statement of fact) so I needed something that I can do by myself. Maybe you need something you can do with your family. Whatever it is, find it and commit to it! Trust me, you won’t be sorry. image

The Sound of Ultimate Suffering

A peircing scream wafts down the hallway in the half-light of the pre-coffee haze. 

image

All she’s supposed to be doing is putting clothes on. Brother is in here, it’s not a repeat of the WWE incident last night. Maybe her head is stuck in the dresser again. 

I run down the hallway and burst into the playroom, only to be greeted by the sight of my daughter, standing in the middle of the room wearing a pink peasant top and Buzz Lightyear underwear, wailing like her little heart will break. 

No visible injuries. Not stuck in anything. Shirt fits fine. What the bleep? I need coffee.

“What’s wrong, Baby Girl?” 

(Deep breath) “Dis dress is not beeeyutiful!”

My turn for a deep breath. Ok, physically fine, emotionally fragile. Confidence boosting moment. C’mon, Mom, do your stuff. Make sure she doesn’t inherit your body image issues. 

“Sweetie, this is a shirt, not a dress, (Bad start! Bad start! Aack!) you need some pants with it.”

“Sniff! Ok.”

Really? That’s all I had to say? Better address the beauty issue, quick before she forgets!

“I think your shirt is very nice, but you know what makes it beautiful? The beautiful little girl inside it!”

(Big smile) “Ok, Mommy. Can I go play, now?”

Whew! Wow. That was… not completely botched. Maybe I’m getting the hang of this, after all. 

For the Dogs

I’ve never been a dog person. I’ve had cats since I was big enough to ask for one, and ever since I was bitten by a dog as a child, I’ve just not wanted much to do with them. So when my son turned three and started asking for a dog, I groaned inwardly. Then we had a very scary incident where Hubby was gone for the week and some crazy tweaker came to our house in the dead of night, screaming that someone had been shot and banging on the door and trying to get in. Now, mind you, we live in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by Christmas tree farms and grass seed fields. Our neighbors never heard a thing, even once the police showed up with sirens blazing. So we decided we needed a guard dog, like, yesterday.

When I saw an ad on craigslist for a “Purebred Boxer Puppy”, I was thrilled. Hubby wanted a doberman, and I just wasn’t sold on the idea. I showed him image after image on google, finally convincing him that boxers are just as intimidating as dobies, and arranged to meet the pup. What I saw was a half-starved, boxer-shaped bundle of bones and wagging tail, and there was no other option than to bring him home with us. It didn’t even occur to me to question his lineage. We named him Kuma (Japanese for Bear) in anticipation of his hulking size and protective demeanor. 

Then he got wider, but not taller. 

On his first trip to the vet, the doc took one look at him and asked, 

“What kind of a dog is that?”

Lovely. 

After some discussion and inspection, she announced that he may have some boxer in him, but if he did, the other half was probably daschound. 

Seriously?

So, despite his questionable heritage (hey, we’re a mixed-race family, who are we to judge?) and jokes about his parentage (he’s typically referred to as a “boxund” or “Boxer-weenie”) Kuma settled in as a permanent, if not particularly useful, member of the family. 

Until last night.

Last night around 11 he was pacing up and down the hallway like mad, whining, and driving me nuts, and he kept opening the door to the kids’ room. I was about to kick him outside. Then, as I was laying in bed, trying to ignore him, it hit me that I had forgotten to check Big Brother’s blood sugar before I went to bed. 

“Oh well, I guess maybe the dog is good for something.” I grumbled as I stumbled through the darkened house.

My son’s blood sugar was so low that if I had just fallen asleep and left him til morning, we most likely would have had to take him to the ER. 

I’m telling you, THE DOG KNEW! As soon as I got some food in Big Brother and his blood sugar started to go back up, Kuma settled down and went to sleep… right outside the bedroom door. 

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