What’s food got to do with it?

We’ve had issues with our son, the Monkey pretty much since birth. As he’s gotten older his behavior seems to be getting worse in certain areas. After several visits with the psychologist and months of waiting, we finally received the full report. She diagnosed him with mild autism and mild to moderate ADHD. Neither of which surprised us. Over the course of about a year, I’ve tried various “natural” things to try and curb his behavior and hyperactivity. I took him off artificial dyes and really wasn’t 100% convinced that it made much of a difference so I didn’t really think much about it when Daddy let him have candy. Sugar laden, brightly dyed candy. When naptime came around he barely slept for an hour, after which he just became crazed. It was then that I realized once and for all that I needed to ban surgary, dyed candy from the house. So here I am back to making most of our foods from scratch. It’s honestly difficult to really see the difference until you take away the positives, then it all falls apart. Both of the kids, or should I say all three including my husband, get it in their systems and they just can’t stop. They beg and beg for it then cry when I tell them no. Which tells me that our original reason for starting all of this in the first place, the Monkey, is not the only reason to continue what I had been doing. Yes, it’s time consuming, but it’s really a small price to pay for the health and well-being of our family. I was quite domestic today and made homemade pear juice, mostly for the Peacock’s sake since she’s had some GI issues. But I must say, it turned out quite tasty. Much better than the bottled crap you can buy. Knowing that the Monkey would want a snack before bed, I pulled out a mommy trick and made some healthy peanut butter cookies. The original recipe came from here: http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2007/11/03/gone-to-the-dogs/ and they’re labeled as dog biscuits. Wait. What? You fed your family dog biscuits??? Yes. Yes, I did. And you know what? They loved them! I did tweak it a bit to make them more “human friendly”. So here’s my version:

1 Cup peanut butter
1 Cup milk (I used almond milk)
2 Cups flour (I used 1 C whole wheat and 1 cup white)
1/4 Cup honey (local if you can get it)
1 Tbsp baking powder

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. In another bowl mix the peanut butter and milk. Then combine the mixtures and add the honey. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.

The original recipe had you roll out the dough, blah, blah, blah. My family doesn’t care what shape they are. I just used a small scoop and then lightly flattened them with a glass. I think next time I’ll add some chocolate chips.

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So this is my life now…

Therapy appointments, evals, paperwork. When the Monkey was evaluated and diagnosed with SPD, I assumed that was it. We were done. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was only the beginning. We have occupational therapy and speech therapy once a week. Yesterday he was officially diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. We’ve suspected it for a while, but I had hoped we were wrong. Unfortunately the evals do not end here. We have another appt in a couple of weeks to complete the rest of the tests and get an official report. The psychologist also wants to do an IQ test on him because he is so intelligent. So this is pretty much my life. Not what I expected when we had kids by any means, but here we are. I spent most of my morning today on the verge of tears.

This week the Monkey went to a day camp for special needs children and had a blast. Today was the last day and he did not want to leave. Had a slight meltdown because he wanted to stay and play. I told him he could go back another day and he was happy with that. It was a very small group of kids which is good for him, and the people that work there are experienced with autistic kids so they are sensitive to their needs.

Today I was listening to the song “Fix You” and almost started to cry. I love my children with all my being. They are my world and all I want for them is the best. This latest diagnosis does not make me think less of my son. It helps me understand him more. God entrusted me with his care for a reason. I have no idea why He thought I was the best person for the job, but He did and I take that job very seriously. I’m going to pursue my plans to homeschool so that he can flourish and reach his full potential. Along with that I will supplement with whatever he needs for those same reasons. I honestly do not understand why God has given me this daunting task. My Monkey is really special so apparently God thinks I’m pretty special too so at this point all I can do is praise Him and trust that he will provide me with what I need so that I can provide my son with what he needs. I never imagined that I could find beauty in a special needs child, but I have. He is the most amazing little boy a mother could ever ask for.

