Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Five Years Later...

It's been five years since my very first post and let me tell you, so much has changed!

When I started this blog, I needed more self-awareness and gratitude. Over the years, so much has changed. I didn't maintain the blog as much as I had hoped, but the personal growth certainly continued. Despite some personal ups and downs, I have found myself so much further along on my journey than I would have expected.

Despite having more children than I did when I started this quest (yep, I now have 4 kids), I have more patience, compassion and I'm finding time to try new hobbies, looking for the one that speaks to me most. Some have been great new experiences, and some were experiences in humility. Who am I kidding, most were, but I did get some good laughs anyway.

I am still learning more and more about myself and what I need to do to be the best person, mother and wife I can be, but I feel so much more content about where I am now. I feel like my relationships with my kids and my husband are stronger than ever and I can't wait to see what smiles the future brings for us.

I'll try to keep updating in more timely fashion and share some great smiles!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Smile Log 116: A Mother's Support and Appreciation

This time last year, I was deep in thought. My son was finishing his worst year of schooling filled with outbursts and meltdowns. I was getting regular calls from the school and he was getting more frequent detentions. 

So what’s the solution? 

Well, the district says “We have a smaller class setting for him next year.” 
“Sounds great!” I said.
“But, it’s in another school,” they said. 
“Ugh, not so great,” I thought. 
“He’ll share gym, lunch, and recess with the whole grade,” says the important people in suits.
“And you realize that’s when he has the most trouble and the times where he earns detention, right? You know that’s his biggest struggle, right? Handling large groups of kids during noisy and more chaotic times?” I said. “Umm... I was under the impression you guys might have been on the right track, but clearly that train derailed.” I depressively thought. So now what? 

I found myself reluctantly contemplating homeschooling. 

Yikes! Me? Homeschool? I’m no teacher! 

I have NO patience and how would I bring back all those long-ago forgotten facts? I thought most of it was pretty useless then and I’ve only lived to see that most of it was, indeed, useless to me now. 

Well, no need to switch trains just yet. I’d mention it to my husband who'd think it’s ludicrous, which would lead to two scenarios. His logic would either make me see how crazy it really was or fuel my desire to prove him wrong. That will put me on track at least...”

“Honey, I’m thinking maybe we need to homeschool.” 
“I think maybe we should, too.” 

Say what? He agreed to this??? Since when did he get on the homeschool bandwagon? That wasn’t a scenario I was expecting. Crap, now I’ve really got to start thinking about this because my man was backing me up on it. Full steam ahead? Not yet. 

I read the laws on homeschool and they were cumbersome. Maybe homeschooling wasn’t the ticket. Not to mention, just about every other parent I shared my ideas with was basically saying I was crazy. That they could never, would never do it. The school staff didn't seem supportive either. 

I needed honest advice. 

“Mom, what do you think about homeschooling?” I asked, steeling myself for an answer. After all, I wasn't even sure what I wanted to hear. 
“I think you should do it. Obviously, you could do a better job than the school,” she declared without hesitation.
“Yea, I don’t know about that. I mean, yes, his behavior has definitely gotten worse, but I can barely get through homework with the kid. And I have no idea what I’m supposed to teach or anything.” 
“When you were trying to figure out what was going on with your son, you researched everything. You read everything, you figured it all out. You knew more than some of the doctors you took him to and so I think you’d be great at homeschooling. You’ll put the same effort into that as you did when you were trying to figure out what was going on with him and how to get him help. You can do this! Besides, it would have to be better than waiting for the school to call again.” 

I wasn't sure what I had wanted to hear from my mom, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. My mom's true faith in me. She didn't doubt for a second that I was up for the job. 

So it began... Our homeschooling journey, with me as conductor and our two wonderfully unique kids as passengers, fueled by a few wise words and unending support. 

I definitely had some difficult times there in the beginning. I stressed about curriculums. I worried whether or not they were really learning anything at all. There were days when I would call my husband in tears, distraught over how long it took my son to get through a lesson because he had the attention span of a dog in a field of squirrels. I cried over feeling under-appreciated and overworked. Didn’t these kids know that I was giving them my all? Couldn’t they just do a little work without acting like I was telling them to cut the grass with a pair of kiddie scissors?! In the words of my daughter, “Grrr...”

