Friday, March 28, 2014

Preschool Shopping

Yesterday I decided to tour a local preschool just to see if Belle would be a good fit. 

As those who are following know, Autumn currently has EI services an average of seven times a week and here in NJ, EI ends when the child turns three. I wish they would extend EI to five, but it is what it is. Once a child here in NJ turns three, their local school district takes over their services. 

Now we live in an up and coming town that is known for it's school system. It was one of the many reasons why we decided to move to this town in the first place. Thus my decision to enroll my daughter in their special needs program would be a no brainer right? Well when you're me, it's not. I am having a difficult time with this "five days a week", even if it's half days, at the age of three. I just can't grasp or get around this idea that it's consumed me a bit. Plus, I am not going to lie, I am scared to have her go to school so young mainly because I won't be there to watch her and protect her if needed. I will have to trust her teachers to do so. 

Despite my personal fears, I already know what I need to do for Autumn. I've thought about starting her when she's three in a half or at four. I've thought about just having her go to a regular preschool program that would allow them to wear diapers if still not potty trained. So my search for that latter has begun. 

I figure twice a week, even three times a week wouldn't hurt her to go when she's three. It would give her a chance to learn and make friends while I had time to run errands and to do whatever I had to do while she was gone. 

Back to the preschool tour from yesterday. We went and I really liked the setting (new building and clean), the preschool teachers seemed lovely and the class sizes yesterday were on the smaller end. However, the main drawback was the huge set of stairs, like the Gone With the Wind staircase that Autumn would have to walk up and down on a daily basis. I am not comfortable with the idea of that. Plus, the director stated that class sizes would range up to 14 kids per class. That doesn't sound like a lot but all I kept hearing was Belle's neurologist in the back of my head stating what he told me at her follow up appointment back in February. Could the staff handle Belles needs and most importantly, would she become overly stimulated in a larger classroom setting? These were things I had to think about.

So on our way out, the director mentioned that she does have experience with children who have Autism. Mind you all, I never said anything to her about Autumn's diagnosis just that she had a speech delay. I wanted her to come to her own judgment about my daughter without any labels attached. So being the blunt person I am, I asked her if she suspected that my daughter was on the spectrum. Making the person uncomfortable, she nodded and then I told her that yes, my daughter does have a diagnosis of autism and then I asked her if she knew and she said "I've been doing this for over twenty years, yes I could tell because xyz...". Then I proceeded to ask if she felt professionally if her preschool would be a good fit for Autumn due to her needing extra attention and she stated that she would be willing to give her a try but if it wasn't working out that she would let us know, that she's not about getting kids enrolled, etc. 

I was very impressed with this woman. She was educated and very professional from a preschool standpoint. Because of her experience, she could tell that Autumn was different from the other kids primarily due to her disconnection and lack of expressive language. As soon as we walked into the preschool class with the other kids, Autumn could care less for them or the teacher. Now it's actually very interesting observing her with new kids in a different setting. The children were very interested and curious to learn about her. Autumn only wanted to play with the toy truck and explore the room. I would find this typical of most children, but she definitely wasn't engaged with the children or adults present even after numerous attempts to get her to look at them and to have her say hello/bye. In addition, the constant moving back and forth, the hand flapping (Autumn does this from time to time), the resistant behaviors, and all of those traditional "autistic traits" many of you already know, this woman could see yesterday within the half hour we were there.

Which brings me to the conclusion: is Autumn's autism/autistic traits that easy to point out? I never realized it could be until yesterday. I also realized something else, a reality that I've been surpressing for a long time now and in denial to a certain extent myself: regular preschool will probably never be an appropriate option for my daughter. She IS different than the other kids and does require extra help and services and as much as I would love for her to be around children who are meeting their milestones on time, I don't think it would be fair to them or to Autumn if I put her in that preschool setting at the age of three. Thus, as I take a deep breath in, exhale, I say, she will be going to the school districts program. That's where she belongs and maybe it sounds like I am giving up on the idea of "normal", but I know within my heart to hearts that she deserves to be in a setting with trained professionals who are special educators and with peers similar to herself. 

Will I start her at three? This is something I will have to figure out in time but more than likely, I will start her in the fall (throat swallow) five days a week, half days. She will also have private speech and OT outside of school as well. 

My revelation has always been there in the back of my mind, but that saying "seeing is believing" well after yesterday's meeting and tour, I just knew that I needed to put my silly pride aside and do what's best for my daughter. I should also mention that yesterday's encounter was just one of the many things that I've observed over the past six months in a public setting so wasn't like "oh yes this is the reason why my daughter should go to the special ed preschool", it was the icing on the cake. 

Lastly, as a professional, I know that the earlier a child receives intervention and therapy/extra services, the chances of them living a normal life increases due to being able to manage any negative behaviors/symptoms associated with their diagnosis. Thus, I should know that since Autumn has been progressing so well, that it must continue and I would be doing her a disservice if I don't do what's best for her. So what if she has to be in special ed classes for the first few years of her school life? I would rather her now than later on when she may have more profound symptoms and difficulty within her coursework due to not providing the services she requires to help her excel. 

In the coming months I will have the meeting with our coordinator and the school system. Autumn will then go through more tests and then her IEP. I laugh because I never thought I'd be on the other side of the table (the parent side). It will be interesting to say the least. 

Until then, we will continue on. Happy Friday to all. 

Pic of the week: 
(Goodness she looks like me and my dad in this picture. I can't get over the fact that she really does look like me at times. Wow.)



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Becoming a SAHM, How I Came To Thee?

Good morning everyone. I'm glad that most of you got to read the progression post last week and expressed your support. It's been one hectic year to say the least but things are getting better as we continue to navigate what's best for Autumn. 

I know last week I expressed my frustrations with not having any time for myself and wondering what life might be like if I worked a full-time job. As of lately, these thoughts continue to consume me (has a lot to do with a toddler waking up in the middle of the night, climbing into our bed and thinking it's time to play..). To continue my rant/plea and end this torture, I wanted to share how I came to becoming a SAHM in the first place and how/why I'm currently struggling with trying to find a balance within my personal life as a mom and a counselor. 

For those of you who don't know, I am a counselor by profession. I specialize in working with children and adolescents so when Autumn wasn't meeting her developmental milestones, I knew right away something else was wrong. 

Counseling was never my first profession. It was something I decided to pursue when I was 25 after working a few years as an Office Manager/Bookkeeper, Jr Accountant and then as a Teacher's Assistant. If it was solely about the money, I would still be in Accounting. Heck, I might have gone back for an MBA, but that's not my story...want to hear it? Here I go. 

To start, I've always had a job. Even in high school I preferred to work than to play sports or do extra curricular activities. There's just something about receiving a paycheck that was empowering. During my very young adulthood (18-20), I was that typical irresponsible worker who skipped work to hang out with friends or quit a job just because it "wasn't for me". I waitressed and had a lot of fun while doing so, but I went through more waitressing jobs than shoes but eventually I found my place working as an office assistant and then as an office manager when I was 20. 

By the age of 21, I was living in my own little apartment, supporting myself, paying my own bills without relying on my parents for financial support, going to college (taking 12 credits per semester), all while living in NJ. I loved my office job and felt a sense of accomplishment. I took classes around the clock and completed 72 credits within two years in order to graduate with my Bachelors degree and make up for lost time (so I finished at 24 instead of typical age 22 bc I didn't count my first year of college in transfers, not bad). I was extremely proud of myself for getting a BA, with most of my credits completed while I was living on my own. I had once heard that I wasn't "good enough" to even achieve this and yet I did it (I love proving people wrong, I think Autumn has this trait as well).  

