Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 9 Cast a Smile

I am noticing some changes around here. I almost don’t want to reflect on our case of good humoredness in fear of completely jinxing our way back into freak-out land. Maybe it is all due to our vacation and taking a break from all scheduling, but I would like to think that it is in part due to me taking time to adjust my way of seeing things, at least attempting to make adjustments. I feel as though it may be rubbing off onto my son. As much as I would love to believe that, I can't say that I do completely. I know I'm smiling more and am more content in general. I have seen the same from him. 
I have noticed my son beginning to get frustrated and with a quick reminder, he is able to turn his emotions around. I’ve watched him smile more even in situations that I would have expected him to become serious and upset. Regardless of why, to see him smile abundantly is a conquest that I have long sought after through advice, books, therapists, doctors, and more before I ever considered my own happiness. I want nothing more than to see him light up and enjoy his life. Don’t take me as naive here, I know this doesn’t mean everything is “fixed” and all will be hunky-dory, but more smiles and less meltdowns is a step in the right direction. I know that there will be good days and bad days, but I would love for my boy to experience the better half of that equation. The day that I told my son he had Asperger’s Syndrome, I told him that every one has strengths and every one has weaknesses. I explained to him that his strengths were numerous and that we would work together to make the weaknesses that troubled him less troublesome. It would take practice, time and patience, but he is capable of anything he puts his mind to, especially with us, his family, working with him. I want to be right about that and I certainly don’t want to let him down. Seeing him actually accept a situation that may not have had an outcome that he so desperately expected, is like lighting a candle in a dark room. It starts with a small seam of light, but quickly casts a beautiful and warming glow upon those who have been in the dark room awaiting the flame to banish the anxiety of what could be hidden by the darkness. His smile sparks and my son’s face lights up. I feel grateful to see him glow and relieved to see the dark turmoil lifted from him. It’s both comforting and rewarding to us all and without a doubt, smile worthy. So here's hoping for more sparks of smiles for him, and that we all bask in his glow.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 8 Mile of Smiles

It was another easy going day. I love summer vacation, especially when we don’t have places to be everyday. 
Today’s highlight was that my husband was able to join us at my parent's home finally. What I really enjoyed was taking some time for each other. I know this may not sound like quality couple" time, but we took a nap on the couch together! I don’t think we’ve been able to do that in years! If either of us try to sleep during daylight hours, our kids have an uncanny ability to lose any form of self-reliance. I have also noticed that they feel the need to inform us of their every move, which is great in some ways, but I don’t need to know that they’re going to the bathroom to pee. It can be particularly grating on the nerves when it interrupts you from much needed beauty sleep and I’m pretty sure it’s the reason I have to dye my hair so often. 
After the nap and a family dinner, my husband and I took a nice little walk around the neighborhood. It was time spent together and I don’t think we talked about anything stressful. Not one thing! It was just time with one another, reminiscent of when we first started dating and walked for hours up and down the streets of our city. As we walked along the unfamiliar road tonight, observing the surroundings, I found myself smiling and laughing like the old days. Each step along the mile or so reminded me that this is a man I enjoy having by my side. 
The kids have been playing well together today, for the most part at least. I tucked them into bed and gave them Reiki treatments. Reiki is a Japanese form of healing that uses energy to provide relaxation and well being. If you’re not familiar with it, it can sound pretty crazy, but I’ve been a practitioner for a few years and have been amazed by it. While I don’t actively seek clients with my hectic schedule, I do provide treatments to my family. As part our anxiety reducing techniques, I thought I would include regular Reiki treatments into our routines. I am hoping to give treatments to the kids for just a few minutes at night. The kids like getting the treatments and they seem to enjoy it quite a bit before bed. We’ll have to see how I do with that commitment. I can’t see myself doing that nightly, but maybe I can get a few nights a week in. The problem is, I’m in such a need of that beauty sleep that I tend to nod off during their treatments! Oh well, some Reiki is better than none and I always feel so much better after giving a treatment. It really is good for each of us and will only lead to more smiles down the road. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 7 A week later...

I am happy to report that this was a very easy going and relaxing day! I got not one, but two workouts in and I always feel better when I am in an exercise routine. The kids were both in exceptional moods and I really didn’t have any meltdowns or spastic episodes to work around. It truly was a lovely day! Maybe this last week of seizing smiles has made a difference already...
The best part of the day was just a few minutes ago. While getting a load of laundry together, I asked my son to help out. He was in a chatty mood and talking about some television show he saw displayed on the channel guide called “1000 Ways to Die”. None of us have seen this show, but it got my son thinking. “Mom, I know 20 ways to die!” he says enthusiastically. Well, I’d rather not get into that discussion! Who knows where that will lead us and whether or not it will end in a meltdown when he realizes he’s talking about the sensitive subject of death. That topic has landed us into major emotional collapses.  I decided to divert the conversation without making it seem like a bad topic. I have to be careful about how I do this because I don’t want him interpreting my diversion as me saying that he’s thinking of bad things. He’ll feel guilty and we could be in the throws of a meltdown again over something not really important. As he helped me by catching the clothes I dropped going down the stairs, I said “I would love to know 20 ways to make you smile.” I ended up hearing 24 things! He smiled the whole time while he kept count of the items. I loved hearing everything he said even though I wasn’t surprised by any of the of them and for once I wasn’t having to hear about building some massive contraption, car, or tree house over and over. I loved every minute of it and having my son by my side during laundry duty didn’t make it feel like such a chore. I just might have to incorporate him into this duty more often. So thank you to my amazing son for supplying me with another smile worthy moment by smiling himself! I love ya kid!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 6 Pinstripes

Alice Cooper said it best with “No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks” from his “School’s Out” song. Yes, I know that rhyme wasn’t coined by him, but I sure feel like Alice Cooper by the time school winds down... It’s our first school free Monday of the summer and I couldn’t be happier! Despite the fact that my son is waking up over an hour earlier than I could normally drag him out of bed on school mornings, I was thrilled not to have to remind him to take his vitamins, and actually chew his food only to barely get out the door before the bus passes because I’ve been begging him to stop staring at the mirror for five minutes instead of brushing his teeth. It was a pretty great morning. I enjoyed lounging around free of stress and sipping my coffee while the kids peacefully meandered their way through their morning. That was down right awesome. I didn’t even get dressed until sometime after 10:00, or was it 11:00?! There was internal smiling going on this morning!
There were some up and down moments this afternoon with my son. Our routine is way off since we are out of town visiting my family and he spent most of the day out at my father’s business, a collision center. He loves it there because he has his own tools and being the car fanatic and engineer that he his, he feels like he’s at home. The problem is, it gets a bit overstimulating for him and unstructured so it can bring about little emotional meltdowns like he had today. If he goes back tomorrow, I’ll make sure he has a project to work on and a Plan B project in case he needs it. But after a long day at the shop, he wanted to ride his ATV which happened to be out of gas. Another meltdown. Ughh!! I tried to divert the mood swing by telling him to use his trailer for something. Something went wrong again. Another meltdown. UGHHH!! Okay, so maybe it’s time for him to go in, shower and relax. As he’s taking the trailer into the garage, he was distracted by his emotions and he side swiped my car’s bumper with the wagon. DOUBLE UGHHH!! Now, I’ve got green stripes on my bumper. Not so smile-worthy, but I sent him in to shower instead of losing my top, and I continued a soccer game with my daughter. That’s right... the little diva played soccer! This is the same little girl that I once asked if she wanted to join the soccer team and she replied “You mean, you want me to kick a ball?! No thanks!” So I was pretty thrilled when she got out there in the grass among the terrifying bugs and actively kicked my behind (she cheats). She was hilarious with her rules such as “using hands are ok” and “wear sunscreen” so I had quite a few laughs. Once my son showered, he apologized for my new unintentional pinstripes and offered to paint my bumper. All ended well and we’re all settling in for the night with smiles instead of tears. I guess my son’s projects for tomorrow will be buffing the stripes out of my bumper. Two problems solved already and I have another reason to smile!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 5 The Roller Coaster Day

It was certainly a hectic day today and I while I had my fair share of smile worthy moments, I also had a missed opportunity. Hey, I knew it would happen. I’m going to spend a moment to reflect on the rougher episode, or smile miss, before I share my more pleasurable moments. 
My 6 year old needed to get ready for her dance recital today so there was hair and nails, glitz and glamour to be done by 0900 hours. Why military time? Because I wish I were that organized! If I had been, I wouldn’t have missed my opportunity to seize a smile instead of losing my cool. I was feeling the stress and when it was time to motivate my son into getting ready, I failed miserably. Everything I wanted him to do was met with confrontation and instead of handling the situation with grace and dignity, I worsened the interaction by intensifying my own reactions. I should have taken a deep breathe and walked away momentarily. I was rushing and at the time it seemed imperative that we leave at the predetermined time set forth by me and supported by my husband. Looking back, we got to the auditorium early and then had to wait around more because the staff was late taking the girls. Why couldn’t I have just given him more time? I’m always telling him “we just have to go with the flow”, but I really feel like I shouldn’t be dishing out that advice if I can’t take it myself. I really need to work on that! That will become a priority! So one last recap of what I’ve learned here and then I’ll allow myself to move on... When the moment seems incredibly rushed and overwhelming, take a moment to breathe and go with the flow. It certainly won’t hurt nearly as much as the guilt of losing my cool. New mantra: Breathe and Flow! Duly noted.
Now on to the happier moments, otherwise I’ll fester on the aforementioned missed opportunity. The recital was another proud moment, much like yesterday! My lovely daughter did a fantastic job and I was thrilled to be there for her. I cheered, I cried and pretended to have something in my eye, and beamed from pride. I was also glad that she didn’t fall off the stage which she nervously told me yesterday she feared might happened, so that’s a bonus! Plus, my son only told me he was hungry for a snack about 18 times (thank you conveniently located table of goodies). Overall, the recital was an amazing time.
I also was thrilled to be heading out to my parents’ home for a long week. My blog is a little late due to traveling, but that’s ok because I’ll just go with the flow, no rush (breathe and flow). I thoroughly enjoyed singing along with tunes during the car ride despite the presence of passengers. I’m sure they would have rather I didn’t belt out my favorites, but since I was driving I figured it would be fine and they would survive. Besides, the children had headphones so I think major mental and emotional trauma from embarrassment was averted. At least that’s what I’ll tell the therapist when they’re older, that they were properly prepared for my joviality. Once home, I delighted in seeing my sister’s new home she’s buying and then had a fun, butt-kicking workout with my dad. There’s nothing funnier than seeing me try to stay balanced while doing three direction kicks which means that my father must have had a good internal laugh at that as well. I’m feeling pretty good now. I can expect to make mistakes, but I’ll also learn from them. Eventually, I’ll be breathing flowing myself into more and more smile moments despite the infractions just like today. Not every day is perfect, but they can still end in smiles.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 4 Proud and Proven Smile

I was born on a Tuesday, but I was not born full of grace as the old poem goes. Unfortunately for my little girl, she wasn’t blessed with grace either. She’s been in dance lessons for two years now and we continue with it because she enjoys it. She’s a kid after all, so as long as she’s enjoying it, who cares if she goofs around a little. She spent most of her time playing and never seemed to really get the hang of the dance routine. That’s how it was the first year of lessons and that seemed to be the way of it during the second year. So I was expecting the same type of behavior at her recital rehearsal today.
When we got to the auditorium, she turned to me and said, “I don’t feel good mom. My throat feels funny.” That told me that she was nervous and her anxiety was high. So I walked her over to her friend and she started to perk up. The rehearsals began and I sat in the dark room awaiting the curtain to part. I was anxious to see her dances as I had yet to see a whole routine. The moms were banned from the lesson room due to space and distractions, which was a total nuisance to me. I didn’t enjoy being banished to a narrow waiting room teeming with other moms, children and dancers jostling and jockeying for prime positions while one dance room tried to outdo the other with their loud music. There wasn’t much opportunity to see the girls practicing so I was both literally and figuratively left in the dark on rehearsal day. Well the curtain opened and there she was. Looking so much taller than I remembered her being just minutes ago. She wore a determined expression as well. She meant to do this right and do her best. And she did! She may not have been completely perfect, but she blew me away! I couldn’t believe that was my daughter up there! She amazed me during both dances and I couldn’t wait to tell her how proud she had made me. I didn’t care if she did everything perfect or not, but to see her commit to the routines that she had deemed as play time and to do so under nervous pressure took me by surprise. I was so thrilled to see her when she got off the stage and when she saw me she was beaming! We looked at each other and lit up inside! I loved every minute of it! It made every claustrophobic waiting room moment more than worth it.  So much so, that we’ll be doing it all again next year. I’ll just have to hold onto today’s proud smile-worthy moment. If you see a woman grinning from ear to ear in a tight space with too many people in it while being bombarded with “Whip My Hair” and “Evacuate the Dance Floor” at the same time over and over and over again... you’ll know it’s me and you’ll know why! My inner thoughts are on my sweet girl proving to herself that she can do whatever she sets her mind to and how I lucky I was to be there for it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 3- Realizing What Makes Me Smile

Today, I began listening to an anxiety reducing program. Why? Because my daughter has suddenly started losing her mind over bugs and blood. If she sees bugs, she completely freaks out and has tried jumping out of her booster seat. Thankfully, this hasn’t happened while I was actually driving yet, but I’m not sure how long that record will last. The last time she saw blood, she turned completely white, broke out into a full body sweat and made it clear that she would throw up. She kept yelling “Aaaacckk, aaacckk!” Now, I don’t even want to think about what will happen if both of those fears were to happen at the same time! We’d need a Xanax... not for her, for me! She’s scaring the holy out of me every time it happens because there is definite screaming going on. Everything is fine, then all of sudden, someone lets loose a banshee and I turn to see that the banshee is in fact, my daughter. Yikes!
So back to the anxiety program... Part of what I needed to do in order to teach my daughter how to handle her anxiety, is to look at myself. The author asked for the parent to spend 10 minutes writing down what makes him/her feel bad. After a full 10 minutes, I came up with this list of horrid things:
Cooking, cooking, cooking x 1,000,000
Putting away leftovers
Always having to be on the go 
Homework (my kids’)
Rushing around
Grocery shopping
The kids bickering
Not being around my family & friends ( we moved away from my close family/friends 5 years ago)
Spider veins
Balancing the bank accounts
Tight spaces/Crowded spaces
Being interrupted when I'm on the phone
Messy rooms
Gardening/Lawn care-- All maintenance in general really
Feeling like I have to do it all
Cold weather or rainy weather, cold & rainy weather is even worse!
Waiting for the school bus in the cold, rainy, cold & rainy weather
Now that I’ve accomplished reminding myself of all the yucky things, I’ve determined that all of that makes me hurt in my back, neck and shoulders. Well, wasn’t that a fun thing to find out. On to the good stuff! What makes me feel good? I was pleasantly surprised to find these thoughts really flowing out! Here’s what I jotted down in 10 minutes:
Watching movies with the kids
Reading to the kids
Alone time with husband
Beach vacations
Playing board games as a family
Playing Rock Band with my son
Batting in the backyard with the kids
Beach vacations
Our pets (or small petting zoo if you were to ask my husband)
Backyard campfires with Reese’s s’mores
Holidays/holiday shopping
Being with my family
Waking up and seeing my wall of goodies the kids gave me
Fishing with husband
Beach vacations
Laying on the couch, watching our shows with husband
When my husband cooks... I love that!
My dogs! And how they follow me around unless there’s food around elsewhere
Back rubs and I get a daily hug from husband that is actually an attempt to crack my back-- it’s a blessing really!
Going out with friends
Reiki (I’m a practitioner)
When my kids succeed or are enjoying themselves
Sunshine, and hot weather
Weekends out and about for fun with my husband and kids
Beach vacations
That greenhouse feeling I get when I sit by the glass door in the sunshine waiting for my  kids to get off the school bus.
Just thinking about all those joyful moments really lit me up from within. It not only felt good to remind myself that I have these events in my life, but I physically felt lighter. I felt my muscles loosen, my shoulders drop, and the weight I’d been carrying on my shoulders flow away. I looked at that list three times and smiled. You know what... this could be a way to smile every day. Look at the “good” list and maybe add to it from time to time. And you know that first list of the “bad” stuff, I’ll just have to find a way to not have to deal with those things quite so much. Now where’s the take out menus? Ahhh, take out... no cooking... Say, why there’s another smile already!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 2 Triumphant Smile