But my husband was there for me. “Hang in there, babe.” He always found a way to reassure me. “You know, I tell people all the time about how you’re homeschooling and doing great. I brag about you.” Even when I wasn't thinking I needed to hear it, he was there with his appreciation and support. "I think what you've done has been great for our family. You really have done an amazing job."

So, though we had a rocky start that felt all uphill, our journey eventually got smoother. I learned to enjoy the ride and take in the scenery. I had two kids that were actually soaking it all in with me. 

And, here I am, a year later. They love it. We do schoolwork, hands on learning, and field trips and we can come and go all we want. Sure, they’ll try to weasel their way out of as much real work as they can, but they’re doing just fine. It feels like a gift when my son goes into an unprompted lecture of plant fertilization. I feel recharged when my daughter tells me what time it is or multiplies to solve an every day problem. What more could a homeschool mom ask for?

Recently, my son's  school therapist said that he was so much happier and going with the flow better. She’s been thrilled with his progress. I’ve had at least three teachers stop me to tell me they could tell I was doing what was best for my son and it clearly was the right choice. I can’t express how much that fills me with appreciation for the support I had this year. 

My mother’s and husband’s support and their faith in me got me through. Every time I doubted myself, I had encouragement. When I was ready to send those deviants packing and back to school, I had a reminder of what a great job I’d been doing. I’ve had lots of support throughout the year from many people, but I wouldn’t have even gotten on board this crazy train if it weren’t for my mom and my husband. You've brought smiles to not only me, but to my children as well. As their mom, nothing means more to me. 

Thank you for this and so much more.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Smile Log 115 Persistence

Research dyslexia, clean, email to advocate, clean up more, email to special education teacher, shave the dog, conference call with advocate, more pet care, conference call with special education teacher, research dysgraphia, remove dog hair from all over me, try to get binder organized for CSE meeting, google special needs apps, put a call into Westchester Institute for Human Development to find out how that speaker at the recent SEPTO meeting organized her sons' IEP binders and so on and so on... That was one of my mornings recently. JUST the morning!

With my son's CSE meeting to discuss possible assistive technologies coming up in the next few days, I've got my brain in hyper advocate mode. Honestly, I live in advocate mode most times, but I really ramp it up prior to any meetings. And it's exhausting.

It's easy to feel alone and burdened in the pursuit of information when you're so desperate for that magic piece of knowledge that will take us in the direction of happiness we are seeking. Much like Mr. Wonka's Glass Elevator, I'd love to push a button and soar to the factory room with an all new and amazing device that will instantly print, edit, organize, record my son's thoughts, and assist him to know what to write! Wait, strike that, reverse it. Despite not finding that wondrous device as of yet, I continue to seek it and anything similar. 

But as I said, it can be very troublesome to have your brain tuned into one train of thought so heavily and to know that so few others around you are going through the same thing. How do you put your mind to ease? 

Well, I have found a few ways. 

Laugh, smile and breathe. I laughed as I fell in the snow with my kids. I smiled watching my son zip down a hill on a snow board on his first day of trying. I enjoyed a beer amongst good company on a Saturday night in a bar that had historical prints of Benjamin Franklin next to the entrance of a strobe lit dance floor. 

I found the humor in the hoards of women seeking endless freebies and discounts while wearing big stickers stating their purpose in the world ("bride, maid of honor, mother of the bride, bridesmaid"). I closed my eyes and breathed in and out before bed... letting it all go for just a few minutes. And sometimes, I feel better when I smile for no reason at all. 

Support!  Find some! Yes, I talk to family and friends, but I've also found that you can gather great strength from others going through the same thing. I joined the local Special Education Parent Teacher Organization and have strengthened my advocate skills, extended my knowledge and shared/received advice with other parents. I also joined the website It's kind of like Facebook for parents and providers of those on the autism spectrum. You can seek advice, whine about your day, rave about your day for that matter, and their provider section is fantastic for learning about and rating services. It's a really great site and has even better intentions. 

