A Day In The Life Of “I Don’t Know How You Do It”

A day in the life of

“I don’t know how you do it”

I hear that at least three times a week, conservatively. I have learned that more often than not, when this phrase is uttered it is for one of a few reasons: the person genuinely would like to know how the logistics work, our family life is completely outside their realm of experience/understanding, or our kids have been a complete handful and the person is saying it in exasperation. All reasons I can understand. However, few phrases make me feel more alone. Loneliness is a very common byproduct of special needs parenting. We walk a different path and it is one that can be hard to understand if you have not walked it yourself.

The best way to help answer that question and ease the loneliness is to share some of how we do it and what it looks like. The following is a walk through a day we had this week.

As a side note, I was not even able to finish this blog before some more great examples came up on this subject and I made some videos I shared on my Facebook Page about those experiences.

sunrise-580379_1920

“Mommy”

I open bleary eyes to see Damien, our six year old standing next to the couch I slept on the night before. I can see out the window the sun is not up yet, so it must be early.

“Mommy, I had a bad dream”

This is the reason I have been sleeping on our lumpy, decade old couch right outside his room. Damien has always struggled with sleep and my newest attempt to help him work through it has me sleeping right outside his room so I can quickly and easily help him through his night time struggles. I slowly sit up, as the couch is not back friendly, and talk through his dream with him. He calms down and heads back to bed after some hugs and one of Mommy’s magic kisses that scares away bad dreams. This is the fifth time since I fell asleep around 11pm that one of the kids has needed me. I lay back down and glance at the clock on my phone, it is 4am.

I am just starting to fall back asleep as Caleb starts screaming from his room. As I am getting up he reaches his bedroom door and is yelling “Want out”. Oh boy. Communication is VERY hard for Caleb. If he is yelling what he wants before I can even get to his door than he is not going to have any going back to bed nonsense, he is going to want to get up for the day.

Everyone else is quiet so I let Caleb out of his room, change his diaper, and get him some dry cereal. Caleb is four and has a lot going on to include Autism. He is terrified of the bathroom so potty training is not an option right now, hence the diapers. He also does not like any food that is wet, nor has he figured out spoons so dry cereal is our go to. While he walks around I make myself some coffee and gather clothes for all five kids for the day. While Damien’s sleep issues are a combination of trauma, anxiety, and sensory issues, Caleb’s are a combination of Autism and nerve pain.

Today is our first day of therapy on the new summer schedule and I have a good bit of anxiety about it. It will throw the kids off having a different schedule than they are used too. Not to mention yesterday our oldest daughter, Kaitlyn, left to return to Florida and that always sets the kids off. It triggers their trauma, their emotions run away with themselves and then their sensory issues are triggered and it is off to meltdown city for us. So, while I am gathering clothes I am sure to get clothes that each kid’s (different) sensory needs are compatible with, because I know today is going to be a challenge.

BANG BANG BANG

Well, Oliver is awake. Oliver is our three year old and his bedroom is in the basement. He is very subtle about it when he wakes up and starts kicking his bedroom door as hard as he can. Tyler is still sleeping downstairs so I scoot down there quickly before Oliver wakes him up. Tyler works second shift an hour away so he does not get home until around 1am. I open Oliver’s door to one of my least fun surprises, Oliver is stark naked. He has recently discovered his poop. He loves to take off his diaper and mess with it. So we duct tape his diaper on at night.And some nights even that is not enough. Sigh. I send his naked butt up to the changing table so I can clean up poop.

I did not get enough sleep for this and it is not even 6am.

I hear giggling as I come upstairs so on my way to the changing table and Oliver I tell Damien and Perry, our five year old, they can get up and clean their room before breakfast.

cereal-1444495_1920

I clean up Oliver, get him dressed and give the big boys their clothes as well. Then I open Alize’s door and she is awake and playing with toys. Alizé is our only girl at home still and she is four years old. I tell her to clean up her room too and I start getting breakfast ready. Oliver is following me around trying to “help” open all the cabinets and the fridge and getting out his flax milk. Oliver has eczema and if he has dairy it gets substantially worse, so flax milk is his go to for cereal in the morning. I give Oliver his tablet to distract him so I can walk around the kitchen a bit easier. It is about this time that I realize Caleb is not anywhere I can see. I go to find him and he is sound asleep in his room, I wish he could have slept in earlier but I am glad he is sleeping more before therapy.