Today, I may not have had a big laugh out loud moment resembling my shower insanity of yesterday, but I definitely felt the potential of what smiling can hold for me. I found myself celebrating a minor triumph with a contented grin. The word contented is key here! Let me explain why... Today, I was able to stop my son from having a meltdown before he was able to shed tears! It was quick and painless for us all. Instead of worrying about how to prevent these sudden emotional downfalls like I usually do, I allowed myself to breathe in and out a few times and just smile. I was successful after all, why not take a minute to let that sink in for once. There was no way I could have seen my son's inner turmoil brewing under the circumstances so there's no sense in trying to analyze it further. I let myself enjoy our small win and be content. A minute later, not only was I smiling, but so was my son. And that's another reason to smile...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 1 The First Big Smile

It happened! A big laughin' smile! 
After a rough morning of getting my boy off to school and trying to figure out why my girl hasn't been feeling well, I needed a moment. I wasn't sure when it would happen or if it would feel forced, but I was on the look out for the chance to really let go. Kids were both home and settled in so I thought I would hop in the shower before heading out to my son's social group. While turning on the water I started thinking about why it takes my 9 year old son so long in the shower... He gets distracted and just hangs out in there. He's come out countless times with dry hair! What a waste of a good shower right? Maybe not... That got me thinking about ways to make showers more worthwhile. How could I really benefit emotionally from my shower? The answer came with music! 
One good song came on and I decided to let loose! Even the confined space of the shower didn't deter me from having a good ol' time right then and there! Arms were flying, hair was flinging water and I loved it! I lathered, rinsed and repeated all while shaking my groove thang! I continued my dance-a-thon while I dried off and when all was said and done, I felt goooood! All that was left to do was to laugh at myself and blissfully wonder if I could get a bigger shower...

Deciding to Find My Smile

Somewhere along the way between getting married young and raising kids, I lost my smile. I realized this while looking at my own kids’ yearbooks and remembering that I was voted “Best Smile” in high school. I’m pretty sure that was just because I smiled just about all the time. When did that go away? I wouldn’t say that I’m unhappy, since I do feel almost satisfied. Saying “almost” does make me feel a little guilty, but shouldn’t I be smiling everyday? Shouldn’t I feel thrilled to be married to a great guy that I love and to have the pleasure of raising two amazing children?  I mean, what happened? Where and when did I lose my smile? I feel like busting into Wendy’s bedroom and asking her to sew it back on like Peter Pan did with his shadow. Maybe if I had my own Never-Neverland, I would have something to smile about! I’ve decided to go on a conquest to get back my smile and learn to lighten up a little... To find my own inner Neverland. 

In order to do this, I am going to find a way to smile everyday. I’m not saying that I don’t smile ever, but I’m not smiling when it really counts. I smile at the cashier at the stores to be polite, when I see my kids get off the bus, that sort of thing. But I want to light up inside. I want my smile to really beam from within me. So everyday, I will find some way to make this happen. Maybe instead of worrying about if we will make it to dance or tutoring in time, I will twirl with my kids a little on the way to the car. Not sure if my 9 year old son will be up for that, but maybe I’ll just smile when he glares at me. I’ll have to throw in some Nerf time to make up for that, but that sounds like fun too! I think this will take some effort from me after years of forgetting how to be spontaneous, but the rewards could change my life. If I lighten up, maybe my kids will too. With an offbeat aspie engineer for a son and anxiety ridden drama queen for a daughter, we could all benefit from smiling. 

So let the smiling begin...