Music. Find what works for you and go with it. Let loose (See Day 1 The First Smile Big Smile) . I personally like to sing and dance along and I pity the person who would ever think to ask me to stop. You'll know if it happens as there will be a large mushroom cloud above my house. 

I know I won't lighten up on the researching until I'm satisfied. I don't give up easily after all. Even little Charlie Bucket found that last golden ticket when he thought all hope was lost. The key is that Charlie had hope and smiles despite his struggles and I intend to do the same.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Smile Log 114: No Dead End to Smiles

My son likes rock music. He pretty much always has. I'm talking Linkin Park, The Who, Faith No More... In first grade, he expressed his displeasure with music class. "We sang Skinnamarinky Dinky Dink! I don't want to sing that!! I want to sing rock and roll!!" Honestly, I didn't blame him for his contentment. I'd want to skinnamarink someone's dinky dink if I had to sing that atrocity repeatedly. 

A local band of high schoolers called Dead End were playing in town and I thought it would be a good opportunity to let the kids check them out. Well, my daughter said she'd prefer to stay home as it would hurt her precious little ears (her words, not mine), so it was just me and my little rocker. 

I wasn't sure how well my son would receive the noise level and crowd of the bar. Would he become overwhelmed and lose control of his body? Would he withdraw into a doe eyed silence? Or would he be just fine? Throw in the fact that he's on his ADHD medication and you have to accept the possibility that he could become upset and weepy over any little thing. That's the trouble with sensory issues, overstimulation is life altering... and a bit of a bitch (pardon my french). So what would it be tonight?...

He definitely seemed a little withdrawn in the beginning, but I told him we could easily leave at any time and he certainly seemed to perk up more as the evening went on. Despite the smiles he flashed at me, I wasn't sure if he was actually enjoying the event though. We talked about the songs being played, about the decorations on the bar shelves and after an hour, he gave the word. "Leave." I guess he wasn't actually enjoying himself after all. While disappointing, I was glad that I tried. 

Once we were buttoned up and out the door, and I mean the second we were outside, he exclaimed "That was awesome!" 

Hey, that's a success and that's a smile that I can rock, even while I'm trying to get Nirvana out of my head! 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Smile Log 113: Birthday Smiles

I woke up smiling today. It's hard not to when your son comes running in and announces "I'm 10 years old today!" Yep, it's his birthday and he was overjoyed.

He was, by far, the happiest I've seen him in a very long time, discussing his plans for the doughnuts that I would be bringing into the class and ensuring that I had enough for the three extra kids that join his classroom occasionally.

Upon arriving to his school to drop off the much anticipated doughnuts, I was greeted by the principal. He happily shared with me that he heard it was a big day! How did he know this? The principal patted me on the back and shared that my son stepped off the bus, declared that it was his birthday and did a dance for good measure!

Stepping off the bus, he was still smiling! He was a happy kid! Then, he saw his gifts on the table! Excitement exuded once again!

He ran down to see the cake I made in the fridge and even from upstairs, I could hear the "THAT IS AWESOME!!" that boomed from below. It doesn't show well in the photo due to the colors, but it's a skateboard cake. Check out Disney Family Fun for the directions as it was really easy and very customizable.

We had a great evening of playing darts and Jenga, followed by pizza and cake, and all was laughing and having a good time. Joined by family and friends (thanks to technology, those who couldn't be here  were there through iChat), we enjoyed the company of our loved ones and cherished the moment. 

So, my boy is 10 years old! Double digits, as one person put it, is eye opening for me, but if the rest of the year holds the same amount of happiness for my son as today did, I will gladly embrace my son growing up. I see what can be for him and how deeply happy he can be with himself and with the possibility of the day and future. No worries, no tension, just happiness. That's worth at least 10 years of smiles to me and nothing less. 

Happy Birthday Son!   