As much as I loved my Office Manager job, I knew I wasn't going far so I decided to leave and work elsewhere making more money. This time around I worked as a Junior Accountant. I really enjoyed the place I worked at and even was the elf for our company Christmas party that year, but then one daly I woke up saying to myself, "what the heck am I doing with my life?" Was it a quarter century identity crisis?? I don't know, but what I did was the starting point that made me realize what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. 

I decided to work, making half of the salary I had, as a teachers assistant at a special education school (thank goodness for a supportive husband). I absolutely loved going to work and it really was one of the best things to ever happen to me career wise. It was working with this student population that made me decide to take the Praxis exam in order to become a teacher (I passed first try) and to later apply to graduate school (on a whim) to become a counselor.

It was the Summer/early fall of 2008 when I started graduate school and like many, there are those moments that you will never forget in your life, well this was one of them: sitting in my first graduate class (The Helping Relationship) saying to myself "wtf am I doing here? Holy crap 60 credits I need to take to graduate, I'll never make it." It's funny that now I can look back almost three years AFTER I graduated with a smile on my face. I indeed made it. 

It was also during this time (2009) that at the school job I had, there were a lot of layoffs and unfortunately my position was cut. Thus, I got laid off. I was deeply saddened by this but walked away knowing I had helped make a difference. 

Thanks to unemployment benefits, I decided to focus on graduate school full-time, even working for the college doing an apprenticeship in exchange for scholarships applied towards my tuition cost. I decided to double major in mental health as well as school counseling in order to have "more options" since the NJ LPC laws were ridiculous at the time.  

Fast forward to the fall of 2010. It was my last year of grad school and it was also when I got pregnant with Autumn. Talk about career life changer. I graduated in 2011 with departmental honors at 32 weeks pregnant. I cried the day I graduated because I loved being in school. What was once an extremely intimidating place became my second home. I cried because I would miss my graduate colleagues and professors. I cried because being a student was where I felt safe even though I knew I was ready to work as a therapist or a school counselor. 
(One of the best moments of my life receiving my grad degree @32 weeks pregnant) 

That summer Autumn was born and I focused my time mainly on raising her. My first mental health job was doing per diem work/assessments for a private company. I really enjoyed it but the caseload was minimal. I also had a difficult time finding anything because the lovely state of NJ takes forever to grant one their provisional license and most places won't hire unless one has their provisional. I received my license (LAC) in January 2012. I still did per diem work for this company and focused on being a SAHM to Autumn since my husband worked two jobs (his choice) as well as snowplowed to make extra coin. 

It was in April 2012 that I got hired at Careplus thanks to one of my grad friends who helped me get a job there. I have to say that working at Careplus was the best experience I've had to date. I worked there a year before leaving due to "bigger and better opportunities elsewhere" or so I thought. It has also been the worst career mistake I've ever made. I would do anything to go back to Careplus but what's past must stay there. 

You're all wondering what my "bigger and better things" was right? Well I was given the opportunity to work literately two minutes away from my home as an outpatient therapist. I got paid very minimal but in exchange I would receive supervision and it was much closer than Careplus. This was my dream job right? Working as an Outpatient Therapist in my own office with a plethora of clients. For the first few months things were going well until May. Office drama and politics. I will save my breath and spare the details. This was also the same time that Autumn started EI and I had suspected other problems might be going on. My caseload was between 10-15 clients a week, which sounds wonderful, but it still wasn't enough money in comparison to Careplus or even my side jobs doing assessments. It was also becoming very difficult for me to do all of the above on top of still being a SAHM during the day and dealing with Autumns extra needs. 

It was June when I ended my "dream job". It wasn't something I wanted to do, but it had to be done. Sometimes "the grass isn't always greener" and I learned my lesson there. As sadden as I was to leave my clients, I felt relieved because now I was back to focusing on Autumn's needs and also our move/renovations to the new house. I also received another work opportunity to provide counseling services outpatient once I was settled into the new house. At this point I was reluctant because Autumn had been recently diagnosed with Autism, her therapies had increased and I just wanted some time to settle into our new home, but I decided to take on this new opportunity mainly to make some extra cash and to keep my foot in the counseling door. I was happy I did, but as my clients no longer needed therapy, cases became less and I also wanted to try to find counseling work more local too. 

Which brings me to where I am today. All of my clients have terminated from counseling because when you're good at what you do, plus there's excellent family follow-through, they no longer need you. The joke in my field is that it's the only job you want to be fired at by your clients because you've done something right (or your client fires you because you didn't "click", this happens often, only once with me bc I am a terrible marriage/couples therapist). 

Even though it's only been a few months, I have my moments where I miss seeing clients and making money as we desperately need it (who doesn't). I am constantly looking for the next counseling job opportunity that's per diem, but am learning that things will happen when I least expect it. I can blame it on the guilt, my student loans, the need for more money and whatnot, but the truth is, I enjoy helping people and seeing clients when I can. I set out to obtain an education and work within a field that would allow me to make enough money to support my family as well if ever put in that situation. Taking a back seat financially hasn't been easy with my personality, which is probably why I struggle moreso as a SAHM than maybe others out there. I've always had a job or money coming in so naturally I feel inclined to continue this trend, which is why I started working per diem/part-time in the first place. Plus I can't help but feel guilty/bad that Matt is working 14-16 hour days when I'm the one with the higher education and the loans to boot. 

Which brings me to the point: Do I just say eff counseling right now and focus 100% on being a SAHM or do I try to find that balance like I had going two years ago before her diagnosis, in-home therapies and constant 24/7 attachment? Goodness, looking back two years ago, things were easier, which explains the easy balancing. I suppose only I know this answer and will continue to flip flop.  

I set out with a goal to have my LPC and a private practice someday but now I find myself still heading in that direction but with an alternate route: to be an advocate, a parent supporter, a community liaison for Autism acceptance and to be the best powerhouse mother I can be for my daughter. A career is just that, a career. I will not let it define me, I will define it my way, myself (I keep telling myself).

Despite the constant battles I have with my own inner working self, I don't have any regrets in being a SAHM. There will be a time that I will flourish as a therapist, maybe even go back to obtain my PhD but for now, I am learning to embrace society's proclaimed "second class job" and I'm doing it as best as I can. Belle's growing daily and in two years, five years and ten years from now, she'll be entirely different. Now will I look back and say to myself, "goodness I should've worked more while she was still small, I would've had my LPC sooner." Nah. I don't think so. I honestly think I will look back feeling proud, wishing I never took that time for granted, missing my baby girl at that age and all of the simplicities of life even though now they seem so large yet I guarantee I will LOL at my past self thinking, "really, you were stressed over that? Haha". 

I became at SAHM because it's the best thing for Autumn and I would be a liar if I didn't say it's been the best thing for me too. I also often wonder that if Autumn didn't have any delays if my feelings regarding work/balancing a career and home life would differ. Yet, I don't think they would. Before Autumn, I thought I would be the career woman I always have been, but she changed me. She changed me before her diagnosis, before this new life. It was in that moment when I held her for the first time that I knew this is where she belonged and so did I. The thought of leaving her with a stranger never sat right to me. It still doesn't. Maybe it's my intuition knowing she needed/needs me and only me right now? Maybe it's my own personal fears and paranoia, but for now I am going to try and relish in my decision and enjoy this time with her. 

However, I must state that I'm so grateful that I have this opportunity and I am able to still keep my foot in the counseling door at my own will as well as be home with my little girl. Not many families can do that. I owe much appreciation to the paycheck maker in this household because as much as I like to say that it's easier to "make a paycheck", it too comes with it's own set of responsibilities, stressors and obligations in which my husband has been through the gamut in correlation to the above. Thank goodness he "gets it" now and supports our lifestyle even if that means forgoing vacations, having less to fall back on and so forth. I thank him and love him for that. It's taken him two and a half years to truly appreciate what I do for our daughter and it's taken me this long to truly appreciate what he does for our family, even if I sometimes make it out as being easier or am just envious of him on days that I need some alone time. 

Overall, regardless of what we "do", it comes with it's challenges. It's not as simplistic as it may seem and despite my own judgements and guilt feelings, this is the life I chose. I can't blame it on anyone else but me and right now, today, at this very hour, minute, I wouldn't change it for the world. I have this short window of opportunity to raise my daughter, my number one client, and know that when she no longer "needs me for every little thing", when she's ready to flourish in this world, that I did "my job" right. 

Whew. Im glad that's out. Now you all know my work history and how it's led me to where I am today. For those who stuck through this reading, thank you. I owe you some wine 😊



Friday, March 21, 2014

Autumn's Progression

It was this time last year that I had made the phone calls to Early Intervention Services after Autumn wasn't saying any words. Actually, she stopped saying "mama", "dada", "ball" and "bye-bye". I had started to suspect something more, but wanted to rule out any other possible underlying issues, such as hearing loss, before further pursuing a developmental delay evaluation. 

I must say that everything about a Early Intervention (EI for short) has been wonderful from the start. Her first coordinator was extremely helpful in assisting me through the navigation process of EI. 

Within two weeks of my original phone call, we had her initial evaluation for services. The initial evaluation they use to determine if a child qualifies for Early Intervention services is the Battelle Developmental Inventory, which assess five domains for development: Adaptive behavior, personal / social skills, communication including expressive and receptive language, gross and fine motor ability, and cognition. They score using the bell curve/standard deviation with D-scores and Z-scores (you statistics pros will understand this). Autumn scored -1.80 in her communication. That alone had her qualify for speech. She also scored low in cognition because of "non-compliance". The other areas were pretty typical for her age/level of development.
At our second meeting to go over her evaluation is when I found out that she qualified for Speech and Developmental Intervention (DI). When hearing this news,  I immediately started to cry because I felt like I was failing her as a mom and not providing her with enough care. After all, I was a stay-at-home mom during the day and worked as an outpatient therapist during the evening. I had already felt my time being torn due to the pressures of meeting my client's needs as well as trying to be the best mom I can be for my beautiful daughter. So I took the news personal.

Autumn began receiving speech therapy (ST) in April of 2013 and then DI in June 2013 because I decided to wait to start DI until Autumn's tubes were in place to see if her behaviors would change once she could hear more clearly; they became worse. She started off at once a week for both. Then once her DI joined our team, she noticed a lot of sensory issues with Autumn that we had no clue she even had like the sporadic running, the need for squeezes/pressure, etc.,. She and her ST suggested that we should have her evaluated for OT once we're settled into the new house. I would've done it sooner, but we were in the process of buying a house and selling our condo and that alone is a story for another day. This was also when I made the appointment to have her evaluated by a pediatric neurologist at the suggestion of her EI coordinator.

In the meantime, Autumn's behavior started to slightly improve. She started to become more engaged but still had a difficult time focusing and saying new words. She also still remained distant from her therapists and had a difficult time transitioning with sharing and following directions, hence the "non-compliance" piece. Once she received her diagnosis, we wanted to increase her therapies and incorporate an OT for sensory issues only. She was also tested by her therapists within the five areas/domains mentioned above for the Battelle.

At the time of the testing (end of August, so after 4 months of receiving speech therapy services) she scored the following:

Autumn: 25 1/2 months of age

Self-Help: 18 months
Social/Emotional: 24 months
Fine Motor: 22 months
Gross Motor: 23 Months
Cognition: 24 months
Communication: 6-9 months receptive language (listening/understanding) and 9-12 months expressive (using words, talking)

It was very difficult for me to hear about her speech. I knew that the self-help would be lower because she didn't use the potty and I wasn't allowing her to walk down stairs. Her social/emotional and cognition is/was her age because she can do puzzles and play well perfectly alone, but allowing others into that circle, well then that's where we have the problems. When Autumn is focused, she learns and does exceptional.

At her September meeting, the team (my angels), pleaded to get an OT eval for Autumn's sensory issues because this is what we all stated would happen once Autumn started having OT:
An OT would implement a sensory integration diet, which means the following:
Autumn will be able to self-regulate her sensory needs by the activities outlined in her sensory diet, which will then lead to her being able to focus, then with focus will come the less negative behaviors/tantrums and more expressive/receptive language. Following Along? I thought so. Hence: OT= less problematic behaviors = focus/attention = higher expressive/receptive language.

It took a month to get her an OT eval and then a month later to get her OT. Luckily, her DI and ST have some OT experience implementing some of the OT techniques outlined and with their increases in therapies, things were moving along well. In addition, during this time, Autumn also started to get into watching Signing Time. Her DI was kind enough to make us copies of the signing time videos so that we can watch them whenever we wanted. I put these on for Autumn often because, I admit, I enjoy watching signing time and learning sign language as well. Autumn started signing and saying new words daily because of her therapies and watching signing time. I also made sure to provide follow-through and implement the techniques I had learned during her sessions. I would try many different activities with Autumn: flash cards, puzzles, reading/identifying objects in books, shapes, colors, coloring, sensory activities such as using the tunnel, pushing/pulling, parachute time, singing, dancing, identifying body parts, shaving cream/play dough, and other things to help her become more integrated into her own surroundings and of course to help promote the expressive and receptive language.

I also never give in or back down from a tantrum. I allow her to get frustrated, console her, but we push through. Thus, Task completion is the key here. Granted, if she has a horrible day or is becoming overwhelmingly frustrated, we will shorten the task. Her DI decided to implement an ABA book mainly for non-compliance because Autumn has a difficult time focusing and staying on tasks. Within the past few months since implementing ABA (not your standard b/c Autumn would become very bored and annoyed), she can now point to what she wants, she makes eye contact (mainly in the structured setting), she can identify different objects, and she's using her words more.

Recently, we had the yearly Battelle evaluation by a therapist through EI and being as honest as possible: she bombed it and scored horribly. Why? Because of non-compliance. Most individuals on the spectrum do not, and I mean, DO NOT welcome change within their worlds. This includes new people like the lovely therapist who did the evaluation. Her therapists prepared me that if she doesn't do well to not take it personal. They do this eval again basically for data collection. So when I saw the updated scores compared to last years, a part of me LOLed because they were horrible! She didn't want to even stack blocks! Something she can do without any problems, but since she refused to do it, she didn't get the credit (just like school will be someday). 

Her therapists also tested her again since it was time for her six-month eval. I am pleased to say that she's made HUGE strides in the past six months. HUGE. 
Autumn: 31 1/2 months of age

Self-Help: 22 months (but scattered skills that are 30 months, it's her not being potty trained that's holding her back)
Social/Emotional: 33 months
Fine Motor: 27 months (she couldn't draw a circle at the time of the eval, now she can)
Gross Motor: 30 Months
Cognition: 30 months
Communication: 18-21 months receptive language (listening/understanding) and 18 months expressive (using words, talking). 

We had her yearly meeting yesterday and all of the goals we had initially set a year ago and even six months ago have been achieved. I couldn't be happier with these results. Granted, there is much need for improvement still (isn't it for each one of us), but these baby steps are leading it's way to huge leaps and bounds. Autumns new coordinator was very impressed with her progress and even hinted at lowering her therapy sessions but I declined as I feel like she's been doing so well why change something that's working? Plus, with the snow, sick, and vacation times, her therapists don't always come to all seven sessions during the week. Having the extra sessions in place makes up for ones that are missed due to the above.

Autumn has four more months left of EI before it's time to move forward elsewhere. I cannot express the gratitude that I have for our team of therapists who've implemented many tools and techniques that have helped in so many various ways. I can't imagine what Autumn might be like if I never had her evaluated a year ago for EI. As difficult as it was for me to swallow my own pride at the time, I am grateful that I went down this path now knowing that my daughter does have an Autism diagnosis and despite me wanting this for her, she will need the extra push in life, maybe more so than some, in order to flourish. She's already proving to us all that she's more than capable of trying anything and excelling. That's my daughter.  

After EI is over, there will be private therapies and most likely, special ed preschool, but that's a post for another day. 

Raising my coffee mug to cheer: Here's to Belle's continued progression! My alphabet obsessed, bookloving, little girl!



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Ramblings of a SAHM/Wife

Good morning to all. I know it's been a few days since I've posted anything. So much for sticking to my Lent goal, but at least I post daily on my page so that counts right?

To summarize, Autumn has had a fantastic week despite recovering from that stomach virus. She's been more calm during her sessions and even around family this weekend she was engaged and not running around so much. Family relatives got to see Autumn on a "good day", which I am glad, but I hope they realize that it's been non-stop work to get her to become more involved with others. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm very proud of my daughter and all of the achievements she's been making lately, but I can't help that some days I just feel worn out. It's a 24/7 job being a mother, especially to a special needs child who requires extra needs and attention. I feel like I never get any time for Trish. Yes, I'm blogging right now as Autumn finishes up her waffles and eggs breakfast, but before breakfast was a Cinderella fest of making beds, more laundry due to leaky diaper, cleaning/washing up child and then making sure her routine isn't so loused up because she becomes irate if her morning routine changes at the slightest glance. 

I made myself a cup of coffee around 7:30 and finally an hour later I am drinking it. So for all you naysayers who believe being a SAHM is this "glamorous life", I'll trade you for the day. Yes, getting the kids to school/daycare is probably the hardest part, just like getting out of bed to go to work, but once you're up, you're up and the day is young. To be able to socialize, have lunch dates, make money, and sadly, earn society respect because "you're doing something", is sounding pretty darn good right about now. Maybe some people are right: I should just put Autumn in preschool when she turns three so that I can have "my time", even though that sounds extremely selfish and I am coming from a bitchy place right now. 

I chose to put my counseling career on hold to raise my daughter, how could I ever want "me time". That's not allowed right?? I feel that often times, working parents get to be their best for their kids. They've had all day to be elsewhere, which makes them appreciate the time they do have with their children, so when they come home from work, they don't have the draining feeling that comes from being the primary caretaker of a child/children all day long during the "witching hours of childhood". 

Despite feeling worn out and really moody today, I won't do the above just yet. I feel so selfish and I am having a lot of time struggling with guilt for even thinking the above regarding "me time". I suppose this is normal for most people who are around the same person/others constantly. You eventually want some alone space and that's a natural okay feeling to have. The funny thing is that as a therapist, I would tell my clients to go ahead and do this. Heck, I promote self-help and care yet I don't even practice what I preach often because of my feelings of guilt and fear. 

I know that I have time to work through these things, but I just wanted to share that I do feel overwhelmed at times, angry, resentment, where I wish I was a bird so I can fly far, far away (hence why I love to travel). I also know that in retrospect, my "me time" is coming as my daughter ages, but it would be nice if once in a while I can just go to the store alone or have the afternoon to myself to run errands. It would also be nice if the people in my life (cough husband cough) would see when I'm starting to feel worn down and to relieve me for a moment so that I can catch my bearings and come back feeling refreshed. Just because one makes a paycheck (I'm sorry but this to me is the easier route in life) doesn't mean they have full reign of not helping with child care-taking duties or household responsibilities when they come home. This isn't 1957. 

It just angers me that the person who makes a paycheck gets so much more credit and respect in society, yet SAHM (dads too) are looked down upon and seen as "less" even though we do everything else, and more is expected from us because of the above arrangement. So alone time and "me time" is almost non-existent and sometimes us SAHM need time for ourselves, just like our spouses get "their time" because they "work so hard" getting paid to do a job. How do I or we SAHM get paid or even shown appreciation for raising a child/or children? Maybe that's the problem here. I feel unappreciated and "expected" to do everything regarding Autumn, which leads to the above feelings. It doesn't help that I have more on my plate because of Autumn's needs. So yes often times I feel alone and become a full-fledged monster by the end of my day because I am worn out from having someone constantly depend on me for everything. I feel like because of her communication/self-help delays, I still have an 18 month old. I am sure as Belle progresses, my nerves will ease along with my anger and resentment at times.

I also know that I will have that time back to exercise, have coffee dates with friends, lunch dates with coworkers (someday I plan to return to work full-time hopefully as a school counselor or an outpatient clinician), travel, and sleep in. It will come with age. I just have to be patient and stop feeling sorry for myself right now and jealous of my husband who is seen as the "hero" because he "provides financially for the family". 

I read something recently about mothers always being needed and someday they won't be, which really helped put things into perspective for a moment, then I went back to wanting some alone time to take a shower or use the bathroom without an audience. 

So for those of you who have chosen the life of a SAHM and especially for those of you who are doing this with a special needs child, how on earth do you stay grounded and sane? How do you get your "me time" (showers and going to the store doesn't count) and lastly, how do you ask for help from your significant other or family when you start to feel yourself becoming unraveled within the stressors of life? I hate asking for help so this is something I struggle with always. My husband has said to me that maybe the reason why I've been chosen to raise a child with special needs means it pulls me out of my comfort zone, thus having to ask for help or become dependant on others (additional therapies, special ed schools, etc). This is something I never had to really do throughout my entire life and something that I'll write about on another day. 

Thanks for reading today. I know this sounded more like a bitchfest but I needed to get this off my chest. 

Here's a cute picture to cheer you all up:
She loves wearing her pink coat 😊



Friday, March 14, 2014

The Past Week

Not much to report today aside from feeling a little worn down from the past week's excitement. Autumn had a good day despite being very clingy for whatever reason. 

I am just glad it's Friday and my hubby has off this weekend. I am also going to try my best to post each day but I am finding that I don't want to drag out each little thing and to keep my readers interested. I have a lot I want to share but not all at once. 

So hang in there. The progression post is coming. 

Highlights from the week:

I turned 31.
Autumn chose daddy over mommy snuggles for the first time ever.
Autumn's stomach virus is out of here.
Great Thai food and Mexican food.
 I had a cannoli.
Autumn did very well this week in all of her sessions. 
Met a cool mom.
Autumn's expressive language is coming along nicely.
Received a lot of FB birthday love.
Had a great conversation with someone special.
Was able to enjoy almost two hours outside on the warm day.
Dunkin donuts pumpkin coffee still available! 

Can't beat the above! Here's to the weekend!



Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Mommy-Daughter Day Date

Once a month I like to have a mommy/daughter day date where I take Autumn someplace fun and then we go out to lunch there after. Today we tried this play place up the road from here and it was a lot of fun for her. She did great running around, jumping on their small trampoline, building blocks and playing alongside the other kids. She really didn't chase or follow any of the kids around, but she seemed content just playing with the toys there and joining in when appropriate. I also noticed during our almost two-hour duration that when faced with an altercation (older kid talking/telling her something), she was very silent and annoyed some of the children. I also noticed something so beautiful, she was incredibly loving and kind in her own rite.