Alize comes downstairs to announce her room is clean and the kids all sit down for breakfast. I walk the kids through the visual schedule for the day to help them prepare for our plans. The more structured the day, the easier it is on them all. The first thing on our schedule is breakfast, followed by time for the kids to do chores. Their chore charts have multiple uses. First it helps them learn independence and life skills. The act of checking off the lists help them feel in control and ease their anxiety. Cleaning is also a great sensory regulator. The kids work through their chores and brushing their teeth, which can be a challenge for kids with sensory issues. Then I send the big boys down to wake up Tyler.

I run downstairs to finish some laundry while Tyler plays with the kids and eventually makes an early lunch so they can eat before therapy. Tyler is able to come help me with the kids at therapy today but has to leave straight from there to head to work so we take two cars. As we are loading the kids up we have struggles with kids who try to wander during the loading process and kids who do not want to get in their seats. Oliver is really sure he should be able to drive.

oliver driving

I get to the therapy offices before Tyler and herd all the kids inside. Today Alize, Perry, and Oliver are supposed to have OT and Speech, and Caleb is supposed to have Speech. It is summer time so the therapy office is a zoo. There are a lot of families that only do therapies in the summer (like us) and it makes the waiting room experience with five kids with sensory issues, anxiety and a history of elopement a challenge. A Mom kindly offers me a seat when I get there, but I cannot sit down. Caleb and Oliver both take off, often in different directions and the office is on a busy street, if they get out the front door (which has happened before) it is not far to the road and traffic and neither one knows not to run in front of cars because their brains do not understand safety things. So, I stand and watch the kids, Damien is really susceptible to peer pressure and if other kids are being destructive or unkind he just jumps on the bandwagon so I am keeping an eye on him playing with a group of other little boys. Figuring out he still has to follow the rules even when others are not is one of the things we are working on in therapy actually. Perry is translating for Alize as another little girl is trying to talk to her but is not able to translate all her Ze-Ze speak (due to her apraxia). I can see both Damien and Perry getting fidgety in the loud and chaotic waiting room and I know this means that their behaviors are going to get more and more out there the more disregulated they get.

Unfortunately, I don’t have wiggle room on the kids therapy schedules. Because so many therapist are involved in all our kids care they all have to coordinate their schedules in a way that works for our schedule (i.e. either when Tyler is home or all at once so I can afford to hire a helper like I have for one of the days). So I am stuck with the therapy schedule that has us in the waiting room during all this chaos.

I am still waiting for Tyler when Oliver makes a break for the water fountain at the back of the building. I do a quick scan, Damien, Perry, and Alize are playing and Caleb is reading the ABC’s off a toy. I have probably 30 seconds to run back (yes literally run like a crazy woman) and grab Oliver before Caleb decides to make another break for the door. I have Oliver in my arms as the OT comes out for Perry. I am trying to update her about Perry when I see Caleb is inches from the front door and I literally run away mid sentence to be sure he does not leave the building. Thankfully, the therapist here have worked with all of my kids and they know the weight I am carrying so they do not bat an eye. I get Caleb back away from the door and Perry goes off to OT. At the same time the Speech therapist sees me wrestling Caleb and let’s me know she is just going to grab Oliver. At this point my anxiety is climbing.

passengers-1150043_1920

Crowded spaces never used to cause me anxiety, in fact I used to  get energy and inspiration from crowds. However, after years of seeing how quickly things can become insane in crowds for the kids has given me something called hypervigilance. Hypervigilance is something you may be most familiar with in people who have PTSD. It is a state of constant awareness and being in a constant state of flight or fight. I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Shooo. My knight in shining armor, otherwise known as Tyler has arrived. Thank goodness. But….wait…..Alize is supposed to be getting OT this hour. Hmmm no one has come to gather her. Tyler is distracting Caleb so I can run up and ask the people at the front desk what is going on. There has been a mix up and Alize won’t be starting OT for a few more weeks. Sigh. OK, not a disaster but I really wish she was started already. No time to even relay the information to Tyler because Caleb is back to attempting an escape.

We get through the first session of therapies and Oliver and Perry go to meet their next therapist and Alize goes back for her Speech. Now it is time for Caleb to go to Speech. Caleb has two speech therapist that work with him because he is just a lot to handle and it is no longer possible for their to be only one therapist, when he does OT I go back and I am the second person. Caleb does not want to go without me today so we try a tactic that has worked before, I walk with them to the therapy room, Caleb and the therapist go in and I keep walking to circle back to the waiting room. Caleb is having a really hard separating today but I know that if I try and stay immediately it will make it harder on him. usually he gets engaged in something fun in the room and gets over being upset I left. Today that is not happening. I hear his screams getting louder and louder. I can hear that they have left the sensory gym and he is in the hallway trying to get back to me. This is the hardest part for me. I know he wants me desperately but I know the therapist are working so hard to help him regulate enough to calmly come out for me. I am pacing by the door to the back waiting for them to come get me, when one of the therapist comes out another door.

“He is ok. I know you can hear him. We have one of the owners helping us get him a bit more regulated and then we will bring him out but I did not want you to worry”

Ha, worrying is all I do basically but it was nice of her to let me know the plan. The therapist have been using the sensory gym for Caleb’s Speech instead of the usual offices they use for Speech because Caleb has gotten to the curious stage we usually associate with around two, and he is more like the size of an eight year old. So he gets in to EVERYTHING. If they stay in the office, every shelf and every bucket is emptied on the floor, which makes accomplishing any therapy a challenge. It usually goes better in the gym.

The screaming has calmed to just crying and then Caleb is walking out with all three therapist. His entire body is blood red, he is crying and sweating and he flings himself into my arms as soon as he sees me. Nestling into my neck and kissing my eyelids he starts to calm down. As he is doing this the owner tells me that the Speech Therapist have asked her to sit in on Caleb’s session today to help them with ideas on how to make therapy not so hard on Caleb. They assure me there are other kids that do this but I have not witnessed it.

Since Tyler is there to watch the other kids I am able to go back with them to try and get some therapy accomplished today. We return to the gym and Caleb is glued to my side. He slowly relaxes and works through some hard things and the owner reminds me that this is his space to be upset and work through the things that are hard for him. Caleb calms down enough to pull away from me and go play/do therapy with his usual two speech therapist while I talk to the owner. She says that she knows Caleb has a lot going on but in our discussions I realize that she only knows about the Autism and the CMT. So, I fill her in on the brain injuries and the prematurity and the suspected drug use during pregnancy and the breathing issues. During the conversation she mentions that Caleb has Apraxia, which is the first I had heard the words, although I am not surprised it is still a blow. It is one more battle our boy has to fight. I am heartbroken that in this space with the experts it is still SO hard for Caleb and I do not know how to make it easier on him and as he gets bigger so do his meltdowns so in many ways it is getting harder not easier. The owner turns to me before we leave and says “With all the things he has going on he is actually doing really well”. I look away and say thank you because I am using all my strength not to burst into tears.

“Oh shoot, what time is it?” I ask the room. I have to go back to Alize’s speech therapy early to help her transition out. She really struggles with transitions and if I do not go back to gather her it sounds like she is undergoing an exorcism. I walk Caleb out to Tyler and he starts to take kids to the van to load them up while I gather our princess. I am late so she is already quite upset. I apologize to the therapist and tell her I was helping Caleb who was having a hard time and she says she assumed. No one is really surprised. I get Alize out to the van and everyone is overwhelmed and exhausted by their therapy experience. I start handing out snacks to try and appease them and this is when Tyler catches the look on my face.

“What’s wrong?”

“Caleb is just really having a hard time and I have no idea how to make it easier and neither do the experts really” and now I am crying. Tyler gives me a hug and some encouragement that we will all get through it but he has to head to work now. All I want to do is drive home. Unfortunately, if I turn left out of the parking lot Caleb knows I am heading home and starts to lose it and I cannot take another meltdown today. So I take the long way, and by the long way I mean I turn our five minute trip back to the house into a half an hour to calm Caleb. Thankfully it works, some.

As soon as we get home the kids are all amped up and antsy and everyone is on the edge of a meltdown. I am on the edge of crying. We all need some time to collect ourselves. I get the kids inside and give out tablets and another snack. The kids all gather on the couch and snuggle silently watching their individual tablets, a sure sign they are overwhelmed. I sneak into the kitchen for a quiet cry over all the ways I cannot “fix” things for the kids and I eat chocolate. In the face of giants I cannot slay, chocolate is necessary.

Everyone calms down, including me and I start gathering stuff for baths. A bath with epsom salts has a remarkably calming effect on kiddos with sensory issues and since we have therapy again tomorrow we could use all the relaxation we can get. Thankfully, dinner is leftovers so I do not have a lot of work to do for it. As one can imagine giving five special needs kids, under six a bath by yourself is a lot like getting wet cats to walk in a parade.

We make it through. I heat up goulash for Damien, Perry, and Alize. Unfortunately, Oliver and Caleb won’t eat that so I make some chicken fries for them. Chicken fries are one of the four things Caleb will eat and is the easiest thing to make for Oliver as well.

Due to therapy the kids did not nap so we will be doing bedtime right after dinner. For bedtime Damien and Perry need their handheld night lights to calm their anxiety that peaks at night. I remind them I will be right outside their room on the couch and that they need to try to sleep because we have therapy again the next day. Alize gets a pull up and we have a ten minute conversation of me trying to figure out what movie she would like to watch. Oliver gets his diaper duct taped again, hopefully this time he does not play in his poop and I get him settled in bed. Alize and Oliver are the easiest at bedtime. Caleb getting to bed is a whole situation, he picks a movie and has his tablet playing his music and he gets a cup and he has a ritual we have to follow or he will completely lose it and not sleep. I get him settled and I go back to Damien and Perry’s room. I can hear them being crazy and I know they need more help getting to sleep tonight. We do some neurosensorimotor reflex integration work I have learned from their therapist and I also do some guided breathing with them. I can see their bodies relaxing and I leave them to sleep. As I walk out of their room Caleb is at his door crying. I go back in and start his ritual over. If he has not fallen asleep yet and hears too much noise we have to begin it all again. This is also why we cannot flush our toilet at night. Caleb is terrified of the sound of it flushing and his room is next to the bathroom and if he hears the toilet flush he will be in a full meltdown and sometimes that means he will not be able to sleep that night.  Thankfully, tonight he calms back down and I head out to the couch.

I just plop down at first and stare into space processing everything that this day brought. Then I  gather myself back up. I reset the visual schedule for tomorrow. I wipe off the chore charts for the next day. I clean up from dinner and start the dishwasher. I gather clothes for the kids for therapy tomorrow. I put the kids to bed early and I know there is little chance of them sleeping in so I need to get myself a shower before I can head to the couch to lay down.

I think Caleb is asleep and I start the shower, he wasn’t. He starts crying instantly. I shut the water off and head back into his room…at some point I will get a shower and then do some research on more ways to help the kids while my hair dries and then maybe a few hours of sleep before we do it all again.

Advertisements

Stepping Back: What I Learned On My Break From Church and Blogging

Note: I have been having some difficulty loading this post. I apologize for any inconvenience.

img_6256

I am back! 

It’s been a while since I have written and although that began as an accident it then became intentional. I needed some time. Some time to just marinate in my own thoughts and let things just be as there are without commentary or narration. Some room to just be. 

I took a pretty long break from church as well. I was such a conflicted spiritual mess and I had so many outside voices and so much “should-ing” happening that I couldn’t hear my own organic thoughts. 

img_6109-1

In short- I was a mess. So I took a break from a lot of things. 

If you would like more on why I stepped away from church you can read Why I Have Quit Church

The church quitting happened for several reasons but there were two big breaking points. One was logistical, the sensory room for our kiddos on the spectrum was closed unexpectedly a few Sundays and it is just not feasible for me to navigate that easily with this crew. The second was spiritual confusion and frustration that culminated in the story of Cain and Abel. I read the story and found myself incredibly frustrated with the seeming arbitrary nature of God accepting one offering and not another. Add in the confusion I felt post LDS life and I was an angry mess.  So, like Cain, I turned my face from God, and I pouted, there is no other way to describe it. I was pouting. Pouting that things were so complicated and pouting that I couldn’t just have all the answers. Having all the answers would be so much easier and neater. This confusion and conflicting ideals was just messy. So, I threw my hands up and walked away. 

img_6257

Now, I didn’t walk away and suddenly start a life of crime or become a different person. I just stopped reading my Bible, I stopped praying, I stopped looking for God in my day and looked for myself instead. I rediscovered things about myself and felt how out of whack my connection with myself and my body was. Like I said, I was a complete mess. In this break a lot of life things happened, which was not new because our lives seem to be on a roller coaster at warp speed most of the time. What was different was that I didn’t pray about it or look to God. I put my head down and plowed through. I read books and watched shows that had nothing to do with spirituality, or if they did it was about a completely different faith life than any I had lived. I learned more about my chakras and found ways to balance and ground myself. I cared for my kids and loved my husband and to an outside observer you probably couldn’t tell I was throwing an epic spiritual tantrum.

I tried writing a few times during this all and I couldn’t figure out what I would want to say or put out in the world. Things happened I could have written about, I watched my nephews for a time and had seven kids under six in the house every day. Lots to write about there. The kids have returned to therapies. Lots to write about there too. And yet, I would just stare at a blank screen and then walk away. Nothing was coming. 

Then this craving started. I’m not going to lie, at first I was like “man, I am craving something really specific what is it?” and I made all kinds of food thinking it was a certain meal I just couldn’t put my finger on. When nothing came of that and the gnawing feeling was still in my gut I thought maybe it’s a big storm. Sounds odd, I know, but a big thunderstorm is often cathartic to me and I started watching the weather like a hawk hoping (not praying) for a storm to roll through. It rained a few times but nothing like the might I was looking to see displayed. 

img_6110

What was it?

What was I craving?

It was driving me nuts.

Then one day, out of the blue the answer appeared out of the mouth of my six-year-old. He had been making some not great choices and was not listening, so he was sent to clean up toys. When he came to tell me it was clean he said “Mommy, I prayed and I told Jesus I was sorry I wasn’t listening and ask him to help” and I stood stunned for a moment.

 

“Do you feel better now?”

 

“Yep” and off he went to play.

 

Then I realized, although I think part of me always knew. I was missing the connection to God I once felt. I was missing the confidence of faith that my six-year-old has all on his own. Faith that when I was struggling with something big or small that I could reach out and ask for help.

img_6258

I was still somewhat unsure, so I decided that the next Sunday I would go back to the church that has always been my home, Mars Hill, and just see how it felt. As I pulled in the parking lot, it felt like coming home. I walked the familiar halls and found my usual seat and waited for the service to start. I was trying to ignore a lot of the trappings and just listen to how it felt within myself. It was time for worship and I was excited because worship singing at Mars has always felt powerful beyond belief to me. They songs started and I was pleasantly surprised when my favorite hymn was among the opening songs.

img_6259

Thankfully, God knows I am dense and I need to be beat over the head with things before I get them. The speaker took the stage and announced that the scriptural story being discussed was, you guessed it, Cain and Abel. I just started laughing. You can’t make this stuff up. The people sitting near me probably thought I was kind of crazy, but I couldn’t believe how clear the message was. I sat up straighter ready for the story that was bugging me to be explained and to get the answers. Eagerly I waited for the moment he would say “here is the reason God would have done this”. That moment never came. He never gave me insight into what God would have been thinking in this situation. He did however point out how many times God reached out to Cain in the story and how even in his curse marked him with mercy to spare his life. He talked about how we often think God has left and we go in search of God when all the while He is inside us all reaching out for connection and relationship. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I no longer felt like I had no have the answers. I also felt the release of fulfilling the craving I had, I raised my eyes and connected with God again. 

Now to figure out logistics. I started bringing Damien and Perry to church with me and I am working through the things that make church hard for them both. Then I am going to add in Alizé and work through her challenges and finally figure out how to make it work for Caleb and Oliver. It will probably take a couple months, but I know this community is where I want to build our home and I know that with certainty I couldn’t have found until I quieted all the extra voices and just listened to my own.

Why I Have Quit Church

Ok guys, let’s talk about it- the elephant that has been in the room for months.

I have quit. I have quit church.

To be clear, I love Jesus and if I were asked to declare a religion I would have to say Christian.

However, I still quit.

It’s been a SAGA, me and church. I get motion sickness just going through it all in my mind.

I love church. I love so much about church. I love the community. I love a gathering of people who, for the most part, simply want to love others and lift them up. I love the service to others. I love the taking time out to connect to something bigger and grander than my own day to day problems. I love the tradition. I love the power of faith. I love it.

I love the people church has brought into my life. In fact, I love them so much that I felt the guilt and pain of letting them down heavily on my heart as I was deciding to step away.

So how did I get here?