Blessings and baby steps

Seems like it’s been forever since my last post. In all honesty I’ve been too tired and worn out to even think about writing. The monkey finally had his speech eval and to say it did not go well would be an under statement. It was downright awful. Turns out he has severe language delays. This is on top of the stuttering. *sigh* He also has severe ADHD, which is what everyone who encounters him says so that’s not new. We’re waiting for the full eval to come back from the speech therapist so he can start speech therapy. He has an appt with the pediatrician to get a full hearing test done and to get a referal to get a full eval for possible aspergers/autism. Part of me wouldn’t really be surprised if he is on the spectrum, but part of me will still be devastated.

Seems like lately the meltdowns have been worse and more frequent. We are still making dietary changes and have identified a few trigger foods, one of them being tomatoes. I thought this would make having foods like pizza and spaghetti impossible unless I used a cream sauce or something instead. But some brilliant person came up with a subsitute sauce made with carrots and pomegranate juice. I bought the carrots and put them in the fridge and there they sat. I was nervous about making this new sauce. I thought it would taste weird and there was no way I would be able to fool my family with this. I finally worked up the nerve to make it. Boy was I surprised! My whole famly loved it and the monkey asked for seconds!! Even I was impressed. It wasn’t until the next day that I told my husband what was in it. Pretty amazing if you ask me. I got the original recipe here: http://momandtheminister.com/2012/02/17/story-of-the-un-tomato-sauce/. I made a few adjustments and there you have it. Here is my version.

Un-tomato sauce

2 lbs. freh organic carrots

1 C vegetable stock

1 C pomegranate juice

2 T lemon Juice

salt to taste

1/2 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove garlic

2 tsp italian seasoning  

1 tsp sugar or 1 packet Stevia

Peel and cut carrots into chunks. Put carrots and all other ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer until carrots are well cooked. Pour ingredients into blender and run until well blended and smooth. Transfer to jars and refrigerate until needed.

 

I let mine sit for two days in the fridge then I added 1 lb. of ground beef. The color is a bit off from regular tomato sauce but if you don’t look at it too hard you really can’t tell the difference.

growth spurts make me crazy

Growth spurts are usually fairly innocuous. Unless you’re my monkey. Growth spurts, teething, and anything else out of the norm has always sent him into a tizzy. This latest growth spurt was no different. I didn’t even realize that it was causing some of the regression until this morning when I put his pants on him and the waist was too big. I’m still new to this whole world of special needs and still trying to navigate around so a growth spurt was the farthest thing from my mind. It’s not the whole cause, but it made things that much worse. Hopefully next time I’ll remember the next time we have a string of awful days and I just want to pull my hair out, that it might just be a growth spurt.

I’m slowly changing our lives to follow the Feingold Diet. It’s been a journey all its own for sure. I wasn’t even sure if the few changes that I had made were even doing any good so I slacked off. Big. Epic. Mistake. It sent our entire family into a whirlwind from our monkey’s reaction. So we’re back to “normal” and I’m hitting the Feingold hard from now on. If anything it’s made me hopeful knowing that it’s actually doing some good. We’ve also started a very small dose of melatonin at bedtime and some caffeine during the day. It’s honestly like having a whole new child. He sleeps amazingly and he’s much more focused and actually listens. We’ve had two days of fabulous behavior. I’m hoping to be able to start more school type activities in the next couple of weeks. He’s not perfect, but no kid is. However, when I talk to him I feel like he’s better able to listen.

On a similar note, he’s finally got an eval scheduled with the speech therapist next week. I’m oddly excited about it. I guess because I’m hoping that she can help him and us. Thankfully though, I think the melatonin is helping to calm his anxiety so his stuttering isn’t quite as bad. It is still there and he still needs some help overcoming it and we need help as his parents to help him.

Moving forward

This week marked the first week of true normalcy, or at least normal as our family knows it. My husband hasn’t been cleared to drive, and for the most part I’m OK with that. It’s slightly inconvenient but I deal. He is at least back at work full time which gives the kids and I more of a sense of having our routine back. Kids thrive on that sort of thing, and quite frankly so do I. Our son is especially sensitive to routine disruptions and I have had to learn to be more respectful of that. It does make life a bit more difficult but again, I deal.

Through all of this, the one thing that has remained consistent is our son’s therapy attendance. Today’s session was actually quite reassuring. The words “autism” and “asperger’s” had been tossed around a bit in reference to our son. Those are hard words for a parent to take. It conjures up all sorts of thoughts and emotions. No parent wants that for their child. However, in talking with his OT this morning she’s pretty convinced that we’re not looking at that as a diagnosis on top of his SPD. She did affirm what we as his parents and everyone else who comes in contact with him suspected all along: ADHD. Nothing new. I am relieved that we’re not looking at ASD. I only wish SPD were recognized by the state. I’m not one to seek out government assistance, but he is requiring more therapy and at $20 per session per week, it’s getting pricey. Once we add the speech therapist, that’s yet another expense.

Speaking of (no pun intended)… He’s still on the waiting list for the speech therapist. I’m anxious for him to start because it’s frustrating for everyone involved. He reaches a certain point in his speech development and stalls. He’s been stuttering for quite some time and is now not only progressing, but he’s actually regressing. Telling him he’s a big boy and that he doesn’t have to talk like his baby sister does no good. I’m at a complete loss as to what to do. Every therapist says the same thing “encourage him to be a big boy.” That might work for most kids, but not for ours. He has trouble communicating and gets frustrated, and then we get frustrated and it just cycles. He’s always had communication issues, and as his mother I was worried about it, but everyone including the pediatrician said “he’ll be fine” or “he’ll grow out of it.” Well, he hasn’t and in fact it’s gotten worse. Certain people in our lives are still in denial about his issues, and in some way seem to blame me for them. I can’t do anything about that. All I can do is move forward and do what I feel is best for my son. It’s much better to take care of it now at 3 1/2 than to wait. That would just make the road ahead that much harder. For now, I just feel stuck until he gets in with the speech therapist.

Created for happiness… but maybe not.

There’s a lot of stuff going around these days conveying the message, “Do what makes you happy.” Sounds great at first glance, but dig deeper. Lately I’ve been soul searching and trying to connect with God more. I’d like to say it hasn’t been without its share of pain, but alas I cannot. One of the things that people tend to struggle with the most in life is finding their purpose. I know it’s something I’ve struggled with off and on over the years. What I have learned in this quest for purpose is this: your purpose can change with your life. When I was younger, my purpose was to go to school, get good grades, etc. Now my purpose is much different. My purpose now is to be a mother and guide my children by example to the best of my ability. The struggles that come with parenthood are plenty. It’s our approach that dictates survival. Of course some days are just getting from nap to bedtime without incident. For the most part this is accomplished, but there are those days when everyone is out of sorts and in all honesty, bedtime is best for all involved. Then are days when I’m truly blissfully happy. The kids are getting along and we’re laughing and playing together. Those are the days when I wonder if I truly deserve this amazing “job” of motherhood. Then I realize that those days are the rewards in between the tough days, the busy days, and the downright everyone is cranky days. Let’s face it, if everyday was bliss we wouldn’t appreciate those days nearly as much, if at all. I try to look at everyday as a fresh start. I have a certain ideality for my life and goal for myself which I rarely fully meet. I think, “Today I’m going to have more patience.” Next thing you know, I step on a Lego that I asked my son ten times to put away and it’s all over. I have failed. On the upside, I get to try again tomorrow. The good news is that children do not know anything different than unconditional love and by morning they will have forgotten how you yelled at them for not picking up their toys and you are once again Mother of the Year in their eyes.

I say all of this, not to make myself look good but rather to express the amazingness of life as a mother. Everyday I have to make decisions, both big and small that affect my children and thus, our family. Unfortunately those decisions are not always met with the support and/or understanding from those outside our nuclear family that we would like or expect. So how do we deal with those who disagree with us? Human instinct is to run the other way because that’s what makes us happy. If we look at the situation Biblically, Jesus did not preach about happiness, but rather tolerance and love. Nowhere does it say that loving others and doing the right thing would make us happy. So just exactly what were we created for? Is it happiness? I don’t think so. Originally perhaps, but then there’s that incident with the fruit and suddenly life took a completely different turn. No longer were Adam and Eve blissfully ignorant shall we say. The blinders were off and where there was harmony and contentment there is now discord and disconnect. Even childbirth was made painful! (And let me tell you, painful does not even begin!) I’ve seen people who have done nothing but things that were supposed to make them “happy” and they are the most bitter, cynical people you will ever come across. Living for yourself and your own happiness only makes you selfish. When you get married, you do things for your spouse to make them happy because in a healthy relationship, seeing them happy makes you happy. Same as doing things for your children. You don’t always want to read the same book for the 50 millionth time, but that look of glee on your child’s face makes it all worth it. We were created to serve and to love, not to please ourselves and make ourselves happy.

Day 1 of normal

My husband finally went back to work today. The dr approved him to go back half days for two weeks, then 6 hours, and finally full time. I’ve been waiting for this for about two months, albeit selfishly. Even though I had to get up super early and drag the kids out of their warm, cozy beds to take him the day ended up being pretty good. When we got home after taking Daddy to work, we all went back to bed. I went in to wake up our son when it was time to get ready to pick Daddy up and he was snoring like an old man! If anything through all this, I have been shown more appreciation by my husband. I’ve had to step up and take care of things I never thought I’d have to. I’ve had to be his health/medical advocate, which has at times been stressful. I still gather all his meds every night for the next morning, and will continue to do so for as long as I need to. The downside is that I haven’t been taking very good care of myself, which is bad I know. Hopefully now I can get back to taking my own meds and working on losing weight like I’m supposed to. I think we’re all happier with having our lives back for the most part.

That not-so-Christmasy feeling

I usually love this time of year. I love the entire Christmas season. The parties, the goodies, the lights and decorations, and of course all the bling. This year is different. To sum it up I’m just not feeling it. In all honesty I wish I could hibernate until after New Year’s. The last 6 months have been simply awful, and no matter how hard I try I just don’t have the energy to really care about Christmas this year. I kind of feel like I’m being dragged along by the rest of my family to this and that. If it weren’t for the kids I would probably just try to ignore it. When John had his surgery I thought that would solve the problems with the seizures. The day I brought my husband home, I should have been happy. Instead, I was terrified. I brought him home and his mood was terrible. He just wanted everyone to leave him alone so that’s pretty much what I did for that week. He spent nearly all of his time in bed away from everyone, and I took over everything. I took out the trash, cleaned up, did all the laundry, paid the bills, and took care of the kids. All with very little help. I tried my best to stay positive for the kids and thought it would save my own sanity. Finding positives, even small ones was the only thing I had to cling to at the time. By the end of the week I didn’t even want to be home. It was less stressful for myself and the kids if we just went out. Through all of this I was on the phone with the dr’s office literally every other day telling them something wasn’t right. I had been doing my best to lean on God and keep telling myself that everything would be fine eventually. I took on my new role dutifully and mostly without complaining. After all, brain surgery i pretty major and the recovery is slow and long.