Monday, January 9, 2012

Smile Log 112: Suckish to Smiling

So I know it's been awhile since my last post, and I'd love to have some major excuse for taking so much time away from my lighted keyboard, but the truth is simple. I got into a funk of not having the time and energy to grind out a daily smile. Oh, I've had plenty about which to smile and of course I've had plenty with which to antagonize myself and all of that should have made for good writing, but I believe I just got burnt out trying to come up with clever writing every night (and considering how few of my previous posts I could actually consider clever doesn't boost me).

But I'm back tonight. Maybe not every night, but I'll be checking in more frequently and trying not to take things too seriously.

So now to my smiles...

After getting my boy up and off to his bass lessons (thankfully, the burden of hauling the ginormous bass to school in the morning has naggingly been placed upon my husband.. thanks dear) and my girl on the big yellow bus, I was up to my elbows in dirty turtle tank. The last place you're going to find a smile. Trust me on this.

But what brought on my smiles today came long after the reptiles were swimming in cleaner waters and I, too, had my own thorough showering. They occurred in the company of my children, as usual, and they were the kind that built up from the I'm happy to see you today smile to the I'm so proud to know you smile.

I picked up my kids and the bass today (unfortunately, the burden of hauling the ginormous bass home from school falls upon me... you're welcome dear) and immediately I'm greeted by my son. I didn't get the "Hi, Mom!" or a "Hello!" or even a "HHOOONNNNKK!" which is quite the norm actually... for us at least.

"Mom, I need new Beys! Mine are suckish!!" he says to me with a mix of desperation and contentment in his eyes (by the way, for those of you without toys in your life, Bey Blades are glorified spinning tops.) I can see the possible tears in our very near future and that I'm probably going to take the blame for it somehow.

"Suckish, huh?" I say with a smile.

"Yes, no one will trade with me because mine aren't fast enough and they said they are suckish!"

Poor fella, life is hard when your tops don't spin fast enough to knock out other tops. Meanwhile, my daughter is skipping over to me and greeting me with a squeezing hug around my arm and a great big smile.

"So, do you know what type of Bey isn't suckish?" I reply, also with a smile.

It turns out he did know what he needed and planned a trip to the store immediately. But, oh no.. he's foiled by the dreaded MOM and her MOM-Dictated routines! Said routine is to go home, have a 15 minute break with a snack, then do homework. Everything else happens afterwards.

This, I just knew, would send him into those awaiting tears... Ahh, but no. He accepted the routine without any issue (Yippee) and I got to hear all about the awesome Beys on the way home with my daughter's random questions about what dogs are actually saying when they're barking. Hey, that's what it's like riding in my car. And I LOVE it. It makes me smile.

Just when I thought I'd gotten away with diverting attention away from the store, I realized that my beloved routine would still be upset. He wanted a non-suckish Bey, and he was going to get one. He went straight to work on his homework. No 15 minute break happening today! See ya later snack!

I hear him tell his little sister "If we get our homework done quicker, we can probably go to the store afterwards." Homework was done in half the time despite having extra pages to do. I couldn't help it. I had to smile over all of that! To see him set a goal and stay on task to accomplish it was like seeing angels appear to save me from the task of cooking! It was pretty darn miraculous, amazing, and unlikely to happen no matter how much I prayed for it.

So yes, we went to the store. He used his own money to buy new suck-less Beys and I even gave him space to thoroughly peruse that section of the toy aisle in private (I'm a helicopter mom so moving a few aisles down away from him was a big step for me despite the fact that he was in full view anyway).

Once home, we were all around the table together and no one was arguing. SMILE!! The Bey Blader was opening his new stash and modifying them to his need while my girl was painting her new horse piggy bank while discussing all the possible color choices a horse could be (I declared it was a horse of a different color, but I think the Wizard of Oz reference was lost on her). It doesn't get much better than that really. No melt downs. No arguing. No HHOOONNNNKKing. Just smiles all around.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 111 Singin' Away

Yep, much to the chagrin of those around me, I've got the headphones on and I've been singing away. It melts the stress away from the day and it makes me feel better. Enough Said!

I feel like sharing... I was in an oldies mood. They're fun and get you movin'!

Ain't Too Proud to Beg The Temptations! 

My Mistake (Was to Love You) Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye