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. 

Where the Sanity Ends (If Shel Silverstein was a stay-at-home-parent)

There is a place where the sanity ends
And before the silence begins,
And there the pillow is soft and white
And there remains of dinner burn crimson bright
And finally toddlers rest from their fight
To cry in their blankie-strewn beds.

Let us leave this kitchen where the smoke blows black
And the dark hallway winds and bends
Past the pits where the withering houseplants grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow
And watch where the muddy-brown handprints go
To the place where the sanity ends. 

Yes, we’ll walk with a walk that is heavy and slow
And we’ll go where the crayon-scribbled stick figures go
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sanity ends.

Hungry for Salad

You can’t make this stuff up.

Since our kids have a lot of food sensitivities, we have really drilled into them what they can and can’t eat. They know they are allergic to apples, strawberries, peaches, and a lot of other things. They also don’t cheat because they know how yucky those foods make them feel, especially Brother, age 3, who is also diabetic. So even though we went to my grandma’s for the long weekend, I wasn’t too worried about them eating things they shouldn’t. 

Then one night, I woke up because the dog was crying, and I mean freaking out, downstairs. I got out of bed, only to realize that Brother was up and playing with cars in the hallway. “Mommy, I have a dirty diaper.” He was soaked from his chest to his knees. I double-checked my phone, 3:30am, and woke up Hubby.
“I have to clean up Brother, I need you to go make the dog be quiet.” So he stumbled down the stairs in the pre-morning light. Meanwhile, I cleaned, dried, and re-diapered, re-dressed Brother, and replaced him in his bed. Then Hubby came back up the stairs. I knew immediately something was wrong, because his eyes were as big as saucers. 
“What did he eat?”
“The dog? Did he have an accident? I asked Gram not to give him treats…”
“Honey, go look at the kitchen. Now.” 

I don’t even remember going down the stairs, I must have flown. When I opened the kitchen door, I nearly fainted. This is what I saw:

Two paper plates full of spinach, and two blenders from a handmixer, sitting on the table.
Chicken broth all over the floor.
Banana peels everywhere, including the dog’s kennel.
Avacado peel and pit by the sink.
A lemon, stuffed into my Nalgene.
The diabetes kit, with multiple syringes, uncapped and bent.
Bottles of insulin laying on the counter.
An empty milk carton on the floor.
Baking soda everywhere.
An open box of organic bunny crackers.
Two very small pans on the stove.
Paper towels, like someone started to clean up.
One very sad and confused puppy.

Hubby brought Brother downstairs and I asked him, “How many bananas did you eat?”
“Five or six,” he says. “I was hungry, so I made me a salad!” Now my mind is racing because if he ate that many, and he obviously tried to give himself a shot, what if he broke a needle in himself, or what if he succeeded and gave himself too much? What if he gave the dog a shot? I checked his blood sugar, he had obviously not given himself an injection. I checked him and the dog everywhere for lumps or needle marks and didn’t find any.
“I tried to have a shot, but it kept bending.” Thank you, Lord.
Hubby and Gram cleaned up the mess while I called the doctor and counted bananas and administered insulin. I can only imagine the note in the file for that phone call.

Irresponsible mother lets diabetic preschooler wander the house at night, eat whatever he wants to. She called, virtually in hysterics.

 I slept in the doorway to his room until I was sure he was asleep. The next night we propped a book against the door and put a cowbell on top of it. When he opened the door, I knew immediately. 

Here’s what I learned from this adventure: 

He knows exactly what he can and can’t eat. 
He is way too smart for his own good.
He knows that when he eats, he has to get a shot.
I need to invest in a good motion detector for his bedroom door. 
I also need to impress on him the importance of waking up Mom when he needs something. 
I may feel like a failure, but apparently I have taught him to eat well, since he got up and made a salad instead of eating the cookies on the counter.

Being Beautiful

It happened again this morning. 

And when it did I spent several minutes contemplating the unfairness of motherhood and drudgery of housewifery, and the choices I made that brought me to this point of degeneration. 

Ok, that was before my coffee. A little caffine goes a long way toward boosting my mood.

What happened was this: I noticed my fingernails. 
I could show you a before and after picture of my nails, one from the day I got married and one from this morning, but it would only depress you. Once when we were going to a friend’s wedding I waited until 10 minutes before we were supposed to leave before I painted them, but in those ten minutes the baby had a blowout diaper and by the time we left my nails were ruined. It seems that no matter how often I wash my hands, there is always something under my nails, or if I paint them it’s always chipping. I tried the new Shellac manicure, the one touted to last 2 weeks, and within 2 days I had a chip. 
Noticing the nails led to noticing the bags under my eyes, wondering how long it had been since I went through my whole beauty routine, wondering how long it had been since I put cream on my face and plucked my eyebrows, wondering if my husband would notice, wondering if I had time to shower before the kids started telling me at the top of their lungs that they were awake…. Nope. Too late. 
It hasn’t always been this way, though. I used to be borderline obsessive about my appearance. In college I once declared a week-long makeup fast. I was going to give up makeup, simply for an experiment in self-dicipline. It lasted 2 days. I never, ever, left my dorm without a shower.  I wouldn’t even THINK of going anywhere in sweatpants or without fixing my hair. When we got married we spent 4 months in Japan, arguably the fashion capitol of the world. I picked up some fashion-forward habits from Husband’s cousins and aunts. When we got back to the states I got a job in a call center and was repeatedly told I was the best-dressed in the office. I loved it!

Then I got pregnant. 

I still did my nails and hair, but stretchy pants became not only acceptable, but eventually necessary. I actually ASKED my supervisor at work if I could wear them, and she looked at me like I was nuts. 
“Of course!” she exclaimed, “You’re pregnant!” So I wore them.
That was almost 4 years ago. 

I’m not sure when the shift came from “I must wear a full barrage of makeup or I am not human” to “makeup is for when I’m leaving the house or having people over” or even more recently, “makeup is for church and special occasions”. It helps that my husband has always encouraged me to go natural, he has always told me he prefers my face without makeup. But to me, I still look ‘unfinished’ without at least some eyeliner and mascara.
Of course, putting on mascara always reminds me that I need to go get my hair cut, because my bangs are now indistinguishable from my eyelashes. So I push them out of the way, and… YIKES! Maybe I should get my eyebrows waxed while I’m at the salon. 
Who is this woman looking back at me in the bathroom mirror? She has CROW’S FEET and STRETCH MARKS and… those aren’t just bags anymore, we have graduated to a full-fledged DUFFLE.  Not to mention zits. Who in the world is still getting zits at my age? 
I think I’m in a slump. Yeah, that’s it. When the kids start school I’ll have time to brush my hair and teeth again. Maybe go get my nails done. Maybe even *gasp* get a facial. 
But you know what? I was getting ready to make breakfast the other day, and I was already dressed so I was tying on my apron. It’s one of those frilly numbers that is more looks than function, but I love it and it keeps my clothes mostly clean. A sleepy little boy wandered into my kitchen and looked at me with bleary eyes, and a huge smile spread across his face and he said, “Oh, Mommy! You look BEEEEAUTYFULL!”
And in that moment, every single wrinkle, every single gray hair, every stretch mark, night without sleep, and day without makeup, every single thing I’ve given up or altered to be their mommy was totally and completely worth it. 

Twenty Signs you may have Toddlers!

Most people who have Toddlers have been diagnosed by a physician or a stick that you pee on, but some don’t know they have this seriously draining, but highly curable condition. So here are the top signs you may have Toddlers:

1. You find yourself humming the theme song from Winnie-The-Pooh as you clean the kitchen.
2. You’re talking to your friends and announce that you “have to go potty.” 
3. You know that Bob the Builder and his assistant, Wendy, were meant to be together. 
4. You say “put your pants back on” more than 5 times a day. 
5. You have stopped caring whether the clothes match, no matter who is wearing them. 
6. Naptime is the best time of day, second only to bedtime, because you actually get to sit down. 
7. You wait until they’re sleeping to go to the bathroom. 
8. Bodily fluids don’t even faze you anymore.
9. Silence makes your cheek twitch. 
10. You don’t drink, even though you really, really want to, until you’re sure they’re asleep. 
11. The only place to hide things is on top of the refrigerator, and even that is questionable.
12. Coffee is your main source of nutrients.
13. You regularly stop and take stock of your day, because you can’t remember when your last meal was. 
14. Finding a repeat babysitter is nigh on impossible. 
15. You know that Cheerios are a perfectly acceptable meal at any time of day. 
16. You have very strong feelings about Caillou. Like, “That kid needs a serious spanking.”
17. You have heard “Had it FIRST!” more than 10 times in the last 12 hours. 
18. You know it is totally worth all the effort you put in to raise these little humans. 
19. Going to the grocery store by yourself is like a vacation.
20. No matter how long you’ve been away, you’re always happy to come back to them and hear them squeal with delight that you’re home. 

If you think you may have toddlers, talk to your spouse, chances are he or she has them, too. Necessary treatment includes Time, Love, and lots of animal crackers. Condition generally runs its course in 3-8 years. 

*This blog is not meant to diagnose or treat anything except a frown. 

The Care and Keeping of Families: What I’ve learned so far

After 23 years of watching my mother grow a beautiful family, I think I’ve found her recipe for success.

Families require all your love and most of your time. Always make sure that all members are adequately clothed, but remember that matching is not a necessity. Food is very important to all members of the family, particularly those of the male persuasion between the ages of 10 and 30 years old. Without regular nutrient-rich feedings (regular being every 2 hours or so) some families can become irritable, hostile, and may resemble a grizzly bear in April. That being said, a 5-course-meal is not always necessary, most families benefit from the occasional pizza-and-soda night.

Play and work must be well-balanced, because without one the family drifts apart, and without the other the family falls apart. Use your own judgment in this area, you know your family best. Occasionally, let the work sit while you focus on play. Remember, families have approximately a 20-year span before the branches leave to start families of their own. Likewise, love and discipline must be mixed well before applied, because either one without the other is dangerous to the overall health of your family. Punishment should be used sparingly, and only when well-diluted in a mixture of love and affection.

Your primary focus in the care of your family should always be the roots, namely, Mom and Dad. It is impossible to give too much love, attention or respect in this area. You will also find that these particular nutrients, when applied to the roots, will spread throughout your entire family. Always make sure your roots have enough soil, time away is good. Crowded roots make for crabby roots, and if Momma Ain’t Happy Ain’t Nobody Happy. I recommend date nights applied directly to the roots at least twice a month. For single-root families, always make sure the root has time away from the branches occasionally, or the root will stress and the branches will wither.

(For details on how to start a family from the roots, you’re reading the wrong blog.)

Finally, water your family generously with prayer and encouragement. Make sure your family gets plenty of sunshine for the best disposition and health. And above all, like all beautiful and temporary things, enjoy your family!

To Know or Not To Know

Today we have our 2nd Trimester ultrasound, and the opportunity to find out our baby’s gender. Up until about a week ago I’ve been staunchly against spoiling the surprise, but I’ve recently started to cave. What if it’s a girl and I don’t have anything pink and frilly for her to wear home from the hospital??

I have one grandmother that’s firmly in each camp, one says God made babies’ rear ends come out last because He wanted to save the surprise for the very end, and the other says you can’t plan and buy gifts if you don’t find out early.

My mom says it’s up to me, and she won’t complain either way.

My sisters say I have no choice, they want to know now.

My dear sweet husband says that I have to decide by the time we get to the clinic, in 3 hours.

My son says, “There’s something going on and I know it, so I’m not going to nap and I’m going to eat everything in sight and cling to Mommy’s legs as she walks through the house.

My baby says “Mom, there’s just not enough room in here.”

I suppose in the big scheme of things 6 months either way won’t make a big difference.

I suppose Santa Claus could be real.

The Great Nursing Debate

I was reading today about a woman who wrote in to an online advice column. She said that her brother’s new wife, when meeting the family for the first time, breastfed her 5-year-old son from a previous relationship at the dinner table, explaining that he had “food allergies”.

Now, I know I’ll probably be put on La Leche League’s watch list for this blog. I might get booted from the Facebook group “The Leaky Boob”, disowned by EBF-ers everywhere, (That’s Exclusive Breast Feeders, for those of you not up on insta-speak) and maybe blacklisted by KellyMom. But I feel that we often hear about extremes on this issue, and someone needs to speak for moderation and middle ground.

I say, kudos to the columnist, who suggested that Sis talk to her brother about the issue. Then if nothing changes, head for the hills when Wifey Dearest whips one out. However, in the comments I was reading, people not only criticized Sis for butting in, but also the columnist for being unsupportive of breastfeeding!

Now please, please don’t misunderstand my annoyance. I breastfed Baby #1 for 9 months and hope to go even longer with Baby #2, despite the insistence of certain family members that rice cereal and formula is all a 5-month-old infant needs. I love breastfeeding, I love knowing that it’s good for my baby, and I love the bonding time it gives us. I am completely pro-breastfeeding.

That being said, breastfeeding a 5-year-old and breastfeeding at the dinner table with people you just met would each be inappropriate in and of itself. At five years old, there is no nutritional value in breast milk that a child cannot get from Soy, Almond, Goat, or Cow’s milk. Furthermore, a child that is nursed at the lunch table in Kindergarten is likely to have social problems and/or attachment disorders. In addition to all that, it’s weird.

Enough said.

Now about breastfeeding in public, ladies, I have three words for you: Cover, cover, COVER! That’s why they make those cute little wrap things! Yes, breastfeeding is natural and good. Yes, it’s sometimes necessary to find a bench and pop it out… NOW. No, breastfeeding is not something to be ashamed of. But do you really want that creepy old guy walking past to turn around and come back for another look? Or to sit down on the other end of the bench? Breasts are breasts no matter what they’re being used for, and there are many easy and stylish ways to cover. I wore a wide, cotton scarf almost anytime baby and I were going out. He didn’t get too hot, he didn’t get distracted, and I didn’t feel exposed. There is also a drape that baby snuggles right into that fastens over mom’s shoulder so your energetic nurser can’t pull it off. And of course, many department stores and other public places have lounges in the ladies’ room, complete with comfy couches and changing tables.

One more thing about nursing in public. If you must nurse at a restaurant, at Granny’s dinner table, or at the family reunion, do it tastefully. Uncle Joe may not be done eating, yet, and Auntie Jane may not want to field all those questions from her 10-year-old son. If you can, go in the family room or bedroom and find a quiet corner. Not out of shame, because breastfeeding is a beautiful and normal thing, but out of respect and modesty.

Breastfeeding can be a wonderful growing and bonding experience for the whole family, and is indisputably best for baby. But shocked in-laws are likely to become less supportive, not more. And support for moms is what we’re driving at here, right?

Mother Knows Best

Dear Mom,

I’ve been reading all those free parenting magazines that come in the mail. How on earth do they get my address, anyway? They’ve got suggestions for everything! How to get rid of  Cradle cap, (take a toothbrush to his head while washing his hair) how to bathe him, (to shower or not to shower?) when to give him solid food, (he’s very interested in my chocolate bar) and when and how to read to him. Did you know you’re supposed to start reading to a baby when they’re still in-utero? So I decided that late is better than never, and I got out my cute little copy of Mother Goose to read to my darling.

Have you ever tried to read to a 2-month-old baby?

The Owl and Pussycat went to sea

No, sweetheart, don’t eat the book.

in a beautiful pea-green boat

Oh, Baby! you spit up on Mr. Owl.

They took some honey and plenty of money

Wrapped up in a five-pound note.

Don’t cry, honey. Here’s your blankie.

The owl looked up to the stars above

Sweetie, don’t pull on that, you’ll….. tear it. Let mommy find some tape.

I think you get the picture.

The point is, everybody wants to get their two cents in on child-rearing. Parents, grandparents, in-laws, the pastor’s wife, magazines, books, websites, people at work, everyone knows the best way it should be done. It’s enough to drive a first-time mom crazy! And everybody’s standards are different. Who should you believe? The First Year says that breast milk can be stored for 5-6 days in the fridge, but Healthy Moms says 8-10. BabyCenter.com says babies that are held or ‘worn’ (in a baby carrier) tend to sleep too much and not develop as quickly. Dr. Sears says babies that are carried or worn constantly are happier and more well-adjusted. This book says schedule him, this book says don’t… There are too many opinions to wade through.

It’s taken me this long to realize that no matter who thinks what, I am the one who knows Jude better than anyone else. I am the one who hurts or benefits from his schedule or lack thereof. I am his mom and I will figure out or decide what is best for him. Reminiscent of Bernadette Peters, Mother really does know best. Too bad that nobody tells brand-new moms that.

A Day in the Life

For all those gals out there whose husbands come home from work and say, “This place is a train wreck, what did you do all day?”… Send them my way!

Honey, this is what I did today:

7:30am- Got up, fed the baby, changed his diaper. Did I eat breakfast? I think I ate breakfast…

8:00- Left baby with sister, went to the gym

9:00- Got back home, fed baby. Changed very nasty diaper, got sprayed in the process. Gathered up all clothing, bedding, and stuffed animals that got wet, put them in the laundry.

9:20- Called store to make sure they had the right filter for the heater.

9:25- Put baby swing in bathroom, put baby in swing. Got into shower.

9:30- Baby starts fussing, only one leg is shaved.

9:31- Fussing turns into wailing.

9:32- Rinsed hair, gave up on shaving. Proceeded to get dressed while holding whimpering infant.

9:45- Changed another dirty diaper. Put clothes on baby. Fed baby.

10:15- Put on makeup, brushed hair.

10:20- Gathered baby supplies, put baby in carseat.

10:21- Took baby out, changed diaper. Put him back. Frantically searched for cell phone.

10:30- Found phone in car, left to run errands with one earring in and hair still dripping.

1:00- Got back home, put away groceries.

1:10- Changed a third dirty diaper. Moved swing into kitchen. Put baby in swing.

1:20- Made lunch, sat down to eat and read a magazine. Baby launched Binky. Rinse and replace. Twice.

1:40- Washed dishes. Baby cried, put him in the baby carrier. He helped do dishes.

2:00- Fed baby.

2:20- Put him back in the swing. Wiped down countertops and sink. Put away about 3 million bottles and bottle accessories.

2:30- Changed dirty diaper #4.

2:45- Down for a nap. 15 minutes of Mom-time to blog.

Quotes of the day: “A baby is an inestimable blessing and bother.” -Mark Twain

“I can’t think why mothers love them. All babies do is leak at both ends.” -Douglas Feaver

Ever feel like the little critters run your life? Funny thing, though. As I put him down for his nap I had a moment of realization. Even with all the baby-centered activities in my day, I haven’t just sat and cuddled him today, except when he was eating! Sure, I lugged him around in his carseat through the store, and wore him in the baby carrier while I was doing chores, but I haven’t just sat down and talked to him and snuggled him yet today. Now, I don’t feel guilty enough to wake him up, even new moms aren’t that dumb. But when he does wake up, I don’t care what else needs to get done, I’m going to spend some quality time with my baby.

“No one ever said on their deathbed, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.'”
– Mary Kay (Ash)

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