Exactly one week after he came home I woke up about 7:30 AM to find my husband having a seizure. I immediately called the dr to find out what to do. They told me if he had another one I needed to bring him back to the hospital right away. Sure enough, a little while after the first one ended he had another one. I called 911 and called my parents to have them come over as soon as possible to watch the kids. My neighbor across the street was getting ready to take her kids somewhere, but she came over when she saw my husband being loaded into the ambulance. She hugged me as I just sobbed. Right there in the middle of my driveway. When I arrived at the hospital they informed me that he had had yet a third seizure in the ambulance. It’s barely 10 minutes from our house to the hospital. I went downstairs to get some coffee, and when I came back they had taken him to get a CT. As they were wheeling him back to the ER room, I saw him having a fourth seizure. At that point I broke down and lost what little positivity I had left. He was conscious, but in no way coherent. He spent the entire day completely out of it and I spent the entire day attempting to salvage whatever faith I could muster. I called the pastor and told him I didn’t feel like I could pray anymore. My world fell apart that day and I’m still picking up the pieces. I feel like I can barely think about the day to day things that I have to do, let alone Christmas. As selfish as it may sound I just don’t have the mental capacity to fully enjoy the holidays.

Who’s to blame?

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I’m not usually one to post much about current events, but there are always exceptions. By now everyone has heard about the shooting at the elementary school in Connecticut. Details are still a bit sketchy, but from what I can gather the person who committed this horrific massacre suffered from some form of psychological disorder. A few questions go through our minds when we hear of such things: 1. Why did this happen? 2. Who is to blame? 3. Could it have been prevented? There is nothing worse than losing a loved one, especially a child. When a child is murdered, we all feel it. We hold our own children a little tighter and somehow find a little more patience when they spill their cup of milk. As parents and as a society we like to play the blame game, in particular when the person responsible takes their own life. They are no longer there to take full responsibility for their heinous actions. Unfortunately too many times the next person given the burden of blame is the mother. We think “Couldn’t the mother have prevented this from happening?” or “What kind of abuse must that person have endured from their mother to make them do this?” I myself am guilty of this, however my thought patterns have changed since actually becoming a mother. If one of my children commit a crime of any kind, is it really my fault? Of course I would be thinking if there was something I could/should have done differently to change the outcome.

As the mother of a special needs child, it is my responsibility to make sure my child gets all the help that he needs no matter what that might be. Our son has a neurological disorder and also has behavioral issues. At the current moment we are still going through evaluations to pinpoint exactly what is going on with him. I knew early on that there was something “different” about him. Everyone kept telling me he was fine, so as new mother I listened to what everyone else said instead of listening to my “mommy instincts”. It wasn’t until my husband mentioned autism that I finally felt the validation to start the ball rolling on getting him evaluated. Within a week, he was diagnosed with SPD and started occupational therapy the following week. It has done wonders for him and for us. That is just one piece of the puzzle, and eventually the rest will fall into place. The reasoning behind this is not only to make sure he gets the care best suited to him, but also in hopes that with proper care and intervention, we can avoid our child committing horrific crimes. This is not to say that I expect one of our children to become a criminal, but any parent wants to prevent that. If God forbid, one of our children does do something completely awful, I would hate for the general public to automatically point their finger at me. The fact that my child did something so horrible would be punishment enough.

I can’t imagine what the mother of the person who killed all those children and school personnal would be going through right now if she were still alive. I’m sure that she would somehow blame herself, regardless of whether she was actually in any way to blame. That’s just what we do as parents. We blame ourselves for everything. Even if I find out that my son hit another child depsite the fact that I have done everything I can to teach him that hitting is wrong, I would still blame myself and think that somehow I obviously didn’t totally get the message accross to him properly. But there has to be a line drawn. At some point, people have to take responsibility for their actions and we have to stop blaming everyone else. Even if there is a history of abuse, we all make choices. There are plenty of people who suffer through abuse at the hands of their own parents and make wonderful lives for themselves. There are also those who come from perfectly fine homes and still end up messed up.

There has always been this huge debate about nature vs. nurture. There are few people who think that gender is learned rather than inborn. We have two children: a boy and a girl. We have all sorts of toys at our house, everything from cars and trucks to dolls and tea sets. They both play with all of it. Our daughter actually seems to prefer her big brother’s cars and trucks to her own dolls. She takes after me in that regard. I didn’t have an older brother, but I still preferred to play with cars instead of Barbies. Bottom line: people are born with certain traits. Not to say that nurture has nothing to do with it. If I believed that then I wouldn’t be as adamant about staying home to raise our children and homeschooling them. So with that said, not all criminal behavior stems from upbringing. We’re all wired in a certain way and we all react to our situations and surroundings accordingly. I didn’t always make the best choices in life as a teenager and young adult, but I certainly don’t blame my parents. They were MY decisions and mine alone; good, bad, or indifferent. Two things need to happen. We need to stop playing the victim role and we have to stop pointing fingers. Sometimes when people are at their worst is when they need love the most.

Obligatory Introduction

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Ever visit someone’s blog and as you read their entries you realize you have absolutely NO CLUE what they are talking about? Authors of most blogs tend to make a lot of assumptions which then leaves the reader feeling quite stupid for not knowing what in the world is going on. I realize that when people post blogs their original intended audience is more than likely people that they already know. However, with the development of the internet and search engines more and more random people read your blog posts. So without further adieu, here is my obligatory introductory post…

I never wanted to run away and join the circus, but I joined one anyway. Or at least that’s how it feels most days. When my husband and I got married in 2002, I didn’t think I could have children and quite frankly didn’t really care one way or the other. About 6 months after that, things changed. We decided that having kids was something that we desired, and I made an appointment with a gynecologist. After running tests and performing an ultrasound, they found cysts on my ovaries and I was diagnosed with PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome). We tried for years to get pregnant with no success. Figuring that God had for some reason decided not to give us biological children, we made the decision to adopt. I started turning our back bedroom into a child’s bedroom in anticipation of upcoming home studies. On December 23, 2008, my husband insisted on taking me to the dr because I was showing symptoms of bronchitis. We went home to Texas for Christmas that year so I really didn’t want to take the time to go to the dr, but he insisted so I finally agreed. They had to do a pregnancy test for legal reasons, aka CYA. Waiting for the nurse to come back with my Rx for my antibiotic was annoying because I just wanted to go. I was getting quite irritated because it seemed like it was taking forever. She finally came in and told us she had something to show us. We were dumbfounded as we followed her to the lab. Then she showed us a pregnancy test that was positive. Begin stupid questions: “Are you sure that’s mine?!” She reassured us that it was, and the celebration (read: squealing and crying) began. I will honestly never ever forget the elation of realizing that after 6 long, hard years we were finally going to have the baby we dreamed about, talked about, and hoped for. Unfortunately my pregnancy was not without drama, but that’s another post. Fast forward 17 months after our son was born and we found out we were expecting again. This time we had a beautiful baby girl via VBAC.

I love my job as a SAHM, but I’m still determined to finish college. I’m only one year away from my degree in Social Work. Even if I do finish, I highly doubt I’ll ever actually use said degree; for monetary purposes anyway. My many years as a college student did more to prepare me for life than a career.  I’ve studied music, psychology, graphic design, interior design, and social work. The fact that I have a varied background allows me to hold at least semi-intelligent conversations with various people.

My husband had surgery on October 22, to remove a brain tumor. He had two seizures over the summer and an MRI showed a tumor about the size of a golf ball. Fortunately it turned out to be benign, but the recovery has been in a word, hell. My life currently consists of juggling our two children, the afore-mentioned recovering husband, and an attempt to maintain some form of normalcy in our family.

This is of course the nutshell version on my life as I know it. My ultimate goal is to help people through various situations. I honestly believe that everything happens for a reason. We don’t always see it or find out the reason, but God is always there. This is easy for me to say, but not always easy for me to truly believe, especially given my current circumstances. I’ve been through a lot in my life, probably enough to write a soap opera. If anything my experiences will help me be there for my children as they grow up and go through their own experiences. My hope is that I can offer wisdom and support to them no matter what life throws at them.