I also found myself wondering for a moment, "What would Autumn be like if she could speak full-fledged sentences, was able to have conversations right now, etc."? Would I still have the same sweet and loving child God gave to me? Most likely, but things would be different, she would be different and so would I. Thinking about the above also made me realize how happy and content I am to have the daughter I do, the little girl who listens when I tell her "no, don't do that", who waits patiently to put on her coat and hat, who thrives to learn and explore and who knows her boundaries for the most part. A little girl who is so beautiful to look at with her curly blonde hair and big blue eyes, who towers over most children her age, who always seems to be smiling whenever we go anywhere unless its Lowes then that's a different story.

I also find it very interesting when encountering other moms in public places like children's play areas or parks. It always feels like an awkward first date. I tend to be the "loner mom" as most of the play groups/places I've gone to there's always those moms who've been friends since their first-borns popped out of the womb. Being the kind of person I am, I always say hi and start conversations. I don't ask a lot of questions but I like to listen to other moms talk. It must be the therapist in me. I also noticed today that the play place we went to was more for the parents than the children. It was a place to let the kids run around while the mommies sat in their chairs talking, drinking their coffee, and keeping a semi-watchful eye on their kids. It's nice to see play places that allow moms to be able to relax while their kids play together. Totally worth the money I say, minus the germs though.

I decided to sign Autumn up for the Easter Egg hunt they're doing in a few weeks. I'm sure she will enjoy it as she likes to pick up things. I can't wait to see how she does but will be prepared for the worst as she is still young and does have a lot of sensory needs. I'm sure she won't want a picture taken with the Easter Bunny either and that's perfectly okay. I also signed myself up for a pediatric CPR/First Aid class as I've always wanted to become certified in childhood CPR. We do have a pool and heaven forbid, I want to be able to use it correctly if I ever have to be put in that situation. I am sure the class will be worth its weight in gold.

Otherwise, the rest of our day went well. Had a decent lunch, but I need to remember to never buy kids meals until she's older because it's a waste of money. She never eats anything I get for her while out unless its tortilla chips and applesauce. She also did very well in the restaurant. Despite not being entirely socially connected with others, she does enjoy going places and looking at the sights and sounds. I also enjoy experiencing with her as well.
(Don't mind my no makeup face)

Here's to tomorrow and hopefully warmer weather!



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Another Year Bites The Dust

It's my birthday today yay! 31 years. 10 years of being of drinking age. Wow where the heck did the past ten years go?? They flew out of my life faster than a bird flies south for the winter. 

I've been enjoying a relaxing day at home with my loves. Matt is surprising me with a nice dinner tonight (take out) and we will just spend the evening relaxing and eating. Sounds like the perfect evening tonight! He also brought me home an iced coffee! God I love this man!!

Instead of writing another rambling post, here's something I came across today. It matches yesterday's post so well. 

Get ready for the waterworks:

Some Mothers Chosen By God

Written by Erma Bombeck

Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures and a couple by habit. 

This year, nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children. 

Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen? 

Somehow, I visualize God hovering over earth selecting His instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. 

As He observes, He instructs His angels to make notes in a giant ledger. 

"Armstrong, Beth, son. Patron saint, Matthew. 

"Forrest, Marjorie, daughter. Patron saint, Cecelia. 

"Rudledge, Carrie, twins. Patron saint… give her Gerard, He's used to profanity." 

Finally, He passes a name to an angel and smiles, "Give her a handicapped child." 

The angel is curious. "Why this one, God? She's so happy." 

"Exactly," smiles God. "Could I give a handicapped child a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel." 

"But has she patience?" asks the angel. 

"I don't want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she'll handle it." 

"I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independence that is so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I'm going to give her has his own world and that's not going to be easy." 

"But Lord, I don't think she even believes in you." 

God smiles. "No matter. I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness." 

The angel gasps, "Selfishness? Is that a virtue?" 

God nods. "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally, she'll never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child who is less than perfect. She doesn't realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a 'spoken word.' She will never consider a 'step' ordinary." 

"When her child says 'Momma' for the first time, she will be present at a miracle and know it! When she describes a tree or sunset to her blind child, she will see it as few people ever see my creations." 

"I will permit her to see clearly the things I see… ignorance, cruelty, prejudice… and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side." 

"And what about her patron saint" asks the angel, his pen poised in mid-air.

God smiles. "A mirror will suffice".

(Autumn laying on the ground is a sensory need of hers).



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Blame Game

As Autumn naps in the car while I wait outside the grocery store, I figure I might as well use this time to share about something that I can't help but feel obligated to do so as I know many parents with a "special needs" child may feel or have felt this way before. 

The following are questions that plagued my brain over the course of the past few months:  "Why God? Why her? Why us? Why does she have Autism? What did I do wrong? Is it my fault? I feel like it is!"

I would often think to myself that I did everything right while pregnant. Took the best prenatals, ate healthy, exercised, heck, I was preparing my body for pregnancy six months prior to getting pregnant! At one time, I couldn't help but become disappointed and overwhelmed with guilt as well as pain for feeling like I caused her to develop Autism somehow. Whether it was a genetic mutation (recently read elsewhere) or not, I blamed myself for so long that I was in such a negative rut that it paralyzed me to enjoy the present. I put Autumn's diagnosis on me and only me, as if her having autism was a reflection of poor parenting and again it felt like I failed her.  Once her diagnosis sunk in, I continued to blame myself like I could've prevented it from happening. Like trying to stop a car accident from occurring as a passenger. Yet the above was "crazy talk". It is!! I know this now! I sounded so full of crap and feeling sorry for myself for something I know the I didn't cause. It just is and despite trying to avoid her becoming autistic with delayed vaccinations, organic homemade babyfood, practicing many attachment parenting techniques, and being her one and only caretaker 95% of the time, she was born this way.

I've learned, and yes this is from John Lennon, "life happens while you're busy making other plans", couldn't be more true here. I had to go through the grieving process to get to the point I am currently at in my life in regards to Belle's diagnosis. Now will I ever re-experience some of these feelings? Sure. I'm an imperfect human. I will have my moments.

So over the course of the past seven months, I went through the five stages of grief regarding Autumn and her diagnosis as the following:

Denial: "No this isn't true, she'll grow out of it. Autism doesn't run on my side of the family. She'll be fine. It's her ears."

Anger: "it's Matt's fault. It's my fault. I hate this life. Why? Why? Poor me pity party. It's bullshit that other people can just have kid after kid and they're perfectly fine. Thanks a lot God, this isn't fair! Stop bitching about your normal kid, I'll trade you any day!" Lots and lots of anger I had. 

Bargaining: "I'll do anything to get that first year back, I shouldn't of had that epidural, I should've Breastfed her longer. If I get her as much therapy, give her all of my time, attention, put my career on hold to focus on raising her, then she will have to grow out of some of her symptoms. It can happen right?! After all, I caused this so I have to fix it myself, no help from anyone. She's my responsibility." (I am a stubborn ass I know). 

Depression: "I don't want to be around anyone right now. No one "gets it", I feel isolated and alone. I can't even look at other normal children without feeling upset. Can't believe this is my life, her life, our lives. I am sad, I feel hurt and pain. I feel like a failure." 

Then finally the last, Acceptance.

This, my friends, is where I'm currently at regarding Autumns diagnosis and the journey were on together. I'm learning to accept this life and how the plans I had hoped for my daughter have indeed changed, but a change that's uniquely perfect for us three (four if you count Leah). 

So what if she never does things like "everyone else". So what if it takes her longer to communicate or if she's obsessed with the alphabet rather than a silly plastic doll. So what if she would rather prefer to watch signing time or pocoyo for the thousandth time over a cute Disney movie. So what if we may never be able to take her on fancy vacations or have her be a part of a structured class because frankly right now,  I have to tell myself this daily, she's only 32 months and has the rest of her life to grow into the person she was born to become (Talk about being irrational as a parent and setting expectations too soon).