Three years ago I made a decision that shocked everyone who knew me, including myself, and I became a Mormon. I had good, valid, faith filled reasons for making that choice and it is not a choice I regret. I love A LOT about the Mormon tradition and church. The LDS faith is beautiful in so many ways.

It is also hard in so many ways.

From the beginning there were two main points of contention for me. The church’s stance on homosexuality and the fact that to reach the highest levels of glory in heaven (per LDS teachings) my husband HAD to become a member and do all the things that required. My faith was not enough on my own.

The things I loved about the church were so great that I repeatedly (often daily) pushed the parts I couldn’t swallow away. Then logistics came into play.

I am a mom to many tiny humans, and they each have a lot going on. The structure and organization that I love about the LDS church just doesn’t work for my kiddos. They do not fit into boxes, their developmental stages can’t be tied to their ages. Their special needs make three hour church service a challenge on our best days. This may have been a surmountable problem if – anyone else close to me was a member and could help me wrangling kids for three hours on Sunday, or if I didn’t already have those nagging issues with the entire establishment. I tried, and tried, and tried and was always left with the feeling that there was not room for my family and that we would never be neat and tidy enough to fit into the boxes.

When we moved back to GR, these issues just got bigger. So, I tried returning to one of my favorite churches, the church where I originally found and connected with God.

It is a very large and eclectic bible church that offers amazing things like a special needs ministry. There was even a sensory room for my kiddos who needed it during Sunday school. Tyler was more comfortable going and it was a more relaxing environment.

It’s a huge place, congregants by the thousands, and is therefore hard to feel a sense of community. When I attended as a member in the past and felt the connection I had time to be actively involved in many different groups and ministries to find my own little tribe among the masses. I don’t have that time now. Getting my whole family there on Sunday morning takes Herculean effort- I have none left over.

Then there was a shift in leadership and on multiple occasions we would arrive at church to find the sensory room closed with no notice. Which means at least half my family has to leave. After the immense effort to get us there, and then not having space we had gotten used to and comfortable with for our kiddos was not ok.

To me church became a perfect storm of effort and stress. I felt like the Andrea Gail trying every week to mount the rogue wave barreling towards me. Some weeks I made it, some weeks I didn’t. The thing about the Andrea Gail (if you are familiar with the story) is that it didn’t have to be there, fighting against the storm. It could have waited for the storm to pass before heading for the harbor.

Suddenly one day I asked myself why I was fighting so hard. I believe in a God that loves me and loves my kids and that love is not conditional. It is not dependent on me fighting my way through chaos and insanity to drag us to a particular building on a particular day. My God sees how hard I am working. He sees my faith and devotion to my family. He sees the struggles my kids are facing and all we are doing to overcome them. He sees it all and he loves us through it all.

If that is my truth than why am I torturing myself? I won’t lie, that question took me a minute. I can come up with a list of reasons why we should be at church every week. I can come up with a long litany of shoulds and guilt and self flagellation on the subject.

When most of my shoulds were stripped away, the people pleaser in me was still struggling. I know me openly stepping back from even trying to get to church would hurt and worry people I care deeply about. People in the LDS tradition and people in mainstream Christian traditions. It hurts me deeply to feel as if I am disappointing people I admire and love, and this aspect of my personality made this decision all the harder.

However, this is my journey to walk and my short life on this planet to live. I would not want my children to ever live their lives in a way that felt incongruous to who they are as a person. I also don’t want to model for my children that who they are is a decision they get to make once in life. Who we are is always changing and that is one of the most beautiful parts of life- as long as we can go with it and grow into new stages of life instead of clinging to old ideas of who we are.

I am actively not putting walls around this stage of life. I do not know when or if or how I will return to going to church. I am just letting myself be, as I am, and that person is growing every day. Tomorrow is a new day, a new dawn, and a new me.

Transitions As A Special Needs Parent

“So what do we do now? What is the next step here?” I asked the pediatrician as we looked at each other over Caleb squirming between us yelling his ABC’s.

I used to know what to try next. It was pretty simple and the supplies could easily be found at Target. Now we are beyond Target and I’m unsure what comes next.

The transitions snuck up on me, although I knew it was coming. I suddenly do not have “babies” anymore. I think that realization hits all parents at some point, but for special needs parents it means something different.

When the kids were babies, I could get supplies that helped them at the local Target ( or other similar store) easily. We need nightlights for trauma induced fears, Target has them. We need diapers, Target has dozens of options. We need chewies and the teething toys at Target work. We are having mobility struggles and we can get a stroller or wagon at Target to help.

Then the day comes where trauma fears can’t be solved by a nightlight. The kids are getting older, and as they do their understanding of what they have endured deepens and their fears morph from being monsters in their closest to how they can know when life is safe and when people won’t hurt them? How do they know they won’t go hungry again?Night lights can do nothing to lighten those fears.

The store sells diapers up to size six by which point most kiddos are at least starting to potty train. However, for Caleb the toilet is a terrifying sensory experience and he is not ready to face it. So what do we do when the diapers in the store are too small? What do we do when the teething toys can’t stand up to big kid mouths?

What do we do when Caleb’s CMT makes him tire out too quickly to handle walks or the zoo or a museum, and he no longer fits in a stroller or a wagon?

So what do we do? We widen the search. We ask the experts. We realize that our days of being able to run to Target for ways to make our kids lives easier are over. We say goodbye to the chapter where baby supplies worked and move into this new chapter.

We got a prescription from that same pediatrician for larger diapers. We are trying new therapy supply stores for chewies and weighted blankets and therapy tools that are made to withstand big kids. We talk about the hard things and help the kids find ways to feel safe. We are working with our OT and Pediatrician to order a big kid stroller. We never stop searching and we just keep moving.

I can’t help but be acutely aware of both the bitter and the sweet of this transition. I have no more babies. I have a house full of kids now, not babies. The fact that they are continuing to grow and thrive is beautiful and amazing. The fact that things are slightly more challenging with Special Needs Children as opposed to Special Needs Babies is kind of sad. The fact that time passes so fast is also sad. Never blink. You might miss some of the magic.

How We Use Adventure To Fitness As Our Homeschool Physical Education

I am a homeschool Mama, but I wasn’t homeschooled myself. I had years of public school physical education that made me want to poke my eye out with a pencil. Changing into unflattering clothes, completing menial tasks, and having your hair messed up in the middle of the day- I have been there and to be frank I don’t think I got much of anything out of the experience.

As a Mom, especially one with the responsibility of teaching my children myself, I was unsure how we would incorporate physical education as the kids were young. That is until I discovered Adventure To Fitness a few years ago. This program makes my inner teacher and the Mom in me do leaps of joy!

Adventure to fitness is exactly like it sounds. It is a kids educational fitness video. Imagine taking your mom’s old Jane Fonda videos but turning the same exercises into an epic and informative adventure. Your kids can be running from stampedes in Yellowstone, jumping boulders in caverns, or looking for lost professors in underground worlds. No matter the adventure your kids choose they will get 30 minutes of nonstop movement accompanied by a truckload of information.

Adventure To Fitness Preview

With five kids under six at home, anything that gets out some of their gallons of energy gets a big gold star in my book. What I love about Adventure to Fitness is that they enjoy it and they always learn something new. Damien became obsessed with volcanos after learning about them from Adventure To Fitness. Best of all, I don’t have to wait for nice weather for the kids to get out some of their crazy energy. They do it right in the living room.

We also get something else out of it. All of the kids have issues when it comes to sensory processing, or how their bodies interpret the information their senses pick up from their surroundings. Disregulation of the sensory system feels awful for them and can cause some pretty crazy behaviors. They get so many different types of input from going on an adventure that they are calmer for the rest of the day. Mama sanity saver right there.

As I’ve gotten to know more Mama’s who homeschool I have learned a lot of them haven’t heard about Adventure To Fitness. Which I get, I stumbled upon it accidentally two years ago and now we use it almost daily. Even our nephews are becoming hooked on taking a trip with Mr. Marc, the adventure guide.

If you want to learn more about Adventure To Fitness check out their website and learn about streaming the subscriber content, ordering DVD’s, or even the research put into each adventure.

Adventure To Fitness Preview Video

Adventure To Fitness Website

Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself

Should. Should. Should.

Should is an evil word. Should has no good intentions. Should should jump off a cliff.

Should is a word that has dominated too much of my life. Should has been wearing the crown and sitting in judgement of far too many of my choices and actions.

I should do this.

I should not do that.

I should let it go.

I should not take up too much space.

I should not ask for anything.

I should not say that.

I should just say yes, no matter what it costs me.

Should- you’re fired.

There is a transition afoot in my life and in my inner being. It’s going to be a bumpy transition for some people. My first answer is no longer “yes, let me lay down and make this easier” it is now “no, I am tending to my own garden”. I have been terrified of saying no for years, worried that I am a bad person if my answer is no. I’ve been trying it on and saying no in safe ways, to safe people I know will still love me even when I say no. It’s been emboldening.

I have met myself before though. No is not going to be easy for me. I need reminders. Insert my current brain hack. I am channeling a younger version of myself and I set a song as the ringtone on my phone. Yes, If my phone rings in public it will be loud and obnoxious to others. I’m ok with that because as Meghan Trainor sings No, I am reminded to protect my self and my family from burnout and say no.

What does this have to do with should? My yes was often rooted in should. I should do that for them. I should not rock the boat and just go with it. I should help them with that. I should not worry about burnout. I should be quiet about that. I should conform to the status quo.

Does this mean I am going to stop being a person reaching out to help others? No, because that’s not who I am. I am a helper. I am someone who views the world in a way that is always asking, “how I can serve?”. That’s not going to change. What is going to change is the realization that I am one person. Just one. Currently my plate is full. Is it too full? No. Is it unmanageable? No. However, it is full. There is no more room and I cannot let should be the reason I add more to it, for then the plate will collapse under the weight.

Letting go of should has opened the world up for me. It has opened me up to my truer self. The self that is far more organic, bohemian, barefoot, loving, open, and free spirited. I like this transition. It’s making life a lot more fun.

How is should making your life small or robbing you of your true self?

Why Mamas Need Nights Out

I have gone on short spurts of outings. Quick lunches, the occasional rushed through dinner. All of them were nice but I was always very concerned about what was happening while I was gone and how long I was taking. I usually came home from my “Mommy outings” drained not refreshed. Then last week I had a true day and night out. I had no idea how badly I had been needing it.

Last week I was able to go out with a dear friend from college for the entire day. I was gone almost 24 hours. She lives on the other side of the state. I drove over in the morning and we went on a Target run with her littles and hung out and chatted during nap time. As soon as her hubby came home we went to IKEA and then out for a late night dinner and drinks.

That may not sound like much to you but it was basically a trip to Walt Disney World for me. I discovered something really important about that time away. It was a chance for me to be just myself. I was puzzling over the feelings I felt on my long drive back home and I realized that it was like taking off a heavy coat you’d worn too long.

I usually think of myself in relation to other people. I’m someone’s mom. I’m someone’s wife. I’m someone’s aunt. Someone’s sister. Someone’s daughter. That day I was still all of those people but I was able to set them down for a moment and just be my own someone.

A nice addition to relaxing into this moment where I got to just be myself was I got to spend that time with someone who knew me before I was a Mom. She knew an easier to explain version of Cabrielle who knew more about who she was within the world than who she was in relation to others. I got to spend the day combining the two versions.

As a Mom I need friends I don’t have to be prefect for. Friends who get it and don’t judge me. The type of friends you never have to say “sorry about the mess” to. The friends who never bat an eye when we are a complete tornado of chaos. Friends who laugh with me when hilarious or insane or gross things happen with the kids and cheer us on when exciting milestones are met.

My Mama escape last week was with just such a friend and it was so relaxing to be with her and not have to put on any show or dress up anything. I could say “this is hard”, “this part sucks”, “I miss…”- all without her taking it wrong and thinking I don’t love my kids with my entire existence. She knows my heart, she knows how amazing my kids are and how much they bless every moment of my life. She also knows this motherhood gig is tough and none of us have a clue what we are doing. She got it. I didn’t have to couch what I said in explanations and disclaimers.

I had no idea how long it had been since I had unclenched and just relaxed until I did it. I did not know I hadn’t really relaxed before. Now that I have felt this feeling it has opened my eyes and made me reassess a lot of things. The people in our lives should give us chances to relax into ourselves and take off the coats of who we are to others. When you find the people you can do that with, keep them close. If you feel yourself having to put in a massive effort to hold up some perfect version of yourself around someone, they may not be your people. They may not be part of your tribe. That’s ok, that doesn’t make the wrong or evil, just means your types of crazy don’t jell. Don’t force it. Just let yourself go and just be with the people who love the real under all the coats you are wearing.