I'm learning to not rush the above and to embrace each and every moment with my daughter and to not compare her to everyone else, which has been my biggest challenge to date. She is my one of a kind, a perfect match for me, and even if her Autism was caused by my genetics or some environmental factor, it is what it is now. It's not something that's crippling. Sure, she will be faced with challenges and just to excel at certain tasks may be more difficult in comparison to other children, but I will be there the entire way standing next to her. She will never walk alone.  

Lately, I've been hearing this a lot from others: God only gives us what we can handle. I am sure the saying is true for each one of us. Sure, my raising a child newly diagnosed with Autism may seem like a challenge to some, but it isn't my entire life. If God felt like I was up to this challenge, well God you must think we're worthy enough to have been able to take care of such a special child. You see the light she's brought into our lives and despite all of the tough moments, the good always prevails. But isn't this parenting in general? Parenting for all? I am no special or different from the rest. I'm learning that. I am just a mom to a little girl who happens to be slightly different from the status quo. 

Once I went through the motions of acceptance, I've learned that there's no going back. No more questioning the "what ifs". I am done torturing myself with such irrational thoughts and beliefs and I should know better than to do this. There will be no more putting the blame on anyone as to why Autumn has Autism.  There's only love, acceptance and moving forward towards tomorrow. 

One of my favorite lines sayings lately is the serenity prayer, which is used often in AA but it can be applied to life in general: 

"God gave me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Why change this beauty? She's already changing on her own terms. 

Here's to tomorrow. 



Monday, March 10, 2014

The Sleep Confession

The loss of the one-hour yesterday really messed up Belle's sleep schedule. She woke up at 6:45 (5:45 old time) and took an hour nap in the car around 3pm (2pm old time), but here's the kicker, she didn't fall asleep asleep until after 10:30 close to 11pm last night (old time 10pm). To some, so what, no big deal right? I wouldn't have cared if she didn't wake up twice screaming crying as if she had a nightmare and there was really no way to console except hold her and shush her back to sleep.

This waking up in the middle of the night to the point of vomiting has become a weekly thing in our house lately. Not sure if this is normal for most, but her getting sick always makes me nervous. It's also frustrating because, like I said before, I don't always know why she's upset or what is wrong. 

When we have a night like last night, I find myself having her sleep with us for the night despite how uncomfortable I sleep, because I want her close so that I can truly keep an eye on her "just in case" she wakes up screaming and purging.

Which brings me to the Topic of the Day: Cosleeping, my sleep confession. 

I'm not ashamed to admit that Autumn slept next to me, in our bed, for the first 18-20 months of her life. Then she slept in her crib, right next to me, until she was 27 months old with middle-of-the-night wake ups of me moving her into our bed out of shear comfort. Even now at 32 months today (Happy 32 months baby girl), she ends up in our bed a few times a week, mainly because I want her there.  
Attached much?! Yup. I am. I can't help myself.

Before Autumn was born, I never ever thought I would let her sleep in bed with us. I just assumed that the baby stays in their crib, in their own room, and when they are hungry or awake, you would hear them on the monitor and get up and take care of them. I had no idea what I was truly in for. Cosleeping started off as being a selfish act because the only way my newborn would sleep more than three hours between feedings was either next to me, on me or in my arms, and next to me in her rock and play sleeper. Since I was the only one getting up with her to feed her, I needed my sleep as well and so began a journey I swore I would never do while being pregnant. Also, Matt had/has no say in her sleeping with us bc he doesn't wake up with her and hasn't ever since she was born unless I yell at him for help when she's sick. He also gets his bed space so it doesn't affect him like it does my side of the bed.

I also had this bout of anxiety regarding her sleeping alone at night. Worried that what if she chokes on her spit up or that I wouldn't hear her even though her crib was right next to our bed. I bought the snuza halo when she was a newborn which took away those fears and I was able to sleep soundly next to her knowing she was safe. Oh the miracles of modern technology! Still, as she got older and too old to wear the snuza, what once became a selfish sort of act was my comfort as well. I suppose when I sit here thinking about the real reason as to why I've coslept with her for so long is because it eases my worries and anxieties. I know that she's safe next to me even though I never sleep 100% comfortable but hey it's a small sacrafice since she's right next to me nuzzled in my arms. I am sure the Sigmund Freud in me would have a field day  psychoanalyzing my actions but for now let's leave it as I enjoyed this bonding time together especially since I didn't Breastfeed her like I had planned. 

In addition, Belle was a "Velcro" baby sort or speak. She enjoyed being held all day, worn and being close. Most nights, still even now, she fell asleep on me first and then I would move her to her bed or our bed and she would sleep soundly with me close by. I suppose all of this co-sleeping messed up with her ability to take naps in her crib, as she never took naps there. She would only sleep in the car, one of the rocking/soothing gadgets as an infant or in her stroller or on me.  Even now, she will only selectively nap in the car, which means I spend a lot of my time driving around and sitting in my car when she does nap on occasions. 

When I come to think of why she enjoyed napping in the above methods it's all apparent: feeling secure and her need for input/pressure/squeezes. One of Autumn's symptoms of Autism is her need for pressure and input to help her cope with the world and senses around her. It's part of her sensory processing disorder. When I look back, it all makes sense. Even as an infant, she longed for input but in the form of hugs/being held and worn and the safely and security of her harnesses/straps of the rocker, stroller, and her car seat. Talk about a lightbulb moment flashing in front of me when I realized the above: thus she's always been this way. She also seeks her pressure with me the most. Here's a pic from today of her doing this don't mind the blurriness. 

Which brings me back to co-sleeping. Did Autumn always need to be close or did I need to be close? I think it's both and I am glad I did and still do cosleep with her when she's not feeling well. Some will say that it's crazy that I've allowed her to sleep in our bed and that I never got her to nap in her crib but as I look back on those decisions, I don't regret them. I love being able to be the one to make her feel secure and safe and it will be a difficult day when I am going to have to let go of always being the one to be there to protect her from the world (that's an entire subject that I will post about eventually). 

Overall, I understand that cosleeping isn't for everyone and it isn't something families do for years after infancy. Whether its fulfilling my daughter's sensory needs, securing her attachment abilities, or making me a little less anxious when bed time arrives and less grumpy when the morning arrives since I am Autumn's caretaker 95% of the time, I am proud to admit I coslept and that I did it because I wanted to not because of a trend or a movement, but because it has worked for us. 

Here's to that Monday!

Confession post over!



Sunday, March 9, 2014

Dinner Daylight Savings

I just love daylight savings! Loosing that one hour feels like loosing the entire day. Ugh! 

I must say, it was so nice to be able to go out for dinner for my birthday a few days early last night and without Belle to boot. Yes, without my girl who I love more than life itself. Sometimes, no actually, all couples need "their time" together here or there, especially when the kiddos arrive. It doesn't make anyone a bad parent to want to spend quality time with the person who also helped create that miniature mini-you that's become your 24/7 life you're currently living. 

I used to feel guilty leaving my little girl with her Mema to have time out with Matt, but now, I welcome it. Plus spending time with Mema is something she needs in her life (Mema is the only other person that can watch Autumn aside from us).  I look forward to my time with my husband whose stereo system and funny jokes brings me back to where we started. 

I know that I often get so consumed in "all things Autumn" and he has been brushed aside, but to have those few moments of alone bliss, well it makes me realize how blessed I am and why I married this man in the first place. Like last night.

We stuffed our faces with tortilla chips and guacamole, had a few drinks (well I did), and drove around in the old Neon blasting Boregore and Skrillex. Oh what fun. Felt like we were teenagers again! 

"Hey look, here's a foodie!"

I just love those moments. I am sure many of you do. I know this post really isn't anything relevant to autism or Autumn, but how much I still enjoy her daddy after eleven plus years. I'm looking forward to our anniversary next month. Seven years married and I don't know what they mean by the "seven year itch" because I haven't needed to scratch yet and that's 100% truth.

So really nothing too fun or exciting to post today except that I am making some corned beef and cabbage for dinner. It smells invigorating. However, my mother in-law makes it the best (she is a great cook). Going to try to give Autumn some, but I highly doubt it that she will try a piece.

Also, over the course of the next few weeks I will be writing separate posts regarding Autumn, her progression and more things on the lines of Autism. Yes I am keeping things real by sharing my day-to-day thoughts, but the above will be included soon enough. We will be counting down to April 2nd as that's National Autism Awareness Day. I will have something special planned for that day. 

Until then, keep reading and relating. I hope that everyone has enjoyed their weekend. 

Here's to tomorrow.



Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sleeping In Is SO Overrated...

It's not even 7am and little Belle has asked for Signing Time a few times already. The fact that she would rather watch Signing Time over her other favorite show Pocoyo must mean something special to her. Plus, this seems to be a "new" piece added to her routine. Can't break a girl from her routine right?

Any who, most parents can relate to this:

No matter how much wine consumption and channel surfing one can do on a Friday or Saturday night, weekend mornings are just like any other mornings in the world of parenthood, well at least for me it is. These are the moments where I envy my husband who is still sleeping snug in our bed while I am now onto my second cup of coffee. 

Which brings me to my question of the day: do you get to sleep in, ever, on the weekends or when your significant other is home from work (vacation, time off, etc.)?

I joke and say that even given the chance to sleep in, I probably wouldn't because Belle is so used to her routine of me getting up with her in the AM. I've grown to just become used to mornings even though I am a typical night owl. It's a sad world when I can barely stay awake past 10pm because of feeling drained from keeping up with a hyperactive, no-nonsense, rarely nap unless sick, needs a strict routine and lots of movement child that even if she goes to bed late (like after 10pm, which luckily she fell asleep after 8pm last night), she's up before the roosters nowadays. 

Sleeping in is so overrated right? I'll sleep in someday correct? Sleep is for the dead you say? Yeah yeah I get it...still I'm already looking forward to bedtime and the day has just begun (said most parents like me who enjoy their beds). 

Thank goodness for caffeine and the love I have for it. To think I only became a caffeine addict over the course of the past few years makes me wonder how on earth I was able to function as a teenager when school started at 7:30 (I still think that's too early of a day for kids and teachers alike but what do I know).  

Like I said previously, breaking a child's routine, especially one who is on the spectrum, is like your spouse shattering your favorite coffee's like "WTF just happened?? What did you do?!?! NO!!!!" So for me, if I don't follow her typical morning routes, she screams and pouts as if the world was coming to an end. I know this may sound harsh but lately I've been "switching things up" and yes does she pout and get mad? She does, but I don't care. Momma needs her milk too (coffee: mommy's milk) and yes I will sit with you while you drink your milk but you're going to wait two more minutes...and she has and does...and guess what?! The tantrums are short and somedays, non-existent. 

Usually she gets up, lays/cuddles with me in bed, then gets her diaper change, her almond milk and we sit together holding hands wrapped up in one of the throws while she enjoys one of her morning shows, then it's onto breakfast and the rest of our day. The above happens in sequence probably 10-15 minutes from the time she's up and is drinking her milk. 

I must say that mornings are peaceful and one of the few times she's more relaxed and not bouncing off the furniture yet. It's a precious time where we spend being quiet and enjoying one another, but that tends to be short lived because she gets bored or needs something else. 

However, there's nothing more serene than cuddling up with your kiddo, messaging their arms while smelling their sweet head just taking that moment in because as much as we (me) hates mornings, once night arrives, the day is over and that's another day in the dust, time we will never get back. Despite the morning dragging on, an eccentric toddler who is currenty running around the house yelling and bouncing off the furniture, I will continue to sit here and enjoy her in this moment because I will never get this time back tomorrow (while drinking my milk of course).

Here's to a happy weekend all. Stay strong and blessed.



Friday, March 7, 2014

The Season of The Sick

Well it turns out that little Belle has the norovirus, which explains why her bowel movements have been plentiful over the past few days. I just don't get this shit. How did she catch it? I keep the house almost as clean as one of those homes featured in "good housekeeping", plus I'm a bit of a germaphobe so this boggles me. Either it came in from one of her therapists toys or at the play place we went to last week, which was filthy and I couldn't wait to leave and wash my and her hands...ugh never again!

(A toxic butt smelling, disgruntled toddler who kept saying, "out", she also kept saying "T" bc the bench/table underneath was in the shape of a T behind her lol)

The only perk is now she's sleeping in the car and I can catch up on blogging and maybe an episode of Orange is the New Black. 

Like I said yesterday, I hate it when she's not feeling well. I feel helpless. I just want her bum to be back to normal. Her getting exposed to germs is bound to happen as she ages and boy does it suck. Every time she's exposed to kids or to a play place, she gets some sort of cold or virus. Ugh it seems never ending.

Now I have to plug her up with the BRAT diet in hopes it will help. I was also told to try rice milk to see if that helps. So once she's up, were back down at the store buying more supplies. 

On a positive note, I made my first ever gluten-free loaf bread. I had bought one of those premade mixes so it made it very simple for me to try and bake. I am also planning on making kale chips today as well. Anything to try and get her to eat different foods that are healthy. 
Here's a pic: 

Other than the above, not much else interesting to report except that Matt is taking me out to dinner for my upcoming birthday but who knows what will happen since the little miss needs to get back up to normal and I don't want her Mema to get sick, but she's been exposed already so we will most likely play it by ear.

It seems like this season has been rough on us all. Stomach flu, the real flu/bronchitis for Matt and now the norovirus. Plus this cold and the snow we've had. Yesterday it felt like summer and I was sweating yet it was only 30 degrees, 30 degrees and I was feel too warm to wear my coat or jacket. Crazy bird I am. Even today I forgot my coat and I feel fine. Gosh I long for spring: nice weather, less chance of being/feeling sick, getting out more to have fun...cuter clothes...can't wait. For now I'll try my best to be patient. 

Oh and here's a good homemade recipe for Pedialyte so you don't ever have to spend $4-$5.00 per bottle again: 

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of orange jello mix
2-3 tablespoon of white granulated sugar or honey for older children 
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of boiling water
3 1/2 cups of cold water

Combine all of the sugar, salt, baking soda and jello then add the boiling water. Mix together, then add the cold water. Mix. Also adjust sugar to your liking. **The jello is for the taste but that can even be omitted. 



Thursday, March 6, 2014

Puke, Sh*t, Hugs

Good morning to all. I figured out that I can post using my phone, which will make keeping up with this blog a lot easier rather than posting from my computer. Any who, I never got that shower after I posted yesterday (luckily I did later once Matt got home; the simple luxuries I once knew) and we never made it to the play station place. Instead, I've been battling disgusting diapers, vomit and a very moody toddler. Either she ate something wrong or she has a stomach bug. I don't know, it's all about playing the guessing game. It's the same guessing game that all parents play with their small infants and toddlers. 

This is another area that frustrates me because I wish that she could just tell me what's wrong, what's bothering her, but no. Instead screaming and crying, pushing me away when it's time for a diaper change or not letting me bathe her when she's covered in vomit (sorry for the tmi). 

Now she won't even sit in the bath tub. This is a new thing she's been doing so giving her baths hasn't been as easy. Her OT gave me a few tips, but I think this is due to her hurting and not wanting to sit and not being able to forget that feeling. So onto wearing a swimsuit bottom next to see if it helps. Anyways, It's not even 9am here and I've changed more dirty diapers in the past 24 hours than what I tend to change over the course of a few days. Every time she does a "Pom Pom" I cringe because "here we go again". 

I am sure most parents can relate to feeling helpless when your child is sick or not him/herself. You want to do everything in your power to make them feel better, yet sometimes only time is the main culprit to their healthy selves. When a child can't communicate their feelings, add to that frustration times a thousand. After she got sick last night to the point of choking, which scares the crap out of me, I sat there holding my Belle while crying alongside with her because I hate seeing her in pain. I was also hoping that she could just tell me what's bothering her. I was also wishing she would show any signs of wanting to use the potty, but no, not my turn to get a wish tonight. 

So fast forward to this morning. I have a huge headache from the lack of sleep and no chance for caffeine (I hate headaches). I had plans to run errands and now who knows what will happen. I tell you, having a sick child definitely throws a curve ball into your life and when their routine is loused up, so is yours. 

This brings me to my topic of the day: food. Many people claim that having a gluten-free/dairy-free diet in children with developmental delays, autism, ADHD, etc., may help with gastrointestinal issues as well as behavioral concerns. Autumn has been pretty much dairy-free since last summer with about 50% of her diet being gluten-free. However with this latest bout of her getting sick, I am wondering if it's something else, like a food allergy or if I should just take her off gluten entirely since she's been having more stomach problems over the course of the past week with a potential increase in more gluten foods. I am thinking that with all of these nasty diapers, it's time to make the change. At least gluten-free foods are becoming more affordable and healthy right? Plus I want to do this for myself, even more of a push to forgo gluten entirely. 

Any who, on a positive note, no dirty diapers now within the past hour! It's a Christmas miracle! Speaking of Christmas (yes I know it's March), since converting Belle's crib into a toddler bed, we have been putting one of those jingle bells that kids can wear on their wrists or their ankles in music class on her ankle once she goes to sleep. It is the cutest thing hearing her in the morning when she wakes up. I can't help but start singing "Jingle Bells" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". So the spirit of Christmas lives on and it's one thing I can cross off my anxiety-stress checklist.

Otherwise, I'm going to try my best to stay positive despite the sleep deprivation, lack of coffee, and crappy job (poop stinks). 

Have a great day!



"Now you see me, now you don't"

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Launch Day

Good Morning to all and welcome to Raising a Butterfly, Autumn's Journey. My name is Trish and it is my pleasure to share this journey from the passenger's view sort of speak with my family, friends as well as those interested in following us along. For those of you who didn't read the prelude/today post, this blog will focus on raising a child on the spectrum and all that goes with "arriving in Holland" from the parent's perspective. This will become my outlet, my voice, my therapy. I can only hope that through my words and experiences I will be able to help other parents alike and to let them know that throughout this roller coaster ride, they're not alone, in fact, you're not alone. Period.

Becoming a parent was something I always thought would happen as I grew up. I imagined having the "perfect" most beautiful child who would excel in everything thrown their way. I had imagined a future so bright for my baby that even the sun needed to wear shades. Now, here I am, a mother of my one and only Autumn Belle, who will be 32 months soon, who has developmental delays, Sensory Processing Disorder, diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, whose days consists of therapies and evaluations, who can't join regular play groups or classes because of her inability to sit and focus (she needs to move and of course all of the times for a gymnastics class are smack dab in the middle of one of her therapy sessions), and who, someday, more than likely will be diagnosed with ADHD. When I look back at pictures of my pregnancy progression three years later, never did I imagine the journey we'd be on together, or the many obstacles that I would face internally, externally, as well as professionally. All of these decisions and expectations that I had thought would be my life with my child has changed. No parent ever imagines their child with a disability of any sorts. Why would we do such a thing? Even despite the negative above, I still see the most beautiful child, perfect to me, who has just as much potential like the rest. From one of my idols, Ms. Temple Grandin (don't know her, look her up), "she may be different, but not less", and that my friends, has become my parenting model.

So here I am, back writing again. I wrote during my pregnancy with my little Autumn Belle as my muse then and now she continues to give me strength, tests my patience as well as inspires me to enjoy life in general. There are those days that I feel down, depressed, and sad. The cold and the snow hasn't helped my emotions, but when I look into her eyes and see her smile or hear her say a new word, she pulls me back into her light.

I decided to "officially launch" my blog today (aka, letting friends and family know on Facebook) because today is my maternal grandmother's birthday. It is also the first day of Lent, meaning Ash Wednesday. My grandmother introduced me to religion and raised me and my family to be Catholics. When I look back at those memories, my heart beams with joy. So I only thought that it would be only appropriate to start something that will bring joy into my life on such a special day. Lent may be about giving up/sacrificing, but it is also about doing some good with that choice. I was going to give up Gluten and I might try it, but that's more of a health choice. Thus, my goal is to write a blog piece each day for the next 40 days, even if that means getting up early or going to bed later than normal. Let's see what I can do.

The purpose of this blog and my sometimes endless rants isn't to make others happy, it isn't to "change the world" or to bring more awareness to the Autism community, there's plenty of that. It is to bring acceptance. Autism isn't a choice, just like one's sexual orientation, race, or ethnic background. It isn't something to be ashamed about either. Its taken me six-seven months to get the courage to finally start writing again, especially regarding my daughter and her diagnosis because of fears of hurting other family members who want to keep Autumn's "issue" private. That's the last thing I want to do is to hurt anyone I love, which is why I am going to say the following: For those family members who may disapprove of my blogging choice, please remain respectful. Yes, Autumn having her delays might affect you on some level, but you're not living this life 24/7. This isn't your life. It is ours: Matt, Trish, Autumn, and Leah. The only other people who truly have a say in this blog are Matt and Autumn. Matt approves 100%. Autumn may not approve someday, but for now, I am telling her story, sharing her progression, so that one day, she can read this and know how far she's truly come. I can only hope to break down these barriers and stigmas attached to having any sort of delay, diagnosis, or disorder, as it shouldn't be something that's brushed under the rug or taken less seriously. It's not something that she will just "grow out of", that's simple-minded, ignorant talk and please don't tell me that I am "overreacting". Unless you have a degree in counseling and studied the DSM-IV, then you have some grounds to even suggest alternative prognosis. Believe me, I can only hope that's the case (she will just grow out of it) and all of this extra therapy, services, and alternate life plans were just precautions, but for now, this is our life, my life, and I am not going to censor myself or fabricate the truth. Thus, read if you choose. You all know that I have Autumn's best interest at heart. That I will advocate for her and fight for her as she grows older. That's my ultimate goal, to be the best parent my daughter needs and requires (isn't it for all of us). I am not going to apologize for the above. Just being real and being myself.

So here's to the first official day of my blog/Facebook page. I promise that my posts will be more enjoyable as the days march on. Belle (that's what I call Autumn b/c it means "beauty") just finished eating her breakfast and I need to shower and get ready because she has therapy soon with one of my new favorite people in this "butterfly life" (I will get into the whole meaning behind the name of the post at a later date). Then I am going to try to attempt to bring her to an open play place up the road from me. As a SAHM (stay-at-home-matriarch haha okay mom), we're always trying to find things for our kids to do to keep them busy, socialized since socialization seems to be "so important" nowadays (especially with children on the spectrum), and to get out ourselves because staring at the four walls becomes redundant and the shinning-like. I am hoping that she will enjoy playing because like I said before, there isn't many classes/play groups offered during the times she doesn't have therapy.

I hope that everyone enjoys their days and I will see you all tomorrow. For now, stay strong, be positive, and feel blessed.



(Belle watching her favorite show: Signing Time, clapping to "The Rainbow Song", while I virtually toast my coffee mug to you all)